News Wrap


India has neither criticised, nor supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine. During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi in December 2014, in their annual summit, there was agreement on the construction of at least ten more Russian nuclear power reactors in India, over the next two decades. Mr Putin has been keen to strengthen relationships with emerging market trading partners, at a time of increasing economic isolation of Russia by the West. In a tacit acknowledgement of the cost overruns and long delays hampering previous projects the agreement commits India to finding a site, in addition to Kudankulam for building more reactors. The recently commissioned 100 megawatt first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in South India, built by Russia, has already increased Indian nuclear electricity output by a fifth. Another reactor is due to begin operating next year, with two more to follow, India-Russia co-operation extends to oil and gas, including one envisaging a joint study for a Russia-India pipeline, and another between Rosneft and Essar for the supply of Russian oil to Indian refineries over the next ten years. Bilateral trade between India and Russia fell by a tenth in 2013 to $10 billion. Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India, one of its most advanced helicopters.

Easing Land–Buy Rules
The Union Government of India has promulgated an ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition, Rehabilation and Settlement Act (2013), by including five new categories of projects that would not require prior consent from affected families, as well as Social Impact Assessment (SIA). These include projects related to defence, rural infrastructure and industrial corridors. The consent clause requiring to secure specific consent of 70% to 80% of land owners, is waived if acquisitions are meant for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for poor, industrial corridors, and infrastructure projects including projects under public-private partnership mode, where ownership of land can also be acquired for such purposes. Such acquisitions will also be exempt from Social Impact Assessment and the application of the Food Security Act. The ordinance keeps intact the enhanced compensation provided for under the Act, and also extends it to the acquisitions under certain exempted laws. With respect to compensation and resettlement and rehabilitation norms, the ordinance covers land acquisition for central government projects such as national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects and electricity. Farmers and affected families are expected to be benefited.
About 38% of Indians live in urban areas, which is just 6% of the entire land. Land cost is around 5% of the total cost of a project, both in urban and rural areas. The ordinance has made no change in the clause relating to compensation for the land acquired. The definition of affected families continues as all those whose livelihoods are affected for three years, prior to the acquisition of land.

Hungary More authoritarian
The all powerful conservative government in Hungary, under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is steadily driving away democracy, retaining a semblance of pluralism while controlling the key levers. Orban has a two-thirds parliamentary majority, after his election hatrick in 2014. He has declared the western model dead, and cited the authoritarian regimes of Russia, China, Turkey and Singapore as the templates to follow. He has used his powers to rewrite the constitution, and has appointed 11 of the 15 Supreme Court justices, to guarantee a two-thirds majority on the constitution court. New media laws have turned public television into a mouth-piece for the Budapest government. Tax inspectors and advertising money are utilized to intimidate and weaken critical media. Orban is trying to make the banking sector, which is dominated by Austrians and Italians, partly renationalized so that 50% is in Hungarian hands. Land leased by foreigners over the past twenty years, has been ordered to be returned to its Hungarian owners, arguing that the natives have been swindled. Brussels is threatening legal action. Hungary is to receive 34 billion Euro (£ 26.8 billion ) in European funds over the next four years.

Following a secret visit to Moscow in January 2014, Orban secured a $10 billion (£ 6.2 billion) credit in return for awarding nuclear power contracts to the Russians. He met the boss of Gazprom in September 2014, and abandoned EU policy on Russia and Ukraine, by refusing to repump gas supplies back to Ukraine. European Union attempts to safeguard Kiev’s energy requirements, were sabotaged. Norway is providing 153 million Euro to Hungary over five years, 10% of its to ‘independent’ NGOs. Orban’s government demanded control over how the money is spent. Oslo refused and suspended payments of 140 million Euro, while still distributing 13 million Euro through Okotars, an environmentalist NGO. In 2013, the Hungarian government cancelled the contracts relating to Acs, one of Europe’s biggest organic farms, and sold 443 hectares, excluding just 9 hectares, to oligarchs and businessmen, who ordered the destruction of the bounty from organic wheat, cereals, sunflowers, pulses and legumes. Glyshopate weed killer was sprayed on the organic farm area in October 2014 and instantly terminating the farm’s organic status. The only organised opposition to Orban’s right wing Fidesz party are the neo-fascists of the Jobbik party on the far right.

Vol. 47, No. 32, Feb 15 -21, 2015