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Constitutional order collapses if Parliament is paralysed: Sitaram Yechury

The veteran CPI (M) leader spoke to SabrangIndia’s Karuna John about the new postal ballot rule, clampdown on dissent, impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, and the way ahead. 

04 Jul 2020

sitaram

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury says there is an authoritarian attack on democratic rights underway at a time when the govt’s single minded focus should have been to battle the pandemic. The telephonic interview has been edited for flow and clarity.


Question:  The demand of the Election Commision changing polling rules, is best raised in Parliament. Have you asked that Parliament be convened? 

Answer: Yes, the CPM has already demanded that the Parliament must be convened. We said that it is possible even for physical convening of the Parliament because the Lok Sabha can meet in the Central Hall and Rajya Sabha in the Lok Sabha chamber, this way physical distance can also be maintained, with masks and all the necessary precautions like sanitisation of all the spaces. This can be done and we think this should be done. There are many countries in the world that are meeting despite lockdowns and discussing very important policy matters. 

But here in India the government decides,unilateral announcements are made and there is no debate, discussions, that undermines our  democratic order. I think it's perfectly feasible to maintain all the precautions while we are facing this pandemic, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing. I think this can be, and should be done. It is not about discussing procedures for voting, but it is also important to discuss all other policy matters that are currently being unilateral announced and implemented. 

It is essential to uphold the centrality of our Constitution, which is, the sovereignty of the people exercised by those whom the people elect, who demand the accountability of the Executive that is the Government. The entire Constitutional order collapses if the Parliament is paralysed. This cannot and should not be allowed.
 

Question: What according to you is the best alternative to facilitate voting under Covid-19 circumstances?

Answer: The best alternative is to organise the voting in such a manner that there is no crowding. Physical distancing is maintained, masks have to be compulsorily worn. Sanitizers provided at every point so that people maintain hygiene. It is perfectly possible if you have multiple polling stations within a booth, it is perfectly possible to have voting done in a manner adhering to all the necessary precautions.
 

Question: Is postal ballot the most vulnerable ballot/ polling system?

Answer: No, postal ballot is not the only vulnerable ballot system. You also have suggestions for electronic voting, which can be grossly misused, and postal ballots as well we have seen, our past experience has shown. Therefore the best method which has evolved in India during the last seven decades and has been efficiently implemented is the physical verification of the voting and that is something that sanctifies the democratic process and the electoral system. So that should be maintained at all costs


Question: The ECI’s  move is also an indicator that Bihar will go to polls soon, maybe earlier than scheduled. Should these polls have been postponed/ deferred?

Answer: Well  the indicator for Bihar elections has already been given by the BJP.  You have seen the public meetings addressed by the union home minister where 72,000 LED screens were ordered, bought, and one each, displayed in every polling booth area in Bihar. It is being announced by the BJP that 72,000 WhatsApp groups have been created. Close to 10,000 IT cells have been created. So it is very clear that the government is determined to go ahead with the Bihar elections. But we will insist that all the precautions must be maintained scrupulously. 
 

Question: The Lockdown was also an opportunity for the entire Opposition to unite, and push back many policy changes the Govt has brought about. Why according to you did that not happen so far? 

Answer: In the lockdown period, there is a nationwide imposition of Section 144. And for the opposition to unite and push back these policies, the possibility of any united actions is therefore grossly limited. Virtually a campaign is being done by the government, completely stifling any democratic  movement or space outside and they are going ahead with implementing their real agenda. That real agenda is the aggressive pursuit of these policies of economic reform, privatisation, loot of the country's national assets.

Secondly, sharpening communal polarisation, along with rousing jingoism, and this is leading to a situation where there is grave threat being posed to the country's social harmony. And in this process [after] all the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR peaceful agitations, people are being targeted and there is communal profiling taking place, which is a clear indication that this process of communal profiling is being intensified. 

Thirdly, any dissent under this government is being clamped down under draconian laws like Sedition, UAPA, etc. We have seen a number of activists who have been supporting the cause of the marginalised like the Dalits in the Bhima Koregaon case who have been in jail for two years now without even the charges being framed. So this is an authoritarian attack on democratic rights.  

Finally, you have this government, completely surrendering India’s sovereign interests to the United States of America. This is not in the interests of India, and our standing in the International Comity of Nations. So you have the real agenda being implemented while the single minded focus should have been to combat this pandemic, and address the problems created by the unplanned lockdown for crores of our people. We have seen migrant workers walking on the road for two months. These sort of issues need to be tackled and relief provided to the people, while combatting the pandemic. Instead of that, they are going about implementing their own agenda. Which is the core communal agenda that BJP-RSS has.
 

Question: The United States saw mass protests on the streets to oppose the killing of George Floyd even in the face of Covid lockdowns. Why has the lockdown succeeded in suspending protest and dissent in India, even as arrests of activists and students continue? 

Answer: Yes, the United States saw massive protests and they continue on the issue of Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd. Yes, despite the lockdowns it's happening there because there is nothing called Section 144 which prevents gathering in the US. But in India you have that. That is all designed to suspend or paralyse the opposition from raising their voices. That is why you have a situation where anybody who gets out to protest is being arrested and put under such conditions in lockup where the possibilities of contracting this deadly virus is very very high. That is the reason why this sort of protest action is not taking place. Not because people are not angry, it is because the circumstances have been such, the clampdown on democratic space and the authoritarian attacks has been such that it is physically not being permitted by the restrictions that this government has imposed.
 

Question: There is insecurity even among the salaried middle classes, who are vulnerable due to contractual jobs, a characterisation of neo liberal economic policies. Is this not the most opportune time for the Left to address this issue, and argue for greater public money on health and more jobs in government? Why has that demand not been made yet?

Answer: Yes, this is the time when there is absolute insecurity among a large number of people. There have been many job losses. Those who thought they had secure jobs as well are now very insecure because there have been massive pay cuts, many job losses and it has been estimated that between 14-15 crore, that is between 140-150 million people have lost their jobs since the lockdown was imposed. The most vulnerable have been daily workers, contractual jobs and the casual workers. This is the actual impact of the neo-liberal economic policies. The Left has been raising all these issues and right now when I am talking to you the three-day coal strike is going on. The trade unions have protested all over the country against the changes that have been made in the labour laws, and the attacks that are coming on the livelihood because of these neo liberal policies. 

These demands have been made and continue  to be made and in fact The Left has proposed an economic roadmap, and we have sent it out to every political party [and] to the President of India, and Prime Minister. 

What is needed today is for a massive hike in public investments, that should be used to build a much needed infrastructure which will at the same time also generate a large number of jobs. 

And when the people who earn their salaries by doing this infrastructural work through public investments, start spending there will be a demand for the growth of the economy. That will lay the basis for an economic revival. This has been raised by the Left, continues to be raised by the Left. Now in the next two weeks you will see very big protest actions that are taking place. A joint call of the kisan sabha, of the trade unions and of the agricultural labour organisations that will take place all over the country. This is something which is [an] ongoing agenda of the Left.

 

Related:

Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

Trade unions launch nationwide protest Centre’s anti-worker policies

 

 

Constitutional order collapses if Parliament is paralysed: Sitaram Yechury

The veteran CPI (M) leader spoke to SabrangIndia’s Karuna John about the new postal ballot rule, clampdown on dissent, impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, and the way ahead. 

sitaram

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury says there is an authoritarian attack on democratic rights underway at a time when the govt’s single minded focus should have been to battle the pandemic. The telephonic interview has been edited for flow and clarity.


Question:  The demand of the Election Commision changing polling rules, is best raised in Parliament. Have you asked that Parliament be convened? 

Answer: Yes, the CPM has already demanded that the Parliament must be convened. We said that it is possible even for physical convening of the Parliament because the Lok Sabha can meet in the Central Hall and Rajya Sabha in the Lok Sabha chamber, this way physical distance can also be maintained, with masks and all the necessary precautions like sanitisation of all the spaces. This can be done and we think this should be done. There are many countries in the world that are meeting despite lockdowns and discussing very important policy matters. 

But here in India the government decides,unilateral announcements are made and there is no debate, discussions, that undermines our  democratic order. I think it's perfectly feasible to maintain all the precautions while we are facing this pandemic, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing. I think this can be, and should be done. It is not about discussing procedures for voting, but it is also important to discuss all other policy matters that are currently being unilateral announced and implemented. 

It is essential to uphold the centrality of our Constitution, which is, the sovereignty of the people exercised by those whom the people elect, who demand the accountability of the Executive that is the Government. The entire Constitutional order collapses if the Parliament is paralysed. This cannot and should not be allowed.
 

Question: What according to you is the best alternative to facilitate voting under Covid-19 circumstances?

Answer: The best alternative is to organise the voting in such a manner that there is no crowding. Physical distancing is maintained, masks have to be compulsorily worn. Sanitizers provided at every point so that people maintain hygiene. It is perfectly possible if you have multiple polling stations within a booth, it is perfectly possible to have voting done in a manner adhering to all the necessary precautions.
 

Question: Is postal ballot the most vulnerable ballot/ polling system?

Answer: No, postal ballot is not the only vulnerable ballot system. You also have suggestions for electronic voting, which can be grossly misused, and postal ballots as well we have seen, our past experience has shown. Therefore the best method which has evolved in India during the last seven decades and has been efficiently implemented is the physical verification of the voting and that is something that sanctifies the democratic process and the electoral system. So that should be maintained at all costs


Question: The ECI’s  move is also an indicator that Bihar will go to polls soon, maybe earlier than scheduled. Should these polls have been postponed/ deferred?

Answer: Well  the indicator for Bihar elections has already been given by the BJP.  You have seen the public meetings addressed by the union home minister where 72,000 LED screens were ordered, bought, and one each, displayed in every polling booth area in Bihar. It is being announced by the BJP that 72,000 WhatsApp groups have been created. Close to 10,000 IT cells have been created. So it is very clear that the government is determined to go ahead with the Bihar elections. But we will insist that all the precautions must be maintained scrupulously. 
 

Question: The Lockdown was also an opportunity for the entire Opposition to unite, and push back many policy changes the Govt has brought about. Why according to you did that not happen so far? 

Answer: In the lockdown period, there is a nationwide imposition of Section 144. And for the opposition to unite and push back these policies, the possibility of any united actions is therefore grossly limited. Virtually a campaign is being done by the government, completely stifling any democratic  movement or space outside and they are going ahead with implementing their real agenda. That real agenda is the aggressive pursuit of these policies of economic reform, privatisation, loot of the country's national assets.

Secondly, sharpening communal polarisation, along with rousing jingoism, and this is leading to a situation where there is grave threat being posed to the country's social harmony. And in this process [after] all the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR peaceful agitations, people are being targeted and there is communal profiling taking place, which is a clear indication that this process of communal profiling is being intensified. 

Thirdly, any dissent under this government is being clamped down under draconian laws like Sedition, UAPA, etc. We have seen a number of activists who have been supporting the cause of the marginalised like the Dalits in the Bhima Koregaon case who have been in jail for two years now without even the charges being framed. So this is an authoritarian attack on democratic rights.  

Finally, you have this government, completely surrendering India’s sovereign interests to the United States of America. This is not in the interests of India, and our standing in the International Comity of Nations. So you have the real agenda being implemented while the single minded focus should have been to combat this pandemic, and address the problems created by the unplanned lockdown for crores of our people. We have seen migrant workers walking on the road for two months. These sort of issues need to be tackled and relief provided to the people, while combatting the pandemic. Instead of that, they are going about implementing their own agenda. Which is the core communal agenda that BJP-RSS has.
 

Question: The United States saw mass protests on the streets to oppose the killing of George Floyd even in the face of Covid lockdowns. Why has the lockdown succeeded in suspending protest and dissent in India, even as arrests of activists and students continue? 

