Thursday, December 6, 2012

What's making the news today

Today’s collection of newspaper articles cover a variety of topics. The first article is from “The Telegraph” (UK) and talks about the village of Suderbari banning women from using mobile phones.

The next three articles (two from “The Telegraph” (UK) and one from “The Guardian”) talks about the Indian government’s plan to allow the likes of “Tesco” to open up in India (the parliament finally got the vote through yesterday but I’m sure this won’t be the end of it).

The last article (from “The Telegraph”) is an interesting one that talks about the European Romas (aka Gypsies) possibly being descended from the Indian “Dalits” (aka “Untouchables”):

Indian village bars women from using mobile phones

Elders of Suderbari in impoverished Bihar state warn mobiles 'pollute the social atmosphere' by encouraging elopements

An advert on a hoarding in New Delhi illustrates the village council's fears. Photograph: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

A village council in eastern India has banned woman from using mobile phones, saying they "pollute the social atmosphere" by encouraging women to elope with lovers.

The order was issued by the village council in Suderbari, in the Kishanganj district of impoverished Bihar state, after a formal meeting on Sunday. The measure was designed to check "the breakdown of the institution of marriage", council leaders said.

Penalties range from 10,000 Indian rupees (£115) for unmarried girls caught using mobile phones to 2,000 rupees for married women. Women may use a phone in the presence of a male family member, however, according to village leaders.

"Unrestricted use of mobile phones is promoting premarital and extramarital affairs and destroying the great institution of marriage. We are extremely worried," said Manuwar Alam, the president of the social advisory committee, explaining that at least six girls and women had eloped in the past year.

"We had to hide our faces out of shame," Alam said. "We decided to do something that could firmly curb such cases, which were earning a very bad name for all of us."

A combination of marginally improved education, more mobility and access to television has led to the traditional authority of fathers, husbands and male village leaders being challenged in much of India.

A growing lack of women, owing to the widespread practice of female infanticide, is also leading to deep tensions. And so-called honour killings, of couples and particularly of women, who transgress traditional customs and discrimination are common.

A series of rapes in Haryana, another northern state, recently prompted a debate on the roots of the widespread violence against women in India. Village chiefs and local politicians variously blamed mobile phones, the ingredients in the increasingly popular fast food of chow mein, and the victims themselves. One suggested lowering the age of marriage as a solution.

The ban in Sunderbari village provoked strong protests from local human right activists.
"We strongly condemn attempts to infringe on rights of women. Such things cannot be allowed in a democratic society", said Farzana Begum, a campaigner in Kishanganj.

Others said mobile phones were important for women's security, particularly in rural areas. Sexual assault and other violence is common in remote parts of the state. Local authorities have ordered an investigation.

Sandeep Kumar R Pudakalkatti, the most senior bureaucrat in the district, said: "We have ordered a probe into the unlawful diktat, and those found guilty during the course of inquiry will be sternly dealt with."

  • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


Indian government survives no-confidence vote in Tesco row


The Indian government survived a no-confidence vote today over its plans to allow Tesco and other foreign retailers to open new supermarkets throughout the country.

Ministers want chains like Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour to modernise India's backward agriculture and food distribution system Photo: Bloomberg
3:33PM GMT 05 Dec 2012

The government has faced stiff opposition over the plans, including from key allies who believe Western supermarkets could drive millions of small corner shops out of business and see 50 million staff lose their jobs.

Ministers want chains like Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour to modernise India's backward agriculture and food distribution system which leaves 40 per cent of all produce to rot in slow trucks and overheated warehouses.

The system is dominated by several layers of middlemen who drive down the prices received by farmers and push up those paid by poor customers.

The plans to allow foreign store chains to take majority stakes in Indian joint ventures was first announced last year but were quickly suspended when several members of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition threatened to resign.

The Trinamool Congress, which governs West Bengal and was a key coalition partner, pulled out of the coalition this year after the government decided to press ahead.

