Global Snapshots

June 28, 2009

Just some snippets from around the world:

(From Xinhua): “India spends just over one percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on social welfare schemes, with most of the workforce in the unorganized sector totally uncovered, reported the Times of India electronic edition on Sunday.

Studies have shown that many of the poorer countries in Africa and Asia spend more than India on social welfare schemes. Bangladesh spends 3.8 percent and Senegal 4.3 percent of GDP respectively on social welfare, according to the report.”

An International Labor Organization study has shown that India could provide the most basic social security to all its citizens if every Indian spent just 139 rupees (2.9 U.S. dollars) per month, that is, about 4 percent of its GDP in 2008, said the report.”

(BBC on India’s late monsoon) “Schools in the Indian capital Delhi are to remain shut for another week because of an ongoing country-wide heat wave…There have been protests across India as water and power supplies are disrupted by extra demand as people struggle to deal with the conditions.

…Our correspondent says that things do not look like they are getting better, with falling levels in India’s largest dam resulting in the authorities announcing a cut in water supplies to a number of northern states .

…The eastern Indian state of Orissa appears to have been worst affected with 58 people dying from heat stroke, according to local officials…Unofficial figures in the Orissa media put the number of dead closer to 200…Correspondents say that the highest temperature of 49C was this week recorded in Bundelkhand district of northern Uttar Pradesh state, where villagers performed rituals to induce rain.

In many parts of the north, huge swathes of rural farmland have turned bone dry.”

(the Asia Times on the Maoist response to India’s grinding poverty): “Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over two decades and Naxals are well-trained in guerilla warfare tactics and armed with the latest weapons and rocket launchers, procured illegally or snatched from state security personnel…This week, at least 11 Indian police officers were killed in a landmine attack by Maoist rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh.”

…The Maoists thrive by using cadres of desperate tribals and dalits (considered to be of the lower castes) who have been dispossessed of their land due to activities such as mining and land acquisition. They also exploit alienation due to an indifferent state governments and lack of decentralized growth and employment opportunities.”

Police, security forces and landlords remain the biggest targets of the Maoists. A Home Ministry report says murders of police personnel by the guerrillas jumped 53% to 153 in 2006, while 516 civilians were killed, an 11% increase on the previous year…In 2007, while the number of civilian casualties has gone down, security personnel killed have increased alarmingly to 236.”

…Although there are several causes for Naxalite violence, one main reason is the absence of land reform and persistence of extreme poverty. India’s rich coal-mining activity is concentrated in the states which have large tribal concentrations. These provinces, though rich in natural resources, score very low on human development indices…As a result, 40% of the top 50 mineral-rich districts in India are affected by Naxalite violence, with repeated attacks on any symbol of authority, both private and public, including mining sites. Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh are the worst-affected states.

(the Times of India on regional racism): “Speaking at an international conference on water at Singapore on Thursday, [Mizoram chief minister] Lalthanhawla reportedly said he was a victim of racism in India. “In India, people ask me if I am an Indian. When I go south, people ask me such questions. They ask me if I am from Nepal or elsewhere. They forget the North-East is also a part of India. I told them that I am an Indian like you,” he had said.”

Aasu president Shankar Prasad Rai on Friday said, “Central bureaucrats and politicians usually feel there’s no India beyond Kolkata. There are already enough instances of molestation of North-East girls in Delhi and other parts of the country. Lalthanhawla was right in what he said,” he said.”

…The Northeast Students’ Organisation (Neso) also believes people from the region are subjected to racism in most metropolitan cities of the country. “India doesn’t want us, they only want our land. Even a national daily had once scoffed at PA Sangma’s look,” vice-chairman of Neso Lalmuanpuia Punte said in Aizawl.”

On the other hand, in the other India:

India’s realty companies will struggle to find buyers for about a fourth of their residential space between 2009 and 2011, the research arm of rating agency Crisil said in a report on Wednesday….During 2009-2011, Crisil Research said it expects absorption of 506 million sq. ft. over the three years based on its expectation of a GDP growth of 6-6.5 percent in 2009/10, according to its study of 10 cities across India.”

(The Hindu) “Tata Launches British Iconic car brands in India” [a great victory for climate change campaigners, to be sure] – “A year after Tata group purchased Jaguar and Land Rover, it launched the British iconic luxury car brands in the Indian market…Tata Motors, which would be the official distributor of these brands in India, opened the first showroom for Jaguar and Land Rover in the country in Mumbai.

“We are extremely pleased and proud to introduce the Jaguar Land Rover brands in the Indian market and give the discerning Indian customer direct access to these prestigious brands, accompanied by a parts and service network,” Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata told reporters here.”

