News Wrap


Recently the gujarat Government has ordered about 500 Sikh families, settled in the Kutch area of Gujarat, to sell their land and return to Punjab, because they were not Gujaratis. The Narendra Modi government cited the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948. The National Commission of Minorities rejected the Gujarat government’s interpretation of the Act, that only Gujarati farmers could own or buy land in Gujarat. Land accounts of the Sikh farmers are already frozen. The Gujarat High Court considered the State Government’s interpretation of the Act as flawed, and therefore, struck down the government’s order. The Gujarat government has challenged the High Court order, in the Supreme Court.

Rajasthan’s Health Care
In the past seven years, Rajasthan has been growing at a rate much less than the national average, yet it has reduced poverty levels by a full 10 percentage points between 2009-10 and 2011-12. 3% of families in India change their status from Above Poverty Line (APL) category to Below Poverty Line (BPL), because of health care costs. Rajasthan has reduced the medical costs of its people by providing free drugs and basic diagnostic tests to the common people. Around 2.1 million people in Rajasthan used to get pushed to the BPL category, because of medical costs. A major cause for rural indebtedness is health care. 24% of all indoor patients get pushed Below Poverty Line because of debt incurred, in order to meet the medical treatment expenses. About 40% of all patients borrow money to meet hospitalization expenses. Under the Rajasthan Chief Minister’s free medicine and test scheme, daily nearly 275,000 people get basic medicines free of cost for the treatment of cancer, diabetes, asthma and heart diseases. Procurement of quality medicines is done from reputed companies. The state has been helped by a steady performance on the agricultural front for the past fifteen years. Free medical tests are provided for X-Ray, ECG, Blood Tests etc.

Steel Plant and Jamuria Land
Kolkata based Shyam Group of Industries have constructed a Rs 9,900 crore Steel Plant in Jamuria (Asansol Sub-Division). After the Jamuria factory started production in 2012, the company decided to build its own railway siding, as the company was paying Rs 120 per ton to transport raw materials from the railway siding to the steel plant, 12 km away. The construction of railway tracks to ferry raw materials to the steel plant is stuck for the past several months due to a deadlock over acquiring a 30-metre stretch. The company is paying lacs of rupees in monthly penalty to the railways, as it has been forced to keep raw materials in wagons at the Tapasi Railway Siding, beyond the permissible time limit. The plant has a capacity to produce 3 lac tons of steel, alloy steel, iron and sponge iron a year, but is producing only 1.5 lac tons a year now. Full capacity production could take place, only after the railway siding is complete. The siding tracks are laid on one-acre plot of land.

Civilian Deaths in Syrian War
In Syria’s civil war, more than 11,000 children have been killed by explosives, air strikes and snipers. 71% of the children have died in explosions, killed by bombs and shells in their homes or schools, while waiting in bread lines, or as they sought shelter. Snipers have killed nearly 400 children, and evidence is emerging that some have been deliberately targeted. At least 112 children, which includes toddlers, have been tortured. There are signs of having been beaten to death in the bodies of a one-year-old, two/three-year-olds and two/four-year-olds. The crimes may have been committed in front of their parents, for extracting information. Almost half of the two million people who fled the fighting in Syria, are living in miserable conditions in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. While safe from gunfire, the Syrian refugees face the cold winter, without blankets, warm clothes, or in some instances, without shoes.

Asylum Policy in Australia
The majority of asylum seekers to Australia are people from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, who sail out in crowded, unsafe vessels for Christmas Islands, a remote territory in the Indian Ocean, that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Nearly a thousand asylum seekers arrive in boats annually in Australia. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has recently announced a new system, that those arriving by boats in Australia, are to be sent to refugee processing centres in nearby Papua New Guinea. They will be resettled in Papua New Guinea if they are to be found to be entitled to refugee status, under the UN convention on refugees. New boat arrivals and deaths at sea are increasing. There is an absence of protection standards and safe-guards for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. The physical conditions within open-ended, mandatory and arbitrary detention centres are poor. There are frequent cases of rapes and torture of detainees at the centres. Mistreatment of foreign refugees continue to be a major problem in Papua New Guinea. Sustainable integration of non-Melanesian refugees in the socio-economic and cultural life of Papua New Guinea raises formidable challenges and protection questions.

Vol. 46, No. 36, Mar 16 - 22, 2014