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Archives for : genocide

We Shall Live To Tell The Stories Of War Crimes In Gaza

By Hana Baalousha

03 August, 2014
The Electronic Intifada

Palestinian child Rizeq al-Hayek is mourned during his Gaza City funeral on 19 July. (Ezz al-Zanoun / APA images)

In all Holywood action films, when the enemy uses a civilian as a human shield, the policeman drops his gun and lets the enemy go in order to save the civilian. The innocent person’s life is always depicted as more important than the enemy’s death.

Clearly these morals are only for movies. The morals on the ground in Gaza, however, are totally different. Israel shoots and bombs children and young people, leaving them to bleed to death in front of their parents while bombarding ambulances that try to reach them.

In this horrendous aggression against Gaza, every Palestinian is a target and age isn’t an issue. As I hold my three-month-old Jolie close to my chest, I recall the pictures of babies her age with face injuries that hide their beauty and innocence, and others dead with amputated limbs, heads emptied from their contents, or burnt bodies.

As I squeeze her little defenseless body between my arms, I hear the voice of my cousin’s husband saying, “I found the leg of my son coming out of the wreckage.”

He lost his pregnant wife and two sons, four and six years old. I recall the picture of a man carrying the parts of his son’s body in a plastic bag, a human body that he raised and cherished had been turned — in a blink of an eye — into a pile of flesh gathered from under the rubble by an army that justifies it by saying “mistakes happen.”

“We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths but it’s Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties,” Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

Since 7 July, there have been more than 1,650 Palestinians killed in Gaza. Approximately 1,300 civilians slaughtered by Israel — not Hamas.

Does anyone seriously believe that these deaths were accidental?

No safe place

I recall the pictures of the four Baker family boys, all aged between nine and eleven. Killed by an Israeli missile on 16 July, their bodies were thrown all over the beach in front of a hotel mainly populated by journalists. The kids were playing on the beach in an attempt to take some time out of this chaos and enjoy their childhood. But they were not allowed to do so.

Resistance fighters aren’t stupid enough to launch rockets in front of a hotel where every single person carries a camera around the clock. In Gaza, there is no safe place.

As I comb my baby’s hair with my fingers, I imagine the three kids feeding their pigeons on the roof of their house the next day (17 July). They were killed along with their pigeons.

The voice of a boy about ten years old — or so it appears from his voice in a video clip — echoes in my ears: “Yemma, wen shebshebi?” (“Mom, where are my slippers?”). He shouted this while paramedics searched his house in an attempt to evacuate the family along with any others injured.

With the Israeli warplanes loudly hovering overhead, randomly hitting everywhere and the family fearfully trying to leave the targeted neighborhood in which he lives, his main concern was his slippers. He did not want to run in the street barefoot, and he repeated his question again. He is just a child.
Holiday in Gaza

Two years ago, I started a new job teaching Arabic to native speakers of English in the United Kingdom. My icebreaker on the first day was a question. I asked the students what they did that summer. Some said they spent the holiday visiting family in Jordan or Egypt. Others went on holiday in Europe.

Others even said they went on tour from Jordan to London to Paris. I had to hide my surprise.

I thought, “who are these people?” Definitely not Gazans. This is not how we holiday in Gaza. The best we can do is go to the beach. Not this summer. We get killed there.

Today, I’m trying to imagine what memories of this summer the students I know in Gaza will have to recount. One has lost an arm, and the other has lost a brother. A third has become homeless and a fourth has become an orphan. One may not be able to share his story because he lost his life.

Lost everything

During the onslaught, Ramadan, a month when we Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk, came to an end. Eid al-Fitr is the first day after Ramadan, and it is usually a day of celebration.

Mothers cook delicious meals and bake special cookies. Children wear new clothes, buy candy and new toys and go to playgroups; they visit relatives and friends along with their parents to congratulate them for the end of this month which we spent worshipping God.

Children wait for this day all year long. They prepare their new clothes and count the days until they can put them on.

This year, there was no such day. No new clothes. No cookies. No toys. No candy. No playgroups. No family visits. Thousands of houses no longer stood in place. Thousands of families who still had their houses no longer lived in them.

They escaped the Israeli war machine and sheltered in schools. Mothers did not cook or bake luxury foods because, inside the schools, they waited for charitable organizations to send them basic staples. Hundreds of children neither wore new clothes nor bought new toys because they had lost the people who bought them these clothes, and those with whom they usually celebrated.

Some have lost everything, their family and their house. Others had to spend this special day alone on a cold bed in a hospital.

On the first day of Eid, ten children were killed in a playground.

No words can justify what is happening to children today in Gaza. Nothing can justify killing the innocence of our babies and children. And nothing can justify the world’s silence.

As long as this bloodshed continues, the whole world will be an accomplice in these war crimes. As long as we live, we shall not forgive.

And we shall live to tell the story.

Hana Baalousha is a Palestinian from Gaza currently living in the US. She has a degree in English language from the Islamic University of Gaza, and is a stay-at-home mom of two girls

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President Rajapaksa receives peace and democracy award from Bolivia #WTFnews

President Mahinda Rajapaksa received an award from Bolivia in recognition of his contribution to peace and democracy.

President Rajapaksa receives peace and democracy award from Bolivia

The Presidential Spokesperson and International Media Unit notes that the award is the highest honour awarded by the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Álvaro García Linera, vice president of Bolivia and president of the Legislative Assembly, presented President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the ‘Parliamentary Order Merit Democratic Representative Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruza” at the Legislative Assembly in La Paz, Bolivia, on Monday.

Bolivia notes that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was selected for the honour for having defeated terrorism and established peace and development in Sri Lanka.

The Presidential Spokesperson and International Media Unit said the award also recognizes President Rajapaksa’s commitment to human rights and his initiative to improve and expand relations with South America, including Bolivia.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was also scheduled to receive the award.

President Rajapaksa also held bi-lateral talks with his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales on Monday.

During the discussion, President Morales expressed his willingness to work closely with Sri Lanka.

President Morales inquired about Sri Lanka’s political, economic, industrial, export and import sectors and showed particular interest in Sri Lanka’s apparel sector.

While stating that his visit to Bolivia is a new beginning in diplomatic, economic and trade relations with South American nations, President Rajapaksa said establishing relationships with new nations is a part of the Government’s policy.

President Morales also accepted President Rajapaksa’s invitation to visit Sri Lanka.

Following the conclusion of bilateral talks, President Morales hosted a colorful ceremony with military honors for President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Palace.

 

Read more here – http://newsfirst.lk/english/2014/06/president-receives-peace-democracy-award-bolivia/40374

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An Architect of Conscience – Mukul Sinha

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Mukul Sinha (1951-2014)

Manisha Sethi ([email protected]) is with the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association and teaches at the Centre for Comparative Religions and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.

As news of the demise of Mukul Sinha – trade unionist, lawyer, civil rights worker, and a widely loved communist – came in, no news channel cared to pause the hysteria over exit polls. Not even momentarily. The giddy coverage of voting in Benaras and possibility of the Modi wave reaching the parliamentary shores safely could not be suspended for even a five-minute solemn remembrance of this remarkable man. No one recalled that Mukul Sinha had been instrumental in sending Amit Shah, being feted as the architect of Modi’s victory in Uttar Pradesh, to jail in 2010 in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case.

