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CWA # 453, 7 April 2021
Conflict Weekly #65, 7 April 2021, Vol.2, No.1 An initiative by NIAS-IPRI & KAS-India Office
Conflict Weekly #65, 7 April 2021, Vol.2, No.1
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI & KAS-India Office
Sneha M, Apoorva Sudhakar, D. Suba Chandran and Harini Madhusudan
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
In the news
On 30 March, the World Economic Forum released the Global Gender Gap Report 2021. The report provides a benchmark to measure gender parity across countries on four parameters: Political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival. The report aims to track progress on relative gaps on the parameters mentioned above. The methodology used in the report has been constant since its first edition in 2006. On a scale of 0 to 100, the Global Gender Gap Index calculates scores that can be viewed as the distance to parity.
The key highlights of the report are as follows. First, the Global Gender Gap of 2021 stands at 67.7 per cent, with three new countries (Afghanistan, Guyana, and Niger). The gap has widened by 0.6 percentage points compared to the previous edition of 2019. Second, geographically, the Nordic countries continue to dominate the global top 10, with Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden occupying the top five positions. Third, the Covid-19 pandemic has further widened the gender gap by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Fourth, the gender gap globally in political empowerment remains the highest of the four gaps (only 22 per cent closed till date), followed by economic participation and opportunity (only 58 per cent closed); finally, gender gaps in educational attainment (95 per cent closed); and health and survival (96 per cent closed) are nearly closing. However, the report also points that the "last mile" of progress has been relatively slow.
Issues at large
First, the increased global attention on gender issues. From the landmark resolution of the United Nations Security Council on Women, Peace and Security in 2000 to the Global Gender Gap Index of 2021, they have all highlighted attaining gender parity to accelerate the global economy's growth. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also emphasize (Goal 5) on achieving gender equality. The world aims at a more gender-inclusive environment, but overall action is missing from the scene in many countries.
Second, regardless of global opinion on gender issues, less has been done to eradicate the gender gap. The report rightly identifies a significant decrease in the total progress made towards gender parity since 2006. Hence, on average, over the past 15 years, the gap has been reduced by only 0.24 percentage points per year. The total global gender gap is expected to close in 135.6 years, which is more than the reported years in 2019. Regionally, Western Europe has the narrowest gender gap (77.6 per cent so far) and is expected to improve even further this year. In contrast, South Asia (62.3 per cent) and the Middle East and North Africa have highest disparity (60.9 per cent).
Third, gender equality in isolation. Take Iceland, for example, which has topped the global gender gap index for more than a decade and has continued to do so. Progressive childcare policies, generous parental leave policies, and gender quotas in the political sphere are the backbone of its success. Therefore, countries looking at gender issues in isolation must revamp their policies and strategies to develop on the whole.
The report rightly identifies gender-positive recovery policies and practices that can tackle these potential challenges. First, the study proposes that more funding be poured into the care system and fair access to care leave for men and women. Second, policies and procedures should be constructive in combating gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Lastly, an unprecedented scenario like that of the pandemic must be met with strict equitable policies to create more sustainable societies and economies.
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan fail to reach a consensus, again
In the news
On 6 April, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan failed to reach an agreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), after three days of talks in Kinshasa. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said: "This position reveals once again Ethiopia's lack of political will to negotiate in good faith." Similarly, the Sudanese Foreign Minister said, "Without a new approach to negotiations, there becomes space for Ethiopia to impose a fait accompli and put all the peoples of the region in grave danger."
On 4 April, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and African Union Chairman commenced the latest round of talks between the three countries with their respective foreign ministers and irrigation ministers and African Union officials. On the same day, the President said, "I ask you all to make a fresh start, to open one or several windows of hope, to seize every opportunity." The Egyptian Foreign Minister said, "These negotiations represent the last chance that the three countries must seize to reach an accord."
