News Wrap

The erstwhile Left Front Government of West Bengal had been presenting zero deficit budgets year after year, while accumulating debts over the years. The present Trinamul government has been incurring off-budget expenses by organising fairs, paying monthly honorariums to imams and muezzins, and paying grants to clubs. Outgoing expenses on populist measures, not accounted for in the budget, is estimated as Rs 500 crore, for 2012-13. The amount is significant as the government’s receipts come with a lag. Money is released in bits, following submission of utilisation certificates of funds, released in earlier phases. The state government has failed to fully utilise funds received under special backward region grant funds of Rs 8756 crore for 2011-12. Similarly, nil utilisation certificates were submitted for funds under backward class warfare and agriculture. Government spending under non-plan heads is about Rs 82000 crore. Borrowing from markets and ways and means advances from RBI has touched limits.

Monks in Modernised Thailand
Earlier Buddhist temples were the centre of village life in Thailand, serving as meeting places, guest houses and community centres. Absorbed in consumerism, today’s i-phone generation boys do not find any allure in the meditative life-style of the monkhood. Relative to the population, the number of monks and novices has fallen by more than half over the last three decades. Compared with 11 monks and novices for every 1000 people in 1980, today there are only 5. Many Thai districts are so short in monks, that abbots in northern Thailand, recruit across the border from impoverished Myanmar, where monasteries are overflowing with novices. With a society that has become more secular, Buddhist temples are little more than ornamental in the landscape of rich paddy fields and palm trees. Monastic life has lost its charm in Thailand, with the country’s sudden economic rise. Monastic education has been replaced by secular education, provided by the state. But the situation in southern Thailand is completely different—it is communally supercharged. Since end 2012, there has been a series of deadly assaults on school teachers in Thailand. Malay Muslim rebels have been murdering Buddhist teachers in the middle of school days. Schools have been set on fire in southern Thailand. In the restive southern province of Narathiwat and Mayo district, Buddhist teachers have been shot in the head, execution style. The suspected separatist gunmen belong to the Runda Kumpalan Kecil terrorist organisation, comprising mainly ethnic Malays. For a period of time, the 1300 government run schools were shut down. The southern border provinces are mainly Muslim, but insurgents are issuing leaflets threatening to continue attacks on teachers. At least 157 teachers and school personnel have died in the three southern Thai provinces since January 2004, when an Islamist insurgency erupted. Ethnic Malya Patani Freedom Fighters have been accused of the murders. While the Thai government is stuck in ineffectual responses, teachers are courageously risking their lives to ensure children’s access to education in southern Thailand.

Yemen Campaign

USA has expanded the programme of targeted killings of terrorism suspects worldwide. There is an undeclared aerial war, led by United States and Saudi Arabia, against al-Quada in Yemen. US drone strikes in Yemen, have been bolstered by Saudi fighter jets. Covert airstrikes in Yemeni targets now outnumber those in Pakistan. In 2012, around 230 people were killed by covert US attacks in Yemen, including Saudi airstrikes. Many of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions. The al-Qaeda has established the world’s most active terrorist network. There are 88 Yemeni nationals held in Guantanamo Bay, making up more than half of the prison’s population. As the withdrawal of western troops from Afghanistan gathers pace, an area southeast of the capital Sanaa, controlled by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has become a template for undeclared US wars. As the western powers try to crush AQAP, Yemen faces an unprecedented bombardment. US drones are operating from bases in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. The terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, driven from Somalia, has made Yemen the organisation’s most active area of operations. USA has dropped the ‘‘Kill or capture al-Qaeda’’ option; it is now ‘‘Kill or Kill’’.

Vol. 45, No. 50, June 23 -29, 2013

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