Archive for ‘Social & cultural’


Cognac Makers Are Feeling the Hangover from China’s Corruption Crackdown – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Worldwide sales of cognac dipped in 2013 after several years of heady increases, according to new industry data. The culprit? China’s ongoing battle on corruption.

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the main industry group for the fortified wine from southwestern France, said earlier this week that sales of the drink slipped 6.7% by volume and 10.2% by value during the 12-month period ending July 2014. Exports to the Far East region, which includes Southeast Asia, China and Japan, fell by about one-fifth in the past year in both volume and value, the BNIC reported.

The industry group said the loss in the Far East region was directly related to a slowdown in the Chinese market, which was a large consumer of the more expensive bottles of the famed French eau de vie. China’s ongoing crackdown on corruption and excessive spending by government officials and state-owned company employees has cribbed spending on lavish entertaining – one reason some economists are predicting as much as a 1.5% dip in GDP growth this year.

The weak sales results are a stark contrast from two years ago, when China was the promised land for cognac makers. Sales hit a record high in 2012 in China when the country was knocking back the special brandy, clinking glasses at banquets and karaoke bars alike. Regarded as a status drink, many Chinese imbibers often sprung for the most expensive bottles and exchanged them as gifts. The world’s most expensive bottle was auctioned in Shanghai in 2011.

But the party has crashed. Owners of major cognac brands, such as Remy Cointreau SARCO.FR -0.74% (which owns Remy Martin cognac), reported a sobering 30% decline in sales during the last quarter of 2013.

Cognac is hardly the lone liquor getting caught in the corruption crackdown. Sales of baijiu, China’s notoriously fiery grain alcohol, and whisky are down, too.

China’s largest wine importer, ASC Fine Wines, said its sales stalled in 2013 as the anti-graft campaign drastically reduced sales of the most expensive bottles. Earlier this week, the company told the Journal it has since slashed the average price of its wines by 32% in a bid “to stimulate more demand for these wines through more attractive pricing.”

The Chinese are still drinking, they insist, just not splurging.

via Cognac Makers Are Feeling the Hangover from China’s Corruption Crackdown – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


Chinese medical workers arrive in Sierra Leone’s Freetown to battle Ebola – Xinhua |

A team of three Chinese medical workers arrived in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on late Tuesday to help the country fight against the deadliest-ever Ebola virus which has claimed over 1,000 lives in west African countries.

Chinese disease control experts arrive in Sierra Leone

The first batch of three medical workers arrived in Guinea on Monday and another three medical staff are expected to carry out anti-Ebola work in Liberia soon, medical sources told Xinhua.

China announced on Sunday it would send three expert teams and medical supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to assist in the prevention and control of the Ebola virus, with each medical team composed of one epidemiologist and two specialists in disinfection and protection.

China announced on Sunday that it would provide relief worth 30 million yuan (4.9 million U.S. dollars) to the three countries. It was the second round of Ebola relief from China so far.

via Chinese medical workers arrive in Sierra Leone’s Freetown to battle Ebola – Xinhua |


China Names U.S. as the Top Destination for ‘Economic Fugitives’ – Businessweek

China’s wealthy elite is fleeing the country for a better quality of life—better education, better air, and greater personal security. China’s Ministry of Public Security has just added a further potential reason: fleeing the police.

“The U.S. has become the top destination for Chinese [economic] fugitives,” Liao Jinrong, a ministry official told state-run China Daily on Monday. According to the English-language newspaper, “More than 150 economic fugitives from China, most of whom are corrupt officials or face allegations of corruption, remain at large in the United States.”

While this is a rather incredible admission, the intent of the article—no doubt placed by China’s propaganda authorities—seems to be to make the case for an extradition treaty between the U.S. and China. “We face practical difficulties in getting fugitives who fled to the US back to face trial due to the lack of an extradition treaty and the complex and lengthy legal procedures,” Liao told the paper.

via China Names U.S. as the Top Destination for ‘Economic Fugitives’ – Businessweek.


India Wants to Find the Saraswati River and Bring It Back to Life – India Real Time – WSJ

ndia’s new government says it plans to find and possibly bring back to life a long-lost river mentioned in sacred Hindu texts.

In answer to a question in Parliament Tuesday, Uma Bharti, the water resources and river development minister said India wants to “detect and revive,” the Saraswati River, described in Vedic texts.

“There are enough scientific evidences on the presence of the river Saraswati in some parts of the country through which it flowed about five to six thousand years ago,” she said on the floor of the lower house of Parliament. “Saraswati is not a myth.”

