Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 26, 2017

 


The Hindu


NATIONAL


[1]. Name bridge after Hazarika’

[2]. Prices of 31 more drugs capped


EDITORIAL


[1]. Bail or jail

[2]. Should agricultural income be taxed?


ECONOMY


[1]. In-Fight Wi-Fi Net access soon

[2]. Centre alters definition of a start-up


NATIONAL


[1]. Name bridge after Hazarika’

The Hindu

Context

Ahead of the inauguration of India’s longest bridge, there are calls to name it after the legendary Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika

The Dhola-Sadiya Bridge

PM will inaugurate the 9.15-km Dhola-Sadiya Bridge over Lohit river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The bridge in Tinsukia district is located over 500-km from Assam’s Capital Dispur and 300-km from Arunachal Pradesh’s Capital Itanagar

  • The bridge will bring upper Assam closer to eastern Arunachal Pradesh and is estimated to reduce travel time by four hours
  • The bridge will also make it much easier for Army convoys to reach outposts near the China border

Sadiya

Sadiya had served as one of the administrative headquarters of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), as Arunachal was known as earlier, when Hazarika was born in 1926 until the devastating earthquake in 1950.

Why Hazarika?

A cultural icon, he can be identified as a man of assimilation, who connected various big and small communities of the region like a golden thread in the North East

[2]. Prices of 31 more drugs capped

The Hindu

Context

What has happened?

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) capped the prices of 31 more drugs

Additions to price control

The notification brings under price control

  • Intrauterine devices used for birth control
  • Factor VIII, a life-saving medicine for haemophilic patients
  • Morphine, a pain killer
  • Rifampcin, a powerful antibiotic used to treat infections such as tuberculosis and leprosy

So, how many drugs are now under price control?

With these 31 drugs, the NPPA has brought 791 medicines under price control

  • There are 829 drugs on the National List of Essential Medicines, 2015, all of which will be brought under price control

Backdrop

In December 2015, the government had updated the NLEM list


Editorial


[1]. Bail or jail

The Hindu

Context

Article talks about the latest report of the law commission

Author’s contention

Author states that the report of Law commission deserves urgent attention

Observations

  • Inadequate bail system: The existing system of bail in India is inadequate and inefficient to accomplish its purpose
    • The main reason that 67% of the current prison population is made up of undertrials is the great inconsistency in the grant of bail
    • Poverty: Many undertrials are not able to fulfill the financial obligations i.e. bail bonds, to avail a bail

Recommendations

The Law Commission recommends,

  • Those detained for an offence that would attract up to seven years’ imprisonment be released on completing one-third of that period, and those charged with offences attracting a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period
  • For those who had spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone may be considered for remission
  • An illustrative list of conditions that could be imposed in lieu of sureties or financial bonds. It advocates the need to impose the “least restrictive conditions”

Way forward

Bail reform is not a panacea, as per the report of law commission. Be it overcrowded prisons or unjust incarceration of the poor, the solution lies in expediting the trial process

[2]. Should agricultural income be taxed?

The Hindu

Context

Article centers on the recent debate of taxing agricultural income in India

Not a new issue

  • In 1925, a committee was set up to assess the feasibility of taxing agriculture income
  • KN Raj committee: The most famous attempt in post-Independence India was the K.N. Raj committee report of 1972, which also examined feasibility and implementation issues
  • Kelkar task force: The Kelkar task force report of 2002 estimated that 95% of the farmers were below the tax threshold

The underlying argument

Author states that the underlying argument in the current discussion is to bring more people under the tax net to expand the tax base and also curb tax evasion because income from other sources is usually shown as agricultural income and thus evasion is easy

Two alarming features of post-reform era

  • Poor growth of agriculture sector: The relative contribution of agricultural income to India’s gross domestic product has shrunk at an alarming rate
    • High workforce dependence: During the period 1991 to 2016, the share of agriculture decreased from 32% to 15%. Compared with this, the workforce dependence on agriculture is still very high, at 49.7%
  • Unequal concentration of wealth: the process of economic development has led to the concentration of income and wealth in a few hands, leading to the unprecedented rise of the number of billionaires in India

Other issues

  • Education and health privatisation has increased the cost of rural households and the burden of all this has adversely impacted agricultural households

Agrarian distress

  • The average per month income of a farm household in India in 2012-13 as per the National Sample Survey Office was just Rs. 6,491
  • The income-expenditure gap for a majority of farmers is in the negative
  • More than one-third of the farmers have expressed their choice to leave the non-remunerative occupation
  • The agrarian distress has been deepening, and there has been a rise in farmer suicides

Conclusion

The agrarian sector is in deep crisis. Instead of finding a viable policy to solve the crisis, floating the idea of taxing farming income is a great disservice to the sector

Read More: You can read more on this issue here


Economy


[1]. In-Fight Wi-Fi Net access soon

The Hindu

Context

Live Internet streaming is not possible on flights over India under present law

What has happened?

On-board Wi-Fi may soon become a reality as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sent a revised proposal that will enable in-flight access to voice, data and video services. A large number of countries, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, permit the use of Internet on flights

What the centre needs to do?

The Centre will need to amend the Telegraph Act, 1885, as well as the related Indian Telegraphy Rules to provide on-board Wi-Fi services

Present situation

  • At present, both domestic and international passengers are unable to use in-flight Internet services over Indian airspace
  • Even international airlines that offer such a facility to its passengers have to discontinue the service while the aircraft is flying over the Indian airspace

Importance of IFC

  • Improvement in safety: In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) promises to substantially improve safety of airlines as it enables
    • Flight tracking in respect of aircraft in near real time reporting latitude, longitude, altitude, true heading and ground speed
    • Streaming of flight data recorder of the aircraft in real-time
    • Facilitation of real time intervention for safety and security based on flight data monitoring

[2]. Centre alters definition of a start-up

The Hindu

Context

Broadening of the definition of a start up

What has happened?

The Centre has amended the definition of a start-up by broadening the term to include scalability of business model with a potential for employment generation or wealth creation.

  • Moreover, an entity shall be deemed as a start-up up to seven years from the date of its incorporation

Earlier situation

  • A Letter of Recommendation from an incubator/industry body for recognition or tax benefits has been done away with
  • For the biotechnology sector, the period is up to 10 years

 

 

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 25, 2017

 


The Hindu


NATIONAL


[1]. ‘Rich get bail, poor remain in jails’

[2]. An Abe-Modi plan for Africa


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. A flawed rescue act

[2]. Say no to GM mustard

[3]. Access denied


Economy


[1]. Govt. orders to favour local suppliers

[2]. GST rollout deadline will not be extended

[3]. Centre may expand UDAN’s wingspan


Indian Express


[1]. The sword of global justice


Live Mint


[1]. GST structure: an unfortunate compromise

[2]. NITI Aayog and the emperor’s clothes


NATIONAL


[1]. ‘Rich get bail, poor remain in jails’

The Hindu

Context

Law Commission advocates relaxation of bail provisions for undertrial prisoners

What has happened?

Law Commission has come out with its 268th report

Observations

  • The rich and powerful get bail with ease while the commoner and the poor languish in jail
  • Prolonged periods in prison where undertrials and convicts were not segregated would only make hardened criminals of the former
  • A majority of the undertrials (70.6 per cent) are illiterate or semiliterate and belong to socio-economically marginalised groups. Sixty-seven per cent of the prison population is awaiting trial
  • The Commission quoted an expert study which said that a majority of the arrests are for “very minor prosecutions.” Over 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary and such arrests accounted for 42.3 per cent of jail expenditure
  • Pressure on prisons: According to the Prison Statistics of India, the prison occupancy stands at 114 per cent. The prisons have 53,009 officials to take care of 4,19,623 inmates which amounts to one official per eight inmates

Recommendations

  • Amendments to bail provisions: The Commission recommended to the government amendments to the bail provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code with emphasis on the early release on bail of undertrials
  • Undertrials who have completed one-third of the maximum sentence for offences up to seven years be released on bail
  • Those who are awaiting trial for offences punishable with imprisonment of more than seven years, should be bailed out if they have completed one-half of their sentence
  • New legal provisions for remission: The Commission said new legal provisions for remission should be included to cover those undertrials who have already endured the full length of the maximum sentence

[2]. An Abe-Modi plan for Africa

The Hindu

Context

Proposal for growth corridor presented to the Board of Governors of AfDB

What has happened?

India and Japan have unveiled a vision document for the Asia Africa Growth Corridor, proposed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries last November

Asia Africa Growth Corridor

Unlike China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, about which India has raised several concerns, the Asia Africa Growth Corridor is conceived as a more open and inclusive programme that will be based on more consultations and keep people as the centre piece rather than just trade and economic ties, said officials who worked on the vision document

4 key elements

The document presented to the board of the African Development Bank’s governors at their annual meeting here, proposes four key elements that leverage the strengths of India and Japan

They are

  • Enhancing capacity and skills
  • Building quality infrastructure and connecting institutions
  • Development and cooperation projects in health, farming, manufacturing and disaster management
  • People-to-people partnerships

Editorial/OPINION


[1]. A flawed rescue act

The Hindu

Context

The banking regulation ordinance puts its seal of approval on corporate subsidy at the cost of public banks

New Licenses

The RBI recently granted bank licences to 23 applicants which included Aditya Birla Nuvo, Reliance Industries, Tech Mahindra and Vodafone M-pesa and Airtel

  • These corporates need to invest Rs. 100 crore each to gain entry into the banking sector

Source of NPAs

In India, corporates rely on banks as the main source for funds.

  • IMF Report: The February 2017 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report states that 65.7% of Indian corporate debt as of March 31, 2016 is funded by banks
  • The 2017 IMF report also states that about half of the over all debt is owed by firms who are already highly indebted (debt-equity ratio more than 150%). These borrowers are simply not earning enough to meet their interest commitments
  • Financial Stability Report: The December 2016 Financial Stability Report states that large borrowers account for 56% of bank debt and 88% of their NPAs
  • Credit Suisse Report: A recent Credit Suisse report highlights the inability of top Indian corporates to make timely interest payments by stating that about 40% of debt lies with companies with an interest coverage ratio of less than 1

Author’s contention

Grant of loans to even corporates that lacked expertise was made at the behest of RBI and government as some of these major corporate groups are key drivers of growth of the Indian economy. Now, RBI cannot thrust resolution of stressed assets on banks via haircut (a waiver of of a part of the loan without inviting criticism of poor financial discipline)

Conclusion

Passing of corporate losses into the banking system for the benefit of elite corporate borrowers is not the right way to go about this whole NPA resolution process

[2]. Say no to GM mustard

The Hindu

Context

There are formidable social, economic and environmental reasons why it should not be cultivated

GM Mustard debate has been covered in ample detail here

[3]. Access denied

The Hindu

Context

The government needs to engage with Internet companies directly for encrypted data

What has happened?

An iPhone used by Abu Dujana, said to be among the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s commanders in Kashmir, which fell into the hands of security forces, could be a valuable source of information for the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The odds that the agency is able to break into the device are, however, slim. For now, the government has sent the iPhone to the U.S., seeking assistance from its federal agencies

Increasing encryption                                                                                                 

Entire article stresses on the increasing trend of encryption by global companies. Author cites the example of Apple, the encryption technology of whose phones has become virtually out of reach of the law making agencies making such device vulnerable to being used by terrorists and criminals.

Challenge for policymakers

The distinct trend towards greater adoption of encryption poses a dilemma for Indian policymakers. Strong encryption protocols increase consumer confidence in the digital economy, but the Indian government fears a scenario where criminals or terrorists can easily “go dark” behind secure channels.

MLAT Treaty

The current process of information-sharing through the India-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty suffers from almost irreparable hurdles, ranging from bureaucratic delays on both sides to inconsistencies in domestic legal standards

What is MLAT?

A mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public laws or criminal laws. Modern states have developed mechanisms for requesting and obtaining evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions

Solution

Perhaps the solution lies in a bilateral data-sharing agreement to help the Indian government engage with Internet companies directly, rather than routing requests through the U.S. government.


Economy


[1]. Govt. orders to favour local suppliers

The Hindu

Context

Aims to boost domestic manufacturing thus creating jobs and increasing income

What has happened?

The Union Cabinet has approved a policy that provides preference to local suppliers in Government procurement.

