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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 12 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Supreme Court to examine triple talaq validity, won’t go into issue of polygamy

[2]. Govt. regulator gives nod for GM mustard

[3]. Monsoon may hit Andaman early

[4]. Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims worst off

[5]. ICJ writ may not be applicable to Pak

[6]. Boost for defence manufacturers

[7]. PM gets warm welcome in Colombo


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. New technology and old religion

[2]. What’s in a generic name?

 

Economy


[1]. Voluntary unemployment rising: Debroy

[2]. Centre to release new series of IIP, WPI data

[3]. ‘NPA norms to force decision-making’


Indian Express


[1]. Error of judgement

[2]. Cure lies elsewhere


Live Mint


[1]. Xi Jinping’s big road is going to be bumpy


                                                                                             Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Supreme Court to examine triple talaq validity, won’t go into issue of polygamy

Live Mint

Context

Hearing a batch of petitions challenging triple talaq, a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court says it would look into the aspect whether triple talaq is constitutional

Views of the Bench

  • It will only look at triple talaq and whether it is constitutional and not go into issues such as polygamy

Government’s view

The Centre has already told the court that it supports the petitioners in challenging triple talaq

Backdrop of the case

  • The court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy under Muslim personal law
  • The court is also hearing a plea—Muslim women’s quest for equality—which it took up on its own accord

Latest judgment

Allahabad High Court has termed the practice of Triple Talaq unconstitutional on May 9th 2017

Read More: You can read more about the Allahabad judgment here

[2]. Govt. regulator gives nod for GM mustard

The Hindu

Context

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s apex regulator for genetically modified seeds, has cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in farmer fields

However, the approval is contingent on a final nod from Environment Minister

The 1st transgenic crop

If, minister gives his nod then the GM mustard would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in Indian fields and would be a gateway for several genetically-modified food crops in India

Not the first transgenic crop to get approval

Bt Brinjal was cleared by the GEAC in 2010 but was blocked by then Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who cited, among other things, a paucity of safety tests

[3]. Monsoon may hit Andaman early 

The Hindu

Context

Monsoon rains may come two days earlier to the Andaman & Nicobar islands, but this will have no bearing on how soon it reaches Kerala

Give it a go through

[4]. Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims worst off

The Hindu

Context

‘Historically disadvantaged groups most excluded from access to public goods’

Indian Exclusion Report (2016)

Centre for Equity Studies (CES) in New Delhi has released the Indian Exclusion Report (IXR). The 2016 Report reviews exclusion with respect to four public goods:

  • Pensions for the elderly
  • Digital access
  • Agricultural land
  • Legal justice for undertrials

It also profiles four highly vulnerable groups in terms of their access to these goods

Overall finding

The overall finding of this report like the last one is that,

  • The groups most severely and consistently excluded from provisioning tend to the same historically disadvantaged groups: Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and persons with disabilities and age-related vulnerabilities

Findings

Meagre Landholdings

  • Socio economic hierarchy: pattern of land distribution “broadly reflects the socio-economic hierarchy — large landowners invariably belong to the upper castes, cultivators to the middle castes, and agricultural workers are largely Dalits and Adivasis
  • Rate of landlessness: The rate of landlessness was highest among Dalits, at 57.3%. Among Muslims, it was 52.6%, and 56.8% of women-headed households were landless. Around 40% of all those displaced by “development activity” were Adivasis
  • Poor quality of the land: The quality of land owned by Dalits was very poor, with 58% of it having no irrigation facility
  • No benefit of land reform efforts: Land reform efforts have not benefited Dalits, women or Muslims significantly, according to the IXR. Land allotments to SC/ST households were often only on paper, as allottees were forcefully evicted or not allowed to take possession

Digital access

Almost 1.063 billion Indians were offline even though India ranks among the top five nations in terms of the total number of Internet users”

  • Barriers to digital access: Poverty and geographic location were the two major barriers to digital access, with urban locations enjoying better Internet penetration rates

Problems in IT Access

Government initiatives to improve IT access have been riddled with implementation problems like poor infrastructure, a lack of adequate institutional frameworks, low literacy in the targeted areas, and poor cooperation from government officials

A warning

In a new thrust towards a cashless economy, digital exclusion can often also result in financial exclusion

[5]. ICJ writ may not be applicable to Pak.

The Hindu

Context

Prominent commentators have expressed doubts over the ability of the International Court of Justice to enforce its order in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case

Why ICJ’s writ is likely face a problem?

Pakistan on March 29, 2017 had revised its commitment to the ICJ and has withdrawn all domestic and national security related issues from the jurisdiction of the court

[6]. Boost for defence manufacturers

The Hindu

Context

Ministry moots new procurement model to give private sector a shot in the arm

What has happened?

Defence Minister held consultations with representatives of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CII) on the proposed Strategic Partnership (SP) model meant to promote the private sector in defence manufacturing.

Intention behind new model

Under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model, the government intends to boost private sector participation and create domestic expertise in four key areas, namely, fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armored vehicles and main battle tanks

Working of the model

One company would be selected for each area based on its competence, which would then tie up with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer selected through the procurement process, to build the platform in India with significant technology transfer

View of the army

The Armed Forces are apprehensive over the overall model as they feel the SP model will block new technology and new players coming to the defence sector

[7]. PM gets warm welcome in Colombo

The Hindu

Context

New Delhi and Colombo have termed the visit as primarily a “religious” engagement

News regarding PM’s Lanka visit will be covered in detail in coming issues of Brief.

You can give this article a go through


                                                                                                  Editorial/OPINION


[1]. New technology and old religion

The Hindu

Context

Augmented reality is upending the interface between physical reality and human desire to shape our universe

A philosophical take on the futuristic technology of augmented reality. Not relevant from GS perspective

Read it if you have time

Read more: A complete guide to augmented reality

[2]. What’s in a generic name? 

The Hindu

Context

The core issues are affordable access to medicines and their rational prescription and use

News

The Medical Council of India (MCI) issued a circular on April 21 drawing attention to clause 1.5 of its regulations regarding the professional conduct of doctors:

“Every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and he/she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription of drugs.” Further, the circular said, “For any doctor found violating clause 1.5 of Ethics Regulation, suitable disciplinary action would be taken by the concerned SMC/MCI.”

Government’s intent

At the inauguration of a hospital in Surat recently, Prime Minister announced his government’s intent to bring in a law whereby doctors will have to prescribe only generic medicines. Above order of MCI seems to be in consonance of that only.

Different names

Nearly all drugs have three types of names,

  1. the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name
  2. The non-proprietary or generic name, most commonly the International Non-proprietary Name (INN) administered by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  3. the brand name

Note: Some countries, such as the U.S., Britain and Japan, have their own generic names or approved names

What happens when patents expire?

Once patents have expired, companies other than the original manufacturer can produce and sell the drug. This usually results in significant reduction in costs.

What are generics?

These off-patent drugs are called generics internationally.

  • Different meaning in India: However, the term ‘generic’ has a different meaning in India’s pharma trade. Medicines marketed exclusively with INN names are called generics or generic medicine

What is a fixed dose drug combination (FDC)?

Combination products, also known as fixed dose drug combinations (FDCs), are combinations of two or more active drugs in a single dosage form.

Read More: Refer this article for more info on FDCs

WHO recommends

World Health Organization (WHO) advocates generic prescribing as part of an overall strategy to ensure rational medical treatment

Barriers to rational prescribing in India

A large number of FDCs are

What is rational prescribing?

Rational prescribers should attempt to:

  • Maximise clinical effectiveness
  • Minimise harms
  • Avoid wasting scarce healthcare resources
  • Respect patient choice

Rational prescribing normally follows a logical sequence from diagnosis to follow-up as shown below,

rational prescribing

Process of rational prescribing

Source: You can read this pdf for more info on rational prescribing

Barriers to rational prescribing in India

In India, there are many barriers to rational prescribing.

  • A large number of FDCs: There are a huge number of fixed-dose combinations (FDCs), the vast majority of which have no therapeutic justification. These FDCs account for about 45% of the market (about Rs. 45,000 crore). The British National Formulary lists very few FDCs whereas in India there are thousands.

Puny share of the generics

Of the total domestic pharmaceutical formulations, a market of over Rs. 1 lakh crore, generic medicines, account for not more than 10%, or Rs. 10,000 crore

Therefore, even if a doctor prescribes a drug by generic name, the patient will generally end up buying a branded product.

Arguments floated against generics

  • Brand name ensures quality: Some commentators argue that brand names ensure quality and many doctors believe this. This belief is ill-founded. The recent quality survey by the government found 26 of 32 samples from a particular plant of a prominent multinational drug company to be not of standard quality (NSQ)
  • Non-equal Bioequivalence and Bioavailability: Some argue that bioavailability and bioequivalence (BA and BE) of generics may not be equal to the original brand.
    • Bioavailability refers to the rate and extent to which the active ingredient of the drug present becomes available at the site of action of the drug. In order for a new generic drug to be licensed, it has to be bioequivalent to the reference drug. It means that BA of the generic drug is similar to that of the reference drug
    • Bioequivalence: It is the property wherein two drugs with identical active ingredients or two different dosage forms of the same drug possess similar bioavailability and produce the same effect at the site of physiological activity. Of the approximately 800 useful drugs known to modern medicine, bioequivalence is really only important for a few drugs with low solubility and high or low permeability, so the debate about BA and BE is somewhat misinformed.

Core issues

The core issues are

  • Affordable access to medicines
  • Rational prescription and use of medicines 

Achieving the objectives

These objectives require an

  • Enlarged list of essential and life-saving medicines under price control
  • Elimination of all irrational FDCs
  • No brands for drugs off patent
  • Crisp and concise officially approved names to make it easier for doctors to prescribe generics including the rational FDCs

Way forward

  • The most effective way to maintain quality is to have periodic testing and stringent disincentives for poor quality. The best insurance for good quality is good regulation.

[3]. TB timelines

The Hindu

Context

The transmission cycle of the drug-resistant strain must be broken aggressively

Relevant point from the article

Developing more accurate, cheaper and effective diagnostic tests and improved treatment regimens that are less expensive and of shorter duration can be a possible gamechanger in war against TB

Note: News has already been covered in yesterday’s brief


Economy


[1]. Voluntary unemployment rising: Debroy

The Hindu

Context

NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy flagged a dramatic rise in voluntary unemployment across the country, where people choose not to work below a certain income level after ‘investing’ in education

Employment data is imperfect

In the view of Bibek Debroy,

  • Due large self-employed and unorganised sector, the only credible way to get data on employment and jobs is using household surveys over and above enterprise-level surveys. Otherwise, we will always have an imperfect picture

Task force

A task force on employment data has been created led by NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya

Latest survey

The latest employment data based on household surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), usually every five years, dates back to 2011-12 and a fresh set of data is expected sometime in 2018

  • The problem: Data compiled by the Labour Bureau from enterprises for select sectors on a quarterly basis doesn’t reflects as to what is really happening to labour and employment due to its sample size and design

 Service sector holds the key

In the view of Mr Debroy,

  • The primary growth in jobs will come from the services sector. Even when reforms happen in agriculture, most of the jobs will be created in areas that will show up in national income accounts as services such as transportation, logistics

Note: Bibek Debroy was citing the data from CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) survey when he stated that voluntary unemployment was rising

[2]. Centre to release new series of IIP, WPI data

The Hindu

Context

A new series of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Wholesale Price Index (WPI) will be released recently in a bid to bring greater accuracy and improved synchronization among such data sets, in turn leading to better policies

The changes

  • Change in base year: The base year for the IIP and the WPI will be 2011-12 and not the current 2004-05. The Consumer Price Index and the GDP and gross value addition (GVA) also have 2011-12 as the base year
  • New additions to IIP: The new series of IIP will include technology items such as smartphones, tablets, LED television and tablets
    • According to the report of the ‘Working group for development of methodology for compilation of the all India IIP,’ the new item basket for IIP will include “809 products, re-grouped into 521 item groups,” 55 products from the mining sector and treating electricity as a single product

[3]. ‘NPA norms to force decision-making’

The Hindu

Context

The Centre’s recent move amending the Banking Regulation Act to give more powers to the RBI to resolve stressed assets will force lenders to take a decision

A fairly simple article.

Give it a go through once


Indian Express 


[1]. Error of judgement

Indian Express

Context

The selection process that led to Justice Karnan becoming a judge needs revisiting

Authors’ contention

Author, a former, Additional Solicitor General, questions the selection procedure via which Justice Karnan was selected

Report of the Committee on In-House Procedure

Finding that there needs to be action against judges who do not follow “universally accepted values”, the Supreme Court on December 15, 1999 adopted the Report of the Committee on In-House Procedure to take suitable remedial action against erring judges

  • This procedure was created to deal with allegations against a judge pertaining to the discharge of his judicial functions
  • In-house procedure not utilized: In Justice Karnan’s case, this in-house procedure appears not to have been resorted to

How In-house procedure works?

The in-house procedure provides for the CJI to advise a judge to resign or seek voluntary retirement. If the judge does not resign or retire, the chief justice (of the high court) can be advised not to allocate any judicial work, and the matter brought to the notice of the president and prime minister

Power to remove the judge

The power to remove a judge is vested with the Members of Parliament (in view of Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution). They may move a motion for the removal of a judge on grounds of proved misbehaviour and/or incapacity, which remedy was available, but not (yet) exercised.

[2]. Cure lies elsewhere

Indian Express

Context

Generic medicines can’t be the first, or only, step to reduce the cost of treatment

Note: This issue has been covered in the Hindu editorial section. Only new points will be mentioned henceforth. Please read that article first

Tie all ends

Doctor-pharma nexus is a commonplace phenomenon in India but the proposed initiative targets only one end. Pharma companies should also be included

Shortage of inspectors

There is a chronic shortage of drug inspectors who look after quality control at manufacturing and dispensing sites of medicines

Quality issues

Quality is the other major issue with generic drugs. In the last couple of years, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has initiated action against many Indian pharmaceutical companies for alleged violation of good manufacturing practices and other irregularities at the drug manufacturing facilities.

  • This happened mainly with generic drugs, which were manufactured in India and exported to the US. With such poor-quality controls in manufacturing, the intent of the legislation will be compromised

Author suggests

Author suggests following measures,

  • Quality control: To institute better quality control in the manufacture of generic drugs first, test their bioequivalence with standard branded medicines, build doctor and patient confidence on the product and then, push for a change in prescription behavior of physicians
  • Alternative sources of medicine: To give priority to alternative methods to reduce costs and improving quality of drugs
  • National pricing Policy: Bringing in a National Medicine Pricing Policy would be a simple but very effective way in controlling drug prices, without taking away the choice of prescription from doctors
    • This could be easily done through the government’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority
  • Prescription pattern monitoring rules need to be implemented stringently to dent the doctor-pharma nexus
  • Increasing drug manufacturing units and investing heavily in drug research and development will effectively make India “drug self-sufficient” with a wider and cost-effective “drug reach”
  • Better control of branded generics and patent generics are also measures the government should work on

Live Mint


[1]. Xi Jinping’s big road is going to be bumpy

Live Mint

Context

China President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative will embroil the country in the tangled affairs of other countries to a degree unparalleled in its modern history
Article delineates the impact of OBOR initiative on China and its bilateral ties, possible avenues of discord and other possibilities.