Answer: Yes, the United States saw massive protests and they continue on the issue of Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd. Yes, despite the lockdowns it's happening there because there is nothing called Section 144 which prevents gathering in the US. But in India you have that. That is all designed to suspend or paralyse the opposition from raising their voices. That is why you have a situation where anybody who gets out to protest is being arrested and put under such conditions in lockup where the possibilities of contracting this deadly virus is very very high. That is the reason why this sort of protest action is not taking place. Not because people are not angry, it is because the circumstances have been such, the clampdown on democratic space and the authoritarian attacks has been such that it is physically not being permitted by the restrictions that this government has imposed.
 

Question: There is insecurity even among the salaried middle classes, who are vulnerable due to contractual jobs, a characterisation of neo liberal economic policies. Is this not the most opportune time for the Left to address this issue, and argue for greater public money on health and more jobs in government? Why has that demand not been made yet?

Answer: Yes, this is the time when there is absolute insecurity among a large number of people. There have been many job losses. Those who thought they had secure jobs as well are now very insecure because there have been massive pay cuts, many job losses and it has been estimated that between 14-15 crore, that is between 140-150 million people have lost their jobs since the lockdown was imposed. The most vulnerable have been daily workers, contractual jobs and the casual workers. This is the actual impact of the neo-liberal economic policies. The Left has been raising all these issues and right now when I am talking to you the three-day coal strike is going on. The trade unions have protested all over the country against the changes that have been made in the labour laws, and the attacks that are coming on the livelihood because of these neo liberal policies. 

These demands have been made and continue  to be made and in fact The Left has proposed an economic roadmap, and we have sent it out to every political party [and] to the President of India, and Prime Minister. 

What is needed today is for a massive hike in public investments, that should be used to build a much needed infrastructure which will at the same time also generate a large number of jobs. 

And when the people who earn their salaries by doing this infrastructural work through public investments, start spending there will be a demand for the growth of the economy. That will lay the basis for an economic revival. This has been raised by the Left, continues to be raised by the Left. Now in the next two weeks you will see very big protest actions that are taking place. A joint call of the kisan sabha, of the trade unions and of the agricultural labour organisations that will take place all over the country. This is something which is [an] ongoing agenda of the Left.

 

Related:

Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

Trade unions launch nationwide protest Centre’s anti-worker policies

 

 

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Coal Privatisation : Is Modi sarkar putting India's Adivasis and environment on the line?

Sabrangindia 04 Jul 2020

On 18th June 2020, PM Narendra Modi launched the auction of 41 coal blocks across India for commercial mining, under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. But massive protests from several quarters, including the 3-day all India coal workers’ trade unions strike, is a major reminder of what’s at stake for the millions of Adivasi lives; and our environment at large.

Coal Privatisation : Is Modi sarkar putting India's Adivasis and environment on the line?

On 18th June 2020, PM Narendra Modi launched the auction of 41 coal blocks across India for commercial mining, under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. But massive protests from several quarters, including the 3-day all India coal workers’ trade unions strike, is a major reminder of what’s at stake for the millions of Adivasi lives; and our environment at large.

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Assam floods: 14 lakh people in 25 out of 33 districts affected

CJP meets thousands of people struggling with rising water levels during its relief operations in the state

30 Jun 2020

Assam flood

Even as Assam is fighting its battle against Covid-19, the floods brought on by heavy rains have made the situation in the state overly precarious. With four more people passing away in the state due to the floods, the death toll has now risen to 24. According to a report by IANS, more than 14 lakh people in the state’s 25 out of 33 districts have been affected.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, the Brahmaputra river in Jorhat, Sonitpur, Kamrup, Goalpara and Dhubri; Burihidihing at Chenimari; Dhansiri at Numaligarh; Jia Bharali at Sonitpur, Kopili at Nagaon; Beki at Barpeta and Kushiyara at Karimganj were flowing above danger levels.

The floods have hit 66 revenue circles and flood-hit districts in the state are – Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Udalguri, Chirang, Darrang, Nalbari, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Bongaigaon, South Salmara, Goalpara, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Morigaon, Hojai, West Karbi Anglong and Tinsukia. A total of 209 houses in the state have been damaged.

As on June 30, a total of 2,235 villages have been affected and a total of 75,700.12 hectares of crops have been destroyed due to the floods. The state is currently housing 25,461 people in 265 relief camps. Around 819,645 big animals; 410,390 small animals and 774,967 poultry have been affected due to the floods. In total, 6,063.82 quintals of rice1412.30 quintals of wheat, 295.15 quintals of salt and 8,100.94 liters of oil had been distributed in the relief camps. As many as 3,245 persons have been evacuated by disaster management personnel in the districts of Dhemaji, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and South Satmara.

Roads were damaged in Dhemaji, Majuli, Barpeta, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Goalghat, Dhubri while bridges Barpeta, Nalbari and Baksa.

The Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary were partially inundated. Of the 223 forest camps in Kaziranga, 143 were inundated by the flooded Brahmaputra which flows through the park. The situation forced animals such as rhinos, elephants, deer etc to move towards highland within the park as well as the hills in neighbouring Karbi Anglong, The New Indian Express reported. In the RG Orang National Park too, 19 camps out of 40 have been affected by the floods.

The Central Water Commission too said that the rivers in Assam are flowing above dangerous levels and the situation continues to be severe.

 

 

Shillong Times reported Cabinet Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary saying that CM Sarbananda Sonowal has directed the deputy commissioners of the affected districts to monitor the arrangements at the camps and ensure that the guidelines set by the health department are adhered to.

 

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) continues relief operations

Throughout CJP’s relief efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak in Assam, we also came across the people’s struggle during the floods. CJP volunteers reported that the situation of the people of Assam became more precarious after the release of water from Bhutan’s Kurishu River Dam made the flow of the Beki River more intense. As a result, floodwaters inundated many parts of Assam's Barpeta district overnight.

Majidul Islam, CJP’s District Volunteer Motivator from Barpeta said, “When the CJP team visited the affected families of Shutirpathar, Kharballi and Shawnpur in Barpeta district we saw the devastation ourselves.”

Conveying the many perils of the flood-affected citizens during this time, Islam added, “Families have taken refuge on government platforms. CJP Team went to four such platforms to understand the situation. About 40 families have taken shelter on one platform. Among them there are ailing, elderly people and small children. These people have no food to eat, no clean drinking water and no toilets.”

Below are a few images captured by CJP’s volunteers even as they continue relief operations across the state.

Assam flood

Assam flood

Assam flood

 

 

Related:

Assam’s flood situation turns grim as Brahmaputra and Jai Bharali continue to flow at dangerous levels

Floods affect 30,000 in Assam as Covid-19 cases continue to rise

 

Assam floods: 14 lakh people in 25 out of 33 districts affected

CJP meets thousands of people struggling with rising water levels during its relief operations in the state

Assam flood

Even as Assam is fighting its battle against Covid-19, the floods brought on by heavy rains have made the situation in the state overly precarious. With four more people passing away in the state due to the floods, the death toll has now risen to 24. According to a report by IANS, more than 14 lakh people in the state’s 25 out of 33 districts have been affected.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, the Brahmaputra river in Jorhat, Sonitpur, Kamrup, Goalpara and Dhubri; Burihidihing at Chenimari; Dhansiri at Numaligarh; Jia Bharali at Sonitpur, Kopili at Nagaon; Beki at Barpeta and Kushiyara at Karimganj were flowing above danger levels.

The floods have hit 66 revenue circles and flood-hit districts in the state are – Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Udalguri, Chirang, Darrang, Nalbari, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Bongaigaon, South Salmara, Goalpara, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Morigaon, Hojai, West Karbi Anglong and Tinsukia. A total of 209 houses in the state have been damaged.

As on June 30, a total of 2,235 villages have been affected and a total of 75,700.12 hectares of crops have been destroyed due to the floods. The state is currently housing 25,461 people in 265 relief camps. Around 819,645 big animals; 410,390 small animals and 774,967 poultry have been affected due to the floods. In total, 6,063.82 quintals of rice1412.30 quintals of wheat, 295.15 quintals of salt and 8,100.94 liters of oil had been distributed in the relief camps. As many as 3,245 persons have been evacuated by disaster management personnel in the districts of Dhemaji, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and South Satmara.

Roads were damaged in Dhemaji, Majuli, Barpeta, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Goalghat, Dhubri while bridges Barpeta, Nalbari and Baksa.

The Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary were partially inundated. Of the 223 forest camps in Kaziranga, 143 were inundated by the flooded Brahmaputra which flows through the park. The situation forced animals such as rhinos, elephants, deer etc to move towards highland within the park as well as the hills in neighbouring Karbi Anglong, The New Indian Express reported. In the RG Orang National Park too, 19 camps out of 40 have been affected by the floods.

The Central Water Commission too said that the rivers in Assam are flowing above dangerous levels and the situation continues to be severe.

 

 

Shillong Times reported Cabinet Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary saying that CM Sarbananda Sonowal has directed the deputy commissioners of the affected districts to monitor the arrangements at the camps and ensure that the guidelines set by the health department are adhered to.

 

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) continues relief operations

Throughout CJP’s relief efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak in Assam, we also came across the people’s struggle during the floods. CJP volunteers reported that the situation of the people of Assam became more precarious after the release of water from Bhutan’s Kurishu River Dam made the flow of the Beki River more intense. As a result, floodwaters inundated many parts of Assam's Barpeta district overnight.

Majidul Islam, CJP’s District Volunteer Motivator from Barpeta said, “When the CJP team visited the affected families of Shutirpathar, Kharballi and Shawnpur in Barpeta district we saw the devastation ourselves.”

Conveying the many perils of the flood-affected citizens during this time, Islam added, “Families have taken refuge on government platforms. CJP Team went to four such platforms to understand the situation. About 40 families have taken shelter on one platform. Among them there are ailing, elderly people and small children. These people have no food to eat, no clean drinking water and no toilets.”

Below are a few images captured by CJP’s volunteers even as they continue relief operations across the state.

Assam flood

Assam flood

Assam flood

 

 

Related:

Assam’s flood situation turns grim as Brahmaputra and Jai Bharali continue to flow at dangerous levels

Floods affect 30,000 in Assam as Covid-19 cases continue to rise

 

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Modi announces free grains for poor till Chhath Puja, 'One nation one ration card'

PM makes two major announcements, as Unlock 2 begins from July 1. Meanwhile Bihar elections may also be held by late October-early November

30 Jun 2020

modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a five month extension of the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna, to distribute free grains to the poor. The extension is till the end of November, which is also the peak of the Hindu festive season with Diwali, and Chhath Puja. The Chhath Puja is celebrated six days after Diwali with great fervour in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh, and also in states where people of Bihari origin live. This year the Chhath Puja is said to be on November 20. Coincidentally, the Bihar elections may also be held by late October-Early November, as the current state government’s term ends on November 29. 

The Prime Minister addressed the nation on the last day of the official end of the lockdown, and many citizens were hooked on to televisions screens and web portals expecting further announcements regarding Unlock 2. However the Prime Minister announced that the free grain scheme would be extended across the nation, but mentioned that the extension was till Chhath Puja. He said the festival season would begin soon, and listed major festivals such as "Shravan, Guru Purnima, Rakshabandhan, Navratri, Shri Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Deepawali, Chhath Puja,"  as also being a time when expenses mount. 

He said, “This time of festivals also increases the needs, the expenses also. Keeping all these things in mind, it has been decided that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana should now be extended till Diwali and Chhath Puja, that is, by the end of November.”

 

 

Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, 80 crore people will be given 5 kgs of wheat or rice and in addition one kg whole chana (gram). 

Interestingly it was the globally renowned economist and social worker Jean Drèze, who had in an exclusive interview to SabrangIndia editor and activist Teesta Setalvad on April 22, said that the millions in India were facing a food crisis under the Covid-19 lockdown, and highlighted the need to universalise PDS, especially in rural areas and urban slums. He had said that “Only 2/3rd of Indians that too according to the 2011 population is eligible for rations” while hundreds of millions of Indians were stuck in this lockdown without food. 