Issues at large
First, a brief history of the Nile dam. Ethiopia began the construction of the dam over the Blue Nile tributary in 2011 and has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres and a capacity of 6,500 megawatts. Ethiopia believes the dam will help in power generation for its entire 110-million strong population, when the construction is completed and starts operating by 2023. The power generation is also expected to address the problems of Ethiopia's neighbouring countries, including Sudan. In 2020, Ethiopia filled the reservoir for the first time and is planning to do the same in the monsoon of 2021.
Second, the contentions of the lower riparian countries. The two lower riparian countries, Egypt and Sudan, raised apprehensions that the dam will affect their water supply. They prefer that Ethiopia takes longer to fill the dam to prevent a dramatic drop in the river's water level. Further, Egypt, which depends on the Nile for 90 per cent of its water requirements, holds a sentimental and historical value to the river. Egypt and Sudan cite their rights to the river that were guaranteed to them in 1929 and 1959.
Third, new demands on mediation. The latest talks failed after the three countries disagreed on the process of mediation. Egypt and Sudan suggested that the US, EU, UN, and the AU to mediate the talks. On 15 March, the Sudanese Prime Minister also formally requested the four parties to mediate. However, during the latest talks, Ethiopia emphasized that the mediation should be African-led. Further, Ethiopia prefers the solution to be a set of guidelines, while Egypt and Sudan push for a legally binding agreement.
First, talks between the two countries have failed to produce a consensus for almost a decade. However, since 2020, Ethiopia has unilaterally operated the filling of the reservoir and is likely to continue the same in the coming years. Unless the three countries reach an agreement, Egypt and Sudan will be at the losing end.
Second, the involvement of external actors may complicate Ethiopia's position on the dam because the leadership is already facing pressure from the US, EU and the UN due to the ongoing internal conflict in the country.
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh
In the news
On 3 April, there was an encounter between a special police force led by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Maoists in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh State. The encounter resulted in 22 members of the paramilitary getting killed, with one commando kidnapped.
On 5 April, the Home Minister of India commented on the killings as "an act of desperation by the Maoists", and the "the loss of lives of jawans will not be in vain."
Issues at large
First, the occasional deadly attacks by the Maoists with a huge casualty, despite the decline in Maoist violence during the last decade. According to a report by the Hindu, during recent years, there were more than five big attacks since 2017 in the Sukma district in Chattisgarh. In March 2017, 12 members of the CRPF were killed in an ambush; and in March 2020, 17 members of a police force were killed in another ambush. Last month, in March 2021, another police team suffered casualties when five of them got blown by a bomb.
Second, the concentration of Maoist violence in the Sukma district in Chhattisgarh. The topography, geography and demography of the district have played a crucial role in the region, remaining one of the last bastions for the Maoists. With a strong forest cover and far from the state capital, Sukma remains a periphery within the State, and a Maoist haven. Though there has been an emphasis on development activities, the district is yet to feel the fruits that would prevent the local population from joining or being sympathetic to the Maoist cause. Along with the neighbouring Bijapur district, Sukma shares the border with four States - Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Given the practical issues, this remains a nightmare for the police and paramilitary forces. Demographically, the district has a tribal population in the majority, with one of the lowest literacy rates in India.
Third, the State sees violence as a part of Maoists' last stand. The State believes strengthening the police force with special and focussed units would ultimately neutralize the Maoist threat. The State is moving in large numbers into the erstwhile Maoist areas; it believes that the Maoist movement is on the decline and pursues a one last push strategy. On the other hand, the Maoists want to disprove the State narrative that their movement is on a decline. Despite a numerically strong force, due to the geography and innovative Maoist strategies, the security forces get ambushed in larger numbers by the Maoists.
Fourth, the mixed balance sheet – whether the State has been successful in addressing the Maoists presence. The State would present statistics on a comparative note regarding the situation during the last ten years; the data would hint at the decline of Maoist violence during the last ten years. However, recurring violence in the district would also underline the persisting Maoist issue.
