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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
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 23rd December 2016



  • Front Page / NATIONAL

  1. Centre recasts panel helping Krishna Board
  2. HC tells Centre to fix MRP of coronary stents by March 1
  • Editorial/OPINION

  1. A little gain after more pain
  2. Doing the right thing
  • ECONOMY

  1. Centre spots 67.54 lakh taxpayers who did not file I-T returns
  • Indian Express

  1. Digital hurdles
  • Live Mint

  1. The monetary policy committee’s realistic currency swap assessment
  2. Top environment stories of 2016
  3. Dealmaking in 2016

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Brief PDF (23rd Dec. 2016)


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] Centre recasts panel helping Krishna Board


The Hindu

Context
The committee is tasked with assisting the Krishna River Management Board prepare a manual on how projects, common to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, ought to be handled.

What has happened?
The Centre has reconstituted a committee that was tasked with assisting the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB).
• Headed by: The new committee will be headed by A.K. Bajaj, former chairman of the Central Water Commission
• Task
 Assist KRMB to prepare a manual: The committee is tasked with assisting the Krishna River Management Board prepare a manual on how projects, common to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, ought to be handled
 Transfer of Godavari water:It also has to weigh in on how the Godavari waters ought to be transferred to the Krishna Basin in accordance with the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal Award

Similar committee
The Water Resources Ministry constituted a similar committee of irrigation, hydrology and hydel power experts in September to suggest a “mechanism for facilitating the effective functioning of the KRMB as per the provisions of the A.P. Reorganisation Act, 2014”

Objection to KRMB’s decision
The committee’s reconstitution comes even as the Board ruled that Krishna water be divided 70:30 between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for the coming month. The Telangana government has strongly objected to this.

Read More: Krishna River Water Dispute Tribunal.


[2] HC tells Centre to fix MRP of coronary stents by March 1


 The Hindu

Context

The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to fix by March 1 next year the maximum retailprice (MRP) and a ceiling price for coronary stents.

What has happened?

Delhi HC has directed the Centre to fix by March 1 next year the maximum retail price (MRP) and a ceiling price for coronary stents.

Backdrop

Bench gave the directions a day after coronary stents were notified by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) as a Schedule-I drug under the Drug (Price Control) Order (DPCO), 2013, making it eligible for price control.

  • The court had on December 7 asked the Centre why the MRPs of coronary stents had not been fixed despite these devices being included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM)

DoP order

The DoP, on 21st December, had issued a notification putting bare-metal stents, drug-eluting stents and bioresorbable scaffold or biodegradable stents in Schedule-I of the DPCO. The move will now allow the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to fix a ceiling prices for the devices.

Petition filed

The Bench was hearing a petition filed by advocate BirenderSangawan, who had petitioned that the rates of coronary stents has not been fixed despite being included in the NLEM 2015 by way of a notification issued on July 19

Drug Price Control Order

Drug Price Control Orders (DPCO) are issued by the Government, in exercise of the powers conferred under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, for enabling the Government to declare a ceiling price for essential and life-saving medicines (as per a prescribed formula) so as to ensure that these medicines are available at a reasonable price to the general public. The latest Drug Price Control Order (DPCO-2013) was issued on 15.05.2013.

  • Issued by: The Drug Price Control Ordersare issued by Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, which is the main nodal administrative ministry for pharmaceutical companies

What are essential medicines?

India has adopted the concept of Essential Medicines as pronounced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), while formulating her national list of essential medicines.

  • Essential medicines are those commonly used medicinesat primary, secondary and tertiary healthcarelevels that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of majority of the population
  • These are the medicines which are required to be made available within the context of a functioning health system at all times in adequate quantities in the appropriate dosage forms to serve large public masses. They are selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy, safety and comparative cost-effectiveness
  • Essential Medicines do not mean that they are only life-saving drugs
  • In fact, the word life-saving drugsis not defined in any of the domestic legislations on the matter

What is NLEM?

The “Essentiality” criteria for drugs in India is declared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, through the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) as revised from time to time (the latest being the NLEM 2015; the first such list was specified in 1996).

  • Prepared by: The NLEM is prepared by an Expert Core Committee constituted by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) out of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) model list of essential medicines, Essential Drugs Lists of various States, medicines used in various National Health Programmes and Emergency Care Drugs.
  • Different from WHO’s list:India’s list of essential medicines is different from the list issued by WHO due to differences in national circumstances
  • NLEM contains:The NLEM contains such medicines that satisfy the priority health needs of the country’s population, addressing its own disease burden.  The medicines used in the various national health programmes, emerging and re-emerging infections are included in the category of essential medicines.

