News Wrap


The President of India had declared in Parliament, on 04 June 2009, that a National Food Security Act would be formulated. It has taken more than four years to bring it through an ordinance, in July 2013. A future date expected to be notified, will aim that two-thirds of all households, as opposed to one-third right now, will be entitled to cheap cereals. Despite a high growth, the hunger index in India between 1996 and 2011, has gone up from 22.9 to 23.7. At present the interstate allocation of foodgrains for the Public Distribution System (PDS) is arbitrary, and is based neither on population nor poverty. Poorer states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar get much less food allotment than their share in poverty, whereas, it is opposite for the southern states. Actual distribution cannot commence unless the eligible households are identified. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census data report will not be available for all the states, especially larger states like UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, until beginning 2014. Secrecy has shrouded the conduct of the survey. Export of food grains like basmati rice is continuing while Indians are starving. The ban on the exports of non-basmati rice and wheat was lifted in early 2011.

Singur Farmland Grab
Near the abandoned Tata Nano site in Singur, land sharks, allegedly protected by Trinamool Congress leaders, are grabbing up large patches of fertile land. New owners of plots seized have not taken permission for conversion in the nature of the agricultural land, under the West Bengal Land Reforms Act (1955). Under Singur and Chanditala Police Stations, over two hundred acres of farmland have ben acquired, under private buy out of agricultural land and wetland. Roads have been constructed by filling up wetland, with flyash. The acquired land is walled off or fenced off. Farmers have been lured or coerced into selling off their land, without offer of any doles from the West Bengal Government. Land is changing hands between Dankuni and Singur. Plots around farmland are being walled off. During rains flyash dumped on adjacent plots of reluctant farmers, is washed to farming areas, turning them infertile. Land grabbers publicize Rs 40 lac an acre, but the farmers receive barely Rs 8 lac for an acre. Till date nil small and medium industry units have been established. The Tata had earlier negotiated around Rs 9 lac to Rs 12 lac as compensation per acre, an add-on 50% of the compensation price, plus a job to each landloser’s family.

Risky Dams
There are over 4500 dam structures in India, which are operating without any ‘emergency action plan’. The Uttarakhand floods have revived a debate over the strength of dams. A huge area and property are vulnerable to the cascading effects of dam failure. Under the union water resources ministry, the Central Water Commission had issued guidelines in May 2006, for development and implementation of an ‘Emergency Action Plan’ (EAP) for the dams in the country. Only eight states (or merely 4.06%) have prepared EAP for 192 large dams, till September 2011, against 4278 large dams in 29 states. Despite considerable progress in setting up institutions and creating funding arrangements, there are critical gaps in the preparedness level for various disasters. The Central Water Commission is the authority responsible for sending first information, regarding flood forecasts.

Allies aid Syria
Syria’s war ravaged economy is being propped up by Iran, Russia and China. As it seeks to beat western sanctions, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is doing all its business in rials, roubles and renminbi. The three main allies are supporting international financial transactions, delivering $500 million a month in oil, and extending credit lines. Syria has an unlimited credit line with Teheran for food and oil product imports. Having got out of the circle of euros and dollars, Syria maintains a straight line between the Syrian pound and the currencies of Iran, Russia and China. During the civil war conflict, ships under Russian flags, have been delivering oil products to Syria’s government controlled coast. Oil product imports cost Syria half a million dollars a month, as the rebels have occupied oil fields. Iran, Russia and China are helping Syria, politically, militarily and also economically.

Mursi’s Ouster
On the first anniversary of President Mohamed Mursi’s election as Egypt’s First Islamist President, there were protest rallies in Cairo and other areas, demanding Mursi’s ouster and early elections. Since end June 2013, after millions took to the streets, at least 30 people were killed in clashes across Egypt. Angered by Mursi’s political and economic policies, more than 22 million people participated in rallies and signed petitions seeking Mursi’s ouster and a snap election. The grassroots Tamarod—Rebellion–Movement around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, united liberal and secular opposition groups, including the National Salvation Front (NSF). Mursi’s opponents say he has failed to tackle economic and security problems, and put the Islamist agenda of his Muslim Brotherhood party, ahead of the country’s wider interest. Dwindling foreign exchange reserves have been restricting the government’s ability to import fuel, leading to frequent power cuts, and long queues at petrol stations. The past two years of turmoil, have raised Egypt’s budget deficit to almost 12% of gross domestic product. After a 48-hour military deadline for Mr Mursi to resolve the ongoing political crisis, the army put Mursi under detention, and launched a massive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood movement. With the uncertain new political order Justice Mansour, Head of the High Constitutional Court, took the Presidential oath.

Vol. 46, No. 9, Sep 8 - 14, 2013

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