  • The policy, approved by the cabinet will be implemented through an order pursuant to the General Financial Rules, 2017 to provide purchase preference (linked with local content) in Government procurement
  • The order also covers autonomous bodies, government companies/entities under the government’s control

Aim of the policy

  • The new policy is aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing and services, thereby creating employment and enhancing income
  • It will also stimulate the flow of capital and technology into domestic manufacturing and services
  • t will also provide a further thrust towards the manufacture of parts, components and sub-components of these items

Defining local supplier

Under the new policy, local suppliers are those whose goods or services meet prescribed minimum thresholds (ordinarily 50%) for local content

Local content

Local content is essentially domestic value-addition

Who will oversee?

A Standing Committee in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion will oversee the implementation of this order and issues arising out of them, and make recommendations to nodal ministries and procuring entities

[2]. GST rollout deadline will not be extended

The Hindu

Context

The government is not considering extending the rollout date for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) past July 1, and the GST Network is almost ready for that deadline

Nothing relevant here. Give it a go through once

[3]. Centre may expand UDAN’s wingspan 

The Hindu

Context

The Centre has proposed widening the scope of its UDAN scheme for regional connectivity by making more flight operations eligible for a host of concessions, including viability gap funding

The proposal

The airlines operating on Lucknow-Varanasi route may be eligible for concessions under the UDAN scheme as there are no flights on the route at present although there are flights operating out of these airports to other destinations.

What airlines need to do to be a part of the scheme?

To be eligible, airlines need to participate in the bidding process. At present, only airports that are either categorised as unserved or underserved fall under the Scheme

Decreasing exclusivity

The Civil Aviation Ministry has further proposed decreasing the exclusivity on flight operations under the RCS from three years to one year. However, the subsidy to airlines will continue for three years

  • At present, no other airline, except the one which has won the bid, is allowed to operate on routes awarded under the Scheme

Indian Express


[1]. The sword of global justice

Indian Express

Context

In Jadhav case, ICJ shows creativity by balancing its powers with principle of state sovereignty and consent

Relevant points from the article

Vienna convention (VC)

ICJ decided that the dispute between the two countries arose under Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 and that it had jurisdiction over the case since both India and Pakistan had ratified, without reservation, Article 1 of the Optional Protocol to the VC

  • Article 36(1) of the VC assures consular access to a treaty national providing for certain obligations in the event of an arrest or detention of a foreign national, to guarantee the inalienable right to counsel, and due process through consular notification and effective access to consular protection. However, Pakistan denied this access, despite as many as 13 process verbal by India

Live Mint


[1]. GST structure: an unfortunate compromise

Live Mint

Context

Political optics have overpowered economic logic in the framing of the GST structure

Article’s contention

The GST structure that has been decided on is too complicated and distortionary for India to reap the benefits of the national value-added tax

What should have been?

There should have been a simple GST structure, with zero taxes on a few essentials, a high tax rate for a few sin goods and almost everything else taxed at a single rate.

Flawed GST Structure

Author states that India is heading towards a flawed GST structure with multiple tax rates and complex tax structure. This should be a cause of worry for the following reasons,

  1. The sheer complexity of the GST structure will result in tax disputes, lobbying and corruption in the future
  2. The second problem with a complicated tax structure is that it will lead to distortions
  3. A more complicated tax structure will actually increase business costs, while on the other, exemptions will mean cascading of costs because of the absence of input tax credits

Pushing for a simple GST

Author states that economic reformers would now have to push for a simpler GST in the coming years. Following are the ways in which it can be done,

  1. Gradual removal of exemptions: Governments should gradually remove exemptions, on the one hand and equally gradually, bring taxes on most goods and services to a standard rate on the other hand
  2. Direct tax code: There is now a strong case to push ahead with the direct tax code so that higher collections of income and corporate taxes create fiscal space for a rationalization of indirect taxes

 

[2]. NITI Aayog and the emperor’s clothes

Live Mint

Context

Instead of letting the government set the agenda, NITI Aayog needs to inform the government of its failings

Article details on the NITI Aayog, the unfulfilled expectations and how it should work in the future

Give it a go through once.

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 24, 2017


NATIONAL


[1]. NGO evolves blueprint to end female genital mutilation

[2]. FTA will be high on Modi-Merkel agenda

[3]. Africa is our priority


  Editorial/OPINION


[1]. The GST train chugs along

[2]. Forgotten cogs in the wheels of justice 

[3]. Continental ties


Economy


[1]. RCEP: India upset over slow progress on services talks

[2]. Centre keen on upgrading ship-repairing facilities


 Indian Express


[1]. Holding To Ransom


Live Mint


[1]. Building a robust and resilient cyber system

[2]. Adding heft to inflation targeting


 NATIONAL


[1]. NGO evolves blueprint to end female genital mutilation

The Hindu

Context

A report on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) released looks at the psychological trauma and physical scars faced by the victims, and the legal aspects that could be weaved in to stop the practice completely

Dawoodi Bohras

A Shiite branch of Islam based in Gujarat, India, with an estimated 1.2 million followers around the world

What has happened?

Speak Out on FGM, a group of DawoodiBohra women, who are victims of khatna themselves, have come out with a report on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

  • The report looks at the psychological trauma and physical scars faced by the victims, and the legal aspects that could be weaved in to stop the practice completely

What is Khatna?

Khatna involves cutting part of the clitoral hood or the prepuce of girls as young as seven years

Report on FGM

  • The 57-page report drafted over a span of six months takes a detailed look at the existing laws in India pertaining to gender and minors and international laws against FGM in the U.S., U.K., Australia, France and Africa
  • Report explores aspects like protection for the informer, who to give the information to, and punitive action that can be initiated
  • Report also looks in detail at the whole argument about freedom of religion and whether it holds for FGM

Defining FGM

  • Some anti-khatna activists are of the view that the practice should be termed as Female Genital Cutting as it involves cutting of the part of genital tissue and not mutilation as practised in some African communities
  • However, Ms. Ranalvi said FGM is a universal term under which the World Health Organisation has explained various degrees of cutting

Belittling Dawoodi Bohras?

Some members of the Bohra community have alleged that Speak Out is deliberately trying to belittle the community by excessively and disproportionately highlighting the issue of female circumcision which is far less invasive than male circumcision

Read More: Please refer to this WHO article on FGM

[2]. FTA will be high on Modi-Merkel agenda

The Hindu

Context

India, Germany share concerns on China project

Visit to Berlin

Indian PM will travel to Germany for the fourth round of the annual Inter-Governmental Commission on May 29-30, and is expected to announce a number of agreements after his meeting with Ms. Merkel

Relevant information will start to surface only after the said visit happens. It will be listed here accordingly

[3]. Africa is our priority

The Hindu

Context

India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was higher than our commodity trade with the United States of America

Nothing relevant here.


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. The GST train chugs along

The Hindu

Context

The ideal of a low, single rate and comprehensive coverage is still far away, but the journey has begun

GST has already been covered in ample detail.

Give the article a go through

[2]. Forgotten cogs in the wheels of justice 

The Hindu

Context

The exploitation of judicial support staff continues to be widespread

 Article talks about

Deplorable working conditions of the judicial support staff and the resultant discontent has been highlighted in this article

 Representation by CJAR

The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) made a representation to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, detailing cases where employees had alleged harassment by the misuse of rules that regulate their service and the various issues that needed to be addressed

Repressive conditions

  • Burdened by heavy volume: The support staff works in repressive conditions with long hours, have no leave, face penalties and fines and often unfair arrest warrants, and are overburdened by the sheer volume of file handling and working out of crowded courtrooms
  • Overburdened by mounting pendency: Mounting pendency of court cases results in an increased volume of court files without an increase in judicial staff strength, leading to them being overburdened. Proper care has not been taken to ensure the appointment of qualified staff. Those who are recruited have little or no on-the-job training.

What needs to be done?

An effective grievance redress mechanism needs to be put in place

Good news

Acting on the CJAR representation,

  • The Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made the first move in directing that all judicial officers in the State appoint home peons by June 30. Further, the order directs that an employee’s post be changed every three years and file handling by ahlmads (a type of judicial support staff) be limited to 800 files. This will go a long way in ensuring a more fulfilling and just working environment

[3]. Continental ties

The Hindu

Context

India begins the heavy-lifting neededto transform economic partnerships in Africa

What has happened?

The 52nd Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors (the Bank’s highest decision-making body) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 43rd Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (ADF) officially opened in Ahmedabad, India, on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 with calls for greater cooperation between the Bank and India to help drive Africa’s transformation.

What is AfDB?

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group is a regional multilateral development finance institution established to contribute to the economic development and social progress of African countries that are the institution’s Regional Member Countries (RMCs).

Established on: The AfDB was founded following an agreement signed by member states on August 14, 1963, in Khartoum, Sudan, which became effective on September 10, 1964

  • HQ: The AfDB headquarters is officially in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Three entities: The AfDB comprises three entities:

  • The African Development Bank (ADB)
  • The African Development Fund (ADF)
  • The Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF)

Mission of AfDB

AfDB’s mission is to

  • Help reduce poverty, improve living conditions for Africans and mobilize resources for the continent’s economic and social development

Members

The Bank Group has 80 member countries, comprising 54 regional member countries (RMC) and 26 non-regional member countries (NRMC).

Future cooperation

  • Maritime cooperation: India is working on a maritime outreach to extend its Sagarmala programme to the southern coastal African countries with ‘blue economies’
  • Solar connection: India is also building its International Solar Alliance, which Djibouti, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Ghana signed on to on the sidelines of the AfDB project
  • Involving other powers:In its efforts, India has tapped other development partners of Africa, including Japan, which sent a major delegation to the AfDBmeeting
    • It has also turned to the United States, with which it has developed dialogues in fields such as peacekeeping training and agricultural support, to work with African countries
    • It is significant that during the recent inter-governmental consultations between India and Germany, both countries brought in their Africa experts to discuss possible cooperation in developmental programs in that continent

Conclusion

At a time when China is showcasing its Belt and Road Initiative as the “project of the century” and also bolstering its position as Africa’s largest donor, a coalition of like-minded countries such as the one India is putting together could provide an effective way to ensure more equitable and transparent development aid to Africa.


Economy


[1]. RCEP: India upset over slow progress on services talks

The Hindu

Context

India, which is in talks for the proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) along with 16 other Asia Pacific nations, has expressed disappointment over the inadequate progress in talks on services trade liberalization especially for facilitating easier movement of professionals for short-term work in these countries

Fairly simple article. Go through it once

[2].Centre keen on upgrading ship-repairing facilities

The Hindu

Context

Centre is planning to embark on a programme to refurbish the ship-repairing facilities in various ports across the country

What has happened?

Centre is planning to embark on a programme to refurbish the ship-repairing facilities in various ports across the country

Nodal Agency: Cochin Shipyard (PSU)

7 ports

The seven ports that have agreed to this project are,

  • Mumbai
  • Goa
  • Pandu (Assam)
  • Kandla (Gujarat)
  • Farakka (West Bengal)
  • Kolkata
  • Dorigunj (Bihar)

Indian Express


[1]. Holding To Ransom

Indian Express

Context

WannaCry malware attack raises questions for state, software producers, users

 The Malware

WannaCry malware exploited vulnerabilities in Windows 7 that the US National Security Agency (NSA) apparently knew about for a few years.

