News Wrap

Vast parts of India are arid, and the country has just 4% of the world’s fresh water, being shared among 16% of the globe’s population. India needs to double its water generation capacity by the year 2030, to fulfil the demands of its increasing population. 70% of India’s population live in rural areas, where half of the water supply is contaminated with toxic bacteria. Manufacturing companies are facing difficulties in getting water, which has contributed to the decline in employment in manufacturing, in recent years. About 600,000 children in India, die every year because of diarrhoea or pneumonia, which is often caused by toxic water or poor hygiene. The groundwater supplies in many cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai, are declining at such a rapid rate, that there are fears that they may run dry within a few years. In view of the acute water situation in Gurgaon, a judge in 2012, ordered a halt to new construction, until the projects could prove they were using recycled water, instead of groundwater.

The residents of Meghalaya state enjoy more rainfall than almost any place, yet they struggle to find water during the dry season from November to March. A non-existent system of maintenance makes water problems endemic in India’s big cities. Taps in New Delhi operate on an average just three hours a day, because 30% to 70% of the water is lost to the leaking pipes and theft. Pumps installed by many residents to pull water out of the pipes, suck contaminants from the surrounding soil. Most towns and cities have failed to build an expensive infrastructure to treat sewage. Untreated sewage flushed into the nearest creek makes the less sophisticated water system dangerous.

Injuries and Death in Custody
On 2 April 2013, around 3500 Students Federation activists marched in procession from Wellington Square, and had reached Kolkata’s City Centre, Esplanade, demanding Students’ Elections in colleges. Sudipto Gupta, a 23-year-old SFI leader succembed to head injuries after a police round-up during the law-violation programme. There are conflicting versions on the injuries leading to death. SFI activists claim that he was pushed out of a bus, taking the arrested to Presidency Jail and his head hit a lamp post near the jail. A policeman had also hit him on the head with a lathi. The autopsy report claims that Sudipto had died after hitting a ‘‘blunt stationery object’’ and no injuries caused by ‘‘a lathi, rod or glass’’ were found. Again on 2 April, 2013, three alleged Maoist prisoners were assaulted by four other prisoners in Sealdah Court lock-up. The Maoists were beaten in the presence of police officers, and had to be admitted in hospital. The injured were leading an anti-corruption campaign within Presidency jail.

A report on custodial deaths is required to be sent to the National Human Rights Commission by the police, within 24 hours, followed by post-mortem and inquest reports within two months. A judicial enquiry can be ordered in the case of any death in custody, even an accident. The Supreme Court in 2006, had ordered all state governments to formulate six precise changes, for controlling police action, and ridding political interference. Remaining silent on the separation of law and order and investigation, West Bengal has passed certain government orders in 2007 and 2010. A Police Bill and a New Police Act were drafted in 2007, but never implemented. The state has not implemented the apex court’s objectives for reducing unilateral political control and raising accountability.

Minority Muslims in Myanmar
Sparked by an argument in a gold shop in Meiktila, a township in Central Myanmmar dozens of armed rioters, including Buddhist monks attacked Muslim communities in the third week of March 2013. The wave of violence against Muslims spread to a region, north of the commercial capital of Rangoon. A number of mosques and houses have been razed. The death toll in the communal violence is around 60, with more than 1350 homes and other buildings destroyed. About 12,000 people are homeless. An estimated 175 incidents of violence have been reported in 17 townships. The Myanmar government issued a televised appeal for calm in the outbreak of communal clashes. Last year’s sectarian conflict in the western state of Rakhine, left at least 180 people dead, and more than 110,000 displaced. Aung San Suo Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, who was elected to parliament almost a year ago, has remained silent, refusing to take sides in the sectarian conflict. Military curfew has been imposed in several towns and the Bogo region. Large number of armed rioters, including Buddhist monks have been arrested.

Arms Trade
Followed by Russia and Germany, USA is the world’s largest exporter of arms. India, China and Pakistan are the top three buyers of exported arms. For the first time since the cold war, China has improved its capacity to produce advanced weapons, and is now one of the world’s five largest arms exporters. China is now making more advanced weapons systems, along with lower-end military equipment. Pakistan remains the largest importer of Chinese weapons.

The UN General Assembly recently approved the first-ever treaty to regulate the enormous global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking sales to the human-rights records of the buyers. Iran, North Korea and Syria attempted to block the Arms Trade Treaty, claiming the treaty was full of deficiencies, and had been structured to be unfair to them. Russia abstained, pointing out ambiguities, including how terms like genocide would be defined.

Vol. 45, No. 43, -May 5-11, 2013

Your Comment if any