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9 PM Daily Brief – 17 March 2016

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

What is 9 PM brief?


GS PAPER 2


[1]. Parliament passes Aadhaar Bill amid acrimonious debates

The Hindu

Stand of the Government
According to the government, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, would provide for good governance and efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services.

Privacy is not a fundamental right.
And any gaps in the law could be improved with the passage of time.

Stand of the Opposition

The Opposition argued that the privacy of a billion people could be compromised.

It also objected to the presentation of the legislation as a Money Bill as this ensured that it was passed without the approval of the Rajya Sabha.

It wanted the legislation to have safeguards to avoid sensitive private information of the individual from being disclosed or accessed “on the whim of the Executive.”

Amendments moved by the Opposition in Rajya Sabha

Plug loopholes related to privacy.

Block sale of database of individuals.

Prevent disclosure of demographic information in the interests of national security which is defined “loosely”.

Provide for aggrieved individuals to approach courts directly rather than through the Unique Identification Authority of India.

Clarify that benefits cannot be denied to those who don’t have an Aadhaar number.

 

[2]. Govt. admits sedition definition is wide

The Hindu

What?
The government admitted in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the definition of sedition under the law was “very wide” and agreed to an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.

When it will be discussed?

It will be discussed after the Law Commission, which is examining the matter, submits its report.

Why this introspection?

Because of the concerns raised after its misuse in some recent events. (JNU students having been charged with sedition).

Anybody who speaks against the government can be booked under sedition law.

According to the Opposition, given the wide definition of the sedition law “half of the parties will be anti-national if there is a ban on speaking against the government.”

View of the Law Commission

The Commission, in its 42nd report, had noted that the sedition law was “defective” but did not favour its deletion.

In another report ,the Commission sought a change in the definition but did not favour the scrapping of the law.

 


GS PAPER 3


[1].Pranab urges aviation industry to focus on Tier II, III cities

The Hindu

Event

India Aviation 2016, fifth in the biennial series of international exhibition and conference on civil aviation was held in Hyderabad.

 

President’s message

He called for improved air connectivity to small cities and the north-eastern States.

Several Tier II and III cities “remain unconnected or inadequately connected” and the northeast faced a paucity of civil aviation infrastructure despite the aviation industry growing rapidly.

He made a strong case for better connectivity by pointing out how business activities were bound to move to newer destinations with existing economic centres reaching a saturation point.

 

Current status

India is one of the least penetrated air-markets in the world with 0.04 trips per capita per annum as compared to 0.3 of China and over 2 in the U.S.

 

Growth factors

The middle-class would propel the growth, in the backdrop of rising income levels.

Development of tourism and trade were other contributing factors for the increase in passenger traffic.

 

Are we ready?

India would require at least 800 aircraft by 2020 to cater to the phenomenal increase of passenger and freight traffic.

Supporting infrastructure has to be suitably upgraded by building new Greenfield airports, expanding the existing airports and upgrading facilities for maintenance, repair and operations.

 

[2].A new chapter in Myanmar

The Hindu

Transition phase in Myanmar
Newly elected President, Mr. Htin Kyaw’s government would be Myanmar’s most democratic administration since 1962 when the military seized power.

The balance of power has clearly shifted in the pro-democracy camp and now the government will have to  have to tread cautiously but purposefully to build on the democratic gains, and expedite Myanmar’s transition into a full democracy.

 

Challenges before the Government
Primarily, it has to address the deep economic problems. In the years of isolation under the junta, economic growth stagnated, trapping millions in acute poverty.

Getting the economy back on track is no easy task, and Myanmar will need regional and global assistance.

 

Military Challenge

Since 1962, the generals ran a repressive regime that denied the people even basic democratic rights and isolated the country internationally.

Although the generals have agreed to civilian takeover of political power, but they still wield enormous influence over Myanmar’s institutions.

One-quarter of seats in both Houses of Parliament are reserved for the military. This prevents any constitutional amendments without the military’s approval.

The military also has direct control of three key Ministries: defence, home affairs and border affairs.