An organic trade union leader

Like K Balagopal, another of our great civil liberties fighter, Mukul Sinha came to law quite late. The former was a mathematician by training, the latter a physicist. Both were forced to abandon science – Balagopal because of a false police case, which made it unsafe for him to remain in Warangal and continue teaching; Sinha because the government laboratory where he worked could not tolerate his trade unionism in defence of his retrenched colleagues. But while Balagopal missed teaching mathematics, Sinha accepted his termination with relief and relish. He threw himself into trade union work and felt compelled to get a law degree to deal with labour cases.

He showed – just like Balagopal had before him – how civil liberties work was rigorous and analytical. I first met him in 2009, when we invited him to Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association’s first convention. He and Nirjhari Sinha, his wife and “partner for more than 30 years” presented a slide show meticulously demonstrating how the Ahmedabad police Crime Branch had killed Ishrat Jahan in cold blood.  The entry and exit marks, the angles and trajectory of bullets showed how there had been no cross firing. The occupants of the car had been shot from a point blank range. The recovery of weapons from “terrorists” surprisingly free of any bloodstains proved how they had been planted. (These were later to appear in the “Ishrat Jahan Evidence List series” on Truth of Gujarat, his website dedicated to uncovering the grisly reality beneath the shine of Modi’s hyped claims).

Protection of Terrorist Act

The same care to detail and the painstaking collection of evidence was to be found in every case the couple handled. Maya Kodnani’s conviction in the Naroda Patiya massacre is owed in large parts to the analysis of the records of her mobile phone conversations with Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaydeep Patel by Nirjhari Sinha. A full-length book could be written on how Sinha, lawyer for Sohrabuddin Shaikh’s brother, and his team cracked the thousands of phone calls between senior police offices and the Minister Amit Shah in late November 2005. Call data was analysed for location, durations, frequency and timing, to piece together the sequence of the murders of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser bi. The call records proved that Amit Shah had called Deputy Superintendent of Police Narendra Amin 15 times during the operation (and 76 times when Tulsi Prajapati was killed a year later by the same team). This turned out to be one of the crucial pieces of evidence that finally led to the arrest of Amit Shah by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in July 2010.

In fact, he was the first to fully articulate the cynical larger political conspiracy underlying the large number of Prevention of Terrorist Activities (POTA) cases against Muslims and the spate of encounter killings following the Gujarat pogrom. He had argued that terrorism was central to the crafting of Narendra Modi’s Hindu Hriday samrat iconography. Dismissing POTA as “Production of Terrorist Act”, he asked, “How does one declare a war on terrorism if there are no terrorists around? In Gujarat, this logical hurdle is easily surmounted. Create them first and then declare war on them so that the “hapless citizens” can vote you to power as their sole saviour! Till October  2002, Gujarat had no “terrorist” of any kind but by the third week of January 2004, Gujarat had around 180 “hardcore/ anti-national/ Jihadi” terrorists in its jails i.e. in a period of 15 months, Gujarat had produced and arrested nearly 180 hardened Islamic terrorists, an average of 12 terrorists per month. A good rate of production by any Indian standards thanks to the potent productivity under POTA“The state of Gujarat,” he wrote, “therefore does not “misuse” POTA but actually uses POTA to create “terrorist”.”

When the Supreme Court appointed the Santosh Hegde headed commission to enquire into six cases of fake encounters in Manipur, Sinha appeared on behalf of the petitioners, the widows’ association. In its sitting in Delhi, witnesses were cross examined in the killing of Azad, a 12-year-old school boy, who was shot dead by Assam Rifles personnel and Manipuri police commandoes. Though family and friends had maintained that Azad was reading a newspaper with his friend when he was taken away by security men, beaten and then shot dead in the fields next to his house in West Imphal, the prime witness, the officer who had led the “operation” claimed that they had acted upon secret intelligence about the presence of “UGs” (underground insurgents).

Mukul Sinha led him through a detailed cross-examination: from the officer’s knowledge of local language (“how would you command someone to shoot in Manipuri”), the grades of intelligence inputs, his counterinsurgency experience, to the specifics of the operation, the requisitioning of police commandoes, the route of the journey undertaken, the vehicles in which the raid party travelled. The witness sweated and fumbled, the counsel for the Ministry of Defence sprang up every few moments to object to his questions.

Sitting in the backbenches, a straggly collection of activists and an odd reporter from Imphal newspaper, restrained themselves from cheering out aloud. Referring to another witness’ affidavit in which he swore that the raiding party travelled in a Tata 407 rather than the three gypsies as was being claimed in the witness box by the officer, he asked, “So, is he lying?”. There was a loud objection to the use of the word lying. “Okay, okay”, He smiled gently and asked again, “So, is he prevaricating?”

This was quintessential Mukul Sinha. Gentle, persuasive, persistent, unrelenting. Though suffering from lung cancer, which made even simple conversation an ordeal, he spent hours discussing terror cases when a young researcher from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) visited him earlier this year.

Indomitable courage

When one sees senior media barons and editors genuflecting before a man Mukul Sinha was fighting against, that you realise the full extent of his courage. To be living in Ahmedabad and challenging the mightiest and the most ruthless must have put him in real danger. In rare moments he would share these stories but he almost appeared apologetic because of the self-deprecating manner in which he used to speak.

Once in the Ahmedabad courts, he ran into DG Vanzara. Under Amit Shah’s patronage, DG Vanzara ruled Ahmedabad at that time.  Fearing the worse, he said, Mukul Sinha turned around and raced to his car. He could hear footsteps following him. Faster and faster he strode towards his car.  But Vanzara overtook him, took his hands and shook them vigorously, and then left. Mukul Sinha thought it was a story worthy of a good laugh. He also joked that Modi’s national ambitions would ensure that no harm came to him. Modi could not afford any trouble in Gujarat.

Last year, in the middle of the media storm surrounding CBI enquiry into the Ishrat jahan killing, Sinha had asked: “Will our great democracy win or will a handful of killers write the future of this nation?”

The results are out. If only we hadn’t also been robbed of Mukul Sinha’s presence at this hour.

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Children of War: Why we should never forget the genocide of 1971 #Film

For those who haven’t seen Mritunjay Devvrat’s fantastic film ‘Children of War’ on the atrocities committed by Pakistani forces during Bangladeshi’s 1971 Liberation Struggle should pencil it in their schedule. Devvrat’s dark and gripping depiction of how rape and torture were used with the aim of annihilating the Bengali population of what was then East Pakistan revisits an important chapter in South Asian history.

The barbarity of 1971 resulted in the killing of 3 million Bengali-speaking people and witnessed at least 250,000 women being raped in a systematic effort to destroy Bengali culture and ethnicity. Millions were rendered destitute with their lives torn asunder; left with little hope but to seek refuge in India. The genocide of 1971 and thebloody circumstances surrounding Bangladesh’s birth should never be forgotten.

A salient point that Children of War’s narrative of 1971 makes is the collusion of Razakars and Jamaatis in the barbarity heaped upon the Bengali population. In fact, a key dialogue by the villain of the film – a demonic Pakistani army officer played by Pavan Malhotra – alludes to fiendish collaborators within the Bengali population without whose support the marauding Pakistani army would have made little headway in its evil designs.

As history would have it, Jamaat-e-Islami and its ilk were banned after Bangladesh attained liberation. However, tragic circumstances and conspiracies saw a return of Jamaat leaders and their politics in independent Bangladesh after the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Worse, those with blood on their hands went on to hold influential positions in subsequent Bangladeshi governments. It was only when the current Bangladeshi regime led by Sheikh Hasina first assumed power in late-2008 that the prospect of justice for the war crimes of 1971 was revived.

Since 2010, Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has been trying several war crimes accused most of whom have been associated with the Jamaat-i-Islami. In fact, till date the ICT has tried and convicted as many as ten prominent collaborators, sentencing eight of them to death for crimes against humanity. The death penalty for Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah was executed last December.

