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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 9 February



Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan

[2]. Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand

Editorial/OPINION

[1]. Growing insecurity in Afghanistan

[2]. Getting back home, safely 

ECONOMY

[1]. RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’

[2]. Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?

[3]. India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo

[4]. Digital payment costs are a hindrance

Indian Express

[1]. Salt to the wound

Live Mint

[1]. RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan


In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan


The Hindu

Context

Bench directs him to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry

What has happened?

A seven-judge Bench of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, issued contempt of court notice against sitting Calcutta HC judge C.S. Karnan for impeding justice administration and bringing discredit to the judicial institution of the country by writing scurrilous (making scandalous claims) letters about sitting and retired judges

  • The Bench has directed Justice Karnan to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry.

Show-cause notice

The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, ordered Justice Karnan to appear in person before it on February 13 to show cause to the court why contempt proceedings should not be taken against him.

Constitutional power

Supreme Court as the apex judiciary is empowered under Articles 129 read with its extraordinary powers under Article 142 (2) to punish a member of the High Court and subordinate judiciary for contempt.

Article 129: The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself

Article 142: Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc

  1. The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe
  2. Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself

 

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[2]. Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand


Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand


The Hindu

Context

India is looking to have more than six times the number of earthquake sensors in Uttarakhand to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes

What has happened?

The National Centre for Seismology has got the approvalfor a project to install 100-150 seismometers in the Garhwal-Kumaon region [the key region in the Himalayas and known to be seismically active] for testing purposes and to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes.

  • Cost: Though funds were still not available, the entire project would unlikely exceed ₹10 crore

Present situation

Currently, there are only about 20 stations, maintained by different research agencies that track earthquake activity

Garhwal-Kumaon region

This region is known to be seismically active because it lies at the junction of two tectonic plates — the Himalayan and the Eurasian Plate — pushing against each other

  • Major quakes in the region include the 1991 Uttarkashi quake of magnitude 6.8 that killed 700. It was followed by a quake of similar intensity that hit Chamoli in 1991 and killed 100.

Backdrop

On 6th Feb 2017, Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand registered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Though it didn’t cause damage, seismologists say its magnitude was “significant,” and residents in several parts of north India felt the tremors. The latest development can be seen in this context.

 

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Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Growing insecurity in Afghanistan


Growing insecurity in Afghanistan


The Hindu

Context

The blast near the Supreme Court premises in Kabul that left at least 20 people dead, underscores the growing insecurity in Afghanistan

Article highlights the increasing frequency of attacks by Taliban in Afghanistan, its gradual consolidation as a strong insurgent force and the consequent inability of the elected government to stand against it

Author suggests

To turn its fortunes around in the 15-year-old civil war,

  • Afghanistan needs to strengthen the administration: Mr. Ghani should initiate the administrative reforms he had promised and put up a stronger, united fight against terrorist groups
  • Seek out help: Kabul should seek more help and a higher level of commitment from other countries, including the U.S., in combating terror
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[2]. Getting back home, safely 


Getting back home, safely


The Hindu

Context

Despite extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations of its citizens abroad, India still needs to institutionalize best practices

Issue: Capacity building in conducting evacuation operations

A stark improvement

In the first few paragraphs, author cites the extraordinary evacuation conducted in April 2015 under Operation Raahat& compares it with the shoddy evacuation scenario of 850 Indian nationals during civil war in South Yemen in 1986, describing how far we have come

 Significance of capacity building

The increasing size and complexity of the diaspora requires the government to expand capacity and improve procedures.

  • Size of diaspora: More than 11 million Indians now reside abroad and 20 million travel internationally every year
  • Political instability:As political instability rattles the West Asian region, which hosts more than seven million Indians, the government can no longer rely on heroic efforts by individual officials or quick-fix solutions

What needs to be done?

