News Wrap


The West Bengal state Government has again borrowed Rs 2000 crore from the open market on 20 February 2018. The state government claims that the money is required for developmental expenditure of the state. The Rs 2000 crore is being borrowed for a term of 10 years, and interest payable to the borrowers is on 21 August and 21 February. The fresh borrowing would add to the outstanding debt burden of Rs 3.95 lac crore. In 2018-19, the state is expected to borrow Rs 43,948 crore.

Kamran Yusuf
Charge-sheets into the terror funding and stone pelting in Kashmir Valley on 18 January 2018, have been issued against 12 people, including Kamran Yusuf, a freelance photo-journalist, arrested on 05 September 2017, for his alleged involvement in ‘‘stone pelting incidents’’. Not covering ‘‘developmental activity of any government department’’ or ‘‘inauguration of a hospital or school’’, or ‘‘statement of any political party in power’’ are some of the reasons the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has listed as evidence that Yusuf was not a ‘‘real journalist’’. The NIA has listed the ‘‘moral duty of a journalist’’. The charge-sheet also mentions social work by the Army and para-military forces in Kashmir Valley, such as organising ‘‘blood donation camps, free medical check-up, skill development programme, or Iftar party’’. According to the NIA, Yusuf had hardly taken any video of such activity, nor was he a ‘‘professional’’, because he did not receive any training from any institute. Yusuf has been described to be an ‘‘anti-national’’.

Looting Bank
India’s second largest public sector lender Punjab National Bank has reported fraudulent transactions of nearly 225,000 crore, involving billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, his family members and partners. Evidence has emerged of an additional Rs 3000 crore worth of exposure of 17 banks in India, rolling over of the same Letters of Understanding, many times and alleged round-tripping funds. 17 banks lent about Rs 3000 crore to various firms of jewellery czar Nirav Modi, including his flagship firm Firestar International Ltd. Money was allegedly withdrawn from off-shore accounts of various banks, not only through issuance of fresh LoUs from Punjab National Bank, but even renewal of old ones. The cases are under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. There are doubts on the integrity of certain bank officials, and on the audit process put in place by Reserve Bank of India. The companies associated with Nirav Modi and his relatives got 150 LoUs issued between 2011 and 2017, leaving an outstandig of over Rs 11,000 crore for PNB, to pay to foreign branches of several banks. Not all of these LoU’s were fresh. The LoUs are issued for a period of three months. The amount guaranteed through the LoU availed at an offshore destination, needs to be paid back to the bank, within that period, alongwith interest. A large number of LoUs issued were to carry forward the previous balance, in order not to pay within the stipulated time. Huge chunks of the Rs 11,000 crore bank money allegedly swindled by Modi, may be connected to round-tripping or money laundering. The magnitude of the fraud is over a third of the total market capitalisation of PNB, which is around Rs 35,500 crore. Central investigating agencies have seized from the premises property of Nirav Modi, across the country, diamond and jewellery worth nearly Rs 6000 crore. Majority of the Letters of Understanding in the enourmous scam were either issued or renewed in Punjab National Bank, during 2017-18. The first FIR registered with the CBI was on 31 January 2018. The Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo’s branch in Hong Kong, along with branches of the counter-party banks is accused of serious over-sight. Data released by the Reserve Bank of India shows that rs 61,260 crore banking frauds, have taken place in the last five years. The CBI and the Enfrocement Directorate have registered separate cases against the Kanpur-based industrialist Vikram Kothri and Rotomac Pen promoter, and others for allegedly defrauding a consortium of seven public sector banks of about Rs 4000 crore.

Cauvery River
India’s Supreme Court on 16 February 2018, emphasised that ‘‘drinking water requirement’’ has to be placed ‘‘on a higher pedestal’’ in the sharing of Cauvery river waters. The Apex Court increased Karnataka’s share of the Cauvery waters by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet, raising it from 270 tmc ft, awarded by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in February 2007, to 284.75 tmc ft. Tamil Nadu will now get 404.25 tmc ft as agsinst 419 tmc ft, awarded by the Tribunal. But Tamil Nadu has been compensated by being allowed extraction of 10 tmc ft ground water. Karnataka suffers severe drought conditions, and has limited access and use of the surface flow of Cauvery. In the decades old dispute, the share of Kerala and Puducherry, remains unchanged at 30 tmc ft and 7 tmc ft respectively.

Hui Muslims
The Chinese government has recently banned young people in China’s ethnic Hui Muslim minority, in Ghuanghe, engaging in religious education in mosques. This is being interpreted as an unwelcome interference in how they lead their lives. The Chinese government is bringing in measures in the north-western province of Gansu that are similar to some of those used in the crackdown on Uighur Muslims, in the Xinjiang region further to the west. The authorities have subjected Xinjiang to near-martial law, with armed police checkposts, re-education centres and mass DNA collection. In January 2018, education officials from the local government in Guanghe county, which is a heavily Muslim area, banned children from attending religious education during the Lunar New Year break. The break lasts for several weeks around the week-long public holiday period, that started on 15 January 2018. Effective 01 February 2018, the new China national regulations aims to increase oversight over religion. The new regulations are enforced in Linxia city, the capital Ghansu’s ‘‘autonomous’’ prefecture for the Hui people, about 50 km to the west of Guanghe. In on-line articles, imams from Hui have denouned the policy as violating China’s constitution. The Lixia prefecture government, which oversees Linxia city and Guanghe maintains that China’s constitution required separation of religion and education. Religious affairs management adheres to the direction of the Sinofication of religion, and firmly resists and guards against the spread and infiltration of extremist religious ideology. The Linxia government maintains legal management as the greatest concept in the protection of religion and stresses stability. The State Council Information Office states that China amply guarantees citizens’ rights to religious freedom under law, including children.

While safeguarding all ethnic groups’ religious freedom and other lawful interests according to law, China is also resolutely preventing and severely cracking down on the use of religion to carry out illegal activities. There has not been any deadly bouts of ethnic violence by Hui Muslims. But loudspeakers used to broadcast calls to prayer from mosques in Hui regions have been removed, to prevent noise pollution. The government-run Islamic Association of China has directed that new mosques should reject the ‘‘Arabisation’’ of architecture, with its ‘‘excessive size and extravagance’’, in favour of Chinese traditional designs. Antipathy, towards the educational rules is widespread in Guanghe and Linxia. Families are afraid to teach their children to have faith for fear it will bring them trouble. Cultural traditions are threatened amongst Hui Muslims.

Vol. 50, No.44, May 06 - 12, 2018