News Wrap


A 41-year old issue between India and Bangladesh was settled, as the Lok Sabha, India’s Lower House of Parliament, unanimously passed a Bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement, that provides for exchange of territories and help citizens in the enclaves. The deal involves exchange of enclaves and tracts that belong to one country, but entirely surrounded by the other. The agreement was conceptualised in 1974 during the regime of Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam will have to follow through the exchange of enclaves in adverse possession, the transfer of land, and resettlement of those who will come over. This century’s ‘Transfer of Population’ will demand assistance for rehabilitation, and provision of homes in an erstwhile ‘Foreign’ land. Bangladesh will hold on to 380.5 acres Palttai Tea Estate in Dhubri district (Assam), but Assam will gain 115 acres in the Karimganj area.

Palk Bay and Sri Lanka
In a recent affidavit filed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, the Indian Coast Guard stated that 36,185 Indian fishing boats had crossed the International Boundary Line in the Palk Bay, and indulged in poaching as well as smuggling in Sri Lankan waters, between January 2014 to February 2015. The Sri Lankan Nay had evidence to prove it. The preamble to the 23 March 1976 Kachchativu agreement, signed between India and Sri Lanka states that the boundary in the historic waters of Palk Straits, has already been settled by the Agreement. Article 5 of the treaty states : ‘‘Indian fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy access to Kachchativu as hitherto, and will not be required by Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes’’. Article 6 of the treaty, says : ‘‘The Vessels of India and Sri Lanka will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein’’. Colombo has not been honouring Articles 5 and 6. The poor Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay have no security. The Sri Lankan Nay has installed surveillance radar in Kachchativu, and captured images of the 36,865 Indian fishing boats, engaged in legitimate activity. The impoverished Indian fishermen cannot afford deep-sea fishing, which is capital intensive, and requires specialised training.

Abductions in Sukma
Angered at the villagers’ support for the development activities going in Sukma district (Chattisgarh state), about 5000 Maoists surrounded Marenga villages at midnight 08 May 2015 and rushed all the inhabitants out from their houses. Women and children were later released by the rebels, but the insurgents abducted more than 250 villagers, working on the construction of a bridge over a rivulet. The villagers were released, after a Jan Adalat—People’s Court, was conducted in the forests between Gaadem and Munga villages, under Tongpal Police Station limits. A villager, Sadaram Nag, who was a supervisor for the construction of a bridge on a river near Marenga, was beaten to death by the Maoists, after being tried in a People’s Court. The CRPF policy of avoiding major face-to-face encounters has allowed the Maoists to regain ground. The Maoists’ abduction and killing in Sukma, was on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Dantewada town in Sukma district. There are promises of direct investment of Rs 24,000 crore in the Bastar region, covering the setting up of 3 mmt ultra mega steel plant at Dilmili in Bastar, a 10 mmt iron ore processing plant at Bacheli-Kirandul, and the second phase of Raoghat-Jagdalpur railway line.

Fukushima Clean-Up
The chief of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission three meltdown reactors does not exist. Few have any idea how it will be developed. Without a giant technological leap, the stated goal of decommissioning the plant by 2051 may be impossible. Since the nuclear disaster of 2011, there have been numerous leaks of radiation in the sea. Tepco, the company that operates the Fukushima plant, admitted in February 2015 that highly radio-active rainwater had been washing into the Pacific ocean, from one of the reactors, and that it had covered it up for ten months. Three reactors had melted down, after the cooling systems were knocked out by the tsunami in March 2011. All the nuclear fuel that was in one reactor’s furnace, had melted, and dripped down into the concrete outer containment vessel.

Green Protesters in Hanoi
Vietnam’s Communist leaders celebrated the 40th anniversary of one-party rule over the unified state in April 2015. Around the same time, Hanoi authorities have been forced on to the defensive by protests on the fate of the capital’s famed greenery. The city officials have suspended and promised to review a plan to chop down 6700 trees lining boulevards, after the first felling triggered a viral social media campaign, and lakeside demonstration billed as a ‘‘picnic’’. Some say the dispute symbolises wider social frustration in the authoritarian state. Hanoi’s venerable trees have long been central to its identity. They offer welcome refuge from rain and sun to the teeming street traders, and walkable space. Reasons for the felling include making room for an urban rail system, or to reap profits from the timber. The local government is worried about the damage from branch falls or underground roots. The size and atmosphere of the protests has been far smaller, compared to the officially sanctioned anti-China demonstrations of 2014, that ended with rioters sacking hundreds of foreign businesses.

Vol. 48, No. 1, July 12 - 18, 2015