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Using the World Bank’s new expenditure cut-off of $1.9 a day, and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO)’s new methodology of poverty estimation, only 12.4% of India’s population, lived below the poverty line in 2011-12. If the NSSO’s previous methodology is used the figure stands at 21.2%. The expenditure cut-off was raised from $1.25% a day to $1.9, by the World Bank. India’s poverty rate is one of the lowest among developing countries. The new cut-off is based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) during 2011. The previous one was based on PPP for 2005. In terms of the absolute number of poor people, India topped the list of 10 countries, for 2011-12. India’s poverty rate of 21.2% was higher than only China and Indonesia. As there is no data on income distribution in India, consumption expenditure is considered to calculate poverty. India’s poverty rate falls to 12.4%, if the NSSO’s new methodology of measuring monthly per capita household consumption expenditure (MPCE) is used. For the new methodology, a modified mixed reference period, or the measure of MPCE, when household consumer expenditure on most food items is recorded, for a reference period of past seven days. The World Bank maintains that expenditure in both rural and urban areas was 10 to 12% higher, than previous estimates.

The reduction in income-based poverty rates was greater in Indian states, with higher initial poverty values. The states with less poverty, are showing greater progress. Earnings of the poor in India, have been boosted by expanding infrastructure. Rural electrification has increased labour supply. Girl schooling has been promoted by redistributing their time to tasks, that encourage attendance. The impact of adverse weather on agricultural prices and consequently real income, has been reduced by investment in rail transportation. Poverty also extends to aspects such as lack of access to basic infrastructure, health, education and employment.

Royal Excess
The Rolls-Royce car was the ultimate status symbol in colonial India in the 1900s. Amongst 600 Indian royal families, the Rolls-Royce and the Bentleys of princely India, became the perfect accessory to the maharajahs’ flamboyant and luxurious lifestyles. Indian royalty lived in tiger hunting, garden parties, and summer trips to London. Certain Indian princes fitted wash basins in the boot of the cars. One prince converted six of his cars into rubbish trucks, after feeling slighted by the British manufacturer. The Maharajah of Gwalior, Central India, began the craze when he bought a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, known as the pearl of the East, in 1908, for about £1300 in the Edwardian era, which is £250,000 today. The Rajah of Monghyr, in the state of Bihar, ordered a jeweller in Calcutta, to decorate his Rolls-Royce, with traditional Indian carvings in ornate silver. Bhupinder Singh, the maharajah of Patiala in Punjab, had 25 Silver Ghosts, among his 44 Roll-Royces, which were enough to transport his 52 children.

Syrian Rebels and Russia
At least 1700 of Russian personnel were at the naval facility of Tartus (Syria), up from just a handful earlier in 2015. The Russian ‘‘specialists’’ were securing and rebuilding the facility to enable greater access for Russian supplies at Syria’s Mediterranean Port. The Russian pre-fabricated housing blocks under construction at an airbase south of the city of Latakia, could provide accommodation for more than 1000 personnel. Another Russian military base has been set up, with 250 personnel in the town of Safita, around 20 miles east of Tartus. Russia maintains that its military specialists are in Syria to help ‘‘master the weapons supplied’’. Moscow maintains that its increased presence in Syria is aimed to counter the terrorism threat, and to ensure the survival of the Syrian state to forestall a ‘‘greater catastrophe’’. Russia’s President Putin has repeatedly called for a grand coalition against ISIS to include Syrian regime forces. Syria is the guardian of Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base. The US has accused President Putin of raising the stakes to ensure the survival of President Assad, the only Russian ally in the region. Kremlin has deployed at least 3000 of its own troops, to try to prop up the ailing regime of President Assad. Syrian rebel leaders have vowed to expel Russian soldiers from the war crippled country.

In its first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union, since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, Russia launched air strikes in war-torn Syria on 30 September 2015. Moscow is setting up an intelligence task force with Iran, Iraq and Syria. Russian aircraft have damaged or destroyed over 25 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State group, including command centres and ammunition depots. Air strikes in the central province of Hama hit locations of the US backed rebel group, Tajamu Allezzah. Russian air strikes have also hit Free Syrian Army recruits, who had been armed and trained by the US.

The supply of American anti-tank missiles to Syrian rebel groups has doubled the numbers of the battle winning system in Syria, since the start of a Russian offensive. The CIA programme of supply and use of the BGM-71 TOW has increased by 1000% since October 2015. The missiles have destroyed hundreds of Syrian government armoured vehicles, and helped so far to hold back the Russian backed government offensive.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 27, Jan 10 - 16, 2016