  • Learning from the experience: The government will need to build on its rich experience in conducting more than 30 evacuation operations since the 1950s.
    • Policy-oriented research: By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials
  • Avoiding a jugaad: The government must avoid the jugaad approach. Every evacuation case is unique, given the specific nature and location of the crisis, but this should not preclude an analytical attempt to formulate a blueprint that lists core tasks for all operations
    • Preparing a manual: An inter-ministerial committee should prepare a manual with guidelines that establish a clear chain of command and division of competencies; identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria

 Embarkation: Itis the process of loading a passenger ship or an airplane with passengers or military personnel, related to and overlapping with individual boarding on aircraft and ships

  • Training India’s diplomats: India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments
    • To achieve this, the government could instruct the police or army to train Indian Foreign Service probationers to operate in war zones; conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad
  • Working closely with countries having a sizeable expatriate population: The success of future operations will also rely on New Delhi’s willingness to work together with friendly governments. India will have to invest in cooperative frameworks that facilitate coordination among countries that have large expatriate populations in West Asia, in particular Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and among leading powers with evacuation capacity in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Assigning a greater role to army: The government will have to assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities
    • Developing a NEO doctrine: It should, for example, direct the military to develop a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) doctrine, designate the Integrated Defence Staff as the nodal organisation to improve inter-services and civil-military coordination, direct the services to conduct more multilateral NEO exercises, and adapt military modernization plans to increase capacity for out-of-area deployment and evacuation.

Using technology

  • Inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism: To minimize redundancies, the government must institutionalize a permanent inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency evacuations, incentivise inter-agency cross-posting of officials dealing with diaspora affairs, and encourage State governments to create regional contingency plans.

 

  • Establishing a permanent civil reserve fleet: To avoid cost inflation and delays, the government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement procedures.
  • Monitoring the diaspora: The government will have to invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility. This can be achieved by
    • Encouraging more diplomatic missions to provide online consular registration forms
    • Developing an online registration system for overseas travelers
    • Utilizing social media
    • By making the Aadhaar card compulsory to facilitate biometric identity verification and reduce identity fraud during evacuation

 Managing public opinion during crisis: The government must expand efforts to manage public opinion and be able to conduct a quiet diplomacy that is crucial to safely extricate Overseas Indians from conflict zones. To reduce domestic pressures,

    • It should embed media representatives more frequently in such missions
    • Reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged
    • Avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian origin

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that India has extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations, but to secure the lives and assets of Indians abroad, the government must avoid an ad hoc approach and seek to institutionalize best practices, improvecoordination and capabilities, both diplomatic and military


 

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ECONOMY


[1]. RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’


RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’


The Hindu

Context

Bond yields climb after debt market participants are surprised by central bank’s shift to ‘neutral’ monetary stance

What has happened?

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to keep the key policy rate, the repo rate, unchanged at 6.25% citing uncertainties caused by demonetisation

Rest of the article covers general points. You can give it a go-through


 

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[2]. Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?


Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?


The Hindu

Context

For the already available beneficial impact of liquidity on cost of funds, RBI’s stance of no cut would have seemed harder on the economy

Highlights of the bimonthly policy

  • Accommodative to neutral: The tweaking of stance to “neutral” is this policy’s headline and is being seen as reducing the chances of a future rate cut
  • RBI’s formula: The other interesting highlight is RBI’s formula for transmission of policy rate to banks which lays stress on bank NPA resolution, recapitalization of banks and making small savings rates responsive to Government market borrowing rates

Liquidity

Author states that on the liquidity front, India has witnessed a sea of liquidity at banks courtesy DeMo, taking the excess liquidity in the system to a staggering 2 lac crappx


 

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[3]. India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo


India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo


The Hindu

Context

India will make a presentation to World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo and India Inc. on New Delhi’s proposal for a global pact to boost services trade

Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement

The proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the WTO-level aims to ease norms including those relating to movement of foreign skilled workers/professionals across borders for short-term work

Objectives of TFS

  • Portability of social security contributions: Ensuring portability of social security contributions
  • Ensuring non-restrictive fees: Making sure fees or charges for immigration or visas are reasonable, transparent, and non-restrictive (or impairing the supply of services) in nature
  • Creation of a single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals
  • Cross-border insurance coverage: Ensure cross-border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism, publication of measures impacting services trade and timely availability of relevant information in all the WTO official languages as well as free flow of data/information for cross-border supply of services

FA vs TFS

Government will specify that the proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods adopted by the WTO Members in 2014 to ease customs norms for boosting global goods trade.

  • The proposed TFS pact is also about ‘facilitation’ – that is “making market access ‘effective’ and commercially meaningful and not about ‘new’ (or greater) market access.”