And by successfully getting Myint Swe, a controversial retired general who served the previous junta, elected as one of the two vice-presidents, the military has sent a clear message to the government that it is not going to completely stay away from power.

 

Position of Ms. Suu Kyi

A provision in the military-era Constitution bars Ms. Suu Kyi from assuming the President’s office as her children are foreign citizens.

But Ms. Suu Kyi has made it clear that she will be in control of the government, irrespective of her constitutional status.

 

[3] Making India GI brand conscious

The Hindu

About Geographical Indications
Geographical Indication is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries.

These products have special quality or reputation attributable to its geographical origin.

In India, GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

For example: Basmati Rice, Darjeeling Tea, Pashmina Shawls, etc.

Ripple effect of GI

GIs support and protect local production (as opposed to global production)

It generate local employment and are mostly untouched by industrialisation, originating in villages or small towns.

It helps in developing ancillary industries like tourism and lodging, which  also create local employment and aid in the socio-economic development of the region in the long run.

 

GIs and Make in India

GIs are perhaps the most ideal Intellectual Property rights to foster and realise a programme like Make in India.

Because, GI-branded goods can be made 100 per cent in India without the need for any foreign direct investment (FDI) and  they can promote socio-economic development of the respective regions.

 

So why haven’t GIs naturally shown themselves up as a potential tool to aid the Make in India programme?

Because Make in India Programme is built on the foundation to offer quality products.
And India’s GI Act does not lay much emphasis on inspection and monitoring mechanisms for GI protection, so it does not focus on importance of quality products.

Quality associated with geographical origin is the hallmark of a GI and the current legal framework evidently lacks teeth to ensure it. This perhaps explains why one has not heard of many GI success stories in India.

So, it is aptly called as the “sleeping beauty”.

 

Global practices to ensure quality

Effective verification and controls at multiple levels in the supply chain, ensuring compliance with product specification before placing it in the market

Market monitoring of the use of the names to ensure legal compliance.

 

What need to be done to “awaken the beauty”?
The current Indian legal framework for GIs needs to be strengthened to address quality control and consumer expectations by insisting on multi-layered quality control systems as a precondition for registration.

India must hand-hold producer bodies, look at successful models elsewhere and mould these to suit the ground realities of protection and enforcement in a developing country.

Every region in India boasts of many locally produced unique goods and this law, with a few amendments to fill the serious missing gaps described above, coupled with diligent implementation can turn into a magic wand for the Make in India programme.

 

[4] NPS can now be ‘technically’ tax-free, says pension regulator

The Hindu

Background
The government had introduced a tax on 60 per cent of EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund) savings at the time of retirement in the Budget in a bid to make the NPS, savings under which were fully taxable at retirement, more attractive.

At the same time, it made 40 per cent of NPS (New Pension Scheme) accumulations tax-free. While the EPF tax provision was rolled back last week, the partial tax break for NPS remains.

 

View of Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)

It had  urged the government to bring some parity in the tax treatment of different pension products it competes with, such as the (EPF).

According to PFRDA,  new tax exemption of 40 per cent on NPS savings could technically allow its members to get their savings totally tax-free.

 

How it would get “tax-free”?
Under the NPS framework, 40 per cent (of corpus) is mandatorily annuitised (An annuity product allows investors to get a steady monthly income on their accumulated corpus) and that is tax free.

Now, 40 per cent of the rest that may be withdrawn as a lump sum is also tax free.

So if you annuitise 60 per cent of your balance (instead of 40 per cent), technically, yes, it’s tax-free (entirely).

 

[5] India to discuss trade curbs, projects at BRICS meeting

The Hindu

India’s turn
India is chairing the influential bloc BRICS for an 11-month term till December 2016.

 

Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI)

The CGETI meeting, which will be attended by high-level government officials, sets the agenda for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) trade and economy ministers’ meeting.

 

On the CGETI Agenda
Before end of its term as BRICS Chair, India to hold a trade fair and investor forum.
Proposal to boost services trade via relaxed norms.

Cooperation in standards and technical norms in goods and services.