And in Indonesian news. (AFP on Maid Abuse in Malaysia): “Maid abuse has become the latest irritant in a diplomatic spat between Malaysia and Indonesia, as labour groups press for better protection for vulnerable migrant workers.

“Pictures of Indonesian domestic worker Siti Hajar with horrific scars all over her body were splashed across newspapers recently after she was reportedly tortured by her Malaysian female employer for three years…The 33-year-old, from West Java, says she was beaten with a cane and doused with boiling water. Her employer, 43-year-old Hau Yuan Tyung, has been charged in a Malaysian court and faces a 20-year jail term. Hau denied the charges.”

…”I came here three years ago after the divorce with my husband as I needed money to pay for my two children’s school fees...”I dare not run away, despite the abuses, because she repeatedly threatened me with death,” she added…However, Hajar finally escaped from her employer’s condo late one night two weeks ago, and hid in a nearby drain until sunrise when she persuaded a taxi driver to take her to the Indonesian embassy.”

“Malaysia is home to some 1.2 million documented Indonesian workers and a further 800,000 who come here illegally to escape poverty…The country has no laws governing conditions for domestic workers but the government has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor working conditions.”

(BBC on police brutality): “Indonesian police are still frequently involved in the torture and other abuse of suspects, a new report by Amnesty International saysThe organisation says some cases are directly linked to attempts by police to obtain bribes or sex from prisoners in return for better treatment.”

Women, drug addicts and sex workers are among the most vulnerable…ne prostitute quoted in the Amnesty report said that after being arrested along with other sex workers in 2006, she was sexually abused on the way to the police station. Once there, she said, the police told them they could buy their freedom with money or sex…”Three of the girls agreed to have sex with them. I point blank refused to do either. Our pimps have paid them enough already,” she said.”

(AFP on Jakarta’s bizarre solution to traffic woes): “New laws requiring disabled pedestrians to wear traffic signs have met with frustration and derision in Indonesia, where in the eyes of the law cars have taken priority over people.”

Instead of requiring level footpaths and ramps, lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won’t run them down as they cross the street…Experts say the new traffic law is sadly typical of a country which for decades has allowed cars and an obsession with car ownership to run rampant over basic imperatives of urban planning.

‘It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations,’ Institute of Transportation Studies (Instran) chairman Darmaningtyas said…’The law is a triumph for the automotive industry. It’s completely useless for alleviating the traffic problem.‘ The number of motor vehicles including motorcycles in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the past eight years to 9.52 million. Meanwhile road space has grown less than one percent annually since 2004, according to the Indonesian Transport Society.”

(The Times on Indonesia’s latest lucky investment break) “British American Tobacco (BAT), the world’s second-biggest cigarette maker, is buying a controlling stake in Indonesia’s fourth-biggest tobacco firm for $494 million (£302 million). After the acquisition of 85 per cent of Bentoel Internasional Investama, it said, it would be seeking to take full control.”

…The deal gives BAT its first taste of kretek, a kind of cigarette made with tobacco and cloves. Indonesia, where 93 per cent of all cigarettes smoked are kretek — thanks, in part, to their favourable tax treatment compared with traditional “white” cigarettes — is seen as one of the world’s most promising emerging markets for tobacco. About a third of the country’s 248 million people smoke, making it the world’s fifth-biggest tobacco market by volume and among the ten most profitable.”

…Philip Morris International, the American maker of Marlboro, has been in Indonesia for several years and became its biggest cigarette manufacturer four years ago with the $5 billion takeover of Sampoerna. Gudang Garam and the Djarum Group, the country’s second- and third-biggest tobacco firms, remain Indonesian-owned.”

(Reuters on repression in West Papua): “..a U.S.-based rights group said in a statement that seven young Papuan women had been kidnapped and raped, several killed, livestock attacked and homes burned in a series of police sweeps conducted since April…The rights group, the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT), said police sweeps had been conducted in five villages around the Puncak Jaya district. It did not give a source for the information.”

(AP on rising elephant deaths in Sumatra): ”

At least 15 endangered Sumatran elephants have been shot or poisoned to death with cyanide-laced fruit this year in Indonesia, marking a sharp rise over the previous year, a government conservationist said Wednesday…The giant mammals were mostly killed by poachers for their ivory, said Tony Suhartono, the director of biodiversity conservation at the Forest Ministry…The number killed in the past six months is equal to the total for the whole of 2008, he said.

…Several of the dead elephants were found in Sumatra’s Riau province in or near oil palm plantations, and forensic tests showed they had eaten cyanide-laced pineapples. A number of others were shot in the head…The killing is the result of a “conflict between humans and elephants,” said Syamsidar, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. “The forest is in critical condition due to the illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming practices and plantations.”

And that’s just India and Indonesia – to pick a couple of countries. The global cauldron continues to seethe, and struggles continue.

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