News Wrap

The labourers In J and K are neglected and exploited. The laws meant to protect their rights and entitlements are violated. The labour force is suffering long working hours, poor working conditions, meagre wages and no healthcare facilities. Besides factory owners, the labour laws are being violated by the Jammu and Kashmir government itself. Labourers in the government sector are ad hoc or contractual employees, earning monthly wages of Rs 1500 only, which no way qualifies under the Minimum Wages Act (1948). ASHA and Angandwadi Workers, daily rated casual workers, and need based contractual labourers are still not under the umbrella of laws, which are supposed to safeguard their rights. The construction workers of J and K are deprived of their rights under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act (1996), which J and K state adopted in 2006. The implementation of the Act has been delayed, as the Statutory Construction Workers Welfare Board was constituted in 2007, which remained non functional till 2010. There is no scheme to identify labourers from different communities, in order to provide benefits of working conditions and insurance. Child labourers who assist local traders work for twelve hours every day. The labourers who hail from outside J and K exceed the locals numerically, but they are more deprived. Migrant labourers and local workers, who are injured at work, are denied exgratia relief and life insurance benefits. The 21 union labour laws and three state laws have failed to cover labour demands.

Myanmar’s Rohingyas
For over two decades, Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh have been demanding recognition in Myanmar, as an indigenous ethnic group, with full citizenship by birthright, and claiming a centuries old lineage in Rakhine. Citizenship in Myanmar is denied to them, as the Myanmar government regards them as illegal immigrants. Bangladesh is not granting refugee status to the Rohingyas refugees since 1992. Since the last two months there has been an outbreak in sectarian violence in western Myanmar. In May 2012, a young Buddhist girl was raped and killed in Rakhine state, allegedly by three muslim men. Printed pamphlets appeared around the city of Sittwe, blaming Muslims for the attack. On 03 June 2012, a Buddhist mob pulled from a bus, a group of Muslims returning from a religious gathering, killing ten and setting a chain of other attacks. Later three Muslim men were arrested in connection with the rape and killing of the Buddhist girl. Authorities imposed curfew in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe and three other townships. Muslims protested in Yangon, for justice in the bus attacks. The Buddhists counter-protested, urged on by Internet commentary. The violence between Buddhists and minority muslims, have left at least thirty people dead, and hundreds of homes burned. Bangladesh has been turning away numerous boats, carrying thousands of Rohingya Muslims, feeling violence in neighbouring Myanmar. Some refugees trying to ship into Bangladesh has allegedly been wounded by gunfire from Myanmar Security Forces.
The Rakhine violence occurred just a few weeks after protests broke out in Myanmar, over insufficient electricity supplies. The rapid increase in protest activity in Myanmar over recent months, has been made easier by loosened restrictions on public gatherings, and wider access to the Internet. The Myanmar leaders have adopted a high degree of openness concerning Rakhine state. Refugee camps have been opened at monasteries. Doctors and security forces have been rushed.

Austerity Drive and Social Costs

Brussel’s own pessimism about the Spanish economy shows the risk of too much austerity. The entire eurozone is predicted to shrink by 0.3% in 2012. Spain’s economy is now predicted to reduce 0.7% growth, a contraction of 1%. Spain is insisting on a new target of budget deficit above 5% of GDP, instead of limiting the national budget deficit to 4.4% of gross domestic product. In 2011, the national budget deficit had exceeded 8% of GDP. Spanish towns have witnessed demonstrations by students and parents against education cuts, which have been violently broken by police. There are schools in Valencia where there is no money to pay electricity bills, and students cannot study. State school teachers have not been paid since Christmas. In Spain’s current recession, rising unemployment and weak domestic demand is being compounded by spending cuts. The centre right Spanish government, with Mariano Rajoy as prime minister, is concerned with the social cost of large scale austerity coupled with a deepening recession. Several regions in Spain, which were earlier benefited by the property boom, now display half built developments and empty offices, in the recession. Those with higher incomes and fixed contracts are now losing their jobs, affecting construction workers, who are the first to suffer. Tax increases are aimed to raise 6 billion euro. But Spaniards are spending less, where the country’s domestic household consumption accounts for 60% of GDP.


Vol. 45, No. 3, July 29-August 4, 2012