Give it a go through once

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 11



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Funds to political parties: Govt. may amend FCRA again

[2]. Supreme Court plans to go paperless 

[3]. Multidrug-resistant TB will rise in India, says new study


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Triple talaq and the Constitution

[2]Navigating the new Silk Road


Economy


[1]. Rail regulator to define performance standards


 Indian Express


[1]. A sacred geography


Live Mint


[1]. Indian healthcare must be evidence-based


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Funds to political parties: Govt. may amend FCRA again

The Hindu

Context

Home Ministry will seek the Attorney-General’s opinion to amend the repealed Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 1976, which barred foreign donations to political parties

What has happened?

After being pulled up by the Delhi High Court for not initiating any action against the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which received foreign funds from two subsidiaries of Vedanta, a U.K.-based company, the Home Ministry will seek the Attorney-General’s opinion to amend the repealed Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 1976, which barred foreign donations to political parties

 Amendment in FCRA

In 2017, the NDA government had amended the FCRA through the Finance Bill route, which allowed foreign-origin companies to fund NGOs here and also cleared the way for donations to political parties by changing the definition of “foreign companies.”

The Glitch

Although the amendment was done retrospectively it only made valid the foreign donations received after 2010, the year when the 1976 Act was amended

Contempt petition

The retrospective amendment did not apply to donations prior to 2010 and the Association for Democratic Reforms, a political watchdog, moved a contempt petition against the Home Ministry in March 2017, pointing out that the directives of the High Court against the two political parties which received foreign funds were not followed

  • It should be noted that both the Congress and the BJP have been charged with illegally receiving foreign funds for political activities from Vedanta from 2004 to 2012
  • PIL: The ADR filed a PIL plea against the two parties for violating the FCRA. The Delhi High Court had held that the donations were illegal in 2014

Punitive provisions

The offence attracts an imprisonment of five years and fine or both to persons who assisted the political parties to receive the funds.

[2]. Supreme Court plans to go paperless 

The Hindu

Context

The Integrated Case Management Information System (ICMIS) will allow a litigant to digitally file a case and watch its progress on a real-time basis

Inauguration of ICMS

PM, on 10th May 2017 inaugurated the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) which has the potential to transform SC from a paper court to a digital court

What is ICMS?

The Integrated Case Management Information System (ICMIS) will allow a litigant to digitally file a case and watch its progress on a real-time basis

  • The system will help litigants access data and retrieve information online
  • Transparency: It would help usher in transparency, reduce manipulation and help the litigant track the progress of a case on a real- time basis
  • Environmental friendly: A paperless approach would be a boon to both litigants and the environment. Millions of litres of water and thousands of trees can be saved. Ten litres of water is used to make one A4 size paper

 [3]. Multidrug-resistant TB will rise in India, says new study

The Hindu

Context

By 2040, 12.4% of patients in the country will have that variant

 What has happened?

Lancet, a medical journal, has come out with its latest study regarding Tuberculosis

Findings of the study

  • MDR-TB will become more commonplace: Multidrug Resistant-Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), a version of the disease where patients do not respond to first-line drugs, will become more common than it is now
  • By 2040, the percentage of MDR-TB will make up 32.5% of all TB cases in Russia, 12.4% of the TB cases in India, 8.9% of the TB cases in the Philippines, and 5.7% of all TB cases in South Africa

 Significance of the findings

The findings are alarming as

  • MDR-TB Hotspot: India is home to the most serious ‘hotspots’ of MDR-TB transmission, especially overcrowded cities such as Mumbai
  • Highest drug resistant patients: India not only shoulders the highest TB burden in the world, with over 2 million of the 10 million reported cases, it also accounts for the most drug-resistant patients — nearly 1.3 lakh people who do not respond to first-line drugs

Poor access to TB Drugs

Two new TB drugs, Bedaquiline and Delamanid are being used in Europe and the U.S. for several years. But they are yet to be made available in India’s national healthcare system

  • The drug is available only in six sites across the country, and according to the Health Ministry’s TB report released on 5th March 2017, only 207 of the 79,000 patients who need the drug have access to it

Editorial/OPINION


[1]Triple talaq and the Constitution

 The Hindu

 Context

The Supreme Court cannot decide this case without engaging in a series of complex and difficult choices

Backdrop

The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in ShayaraBano v. Union of India , which has popularly come to be known as the “triple talaq case”

The Court can take two approaches to the case.

The narrow view

  • Triple talaq is invalid because it has no sanction in Muslim personal law
  • There is no evidence to show that talaq-i-bidat constitutes an integral part of the Islamic faith and, consequently, it does not deserve constitutional protection
  • The Supreme Court itself, in a number of cases, has either doubted the validity of instantaneous triple talaq, or gone so far as to say that it is not a part of Muslim personal law

The Broador Radical View

  • It might hold that controversies such as whether triple talaq is sanctioned by the Islamic faith raise questions that a court cannot, or should not, attempt to address
  • Far from entering the thicket of personal laws, the court should simply ask whether a challenged practice of personal law violates anyone’s fundamental rights.

Problem with this radical approach: Overrule 1951 judgement

  • In order to subject triple talaq — as a claimed aspect of Muslim personal law — to constitutional norms, the court must first overrule a 1951 judgment of the Bombay High Court (subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court in another case) called State of Bombay v. NarasuAppa Mali
  • In that case, SC held that uncodified personal laws may not be scrutinised for fundamental rights violations

The Assumption

A distinction between law, as created by the state or its agencies through acts of legislation on the one hand, and “personal law”, which had its source in the scriptures, and in non-state bodies for interpretation and enforcement, on the other

 Historically Inaccurate

This view, however, suffers from being historically inaccurate. There does not exist — and there probably never existed — a “pure” domain of personal law, which has its source in scriptures (the Koran for Muslims, or the shastras for Hindus) independent and untouched by state influence

The choice

The larger question, however, is whether the court will stick to its old, narrow, colonial-influenced jurisprudence, and strike down triple talaq while nonetheless upholding a body of law that answers not the Constitution, but to dominant and powerful voices within separate communities; or will it, in 2017, change course, and hold that no body of law (or rather, no body of prescriptions that carries all the badges and incidents of law) can claim a higher source of authority than the Constitution of India?

[2]Navigating the new Silk Road

 The Hindu

 Context

China’s Belt and Road Initiative reflects global trends and a new paradigm which India can support and shape

What has happened?

China’s 4 point initiative: Recently, China’s envoy to New Delhi floated a feeler (a tentative proposal intended to ascertain someone’s attitude or opinion) containing 4 points, towards improvement of Sino-Indian ties,

  • Start negotiation on a China-India Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation
  • Restart negotiation of China-India Free Trade Agreement
  • Strive for an early harvest on the border issue
  • Actively explore the feasibility of aligning China’s ‘One Belt One Road Initiative’ (OBOR) and India’s ‘Act East Policy’

Belt and Road Forum

On May 14th 2017, Beijing will host the highest-level international forum i.e. Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) to date to promote its ambitious, cross-continental development strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Author’s contention

India should participate in the above forum as an outright rejection of OBOR will be a historic mistake

 Author suggests: Long term interests

Author suggests that India should keep its long term interests in mind rather than short term concerns,

  1. OBOR as an opportunity for cooperation: India should treat the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — which already has contracts of over $1 trillion covering over 60 countries — as an opportunity to enlarge areas of cooperation; and push for India as the southern node and a ‘Digital Asia’. India cannot be a $10 trillion economy by 2032 without integrating itself with the growing Asian market and its supply, manufacturing and market networks.
  2. Collaborating with the peripheral Asian economies: Complementary to China’s Initiative, develop common standards with the fastest growing economies in Asia that are on the periphery of the B&R Initiative, such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia, to facilitate trade, investment and business engagement.
  3. A new cooperation framework: Offer a new cooperation framework in South Asia around global challenges. For example, sharing meteorological reports, region specific climate research and the ‘Aadhaar’ digital experience, despite on-going security concerns.
  4. Thought leadership (a firm or an individual having expertise in a specialised field) provides an avenue to increasing global influence

Economic concerns trump other issues

Coordination between the major powers is emerging as the best way of global governance in a multi-polar world.

  • Despite their territorial dispute, strategic differences and military deployment in the South China Sea, China and Japan have just agreed to strengthen financial cooperation, and the Forum could provide an impetus to settling the border dispute between India and China

Read More: Give this Diplomat article a go-through


Economy


[1]. Rail regulator to define performance standards

The Hindu

Context

To provide guidance on quantity and quality of service India’s

What has happened?

India’s first rail regulator, Rail Development Authority (RDA), would not just look at tariff structures for passenger and freight operations but also set standards of performance and efficiency that would be enforceable under the Railways Act

  • The regulator will be mandated to “suggest measures for absorbing new technologies for achieving desired efficiency and performance standards.”

Regulator’s structure

  • The Railway Board also defined the structure of the RDA with a Chairman along with three members each for tariff, public private partnership and efficiency, standards and benchmarking
  • The regulator will, however, not involve itself in policy making of the Indian Railways, operations and maintenance of the rail system, financial management, setting technical standards and compliance of safety standards
  • It clarified that the regulator would only make recommendations on tariff and not impose a tariff on the Indian Railways

Indian Express


[1]. A sacred geography

Indian Express

Context

PM Modi’s second visit to Sri Lanka must help restore deeper cultural connect between the two nations

2-day visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today embark on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend the biggest Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ as its chief guest.
Vesak Day
The ‘International Day of Vesak’ will be held in Colombo from May 12 to 14. The festival includes an International Buddhist Conference in which over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries will participate

  • Vesak, is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar, marking Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away

Dedication of a hospital

In the upcountry region, PM Modi will dedicate a hospital built with financial assistance of Rs 150 crore by India.
Visit to a Buddhist temple
During his two-day trip, PM Modi will also visit famous DaladaMaligawa which is a Buddhist temple in Kandy

Note: More details on PM’s Lanka visit will be listed soon


Live Mint


[1]. Indian healthcare must be evidence-based

Live Mint

Context

Healthcare policy has relied on pharmaceutical and equipment advances, but evidence-based policymaking has been absent when it comes to service delivery

Article discusses various aspects of NHP already covered in earlier briefs. Below are the main points

 Evidence based Policymaking

  • There is evidence to show that projects fail largely as they are not evidence-based
  • The biggest dilemma that policymakers face is that though there is abundant evidence available, there is a lack of consensus about its quality
  • Policymakers’ demands for quick results restrict policymaking processes from being evidence-based
  • There is an immediate need for policymakers to sit across the table with researchers and have a meaningful dialogue. Think tanks are now focusing increasingly on building evidence bases for policies and programmes that can improve development outcomes. Researchers are aiding the government and stakeholders in conducting rigorous research and utilizing research findings
  • Spending some resources on research will help the government deliver benefits in an effective way as well as avoid the often-repeated mistakes of earlier mechanisms

Conclusion

With minimal investment, the government will stand to gain from robust evidence. Research can prove to be a shot in the arm for safeguarding the government’s health goals—and the population.

 

 

 

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 10



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Tax processed foods: FSSAI panel

[2] India’s Security Council seat bid gets Dutch help

[3]‘Tallest bridge built can withstand blasts’

[4]Indo-Pak. tensions hold up Samjhauta blast case trial


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Duplication isn’t synergy


Economy


[1]Data may understate cash crunch impact

[2]‘NPA ordinance may have limited impact


Indian Express


[1]Unity of the services


 Live Mint


[1]From here to $20 trillion: India’s economic growth strategy

[2]The government lacks clarity on healthcare

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


The Hindu

[1]Tax processed foods: FSSAI panel

 What has happened?

  • A committee of medical experts and nutritionists has recommended a tax on “highly-processed” foods and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • The body, tasked by the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI), which is a Union Health Ministry body, has also advocated a ban on advertisements promoting foods high in FSS (fat, salt, sugar) during TV shows and channels aimed at children
  • We should progress towards a total ban, as being done in a few other countries like Chile. Celebrity endorsements of such foods need to be discouraged

WHO guidelines

  • The 11-member committee has compiled existing scientific literature on the consumption of fats, sodium and sugar in foods, across socio-economic groups in the country, and endorsed that the proportions of these food constituents not exceed guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
  • A salient finding was that Low Income Groups (LIG) reportedly consumed more fried snacks and sweets than High Income Groups (HIG) and, the highest consumption of bakery items was in slums, said a study on urban populations cited in the report

Detailed labels must

  • The panel also recommended that all packaged food carry detailed labels specifying the energy value in kcal (kilo calories); the amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat; and the amount of any other nutrient for which a nutrition or health claim is made
  • If relevant, the label should also specify the amount or type of fatty acids or the amount of cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in gram (g) and cholesterol in milligram (mg)

[2] India’s Security Council seat bid gets Dutch help

 The Hindu

 Context

The Netherlands eager to upgrade trade and commerce ties

 What has happened?

The Netherlands has extended support to India’s membership bids for the United Nations Security Council and a host of export control regimes

Backdrop

Visiting Foreign Minister Bert Koenders

 Support to India

  • Also supports Indian membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and Australia Group (AG)
  • India accepted membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) last year when the Netherlands had the chairmanship of the multilateral organisation
  • A new Consulate General of the Netherlands would be opened in Bengaluru later this year

MEA India

Sought the support of the Netherlands for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), at the U.N

[3]‘Tallest bridge built can withstand blasts’

 The Hindu

 Context

Konkan railway, executing project across the Chenab, says mega structure can resist quakes too

 What has happened?

The world’s tallest railway arch bridge over the Chenab river in Jammu, providing rail connectivity to Kashmir, will be capable of handling high intensity blasts and resisting the worst possible natural disaster

First

This is for the first time globally that a bridge is designed to handle high level trinitrotoluene (TNT) blast load

 History

The construction work of the Chenab Bridge – declared as a national project — was awarded in August 2004 with a completion target of April 2007

However, the project has since missed several deadlines as the Railways was in the process of addressing bridge alignment and safety issues.

[4]Indo-Pak. tensions hold up Samjhauta blast case trial

 The Hindu

 Context

India is yet to summon 13 Pakistani witnesses for deposition in the case

 What has happened?

The current tensions in India-Pakistan relations may affect the ongoing trial of the 2007 Samjhauta Express train blast case

 Backdrop

  • A special NIA court in Panchkula had on March 17 issued summons to 13 Pakistani witnesses asking them to depose before July 4.
  • The summons were to be served by the Ministry of External Affairs, but the diplomatic row after the May 1 incident at the Line of Control, when two Indian soldiers were beheaded by Pakistan’s Army, is said to have derailed the process
  • Pakistan High Commission officials said they had no knowledge about the “summons.”

Pakistan’s charge

Pakistan has accused India of weakening the Samjhauta blast case as the NIA did not oppose the bail plea of Aseemanand earlier. He was recently acquitted in the Ajmer Dargah blast case and is out on bail in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case. The NIA is yet to challenge his acquittal

Blame Game Continues

Pakistan has also asked India to send 24 witnesses to depose before an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial. India is yet to act on the request


 Editorial/OPINION


 The Hindu

 [1]Duplication isn’t synergy

Context

Indian science needs hard work and a critically large base of experts, not more management.

SPARK (Sustainable Progress through Application of Research and Knowledge) is a proposed initiative to synergise science activity in India. A new, more efficient way of managing science is surely welcome, but one needs to put in a lot of thought before taking any action

We already have the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister and the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India

Do we need a third such body?

