News Wrap


On 03 May 2014, within 24 hours, Bodo militants massacred 23 migrant muslims, in the course of three attacks in Assam. The attacks occurred in the Kokrajhar and Baksa districts, under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), of Assam. Women and children are among the dead. Subsequent clashes raised the death toll to over 50, in spite of curfew, army flag marches and shoot-on-sight orders clamped in all of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang, three of the four districts of the Bodoland area in Assam, and on contiguous areas in neighouring districts. The Assam state government has accused the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of carrying out the killings. The government has denied any connection between the attacks, and the Lok Sabha parliamentary elections. One of the three massacers occurred in Balapara village, that witnessed violence and the killing of a police constable, as Kokrajhar went to polls on 24 April 2014. Several bodies were recovered in the villages of Narayanguri and adjacent Khagrabi, on the fringes of Manas National Park, in Baksa district (Assam).

Ponzi Scams
On the orders of the Supreme Court, the CBI is probing into Chit Funds scams by the Saradha Group and other ponzi firms. There was opposition by the Mamata Banerjee state government of West Bengal. There has been involvement of several political and other influential personalities, wielding considerable clout and influence. The scams have grown to more than Rs 20,000 crore, with inter-state ramifications and larger conspiracy angles covering West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Tripura and Assam. The scams took birth and flourished unhindered within the respective jurisdictions of the regulatory authorities like Security and Exchanges Bureau (SEBI), Registrar of Companies and officials of the Reserve Bank of India. The CBI is still in a process of collecting voluminous documents, related to the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scheme, from the West Bengal and Orissa state governments. Production of documents is part of logistical support.

Looting in Kerala Temple
In 2011, a court had forced the guardians of the 500-years-old Sree Padmavabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, to open the door to one of its secret chambers. Investigators discovered in ‘‘Chamber A’’ treasures including an 18 feet gold necklace, a sack of diamonds, and a 70 Pound million jewel-encrusted idol of Lord Vishnu. A second vault ‘‘Chamber B’’ believed to be full of valuables, was never opened, because of a local superstition that it would unleash a terrible curse. However, ‘‘Chamber B’’ was finally opened, and its contents photographed to provide information to buyers. A recent 575-page report by Gopal Subramaniam, a former solicitor-general alleges that the temple, which is one of India’s richest, has been looted of its vast treasures, by theft, conspiracy and murder. The temple authorities failed to audit the temple’s collection of gold, silver and jewellery, worth at least 12 billion Pound. The royal officials have been accused of colluding with the Kerala state, to cover up alleged mismanagement. Now India’s Supreme Court has ordered that the keys to the temple vaults be taken from its guardians of the past three centuries, the Travancore royal family, the former rulers of the once princely state, and handed to a district judge. A full audit will be carried out, and an independent management committee set up.

Surviving Cancer
In the long term, half of people with cancer will survive. With huge improvements in care for the past forty years, cancer is on its way to become a chronic condition, that people can live with for decades. 50% of those with cancer are likely to live for at least a decade, compared with a quarter in the 1970s. After diagnosis, many patients who live for ten years, will be effectively cured, with no greater chance of dying of cancer, than anyone else. Cancer research figures point to huge variations between different types of cancer. Just 5% of lung cancer patients are projected to live more than ten years, and just 17% of people with pancreatic cancer, likely to do so, unchanged from the 1970s. By contrast, 84% with prostrate cancer, are expected to live more than ten years, a rise from 25% in the 1970s. 98% of men with testicular cancer and skin cancer are surviving. There has been an increased awareness, earlier diagnosis, and better treatment for all types of cancer.

Latvia’s Russians
Most of the 545,000 ethnic Russians, living in Latvia are Latvian citizens. A third are classified as ‘non-citizens’, in the country of just 2 million population. They are deprived of the right to vote or work for the government, and recipients of a different type of passport. The peculiar status exists for all those who moved to Latvia, when it was under Soviet occupation. This is a cause of bitterness for some in the Russian community. With Latvia in the European Union and NATO, it is popular with wealthy Russians, who buy up properties and deposit large amounts of money in its local banks. Latvia is perhaps the EU economy, most linked to Russia, due to exports, tourism and transport. To become a citizen requires passing a test in the Latvian language. In the Baltic states, Latvia is home to one of the largest concentrations of ethnic Russians. The ethnic Russians with citizenship, perceive a lack of political representation.

Vol. 46, No. 50, Jun 22 - 28, 2014