  • At some point, these vulnerabilities were either leaked or electronically stolen, and in March, an entity known asShadowBrokers made them public

Zero day vulnerability

A zero day vulnerability refers to a hole in software that is unknown to the vendor. This security hole is then exploited by hackers before the vendor becomes aware and hurries to fix it—this exploit is called a zero day attack

  • Uses of zero day attacks can include infiltrating malware, spyware or allowing unwanted access to user information. The term “zero day” refers to the unknown nature of the hole to those outside of the hackers, specifically, the developers
  • Once the vulnerability becomes known, a race begins for the developer, who must protect users

You can give rest of the article a go through


Live Mint


[1]. Building a robust and resilient cyber system

Live Mint

Context

Article is in connection with the WannaCry malware attack

Not a new thing

There have already been such attacks and security breaches, going back to the

  • 2007 intrusions in Estonia that shut down the national government
  • The 2009 attack on US government websites
  • The 2010 Stuxnet attack that crippled Iran’s nuclear programme
  • The 2013 attack on banks and a TV station in South Korea amid tensions with North Korea
  • The 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • The cyber heist last year at Bangladesh’s central bank

Increasing danger

  • More things are connected to the Internet than people now, according to Cisco
  • A 2014 study by Hewlett Packard found that 70% of Internet of Things devices contain “serious vulnerabilities”
  • FBI has issued a cautionary note on over-the-Internet attacks on self-driven vehicles

Internet of Things

The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data

Way forward

A good starting point is the three-layered Israeli strategy that goes beyond security to build a cyber-system that is robust, resilient and has strong defence capabilities. Think of the country’s IT infrastructure as a human body

1st Level: At the first level, the body needs a robust immune system to protect it from everyday attacks without disrupting the flow of work. Here, individuals are responsible for their personal hygiene and vaccinations—which in cyber terms means updating security systems and changing passwords

2nd Level: Still, no matter how robust the immune system, individuals will fall sick at some point and will have to be taken to hospitals. This is the second level—that of building resilience. Think of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team as the cyber equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US

3rd Level: The third level is that of national defence, wherein there is a direct threat to the state and its citizens. The government takes the lead role here but, importantly, its success depends on the robustness and resilience of the system as a whole

[2]. Adding heft to inflation targeting

Live Mint

Context

The shift to flexible inflation targeting by RBI’s monetary policy committee is based on a deep theoretical shift in economic policy thinking, and whether one agrees or not, India has now embraced the new paradigm

Give the article a go through

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 23, 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL


  1. After 84 years, cobra lily blooms again
  2. Army set to get 11 Apache helicopters
  3. No room for India yet in NSG

Editorial/OPINION


  1. Hack it if you can
  2. An unequal burden

Economy


  1. RBI outlines action plan for resolving stressed loans
  2.  Smallest nation joins solar alliance

Live Mint


  1. Emerging frontiers for India-Russia ties
  2. Banking ordinance opens up Pandora’s box

 Front Page / NATIONAL


After 84 years, cobra lily blooms again

Context

  • The incredibly rare Arisaema translucens, more commonly remembered as the cobra lily, was recently rediscover-ed in the western Nilgiris after 84 years.

Conservation status

  • The Toda tribals of the Nilgiris could predict the early arrival of monsoons from the blooming of the cobra lily’s ‘translucens’.
  • Prized for their beauty around the world, cobra lilies are at even greater risk of extinction from the commercial trade in exotic plants.
  • Likely to have been quite common once, cobra lilies have vanished in the past decades along with the disappearance of the shola tree patches in which they were found.

Army set to get 11 Apache helicopters

Context

  • After several years of wrangling, the Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are likely to get the Apache multi-role attack helicopters from the U.S.

Background

  • The Army initially asked for 22 attack helicopters to be transferred to its custody, which was rejected by the Air Force.
  • The IAF has strongly opposed the creation of a separate mini-Air wing by the Army, which the former felt would reduce its role.
  • The Army has for long pitched for its own dedicated attack helicopter fleet integrated with its strike corps and has recently expressed the desire to have 39 Apaches. At present, India operates a mix of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, which are with the IAF.
  • The Army has placed a firm order for 114 indigenously developed light combat helicopters (LCH), which is in an advanced stage of induction, and has also ordered Rudra helicopters, the weaponised variant of the advanced light helicopter (ALH).
  • The Air Force too ordered the Rudra and 65 LCHs.

Through defence deal with US

  • India will exercise the optional clause in the original deal signed with the U.S. in November 2015. Under a $3-billion deal, India has contracted 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales programme.

No room for India yet in NSG

Context

  • China on Monday said it would oppose India’s unilateral entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), pending the consensus on membership of nuclear weapon states which had not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Background

  • The 48-nation NSG is expected to hold its plenary in June in Bern, Switzerland, where the topic of New Delhi’s entry is expected to be discussed.
  • New Delhi had formally applied for NSG membership in May last year, but China has consistently blocked India’s bid, pointing to the need for devolving universally applicable membership criteria for all countries which have not signed the NPT, but had become nuclear weapon states.
  • The NSG controls the global exports of nuclear technology and material to ensure that atomic energy is used only for peaceful purposes.
  • India insists that the NSG was not a non-proliferation group but an “export control” mechanism.

 Editorial/OPINION


Hack it if you can

Context

  • The electronic voting machine has been under strong scrutiny ever since it was deployed in the 1990s.
  • The Indian EVM is a singular instrument with its dependence on standalone hardware-firmware-led machine components to register and tally votes — it is not reliant on computer software or networked components.
  • Questions have been therefore raised about the possibility of EVM-tampering either by the introduction of malicious code (trojans) that could override the logic embedded in the chip, replacing its chip, or manipulating the communication between the ballot and the control units through remote signals or equipment.

Steps taken by EC

  • The steps include time-stamping of key presses, dynamic coding in second-generation machines besides tamper-proofing and self-diagnostics in the third-generation machines that are now being deployed.
  • A strict administrative protocol involving first-level checks after manufacture, randomised deployment, sealed strong rooms for storage, and conduct of mock polls has been instituted.
  • The EC has pledged the universal deployment of voter verifiable paper audit trails beginning 2019.

Accusations made

  • The Aam Aadmi Party recently demonstrated what it claimed to be a possible hack of the EVM by the introduction of a trojan on to an EVM prototype; it said that, therefore, it was possible to manipulate all EVMs by the replacement of its motherboard (to accommodate a chip that carried a built-in trojan).
  • This critique does not stand scrutiny considering the EC’s technical and administrative safeguards that prevent trojans or the mass manipulation of EVMs.

An unequal burden

Context

  • Paris Climate Agreement (PA) was signed in December 2015 in an attempt to limit the release and the effects from greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere after various countries developed and submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  • The Conference of the Parties-22 (COP-22) in Marrakesh in November 2016 continued discussions on the implementation of the PA and specific aspects continue to be deliberated upon in interim meetings such as the recently concluded one in Bonn.

Issues

  • For about three-fourths of the 165 listed NDCs, implementation of pledges is conditional upon assistance on the finance and technology fronts.
  • Such periodic raising of the stakes is built into the process of PA implementation, which would collapse without support.

What should be done?

  • Improving energy efficiencies across various sectors
  • Expanding the use of renewables
  • But we have to go well beyond that and shift to a radically different pattern of living that no longer involves GHG emissions.
  • Upfront capital investments are crucial for sustainable futures, and without them poorer countries have few options.

 Green Climate Fund

  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is an international mechanism set up at the Conference of the Parties-16 (COP-16) in Cancun in 2010.
  • Advanced economies should provide an annual assistance of $100 billion, through public and private sources, by 2020 — the deadline is now extended to 2025.
  • The fund currently has pledges worth $10 billion from various developed countries and there is a commitment to fund projects that enable the lowering of emissions and help in dealing with the effects from climate change.

Undeveloped countries dependence on GCF

  • India, early in its NDC statement, had estimated a requirement of $2.5 trillion to carry out its climate actions until 2030.
  • The least developed countries, small island states and African countries, which are all very vulnerable to the effects of warming and have contributed little to the GHGs, ought to receive the first priority.
  • In April 2017, the GCF Board approved eight projects for a total funding of $755 million.
  • The number of projects they have supported now adds up to 43, and the total amount is $2.2 billion in GCF funds that have a value of $7.3 billion, if one were to include co-financing.
  • The GCF has the ability to bear risks, support innovation and leverage its own funds for further support, therefore making it a vital agency for poor countries.
  • While there are some reports that private funding for the GCF will increase, these are not likely to support adaptation and will focus on actions that bring returns on investments. Thus, funds from advanced economies remain crucial.

Funding constraint of GCF

  • In January, former U.S. President Barack Obama transferred $500 million to the GCF. This was the second payment towards the fulfilment of a $3 billion pledge made in 2014.
  • So far, more than 40 countries, including a few developing economies, have made contributions to the GCF, the major contributors being the U.S., Japan and the U.K., but still the U.S. pledge is only $9.41 in per capita terms — many times lower than that of several European countries.
  • These recent transfers neither fulfil the U.S. pledge nor its obligations as the largest cumulative emitter of GHGs. Countries in Europe will need to pick up the slack, along with other private contributors.
  • Constraints in the flow of funds will prevent even the minimal level of support to deal with climate change.
  • It is not the responsibility of a poor fisherman in Bangladesh or a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa or an islander who loses her house to storms in the Pacific to bear the burden of emissions from rich countries.

Conclusion

  • The fact that all countries have responsibilities has been recognised in the Paris Agreement and we are all pulling the ship, but the rich countries, especially the U.S. and European nations, have to do their fair share for the world to set along a new path towards zero emissions.
  • India or any other developing country simply recommitting to implement its NDCs will not accomplish much, since without help we cannot go far and need the assistance that is owed to us.

Economy


RBI outlines action plan for resolving stressed loans

Context

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has outlined a broad plan to resolve stressed assets at lenders in the wake of the amendment of the Banking Regulation Act earlier this month.

Background

  • The RBI, which has sought information from lenders on the current status of large stressed assets and is working on norms for expediting the process of taking cases through insolvency and bankruptcy, said it would constitute a panel “comprised majorly of its independent board members” to advise it in this matter.

 

  • The Reserve Bank is working on a framework to facilitate an objective and consistent decision making process with regard to cases that may be determined for reference for resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
  • The RBI is also exploring the possibility of credit rating assignments determined by it, in order to avoid conflict of interest.

Oversight committee

  • The two-member Oversight Committee (OC) would also be reconstituted and put “under the aegis” of the RBI. The OC would be enlarged to include more members so that it could set up benches to deal with the volume of cases.
  • The central bank would soon name additions to the OC, who would join the existing members.

Smallest nation joins solar alliance

  • The world’s smallest republic, the tiny island nation of Nauru — has become the sixth country to ratify the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework pact initiated by the Indian and French Governments at the climate change summit held at Paris in 2015.
  • Five more nations, from Africa, — Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Ghana and Djibouti — have committed to sign the pact during the ongoing meeting of the African Development bank in India.
  • Headquartered in India, the alliance, conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to collaborate on meeting their energy needs through a common, agreed approach, will become a legal entity once at least 15 countries ratify and deposit the framework agreement.
  • India has earmarked about $2 billion to finance solar projects in Africa out of it commitment to provide $10 billion of concessional lines of credit for projects in the continent.

Live Mint


Banking ordinance opens up Pandora’s box

Context

  • The recently promulgated Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance is aimed at resolving the non-performing assets (NPA) crisis in the banking sector.

Pre-requisites to solve NPAs

  • Resolution of NPAs is a two-stage process.
  • The first stage involves assessing the viability of the debtor’s business.
  • The second stage involves deciding whether the debtor’s company should be restructured or liquidated.
  • Any such resolution, be it restructuring or liquidation, imposes losses on the banks that had lent money to the corporate debtor.
  • The larger the losses, the higher the amount of capital needed by the banks to meet the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) guidelines on provisioning requirements.
  • While the government has promulgated the ordinance, it has not made any commitment of additional capital to support the resolution efforts.
  • Capital allocated for the banking sector in the 2017-18 Union budget, or as part of the mid-term capital infusion plan, falls short of what the banks collectively need.

Essential need of capital

  • In absence of additional capital, the RBI’s directions to the banks under the ordinance may impede the resolution process.
  • The RBI may have no option but to direct the banks to extend lifelines to unviable companies to defer the problem to a future date. This can happen as part of the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) or otherwise.
  • Over the last few years, cash flows of the large stressed companies have been declining. Restoring their viability necessitates loan write-offs.
  • For the banks, resolving these cases requires the most capital. Given the lack of capital, banks could be given the regulatory cover under the ordinance to refinance these large corporate debtors. This has already happened under the RBI’s corporate debt restructuring (CDR) mechanism.
  • The ordinance does not change the status quo where good money is thrown after bad and no real resolution of NPAs takes place.

Improving the financial health of indebted entity

  • Resolving a bank’s NPAs requires resolving the entity to which money has been lent. The ordinance may instead create perverse outcomes.
  • Under IBC, banks as members of the creditors’ committee are required to vote on a resolution plan. If the RBI directs a bank to initiate IBC action against a corporate debtor, it may also have to direct the bank on the decisions in the creditors’ committee.
  • By empowering the RBI to act, the government has taken away any incentive of the banks to act on their own. In India today, different banks are at different levels of capital adequacy.
  • An IBC resolution plan that works for one bank may be inimical to the interests of another. As the banking regulator, RBI is responsible for the health of all banks.
  • So it is possible that the resolution plan that finally gets approved by the banks under RBI’s directions will focus more on the health of the banks as opposed to addressing the insolvency of the corporate debtor. This defeats the purpose of an IBC resolution.