The report of top science administrators that recommended the setting up of this independent authority is correct in that “the stature of Indian science is a shadow of what it used to be” but this is not because of “misguided interventions”

Lack of Science Expertise

It is because there is a lack of scientific expertise across all levels. We have failed in our educational system to harness the enormous latent talent in our country and build a solid foundation of science

Conclusion

Science does not end with the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research and other elite institutions

It needs hard work, honest management and a critically large base of experts.


Economy


    The Hindu

[1]Data may understate cash crunch impact

 Context

Official statistics don’t cover worst-hit informal economy’

What has happened?

The International Monetary Fund’s latest May 2017 Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacifichas projected a slowdown in India due to the lingering effects of a cash crunch caused by demonetisation even as economic growth is expected to remain robust in the Asia and Pacific region compared with the levels forecast in October 2016

Effects Short term

Specifically, the impact on the informal economy and cash-based sectors, which are relatively large and have been affected the most by the cash crunch, is likely to be understated because these sectors are either not covered in the official statistics or are proxied by the formal sector activity indicators

Long term gains

In terms of fiscal gains, increases in bank liquidity, and the push towards cashless transactions and digitization

An analysis by IMF’s staff suggested that compared with the October 2016 forecasts, cash shortages were likely to have slowed India’s GDP growth in financial year 2016-17 by about 4/5ths of a percentage point and would drag down output by about half a percentage point in fiscal 2017-18

[2]‘NPA ordinance may have limited impact’

The Hindu

Context

Stressed assets’ value low: Moody’s

What has happened?

  • The effect of the ordinance empowering the Reserve Bank of India to deal more effectively with non-performing assets will be limited as operational problems of the stressed sectors remain
  • These moves are credit positive for Indian banks
  • The reason for the limited success of the various regulatory measures so far is that they do not address related structural factors
  • The current market value of the stressed assets were far lower and the banks will have to take a significant hit when they write-down the value of these assets to market value, according to the report

Indian Express


Indian Express

 [1]Unity of the services

Context

History stands testimony that the army, navy and air force always cooperate during wars. The demand for integrating the three forces through a theatre command is misplaced

Theatre Command

It is an organizational structure designed to control all military assets in a theatre of war to achieve military effects

The proponents of this concept liberally quote the US Gold Water Nichols Act and similar pieces of legislation in the UK and Australia

Is it necessary?

There has been no occasion, during actual warfare, when the three services have not operated with commendable cooperation

  • Unlikely to fight in faraway lands

We are unlikely to fight a war in faraway lands; Nor are we likely to be involved in a medium to high-intensity conflict for long durations

  • Limited Resources

Resources available to the armed forces will always be scarce; this is particularly true in the case of air power assets

  • Wastage of precious time: Problem in concentration of assets in war

Theatre commands will increase the crucial time element and joint training issues may also hamper operational efficiency

  • Conventional wars unlikely

To prosecute operations as in low-intensity and sub-conventional warfare, do we really need a mammoth organisation like a theatre command?

 Used before?

In the initial stage of the operations in Sri Lanka by the Indian Peace Keeping Force

 Conclusion

Focus on strengthening the communication and joint planning between the services which would lead to the type of organisation that is best suited to meet the need for optimising military capabilities


Live Mint


 Live Mint

[1]From here to $20 trillion: India’s economic growth strategy

 Context

The NITI Aayog action plan to boost agriculture as well as job creation in modern activities fits well with what has happened over the past few decades.

Exports have been given a central role in the transformation plan. The export market is far bigger than the domestic market

Challenges

Automation:The ability to create jobs in modern enterprises will be tested by the increasing use of automation in factories and offices

Protectionism:The ability to push exports will depend on whether the global system remains open in the face of growing protectionist sentiment in the developed world

 Conclusion

The past 25 years have seen the Indian economy grow more than eightfold in dollar terms between 1992 and 2017, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. A $293 billion economy is now a $2.4 trillion one. Average incomes have also gone up by a factor of six over the same period—from $318 to $1,850. The big question is if, assuming the same momentum, the next 25 years will end with a $20 trillion economy where the average Indian citizen earns $7,100.

[2]The government lacks clarity on healthcare     

Live Mint

Context

Its clumsy approach doesn’t bode well for the cooperation with the private sector outlined in the recent National Health Policy

Instances

Following the imposition of price controls on coronary stents in February, the inevitable happened. Companies like Abbott Healthcare Pvt. Ltd and Medtronic India Pvt. Ltd moved to withdraw some models of their stents from the Indian market

Now

The government is considering expanding the scope for price control in various ways—bringing medical devices directly under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), 2013, and provisions for reducing drug prices even when they are below the ceiling price—its broader approach to healthcare warrants scrutiny

Bhore Committee

  • In 1943, the Bhore committee led by Joseph William Bhore was set up by the government of India to assess health conditions in India and suggest reform measures
  • In 1952, the government of independent India accepted the committee’s proposals

Healthcare in Shambles

Centre and state government healthcare spending has been hovering around the 1.15% of GDP

National Health Policy

Pros

  • Focus on primary healthcare
  • Targeting healthcare spending upto 2.5% of GDP (lower by far than the global average of 5.4%, but a beginning at least)

Cons

Strategic purchase” of services not only from public facilities and not-for-profit private facilities, but also from for-profit private facilities: the measure was seen as giving too much play to the private sector in a critical area—this was inevitable

Heavy-handed drug price controls under the DPCO in previous years, for instance, have both denuded the domestic sector, leading to a dangerous dependence on imports from China for the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many common drugs, and encouraged oligopolistic behaviour

Healthcare is a tricky issue, subject to a number of ethical considerations and constraints. Its fundamental importance to citizens’ lives and the inelasticity of demand that skews market dynamics mean that the government must play a role

Singapore or UK healthcare models will fail in Indian ecosystem

Conclusion

Every country must arrive at its own modus vivendi(an arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully, either indefinitely or until a final settlement is reached.)—and in India, that will involve the private sector, when it comes to both supply of services and insurance. Effective regulation and enforcement of greater transparency are necessary. But the government’s current statist approach is fundamentally at odds with its stated mission

 


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 9


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]China offers to rename OBOR to allay India’s fears

[2]Different offences cannot be boxed into one trial

[3]Push for private sector in defence production


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Towards a unique digital South Asian identity


Economy


[1]Centre to raise with U.S. non-tariff barriers


Indian Express


[1]Network is the key


Live Mint


[1]NPA resolution: Let’s try again

[2]India’s solar mission can cause new debt problems


Front Page / NATIONAL


The Hindu

  Context

[1]China offers to rename OBOR to allay India’s fears

Outlines a four-point solution to ‘manage differences’

 Backdrop

The Chinese Ambassador to India during a closed-door interaction at the United Services Institution, a military think-tank in Delhi

 What has happened?

China is prepared to consider renaming the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) if it would end India’s reservations over its One Belt One Road (Or Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)

Other suggested measures

A new treaty on cooperation, restarting talks on a free trade agreement (FTA), an early resolution to the border issue and aligning the B&R with India’s “Act East policy.”

China has no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan

[2]Different offences cannot be boxed into one trial

 The Hindu

 Context

Says joint trial is an exception, the norm is separate trials for distinct offences

 What has happened?

A general conspiracy which gives birth to a cascade of distinct offences committed in various places spread over several years and involving different accused persons cannot be boxed into one trial. This would lead to injustice

[3]Push for private sector in defence production

 The Hindu

 Context

Centre moots tie-up with global firm

 What has happened?

The Government has accelerated efforts to finalise the ambitious Strategic Partnership (SP) model, which would give a major boost to private sector participation in defence manufacturing

Guidelines on the anvil

As part of the stepped up efforts, the Defence Ministry has scheduled consultations with the industry to get their feedback in the next couple of days.

The policy, which is part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016, will set out guidelines on how major Indian private sector companies can tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers in critical military systems and platforms.


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Towards a unique digital South Asian identity

 The Hindu

 Context

Executed properly, Aadhaar could become a central pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy

What has happened?

The enthusiasm with which government agencies and businesses have embraced Aadhaar should prompt India’s foreign policy planners to deploy it abroad

Why?

A single, region-wide platform to authenticate residents of South Asia could integrate its markets, bring communities closer and allow governments to offer a wider range of governance services

 Identity Schemes in Other Asian Countries

  • Pakistan has the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), that for two decades has collected biometric information
  • Nepal, meanwhile, intends to roll out biometrics-driven “national ID cards” to its citizens soon
  • The Election Commission in Bangladesh began issuing such cards last year

Exporting Aadhar: Building Applications with Aadhar

Beyond collecting biometric data, however, South Asian governments have not been able to create digital ID-enabled applications. This is what Aadhaar has mastered, making it a very valuable foreign policy export. Its open application programming interface (API) layers — known as “India Stack” — set Aadhaar apart from other biometric ID programmes. India Stack APIs, which include the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and Aadhaar e-KYC, allow applications to be built atop them

Strategic Benefits

Political and economic leverage

Aadhaar-like platforms catalyse innovation by tailoring Big Data for governments and businesses alike. The political and economic leverage India will accrue as a result of enabling such entrepreneurship will surpass fixed investments by China

India in Control, not China

Once a critical mass of Aadhaar-enabled applications has been created, interoperability standards for the digital ecosystem will be determined by the Unique ID programme. App developers, handheld manufacturers, and even Internet Service Providers will have to work around Aadhaar’s encryption standards and data protection guidelines

Concerns: Creating Data Protection Laws

South Asian countries that have not digitised their public databases fully can create secure ones to link to unique ID programmes. A national ID programme would also be a trigger for them to enact strong data protection laws

 Conclusion

Aadhaar is a constitutional technology that can build whole new information and communication technology ecosystems. New Delhi should appreciate its foreign policy value and integrate the project into its neighbourhood agenda

[2]Being humane

 The Hindu

 Context

  • A law against torture should enable ratification of the Convention barring custodial excesses
  • Two decades after signing the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, India is yet to ratify it

Why?

  • India’s extradition requests pending due to absence any such law against torture, e.g. an extradition request relating to Purulia arms drop case suspect Kim Davy failed owing to the apprehension that he may be ill-treated in India
  • India was subjected to close questioning during the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights obligations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

  • Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010, but it was referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha
  • In its report submitted in the same year, the committee recommended exhaustive amendments to the Bill to make it consistent with the language and intent of the Convention
  • Thereafter the Bill lapsed
  • The government now says it has referred the matter to the Law Commission for an authoritative view

Conclusion

It is imperative that a strong law that criminalises torture, imposes stringent punishment for it and contains liberal provisions for those suffering torture to complain against their perpetrators, prosecute them and be compensated and rehabilitated, is passed at the earliest


Economy


[1]Centre to raise with U.S. non-tariff barriers

 The Hindu

 Context

‘Curbs affecting exports of goods made in India’

 What has happened?

India is planning to take up with the US administration the “barriers” imposed by the U.S., which are hurting Indian goods exports to that country in sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other industrial products

This issue would also be on the agenda of the next India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF) — the main bilateral platform for discussing and resolving trade and investment issues

Child labour

According to the Indian Commerce Ministry, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has “arbitrarily” listed 23 items produced in India on the ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour’ — which is in effect a ban on their import

Major NTB (Non-Tariff Barrier)

The Trade Expansion Act of 1962 of the U.S., allowing American manufacturers to petition for curbing imports from third nations on national security grounds without providing proof from industry

 Pharma exports

Indian pharmaceutical exports to the U.S. are hit by the increase in registration fees, approval delays and low approval rates for registrations mandatory for sale of all new drugs in the U.S

The Ministry has also opposed the U.S. requirement of irradiation treatment and inspection of mangoes prior to shipping from India.

[2]‘Decision on NPAs still lies with banks’

 The Hindu

 Context

However, RBI scrutiny and committee advisories will help, says Ministry official

 What has happened?

Banks would still be responsible for taking commercial decisions on non-performing assets weighing down their balance-sheets, including possible haircuts, but scrutiny from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and advisories from oversight committees on the processes they adopt should comfort bankers

New JLF norms

  • As per the new norms for JLFs (joint lenders’ forum) notified by the RBI, just 60% of lenders by value of the loan have to reach a consensus on the course of action to be adopted for an NPA compared with a 75% consensus requirement earlier. The rest of the lenders are required to follow suit in such cases
  • RBI is coming into the process but the commercial decision is still taken by the banks

Indian Express


[1]Network is the key

 Indian Express

 Context

India must ramp up its internal connectivity to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative

What has happened?

India has turned its back on China’s celebration of President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) this week in Beijing

Why is India against it?

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important part of the BRI, runs through a part of Jammu and Kashmir that is occupied by Islamabad
  • BRI will massively strengthen China’s commercial, economic, political and security influence on India’s neighbourhood and marginalise Delhi’s regional primacy
  • China is set to become the first non-Western power in the modern era to shape the geopolitics of Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific.

Japan also not in favor: Partnership for Quality Infrastructure

  • It has already outlined a Belt and Road initiative of its own, called the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure
  • While its propaganda might not be as effective as China’s, Japan has put up nearly $150 billion to support infrastructure projects all across the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia

What India should do?

  • Ramp up its own internal connectivity: BRI was built on top of the internal “Go West” strategy that focused, over the last two decades, on unifying China’s domestic market and connecting its developed east coast with the interior provinces
  • Delhi should modernize connectivity across its land and maritime frontiers with its neighboring countries
  • India can work with nations like Japan and multilateral institutions in developing regional connectivity in the Subcontinent and beyond

 Conclusion

Delhi’s urgent imperative is to recognise that China’s BRI is not a diplomatic problem for the foreign office to resolve. It is about mobilising the full resources of the Indian state and creating effective mechanisms — public and private — to purposefully address the long-term opportunities and challenges that China’s BRI presents.


Live Mint


[1]NPA resolution: Let’s try again

 Live Mint

Context

New Ordinance empowering RBI to get more actively involved in the stalled resolution process

 What has happened?

The government seems to be hoping that the Reserve Bank of India will solve what is essentially a collective action problem

Bad Loans

These bad loans—an estimated Rs9.64 trillion—are now the biggest single threat to Indian economic stability. The potential costs of a clean-up have also mounted

Previous Strategy of RBI

  • It gave banks freedom to deal with distressed loans by allowing, for example, the lenders to convert debt into equity through strategic debt restructuring (SDR) or by helping companies rework repayment schedules through the scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets (S4A)
  • Since India did not then have an effective bankruptcy law, the regulator sought to create a resolution system that resembles the out-of-court bankruptcy process

Now

The Indian central bank can now “issue directions to banking companies for resolution of stressed assets” and also “issue direction to any banking company to initiate insolvency resolution process in respect of a default, under the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016”

The choice of RBI as the agency to push for resolution is a strange one. Why?

  • The international experience shows that central banks mainly intervene in banking crises by providing emergency liquidity
  • It is the government that moves in to push for the resolution of distressed debt.
  • It is hard to find any other recent example of a central bank being tasked with a banking sector clean-up. Chile is perhaps the only notable exception, in 1982

Two Alternatives to RBI

  • The dormant Bank Boards Bureau (BBB) could have been used to provide cover to bankers scared of selling loans at discounts
  • The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission had recommended the setting up of a resolution corporation to deal with distress in financial firms

What Now?

The new ordinance may accelerate the resolution process, especially since the new bankruptcy law is now in place

Challenges

  • To find buyers for the distressed debt that banks may want to sell or for assets if enterprises are wound down under the bankruptcy law
  • Capital needs to be raised after banks take a knock with the inevitable loan write-downs; the combined bill for cleaning-up banks as well as meeting Basel III norms is around $100 billion
  • To what extent corporate borrowers rather than taxpayers will bear the costs of bad loan resolution.

