The HINDU Notes – 06th February 2018 - VISION

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 06th February 2018

📰 ‘When 2 adults marry, none should interfere’

Parents, society and khaps have no right to harass them: SC

•Two adults are free to marry and “no third party” has a right to harass or cause harm to them, said Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking against honour killings on Monday.

•“When two people get into wedlock, no one should interfere. Neither parents, society, khap or panchayat... no one at all,” said Justice Misra, leading a three-judge Bench that upheld the fundamental right of two people who wish to marry and live peacefully.

‘Honour killing’

•When activist Madhu Kishwar brought up the issue of Ankit Saxena, a young man who was allegedly murdered by his lover’s parents, Justice Misra said, “we are not into that. That is not before us.”

•Ms. Kishwar said “honour killing” was “too soft a word” for such crimes against young people. “They should be called hate crimes,” she submitted.

•But the Chief Justice repeated that no one has any individual, group or collective right to harass a couple.

•A senior counsel, who represented the khap panchayat, objected to the panchayats being portrayed as “inciters” of honour killings.

•“Just don’t be,” the Chief Justice replied.

•The counsel said such panchayats were age-old traditions and they do encourage inter-caste marriages now. He argued that the objection of khaps to marriages between people from the same gotra was upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The section said “ sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side.”

•He said only three per cent of honour killings were linked to gotra. The remaining 97% were due to religion and other reasons.

•Marriage within the same gotra led to genetic deformity in children, the counsel argued. “We encourage inter-caste marriages. In Haryana, because of the skewed gender ratio, we get women from other States,” the counsel said.

Freedom of adults

•But the Chief Justice said the court was not concerned about khap panchayats either. “We are not writing an essay here on traditions, lineages, etc. We are only concerned with the freedom of adults to marry and live together without facing harassment,” the Chief Justice said.

•The court is hearing a petition filed by Shakti Vahini, an NGO, to make honour killing a specific crime.

📰 The anatomy of another riot

Kasganj is a metaphor for the emerging everydayness of riot-induced violence

•Every riot today produces a set of staged narratives which are eerie to watch and strange to listen to. A riot is no longer an act of production where the narrative focusses on causes but an act of consumption where a variety of narratives create a quilt patch we call history. The actual event is enacted in a limited space, while the narratives of the event spread out in oceanic circles for consumption. The riots in Kasganj convey that quality and need to be seen within an analytical frame. Today, narratives of riots are the Rorschach test of a people, capturing their fear and anxieties.

Fractured narrative

•This much is clear. It was riot on Republic Day, invoking a miracle gone wrong. In a way the performance already enacts the problematics of memory, not just that it was January 26 but the violence took place on Abdul Hameed Avenue in Baddu Nagar, a Muslim majority area. It was probably the most ironic tribute to a great soldier. Riots too often begin with a festival-like quality. The reports say a group of Hindus, or more specifically, Hindutva supporters, probably a mix of elements of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal, were carrying out a victory parade on motorbikes. At the other side of town, a group of Muslims were celebrating Republic Day, hoisting a flag. In an earlier era it would have been a show of solidarity of a national event commanding the allegiance of its desperate citizens.

•The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has helped fracture this narrative. Today political solidarity seems to be a two-layered affair — where the icing of patriotism hides a huge chunk of communalism, where patriotism becomes what a communal majority defines it as. This leads to Muslims being asked to sing Vande Mataram when they feel that this insults their loyalty to the nation.

•The motorcycle cavalcade moves to the Abdul Hameed avenue, the youths are armed with flags and swords. Even guns, as videos later testify. One almost senses a whiff of machismo and nationalism weaving together. Those in the Hindu cavalcade to assert its claim to history and turf insist on driving though the crowd hoisting a flag. A fracas ensues and in the resulting violence, a young Hindu man, Chandan Gupta, is shot. Of course another person was blinded and shops and vehicles gutted but all that is passive background.

•At first sight, the Kasganj riot is presented as an archetypal riot around a standard scenario of small differences, two angry communities and a stumbling bureaucracy. Yet what brings irony and confounds this narrative is that the Kasganj riots took place on Republic Day. The communal and the national confronted each other to prove that patriotism today is not a secular loyalty but a majoritarian definition. As the events unfolded, the communal rhetoric takes over completely. Abdul Hameed must be turning in his grave.

•The nature of narrative changes. It is no longer about solidarity but about communal accounting. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal desperate to settle narrative accounts equate the death of Chandan Gupta with the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. They talk about “the silence of Hindus”, of a need to balance narratives and compensation. The Akhilesh Yadav government in a populist move used the Akhlaq episode to give out doles — ₹30 lakh in compensation to Akhlaq’s family, ₹5 lakh to each of the brothers, and a flat to the family from some discretionary fund.