Undermining of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code itself

  • RBI giving directions on the resolution of banks’ NPAs may undermine the IBC process in other ways too.
  • It may thwart the incentives of third parties which would have otherwise been willing to offer their bids or resolution plans in a market-driven process.
  • Public and private sector banks have non-government shareholders, and non-bank creditors. So do companies that may get referred to the IBC following RBI’s directions to the banks.
  • Any action under the ordinance that adversely affects the interests of these parties may be litigated in court. In a litigation if courts take cognizance of the rights of private shareholders and rule in their favour, this can further weaken the IBC process.
  • Also private parties, domestic and foreign, may view this as state interference in market processes. This may affect their future investment decisions.

Diffusion of roles to tackle the NPAs

  • With the ordinance in place, all eyes are now on the RBI to resolve the NPAs of the banking sector. This could be problematic because the range of actions that the banks can take to address the problem is limited by the shortage of capital.
  • The tools available to RBI are limited. If the RBI intervenes on a case-by-case basis, questions about conflict of interest, regulatory capacity and capability will arise.
  • If RBI intervenes through general rules and conditions, this will be no different from the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) mechanism, the strategic debt restructuring (SDR) scheme, and the scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets (S4A) that have failed in the past to resolve the problem. Either way, the ordinance puts RBI’s credibility and reputation as a micro-prudential regulator at stake.

Conclusion

  • The ordinance was presumably brought about because banks on their own could not trigger IBC proceedings against the stressed companies for fear of investigation and prosecution, or due to lack of capital or because of challenges in negotiating with politically connected promoters.
  • The ordinance gives banks the regulatory cover to take resolution decisions, but it is, by design, limited in its capacity to resolve the crisis.
  • Most importantly it puts the RBI in a difficult spot and makes the IBC vulnerable to potential abuse.
  • It also creates the problem of misaligning creditors’ and debtors’ incentives farther away from an effective resolution.

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 22, 2017



National


  1. Green energy target tough, say officials 
  2. Animal sightings rise as water dries up 
  3. Maharashtra releases Koyna water to crisis-hit Karnataka 

Editorials

  1. Addressing the court within 
  2. Coal comeuppance 
  3. An opportunity being drained away

Economy


  1. Defence deals await private firms 
  2. Explain Gorshkov cost

National


Green energy target tough, say officials

Context

  • The government had a announced a target of 40 GW of rooftop solar by 2022, but had achieved only about 1.3 GW as of December 2016, which is a little more than 3% of the target.
  • The government is unlikely to meet its much-publicised target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 due to the poor progress of the rooftop solar programme.

Issues

  • The policy issue is that the tariff structure right now is such that it is just not remunerative for people to set up rooftop solar. The cost of doing so higher than the money they stand to make.
  • Most roofs in India are flat, and people find several alternative uses for these such as drying clothes, and even hosting parties or meals. There are parts of India where people even sleep on their roofs. So they don’t want to cover that whole space with solar panels,” the official said.
  • There are no financial institutions aggregating demand across a fundamentally disparate set of projects. Unless this is done, it will be difficult to attract the kind of investment needed.
  • The second issue was the de-risking of investment in the rooftop space. While this has been done for commercial solar projects, it has not been done for rooftop solar.
  • The third problem is that there is no regulatory clarity on guaranteed payment by utilities on the net metering basis.

What should be done to sort out?

  • The Ministry is considering increasing the contributions of biogas and small hyrdro to make up the difference. These are doing very well and there is capacity to increase their contribution.
  • The government’s current plan is to get 10 GW from biomass powered plants and 5 GW from small hydro (hydro projects below 25 MW in scale).
  • According to a May 2016 report by the Standing Committee set up by the Ministry of Power, the country has a potential of 19.7 GW of energy capacity from small hydro. It has so far utilised only about 21% of this.

Animal sightings rise as water dries up

Context

  • Forest officials across Odisha are keeping their fingers crossed for the early arrival of monsoon as water scarcity in jungles has reached a critical stage, forcing wild animals to stray into human habitations more frequently.

What is happening?

  • A gaur (Indian bison) was found dead near a water source which had completely dried up in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary in Angul district recently.
  • In Rajnagar area of Kendrapara district, a spotted deer strayed into human habitation in search of water as there is acute shortage in Bhitarkanika National park.
  • Incident of elephants coming close to human habitations in the State have become extremely common. Earlier, the elephants were known to raid crops between November and February.
  • In summer, the jumbos are expected to stay deep inside the cooler forest environment.

`Maharashtrareleases Koyna water to crisis-hit Karnataka

Context

  • The Maharashtra government on Sunday released water from the Koyna dam in Satara district to alleviate the water crisis in Karnataka.
  • Water level in the Kaveri river basin has plummeted due to the soaring temperature.
  • In return, Karnataka will release water from the Almatti dam to cater to the needs of Solapur district and others parts in Maharashtra facing water shortage.

Background

  • With a storage capacity of 105 TMC, the Koyna reservoir is one of the largest dams in the State. It houses the massive Koyna hydropower generation plant.
  • Three consecutive years of drought have aggravated the agrarian crisis in Karnataka, especially in the north.

Editorials


Addressing the court within

Context

  • International Court of Justice’s order that India’s rights, under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, have plausibly been violated by Pakistan’s detention, trial and ultimate sentencing to death of Jadhav.
  • The internationalisation of the dispute potentially comes with its political ramifications for India.
  • Its victory, impermanent as it may ultimately prove to be, must be celebrated for what it is: a vindication of the rule of law.

International Politics Theory

  • Questions tend to revolve around whether international law is really law at all, and, if so, whether its principles even matter.
  • India’s choice of the ICJ as a legitimate site for dispute resolution, even if it was borne out of self-interest, can help dispel some of these age-old concerns.

The particular case

  • India has sought, among other things, an order that would declare the sentence of the Pakistani military court as violating Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, which both countries as parties are bound by.
  • This provision defines the rights granted to consular officials, with a view to helping them exercise their consular functions. Specifically, it accords a privilege to officials to not only freely communicate with any national of its state detained in the other country, but also the right of visiting the detained individual, and arranging for legal representation, if the détenu so desires.
  • Pakistan alleges that the Convention’s privileges were not only inapplicable, but that the ICJ, in any event, lacks the jurisdiction to decide the dispute.
  • Ordinarily, rows between nations can be taken to the World Court only if both parties consent to the court’s jurisdiction.
  • In this case, however, India relies on Article 36(1) of the Statute of the ICJ which accords to the court the power to decide disputes arising out of treaties or conventions that specifically vest the court with compulsory jurisdiction.

What are Pakistan’s arguments?

  • Pakistan claims that the two countries are governed by a 2008 bilateral agreement on consular access, which effectively exempts Pakistan from its obligations under the Vienna Convention, and which also ousts altogether the ICJ’s jurisdiction.
  • It argues that the Vienna Convention does not apply when a person has been detained for offences involving espionage or terrorism, as concerns over national security always trump the demands of consular relations.

Conclusion

  • When we see naked expressions of power in geopolitics, it’s easy to conclude that international law exists in vacuity, that its principles aren’t merely flawed but that they are also law only in their name.
  • Even if Pakistan were to disregard the ICJ’s order, the case shows us that there do exist concrete sources — a treaty in this case — which impose an ethical duty on nation-states to follow the rule of law.
  • We can only do this by resisting a push for greater governmental freedom at the domestic level, which invariably tends to carry itself into the sphere of international relations, where our own obligations — think climate change, customary refugee law, fundamental human rights, among others — often stand breached.
  • To set the right moral example we must start from within

Coal comeuppance

Context

  • The conviction of three Coal Ministry officials, including former Secretary H.C. Gupta, marks the first case in which individual criminal liability has been fixed on public servants in the coal block scam.

What it means?

  • The verdict is a studied indictment of government processes, or the lack of processes, during the period.
  • Looking at the prosecution charges and the defence claims, it appears there was little clarity on whether the guidelines were being adhered to.
  • Whether there was a conspiracy between the officials and the company and whether the prosecution proved that these omissions amounted to deliberate abuse of their positions will be matters that will, no doubt, be taken up on appeal; but the significance of the verdict is that it may become a benchmark for other ongoing prosecutions on similar lines.
  • The case also raises questions about the role and responsibility of a Secretary to the government, who is not only the administrative head of a department but also an adviser to the Minister on matters of policy.

An opportunity being drained away

Context

  • International World Water Day (March 22) this year’s theme was “wastewater”, which is defined as any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influences and as a result of domestic, industrial, commercial and agricultural activities.

Facts on wastewater

  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated goes back to the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
  • 8 billion people use drinking water contaminated with faeces which increases their risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
  • Also, 663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water sources.

What is the status in India?

  • Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.
  • In India, about 29,000 million l/day (mld) of waste water is generated from class-I cities and class-II towns, out of which about 45% (about 13,000 mld) is generated from metro cities alone. A collection system exists for only about 30% of the wastewater through sewer lines, while treatment capacity exists for about 7,000 mld.
  • The industrial sector in India discharges around 30,730 million cubic metres of effluents, without proper treatment, into waterbodies.
  • Run-off from agriculture fields is another major source of pollution.

What should be done?

  • At the national and regional levels, water pollution prevention policies should be integrated into non-water policies that have implications on water quality such as agriculture and land use management, trade, industry, energy, and urban development.
  • Water pollution should be made a punishable offence. The effectiveness and power of the “polluter pay principle” should be considered.
  • Various policies, plans and strategies to protect water resources should be participatory, allowing for consultation between government, industry and the public.
  • At the local level, capacity building enables the community to make decisions and disseminate them to the appropriate authorities, thus influencing political processes.
  • Market-based strategies such as environmental taxes, pollution levies and tradable permit systems should be implemented, and can be used to fight against or abate water pollution.
  • Incentive mechanisms such as subsidies, soft loans, tax relaxation should be included in installing pollution management devices.
  • In industrial pollution management, technological attempts should be made through cleaner production-technology. Sophisticated pollution management technology developed overseas should be introduced in India.
  • The application of eco-friendly inputs such as biofertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and the use of natural dyes in textile industries can reduce the pollution load considerably.

Economy


Defence deals await private firms

Context

  • The Union government will unveil mega defence deals estimated at over Rs. 1.5 lakh crore involving the private sector under the strategic partnership model to build a domestic defence manufacturing base in key areas such as submarines and fighter aircraft.

Background

  • The Defence Acquisition Council approved the framework of the model on Saturday. The policy will now go to the Finance Ministry and then to the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval.
  • The new model, which is a chapter under the Defence Procurement Procedure, has four segments —submarines, single-engine fighter aircraft, helicopters and armoured carriers/main battle tanks — and specifically intends to open up defence manufacturing to the private sector.

What will be under the deal?

  • Of the four deals, submarines and helicopters are for the Navy. The single-engine fighter is for the Indian Air Force and armoured vehicle for the Army.
  • A pool of capable companies will be selected based on technical and financial evaluation and they would then tie up with a foreign OEM which will be short-listed concurrently.

Indian bidders

  • For the submarines, the likely contenders are Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd., which have their own shipyards and the public sector Mazagon Docks Ltd., which is building the French Scorpene submarines.
  • For the fighter and helicopter segments, the likely bidders are Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. and Mahindra, both of which have a footprint in the aviation sector.
  • In the armoured segment, the FICV programme under way will be taken up under the SP model. L&T, Mahindra and Tata Motors are leading the race, for which bids have already been submitted.

Explain Gorshkov cost

Context

  • Central Information Commission has asked the Indian Navy to disclose the reasons for India agreeing to cost escalation by Russia for purchase of refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov .

Background

  • The deal for purchasing the now 30-year-old warship rechristened INS Vikramaditya was signed in 2004 by the then NDA government for $974 million which was increased to the final price of $2.35 billion in 2010.
  • The commission has also directed the the Navy disclose the “net final cost” incurred on the modifications, renovation and remodelling done on the ship, besides dates of payments made by India.
  • The Commission has ordered the disclosure to be made as it found “larger public interest” was involved. The Ministry and the Navy had withheld the information on the grounds of national security.