 Conclusion

There is still a tough journey ahead for Indian banks

[2]India’s solar mission can cause new debt problems

 Live Mint

 Context

Indian solar project developers may find their projects unviable in the event of currency fluctuation or changes in China’s policy on solar cell and module export

What has happened?

  • The recent decision of the Supreme Court not to allow a revision of the tariff charged by Tata Power Co. Ltd and Adani Power Ltd for their 4,000MW (megawatt) and 4,620MW Mundra ultra-mega power projects (UMPPs) based on Indonesian coal raises serious concerns about the viability of these projects
  • A decision by the Indonesian government to link the price of coal exported from the country to a benchmark based on international prices of coal has toppled carefully laid plans

UMPPs

  • In 2006, it was decided to build UMPPs to take care of India’s crippling power woes
  • One of the reasons for the failure of UMPPs was that when the bids were submitted, coal prices were very low
  • Subsequently, prices went up, making the projects unviable
  • Power purchase agreements (PPAs) with tenures of 25 years were written without a provision for a revision of terms.

 Issues

Heavy Dependence on China:

  • India’s solar programme is heavily dependent on imported solar cells and modules, mainly from China
  • China uses predatory pricing and dumps cheap thin film solar cells to capture the Indian market in the absence of any anti-dumping duty imposed by India
  • The increased reliance on thin film technologies has augmented the dependence on specific elements like “rare earth” metals in which China has a near monopoly

Declining Output

In a recent study, Mike Bergin of Duke University along with others has found that dust and particulate matter might reduce the energy yield of solar power systems in north India by 17-25%

 Auction Problem

In most cases lowest bidder wins

This can lead to a winner’s curse in industries characterized by high uncertainty, or projects with very high time durations

Solution

  • Go for a dynamic auction format where bidders can start from a maximum tariff and go downwards, after observing the pattern of bidding by others
  • This allows market information to become public, and reduces uncertainty for bidders.
  • To adopt a counter-cyclical policy of tendering projects
  • Better governance of public sector banks is urgently needed

Conclusion

In the absence of such measures, despite our best intentions, the experience of thermal power will only be repeated in our solar mission

[1]China offers to rename OBOR to allay India’s fears

 The Hindu

 Context

Outlines a four-point solution to ‘manage differences’

 Backdrop

The Chinese Ambassador to India during a closed-door interaction at the United Services Institution, a military think-tank in Delhi

 What has happened?

China is prepared to consider renaming the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) if it would end India’s reservations over its One Belt One Road (Or Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)

Other suggested measures

A new treaty on cooperation, restarting talks on a free trade agreement (FTA), an early resolution to the border issue and aligning the B&R with India’s “Act East policy.”

China has no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan

[2]Different offences cannot be boxed into one trial

 The Hindu

 Context

Says joint trial is an exception, the norm is separate trials for distinct offences

 What has happened?

A general conspiracy which gives birth to a cascade of distinct offences committed in various places spread over several years and involving different accused persons cannot be boxed into one trial. This would lead to injustice

[3]Push for private sector in defence production

 The Hindu

 Context

Centre moots tie-up with global firm

 What has happened?

The Government has accelerated efforts to finalise the ambitious Strategic Partnership (SP) model, which would give a major boost to private sector participation in defence manufacturing

Guidelines on the anvil

As part of the stepped up efforts, the Defence Ministry has scheduled consultations with the industry to get their feedback in the next couple of days.

The policy, which is part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016, will set out guidelines on how major Indian private sector companies can tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers in critical military systems and platforms.


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Towards a unique digital South Asian identity

 The Hindu

 Context

Executed properly, Aadhaar could become a central pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy

What has happened?

The enthusiasm with which government agencies and businesses have embraced Aadhaar should prompt India’s foreign policy planners to deploy it abroad

Why?

A single, region-wide platform to authenticate residents of South Asia could integrate its markets, bring communities closer and allow governments to offer a wider range of governance services

 Identity Schemes in Other Asian Countries

  • Pakistan has the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), that for two decades has collected biometric information
  • Nepal, meanwhile, intends to roll out biometrics-driven “national ID cards” to its citizens soon
  • The Election Commission in Bangladesh began issuing such cards last year

Exporting Aadhar: Building Applications with Aadhar

Beyond collecting biometric data, however, South Asian governments have not been able to create digital ID-enabled applications. This is what Aadhaar has mastered, making it a very valuable foreign policy export. Its open application programming interface (API) layers — known as “India Stack” — set Aadhaar apart from other biometric ID programmes. India Stack APIs, which include the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and Aadhaar e-KYC, allow applications to be built atop them

Strategic Benefits

Political and economic leverage

Aadhaar-like platforms catalyse innovation by tailoring Big Data for governments and businesses alike. The political and economic leverage India will accrue as a result of enabling such entrepreneurship will surpass fixed investments by China

India in Control, not China

Once a critical mass of Aadhaar-enabled applications has been created, interoperability standards for the digital ecosystem will be determined by the Unique ID programme. App developers, handheld manufacturers, and even Internet Service Providers will have to work around Aadhaar’s encryption standards and data protection guidelines

Concerns: Creating Data Protection Laws

South Asian countries that have not digitised their public databases fully can create secure ones to link to unique ID programmes. A national ID programme would also be a trigger for them to enact strong data protection laws

 Conclusion

Aadhaar is a constitutional technology that can build whole new information and communication technology ecosystems. New Delhi should appreciate its foreign policy value and integrate the project into its neighbourhood agenda

[2]Being humane

 The Hindu

 Context

  • A law against torture should enable ratification of the Convention barring custodial excesses
  • Two decades after signing the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, India is yet to ratify it

Why?

  • India’s extradition requests pending due to absence any such law against torture, e.g. an extradition request relating to Purulia arms drop case suspect Kim Davy failed owing to the apprehension that he may be ill-treated in India
  • India was subjected to close questioning during the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights obligations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

  • Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010, but it was referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha
  • In its report submitted in the same year, the committee recommended exhaustive amendments to the Bill to make it consistent with the language and intent of the Convention
  • Thereafter the Bill lapsed
  • The government now says it has referred the matter to the Law Commission for an authoritative view

Conclusion

It is imperative that a strong law that criminalises torture, imposes stringent punishment for it and contains liberal provisions for those suffering torture to complain against their perpetrators, prosecute them and be compensated and rehabilitated, is passed at the earliest


Economy


[1]Centre to raise with U.S. non-tariff barriers

 The Hindu

 Context

‘Curbs affecting exports of goods made in India’

 What has happened?

India is planning to take up with the US administration the “barriers” imposed by the U.S., which are hurting Indian goods exports to that country in sectors including agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other industrial products

This issue would also be on the agenda of the next India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF) — the main bilateral platform for discussing and resolving trade and investment issues

Child labour

According to the Indian Commerce Ministry, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has “arbitrarily” listed 23 items produced in India on the ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour’ — which is in effect a ban on their import

Major NTB (Non-Tariff Barrier)

The Trade Expansion Act of 1962 of the U.S., allowing American manufacturers to petition for curbing imports from third nations on national security grounds without providing proof from industry

 Pharma exports

Indian pharmaceutical exports to the U.S. are hit by the increase in registration fees, approval delays and low approval rates for registrations mandatory for sale of all new drugs in the U.S

The Ministry has also opposed the U.S. requirement of irradiation treatment and inspection of mangoes prior to shipping from India.

[2]‘Decision on NPAs still lies with banks’

 The Hindu

 Context

However, RBI scrutiny and committee advisories will help, says Ministry official

 What has happened?

Banks would still be responsible for taking commercial decisions on non-performing assets weighing down their balance-sheets, including possible haircuts, but scrutiny from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and advisories from oversight committees on the processes they adopt should comfort bankers

New JLF norms

  • As per the new norms for JLFs (joint lenders’ forum) notified by the RBI, just 60% of lenders by value of the loan have to reach a consensus on the course of action to be adopted for an NPA compared with a 75% consensus requirement earlier. The rest of the lenders are required to follow suit in such cases
  • RBI is coming into the process but the commercial decision is still taken by the banks

Indian Express


[1]Network is the key

 Indian Express

 Context

India must ramp up its internal connectivity to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative

What has happened?

India has turned its back on China’s celebration of President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) this week in Beijing

Why is India against it?

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important part of the BRI, runs through a part of Jammu and Kashmir that is occupied by Islamabad
  • BRI will massively strengthen China’s commercial, economic, political and security influence on India’s neighbourhood and marginalise Delhi’s regional primacy
  • China is set to become the first non-Western power in the modern era to shape the geopolitics of Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific.

Japan also not in favor: Partnership for Quality Infrastructure

  • It has already outlined a Belt and Road initiative of its own, called the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure
  • While its propaganda might not be as effective as China’s, Japan has put up nearly $150 billion to support infrastructure projects all across the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia

What India should do?

  • Ramp up its own internal connectivity: BRI was built on top of the internal “Go West” strategy that focused, over the last two decades, on unifying China’s domestic market and connecting its developed east coast with the interior provinces
  • Delhi should modernize connectivity across its land and maritime frontiers with its neighboring countries
  • India can work with nations like Japan and multilateral institutions in developing regional connectivity in the Subcontinent and beyond

 Conclusion

Delhi’s urgent imperative is to recognise that China’s BRI is not a diplomatic problem for the foreign office to resolve. It is about mobilising the full resources of the Indian state and creating effective mechanisms — public and private — to purposefully address the long-term opportunities and challenges that China’s BRI presents.


Live Mint


[1]NPA resolution: Let’s try again

 Live Mint

Context

New Ordinance empowering RBI to get more actively involved in the stalled resolution process

 What has happened?

The government seems to be hoping that the Reserve Bank of India will solve what is essentially a collective action problem

Bad Loans

These bad loans—an estimated Rs9.64 trillion—are now the biggest single threat to Indian economic stability. The potential costs of a clean-up have also mounted

Previous Strategy of RBI

  • It gave banks freedom to deal with distressed loans by allowing, for example, the lenders to convert debt into equity through strategic debt restructuring (SDR) or by helping companies rework repayment schedules through the scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets (S4A)
  • Since India did not then have an effective bankruptcy law, the regulator sought to create a resolution system that resembles the out-of-court bankruptcy process

Now

The Indian central bank can now “issue directions to banking companies for resolution of stressed assets” and also “issue direction to any banking company to initiate insolvency resolution process in respect of a default, under the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016”

The choice of RBI as the agency to push for resolution is a strange one. Why?

  • The international experience shows that central banks mainly intervene in banking crises by providing emergency liquidity
  • It is the government that moves in to push for the resolution of distressed debt.
  • It is hard to find any other recent example of a central bank being tasked with a banking sector clean-up. Chile is perhaps the only notable exception, in 1982

Two Alternatives to RBI

  • The dormant Bank Boards Bureau (BBB) could have been used to provide cover to bankers scared of selling loans at discounts
  • The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission had recommended the setting up of a resolution corporation to deal with distress in financial firms

What Now?

The new ordinance may accelerate the resolution process, especially since the new bankruptcy law is now in place

Challenges

  • To find buyers for the distressed debt that banks may want to sell or for assets if enterprises are wound down under the bankruptcy law
  • Capital needs to be raised after banks take a knock with the inevitable loan write-downs; the combined bill for cleaning-up banks as well as meeting Basel III norms is around $100 billion
  • To what extent corporate borrowers rather than taxpayers will bear the costs of bad loan resolution.

 Conclusion

There is still a tough journey ahead for Indian banks

[2]India’s solar mission can cause new debt problems

 Live Mint

 Context

Indian solar project developers may find their projects unviable in the event of currency fluctuation or changes in China’s policy on solar cell and module export

What has happened?

  • The recent decision of the Supreme Court not to allow a revision of the tariff charged by Tata Power Co. Ltd and Adani Power Ltd for their 4,000MW (megawatt) and 4,620MW Mundra ultra-mega power projects (UMPPs) based on Indonesian coal raises serious concerns about the viability of these projects
  • A decision by the Indonesian government to link the price of coal exported from the country to a benchmark based on international prices of coal has toppled carefully laid plans

UMPPs

  • In 2006, it was decided to build UMPPs to take care of India’s crippling power woes
  • One of the reasons for the failure of UMPPs was that when the bids were submitted, coal prices were very low
  • Subsequently, prices went up, making the projects unviable
  • Power purchase agreements (PPAs) with tenures of 25 years were written without a provision for a revision of terms.

 Issues

Heavy Dependence on China:

  • India’s solar programme is heavily dependent on imported solar cells and modules, mainly from China
  • China uses predatory pricing and dumps cheap thin film solar cells to capture the Indian market in the absence of any anti-dumping duty imposed by India
  • The increased reliance on thin film technologies has augmented the dependence on specific elements like “rare earth” metals in which China has a near monopoly

Declining Output

In a recent study, Mike Bergin of Duke University along with others has found that dust and particulate matter might reduce the energy yield of solar power systems in north India by 17-25%

 Auction Problem

In most cases lowest bidder wins

This can lead to a winner’s curse in industries characterized by high uncertainty, or projects with very high time durations

Solution

  • Go for a dynamic auction format where bidders can start from a maximum tariff and go downwards, after observing the pattern of bidding by others
  • This allows market information to become public, and reduces uncertainty for bidders.
  • To adopt a counter-cyclical policy of tendering projects
  • Better governance of public sector banks is urgently needed

Conclusion

In the absence of such measures, despite our best intentions, the experience of thermal power will only be repeated in our solar mission

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 8


National


[1]Glut ruins farmers trapped in ‘cobweb phenomenon

[2]Japan pitches for Chabahar port


Editorial/OPINION


[1]This time with feeling

[2]Space for all

[3]Decoding the doctrine


Economy


[1]This time with feeling

[2]ADB eyes Delhi as regional hub

[3] FATCA: Deadline, procedure and details

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Glut ruins farmers trapped in ‘cobweb phenomenon’

The Hindu

 Context

When prices of a commodity increase during a season of scarcity, more of it is cultivated leading to a problem of plenty

Price drop

Country is witnessing a price drop in various agricultural commodities due to the problem of plentiful production.

  • Tomato: farmers in Kolar, Karnataka, dumped tomatoes on the road after the prices collapsed to a new low of ₹2 per kg from ₹10 to ₹15 a month ago
  • Tur: In Maharashtra, the demand for tur, which rode a wave of high prices in 2016, plummeted after its production went up from 4.44 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 to 20.35 lakh tonnes in 2016-17
  • Grapes: Grapes also witnessed a crash in their prices resulting in despair for Maharashtra vineyard owners
  • Chilli:A long duration crop, consuming up to eight months for harvesting, red chilli cultivation was expanded in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2017 after the commodity commanded a good price in 2016.
  • However, in the absence of minimum support price for the crop, categorized as commercial, the market dynamics of demand-supply has kept the price low

The Cobweb phenomenon

Agricultural economists have traced the reasons for the resultant price crash to the “cobweb phenomenon

  • After the prices of a particular agricultural commodity shoot through the roof during a season of scarcity, farmers resort to boosting the production on the premise of the pre-existing demand and prices, leading to a problem of plenty

The problem

Problem for farmer is twofold. Neither do they benefit when a commodity fetches high prices during season of scarcity, like in case of pulses last year, nor do they benefit when they produce a bumper crop.

