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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 18, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Cabinet gives nod for 10 indigenous nuclear reactors

[2]NTRO now under Intelligence Act


 Editorial/OPINION


[1]A great wall of paranoia

[2]The other debt issue

[3]Article 142 and the need for judicial restraint


 Economy


[1]‘GST to help cut costs of transport, logistics’


 Indian Express


[1]What lies below the district?


Live Mint


[1]A tricky path to India’s solar-powered future

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


The Hindu

[1]Cabinet gives nod for 10 indigenous nuclear reactors

 Context

Approval shows strong belief in the capability of Indian scientists, says Centre

 What has happened?

The Union Cabinet cleared the proposal to construct 10 indigenous pressurised heavy water nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 7,000 MWe(Megawatt electric; electric output of a power plant in megawatt)

Each of the reactors would have a capacity of 700 MWe

 International Collaboration deals in trouble

  • While the U.S. deal, involving Toshiba Westinghouse for six reactors in Andhra Pradesh, is floundering after Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
  • The deal with French company Areva for reactors in Jaitapur remain mired in negotiations over costing

No Timeline but employment generation

These 10 plants would create Rs. 70,000 crore worth of business for domestic manufacturers and generate about 33,400 jobs

Latest design

The 10 reactors will be part of India’s latest design of 700 MWe PHWR fleet with state-of-the-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety

Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala Transparently in India(Shakti)

  • The Cabinet also approved a coal linkage policy, called the Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala Transparently in India (Shakti), that will award fuel supply agreements to coal plants already holding letters of assurance (LoAs)
  • Thermal plants holding LoAs will be eligible to sign fuel supply pacts under the new policy after ensuring that all the conditions are met

[2]NTRO now under Intelligence Act

The Hindu

Context

Will have same curbs as IB, RAW

 What has happened?

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor (NSA) will now have the same “norms of conduct” as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)

The Home Ministry issued a notification on May 15 listing NTRO under The Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985, a demand being made by the organisation for over a decade now

Few strictures

The Act prevents employees of a notified agency from forming unions/associations, puts restrictions on the employee’s freedom of speech, bars any communication with the press, or publishing a book or other document without the permission of the head of the intelligence organisation

Both IB and R&AW have on earlier occasions opposed the inclusion of any other organisation in the list of monitoring agencies under the Act

 NTRO

  • The NTRO was created after the 1999 Kargil conflict as a dedicated technical intelligence agency
  • It has been fighting tooth and nail to get included in the list as it has the right to lawfully intercept and monitor communications externally

Others

Many security agencies like the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) among others have been asking the Home Ministry to include them under the Intelligence Organisations Act


 Editorial/OPINION


 The Hindu

 [1]A great wall of paranoia

Context

As China pushes ahead with B&RI, India must reconcile geopolitical interests with wider developmental goals

 Question raised by the author

Does India risk isolation as Eurasia moves towards a new chapter of connectivity and interdependence?

 A threat to India

The objection to the B&RI is actually more deep-rooted, namely, that China’s rise and projection of geo-economic influence is a direct challenge and threat to India’s great power aspirations and traditional position in the subcontinent

Two contending viewpoints

  • Need to develop own connectivity plans

One influential strand of Indian thinking is that unless and until India develops its own regional connectivity plans and economic capacities at home, there can be no serious engagement with Chinese-sponsored projects. Any premature engagement is likely to entrap India and stunt its rise

  • As an alternative source of capital

An alternative view is that India’s rise itself needs engagement and connections with the wider Asian and Eurasian economies, especially in the post-2008 crisis world which has reduced the viability of the previous liberalisation model of drawing in western capital and basing India’s growth on a handful of service sectors linked to the West. In these changed circumstances, the B&RI is seen to provide an alternative source of finance capital and manufacturing opportunities to buttress India’s economy

Learning from others

India’s neighbours such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are all pursuing economic cooperation with China on a growing scale while also maintaining close connections with India and reassuring Delhi about their foreign policies and geopolitical orientations

 Regional leadership

The notion that China can literally purchase “regional leadership” by financing infrastructure or lending money is ludicrous. Power stems from something much deeper. It requires consent and an ability to provide public goods. China’s internationalism has, so far, been more materialistic than ideational, relying largely on the lure of capital and commerce. This cannot be an enduring prerequisite for order-building

 Conclusion

In short, there’s more room to shape the ongoing power transition towards a multipolar world

Schizophrenia and paranoia cannot be substitutes for smart and sober statecraft, which must include dealing directly with China

The Hindu

[2]The other debt issue

 Context

The deterioration in the finances of the States needs to be urgently addressed

What has happened?

For the first time in 11 years, in 2015-16 the combined fiscal deficit of India’s 29 States as a proportion of the size of their economies breached the 3% threshold recommended as a fiscally prudent limit by successive Finance Commissions

The Reserve Bank of India has warned that the States’ expectation to revert to the 3% mark in their 2016-17 Budgets may not be realised, based on information from 25 States

While the Central government has projected a fiscal deficit of 3.2% of GDP for this year, States expect to bring theirs down further to 2.6% — still higher than the average of 2.5% recorded between 2011-12 and 2015-16

UDAY Scheme burdening finances of the States

UDAY restructuring exercise steered by the Centre, has surely dented the States’ fiscal health significantly over the past couple of years

 Other main points

There are other potential stress points: Pay Commission hikes, rising interest payments, the unstated risks from guaranteeing proxy off-budget borrowings by State enterprises, and the boisterous clamour for ad hoc loan waivers

