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Activists move online petition to withdraw ‘regressive’ changes to EIA

“In public interest, we, the public, demand the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the Draft EIA notification 2020,” the petition says.

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Prakash Javadekar

New Delhi, May 7 : An online petition has been moved asking the Environment Ministry to withdraw the draft EIA notification, 2020 in the light of the Covid-2019 pandemic.

The petition for which 11,060 people have given their inputs, includes a letter to Environment Minister Prakash Jawadekar. The Environment Ministry has put out a draft EIA notification, 2020 on March 12, and sought comments from the public within sixty days from this date.

Since 1994, this notification has been an important tool for the legal assessment of social and environmental impacts of development projects and for organising public participation before the setting up or expansion of industrial and infrastructure projects in the country.

“It is appalling that the Ministry has put out a draft notification for public comments in the midst of a global economic and public health emergency. This makes us deeply concerned about your priorities,” the petition said.

When this notification was released, the US, Europe and India were already looking at an alarming situation due to the combined effects of an economic slowdown and a massive burden on the public system. Soon after, most countries including India went into a lockdown which imposed severe restrictions on the movement of people in public places, it said.

“As you have probably realised, the shutting of many activities during this lockdown has improved the air quality in major cities and rivers are flowing relatively clean and free. This should show you that your system of regulating industrial and human activity has failed to protect our air and water from chemical toxins,” the letter to Jawadekar said.

The ministry is still giving approvals to more mining, more industries, more mega constructions and more highways. “These will destroy more forests, pollute more water sources, occupy more farm land, public space and coastal areas. You are doing this by using the EIA notification and other environmental laws,” it added.

The letter adds that for several affected people, the EIA regulation remains the only mechanism to ensure that project developers disclose the details of project design and impacts and that these projects are legally mandated to mitigate impacts and adhere to legal safeguards.

“Now you are proposing to make regressive changes to the EIA notification at a time when we simply cannot respond to your call for public comments. Is this democratic? Is this fair? Is this even humane to make us more anxious about our environmental futures when we are struggling to cope with this corona virus, this lockdown and the suffering of millions of our people?” the letter said.

“In public interest, we, the public, demand the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the Draft EIA notification 2020,” the petition says.

“We hope that when this COVID emergency is behind us all, the Environment Ministry will learn from the crisis and bring in amendments to the EIA notification that strengthen the role of environmental and social protection of all people and nature instead of justifying the present forms of harmful development,” according to the petition.

India

UP’s Most Wanted Vikas Dubey didn’t figure in list of criminals

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Vikas Dubey.

Lucknow, July 5 : The political connections of Vikas Dubey, the main accused in the killing of eight police personnel in Kanpur on Friday, were so strong that his name did not figure in the list of top ten criminals of the district even though he has 71 criminal cases registered against his name.

His name also does not figure in the STF list of over 30 top criminals of the state that was released earlier this year. Kanpur SSP Dinesh Kumar said that he had been informed that the police team was going to arrest an accused with circle officer Bilhaur heading the operation. Also Read – Kanpur Encounter: Gangster Vikas Dubey’s House Demolished; Station Officer Suspended Over Alleged Role in Cops’ Killing

He admitted that he was not aware of Vikas Dubey’s criminal antecedents at the time of the operation which went horribly wrong and led to the death of eight policemen. Also Read – Who is Vikas Dubey, UP’s Most-Wanted Criminal Behind Killing of 8 Policemen in Kanpur?

Dinesh Kumar, who took over as SSP Kanpur barely a few days ago, has now ordered that all lists of criminals be updated without delay.

Vikas Dubey, till Friday, was just another name in the underworld of Uttar Pradesh. His ‘stature’ remained largely unknown to the people of the state even though he had heinous crime registered against his name. He was a quiet operator and, therefore, did not figure in the list of known mafias of the state.

Dubey, in his early fifties, hit the headlines first in 2001 when he killed BJP leader Santosh Shukla inside the Shivli police station in Kanpur. Shukla was minister of state in the UP government when he was killed. However, Dubey was later acquitted by a session court for want of evidence against him. As per the reports, even policemen had refused to testify against him in the court.

Dubey is also accused of planning his cousin brother Anurag’s murder while being inside Mati jail in 2018. He was one of the four accused named by Anurag’s wife. After this, he chose the path of crime that would, one day, take him closer to politics.

