- Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
- Air pollution a national problem
- Green tribunal orders test of cosmetics containing microbeads
- Talaq certificates issued by Chief Kazi has no legal sanctity, says Madras HC
- SC may hear plea on tax relief for political parties
- INTERNATIONAL [The Hindu]
- Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
- ECONOMY [The Hindu]
- Indian Express
- Live Mint
Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
 Air pollution a national problem
Air pollution is at alarming levels in India.
A Greenpeace Report shows that 90% of the cities studied have pollution levels higher than prescribed standards.
• According to the analysis by Greenpeace for 2015 data, 154 out of 168 were found to have an average Particulate Matter(PM)level higher than the national standards.
• The analysis is made by Greenpeace by comparing PM10 levels.
• Air pollution problems are more aggravated in North and Central India than compared to South India.
• This is because of geographical facts like Himalayas, cool weather and big industrial clusters whereas South India has the benefit of mixing sea breeze.
• Fossil fuels were the biggest contributors to the particulate matter.
• Delhi has the most polluted air among all cities in India.
In North India:
• The 4 worst cities are Ghaziabad, Allahabad and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana.
• The average annual concentrations in these cities were found to be 4 times more than the standard.
In South India:
• All 10 of the least polluted cities were in the South and the East, 8 in Karnataka, one each in Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
• Hasan in Karnataka came close to the air quality standards prescribed by the World Health Organization.
• Chennai on the contrary despite being in the coast is found to have a very high PM10. A diesel powered public transport system and a power plant were the major factors behind this.
However Pollution should be treated as a national level problem says one of the authors of the report.
 Green tribunal orders test of cosmetics containing microbeads
Cosmetics containing microbeads can be dangerous for aquatic life and environment.
What are microbeads?
- Microbeads are tiny plastic substances measuring less than 5mm
- They are used in soaps, toothpastes and beauty products.
Why Microbeads are used in Cosmetics?
- They act as exfoliators i.e. agents which remove the dead cells on skin and teeth.
- A plea in National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought a ban on the usage of microbeads.
- Consequently the NGT has directed the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization to test cosmetics containing microbeads.
 Talaq certificates issued by Chief Kazi has no legal sanctity, says Madras HC
- Triple Talaq is a Muslim social practice by which a man divorces his wife.
- A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition is moved by a senior advocate in Madras High Court to declare the certificates of Kazis as illegal
- The certificates issued by Kazis are done in an arbitrary manner without reconciliation and even without the knowledge of women concerned.
- Kazis were once considered judicial authorities under Muslim Personal Law.
- Their legal sanctity was abolished when the British regime established the courts.
- The Kazi act of 1880 did not vest any powers of adjudication with Kazis.
By the petitioner:
- It creates confusion in the matrimonial proceedings
- The facts that persuade a Kazi to issue a certificate has not been set out.
 Supreme Court may hear plea on tax relief for political parties
- A writ petition has been filed to declaresome provisions in the Income-Tax Actof 1961 and the Representation of the People Actof 1951 as unconstitutional
What are those sections?
- Section 13A of the Income-Tax Act of Section 29 of the Representation of the People Act.
What they do?
- These sections give 100 per cent tax exemption to political parties.
- The petition has questioned the logic behind the fact that ordinary citizens are taxed while the political parties enjoyed tax exemption.
- In the recent demonetization move, the Finance secretary has exempted the political parties from any inquiry for deposit of old notes. The petition contended this move.
- The petition also asked whether the Constitution recognizes the need for a political party membership for membership in Parliament and State Legislative Council and Assembly
The petitioner also complained that the parties does not do social and moral service but are only at the root of corruption.
INTERNATIONAL [The Hindu]
 Kenya for enhanced ties with India
President Uhuru Kenyatta visited India for Vibrant Gujarat summit and he arrived in Delhi to meet our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kenyatta has asked India to deepen its multilateral cooperation and invest in Kenya in Agriculture, Security and Health sectors.
- Kenya invited India to engage more actively in the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa).
