News Wrap


The numbers of sick micro and small industries in West Bengal have increased to 38,835 in 2015, from 8,365 (in 2011). Over the last few years, the situation has worsened. There were 11,519 sick units in 2013. The government of West Bengal is yet to prepare a plan for overhauling the sick micro and small scale industries, in the state. Most of the small scale units lack proper infrastructure to continue production. The industrial sickness has been caused by lack of demand and huge infrastructure gap (41.94%), shortage of working capital (20.49%), marketing problems (11.48%), management problems (6.46%), power shortage (5.71%), labour problems (5.64%), non-availability of raw materials (5.11%) and equipment problems (3.17%). West Bengal has around 27.53 lac micro and small units. Reportedly, 96% of the existing sick units in West Bengal, are not fit for revival in West Bengal. The state government has failed to set up e-micro industries clusters, and a special cell, to help and facilitate the remaining 4% of the sick units. Industrial sickness in West Bengal has affected capital formation and utilization of the available resources. Entrepreneurs within and outside West Bengal, are receiving highly discouraging signals.

Overseas Funding
Since coming to power in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central Government in India has cancelled or restricted the overseas funding of almost 9000 NGOs. The Greenpeace has been banned from receiving foreign donations by India’s BJP government. The organization is accused of hampering India’s development by campaigning against mining and nuclear projects. In January 2015, one of its activists, Priya Pillai was prevented from travelling to the UK, or the grounds that she intended to foster a ‘‘Negative Image’’ of India abroad.

Enclave Dwellers
After the execution of the Land Boundary Agreement (1974), through exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh, around 989 persons were scheduled to settle in India, within a stipulated time frame. 478 people, including 231 females and 137 children, have taken shelter at Haldibari (West Bengal) Enclave Settlement Camp. 921 enclave dwellers have arrived in three relief camps, in Cooch Behar district (West Bengal), since 19 November 2015. Enclave residents have demanded a trainer to teach them India’s national anthem, and simple house on a four-cottah plot of land.

Dull Monsoons
As the strongest EL Nino in almost two decades parched vast tracts of farm land in the second half of 2015, rice, corn and sugar cane crops were badly hurt in India. The country got the lowest monsoons rainfall since 2009. Rainfall was 14% less than the 50 year average of 89 cms (35 inches) between June to September 2015. The first back-to-back shortfall in rains, in three decades, has wilted crops and cut water levels in the Nation’s main dams. The central government is tapping state stockpiles of rice and wheat, importing more lentils and cooking oils to meet shortfalls. As global commodity prices are low, India’s imports will be cheaper. The water level at India’s 91 main reservoirs is 60% of the capacity, as of end September 2015. The kharif crop output is likely to drop to 24 million metric tons in 2015, compared with 26.3 million metric tons in 2014.

Ethiopia Dam Project
Ethiopia’s $5 billion Gibe III dam, which towers 243 metres high, and generates 1870 mega watts of electricity, will irrigate up to 175,000 hectares of land, previously used by herders and small farmers. The Ethiopian government insisted that the indigenous communities living downstream of the dam had no choice but to quit their ancestral land to make way for the plantations. The controversial World Bank funded scheme to dam a major Ethiopian river, and import up to 500,000 people to work in what is planned to be one of the world’s largest sugar plantations, has let to tens of thousands of Africa’s most remote and vulnerable people being insensitively resettled. In the resettlement areas of the Lower Omo Valley, in southern Ethiopia, the lives of Mursi, Bodi and other semi-Nomadi-tribes people are being fundamentally changed by the mega-project. Construction of the dam has been linked to conflict and widespread abuses by the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian government did not obtain the full prior consent of the tribes, as recommended under international law. Many of the tribes had no idea that the dam would affect them. Displaced tribes have been placed in muddy and isolated sites, in inferior huts. Sanitation and services are unavailable. It takes a two-hour walk to the nearest canal for bad quality drinking water, while the nearest health post is eight hours on foot. The giant sugar plantations would deny the tribes people access to grazing and farm lands, on which they depend for survival. Around 200,000 people in the Omo Valley are likely to be affected by the dam, in the same way.

Muslim Pupil Grilled
A 14-year-old Muslim boy was in a French class at the Central Foundation Boy’s School in London, in May 2015. He took part in a discussion, conducted mostly in French. The teenager mentioned that some people use the term ‘eco-terrorist’ to describe those who take action such as spiking trees with nails, to stop chainsaws chopping them down. Suspected of extremism, the Muslim schoolboy was questioned about Islamic State, following a classroom discussion about environmental activism. At an inclusion centre in the school, the boy was asked whether he was affiliated with the ISIS. The British government’s new anti-extremism initiatives have created a mounting concern about British youngsters being lured by ISIS propaganda. The boy’s parents are seeking a judicial review, arguing that the child was discriminated, because of his Muslim heritage.

Vol. 48, No. 28, Jan 17 - 23, 2016