Drèze had also said that the central government was “being stingy” about opening up the FCI when grain stocks are at a historic high (77 million tons as of March which is growing because of the harvest season) and it would make “perfect economic sense, simply to allow excess grain-stock to be given to the needy rather than allowing it to be destroyed”. 

The Prime Minister, on June 30th said that the world had been been “immersed in wonder”, that in India, over "80 crores people were given 3 months ration, i.e. 5 kg of wheat or rice free to every member of the family, while fighting Corona".

The PM said his government brought about PM Garib KalyanYojana, which announced a “package of Rs 1.75 lakh crore for the poor” as lockdown was announced. The PM added that in the past three months “Rs 31,000 crore has been transferred in the Jan Dhan accounts of almost 20 crore poor families, Rs 18,000 crore has been transferred to the bank accounts of more than 9 crore farmers and Rs 50,000 crore is being spent on PM Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, which has been started to provide employment opportunities”.

The extension of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till November will feed more people than the collective population of many countries. “The food grains given to 80 crore people in India can feed 2.5 times America’s population, 12 times the United Kingdom’s population and twice the European Union’s population,” he said, adding that the government will spend an additional Rs 90,000 crore, as the scheme extends. Once added to the past three months’ expedition the free grain for the poor scheme has cost almost “Rs 1.5 lakh crore”. The PM said this was made possible due to the hard work put in by India’s farmers, and honest tax payers.

The second major announcement was that of a “one nation, one ration card.” This is aimed mostly at migrant workers who may move to work and live in different states. 

“A ration card is also being arranged for the whole of India i.e. 'one nation one ration card'. The biggest benefit of this will be to those who leave their village and go elsewhere for employment or other needs” he said.

The Prime Minister said that in the coming times, the government will continue to take further steps to empower the poor and the needy. He said that economic activities will also be enhanced, as well as work towards Atmanirbhar Bharat and to being ‘vocal for local’. However, the Prime Minister did not directly address the concerns of migrant labourers who were now back in their home states but were still facing dual challenges of unemployment and hunger. 

 

Related: 

Watch: India must feed its toiling millions - Jean Drèze and Teesta Setalvad

Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

Unlock 2: Six things you can now do, by following proper protocol

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Modi announces free grains for poor till Chhath Puja, 'One nation one ration card'

PM makes two major announcements, as Unlock 2 begins from July 1. Meanwhile Bihar elections may also be held by late October-early November

modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a five month extension of the Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna, to distribute free grains to the poor. The extension is till the end of November, which is also the peak of the Hindu festive season with Diwali, and Chhath Puja. The Chhath Puja is celebrated six days after Diwali with great fervour in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh, and also in states where people of Bihari origin live. This year the Chhath Puja is said to be on November 20. Coincidentally, the Bihar elections may also be held by late October-Early November, as the current state government’s term ends on November 29. 

The Prime Minister addressed the nation on the last day of the official end of the lockdown, and many citizens were hooked on to televisions screens and web portals expecting further announcements regarding Unlock 2. However the Prime Minister announced that the free grain scheme would be extended across the nation, but mentioned that the extension was till Chhath Puja. He said the festival season would begin soon, and listed major festivals such as "Shravan, Guru Purnima, Rakshabandhan, Navratri, Shri Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Deepawali, Chhath Puja,"  as also being a time when expenses mount. 

He said, “This time of festivals also increases the needs, the expenses also. Keeping all these things in mind, it has been decided that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana should now be extended till Diwali and Chhath Puja, that is, by the end of November.”

 

 

Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, 80 crore people will be given 5 kgs of wheat or rice and in addition one kg whole chana (gram). 

Interestingly it was the globally renowned economist and social worker Jean Drèze, who had in an exclusive interview to SabrangIndia editor and activist Teesta Setalvad on April 22, said that the millions in India were facing a food crisis under the Covid-19 lockdown, and highlighted the need to universalise PDS, especially in rural areas and urban slums. He had said that “Only 2/3rd of Indians that too according to the 2011 population is eligible for rations” while hundreds of millions of Indians were stuck in this lockdown without food. 

Drèze had also said that the central government was “being stingy” about opening up the FCI when grain stocks are at a historic high (77 million tons as of March which is growing because of the harvest season) and it would make “perfect economic sense, simply to allow excess grain-stock to be given to the needy rather than allowing it to be destroyed”. 

The Prime Minister, on June 30th said that the world had been been “immersed in wonder”, that in India, over "80 crores people were given 3 months ration, i.e. 5 kg of wheat or rice free to every member of the family, while fighting Corona".

The PM said his government brought about PM Garib KalyanYojana, which announced a “package of Rs 1.75 lakh crore for the poor” as lockdown was announced. The PM added that in the past three months “Rs 31,000 crore has been transferred in the Jan Dhan accounts of almost 20 crore poor families, Rs 18,000 crore has been transferred to the bank accounts of more than 9 crore farmers and Rs 50,000 crore is being spent on PM Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, which has been started to provide employment opportunities”.

The extension of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till November will feed more people than the collective population of many countries. “The food grains given to 80 crore people in India can feed 2.5 times America’s population, 12 times the United Kingdom’s population and twice the European Union’s population,” he said, adding that the government will spend an additional Rs 90,000 crore, as the scheme extends. Once added to the past three months’ expedition the free grain for the poor scheme has cost almost “Rs 1.5 lakh crore”. The PM said this was made possible due to the hard work put in by India’s farmers, and honest tax payers.

The second major announcement was that of a “one nation, one ration card.” This is aimed mostly at migrant workers who may move to work and live in different states. 

“A ration card is also being arranged for the whole of India i.e. 'one nation one ration card'. The biggest benefit of this will be to those who leave their village and go elsewhere for employment or other needs” he said.

The Prime Minister said that in the coming times, the government will continue to take further steps to empower the poor and the needy. He said that economic activities will also be enhanced, as well as work towards Atmanirbhar Bharat and to being ‘vocal for local’. However, the Prime Minister did not directly address the concerns of migrant labourers who were now back in their home states but were still facing dual challenges of unemployment and hunger. 

 

Related: 

Watch: India must feed its toiling millions - Jean Drèze and Teesta Setalvad

Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

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Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

With Bihar elections due in November, the CPI(M) says larger postal ballots can increase instances of manipulation and malpractice 

30 Jun 2020

sitaram

In a key development in India’s democratic process, that is also a major change brought about in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is allowing postal ballots for infected voters. The move is also a strong indicator that elections to the Bihar Assembly will be held as scheduled in November 2020. The Bihar elections will be the first assembly elections held anywhere in India after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic earlier this year. 

With new protocols in place on all aspects of public and private lives, a massive, people-centric process of elections, and voting is going to  become a case study worldwide. The ECI has notified that it will allow those testing positive for Covid-19 to cast their vote via postal ballot, as they continue with their home isolation. A report in the Indian Express states that the Union Law Ministry had accepted the EC’s proposal to add “a new category of 'Covid-19 suspect or affected persons' under Rule 27A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.” The voter will  have to provide proof of testing positive for Covid-19, “in a government healthcare facility or one designated by the government as a Covid hospital”. Those under home quarantine or institutional quarantine are also eligible for casting their vote via the postal ballot option.

So far, a Law Ministry amendment in the Conduct of the Election Rules had allowed people with disabilities, and those who were 80-years-old and above, to opt for postal ballot during the elections. 

However, on June 19, the law ministry also allowed those over 65 years of age, considered ‘vulnerable’ under the Covid-19 protocol, to opt for postal ballot. This move has raised an alert amongst the Opposition. It is the CPI(M) who has been the first to raise their concerns. CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, said that the ECI must consult political parties, before announcing  such decisions. He has already written a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, and strongly objected to the “unilateral measures” taken by the ECI in “altering electoral procedures,” without consulting political parties.

Yechuri added that it was necessary to have a consensus among political parties and the ECI before introducing new voting practices. The new rules, he added, will adversely affect the verifiability of a large number of voters, thus, transparency and integrity of the process. He says this is going to benefit the party in power in the state which gains “leverage” because it is the incumbent administration that will organise the postal ballots.

“With the unresolved question of opaque electoral bonds on poll funding, which remains pending before the Supreme Court, where the ECI  has itself agreed with us that this poses a major challenge in  monitoring and supervising income/expenditure, this new use of postal ballots will further aggravate the situation in potential favour of  the ruling party,” he wrote in his letter to Arora.

Yechury said he and his party were “greatly disturbed” by the ECI’s bypassing of the “established practice consulting political parties” before announcing such measures. Yechuri's letter said, “In the past, the ECI, despite the wide ranging and comprehensive powers under Article 324 for ‘control and superintendence’ of elections mandated by the Constitution, has always insisted that they will not exercise this power unilaterally”. This, said Yechury had created a “healthy precedent of recognising the political parties, representing the people, as principal stakeholders.” 

Yechury said that the latest changes in the election rules, “both in October, 2019 and that on June 19, 2020 have not been preceded by any consultation with the political parties whatsoever.” He has questioned the “tearing hurry” and said that this new rule has been quickly put in place “on account of the impending Bihar Assembly elections scheduled to be held in November, 2020.”

According to the veteran leader, the “physical verifiability of the voters” is the “bedrock of integrity”. And if more people are allowed to undertake a postal ballot they are left out of this verification. This he says assumes “great significance because of instances of manipulation and malpractice even with the comparatively low number of  postal ballots used by service personnel on election duty.”

He reminded the ECI about the importance of “forging a consensus” while changing electoral procedures. “It will be pertinent to recall that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), a major electoral reform, was arrived at through the consensus of the entire spectrum of political parties. Even though this is not backed by statutory empowerment, it has never been questioned.” This practice he added, “reinforced transparency” and was appreciated across the political spectrum.

Yechury has asked that the ECI not to unilaterally proceed in implementing these changes without  consulting the political parties.


Related:

RJD on shaky ground in Bihar?

The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission

 

Postal ballots will potentially favour the ruling party: Sitaram Yechury

With Bihar elections due in November, the CPI(M) says larger postal ballots can increase instances of manipulation and malpractice 

sitaram

In a key development in India’s democratic process, that is also a major change brought about in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is allowing postal ballots for infected voters. The move is also a strong indicator that elections to the Bihar Assembly will be held as scheduled in November 2020. The Bihar elections will be the first assembly elections held anywhere in India after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic earlier this year. 

With new protocols in place on all aspects of public and private lives, a massive, people-centric process of elections, and voting is going to  become a case study worldwide. The ECI has notified that it will allow those testing positive for Covid-19 to cast their vote via postal ballot, as they continue with their home isolation. A report in the Indian Express states that the Union Law Ministry had accepted the EC’s proposal to add “a new category of 'Covid-19 suspect or affected persons' under Rule 27A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.” The voter will  have to provide proof of testing positive for Covid-19, “in a government healthcare facility or one designated by the government as a Covid hospital”. Those under home quarantine or institutional quarantine are also eligible for casting their vote via the postal ballot option.

So far, a Law Ministry amendment in the Conduct of the Election Rules had allowed people with disabilities, and those who were 80-years-old and above, to opt for postal ballot during the elections. 

However, on June 19, the law ministry also allowed those over 65 years of age, considered ‘vulnerable’ under the Covid-19 protocol, to opt for postal ballot. This move has raised an alert amongst the Opposition. It is the CPI(M) who has been the first to raise their concerns. CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, said that the ECI must consult political parties, before announcing  such decisions. He has already written a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, and strongly objected to the “unilateral measures” taken by the ECI in “altering electoral procedures,” without consulting political parties.

Yechuri added that it was necessary to have a consensus among political parties and the ECI before introducing new voting practices. The new rules, he added, will adversely affect the verifiability of a large number of voters, thus, transparency and integrity of the process. He says this is going to benefit the party in power in the state which gains “leverage” because it is the incumbent administration that will organise the postal ballots.

