News Wrap


India's government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other leading parliamentary parties like the Congress party, are unwilling to operationalise the Lok Pal, the Whistle-blowers Act and the Grievance Redressal Law. The legislative agenda of Parliament is considering amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 for Introduction, Consideration and Passing. The RTI Act (2005) has transformed the relationship between the citizen and government, dismantling illegitimate concentrations of power, legitimising the demand for answers, and assisting in the changing of feudal and colonial relationships. Troubled by accountability, public servants have viewed this as interference. Proposed amendments have been kept secret. There has been no "pre-legislative consultation policy" of the government of India. Major pieces of legislation, including those which affect the transparency regime, are being pushed through, without being sent to multi-party standing committees. In order to avoid facing the strength of the opposition, certain legislative measures, in the garb of Money Bills, have been introduced, which destabilises access to information, such as Aadhaar and electoral bonds. The RTI law mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy, with a culture of transparency. While the RTI Act allows ensuring that the information could be used to uncover fraud, it is difficult to ensure that the information could be used to hold a bureaucrat or elected representative accountable. Promises by the BJP to institutionalise accountability, through strong social accountability and Grievance Redressal Act, have not been fulfilled.

The Lok Pal Act has been amended in such a way that assets of family members of public servants, do not have to be disclosed in the public domain. The use of RTI Act has led to more than 70 citizens fighting corruption, losing their lives. Amendments to the RTI rules that were put up for public feedback, have reportedly been withdrawn after objections. There are reports that the proposed amendments seek to change the status of the information commissions.

Maosits Killed
More than 100 Maoists have been killed in Chattisgarh in 2018. In what is amongst the biggest operations in Chattisgarh state, Chattisgarh state police claim that at least 18 Maoists had been killed in an encounter in the Konta region of Sukma, on 06 August 2018. Based on specific intelligence, the operation was launched on 05 August 2018 night. A woman Maoist was shot in the leg and another Maoist committee member, carrying a Rs 5 lac warrant, have been held. The large operation at Sukma district, involved the CRPF's elite COBRA battalion. A camp had been set up by Maoist cadres of the Gompad, Belponcha and Balatong militia formations. 200 security personnel travelled to a place near Nalkatong village, bordering Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The spot is around 20 km north-west from Kota, 28 km south-east from Bheji and Golapalli. Besides recoveries of Maoist dead bodies from the encounter, 16 weapons were seized, including one 12 bore and one 315 bore rifle. One of those killed is identified as Vanamttunga, commander of a militia formation. Security forces suffered no casualties. The Maoist camp was of militia formations, who fired with 303 rifles.

The Nalkatong encounter of 06 August 2018, comes just two weeks after the Dantewada police killed eight alleged Maoists, in the Timenar forests of Bijapur. In 2012, the CRPF and the Chattisgarh police claimed the deaths of 17 alleged Maoists in Sarkeguda in Bijapur, in an encounter which was then called "fake" by villagers and activists, with a commission of enquiry on the case still in the progress.

Immigrants in Denmark
On the outskirts of Copenhagen, in small town like Hvidovre, the locals feel that if immigrants are integrating into Danish culture and society, they are positive. But if not, they are not so tolerant. Three years after the peak of the migrant crisis, the right-wing coalition government in Denmark is pushing through legislation to forcefully integrate those already living in the country. Beginning 2019, non-Danish mothers of children living in areas, the state has designated as immigrant "ghetto", will have to send their children, even those as young as a year old, to 25 hours of classes a week on Danish culture and language, or face having their benefits cut. Children will learn about Christian, Easter and other Danish holidays. Those who send their children back to their country of origin to re-educate them on principles that do not form part of Danish culture, could face prison sentences of upto four years. While supporters feel that something must be done to stop the erosion of Danish culture, critics of the new laws say they marginalise non-ethnic Danes, and further divide an already polarised population. In Hvidovre, there are a lot of immigrants, and many of them have lived in the Copenhagen suburbs for twenty years, and have not learnt Danish. Sometimes the husbands do not let the wives learn Danish.

Hvidovre, has 14.1% of its citizens coming from a non-western background, a figure far above the national average of 8.6%. This is a fraction of the level in some "ghettos", where more than 80% of inhabitants are non-western. Just a few decades ago, Denmark was ethnically overwhelmingly homogeneous. Anxieties about an influx of refugees remain, although there is currently very little migration to Denmark. There were just 3500 asylum applications in 2017, down 84% from 2015. The new laws have proved popular with some voters. In the last elections of 2015, the populist right-wing Danish People's Party (DPP) gained around a quarter of total votes. In 2016, Danish police published a study, showing that the number of crimes committed by non-Danish citizens more than doubled between 2009 and 2015. Failure of integration policies have left the children of immigrants living in poor areas, with scant opportunities for work. Almost 100 laws tightening government oversight of foreigners, have been passed as part of a crackdown on immigration "ghettos". The new rules are ostensibly intended to be socially inclusive, but special classes in "Danishness" can segregate children.

Vol. 51, No.19, Nov 11 - 17, 2018