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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 18 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] SC raps States on massive police vacancies

[2] 700 medicines made affordable for poor

[3] Plastic bullets to replace pellets in J&K

[4] SC refers anti-defection law issue to larger Bench


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Why the Jayalalithaa case matters

[2] Legally enabling

[3] The great climate churn

[4] Redefining citizenship


Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Cyber response unit to be set up, says Reserve Bank

[2]No need for borrowing freeze


Indian Express



Live Mint


[1] Bhim: India’s ticket to a cashless economy


The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] SC raps States on massive police vacancies

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Long-pending vacancies in the States’ police forces

 

What has happened?

The Supreme Court sought the personal appearance of home secretaries or authorised joint secretaries of six States together with a definite roadmap to fill up the long-pending vacancies in the States’ police forces

 

The vacancies

  • Uttar Pradesh: 1.51 lakh
  • West Bengal: 37,325
  • Karnataka: 24,899
  • Jharkhand: 26,303
  • Bihar: 34,500
  • Tamil Nadu: 19,803

 

TN also pulled-up

Tamil Nadu informed the court that advertisements have been put out for the vacancies.

 

Backdrop

The apex court was hearing the 2013 petition which claimed that law and order situation in the country was deteriorating due to a large number of vacancies in police services at all levels across States.

 

What Now

The apex court fixed the next hearing on the plea filed by Manish Kumar for April 21

 

[2] 700 medicines made affordable for poor

 

The Hindu

 

Context

 

 

What has happened?

Prime Minister said the Central government had fixed prices for 700 medicines for the benefit of the people as part of a comprehensive healthcare policy

 

Backdrop

Inaugurating a ₹500-crore multi-speciality hospital set up by the diamond merchants of Surat

 

Setting an example

He commended the people of Surat for adopting the habit of cleanliness in such a way that it could provide a good example for other cities to emulate.

 

[3] Plastic bullets to replace pellets in J&K

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Govt. exploring options to initiate talks

 

What has happened?

The Union Home Ministry said it would introduce less lethal “plastic bullets” to be used against protesters in Jammu and Kashmir

 

The Centre said it was exploring options to initiate a dialogue in Kashmir, including with the separatists, but no one had came forward in the past and it had hit a dead end

 

The government also said it was considering enhanced use of “bunkers” to protect security forces from stone throwers after the annual shift of the capital from Jammu to Srinagar in the next few days

 

Atmosphere still Negative

Government had managed to control the spiral of violence but the “atmosphere was vitiated” because of the April 9 by-elections in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency

 

Recent Event

A 26-year-old man was tied to the front of an Army jeep used as a human shield against stone throwers in Budgam district of Kashmir on April 9. A video of this has sparked outrage and the local police have registered a case

Officials alleged that the “human shield” video was posted by someone in Pakistan

 

[4] SC refers anti-defection law issue to larger Bench

 

The Hindu

 

Context
Will the anti-defection law apply to expelled members of either Houses of Parliament or Legislative Assemblies?

What has happened?

Plea urges second look on status of expelled legislator with regard to Tenth Schedule

 

Backdrop

  • Twenty-one years ago, the Supreme Court had concluded in G. Viswanathan versus Hon’ble Speaker, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly that a legislator expelled from his party shall be deemed to have “voluntarily given up” his membership of that party who got him elected and nominated him to the House
  • This legal fiction of deeming him to continue in the party post-election as an “unattached member” makes him therefore vulnerable to disqualification from the House on the ground of defection under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution

 

Viswanathan judgment

The expelled legislator would still be susceptible to the “whims and fancies” of the leaders of the party which threw him out despite the fact that subsequently, after his expulsion, he had gone ahead and formed his own political party.

