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Daily Editorials

Daily Editorials

This Series of posts covers the essential Editorial from prominent newspapers. The Editorial from the newspapers are compiled by the Subject Teachers form the Academy and provided in notes format so that the aspirants does not waste their precious time in sifting through the newspapers.

Sr. No Document Title Attached Document Description
1 Powering up food No document Available

Context:

FSSAI has brought guidelines with respect to food fortification to address the micro-nutrient deficiency in India

Important Points:

  • As per WHO estimates, deficiency of key micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A and iodine together affects a third of the world’s population; in general, there is insufficient consumption of vitamins and minerals
  • Since a diversified diet that meets all nutritional requirements is difficult to provide, many countries rely on food fortification to prevent malnutrition
  • In India, processed foods with standards-based fortification can help advance overall health goals, starting with maternal health.
  • Firstly, iron-fortified food should be made widely available, since iron deficiency contributes to 20% of maternal deaths and is associated with nearly half of all maternal deaths. 
  • Malnutrition extends to the children that anaemic women give birth to, characterised by low birth weight, poor development and lower cognitive abilities, and such children are generally born pre-term.
  • Low intake of vitamins, zinc and folate also causes a variety of health issues, particularly when growing children are deprived.
  • Fortification, along with a focus on adequate intake of oils and fats, which are necessary for the absorption of micronutrients, can lead to maximum benefits.
  • FSSAI has introduced fortification standards but now must enforce them. The FSSAI plans to get local flour mills to add premixed nutrients
  • Making affordable, good quality fortified foods, through standardised processes, and distributing them through a well-functioning public distribution system is the best channel to target those most in need.
  • This will provide near to medium-term gains. In the long term, public health goals on prevention and elimination of nutritional deficiencies should aim at encouraging people to adopt a diversified and wholesome diet.
  • Recent studies show that, in case of children, adding zinc to food during the six months to 12 years growth period reduced the risk of death from infectious diseases and all causes put together.
  • Children, including those in school, should get a wholesome cooked meal that is naturally rich, and augmented with vegetables, fruits, and dairy.
  • However, it is important that food regulation views the issue of affordability as a central concern, because unaffordable fortified food would defeat the very purpose of fortification.

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2 Lokpal and the law No document Available

Context:

The Supreme Court has ruled that the existing Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 is workable and the selection committee shall go ahead and appoint a Lokpal

Important Points:

  • The government has delayed setting up a Lokpal citing inadequacies in the law, stating that a parliamentary standing committee’s report on proposed amendments to the Lokpal law is still under consideration
  • The main amendment that is needed, as argued by the government, is that of considering the leader of the largest party in opposition as the Leader of Opposition for the sake of participation in the selection panel of the Lokpal
  • The Supreme Court has refuted the Centre’s stand stating that the existing Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 is good to go arguing that the fact that some amendments have been proposed and a parliamentary panel has submitted a report do not constitute a legal bar on enforcing the existing law
  • The court has noted that the Act provides for the selection committee to make appointments even in situations of a vacancy in the committee.
  • An amendment is pending since 2014 that would allow considering the leader of the largest opposition party as the Leader of Opposition for selection of a Lokpal, despite provisions relating to the selection of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Central Bureau of Investigation Director having been amended to the same effect.
  • A simple way of resolving the impasse was to recognise the Congress party leader in the Lok Sabha as the Leader of the Opposition.
  • A 1977 Act on the salary of the Opposition Leader defines the position as the leader of the largest party in the opposition and recognised as such by the Speaker. 
  • In the face of this simple procedure, such a delay is inexplicable.
  • What this essentially implies is that the country does not have an anti-corruption ombudsman, not due to any legal hurdle but due to the absence of political will.

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3 Murder at noon No document Available

Context:

The meeting of the NITI Aayog Governing Council chaired by the Prime Minister amidst a climate of attacks by so-called “gau rakshaks” on people from minority community

Important Points:

  • The 12th Five Year Plan ended on March 31, 2017 and with it was expected that a new era of cooperative federalism would kick in with a three-year action plan, which was to be a part of a seven-year strategy that would in turn help realise a 15-year long-term vision, all under the guidance of NITI Aayog but fulfilled by the states.
  • However, in the recent meeting of the NITI Aayog Governing Council, a draft action agenda for the three years till 2019-20 was handed out to CMs, with 300 specific action points. This agenda is meant to be the first step towards attaining the envisioned outcomes by 2031-32. 
  • Some optimistic numerical extrapolation by the Aayog has led to assumptions of 8% growth annually leading to a rise in India’s GDP by ?332 lakh crore in the next 15 years.
  • However, without a larger strategy and vision in place, the three-year action plan is likely to be more of an abstract wish list.
  • The Chief Ministers will now evaluate and revert on this and until this is done there is policy vacuum in India.
  • To make cooperative federalism truly effective, the Council must more often and not after a gap of two years like it happened now.
  • However, along with this vision and agenda for growth what is required is securing the rights of individuals so that it can lead to development.
  • Economic growth turns meaningless in the face of extra-legal attacks in the name of cow vigilantism by goons taking law in their own hands. Not just this, it is the impunity with which they get away while targeting a particular community and breaking the law that is worrisome.
  • The state becomes complicit in this by going easy on the attackers and filing an FIR against the victims as well. This deteriorating condition of law and order is not just a concern for BJP-ruled states but also other states as such action tendencies could spread to other areas, from Rajasthan and UP now, and stoke fears and anxiety of the minority community.
  • Growth cannot be separated from development and “development” is a meaningless catchword unless the state guarantees that the right to safety, security and dignity of all citizens will be protected.

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4 Tale of two sections No document Available

Context:

A case had been filed against MS Dhoni under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for appearing in the likeness of a deity on the cover of a magazine.

Important Points:

  • The Supreme Court while exempting MS Dhoni from appearance during proceedings resorted to the interpretation given to Section 295A by a Constitution Bench in 1957, that it only “punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion when it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class”.
  • At a time when the country is at its most sensitive and ready to take offence at the slightest bit, it is time the lower courts stop taking cognizance of such trivial or vexatious cases filed on the grounds of being offensive to religion, caste, community, cultural group.
  • A similar provision is section 153A of the Indian Penal Code that seeks to punish those who promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language, and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.
  • This has been misused to harass writers and artists and cast a chill on free expression.
  • These laws, albeit secular in nature because they apply to all religions, are highly subjective in nature. There is no guessing what will cause insult/offence to a community and what the judge will find scandalous.
  • Both of them being misused, overused and the arbitrariness in their use lead to something called a “marketplace of outrage” — an economy that feeds on anger and hostility.
  • What we need is for them to be read down, their scope narrowed in a way that moral vigilantes and those who claim to be emotional victims can no longer exploit the law to serve their narrow chauvinistic ends.
5 Beacons curb: Red, blue, ordinary No document Available

Context:

End of use of red-beacons; blue-beacons allowed on emergency vehicles only

Important Points:

  • The Union Cabinet led by the PM has decided to amend the Central Motor Vehicles Rules of 1989 so that the Central and State governments lose the power to nominate categories of persons for the red-beacon distinction.
  • From May 1 onwards, only vehicles on emergency services, such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars, will be permitted the use of a blue beacon.
  • This dismantling of the use of red beacons, symbolising the VIP cult in the country, is a welcome move.
  • Red-beacons atop vehicles in India signifies that one has “made it”, be it political class or the bureaucracy. As a corollary, disallowing the use of red beacons makes the government appear pro-masses, as highlighted by the decisions taken by state assemblies of Delhi, Punjab and U.P.
  • However, the symbolic manifestation of ruler-subject hierarchy is visible in other forms such as privileges and exemptions offered at airport security checks and toll plazas.
  • Apart from this, officialdom or proximity to it manifests in the form of other services such as securing a bed at a state hospital, or a seat for one’s child in school, to cutting the waiting time for a passport.
  • This culture of being a VIP has to be demolished from the minds of the power-holders as well as the masses. Only then will our democracy guarantee a level playing field to all its citizens.
  • Alas, incidents such as the one involving Mr. Gaekwad and the impunity with which they are let off do no good to the government’s efforts of ending VIP culture
6 Lines of defence for using EVMs No document Available

Context:

The Election Commission has asked the government to release funds to be used for the manufacture of VVPAT EVMs

Important Points:

  • The EC had successfully brushed aside complaints of BSP and AAP after their electoral losses but a clutch of other parties have joined the chorus and hence the EC has asked the government to urgently release the money required for getting the process of manufacturing of VVPAT EVMs started, for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
  • The use of VVPAT EVMs across India would require roughly 16 lakh such machines costing about Rs 3,174 crore in manufacturing costs.
  • The EC has repeatedly assured voters that there are enough procedural and technical safeguards to prevent large-scale tampering or manipulation of EVMs.

Technical security features

  • Since 2006, elections have witnessed the use of upgraded EVMs — Model 2 machines, with security features such as dynamic coding of key codes on ballot units and their transfer as messages to the control unit in an encrypted manner. 
  • EVMs feature encoded software that is burnt one-time on to programmable chips, enabling them to be used as stand-alone machines rather than computer-connected units, thus preventing any hacking by remote devices.
  • Model 3 machines produced after 2013 have additional features such as tamper detection.

Procedural security features

  • Locking and storing EVMs before and after polling, besides functional checks and tests in the presence of representatives of political parties.

Analysis:

  • Paper trails were supposed to corroborate the votes polled in certain constituencies only and was not conceived as something to be taken up at a pan-India scale. Hence, the exercise of having VVPAT EVMs pan-India seems unnecessary and expensive.
  • The addition of the VVPAT machine to the process is to allow for cross-checking of EVM results through a paper audit, completing another layer of accountability, in addition to technical and procedural safeguards.
  • Contrary to claims by political parties, studies show the introduction of EVMs has resulted in a drastic reduction in electoral fraud (rigging, stuffing of ballot boxes, etc.) and allowed for greater voter participation.
7 HIV/AIDS Bill No document Available

Context:

Passing of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill

Important Points:

  • The population of HIV/AIDS infected people in India is estimated at 21 lakh.
  • The legislation empowers those who have contracted the infection in a variety of ways: such as protecting against discrimination in employment, education, health-care services, getting insurance and renting property. 
  • Data for 2015 published by the Ministry show that two-thirds of HIV-positive cases are confined to seven States, while three others have more than one lakh cases each.
  • Centre should initiate active public consultations to draw up the guidelines to govern the operation of the law. The West has a history of community involvement in policymaking for HIV/AIDS
  • The Supreme Court has played its role by ruling against patent extensions on frivolous grounds, putting the generic drugs industry, which is very crucial for HIV treatment, on a firm footing. 

Critical Analysis:

  • The said Bill does not guarantee access to anti-retroviral drugs and treatment for opportunistic infections. On this ground, the affected community are disappointed.
  • The law enjoins the States to provide access “as far as possible”.
  • The onus is now on states to show political will for its effective implementation and appoint ombudsman to look into complaints of violations.
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare noted that State rules should prescribe a reasonable time limit for inquiries into complaints.
  • To achieve Goal 3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals — to “end the epidemic of AIDS” (among others) by 2030 — a rapid scaling up of interventions to prevent new cases and to offer free universal treatment is critical. 
  • Publicly funded insurance is required to bring this subset of care-seekers into the overall risk pool.
8 Kulbushan Jadhav death sentence No document Available

Context:

The decision of a Pakistani military court finding Mr. Kulbushan Jadhav guilty of espionage and fomenting protests in Baluchistan against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Important Points:

  • A Field General Court Martial has sentenced to death former Indian naval officer Kulbushan Jadhav on the grounds of espionage
  • The entire prosecution process was very secretive and there are glaring holes in the procedures followed.
  • The so-called confession tapes of Mr. Jadhav belie the fact that he was tutored for the same and beyond this self-confession no further evidence has been presented by Pakistan despite multiple requests by the Indian government for consular access.
  • Human rights organizations have also condemned the opaque nature of the process and for justice to prevail Mr Jadhav should be given a re-trial in a civil court
  • This kind of a step from Pakistan only exposes the failure of bilateral interaction between the two nations. There are no backchannels where communication may take place and such tensions de-escalated.
  • Indian government has refused talks with Pakistan after the Pathankot attacks in January last year.
  • The response to such a situation has to be firm and three-pronged: impress upon Pakistan not to carry out the hanging, explain to the international community the flaws in the trial process and send interlocutors to Pakistan to open backchannels for diplomatic engagement.
9 Sheikh Hasina India visit / Second Best Friend No document Available

Context:

PM Ms. Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi and the conclusion of a few important agreements except for one on Teesta

Important Points:

  • PM Modi has assured the visiting PM of Bangladesh Ms. Sheikh Hasina of an early resolution to the Teesta water dispute. It highlights India’s commitment to conclude an agreement for the same for which a framework was initialled in 2011.
  • India’s steady improvement of ties with Bangladesh started during the tenure of PM Manmohan Singh wherein agreements on cooperation on terrorism, and the frameworks for the land swap and water-sharing arrangements were signed.
  • This need for bipartisanship was stressed on by Ms. Hasina and this is exactly what we need to come up with a solution for Teesta, just like we passed the Constitutional Amendment Act for the Land Boundary Agreement.
  • Taking the energy and synergy forward, the two PMs have concluded agreements on energy cooperation and connectivity, in the field of private investment, an MoU on a framework for defence cooperation – essentially formalised existing arrangements for defence exchanges, military training and high-level defence visits, and an agreement of cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy which endorsed the existing training programmes for Bangladeshi scientists at Indian facilities.
  • India’s has also announced further lines of credit of $5 billion, including $500 million for defence purchases, the largest such LoC extended to any country so far
  • Other agreements include a bus service that will run between Kolkata, Khulna and Dhaka, a new passenger train service and a new rail link for running goods trains. India will also finance a diesel oil pipeline from Numaligarh to Parbatipur and Indian companies will enter into a long-term agreement for the supply of diesel
  • In a context where China is taking the lead with its Belt & Road initiative, India has chosen well to extend funds to rebuild old railway lines, and construct bridges, power plants, ports and roads in Bangladesh
  • Plans to revive inland waterway channels are also under way, and hold the potential to increase connectivity with Nepal and Bhutan
  • These will not only improve connectivity with Bangladesh but with India, the North-East, as well.
  • PM Modi remarked that India’s allocation for Bangladesh had reached $8 billion in the last 6 years, which pales as compared to the $24 billion offered by President Xi last year when Bangladesh endorsed his One Belt One Road initiative. India might not be able to match the economic clout of China and so for that reason it becomes all the more important to resolve the Teesta issue to generate goodwill for India in the people of Bangladesh.
  • It is imperative to find an amicable solution to the issue to truly transform Indo-Bangladesh ties.
10 US missile attack on Syria No document Available

Context:

US missile attack on a Syrian airbase

Important Points:

  • President Trump ordered the launch of Tomahawk missiles on Syria after news broke of the use of chemical weapons by Syria in Khan Shaykhun.
  • This bombing of Syria is a departure from President Obama’s policy who desisted from bombing because he wanted to focus on eliminating ISIS from Iraq and Syria and secondly he did not want to get into direct confrontation with Russia which backs the regime of President Assad.
  • When the dust settles around President Trump’s move, the question that will need to be asked is whether the bombing has had any deterrence effect on Syria or has it mitigated the pains of Syrians in the long run or has it brought the civil war to an end?
  • Trump did not wait for the UN to investigate the chemical attack in Syria and launched missiles despite the UN charter clearly stating that any attack on another country need approval by the Security Council. President Trump could have used the time taken for investigation to build consensus over Syria.
  • Instead, by attacking he has pushed Moscow in a deeper embrace with Damascus, wherein Moscow has sent a warship to the Mediterranean and has threatened to halt a direct line between the defence ministers of USA and Russia that was established to avoid any direct confrontation in Syria.
  • The Syrian crisis – which has political, sectarian, geopolitical dimensions – has no quick fix solution. The focus of the international community should be on ending the war, with or without replacing the regime of Mr. Assad.
11 Track to efficiency No document Available

Context:

The government has announced the formation of a Rail Development Authority

Important Points:

  • The proposed Authority would have to ensure that the resources of the system are optimally utilised, overcoming existing inefficiencies that arise from the fact that policy, regulatory and management functions of the railways are intertwined. 
  • The centralisation of all functions in the Railway Board has proved detrimental to the organisation’s growth.
  • There is a need for investment in railway infrastructure as the growing economy has further raised the demand for railway services.
  • This is necessary to reverse the trend of declining rates of growth in railway freight revenues and volumes, set during 2011-12.
  • A big challenge for the centre is to facilitate higher non-budgetary investment in the railways.
  • The Bibek Debroy committee had also noted that private investments are not forthcoming due to the monopolistic structure of the railways.
  • There are several areas where development can take place – using IT to better deliver traditional services leading to greater efficiencies, regulation of tariff to match the quality of travel, optimization of freight tariffs.
  • Europe in the 1990’s separated infrastructure and operations in its railway management. This could be an interesting way of bringing about sustainable results.
12 RBI Monetary Policy No document Available

Context:

The Monetary Policy Review by the RBI

Important Points:

  • In the monetary policy review announced yesterday, while keeping the monetary policy stance neutral, the RBI has raised the reverse repo rate (the rate at which the RBI borrows money from the banks) by 25 basis points to 6%.
  • This marginal change is aimed at sucking out from the system excess liquidity
  • The RBI has also proposed a new liquidity management tool that awaits government approval, making the draining of surplus liquidity a critical priority all through this year. Its success will, however, depend on the inflationary pressures the economy has to deal with.
  • Improved prospects in the world economy and a discretionary consumer spending at home, the RBI is positive about the growth potential of the economy, projecting it at 7.4% in terms of Gross-Value Added.
  • The RBI Governor, in his address, has cautioned about the following
    • The urgency to resolve the problem of bad loans on the banks’ books
    • The need for more capital for recapitalisation of banks than the allocated Rs 10,000 crore
    • The need and the scope for banks to further cut lending rates
    • The need to eschew loan waivers of the kind just announced in Uttar Pradesh that could crowd out private investments and dent the nation’s balance sheet
13 In largesse we trust – (The Hindu) No document Available

Context:

Farm-loan waivers announced by CM Yogi Adityanath

Important Points:

  • In his first decision as the CM of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath has approved farm loan waiver scheme, as promised by the BJP in its manifesto, and the same is set to cost the exchequer Rs 36,000 crore.
  • In another story, the Madras High Court has asked the Tamil Nadu government to extend a similar farm-loan waiver scheme in the state and the TN government having spent Rs 5,780 crore for the farm-loan waivers will need to spend another Rs 2,000 crore.
  • All this while our investments in agriculture remain abysmally low. U.P. invested just 2.3% of its total expenditure in agriculture in 2016-17.

Analysis:

  • By this approach, the promise made by the PM of doubling farmer incomes by 2022 stands belied.
  • Such steps could start a countrywide clamour of farmers asking for farm-loan waivers and political parties indulging their demands to reap political dividends.
  • Such moves on the part of politicians hurt the credit discipline that banks want to inculcate in the borrowers, with the SBI chief having already warned against such schemes.
  • Governments have shown little patience to make agriculture a sustainable activity. Linkages to formal market – credit, supply chain, investments are all dimensions where there is ample scope for improvement.
  • Writing off loans creates moral hazard for borrowers, whereby they take loans more than they think they are capable of paying back in the hope that the government in later day would write them off.
  • This could prod the banks away from loaning to farmers to Rural Infrastructure Development Funds, and then the framers would be left at the mercy of the money-lenders.
  • All this is taking us back to the 20th century wherein we are not making use of the tools of the 21st century – satellite imagery, GPS devices, drones – to assess damage and settle claims but rather extending blanket waivers.
14 GST’s last and critical lap No document Available

Context:

The four enabling GST laws have been passed by the Parliament. Now, we must arrange goods and services in the tax slabs keeping in mind the true spirit behind GST.