The move was part of a series of decisions aimed at reassuring international markets that the Indian government remains committed to foreign investment and determined to create more jobs.

Its determination to allow in foreign supermarkets had threatened to halt business in India's Lok Sabha lower house until the increasingly bitter dispute was brought to head by a no-confidence motion by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Its leaders claimed other foreign companies in India, like McDonalds and Pepsi had established local monopolies and stocked their stores with imported food rather than increased the produce bought from Indian farmers.

A claim that McDonalds imported potatoes for its fries because Indian varieties were too small was contradicted by a statement by the burger giant.

The government's survival was guaranteed by the walk-out of two parties which support the coalition but actually oppose the entry of foreign supermarkets. The Bahujan Samaj Party, led by Uttar Pradesh's controversial former chief minister, and the socialist Samajwadi Party, which currently governs in the state, walked out in protest, but their abstentions gave the government an automatic majority.


Indian government wins foreign supermarkets vote

Manmohan Singh's flagship retail reform sails through key test, opening way for second wave of economic changes

Manmohan Singh's victory clears the way for attempts to attract foreign investment. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

India's fragile ruling coalition has won a vote on allowing foreign supermarkets to operate in Asia's third-largest economy, in a key test of support for the prime minister's flagship economic reform.

The result was a much-needed boost for Manmohan Singh at a time when he is trying to drive a second wave of reforms through a fractious parliament. The debate over retail reform has proved a costly distraction for the minority government, eating up two weeks of the month-long parliamentary session.

The victory clears the way for voting on bills aimed at attracting foreign investment to the ailing pension and insurance industries, two measures the financial markets see as important steps in liberalising an economy amid a slowdown.

Expectations that the government would win had driven India's stock market to a 19-month high.

Samiran Chakraborty, regional head of research at Standard Chartered Bank India, said: "FDI [foreign direct investment] in retail was a barometer to test the government's strength, and the government has proved that they have the support in the parliament to push through such reforms.".

The government won the non-binding vote in parliament's lower house thanks to abstentions by two powerful regional parties. A loss would have made it harder for Singh to defend the policy to bring global chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc to India's $450bn (£280bn) retail sector.

The vote was the first big test for the government since a partner pulled out of the coalition in protest at the retail policy, which critics say will crush small shopkeepers.
"It is not over. We will fight on the streets," said Shahnawaz Hussain, a legislator for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which had called for a vote to challenge retail liberalisation.

The government says the reform will help modernise a dysfunctional Indian food distribution system, and slash inflation.

  • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.



India under pressure over plans to allow Tesco in


The Indian government was under intense pressure to reverse plans to allow in Tesco and other foreign supermarkets after a key ally declared his opposition ahead of Wednesday's no-confidence vote.

Mulayam Singh Yadav (front), said foreign supermarkets would undermine India's economic independence Photo: AFP
5:09PM GMT 04 Dec 2012

Opponents, including the main Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], the Communists, and the Trinamool Congress, which resigned from the government on the issue earlier this year, were joined by Mulayam Singh Yadav, a key government ally whose Samajwadi Party controls Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state.

Mr Yadav, a former defence minister, said the government's plans to introduce foreign supermarkets are an affront to Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of self-reliance. He warned that 50 million small grocery store staff would lose their jobs if the move is not defeated.

The Congress-led government was saved by Mr Yadav's party in 2008 when it last faced a serious attempt to topple it over its civil nuclear co-operation deal with the United States. The agreement, which allowed international inspection of its nuclear reactors and gave India access to foreign sources of uranium, was denounced by the opposition as a surrender of national sovereignty.

But in the Indian parliament today, Mr Yadav said foreign supermarkets would undermine India's economic independence and pleaded with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to change tack. "When [Mahatma] Gandhi-ji set fire to foreign cloth, he said this was to benefit Indian weavers. I request Sonia-ji - there is Gandhi in your name - remember what he said...

