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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 15 January 2016

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

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National 


[1].US pump in $8 Million to map drug resistant infections in India 

The Hindu

Context:-

The U.S. government’s Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) has pumped $ 8 million to map the rising anti-microbial resistance in India and build capacities to tackle it better.

GHSA was launched two years ago to contain the spread of new and emergent infections following the Ebola outbreak.

Objective:-

This project is aiming at the creation of a national network where hospitals will pool in their data on infection rates, which would then be in the public domain for patients to make an informed choice when they have to select a hospital to undergo treatment.

Why is it not done till now?

Indian hospitals acknowledge a rise in drug-resistant infections but there is no centralised documentation of the infection rates fearing loss of business.

Reason for US initiative:-

It is aimed at containing the spread of infections given the huge volume of traffic between India and the U.S.

Who will do it?

It will be jointly executed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the India office of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How will it be done?

The project will start with surveillance, followed by data analysis. Systems will then be put in place to first check infections and eventually bring down resistance rates.

The project will map surveillance of bloodstream infections, ventilator acquired pneumonia and other hospital-acquired infections.


International Relations


[1]. WHO declare end to ebola epidemic 

The Hindu

Context:-

The World Health Organisation declared an end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever on Thursday after no new cases emerged in Liberia.

Liberia, which along with Sierra Leone and Guinea was an epicentre of the latest outbreak.

Caution:-

Health officials warn that it will be several more months before the world is considered free of the disease that claimed more than 11,300 lives over two years.

That’s because there is still ongoing risk of re-emergence of the disease because of persistence of the virus in a proportion of survivors.

[2]. Storm on South China Sea 

The Indian Express

Context:-

The article discusses the series of events that stirred up China’s assertiveness in the south china sea in 2015 and how to tackle this in 2016.

China’s assertion:-

Beijing constructed lighthouses on Islands in South China Sea. This is a master-stroke as sooner or later; every passing ship may have to recognise their existence, at least in distress, leading to the automatic acceptance that the lighthouses and the land they are built on belong to China

It might use some of these artificial islands for military purposes by building airstrips and long-range radar systems

While Chinese efforts to strengthen sovereignty claims are becoming regular, Beijing refuses to entertain protests by other disputants.

Impact:-

The dispute has crippled the Asean, and the much discussed binding Code of Conduct (CoC) also seems a remote possibility, considering that the onus lies on China in making the CoC a reality.

The inability of disputants to deter China is pushing them towards extra-regional powers, such as the US, India, Japan and Australia, which have put diplomatic pressure on China.

Japan and India’s increasing presence in the Southeast Asian region concerns Beijing.

Notwithstanding the simultaneous India-China joint military exercise in Kunming, China reacted negatively to the “Malabar Exercise” in mid-October, involving Japan, the US and India.

Recourse to International Organisations:-

Philippines has filed a case in The Hague.

China’s prime objective is to expand its control over the seas to the fullest possible, so that even if Philippines wins the case, the final position taken is on the basis of “actual control” and not the “ideal position” based on “verifiable historical claims”.

Halting the Chinese assertion:-

This is causing more anxiety in Southeast Asia. The immediate goal for the US and Southeast Asia should be to ensure land reclamation activities are halted.

Pressuring China for a discussion, as well as consensus, should be the priority. The discussion on a binding CoC should be expeditiously pursued. In 2016, the international community will be keenly watching to what extent these objectives are pursued.

South China Sea dispute- http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13748349

Code of Conduct:-

In 2002, ASEAN member states agreed to a document known as the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.” Its language calls for peace and security in the waterway. Other parts of the declaration express support for the respect of international law and freedom of navigation.

The sixth part of the declaration    states that ASEAN members should protectthe environment and support marine research. That part finishes by asking all to assist in search and rescue operations and to fight crime in the SouthChina Sea.


Economic Digest


[1]. Government to hold talks with WIPO 

The Hindu 

Context: The National Intellectual Property Rights Policy.

What is Intellectual Property Rights?

The rights of exclusivity given to a person for his creation (creation of their minds) for a certain period of time is known as Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

Creation of Mind enlists:- Inventions; literary and artistic works; designs & symbols, names and images used in commerce

How is it protected: Through issuing of patent, trademark  ( for industrial and service products)and copyright (for literary and artistic works) for the creator.

What is happening ?

Ministry of Industry and Commerce has approached World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO – the global body for promotion and protection of IPR) for discussion before forwarding the policy to Union Cabinet for approval.

What needs to be discussed? – ways to integrate a formal awareness strategy into the policy to ensure respect for IPRs, as well as on an effective enforcement framework and capacity building measures.

Why India needs an IPR policy?

