News Wrap


According to a government survey by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, of 2017, covering over 48,000 people from 12,000 urban households across 16 states, low body weight, stunting and wasting prevails ‘‘significantly higher’’ among children from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The survey has documented 39% stunting (impaired growth with possible long term impacts) among boys from Dalit households, and 34% among those from tribal families. It is 25% for backward classes, and 27% for the rest of the population. The conditions are common, with similar patterns, across the perimeters of under-nutrition (under weight children and wasting), a condition marked by severe weight loss. An independent measurement of malnourishment emerges from each of the conditions of being underweight (weight against age), stunted (height against age), wasted (weight against height). Prevalence of poor nutrition is higher among children from households with low per capita income, illiterate fathers, and lack of access to sanitary latrines. The higher prevalence of poor nutrition among socially disadvantaged groups could potentially amplify their disadvantages.

The nutritional status of children are subject to influences of lack of education and nutritional awareness, unhealthy household environment, inadequate child care, household food insecurity, and lack of human, social, political and financial resources. Poor sanitation can contribute to infections or worm infestations, which can exacerbate under-nutrition. The highest prevalence of stunting is in Uttar Pradesh (40%), Maharashtra (36%), Delhi (35%) and in West Bengal (34%). Scheduled caste children suffer from 18% wasting which is the highest. Challenges and solutions to poor nutritionist, stretch beyond the availability of more food for marginalised communities and require greater social inclusion.

Aadhaar Data
The Supreme Court, in India, has affirmed that privacy is a fundamental right. Even though the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asserted that the Aadhaar Act is based on the premise that privacy is a fundamental right, and the required safeguards for data exist, the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) is not inaccessible. The Aadhaar Act (2016) has a framework for sharing most of the CIDR information. Private information is broadly biometric information, identity information and personal information. Biometric information and identity information are protected to some extent, and defined in the Aadhaar Act. The term ‘‘personal information’’ is not used in the Act, but covers a person’s life style, travels, phone call details, earning bracket, purchases and spending patterns and intent browsing. An individual may not wish for personal information to be public or accessible to others. The biometric data base could be hacked sooner or later. Section 8 of the Act, authentication of identity information, also involves a possible sharing of identity information, with the requesting entity. Any enterprise company can gain access to demographic characteristics from the CIDR. Aadhaar enabled data harvesting provides business opportunities. The consent box is seldom clicked by the requesting authority, before using identity information. Safeguards applicable to biometric and identity information can be exempted on ‘‘national security’’ grounds. Aadhaar enables the government to collect and collate all personal information, with virtually no restrictions. Under the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH), many state governments, like Madhya Pradesh, are integrating all departmental data bases, and linking them with the Aadhaar number. While authenticating purchases, many private agencies have access to personal information from the CIDR.

Amazon oil
The government of Peru, is accused by tribal leaders who hail from four Amazon river basins of refusing to carry out a consultation process, even though it is negotiating a new 30-year contract for oil block 192 with Fontera Energy, a Canadian firm, whose current contract expires in early 2019. The prior consultation law of 2011 in Peru, requires the government to seek free, prior and informed consent from indigenous people, before approving any development plans, that might affect them. The indigenous leaders from the area around Peru’s largest oil field have threatened to block the government, from accessing their territories and halt oil production, unless the indigenous rights law is applied. The indigenous leaders representing more than 100 communities in the Maranon, Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers basins, claim that the consultation process had been carried out in ‘‘bad faith’’. More than 40,000 people live in the four river basins, in Peru’s Loreto region. The prior consultation law is also known as the International Labour Organisation Convention 169. Amazon leaders accuse the government of ‘‘grossly inadequate efforts’’ to remedy widespread oil spills that polluted drinking water, caused widespread environmental damage, ill health and deaths.

Catalonia’s Referendum
In one of Spain’s most serious tests for democracy, since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s, on 01 October 2017, Catalonia’s referendum on independence was marred by dramatic scenes of violence, as Spanish Police and Civil Guards Guardia Civil burst into polling stations, to try to prevent the vote taking place. About 800 people needed various degrees of medical attention, and about 15 police officers had been hurt. Previously the referendum had been declared illegal by the Spanish courts, and is strongly opposed by Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy’s Madrid government. Rajoy was adamant that there was no referendum on succession, just a pretext of one. Catalonia’s government in Barcelona claimed three million votes of the electoral register of 5.3 million, had been cast. The aspirations and struggle for independence in prosperous Catalonia has dangerously intensified. Catalonia has a distinct language and culture. A judge in Madrid is grilling deposed leaders of Catalonia’s separatist government. The dismissed Catalonia president Carks Puigdemont, who is in Brussels, is refusing to come. The charges of rebellion are punishable by up to 30 years behind bars. The 14 Catalonia leaders are charged with sedition and misuse of public funds. Uncertainty about Catalonia’s future has prompted companies to move their legal headquarters outside the region.

Vol. 50, No.26, Dec 31 - Jan 6, 2017