News Wrap


India's Minimum Wages Act (1948) does not state on what basis the minimum wages should be fixed or revised. A report by the International Labour Organisation indicates that state governments often set their minimum wages lower than the recommended national minimum wage. The minimum wages show large inter-state variations, unrelated to the cost of living, for the same kind of job. Wage revisions are not being linked to the cost of living, GDP growth and rise in labour productivity. The national minimum wage rate which was introduced in 1996, is not binding on the states. This rate is revised taking inflation into account. It was last revised from Rs 160 to Rs 176 a day, in July 2017. Nearly a third of India's workers were paid less than the national minimum wage in 2009-10, and women were in general paid less than men. Of the country's 195 million wage earners, 74 million (38%) are regular or salaried employees, and 121 million (62%) are casual workers. Social security like old-age pension, life insurance, as well as maternity benefits for women workers are yet to be introduced. In 2011, the minimum wage for agricultural labour ranged from Rs 80 in Arunachal Pradesh, to Rs 92 in Odisha, Rs 170 in Mizoram and Rs 178 in Haryana. The minimum wage for agricultural labour, in Maharashtra, which occupies highest share of workers was just 73% of the national minimum wage, in 2013.

NRC in Tripura
The demand for a National Register of Citizens (NRC) is gaining momentum in Tripura. Otherwise political adversaries, all the tribal parties including the Indigeneous Nationalist Party of Tripura, the Indigeneous People's Front of Tripura which is the partner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government, IPFT (Tipraka) and IPFT (NC) are approaching the Supreme Court for NRC implementation in Tripura state. Tripura was a tribal majority state. The continued influx of Hindu Bengalis from the then East Pakistan, who faced discrimination and persecution, expecially during the partition-related riot in 1947 and 1971 Liberation War, altered the state's demography. Even, people belonging to the tribal Chakma community, who are predominantly Buddhist, also left behind their homes in the Chitagong Hill Tracts of the erstwhile East Pakistan. Bangladesh was formed with a secular constitution. In 1991, secularism became compromised, with the inclusion of the word "Islamic" in the constitution. There are reports from Bangladesh of alleged persecution of minorities—the Hindus, the largest minority group, Buddhists and Christians. All the tribal parties are unanimous that the cut off year should be 1951. This would result in the most Hindu Bengalis, currently the largest linguistic group in Tripura, who came after 1951, would lose citizenship.

There were horrific riots in Tripura, between Bengalis and tribals in 1980. Hindu Bengalis in Tripura are refugees from their own land, East Pakistan/Bangladesh, to save their own lives from the hands of Islamic radicals. It was only after 24 March 1971, that the Bengali Hindu influx rose, due to the heavy persecution of Hindus in East Pakistan, by the West Pakistan Army. Most of the border is fenced. But there are still infiltration in some areas, due to no fencing or weak fencing. In Tripura, there is a 31% reservation for the scheduled tribes in government jobs, and 20 seats, one third of the total number are reserved for them in the state assembly. The tribal autonomous body, the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, is fully functional. In comparison to the Hindu Bengalis living in plain areas, the tribals living in hill areas are economically backward. Development reached the hill areas at a later date, owing to decades-long tribal insurgency.

Coptics in Egypt
In the early Christian Centuries, Christian monks living in the solitude of Egypt's deserts built draw bridges and window-less towers to repel marauding nomads. They always faced the threat of attack from outside. Since August 2018, barricades and armed police officers ring the Coptic monasteries to guard against Islamic State suicide bombers. The death of Bishop Epiphanius, the abbot of the fourth century Monastery of St Macarius on 29 July 2018, has set off an eccelestical murder mystery. The case has exposed simmering tensions of a theological, if not personal, nature in an influential corner of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Days later the intrigue has deepened with the Coptic authorities defrocking a young monk, Isaiah who had clashed with the bishop in the weeks before, when the bishop's body was found with a head injury caused by a blunt object. Soon after that another monk Faltanoious, aged 33, slashed his wrists and tried to throw himself from a four-story building. Egyptian prosecutors discolsed that Isaiah had been charged with the murder of Bishop Epiphaneus, after confessing to the crime. Faltanoious has been detained for questioning. Police have sealed the monastery for inverviews. The Coptic patriarch has suspended requests from monks to travel outside, and closed all Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Coptics make up about 10% of Egypt's 97 million people.

Vol. 51, No.28, Jan 13 - 19, 2019