Recoding history

•To the VHP and the RSS, history is about equivalence. If Akhlaq was immortalised by compensation rather than commemoration, Chandan Gupta deserved no less. He was to be declared a martyr, a shaheed, a patriotic servant of the country who died in battle. They demanded full security for Gupta’s family and demanded a compensation of ₹50 lakh. It was one-upmanship parading as concern, care and justice. It made one feel that the historic battles of liberation found a crass continuity in violence. Only riots offered you the possibility of compensation. Earlier, a martyr carried a symbolic halo and earned a ritual salute. Now history becomes a form of attraction and a victim of a riot makes some families cash-rich. One senses a recoding of history to fuel the fires of communal politics. Republic Day now is a continuation of communalism by other means.

•Riots today are always enacted twice, once on the streets and once through video clips. One is tempted to modify the Marxist quote and add once as history and second time as a farce. One discovers that the flag cavalcade was a Tiranga Yatra, led by a communal mob known for its rowdy behaviour. To allow inflammatory speeches and threats on Republic Day makes little sense and says less about the Yogi Adityanath regime, which is treating it as a strictly law and order problem.

•Watching the videos one senses a happy crowd full of children anticipating the ritual of flag hoisting. Suddenly a festival is marred by goons entering the narrow streets of the mohalla. A festival turns into a riot and a world changes. The brittleness of our society is obvious in these moments. The saffron flag overpowers the national flag, and the nationalist Muslim resists the second discourse. As the riots turn bloody, all media can do is ask for a probe. No one wants to ask how a Tiranga Yatra which is not quite nationalist was allowed on Republic Day. How could a national day be subsumed under a communal event? A mob tells the crowd, if you want to stay in India, sing Vande Mataram with us. Policeman signalling secular sensibilities are immediately transferred. Baiting minorities seems to be becoming a common sport with lumpen communal crowds. The bureaucracy will ritualise the inquiry. A probe will be initiated and the questions of Kasganj will die a natural death.

A show of bias

•Kasganj has to be seen as a concrete event and as a metaphor for the emerging everydayness of riot-induced violence. As an event, one has to locate it within the history of violence in Uttar Pradesh. The 2013 riots at Muzaffarnagar are still etched in people’s minds. Riots today have become the second major source of displacement after dams. At this moment, for the BJP to ignore the wider demographics of riots and turn hysterical about compensating a victim is hypocritical. Chandan Gupta maybe a victim, but he is no martyr.

•Second, it’s clear that the Tiranga Yatras have been threatening disruption. The fact that no anticipatory action was taken reveals the biases of the regime. Mr. Adityanath does not sound as immaculate an administrator as he is usually portrayed. His carte blanche to communal groups creates an ecology of threat and violence that makes a society feel brittle. It creates geographies of anxieties that minorities find difficult to cope with. As one hears the narrative, one sees a cycle of repetition and indifference, and also changes which increase the inventiveness of violence. Yet the administration has little to say to these events and maybe even the cause of many anxieties.

•But there are bigger questions about riots and memory. Why are riots erased so easily from official memory? Second, what processes make riots a part of urban normalcy? Scholarship and investigation are required to answer these questions. Meanwhile, Kasganj will join the long glossary of violence from Meerut to Muzaffarnagar, taking democracy to its tipping point. When a regime is indifferent to such questions, civil society has to respond before such questions corrode the normative basis of our lives.

📰 Bose of Nakamuraya

How Rash Behari Bose introduced spicy curry to Japan as part of his anti-colonial struggle

•Ask the average person to guess Japan’s national dish and they’ll likely hazard sushi or soba. But an equally fair contender for the title is curry. The Japanese Navy even has a “Curry Friday” tradition where all navy canteens offer curry and rice as a Friday staple.

•Curry in Japan bears only a superficial resemblance to its Indian ancestor. It is more glutinous and is usually mixed with wheat flour. It’s also sweeter, and often includes ingredients like apple and honey.

History of the dish

•In Japan, the dish dates to the 1870s when naval officers of the British Royal Navy who had picked up the curry habit in India passed it on to Japanese colleagues. The earliest recipes for raisu karī (rice curry) in Japanese cookbooks were lifted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, in which the ingredients included curry powder, flour and sour apples. Since the dish came from Britain as far as the Japanese were concerned, curry rice was classified as “western” food.

•There is, however, one restaurant in Tokyo that has historically prided itself in serving “authentic India curry” — no wheat, no apples, and no holds barred on the chilli: Nakamuraya. How this came to be involves a rip-roaring yarn featuring a revolutionary fugitive from India, a love affair, and one of Japan’s leading bakeries.

•The Indian, Rash Behari Bose, is even better known in Japan than his namesake and fellow nationalist, Subhas Chandra Bose. Born in 1886, Bose worked at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, but he was aflame with anti-colonial ideas acquired during the agitation against the Partition of Bengal in 1905. In 1912, he became involved in an assassination attempt of the Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge. As the colonial authorities closed in on him, he fled to Japan in 1915. He made his way first to Kobe under the name of P.S. Thakore, pretending to be a relative of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore whom Bose had read was planning a trip to Japan.

•From Kobe he immediately set out for Tokyo. Eventually, he made the acquaintance of Japanese pan-Asianists who were sympathetic to the cause of Indian independence, notably, a right-wing politician, Mitsuru Toyama.