  • In first case, the wholesale retailers benefit
  • In second case, due to natural law of demand and supply, farmers have to contend with severely low prices

[2]Japan pitches for Chabahar port

 The Hindu

 Context

Indo-Japan civil nuclear cooperation agreement is still on track

Article contains excerpts from an interview with Japanese ambassador to India

Give it a go through


Front Page Editorial/OPINION


[1]This time with feeling

 The Hindu

 Context

The Centre has empowered the Reserve Bank of India to get banks to take tougher steps, including insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings against defaulters, to address the growing volume of bad loans on their books

What has been done?

An ordinance to amend the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 has been issued to quell doubts whether the existing provisions allowed the RBI to direct banks to deal with specific stressed assets

  • The RBI has also been vested with the power to form oversight committees wherever it deems fit
  • The ordinance is the latest attempt to resolve the twin balance sheet problem (of indebted borrowers and NPA-burdened lenders) plaguing India’s domestic investment cycle

 Conclusion

If the government wants to see a spurt in investment and job-creation, it needs to do more than just pin its hopes on new oversight committees. It must amend the anti-corruption law as has been promised for a while now, and accept the need to fix the policy-level stress affecting sectors such as telecom, power and highways

[2]Space for all

 The Hindu

 Context

  • By launching the GSAT-9 ‘South Asia satellite’, India has reaffirmed the Indian Space Research Organisation’s scientific prowess, but the messaging is perhaps more geopolitical than geospatial
  • In Line with India’s Neighborhood First Policy
  • Message to China, it is preparing to demonstrate its global clout at the Belt and Road Forum on May 14-15
  • With the GSLV launch India is showing that where it is capable its commitment to the development of its neighbors is strong
  • Finally, by going ahead with the project despite Pakistan’s decision to pull out, the Indian government is signalling that it will continue with its plans for the neighbourhood — ‘SAARC minus one’ — if necessary

[3]Decoding the doctrine

 The Hindu

 Context

More clarity is needed on implementing the Joint Indian Armed Forces Doctrine

Surgical strikes: Now the new norm

The Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces 2017, released in April, has formally embedded them as a part of sub-conventional operations — meaning that from now on, they are among a range of options at the military’s disposal to respond to terrorist attacks

Scope: Left Open

There is no mention of their employment being within the country or beyond its borders — the ambiguity is intended to send a message in the neighbourhood

New Discourse

Reversed a discourse which began in 1998 that India was out of conventional options in its quiver in the face of continued cross-border terrorism after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests

 NFU

The doctrine also reiterates the basic tenets of the Indian nuclear doctrine, no-first use (NFU) and minimum credible deterrence

Indigenization challenge

Another important pronouncement under the “National Military Objectives” is: “Enable required degree of self-sufficiency in defence equipment and technology through indigenization to achieve desired degree of technological independence by 2035.”

Not Make in India

While a grand pronouncement was made under the “Make in India” initiative, it has essentially remained an exercise in doling out billions of dollars to foreign companies

 Conclusion

The doctrine is a bold announcement, but without the necessary elements in place, it will remain just another document like the policy formulations enunciated earlier. Or worse, it will be relegated to being another political slogan for popular resonance rather than send out a message of intent beyond Indian borders and shores


Front Page Economy


[1]Time for a digital Indian Rupee

 The Hindu

 Context

Financial inclusion is an attainable goal

Digital transactions have soared with Net banking, credit cards, digital wallets, payment gateways, Aadhaar pay, PPI, UPI, payments bank and BHIM since demonetisation

Digital fiat currency: A need

In India, where more than 95% transactions are cash-driven, the rural and semi-urban populations have not had complete inclusion in this financial methodology. Hence, it is imperative to introduce digital fiat currency as part of the remonetisation of the economy for monetary sovereignty and policy effectiveness

Digital India Rupee

Government should issue a digital fiat currency, titled digital India Rupee, which would bear the same characteristics as does the cash Rupee. It would be legal tender and accepted throughout India. It would be backed by the Government

  • Backed by the government: Since digital India Rupee would be a centrally-issued sovereign currency, it would possess immense trust, security and control. It would also bring transparency on black money, tax evasion and other illicit activities under the legal framework
  • Minimum marginal costs:Also, with the negligible logistics costs and benefits of riding on existing infrastructure, the cost of digital India Rupee would be marginal. The transition from physical notes and coins to a digital currency could drastically bring this down at par with the rest of the world.

[2]ADB eyes Delhi as regional hub

 The Hindu

 Context

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has operationally started working to create several regional hubs including New Delhi as one for South Asia, Kazakhstan for Central Asia

Backdrop

At a press conference marking the conclusion of the ADB’s 50th annual summit

What has happened?

Bank’s president Takehiko Nakaosays work has already started on procurement, deploying staff

‘Reduce time lag’

Observing that the “time required to approve a proposal as well as the time lag between approval and disbursement of loans can be further reduced

ADB

India, is a founding member of the ADB and its fourth-largest shareholder

The bank’s current portfolio of financing in the country includes 87 sovereign loans totalling $13.2 billion

[3] FATCA: Deadline, procedure and details

 The Hindu

 Context

Your bank account and other financial transactions like mutual funds need to be compliant with The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Non-compliance would lead to blocking of accounts

What is FATCA?

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a United States federal law that requires United States persons, including U.S. citizens who live outside the United States, to report their financial accounts held outside of the U.S., and requires foreign financial institutions to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about their U.S. clients

 Why is FATCA compliance necessary in India?

India had signed an agreement with the U.S. on July 9, 2015 which enables automatic exchange of financial information between India and the U.S

  • The agreement provides that Indian Financial Institutions will provide the necessary information to the Indian tax authority i.e. Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which information will then be transmitted to the U.S. automatically in the case of FATCA. The agreement came into effect on August 31, 2015

Which financial transactions need FATCA compliance?

The compliance is needed for bank accounts, mutual fund, national pension scheme and other such transactions. The compliance is needed to be done for all individual and entity accounts opened from July 1, 2014 to August 31, 2015

What do you need to submit to be FATCA compliant and how can it be done?

  • Individuals and entities need to provide details of their country of birth, country of citizenship, country of residence for tax purposes, among others, to the respective financial institutions.
  • The self-certification can be done online for bank accounts and mutual funds. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority has said it would come out with revised guidelines on FATCA shortly.

What will happen if I am not FATCA compliant?

In a press statement issued on April 11, 2017, the Finance Ministry said the process should be completed by April 30, 2017; otherwise the transactions would be blocked in the accounts for the said period. However, experts point out that on ground, the accounts have not been blocked; even if they have been, one can still provide self-certification and unblock the accounts


Front Page Indian Express


[1]Dissent and Aadhaar

 Indian Express

 Context

We have been numbed by a series of lies, myths and fictions about the project

A Surveillance State

Very soon, almost everyone will have an Aadhaar number, seeded in hundreds of databases. Most of these databases will be accessible to the government without invoking any special powers. Permanent surveillance of all residents becomes a possibility

No Dissent

With everyone on the radar, dissent is bound to be stifled

 How did we get there, without even noticing it?

Series of Lies about Aadhar

Aadhaar is a voluntary facility:  Soon it will be virtually impossible to live in India without Aadhaar. And if you cannot live without Aadhaar, in what sense is it voluntary?

Purpose of Aadhaar is to help welfare schemes: Welfare schemes have been used to promote Aadhaar (by creating mass dependence on it), irrespective of the consequences. As it happens, the consequences so far have been disastrous. If the name of a worker employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is spelt differently in his job card and Aadhaar card, he is at risk of not being paid

  • For the public distribution system, Aadhaar is a calamity: In Jharkhand and Rajasthan, millions of people are deprived of their food rations every month due to technical problems related to Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA), according to the government’s own data.

Aadhaar was endowed with mythological powers as a weapon against corruption: Many people fell for the simplistic claim that Aadhaar would “ensure that the money goes to the right person”. It may even create new varieties of identity fraud

Aadhaar-enabled “savings:Series of bogus claims about Aadhaar-enabled “savings”. Most of the savings figures have no solid basis e.g. when Aadhaar-related glitches deprive people of their entitlements and the shortfall is counted as “savings

 The technology was claimed to be flawless: Today, there is growing evidence that this is not the case. In ideal conditions, ABBA seems to work most of the time. But often the conditions are far from ideal, causing immense inconvenience

There is an ambiguity about the relation between Aadhaar and citizenship: Aadhaar deprivation could easily be used there as a weapon against illegal migrants, or communities branded as illegal migrants e.g. Assam,  Aadhaar enrolment in Assam being linked to the National Register of Citizens

 Confidentiality of the Data:The confidentiality of the identity information collected at the time of Aadhaar enrolment is a myth

NIDAI

  • The initial draft of the Aadhaar Act, known as the National Identity Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, did protect that information. But the final version does not
  • On the contrary, it creates a framework that enables the government to share or sell that information, except for the core biometrics, with any “requesting entity”
  • A vast collection of lucrative Aadhaar applications is now being built on the back of this information sharing facility

Conclusion

This is almost as big a bait-and-switch as the claim that Aadhaar is voluntary.Even if it is not misused, the very existence of a huge infrastructure of surveillance is bound to stifle dissent


Front Page Live Mint


[1]India must oppose surging protectionism

 Live Mint

Context

It should aggressively voice its concern about increasing restrictions on the movement of professionals at both bilateral and multilateral forums

What has happened?

India’s second largest information technology company Infosys Ltd has announced that it will hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years

Protectionist sentiment

The overhaul of the visa programme is part of a wider protectionist agenda of the Trump administration, which has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and intends to renegotiate existing trade deals

  • Australia and New Zealand have also made movement of professionals difficult, and the UK has tightened visa norms.

 India should tread carefully

India Union commerce minister recently at counter moves against US companies operating in India. Indian policymakers should avoid taking such measures for multiple reasons:

  • First, Indian IT services companies have themselves to blame in part at least for not realizing in time that the labour-cost arbitrage model has limitations
  • Second, the US is not the only country which is making movement of professionals difficult.
  • Third, India needs foreign direct investment (FDI) to fund its growth
  • Lastly, Any retaliatory action against companies from the US—or any other country, for that matter—will affect the confidence of international investors and will bode ill for the economy in the medium-to-long run

 Measures India should take

  • India should aggressively voice its concern against increasing restrictions on the movement of professionals at both bilateral and multilateral forums
  • Global leaders did well to avoid protectionist policies in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis
  • India should play an active role in reviving a similar global consensus through multilateral forums as rising protectionism will have implications for global trade and growth

 

 

 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 5 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] U.S., Germany slam India for NGO funding norms

[2] HC upholds life for 11 in Bilkis Bano case

[3] Rise & fall of Swachh cities


 Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Different clocks

[2] The long arc to Ankara

[3] The scale of progress, so far


 Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Higher coal tax may benefit economy: IMF

[2] Equity ETFs rise on investor interest

 Indian Express

[1] Road to bankability


 Live Mint


[1] Advice and dissent on India’s fiscal path


 Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] U.S., Germany slam India for NGO funding norms

The Hindu

Context

UN Human Rights Council members questioned India’s Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA),  Armed Forces Special Powers Act, criminalisation of homosexuality and the exclusion of marital rape in Indian laws on sexual violence.

Issues highlighted

The attack on the FCRA act came from nearly a dozen countries, mostly from Europe. The charge was led by the U.S. and Germany, who called the Act and the government’s actions “arbitrary”.

Australia, Ireland, Norway, South Korea, Denmark and the Czech Republic were among other countries calling for a review of the FCRA that has led to the licences of about 14,000 of NGOs being cancelled because of alleged violations.

The government also faced criticism on violence against religious minorities from a number of countries. Pakistan’s statement was the sharpest, accusing India of failing to protect minorities “especially Muslims” from “mob violence” and “attacks by extremist groups affiliated to the government.”

Attacks on Africans in India appeared as a new subject of concern at the HRC proceedings.

India’s counter stand

Supported by a rights-oriented constitutional framework, secular polity, independent judiciary, free and vibrant media, vocal civil society, and a range of national and State-level commissions that monitor compliance with human rights, India continues with its endeavours towards observance of human rights.

 [2] HC upholds life for 11 in Bilkis Bano case

The Hindu

Context

THE BOMBAY High Court on Thursday upheld the life imprisonment of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

What has happened?

The court convicted police personnel and doctors under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and Section 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment) of the Indian Penal Code.

Bilkis’s supplementary statement was not recorded as soon as the police were informed of the rape, the court said, adding that the police had “gagged the mouth of Bilkis so that her cry for justice would not be heard by anybody”.

The court observed that Bilkis was not sent for medical examination on the day that she reported the incident.

 [3] Rise & fall of Swachh cities

The Hindu

Context

Why did some cities rise and others fall in the ‘Swachh Survekshan-2017’ ranking?

What has happened?

Chandigarh slipped to the 11th spot from number 2 last time, which the Mayor blamed on ‘public feedback’.

Indore got to the top spot among all the entries due to a “mega public movement and wholehearted people’s participation.

Tiruchirapalli slipped from third rank in 2016 to sixth. It is still the cleanest in the south zone among cities with fewer than 10 lakh people. Officials said the slip was due to the participation of a greater number of cities this year.

Tirupati, making an entry at number nine into the national top 10, scored with a mix of beautification measures and proliferation of public toilets. The temple town also bet on WoW (Well-being out of Waste), increasing door-to-door waste collection, waste segregation, placing litter bins at commercial complexes and using GPS-fitted dumpers, besides starting a biogas plant.

Visakhapatnam, ranked third this year, built over 12,000 individual household toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission and was certified Open Defecation-Free by the Quality Council of India.

Mysuru City Corporation lost precious marks for failing to complete 406 individual toilets on time and fell to 5th rank from first. Surat rose to number four from six, after it segregated waste more, covering 300 societies, cleaned roads, bridges, underpasses and gardens twice a week and ordered compulsory cleaning of all public and private buildings.

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, ranked 22, got an overall score of 1,605 out of 2,000 based on citizen feedback, municipal self declaration and on-site observation. Over 2.3 lakh citizens voted in the city, which was ahead of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.


 Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Different clocks

The Hindu

Context

Madhya Pradesh has decided to shift its financial year that now runs from April 1 to March 31, to align it with the Gregorian calendar year — that is, January 1 to December 31

Technical difficulties

The next State Budget will be presented in December or January, but the State’s transition plan for the changeover isn’t clear beyond its intent to speed up spending of funds earmarked in its Budget for the 12 months until March 2018, so that they are utilised by December 2017.

M.P. may start 2018 with a clean slate but will have to wait till February for clarity on the Union government’s priorities for the coming year and till April for Central funds.

It will, in addition, be a fresh nightmare for firms adapting to the Goods and Services Tax regime that will be introduced in the middle of this financial year. Additional uncertainties and differing tax deadlines for States are not likely to enthuse investors

Committee

Centre had appointed a committee under former Chief Economic Adviser Shankar Acharya on the desirability and feasibility of changing the fiscal year in line with the calendar year, aligning it with the practice in most countries as well as multilateral agencies. Its recommendations are still not in the public domain.

 [2] The long arc to Ankara

The Hindu

Context

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in India earlier this week and tried to give a boost to sagging ties between Delhi and Ankara.

What has happened?

His visit came against the backdrop of his narrow win in a referendum on April 16 which gave him sweeping executive powers as President giving rise to fears about a lack of adequate safeguards for democratic rights in Turkey.

