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Daily Editorial – Repairing India- China relations



  • Repairing India- China relations
  1. Background
  2. What are the suggestions made?
  3. Could there be a hidden agenda behind the suggestions?
  4. Do the suggestions made hold any water?
  5. Why is India reluctant to join OBOR initiative?
  6. What can India do as a counter measure to CPEC?
  7. A final word of caution

Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (3rd Feb. 2017)


Repairing India- China relations


 

Background


The provocations from China amount to a sort of ‘hostility’ against our nationhood, from their staking claim over the state of Arunachal Pradesh, occupation of the Shaksgam Valley in Ladakh, pumping up Pakistan with military, nuclear and missile capabilities – a brazen recourse to destabilize India, negation of New Delhi’s stance on terrorism with its incomprehensible stand on the listing of known terrorist Masood Azhar under the U.N. Security Council’s 1267 Committee, China’s obduracy on India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) bid, the deployment of Chinese military and engineering assets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) exemplify Beijing’s obsessive antipathy towards India.

In this context, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, has recently put forward some suggestions for improvement of bilateral ties between China and India.


What are the suggestions made?


  • A friendship and cooperation treaty.
  • A free trade agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral relations.
  • Joining of hands on China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.
  • Resolve the boundary question based on negotiations held so far.

Let us examine the suggestions made, in detail:


Could there be a hidden agenda behind the suggestions?


It could be part of an effort within the Chinese establishment to review relations with neighbours like India, given the strategic uncertainties generated by the advent of Donald Trump’s.

  • Trump had made a phone call to Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-webefore he took office;
  • He had also proclaimed intention to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.
  • The new U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson of Trump’s administrations had thinly disguised threats against China’s building of artificial islands in the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

All this have generated concern in Beijing.


Do the suggestions made hold any water?


  • The state bilateral relations is soar and the extent of unresolved political and security issues are many, there is also huge deficit in the trade balance, a treaty of friendship and cooperation may only look good on paper but cannot be a transformative document.
  • The suggestion FTA is forward-looking. Trade between India and China has grown to an annual volume of $70 billion (2015-16). Chinese investments under Make in India in infrastructure development, solar energy and smart cities will be helpful. An FTA that is goods-centred will obviously not benefit India given the huge trade in goods imbalance that favours China. An FTA that is comprehensive, covering goods and services, cross-border investment, R&D, standards and dispute resolution would be worth exploring for India.

Why is India reluctant to join OBOR initiative?


India’s reaction to China’s OBOR has been non-committal, mainly because of the CPEC through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. At the same time, India is a part of the frontline membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that is funding OBOR.

The provisions of the 1963 China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement which conceded the disputed nature of the territory (in what Pakistan now calls Gilgit-Baltistan but what is a part of Jammu and Kashmir) covered under the agreement but today the Chinese have chosen to disregard the sovereignty issues surrounding the dispute between India and Pakistan over the State of J&K.


What can India do as a counter measure to CPEC?


  1. India should explore the development of connectivity between Tibet and India, especially through the Sikkim sector into Bengal. The old route between Lhasa and Kolkata via Nathu La was the most easily traversed route; this is a road that provided for the transport of goods and services between Tibet and the outside world through India. This can be a true test of Chinese positivity; it would also be approval for India to open a Trade Office in Lhasa in place of the old Consulate General that operated there until 1962.
  2. An opening of ties between India and the Xinjiang region of China is also worth examining. Providing for air connectivity between Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province and New Delhi as one of the OBOR linkages would help the promotion of people-to-people ties, trade and commercial contact and could also help open a new chapter in counter-terrorism cooperation between India and China. The two countries have a common interest in curbing religious radicalism and terrorism. Kashmir and Xinjiang, both contiguous neighbours, have similar challenges posed by terrorism and separatist movements.

A final word of caution


Maturity of approach and strategic patience is a way forward.There has been peace between the two countries, from the 1970s till date;it deserves preservation and not disturbance. Competitive coexistence, with a clear delineation of areas of difference and how to manage them, the promotion of business and people-centred connectivity, and mutual confidence-building with tension-reduction measures cannot do any harm as such. But border problem can take time to be solved.

China is anxious to find a new market for its huge reserves of surplus cash and as another avenue for investment, and India is an attractive and huge market. Undoubtedly it will benefit if China invests in India’s infrastructure (Roads, flyovers, railways, hydro-electric projects, multi-storey office and residential buildings, are sectors that can benefit from Chinese investment) but India will need to carefully decide the direction in which to steer Chinese business as otherwise, in a democratic set up such as India’s, China will soon acquire a powerful business lobby capable of adversely influencing national strategic decisions.

In order to ensure strategic flexibility and increased investment, we must balance by offering similar competitive opportunities to other countries like Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. India can particularly benefit in the hi-tech, advanced electronics and defence sectors by encouraging investments from Japan and Taiwan on very preferential terms.

 


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 28th December 2016



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

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

Front Page / NATIONAL


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


The Hindu

Context

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

Backdrop

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

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

Exploring alternatives to pellet guns

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


[2] 50 % reservation in judicial services in Bihar


The Hindu

Context

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

What has happened?

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

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

Decision taken in the light of

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

SC’s directions

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

Read More: Horizontal Reservation


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


The Hindu

Context

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

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

Report says

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

Gaps in rehabilitation

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

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

View of social activists

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

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana

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

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

[4] Antlers could end up in medicines


 

The Hindu

Context

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

What has happened?

