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9 PM Daily Brief -13 July 2016


Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation

What is 9 PM brief?


 [1]China rejects Hague tribunal ruling as ‘null and void’

The Hindu


  • China and the Philippines are among the six governments that have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
  • The Philippines, under a U.N. treaty governing the South China Sea , asked in 2013 for arbitration.

Ruling of the tribunal

  • The five-member panel from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, unanimously concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the dispute while the settlement process was under way.
  • The  tribunal has rejected the legal validity of the nine-dash line — the demarcation line underlying Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

Response from China

  • China has declared that the award is null and void and has no binding force.
  • China neither accepts nor recognises it.
  • It said that the territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstances be affected by these awards. China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on these awards.
  • It also  accused the Philippines of “bad faith” by pursuing a unilateral course at The Hague.
  • Manila’s aim was “not to resolve the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines, or to maintain peace and stability, but to deny China’s territorial sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea.
  • China has also stressed that rather than a question of legality, the arbitration sought by the Philippines masked Washington’s pursuit of geopolitical dominance in the Asia-Pacific region routed through Manila.
  • It attributed the current crisis in the South China Sea mainly to the U.S.’s ‘rebalance doctrine’ that has caused it to position forces in the area.

Response from Philippines

  • The verdict proves that “international law is a great leveller” among the sovereign nation states.
  • The award in the case has recognised the position of the Philippines and proves once again that legal framework of international system can be used to peacefully settle maritime disputes.
  • The recognition of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Philippines in the South China Sea will help the economy of the Philippines and will set a precedent.

[2]India, U.S., Japan highlight ‘international law’ after ruling

The Hindu


  • Response of India, U.S, And Japan on the ruling of the international tribunal regarding claims of China in South China Sea.


  • India supports freedom of navigation and over-flight and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS (UN Convention of the Law of the Sea).
  • India believes that states should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.


  • As the Tribunal’s award is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute under the provisions of UNCLOS, the parties to this case are required to comply with the award.
  • Japan strongly expects that the parties’ compliance with this award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.


  • U.S. urged countries to avoid “provocative statements and actions”.
  • It said that this decision can and should serve as a new opportunity to renew efforts to address maritime disputes peacefully.

[3]Smart cities and blind policy 



  • Critical analysis of Smart Cities Mission and how it is unlikely that it will serve the needs of majority of urban dwellers.

Dependency of Smart cities on data collection

  • The idea of Smart cities rests upon the notion of live and continuous data collection, but this only works if every single citizen is registered on the database.
  • It is being projected that your city can only be as smart as the data it has access to.
  • The problem in most developing country cities, or cities of the ‘Global South’, is incompleteness of data, and the poor quality of existing datasets.

Data Collection in India and associated problems

  • The National Census is the most complete household level dataset available in India, but this is collected every ten years, and given the rapid urban growth we are witnessing (17% between 2001 and 2011 according to National Census figures), the data is obsolete by the time it becomes available.
  • Data collected by metropolitan authorities is heterogeneous in quality.
  • Even if we could trust the data, there is a deeper issue, of what government authorities consider relevant in the data collection process, and what or who gets left out.

Mis-characterisation of the need for ‘affordable housing’ and the consequent inappropriateness of the policy response.

Current housing policy rests on two problematic assumptions:

1)Demand for housing in cities translates into demand for homeownership.

  • There is little doubt that owning a home is associated with stability and social status in the Indian context, and that it is an aspiration shared by the majority.
  • While homeownership may be a common aspiration, the majority of migrants into cities seek rentals when they arrive. This is particularly true of seasonal migrants who come into the city at times when the demand for casual labour in rural areas drops.
  • It is also true of poor migrant households who seek to find a foothold in the city, lacking the resources and sometimes the desire to invest immediately in a home.
  • A policy that is directed at creating real estate for purchase is blind to the need for flexibility and affordability.

2)The private sector can meet the demand for affordable housing given the right incentives.