Dubey, a resident of Bikru village in Kanpur, was apparently emboldened by his acquittal and he started off by getting together a group of youth and set up his own gang. As the cases of robbery, kidnapping, and murders mounted against him, Vikas made sure that his clout also grew in proportion.

The need of local politicians to seek his help in elections brought him closer to the people in power. The local MPs and MLAs ensured that Vikas was kept in good humour because his influence would help them win elections.

His political mentors ensured that he had an easy access to other politicians. He even managed to win the nagar panchayat elections in 2015. As his mentors changed loyalties and parties, so did Vikas. Dubey was frequently seen in the Vidhan Bhawan complex when the assembly would be in session. He was seen in the company of politicians, across the political spectrum.

From BSP, he went to SP and was even inching closer to the BJP in recent months. A photograph of a poster in which Vikas is seen campaigning for his wife, Richa Dubey, on the Samajwadi Party banner, has been going viral on the social media. His photograph with Uttar Pradesh Law Minister Brijesh Pathak, are also announcing his proximity to the politician.

According to reliable sources, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed intelligence agencies to submit a list of all politicians, police personnel, officers and others who were patronizing Vikas Dubey.

The diktat comes after photographs of the gangster with various political leaders started going viral on the social media.

In the past years, Dubey gradually strengthened his hold in the Bilhaur, Shivrajpur, Chaubepur, Rania areas of Kanpur. According to a source, Vikas Dubey was determined to make it big in the underworld and politics too. “He wanted to become a MLA and then an MP. He would often say that he would reach Parliament soon. He enjoyed considerable clout with local politicians and it was because of this that the police did not ‘interfere’ in his activities,” said one who belongs to Bikru village.

He said that Vikas had amassed a lot of property in the region and reportedly owned property in Lucknow and Noida too. He also had a fascination for latest weapons.

His relations in the family, however, were said to be strained. His own mother has almost disowned him after Friday’s incident and said that he deserved to die. His younger brother has also disowned him.

A team of officials visited the Krishna Nagar residence of Vikas Dubey. His brother’s family had left the house which was locked. A LDA official said, “We went to the house because the plan of the same is not approved by the LDA. We will be sending a notice to the owners and will then demolished the unauthorised construction.”

The state government, on Saturday, had razed the house of the gangster in Bikru village where eight police personnel had been shot dead on Friday.

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Column: Prime Minister sets the record straight – Spy’s Eye

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Modi in Leh

It is now clearly conveyed to the nation that India had put China on notice for its recent aggressive conduct on LAC and warned it of serious consequences of any further misadventure it might be planning against this country. Prime Minister Modi in his ”Mann ki Baat” on June 28, which is like an address to the countrymen, talked of India”s strong resolve in dealing with the military face-off with China on the LAC in Ladakh and gave out that ”a befitting reply had been given to those who cast an evil eye on India”s territory”. He added that ”India can handle friendly relations but also knows how to look into the eyes of anyone who challenged its sovereignty”.

Giving an insight into India”s strategy, the Prime Minister informed the people that among other things India was taking measures to become self-reliant in various spheres, including indigenous production of defence hardware to meet ”exigencies of national security and sovereignty”. India has since stepped up border infrastructure development on our side of the LAC as well as mobilisation of troops on the ground — apart from readying our Air Force and Navy for defensive action against any external aggression. The message given to China is loud and clear — stay off from giving any provocation by attempting to encroach on any point of disputed territory along the LAC. Defence of Ladakh is geared up in line with the declared stand of the Modi government that Aksai Chin had been illegally occupied by China and that this matter had to be set right. That India will stretch China on various fronts — economic and geo-political — is emerging as a strategic element of India”s long-term response to the current hostility of this neighbour.

While the situation on the LAC is still evolving, India has from its side confronted China with the demand of return to the status quo ante and engaged that country in border talks at the level of Core Commander on disengagement and deescalation. The government, meanwhile, is keeping up military and foreign policy endeavours to prepare for any aggravation. It is in this background that Prime Minister Modi, in a brief address to the nation on June 30, did not touch on China and confined himself to an announcement of extension of free ration scheme covering nearly 80 crore people for five months — till November end — giving them relief in a difficult time to see through Diwali and Chhat festivals. An added facility of using ration cards on an all- India basis was promised.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for total caution during the Unlock-2 against corona. He came off as a compassionate leader who appeared to be giving priority to the internal scene relating to people in distress and by not bothering the latter with the issue of India-China tension on the border, also giving a message that his government was fully in control of things on that front. Since the majority of migrants belonged to UP and Bihar, what is the harm if the PM made a mention of the two major festivals of North India in his address to bring some cheer to this distressed lot? Hopefully, the sense of nightmare that crores of migrant labour experienced in the lockdown would be eased substantially — though the crisis of unemployment looming large for them would still confront them. Importantly, the Modi regime remains firm on building the economy indigenously by emphasising the idea of ”be vocal for local” and encouraging entrepreneurship and start-ups. Internal stability in India will be determined by the economic recovery.