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

Oushadhi

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

Antlers

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

Original proposal

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

Counter view

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

Definition of antler as per Wildlife Protection Act

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

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

INTERNATIONAL


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


The Hindu

Context

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

What is an Open Sky offer?

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

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

Backdrop

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

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

Nepal’s view

Nepal said it was not yet ready for the agreement

View of Nepal’s ambassador to India

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

Present situation

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

MoU

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

Open skies with other countries

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

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

[2] India journeys from multilateral to bilateral


The Hindu

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

Give it a go-through once.


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


The Hindu

Context

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

Give it a go-through once.


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Afghanistan, India, and Trump


The Hindu

Context

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

Operation Enduring Freedom

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

Operation Resolute Support

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

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)

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

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

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

Future course

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

Impact

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

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

A ray of hope

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

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

Demographic dividend

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

Different political approaches

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

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

Pakistan’s overreach

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

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

Challenge for Kabul

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

What hardline Taliban want?

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

What moderate Taliban wants?

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

The India factor

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

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

Options for Trump

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

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

[2] Behind Pakistan’s CPEC offer


The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

Backdrop

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

 

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

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

 

India’s view on CPEC

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

 

Changing dynamics

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

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

 

What India should do now?

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

Read More: Pak General’s invitation


[3] Passport to reform


The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

What has happened?

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

 

New rules

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

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

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

 

Inter-ministerial committee

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

 

Issues with previous rules

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

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

[4] Chronicle of a conflict foretold


The Hindu

 

Context

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

Article gives a brief commentary about Manipur situation.

Manipur issue has been covered in detail in earlier briefs.

Give it a go through once


[5] Excluded from financial inclusion


 

The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

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

 

Hurdles faced by disabled people

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

 

Denial of banking services

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

 

Problems faced by visually impaired

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

 

Problems faced by hearing impaired

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

 

People with psycho-social abilities

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

 

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)

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

 

Impact of Demonetization

The demonetisation move has further aggravated the problem

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

 

Way ahead

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

 

Conclusion

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


ECONOMY


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


The Hindu

 

Context

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

 

Committee on digital payments (Watal Committee)

The committee has advised finance ministry that,

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

 

Benefits of going less-cash

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


[2] Aviation in 2016


 

The Hindu

 

Context

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

Give the article a go-through once.

 


Live Mint


[1] Sustaining transition to a digital economy


Live Mint

 

Context

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

 

A massive increase in digital transactions

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

 

Authors’ contention

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

 

His argument:

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

 

Problem

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Weak regulatory framework

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

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

 

Opportunity in the crisis

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

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

[2] The finance sector must sign the Paris pact


Live Mint

 

Context

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

Give this article a go through once.


[3] Forget ratings agencies, focus on fundamentals


Live Mint

 

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

Give it a go-through once.


 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – China Pakistan Economic Corridor


  • China Pakistan Economic corridor

  1. How would it affect India
  2. Offer for India to join CPEC by Pakistan
  3. Implications of Joining the CPEC for India

Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (28th Dec. 2016)

China Pakistan Economic corridor


 Introduction

  • The CPEC is one of the most important projects of the ‘one belt, one road’ project initiated by China
  • It aims to connect the China with Europe and Africa, thereby making the country a bigger player in world economic affairs.
  • It Consist of a number of road, rail and pipeline ventures.
  • CPEC connects Xinjiang in Northwestern region of China with Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, going over the Pakistan occupied Kashmir territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • The port at Gwadar will have the capacity to manage 19 million tons of crude oil which will be directly transferred to China.

How would it benefit Pakistan?

  • CPEC is reported to have brought Pakistan twice the amount of foreign investments the country received since 2008.
  • Despite the high concentration of mineral resources in the South-West Pakistan region, it has remained the poorest district.
  • But Due to China this region has seen infrastructural development.
  • The $46 billion promised by China will be used in generating close to 17,000 megawatts of electricity at a cost of $34 billion through coal, nuclear and other renewable energy projects.
  • The rest of the money would be utilised in building up transport infrastructure.

Areas India is worried about

There are two areas which forms the part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) and cause of concern for India:-

  • Gwadar port
  • And PoK

How would it affect India


  •  Corridor will affect the economic geography and regional integrity of the region
  • This corridor will cut off India from potential markets such as Afghanistan.
  • China is terming Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan, reflects a possible shift in the Chinese position on the J&K.
  • Gwadar would be a future sea port from where China would acquire a stronghold in the Indian Ocean region.
  • CPEC provides China with room for immediate military and political influence in India’s neighbourhood and in West Asia.
  • China would also get an access to the Arabian Sea. This would minimize its distance to the Strait of Hormuz, through which 35 percent of world oil transits.
  • This corridor strengthens the string of pearl of China round India.

Offer for India to join CPEC by Pakistan


Recently a Pakistani general said that India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.

This statement was also supported by China.


Implications of Joining the CPEC for India


  • Recent terror attacks by Pakistan on Indian territory has tainted the relationship to the great extent.
  • Now engaging with Pakistan on any project will have strategic implications for India.
  • Participating in the project would require a major alteration in India’s present policy.
  • Overlooking the territorial dimension could be interpreted as a massive climb-down from its stated position.
  • Joining would be interpreted as the acquiescing to the China-Pakistan alliance in the region.
  • It could also be termed as accepting the PoK as part of Pakistan.

What should India do?

  • Domestically, there has been, till now, no serious political or public debate on how India should approach this issue.
  • In the absence of a rational public discourse, India is yet to articulate a clear stand or position on the CPEC.
  • India should take a clear positon on the CPEC very soon.