Important Points:

  • The four GST laws have been passed by the Parliament and tax slabs decided – 0 (exempted), 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. The maximum cess of 15% has been decided to be applied on demerit goods such as tobacco, aerated beverages, luxury cars etc.
  • Now we must keep the following things in mind
  • The rate structure of the GST has already become more complex than it should’ve been and so now the damage must be limited. In this context, the attempt should not be to move as little as possible from status-quo because than the passing of the GST belies its utility.
  • Rates now decided and goods now classified will remain so for a considerable time and must be done carefully.
  • GST classification should facilitate compliance, minimize inflationary pressures and be a buoyant source of revenue
  • The GST is a consumption tax, so any difference of tax rate should only be intended to protect the consumption basket of poor.
  • Also, the 28% tax rate is considerably higher than what any other developing countries levy and so in this regard the number of goods kept in this bracket should be as minimal as possible – consisting of no services and only demerit goods such as ACs and luxury cars
  • As a corollary, the pressure by the states to keep more and more goods in the lower brackets of 5% and 12% should also be resisted as that puts pressure to add more goods to the basket of 28%
  • It is desired that a majority of the goods and services be taxed at 18%, so that the distinction between goods and services, for tax purposes, is made redundant. Tax authorities should not be burdened with distinguishing a good from a service.
  • Industries such as textiles, leather-based should be charged uniform tax rates across their entire value chains. – from raw materials to intermediate to final goods
  • Gold and jewellery should be considered a luxury item and be charged 18% tax-rates. Today, even though the total headline tax on jewellery is 2% (1% by the centre and 1% by the states), the effective burden faced by consumers is about 10-12% because of cascading and non-availability of input tax credits. So there would be no increase in burden if the GST rate is set at 12% (with free flow on input tax credits). 
  • Bidis should be treated at par with other tobacco products and be taxed heavily.
  • Currently, numerous exemptions are granted on countervailing duty (CVD) and special additional duty (SAD) levied on imports which favour imports over domestic production. Under the GST, both will be combined and a uniform IGST will be applied on imports.
  • If any import IGST exemptions are allowed under the GST (to mimic the current CVD and SAD exemptions) that would make a mockery of the Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative.
  • GST suffers from weaknesses largely related to the exemption of so many items from its scope: alcohol, petroleum, electricity, land and real estate, health and education.
15 Wine and Whimper No document Available

Context:

Banning of sale of liquor by outlets that fall within 500m of the highways

Important Points:

  • The SC had passed an order banning sale of alcohol within 500m from state highways.
  • It has now further clarified the order by stating that this ban will be imposed not just on retail outlets but also on bars, hotels and clubs.
  • Such a move is draconian in its sweep and one feels that the court hasn’t thought it out well.
  • It is relatively easier for retail outlets to move out of the 500m radius without significant loss of clientele but the same cannot be said for bars and hotels.
  • Also, these outlets serve alcohol to residents of cities and that is different from drunk drivers on highways and the court has overlooked this distinction.
  • This move also adversely affects the stay-in hotel guests who would no longer be able to have alcohol as such hotels wouldn’t be allowed to serve.
  • There would be a significant loss to the government as well due to lower revenue collection from liquor which forms a major part of the kitty.
  • This could also push the legal drinking activity underground.
  • Many UTs will be severely hit. Some have already started thinking of way outs. Chandigarh has declared all state roads as urban roads to sidestep this order. Puducherry is caught between the sea and the highway. Goa will find some relief because of the limit of 200m in case of population below 20,000 but it stands to lose about a third of its business.
  • What we need is enforcement of existing laws and not sweeping diktats from the court.

If weak enforcement of laws could be overcome by stricter laws, then judicial officers might as well replace law-enforcers.

16 Connected by air No document Available

Context:

UDAN scheme to connect the untapped cities to mainstream flight network

Important Points:

  • To spur regional flights up to distance of 800km, the government launched the UDAN scheme which will now put another 43 cities on the flight map.
  • 12 of these cities are those where limited but irregular flights operate and 31 are those where there are airports but no flight connectivity.
  • UDAN scheme offers viability gap funding to airlines to operate on these unconnected routes.
  • As a result of first round of bidding, 128 routes have been added to the network, adding 6.5 lakh seats at a cost to government of Rs 200 crore.
  • The flight tariff has been capped at Rs 2500/- for a one hour flight for at least half the seats.
  • Aviation activity leads to significant multiplier effects in terms of employment generation and investment spurring local economies.
  • The next step now would be to look at options to de-congest major city airports so that they are not clogged by the now added traffic.
  • With major foreign players expressing interest in operation of large airports, the aviation sector is witnessing renewed interest.
17 A clean-up Act No document Available

Context: 

The Supreme Court has banned the sale and registration of vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant, from April 1, 2017 onwards.

Important Points:

  • The Supreme Court argued that public health takes primacy over the commercial interests of certain manufacturers.
  • It said that automobile makers had ample time to prepare for transition to BS-IV from April 1 onwards and their pipeline inventory is their own doing.
  • On the part of manufacturers, they had hoped that like the transition from BS-II to BS-II, this time too it would be protracted over a few months.
  • But the SC axe falling on them has left them with a stock of about 8.34 lakh vehicles, primarily two-wheelers and commercial vehicles. Car-makers had switched over to BS-IV norms gradually.
  • Not allowing these 8 lakh vehicles on the roads along with already existing 19 crore such vehicles might not bring about huge emission control, but it is an important decision for the signal it sends across.
  • Now, the onus is on the government to ensure uniform BS-IV quality fuel in the entire country, not just because the newer engines cannot run on older quality fuel but also because the government must also show it’s seriousness to reduce emissions.
  • The next logical step in this process is for the industry to prepare, and the government to facilitate, for the direct jump from BS-IV emission standards to BS-VI emission standards by April 1, 2020.
18 The modern way No document Available

Context:

The passage of Mental Healthcare Bill and the repealing the Mental Health Act of 1987 will potentially help India catch up with the advances made in the field by other countries.

Important Points:

  • India faces an uphill task in terms of provision of mental health services for mental healthcare patients.
  • We have 0.3 psychiatrists for 100,000 people (with marginally higher numbers taking independent private practitioners into account), compared to China’s 1.7
  • There are massive deficiencies in the availability of trained clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers.
  • The National Mental Health Programme has not been sufficiently funded within the health budget
  • There are important provisions in the bill relating to recognition of the right to medical treatment, decriminalisation of attempted suicide, explicit acceptance of agency of people with mental illness and their freedom to choose treatments, prohibition of discrimination and regulation of establishments working in the field.
  • Due to low base of psychiatrists in relation to their need, the use of trained general practitioners as the first line of contact is important
  • With a concerted effort, primary care physicians can be trained to help people with mild and severe problems, ranging from anxiety disorders to depression, psychoses and conditions arising from alcohol and substance abuse. 
  • Extending health insurance cover is also a step forward
  • The provision in the new legislation prohibiting seclusion of patients, something that is frequently resorted to in asylums, and the general use of electro-convulsive therapy is welcome.
19 Unique distinction No document Available

Context:

The use, misuse, overuse of Aadhaar and its legal fate

Important Points:

  • Recently, the government made amendments to the Finance Bill of 2017 making Aadhaar mandatory for all applications for PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards and filing of income tax returns. 
  • Last week the Department of Telecommunications directed all telecom service providers to re-verify the credentials of their nearly 100 crore subscribers through an Aadhaar-based, electronically authenticated Know Your Customer process within a year.
  • The Supreme Court reiterated its position on Aadhaar stating that no beneficiary of a welfare scheme shall be denied benefits due to her for want of an Aadhaar number but the government is free to “press” for Aadhaar for ‘non-welfare’ transactions or activities including filing income tax returns, opening bank accounts or getting a mobile phone connection.
  • The SC’s observation dispels some ambiguity and sets the stage for the 12-digit Unique Identification (UID) numbers being used as the basic identity proof for all residents

 Analysis:

  • There are some concerns over the privacy of the data so collected. We need an effective law to mitigate that risk.
  • The apex court has now to take a call whether the process for Aadhaar enrolment is violative of the right to privacy.
  • The centre for its part should stick to the mandate allowed by the SC’s oral observations yesterday and interim order passed in October 2015 and should not push for Aadhaar identification for availing welfare benefits.
20 Powered by a pause No document Available

Context:

Delay in operationalisation of the 2005 Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement owing to Westinghouse’s financial difficulties and Japan’s procedural issues in ratifying the deal with India

Important Points:

 The government and officials should use this as an opportunity to re-examine the country’s engagement with nuclear energy for future needs.

Concerns over nuclear energy:

  • Cost overruns and delivery delays across the nuclear energy industry has led to near-bankruptcy of Westinghouse; Nuclear manufacturer Areva (in partnership with Mitsubishi) has a similarly precarious position despite hopes of a bailout by the French government.
    • Even Russian supplier Rosatom’s Kudankulam units 1 and 2, in the only foreign collaboration now operational in India, were built in double the time budgeted, while units 3 and 4 could see delays.
  • The cost of importing reactors, relative to those based on indigenous design, is another concern.
  • Land acquisition issues remain, along with the need for large water reservoirs for the reactors, which will only grow if the government goes ahead with its plans for 55 reactors of 63,000 MW in total by 2032.
  • In addition, given concerns about a possible tsunami scenario along the Andhra coast, where many of these reactors are planned, the Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL are looking for options farther inland.

 Analysis:

  • Rapid progress in technology in other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, the collapse of oil prices and the expansion in gas projects as a viable and clean alternative, the promise of nuclear energy has dimmed. 
  • These could also be more cost-effective for a developing country such as India, as the energy can be made available in smaller units, and then built up, unlike nuclear plants where nothing can be transmitted until the whole plant is complete and attains critical status.
  • The risk surrounding nuclear safety is yet to be fully mapped, post-Fukushima.
21 A timely step No document Available

Context:

The government has asked 10 state-owned banks to submit turnaround plans for coming out of the deep distress of NPAs or else forsake any further capital infusion from the government

Important Points:

  • As per RBI’s last Financial Stability Report, risks to the banking sector remain worryingly “high”.
  • The deterioration in asset quality has led to poor profitability and substantial erosion of value of the largest shareholder – the government
  • PSBs saw the proportion of their gross non-performing assets to total advances almost double in the period September 2015 to September 2016 to 11.8%.
  • Commercial lenders in the country, especially the public ones, channel public savings towards productive industrial and infrastructure sectors.
  • The Centre has chosen to include the employees’ unions in the proposed MoUs it intends to enter into with the lenders. This is indicative of the seriousness with which it is approaching the resolution this time around
  • Staff is a direct stakeholder in the health of PSBs; bad health result in job losses for them.

Analysis:

  • In the light of the lack of accountability or incentive to the top management to clean up the balance sheet in case of PSBs, it is befitting the government declare an ultimatum.
  • Also, PSB managements would need to be empowered so that whatever restructuring plans they approve of stressed assets, taking certain losses on the asset value, are not looked suspiciously by vigilance authorities.
  • The government has given a three-year deadline to achieve this turnaround. This assumes significance in the light of the fact that our lenders have to meet Basel-III requirements by March 31, 2019.
22 Cloak of invisibility No document Available

Context:

Very discreetly, the government has brought in amendments through the Finance Bill, 2017 that turn the clock back on the transparency in political funding

Important Points:

  • Till now, companies could only contribute up to 7.5% of their average net profits in the past three financial years to political parties. They were required to disclose in their profit and loss accounts the amount of contributions and the names of political parties to which they were made.
  • The ceiling has now been dropped, paving the way for a firm to deploy unlimited capital into political coffers irrespective of its own financial and operational health. Companies would still have to reveal the extent of their financing of parties, but no longer have to name their preferred parties.

 Analysis:

  • This opens up new avenues for the proliferation of crony capitalism.
  • Pressure could be exerted on a company awaiting government clearances, or a loan restructuring from public or cooperative sector financiers. Even a publicly listed company can set up subsidiaries just to fund parties.
  • This removes any pretence of transparency in the process as the donor will not have to disclose who he paid; the recipient has no such obligation either.
  • This scheme comes along with the proposal to float electoral bonds to give anonymity to political donors.
  • This belies the government’s efforts to make the funding process transparent and its narrative on the same appears hollow in the face of anonymous transactions, unlimited corporate donations, relaxed disclosure norms and the persistence of cash. 
23 Power of a symbol No document Available

Context:

The Election Commission has frozen the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol of the AIADMK amidst competing claims

Important Points:

  • Most of the MPs and MLAs of the AIADMK had stayed with the faction led by Sasikala, but now with the freeze on the election symbol, it has become official that there is a split in the party and both the factions will now be on level-playing field.
  • The EC argued that “to favour one faction over the other without examining in detail the veracity of the rival claims of support within the organisation across the State would have been unfair.”

Analysis:

  • The faction which wins will get moral and political legitimacy in the eyes of the public and will claim to be the rightful successors

The Hindu

Editorial : Arc to West Asia

Context:

China has hosted leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel in consecutive weeks signalling its ability and appetite to deepen engagement in West Asia

Important Points:

  • China’s ties with the region have substantially grown on the back of strong economic relations. It is one of the largest buyers of Saudi oil, a key trading partner of Israel, and has made strong ties with Iran on the back of continued oil purchases even during the period of sanctions.
  • The importance of West Asia has increased manifold with the unfolding of the OBOR initiative of China.
  • Now, the Chinese engagement is moving beyond economic to strategic dimensions.
  • It is one of the key supporters of the Assad regime in war-stricken Syria, vetoing, along with Russia, US-led sanctions on Syria; it has recognized Palestine as a state and has offered support to Palestinians; it has tried to impress upon the importance of peaceful co-existence between Israel and Palestine, and mending relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Analysis:

  • This signals an end of the Chinese reluctance to engage strategically with West Asia.
  • However, the Chinese have traditionally focused on economic issues and lack experience in tackling political, religious, sectarian and tribal conflicts.
  • Its success in its engagement with West Asia will depend on its ability to maintain a perfect balancing act with rival powers in the region.
24 Managing Manipur – On the importance of a stable government No document Available

Context

BJP government wins trust vote in Manipur 

Important points

  • Amidst continuing ethnic strife and insurgency in Manipur, and it’s dependency on the Central government for funds, it was important to have a stable government in the state.
  • Congress was the single largest party yesterday the BJP managed to scoop in and claimed to have the numbers to form a government and the partisan behaviour of the Governor manifested by the haste of inviting BJP and asking it to have a floor test, the dubious election of the Speaker, and his dubious decision of having a floor test by a voice vote lend an aura of controversy to the whole process leading up to the formation of the government.
  • This said, the first decision of the new CM to announce tri-party talks between the state government, central government and the United Naga Council resulting in the lifting of the five-month long blockade by the UNC is a positive first step.

Analysis

  • The important thing now will be to handle the proposed negotiation in a manner that is true to the integrity of Manipur and does not lead to any discontent in the Kuki community of Manipur as that could worsen the ethnic strife with the Nagas.
25 National Health Policy 2017: A roadmap for health / Weak Medicine No document Available

Context

A new National Health Policy draft approved by the Cabinet

Important points

  • Disease burden: With a fifth of the world’s disease burden, growing incidence of non-communicable diseases, poor financial arrangements to pay for care, India fares worst among BRICS in terms of health indicators. 
  • Personnel: Only 11.3% of registered allopathic professionals were working in the public sector as of 2014, and even lesser in rural areas. 
  • Private care: 70% of all out-patients and 60% of all in-patients access private healthcare facilities. In lights of this, we need adequate standards and accountability of cost as well as quality if healthcare in private institutions. 
  • Cost: Essentials medicines and diagnostic tests should be made free as add-on as possible. In 2011, it was estimated that this requires a spending increase of 0.4 percent of GDP and this is well within the increase to 2.5 percent of GDP as proposed by the policy.
  • Accreditation: We must also quickly establish accreditation and regulatory agencies for all healthcare providers at the national and state level.

Analysis

  • The new policy was eagerly waited because it was coming after a gap of 15 years and also because the draft circulated by the Health Ministry in 2015 was quite promising.
  • However, the version that has been approved by the Cabinet has not lived to the expectations, as follows
  • It aims to eliminate kala-azar and filariasis by the end of 2017, leprosy by 2018 and measles by 2020. These were also part of the Finance Minister’s budget speech so there’s nothing new about them.
  • In terms of public expenditure on healthcare, India’s current expenditure is 1.15 percent as compared to the WHO’s recommendation of 5 percent. The new policy draft had promised to raise it to 2.5 percent by the end of 2017 but the one approved by thr cabinet pushed the deadline back to 2025.
  • The policy has let down by not acting on a National Health Rights Act – talking of an “assurance-based approach” rather than a rights-based approach. 
  • In terms of healthcare personnel, government has failed to expand their numbers, or train them. The new policy fails to address the lack of financial support that was ascribed as its cause. Adequate healthcare human resources can lead to obtaining infant mortality and maternal mortality rates 
  • It mandates the creation of a National Healthcare Standards Organization but with health being a state subject, there are doubts over it’s effectiveness.
26 Return to normal No document Available

Context

U.S. Federal Reserve has resumed normal monetary service by raising interest rates 

Important Points

  • This indicates that the Fed’s efforts to reflate the world’s largest economy are largely on track
  • The Fed said that policymakers expect the strengthening economy would warrant “gradual increases” in the benchmark federal funds rate to ensure that the monetary policy stance remains accommodative of growth, even as price stability is ensured
  • The Fed said that the rate change is not a “pre-set course” and any changes in rate will also consider the implications from the fiscal policy of President Trump’s government.
  • Fed ended up holding a lot of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and any plans to unwind these holdings in the market will also be “gradual and predictable” to avoid a repeat of the “taper tantrum” of 2013.

Analysis

  • The “gradual increase” provides a degree of policy predictability for the markets; “gradual” will be broadly two more rate increases of one quarter of a percentage point each for the rest of 2017 
  • An accelerated rate normalisation could have triggered a sharp jump in outflows from emerging markets such as India.
  • It is reassuring for investors globally that the world’s key economic engine is in good shape
  • This bodes well for India’s exporters, including software services, who are putting the business sentiment as “favourable”

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27 Gauntlet at Sukma No document Available

Context

The attack by Maoists on CRPF men in Sukma district

Important Points

  • A road-opening party of the CRPF’s 219 battalion was ambushed about 450 km from the State capital Raipur. 
  • The insurgents used improvised explosive devices, country-made mortars and arrows mounted with explosive heads, and made off with some weapons and radio sets of the force
  • Twelve personnel of the CRPF were killed in the ambush.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha that left-wing extremist incidents were on the decline especially in Chhattisgarh where there was a 15% drop and this was causing restlessness among them.
  • It is estimated that over the last two decades at least 15,000 people have been killed in Maoist-related violence. More than 3,000 of them were security personnel.

Analysis

  • This attack should serve as a wake-up call for the security forces to beef up their standard operating procedures, especially intelligence-gathering capabilities, in the Maoist heartland in central India.
  • The precision and scale of the attack are an indication that the Maoists continue to hold formidable sway in Sukma, their long-time stronghold.
  •  The government has over the past decade taken a patchy approach to bringing the so-called “red corridor” under its writ. The only presence of the state consistently visible across the region has been of the security forces, not of the civil administration.
  • Counter-insurgency operations by the security forces have often been undermined by poor intelligence, flagging alertness of the security forces and the absence of a multi-layered political strategy.
  • The Maoists do not survive merely on ideology; they have a well-oiled machinery providing protection to various interest groups in the absence of a robust state responsive to the security and welfare needs of the civilian population.
  • The State needs to counter this to fight these non-state actors.
28 On the rocks No document Available

Context

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has sought a second referendum on independence for Scotland from the U.K.

