News Wrap


The Indian energy sector added a total of 4,020 mega watts of solar capacities in the previous three years. Solar installations are expected to double to around 8,700 mw in 2017 from around 4,200 mw in 2016. Apart from payment delays, the sector faces structural problems, such as insufficient transmission capacities. The industry has experienced forced breakdowns due to poor transmission facilities. Even current demand is not being satisfied by the existing system. During November-December 2016, on an average, five million units were lost daily on the Indian Energy Exchange, due to congestion on the interstate transmission corridor. There is poor compliance with the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO), which stipulates that utilities will source a portion of their electricity requirements from green energy. Business certainty for the renewable sector has been scarcely provided. The Union Government of India has been constructing energy corridors and issuing advisories to state utilities. There has been limited progress in green energy corridor work. The infirm nature of solar and wind energy could destablise the grid and disturb the whole distribution system, especially with rising renewable energy capacities. The thermal power sector in India, which caters to most of the country’s energy requirements is presently operating at just 60% of capacity utilisation level.

Black Money
In 1978, when 1000, 5000 and 10,000 rupee notes were demonetised, 25% of the notes in circulation did not come back. The total size of the black economy in India is estimated at Rs 45,000 billion. If 20% of this is held in cash, this amounts to Rs 9000 billion. Holding the black money in property and other real assets is a way to hedge against inflation. Following the 08 November 2016 demonetisation drive, there has been a 30% fall in real estate prices. Property and assets generated by black money maintain their value only if there are people with enough black money to exchange these for cash. With demonetisation, faith in the promissory note has been shaken. There has been a surge of 30-fold in deposits to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, rising to over Rs 70,000 crore, especially in West Bengal and Karnataka. Unscrupulous elements have used these accounts of the poor and gullible, to convert their black into white. The Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes mopped from circulation, constituted 86% of total currency in circulation of cash economy. In spite of assertions to make enough cash available through ATMs and other withdrawal channels, the Reserve Bank of India, has curtailed currency supply by one-third. Not that they are going to make it normal anytime sooon. It’s a deliberate ploy.

Unstable Nagaland
Manipur’s Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh narrowly survived a murderous attack on his life on 24 October 2016, when his helicopter came under fire in Naga dominated Ukhrul district. ULFA cadres on 20 November 2016 ambushed an army convoy of 15 Kumaon Regiment, killing three jawans near Digboi, Assam. With Khaplong critically ill, commanders Nimlong Konyak and Kilonser Thoiba, are vying for the leadership of NSCN (Khaplong). In spite of a peace pact, the writ of NSCN (I-M) still runs in the region. Nagaland attained statehood in 1963. The demand for a separate ‘‘Frontier Nagaland’’ was first raised in 2010, spearheaded by the Eastern Naga People’s Organisation (ENPO) of tribes like the Konyak, Chang, Sangtam, Phom, Yumchunger and Khiamniungan, numbering 500,000 and who live in the border districts of Mon, Tuensang, Kiphire and Longleng. They complain of lack of development and infrastructure. Once Tuensang was part of the North East Frontier Agency (Now Arunachal Pradesh). Recently the ENPO held rallies in key towns like Mon and Tuensang. The United Naga Council (UNC) has been agitating against the Manipur state government’s decision to create Sadar Hills and Jiribam, into full fledged districts, claiming it would bifurcate ancestral lands of the Nagas in Manipur. Since 01 November 2016, the UNC has imposed an economic blockade an National Highways in Manipur. Widespread violence continues at intervals.

Fidel Castro’s Legacy
Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba passed away on 26 November 2016, at age 90. Leading a rebel army to an improbable victory in Cuba, Fidel Castro embraced Soviet style communism and defied the power of ten United States Presidents during his half century rule. Castro created the first communist state in the western hemisphere. He was a rising communist icon, when the Cold War was at its height. Under Castro, 15,000 Cuban soldiers were despatched to help Soviet-backed troops in Angola in 1975. Cuban troops were sent to Ethiopia in 1977. The communist command economy functioned in Cuba. Under Castro’s version of socialism, education and health care were vastly improved and illiteracy was almost eliminated. Castro gave Cuba self respect. The refusal to accept US hegemony struck chords in the region and beyond, and they have echoes even now. Fidel’s failing health paved the way for Fidel’s brother Raul Castro assume the powers of President in February 2008. Raul Castro, who is now 85, in the past years has kept dissent largely in check, and economic reforms limited, with the island economy in dire straits following US decrees on economic embargo since February 1962. The ashes of Fidel Castro were driven in a military caravan to Santa Clara, where it was temporarily reunited with the mausoleum of fellow revolutionary Ernesto ‘‘Che’’ Guevara, on 01 December 2016. Words on bill boards proclaimed ‘‘Until Victory, Always’’, a phrase Guevara wrote in a farewell to Fidel in 1967. Guevara was shot dead, a day after his capture on 08 October 1967 in Bolivia, at the age of 39.

Vol. 49, No.29, Jan 22 - 28, 2017