“With the unresolved question of opaque electoral bonds on poll funding, which remains pending before the Supreme Court, where the ECI  has itself agreed with us that this poses a major challenge in  monitoring and supervising income/expenditure, this new use of postal ballots will further aggravate the situation in potential favour of  the ruling party,” he wrote in his letter to Arora.

Yechury said he and his party were “greatly disturbed” by the ECI’s bypassing of the “established practice consulting political parties” before announcing such measures. Yechuri's letter said, “In the past, the ECI, despite the wide ranging and comprehensive powers under Article 324 for ‘control and superintendence’ of elections mandated by the Constitution, has always insisted that they will not exercise this power unilaterally”. This, said Yechury had created a “healthy precedent of recognising the political parties, representing the people, as principal stakeholders.” 

Yechury said that the latest changes in the election rules, “both in October, 2019 and that on June 19, 2020 have not been preceded by any consultation with the political parties whatsoever.” He has questioned the “tearing hurry” and said that this new rule has been quickly put in place “on account of the impending Bihar Assembly elections scheduled to be held in November, 2020.”

According to the veteran leader, the “physical verifiability of the voters” is the “bedrock of integrity”. And if more people are allowed to undertake a postal ballot they are left out of this verification. This he says assumes “great significance because of instances of manipulation and malpractice even with the comparatively low number of  postal ballots used by service personnel on election duty.”

He reminded the ECI about the importance of “forging a consensus” while changing electoral procedures. “It will be pertinent to recall that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), a major electoral reform, was arrived at through the consensus of the entire spectrum of political parties. Even though this is not backed by statutory empowerment, it has never been questioned.” This practice he added, “reinforced transparency” and was appreciated across the political spectrum.

Yechury has asked that the ECI not to unilaterally proceed in implementing these changes without  consulting the political parties.


Related:

RJD on shaky ground in Bihar?

The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission

 

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Civil Society members request Maha CM to shift Bhima Koregaon activists out of jail

In a letter to Uddhav Thackerary, Romila Thapar and others have highlighted the risk to life the activists face in jail during the pandemic given their ailments and co-morbidities

30 Jun 2020

Romila

Noted historian Romila Thapar, along with four other intellectuals, Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Maja Daruwala and Satish Deshpande, who had requested the Supreme Court of India to order a probe into the arrest of the human rights activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon, has now written to the Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray expressing concern about their ongoing incarceration especially and demanding that they be placed under house arrest during the Covid-19 crisis.

In September 2018, Thapar and others had requested for a court-monitored probe into the arrests of these human rights activists saying that the arrests had been done arbitrarily, without evidence and were an attempt to stifle dissent. However, their petition was rejected through a majority 2-1 verdict.

Rights activists and lawyers – Varavara Rao, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj, Sudhir Dhawale, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde who had been arrested under stringent charges and were accused of having Maoist links, have been imprisoned since 2018 have consistently been denied relief from arrest even with some suffering serious ailments and now being under extreme risk in wake of the pandemic.

In their letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray, the signatories said, “At present, all eleven of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case are lodged in prisons in Maharashtra. All of them are either senior citizens or have serious co-morbidities, or both, that would place them at severe risk if they were infected by Covid-19. One ofthe detained persons, the poet Varavara Rao who is 81 years of age, suffered a collapse recently and was placed in the ICU. He continues to be in precarious health.”

Recently, a special court rejected the interim bail pleas of Varavara Rao and Shoma sen which they had filed on medical grounds, National Herald reported. Varavara Rao suffers from pre-existing medical conditions like Coronary Artery Disease, hypertension and he was even admitted to a hospital on May 27 after he complained of dizziness and fainted. Shoma Sen also suffers from various ailments like glaucoma and high blood pressure. The court denied bail saying that both the activists were being provided medical treatment inside jail and didn’t need to be released.

In a similar fashion, the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court had rejected activist Sudha Bharadwaj’s bail plea which she had filed on medical grounds. The activist who suffers from co-morbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure has now moved the Bombay High Court for interim relief.

Seeing the latest developments, Thapar and others, in their letter added, “We are deeply concerned about the undue level of risk they (activists) are being exposed to which may easily prove fatal. The conditions under which they are lodged are extremely poor and provide no guarantee of their continued well-being. As the highest official of the state government you have absolute authority about where these prisoners can be lodged while awaiting trial.”

In light of the present scenario, requesting the CM to take a humanitarian step to prevent the unnecessary exposure of elderly and well-respected public persons to such an avoidable hazard, the signatories asked for the 11 human rights advocates to be removed from the current overcrowded facilities and be placed under house arrest, where they would continue to remain available to the justice system while their families ensure their well-being as best as possible.

The complete letter by Romila Thapar and others may be read below.

 

Related:

Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantara protests against ‘undeclared emergency’ of Union government

SC stays Gautam Navlakha’s bail proceedings at Delhi HC; NIA says HC acted without jurisdiction

Family, ex-CIC commissioners appeal for Varavara Rao’s release after his medical condition worsens

Bhima Koregaon case: SC rejects ABA of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha

 

Civil Society members request Maha CM to shift Bhima Koregaon activists out of jail

In a letter to Uddhav Thackerary, Romila Thapar and others have highlighted the risk to life the activists face in jail during the pandemic given their ailments and co-morbidities

Romila

Noted historian Romila Thapar, along with four other intellectuals, Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Maja Daruwala and Satish Deshpande, who had requested the Supreme Court of India to order a probe into the arrest of the human rights activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon, has now written to the Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray expressing concern about their ongoing incarceration especially and demanding that they be placed under house arrest during the Covid-19 crisis.

In September 2018, Thapar and others had requested for a court-monitored probe into the arrests of these human rights activists saying that the arrests had been done arbitrarily, without evidence and were an attempt to stifle dissent. However, their petition was rejected through a majority 2-1 verdict.

Rights activists and lawyers – Varavara Rao, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj, Sudhir Dhawale, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde who had been arrested under stringent charges and were accused of having Maoist links, have been imprisoned since 2018 have consistently been denied relief from arrest even with some suffering serious ailments and now being under extreme risk in wake of the pandemic.

In their letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray, the signatories said, “At present, all eleven of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case are lodged in prisons in Maharashtra. All of them are either senior citizens or have serious co-morbidities, or both, that would place them at severe risk if they were infected by Covid-19. One ofthe detained persons, the poet Varavara Rao who is 81 years of age, suffered a collapse recently and was placed in the ICU. He continues to be in precarious health.”

Recently, a special court rejected the interim bail pleas of Varavara Rao and Shoma sen which they had filed on medical grounds, National Herald reported. Varavara Rao suffers from pre-existing medical conditions like Coronary Artery Disease, hypertension and he was even admitted to a hospital on May 27 after he complained of dizziness and fainted. Shoma Sen also suffers from various ailments like glaucoma and high blood pressure. The court denied bail saying that both the activists were being provided medical treatment inside jail and didn’t need to be released.

In a similar fashion, the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court had rejected activist Sudha Bharadwaj’s bail plea which she had filed on medical grounds. The activist who suffers from co-morbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure has now moved the Bombay High Court for interim relief.

Seeing the latest developments, Thapar and others, in their letter added, “We are deeply concerned about the undue level of risk they (activists) are being exposed to which may easily prove fatal. The conditions under which they are lodged are extremely poor and provide no guarantee of their continued well-being. As the highest official of the state government you have absolute authority about where these prisoners can be lodged while awaiting trial.”

In light of the present scenario, requesting the CM to take a humanitarian step to prevent the unnecessary exposure of elderly and well-respected public persons to such an avoidable hazard, the signatories asked for the 11 human rights advocates to be removed from the current overcrowded facilities and be placed under house arrest, where they would continue to remain available to the justice system while their families ensure their well-being as best as possible.

The complete letter by Romila Thapar and others may be read below.

 

Related:

Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantara protests against ‘undeclared emergency’ of Union government

SC stays Gautam Navlakha’s bail proceedings at Delhi HC; NIA says HC acted without jurisdiction

Family, ex-CIC commissioners appeal for Varavara Rao’s release after his medical condition worsens

Bhima Koregaon case: SC rejects ABA of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha

 

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We are united against everything that they have done: Farooq Abdullah 

National Conference president sets the tone for revival of debate on reversing decision scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution

29 Jun 2020

Farooq Abdullah

In his 80s, Farooq Abdullah, still  hailed by his followers as Jammu and Kashmir’s most veteran leader, by people across party lines. The National Conference president who has held the post of the then state’s Chief Minister five-times, had been missing from the (now) Union Territory’s political scene after he was detained last year, under the PSA (Public Safety Act),  he was released from detention in March 2020, but had not been in the news since then.

He broke his ‘sabbatical’ as it were, from public life when he called the domicile policy for J&K as “illegal and unconstitutional” and virtually restarted the political debate that had quietened down considerably. According to a report in Greater Kashmir, Abdullah spoke at Larim-Ganjipora village of Qaimoo Kulgam where he had come to offer condolence to former NC legislator Home Shalibugh, Abdul Majid Bhat Larmi, whose mother had passed away.

 

 

Abdullah’s return to public life, after 10 months, and his statement, though Kashmir-centric, is also a message to the Union Government that the NC may be gearing up to take the issue up in a big way, in the days to come. According to a report in the Tribune, Abdullah has not been politically active in public after 10 months, and in the past two days, has made statements that can be seen as a ‘comeback’ in the now almost silent political space in J&K at the moment.

Abdullah was detained on August 5, the day the special status of the erstwhile state was quashed, recalls the news report, stating that his focus may now be on seeking a reversal of the decision scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. He has sent a loud message to the Union Government calling the domicile law “unconstitutional” and saying it was “not acceptable” to him. A report in Greater Kashmir quotes Abdullah as saying, “The law is illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional. So why do you think I am going to accept something which is unconstitutional?” 

"When we are saying that we are united against everything that they have done, which is illegal, unconstitutional, how do you think am I going to accept what is unconstitutional," Abdullah is quoted in another news report.

Under this domicile law, non-permanent residents with proof of having lived for at least 15 years in J-K can get domicile certificates. They can then apply for government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir, and buy land. Before Article 370 and Article 35A was scrapped only state subjects were allowed to do this.

Farooq Abdullah has timed his ‘return’ to politics well, and made these remarks at the moment when the Union Territory administration has begun publicising the issuance of issuing domicile certificates to the non-Kashmiris, under the new domicile laws notified after the abrogation of J&K’s special status.

 

 

As reported by The Hindu, and also publicised by the administration on social media; the first non-local officer to be issued a domicile certificate was Navin Kumar Choudhary, an IAS officer who hails from Bihar. He has been posted J&K for 26 years, and is the principal secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Production Department, and was given a domicile certificate in the Bahu area of Jammu. This move had been critiqued by Abdullah’s son, the NC’s vice-president Omar Abdullah who said: “All our misgivings about the new domicile rules in Jammu and Kashmir are coming to the fore. The NC opposed the changes because we could see a nefarious design behind the changes. The people on both sides of the Pir Panjal mountains will be the sufferers of these domicile rules.”

 

 

It was also criticised by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, who is quoted by the news report as saying, “As the agenda unfolds, it becomes clear that along with the intended demographic change, the target is the jobs, natural resources, cultural identity and everything that the people of Kashmir had tried to save by acceding to India with firm constitutional guarantees.”

Farooq Abdullah has not made a statement on it till now. The veteran politician has also made a firm observation on the developing India-China situation and said, "Talks are the only solution, not war with China or Pakistan". It is clear that in his comeback speeches, Abdullah is bringing Kashmir politics back into the national debate once again. In his inimitable style by not commenting, Abdullah has made the biggest comment on the issue of the Centre’s J&K policy actions. “Why should I comment on something that is unconstitutional and illegal,” the Tribune quotes him as telling reporters in Suth Kashmir on Sunday. He added “Everything that they (Delhi) have done since August 5 last year is unconstitutional and illegal, and we are for the restoration of the pre-August 5 status.”

