News Wrap


India’s monsoon rainfall in 2016 was 3% below average, in stead of the predicted 6% above average. Even then it was distributed well, to point to good crop yields. Quantum of all-India Rainfall was about 97% of the long period average. 27 of India’s 35 meteorological subdivisions, received normal or excess rainfall, during the last monsoon season. Overall rainfall was comparatively well distributed. Eastern and North Eastern India experienced rainfall of 11% below normal. Rice production in 2016-17, is expected to be a record 93.88 million tons, which is higher than the 92.78 million tons of 2011-12. There are predictions of record 19.3 million tons of maize, and a record kharif pulse crop of 8.7 million tons, more than 3 million tons higher than 2015-16. There has been a record sowing and filling of reservoirs with sufficient water, after two years of drought. Excess rainfall led to floods in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Deficit rainfall in Karnataka led the state government to declare drought in 22 districts.

Kaziranga Eviction
Assam police conducted an eviction drive early on 20 September 2016, in Bandardubi locality of Kaziranga sanctuary, under Nagaon district (Assam). The eviction drive was conducted on the orders of Guwahati High Court, relating to October 2015, where it ordered the authorities to evict around 190 families settled in Bandardubi, Deosursang and Palkhowa villages, adjacent of NH-37, near Kaziranga National Park. At least two civilians were killed during a mob violence, stampede and police firing. Both local residents, including a woman had allegedly joined in a resistance movement, against an eviction drive against the illegal settlers in the locality and suffered serious injuries. There has been an unexplained delay between the judicial direction and its execution in after almost a year. The term ‘‘illegal settlers’’ in the periphery of the Kaziranga Sanctuary, is merely a euphemism for migrants from Bangladesh. The Bharatiya Janata Party is determined to eject them, taking 2014 as the cut-off year. The Dispur administration mobilised no fewer than six elephants, excavators and road rollers to demolish hearth and home of the settlers. The Assam State Government claims that these ‘‘illegal settlers’’ were actually poachers, who are primarily responsible for the dwindling population of the one-horned Rhino, large-scale poaching calls for collusion of forest officers. About 3.30 lac hectares are encroached in Assam’s National Parks and Sanctuaries. 3085 sq km of forest cover in Assam has been lost in 29 years, since 1987.

Terror Camps
Kashmir’s sovereignty has been the cause to two wars in thirty years between the nuclear armed neighbours. On 18 September 2016, eighteen Indian soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn rain of Uri military base in Kashmir. While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, New Delhi has been quick to point the finger at Pakistan. Ten days after the Uri terror attack, the Indian army on 29/30 September 2016 midnight, carried out Surgical Strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC), in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. ‘‘Significant casualties’’ were inflicted on terrorists and their associates, while pre-empting their infiltration bid. The well-planned secret army operation targeted seven terror launch pads across the LoC, in which helicopter borne and ground forces were deployed. The Special Indian Army Forces went about 2 km deep inside the PoK. Scores of terrorists are reported to have been eliminated but nobody really knows the exact figure. Leaders from across the political spectrum spoke in unison to hail the army for this operation. Commandos of 4 Para Special Forces (SF) crossed the LoC at the Tutmari Gali area, in the Nowgam sector of Kupwara, some time after midnight 29/30 September 2016, almost simultaneously with those of 9 Para (SF) between Balnoi and Nangi Tekri in the Poonch area. Cross border intrusions from the PoK side and skirmishes still continue. Without any prior notice to the painter, publisher and owner, the Jammu and Kashmir government banned the publication of Srinagar-based English daily ‘‘Kashmir Reader’’ on 02 October 2016, calling it a threat to ‘‘public tranquillity’’. In 2011, 2013 and 1014, the Congress Party led Union Government of India also carried out similar Surgical Strikes in Pakistan administered Kashmir.

Insurgency in Chattisgarh
Between 1968 and 1998, there were only 70 armed conflict related deaths in Chattisgarh. The Maoist infested district of Bastar in Chattisgarh state, is the most militarised region in India. The war between the government and the Maoists started in earnest in 2005, when thousands of villagers were forcibly moved into Salwa Judum camps after their villages were burnt. Scores of women were raped and hundreds of people killed. With the launch of state security establishment’s ‘Operation Green Hunt’, the war changed form in 2009. The CRPF replaced vigilants and the joint enterprise of surrendered Maoists and state security forces, as the predominant fighting force. While currently there is more coverage of the war, and a larger number of Chattisgarh inhabitants talking, Mission 2016 involves huge paramilitary deployment, urban vigilante who are openly supported by police, threatening activists and journalists. Encounter clashes and deaths are almost daily. Police refuse to register FIR. Both Congress and BJP have supported Salwa Judum and ‘Operation Green Hunt’. The government is pouring money into security camps, paramilitaries and four lane highways.

Flame Throwers
The war in Syria has killed over 400,000 people and displaced millions. Russia has gained access to the US built Incirlik base in Turkey, about 65 miles from the Syrian border. The base is used by NATO, and has about 50 US tactical nuclear warheads, stored on site. Any progress to bring a solution to the five and half year-old war in Syria, through a Russia-US-brokered ceasefire disappeared in mid-September 2016, when a UN aid convoy was attacked in Urumal Kubra, near Aldppo, by what were thought to be Russian aeroplanes. About 20 people were killed. Last week of September 2016, Russia faced accusations that it had deployed a weapon capable of blasting a massive ball of flame, across wide areas of Aleppo. US coalition forces have been targeting ISIS bases near Deir ez Zour. Bombardment of Aleppo’s water pumping stations has cut mains water, and targeted strike has destroyed many of the emergency clinics. The Russian ‘‘Blazing Sun’’ TOS-IA launcher, has the 24-rocket fusillades which cause chemical explosions, designed to suck up all the oxygen in the target zone. Flame throwers and fuel-air explosives have been used in earlier conflicts, including the Second World War and Vietnam. US aircraft also fired thermobaric warheads during the hunt for Osama bin Laden, to suck oxygen from the caves of Tora Bora, in Afghanistan. Russian long range bombers, including the SU-34 and TU-22M3 jet warplanes, have carried out air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, taking off from Hamadan, a city in the west of Iran.

Vol. 49, No.26, Jan 1 - 7, 2017