News Wrap


A 49-page report, titled report on the "Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir : Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan" was submitted on 14 June, by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The focus of the report is on the situation of Human Rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018, over which period allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations were received, notably excessive use of force by Indian Security Forces, that led to numerous civilian casualties. The report also took up human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and asked Islamabad to "fully respect international human rights law obligations". Without unconditional access to Kashmir, on either side of the Line of Control, the OHCHR has undertaken remote monitoring of the human rights situation. The report has asked India to "urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990; and to immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts. The report has asked India to "respect the self determination of the people of Kashmir". The UN human rights body called for an investigation into all civilian killings since July 2016, also into the excessive use of force by security forces.

Dharna Chowk of Hyderabad
Police stopped giving permission for activities in Dharna Chowk at Indira Park in Hyderabad, now more than a year. Dharna Chowk has been the unofficial venue for protests in Hyderabad. Now opposition parties and civil society organisations are still left without a dedicated place to raise their voices in Hyderabad. Those who have earlier held protests at the site allege that the Telengana state government has done this to prevent people from voicing their opinion against it. Dharna Chowk is a big empty strip adjacent to the road opposite Indira Park at Lower Tank Bund area, falling under the Hyderabad police's west zone. For over two decades, members of various organisations have gathered at the site to voice dissent on a plethora of issues, before the police stopped giving permission to stage protests there. The "Occupy Dharna Chowk" programme held by various organisations and opposition parties to demand that it be accessible again, was the last activity at the place. Dias and tents from the area have been removed. The area has turned into an adhoc parking space, and a place for vendors. Dharna Chowk is close to the state secretariat, assembly and other important places. The government maintains that the space is obstructing traffic. In order to raise voices against its closure, civil rights activists have formed a committee staging protests at the Communist Party of India (CPI) office, and holding the "Occupy Dharna Chowk" Programme.

Bad loan write-off
Faced by huge losses and Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) banks in India have written-off a record Rs 1,44,093 crore of bad loans in the financial year ending March 2018. This is a rise of 61.8% from Rs 89,048 crore in the previous 2016-17. The total loan write-off by private and state owned banks in the last ten years, since 2009 amounts to Rs 4,80,093 crore as on 31 March 2018. 83.4% of this amount, or Rs 400,584 crore was from public sector banks. Of the write-off for 2017-18, Rs 1,20,165 crore loans were written off by public sector banks. In 2017-18, banks recognised non-performing assets, amid huge losses to their government securities portfolio following the rise in bond yields. State Bank of India wrote off Rs 40,281 crore in 2017-18, while fraud-hit Punjab National Bank wrote off Rs 7407 crore, and Indian Overseas Bank Rs 10,307 crore. Private banks wrote off Rs 23,928 crore in 2017-18. Axis Bank wrote off Rs 11,688 crore and ICICI Bank Rs 9110 crore. The total write-offs by private banks in the last ten years amount to Rs 79,490 crore. Recovery from written-off loans are poor, with hardly any transparency in the process. Once a loan is written off, it is not counted as NPA. When recovery happens, it adds to the profits of the bank. Public sector banks suffered a loss of over Rs 87,000 crore in 2017-18, owing to higher provisioning towards NPAs, and losses in the bond portfolio.

Slovenia Elections
Largely untouched by the Balkan wars, Slovenia was the first country to break away from the former Yugoslavia. Its own independence battle in 1991, ended after just ten days of fighting. The two million inhabitants of Slovenia, are among the wealthiest in central and eastern Europe. Their prosperity is buoyed by German investment and an influx of tourists visiting its Alpine hills, pristine lakes, and a small Adriatic coastline. Ljubljana, the capital enjoys the architectural heritage of Venice and Austria, including a fairy tale castle that over-looks cobbled streets, Baroque churches and brightly painted medieval houses. In the elections of 03 June 2018, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) of Janez Jansa, a firebrand anti-immigrant politician, won 25% of the vote, the highest share. Jansa may succeed in assembling a governing coalition of another radical right-wing government. He threw everything at the voters on TV channels and online ads. Some credit belongs to Viktor Orban, the Hungarian leader, and an injection of money from businessmen in his orbit. Orban is on the hunt for new friends. The manoeuvres began two years ago, when business people friendly to Orban started acquiring stakes in key Slovenian outlets. There are seemingly co-ordinated media investments by Hungarian businessmen, including Peter Schatz, who owns a Hungarian publisher, that is heavily reliant on state advertising handouts. In 2017, Schatz and two other Hugnarian business figures invested in Nova 24 TV, a struggling Slovenian television channel, which was given an extreme make over. Separately, a publisher controlled by Schatz launched Skandal 24, which published salacious allegations against Jansa's opponents during the election campaign. However, SDS supporters say left-leaning outlets dominate Slovenia's media.

Jansa, known as "The Scorpian", has been an active politician for nearly three decades, and prime minister twice. He served a six-month prison sentence over a corruption case that was later overturned. While much of Europe's 2015 migration influx passed through Slovenia, it has accepted only 200 refugees. A low turn-out, especially among young voters weakened the centre-left parties, which are bereft of new ideas after years in power.

Vol. 51, No.8, Aug 26 - Sep 1, 2018