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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 18 March 2016

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

What is 9 PM brief?


GS PAPER 2


The Hindu

The Issue: The passage of The Punjab – Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of proprietary rights) Bill, 2016 in legislative assembly of Punjab.

What the bill seeks to do?

Alter ths use of land meant for Punjab Yamuna Sutlej Link Canal. It intend to transfer proprietary rights back to the landowners free of cost.

Why the controversy?

Supreme Court 2004 decree – unhindered construction of the canal. This was to provide for Haryana share of it water.

It has been alleged by Haryana Government that the bill passed will negate the Supreme Court’s decree.

Punjab defences say that Supreme Court has only advisory jurisdictions and could not pass an assumptive interim orders.

Sutlej – Yamuna Link Canal (SARYU) or SYL: as it is popularly known, is a proposed 214 – kilometer (133 mi) long heavy freight canal in India to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.

  1. Starts at Palla village near Delhi.
  2. Intends to transfer Haryana’s share of 3,500,000 acre-feet (4.3 km3) from the Indus Basin
  3. Being built west wards near its headwaters through the Punjab region near an ancient caravan route and highlands pass to the navigable parts of the Sutlej-Indus watershed.
  4. Will connect the entire Ganges with points west.
  5. Major advantage will be availability of shipping from India’s east coast to west coast, drastically reducing freight expenditure, hence creating a commercial link with large north

[2]. Kurds declare federal region in Syria

The Hindu

The Issue: Ongoing five year civil war in Syria. The peace talks in Geneva have been held to end the same. Kurdish one of the stakeholders have declared federation in the northern region of Syria under their control.

The reaction: The move seems to anger the Turkey, and also has failed to garner support from Kurds sympathetic like US. Syrian government as well as Istanbul based opposition (National Coalition) has slammed the move terming it illegal and impactless. There is also apprehension that the move can derail the Geneva peace talks.

The Federation: Meeting comprising of 150 delegates decided on creating federation in region of Rojava and Northern Syria (regions controlled by Kurds).

The Kurdish Administration: In Syria’s northern border Kurdish parties run administration in three subdivisions, each being autonomous in itself. They maintain independent police force and schools. The move seems to centralise governance in these three autonomous subdivisions.

Who are Kurds?

The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a contiguous area spanning adjacent parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey, western Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. The Kurds have ethnically diverse origins. They are culturally and linguistically closely related to the Iranian peoples.

[3] Be bold in revisiting the sedition law

The Hindu

Issue: Government has yielded that the definition of sedition under Indian Penal Code (IPC) is very wide and requires reconsideration. The Government has called an all party meeting to address the same after the law commission submits its report on the issue.

The Realisation: The fallout in JNU case and, also the fact being pointed out by legal luminaries that for sedition, threat to public order is an essential ingredient, which has been found missing in most of the recent cases of sedition.

The problem with the Law:

The law text is plagued with vagueness and ambiguity in definitions, which gives a chance to administration to twist the definitions sometime leading the law to overreach it mandate and mindless prosecution.

This can be illustration of examples: “excites or attempts to excite disaffection” or “brings into or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt” or ‘disaffection’ includes “disloyalty and all feelings of enmity”.

Sometimes a precarious situation arises when prosecution of similar nature gets order for both provocative and innocuous speeches, hence treating them equally.

View of the judiciary
Two High Courts had declared Section 124-A unconstitutional before the Supreme Court upheld the section in 1962 in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar.

The Supreme Court upheld sedition as an offence restricting free speech when it threatens public order. “Pernicious tendency to create public disorder” was the condition mentioned by Supreme Court for invoking sedition.

Conclusion:

Law commission revisting Sedition laws should keep in mind the misuse of laws, and misuse by the governments to silence its critics.

There is need to narrow the definition or to scrap the law completely to counter it’s misuse.

[4] Aadhaar disquiet in the House

The Ħindu

The Issue: The government introduced Aadhar Bill in the Lok Sabha as money bill.

The reason behind the move: Many a bills introduced by current regime though passed by Lok Sabha (where ruling party has majority) has been stalled in Rajya Sabha where the ruling party is in minority. Introducing the bill as money bill gives manifold advantage to the ruling party, hence creating a better chance for the bill to become Act.

The advantages of Money Bill over ordinary bill are:

  • Money bill can not be introduced in Rajya sabha
  • When Money bill is passed in Lok Sabha it is transmitted to Rajya sabha with Speaker’s certificate that it is a money bill.
  • Rajya sabha can neither reject nor amend a Money bill.
  • It must return the bill within 14 days to Lok Sabha with its recommendations.
  • Recommendations are non-binding on Lok sabha.

The Current Status: Lok Sabha passed Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 ignoring the recommendations of Rajya Sabha.