"You are forgetting 'Swadeshi' [self-reliance] and getting in 'Videshi'[dependence on foreigners]. You will not get any benefits politically from this - that will only lead to the Opposition being voted in," he warned.

Another MP compared the entry of foreign supermarket giants with colonial rule. They "will come as traders and end up as kings," he said.

The government wants supermarket chains to revolutionise India's backward agriculture and food distribution systems in which 40 per cent of the country's produce rots in sweltering warehouses or on slow roads in un-refrigerated trucks. It believes stores like Tesco and Walmart will cut out unnecessary middlemen and agents, pay more to farmers and bring down steep food inflation by reducing waste.

The government is hoping Mr Yadav and his socialist Samajwadi Party will either support it or abstain on Wednesday, despite its opposition, because it fears the 'communal' BJP coming to power.



European Roma descended from Indian 'untouchables', genetic study shows


Roma gypsies in Britain and Europe are descended from "dalits" or low caste "untouchables" who migrated from the Indian sub-continent 1,400 years ago, a genetic study has suggested.

Women and children from the Roma community stand in front of a former gendarmerie barrack that has been requisitioned by a group of associations and citizens to house them in Marseille, Southern France Photo: GETTY
2:53PM GMT 03 Dec 2012

Gypsies have long believed they have origins in India, citing common Sanskrit words in their languages and photographs of darker-skinned ancestors in South Asian clothes, while earlier research has offered some scientific support for their suspicions.

Now a study led by Indian and Estonian academics, including Dr Toomas Kivisild of Cambridge University, has confirmed their origins in the Indian sub-continent, and even identified the location and social background from which they emerged.

The findings have been welcomed by Britain's Gypsy Council, which said it would help to promote understanding of Roma people throughout Europe. "We are Britain's first Non-Resident Indian community," said council spokesman Joseph Jones.

The study, which was published this month in the journal Nature, examined Y chromosomes in DNA samples to compare the genetic signatures of European Roma men with those of thousands of Indians from throughout the sub-continent.

Scientists from Hyderabad's Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology collaborated with colleagues in Estonia and Switzerland to compare more than 10,000 samples, including from members of 214 different Indian ethnic groups. They were analysed to match a South Asian Y chromosome type known as "haplogroup H1a1a-M82", which passes down male bloodlines, with samples from Roma men in Europe.

While there were matches with samples from men throughout the Indian sub-continent, the closest match and the least genetic variation occurred with those from north-west India.

When the researchers overlaid the closest matches onto a genetic map of India, the highest density was in areas dominated by India's "doma", "scheduled tribes and castes" – the low caste dalits or untouchables who suffer widespread and generational discrimination and usually do society's dirtiest jobs.

The researchers believe the descendants of today's Roma gypsies in Europe began their westward exodus first to fight in wars in what is today Punjab between 1001 and 1026 on the promise of a promotion in caste status.

Later, they left to flee the fall of Hindu kingdoms in what is today Pakistan, with many setting off from near Gilgit.

The exodus to North Africa and Europe suggested they may have been early refugees from the spread of Islam into the Indian sub-continent. Dr Kivisild said the study had provided "evidence for the further interpretation of history of what kind of processes were triggerimg these movements".

Gypsy groups in Britain trace their own roots back first to Egypt – where they believe the name "gypsy" comes from – and beyond that to India. Joseph Jones of the Gypsy Council said early photographs show British gypsies with Indian facial features and styles of dress until 100 years ago.

He said the new study was helpful because it had scientifically confirmed the Indian origin of Britain and Europe's Roma community and that their common heritage should be accepted now by newer Indian communities in Britain. "We're not outcasts here. I don't care if we are associated with dalits – I don't live in a community where caste exists. I do feel a bit Indian, I've always felt an affinity with Indians," he said.

Gypsies were first noticed in Britain in around 1500 and acquired a reputation as itinerant craftsmen, traders and horse dealers.

No comments:

Post a Comment