 The Hindu

 [3]Article 142 and the need for judicial restraint

Context

The Supreme Court’s use of its vast powers under the Article has done tremendous good to many deprived sections. However, it is time to institute checks and balances

In the early years of the evolution of Article 142, the general public and the lawyers both lauded the Supreme Court for its efforts to bring complete justice to various deprived sections of society or to protect the environment

Constructive application

  • Taj Mahal restoring white marble case
  • Release of Undertrials rotting in jail
  • One of the important instances of application by the Supreme Court of Article 142 was in the Union Carbide case:
    • In this judgment, the Supreme Court, while awarding compensation of $470 million to the victims, went to the extent of saying that to do complete justice, it could even override the laws made by Parliament

Foraying into forbidden territory

  • Fortunately, this statement was toned down later in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India that the said article could not be used to supplant the existing law, but only to supplement the law
  • The court, in its anxiety to do justice in a particular case or matter, has failed to account for the far-reaching effects of its judgments, which may result in the deprivation of the rights of a multitude of individuals who are not before the court at that time

Examples

  1. The coal block allocation case: Allocation of coal blocks granted from 1993 onwards was cancelled in 2014 without even a single finding that the grantees were guilty of any wrongdoing. The cancellation carried with it a penalty of Rs. 295 per tonne of coal already mined over the years. Article 142 had necessarily to be invoked. The individuals were not heard on their particular facts, but only their associations were heard. The result was devastating, so far as these lessees were concerned
  2. The ban on the sale of alcoholalong national and State highways: While the notification by the central government prohibited liquor stores along National Highways only — those abutting the National Highways — the Supreme Court put in place a ban of a distance of 500 metres by invoking Article 142. Additionally, and in the absence of any similar notification by any of the State governments, the court extended the ban to State highways as well. As a result of the order, thousands of hotels, restaurants, bars and liquor stores were forced to close down or discontinue the sale of liquor, resulting in lakhs of employees being thrown out of employment.

No reference to loss of employment

The Supreme Court had itself held that the right to employment is a basic right related to Article 21. However, in its order banning the sale of alcohol along highways, it made no reference to the loss of employment to lakhs of people, a direct consequence of the order.

The transfer of cases filed against persons accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case:

  • Despite the decision of the larger bench, the court was prepared to hold, while invoking Article 142, that in view of the long pendency of the case for 25 years, it would direct that the trial would now stand transferred from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
  • The trial was in fact nearing completion at Rae Bareli; it would now take at least two years for the examination of a few hundred witnesses at Lucknow before conclusion of the trial, as the charge of conspiracy has also to be gone into

Referral to Constitution Bench

  • All cases invoking Article 142 should be referred to a Constitution Bench of at least five judges so that this exercise of discretion may be the outcome of five independent judicial minds operating on matters having such far-reaching impact on the lives of people
  • In all cases where the court invokes Article 142, the government must bring out a white paper to study the beneficial as well as the negative effects of the judgment after a period of six months or so from its date.

 Conclusion

The time has come for the Supreme Court to introspect on whether the use of Article 142 as an independent source of power should be regulated by strict guidelines so that, in the words of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, the judge “is not a knight-errant roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal…”


Economy


The Hindu

 [1]‘GST to help cut costs of transport, logistics’

Context

Tax to help formalise the sector: CBEC

What has happened?

The Goods and Services Tax, set to start on July 1, will pare the cost of transport and logistics, formalise the sector, and could help bring supply chain management to the forefront, according to officials working on the new tax regime

Goods and Services Tax Network

The Goods and Services Tax Network, the company tasked with running the IT infrastructure for GST, has already migrated taxpayer information from State and central tax authorities to its database


.Indian Express


Indian Express

[1]What lies below the district? 

Context

Despite all the talk of decentralization, nothing does. Nobody owns the planning and development functions in panchayat samitis and gram panchayats

Relevant facts from the article

  • Upper Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh is the largest district of India
  • The oldest existing statute is the Bengal Districts Act of 1836

Give the rest of the article a go through


 Live Mint


Live Mint

 [1]A tricky path to India’s solar-powered future

Context

The falling solar power tariffs should be welcomed—but it remains to be seen whether producers can deliver at those rates on a sustainable basis

Tariffs plunged to a new low of Rs2.44 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) last week during an auction for 500 megawatt (MW) capacity at the Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan

Capacity Addition

According to Bridge to India, a consulting firm, new capacity addition in the solar space is likely to touch 8.8 gigawatt (GW) in 2017—an increase of 76% over 2016—which will make India the third biggest solar market in the world

Why decline in tariffs?

  • The government has set an ambitious target of attaining 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022. Consequently, the total installed capacity in this space has gone up by over three times in the last three years
  • Private sector participants want to be part of this big opportunity. It appears that they may be looking at scale even if it means lower returns on investments.
  • Developments in the sector, such as the fall in price of solar panels and the availability of finance, are also helping

 According to NTPC

Solar power tariff has been declining on account of sharply declining prices of solar panels, better structuring of the project that reduces risk for project developers and better currency hedging deals that make financing available at competitive cost

 Trouble for banking sector

A hit in revenue will hurt the ability of thermal power companies to repay loans, which would mean more trouble for the banking sector

 Conclusion

Developments in the solar space will help India meet its energy demand in a more environmentally sustainable manner. It remains to been seen as to how low the solar power tariff can go and whether producers are actually able to deliver at that rate on a sustainable basis.

 

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