News Wrap


Ajournalist, Mathew Sammuels of the news portal Narada News (NN) has in a ‘‘Sting’’ operation of April 2014, ‘exposed’ thirteen Trinamul Congress leaders, including three ministers and six MPs, purportedly accepting bribe, from a fictitious import-export company. An IPS officer and other Trinamul leaders are ‘‘caught’’ on camera accepting bribes of Rs 5 lac each, assuring the company of all co-operation. The Sting Operation names West Bengal ministers, Kolkata Mayor and Trinamul Congress party MPs in the scam. Amid the raging scandal related to the ‘‘Sting’’ video, the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on 16 March 2016, referred the matter against the Trinamul MPs to the House Committee on Ethics, for a thorough probe. The Central Election Commission is also examining the matter. The video footage is yet to be examined by a State Forensic Laboratory. The Bengal Sting Operation was conducted before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The owner of the ‘‘Sting’’ is Mathew Sammuels, who was part of the pioneering Tehelka Operation that felled the then BJP President Bangaru Laxman, in 2001. The NN website functions out of a small basement in Noida (Uttar Pradesh). West Bengal’s Trinamul Chief Minister had demanded the resignation of the then Defence Minister George Fernandez, after the Tehelka scandal in 2001 and used the issue to walk out of the BJP-led NDA government.

Burning of Bible
At St Sebastian Nagar in Daund, about 80 km from Pune (Maharashtra), a Bible and other religious books were found burnt at a grotto, dedicated to Mother Mary, on 09 March 2016, morning. The grotto is located in an open space, outside St Sebastian Church. It is frequented by a large number of worshippers. Besides the burnt books, a packet of bidis was found on the glass of the grotto. An earthen pot used for Hindu funerals and a Tulsi pot were also found nearby. The Bible, prayer books and a hymnal book of religious songs, in various languages, are kept at the grotto. The sad incident has disturbed the Christian community, since Mary is the mother of Jesus.

No Selfie Zones
Globally, young people aged 21 and under, are the victims of more than two-thirds of Smart-Phone Selfie related deaths. Almost three-quarters of the victims are males. The top three causes are falling from heights, drowning or being hit by a train. With 1.25 billion citizens and one of the world’s fastest growing Smart-Phone markets, since 2014, 24 of the world’s 54 selfie-linked deaths, have occurred in India. The subcontinent is the world leader in selfie-related accidents, as India’s youth is gripped by a craze for selfies taken in unusual spots and unique angels. Recently, Mumbai has enforced 16 non-selfie zones across the city, after a spate of accidental deaths, linked to ‘‘Selfie Fever’’. Mumbai’s Municipal Council and the city’s police have declared selfies off-limits in areas perceived as risky—particularly coastal spots with no barriers. In January 2016, an 18-year-old woman drowned in the sea, while taking a photo of herself at Mumbai’s Bandra Fort Bandstand, a tourist spot, popular for selfies. The No-Selfie zones include areas of the city’s Marine Drive promenade, and the Girgaum Chowpatty beach.

Truant Teachers
Nearly 24% of rural Indian teachers are absent. When Mr Manoj Mishra, the District Education Officer in Deoria (Uttar Pradesh state) arrived in 2014, 40% of the district’s teachers were absent on any given day from its 2700 schools. Today the teacher attendance has soared to above 90%, considering sickness and personal matters. Mishra leads raids on schools each month. He set up a tollfree number to report Truant Teachers, and painted on every school wall.

German Jews and Muslim Refugees
German-speaking Jews were originally born into families in the former Czechoslovakia and Poland, spending childhood fleeing the Holocaust and then communism. After an odyssey across Europe, and a short spell in Israel, German-speaking Jewish families adopted Germany as homeland, around 1964. Germany has little experience with Arab migration. The majority of Muslim migrants in Germany are from Turkey, a moderately secular society. German Jews are increasingly worried about the more than one million migrants who have arrived from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Morocco. These nations do not recognise the Israel state, and anti-semitism is common place in these countries. To many of the Arab refugees coming from counties where youngsters are indoctrinated with anti-semitism, from an early age. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has voiced concerns about absorbing hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Arab countries, many of them young men. Jews have been urged to wear baseball caps over their kippahs. Germany faces the problem of integrating many thousands of young Arab men, who have grown up in societies, where anti-semitism is part of the public discourse.

Local Jewish charities were among the first to organise help for asylum seekers coming into Frankfurt. Some Arab migrants refuse food offered by local Jewish charities. They believe the food could be poisoned.

Reformists in Iran
End February 2016, twin Iraian elections show a sweeping victory for reformist-backed candidates, in the race for parliament and the assembly of experts. Reformist candidates took all but one seat in the assembly, a powerful clerical body responsible for appointing the next supreme leader. They enjoyed a clean sweep of all 30 seats allocated to Teheran, in the 290-seat Iranian parliament, the ‘majlis’. Reformist-backed candidates and independents allied with president Hassan Rouhani out-number conservatives, who are against his mandate. As many as 20 women have entered the ‘majlis’, the most ever. The previous record was set nearly 20 years ago during the fifth Parliament after the 1979 revolution, when 14 women held seats. Eight of the women elected this time are on a reformist-backed list of 30 candidates standing in the Teheran constituency, known as ‘‘the list of hope’’.

Although women can vote and drive in Iran, discriminatory laws persist. Women are required to wear the hijab, and in court their testimony is worth only half that of a man. They also face inequality in inheritance rights. However, women have a strong presence in civil society. Some have spent time in jail for advocating women’s rights. Women in Iran have held senior government jobs. Iran currently has a number of female vice-presidents and one female ambassador.

Supporters of Rouhani, who promoted the nuclear deal are pitted against hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Alikhameini, who are wary of detente with Western countries.

Vol. 48, No. 43, May 1 - 7, 2016