That said, given its involvement in 1971 war crimes, there has been a growing chorus for trying Jamaat-i-Islami itself as a criminal organisation. This was articulated during the Shahbag protests last year where thousands of people from all walks of Bangladeshi civil society demanded that Jamaat be held accountable. Even prior to that eminent Bangladeshi writer and war crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir had called for trying Jamaat for war crimes. For Bangladesh to achieve justice and closure, it is imperative that all those – individuals and organisations – involved with the genocide of 1971 are brought to book.

In this regard, it is disconcerting to note that a section of the ICT prosecution team appears to be dragging its feet over submitting formal charges against the Jamaat. Some prosecutors believe this is not the opportune moment to start the Jamaat trial. This is needless procrastination. The secular people of Bangladesh have waited four decades for justice for 1971 war crimes. The Jamaat trial must not be delayed any further. Besides, having just won a fresh mandate in the January polls, the Awami League dispensation must deliver on this key poll promise.

Even more than specific individuals, the barbarity of 1971 was perpetuated by a heinous religio-political ideology that militates against humanism. The Jamaat trial will hold that ideology accountable and shame it in the eyes of the world. Perhaps that is the essence of Mritunjay Devvrat’s ‘Children of War’. For those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

 

Read mor ehere — http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/talkingturkey/children-of-war-why-we-should-never-forget-the-genocide-of-1971/

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Modi Exposed- Evidence of Modi’s hand in Gujarat’s Genocide

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Shocking in scale and deed if true.  Very disturbing to see such a corrupt judicial system.

Investigative journalist Ashish Khetan went undercover, risking his life, to interview the men who did the killing and raping. He told them he was writing a book about the glorious rebirth of Hindutva in India and wanted to interview the heroes who had made it possible. Not knowing that they were being filmed, these men boasted about how they planned, executed, covered up the atrocities and escaped justice. They also explain how they were helped at every stage by Narendra Modi, PM candidate of the BJP.

 

 

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Sri Lanka’s war crimes and the US “human rights” charade

By K. Ratnayake
20 February 2014

The Obama administration has declared that it will present a third consecutive resolution on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in March, calling for a probe into human rights violations. The focus will be on abuses during the final months of the Sri Lankan government’s war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in May 2009.

Successive Sri Lankan governments are directly responsible for war crimes during the 26-year conflict with the LTTE, but under President Mahinda Rajapakse the civil war took an even more brutal turn. The 2011 report of a UN expert panel estimated that around 40,000 civilians were killed in the months before the LTTE’s defeat.

Rajapakse and his ministers flatly rejected the UN report and deny that any war crimes took place in what they describe as the military’s “humanitarian operation” to “liberate” the Tamil population. Despite its denials, the government is desperately appealing to US officials to hold back the resolution and is seeking international support to block its passage. Within Sri Lanka, Rajapakse continues to whip up patriotic and anti-Tamil sentiment by claiming his government is the victim of “an international conspiracy” for regime-change in Colombo.

While Rajapakse is undoubtedly implicated in crimes, no credence should be placed in Washington’s bogus “human rights” campaign. The US is no more concerned about war crimes in Sri Lanka than it was in Iraq, or Libya or Syria. The “human rights” charade is simply the ideological banner used by US imperialism for its intrigues, provocations and wars of aggression around the world. In fact, the Rajapakse government and the Colombo media justify the Sri Lankan military’s use of torture, arbitrary detention, killing of civilians and other human rights abuses by pointing to what the US carried out in its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moreover, Washington fully backed the Rajapakse government when it tore up the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE and renewed military offensives in 2006. While denouncing the LTTE, the US, along with India and China, provided vital military assistance to the Sri Lankan army and remained silent amid mounting evidence of its atrocities. The US implemented its own ban on the LTTE by hunting down its supporters and fund raisers, and strong-armed the European Union into doing the same.

The US and its European allies only began to raise concerns about the Sri Lankan military’s “human rights” abuses as it became apparent that the LTTE was heading for defeat. The Obama administration was preoccupied, not with the fate of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians, but the rising influence of China, which had emerged as the supplier of military hardware, loans and aid to the Rajapakse government.

A December 2009 US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, “Sri Lanka: Recharting US strategy after the war,” warned that “this strategic drift [by Sri Lanka toward China] will have consequences for US interests in the region.” It bluntly concluded that the US cannot afford to “lose” Sri Lanka and called for “an integrated strategy that leverages political, economic, and security tools” to secure US interests. John Kerry, now secretary of state, chaired the Senate committee.

The Obama administration’s stance on Sri Lanka was bound up with the developing shift in US foreign policy known as the “pivot to Asia”—a comprehensive strategy of undermining Chinese influence throughout the region and encircling China militarily to ensure ongoing US hegemony. The Obama administration has been restructuring and building up US military forces in Asia and stoking up dangerous flashpoints, such as the maritime disputes in the East China and South China Seas, as a means of isolating China.

Over the past four years, Washington has maintained a steady pressure on Colombo. Its previous UNHRC resolutions gave credence to the Rajapakse government’s own bogus Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which whitewashed the Sri Lankan military’s war crimes. Now, however, the US has taken a harder line, hinting at the establishment of an international probe—a move that could lead to putting Rajapakse in the International Criminal Court’s dock on war crimes.

While acutely aware of the US threat, Rajapakse confronts a deepening economic and social crisis and depends heavily on China for economic aid and investment. In a bid to shore up his shaky position, Rajapakse has stepped up his claims of an “international conspiracy,” declaring that the West is plotting to put him in the “electric chair.” Those who oppose or criticise the government are branded as “traitors to the nation.”

The opposition led by the right-wing United National Party (UNP) has lined up with the US “human rights” offensive and is waging its own phony campaign for “democracy” against the autocratic Rajapakse government. The UNP, which was responsible for launching the war against the LTTE in 1983 and has defended all of the military’s crimes, nevertheless now declares that “the country must not pay for the government’s mistakes.”This signals UNP support for tougher measures against Rajapakse over human rights abuses.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which functioned as the LTTE’s parliamentary mouthpiece, has issued a statement backing an international war crimes investigation. In return, the bourgeois TNA is seeking Washington’s support for a power devolution package that would secure the privileges of the country’s Tamil elite. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which helped Rajapakse come to power and backed his war, now criticises the government’s “human rights” record for opening the country to potential US intervention.

The most cynical supporters of the US “human rights” juggernaut are the pseudo-left organisations—the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) and United Socialist Party (USP)—which slavishly function as cheerleaders for the UNP and TNA. NSSP leader Wickramabahu Karunaratne last week declared that he would go to the UNHRC gathering in Geneva next month to add his voice to Washington’s supposed calls for justice and democratic rights in Sri Lanka.

The working class should reject the machinations of the US and its allies in Colombo and internationally. At the same time, workers must condemn the war crimes of the present and past Sri Lankan governments. Their attacks on the basic democratic rights of Tamils were always part and parcel of the onslaught on the social position and rights of the working class as a whole.

The entire Colombo political establishment is responsible for the war crimes and the police-state apparatus that has been built up during the war. Ever since so-called independence from British imperialism in 1948, the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie has whipped up and exploited anti-Tamil chauvinism to divide the working class and maintain its reactionary rule.

The working class must advance its own strategy and program to oppose US imperialism. This involves the independent mobilisation of workers in Sri Lanka, South Asia and around the world on the basis of a unified struggle for a socialist perspective. Above all, this means fighting for the political independence of the working class in Sri Lanka from every faction of the bourgeoisie, which are all utterly subservient to imperialism.

