News Wrap


The all-India growth rate for agriculture is less than 4%. Madhya Pradesh has an average agricultural growth rate of 13.9%, over the five year period 2010-15, delivering a cumulative growth of 92% over the period. MP had managed an agricultural growth rate of no more than 5% in the 2005-10 period. Jharkhand and Gujarat have also done well on the farm front, in recent years. MP has become second only to Punjab in its contribution to the central wheat pool. The state has benefited from a massive spread of irrigation, a sharp increase in power supply for agriculture, and better access to markets, because of improved road connectivity. Yield levels have soared. The state’s crop acreage has increased, and more farmers are now available to do a third crop in the year. With growth rates falling in MP, for industry, manufacturing and services sectors, agriculture’s share in MP state’s gross domestic product has been increasing sharply, and in now more than twice the national share of agriculture in GDP. MP is still below the all-India averages for crop yield, fertiliser use and other yardsticks. While MP has 10.4% of India’s gross cropped area, it accounts for only 8.6% of the value addition in agriculture. Much of India’s extreme poverty is concentrated in India’s depressed eastern part, because of unexploited irrigation potential, poor rural road connectivity, and dreadful power supply.

There is a constitutional restriction on the Union Government of India taxing agricultural income. But nothing prevents the 29 state governments from taxing agricultural income. Present day, there is no distinction between poor and rich farmer. Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu priest newly installed as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, announced in the first week of April 2017, a farm loan waiver, that will benefit 21.5 million farmers who each owe less than Rs 100,000 ($1549) to banks, and 700,000 farmers with combined loans of Rs 56 billion, all classified as non-performing. India’s central bank governor has strongly criticised the move, as the farmer’s debts would ‘‘undermine’’ India’s credit culture. Urjit Patel, Governor of Reserve Bank of India maintains that the move would inflict long-term damage on India’s economy, eroding public finances and raising expectations of future loan-write offs in other states.

Women Security Force
To deal with incidents such as stone pelting, the Union Home Ministry of the Government of India, is implementing a Rs 80,000 crore package for Jammu and Kashmir. The J and K state government has been directed to raise an all-women India Reserve Battalion (IRB). Frequently school girls and women are seen fighting pitched battles with security forces in Srinagar. There are five IRBs the Union Government has sanctioned for the state. The J & K women’s contingent will be one of the five. 140,000 candidates have applied for 5000 posts in the IRBs. 6000 applicants were women. 75% of the expenditure will be borne by the union government, where the cost of raising each battalion is around Rs 61 crore. The state government demands 75,000 central forces for one constituency, during an Assembly or Lok Sabha poll.

In the Rs 80,068 crore development package for J and K as of November 2015, there are five major power projects which include the Srinagar-Leh transmission line, smart grid and small meters, and augmentation of electricity distribution systems. Semi-ring roads for Jammu and Srinagar, and hydro and solar power projects are also envisaged. There are approvals for flood relief promotion of tourism, and setting up of 50 tourist villages.

Venezuela’s authoritarianism
The decision in April 2017, by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to usurp the function of the democratically elected National Assembly, was partly rescinded a few days later. The Venezuelan government is cracking down on opposition and dissent. Venezuela’s economic and social deterioration worsens. The government has imprisoned some opposition political leaders and intimated others, prevented a constitutional recall process, indefinitely postponed municipal and gubernatorial elections, and systematically over-ridden the separation of powers. The United States, Colombia, Cuba and other Caribbean countries want to stabilize Venezuela’s oil exports and to prevent an escalation of violence, a breakdown of order, and further floods of refugees. China also wants stability so that its extensive loans to Venezuela are repaid. The attorney general’s rebuke of the Supreme Court’s actions, leading to the court’s partial retreat, indicates that there are already divisions with in the ruling regime. Meanwhile, protests and tear gas mark demonstrations in Caracas. Freddy Guevara, a top Venezuelan opposition figure, has called for more marches aimed at taking back the courts and the National Electoral Council that have been ‘‘hijacked’’ by President Nicola Maduro.

Khmer Rouge
The United Nations backed Tribunal prosecuting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge has convicted just three men, after spending more than a decade, and nearly $300 million. They could be the only people to answer in court for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. Of the three convicted, Nuon Chea, aged 90, was No. 2 in the hierarchy, and Khieu Samphan, aged 85, was Chief of State. They were sentenced to life in prison, for crimes against humanity, and are under going a separate trial for genocide and other crimes. The third convict, Kaing Guek Eau, known as Duch, who commanded a notorious Khmer Rouge prison, was also sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity. Prime Minister Hun Sen has opposed further indictments, suggesting that an expanded trial would lead to civil war. A quarter century of civil war and political turmoil elapsed between the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and the state of the trials. Many potential defendants are no longer alive, including Pol Pot, the movement’s chief, who died in 1998. Two of the original five defendants died before their trials were completed. The court had a narrow brief to try only ‘‘senior leaders’’, and those who were ‘‘most responsible’’ for the crimes. The second category is open to interpretation, and has so far been applied to only Duch, the prison superintendent. The Cambodian government includes several former members of the Khmer Rouge, including Hun Sen himself, and it has been careful to protect its own. Besieged trying to limit the number of defendants, it has denied access to potential witnesses, who now hold influential government positions.

Vol. 50, No.6, Aug 13 - 19, 2017