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Archives for : June2018

Gauri Lankesh murder case: Cops close in, four held in plot to kill writer

The SIT conducted searches at over eight places in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa on May 22 leading to the discovery of key evidence.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |

Gauri Lankesh murder case: Cops close in, four held in plot to kill writerGauri Lankesh. Source Twitter

A Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka police has inched closer to cracking the September 5, 2017 murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh outside her home in West Bengaluru following the arrest of four persons linked to radical right wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha for a January 2018 plot to kill writer K S Bhagwan in Mysuru.

The four persons linked to the Sanatan Sanstha, and its sister concern the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, arrested last week by the SIT are also linked to K T Naveen Kumar, 37, an activist of the Hindu Yuva Sena, who attended several meetings of the HJS and Sanatan Sanstha in 2017, and was arrested in March 2018 in the Gauri Lankesh murder case.


The four arrested are: Amol Kale alias Bhaisab, 39, an activist of the HJS from Maharashtra; Amit Degwekar alias Pradeep, 39, a Sanatan Sanstha activist and resident of Goa; Manohar Edave, 28, a resident of Vijayapura in Karnataka; and Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, 37, a HJS and Sanatan Sanstha activist from Mangalore alleged to have been guiding operations in Karnataka to plan the murder of Bhagwan.

Sujeet Kumar was arrested first and produced before a magistrate on May 20 while the other three were produced on May 21. They are scheduled to be in police custody until June 1.

The SIT conducted searches at over eight places in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa on May 22 leading to the discovery of key evidence.


Degwekar is a former room mate of Malgonda Patil, one of two Sanatan Sanstha activists who died in a 2009 Madgaon blast while trying to plant a bomb at the site of a religious celebration. Degwekar was initially detained by the Goa police in connection with the bomb blast but was not charged.

Amol Kale, involved with HJS activities in Pune a few years ago, is considered to be a key figure in a covert activities unit which picks radically minded cadre from various right wing outfits.

The plot to kill Bhagwan emerged earlier this year following the arrest on February 18 of Hindu Yuva Sena leader K T Naveen Kumar for possession of illegal arms. The probe revealed that a group of people, including Naveen Kumar, were surveying Bhagwan’s home to carry out a killing on the lines of the Lankesh murder. Naveen Kumar was also suspected to have surveyed and pointed out her home to a group of killers who came from outside Karnataka.

He was named as an accused in the Lankesh murder case after he was taken into custody by the SIT on March 2 on the basis of findings in the plot to kill Bhagwan.

After he helped execute the Lankesh killing, Naveen Kumar was allegedly roped in by his handlers to facilitate the killing of Bhagwan around December 2017, police sources said.

Naveen Kumar is said to have told investigators he received instructions in the plot to kill Lankesh and Bhagwan from a Mangalore-based man he could identify only as Praveen. The HJS activist Sujeet Kumar has now been identified as that Praveen.

The SIT is likely to secure his custody on Wednesday and will file a chargesheet against Naveen Kumar in the Gauri Lankesh murder case Wednesday.

Gauri Lankesh murder case: Cops close in, four held in plot to kill writer

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Andhra Prdaesh- Land Acquisition bill is anti- people, withdraw it Now !

A Joint Statement



Land Acquisition Amendment Bill of Andhra Pradesh is Anti People, We Demand Withdrawal of it

We the people’s movements and Civil Society Organisations from across India condemn the Presidential assent to the recent amendment Bill passed by the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, severely diluting provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013. This amendment is an insult to people who hard fought to secure progressive provisions in the LARR 2013, weaken people’s power to challenge illegal and unjust forced acquisition of land, and empower the state and corporations to infringe upon people’s rights over natural resources.

The amendment opens the doors to all kinds of projects violating the purpose of public purpose. If the provisions of Chapter II and Chapter III of LARR Act, namely determination of Social Impact Assessment and Public Purpose, special Provisions to safeguard food security along with the consent of 70% landowners are circumvented, the very goal of the Act would be defeated. The amendment empowers the District Collector to pass an award for acquiring land after taking consent of the interested person without making an enquiry.

In the Amravati Capital City project in Andhra Pradesh, this amendment will only embolden the efforts of the state in going ahead with the project, which involves coercion and intimidation in acquiring farmland despite pending cases, injunctions by courts and people’s protests. This is an attempt by the state to legitimise the illegal and unjust actions, and we strongly condemn it. As is being widely perceived, the inability of the state to acquire lands through its questionable ‘land pooling’ scheme in the case of Amaravati, in fact, triggered the proposal to amend the 2013 Act.

