State owned oil companies
from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan and India have recently concluded a 20-year agreement (TAPI pipeline) with Turkmenistan, to purchase upto 33 billion cubic meters of gas a year from the massive Galkynish Turkmenistan field, via the pipeline. Turkmenistan wants to reduce dependence on Russia and China, as export markets. India and Pakistan hope Turkmenistan’s gas will meet their huge import needs. Transit fees for Afghanistan have also been agreed upon. Afghanistan will buy a small amount of the gas. The signing is backed by the Manila based lender, the Asian Development Bank, and the United States, to cut back Iranian crude purchases. The proposed TAPI gas pipeline project faces obstacles in Taliban insurgency controlled southern Afghanistan and parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The pipeline passes through separatist rebellion in Pakistan’s south west Baluchistan province.
Arnab Dam, alias Bratya / Surya / Vikram, a rebellious Naxal was arrested in the third week of July 2012, from the Jharkhand-West Bengal border. He had become isolated from several leaders, including Kishenji, since killed by the police. Before the 2011 Assembly elections in West Bengal, Kishenji had issued press statements, urging the people of Junglemahal to vote for Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress). Arnab, a state committee member disagreed, and later issued a statement against Mamata’s government, after it came to power. Among the few Naxals who spurned Mamata’s truce offer, even after promises of withdrawal of central security forces from West Midnapore, Arnab leading the Ayodhya squad, struck repeatedly in the Purulia-Jharkhand border region. In contrast, Kishenji’s band of Maoists in the Lalgarh-Jhargram tribal belt, strategically avoided violence. Earlier, voters have boycotted the Assembly polls in the villages of Purulia and other areas, where Arnab had control. Whereas in the West Midnapore-Bankura belt, the domain of Kishenji, the voters overwhelmingly voted for Trinamool Congress. After Mamata’s victory in the assembly elections, many Maoist leaders switched to Trinamool Congress, while Arnab continued his opposition to the TMC. Shifts in loyalties and betrayals caused Arnab’s arrest.
Maoist guerilla leaders like Akash, Bikash and Tara are visiting several villages in West Midnapore’s Lalgarh, Salboni and Goaltore. Key Maoist leaders are reorganizing in the forest areas, explaining to the residents how the government ‘ditched’ the people of Junglemahal after ‘false promises’. The guerilla leaders are organizing and conducting political meetings in the villages. Local youths are being recruited. Since the death of Kishenji, in an ‘encounter’ with security forces, the Maoists were lying low. Of late, the Maoist leaders are coming out of forest hideouts, near the Bengal-Jharkhand border. Crossing the Kangshabati river, they are entering Lalgarh and its adjoining areas. The Maoists hold village meetings inside dense forests, which have a few escape routes. Obtaining food from nearby villages, the guerillas camp in the forests, during day time. The Maoist camp in Salboni, through extensive mass movements, could cordon off Lalgarh, as in 2008. The Kalaimuri police camp in Lalgarh was blown up by Maoists in 2009. The tribal residents had stopped the ninety odd policemen posted there, from buying provisions. The police camp was shut down in April 2009. The state government is now trying to rebuild the Kalaimuri police camp in Lalgarh, in spite of threats from Maoists to contractors to stop work on the three-storey camp. Only youths from politically influential families in Junglemahal are obtaining jobs of constable, by offering bribes.
Nine months after the Maruti Suzuki plant agreed to recognize the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union, a violent confrontation occurred in mid July 2012 at the Manesar Automobile Plant, between representatives of the Maruti Udyog Kamdar Union, and the Muruti Suzuki Workers’ Union, and the management, over the suspension of a line worker. Violence and arson resulted in a general manager being charred to death, and serious injuries to 100 managers. Strikes and lockouts have been afflicting Maruti’s 600 acre campus in Manesar, with the company losing $500 million in lost production. The unions are asking the company to double salaries, improve health benefits, transport facilities and incentives.
At Patparganj Industrial Estate in Delhi, 85% of the companies do not pay minimum wages to the workers. The average monthly wages vary from Rs 4000 and Rs 6000. Barely 25% of the workers are covered by the Employees State Insurance Scheme. To evade the Factory Act, several owners at Anand Parbat Industrial Area run five or six units with five workers each, instead of one unit with thirty workers. With police colluding with factory owners, workers are warned to stay away from union activities.
Coal Pits in Mongolia
Landlocked between China and Russia, Mongolia is a nation of livestock herders, with a population of three million people. At Tavan Tolgoi in the Stretch of the Gobi desert, lies the world’s largest untapped coal deposit, only 225 kilometres (140 miles), from the Chinese border. Besides enough coal to fuel China’s huge demand for the next fifty years, Mongolia has vast troves of copper, gold, uranium and other rich minerals. Aiming to avoid Chinese effective economic and political control through business takeovers, the Mongolian government is seeking alternative consortium agreements to develop an estimated 900 million ton portion of the coal deposit, much of it prized coking coal, essential to making steel. The main bidders are Shenhua Energy, a Chinese state owned enterprise; and Peabody Energy, a multi- national mining giant, based in St Louis, Missouri, being pushed by USA. In the scramble for resources and influence in Asia, there is also a Russia-Mongolian consortium, and companies from Japan and South Korea.
Vol. 45, No. 10, Sep 16 -22 2012