News Wrap


There is an ongoing debate whether Kashmiri Muslims, ethnic Punjabis settled in J and K, and Kashmiri Pandits, including expatriates, want normal Indian citizenship, and the scrapping of Article 370 of India’s Constitution. The title of Article 370 is : ‘‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’’. The article gives special status to J and K state. Kashmiris have equal rights all over India, while non-Kashmiri Indians do not have the same rights in Kashmir. Economic liberalization and industrial growth sweeping India, has not been reaching Kashmir, owing to the discriminatory legislation. However, all the provisions of Article 370 are temporary in nature, with a Special Provision (Section 3), that the ‘President of India might issue an order, to end its operation. The state government cannot amend Section 3 of the J and K constitution framed by the State’s Constituent Assembly. The authority of the Indian Parliament to legislate on matters is recognized, and the J and K state ‘‘is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India’’.

Economic Slowdown
Since May 2014, prices of agri commodities in the spot and futures market, have dropped to 1% to 10%. Vegetables are cheaper by 5-10%. The Indian economy is in the midst of a slowdown, and the manufacturing sector growth is in the red. Three pressing issues have been inherited from the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Detailed rules for the Land Bill have not yet been framed, and the Bill passed is impeding industrial and infrastructure development. No land acquisition has taken place under the new land bill, which prescribes a cumbersome process, that includes social impact assessment. Rs 2.52 lac crores has been spent on MGNREGA (Rural Employment), since its inception in February 2006. The money is not optimally utilized for the 1687.66 crores mandays generated. The scheme has degenerated into a transfer scheme, with nil meaningful assets created. A wage spiral has been created, without any links to productivity gains. The Food Security Law is a big burden on finances, in coming years. The Law provides for heavily subsidised food for nearly two-thirds of the population. Under the Food Subsidy Bill, spending on food subsidy in 2014-15, is estimated at 6.52% of total spending.

Child Trafficking to Kerala
A political row has been triggered in Kerala, with a recent incident of suspected trafficking of about 600 children from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The Kerala state home minister has termed it as illegal, while muslim outfits have described it as part of social service. The Palakkad Railway Protection Force had detained 589 children, belonging to four years to 14 years age group, since 22 May 2014, as they were brought to Kerala, for admissions to orphanages run by muslim outfits in Kozhikode and Malappuram. Eight people were arrested on the charge of human trafficking. The children are presently in an orphanage in Palakkad. Around 336 of these children did not have valid travel tickets, while the escorts could not produce the required official papers, issued by the respective state governments, for transporting them to Kerala. The parents of some these children have already taken back their wards, to their homes. The Muslim League and other muslim outfits are claiming that the children were being brought, to be admitted in reputed orphanages of Kerala. The Jharkhand government has been providing orphan children with free education and boarding. A team of officials from Jharkhand who visited Palakkad, observed that the incident had all the signs of child trafficking. About 456 children had been taken to the muslim orphanage in Mukko (Kozhikode), without authorization. In the name of social service, the children were transported to Kerala, by jam packing them into a railway compartment, without travel tickets and proper documents. Boys belonging to age group of 12 to 16 years, were likely to be trafficked further to Gulf countries, to be used as camel jockeys. 58 minor boys have since returned to their home in Malda district.

Myanmar Muslims
While the Myanmar’s Buddhist-led government trumpets its latest democratic reforms, the Rohingya muslim minority is suffering a humanitarian, medical care crisis, with a rapidly expanding death toll of adults and infants. Hospital admission is out of the question for Rohingya muslims, requiring a lengthy approval process. They are herded into displaced people’s camps, where oxygen cylinders are rarely available, and doctors without borders clinics shut down by the government in February 2014. The muslim minority has been increasingly deprived of the most basic liberties and aid. Doctors without borders, one of the world’s premier humanitarian aid groups and the lifeline to healthcare for more than a million Rohingyas, were expelled from Myanmar. Local Buddhist officials are severely restricting medical and other humanitarian aid to the minority Rohin-gya muslim camps in Rohine state, where tuberculosis, waterborne illnesses and malnutrition are endemic. The doctors’ group was expelled from Rakhine state, after caring for victims of a violent assault on a Rohingya village, that the Myanmar government denies ever happened. The Myanmar government has been ignoring violence by local Buddhists, that left hundreds of muslims dead, and drove many others into the displaced people’s camp. The Rohingya muslim camps outside Sittwe, are little more than prisons. International leaders are preoccupied in an international scramble for Myanmar’s business and allegiance. Radical Buddhist monks are preaching among Buddhists in Rohingya region, and stirring up communal passions. The Buddhists have ransacked medical facilities of a dozen aid agencies, including the Red Cross, forcing more than 300 foreign aid workers to evacuate. The government fails to keep or share health records. Assessment of the number of deaths caused by the absence of life saving medical services is virtually impossible, with most foreign aid workers gone.

Vol. 47, No. 2, Jul 20 - 26, 2014