 

Recent Case: Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha’s case

In August 2016, the Supreme Court refrained from adjudicating the constitutional question in expelled Samajwadi Party leaders Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha’s case

Issue Infructuous

The court had then found the issue ‘infructuous’ as both leaders had by that time completed their tenure in Parliament

Returns to SC

  • But Mr. Singh, whose political career has come a full circle with his re-induction into the Samajwadi Party and has a tenure in Parliament till July 2022, returned to the Supreme Court
  • He asked the court to take a second look at the question of status of an expelled legislator with regards to the Tenth Schedule and lay down the law
  • Contended that the application of Tenth Schedule to an expelled legislator is violative of the Basic Structure of the Constitution

Issue Referred to Larger Bench

A Supreme Court Bench of Justices agreedto refer Mr. Singh’s petition to a an “appropriate larger Bench.”

 

Question still alive

Supreme Court’s interpretation of paragraph 2(1)

  • At the centre of the controversy is the Supreme Court’s interpretation of paragraph 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule in the Viswanathan judgment of 1996
  • The court held that even if a member was thrown out or expelled from the party, for the purposes of the Tenth Schedule he would not cease to be a member of the political party that had set him up as a candidate for the election
  • He would continue to belong to that political party even if he was treated as “unattached.”
  • The court had held that the act of voluntarily giving up the membership of the political party may be either “express or implied.”

Editorial/OPINION


[1] Why the Jayalalithaa case matters

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Article deals with the relevant questions borne out of the dismissal of review petition of Karnataka government in DA case

 

Timeline of Events

  • On February 14, 2017: The Supreme Court upheld the ‘guilty’ verdict of the Bengaluru trial court, sending the other three accused — V.K. Sasikala, J. Ilavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran — to jail, with a penalty of Rs. 10 crore each. The first accused, Jayalalithaa, was no more and hence the court held that the charges against her had abated
  • On March 21, 2017: The State of Karnataka filed a review petition challenging that part of the order which held that the case against Jayalalithaa had abated. Our argument was that when the death of the accused takes place long after the arguments are concluded but before a judgment is pronounced, there will be no question of abatement of appeal

 

Abated means to reduce or to remove;

 

Author’s contention

Author is of view that in dismissing the review petition, SC has set a bad precedent in helping corrupt public servants.

  • He gives an example: Take the instance of an accused public servant choosing to commit suicide after acquiring huge property by illegal means. Legal representatives or heirs of the accused, according to the Supreme Court, can later enjoy the benefits of the illegally accrued wealth and property left behind, as the case against the accused public servant abates

 

Tackling the question of abatement

Author tackles the following question:

 

Can abatement take place where death has taken place after conclusion of the arguments and the judgment was reserved?

 

  • Order XXII Rule 6 of the Code of Civil Procedure in unambiguous terms states that there will be no abatement of an appeal if the death is after judgment is reserved. It further clarifies that such judgment pronounced shall have the same force and effect as if the judgment was delivered on the date on which the arguments were concluded
  • The Supreme Court rules also provide that in the case of an election petition, the proceedings will not abate on the death of a candidate if death is after judgment is reserved once arguments are concluded
  • The Supreme Court rules also do not provide for abatement of any criminal appeal

 

Hence, the abrupt conclusion of the Supreme Court that the appeal against Jayalalithaa has abated ignores the above said principle of law

 

[2] Legally enabling

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The HIV/AIDS Bill provides a solid base for further empowerment and treatment access

 

Key Points

No right to treatment

The law only enjoins the States to provide access “as far as possible”

 

Empowers

The legislation empowers those who have contracted the infection in a variety of ways: such as protecting against discrimination in employment, education, health-care services, getting insurance and renting property

 

Responsibility of the States

  • Upto the States to show strong political commitment, and appoint one or more ombudsmen to go into complaints of violations and submit reports as mandated by the law
  • State rules should prescribe a reasonable time limit for inquiries into complaints, as highlighted by the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare that scrutinised the legislation

 

Access to insurance

For persons with HIV is an important part of the Bill, and is best handled by the government
On the Decline

  • Data for 2015 published by the Ministry show that two-thirds of HIV-positive cases are confined to seven States, while three others have more than one lakh cases each

 

Publicly funded insurance

  • Publicly funded insurance can easily bring this subset of care-seekers into the overall risk pool
  • Such a measure is also necessary to make the forward-looking provisions in the new law meaningful, and to provide opportunities for education, skill-building and employment

 

