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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 5th January 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
  1. SC schedules day-to-day hearings on Cauvery appeals from Feb 7
  2. Pollution problem: rules tough but implementation weak
  3. Citizens’ interest best served when public money is not wasted: HC
  4. Ken-Betwa river-linking project faces new hurdle
  5. J.S. Khehar sworn in as Chief Justice
  • INTERNATIONAL [The Hindu]
  1. China’s stance on terror self-defeating, says India
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
  1. Running into the Chinese wall
  2. Arms and the region
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]
  1. TRAI issues paper on net-neutrality
  • Indian Express
  1. Despite history, geography
  2. An unfortunate legacy
  • Live Mint
  1. The deleveraging risk in emerging markets
  2. Transforming the digital payment infrastructure

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief PDF (5th Jan. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] SC schedules day-to-day hearings on Cauvery appeals from Feb 7


The Hindu

Context
The Supreme Court asked Karnataka to continue releasing 2000 cusecs of Cauvery water to neighbouring State of Tamil Nadu while posting appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal‘s decision on water-sharing for day-to-day hearing.

What has happened?
SC has decided that the appeals related to Cauvery water dispute would be heard on a back to back basis for a period of three weeks starting from February 7th, in order to resolve the dispute at the earliest

Tamil Nadu’s stand
Tamil Nadu submitted that the north-east monsoon had failed completely and it was suffering from a 67 per cent deficit of water. However, the Bench refused to deliberate this issue, saying it has already spent “considerable time” on it.

Backdrop
On December 9, the Supreme Court, in a judgment, had refused the Centre’s stand that the apex court lacked jurisdiction to hear the Cauvery river dispute. It had upheld the constitutional power of the court to hear the appeals filed by the three States against the tribunal award.

Centre’s argument: The Centre had argued that the parliamentary law of Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 coupled with Article 262 (2) of the Indian Constitution excluded the Supreme Court from hearing or deciding any appeals against the Cauvery Tribunal’s decision. The Centre had claimed the tribunal award was final.

Bench’s stand: The Bench however held that the remedy under Article 136 was a constitutional right and it cannot be taken away by a legislation. It observed that,
• “The jurisdiction exercised by this court under Article 136 is an extraordinary jurisdiction which empowers this court to grant leave to appeal from any judgment, decree or determination in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal and the scope of this Article has been settled in numerous decisions”
• It was settled law that the Supreme Court could not take cognisance of an original inter-State water dispute, and this alone was the original intent of the Constitution under Article 262. The court held that once a water dispute, as defined under Article 262(1) read with provisions of the 1956 Act, is adjudicated by the tribunal, it loses the nature of ‘original dispute’


[2] Pollution problem: rules tough but implementation weak


Context

Experts say the issue must be tackled in a comprehensive and concerted manner with tailor-made solutions for every source of pollution.

Issue: Rising air pollution

Author state that two things are paramount if we want to understand this issue,

  • Different sources of pollution: there are several different sources of pollution, each of which needs a separate solution
  • Pollution doesn’t know borders: pollutants are carried for hundreds of kms which means that not all of Delhi’s pollution originates in the capital. And likewise, it also contributes to pollution in nearby regions

 Problems in containing air pollution

Weak state capacity: Experts say that one of the critical constraints that plague pollution control in India is its weak State capacity, defined as the ability of the government to administer and its capacity to design and implement rules or policies. Environmental laws are pretty strong but it does not necessarily lead to enforcement and implementation. Institutions and mechanism of implementation are weak or have not matured.

Example: Author cites example of road dust which as per a study from IIT Kanpur accounts for 38 per cent of Delhi’s pollution. In order to reduce the dust, municipal corporations will have to manage their construction activities a lot better and contractors will be required to spray water to eliminate dust, cordon off construction areas, complete projects in a time-bound manner, use drilling instead of digging among other things.

  • Competent PWD required: Regulating all this would require a PWD that is a lot less corrupt and a lot more competent. In order to get there, the government would have to start by imposing regulations and raising penalties for non-compliance and disciplining engineers who did not enforce the rules.

Responsibility of the government

It should not be the duty of governments onlyto protect the environment, but classical economics predicts that only governments are in a position to do so. This is because citizens can’t coordinate their actions.

Judicial interventions

Judicial intervention through the National Green Tribunal seems to be the only way we are intervening to protect the environment but judiciary only acts when people approach to it.

Environment vs Economics

It is important to consider the political costs of cleaning the air. While economic activity leads to pollution, it pulls people out of poverty in the short term, Mr. Roy explains, adding that “democratic organisations prefer short term gains which have long term losses (associated with the gains).” This means we have a trade-off between economic growth and environment protection

Federal problem

Another characteristic of the air quality problem is its federal nature, which requires various State governments and the Centre to work together.

  • Crop burning in Punjab & Haryana: This is best demonstrated by the crop-burning issue in Punjab and Haryana. The potential political costs of preventing farmers to burn crops, which requires strict enforcement of law and incentives for alternatives, won’t be borne out by the ruling party in Delhi, but controlling that is necessary to have clean air in the Capital.

[3] Citizens’ interest best served when public money is not wasted: HC


The Hindu

Context

Public interest is best served when public money is not unnecessarily expended, the High Court said.

The whole issue

  • E-tender invited by DoE: In the present case, the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) had invited e-tenders from firms that could provide trained security staff at government schools and field offices of the DoE for two years
  • Bidder quoted lowest agency charge: Petitioner Orion Security Solutions Pvt. Ltd. was one of the bidders and had quoted the lowest agency charges of Re.1. The DoE asked for clarifications to ensure feasibility and viability of the petitioner in carrying out the work on such low charges
  • Delhi govt rejects the bid:Despite explaining the “hybrid business model”, which involves redirecting funds received by the firm under various government-sponsored deployment linked skill development programmes for security work, and the fact that the company maintained an elaborate infrastructure in Delhi, its bid was rejected on the ground of non-feasibility of carrying out the tender requirements at the price
  • Rejection challenged in HC: The company challenged the rejection before the High Court while the Delhi government said the court can intervene only if the decision affects public interest

 

Court’s observation

“As far as public interest in this matter is concerned, it would primarily be referable to the public money, which would be spent for the contract for safety of the persons for whom security is to be provided. Public interest is best served when public money is not unnecessarily expended,”

“The petitioner submitted its annual statement showing its financial worth and explained the source of funding. There is no reason to doubt that the petitioner will be able to provide security as per the terms,”


[4] Ken-Betwa river-linking project faces new hurdle


The Hindu

Context

New problem in the Ken-Betwa inter-state river linking project

The problem

The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) has recommended that

  • Madhya Pradesh contribute 40 per cent of the project cost, with the Centre contributing 60 per cent. The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has opposed this and requested that 90 per cent of the funds be routed through the Centre

What could this mean for the project?

A lack of clarity on the funding pattern could mean more delays to the Rs. 10,000-crore project that would be the first ever inter-State river interlinking project

Clearance timeline

  • The project was given a go-ahead by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) at a meeting chaired by Minister of State for Environment and Forest in August 2016.
  • An environment clearance panel has, according to officials in the water ministry, also cleared the project on 30th December.
  • A separate committee that determines forest clearance to such projects, is yet to take a call.

USP

This will be the first time that a river project will be located within a tiger reserve.

  • The main feature of the project is a 230-km long canal and a series of barrages and dams connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers that will irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares in Madhya Pradesh and 14,000 hectares of Uttar Pradesh in Bundelkhand
  • The key projects are the Makodia and Dhaudhan dams, the latter expected to be 77 metres high and responsible for submerging 5,803 hectares of tiger habitat in the Panna Tiger Reserve
  • When, and if, the proposed reservoir is filled to the brim, 6,221 hectares will be inundated — of this, 4,141 hectares is core forest and located inside the reserve

Submerging Panna

The Rs. 10,000-crore Ken-Betwa project will irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand region but, in the process, also submerge about 10 per cent of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, feted as a model tiger conservation reserve.

Contention

A key point of contention between wildlife experts associated with the impact assessment and dam proponents in the MoWR was

  • Whether the height of the Daudhan dam could be reduced to limit the water overflow
  • MoWR’s stand: The MoWR had refused to agree to this, saying it would compromise the economic viability of the project. The records of the August meeting suggest wildlife experts were convinced.

Read More: Ken-Betwa link Project


[5] J.S. Khehar sworn in as Chief Justice


 The Hindu

Context

Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was sworn in as the 44th Chief Justice of India by President Pranab Mukherjee

Note: Appointment of Justice Khehar as CJI has already been covered in detail in the brief dated 20th December 2016

Give the article a brief go-through


INTERNATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] China’s stance on terror self-defeating, says India


 The Hindu

Context

India has said that China is following “double standard” on terrorism and asked Beijing to support its campaign to blacklist Pakistan-based terror mastermind Masood Azhar

A pretty straightforward article which reiterates India’s stand on terror

Give it a go-through once


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Running into the Chinese wall


The Hindu

Context

The Masood Azhar case is a piece in the fragmenting jigsaw of global terror consensus

Issue: Chinese veto of India’s proposal to ban Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar at the UN

Similar instances

Author cites past instances wherein China has blocked similar proposals from India

  • In the past, Beijing blocked India’s proposals at the UN to designate HizbulMujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and Abdul RehmanMakki and Azam Cheema of the Lashkar-e-Taiba as terrorists, and blocked questions on how designated terrorists Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-RehmanLakhvi accessed funds in Pakistan despite UN sanctions

JeM designated a terror group

Despite all the evidence, it took two years and the 9/11 attacks for the JeM to be designated as a terror group by UNSC 1267 sanctions committee in 2001. It seems unbelievable that 15 years later, despite his complicity in everything from the Parliament attack to the Pathankot attack and everything in between, Azhar hasn’t yet been added to that list

Larger issue

Author states that it would be mistake if India sees China’s move purely from a bilateral perspective and ignores the larger trend it represents: of a fragmenting global consensus on terrorism

 Changing Narrative

A common enemy: After the 9/11 attacks, the global consensus to fight the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and all allied groups was formed by the UNSC resolution on terrorism (UNSCR 1373) in 2001.

  • Already, in 1999, the UN had set up an al-Qaeda/Taliban sanctions committee (UNSCR 1267) to impose strictures on anyone dealing with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. While the implementation of these resolutions has been questionable, there was little doubt that all member states essentially believed that the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their allies formed a common global enemy.

 The Change

Author states that the above narrative has changed.

  • In January 2010, at an international conference hosted by the U.K., the UN and the U.S. openly backed efforts to talk peace with the Taliban
  • In 2011, the UNSC made it simply the al-Qaeda sanctions committee, separating the Taliban committee so as to facilitate talks by delisting Taliban leaders being engaged
  • In December 2015, the UNSC made a further shift by renaming it “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee” (UNSCR/2253). This renaming prompted Pakistan to ask recently, albeit mistakenly, how the banning of Azhar was even connected to the committee’s work

Impact of US Russia ties

Apart from the UN, shifting U.S.-Russia ties have also made a great impact on the global terror consensus.

  • Initial solidarity: In 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to speak to President George W. Bush, expressing full support for the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda, which would in turn help Russia with its Islamist threat as well. Not only that, Mr. Putin reversed Russian policy of decades, allowing the U.S. to set up bases across Central Asia and virtually take over Afghanistan’s security command
  • The above relationship no longer exists& Russia is questioning US presence in its backyard again. It now sees U.S.’s bases in Afghanistan as akin to having Russian bases in Mexico.

Increasing closeness with China & Pakistan

The third factor impacting global consensus on terrorism is the

  • Russia’s closeness with China and Pakistan:  A trilateral meeting of the three countries in December in Moscow called for a “flexible approach” to remove some Taliban figures from the UN sanctions list as part of efforts to “foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement”

US’s efforts

The U.S. has been pushing for the removal of other groups in Afghanistan from sanctions, like the Hizb-e-Islami’sGulbuddinHekmatyar (a former Central Intelligence Agency-funded fighter), a move that Russia blocked at the UN

Picking teams

Above mentioned facts clearly state one thing,

  • Global leaders are picking sides
  • Neither side has yet pushed for the banning of the new Taliban chief, HaibatullahAkhundzada, a reminder of how far away we have come on that global consensus. Also lying in the dust is India’s decades-old proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism

Russian concern

Russia’s growing closeness to Pakistan cannot be disconnected from India

  • Russia did nothing at all: It is significant that among the P5, the U.S., U.K. and France co-sponsored India’s resolution against Azhar, China vetoed it, but Russia, India’s traditional backer, did nothing at all
  • At the BRICS summit in October and the Heart of Asia conference in December, it was the Russia-China combine that kept India’s desire for tough statements on “cross-border terrorism” from Pakistan at bay, and it was the Russian envoy who told India not to use “multilateral forums for bilateral issues”

 Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that the Azhar ban is only a piece of the much larger global jigsaw puzzle. India must build strong ties with all the nations involved.

Read More: Chinese veto


[2] Arms and the region


 The Hindu

Context

It is time to look ahead at the challenges that India’s security planners face in 2017

Issue: Security challenges before India in 2017

Trump Card

Author points at the opinions expressed by Donald Trump on Iran nuclear deal, TTIP & Israel. He then presents us with the following questions,

Q: Is a reversal of President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy around the corner?

Q: Will Mr. Trump’s views change once he becomes the president?

Q: What does this scenario portend for India?

China rising

India has to factor in the enhanced aggressiveness of China

  • Mobilization of weapons: Its recent moves, of positioning air defence weapons on a reclaimed island in the South China Sea, forays by fighters and bombers over the East China Sea, and even sending its aircraft carrier Liaoning to Hainan via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and Philippines, have sent an unwelcome message to its neighbors
  • Power projection: It may not be long before Liaoning makes its foray into the Indian Ocean. If not for power projection (which is still some time away), it may be to just announce to the world that a new “world” power has arrived
  • Ensuring India’s interests: If Mr. Trump gets on with its current stance with China, then it (the U.S.) would require India to be firmly with it. With its placing of India as a major defence partner and the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) in place, Indian planners would have to tread a narrow path between getting close to the U.S. and being classified as a major cog in the American scheme of things. The key idea to follow would be to ensure that India’s interests are insured against reversals in power politics

The Pakistan factor

Author states that Pakistan’s support to terror activities in India is likely to continue so India’s guard cannot be lowered and eternal vigil is the need of the times.

  • Overhaul of army leadership: The recent overhaul of the top army brass in Pakistan points at a new scenario where civilian leadership might be exacting a greater say in the scheme of things but concluding anything at this stage would be a folly

India’s relationship with its neighbors

Author points at the fact that global influence in world affairs works on the principle of actionable measures and not on the basis of claims of “historical cultural relations”. Hence,

  • Developing Chabahar: The commitment to develop the Chabahar port in Iran gains importance, even as a new relationship develops between Russia, China and Pakistan.
  • Aiding Afghanistan:Similarly, economic and military commitments to Afghanistan have to be met

Budgetary support before 2019

  • Greater Budgetary allocation: History has proven that a strong military is the foundation for resolute action in the economic and diplomatic fields. Hence, a greater allocation for the defence sector is needed in the 2017 budget to enable the services to overcome the neglect of the past decade and enhance their capability to support government aims at influence-building in the neighbourhood.
  • Building a defence industrial base: In parallel, the building up of a defence industrial base should gather greater momentum from the snail’s pace it is now. Getting a firm footing in the “near abroad”, to use a Russian term, is a sine qua non for aspirational India’s ambitions in the coming years; 2017 would be decisive in more ways than one.

ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] TRAI issues paper on net-neutrality


 The Hindu

Context

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has issued a consultation paper on the issue of net-neutrality as it looked to formulate “final views on policy or regulatory interventions” on the subject

Read More: Net neutrality: What you need to know

Backdrop

The regulator had decided to undertake a two-stage consultation process on the issue.

  • 1st stage: The earlier issued pre-consultation, released in May 2016, was an attempt to identify the relevant issues in all the areas on which the Department of Telecom had sought TRAI’s recommendations
  • 2nd Stage:In this next stage, the Authority has considered all the relevant issues identified during the pre-consultation process and the preliminary inputs gathered from stakeholders on those issues. The purpose of this second stage of consultation is to proceed towards the formulation of final views on policy or regulatory interventions, where required, on the subject of net neutrality

TRAI seeks comments

TRAI has sought comments on

  • What the principles for ensuring non-discriminatory access to content on the Internet could be in the Indian context;
  • How Internet traffic and providers of Internet services should be understood in the context of net neutrality
  • the issue of traffic management practices, seeking comments on approaches that would be preferable, defining what constitutes reasonable traffic management practices or identifying a negative list of non-reasonable practices
  • Traffic management service: It refers to techniques used by the service providers to manage the safety, security and efficiency of their networks.

Emergency situations

The consultation paper also questioned if certain services such as emergency situations and restrictions on unlawful content be treated as exceptions to any regulation on traffic management practice

Legal and policy front

On the legal and policy front, the paper has sought opinion on issues such as which body should be responsible for monitoring and supervision and what actions should such body be empowered to take in case of any detected violation, among others


Indian Express


[1] Despite history, geography


Indian Express

Context

India and Bangladesh have wasted opportunities for shared advantages. The mistake need not be repeated.

Author, editor of a Bangladeshi newspaper, presents us with following question,

Q: Why have we failed to build a model bilateral relationship?

He answers it quite bluntly,

Simply put, we have never given our heart and soul to it. Every time “breakthrough opportunities” come, we fail to seize them and allow our “business as usual” habit to destroy them by failing to think “outside the box”.