The Socialist Equality Party calls on the working class to reject all forms of nationalism and chauvinism, in order to unite Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim workers in a common struggle against capitalism and its political defenders. The SEP fights for a Socialist Republic of Eelam and Sri Lanka as part of a union of socialist republics in South Asia and internationally. We urge workers and youth to join and build the SEP, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Read more here – http://www.wsws.org/

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#Srilanka – CHOGM is Dad’s Army revisited

, November 9, 2013
 Sri Lanka Guardian

 by Pearl Thevanayagam

 (November 09, 2013 London Sri Lanka Guardian) CHOGM is but a meeting of Commonwealth Heads whose sell-by-date have long expired. But it plods on like Dad’s Army, the British TV sitcom based on WW 11 where war veterans still believe they are fighting for Britain in their colonies.
C’wealth holds no more clout than the British empire whose colonies have moved on and gained autonomy. There are no more bunga boys to keep on pulling the ropes 24/7 to cool their heads from tropical heat; air-conditioning was yet to be discovered. And no more palanquins to chariot them across the arid deserts across India which in their halcyon days constituted much of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But they are coming here. And one more burning question that every Sri Lankan should ask of the government is who is footing the bill for the grand party for the CHOGM delegates. Is Commonwealth coughing up some kudos or is the government spending like there is no tomorrow and burdening citizen Perera, Mohamed and Appapillai who would rather their hard-earned money is well spent on their own families rather than fatten up the coffers of their elected politicians who are already draining people’s funds.
Sixty eight years since Ceylon gained independence from British colonialism, ethnic Tamils have yet to gain parity with the majority Sinhalese. Seven Buddhists brought branches of Bodhi Tree from India to propagate Buddhism to the isle and established the isle a Buddhist nation with the extrapolation that this isle would be exclusively a Sinhala nation.
The Senanayakes, Madugalles, Obeysekeras and others swear by all deities they are the true propagators of Buddhism and who carried seven Bodhi branches all the way from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka. Incidentally Bandaranaikes were not part of this pilgrimage but they would curry favour with the British by sheer force of being contractors of toilets as the Senanayakes contracted to be carters if one goes by the yarns of the late ganja addict Manik Sandrasegara.
Tamils have a tendency to discredit fellow Tamils as was seen in the insurgent period when the LTTE wanted to reign supreme over other militant Tamil groups. “Oor erandupattal koothadikku kondanddam” is a wise old Tamil saying which translates into, “If the village splits hairs the comedian wins”.
The comedian here is the majority Sinhalese who would use this opportunity to entrench their Buddhist hegemony while Tamils are fighting over who should become the fighting force for Tamil rights within a majority Sinhalese.
The fall of the LTTE is easily attributed to the dissent among Tamils. It is entrenched in Tamil genes they should put down fellow Tamils and that is the essence of what went wrong with Tamils gaining parity with the Sinhalese.
Having said that, to this very day, this writer depends on Sinhalese editors to publish her pieces. Not a single Tamil website credited this writer by publishing them. No wonder, Tamils are in this dire situation. One Tamil cannot bear to see another getting some prominence. Why should we blame the Sinhalese?
It was none other than H.L.D. Mahindapala, chief editor of The Observer, who persuaded Lake House chairman Sunil Rodrigo to recruit me to the Daily News when Independent Newspapers folded during Christmas of 1990. This was the time when all Tamils were portrayed as Tamil Tigers. However much I disagree with his writings he nurtured me and continues to be my pillar of strength. For this I am eternally grateful.
On a personal note, when this writer was nominated to Asia Pacific fellowship in journalism at UC Berkeley in the US, it was a senior disgruntled Tamil journalist, T. Sabaratnam, now pushing up daisies who telephoned the US embassy and told them I was an LTTE sympathiser. Thankfully the attache telephoned this writer and joked why this man had a grudge. However, the fellowship was awarded in 1993 just one and a half yearsinto Daily News.
Sabaratnam depended on Thondaman’s ministry to plug in news to earn extra kudos as did most Lake House journalists with their favourite ministries. He also stayed late after working hours to go limping (he was afflicted with polio and he wore Verti, the traditional Hindu vestment which our incumbent governor wears during ceremonies) to the VDT room to remove this writer’s by-line for the Colombo edition.
Having served the government mostly in Thinakaran, the Tamil HMV of Lake House where he was at loggerheads with the editor, he was moved to Daily News and he got just as far as India and no further for his sucking up to the governments in power.
Speak no ill of the dead is a fine dictum but it is incumbent on those who survive that this is a dictum which needs to be addressed whether the departed is a charlatan or saint.
Which brings us to the split and spoil amongst Tamil militants. The LTTE went on a rampage circa 1980’s killing opponents and parading their bodies in public as warning to those who dissented with them. Lamp-post exhibitions of those killed were the hallmark of the LTTE and they struck terror all across the North and East.
The LTTE then turned their anger on Muslims who they believed were traitors and who told Muslims who were an integral part of the commerce in Jaffna were intimidated into fleeing the peninsula where they settled for centuries and enjoyed parity with the Tamils were hounded out lock, stock and barrel due to the paranoia of the LTTE they were moles of the government.
Muslims, not unlike the Burghers were law-abiding citizens and they are well-known for their hospitality. Apart from astute business acumen coupled with worldly wisdom, the Muslims of Sri Lanka produced some of the finest scholars.
Tamils have a tendency to harp on their caste and Hinduism to castigate others who are of lesser caste. Caste is not a God given prestige; rather it is man-made and exploited to be subservient striking the fear of God into those they deemed lesser mortals. Ergo, the North and East.
The Brahmins if truth be told took to vegetarianism not because they abhorred killing of life form. The kings of yesteryears felt that their servants who went out to kill animals and bring their carcasses were short-shrifting them. So they preached that killing animals was sin; Brahmins bought this canard and took to vegetarianism and were smug they belonged to the supreme caste.
Having been carried away with musings of bygone days it is now time to reflect on CHOGM. Is t a dead parrot as we all know or is it something the government show-piecing to thwart war crimes?
There are some serious allegations against the government for its conduct on the military offensive which annihilated surrendering Tamil civilians and it certainly has much blood on its hands.
CHOGM will soon end but war crimes scrutiny will not go away. The Rajapaksas are in for a long haul and what with new evidence from Callum Mcrae and the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka video the government needs to prepare for porridge time in Hague; the war criminals’ refuge.
Ane UNHCR commissioner Navi Pillai has gathered her evidence first hand and the evidence is mounting.
(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at [email protected])
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Srilanka – ‘Tamils still being raped and tortured’ #Vaw #Genocide

By Frances HarrisonPresenter, Our World

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/nldVJ6PKUrw?feature=player_embedded” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Frances Harrison‘s report on Sri Lanka

As Commonwealth leaders prepare to meet at a summit in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, allegations of rape and torture by the Sri Lankan security forces have emerged, some of them occurring four years after the civil war ended.

“When the lady left and that man closed the door, I knew what was going to happen,” says Vasantha. “They raped me.”

One evening earlier this year, Vasantha says, she was going back to her home in northern Sri Lanka when a white van drew up and two men asked for her identity card.

She says she was thrown into the back of the vehicle and blindfolded.

Continue reading the main story

Find out more

A Tamil rape survivor, who we are calling Nandini

Watch Our World: Sri Lanka’s Unfinished War on BBC World News on Saturday 9 November at 11:30 GMT and on Sunday 10 November at 17:30 GMT and 22:30 GMT or watch it later on the BBC iPlayer.