Active Community

As a public health concern, HIV/AIDS has a history of active community involvement in policymaking, and a highly visible leadership in the West

 

Public Consultations

It would be appropriate for the Centre to initiate active public consultations to draw up the many guidelines to govern the operation of the law

 

Ombudsman

Evidently, the requirement for the ombudsman to make public the periodic reports on compliance will exert pressure on States to meet their obligations

 

SC firm

In an encouraging sign, the Supreme Court has ruled against patent extensions on frivolous grounds, putting the generic drugs industry, so crucial for HIV treatment, on a firm footing

 

Conclusion

The HIV and AIDS Bill may not be the answer to every need, but it would be a folly not to see its potential to make further gains

 

[3] The great climate churn

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Regional and global planning is essential to combat extreme events

 

What has happened?

Unprecedented rates of glacier melts have been reported both in the Antarctic and the Arctic

 

Nature magazine

A massive crack in Antarctica’s fourth-biggest ice shelf has surged forward by at least 10 kilometres since early January

 

Relatively Stable

The earth has enjoyed a more or less stable temperature for the last 10,000 years

 

Inter Glacials

  • Prior to that there were several ice ages and periods of warmer temperature, also known as inter-glacials
  • The ice ages are believed to have been caused by small shifts in the earth’s orbit, but all the reasons for the temperature fluctuations observed are not yet entirely understood

 

The melting Antarctic

The Antarctic ice sheet is 14 million sq km in area and holds a large amount of frozen fresh water. (In comparison, the area of India’s land mass is about 1.3 million sq km.)

 

Larsen C Shelf

Several media reports over the last few months have covered the expanding rift or crack along the Larsen C shelf in the Antarctic, which is expected to break off at any time. Larsen A and B collapsed in 1995 and 2002 respectively

Even though the Larsen C collapse by itself, since it is in the water, will not raise sea levels, it will hasten the melting of the glacier it is connected to.

 

Rising sea levels

In the Arctic, if all the ice in the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by about 7 metres (or 23 feet)

 

Ice Melt Increased in summer

For the last several years, glaciologists have noticed that ice melt in the summer has increased and covers a larger area than previous years

 

Increasing Surface Melt

Scientists now realise that a lot of the recent melt has been due to increasing surface melt, in addition to calving or breaking off of chunks of ice.

 

Factors speeding up the Glacial Melt

  • Soot and Dust: Soot and dust carried by air from various places, bacteria and algal pigments in the meltwater, any other pigments in the glacier can all reduce the reflection of the sunlight, thus increasing the absorption of heat energy by the ice
  • More Solar Radiation Absorption: This consequently increases ice melt, which then absorbs more solar radiation, thus accelerating a feedback process

 

  • Meltwater Flow into Deep Shafts: The meltwater flows into deep shafts, or moulins, that then speed up the flow of the glacier

 

 

Other phenomena that seem to have an influence on glacier melt

  • Warm Temperatures over Greenland: Temperatures in Northern Greenland have been much warmer and in fact, surface melt has doubled Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise over the period 1992-2011 to 0.74 mm per year
  • CO2 Concentrations highest: Carbon dioxide concentrations have crossed 400 ppm in the atmosphere and are the highest they have been in the past 4,00,000 years

 

Global response needed

Global Community Aware

The global community is well aware that many large and densely populated cities are located along the coast and in low-lying deltas

Protecting the Coast costly

Protecting the coast is an expensive undertaking and even then dikes, sea walls and similar structures provide only partial protection, based on studies undertaken by the Dutch Delta Committee and others

 

India

East Coast

In the east coast especially certain low-lying districts, are extremely vulnerable to intensive storms, which then lead to flooding, salt-water intrusion, and loss of land and livelihoods

West Coast

On the west coast, while there are generally fewer storms, the concern is coastal erosion and flooding from sea level rise

 

Affects the Economy too

Flooding in Chennai two years back did not affect just the land, but went through the economy as a whole and Swiss Re, the reinsurance company, has estimated losses to the economy due to the floods to be $2.2 billion

 

Coastal Regulation Zone should be enforced

Thus, enforcing the coastal regulation zone, protecting vulnerable districts and the most vulnerable communities which rely on ecosystems and the sea for their livelihoods are areas that need strengthening

 

Regional Agreements Needed

  • Regional agreements related to refugees from climate effects need to be initiated
  • As a country which has generally been open to refugees from Tibet, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, initiating and taking forward the conversation on regional planning for extreme events such as sea level rise would be important for India, the largest country in the region

 

[4] Redefining citizenship

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Supreme Court decisions modifying the electoral process in recent years

 

What has happened?

