9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 12 2017

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]

[1]. Banning online pre-natal sex determination content dangerous

[2]. HIV law promises equality

[3]. Global collaboration project Belle-II moves a step forward

Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]

[1]. No place for scholarship

[2]. Risky, ill-considered

Economy [The Hindu]

[1]. GSTN data will be totally secure

Indian Express

[1]. Misreading caste

Live Mint

[1]. The role of states in foreign policy

Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. Banning online pre-natal sex determination content dangerous


The Hindu



Will curtail fundamental right to know of a genuine information-seeker, who is driven by curiosity: SC


What has happened?

  • The Supreme Court observed that a general prohibition on all online content about pre-natal sex determination will curtail the fundamental right to know of a genuine information-seeker who is driven by curiosity
  • Will be curtailing the right to know under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution


[2]. HIV law promises equality


The Hindu



Parliament passes Bill guaranteeing no discrimination in treatment, jobs


What has happened?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 passed by the parliament in which  people living with HIV and AIDS are guaranteed equal rights in medical treatment, admission to educational institutions and jobs


Key points

  • The Bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV-positive persons and those living with them is prohibited
  • The law provides a broad legislative framework for the response to HIV in India and is the first national HIV law in South Asia.
  • The legislation prohibits discrimination against people living with, and affected by, HIV in a range of settings, including employment, education, housing and health care, as well as with regard to the holding of public or private office, access to insurance and freedom of movement
  • It also bans unfair treatment of people living with and affected by HIV with regard to accessing public facilities, such as shops, restaurants, hotels, public entertainment venues, public facilities and burial grounds
  • The Bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.

UNAIDS upbeat

Welcoming the passage of the landmark legislation, UNAIDS said that the Bill would improve access to justice for People Living with HIV



[3]Global collaboration project Belle-II moves a step forward


The Hindu



Particle detector integrated with powerful accelerator


What has happened?

  • The High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation (KEK) completed the much-awaited ‘rolling-in’ of the Belle-II experiment in Tsukuba, Japan
  • This experiment is designed to study violations of the Standard Model of particle physics


Indian Contribution

  • A grand collaboration of 700 scientists from 23 countries, Belle-II has a significant Indian participation both on experimental and theoretical sides.
  • The fourth layer of the six-layer, highly sensitive particle detector, which is at the heart of Belle-II, has been built by Indian scientists who are with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)
  • Scientists from the Indian Institutes of Technology in Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Guwahati and Hyderabad; the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai; Panjab University; Punjab Agricultural University; Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur; Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali; and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, are participating in this research


[1]No place for scholarship


The Hindu



The drastic cuts mandated by the latest (2016) University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines on MPhil and PhD


The New Guidelines

  • Curtail the number of MPhil students, perhaps with the intention of doing away with the degree altogether
  • An assistant professor can have just one MPhil and four PhD students; an associate professor two MPhil and six PhD students; and a full professor three MPhil and eight PhD students at a given point of time
  • Only full-time regular faculty of a given department can be supervisors; that arrangements across departments (for interdisciplinary research) would require co-supervisors; and that supervisors from affiliating colleges must have at least two publications in refereed journals to be eligible to supervise


A three-tier balance

Research in Indian universities is located at the top rung of a three-tiered structure

The bottom: The bottom rung is made of undergraduates who account for the vast majority of students in higher education, and are enrolled in a range of disciplines in the arts, social sciences, sciences, technology, and so on

The Second:The second rung is expectedly much smaller and consists of student enrolled for two-year post-graduate degrees

The Third Tier:The third tier, much the smallest, is that of research students who may either enroll directly in the PhD degree, or opt to do an MPhil degree (usually of two years duration) before eventually going on to the PhD


Why two stages?

  • The two-stage option is designed to address the need that master’s students often feel for additional training and skills before taking on the challenge of conducting original research for several years
  • This is a common requirement because in India master’s level courses do not involve original research — they emphasise the assimilation and reproduction of existing knowledge
  • The MPhil helps to orient students towards the new and entirely different activity of research aimed at adding to current knowledge by asking and answering new questions
  • Moreover, an MPhil degree makes one eligible for a full-time teaching position at the university and college level, and is thus critical for expanding faculty strength


Why the Surge?