Vasantha says she realised the authorities had finally caught up with her, four years after the war and just as she was about to leave for Britain on a student visa.

Her story is one of a number given to the BBC, horrific accounts of torture carried out long after hostilities ended.

During the civil war, Vasantha had helped Tamil Tiger rebels pass messages and set up safe houses in the capital, but she says she never took part in the fighting or held a gun.

Like other women I have interviewed, Vasantha never saw the outside of the building where she was held or met another detainee, but she said she did hear female voices, screaming in Tamil.

She describes being photographed and fingerprinted and then kicked, beaten with batons and pipes, burned with hot wires and cigarettes, submerged in a barrel of water until she thought she would drown, suffocated by having a petrol-soaked plastic bag put over her head, before being repeatedly raped by men in army uniform.

She says she signed a confession in a language she could not understand – Sinhala – but the torture and rape went on for 20 days before a relative could find her and pay a bribe for her release.

For the last three days, she remembers her skin itching terribly in a filthy cell as she was kept completely naked.

This man says he was brandedThis Tamil man says he was branded during a torture session

“On the last day, at about two in the morning, three people came and they blindfolded me again and handcuffed me. At that moment I thought they were going to kill me,” she recalls.

Vasantha has a medical report from an independent expert who corroborates her story of rape and torture, as well as documents to show her family reported her disappearance to Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission at the time.

She has recently been granted asylum in the UK on the basis of her story.

Vasantha is one of 12 men and women who say they were raped by the Sri Lankan security forces in detention this year – one as recently as August.

The Sri Lankan government says it does not tolerate torture and the military says there were only five incidents of sexual violence involving soldiers in the north of the island from 2007 to 2012.

But a Human Rights Watch report documented 62 cases of sexual violence involving the security forces after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka and said their evidence strongly suggested the abuse was widespread and systematic.

Continue reading the main story

Sri Lanka Timeline

  • 1948 – As Ceylon, the island gains independence from Britain.
  • 1972 – The government changes its name to Sri Lanka and gives Buddhism primary place as country’s religion, antagonising largely Hindu Tamil minority.
  • 1983 – As ethnic tensions grow, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launches a violent uprising, seeking autonomy for the Tamil-dominated north and east.
  • 2005 – After years of war, and failed peace talks, Mahinda Rajapaksa is elected president.
  • May 2009 – Tamil Tigers defeated after army over-runs last patch of rebel-held territory in the north-east. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran killed.
  • Apr 2011 – UN says both sides committed atrocities against civilians and calls for an international investigation into possible war crimes. Sri Lanka says the report is biased.
  • Nov 2012 – Another UN report says 70,000 civilians were “unaccounted for” at the end of the war.
  • Nov 2013 – Colombo prepares to host Chogm

The UK charity Freedom from Torture has examined 120 incidents that took place after the war in Sri Lanka, while two British doctors from the charity Medact have seen more than 60 cases of Sri Lankans branded on their bodies with hot metal rods since the war ended.

“There is such a systematic set-up in Sri Lanka, whereby it’s absolutely clear to me… that detention and torture is going on in a very large scale and that it’s done in a very similar way every time,” says Dr Alison Callaway, an NHS doctor from Coventry who has written 200 independent assessments for the Home Office of alleged torture cases from Sri Lanka in the past five years.

“It must be assumed that it’s the deterrent effect that they will never again be able to have the strength or the purpose to want to fight against the Sri Lankan government or undertake underground activities against them because the terror and the distress and the trauma has been so great,” she concludes.

A BBC investigation also found seven Tamil men who allege they were tortured in the Sri Lankan government’s official rehabilitation programme for suspected former rebels. Four have documentation to show they were rehabilitated as well as medical reports corroborating their allegations of torture.

Organisations such as the International Commission of Jurists and two United Nations reports have said the Sri Lankan rehabilitation programme failed to meet international standards and warned of the possibility of torture, but this is the first testimony from survivors.

Chogm summit poster in ColomboThe allegations come as Sri Lanka prepares to host the Chogm summit

The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence says it had “a world-class terrorist rehabilitation programme” that offered healthcare, education, vocational training and facilities for sports, meditation and entertainment to former Tamil Tiger rebels.

This was not the experience of Ravi, who says he was forced to join the rebels for the last six months of the war but then spent four years in rehabilitation being tortured in all the places he was detained.

“They would put my testicles in the drawer and slam the drawer shut. Sometimes I became unconscious. Then they would bring someone and force me to have oral sex with him. Sometimes if we lost consciousness during the torture they would urinate on us,” he says.

A leading British lawyer examined the evidence of continuing torture and rape gathered by the BBC along with other documentation from the United Nations and human rights groups.

Kirsty Brimelow QC says: “It all equates to a crime against humanity and therefore in cases like this, normally you’d be looking at them being referred to the international criminal court for further investigation.”

A still from a Sri Lankan government promotional videoThe Sri Lankan government paints a picture of an Indian Ocean paradise recovering from decades of war

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London said: “Allegations of systematic abuse are a travesty of the truth for they suggest that this is the policy of the Sri Lankan government. It is certainly not so.”

They said it was not fair to expect them to respond fully to allegations contained in anonymous testimony.

Their written statement suggested the people who spoke to the BBC could have been paid to discredit Sri Lanka or even tortured by the Tamil Tigers themselves.

The names of Vasantha, Ravi and Nandini have been changed to protect their identities.

Our World: Sri Lanka’s Unfinished War will be broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 9 November at 11:30 GMT and on Sunday 10 November at 17:30 GMT and 22:30 GMT.

 

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PRESS RELEASE – Statement on denial of visa to British Director Callum Macrae

PRESS RELEASE                                                                   8 November 2013

 

 

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the Indian government for refusing a visa to award winning British filmaker Callum Macrae, thereby preventing him from attending the premiere of his documentary ‘No Fire Zone’ in New Delhi and Mumbai.

 

The denial of visa is clearly part of the Indian government’s appeasement of the Sri Lankan regime of Mahinda Rajapakse, which has been accused of war crimes during the last phases of the civil war in 2009, which resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 civilians.

 

Mr Macrae’s, globally acclaimed documentary presents hard evidence of these crimes that include rape of Tamil women, torture and murder of journalists and human rights activists. Mr Macrae’s team was nominated for the Noble Prize in recognition of its contribution to human rights.

 

In the last few years the Indian External Affairs Ministry has similarly prevented several other filmakers, artists, intellectuals and activists from traveling to India for seminars, exhibitions or public events. By blocking the free flow of ideas, information and artistic works across national borders the government is impinging upon the democratic rights of Indian citizens also.

 

We appeal to all freedom loving citizens, groups and organisations to challenge this violation of freedom of expression, a right which is enshrined in the Constitution of India for the protection of Indian democracy.