Geologists have known for more than 100 years about ancient river beds passing through northern India that could be the Saraswati, said the Times of India. But reviving the river by bringing any underground water to the surface is “an impossible task,” Umesh Chaube, professor emeritus of water resource development and hydrology at IIT –Roorkee told the Hindustan Times.

Critics were quick to suggest it would be a waste of government money and a potential wild goose chase aimed at strengthening the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ties to its Hindu nationalist supporters.

A BJP spokesman did not respond to a request for the party response on Wednesday morning.

It wouldn’t be the first time that scientists have had to follow the hunches of politicians. Last year a team of government archaeologists had to excavate the ruins of an old palace in the state of Uttar Pradesh, after a famed Hindu holy man declared that there was 1,000 tons of gold buried under it. No gold was found.

via India Wants to Find the Saraswati River and Bring It Back to Life – India Real Time – WSJ.


Class divide puts English to the test in India’s civil services

Indian students in recent weeks have protested the use of English in the country’s difficult civil service examinations. The students, usually from Hindi-speaking regions of India, say that the exams reflect a class divide: if you speak and write English well, you are seen as part of the educated, urban elite. If you do not, it’s because you are one of the disadvantaged, usually from smaller towns or villages.

English is a tricky subject in India. A language imposed by colonists who exploited the people and resources of the land for centuries, it also was the one language that people seeking independence from the British could use to speak to one another. It remains one of two official languages across India, though many people do not speak it well or at all. I spoke to some of the civil service aspirants who have complained about the language requirement and the structure of the exams, and learned about the role that they hope the exam will play in their lives.

Ashutosh Sharma is a 25-year-old psychology graduate from Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, who has been camping in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar neighbourhood for the past two years, hoping that he will crack the examination one day.

“The entire protest is presented as a language issue. It’s much more than that. It’s about how a group of elite people in the country want to govern the things. How they cannot digest that a villager, who doesn’t match their lavish lifestyle, rises to the ranks on the basis of his knowledge and hard work,” he said.

Ashutosh said he comes from a village, and is better acquainted with the problems the country faces in these places. “When I was in the village primary school, I remember that the teacher would hardly come to take classes. There was no accountability. As a district magistrate, I would know better how the problem can be fixed and I can deal with the problem regardless of whether I speak English or not.”

via India Insight.


One lakh children go missing in India every year: Home ministry – The Times of India

On February 5, 2013, a Supreme Court bench, angry over 1.7 lakh missing children and the government’s apathy towards the issue, had remarked: “Nobody seems to care about missing children. This is the irony.”  (Ed note: 1 lakh = 100,000)

English: Children in Raisen district (Bhil tri...

English: Children in Raisen district (Bhil tribe), MP, India. Français : Enfants dans le district de Raisen (tribu Bhil), M.P., Inde. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Close to one and a half years later, government data show over 1.5 lakh more children have gone missing, and the situation remains the same with an average of 45% of them remaining untraced.

Data on missing children put out by the home ministry last month in Parliament show that over 3.25 lakh children went missing between 2011 and 2014 (till June) at an average of nearly 1 lakh children going missing every year.

Compare this to our trouble-torn neighbour Pakistan where according to official figures around 3,000 children go missing every year. If population is an issue, then one could look at China, the most populous nation, where official figures put the number of missing children at around 10,000 every year.

National Crime Records Bureau, in fact, deciphers missing children figures in India in terms of one child going missing in the country every eight minutes.

More worryingly, 55% per cent of those missing are girls and 45% of all missing children have remained untraceable as yet raising fears of them having been either killed or pushed into begging or prostitution rackets.

Maharashtra is one of the worst states in terms of missing children with over 50,000 having disappeared in the past three and half years. Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh are distant competitors with all recording less than 25,000 missing children for the period.

Worryingly, however, all these states have more missing girls than boys. In Maharashtra, 10,000 more girls went missing than boys. In Andhra Pradesh, the number of girls missing (11,625) is almost double of boys (6,915). Similarly, Madhya Pradesh has over 15,000 girls missing compared to around 9,000 boys. Delhi, too, has more girls (10,581) missing compared to boys (9,367).

via One lakh children go missing in India every year: Home ministry – The Times of India.


Scramble for Dalit votes is sparking increased communal violence in UP

The key force driving the increasing communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh is the scramble for Dalit votes in an attempt to weaken the Bahujan Samaj Party and deter Muslims from rallying behind it.

This strategy was evolved, and implemented, during the last Lok Sabha elections. But the competition to woo Dalits has gathered momentum ahead of bypolls to 12 assembly seats, five of which are in the western section of the state, which is often billed as the “wild west” of the Hindi heartland.

