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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 16th January 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]

  1. Stay on hearing public appeals till polls
  2. Why can’t FM stations broadcast news, asks SC

Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]

  1. Julian Assange: Scapegoat or villain?
  2. Smoking e-cigarettes is injurious to health

ECONOMY [The Hindu]

  1. ‘Govt., industry must fight abuse of market power together’
  2. Market regulator tightens merger norms
  3. It’s time to say ‘Irasshaimase’ to Japan
  4. We expect budget to boost employment’

Indian Express

  1. From plate to plough: Growth amidst gloom
  2. The China bogey
  3. Prepare for ‘slow down India’

Live Mint

  1. Demonetisation debates, redux
  2. Reconsidering the 4% inflation target
  3. Water as a force for peace

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] Stay on hearing public appeals till polls


The Hindu

 

Context

Article details Election Commission’s new order

What has happened?

The Election Commission has issued an order barring chief ministers, ministers and political appointees in the five poll-bound States from hearing appeals filed by people before statutory bodies till the election process was over as their decisions could influence voters.

Rationale behind the move

EC has said the hearings by politicians “may have direct or indirect influence on voters and may also disturb the level-playing field” during the elections.


[2] Why can’t FM stations broadcast news, asks SC


The Hindu

 

Context

If the Supreme Court has its way, private FM radio stations will have an essential role to play in the world’s oldest democracy — dissemination of news.

 

What has happened?

SC has picked up from a plethora of pending public interest litigation petitions a 2013 one filed by Common Cause regarding broadcasting of news and current affair programmes

 

The petition

Petition asks for a judicial declaration to end the monopoly of the PrasarBharati Corporation, which owns and operates All India Radio, over news broadcasting and current affairs programmes.

  • The government’s prohibition, Common Cause argued, was in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in 1995 in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting vs Cricket Association of Bengal. The apex court then held that “airwaves are public property to be used to promote public good and expressing a plurality of views, opinions and ideas
  • Violation of FRs: Policy Guidelines and of the Grant of Permission Agreements framed by the government which prohibit private FM radio stations and community radio stations from broadcasting their own news and current affairs programmes are clearly violative of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The right to freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to information, which encompasses diverse interpretations of news and current affairs
  • No such ban in other countries: The NGO argued that no other democratic country had similar curbs. None of the USA’s 14,000-plus radio stations, the 2,000-odd stations in Spain or the 1,000-plus stations each in Italy, France, Greece and Australia are barred from airing news and cultural affairs. In fact, many stations are solely news channels, including specialised ones for community radio

 

Bench’s contention

The Bench asked

  • Why there should be a continuing prohibition on FM radio stations and community radios from airing their own news and current affairs on a par with private TV channels and the print media
  • Why the government wanted to control news on radio, which covers almost the entire population, even the rural masses, as per official estimates

 

Directions by Bench

  • Explain gag orders: Bench has directed the government to explain, in four weeks, the series of orders systematically passed between 2008 and 2013 to gag private radio from airing their own news and current affairs broadcasts.

 

Policy guidelines and regulations

  • On November 28, 2008, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended that for private FM radio broadcasting Phase III, FM broadcasters “may only be permitted to broadcast news, taking content from AIR, Doordarshan, authorised TV news channels, United News of India, Press Trust of India and any other authorised news agency without any substantive change in the content”.
  • On July 25, 2011, a minor change was made under Phase III policy guidelines for FM to allow broadcast of FM radio news bulletins of AIR without any addition or modification
  • During the third National Community Radio Sammelan on February 10, 2013, the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry said that community radio stations would not be allowed to broadcast news for some time to come. As a stopgap measure, they could be permitted to re-transmit unedited AIR news.


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Julian Assange: Scapegoat or villain?


The Hindu

 

Context

To blame Donald Trump’s victory on Julian Assange or, for that matter, on Russia, not only amounts to a refusal by the Democrats to take responsibility for Hillary’s defeat but is also an insult to the U.S. electorate.

Give it a light read.


[2] Smoking e-cigarettes is injurious to health


The Hindu

 

Context

In the absence of clear evidence on the effect of e-cigarettes on tobacco de-addiction, the sale of these products must be accompanied by accurate health warnings.



 

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), also called e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, ecigars, e-hookah, or vaping devices, are products that produce an aerosolized mixture containing flavored liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user. ENDS can resemble tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or common gadgets like flashlights, flash drives, or pens.

