News Wrap


In September 2017, more than one-third of the 27,000 tons of currency paper contracts finalised in December 2016, during the cash crunch days after demonetisation was announced, were cancelled. The part cancellation came after the Reserve Bank of India significantly lowered its indent for currency notes, six months after demonetisation. On 02 April 2018, currency paper manufacturers located in Switzerland, Russia, France, Italy, Germany, Indonesia, USA and Sweden were instructed to complete the destruction process of security material and raw material used for manufacturing Indian currency paper, in a time bound process. The instructions were issued by Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL). The BRBNMPL is a wholly owned subsidiary of RBI that prints notes in two presses, one at Mysore, and the other at Salboni, in West Bengal. The foreign firms are to destroy all security, raw materials, used/unused dies and mould covers. There is a ban on any sale of wastage paper to an outside agency. Clarifications are wanting on the currency paper already manufactured to Indian specifications till 02 April 2018. The BRBNMPL communication only mentions spoilt/unused/surplus currency paper sheets and trimmings. Outstanding payments for the currency paper and raw materials, due to paper mills abroad, exceeds Rs 50 crore.

Recently the Union Ministry of Finance rejected the Union Ministry of Rural Development’s report that recommended indexing annual Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act wage revision to Consumer Price Index (Rural), instead of Consumer Price Index (Agricultural Labourers). Wages will remain unchanged in states like Jharkhand (Rs 168), Bihar (Rs 168), Uttarakhand (Rs 175) and Arunachal Pradesh (Rs 177), where the wages are already the lowest. Another five states are set to get a negligible wage hike of Rs 2 per day, which include Gujarat (Rs 194), Maharashtra (Rs 203) and Madhya Pradesh (Rs 174). The MGNREGA scheme started in 2006. In the worst wage revision since 2006, the MGNREGA workers in 10 states will get no hike in their wages for financial year 2018-19. The average wage hike for 2018-19 is 2.9%, only slightly higher than 2017-18’s 2.7%. Unlike 2018-19, in 2017-18 every state had an upward wage revision, even if marginal. In 2016-17, the average wage hike was 5.7%, for the scheme under MGNREGA. Tamil Nadu (Rs 224) has got the highest MGNREGA wage hike of Rs 19 per day. The CPI (Rural) is a better indicator of wage increase, as it gives lower weightage to food items. The basket of goods for calculating CPI(AL) is mainly food items, which is up to 72%. Beginning 01 April 2018, workers in 28 of the 36 states and Union Territories are getting wages, lower than minimum wages.

Fake News
India’s Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has amended guidelines for journalists’ accreditation stating that if a journalist is found to have ‘‘created and / or propagated fake news’’, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended or permanently cancelled. As per a press release of 02 April 2018, the Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the two regulatory bodies for print and television media respectively, will determine whether the news is fake or not. The Union A and B minister maintains that both these bodies were not ‘‘regulated / operated’’ by the government. The Union Ministry’s statement defined the punishment, and left both the definition of fake news, and the nature of the complaint open-ended. On 03 April 2018, the PIB Press Release was withdrawn.

At least 13 union ministers, including Union A and B minister, have been ‘‘tweeting’’ since beginning April 2018, a link to a website which claims to have busted ‘‘four major fake news stories’’. The website ‘‘www.the true’’ is a domain registration and hosting service provider, was registered in 2017. It shares its landline telephone number with Blue Kraft Digital Foundation, which is the technology and knowledge partner to ‘‘Exam Warriors’’, the latest book authored by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi to help children fight exam stress. The ‘‘True Picture’’ website article reports ‘‘Four Major Fake News Stories busted’’. Of the two reports in ‘‘Indian Express’’ the first refers to Cabinet Secretary’s 26 February 2017 note quoting Union Foreign Secretary’s note, advising participation by senior leaders, government functionaries in Dalai Lama events not desirable, and should be discouraged. The second report refers to the First Information Report lodged by Pradeep Rathod’s father who accuses men of Kshatriya community, for allegedly hacking to death his 21-year-old Dalit son, on 30 March 2018, because be owned and rode a horse.

Reckless Mining Dries Up Water Fall
A dozen mining leases located upstream of a perennial waterfall in Sonshi village, about 5 km from Harvelam, in Goa, has dried up owing to reckless mining. For the first time in decades, the waterfall about 50 km from Panaji has gone dry, long before the advent of summer. The mining lease enterprises were diverting the water for mining purposes, and later pumped it back into the rivulet. The mining owners have now abandoned their leases, following a Supreme Court order, that halted mining activity. A circular was issued by the Goa state government instructing the mine owners to continue pumping water from pits, so that the pits do not cause flooding in nearby villages and other safety issues. Some mine owners have refused to dewater the pits. With a majority of the mines stopping dewatering, there is no waterflow to the rivulet, leaving it dry. Some of the mines upstream have gone below the water table, causing an imbalance. With a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the water fall in North Goa, has a history of 500 years, and religious significance along with natural beauty.

Immigration Policy
Hundreds of Jamaican immigrants arrived in England’s Tillbury, abroad the Windrush in 1948. The elder Windrush were legal migrants, not illegal ones. They were already British citizens, when they arrived. Most of the estimated 57,000 commonwealth citizens who came to the United Kingdom before the cut-off point in 1973 have had some interaction with the immigration or passport authorities in the decades since then, and had regularised their status before it became a problem. Since entering as children, some had not left the UK, since then and never applied for passports. From 2014, when the ‘‘hostile environment’’ with Theresa May as the then home secretary for six years started to bite, the Windrush migrants and other immigrants found difficulty in proving their legal status. Employers, landlords, banks and many official agencies, including the ones that issue driving licenses were obliged to check the immigration status of their staff, tenants or customers. The decision to destroy the landlanding cards of the Windrush arrivals was taken under a Labour government. Immigration of 578,000 in 2017 remains pretty high, through below its 2015-16 peak. The immigration debate has been reset, with Brexit so strongly influenced by concerns about migration. Some descendants of the so-called ‘‘Windrush generation’’, invited to Britain to plug labour shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, are being denied basic rights, because of trouble in documenting their status.

Vol. 50, No.52, Jul 1 - 7, 2018