The Criticism: The foundation of the democracy in India is based on dialogue process. The dialogue always lead to varied viewpoint which help to create sound legislations. The ruling party is being criticised for ignoring valid viewpoints of the member of upper house.

The Concern Regarding the Bill:  The bill suggests to make Aadhaar mandatory which has led to apprehension regarding:

  1. Issues of privacy
  2. The proposed database facilitates mass surveillance but there are not enough measures to protect data from misuse.
  3. The provision for data protection seems insufficient

Recommendations:

  1. Substitute words “Public emergency and Public Safety ” for national security
  2. Committee to look into requests of bio-metric data needs to have either CAG or CVC on board.
  3. There was recommendation to make Aadhaar optional as well as not to make it mandatory for receiving benefits from the government.

Conclusion:

Though on paper the bill introduced by UPA or NDA may not differ much, but this is not the point where politicians need to score brownie points. The more important aspect is in a democracy the process of dialogue should not be compromised to achieve ends.

[5] Privacy is a fundamental right

The Hindu

Central government passed the Aadhaar bill

What is the concern?

Right to privacy

There are many clause in the bill which causes threat to right to privacy.

Right to privacy

Rights to liberty and freedom of expression under article 21 cannot survive if the right to privacy is compromised.

Supreme court of India from time to time recognised that our other rights can not survive without right to privacy.

Aadhaar bill is a breach to the privacy if the database is not safeguarded accordingly. Government is not giving any guarantee of compensation if there is any misuse of the database.

Bill ensures protection of information for any purpose other than authentication. But two exceptions that permits government to have access to the biometric information.

Government will use the information for national security even without asking people affected.

Protection will not apply against the order of a district judge (or higher)

Inadequate safeguards

Outdated technology

System in which a Joint Secretary issues orders for data, that are reviewed by three Secretaries is not adequate.

It excludes courts of any awareness of offences under the legislation, requiring that the authority that runs Aadhaar consent to prosecution for any action to be taken under the legislation.

Impact of human rights violations

These kind of laws will eventually leads to police state

Conclusion

If it is meant to ease the benefit transfer no one should have the access to the database. There should be no exceptions to it. And the chance to breach our privacy must be narrower.

If government is allowing some officials to breach our privacy, there must be some procedural backing to ensure that the exercise of power is just and reasonable.

[6] Let larger pictorial warnings stay

The Hindu

Issue

Conflict between health lobby and tobacco industry lobby regarding pictorial warnings.

Arguments of the Health Lobby to retain 85% pictorial display

Cost of Tobacco:-  1 million tobacco-related deaths in India. Health expenditure due to tobacco disease is around 4 times more than the revenue .

Further Loss:- Any dilution in the size of warning would  cost thousand lives and the country cannot afford it.

It does the job:- Larger images on both sides of the packet are the most effective and powerful way to communicate health risks to this population. Because it provoke a greater emotional response, decrease tobacco consumption and increase motivation to quit.

Easy to Implement:-Excise duty hike and bigger, graphic pictorial warnings are easy to enforce and have the highest impact on tobacco consumption.

Catches the audience- A vast majority of consumers in India of bidi and chewing tobacco are poor and less exposed to awareness campaigns.And pictorial warnings can be understood by an illiterate as well.

Arguments of the Tobacco industry lobby (The 15-member Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation includes the bidi baron Shyama Charan Gupta)

Interests:- Commercial Interests of the tobacco industry would be compromised.

Too harsh:- Increase in  the size of the warning from the current 40 per cent on only one side of the packet to 85 per cent on both sides would be “too harsh” on the tobacco industry.

No effect of warnings:- Tobacco consumption in India has increased and not declined after pictorial warnings were introduced in 2009.

Illicit Trade:- Pictorial warnings would encourage illicit trade.

Livelihood:-  It would affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers and workers.

Conclusion:
It is imperative that the Health Ministry ignore the recommendations of the committee and enforce pictorial warnings that cover 85 per cent of the principal display area on both sides of all tobacco products, as we should not let  commercial interests override public health concerns.


GS PAPER 3


[1]. Getting medical education on track

The Hindu

Context: Parliamentary committee report recognising misgovernance in Medical Council of India (MCI) and has recognised the need for sweeping reforms in MCI.

Medical Council of India (MCI):

Established in 1934, through Indian Medical Council Act, 1933 with a mandate to:

  • maintaining the medical register
  • providing ethical oversight

1956 Amendment, enlarged the mandate to look into medical education in the country. MCI was mandated to:
a) To maintain uniform standards of medical education

  1. b) recognition/de-recognition of medical institutions of India or foreign countries;
  2. c) accord permanent registration/provisional registration of doctors with recognised medical qualifications

Under second amendment of 1993

Making it an advisory body with three main functions to perform

  1. Sanctioning of medical college
  2. Approving the student intake
  3. Approving any expansion of the intake

 

The Ministry of Health drafted a Bill to establish a National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH)

Aim of the bill

To revamp the MCI to consist of nominated bodies to carry out the functions of human resource planning, curriculum development and quality assurance, with the elected body limited to register doctors and govern their practice in accordance with ethical standards.

