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In 2013, Power Grid Corporation (Government of India) bought
about 16 acres of multi-crop land in Bhangar area (South 24 Parganas, West Bengal), with the state government’s help for power substation. Farmers later protested, saying that they had not been paid the market value of the land. On 17 January 2017, the ongoing protests against the acquisition of land took a violent turn, when a mob torched at least ten police vehicles, and a man was brought dead to a Kolkata hospital, with a bullet wound. Clashes between villagers and police took a toll of three lives. Bengal does not have a land commission with apolitical heads.
Land had been bought directly from the farmers in Bhangar (South 24 Parganas, West Bengal) for a project by Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd, to ensure steady electricity supply in East Kolkata, including Rajarhat-New Town. Those whose plots came right under the high-tension wires have started demanding a higher compensation. The Bhangar protests have prompted the Bengal State Government to halt the power project, as a measure to buy time from the protesters, and prevent land protests from spreading to other parts of the state.
The Gas Authority of India Limited has a Rs 10,000 crore central project, which would require 400 km of pipelines to be laid in Bengal, to transport compressed natural gas from Gujarat. Land losers in South 24-Parganas are demanding more compensation. The project does not require buying or acquiring land. Farmers whose plots would be dug up to lay the underground/overground pipes, are demanding more money. The Bengal State government has plans to compensate the farmers for any crop damage, when their plots are dug up. But there is no compensation just for the land being dug up. The Union Cabinet has cleared the CNG project. The state government is not highlighting the CNG plan. The pipes would transport CNG from Gujarat to Bengal. Entering Purulia from Jharkhand, the pipeline would reach Kolkata via Bankura, Burdwan, Hooghly and Howrah. In the second phase the pipeline will be extended from Kolkata to Haldia. CNG is expected to be supplied to several gas stations, that are to be set up, over the next few months. Kolkata will have the option of cooking gas supplied through pipes. The gas could have commercial utilisation in Haldia.
Stray Dogs in Kerala
More than 115,000 incidents of dog bites were reported in 2016 from Kerala, up from 100,000 the previous year. Many in India feed street dogs, but do not adopt them as pets. Street dogs are a common nuisance all over India. A large number of public sterilisation programmes are under-funded. India’s laws do not allow for humane euthanasia for dogs. The country has about 30 million stray dogs, and has an annual average of about 20,000 human deaths from rabies, and the fatal casualties being mostly poor people and children. In 2016, Kerala reported about a dozen rabies deaths, and it does have more street dogs than other Indian cities. However, Kerala is emotionally charged with dogs killing ducks and growling at children. Hundreds of street dogs including puppies have been killed in Kerala in the past eighteen months. Mobs routinely beat dogs to death or hire professional catchers to do the job. Kerala has about 250,000 roaming stray dogs, who endanger public safety and hurt the economy. India’s Supreme Court in October 2016, has observed that although dogs should not become a ‘‘menace to society’’, widespread killing was unacceptable. Everyday young children and elderly people are getting bitten. In the municipal elections of 2016 in Kerala, voters were urged to elect candidates who promised to kill street dogs. Following the 2001 passage of a national law that mandated sterilisation, Kerala has not implemented neutering programmes for street dogs, with much enthusiasm. The state government sets aside an average of $11 per dog on neutering, which is considered inadequate. Garbage left lying in city streets contributes hugely to India’s dog problems.
China Bans Ivory Trade
With African elephants facing threat of extinction, China, home to the world’s biggest ivory market, will ban trade and processing of all ivory, by the end of 2017. Ivory trading and processing, other than the auctions of ‘‘legitimately’’ sourced antiques, are now outlawed in China. The Chinese market has been buying 70% of the world’s ivory. The ivory ban has put pressure on neighbouring Hong Kong and Britain, to remove loopholes. In China, the African ivory, a status symbol, priced at around $1100 (£891) per kilo, is being phased out from 31 March 2017. The ban will affect 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues. Between 800 and 900 cases of ivory smuggling are uncovered in mainland China, each year. At present more than half of the legitimate ivory business is linked to illegal trading. Since 2006, an estimated 100,000 elephants were lost to poaching, and Africa’s elephant population has dropped by an estimated 111,000 down to 415,000. An elephant is poached every 15 minutes. Elephant poaching has increased by increasing affluence in China, and other parts of South-East Asia. The illegal ivory trade flourishes in other countries in South-East Asia, where ivory is banned.
The well planed summit between President Donald Trump of USA and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik resets western relations with the Kremlin, and begins a working deal limiting nuclear weapons. Britain had led the calls for sanctions against Moscow, over Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The warming of US-Russian relations has put Britain out in the cold. Reassurance has been sought from the CIA by British intelligence, that the identity of British agents in Russia will be protected, when intelligence is shared. Fearing that the findings would be hushed up by the FBI, Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who drew up the dossier on Trump, circulated it out of a sense of ‘‘patriotism’’. Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of the Trump Organisation assets. Russia has announced plans to move thousands of tanks and tens of thousands of troops to NATO’s borders in 2017. Recent reports indicate that Putin is planning to move troops and tanks to Belarus and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad this Autumn 2017, a deployment which will be 20 times larger than that of the 2013 exercise.
Vol. 49, No.40, April 9 - 15, 2017