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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 3, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]Summer of dry lakes and dry throats

[2]No invasion of body for UID: Centre

[3]New IT rules to beef up Aadhaar


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1]‘India should have its own policy on Afghanistan’

[2]Winning back the Valley

[3]Powering up food

[4]Refuge from the sinking islands


Economy [The Hindu]


[1]Skill councils have conflict of interests

[2] India to unveil new IIP series


Indian Express


[1]Twelve reasons why

[2]The LoP Excuse


Live Mint



The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Summer of dry lakes and dry throats

 

The Hindu

 

What has happened?

While the drought-hit cities of Telangana struggle to deal with the consequences of declining groundwater availability, rural regions are grappling with severe drinking water shortages

 

City of encroachments

  • All the 170 lakes in the Greater Hyderabad region have been encroached upon
  • The lakes have been exploited for illegal construction for everything from slum settlements to posh colonies and farmhouses, which raises the question of loopholes within the system

ITDA

  • The Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) and Panchayat Raj Department have launched several projects to mitigate water problem in the hilly tracts
  • Implementing a contingency plan with an outlay of ₹3.4 crore, to take up 106 works for augmenting and replacing pump-sets and other defunct systems.
    Those habitations which are left out will get funds from the Velugu Project – a poverty amelioration project in the rural areas.

 

[2]No invasion of body for UID: Centre

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Govt. says the right of a person to his or her body is not absolute, State has the power to take the life of a person

 

What has happened?

Taking fingerprints and iris impressions for Aadhaar is not an invasion of a citizen’s body as the right of a person to his own body is not absolute, the government told the Supreme Court

 

Government’s Arguments

  • State has power to take life
  • Submit to Laws:If one has to live in a collective called the ‘state’, one has to submit to its laws
  • No Right to abuse one’s body:Can you say I have a right to abuse my body because it is my body and I will pick up weed from the road and smoke it?
  • Normal for people:People part with all kinds of data through their mobile phones. How is an iris scan more intrusive than for e.g.photos? The argument of so-called privacy and bodily integrity is bogus
  • Myopic view of the Rich: Criticism against the biometric system of identification used in Aadhaar enrolment was based on the “myopic viewpoint of the rich who do not anyway use the public distribution system
  • Empowerment:Aadhaar ensures empowerment by giving identity to people who actually need the welfare schemes of the State
  • Eager to Enroll: The 113.7 crore Aadhaar cards produced so far were proof that people were eager to enroll.
  • Duplication of Aadhaar is “non-existent” unlike in PAN
  • Orderly world: Mandatory linkage of PAN with Aadhaar was a step towards a “more orderly world”
  • Better Targeting:It is to ensure that tax money goes to serve the poor and will create a better world
  • Help in solving crimes:nothing wrong in the state collecting fingerprints to help prevent or to aid solving a crime

 

PAN Plus

Government had conceptualized including biometric identification in PANs way back in 2009. , had in mind something like a PAN Plus, but entrepreneur NandanNilekani introduced Aadhaar

 

Repetition of PAN

Section 139AA is nothing but a repetition of PAN in the more complicated milieu of today. “The only difference is one of single ‘A’ and double ‘A’

 

 

SC Responded

  • Due process to be followed:A state can extinguish a person’s life only after following due process of law
  • Liberty and Dignity of the Citizen:The state has the duty to maintain the liberty of an individual. The state has, more importantly, the obligation to maintain the dignity of an individual. Dignity is an individual right
  • No Infringement of Fundamental Rights:Not against state regulations, but these regulations should not infringe upon the citizens’ fundamental rights
  • Might be used for State Surveillance:fingerprint and iris impressions would be used to mount a state surveillance and the “nation would turn into a large concentration camp
  • Not everyone is a suspect: Is it alright to treat everyone as a suspect?

 

 

[3]New IT rules to beef up Aadhaar

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Official promises end to security fears

 

What has happened?

To address privacy and security concerns over Aadhaar, the Centre is in the process of educating government agencies that sensitive data must not be made public, and is drafting amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act to strengthen provisions for data protection and security

 

New IT Law

New IT law will quell security concerns related to digital payments

 

Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) Report

  • Close to 135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers could have leaked from official portals dealing with government programmes of pensions and rural employment
  • With Aadhaar being used to authenticate and authorize transactions, the financial risks presented by the disclosure of such data are greatly exacerbated

 

Legal changes

The key focus of these amendments being drafted, is strengthening data protection provisions and security, particularly in relation to digital payments.