Given his growing regional and global isolation as he seems intent on dismantling the secular traditions of Turkey, Mr. Erdoğan has been trying use Islamism to shore up his credibility.

Political issues

His visit to India was also informed by this larger agenda. Ahead of his trip, he had suggested a “multilateral dialogue” on Kashmir, even offering to mediate between India and Pakistan

Not that this was a surprise as Mr. Erdoğan has been a vocal supporter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s position on Kashmir. During his visit too, the only India-related terrorism he referred to was the threat from Naxalism.

On India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Turkish stance has been to push for Pakistan’s case along with India’s.

Towards that end he was willing to support India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, even as he called for major institutional reforms. The story is complicated as Turkey is a member of the group called Uniting for Consensus which opposes expansion of permanent membership in the Security Council. And this group includes Pakistan.

India host Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades just before Mr. Erdoğan’s arrival but Vice President Hamid Ansari also recently visited Armenia, a country which accuses Turkey of having killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. Turkey does not recognise Cyprus, the northern part of which is under Turkish occupation since 1974.

Focus on economic issues

Mr. Erdoğan clearly wanted to keep the focus on economic and trade ties as he was accompanied by a large business delegation. At a time when Europe is not so welcoming to Turkey, new markets in Asia are needed. India and Turkey have decided to increase their bilateral trade from $6.4 billion to $10 billion by 2020. The two nations are also exploring cooperation in areas such as construction, infrastructure development, renewable energy, and tourism.

 [3] The scale of progress, so far

The Hindu

Context

Agenda 2030, a comprehensive development agenda, was adopted in the United Nations General Assembly by member states on September 25, 2015.

However, since it’s not binding on member nations, there is apprehension that it may end up becoming another of the Millennium Development Goals, which were only partially achieved.

UN and SDGs tracking

The High-level Political Forum comprising the political representatives (heads of states or ministers) of the members meets every July at the UN in New York to review progress on Agenda 2030. The Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), — voluntary and country driven — form the basis of this review.

In 2016, 22 presented their performance review on sustainable development goals (SDGs). This year, 44 nations including India have volunteered. The themes of review this year are Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17 of Agenda 2030, respectively.

The process in India

In India, the process is led by NITI Aayog, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a think tank attached to Ministry of External Affairs, and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Civil society is anxious as it wonders whether it will have a say in the official VNR report. However, Indian civil society led by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) — an umbrella CSOs’ platform — has geared up for a shadow report on SDGs.

The government has already identified existing programmes and policies which are linked to different goals under SDGs.


 Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Higher coal tax may benefit economy: IMF

The Hindu

Context

An annual Rs. 150 per tonne increase in tax on coal from 2017 to 2030 could prevent over 2.7 lakh deaths from air pollution, raise GDP by 1% by 2030, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12% and generate net economic benefits of about 1% of GDP, according to IMF.

Details

Outdoor air pollution from fossil and non-fossil sources prematurely killed an estimated 0.53 people per 1,000 of the population in 2010 in India, or about 6.5 lakh in total.

Fossil fuel taxes can provide a significant source of easily-collected revenue, which is especially valuable when revenues from broader taxes on labour, capital, and consumption are insufficient due to a large concentration of economic activity occurring in the informal sector.

 [2] Equity ETFs rise on investor interest

The Hindu

Context

Equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) saw significant growth in the financial year 2016-17 (FY17) with the total assets under management (AUM) increasing three-fold on the back of higher demand from both retail and institutional investors.

Why is it growing?

The key drivers of the increase in AUM of equity ETFs are increasing popularity of ETFs among retail investors, investments by pension funds including Employees’ Provident Fund Organization in equity through the ETF route and the Government of India using the ETF route for disinvestment.

What is ETF?

ETF is a fund comprising a group of securities, which is traded like an individual stock on an exchange. A retail investor can buy ETFs for as little as Rs. 100 and then trade on the exchange with a minimum trading lot of one unit and carry significantly lower fund management costs.

As on March 2017, there were 47 equity ETFs trading in India out of which 34 were benchmarked to the Nifty family of indices. Of these funds, 13 ETFs track the benchmark 50-share Nifty. There are ETFs that track other indices as well like Nifty CPSE, Nifty Bank, Nifty Next 50, Nifty 100, Nifty PSU Bank and Nifty Quality 30 among others.


 Indian Express


[1] Road to bankability

Indian Express

Context

The conflict between the political narrative (the government cannot bail out the rich industrialists) and economic necessity (the need for a haircut by banks and the fact that interest compounding itself would have added 80 per cent to the corpus of bad loans in the last four years) makes choices hard and the way forward complicated.

What needs to be done?

Financing micro enterprises

 There are about 50 million MSMEs contributing to about 38 per cent of India’s GDP, 40 per cent of national exports, 45 per cent of manufacturing output and 20 per cent of employment. Formal credit will make their businesses more stable.

Old private sector banks (OPSB)

We have 13 OPSBs with 4 per cent share of banking assets. Their transformation will greatly aid the modernisation of Indian banking.

Non-bank finance companies (NBFC)

The sluggishness and constraints of public sector banks provide a space for the NBFCs to operate in India. The RBI should raise minimum capital requirements of the NBFCs to, say, Rs 100 crore and impose some listing requirement for the NBFC or its holding company within three to five years. Bigger NBFCs will be able to reach unserved segments better and will also be more robust.

Public sector banks

There is a need to change the concept of government ownership away from 51 per cent to becoming the single largest owner, as was even recommended in the Narasimham Committee report. This will address the triple issues of governance reform, HR reform and capital constraints.

Cooperative banks

We need to push the JAM trinity and relook at the need for the cooperative bank sector.

Payments banks

The RBI created two new bank categories — small banks and payments bank. In my view, the history of small banks in India is a history of failure. Payments banks, however, are an interesting innovation but, in their current form, they are an unviable business proposition. They are allowed to only accept deposits of Rs 1 lakh or less and invest these in government securities and make money by participating in the payments business. They can then also address the gap in funding to micro enterprises, currently dependent on the traditional money lenders.

National Housing Bank (NHB)

The NHB should be merged with the RBI, like the FMC was merged with SEBI.


 Live Mint


[1] Advice and dissent on India’s fiscal path

Livemint

Context

The report of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) review committee (chaired by N.K. Singh) prescribes a fiscal path over a six-year period of fairly severe fiscal tightening going up to the year 2023.

Issues

Time Frame

There is a commitment that the outstanding debt of general government in India, summing across Centre and states, will not exceed 60% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2023, and that the Central component of this will not cross 40% of GDP.

It prescribes the FD path only for the Centre, and only up to 2022-23, it does not in fact carry a fiscal vision going beyond six years.

The medium-term debt and FD targets have to be specified, and the consistency requirement between the two formally upheld, since debt is the accumulation of fiscal deficits over time, mediated by the nominal rate of GDP growth.

Anomalies in Fiscal deficit target

The FRBM committee’s target for the general government FD is set at 5% of GDP (there is some confusion about how the FD target will be split between the Centre and states, with chapter 4 saying 2.5% each, but chapter 5 showing states going down to 2% by 2023, and further down to 1.7% by 2025).

The nominal GDP growth rate assumed is 11.5%. Staying with general government for the moment, an FD held steady at 5% will move the economy at that nominal GDP growth rate towards a resting debt level of 48.5% of GDP. So is 48.5% of GDP the eventual debt target visualized by the committee? If so, that is at odds with chapter 4, which strenuously strives to establish 60% as the prudent level for debt—as a target, not just as a ceiling.

The FD target of 5%, through a back-of-the-envelope calculation first used by the 12th Finance Commission, is based on very uncertain estimates of the household financial savings rate.

Debt target

The national debt target of 60% is split into 40% for the Centre, 20% for states. The states’ debt target has been set (roughly) at where their debt level currently stands. State borrowing through securities is under the operational control of the Centre.

The debt target of 40% for the Centre is arrived at through an econometric exercise, unfortunately modelled on a long-discredited 2010 paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

Revenue deficit (RD)

The committee prescribes a target of 0.8% of GDP for the Centre, but there is no need for a separate RD limit. Dual limits on the FD and RD were adopted in India so as to protect capital expenditure, given by the difference between the FD and the RD.

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 4th, 2017

 


Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]SC puts critics of Aadhaar-PAN linkage in a spot

[2]Patna HC sets aside ban on ENA

[3]NITI Aayog for less teaching, more research

[4]UID can stall fake PAN: Centre

[5]BrahMos missile achieves rare feat

[6]‘Data leaks not from UIDAI, but from States’

 

Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1]The dragon beckons


Economy [The Hindu]


[1]Package to resolve NPAs gets Cabinet nod

[2]Govt. mulls changes to UDAN scheme to attract more players


Indian Express


[1]Space Games


Live Mint

[1]Why India should tax agricultural income

[2]Understanding NITI Aayog’s action agenda


 

Front Page / NATIONAL

[1] SC puts critics of Aadhaar-PAN linkage in a spot

The Hindu

Context

Does right to choose apply for tax?

What has happened?

Can a person who is voluntarily a part of a tax regime choose to say he will pay his taxes only in the certain way he wants to? Does he have a right to choose?

Question Asked by SC

Yes, it is my right to choose a career. It is my right of choice to be a transgender. But away from these societal rights, when a citizen is part of a tax regime, can you say that I will pay taxes only the way I want to do it… Is there a right of choice in the limited context of tax laws?

Critics argued in the Supreme Court that Section 139AA is a “chilling trajectory the state has taken to dilute civil liberties

[2] Patna HC sets aside ban on ENA

The Hindu

What has happened?

  • The Patna High Court set aside the Bihar government’s decision to ban production of Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) by several distillery and liquor companies in the State
  • After imposing total prohibition last year in April, the government on January 24 this year issued a notification saying the licences of ENA manufacturers would not be renewed

SC Observed

The State does not have legislative competence to deal with the subject of alcohol unfit for human consumption

We see no reason to hold the provisions of Sections 13, 23 and 24(1) of the Prohibition Act as unconstitutional or ultra vires, as in the light of the declaration with respect to including ENA within the definition of Intoxicant to be not permissible, the applicability of these provisions to alcohol unfit for human consumption does not arise now

[3] NITI Aayog for less teaching, more research

The Hindu

Context

Favours hiring of faculty from abroad 

What has happened?

To ensure that investments in research better translate to more products and bolster “innovation and development” The National Institution for the Transformation of India (NITI) Aayog has recommended that faculty at “world class” institutions prioritise research and be allowed to “reduce their teaching responsibility,” if required

Such universities also ought to be allowed to recruit research staff from abroad and be encouraged to compete for research projects from industry

Vision document

The NITI Aayog suggestions stem from a three-year vision document that outlines targets and goals the Ministries — from railways to environment — ought to achieve by 2020

The NITI Aayog also pitches for a new ‘National Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation’ headed by a distinguished scientist. This will coordinate with science and technology departments, ministries, governments and private sector bodies and deliberate on national issues and recommend interventions.

Database of schemes

  • The organisation also proposes a database of all existing schemes related to science and technology across ministries and departments
  • This will have information on the coordinating ministry, its objectives and available funds
  • Its key purpose would be to avoid “duplication of efforts, reduce approval times, increase accountability and collaboration between entities and measured outcomes

[4] UID can stall fake PAN: Centre

The Hindu

Context

Tells SC that ‘conscientious objection’ does not make Aadhaar discriminatory

What has happened?

Mandatory linking of Aadhaar with PAN cannot be considered discriminatory merely because there are “conscientious objectors” who refuse to take the Aadhaar in the name of freedom of choice, privacy and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, the government told the Supreme Court

[5] BrahMos missile achieves rare feat

The Hindu

What has happened?

  • The Army carried out a successful test of the advanced BrahMos Block III Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • This is the second consecutive test of the missile in two days
  • The test in an operational configuration was carried by the Army’s South Western Command-based 1 strike corps
  • These tests were carried out in full operational land-to-land configurations from Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL) at full-range

Strategic

  • Testing BrahMos in the Andaman and Nicobar islands is a symbolic statement, as it brings the strategic Malacca straits under its range
  • Precise capabilities of BrahMos missile for quick sea access and denial in the event of a conflict, and its testing in the Andaman Sea is a reflection of the changing dynamics in the Indian Ocean

Rare Feat

This is the fifth consecutive time when the Block-III version of BrahMos LACM has been successfully launched and hit the land-based target in “top-attack” mode, an incredible feat not achieved by any other weapon system of its genre

Copybook launch

  • Meeting all flight parameters in a copybook manner while conducting high level and complex manoeuvres, the multi-role missile successfully hit the land-based target with desired precision, in both the trials demonstrating its accuracy of less than one metre
  • The steep dive capability makes it an ideal precision strike weapon to neutralise targets in a clutter

BrahMos

  • BrahMos is a product of joint collaboration between India and Russia and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets.
  • The range of the supersonic missile was initially capped at 290 km as per the obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
  • Since India’s entry into the club, the range has been extended to 450 km and the plan is to increase it to 600km.

[6] ‘Data leaks not from UIDAI, but from States’

The Hindu

Context

Aadhaar is foolproof, Centre tells Supreme Court

What has happened?

Leaks of Aadhaar card details are not from the UIDAI, but at the State level, the Union government told the Supreme Court

Biometric technology is the best system in 2016. There has not been a single leak from the UIDAI. The leaks of details may have been from the States… their offices and agencies

Backdrop

  • The Centre’s clarification comes in the middle of reports that data of over 130 million Aadhaar cardholders have been leaked from four government websites
  • Reports, based on a study conducted by the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a Bengaluru-based organisation, said Aadhaar numbers, names and other personal details of people have been leaked
  • The Centre was washing its hands of the alleged leaks for the second consecutive day in the Supreme Court

Editorial/OPINION

[1] The dragon beckons

The Hindu

Context

India should ask China if it’s willing to address its concerns so as to enable participation at the BRI meet

What has happened?

UN Security Council

  • United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on security in Afghanistan
  • It includes a reference to regional development initiatives such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • China promptly announced that this reference (possibly inserted at its instance) reflected a global consensus on the BRI

BRF (Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation)

  • This is part of an intensifying campaign to mobilize high-level attendance at a summit — the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) — being hosted by China in mid-May
  • The declared purpose is to review progress of the BRI, obtain perspectives of stakeholders and plan new trajectories of cooperation
  • China confirmed attendance of 28 heads of state and government at the BRF. They include leaders of Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Indonesia

India and the mid-May meet

  • Officially, India says it cannot endorse the BRI in its present form, since it includes the CPEC, which runs through Indian territory under illegal Pakistani occupation (Gilgit-Baltistan)
  • China is launching an all-out charm offensive to attract more quality attendance at the forum. India has also been a target, since it has apparently not yet conveyed the level of its attendance
  • China’s argument, that India would be “isolating” itself by staying out, is a pressure tactic: roads, ports and railways are public goods, which cannot be open to some and closed to others, based on nationality

Scope for give and take

India should ask China whether it is willing to address its concerns in such a way as to enable high-level Indian participation. Would China be willing to declare that the CPEC is not a component of the BRI but a separate bilateral China-Pakistan project?

Economy

[1] Package to resolve NPAs gets Cabinet nod

The Hindu

Context

Includes ordinance to amend Banking Regulation Act

What has happened?