We also reckon that this amendment is in line with the directions of the Doing Business Report by the World Bank, where it recommends the dilution of land acquisition procedure and other regulatory ‘bottlenecks’ for enhanced investments. India’s rush to improve its ranking on the Ease of Doing Business, on the behest of such international financial institutions at the cost of such laws and policies which are proactive of farmers, workers and the marginalised communities will prove to be too costly to the people.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [AIIB] has already approved lending to the Govt. of AP for five projects and further, the Amaravati Capital City Project, and Andhra Pradesh 24×7 – Power For All projects are being co-financed with World Bank. Farmers affected by the land-pooling scheme in the new capital have already raised questions on the AIIB and World Bank co-funded project and had to take up their grievances with the complaint mechanism of World Bank in the absence of compliance mechanisms and policies of AIIB. It is most unfortunate that states are vying with each other in this ranking and diluting protective laws, while no state is concerned about the interests of the communities that would be irreversibly jeopardised with such policy decisions.

Whether in Amaravati or elsewhere in the country, the worst-affected due to diversion of large swathes of fertile farmlands to corporate entities, non-farm purposes etc. would be tenant cultivators, women farmers, fisher people, forest-dwelling Adivasis especially in scheduled areas and landless Dalits, on a massive scale, whose rights and interests the State and the President has an obligation to protect.

We urge the state governments not to tamper with the provisions of the LARR 2013 and demand all political parties, including the BJP which was part of the passage of the 2013 Act, to ensure that the original provisions in the Act are retained and withdraw the amendments immediately.


Endorsed by:

  1. National Alliance of People’s Movements
  2. All India Union of Forest Working People(AIUFWP)
  3. Mines Minerals and People, India
  4. Samata
  5. Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
  6. Narmada Bachao Andolan
  7. INSAF
  8. Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike
  9. Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
  10. Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
  11. Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai
  12. Machchhimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangathan, Gujarat
  13. Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy
  14. Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Tamil Nadu
  15. Environics Trust, New Delhi
  16. Focus on the Global South
  17. Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
  18. Environment Support Group, Karnataka
  19. The Research Collective, New Delhi
  20. Delhi Solidarity Group, New Delhi
  21. Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee, Johar, Jharkhand
  22. Coastal Women’s Movement, Kerala
  23. Dynamic Action, Kerala
  24. Himdhara, Himachal Pradesh
  25. Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
  26. North East Peoples Alliance
  27. Bhumi Adhikar Andolan
  28. Sarvhara Jan Andolan
  29. Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti
  30. Adivasi Moolnivasi Astitva Raksha Manch
  31. Kisan Shangharsh Samiti
  32. Bhumiputra Bachao Andolan
  33. Lokshakti Abhiyan
  34. Jan Sangharsh Vahini
  35. Bargi Bandh Visthapit Avam Prabhavit Sangh Madhya Pradesh
  36. Chutka Parmanu Pariyojana Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
  37. Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV)
  38. Human Rights Forum (HRF)
  39. Dalit Bahujan Front (DBF)
  40. Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union (APVVU)
  41. Forum For Better Vishaka
  42. Samalochana
  43. Andhra Pradesh Tenant Farmers Association
  44. Adivasi Sankshema Parishat, Andhra Pradesh
  45. National Fishworkers Forum
  46. Manthan Adhyayan Kendra

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India – Govt. must ensure dignified pay scales, benefits & regularization of services of Gramin Dak Sevak

NAPM expresses solidarity with the demands of Gramin Dak Sevaks to implement Kamlesh Chandra Committee Report

Govt. of India must ensure dignified pay scales, benefits & regularization of services of Gramin Dak Sevaks, who are the backbone of rural communication in India

1st June, 2018:  National Alliance of People’s Movements extends its support to the struggle of All India Gramin Dak Sevaks Union (AIGDSU)’s and their demand to implement the recommendation of Kamlesh Chandra Committee Report on Gramin Das Sevaks. Rural India Post Employees (known as Gramin Dak Sevaks) have been on a nationwide protest since 22nd May, 2018 under the banner of All India Gramin Dak Sevaks Unions. While the said Committee submitted its report on 24th November, 2016, it was published after two months and that too after an indefinite hunger strike call given by National Federation of Postal Employees, All India Postal Employees Union GDS and other organizations.

