News Wrap

India’s Forest Rights Act (2008) recognizes the rights of tribals to inhabit the land, their forefathers had settled, centuries earlier. The tribal communities are still not fully aware of their rights, as the act has been poorly implemented. India’s economic boom has bypassed the tribes, who represent 8% of the country’s 1.2 billion population. Tribals normally live in remote villages. Bare subsistence is derived from small farming, cattle rearing and collecting and selling fruit and leaves from the forests. Literacy, child malnutrition and maternal mortality amongst the tribal communities, are among the worst in India. About 15 million families remain landless. Around 28 million families, many of whom are tribals, do not have any claim to their land, as they do not possess the ‘patta’ title. There are 700 listed tribes in India. Since the tribals lack documents proving ownership of the land, they are treated as criminals, exploited by wealthy landowners and money-lenders, moved off their farms in illegal land grabs, or face extortion by officials. Being unable to produce land ownership papers the tribals are deprived of credit from banks and government services which assist poor landowners. The tribals cannot invest in the land to boost farm production and ensure food security. The problem is particularly acute in the Maoist insurgency affected tribal belts of the central parts of India.

Of late, a legal aid scheme operated by the state governments in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, is attempting to provide legal titles to the land, inhabited by the tribals for generations. Young people, often with only secondary level education, are being drawn from villages, and trained as paralegals. The paralegals are providing cost effective justice to the rural communities and helping tribals to gain legal titles to the land.

Iron Ore
Maoist terror strikes have disrupted the transportation of steel making iron ore material from the National Mineral Development Corporation (NDMC) facilities in Chattisgarh. India’s largest iron ore producer has major mining facilities in Dantewada district of Chattisgarh. The Naxalites have considerable influence in the areas where the mines are located. Two of the three fully mechanized mines of the NDMC are located in Dantewada, including the first large scale open cast iron ore mine in India. In the second week of June 2012, a group of heavily armed Naxalites, numbering more than 100, had stormed into Bhansi Railway Station, taking the duty railway staff as hostages. A big portion of the railway track blown up, and a train engine damaged. Along the track section, passenger trains move by day, and only goods train transporting iron ore from NMDC facilities have been moving at night. The naxalites have warned not to operate trains at night. The mining major has been transporting iron ore from Dantewada to Visakhapatnam through the rail route, in order to ship the raw material overseas.

Nepal’s Maoists
The peace process in Nepal, has aimed to democratize Nepal, and bring the rebel Maoists into the mainstream. The Hindu constitutional monarchy became a secular, democratic republic, and peacefully absorbed Maoist rebels into its army. Around 16000 people were killed in the 1996-2006 bloody civil war (or people’s war as the maoists call it), fought by the Maoists against the state. On 27 May 2012 instead of delivering the final constitution, the maoists dissolved the Constituent Assembly (CA), which was writing the document, and ordered elections for a new constituent assembly next November. The maoist government has sought the help of the Nepal army, which it says will act according to the constitution. The maoists possess a standing force, named the young communist league, akin to paramilitary, which has refused to disband.

After the conclusion of a three-day national conclave in the third week of June 2012, the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) split, with the hard line faction of Mohan Baidya forming a break away group. Vaidya has threatened to launch a ‘‘People’s Revolt’’ or ‘‘People’s War’’, to establish a ‘‘New People’s Republic’’ in Nepal. The moderate maoist group led by chairman Pushpa Dahal Prachanda, favours consolidation of power through democratic means. Vaidya’s group has demanded that all unequal treaties signed with India should be scrapped, including the historic Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950. The group is opposed to the construction of the Upper Karnali and Hrun Hydro Power Projects, by Indian companies. Without a new document, the interim constitution of 2007, is the law in Nepal.

Migrants in Israel

About 60,000 sub-Saharan Africans have surreptitiously crossed the porous border from Egypt into Israel, since 2005, after traversing the rugged desert of the Sinai Peninsula. The African migrants work in African run stores and hair salons. There are rising tensions caused by their presence with allegations of rampant crime by the ‘‘infiltrators’’. Recently the Israel government has adopted a tough new policy to stem the influx of African immigrants and asylum seekers. The immigrants generally come from Sudan and Eritrea, countries considered too dangerous for their repatriation, and so they were being provided temporary collective protection in Israel. On 07 June 2012, a Jerusalem court ruled that it was safe enough to repatriate them to South Sudan, a newly independent nation, that has diplomatic ties with Israel. Now hundreds of migrants from Africa are being deported, with a departure grant of $1300 per immigrant.

Vol. 45, No. 5, Aug 12-18, 2012