- Front Page / NATIONAL
- . Over 80% of city markets are prone to fire
- . SC clears plan to verify mobile phone users through Aadhaar
- . Perilous U-turn on Iran
- . Rewiring the WTO
- . Disability and the culture of violence
- . Back to basics
- . Ministries, sectoral regulators to screen FDI proposals
- . Implement WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial decisions: India
- Indian Express
- . Budgeting For Democracy
- Live Mint
- . The MPC: lost in translation
Front Page / NATIONAL
. Over 80% of city markets are prone to fire
Over 80% of the city’s markets are structurally unsafe and prone to fire accidents
What has happened?
An internal audit conducted by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) after a portion of C block in Connaught Place collapsed, found that over 80% of the city’s markets are structurally unsafe and prone to fire accidents.
Floundering of Fire Safety Rules
- According to the Delhi Fire Safety Rules of 2010, any structural alteration made to a building needs to be approved by the department. But out of the total building approval plans that are tabled before the DFS, only 10% come back for regular approvals
- Non-Clearance of exit points: Despite repeated reminders to traders’ associations and civic agencies, the exit points are not cleared. An assessment of the 2005 bomb blast in Sarojini Nagar showed that the impact was greater because the exit points of the markets were blocked by street vendors
- Though after the incident several drives were conducted to clear markets of illegal encroachments, vendors returned as there was lack of rehabilitation and designated space allotment
. SC clears plan to verify mobile phone users through Aadhaar
The Supreme Court has approved the government‘s plan to record the identification details of mobile subscribers through an e-KYC (Know Your Customer) mechanism linked to Aadhaar in a bid to enhance national security and prevent fake users
Directions by the Bench
- Mechanism within a year: A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar asked the government, represented by Attorney-General MukulRohatgi, to put in place the mechanism within a year
Coverage:The mechanism would cover at least 100 crore mobile phone subscribers, 90% of whom use pre-paid cards
The court was considering a petition by NGO Lokniti Foundation, which had contended that fake SIM cards were a major threat to national security.
. Perilous U-turn on Iran
A set of new sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States over a missile test has taken ties between the two countries, which saw incremental improvement over a couple of years, back to the pre-Obama era
Article highlights the changing dynamics of US foreign policy wrt Iran.
Give it a go-through once
. Rewiring the WTO
Growing disenchantment with the existing model of globalization is also a historic opportunity to frame new rules granting equal opportunities to all in the global marketplace
Change in global trade rule framework
Author states that the framework for global trade rules is undergoing a major change due to the following events,
- Withdrawal of US from Trans Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP)
Questioning the relevance of WTO
Author states that questions are being raised regarding relevance of WTO due to following reasons,
- Failure of Nairobi ministerial: With the Nairobi ministerial failing to decide on the future of the Doha negotiations, the WTO’s relevance has been questioned since the organisation does not have a work programme.It was due to US that no progress could be made on Doha round at Nairobi. The efforts of the developing countries to amend several important agreements and to make them more responsive to their development needs have been seriously undermined over the years.
- Issues of critical concern to the least developed countries, especially their inability to increase their presence in the global markets, have also been put on the backburner
Skewed rules in Agriculture: In agriculture, WTO rules have been loaded in favour of the developed countries, while the interests of small farmers have almost been completely ignored. India flagged the important issue of food security and argued that the sovereign states must have the right to decide the manner in which the poor should be provided subsidised food.
Problem of stockholding
This issue arose after questions were raised as to whether public stockholding of food, which is at the heart of India’s Public Distribution System (PDS), meets the WTO disciplines on agricultural subsidies. Consequently India was granted exemption under a peace clause.
- Peace Clause: Under this clause, no action would be taken against India even if its agricultural subsidies breached the threshold level set by WTO
This area covers all the measures that countries need to take in order to reduce transactions costs.
View of developing countries on trade facilitation: Developing countries didn’t want any agreement on Trade Facilitation because agreeing on this count meant they were required to undertake changes in their customs procedures and facilities, a difficult proposition for many poorer nations. However, despite their initial opposition, the developing countries eventually accepted the Agreement on Trade Facilitation at the end of the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013
In the run-up to the 11th Ministerial Conference to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017, ground is being prepared by the major economies to include electronic commerce and investment under WTO
- Support from ICC & B-20: Their inclusion has been supported by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the B-20 (Business 20, representing the business groups of G-20 countries). The ICC and B-20 tabled a proposal in September 2016 for the adoption of a “WTO package” on e-commerce
- WTO Package: This proposal speaks of,
- Promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the better adoption of e-commerce
- A level playing field b/w small and large businesses through an effective E-Commerce environment
- Providing capacity building resources to the developing economies, “including targeted assistance to ensure that MSMEs can get online and expand their business through e-commerce”
- Challenge: Author states that the biggest challenge for the WTO is to garner financial resources, since it does not have a financing arm.
