News Wrap


Nagaland has been engulfed in protests, road blocks and arson since mid January 2017. Key towns and cities are shut down since beginning February 2017, as mobs are protesting against 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies. The highway between Dimapur and state capital Kohima is blocked by protesters. On 2nd February 2017, the Kohima municipal council building and several government and private offices were set ablaze. Besides state security, additional companies of Assam rifles have been deployed. Parts of Dimapur and Kohima remain under curfew. Movement of vehicles across the inter-state gates in Dimapur is greatly affected. Since 30 January 2017, to curtail the spread of rumours, services on mobile phones, including SMS and Internet, have been swithched off. Two protesters were Killed in police firing in Dimapur on 31 January 2017. The Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) has called an indefinite ‘bandh’ to protest the holding of municipal and town committee elections, with 33% quota for women. Chief minister TR Zeliang has resigned. The last civic elections were held in Nagaland prior to 1993. Tribal traditional bodies are exclusively run by men. The protesters' argument is that article 234(T) of the constitution, which provides for 33% reservation for women in local body elections would ‘‘infringe upon Naga traditions and customs’’. The Angami Youth Organisation (AYO) is also enforcing the blockade.

The Union ministry of finance is aiming to place the Goods and Services tax by 1 Sep 2017 in India. The GST Council has agreed to a flawed structure, with too many rates. A zero rate will apply to half the items. The other items will be distributed across five tax slabs, i.e. 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% for luxury goods. Additional cesses apply on some luxury goods for compensating the states, and also financing clean energy, the latter effectively constituting a fifth slab. The federal states have not agreed to including alcohol and real estate. A zero rate is far from an ideal structure with only one, or at most two rates. Real estate which has been omitted, is a large part of the capital cost of setting up new factories. The GST replaces the existing structure of central and state taxes. It may contribute much less to growth than a GST with far fewer slabs. The GST has approved a law to compensate the states for any loss of revenue, from the implementation of the new national sales tax. The central GST will be levied by the centre, the state GST by the states, and the Integrated GST will be levied on the state supply of goods and services.

Grabbing Farm Land
There was violence in Ausgram (Bardhaman district, Bengal) between 28 January to 1 February 2017, when a mob laid siege to Ausgram police station, ransacking it, and assaulting on duty police officers. Masonry workers were attempting to erect a concrete structure, on government land, near a local high school, despite public opposition. The structure was being erected by a civic police volunteer Saddam Sheikh, who is a kin of the inspector-in-charge of Ausgram police station, Imtiaz Khan. The school’s managing committee had already protested, and sought the intervention of the BDO, Ausgram-I. The village weekly rural ‘‘haat’’ was deserted. Shukhodanga, Harigoridanga, Korotia, Dayemnagar and Warishpur villages witnessed hasty migration of frightened people, as a large security contingent comprising RAF and STRACO conducted combing operations. The Pulse Polio Camp set up at Shukhodanga on 29 January 2017 and 5 February 2017 recorded zero turnout of children.

About 1875 acres of land had been acquired during the Left Front regime, of 2000 to 2011, for setting up the Rs 10,000 crore Bengal Aerotropolis project which included India’s first privately built greenfield airport at Andal (Bardhaman ditrict, Bengal). The private company had promised to provide jobs to the families of land losers and developed land within the project promises. These promises have not been fulfilled so far. Sharecroppers and other land losers are now pressing for their demands. Printed leaflets, enumerating land related demands, have been distributed at Khandra and Ajoy-Damodar areas, which are close to the Andal aerotropolis project.

US Military Exercise
Cambodia and China held a large military exercise ‘Golden Dragon’ for the first time in December 2016. On 17 January 2017, Cambodia announced postponement and cancellation of ‘Angkor Sentinel’ exercise with USA, because the armed forces would be busy with domestic commitments, notably local elections in June 2017, and a six-month anti-drug crackdown. Bilateral military exchanges and training programmes between USA and Cambodia are not affected. The scrapping of the annual joint military exercise comes as Beijing and Washington battle for influence in the region. In spite of China’s maritime claims, countries such as the Phillipine and Malay have already sought closer ties with Beijing. Cambodia has previously opposed criticism of Beijing, over its territorial ambitions from fellow states, in the 10 member Association of South Asian Nations. Hun Sen, Cambodia’s Prime Minister of more than 30 years favours a strategy of multiple alliances.

Vol. 49, No.43, April 30 - May 6, 2017