India Shuffle: Fallout From Maoist Ambush and Killing, Mafia Miners & Fuel Price Questions

OUTLOOK – The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is having a rough time against the Maoists. According to this story, they have lost over 100 men in the past three months without killing a single Maoist (though they claimed to kill 15 the other day). Underpaid and poorly trained, the recent ambush in which 27 of them died was the result of simple tactical failures. Of course, I’m not the first to point out that tactical failures are the inevitable result of a fundamentally flawed strategy. Home Minister Chidambaram is fond of shifting blame on to state governments, rather than accepting the clear need for a properly coordinated national strategy, with effective levels of resources and training.

INDIAN EXPRESS – A senior government figure reckons they are losing $380 million worth of coal every year to mafia miners. The real cost is not to the government, however. A report from TEHELKA this week investigates the use of child labour in the mines of Meghalaya, where kids as young as five are working in horrific conditions (nb. this story came first from a good friend, Natacha Butler, of France24).

TIMES OF INDIA – Here’s a bit more background on Azad, the senior Maoist leader killed this week. There are rumours he was considering negotiations with the government, though this seems unlikely to have gone anywhere given the Maoists’ current position of strength. It’s also interesting to hear of links to other Maoist organisations in North Africa, Turkey and the Philippines. Would like to know more about those. Meanwhile, civil rights groups are claiming Azad’s killing was a fake encounter and reports say the man killed alongside him was a freelance journalist, although that could mean anything.

TIMES OF INDIA – Police have arrested a suspected Maoist, believed to be setting up a base in the Sunderbans, the remote estuary region of West Bengal, as a means of providing more direct links between that and Chhattisgarh.

FUEL PRICES – The government deregulated petrol prices recently and they’re still figuring out exactly how that will work. Will oil companies change prices every day? At one point does the government intervene if global prices go mentally high again? When will they spread deregulation to diesel (which has only been increased by Rs 2 so far)? Here’s an interview with Kirit Parakh, whose report was the basis for deregulation  – he tries to allay some fears about inflation that have sparked widespread opposition protests, including a bandh due tomorrow. The next (highly controversial, but extremely necessary) step is to start charging for water, argues R. Venkataraman, to stop it being wasted.

INDIAN EXPRESS – Plans for an urban employment guarantee scheme (to match the rural one passed in 2005) have been put forward, along with statutory minimum wages.

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