The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Jul 10, 2016

Unrest in the Valley

The Kashmir valley is on the boil after police forces killed 22 year Hizbul Mujaheedin militant Burhan Wani. Burhan has been the poster boy of the militant outfits, posting videos on social media to recruit youth to militancy. 40,000 people turned out for Wani's funeral and protesters soon started attacking police posts and clashing with security forces. The total number of those who have died in the clashes has now gone up to 21 and many areas remain under curfew. The government meanwhile is looking to strengthen the presence of security forces in the state and believes the decision to eliminate Wani would send the right message to other terror groups.

Cabinet reshuffle in Delhi

The NDA government went through its first major cabinet reshuffle this past week with the PM inducting 19 new ministers and transferred some around. The PM and the BJP President Amit Shah kept an eye on the upcoming polls in UP and tried to get their caste arithmetic in the cabinet right. The major loser of the reshuffle was Smriti Irani who was moved from the HRD Ministry to the low profile Textile Ministry.

Taxing Junk Food

In a first of its kind move, the state of Kerela has imposed a 'fat tax' on restaurants serving fast food items like pizzas, burgers, tacos etc. The tax, to be levied at the rate of 14.5%, will hit multi-national food chains like McDonalds and Domino's Pizza the hardest. The move has led to question marks over how healthy Kerala, a state renowned for its stellar human development indicators, actually is and whether the tax by itself can help enable healthier outcomes for the state's population, particularly its children.

Opinions you must read:

  • Aakar Patel writes in Firstpost that PM Modi is practising the Gujarat model of ministerial governance at the Center as well.
  • Namita Bhandare from Mint looks at the possibility of a Uniform Civil Code(UCC).
  • At the backdrop of disputes between Delhi Government and the Centre, P.D.T Achary from Indian Express looks at the deficiencies of present law.

Chart of the Week

This week we looked at the deaths in Jammu Kashmir since the beginning of the insurgency in 1989. This is a highly contentious issue and I am sure a lot of people will disagree with the absolute number of deaths. First and foremost a note about the source- we used data compiled by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program run by the University of Uppsala in Sweden. The program compiles data about armed conflict around the world for use by researchers, journalists, and policymakers. This was our source of choice since it gives a fairly unbiased account of the conflict. However, per this data, the total deaths recorded are almost 20,000. Towards the high end, some (the separatist Hurriyat for e.g.) claim this number is more than 100,000. The Government of India's official death toll estimate is 47,000 from way back in 2008. This is sure to have crept up since. One reason why Uppsala's estimate is so low is that they have compiled the data using published news and official statements. In any case, the sobering fact remains that the toll on human life has been immense and tens of thousands of civilians have perished in this conflict. This does not even take into account thousands of people who have disappeared.

We would encourage our readers to look at the trends and insights we can draw from these. As you can see the deaths have significantly slowed in recent years. But the death of Burhan Wani last week and the ensuing violence, as well as growing unrest among the youth in the last couple years are worrying signs. You can see the right end of the tail of the chart kicking up. This needs to be addressed before the insurgency gains back its strength and throws the valley into chaos again. The spike in 1999 is due to the Kargil war and the following years show the aftermath of the war.

The state has not seen a lot of of reforms or economic investments in the past decade. Last November PM Modi did announce an INR 80,000 Crore package for Jammu Kashmir but its too early for any real fruits of the initiative to be evident. Here is to hoping that the current government will use a more conciliatory and economic approach towards diffusing the tensions and returning peace to the troubled state.