Facts

  • The ship was originally commissioned by the erstwhile USSR on December 20, 1987 and was decommissioned in 1996.
  • After being inducted into the Navy as Vikramaditya , the ship is now a floating 284-metre airfield. It is a 20-storey steel megastructure from the keel to the highest point. The ship can carry over 30 aircraft. With 22 decks and a capacity to house 1,600 personnel, the warship can sustain itself at sea for 45 days up to 13,000 km.

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 19, 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] India’s first uterine transplant begins

[2] GST Council sets rates for most commodities


 Editorial/OPINION


[1] Ending nuclear dependency

[2] Where the jobs are


 Economy


[1] India aims to boost trade ties with African nations


 Indian Express


[1] Aadhaar, then and now


Live Mint


[1] Big Data’s big governance impact

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] India’s first uterine transplant begins

The Hindu

Context

Team of doctors in Pune conducts procedure on woman from Solapur

What has happened?

The operations are meant to help women who want to conceive but cannot because they were born without a uterus, suffered damage to it or had to have it removed

A team of 12 doctors at the city’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) began the highly complex and delicate procedure of India’s first uterine transplant on a woman from Solapur district

Another Transplant

The hospital, which has been granted a licence by the State Directorate of Health Services to carry out the uterus transplant, is scheduled to conduct another womb transplant on a 24-year-old woman from Baroda who suffers from Asherman’s Syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus) and who will receive her mother’s womb

Earlier Attempts

Still in its nascent, experimental stage, only a handful of these operations have met with success in other countries, primarily in Sweden

Organ Rejection

The 20-odd uterine transplant operations round the world have often been frustrated by organ rejection (in which the patient’s immune system attacks the organ; an infection of the organ; or problems with the organ’s blood supply.)

Note of concern

Some experts have expressed concern about the operations, terming them an invasive surgical procedure fraught with risks manifested in adverse side effects of the anti-rejection drugs, including cancer and increased risk of opportunistic infection

[2] GST Council sets rates for most commodities

The Hindu

Context

Six categories of items to be taken up today

What has happened?

The Goods and Services (GST) Council agreed on the fitment of almost all commodities in the various tax slabs under the new indirect regime to be rolled out on July 1

Important measure

Stressing that no commodity would witness an increase in taxation, Finance Minister said this was an important step towards rollout of GST from July 1

To be discussed

The six categories to be discussed include bidis/cigarettes, footwear, gold, and agriculture implements. Tax rates on services will also be part of the agenda on Friday

Meet again

In case the Council is unable to complete discussions, it might decide to meet again in the “near future.”

Help tax evasion

Despite the reduction in tax of some commodities, efficiency in administration will help curb evasion and increase tax buoyancy, leading to improved revenue collection.

Over 1,200 items to be considered under GST, 7% have been put under the exempt list

 


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Ending nuclear dependency

The Hindu

Context

The government’s go-ahead to 10 indigenous reactors is a timely step towards nuclear energy self-sufficiency

India now has 22 nuclear power units

The Fukushima accident of 2011 jolted the nuclear industry globally and the first priority was assessment of safety of nuclear plants in operation all over the world under what was termed as ‘Beyond Design Basis’ natural events

Areva of France suffered heavy losses post-Fukushima when the uranium market bottomed. Japan, a big buyer of uranium, went out of the market as most of their reactors were shut down in 2011

Make in India

Anticipating some of these difficulties, the nuclear community in India has been looking at other options to expand the nuclear capacity

PHWR

The fleet of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR), of our own design and construction, have performed well

Our Reactors operating well

  • During the last five years, the cumulative capacity factor has been 78%
  • The reactors have operated continuously for periods exceeding 300 days quite regularly and one of our reactors was on line for 765 days, the second-longest run in the world
  • The cost of power has been less than from coal in the same region

IPWR

Our reactor designers at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and NPCIL have completed the design of a 900 MW reactor using enriched uranium as fuel, designated as the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor (IPWR)

Own supply of enriched uranium

  • By about 2025 or so, India may itself supply enriched uranium from its own enrichment facilities
  • The government’s push for 10 IPWRs will secure India a position of nuclear power plant supplier not only for application in India, but also as a potential exporter

Conclusion

While our earlier plans on expanding nuclear power have not materialised, the alternative plan suggested now, which envisages building 28 units with a total capacity of about 25,000 MW in 15 years from now, can still ensure that nuclear power remains an important part of our strategy to minimise carbon emissions in the long run.

[2] Where the jobs are

The Hindu

Context

Public spending and economic policy need to be more attuned to employment creation

The Job creation and rate of unemployment have been low according to labor ministry figures

Focus of the govt is on the National Employment Policy which, would be released later this year and focus on shifting jobs from the informal to the formal sector

NITI Aayog

  • NITI Aayog too has dismissed concerns over jobless growth, saying the real problem is underemployment rather than unemployment
  • The government set up a high-level task force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya to obtain reliable data on employment trends to aid policymaking

Concerns

Higher economic growth alone will not solve the jobs problem

Risk of Stagnation

Jobs can be created when growth comes from the transition of labour from informal sectors like agriculture to the more formal manufacturing and service sectors. Such extensive growth, however, runs the risk of stagnation once the available stock of informal labour is exhausted — as some Southeast Asian countries found out the hard way in the late 1990s

Improvement in productivity

On the other hand, growth can come about without any substantial job-creation in the formal sectors of the economy, but through improvements in productivity

Developed Countries

The growth record of several developed economies even after the modernisation of their labour force explains such intensive growth

What India should do

India should aim at growth that is driven both by improvements in productivity and modernisation of its labour force

  • Labor reforms

Achieving both those objectives will first require labour reforms — ones that can both boost labour mobility within the formal sector and bring down the barriers businesses face in hiring labour

  • Increase in govt. spending

But incremental labour reforms alone won’t work unless these are combined with a step-up in government spending on asset and job-creating areas such as infrastructure, which in turn inspires private investment

Conclusion

Job-creation needs to be an essential axis along which economic and social policies are formulated

 


Economy


[1] India aims to boost trade ties with African nations

The Hindu

Context

African Development Bank meet to be held in Gujarat

What has happened?

India has extended credit totalling $7.6 billion to African nations and aims to use the upcoming annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Gujarat this month to strengthen its trade ties with the continent

Credit

  • As on March 31, 2017, India has extended 152 lines of credit to 44 African nations amounting to $7.6 billion
  • The meeting will take place on May 22-26 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will inaugurate the meeting, had in the India-Africa Summit committed a $10 billion line of credit to African nations

AFDB

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has 81 member countries, 57 of which are from Africa. India is among the other 24 non-regional members.
  • Indian companies have invested $72 billion in African nations as of 2014-15, this made up 20% of the total investment in those countries.

 


Indian Express


[1] Aadhaar, then and now

Indian Express

Context

The UIDAI has gone from being an object of ridicule to an admired project

Aadhaar is central to India’s public service delivery reforms

Recent launch of BHIM using Aadhaar-pay (PM has asked IT Min to get it patented), there have been many applications from DBT in several domains like LPG, eKYC in banking and the mobile world, authentication in PDS and attendance in offices

No Confidence in Aadhar

No country in the world had done such a project and hence, it was sheer foolishness for India to even try to do it

From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropayments in April 2010

  • UIDAI published a booklet titled From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropaymentsin April 2010, months before the issue of the first Aadhaar number!
  • It talked about a frugal, yet robust system of financial inclusion and payment which is inter-operable, low-cost and does not require much of an infrastructure
  • It is precisely this architecture which the PM is talking about patenting

The Issue: Political Will

You may have a transformational technology for governance. However, nothing much will happen unless there is strong political support to implement it at a scale

A Rocky Road

  • Issue: In the initial years, people believed that Aadhaar was a public project being implemented by private fellows
    • Reality: it was a government project implemented by the officers of the government of India like any other and it followed all the principles of accountability in its processes. It is subjected to all the Cs in the government: CAG, CBI and CVC!
  • Project was condemned in the meetings with NGOs under the govt. outreach program
  • How could UIDAI start this project without getting clearance from civil society in the country?

Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee]

  • It observed that “The UID scheme has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation; it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”
  • It raised serious doubts on the process and technology and rejected the draft legislation on the subject.

Conclusion

It survived all these onslaughts. We have just scratched the surface insofar as the applications to leverage Aadhaar are concerned

 


Live Mint


[1] Big Data’s big governance impact

Live Mint

Context

From transforming development initiatives to improving transparency, Big Data analytics could have a major impact on the way governments work

“Big Data for Big Impact”

  • The anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was celebrated on 17 May as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD)
  • The theme this year is “Big Data for Big Impact”

Big Data importance

The analysis of vast amounts of data collected from the different devices that we use on a day-to-day basis provides an opportunity to discover hidden secrets and enables us to do predictive analysis and informed decision making across individual, organizational, societal, national and international levels

Huge Data, Huge Opportunity

  • Almost 90% of the world’s data today was generated during the past two years, with 2.5 quintillion bytes of data added each day
  • Approximately 90% of it is unstructured

Need of Government regulation and policies

  • It should be ensured that the information is not distorted; not disclosed; not appropriated; not stolen; and not intruded upon within specified rules and guidelines
  • Hence the importance of government regulation and policies on the use of such collected data and associated privacy rights

Decision Making Power: Change in Mindset

  • In the age of Big Data, leaders and managers in private organizations and government have to be data-driven
  • They should have the courage to ignore their intuition and do what data says. This requires a change in mindset and effective training to make data-driven decisions.

Laggard (lagging behind) Governments

  • While businesses have adopted Big Data and analytics in various forms very effectively to personalize offerings, and to improve business efficiency, governments have been laggards
  • The possible benefits of Big Data analytics in government could range from transforming government programmes and empowering citizens to improving transparency and enabling the participation of all stakeholders

Other Countries

  • Several countries, such as the UK, US and European Union (EU) member countries, have started big data government programmes
  • The UN’s 2012 e-government survey gave high marks to several Asian countries, notably South Korea, Singapore and Japan

India’s Initiative

The Open Government Data Platform initiative, similar to the Data.gov initiative of the US government started in 2009, is a welcome start in opening up public data for use by analysts, researchers and practitioners

Data Protection of prime importance

  • While privacy of data is important for both businesses and government, public trust in government is particularly important
  • Hence, any breach of confidentiality regarding data that is collected and processed by the government could have serious ramifications
  • Thus the importance of data protection and privacy regulations and guidelines, as exemplified by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation

Conclusion

Big Data can have a big impact only if used on a massive scale—with safeguards—by governments for the delivery of public goods and services.

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 18, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Cabinet gives nod for 10 indigenous nuclear reactors

[2]NTRO now under Intelligence Act


 Editorial/OPINION


[1]A great wall of paranoia

[2]The other debt issue

[3]Article 142 and the need for judicial restraint


 Economy


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


 Indian Express


[1]What lies below the district?


Live Mint


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

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


The Hindu

[1]Cabinet gives nod for 10 indigenous nuclear reactors

 Context

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

 What has happened?

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

Each of the reactors would have a capacity of 700 MWe

 International Collaboration deals in trouble

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

No Timeline but employment generation

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

Latest design

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

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

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

[2]NTRO now under Intelligence Act

The Hindu

Context

Will have same curbs as IB, RAW

 What has happened?

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

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

Few strictures

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

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

 NTRO

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

Others

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


 Editorial/OPINION


 The Hindu

 [1]A great wall of paranoia

Context

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

 Question raised by the author

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

 A threat to India

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

Two contending viewpoints

  • Need to develop own connectivity plans

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

  • As an alternative source of capital

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

Learning from others

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

 Regional leadership

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

 Conclusion

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

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

The Hindu

[2]The other debt issue

 Context

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

What has happened?

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

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

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

UDAY Scheme burdening finances of the States

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

 Other main points

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

 The Hindu

 [3]Article 142 and the need for judicial restraint

Context

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

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

Constructive application

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

Foraying into forbidden territory

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

Examples

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

No reference to loss of employment

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

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

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

Referral to Constitution Bench

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

 Conclusion

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


Economy


The Hindu

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

Context

Tax to help formalise the sector: CBEC

What has happened?

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

Goods and Services Tax Network

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


.Indian Express


Indian Express

[1]What lies below the district? 

