9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 10th January 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
  1. NGT notice to Centre, Delhi govt over plastic ban
  2. Sex ratio in Haryana touches 900-mark for first time in 20 years
  3. Telangana plea against Krishna tribunal award dismissed
  4. Second Scorpene submarine ready
  5. TB institute warns against use of new drug
  6. SC indicates setting up SIT for Panama papers leak probe
  7. 50% jump in smuggling of currency, reveals DRI
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
  1. Oiling cashless wheels
  2. A blow to reformists in Iran
  3. Respite, not reconciliation
  4. A rights bill gone wrong
  5. The world at a crossroads
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]
  1. Centre allows PF contribution via private banks
  2. Start-ups may soon be able to access insurance, pension funds
  • Indian Express
  1. High costs, meagre gains
  2. The myth of a political bond
  3. In the interests of fairness
  • Live Mint
  1. Acknowledging the new face of urban India
  2. Sequencing economic disruption

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF (10th Jan. 2017)


Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] NGT notice to Centre, Delhi govt over plastic ban


The Hindu

 

Context

The National Green Tribunal has issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Delhi government, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Delhi Cantonment Board while hearing a plea that challenged the ban on manufacture, sale, storage, usage, import and transport of plastic bags in the city.

 

Give it a go-through once

 


[2] Sex ratio in Haryana touches 900-mark for first time in 20 years


The Hindu

 

Context

Sex ratio at birth (SRB) in the State this past year touched the 900-mark for the first time in almost two decades.

 

BetiBachaoBetiPadhao (B3P)

Prime Minister chose Haryana to launch the ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ campaign in Panipat in Jauray 2015

 

Read More: B3P

 

Improvement is due to

  • This improvement was made possible due to effective implementation of the law against illegal sex determination and female foeticide
  • Collaboration of all departments at the district-level, coupled with strong political will and coordinated efforts by all districts in the State. A special B3P cell was created by the Chief Minister’s Office to monitor the programme.
  • Aggressive drive against Female foeticide: The State initiated an aggressive drive against female foeticide by ensuring stringent implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, and the Medical Terminal of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. As a result, 391 first information reports were lodged in the State since May 2015 and more than 1,000 offenders arrested. Doctors, paramedics and quacks were found involved in the illegal practice

 

SRB touches 900

  • The first positive result of the strict enforcement was visible in December 2015, when the SRB touched the 900-mark for the month for the first time

 


[3] Telangana plea against Krishna tribunal award dismissed


The Hindu

 

Context

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a Telangana government petition against a decision of the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal-II to limit the re-allocation of the river water only to the two successor States of Andhra and Telangana, and not dabble with the share of water enjoyed by the other two riparian States — Maharashtra and Karnataka.

 

Fairly simple article. Give it a go-through

 


[4] Second Scorpene submarine ready


The Hindu

 

Context

Khanderi, the second Scorpene submarine under Project-75 being built at Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai is all set to be launched into water.

 

Kalvari

The first submarine Kalvari is close to completing sea trials and likely to be inducted into the Navy by the middle of this year

 

Backdrop

Six Scorpene submarines are being built with assistance and technology transfer from DCNS and others of France and under a $3.75-billion deal signed in October 2005.

  • Khanderi, named after the Island fort of Maratha ruler ChhatrapatiShivaji, was supposed to have been launched in December last year but was slightly delayed

 

A changed policy

Earlier when a submarine was through 80 per cent of its sea trials it was inducted and the Navy took charge of the remaining trials.

  • However, the government has now changed the policy stating that the induction would be done once after the platform is fully ready.


[5] TB institute warns against use of new drug


The Hindu

 

Context

The NITRD fears use of BDQ may cause bacteria to develop resistance and spread in community.

 

Why BDQ can’t be rolled out without trials?

The drug cannot be administered without proper tests as it might lead to the TB-causing bacteria becoming further drug resistant and may spread to the community and have catastrophic effects.

