News Wrap


Numbers of India’s homeless population emerging from a survey taken on the night of 28 February 2011, part of the 2011 census operations, have been officially released. There has been a fall in both the number and proportion of homeless people across India, during the 2001-11 decade. A sharp fall in the number of homeless people in rural areas, is partly neutralised by a rise of around one-fifth in the number in urban areas. The number of homeless in Delhi is indicated as under 50,000, whereas it could be three times higher. Urban and rural poverty have fallen sharply during the period. Urban population has risen rapidly, as a result of its own growth, and from migration to cities. People without jobs in the countryside are coming to towns, in the hope of finding work, and staying in places like roadsides, railway platforms and flyovers. Even though a higher percentage of the people in India is engaged in agricultural labour, the share of homeless people engaged in agricultural labour has declined. The workforce participation rate among the homeless is higher than the national average. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra lead in the number of homeless with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal following closely. Poverty levels of the states reflect on the homeless. Despite being large states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala account for some of the lowest levels of homelessness. Kanpur has the highest homeless amongst the cities, followed by large cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Surat. Literacy levels among the homeless are much higher. The numbers of homeless families have gone up marginally, though their share in total families has reduced significantly. These figures are influenced by the growth in nuclear families. Homelessness continues at nearly two per thousand.

Laws and Gays
The Delhi High Court in 2009, had ruled that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sex between consensual adult homosexual men was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in a recent verdict has overturned the High Court verdict that had set aside a law framed in 1860. The Apex Court argued that the government was free to annul the law through legislation. Earlier while the government did not appeal the High Court decision, a challenge on the grounds of public morality was filed by groups of religious bodies and individuals, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Apostolic Churches Alliance and the Utkal Christian Council. In the preceding more than 150 years, less than 200 persons have been prosecuted for committing offence under Section 377 of IPC.

Children of Reforms
Notwithstanding poverty and malnutrition, children in India who grew up with the economic reforms have never seen shortages and queues of the license-permit-quota raj. Anyone who was thirteen years or younger (born in or after 1978), at the time of India’s economic reforms is a child of economic reforms. Eligible voters who were post-reforms were 12% in 1999, 28% in the 2004 elections and 40% in the 2009 elections. Half the votes are expected to be post-reforms in the 2014 General Elections. Eligible voters in 2009 who were post reforms, were around 29 crore. This number rises to about 41 crore in 2014. Change in demographics could lead to a change in attitudes and expectations of the voter. Rising wealth and rising population can be noticed with apathy towards a large malnourished population.

East China Sea
With countries anxious about Soviet incursions, USA and Japan, among others have had air defence zones, since the early days of the cold war. Japan has held the uninhabited Senkaku islands in the East China Sea since the late 19th century. Since the 1970s China has also claimed the islands, calling them Diaoyu. On 23 November 2013, China declared a huge stretch of international airspace, above the East China Sea, covering the disputed islands, as part of a New Chinese ‘‘Air Defence Identification Zone’’ (ADIZ). The Chinese ADIZ overlaps with a South Korean reef, known as Ieodo. In 2012, the Japanese government purchased from their private owner, three of the five islets it did not own. China despatched surveillance vessels and patrol aircraft, to which Japan responded by scrambling fighter jets. Chinese maps portray the ‘‘Nine-dash line’’, encompassing all the South China Sea. The ADIZ covers Japanese held Territory, and also overlaps significantly with Japan’s own air zone. Taiwan also claims the Senkaku islands. Two US B-52 bombers were sent over to the Senkaku Islands, inside China’s air zone on 26 November 2013. South Korea and Japan claim having flown military aircraft over the zone. As a first revision in its air defence area in 62 years, Seoul has expanded its air zone by about 66,480 sq km, or about two thirds of the size of South Korea, in waters off its south coast.

Assassinations in Honduras
In Gracious a Dios, a remote but heavily militarized corner of north-east Honduras, Human Rights Activists, local leaders, justice officials and journalists are subject to surveillance, death threats, kidnapping and murder. Security force units are using the cover of an anti-drugs campaign to assassinate peasant leaders. The alleged killings are taking place in the coastal areas of La Mosquitia in Gracious a Dios. Since the region is home to potentially large oil and gas fields, British Gas wants to explore in an enterprise that could lead to 50 million Pound of investment, over the next ten years. Cocaine sent by drug cartels to USA, finds a transcrip-ment point in the area. Four villagers, two of them pregnant women, were killed in 2012, when their boat was attacked by a helicopter gunship, in a US-backed offensive against the cartels. British Gas is in discussions with Honduras about security arrangements in Gracious a Dios. Accused of being an assassin for drug lords, Josbin Caballero, a farmer and a son of prominent peasant activist, disappeared in October 2013, after forty soldiers swooped on his home. Awaiting government licenses to begin surveys, British Gas Company has allocated 300,000 Pound over the next two years, for social and environmental projects.

Vol. 46, No. 29, Jan 26 -Feb 1, 2014

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