The absence of a constitutional right to vote has consequences

 

Some of the Decisions by SC:

  • Citizens are entitled to cast a ‘none of the above’ vote
  • Prisoners are disqualified from standing for election during periods of incarceration
  • The concealment of criminal antecedents constitutes a corrupt practice under the law
  • Electoral appeals to caste and religion are impermissible

 

Disquieting developments

These decisions although welcome raise fundamental questions about the nature of our democracy, and are deeply disquieting for a number of reasons

 

Reasons for concern

 

Use of Words

First, the court has increasingly used the regrettable, caste-based taxonomy of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ in its decisions

 

Right to Vote not a Constitutional right

The court has refused to categorically recognise the right to vote as an inalienable constitutional right, frequently holding that it is a privilege that can be taken away as easily as it is granted

Effects:

The absence of a constitutional right to vote has real consequences, for it makes it easier to impose wide restrictions on who can exercise that right, and the circumstances in which they may do so

 

Embargo on the voting rights of prisoners

  • Blanket prohibitions on voting are the surest way of alienating a political community. The embargo is particularly draconian, for all prisoners, regardless of the seriousness of their offences or the length of their sentences, are denied the vote
  • Moreover, prisoners awaiting trial are also denied this ‘privilege’

 

Conclusion

The right to vote and the right to contest elections are fundamental markers of citizenship in a constitutional democracy. Incrementally yet decisively, the court is changing what it means to be a citizen of this country


Economy


[1] Cyber response unit to be set up, says Reserve Bank

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Move comes in the wake of attacks in the financial system

 

What has happened?

The Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) discussed the setting up of a Computer Emergency Response Team for the Financial Sector (CERT-Fin)

 

The sub-committee reviewed the major developments on the global and domestic fronts that impinge on the financial stability of the country

 

C-SITE

  • RBI had already created a specialised cell (C-SITE) within its supervision department to conduct detailed IT examination of banks’ cybersecurity preparedness, to identify the gaps and to monitor the progress of remedial measures
  • More than 30 major banks were to be covered by the detailed IT examination in 2016-17 and all banks are to be covered by 2017-18

 

 

 

[2]No need for borrowing freeze

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Article presents an interview with the NK Singh, the chairman of a high-level panel on FRBM

 

Give it a go through once

 


Indian Express



Live Mint


[1] Bhim: India’s ticket to a cashless economy

 

Live Mint

 

Context

Cashless Economy

 

What has happened?

Converting the promise of the online payments app into digital dividends for India will require a concerted effort

BHIM: Bharat Interface for Money, the common app that can be used by anyone who has a bank account with a linked mobile number

 

BHIM Promoted

  • The PM invoking it in his Mann Ki Baat radio programme, and reportedly recently asking smartphone manufacturers to pre-install the app in phones
  • DMs conducting “Digi-Dhan Melas” to push its adoption

 

But can BHIM really be India’s ticket to a cashless economy?

Research with users (and potential users) of Bhim across four states in India suggests that it has a lot going for it, but ensuring mass adoption will require important product tweaks and a carefully executed go-to-market strategy to make the app go viral

 

Positives of BHIM

  • Smartphone Frontend:Bhim provides a smartphone front-end to make bank-to-bank payments
  • Simple and Fast: The beauty of the app lies in its simplicity—it’s “light” (2MB), has an uncluttered and simple user-interface (UI), and the transaction experience is fast. It also works on basic phones (*99#)
  • Trust among the Users: Contrary to the perception of many payment apps, most users consider transactions on Bhim to be “safe” because it has government backing
  • Low Transaction Costs: Combining the superior user experience (UX) with UPI’s low transaction cost (currently free for both payers and payees), means that we finally have a payments app that can genuinely compete with cash on both convenience and price
  • Small Merchant Profits: This is especially attractive for small merchants, who need to do multiple quick small-ticket transactions and are wary of “going digital” given their razor-thin margins

 

Areas that need work

Scaling Up

Less tech-savvy users struggle at different stages of the on-boarding process and are tripped up by the jargon (“passcode”, “UPI PIN”, “VPA”, etc.)