 

Give it a go-through once

 

Read more: Bedaquilline

 

 


[6] SC indicates setting up SIT for Panama papers leak probe


The Hindu

 

Context

The Supreme Court on Monday indicated that it may at a “relevant time” order the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to exclusively look into revelations made in the Panama papers

 

Panama paper issue has already been covered by us. You can find it here

 

Give it a go-through once

 


[7] 50% jump in smuggling of currency, reveals DRI


 

The Hindu

 

Context

The recently-released data by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Customs show a 50 per cent jump in smuggling of Indian, foreign and counterfeit currency notes over the previous years.

 

Give it a go-through once

 


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Oiling cashless wheels


The Hindu

 

Context

After the demonetization exercise began, the government had waived the service tax on the MDR surcharge from December 8 for card-based payments up to Rs. 2,000 and got banks to waive the MDR charges on debit cards till December 31, 2016.

 

What has happened?

Petroleum retailers had given a threat to stop accepting credit and debit card payments

 

Why, the threat?

Bcz certain banks had decided to levy the merchant discount rate (MDR) of up to one per cent on card payments

 

What is MDR?

Merchant Discount Rate is a charged on a merchant by a bank for accepting payment from their customers in credit and debit cards every time a card is used for payments (like swiping) in their stores.

 

Who get the charges of MDR?

MDR that merchant pays will be divided among:-

  • the issuer bank (which issues the debit card)
  • the acquirer bank (which installs the PoS)
  • and the payment gateway

The issuer bank gets the maximum share of the MDR.

 


[2] A blow to reformists in Iran


The Hindu

 

Context

The death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and powerful cleric who was widely considered a leading “moderate” in Iran’s polity, is a major blow to the reformists in the country.

 

Give the article a light read.

 


[3] Respite, not reconciliation


The Hindu

 

Context

The ceasefire in Syria and the upcoming peace talks in Astana could be the beginning of the long denouement in the war-torn country.

 

Give it a go-through once

 


[4] A rights bill gone wrong


The Hindu

 

Context

Article talks about the weak nature of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016.

 

Timeline

  • NALSA v UOI: In April 2014, the Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgment of NALSA v. Union of India, which affirmed the fundamental rights of transgender persons
  • The court gave a series of directives to the government to institute welfare measures for transgender persons, including affirmative action (action favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination; positive discrimination)
  • It also directed that the Expert Committee Report prepared by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) be implemented
  • Private member’s Bill: In December 2014, Tiruchi Siva, a Rajya Sabha MP, introduced the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 as a Private Member’s Bill
  • RS passes the Bill: On April 24, 2015, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Bill. However, it never made it to the Lok Sabha
  • Govt frames its own bill: The government drafted The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015 which was put up for public comments in December. The 2015 Bill was largely based on the 2014 Bill, but it did away with provisions on Transgender Rights Courts and the National and State Commissions
  • Bill is introduced in LS:  In April 2016, the 2015 draft Bill was sent to the Law Ministry, in July the Cabinet approved it, and in August it was introduced in the Lok Sabha. This bill was drastically different from the 201 Bill. Many critical features like the NALSA judgement, the Expert Committee Report, and public comments were completely disregarded
  • Present situation:  The 2016 Bill has now been referred to a Standing Committee

 

Read More: NALSA vs UOI, The Hindu article on Expert committee report by MSJE

 

Issues with the present Transgender Bill

Authors point out that the bill in its current form lacks any substantive or meaningful content

