News Wrap


The Union Government of India’s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) has empanelled 7800 Newspapers, comprising small, medium and big entities. Different central departments through the DAVP, released advertisements of value Rs 298 crore (approx), during 2014-15. Official investigations have revealed that the circulation figures of some of the small newspapers were inflated, even though certified by chartered accountants. Some newspapers are unable to provide back copies or copies for a month raising doubts about the regularity of their appearance. Advertisements are being placed in newspapers that do not even exist. Small newspapers stand to gain Rs 40-odd crore each year. Out of 99,660 newspapers registered in India on 31 March 2014, only 19,755 submitted their annual audit statements to the Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI). With a claimed circulation of 25,000, non-existent newspapers had the status of ‘‘small newspapers’’, entitiling them to a ‘‘government largess’’ of advertisements. The ‘‘unheard of newspapers’’ on the DAVP’s media list is part of political patronage and bribe. There are about 190 newspapers in India, which have the same editorial content. In some cases the content is repeated week after week.

Development of Junglemahal
West Bengal’s Junglemahal region, which covers the Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, has experienced reduced budgetary allocations for development. For 2014-15, the budget proposal for development of Jungle-mahal, a ‘‘priority area’’ was Rs 274 crore. When the funds were allocated, the revised estimate came down to Rs 200 crore, and finally Rs 184.72 crore was sanctioned. Only Rs 55.84 crore was utilized till 31 March 2015 for the projects under Paschimanchal Unnayan Parishad. 30.26% of the total funds allocated could be spent in the area.

Illegal mining is rampant in Birbhum district and in places bordering Jharkhand state. On 06 June 2015, a huge quantity of explosives were seized from a vehicle near Mallarpur, under Mayureswar police station in Birbhum. The seized items included 15,000 detonators and 1150 kg of high intensity gelatin sticks. Explosives were supplied to illegal mines situated in Rampurhat, Nalhati, Mohammedbazar and Muraroi police station areas of the district.

Shi’ite Militias
Hashd al-Shabi is Iraq’s confederation of primarily Shi’ite fighters, which was formed after Mosul fell to ISIS in June 2014. They were called to arms on a subsequent fatwa by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior cleric. In the predominantly Shi’ite south, hundreds of thousands of men signed up at recruiting offices in Baghdad and across towns and cities. Hundreds of Hashd fighters assemble at a staging post, on the outskirts of the Iraqi town of Abu Ghraib, with the purpose of launching a counter attack against ISIS in Ramadi. They have left their families to defend everyone in Iraq, Christian, Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurd. Weapons and magazines are checked. The arrival of a convoy of trucks carrying water, food and other supplies is cheered. The fighters in unison, read prayers and shout chants. About 9,000 Hashd men are taking part in the offensive to drive ISIS from Ramadi, which fell to the Islamists in mid May 2015, after Iraqi security forces crumbled and fled.

About 4000 of the Shi’ite fighters have begun operations, for retaking the towns of Khalidiyah and Husaybah, along the road that leads from Baghdad to Ramadi. They are serving alongside thousands of members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), including those who survived the retreat, from the capital of Anbar province. The ISIS forces attack an area, and then withdraw, just when the Hashd fighters counter attack. Hashd’s Shi’ite fighters have chalked up some of the Iraqi government’s most important victories, including the liberation of Tikrit, the home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi is concerned about the possible consequences of using Shi’ite militias in Sunni cities. The Hashd foot soldiers are trained and backed by Iran, whose commanders are on the ground, advising their allies. The Americans and Iranians have reached an informal agreement, with the Iraqi government acting as interlocutors. Salahideen and Diyala are the Iranian theatre of operations, while Anbar and Nineveh are the responsibility of the American led coalition. While USA is uncomfortable with the Shi’ite militia, it cannot find an alternative.

Vol. 48, No. 4, Aug 2 - 8, 2015