Barriers to services

World Bank data shows the growing share of services in the world economy, however, global trade flows in services remain subject to numerous border and behind-the-border barriers.

Read More: TFA


 

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[4]. Digital payment costs are a hindrance


Digital payment costs are a hindrance


The Hindu

Context

Article lists the views of the TRAI chief that he expressed during the India Digital summit hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India

Views

  • The surge in digital payments in the country, driven largely by short-term incentives, will become sustainable if the costs of making such payments are addressed
  • No cost for cash: Everyone can provide incentives in the short run and see a rise and once those incentives go, they will decline. What is important from a citizen’s perspective is that cash doesn’t have any costs. If I have ₹100 in my pocket, I get ₹100 worth of goods. But if I have to pay somebody ₹1 or ₹2 for paying the same digitally, it’s not fair
  • Issue of cost: Digital financial transactions are not sustainable unless you address the issues of cost, convenience and confidence
  • Referring to the merchant discount rate (MDR) levied on transactions done through credit and debit cards, TRAI chief said there is no relationship between the charges and the ‘work done’ to justify them.
    • Drawing a parallel with the telecom sector, the regulator drew attention to ‘the work done principle’ used to determine how much one operator pays another as termination charges.
  • Building confidence: While people are getting more comfortable with digital payments, the TRAI chief said it is important to build confidence in the systems and ensure that all relevant software is tested for cyber-security and other security risks.
  • Reduced charges: The regulator has reduced the charges of USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)-based payments made on mobile phones.

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Indian Express


[1]. Salt to the wound


Salt to the wound


Indian Express

Context

Government could have undone the damage of demonetisation through the budget. The opportunity has been missed in deference to the whims of global finance

 In the first few paragraphs, author has conveyed the sentiment that the Union Budget could have partially undone the damage inflicted by demonetization but it has failed to do so

Damage by demonetization

Author states the damage that has been done by demonetization move of the government

  • Contraction in aggregate demand
  • Slowdown of overall growth
  • Impact on the informal sector

Contractionary budget: An opportunity lost

Author states that by boosting demand in the economy through larger government expenditure, budget could have provided some relief but instead it took following step,

  • Rate of Growth halved: The rate of growth of total government expenditure has been halved, from about 12 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17 (RE) to just 6 per cent b/w 2016-17 (RE) to 2017-18 (BE). As a proportion of GDP, total expenditure is slated to fall between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

 Author’s contention

Union Budget could have given a spur to the economy by utilizing the deposits lying idle with the banks, as credit demand from borrowers has not picked up. Government should have issued fresh securities to the banks and used the money for spending but it would have contributed to the fiscal deficit (as govt needs to pay interest for the money borrowed from the banks in lieu of securities) and hence government didn’t do so

  • Donald Trump is busy imposing trade restrictions, and hence snatching employment through a “beggar-my-neighbour” policy from other countries, including India.
  • Countering Trump: Our country should be countering Trump’s protectionism and preventing job losses by imposing trade restrictions of its own, and in the shadow of such restrictions, increasing the domestic market through larger fiscal deficits, backed by requisite capital controls

 

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Live Mint


[1]. RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


Live Mint

Context

RBI has restored its credibility by emphasising its determination to bring down inflation closer to 4% and focus on macroeconomic stability

Issue: RBI keeps the repo rate unchanged in the 6th Bimonthly policy review

Right decision

As per author, RBI, emphasizing its determination to bring down inflation closer to 4% on a durable basis and focus on macroeconomic stability, has restored its credibility, which many felt the Indian central bank was losing

Backdrop

Since January 2015, the RBI has cut its policy rate by 175 basis points to 6.25%.

Ground for a rate cut

Author states that the biggest push for yet another rate cut at this point has been a sharp drop in retail inflation. It dropped to 3.41% in December from 3.63% in the previous month—its lowest since November 2014

Why RBI stuck to the previous policy rate?

  • Deflation: The drop in inflation has been primarily driven by deflation in the prices of vegetables and pulses and excluding food and fuel, inflation remained at 4.9% for four months at a stretch, since September
  • Crude prices: Among others, a rise in international crude prices has contributed to this. The MPC did not want to take any chances

Give the rest of the article a go-through


 

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