Important Points

  • The thought of separation from the British union has never fully been excised from the popular imagination in Scotland, despite the referendum in 2014 that gave a resounding victory to ‘Stay’
  • Scots, who had voted overwhelmingly in June 2016 to remain in the EU, are now seeing the U.K. prepare for Brexit, and this is leading to a surge of demand of independence in Scotland

Analysis

  • As Brexit looms, the government under Ms. May should put forward a coherent and convincing case for Scotland to remain in the U.K.
  • The economic argument for Edinburgh to leave is apparently at its weakest, given the recent slump in oil prices and a mounting fiscal deficit.
  • The champions of access to the common market of EU are silenced by the argument that a large share of Scotland’s trade is within the U.K. 
  • But such rational arguments against independence may not be very effective as such issues are generally argued on emotional lines.
  • Votaries of independence may argue that if London can rip apart a European partnership of four decades so easily on grounds of restoring national sovereignty, it may well one day reconsider Scottish devolution.
  • Scotland may not find the EU very sympathetic to its moves.
  • Edinburgh’s EU entry would have to be ratified by every single member state, a prospect that would commit them to make similar concessions like Britain or other EU countries have.
  • Europe’s leaders, alive to the sensitivities of undermining the sovereignty of member nations, have repeatedly cautioned against expectations of an automatic guarantee of admission in the event that Edinburgh exits Britain.
29 Partial cover: More needs to be done on the mother and child front / Baby Steps No document Available

Context

Passing of maternity bill

Important Points

  • Paid maternity leavefor women in the organised sector has been enhanced to 26 weeks from 12
  • This is in line with several expert recommendations including that of the World Health Organisation, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first 24 weeks.
  • We have also allotted 12 weeks’ paid leave to mothers adopting or having a child through surrogacy.
  • The Bill stipulates that all establishments employing 50 or more people provide creche facilities, allowing women to visit four times a day. Organisations must now communicate these rights to female employees via writing.
  • Health care should be treated as a right and deliveries handled without cost to women; the income guarantees during the 26-week period can be ensured through a universal social insurance system.
    • Such a policy would harmonise the varying maternity benefit provisions found in different laws that govern labour at present.
    • There would also be no discrimination against women in recruitment by employers who currently have to factor in benefit payments.
    • Also, women would not suffer loss of income simply because they cannot remain in employment after childbirth.
  • In comparison, this is what other countries offer
    • China offers 14 weeks, Australia 18 weeks, Norway 36-46 weeks (pay varying from 100 to 80 per cent of wages) and Denmark gives 52 paid weeks.
    • With its clear 26-week duration, India’s policy appears simpler than even Canada’s, which offers 52 weeks leave, but only 55 per cent wages for 17 weeks.
    • The US offers only 12 weeks, which don’t come with guaranteed pay.
  • Global studies show strong links between paid maternity leave and ensuring that women return to the workforce after childbirth.
    • For an individual, this offers the opportunity to enrich life with a child — who is ensured better healthcare — and be financially strong during a sensitive time.
    • Economically, this offers companies a valued employee’s return, some studies showing women work longer hours upon rejoining.
    • Socially, this means a much better chance of women staying in the workforce.
    • For a nation, this gives more employment and earnings; for individuals, it values diverse facets of their selves. 

Analysis

  • The amended law is expected to cover only 1.8 million women, a small subset of women in the workforce. It only applies to the organised sector, covering 4.4 per cent of women within this, but as the debate in Parliament highlighted, over 90 per cent of India’s women workers are in its unorganised sector, fields, domestic labour, etc
  • For these many poor millions in the unorganised sector, the only support available is a small conditional cash benefit of ?6,000during pregnancy and lactation offered under the Maternity Benefit Programme.
  • Such a move should lead to closer scrutiny of the difficulties faced by unorganised workers who fall beyond the scope of any worthwhile labour welfare measures
  • The reported move to restrict even this meagre benefit to the first child for budgetary reasons is retrograde and must be given up.
  • The Bill is also silent on paternity leave, which some MPs rightly said was essential to redefine childcare from being “women’s work” to a shared responsibility.
  • The current Maternity Benefit Bill takes a step in the right direction, but this is still a baby step.
30 Voting with our feet No document Available

Context

Robust voter turnouts for recently-held Assembly elections

Important Points

  • The high voter participation belies the far-fetched anxieties over voter fatigue or cynicism
    • 7th phase U.P. – turnout estimated to be 60.03%
    • 2nd phase Manipur – turnout estimated to be 86%
    • Punjab – turnout estimated to be 77.4%
    • Goa – turnout estimated to be 83%
    • Uttarakhand – turnout estimated to be 65.6%
  • In comparison to other mature democracies with their problem of low voting by the young, the so-called millennials(those reaching young adulthood in early 21st century), in India voter enthusiasm cuts across class and age.
  • It has also bridged the gender gap, which according to the ECI has come down to 1.46 percentage points from 4.42 in 2009

Analysis

  • Ethnographic studies suggest that the Indian voter perceives voting day to be a special one, with a celebratory camaraderie at the polling booth reflecting a determination to make her vote count.
  • With turnouts generally rising as one goes from parliamentary to State to local polls, it is clear that personally felt outcomes matter most to voters.
  • The old thumb rule about higher turnout meaning an anti-incumbent vote is a thing of the past. Psephological data are rich with the reasons that motivate a vote, and each verdict must be read separately.

The Hindu

Editorial : Open Gates

Context

The grant of asylum to refugees

Important Points

  • The EU prosecutor argued that governments in EU should issue humanitarian visas to people at risk of torture and degrading treatment, consistent with their obligations under the European charter on human rights.
  • The final judgment of the European Court of Justice of the 28-nation bloc overturned the opinion of its prosecutor giving member-states the right to grant or deny asylum
  • The Court held that member-states were not obliged to issue visas to people from third countries who had no prior links in Europe.
  • Under the Common European Asylum System, as with similar international mechanisms, countries are expected to process asylum requests humanely once refugees arrive.

Analysis

  • A possible consequence of the verdict could be that the mass of migrants who embarked upon those dangerous journeys on the high seas may find no realistic alternative in their attempt to flee conflict zones
  • This judgment is also a boost for eurosceptic political parties that have remained steadfast in their opposition and hostility to the surge of refugees
  • Given the appeal of anti-immigration political parties in three of the founder-member states of the EU that go to general elections this year, the Netherlands, France and Germany, it’s a great setback for a more orderly and legal immigration system.
  • This is the moment when mainstream political parties in Europe should stand up for the so-called European values the continent’s leaders have emphasised since Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.
31 Dire Straits / Sea of Trouble No document Available

Context

The shooting of an Indian fisherman in Palk Bay

Important Points

  • Even though we don’t know who pulled the trigger — whether it was the Sri Lankan Navy or some armed group, but this was a tragedy waiting to happen, the direct fallout of the long-standing dispute between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen over fishing rights in the Palk Bay
  • The shooting exposes the lack of progress in the implementation of the agreement between the two countries on preventing loss of life while managing the fishing dispute through official channels
  • Components of the mechanism which was agreed to by both countries last year:
  • A Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries to help resolve the dispute.
  • A hotline between the Coast Guards of India and Sri Lanka,
  • Convening of the JWG once in three months
  • Meetings of the fisheries ministers every half-year
  • These are, however, short-term measures and they lose their efficacy in the absence of any forward movement toward long-term solutions on sustainable exploitation of the marine resources
  • The fisheries economy in Rameswaram saw a rise in the number of vessels, especially trawlers, in the 1980s, which coincided with the the civil war in Sri Lanka that led to a collapse of fisheries there. When fishing operations resumed in Sri Lanka, the sea could not support the fleet of vessels and the catch started to fall. Desperate fishermen started to look for new grounds to spread their net, often transgressing the national boundaries leading to arrests.

Analysis

  • In the past few years, even though Indian fishermen have frequently transgressed into Sri Lankan waters, the consequences were limited to seizure of boats and prolonged and detention, but not shooting.
  • Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after he returned to power in 2015, had said Indian fishermen who crossed the maritime boundary to fish in another country’s territorial waters would be fired upon. So a political solution to the problem has to be sought.
  • Indian fishermen, who invoke traditional rights to justify their incursions, want a three-year phase-out period before they end trawling.
  • But unless they take to deep- sea fishing, and inland alternatives, India’s fishermen will be locked in a conflict with their Sri Lankan counterparts as well as with a hostile Sri Lankan Navy.
  • A long-term solution to the issue will need a scaling down of fishing operations in the region. The government could offer a voluntary buy-back scheme for trawlers and boats and offer a rehabilitation package to deck hands. This would also help to protect artisanal fishermen, whose livelihood is threatened by overfishing by trawlers.
32 Explosive trail mail No document Available

Context

The editorial examines a recent incident of a deadly fire at Central Ammunition Depot(CAD) in Pulgaon.

Important points

  • TNT (trinitrotoluene) leakage setting off anti tank mines was officially sighted as the reason for the fire which killed 19 people.
  •  Inquiry has highlighted the following problems:
    • Neglect at various levels in the system.
    • Inordinate number of stakeholders in the line up.
    • Lack of accountability and defective manufacturing process.
  • The anti-tank mines involved were already declared defective in 2010 but the CAD was awaiting instructions on their repair or destruction.
  • Stakeholders involved were: The Armament Research and Development Establishment(ARDE), High Energy Material Research Laboratory (HEMRL), the Ordinance factory and Defence Ministry.
  • The multiplicity of decision makers led to delay in decision.
  • Comptroller and Auditor General had also flagged the mines defective.

Analysis

  • The entire episode has raised grave issues.
  • Defective mines should have not been supplied and should have been shunted out previously by Controllerate of Quality Assurance.
  • Conflicting interests and controls of various stakeholders essentially led to the disaster.
  • Lack of standards in defence manufacturing at a time when the country is keen on defence exports can be severely hurtful to the reputation of defence equipment.
  • The time is right to kick start cure of systemic deficiencies and misalignments.

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33 Joining the elite non-proliferators No document Available

Context

The editorial delves into India’s recent adventure with four global non-proliferation clubs.

Important points

  • India recently gained admission into Missile Technology Control Regime one of the four  global non-proliferation clubs.
  • The success of entry into MTCR was evened out by failure to get Nuclear Supplier Group’s (another global non-proliferation club) membership.
  • The other two global non-proliferation clubs are: The Australia Group and Wasenaar group.

Analysis

  • India’s official entry into MTCR carries with it many benefits like yielding of state of art defence technologies.
  • China has yet not been given MTCR membership thus recent Indian admission gives india leverage to discuss NSG issues using MTCR as bargaining chip.
  • MTCR entry broadly suggests the acceptance of India’s verifiable export control and its perceived potential as a supplier of and market for sophisticated defence technologies.
  • MTCR admission is indeed a positive development atleast much better than notoriety of being related with AQ Khans etc.
  • However many strands of interlocking strategic interests need to be untangled before trade in sensitive defence technology globally will become a reality for India.
34 The question of Scotland No document Available

Context

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon recently declared that she would block UK’s exit from EU. The editorial examines the scenario.

A probable crisis for UK

  • Scots overwhelmingly voted to stay in EU but cumulatively UK voted to exit EU.
  • This means that when UK leaves EU , Scotland despite its public opinion largely in favour of staying will exit EU.

Reasons for Scotland favouring EU stay

  • Young scotts value European labour market for employment
  • Dissatisfied with English domination in UK, scotts always saw themselves as a part of European project.

Challenges Ahead for UK

  • Even if Scotts pass a resolution against Brexit, London could dismiss it.
  • But such dismissal could lead to deepening of crisis in UK which is a unique confederation of four nations with competing histories.

Other problems

  1. EU laws are directly incorporated in certain Scottish legislations. So if UK leaves EU these laws would have to be repealed and replaced with new ones.
  2. Recent polls have suggested Scottish people now want to leave UK, hence an independence referendum is highly likely.
  3. If Scotland gets independence vote then it is likely that calls for Northern Ireland to be merged with Republic of Ireland( a EU member) will get louder.

Concluding analysis

The British leadership will have to ensue all these risks to ensure a smooth exit from the EU.


35 Shrinking spaces at the nuclear high table No document Available

Context

The editorial deals with the recent saga of India trying to secure NSG(Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership.

Important points

  • India’s bid to join NSG saw a sharp set back at the NSG plenary with China and 7 other nations reiterating concerns about non-NPT(Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) being admitted.
  • India’s plea is that its clean non-proliferation record justifies its membership.
  • Although the NSG could not come at any consensus this time but the USA has pointed to a possible path for India.
  • Another positive for India is that even in 2008 India was granted a waver by NSG after diplomats were skilfully able to overcome resistance.

Analysis

  • The failed attempt at Seoul is an opportune moment for India to revisit the NSG situation.
  • While it may be true that India as an insider will have better leverage to tackle unfavorable amendments like the recent one to paragraph 6, but it seems given the vast energy market of India, there is no need to be insecure about finding economic partners on global nuclear stage.
36 Stepping into the unknown No document Available

Context

The editorial deals with the recent referendum in United Kingdom which led to it leaving the European Union

Important points

  • A very few could imagine Britain leaving EU or Brexit an year back.
  • The geographical divide in UK is well reflected in the disproportionate voting across regions.
  • The chaos emanating from the vote underlines the recklessness of populist politics.

Why Brexit

  • A number of reasons might be responsible for this Brexit Verdict.
  • Euroscepticism has been a strong sentiment among Britons for long and recently nationalist sentiment had grown stronger.
  • Public anger in Britain against status quo might have contributed too.
  • Britons who were hit hard by Economic crisis felt betrayed by their political leadership.

Implications of Brexit

  • The exact implications of Brexit are hard to predict right now.
  • But the tumbling of Pound and resignation of British Prime Minister give a taste if what’s to come.
  • The vote has also put in doubt the unity of UK as Scotland has overwhelmingly voted against the exit.
  • Brexit has posed a threat to European unity as well.
  • Brexit may well remain an enigma for the world for sometime.
37 A stitch in time No document Available

Context

The editorial studies the recent incentives by Central government to the textile sector.

Why the incentives

  • Textile sector economy’s largest employment generator outside agriculture was steadily ceding ground to competition from countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam etc.
  • Also, the World Bank noted the fall in Chinese apparel exports due to rising wages in China, thus a great opportunity in the textile arena for other countries like India.

What has been done

  • The measures taken aim at streamlining labour norms and offering tax breaks.
  • Rs 6000 crore have been earmarked for the package.
  • Rs 5500 crore would be used to for providing additional 5% duty drawbacks for garments.
  • Rs 500 crore would be used for technology upgradation fund.
  • A worker now hired for fixed term will be treated at par with permanent employee.

Concluding analysis

  • Vietnam apparel exporters will gain substantially from Trans-Pacific Partnership to which it is a signatory.
  • Bangladesh enjoys preferential treatment due to status as one of the Least Developed Countries.
  • Given these facts the measure to bolster India’s textile industry have come just in time.
38 The 10-crore rollback No document Available

Context

A purported target of 10 crore tax paying houses was allegedly set by the Prime minister recently and then targeting denied. The editorial studies the situation.

Important points

  • The Revenue Secretary denied setting up of any tax payer target by the government.
  • Even if it was a mere statement of intent it was an ambitious one for India, a country where direct tax rate has grown at snails pace.

Facts on Indian tax regime

  • Just 4% of voters are individual tax payers, well short of desired 23%.
  • India’s tax to GDP ratio is far lower than average of emerging market peers.
  • About 85% economy is outside the tax net.
  • The number of tax payers who reveal earning of 1 crore a year or above are unrealistically low.

Steps taken by government to improve the situation

  • Wealth tax has been replaced with surcharge on super high incomes.
  • Luxury car sales have been taxed to data base potential evaders.

What needs to be done

  • A more proactive strategy is needed to widen data base while prioritising public spending on services.
  • Corruption needs to be curbed and an effective property tax regime established.
  • The number of transactions requiring PAN card details should be increased.

Conclusion

By doing away with 10 crore target, the Centre has perhaps missed a trick.

39 Opening our skies No document Available

Context

The editorial deals with the recent reforms in Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) policy especially the aviation sector reform and suggests changes required.

What has been done

  • The Central government unveiled last week a FDI policy reform purporting to make India the most open economy of the world.
  • At least in the aviation sector the declaration seems out of tune.
  • The FDI limit for aviation sector has been raised from 49% to 100%, for which automatic approval route till 49% is allowed.

Shortcomings

Even if a scheduled airline investor agrees to be a junior partner, securing a scheduled operator certificate still requires an airline’s chairman and atleast two-thirds of directors to be Indian citizen and substantial ownership to be vested in Indian hands.

Analysis of reform and global trends

  • The Centre has admitted that this is an act to make domestic carriers more competitive for now and the process is driven by security concerns.
  • Instance of Australian norms might be sighted as they may be beneficial in Indian context as well. Australia has recently scrapped limits on airline ownership for flying in its airspace.

Concluding Remarks

India could have proposed a bolder reform in airline ownership reforms and dovetailed that with its vision of open sky.

40 The Centre’s big reform push No document Available

Context

The editorial deals with the recent easing of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms in India.

Why the reform now?

  • India is now acknowledged as the fastest growing large economy across the world.
  • India has also now improved its ranking in the ease of doing business list.
  • Thus time was ripe to open FDI gates and give further push to growth.

What has been done

  • The Central government has raised FDI caps in certain sectors. eg airlines from 49% to 100%
  • Preconditions in certain sectors have been diluted. eg sourcing norms eased in single brand retail.

Why FDI and not FPI

FDI is stickier than its counterpart Foreign Portfolio Investment which tends to be much more opportunistic and short lived.

Analysis of reform

  • Merely opening up the gates will not automatically lead to investment rush.
  • Experience suggests investment in New sectors will be tied to following factors:
    • Foreign investors like others are Return On Investment(ROI) focussed. Thus booming sectors like DTH television are likely to attract more investment.
    • Frequent Market and pricing interventions by the government might discourage investors.
    • Foreign investors committing long term funds always try to exercise control over entities they fund. These need to be handled especially in sectors like insurance.

Conclusion

  • There is no disputing the fact that FDI reforms is a step in the right direction.
  • But as learnt in the past the devil is usually in the detail.
41 A strategic exit No document Available

Context

Raghuram Rajan has recently declared that he will not seek a second term as Governor of Reserve Bank of India. The editorial examines the situation.

Important points

  • In the last few months it had become apparent that sections within the Central government were uncomfortable with continuance of Raghuram Rajan as RBI Governor.
  • By ruling himself out by his own Raghuram has saved the Central Government from repercussions of a refusal.
  • On the economic front the Central government was uneasy on Raghuram’s slow pace of interest rate cuts which was alleged reason for slow growth.
  • The Central bank’s crackdown on evergreening of loans also caused friction with the government.

Suggestions for choice of next Governor of RBI

  • The Government must remember that India needs a Governor with enough independence and authority to maintain balance between growth and rising prices.
  • A rubber stamp for rate cuts won’t do.
  • As rightly said by Raghuram, a healthy tension between RBI and finance ministry is not such a bad thing.
42 Nervous takeoff No document Available
43 Cracking down on idol-looters No document Available

Context

The thriving trade in illicitly procured temple idol’s in India was exposed again with arrest of a Chennai based businessman. The editorial examines the situation and suggests the steps required to curb the smuggling.

Important points

  • Deenadayalan a Chennai based businessman was arrested recently by Tamil Nadu Police.
  • A large number of stone idols, metal idols and paintings were seized from him.
  • The businessman ran five art galleries used for storage and smuggling. The meticulously organised shadowy business hints at deep and vast network of idol thieves.
  • The trade of idols has an expected presence across all states of the country with the alleged kingpin Subhash Kapoor in jail since 2011.

LAW REGARDING IDOLS
India became a signatory of UNESCO convention on preventing illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property. Under this convention no culturally significant object could be removed from India under any circumstances.

Analysis

  • Although the enforcement action and public awareness of idol smuggling have expanded but it is a very recent development.
  • There is an urgent need to stop the loss to Indian culture caused by outflow of idols.
  • Prevention requires building up man-power and surveillance capabilities.
  • Inter-agency and international co-operation need to be increased as well.
44 America’s new terror reality No document Available

Context

The editorial delves into the recent mass shooting at a gay club in USA.

Important points

  • Global jihadist terror, lax gun control laws and pernicious homophobia seemed to have converged at the gay club leading to massive bloodshed.
  • This attack highlights the lax gun control laws in USA, which are influenced by the affluent National Rifle Association.
  • The meticulous targeting of gay club reveals the persistence of deep prejudices about the society.
  • The stand out dimension of the attack is the increasing menace of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks linked to Islamic State.

