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India is the 41st most popular tourism destination of the world.
In 2013, India greeted 6.8 million visitors, compared with China’s 129 million. Under a new visa regime from October 2014, visitors from forty countries, including the UK, America and China, will apply on line and, if approved, will get their passport stamped on arrival, at one of the nine designated airports in India. Since the 2008 global economic downturn, international tourist arrivals to India in 2013, grew at their slowest pace. Prime minister Narendra Mody has made the encouragement of tourism, one of five top priorities for the new government.
The West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation’s (WBTDC) share of tourist inflow during 2007-12 is not even 0.5% of a total of about 3 crores tourists visiting West Bengal. Crores of rupees have been spent in renovating several tourist lodges belonging to WBTDC. There is no market strategy to attract tourists to the WBTDC lodges. During the period, the WBTDC spent Rs 16.72 crores to renovate 19 lodges, but never applied for ‘star’ category rating. The food-cost ratio at 10 out of 13 lodges exceeds norms. Without fixed standard occupancy, 11 lodges have a loss of Rs 9.52 crores. Having leased out 11 lodges the WBTDC failed to execute standard lease agreements.
India’s population is rising towards 1.7 billion by the second half of this century. At the same time, decades of abuse of rivers and ground water are presenting the state governments and the central government with a challenge. The Ganges river is polluted and the water and sewerage systems are inadequate. The water table is going down, and water availability is deteriorating day by day. In urban areas, the excessive drilling for water has consumed or contaminated the layer of fresh water, leaving only hard, mineralized water that can barely be used. The water table from about 15 to 20 feet has now declined to 100 to 200 ft. The Delhi Development Authority supplies to every housing colony in Dwarka, a fast growing middle class satellite colony in the fringes of west New Delhi, 10,000 litres of water a day, despite requests for 60,000 litres per day. The DDA is able to supply only half of Dwarka’s official demand of 40 million litres a day, some of it from 70 of its own tube wells. The 500,000 residents of Dwarka, haggle with local authorities and gangsters from the neighbouring state of Haryana, to buy tanker loads of water. There has been no management of the water system. Housing co-operatives drilled their own bore holes, that stopped producing drinkable water ten years ago. The final stretch of a canal that was supposed to supply water to Dwarka sub city, from a river in Haryana cannot be completed, because Haryana claims it has none to spare, and also squatters have built homes on the land.
Military in Japan
The Japanese constitution, drafted by USA, has kept its military shackled, ever since Japan was vanquished at the end of World War II. The Japanese Cabinet has recently approved a reinterpretation of the constitution on military affairs, that will allow the military to help defend other nations, in what is known as ‘‘collective self-defence’’. The previous Japanese governments have maintained that Japan’s war renouncing constitution limits the use of force to defending Japan. The Japanese prime minister claims the shift is intended to protect the lives and security of the Japanese people. Japanese warships would now be able to help protect US ships that were fighting to defend Japan. A deteriorating security in Japan exists, notably China’s military rise and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats. A ‘Police’ force was introduced in Japan in 1950, during the Korean war, which became a military dubbed the Self Defence Force in 1954. Under the new interpretation of the constitution charter, Japan is now empowered to authorize greater military engagement.
Bombs and rockets in Gaza
In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered in the occupied West Bank. In a suspected revenge killing, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped, murdered and burned to death, on 02 July 2014. The brutal killing triggered days of violent clashes, which began in east Jerusalem, and spread to more than half a dozen Arab towns in Jerusalem, with hordes of angry protesters hurling stones at Israeli riot police. The people arrested in relation to the case, belong to an extremist Jewish group. Following clashes between Israeli police and demonstrators in Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel, the Israel military carried out weeks of air strikes on sites in the Gaza strip. Tensions continued to rise in the south with Gaza militants firing rockets over the border, despite air strikes from Israel. The Jewish state has also been targeted by rocket attacks from Lebanon, and a rocket fired from Lebanon struck a gas station near Israel’s northern border. Israel has retaliated with artillery fire, towards the source of the firing. Hamas has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, with its rockets from Gaza. Hamas missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel’s major cities—Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and many more. Over 600 people have been killed in Israel’s Gaza air strikes, as a counter to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. 80% of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians. With artillery and tanks, Israel’s ground offensive continues with the aim of destroying Hamas network of tunnels in Gaza.
Middle East Jihad
Islamic militants from the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), renamed Islamic State (IS), have been spearheading a Sunni militant offensive in Iraq. They have declared an ‘Islamic Caliphate’, and ordered Muslims worldwide to pledge allegiance to their chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Qaeda’s north African branch and the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) celebrated the creation of the Caliphate and pledged support to ISIS. The Islamic Caliphate is a response to the chaos which has happened in Iraq, as a direct result of the inflammation of sectarian conflict in the entire region. Besides conquering territory, the Sunni extremists have switched focus to building a state. The IS militants, in an on-line publication called ‘The Return of Khalifah’ have laid out a series of aims including : ‘‘returning rights and property to their right owners; pumping millions of dollars into services that are important to the Muslims, improving security, delivering food, the collection of religious taxes and distribution to the widows, orphans and the needy, recruiting of soldiers, and urging of repentance on ‘apostates’. There is no mention of the strictures on public life for which ISIS is widely feared. ISIS has begun issuing passports in Iraq’s second city, Masul. In Tirkit and Mosul, IS has not enforced the veil and scarves, and women are free to walk the streets. The law faculty at Tikrit university has been shut down, as Sharia was the only permissible form of law. A special call has been given to scholars, experts in Islamic jurisprudence, and people with military, administrative and service expertise. There is a demand for doctors and engineers.
Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014