News Wrap


The Government of India’s efforts over 2015-16 and 2016-17, had reportedly brought into the open about R 1.25 lac crores of Black Money of the corrupt, till end October 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, the circulation of all currency notes, from the lowest to the highest denomination, grew by about 40%. In the same time period, the circulation of Rs 500 denomination and Rs 1000 denomination currency notes increased by 76% and 109%, respectively. During this period, the size of the Indian economy expanded by only 30%. The magnitude of cash in circulation was directly linked to the level of corruption. As many as 250 out of 10 lac notes in circulation are fake. Fake notes with a face value of Rs 70 crore are infused into the system, every year. Rs 1000 notes constitute about 50% of the total value of counterfeit notes.

Villages neighbouring Bangladesh in Malda’s Kaliachak (North Bengal) are the hub of fake currency notes. The livelihood of 18-odd villages, in a 12 sq km area under Gopalganj police station, has been dependent on ferrying counterfeit currency from Bangladesh into India. As estimated by security agencies, half the fake currencies that are currently in circulation, particularly prior to 08 November 2016 demonetisation, have entered India through these villages. 80% of the fake notes enter the Indian economy, through the 172 km Malda border with Bangladesh. Of these, 55% to 60% notes are actually from Pakistan. The fake notes are smuggled into India, through Bangladesh by villagers in the Kaliachak triangle like Gopalganj, Mohabbatpur and Chorianantapur. The fake notes smuggler receives 45% to 60% of every note smuggled, at face value. Daily wage agricultural labour, and ‘bidi’ binding by women, are the main trades in these villages. Out of the 172 km of the porous India-Bangladesh border that runs along Malda, around 118 km is fenced, while the rest remains open.

Human rights abuses
The Burundi government of President Pierre Nkurunziza, has been accused by United Nations investigators of gross human rights violations, following a nine-month inquiry into the alleged torture and murder of government opponents, in the African state. Investigators had verified nearly 600 executions in Burundi, since April 2015, when president Nkurunziza, prompted protests by announcing he would seek a third term in office. There is evidence of rapes, disappearances and mass arrests, as well as the torture and murder of thousands of people. Most victims were people who were opposed or perceived to be opposed, to the third mandate of Nkurunziza, or opposition party members. Members of the ruling party were also targeted, though the primary targets of the repression were ‘‘members of civil society, especially human rights defenders and journalists’’. Following a failed coup attempt in 2015, Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in 2015. The 53-year-old leader, in power since 2005, then won disputed elections in July 2016. Officials in Burundi have denied the allegations and described the report as biased. Twelve senior members of the security forces, who report directly to the government, are responsible for disappearances. Many were tortured, and were reportedly held in secret jails, including at the homes of the president and a minister. There were death lists of people to be eliminated. The bodies of some people who were summarily executed, were taken across the Ruzizi river, and buried in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The seventeen types of torture used by the security forces, ranged from attaching weights to the testicles, to forcing a victim to sit on broken glass, or stay next to the dead body of a relative. Many women fleeing the country were raped by members of the youth wing of the ruling party, Imbonerakure, border guards and unidentified men. Satellite imagery suggests the existence of mass graves. Three commissions of inquiry were set up in Burundi to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. But the government has ‘‘blatantly failed’’ to investigate.

Beijing’s arms sales
Middle East conflicts have become proving ground for new generation of weapons manufactured in China. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have fired volleys of the Chinese designed C-801 or C-802A anti-ship missiles at US warships in the Gulf of Aden. No American vessel has been hit. But one missile damaged a high-speed ferry operated by the United Arab Emirates, but reportedly without any casualties. The US administration and other western governments are under pressure to halt arms sales to Riyadh, as Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen are contributing to a humanitarian crisis, leaving thousands dead. The profile of a new generation of Chinese strategic weapons has been raised, with the missile attacks off Yemen. Many of the weapons are being used in combat for the first time, in dirty wars throughout the Middle East and Africa. Chinese arms are playing an increasing role in the conflicts. Low-Tech hardware, such as the Type-56 Assault Rifle, a variation of the Russian AK-47, have been widely used for decades. The Middle East is becoming the proving ground for a new generation of advanced Chinese weapons such as missiles, aircraft and drones. China has become the world’s third largest arms trader, between 2001 to 2015, overtaking Germany. Its arms exports have risen 143%. The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation manufactures anti-ship missiles. China has not signed the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty. The Chinese CH-14 drones have been sold to Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The cost of a Chinese fighter aircraft J-17 is half the price of a similar western aircraft.

Vol. 49, No.28, Jan 15 - 21, 2017