Analysis

  • The US surveillance and security apparatus now would have to devise innovative ideas to deal with lone wolf strikes.
  • In the US it has become all to easy for unstable individuals to act out their beliefs, for guns are easily available.
45 The April blues No document Available

Context:

Industrial output numbers warn against policy complacency

What is the news?

The IIP number, released last Friday,

Points to be noted (Not to be remembered)

  • Headline number for industrial output, as measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), showed a decline of about one per cent for April 2016.
  • In the last five years, annual industrial growth has stayed below three per cent, including a decline in 2013-14.

Declining Sectors

  • Manufacturing sector, which has a weight of over 75 per cent in IIP.
  • Food products and beverages, tobacco products and electrical machinery.
  • Capital goods sector
  • Consumer non-durables sector

Positive Sectors

  • Electricity sector
  • gems and jewellery,
  • telephone instruents,
  • commercial vehicles and diesel.
  • mining sector

Implications of such volatality

  • Retail inflation has inched up to over five per cent
  • food inflation in particular has crossed the six per cent mark,
  • Crude oil prices are on the rise, putting pressure on fuel prices and the government’s subsidy numbers.
  • Exports with a decline

Conclusion

With industrial output in contraction mode, the current financial year has not begun too well for the economy, and the government ought not to relax on fiscal consolidation and further reforms that can revive both investment and consumption demand.

46 Steering India to safer roads No document Available

Context

Recently the ‘Road Safety in India report’ analysed the unsafe Indian roads. The editorial examines the situation.

Important points

  • Road accidents last year took 1,50,000 lives and injured more than half a million people.
  • The risk of fatal injuries has been found to be increasing steadily.
  • Data shows that more than half killed last year were in productive age group of 15 to 34.
  • The report points towards a rising public health emergency in road accidents which need to be reduced.

Suggestions

  • One of the most productive measure might be zero tolerance enforcement of laws and strong policing.
  • A road safety board as suggested by Sundar Committee should be set up and empowered accordingly.
  • Elimination of corruption from certifying and licensing system is necessary.
  • The Central Government should also act on virtual monopoly held by automobile companies on spares and servicing of vehicle.

Concluding Remarks

Research suggests there will be an annual rise in fatalities till 2042. That distressing fact can be changed only through determined action today.

47 Cracking the payments bank puzzle No document Available

Context:

Payment Banks in India

What is the news?

  • 11 players who were issued in-principle approvals for payments bank licences, one (Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd) has received the final licence.
  • Recently , 3 payments banks (Cholamandalam Investment, Dilip Shanghvi-Telenor Financial-IDFC Bank and Tech Mahindra) have wit hdrawn their applications, reviving questions about the viability of the business model.

What was the motive behind these banks

Universal financial inclusion

What might lead to their success?

  • Ability to go beyond serving the well-banked smartphone-carrying consumers who have been the focus of digital payments in India so far.
  • They  need to creatively reach the low-income and financially underserved—the so-called base of pyramid (BOP) consumers.

Key factors critical to successfully serving bop consumers.

  • Players will need to deepen understanding of the unique needs of BOP consumers and develop products and customer experiences tailored to these needs.
  • adopting a hypotheses-based, prototyping approach to identify ideas that have value and can drive up  BOP customer experience.
  • Creating a set of KPIs and skill-enhancement programmes so that the entire organization across various functions—product, sales, operations, etc.—is involved in  BOP customer experience projects.
  • Need to embed the ethos of providing a respectful and positive customer experience to BOP customers to earn their trust and loyalty .
  • Need to rely on physical agent networks, to serve this segment.
  • Need to harness the potential of the ubiquitous kirana (neighbourhood) store, by making it worth their while to accept digital payments. Today, 95% of retail in India is unorganized, and only 6% of these retail establishments accept digital payments.
  • Increase in awareness & increase interest in trying digital payments for this particular strata.
  • Micro-deposits saving product for BOP customers.
  • Queues and limited opening hours of bank branches and complex formalities for deposit and withdrawal should be made easier.
  • traditional pension products that pay out several years in the future do not tend to resonate; they may need to be blended into “hybrid” instruments that pay out some portion of their value over time.
  • By simplifying and miniaturizing investment products such as mutual funds.
  • Companies will need to design digital user interfaces and user experiences that are tailored to the digital literacy and social contexts of this particular segment

Conclusion

As these banks look to the currently underserved as a potentially important market, investing in understanding their unique needs, and embedding the philosophy of customer centricity across their organization will be critical to their success.

48 A place in the club No document Available

Context

Indian entry into Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG)

Problem

  • Little possibility that India’s effort to join the will meet with success any time soon.
  • China argues that since India is being allowed to join the NSG without signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, until now a precondition, the rules of club membership need to be amended for all.
  • The argument is designed to benefit Pakistan, but the NSG members do not wish to be seen to be rewarding Pakistan’s unedifying record of proliferating nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

NSG-necessary?

  • India needs nuclear technology and fuel but an exemption by the NSG in 2008 allows it access to both.
  • India is mired in domestic debates over liability for nuclear accidents and has been slow to capitalise on the opportunities the exemption opened up.

Way forward

  • India could relegate its NSG bid to the back-burner, and focus on growing its domestic nuclear energy infrastructure.
  • It could, alternately, work towards a bargain where China is allowed entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime, where India is now assured of membership, in return for dropping its veto in the NSG.
  • Finally, India could explore whether a door could be opened for Pakistani membership of the NSG, in return for that country opening up its notoriously opaque nuclear programme to international scrutiny.
49 The new symphony in India-U.S. ties No document Available

Context

Recently Indian Prime Minister visited the USA. The editorial delves into the trip and budding Indo-US relations.

Present scenario

  • Bilateral relations between India and USA have been becoming better and better especially since past two years.
  • Defence ties have consolidated in three ways: 
    1. In defence procurement and co development.
    2. Co-ordination between the two forces
    3. Working together on piracy etc.
  • Most importantly the strategic alliance between India and USA has also changed for the better with declarations such as the one declaring ” India as a major defence partner”
  • The Indian side has also made statements such as ” A stronger and more prosperous India is in America’s strategic interest” suggesting proximity of strategies for both nations.

Issues and Challenges ahead

  • The US government is going to change as elections are just around the corner. India must thus reassess the situation after the change in regime.
  • India must also consider its alliances with neighbouring countries like China and Russia before making any statements on security etc.
  • The editor also feels the need to explain to the Parliament of India the details of the new Info-US relation.
50 Never in Punjab No document Available

Context

The editorial delves into the censoring of the film Udta Punjab by the Central Board of Film Certification(CBFC) keeping in foray the law of the land.

Important points

  • Not for the first time are the censors being demanded, have no rational basis and violate constitutional guarrantee of freedom of expression.
  • Udta Punjab is a film set in Punjab which deals with widespread drug addiction problem.
  • The CBFC wants the specific reference to Punjab expunged.
  • The apparent reasons for this censorious zeal are the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab where the ruling Alkali dal combine with BJP has not been able to control the drug menace.
  • The film producer has taken the matter to court with judgement still awaited.

Analysis

  • Film makers have for long faced resistance from CBFC or assorted groups in forms of threats of violence.
  • The freedom of expression seems to be negotiated politically for the producers.
  • Efforts like the Khosla report to make CBFC independent have failed to sensitize the institution to freedom of expression.
  • A practical solution was offered by Shyam Benegal Committee set up this year.
  • It proposed that the CBFC should only certify the film and its scope should be restricted to categorising the suitability of film according to audience group.
51 Strategic shift No document Available

Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US has produced evidence that the transfiguration of India’s ties with the world’s principal superpower.

Ties on mend

  • India has agreed on the language for the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement which will allow US troops to use Indian military bases
  • US will grant India licence-free access to strategic technologies
  • Nudged along by the US, Italy also dropped its objections to India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR); MTCR membership will ease the acquisition of high-end technology for the space programme, and targetting equipment on military drones.
  • Finally, there are hopes for progress on the nuclear deal signed in 2005, with Westinghouse beginning preliminary work on a six reactor deal.

Chinese mistrust

  • China’s unwillingness to accommodate India’s concerns on terrorism has fuelled cynicism as well as Beijing’s nationalist muscle-flexing throughout its near-neighbourhood
  • Modi government sees India’s decayed military infrastructure simply cannot deter regional threats without a programme of capacity-building, which in turn requires the acquisition of cutting-edge technology.

Shift in foregn policy

  • In the future, India could find itself more involved in security operations in West Asia
  • India could conceivably be drawn, too, into crisis in the South China Sea — or face greater pressure from China along the borders in Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.
  • China could step up support for Pakistan’s missile and nuclear programme, forcing India to make hard strategic choices.
52 More Rajan No document Available

Context:

Presenting the monetary policy review Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan kept policy rates unchanged.

Fear of inflation

  • Since the last review in April, inflation, especially consumer price index inflation, has firmed up.
  • RBI’s three-month inflation expectations survey of households showed that people do not expect inflation to go down substantially.
  • Fear of firming of international commodity prices like crude oil and implementation of the Seventh Central Pay Commission awards
  • Extraneous factors as well, such as the possibility of a rate hike the Federal Reserve, as well as the uncertainty surrounding the possible British exit from the European Union.

Rajan’s role

  • His single-minded focus on containing inflation by keeping the interest rates high that has contributed to India weathering the global economic maelstrom.
  • He also brought about long-pending structural reforms in the banking sector.
  • Rajan has been a voice of reason on matters of fiscal policy.
53 Justice, incomplete No document Available

Context:

Special designated court has convicted 24 persons in the Gulberg Society case, taking the total number of people held guilty in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases to over 140.

Different riots

  • Gujarat 2002 was the first communal riot to be beamed live into the nation’s drawing rooms.
  • Despite the attention, the pursuit of justice in Gujarat has been a tortuous journey for the victims and their families.
  • Powerful interests involved in the riots did attempt to subvert the criminal justice system.
  • The apex court took serious note of the complaints that investigators and the lower judiciary were collaborating with the riot makers.

Masterminds roaming free

  • The perception is that only the foot-soldiers have been punished while the masterminds go free.
  • Riots are not mere spontaneous acts of violence but often meticulously planned operations carried out by foot-soldiers of political groups or parties.
  • The masterminds remain in the shadows, and, mostly, beyond the reach of law.
54 Reworking the frame No document Available

Context

The Jharkhand government has recently ordered that Birsa Munda should not hereafter be represented in chains.

Needless obsession

  • Birsa Munda iconic image has been that of a youth in chains, raging against all forms of exploitation and urging his people to stand up and fight.
  • It is a reminder to the governing classes that the state needs to do much more for Birsa’s people, who are among the country’s poorest and oppressed.
  • History, and its rewriting, should be least of government’s preoccupations at this juncture.

Unmet expectations

  • The divide between the non-Adivasi and Adivasi populations has widened.
  • Unregulated expansion of sectors like mining has led to land alienation and deep disquiet among Adivasis.
  • The government’s attempts to develop the state’s immense mineral resources, instead of ushering in a modern economy and society, have only hardened old exploitative networks.

Ideal emancipation

  • For Birsa to be genuinely relevant, he needs to be discussed in today’s social and economic context.
  • His ideal of emancipation extended beyond merely overthrowing colonial rule.
  • It encompassed the social, economic and spiritual regeneration of Adivasi society and not how his statues and pictures are crafted.
55 Haryana mayhem No document Available

Context:

Parkash Singh Committee report regarding Jat Agitation

Bureaucratic inefficiency

  • Report brings out the manner in which the highest echelons of bureaucracy acted with unwarranted trepidation when circumstances required firm and resolute action against rioters.
  • It seemed that instead of controlling the spiralling violence, the state administration was more worried about how they may have to justify any tough measures in the aftermath.
  • Political interference in recruitment and postings has played havoc with the police force which has come to be dominated by the dominant caste of the state.

Inaction political class

  • Prakash Singh’s remit was restricted to enquiring into the failures of the administrative and law order machinery of the state.
  • It is clear that officials’ inaction would not have been possible without political concurrence.
  • With the Jat community threatening to renew the agitation, Haryana’s political and administration efficiency will again be tested.
56 Avoiding reform No document Available

Context:

Two years of the Govt, major reforms seem off the table

What is the news?

Appraisal of two years of Modi Govt.

What is the issue?

There is a mismatch between the over-the-top tone of the publicity blitz and the relatively limited ambitions of the government with regard to future policy reforms.

What are the achievements?

Signs of green shoots in the economy.

Policy areas that stand out and should be addressed:

  • Labour law reform
  • Land acquisition law
  • Privatisation of Govt Sector Enterprises.

Conclusion

 Recognition of how many major reforms have been actually effective in past two years.

57 A grim reality No document Available

Context:

Masunda Kitada Oliver, who was beaten to death in the capital following an altercation, has let face of prevalent racism in India come out in open.

Response

  • Incident has stirred diplomats from the African nations to anguished action, and had caused them to consider boycotting Africa Day
  • Citizens of Kinshasa capital of Congo, had retaliated, targeting shops and establishments owned by Indians in the city
  • Government is of view that the issue of racism would go away if it was ignored with sufficient obstinacy

Racism in India

  • People of African origin are being baited and attacked in India with shocking regularity
  • Racism is a social affliction which cannot be cured overnight, but the government and social organisations must acknowledge the gravity of the problem and act on it
  • India hopes to compete with China for land, resources and markets in the African continent, but it does not stand a chance if its citizens’ view of humanity is coloured by racist ideas
58 Awash in red ink No document Available

Context:

NON PERFORMING ASSESTS

What is the news?

It’s been a year since the RBI came up with norm that allowed banks to avoid treating restructured loans as substandard.

Facts about the NPA issue:

  • Forced by the central bank’s time-bound Asset Quality Review to classify troubled loans correctly and make appropriate provisions for them, lender after lender has reported sizeable losses or dramatic declines in profit in recent quarters.
  • The SBI, has said that while gross NPAs (as a percentage of the entire Rs.15 lakh crore it has advanced to borrowers) jumped to 6.5 per cent, or Rs.98,173 crore, at the end of March, it was placing loans amounting to another Rs.31,000 crore on a watch list for ‘exposure under stress’.

What does this reflect?

  • Disclosures of bad and stressed loans reflect the extent of distress its borrowers representing various sectors of the real economy are experiencing.
  • Iron and steel, engineering, power and construction are some of these key industries that undergird the economy.

Way forward

  • An autonomous Banks Board Bureau is now in place, tasked with the specific brief of ensuring that state-owned lenders will hereafter be ring-fenced from political interference in the selection of top management and on business strategy.
  • A Bankruptcy Code intended to improve the legal framework for assisting creditors in taking defaulters’ assets through liquidation and recovery process has won parliamentary backing and could soon be in operation.
59 Less discretion No document Available

Context:

Time to review policy on single-brand retail restrictions

What is the news?

FIPB, has agreed to  proposal of Apple Inc. to set up its own retail stores in the country — but has added the proviso that 30 per cent of the value of its sales should be sourced from the Indian market.

Background

  •    had allowed up to 51 % FDI in single-brand retail  few years ago, but inserted  30 per cent clause to placate local retailers who resisted opening up the sector to overseas entities.
  • Clause was to be waived when the foreign company promises to bring in “cutting-edge” and “state-of-the-art” technology to India.

Case with apple inc.

  • DIPP in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had told the FIPB that the condition on local sourcing could be set aside for the proposal from Apple Inc.
  • FIPB is not convinced that what Apple Inc. wants to sell indeed represents cutting-edge and state-of-the-art technology.

Issues being raised

  • This instance demonstrates that the condition for the waiver is subjective, which leads to bureaucratic or even political discretion.
  • If the government is serious about improving the ease of doing business in India, such discretionary powers need to be removed.

Way forward

  • The solution is to drop the local sourcing clause in its entirety for all proposals of foreign investment in single-brand retail.
  • That would deny FIPB any discretion in this matter and add to the cause of transparency.
  • And, as far as Apple Inc. “making in India” is concerned, the matter cannot be forced. At the end of the day, it is a business decision that the company has to make, and the government should not force this decision by putting up hurdles for the company’s plans to retail its products in India.
  • Its presence, and that of its competitors, will only add to the consumer’s choice, which should be encouraged.

Conclusion

By stipulating that such companies locally procure 30 per cent of what they sell, the government has gained little, but consumers have been hurt.

60 Royalty and risk No document Available

Context:

Welcome decision to revoke order on GM seeds royalty.

What is the news?

Union Govt has revoked set of licensing guidelines it issued on May 18 for the agricultural technology sector.

What made the govt issue these guidelines initially

Proposed guidelines arose out of a disagreement  between the government and the world’s largest seed company, Monsanto, over the local prices of GM seeds in India, in particular for Bt-cotton.

What is the issue exactly?

  • Last December, the agriculture ministry notified the Cotton Seeds Price (Control) Order, which returned cotton seeds to the ambit of the Essential Commodities Act, making their prices a matter of government intervention.
  • Subsequently, it had notified new licensing guidelines, which would have put a lid on royalty payments from Indian seed farms for all new varieties of Bt-cotton seeds to Monsanto’s local joint venture (with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds).

What is worrisome?

  • With the revocation of the earlier notification on the royalty cap, the immediate concerns are over, but there is no clarity yet on how the government wishes to approach the question of royalties for seeds technology.
  • Implications for other IPR-heavy sectors are also worrying.
  • Bt-cotton was not developed with financial support from the Indian government. If the government was concerned about distress in the cotton sector – and that is its right and its duty – then it should have found some other way to target assistance to cotton farmers and avoided imposing a cap on royalty.
  • If royalties are being used to evade international transfer pricing regulations, then it is necessary to examine royalty payments in a prospective manner.

Conclusion

Any such decision should be taken not only transparently but also prospectively so that it does not raise questions in investors’ minds about the predictability and stability of the policy environment.

61 Chabahar takeoff No document Available

Context:

India has signed Chabahar port deal with Iran. The $500 million deal promises to lead to the development of a deep-water port, a 500-km rail line linking it to Iran’s rail network, and new aluminum and urea plants

Positives

  • The Chabahar agreement marks a new level in India’s overseas ambitions and potentially giving Indian business access to Iran’s economy freed of
  • There’s little doubt about the region’s long-term potential (hydrocarbons).
  • The deal will also allow India to expand its strategic presence in Afghanistan, allowing businesses in both countries to bypass a Pakistan
  • The deal signals that India, like China, has big-league ambitions.

Un-realized potential and difficulties

  • India’s ambitions haven’t quite been matched by its ability to realize international projects like Kaladan multimodal transport project (to link the Northeastern states to Myanmar’s Sittwe port), which was supposed to have been operational by 2013 and India-US nuclear deal.
  • Relations between Tehran and the West, though vastly improved, remain fraught as well doubts over Iran’s role in Syria and Afghanistan.
  • Indian governments will also have to incentivize private corporations for using the Iranian route to transit goods to Central Asia, rather than the fast, cheap networks they now use through Singapore and China.
  • Finally, the project can only be successful if Indian manufacturing is globally
62 Guarding each drop No document Available

Context:

Water conservation has become a necessity

What is the news?

PM Modi’s well-meaning plea in his monthly Mann Ki Baat programme to preserve every drop of water may .

What are the issues to be addressed?

  • India’s 91 major reservoirs has plunged close to minimum levels, and most other surface water bodies, have dried up.
  • Water level in subsurface aquifers, has dipped to “critical” levels.
  • Central Groundwater Board report indicates that nearly half of India’s groundwater is heavily polluted with toxins like fluoride, nitrates and even arsenic, which cause dreaded .
  • Seepage of agro-chemicals and discharge of untreated industrial effluents and urban wastes into water bodies are adding to the pollution of surface and groundwater sources.
  • Most water woes are the result of mismanagement.
  • Official policies governing the water sector arefar from conducive to achieving this vital goal.
  • Treating water as an economic good and putting a proper price on it has been ignored for long.
  • States are supplying free water for irrigation and domestic use and are even providing free or subsidised power to encourage its wasteful use.
  • Since the bulk of water goes in crop irrigation, cropping patterns need to be tailored according to its availability.
  • Where replacement of water-guzzling crops like paddy and sugarcane with low water-requiring ones is unfeasible, micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler irrigation should be promoted.
  • Promotion of proper use of pesticides and Fertilisers .