Strong words from a senior politician who was once in close alliance with the governments at the Centre. The first time it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed Abdullah’s son Omar as a Union Minister of State in his Cabinet. The second was in May 2009 when he won a Lok Sabha seat from Srinagar and joined the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, where he was appointed Cabinet Minister of New and Renewable Energy. He has also been elected to the Rajya Sabha for two terms. 

He has now called his former allies as ‘they’, reaffirming once again  that his focus and commitments remain sharply on Kashmir and its people. 

 

Related:

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We are united against everything that they have done: Farooq Abdullah 

National Conference president sets the tone for revival of debate on reversing decision scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution

Farooq Abdullah

In his 80s, Farooq Abdullah, still  hailed by his followers as Jammu and Kashmir’s most veteran leader, by people across party lines. The National Conference president who has held the post of the then state’s Chief Minister five-times, had been missing from the (now) Union Territory’s political scene after he was detained last year, under the PSA (Public Safety Act),  he was released from detention in March 2020, but had not been in the news since then.

He broke his ‘sabbatical’ as it were, from public life when he called the domicile policy for J&K as “illegal and unconstitutional” and virtually restarted the political debate that had quietened down considerably. According to a report in Greater Kashmir, Abdullah spoke at Larim-Ganjipora village of Qaimoo Kulgam where he had come to offer condolence to former NC legislator Home Shalibugh, Abdul Majid Bhat Larmi, whose mother had passed away.

 

 

Abdullah’s return to public life, after 10 months, and his statement, though Kashmir-centric, is also a message to the Union Government that the NC may be gearing up to take the issue up in a big way, in the days to come. According to a report in the Tribune, Abdullah has not been politically active in public after 10 months, and in the past two days, has made statements that can be seen as a ‘comeback’ in the now almost silent political space in J&K at the moment.

Abdullah was detained on August 5, the day the special status of the erstwhile state was quashed, recalls the news report, stating that his focus may now be on seeking a reversal of the decision scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. He has sent a loud message to the Union Government calling the domicile law “unconstitutional” and saying it was “not acceptable” to him. A report in Greater Kashmir quotes Abdullah as saying, “The law is illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional. So why do you think I am going to accept something which is unconstitutional?” 

"When we are saying that we are united against everything that they have done, which is illegal, unconstitutional, how do you think am I going to accept what is unconstitutional," Abdullah is quoted in another news report.

Under this domicile law, non-permanent residents with proof of having lived for at least 15 years in J-K can get domicile certificates. They can then apply for government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir, and buy land. Before Article 370 and Article 35A was scrapped only state subjects were allowed to do this.

Farooq Abdullah has timed his ‘return’ to politics well, and made these remarks at the moment when the Union Territory administration has begun publicising the issuance of issuing domicile certificates to the non-Kashmiris, under the new domicile laws notified after the abrogation of J&K’s special status.

 

 

As reported by The Hindu, and also publicised by the administration on social media; the first non-local officer to be issued a domicile certificate was Navin Kumar Choudhary, an IAS officer who hails from Bihar. He has been posted J&K for 26 years, and is the principal secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Production Department, and was given a domicile certificate in the Bahu area of Jammu. This move had been critiqued by Abdullah’s son, the NC’s vice-president Omar Abdullah who said: “All our misgivings about the new domicile rules in Jammu and Kashmir are coming to the fore. The NC opposed the changes because we could see a nefarious design behind the changes. The people on both sides of the Pir Panjal mountains will be the sufferers of these domicile rules.”

 

 

It was also criticised by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, who is quoted by the news report as saying, “As the agenda unfolds, it becomes clear that along with the intended demographic change, the target is the jobs, natural resources, cultural identity and everything that the people of Kashmir had tried to save by acceding to India with firm constitutional guarantees.”

Farooq Abdullah has not made a statement on it till now. The veteran politician has also made a firm observation on the developing India-China situation and said, "Talks are the only solution, not war with China or Pakistan". It is clear that in his comeback speeches, Abdullah is bringing Kashmir politics back into the national debate once again. In his inimitable style by not commenting, Abdullah has made the biggest comment on the issue of the Centre’s J&K policy actions. “Why should I comment on something that is unconstitutional and illegal,” the Tribune quotes him as telling reporters in Suth Kashmir on Sunday. He added “Everything that they (Delhi) have done since August 5 last year is unconstitutional and illegal, and we are for the restoration of the pre-August 5 status.”

Strong words from a senior politician who was once in close alliance with the governments at the Centre. The first time it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed Abdullah’s son Omar as a Union Minister of State in his Cabinet. The second was in May 2009 when he won a Lok Sabha seat from Srinagar and joined the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, where he was appointed Cabinet Minister of New and Renewable Energy. He has also been elected to the Rajya Sabha for two terms. 

He has now called his former allies as ‘they’, reaffirming once again  that his focus and commitments remain sharply on Kashmir and its people. 

 

Related:

Joe Biden bats for restoration of rights in Kashmir

J&K HC quashes detention of NC party member, says his activities were of a normal politician in a democracy

“Obviously it is the government's fault,” Sheen Bharti, Ajay Pandita’s daughter to the Centre

 

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Supreme Court stays coercive action on multiple FIRs against Amish Devgan

The apex court also stayed FIRs on OpIndia registered against it by the West Bengal police

27 Jun 2020

OpindiaImage Courtesy: freepressjournal.in

On Friday, June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted protection from arrest to news anchor Amish Devgan, against whom multiple FIRs were filed for making contentious remarks during a TV show and stayed FIRs registered by the West Bengal police against editors of news portal OpIndia, The Indian Express reported.

Coercive action against Amish Devgan stayed by SC

A Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna stayed any coercive action against TV news anchor Amish Devgan till the next date of hearing in multiple FIRs lodged against him for making offensive remarks against Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Live Law reported.

The SC issued a notice on his writ petition seeking quashing of the FIRs and asked him to implead all the de-facto complainants.

Appearing for Devgan before the SC, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra had submitted that his client had made an “inadvertent error” during the show, for which he later issued a public apology. He submitted that lodging an FIR for a “slip of tongue” was unjust and amounted to undue harassment, reported Live Law.

SabrangIndia had done an analysis of Devgan’s June 15, 2020 show titled “Barson baad Ayodhya ki aas hui poori, sant kahein Kashi-Mathura kyun rahe adhuri (Only years later the desire for the Ayodhya temple was fulfilled, why should the Kashi-Mathura temples be left behind, ask saints)?” and found that he was inciting hatred by turning the debate into a religious one instead of covering legal aspects of the matter. The tone of the show was highly sensational and during the show he made an offensive remark at Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti by referring to him as ‘Lootera Chishti’ (looter / plunderer) on more than one occasion.

FIRs from organizations like Raza Academy, Darul Uloom Deoband, Samvidhaan Bachao Manch and members of the Shiv Sena among others were filed against Devgan under Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) among other sections of the IPC.

Soon after the FIRs were filed against Devgan who is a repeat hate offender, he issued an apology via a tweet and through his show saying that wanted to say ‘Khilji’ but inadvertently said Chishti. Part of his speech where he made the controversial remarks were also deleted from the YouTube channel of News18 India where Devgan is a primetime anchor.

OpIndia FIRs stayed by SC

A vacation bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai passed an interim order staying the investigations into three FIRs filed against the editors and founders of OpIndia. Three FIRs were filed by the West Bengal police against OpIndia English Editor Nupur Sharma, OpIndia Hindi Editor Ajeet Bharti, CEO Rahul Roushan and Nupur Sharma’s husband Vaibhav Sharma.

OpIndia’s petition pointed out that though other news outlets also carried write-ups on the subject, the “authoritarian Kolkata police” had singled out OpIndia and was using FIRs as an excuse to “intimidate journalists” in getting online content and reports critical of the state government deleted, IE reported.

As per OpIndia, the three contentious articles related to the following –

1.       A Hindi article published on OpIndia Hindi on May 14 which reported BJP leader and Union Minister Debasree Chaudhuri alleging that West Bengal CM was planning to convert West Bengal into an Islamic state and merge it with Bangladesh.

2.       A report published on OpIndia English, a curation of a Sunday Guardian report, which claimed that the West Bengal Bengal government was secretly disposing of bodies of deceased Covid-19 patients and hiding data of coronavirus deaths.

3.       A report published on October 7, 2019 on Azaan being played at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata.

Lodging the FIRs, the WB police had asked OpIndia to take down certain content from its website and from Twitter and warned them of repercussions if they failed to do so, the plea said.

The petitioners claimed that the police questioned the family members of those against whom the FIRs were registered and did not provide copies of the FIRs to them despite repeated requests. They also said that the FIRs weren’t uploaded on the official website. The petitioners alleged that the police action was violative of press freedom under Article 19(1) (a) o the Constitution of India and sought a direction from the court to exclude police in matters concerning deletion of internet content, IE said.

Soon after the verdict, OpIndia Editor Nupur Sharma tweeted the SC order with the caption ‘Jai Shree Ram’.

Related:

News 18’s Amish Devgan rakes up Kashi-Mathura debate, incites anti-minority hate
Multiple FIRs against TV anchor Amish Devgan for insulting Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on show
Fake News: OpIndia report claim Hindus forced to convert or migrate by Muslims, Uttar Pradesh

 

Supreme Court stays coercive action on multiple FIRs against Amish Devgan

The apex court also stayed FIRs on OpIndia registered against it by the West Bengal police

OpindiaImage Courtesy: freepressjournal.in

On Friday, June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted protection from arrest to news anchor Amish Devgan, against whom multiple FIRs were filed for making contentious remarks during a TV show and stayed FIRs registered by the West Bengal police against editors of news portal OpIndia, The Indian Express reported.

Coercive action against Amish Devgan stayed by SC

A Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna stayed any coercive action against TV news anchor Amish Devgan till the next date of hearing in multiple FIRs lodged against him for making offensive remarks against Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Live Law reported.

The SC issued a notice on his writ petition seeking quashing of the FIRs and asked him to implead all the de-facto complainants.

Appearing for Devgan before the SC, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra had submitted that his client had made an “inadvertent error” during the show, for which he later issued a public apology. He submitted that lodging an FIR for a “slip of tongue” was unjust and amounted to undue harassment, reported Live Law.

SabrangIndia had done an analysis of Devgan’s June 15, 2020 show titled “Barson baad Ayodhya ki aas hui poori, sant kahein Kashi-Mathura kyun rahe adhuri (Only years later the desire for the Ayodhya temple was fulfilled, why should the Kashi-Mathura temples be left behind, ask saints)?” and found that he was inciting hatred by turning the debate into a religious one instead of covering legal aspects of the matter. The tone of the show was highly sensational and during the show he made an offensive remark at Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti by referring to him as ‘Lootera Chishti’ (looter / plunderer) on more than one occasion.

FIRs from organizations like Raza Academy, Darul Uloom Deoband, Samvidhaan Bachao Manch and members of the Shiv Sena among others were filed against Devgan under Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) among other sections of the IPC.

Soon after the FIRs were filed against Devgan who is a repeat hate offender, he issued an apology via a tweet and through his show saying that wanted to say ‘Khilji’ but inadvertently said Chishti. Part of his speech where he made the controversial remarks were also deleted from the YouTube channel of News18 India where Devgan is a primetime anchor.

OpIndia FIRs stayed by SC

A vacation bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai passed an interim order staying the investigations into three FIRs filed against the editors and founders of OpIndia. Three FIRs were filed by the West Bengal police against OpIndia English Editor Nupur Sharma, OpIndia Hindi Editor Ajeet Bharti, CEO Rahul Roushan and Nupur Sharma’s husband Vaibhav Sharma.

OpIndia’s petition pointed out that though other news outlets also carried write-ups on the subject, the “authoritarian Kolkata police” had singled out OpIndia and was using FIRs as an excuse to “intimidate journalists” in getting online content and reports critical of the state government deleted, IE reported.