- Both the countries arrived at an agreement on a Line of Credit of 100 million for agricultural mechanization
- Both the leaders also reviewed progress on the commitments they agreed upon during our Prime Minister’s 2015 visit to Kenya. One example is Rift Valley Textiles Factory (RIVATEX) which is being upgraded at present with a fund of USD 30 million
India invited Kenya to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA)
United Nations Reforms:
Both the countries agreed to work for reforms in United Nations Security council
- A seat for Africa has been sought by Kenya and it supported India’s attempt to secure a seat in the Security Council
- Africa despite its huge size and complexity does not have a seat in Security Council
- Kenya sought India to work for a unified strategy to combat international security threats and money laundering
- Both the sides agreed to work for an enhanced cooperation in areas of maritime security
India has also invited Kenya to participate in exhibitions like Aero-India and DEFEXPO.
Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
 Elections are not a referendum
Context – The reduction of Assembly elections to a referendum diminishes the political competence of voters to decide what sort of a government they wish to be ruled by.
- Many political parties are propagating the wins and losses in the upcoming electionsas the referendum over the demonetization policy.
- Comparing elections with referendum is not viable.
- And motive of the referendum should be to assess whether citizens are with r against policy.
- Referendum doesn’t make sense after the policy has been implemented.
- The United Kingdom held a referendum last year on whether citizens wish to leave or stay in the European Union.
- The measure enabled citizens to influence subsequent policies of the government. They exercised political choice.
- Ex-post facto referendums are in this sense meaningless.
- If the BJP does not win in politically significant States, the policy of demonetisation will hardly be rolled back.
Implications of depicting elections as referendum
- Reduction of State Assembly elections to a referendum diminishes the political competence of voters to decide what sort of a government they wish to be ruled by.
- Elections, unlike referendums, are not an isolated instance.
- They represent a decisive moment in long-term civic engagement with structures, institutions, and holders of power.
- Voters have to decide whether the government has improved the conditions in which they eke out a livelihood, or worsened them.
Role of civil society
- Citizens have right to know how government arrived at informed and reflective decisions on what should be done.
- The site for the acquisition of political wisdom and competence is civil society
- A non-partisan and non-hysterical media has a crucial role to play in the making of enlightened public opinion.
- Social audits and report cards issued by civil society organisations, which keep anxious watch on acts of omission and commission by the government, are of equal importance.
- The identification of crucial issues, analyses and recommendations by committed activists contribute greatly to the making of political judgment.
- Hence the votes should not be treated as a yes to the policies implemented by the government.
 Fifty days later
Issue – After completion of 50 days Prime Minister Modi announced relief rather than achievements.
On the New Year’s Eve, after completion of 50 days post demonetization, PM Modi announced a relief package for senior citizens, women, farmers and small businesses, essentially those the demonetisation has hit hard.
Usually relief is provided against calamities, accidents, disasters or economic slowdown.
It indicates that the demonetization plan didn’t go as per plan.
What was the process followed in the process of demonetization:-
- On November 7,RBI received a letter from the government containing advice from the government for the RBI to withdraw the legal tender of Rs. 500 and 1000 notes.
- The stated objectives weremitigation of:-
- Terror financing
- And black money
- According to the government advice to RBI to place the matter before board urgently, board met the subsequent afternoon.
- The meeting was attended by 3 of the 10 independent members.
- After considering the proposal, RBI provided its approval.
- Hours later, on the same evening, Mr. Modi obtained his Cabinet’s approval.
- By the mid night, demonetization was brought into effect by the government.
Has it curbed the black money?
- Raiding authorities discovered crores in the rationed new 2,000 notes across the country.
- Suspension of at least four RBI employees and arrests of various bank officials show, the demonetisation has spawned new black markets.
- In the short term it seems that black money market has not been effected by demonetization.
 Missing the Asian tailwind?
Context – How India can surpass China in growth and development
Some historical facts
Till 1757, India was the richest country with its wealth based on textile export.
The loot by British oiled the Industrial Revolution (textile production), and brought about colonization and impoverishment.
In 1950, India was richer than China; now it is a fifth the size of the Chinese economy.
Status of India in Asia
- “Look East Policy” enunciated in 1992 was not been successful.
- While India has invested $500 million in chabahar port of Iran, China has invested $46 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
- Despite investments in Afganistan, India has not been an important country for them.
- Only Bhutan can be considered to be in our “sphere of influence”.
Influence of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative
- Russia and the Central Asian countries are linking their infrastructure to China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR).
- Chinese investment is also attractive to Europe, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar.
- India alone in continental Asia does not support the OBOR, which spans:-
- More than 65 countries, three-quarters of known energy resources,
- Envisages an investment of $4 trillion
- And is estimated to cover two-thirds of the global population and GDP.
