News Wrap


The river Ganges in India, is one of the world’s five most polluted rivers. Every day about 3 billion litres of sewage is discharged into the Ganges alone. India’s holiest river flows for 1600 miles from the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal. Ecological woes multiply with about 800 tons of ashes from the 33000 Hindu pilgrims who choose to be cremated on the banks of the river, every year. The mess increases with more than 3000 floating bodies, and some 300 tons of half-burnt human flesh from the funeral pyres. The task of cleaning up the Ganges is most daunting in Varanasi, the holiest city for Hindus, where ecological concerns collide with deeply ingrained religious sensibilities. Lack of planning and co-ordination resulted in the failure of previous attempts at cleaning up the river, which included introducing flesh-eating turtles, to devour the charred remains of the dead bodies that were not completely reduced to ashes by the funeral pyres. Little has improved, even though since 1986, a total of 2 billion Pound has been pledged to clean up the river, including 250 million Pound for Varanasi itself. Delhi’s dead river Yamuna absorbs two-thirds of the national capital’s daily 600 million litres of sewage.

Camel Protection
Camels are an essential part of the life of Rajasthan, India’s desert provinces. The camel population is declining dramatically, and is around 2,00,000 down from 500,000 (2003). Camels are bred by the Raika, indigenous pastoralists, who believe they were entrusted with the task, by the god Shiva. With grazing lands disappearing fast, young Raikas are more interested in urban jobs. Earlier female camels were never sold. Now camels are being herded out of Rajasthan for the slaughter houses of Uttar Pradesh, and even smuggled into Bangladesh. Camel meat is exported to the Gulf, while the skin is sold to leather factories. A ban on the export of camels from Rajasthan, could reduce the popularity of Puskar fair. Camel carts, being used for transporting goods and people, are being steadily replaced by mini-vans. Rajasthan’s state assembly has passed a law which prohibits camel slaughtering, and camel smuggling across state borders. The Rajasthan state dairy is popularising camel milk, which is said to be better than cow milk nutritionally. Ice cream is being made from camel milk, paper from camel dung, and ‘dhurries’ (Rugs) from camel wool.

Gas Prices
Reliance Industries has been charging a rate, in excess of the Union Government of India’s approved price for its KG-D6 gas field. The private company has not been including the marketing margin for calculating royalties and government’s share. The government in October 2007, had set a sale price of $4.20 per million British thermal unit, based on prices recovered by RIL from key customers. For Reliance Industries Limited’s eastern off-shore KG-D6 block spending, the company charged $4.205 per mm Btu from customers, leading to excess billing of $9.68 million. The selling price was not rounded off to two decimal points, leading to excess billing, in the first four years of production from 2009-10. On top of the sale price, RIL charged a marketing margin of $0.135 per mm Btu, to cover for its marketing risks. RIL had collected $261.33 million, towards the marketing margin, which has not been accounted for in the books.

Nepal’s trade in orphans
Many of the children in Nepal living in orphanages had living parents, who had paid large sums to a broker, for their ‘education’. Foreign tourists are volunteering to such orphanages, as the latest of a must-do-activity, for the tourist trail. The foreigners pay $480 (285 Pound) to spend for four weeks in an orphanage home. The irregular industry is exploiting poor families and well-meaning foreigner as well. The child becomes the property of the orphanage owner, once the child enters the orphanage. Far from actual orphans, the children are presented as being orphans, through the sponsorship of children. The owners use the children as an income source, through the exploitation of international volunteers. The tourists may be unwilling complicit in child trafficking. Voluntary tourism is expanding in the 800 registered orphanages. There are also numerous unregistered homes. A UNICEF investigation has found that 85% of children in the orphanages had at least one living parent. Parents of children in Nepal’s countryside, are lured into sending their children to orphanages, often by the promise of education. While social workers are doing a lot of good things, 90% of children’s homes fail to meet minimum operating standards. There are allegations of child abuse too.

Vol. 47, No. 5, Aug 10 - 16, 2014