Relation between DPCO & NLEM

NLEM forms the basis of deciding which medicines should come under price control via DPCO.

  • Schedule 1 of DPCO was amended to substitute NLEM 2011 with NLEM 2015 on 10th Mar 2016

Read More: Primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. 


Editorial/OPINION


[1] A little gain after more pain


The Hindu

Context

Income tax authorities on the trail of illegal acts of money exchange in commercial banks following the demonetisation are netting bigger fish than they may have expected.

Article is in the context of the recent incident where loads of cash and gold were recovered from Tamilnadu Chief Secretary’s house and office premises

 Helping the corrupt

It is now clear that in the first few days after the demonetisation announcement, when government-imposed limits on withdrawals were in force, and people were queuing up before banks, several unscrupulous officials of both public sector and private banks conspired to convert demonetised notes to benefit black marketeers and corrupt public servants.

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that the Centre is under pressure to prove that the demonetisation drive has been effective in unearthing black money. Substantial seizures from the corrupt is a way of signalling this, and it will be no surprise if the raids only intensify in the days to come


[2] Doing the right thing


 The Hindu

Context

India must break its silence on the humanitarian disaster in Syria, particularly Aleppo.

Author, a former IFS officer, makes a case for a pragmatic foreign policy wherein he states that national interest must trump every other consideration.

Give it a go-through once. 


ECONOMY


[1] Centre spots 67.54 lakh taxpayers who did not file I-T returns


 The Hindu

Context

The government has identified 67.54 lakh potential taxpayers in the FY15 who did not file income tax returns in the relevant assessment year.

What has happened?

The Income Tax Department has conducted the fifth cycle of data matching which has identified an additional 67.54 lakh potential non-filers who have carried out high value transactions in the financial year 2014-15 but did not file return of income for the relevant assessment year i.e. A.Y 2015-16

  • Information available in compliance module: The information relating to the identified non-filers has been made available in the compliance module on the e-filing portal of the Income Tax Department. The information will be visible only to the specific PAN holder when they log into the e-filing portal
  • The PAN holder will be able to respond electronically and retain a copy of the submitted response to maintain a record

NMS System

The Centre had introduced the Non-filers Monitoring System (NMS) to identify non-filers with potential tax liabilities.

Read More: NMS 


Indian Express


[1] Digital hurdles


 Indian Express

Context

SBI report on declining card use is a warning: Economy needs a boost after disruption due to demonetisation.

What has happened?

As per a new SBI research report, the aggregate of debit and card transactions at point of source (PoS) terminals have fallen to a little more than Rs 35,000 crore in November, the lowest since February

Situation in October

The amount spent at PoS terminals was a little more than Rs 51,000 crore in October

Conflicting situation

Banks have reported an increase in the total number of transactions involving swipe cards while the total number of card transaction have gone up.

What does this situation signify?

This signifies a fall in consumer sentiment. People seem to be using their debit and credit cards for purchases of relatively inexpensive items, while there has been a sharp fall in big ticket purchases.

Need for digital infrastructure

The SBI report also points to the necessity of bolstering the digital transaction infrastructure

  • Number of PoS machines in country: There are about 15 lakh PoS machines in the country
  • Additional PoS machines needed:The SBI report points out that the country needs an additional 20 lakh such machines. A vast majority of these should be in tier II and tier III cities, and in rural areas
  • Cost of a PoS machine: A PoS machine costs between Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000. There are low cost options but these require the use of smartphones. Given that only about 250 million people in the country have such phones, it’s difficult to imagine that the seemingly low cost options will be adopted without sound incentives

Security concerns

  • Data safety issues: Author points out that people prefer making their purchases in cash because they are not convinced about data safety in digital transactions. In fact, a security breach a few weeks before the demonetisation drive had forced the SBI to recall more than three lakh debit cards.

What should be done?

Author points out that

  • Privacy law: Government should bring in a privacy law with strong liability clauses to allay people’s fears
  • Awareness drives: Action on the legislative front should be accompanied by robust awareness drives

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that the SBI report is a warning that the economy needs a push. Sound digital infrastructure and robust privacy laws could be the first steps in that direction. 


Live Mint


[1] The monetary policy committee’s realistic currency swap assessment


Live Mint

Context

Forecasts about the economic effects of an exogenous shock are tricky affairs.

Article addresses the following question,

What is the likely effect of the withdrawal of specified banknotes on economic growth in the coming quarters?

 Monetary Policy Committee’s view

The monetary policy committee members seem to believe that the effects of the currency swap on economic growth will be transient.