Unused transit potential

India has been insisting on it for decades; now that it has come about, progress is slow, piecemeal and held back by pathetically low levels of investment

  • Instead of a comprehensive, multi-model, transit accord or treaty, what we have are fragmented deals, totally lacking global vision. On both sides, river transit is being handled by one ministry, railway by another and road by yet another, with the attending inter-ministerial mismatch and bureaucratic delays
  • Author suggests: Bring all the transit opportunities under one master plan with one vision of improving trade, commerce and connectivity in regional, sub-regional and trans-Asian and Trans-continental aspects

Water sharing

  • Comprehensive water management accord: Author suggests that in this area also, a comprehensive water management accord is required, which will deal with all our common rivers and not one by one, as we have been doing so far

Rampal Power plant

A new irritant is also the Rampal power plant whose location, near the Sundarbans, is a very serious concern for the environmentalists of Bangladesh, their fears shared by Indian counterparts. So far, such concerns have fallen on deaf ears

Steps taken by both sides

Bangladesh

  • Elimination of terror camps: Author states that the biggest step forward for Bangladesh was responding to India’s security concern and removing all terrorist camps within its borders

India

  • Duty-free access: As per author the duty-free access to Bangladeshi goods was the biggest positive move from Indian side
  • Exporting electricity to Bangladesh

 Indian Media’s indifference

Author states that Indian media has never highlighted Bangladesh’s issues in the mainstream except for cases of communal violence and rise of terrorism. He cites the example of Farrakka Barrage issue, which was the first major cause of the rise of grassroots-level anti-Indianism in the late eighties

  • This barrage devastated the ecosystem of northwest Bangladesh, destroying thousands of acres of arable land, resulting in the rise of salinity in river and underground water.
  • Teesta issue: The failure to even talk about Teesta, when a deal was ready to be signed in September, 2011, has greatly disappointed us in Bangladesh. The rationale for Bangladesh’s position on this crucial water sharing issue has almost never found adequate space in the Indian media.

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that there are many lost opportunities in the history of India-Bangladesh relationship. Let us not repeat them

Read More: Teesta issue, Farakka issue


[2] An unfortunate legacy


 Indian Express

Context

The colonial category of “criminal tribes” may have been “denotified” but many communities remain unclassified

In the first paragraph author quotes from the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871

What was the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA)?

The term Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) refers to various pieces of legislation enforced in India during British rule;

  • The first was the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. It was applied mostly in North India. The Act was extended to Bengal Presidency and other areas in 1876, and, finally, with the Criminal Tribes Act, 1911, it was extended to Madras Presidency as well. The Act went through several amendments in the next decade and, finally, the Criminal Tribes Act, 1924 incorporated all of them

Enquiry committees

Author states that subsequently after India’s independence, there were some enquiry committees which looked at the way the CTA had worked throughout India

  • Region-specific inquiry committees: Bombay (1939), United Provinces (Agra and Oudh, 1947)
  • The AnanthsayanamAyyangar Committee (1949-50) report was more comprehensive: It had a list of 116 criminal tribes in British territories and more than 200 in the Princely States

Ayyangar committee

  • Repeal of CTA: The recommendations of this committee led to repeal of CTA in August 1952
  • Replace CTA by a central legislation: The Ayyangar Committee also recommended that, “The Criminal Tribes Act, 1924, should be replaced by a Central legislation applicable to all habitual offenders without any distinction based on caste, creed or birth.” 

Report of UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on India

InMarch 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination did a report on India and stated,

“The Committee is concerned that the so-called denotified and nomadic tribes, which were listed for their alleged “criminal tendencies” under the former Criminal Tribes Act (1871), continue to be stigmatised under the Habitual Offenders Act (1952). (art. 2 (1) (c)). The Committee recommends that the State party repeal the Habitual Offenders Act and effectively rehabilitate the denotified and nomadic tribes concerned.” 

NCNDT report

In 2008, the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) produced a report. In continuation of a discussion on CTA repeal, it added, “But, to keep effective control over the so-called hardened criminals, the Habitual Offenders Act was placed in the statute book.”

Thus, the provisions were meant to be similar to the CTA, but identification shifted to the individual, rather than the collective category

Concurrent list

Entry 15 in the Concurrent List (seventh schedule) mentions “vagrancy; nomadic and migratory tribes” implying that both state and centre can legislate on it but contrary to popular perception there never was a Union-level law or statute on this issue. Central government, after CTA repeal, had prepared a model bill. States used this as a template for creating state-level laws on habitual offenders.

  • The earliest is Punjab/Haryana (1918), followed by Madras/Tamil Nadu (1948). Others followed in 1950s/1960s.

2016 Report of NCDNT

A quote from a 2016 Report of the NCDNT sums it up: 

Classification

“After Independence, the erstwhile aborigines were classified as scheduled tribes, the untouchables were classified as scheduled castes and others included in the backward classes. Although, many of the denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes are spread among SC/ST/OBC, many are still not classified anywhere and have no access to socio-economic benefits, whether education, health, housing or otherwise… Except a few states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc, some of these communities figure in various classifications in the states such as Backward Tribe (Puducherry), Most Backward Classes (Tamil Nadu), Extremely Backward Classes (Bihar), “original settlers” in Arunachal Pradesh, Primitive Tribes (Jharkhand/ Odisha), Hill Tribes (Assam) etc. In some states they are called “tribal settlers”. In some states they are called “hidden tribes” etc… There are many anomalies in terms of identification of these communities, from state to state. 

Creation of a district level Grievance redressal committee

“Many people also do not know what a denotified tribe is and which authority is looking after their grievances. Recently, this Commission made a recommendation to the Government of India to write to all state governments to form a district-level Grievances Redressal Committee under the District Collector to hear the grievances of these communities/groups/tribes.” 

Number game

“These communities/tribes account for nearly 10 per cent of community’s population as has been mentioned in some writings and there are nearly 820 communities and tribes in India, although some of the community leaders assess that their number would be more with 198 denotified tribes and nearly 1,500 nomadic tribes and their population may be even more than 10 per cent.”

 This is partly a positive affirmation/ reservation issue. But if one goes through the annexures in the 2016 NCDNT report, some communities want to be recognised as SCs, STs or OBCs. But there are also those who want recognition as DNTs/NTs

Read More: Issues around DNTs in India, Criminal Tribe Act (CTA)


Live Mint


[1] The deleveraging risk in emerging markets


Live Mint

Context

Corporate leverage has increased in recent years because of easy availability of money.

Give the article a go-through once


[2] Transforming the digital payment infrastructure


Live Mint

Context

Implementing a new payment infrastructure will require careful planning, patience and flexibility

In the aftermath of demonetization millions of Indians have switched to digital mode of payments and to encourage it government has announced a host of measures.

Authors state that in order to capitalise on the benefits of demonetization, government will have to acquire a systematic, evidence-driven approach.

M-Pesa

Kenya’s M-Pesa, a mobile money service which allows users with or without bank accounts to transfer and make payments through a basic mobile phone, is often heralded as the exemplary digital financial inclusion success story. Since its launch in 2007, M-Pesa has become an integral part of Kenya’s economy:

  • M-Pesa transactions account for 20% of gross domestic product (GDP) and it is used frequently (by at least one individual in 96% of Kenyan households and by 75% of the unbanked population)
  • Results from a recent, large-scale multi-round panel surveysuggests that access to mobile money (defined as proximity to M-Pesa agents) improved per capita consumption and lifted 194,000—or 2% of Kenyan households—out of poverty. These effects were more pronounced for women and driven by increased savings and greater occupational mobility—185,000 women made the shift from agriculture to business

Read More: You can find the panel survey here

M-Pesa is an exception

Authors state that out of 271 different mobile money services 93 countries worldwide, very fewhave achieved similar levels of growth, particularly among the poor and unbanked.

Read More: Annual State of Mobile money in 2015

Factors that allowed M-Pesa to become a success in Kenya

A unique set of circumstances allowed M-Pesa to become ubiquitous in Kenya. Crucial among them was,

  • High mobile phone penetration (83% of the adult population had access to basic mobile phones)
  • A widespread agent network (approximately one agent for every 1,000 Kenyans)
  • An enabling regulatory environment

Conditions vis-à-vis India

  • Mobile penetration in India61% of Indians own a basic mobile phone and there is significant disparity in access and usage across geography and gender
  • Smartphone ownership:In addition, only 17% of Indians own a smartphone—a major hurdle since, unlike in Kenya where M-Pesa’s USSD technology is independent of phones, most Indian payment wallets are only accessible on smartphones
  • Business Correspondent (BC) Model:Finally, India’s business correspondent (BC) model—the equivalent to the agent network in Kenya—remains relatively underdeveloped. Recent research by the Helix Institute of Digital Finance revealed that in the BC model Indian agents earn a median income of $52 per month compared to agents in Kenya who earn $192 per month

 For a digital payment system to thrive, all these issues need to be addressed.

Read More: Smartphone ownership rates, Research by Helix

Benefit of digital payment systems

Authors state that besides overcoming financial inclusion barriers, digital payment systems can streamline the

  • Public service delivery mechanisms like plugging leakages in MGNREGS
  • Government to person payments like through Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) wherein payments to the poor are being made directly to their accounts by verifying their identities through biometric identification. Evidence from Andhra Pradesh suggests that shifting to an electronic-payment infrastructure along these lines can improve programme delivery by reducing leakages

Andhra example

In 2006, the government of Andhra Pradesh launched a smart-card programme for MGNREGS and social security pensions where payments were delivered to bank accounts linked with biometric smart cards

randomized evaluation of the intervention by affiliates from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) revealed that biometrically authenticated transfers resulted in a faster, less corrupt payment process.

Success in Niger

Similarly, in an unconditional cash transfer programme in Niger, researchers affiliated to J-PAL found that mobile transfers were the most cost-effective delivery mechanism and led to improved household and child-diet diversity.

Why such results?

The study done above attributes these results to the

  • Time-saving associated with cashing out mobile transfers
  • Shifts in intra-household bargaining power for women

Bihar example

In Bihar, a J-PAL evaluation of a fund-flow reform which allowed panchayats to bypass the district and pull MGNREGS wage payments directly from the state account, found that this reduced programme expenditure without a detectable decline in programme performance

Transition can be difficult

Authors state that despite obvious benefits, the transition to a new government-to-person digital payment infrastructure can be challenging

  • Significant infrastructure required: In Niger, the positive impact of mobile transfers relied on significant investments in establishing the mobile payments infrastructure, including access to mobile phones and agents responsible for “cashing-out” transfers
  • Logistical, technical and political difficulties: In Andhra Pradesh, despite high-level government support and investment, only half of all MGNREGS payments in the intervention districts were smart-card-enabled after two years—a reflection of the significant logistical, technical and political challenges in establishing new payment

Systems

Authors suggest

Authors suggest that change can be disruptive as it upset the status-quo. So, one way of implementation is through gradual steps, incentives and evaluation.

Example: In Andhra Pradesh, the programme was rolled out while retaining the status quo system, with banks incentivized for every transaction made on the new system—this allowed programme evaluation, course correction and posed minimal risk of excluding deserving beneficiaries.

Conclusion

Concluding the article, author states that, implementing any new payments infrastructure will require careful planning, patience and flexibility. The government of India should keep this in mind as it seeks to transform the nation’s economy.


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 4th January 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
  1. SC asks list of firms with debts over 500 cr.
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
  1. Two takes on democracy
  2. Secularising the election
  3. The Court reigns Supreme
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]
  1. RBI tells banks to ensure 40% of cash supply reaches rural areas
  2. Union Budget to be presented on February 1
  • Indian Express
  1. Quota demands will only grow with jobless growth
  • Live Mint
  1. Rewriting the rules of political engagement
  2. Reclaiming India’s leverage on Tibet

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief PDF (4th Jan. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] SC asks list of firms with debts over 500 cr.


 The Hindu

Context

Centre asked to provide data on cases pending in Debt Recovery Tribunals for over 10 years

What has happened?

Anxious over the rise in bad loans, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to provide “empirical data” on cases pending in Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) for over 10 years and the list of corporate entities with debts in excess of ₹500 crore

What is a Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT)?

The Debts Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) and Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRATs) were established under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDDBFI Act), 1993 with the specific objective of providing expeditious adjudication and recovery of debts due to Banks and Financial Institution. Presently 34 DRT’s and 5 DRAT’s are functioning in India.6 new DRTs are also being established at Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Dehra Dun, Ernakulam, Hyderabad and Siliguri

Directions by the Bench

  • Detailed report on DRTs: Bench directed the government to provide a complete and detailed report on whether DRTs and their appellate bodies are well-equipped, as far as infrastructure and manpower, to take on defaulting corporate entities which have reneged on loans and render timely justice

Backdrop

The court referred to how the new Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debt Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 11, 2016 with the express purpose of combating pendency in bad loans cases

  • The Bill was referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The panel presented its report to the LS on July 22, 2016. Eventually, a law has been enacted by Parliament and published on August 16 last year. But the SC expressed its scepticism on whether the new legislation by itself would be able to solve the rising pendency in bad loan cases in overburdened DRTs.

Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Two takes on democracy


The Hindu

Context

Article is based on the recent Supreme Court judgement in which it held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate

Note: Refer to brief dated 3rd Jan 2017 for the SC judgement

In the first paragraph itself author presents us with a bounty of questions like,

Q: Do fair elections require that certain kinds of statements — such as appeals to religion, caste, and language — be taken off the campaigning table altogether?

Q: Can the state prevent adult citizens from being exposed to certain ideas before they vote?

Q: Can a court decide that only certain kinds of interests count in a democracy?

Q: Does secularism mandate the complete exclusion of religion from the public sphere? And must identities based upon religion, caste, and language always be treated as evils to be fought and eradicated? Or can they sometimes become sites of emancipation, markers around which citizens organize themselves and seek liberation through the attainment of political power?

Supreme Court’s verdict

SC’s decision came on the Section 123 (3) of RP Act. This section says,

“The appeal by a candidate or hisagent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community….”

Question before the Supreme Court

The question before the Supreme Court was:

Q: Did the underlined word “his” qualify only the electoral candidate (and his agent, or persons speaking with his consent)?

Or

Q: Did it also qualify the person to whom the appeal was addressed (the elector)?

 Interpretation before the verdict

The section does not specify whether “his” refers to the speaker seeking votes, or the audience from whom votes are being sought. The “his” in this clause was understood thus far as a reference to the candidate.

Present situation after the verdict

Judgement has now expanded the interpretation to include the affiliations of the voter as well. It has read sub-section 3 with two other clauses: sub-section 3(A) under Section 123 of the RP Act and Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, both of which deal with the promotion of feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India on grounds of religion, etc

 What is law trying to achieve?

To select one interpretation over the other, we must ask ourselves: what is this law trying to achieve?

 The Majority view

It should be noted that the judgement was delivered by a 7 judge bench which was divided 4:3. The majority view regarding the question: what is this law trying to achieve? was

  • Purity of electoral process: The law was trying to achieve the purity of elections, and that the purity of elections required that appeals to caste, religion, language, and community be kept out of the electoral process. In the view of the majority, an election that was fought and decided on these issues was a distortion of democracy. This was a distortion because of following two reasons,
  • Threatening the consensus: Majority held that for democracy to survive there must be a consensus on certain basic essentials like religion, language etc which could hold and unite the citizens together. Dividing the citizenry on these lines threatens the consensus thereby distorting the democracy
  • Exercise of franchise based on rational thought: Secondly, while democracy depended on voters exercising their franchise on the basis of rational thought and action, appeals to religion, language, and caste were inherently emotive and irrational in nature. To substantiate this, the majority held that its basic purpose was to “curb communal, fissiparous and separatist tendencies”

Therefore, to restrict Section 123(3)’s prohibition only to electoral candidates would be contrary to public interest

Result: Consequently, according to the majority, the word “his” in Section 123(3) was to be understood broadly, referring to both the speaker as well as the audience. In effect, it prohibited appeals to the prohibited “grounds” (religion, caste etc) during the electoral process.

At the heart of disagreement

Author states that at the heart of the disagreement between the majority and the dissent was a disagreement over

  • The idea of citizenship
  • The value of identity

Here is what Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, the author of the dissenting opinion, wrote:

“The Constitution… recognises the position of religion, caste, language and gender in the social life of the nation. Individual histories both of citizens and collective groups in our society are associated through the ages with histories of discrimination and injustice on the basis of these defining characteristics… [and] access to governance is a means of addressing social disparities. Social mobilisation is a powerful instrument of bringing marginalised groups into the mainstream. To hold that a person who seeks to contest an election is prohibited from speaking of the legitimate concerns of citizens that the injustices faced by them on the basis of traits having an origin in religion, race, caste, community or language would be remedied is to reduce democracy to an abstraction.”

  If we try to get to the gist of the above argument, it would be something like this,

  • Constitution recognises the position of religion, caste, language and gender in our society. For example: Secularism, abolition of untouchability, provision of reservation for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens etc
  • There have been discrimination against citizens and groups based on above defining characteristics like religion, caste, language and gender
  • Social mobilization is a powerful tool to bring marginalized groups into mainstream
  • So in the light of above info, to say that a person is prohibited from speaking of legitimate concerns of citizens that how the discrimination faced by them on the basis of religion, caste, language and gender, would be remedied, is wrong. For example, will campaigning for Dalit empowerment count as caste-based canvassing? This may have to be decided on a case-by-case basis but who will decide where to draw the line? Either way, the interpretation could potentially censor all mention of religion, etc

Universal citizen does not exist

Author states that the core philosophy behind the 3 judges who dissented on the case was that the idea of universal citizen did not exist meaning that human beings are always situated within their social contexts, and in India, these contexts have been characterized by religion, language, caste, and community.

