News Wrap


India is a cash-based economy. Fake currency notes are a huge menace. The Reserve Bank of India Central Board has recommended to the government, designs for a new bank note series. As many as 250 out of 10 lac notes in circulation are fake. At any point of time, bank notes with a face value of Rs 400 crore are in circulation in the country. Fake currency notes with a face value of Rs 70 crore are infused into the system every year. Law enforcement agencies are able to intercept only a third of them. Fake Rs 1000 notes constitute about 50% of the total value of fake notes. By circulating counterfeit notes in India, Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been raking in an annual profit of around of Rs 500 crore. The ISI has been making a profit of 30% to 40%, on the face value of each counterfeit Indian note, produced in Pakistan. In 2010, Rs 1600 crore worth of fake currency came into India from abroad. Smugglers are increasingly using the Indo-Bangladesh border to smuggle in fake Indian currency notes. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh accounted for over 43% of recovered and seized fake currency notes. In 2015-16, Rs 9.31 crore (approx) of fake notes were recovered from Delhi, Rs 3.29 crore (approx) from UP, Rs 3.02 crore (approx) from Gujarat and Rs 2.20 crore (approx) from Tamil Nadu.

Byzantine Church
Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the former Byzantine Church, has been a centre of centuries-long conflict between Orthodox Christianity and Islam. The domed Basilica was the jewel in the crown of the Byzantine empire, until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. After the fall of Constantinople, mosaics depicting biblical scenes were covered in plaster. Leather boards bearing Koranic scriptures were erected on the walls. On the orders of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, the Church was converted into a museum in 1935. Currently Muslim religious rites and daily prayers are being regularly performed in the great domed Basilica. The camera of the state religious channel lingers on the Islamic patterns painted on the ‘mihrab’, a niche in the wall that faces Mecca, or on the ‘minbar’, the pulpit where the imam preaches. Daily readings from the Koran in the Church, are a sign that the Islamic rooted government of Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aims to turn the church back into a mosque. The move has infuriated Greece, the heir to the Byzantine empire. Turkey accuses the Greeks of mistreating their Muslim population. Turkish nationalists have intensified their decades-long campaign for ‘‘the church of the divine wisdom’’ to be turned back into a mosque. There are clear signs of a lack of desire by Turkey, to engage with Europe and its values.

Peace in Colombia
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, and the rebel FARC chief, Timoleon ‘‘Timochenko’’ Jimenez, ended one of the world’s oldest wars on 23 June 2016, with the signing of a ceasefire agreement that brings to a close, more than 50 years of bloodshed. The ceremony in Havana was attended by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General. The peace deal is expected to be passed by a referendum in Colombia. The formal cessation of hostilities and the FARC’s acceptance of disarmament are key steps towards resolving a war, in which more than 250,000 people have died, and at least 5 million have been displaced. Inequality and lack of development in Colombia’s rural areas continue. Previously, USA had given billions of dollars in aid to the Colombia government, to build up its fire power and intelligence capabilities against the FARC. Now President Barack Obama has asked the US Congress for $450 (£ 300) million in US aid, to support post-conflict projects. Essential for the peace process is the ceasefire and demobilisation of 7000 FARC soldiers, who have bases in the mountains and forests.

Vol. 49, No.23, Dec 11 - 17, 2016