News Wrap


On 11 July 2016, cow vigilantes tied seven dalits to an SUV car, at Una in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat, and took turns at flogging them. The four were skinning a dead cow, which was reportedly killed by a lion, when the assaulters pounced on them. Cow vigilantes in Gujarat enjoy political protection, and use bovine politics to maximise their returns from extortion and boot-legging rackets. The 2014 Lok Sabha polls saw one in every four dalits voting for the BJP, and the ratio was higher for the NDA, where one in every three dalits voted for it. The Congress, BJP, BSP, the Left parties and AAP are all vying with each other, for the Amdebkar legacy. Vigilante groups target dalits who are in the leather business, but do not confront those involved in cow slaughter. Dalits in Gujarat have started refusing to remove dead cows, for fear of being bashed up by Hindu vigilante groups. An in Daskroi of Ahmedabad district, the high caste people all over Gujarat are now forced to cremate dead cows in their own premises. Dalits are refusing to do this job anymore.

Ports of Discord
In the first week of July 2016, the Union Government of India granted in principle clearance to a Rs 25,000 crore transshipment harbour project at Enayam, a village 10 km north of Colachel’s fishing harbour, in Tamil Nadu. The objective is to attract large ships that presently dock at Colombo or Singapore. There is opposition to the new project from within Colachel, by villagers who fear displacement and land acquisition, and claim that they were never kept in confidence. Just 35 km away in southern Kerala’s Vishinjam, work has already started on a similar harbour, with the same objective. The Adani group is developing the Rs 7252 crore project in Vishinjam. The central government is investing in Engyam. Unlike ports at Chennai and Ennore, and JNPT, Nhava Sheva and Mumbai, ports at Vizhinjam and Colachel cannot boast of manufacturing hubs in the hinterland. A container terminus built at Vollarpodam near Kochi, about 200 km to the north of Vishinjam, is now making losses. Dredging for the ports can cause coastal erosion in the areas. The livelihood of over a lac of fishermen is at stake.

Firms and tankers
Ganapati Vanaspati and Shiv Shakti Ghee Udyog have so far been using roadways, for transporting imports of crude palm oil from Southeast Asian producers like Malayasia and Indonesia, and refining it for consumption. The landlocked Himalayan country Nepal, uses Indian ports, especially in Bengal, to trade with the rest of the world. The two Nepalese companies alone import 45,000 tons of edible oil, every year. The two Nepal based companies will save Rs 2 crore each by shifting transportation to Indian railways, which in turn will earn Rs 9 crore every year. The local tanker owners and the Budge Budge Edible Oil Tankers’ Association have opposed the move, citing loss of business. The two Nepalese companies have not been able to despatch consignments since January 2016, because of the dispute. A consignment of about 400 tons of edible oil, is rotting in a storage tank. In spite of an order of Calcutta High Court, Kolkata Police have failed to assist the two firms to ferry imported crude palm oil, by rail containers, to the Indo-Nepal border. Names of three Trinamul Congress councillors have been mentioned, in the police complaint. If the trouble continues, the Nepalese firms are likely to move to Paradeep ports in Odisha, for the imports.

Battle against land Acquisition
There have been over 110 days of protests in Medak district, against what the villagers describe as forceful acquisition of their homes and farmland by the Telengana state government. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s government proposes to construct Mallanasagar, a reservoir of 50tmc (thousand million cubic) feet capacity. The project requires 19,000 acres of land and will affect a population of about 30,000 in 14 villages of Medak district, that would all submerge. According to officials, the project estimated at a cost of Rs 9,400 crore, would irrigate over 10 lac acre, in the three districts of Medak, Nalgonda and Nizamabad, and supply water to Hyderabad. The Mallanasagar reservoir would be built at a height, to store lifted waters from Godavari, flowing in the adjacent Karimnagar district. The fertile land has good water supply, to provide two to three crops a year. At the panchayyat office, about a dozen village women, are on a relay hunger strike. The government detailed project report, has not been made public yet. Setting aside the Land Acquisition Act, the state government started acquiring land, village by village by Order No 123 of July 2015. The farmers fear losing rights over ‘Sada Bainama’’ that is transfer of land title, executed on a white paper, which is popular in rural Telengana, but has no legal sanctity. A compensation of Rs 6 lac an acre, less than the market value in many places, and a promise of house, has been offered by the state government.

Indian Cavalry soldiers
More than one million Indian soldiers, including Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, took part in the First World War, making up a third of British colonial forces, and 74,000 were killed. 600 soldiers travelled from the blistering desert of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan, to serve on the western front. The centenary remembers the first great cavalry charge on the Western Front which occurred on 14 July 1916. 20th Deccan Horse, with the British 7th Dragon Guards, advanced uphill, under a hail of machine gun fire, during the Battle of the Somme. The Germans up on the ridge were firing down into the valley. Some 100 British and Indian soldiers, and 130 horses died. The Indian cavalry in France was still using horses for patrolling and reconnaissance. For a long time these Indian soldiers have been ignored and forgotten, by the rest of the world and even in India, because they were seen as part of the colonial past. Many of the Indian soldiers had never seen a machine gun before. The annual remembrance day will be marked with button holes of marigolds, rather than poppies.

Vol. 49, No.10, Sep 11 - 17, 2016