  • The real estate industry in India works on high margins, with developers routinely profiting from the appreciation of home value between the inception the project and completion, which typically takes upwards of 18 months.
  • The only workable model for delivery of low-cost homes is one that relies on scale and low margins, where profit per unit is kept low, and revenue is generated through the production of a large number of units.
  • The volatility of input prices such as cement, sand and bricks creates additional problems.
  • A key issue is, of course, the availability of cheap land, but even if the state were to provide access to subsidised land, prevalent construction technologies and modes of operation are unsuited to providing low-cost homes at scale.

Problems with  housing programmes launched by national and state governments

  • There have been a spate of housing programmes launched by national and state governments under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), but the record remains dismal.
  • These policies have remained blind to the reality that the poor often choose to live in squalor in order to access the employment opportunities and social networks in and around central city slums, rather than be moved to sanitised and disconnected projects on the outskirts.
  • The promise of owning a home may not in many cases compensate for the loss of livelihood.

Dream and Reality

  • The term ‘Smart city’ conjures up visions of self-driving cars, touch-sensitive interfaces, and adaptive energy systems.
  • What drives this vision is the possibility that ‘Big Data’ and the integration of ‘Information and Communication Technologies’ (ICTs) could transform urban governance, making urban infrastructure more responsive and effective in meeting the needs of citizens.
  • But, the vision of the smart city while alluring is unlikely to serve the needs of the majority of urban dwellers.



[1]Centre plans unified science syllabi 

The Hindu


  • The Union government is all set to bring about parity in science syllabus across the states and the central boards. Not only the syllabus but the question paper design for sciences will also have parity.


  • This step is being taken because as of now there is no parity in syllabus of Physics, Chemistry and Maths across the various boards.
  • Also same marks for theory and practicals in sciences must be there across the boards so that their is equality. More weightage to practicals in some boards results in pushing up the marks.
  • The move becomes all the more important because the board exam marks are now counted in IIT-JEE exam and lack of parity can work in favour of some students while at the same time denying a level playing field to others.

[2]Slowing down fast food

The Hindu


  • Kerala has recently announced a decision to impose 14.5% tax on some calorie rich food items such as pizzas, doughnuts, burgers sold in branded restaurants.


  • This tax is the first example of fat tax in India. A fat tax in other countries such as Mexico has seen good success whereby the consumption of calorie rich food had gone down substantially.
  • However, this move by Kerala govt. does not seem to be a move which genuinely favours healthy eating habits by discouraging fatty food. It is more of a political gimmick and an attempt to target upscale restaurants.

Why is it a gimmick rather than being a well intentioned move?

  • The tax is being imposed only on branded restaurants. It is not only these restaurants which serve fatty food.
  • The local cuisine such as butter dosas, butter idlis, pooris and sweets are much more calorie rich and unhealthy but no tax has been imposed on them.
  • In fact the targeted food segment by Kerala govt. Is not even 10% of the total food segment

What should be done?

  • If Kerala want to seriously halt the consumption of unhealthy food it must begin by deciding on an acceptable calorie limits. Any food above this limit should be appropriately taxed.
  • Sugared drink and refined products should be brought under the tax imposed. Even the packaged food items having high salt content should be taxed.
  • This taxing of bad food should also be accompanied by subsidising healthy food so that health food can be accessed by all the income levels.

[3]India seeks market access for sesame seeds in Japan 

The Hindu


  • India wants more market access in Japan for its farm product especially sesame seeds.
  • It is envisaging better market access for its services professionals also.


  • Japan is the world’s second largest importer of sesame seeds after China. Sesame seeds are an important ingredient of Japanese diet.
  • India is world’s largest producer of sesame .These seeds can be imported to Japan but due to detection of pesticides and insecticides in some sesame seed consignments two decades ago, Japan has shown its reluctance to import them from India.
  • As per the dialogue between the two nations, Japan wants the sesame seeds free from pesticides and insecticides. This has made the govt reach out to farmers and encourage them to grow these seeds within global limits of pesticide/insecticides and shifting to organic farming if possible.
  • On the front of services India wants Japan to sign Mutual Recognition Agreement between Indian nursing council and Japanese counterpart. This would make sure that Japan accepts Indian qualified nurses. This was bound to happen in 2013 but Japan has shown its reluctance.

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