 

Signed:

Lenin Rajendran, K.P.Sasi, Anand Patwardhan, Sanjay Kak. Meghnad, Anjali Monteiro, Pankaj Bhutalia, K.P.Jayashankar, Shohini Ghosh, R.P.Amudhan, Vani Subramaniam, B.Ajitkumar, Satya Sivaraman, K.P.Pradeep, Leena Manimekalai Surajit Sarkar, Gopal Menon, P. Baburaj, N.Sreemith, K R Manoj, Sreemith.N, Deepak Narayan, Musthafa Desamangalam, Surabhi Sharma, Pedestrian Pictures, VIBGYOR Film Collective

 

For further information contact:

K.P.Sasi: Ph: 09567666798

Satya Sivaraman: Ph:09818514952

 

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Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat #mustread

modi

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah[1]

We are caught in a false debate in which the reality is presented in an erroneous perception. Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of 2002 carnage is counter posed with Mr. Modi the “development leader”. We call it a false debate, since for us, who have lived and grown in Gujarat over the past five decades the two aspects are actually the same – that of fascist. And we use the label of fascist for Modi with utmost seriousness and with full awareness of what the term involves. Of course, we have a different situation in India today, compared to Italy or Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, bourgeois parliamentary democracy was not too deep-rooted in those countries. By contrast, despite the efforts of Maoists on the extreme left and fascists on the extreme right, parliamentary democracy has struck considerably greater roots. This has had implications for the far left as well as the far right. Our concern today is the far right.

Since the Sangh Parivar has been consigned by fate to operate within ‘bourgeois democracy’ for a far longer time than it had originally envisaged (in 1947-48 it had clearly planned for a fairly swift grab for power, creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ analogous to Jinnah’s plan for a ‘Islamic State’), it has been compelled to split its operations. The BJP, as the electoral arm, has to look “moderate”. Of course, it is “moderate” only if one argues that a hyena is moderate compared to a wolf-pack. One should remember that the Mr. L. K. Advani, hailed these days as a “Statesman”, was seen as aggressive as against the “moderate” Mr. Vajpayee back in 1989-1992.

So the issue is not as if there is a “fascist tendency” in the Sangh Parivar, but also a “developmental discourse”. The issue is, how is the fascism of the Sangh Parivar going to be utilised for capital? This is where the ‘Modi model’ is crucial. It is Gujarat, a rapidly industrialising province that is showing, in a small way, what the Sangh Parivar is willing to do for capital.

The success story of the two-digit growth has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this process. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth. 

It is a shocking fact that we have never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of these figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works. This is just a tip of iceberg.

What the Government data shows:

In order to forestall charges that we are using tendentious data, we propose to build our case by using, in the main, data released by government sources, or data not repudiated by the regime.

The Gujarat Government claims that it has generated vast numbers of jobs. This is the first thing we wanted to investigate. Activists of the Gujarat based Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, an independent militant trade union, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Rohit Prajapati, in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action chose a close scrutiny of Government of Gujarat’s latest “Employment Effort”, the “Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week” in February/March 2012 as an instance[2]. In response to our RTI application, the Gujarat Government told us that spread over months, 489 melas were organised, and 65,000 youth were given employment through the ‘Rojgar Melas’.

In April 2012, we filed a detailed RTI application to the Chief Minister’s Office of Gujarat (CMO) and Principal Secretary, Labour and Employment department, Gujarat seeking details on 18 counts.

Instead of getting collated data from the CMO or the Principal Secretary, Gujarat Labour and Employment Department, which would have given a state-wide comprehensive picture, we started getting fragmented replies from each of the ‘District Employment and Training Department’ across the state.

The Employment and Training Departments in the districts were not in sync with each other, as some provided statistics in their replies of the district employment or data to some of the queries, while some did not, without giving any satisfactory reason.

Instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided based on information given by the authorities in 23 districts, totals only to 51,587. Out of that 11,172 are apprentices (30.4%). i.e. the actual figure is 40,415 and not even 51,587. But, the names of only 32,372 were provided to us.

We had sought specific information on what post, what pay and which industry and if each of them provided ’employment’ in this “Rozgar Mela” would be entitled to benefits under labour and other statutory laws.

Again, we received no categorical reply about entitlement of benefits, saying the information would be best available with the concern employers. While some gave details about post employed, the employer’s name, none gave details about the pay and other legal benefits they will get. 

Collating all the information, we got some important facts. Nobody had been given an ‘Appointment Letter’. What they got was a piece of paper called ‘Employment letter’, which is bad in law. Secondly, the total amount spent for these melas came to Rs 1, 87, 70,000 according to the Department of Employment and Training. This excluded the money spent on the participation of the ministers – including the Chief Minister – in these melas. The Department of Employment and Training categorically told us that it had not spent money for their participation. This money therefore came from other sources.

Thus, we get a picture that some 32,000 to 40,000 (at best) got some sort of unspecified jobs, while another 11,000 odd got apprenticeships. In Ahmedabad, 4,370 were recruited but all as apprentices. The Apprentice Act, 1961[3] under which the employers of certain factories have to recruit certain number of apprentice in their factories clearly states that they are not employees of the factories and therefore they are provided with no legal benefits but only stipend of Rs.1,490 for the 1st year, 1,700 for the 2nd year, and 1,970 for the 3rd year. In the other cases, where people did get actual jobs, those were mostly temporary in nature.

Thus, the ‘employment’ given ranged from apprenticeship to private sector employment for temporary jobs, with very few being skilled workers. The state was using its finances and officers to procure low paid workers for private capital, for example the GIDCs[4].

We leave out the fraudulent information given by the state, not because we forgive the fraud, but because that is not central to our present arguments. It is however important to note that many names have been put more than once to pump up the figures, and also that people who got jobs on their own and were already in job have found their names listed as beneficiaries of Mr. Modi. What is vital, however, is that most of the workers we could actually contact and interview stated they have low wages, high working hours (in some cases even 12 hours per day). Most of them do not get any other legal benefits like Provident Fund or leave except weekly leave.

In Anand district, 2,464 candidates were provided jobs by the Employment and Training Department. The list of Anand District shows that 621 (25.21%) graduate/post graduate/MA-B.Ed/PGDCA were given job as School Coordinator. They were promised the salary of Rs 4,500-5,000/month but they received only Rs. 3,100-3,500/month. This is less than the statutory minimum wage! With some of them, an 11 years contract was signed but they were relieved after 10-11 months.

The central picture that emerges from the foregoing is, the rhetoric of Mr. Modi is belied by the reality that his government is driving down state expenses and also the expenses on wages by private employers, using force and fraud.

Environment and Industry in Gujarat:

The Gujarat Government has charted out its roadmap clearly. It wants to take over peasants’ land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like labour rights and environment protection. The then Finance Minister of Gujarat Mr. Vajubhai Vala while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’  on January 11, 2011 said  that “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.”[5] He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them.[6]

Thus, it is evident that for the Gujarat government, toiling people of any kind do not matter.

Modi’s hymn singers, and today they are increasing, as so many among the privileged think they should take the “right” side before it is too late for them to get a fair share of the gravy. They will therefore contest our claims, accusing us of at least overstating our case. We will therefore make the case in further details.

GDPise Chemical State – Gujarat State does not have Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan:

Gujarat is the only state where all registered chemical factories have been identified and categorized in various hazard classes, by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health considering their hazard potential.[7] Major Accident Hazard (MAH) factories are identified as per standard norms of related laws. Gujarat state has the highest total 497 MAH Class factories which amounts 30 % of MAH factories in India. At present, 3204 ‘B’ +’C’ class hazardous chemical factories are identified in the state. Gujarat is having a total 30,310 factories registered under the Factories Act (employing directly 940567 Workers) out of which total 4,559 (15%) are hazardous chemical factories.[8]

Over a period of time, Gujarat has also succeeded in widening its industrial base. At the time of inception in 1960, the industrial development was confined only to four major cities viz. Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat and Rajkot and some isolated locations such as Mithapur and Valsad. Today, almost all the districts of the state have witnessed industrial development in varying degrees. Such a massive scale of industrial development has been possible on account of haphazard and severe exploitation of natural resources. The discovery of oil and gas in Gujarat in the decade of 1960s has played an important role in setting up of petroleum refineries, fertilizer plants and petrochemical complexes. During the same period, the state government has also established a strong institutional network. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), established industrial estates providing developed plots and ready built-up sheds to industries all across the state. Institutions were also set up to provide term finance, assistance for purchase of raw materials, plant and equipment and marketing of products. Later, District Industries Centers (DICs) were set up in all the districts to provide assistance in setting up industrial units in the form of support services. The state also developed infrastructure facilities required for industries, such as power, roads, ports, water supply and technical education institutions. The Government also introduced incentive schemes, from time to time, to promote industries. All these initiatives have made Gujarat emerge as the highly industrialized state in the country today.