 

Agenda of other nations
Russia and China are pitching for measures easing of norms to boost e-commerce trade.

Russia and Brazil are demanding a mechanism to link the single window clearance mechanisms in the BRICS countries for better trade facilitation.

Russia had also sought a mechanism to regularly discuss issues related to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in BRICS countries as well as the creation of a BRICS MSME Internet portal. China is keen on improved cooperation in intellectual property rights.

 

[6] The Uday plug-in

Indian Express

About Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojna (UDAY)

UDAY Scheme has been launched by Union Ministry of Power for financial restructuring of debt of power distribution companies.

It aims for financial revival and turnaround of Power Distribution companies (DISCOMs) and also ensures a sustainable permanent solution to the problem.

By becoming part of it, states power DISCOMs can convert their debt into state bonds as well as roll out number of measures to improve efficiency at power plants.

It seeks to make DISCOMs financially and operationally healthy so they can supply adequate power at affordable rates and play important role in Union Government’s ambition of meeting target of 100% Village electrification and 24X7 Power For All.

 

Why in news?

(Uday) has been the subject of much debate in the financial markets. The cost of borrowing for state governments has risen sharply since Uday was launched in November.

More recently, as state governments have tried to raise funds by selling Uday bonds, they have been blamed by some, for creating a shortage of funds for other borrowers.

 

States’ response

Seventeen states, adding up to 77 per cent of India’s power demand and 79 per cent of outstanding discom debt, have already agreed to Uday.

Some states have also  signed a tripartite agreement between the Centre, the state government and the discom, committing to a significant improvement in operations and thus financial performance.

The agreement commits them to replacing 50 per cent of discom debt with state government bonds (state development loans, SDLs).

This seems to have surprised many in the bond markets, driving up SDL bond yields — that is, the market is now only willing to lend to state governments at a higher cost.

The gap between the costs at which the Centre and the state governments borrow — “the yield gap” — has now widened to levels only seen at a time of crisis.

 

Is it true?

This seems unwarranted since we estimate that the increase in the states’ borrowing costs should have been only about half of the increase we have seen.

As even discom debt was implicitly guaranteed by the respective state government, the blended borrowing costs should remain unchanged. As the market stabilises, it is possible, if not likely, that the yield gap will narrow, particularly as the market has not been differentiating between states that have large Uday-related issuances and states that don’t.

 

Is there shortage of funds?

The second concern for the markets — that this sudden jump in bond issuance by states has caused a shortage of funds for others — is even less justified.

This whole process is just debt replacement where the banks that had earlier lent to the discoms get their money back, and are then free to lend in the economy, or even buy SDLs from the market.

So why is there tightness in liquidity currently, that is, more borrowers than funds?

The main cause for the shortage in funds seems to be a pick-up in bank credit growth.

 

There is an important lesson for policymakers here:

Given its large borrowing needs, the Central government issues most of its bonds in the first half of the fiscal year so as not to crowd out the market towards the end of the year.

State government borrowing, however, is still back-end loaded. A better-planned borrowing calendar for the states is becoming a necessity.

So the kerfuffle over Uday bonds should settle as liquidity improves from April onwards and yields normalise once the bunched-up issuances are behind us. One hopes that the Rs 1.15 trillion of Uday-related SDL issuances in the coming financial year are better spaced out so as not to cause market distortions.

The discoms, along with the railways, are among the few generally large and inefficient government monopolies that need reform. Change in the discoms can be further complicated by the fact that these are state government controlled.

Under Uday, states have committed to transformative operational improvements in the next three-four years. The political will to raise tariffs and improve billing and collection is likely to be tested. But technological improvements, like in metering and feeder line separation, should help and the merging of discom losses with fiscal deficits a few years down the line should improve the success rate.

 

 

[7] Treat in India

Indian Express

In 2014, 7.7 million foreign tourists came to India, and we do not have any concrete data on the number of tourists who come for medical purposes.

 

Medical Visa and problems associated with it

There is a medical visa, or M-visa, issued subject to some conditions.