  • ENDS are battery-powered; some can be recharged via a USB port, others are disposable
  • Main constituents: The main constituents of the solution by volume, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavoring agents

 

Seller’s contention: tobacco cessation products

Sellers of ENDS market these products as tobacco cessation products meaning they help in tobacco de-addiction

 

Author’s contention: serious public threat

The tobacco cessation effects of ENDS are not scientifically proven yet, hence, are completely anecdotal at this point. Moreover, absence of any regulatory approval for their use makes them a serious public threat

 

Increasing import

Market research also projects the compound annual growth rate of the Indian e-cigarette industry at 63.38 per cent in the period 2013-2018 (Research and Markets Report on E-cigarette Market in India 2014-2018)

Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 doesn’t cover ENDS

As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products

 

Findings of a survey conducted of 26 prominent and easily accessible e-commerce websites that sell e-cigarettes,

  • 50 per cent have no health warnings on the consumption of e-cigarettes despite the fact that these products contain nicotine
  • 30 per cent display warnings in an inaccessible manner: These websites carry health warnings stating the addictive properties of nicotine and other ill effects of e-cigarettes (including the warning that e-cigarettes are not meant for non-smokers) but do not display them as a part of the description of the product. Instead, these warnings are displayed at the bottom of the web page or clubbed with the section on terms and conditions, unlikely to be noticed by a regular buyer
  • Important dangers missed: Some important dangers of e-cigarettes are not even mentioned on the products. Other dangers posed by e-cigarettes, which do not feature in the health warnings, are the possibilities of the product exploding (incidents have been reported globally) and accidental consumption of the liquid inside the e-cigarette, which leads to death

 

Unregulated sale of e-cigarettes in India is dangerous. Why?

The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) because of following concerns,

  • Gateway effect: The gateway effect refers to two potential circumstances:
    • The possibility that children (and generally non-smokers) will initiate nicotine use with ENDS at a rate greater than expected if ENDS did not exist
    • The possibility that once addicted to nicotine through ENDS children will switch to cigarette smoking
  • Renormalization effect:The renormalization effect refers to the possibility that everything that makes ENDS attractive to smokers may enhance the attractiveness of smoking itself and perpetuate the smoking epidemic

 

What should be done?

Accurate health warnings: In absence of any concrete evidence that ENDS promote tobacco cessation, it is imperative that their sale be accompanied by accurate health warnings

  • Significant to India: This is especially relevant in India, where data in the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2009-2010 suggests that tobacco control laws, particularly the pictorial health warnings and advertisements, mandated under COTPA, have been highly effective in increasing awareness of the health risks of tobacco (smoking as well as non-smoking). More than 70 per cent of persons surveyed noticed health warnings on cigarettes, while approximately a quarter thought of quitting on seeing this warning. The effectiveness of such warnings in ultimately reducing tobacco consumption has also been confirmed by the WHO

 

Present situation

Lack of a uniform approach: There is a lack of a cohesive approach towards e-cigarettes. Different states in India have taken different routes. Only Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab have implemented the ban on e-cigarettes. Punjab has classified nicotine as a poison, while Maharashtra treats it as an unapproved drug. Such incoherent policies will only help sellers to scuttle the law via loop holes

 

Way forward

Imposition of restrictions: The Indian government impose appropriate restrictions on the sale and advertisement, online and otherwise, of e-cigarettes, including proper health warnings, in order to plug the existing regulatory vacuum

Independent research: Simultaneously the government should also commission independent scientific research on the benefits and risks posed by these products in the Indian context.On the basis of this research, it may then make an informed decision regarding their regulation as tobacco imitation products or as therapeutic products.


ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] ‘Govt., industry must fight abuse of market power together’


The Hindu

 

Context

Article contains views expressed by various participants, speaking at a discussion on “Politics of Competition Reforms in India.”

 

Rajiv Kher (member of Competition Appellate Tribunal)

  • If the spirit of innovation is not thwarted, technology — which had been touching all walks of life — can help mainstream competition up to the municipal level, he said. The term ‘competition policy’ refers to norms preventing restrictive trade practices and abuse of market dominance
  • The consent of all stakeholders, such as the Centre and businesses, is needed to implement norms, right up to the municipal level, against abuse of market power and other illegal practices restricting free trade and competition among businesses
  • Cartelisation: Even municipal institutions are grappling with the problem of cartelisation and such anti-competitive practices

 

Frederic Jenny’s views (Chairman, OECD Committee on Competition)

  • He referred to the link between trade and competition policy saying most trade pacts that exist have a chapter on competition
  • He said greater competition can lead to increased productivity, investment and economic growth, and in turn reduce poverty. Mr Jenny said in many countries, the poor and the informal sector are the victims of anti-competitive practices that act as a barrier to mobility and access to credit

 

Allan Fels, former chairman, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission

  • He lauded the political leadership in India for ensuring the passage of the Goods & Services Tax Bill in Parliament, adding that it was also necessary to lay emphasis on the principle of competition.
  • He said it was important to ask whether the firms — that may gain owing to a major tax reduction after the GST comes into effect — will pass on a good part of the benefits to consumers or pocket all the gains.

 

 


[2] Market regulator tightens merger norms


The Hindu

 

Context

SEBI aims to ensure wider public holding, prevent mergers of large unlisted firms with small ones.

 

What has happened?

In a bid to safeguard the interests of the public shareholders, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened the norms for merger of an unlisted company with a listed entity

SEBI has decided that,

  • Holding of public shareholders post the merger cannot be less than 25%
  • Threshold for institutional shareholders: Further, the watchdog has stipulated a similar threshold for institutional shareholders of the unlisted entity as well, post-merger
  • An unlisted company can be merged with a listed company only if the latter is listed on a stock exchange having nationwide trading terminals
  • E-voting mandatory: To ensure larger say for the public shareholders, the regulator has also made their e-voting mandatory in cases wherein the stake of such shareholders reduces by more than 5% in the merged entity
  • Reduced broker fees: The regulator also reduced the broker fees by 25% from Rs. 20 per crore of turnover to Rs. 15 crore. This will result in reduction of overall cost of transactions and will benefit the investors and promote the development of securities market
  • Include performance of scheme in ads: In order to help mutual fund investors take better informed decisions, SEBI has decided that fund houses will have to include in their advertisements, the performance of the scheme in terms of CAGR for the past one year, three years and five years and since inception.Currently, the fund house only publishes the scheme’s returns for as many twelve month periods as possible for the past three years.

