News Wrap


India’s Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act of 1978 has been unable to stop operations of dubious savings-investments schemes, that defraud large numbers of poor people. The collapse of the Saradha group in West Bengal and investigations into Amway India in Kerala highlight loopholes in the provisions of the law applicable to multi-level marketing operations, which fraudulent operators exploit. The multi-level mechanism runs a pyramid scheme, in which distributors make more money by recruiting sellers and agents, than by selling the products themselves. The law allows the regulator to investigate when it sees certain signs and suspects mala fide intent. Before a prima facie case can be made and a stay on operations obtained, a lot of poor people can be duped. The Saradha chit fund scam is spread over West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura, in which about Rs 30,000 crore have been siphoned off. Nearly Rs 25000 crore have been routed through money laundering channels.

Battle Field Bastar
The liberated zone of the Maoists in the Maad area and large swathes of Bijapur and Sukma, in Chattisgarh state, is in hilly and forest Terrain. The Maoists take advantage of poor connectivity in roads and communications. The ‘Jan militia’, comprising mostly unemployed youth, is strategically positioned to warn the Maoists, by providing information on the movement of security forces and engaging them in fire fighting as the first and front layer. The base force of the ‘People’s Liberation Guerilla Army’ (PLGA) was constituted by the then Maoist outfit, CPI(ML-PWG) in December 2000, renamed CPI (Maoist) in September 2004. Those amongst the rural population who do not support them, face the wrath of the Maoists in ‘jan adalats’. Of smaller strength, the guerilla ‘dalams’ have now swelled to platoons and companies. The first military Maoist company was formed in Maad area (Dandakaranya) in 2004. After an attack on the armoury of Koraput district (Orissa), the total number of military companies has increased to more than 10, including two in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, which is also part of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee. The Maoists’ ‘janata sarkars’ (people’s government) in ‘‘liberated zones’’ have scarcely reduced poverty and widened welfare measures but there is a constant fear of waves of terror.

The Maoists have now formed two military battalions, each with a strength of about 250 armed cadres. The tactical counter offensive campaign from 15 March to 15 June, witnessed Maoists converging at fewer locations to regroup in larger numbers, conspire and organise attacks on security forces and identified targets. The Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), Chattisgarh’s Special Task Force (STF) and Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) have been fighting the Maoist military formations on a regular basis. The state government has raised the strength of each affected police station. The Central Government has liberally sanctioned new India Reserve Battalions and despatched the CAPF to assist state forces. The State Government has established a counter-terrorism and jungle warfare school in Kaker district. About 60% of the armoury of the Maoists consist of arms looted from para-military forces deployed in the area, after every ambush. A large market of illegal country-made weapons, spread across the Hindi heartland, furnishes 30% of the arms in possession of the Maoists. Pakistan and China backed international arms syndicates supply about 10% of the more sophisticated arms to the extremist rebels.

Funding Syria’s Rebellion
Over the past two and a half years, the gas rich state of Qatar has spent nearly $3 billion, supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government. Qatar’s latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of Qatar’s International Investment portfolio. Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s financial support for the revolution in Syria, that has turned into a vicious civil war, overshadows western backing for the opposition. The small state of Qatar is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors, which is estimated at $50,000 a year for a defactor and his family; and has provided large amounts of humanitarian support. Many rebels in Syria’s Aleppo province received a one-off monthly salary of $150, courtesy of Qatar in September 2012. Qatar is the owner of the world’s third largest gas reserves. Earlier it has backed Libya’s rebels, who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi’s rule in 2011. Between April 2012 and March 2013, Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 million cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey. Qatar’s approach is driven more by pragmatism and opportunism than ideology. Its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition. Regional rivals contend that Qatar is using its financial firepower to buy future influence, and that it has led to splintering of Syria’s opposition. The reluctance of western nations to intervene more forcefully in Syria, has left the opponents of president Bashar al-Assad reliant on the support of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Socialism in Cuba
Since becoming president of Cuba in 2008, Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, has slowly begun to open Cuba’s economy and ‘‘updating’’ Cuba’s socialist model, rather than full-blown capitalism. Cubans can now buy homes and cars. Small business such as restaurants and bars have proliferated. Golf is no longer a ‘‘bourgeois’’ hobby. Esencia, a British company, is developing the $350 million Carbonera Club, near the beach resort of Varaduro, along with a golf course. Development includes residential properties, available for purchase by foreigners. A 1300 berth marina, also in Varaduro, would be the largest in the Caribbean. Brazil’s development bank is upgrading the island’s airports. In return for tens of thousands of Cuban doctors and security advisers, Venezuela provides most of Cuba’s oil. Several foreign businessmen who have been held without charge for almost two years, are about to go on trial, which could be a precursor to their release. The jailed foreigners in legal limbo, are accused of paying bribes to state employees.

Vol. 46, No. 4, Aug 4-10, 2013

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