As per OpIndia, the three contentious articles related to the following –

1.       A Hindi article published on OpIndia Hindi on May 14 which reported BJP leader and Union Minister Debasree Chaudhuri alleging that West Bengal CM was planning to convert West Bengal into an Islamic state and merge it with Bangladesh.

2.       A report published on OpIndia English, a curation of a Sunday Guardian report, which claimed that the West Bengal Bengal government was secretly disposing of bodies of deceased Covid-19 patients and hiding data of coronavirus deaths.

3.       A report published on October 7, 2019 on Azaan being played at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata.

Lodging the FIRs, the WB police had asked OpIndia to take down certain content from its website and from Twitter and warned them of repercussions if they failed to do so, the plea said.

The petitioners claimed that the police questioned the family members of those against whom the FIRs were registered and did not provide copies of the FIRs to them despite repeated requests. They also said that the FIRs weren’t uploaded on the official website. The petitioners alleged that the police action was violative of press freedom under Article 19(1) (a) o the Constitution of India and sought a direction from the court to exclude police in matters concerning deletion of internet content, IE said.

Soon after the verdict, OpIndia Editor Nupur Sharma tweeted the SC order with the caption ‘Jai Shree Ram’.

Related:

News 18’s Amish Devgan rakes up Kashi-Mathura debate, incites anti-minority hate
Multiple FIRs against TV anchor Amish Devgan for insulting Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on show
Fake News: OpIndia report claim Hindus forced to convert or migrate by Muslims, Uttar Pradesh

 

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Desire for scoring political brownie points greater than need to control Covid-19 in Delhi?

BJP and AAP busy claiming credit for sundry protocols and rollbacks even as national capital overtakes Mumbai as coronavirus capital of India

26 Jun 2020

corona

A passive-aggressive war of words continues to play out in full public view between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union Government’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi Government. The generals leading from the front are Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, both are trusted lieutenants of their bosses. The political battle of Covid-19 is heating up, as the number of infections continue to rise in the city-state.

Caught in the crosshairs is the citizen of Delhi who wakes up confused each day with notifications, and roll back of earlier notifications, and grand announcements of massive numbers of beds being arranged in hospitals, and additional beds being set up in banquet halls, hotels and religious centres. The last time the Centre and state had locked horns was over the decision to reserve Delhi hospitals for the treatment of certified Delhi residents. This unleashed a massive controversy and was then overruled by Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. The Lt Gov had ordered that the authorities must make sure no one is denied medical treatment in the National Capital, based on their residency status, and that the testing norms be as earlier. 

Now there are new Covid-19 policy decisions that become contentious, but if they work, they become ‘wins’ both parties want to claim. The top 3 this week are: 


1: Home Isolation of Covid-19 patients 

The latest argument is about who gets the final word on ‘home isolation,’ a key plan of action that may even find its way into the next election manifesto for AAP, is the notification  on the status of allowing ‘home isolation’ and treatment at home of mild and moderate Covid-19 cases. AAP said it set the policy in place, but it was overruled by the Lt governor Anil Baijal. Then Dy CM Sisodia once again had to intervene and urge Baijal to withdraw order ending home isolation.

The Centre withdrew the order making it compulsory for all those suspected of having Covid-19 to visit a government facility for assessment. The announcement was made by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday June 26. 

The Home Ministry quickly clarified that this decision on home-isolation was taken on June 21, by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, at a meeting that was even attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. It posted: “Today’s SDMA decision on home isolation of COVID-19 positive patients in Delhi is a reaffirmation of the decision taken at the meeting held by Union Home Minister Shri @AmitShah on 21st June and communicated to Delhi Govt on 22.06.20.” 

 

 

Delhi’s Dy CM Sisodia had of course pointed out that the AAP “system” will again be followed in Delhi. A Delhi government medical team will visit patients at home and assess availability of a separate room and toilet, severity of symptoms and comorbidities. Then they decide on referting such patients to a quarantine centre or continue with home isolation. He had said the Lt Gov’s ‘five-day mandatory institutional quarantine’ decision would have done more harm and would have stressed the healthcare system and the patients.

 

2: Directives on serological survey

The Union Government has now announced a massive testing plan that will be launched on Saturday June 27. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs has  stated that Home Minister Amit Shah has issued directives on the large scale survey. “As per the directives of HM @AmitShah, discussion was done on the serological survey in Delhi, which will be carried out jointly by NCDC and Delhi Government. Survey will begin from June 27, training of all the concerned survey teams was completed yesterday.”

It also stated that the Aarogya Setu & Itihaas apps will be used together “As strong predictive tools for future detection of COVID outbreaks in population clusters” and that the district teams of the Delhi Govt had already been trained by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

 

 

The Delhi government has also announced that it has tripled testing in the city, especially in the various containment zones.  The containment zones themselves will be redefined soon. The door-to-door health survey is also expected to be done by June 30. 

 

3: Focus on LNJP Hospital as a case study

On June 25, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched a video-call facility at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital to enable those undergoing treatment for Covid-19 at the Delhi-govt hospital. The LNJP is one of the most prominent Covid-19 hospitals since its designation on March 17. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had also made a well publicised and met with doctors there on June 16, and CM Kejriwal launched most of his current health schemes there. On June 25, he shared clips of his video conferences with patients undergoing treatment at the hospital, where he says the facilities are top notch. This video conference will now allow patients to talk to their families.  “Tablets have been installed in every ward of the hospital. The family members can visit the hospital and talk to the patient through video conferencing,” he said.

On June 26 CM Kejriwal also said that a number of beds are still available at LNJP, and more beds are being added as a banquet hall near the hospital has been converted to a Covid care facility. He also announced that more beds will soon be added to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at LNJP and other Delhi-govt sun hospitals. “We are not sitting idle with our hands folded, we are getting ready for tomorrow,” he said in a video Press Conference. Delhi on Thursday evening recorded  3,390 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of infections to a massive 73,780. Over 26,586 are active cases and 64 deaths were reported in a day. 

 



Related: 

Sisodia urges Baijal to withdraw order ending home isolation

Covid-19 is a political Pandemic in Delhi

Delhi Health Minister, AAP MLA Atishi test positive for coronavirus

Lieutenant Governor of Delhi: Ensure that treatment is not denied to any patient

Desire for scoring political brownie points greater than need to control Covid-19 in Delhi?

BJP and AAP busy claiming credit for sundry protocols and rollbacks even as national capital overtakes Mumbai as coronavirus capital of India

corona

A passive-aggressive war of words continues to play out in full public view between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union Government’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi Government. The generals leading from the front are Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, both are trusted lieutenants of their bosses. The political battle of Covid-19 is heating up, as the number of infections continue to rise in the city-state.

Caught in the crosshairs is the citizen of Delhi who wakes up confused each day with notifications, and roll back of earlier notifications, and grand announcements of massive numbers of beds being arranged in hospitals, and additional beds being set up in banquet halls, hotels and religious centres. The last time the Centre and state had locked horns was over the decision to reserve Delhi hospitals for the treatment of certified Delhi residents. This unleashed a massive controversy and was then overruled by Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. The Lt Gov had ordered that the authorities must make sure no one is denied medical treatment in the National Capital, based on their residency status, and that the testing norms be as earlier. 

Now there are new Covid-19 policy decisions that become contentious, but if they work, they become ‘wins’ both parties want to claim. The top 3 this week are: 


1: Home Isolation of Covid-19 patients 

The latest argument is about who gets the final word on ‘home isolation,’ a key plan of action that may even find its way into the next election manifesto for AAP, is the notification  on the status of allowing ‘home isolation’ and treatment at home of mild and moderate Covid-19 cases. AAP said it set the policy in place, but it was overruled by the Lt governor Anil Baijal. Then Dy CM Sisodia once again had to intervene and urge Baijal to withdraw order ending home isolation.

The Centre withdrew the order making it compulsory for all those suspected of having Covid-19 to visit a government facility for assessment. The announcement was made by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday June 26. 

The Home Ministry quickly clarified that this decision on home-isolation was taken on June 21, by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, at a meeting that was even attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. It posted: “Today’s SDMA decision on home isolation of COVID-19 positive patients in Delhi is a reaffirmation of the decision taken at the meeting held by Union Home Minister Shri @AmitShah on 21st June and communicated to Delhi Govt on 22.06.20.” 

 

 

Delhi’s Dy CM Sisodia had of course pointed out that the AAP “system” will again be followed in Delhi. A Delhi government medical team will visit patients at home and assess availability of a separate room and toilet, severity of symptoms and comorbidities. Then they decide on referting such patients to a quarantine centre or continue with home isolation. He had said the Lt Gov’s ‘five-day mandatory institutional quarantine’ decision would have done more harm and would have stressed the healthcare system and the patients.

 

2: Directives on serological survey

The Union Government has now announced a massive testing plan that will be launched on Saturday June 27. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs has  stated that Home Minister Amit Shah has issued directives on the large scale survey. “As per the directives of HM @AmitShah, discussion was done on the serological survey in Delhi, which will be carried out jointly by NCDC and Delhi Government. Survey will begin from June 27, training of all the concerned survey teams was completed yesterday.”

It also stated that the Aarogya Setu & Itihaas apps will be used together “As strong predictive tools for future detection of COVID outbreaks in population clusters” and that the district teams of the Delhi Govt had already been trained by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

 

 

The Delhi government has also announced that it has tripled testing in the city, especially in the various containment zones.  The containment zones themselves will be redefined soon. The door-to-door health survey is also expected to be done by June 30. 

 

3: Focus on LNJP Hospital as a case study

On June 25, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched a video-call facility at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital to enable those undergoing treatment for Covid-19 at the Delhi-govt hospital. The LNJP is one of the most prominent Covid-19 hospitals since its designation on March 17. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had also made a well publicised and met with doctors there on June 16, and CM Kejriwal launched most of his current health schemes there. On June 25, he shared clips of his video conferences with patients undergoing treatment at the hospital, where he says the facilities are top notch. This video conference will now allow patients to talk to their families.  “Tablets have been installed in every ward of the hospital. The family members can visit the hospital and talk to the patient through video conferencing,” he said.

On June 26 CM Kejriwal also said that a number of beds are still available at LNJP, and more beds are being added as a banquet hall near the hospital has been converted to a Covid care facility. He also announced that more beds will soon be added to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at LNJP and other Delhi-govt sun hospitals. “We are not sitting idle with our hands folded, we are getting ready for tomorrow,” he said in a video Press Conference. Delhi on Thursday evening recorded  3,390 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of infections to a massive 73,780. Over 26,586 are active cases and 64 deaths were reported in a day. 

 



Related: 

Sisodia urges Baijal to withdraw order ending home isolation

Covid-19 is a political Pandemic in Delhi

Delhi Health Minister, AAP MLA Atishi test positive for coronavirus

Lieutenant Governor of Delhi: Ensure that treatment is not denied to any patient

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NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks

Last week, PM Modi had opened up 41 coal blocks for commercial mining, with many of the coal sites being in fragile, eco-sensitive regions

26 Jun 2020

coal mining

After collective disapproval over the Centre’s destructive environmental clearances given to various projects like the cutting of community forests in Odisha or the virtual clearance to a four-lane highway and transmission line right through Goa’s Bhagawan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary during the lockdown, now the opposition against the Centre’s decision to auction coal blocks in the country is growing. Even as the country is dealing with the surging Covid-19 pandemic, on June 18, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the opening of commercial coal mining for the private sector through auctions. He announced the auction of 41 coal blocks, estimated to attract Rs. 33,000 crore in investments. While 9 of the coal blocks are in Jharkhand, the rest are spread across Madhya Pradesh (11), Chhattisgarh (9), Odisha (9) and Maharashtra (3).

However, states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh have vehemently protested the move saying that the coal blocks fall under areas rich in biodiversity and that opening the coal blocks for domestic and foreign corporates will put the livelihoods of Adivasis and the ecology of the region at risk. Environmentalists and social activists have ferociously opposed the move stating the decision has subverted the consent of the Gram Sabhas and exposed the profiteering intentions of the Centre which has been granting environmental clearances for infrastructure and mining projects in eco-sensitive areas, pushing millions into a live of destitution given its history of poor rehabilitation.

