News Wrap


Awater aid report of March 2016, highlights India has the highest number of people, 7.6 million, in the world, without access to safe water. India is followed by China and Nigeria. Poor management of water resources leads to people incurring high costs for access to safe water. India has the greatest number of people living without access to safe water. Most of those poeple are living on around GBP3 a day. If they have the opportunity to buy water from a tanker, it can cost one rupee (£ 0.01) per litre, sometimes double if supplies are scarce. Poor management of water resources was holding India back, from reaching its entire population with water supplies. Aquifers provide 85% of drinking water, but levels are falling in 56% of India.

Between March to May 2016, Maharashtra’s Marathwada region has been battling one of the worst droughts in the recent past. Marathwada region is only left with paltry 380 Million Cubic Metre (MCM) of usable water, in over 800 dams in the region. The total capacity is 7968 MCM. Over 2500 water tankers are in operation in the region, mostly in the worst affected Beed, Latur,, Jalna, Nanded, Parbhani and Osmana-bad districts.

Land without farmers
As the issue is pending in the Supreme Court, the plots of land in Singur (West Bengal) taken over for the aborted Tatas’ Nano Plant, are yet to be returned to farmers, in spite of an overdrive by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, between 2011 and 2016. The land lies barren and abandoned. About 130 km away from Singur, fruits and vegetables are being grown on the premises of Ural India’s bus and truck unit in Haldia. Lack of orders has brought production to a halt in November 2015. The factory workers have been engaged by the Ural management, in cultivation to keep them busy and reduce the burden of monthly wages. The Ural factory has 11 permanent employees and 35 temporary hands. Ural India, a technology joint venture between Ural AZ of Russia and Motijug Agencies (Kolkata), has no formal arrangement with the workers to grow crops. The workers are farming only a part of the 100-acre premises, growing neem, mango, coconut, bananas, cauliflowers, beetroots, carrots, beans and other vegetables. They also cultivate fish in the large pond, on the compound, which is a reclaimed marsh land. Workers have a residential area inside. Records are maintained in hand written chits for the quantity of produce each worker has taken out of the factory. Amounts written on the chits are later deducted from salaries, when pay arrives from Kolkata. Sometimes, salaries are unpaid for months. The heavy duty trucks plant dues not have a test driving track. Construction of the assembly unit began in early 2006.

Authoritarianism in Turkey
Beginning March 2016, Turkey seized control of the country’s largest opposition news group, the Feza Media Group, which houses Zaman, the Cihan News Agency and several other publications. These had been under investigations for months, over its ties to Fethullah Gulen, an ally turned adversary of President Recap Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government had been using anti-terror ordinances to investigate the news group’s financial ties to Mr Gulen, who has been stripped of his passport and lives in self-imposed exile in USA. The seizure of the news group is part of a two-pronged assault by Mr Erdogan’s government on supporters of Mr Gulen, and on media outlets critical to his government’s policies. A week before national elections in November 2015, the government seized the assets of the Koza Ipek Group, which ran too newspapers and a television channel critical of Mr Erdogan. Two days after the Turkish government seized Turkish daily Zaman, the country’s biggest newspaper, ‘‘Zaman’’ published its first printed edition on 06 March 2016, under new management. The former editor-in-chief has been removed. Earlier an opposition newspaper, the latest edition firmly toes the government line.

Racial Privilege
17% of students in South African Universities are white, though whites make up 9% of South Africa’s population. Classes taught in Africaans are overwhelmingly made up of white students, while their black counterparts are taught in English, in separate classrooms. The country is still segregated on the basis of which classes one attends—‘black or white’. Africaans and English dominate in lecture rooms, while few courses are taught in South Africa’s nine other official languages. When the universities announced a 10% rise in tuition fees, sometime in 2015, campus protest movements intensified. The hike in tuition fees would have further disadvantaged pupils, from poorer black families. The government had backed down. A campaign to tear down the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Cape Town University, which began in March 2015, developed into a movement to ‘decolonise’ South Africa’s campuses. Since the new academic year commenced in February 2016, students across South Africa have torn down statues, burnt portraits of white colonialists and petrol-bombed university buildings. End February 2016, there was a televised brawl, between white and black students, at a Rugby game at the University of the Free State. White students reacted angrily to black students who invaded the pitch, protesting against the working conditions of the Bloemfontein University’s cleaning staff. Some of the black demonstrators in the universities, wear red reroutes, indicating that they belonged to the radical black Economic Freedom Fighters Movement, which is dedicated to wealth redistribution.

ISIS Recruiting in Russia
Russia is a fertile recruiting ground for ISIS Islamic State. President Vladimir Putin has claimed as many as 7000 men from the former Soviet Union, have joined the group. Dagestan, a mountainous region of 3 million people, plagued by Islamic terrorism for more than a decade, is thought to have provided the largest number of recruits. Twenty men have left from one mountain village, Novosasitli, home to fewer than 2000 people. Kremlin conducts a brutal crackdown on anyone, suspected of ties with the Islamists. Salafism, an ultra-conservative strand of Islam, imported from the Arab world, has spread quickly. Two wars in neighbouring Chechnya have radicalised many of Dagestan’s Muslims. Corruption, abuses by police and high unemployment have helped fuel militancy. May Russians who went to fight abroad from Russia’s North Caucasus, like Dagestan, have become disillusioned, and want to return home. Others are being driven out by Putin’s bombing campaign, in support of his Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Russian authorities are concerned that once back, they could unleash a wave of terrorism on Russian soil. A life of slavery awaits Russian widows in Syria, as Islamist handlers force them to marry other ISIS fighters. A small number of activists help recruits trying to escape from ISIS. A smuggler could ask for 1.25 million roubles (£ 12,000), for an escapee, which is an astronomical sum.

Vol. 48, No. 49, Jun 12 - 18, 2016