The Maoists are rhetorically strong; the State, despite its development narrative, has not succeeded in ensuring that the youths do not get attracted by the extremist ideology and slogans. Second, despite the government's tall claims, inequality still exists in the region and in Chhattisgarh. The State believes in large force and a bulldozer strategy in clearing out the Maoists. The latter believe in targeted ambushes but continue the guerrilla warfare. Given the geography and demography, the State is in for a long haul.
Russia and Ukraine: Provocation and conflict escalation at the borders
In the news
On 1 April, the US pledged to stand by Ukraine in the likely event of a Russian "aggression." The statement came after the Ukrainian President announced that Russia was increasing its troop presence on the border. Through the week, there has been an increase in the military build-up on the borders near Crimea, and eastern Ukraine and a rise in the fighting between the government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the border region. This is seen as a violation of the Minsk Protocol of 2015.
On 26 March, Kyiv blamed Moscow responsible for four Ukrainian soldiers' death, but Russia has denied any involvement. While warning against the provocations from the Ukrainian side, Russia revealed that the four soldiers had died after a landmine exploded while the soldiers were inspecting a minefield. They state that the Russian movement in the region is only a part of their military exercise.
Issues at large
First, the Russia-Ukraine conflict since 2014. It began with the then President Viktor Yanukovych suspending preparations to implement an association agreement with the European Union. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, after unrest in Kyiv toppled the Kremlin-friendly Viktor Yanukovych. A civil war followed; the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's Donbas region successfully declared Donetsk and Luhansk regions' independence. The EU brokered a ceasefire agreement in 2015. However, there have been repeated incidents reported of violations of the ceasefire. The disputed territory between Ukrainian forces and the Russia-backed separatists is spread across the 500 km border, and efforts at peace talks have been stalled for the last six years.
Second, the recent developments. There has been a significant increase in the Russian military presence, first in Crimea, which is home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and second, near the border between Russia and the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. The New York Times reported that an estimated 4,000 Russian troops had been deployed to the border with Ukraine, citing an unnamed US official, while also reporting that in response to the troop build-up, the US military's European Command has raised its alert level to a "potential imminent crisis." In Crimea, people have complained of months-long water shortages that were partly triggered by Ukraine switching off supplies through the North Crimea Canal, as a possible source of tensions. Another reason could be the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Russia.
Third, the international response. The US White House has expressed its firm support for Ukraine in a call to Zelenskiy on 2 April. By 5 April, UK's Boris Johnson and the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, declared their 'unwavering support' to Ukraine. The Russian Presidential spokesman has stated that the situation in eastern Ukraine at a boiling point and said, the deployment of NATO troops near the conflict zone or Russia's borders would trigger a strong response from Moscow. Russia has also stated that its troop movements are defensive in nature and have claimed for weeks that Ukraine has also been moving military units toward the conflict zone.
There is a pre-war paranoia that the military build-up of Russia and Ukraine could lead to confrontations, specifically with NATO also strengthening its troops in the region. Both sides, Russia and Ukraine, have made public statements against the conflict escalating, but their actions on the ground seem to lack the same spirit. It is also likely that the provocation is to test waters with the new leadership in the US. Coupled with Navalny's issue and the Nord Stream 2 issue, one can notice an increase in the international scrutiny on Russia and its activities in the region.
Mozambique: Palma attack paints a grave picture of Africa's security concerns
In the news
On 6 April, the UNHCR spokesperson said at least 11,000 people had fled Palma, a town in Cabo Delgado province, which had been under ISIS attack from 24 March. The people fled to other districts in the province, namely, Pemba, Nangade, Mueda and Montepuez. He said that close to 80 per cent of those who had been separated were women and children.
On 5 April, the army spokesperson announced that the army had regained control over the town and that several militants had been killed in operation. The secretary of State for Cabo Delgado said, "There was significant loss of human life, infrastructure destroyed. However, people are safe now."