  • Intersex vs Transgender person: Clause 2(i) of the Bill, which defines the term ‘transgender person’, has been inexplicably borrowed from a provision of the Australian Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013, which defines the term ‘intersex’. This, even though the Expert Committee Report clearly explained the difference between transgender and intersex identities
    • The 2015 Bill was the most progressive in this regard as it granted a transgender person the right to identify as either ‘man’, ‘woman’, or ‘transgender’
  • Absence of reservation: The absence of a provision on reservation is another problem ailing the bill. This runs contrary to the NALSA judgment and the 2014 and 2015 Bills which directed reservations for transgender persons
  • Silent on impact on existing legal institutions and laws: The Bill is completely silent on how its content will impact the operation of existing laws. Most laws, including of marriage, adoption and succession, continue to be based on the binary of male and female. Criminal laws, especially those dealing with sexual offences, also continue to be gendered.
    • Barrier to accessing justice: The assumption that everyone has a gender identity that matches the sex the person was assigned at birth) foundation of the law remains a significant barrier to access to legal justice for transgender persons
    • The NALSA judgment too recognises the need for making civil rights accessible to transgender persons. However, the Bill fails to take this into account
  • Section 377 remains unaddressed: None of the Bills have addressed the issue of Section 377, which is frequently used to harass transgender persons, specifically transgender women. The conventional understanding of Section 377 is that it criminalises all sex that is not between people of opposite genders. But recognising trans-rights means recognising that there are more than the “opposite” genders of male and female. Embracing rights of persons with non-conforming genders (Term refersto people who do not follow other people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or malesex they were assigned at birth) while criminalising persons with non-conforming sexual orientations is thus absurd.

 

Conclusion

The 2016 Bill is the product of an uninterested and insincere attempt at lawmaking. India is within touching distance of enabling the legal empowerment of a hitherto marginalised community and it would be a shame if it wastes the opportunity by passing a bad law.

 


[5] The world at a crossroads


 

The Hindu

 

Context

The outlook for 2017 is anything but optimistic, with a sluggish global economy, widening terror footprint, and geopolitical realignments as the U.S., Russia and China jostle for spheres of influence

 

Article details the global Projections for 2017. We are including the ones made for India and neighborhood

 

India and neighborhood

  • Heightened tensions: The Asian region will see heightened tensions between China and India, China and Japan, and India and Pakistan in 2017
  • Shift in military balance: The overall military power balance is unlikely to shift decisively — Asia already has one of the largest concentrations of military capabilities (China, India and Pakistan) with substantial presence of the U.S. and Russian militaries.
  • Chinese military, a cause of concern: The accelerated pace of development of China’s military in 2017, including its acquisition of new weapon systems, will be of increasing concern to countries of East, Southeast and South Asia.

 

India

  • An aggressive and determined Pakistan: For India, a deepening of the military ties between China-Pakistan in 2017 will add a further dimension to the overall threat from Pakistan. Relations with Islamabad remain embittered, but in addition India may have to contend with a more aggressive and determined Pakistan, feeling greatly buoyed by the progress achieved on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and the new outreach to, and growing ties, with Russia
  • Downturn in Afghanistan: India’s position in Afghanistan in 2017 may well see a downturn, with new equations emerging in the region. With the U.S., China and Russia backing Pakistan’s moves for ‘flexible ties’ with Taliban — ignoring India’s objections — New Delhi’s interests are set to suffer
  • Turbulence in Nepal & Sri Lanka: Meanwhile, both Nepal and Sri Lanka could see a turbulent 2017. India’s ability to leverage matters in both countries, however, remains strictly limited

 


ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] Centre allows PF contribution via private banks


The Hindu

 

Context

Companies can soon make statutory provident fund contributions to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation via private sector banks.

 

What has happened?

Companies can soon make statutory provident fund contributions to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation via private sector banks.

  • A Labour Ministry notification dated January 4 allows employers to make such payments “through scheduled banks in India, including private sector banks.” At present, contribution can be made only through nationalisedbanks and payment portal PayGov

 


[2] Start-ups may soon be able to access insurance, pension funds


 

The Hindu

 

Context

The Centre will soon hold discussions with insurance and pension regulators on a proposal to enable pension funds and insurance companies such as Life Insurance Corporation to invest in start-ups

Give it a go-through once

 


Indian Express


[1] High costs, meagre gains


Indian Express

 

Context

Far from curbing black money and corruption, demonetisation has disrupted the economy.

