News Wrap


India’s Rajya Sabha Bill of July 2016, amends the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, and aims to abolish child labour. The Bill before the Lok Sabha for final enactment as the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act abolishes all forms of child labour to enable children to exercise their rights to education up to 14 years. But it introduces a proviso allowing children up to 14 years to work after school hours, in family run enterprises, and creates a new category of adolescents, in the age group of 14 to 18 years, who can be employed in non-hazardous occupations. The new legislation virtually ignores the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009), a statutory obligation to ensure that every child completes elementary education. The status quo is maintained, by ensuring that access to learning and progress, is confined to the affluent, and denied to the poor. Legalising Child Labour in family-run enterprises could lead to children dropping out of school, without completing elementary education, and become full-time abolescent workers for augmenting family income.

Primary Schools
The state government of West Bengal has been unable to fill the 30,000 vacancies of primary teachers, in the 59,000 state-aided primary schools across the state. A fiasco has prevailed over the past three years, in the recruitment of primary teachers, and irregulaties in the conduct of exams for recruitment. The 05 August 2016 order of Calcutta High Court directs a stay in the recruitment of primary teachers. The primary schools are decrepit with an appalling teacher-student ratio, and the concept of ‘‘universal and compulsory’’ primary education is miles away from implementation. The High Court has allowed the state education department to declare the results of the recruitment examination, but it has been barred from recruiting teachers. Earlier those who had not cleared the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) in 2013, were recommended for appointment. About 20 lac candidates had appeared to fill 30,000 vacancies, in the aborted test of October 2015. A mandatory qualification has been prescribed by the National Council for Teachers’ Education, and duly endorsed by the Union Human Resources Development Ministry. A candidate must possess either the diploma in elementary primary education, or have participated in the primary teachers’ training programme. Since the days of the Left Front and now Trinamul Congress, Bengal’s leaders have not implemented one of the compulsory rules of engagement.

FaceBook Censors
Burhan Wani, a senior member of the Hizbul Mujahideen, a rebel group in Kashmir Valley, was killed by the Indian army on 08 July 2016. Violent protests spread across Kashmir in the aftermath of the killing. An indefinite curfew has been introduced by the Indian government. Facebook has censored dozens of posts and user accounts, after the death of the senior Kashmiri separatist militant. Entire accounts on recent events in the disputed territory, posted by academies, journalists and the pages of local newspapers are among those to have had photos and videos, have been deleted by Facebook. Mobile phone coverage, landlines and internet services are curbed throughout the region, except in the main city of Srinagar. Police has raided newspaper offices, seizing thousands of printed copies. There was a three day ban on newspapers in the third week of July 2016. Information blackout has been exacerbated by censorship on Facebook. Without credible information or access to communication channels, there is an atmosphere of uncertainty in the Muslim majority region.

South China Sea
An international court, the UN backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, has ruled on 12 July 2016, that China has no valid claims to islands in the South China Sea. China has vowed to defy the judgement, and landed aircraft on runways that it has built, on reclaimed atolls far closer to the Philippines, than to mainland China. In contravention of international law, China continues to develop the remote islands. There are fears that several nations with competing claims in the area, may escalate a regional arms race. The international court’s judgement over the rights to disputed islands and reefs, represents a sweeping victory for the Philippines and Vietnam. The tribunal maintained that none of the Spratly Islands, where China has been developing and expanding man-made islands, building runways and ports, was ‘‘capable of generating extended maritime zones’’ as Beijing has insisted. None of the artificial islands that China has been building should enjoy the 200 national mile ‘‘exclusive economic zone’’ enjoyed by inhabited land. China re-iterates sovereignty over the South China Sea, based on more than 2000 years of activity by Chinese people.

Vol. 49, No.19, Nov 13 - 19, 2016