Which committee gave its report?

Committee under chairmanship of Dr. Ranjit Roy Chaudhary gave its report on MCI

Recommendations of the PSC

  • To provide a new architecture that is more in tune with current needs of the country
  • To replace the principle of election with nomination
  • To replace the existing MCI with an architecture consisting of four independent boards to deal with:
  1. Curriculum development
  2. Teacher training, and standard setting for undergraduate and post-graduate education
  3. Accreditation and assessment processes of colleges and courses for ensuring uniformity in standards
  4. The registration of doctors, licensing and overseeing adherence to ethical standards

Aim of the reforms

Proper management of human resource for

  1. Promoting family medicine and general physicians alongside specialists
  2. To make medical education affordable to middle class
  3. A uniform national entry and exit examination

What are the shortcomings of the report?

  1. The PSC report has not provided any clear directions on the this subject (Idea to upgrade district hospitals to government medical colleges was proposed for cost cutting for establishing a 300-bed hospital for a new college, utilise existing specialists for teaching, and provide rural populations access to specialist services nearer their homes and at a lower cost) The Ministry of Health has recently sanctioned funds to 58 district hospitals for such upgradation.
  2. Poor people does not have free care in many of the medical colleges. The government needs to clearly state its policy on this issue.
  3. To bring in the credibility to the system and stop the production of poorly trained doctors.

Report on Fee structure

The PSC report has also given the Health Ministry power to regulate the fee structure within its mandate.

What next?

A group of eminent people should be appointed as a transition team to work out the new architecture

A law must be drafted to ensure that the new body does not become overly centralised.

[2].Government eases cabotage norms

The Hindu

Context:  The government of India has eased the cabotage norms. The norms has been relaxed only for those ports which tranship atleast 50% of container handled by them.

What is cabotage?

The transport of goods or passengers between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country. It originally applied to shipping along coastal routes, port to port, but now applies to aviation, railways, and road transport as well.

Why has government done so?

It has been done to encourage transhipment of good at Indian ports.

What do you mean by transhipment?

Transhipment is the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, then to yet another destination. One possible reason for transshipment is to change the means of transport during the journey (e.g., from ship transport to road transport), known as transloading.

How will the relaxation in norms will help?

  1. Help shipping lines to consolidate export import and empty containers at transhipment ports in India.
  2. It will allow foreign vessels to bring goods to any port of India.
  3. Also, foreign vessels will be allowed to transport containers between domestic ports.
  4. It looks to lower the logistic cost in long run by allowing utilization of spare capacity which was earlier going waste.

[3] Railways ties with ISRO for route surveys

The Hindu

Context: Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Railways and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The Current Usage of Space Technology in Railways:

Space technology, at present is used in Indian Railways for:

  1. Provide connectivity to passenger reservation counters.
  2. Unreserved ticketing system in remote areas.
  3. Emergency communication using satellite phone during disaster

What is the MoU intended for?

The MoU seeks to

  1. Provide passenger information on all trains.
  2. Map railway assets
  3. Help survey new route and alignments in hilly and difficult terrain
  4. Remote sensing and graphical information system.

[4] Not scared of Monsanto threat

The Hindu

The Issue: The unwillingness on the part of Monsanto to reduce the price of GM cotton seeds even on the direction of the government.

Government Stand:

The three consecutive droughts, the government to reduce the anxiety of farmers has asked local firm to cut down the royalties it pay to Monsanto for GM cotton seed by 70%.

Also, the government is looking to develop its own GM cotton seed varieties early next year. But the challenge for India is in sustaining the program where a refresh is needed every decade on the seeds to be effective.

There is also an ongoing investigation by the Competition Council of India on usage of monopoly by Monsanto to increase the prices.

Monsanto GM Cotton Seeds:

Introduced in 2002. It is a genetically modified crop which produces insecticide to bollworm.

This has helped India become the largest producer of the fibre in the world.

Monsanto’s Stand:

Monsato complaints about the  arbitrary interventions and innovation stifling attitude of the government where it becomes difficult to incentivise research and development. It says that it has to reevaluate its Indian business.

[5] Net commitment

Indian Express

Context: ICAN55 (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) summit at Marrakesh in Morocco. The issue of internet governance and the fear among the common public that the current regime is looking to restrict the freedom of internet.

Government Defence: The government says that the Government is not the sole representative in the matter of freedom of internet, infact civil society and private sectors are also the stakeholder.

Government claims to have moved from multilateral approach (government the sole representative) in matters of internet to multi stakeholder one, which proves that government is not trying to control the internet.

