News Wrap


Discrimination against Muslims in India is over one hundred years old. Bigotry is evident in withdrawn apartment offers, rejection of job applications and turned-down loans. In recent decades, Muslims have fallen considerably behind Hindus in education, employment and economic status. Persistent discrimination is a principal reason. A large proportion of Muslims live in villages, without schools or medical facilities. They are less likely to qualify for bank loans. Muslims comprise about 15% of India’s total population. In spite of a fraught relationship with Muslims in the past, the BJP’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had campaigned for the Lok Sabha elections, focusing on promises of development and good governance, and largely avoided religiously divisive themes. The BJP won in 102 constituencies, where Muslims comprised at least one in five voters, an increase from just 24 of these seats in 2009. Many Muslims do not fear an administration led by Mr Modi, whose victory has been generated largely from India’s aspirational urban electorate, dreaming for a better future, for themselves and their children. While the growing prosperity in the middle class has been softening barriers between Hindu castes, the same forces have increased divisions between Hindus and Muslims. Bloody communal rioting violence has long been part of Indian society. The Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla has stated that Muslims are too large in number to call themselves a minority, and that it is the Parsis who need special attention, for they are a ‘‘minuscule minority’’. There is no provision in India’s Constitution for religion-based reservation for jobs in favour of Muslims, and the matter is in the Supreme Court. The Gujarat State Government has implemented a scholarship scheme for minority girls, but the matter is in the apex court after the Gujarat government refused to pay its 25% share in the scheme.

Waste in Kanke Dam
Kanke Dam, a major water body in Ranchi, has been supplying water to thousands of houses, settled around its periphery. Now with waste emanating from human activities concentrated around the water bodies, the reservoir is under serious threat of extinction. The dam is situated in the Kanke area of Ranchi, provides picturesque picnic spots. The dam was constructed in 1954, and has never been cleaned even once. Dumped garbage and water hyacinths are choking the dam, which has never been desilted. The water body has shrunk in area. Algae has formed in the dam, causing problems for the treatment plant. The water is unfit for consumption with open defecation near small colonies, and animals bathing in the water.

Planning Commission
India’s Planning Commission was set up through a Cabinet resolution by the First Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to assess funds available with the government, and how best they should be spent for social and economic growth. The Planning Commission has always been under the overall guidance of the National Development Council. The Deputy Chairman and the full time members of the Commission provide advice and formulate five year plans, annual plans, state plans, monitoring plan programs, projects and schemes. The new BJP government has unprecedentally elevated the post of Union Minister of State for Planning, by giving an independent charge to Indrajit Singh Rao. Doubts have been raised whether the role of Planning Commission is being reduced to just a ministry. All key decisions related to fund allocation and answers to parliamentary questions, would be in the name of the Minister of State with an independent charge, and not the Chairman. The Planning Commission is headed by the Prime Minister as its Chairman, since its inception in 1950. The restructuring and reorientation of the panel appears to be designed for a ‘new role’ in an open and liberal economy.

Sea Disputes and Riots
After China’s latest efforts to monopolise control of the South China Sea, off Vietnam’s coast, thousands of Vietnamese workers rampaged over dozens of foreign owned factories, near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, since the middle of May 2014. The riots left charred ruins, marking a rare demonstration of popular outrage, over China’s claims to resource-rich seas. The rioters attacked businesses from countries that took the risk of investing in their country. There has been growing animosity in some countries in the region, as China has been strengthening claims over vast swaths of two oceans, that other nations have long considered their own. The Philippines have lodged a formal protest with China, over signs that it is reclaiming land at a contested coral reef. South east Asian nations count on China for investment and aid, and have not extended support to the Philippines nor Vietnam. With China’s military and economic growth, the recent moves by China cover an area that stretches from Indonesia north to Japan. The focus of anger in Vietnam, was China’s decision to deploy an oil rig, assorted by a flotilla of coast guard and other ships, off the Vietnamese coast, despite promises of a diplomatic settlement. USA has maintained that it will stand by its allies, but unlike Japan and The Philippines, America does not have a defence treaty with Vietnam. Thousands of poor Vietnamese stitch name-brand sneakers and clothing, for sale around the world, in factories in the suburbs North of the Ho Chi Minh city. International investments have surged in these plants, for more than two decades, contributing to uneven growth. The outburst of anger has taken a vindictive and communal turn, with Vietnamese workers attacking Chinese labourers and Taiwanese plants. Over the years, a growing number of Chinese workers have been coming to Vietnam, in search of work.

Vol. 46, No. 52, Jul 6 - 12, 2014