The government has delayed the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee for about 2 years now. Protesting non-implementation of the Kamlesh Chandra Committee’s recommendations and the Seventh pay Commission norms for Gramin Dak Sevaks working in rural areas, Postal staff have been demonstrating in front of several post offices including the head branches in Odisha, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other states as well.

Despite the all round inflation, Dak Sevaks are paid salary only Rs. 6,000 -7,000. Even after working for 20-25 years, they are not considered as permanent employees and are not eligible for many other benefits due to government employees. It was in the light of this situation that Kamlesh Chandra Committee had recommended minimum scale of Rs. 10,000 for 3 hours, Rs. 12,000 for 4 hours and Rs. 14,500 for 5 hours work, 3 promotions (financial up gradation) on completion of 12, 24 and 36 years of service, maternity leave for 6 months and paternity leave for a week, Children’s  education allowance and support for hiring accommodation, office maintenance, electricity charges etc.

Despite numerous technological and communication related strides, the postal department plays an important role even today, particularly in rural areas across the country and the Grameen Dak Sevaks are at the heart of these services.  It is both unfortunate and unacceptable that the human resource which serves as the backbone of the rural communications system is kept deprived and the entire postal department itself is structurally and systematically sidelined, due to increasing privatization of postal services and a flawed global-capitalist friendly economic policy of the State.  

National Alliance of People’s Movements stands in solidarity with many of the long-standing and genuine demands of the Grameen Dak Sevaks and calls upon the Department of Posts and Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to acknowledge and fulfill their charter of demands to implement the recommendations of Kamlesh Chandra Committee and fix a time limit to regularize their services and make them permanent.

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India to Intensify Scrutiny of Citizens’ Social Media, Emails #WTFnews

  • Bid seeks software to shape positive international narrative
  • Tender calls for tool to ‘neutralize’ India’s adversaries
Narendra Modi

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

India’s government is looking for a company to analyze social media posts to help boost nationalism and neutralize any “media blitzkrieg by India’s adversaries.”

In a lengthy tender posted online, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it wants a company to provide analytical software and a team of at least 20 professionals to “power a real time New Media Command Room.”

They should monitor Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Internet forums and even email in order to analyze sentiment, identify “fake news,” disseminate information on behalf of the government and inject news and social media posts with a “positive slant for India,” the tender said.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, India’s ministries and cabinet ministers have been active on social media, tweeting new policies and interacting with citizens. But this tender suggests Modi’s government now wants more powerful social media tools to shape a positive narrative about India and encourage nationalism among its citizens in the lead up to state and national elections.

“Essentially, the hub will be a mass surveillance tool,” said Nikita Sud, an associate professor of international development at Oxford University. “Nationalism seems to be equated with agreement with the government of the day, or even with the party in power. There are grave implications here for India’s democracy, and for the fundamental rights to free speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian constitution.”

A spokesman in the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a call or text. Calls to a spokesman for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting were not answered.

Fake News

India is just the latest Asian country looking more closely at “fake news” and social media. In the run up to a closely-fought election in Malaysia, the government of former prime minister Najib Razak introduced a fake news law that was used to probe his chief opponent Mahathir Mohamad, who won the election and has reportedly proposed to repeal the law. In Singapore, a parliamentary select committee recently held public hearings over the issue of imposing new restrictions on “fake news.”

In India’s tender, the government seeks the ability to track trends, topics and Twitter hashtags relevant to government activities. But it also seeks the ability to drill down and monitor individual social media accounts, create historical archives of conversations and help shape a positive narrative about India.

It suggests the social media tool should use “predictive modeling” and “data mining” to “make predictions about the future or unknown events,” including the impact of headlines in international publications such as the New York Times, the Economist and Time magazine.

What “would be the global public perception due to such headlines and breaking news, how could the public perception be molded in positive manner for the country, how could nationalistic feelings be inculcated in the masses,” it continues. How “could the media blitzkrieg of India’s adversaries be predicted and replied/neutralized, how could the social media and internet news/discussions be given a positive slant for India,” the document reads.

“This tender contains a worrying emphasis on isolating and countering individual views,” said Saksham Khosla, a research analyst at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India office. “Will it collect other personal data? The line between surveillance and responsiveness is blurry, and without rigorous privacy safeguards and oversight, the potential for misuse and overreach is high.”

The government tender is dated April 25, and noted it was accepting bids until May 17.

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Chhattisgarh – New Bastariya Battalion , Is the Salwa Judum back?