Initiatives in certain states

  • Punjab’s well-advised move to ban paddy planting in the hot and dry month of May, when water losses due to evaporation are the highest, seems to have paid off.
  • The water table has begun to recover in that state.

Conclusion

  • First logical step towards eliciting people’s support for a policy to price water and ensure its efficient conservation, judicious upkeep and use.
  • National Water Policy 2002 disapproved of indiscriminate use of the available water. It suggested that water should be priced in such a manner as to reflect its scarcity value.
63 Grim turning point No document Available

Context

Taliban chief Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor died in US missile attack. He was appointed chief of the Taliban in July 2015. His leadership saw the Taliban stage offensive operations of unprecedented success

A menance

  • Mansoor’s key partners, the Haqqani Network, demonstrated their power to civil society with a series of barbaric urban bombings, in which civilians were indiscriminately targeted
  • Mansoor had overseen ground operations at Kandahar during the hijacking of Indian Airlines IC814

Power struggle

  • The stakes are not only political. Local ground units of the Taliban have little to gain from joining in a peace process.
  • Local ground units of the Taliban have little to gain from joining in a peace process.
  • With no committed western backing, situation can lead to other gruesome war

Editorial : India’s Shuttle

Context

India has tested first level of its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) in Low Earth Orbit

ISRO- not first

  • Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies is at the forefront of race to operate reusable space vehicles.
  • It has already sent its craft to the International Space
  • If ISRO can cancel out first mover advantage by slashing prices, it will gain access to a new and fast-developing market.

Time needed

  • Target of a reusable, partly air-breathing two-stage shuttle which can launch heavy satellites into space and land like an aircraft is still almost a decade away
  • The Indian space programme must avoid the showmanship that marks space races
64 Crude risk No document Available

Context

Lowering of crude prices in last couple of years presented a much welcomed cushion to Indian Govt. However, now crude prices are on upward swing indicating a reversed trend

Benefits

  • Low oil prices provided a cushion against inflation that would normally have accompanied two consecutive years of drought
  • they also helped halve the value of India’s oil imports and, in turn, reduce its current account deficit
  • cheap crude has conferred in the form of a fiscal windfall for the Centre (raised excise duty on petro products and reduced under recoveries of oil marketing companies)

Warning sign

  • If crude were to cross the $ 50/barrel mark, there is the possibility of pressures on all three fronts — inflation, current account and fiscal — returning.
  • A good monsoon can mitigate the first risk.
  • Two problems of current account deficit and fiscal deficit will need lot of consideration.
65 Trial balloon No document Available

Context

The Beijing firm Space vision intends to create a balloon with a pressurized hull to take paying passengers 40 km up, dropping them back to earth in pressure suits with parachutes attached. Passengers can experience zero gravity as well.

New sunrise sector

  • Balloon is now on the drawing board, and the Chinese can soon start selling tickets for sub-orbital tourism
  • It will change the present notion of freedom of travel to freedom to travel anywhere (in this case, it is outer space)

Re-use of balloons for human flight

  • Human flying odyssey started from balloons
  • In this case, Balloon flights will be relatively cheap
  • Lesser pricing can propel this sector to blossom
66 Unsafe vehicles No document Available

Context:

Time for India to update car safety regulations.

What is the news?

Global New Car Assessment Programme, or Global NCAP, which carries out tests on the safety of motor vehicles, has said that five Indian cars are unsafe for passengers: Maruti Suzuki’s Celerio and Eeco, Hyundai’s Eon, Mahindra & Mahindra’s Scorpio and Renault’s Kwid.

What  are the faults as per the assesment?

  • Issues with adult safety as well as child safety.
  • Faulty body structure
  • Absence of airbags, which made them unsafe for occupants.

What are the companies saying?

  • Such a result was bound to happen because these models had no airbags.
  • Mahindra & Mahindra said that 75 per cent of the buyers of the Scorpio prefer the variant with airbags.

What is the issue?

  • Large number of cars without airbags are out on the roads, which is a safety hazard.
  • Companies sell cars without airbags in order to lower their price tags, given that India is a highly price-sensitive market. But a majority of the cars in India are bought on instalments, so the cost of the airbags will not cause a great burden on the buyers.
  • lack of consumer awareness
  • Government inaction.
  • India, does not have crash test standards, which means that companies do not have any incentive to incorporate features like airbags in their cars.

What should be done?

  • Affected companies may have to invest more money to make their cars safer.
  • Time has come for the government to update regulations, and make airbags mandatory.

Irony of the situtation

  • Cars made in India are sold across the world, including in the quality-conscious markets of the West. If companies can sell successfully there, they can surely make safe cars for the country as well. It is not a question of capability, but one of regulation.

What has the govt already done?

  • Government has put in place some norms for crash tests but these will come into effect only in 2017 for new cars; for old cars, the deadline is 2019.
  • Also in the works is the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme, which too will assign star ratings to cars, but that is likely to come into effect only in 2018.

Way forward:

But just instituting local tests should not mean that regulations can stay the same, either. Those too must be updated.

67 For sanity’s sake No document Available

Context:

Suicide is a significant cause of death in India in the age bracket of 10-24 according to observation based on the Global Burden of Disease study of 2013, following a report in Lancet.

Serious health problem

  • nine of 10 cases of mental disorder in India and China are not treated in a rational, clinical manner
  • China and India account for almost one-third of the world’s mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders
  • there are less than seven psychiatrists per lakh of population in China, and less than three in India

Unadressed social problem

  • in India, there is reluctance to acknowledge mental disease due to fear of social backlash
  • Families across demographics and economic strata hide mental illness
  • Patients are found in captivity and neglect.
  • But the burden of less obvious mental conditions like anxiety remains hidden
68 Discipline yourself No document Available

Context:

As promised in budget, Central Govt has set up a 5 member Committee (NK Singh Committee) to review working of Financial Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

Other functions of committee

  • Examine the feasibility of having a fiscal deficit range rather than a fixed number as a percentage of the GDP
  • Aligning fiscal expansion or contraction with credit expansion or contraction in the economy

Frbm- a success

  • it has led to fiscal prudence at centre and state level
  • but real success is measured at times when in financial slowdown govt is tempted to spend

Review necessary

  • limiting fiscal spending to 3 % of GDP is suitable for developed countries, where economic growth has tapered
  • however, assigning a range rather than a fixed target to fiscal spending (ex 3% of GDP) can backfire in election year when govt is keen on spending more
  • as suggested by 14th Finance Commission, a strong compliance mechanism as well as an independent council is needed to assess FRBM
69 Rebooting ties with Iran No document Available

Context

The editorial talks about India and Iran relations and the need to reboot them.

Iran’s return to mainstream diplomacy

  • Following the nuclear deal most of the internationally imposed sanctions on Iran have been removed.
  • Iran has thus now returned to mainstream diplomacy and has many hosted high profile visitors in last few months such as Chinese Premiere.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit

  • Prime Minister of India Sh. Narendra Modi is expected to visit Iran on May 22-23.
  • The trip is expected to bridge the trust deficit in bilateral cooperation.

India’s Strategic Interests in Iran

  • Strong ties with Iran are vital for India. The key factor is energy.
  • It is pertinent to mention here that until the sanctions were imposed, Iran was second largest source of crude oil for India.
  • The Chabahar Port in Iran once developed would provide India alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan by passing Pakistan.
  • Both Iran and India share the goal of a stable government in Afghanistan free of Taliban’s influence.
  • Globally, Iran and India have common interests like opposition towards Al-QAEDA and Islamic State.

To and fro of bilateral relations

  • Despite common interests bilateral ties took a beating after international sanctions forced India to slash its trade with Iran.
  • But with sanctions removed and companies rushing to Iran, it is an opportune moment for India to refresh its relations with Iran.

Analysis

  • The editor feels India needs to reboot its relations with Iran.
  • Iran also seems keen on pursuing stronger ties with India and expediting stalled projects.
  • The PM’s visit to Iran comes after his trips to United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and ahead of visits to Qatar and Israel, this is consistent with government’s policy of enhanced engagement with West Asia.
  • The success of the policy depends on India’s capacity to balance the variables in the region.
  • The Iran visit is an opportunity to restore equilibrium in India’s foreign policy which of late was seen to be skewed towards Israel and Saudi Arabia.
70 A drought solution No document Available

CONTEXT

Water harvesting needs attention, not just irrigation

WHAT IS THE NEWS?

  • Demands recently submitted by CM’s of drought-hit states to PM Narendra Modi, seeks liberal assistance for the states’ drought relief efforts.

WHAT IS THE BASIC FOCUS OF DEMANDS?

  • Managing the immediate crisis.
  • Few states sought aid for medium and long-term drought mitigation & adaptation measures

WHAT SHOULD BE THE ACTUAL FOCUS?

  • Need for CONSTANT PREPAREDNESS to face droughts is of paramount significance.

WHAT IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR?

  • Well-judged situation-specific strategies to build up drought-resilience in vulnerable areas.
  • Rainwater harvesting.
  • Efficient conservation and judicious use of water .
  • Revival, restoration and maintenance of existing water bodies, construction of new ones and removal of silt from water channels .
  • Creation of check dams .
  • Expansion of irrigation .
  • Underground storage in hot and arid zones.

ISSUES TO BE LOOKED INTO?

  • Even after harnessing all available resources of water, nearly 40 per cent of the country’s total area will remain critically rain-dependent.
  • At present, the bulk of annual rainfall is allowed to run off, eroding precious soil in its wake.
  • A watershed requires a large number of residents and agencies to cooperate – a difficult ask.

CONCLUSION

  • It is, thus, time to appreciate the value of water conservation in coping with recurring droughts.
71 A disappointing verdict No document Available

Context

The editorial expresses concern on the recent Supreme Court verdict upholding provisions of  Indian Penal Code that make defamation a criminal offence.

Critical Analysis

  • The Supreme Court has upheld the criminality of defamation which has been in modern times made just a civil offence with examples present at many places in the world.
  • The Court has sought to create an artificial balance between the fundamental right of free speech under Article 19(1)(a) ans the right to reputation under Article 21.
  • When an individual has recourse to sue respondents in civil Courts for damage to reputation there is hardly any justification to keep the criminal option open.
  • In Indian context criminal defamation has often proved to be a shield for public servants, political leaders and institutions against critical scrutiny.
  • The court could have read down Section 199 of Criminal Procedure Code which allows public prosecutors to step into shoes of defamed public servants as it seems unfair for the State to suppress criticism using its machinery without the public servant personally testifying for the loss of reputation.

Conclusion

The faith the court has reposed in the public prosecutors and lower court judges to apply their mind before instituting cases or issuing summons is worrying. Perhaps the last hope for scrapping this provision lies in the Parliament.


Editorial : BCCI after Shashank Manohar

Context

Shashank Manohar had recently resigned as the President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and now has been elected as the Chairman of International Cricket Council (ICC). The editorial examines the situation.

Background

  • Beginning with controversies of conflict of interests from the Indian Premiere league, the BCCI had come under the scanner.
  • The board’s functioning was scrutinised by the Supreme Court which made extraordinary interventions.
  • The Court appointed Lodha panel to clean up the working of BCCI, the recommendations of which are still to be implemented in totality.
  • The reason behind Mr Manohar’s resignation is still unclear- whether it was on account of his inability to tide over the Lodha storm or he simply saw it as a prerequisite for election as ICC chairman.

Present Situation

Mr Manohar’s fresh stint at ICC will be closely watched to see whether he will be able to bring coherence to ICC especially to the calender of cricket.

Issues

  • Post Indian Premiere League cricket is allegedly played to the dictates of the game’s most profitable territories India, Australia and England.
  • The future tours programme which promises all ICC full members assurance if matches against each other needs revival.
  • BCCI has been alleged to force its agenda on other boards arbitrarily.
  • At the national level various lobbies are at work trying to gather numbers required for taking the post of BCCI president.

Future and Analysis

  • Whoever replaces Mr Manohar as BCCI president will first have to contend with Lodha panel’s recommendations which include provision such as cap of 70 years for office bearers and a representative of Comptroller and Auditor General of India to oversee financial transactions.
  • Whether or not Mr Manohar would be able to deal with International cricket’s issue remains a matter of speculation.
  • But for the BCCI the top item on agenda should be to avert a slide back to the board’s bad old ways and reverse its impression as an opaque, old boy’s club.
72 Improve telecom infra No document Available

Context:

Call drop penalty was never the right solution

WHAT IS THE NEWS?

Justice Nariman, while striking down the TRAI ‘s decision asking service providers to compensate subscribers for dropped calls, called it “arbitrary, ultra vires, unreasonable and not transparent”.

WHAT IS TRAI TRYING TO DO?

Trai as the regulator, it only concerned about the quality of telecom services.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

But TRAI had overlooked some basic factors while asking service providers to compensate subscribers for dropped calls ; which are as follows:

  • Licence conditions allowed up to two per cent of calls to be dropped.
  • No mechanism in the world to tell whether the call dropped from voluntary disconnection or due to glitch in the service.
  • Spectrum migration: The first lot of spectrum was issued for 20 years, after which service providers had to buy it afresh. Many bought spectrum in a different frequency subsequently. This led to customers migrating from one band to another, causing unavoidable technical glitches. It takes up to a year to sort this out.
  • The dropped-call penalty would have raised the cost of doing business for the service providers.

WHAT IS THE TAKE OF SERVICE PROVIDERS ON THIS?

Service providers are now relieved.

WHAT WERE OTHER SECTORS WORRIED ABOUT?

  • They were worried that they could be penalised for faulty service delivery
  • For instance, penalising the airline need not necessarily address the issue of flight delays; instead, the problem of flight delays could be addressed more effectively by improving the airport infrastructure.

WHAT WAS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR PENALTY?

Service providers had under-invested in equipment and the penalty would bring them to book.

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

  • The penalty was never the right solution
  • With number portability, and the existence of over half a dozen brands, any service provider that cuts corners and offers poor service is bound to lose customers . In case the service providers collude with fellow service providers to maintain similar levels of service, the matter should be addressed by the Competition Commission.
73 No small change No document Available

Context

Indian Govt has amended a tax treaty with Mauritius in which equity routed through Mauritius used to escape short term as well as long term capital gains tax in India due to Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Mauritius

Level playing field

  • Foreign investors and Indian investors which route their investments through Mauritius as well as Singapore (due to clause linking Mauritius DTAA with Singapore DTAA) are now at par with domestic investors
  • These two locations account for nearly two thirds of all investments in India (using Participatory Notes mode)
  • It is expected that now Foreign Portfolio Investments will improve in quality as now investment will reflect strength in macroeconomic fundamentals

Time to adjust

  • Existing investors as well as who acquire shares before April 1, 2017 will not be taxed.
  • Further, firms in Mauritius and Singapore will be taxed at concessional rate for the first two years until March 31, 2019.
74 Closing the tax bolthole No document Available

Context

Mauritius and India have recently renegotiated the terms of Double Tax avoidance agreement which was due for many years and had led to huge revenue losses. The editorial studies the development.

Important points

  • For many years Mauritius was serving as the heaven for businesses setting up bogus companies to save taxes.
  • The latest amendment promises to plug the loopholes and stop tax avoidance.
  • The new provisions include a mandatory check of the main purpose and bonafides of the company. If the total operational expenses of the company in that country are less than 27 lakh it will be considerd a shell company and will not be eligible for 50 percent reduction in tax rate on capital gains.
  • Another provision includes that fromApril 1, 2019 all transactions attracting capital gains tax for investments made out of Mauritius will be taxed at the full applicable rate at the time in India.

Positives of the agreement

  • The Double Tax Avoidance Agreement will ensure India’s conformity to the Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development and G-20 guidelines for combating base erosion and profit shifting.
  • The Double Tax Avoidance Agreement  will also ensure a level playing field for all international investors in India irrespective of their domicile. This will enhance India’s attractiveness as an investment destination in the long run.
75 Mr Modi as diplomat No document Available

Context

PM Narendra Modi has made 40 foreign trips to countries in five continent &  hosted more than 30 heads of state or government  but  Early promise of high-profile diplomacy not matched by substance

What is the problem now?

  • Mr Modi indicated a bold new direction by inviting India’s South Asian neighbours to his inauguration. But India’s relations in the region have not improved appreciably — although a long-delayed land boundary agreement has indeed been signed with Bangladesh.
  • India has still sustained terrorist attacks and has been unable to persuade the Pakistanis to arrest Masood Azhar, the mastermind of the latter.
  • In Nepal, India was caught on the wrong foot with a constitutional change, and its strong-arm response to the Madhesi cause, and the cancellation of a presidential visit.
  • Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, countries previously well-disposed to India, are tiptoeing towards China’s zone of influence, with its awesomely efficient and large investments .
  • Despite friendship between Mr Modi and Xi Jinping the asymmetry of the power equation was evident in the grant and revocation of an Uyghur activist’s visa by India on the flimsiest of grounds.
  • China also blocked a UN sanctions committee acting on India’s request to have Masood Azhar declared a terrorist.
  • Mr Modi was thought to have at least triumphed when US President Barack Obama accepted an invitation to India but in retrospect, it is not clear what India has gained from closer US relations either.
  • India has been shut out from Afghanistan.
  • India has given way with regard to coal technology in the Paris climate agreement
  • ITeS sector has made no gains in terms of an easier visa regime.
  • It could be argued that foreign direct inflows have grown appreciably since Mr Modi’s accession; but FDI is determined by many exogenous factors.

What is the difference with respect to his predecessors?

  • His predecessor travelled as much in the same time span But Manmohan Singh’s visits, never attracted the same intensive publicity.
  • Dr Singh’s quietly persistent diplomacy eventually put India back in global reckoning with the statement on the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement in 2005, just one year into his first tenure.

Conclusion

In two years, Mr Modi is yet to match that level of breakthrough diplomacy.

76 Freedom to map India No document Available

Context

Recently the Government of India has sent a draft of Geospatial Information Regulation Bill circulated for feedback. The articles examines the situation.

Important points

  • The Geospatial Information Regulation bill proposes to introduce a stringent law for use of geospatial data.
  • All information on geographical maps will have to be agreed upon by a special authority before being published.
  • Two aspects of the new legislation need separate consideration:

 

  1. Possibility of harassment for possession of maps or images at odds with official boundary.
  2. Implication of the legislation on a host of applications that need real time updates.
  • The new legislation includes stringent punishment of upto 7 years imprisonment and a fine upto Rs 100 crore for disseminating contradictory maps.
  • Geospatial maps which the Government wants to oversee reflect how our neighbourhood changes in real time. eg these maps help us gauge the spread of flu outbreak.
  • The provisions of the new legislation suggest that any addition or modification would need clearance as well, this may lead to delay in updates and some updates might even be rejected.

Analysis

  • The government has sent the bill for feedback and says it is open to modification sends out a good message to stakeholders.
  • Geospatial Information like telecom spectrum is just beginning to be valued as a resource. The editor feels the resource would be better mined with a transparent policy that values information more than fines.
77 Stifling drones No document Available

Context

Draft norms for unmanned aerial vehicles

What is the news?

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued draft regulations for private operations of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

What was the need of guidelines?

  • UAV industry is a high-growth and high-technology segment
  • Large number of security &safety concerns on the proliferation of drones.

What are the guidelines?

  • Privately owned drone should have a Unique Identification Number (UIN)
  • It should be equipped with Radio Frequency Identity tags and Subscriber Identification Modules.
  • Owner must be an Indian citizen (aged 13 years or older), or an Indian-registered body corporate with “substantial ownership and control vested in Indian nationals”.
  • Operator must be over 18 years of age and must be issued a permit, if the vehicle is to be flown at more than 200 feet above the ground level.
  • Drones must conform to safety regulations & carry appropriate insurance to cover liability.
  • Micro drones weighing less than 2 kg have less onerous regulatory requirements but these must not be flown except through visual line of sight.
  • Drones should not be used in controlled airspace reserved for the Air Traffic Control of manned aircraft.

