News Wrap


Thousands of Rohingyas, an ethnic minority from Myanmar, have made their way to different parts of India, through the porous eastern borders that the country shares with Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Indian government has called all Rohingyas "illegal immigrants", and has asked all state governments to obtain their biometrics, and other details, in order to deport them to Myanmar. There are 14 trains on which Rohingyas travel to Chennai and Kerala. All Rohingyas travel in groups, along with their families. As per instructions from the Railway Protection Force, if the Rohingyas are found in trains, they are handed over to police, having jurisdiction for further action. The Rohingya refugees are entering Kerala in the guise of migrant labourers. In the absence of accurate data on migrant labourers in Kerala state, it is hard to identify them, once they vanish into the midst of Kerala's population. For over a year, a large number of Rohingya families are settled in Baruipur sub-division of South 24 Parganas district (West Bengal). Bangladesh has built new settlements to house 100,000 Rohingya refugees on Bhashan Char, a silty strip island that rose from the sea in 2006. The island is only one hour from the nearest land, but violent storms make the journey by sea dangerous or sometimes impossible. Bhashan Char remains unpopular in the teeming Rohingya camp. The UN has insisted that any relocation to Bhashan Char be voluntary.

Health Care Scheme
The Ayushman Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jana Aarogya Yojanana (AB-PMJAY), a state-run health care scheme was launched by India's prime minister Narendra Modi, on 24 September 2018. The scheme which targets more than 50 crore people, will provide a cover of up to Rs 5 lac per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation, through a network of Empannelled Health Care Providers (EHCP). The EHCP network will provide cashless and paperless access to services, for the beneficiaries at both public and private hospitals. The services will include 1350 procedures, covering pre and post-hospitalisation, diagnostics and medicines. The scheme allows states enough flexlibility in terms of packages and procedures. Access to health insurance schemes of state governments and the union government's Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana has reduced health costs for the poorest quintile or bottom 20% of India's population significantly. 80% of those facing castastrophic health shocks, where the annual medical expenses is greater than the annual per capita consumption of a household, lack insurance cover. Increased access to medical care among newly insured households is raising insurance bills beyond what is insured. In many cases, those with insurance cover are either denied services, or charged more than what is warranted. Patients are turned back, when hospitals are not being re-imbursed on a timely basis.

Protests in France
Since beginning November 2018, after weeks of protest and rioting by the Yellow Vests movements, President Emmanuel Macron of France, suspended for six months tax increase on gasolene and diesel, that had been slated for January 2019, on 04 December 2018. The French government felt that no tax warrants putting the unity of the nation in danger. The Yellow Vests protest movement has swept across France, clashing with police, and wreaking havoc in Paris and other major cities. Famed monuments like the Are de Triomphe were defaced. The projected gas tax increase was equivalent to only a few cents a gallon, but it proved to be a tipping point, sending tens of thousands of protesters into the streets. The government's announcement, which also delayed new vehicle inspection measures and increases in gas and electricity rates, was not enough to calm the demonstrations. The protesters are demanding a better distribution of wealth and salary increases. The recent concessions from the French government, come after an earlier 500 million euros ($570 million) relief package for poorer households. After over a month of protests by the Yellow Vests, the French National Assembly and Senate passed concessions relating to tax cuts and a rise in the minimum wage. The concessions worth some 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion) would mean France will breach the public deficit cap of 3% of gross domestic product, set by EU rules.

Azov Sea Route
In late November 2018, the situation in the sea of Azov waters escalated when Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships, and arrested 24 sailors, in the first open military conflict between the countries, since Moscow annexed Criema in 2014. Since 04 December 2018, Russia has begun allowing some ships to enter Ukranian ports, on the sea of Azov. This signals are easing of tensions in the flash point area. Ukraine has accused Moscow of blocking merchant vessels, from entering and leaving the ports. Recently the Berdyansk and Mariupol ports have been partially unblocked. However, at least 17 ships are still awaiting to enter the sea of Azov, and one was waiting to leave. Meanwhile, the Ukranian Orthodox Church has been granted independence on 30 November 2018, which was earlier under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries. The Russian domination of the Church is over. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by Barthomew X of Constantinople and the synod has drafted a constitutional charter for the Ukranian Church, granting independence, called "autocephaly". The Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader Patriarch Kirill, is closely allied to Russia's president Putin, has announced severance of relations with Ecumenical Partiarch of Constantinople, splitting the world's largest Eastern Orthodox denomination.

Vol. 51, No.30, Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2019