WTO’s stand on E-Commerce issue
WTO stands in support for the proposal. Its support is based on the following rationale,
- Increase in Internet penetration: The increase in Internet penetration (43% of the global population) provides the basis for “changing the traditional way of doing business and conducting trade”
- Flawed rationale: Author points out that in 2015, Internet penetration in the least-developed and low income countries was 12.6% and 9.4%, respectively. Even for the low middle income countries, the figure was below the global average. These disparities in Internet penetration should make it clear as to who would be the likely beneficiaries from e-commerce
Issue of investment
Author states that the issue of investment agreement has been a deeply divisive one right from the start of the organisation
While previous attempts to include an investment agreement have been met with much resistance from the developing countries, the latest bid comes at a time when the investor-friendly bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are under the scanner
- Dispute settlement process: The focus is on the investor state dispute settlement process, using which investors can sue their host states in private international panels. India has unilaterally revoked a majority of the 73 BITs that it was a party to and has adopted a new model BIT that would be the basis of its future BITs. The new model BIT vastly truncated the powers of the foreign investor and their right to initiate disputes.
Author concludes by stating that the inclusion of e-commerce and investment in the WTO would further drive the wedge between the rich and the poor nations. The growing disenchantment with the existing model of globalization has provided a historic opportunity to WTO to frame new rules that give equal opportunities to all countries & their citizens in the global marketplace. WTO should act positively, bearing in mind the concerns of the poorer and developing nations to become a truly inclusive platform
. Disability and the culture of violence
Disability has been one the end results of violence historically
Limiting potential of violence
In the first few paragraphs, author points out that how a differently-abled person becomes a victim to ‘pervasive violence’ due to his compromised ability to function properly wherein due to his/her disability he/she is not accepted in the mainstream society and hence his/her real potential is not realised.
Defining Pervasive violence
According to Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies, pervasive violence is,
“the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is. Violence is that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual and that which impedes the decrease of this distance”
Process of othering
Author states that a differently abled person is discriminated against in the society leading to double exploitation in the following way,
- Due to their limited physical potential
- Structural violence: It refers to a form of violencewherein some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.This violence is highly structural in nature.
Types of Structural violence
Structural violence has two types,
- Disabled by war or natural disaster: Where a large disabled population exists due to some war or natural disaster. Take the example of any country torn by war, such as Syria. The civil war has left nearly a million people with permanent disabilities. The level of violence in Syria today is unparalleled. The potential of the entire society and country has been reduced to its lowest. Even when the guns are not firing, the violence still exists
- Disabled by birth: Where no ‘war’ has been fought but many people by birth are disabled. For example, India has 26.8 million disabled people as per the 2011 Census. Here the disabled population is one of the most marginalised sections of the country and also one of the largest minority groups
Note: Disability is yet to be formally recognised as a ‘minority group’ in the country
Problems faced by disabled
- Violence in the form of discrimination
- High level of unemployment: Due to structural violence perpetrated by the society, differently-abled people are not given jobs citing their disability as a reason. Hence their expectations to live a decent life are left unsatisfied, leading to non-realisation of potential within. It creates an environment of ‘negative peace’ within a society.
Negative peace vs Positive Peace
- Negative peace refers to the absence of violence. When, for example, a ceasefire is enacted, a negative peace will ensue. It is negative because something undesirable stopped happening (e.g. the violence stopped, the oppression ended)
- Whereas positive peace is filled with positive content such as restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict
- More differently-abled persons, More negative peace: In the context of disability, societies which have more disabled people have more ‘negative peace’ than those which have fewer disabled people
Culture of violence
The belief that those who were already disabled by birth must have committed some grave sin in their previous birth so as to be born disabled in this birth leads to the legitimisation of discrimination and hatred towards persons with disabilities across cultures. Hence, a ‘culture of violence’ is born and is legitimised further
Read More: Structural Violence
. Back to basics
Transformational technologies arise from pure science. If India wants to nurture the next big invention, it must ramp up support for research
Citing development of inventions, namely, X-Ray, Lasers & developmental work in number theory, author points out that government in India should ramp up support for pure science otherwise India shall be reduced to a status of user economy
An interesting read.
Give it a go-through
. Ministries, sectoral regulators to screen FDI proposals
The Centre had proposed to abolish the FIPB in its Budget for 2017-18
What has happened?