Chhattisgarh’s new Bastariya Battalion evokes memories of disbanded force, and of concerns associated with it.

Women commandos of the CRPF’s Bastariya Battalion during a drill at their training centre in Ambikapur town of Chhattisgarh this week. (Source: PTI)

Chhattisgarh’s new Bastariya Battalion evokes memories of disbanded force, and of concerns associated with it. But CRPF says these personnel have been trained far better, will give the force a clear human edge

What is the Bastariya Battalion?

On Monday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh attended the passing-out parade of a newly formed battalion of the CRPF, the Bastariya Warriors, at the Anti- Naxal Training School in Ambikapur. The battalion, numbered 241, is unique: all the 549 recruits come exclusively from four districts in Bastar, and several relaxations in physical attributes were granted to them during the recruitment process. Following the completion of the 44-week training programme, the battalion is expected to be deployed soon. According to the CRPF, the battalion will be immensely helpful in operations, as its recruits are familiar with the local terrain and language. It will also help bridge the disconnect between the CRPF, which comprises personnel from all over the country, and the local population.

So why are concerns are being expressed about the new force?

Essentially because it revives memories of the Salwa Judum, the now disbanded militia force.

What was the Salwa Judum? Why is its story integral to the Bastar narrative?

Salwa Judum was mobilised in 2005 by the late Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who was assassinated by Naxals in 2013, and deployed in parts of Chhattisgarh. Those in favour of the idea claim that the Judum was a “spontaneous uprising” of tribal people against Maoist violence in Bastar, and helped in countering Naxals in the region. Yet, by the time the force was banned by the Supreme Court in 2011, it had acquired a bloody and controversial reputation. The state government allegedly supplied arms and tacit support to the Judum, which had turned into a vigilante group, recruiting poorly trained youth as “Koya Commandos”, or “SPOs (Special Police Officers)”. Many of the volunteers were former Maoists. Many people were killed, there were numerous allegations of the Judum entering and burning villages, several accusations of sexual assault, and of thousands being displaced from their homes. For the trapped villagers in Bastar’s forests, there were only two options: either stay put and be declared a Maoist, or move to Salwa Judum camps set up by the state. Thousands left their homes never to return. These camps still dot Bastar, with settlements in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well, and many are still too afraid to return to their villages for fear of Maoist reprisals.

And how similar is the Bastariya Battalion to the Salwa Judum?

Activists argue that like the Judum, the Bastariya Battalion seeks to pit tribals against tribals and could again cleave tribal society. They say recruitment could again force that choice between life and death, so prevalent during the Judum days, as tribals are inevitably trapped between two hostile forces. If a villager was to join the Battalion, activists say, their families would be threatened by Maoists. Senior CRPF officials told The Indian Express that members of the families of two new recruits had been killed over the past year, with several others had been told to ensure that their children return, or face a boycott. This situation, activists fear, will be exacerbated by the fact that the Bastariya Battalion will be used exclusively for operations in Bastar.

“This experiment has been tried before and has failed at a terrible cost. Why is the government returning to something that created such a deep and painful divide, and was not successful at all?” Isha Khandelwal of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group said. Activists also argue that the period during and after the Judum saw a sharper-than-usual increase in Maoist recruitments, and in villagers seeking security from government-sponsored vigilante groups.

Human rights workers point out that there have been problems with the District Reserve Group (DRG), a similar unit of Chhattisgarh Police, that has former Maoists in its ranks. They allege that the Judum was never really disbanded, its SPOs were made auxiliary armed constables, and eventually brought in to the DRG. While Chhattisgarh Police claims that the DRG has been an unqualified success, with local expertise sharpening operations and intelligence, activists point to several cases in which villagers have accused the DRG of human rights violations.

What is the government’s argument for raising the battalion?

The government argues that the battalion will give the security forces an operational dimension, for which the CRPF has been completely dependent on the state police. The knowledge of the terrain and language, and ability to spend long hours in the forest, will be of immense help to the CRPF. Yet, the major difference between the Judum and Battalion 241, CRPF officials say, is in the “training”. A senior officer said, “We cannot shy away from the fact that there is a conflict. But these men are not poorly trained… They filled up forms… and have been given a 44-week training, which included not just modules on jungle warfare and weapons training, but also civic responsibilities and human rights. They are CRPF constables like any other, and not a vigilante group. Every single one of them filled forms to apply for this. Can we say we shouldn’t give the chance to tribals from Bastar to be employed by the CRPF of their own volition? After they do, the target for every force has to be efficiency within the confines of the constitution. And posting them here is a step towards that.”