 

Article is fairly a simple read on demonetization’s affects, its effectiveness as a disruptive measure and how efficiently it has been implemented.

 

Demonetization has been covered in ample detail in previous briefs. This article won’t trouble you.

 

Give it a go-through once

 


[2] The myth of a political bond


Indian Express

 

Context

India should reconsider its stated position of shared global interests with China in view of Beijing’s repeated rebuffs in international fora.

 

Author’s contention

India should change its present strategy vis-à-vis China

 

What is the present strategy?

India has long insisted that Delhi has shared global interests with Beijing and must build on them despite enduring differences on the bilateral level

Multilateral developments

Author states that 3 multilateral developments have shattered India’s abovementioned belief

  1. Beijing’s opposition to India’s entry in NSG
  2. China’s unyielding determination to block Indian efforts to get the UN Security Council to designate Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed a terrorist
  3. China has dug up a long forgotten UN Security Council resolution to declare India’s nuclear deterrent illegitimate; in the same statement, it warned that it will boost Pakistan’s atomic weapons programme

 

UN Security Council Resolution

The UNSC resolution 1172 was passed in June 1998 in the wake of Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May that year.

  • The resolution called on India and Pakistan to sign the NPT and CTBT, freeze their strategic programmes and desist from developing and deploying nuclear weapons.

 

China’s stand

While India believed that its civil nuclear programme was granted due legitimacy via Indo-US civil nuclear deal but China opposed it claiming that it violated global non-proliferation norms; at the same time, it said any exception for India must be extended to Pakistan.

  • Beijing violated its non-proliferation commitments to supply additional nuclear reactors to Pakistan
  • It now insists that either Delhi comes into the NSG with Pakistan or it stays outside the door

 

What does this mean for India’s “shared global interests” with China?

Author states that India’s thinking was guided by a deep conviction about shared Asian identity and a common agenda to counter western hegemony and build a multipolar world. It is on the basis of this thinking that India has extended unflinching support to China in the global arena but it has received little in return.

Moreover, the three developments in 2016 suggest Delhi should not be expecting any in the near future.

 

India’s support to China on global fora

  • Opposition to US: In the 1950s Delhi opposed the American decision to isolate China and prevent it from taking its seat in the UNSC
  • Support on UNSC membership issue: Despite the border conflict with China at the turn of the 1960s, India did not waver in its support for bringing Beijing into the UNSC
  • Forget the idea of China welcoming India into the UNSC, Beijing, in its most recent manoeuvre, has invoked the forum to attack India’s nuclear and missile programmes
  • Support on WTO membership issue: When China wanted to join the World Trade Organisation in the 1990s and had to negotiate support from each member state, Delhi simply waved it in
  • Support on AIIB: Recently, when China sought to develop the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Delhi was among the first to jump on the bandwagon.

 

Unavoidable conclusion: India supports China in the multilateral domain. China is not willing to give India an inch, even on minor issues like Masood Azhar or membership of the NSG

 

Way ahead

India should understand following things,

  1. No support from China: India’s idea of a multipolar world with a support from China is never going to work because China views Pakistan as an ally and will do anything in multilateral domain which Pakistan doesn’t like
  2. Addressing the power differential: Presently, there is an ever increasing inequity between India & China. China’s GDP today is nearly five times larger than that of India and its defence spending four times bigger. China’s massive economic weight has also translated into huge political influence in the multilateral domain that allows it to block India’s initiatives through procedural means.

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that the fault here is not with China, which is behaving like a normal power. It is India that behaves abnormally in persisting with the myth of a political bond with China on multilateral issues. What Delhi needs is a more purposeful strategy to change the balance with China. It can no longer afford to mask the problem with rhetoric on shared global interests.