There’s also a MX-visa, for attendants/ family members.

Fast-track M/ MX visas exist for Saarc countries, although Bangladesh/ Pakistan warrant additional requirements.

Waiting periods for the grant of visas are long, the physical presence of patients is required at embassies, and there are restrictions on multiple-entry medical visas.

 

Hence, medical tourists often come on tourist visas. Immigration and visa forms don’t really capture the complete data on medical tourists.

 

Indian facilities

The ministry of health and family welfare now has a National Health Portal (NHP). As this, or the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) website indicates, we tend to often equate medical tourism with surgery and treatment in hospitals, although that’s not necessarily true. There can be wellness or rejuvenation centres too, or AYUSH centres.

 

Marketing is needed

Unfortunately, the NABH is still not marketed sufficiently well. Prospective patients don’t always know that the NABH is not inferior to other global standards.

Indeed, NABH standards are recognised by the ISQua (International Society for Quality in Healthcare).

Note that neither the NHP nor the NABH is specifically directed at medical tourism. There’s no specific medical tourism website.

 

Experience of a foreigner patient

A patient turns up, not necessarily on a medical visa.

Therefore, there has been no prior tie-up with a hospital.

Even if there’s a medical visa, there may have been problems with wire transfers of money. Hence, the patient carries cash, with possible violation of the law.

There’s no special immigration facility or information counter at the airport.

Then, the patient  falls prey to a tout/ middleman.

 

Role of a Middlemen

Middlemen can perform a useful intermediary service, but that’s not what these unregulated ones do.

The tout quotes a scaled-up figure for treatment/ operation.

In the absence of information, the patient (not necessarily very literate) doesn’t know that the hospital will get 30 per cent of this.

Hospitals aren’t allowed to receive payments in foreign exchange. The tout converts foreign exchange to rupees at an unfavourable rate. There can be a tie-up with a hotel, with another cut for the tout.

 

National Medical and Wellness Tourism Promotion Board (NMWTPB)

At that first meeting of the NMWTPB, three sub-committees have been set up on regulation, accreditation and marketing. A data bank of service providers will also be created and disseminated. There’s no dearth of reports on India’s potential for medical tourism, citing various relative cost and non-cost advantages.

The constraints are also known, as are two fundamental principles.

First, break down silos in formulating and implementing policies.

Second, regulate, don’t ban. Regulating a disintermediation service between patient and hospital is desirable and works. Banning touts is undesirable and doesn’t work, because it’s neither efficient nor enforceable. My doctor friend should be given less to complain about.

 

[8] Education is always political

Livemint

No Politics?

Views from the extremes, both the left and the right, regarding the recent happenings in some university campuses, have been unsurprising.

Ugly, unethical politics anywhere must be condemned. But what has been surprising is a view stated by some which amounts to “there must be no politics in educational institutions”. This view reflects either a very naïve understanding of education or an insidiously political (even if unconscious) choice.

 

Political influence on education

 

The content of education in any society is politically influenced. This political influence operates at both levels: to accept what is “true knowledge” (for instance, the planning model versus market theory) and to choose “worthwhile knowledge” that finds place in the curriculum from the universal set of “knowledge”.

 

Role of education

We need education that energizes our democracy and builds an India as envisioned in the Constitution by developing the abilities of students to think and contribute as autonomous individuals; this education is certainly political. One way or the other, all education is political.

Education that aims to develop autonomous, critical thinking individuals and to help develop a just and democratic society is sharply political.

And as sharply political would be education that aims to develop individuals who are not questioning but conforming to some existing order. In fact, the aims of education shape the processes and content of education, including significantly determining their political tilt.

 

What we do not need is

Education that aims to develop people who do not engage with the most important issues around them, do not question and do not think for themselves. This amounts to deep politics in education of a kind that must be rejected.

 


BY: ForumIAS Editorial Team 

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  • Lazygoose

    Hey its a wonderful initiative to understand everything abt a topic in one place. Just a request to please make it little concise if possible..

  • Sunny Luthra

    How come International Affairs is in GS III?