News Wrap


VacCines required for Universal Immunization Program (UIP) should be available at proper prices. Profit maximization is prevailing over the needs of the vaccine sector in India. Globally the vaccines industry production is getting concentrated in a few companies, including multi-nationals. Following the earlier trend of producing combination drugs, the big companies are manufacturing combination vaccines. Instead of cheaper vaccines, which are widely accepted and in use, huge publicity is launched for non-essential combination vaccines. Acceptance of the costly combination vaccine for any UIP, leads to massive and captive annual orders for the manufacturing drugs company. As a developing country, India had achieved early success in obtaining self-reliance in the production of vaccines. Big business and international groups are exerting pressures on public sector units in India to reduce or stop production. A large number of children have died in India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Pakistan from the newly introduced pentavalent vaccine (DPT+Hib+Hep B). The medical sector in India, suffered a big scam in 2007-2008. While 85% of DPT vaccines were procured from the public sector in India, during 2007-08, there was zero percent procurement in 2013-14. Procurement of TT from public sector declined to zero percent in 2013-14. The costs of immunization for a child are increasingly rising. However, still no tests are available to identify the child who would react and die from pentavalent.

Losses at Coal India
The world’s largest coal miner, Coal India Ltd (CIL) is suffering revenue loss of Rs 600 crore a year, on account of Maoist rebels illegally mining and selling coal. Illegal extraction and sale of coal by Maoists is affecting coal output by about 3 million tons (mt) at the state run firm, and hitting operations at its subsidiary Central Coalfields Ltd. The CIL for 2013-14, has suffered a production shortfall of around 20 mt. Mining has been hampered by the Naxal problem. An annual loss of 3 mt, implies a revenue loss of Rs 600 crore, of which Rs 300 crore would have been profit. Armed insurgency in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra is being funded by money from illegal coal mining in Tribal areas. Movement of coal from Central Coalfields’ mines has been obstructed by the Maoists, who engineer frequent strikes and intimidate workers engaged in coal production and transportation. Of India’s current capacity of 237,743 megawatts (mw), around 59%, or 140,723.39 mw is fuelled by coal. A large proportion of India’s mineral resources are located in remote forests. The area has sharp levels of poverty, illiteracy and exploitation of labour, where the pocket boroughs are controlled by the Maoists. The development agenda of the state has alienated the critical mass of tribals. The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd, India’s largest power generation utility, has been unable to mine coal from its $5.5 billion Pakri-Barwadih coal fields in Jharkhand.

Transnistria and Moldova
Transnistria is a backward Russian enclave that broke away from Moldova in 1991, following a brief armed conflict. Since then Russian troops have been stationed there, as peacekeeping forces. The enclave has a population of 500,000 people. The government of Transnistria, which hosts Kremlin troops is heavily subsidized by Moscow. End March 2014, the Transnistria government has desired to follow Crimea, and become part of Russia. The Russian world is uniting, and the people’s wish for unity cannot be stopped, apparently. NATO fears that Transnistria could be used as a springboard for a Russian attack on neighbouring Ukraine. The people of Transnistria, are a mix of Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian speakers, many with Russian passports. In spite of a European Union economic blockade, goods continue to flow freely in Transnistria. The enclave has about 1500 Russian and up to 6000 local troops, besides a large weapons cache and an armoured vehicle unit. Soviet insignia adorn official buildings, and the local radio and television stations relay programs from Moscow. A tiny elite thrives on a black economy fuelled by smuggling. While a few lavish properties dot the outskirts of Tiraspol, the capital is full of dirty, potholed roads, that meander around dilapidated concrete housing. Cheap gas is provided by Russia. The government of Transnistria survives on hand-outs from Kremlin for social and pension expenditure. Moldova is ruled by a pro-EU government, but has a pro-Russian communist opposition that is polling near 50%. EU diplomats and Moldovan politicians fear Russia might put pressure on Moldova via Transnistria for purpose of destabilization and derail the EU association process. Russia’s annexation of Crimea could be followed by seizure of all Ukraine’s southern regions, aimed at cutting Ukraine from the Black Sea, and severely harming its economy.

Giant Kariba Dam
The Kariba Dam provides much of southern Africa with power. Engineers warn that Africa’s mighty Kariba Dam in Zambia, opened in 1960, has developed severe structural faults. The fears of a humanitarian disaster are growing. If the dam collapses, 180 billion tons of water could be unleashed, from the largest man made lake on the continent, sweeping thousands of hippos and crocodiles, into an area of Zambia, that is home to 3.5 million people. Engulfing the capital Lusaka, the torrent could then rush on into Mozambique and Malawi. As depending upon the dam’s turbines for electricity, much of southern Africa would be plunged into darkness. The wall of the dam had developed serious structural weaknesses, and in the next three years, the dam may be swept away. The dam wall vibrates when the floodgate is opened to allow water to be discharged after heavy rain. Water cascades into a plunge pool beneath the 420ft high dam, on the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The pool is supposed to be 30ft deep, but as eroded at points to more than 250ft, potentially undermining the dam wall. At least $250 million is needed for repairs to the dam. The dam is built at the southern end of the Rift Valley, where there have been at least twenty earth quakes of a magnitude greater than 5 (five). The Zambezi River authority is jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe. Tidal waves of water would overwhelm the mighty Cahora Bass Dam, in Mozambique.

Vol. 46, No. 48, Jun 8 - 14, 2014