On the same day, Aljazeera reported that since thousands had fled to Pemba, the district's food, water resources, and healthcare facilities had been overburdened. Aljazeera quoted the OCHA, which mentioned that Pemba had witnessed a population swell in February, which posed a problem.
Issues at large
First, the increasing role of non-state actors in Africa. Attacks by non-state actors like ISIS are not restricted to Mozambique. Over the years, factions of the Islamic State, like IS West Africa Province (ISWAP), and other terrorist groups like the Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, have established themselves in different countries. Other non-state actors include rebel groups like those operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Sudan. Such groups often use violence as a strategy to convey a message to the State or challenge it.
Second, the shrinking space for the State. The attack on Palma, though one of the first large-scale instances of violence, is not the first time militants struck. Previously, Cabo Delgado province has witnessed villagers' massacres, and the State has responded with military operations. However, the state response to violence, not just in Mozambique but across countries in Africa, has resorted chiefly to deploying security forces and has not effectively been preventive; it has mainly been retaliatory.
Third, Palma as a reflection of the problems in Africa. The instability in Palma and Cabo Delgado at large has its roots in the lack of access to the people's socio-economic needs, thereby fuelling resentment against the government. This is a common problem in African countries though the reasons behind the same may differ. For example, in some countries, certain groups feel excluded when a person from another ethnicity is in power or vice versa. In other countries, the sentiment could be a result of belonging to the geographic or political periphery.
First, in Mozambique, it is a relief that the army has regained control over Palma. However, it took ten days or more reflects the militants' preparedness for such operations and projects the government's and security forces' lack of the same. Further, the humanitarian situation in Pemba will worsen unless there is immediate attention to the needs of the people.
Second, in Africa, the space for the State to operate seems to be shrinking. Every day, new and increased security concerns bring little to no respite to the people. Instead, the insecurity among populations who are frequently targeted has been on the rise.
Also from around the World
By Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez
Peace and Conflict from East and Southeast Asia
China: EU pushes for freedom of speech after BBC journalist moves to Taiwan over threats
On 2 April, the European Union called on China to ensure freedom of speech after a BBC journalist in the country moved to Taiwan, claiming he had been threatened and faced obstructions. A spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief said, "Professionalism and objectivity of foreign correspondents is increasingly put into question. Foreign correspondents play an important role in imparting information across frontiers and contributing to strengthening mutual understanding between the EU and China." However, China dismissed the journalist's claims.
Japan-South Korea: Tokyo calls for "acceptable solution to wartime issues with Seoul
On 1 April, the head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau asked his South Korean counterpart to put forward an "acceptable solution" to the question of wartime labour compensation and comfort women. The talks between the two countries took place after the South Korean Foreign Minister "renewed Seoul's desire to improve bilateral ties" and amid Biden's push to improve relations between Japan and South Korea.
North Korea: Health ministry officials calls UN report on child malnutrition "sheer lie"
On 6 April, the Director of the Research Institute for Nutrition Care of Children of the health ministry said that the UN report on child malnutrition in North Korea was a "sheer lie." He said North Korea might reconsider whether it needs aid from NGOs and the UN. This, he said, would give the country space "to take resolute countermeasures against the entity and organizations going about in cahoots with the hostile force." According to the report, around 100,000 children were malnourished because of the "border restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic."
Indonesia: Death toll from floods climbs up to 150
On 6 April, the number of casualties from the floods and landslides from the tropical cyclone Seroja, stood at 150 and thousands were rendered homeless. Of this, as many as 130 deaths were recorded from the villages in the islands near East Timor. Further, nearly 70 people have gone missing. The National Disaster Agency said Indonesia might continue to witness extreme weather over the coming days. Meanwhile, health officials and rescue teams are trying to manage the situation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Philippines: Territorial incursions by Chinese vessels could warrant "unwanted hostilities," says President's aide
On 5 April, the President's aides accused China of "territorial incursions by hundreds of its vessels." The President's legal counsel said such actions by China could result in "unwanted hostilities." He said, "We can negotiate on matters of mutual concern and benefit, but make no mistake about it - our sovereignty is non-negotiable." Similarly, the President's spokesperson said, "We will not give up even a single inch of our national territory or our exclusive economic zone (EEZ)."
