News Wrap


According to the 2018 findings of the United Nations Development Programme, between 1990 and 2017, India's Human Development Index (HDI) value increased from 0.427 to 0.640, an almost 50% increase, which is "an indicator that millions have been lifted out of poverty". Signalling the glaring inequality in India, the HDI value declines by more than a fourth, when adjusted for inequality. The value of India's Inequality adjusted HDI (IHDI) falls to 0.468, a 26.8% decrease, far worse than the global average decrease in the global HDI value, due to inequality at 20%. The HDI is the composite measure of India's attainment in three basic dimensions : standard of living measured by the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, health measured by the life expectancy at birth, and education levels calculated by mean years of education among the adult population, and the expected years of schooling for children. In India, the inequality adjusted HDI of 26.8% is due to the stark inequality in access to education, health and income. The HDI is being dragged down by pockets of deprivation like gender inequaity in reproductive health, political and educational empowerment and economic activity, where the economic participation of women in India, is very low. Sustained HDI growth depends too on climate resilience, where the state deals with floods, climate pressures and constraints. India ranks 130 out of 189 countries, in the latest Human Development Index.

Tribal populations in India are lagging on almost every health parameter. The tribal populations in India, live at least three years less than non-tribal population groups, have higher malnutrition, a significantly lower immunisation coverage, substantially higher low-birth weight children, and were much more susceptible to communicable diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy. They have poorer health indicators, greater burden of morbidity and mortality, and very limited access to healthcare services. Despite forming less than 9% of India's population, the tribal people account for almost 30% of all malaria cases in the country, and 50% of deaths due to malaria. The prevalence of tuberculosis in the tribal population is 703 per one lac, compared to 256 per lac, in the rest of the country. Life expectancy amongst tribals is 63.9 years, while it was 67 years for the general population. 10.7% of the tribal population have access to tap water, compared to 28.5% of non-tribal groups. Three out of four tribal people (74.7%) continue to defecate in the open. Overall, 40.6% of the scheduled tribal population lived below the poverty line, compared to 20.5% of non-tribal population.

Conflict over Kashmir
A territorial dispute between India and neighbouring Pakistan, has smoldered for decades. Years ago, Pakistan pushed thousands of militants across the border, as a proxy army to wreck havoc in the Indian controlled parts of Kashmir. Now, the resistance in Kashmir Valley is overwhelmingly homegrown. The conflict today is probably driven less by geopolitics, than by internal Indian politics, which have increasingly taken an anti-Muslim direction. Most of the fighters are young men, who draw support from local Kashmiris, deeply resentful of India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and years of occupation by Indian Security Forces. Outlawed Kashmiri separatist groups have killed many people, the vast majority of them are fellow Kashmiris. Kashmir sits on the frontier of India and Pakistan. Three times they have gone to war, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. Kashmiri Valley is predominantly Muslim, as is Pakistan. India blames Pakistan for all its Kashmir problems. Pakistan continues to send money and weapons to militants in Kashmir. New political trends seem to have spurred more people to turn against the Indian government.

There are allegations of Indian soldiers manhandling residents in Kashmir valley, cutting off roads and barging into homes, in search of militants, who often hide among ordinary residents. When violent protests erupt, Indian Security Forces blast live ammunition into the crowds, killing or blinding many people, including school children, who are simply bystanders. While protests against Indian rule have grown in number and size, the armed militancy has become surprisingly small. Pakistan is not providing as much support as it used to. Security officials say there are only 250 armed militants operating in the Kashmir Valley, down from thousands two decades ago. Most of them are poorly trained and militarily lost. More than 250,000 Indian army soldiers, border guards, police officers and police reservists are stationed in Kashmir Valley, outnumbering the militants in the ratio of 1000 to one. Assassinations and killings by militants are not militarily significant, and they are mere acts of desperation against Indian rule. Militants usually die in a hail of automatic weapons fire. Police officials say that of the approximately 250 known militants, only 50 or 20 are from Pakistan. Many Kashmiri residents treat militants like heroes, and the police are treated as traitors. Sizeable number of young Kashmiris slip across the border to training camps on the Pakistani side. A culture of death has spread across Kashmir. The valley has forgotten to live in peace.

Israel has been surreptitiously helping India, providing security cameras, night vision gear, drones and other surveillance equipment along the border to stop big infiltrations. Under pressure from the United States, Pakistan has closed most of its militant camps. But Pakistan has pushed the fighting away from the border, and deeper into the villages of Kashmir Valley. Two days after Pakistan-backed terror group Hizbul Mujahideen threatened to kill every Kashmiri working for the state and the central government if they did not quit their jobs, terrorists abducted and shot dead three Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Shopian district of South Kashmir on 21 September 2018, a SPO feld with seven AK-47 rifles and a pistol from the Srinagar residence of a PDP MLA. About 60 of the nearly 30,000 SPOs are reported to have responded to the quit or perish threat. Many of deserters (SPOs) have reportedly joined terrorist ranks.

Crackdown on Christians
According to pastors and China Aid, a group that monitors religion in China, the government in China has cracked down on Chrisitian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning Bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith. The campaign is part of a drive to "Sinicize" religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party, and elimininating any challenge to its power over people's live. In recent weeks, churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing have been closed. Religious freedom was written in the Chinese constitution in 1982. Under president Xi Jinping, Christians are signing forms renouncing their Christian faith, under pain of expulsion from schools, and the loss of welfare benefits. China has an estimated 38 million protestants. Chinese law requires religious believers to worship only in congregations registered with the authorities, but many millions belong to underground or house churches that defy government restrictions. In Beijing, the Zion church was shut down on 09 September 2018, as it failed to register with the government.

Vol. 51, No.29, Jan 20 - 26, 2019