So, constitutional law could not, now,

  • Separate an individual from the above characteristics and say to it that he should not deliberate on it in the public sphere (a reference to political leaders)
  • It could not say to those who, for centuries, had been denied dignity and rights on the very basis of their caste, religion, language or community that they were now precluded from organizing around those very markers to liberate themselves

Why cringe at social mobilization around markers of identity?

Dissenting judges stated that these markers of identity (religion, caste, language and gender) have gained social prominence after centuries of being practiced in the open. Now, due to democracy, those citizens who have been discriminated on the basis of these markers have the freedom to mobilise their entire community around the oppression thrown at them on the basis of these markers. They are now using that to gain political power. It was that which allowed B.R. Ambedkar to form the All India Scheduled Castes Federation, a political party exclusively devoted to Dalit emancipation.

Minority’s view

For this reason, the dissent held that Section 123(3) had to be construed narrowly. The phrase “his religion” referred only to the religion of an electoral candidate, and not the religion of the voter. Section 123(3) prohibited statements like “I am a Hindu, vote for me”, or “My opponent is a Hindu, don’t vote for her”.

  • Such a law was permissible, because a candidate was supposed to represent her entire constituency, and not just a subset of it. But, the dissent held, this far and no further. The same logic could not be extended to citizen-electors, when they participated in the electoral process.’
  • The minority favoured limiting the ambit of the sub-section to cover only candidates who sought votes on such grounds, or the rivals they wanted the voters not to back on similar grounds

Contesting viewpoints

These contesting viewpoints must be seen in the correct historical and political context. Religion-based politics has two major drawbacks.

  • It often defaults to an oppositional narrative
  • From an economic and governance standpoint, it is a powerful enough motivator to enable blanket community appeals that cut across economic inequalities. Such broadcasting can sometimes lead to blocs voting against their rational interests

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that SC has presented us with two sides of an issue. It is up to us to deliberate and ask ourselves as to which explanation of the two appeals to us based on the ideals of our plural and diverse democracy.


[2] Secularising the election


The Hindu

Context

Supreme Court has grappled with the question whether a provision in electoral law that makes it a corrupt practice to use religion, race, caste or language as a ground for canvassing votes in an election.

Issue dealt in this editorial has already been covered in detail

Give it a go-through once.


[3] The Court reigns Supreme


 The Hindu

Context

Effective immediately, any BCCI and State associations’ official must be eligible as per the Lodha Committee’s eligibility criteria.

Issue: SC’s recent decision to remove top leadership of BCCI

SC’s decision

  • Lodha Committee’s criteria: Effective immediately, any BCCI and State associations’ official must be eligible as per the Lodha Committee’s eligibility criteria
  • Interim-president appointed: The senior-most eligible vice-president will be the interim president of the BCCI, and the joint secretary will be the interim secretary for the next two weeks
  • Committee of administrators: The court also appointed two senior advocates to propose names for a committee of administrators that will essentially govern cricket and simultaneously ensure implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations
  • Eligible officials must provide a declaration that they will be in compliance with the Lodha Committee’s directives

Final order on Jan 19th

In what is expected to be the final order on this matter, on January 19 the Supreme Court will release the names of the committee of administrators, and the transition to the court-appointed administration era will officially commence

Author suggests

As per author instead of an unelected and subjectively appointed committee, an interim committee tasked solely with the implementation of the court’s verdict and to oversee a transparent and fair election would have been ideal

Conclusion

The Supreme Court and the Lodha Committee’s work here, as the saying goes, is done. But the real challenges and work towards ensuring not just a successful governance regimen but an equally successful on- and off-pitch tenure for the new leadership has just begun.

Read More: SC bowls out top BCCI bosses


ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] RBI tells banks to ensure 40% of cash supply reaches rural areas


The Hindu

Context

The Reserve Bank of India has directed banks to ensure that at least 40 per cent of the supply of bank notes should reach rural areas

Why such directions have been issued?

The banking regulator has observed that “bank notes, being supplied to rural areas, at present, are not commensurate with the requirements of rural population.”

Directions by RBI

Banks should advise their currency chests to step up issuance of fresh notes to rural branches of Regional Rural Banks, District Central Cooperative Banks and commercial banks, White Label ATMs in rural areas and post offices in rural areas on a priority basis.


[2] Union Budget to be presented on February 1


 The Hindu

Context

Departing from convention, the Union Budget will be presented in Parliament on February 1. The Union Cabinet had earlier decided to end the practice of a separate Railway budget

News

The Union Budget will be presented in Parliament on February 1, a month earlier than the usual, and the Economic Survey will be tabled on January 31, the same day President Pranab Mukherjee addresses the joint Houses of Parliament.

  • The first part of the Budget session will run from January 31 to February 9

Read More: Doing away with the rail budget, Understanding the rationale behind the merger of rail and general budget


Indian Express


[1] Quota demands will only grow with jobless growth


 Indian Express

 Context

While its demographic dynamism requires the creation of more than eight million jobs a year, India is not doing well on that front

In the first few paragraphs author has listed the recent agitations for reservation by various communities in India, like

  • Patidars/patels in Gujarat
  • Jats in Haryana and neighboring states – a pretty violent affair
  • Marathas in Maharashtra – after a young Maratha girl was allegedly raped by a Dalit but this movement was a non-violent in nature
  • Kapus in Andhra Pradesh

What these movements reflect?

Author states that these movements reflect the differentiation among the big caste groups along class lines:

  • While those in the upper strata have benefited from growth, those at the bottom of the pyramid have been badly affected by the crisis of India’s agriculture
  • According to a 2016 report of the Labour Bureau, 42 per cent of the rural population is underemployed. This causes a flow of migrants to towns and cities — but those who leave their homes in villages to find a job in the private sector are often frustrated too

Lack of jobs: Jobless growth

Author points out that the demographic condition requires creation of more than eight million jobs a year, India is not doing well on that front

  • Stats: According to the Labour Bureau, which has been surveying 8 sectors of industry since 2009 (textiles/apparel, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewellery, transport, information technology/business process outsourcing and handloom/powerloom),
    • The number of jobs created by these industries is declining: From 6,40,000 in 2009 to 1,17,000 in 2014, in spite of a 7 to 8 per cent growth rate

Foreign investment

Author states that although foreign corporates have committed to invest $ 225 billion over five years. However, these FDIs will officially translate into only six million jobs because of the highly capitalistic nature of these companies.

Lack of well-paying jobs

Not only are the jobs too few, they are precarious and do not pay well.

  • Earning in private sector: In the private sector, the average daily earnings of workers was Rs 249 in 2011-12, according to the Labour Bureau and those of all employees was Rs 388
  • Earning in public sector:By contrast, wages in the public sector are almost three times more: Rs 679 for workers and Rs 945 for all employees. The seventh pay commission recently recommended an increase in the minimum monthly salary from Rs 7,000 to Rs 18,000.

Quota: Not a solution

Author states that all of the above points explain the demands for job quotas by dominant castes but quota is not a solution because

  • Few opportunities: Opportunities are very few. There were 19.5 million jobs in the public sector in 1992-1993 when India’s population was 839 million. While the country’s population is now 1.3 billion, the number of jobs in the public sector has shrunk to 17.6 million
  • Unconstitutional: Positive discrimination has been designed in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes by our constitution. Most dominant castes are not backward; only a fraction are. For that reason, the courts systematically strike down the quotas introduced by governments for such castes.
    • The courts also strike down additional quotas because they push up the proportion of reservation above the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court

Author suggests

  • Focus on job creation: Instead of a providing class-based reservations government should focus on creating jobs
  • Facilitating SMEs: Governments should facilitate small and medium enterprises which have a labor intensity about four times that of large firms. Many such enterprises are in bad shape, not just because of financial problems caused by demonetisation, but also because their access to credit is shrinking.

Live Mint


[1] Rewriting the rules of political engagement


Live Mint

Context

The apex court’s decision against canvassing for votes on grounds of religion, caste, creed, community or language moves into tricky territory.

SC’s recent judgement has been covered in detail in The Hindu Editorial section and the relevant points from this article have been clubbed in over there.

Give it a go-through once


[2] Reclaiming India’s leverage on Tibet


Live Mint

Context

India’s instinctive chariness and reserve on the issue persist, despite an increasingly muscular China upping the ante against it

Issue: India, China and Tibet

Author’s contention

India has stayed mum on increasing Chinese repression in Tibet. But now, it is allowing itself to come under Chinese pressure on the Dalai Lama’s activities and movements within India.

What has happened?

The Dalai Lama attended a public event at RashtrapatiBhavan and met President Pranab Mukherjee. The government did the right thing by permitting the Dalai Lama to participate in the event, especially since it was organized for children’s welfare by Nobel laureates, a group that includes the Dalai Lama himself.

  • China’s protest: China protested the Dalai Lama’s presence at RashtrapatiBhavan. It’s foreign ministry issued the following statement

“Demanding that India respect China’s “core interests” to avoid “any disturbance” to bilateral ties, the Chinese foreign ministry stated, “China has urged India to clearly recognize the Dalai Lama’s anti-Chinese and separatist nature, to respect China’s core interests and concerns, to take effective measures to eliminate the negative influences of the incident, and to avoid disturbing China-India ties,” adding, “Recently in disregard of China’s solemn representation and strong opposition, the Indian side insisted on arranging for the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to the Indian presidential palace, where he took part in an event and met President Mukherjee”

 What India should have done?

Author points out that India should have strongly reminded China so as to not meddle in its internal affairs

What India actually did?

The ministry of external affairs responded to explain the matter to Beijing, saying,

“India has a consistent position. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is a respected and revered spiritual leader. It was a non-political event organized by Nobel laureates dedicated to the welfare of children”

 Progression of Chinese opposition

Author points out that from objecting to official discussions between the Dalai Lama and a foreign head of state or government, China’s opposition has progressed to protesting his presence at any state-linked event or even his purely spiritual visit to another country, as to Mongolia recently. It has also sought to curtail his freedom within a free India.

 The Mongolian example

Take Mongolia, which has had close links with Tibet ever since the great Mongol king, Altan Khan, converted to Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, the fourth Dalai Lama was born in Mongolia. But when Mongolia in November stood up to China by permitting the Dalai Lama to undertake a four-day religious tour involving no official meeting, Beijing responded as a typical bully by freezing ties and seeking to throttle its economy—dependent on commodity exports to China—by slapping punitive tariffs and shutting a key border crossing point. And it kept up the coercive pressure until Mongolia, battling a recession, agreed not to allow the Dalai Lama in again even for a religious tour.

Author suggests

  • Ignore Chinese protests on Tibet: The way to deal with China on such an issue is to ignore its protests and keep doing more frequently what it finds objectionable so as to blunt its objections. This approach is necessary in order to send a clear message that China cannot arrogantly lay down terms for India to follow. India can use the Tibet card to its advantage here. Tibet is to India against China what Pakistan is to China against India. When China doesn’t hesitates in balancing India with Pakistan by initiatives like CPEC or supplying it with nuclear weapons and other tech, why should India do so?
  • Fixing the asymmetrical trade: China has a rapidly growing trade surplus with India amounting to around $60 billion a year. India needs to fix this asymmetrical trade relationship with China

 Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that without India asserting itself by reopening the Tibet issue, China will continue to breathe down its neck and seek to dictate terms. For example, when the Dalai Lama tours Arunachal Pradesh shortly, Beijing will again unleash its diplomatic fury by intimidating India.


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Briefs – 3rd January 2017

 



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]

  1. SC extends judicial review powers
  2. Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC
  3. Centre stalling judicial transfers: SC
  4. Agni-IV test a ‘grand success’
  5. It will be a disservice to the ‘little man’: SC
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]

  1. All’s not well in the Army
  2. What is special about special courts?
  3. When women eat last
  4. New Year’s-eve tragedy in Turkey
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]

  1. Demonetisation hits manufacturing sector
  • Indian Express

  1. Quotas are for justice, not to plug job holes

Live Mint

  1. Demonetisation and welfare

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Current Affairs PDF (3rd Jan. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] SC extends judicial review powers


The Hindu

Context

In a blow to Ordinance Raj, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court widened the boundaries of judicial review to the extent that it can now examine whether the President or the State Governor was spurred by an “oblique motive” to bypass the legislature and promulgate an ordinance

What has SC ruled?

The satisfaction of the President under Article 123 and of the Governor under Article 213 is not immune from judicial review

Fraud

In case the apex court concludes that the President or the Governor was influenced by ulterior motives to promulgate the ordinance, such an act by the two constitutional authorities would amount to a fraud on their respective powers

Backdrop

The question that came up in reference before the seven-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur dealt with the constitutionality of seven successive re-promulgations of the Bihar Non-Government Sanskrit Schools (Taking Over of Management and Control) Ordinance of 1989.

  • The State government had approached the Supreme Court after the Patna High Court declared that repeated re-promulgation of the ordinances was unconstitutional after relying on the D.C. Wadhwa judgment on the dos and don’ts of promulgation of ordinances by another Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in 1986

Read More: Repromulgation game,judicial review vs Judicial overreach vs judicial activism


[2] Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC


The Hindu

Context

Terming religion a very private relationship between man and his God, a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment (4:3), held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate.

SC said that

Election is a secular exercise and therefore a process should be followed… The relationship between man and God is an individual choice and state should keep this in mind

Backdrop

SC was interpreting the word “his” in the Sec 123 (3) of Representation of People Act

  • The provision mandates that it would amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ if a candidate or his agent or any other person, with his consent, appeals for votes on religious or such grounds

The Question

The question referred to the Constitution Bench led by CJI T.S. Thakur on a batch of poll petitions was,

 Whether the word ‘his’ only meant a bar on appeals made in the name of the candidate or his rival or his agent or others in his immediate camp. Or, does the word also extend to soliciting votes on the basis of the religion, caste, community, race, language of the electorate as a whole.


[3]Centre stalling judicial transfers: SC


The Hindu

Context

Recommendations of the Collegium cannot be allowed to languish on somebody’s desk, says CJI.

Article throws light on the ongoing tussle between the government and the judiciary over the judicial appointments.

Give it a go-through.


[4] Agni-IV test a ‘grand success’


The Hindu

Context

It can carry a nuclear warhead weighing one tonne over a distance of more than 4,000 km

Simple article detailing the success of the latest Agni launch.

Give it a go through once


[5] It will be a disservice to the ‘little man’: SC


 The Hindu

Context

The question referred to the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on a batch of election petitions was whether the word ‘his’ used in Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act only meant a bar on appeals made in the name of the candidate or his rival or his agent or others in his immediate camp.

News has already been covered

Give it a go-through once


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] All’s not well in the Army


The Hindu

Context

A military force with sharp internal divisions and discontent in the ranks has far-reaching national security implications. It’s time the defence establishment got its act together.

Issue: Various issues plaguing the Indian army

Addressing the problems

Author states that there is an urgent need to address the

  • Lopsided promotion trends in the Army
  • Shortage of over 9000 officers
  • Rising infighting within the force, and their implications for India’s national security.

Controversial appointment

Appointment of Gen Rawat has been a controversial one as he has been made army chief by superseding two of his seniors. Those people who are supporting his appointment, author says that, are missing few points,

  1. No compelling reason: To breach a well-established tradition in a conservative and hierarchical institution like the Army, the government should have a convincing and compelling reason which it doesn’t seem to have
  2. Merit argument is flawed: The argument of merit is largely redundant at the topmost levels of an organisation where all officers are equally competent, failing which they wouldn’t have made it to the Lt. Gen. rank in the first place
  3. Subjective criteria: There is no objective criteria for deciding merit at the senior levels of the Army brass besides previous annual confidential reports and civilian considerations, both of which are subjective
  4. Coordinator not an operational commander: The argument that Gen. Rawat has the required experience in certain theatres is again beside the point because the “Chief of the Army Staff” is not an operational commander but a coordinator and chief strategist
  5. Politicisation of armed forces: Non-traditional appointments without a compelling rationale set a bad precedent and could potentially lead to the politicisation of the armed forces. Imagine senior Generals of the Army running around ruling party politicians to make it to the top!

Politically Wrong signal

Author states that as per speculations third in line Gen Bakshi might be appointed as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). By ignoring second in line Gen Hariz (a Muslim officer) government is sending a wrong signal

Just a counter-insurgent force

The justification of Gen. Rawat’s appointment as stemming from his experience in dealing with insurgency is also indicative of the deeply entrenched tactical thinking within the government at the Centre. This then means that the present government considers anti-militancy and counter-insurgency operations to be the fundamental job description of the Indian Army ignoring the other important aspects like strategic planning and an appreciation of the long-term strategic environment.

 Promotion-related discrimination

  • Disproportionate opportunities: Infantry and artillery officers frequently get appointed to the top ranks in the army. Officers from other wings, especially the Armoured Corps and Mechanised Infantry, have been publicly voicing their concerns. This is over and above the fact that only officers from the fighting arms of the Army make it to the top, meaning that those from Engineers and Signals don’t even stand a chance of doing so.  This already existing discrimination is getting even more glaring thanks to the new promotion policy adopted by the Army. The victims of the new policy have been fighting it out in the Supreme Court.
  • Chiefs often promote officers from their own regiment

Ill-designed reservation policy

  • Kargil Review Committee report: The current debate about the Army’s promotion policy has its genesis in the Kargil Review Committee report which recommended that promotion to the Colonel and Brigadier levels should be made quicker so that younger officers can command battalions and brigades
  • AVSC Committee: The AjaiVikram Singh Committee (AVSC) made some important recommendations in 2001 to restructure the officer cadre in the Army. Among other things, it recommended,
  • Command Exit Model: The implementation of the Command Exit model (as opposed to the pro rata basis) for promotion to the colonel level. The pro-rata basis model gave advantage to infantry and artillery officers and the Command Exit model gives even more advantage to infantry
  • Command Exit Model prescribed differentiated command tenures (that is, the length of the tenures of commanding officers i.e., colonels before promotion to the next level)
  • Tenures fixed under AVSC: the AVSC fixed the command tenure of Infantry officers at 2.5 years, that of Armoured/Mechanised Infantry and Artillery at three years, and Engineers and Signals at four years. This has not only led to quicker promotions for officers from the Infantry but they have also successively managed to corner the Army chief’s post as well, including the last four times. The last four Army Chiefs, including the current one, have been infantry officers.