The need for national policy on IPR arised from the fact that India has been criticised regularly by developed countries for having a weak IPR policy.

US Special 301 report on IPR has termed India as country that deny adequate and effective protection of IPR or deny fair and equitable market access to US persons who rely on IP protection.

National IPR Policy:

Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) constituted and IPR think tank chaired by Jutsic Prabha Sridevan for drafting of National IPR policy after consultation from different stakeholders. The committee submitted its report on April 18, 2015.

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO): 

Headquartered in Geneve the body provides assistance to its 188 memeber countries to formulate a National IPR policy.

Director: Ms. Louise Van Greunen

India and WIPO:

During the period of 2006-15, total patents granted in India were 67,342 out of which only 10,615 went to Indian inventors.

This reflects in the WIPO Global Innovation Index where India ranks 81 among member countries.

[2]. Bankruptcy law: key to tackling the burgeoning NPA issue 

Livemint 

Context: The rising number of NPAs in the country and the expectation that the new Bankruptcy law will be a key on bringing down the number. Bankruptcy law is being see as a key in economic growth and financial stability.

Reserve Bank of India Move:

All new restructured loans will be classified as bad loans.

What is restructured loans and bad loans?

Restructured loan is one for which the borrower has renegotiated the terms of repayment, while a bad loan is where the borrower has not made payments for a certain period and there is risk of default.

Restructured loans have to be classified as non-performing assets (NPAs) effective from April 1, 2015.

Why such a move?

The idea behind the move is to deincentivise the bank to restructure the loans on smallest pretext to escape from them being termed as non- performing assets. The rule expects bank to take early recovery actions or sell it to asset restructuring companies. This is to prevent under reporting to prvent piling up of NPAs.

Non-Performing Assets: 

A loan turns into an NPA if interest repayments remain due on the 91st day. Of late, there has been a sharp spurt in loans for which repayment is due for more than 60 days. These are termed Special Mention Accounts-2 (SMA-2). There has been increase in the number of loans on the verge of becoming on NPAs.

Bankruptcy Law: Key Reform

Bankruptcy law looks as an avenue to effectively tackle the menace of NPAs in more meaningful way.

Current scenario in India regarding insolvency is poor in terms of both time taken and cost incurred. The more the time taken the relaisable value of assets get eroded and hence the lower possible recovery rate. This is reflected in India standing at 136 out of 189 countries and last among BRICS nation in term of resolving insolvencies (Doing Business Index of World Bank)

Also, in India lenders are able to recover only 20% of their loan compared to 70% in developed countries.

The effective Bankruptcy Law will enable maximisation of value of creditor’s claim by rehabilitating the ailing debator company or through framework of liquidation.

Absence of a rational and efficient process of corporate insolvency has inhibited development of a vibrant corporate bond market. Large amounts of capital and assets have been locked up in enterprises that have gone under with little prospect of revival.

In India, at given instant multiple agencies are involved in the process whose jurisdiction overlap there by creating systemic delays and complexities. This is the reason why Bankruptcy law reform committee was set up which in its recommendation stipulated a strict timeline of 180 days for insolvency resolution.

 


Opinions & Editorials


[1]. The case against customary exclusion

The Hindu

Context:-

The article discusses the constitutional provisions of the Supreme Court’s quashing of Ban imposed by the sabarimala shrine on entry of women.

Justice Misra’s reference to the Constitution, and his suggestion that its non-discrimination clauses might be applicable to this dispute, raise some complex questions about the relationship between freedom of religion, equality, individual rights, and the extent to which the court can interfere in the management of religious institutions.

Provisions of the constitution:-

The Constitution’s fundamental rights chapter grants rights to individuals against the state, to individuals against other individuals, to groups and communities against the state, and, as a final layer, allows the state to restrict these rights for various reasons of social and public interest.

Tension between these various provisions is inevitable.

Article 25(1) guarantees to all persons the right to freely profess, practise, and propagate their religion.

Article 26(b) grants to religious denominations the right to manage their own affairs in the matter of religion.

Overriding both these provisions, Article 25(2) allows state intervention in religious practice, if it is for the purpose of “social welfare or reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus”.

State intervention Limits:-

The Supreme Court has itself restricted the scope of the religious protection clause to “essential practices of a religion”.

The state cannot use the reform clause to “reform a religion out of existence”, but it can reform everything other than the essential practices of the religion.

Based on this the board will have to establish the existence of a custom and also that the custom is “essential” to the practice of the religion.

If Banning women entry is not an essential practice:-

If it cannot show that prohibiting women from entry is an essential religious practice, then it can no longer claim absolute immunity under Article 26(b).

The women worshippers can then argue that prohibiting them from access violates their right to worship under Article 25(1).