The government cleared a package to resolve the persistent rise in non-performing assets that is plaguing public sector banks and denting credit growth

Banking Regulation Act, 1949

Package includes an ordinance to amend the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 to empower the Reserve Bank of India to take more actions to check bad loans

NPA

The economic survey of 2016-17 has pointed out the twin balance sheet problem — that is, stressed companies on one hand and NPA-laden banks on the other — and advocates that a centralised Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA) be established to deal with the problem of bad loans

ITDC

The Union Cabinet also kicked off the disinvestment process for hotels owned by the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC)

The Cabinet approved also a policy to give “preference to domestically manufactured iron and steel products” for government’s infrastructure policy

DMI&SP

The policy mandates to provide preference to Domestically Manufactured Iron & Steel Products (DMI&SP), in Government Procurement

National Steel Policy 2017

The Centre also approved a National Steel Policy 2017 aimed at attracting Rs. 10 lakh crore investments in the steel sector by 2030-31

  • The policy projects creating crude steel capacity of 300 million tonnes (MT), production of 255 MT and “a robust finished steel per capita consumption of 158 kg by 2030-31, as against the current consumption of 61 kg.

Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act

The Cabinet further approved declaring Vijayawada Airport as an international airport, as per the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014

SAMPADA

A central sector scheme, SAMPADA, was approved with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crore in a bid to decrease agro-waste and modernise processing

[2] Govt. mulls changes to UDAN scheme to attract more players

The Hindu

Context

Increasing route exclusivity for airlines among proposals 

What has happened?

The Centre may introduce changes to its regional connectivity scheme or UDAN to attract more players in the second round of bidding

Allowing single-engine aircraft to fly under the scheme, increasing route exclusivity for airlines and higher subsidy for helicopters among others are some of the proposals which may be considered

Single-engine planes

The airlines had also asked the Ministry to allow them to operate single-engine aircraft on routes under UDAN. However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is not in favour of the proposal due to safety reasons, according to a Ministry official

Indian Express

[1] Space Games

Indian Express 

Context

ISRO’s South Asia satellite is a move towards using technology for diplomacy

What has happened?

Origins of SAARC Satellite

The origins of the South Asia satellite date back to the 18th SAARC Summit, in 2014 in Nepal, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward the idea of a common satellite serving the needs of all SAARC members

Delays: Pakistan Opts Out

  • There were numerous delays, primarily as negotiations among the various countries of the South Asia region stalled over ownership and data access issues
  • With Pakistan officially opting out of the project by March 2016, the decks were cleared for an expedited launch

12 ku-band transponders
The satellite will carry 12 ku-band transponders allotted to the participating countries. Each country can use a dedicated transponder for its own use, which would primarily be communication and disaster management support

It’s not a technological breakthrough but diplomatically Significant, why?

Showcases India’s growing technological prowess

  • Along with previous missions such as Chandrayaan and the Mars Orbiter Mission, the South Asia satellite underscores the strength of Indian indigenous technological development
  • Though the satellite is not very challenging technologically, a two-year turnaround for building and deploying a satellite is impressive

No Quid Pro Quo

India has begun realizing that domestic technologies have now reached a level of maturity that allows India to confidently brandish its capabilities to other countries. It also serves as a marketing tool for future launches at a time when ISRO is building a strong niche for itself in the international satellite launch market

Technological Commons: India has created an open access resource for its neighbours

By “gifting” this satellite to its neighbours, India has created an open access resource that can be leveraged by the latter to address some of their critical domestic concerns. Building such commons is essential not only to address immediate problems but also spur research, innovation and economic growth in the region

Conclusion

The South Asia satellite is emblematic of a more confident and assertive India, but it is necessary to ensure that such actions are not one-off

Live Mint

[1] Why India should tax agricultural income

Live Mint

The Context

The political establishment must move beyond a reflexive rejection of the very concept of agricultural tax

Has been discussed previously in the briefs

[2] Understanding NITI Aayog’s action agenda

Live Mint

Context

NITI Aayog released its Three Year Action Agenda document, a comprehensive framework for proposed policy changes to be implemented in the short term in India

What has happened?

NITI Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda forms part of a larger vision document which spans a seven-year strategy and a 15-year vision till FY3

Key Points

The Agenda offers a number of compelling proposals ranging from the use of high-yield seeds to improved irrigation techniques to the removal of the infamous tariff inversion problem (where the high level of trade barriers on intermediate inputs relative to final goods disincentivizes domestic production)

CEZ (Coastal Economic Zones)

For manufacturing, the document proposes the development of a few Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) operating under a liberal economic environment (for instance, without the restrictive labour laws that bedevil the rest of the economy) and with an abundance of land—much as in China, where large firms, operating in its special economic zones, sometimes each employ hundreds of thousands of workers

Connectivity

The document’s chapters on transport and physical connectivity, as also on digital connectivity, offer a detailed picture of the existing infrastructure framework, with many specific proposals on improving efficiency and closing gaps in coverage

Leverage technology

  • The government’s desire to leverage technology to improve efficacy, while laudable, requires a strong digital network and an ability to provide reliable end-to-end e-services
  • There is considerable unevenness across the country in access to the digital network and in the ability to benefit from such services

Conclusion

We shall, in the fullness of time, see how many of its proposals are taken up and implemented Be that as it may, we believe that its primary contribution will be in serving as a base of knowledge and analysis to support any future discussions on policy reform; it should be welcomed

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 3, 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]Summer of dry lakes and dry throats

[2]No invasion of body for UID: Centre

[3]New IT rules to beef up Aadhaar


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


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

[2]Winning back the Valley

[3]Powering up food

[4]Refuge from the sinking islands


Economy [The Hindu]


[1]Skill councils have conflict of interests

[2] India to unveil new IIP series


Indian Express


[1]Twelve reasons why

[2]The LoP Excuse


Live Mint



The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Summer of dry lakes and dry throats

 

The Hindu

 

What has happened?

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

 

City of encroachments

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

ITDA

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

 

[2]No invasion of body for UID: Centre

 

The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

What has happened?

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

 

Government’s Arguments

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

 

PAN Plus

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

 

Repetition of PAN

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

 

 

SC Responded

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

 

 

[3]New IT rules to beef up Aadhaar

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Official promises end to security fears

 

What has happened?

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

 

New IT Law

New IT law will quell security concerns related to digital payments

 

Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) Report

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

 

Legal changes

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


Editorial/OPINION


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

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Interview of the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai

 

What has happened?

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

 

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

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

 

Role of India

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

 

 

[2]Winning back the Valley

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir

 

What has happened?

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

 

New Threat :Unattached militant

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

 

Rainbow coalition

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

 

Emergence of Strategic Falsehood

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

 

Measures that can be taken

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

[3]Powering up food

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Fortification of food

 

What has happened?

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

 

Why?

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

 

WHO

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

 

Maternal Health

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

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

 

FSSAI

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

 

For Long-term Wholesome foods should be priority

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

 

[4]Refuge from the sinking islands

 

The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

What has happened?

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

 

Low-lying Vulnerable Nations

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

 

Broad but urgent remedies

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

 

The International Community ignorant

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

 

The Cost of adaptation massive

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

 

International compensation commission

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

 

Decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable

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

 

Remedies

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

 

A single-purpose forum

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

 

Objective of the Forum

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

Economy


[1]Skill councils have conflict of interests

 

The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

The Sharada Prasad Committee

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

 

Observations

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

Examples of Conflict of interest

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

 

Recommendations

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

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

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

 

Cause

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

 

[2] India to unveil new IIP series

The Hindu

 

What has happened?

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

Indian Express


[1]Twelve reasons why

Indian Express

 

Context

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

 

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

[2]The LoPExcuse

 

Indian Express

 

Context

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

 

Statutory position

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

 

No such rule

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

 

Direction 121

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

 

Tenth Schedule of the Constitution

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

 

Questions SC should have asked

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

 

Conclusion

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

Live Mint



 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 2, 2017



The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Fortified foods to tackle malnutrition

 

The Hindu

 

Context

MNCs, co-ops, other manufacturers will add premixes of micronutrients to products

 

What has happened?

  • Healthy-looking people are malnourished too, because their diet does not include the right micronutrients
  • A number of enterprises will begin adding premixes of micronutrients to launch fortified foods

 

Mid-Day Meal Schemes Targeted

  • Targeting children, the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh governments have begun using fortified oil for their mid-day meal schemes
  • The FSSAI has decided not to interfere in pricing

 

[2]SC sends out stern message against frivolous PILs

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Bench slaps Rs. 25 lakh costs on Non-Governmental Organisation for wasting judicial time

 

What has happened?

After 64 public interest litigation petitions (PILs) making “scandalous” insinuations against a former Chief Justice of India and judges of the Supreme Court and the Rajasthan High Court in the past 10 years, the Supreme Court finally lost patience and imposed Rs. 25 lakh costs on an organisation, Suraz India Trust, and its chairman Rajiv Daiya, and banned them from ever approaching a court in the country in the guise of espousing public interest

 

 

[3]Daunting water challenges across industries

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Multiple industries relying on water as an input in the production process, including textile processing, construction and hydro-power, have been severely impacted by the ongoing water scarcity in south India

 

[4]GSAT-9 heralds cost-saving technology

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Test feature in May 5 mission is a tool to cut fuel load & space launch costs

 

What has happened?

GSAT-9 or the South Asia Satellite, will carry a new feature that will eventually make advanced Indian spacecraft far lighter. It will even lower the cost of launches tangibly in the near future

 

Electric propulsion or EP system

  • The hardware is a first on an Indian spacecraft.
  • The satellite will be flying with around 80 kg of chemical fuel – or just about 25% of what it would have otherwise carried
  • Managing it for more than a decade in orbit will become cost efficient
  • Indian Space Research Organisation can launch sophisticated satellites on its upcoming heavy rockets instead of sending them to space on costly foreign boosters

 

GSLV MkIII is due for its full test also

 

[5]BidPut ambush behind, CRPF told

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Home Ministry asks Central forces to coordinate with police and act only on ‘actionable intelligence’

 

What has happened?

The Union Home Ministry has asked the Central forces deployed in the States affected by Left-wing extremism to step up operations based on specific intelligence inputs and overcome the “psychological setback” they suffered in the past few days

Asked Forces to coordinate with the State police while conducting operations and act only if there was “actionable intelligence”

 

Operation review

Focussing more on operations now, and road construction can take a back seat. Providing security to road construction had made them defensive and now that it has been temporarily halted, we can focus more on result-oriented operations now

Suspend Road Construction work or New Tech to expedite it

It was also suggested that either new technology that could expedite road construction be adopted or the work be suspended for a while as it exposed the security forces to unwanted attention and made them vulnerable to attacks

 

 

[6]Turkey supports India’s UNSC

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan’s India visit

 

What has happened?

Calls for restructuring of Council

 

 

Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa)

JamiaMilliaIslamia conferred the Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) to Turkish President for his contribution to strengthen international cooperation, peace and diplomacy as well as for his extraordinary humanitarian aid to millions of refugees

 

Criticized current Structure

  • Criticizing the current structure of the Council as arbitrary, he said that it was set up to address the crisis emanating from the Second World War but now that situation had changed drastically
  • It therefore required thorough restructuring to address the current geo-political reality of the world. “Only five permanent members of the Council are deciding the fate of the entire world which is not fair”

 

 

 

[7]Curious case of dip, rise in Indian seas

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Scientists say such a ‘decadal swing’ in north Indian Ocean is unique and never observed in others

 

What has happened?

Global warming may be inching the oceans higher every year but researchers studying the seas around India report a paradox

 

The NIO

The NIO consists of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and part of the Indian Ocean up till the 5°S latitude

 

The Paradox

  • Previous studies that had measured ocean heights based on traditional tide gauges found that the NIO —like the rest of the world’s seas — continued to rise between 1993 and 2004
  • From 1993 to 2003 — the first decade when satellites started to consistently track the rise and fall of ocean heights and global temperatures soared — the north Indian Ocean (NIO) sea levels fell. After 2004, sea levels began an unprecedented, accelerated spike till 2014
  • Scientists associated with the study said that such a “decadal swing” in the North Indian Ocean was unique and never observed in either the Pacific or Atlantic oceans

 

Data

The NIO went down about 0.3 mm a year and from 2004 gained about 6 mm annually. This was twice the global, annual average of about 3 mm

 

Cause

Wind flows, which welled warm water on the Indian Ocean surface, changed directions every decade and probably influenced sea level patterns

 

Conclusion

It could be that coming decades — in spite of rapid, rising temperatures — will see a fall in sea levels but that’s still hypothetical

 

 

 

 

[8]Rajiv case: SC wants report on ‘larger plot’

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Convict Perarivalan condemns almost two-decade-long CBI investigation, saying it is ‘cloaked in secrecy’

 

What has happened?

The Supreme Court directed the CBI to submit a detailed status report, replete with the time frame by which its prolonged investigation into a possible larger conspiracy behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will be completed


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Lokpal and the law

 

The Hindu

 

The court has noted that the Act provides for the selection committee to make appointments even when it is truncated due to a vacancy. It has made it clear that the fact that some amendments have been proposed and a parliamentary panel has submitted a report would not constitute a legal bar on enforcing the existing law

 

What has happened?

SC has made it clear in a judgment that Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 an “eminently workable piece of legislation” and there is no justification to keep the enforcement of the Act under suspension till the amendments, as proposed, are carried out

 

Read More: You can read more about SC’s judgment here

 

Government’s stand

Government’s argument is that appointments of  Lokpal chairperson and members is not currently possible, and would have to wait till the 2013 Act is amended to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader

 

Court’s stand

The court points to sub-section (2) of Section 4 of the original 2013 Lokpal Act, which makes it clear that an appointment of the chairperson or members of Lokpal will not be invalidated merely because one of the members of the selection committee — the LoP — is missing

  • In short, the available members of the Lokpal selection committee could very well recommend suitable persons to the President for appointment to Lokpal
  • Why wait for amendments?If an appointment process done by a “truncated” Lokpal Selection Committee is already recognised under the 2013 Act, why should the government wait for any amendments at all

 

Present situation

Though a Parliamentary Standing Committee submitted its report on December 3, 2015, fully supporting the amendment to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader in Lok Sabha, the law is yet to see the light of the day

  • It should be noted that India ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption way back in May 2011

 

Conclusion

Author concludes that the country does not have an anti-corruption ombudsman not due to any legal bar, but due to the absence of political will

 

[2]Equity in taxes

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Rich farmers need to be treated on a par with other taxpayers, but with a clear road map

 

What has happened?

  • Rich farmers need to be treated on a par with other taxpayers, but with a clear road map
  • A controversial proposal by BibekDebroy, a member of the government think tank NITI Aayog, to tax agricultural income above a particular threshold
  • An appropriate tax policy should draw a distinction between rich and poor farmers, thereby addressing the widespread political apprehension of bringing agriculture under the tax net

 

Why?

India’s tax base, standing at a minuscule 5.9% of the working population, is already among the lowest in the world

 

[3]Sukma is a wake-up call

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Recent Attack on CRPF

 

What has happened?

  • Only better training, equipment and tactics will help security forces prevail over the Maoists
  • No Training to the CRPF Personnel
  • Shortage of MPVs (Mine Protected Vehicles)
  • Lack of Intelligence sharing between local police and Central forces

 

The issue has been discussed in previous briefs in detail.


Economy


[1]NITI Aayog for abolishing 2% duty on mobile phone circuits

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The Budget had imposed duty on imports to push the ‘Make in India’ campaign

 

What has happened?