Editorial/OPINION


[1]‘India should have its own policy on Afghanistan’

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Interview of the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai

 

What has happened?

The former Afghan President on U.S. doublespeak on Af-Pak, elusive peace, and why India must stay invested in his country

 

Against US bombing (MOAB) recently against ISIS inNangarhar, Afghanistan

  • Americans waited two and a half to three years for Daesh (the Islamic State) to entrench itself in Nangarhar province’s Shinwar district
  • Real Motive: The motive for the U.S. is clearly to test its bomb in Afghanistan, and to send tough signals to its rivals at the same time
  • Accused President Ghani’s government of “treason” for allowing the bombing
  • U.S. NSA McMaster’s visit is just doublespeak as US continues funding to Pakistan in the name of aid
  • Criticises Taliban and they must engage in a peace process with the Afghan government and people

 

Role of India

  • India should have its own policy on Afghanistan, based on its own view of the region, its own interests in the region, and the interests of peace and stability in Afghanistan
  • Provide Afghanistan what it needs to stand on its own feet, to enable Afghanistan [Army] to defend the country, to enable Afghanistan to fight extremism and the violation of our sovereignty from across the Durand Line, to help Afghanistan back to normalcy as a strong state

 

 

[2]Winning back the Valley

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir

 

What has happened?

Delhi must make an open appeal for peace in Kashmir accompanied by consultations with all segments

 

New Threat :Unattached militant

  • Militants responsible for the bulk of the current wave of violence do not appear to have a direct link to pro-Pakistan militant outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad
  • after the dangerous 1990s, militancy has once again regained social acceptance
  • To an ever increasing number of youth, the profile of violence stands in contrast to the hypocritical utterances of the authorities in Srinagar and Delhi
  • Peace cannot be enforced by authoritarian means or by fiat: Anger is the dominant sentiment, as epitomised by the violent protests and the near total boycott of the recent Srinagar poll
  • The authorities are losing the propaganda war

 

Rainbow coalition

  • Social media is putting out its own account of events and encounters, aided and abetted by several thousands of social media accounts operating from across the border
  • This is what is providing oxygen to the ‘unattached militant’, and more significantly, leading to a ‘rainbow coalition’ between the ‘unattached militant’ and the ‘Deep State’ in Pakistan

 

Emergence of Strategic Falsehood

  • Social media tweets and retweets are altering ground realities
  • Hyperbole is making a mockery of truth and providing scope for still more lies
  • The only realities are: the dead, the wounded, the martyr and, of course, the authorities who are the villains

 

Measures that can be taken

  • Policymakers must ponder deeply as to why ordinary citizens are prepared to gravitate to areas where actual encounters are taking place risking death and injury even though they are not involved in the protests
  • Resorting to pyrotechnics such as the novel idea of tying a protester to the bonnet of a security vehicle and driving it through a crowd of agitators are best avoided
  • There is a need to go back to the drawing board and effect changes in Kashmir’s Constitution that were introduced post the 1960s
    • This would help establish a measure of credibility to India’s claims that it is not seeking to undermine the autonomy that Kashmir prizes so much
  • Make an open and impassioned appeal for peace in the Valley accompanied by meetings and consultations at several levels
  • No segment should be excluded, including separatists and the Hurriyat
  • Some of the ideas set out in the ‘backchannel’ proposals (2005-2008) should be revived
  • Jobs for Kashmiri youth must be a priority and a massive job-oriented programme launched
  • India could consider swallowing its pride and reopen talks with Pakistan, not so much hoping that Pakistan would cooperate but to assuage the ‘hard-liners’ in Kashmir

 

Conclusion

Detaching from a muscular policy to a more reasoned one has become essential

 

[3]Powering up food

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Fortification of food

 

What has happened?

Augmenting foods with nutrients can improve overall health, but it must be regulated

 

Why?

Since a diversified diet that meets all nutritional requirements is difficult to provide, fortification of food is relied upon by many countries to prevent malnutrition

 

WHO

The World Health Organisation estimates that deficiency of key micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A and iodine together affects a third of the world’s population

 

Maternal Health

Standards-based fortification can help advance overall health goals, starting with maternal health

Iron-fortified food can be made widely available, since iron deficiency contributes to 20% of maternal deaths and is associated with nearly half of all maternal deaths

 

FSSAI

  • It is important to ensure that all sections of producers meet the norms, since the FSSAI plans to get local flour mills to add premixed nutrients
  • A well-functioning public distribution system is the best channel to reach precisely those sections that need fortified food the most
  • Fortified food, therefore, provides near to medium-term gains, and addresses micronutrient malnutrition concerns at the population level
  • Fortified foods should be made affordable also

 

For Long-term Wholesome foods should be priority

  • Fortified foods can help fill the gaps, particularly in areas that are in need of speedy remedial nutrition.