Officials also argue that the presence of locals will increase the sensitivity of the CRPF, especially with one-third of the recruits being women. “Because of the language problem, and a complete disconnect with the local culture among personnel who come from thousands of kilometres away, we do often have a problem of understanding. Their (locals’) presence makes us much more sensitive. The women in our force help towards that end, and also increase our ability to counter fake allegations that come our way. In fact, if you look at the last few years, the CRPF gets stuck with allegations of human rights violations as part of the “forces”, when the accusations are often against other units like the DRG. We are a disciplined force, and the Bastariya Battalion will be the same. We have taken special care in our training process,” a senior officer said.

What happens next?

The Bastariya Battalion will be deployed in Bastar in a little over a month, after a period of leave, and pre-induction training in the sectors they will be active in. The scars that the Salwa Judum left behind in Bastar are deep, its wounds have still not completely healed. CRPF officers say that the first six months will be crucial to the success of the new battalion. Yet, the success or failure of the Bastariya Warriors in Chhattisgarh will be judged not only by their “operational successes”, but also by their human rights record. They will be under constant scrutiny of civil society, the press and, most importantly, the adivasis who live in the forests in Bastar’s conflict zone.

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How neoliberalism colonised feminism – and what you can do about it



All of a sudden, everyone wants to claim the feminist label. From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to Ivanka Trump, an unprecedented number of high-profile corporate women are publicly declaring themselves feminists. The market is colonising feminist themes, it seems.

Indeed, identifying as feminist has not only become a source of pride but also serves as cultural capital for Hollywood stars and music celebrities alike, so much so that the new “f-word” has literally inundated mainstream and social media. Meghan Markle, the UK’s new feminist princess, is just the latest example in a very long list. It comes as little surprise that “feminism” was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2017.

The movement for gender equality, then, is increasingly entangled with neoliberalism, which has mobilised feminism to advance political goals and enhance market value. Yet, at the same time, a different form of feminism has also unexpectedly gained popularity. In the wake of Trump’s election and the reappearance of shameless sexism in the public sphere, a new wave of mass feminist militancy has appeared on the political landscape, one that attempts to go beyond simple identification to facilitate social change.

The reemergence of large-scale feminist protest and mobilisation, such as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, serves as an important counter to the rise of defanged, non-oppositional invocations of feminism.

Neoliberal feminism

So how might we make sense of the contemporary feminist renaissance with its very different and conflicting manifestations?

Over the past half decade, we have witnessed the rise of a peculiar variant of feminism, particularly in the US and the UK, a variant that has been unmoored from social ideals like equality, rights and justice. I call this neoliberal feminism, since it recognises gender inequality (differentiating itself from post-feminism, which focuses on individual women’s “empowerment” and “choice”, yet repudiates feminism) while simultaneously denying that socioeconomic and cultural structures shape our lives.

WH Allen

This is precisely the kind of feminism that informs bestselling manifestos, such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, in which women are construed as completely atomised, self-optimising, and entrepreneurial.

Yes, neoliberal feminism might acknowledge the gender wage gap and sexual harassment as signs of continued inequality. But the solutions it posits elide the structural and economic under-girding of these phenomena. Incessantly inciting women to accept full responsibility for their own well-being and self-care, neoliberal feminism ultimately directs its address to the middle- and upper-middle classes, effectively erasing the vast majority of women from view. And, since it is informed by a market calculus, it is uninterested in social justice or mass mobilisation.

With the rise of neoliberal feminism, which encourages individual women to focus on themselves and their own aspirations, feminism can more easily be popularised, circulated, and sold in the market place. This is because it dovetails, almost seamlessly, with neoliberal capitalism. This feminism is also an unabashedly exclusionary one, encompassing only so-called aspirational women in its address. In doing so, it reifies white and class privilege and heteronormativity, lending itself not only to neoliberal but also neo-conservative agendas.

There is nothing about this feminism that threatens the powers that be.

Threatening feminism

Yet one of its unintended effects may well constitute a threat. Precisely because neoliberal feminism has facilitated the widespread visibility and embrace of the “f-word”, it has concurrently paved the way for a militant feminist movement. This movement encourages mass mobilisation in order to challenge not only Trump’s sexist policies but also an increasingly dominant neoliberal agenda that puts profits over people.