Additional regulations

  • Civilian drones are banned from using uncontrolled airspace across vast swathes.
  • Drones are not to be used at all in most of Delhi.
  • These cannot be used within 50 km of international borders, or close to “sensitive” installations.
  • Additional permissions and clearances must be granted by the local police, by the Department of Telecommunications and in some cases, by the local administration.
  • Flight plans must be filed for usage. A security clearance must be obtained from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. The permits will have to be acquired at least 90 days in advance of actual operations. The permits will require renewal every two years with clearances from the Home ministry or the Bureau.

What are the issues?

  • These guidelines may be hard to enforce in practice.
  • Already, multiple types of drones are easily available, with the cheapest ones costing less than Rs 1,500 a piece. If permissions are too tedious or difficult to get, there will be a temptation to just ignore regulations.
  • In effect, given the number of “sensitive installations”, and the discretionary permissions, very little airspace may be available.

Conclusion

Drones can perform a host of useful tasks. For example, they are effectively used in damage assessment and rescue operations after disasters; for general surveys and mapping; for monitoring of power lines, ports, and pipelines; commercial photography; crop spraying; gathering of weather data, etc.Hence the regulations must be more flexible in nature.

Way Forward

Multiple safety, security and privacy concerns must be addressed. It is in every stakeholder’s interest that the DGCA conceptualizes rational guidelines for drones.

78 All up in smoke? No document Available

Context

Tobacco companies in India have recently filled an appeal with the Supreme Court resisting the new regulation for bigger warning logo on cigarette packets.

Important points

The Supreme Court has directed tobacco companies to print the logo on cigarette packets according to the new regulation Untill a decision is taken by the court.

Issues around the world with regards to smoking

  • Australia had in 2012 made cigarettes to be sold in logo free plain cartons to deter smokers.
  • The European Court of Justice backed a measure to cover two-thirds of cigarette packet with health cautions.
  • The European Union and USA have stopped sale of E-cigarettes to people under 18 years of age.

Analysis

  • Meanwhile the tobacco companies have taken the fight to yet another forum ie WTO and the Supreme Court is yet to come but the public health campaign must continue.
  • There is still a long way to go in cracking down on surrogate advertising of cigarettes.
  • The government should now take bigger steps in discouraging smoking.
79 Who created bitcoins? No document Available

CONTEXT:

Bitcoins : The Digital Currency

WHO INVENTED BITCOINS?

  • Creator signed himself (or herself) as”Satoshi Nakamoto” in May 2008, when the concept of the bitcoins was first outlined.
  • Recently an Australian computer scientist, Craig White, claimed that he was the creator.

WHAT URGED THE CREATOR TO HAVE BITCOINS?

  • A currency, which could not be controlled or tracked by governments or central banks.
  • Secured against fraud and forgery.
  • Allowing users to be anonymous.

 DETAILS ABOUT BITCOINS

  • Bitcoins are generated and maintained by peer-to-peer or P2P software.
  • Every coin is a unique code-string.
  • Coins are held in digital repositories (“bitcoin wallets“) with the owner possessing a private cryptographic key.
  • A transaction results in a coin moving from one wallet to another.
  • The real genius lies in the concept of the BLOCKCHAIN, copies of which are downloaded and held by many users.
  • The blockchain is a P2P digital ledger. It records every bitcoin generated, and every transaction made, coin by coin.
  • When a transaction is proposed, the blockchain is checked by all users to see if the coin used is valid; if that coin is associated with a specific wallet; and if any attempt is being made to commit fraud by using the coin in two transactions at the same time.
  • When the majority of blockchains tally, the check confirms a valid transaction. The coin is transferred and the blockchain duly updated.

ADVANTAGES OF BITCOINS

  • Checks and balances are strong.
  • Independent method of cross-checking(blockchain) transactions, while preventing duplication and fraud .

EXAMPLE OF AN APPLICATION

  • Bitcoins could enable “smart contracts”.
  • For example, when a municipality hires a contractor to repair roads, citizens may be asked to monitor progress, pothole by pothole, by using a blockchain.
  • Time-bound payments will be automatically made by tallying the blockchains .

WHERE CAN U BUY BITCOINS?

Users can also buy bitcoins on exchanges.

NOTE:

Daily trade volumes are about $125 million and the total value of bitcoins is estimated at $20 bn (one bitcoin is currently equivalent to about $445).

IS ANY COUNTRY ALREADY USING BITCOINS?

  • India is an active bitcoin market with over 7,000 bitcoins traded in April 2016 (approximately valued at Rs 21 crore).

DRAWBACKS OF BITCOINS

  • Absence of traditional regulations.
  • Hard to manage a standard loan .

CONCLUSION

Bitcoins and blockchains are two revolutionary new concepts that are to change the trading mechanisms in long run.

80 Poverty and the death row No document Available

Context

The editorial examines the realms of debate around the death penalty.

Important points

  • Death penalty is generally opposed with arguments such as its irreversibility, cruelty and the possibility of error.
  • In the Indian context, a report by National Law University, Delhi showed that most of those sentenced to death are poor and uneducated.
  • The report also includes the fact that Dalits face the maximum wrath of Death penalty.
  • The late President A.P.J Abdul Kalam also pointed towards a strong linkage between socio-economic standing and access to competent and effective legal representation.
  • Another easily observable phenomenon is that legal grounds which are practically unavailable to poor are invoked to save the influential.

Comments

  • The judicial system is clearly seen to be biased towards influential according to the editor.
  • The editor feels any death punishment given by such a biased system would always face the charge of socio-economic discrimination.
  • Thus the editor feels Law and society will be better served if death penalty is abolished.
81 A taxing agenda No document Available

Context

Income tax authorities released data for income tax collection in period 2000-01 to 2014-15 last week highlighting various worrying trends

BOTHERSOME

  • 80% of personal income tax has been accounted by only 11 % with 85 % paying less than Rs 1.5 lakh in tax; it shows income inequality in the country along with need of widening the tax net
  • No of people who have reported earning of more than 1 crore is also abysmal at 18,359; it shows that a huge chunk of income is from capital gains (Capital gains are the profits that an investor realizes when he or she sells thecapital asset for a price that is higher than the purchase price) or set off of loss in business income and farm income which is not taxed
  • India’s gross tax to GDP ratio has remained stagnant

INDIA NEEDS TAX INCOME

  • Welfare activities in different sector is impacted if tax collections remain poor
  • Widening/deepening of the tax base, trimming down exemptions and improving compliance in tax collections is need of the hour

Wider public debate is also needed on current tax policy which is instigated by disclosure of such data in public domain

82 Turn the corner No document Available

Context

In a case of alleged corruption in the Supreme Court-monitored investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the coal scam, an investigation officer (IO), through a letter, has alleged that senior officers had contaminated some probes. In one instance the complainant alleges reopening of a case even after the closure report was submitted to the SC, because the company’s director had refused to pay a bribe.

LEGITIMACY OF CBI?

  • It is widely believed that CBI needs green signal from its political masters to even take up a case of corruption
  • However, CBI has itself to blame as well. As sighted in letter, CBI officials are also not immune from malpractices like corruption

CBI RESTORED

  • CBI needs to build its status as well as legitimacy as nations premier investigative agency by probing every case of corruption within its ranks in full public view
  • It should also assert its independence from both financial and political manipulation
  • Not only it should be incorruptible, CBI should also seem so.

Editorial : It’s jobs, stupid

Context

Gujarat Govt has promulgated an ordinance of providing 10% quota in govt jobs and education institutions for the economically weak among upper castes

PROBLEMMATIC

  • Under the constitution, govt can only provide reservations for socially and educationally backward groups and not use it as instrument for economic uplift
  • In M NAGARAJ vs UNION OF INDIA, SC has said that existence of compelling reasons (like backwardness, lack of representation etc) is necessary before providing reservation
  • In INDIRA SAWHNEY, SC has prescribed 50 % cutoff in reservation limit; additional quota will breach this limit

GUJARAT MODEL-SUCCESS or FAILURE

  • Gujarat MSMEs sector has been collapsing which have greater potential to generate jobs; State is dependent on high end capital intensive industries for its growth
  • Wage rate in Gujarat is among the lowest in the country; enough to woo investors but detrimental for large rural and semi rural population
83 Tinderbox in the Himalayas No document Available

Context

Forest fires in Himalayas seem to have become a persistent annual phenomenon. The editorial examines the situation.

Important points

  • Western Himalayan region turns into a tinder box during severe dry season.
  • Various researches which have tried to know the causes of such fires have pointed towards involvement of people in starting the fire.
  • Disaster response has also been shown to be slow and less effective. Eg deployment of only a few helicopters for thousand hectares of forest fire extinguishing.
  • The fire problem might be exacerbated this year by last year’s El Nino, which reduced the pre-monsoon showers.

Suggestions for future

  • Uttarakhand government should involve rural population in preparing for the future. 
  • Community led Van-panchayats might be useful in preventing fires.
  • Progress can be made by providing environmental education to local residents and officials.
  • The use of biomass alternatives has had a beneficial impact on fire risk, this must be expanded.
  • Another step required is stopping spread of pine trees planted for narrow economic reasons.
    The imperative is to stop the havoc wrought by man made fires and compensate those affected by fire.
84 Band-aid solutions No document Available

Context

Maharashtra cabinet has adopted a draft legislation to control the prices of pulses. Similarly centre has asked all states to follow the lead of Maharashtra in regulating prices of pulses. Centre has also empowered state and its agencies to check hoarding of sugar to regulate its storage, trade, supply and distribution.

FLAWED SUBSIDY REGIME

  • India has most complicated regime in agriculture sector, case in point is, subsidy of fertilizer
  • General opinion of the people is that hoarding of stocks results in arbitrary increase in agri-prices which only benefit middlemen
  • However, govt, the largest agri-stockholder, use the same mechanism to improve the situation of fluctuating prices

MARKET SHOULD BE THE KING

  • Due to arbitrarily set up Minimum Export Price of onions, at present, there is glut in the market and price of onion has crashed to under Re 1; classic example of govt mishandling in agri-prices
  • Sustainable solution is that govt should allow greater play of market forces in agriculture as it will help agriculture to remain profitable for farmers

Editorial : Latest position

Context

ISRO has launched Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) 7th satellite IRNSS-1G which has enlisted India into select category of countries having their own satellite based positioning system (USA has GPS, Russia-GLONASS, France-DORIS, EU: Galileo, China-Beidou). India has named IRNSS as Navic.

NAVIC- A REQUIREMENT

  • With resolution of 10 m and footprint extending to 1500 Km beyond Indian borders, military usage of Navic is of paramount importance
  • Right now, Indian military depends upon USA’s GPS (Global Positioning System) which cannot be relied in war times as illustrated in Kargil War.

PUBLIC USAGE

  • Navic will also offer public access to civilian applications like logistics, transportation, vehicle automation, robotics, disaster management, prospecting, tracking etc
  • However as GPS is an open system, choice of usage of positioning system should remain with Indian customers between Navic and others
  • Navic requires fitting of an electronic component in devices and it requires time to develop its full scale commercial implications.
85 Reboot MGNREGA No document Available

Context

Today MNREGA is helping neither the drought-affected nor the really poor states.

Objective of the Scheme

To provide guaranteed employment in public works to those needing it most.

Present Statistics

  • States currently in poll mode have reported the highest increase in job numbers under MGNREGA in the year that ended March 31, 2016 which  clearly had to do more with a pre-election push from “above” by the ruling parties than any distress-driven demand pull from “below”.
  • A third of Maharashtra’s gram panchayats, incurred “nil expenditure” under the MGNREGA; that it happened in a terrible drought year speaks volumes about the state government’s commitment to the scheme.

What is the Issue?

  • Although conceived as a demand/ distress-driven programme, its successful implementation has largely rested upon state-level governance capacity or political expediency .This highlights an inherent design flaw in the MGNREGA.
  • States do not register demand for employment even in times of widespread distress because the MGNREGA rules require work to be provided within 15 days of demand registration, failing which they are entitled to unemployment benefits from the state

What can be done?

  • Allocate MGNREGA funds to states by linking it to their individual rural poor population numbers.
  • Before the start of a financial year, the Centre can announce the allocation to each state and declare that any unspent amount would be automatically reallocated to those with the capacity to use this money.
  • The very prospect of foregoing one’s entitlement — and letting the public know — would put pressure on the states to implement the MGNREGA better.

Conclusion

  • If the MGNREGA is neither helping the states worst-hit by drought nor those with the highest poverty incidence, there is a fundamental problem that must be addressed to make it a genuinely demand- and need-driven programme.
86 Fed affords RBI wiggle room No document Available

Context

The United States Federal Reserve has left interest rates unchanged. This editorial studies the trends of the global economy in this regard.

Important Points

  • The US Federal Reserve has left interests rates unchanged for a third straight meeting citing moderation in growth in world’s largest economy.
  • The US is the largest market for Indian Export hence its economic indicators merit a closer examination.
  • Signs from American Corporate sector have also not been good as technology giants such as google, Apple etc have reported disappointing numbers.
  • The overall scenario suggests that the interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve are going to be lesser than expected before.
  • Meanwhile Japan the third largest economy of the world is also likely to face contraction in its economy in 2017 as predicted by the International Monetary Fund.

Suggestions for Indian economy

  • The policy makers in India need to strike a balance between domestic growth and attracting adequate capital flows. 
  • The Reserve Bank of India must use the next five weeks to gauge the strength of the headwinds and if domestic factors to warrant be ready to provide policy accommodation to help bolster India’s economic recovery.
87 All in the frame No document Available

Context

Odd-even brings on some scenes of cross-party participation

Political Example in India 

Phase 1:

  • CJI and his brother judge carpooling to work.
  • AAP ministers waiting for their chief to give them a lift to the secretariat.

Phase 2:

  • Supriya Sule of the NCP, Poonam Mahajan of the BJP and Sushmita Dev of the Congress shared a car .
  • MPs belonging AAP’s & BJP, have made their way to the House on cycle, bus .

Some Examples in the world

  • Paris, frequently breaches EU standards for some pollutants & now has successfully dabbled with car-free days and road rationing and has built public momentum against pollution with a helium balloon that hovers over the skyline and changes colour depending on pollution levels.
  • French president’s eschewal of the presidential jet for the train.
  • In Jakarta, which also battles a pollution crisis, the governor banned city officials from using cars on the first Friday of each month.
  • In Switzerland, 91 per cent of delegates take tram to parliament.

Conclusion 

  • Pollution and the environment have become political, mainstream issues.
  • The power of political example must not be underestimated.
  • Civic participation over the pockets of genuine opposition to the policy

Way Forward

  • As the second phase of odd-even ends, it will no doubt be evaluated on its impact on suspended particulate matter and congestion.
  • But in foregrounding pollution as a political issue and engendering a cross-party resolve to combat it, it has already made a dent.
88 Another missed opportunity No document Available

Context

The editorial discusses the current situation in India-Pakistan’s bilateral relations.

Important points

  • Recently the foreign secretary level meeting between India and Pakistan failed to find ant common ground to discuss bilaterally.
  • The issues raised by both parties such as 26/11 attacks by India and Baluchistan interference by the Pakistan side seemed statements for respective domestic audience and not bilateral outreach.
  • There are hopes that as Pakistan hosts the SAARC summit thus year , it may be willing to be more flexible in talks.
  • Various other positives for bilateral relations have been the UFA meeting between the two Prime ministers, sustained contact between National security advisers and the  unscheduled visit to Lahore by the Indian Prime Minister.

Conclusions

  • The two Prime Ministers have expressed clearly the vision for bilateral ties by keeping alive a direct line of conversation for months.
  • It is now for the governments which in Pakistan also means military to work towards realization of the vision.
  • The editor feels that in a world where USA and Cuba have restored ties, Russia-China have formed close partnership and Iran has come out of isolation, it is not to much to hope that India and Pakistan can at least discuss key issues. 
89 Companies run by god-men need regulation too No document Available

Context

The spiritual gurus, like Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar, are running businesses. But there is concern that the aura of spiritualism might not shield them from the regulatory structure for too long. There are also many open questions about whether current food and drug regulations can deal with consumer products from companies like Patanjali.

Some Facts

  • Patanjali is an unlisted entity
  • Patanjali will cross Rs 10,000 crore by March 2017 putting it ahead of Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble.
  • “Sri Sri” Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living has also launched products related to Ayurveda.

Some Concerns

  • How well businesses like Mr Ramdev’s or Mr Shankar’s conform to the overall regulatory framework.
  • Most of these businesses run by spiritual gurus have crowd-sourced their funds from followers.
    • But the law on “collective investment schemes” (defined as any collection of funds to the extent of Rs 100 crore) would deter crowd-funding for a business idea that openly says it is a business seeking money.
  • Then there is the issue of related-party transactions.
    • A majority of Art of Living’s FMCG products are made by companies run by close relatives.
    • The law is tough on related-party transactions and imposes tough compliance conditions.
90 Retail licence Raj No document Available

Context

Apple Computers might soon be allowed to open a chain of single-brand retail stores across India without fulfiling the standard regulatory requirements. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, or DIPP, might be giving a waiver in the requirement of local component sourcing.

What is wrong with giving Apple this permission

  • DIPP can invoke clauses for exemptions from regulations that govern retail.
  • The clauses also seem discretionary.
  • Other manufacturers of consumer electronics will be unhappy if Apple receives such a waiver and they do not.
  • Several such proposals are said to be pending.

What is the current policy

  • Current policy allows 100 per cent FDI in single brand
    • But permission is required if the FDI holding exceeds 49 per cent.
  • The company must also commit to sourcing at least 30 per cent of components locally.
    • The “escape clause” allows a waiver in the 30 per cent sourcing requirement if “state-of-the-art” and “cutting-edge technology” is employed.

Why can’t companies manufacture locally

  • India lacks an ecosystem for manufacturing electronic components at the massive scale necessary to be cost-effective.
  • The ongoing tax issues (Nokia’s Chennai factory case)have made global manufacturers wary.

What could be done

  • It is not in the consumers’ interest to keep manufacturers out.
    • Currently the products are widely sold and serviced via distributors.
  • Exemptions pertaining to “state-of-the-art” and “cutting-edge technology” are open to subjective interpretation.
  • The regulations pertaining to retail remind of the Licence Raj.
  • These must be reviewed to avoid discrimination between competitors in the same space.

 

91 Waiting for justice No document Available

Context

CJI T.S Thakur has spoken the need of filling the vacancies of judges to expedite the long list of pending cases

Multi-faceted Repercussions

  • Lack of judges and pendency is hampering India
    • foreign companies think twice before investing in India due to vagueness on dispute resolution
    • under trials waste precious years of their lives in prisons
    • poor protection given by legal system makes Indians risk averse which has significant social and economic implication

Government is not the sole culpable party

  • main reason for pendency of cases is ease of securing adjournments; issue can only be solved by judicial interventions
  • civil lawsuits of same nature are allowed to follow repetitive and long patterns by judiciary
  • discussions between govt and judiciary are necessary as govt is party to large no of litigations
92 A desperate situation No document Available

Context

The pendency of cases in the Indian Judicial system seems ever increasing. The editorial examines the situation.

Important points

  • It is a well established fact that Indian judiciary is understaffed. The perceived requirement is of about 50,000 judges whereas the country has just 18000 judges presently. 
  • Occasionally observations made by superior judiciary on the alarming state of affairs elicit some sympathetic noises but concrete measures to solve the problem never arrive.

Analysis and suggestions

  • The situation demands an ambitious infusion of man power and resources to which even state government’s will have to contribute immensely.
  • The need is to calculate number of judges required at each level to dispose of a particular number of cases based on analysis.
  • The Centre and judiciary should collaborate on finding practical solutions like appointing more judges, including retired judges and deploying judicial resources efficiently.
93 Challenges for Indian IT No document Available

Context

While the current scenario is comfortable for the IT sector in terms of financial results, it should not create any kind of complacency. The article discusses challenges for Indian IT sector.