  • Widening of access: Widening of access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are the first from their families to enter higher education
  • Diversity: Apart from the very poor who have little chance of going beyond school, the presence (albeit to varying degrees) of students from rural areas, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Muslims is transforming what until recently was an elite structure
  • Women at par: Women are also present in numbers large enough to approach parity with men (official figures for 2015-16 place the share of female enrolment at 46.2%)
  • Top to Bottom: Transformation is visible in postgraduate, research level, lowest rungs of higher education and at the top also
  • Therefore, Indian higher education is poised to produce new generations of students at all levels, including young researchers from under- or un-represented groups who can expand and transform the knowledge base of society


Halting the Surge

  • New guidelines will lead to low number of students in MPhil classes
  • More students will try to get into PhDs straight from an MA degree and being ill-prepared for the challenges they will face, they are more likely to sink than swim
  • Faculty will be less equipped to develop as research supervisors
  • And most important of all, the necessary expansion in faculty strength — both to meet existing severe shortages, particularly in faculty from disadvantaged sections, and to meet the growth in students — will not only be halted but also reversed under the new conditions


The UGC, under the direction of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, appears in fact to be bent not just on quietly killing the research potential of India’s universities, but on diminishing higher education altogether


[2]Risky, ill-considered


The Hindu



Pakistan’s announcement on KulbhushanJadhav threatens to escalate bilateral tensions


What has happened?

Pakistan’s sudden announcement that former Indian naval officer KulbhushanJadhav has been sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial is a development fraught with danger



Pakistan claims that Mr. Jadhav, who was allegedly arrested in Balochistan last year, had been plotting operations against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor



  • There are glaring holes in the procedures followed by Pakistan’s government and military in the investigation and trial
  • The Confession tape seems doctored
  • 13 requests by the government for consular access but Pakistani govt agreed for conditional access only if India cooperated in the investigation
  • International human rights agencies too criticized the move


What Now?

  • New Delhi must step up its responses in the matter, as it seems to have kept it on the backburner, confining itself to fruitless, repeated representations
  • India must also pursue the issue with Iran, where Mr. Jadhav is believed to have been based for more than a decade, and investigate how he was brought, by force or otherwise, into Pakistan The timing of the announcement of the death sentence is also being seen in a spy versus spy context, with the recent disappearance of a former Pakistan Army officer in Nepal
  • These are matters best left to security agencies at the highest level, but the questions around Mr. Jadhav’s arrest need to be dispelled


Broken Dialogue

  • Moreover, this escalation highlights the consequences of the breakdown in the India-Pakistan dialogue process, limiting the channels of communication between the two governments to sort out matters in a sober manner
  • The government has stood fast on its decision to not hold bilateral talks after the Pathankot attack in January 2016, but this policy is hardly likely to bring the desired results when a man’s life hangs in the balance



The Jadhav case requires a proactive three-pronged response from India:

  • Impressing on Pakistan that the death sentence must not be carried out
  • Explaining to the international community the flawed trial process, and
  • Sending interlocutors to open backchannels for diplomacy for Mr. Jadhav’s safe return home



[1]GSTN data will be totally secure


The Hindu



All information to be encrypted


Key Points

  • Goodsand Services Tax Network (GSTN), a company set up to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the GST, will have a completely foolproof data security protection and tax-related information
  • Limited access: Only the tax payer and concerned assessing officer would have access to information submitted to GSTN portal by tax payers post GST
  • The system will have total stability and a backup facility

Indian Express

[1]Misreading caste


Indian Express



New backward classes commission perpetuates an older truncation—of exclusion and discrimination as merely deprivation and disadvantage


What has happened?

  • Union cabinetdecided to replace the existing National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) with a new body, tentatively named the National Commission for the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NCSEBC)
  • NCSEBC will be a constitutional body (like the commissions for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes) rather than a statutory body (like the NCBC)
    • This legal distinction is not very consequential in terms of the practical functioning of the proposed commission, but it could have important political implications



Scenario 1: Modest Agenda

  • NCSEBC on par with the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
  • Legally, this would require amendments to the Constitution, introducing additional Articles comparable to the existing Articles 338 and 338A
  • Politically, this effects two major changes:
    • It shifts responsibility for amending the list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the government to Parliament
    • It effectively takes away the power that the states currently have to determine their own OBC lists
  • Effects:
    • The obvious political benefit of this move is that it denies opponents a free ride on the aspirational demands of electorally significant castes like the Jats, Marathas, Patidars or Kapus
    • Since it is Parliament that would have to decide whether to grant OBC status, it would no longer be possible for opposition parties to stoke agitations without bearing responsibility for the consequences
    • The burden of handling the inevitable conflicts— where the entry of new castes necessarily implies a decline in the share of castes already included — could also be shifted from the ruling party to Parliament


