World
China's online retail trade tops all globally
China's online retail trade ranked first globally from January to October, with a total of 2.95 trillion yuan (about $455 billion) in online transactions during the period, the media reported on Thursday.
 
The claim was made in a report titled "Internet Development In China Over the Last Two Decades", according to the People's Daily. 
 
"As of July of this year, the number of netizens in China reached 668 million, which is the world's largest online population. There are four Chinese companies listed in the world's top 10 internet companies: Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com," said Yang Shuzhen, head of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace. 
 
China has outstripped the rest of the world in online retail transactions to become the world's largest online retail market. In 2014, China's online retail sales reached 2.8 trillion yuan, accounting for 10.6 percent of total retail sales in the country. 
 
From January to October 2015, total online transactions reached 2.95 trillion yuan. 
 
During the online shopping festival on November 11, total sales on Alibaba and its affiliated platforms reached 91.2 billion yuan.
 
Growth of online retail sales comes from the parallel rapid development of mobile internet in China. As of June 2015, China's mobile phone users numbered 594 million, accounting for 88.9 percent of all netizens. 
 
Among 374 million online shoppers in China, 270 million make online purchases using mobile phones. The development of mobile internet has also brought great changes to travel, car rental, takeout and medical services.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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In the heart of Europe's 'terrorist hub', youth alienation keeps nerves on edge
To a casual visitor, this province of Brussels may look like any other - a bit run down in parts, but largely having the glass-fronted stores, cafes and bars visible in most other places across Europe. The distinction though is the dress of choice among many women. Everywhere, you see the hijab, not unlike in an Arab nation. But this is Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the headquarters of the European Union in the heart of Europe.
 
Molenbeek Saint-Jean, a province or municipality of the capital with about 100,000 residents and an area of 5.9 sq km, has earned the notorious epithet of "terrorist hub" as three of the attackers who killed 130 people in Paris a month ago came from here.
 
Several other terrorist attacks have been traced to this area, including the one in Madrid, Spain, where bombs in a train killed 181 commuters. The bombs were planted by Al Qaeda-inspired militants who had lived in Molenbeek. Ahmed Shah Masood, the leader of Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, was killed by a Taliban supporter who had lived here. Several smaller attacks were found to be led by persons who lived in Molenbeek.
 
So why has the province produced more than its fair share of jihadists?
 
"The youth in the area do not have much work and some of them may seem to be attracted to jihadist thinking," Johan de Becker, Police Chief of Brussels West, told IANS. Brussels West has jurisdiction over Molenbeek and five other provinces.
 
He said the local police knew some of the men who were involved in the attack in Paris, but only as "petty thieves", not as major criminals.
 
The police chief said that the Paris attack had made them realise the need for greater police presence, especially those with an Arabic background. Becker said that police recruitment at present is done nationally and Arab-origin people in Molenbeek find it difficult to join, especially since education levels among them are low. "We are asking that recruitment rules be changed and more money allocated for police," he said.
 
Molenbeek has almost 40 per cent population of Moroccan origin. In the fifties and sixties, when Belgium needed workers for its coal mines, it looked at Morocco to bring in young, hardworking people. They came in their hundreds for the mines and later for subway construction. Their families followed. Most of them lived in small apartments in the area.
 
In the last two decades, the economy of the area turned for the worst and there have hardly been any employment opportunities.
 
"For several years, the political leaders ignored the need for measures to prevent jihadist thinking from taking hold. We did not give enough support to Muslims from Morocco which I think is important," Francoise Schepmans, Mayor of Molenbeek, at the City Hall, told IANS.
 
She said that lack of education among young Moroccans reduces their chances of finding a job and many were on welfare support which often led to frustration. Some of the informal mosques, in residential areas, may be centres of jihadism, she said, although the main mosques -- there are 25 of them -- are not a problem. But she objects to the whole of Molenbeek being called a "terrorist hub".
 
"We, of course, need more control on what goes on in informal mosques," she said, adding they also needed more money for education, for community services, for outreach programmes and for making youth part of society.
 
The Townhall where the mayor sits is just across from where two of the terrorists lived. Ibrahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in Paris, was heavily into religion and was a regular mosque goer, said Nasih Atiq from Pakistan who works in his brother's shop La Maison du Saree or House of Sarees nearby. He said he used to see Ibrahim quite often but did not talk to him.
 
Ibrahim's brother, Salah Abdeslam, who is absconding and who rented a car in Brussels that was said by police to have been used for carrying the gunmen that killed 89 persons in the Bataclan concert hall, lived just next to the House of Sarees. According to Nasih, he saw him almost on a daily basis before the attack. "He was like any other young man in the area. He was not religious at all and used to love riding his motorcycle," Nasih told IANS.
 
He said for the first few days police were everywhere in the area and the houses were sealed and neighbours questioned. But a month later everything appears to have returned to normal with no police personnel in sight. What has not come to normal is the business. "It may be limping back, but customers are still not coming in full force," says Danish Atiq, Nasih's brother and proprietor of the two saree shops in Molenbeek.
 
Most of his clients are Moroccans and just because a few oddballs had turned out to be terrorists, it doesn't mean people should condemn the whole province, he said.
 
He found it to be a failure of federal police that the mastermind of Paris attacks like Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who lived in Molenbeek and who had gone to Syria and returned, was not tracked. "When you have people coming back from Syria, what are your intelligence services doing?" he asked.
 