Impact on economic activity

Two ways in which demonetization’s monetary shock could hurt economic activity,

  • Informal sector: The disruption in supply chains that are heavily dependent on cash transactions, i.e. the informal sector
  • Negative wealth effect: The negative wealth effect that could hit the economy in case real-estate prices tumble meaning if a person who has invested heavily in real estate sees his investment value coming down (decrease in real estate prices), it will lead to a perception of decreased wealth causing decreased spending (negative wealth effect)

 Negative wealth effect: It refers to the phenomenon wherein a decrease in wealth leads to a decrease in spending thereby leading to a decrease in consumption

Author points out that much of the data available right now is for the month of November and the situation will be clear once data for coming months starts to pour in.

Conclusion

Author concludes that the currency shortage should ease very soon. But the impact of the currency policy will linger longer. A drop in economic growth is very likely. A total economic collapse is very unlikely.


[2] Top environment stories of 2016


Live Mint

Context

Our environmental indices may be at an all-time low, but the stories of victory in the year gone by create hope for the coming year.

Author recounts victories that were achieved on the environmental front in the 2016

  1. Victory for Standing Rock

Protest against: For several months, Native American tribes and their allies, led by the Standing Rock Sioux, have been protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline, a project that would transport oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana across the plains to Illinois.

Protesters arguments: The protesters had argued that the pipeline would desecrate ancestral lands, threaten the water supply, and unfairly burden the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which is unlikely to benefit from any economic development that accompanies the project.

Victory: The tribe won a major victory when the Department of the Army announced that it would not allow the pipeline to be drilled under a dammed section of the Missouri river.

  1. Battle for clean air in Indian cities

Environmental pollution reached our households via media attention it received and caught the eye of the politicians too.

Odd-even formula: While scientists are still debating whether the odd-even formula will bring down pollution levels, here’s what this scheme has succeeded in doing: it has made sure that air pollution as an issue has occupied centre stage. In a city known for its flashy cars and political connections, the citizens of Delhi, for the first time in 2016, embraced the inconvenient experiment in the hope that it would bring down air pollution. The good news is that more and more citizens are willing to come forward to tackle air pollution, but will this be enough? This is the space to watch in 2017.

  1. A proactive green tribunal

A proactive NGT: At a time when the government is trying to dilute environment laws, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), through a series of orders in 2016, restored our faith—that there is a redressal mechanism in the country.

Landmark judgements

In a number of landmark decisions, the tribunal stepped in when all else failed.

  • Tawang case: This year it suspended the environmental clearance to a hydropower project in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh on the ground that both the environmental impact assessment report and the project developers did not disclose that an endangered bird (the black-necked crane) inhabited the region.
  • Tim-bound measures to tackle pollution in Delhi:In another strong order, the NGT asked for a slew of measures, with time-bound targets, to be taken to tackle air pollution in Delhi. At a time when the centre and state governments were playing politics on who is to blame for pollution in the National Capital Region, the NGT orders helped fix responsibility with clear targets for each stakeholder.
  • Bengaluru steel flyover case:The same tribunal ordered a temporary halt to the construction of a steel flyover in Bengaluru that would have led to the destruction of 800 trees and heritage buildings in the city.
  1. The creation of the world’s biggest protected area

At a global level, US President Barack Obama created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet when he expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii to encompass more than half a million square miles. With this one order, the US president succeeded in creating the largest swath of protected land or water on Earth, an area roughly twice the size of Texas.

  1. New species continue to be discovered

The discovery of new species every year is a gentle reminder of just how little we know about the natural world.

  • Discoveries made: This year too had its share of discoveries
  • An African damselfly, a ruby sea dragon in Australia
  • A new species of giant tortoise in the Galapagos in Ecuador
  • A sundew plant that oozes mucus to trap insects, found on just one mountain in Brazil.

Of course the idea behind this list is not to create a rose-tinted picture of the times we live in. Never before have so many species been lost and never before have our air and water been pounded with so many toxic chemicals. Yet we soldier on, with the sweet memory of the small victories.

Conclusion

As the year draws to an end, what is important to remember is that people have come together to fight for clean air, forests or wildlife, however insurmountable the battle may have seemed. May 2017 bring you clean air and lots of time spent in green spaces.


[3] Dealmaking in 2016


Live Mint

Context

Dealmaking in 2016 has largely been about big-ticket announcements. One can look at the following key trends that shaped the industry

Article is pretty straightforward and talks about key trends that shaped the industry.

Give it a go-through once