Scenario 2: Ambitious Agenda

  • Govt might have intentions to amend Article 366 of the Constitution (which contains basic definitions of important terms) by inserting a definition of “backward classes” or make substantive change in the definition of OBCs that goes beyond its current confinement to social and educational criteria
  • Extension of reservation to not only dominant castes like Jats, Marathas or Patidars, but also “economically backward” upper castes


  • Effects
    • This would entail introducing legislation to lift the ceiling on quotas beyond the 50 per cent level, and formalising economic criteria, both of which have been strongly resisted by the judiciary
    • The electoral gains are clearly substantial, apart from the long-term benefit for the ruling party of retaining its upper and dominant caste constituencies without alienating the new adherents it may have acquired within the backward castes

Live Mint

[1]The role of states in foreign policy


Live Mint



  • While staying firm on core national interests, New Delhi needs to give the states greater freedom to pursue cross-border economic partnerships
  • Teesta water-sharing agreement


Cooperative Federalism vs Collaborative Sub-regionalism


What is Co-operative federalism?

Cooperative federalism is a concept of federalism in which national, state, and local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems, rather than making policies separately but more or less equally

  • The former high commissioner of Bangladesh to India, blamed India’s cooperative federalism for the lack of progress on the water-sharing issue
  • He advocated that the principle of collaborative sub-regionalism should trump cooperative federalism
  • A reasonable argument can indeed be made that cooperative federalism in this instance is against India’s national interest as China is courting India’s neighbours, including Bangladesh, with an open wallet
  • And this is not the first instance of a state coming in the way of national interest
  • Political parties in Tamil Nadu, for example, influenced the Manmohan Singh government’s policies on Sri Lanka when the island country was being offered a number of sweetheart deals by China


Paradiplomacy/Sub-national diplomacy/Constituent diplomacy

  • John Kincaid of Lafayette College had coined the term “constituent diplomacy” in 1990 to denote the “international activities of a foreign-policy character, undertaken by the constituent governments…and local governments (mostly municipalities) of federal countries and decentralized unitary states, as well as by citizen organizations and non-governmental organizations”
  • It is also variously referred to as “paradiplomacy” or “sub-national diplomacy”
  • The practice of constituent diplomacy has been observed across Europe and North America but it has increasingly been adopted in the rest of the world as well. China is a good example


Examples around the world: China

  • Chinese provinces also have their own foreign affairs offices (FAOs) and foreign trade and economic cooperation commissions (FTECCs) to deal with international partners
  • Many Chinese cities have opened overseas offices to attract investments and promote trade Provincial governments play a big part in setting the agenda of the sub-regional initiatives that China is a part of
  • The role played by the border province of Yunnan, for instance, has been highly instrumental in the success of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam

Need for greater provincial autonomy in India

  • Provincial autonomy is the key: It is largely due to provincial autonomy that China has been able to extract much more from its sub-regional initiatives
  • (the GMS, Tumen River Area Development Programme, Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation, and Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation) compared to India’s takeaways from the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and the forum on regional cooperation among Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM)
  • BBIN: Present Indian government’s new sub-regional initiative involving Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal (BBIN) will meet the same fate if the provinces do not enjoy greater latitude in shaping the agenda of regional cooperation
  • The geographical expanse of India mandates a role for border states greater than New Delhi in matters of sub-regional cooperation
  • West Bengal and all the North-Eastern states become crucial in this regard

Teesta Issue

  • If, as a border state, West Bengal is given more autonomy over cross-border cooperation with Bangladesh, it is likely to generate incentives for Banerjee to make some concessions
  • The idea is to tie West Bengal’s economy in deep and meaningful ways to Bangladesh’s; the Teesta agreement could then be sold as a quid pro quo (favor) for reciprocal benefits
  • This is exactly the collaborative sub-regionalism Karim talked about—but it does not come at the expense of cooperative federalism


  • While New Delhi needs to adopt a firmer stand on matters of core national interest, it also needs to give the state governments greater freedom to pursue cross-border economic partnerships
  • It is actually possible to marry cooperative federalism to collaborative sub-regional cooperation




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