News Wrap


The Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh, which has been accorded national status, was conceived in the 1940s. The irrigation project is likely to irrigate over seven lac acres in Andhra Pradesh, and produce 960 mw of hydel energy. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 20,000 crore. Tribals in Chattisgarh and Odisha are set to lose homes. The project will displace about 12,978 tribals in Chattisgarh and about 5707 tribals in Odisha. Compensation is yet to be made to the tribals, who will be displaced due to the upcoming project, in the two states. In Andhra Pradesh compensation has not yet been paid to all land owners, whose land has been acquired, and full rehabilitation and resettlement process is yet to be completed. People are still being evicted physically from the local site in Andhra Pradesh. The Polavaram Project, named ‘Indira Sagar’, across the Godavari River, will be submerging agricultural land and forest land in Odisha and Chattisgarh.

Indians have long seen marriage as a guarantor of social status and economic security. Each year roughly eight million, mostly teenage brides, marry men chosen entirely by their parents, with many meeting their grooms for the first time on their wedding day. Refusals can be met by violence and, sometimes murder. Market dynamics in India, is causing a shift away from fully arranged marriages. Girls are now discovering the profiles of men, who could interest them, from cell phone numbers and secret texting. There is a growing number of ‘‘semi arranged’’ marriages, in which technology has played matchmaker. Fathers are securing the new ubiquitous marriage websites for acceptable candidates. A growing number, especially in India’s cities, now allow their children veto power. Siblings have begun weighing in. The website is a significant change in the status of women. While more families move to cities, village based kinship networks are fading. Highly educated women often cannot find men of equal standing in those circles. India’s 1500 websites nationalise the pool of prospective spouses, giving parents thousands more choices while still allowing to adhere to longstanding restrictions regarding caste and religion. The percentage of semi-arranged marriages is an estimated quarter of all marriages in India. ‘Love Marriages’ are just about 5% of matches.

Road Safety
According to the World Bank, with just 1% of the world’s automobiles, India accounts for 15% of global traffic deaths. Having some of world’s deadliest roads, India experiences more than 200,000 fatalities in road accidents, every year. Many of the accused go free because of weak and out-dated motor vehicle regulations, corruption, lagging investigations, and slow court trials. Different state governments, particularly those having metro cities, have reduced punishments for speeding and drunken driving, setting limits on compensation for accident victims, and shrinking the powers of a proposed road safety regulator. The penalty for reckless driving involving the death of a child has been lowered to a $780 fine, and a one year prison term, as part of a proposed legislation.

Nepal’s Constitution
Top leaders in Nepal, comprising the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi People’s Rights Forum Democratic (MPAFD) have agreed to adopt an 8-province federal model, parliamentary system of governance, mixed electoral model, and include the provision of a constitutional court for ten years, in the new statute, as part of a compromise deal. The pact, with support from some other fringe parties like the Rashtrayia Prajatantra Party (RPP), CPN(ML), will pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution. The four major political parties command around 490 seats, in the 601-member Constituent Assembly. Of the total 275 members of the Lower House, 165 will be elected through direct voting under the first-past-the-post system, and the other 110 members will be elected under the Proportional Representation (PR) system. In the post-monarchy peace deal with the Maoists in 2006, the Maoists had demanded delineation of internal boundaries and naming of the provinces, in accord with ethnic composition.

On 27 April 2015, two days after the earthquake, the UK government deployed Gurkha troops, mostly from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, based in Middlestone in Kent, to help some of the worst hit districts in Nepal, following the devastating earthquake. The Gurkha troops in Nepal have been struggling to distribute essential  supplies because of red tape, delays and a lack of helicopters. Nepali officials blocked access to three RAF Chinooks, flown out to assist the aid effort, on the plea that they were too large, to be used in the aid effort. International aid organizations are working with the police, army and government, to keep people as safe as possible. The homeless find shelter in temporary, tarpaulin camps, where twelve people per camp, eat and sleep together. Police in Nepal have started self-defence lessons for women and girls, in camps for people displaced by two earthquakes, amid concerns about a rising wave of sexual assaults. The women and girls are taught how to kick and punch, as well as various locks, and judo and karate too. There have been several cases of harassment, including teasing, and ‘drunk people entering camps’. More than 8700 people died in two large earthquakes, that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015 and 12 May 2015, which destroyed nearly half a million houses, and left thousands of people out in the open.

Vol. 48, No. 9, Sep 6 - 12, 2015