News Wrap


The land reform policy of the West Bengal government since 1977 had resulted in about 78% of the cultivable lands in the state coming under the possession of the marginal and poor peasants, leading to their increased purchasing power. The agricultural sector is in a crisis, with the steady fragmentation of farm lands and spiralling prices of agricultural inputs. Around 68% of the states’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood, but they are not getting adequate returns from agricultural pursuits. Numbers of the landless are increasing. As for the state domestic product, agriculture contributes 26%, industry 24% and service sectors 50%. Only 1% of the state’s lands are fallow lands, while 62% are farm lands and 13% are forested lands. Cities, towns and industries cover 24%.

The Dhapa solid waste dumping ground on Kolkata’s Eastern Bypass is part of the East Kolkata Wetlands, a Ramsar site, and a wetland of international importance. 50 waterbodies and the Dhapa jheels host farming families. The waste recycling region extends over 12,500 hectares. Waste water irrigates agriculture and fishing jheel ponds. There are 2490 farming plots cultivated in Dhapa, but the farmers do not have any formal rights on the land. Many water bodies are being quietly walled up, and big buildings constructed.

Muslim Exodus
The Seleka, a largely Muslim rebel group seized Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), in March 2013. They installed the country’s first Muslim President, Michel Djotodia, and terrorized the majority Christian population, killing men, women and children. As retaliation, the predominantly Christian forces known as the anti-balaka (‘balaka’ in local Sango language means machete) launched counter attacks against the Seleka and perceived Muslim collaborators. Under International pressure, Djotodia stepped down as President in January 2014, and soon the Seleka retreated North, where they continue to persecute Christians. Elsewhere, as the anti-balaka gained advantage, village after village lost its Muslim population. Muslim houses were looted, and mosques razed to the ground. Muslims are feeling bitter towards French peacekeepers, and the new President Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian. Once thriving with Muslim businesses, Bangui neighbourhoods now resemble ghost towns. Muslims came to trade in CAR, in the early 19th century. A year ago, they comprised 15% of CAR’s population. While 130,000 to 145,000 muslims normally lived in Bangui, the muslim population has been reduced to about 10,000 in December 2013, and stands at 900 in May 2014. There are no signs of foreigners and reconciliations in the ethnic cleansing of muslims. In the anti-balaka violence, children are no longer caught in the crossfire, but deliberately targeted. In an attempt to avert possible genocide, a UN investigation of Human Rights abuses in Central African Republic has commenced. The international criminal court at the Hague has also opened a preliminary investigation. Convoys of trucks, protected by African peacekeeps, are evacuating muslim inhabitants to safety in Cameroon.

Bola Virus in Guinea
Dozens of people have been killed in Guinea’s southern forests from an ebola epidemic. The virus has recently spread to the capital, Conakry. In the West African country, at least 70 out of 90 people who contracted ebola, have died. UNICEF has noted that the virus had spread quickly from the communities of Macenta, Gueckedou and Kissidougou to the capital. Most of the cases and deaths had been reported in southern prefectures, near neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. A health ministry team has been sent to the region. Outbreaks of ebola have been reported previously in Congo and Uganda, most recently in 2012. In 1994, a scientist fell ill while responding to ebola cases, among chimpanzees in a national park in Ivory Coast.

Cafe Kerase in Teheran
Many belonging to the 12.5 million strong ideological driven volunteer forces of the Revolutionary Guards, sip cappuccinos and expressos, and discuss art and politics over snacks, at Cafe Kerase (‘‘book’’) in Teheran. The cafe is a hang-out for an exchange of thoughts, literature and art. Since Iran’s shift towards moderation under centrist President Hassan Rouhani, Cafe Kerase conveys an enhanced image of the paramilitary force and is an attempt to embrace the values of the middle class, and narrow the gap with the rest of society. Atmosphere inside the cafe is pleasant and calm, with a good reasonably priced menu, and handicraft, books and DVDs on sale. The cafe has only about half a dozen tables, but it can accommodate about fifty people for events, workshops on religious teachings, poetry and nutrition, as well as movie screenings, birthday parties and anniversaries.

Vol. 46, No. 47, Jun 1 - 7, 2014