As the Indian Express reported, more than 600 incidents of communal violence have taken place in the state since May.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s stake in the bypolls, which have yet to be scheduled, is enormous. Eleven of the 12 constituencies here had BJP MLAs, all of whom were elected to the Lok Sabha, as was the party’s ally, Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel. The results will help measure the durability of the Modi wave, and its possible impact on the UP assembly elections in early 2017.  The verdict from UP could well determine the chances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning a second successive term in the 2019 polls.

The need to cobble together an electoral majority is driving political parties to resort to communal mobilisation. Local disputes over land, civic amenities, and exploitative gender relations have been given a communal hue and magnified to portray a monolith Hindu community arrayed against the Muslims.

via – News. Politics. Culture..


With court ban on illegal mosque loudspeakers, some Mumbai Muslims oppose street prayers too

The performance of religious practices in public spaces has occasionally caused friction in Indian cities. On July 30, the Bombay High Court addressed one particularly vexing source of strain when it asked the city police to take down all illegal loudspeakers attached to mosques in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

The court’s directive came in response to a public interest litigation filed by a Navi Mumbai resident against the unauthorised loudspeakers during prayer time at mosques. The court specified that all illegal loudspeakers, whether installed at mosques or at Ganesh or Navratri pandals, should be removed “irrespective of religion, caste or community”.

Even though the loudspeaker issue has been repeatedly politicised in Maharashtra (in 2010, the Shiv Sena had demanded a blanket ban on all mosque loudspeakers after the party was booked for violating noise norms at its Dussehra rally), several Muslim activists came out in support of the court directive.

But the call to prayer being announced on loudspeakers is not the only Muslim practice that some members of other communities complain about. In densely-populated cities like Mumbai, when large numbers of devotees gather to pray their Friday namaz, the congregation often spills out of the mosques and into the streets outside, hindering traffic and pedestrian movements for up to 30 minutes.

For many Muslim activists, this phenomenon is as much of an inconvenience to the public as the loudspeakers. But they believe the government has a greater role to play in helping to solve the problem.

“Nobody really likes to pray namaz outside on the streets, because it inconveniences so many people,” said Ghulam Arif, president of the Qartaba Wisdom Club, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that works on social issues. The only reason the practice continues, he said, is because the community is too large to fit into the existing mosques.

“The government could give Muslims the permission to organise Friday prayers in open grounds and maidans near mosques,” said Arif.

The community has been recommending a specific solution to the problem for nearly two decades: allowing mosques to expand by granting them additional floor space index. Increasing FSI  – the ratio of plot size to the height of a building that can be erected on it  –  would mean a greater number of floors to accommodate more worshippers.

via – News. Politics. Culture..


For a country obsessed with fair skin, why are so many Indians buying self-tanners?

Market research firm Euromonitor has just released a study on the grooming habits of the world. It has one rather surprising finding – Indians are slathering on massive dollops of tanning lotions. Indians are apparently second only to Chinese in consuming what the researcher calls self-tanning products.

It doesn’t add up.

Indians are the highest consumers of whitening creams, the same survey shows, and that is unsurprising. The country’s problematic preference for fair skin is well known. Fairness cream ads featuring big Bollywood stars are ubiquitous. In 2010, AC Nielsen estimated the size of the market for skin whitening products at $432 million.

But there is not a single well-known brand of skin-tanning lotions in the country.

via – News. Politics. Culture..


With End of China’s One-Child Policy, There Hasn’t Been a Baby Boom – Businessweek

Last November, China announced the loosening of its restrictive one-child population policy: Couples would soon be permitted to have two children so long as one parent was an only child. Government planners predicted that roughly half of China’s 11 million eligible couples would chose to have a second child within five years, and investors predicted a boom in sales of diapers, baby formula, and educational toys in China.

Why China's Second-Baby Boom Might Not Happen

The policy change has been rolled out in 29 of China’s 33 provinces and regions, yet by the end of May only 271,000 applications for permission to have a second child had been submitted. Many came from older mothers concerned not to lose their chance. At an agency in Beijing’s Tuanjiehu neighborhood that connects parents with maternity nannies, staff said that the majority of requests pertaining to second children came from women in their late 30s.

Six months into the new policy is still too early to judge the ultimate impact. But experts now express more modest expectations. “Every metric thus far indicates the loosening isn’t leading to a baby boom,” says Mei Fong, author of a forthcoming book on China’s population policies. With rising costs of urban living, Chinese couples are deliberately limiting family size for reasons similar to those depressing fertility in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Western countries.

via With End of China’s One-Child Policy, There Hasn’t Been a Baby Boom – Businessweek.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 499 other followers