News Wrap


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has an impressive tally of 284 seats in the Lok Sabha, and the alliance it leads forms 61% of the crucial Lower House of Indian Parliament. The Narendra Modi government would be unable to secure a lead of 245-member Rajya Sabha before 2016. The combined strength of both houses of Parliament is 788. The NDA with 398 members in Parliament, crosses the half way mark of 394. In the Upper House, Rajya Sabha, the BJP-led NDA has a current strength of 62, while the Congress-led UPA has 82. A third of the Rajya Sabha members retire every second year. Members of the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies pick members for the Rajya Sabha. The Modi government has the option of convening joint session of both Houses to get key Bills passed, if its reform and administrative agenda gets obstructed by a hostile or indifferent Opposition. Except for Money Bills, all Bills need Rajya Sabha’s ratification, along with their passage in the Lower House of Parliament, consisting of members directly elected by the people. Taxation Related Bills, Finance Bills and other appropriation Bills need only Lok Sabha approval.

Groom Kidnappings
2529 cases of ‘‘Akadwa Shaadi’’ (marriage by kidnap) reported in Bihar for 2013, up from 1337 in 2009. True figures may be far higher, as most are never reported. Targeted grooms are drugged and kidnapped by men carrying pistols, rifles and knives. The victim of groom kidnapping gang is forced into a shotgun wedding, with a woman he had never met. At gunpoint the kidnapped groom is introduced to his bride, and the couple are escorted to a temple, where a priest formalises the marriage. One of India’s poorest districts in northern Bihar, Khagaria has a centuries-old tradition of banditry. Groom kidnappings are widespread, a way for families to marry, young women off, without paying a punitive dowry. The grooms often feel compelled to stay with their new wives. In villages such as Khotiya, dominated by the Yadavs or milkmen caste, half of all marriages involve groom kidnap. Bihar has India’s worse sex ratio, of only 75 girls per 1000 boys born. The huge dowries foisted upon the families of young women, are seen as a greater social evil.

Transgender category
India’s Supreme Court has issued a landmark verdict in Mid-April 2014, creating a third gender category, that allows transgender people to identify themselves as such on official documents. Before the judgement, transgender Indians had to identify themselves as male or female in all documents. The top court’s verdict will give relief to millions of people, who face discrimination in India’s deeply conservative society. Transgender people are to be included in all welfare programmes for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs.

Arunachal Train
The All Nyishi Students Union (ANSU) and All Papum Pare District Students Union (APPDSU) have been demanding the immediate suspension of train services, alleging that illegal migrants pouring into Arunachal Pradesh were using this route. The Naharlagun (Arunachal) and Dekargaon (Assam) train service has since been suspended by Indian Railways, from the second week of May 2014. The staff of Naharlagun and Gumto stations have been withdrawn, and both the stations have been sealed. The train, instead of continuing till Naharlagun station, will now terminate at Harmuti. Local students organizations and civil society groups were concerned over large scale influx of outsiders into Arunachal Pradesh state. There was a suspicion that the train services were liquidating the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System, in the absence of proper checking by the railways authorities and the Arunachal state administration, at the railway stations.

Political Killings in Libya
Post-Qaddafi Libya is plagued by political killings. In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, the country has suffered widespread blood letting. Over 1300 people have been killed in the last two years, victims of revenge, power clashes and spiralling crime. The appointed government is almost powerless, with political divisions within the elected General National Congress, with groups backed by rival militias. The earlier Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was under threat of dismissal for months, was voted out of power in March 2014. The country is without an interior minister since August 2013. The second largest city Benghazi, the birth place of the Libyan uprising, has seen more that 100 prominent figures, senior security officials, judges and political activists assassinated in two years. The wave of killings is decimating local leadership, and paralysing the Libyan government and security forces. Numerous militias are lawless in Benghazi, and some extreme Islamist groups maintain bases there. Many of the killings are blamed on smuggling and organized crime groups, on the hundreds of common criminals who escaped from Colonel Qaddafi’s jails during the uprising, and on the caches of looted arms that are on the streets. Ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was powerless to stop a tanker from sailing away from Tripoli, with an illicit shipment of Libyan oil.

Climate Change
Climate change has affected global food supply, and fuelled wars and natural disasters. According to a report from the UN’s climate science panel, climate change is affecting food production on land and sea. The rate of increase in crop yields is slowing, especially in wheat. There are doubts whether food production will keep up with the demand of growing population. By 2050, changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns could lead to food price rises of between 3% and 84% by 2050. Other food sources are also under threat. Fish catches in some areas of the tropics are projected to fall by between 40% and 60%. There are connections between climate change and rising food prices and political instability, for instance the riots in Asia and Africa, after food price shocks in 2008. The warming negatively affects wheat and corn. Wheat is grown around the world, and projections suggest wheat yields could drop by 2% a decade. Climate has an effect on heatwaves, droughts and flooding across the globe. Those events would take a disproportionate toll on poor, weak and elderly people.

Vol. 46, No. 51, Jun 29 - Jul 5, 2014