 

Why this move by SEBI?

  • SEBI was concerned because there have been instances where the route of merger was used to get an indirect listing for an unlisted company
  • There was another category of misuse where under an arrangement; securities were being issued to promoter related persons only.

 

 


[3] It’s time to say ‘Irasshaimase’ to Japan


The Hindu

 

Context

The spirit of ‘welcome’ should aim to cut red tape, remove infrastructure challenges and avoid project delays in India.

 

Present article seeks to find ways to rejuvenate the partnership between Indian and Japan to blossom into one of the most functional partnerships among nation states in recent history.

 

Investment

As per data from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Japan’s aggregate outward investment in China during the period 1996-2015 was $116 billion and in India was $24 billion. China has received close to 5 times more investment than India.

  • Targeting $25 Billion annually: The stock of Japanese foreign direct investment globally is $1.3 trillion. The annual outward flow of Japanese FDI is about $130 billion and the U.S. gets about $40 billion annually. India should target at least $25 billion annually for the next 10 years

 

FDI patterns

From a foreign direct investment (FDI) perspective, based on data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion-India, between April 2000 and September 2016,

  • Japan ranked 4th with an aggregate investment of $24 billion. In comparison, China’s aggregate FDI in the same period was $1.6 billion and that of South Korea was $2.1 billion
  • Annual trade growth from FY95 to FY16
    • Between India & Japan: 6.3 per cent
    • Between India & China: 22.6 per cent

 

Challenges to the partnership

There are three main challenges which have constrained the Japan-India partnership from achieving its full potential.

  1. Complex regulatory structure: India’s complex regulations, red tape, ad hoc nature of state-level interventions
  2. Logistical challenges: Japanese companies face considerable logistics challenges and non-availability of uninterrupted power supply constrains their manufacturing plans in India
  3. Delays in commencing of projects: While India can emerge as a large market for Japanese infrastructure system exports, there have been incredible delays in the commencement of the projects.

 

What has government done?

In order to facilitate investment from Japan, the union government has set up a Japan Plus committee which comprised of,

  • 4 senior bureaucrats from the government
  • 3 Japanese officials chosen, one each from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Aichi prefecture
  • Aim: To deal with all aspects of investment mainly challenges faced by Japanese companies post investment

 

Japan Industrial townships (JITs)

Japan is working on developing 12 Industrial townships called Japan Industrial Townships (JITs) which will operate like Little Japan with all the infrastructure to support the operations of Japanese companies.

  • The JITs face challenges from access to ports, lack of uninterrupted power supply and poor level of benchmarking to global best standards as applicable for industrial parks.

 

Japanese companies willing to expand in India

As per the JETRO Survey on Business Conditions of Japanese Companies in Asia and Oceania (2015), more than 70% of Japanese companies operating in India have indicated that they will expand operations over the next one to two years.

  • In comparison only 38.1% of the Japanese companies operating in China have indicated that they will expand operations

 

Tokyo Declaration metrics

The Tokyo Declaration of November 2014 sets a target of,

  • Doubling Japan’s foreign direct investment
  • Doubling the number of Japanese companies operating in India
  • An ambitious investment target of JPY 3.5 trillion ($33.5 billion) within a five-year period. The doubling of foreign direct investment seems unlikely unless some dramatic revival happens

 

Underperformance vis-a-vis Tokyo targets

  • The number of Japanese companies in India in October 2014 was 1,156 and by October 2015 it was 1,229, an increase of 6%, much lower than the needed growth to achieve the target
  • The cumulative Overseas Development Assistance disbursement by Japan (India is the largest recipient of Japanese ODA) in 2014 was JPY4.6 trillion and in FY 15-16 only JPY 185.6 billion was disbursed

 

Given the under-performance on all the benchmarks set up under the Tokyo Declaration, timely intervention from the highest levels of both governments can still ensure that the ambitious metrics can be achieved.

 

Conclusion

The Japan-India relationship is at a unique juncture as Asia is emerging as the powerhouse of the world. The Japanese government must play a more active role in building India’s infrastructure, which will serve as a foundation for sustained economic growth.

 

 


[4] We expect budget to boost employment’


The Hindu

 

Context

While there are hopes and apprehensions on the extent to which the Budget provisions would revive investment and demand, questions abound on how the Budget can be inclusive in its approach and delineate a roadmap for creation of job opportunities.

 

Article lists down expectations from the budget and challenges it needs to address.

 

Give it a go-through.


Indian Express


[1] From plate to plough: Growth amidst gloom


Indian Express

 

Context

Agriculture GDP bucks the trend of decline in other sectors. But can the government help the farmers sustain this growth?

