News Wrap


India’s 2G Telecom spectrum scam of 2006-2008, is under appeals review of the Supreme Court. In gross violation of the ‘‘first come–first served’’ the applications submitted between March 2006 and 25 September 2007, were issued Letter of Intent on 10 January 2008. Seniority based on the date of application was changed. Altogether 122 new licenses and 35 Dual Technology licenses were issued. Spectrum in 2008 was allotted, without reconsidering 2001 prices. 85 of the 122 licenses were issued to ineligible companies. Against the requirement of authorised capital of Rs 10 crore, Unitech had Rs 5 lac, and Swan had Rs 4 crore. Subsequent to the issue of Unified Access Service License, stakes rose astronomically, and attracted significant foreign investments. The licenses could have fetched revenues ranging from Rs 58,000 crore to Rs 68,000 crore to the government, against Rs 12,386 crore actually collected. The license beneficiaries off-loaded their stakes for many thousand crore, in the name of fresh infusion of equity or transfer of equity. The Supreme Court had cancelled all 122 licenses, in 2011. Now again the Supreme Court is on an appeals review of the judgement of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s Special Court, which has recently exonerated all accused for lack of legally admissible evidence. The Comproller and Auditor General of India in its report had concluded that the entire process of allocation of UAS licenses lacked transparency. The government has earned Rs 3.56 lac crore in the six telecom auctions conducted since 2010.

Caste Prejudice
India’s constitution banned discrimination against Dalits—untouchables—70 years ago. Comprising sixth of India’s population, and enjoying quotas for state jobs and elected offices, the Dalits have advanced in education, income and health. The Dalits have their own millionaire-filled Chamber of Commerce, and 84 of the 545 Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha. Dalits have been inducted as priests in Hindu temples, throughout the country. India’s President Ram Nath Kovind is the second Dalit to serve as Head of State. But there has never been a Dalit Prime Minister. Still Dalits remain markedly poorer, worse educated and less healthy than average. 30% of Dalits are more likely than other Indians, to end up in prison. Out of the 642 faculty members in India’s state run top management schools, only four are Dalits. Of the 496 Vice-Chancellors of state Universities, just six are from ‘‘scheduled castes’’, as the lowest ranks of the Hindu caste hierachy. The ‘‘scheduled tribes’’ or ‘‘adivasis’’ are tribal communities traditionally excluded from the caste system, constitute a further 9% of India’s 1.3 billion people. While many Dalits have broken professional barriers, many more are stuck doing jobs, no one else will take, such as disposing of dead animals and cleaning sewers. Some 90 sewer-clearners, all Dalits, were pulled out dead from India’s drains in 2017. Caste attitudes are one of the main reasons for rural India’s uniquely high rate of open defecation. About 53% of Indians have tried to avoid certain forms of contact with Dalits. Rates of nil contact with Dalits rise 65% or more. Only 4% Indians have married someone outside their caste. Wider degrees of anonymity have entered. In a fast-food industry outlet, nobody cares who has touched the food.

Mining Leases
The Supreme Court, on 07 February 2018, cancelled 88 mining leases in Goa, that were renewed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government in 2015, just before the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act mandated the auction of mining leases. Cancelling the leases that were renewed for 20 years from 2007, the Apex Court instructed the Goa state government to examine the applications for mining leases afresh in accordance in the law. The leases were renewed in ‘‘undue haste’’ to circumvent a rule that made auctions mandatory. The ruling came on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation, an environmental action group, led by Claude Alvares. The leases of several companies, including one from Vedanta Group, were renewed by the BJP government in Goa, between November 2014 and 12 January 2015. The Apex Court bench has observed that the Goa state had ignored the fact every single mining leaseholder had committed some illegality or the other, in varying degrees. All mining activity in Goa, involving iron and manganese mines, came to a halt by 15 March 2018. The Union Government of India and the State Government of Goa, are to grant fresh environmental clearances to the mines.

Sweden Swamped by Crime
More than 320 shootings and dozens of bombings were reported in 2017 in Sweden, a country of 10 million people. Along with more than 110 murders and 7226 rapes, the figures indicate a 10% increase on 2016. More than 36% of young Swedish women say they feel unsafe at night. Explosive devices have been hurled at the police station in Rosengard, a troubled area of Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city. There are frequent attacks on the police. Rosengard’s force works from a black fortress of re-inforced concrete, with narrow windows, and a 10ft high electric fence. Even though Sweden is among the world’s safest, richest and best-run countries enjoying steady growth and rising employment, it has been experiencing an unprecedented surge of gang shootings, bombing and sexual assaults. The Swedish authorities admit that they are unable to investigate rape cases immediately, because the resources are focused on gang crime. The surge in crime is mainly confined to so-called ‘‘areas of social exclusion’’, a code for neighbourhoods such as Rosengard, that are predominantly populated by immigrants. Even though these areas enjoy fairly decent infrastructure and services, the communities in these areas are plagued by high crime rates and unemployment. A fifth of the 340,000 inhabitants of Malmo, are under 18. Children as young as 14, roam the streets with Kalashnikov assault rifles and bullet proof vests. The average age of gang members is 22, the vast majority of them hailing from migrant families. Sweden has pursued a liberal immigration policy for more than a generation. There is little reliable data about the integration of 12% of the population, that derive from non-western countries. Large-scale migration of men from extremely patriarchal cultures is limiting women’s freedom.

China in Afghanistan
Chinese and Afghan troops are on joint patrols in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan corridor. China is involved in the military base, as China’s president Xi Jinping seeks to extend Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout. As China shores up its fragile neighbour, the Chinese are worried that militants are sneaking into a restive Chinese region, Xinjang, from war-torn Afghanistan. The freezing, barren panhandle of land is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan, that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives. They retain strong links with neighbours in Xinjiang. Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are passing through the Wakhan, into Xinjiang, to carry out attacks. Islamic State group militants, fleeing Iraq and Syria, could cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan to enter China. Beijing is involved in ‘‘capacity building’’ in Afghanistan. The Chinese government has committed to help the Afghan division financially, provide equipment, and train the Afghan soldiers. Chinese vehicles are flying Chinese flags in Wakhan, and bringing a lot of food and warm clothes for the locals. Beijing has provided Kabul with more than $70 million in military aid, in the past three years. China seeks inclusion of Afghanistan in the US $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), linking western China to the Indian Ocean, via Pakistan.

Vol. 50, No.42, Apr 22 - 28, 2018