 

[4]Refuge from the sinking islands

 

The Hindu

 

Context

We need an international forum to help small island nations threatened by rising sea levels

 

What has happened?

We need an international forum to help small island nations threatened by rising sea levels

 

Low-lying Vulnerable Nations

  • The 52 low-lying vulnerable island nations sustain 62 million people and emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs), yet are among the first victims of climate disruption
  • These island nations require immediate remedies, including migration, compensation and reduction in GHG emissions
  • High sea levels have already resulted in displacement of people in several small island nations

 

Broad but urgent remedies

A sea level rise of 0.5 to 2 m could leave between 1.2 and 2.2 million people displaced from the Caribbean Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This will set off domestic as well as cross-border migration.

 

The International Community ignorant

The international community does not yet realise its responsibility to enable such migration. For example, on request from Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, New Zealand agreed to allow a meagre 75 Tuvaluans to relocate annually to their country, a migration that should stretch over 140 years. Australia refused to make any offers when approached similarly.

 

The Cost of adaptation massive

The capital cost of sea level rise in the Caribbean Community countries alone is estimated at $187 billion by 2080. The Pacific Possible programme of the World Bank predicts the cost of adaptation to be $18,500 per person for Marshall Islands and $11,000 for Solomon Islands over a period of 30 years from 2012

 

International compensation commission

Legal analysts are considering the possibility of an international compensation commission which could address the burden of adaptation expenses on the island nations through an international fund

 

Decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable

With the policies in force today, GHG emissions are projected to grow by 50% by 2050. Any amount of decrease in GHG emissions cannot save the islands from sinking, but a significant decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable, thereby postponing the burden of accommodating mass migration

 

Remedies

There is a need for a wide range of varied remedies, mostly adaptive, such as coastal protection, population consolidation, rainwater harvesting and storage, alternative methods of growing fruits and vegetables, human resource development and research and observation.

 

A single-purpose forum

The only practical way to attain these remedies seems to be to reinvigorate political pressure and negotiate globally to arrive at a forum that could deal with the issue

 

Objective of the Forum

  • The primary focus of the forum so created must be to ensure adequate and appropriate remedies as discussed above
  • The forum must enable negotiations regarding the legal status of migrants and develop adaptive strategies in the destination country to guarantee and to protect dignity and cultural identity of the displaced in the destination country
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) obligates countries to provide finance to resist global warming
  • By extending such existing obligations through political pressure and diplomacy, the forum could ensure compensation to the island nations in the form of contributions from party countries by managing a fund created in this regard
  • Lastly, the forum would require a tribunal to assess the case presented by each island nation and to decide whether help from the international community is required
  • The tribunal could then invoke appropriate measures such as multilateral negotiations or directions that enable migration, compensation and other remedies that could save the people of the sinking small island nations.

Economy


[1]Skill councils have conflict of interests

 

The Hindu

 

Context

They are a ‘hotbed of crony capitalism,’ says a government-constituted panel

 

The Sharada Prasad Committee

  • Report on India’s recent skill development initiatives through 40 sectoral skill councils set up under the aegis of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC)
  • led by former Director General For Employment and Training Sharada Prasad 
  • Constituted by the Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry to review, rationalise and optimise the functioning of sector skill councils has termed these councils a ‘hotbed of crony capitalism’ that have tried to ‘extract maximum benefit from public funds.’

 

Observations

Several instances of conflict of interest in the councils’ membership base

Examples of Conflict of interest

  • A board member of a government-funded apex skilling agency is also a training partner and a promoter of a skill council.
  • The son of the chairman of a sectoral skill council is a co-promoter of a training firm as well as an assessment agency that oversees the outcomes achieved on job placements by such firms in the same domain

 

Recommendations

Scrap all Councils: The Centre should scrap all existing skill councils, many of which have overlapping roles.