 

Declining GDP numbers

The first advanced estimates of GDP growth for the financial year 2016-2017 (FY17) show a marginal decline from 7.6 per cent last year to 7.1 per cent this year

 

A big jump for agriculture

In terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices, Agriculture & Allied sectors have registered a big jump from 1.2 per cent in 2016 to 4.1 per cent in 2017 despite being hurt badly by drought from last two years.

Significance:

  • This sector engages around half the workforce of the country and provides food security
  • Central Statistical Organization (CSO)’s credibility has increased: NITI Aayog had forecasted a higher growth rate of 5.5 per cent and by displaying that it is not swayed by such anticipations CSO’s credibility has increased

 

Lowest growth rate since 1991

Author points out that the first three years of the present government are likely to yield an agri-GDP growth of just 1.7 per cent per year, and the growth for the forgotten Twelfth Five Year Plan (FYP) (2012-13 to 2016-17) is going to be 2.2 per cent per annum.

  • This will be the lowest growth rate registered in any FYP since economic reforms began in 1991, and way below the target of 4 per cent, indicating the biggest failure of policy making

 

A lost opportunity

The Kharif foodgrain production in FY17 registered an impressive growth of 8.9 per cent over kharif of FY16, led by a very high pulse production

  • Massive increase in pulse production: Kharif pulses recorded a whopping increase of 58 per cent. This was the result of very high pulse prices — around Rs 180-200/kg in retail markets before the sowing season& a very good monsoon
  • Drop in prices:With a 58 per cent increase in production, prices of tur and moong came tumbling down. In several markets, prices went below the minimum support prices (MSPs)
  • A wasted opportunity:This was a golden opportunity for the government to build a buffer stock of two million metric tonnes and support farmers by ensuring that market prices do not drop below MSP. But this opportunity was not tapped fully; the area under pulses may drop next year, and imports increase.

 

Kharif Oilseeds: Similar story like pulses

The case of kharif oilseeds was similar.

  • Massive increase in Soybean harvest: Production jumped by 41 per cent, led by the 65 per cent increase in the soybean harvest. As a result, soybean prices crashed in major markets, going below the MSP at places
  • A wasted opportunity: Here also government could have built a buffer stock and not allowed the prices to plummet below MSP but nothing of this sort was done. Hence, oilseed dependency will remain

 

Opportunity lost

India is the largest importer of pulses and one of the top two importers of edible oils. The total import bill on edible oils and pulses hovers around $12-15 billion. India has had a Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses for the past 25 years, without much success in increasing production. Now, when production jumps, the system is not geared to ensure even the MSP to farmers.

  • This will surely discourage farmers and the country will remain dependent on imports of pulses and oilseeds for years to come.

 

What should have been done?

  • Removing restrictions: Author states that the minimum policymakers could have done was to remove restrictions on free functioning of exports and markets

 

Significance of oilseeds and pulses

  • Cutting fertilizer subsidy load: Oilseeds and pulses are grown in relatively less irrigated and poorer regions, consume much less water and fix nitrogen in soil, thus, saving large fertilizer subsidies. Therefore, supporting them should be a national priority
  • Boosts demand: It will also help alleviate poverty faster and boost the demand for manufactured products, thus helping industry. Tractor demand is already showing recovery with a 15-20 per cent growth over the corresponding period last year.

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that we need an agri-friendly policy which relieves Indian agriculture of the dependency on monsoons. An effective MSP policy will also alleviate the distress factors pertaining to farmers.

 

 


[2] The China bogey


Indian Express

 

Context

New Delhi’s frustration with Beijing ought not lead it into a too-quick embrace of a US-led military alliance

 

With a regime change comes a change in the mindset. A similar change is being witnessed in US with a new President-elect at the top.

  • While keeping a policy of positive relations with China, US will simultaneously try to create a counterbalance to stop China from assuming a bullying role in South China Sea and further
  • India, Japan and Australia form a key part of that counterbalancing approach

 

Caution is the way forward

Author points out that in the light of recent downturn in Indo-China relations over NSG membership and Beijing’s technical hold over matter of Masood Azhar in UN, India should be cautious to not be too quick to embrace US –led military alliance in Asia. Why?

  • Unclear outcomes: Because the gains of entering into an Australia-India-Japan-US maritime alliance in the Pacific are not clear
  • Escalation of tensions: It might lead China to escalate tensions along its disputed borders with India, as it has done in the South China Seas. The partnership might give India gains in military technology but that, by its mere existence, is unlikely to deter small wars and conflicts on the China-India border.

 

 


[3] Prepare for ‘slow down India’


Indian Express

 

Context

The only engine that appeared to be running was government expenditure. In this scenario, what can be expected regarding the growth rate in 2016-17?

 

Engines of growth

Author states that there are 4 engines of growth

  • Government expenditure
  • Private consumption
  • Private investment
  • Exports

 

Private investment & exports have been slow for many months. Private consumption was strong but post-demonetization it has taken a hit too. So, the only engine that appeared to be running was government expenditure. In this scenario, what can be expected regarding the growth rate in 2016-17?

