The South Asia Channel

Another Navy Ship Mishap in India; U.S. Apologizes for Air Strike in Afghanistan; Pakistani Government to Meet with Taliban

India

Bonus read: Two articles on the lack of women in the Indian workforce Missing workers of urban India and Why women aren't taking up farm jobs.

Another navy ship mishap claims a life

A week after 9 people died in an accident aboard a navy submarine, another mishap aboard a naval ship claimed the life of an officer and hospitalized several others (Indian Express, The Hindu). The incident took place on an as yet un-commissioned naval class destroyer in Mumbai's Mazagaon docks after a malfunction in its carbon dioxide unit caused a gas leakage.  Sources speaking to the Indian Express claimed a malfunction in the unit caused a cylinder to explode, killing the officer.

Criticism over the safety record on board navy assets has been steadily increasing; this is the 12th mishap to have taken place in the last 7 months. Last week, a fire and smoke incident on board the submarine INS Sindhuratna resulted in the deaths of nine people and spurred the resignation of navy chief DK Joshi, who claimed moral responsibility for the string of mishaps (Deccan Chronicle).

Kejriwal criticizes Gujarat development for serving oligarchs

Concluding his much reported ‘assessment tour' in Guajarat, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal described development in Gujarat as "rubbish" and said the state's growth had only served corporate titans such as the Ambani and Adani groups (Indian Express). Kejriwal then exhorted AAP workers in the state to "dismantle the Guajarat model one month before elections."

As part of his outreach strategy, Kejriwal met with farmers in Mundra who felt cheated out of land deals to build a Special Economic Zone and with fishermen in Bhandeshwar who claimed the construction of a power plant posed a threat to their fishing prospects. While leaving Gandhidham, Kejriwal faced protests himself when he was stopped by sloganeering BJP workers calling him "dilli ka chor" (Delhi's thief).  The AAP chief also sought a meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi but was denied this request (Economic Times). 

New company law makes social spending mandatory

On April 1st, a new law mandating Indian companies spend at least 2 percent of their profits on corporate social responsibility efforts comes into effect (Hindu Business Line). Under the notified rules in section 135, and the schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, firms with a turnover of over ?1,000 crore ($163 million) or net worth of over ?500 crore ($81.5 million) or profit of over ?5 crore  ($818,600) are required to comply with the new rules. Hindu Business Line also crunched the numbers and estimated the top 5,000 companies could generate over Rs. 12,000 crore ($1.964 billion) in corporate donation.  Companies are also required to furnish details of their spending in a comprehensive compliance report, which would also require them to quantify the impact on beneficiaries. An independent board will also be required to vet these claims. Additionally, companies are nervous about the tax implications of the new law as it is unclear whether CSR qualifies as a business expenditure or a tax exemption (Business Standard).

Introducing the political hobbyist

A man in the eastern state of Odisha claims to have an unusual "hobby:" contesting national elections (NDTV). Thus far, K Shyam Babu Subudhi from Berhampur has contested 27 times, and while he hasn't yet won an election, hopes to hold a record for most elections contested by a single person. Interestingly, Mr. Subudhi has always run against political heavyweights in the state such as former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and former Chief Ministers Biju Patnaik and JB Patnaik, in a bid to reform the electoral system. However, Mr. Subudhi harbours greater hope this time around "because people are fed up with others."

-- Shruti Jagirdar

Afghanistan

U.S. Apologizes, Karzai keeps calm

The U.S. military offered its condolences Thursday after an airstrike on an Afghan army outpost killed five Afghan soldiers and injured at least seven others (Post, LATimes).  The U.S. -led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was conducting surveillance for an Afghan operation when they engaged with what they believed were insurgents in Logar province; it was later determined that the insurgents were actually Afghan National Army soldiers. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was unexpectedly muted in his reaction, given his emotional interview earlier this week with the Washington Post and his outspoken opposition to U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan. He has cited civilian casualties from air strikes and international force operations as one reason for not signing the security agreement with the United States. But he did not immediately condemn international forces this time. He told the Associated Press on Thursday during a state visit to Sri Lanka that "NATO has admitted to me they did it mistakenly," and said that "we will investigate the issue and then speak about it" (AP). 

Blast in Helmand

Five civilians were killed and nine others wounded when a motorcycle fitted with a bomb exploded in a bazaar in southern Helmand province (Pajhwok). The explosion occurred in the Nad Ali district during the weekly Friday bazaar and injured at least six children between the ages of 12 and 14, some of whom are in critical condition.

Pakistan

Getting rid of the middle-man

The Pakistani government has decided to hold direct talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) after the negotiation committees met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday morning (ET). After the meeting, which was the first time Sharif sat down with the TTP intermediaries, the government announced a new strategy for peace talks that involves the government forming a new peace committee of government officials that will hold direct talks with the TTP. The exact composition of the committee has yet to be determined but Maulana Samiul Haq, the convener of the Taliban negotiation committee, told reporters that it was time that "all the major stakeholders" be involved in the process. Pakistani officials added that senior government officials, including Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, and representatives from the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would be part of the committee. The current peace committees will not be dissolved and will still be a part of the process in some way, according to the prime minister.

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Onions and Heroin

Security forces in Karachi uncovered a plot where drug smugglers were allegedly using onions to smuggle heroin (BBC, Nation). During a raid on a home in Karachi, security forces found 135 lbs. of "high quality" drugs along with hollowed out onions. According to the Anti-Narcotics Force, the five men who were arrested were hollowing out onions, inserting capsules of heroin, then gluing the top of the onion back on in an apparent attempt to fool drug-sniffing dogs.

--Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

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