US vs China
- The re-emergence of China has limited the ability of the U.S. in setting the global agenda as usual.
- US initiatives like ‘Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership’ and opposing in South China sea to deter China have been failed.
- But there is lesser chances of trade war between both countries due to their structures, with China’s low labor cost manufacturing and US’s using high-efficiency robotics.
- As the U.S., Russia and China have strengths in individual sectors, their relations may well get better.
- New US president is moving away from military alliances to ramping up military superiority based on technological leadership making UN redundant.
- A deal with Russia recognising spheres of influence in Europe and West Asia would make NATO redundant.
- New US president is focusing more on the trade deals rather than the security concerns.
Should India Consider joining OBOR?
- With the changes in the global scenario and importance of the world powers, India should also consider changing its strategies.
- China’s national goal is to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020 for which the OBOR is considered essential.
- China is keen that India join that initiative, providing the opportunity to reset relations.
- We should become a partner in the OBOR adding a “Digital Sustainable Asia” component.
Participation in the OBOR and treating the Line of Control as a “soft border” will be the bold vision needed to exorcise the ghosts of 1757.
ECONOMY [The Hindu]
 World Bank cuts India’s FY17 growth forecast
Context – The World Bank has lowered its growth forecast for India to 7 per cent from 7.6 per cent in 2016-17.
Reasons of slowdown–
- Slowdown in consumption and manufacturing due to demonetisation
- An ongoing decline in private investment
- And credit constraints due to impaired bank balance sheets.
- Weak industrial production and manufacturing
Reforms that can help growth rebound
- Bankruptcy and insolvency code,
- The liberalization of FDI norms across sectors,
- The passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amendment Bill,
- And the agreement between the government and the Reserve Bank of India on a monetary policy framework
- Infrastructure spending should improve the business climate and attract investment in the near-term.
- The ‘Make in India’ campaign may support India’s manufacturing sector, backed by domestic demand and further regulatory reforms.”
Short term problems of demonetization
Demonetization could cause major problems in the short term, like:-
- Slowing reforms
- And affecting smaller economies dependent on the Indian economy
- Disrupting business and household economic activities.
- Effect on trade and remittance channels could also affect growth rates in smaller economies such as Nepal and Bhutan.
 NITI Aayog projects 8% growth rate
Context – NITI Aayog has estimated a growth rate of 8% for 2016-17.
- The 12th Plan is the last five-year Plan
- From 2017-18, the Centre would adopt a three-year action plan and a fifteen-year vision document.
Positives for the economy
- A large number of reforms by the present government over the past two years created a ‘strong foundation’ for such a growth trajectory
Areas to be considered
- NITI Aayog stated that much needed to be done to spell out tax laws clearly so that future investors can assess their liabilities with reasonable certainty.
- “Urgent attention” was needed for simplification of regulatory cum administrative procedures.
- A key lacuna in the Indian growth story has been slow growth of manufacturers in general and labour-intensive manufacturing in particular.
- Sectors in which India lags behind are electronics, food processing, leather, and textiles and garments.
 The ordinance overreach
Context – Supreme Court in Krishna Kumar Singh’s case, has reiterated the principle that re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of the democratic legislative processes.
The reason given for that is that re-promulgation represents an effort to overreach the legislative process.
What was the issue?
- The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance was first promulgated on January 7, 2016, with the ostensible objective of:-
- o Plugging loopholes in the principal act
- o And to ensure that the enemy properties worth thousands of crore do not revert to the legal heirs.
- And this Enemy Property ordinance has been re-promulgated 5th time in the last of 2016.
- The ordinance was issued to frustrate the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Raja Amir Mohammad Khan of Mahmudabadwho won a long and arduous legal battle for his properties.
Rules related to ordinances
- An ordinance under Article 123 of the Constitution shall cease to operate at the expiry of six weeks from the reassembly of the Parliament.
- It may also cease to operate before the expiry of the period of six weeks if a resolution disapproving it is passed by Parliament.
Effect of the ordinance
- Government has attempted to nullify the judgment, decree or order of any Court by inserting Section 8A (1) in the ordinance.
- Section 8A (1) empowers the custodian to dispose of “enemy properties” whether by sale or otherwise notwithstanding any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or authority.