 

Loss of 1.5 lakh crore

As per the advance estimates of GDP for 2016-17 (data till October 2016), released by CSO,

  • Decline in GDP: Projections show decline in GDP from 7.56 per cent in 2015-16 to 7.09 in 2016-17. That is a hit of 0.5 per cent. There is sufficient evidence that, post-demonetisation, the economy will slow down further. Author says that his prediction of at least 1 per cent decline in GDP post-demonetization will come true.That is a loss to the economy of Rs 1,50,000 crore

 

What CSO’s estimate tell us about the engine of Investment?

The critical number is Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF), which is a measure of investments in the economy

  • CSO estimate: The CSO estimates that GFCF will decline by 0.2 per cent in 2016-17. The decline will be steeper because it is unlikely that any investment would have taken place post-demonetization
  • Consecutive shrinkage in GFCF: Author states that a close look at the CSO’s estimates reveals that for three consecutive quarters the GFCF has shrunk compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year, and the rate of shrinkage has accelerated:

Jan-March 5.35 -1.90
Apr-June 7.11 -3.10
July-Sep 9.70 -5.59

 

Other dismal indicators

  • Decline in government & private sector investment: Both the government sector and the private sector announce new projects and the projected investments in those projects are tallied every quarter. Between Oct-Dec 2015 quarter and Oct-Dec 2016 quarter, the value of government sector projects that were announced declined from Rs 256,669 crore to Rs 42,128 crore and the value of private sector projects declined from Rs 119,475 crore to Rs 86,645 crore
  • Decline in Foreign Portfolio Investment: FPI investment has turned negative at the end of December 2016

 

Summing the data

Author states that above data showing a declining investment in the country will cause a decline in the growth rate of the economy. It further means fewer jobs, more layoffs or retrenchment, low growth in incomes, and fewer people lifted out of poverty


Live Mint


[1] Demonetisation debates, redux


Live Mint

 

Context

A sharper temporary liquidity crunch, inflicting higher short-term costs, will likely induce, in the end, greater medium- to long-term gains in the form of digitization and formalization.

 

Give it a go-through

 

 


[2] Reconsidering the 4% inflation target


Live Mint

 

Context

In determining the inflation target, there appears to be a trade-off between overcoming the zero lower bound problem and improving welfare.

 

Give it a go-through

 

 


[3] Water as a force for peace


Live Mint

 

Context

The growing recognition of water’s strategic relevance reflects global developments.

Author’s contention

Author states that on a global level, role of resources especially water has begun garnering attention that it deserves. He states that,

  • Both Kofi Annan and Ban-ki Moon have argued for some two decades that protecting and sharing natural resources, particularly water, is critical to peace and security but it was not until November 2015 that the issue gained widespread acknowledgement, with Senegalholding the UN’s first-ever official debate on water, peace and security
  • The growing recognition of water’s strategic relevance reflects global developments

 

Debate on water, peace and security

The debate brought together representatives of 69 governments, which together called for water to be transformed from a potential source of crisis into an instrument of peace and cooperation

 

Global developments indicating water’s strategic relevance

 

Utilization by Extremist groups

  • IS: In the last three years, the Islamic State (IS) captured the Tabqa, Tishrin, Mosul, and Fallujah dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. IS subsequently lost control of all of them, but not before using them to flood or starve downstream populations, to pressure them to surrender
  • Extremist groups in South Asia have also threatened to attack water infrastructure

 

Importance of water is comparable to oil

The importance of water in the 21st century—comparable to that of oil in the 20th—can hardly be overstated.

  • No alternative to waterunlike oil: The reality is that oil has alternatives like natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear energy. By contrast, for industry and agriculture as much as for drinking and sanitation, the only alternative to water, as former Slovenian president Danilo Türk once put it, is water
  • River Chagres: Author cites the example of River Chagres which feeds Panama Canal through which 50 per cent of the trade between Asia and Americas flows. There is no risk of the natural depletion of the river flow for the next 100 years, but in the event of a security crisis in Central America, it could be taken over by rogue forces. The impact on the global economy would be enormous

 

What can be done to protect water resources and installations in conflict zones?

Presently Red Cross negotiates safe passage for technicians to inspect and repair damage to water pipes and storage systems in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine; but each passage needs to be negotiated with governments in conflict and rebel commanders—a long and cumbersome process.

A better approach: A better approach would be for great powers, with their considerable influence, to negotiate short-term ceasefires in areas experiencing protracted conflict, specifically to repair and restore water systems. What needs to happen for this approach to fructify?

 

Declaring water a ‘strategic resource of humanity’

Author states that to pave the way for such an approach, however, the UN Security Council will have to declare water a “strategic resource of humanity” and adopt a resolution to protect water resources and installations, similar to Resolution 2286, adopted in May 2016 to protect medical facilities in armed conflicts

 

What can be done in the long term?

In the longer term, countries that share riparian systems will need to establish regional security arrangements to preserve and protect their resources.

 

Blue fund for Congo Basin

Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo, is at the forefront of this movement for shared arrangements, leading a group of eight governments towards the establishment of the Blue Fund for the Congo Basin.

