News Wrap


India's Nirbhaya Fund was created to be utilised for projects specifically designed to improve the safety and security of women in public places. Over the past six years the corpus has increased to Rs 3,600 crore. The states have been allocated money to cover emergency response support system, central victim compensation fund, and cybercrime prevention schemes. The projects for women's safety from Nirbhaya Fund show that Rs2264 crores was allocated to states and Union Territories. Around 89% of the funds was not used. No state has reported utilisation of over 50% of the fund. Uttarakhand and Mizoram top the list with 50% utilisation. Out of the 36 states and UTs, utilisation in 18 states and UTs is less than 15%. Delhi has a poor 5% utilisation. The states indicate 11% utilisation, i.e. Rs252 crores. The percentage of utilisation is just 25% in case of funds released by the Union ministry of road transport and highways, 19% for Women and Child Development, 9% for Home Affairs, and nil in the case of the Union ministry of justice. The utilisation details for Maharsatra reflect a zero, even though Maharashtra ranks second in terms of number of crimes against women, and third in terms of number of crimes against children. Recent cases of crimes against women and children that shocked India, took place in Karnataka, Telengana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. Utilisation of allocated Nirbhaya Funds by Karnataka, Odisha and Telengana was only 6%. Uttar Pradesh utilised only 21% of the Funds.

On 09 December 2019, India's Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, after a six-hour long debate, where the union home minister defended the controversial Bill (CAB), with a fiery speech. Among a total of 391 members present in the Lower House of parliament, 311 voted in favour of the Bill, while 80 voted against it. The Citizenship Act (1955) is amended to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, excluding Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship. The Bill relaxes the requirement of residence in India from 11 years to six years, for these migrants. The Citizenship Bill does not affect Indian Muslims. There is no need to prepare background, as India is expected to have National Register of Citizens (NRC), in the future. Manipur comes under the ambit of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system. The proposed amendment is not applicable to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura, as included in the 6th Schedule of the constitution of India. It is applicable in areas covered under the Inner Line Permit, Notified as the Bengal eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The National Register of Citizens application forms do not seek the applicant's religion. A majority left out of the Assam NRC are Hindus. Under the Congress ruled UPA government, on 04 August 2005, Mamata Banerjee, present Chief Minister of West Bengal had thrown copies of the voters' list on the table of the Deputy Speaker in Parliament, seeking a remedy to the problem of influx from across the border. Papers relating to those born in West Bengal, are yet to be disclosed by the West Bengal state government, even though sought by the NRC authorities in Assam.

The forefathers of so-called Hindus and Muslims, migrated from other parts of Asia, thousands of years ago. Only the Santhals, Koles, Bheels, Mundas etc. can claim to be more original than others. Any NRC with any retrospective cut-off year will be arbitrary. A perfect NRC is not possible. At Independence (August 1947), India was partitioned on the basis of religion. The Citizenship, Amendment Bill (2019) granting citizenship rights to migrants of six non-Muslim communities (Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, and Parsi), was adopted by the Rajya Sabha on 11 December, 2019, after it secured 125 votes in favour and 105 against it. The law would exempt the Inner Line Permit and Schedule 6 areas of the North-Eastern states.

Unrest In Iraq And Iran
Iraq has been rocked by protests since October 2019. Protesters are angry about corruption, poor governance and lack of jobs. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Baghdad and the Shia South. While officials have promised reforms the security forces have fired on the demonstrators, killing more than 450. On 29 November 2019 the senior Shia Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al—Sistani aged 89, called for a change of government. Adel Abdul, Mahdi, Iraq's prime minister, said he would step down. The Shia warlords-cum-politicians, who are Iraq's real power-brokers will choose his successor, with input from Iran. Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim resisted Saddam Hussain, Iraq's earlier dictator, and helped to create the modern state. He had close ties to Iran, which has assisted the Iraqi government in trying to subdue the protesters Early December 2019, enraged Iraqis threw petrol bombs at Hakim's shrine and the Iranian backed militiamen guarding it, in Najaf. The Iranian consulate in Najaf was also torched by the protesters. Judges in Iraq sentence protesters under anti-terror laws. The communications ministry has shut down the internet to make it harder for the protesters to organise. The protesters are calling for an entirely new government, a fairer electoral law, and early elections. They want Iran and the militias it backs, to go away.

Economic protests in Iran have been put down ruthlessly. Altogether, between 200 and 500 people are estimated to have been killed by the government in Iran, during protests over a rise in the state-controlled price of fuel in November 2019. About 7000 people were detained out of the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in all but two of Iran's 31 provinces. Return of the internet highlighted visuals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Mah-shahr city, surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 protesters in a marsh. The perceived threat led the Iran regime's hardliners and pragmatists to put aside their rivalries and work together. They unleashed their respective security forces on the protesters. Many of the protesters came from the urban poor. In 1979 they poured on to the streets to bring down the Shah. Some middle class folks joined them on the streets, for the first time since 2009, when they protested a suspicious election outcome. Economic hardship, exacerbated by American sanctions, is a big cause of the anger. Many are also fed up with official corruption. Some of the recent protests turned into riots. Instructions on how to make petrol bombs circulate on social media. In some areas people have begun taking up arms. The public is turning social justice arguments back on the clerics, who are accused of milking the state.

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Vol. 52, No. 29, Jan 19 - 25, 2020