News Wrap


India’s Union Law Ministry has rendered advice to the Union Government of India that the government can withdraw its earlier support to the 22 February 2011 order of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, which declared Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, a religious minority institution. The JMI University was established through a central legislation, and was neither started nor run by the Muslim minority. In pursuance of the 2011 order, the JMI university discontinued reservation for SC/ST and OBC students, and set aside half its seats in each course for Muslim candidates. The central government used a similar argument to retract the government’s earlier stand on the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University. The 2011 NCMEI order on JMI goes against Section 7 of the JMI Act (1988) which stipulates that ‘‘it shall not be lawful for the university to adopt or impose on any person any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession....’’

Drugs from Pakistan
Opioids worth Rs 7500 crore are consumed in India’s Punjab every year. Heroin’s share is a massive Rs 6500 crore. All the heroin that comes to Punjab is through the Pakistan border, transported by smugglers, allegedly aided by Pakistan’s ISI. The terrorists who attacked the Pathankot Airbase in January 2016, are believed to have used the drug smugglers’ network. While a large portion of Pakistan heroin passes through to bigger cities like Delhi, Punjab with a population of 2.77 crore people, has more than 1.23 lac heroin dependent people. Punjab’s opioid dependents are four times higher than the global average. A new study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found that 0.84% (around 2.3 lac) of the entire state’s population is opioid dependent. On an average, a heroin dependent individual spends about Rs 1400 per day on opium derivatives, as well as artificial drugs inducing substances. In Punjab, opioid-dependent people are spending Rs 20 crore (approx) daily on drugs. Injecting drug users is around 75,000 in Punjab, which makes the state vulnerable to an epidemic of HIV.

Mumbai’s slum Museum
The world’s first slum museum, opened for two months in February 2016, in Mumbai. The small mobile museum is in Dharavi, one of Asia’s biggest slums, and the setting for Danny Boyle’s hit 2008 film ‘‘Slumdog Millionaire’’. The museum showcases some of the many objects produced in Dharavi every year, and displays everything from pottery and textiles to recycled items. Spanish artist Jorge Rubio is behind the initiative. More than a million people live in the slums of Dharavi, with many working in the area’s mini-factories. Design museum Dharavi challenges people’s perception of slums, by highlighting the creative talent that resides in them. The success of the movie ‘‘Slumdog Millionaire’’ made Dharavi a tourist attraction. Guides offer tours of its hundreds of workshops. Prince Charles of Great Britain in 2010 cited Dharavi as a role model for sustainable living. Dharavi has a commendable habit of recycling waste, and in 2015 it hosted its first arts Giennale. Mumbai has a population of 20 million inhabitants, and more than half live in slums. The slum dwellers endure cramped conditions, poor ventilation and lack of toilets.

Parties in Spain
Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s Prime Minister is still trying for a coalition, after heavy losses in Spain’s elections of December 2015, left his ruling conservatives, the Popular Front (PP) with 123 MPs, more than any rival but well short of the 176 required for a parliamentary majority. The leftist insurgents Podemos, the anti-austerity party, made giant advances, claiming 69 seats. The left faces a complex task. An alliance of the 90 Socialists MPs and Podemos would yield 159 parliamentary votes, also short of majority. The showing of the Socialists was the worst result in the party’s history. Till the December 2015 polls, the PP and Socialists had alternated majority rule, since the end of the Franco dictatorship. There are 40 MPs from the market friendly Centrist Party Citizens. The Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party won nine seats. Six seats went to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). Bildu won two seats, and has had links to the Basque separatist organization Eta in the past. Spain’s stock exchange has fallen 3.1% since the December 2015 elections. King Felipe who came to the throne in 2014, faces the biggest challenge of his government, and could call new general elections.

After six years of harsh austerity and labour reforms, Spain’s growth is at 3%. Unemployment has been about 20% for most of the past four years, and more than double that rate among the young. The political parties are wrangling over whether the Catalonia region should be allowed to hold a referendum on independence from Spain. Felipe VI the Spanish monarch’s constitutional role is to propose the next head of government to parliament. The anti-austerity Podemos party has proposed a three-way coalition government, with the Socialists and the United Left Party. The Socialists came out narrowly ahead of Podemos in the December 2015 general election, winning 22% of the vote, while its leftist rival obtaining 20.7%.

Domestic Violence in China
Domestic violence is often ignored in China, to avoid bringing shame upon the family, in traditional Chinese culture. In the last week of December 2015, China’s parliament has passed the country’s first law against domestic violence. The law prohibits any form of domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and helps streamline the process for obtaining restraining orders. About a quarter of all women have suffered violence in their marriage, though only 40,000 to 50,000 complaints are registered each year. Almost 90% of the cases reported in 2015, involved abuse of wives by their husbands. The law was a response to specific problems discovered, and also covers unmarried people who cohabit.

Homosexuality is not illegal in China. Large cities have thriving gay scenes, but there are no legal protections for same-sex couples. China is not likely to legalise same-sex marriage soon.

Vol. 48, No. 35, Mar 6 - 12, 2016