Gujarat contributes more than 62% of national petrochemicals and 51% of national Chemical sector output. It leads all states in India in terms of the investments committed in the chemical and petrochemical sector. 30% of fixed capital investment is in the manufacturing of Chemical and Chemical Products. Manufacturing of chemicals and chemical products contribute to around one fifth of the total employment in state. The production capacity of major suppliers of polymers, PE/PP/PVC in Gujarat is nearly 70% of the whole country’s production. The province also has large quantity of production of basic chemicals like caustic soda, caustic potash and chloromethane. It is the largest supplier of bio-fertilizers, seeds, urea and other fertilizers.[9]

But the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), it seems, doesn’t think that chemical industries have potential to cause chemical disasters in the state. Despite the Bhopal gas tragedy that took place 28 years ago, which killed at least ten thousand persons and resulted in about 500,000 more people suffering agonizing injuries with disastrous effects of the massive poisoning[10], the Gujarat government doesn’t seem to have learnt anything. Replying to one of our Right to Information Application (RTI) about Chemical Emergency Plan of the Gujarat state the GSDMA stated in their replies that “A Chemical Emergency Plan is currently under consideration at the Disaster Management Authority.”[11] GSDMA further stated in their replies “In reference to your above mentioned letter where information like numbers and names of the chemical industries, chemical used, final product, pollutant generated and its impact, also information about engineered landfill site – treatment storage and disposal facility, effluent treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, etc. have been sought by you, we would like to inform you that the requested information is not available with this office.”[12]

The ‘Honourable’ Chief Minister is the chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly under clause 2(h) states that “disaster”  means an  actual or imminent  event, whether natural or otherwise  occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause  all or any of  the following: (i)  widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii)  widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii)  damage or degradation of  environment;’[13] but the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’[14] What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health & Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when we demanded a copy of it, we were told that it is secret.[15] A chemical emergency plan is not among the priorities in Gujarat, a state with one of the country’s highest concentration of chemical industries.

The Cases of Critically Polluted Area – Vapi and Ankleshwar:

This is another first for Gujarat, though this finds no mention in Gujarat chief minster’s speeches.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI[16], topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India.

In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

Thus Gujarat is able to top in 2009 in ‘critically polluted areas’ in India and continues to maintain its position in 2011 & 2013.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi who is the BJP’s PM-designate does not comment or engages ever on this issue. We, the concerned citizens challenge him for an open discussion on this issue.

Mr. Narendra Modi in his book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change’ published in 2011, on p. 132-133, has printed a photograph of Vapi’s Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) which even today does not operate as per the prescribed norms of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). When the CETP of Vapi industrial area is not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms, what message does the CM want to convey to the country and the world by printing a two page photograph of this treatment plant? On this issue we have posed several questions to him in our review of his book but he has been unable to answer a single question.[17]

The constant advocacy by the pollution affected people and people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana etc. were declared ‘critically polluted’.

Thereafter, in several meetings of CPCB and SPCBs serious debates on the pollution status of these areas were undertaken. Even after formulation of ‘action plans’ for the said industrial area no substantial or qualitative change was observed in these industrial areas. For this reason, in 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60-70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40-60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The mucky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipe line’s project was inaugurated by Narendra Modi on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, he was sending out the message to the investors to not to worry much about the compliance/s of environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institute, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the ’supposed’ solution to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipe line project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) – all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas.[18] However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement.[19] However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of April 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas. Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

Moratorium continues

Moratorium lifted

Moratorium re-imposed after having been lifted

Ankleshwar – Gujarat

Bhiwadi – Rajasthan

Vapi – Gujarat (CEPI – 85.31)

Chandrapur – Maharashtra

Dhanbad – Jharkhand

Gaziabad – UP (CEPI – 84.30)

Pali – Rajeshthan

Manali – Tamil Nadu

Singrauli – UP (CEPI – 83.24)

Vatva – Gujarat

Ahmedabad – Gujarat

Panipat – Haryana (CEPI – 81.27)

Vellore – Tamil Nadu

Korba – Chhatisgadh

Indore – MP (CEPI – 78.75)

Najafgarh – Delhi

Asansol, Haldia and Howrah – W. Bengal

Pattancheru-Bellaram – Andhra Pradesh (CEPI – 76.05)

Jodhpur – Rajasthan

Vishakhapatnam – Andhra Pradesh

Ludhiana – Punjab (CEPI – 75.72)


Kanpur – Uttar Pradesh

Jharsugoda – Orissa (CEPI – 73.31)
   

The mega-star Amitabh Bachhan – the brand ambassador for tourism of Gujarat – with his welcome speech, “Come and spends some days in these areas of Gujarat’’ is never heard welcoming anyone in these polluted areas.

Modi is neither uttering single word on these issues nor is he ready for any kind of dialogue or debate on this issue.

Struggle against proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant:

At Mithi Virdi, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, the Central Government, with full cooperation of the state government, is seeking to build a 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant. Thousands of villagers are up in arms, protesting this with the slogan ‘Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world’­. The Government of Modi is perfectly aware, that Mr. Manmohan Singh is trying to dilute the Nuclear Liability Act even further, so that private profits are safeguarded even as Fukushima exemplified all over again how risky N-plants are.

Indeed, Mr. Modi is not merely silent. The agencies of the Gujarat government, in this matter, are working hand in glove with the centre. As The Hindu reported in August, CRZ clearance has been given in a remarkably slipshod way. During and before the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) for the proposed Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), villagers, local Panchayats and organisations like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti have brought to the notice of the authorities that Engineer India Limited (EIL), the consultant of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) does not have necessary accreditations to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a NPP. However, in an instance of utter disregard and disrespect to the Environmental Law and the Constitution of India, NPCIL and EIL went ahead with the EIA study and the collector tried to go ahead with the illegal Public Hearing in March 2013.

On March 5, 2013, on the day of Public Hearing more than 6500 villagers, local Panchayats and Voluntary Organisation raised certain basic legal issues and sought clarification from the Chairman of the Public hearing, the then collector of Bhavnagar Mr. V. P. Patel. He had no answers to the important questions raised by them but instead tried to go ahead with the illegal hearing. The villagers were left with no choice but to walkout from the illegal, unconstitutional public hearing.

The EPH was held in a coercive and terror-filled atmosphere, in order to prevent the villagers from making free and fair representation. Not only a heavy posse of police force but also private security guards were hired at the EPH site, frisking and checking every entrant, and at places questioning villagers and participants about their antecedents. Unnecessary barricades and iron wire fencing separated the collector’s dais and the participants area, a first ever arrangement during the EPH in recent times in Gujarat. While the barricades and iron wire-fencing might have been put for “the safety and security” of the collector and officials, they created an atmosphere of coercive tactics that invoked state control and fear over the proceedings of grave public concern.