- The government, by re-promulgating the Enemy Property ordinance for a record fifth time, has converted the emergent power under Article 123 into a source of parallel law-making
What was the SC judgement?
- Supreme Court, in Union of India and Anr. v. Raja Mohd. Amir Mohd. Khan had held that:-
- “The Respondent who was born in India and his Indian citizenship not being in question cannot by any stretch of imagination be held to be an enemy or enemy subject”.
- The ordinance removes the substratum of the judgment of the Supreme Court which is binding law under Article 141 of the Constitution.
Why this attempt was wrong?
- This attempt by the government to re-promulgate ordinances in the absence of parliamentary approval, is contrary to the intent of our founding fathers and the mandate of the Constitution.
- Constituent Assembly (CA) during the debates was of the opinion that the said power ought not to be exercised merely to circumvent a failure to muster support in the legislature.
- Situations where ordinance route may be taken:-
- o Article 123 and 213 of the Constitution will be taken in emergent circumstances when the legislature is not in session
- o and extraordinary circumstances warrant the exercise of authority
- The satisfaction of the president at the time of the promulgation of an ordinance is within the purview of judicial review.
- Parliamentary supremacy and the power of judicial review are the cornerstone of our democratic republic.
- And these types of re-promulgations are threat to the sovereignty of the parliament.
 What we need to guard
The US Supreme Court has deduced rights of privacy and parenthood.
A similar approach has been adopted by Irish courts in the Republic of Ireland
Approach by Indian SC
India’s SC has also deduced fundamental rights which are not specifically mentioned in theconstitution.
This step of SC was based on the principle that certain unarticulated rights are implicit in the enumerated guarantees.
Freedom of the press has been deduced on the ground that it is implicit in the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression.
The right to travel abroad and return to one’s country has been spelt out from the expression “personal liberty” in Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Court has also ruled that right to education until the age of 14 is a fundamental right emanating from the all-pervasive Article 21.
What our constitution makers believed?
Our Constituent Assembly believed that:-
- Fundamental rights are not merely a gift from the state to its citizens.
- Individuals possess basic human rights independently of any Constitution.
- A Constitution does not “confer” fundamental rights. It confirms their existence and accords them protection.
Restrictions on the fundamental rights:-
- No fundamental right is absolute.
- Every Constitution provides for restriction of fundamental rights in general public interest.
- However, the restriction imposed should not be excessive or disproportionate.
Supreme Court judgement
State of Madras v. V.G. Rao in March 1952 emphasized that:-
If the impugned legislation violated a fundamental right it would have to be struck down because as regards “fundamental rights”, the Court has been assigned the role of a protector.
Attacks on the fundamental rights and
Fundamental right of freedom of expression and personal liberty are the favorite targets of authoritarian regimes.
Serious violations of fundamental rights occur during emergencies.
Excuse given is that fundamental rights are required to be suspended temporarily in order that the nation may survive.
Achievements of PIL
A notable step towards protecting the fundamental rights of the individuals is the instrument of PIL.
- Numerous prisoners languishing in jails inordinately awaiting trial have been released;
- Persons treated like “serfs” and held in bondage have secured freedom and have been rehabilitated;
- Conditions of inmates in care homes and in asylums for the insane; and of workers in stone quarries and brick kilns, have been ameliorated.
PIL has a salutary effect on administration which knows that it has to conform to the discipline of fundamental rights.
 Should Hear Them
Context:-Governor of RBI will soon be briefing the committee on finance on the impact of demonetization and giving evidence to the public accounts committee on the monetary policy of the country.
In the past too, in June 2016, RaghuramRajan had briefed the finance committee on the state of the economy, the role of RBI and the banking sector in the country.
Structure and responsibilities of the committees:-
- The public accounts committee of Parliament has been in existence since 1921, while the departmentally related committeeswere given final shape in the early nineties.
- Members of Parliament from both houses are part of these committees.
- They scrutinize:-
- Legislative proposals initiated by a ministry,
- Government demands for grants, annual reports,
- Long-term policy documents presented to Parliament
These committees do the heavy lifting of parliamentary oversight of government functioning.
Committees are empowered to call witnesses to give evidence and produce required documents.
Proceedings behind closed doors:-
- These committees meet in the private.
- Their meetings are only open to the members or anyone who is invited.
- The deliberations of the committee are confidential.
- Evidence tendered before it is usually kept secret and made public only after the committee presents its report.
