News Wrap


The native breed of cattle has become extinct in several parts of India. For the purpose of selecting the best bulls to sustain the progeny of the native breed, Tamil communities over three millenniums evolved the traditional ritual, Jallikattu (‘‘eruthazhuvuthal’’–embracing the bull). ‘‘Jalli’’ refers to coins, which could be of gold, and ‘‘Kattu’’ is making it into a bundle. The competitive spirit is provided to ‘‘eruthazhuvuthal’’, by tying a bundle of coins on the forehead of a bull, between the two horns. The winner is the brave young man, who succeeds in embracing the bull by clinging to its hump and picking up the bundle. During the last decade not a single bull has been killed, but over twenty valiant young men have lost their lives in Jallikattu, being gored by bulls. In January 2017, Tamil Nadu was brought to a standstill by a shutdown of protests conducted by students, youths and other sections demanding immediate staging of the traditional sport in Alanganallur, epicentre of Jallikattu and other places. The protesters demanded the bull be denotified from the list of ‘‘performing animals’’, which would ensure that the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, will not apply to the bull. Jallikattu returned to Tamil Nadu on 22 January 2017, after the state Tamil Nadu government issued an ordinance, to allow the bull-taming sport to be conducted, after a three-year long ban of the Supreme Court, in May 2014. The Supreme Court in its 2014 judgement had said that bulls could not be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events, or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in India, and had banned their use across the country. A review petition against the Supreme Court’s erstwhile verdict was dismissed some time earlier.

Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda Limited has reported a gross revenue of over Rs 3500 crore for 2016-17. Many of India’s spiritual leaders have jumped into India’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s ‘‘Isha Arogya’’, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ‘Sri Sri Ayurveda’, Baba Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda with ‘MSG’ brand, and Mata Amrit-anandamayi Math’s ‘Amrita Life’ are focused on growing their product portfolio, and competing with established entrepreneurs, and multi-nationals. The spiritual gurus have a captive customer base of health conscious practitioners of yoga, meditation and natural living. Established FMCG entities are confronted with Baba Ramdev’s disruptive strategy, especially low pricing for quality products. The spiritual gurus have ownership control over about 3000 stores across India, with a range of personal care products, dietary supplements, and daily consumption products with the essence of ancient wellness. The food products include pulses, pickles, jams, honey, mineral water, noodles and a variety of ‘namkeens’ and snacks. International brand Colgate-Palmolive, after logging double digit growth in the last decade, has a drop in sales growth by about 4% in 2016-17. Colgate has launched its own herbal toothpaste, the first localised brand in the eight decades, it has been in India.

Tensions in Bosnia
On 09 January 2017, hundreds of Bosnia’s Serb police officers and soldiers took part in an illegal ‘‘statehood day’’ celebration, underlying fractures in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peace settlement. Twenty five years ago ethnic Serbs declared a breakaway republic leading to a brutal civil war that killed more than 100,000 people. Bosnia’s federal constitutional court has ruled the statehood day celebrations as illegal. But Milroad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, the Serb dominated entity within Bosnia, has championed the event. A year after the region’s first President Radovan Karadzic, was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Bosnian Serbs have seized on the opportunity to assert ethnic pride, Muslim Bosniaks and critics view the statehood day celebrations as an attack on the 1995 Dayton peace settlement, which created a complex institutional framework with two entities, one dominated by Muslim Bosniaks and the other Republika Srpska, mostly populated by Orthodox Bosnian Serbs. Dodik has pledged to call a poll on secession by the end of 2008, and election year, which could be an independent referendum for the Serb-dominated region, breaking up Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia applied for EU membership in 2015. Russia has increasing influence in the region.

Bangladesh Garment Success
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse of April 2013, Bangladesh’s garment-making sector has rebounded strongly. Western clothing companies are buying more from Bangladesh than ever before, four years after the collapse of a factory in Dhaka in which more than 1100 workers were killed. Economists point out that while the booming garment industry is contributing to an overall growth rate of 7% in Bangladesh, it is suppressing wages and crowding out higher value sectors. There are barely any exports except ready-made garments. With no diversity in the economy, Bangladesh has not been able to produce more lucrative products. In 1983-84, Bangladesh garments sales abroad made up 3.9% of its total exports, and were worth $31.6 million. At the time of the Rana Plaza collapse, garments exports had reached 80% or $21.5 billion. The garments sector reached $28.1 billion in 2016, or 80% of total exports. The continued growth is the result of independent safety checks, and including workers and unions on inspection teams, in the aftermath of the April 2013 disaster. The Rana Plaza collapse caused the number of clothing factories in Bangladesh to shrink by 1654, within a year. 615 closed factories were related to the new safety measures, according to the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers Export Association.

Presently, more than 200 foreign brands have signed up to two different safety schemes, and have promised to spend tens of millions to improve factories. Buyers have regained trust in Bangladesh. But the industry has thrived by cutting prices and wages. The garments sector continues to grow largely on its cost competitiveness. Since Rana Plaza, the dollar price for a pair of cotton trousers, Bangladesh’s top export to USA, had declined by 9.3%. Despite the growth in sales and the overall Bangladeshi economy, the minimum monthly wage has remained at Taka 5,300 (about $67), since 2013. Workers’ rights are not improving, even with economic growth. Evidence points workers’ rights being eroded, while their safety has improved. End 2016, about 1500 garment workers were dismissed, following week-long strikes at dozens of factories supplying top western brands.

Vol. 49, No.41, April 16 - 22, 2017