Context

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

Relevant facts from the article

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

Give the rest of the article a go through


 Live Mint


Live Mint

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

Context

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

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

Capacity Addition

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

Why decline in tariffs?

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

 According to NTPC

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

 Trouble for banking sector

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

 Conclusion

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

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 17, 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]‘Safeguard rights of online users’

[2]Palestine, Israel must coexist


Editorial/OPINION


[1]New base, new basket

[2]Held at ransom


Economy


[1]‘National Employment Policy this year’

[2]‘Tough to solve jobs issue’

[3]‘Foreign food retailers can sell non-foods too’


Live Mint


[1]The belt and road to China’s hegemony in Asia


Front Page / NATIONAL


The Hindu

[1]‘Safeguard rights of online users’

The Hindu

 Context

It’s duty of state, SC tells government

 What has happened?

The state has a duty to ensure that subscribers of online service providers are not “entrapped” by them, the Supreme Court advised the government

The government responded that it was in the process of building a regulatory regime of a binding nature to protect user data

 Backdrop

Hearing on petitions contesting the constitutionality of the contract entered into between WhatsApp and Facebook on data sharing

[2]Palestine, Israel must coexist

The Hindu

 Context

Abbas reiterates demand for return to pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as capital

 What has happened?

Pitching for peace in West Asia, India urged that a future state of Palestine should coexist peacefully with Israel

 Backdrop

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visit to India

Dialoguethe way

The challenges in West Asia can be dealt with, sustained by political dialogue and peaceful means

Mr. Abbas went on to thank India for contributing to capacity-building in the field of information technology in Palestinian territories

 India key to talks

Palestinian President Wants India to be involved, besides Arab countries, EU, Russia and other members of BRICS

Indian PM will visit Israel in July which will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the country since establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992


 Editorial/OPINION


[1]New base, new basket

 The Hindu

 Context

The revised IIP shows India may have been overstating the industrial slowdown in its economy

In the past few years, the month-on-month IIP has shown excessively low, and even negative growth, which subsequently turned out to be out of sync with the actual manufacturing output growth measured through the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI). The survey for a financial year comes with a lag of about 24 months

it was measuring industrial output using baskets of production items and producing entities that had remained unchanged since 2004-05

 Dynamic IIP

To overcome the weaknesses, the IIP is being made more dynamic:

  • First, the Central Statistics Office has updated its base year to 2011-12
    • New products have been included in the items basket, and those that have lost their relevance deleted
  • Second, instead of the periodic baskets revisions, a permanent standing arrangement is being put in place to make sure that the IIP remains representative

Righting the numbers

The updated IIP offers new insights, the most important being that India may have been overstating the industrial slowdown in its economy

The bad news is that the output growth of the infrastructure and construction sector has slowed down from 5.7% in 2013-14 to 3.8% in 2016-17

The updated IIP also shows a modest recovery in the capital goods sector, a barometer of the investment sentiment. From -3.6% in 2013-14, output growth in the sector improved to 1.9% in 2016-17

The main driver of growth in the economy remains consumption. Consumer durables grew 6.2% and non-durables 9% in 2016-17

The IIP’s coverage by design is limited to the organised sector. The disruption in the unorganised sector is expected to get measured in the ASI

 Conclusion

The base years of all the major macroeconomic indicators, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Wholesale Price Index, are now aligned — 2011-12. The revised IIP will be plugged into the GDP series. The revised GDP estimates are scheduled to be released on May 31.

[2]Held at ransom

 The Hindu

 Context

The malware attack this weekend must hasten moves towards global rules on cyber threats

The menacing spread, of the malicious software WannaCry, which has since infected thousands of computer systems in 150 countries, is a frightening reminder of the vulnerabilities of a connected world

Cyber risk modelling firm Cyence estimates the economic damage to be $4 billion, a figure that may not seem daunting for a global-scale disruption such as this one. But its spread has exposed the lack of preparedness among government and private institutions

The list of unsuspecting users who fell prey to the malware includes the U.K.’s National Health Service, German transport company Deutsche Bahn, courier delivery services company FedEx and carmaker Renault

While the state of preparedness is a cause for worry, the likely origin of WannaCry forces stakeholders to revisit a long-standing and uneasy question regarding the actions of governments

 Cyber Vulnerabilities need to be reported not hoarded

WannaCry has its origins in a tool developed by the National Security Agency in the U.S. that was dumped online by a group called the Shadow Brokers

Report vulnerabilities to vendors rather than exploit them

Vulnerabilities Equities Process

The U.S. assesses the balance between cybersecurity and national interest through what is called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, wherein a review board makes a final decision on whether a ‘vulnerability’ needs to be reported or retained.


 Economy


[1]‘National Employment Policy this year’

The Hindu

 Context

It will ensure shift from informal to formal jobs takes place in the country

 What has happened?

The Centre will frame a new sector-wise National Employment Policy in this financial year even as it grapples with low employment generation

Policy’s thrust would be to ensure a transition from informal to formal jobs takes place in the country

Quarterly survey of industries

The pace of job creation fell to a six-year low in 2015 with 1.35 lakh new jobs being created compared with 4.21 lakh new jobs in 2014 and 4.19 lakh in 2013, according to a quarterly survey of industries conducted by Labour Bureau, under the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey

Another survey of households conducted by Labour Bureau showed unemployment rate rising to a five-year high of 5% in 2015-16 compared with 4.9% in 2013-14 and 4.7% in 2012-13.

[2]‘Tough to solve jobs issue

The Hindu

 Context

India needs to clock 8-10% growth for greater job creation

 What has happened?

India’s current employment challenge is particularly difficult as sectors that did well in generating jobs in the country’s previous economic boom years — information technology (IT), construction and agriculture – are in trouble now

[3]‘Foreign food retailers can sell non-foods too’

The Hindu

 Context

PMO has assured FDI norms will be tweaked

 What has happened?

Centre is expected to pave the way for multibrand foreign retailers to tap the Indian market, by allowing overseas investors in the food retail segment to offer ‘Made in India’ non-food items as well

FDI norms would be tweaked as a ‘sweetener’ for foreign investors likely to attend a mega World Food Forum being held in the national capital this November

India had opened up 100% FDI in multibrand food retail and food processing sectors in early 2016

India’s $600 billion retail sector, with 70% of it comprising food, is a ‘mind boggling’ proposition for foreign retailers grappling with stagnating growth in the developed world

Employment generation, huge Investment


Indian Express



Live Mint


[1]The belt and road to China’s hegemony in Asia

Live Mint

 Context

As an advocate of a multipolar Asia, India cannot afford to play ball with China’s imperial designs

BRI compared to the Marshall Plan,the post-World War II American initiative to rebuild the war-ravaged economies of Europe

Europe was the center of power but now Asia is the new leader

Trump administration sent a high-profile delegation to the BRF in return for China promising increased market access for American firms in a few sectors

India boycotted the BRI forum meet

India’s apprehensions:

  • Debt burden for communities
  • Balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards
  • Transparent assessment of project costs
  • Skill and technology transfer

Historical proof

The previous Chinese investments in the continent of Africa as well as in India’s neighbourhood in Sri Lanka and Myanmar have faced strong local backlash for several reasons

  • Many of the projects have proved economically unviable, thus impeding the ability of recipient countries to service the loans
  • A debt to equity swap leaves them with the undesirable option of China owning strategic assets in their countries which can likely be used for military purposes
  • The tempting loans come with many riders and the recipient countries have to source much of their material from China
  • Often, a Chinese state-owned enterprise leads the project and large numbers of labourers, including low-skilled ones, are imported from China itself
  • All kinds of charges, ranging from environmental degradation to labour exploitation, have been levelled against Chinese companies

 A Rough Start

  • Pakistan hesitant to accept the tariffs for power produced by projects under Cpec
  • The refinery built by a Chinese state-owned company in Kyrgyzstan has found it difficult to source crude oil
  • Political and social discontent in the Central Asian country is already growing
  • Entire national election campaigns were held on an anti-China plank in countries like Zambia and Sri Lanka

Even the Chineseagainst it

Many of the BRI projects, even the Chinese admit will end up bleeding money

Hidden Objectives

That Beijing is still willing to go ahead suggests that it is eyeing bigger political and strategic gains

Not Marshall Plan

But it is more like the Japan’s pre-World War II imperial concept of ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’

Measures India can take

  • Infrastructure boost
  • A wait-and-watch strategy on the BRI does no harm for the moment but New Delhi should simultaneously step up its infrastructure building in India and the neighbourhood
  • Partnership with Japan
  • It should look to pool its resources with the Japanese Partnership for Quality Infrastructure (PQI). Even if India and Japan cannot match the scale and ambitions of BRI, they will gradually begin to attract partners which will likely be alienated as the true costs and motives of Chinese investments begin to show

Conclusion

As an advocate of a multipolar Asia, India has done well to sit out the BRF

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 16, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] Jadhav’s trial farcical, says India

[2] ‘Will enact divorce law for Muslims’

[3] India escapes major damage from ransomware


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Triple talaq not fundamental to Islam

[2] Timely refresh

[3] Putting a global price on carbon

[4] Off the road


Economy


[1] Cash is back as digital payments dip on costs

[2] Virus scare spurs banks into action


Indian Express


[1] Two verdicts, one message


Live Mint


[1] The case against triple Talaq

[2] An evolving risk paradigm in the power sector


The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Jadhav’s trial farcical, says India

 

The Hindu

 

Context

At urgent ICJ hearing, Pakistan says Vienna Convention provisions were not intended for spies.

 

What has happened?

The International Court of Justice will decide whether to order Pakistan to temporarily halt the execution of former Indian naval officer KulbhushanJadhav after what India termed a “farcical” military trial in Pakistan, following a day of intense public hearings at the Peace Palace

 

[2]‘Will enact divorce law for Muslims’

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Centre promises legislation if SupremeCourt strikes down triple talaq

 

What has happened?

The Centre promised to enact a divorce law for Muslim men if the Supreme Court, as the “guardian of the Constitution”, strikes down all three forms of triple talaq unilaterally pronounced by a Muslim man on his wife

 

Backdrop

When one of the judges on the Constitution Bench, Justice U.U. Lalit, asked Attorney-General MukulRohatgi: “So if we accept that giving unfettered rights to a husband is bad and we strike down triple talaq, then where will Muslim men go for divorce?

 

[3]India escapes major damage from ransomware

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Machines in TTD, Kerala local bodies hit; no further attacks

 

What has happened?

The first weekday after the WannaCry ransomware attack began, several thousand more computers turned out to be affected, particularly in Asia

 

However, a second wave of the attack that many feared would be carried out with mutated versions of the malware did not happen

 

In India, Acc to Minister of Information Technology barring “isolated incidents” in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, there had been no major impact of the attack.

