5th November 2020

The Miyas of Assam, and their char-chapori culture

Recently, a proposed ‘Miya Museum’ reflecting the “culture and heritage of the people living in char-chaporis” has stirred up a controversy in Assam.

  • The ‘Miya’ community comprises descendants of Muslim migrants from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to Assam. They came to be referred to as ‘Miyas’, often in a derogatory manner.
  • The community migrated in several waves — starting with the British annexation of Assam in 1826, and continuing into Partition and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War — and have resulted in changes in demographic composition of the region.
  • Years of discontent among the indigenous people led to the six-year-long (1979-85) anti-foreigner Assam Agitation to weed out the “illegal immigrant”, who was perceived as trying to take over jobs, language and culture of the indigenous population.

Char-Chaporis

  • char is a floating island while chaporis are low-lying flood-prone riverbanks. They keep changing shapes — a char can become a chapori, or vice versa, depending on the push and pull of the Brahmaputra.
  • The website of the Directorate of Char Areas Development puts the population of chars at 24.90 lakh as per a socio-economic survey in 2002-03. The population is bound to have increased since then.
  • Prone to floods and erosion, these areas are marked by low development indices. 80% of the Char population lives below poverty line. A UNDP Assam Human Development report from 2014 describes the char areas as suffering from “communication deficits, lack of adequate schooling facilities beyond primary, girl child marriage, poverty and illiteracy”.
  • While Bengali-origin Muslims primarily occupy these islands, other communities such as Misings, Deoris, Kocharis, Nepalis also live here. In popular imagination, however, chars have become synonymous to the Bengali-speaking Muslims of dubious nationality.

 

Why the sugar industry desperately needs export subsidy this season?

The sugar industry has reacted strongly to Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal’s announcement that the central government is not considering an extension of its export subsidy for the 2020-21 sugar season. The industry has warned of a ‘vertical collapse’ in the sector due to excessive stock, whose ramification can be felt in the years to come. Here’s why this issue has shaken the sugar industry before the start of an otherwise good season.

Why is the sugar industry rooting for exports even before the start of the season?

  • At the start of the (October-November) sugar season, the industry draws up its balance-sheet and takes into consideration the expected production, the carry forward stock of last season, minus domestic consumption and exports, if any. This sugar balance-sheet determines the availability of sugar for the next season. In case of unusually high stock, ex-mill prices remain low for the present season as well as for the upcoming season, which result in liquidity crisis for the sugar sector.
  • For the season which has started, the annual production is estimated to be 326 lakh tonne (without any diversion towards ethanol), and the season has started with opening stock of 107 lakh tonne.
  • However, industry sources estimate sugar production being lower by 20 lakh tonne as mills are expected to produce ethanol, and thus the total available sugar balance in this season is expected to be 413 lakh tonne. After deducting the domestic consumption of 260 lakh tonne, the opening stock of next season (season of 2021-22) is estimated to be 155 lakh tonne.
  • This unusually high stock, without an export incentive like a government subsidy, will result in a ‘vertical collapse of the sector’.
  • One way of correcting this inventory is to promote export of at least 50 lakh tonne of sugar. If 50 lakh tonne of sugar is shipped out of the country, the opening stock would be 105 lakh tonne, providing the mills a healthy inventory as well as liquidity from exports.

Why are mills reluctant to export sugar without a government subsidy?

The mills’ reluctance stems from the gap between cost of manufacturing and the current price of raw sugar in international markets. Sugar contracts at international markets are trading at Rs 21-22 per kg, while the cost of production is at Rs 32. The price mismatch has ruled out any export prospects as this would lead to further loss for the mills.

Why can’t mills concentrate on ethanol production?

  • Recently, the central government has announced a Rs 1-3 per litre rise in the procurement price of ethanol. The industry has estimated that this year, nearly 20 lakh tonne of sugar will be diverted towards producing ethanol. Last year, the central government had announced an interest subvention scheme for mills to augment production of ethanol.
  • But diversion to ethanol will require time to materialise. With the present capacity, mills can produce 426 crore litres of ethanol, which would require diversion of 15-20 lakh tonnes of sugar.
  • While the government’s move to encourage mills towards ethanol production is certainly welcome, it would require more capital and time. For the current season, in case exports are not made viable, not only will India lose its market share, but mills will certainly feel the liquidity crunch.

 

India test-fires long range Pinaka rocket system, will be deployed to counter China

Enhanced PINAKA rocket, developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been successfully flight tested. Development of Enhanced Pinaka system was taken up to achieve longer range performance compared to earlier design with reduced length.

Pinaka Missile System

  • Pinaka is an indigenous multi-barrel rocket launch system, which has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army.
  • Its weapon system has a state-of-the-art guidance kit bolstered by an advanced navigation and control system. The Pinaka Mark II Rocket is modified as a missile by integrating with the navigation, control and guidance system to improve the accuracy and enhance the range. The navigation system of the missile is aided by the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
  • Pinaka MBRS comprises of a free-flight artillery rocket having a maximum range of 38 km with different types of warhead and fuses. There are two pods containing 6 rockets each, capable of firing in salvo mode within 48 seconds.
  • The enhanced version of the Pinaka rocket would replace the existing Pinaka Mk-1 rockets. While Mk-1 had a range of 36 km, this enhanced variant can hit a target 45 to 60 km away and has been developed as per requirements of the Indian Army.
  • The DRDO had tested guided Pinaka rocket system in December 2019 which has a range of 70-90 km, but this improved version of Mk-1, which was test-fired recently, can fill a critical gap of hitting targets that are not so far away. The guided Pinaka is more of a missile that can be pin-pointed on the target.
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