News Wrap


As in the rest of India, political activities in Bengal have assumed a distinctly religious overtone, in the wake of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s land-slide victory in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll. The BJP chose Ram Navami (05 April 2017), as an occasion to drum up support in Bengal, in its favour. Kharagpur police lodged a suo moto case under sections 25/30 of the Arms Act against the state BJP president, for displaying arms during the celebration of Ram Navami. Hundreds of men and children marched through the streets of Kolkata, displaying arms and other sharp weapons. Three separate cases were filed at Posta, Bhowanipore and Entally police stations.

After the Ram Navami festival in Bhadrak Town (Orisha) a communal flare up on 07/08 April 2017, had caused extensive damage to property. At least 300 shops were ransacked and torched. There was no loss of life. Several people have been arrested, around 45 platoons of police were deployed along with curfew and flag marches. Trouble started on 06 April 2017, when ‘‘blasphameous’’ comments were made on social media platform. VHP and Bajrang Dal activists demanded arrest of the culprits.

Jammu and Kashmir
The highest number of youths joined militancy in JK in 2016, in the past six years. An estimated 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016, the year when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with the security forces, leading to a wave of unrest in Kashmir valley. In 2016 almost 120 infiltrations took place from across the border, which is a four-year high. 87 security force personnel were killed in J and K in 2016, the highest in eight years. There has been a steady increase in the number of youths taking up arms in the valley from 2014 onwards, as compared to between 2010 and 2013. The levels of terrorist violence in the hinterland of Jammu and Kashmir are linked to infiltration from accross the border. Under the surrender policy since 31 Jan 2004 till date, 230 surrendered militants have benefited under the scheme.

Suspicions have been raised by losing sides in the last Bengal Assembly elections (May 2016) and the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections (March 2017) on EVMs. The  Election Commission of India has not brought out the voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs) introduced at random in 20 constituences and counting them to validate the EVM Count. The VVPAT allows a voter to print out his vote which is dropped in a ballot box and kept sealed. Sometime earlier, a Hyderabad Technologist procured one EVM of the public sector Bharat Electronics Corporation of India from Mumbai and demonstrated in a television show, how it could be hacked. Indian EVMs have a one-time programme built into it, like a calculator and it is not networked. The ECI has about two million EVMs.

Debts and Drought
Since Oct 2016, over 400 farmers have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu. With the  south-west and North-east monsoons failing, farmers kept visiting their fields with hope, till the land parched and paddy crop wasted. In the delta districts, like Nagapattinam, Thanjavur and Thiruvarur, around 80,000 acres of corps are estimated to be destroyed. Farmers have committed suicide at the rate of two suicides a day. Crops withered in just twenty days, in early Nov 2016. About 26 water channels including Vellayur, Kaduvayaar, Harichandra river and Veerashoshanar are awaiting massive desilting works. Canals which act as waterways on the Cauvery river have dried up. With the currency ban of 08 Nov 2016 co-oprative societies have stopped disbursing loans. Borrowings from private money lenders and alcohol have increased the distress. In Tamil Nadu’s farm belt, most farmers own one to three acres of land and invest around Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 per acre during each season. Land owners are becoming daily wage lebourers. State Government compensation packages cover only small farmers, who have up to 5 acres of land. The government has no plans for farmers who possess more than 5 acres. The compensations are yet to reach farmers’ bank accounts. Tamil Nadu is going through the worst drought in 140 years. Interest rates are high as 30 to 60 percent for loans from private agents.

Drug raids in Philippines
President Duterte of Philippines’ notorious anti-drug campaign has killed more than 7500 people and condemned by rights organisations as a crime against humanity. Police in the Philippines have turned to the Catholic church, in an attempt to rebrand the campaign. Ronald de Rosa, head of police, is currently focussed on a less bloody campaign, pursuing ‘‘high value’’ targets, rather than the small-time drug dealers and users, who have formed the bulk of the victims. Representatives of the church are accompanying police officers on drug raids. The drug raids are more extensive, aggerssive and well co-cordinated, with built-in systems that guarantee full accountability and instil internal discipline among all personnel. President Duterte was elected in 2016, on a promise to exterminate the drug trade. After an innocent South Korean businessman was murdered by police officers, the anti-drug campaign was suspended in Jan 2017. The New National police drug enforcement would try to rehabilitate users and prosecute dealers rather than simply shooting them dead.           

Vol. 49, No.49, Jun 11 - 17, 2017