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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 7 March 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


Law to regulate use of air conditioners

‘Polluted environment kills 1.7 million children a year’


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


Cracking the GDP mystery

GST Bill: Last mile concerns

The Tawang test


Economy


NIIF in talks with two sovereign funds


Indian Express



Live Mint


India-China border dispute is here to stay


 Front Page / NATIONAL


Law to regulate use of air conditioners

Context: Environment Ministry is mulling laws that will require buildings — commercial spaces, airports, offices to ensure that air conditioners function at pre-set temperatures.

Need for new law

  • Air-conditioners contribute to global warming
  • Several places frequently set their air conditioners to extremely low temperatures, irrespective of whether the weather required it to be so, and thereby consumed an excess of electricity.
  • To phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) chemicals widely used in refrigerants and air conditioners.

Foreign examples

  • In Japan, there are regulations that require air-conditioners be set at a specific temperature depending on the season.
  • Since the summer of 2005, the Japanese Ministry of Environment requires all government departments and commercial establishments to pre-set their air conditioners to 28°C (82°F) during the summer.
  • And employees expected to eschew formal business-wear for comfortable casuals.
  • Even the European Union has regulations on the use of heating and cooling equipment

‘Polluted environment kills 1.7 million children a year’

Context

WHO report says that harmful exposure can start in the womb of a woman.

What does the Report say?

  • The WHO report says that – A quarter of all global deaths of children under five are due to unhealthy or polluted environments, including dirty water and air, second-hand smoke and a lack or adequate hygiene.
  • Such unsanitary and polluted environments can lead to fatal cases of diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia that kills 1.7 million children in a year.

Risks to children

  • WHO said harmful exposure can start in the womb, and then continue if infants and toddlers are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke.
  • This increases their childhood risk of pneumonia as well as their lifelong risk of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma.
  • Air pollution also increases the lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • Children are also exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water, air and products around them.

Way Forward

Investing in removal of environmental risks to health, like improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in health benefits.


Editorial/OPINION


Cracking the GDP mystery

Issue:  Central Statistics Office (CSO) peg FY17 GDP growth at 7.1%, but the critics are of the belief that demonetization will take heavy toll on the economic growth

What critics are saying:-

  • To gauge the actual level of economic activity, Gross Value Added (GVA) is the more pertinent number than GDP.
  • The GVA for FY17, as per CSO data, does show a dent from demonetisation.
  • At 6.7%, it has registered a sharp decline of 110 basis points from 7.8%
  • What lifted the GDP is the strong 12.3% surge in indirect taxes that the CSO estimates for this fiscal.
  • While Centre’s indirect tax collections already surged by 25% in April-December 2016
  • Two-wheeler sales collapsed by 22% year-on-year in December
  • Banks reported anaemic loan growth at 5%, cement despatches fell by 9% and realtors saw a 40% dip in home sales.

What made the results positive according to CSO estimates:-

  • 8% increase in electricity, gas and water supply and a bumper 11.9% hike in ‘public administration, defence and other services’
  • Agricultural output bounced back due to a good monsoon after consecutive drought years.
  • Electricity generation was up on better coal availability.
  • Public administration’ reflects higher government payouts on salaries and pensions after the Seventh Pay Commission.

Some estimates of private firms

  • ABusiness Line analysis of over 1,700 listed companies showed that they just reported their best quarterly performance in three years.
  • Urban discretionary purchases bounced back quickly as consumers switched to digital payments

Informal companies

  • Critics are of the opinion that CSO estimates fails to capture the performance of the informal economy.
  • GVA estimate, which mainly uses data from the formal sector, painted a rosier picture of growth than the ground reality.

More accurate estimates of what really transpired in the Indian economy post-demonetisation will be available when the CSO publishes its first revised GDP estimates, with more ground-level data, in January 2018.


GST Bill: Last mile concerns

Context: The Centre and States have managed to find considerable common ground on the long-debated indirect tax system

Introduction

On Saturday, the GST Council approved final drafts of the Central and Integrated GST Bills, which should be placed in the public domain as soon as possible.