What are the concerns

  • Nasscom revised its projection for export growth for the sector to a little downwards to 12.3 per cent from the earlier range of 12-14 per cent.
  • A major challenge is for the industry to take care of its image in its key markets, the US and Europe. (Context – The massive fine imposed by a jury in the US on TCS on charges of stealing another company’s intellectual property).
  • As routine IT jobs get automated, these companies will have to shift their focus of recruitment to higher skill levels.

What’s the solution to these problems

  • Increase local recruitment in foreign countries. This will reduce the need for posting Indian engineers abroad.
  • IT firms will increasingly be hiring fewer people with higher skills.
  • IT sector instead of being a provider of many middle-class jobs, will need to turn itself into a provider of fewer high-skill jobs.
94 Going on 60 No document Available

Context

Policymakers and politicians can no longer afford to ignore India’s rising elderly population

Recent Studies

  • A recent report by the ministry of statistics shows that India’s 60-plus population has jumped by 35.5 per cent, from 7.66 crore to 10.38 crore, between 2001 and 2011. 
  • Corresponding numbers in the zero-six years age group have, for the first time, registered an absolute decline from 16.38 crore to 15.88 crore.
  • In three states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa — the total elderly population actually outnumbers children aged below six, as per Census 2011.

Reasons

A result of increasing longevity thanks to modern medical science and declining fertility because of family planning, along with a rising average marriage age — has huge social, economic and political implications.

Why they should be paid attention?

  • geriatrics is becoming an important industry these
  • Unlike the 15.88 crore children, they all vote.
  • old-age homes — a nascent industry that could turn into a veritable money-spinner

Comparison with other societies

In countries such as Germany, Sweden and Japan, anywhere between a quarter to a third of the population is above 60 years old. India’s ratio, by comparison, is only 8.6 per cent.

Advantages to India

  • India also has the advantage of an “economically active” population in the 15-59 age group, whose share has risen from 53.9 per cent to 60.3 per cent between 1981 and 2011.
  • The workforce drawn from this segment can potentially earn the incomes to support both their children and the elderly.

Way Forward

An environment that creates gainful employment for these men and women, and also enables them to save enough for their own retirement, is what public policy should aim at.

95 Growing cracks in the U.S.-Saudi alliance No document Available

Context

Recently the US-Saudi relations are becoming strained and the close allies are developing cracks in the alliance.

Important points

  • The USA’s closest gulf ally since 70 years was  Saudi Arabia . 
  • USA’s economic and strategic interests in the gulf region such as dependence on gulf for oil, war on terror and need to fight Soviet Communism made the partnership stronger between USA and Saudi Arabia.
  • Relations recently turned sour due to 3 major reasons-
    • USA refused to protect Egypt’s dictator Mubarak.
    • USA declined to bomb Syria
    • The nuclear deal with Iran.
  • The Shia strong hold Saudi was distressed with these steps. 
  • One push for the US’s policy is that it is no longer dependent on gulf for oil due to its Shale gas boom.

Conclusion

USA has realised that it needs Iran to stabilize the region. But USA will not abandon Saudi Arabia altogether. It is just a matter of rebalancing of relations

96 The right reply No document Available

Context

Uttarakhand High Court has overruled the centre’s decision to impose article 356 in Uttarakhand prompting Harish Rawat’s govt to prove its majority in a floor test

Constitutional Impropriety

  • In spite of option of using the floor test to prove majority, centre govt, inexplicably recommended president’s rule in Uttarakhand
  • High Court has pulled up centre govt for ‘imposing chaos’ and looking for an opportunity to take away powers of state govt.
  • It has ruled material produced by centre for imposing article 356 as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘extraneous’

Not Unprecedented

  • Abuse and misuse of article 356 has been done continuously
  • In BOMMAI CASE, Supreme Court evolved the guidelines on its use; one of which is that majority of a govt could be tested only on floor of the house.

Co-operative Federalism Undermined

This act of constitutional impropriety by centre govt undermines the spirit of cooperative federalism set out as a principle governing centre-state relations by PM Modi.


97 A misguided ban in Delhi No document Available

Context

The Delhi Government recently banned surge pricing by taxi aggregators and imposed second phase if odd even scheme. This editorial evaluates the situation.

Important Points

  • The odd-even scheme may be a welcome intervention to reduce traffic congestion on roads but the ban on surge pricing is likely to continue even after odd even scheme’s second phase ends .
  • Arbitrary interventions in the demand and supply market by government seem pointless in absence of alternative solutions.

What is surge pricing

It is basically an algorithm based mechanism that determines fares based on demand and supply. Some Other means in transport sector are allowed surge pricing eg Airlines and Railways have the flexibility.

Analysis

  • In general the aggregators have helped customer with more taxi options and reduced prices.
  • Some regulations for taxis are offcourse needed to ensure safety of the commuters such as the guideline that aggregators cannot be owners of fleet unless registered as operators.
  • But such obtrusive regulation would work against the interests commuters and drivers.

Conclusion

A more useful intervention would have been to enhance public awareness if how these algorithms work in commuter’s favour and at most cap surge pricing to a predetermined multiple of regular rate. The government should also do more to provide better modes of public transport.

98 Backward on trade No document Available

Context :

India is lagging behind in negotiations on various international multilateral platforms. Like WTO, TPP or RCEP. It needs to catch up as discussed in the article.

What India should be doing :

  • India could be among the biggest gainers from multilateral trade negotiations.
  • It must also try to adapt itself to the new order of bilateral or regional trade agreements.

What is India’s status presently  :

  • India has been left out of the TPP.
  • It is showing little willingness in approaching talks at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP.

What is RCEP :

  • It includes
    • Members of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations)
    • Countries with which India already has a free trade agreement
      • Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Korea.
    • That is, RCEP = ASEAN+6

But does free trade lead to revenue loss to the government :

  • Commerce ministry estimates that lower tariffs might reduce government revenue by 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product or GDP.

So, can India ask other countries to forego similar revenues :

  • This would be quite absurd.
  • ASEAN countries have long ago sacrificed tariff revenue by lowering their rates.

What can govt do?

  • India has cheaper-labour than China, deficits in infrastructure and other measures of competitiveness must be addressed.
  • India must negotiate technicalities like harmonising regulations and phytosanitary conditions.
99 Are negative rates the new normal? No document Available

Context :

The global economy has been really sluggish in recovery. This editorial examines the situation.

Important points :

  • At the Spring Meeting of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) it was agreed that there should be agreement on on atleast avoiding the strategies that hurt global progress. 
  • China’s slow growth since 2009, low global commodity prices and the uncertainty of Britain continuing in European Union have contributed immensely to global negative sentiment. 
  • Currently an experimental approach of negative nominal interest rates has been followed by 6 Central Banks in the world.
  • Proponents of negative rate see it as a stimulus to spending for consumers and lending for banks thereby spurring economic growth.
  • Individual savers would however have to save more or hold on to cash for meeting long term targets. 
  • A sizeable ageing population in Japan , Germany etc is also hailed as an economic problem.

Conclusion :

  • While emphasising the potential to create stimulus in the economy the IMF is tentative about longevity of negative rates.
  • Group of 20 countries recently agreed to refrain from competitive devaluation.
  • According to the editor  the agenda for negative rates  would soon come up for concerted action.
100 Fine notice on TCS raises key issues No document Available

Context :

TCS has been fined in USA on charges of stealing the intellectual property of another software company.

What is the issue :

Epic Systems, the largest software provider for health information systems in USA, has accused TCS of unauthorised downloads of proprietary data while implementing the Epic Systems solution for a customer.

TCS’s defence argument :

  • In a software product the source code is proprietary while the manual given with a product is not.
  • But the jury, who are non-technical people, may not grasp such distinctions.
  • TCS has also declared that it “did not derive any benefit from downloaded documents”.

Effect of this case on reputation of India :

  • Questions will be asked about the level of protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in India.
  • There is laxity in interpreting the law.

Some points to know :

  • TCS is India’s largest software services company
101 College chale hum No document Available

Context :

NABARANGPUR, district of Odisha (poorest in India), is going to have its first Govt degree college underlining the importance of higher education and existent gaps in India

Higher Education : Achilles Heel

  • Govt more focused on primary and secondary education
  • With population employed in agriculture decreasing relatively and absolutely as well as low productivity of agriculture, higher education is going to become important

Challenges :

  • Quality over quantity; employability over collection of degree documents
  • Skill development
  • Disdain of labor or work by hand by people acquiring higher education
102 Green shoots No document Available

Context :

  • India’s consumption of petroleum products is going up, not totally because of decrement in price of petroleum. It is a sign of recovery of economy, though, much needs to be done for green shoots of start of recovery to turn into trees
  • Not only petrol and diesel but construction material like bitumen, petroleum coke, furnance oil along with small/heavy commercial vehicles , cement and electricity generation sectors are showing rise in consumption, use or sales

Government driven Recovery :

Roads are being constructed at all time speed; forward and backward linkages of road sector is boosting the economy

 Still work to be done :

  • Real estate and agriculture sector are still reeling
  • Good monsoon, reform in insolvency/bankruptcy resolution and pending GST bills are requirement to boost the process of recovery
103 Limited integration No document Available

ontext :

Launch of new electronic “e-mandi” platform. This will help in making of a national agricultural market. (Agriculture is a state subject).

What are the major benefits of e-mandi platform :

  • Farmers can sell their produce wherever they could get good prices
  • Help farmers escape the cartels that dominate local mandis
  • To allow wholesale trading on a national level

What are the various issues with the system :

  • Farm marketing varies from state to state and also within the states
  • Each wholesale mandi is governed by its own Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC).
  • Separate licences are required, charging different marketing fees, for every mandi.
  • The use of technology is low
  • There is very little transparency in transactions

What does the new system bring :

All 585 major farm markets across the country are planned to be linked to the e-platform by March 2018.

Is it being done anywhere in India :

  • Yes
  • Karnataka has a statewide barrier-free electronic market for farm produce
  • It has resulted in better price realisation for farmers

 What are the shortcomings of the new proposed model :

  • Having a single wholesale trading licence valid across the country/region
  • A single-point imposing of market fees
  • E-auction as the mode for price discovery.
  • Too few warehouses equipped with facilities for weighing, grading and standardisation of stocks Aggregators (like Arhtiyas) would need to pool together small surpluses of individual farmers

Which agency will be incharge of the new platform :

Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC)

What other reforms could be done :

  • Amendment of the states’ APMC Acts on the lines of the Model APMC Act 2003.
  • States to give up control over APMCs which give them political clout and yield handsome revenues for the state exchequers.
104 The missing link No document Available

Context :

PM Modi has asked businesses to invest in India’s 7500 km coastline to make ports and inland waterways as engine of growth

Million Dollar Question :

  • Economy survey highlights poor maritime infrastructure; Choice needs to be made between investment in existing ports or spend on new ports
  • Quality of services at existing ports are dismal in India

Backing Required :

  • Huge time and cost in handling of freight at Indian ports need to be tackled; experts of suggested that building small ports along the cost and inland waterways is the way forward
  • Every great industrial civilization is built on maritime infrastructure from historical time
  • Uncalled for reluctance in Indian policy set up to embrace maritime culture needs to be shunned
105 Reviving a good idea No document Available

Context :

The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test ( NEET) was earlier declared unconstitutional but now there is hope of reviving the test.

Important points :

  • The NEET was a test introduced in 2010 for those seeking admission in Medical and Dental courses.
  • It saved students the trouble of writing multiple entrance exams for state-run  and private institutions. 
  • NEET encounterd opposition from 2 quarters. The State and The private institutions especially the minority run institutes. 
  • State government opposed the centralisation imposed implicitly by NEET. 
  • Minority institutes argued that NEET violated their constitutional right to regulate admissions.
  • The Supreme Court earlier haf struck down NEET as violative of constitution. But the dissenting opinion in the judgement said NEET could be used merely to create a pool of eligible candidates from which the institutes were free to select. 
  • The judgement is now under a review at the Supreme Court.

Conclusion :

According to the editor NEET may be back in place. An early disposal of the review petition is needed to put in  place a transparent admission process and eliminate any confusion.

106 Today’s politics aims to neutralize BR Ambedkar No document Available
  • To use Ambedkar for partisan political ends is to do the great man an injustice.
  • Anybody worried about the persistence of liberalism in Indian society, the rise of divisive politics, the weakening authority of the state and the challenges of economic modernization should well to go back to Ambedkar.

Ambedkar as a counter-liberal

Ambedkar put a lot of hope in education as a way to minimize social oppression, but he also saw that it would take too long for education to create an equal society in an illiterate country such as India. That is why he banked on the constitutional state to not just be a neutral referee but also an instrument of social change.

Ambedkar on individual liberty

Ambedkar was strong believer in individual liberty,  welcomed modernity in all its forms,  had tremendous faith in the radical possibilities of public education, and  argued that ideas should be judged by whether they worked in practice.

Ambedkar on Constitutional Morality

Ambedkar warned that abandoning constitutional morality—or freedom constrained by the rule of law— would open the gates to anarchy. Indian people should “hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It must mean that we abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha.

Ambedkar on Democracy

Ambedkar believed that political democracy needs to be strengthened with social democracy, which most importantly means the annihilation of caste.

Ambedkar on Political Idolatry

Against the usual Indian tendency towards political idolatry.

Ambedkar on Populism vs Reasoned Politics

He believed more in “reasoned politics” of Ranade rather than  in his opinion “ irresponsible populism “of M. K. Gandhi and M.A. Jinnah .

Conclusion:

  • This advice is worth remembering as the nation marks the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar.It remains central to the health of our constitutional democracy.
  • To use Ambedkar to further some partisan political campaign is to do injustice to the great man. So also the desperate urge to put him on a safe pedestal rather than take forward the larger Ambedkarite project.
107 Achhe din No document Available
  • Context :

    The India Meteorological Department’s has predicted that India is likely to receive “above-normal” rainfall this year. After back to back deficient monsoon years India’s agricultural growth has collapsed from 4.2 per cent in 2013-14 to minus 0.2 per cent in 2014-15 and 1.1 per cent in 2015-16

    IMD: a reliable forecaster :

    • Inspite of above average rainfall in June 2015, when most of the private players predicted above average monsoon as a whole, IMD stuck to its stance of the monsoon to be deficient as whole
    • Two consecutive el nino years have been, historically, followed by average or above average rainfall which might be the case this year

    Government’s Responsibility :

    • It is just a preliminary estimate; euphoria at this stage might be pre mature
    • El nino is weakening but it can linger on till first half of monsoon; overall monsoon can be good but initially it will be weak.
    • Farmers need to be incentivized to sow crops which are essential for domestic demand-supply gap
    • Above average monsoons can cause floods for which preparation is necessary
108 A firm handshake, not an embrace No document Available
  • Context :

    Recent visit of US defence secretary Ashton Carter and the increasing realm of India – US relations. 

    Important Points :

    • India has agreed to Sign LEMOA. (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) with USA.
    • Once concluded LEMOA would give American aircrafts and warships access to Indian bases and Indians access to US bases for logistical purposes like refuelling and repair.
    • The agreement will transform India’s relations qualitatively with US, unfurling new security paradigm.
    • The agreement is likely to have multiple implications on India’s relations with other nations.
    • Indian side did not right away sign the agreement in this visit as expected by Americans.

    Conclusion :

    • Not signing the LEMOA immediately gives India time to tackle the ongoing domestic debate.
    • Significantly Indian side has not made reference to ‘Joint Patrols’ in its statement like the US did repeatedly.
    • According to the editor Indi must consider repercussions of this huge strategic alliance before concluding it.
    • The US administration will change next year so it would be wise for India to wait for the next meet.
    • US has still not addressed Indian concern on it funding Pakistan.
    • Editor concludes that India should Welcome a firm hand shake with US but need not embrace it just yet.
109 AirAsia, Indian? No document Available
  • Context :

    Issue of foreigners controlling Indian airlines is gaining momentum. The article discusses the problem with the present law that dictates the present partnerships between Indian and Foreign air carriers.

    What’s the law presently :

    • In 2012, liberalised FDI rules in Indian carriers allowed 49 per cent ownership by foreigners.

     

    What’s the current issue :

    Domestic company AirAsia being controlled by Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd.

    What’s the broader debate :

    • Allegations that the domestic shareholders are bound by an excessively detailed brand licence agreement.
    • That operating requirements in the brand licence agreement leave no control vested with domestic shareholders.
    • It is against the existence of a level playing field.

     What could be done :

    AirAsia must be asked to submit its brand licence agreement to shareholders to be scrutinized by them to ensure it did not violate control laws.

     What’s the law in other countries :

    The US and the European Union signed an agreement under President Obama allowing foreign ownership of each other’s domestic airlines.

110 Keep talking No document Available
  • Context :

    American secretary of Defense recent visit to India

    China Fear ?

    • US increasingly coming closer to India; case in point are bilateral defense partnership and joint strategic vision statement of 2015
    • Indian Defense Minister however dismissed plans of joint patrols while on visit to US as Indian does not want to be seen taking sides (against China)

    Defence Sector needs Overhaul

    • Defense Trade and Technology Initiative has ties with Make in India which seeks co development and co production rather than mere selling and buying
    • Indian need to modernize its military and needs air force need fleet replenishment. US export legislation and congress oversight might hinder full implementation of Make in India but India is in need for DTII
    • Carter signed Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement which allows mutual refueling and supplies exchange
    • DTII has also been enhanced by including new bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue
111 Keeping tigers in the green zone No document Available
  • Context :

    The Tiger population has recently risen. The issue now moves on to improvement in environment and habitat of tigers.

    Important points : 

    • World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum have estimated an increase of 600 tigers worldwide. This indicates good conservation policy.
    • But absolute numbers do not define health of the tigers across nations. Terrible counting mistakes have also been made in the past eg Sariska reserve count.
    • Indian Environment and forests Ministry came up with better techniques in 2014 such as photographic  technique.
    • India will now host third ministerial conference on Tiger Conservation, it should now commit to scientific methods even more. 

    Conclusion :

    • In future tigers will survive only if countries can maintain core habitats, ensure genetic exchange and control poaching. 
    • The lack of political will to reduce industrial pressure on  forests is evident. It needs to be tackled and forests saved.
    • Mitigating damage through benign alternatives is vital.
    • India by assuming such green leadership and effectively protecting tigers can demonstrate to other countries how a populous country could preserve wildlife and provide life sustaining ecosystem services to all.
    • The editor suggests independent scientific organizations should be included as partners in research in protected areas.
    • Effective conservation always demands transparency.

     

112 The Game Changer No document Available
  • Context :

    Electric vehicles are assumed to be the transporter of masses in future. With increasing emphasis on reducing green house gases, electric vehicle manufacturing companies will come in focus.

    Why in news now :

    • Tesla has announced launch of Model 3
    • A large number of orders booked shows people are ready to accept the technology.

    Indian scenario regarding electric vehicles :

    High import duties presently at 125 per cent

    Problems with Electric Vehicle :

    • Energy storage.
    • High prices of products
    • Non-existing ecosystem (like charging points and markets for spares)

    But is an electric vehicle automatically good for the environment :

    • It depends on the energy mix used in generating power.
    • That varies from nation to nation.
    • India generates about 70 per cent of its electricity from thermal coal.
    • Which has a larger carbon footprint than petroleum or natural gas.
    • So an electric vehicle may actually be worse for the environment in India.

    What could be done then :

    • Power industry needs to go green
    • Charge networks need to develop
    • Rapid development of electric car technologies
113 Inviting disaster No document Available
  • Context :

    Fire in Kollam Temple in Kerala due to bursting of crackers where over a hundred people died.

    Multiple reasons :

    • Temple administration connived with politicians to not comply orders of collector as well as magistrate (both muslims) who refuse permission to burst crackers. Religious slurs were used.
    • Police refused to intervene due to fear of large gathering
    • Politicians stood with temple administration due to incoming elections
    • Fire crackers were never part of celebration. In recent years fire crackers were displayed in open spaces. Unplanned urbanization has reduced open spaces.
    • Clear guidelines were not neither followed nor enforced; hapless administrators need emasculation.
114 Focus on trade No document Available
  • Context :

    India’s exports are consistently falling. This is related to a host of factors. Becoming part of new multilateral partnerships can help revive the export scenario.