 Violates of Article 14

This ill-designed policy was challenged by serving officers in the Armed Forces Tribunal, which squashed the new promotion policy, holding that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution.

  • SC upheld the policy: However, the Supreme Court in February 2016 upheld the policy, at the same time asking the government to create 141 additional posts at the rank of colonel to be granted to officers from Engineers, Signals and Air Defence
  • Present situation: Around 350 senior Army officers have again approached the Supreme Court seeking a review of its February judgment

 Author suggests

Author states that though politicisation of army is indeed harmful it may also not be a good idea to let the Army handle its own business as it deems fit.

  • Civilian oversight: It is time to consider civilian oversight of the promotion process at the highest levels of the armed forces. However, civil servants in the MoD (Ministry of Defence) or the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet can’t alone be entrusted with that job.
    • Empowered Parliamentary Standing committee/Selection Committee: Ideally, such high-level appointments should either be vetted by an empowered Parliamentary Standing committee on Defence or be decided by a ‘bipartisan’ Selection Committee composed along the lines of the one that selects the Central Bureau of Investigation chief and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

Need for reform

Author correctly points out that an armed force suffering with sharp internal divisions and discontent in the ranks can pose challenges for the country’s national security and the morale and cohesion of the fighting forces.

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that government and the new army chief should take urgent measures to address the source of the problems of the growing discontent within the armed forces. Also, the senior Army leadership needs to rise above parochial regimental considerations and look after the interests of the force as a whole rather than those of their own regiments.


[2] What is special about special courts?


The Hindu

Context

The legislature has introduced special courts on many occasions through various laws, usually with the intention to enable quick and efficient disposal of cases.

Short study

In a short study by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, 764 Central laws enacted and amended between 1950 and 2015 (excluding laws that were repealed in this period or that may have been amended after 2015), were examined to determine the frequency of their occurrence.

  • Methodology: These statutes were looked for only mentions of ‘special’ or ‘designated’ courts or judges, that is, courts or judges established to ensure effective trial and that have powers of district or sessions courts. Forums like quasi-judicial bodies, tribunals, and commissions were excluded.
  • Observations: It was found that only three laws provided for special courts between 1950 and 1981, whereas between 1982 and 2015, 25 laws mandated the establishment of such courts
    • The five-year period from 1982 to 1987 witnessed an unexplained spurt in the number of laws creating special courts
    • A similar increase was seen between 2012 and 2015
    • The largest number of special/designated courts were created between 1982 and 1992. However, there is no categorical rationale for these developments

Setting up and designating special courts

Laws interchangeably use the terms ‘set up’ or ‘designate’ with respect to special courts

  • Setting up vs designating: Setting up a special court may require new infrastructure and facilities, whereas a designated court merely adds additional responsibilities to an existing court

 Studying the nature and frequency

Based on the availability of data, following laws were studied to observe the nature and frequency of institution of ‘special courts’:

  • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (POA), 1989:
    • Huge pendency rate under POA: The pendency rates in courts for cases filed under POA are huge. While the national average is 84.1 per cent, States like Maharashtra and West Bengal have pegged their respective pendency rates well above the average. The number of cases being registered from these States has also been significant. However, the absence of exclusive courts in these States has been stark
  • National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (NIA Act): Under the NIA Act, in spite of mandating special courts, all the courts set up have been designated courts
  • Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (POCA): There have been several special courts and fast track courts being set up under POCA although the total number of cases registered is nearly 1/10th of cases under POA

 No exclusivity

From the available data, it is fairly conclusive that there is no exclusivity in ‘special courts’. Laws enacted in the last three decades have considered special courts as quick remedy for questions of delays in trial. However, a striking absence of number of ‘special courts’ set up provides a glaring contrast to such an objective. Notably, in most instances where existing courts are designated as special courts, the original intent of speedy disposal of cases seems to have been defeated

  • Absence of rationale behind designating courts as special courts and actually setting up special courts has rendered the whole exercise in efficiency as useless.

Limitations of the study

Poor quality or complete absence of data remains a major concern for this study. Official websites (for instance, nodal ministries) did not always have the latest updated versions of statutes. The status of these laws is difficult to assess as information about the number of courts set up or designated under various laws is not always available.

Open questions

Author points out that, this study throws open many questions for research like,

Q: What is so special about special courts if they only provide an additional forum to dispose cases?

Q: Is this purpose still served if existing courts are merely designated as special courts without any new infrastructure being created?

Q: Can inferences be drawn about the state of the judicial system where special courts have been introduced by way of amendments to parent laws?

Q: Is the legislature monitoring the health of special cour


[3] When women eat last


The Hindu

Context

India has a major child malnutrition problem. Women’s undernourishment contributes substantially to India’s unacceptably high rates of child stunting.

Issue: Author relates the problem of child stunting with mal nourishment faced Indian mothers

Mal nourishment problem in India

India has a major child malnutrition problem.

  • The Rapid Survey on Children (2012-13) found that about 4 in 10 children are stunted

Impact of stunting

  • On average, children who are stunted do less well in school, earn less, and die sooner than children who are not

 Causes of stunting

There are many causes of child stunting.

  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Poor sanitation: Research shows that poor sanitation spreads diseases that sap children’s energy and stunts their growth
  • Maternal health: The health of a child’s mother matters critically for whether or not the child is stunted
    • The first two years of life are the most important time for a child’s physical and cognitive growth. During this time, she depends heavily on her mother for nutrition. As a growing foetus, she gets all her food from her mother’s bloodstream

Maternal undernourishment: A potent contributor to child stunting in India

Research shows that many Indian women start pregnancy underweight and gain little weight during pregnancy. This leads to low birth weight babies, high rates of neonatal mortality, and less successful breastfeeding. Women’s undernourishment contributes substantially to India’s unacceptably high rates of child stunting.

Why are Indian women so malnourished?

Here, too, poverty and sanitation play a role. But a recent survey that author conducted with a team of economics and sociology researchers suggests that widespread discrimination against women in their own homes likely plays an important role too.

Survey by SARI

Social Attitudes Research for India (SARI) is a new phone survey that seeks to interview representative samples of 18-65-year-olds. One of the things SARI measures is discrimination against women.

Measuring discrimination in food intake

One aspect of discrimination against women that matters for health is whether women eat less or worse quality food than men.  In order to measure discrimination in women’s food intake, SARI used a question that was previously tested and used by the India Human Development Survey (2011):

“When your family eats lunch or dinner, do the women usually eat with the men? Or do the women usually eat first? Or do the men usually eat first?” 

How the above question matters?

Answers to these questions have implications for nutrition because in households with a limited food budget, or where there is no refrigerator to store leftover food, the person who eats last very often gets less or lower quality food than people who eat before her.

Observations

The IHDS 2011 survey interviewed married women aged 15-49 and found that one in five women in Delhi and half of the women in Uttar Pradesh said they ate after men did.

  • Situation worsens 5 years later: When SARI included the same question in the survey five years later, it found even higher numbers. One in three adults in Delhi, and six in ten adults in U.P. said they lived in households where men eat first

Author suggests

While the results may vary, the underlying problem remains the same ie  the practice of making women eat last is widespread in Delhi and U.P., and that it has important implications for a child’s health

  • Promoting gender equality: While the government cannot force people to give women an equal share of food, it could do a lot more to promote gender equality
    • It could publicise and condemn this practice. It could also more aggressively pursue policies to address discrimination against women in other domains
    • Encouraging girls’ education, discouraging dowry, supporting marriage choice, and encouraging female labour force participation would all give women more power to challenge this damaging practice.

[4]New Year’s-eve tragedy in Turkey


 The Hindu

Context

The New Year’s-eve attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed at least 39 people, mostly foreigners including two Indians, is yet another reminder of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Turkey.

Article provides a brief description of the deteriorating situation in Turkey.

Give it a go-through once.


ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] Demonetisation hits manufacturing sector


 The Hindu

Context

Demonetisation of high-value currency notes in November has begun to hit the manufacturing sector

Impact

Cash flow issues among firms also led to reduction in purchasing activity and employment

  • The withdrawal of high-value rupee notes caused the downturn in December since shortage of cash had resulted in a lower number of new orders.

Indian Express


[1] Quotas are for justice, not to plug job holes


 The Hindu

Context

Demonetisation of high-value currency notes in November has begun to hit the manufacturing sector

Impact

Cash flow issues among firms also led to reduction in purchasing activity and employment

  • The withdrawal of high-value rupee notes caused the downturn in December since shortage of cash had resulted in a lower number of new orders

Live Mint


[1] Demonetisation and welfare


Live Mint

Context

While evaluating demonetisation, one must account for any associated economic losses to the public.

Article tries to evaluate demonetization in a balanced way.

Give it a go-through.


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 2nd January 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
  1. Pak. endorses China’s block on Masood Azhar
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
  1. Playing the angles, with Russia
  2. Not just about a quota
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]
  1. Hoarded black money to be converted into cheaper loans’
  2. ‘Demonetisation alters economy’s recovery path’
  3. Packing food, drugs at a blistering pace
  • Indian Express
  1. The Middle Ground On Water
  2. India’s interests tilt eastwards, it walks a new tightrope
  3. Expand partnership with US, limit rifts with China
  • Live Mint
  1. GST: anti-profiteering measures necessary?
  2. Demonetisation’s hydra-headed critics

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF (2nd Jan. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] Pak. endorses China’s block on Masood Azhar


 The Hindu

Context

Pakistan has endorsed the block that China has imposed on India’s campaign at the United Nations Security Council to blacklist a Pakistan-based terror group chief.

Pakistan’s view

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Pakistan termed “politically motivated” India’s campaign to impose a ban on Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed and said the Indian proposal at the 1267 counter-terror committee of the U.N. Security Council had “no merit”

Significance of Pakistan’s statement

The strongly worded statement is significant as it came on the eve of the first anniversary of the Pathankot attack of January 2, 2016. It was in the aftermath of the attack that India intensified its global campaign targeting Azhar. 


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Playing the angles, with Russia


The Hindu

Context

If Donald Trump succeeds in what Barack Obama failed to do, which is resetting ties with an aggressive Russia, it could trigger a cascade of geostrategic realignments across the world.

Article is a commentary on the US-Russia bilateral dynamics.

Give it a go-through once.


[2] Not just about a quota


 The Hindu

Context

We need to educate children in schools about caste, ethnic, gender and regional diversities and have public policy interventions to make society more equal and fair.

Survey by SARI

A new survey called SARI, Social Attitudes Research for India, investigated what people in cities, towns, and villages think about reservations.

  • Methodology: SARI uses a sampling frame based on mobile phone subscriptions, random digit dialing, within-household sample selection, and statistical weights to build representative samples of adults 18-65 years old

Survey results

  • The lowest opposition to reservation is among respondents from the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC), while the highest opposition is found among general caste respondents
  • No need for reservation: A majority of the most educated and historically well-to-do communities in Delhi do not feel that people from marginalised groups should get government support for representation in social and public spheres

Top 3 reasons for Delhiites’ opposition to reservation

  • Merit: When people say that jobs and seats in schools should be allocated on the basis of “merit,” they are referring to the fact that people from reserved categories are often given a concession of a few points on exams and in interviews
  • This view overlooks the important disadvantages that people from reserved categories face in going to school or getting a job
  • We cannot expect groups who have been historically deprived of education, skills, and access to other means of economic mobility to suddenly start competing with those from groups who have had access to these means for centuries
  • Equality: Some of the respondents in the survey said that they opposed reservation because they believe in equality. However, reservation is a policy tool that promotes equality rather than undermines it. The primary reason why reservation was written into India’s Constitution was to ensure representation of all social groups in positions of power. When people from all social groups are represented in government, higher education, and in business, it is less likely that traditionally marginalised groups will continue to be denied fundamental rights and access to their fair share of society’s resources
  • Income-based reservation: Some people say that they oppose today’s reservations because they believe reservation should be made on the basis of income rather than social background. However, reservation is intended not to be an anti-poverty programme. The government has many programmes which are, in principle, accessible to all poor people. Reservation exists because, in addition to being more likely to be poor than general castes, Dalits, backward Muslims, and Adivasis face social discrimination and exclusion that poor people from general caste backgrounds do not face.

Purpose of reservation

Reservation is a policy tool that is used not only in India.

  • A tool to overcome human prejudice: In many countries, reservation or other types of affirmative action are used to try to overcome human prejudice based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, caste or any other group identity
  • To encourage representation of and participation by groups traditionally excluded and discriminated against

Steps to make idea of reservation more acceptable

  • Creating awareness through education: One way to make these measures more acceptable and help people better understand the historic, social and cultural background behind reservation would be to educate children in schools about caste, ethnic, gender and regional diversities and the need for public policy interventions to make society more equal and fair. 

ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] Hoarded black money to be converted into cheaper loans’


The Hindu

Context

Regarding policy after demonetization

Channeling the wealth

Government has expressed that its future agenda is,

To channel the wealth that was previously being hoarded as black money into cheaper capital for affordable housing, women’s health, the agriculture sector, and medium and small enterprises.


[2] ‘Demonetisation alters economy’s recovery path’


The Hindu

Context

Article presents us with different views regarding aftereffects of demonetization

 What economists are saying?

  1. Hurt private consumption: The Centre’s demonetisation move has hurt private consumption and impacted sectors such as real estate, automobiles and FMCG, which in turn has altered the economy’s recovery path in the short-term
  2. Some benefits: But it could yield some benefits in the medium- to long-term, provided follow-up measures are taken and there’s no return to an era of inspectors and tax terrorism. Demonetisation will have medium-to-long term benefits for the economy as an increasing share of economic activity gets formalised, not to mention the message such a policy move will send against corruption and black-money hoarders.
  3. Spending by farm community hit: Spending by the farming community, which was expected to pick up due to the higher kharif output and the stronger monsoon, has been squeezed due to despair sales taking place because of the unavailability of cash and the fact that all mandi transactions are carried out in cash
  4. Demand hit:The sector-specific immediate effects of demonetisation have been mostly negative. Demand has taken a hit, whether it is in automobiles, motorcycles, real estate, or construction except the airlines which have shown improvement
  5. Lost momentum:In the run-up to the demonetisation announcement on November 8, private sector investment was on the cusp of a recovery on the back of recovering household demand, easing inflation, and the boost to agriculture due to the stronger monsoon. This momentum has since been lost, and will likely begin to return only in the next financial year.

[3] Packing food, drugs at a blistering pace


 The Hindu

Context

About 80 per cent of cold-form blister packaging is currently imported and the aim is to bring that figure down to zero.

What’s happening?

The more than $25 billion Indian packaging industry, growing at a rate of about 10 per cent, is initiating major steps to develop innovative packaging for all segments, but mainly for pharmaceutical and food products, even as the country bids to radically boost its exports.

Need for such steps

  • Reducing the import of packaging material: These efforts are aimed at reducing the import of packaging materials and to produce those materials in India so that the country becomes self-reliant and emerges as a key supplier base for the world
  • Present situation:Currently, India imports large volumes of packaging material. India imports packaging materials of more than Rs. 360 crore per year for packaging of pharmaceutical products alone.

 Need for cold-form blister packaging

Developed countries use, and demand, advanced packaging for pharmaceuticals to keep products safe. These are done through cold-form blister packaging which is used extensively around the world.

  • Situation in India: Currently, 80 per cent of cold-form blister packaging is imported

Tsutsumi

Author states that in packaging, India has traditionally looked to post-World War II Japan for inspiration. While the industry there derived from western packaging methods, they were integrated with the traditional Japanese concept of packaging called Tsutsumi – which is described as the concept of gentle concealment, which in turn, is a part of the traditional Japanese sense of beauty.

Modified atmosphere packaging

Since India is one of the largest producers of agriculture products, mainly fruits and vegetables, maximum emphasis is now given to increase the shelf life of these products and to reduce wastage through innovative packaging.

  • As per rough calculations, up to 40 per cent of such produce gets wasted at farms due to lack of appropriate logistics and a cold chain
  • To deal with this problem, the packaging industry has developed modified atmosphere packaging which is based on the respiratory rate of the items
  • Gold Medal: The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) of America, regarded as tops in the field of packaging, awarded India a gold medal, its highest recognition for modified atmosphere packaging because it has extended the shelf life of fruits and flowers being exported from India

 Benefits to economy

A higher standard for packaging has advantages for businesses organisations but more importantly, it has potential to bring significant benefits to the country’s economy.

  • More than just the basic price: Every day huge amount of raw meat is exported to the Middle Eastern countries and we just get the basic price as value addition is done there. It is the same old story. Cotton was grown in India and sent to England for processing so value addition went there. The hard work was done here. So why can’t we do the value-addition here by processing, packaging and supplying
  • The industry also has scope for providing large scale employment

Higher Certification standards in India soon

India has its own packaging standard in the form of BIS certification which is voluntary in nature but a far higher standard, at par with the developed world is in the works and would be made mandatory for packaging of products for the export markets

  • Committee formed: The Union Commerce Ministry has constituted an expert committee comprising importers, players from the packaging industry and other experts to review existing standards and formulate new standards which will be implemented within a couple of years.