Some of the infrastructure for the recent oppositional feminist groundswell was clearly already in place. Let’s not forget that #MeToo initially emerged as a grassroots movement spearheaded by the African American activist Tarana Burke over a decade ago and that it comes on the heels of other mobilisations, such as SlutWalk, the transnational movement that organised protests across the globe against rape culture and its attendant victim-blaming.

Yet #MeToo was able to gain such widespread traction at this particular moment in history – with Trump’s election and policies serving as the main triggers – because feminism had already been rendered popular and desirable by Sandberg, Beyonce, and Emma Watson, to name just a few.

The third annual Amber Rose SlutWalk, downtown Los Angeles, California, October 1 2017. Mike Nelson/EPA

The pressing question now is how can we sustain and broaden the mass feminist renaissance as resistance, while rejecting the logic of neoliberal feminism. How can we maintain feminism as a threat to the many forces that continue to oppress, exclude and disenfranchise whole segments of society?

#MeToo has carried out important cultural work. At its best, it has exposed how male entitlement saturates our culture. Ultimately, though, this will not suffice. Exposure is not enough for ensuring systemic change.

But there are other feminist movements that have emerged in the past few years. Feminism for the 99%, which helped organise the International Woman’s Strike, is but one example. These movements significantly expand the single frame of gender, articulating and protesting a dizzying array of inequalities facing women, minorities, and precarious populations more generally.

These feminist movements are demanding dramatic economic, social and cultural transformations, thereby creating alternative visions as well as hope for the future. And given just how bleak the future currently looks for an ever-increasing number of people across the globe, this is precisely the kind of threatening feminism that we need

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Fukushima mothers at UN tell their story

by beyondnuclearinternational

Evacuees from nuclear disaster urge the Japanese government to comply with UN Human Rights standards

By Linda Pentz Gunter, with contributions from Kurumi Sugita and Akiko Morimatsu

When Kazumi Kusano stood in the CRIIRAD radiological laboratory in Valence, France listening to lab director, Bruno Chareyron, describe just how radioactive the soil sample taken from a school playground back home in Japan really was, she could not fight back the tears.

“This qualifies as radioactive waste,” Chareyron told them. “The children are playing in a school playground that is very contaminated. The lowest reading is 300,000 bequerels per square meter. That is an extremely high level.” (CRIIRAD is the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation, an independent research laboratory and NGO).

Kazumi, a Japanese mother and Fukushima evacuee who prefers not to use her real name, was in France with two other mothers, Mami Kurumada and Akiko Morimatsu — all of whom also brought their children — as part of an educational speaking tour. Morimatsu was also invited to testify before the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, to launch an appeal for the rights of nuclear refugees.

In Japan, seven years since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began to unfold, the government is requiring some refugees to return to the region. Says Chareyron, whose lab has worked extensively in the Fukushima zone, “the Japanese government is doing everything to force citizens to return to lands where the radiation doses that citizens and children should be subjected to are largely over the typically acceptable norms.”

Three mothers and Akiko's kids copy

Kazumi Kusano, Akiko Morimatsu and Mami Kurumada (l to r) and Morimatsu’s two children during their speaking tour in France

“People in Japan still don’t believe that the effects they are feeling are due to radiation,” said Kusano during one of the tour stops in France. Indeed, when they took samples in their neighborhoods to be analyzed for radioactive contamination, they were mocked not only by their neighbors but by government officials.

“We don’t take this seriously in Japan,” said Kurumada, who expressed relief to be among those who understand the true dangers, like Chareyron and the French anti-nuclear activists with whom they met. “In our country, it’s taboo to talk about radiation and contamination.”

Both Kusano and Kurumada are among those who have brought lawsuits against Tepco and the Japanese government, seeking compensation for Fukushima evacuees. Several of these have already ruled in favor of the evacuees and have assigned responsibility for the accident to Tepco and the government while providing financial awards to the plaintiffs. (Kusano’s son’s testimony helped win one of those cases — see our earlier coverage.)

The Japanese government pressured evacuees to return to areas contaminated by the Fukushima disaster by withdrawing their government financial assistance. However, many in areas that were not obligatory evacuation zones also left the region, given the high levels of radioactive contamination.

In addition to the visit to CRIIRAD, the mothers also spoke at public meetings in Lyon, Grenoble and Valence where CRIIRAD is located. The short news video below, in French, captures their visit to the lab.