Dayamani Barla, veteran indigenous activist had previously told Sabrang India how rampant displacement had taken place in Jharkhand’s Jharia due to mining. She had said, “The rehabilitation has not taken place the way it was supposed to. The displacement is only going to increase as the land under mining increases. People will continue to get displaced. Economically, the people there are very poor. There are very few landowners left in that area. Most of the migration has taken place from the colliery areas. Currently, more than 1 crore people have been displaced from Jharkhand. Most of the people who are now rickshaw pullers or coolies, are all those who are displaced from their lands.”

Speaking of the government’s decision to auction off coal blocks, Prafulla Samantara, Green Nobel Prize Winner, had told Sabrang India, “The mining industry has been operating all through the lockdown. There have no precautions been taken for the health of the tribals who are working in factories that are operating during the lockdown.” He added, “There is widespread corruption in the mining industry. Companies who take coal blocks on lease will take 1000 MT but show 200 MT on paper. Natural forests have been cut down for commercial activities. If the power distribution companies hadn’t shut during the lockdown, why did the government allocate Rs. 90,000 crore to them? This is only to earn more profits.” He had also written a letter to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik requesting him to suspend mining and industrial activity in tribal areas to protect tribals from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Revoke the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining

In light of the developments, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has condemned the diabolical design of the current regime and demanded that the Centre ‘stop corporate loot in eco-sensitive and Schedule V Adivasi areas of Central and Eastern india’.

Signed by eminent social activists and environmentalists like Prafulla Samantara (Lok Shakti Abhiyan), Dayamani Barla (Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch), Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan), and Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti among others, the statement by NAPM reads, “Opening up of these areas to profit-making domestic and foreign corporate mining entities will irreversibly jeopardize the pristine forest lands, increase environmental pollution and public health risk in Covid times and destroy the habitats of a major chunk of the adivasi population and wild-life.”

Saying that the move is a hoax  on the people of the nation couched under the deceitful jargon of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ and takes away constitutional rights of self-governance, NAPM added that under the pretext of ‘economic survival’, the government was resorting to a severe transgression of the rights of the communities dependent on land and forests in the areas.

The auctioning announcement was made pursuant to the recent Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 to amend the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, in order to ‘ease restrictions’ on end use and relax the eligibility criteria for participating in coal auctions, especially enabling FDI by global bidders. In fact, in Aug 2019, the Modi government approved 100% FDI via the ‘automatic route’ for coal mining, processing and sale, NAPM said.

Violation of constitutional safeguards

Highlighting the government’s scant regard for marginalized communities, ecology and laws of the land, NAPM stated that the decision of auctioning coal blocks was violative of constitutional safeguards of Adivasis in the Fifth Schedule regions and other protective laws including the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of ForestRights) Act, 2006 (in short, FRA), the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA),  The Environment Protection Act, 1986 and EIA Notification, 2006 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in. Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act).

NAPM also said that the decision of putting up coal blocks for auction violated multiple judgments of the Supreme Court including:

1.       Judgement dated July 11, 1997 in Samata vs. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors which held that all entities including the State are ‘non-Adivasis’ and Adivasi co-operatives alone have the right to undertake mining in their land, if they so wish.

2.       Judgement dated April 18, 2013 in Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd vs. Ministry of Environment & Forest (Niyamgiri Judgement) wherein a three-judge Bench upheld the constitutional right of the Gram Sabhas to consider and decide as to whether mining in their areas can be undertaken or not.

3.       Judgement dated July 8, 2013 in Thressiamma Jacob & Ors vs. Geologist, Dept. of Mining, wherein a three-judge Bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha held that ownership of minerals should be vested with the land owners.

4.       Judgement dated August 25, 2014 in Manohar Lal Sharma vs. The Principal Secretary & Others (Coalgate Case), wherein a three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice clearly held that coal is ‘national wealth’ which should only be used for ‘common good’ and ‘public interest’.

'No-go' coal blocks auctioned, Gram Sabhas oppose decision

In Chhattisgarh, the state government has written to the Centre to disallow the auction of around 5 coal blocks which fall in ‘no-go’ classification as they fall under the environmentally sensitive areas like the catchment of the Hasdeo and Mandi River and the proposed elephant reserve. The Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan has vociferously opposed the decision and about 20 Gram Sabhas in the Hasdeo Arand region have written to the Prime Minister to stop the auctioning.

In Maharashtra, the state has raised objections against the auction of the Bander and Marki Mangli 2 coal blocks. The Bander coal block falls on the periphery of a tiger corridor and the Marki Mangli 2 has been classified as ‘no-go’ due to its dense forest cover. The Environment Minister of Maharashtra, Aaditya Thackeray has written to the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, pointing out the dangers of opening of the Bander coal block.

In Jharkhand, at least 3 of the 9 coal blocks, namely Chakla, North Dhadhu and Gondulpara have been classified as ‘no-go’ and they have been put up for auction even though other 33 coal blocks classified as go areas, are still available. Organizations like the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha have given protest calls against the auction. The Jharkhand government has now approached the Supreme Court citing ‘need for fair assessment of social and environmental impact on the huge tribal population and vast tracts of forest lands which are likely to be adversely affected’. The Chief Minister has also termed the auctioning a violation of the spirit of ‘co-operative federalism’.

In Madhya Pradesh too, there is a contention over 3 coal blocks – Marki, Barka and Bandha which are ‘no-go’ areas. The Marwatola block which is classified as ‘inviolate’ is also up for auction even though it is situated in a tiger corridor. The Gotitoria East coal block in Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh is 80% forest and acts as drainage for Sitarewa river. Singrauli region, the notorious ‘energy capital of India’ is already heavily exploited to the hilt and the adivasis and other villagers over here have been struggling against reckless mining by companies, failed rehabilitation and severe pollution. There is already ongoing resistance to the WCL mining in Chhindwara as well. Many Gram Sabhas resolutions against coal mining and allocations of coal blocks have been passed in all these areas as well.

In Odisha, one coal block, Phuljari East and West, falls in the ‘no-go’ area. The rest of the 8 coal blocks are in Angul district, spread over 30,000 hectares where people have been resisting destructive mining for years. Talcher-Angul and Ib Valley were declared as ‘Critically Polluted Areas’ by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for 3 decades now with little ‘improvement’, rather deterioration in the environment, people’s health and more displacement. The coal blocks are in densely populated areas in the proximity of important rivers. If these are opened for commercial mining, it would lead to further ecological degradation, wide-spread displacement and decimation of water bodies there.

Impact on livelihoods, displacement and environment

NAPM stated that the people in Central and Eastern India have been opposing forcible land acquisition and consequences of extensive mining for decades. Tribal communities have been the worst victims of the lot, having lost their lands and livelihoods to the menace. While in the 1960s, the size of a coal mine was 150 acres on an average, it increased to 800 acres in the 1980s and up to 3,500 acres in recent times. With most mines being open cast, it has caused the usurping of more land, destruction of large chunks of forests and destruction of water bodies and biodiversity, thus leading to adverse impacts on the health of the population residing there.

Since independence, NAPM said, an estimated 100 million people have been displaced due to development induced displacement, of which approximately 12%, 12 million have been affected by the coal mining alone, of which 70% is Adivasi population. The record of ‘resettlement and rehabilitation’ has been a mere 25% of those affected who have either got compensation or some form of job with the mining companies.

Attack on federal spirit

In auctioning the 41 coal blocks, the Centre completely sidelined the powers and opinions of the States, which NAPM said was an attack on the ‘federal structure of the Constitution’. The move showed that the regime wanted to ‘centralize’ the power of decision-making for its crony interests. Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren called it a ‘blatant disregard of co-operative federalism’. With 3 out of the 5 states raising objections over the Centre’s decision, it is evident that the States were bypassed and their authority or opinion was unabashedly brushed aside.  

Claims and costs

In announcing the auctions, the Centre claimed that the move would attract capital investment worth Rs. 33,000 crores and create more than 2.8 lakh jobs, it didn’t take into account the socio-environmental costs that offset these claims. NAPM stated, “Amongst other things, the Govt plans to ‘gassify’ 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030 for which an investment of ₹20,000 crore has been earmarked for 4 projects. The detrimental impact of the decision to allow commercial coal mining on the domestic coal industry and market is well-known. With no end use and pricing restrictions, the Govt. is literally giving up its crucial role of safeguarding public interest, environment and constitutional rights of people in the forested regions.”

Coal Exports vis-à-vis End of Coal Era

NAPM stated that the move of opening up coal blocks for commercial coal mining reflected poorly on India’s obligations under the Paris Agreement to reduce climate impact. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement at the International Convention on Climate Change in 2015, India had pledged a 33-35 % reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, compared to 2005 levels and agreed to a policy shift away from conventional energy to renewable energy forms.

The First Report on the ‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region’ was formally released by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, a day after the auction revealed that due to greenhouse gas emissions, the average temperature of the country had increased by around 0.7 degrees Celsius during 1901-2018 and was set to rise by 4.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

NAPM questioned the Centre’s decision citing the Government’s own documents including Coal India Limited Vision - 2030, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) Plans etc. project which stated that there was no need to allocate additional mines for the coal needs of the country, at least for the next decade. Existing statistics in the public domain also revealed that India has enough coal deposits outside the ‘no-go areas’ and there is no reason or justification to mine dense forests and adivasi homelands, that too by way of commercial auctions!

What Real ‘Atma Nirbharta’ must mean

NAPM said that under the call of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ the extraction of natural resources must strictly be for public interest with due regards to land laws, judicial pronouncements pertaining to the Fifth Schedule Areas and environmental regulations.

The Centre must obtain the consent of the stakeholders like the Gram Sabhas and Adivasis and support the formation and registration of cooperatives of land owners and villagers and extend adequate capital, technological assistance, managerial skills and marketing avenues to undertake mining and allied activities on their own. This would be in the true spirit of ‘Atma-Nirbharta’ and community ownership of natural resources.

Mentioning that the Centre was moving towards complete privatization, NAPM stated that the decisions were taking away the last vestiges of a ‘welfare state’.

Demands

NAPM called upon the Union Government to immediately revoke the commercial auctioning of 41 Coal Blocks in the interest of the ecology, economy, rights of the people in the five states and India’s climate commitments. The Govt. must uphold constitutional rights of Gram Sabhas, not profiteering corporates. It also demanded that the government come up with a comprehensive White Paper on the status of all existing coal mines, including details of permissions and production and need for more mines, especially in the dense forests.

Expressing solidarity with the grassroots resistance, it endorsed the objections raised by State governments and called upon opposition parties, mass organizations and trade unions to stand together with the Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities.

It also called upon Gram Sabhas and the Tribes Advisory Council in the five states to pass unanimous resolutions against the decision of the Centre, apart from expecting the Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the commercial auction which is violative of constitutional and statutory safeguards.

The complete statement by NAPM may be read below.

Related:

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh oppose Centre’s move allowing commercial coal mining
Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India    
Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand
Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector
Culling our lungs: Protests against coal mine allocations in ‘no-go’ area continue
FDI in Coal: Why Every Ounce of Our Mineral Resources Should Remain in Public Hands
The Adivasi cannot live without the forest: Dayamani Barla

 

NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks

Last week, PM Modi had opened up 41 coal blocks for commercial mining, with many of the coal sites being in fragile, eco-sensitive regions

coal mining

After collective disapproval over the Centre’s destructive environmental clearances given to various projects like the cutting of community forests in Odisha or the virtual clearance to a four-lane highway and transmission line right through Goa’s Bhagawan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary during the lockdown, now the opposition against the Centre’s decision to auction coal blocks in the country is growing. Even as the country is dealing with the surging Covid-19 pandemic, on June 18, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the opening of commercial coal mining for the private sector through auctions. He announced the auction of 41 coal blocks, estimated to attract Rs. 33,000 crore in investments. While 9 of the coal blocks are in Jharkhand, the rest are spread across Madhya Pradesh (11), Chhattisgarh (9), Odisha (9) and Maharashtra (3).