 


[3] In the interests of fairness


 

Indian Express

 

Context

The Election Commission must insist on the postponement of the Union budget as Poll dates has been announced in 5 states resulting in the implementation of Model Code of Conduct

 

What has happened?

All opposition political parties have demanded that the Union budget, scheduled for February 1, 2017, should be postponed till polling ends on March 8

 

Year-end announcements

Author states that what the common citizen may expect (very possibly through the budget itself) were already in the prime minister’s year-end announcements, primarily intended to alleviate the widely reported distress caused by demonetisation, particularly amongst poorer sections of the population.

 

So, can such announcements hinted at during 31st December speech by PM, attract MCC?

No because EC surrendered its right to intervene in such cases in 2001

Harbans Singh Jalal v/s Union of India and others, 2001

In the above case, the EC surrendered the right to intervene before a poll was actually “announced”, even if it was imminent, even when satisfied that such announcements were for expected electoral gain.

  • Earlier, the EC asserted this right any time before an imminent poll, not necessarily after the poll announcement.

 

SubramaniamBalaji v/s State of Tamil Nadu, 2013

In this case, SC expressed its displeasure at the above scheme of things and hoped something would be done by way of a law or otherwise to remedy the situation but nothing has happened since, nor has any attempt been made by the EC to rework this compromise

 

So, can EC intervene still or can it do something?

Yes it can. Under its residuary powers, which are not covered by the laws made by the parliament, EC can still intervene in the interests of free and fair poll

 

Failure of EC

Author cites two instances wherein EC failed to intervene due to the 2001 judgement but could have done so under its residuary powers.

  • Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh: It failed to intervene in the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh (a first in independent India when the entire existing legislative assembly opposed the bifurcation)
  • Enactment of Lokpal Act in 2014: In the enactment of the Lokpal Act in early 2014, when both the then-mainstream contesting parties thought they would gain electorally from these steps

Results of the compromise: The results are clear — farmer suicides are still rising in Telangana and the Lokpal is still not in existence, over three years after the law’s enactment. This signifies that the announcements made were purely for electoral gain and didn’t have any political will to see them through.

 

Author suggests

Author states that already incumbent party has gained some mileage from the New year announcements made by the PM. So,

  • Prevent wastage of parliamentary time: The EC should not allow further damage through the disruption of Parliament’s time (which will surely happen if the budget is tabled as proposed now) and the resultant waste of public money.
  • Push for Budget postponement: The EC should also insist on the budget’s postponement by not accepting the highly misleading arguments of the ruling party on this issue

 

Way ahead

  • Review of 2001 compromise: Author states that for the future, the EC should seek a review of the 2001 compromise till Parliament can actually find time to enact a law. This will prevent bribery of voters through a “legal process”, as is happening now

 


Live Mint


[1] Acknowledging the new face of urban India


 

Live Mint

 

Context

Census towns are expected to drive India’s urbanization process but effective administration processes have to be put in place.

 

What is a census town?

In India, a census town is one which is not statutorily notified and administered as atown, but nevertheless whose population has attained urban characteristics. They are characterized by the following: Population exceeds 5,000. At least 75% of main working population is employed outside the agricultural sector.

 

Census town study

Article talks about the case studies of census towns in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, that have been carried out by scholars from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in association with the World Bank, that show that many of these new census towns are essentially “small market towns” that have emerged as a result of better connectivity and rising rural incomes.

 

Give it a go through once


[2] Sequencing economic disruption


Live Mint

 

Context

If Modi is determined to disrupt and if incrementalism is deemed inadequate for India’s development tasks, he has to disrupt the banking system and the tax system.

 

Give the article a go-through once


 

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  • WarriorLord

    Thanks 🙂

  • ForumIAS

    Thanks.. Keep following Must Read and Mains Marathon as well 🙂

  • Preamble

    Thanks forumias team…