  • If successful, the Fund will help to mitigate climate change, create new avenues of river-based employment, and promote collective security in an unstable region
  • The Africa Action Summit in Marrakech November 2016described the fund as one of the four key ideas that can transform the continent

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that we need similar funds like Blue Fund for Congo Basin to emerge to protect all of the world’s 263 shared river basins and lakes. It is a huge challenge; but, given the power of water to sow conflict and support peace, we must confront it head on.


 

 


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief -6th January 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]

  1. NGT raps Environment Ministry
  2. Ban on import of exotic skins
  3. Be mindful of speedy justice: HC
  4. SC asked to resolve conflict over ‘rape’ definition in two laws
  5. How will EC decide on the party symbol row
  • Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]

  1. Reading between the lines
  2. Keeping the streets safe
  • ECONOMY [The Hindu]

  1. Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil
  2. ‘Repayment of micro loans hit by note ban’
  3. New norms likely for top PSU bank posts
  • Indian Express

  1. We are all accountable
  2. Let the budget be
  • Live Mint

  1. How to go about chasing black money
  2. Charting our artificial intelligence future

Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief PDF (6th Jan. 2017)

Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] NGT raps Environment Ministry


The Hindu

Context

A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said that the MoEF had not “applied its mind” while amending a notification published on December 9, 2016, exempting construction projects from the process of environment impact assessment (EIA) and prior environmental clearance.

What had MoEF done?

The MoEF, in a recent notification, had exempted real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance.

  • It had even put in a “self-declaration” clause for smaller projects (less than 20,000 sqmetres). For bigger projects, the environmental clearance (EC) and building permission would be given by urban local bodies as part of an “integrated format”.

Backdrop

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, which sought directions for the notification to be quashed on the ground that it contravened provisions of the EIA notification, 2006, and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

  • Allegation: The plea alleged that the notification tried to “circumvent” the EIA Notification, 2006, in the name of “ease of doing business”.

Earlier, the green panel had refused to stay the December 9 notification and issued notices to the Ministries of Environment and Forests and Urban Development, seeking a reply before January 4.

What is Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)?

It is the process by which the anticipated effects on the environment of a proposed development or project are measured. If the likely effects are unacceptable, design measures or other relevant mitigation measures can be taken to reduce or avoid those effects.


[2] Ban on import of exotic skins


The Hindu

Context

In a landmark decision that will spare the lives of tens of thousands of animals from the exotic leather industry, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade has banned the import of skins of reptiles and fur of minks, foxes and chinchillas.

Issue: Cruelty to animals

What are animal rights bodies saying about the decision?

Animal rights bodies have hailed the decision by the Centre to ban such imports, saying that the country is now emulating other nations across the world in adopting “cruelty-free” alternatives to exotic skins

Backdrop

The notification issued on January 3 comes in the wake of campaigning for a ban by People for Animals (PFA), Humane Society International/India (HSI/India) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

  • Union Cabinet Minister of Women and Child Development wrote to the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry on banning import of exotic skins
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, and the Animal Welfare Board of India had supported the ban proposal

[3] Be mindful of speedy justice: HC


The Hindu

Context

Delhi High Court observed that “courts, while endeavoring to deliver speedy justice, must not hand out hasty decisions without any concern for justice” and that docket explosion is a problem for the judicial system to contend with but does not concern the individual litigant who comes to court seeking justice.

A pretty straightforward article. It elaborates on the concern of Delhi HC that speedy justice doesn’t mean handing out hasty decisions which might lead to aggravation of justice.

Give it a go-through once


[4] SC asked to resolve conflict over ‘rape’ definition in two laws


The Hindu

Context

An exception to Section 375 (rape) in the IPC allows a man to go scot-free despite having sex with his 15-year-old ‘wife’.

Backdrop

In a petition before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, the BachpanBachaoAndolan, an organisation run by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, said an estimated 47 per cent of children in India were married off before they turned 18, according to the United Nations. It further said that,

  • IPC condones rape: The IPC condones the rape of a 15-year-old by her husband despite the fact that the more recent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) of 2012 qualifies those aged below 18 as ‘children’

 Penal provisions in POCSO

POCSO has specific penal provisions against ‘penetrative sexual assault’ and ‘aggressive penetrative sexual assault’ on children below 18.

  • Section 6 of the Act enunciates the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault as rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment. Mr. Satyarthi wants the apex court to clear the anomaly in law. The IPC terms children as those aged under 15 years while POCSO terms children as those aged under 18.

The Chink

Despite being a child by definition (under the age of 18), provisions of POCSO are not applied. Reason: The benefit of a Special Act (POCSO) is not afforded to children when they are in married relationship but over the age of 15. Therefore, a child’s status as a child till she attains the age of 18 is denied to her once she is forcefully or otherwise wed.

Simple explanation

  • Problem with POCSO: Under POCSO, children under age of 18 years are protected but if a child is wed or forcefully married then provisions of POCSO do not apply.
  • Problem with IPC: Under IPC, anyone of 15 years of age or above 15 years of age is not deemed to be a child.

Why this petition?

Penal provisions for child rape are stricter. Hence, the petitioner wants the provision under IPC to be amended and age be increased to 18 years of age.