Greater Guidance needed

There is a clear need for greater guidance and handholding through the on-boarding process, and in helping a user make the first transaction

Marketing

  • On the marketing front, a targeted go-to-market strategy is needed to convert the initial interest and impressive number of downloads (about 18 million) into active use
  • The secret sauce will be to get “network effects” (or the “WhatsApp effect”), i.e., people start using a platform because others in their network use it

 

Five Steps to ensure BHIM can scale

  • Make on-boarding simpler and guided
  • Quickly launch incentive schemes
  • Drive behavior change by targeting the right transactions
  • Ensure BHIM is accepted in key payment networks, especially those backed by government entities
  • Nudge banks to promote BHIM uptake in its existing customer base

 

Make on-boarding simpler and guided:

Having a simple guided flow on each screen that walks users through the process, will help

Guided Flow:Once a user has on-boarded, the home screen could provide a guided flow explaining how to transact, or the opportunity to do a first test transaction

Video: A short video may be embedded in the app explaining key features, on-boarding, and first use

 

Quickly launch incentive schemes:

The finance minister in his budget speech announced two schemes for promoting Bhim:

  1. Areferral scheme and a merchant cash-back scheme. These schemes have great potential if designed well.

Simple designrecommneded (for example, using the mobile number as the referral code) and including in-app notifications and nudges (for example, messages like “Congratulations, you have just earned Rs100, next goal: Rs500!”)

Instant Gratification: The reward money should be transferred to the user’s bank account as soon as possible to capitalize on the “instant gratification” effect.

 

Drive behaviour change by targeting the right transactions:

Research has shown that focusing efforts to drive transactions that are pervasive (affecting a large number of people) and repetitive (low-value, high-frequency) can lead to quick adoption

  • Top 5 Transactions: Analysis of household spending in India narrows this to five transactions—payments at kirana stores, pharmacies, public distribution system outlets, public transport, and remittances
  • Major Share: These five transactions account for about Rs22 trillion in annual spending (about 45% share of the household wallet) across approximately 100 billion transactions
  • Targeted Campaign: Therefore, a concerted effort to drive these transactions by doing a concerted campaign to bring merchants such as kirana store owners, pharmacists, auto/taxi drivers on Bhim, for example, will be the holy grail to get scale
    • Use of (mass-media, feet-on-street efforts, etc.) that narrowly focuses on these segments, with simple messaging around “Why Bhim” (key advantages), “How to use it” (step-by-step guidance) and “Why start now” (incentives offered)

 

Ensure BHIM is accepted in key payment networks, especially those backed by government entities:

  • The Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India recently became the first public sector unit to accept payments through Bhim
  • A similar push is needed across other networks in the government’s ambit where many users transact daily: Petrol pumps, Indian Railways, city public transport systems, India Post, government hospitals, etc., should all become Bhim acceptors, quickly, for both online and offline transactions, and ideally offer a discount as compared to cash

 

Nudge banks to promote BHIM uptake in its existing customer base

  • There are about 740 million debit cards in India but only about 18 million people have downloaded Bhim
  • Banks could be mandated to take steps to increase this penetration rate
  • Campaign: This could be done through an SMS campaign for customers around Bhim and posters at each bank and ATM branch that detail the key benefits, essentials to get on-boarded, and the registration process

 

Conclusion

Bhim holds great potential to help realize India’s vision of a cashless economy at the household level, and the building blocks are clearly in place. But well begun is (only) half done. Converting the digital promise of Bhim into a digital dividend for India will require a concerted effort


 

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