News Wrap


Public expenditure for social and economic development in India, as percentage of GDP is much lower as compared to not only most of the developed countries, but also some South Asian neighbours. Unspent balances continue to be significantly high for the Union Government of India’s flagship social development schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and National Rural Livelihood Mission. It is estimated that financial year-wise, about 72% unspent balances (Rs 17,673 crore) belong to NREGA, and 24% of unspent balances (Rs 5852 crore) belong to IAY. Insufficient implementation and not shortage of funds, foils the objective of these schemes. Typically backward states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have lower utilisation of development funds disbursed to them; while states such as Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya and Sikkim indicate higher utilisation states fail to prepare the labour budget line timely and accurately. Funds are released based on labour demands projected by the states. In Bihar and UP, most people under the schemes, receive wages late.

Killing of Journalists
Journalist Nemichand Jain was killed by Maoists in February 2013 in Bastar Region (Chattisgarh state). Following an outrage the Maoists had apologized. In December 2013, the Maoists killed a senior reporter of a local daily at a weekly market in Basaguda village of Bijapur district (Bastar region). Slain Reddy, in his early 50s, was working with ‘Deshbandhu’, one of the oldest news papers of Chattisgarh. Reddy, a native of an interior village was caught in the police-maoist conflict. Six or seven years earlier, police had arrested Reddy, suspecting him to be a Maoist informer, but was released later due to lack of evidence. Maoists burnt down his village home, some years ago, forcing him to flee to Andhra Pradesh. Returning after an interval of time, Reddy was working with ‘Deshbandhu’ since then. Three to four youths had attacked Reddy with axes on the fateful day.

Close to the McMohan Line
China has completed the tunnel of highway linking Tibet’s Metok, as part of infrastructure development, north of the MacMohan line. Construction workers took about two years to complete the construction of the 3310 metres Galgongla Tunnel, built at an altitude of 3750 metres. Metok county is now connected to the mainland, allowing Chinese troops to come closer to the Indian border, in a much shorter time. Rain and snow would make the mountain roads impassable for nine months of the year. The trek to cross the Galonga pass could take ten hours or more. The journey through the tunnel takes just half an hour. With a population of just 11,000, Metok was China‘s last county to have a highway. The road is a crucial link to the area bordering the Upper Siang district of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state. Tibetans consider Pemakoe, another name for Metok county, as sacred and pristine, being the home of goddess Dorjee Pagmo, Tibet’s protecting deity. The 117 km Metok highway is now open to vehicular traffic, linking remote Metok to nearby Bomi county. The Bomi-Metok road joins national highway no 318 near Zhamong township, crossing six rivers. The new road can be used by the People’s Liberation Army to re-inforce the border with India. A motorcade regiment under the Sichuan-Tibet Military Service Station Department delivers materials to Metok county, in the south-eastern part of Tibet Autonomous Region.

Mass Graves in Mexico
During Mexico’s six-year drugs war, which has cost over 80,000 lives mass graves have become common. Between 2007 and 2012, that is the term of the former president Felipe Calderon, about 26,000 people disappeared. Near the border of the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan, where a new generation of drugs cartels are battling for control of territory and shipping routes, police in November 2013 discovered a grave site in La Barca. There were at least 54 bodies, some of them bound, gagged and showing signs of torture. Police made the find while searching for two missing police agents. Police salaries are low in Mexico, and the bribes from drugs lords are lucrative. Frequently police agents are killed by other police officers in the employment of cartels. Many small towns formed their own vigilante militias to fight back against the cartels in Michoacan, a rural mountain state bordering the Pacific. The Mexican government has recently announced a 220 Pound million plan to bolster Michoacan’s finances. Again in November 2013, a grave with the remains of six men and a women was found near Acapulco, on the Pacific coast.

Iranian Nuclear Deal
The interim nuclear deal with Iran, concluded by five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, would require Iran to keep its uranium enrichment to no more than 5%. Stocks of near 20% enriched uranium, the stuff that would get Iran closer to weapons grade material, will have to be converted or diluted. Iran will have to halt most construction at a planned heavy water reactor and must allow intrusive inspections. The options in the deal would be tested over a six-month period. While the rest of the world relaxes sanctions a little, Iran will cap its programme at more or less its capacity today. The Iran regime is still permitted to enrich uranium, but the enrichment level will be only to the 5% civilian level.

Looted Art
Germany and 43 other countries signed the Washington Principles in 1998, pledging to search their public collections for looted art, in order to restitute it. This does not cover cases of ‘‘degenerate art’’, which the Nazis took out of state-owned German museums under a 1938 law, which Germany has never officially annulled. In a routine investigation, Bavarian prosecutors recovered from a drab Munich flat, belonging to late Cornelius Gurlitt, 1406 stunning works of art, painted by Matisse, Chagall, Beckmann, Nolde, Picasso and other masters. Many of the paintings appear to be those the Nazis once confiscated from German museums as ‘‘degenerate art’’. A large number probably belonged to Jews or other private owners whom the Nazis robbed. The provenance of the art works remains unclear.

Vol. 46, No. 28, Jan 19 - 25, 2014

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