Criticisms of new draft

  • Introduction of a peak 40% tax rate in the GST Bills have created a challenge.
  • Single market dream for industry by GST has degenerated into five tax rates, with a cesson top and additional uncertainty about tax rates.
  • In the current rate structure, a cess has been proposed on luxury and sin goods over and above the highest GST rate of 28%.
  • The cess would finance compensation payouts to States for the first five years.
  • The GST’s anti-profiteering penal provisions are far too vague and draconian, and could discourage companies from making efficiency improvements
  • Lastly, the Chief Economic Adviser has made an impassioned plea to bring real estate under the GST net, linking it to the war against black money.

The Tawang test

Context

Delhi and Beijing need to manage tensions and focus on bilateral issues.

Issue

The statement of China that it is concerned over government’s decision to allow Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang monastery in April, and that it would damage its bilateral ties, is not warranted.

 

History of the conflict

  • The controversy over Tawang goes back to the Shimla meet of 1914 when Chinese representatives initialed but didn’t sign, a trilateral agreement with British India and Tibet.
  • In 1959, when Dalai Lama fled to Tibet, he came into India through Tawang.
  • He did not visit Arunachal Pradesh since 2009.

Misperceptions 

  • India should calibrate its moves to avoid misperceptions that it is indulging in political power-play.
  • Recent developments like visits to Tawang U.S. Ambassador, and official dinner at the U.S. Embassy attended by leader of the “Tibetan government in exile” based in Dharamshala, could be interpreted as messages aimed at China.
  • Beijing has been touchy about visiting delegations from Taiwan and the grant of visas to those it perceives as dissident activists.

Conclusion

  • The bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group membership and having Masood Azhar placed on the UN terrorists’ list have occupied much of the bilateral canvas.
  • While, the larger issue of the boundary resolution hasn’t been addressed.

Economy


NIIF in talks with two sovereign funds

  • The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has begun talks with two sovereign wealth funds, following the signing of a government commitment to infuse ₹20,000 crore into the fund.
  • NIIF plans to leverage the Centre’s financing – equivalent to $3 billion, to invest a far higher amount in infrastructure firms and projects.
  • The anchor investment by the government in NIIF will be split into two buckets – a billion dollars will be earmarked for a ‘NIIF Direct’ fund that could directly invest in existing or new infrastructure firms or projects.

Indian Express


Many meanings of corruption

Context

Supreme Court’s recent reading of the law of contempt is a welcome step.

The narrative

There are two narratives:

  1. “Corruption in lower courts is no secret”, and recommended a team of “dedicated judges” (mostly retired) to monitor and arrest its further spread.
  2. The “rot” may have reached some high courts; and the origins of transfer of judges as a national policy lay firmly located in this narrative.

Acts of corruption have reached even the shores of the Supreme Court.

Questions/Issues

  • Is “son stroke” (where near relatives of a sitting judge practice in the same jurisdiction) a corrupt act?
  • Do always buying of land and property by close relations of a judge evidence judicial corruption?
  • What if a judge’s spouse is an independent professional or otherwise lucratively employed?
  • Is a membership by incumbent justices of retired justices housing society a corrupt act?
  • Does an informal agreement to head a statutory body or a commission prior, or on the eve of retirement, amount to corruption?
  • Should past association with a firm of lawyers, or an individual counsel, be regarded retrospectively as a potentially corrupt act or at least a ground of judicial transfer?
  • And, how is any appellate justice to be adjudged as performing a corrupt act under the recent NJAC judgment, which suggests Third Schedule (oath of office) obligation not to recuse?
  • How is one to describe the varieties of judicial “misconduct” as different from impeachable offences?

More about Judicial Corruption

  • Judicial corruption is a serious menace to basic individual freedoms.
  • It is inimical to judicial independence and to constitutionally desired social order.
  • The constitutional process for the removal of justices need not be politically cumbersome, if a constitutionally sincere approach were to prevail.
  • And this is one constitutional process that may not belong rightfully to judiciary, lest it proves contrary to the rule of law: No person shall be a judge in her own cause.

Live Mint


India-China border dispute is here to stay

Context

China’s insistence on Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh reduces the prospect of a resolution.

Issues between India and China

  • Proscription of the Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar
  • India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group
  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Historical Perspective

Beijing’s offers historically:

  • “Package” deal which involved both countries recognizing status quo—Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin and Indian sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.
  • “LAC plus solution”(LAC is the Line of Actual Control) which serves as the de facto boundary between India and China.

Solution

  • LAC-plus solution serves the best chance.
  • A package solution remains the middle ground.

There should be no hurry in resolving the issue.


 

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