Directions by the SC

The apex court directed the government to address the issue within four months. The Bench asked Mr. Satyarthi to approach the court on the same grounds for immediate resolution if he is not satisfied with the government’s response.


[5] How will EC decide on the party symbol row


 The Hindu

Context

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols. Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, it can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.

Article is a straightforward read presented in a simple question and answer format.

Give it a go-through once 


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Reading between the lines


The Hindu

Context
The Supreme Court verdict on electoral malpractice ensures that future legal challenges to election victories based on identity politics will walk the fine line of text, context and subtext.

Article talks about the recent judgement of SC, specifically the Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen, wherein it was held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate

Note: This issue has already been covered in proper detail in the 9pm Brief dated 4th January, 2017. Any new point, if present in the article, has been included here

Minority judgement
• Author states that the minority judgement pointed out that a broad or purposive interpretation might fall afoul of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution
• It further cited that departing from a literal or strict interpretation would mean unsettling the law accepted over several decades and that the Supreme Court had no such strong reason to do so

The rationale behind including the word “his” in RP Act
Author states that the rationale behind the addition of the word “his” in the section 123 (3) of RP Act was to prevent an electoral candidate to create enmity between two communities or vilification of another language.


[2] Keeping the streets safe


 The Hindu

Context

There is the other factor of inadequacies of police leadership that have become glaring over the years

Issue: Recent molestation incident in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve & consequent apathy displayed by Bengaluru police in tackling the entire situation

What could have been done?

The local police stations could have possibly made an assessment late in the afternoon so that extra policemen could have been directed to localities where the crowds were pouring in. There was therefore an element of failure on the part of city police intelligence

What should be done?

  • Restructuring existing police arrangements: Author states that what is required now is to restructure existing police arrangements for special occasions such as New Year celebrations

 Why police didn’t use force against anti-social elements?

Author states that police were reluctant to use force against anti-social elements. Reasons could be,

  • A long chain of command: Unless specific orders are given from the commissioner itself, cops shy of using strong methods

Reason: The cause for above state of affairs is the host of judicial enquiries and complaints against police. Even if government uses force, the opposition makes an issue out of it, in spite of the fact that the ground situation warranted such an action

Leadership deficit

A weak leadership: Author states that the police looks up to Chief minister or Home minister of a state for even routine field decisions. Even if there is a CM who stays away from field affairs, a weak DGP or Police Commissioner takes no chances. Granting more autonomy to police is futile in the presence of such hesitant DGPs

Author suggests

  • Public pressure: it is only strong public opinion that can bring a sea change to the styles of policing. In the Bengaluru incidents, the citizenry has a significant role to play by bringing enough pressure on the government to identify the accused and bring them to book. If they do not rise to the occasion, not much will happen.
  • Sensitizing the police: Day-to-day interaction on the subject between the higher echelons and policemen at the grass-roots level will help. Senior police officers need to visit stations and talk to the constabulary who actually are at the ground level when unruly incidents happen. 

ECONOMY [The Hindu]


[1] Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil


The Hindu

Context

The Centre will tie up with the States to soon roll-out a new scheme called ‘TIES’ — or Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme — to boost export infrastructure

Government’s rationale

Since most States wanted a Central scheme that supports export infrastructure, government is formulating a scheme to provide financial support and supplement the efforts of States to create export infrastructure.

Road quality

Upgrading Indian roads carry nearly 65 per cent cargo against the global trend where railway is the major contributor. Therefore the States should focus on improving the last mile connectivity of major exporting hubs to Inland Container Depot/Ports. Quality of roads including their load bearing capacity should be upgraded for smooth transit of export goods.

Why state should co-operate in setting up of common facilities like testing labs?

Pointing out that about 150 Sanitary &Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures (or norms on food safety and animal & plant health standards) and a similar number of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) notifications (including mandatory and voluntary standards) were being issued by World Trade Organisation-member countries each month. Around 50-60 per cent of these measures have the potential to impact India’s trade

Therefore, the States should cooperate with the Centre for setting up common facilities like testing labs and training institutes as well as to ensure packaging and storage support to the Indian industry.

Present situation

So far only 17 States (of the 29 States and seven Union Territories in the country) have prepared their export strategy

 Need to diversify

There is a need to diversify our services exports. Areas like medical tourism, nursing and healthcare, education, audio-visual media have an excellent potential that can be harnessed. For this, we need to develop the right competencies like language skills for the East and North East Asian markets

Logistics Performance Index

Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to soon bring out a Logistics Performance Index to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics.

  • North-East Corridor: Measures in the pipeline include expediting the proposal for a north east corridor to improve connectivity with south East Asian countries and exports to that region

[2] ‘Repayment of micro loans hit by note ban’


The Hindu

Context

CRISIL study showed that 9 per cent of micro enterprises are facing trouble servicing debt and paying salaries and unorganised players are expected to suffer most due to lower growth expectations.

Give the article a go-through once


[3] New norms likely for top PSU bank posts


 

The Hindu

Context

The Banks’ Board Bureau is working to ensure that leadership roles in state-run banks would only be given to those with at least six years of service left, in order to ensure accountability of their actions.

What is Bank Board Bureau?

