News Wrap


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 19 June 2018, pulled out of its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's Progressive Democratic Party ending in their three-year-old coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, citing "growing terrorism, radicalisation and landlessness". Under Governor's Rule, the army operations and the National Security Guards deployment in counter-militancy operations continue in J and K. The timing of the BJP's decision to pull out of the alliance, was determined by a desire to ensure that the J and K assembly elections are not scheduled before the Lok Sabha polls, due in early 2019. Governor's Rule which is specific to J and K, could be followed by President's Rule, and this would also delay the assembly elections. The Governor's Rule will expire around 20 December 2018 after six months. The Commission of Governor's rule to President's rule would need ratification by Parliament in two months, or in a month if it is in session. By then, the winter session of parliament is likely to have ended, and President's rule would have to be ratified only in the budget session. Unlike in the rest of India, where states can be placed under President's rule by invoking Article 356 of the Constitution, J and K is governed by a separate set of rules, under its own constitution. Section 92 of the Constitution of J and K empowers the Governor to put J and K state under the Governor's Rule, with the consent of the President and Union Government of India. Governor's Rule can continue in J and K for six months.

Illicit Money
There is a 50% rise in deposits of money by Indians in Swiss Bank accounts in 2017, rising to Rs 7000 crore or 1.01 billion Swiss Francs. The Union Government of India explains that the spike could be partly because of remittances under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme, introduced by ex-finance minister P Chidambaram. 40% of the deposits is because of LRS according to which an individual could remit up to US $2,50,000 per year. July 2017, there was a record drop of 45%, in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks. The money need not be from Indian tax prayers either, and can be from non-resident Indians, who are not liable to pay tax in India. India has a treaty with Switzerland, by which the Swiss will provide all details of transactions from 2019.

The Life Insurance Corporation of India is gaining control over the state-owned Industrial Development Bank of India, with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) approving its plan to buy up 51% stake at the debt-laden bank, amid concerns relating to the use of policy holders' funds, for bailing out a bank. The IRDAI board meet at Hyderabad on 29 June 2018, cleared the proposal as an insurance company cannot hold more than 15% stake in a company under IRDAI norms. The regulator had earlier allowed LIC, which has over Rs 27 lac crore of assets under management, to hold more than 15% stake in several companies, under a special dispensation under the Insurance Act. IDBI is a loss making bank riddled with huge bad loans. As of 31 March 2018, IDBI's gross non-performing assets rose to 27.95% (31 March 2017 being 21.25%). IDBI reported a net loss of Rs 8238 crore in 2017-18, up from Rs 5158 crore in 2016-17. The Bank reported a large divergece in the assessment of NPAs, or under-statement of bad loans, in 2017. LIC is using insurance policy holder's money to buy a loss-making bank. These are cheap funds, and a the government is using special provisions in the Act Section 21, to facilitate the take over, with insurance policy holders' money. While the Union Government holds about 80.96% stake in IDBI Bank, LIC had 10.8% as on 31 March 2018.

Port Hodeida
In an advance that could turn the tide of the three-year war, Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates have consolidated control over the outskirts of Yemen's main port city of Hodeida. Many of the 600,000 inhabitants of Hodeida have fled. Those remaining hide in their homes. A battle is raging near the airport, against Houthi rebels. Everyone is scared inside the city, and of food security, and fighting coming to the civilian neighbourhoods. The Saudi and UAE-led coalition launched its assault in the second week of June 2018, hoping that the advance will break the stalemate in the war and force a withdrawal of the Houthis. In 2015, the Houthis took the capital of Sana'a, and also a political settlement. A humanitarian crisis is apprehended, if the Houthis lose control of all coastal areas, and if the Yemeni forces blocked off, Hodeida, the country's main port. USA and UK have ended their direct opposition to the offensive, which the Yemeni-UAE coalition appears to have taken as a tacit approval to advance. Inside Hodeida, electricity is intermittent, leaving people boiling in the summer heat. Prices of medicine and food have risen to unsustainable levels. Many in the poverty-stricken region do not have the money to flee. The fighting has been concentrated over the past two months in al-Tuhyta district, south of Hodeida, a vital lifeline for Yemen's aid dependent population.

Free Thought Killed
The International Federation of Journalists has demanded urgent action to arrest and punish the attackers on publishers, journalists and bloggers in Bangladesh. Since 2013 there has been a killing of many of rationalists, and none of the preperators of these killings have been brought to book. Ahmed Rajib Haider was murdered by machete-wielding assailants, with links to a banned extremist outfit. Blogger Avijit Roy was killed in Dhaka on 26 February 2015, and Roy's publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, who ran Jagiriti Prakashoni, was hacked in October 2015. Nazimuddin Samad was killed on 06 April 2016, in the crowded Sutrapur area by suspected Islamist assailants, chanting Arabic Islamic religious slogans.

Masked attackers, on three motor cycles, hurled three improvised bombs on 17 July 2018, during a rally of opposition BNP for civil polls. Five people were injured, including a journalist, in North Western Bangladesh.

Vol. 51, No.11, Sep 16 - 22, 2018