Capturing a part of global market

Worldwide, packaging is a $975 billion industry and is expected to reach close to $1000 billion this year.

  • The Indian packaging industry is estimated at $25 billion and is set to grow to $30 billion by 2020. The ultimate target is to capture a significant portion of the abovementioned global market.

Make in India

Developing indigenous packaging standards coupled with home-grown innovation in this field underlines the vision of “Make-in India”

Export potential

Indian Institute of Packaging, the apex body for packaging, said the government had identified a few products that have export potential. “There we need a packaging standard,” Dr. Saha said. India has an old packaging standard for tea which is being upgraded. It is also updating packaging standards for spices. These sectors have significant export potential”

Read More: Cold-form blister packaging. 


Indian Express


[1] The Middle Ground On Water


Indian Express

Context

Permanent Water Tribunal needs supplementary institutions.

Issue: Inter-state water disputes (Setting up of a permanent tribunal)

Present situation

Under the existing arrangement, the Interstate (River) Water Disputes Act 1956 (IWRDA) provides for constituting temporary and exclusive tribunals for each dispute

 Situation after Permanent tribunal is set

It will subsume and replace all the existing tribunals and provide a permanent avenue for resolving inter-state water disputes

Why set up a permanent tribunal?
To address the frequent recurrence and escalation of the disputes, and extended litigations causing long delays in their resolution

This article tries to answer the following question,

Can the PT address these problems for better resolution of the disputes?

Proposals

Author points out at different proposals given to resolve the problem of ever increasing inter-state water disputes and the entire institutional set up that is in place to deal with them. Following two proposals have been suggested,

  • Repeal the IWRDA so that the onus of the disputes adjudication, by default, would fall on the Supreme Court (SC). If done, this will be against Article 262 which bars Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over water disputes
  • Status-Quo: Other proposal is to continue with the present arrangement while amending IWRDA to improve its effectiveness. The IWRDA has gone through several amendments. Evidently, these have not helped 

Permanent tribunal: A middle ground

Author states that a permanent tribunal is a middle ground to the abovementioned proposals. It offers a permanent avenue for dispute adjudication and does not contravene constitutional provisions

Features of permanent tribunal

  • Set up via IWRDA: It will apparently be set up through an amendment to the IWRDA.
  • Exclusive benches:Reports suggest that the disputes will be dealt with by exclusive benches
  • Dispute Resolution Committee: There will also be a Dispute Redressal Committee (DRC) to mediate a resolution before disputes are referred to benches for adjudication

Author, now, asks the following question,

 How will a permanent tribunal fare when the states have not only challenged tribunal decisions, but also defied SC orders in some instances?

 Issue

The SC has recently ruled that Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) over inter-state water disputes are maintainable in the Cauvery dispute.

  • Likely Outcome: This is likely to encourage states approaching the SC against tribunal decisions, leading to extended litigation and delays

 Unique nature of inter-state water disputes

Author points out at the nature of inter-state water disputes,

  1. They are transboundary conflicts& sites of permanent contestation
  2. Nexus between water politics and democratic politics: Inter-state water disputes are often an outcome of the nexus between water politics and democratic politics

Supplemental measures: DRC is a right step

Author states that water disputes are a site of permanent and frequent escalation. So there needs to be a mechanism which can address such matters on a regular basis so that things do not go beyond control. This cannot be provided by legal adjudication alone, and has to be supplemented by institutional responses both before and after legal adjudication. Hence, the DRC is a right step as an ex-ante measure (step based on forecast rather than actual data) to avoid legal adjudication.

Ex-post measures

Author states that measures taken after legal adjudication should be proactive and underline the innovative institutional practices and processes but this is where the huge gap lies.

  1. Lack of institutional models: We do not have robust and replicable institutional models for inter-state cooperation
  2. The River Boards Act 1956, which is supposed to facilitate inter-state collaboration over water resource development remained a “dead letter” since its enactment

Thus, reforming inter-state water disputes resolution requires a larger ecosystem of policies and institutions.


[2] India’s interests tilt eastwards, it walks a new tightrope


Indian Express

Context

India’s economic and strategic interests are hugely tied to the Indian Ocean, the 21st century’s theatre of huge rivalries. If Trump translates his rhetoric into reality, a harried China will be a nightmare there.

How the changing dynamics of US-China relationship will affect India’s foreign policy, is the question this article tries to answer.

Give it a go-through once.


[3] Expand partnership with US, limit rifts with China


 Indian Express

Context

India has a trade surplus with America, which has ended its pro-Pakistan tilt and supports India’s membership of the UNSC and NSG. Washington says it wants to see India emerge as a great power; China seems to block India’s rise.

The article is commentary on the foreign policy considerations, specifically the issue of whether to side with China or US, that India must take into account in the rapidly shifting global geopolitical scenario.

Give it a go-through once. 


Live Mint


[1] GST: anti-profiteering measures necessary?


Live Mint

Context
Competition and an open market place is the best tool for keeping prices in check

Authority to monitor price

Author states that there is a provision in the revised model GST law which enables

Central government to constitute an authority to monitor the prices businesses charge for goods and services in the lead-up to, and following the introduction of, GST

  • Purpose: The authority will examine whether any reduction in a business’ cost base, or in the tax rate on goods and services as a result of the introduction of GST, is passed on to consumers in the form of appropriately reduced prices

Note: The above provision is basically an anti-profiteering provision. Such provisions are enacted to protect consumers and ensure that businesses don’t take undue advantage of the levy to charge more and make excessive profits

The main question posed by this article is,

Why it is necessary to add an additional compliance burden on Indian businesses already struggling to keep pace with the preparation for the introduction of a GST?

 Significant lead-in time

Author states that overseas experience indicates that anti-profiteering provisions are only effective if there is a significant lead-in time (time between the initiation and the execution of a process) to allow the relevant authority to educate consumers and businesses as to their respective rights and obligations. It is this education process that has the greatest impact on consumer confidence and business behaviour.

  • With such a short “lead-in” time before the GST commences, the authorities have little or no time to exert any such influence
  • Australian example: Australia was the first country to enact similar provisions when it replaced a series of inefficient taxes with a GST in July 2000. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was charged with the responsibility of monitoring prices 12 months before the commencement of GST

 How ACCC did it?

  • Educating consumers and businesses: ACCC’s focus was on educating consumers and businesses. This included the publication of pricing guidelines, communication strategies for different market segments and “hot lines” for consumers and businesses to get advice
  • Monitoring of prices:Education was supported by extensive and sophisticated monitoring of prices leading up to the introduction of GST and in the months immediately following
  • Enforcement, the last resort:The fall back was enforcement where there was blatant exploitation and profiteering (only 11 businesses were prosecuted in total)

Difficulties faced by Malaysia

Malaysia also introduced an anti-profiteering provision, along with the introduction of GST in April 2015. However, it led to widespread litigation and was found to be administratively difficult to implement

Challenges before government

Author states that there are several challenges which the government must face in order to implement such a provision in India,

  • The government will need to come up with detailed guidelines on the mechanism for computation of benefit and administration.

For example, whether the profit has to be computed at the product level or the entity level. Do we do this analysis for each of the costs or only the major costs? Also, what if businesses increase the prices before the implementation of GST, in anticipation of the benefit that would accrue?

Author suggests

  • Free market, the best tool: Author points out that from a business perspective, exploiting customers is not a viable business strategy. Being caught out exploiting customers is fatal. Ultimately, it is competition and an open marketplace that is the best tool for keeping prices in check.
  • Enforcement:From an administrative perspective, the short GST implementation time frame means that enforcement is likely to be the only viable approach to administering these provisions.

Read More: Anti-profiteering provision in GST.


[2] Demonetisation’s hydra-headed critics


Live Mint

Context

If it turns out that notes extant on 8 November were somehow under-counted, it would mean that RBI had greater liabilities than its books showed

Demonetization has been covered in ample detail in previous briefs.

Give it a go-through once.


 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – Anti-profiteering Measures of GST Bill


  • Anti-profiteering measures of GST bill

  1. GST bill, 2014
  2. Draft model GST bill, 2016
  3. Benefits 
  4. Anti-profiteering measures introduced in GST
  5. Implementation related challenges of anti-profiteering measures
  6. Need for anti-profiteering measure
  7. Some international experiences
  8. Way ahead

Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (2nd Jan. 2017)

Anti-profiteering measures of GST bill


GST bill, 2014



Draft model GST bill, 2016


Following are the salient features of draft GST bill:-

  1. All forms of “supply” of goods and services will attract CGST (central levy) and SGST (state levy).
  2.  The liability to pay CGST/SGST in relation to supply of goods and services will arise on the date of:
    1. Issue of invoice,
    2. Receipt of payment, whichever is the earliest.
  3. The tax rate for CGST and SGST will not exceed 14%.
  4.  GST Council will make recommendations to center on exemptions to GST.
  5. The central government may, by law, setup an authority to examine if reduction in tax rate has resulted in commensurate reduction in prices of goods and services.
  6. Every person who makes supply of goods and services and whose turnover exceeds Rs 20 lakh has to register in every state in which he conducts business.  The turnover threshold is Rs 10 lakh for special category states.
  7. Every taxpayer shall be assigned a GST compliance rating score based on his record of compliance with the provisions of this Bill.
  8. Every taxpayer while paying taxes on outputs, may take credit equivalent to taxes paid on inputs.
  9. The central government may, by law, setup an authority to examine if reduction in tax rate has resulted in commensurate reduction in prices of goods and services.  The Authority may impose a penalty if prices have not been reduced.

Benefits 


  • GST will reduce the complexity of taxes.
  • It can facilitate seamless movement of goods across states.
  • It will reduce the transaction costs of businesses.
  • The procedure of GST registration would also be made simple, thereby improving the ease of starting a business in India.
  • There are expectations among experts that with GST, we may see 2% jump in GDP growth.
  • GST will plug the leakage of tax. This, in turn, gives more money in the government exchequer.
  • Companies which are under unorganized sector will come under the tax regime.
  • Number of tax departments will reduce which in turn may lead to less corruption.
  • In the long run, the lower tax burden can decrease the prices of goods and services.

Anti-profiteering measures introduced in GST


Section 163 of the new Model GST Law proposes to ‘constitute an Authority, or entrust an existing Authority constituted under any law’, which shall regulate prices during the temporary inflation phase for a prescribed period.

The authority will examine whether input tax credits availed by any (registered) taxable person or the reduction in the price on account of any reduction in the tax rate have actually resulted in a commensurate reduction in the price of the said goods and/or services supplied by him.

The said authority may have many powers along with power to penalise any person found guilty of not reducing their prices in accordance with the reduction in tax cost as ascertained above.



“The central government may, by law, setup an authority to examine if reduction in tax rate has resulted in commensurate reduction in prices of goods and services.  The Authority may impose a penalty if prices have not been reduced.”

  • Government has introduced the provisions regarding setting up an authority that will take the task of to monitor the prices businesses charge for goods and services, but no mention has been made as to who will undertake this task.
  • As the model GST law has not yet been enacted, it is not likely that an authority will be constituted or appointed soon.
  • Some international experiences prove that anti-profiteering provisions are only effective if there is a significant lead-in time to allow the relevant authority to educate consumers and businesses.
  • It is this education process that has the greatest impact on consumer confidence and business behaviour.
  • But with a short “lead-in” time before the GST commences, the authorities have little or no time to exert any such influence.

Need for anti-profiteering measure


  • Countries like Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia have witnessed increased in inflation following the implementation of the GST.
  • Changes proposed under GST regime would result in improved profit margin at every stage of supply chain.
  • And there is high possibility that businesses may not pass on this benefit to the customers.
  • Therefore there need to be a mechanism to ensure that the profit be passed on to the consumer.

Some international experiences


Australia’s example

Australia in July 2000 replaced a series of inefficient taxes with a GST in July 2000 and enacted similar anti-profiteering measures.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was charged with the responsibility of monitoring prices 12 months before the commencement of GST.

The focus of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was:-

  • On educating consumers and businesses
  • Publication of pricing guidelines,
  • Communication strategies for different market segments
  • And “hot lines” for consumers and businesses to get advice

Education was supported by extensive and sophisticated monitoring of prices leading up to the introduction of GST.

Malaysian experience

  • Malaysia also introduced an anti-profiteering provision, along with the introduction of GST in April 2015.
  • However, it led to widespread litigation and was found to be administratively difficult to implement.

Way ahead


  • The policy framing process may be considerably easier than the administrative task of implementing anti-profiteering measures in practice.
  • It would be rather difficult to find out the profiteers from the rest.
  • If global experiences are to be leveraged, India may need to implement these measures at least three months aheadof the GST implementation date.
  • A three-month buffer shall ensure that industry has enough time to recalibrate their cost accounts in the current regime.
  • India has a competitive, open and growing market. Both Indian businesses and consumers are well placed to enjoy the benefits of GST, without government price monitoring.
  • Central and state governments should try to make it easier for businesses to comply with the GST rather than imposing another compliance regime.

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 30th December 2016



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]

  1. Centre forms panel on arbitration hub
  2. Wage payment through banks ordinance gets President’s nod
  • Editorial/OPINION

  1. Peace on track in Colombia:
  2. Notes to remember
  • ECONOMY

  1. Banks likely to remain risk averse’
  2. Financial data management body mooted
  3. Centre meets PMUY target of 1.5 crore LPG connections
  • Indian Express

  1. History and 50 days
  2. Poor swiped out in choice-less, not cash-less, society
  • Live Mint

  1. A Middle East peace agenda for 2017
  2. Five events in 2016 which will shape 2017

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF (30th Dec. 2016)


Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] Centre forms panel on arbitration hub


The Hindu

Context

The Centre has constituted a high-level committee, led by the former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna, to draw a road map to make India a global arbitration hub

 What has happened?

The Centre has constituted a high-level committee, led by the former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna, to draw a road map to make India a global arbitrationhub

  • Apart from other members, committee would also include representatives from FICCI Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industryand Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

 Terms of reference

Committee would,

  • Analyse the effectiveness of the arbitration mechanism
  • Identify amendments in other laws that need to encourage International Commercial Arbitration
  • Devise an action plan for implementation of the law to ensure speedier arbitrations

What does terms of reference mean?

TOR define the purpose and structure of a project, committee, meeting, negotiation, or any similar collection of people who have agreed to work together to accomplish a shared goal.


[2] Wage payment through banks ordinance gets President’s nod


 The Hindu

Context

Ordinance empowers Centre or State governments to specify industries or establishments where wage payments can be made mandatory through the banking system.

What has happened?

President of India has approved the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, to enable industries to pay wages through cheque or by direct credit into bank accounts of workers earning up to Rs. 18,000 a month without their permission.

Ordinance

  • Power to specify industries: It empowers the Centre or State governments to specify industries or establishments where wage payment can be made mandatory through the banking system
  • It doesn’t make payment of wages mandatory through the banking system and employers can still pay salaries through cash. The Payment of Wages Act of 1936 states that all payment of wages should be in cash, with a provision asking employers to obtain written permission of the worker to pay either by cheque, or by crediting the wages to his or her bank account.

Why an ordinance route?

Labour Minister had introduced the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Lok Sabha on December 15, but it couldn’t be cleared, owing to the impasse in Parliament

Why bring this ordinance?

  • Problems after demonetization: The Centre decided to take the ordinance route as its decision to scrap the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency in November led to a cash crunch and employers were encountering problems in paying workers through cash.

Validity of ordinance

An ordinance is valid for six months and the Centre needs to get it passed in Parliament within that period.


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Peace on track in Colombia


The Hindu

Context

A referendum to ratify a painstakingly negotiated peace deal it had signed with the long-time insurgent organisation, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was narrowly defeated.

Article relates to situation in Colombia.

Give it a go-through once.


[2] Notes to remember


 The Hindu

Context

If three-quarters of the population in an advanced economy like the United States appear to either favor cash payments or a mix of both cash and non-cash payments while making purchases, how challenging will it be for a developing country like India to transition to a so-called cashless economy?

Issue: If even the United States has not yet given up on cash, should India?

 Pew survey: Cash still there

A survey on online shopping and e-commerce conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center has revealed that cash has not vanished from most people’s lives in the U.S. despite non-cash options being widely available.

Report by Fed Bank of San Francisco

Report makes 4 points,

  • Cash continues to be the most frequently used consumer payment instrument in retail transactions
  • It is widely used in a variety of circumstances
  • It dominates small-value transactions
  • The average value of cash holdings has grown

The conclusion

All in all demand for cash is still strong in US

Situation in India

As per the Digital payments’ committee,

  • Cash to GDP ratio: The cash to GDP ratio of India is 12.04 per cent is considerably higher than ‘comparable’ countries. Cash to GDP ratio of Brazil, for instance is 3.93 per cent, Mexico, 5.32 per cent and South Africa, 3.72 per cent

Cash to GDP ratio means the amount of cash flowing in an economy wrt to its total GDP

  • Cost of high cash to GDP ratio: Dependency on cash costs the country about Rs. 21,000 crore on account of various aspects of currency operations including cost of printing new currency, operating currency chests, maintaining supply to ATM networks, and interest. These figures do not reflect other costs in relation to counterfeit currency and black money

Committee’s vision on going cashless

The committee’s vision involves,

  • 3 years’ time: The reduction of cash to GDP ratio to about 6 per cent in three years’ time, which means that the value and quantum of cash in circulation will have to be brought down significantly during this period
  • Vision: An ordinary Indian should have the choice to be able to safely, reliably and conveniently transact money digitally at a price which is affordable and at a place where needed. It also means that financial inclusion should engulf almost the entire population
  • Problems:
  • No reliable indicator:  The report acknowledged that there was no reliable indicator of the share of digital transactions as a proportion of total transactions.