Myanmar: PPST urges junta to cease killings of unarmed civilians and unconditional release of detainees
On 4 April, the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), which constitutes ten ethnic armed groups, asked the junta to cease "killing unarmed civilians, and to immediately and unconditionally release all those unjustly detained under its rule." The PPST said they would keep supporting the Spring Revolution. On 3 April, the PPST leader demanded that the military leaders be held accountable for the death of nearly 500 civilians during the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Peace and Conflict from South Asia
Bangladesh: Dozens die after ferry collides with a cargo ship
On 4 April, around 34 people died after a ferry packed with passengers capsized after being hit by a cargo vessel in the Shitalakhsya River. Following the incident, authorities have blamed the cargo vessel and have ordered an investigation into the incident. Such accidents are not uncommon for Bangladesh, which is highly dependent on ferries for transportation. Further, such accidents are said to be due to poorly maintained vessels, overcrowding, lack of safety measures, and the implementation of regulations to curb such accidents.
Sri Lanka: Report of the Easter Sunday attacks handed over to the President
On 5 April, the final report of the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into and recommend the course of action contained in the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks as well as the report of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The committee has identified 78 recommendations, includes how and which agencies are to implemented them. Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa has vowed to take action against the perpetrators of the Easter attacks saying, "the sorrowful memory of pain and loss caused by this tragic incident had not faded away from the broken hearts of the suffering people even today."
Pakistan: ATC Judge among four killed in alleged 'targeted attack' in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
On 4 April, a judge of a Swat anti-terrorism court (ATC) and three other family members were shot dead after gunmen opened fire at the vehicle near the Swabi Interchange on the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A police official stated that the killing was allegedly a "targeted attack." On 5 April, five suspects have been arrested after a joint operation team carried out an operation in Peshawar and Khyber.
Afghanistan: President Ghani shares details of a three-phase peace plan
On 4 April, President Ashraf Ghani shared his peace plan with Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as other envoys, ambassadors and institutions. The proposed plan 'Reaching an Endstate' will involve three phases. The first phase will include a consensus on a political settlement and an internationally monitored ceasefire. The second phase will be conducting a presidential election and the establishment of a "government of peace", and implementation arrangements for moving towards the new political system. The third phase will involve building a "constitutional framework, reintegration of refugees and development" for Afghanistan moving forward. This comes amid the numerous preparations for the upcoming Turkey Conference.
Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa
Yemen: Houthis claim drone attacks on Riyadh
On 1 April, the Houthi rebels claimed they launched several drone attacks on four "sensitive and important" sites in Riyadh. The Houthi spokesperson said all drone attacks were successful, claiming the groups' actions as their "natural and legitimate right to respond to the ongoing aggression and siege" on Yemen. However, Saudi Arabia has not responded to these claims.
Sudan: At least 40 killed and 60 injured during clashes in West Darfur
On 5 April, the UN said at least 40 people were killed and 60 injured in El Geneina, during clashes between the Arab Rizeigat and the Masalit tribes in the West Darfur state. According to a UN agency, the violence between the two groups started after unidentified men shot dead two Masalit men and injured another two on 3 April. Meanwhile, the UN suspended operations in El Geneina after roads were blocked during the violence.
Ethiopia: G7 countries call for inclusive political acceptable to all Ethiopians
On 2 April, the G7 countries called on Ethiopia to implement a "swift, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal of the Eritrean soldiers, followed by a political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians." Following this, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said the Eritrean troops had started to withdraw but mentioned that the G7 countries failed to acknowledge the "key steps being taken to address the needs of the region.