 

Advisory Issued in March

Government had issued an advisory in March, and informed administrators about Microsoft’s “software patch” to be used against a possible attack

The existence of the EternalBlue exploit of Windows that the malware uses to spread has been known for some time

 

Measures

A cyber coordination centre to take precautions against such attacks would start operations by June. A software upgrade of all government systems will also be in place by then

 

The Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In), under the IT Ministry, held a web conference, sharing technical details of the attack and precautions to be taken

 

 

Editorial/OPINION

[1]Triple talaq not fundamental to Islam

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The Supreme Court will be well within its rights to lay down the procedure of divorce as per Koranic principles

 

Triple Talaq issue already discussed in detail, please refer to earlier briefs

 

[2]Timely refresh

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The data set revision for the IIP and WPIreflects a macroeconomic resilience

 

IIP data founded on the new base year of 2011-12 show that industrial output has grown annually at an average pace of 3.82% over the last five fiscal years, with a 5% rate of growth in the 12 months ended March 2017

 

Contrast this with the 1.42% average pace based on the previous 2004-05 base year, with 2016-17 showing a paltry 0.7% expansion

 

The simultaneous updating of the base year for WPI to the same 2011-12 means the deflator applied to the 109 items captured in value terms in the new IIP (54 in the older series) has also changed, with a more benign wholesale inflation reading automatically lifting the value of the corresponding industrial item

Central Statistics Office makes clear that the growth rates of the two series are not strictly comparable since the indices for 2011-12 have been normalised to 100 at a monthly level

 

Manufacturing sees its weight in the index raised by slightly more than 2 percentage points to 77.63%, while electricity, which now includes renewable sources, has had its weight pared to just under 8% in the new series

 

Technical Review Committee

A mechanism in the form of a Technical Review Committee has been put in place to periodically review the products featuring in the item list and to revise the series dynamically

 

The reviews, to be undertaken separately for both the IIP and the WPI, will help ensure that data pertaining to industrial output and wholesale price inflation will be relatively current and more accurately reflect economic trend

 

[2]Putting a global price on carbon

 

The Hindu

 

Context

A carbon tax is less likely to face political opposition while creating avenues for businesses and growth

 

Carbon tax as a potent mitigation policy

A carbon tax aims to internalize the externality of climate change by setting a price on the carbon content of energy consumed or greenhouse gas emitted in the production or consumption of goods

 

Harmonized Carbon Policies WorldWide

Different country-wise policies could lead to ‘carbon leakages’ where energy-intensive businesses will most likely move to less strict national regimes

 

Harmonized carbon taxes hold advantages over quantitative limits imposed through government control and regulation

  • Baseline Problems: A carbon tax regime avoids the problems related to choosing a baseline. In a price approach, the natural baseline is a zero carbon tax
  • Ability to Adapt: A carbon tax policy will be better able to adapt to the element of uncertainty which pervades the science of climate change. Quantity limits on emissions are related to the stocks of greenhouse gas emissions, while the price limits are related to the flow of emissions
  • Price Volatility:From this uncertainty arises another complication of price volatility which is the third reason why a carbon tax policy is likely to cause less volatility in the prices of carbon emissions.
  • Administrative Barriers: Quantity limiting policies are often accompanied by administrative arbitrariness and corruption through rent-seeking. This sends off negative signals to investors. In a price-based carbon tax, the investor has an assured long-term regulation to adapt to and can weigh in the costs involved.
  • Equity based problems:The price-based approach in the form of carbon taxes makes it easier to implement such equity-based international adjustments than the quantity-based approach

 

Cap and Tax

Another near-term approach can be a ‘cap-and-tax’ which combines the strengths of both quantity and price approaches. Cap-and-tax might also address the concerns of environmentalists that a price-based approach does not impose hard constraints on emissions

 

Africa as a priority region

Any prospective policy regime must give the highest importance to the African continent. A rapidly growing African economy must then be able to learn from past lessons without having to choose between economic growth and climate change mitigation

 

Conclusion

A carbon tax policy might not seem a magic wand, but it is also less likely to face political opposition and compromise while creating new sectors for businesses and growth

 

[4]Off the road

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Don’t shut the door on diplomacy overChina’s Belt and Road Initiative.

 

India’s Concerns

  • The B&RI’s flagship project is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which includes projects in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, ignoring India’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”
  • The B&RI infrastructure project structure smacks of Chinese neo-colonialism, and could cause an “unsustainable debt burden for communities” with an adverse impact on the environment in the partner countries
  • There is a lack of transparency in China’s agenda, indicating that New Delhi believes the B&RI is not just an economic project but one that China is promoting for political control

 

Closing the door on diplomacy

The decision to not attend even as an observer, however, effectively closes the door for diplomacy. It stands in contrast to countries such as the U.S. and Japan, which are not a part of the B&RI but sent official delegations

 

Difficult choices ahead

India may also face some difficult choices in the road ahead, because as a co-founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (from June 2017) it will be asked to support many of the projects under the B&RI

 

Conclusion

India must actively engage with China to have its particular grievances addressed, articulate its concerns to other partner countries in a more productive manner, and take a position as an Asian leader, not an outlier in the quest for more connectivity

Economy

[1]Cash is back as digital payments dip on costs

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Demand for PoS devices falls on remonetisation

 

What has happened?

Cash transactions are beginning to trump almost every form of digital payment alternative with April clocking a decline in volumes as well as value of transactions conducted through cards, mobile banking and the Unified Payment Interface (UPI)

 

Decline in demand for PoS devices

Due to:

  • Remonetisation
  • Unwillingness of the merchants (particularly the small merchants) to pay MDR

 

E-wallets see growth

E-wallets were the only commonly-used mode of electronic payments that witnessed a growth (4%) in the value of transactions in April

 

It’s tough to beat the anonymity and convenience of cash and that challenge will remain

 

[2]Virus scare spurs banks into action

 

The Hindu

 

Context

SBI increases surveillance, deploys security patches and strengthens firewalls

 

What has happened?

Banks and financial institutions in the country went on a war footing to upgrade their software systems, particularly their anti-virus packages, in the wake of the ransomware virus, WannaCry, which affected computers in 150 countries across the globe

 

Closed Loop

  • Generally, as compared to many other sectors, the security in the financial sector is higher
  • Bankers said vulnerable systems, through which the malware generally comes in, is a closed loop
  • The core banking system (CBS), for example, is a closed loop
  • This means that the manner in which it connects to the front end, the network and the end-point servers are all in the banks’ control

 

Software Updates

  • Wherever Windows machines are there, banks are working with Microsoft to deploy patches in a centralised manner
  • SBI is updating its anti-virus systems and other related software systems

 

Strategy

Increased surveillance, deployment of patches (software updates) and watching the firewalls

 

ATMs unaffected

  • There is no impact on automated teller machines, acc to SBI
  • As ATM [network] is a [highly] closed loop [system] and one mitigating factor is that, generally, the malwares are large files while ATMs are connected with a very small bandwidth
  • The Indian banking sector is largely un-impacted; nothing has been reported so far

 

Indian Express

[1]Two verdicts, one message

 

Indian Express

 

Context

A civilised and progressive jurisprudence calls for banning the death penalty.

 

Backdrop

On May 3, the Court rejected the review petition of Vasant SampatDupare, convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a small child

The death penalties for the convicts in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape case

 

Question Asked

Why was it that these cases were not deemed fit for consideration, even when the Court itself agreed that the sentencing carried out by the trial court was legally deficient?

 

The Supreme Court, in not referring the cases back to the trial court for sentencing, has, in fact, exercised jurisdiction which is properly with the lower courts

 

 

Rights denied to convicts

Not only does the procedure adopted by the Court curtail the due process rights of the convicts under Article 21, but it also raises the question of whether the Court itself has created a differential criteria for the treatment of petitioners before it

 

Meaningof the “rarest of rare”

Criteria used to identify the category of offenders who may be sentenced to death

A determination of whether or not these cases fall within the rarest of rare category cannot be done, unless the matter is remanded to the court which first sentenced them

 

Possibility of legal and Fundamental Rights being not honored for heinous offences accompanied by public outrage

 

Whether we put anything by the rights to life and liberty must be seen in situations when those rights are under the most pressure and the temptation to ignore them is the highest

 

Conclusion

It is only by abolishing the death penalty in toto (From Latin, meaning “in all”) that we would be able to give full meaning to our commitment to a civilised and progressive jurisprudence in line with international trends

 

Live Mint

[1]The case against triple Talaq

 

Live Mint

 

Context

Personal law must be subordinate to fundamental rights and subjected to the test of constitutional validity

 

Constitutional Protection

  • Whether these practices are safeguarded under Article 25(1) of the Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to “profess, practice and propagate religion”. This is the approach the SC has adopted; it is examining if triple talaq forms an essential part of Islamic belief and practice
  • On the face of it, there is substantial evidence that triple talaq is an innovation that has little to do with Quranic prescriptions
  • A number of Islamic states, from Morocco and Algeria to Iran and Indonesia, have introduced modernizing legislation when it comes to divorce
  • And in multiple instances—A. YousufRawther v. Sowramma, 1970, Kerala high court and Shamim Ara v. State Of UP And Ors, 2002, Supreme Court, for example—the courts have ruled against tripletalaq as it is practised today

Islam or Islamicate

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, on the other hand, defends triple talaq as an integral part of Islamic law and, therefore, beyond the realm of the judiciary. Thus, the SC must in effect take a stand in a long-running global debate: Is Islam a “blueprint for a social order”, in Ernest Gellner’s words, or is there a distinction between Islamic—the religious—and Islamicate—associated cultural phenomena—as Marshall Hodgson suggested?

 

Article 13

The other argument against subjecting personal law to the constitutional validity test—that it is not a “law” as defined by Article 13 of the Constitution—has a precedent in the 1951 Bombay high court judgement in State Of Bombay v. NarasuAppa Mali.

 

Uniform Civil Code

Much of the opposition to the SC’s taking up the triple talaq issue stems from the fear that it is a back door for bringing in the uniform civil code

 

 

[2]An evolving risk paradigm in the power sector

 

Live Mint

 

Context

The growing risk profile for thermal power plants is likely to result in increasing cost of capital for them

 

Backdrop

On 11 April, the Supreme Court disallowed Tata Power and Adani Power from charging compensatory tariff to neutralize the price hike of imported coal due to a change in Indonesian regulations

On 9 May, Indian solar tariffs fell to yet another record low of Rs2.44 for Solar Energy Corporation of India’s 500MW project at Bhadla in Rajasthan

 

Non-availability of coal could swiftly turn the once lucrative and viable coal power plants into stranded assets

 

The ministry of coal’s latest discussion paper on auction of mines for commercial mining examines free pricing of domestic coal. The paper suggests pegging the minimum revenue to be generated at 1.2 times of Coal India’s run of mine price, which is likely to increase operating costs for thermal operators

 

Current reliance on imported solar panels and balance of system products exposes the renewable energy sector to balance of payment implications, as in the case of coal imports

 

Thermal power plants are increasingly facing lower capacity utilization

More than one-third of India’s total thermal power capacity is currently stranded and the rest is running at 55% utilization

 

Longer construction periods for thermal plants (three-four years), compared to renewable sources of power (12-14 months), is another important aspect for risk evaluation

 

Delays in obtaining environmental clearances, affecting 89% of the projects, according to a recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India report, could additionally prolong the construction of thermal plants

 

The longer commissioning cycles, combined with higher likelihood of delays, makes investment in thermal power significantly riskier than that in renewables

 

The ministry of environment’s 2015 notification mandating stricter emission and water usage standards to minimize environmental impacts of running coal-based plants has also been troubling the sector

 

Water Usage in thermal Power Plants

  • A coal-based thermal power plant takes around 3.8 cubic metre/MW of water as compared to 0.1 cubic metre/MW for solar, and almost nil for wind
  • Water usage could lead to conflict between thermal power producers and local communities, especially in water-scarce regions of the country

 

The growing risk profile for thermal power plants is likely to result in increasing cost of capital for thermal projects. At the same time, with the tariffs for both wind and solar power dropping to unprecedented levels, power sector investors may shift focus to renewables

 

The redirection of investments to renewables and allied sectors such as energy storage, energy analytics services, etc., could drive the price of electricity from renewable energy sources down further, improving their technical grid integration feasibility and shrinking associated risks for investors

 

Conclusion

If the government continues to actively revamp and reimagine India’s power sector, along with making simultaneous efforts to ensure a quick expansion in transmission infrastructure and a pickup in demand, India could find a sweet spot for itself in the new low-carbon world


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 15, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. India, Pak. to fight it out in The Hague for Jadhav today

[2]. Xi evokes Panchsheel as India skips meet:

[3]. Rs. 11,000 cr. to be spent on roads in Naxal-hit areas

[4]. Alert sounded on malware:

[5]. Minority status only if trusts enrol on NITI site

[6]. Policy tweak to speed up defence purchases


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Be scientific:

[2]. Clamping down on crime


Economy


[1]. Centre may execute proposed social security law in phases

[2]. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/gst-what-still-needs-to-be-done/article18453488.ece


Indian Express


[1]. Why India is not part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit

[2]. A Moment Of Reckoning


Live Mint



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. India, Pak. to fight it out in The Hague for Jadhav today

The Hindu

Context 

Delhi will present its case in the morning session of the ICJ

What has happened?

The Peace Palace, home of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, will hold public hearings on the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Indian Naval officer, who was arrested and sentenced to death by Pakistan in April over allegations of espionage and abetting terror.