Coming back to the issue of China”s aggressiveness on the border, it is clear that three aspects of the situation deserved to be taken note of in framing a long-term strategy of dealing with that country. First is the unmistakable fact that the intensification of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan and the military build-up on LAC started by China in the period following the abrogation of Article 370 by India, showed a new level of meeting of minds between these two allies against India — that was part of their bigger geo-political plan of acquiring a firm hold in the crucial Pak-Afghan-Kashmir tri junction. This territory anchored the superpower rivalry in the Cold War era for control of this region — a lesson China would remember as it positions itself as the other superpower in the present, conscious of the advantage it has of having Pakistan on its side. India has to weaken this alliance by carrying the anti-terror combat into the POK and damaging the CPEC where it would hurt China the most. China can create some more mischief on LAC in support of Pakistan but this is nothing that India”s army would not be able to handle.

Secondly, this is the moment for India to build the opinion of the entire democratic world against the dictatorial Chinese regime that was out to disturb world peace in chasing its blatant plans of dominating the world militarily and economically — as a new superpower. India must make it a point to highlight the role of Sino-Pak axis in fomenting terrorism of the Islamic radicals and using it as an instrument of political advancement through proxy wars and cross-border operations. For securing India”s interests in a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, we should further strengthen bilateral relations with Russia, Israel and Iran in working for a place in the ”round table” convened to discuss that country”s future — at a time when the US is being expedient about accommodating the Taliban in power there. Fortunately, we have in the NSA and the EAM a very competent, experienced and knowledgable set of people who can achieve the international outreach that India presently needs to counter and override the challenge posed by the China-Pakistan combine.

Finally, it is in the realm of economic relations that India has to find ways and means of scuttling the economic power that China had tried to wield against its opponents, including India. In fact, the tough response of President Donald Trump on the US-China trade imbalance and the more recent US-led campaign against China”s alleged culpability in hiding information relating to corona pandemic from the world — India being on the side of the US in these matters — substantially accounted for the precipitate hostility of China towards India. India”s rightful offer to the businesses seeking to shift away from China, to relocate here added to the Chinese desperation which was reflected in the aggression on LAC. Tension on the borders was intended to project India as a land of conflict and distract global investors from this country. As important as the marshalling of defence preparedness against China, therefore, are the moves of India to battle with the latter on the economic turf. India has set the ball rolling by banning some 59 Apps of Chinese origin and linking it with the call for development of indigenous products and services to make India self reliant in all fields, including defence production.

Prime Minister Modi has clearly embarked on a comprehensive strategy of military consolidation, economic recovery and deeper collaboration with friendly powers to deal with the emerging challenges — particularly the threat posed by China in the immediate and long range. India”s relations with China of Xi Jinping can become irreversibly antipathetic unless China strikes a peace chord by retracing its steps in Galwan valley. People must rally behind the effort of Modi regime to safeguard national security and integrity — at a time when the corona pandemic has compounded the problems of the common Indian at home. Prime Minister Modi in his address on June 30 acknowledged the silent contribution of the farmer and the tax payer to the well-being of the nation. It is a matter of satisfaction for the nation that the Prime Minister has shown a rare capability of handling multiple crises with calm and confidence.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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Rahul Gandhi extends wishes on Guru Purnima

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, July 5 : Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday extended wishes on the occasion of Guru Purnima.

“Three things that cannot be hidden for long – Sun, Moon, and Truth – Gautam Buddha. Best wishes to all of you on the occasion of Guru Purnima,” the Congress leader wrote on the microblogging site Twitter (translated from Hindi).

Guru Purnima is marked on the full-moon day of the Hindu month Ashadha and is celebrated by the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists to honour one’s ‘gurus’ or teachers who guide us through our lives towards the path of enlightenment.

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