Benefits of privacy
- It promotes the free exchange of ideas between participating MPs.
- The absence of cameras live telecasting its proceedings discourages political grandstanding.
Open proceedings in western countries
- This logic of free exchange of ideas does not apply for keeping the testimony of individuals before committees’ secret.
- In the US, statements made before committees of Congress are open to the public and are also telecast live.
- The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, routinely testifies before committees of the House of Representatives.
- In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons publishes a calendar of select committee meetings which are open to the public.
Examples of open proceedings in India
Last year, a committee of the Delhi Vidhan Sabha looking at irregularities in sports administration bodies of cricket and hockey allowed the press to view its proceedings.
In 2008, the Goa Vidhan Sabha had also opened up its committee meetings to both the public and press.
In the 13th Lok Sabha, the chairman of the joint committee examining the Stock Market Scam briefed the press at the end of each committee meeting.
How it should be done?
The proceedings of the committees can be opened in multiples ways:-
- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha television to telecast the testimony of witnesses.
- Publication of the transcript of testimony.
- Allowing the general public to view evidence proceedings of committees.
Rules of parliament
- Rule 269 of the rules of procedure of the Lok Sabha gives the chairman of a committee the discretion to allow evidence presented before it to either be treated as confidential or made public.
- It takes a minimum of three months to finalise the report of a parliamentary committee.
- The current rules can be amended to enable uploading of the evidence given before the committees before the final report is published.
- These changes will have to be tempered to assure individuals that they can testify freely before committees.
 Rain shadow south
Issue:-Recently, Tamil Nadu declared a drought.
North-East monsoon failure
- North East monsoon with 45.2 percent below normal rainfall has failed in southern peninsula, including Tamil Nadu.
- This is the worst since the 48.3 per cent deficit recorded in 2011.
- South India’s combined reservoir levels were 22 percentage points less than the average water availability over the past 10 years, in the end of 2016.
- Tamil Nadu, Kerala and south interior Karnataka and coastal Karnataka had already reported respective shortfalls of 19 per cent, 34 per cent, 21 per cent and 21 per cent during the southwest monsoon.
- Corresponding deficits of 62 per cent, 61 per cent, 70 per cent and 63 per cent reported for the northeast season makes matters worse for these regions.
- There are serious implications of this failure for crops like paddy and coconut and will impact milk and sugar production, especially in Karnataka.
- It may also accentuate inter-state river disputes, especially the sharing of Cauvery waters.
- Tamil Nadu had targeted 14.5 lakh hectares under rice in 2016-17, but barely seven lakh hectares was under the plough by January 5.
- The shortfall will also impact livelihoods and have repercussions on the mechanisms to deal with crop failure.
 Demonetisation and monetary policy
The reasons for demonitisation are non-economic. The recent demonetisation in India can be viewed as part of experiments with monetary policy around the world. It undermines the independence of Central Banks
The Global Growth:
- Global growth has remained largely uneven before the Industrial Revolution and without technological innovations the average growth rate is less than 1% per annum
- The periods of growth were not continuous. They had sharp declines in between as well
- Global growth rose dramatically to average 3.8% between 1950 and 2014.
The following factors are responsible for this growth in world economy
- Initially America came out of Great Depression during world war economic efforts
- Later Europe and Japan during Post war economic reconstruction and boom
- The growth was sustained by the development of East Asia,
- More recently China and India contributed to the growth
The remarkable fact that the global economy has not seen a single year of negative growth after 1950 can be ascribed to advances in monetary policy.
Changes in Economic Policies:
- The macroeconomic policy was initially limited by the gold standard. But in 1970, the world dropped the gold standard and added currencies as a new tool for expanding and contracting money supply at will. This resulted in Hyperinflation.
- As financial markets developed, advanced economies moved away from monetary aggregates to the overnight policy interest rate as the chief instrument to modulate the demand and supply of money
Three separate developments exposed the vulnerability of central banks
- Ageing and declining productivity growth
- Monetary Policy overreach
The Bank of Japan deployed quantitative easing (QE) to stimulate growth when policy interest rates became zero. QE helped stabilize financial markets in 2008-09, but later they became less effective
Unconventional monetary policies have produced the best results but it had negative consequences. Macroeconomic policies must be combined with structural policy and reform to make them effective. Central banks must return to a time when monetary policy did not have much role and was focused on financial markets and growth stability.