However, states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh have vehemently protested the move saying that the coal blocks fall under areas rich in biodiversity and that opening the coal blocks for domestic and foreign corporates will put the livelihoods of Adivasis and the ecology of the region at risk. Environmentalists and social activists have ferociously opposed the move stating the decision has subverted the consent of the Gram Sabhas and exposed the profiteering intentions of the Centre which has been granting environmental clearances for infrastructure and mining projects in eco-sensitive areas, pushing millions into a live of destitution given its history of poor rehabilitation.

Dayamani Barla, veteran indigenous activist had previously told Sabrang India how rampant displacement had taken place in Jharkhand’s Jharia due to mining. She had said, “The rehabilitation has not taken place the way it was supposed to. The displacement is only going to increase as the land under mining increases. People will continue to get displaced. Economically, the people there are very poor. There are very few landowners left in that area. Most of the migration has taken place from the colliery areas. Currently, more than 1 crore people have been displaced from Jharkhand. Most of the people who are now rickshaw pullers or coolies, are all those who are displaced from their lands.”

Speaking of the government’s decision to auction off coal blocks, Prafulla Samantara, Green Nobel Prize Winner, had told Sabrang India, “The mining industry has been operating all through the lockdown. There have no precautions been taken for the health of the tribals who are working in factories that are operating during the lockdown.” He added, “There is widespread corruption in the mining industry. Companies who take coal blocks on lease will take 1000 MT but show 200 MT on paper. Natural forests have been cut down for commercial activities. If the power distribution companies hadn’t shut during the lockdown, why did the government allocate Rs. 90,000 crore to them? This is only to earn more profits.” He had also written a letter to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik requesting him to suspend mining and industrial activity in tribal areas to protect tribals from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Revoke the auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining

In light of the developments, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has condemned the diabolical design of the current regime and demanded that the Centre ‘stop corporate loot in eco-sensitive and Schedule V Adivasi areas of Central and Eastern india’.

Signed by eminent social activists and environmentalists like Prafulla Samantara (Lok Shakti Abhiyan), Dayamani Barla (Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch), Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan), and Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti among others, the statement by NAPM reads, “Opening up of these areas to profit-making domestic and foreign corporate mining entities will irreversibly jeopardize the pristine forest lands, increase environmental pollution and public health risk in Covid times and destroy the habitats of a major chunk of the adivasi population and wild-life.”

Saying that the move is a hoax  on the people of the nation couched under the deceitful jargon of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ and takes away constitutional rights of self-governance, NAPM added that under the pretext of ‘economic survival’, the government was resorting to a severe transgression of the rights of the communities dependent on land and forests in the areas.

The auctioning announcement was made pursuant to the recent Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 to amend the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, in order to ‘ease restrictions’ on end use and relax the eligibility criteria for participating in coal auctions, especially enabling FDI by global bidders. In fact, in Aug 2019, the Modi government approved 100% FDI via the ‘automatic route’ for coal mining, processing and sale, NAPM said.

Violation of constitutional safeguards

Highlighting the government’s scant regard for marginalized communities, ecology and laws of the land, NAPM stated that the decision of auctioning coal blocks was violative of constitutional safeguards of Adivasis in the Fifth Schedule regions and other protective laws including the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of ForestRights) Act, 2006 (in short, FRA), the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA),  The Environment Protection Act, 1986 and EIA Notification, 2006 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in. Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act).

NAPM also said that the decision of putting up coal blocks for auction violated multiple judgments of the Supreme Court including:

1.       Judgement dated July 11, 1997 in Samata vs. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors which held that all entities including the State are ‘non-Adivasis’ and Adivasi co-operatives alone have the right to undertake mining in their land, if they so wish.

2.       Judgement dated April 18, 2013 in Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd vs. Ministry of Environment & Forest (Niyamgiri Judgement) wherein a three-judge Bench upheld the constitutional right of the Gram Sabhas to consider and decide as to whether mining in their areas can be undertaken or not.

3.       Judgement dated July 8, 2013 in Thressiamma Jacob & Ors vs. Geologist, Dept. of Mining, wherein a three-judge Bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha held that ownership of minerals should be vested with the land owners.

4.       Judgement dated August 25, 2014 in Manohar Lal Sharma vs. The Principal Secretary & Others (Coalgate Case), wherein a three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice clearly held that coal is ‘national wealth’ which should only be used for ‘common good’ and ‘public interest’.

'No-go' coal blocks auctioned, Gram Sabhas oppose decision

In Chhattisgarh, the state government has written to the Centre to disallow the auction of around 5 coal blocks which fall in ‘no-go’ classification as they fall under the environmentally sensitive areas like the catchment of the Hasdeo and Mandi River and the proposed elephant reserve. The Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan has vociferously opposed the decision and about 20 Gram Sabhas in the Hasdeo Arand region have written to the Prime Minister to stop the auctioning.

In Maharashtra, the state has raised objections against the auction of the Bander and Marki Mangli 2 coal blocks. The Bander coal block falls on the periphery of a tiger corridor and the Marki Mangli 2 has been classified as ‘no-go’ due to its dense forest cover. The Environment Minister of Maharashtra, Aaditya Thackeray has written to the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, pointing out the dangers of opening of the Bander coal block.

In Jharkhand, at least 3 of the 9 coal blocks, namely Chakla, North Dhadhu and Gondulpara have been classified as ‘no-go’ and they have been put up for auction even though other 33 coal blocks classified as go areas, are still available. Organizations like the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha have given protest calls against the auction. The Jharkhand government has now approached the Supreme Court citing ‘need for fair assessment of social and environmental impact on the huge tribal population and vast tracts of forest lands which are likely to be adversely affected’. The Chief Minister has also termed the auctioning a violation of the spirit of ‘co-operative federalism’.

In Madhya Pradesh too, there is a contention over 3 coal blocks – Marki, Barka and Bandha which are ‘no-go’ areas. The Marwatola block which is classified as ‘inviolate’ is also up for auction even though it is situated in a tiger corridor. The Gotitoria East coal block in Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh is 80% forest and acts as drainage for Sitarewa river. Singrauli region, the notorious ‘energy capital of India’ is already heavily exploited to the hilt and the adivasis and other villagers over here have been struggling against reckless mining by companies, failed rehabilitation and severe pollution. There is already ongoing resistance to the WCL mining in Chhindwara as well. Many Gram Sabhas resolutions against coal mining and allocations of coal blocks have been passed in all these areas as well.

In Odisha, one coal block, Phuljari East and West, falls in the ‘no-go’ area. The rest of the 8 coal blocks are in Angul district, spread over 30,000 hectares where people have been resisting destructive mining for years. Talcher-Angul and Ib Valley were declared as ‘Critically Polluted Areas’ by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for 3 decades now with little ‘improvement’, rather deterioration in the environment, people’s health and more displacement. The coal blocks are in densely populated areas in the proximity of important rivers. If these are opened for commercial mining, it would lead to further ecological degradation, wide-spread displacement and decimation of water bodies there.

Impact on livelihoods, displacement and environment

NAPM stated that the people in Central and Eastern India have been opposing forcible land acquisition and consequences of extensive mining for decades. Tribal communities have been the worst victims of the lot, having lost their lands and livelihoods to the menace. While in the 1960s, the size of a coal mine was 150 acres on an average, it increased to 800 acres in the 1980s and up to 3,500 acres in recent times. With most mines being open cast, it has caused the usurping of more land, destruction of large chunks of forests and destruction of water bodies and biodiversity, thus leading to adverse impacts on the health of the population residing there.

Since independence, NAPM said, an estimated 100 million people have been displaced due to development induced displacement, of which approximately 12%, 12 million have been affected by the coal mining alone, of which 70% is Adivasi population. The record of ‘resettlement and rehabilitation’ has been a mere 25% of those affected who have either got compensation or some form of job with the mining companies.

Attack on federal spirit

In auctioning the 41 coal blocks, the Centre completely sidelined the powers and opinions of the States, which NAPM said was an attack on the ‘federal structure of the Constitution’. The move showed that the regime wanted to ‘centralize’ the power of decision-making for its crony interests. Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren called it a ‘blatant disregard of co-operative federalism’. With 3 out of the 5 states raising objections over the Centre’s decision, it is evident that the States were bypassed and their authority or opinion was unabashedly brushed aside.  

Claims and costs

In announcing the auctions, the Centre claimed that the move would attract capital investment worth Rs. 33,000 crores and create more than 2.8 lakh jobs, it didn’t take into account the socio-environmental costs that offset these claims. NAPM stated, “Amongst other things, the Govt plans to ‘gassify’ 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030 for which an investment of ₹20,000 crore has been earmarked for 4 projects. The detrimental impact of the decision to allow commercial coal mining on the domestic coal industry and market is well-known. With no end use and pricing restrictions, the Govt. is literally giving up its crucial role of safeguarding public interest, environment and constitutional rights of people in the forested regions.”

Coal Exports vis-à-vis End of Coal Era

NAPM stated that the move of opening up coal blocks for commercial coal mining reflected poorly on India’s obligations under the Paris Agreement to reduce climate impact. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement at the International Convention on Climate Change in 2015, India had pledged a 33-35 % reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, compared to 2005 levels and agreed to a policy shift away from conventional energy to renewable energy forms.

The First Report on the ‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region’ was formally released by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, a day after the auction revealed that due to greenhouse gas emissions, the average temperature of the country had increased by around 0.7 degrees Celsius during 1901-2018 and was set to rise by 4.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

NAPM questioned the Centre’s decision citing the Government’s own documents including Coal India Limited Vision - 2030, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) Plans etc. project which stated that there was no need to allocate additional mines for the coal needs of the country, at least for the next decade. Existing statistics in the public domain also revealed that India has enough coal deposits outside the ‘no-go areas’ and there is no reason or justification to mine dense forests and adivasi homelands, that too by way of commercial auctions!

What Real ‘Atma Nirbharta’ must mean

NAPM said that under the call of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ the extraction of natural resources must strictly be for public interest with due regards to land laws, judicial pronouncements pertaining to the Fifth Schedule Areas and environmental regulations.

The Centre must obtain the consent of the stakeholders like the Gram Sabhas and Adivasis and support the formation and registration of cooperatives of land owners and villagers and extend adequate capital, technological assistance, managerial skills and marketing avenues to undertake mining and allied activities on their own. This would be in the true spirit of ‘Atma-Nirbharta’ and community ownership of natural resources.

Mentioning that the Centre was moving towards complete privatization, NAPM stated that the decisions were taking away the last vestiges of a ‘welfare state’.

Demands

NAPM called upon the Union Government to immediately revoke the commercial auctioning of 41 Coal Blocks in the interest of the ecology, economy, rights of the people in the five states and India’s climate commitments. The Govt. must uphold constitutional rights of Gram Sabhas, not profiteering corporates. It also demanded that the government come up with a comprehensive White Paper on the status of all existing coal mines, including details of permissions and production and need for more mines, especially in the dense forests.

Expressing solidarity with the grassroots resistance, it endorsed the objections raised by State governments and called upon opposition parties, mass organizations and trade unions to stand together with the Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities.

It also called upon Gram Sabhas and the Tribes Advisory Council in the five states to pass unanimous resolutions against the decision of the Centre, apart from expecting the Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the commercial auction which is violative of constitutional and statutory safeguards.

The complete statement by NAPM may be read below.

Related:

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh oppose Centre’s move allowing commercial coal mining
Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India    
Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand
Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector
Culling our lungs: Protests against coal mine allocations in ‘no-go’ area continue
FDI in Coal: Why Every Ounce of Our Mineral Resources Should Remain in Public Hands
The Adivasi cannot live without the forest: Dayamani Barla

 

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