News Wrap


The Bjp and the Janata Dal (United) were together in power in Bihar, from January 2010 to June 2013. During the period, there were 226 ‘‘communal incidents’’ in the state, where Hindus and Muslims fought each other. The communities represent the two largest religious groups in the state. The police recorded each incident, and classified as ‘‘communal’’ at the local police station. The two political parties parted their ways in June 2013. In the run up to the state assembly elections, of October 2015, the number surged to over 750. Eighteen districts out of 38 districts in Bihar, account for more than 70% of these incidents. Most of the communal clashes were sparked off by dumping of animal parts in places of worship (pigs near mosques, beef near temples); provocative slogans during processions passing through Muslim majority neighbourhoods; communalisation of trivial disputes during cricket matches and sports; and vandalisation of idols. A majority of the communal incidents since June 2013, which is 450 or 64%, were recorded in 24 districts, where the Muslim population is below the state average of 16.5%.

Prisons in Chattisgarh
In the southern regions of Chattisgarh between 2009 and 2014, the prison population swelled rapidly. Prison overcrowding is 261% above capacity. Among the Indian states, Chattisgarh has the highest number of complaints, at 3105, against the police for human rights abuses. Judicial and magisterial inquiries have been instituted in 924 cases only. The large population of undertrials in Chattisgarh is due to the systematic bias of the state police against the tribal poor in the Maoist insurgency-hit areas. Women suffer multiple rapes, at the hands of policemen, during custody. Harassment at the hands of prison supervisors and the police, leave the women inmates shattered for a lifetime. However, at Jagdalpur prison in 2014, women prisoners obtained a community kitchen, after negotiating hard with the jail supervisor. In respect of women prisoners in Central Jail, Raipur (Chattisgarh), there was no food and water for two days while being produced in courts, no doctor to treat sick inmates, no possibility of meeting or speaking to family members. The Central Jail, Raipur has an average of 140 women prisoners lodged, against a capacity of 80. There are no female doctors in the jail. Armed guards are not provided to accompany the undertrials to court, leading to inordinate delays in settling cases. Illiterate prisoners have poor access to legal aid. Tribal women feared to depose before jail authorities, in the absence of a magistrate, despite video conferencing facilities in Raipur prison. Women prisoners are deprived of soap and sanitary napkins. 22-year old Kawasi Hidme was released from Jagadalpur prison in Chattisgarh, in early 2015, after a seven-year illegal detention, on the basis of police charges, of being a left extremist ‘Naxal’. With 27 jails in Chattisgarh, the state has the highest rate of overcrowding among Indian prisons at 261%, while the national average is 118.4%.

China’s Rural labour
278 million Chinese workers moved to cities since 1978. Now China’s labour force is shrinking and the ‘migrant miracle’ that powered its industrial rise is mostly exhausted. The transformation is leading to slower growth, reduced investment and a loss of competitiveness. The three decades of breakneck economic growth was fuelled by unprecedented migration of labour, from the unproductive farm sector, to work in factories and construction. The working age share of China’s population peaked in 2015, at 72%. It has now started falling rapidly. China’s potential gross domestic product growth decreased from 9.8% (1995-2009) to 7.2% in 2011-2015, and is estimated at 6.1% from 2016-2020. A shrinking labour force is one of the main causes. From 2005 to 2010, the growth rate of migrant workers was 4%, while in 2014 it was only 1.3%. An ageing population and the effects of the country’s one child policy have started to influence the number of young workers entering the labour force.

In August 2015, devaluation reduced the value of the Yuan Renminbi by 1.9%. Earlier for a decade China fixed the exchange rate daily, allowing the actual value to fluctuate by 2% either side of its target. The new formula takes into account the previous day’s closing rate. The Renminbi is exposed to market forces, as part of several measures to open the foreign exchange market. The two-tier system whereby Renminbi changed hands ‘offshore’ in Hong Kong and other foreign financial centres at one exchange rate, and in China’s tightly regulated ‘onshore’ market at another, is steadily eliminated. Chinese authorities intended a fall in the Yuan. Its trade-weighted value had risen significantly in recent months. The devaluation of August 2015, amounts to a further easing of monetary policy in the face of sluggish exports, a hiatus in economic growth, and the sharp depreciation of the currencies of many of China’s emerging market competitors. The intervention by the People’s Bank of China has been the biggest fall in the Chinese currency since the mid-1990s.

China’s devaluation has triggered drastic action from central banks in emerging markets, and sharp falls in foreign exchange rates, for countries from the Philippines to Colombia. There has been a shift towards more flexible exchange in countries such as Kazakhstan and Vietnam. The emerging markets are already struggling with concerns over the collapse in commodity prices, a looming US interest rate hike, and capital outflows. Concerns over Chinese economy have since end August 2015, sent global shares, with European, US and Indian stocks tumbling.

Vol. 48, No. 18, Nov 8 - 14, 2015