News Wrap


The Supreme Court of India on 09 March 2018, permit ted passive enthanasia, that makes it legal for a terminally ill individual to decline use of life support measures, and allows families of those in incurable coma, to withdraw such measures to reduce the period of suffering. The Apex Court also recognised the right to an advance directive (also called ‘‘living will’’), spelling out views and wishes regarding medical treatment in terminally ill cases. The five-judge Constitutional Bench ruled that ‘‘smoothening’’ the process of death for terminally ill patients, with no chance of recovery was integral to life with dignity. The ruling came on a petition filed by NGO Common Cause. People were earlier apprehensive that if they withdraw life support, they could be prosecuted for culpable homicide. The Court’s directions with regard to the advance directive and the safeguards shall remain in force, till parliament makes legislation on the subject. Though there was no legal framework in India, on advance directive, the Supreme Court was obliged to protect the right of the citizens enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. In the 241st report of the Law Commission in January 2016, it was stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards. There is a proposed law, viz medical treatment of ‘‘Terminally ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill. The physician / hospital where the executor of the ‘‘advance will’’ has been admitted, shall then constitute a medical board.

Narmada Dam Water
Five weeks before the Gujarat state assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 17 September 2017 inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada districts’s Kevadia. The water level in the reservoir was 129.58 metres, just one meter short of the all-time high it has ever reached. The high level that day was achieved mainly because BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh released an unusual amount of water from upstream dams, over five days until the inauguration. The surge stopped the day of the inaugural ceremony. Officials associated with the dam claim that it was part of a dam safety exercise, and that the timing was just a coincidence. With a harsh summer, the Gujarat state government has stopped supplying water from the dam from 15 March 2018. Share of water in Gujarat depends on the storage of water in Madhya Pradesh. Due to installation of gates, the storage of water in Sardar Sarovar Dam has increased. However, due to less rainfall, other dams of Madhya Pradesh, like Indira Sagar, Bargi, Tava and other medium-size dams, have witnessed significant reduction of water storage. The water level in the dams reservoir depends on upstream release from Madhya Pradesh, and rainfall in the intermediate catchment area. Compared to other rivers, the area of the main Narmada river is very limited. The side branches and tributaries are used effectively for irrigation.

Lenin’s statue Bulldozed
The final count in the Tripura state assembly elections gives BJP 35 seat. Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura seats, Congress nil seats and CPI(M) 15 seats. Over the past two decades, some 15 to 20 statues were installed in Bellonia town, in Tripura’s extreme south. The statues included Vladimir Lenin, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Vidyasagar and Kabi Nazrul. The statue of Lenin stood at the centre of College Square, Bellonia, for the last five years. At 2.30 pm on 05 March 2018, forty eight hours after the results of state assembly elections were announced, celebrating BJP workers and supporters brought the Lenin statue down, with the help of JCB truck pusher, amid cries of ‘‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’’. The CPI(M) which lost power in the state after 25 years, described the incident as an example of ‘‘Communism phobia’’. The BJP claimed that the state was brought down by the people, ‘‘oppressed’’ by the Left. After Lenin’s statue fell down, its head was dismembered from the body. Then BJP workers played football with Lenin’s head. The statue remained where it had fallen, and removed by police the next day, and transferred to Bellonia municipality for storage. The 11.4 ft fibre glass statue was sculpted by local artist Krishna Debnath at a cost of Rs 3 lac. It was installed as CPI(M) began its 21st year of rule, after winning the 2013 assembly elections. The statue was built by the municipality and funded by the tax prayer’s money. The incident was the latest in a string of attacks targeting the CPI(M), after the BJP-IPFT alliance came to power. Sangh ‘‘Parivar’’ supporters removed a Lenin bust in Sabroom (South Tripura also). Statue busting political fundamentalism occasionally springs up. A statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar at College Square, Kolkata was vandalised in 1968, by Naxalites, as he did not have any role in the agrarian movement. After Trinamul Congress came to power, statues of Lenin were pulled down at Midnapore in May 2011, and at Jadavpur in march 2015. A statue of Shyamaprasad Mukherjee in Kalighat (Kolkata) was desecrated on 07 March 2018, by left-wing students of Jadavpur University. A statue of Dravidian icon Periyar was vandalised in Vellore (Tamil Nadu) on 06 March 2018. The sacred threads of at least 10 people were forcibly cut in Mylapore (Chennai). In Khurd village of Marwana (Meerut, Uttar Pradesh), a statue of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar was vandalised on 06 March 2018.

Hunger in Jordan
Jordan has a crippling economic crisis that has sparked an outpouring of fury. It is a key ally of the West, but the turmoil of the Middle East is encroaching on the carefully guarded stability. The omens have changed, after seven years of the 2011 Arab Spring, when the constitutional monarchy survived. After Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait failed to renew a £2.6 billion aid programme in 2017, being hit by falling oil prices, the economic downturn became a crisis for Jordan. The economic disaster is faster because of Jordan’s reliance on foreign aid. Jordan is considered as a vital buffer of stability. USA has increased its funding, but the Jordan government’s deficit has reached £757 million, and the national debt is 95% of GDP, up from 71% of 2011. In January 2018, the Jordan government increased taxes on 169 commodities, including flour, causing the price of bread to double. Protests broke out immediately. Videos on social media and independent news websites show gatherings of hundreds of people across the country chanting. Jordanians, in increasingly loud voices, are accusing the government of corruption and incompetence. They have broke a strict taboo of accusing the royal family of ignoring the crisis, and of flaunting their lavish life styles, as ordinary Jordanians suffer. But most Jordanians want the monarchy to flourish. The 56-year-old king Abdullah and his family are publicly revered. Almost all criticism happens in private. Abdullah has published papers calling for a more inclusive, pluralistic political system, yet those charged with ‘‘disrupting’’ him can face three years in jail. Jordan is ranked 59 out of 180, on Transparency International’s corruption perception index, below Rwanda and Saudi Arabia. Much of the state’s budget goes on salaries and pensions, in the floated public sector. The government is too large and the spending is not directed towards productive activities. There is an over reliance on the rentior system and foreign aid.

Vol. 50, No.47, May 27 - June 2, 2018