If the women worshippers demonstrate that the Sabarimala shrine has special and unique religious significance, their Article 25(1) right to worship there stands established.

The board’s prohibition upon their entry, consequently, impermissibly violates their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

Definition of state:-

The right to freedom of religion under Article 25(1) is enforceable against the state, and not against other individuals, or corporate bodies.

The question that the court must answer therefore is whether the Travancore Devaswom Board, which controls access to the shrine, is a “state”.

The Supreme Court has held that corporate bodies that are “functionally, financially and administratively” under the control of the state can be equated to the state for the purposes of fundamental rights.

The Travancore Devaswom Board is an autonomous body. While its members are appointed by the State legislature, it derives its main income from the administration of the temple.

Therefore, it might be difficult to argue that the board is functionally or financially under the control of the state.

And if the board cannot be equated with the state, then the constitutional right under Article 25(1) is not enforceable against it.

The Duty of state:-

The Supreme Court has held that if one private party obstructs another private party from exercising her constitutional right, then it is the duty of the state to effectuate her right by restraining the former from continuing with its obstruction.

Therefore, the women worshippers may ask the court to direct the state to take all necessary steps to guarantee that they are allowed to access and worship at the Sabarimala shrine.

What the law says?

The Kerala Hindu Places of Worship Rules speak about “customs” and “usages”.

The Supreme Court has held that while personal law is exempt from the application of the Constitution, mere ‘custom’ is not.

It might therefore simply strike down the offending rule on the ground that it discriminates on grounds of gender, and therefore violates the Constitution.

Other cases:-

The Sabarimala case is not the only case of this sort that is before the judiciary. Last year, a group of women approached the Bombay High Court asking for the recognition of their right to enter and worship at the Haji Ali Dargah shrine. The matter is presently awaiting a decision.

Conclusion:-

We will be seeing the question of gender justice in religious institutions at the forefront of the judicial landscape.

It is now the task of the courts to craft a solution that advances the constitutional guarantee of equality, non-discrimination and freedom of religion, while remaining cognizant of the fact that the Constitution also guarantees the right of religious sects and denominations to self-governance.

[2]. Tech tonics for heart of India 

The Hindu

Context:-

The article discusses how technology and bottom up approach in communication can tackle maoist insurgency better than conventionally adopted measures.

Mobile Penetration in Tribal pockets:-

Most tribal pockets have mobile phones with Bluetooth facility and actively use it to share audio and video files with each other.

Language as barrier:-

Many villages are connected by optical fibre cables thanks to the Digital India push.

The problem is, there is broadband but there isn’t much content in Kuduk on the Internet.

Bultoo radio:-

Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh is a Maoist insurgency-affected district with a large proportion of Oraon tribals, who speak a language called Kuduk. An experiment here has thrown up a model for how to solve the problem of development.

“Bultoo radio” is an initiative used to report on the happenings around them.

If wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) haven’t been paid, if forest right deeds have not been distributed, they report about it in Kuduk.

Once the messages get recorded on a central computer connected via the Internet, they also get translated into Hindi and English.

Then, the messages reach officers such as Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was once abducted by the Maoists, and also reach each gram panchayat.

One person from each village comes to the gram panchayat office every day and downloads the daily programme of “Bultoo radio” on his mobile phone and shares it with all villagers upon return.

The communication breakdown:-

The Maoist problem is basically a problem of communication breakdown: while Maoists, missionaries, mining companies reach out to the Adivasis, mainstream India doesnt.

There are no officers, no journalists who understand Adivasi languages such as Kuduk, Gondi.

Despite the Maoists interacting and working with Adivasis for 40 years in the region, there are hardly any Adivasi Maoist leaders.

At any rate, less than 1 per cent of the Maoists in Central India use violence as a tool to change politics.

Adivasis become Maoist supporters because we do not talk to them, because we do not help them solve their problems.

Mainstream India only talks to the ‘creamy layer’ of Adivasis, those who have learnt our languages. Many a time, this small but powerful section has let down fellow Adivasi brethren more than any outsider.

Fixing the communication break down

India needs to have two strategies to solve the Maoist problem, one for Maoists and one for Maoist supporters who make it “India’s biggest internal security threat”.

Reaching out to the Adivasis living in remote areas is admittedly difficult since many of these areas are controlled by Maoists, but we can talk to them through the airwaves.

We need to reinvent the radio to solve the Maoist problem. We need to democratise short-wave radio. We need to be creative like “Bultoo radio”.

With many Adivasis now having access to mobile phones, we need to train and encourage them to record their songs and report their problems in their language on platforms.

