News Wrap


Initial bursts of ligislation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-I) were based on both the National Advisory Council’s (led by Congress Party’s Sonia Gandhi and illustrious people from the corporate and non-governmental organizations) recommendations and the common Minimum Programme of the government of India. Over time Jean Dreze, H Mender and Aruna Roy resigned. There were disagreement over minimum wages in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, social sector progress and growth. While India has been unable to expand the safety net for the poorest, albeit high growth in the first nine years of the UPA has expanded welfare schemes. On the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for school education, the government spent Rs 2730 crore in 2003-04, and Rs 20,841 crore in 2011-12. Expenditure on health rose from Rs 7500 crore in 2003-04  to Rs 27,000 crore in 2011-12. The ten fold increase in welfare expenditure was derived from increases in revenue, caused by 8% growth that India experienced in those years.

More Guns
The Bastar region’s seven districts, viz Narayanpur, Bijapur, Sukma, Konda-gaon, Kanker, Dantewada and Bastar, figure in the union government of India’s 26 severely Maoist-hit districts. Some of the top most Maoists operate from a major portion of Narayanpur and some parts of Bijapur, which constitute Abujhmaad. The Bastar region has the worst human development indices in the country. A district over double the size of Goa, Bijapur has only 16 higher secondary schools and just one college. At second lowest in India, Bijapur has a literacy rate of 41.58%. There is no administrative contorl nor police presence over several thousands of square kilometres, across Bastar. Farsegarh thana, situated on the edge of southwest Bastar’s Bijapur district, is the last police post towards one of Chattisgarh’s Maoist zones. The vulnerable police personnel live without phone-signals, and largely without electricity. The state highway abruptly ends at Farsegarh, and beyond begins the impossible forests. Lanes, roads and landmarks in the forest are in disrepairs. Bushes alongside the forest roads are strewn with land mines. The Bastar region has about 10,000 Maoists, most of them poorly armed. The nearly one lac security forces are better equipped, and are helped by UAVs and the Indian Air Force.

Power Project to Bihar
Farmers in West Bengal are demanding high land prices, and resorting to agitations. The state government is not willing to intervene. The Power Grid Corporation of India has shifted its power transmission project from Karandighi (North Dinajpur district in West Bengal) to just 50 km away in neighbouring Bihar’s Kishanganj district. The central public sector unit, the Power Grid Corporation of India, which is engaged in inter-state transmission of electricity, failed to get 65 acres of land, even after it paid Rs 15 crore to West Bengal state government, for disbursement among farmers, from whom land would be acquired. Rs 2.5 crore out of the Rs 15 crore has already been distributed among the land holders, from whom about 15 acre of land was acquired. Soon the farmers mounted opposition, and demanded more money for their land. The power corporation is demanding return of the Rs 2.5 crore from the state government, but the state land and land reforms department has not been successful in retrieving the distributed money from the farmers. Around 50 farming families have received the money.

Demonstrations in Turkey
An environmentalists’ sit-in in Istanbul, since June 2013, has inspired tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, calling on the government to resign, after a police operation. Demonstrations against the increasingly authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, form the ‘‘Turkish Spring’’. In an attempt to stop the demonstrations, baton-wielding police fought running battles with stone-throwing youths. The trouble had erupted when police stormed a makeshift protest camp in the city centre, where environmentalists had taken a stand against Erdogan’s plans to build a Replica of an Ottoman-era army barracks in Gezi Park of Taksim Square, one of Istanbul’s few remaining green spaces. In the face of police firing of tear gas and water cannon, young men and women in bandanas and surgical masks, used Facebook and Twitter on mobile phones, to regroup on major avenues and side streets, in even greater numbers. Over 2000 protesters have been injured. Amateur video footage has shown Turkish military personnel refusing to help the riot police, and handing out gas masks to demonstrators. There are also reports that some of the police had switched sides, and joined the protests.

Over a law to restrict alcohol sales, warnings against public displays of affection, and imprisonment of government critics, the anger at Erdogan’s Islamist-Rooted Justice and Development Party has intensified recently. The demonstrations had spread to Ankara, the capital, and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir. Turkey has become one of the world’s most dynamic economies, during Erdogan’s decade in power. Erdogan’s authoritarian bent is reflected in Turkey’s prisons which contain more journalists, than any other country in the world. Few newspapers and television channels dare to run anything critical of the government.

Vegetation in Deserts
Recent research has found that trees and plants in some of the world’s most arid regions are thriving, as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by man-made pollution. Satellite photographs taken over a period of 30 years, indicate green cover has increased in various regions extending from south-west North America, the Australian outback, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa. The foliage increase of 11% has been encouraged by the same increase in carbon dioxide, that is widely blamed for a rise in global temperatures. Carbon dioxide is a vital food for green plants. The photosynthesis process transforms the energy of sunlight to combine carbon dioxide with water, to produce sugars, which the plant uses to grow and reproduce. Changes in total leaf cover and influences on plant growth, are likely to be dominated by factors such as temperature, light, water levels, and the human impact on the land. Increasing Wheat and Soya yields in America and cultivation of previously frozen areas of Russia are future ecology changes expected.

Vol. 46, No. 3, Jul 28-Aug 3, 2013

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