News Wrap


In recent months, many indIgenous Adivasi villages in the Indian eastern state of Jharkhand have put up giant plaques declaring their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, and banning outsiders from their area. The political movement is gathering steam across Jharkhand state's tribal belt, particularly in Khunti district. The stone plaques and singboards comprising "Pathalgadi" proclaim the adivasis as the real inhabitants of India, and that jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest and land) belong to the tribals. The tribals make up 26% of Jharkhand's population. Over the past sixteen months, in nearly 200 villages spread across four districts in Jharkhand state, namely Khunti, Gumla, Simdega and West Singhbhum, huge stone plaques measuring 15ft by 4ft painted green, known locally as Pathalgadi, have come up at the entry points of tribal hamlets. Pathalgadi is basically a way to demarcate tribal territories, and tell outsiders, specially government officials that the law of land does not apply there. Young leaders believe that the movement of the tribal people will engulf all the 32,620 villages of Jharkhand. In police records, the tribal villages are part of the Left Wing Extremist corridor. Police reports (FIRs) have been lodged against several tribal leaders. From January to July 2018, police have destroyed 29,000 acres of opium cultivation land. Thousands of tribals, armed with bows, arrows, wooden rifles and AK-47 automatic guns take part in tribal Pathalgadi ceremonies.

Land Records
The Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) was launched over a decade ago. The project aims to bring India's land records like information about land, ownership and usage, to be kept in easy-to-access central repositories, with real-time updates. As many as two-thirds of civil cases pending in Indian courts deal with land related disputes, most of which revolve around establishing ownership legalities. Based on the system of "presumptive ownership" lends itself to litigation as land and property undergo several mutations, over generations that are not always captured on public records. Data related to a specific parcel of land is stored in siloed government departments, and in formats that vary substantially from state to state. Access to these records is time and cost intensive, involving frequent visits and bribes to government agents. Niti Aayog and certain state governments like Andhra Pradesh are exploring the possibility by introducing blockchain technology of storing and sharing information between participants, for land records management. A blockchain-secured record-keeping process will collect, store and provide access to information quite differently than a conventional process. Data stored using blockchain is secure, transparent, easy to access, and hard to dispute. While blockchain could ensure integrity and indisputability of future changes, it cannot resolve differences that exist today. Blockchain must be introduced first on land with the least amount of issues. Land that belongs to the government or privately-owned land those that have been mortgaged could be considered for introduction on blockchain. Blockchain-secure land records could command a premium such as easier insurance.

15th Finance commission
The terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission entails the use of 2011 census data, for evolving the resource sharing formula. The southern states of India have been contributing more to the central exchequer, than what they receive from it through devolution. The Finance Commissions are constituted every five years under Article 280 of the Constitution of India, for ensuring "equalisation" among the states. In 1947, not only were social and educational endowments of the people very low across the country, there were wide regional disparities. The freezing of Lok Sabha seats on the basis of 1971 census, until the year 2016, ensures that the northern states do not get a disproportionate share in the highest law-making institution in the country. Massive social movements and literacy movements, led by princely state Travancore-Cochin, Jesuits, communists, anti-Brahmin activists, and emancipation of women led to lower fertility rates in the southern states, than the northern ones, most of which are poor. In the pre-independent period, the expenditure on education and health was much higher in the Madras Presidency than in the Bengal Presidency. The decadal population growth rate has declined from 28.8% (1991-2001) to 25.4% (2001-2011). The decadal decline in the national level is from 21.5% to 17.7%. Most corporate houses have their headquarters in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad or Bangalore, where they pay their income tax, although their operations are pan-India. Tata flourished from operating out of Jamshedpur for long, while the income tax was paid in Mumbai. State-wise figures of tax collection are not truly reflective of states' "own" contribution to the tax kitty. Under the tutelage of the East India Company, the deficit of Madras and Bombay Presidencies were met from the surplus of Bengal Presidency.

Rail Fight in France
French railways are in debt to the tune of 54 Euro billion (£47.3 billion). French president Emmanuel Macron plans to phase in new contracts for and reform the national service SNCF, founded in 1937, to face commercial competition. Since March 2018, the fight over the future of France's state railways has turned into a test of strength between long-powerful trade unions and the reforming administration of the President. A new wave of rail strikes since end March 2018, has wrecked the plans of holiday makers to reach French beaches, on the last snows of the ski season. Eurostar cancelled numerous trains to and from Britain, while only a handful of services ran across the French railway network. Air France cancelled hundreds of flights after pilots and crew embarked on consecutive days of strikes. A series of two-day rail stoppages paralysed the rail system until the end of June. Most drivers and signallers walked off the job to join pickets and marchers. A third of railway staff went on strike, but participation by drivers was more than 80% in some areas. Radical student leaders, who are blockading campuses to protest against educational reforms, are attempting to "unite all the struggles" in a replay of 1968. On 02 May 2018, hundreds of masked protesters left scenes of devastation in Paris, as they ransacked shops and fought with police. Amid the worst violence in Paris since May 1968, anti-capitalist ultra-left activists destroyed a MacDonald's restaurant, smashed bus shelters, threw objects at police and formed barricades by setting rubbish bins on fire. 20,000 unionists took part in the annual parade on the eve of the 50th anniversary of 1968 demonstrations.

Job Reservation in Bangladesh
Students in Dhaka have been angry over the Bangladesh government's decision to set aside 56 of civil service jobs, for the families of veterans from the 1971 war of independence and for disadvantaged minorities. Most university graduates were fighting for only 44% of the jobs. Thousands of students across Bangladesh staged protests and sit-ins from 09 to 11 April 2018, after clashes at the country's university left at least 150 people injured. Rubber bullets and tear gas shells were fired by police at Dhaka University students, protesting against what they consider "discriminatory" government job quotas that favour special groups. Students at state-run universities in Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Shylhet and Jahangirnagar Sadar boycotted classes and joined demonstrations and sit-ins. As violence spread across the camps, thousands of students fought pitched battles with police. On 11 April 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told parliament the system where certain groups are guaranteed a number of jobs would be abolished. The students are demanding the publication of the gazette notification, relating to the abolition of job reservation quotas, and release of detained student demonstrators.

Vol. 51, No.2, Jul 15 - 21, 2018