Oversight Mechanism: Introduce an oversight mechanism on the NSDC, preferably from the central bank, as it is registered as a non-banking finance company

Comprehensive Review:Government should review the NSDC’s role and functioning comprehensively with reference to its Memorandum of Association

 

Cause

NSDC is 100% government-funded but accountable to a board that consists of a majority of private sector industry associations

 

[2] India to unveil new IIP series

The Hindu

 

What has happened?

  • India will unveil a new series of Index of Industrial Production with a base year 2011-12 on May 9 with an aim to map economic activities more accurately
  • The new series for Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which captures industrial activities on monthly basis, will be launched by Chief Statistician and MOSPI Secretary
  • Currently, the IIP is calculated on base year of 2004-05

Indian Express


[1]Twelve reasons why

Indian Express

 

Context

The current outrage over the proposal to tax agricultural income misses the point — often deliberately

 

  • First, Section 2 (1A) of the Income Tax Act defines agricultural income as rent/revenue from land, income derived from this land through agriculture and income derived from buildings on that land
  • Second, Section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act excludes agricultural income from a computation of total income
  • Third, conditions on the sale of agricultural land vary from state to state. In some states, there is a requirement that land can only be sold to “farmers”. But not every state requires this
  • Fourth, in the Seventh Schedule, Entry 82 in the Union List mentions taxes other than agricultural income, while Entry 46 in the State List mentions taxes on agricultural income,  Therefore, arguing that this is in the State List is valid
  • Fifth, long before the Income Tax Act of 1961, there was the Income Tax Act of 1860, now forgotten. This was the introduction of income tax in India (in a modern sense) and it was meant to be temporary. It taxed agricultural income till 1886
  • Sixth, in 1932, there was the Federal Finance Committee of the Round Table Conference and its report. If we have the present constitutional structure, that’s because of this report and the Government of India Act (1935)
  • Seventh, we have had Agricultural Income Tax Acts in Bihar (1938), Assam (1939), Bengal (1944), Orissa (1948), Uttar Pradesh (1948), Hyderabad (1950), Travancore and Cochin (1951) and Madras and Old Mysore State (1955)
  • Eighth, this isn’t entirely history — we still have the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Act (1939), the Bihar Agricultural Income Tax (1939), the Kerala Agricultural Income Tax Act (1991), the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Income Tax Act (1955), the Orissa Agricultural Income Tax Act (1947), the Maharashtra Agricultural Income Tax (1962) and the Bengal Agricultural Income Tax Act (1944)
  • Ninth, it isn’t as if this issue was discovered yesterday. The issue of taxing agricultural income (and wealth) goes back to the 1960s. There must be a unified system of taxation across states
  • e.g. in report of the Taxation Enquiry Commission (1953-54) there are strong arguments for agricultural taxation income

 

Conclusion

Consider some figures from an RTI application filed by Vijay Sharma last year, a company made profits of Rs 215 crores, but claiming the agricultural income exemption, it paid no tax

 

[2]The LoPExcuse

 

Indian Express

 

Context

In the Lokpal delay, absence of a leader of opposition is a red herring (A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion)

 

Statutory position

  • There is a lot of disinformation surrounding the Leader of Opposition. It is a statutory office provided for in the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in the Parliament Act, 1977.
  • Under the law, even if the party in opposition has a single member, he/she is entitled to be recognised

 

No such rule

A mysterious rule is often quoted by some self-styled experts, which requires a party to have at least 10 per cent of the members of the House for the Speaker to recognise someone as the Leader of Opposition. There is no such rule

 

Direction 121

  • There is direction 121 issued by the Speaker for recognising a party or group for the purpose of providing certain facilities in the House
  • Under this direction, issued by Speaker G.V. Mavalankar, to be recognised as a legislature party, a party should have at least one-tenth of the strength of the House
  • This direction relates to the recognition of a party, not the Leader of Opposition

 

Tenth Schedule of the Constitution

It has become redundant after the enactment of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution under which even a one-member party is recognised as a legislature party

 

Questions SC should have asked

When the SC asked the government to select the Lokpal, even in the absence of the Leader of Opposition, it should also have asked why the statutory provision was ignored

 

Conclusion

  • The statute implies that there shall always be a Leader of Opposition, so long as there is an opposition in the House
  • Recognising the Leader of Opposition is not a proceeding of the House within the meaning of Article 122 of the Constitution, which keeps the judiciary out of House matters
  • It is a statutory duty of the Speaker and the court can thus ask why action hasn’t been taken, resulting in the delay in appointing a Lokpal

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