Saturday, October 16, 2010

Updates (October 17, 2010)

1) Much has been bandied about in terms of the utility of a Commonwealth or its lack thereof. It would be great if all the ornamental benefits get translated to trade. And so think the babus. Linky

Studies by London-based Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) showed that India bought goods worth $53.15 billion annually from Commonwealth countries and sold goods worth $39.65 billion. Exports to Commonwealth nations account for 21 per cent of India’s total exports, while imports make up for around 17 per cent. The UK’s trade with the Commonwealth nations is 8-9 per cent of its total trade, while Canada’s stands at 6-7 per cent. The other two large economies in the Commonwealth — Australia and South Africa — continue to sell about 22 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively, of their total exports to fellow members.
Top Indian officials said India had long advocated turning the “club” into a trade bloc where members enjoyed exclusive tariff advantages but has been thwarted by the British who preferred an euro-centric trade policy. However, it intends to use the former British colonies’ club to strike trade and investment deals to its benefit over the next few years. “We do not envisage a Commonwealth trade pact in the near future but do visualise using the club to catapult FTAs (free trade agreements) and economic pacts. We are working on FTAs with Australia, Bangladesh and have similar deals with two other members — Sri Lanka and Singapore,” the officials said. A trade pact with Canada is also on the anvil.

2) Help from BD:

The change of guard in Bangladesh has resulted in sharp downfall in militancy related incidents in Tripura, said outgoing Director of Police (DGP) Pranay Sahay on October 13, reports Tripuratimes. Pranay Sahay, who handed over the charge to K. Saleem Ali on October 11 to pave the way for taking over the charge of Special Director General of Border Security Forces (BSF), told media that the insurgent hideouts in Bangladesh has got dwindled from 45 in 2005 to 18 in August, 2010. Of the total hideouts, 15 camps being operated by National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) while rest 5 hideouts belong to All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), according to intelligence inputs. “There was a time when militant camps were set up just across the India-Bangladesh border but now they have shifted their basses around 12-15 km from the international border”, he added.

3) On Anthony Shimray: Linky

Sources said investigation into Shing’s alleged arms procurement deals might now involve the Thai and Bangladesh police forces. He is alleged to have several bank accounts in these two countries perhaps in the names of other people as well. The ministry of home affairs is likely to write soon to authorities in Bangkok and Dhaka to investigate into the matter.
“He probably has an account in the HSBC bank in Bangladesh and a major Thai bank,” a source said. He flew from Bangkok with Royal Nepal Airlines flight number AR 402 reportedly after being deported following the lapse of his resident visa in Thailand.
With the arrest of Shing, the rebel outfit is in a quandary over how to handle the situation in the midst of peace talks because Shing is a key functionary and his arrest prevents the NSCN (I-M) from taking a high moral ground. Following the development, the Centre has managed to win a bargaining chip it may now use to alter the course of the peace talks.

4) Bihar Assembly elections is spelling boom for FM radio in Nepal.
5) Pre-census time: What is the real Jarawa number? Linky

The latest report by the Andaman Adim Janjati Vikash Samity (AAJVS), a government-affiliated autonomous agency headed by the Union territory’s lieutenant governor, shows the Jarawas now number 365 — 125 more since the 2001 census — kindling cautious hope for the threatened tribe. The indigenous people were estimated to be just 89 in the 1991 census. In 1981, they were said to have numbered 275. The huge fall in numbers between 1981 and 1991, said S.R. Rao, an anthropologist with the tribal welfare department of the Andaman and Nicobar administration, could be explained to an outbreak of epidemics in the late eighties. But the latest census, Rao added, shows the Jarawas, who first came in touch with the outside world in 1979, had recovered enough to increase their population.
Some experts, however, said the increase of 125 might not be accurate as, till the late nineties, anthropologists were either unable to locate all the habitats of the Jarawas who are spread across the south and middle Andamans, or census workers were too scared to survey remote areas. “It was only in 2002 that a team of anthropologists, of which I was a part, had made door-to-door visits to get an accurate picture. That time the figure was 310. I can vouch for its accuracy,” said S.S. Barik, a senior anthropologist with the Anthropological Survey of India in Port Blair.

Professor V.S. Sahay, head of the department of anthropology, Allahabad University, said all the previous figures were declared “estimated to be”. “I was among the first group of anthropologists who befriended the Jarawas in 1979. Aboard a ship we made first contact at a south Andaman island and distributed some food to some Jarawas. They quickly lifted them and ran back to their habitat without speaking a word,” he recalled.

6) NBA redux in Assam: The connection is spooky and KMSS' boss Akhil Gogoi has been awarded CNN-IBN's award (Linky) for his lobbying efforts. In any case, some action on this front has already begun. Linky

The KMSS also threatened to observe November and December as ‘Brihat Nadibandh Birodhi Andolonor Mah’ (protest months against mega dams) if Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi failed to clarify his stand on the issue by Monday. The Arunachal dams have evoked protests from other quarters also with prominent Assam intellectuals, including Gnyanpeeth awardee Indira Goswami and Sahitya Akademi honour recipient Prof Hiren Gohain, calling for their review.

7) Anti-corruption drive in Tripura?

A total of 90 Tripura government officials have been suspended since last year for corruption, a minister told reporters here Wednesday. "Around 90 government officials, including four block development officers (BDOs) and 13 middle ranking bureaucrats, were placed under suspension for financial misdeeds," said Tripura Rural Development Minister Jitendra Choudhury. The suspended officials included 70 panchayat secretaries posted in the rural areas across Tripura. "For achieving the desired goal in implementation of central and state government schemes, the government has engaged all principal secretaries and commissioners in monitoring works at grass root levels," the minister said. "Departmental vigilance and audits are also being further strengthen to deal with corruption," Choudhury added.

8) Intellectual dishonesty, thy name is academe: A few days back some american linguists had reported a new language "Koro." Here is the rebuttal to this "discovery." Linky

Barely a week after two US linguists claimed they uncovered a hidden language in Arunachal Pradesh, an academician based in the frontier state said his post-doctoral work in 2008 dealt extensively with the issue. But Gibji Nimachow would rather not stake any claim to have discovered Koro, which he says is a dialect and not a language as Americans K. David Harrison and Gregory DS Anderson announced. "To say one has uncovered a language known to many in our reasonably educated state is a bit too much," Nimachow told Hindustan Times. "That is half as ridiculous as turning a dialect into a language."

Anderson is director of Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Salem, US, and Harrison is a linguist at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. They said they uncovered Koro during a trip to Arunachal Pradesh in 2008. Their findings will be published in the journal Indian Linguistics. Nimachow, assistant professor of geography at Rajiv Gandhi University near state capital Itanagar, belongs to the Aka tribe, which is divided into two sub-groups — Hrusso and Koro. Besides, he had researched various aspects of his tribe for his thesis. Arunachal Pradesh Director (Research) Tage Tada agreed. "I don’t think Koro, or for that matter any dialect or language of Arunachal Pradesh, needs to be discovered," he said.

9) How Stuxnet Is Rewriting the Cyberterrorism Playbook? Linky
10) Elsewhere, some old news:

Mizoram govt to hold talks with underground "Hmar" outfit

PTI, Aizawl, 11 October : Mizoram government would soon hold talks with the underground Hmar People's Convention-Democrats (HPC-D), Home Secretary Lalmalsawma said here today. Lalmalsawma said the HPC-D had approached the state government, which agreed to engage the outfit for negotiations. The HPC-D is a Hmar outfit, operating mainly in neighbouring Manipur and demanding a separate Hmar Autonomous District Council comprising Hmar-inhabited areas in the north eastern part of Mizoram.

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