Rwanda: 27th anniversary of the genocide
On 7 April, Rwandans began a seven-day commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi community. On the same day, the UN Secretary-General urged everyone to "take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that we heed the lessons of 27 years ago." He outlined the horrors of the genocide in which more than a million were killed but emphasised that Rwandans have themselves from the ashes. Referring to the "unspeakable gender-based violence," he said "Rwanda’s women now hold more than 60 per cent of parliamentary seats – making Rwanda a world leader."
Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas
Russia: Alexey Navalny transferred to a medical facility after being 'seriously ill,' says lawyer
On 6 April, Alexey Navalny's lawyer confirmed that he is "seriously ill" after reports of him being transferred to a sick ward for a respiratory illness emerged. On the same day, Russian police arrested several pro-Navalny supporters, including Navalny's personal doctor, who petitioned him to receive proper medical care. Previously, Navalny declared a hunger strike in response to being denied a visit from a personal doctor for growing numbness and pain in his legs and back, which has made it difficult for him to walk. However, the Kremlin has stated that he would be treated appropriately, like any other ill prisoner.
Vienna: Top diplomats meet to discuss the Iran Nuclear Deal
On 6 April, a meeting between representatives of Iran, France, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union, along with the US delegation, which is taking part indirectly, began in Vienna. This latest round of negotiations is "structured around working groups" that the EU will form with Iran and the other remaining parties to the JCPOA, as well as a renewed push to bring the US back into the deal. Prior to the meeting, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araghchi ruled out any direct or indirect talks with the US.
Turkey: Ten retired admirals arrested
On 5 April, ten retired admirals were arrests for having signed an open letter asserting the importance of the Montreux Convention, designed to prevent the militarization of the Black Sea as well as their public criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "crazy" Istanbul canal project. A group of 104 former senior navy officials signed this open letter cautioning that the proposed canal could harm Turkish security by invalidating an 85-year-old international treaty designed to prevent the militarization of the Black Sea. This was seen as a direct challenge from the military to the civilian government evocative of the 2016 coup attempt.
Argentina: On the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the Falklands War (1982), Buenos Aires renews its claim
On 2 April, the government renewed its sovereignty claim to the Malvinas while paying tribute to those who died in the South Atlantic war with Britain 39 years ago. President Alberto Fernandez via Twitter said, "The Malvinas were, are and shall be Argentine," adding, "Today we honour the memory of our heroic veterans and war dead in the Malvinas, as we do every 2 April, while vindicating our sovereignty over the territory."
Venezuela: Maduro to approach UN for mines at the Colombian border
On 4 April, President Nicolas Maduro announced that he will request "immediate aid" from the United Nations to clear antipersonnel mines that Caracas alleges were placed in the southeast of the country by Colombian armed groups. He said that Venezuela is preparing "to ask for immediate emergency aid from the UN... to defuse minefields left by these illegal groups of murderers and drug traffickers from Colombia."
The US: Prosecution and defence continue to argue over police policy in George Floyd murder trial
On 6 April, several members of the Minneapolis Police Department testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin as the prosecution and the defence lawyers continued to argue over whether he violated police policy when he knelt on George Floyd. During the hearing, Lt. Johnny Mercila, a use-of-force instructor who has trained hundreds of police officers to the question whether a restraint requires pressure on both sides of the neck for the person to go unconscious said, "That is what we teach, yes." On 2 April, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department stated that Derek Chauvin had violated department policy by kneeling on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as he lay handcuffed on his stomach.
About the authors
Sneha M is a postgraduate scholar from CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore. Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez are Research Associates at the School of Conflict and Security Studies. D. Suba Chandran is a Professor and Dean; Harini Madhusudan is a PhD Scholar in NIAS.
V S Ramamurthy and Dinesh K Srivastava
Abigail Miriam Fernandez