The applications — on foreign direct investment (FDI) in India in sectors under the approval route — considered by the inter-ministerial Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will soon be taken up by the concerned ministries and sectoral regulators, according to Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
The Centre had, in the Budget 2017-18, proposed that the FIPB will be abolished in FY’18
What is FIPB?
FIPB offers a single window clearance mechanism for FDI applications in sectors under the approval route
- Economic Affairs Secretary heads the FIPB currently
- DIPP (Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy) is the nodal agency on FDI issues
No need for FIPB
- More than 92% of the FDI inflows were through the automatic route
- For the rest of the FDI (about 8% of the total FDI inflows), every department concerned has a framework or a regulator for it which is sufficient to take care of the screening and approval of such investment proposals
- In line with the minimum government, maximum governance idea. Now that majority of the investments coming in are through the automatic route, a superfluous or an additional layer in the form of FIPB is not any longer required.
FIPB vs DIPP
FIPB is an inter-ministerial body inside Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. It has representation from Department of Revenue, Home Affairs, Department of Economic Affairs and other Ministries.
- The main function of FIPB is to recommend if a foreign investment under Government approval route should be allowed or not according to the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy issued by DIPP. This recommendation is made to the Finance Minister (FM). The FM may or may not accept FIPB’s recommendation.
DIPP is a department within the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. It issues press notes which lays down the broad framework for foreign direct investment in India. These are converted in regulations by RBI under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. In July every year, DIPP consolidates these press notes and releases a Consolidated FDI policy.
. Implement WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial decisions: India
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharamanhas said she would soon take up with World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevêdo the need to ensure that processes on outstanding issues — including on food security — of the WTO’s Doha Round negotiations are completed before the December 2017 Ministerial Conference (MC) in Argentina
Note: Read this article in conjunction with the Hindu editorial titled “Rewiring the WTO”
India’s stand on new issues
India is very clear on its stand that ‘new issues’ including e-commerce and investment cannot be brought into the formal agenda of the WTO-level negotiations on liberalisation of global trade without consensus among all the WTO members
WTO’s Director General will be in Delhi for a 2 day visit beginning from 8th Feb.
Government’s stand after Nairobi ministerial
In view of the reluctance of developed countries to agree to continue the Doha Development Agenda post-Nairobi, India negotiated and secured a re-affirmative Ministerial Decision on public stockholding for food security purposes honoring both the Bali Ministerial and (WTO) General Council Decisions
- The decision commits (WTO) members to engage constructively in finding a permanent solution to this issue [of public stockholding for food security purposes]
. Budgeting For Democracy
Parliament needs more funds for research, infrastructure and digital outreach
Issue: Parliament’s Budget
In the recent Budget, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have been allocated Rs 1,052 crore. It is a 3 per cent increase over last year’s estimates and 0.049 per cent of our total budget
Financial needs of the parliament
Our Parliament is the focal point of our democracy. It shoulders the responsibility of enacting a robust legal framework and holding the government accountable. To do its job effectively, Parliament needs adequate resources. However, there has been almost no focused debate about Parliament’s financial needs.
Benefits of Increased budgetary support for Parliament
- Strengthening in-house research facilities: Increased budgetary support to Parliament can be used to increase LARRDIS’s staff strength, enable professional development of its researchers and allow MPs to employ professional research staff
- The Library and Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Service (LARRDIS) is the research arm of Parliament. Its job is to provide research and reference materials to MPs on legislative and other issues. It has a sanctioned strength of 231 staffers. But as per numbers from August 2016, it discharges its duties with a reduced number of 176
- Budgetary allocation should recognise the importance of providing MPs with non-partisan research. These supplement MPs’ intellectual depth by giving them funds to hire research teams
- Facilitating citizen engagement with institution: More money will also allow the deploying of digital infrastructure to facilitate and encourage citizens’ engagement with the institution. For example, debates are available in text form. Linking them to recorded video proceedings available with the television channels of both houses will draw in a younger generation.
Author concludes by citing Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha, who wrote in his memoirs: “The greatness of Parliament lies not just in its majestic building, but is derived from and sustained by the quality of debates that take place inside it…”.
Investing in Parliament will deepen and sharpen its deliberations, resulting in effective governance frameworks. After all, we shouldn’t expect a great Parliament without providing the money for one.
. The MPC: lost in translation
The infant monetary policy committee needs consistency in its mix of assessment, action and guidance.
Article is a brief commentary on what factors Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) should look into while deciding on repo rate in the policy review
Please give it a go-through.