News Wrap


Data from NSSO's Periodic Labour Force Survey account for 28.6 crore employed male in India. This is the first instance of a drop in the male workforce that steadily swelled from 21.9 crore in 1993-94 to 30.4 crore in 2011-12, when the last NSSO survey was conducted. This suggests fewer men were employed in 2017-18, compared with five years ago. The unemployment rate for male in urban segment is 7.1%, and 5.8% for rural segment. Since 1993-94, the slide is steeper at 6.4% in the rural areas, compared to a 4.7% setback in the urban sector. The data clearly points to job losses, and fewer fresh employment opportunities. The employment loss is 4.3 crore (from 30.9 crore in 2011-12, to 26.6 crore in 2017-18) in the rural; and 0.4 crore (from 11.1 crore in 2011-18 to 10.7 crore in 2017-18), in the urban segment. The employment loss in the rural segment hurt the women most (68%). The men suffered more (96%) of job-losses in the urban sector. Since 2011-12, India's national workforce shrunk by 4.7 crore. The Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 reported a 6.1% unemployment rate, a sharp jump from 2.2% reported in 2011-12. The percentage of working age (15 to 59 years) for 2017-18, population that received any formal vocational / technical training actually came down from 2.2% in 2011-12 to 2% in 2017-18. A shrinking workforce suggests an increase in the number of unemployed, and also points to fewer new job opportunities.

Pollachi Sexual Assaults
About 470 young women have fallen victims to the Pollachi (Madurai district, Tamil Nadu) predators so far. 11,000 voyeuristic videos of these victims are in circulation on social media. Most of these women were lured by the gang through Facebook. For over seven years, the sexual assault of young women and blackmailing, and extracting money from them by gangs of young men with connections to big ways in the ruling AIDMK of Tamil Nadu, has been going on. The victims were afraid of reporting to the police, for fear of their names being made public. The police are more interested in protecting the names of parents of the delinquent youths, than safeguarding the welfare of the victims. The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has expressed anguish over the lack of attention by the national media to the sordid crimes. One functionary of the AIADMK, who was arrested, has subsequently been expelled from the party. The Tamil Nadu government has been forced to transfer the case to the Crime Branch, state CID and subsequently to the CBI. The State Women's Commission has directed the DG police Tamil Nadu to provide Telephonic numbers to the victims, so that they can call with full confidentiality, and register complaints without fear of their names being made public, as the Pollachis police had done.

Fuel Dependence
India imports over 80% of its crude oil, and the largest sources are Iraq, Saudi Arabia and sanctions-hit Iran. The import energy mix has risen sharply from 21% in 2000, to 36% in 2015, and could rise to 50% in 2040, even if energy production domestically grows faster than it has in the past. India largely lacks proven resources of oil, gas and metallurgical coal on the scale required. With modernisation of the economy, India shifted from less dense forms of energy, such as biomass, to more dense ones. The continued dependence on fuel imports adversely affects the external balance of payments and overall macro-economic stability. A spike in the price of oil, drives up domestic inflation, stresses the fiscal deficit, causes crisis in terms of its balance of payments as in 1991 and 2013.

In order to ensure that the extensive resources of coal burn relatively clearly, it would to be processed or washed. This would greatly add to water stress, in the area around a coal plant. Areas already short of water, for example Vidarbha in Maharashtra, can hardly afford a cluster of new coal-fired plants. The emissions of coal fired on green house gas concentrations can have detrimental effects in the neighbour-hood. The gasification of coal, is a future alternative. As wind forms produce power when the wind is blowing, and solar farms when the sun is shining, solar and wind power remain variable sources of energy, in terms of output. India can always pay for imported fuel, provided exports grow sustainably. Strategic reserves of fuel are being set up on Indian soil, with co-operation from UAE and Saudi Arabia. India is the second largest cash paying customer for OPEC country, Venezuela's crude oil.

US Air Strike in Somalia
The American military has escalated a battle against the Shahbab, an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaida, in Somalia. This is in contrast to US President Donald Trump scaling back operations against similar extremist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa. Over the last four months of 2018, a surge in American air strikes has pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three year. In 2018, the US air strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks. During January and February 2019, the US African Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. US Africa Command maintains that its death toll includes only Shabad militants, even though the extremist group claims regularly that civilians are also killed. The rise in air strikes has also exacerbrated a humanitatian crisis in Somalia. The war in Somalia has drawn USA significantly deeper into an armed conflict, without much public debate.

Vol. 51, No. 45, May 12 - 18, 2019