The collector allowed songs and recordings in favour of the NPCIL and benefits of nuclear power plant to be broadcast from the public address system arranged by the collectorate. These recordings continued to be played till the EPH proceedings began formally. This was a clear violation of the neutral approach that the collector should have taken on the issue and instead made clear his predisposition on behalf of the NPCIL. On the contrary, the villagers were not only prevented from making free and fair representation; their representations on procedural issues were also ignored during the EPH.

There were at least thirty odd people sitting on dais on both the sides of district collector during the EPH, whose presence and background went unaccounted with no one introduced or briefed about who they were and in what capacity they sat there. The villagers and their elected representatives on the other hand got no such chance and instead were frequently frisked and subjected to irritating queries.

The NPCIL and EIL has since then continued to resort to the illegal practices by keeping silence on the issues raised by the villagers. This is evident from its application and presentations for Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the authorities in Gujarat without submitting adequate documents and information. 

Members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Krishnakant, Swati Desai, and Rohit Prajapati, environmental activists in Gujarat, wrote letters to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), alleging that the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance by the State Government was without any site visits and documentation of ground realities.

On June 11, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP,  the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance because they have casually given this clearance/recommendation for CRZ clearance without asking for and reading the note on safety aspects, site clearance report and without undertaking the site visit. GCZMA has also not taken in account the basics, for instance eventualities like population increase in the immediate vicinity of the proposed plant. What the CRZ clearance does, therefore, is to endorse the illegal and unconstitutional act of NPCIL and EIL. Activists earlier alleged that the EIL had no accreditation to conduct an environment impact assessment for a nuclear power plant. It appeared as if the GCZMA is a victim of the non-transparent and secretive approach of NPCIL, which has not attached the report dated June 28, 2007, of Site Selection Committee even in the Environment Impact Assessment document and also to the GCZMA.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL. 

This is the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State.

Kevadia near Sardar Sarovar Dam: Old and New Struggles

Another hot spot Mr. Modi faces is near Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

He expressed surprise over Gujarat Government’s decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “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.”

He further states in his letter “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.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat Government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the Chief Executive Officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the Sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Sardar Sarovar Dam that they better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face consequences. The four-line letter dated March 6, 2013 sent to the village Sarpanches under the heading “Regarding the decision to include your villages under KADA”, threateningly states “the government has decided on development oriented work in these villages, even then you have not passed resolutions on your letter-heads agreeing to be included under KADA.” Calling the behaviour of the 52 village Panchayat “improper”, the KADA letter says, “You are requested to send your approval for the use of your villages for developmental purpose within seven days. In case you fail to do it, then – keeping that in view – we will be forced to take further steps against you.” Significantly, KADA comes directly under the Gujarat Urban Development Department and has been given the task of “developing” the area around the Sardar Sarovar Dam into a tourism spot, complete with all types of entertainment facilities, hotels and sports.

KADA Chief Executive Officer Mr. D. B. Rahewar said that his office has so far only asked consent from 54 villages to get consent of the village Panchayats for town development purpose, and the process was still at initial stage. “We have added 54 more villages under our scheme and have sought consent from the Panchayat but are yet to get their consent. We intend to develop the area under town planning scheme. The systemic development of the basic infrastructure in the region will be meant for mass service,” he said.

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have received. In fact, they cannot even access to Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strong among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which KADA’s tourism will be developed. Already, 16 villages have been brought under KADA, while the plan is to take the number to 70.

On October 2, 2013 a huge contingent of police force was mobilised by the Gujarat state police department to create an atmosphere of terror and threat among the villagers to prevent them from reaching the place of the meeting where they were to discuss and raise their grievances against KADA (Kevadia Area Development Authority) near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat. Government authorities photographed as well as video recorded the villagers who made their way to the meeting venue as a means of intimidation.

This happened a day after October 1, 2013, when the Collector, district Narmada and KADA authorities organised an urgent meeting with Sarpanches, Panchayat members and the Talati of 70 villages where they spelled out in not many words to dissuade the locals not to join the October 2 meeting. In spite of these “efforts” by the state and KADA authority, over 1500 people from the villages attended the meeting and resolved to fight back this inhuman and unconstitutional action. Protesting tribals shouted, “jaan denge, jameen nahi (we will give our life, but not our land)”, “jameen rotlo aape chhe (we get food from our land)”, “amaro gaam, amaro raaj (our village, our rule),” “vikas joiye chhe na ki vinas (we need development and not destruction)”, among others, to register their protest against the move of the KADA to acquire land. 

The Chairman, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, the Chairman & CEO, KADA and Collector, district Narmada were invited for the meeting to put forward the information, facts and figures before the villagers on October 2. Much to everyone’s regret, they all chose to remain absent from the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the villagers and concerned citizens took a pledge with Narmada water in their hand.

In other words, in the Modi development model, if you are workers, dalits, adivasis, and of course Muslims, then you may expect extremes of oppression and suffering. Tie this in with the export of the Gujarat model to the rest of the country, starting with the experiments in Uttar Pradesh (Muzzaffarnagar). The BJP sent a tested criminal, Mr. Amit Shah  into UP to apply the lessons of Gujarat to the country’s biggest state, since Mr. Modi has decided that whoever wins UP wins India. In UP, Shah communalised the state or large parts of it, pitting the Jats against the Muslims. Incidents were concocted so that pogroms could be whipped up. This resulted in the mass violence. At least 48 people died, many more are still missing and huge numbers had to flee their homes. And meanwhile the thugs who fanned the flames of this cynically orchestrated violence and destroyed thousands of lives gather for a photo-op in the corridors of the UP state assembly. This is what projecting Modi as PM implies – capitalist development in the interest of the top layers of the country, mass exploitation of workers and other toilers, along with mobilisations based on extreme communal politics and the destruction of peoples’ organisations. This is precisely Indian fascism.

The authors can be contacted at [email protected][email protected] 

 

[1]  The authors are members of Radical Socialist, http://www.radicalsocialist.in/ Radical Socialist is an internationalist Marxist organisation based in India.

[2] http://www.sacw.net/article3417.html

[3]  http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/ApprenticeAct1961.pdf 

[4]  Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation has been created with public money for the facilitation and establishment of private companies and corporations both domestic and international in industrial areas and industrial estates in the state. It has established 182 industrial estates, ranging from mini to mega sizes, in 25 of the 25 districts of the state. It has also developed 7 Special Economic Zones (SEZ). It is now establishing Special Investment Regions, PCPIR, Industrial areas and large sector-specific estates to attract big capital with the help of public finances.

[5]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[6]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[7]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[8]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[9]  http://www.vibrantgujarat.com/focus-areas/chemicals-and-petrochemicals.aspx, dated 21-9-2011

[10] http://www.bmhrc.org/Bhopal%20Gas%20Tragedy.htm
[11]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 10-8-2007

[12]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 23-8-2007

[13] http://www.gsdma.org/dmact.pdf

[14] http://www.gsdma.org/profile.htm

[15]Reply by Director, Health & Safety Department, Vadodara, to Rohit Prajapati, dated 9-9-2010

[16]   Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), is a rational number to characterize the environmental quality at a given location following the algorithm of source, pathway and receptor have been developed. The index captures the various health dimensions of environment including air, water and land.

    http://cpcb.nic.in/divisionsofheadoffice/ess/NewItem_152_Final-Book_2.pdf 

[17]  Mr. Narendra Modi – ‘CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change’ has conveniently ignored the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the State of Gujarat. – Rohit Prajapati http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/environment/378-narendra-modi-and-climate-change-a-response 
[18] http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-reimposing-170913.pdf 

[19] http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-lifting-170913.pdf

 

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