News Wrap


India’s socialist oriented economic policy planners in the 1950s had declared that some consumer items, like locks, steel cupboards, wooden furniture, fire works and school exercise books would be reserved for production by small scale industries, as part of their effort to reduce the influence of large private capital over the economy. Heavy industries such as steel would be the preserve of large public sector enterprises, while small scale private industries would supply lighter consumer goods to the markets. The list of small business goods was reserved at about 200, initially. In the 1970s more than 800 products were reserved exclusively for Small-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs), which were also enjoying preferential access to bank finance. There were exceptions like Mumbai-based Godrej and Boyce making locks and steel almirahs in India. Recently New Delhi decided to relax restrictions on the production of the last 20 items, that were still reserved for small scale industries. Small Scale Industry Reservation rules were preventing large, established companies from making new investments in upgrades or expansion. Many industries prefer to remain small, as an Indian labour law prevents employers of more than 100 workers from firing any, without government approval.

Parcel Delivery
There is a rising interest in India’s internet economy from global technology investors, who have begun pumping big sums into start-ups such as Flipkart, which won a valuation of about $11 billion, at its last fund raising. In Mumbai since April 2015, India’s leading on-line retailer Flipkart, has launched a low-tech approach to deliveries, by joining forces with 5000 dabbawallas, more famous for carting hot curry lunches around Mumbai. The experiment in just-in time logistics, is a tie-up between Flipkart and Mumbai’s network of bicycle delivery men, who ferry roughly 130,000 lunch boxes, up and down, daily in India’s financial capital. The often elderly male riders have begun a new stage in their 120-year history, by dropping into Flipkart’s distribution centres to pick up everything from books to toys, for delivery, where they also collect lunches. The dabbawalla deliverymen pick-up home cooked meals in shiny silver tiffin boxes from residences each morning, before cramming on to trains to rush meals to workers, in local offices. Organised into teams of twenty, the dabbawallas collect lunch boxes, sort them by destination, and then load them on to Mumbai’s trains.

Displacement of Communities
Recent investigative reports indicate that the World Bank has over the past decade physically or economically displaced 3.4 million people globally. In India, 33 projects have confirmed or possible displacement between 2004 and 2013, representing 23% of all the World Bank financed projects in the country. About 388,794 people in India, have been displaced by 24 projects. The World Bank often fails to count or undercounts the number of people, affected by its projects, even though the Bank assesses the possible impact of projects, in accordance with a rigorous methodology. The Kerala State Transport Project has displaced 103,000 people. The Lucknow-Muzaffarpur National Highway Project has displaced 75,434 people. The Orissa State Roads Project has displaced 64,287 people. Many have lost portions of their property, either boundary walls, or narrow strips of land, upto one metre stretches horizontally along roads. In respect of the International Finance Corporation funded coal power plant on the Gulf of Kutch, not enough was done to protect the large fishing community living in the shadow of the plant. In Ethiopia and India, the World Bank declined to direct its clients to fully compensate the affected communities. The World Bank often neglects to properly review projects in advance, to make sure communities are protected, and frequently has no idea what happens to people after they are removed.

Summit of the Americas
USA and China had broken of diplomatic relations in 1961. At the Summit of the Americas in Panama City during the second week of April 2015, US President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro heralded a new era of bilateral relations, as they both addressed a landmark summit of the Americas, ahead of historic one-on-one talks. The summit provided an opportunity to move beyond a history of grievances and mistrust, setting a course of closer co-operations. The US State Department has recommended that Cuba be removed from the US blacklist of alleged state sponsors of terrorism. Obama announced a US $20 million to help jumpstart private and public sector investment in clean energy projects across the Caribbean and Central America. At the Civil Society Forum that precedes the two-day gathering, protesters criticised the US for labelling Venezuela a ‘‘threat to national security’’ in a recent executive order to impose sanctions on seven officials, accused of human rights violations.

The internet is being used by Cuba, to experiment with toning down its political censorship. Havana has recently allowed Cubans to question policy on the once taboo subjects of the electoral system and civil society, in two on-line forums. The new forums, run on state media websites bring together officials and academics to interact online.

Vol. 47, No. 51, June 28 - July 4, 2015