News Wrap


Four earth-moving equipments, two each in Nurmati and Pulusumamidi, in the Madugula mandal of Vishakhapatnam Agency (Andhra Pradesh), were torched by members of CPI (Maoist), on 07 September 2017, night. About ten armed militias visited the villages, and torched the equipment, parked on the outskirts. Police statements indicate that the earthmovers were not engaged in road construction. They were being used by a contractor to lay the BSNL’s optic fibre cable. Maoists generally destroy equipment used for laying roads. Nurmati and Pulusumamidi are close to Vakapalli village where a rape had occurred in August 2017. India’s Supreme Court had ordered on 01 September 2017, for the speedy trial of thirteen police personnel from Andhra Pradesh state, accused of gang rape. The Maoists are sending out a clear message, endorsing their support for the rape victims. After the monsoons, the Maoists have an increased presence in the area. Top Maoist leaders, such as Chalapathi and Gajarla Ravi or Uday, in charge of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zone Committee, are leading the movement in Madugula Mandal area.

Right to Privacy
Enriching the rights and liberties of Indian citizens, a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court on 24 August 2017, unanimously declared that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the constitution. The nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar ruled : ‘‘The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, and as part of the freedom guaranteed by Part III of the constitution’’. The new rulings overturn the Apex Court’s two earlier judgements in 1954 and 1962, which had stated that the Right to Privacy was not a fundamental right under the constitution. Long-term ramifications are expected from the judgement, for a range of major issues and pending legal cases ranging from the Aadhaar matter to the question of beef-eating, to criminalisation of gay sex under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the issue of protection and regulation of data in the current technological age. Privacy will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi government had consistently contested in court that a citizen had no right to privacy.

Poland and EU
Poland’s right-wing government, led by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), whose members are the United Kingdom’s Conservatives’ allies in Europe, is waging an unprecedented all-out war with the European Commission over issues ranging from alleged attempts to control the judiciary to illegal logging. The row is centred on a planned reform of the judiciary that includes giving the justice minister, who is also the prosecutor-general, the power to dismiss judges, and appoint their successors. Brussels says this would subvert the rule of law and violate EU principles. In recent weeks, EU institutions have threatened to suspend Poland’s voting rights in Brussels. Leading politicians in Warsaw pledge to persevere with their controversial agenda, which they claim is legal under Poland’s constitution. Surveys show that more than 70% of Poles want to reform what they see as a corrupt and inefficient system. Polish ministers are ignoring an end of logging in the UNESCO-protected Bialowieza forest, in the shape of an EU injunction. The 40-million strong Poland is the biggest recipient of Brussels funding. In 2015 alone, Warsaw received 13.4 billion euros, which is 3% of its GDP. Together with Hungary, Poland is a leading opponent of an EU scheme, to distribute refugees.

Border Fences
Governments across Europe have no agreed solution for the surge in illegal migration, from Africa and the Middle East. The Greek authorities crackdown on rescue operations has endangered the lives of migrants, stranded on the island of Lesbos. The Greek coastguard is restricting private life saving boats to one launch a day, and requires volunteers to inform the authorities of any planned rescue attempts 24 hours in advance. British volunteers claim they have been harassed by the authorities, viz fined for small infractions of the rules, and told to leave the outposts, where they scout for migrant boats in the Mediterranean. Greek authorities say the restrictions are aimed at regulating rescue operations. The European Union and Turkey have struck a controversial agreement, which has clamped down on migrants, leading to a daily average of 65 arriving across the Greek islands, compared with a peak of 4000 a day on Lesbos alone, during the height of the crisis in 2015. More than 100,000 people, mostly economic migrants from Africa, have landed on Italian shores in 2017, after being rescued between Libya and Europe. Since August 2017, Italy has closed its ports to private rescue boats, as they were acting as a ‘‘pull factor’’ for people smugglers who send their victims out in flimsy craft to the 12-mile territorial limit off Libya. France and Spain have refused to open their ports to rescue vessels, despite appeals from Rome, at emergency summits. The European Union has imposed a code of conduct on the private rescue ships, which forbids entry to Libyan waters, and bans contact with people smugglers. Austria has despatched troops and armoured vehicles to the Brenner Pass to stop migrants entering from Italy.

Vol. 50, No.20, Nov 19 - 25, 2017