News Wrap


India has refused to sign the United Nations Global Resolution, adopted on 27 September 2013, to ban early and forced marriage of children. The country has 23 million (40%) of the world’s child brides, notwithstanding the Child Marriage Prevention Act (2006). Around 43% of the under-aged married girls suffer marital violence. 16% of this age group, which constitutes 2.4 lac women, had already become mothers or pregnant. This has increased rates of infant and maternal mortality. There is an absence of strict implementation of the law, as only fifteen states in India, have appointed prohibition officers. More than half of the girls aged between 15 to 19, i.e. 56% are anaemic. Almost 47% girls, in the age group of 11 to 19 years, are underweight. Anaemia among children is highest in Bihar (78%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (74.1%), Uttar Pradesh (73.9%), Haryana (72.3%), Chattisgarh (71.2%) and Jharkhand (70.3%). After the first year of life, adolescent girls grow faster than at any time, and become particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. Negating the laws of the country, the Indian government has succumbed to the pressure of certain of ‘‘Khap and Biradari Panchayats’’ (rural mob justice). A circular by the Kerala State Government, led by the Congress Party, has directed the local self-government to register child marriages, aimed at appeasing certain religious fundamentalist forces.

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant
Even after crossing the critical stage and getting synchronized with the national power grid for supplying power, the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant in Tamil Nadu has been shut down since 29 October 2013. The Atomic Energy Commission has conceded that Unit-I of the KNPP had some serious technical problems, and certain components had to be replaced. The Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) of the Nuclear Power Plant, built with Russian assistance, had failed. The agreement for the nuclear plant was signed between India and the then USSR in 1988. The Kudankulam reactor, the first of up to six India-Russia designed units planned for the Kudankulam complex, was originally due online seven years ago, but was repeatedly delayed by anti-nuclear and land protests, as well as court cases. India last commissioned a nuclear reactor was in January 2011. Indian and Russian officials have been in talks, over the supply of equipment for the third and fourth reactors. Russia’s concerns about an Indian law that fixes compensation liability on an equipment supplier, in the event of an accident, have prevented the signing of an agreement between the two countries. India has a heavy reliance on coal and imported fossil fuels. The power supply gap is estimated at 9% of total demand.

Neo Nazis in Greece
Greece’s Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party has voter base mainly among people hit hard by Europe’s economic crisis, both young Greeks trying to join the labour market and the over 40s, who feel angry and frustrated at losing their jobs. The Neo-Nazi party has penetrated the police force, set up caches of heavy weapons in remote locations, and trained its recruits to carry out attacks against immigrants and political opponents. Golden Dawn’s cult of extreme violence is ‘unique’ among European far-right groups. Pavlos Fyssas, a left-wing rapper musician, was fatally stabbed on 15 September 2013, by a Golden Dawn activist, in a poor Athens district. The regular police force has been infiltrated by Golden Dawn. In districts with sizeable immigrant population, some officers have gone beyond colluding with local Neo-Nazis to set up political cells, within their units. Greece’s constitution bans the outlawing of political parties. But the party has been acting as a criminal organisation, opening the way for a full-scale investigation of its eighteen members of parliament, and dozens of activist members. Nikos Mihaloliakos, Golden Dawn’s leader, and two other deputies are in jail awaiting trial.

An escalation of violence in recent months, has brought the crackdown on Golden Dawn. The attacks became more frequent because of police foot-dragging over arrests of Golden Dawn sympathisers, and the reluctance by politicians to take a strong stand against the Neo-Nazis. Greece’s coalition government is headed by premier Antonis Samaras, leader of the centre-right New Democracy Party. Ignoring their superior’s official disapproval, some ultra conservative priests in the Greek Orthodox church have voiced support for Golden Dawn. Since the stabbing of Pavlos Fyssas, Golden Dawn’s popularity has fallen from 13% to around 7%. It is still the third most popular party behind the governing New Democracy and Panhellenic Socialist Movement. The Syriza, the radical left opposition has about 20% of the votes. The security crackdown on Golden Dawn’s activities in Athens and more than 50 regional offices, has sharply curtailed handouts of food and organised activities, including military style training for would be members and torchlit Neo-Nazi events. One of the main targets of Golden Dawn’s attacks is Greece’s Pakistani community.

Political Prisoners in Myanmar
The number of political prisoners in Myanmar is estimated to be 2500. The country’s reformist president Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government began a complex and ambitious peace process in 2011, with members of ethnic minority armies. A preliminary peace agreement was made with the Shan group, but conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the military continues. A total of 73 prisoners of conscience were rebased in July 2013. In October 2013, Myanmar released 56 political prisoners. Most of those released were former members of either the Shan State Army or the Kachin Independence Army. Following the release of political prisoners, most sanctions by the United States, Europe and Australia have been suspended, to allow the resumption of investment and development aid.

Vol. 46, No. 24, Dec 22 -28, 2013

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