News Wrap


Under India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, till February 2015 end, around 3.9 million individual and community claims have been filed across India. But only 1.6 million land titles have been issued, while 1.7 million were rejected. The environment ministry has been trying to dilute the FRA, for easy access to land, to set up infrastructure projects. The FRA is aimed to ensure that forest dwellers, including Scheduled Tribes get their rights over forest land and non-timber forest produce. The State Government of West Bengal, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand are yet to fully implement FRA. The nine states do not have extensive and sufficient capacity-building programmes across the state to field officials and panchayat functionaries to take up implementation of FRA.

Sugar Mills and Loans
During the 2014-15 marketing year (October to September), India’s sugar production is estimated to cross 28 million tons, against 24.3 million tons in the previous year. The total annual demand is about 24 million tons. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Punjab are among the major sugar producing states. On 10 June 2015, the Union Government of India approved a Rs 6000 crore interest free loan to the sugar industry, to enable to clear cane arrears, that stand at Rs 21,000 crore. There will be a one year moratorium on loan repayment. The cost of interest subvention to the extent of Rs 600 crore, for the period will be borne by the government. The list of farmers whose dues are to be cleared will be prepared by the sugar mills. The banks will transfer the amount to the Jan Dhan accounts of cane growers. The loans are to be given to units that cleared at least 50% of their arrears before 30 June 2015. Repayment of the loan after a year may be difficult, as the sugar industry has a surplus stock of over ten million tons, and faces depressed sugar price. In December 2013, the government had sanctioned an interest free loan of Rs 6000 crore. Sugar import duty has been increased to 40%. The export subsidy on raw sugar has also been raised. Ethanol prices have been increased to promote its blending with petrol.

British Spies
The top secret cache of files, stolen by the fugitive US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, have been cracked by Russia and China. Moscow gained access to more than one million classified files, held by the former American Security Contractor who fled to Russia, after mounting one of the largest leaks in US history. This has forced British intelligence MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries. China has also cracked the encrypted documents, which contain details of secret intelligence techniques and information, that could allow British and American spies to be identified. In earlier interviews Snowden had referred to his desire to protect ‘‘privacy and basic liberties’’, and claimed the NSA and GCHQ were operating mass surveillance programmes that targeted hundreds of millions of innocent people. A June 2015 legal report of the British government has concluded that intelligence agencies should retain their powers for the ‘‘bulk collection’’ for communications data, but that the power to issue warrants for intrusive surveillance should be stripped from ministers, and handed to judges. Security services have reported increasing difficulty in the monitoring of terrorists and other dangerous criminals via digital communication, including e-mail, phone contact, chat rooms and social media. There is yet no evidence of anyone being harmed, by the Snowden leaks. The leaked information would enable China and Russia, to plug any of their intelligence capability gaps. It is not clear whether Russia and China stole Snowden’s data, or whether he voluntarily handed over his secret documents.

Vol. 48, No. 6, Aug 16 - 22, 2015