At the UN in Geneva, Morimatsu’s testimony was postponed several days by a workforce strike. But eventually, Morimatsu (pictured with her son above the headline) was able to deliver her speech. She said:

“My name is Akiko Morimatsu. I am here with other evacuees and mothers, together with Greenpeace. I evacuated from the Fukushima disaster with my two children in May 2011. Shortly after the nuclear accident, radiation contamination spread. We were repeatedly and unnecessarily exposed to unannounced radiation.

“The air, water and soil became severely contaminated. I had no choice but to drink the contaminated water, to breast-feed my baby. To enjoy health, free from radiation exposure, is a fundamental principle. The Japanese Constitution states, ‘We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.’

“However, the Japanese government has implemented almost no policies to protect its citizens. Furthermore, the government is focusing on a policy to force people to return to highly contaminated areas.

“I call on the Japanese government to immediately, fully adopt and implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council. I thank UN member states for defending the rights of residents in Japan. Please help us protect people in Fukushima, and in East Japan, especially vulnerable children, from further radiation exposure.”


Earlier that month, the Japanese government had responded to its Universal Periodic Review, by stating that it “supports” 145 recommendations and “notes” 72. One of those recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council, and which Japan “accepted”, was the paragraph that states: “Respect the rights of persons living in the area of Fukushima, in particular of pregnant women and children, to the highest level of physical and mental health, notably by restoring the allowable dose of radiation to the 1 mSv/year limit, and by a continuing support to the evacuees and residents (Germany);”

According to Hajime Matsukubo of Citizens Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, while the Upper House of the Japanese Diet has indicated its willingness to decrease annual radiation exposures from 20 mSv, the Japanese government has only said it would “follow up” on the specific UN recommendation and report back later. There is no timeframe for such a change, hardly surprising since it would presumably mean once more evacuating people the government has already pressured to return to contaminated areas. The practical implications of this happening leave it very much in doubt.

However, Matsukubo believes that even the commitment to follow up “is a strong tool for us to push the government forward.” Aileen Mioko Smith of Kyoto-based Green Action agrees. “Now we have terrific leverage,” she said. Her group, along with Greenpeace Japan will be looking to “keep the Japanese government’s feet to the fire on this.”

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Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Over #Stopwastingfood

Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Over

Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu / IPS

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 28 2018 (IPS) – The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030.

But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050—20 years beyond the UN’s goal.

Still, the World Bank predicts that climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25 percent undermining the current attempts to fight hunger.

The hunger crisis has been aggravated by widespread military conflicts – even as the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, was called upon last month to play a greater role in “breaking the link between hunger and conflict.”

Holding out the prospect of wiping out famine “within our lifetime”, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that almost two thirds of people living in hunger were in conflict-stricken countries.

He singled out war-devastated Yemen, South Sudan and north-eastern Nigeria, which still faced severe levels of hunger, while the food security situation in Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was “extremely worrying”.

In an interview with IPS, Alessandro Demaio, Chief Executive Officer of the Norway-based EAT, an organization promoting healthy and sustainable food for all, said: “At EAT, our mission is a simple but ambitious one: to transform the global food system and enable us to feed a growing global population with healthy food from a healthy planet – leaving no-one behind.”

“We do this by bringing together leading actors from business, science, policy and civil society to close scientific knowledge gaps, translate research into action, scale up solutions, raise awareness and create engagement,” he noted.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: One of the UN’s 17 SDGs (Goal 2, Zero Hunger) aims to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations– by 2030. Do you thinks this is feasible?

Demaio: Food is, in one way or another, linked to all UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As a doctor, it deeply concerns me that more than 800 million people go hungry and more than two billion are overweight or obese, worldwide. These numbers are accompanied by a ballooning epidemic of diet-related and preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.

While working in Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia at the frontlines, I saw firsthand how hunger has many forms. Undernutrition manifests in children in two key ways: by becoming dangerously thin for their height (wasting), or permanently impeding their growth (stunting). In the other extreme, populations with calorie dense but nutrient-poor diets drive the global burden of overweight and obesity.

There is a deeply unjust disconnect between food availability and quality in different parts of the world. One third of all food produced gets lost or goes to waste — that’s enough to feed all of the world’s hungry four times over!

But slow response to increasing pressures from climate change and increasing social inequalities means that not everyone gets access to the right foods. In fact the United Nations last year declared that hunger, after more than a decade in decline, was on the rise again.

I do believe that we can reach zero hunger by 2030. We have many of the solutions to do so, such as connecting smallholder farmers to markets, removing barriers to trade and boosting food production sustainably.