  • India will present its case in the morning session followed by Pakistan
  • The decision of the court will be binding with no appeal
  • Pakistan will be presenting its case using past precedent where India has refused the ICJ jurisdiction

Facts

On 6 February 2015 the Court elected Judge Ronny Abraham (France) to be President and Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia) to be Vice-President

[2]. Xi evokes Panchsheel as India skips meet

The Hindu

Context

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed five principles of peaceful co-existence or Panchsheel — the brainchild of China, India and Myanmar in the 1950s — as the mantra for advancing the Belt and Road Initiative (B&RI), and as a vehicle for achieving sustainable globalization

Keynote Address

  • China ready to share the experience of development with other countries
  • Have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system or model of development, or impose our own will on others
  • Defended Globalization countering the resistance to open economic borders in the U.S. and parts of Europe

Open to dialogue

  • India’s decision to boycott the BRF, provided an opportunity to Pakistan PM to be magnanimous (generous or forgiving)
  • He said that Pakistan is open to dialogue
  • it is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy and leave a legacy of peace for future generations

India’s decision to stay away has raised eyebrows here, as other countries such as Japan and Vietnam, which have serious maritime disputes with China, have sent high-level official delegations, to the BRF

[3]. Rs. 11,000 cr. to be spent on roads in Naxal-hit areas

The Hindu

Context

Centre to begin connectivity project in 44 districts soon

What has happened?

  • The Centre will soon begin work on a Rs. 11,000-crore project to provide road connectivity to 44 Naxal-affected districts, including Sukma in Chhattisgarh, which had recently witnessed one of the deadliest Maoist attacks
  • Five per cent of the total project cost i.e. Rs. 550 crore will be kept aside for administrative expenses including for deployment of security forces at strategic locations
  • The Cabinet had last year approved the centrally-sponsored “Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas” scheme
  • The project will be implemented under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in the districts that are critical from a security and communication point of view

Chhattisgarh to benefit

  • The project is likely to be started in the next few weeks and all necessary arrangements have been made for its launch
  • Out of these 44 districts, the maximum are in Chhattisgarh, where 25 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed by Naxals last month
  • Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra are the other States that will be covered under the scheme

[4]. Alert sounded on malware

The Hindu

Context
IT Ministry asks stakeholders to protect digital payments ecosystem

What has happened?

The IT Ministry has reached out to key stakeholders like RBI, National Payments Corporation of India, NIC and UIDAI (Aadhaar) to advise them to protect their systems against ‘WannaCry’ ransomware to ensure that the digital payments ecosystem in the country is protected

What is a ransomware?

It is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid

WannaCry (WannaCrypt or Wanna Decryptor)

The ransomware hit systems in over 100 countries, including Russia and the U.K., in one of the most widespread cyber-attacks in history. It infected computers running on older versions of Microsoft operating systems like XP, locking access to files on the computer

  • The cyber criminals have demanded a fee of about $300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device
  • Operating systems under threat: Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003

Situation in India

Noting that no reports have been formally received so far related to the ransomware attack, MeitY said a few systems of the Police Department in Andhra Pradesh were impacted and that the State government has been informed to follow the advisory by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)

Steps taken by MeitY

  • It has reached out to the Department of Telecom to alert internet service providers to secure their networks
  • It has also requested Microsoft India to inform all its partners and customers to apply the relevant patches.

[5]. Minority status only if trusts enrol on NITI site

The Hindu

Context

New rules wrt educational trusts and societies seeking minority status

What has happened?

Educational trusts and societies seeking minority status will now be required to register as non-governmental organisation with the NITI Aayog, whether they need government aid or not

  • All petitioners are required to submit unique ID of the trust/society as given by the NITI Aayog portal NGO Darpan (it is not needed only in cases of institutions run by individuals)
  • The unique ID should match corresponding details on the NGO’s website
  • The minority status certificate will be awarded only after the unique ID is provided by the petitioner

Impact of the new rule

The registration with the NITI Aayog portal Darpan is likely to put all the financial transactions of the trust and its office-bearers under government scanner as details such as PAN and Aadhaar of all trustees and office-bearers will be required for the enrolment

Exceptions to the rule

The rule will not be applicable to institutions run by individuals

Backdrop

In 2016 the government had made it mandatory for NGOs and voluntary organizations to register with the NITI Aayog portal to enable them to apply for grants from any Ministry

  • However, the trusts and NGOs not seeking government funding were not required to do so

 Constitutional right

  • The Constitution gives linguistic and religious minorities the fundamental right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • A society or trust consisting of members of a minority community, or even a single member of a minority community, may establish an institution.

NITI Aayog portal – “Darpan”

  • The NGO-Partnership System (NGO-PS) Portal (NGO-DARPAN) is a platform that provides space for interface between VOs/NGOs and key Government Ministries / Departments / Government Bodies, to start with
  • Later it is proposed to cover all Central Ministries / Departments / Government Bodies
  • This is a free facility offered by the NITI Aayog in association with National Informatics Centre to bring about greater partnership between government & voluntary sector and foster better transparency, efficiency and accountability
  • The portal provides information about all signed up VOs / NGOs, information about schemes of the participating Government Ministries / Departments / Government Bodies open for partnership and funding with the voluntary sector
  • It will also have the facility to apply for NGO grants online, upload all common documents (like Registration Certificate, Annual Reports, Annual Audited Statements etc) required by government Ministries / Departments / Government Bodies as well as track the processing of your application until the grant is sanctioned / rejected
  • The NGO-Partnership System (NGO-PS) Portal (NGO-DARPAN) started out as an initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office, to create and promote a healthy partnership between VOs/NGOs and the Government of India
  • Managed by: The Portal is managed at present by NITI Aayog

[6]. Policy tweak to speed up defence purchases:

The Hindu

Context

Article talks about changes in DPP and proposed guidelines for Strategic Partnership

What has happened?

Under a proposed change to defence procurement policy (DPP) in select areas, acquisition will continue even if only one foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is shortlisted after competitive evaluation, resulting in a single vendor situation

Present situation

Under existing rules, the procurement process has to be cancelled and started afresh in such cases, which has considerably delayed critical procurements.

Strategic Partnership Policy

Under this policy the Indian private sector would have a greater role in defence manufacturing. The proposed guidelines for SP are under final discussion.

  • Present situation: The policy now awaits clearance from the Defence Acquisition Council and then final approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)

Provisions of SP policy

  • Preferably, two or more OEMs should be shortlisted for each segment. However, even if only one OEM is shortlisted, the process will be taken forward
  • 4 segments of the policy: There are four segments listed in the proposed policy
    • Single engine fighter aircraft
    • Helicopters
    • Submarines
    • Armored fighting vehicles/ Main Battle Tanks (MBT)

Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Be scientific

The Hindu

Context

On GM mustard for farms, the Centre must privilege reason over politics in taking the call

GM Mustard

It has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project

  • It uses three genes from soil bacterium that makes self-pollinating plants such as mustard amenable to hybridisation
  • It has also gone through safety and toxicity tests (on mice) prescribed by the regulator

Arguments against GM Crops

Introducing genes from soil bacterium or other forms of animal life into plants will amount to playing with the natural order of plant life

Arguments in favor of GM Crops

Proponents of GM crops say plants and animals are constantly swapping bacterial genes with air, soil and water, and also that the only way of determining if a gene can produce proteins toxic to humans is to subject it to a systematic testing process.

  • No health risk: Years of field tests on transgenic corn, soyabean and brinjal in other countries have shown no health risks that vary with their non-GM versions

Way forward

Successive governments have failed to move on the draft National Biotechnology Regulatory Bill, 2008 that would enable a biotechnology regulator to take shape. With such a regulator in place, matters of science would no longer be victim of political expediency

[2]. Clamping down on crime

The Hindu

Context

The police’s perception of public safety and their own role is changing, but too slowly

Backdrop

Nirbhaya case ruling where SC confirmed the death penalty for four of the accused

Author’s contention

It is debatable whether the police alone were to be blamed here.

  • Both the state and community at large have a role in shaping public safety, especially that of women and children

What do people want from police?

Several surveys point to a demand for protection of life more than guarding individual property.

State of Indian police

  • Outnumbered: With the phenomenal expansion of geographic areas to be policed, Indian police has been outstretched and outnumbered
  • There are only about 140 policemen per 100,000 people, a very poor ratio when compared to other modern democracies
  • Trust deficit: Well off sections of the society do not trust police and organize themselves to ward off threats or buy safety services from other sources. The phenomenal rise in private security agencies accounts for the growing lack of trust in the state police. Middle class and the poor are afraid to go to police stations and almost always try to avoid them as much as possible

Author suggests

  • Lessons from others: Author suggests that Indian police should learn from other countries. Learning in Public administration would be beneficial. Borrowing the best practices from foreign police organisations would lead to a marked improvement
    • COMPSTAT: Under its legendary Commissioner, Bill Bratton, more than a decade ago, the NYPD instituted a COMPSTAT (short for COMPuter STATistics) programme that analysed crime with the help of computers, identified crime hotspots and took preventive action, such as intensified patrolling. Police commanders in New York were made to report to the commissioner each week explaining how they were tackling crime in their jurisdictions. This mechanism not only brought about greater attention to crime in the field but also enhanced police accountability at the grass-root level
    • Beyond COMPSTAT: The NYPD has recently gone beyond COMPSTAT by hiring a reputed private agency to survey public opinion on police performance. Focussed questions over mobile phones and the responses obtained look at how to fill visible gaps in policing
    • Campaign by Metropolitan Police (Met), London: The Met has launched a major campaign against street crime that involves frisking and seizure of knives — a visible, street-level operation that has enhanced security perceptions. The use of large manpower has been the hallmark of this operation. Physical checks of youth in the streets has added an element of deterrence

Cautionary note: Above practices can lead to public harassment if followed overzealously by the police. Hence, proper safeguards are necessary before implementing them in Indian context

Glimmer of hope

Author states that there are at least two features which offer a glimmer of hope for community safety in India

  • The first is the availability of a corps of leadership in the form of technically savvy young Indian Police Service officers
  • The second is the spread of Internet use at all levels of the police. An offshoot is the use of social media in day-to-day policing. Information on crime incidents and criminals is as a matter of course conveyed to the public in many urban centres with encouraging results. Citizens are also encouraged to report crime through email or over social media.

Economy


[1]. Centre may execute proposed social security law in phases 

The Hindu

Context

Labor ministry will go for a phased execution of its law on social security

 What has happened?

The Labor Ministry may implement its proposed social security law in a phased manner, exempting small factories employing up to 10 workers, from its ambit initially

Phased execution

  • Factories employing more than 10 workers and informal sector workers can be covered in the first phase
  • The small factories could be covered in the second phase

Backdrop

The Labour Ministry had, in March 2017, proposed a labour code on social security which will provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country, including self-employed and agricultural workers

  • Factories with even a single worker would have had to contribute towards social security benefits, as per the code

Concerns

Small and medium enterprises, which are kept out of social security schemes at present, had raised concerns over the government’s proposal due to its financial implications, as the new law will add to their financial burden

  • Pre-existing benefits: The provident fund and pension contribution, administered by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), is mandatory only for factories employing at least 20 workers at present
    • Further, medical benefits under the Employees’ State Insurance Act apply to factories with at least 10 workers and it is also applicable to shops, hotels, restaurants, cinemas and road transport undertakings

[2]. GST: What still needs to be done 

The Hindu

Context

The GST Council has met 13 times to finalise the minutiae of the five laws that will help bring the new tax regime to reality

Article is in Q&A form.

Give it a go-through


Indian Express


[1]. Why India is not part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit

Indian Express

Context

The dragon is spitting repeated streaks of fire. How long can the elephant be left behind?

Backdrop

  • India has stayed away from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit which began in Beijing on Sunday, citing sovereignty, procedural and leadership issues
  • As many as 120 countries, including 29 at the top leadership level, attended the inaugural event

Main Reason for boycott by India

CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Moreover, Indian concerns are justified when seen in the backdrop of deployment of 30000 security personnel to protect the projects along the CPEC route

  • Uncooperative China: China has been reluctant to support India’s stance wrt Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council. It has also been a stumbling roadblock to India’s full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Relevant points have been covered. Rest of the article can be given a go-through

[2]. A Moment Of Reckoning

Indian Express

Context

To preserve judiciary’s independence, appointment process must be transparent.

Author’s contention

  • Need for a full-time body: There is need for a full-time body for appointments as well as for receiving complaints against judges
    • Only a full-time commission, independent of the government and the judiciary, can impart transparency and credibility to the system of appointments to the higher judiciary

Author suggests

  • Put out names in public: We need a system where names of meritorious candidates are shortlisted and put out for the public to raise their objections and provide relevant information that the appointing authorities may not have about the proposed appointees
  • Clearly-defined criteria for assessing the suitability of a judge would bring objectivity in the process