News Wrap


India has a tax to fund education and a law to ensure access to education, for all children between the ages of 6 and 14. Even then there has been no improvement in learning outcomes in India’s schools. As measured by reading, writing and arithmetic, the quality of learning has shown no improvement, or actually worsened in the last ten years. Since 2005, the proportion of all children in Class-V who can read Class-II level text, has declined by almost 15%. The proportion of students in Class-VIII who can do divisions has declined by almost 23%. However, 97% of children are now in schools, compared with 93% in 2005. The crisis of learning has been accompanied by a dramatic shift to private school enrolment, in rural areas. The rural private school enrolment has risen to 29% in 2013, from 18.7% in 2006. The Right to Education has focused on enrolment, at the expense of quality. In states where enrolment in government schools is high, a higher portion of students were depending on private tuitions to supplement school learning. In Bihar and Odisha, only 8.4% and 7.3% of students respectively, are in private schools, about 52.2% and 51.2% of students, respectively, were taking private tuitions.

Money Laundering
Trade based money laundering is estimated to comprise 65% of the total money laundering cases that are currently being investigated in India. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has registered over 400 cases related to trade based money laundering, in 2013. Instances of trade based money laundering have doubled since 2009, to 1561 in 2013. The most common methods used for trade based money laundering involve over and under invoicing of goods and services, multiple invoicing, and under shipment of goods. The state exchequer has suffered a loss of about Rs 900 crore in the last two years, through over-valuation of imports. Electronic goods have been undervalued for around Rs 2000 crore per year. Quantitative restrictions on gold imports led to increased instances of gold smuggling. From 2002 to 2011, India lost $343.93 billion to illegal outflows, making in the fifth largest exporter of illicit money in the world. India’s illegal outflows were about $84.93 billion in 2011-12.

Civil Society Activism
Civil society in India is increasingly involved in ballot and bruising policy battles. Along with the Maoist movements for social justice, the educated, urbanized middle classes have campaigned for the Right to Information Act, credible Forest Laws, and the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh, armed civilians with weapons and impunity to fight the Maoists. The Salwa Judum started dissipating when their atrocities on non-combatants were highlighted by the media. Petitions by determined human rights activists, who were not all Maoists, led to the Supreme Court’s repeated censures on the Salwa Judum. The necessity to preserve religious and cultural practices resulted in 12 village councils in Odisha’s Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, to oppose the proposal for a Vedanta Resources subsidiary to mine bauxite in their home land. Human Rights activists, the media uninfluenced by corporate and political pressure, and a non-Maoist public opinion, increasingly engaged the establishment.

More than 4000 Maoist cadres are in jail, and many hundreds have surrendered. Over the past three years, deaths, surrender and arrest of leaders across several tiers, have beset the Maoist rebellion. The CPI (Maoist) party has been continuously losing main leadership for quite sometime which propelled them to revive the calls for jail breaks to free leaders and cadres. The old order is being challenged by issue based politics and democratic means by the masses.

Communal Clashes
Kotadi village (Pratapgarh district, Rajasthan) has a population of 3000, of which about 700 belong to the minority community. The area is part of the opium belt, with several instances of illegal use of firearms. Mid January 2014, on the day of Makar Sankranti and Id Milad-un-Nabi, the area witnessed communal clashes, leaving five dead and ten injured. Curfew was imposed in the village, and deployment of additional security forces continues. The violence began after a group of Muslim youths made some objectionable comments, about some RSS workers returning from a meeting, in a nearby village. Gathering support from their respective communities, the two groups clashed at the local bus stand. Firearms were brought out, and gunfire was exchanged. Over 40 shops and houses were set on fire. The violence soon spread to the neighbouring village, Moheda. Members of the Rajput and Gaeri communities were the first to attack. The Muslim Pathans own illegal firearms, and are engaged in smuggling. There are allegations that fewer Hindus have been detained, in comparison to the Muslims detained. A few Hindus, in the list of suspects, are absconding.

Jihadists in Syria
Al-Qaeda leaders in Syria are identifying American or British-born fighters, who might be suitable candidates for terrorist missions, in their home countries. Protecting Britain from the potential threat of jihadists returning from Syria, is a big challenge facing MI5 and MI6. There are at least 70 Americans who have either travelled to Syria or tried to do so, since the conflict began three years ago. Some of the Americans who have returned from Syria are under round-the-clock surveillance. There are about 300 would-be jihadists who travelled to Syria from the United Kingdom. A band of volunteers from Britain and USA have joined foreign fighters in the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group, affiliated to al-Qaeda, is regarded as the most ruthless of Syria’s factions, and follows a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law. ISIS opposes the regime of president  Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Its wider goal is the creation of an Islamic state or ‘caliphate’ in the Middle East. Members of ISIS recently fought alongside Sunni tribesmen against Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi government forces in western Iraq of Ramadi and Falluja. 34 foreign fighters of ISIS were reportedly executed by rival rebels in the first week of January 2014, in a ‘civil war within a civil war’. The black banner of al-Qaeda flutters in most buildings and areas controlled by ISIS. Posters tell women to dress according to Sharia, and children have been segregated in schools. The 36-month conflict in Syria has claimed over 1,30,000 lives.

Vol. 46, No. 34, Mar 2 - 8, 2014