News Wrap


According to a new data-base, Global Consumption and Income Project (GCIP), led by University of Massachusetts (Boston, USA), Indian official figures might be understating the extent of poverty. Even if one adopts a slightly more charitable poverty line of around Rs 38 per day for 2011-12 (i.e. $2.5 per day in purchasing power parity terms), the poverty rate in India would be 47%, which is more than double the official statistics. The World Bank might have underestimated poverty in India, partially owing to differences in how Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) indices were used. The GCIP provides date till 2015. Numbers after 2012 are not wholly correct, because the measures for the latest years have been calculated by combining growth data with an unchanged distribution. Irrespective of the poverty line adopted, poverty in India has reduced substantially in recent years. However, inequality has not reduced. Data shows inequality has worsened in the post-reform period in India, of ‘‘neo liberal policies’’ of privatisation and globalisation. Income inequality has been consistently higher than consumption inequality. In spite of a growth rate of 7.5% per annum, just like any other poor country, India’s income inequality has been consistently higher than consumption inequality.

Mental Illness
The world’s one third cases of mental illness occur in India and China. Millions of people go untreated in these countries, because of stigma and lack of resources. Fewer than 6% of people in China, suffering from anxiety and depression, substance use disorders, dementia and epilepsy seek treatment. In India, only about one in 10 people is thought to receive specialist help. Less than 1% of the national budget is allocated to mental health care in China and India. A lack of trained mental health professionals, poor access to mental health services, low investment, and high levels of stigma prevent individuals in both countries, from accessing treatment. Mental health problems had increased over thirteen years. Depression and anxiety are the most common health problems, among working age adults, aged 20 to 69 years, in both China and India, with higher numbers of women affected than men. From 2015 to 2025, it is estimated that the number of healthy years lost to dementia will rise by 82% in India, and by 56% in China.

Brexit and immigration
Britain’s membership of the European Union was severed in the Brexit referendum in June 2016, in which the Leave campaign won 51.9%, to remain of 48.1%. Britain’s Border Force has asked the Royal Navy to help defend the English Channel [people smugglers]. Migration has social costs. Britain’s housing stock is severely limited. Schools and hospitals face the strain of over-crowding. Net migration of 333,000 in 2015, in Britain, a rise of 20,000, on 2014, was the second highest 12-month total on record. With 184,000 net long-term arrivals from the rest of the European Union, and 188,000 from the rest of the world in 2015, Britain remains a magnet for migrants. Immigration has been a key issue in the referendum debate. The British economy and society have gained from the influx of foreigners. Migrant workers contribute to the economy. Capping skilled economic migrants from outside the EU at 20,700 a year, makes it difficult for British businesses to recruit the people they need.

Radioactive tides in Fukushima
A powerful earthquake and tsunami struck Fukushima Daiichi in north eastern Japan in 2011, causing three reactors at Fukushima to melt down. A small army of workers are fighting a day-to-day battle to contain hazardous radiation from the ruined and radioactive nuclear plant. Employees release the radiation-contaminated water into the sea. There is no precedentor manual for the task. About 1500 spent fuel rods were successfully removed from a damaged storage tank in late 2014. Much of the contaminated rubble left by the tsunami and hydrogen explosions have been cleared. Overall radiation levels are down. Fukushima is bustling with about 7000 workers. Tokyo Electric pumps out about 720 tons of water from the basements of the damaged buildings, every day. About 1000 of the tanks have already been filled. Because there are not enough tanks, the plant also releases 2000 tons of the water into the ocean, every week, after a process that removes most of all radioactive particles. A full clean-up of the site, including the extraction of melted Uranium fuel from the damaged reactor cores, is expected to take at least forty years, according to the Japan government’s timetable. Following a court order, only one atomic power station is operating in Japan, due to inadequate new safety measures. More than 40 reactors are sitting idle in Japan. Mountains of collected soil and leaves have piled up across Fukushima region, as politicians debated how to dispose it off.

Arctic Village
Gallivare district court in Sweden, granted the Sami village of Girjas in February 2016, inside the Arctic circle, exclusive rights to control hunting and fishing in the area. Powers stripped from the Sami people, or Laplanders, by Sweden’s parliament in 1993 have been restored. Earlier Swedish state was accused of racism towards the country’s only indigenous people. Sweden’s nomadic reindeer herders have won a 30-year battle for land rights in a court case. After a long struggle during which the Swedish Sami Association petitioned the European commission and the court of human rights, the case came to court in Sweden in 2015. Sweden does not register the ethnicity of its citizens, so exact numbers are not known. About 20,000 Sami people are estimated to live in Girjas village, a small geographical area. A minority community continues the traditional reindeerherding way of life. The Sami language was recognized as an official minority language in 2000. Sweden’s Samis are also battling plans by Britain’s Beowulf Mining, to mine iron ore in Sweden’s far north.

Vol. 49, No.6, Aug 14 - 20, 2016