Using Creativity:-

CGNet Swara is a voice-based online portal that allows people in the Central Gondwana region to report local news by making a phone call.

Their messages, when recorded, need to be relayed to the authorities who can then proactively take up their issues. The fact that their problems have been solved should be relayed back to the Adivasis on shortwave radio in their own languages.

Never mind the connectivity issues, even if they do not receive mobile phone network signals in their village, they can at least receive signals in most of their weekly markets that they visit every week

Bottom up approach:-

Gondi is the lingua franca of the Maoist movement today, but All India Radio does not broadcast even a single new bulletin in the language.

A top-down All India Radio will anyway be of little use; we should strive to create a bottom-up media which is more participatory.

We need Adivasi broadcasting cooperatives. We need democratic and real social media.

Regulating the Radio:-

Radio must be regulated as any other media but a free radio, including medium wave and short wave, linked with mobile phone and Internet, can solve the Maoist problem.

FM is an urban phenomenon; the battle to allow private FM stations to broadcast news is not going to help Adivasis in Central India. Experiments like Free Basics of Facebook, linked with Internet via satellite and Google’s Loons, should be tried in Central India.

Tackling the Maoist insurgency:-

Maoist insurgency is a 19th century problem which has a 21st century solution.

However, an Internet-centric approach is not enough. This is still an oral country.

We need to connect Internet with voice to reach the last mile, as is being done with “Bultoo radio” in Balrampur.

We also need to use the 19th century technology of short-wave radio, which may be an obsolete technology for urban India but is still the only communication technology for many Adivasis in remote forests.

A combination of Digital India with a more autonomous Information and Broadcasting Ministry can do the trick.

We need Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad more, not Manohar Parrikar or Rajnath Singh to solve the Maoist problem.

[3]. Discover, invent India 

The Indian Express 

Context:-

The article suggests measures to take India forward in Science and Technology while pointing out the sticking points in the pursuit.

Favourable climate:-

India possesses an immense pool of talented young minds. The overseas intellectual community has strong ties to the country of its origin and is an important national resource that could greatly assist in the development of India. Given appropriate opportunities, many would return.

The Indian economy is booming, now reaching levels of growth second to none but China.

Prerequisites for Make in India:-

In order to “Make in India” and compete with better or cheaper goods from abroad, one must first “Invent in India”; and in order to “Invent in India”,one must “Discover in India”.

Science and technology for economic advancement:-

A country that aspires to become an economic superpower must first become a science and technology superpower.

China has learnt this lesson well and is on its way to becoming a world leader, both in technology and in basic science.

Investing in research and development:-

The percentage of India’s GDP devoted to research and development has remained for 15 years at a paltry 0.9 per cent — minuscule in comparison with developed countries.

The US figure is 2.7 per cent; South Korea spends 4.4 per cent. China now spends 2.1 per cent, and this percentage is rapidly increasing.

Without investment, there is no return. Long-term investments in basic science  is needed for developing new products and such investments are best supported by the government.

But money alone will not produce the desired results.

Reforms needed:-

Higher education:-

Fundamental reform in the structure of India’s higher education and research institutions is needed

Bureaucratic hurdle:-

Indian science is burdened with an inflexible, irrational and outdated bureaucracy.

India imposes irrational bureaucratic regulations, such as severe restrictions on travel for young Indian scientists and for foreign collaborators, as well as forced retirement at a relatively early age for excellent, and sorely needed, scientific leaders.

This shows the inability of the government to make informed judgements of quality.

The US benefits immensely from the advice it receives from the National Research Council, which produces over 400 reports a year for its departments. The Indian government also needs increased scientific input to address the many urgent problems of India.

Delinking from politics:-

This highly politicised system must be radically reformed and modified. Elsewhere, planning for science is largely protected from day-to-day politics.

Funding flows to independent agencies, independent of ministries and politicians, where scientists have much input to shape long-term plans for growth and development.

Peer review is the norm. This is especially important in the basic sciences, which require long-term and stable funding.

Reforming governmental institutions is not simple, and allocating scarce resources for long-term payoffs is difficult.

Need for scientific community to step up:-

Scientists and educators must demand changes and they must help in shaping these changes. Leading Indian scientists should engage in public discourse, participate in the necessary review and planning processes, create new institutions of research and education, and help raise the level of existing centres.

Providing opportunities:-

India does not lack brilliant young people who can create the science of the future, but they need to be given appropriate opportunities, visibility and engaged in decision-making. India has three national academies of science, but they play little role in either advising the government or representing the scientific community.

Conclusion:-

These reforms are necessary if India is to develop the science and technology necessary for its economic development and to take its rightful place among the scientific leaders of the world .


By: ForumIAS Editorial Team


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