Increase in the value of notes

It took 16 years from 1978-79 for the value of notes and coins in circulation to increase from about Rs. 100 billion to Rs. 1,000 billion. It has accelerated thereafter: from Rs. 1,046 billion in 1994-95 to Rs. 5,042 billion in 2006-07, Rs. 10,663 billion in 2011-12 and Rs. 16,634 billion in 2015-16.

Impact of cash crunch

Notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 denomination accounted for Rs. 14,179 billion of the Rs. 16,634 billion of notes and coins in circulation in 2015-16.

  • Post-demonetisation, it is this currency space that has shrunk to a fraction of its original size, making a difference, sometimes very huge, to the lives of ordinary Indians. It has severely restricted, and maybe eliminated, the option to transact in cash in many situations.

Q: How will the cash option shape up in the future? Will it remain a meaningful option at all?

 Committee on Digital payments’ view

People should have the choice to decide whether they want to use cash or go digital while making transactions

We do not know the future but it is not the intent of the Committee to replace all cash transactions with digital ones. It is for the people to have the incentives to decide whether it makes sense for them to transact in cash or in digital form. It is important for them to have this choice. This choice must be a real choice

Read More: Report of Committee on digital payments


ECONOMY


[1] ‘Banks likely to remain risk averse’


 The Hindu

Context

Lenders’ capital position may remain insufficient to support higher credit growth, says RBI.

Issue: Bi-annual Financial Stability Report of RBI

What is the Bi-Annual Financial stability report of RBI?

The FSR, brought out on behalf of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), gives an assessment of risks to financial stability as also the resilience of the financial system.

Gloomy picture for banking sector

The report painted a gloomy picture for the banking sector as bad loans continued to increase in the six-month period ended September 30. According to the report,

  • Gross bad loans increased from 7.6 per cent to 9.1 per cent between March and September
  • Stressed assets increased from 11.5 per cent to 12.3 per cent

Give it a go-through once.


[2] Financial data management body mooted


 The Hindu

Context

A committee set up under the Department of Economic Affairs has recommended the creation of a statutory body that will standardise data from all financial sector regulators in a single database and provide analytical insights based on the data.

Issue: Report of the committee to study the financial data management legal framework in India

Report suggests

  • Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC): The passage of a Bill in Parliament — the Financial Data Management Centre Bill 2016 — to create the statutory body, as recommended by Finance Minister ArunJaitley. As per the proposed act,
    • Purpose of the FDMC: Subject to the provisions of this Act, or any other law for the time being in force, it shall be the duty of the Data Centre to take measures to standardise data from regulators in consultation with the regulators, enable financial service providers to submit data in a standardised electronic format, analyse the data and maintain a financial system database
    • Powers of FDMC:The powers of the Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC) will include the establishment, operation and maintenance of the financial system database along with collecting financial regulatory data and providing access to it. The body will also provide analytical support to the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on issues relating to financial stability

RBI’s objection

  • Breach of confidentiality: In 2015, when the FSDC first suggested the creation of such a body, the Reserve Bank had objected to sharing company-specific data with the body as it was not statutory in nature, and sharing such data would be a breach of confidentiality.

 View of Department of legal affairs on FDMC

The majority of the financial sector regulators being statutory in nature, it is not clear from the proposal how the non-statutory FDMC will collect data from such regulators

Backdrop

Keeping the abovementioned concerns in mind, the Department of Economic Affairs re-examined the issue and obtained the Finance Minister’s approval to establish a statutory FDMC, following which a committee was formed to recommend the way forward

What is Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)?

Financial sector regulation is a vital service for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in the economy. There are different regulators for various segments of financial sectors, like the RBI for commercial banks and NBFCs, SEBI for capital market etc.

At the same time, there should be coordination among these financial sector regulators to ensure better efficiency as well as for avoiding overlapping of functions.

  • For this, the Government has formed the Financial Stability and Development Council in December 2010, with the Finance Minister as the Chairman
  • The immediate reason for the establishment of the FSDC was the tussle between SEBI and IRDA on the regulation of ULIPs.

Read More: FSDC


[3] Centre meets PMUY target of 1.5 crore LPG connections


The Hindu

Context

Meeting the targets under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

What is PMUY?

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a welfare program of the government of India, launched in 2016.

Objective: The scheme is aimed at replacing the unclean cooking fuels mostly used in the rural India with the clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas).

Ujjwala Yojana is aimed at providing 5 Crore LPG connections in the name of women in BPL (Below Poverty Line) households across the country. The government has set a target of 5 Crore LPG connections to be distributed to the BPL households across the country under the scheme.

Some of the objectives of the scheme are

  1. Empowering women and protecting their health.
  2. Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  3. Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  4. Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

 What has happened?

The government said that it had met the 1.5-crore target for LPG connections to be added in this financial year under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and therefore increased LPG coverage across the country to 70 per cent as of December 1

Statement of the government

Number of connections: Target of 1.5 crore connections fixed for the current financial year for Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) has been achieved within a span of less than eight months and the scheme is being implemented now across 35 States/UTs,” the government said in a statement.

 Increased LPG coverage: “It is also noteworthy that with the implementation of PMUY, the national LPG coverage has increased from 61 per cent (as on January 1, 2016) to 70 per cent (as on December 1, 2016)

 Benefits to SC/STs: The households belonging to SC/ST constitute the large chunk of beneficiaries with 35 per cent of the connections being released to them

 Priority statesidentified: The statement also said 14 States/UTs with LPG coverage less than the national average, such as J&K, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and all North-East States, have been identified as priority States for implementing PMUY.

Top 5 states

The top five States with the highest number of connections are,

  • Uttar Pradesh (46 lakh)
  • West Bengal (19 lakh)
  • Bihar (19 lakh)
  • Madhya Pradesh (17 lakh)
  • Rajasthan (14 lakh)

Indian Express


[1] History and 50 days


Indian Express

Context

With demonetisation, PM risked political capital, people took leap of faith — shoddy execution does disservice to big idea.

Issue: 50 days to Demonetization

Vision of the move

Demonetization envisaged a progressive shift to a cashless economy with a greater focus on electronic transactions and the formal banking sector.

Rest of the article presents a brief commentary on the demonetization move, how it could have been done better and the latest ordinance wherein people with large number of scrapped notes would be penalized.

Give it a go-through once


[2] Poor swiped out in choice-less, not cash-less, society


Indian Express

Context

For the poor, with little cash in the first place, digital promises to ‘swipe’ them out, before their marginalization is even addressed

Practical challenges before India

  • Fewer than 10 per cent of Indians have ever used any kind of non-cash payment instrument
  • Approximately 50 per cent of the adult population does not have a bank account
  • One quarter of the Jan Dhan accounts opened still remain inoperative with a “zero balance”

Sorry state

  • Financial inclusion: The latest government report on financial inclusion, Overview and Progress on Financial Inclusion, says that, according to the 2011 census, among 24,66,92,667 households, the penetration of banking services is 58.7 per cent, at 14,48,14,788 households. Over 80 per cent of the2.15 lakh ATMs as of June 2016 are in metro, urban and semi-urban areas. Rural areas have only 40,000 ATMs. Today, large numbers of them have no cash
  • Poor digital penetration: Less than three per cent of the value transacted in the year ending March 2014 used cards. Fewer than two per cent of Indians had used a mobile phone to receive a payment
  • Poor internet speed: According to an Akamai report, India lags far behind many nations in net download speed, behind even Nepal, Bangladesh and Iraq. India is ranked at 105th place globally in average bandwidth availability and 96th in terms of download speed
  • Problems with Biometric: In Rajasthan, Aadhar and biometric identification have already led to 30 per cent (about one lakh families) of eligible people not getting rations as well as lakhs disappearing from the social security pensioners list, many of those alive being verified as “dead”

Authors allege

Authors have alleged that whatever may have the motivation been behind demonetization move, the ultimate beneficiary are the Fintech companies.

Read More: Akamai Report, Fintech


Live Mint


[1] A Middle East peace agenda for 2017


Live Mint

 Context

Middle East conflicts are affecting the world by exporting terrorism and refugees—products that are contributing to populism and authoritarianism in the West

Article provides an insight into what needs to be done to resolve the growing Middle East crisis in the coming years.

Aspirants with PSIR optional might find it interesting and relevant to their optional.

Give it a go-through once


[2] Five events in 2016 which will shape 2017


Live Mint

Context

As globalization encompasses more of the world, the norm is the known unknown and surprise the new routine

Events from the year 2016 that are likely to wield influence in 2017, both internationally and domestically,

  1. Trump Election
  2. Demonetization
  3. Rise of Indian sportswomen
  4. The post-truth world
  5. Budget reset

Author has mentioned the above five events that could shape up 2017 in a considerable way.

Article is pretty straightforward.

Give it a go-through once


 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial: Understanding UN resolution against Israel settlements


  • Understanding UN resolution against Israel settlements

  1. What’s the dispute?

  2. What does Israel says?

  3. What do critics of settlements say?

  4. What’s the solution suggested by US?

  5. Implications of UN resolution


Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (30th Dec. 2016)

Understanding UN resolution against Israel settlements



In 1967, Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,the parts of Palestine that had been outside its control.
• Till 1967, there was no Israeli settlement in the west bank and Jerusalem.
• After 1967 six day war, Israeli government allowed some of the citizens to stay temporarily near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
• After that the settlements increased manifold, resulting into hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews now reside in the West Bank.
• Settlements at West Bank have increased from 100,000 in 1993 to 400,000 at present.
• They have grown under every Israeli government over the past half-century despite consistent international opposition.
• These settlements have been seen as one of the key obstacles to a peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state.
• The issue returned to the headlines last week when the United Nations Security Council voted 14 to 0 to condemn Israeli settlements.
• The UN Security Council resolution states that Israel’s settlement program has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”


What’s the dispute?


  • After the 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank and had a population that was then entirely Palestinian.
  • Israel declared the entire city to be Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital.
  • No other country recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, with the United States and others saying the city’s status must be determined in negotiations.
  • Many in the international community believe that such settlements are illegal and a barrier to any future “two-state” peace deal.
  • The Palestinians, meanwhile, claim the eastern part of the city as their future capital.

What does Israel says?


Supporters of settlements cite many reasons to stay, like:-

  • Jewish Bible,
  • Thousands of years of Jewish history,
  • And Israel’s need for “strategic depth”
  • No claim of territory by Jordan.

What do critics of settlements say?


  • Critics of settlements say they’ve intentionally been established in every corner of the West Bank, giving the Israeli military a reason to be present throughout the territory.
  • The settlement locations and the roads that connect them make Palestinian movement difficult.
  • And as the settlements grow, it will be increasingly difficult to remove a large number of them, a tactic known as “creating facts on the ground.”

What’s the solution suggested by US?


John Kerry has suggested the Land Swamps approach to deal with the issue, which includes:-

  • The largest Jewish settlements, which are near the boundary with Israel, would formally become Israeli territory.
  • In exchange, Israel would turn over an equal amount of its current land that would become part of a Palestinian state.
  • In addition, settlements deep in the West Bank, far from Israel, would be disbanded.

Implications of UN resolution


  • Netanyahu has already declared that Israel will not abide by the terms of the resolution.
  • This resolution will not be able to stop Israel from constructing the settlements, but for the Palestinians, Resolution 2334 is a moral and a symbolic victory.

A precursor for taking Israel into ICC (International Criminal Court)

  • In January 2015, the ICC’s Prosecutor FatouBensouda opened a preliminary investigation into Israel’s actions during the 2014 bombing of Gaza and into the illegal settlements.
  • Ms. Bensouda has since made it clear that she would not move forward to a full criminal investigation without substantial political clarity from the UN Security Council.
  • Resolution 2334 produces the political will for such a move by the ICC.
  • With Palestine as a recognised state in the UN as of 2012, and as a member of the ICC since 2014, and with this resolution now in force, the ICC could move in the next few months to a rigorous investigation of Israeli criminality.
  • This would threaten the settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but it would also pressure Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in any future criminal bombardment of Gaza

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 29th December 2016



  • NATIONAL [The Hindu]

  1.  Ordinance to end RBI’s liability
  2.  New draft could help India’s NSG entry
  3. CCEA approves road project for Maoist areas
  • EDITORIAL/OPINION [The Hindu]

  1. Tel Aviv on tenterhooks
  2. Still frowning upon intermarriages
  •  ECONOMY [The Hindu]

  1.  Cabinet’s gives nod for International Solar Alliance pact
  • Live Mint

  1. Is the Naga peace deal dead?
  2.  The waters of our discontent
  • Indian Express

  1. Reaching The Milestone

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF [29th Dec. 2016]

NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] Ordinance to end RBI’s liability


 The Hindu

Context: Ordinance promulgated by Union Cabinet regarding demonetisation process.

What does Ordinance do?

a) Help extinguish the Reserve Bank of India’s liability towards currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000

Though, demonetised currency is no longer a legal tender but RBI has legal obligation of payment of demonetised currency. This ordinance relives RBI of that obligation

b) Provision to penalise holders of such notes above a certain threshold after March 31, 2017.


[2] New draft could help India’s NSG entry


 The Hindu

Context: A draft proposal to allow entry of non-signatory to NPT.

Countries non-signatory to NPT: India, Israel and Pakistan has never signed NPT. North Korea was a party to treaty till its withdrawal in 2003.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.


[3] CCEA approves road project for Maoist areas


 The Hindu

Scheme: Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas

Under the aegis of: Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana (PMGSY)

Objective: to improve rural road connectivity in the worst-affected left-wing extremism (LWE) districts

Approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The Centre will fund 60 per cent of the road project and the rest will come from States. However, in the north-east, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Centre will provide 90 per cent funding.


EDITORIAL/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Tel Aviv on tenterhooks


 The Hindu

Why in News?

  • Recently, the United States abstained on UN Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Israel pressured the U.S. to veto the resolution, but US did not oblige.
  • Malaysia, New Zealand, Venezuela and Senegal sponsored the resolution, which passed with 14 votes in favor and one abstention (the U.S.).
  • However, Israel has rejected the resolution by saying that they have the right to build “homes in the Jewish people’s historic homeland” which further proudly reclaimed the land of our forefathers.

Background:

  • In 1967, Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
  • The UN Security Council passed a series of resolutions (242, 252, 298) within the next decade, asking Israel to withdraw from this land.
  • The Oslo Accords (1994) also put in place the possibility of a Palestinian state, although it did not have an explicit statement to end settlement activity.
  • Five years back, US had vetoed a similar resolution and US rejected in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.

Impact – Analysis:

  • Diplomats around the world are hoping that this action will help in pushing towards the two-state solution which is the common aspiration of the international community.
  • Israel fears of the steps that would come after this resolution, particularly from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • In January, 2015 International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary investigation into Israel’s actions during the 2014 bombing of Gaza and into the illegal settlements.
  • Now, this Resolution 2334 produces the political will for a full criminal investigation by the ICC.
  • With Palestine as a recognized state in the UN as of 2012, and as a member of the ICC since 2014, with this resolution in force, the ICC could move in the next few months to a rigorous investigation of Israeli criminality.
  • This would threaten the settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but it would also pressure Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in any future criminal bombardment of Gaza.
  • The Israeli establishment also worries that the ICC would legitimately turn its gaze on issues such as population transfer and war crimes.
  • Till now, the vetoes from Washington prevented any legal foundation for ICC action against Israel. However, this situation has changed now and Pressure will mount on ICC to take the investigation forward.
  • AntónioGuterres, the UN’s new Secretary-General has indicated that he will send a UN Support Mission to push for a two-state solution.
  • On the other hand, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to undo the resolution and threatened to end U.S. funding to the UN.

[2] Still frowning upon intermarriages


 The Hindu

  1. R. Ambedkar’s view on Caste System in India:
  • According to him, the social ban on intermarriage is the most fundamental idea on which the whole fabric of caste is built up.
  • And caste system can be annihilated only when people marry across caste lines.

Findings of new survey:

  • Recently, a new survey called SARI (Social Attitudes Research for India) conducted a survey to know the people’s views about inter-caste and inter-religious marriage.
  • Sample of survey included the adults 18-65 years old and interview of 1,270 adults in Delhi and 1,470 adults in Uttar Pradesh was conducted.
  • Surveys asked questions such as:
    • o Whether people would oppose their children or close family members marrying people from other social groups.
    • o Should there be laws to stop marriages between upper castes and lower castes?
  • Nearly 50 per cent of the non-Scheduled Caste respondents in Delhi and 70 per cent in Uttar Pradesh said that they would oppose a child or close relative marrying a Dalit.
  • In Delhi, about 60 per cent of Hindus and Muslims opined that they would oppose a child or relative marrying a Muslim and Hindu, respectively.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, the opposition was greater. About 75 per cent of Hindus opposed marriages with Muslims, and about 70 per cent of Muslims opposed marriages with Hindus.
  • About 40 per cent respondents in Delhi and more than 60 per cent in rural Uttar Pradesh suggested that there should be laws to stop marriages between upper castes and lower castes.
  • Interestingly, a higher fraction of women than men in both places Delhi and Uttar Pradesh said they would support laws against inter-caste marriage.
  • In terms of education level, a high fraction of people who had passed Class 10 or higher said that they support laws against inter-caste marriage.
  • In Delhi, about 25 per cent and in Uttar Pradesh about 45 per cent of highly educated people said there should be a law against such marriages.

Analysis:

  • The finding of the survey such as support to laws against

inter-caste marriages by many educated people raises

serious questions about our education system and its

utility in doing enough to reduce caste and religious

prejudice.

  • This also signifies that still many of the youth passing out

of the premier technical and medical institutions still

depends on their parents to choose their spouses.