Mobile phones could become cheaper if the government accepts a proposal by the NITI Aayog to drop the 2% import duty imposed on a critical component for handsets in the Union Budget for 2017-18

 

The Budget

  • The Budget had imposed a 2% special additional duty on imports of populated printed circuit boards (PCBs) used for mobile phones, to push the Make in India campaign
  • The duty is aimed at providing ‘adequate protection to domestic industry,’ the government had said, so that local manufacturers of PCBs get an incentive of sorts
  • Handset prices were expected to rise by over 1% owing to the duty

 

Effective Export Strategy

  • The world market in electronics products is $2 trillion compared with only $65 billion in the domestic market
  • Therefore, an aggressive export strategy is essential to credibly prepare ourselves for the fourth Industrial Revolution

Indian Express


[1]Diagnosing China

 

Indian Express

 

Context

Its seeming illogic reflects an incapacity to perceive international realities

 

Despite decades of unprecedented economic growth, which propelled China to a position in the world next only to the US in terms of economic and military power instead of becoming more liberal similar to the Western Countries, China seems to be veering towards greater state control

 

India

Growing proximity to the US and strengthening defence infrastructure along the India-China border, particularly around areas that China claims as its own, have been viewed as unfriendly acts by the Chinese

 

China vs Logic

As an explanation for the episodes of seemingly illogical Chinese behaviour vis-a-vis less powerful nations, Edward Luttwak, in his book The Rise of China vs The Logic of Strategy put forward the concept of “great state autism” — a collective national lack of situational awareness that reduces a powerful nation’s ability to perceive international realities with clarity

 

Unable to forge long term alliances

  • China’s demonstrated insensitivity to the concerns of nations it considers weaker, while being hypersensitive to its own, is an offshoot of this affliction
  • Due to this domineering attitude, China will be unable to forge lasting alliances with other nations, a factor that will ultimately prove detrimental to its quest of world dominance
  • The validity of this insight is evident from the fact that despite its growing strength, China’s closest allies remain rogue states — North Korea and Pakistan.

 

Conclusion

The rise of China will likely be stemmed because of what Paul Kennedy, in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, termed “imperial overstretch” — a growing contradiction between a power’s global ambitions and its weakening economic capacity to support its strategic and economic commitments.


Live Mint


[1]A robust IPR regime is necessary for growth

 

Live Mint

 

Context

Innovators and entrepreneurs must trust the patent system for intellectual property rights (IPR) if they are to embark on risky innovation gambles

 

Patents

Patents can even be efficiently used as bargaining chips in the electronics industry and can be used for defensive purposes to avoid being torpedoed. They are a proven solution to the traditional incentives-diffusion paradox that was presented more than 50 years ago by Nobel prize winning economist Kenneth Arrow

 

The International IP Index 2017 released by the US Chamber of Commerce, ranked India at a dismal 43rd position out of 45 countries

This Shows:

  • Challenges to innovation continue to exist in India and, therefore, the government needs to build upon the positive rhetoric of its IPR policy with the substantial legislative reforms that innovators need
  • Multiple problems are still faced by pharmaceutical, software, biotechnology, automotive, movie, music and other technology-led, IP-intensive industries
  • Beliefs, attitudes and approaches towards IPRs in India must change for the sake of the ambitions articulated in this government’s many initiatives—from Make In India to Startup India and Smart Cities

 

Conclusion

Adopting new technologies to solve an array of problems will require policymakers to devote a higher level of attention to IPRs than they are used to giving


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 1, 2017

National

[1] EC for 5-year ban on those bribing voters

[2] SAARC satellite set for lift-of

[3] Farmer suicides get attention of apex court

Security

[1] Smart fence soon along LoC

Environment

[1] No tourist entry into Odisha national park

[2] Six tigers to be relocated to Buxa Tiger Reserve

Agriculture

[1] Drops of water better than the gush

Editorials

[1] Kashmir’s unending tragedy

[2] Building holistic ties

[3] Reining in the sharks

Ethics

[1] VIP culture must end, says PM

The Indian Express

[1] Oil more slippery

 

National

[1] EC for 5-year ban on those bribing voters

The Hindu

Context

To seek amendments in RPA

What has happened?

The Election Commission will soon ask the government to disqualify for up to five years candidates listed in charge sheets for bribing voters, a move which comes after it found that “innovative ways” were used for luring electors in a Tamil Nadu by election

Methods used

Many complaints were received by the panel on possibilities of inducement of electors by distributing cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, milk tokens, money transfer in no-frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers

EC does not want to use its constitutional powers too frequently

Currently, It can use its constitutional powers under Article 324 to countermand a poll over use of money power, but it wants the power to be vested to it under law

 

[2] SAARC satellite set for lift-of

 The Hindu

 Context

All nations in the grouping, except Pakistan, to benefit from ISRO’s May 5 launch

 What has happened?

The ‘South Asia Satellite,’ which India has built for use by countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will be launched on May 5

 Applications

  • Natural resources mapping, telemedicine, education, deeper IT connectivity or fostering people-to-people contact
  • India announced the satellite project at the 2014 SAARC summit in Nepal, and all SAARC countries, except Pakistan, have joined it

Cost

The total cost of launching the satellite is put at Rs. 235 crore, and it will be met by the Government of India

Specifications

  • The 2,230-kg satellite was built by the Indian Space Research Organisation and has 12 Ku-band transponders
  • It is cuboid in shape and built around a central cylinder
  • It has a mission life of over 12 years
  • It will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on the Geostationary Launch Vehicle Mk-II
  • The GSLV-F09 is about 50 metre tall and is the 11th flight of the GSLV

 

[3] Farmer suicides get attention of apex court

The Hindu

Context

SC widened the scope of a petition to cover entire nation and asked Centre to provide an action plan

What has happened?

  • A study conducted across 13 States by the Union Agriculture Ministry throws up the all-too-familiar reasons that drive farmers to suicide
  • The Ministry’s agricultural economic research unit, Agricultural and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC) of the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bengaluru, investigated farmers’ suicides in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal

Causes found

Frequent crop failure, vagaries of the monsoon, absence of assured water resources, attacks of pests and diseases, debts, farming and social causes.

NCRB data

Nothing has changed on the ground for the farmer in the past two years, as is clear from the Union Home Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which disseminates and compiles information on “suicides of self-employed in farming/agriculture” in its publication Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India

Affidavit in court

In an affidavit filed by the Agriculture Ministry in the Supreme Court last week, the Centre agrees with the court that the deaths of farmers are an “unfortunate issue”, but it can only formulate a line of action to resolve the issue, the actual implementation at the ground level is the responsibility of the individual States.

Rescheduling of loans

The Reserve Bank of India has allowed State and district level banks to take a lenient view on rescheduling of loans if crop loss is 33% or more

Relief measures

The government affidavit, however, points to relief measures such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

The government has highlighted the Kisan Credit Card scheme and the e-National Agricultural Market Scheme launched on April 14, 2016 to “create a single unified market for the State and ultimately for the nation for agricultural commodities.”

 

Security

[1] Smart fence soon along LoC

The Hindu

Context

Army to speed up work on erecting the barrier in view of rising infiltration

What has happened?

With infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) on the rise, the Army is all set to accelerate work on installing a smart fence to replace the existing border fence following successful trials

Existing

  • The existing one called the Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System (AIOS) is located about 700m from the LoC
  • The double-row fence consisting of concertina wire was constructed between 2003 and 2005
  • The border fence forms the first line of defence in the three-tier counter-infiltration grid

High degradation

  • The present one has a high rate of degradation due to snow and has to be repaired after every season which costs about Rs. 50-60 crore every year
  • Over time infiltrators have devised ways to cross it

Surveillance features

The smart fence stretching about 700 km will have enhanced surveillance features with sensors integrated and also has better survivability

1,000-crore estimate

Army has received in-principle approval for the project and have been assured required funds. The project will be undertaken in phases

In Phases

  • Under Phase-I, vulnerable areas and where most damage has occurred will be covered
  • The rest of the fence will be replaced in the second phase

 

Environment

[1] No tourist entry into Odisha national park

The Hindu

Context

Man-crocodile conflict

What has happened?

  • Bhitarkanika National Park authorities have imposed restrictions on entry of tourists into the park for three months to provide undisturbed environment for breeding by estuarine crocodiles
  • The three-month ban period would remain in force from May 1 to August 1

Why

  • Human interference disturbs the breeding animals and during this phase, the salt water crocodile often turns violent and attacks others
  • Habitat of crocodiles is getting squeezed in 26 sq km of water-bodies within the national park
  • Due to drop in salinity in water, outer periphery of the park turns unfavorable
  • Of late, man-crocodile conflict has been a concern for authorities as crocodiles are often found straying into water-bodies inside human habitations

 

[2] Six tigers to be relocated to Buxa Tiger Reserve

The Hindu

Context

  • Six tigers would be relocated to the Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) in north Bengal from neighbouring Assam as part of a plan for augmentation of the tiger population in the reserve which was approved by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
  • Six tigers, two male and four female, would be relocated to BTR from neighbouring Assam
  • The forest department had taken up tiger augmentation plan in Buxa-Jaldapara for which detailed project report was prepared in consultation with Wildlife Institute of India and Global Tiger Forum
  • Many tiger experts have, however, raised questions about the relocation of tigers to Buxa saying that it would not yield any fruitful result unless villages were shifted from the core areas of the tiger reserve

 

 

Agriculture

[1] Drops of water better than the gush

The Hindu

Context

Drip-Irrigation beneficial than conventional systems

Drip Irrigation needed

  • 13 major reservoirs are seeing 16% lesser water storage than the “drought year” last year – government policy seems to have finally caught on to the opportunities of drip irrigation
  • Drip irrigation helps to not only cutback the usage of water but also increases the yield of crucial crops
  • Investments into drip irrigation systems, while sizeable, appear to pay off quickly as farmers realise a sharp increase in yields, alongside more efficient water use

The Ramthal (Marol) Lift Irrigation Scheme

  • Touted as the largest micro-irrigation project in Asia – is slated to be launched in June
  • Over 15,000 farmers are expected to benefit

Use of less water

University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru (UAS-B) has demonstrated that water-intensive sugarcane can be cultivated using 40-50% lesser water through drip irrigation

 

Editorials

[1] Kashmir’s unending tragedy

The Hindu

Context

Talks and de-escalation must go together — it is not wise to make them sequential

What has happened?

  • The dreadful violence and low turnout in a by-election in Kashmir has again raised intense debate in New Delhi
  • Unfortunately this debate has been mainly abusive rather than productive, and as a result it has masked the real issues

Cause of Alarm in the Valley

  • Lack of a peace and reconciliation process promised by the ruling state govt.
  • Lack of an honest and accountable administration
  • Too Much reliance on armed forces or the police; Civil govt nowhere to be seen to de-escalate the situation

 Measures for Peace

Talks are the only solution for peace

  • Multitrack process:
    • Combining humanitarian and political dialogue
    • Security reforms
    • Economic problem solving
    • Tightening infiltration grid to distinguishing between first-time offenders and ring-leaders
  • Implementation of Agenda for Alliance

 Conclusion

  • If the government wants to restore peace to the Valley, it cannot do it by force — talks with dissidents is the only option
  • The demonisation of Kashmiris by ruling party spokespersons — all stone-pelters are traitors, does not give much hope
  • Perhaps the Supreme Court will help

 

[2] Building holistic ties

 The Hindu

 Context

India must continue to engage Sri Lanka beyond mere transactional deals

  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to jointly revive a World War II era oil storage facility in the strategically located eastern port town and build infrastructure around it
  • Traditional political concerns in Sri Lanka, where scores of Tamils and Muslims in the north and east are yet to return to normal lives eight years after the civil war ended
  • As a long-time negotiator in Sri Lanka’s political question, India must continue to closely engage on these fronts and build a holistic relationship that transcends the mere transactional
  • India should explore the potential for generating livelihoods in the war-battered northern economy where agriculture and fisheries, its key drivers, are facing a crisis
  • Resolving the long-standing Palk Bay conflict between fishermen of both countries is central to this, and New Delhi must address the valid concern of Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen about incursions from Tamil Nadu into Sri Lankan waters
  • Should avoid using the China lens to view Sri Lanka, respecting the country’s autonomy to engage with any willing partner
  • The more India treats Sri Lanka as an equal partner, the stronger the relationship is likely to grow

 

[3] Reining in the sharks

The Hindu

Context

The Real Estate Act largely addresses consumer interests, but some creases are still to be ironed out

What has happened?

Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act is now in effect

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation recently notified 69 out of the 92 sections in total, which set the ball rolling for States to formulate, within six months, rules and regulations as statutorily mandated
  • States will have to set up the Real Estate Regulatory Authority’s (RERA) and the Real Estate Appellate Tribunals and have only a maximum of a year from the coming into effect of the Act to do so

Key points

  • Register with RERA: Requirement for developers to now register projects with RERA prior to any advertisement and sale
  • Approval and Sanctions: Developers are also expected to have all sanction plans approved and regulatory clearances in place prior to commencement of sale
  • Updates on the Website: The Act stipulates an electronic system, maintained on the website of RERA, where developers are expected to update on a quarterly basis the status of their projects, and submit regular audits and architectural reports
  • Action for non-compliance: If there is non-compliance, RERA has the power to order up to three years imprisonment of the promoters of a project
  • Separate Escrow Accounts: It requires developers to maintain separate escrow accounts in relation to each project and deposit 70% of the collections in such an account to ensure that funds collected are utilised only for the specific project
  • Agents & brokers to register: The Act also requires real estate brokers and agents to register themselves with the regulator

Builder grievances

Grant Industry Status: The builder lobby has been demanding “industry” status for the real estate sector as it would help in the availability of bank loans

Failure of the Authorities: Real estate companies say that most delays are because of the failure of authorities to grant approvals/sanctions on time

Act silent on Force Majeure

While the Act addresses some of this, it does not deal with the concerns of developers regarding force majeure (acts of god outside their control) which result in a shortage of labour or issues on account of there not being a central repository of land titles/deeds

Implementation is the key

The onus is now on States to formulate rules and establish the regulatory authorities on time.

Conclusion

Finally, the new legislation is a welcome enactment. It will go a long way in assisting upstanding developers. More importantly, it will ease the burden on innocent home buyers who put their life’s savings into a real estate investment in the hope of having a roof over their head but often find their dreams come tumbling down

 

Ethics

[1] VIP culture must end, says PM

The Hindu

Context

Decision to ban the use of red beacons on vehicles from May 1

What has happened?

PM’s Mann ki Baat Address

Key Points

  • Every Person is Important. Every person has value and importance
  • VIP Mindset: VIP Culture needs to go from the mindset too

Cash incentives

  • Showcased a scheme of cash rewards for those encouraging others to use the government’s Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app for transactions.
  • Under the scheme, a person can earn Rs. 10 every time he or she introduces BHIM to another person and that person undertakes three digital transactions. “If you make 20 people to do it in a day, you can earn Rs. 200 that day

 

 

The Indian Express

[1] Oil more slippery

Indian Express

Context

No-effect of global political environment on Oil Prices

Has geopolitics dropped out of the oil price equation?

Even due to escalating tensions between North Korea and US; Iran and US; China’s territorial Claims over South China Sea; Venezuela’s internal civil strife:

The US energy administration is forecasting that Brent crude will average only $54/barrel in 2017 and $57/barrel in 2018 and most oil traders are closing their positions in expectation that the market will indeed remain soft

Reasons:

  • Electrical Vehicles gaining momentum
  • Market is well supplied
  • Significant New production