News Wrap


Indian workers are facing risks of redundancy, or failing to find a decent job in the first place. Improved technology is boosting manufacturing firms’ output five fold, since launch in 2002, with no increase in staff. The new machines arriving in crates, would require a single operator rather than three, will double output again. Machines and automation are eliminating about 52% of India’s jobs, as current technology is adopted across the board. Besides manufacturing, automation and machines have led to laying off thousands of workers in 2017, in India’s high flying Information Technology industry, for the first time in nearly a decade. 62% of job prospects in respect of private sector workers, is shrinking. While India’s labour force is steadily overtaking China as the world’s largest, the slowing economic growth, a decline in investment ratios, the shock of economic reforms, a long term decline in agricultural employment, and a faulty education system, have combined to reduce the proportion of Indians who hold proper jobs. As birth rates fall, the share of the population that is of working age, is peaking relative to the share of children and old people. The proportion of working-age people actually in work has been falling steadily. The World Bank estimates that over 30% of Indians, between the ages of 15 and 29 are ‘‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’’ (NEETs).

Land for Amaravati
200 hectares of forest land, has been allotted by the Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change, to Andhra Pradesh state government, for building its greenfield capital, Amaravati. The general principle was to disallow such forest diversion. Guideline 4.5(i)  says ‘‘Central government will not entertain any proposal for diversion of forest land, for construction of dwelling houses on forest land’’. However, the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act (2014) commits the Central Government to facilitate the creation of a new capital by, if necessary de-notifying degraded forest land. The state government has been allowed to divert 2,087.06 hectares of forest land in Tadepalli and Venkayyapalem, of various forest blocks in Krishna and Godavari districts, for building the greenfield capital. More than half the permitted forest area has to be maintained as a green area. The forest area has to be strictly used for developing government infrastructure, and not used for commercial purposes, or to build residential apartment, retail shopping malls, hotels, lodges etc.

Shell companies
The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs has identified 1.06 lac directors of ‘‘shell companies’’ for disqualification under the relevant provisions of the Companies Act (2013). The lists of disqualified directors across the nation, as well as those associated with struck off companies, includes former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy (Congress), jailed politician V K Sasikala (AIADMK), leader of the opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Channinthala (Congress) and Gulf based business tycoon M A Yusufali. Four ‘‘shell companies’’ are linked to Sasikala, jailed aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha (AIADMK). The companies struck off by the Registrar of Companies are those which have not filed financial statements or annual returns, for any continuous period of three financial years.

Narmada and Displacement
The Sardar Sarovar Dam, on the Narmada River in Navagam (Gujarat), conceptualised in 1946, has been made operational in September 2017. Stretching upto 1.2 km and of height 138.68 metres, the dam has already earned more than its construction cost, through sale of electricity produced. Power generated from the dam will be shared among three states—Madhya Pradesh (27%), Maharashtra (57%) and Gujarat (16%). The dam is designed to generate 9 million acre feet (MAF) water to Gujarat and Rajasthan benefiting 9000 villages. Hydro-electricity generated will provide power to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The dam-site is at a tri-junction where the territories of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra meet. For a long time, social activists have been demanding that the filling of the reservoir with water, be stopped immediately, and the gates of the dam remain open, so as to reduce the water level. In some parts of Madhya Pradesh, thousands of families are displaced, following increase in the height of the dam, on the Narmada River. The rising waters have led to 40,000 families being submerged.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, with a completion date of five years, was inaugurated in the second week of September 2017. The project will cost Rs 1.1 lac crore. The bullet train will run at speeds over 300 km per hour. India’s semi-high speed trains run at top speed of 160 kmph, and express trains attain an average speed of 50 kmph. The project will require laying 508 km of sophisticated high speed tracks, partly on elevated corridors, and partly under the sea. Acquisition of around 825 hectares of land, is estimated to displace 2700 families.

Iraq’s Wetlands
Southern Iraq’s marshlands were reduced to dust and withered roads, when Saddam Hussain drained them to flush out rebels in the 1990s. Iraqi conservationists have succeeded in recovering Iraq’s wetlands, which are again buzzing with birds, dragon flies and the songs of buffalo breeders. The wetlands are imperilled again with a water crisis rooted in wasteful irrigation, climate change and dam building. Salt water from the Persian Gulf can now seep upstream into the marshes, by a weakened flow into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Expensive farming has boosted salinity and many farmers rely on the thirsty crops such as rice. Iraq’s irrigation methods are often wasteful, and the equipment tends to be rickety. Extra water for upstream districts at the mashes’ expenses, have been secured by politicians in the past. Reform-minded technocrats are forced to contend with deep rooted corruption. The distracting and costly fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and low oil prices, have drained Iraq’s state coffers. For decades dams built in Syria, Turkey and Iran have swallowed up the waters of the Tigris, Euphrates and other rivers feeding the marshes. The flow of the Tigris could be further restricted with new dams opening in Turkey, including the 1200 megawatt Ilisu Dam. IS has controlled swathes of the Euphrates and Turkey is exploiting its upstream position. Last summer temperatures of about 54°C were recorded in Southern Iraq, among the hottest ever.

Vol. 50, No.24, Dec 17 - 23, 2017