  • Survey findings also suggests that because of fear of being outcast among his family and neighbors and fear of being barred from family inheritance people support marriages with in his/her own caste.
  • There is also a strong belief that it is more convenient to settle down with a socially and culturally familiar person.

Government’s Support for inter-caste marriage:

  • At present, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment makes available 500 monetary awards to inter-caste couples.
  • The small size of this programme makes it more of a symbolic gesture than an actual incentive

Way Forward:

  • It is very clear that inter-caste marriages should be encouraged in order to annihilate the caste system in India.
  • Hence, government should do much more to promote inter-group marriage and to protect those who seek inter-caste marriages.

ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1]. Cabinet’s gives nod for International Solar Alliance pact


 The Hindu

Context:The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its ex-post facto approval to the proposal of the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy for the ratification of the International Solar Alliance’s framework agreement by India.

International Solar Alliance:

The International Solar Alliance is a common platform for cooperation among sun-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn who are seeking to massively ramp up solar energy, thereby helping to bend the global greenhouse emissions curve whilst providing clean and cheap energy.

The initiative was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015 by the President of France and the Prime Minister of India.

Five Key Focus Areas

Key focus areas to achieve these objectives are to:

  • Promote solar technologies, new business models and investment in the solar sector to enhance prosperity
  • Formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications
  • Develop innovative financial mechanisms to reduce cost of capital
  • Build a common knowledge e-Portal
  • Facilitate capacity building for promotion and absorption of solar technologies and R&D among member countries.

Live Mint


 [1] Is the Naga peace deal dead?


 Live Mint

Context: The Naga Blockade of Manipur.

Background

  • The “framework agreement for peace” signed on 3 August 2015 between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim(Isak-Muivah), or NSCN (I-M).
  • This agreement provided a boost to the 1997 ceasefire.
  • This ceasefire permitted NSCN (I-M)to recruit, train, and arm—and for all purposes run a parallel administration.
  • Myanmar-based Khaplang, or K faction of NSCN, has attacked Indian army in alliance with the Meitei rebelsand has been fighting the IM group.

What these group claims?

  • Both I-M and K factions, like other, smaller factions of Naga rebels, claim Greater Nagaland as their stated objective.
  • This claim also includesNaga homelands in Manipur.

UNC demand

  • United Naga Council (UNC)is the apex body of Naga tribes in Manipur.
  • It has been pushing for an ‘Alternative agreement’ to fulfill the demands of the Naga dominated hill region of Manipur.
  • In November, UNCtriggered a blockading of highways through Naga-held hills in Manipur.
  • Although Congress chief minister OkramIbobi Singh has been successful in ending this blockade, but it will not resolve the conflict.

Steps taken by Ibobi

He created seven new districts to add to Manipur’s existing nine—of which the creation of four carved away non-Naga or non I-M areas of influence.

It cauterized a current and de facto Manipur from a future Manipur.


[2] The waters of our discontent


 Live Mint

Issue

The Patidar, Maratha and Jat agitations are symptoms of agricultural distress that can be traced back to the drying up of water resources and the lack of viable alternatives.

There is an urgent need to solve the issue of water sharing issues arising in the country

Division of river for the water sharing

There are 2 units of river water: Upstream and downstream

The total surplus is maximized when:-

  • Upstream farmer uses one unit, watering the most fertile portion of his land, and
  • Downstream farmer uses the remaining one unit on her most fertile acreage.

But problem here is that upstream farmer can use his positional advantage to grab both units of water.

Inequality arises when the second farmer is relatively poor.

How government adjudicate this problem and challenges of these decisions

  • Government settles riparian rights based on the quantity of water that can be used by each other.
  • For instance, Cauvery agreement prescribes the quantity of water that accrues to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala.
  • Such agreements are susceptible to delays and opacity in decision making.

Cauvery agreement

  • The 1924 Cauvery agreement was believed to be skewed in favor of Madras.
  • The agreement has been revisited frequently.

SYL issue

  • SYL issue between Panjab and Haryana
  • Sharing of waters between Haryana and Punjab was decided at the time of the formation of Haryana in 1966.
  • Construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal was officially started in 1982 to operationalize the agreement.
  • But the agreement could not be operationalize due to the dispute.

Common property resources

  • In the resources which are common between several parties, the problem arises each user of the resource fails to take into account the effect of his usage on the depletion of the common property resource for other users.
  • The problem amplifies when the total common stock of the resource is depleting every year.

Depleting water resources

In the alluvial aquifers of northern Gujarat, groundwater is evenly spread, hence it causes no problem.

However in the hard rock aquifers of the Deccan plateau, the ground water is not evenly spread, but is spatially concentrated.

The water scarcity arises, when users try to maximize their water use by using water intensive crops.

Effects of depleting ground water on the rivers

Depletion of groundwater reduces the flow in rivers in two ways:

  • It reduces the recharge of rivers from groundwater
  • And it occasions the demand for dams and canals from communities that have become powerful in the groundwater economy.
  • This further reduces the flow and quality of surface water and puts river agreements at risk.

Consequence of depleting river water

When the exploitation of groundwater becomes unviable due to receding levels, when dams are delayed, and when exit options in the form of government jobs or migration to other countries dry out, there is unrest as powerful agricultural communities hit the streets.


Indian Express


 [1] Reaching The Milestone


Indian Express

Context: The legislations passed by US Congress designating India as “major defence partner.”

What does being designated “major defence partner” mean for India?

It brings India in league of closest allies of US when it comes to transfer of defence technologies.

The timeline of India – US defence cooperation.

  1. It all started in 1995 with Agreed Minute on Defence Relations.
  2. But in 1998, India conducted Nuclear Tests which led to sanctions from the West. Any progress on Defence cooperation was lost.
  3. Over next decade, India was not able to forge a close defence cooperation with US. This has been attributed to:
  4. a) India’s over dependence on Russia for her defence supplies.
  5. b) India’s political class reservations against substantial defence purchasing from US.
  6. 2005 – New framework for the US – India Defence Relationship – gave a fresh start to India – US defence cooperation.
  7. 2013 – Joint Principles for Defence Cooperation – The both parties recognised that they share common security and place each other at the same level as their closest partners.
  8. 2015 – Framework for the US – India Defence Relationship – India has become largest purchaser of US weaponry and also US has replaced Russia as principal defence supplier.

The Untouched Region in India US Defence Partnership – There is no talk on joint projects on the similar line as Brahmos / Fifth Generation Aircraft between India and Russia.

What are the reasons for US inclination towards India?

  1. a) Dramatic decline in utility of Pakistan for US after death of Osama Bin Laden coupled with US intention to reduce its military strength in Afghanistan.
  2. b) Greater assertiveness by China in South China Sea.
  3. c) India under Modi’s regime seems more than willing to reciprocate to friendly advances of US.

The Future under New US President

The aggressive attitude of Trump towards China, make it highly unlikely for him to abandon a significant defence partnership in Asia.

A significant Indian diaspora in US and majorly in favour of Trump will make it difficult for him to alienate with India.


 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial -US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)


  • US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)

  1. The timeline of India – US defence cooperation.
  2. What are the reasons for US inclination towards India?
  3. What does being designated “major defence partner” mean for India?
  4. What could be the future challenges?

 

Image result for US india DTTI


Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (29th Dec. 2016)

US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)


Recently, legislation was passed by US Congress designating India as “major defence partner.” This legislation has brought India into the major defence partners of US.

The emergence of DTTI as an integral and enduring component of India-U.S. security cooperation is a sign that the relationship has matured to a level of strategic importance.


The timeline of India – US defence cooperation.


It all started in 1995 with Agreed Minute on Defence Relations.

  1. But in 1998, India conducted Nuclear Tests which led to sanctions from the West. Any progress on Defence cooperation was lost.
  2. Over next decade, India was not able to forge a close defence cooperation with US. This has been attributed to:
  3. a) India’s over dependence on Russia for her defence supplies.
  4. b) India’s political class reservations against substantial defence purchasing from US.
  5. 2005 – New framework for the US – India Defence Relationship – gave a fresh start to India – US defence cooperation.
  6. 2013 – Joint Principles for Defence Cooperation – The both parties recognised that they share common security and place each other at the same level as their closest partners.
  7. 2015 – Framework for the US – India Defence Relationship – India has become largest purchaser of US weaponry and also US has replaced Russia as principal defence supplier.

What are the reasons for US inclination towards India?


  • Dramatic decline in utility of Pakistan for US after death of Osama Bin Laden coupled with US intention to reduce its military strength in Afghanistan.
  • Due to greater assertiveness by China in South China Sea, US need new partners in the Asia.
  • The aggressive attitude of Trump towards China, make it highly unlikely for him to abandon a significant defence partnership in Asia.
  • A significant Indian diaspora in US and majorly in favour of Trump will make it difficult for him to alienate with India.
  • India has acted as a responsible power in the region till now, which has created a global confidence in it.
  • India under Modi’s regime seems more than willing to reciprocate to friendly advances of US.

What does being designated “major defence partner” mean for India?


  •  It brings India in league of closest allies of US when it comes to transfer of defence technologies.
  • This bill puts India on par with other NATO allies.
  • The DTTI will strengthen India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), focus on enhancing India’s operational capabilities, and promote co-production/co-development opportunities.
  • It encourages the government to authorize combined military planning with the United States for missions of mutual interest such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, and maritime domain awareness.
  • The recent signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) has facilitated additional opportunities for practical engagement and exchange.
  • The emergence of DTTI as an integral and enduring component of India-U.S. security cooperation is a sign that the relationship has matured to a level of strategic importance.
  • This partnership will also work as a pressure on the China-Pakistan.

What could be the future challenges?


  •  The first challenge is the piling up of US offers, while is not yet been able to respond against them.
  • The UAV Raven and ATGM Spike episodes raise questions about the mechanism for identification of the technologies and projects for co-development and co-production.
  • Flooding the MoD with offers may be of little use unless the offers are in response to specific requirement projected by it.
  • Another challenge is, Indian side has to be absolutely clear about what it wants and should place the specifics of the requirement on the table.
  • The defence budget, especially the segment that funds capital acquisitions, is widely seen as inadequate for financing the modernisation needs of the armed forces.
  • The existing procedures for procurement of technology will have to be realigned.

Signing of this deal will be the first step and it’s implementation the last one. Now India should try to materialize this deal for the strategic and economic benefits of the nation by dealing with the challenges.


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 28th December 2016



  • Front Page / NATIONAL
  1. Don’t use pellet guns indiscriminately: SC
  2. 50 % reservation in judicial services in Bihar
  3. Status of tribal development remains poor: Ministry report
  4. Antlers could end up in medicines
  • INTERNATIONAL
  1. Nepal rejects India’s ‘open sky’ offer
  2. India journeys from multilateral to bilateral
  3. China calls for ‘strategic balance’ in South Asia after Agni-V test-firing
  • Editorial/OPINION
  1. Afghanistan, India, and Trump
  2. Behind Pakistan’s CPEC offer
  3. Passport to reform
  4. Chronicle of a conflict foretold
  5. Excluded from financial inclusion
  • ECONOMY
  1. Panel moots ‘handling’ levy on cash payments
  2. Aviation in 2016
  • Live Mint
  1. Sustaining transition to a digital economy
  2. The finance sector must sign the Paris pact
  3. Forget ratings agencies, focus on fundamentals

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF (28th Dec. 2016)

Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] Don’t use pellet guns indiscriminately: SC


The Hindu

Context

The Supreme Court has sought an assurance from the Jammu and Kashmir government to avoid the “indiscriminate” use of pellet guns.

Backdrop

Court, hearing a petition by the J&K High Court Bar Association, expressed reservations about the use of pellet guns without “proper application of mind”. The lawyers’ body had moved the apex court as the High Court refused to stay their use

  • The High Court on September 22 had rejected the plea for a ban on these guns as the Centre had constituted a committee for exploring alternatives. The Bar Association said the High Court should not have disposed of the petition, and instead, awaited the panel report

Exploring alternatives to pellet guns

A Bench led by the Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur also sought the assistance of Attorney-General MukulRohatgi and asked him to submit the report of an expert committee exploring alternatives to pellet guns.


[2] 50 % reservation in judicial services in Bihar


The Hindu

Context

50 per cent reservation in all judicial services for aspirants belonging to the Extremely Backward Classes, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

What has happened?

The Bihar Cabinet has declared 50 per cent reservation in all judicial services for aspirants belonging to Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), Other Backward classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs)

  • The reservation will be in both Superior Judicial Services and Subordinate Judicial Services
  • All aspirants belonging to EBCs will get 21 per cent reservation, OBCs will have 12 per cent reservations, Scheduled Castes will have 16 per cent reservation and Scheduled Tribes will be provided 1 per cent reservation in all judicial services of the State
  • Horizontal reservation: In all categories there will be 35 per cent ‘horizontal reservation’ for women and 1 per cent reservation for disabled persons

Decision taken in the light of

In view of the Supreme Court order in the State of Bihar versus Dayanand Singh case (September 29, 2016), and after the approval of the Bihar Public Service Commission, the government has taken this decision

SC’s directions

In October 2016, a Division Bench comprising Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre of the Supreme Court had asked the Bihar government and Patna High Court to complete the exercise of providing reservations to backward classes in State’s judicial services by January 1, 2017, and that the process of filling up vacancies in the judicial services by June 30, 2017.

Read More: Horizontal Reservation


[3] Status of tribal development remains poor: Ministry report


The Hindu

Context

The tribal population In India lags behind other social groups on social parameters, such as child mortality, infant mortality, number of anaemic women, says the latest annual report of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Article talks about the Latest annual report of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs

Report says

  • Higher incidence of anaemia: Tribal population, with a vast majority engaged in agricultural labour, has a higher incidence of anaemia in women when compared to other social groups.
  • Higher incidence of MMR and IMR:The community also registered the highest child mortality and infant mortality rates, when compared to other social groups
  • Education
    • Declining Gross enrolment ratio: GER among tribal students in the primary school level has declined from 113.2 in 2013-14 to 109.4 in 2015-16
    • Alarming level of dropout rate: The dropout rate among tribal students has been at an alarming level
  • Poverty: Overall poverty rates among the tribal population have fallen compared to previous years, they remain relatively poorer when weighed against other social groups
  • Inadequate Health infrastructure: Health infrastructure has also been found wanting in tribal areas. At an all-India level, there is a shortfall of 6,796 Sub Centres, 1267 Primary Health Centres and 309 Community Health Centres in tribal areas as on March 31, 2015

Gaps in rehabilitation

Report exposes the gap in the rehabilitation of tribal community members displaced by various development projects.

Stats:  Out of an estimated 85 lakh persons displaced due to development projects and natural calamities, only 21 lakh were shown to have been rehabilitated so far

View of social activists

Social activists allege that even the figure of 21 lakh is questionable as there is now ay to verify the data. Further, rehabilitation only happens on paper, and any compensation for displaced adivasi folks is siphoned off by others in their name

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana

In 2014, the Central government initiated the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana for the holistic development and welfare of tribal population on a pilot basis.

  • Bare allocations: However, the Annual Report points out that the token budgetary provisions being made under the scheme to the tune of Rs.100.00 crore and Rs.200.00 crore for 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively, is minuscule and barely sufficient to meet the purpose of the Scheme given that it intends to cover 27 States across the country
    • The Ministry has emphasized that more funds be provided for the Scheme from the year 2016-17 onwards

[4] Antlers could end up in medicines


 

The Hindu

Context

Union government’s approval to be sought for using deer antlers in Ayurveda drugs.

What has happened?

State Board for Wild Life (SBWL) has decided to approach the Centre for suitable amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 for using the antlers for medicinal purposes.

Oushadhi

Clearance is being sought for Oushadhi, an Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing company owned by the Kerala government

Antlers

Antlers are the extensions of the skull of the deer. All the three deer varieties found in Kerala, including spotted deer, sambar, and barking deer, shed their antlers annually, said a wildlife specialist

Original proposal

The original proposal floated few years ago was to collect the antlers annually shed by the ungulates after the breeding season

Counter view

Some fear that if amendments are passed it would lead to indiscriminate hunting for the antlers

Definition of antler as per Wildlife Protection Act

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has included antler in the definition of wildlife trophy. A wildlife trophy is defined as the “whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal”.

  • Permission required: Section 39 of the Act also states that “no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise or destroy or damage such property.”Government Wildlife and wildlife trophies are considered as owned by the government
  • Penal provisions:The Act also prescribes imprisonment up to three years and fine of RS. 25,000 for offences involving wildlife trophies.

INTERNATIONAL


[1] Nepal rejects India’s ‘open sky’ offer


The Hindu

Context

Nepal has rejected India’s ‘open sky’ offer to allow unlimited flights between the two countries.

What is an Open Sky offer?

India had made an offer to allow unlimited flights between the two countries at a meeting held here on December 20

  • Countries sign air services agreements (ASAs) through bilateral negotiations to decide the number of flights airlines can fly. Under the ‘open-sky’ agreement, there is no restriction on flights or seats.

Backdrop

The open sky offer can be understood in the terms of India’s strategy to counter Chinese engagement with Nepal on the road, railways and port connectivity.

