News Wrap


Between 2002-2003 and 2012-13, onion production has jumped from 42 lac metric tons to 163 lmt in India. Population growth has been about 1.7% a year in India, during the same period. During 2013-14, onion output is likely to be 10-15% higher than the previous year. So there has been no sudden slump in production. Despite claims of crop damage due to unseasonal rain, India’s town and cities are receiving stocks of new onions. New onions are selling at exorbitant rates of Rs 60-70 per kg in retail markets, though their arrival price was expected to normalize at Rs 12-15 per kg. Normally housewives avoid the new stocks for its high moisture content, that makes it difficult to peel. Exports have remained about 10% of total onion production for many years, and another 10% is consumed in the processing industry. Trades and commission agents dominate right from the primary mandi sale markets, squeezing both farmers and consumers. The average plot under onion is less than 1.3 acre per farmer. The farmers are getting about Rs 5 per kg for onions. Big traders and intermediaries hoard onions for export parties.

Scam in Arunachal
Arunachal Pradesh state government has been involved in a suspected multi-crore real estate scandal, as it has allowed a private developer to commercially exploit land leased to it by Maharashtra state, to set up a state guest house-cum-emporium. Mumbai’s City Industrial and Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) is the Maharashtra state government’s town planning agency, and the owner of the plot. A 26,375 sq ft prime plot near the Vashi railway station in Navi Mumbai was allotted to the Arunachal government at Rs 372 per sq ft in August 1994. The 90-year lease agreement was signed in August 1997. Barely 10% of the built up space has been set aside for the guest house-cum-emporium. The rest has been diverted to a Navi Mumbai based developer—US Roofs (USR) Ltd, in violation of lease conditions. Current market rate for commercial property in the region is Rs 25,000 per sq ft on the second floor of the 15 floor structure, which involves total construction of over 61,000 sq ft.

Syria’s Chemical weapons
The organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2013. OPCW inspectors in Syria have made no complaints about a lack of co-operation by Damascus. The inspectors have so far found no bombs, shells or missiles that are actually filled with poisonous gas. This suggests that Syria’s chemical weapons are in a very low state of readiness. There are an estimated 1000 metric tons of toxic chemicals in Syria; of which 300 tons are sulfur mustard, a blistering agent; and about 700 tons of nerve agents. None of it is weaponized loaded into projectiles. Much of the nerve agent is in ‘precursor’ form, as separate, less toxic components. OPCW’s task of destruction of chemical weapons by mid-2014 could be feasible even in the midst of a civil war, as there are less risks of extracting liquefied poison gas from projectiles restricting the dispersal of explosives. Syria’s chemical weapons have lost whatever deterrent value they ever had, since Israel has acquired good anti-missile defences, that would shoot down most incoming Syrian missiles. Syrian people on both sides continue to be dragged in a continuing civil war.

Oil Drillers in Amazon
In 2007, president Correa of Ecuador had announced that he would not approve the exploitation of oil reserves under Yasuni National Park, if rich countries contributed $ 3.6 billion (2.24 billion Pound) to impoverished Ecuador. In August 2013, the proposal had attracted pledges worth only $13 million. After the revolutionary proposal to leave the area untouched failed to attract sufficient funding from the international community, Ecuador’s parliament has voted to drill for oil in the pristine Amazon nature reserve. The Yasuni National Park has the world’s biggest array of plants, animals and insects. The areas, selected for oil extraction, are estimated to contain 800 million barrels of crude, and to produce 225,000 barrels a day eventually. Ecuador currently produces 540,000 barrels per day.

Vol. 46, No. 22, Dec 8 - 14, 2013

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