But we just need the political will to match, and to get stakeholders across sectors, borders and disciplines to work together and pull in the same direction.

Food is our number one global health challenge and a formidable climate threat. We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.


IPS: What is your agenda to help reform the global food system, including increasing agricultural productivity, and recycling food waste?

Demaio: In our work to reform the global food system, we at EAT connect and partner across science, policy, business and civil society to achieve five urgent and radical transformations by 2050:

  1. Shift the world to healthy, tasty and sustainable diets;
  2. Realign food system priorities for people and planet;
  3. Produce more of the right food, from less;
  4. Safeguard our land and oceans; and
  5. Radically reduce food losses and waste.

About 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, that’s an estimated one in three mouthfuls of food every day. In poorer nations, this waste generally occurs pre-market and can be part-solved by simple technologies in supply chains including transport, packaging and refrigeration. Technological interventions such as precision agriculture or investments in post-harvest processes will make huge differences.

In wealthier countries, the majority of waste occurs after market, in supermarkets and in our homes. This is where buying less but more frequently, avoiding impulse buys and taking measures to reduce the “buy one get one free” that incentivize over-purchasing, are all key.


IPS: The world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050. Is this target achievable because climate change can cause devastation to crop yields?

Demaio: The bad news is that modern agriculture doesn’t feed us all and it does not feed us well. The good news is that we have never had a bigger opportunity, more knowledge or the ingenuity and skills to fix it.

Increasing investment in harvesting infrastructure combined with improving access to markets and technology can result in minimizing field losses for farmers in low and middle-income countries, as well as help to pull millions out of poverty. In high income countries, business and consumers have a transformative role to play in reducing wasted food.

Through new business models, improved production, packaging and educational campaigns, businesses can nudge consumers in the right direction. By nudging better purchasing habits, better evaluations of portion size and improving food preparation techniques, consumers can dive headlong towards a circular food economy. Every pound of food saved from loss or waste will create economic, health and environmental gains.

Through working with remote communities, health professionals, and science and business leaders, I have seen how plant-based dietary trends have fueled a rediscovery of countless crop varieties with promising nutritional and environmental profiles.

With their abilities to deliver ‘more crop per drop’ and withstand unpredictable seasonal changes, diversifying what we grow can help meet local and global nutrition needs. In contrast, gene editing or lab grown meats offer to increase productivity, nutrition and tolerance to environmental uncertainties.

Essentially, the future of agriculture doesn’t lie in intensive expansion only — it lies in the harnessing of holistic, precise and tech savvy methods that enhance the production of more nutritious and more climate resilient foods.


IPS: How are ongoing military conflicts, particularly in Asia and Africa, affecting the world’s food supplies?

Demaio: Major regional or national conflicts have often profound impacts on food supplies as they disrupt society. Conflicts often originate from a competition over control of the factors of food production, such as land and water.

A growing global population, lower yields and diminished nutrient content of some crops due to changing climatic conditions contribute to increasing stress, raising the risk of civil unrest or military conflict. Countries under the greatest stress often have the least capability to adequately respond to civil unrest.

Contexts are important and whether it is climate change, food shortages, water crises, ocean sustainability, or geopolitical conflicts — many or most are interlinked.

An example of this is how ocean acidification and warming impacts fishery yields and the redistribution of already overfished and stressed fish stocks, which can cause new geopolitical tensions. Given that many of these challenges are intertwined, they also present common opportunities for co-mitigation.


IPS: What is the primary goal of the upcoming EAT forum in Stockholm, June 11-12? What’s on the agenda?

Demaio: Feeding a healthy and sustainable diet to a future population of almost 10 billion will be a monumental challenge, but it is within our reach. The EAT Stockholm Food Forum is a contribution to solving this challenge. The concept is simple genius — my favorite kind.

Bring together innovators, leaders and forward thinkers who usually rarely meet but are working on interrelated, global challenges — food systems, climate change, food security, global health and sustainable development. Put them in one room and get them to share ideas, share best practice, share the latest research and hopefully reshape the broken systems driving our planetary shortcomings.

This year we’re hosting the fifth EAT Stockholm Food Forum in partnership with the Government of Sweden. We have an incredible line-up of speakers, including: World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva; climate leader Christiana Figueres, an architect of the historic Paris Climate Agreement; Sam Kass, chef and former chief nutritionist to the Obama Administration; plus a host of global food heroes representing twenty-nine countries and six continents

The article first appeared at

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