The article mostly deals with Telecom Minister’s defence of the government regarding the matters of internet.

Speaking of multi stakeholder model the minister also focus on the government role in security and safety regarding the internet.

What does ICANN do?

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer — a name or a number. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination, we wouldn’t have one global Internet.

[6] Cleaning up India’s economic lifeline

Livemint

Context: Indian Railways is being considered as a health hazard, because of ‘open’ defecation practised by the travellers.

 

Why?
Because people defecate directly into the open from inside their train toilets.

The excreta falls straight on to the train tracks which corrodes the rail tracks and it spreads diseases.

The people living nearby and the people who cross the track comes in contact with harmful bacteria. It has been called as the “largest open toilet in the world”.

Open defecation is a practice associated with poverty and health problems, most notoriously childhood stunting. So, the railways need some cleaning.

 

Do we have any plan?
Indian railways is heavily subsidized and on an average, the railways bears 43% of the cost of every journey, so there is clearly a resource crunch.

And in this year budget,to have some savings,  we have reduced the cost of power procured for traction by signing long-term agreements, bring down inventory carrying costs and launched “austerity drives”.

But understanding the gravity of the problem, Railways has stated a goal that is tied with  clean up India drive—it is to convert existing toilets in trains into bio-toilets, which are indigenously built.

Bio Toilet:- Under the lavatory, there’s a container with a colony of bacteria that convert human waste into water and gas. The gas is released into the atmosphere while the water is chlorinated and then discharged on to the tracks.

Plan is to make  30,000 by the end of next year, but according to the current scenario, there is requirement of around 260000.

If we want to make railways “the backbone of India’s progress and economic development”, we need to do more than this.

What needs to be done?

The plan should be to make every toilet a bio-toilet (without exception).

It could significantly contribute to Modi’s Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission and make India a far more healthy and hygienic place.

A page from History
Gandhi realized in 1917 that if misery was being spread through the railways, it was the lack of civic amenities in third-class coaches that was to blame.

[7] A transformative budget?

Livemint

How can we say a budget is transformative or not?
It depends on how effectively the Union government translates intentions of the budget into results on the ground.

Unrealistic feature in Budget

The adherence to the 3.5% fiscal deficit target is unrealistic because it is made on assumption that realization of revenue will be made from spectrum sale and disinvestment, etc.

Predictable feature in Budget

It is well known that the current government is more inclined to the interests of industry and infrastructure and hype has been created about focus on farmers. The allocation for agriculture and rural development, including “irrigation and flood control” amounts to a mere 3.28% of the Plan outlay.

Welcome elements in the Budget

  1. Setting up of a Unified Agricultural Marketing E-Platform that requires states to amend their Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts, which has severely restricted competition in agricultural markets.
  2. Use of MNREGA employment for digging ponds and wells – extremely valuable for storage of water in rain fed areas. 
  3. The big push to the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana rural roads programme, listed under agriculture, is also welcome.
  4. Regarding infrastructure and investment, there has been  a slew of proposed reforms relating to FDI; a dispute resolution framework for contracts in infrastructure construction, PPP  and public utilities; a credit rating system for infrastructure projects; and a new policy framework for public enterprise asset management, but a lot will depend on how effectively the government delivers on this agenda.
  5. In the financial sector,  an amended RBI Act will fundamentally change the way monetary policy is conducted.. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code for other firms will help develop the corporate bond market. An amended SARFAESI Act to encourage establishment of asset reconstruction companies will ease the stressed assets burden of public sector banks.
  6. Under the fiscal discipline, the proposed review of FRBMA is most welcome. Eliminating the priority distorting distinction between Plan and Non-Plan expenditure is effective 2017-18 is another useful fiscal improvement. So is the intention to introduce a sunset date and outcome review for every new scheme that is approved.

Negative elements in the Budget

  1. Not much money has been allocated to the agriculture and farmers welfare.
  2. The long-term irrigation fund could be at odds with the programme for ground water management. It will finance private irrigation projects, mostly wells and tube wells that are primarily responsible for over exploitation of ground water.
  3. The grant of Rs.2.87 trillion to gram panchayats and municipalities that may significantly strengthen local governments is not a discretionary grant by the Union government rather this is a mandatory grant by the 14th Finance Commission under article 280(b).
  4. The reference to a “new” health insurance scheme of Rs.1 lakh per family is a re-packaging of the labour ministry’s erstwhile Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna scheme with no commitment of additional resources.
  5. Only a few new Navodaya Vidyalayas are proposed.
  6. Tax reform is the most disappointing of all. Barring some useful initiatives to reduce litigation, there is little positive movement under this category
  7. The additional injection of Rs.25,000 crore to recapitalize public sector banks under the Indradhanush programme is only a fraction of what is required.

 


BY: ForumIAS Editorial Team 

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