Hassan Rahali, a Molenbeek Council member, echoes sentiments that giving the province a bad name would not solve anything. "A very, very small group of people are radicalised and the authorities know about them. Why did they not act earlier?" he said.
 
Rahali, who is of Moroccan origin and is a second generation Belgian, says that those who were involved in the Paris attacks were "radicals taking the name of Islam, not Islamic radicals".
 
Noting that there were 40,000 or so people of Moroccan origin in Molenbeek, he asked: "Can you say they are radicals? Look around you, life is normal here. This is not terrorist country."
 
"The radicals are the failures of the state," he said, pointing out that they had very little help by way of education or employment or even identity as Belgians. "They were hurt by the system, so thought of hurting it back." Rahali said, adding that some jihadist recruiters from Antwerp were trying to lure the young with money and weapons. "Some stupid people do get convinced."
 
Rahali said his biggest worry was about the impact on normal youth in Molenbeek. "European media has painted the whole town black. Do you think Muslim youths would get jobs for the next 10 years after this?"
 
The heavy police presence and raids have had an impact on ordinary people's attitude. Nerves are on edge, as one can see during a walk through the run-down parts of Molenbeek, called the Lower area. People object to being photographed and refuse to be interviewed.
 
In the Mustaqbal Mosque, as devotees congregate for evening prayers, they are not very receptive to being photographed. In fact, many young followers made the IANS correspondent delete pictures that were taken earlier inside without objection. They also declined to allow a meeting with the mosque head, who was leading the prayers.
 
The edginess is understandable. For weeks, few would have seen a relaxed minute as federal and local police carried out raid after raid. Even a month later, life in some areas is yet to return to normal.
 
Saad Benaissa, of Moroccan origin, has been in Molenbeek for the last 15 years and runs a small eatery near an area called Place de la Duchesse which was earlier vibrant and full of life. His place has suffered immensely. "Earlier business was very good. Now, it has gone down steeply. I don't know what to do. I can't go anywhere else," he said.
 
That's true for most residents in Molenbeek who have to lower their heads and let the storm pass. Paris was a wake-up call for the authorities, who are trying to purge the jihadist elements from the area which has unfortunately become a synonym for terrorism in Europe.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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SC decision marks a watershed in the evolution of RTI

Public Information Officers and Information Commissioners will now take inspiration from the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement and we will see RTI marching forward to bring better governance through transparency and participative democracy

 

I am very pleasantly surprised at the Supreme Court’s clear pro-transparency stance in its latest judgment involving Reserve Bank of India (RBI), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and ICICI Bank. It is also personally gratifying since 10 of the 11 orders, which the apex court has upheld were given by me. I had a worry that since I had disagreed with a full bench decision given earlier, the Court’s verdict would strike down my order. The apex court has seen the merit of my argument why the full bench decision was ‘per incuriam’. 
 
The Court has said: “Because an informed citizen has the capacity to reasoned action and also to evaluate the actions of the legislature and executives, which is very important in a participative democracy and this will serve the nation’s interest better which as stated above also includes its economic interests.” This truly reflects our democratic ideals.
The Supreme Court has upheld the orders for transparency with the words: “In rest of the cases, the CIC has considered elaborately, the information sought for, and passed orders, which in our opinion do not suffer from any error of law, irrationality or arbitrariness.”
After the advent of the Right to Information (RTI) Act this is the first judgment, which clearly accepts the RTI Act in letter and spirit.  The earlier judgments of the apex court were not in the same vein.
 
This now marks a watershed in the evolution of RTI. Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Information Commissioners will now take inspiration from this and we will see RTI marching forward to bring better governance through transparency and participative democracy. 
 
 
(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)

 

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

1 year ago

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gandhi. If it was not for public spirited citizens like him, the common man in India would be helpless before the power of govt to do as it pleases.

MG Warrier

1 year ago

By any measure, this is a landmark judgment of the Apex Court and now, it is for the government and enlightened citizens to ‘use’ it in the right spirit, in public interest. The Supreme Court’s observations like, “The facts reveal that as banks are trying to cover up their underhand actions, they are even more liable to be subjected to public scrutiny” should open the eyes of both government and the institutions and by infusing transparency in transactions avoid similar indictments in future. Our legal framework, which has British origin and has not yet been ‘democratised’, insulates masters against action by servants and institutions (both in private and public sector) from litigations by clientele in several situations. Beyond citizen’s right to information, transparency issues in the conduct of statutory bodies and government departments which enjoy certain rights and privileges because of the nature of responsibilities entrusted to them need to be addressed.
The temptation on the part of government to bring in ‘ownership rights’ or on the part of regulators and supervisors to take shelter under provisions of the statute book meant to protect institutions and their clientele from embarrassment in exceptional situations, in a routine manner, should be avoided.
The observations of the Apex Court goes much beyond the issue of parting with information under RTI Act. Without fighting this from a mere legal or prestige angle to protect the image, by falling back on the secrecy clauses, RBI and other institutions need to go by the spirit of the observations by the highest court.
A quick gesture could be to initiate measures to make public, information the central bank is in possession and considers useful for banks’ clientele in deciding their relationship with individual banks. If legal provisions stand in the way, they should be got amended, as ‘ease to do business’ include information about the profile of the institution with which a customer deals.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Sunil

1 year ago

Congratulations Shailesh for such clear orders as a CIC . We can only hope for this remarkably good and clear judgement from the Supreme Court will bring in better days for citizens who exercise the right to information.

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