News Wrap


Women’s deaths have been a long time problem for India. The country passed a series of laws against dowry in the 1980s, to protect against this form of violence. Since families were unable to fulfil the demands for more dowry, roughly 8000 women in India died violent deaths in 2013, and about 8200 in 2014, according to government statistics. More than 220,000 people were arrested on charges of dowry harassment in 2013, and over 230,000 in 2014. The conviction rate is around 16%. Dowry was officially outlawed in 1961. Over the years the number of brides who were killed by their husbands and families over dowry grew. Many of these deaths were reported as suicides or euphemistically documented as ‘kitchen accidents’. The practice of dowry-giving remains entrenched, and has grown because of rising middle class consumerism. In July 2014, India’s Supreme Court delivered a ruling that questioned the propriety of the laws, and said they are used unfairly by ‘disgruntled wives’ to prosecute their husbands and in-laws. The judges then instructed the police to follow due diligence, before making arrests.

Working persons and Income
India’s just released Census 2011 data shows 51% of urban households live on the income of a single earner, and double-income families are just 26%. In rural areas, 34% of families have a single worker and double-worker families are at 35%. The Double Income No-Kids (DINK) life-style is prevalent in nearly 42% of two-member rural families, compared to just 22% of similar urban families. Combining rural and urban figures for India, reflects 39% of households sustain themselves on the income of a single working member, while 33% depend on the earnings of two workers. The Census 2001 had revealed that 38% of households had a single bread winner, while 32% had two working members. Rural families with 3 to 6 members amont to 66%. Nearly three quarters of families in urban areas have 3 to 6 members. About 17% of families in rural areas have 7 to 10 members, compared to nearly 13% in urban areas. Estimated average rural income is Rs 6307 per month for a typical household by a recent consumer expenditure survey (2011-12). Rural incomes have increased annually by 2%, in inflation-adjusted terms. The rural families are compelled to supplement their incomes. Average household income is Rs 11,394 for a typical sized urban household, which has been increasing 3% annually. The share of working women in rural areas is 35%, compared to just 21% in urban areas. Dependant on a single income, most women in urban areas are not gainfully employed outside their homes, due to a variety of cultural, economic and security reasons. Marginal workers in rural areas who succeed in obtaining jobs is about one-third of the job seekers, and that for only up to 6 months. The proportion of such marginal workers in urban areas varies form 12% to 20%.

Excessive procurement and stocking of food grains at the godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is endemic. Grain purchases at Minimum Support Price (MSP) are not synchronised with the requirements of the Public Distribution System (PDS), or with the food security needs. Preserving 100,000 tons of wheat costs around Rs 150 crores, of rice Rs 200 crores. The central grain pool managed by the FCI normally carries inventories two to three times higher than the buffer-stocking norms. Currently, the total stockholding is around twice the requirements of the PDS and food security. Most grain purchases for the central pool are made by state-level agencies. The PDS is the state government’s responsibility. Most of the Centre’s food grains is stored in warehouses hired from the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), state warehousing corporations, or private parties.

Closing Mining Shafts
Platinum producer Lonmin has cut about 5700 jobs, 21% of its South African workforce, as part of a drive to increase profits, after a five month wage strike in 2014. Four to six of the company’s eleven shafts have been closed. Company sources claim that the June 2014 strike and low prices meant inevitable restructuring of the platinum mining business. Job cuts have triggered more labour unrest, including strikes by the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union (AMCU). The platinum producing companies find that they could no longer subsidise the loss making shafts, and had to focus on the profitable ones. The wage settlement reached in June 2014 with AMCU to end the strike has granted pay increases to miners of up to about 20% a year, for the next three years. The settlement was a short term solution to get the mines running again. The additional wage bill is a key reason for the re-structuring. The marginal shifts are being cut.

Vol. 47, No. 19, Nov 16 - 22, 2014