  • Moreover, the issue of increased air service and additional routes was part of the joint statement issued during the visit of Nepalese PM to India
  • Also, under the National Civil Aviation Policy, approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this year, India intends to enter into ‘open-sky’ agreements with SAARC countries and with those beyond the 5,000-km radius from Delhi

Nepal’s view

Nepal said it was not yet ready for the agreement

View of Nepal’s ambassador to India

Nepal is building a major international airport at Bhairwaha, near the Uttar Pradesh border, and the airport at Pokhara will soon be brought to international standards. Therefore, we believe India and Nepal should give each more access to the other’s skies and move with the times

Present situation

Airlines from India and Nepal are now allowed to operate 30,000 seats from each side

MoU

India and Nepal have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a joint technical committee to examine Nepal’s request for developing new air routes and air entry points at Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj

Open skies with other countries

India has already signed an agreement with Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland and Spain to allow airlines to operate unlimited flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru

  • Among SAARC countries, India doesn’t have any ‘open sky’ agreement with Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan. It allows unlimited flights from Bangladesh and Maldives at 18 domestic airports, from Sri Lanka at 23 airports, and from Bhutan at all its airports.

[2] India journeys from multilateral to bilateral


The Hindu

Context
From the United Nations (U.N.), to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to BRICSSAARCSCO and others, the government seemed to make limited headway.

Give it a go-through once.


[3] China calls for ‘strategic balance’ in South Asia after Agni-V test-firing


The Hindu

Context

Without referring to Pakistan, China on Tuesday advocated “preserving the strategic balance and stability in South Asia,” after India successfully test-fired Agni-V ballistic missile.

Give it a go-through once.


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Afghanistan, India, and Trump


The Hindu

Context

Given his limited choices in stabilizing Afghanistan, which include supporting a national election,U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will find India to be a reliable and trusted partner in this process.

Operation Enduring Freedom

  • The U.S. government used the term “Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan” to officially describe the War in Afghanistan, from the period between October 2001 and December 2014.It ended on 28th Dec 2014.

Operation Resolute Support

  • Resolute Support or Operation Resolute Support is a NATO-led training, advisory, assistance, and counter-terror mission consisting of over 13,000 troops in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which began on January 1, 2015.It is a follow-on mission to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which was completed on December 28, 2014.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan, established by the United Nations Security Council in December 2001 by Resolution 1386, as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement

  • Its main purpose was to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and assist Afghanistan in rebuilding key government institutions, but was also engaged in the 2001–present war with the Taliban insurgency

Amount spent in Afghanistan by USA
The U.S. alone has spent more than $800 billion in Afghanistan, of which $115 billion has been spent on reconstruction; more than the inflation adjusted expenditure under the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after World War II at $105 billion!

Future course

At the NATO summit in Warsaw earlier in 2016, it was agreed to maintain the current international troop presence till 2020 while providing annual financial support of $4.5 billion for the Afghan security forces.

Impact

Author states that situation in Afghanistan is unlikely to improve as the,

  • Number of casualties have risen to 30000 from 21000 in 2014

A ray of hope

But all hope is not lost as situation is improving in some sectors

  • Life expectancy has gone up from 40 years in 2002 to 62 years today
  • Increase in school-going children from 9 lakh to 8 million
  • Literacy rate has gone up from 12 per cent to 34 per cent in 15 years

Demographic dividend

With a median age of 18 years, Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations with 60 per cent of the population below 21 years of age.

Different political approaches

Hamid Karzai: His approach constituted talking with Pakistan and simultaneous recognition of India as an old friend but he realised soon enough that Pakistan is not serious to resolve issue with Afghanistan and tried unsuccessfully to open up communication channels with Quetta Shura (The Afghan Taliban)

MR Ghani: Karzai’s successor thought that unless Pakistan is brought on board, peace will always remain a far-cry, gave in to its demand and diminished its relationship with India. A Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was formed consisting of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and US but he too realised that peace will remain elusive if Pakistan is allowed to run the show.

Pakistan’s overreach

Author clearly states that given a porous border with Afghanistan with tribal linkages cutting across the Durand Line, Pakistan’s legitimate interests can be understood as also the fact that it is critical to any political reconciliation in Afghanistan

  • However, what Pakistan has been seeking is to exercise a veto over Kabul’s relations with Delhi which the Afghans are unwilling to concede
  • Looking at Afghanistan through an Indian prism: Author points out that Pakistan views its relations with Afghanistan through the India prism and since relations with India are unlikely to normalize in the foreseeable future, the only way out for Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan is to accept the idea of Afghan sovereignty and autonomy and refrain from making it a zone of India-Pakistan rivalry.

Challenge for Kabul

Author states that the challenge for Kabul is it has to engage in multiple reconciliation processes with the Taliban and with the Pakistani army.

What hardline Taliban want?

The hardline Taliban represented by the Haqqani network is determined to continue the fight militarily

What moderate Taliban wants?

The moderates in Taliban want that all foreign forces must exit Afghanistan before talks begin. If this happens, the fragile government in Kabul will collapse.

The India factor

India has had the most effective economic cooperation programme, having spent more than $2 billion and committed another billion dollars earlier this year

  • Afghan-India relations are now developing military dimension with initiatives like training of Afghan army personnel in India, Donation of Helicopters to Afghan army etc.

Options for Trump

Author states that President elect Trump has little choice in the matter.

  • A complete withdrawal is out of question
  • His challenge will be to change the calculus (methods) of the Pakistani establishment, increase capabilities of the Afghan security forces to inflict attrition on the insurgents, and, in 2019, support an election in Afghanistan that brings about a more cohesive government
  • In all this, he will find the Indian government to be a reliable and trusted partner

[2] Behind Pakistan’s CPEC offer


The Hindu

 

Context

India should shun its “enmity” with Pakistan and join the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. The Chinese foreign ministry has called the offer a “goodwill gesture”

 

Backdrop

On 20th December 2016,Lieutenant General AamirRiaz, Commander of the Southern Command which is based in Quetta, invited India to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, saying New Delhi should “shun enmity” with Islamabad and jointly reap the benefit of the multi-billion dollar project

 

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

The $46 billion CPEC aims to connect China’s western parts with the Arabian Sea through Balochistan’s strategic Gwadar port

 

India’s view on CPEC

India has no dialogue with Pakistan at present, and has opposed the project, bilaterally with China “at the highest level” as well as at the UN

 

Changing dynamics

Author points out as to how the geopolitical conditions are changing,

  • Iran wants Gwadar to be a “sister” port to Chabahar
  • Turkmenistan and other Central Asian republics have shown interest in the warm-water port that will be a nodal point for goods through Pakistan to the Chinese city of Kashgar
  • Further north, despite its problems on terror from Pakistan, Afghanistan is becoming a nodal point for China’s connectivity projects to Iran
  • The meeting among Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials on Afghanistan
  • Russian engagement with the Taliban

 

What India should do now?

As per author, India should see how things shape up and react accordingly. In the light of changing geopolitical scenario shaped up by economic cooperation and perceived economic benefits, alignments and loyalties are bound to shift. India should not ignore or neglect OBOR and other projects linked to it like CPEC.

Read More: Pak General’s invitation


[3] Passport to reform


The Hindu

 

Context

The progressive changes introduced by the Centre to the rules governing grant of passports were long overdue.

 

What has happened?

In a move to speed up and simplify the passport delivery process, the government on 23rd Dec announced a series of steps that would help single mothers, orphaned children, and sadhus obtain passports with ease.

 

New rules

  • The new rules for online application require the applicant to provide the name of father or mother or legal guardian

Benefit: This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and facilitate issue of passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant

  • Faster processing for married applicants as they can apply without attaching marriage certificate
  • No need for the name of the spouse: The passport application form does not require the application to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons. Such applicants would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree
  • Holy men: Holy men can now apply for a passport with the name of their spiritual guru, instead of biological parents. However, they would have to provide a document such as voter ID, which records the name of the guru against the column for parent’s name
  • Self-declaration will suffice: The obsolete concept of getting documents attested by notaries or magistrates has also been done away with, and self-declarations on plain paper would now be accepted
  • A birth certificate is no more the main proof of date of birth, and other official documents, including Aadhaar number and PAN card, which contain the date, can be utilised
  • In the case of orphaned children, actual proof for date of birth has been dispensed with and a declaration from the head of a child care home or orphanage confirming the date is enough
  • Adopted and surrogate children can be issued passports even in the absence of the relevant documents, based on a declaration on plain paper.

 

Inter-ministerial committee

Changes have been introduced in the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee comprising officials of the Ministries of External Affairs and Women and Child Development

 

Issues with previous rules

Harassment of women: Previous rules often lead to harassment of women passport applicants especially those who were either separated or divorced

  • Even something as routine as renewing a passport without any change of name or detail or getting a passport in the name of a child was a laborious process, as passport officials insisted on either the father’s consent or demanded a divorce decree

[4] Chronicle of a conflict foretold


The Hindu

 

Context

In Manipur, everyone will have to agree to a shared homeland if the crisis is to be solved.

Article gives a brief commentary about Manipur situation.

Manipur issue has been covered in detail in earlier briefs.

Give it a go through once


[5] Excluded from financial inclusion


 

The Hindu

 

Context

Despite the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) repeatedly issuing circulars to all scheduled commercial banks across the country to provide banking facilities to customers with disabilities at a par with non-disabled people, the majority of disabled people continue to be inconvenienced by the banks

 

Issue: Difficulties faced by Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in accessing banking facilities

 

Hurdles faced by disabled people

  • Difficulty in signing documents: Many disabled people, especially in rural India, find it difficult to sign bank documents
  • Denial of bank services: They are denied ATM cards, cheque books and Internet banking
  • Cannot open independent accounts: The majority of commercial banks have archaic rules in their statute books which debar people with disabilities from opening independent accounts
  • Compelled to produce witnesses: Persons with disabilities are compelled to produce witnesses every time they visit banks to make online transactions through real-time gross settlement and national electronic funds transfer

 

Denial of banking services

Banking Industry prioritizes those it considers suitable for the banks’ business, be it in terms of customer needs, interest in certain product features, or customer profitability. Disabled persons are excluded.

 

Problems faced by visually impaired

  • Inaccessible bank sites: There is a common perception among bank officials that disabled people do not require banking products and services. This is perhaps why most bank websites are inaccessible. The majority of them offer graphical ‘captcha’ to enable customers to proceed on these sites. These make it impossible for a fully blind person to access available services
  • In many rural areas, if a visually impaired person or a person with low vision walks into a bank to open an account, most banks don’t comply. Bank officials often insist that the person should open a joint bank account with a person with sight, or open an account with no ATM card/cheque book facility or both

 

Problems faced by hearing impaired

If a person who is deaf visits a bank for availing the benefits of a scheme or service, the branch more often than not lacks the manpower to understand or interpret sign language

 

People with psycho-social abilities

People with psycho-social disabilities are the worst hit as they require a guardian to sign a contract on their behalf

 

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)

Under PMJDY, a majority of banks refrain from offering insurance to people with disabilities.

 

Impact of Demonetization

The demonetisation move has further aggravated the problem

  1. Absence of Ramps: There are long queues outside ATMs and banks, and disabled persons find it difficult to avail of cash and services in such an environment, especially in rural areas. Despite the RBI stating that “banks have to take necessary steps to provide all existing ATMs/future ATMs with ramps so that wheel chair users/persons with disabilities can easily access them”, most ATMs remain inaccessible. In the current environment, the government has proposed that there should be separate queues for persons with disabilities and for senior citizens, but the reality is starkly different.

 

Way ahead

Punitive action: Author suggests that the RBI and the government need to take punitive action against those errant officials and banks that contravene the RBI’s guidelines for providing banking facilities to disabled people.

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that we must uphold the spirit of Article 41 of the Constitution (Right to public assistance for the disabled).


ECONOMY


[1] Panel moots ‘handling’ levy on cash payments


The Hindu

 

Context

It suggested a cut in the threshold for quoting PAN numbers for cash transactions from 50,000/- and 200000/-

 

Committee on digital payments (Watal Committee)

The committee has advised finance ministry that,

  • Imposing a levy: Union Budget 2017-18 should allow merchants as well as government departments to levy a handling charge for cash payments above a certain limit
  • A reduction in the mandatory threshold for quoting PAN card numbers for cash transactions from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 2,00,000, applicable in different cases currently
  • Aadhaar be used as an alternate for KYC for people who don’t have a PAN
  • Creating parity: To create parity between cash and digital payments, the panel proposed that eKYC requirements in digital payments should be in consonance with KYC norms for transacting in cash. Transactions which are permitted in cash without KYC should also be permitted on prepaid wallets without KYC
  • Tax payment by cards and wallets: Allow tax payments by debit cards and e-wallets, against the current option of net banking only
  • Make Aadhaar numbers compulsory in Income Tax returns, although the committee has stressed such an amendment must only be made after seeking the Attorney General’s opinion. Income tax payers already have PAN cards
  • When government acts as a merchant, it should bear the cost of electronic payments and not pass them on to consumers
  • Low value transactions: Digital payments for low value transactions, such as parking charges, toll charges or health services at government hospitals and health centres, also need to be promoted as they affect the daily lives of the people
  • Adoption of digital payments for all government transactions: Committee has also proposed that utility bills and payments to government above a certain threshold be made only in digital mode
  • Withdraw convenience charges: Convenience or service charge levied by utility service providers, petrol pumps, railways, airlines on electronic payments should be withdrawn
  • Reduction in Custom and Excise duties: Customs and excise duties on import of equipment which form a part of retail payment system infrastructure must be cut in the Budget. The list includes micro ATMs used by business correspondents; fingerprint readers and biometric readers either as spare parts or as integrated electronic data capture machines and point- of-sale (PoS) terminals

 

Benefits of going less-cash

Report stated that transitioning to an electronic platform for government payments itself could save approximately Rs. 100,000 crore annually, with the cost of the transition being estimated at Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 70,000 crore


[2] Aviation in 2016


 

The Hindu

 

Context

Flight airborne; ATF price, congestion cloud outlook: India’s air traffic grew at a significantly higher rate.

Give the article a go-through once.

 


Live Mint


[1] Sustaining transition to a digital economy


Live Mint

 

Context

Don’t assume that the recent surge in online transactions is an irreversible move towards a digital economy

 

A massive increase in digital transactions

In the first few paragraphs author points at the recent surge in the digital transactions in lieu of the demonetization move by the government, the announcement that the taken away currency will not be fully reduced and the subsequent reduction in charges on digital payment and transfers.

 

Authors’ contention

We should not assume that the current surge indicates a sustained and irreversible movement towards the embrace of a digital economy

 

His argument:

  • Author points at another initiative with similar vision with respect to financial inclusion ie Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). No doubt around 240 million bank accounts were opened but most of them remain dormantdespite added incentives. Creative use of such accounts to launder unaccounted money is now being reported.
  • Cash usage still prevails: Electronic wallets might be predominantly used to receive online payments, only to be immediately withdrawn and used over the counter
  • Kenya’s struggle: Kenya, despite being the epicentre of the digital payments revolution, is still struggling with high over-the-counter cash usage.

 

Problem

  1. Top-Down approach: Author points out that the problem with most government drives is the top-down approach of issuing diktats and a bureaucracy which does not have the slightest understanding of ground realities. This also is the biggest bottleneck in fast-forwarding to Digital India.
  2. Dependence on externalities: Success of the digital ecosystem is dependent upon several externalities. Such externalities increase the inconvenience associated with digital transactions. Externalities include,
  • Successful authentication of user information
  • Availability of mobile or Internet connectivity
  • Existence of payment and acceptance infrastructure

 

Inconvenience: For instance, most digital transactions in India can only be undertaken through smartphones. Reportedly, only about 17% of Indians own a smartphone. This is the lowest among BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) economies, wherein China leads with 58% smartphone penetration. Even the global median is much higher than India’s, at around 43%.

  • Complicated process: The process of making digital payments through feature phones involves entering complicated codes, which is not an easy task even for educated persons like me
  • Network unavailability:Even when a smartphone is available, smooth availability of mobile or Internet network is not certain. Several pockets in the country do not have uninterrupted access to a mobile network.

 

Security risks: Availability of all essential prerequisites for digital transactions does not take away the security risks inherent in such transactions.

  • Card info compromised: Not so long ago, the largest ever compromise of sensitive debit card information of close to three million consumers was reported in India, requiring several banks to reissue such cards.
  • Hacking threats:Reportedly, confidential data pertaining to servers, including encryption keys of service providers such as payments system operators, banks and wallet issuers, could potentially be accessed by hackers, raising the possibility of fraudulent instructions/transactions. Mobile payments applications are not using hardware-level security which can make online transactions more secure. One can imagine the level of security standards employed by local service providers when global giants like Yahoo have suffered data breaches in over one billion email accounts.

 

Weak regulatory framework

Author states that there is an urgent need to set up a strong cybersecurity and data protection framework in India. The regulatory attitude is archaic, with a requirement to report security breaches on a quarterly basis, and limited attention on monitoring compliance with international security standards.

  1. Negligible user awareness: User awareness about digital security is also negligible. Often, consumers are complacent about protecting their personal information online. Lack of awareness results in consumers relying on third parties to undertake digital transactions. Such intermediaries could extract unfair charges for their assistance and advice.

 

Opportunity in the crisis

Author states that The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) suggests India aspires to build a cyber-security product and services industry of $35 billion by 2025, and generate a skilled workforce of one million in the security sector.

  • Bottom-up approach: Such products and services need to be designed through a bottom-up approach, i.e. they should be able to deal with local problems and provide customized user-centric comprehensible solutions, rather than being copied from other jurisdictions.
  • Consumer participation:Consumers also need to be involved in the review of legislative and regulatory framework around digital security to ensure their interest is kept at the core. Their awareness and capacity will be crucial to sustaining the transition towards the digital economy.

[2] The finance sector must sign the Paris pact


Live Mint

 

Context

Without increased climate funding to the global South, the poor will end up underwriting a green future for a privileged few.

Give this article a go through once.


[3] Forget ratings agencies, focus on fundamentals


Live Mint

 

Context
While India has made significant progress, there is still plenty of scope for improvement.

Give it a go-through once.