News Wrap


In the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, clustered in poor villages along the Tawi river, there are still about 19,000 families from West Pakistan. Unlike at least 14 million refugees who fled their homes after the division of the subcontinent in 1947, the West Pakistanis of Jammu region are still officially refugees. They are citizens of India, but stateless inside its borders, barred from local government jobs, colleges and welfare. An embodiment of the lingering scars of partition, they are unable to buy property, or take out loans. Violence against Hindus started in Pakistan, since 14 August 1947. The West Pakistanis do not own homes in Jammu region. Many live on the properties of Muslims who were killed or fled Jammu in 1947, which they rent from the government for a token sum. When the Jammu and Kashmir leaders agreed to join the Indian union in 1947, they also demanded guarantees of autonomy, including restrictions on other Indians becoming citizens of the state. The Jammu and Kashmir state government has never been keen for integrating hundreds of thousands of West Pakistan refugees, the vast majority of them are Hindus.

Agricultural Growth
Lower plantings of rain-fed Kharif crops and an uneven south-west monsoons have resulted in growth of India’s food grain production and agriculture to be much lower in 2017-18, compared to the year before. In response to lower prices, summer crop plantings are down by 0.8% compared to 2016-17. Farmers have cut down the area under pulses and oil-seeds. Sowing has also been affected by an uneven distribution of monsoons, with North-West and Southern India receiving sub-par rains. Floods have damaged standing crops in several states. Current evidence suggests that there are downward risks to India’s GVA (Gross Value Added) agriculture growth projection of 3.3% in 2017-18. In 2016-17, following normal rains and a record harvest of food grain and perishables, the agriculture sector growth rate rose to 4.9%, and food grain production growth 9.6%, recording a record 257.7 million tons. Farmers have currently increased area under sugar cane and cotton, but reduced the area under all other crops, such as rice, pulses, oil seeds and coarse grains. Compared to July 2016, wholesale prices of pulses and oil seeds fell 33% and 14%. Inflation for daily consumable is at 6% for fruits and 7% for vegetables. The retail consumer inflation rate has touched 4.5%.

Military Dairy Farms
In November 2017, thirty nine colonial British era military dairy farms closed down in India. Workers at the Allahabad farm have been protesting against the closure orders, issued by the Union Ministry of Defence. The orders have left around 25,000 high yielding Frieswal cows without a home, and hundreds of workers without jobs. However, to ensure supply of fresh fodder, the military farming activities are still continuing. The British military commanders thought that Indian cows and their milk were unhygienic, and hence, the Frieswal cows were brought to India. The British commanders when they moved from one city or station to another, they would take their cattle along. As this process was becoming a burden, the British army decided to set up dairy farms near major cantonments. The first such dairy farm was established in Allahabad, in February 1889. Farmers and dairy cooperatives are unwilling to buy the Frieswal cows, because they are found nowhere else in India. So nobody knows how to rear them. They are too expensive to maintain. The milch cows are showered thrice a day, in the humid sunny afternoons of Allahabad in summer and autumn. 600 cows of the Allahabad farm are awaiting sale to slaughter houses. Each Frieswal cow gives over 3600 litres of milk on an average per lactation cycle, compared to around 2000 litres for an ordinary cow. Military dairy farms abound in Uttar Pradesh, and several are located in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir. Milk and dairy products are supplied to defence forces. Defence authorities are considering an open auction to sell the cattle, for an estimated Rs 2.5 crore, which is estimated to be a distress sale.

Chinese Migrants
Ten years ago, hundreds of Chinese from fishing villages on China’s south-east coast, migrated to Africa, to start a new life. As lower commodity prices hit many of Africa’s economies, hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers, both private entrepreneurs and employees of state run companies are returning from Africa in recent years. Sub-Saharan Africa grew at 1.5% in 2016, its slowest in two decades. South Africa slipped into recession in 2017. From a peak of 1 million in 2013, the Chinese population is in decline. 150,000 Chinese are estimated to have left oil-rich Angola in the past four years alone. While most of China’s migration to Africa has been by small scale entrepreneurs, the number of contract workers serving Chinese state-owned enterprises fell from 32,000 in 2016, to 233,000. It became unsustainable for many Chinese to continue their businesses because of a downturn in the commodities cycle.

The Chinese migrant decline reflects a fall in trade and investment, between China and Africa, which reached more than $200 billion in 2015, before falling below $150 billion in 2016. China’s direct investment in Africa, is negligible compared with trade. The falling value of the rand against China’s renminbi bites into margins. Rising wages in China mean the incentive for low-skilled workers to migrate, has also decreased. Hundreds of thousands have moved from China’s Fujian province to southern Africa, since the early 2000s. They are calculated to make up most of South Africa’s Chinese population of more than 350,000. Migration has transformed the villages in Fujian, which is having tall houses, built with remittances from overseas workers. Countries in east Africa such as Ethiopia and Kenya are still seeing Chinese migrant numbers rise. China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative includes the region.

Vol. 50, No.21, Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2017