    What’s wrong with exports :

    • Exports have fallen for 15 months in a row.
    • Downfall driven by the fall in the price of oil.
    • Because refined petrochemicals are a major EXPORT for India.
    • Non-oil exports have also fallen because of low world trade and overall demand.

    Is it the same worldwide :

    India’s peer countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Malaysia, have grown exports.

    Is everything wrong :

    • No
    • External account appears comfortable
    • Because of low oil price fall import bill is down

    What are the major risks then :

    • If industrial growth picks up, imports too will likely rise;
    • If oil prices go up, external account might become uncomfortable.

    What could be done :

    • Export growth needs to be revived.
    • Implement Doha Round of the WTO to benefit most from multilateral trading arrangements.
    • Strive to integrate itself into the new regional trading arrangements like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC or Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP.
    • Improve environmental and labour laws, customs procedures and trade facilitation norms to attract exporting units to set up plants here.
    • Opening retail to foreign investment is welcome.
    • Try to curb currency volatility.
115 The wages of negligence No document Available
  • Context :

    Explosion in storehouse of Puttingal Devi temple Kerala’s Kollam district killed more than a 100 people. Human security compromised.

    Important points :

    • The deadly fire was caused by fireworks set off despite Collector’s refusal to grant permission.
    • The police force even did not stop the event’s illegality even when crackers were burnt after 10 p.m.
    • The editor hopes that Political parties do not try gathering electoral capital from the tragedy and an impartial investigation takes place. 
    • A case had already been registered against the temple committee and a judicial inquiry has been ordered.
    • It is ironical but relevant to mention here that Kerala is one of the better placed states in cases of mass safety and has a specific code for such events. But the rules of the code were clearly violated.

    Conclusion :

    • If the established code was taken seriously there would not have been any such incident.
    • The editor suggests that there should be zero tolerance for violations in mass events.
    • All contingency protocols should be tested through regular drills. 

     With nearly 50 annual religious mass gatherings and a huge Thrissur Pooram round the corner Kerala cannot afford another failure. 

116 On detecting and delaying diabetes No document Available
  • Context :

    Diabetes prevalence is increasing around the world and India is one of the major culprits to the problem.

    Important points :

    • The age adjusted prevalence of diabetes in India between 1980 and 2014 has more than doubled to 9.1 and 8.3 percent in men and women respectively.
    • India and China are the major culprits adding to the increasing number of diseased.
    • It is an accepted truth that increases in longevity of life and growing population had contributed to increase in diabetes but obesity is emerging as an important risk factor. Number of obese people in India is on a constant rise.
    • Increased consumption of sugar, refined food products , sedentary life style and genetic susceptibility puts Indians at a large risk of obesity.
    • Diabetes has also become a considerable drain from the economic angle, with estimated 73 billion annual cost.

    Suggestions to reduce the problem :

    • Concerted efforts must be directed at preventing and delaying diabetes.
    • A probable solution with lots of potential is diagnosing and treating gestational diabetes.
    • Pre-diabetes diagnosis and prevention is also and effective cure.
    • To make any campaign successful in India public awareness is always crucial.
117 Standing up to prejudice No document Available
  • Context :

    Launch of Stand-Up India, a scheme for creating businessmen and women from among the SCs, STs and Women.

    What is Stand-Up India :

    A programme for entrepreneurship and empowerment for excluded groups

    It’s benefits :

    • A practical way of helping these sections than reserving jobs in government institutions
    • Especially given the shrinking market for jobs.
    • Integrate marginalised sections into the “mainstream economy”.
    • Time-bound deliverables: 250,000 approvals in 36 months for loans between 10 lakhs and 1 crore.
    • Certain hand-holding of borrowers from the pre-loan to the operating stage.
    • Refinancing options via the Small Industries Development Bank of India
    • A separate corpus for credit guarantees.

    What else needs to be done :

    • Little intervention in day to day activities by state institutions
    • Greater participation in leadership roles by lower castes and women
    • Providing sourcing network to ventures
    • Providing marketing help to ventures

     Is it one of its kind institution?

    • National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation set up in 1989
    • Mahila Bank (facing closure).
118 Press restart Click to start download
  • Context :modi-sharif-759

    PM Narendra Modi Pakistan policy can be applauded for intent of engagement even after adverse happenings of recent times. However, a change in  method of engagement is need of the hour

    Performance vs Planning :

    • PM Modi risked political capital in pursuit of peace with Pakistan but a clear road map of the process is missing. Time and again, Indian advisors have been fooled by Pakistan Army that it is aligning itself to democratically elected Pakistani PM.
    • With the premise of talks been wrong, India’s approach towards Pakistan stands out of depth and worse still out of reality of present times as well.

    Changing Times :

    In 2002, Gen Musharraf and Pakistan were aptly placed to influence Pakistani Jihad on Indian soil. With Pakistan grappling with existential dangers due to home grown terror networks, its rulers (Political and Military) need to demonize India to subvert and convert much of the efforts of terrorists to its east neighbor

    Way Ahead :

    • India need to engage not only politically but culturally and economically with Pakistan as well
    • There is growing need to mitigate anti India sentiment in Pakistan, tactfully (mis)used by both Pakistani army and politicians
    • Dialogue with Pakistan should be continued with overarching strategic aim
119 Welcome waste as new wealth No document Available
  • Context :

    Waste management has become a very relevant issue in the modern urban set up. Improper management of waste is allegedly causing pollution as well as wasting tappable resources.

    Important Points :

    • The Ministry of Environment has notified new Solid Waste Management rules, 2016 with clear assignment of duties to various classes of consumers.
    • Rules were also issued in the year 2000 but they failed .

    Suggestions for better Management of Waste :

    • It is suggested by the editor that for success of rules the local bodies should appeal to rational impulse of communities.
    • Bulk waste generators like hoteliers etc could be asked to support composting or biomethanation.
    • Cess funds collected for Swachh Bharat could be used for scaling up infrastructure for waste management.
    • An innovative suggestion is to formalize system of rag-pickers as co-operatives.
    • Municipalities are suggested to focus on creating reliable systems to manage different waste streams.

    Conclusion :

    If India can handles waste properly starting with separation of wet waste from the rest it would make cities greener and cleaner. It would provide huge amount of recyclable plastic and also as garbology studies suggest will help in recovery of buried wealth.

120 No holy cows No document Available
  • Context :

    After the Panama papers expose, govt is tightening the noose around those involved in any wrong doing

    PANAMA PAPERs : everything is wrong?

    • Investing in off shore companies is not illegal. India’s Overseas Direct Investment scheme, since 2013 allows it by complying to some rules and disclosure norms
    • Multi Agency Group, which includes officers from Central Board of Direct Taxes, Financial Intelligence Unit and RBI will probe the cases of Panama papers but distinction has to be made between legitimate accounts and those that violate the law

    Off shore investments-need deeper look

    • However, there is need to also ascertain whether people who invested in offshore firms did it purely to avoid tax payments nationally.
    • India has every right to be concern about issues of tax avoidance as it needs revenues to fund social and capital investments. India has low tax to GDP ratio (10%) and just over 42000 individuals earning over 1 crore annually and paying tax
    • India is party to international agreement which help in automatic exchange of information regarding issues of tax avoidance

    Disclosure- govt responsibility as well

    Govt should put in public domain no of various income tax payers in various income brackets and collections. It will add to legitimacy and greater tax compliance

121 Lessons from the Chinese veto No document Available
  • Context :

    Indo-Chinese relations on the security front continue to strain. Recent developments show further strain like China blocking Indian resolution.

    Important points :

    • China recently blocked Indian attempt at U.N. to ban Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.
    • Despite repeated assurances by China to stand by India it has let India down and blocked it 5 times in two years.
    • India should rethink its strategy for isolation of terrorists. 
    • Indo-China relations are further strained by India’s closeness to USA and China’s economic interests in Pakistan.

    Conclusion :

    • In the view of the Editor India must show that it is willing to work with every world power to isolate terrorists.
    • Real requirement seems to be of deft diplomacy and continued engagement with China .
122 Promoting equity with variable fees No document Available
  • Context :

    IIT’s have been institutions providing quality education at a low cost but the outcoming graduates often migrate out of India. The recent fee hike at IIT’s brings the issue back to the forefront

    Important points :

    • The Human Resource Development Ministry raised the annual  fees at IIT to 2 lakhs, keeping exemption for backward classes in place.
    • Editor suggests that fees for higher education should be structured in such a way that socio-economic conditions of the candidate do not affect his enrollment chances.
    • IIT graduates in the past have left the country in search of better prospects abroad, reducing social returns of the low cost education provided in the country.

    Conclusion

    • It is imperative to attract and retain talent while protecting equity and academic freedom. This can be done through a funding system which allows income linked loan to the graduate and his ability to earn not the status of his parents.
    • The IIT’s are suggested to still  offer generous assistance via charity. This in the Editor’s view will serve as a model for education.
123 Handle with care No document Available
  • Context :

    The non-local students have been boycotting classes in NIT Srinagar since Monday after clashes with Kashmiri students who celebrated West Indies’ victory over India in the World T20 semi final.. In reaction to the celebrations by Kashmiri students following India’s defeat, non-Kashmiri students waved the tricolour on campus and tried to hoist it near NIT’s administrative block. Amid slogan shouting, Non locals tried to take the protest outside the college which was brutally suppressed by police

    Important Points :

    • After Hyderabad University and JNU, NIT Srinagar has become latest ground to check perceived sense of Indian Nationhood
    • Such jingoism in unacceptable, more so in Srinagar; such instances can polarize two regions of the state- Jammu and Kashmir valley
    • Situation in J&K is changing; coalition govt of hardline nationalists and soft nationalists; a new ‘indigenous’ militancy and attacks in neighboring Punjab from across the border
    • Situation calls for wisdom and deft handling; hardly seen in statements made by BJP MP who called for action against erring parties including police officials (who beat students) and warn kashmiris of backlash in rest of India
    • Country can ill afford another JNU
124 World figures named in massive offshore tax evasion leak No document Available
  • Important Points :

    • About 11 Million secret documents from Panama based law firm Mossack Fonesca leaked. Intial investigations have yet again pointed towards lack of effective regulation of global finance and usage of tax heavens by the corrupt people.
    • India is accused of hazy laws in the context of global finance especially on buying of off-shore companies. RBI guidelines have been largely reactive and ineffective.
    • Global investigations have time and again revealed large scale tax avoidance and parking of funds in shell companies, clearly wanting better regulation.
    • The NDA government has provided one time compliance window to declare foreign assets under Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets ( Imposition of Tax) Act, 2015 but with little success
    • It is suggested that global finance requires a well coordinated regulation.
    • The problem of black money is to be dealt at multilateral level through tightened capital flows and zero tolerance to illegality domestically.
125 A long hot summer No document Available
  • Context :

    The central and state governments need to take IMD’s warning seriously and initiate timely action to minimise the coming summer’s impact.

    Reasons of unusually hot summers :

    • IMD believes heat waves are linked with global warming. Because :
      • Increasing greenhouse gas emissions
      • Warming up of waters of equatorial Indian and Pacific Oceans due to El Nino.

    Impact of unusually hot summers :

    • Ill effects on Human and livestock health, leading to high mortality.
    • Shortages of drinking water.
    • Shortages of fodder.
    • High heat tends to lower living being’s productivity.
    • Low water levels in reservoirs adversely impacting the prospects of power generation.
    • Water scarcity may affect coal-based power plants. As they require large amounts of water for steam generation.
    • Shortage of power may impact manufacturing sector and the economy in general.

    What could be done to minimize impact of unusually hot summers :

    • Curb misuse of water.
    • Curb misuse of electricity.
    • Mitigate thermal stress on livestock and human beings.
    • Local authorities should launch public awareness campaigns on ways to escape heat-related hazards.
    • Medical and paramilitary personnel need to be trained to deal with cases of heat stroke.
    • Setting up temporary ‘day shelters’, on the lines of the ‘night shelters’ in winters.
    • Provision of potable drinking water.
126 Delhi to Riyadh No document Available
  • ContextSaudi King Salman walks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an official welcoming ceremony in Riyadh

    PM Modi visit to Saudi Arabia; this visit assumed significance as next step in INDO- SAUDI ARABIA ties to up the ante after RIYADH DECLARATION of 2010 which focused on mutual help in cases of terrorist activities, human trafficking as well as to develop as knowledge based economies (IT and ITes)

    Important Points :

    • PM Modi visit to Saudi Arabia has yielded a strong Joint Security Cooperation Statement; Gulf country was unwilling to come out in open even after extraditing terrorists Abu Jundal (2008 Mumbai Attacks) and Fasih Mohammad (Chinnaswamy stadium and Jama Masjid blasts) in 2012.
    • Saudi Arabia, along with US, also announced sanctions against Lashkar e Taiba.
    • Saudi Arabia is willing to cooperate against terrorism as Iran’s rise, threat of Arab Spring, dwindling oil prices as well as American withdrawal has left it tentative.
    • India has opportunity of re-entering Gulf as security and strategic partner
    • New Delhi has primarily focused on oil and remittances from Gulf in the past; pro Pakistan tilt of Saudi Arabia was seen with suspicion
    • This visit symbolizes renewed Indian posturing and pro active Indian course in the region
127 RJD’s Saheb No document Available
  • Contextshahabuddin-759

    Four time MP Mohammad Shahubuddin, who is serving life term for double murder, is appointed to Rashtriya Janta Dal (Founded by Lalu Yadav) national executive committee raising clamors of incentivizing criminals and laying bare the connection between politics and criminals.

    Important Points :

    • Nitish Kumar, CM of Bihar, was supposed to pull out Bihar from apparent JUNGLE RAJ (lawlessness) of yesteryears when Bihar suffered flee of capital and people
    • Recent development is a throwback to past giving impression that little has changed in politics in Bihar
    • Shahabudin is barred from contesting election but still exerts enormous political clout. Still, from Siwan (North west Bihar) his stooges are elected.
    • Mandal commission empowered backward classes in Bihar who instead of mobilizing support through hard labour of politics followed the short cut approach of relying on musclemen
    • Lalu Yadav’s govt ignored fundamental principles of governance and ruled based on patronage resembling old feudal order
    • Good governance and social justice are ignored by the incumbent govt of Bihar ruled by Nitish Kumar
128 Making India a ‘leading power’ No document Available
  • Context:

    Since the end of the Cold War, Delhi has deliberately taken a low profile in the international arena.

    Reasons :

    • India’s foreign policy after the demise of Soviet Union and end of Cold War.
    • Shambolic state of Indian economy after 1990 economic crisis
    • Limited focus on narrowly defined self-interest
    • Continuing defensiveness on economic globalization.
    • Delhi was following advice that Deng Xiaoping gave China as it entered the era of reform and opening up at the end of 1970s to “keep a cool head, maintain a low profile and avoid taking the lead”.

    Why should Delhi be more proactive?

    • India is today the seventh largest economy in nominal terms and the third in purchasing power parity . 40% of India’s GDP is linked to global trade.
    • Expectation that India will take larger responsibilities to facilitate global economic revival and strengthen regional economic integration being world’s fastest growing economy
    • Growing Demand That India Make More Contributions To The Maintenance Of Regional Order In Asia.
    • The traditional balance of power in the Eurasian landmass is being shaken by the assertiveness of Russia, the rise of China, the emerging American temptation for retrenchment, the chaos in Europe and the turmoil in the Middle East.

    Lessons learnt from China

    Almost four decades after Deng’s reforms, China no longer maintains a low profile & is taking the lead in building new regional institutions and pressing for a reform of the global power structure. The idea of India as a leading power is probably the beginning of a similar phase in India’s international evolution.

    Advantages to India

    Unlike China’s assertiveness, the rise of a democratic India, with internal checks and balances, is viewed as a benign development

    What has India been upto?

    • PM Modi’s central contribution to the conduct of the nation’s external relations has been the imagination of India as a “leading power” in the international system.
    • More proactive approach on global issues.
    • India moving away from being a reactive power to one that shapes regional and international outcomes.

    Practical Outcome :

    India’s efforts in the climate change summit at Paris last December and promote regional cooperation in the subcontinent.

    Way Forward :

    • India must revert to ambitious foreign policy principles
    • Modernizing its internal political and economic structures
    • International leadership is vital for India to accelerate its internal economic development and improve its national security environment
    • Responding to the interconnected policy imperatives at home and abroad.

    Conclusion :

    Delhi no longer has the luxury of thumbing its nose at the world. It must necessarily shape the world around it.

129 RBI cuts repo rate by 25 basis points No document Available
  • Important Points :

    • RBI cut the Repo Rate by 25 basis points indicating an accomodative stance. It is a clear move to spur growth
    • The decision comes amidst concerns of a ‘too’ slow global recovery and slowdown in China
    • The RBI assumes that monsoon for this season would be normal, boosting rural demand. Thus RBI has retained a 7.6 percent forecast for growth
    • Dr Rajan believes that improved monetary transmission holds key to unlocking credit
    • Dr Rajan also aims at cleaning balance sheet of banks to augment money supply.
130 Justice delayed, justice denied No document Available
  • Important Points :

    • There may be times at which instances of even a delayed conviction can send out a message, that dilutes the denying of justice to certain extent. The example cited by the editor goes back to the year 1991. 
    • In July 1991 Sikhs were encountered by police officials in fake encounters accusing them of being terrorists at Pilibhit, U.P.
    • A CBI court found out the truth of the fake encounter of 10 Sikhs and ordered 47 police personnel to life imprisonment.
    • Though the superior officers were not probed and let off, but still the ruling will help end the culture of impunity seemingly enjoyed by security forces and reduce such abuse of power.
131 Another ‘baby’ step? No document Available
  • Context

    It is expected that RBI will drop Repo Rate to facilitate economic growth. The expectations are rising because government has kept and has promised to keep the fiscal deficit in check.

    Why RBI can lower the Repo rate?

    • The Centre’s smaller borrowing programme.
    • Some small savings rates (like EPF) have been cut recently

    Why RBI will not lower the Repo rate?

    • CPI above 5% mark.
    • States borrowing to finance ‘UDAY’ scheme.
    • Repo reduction since 2015 is 1.50% points, the rate itself is at its lowest level in six years.

    Will the rate cut help producers?

    • No. Because low revenue generation for producers because of insufficient demand.
    • Also a lack of power to set prices freely because of surplus capacities in many sectors.

    Conclusion
    Lending rates will become reasonable only when there is greater convergence between WPI and CPI. This can happen only in a good monsoon year, when food prices (which heavily influence the consumer price index) come under control, or when the tumble in agricultural prices gets reversed.

132 Not just a flyover collapse No document Available
  • Context

    Collapse of flyover in Kolkata. Highlighting various problems affecting the infrastructure sector and how poor governance magnifies it.

    Hurdles in the way of building new infrastructure

    • A trillion dollar-plus infrastructure gap has to be financed.
    • Various methods of implementing infrastructure plans are falling short.
    • Safety audit of flyovers revealed serious flaws in many flyovers.
    • Infrastructure under construction for years and years with no sign of the work likely to finish soon.
    • Inability of the government to make land available for the project.
    • People consider it legitimate to refuse to part with land even for public projects.
    • The role of the private contractor executing the project is under scrutiny.
    • Role of local politicians who have to be awarded contracts or simply accommodated in the rent-seeking.

    All this requires governance house to be set in order.

133 Modi addresses Saudi business leaders No document Available
  • Important Points

    • India is trying to deepen ties in West Asia as shown by frequent visits by Indian side. This follows the wider policy of India to improve ties with close allies of Pakistan
    • The recent Riyadh visit of the PM is particularly significant as it comes at a time when Pakistan and Riyadh relations are a bit strained over the Iran issue.
    • Reality check for India- Various Joint Statements are issued by Saudi Arabia and India but yet to translate into reality. Saudis are still accused of funding Wahabi groups around the world. Also if India favours Saudi Arabia to much it appears biased against Iran. Mr. Modi’s visit seems to focus only on positives of the relation and by pass the negatives.
    • The editor suggests India has to address the flaws in relations with Western Asian nations. According to the editor the best way forward is use of multi-directional policy in West Asia but maintaining equilibrium.