Banks Board Bureau is an autonomous body of Union Government of Indiatasked to improve the governance of Public Sector Banks, recommend selection of chiefs of government owned banks and financial institutions and to help banks in developing strategies and capital raising plans.

Article details the proposed steps to increase accountability in the public sector banking system.

Proposed measures

  • Ensuring accountability: An attempt will be made to introduce accountability in the system, to ensure that you appoint a whole time director or a CEO (chief executive officer) at an age where he has got a minimum of six years more to go in the institution so that he can be held accountable for the decision
  • Incentives: From the next financial year, introduction of bonuses, E-sops, and performance linked packages could happen. The idea is to provide monetary and non-monetary incentives to attract professionals. These incentives would apply to positions across all levels, not just to the middle and senior management.
  • Running the banks: People from diverse fields of expertise would be roped in to be the members of the Board Bureaus of Public Sector Banks (PSBs). It would be ensure that these Boards run the banks.

Read More: Major Overhaul of banking system, Bank Board Bureau 


Indian Express


[1] We are all accountable


Indian Express

Context

Blame the nation as a whole for the poor implementation of demonetisation.

Article is pretty straightforward and a light read. Author has stated that if demonetization has failed it is not the sole failure of the government but also our own.

Give it a go-through once


[2] Let the budget be


 Indian Express

Context

Opposition to advancing the Union budget on account of assembly elections is misplaced

What has happened?

A united Opposition has approached the Election Commission (EC) seeking postponement of the presentation of the Union Budget for 2017-18 till the completion of polls to the five state assemblies, for which the schedule has already been announced.

Doling out sops

The primary argument given by these parties is that the government would use the budget, which it wants to present on February 1, to dole out various sops to “allure” voters while these polls are held between February 4 and March 8.This, they say, would give an unfair advantage to the ruling party at the Centre.

No evidence

Author suggests that there is no empirical evidence of such fickle voter behavior so as to be swayed by populist schemes and announcements

 Right to make announcements

Author presents us with a question that,

Can a popularly elected government at the Centre be denied the right to make announcements, populist or otherwise, during its tenure just because of state-level elections?

Policy paralysis

It is known that when Model Code of Conduct is in place, government cannot make any new announcements and governance comes to a standstill. So, author presents us with a thought provoking question,

Should policy paralysis for these months be a prerequisite for the holding of free and fair elections? Surely, this is not what the drafters of our Constitution had in mind. 


Live Mint


[1] How to go about chasing black money


Live Mint

Context

The focus of any sustainable reform of the taxation structure must be on reducing flows of tax evasion, not going after existing caches of black money.

Issue: Tackling the menace of black money

Focus on the flow

In the first paragraph, author states that the flow of tax evasion every year is what should be the focus of any drive targeting black money, rather than the caches accumulated from past tax evasion meaning government should focus on curbing the ongoing tax evasion every year rather than paying attention towards the accumulated wealth from past tax evasion

Reason: Bcz those who had large amounts of unaccounted wealth moved to financial form of assets from physical assets like cash or gold or real estate. Loans were given to large construction companies which could not access the formal financial market.

Problem: Such companies faced problem in accessing formal credit because we have been unable to develop bond markets in the country as we should have. Even borrowers would prefer the bond market as lending rates are quite high through unofficial channels

What should be done?

Author states that Bond markets today call for a whole ecosystem, with credible rating agencies to give lenders the confidence to move into that disintermediated financial space, instead of just being risk averse and placing their savings with banks or other aggregators like the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).

In between the article, author throw light at the problems being faced by mobile wallets. Article on Digital payment systems have been covered in detail in many briefs. You can refer those.

Tackling Black money

  • Utilizing existing databases: Author states that government needs to focus on big fish when tackling with the menace of black money. Utilizing already existing databases like Aadhaar and database of high-end luxury car owners, which is maintained by motor vehicle department of every state (PAN number is mandatory for such transactions) can help tax authorities to reign in the corrupt
  • Presumptive tax: Author states that presumptive tax methods can be employed as has been done by many other countries successfully.

For example: Israel:

  • For a big purchase like a yacht or a luxury car by a moneyed immigrant, there would be a presumptive taxable income estimated at some multiple of the value of the transaction
  • Restaurant owners would be taxed on a presumption of taxability based on capacity.
  • The formula was arrived at through discussions with restaurant associations on what seemed fair, and was not contestable
  • Those that did not meet the presumptive income had to pay the tax anyway, and eventually closed down
  • The presumptive tax worked as an efficiency incentive. Most of all, these methods are survey-based and formulaic, and thus prevent tax terrorism
  • Expenditure on high-end weddings: Author points out that the expenditure on high-end weddings can be tracked via purchase and lease of devices utilized in such weddings and the amount of electricity consumed from the grid.

Solution:A simple administrative requirement for PAN numbers attached to electricity dues or leasing of generators would have led to higher revenue for both the income-tax department and power distribution companies.

Conclusion

Author concludes by saying that unless our taxation system are reformed, there is nothing demonetization can do for tax revenue

Read More: Presumptive tax


[2] Charting our artificial intelligence future


Live Mint

Context

In the great software of the universe, we will remain a beautiful bug, and AI will increasingly become a normal feature.

Give it a go-through once