•Toyama introduced Bose to the Soma family, owners of a well-known bakery called Nakamuraya. Facing extradition to British India, Bose hid at the Soma bakery for months during which time the family’s eldest daughter Toshiko acted as his interpreter. Eventually, on Toyama’s request, the two got married in 1918, a move that allowed Bose to move around Tokyo without attracting as much suspicion, and paved the way for his acquiring Japanese citizenship in 1923. The couple had two children before Toshiko died from pneumonia in 1925.

A lasting contribution

•In subsequent years, Bose continued to lobby for support for the Indian national movement in Japan via writings and lectures. But his most lasting contribution in introducing India to Japan was in launching “authentic” Indian curry at a new Nakamuraya café in 1927. According to Bose of Nakamuraya, by Professor Takeshi Nakajima, Bose wanted to prove that the curry the Japanese were used to was a colonial invention. Getting his recipe on the Nakamuraya menu was therefore “part of his anti-colonial struggle, by trying to win back India’s food culture from British hands.” The curry was a hit, even though it was priced eight times higher than the average raisu karī.

•Following a bout of ill health, Bose died in 1945 aged 58, but in Japan his legend lives on through the curry that Nakamuraya continues to serve. It remains their most popular item. Since 2001, the company also sells ready-to-eat packaged curries using the original Bose recipe to convenience stores. These accounted for almost half the sales value of the 2.6 billion yen that the Nakamuraya Processed Foods division made in 2016.

•On a recent Monday, the Nakamuraya café in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighbourhood was buzzing with lunchtime customers. Almost every table had a serving of ‘Genuine Indian-style Curry’. I sat down for a serving. The verdict? The curry passed the flavour test — full-bodied spice and pleasing consistency. However, it was served in a sauce boat, betraying the British-origins of curry in Japan. But the steady gaze of a dhoti-clad Bose along with a kimono-clad Toshiko from a photograph hung at the restaurant entrance suggested that quibbles are best ignored.

📰 Maldives government declares emergency

Services, trade will not be affected, says Yameen

•The Maldives government on Monday declared a state of emergency for 15 days, amid a spiralling political crisis in the island nation following a Supreme Court order last week to release Opposition leaders from prison.

•“During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected. The Government of Maldives also wishes to assure all Maldivians and the international community that the safety of all Maldivians and foreigners living in and visiting the Maldives will be ensured,” said a statement from President Abdulla Yameen’s office.

More power for officials

•Sources said the state of emergency gives security officials extra powers to arrest suspects. The development comes five days after the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of nine Opposition leaders, including the exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed. It also ordered that 12 MPs expelled earlier be reinstated.

•Eva Abdulla, an MP and member of the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, said: “The declaration of state of emergency is an indication of Mr. Yameen’s desperation. It only serves to show an isolated man who no longer has the confidence of the people and independent institutions.”

📰 PM to lay foundation stone of temple in UAE

Three-nation tour will begin in Palestine and end in Oman

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of a temple in Abu Dhabi during his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the External Affairs Ministry said on Monday. The event will be part of a three-nation tour from February 9 to 12, starting in Palestine, where Mr. Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit and pay tributes at the memorial of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

•“As part of a community engagement programme, he will be meeting top professionals and, in that, there will be a special event, which will be the laying of the foundation stone of a Hindu temple,” said Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary in charge of the Gulf region.

India’s demand

•The UAE granted the temple project after India conveyed the demand of its nationals for a place of worship during Mr. Modi’s 2015 visit to the country.

•“The structure of the temple, the deities and the idols are aspects that the Indian community will have to work out with the UAE government,” said Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary in charge of the Gulf region, explaining that members of the Indian community will manage the place of worship in coordination with the UAE authorities.

•Officials said it indicated the “commitment of the UAE to diversity”.

•Apart from the symbolic religious moment, Mr. Modi will visit the Wahat Al Karama, the memorial to fallen soldiers of the UAE.

•He will also address the World Government Summit in Dubai.

•The Hindu had reported earlier that Mr. Modi would begin his visit from the Jordanian capital of Amman, from where he will be travelling to the West Bank territory of Palestine.

Technical halt

•Officials said the halt in Amman would be “technical”.

•“We have de-hyphenated Israel and Palestine and we see them as mutually independent parts of the policy the Prime Minister is undertaking,” said B. Balabhaskar, Joint Secretary in charge of the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) division.

•Mr. Modi will visit a Shiva temple in Oman during his first visit to that country on February 12. He will hold bilateral meetings with the two Prime Ministers of Oman.

📰 U.S Energy Secretary to visit India

With nuclear cooperation in limbo, focus on trade in fossil fuels

•U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will visit India this month to further enhance a recently added component in bilateral ties — energy trade. While the original marker of the turnaround in India-U.S. relations, the civil nuclear deal, has almost become redundant due to changed market conditions and new technologies, trade in fossil fuels has become the focus area for the U.S. under the Donald Trump administration.

•Energy trade had prominently featured in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with President Donald Trump in June 2017 in Washington D.C and India placed a series of orders for American crude in the following months. Public sector Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited are now continuously buying crude from America. Though it was the Barack Obama administration that allowed the export of American crude after a break, the Trump administration has removed regulations that had restricted oil and coal production, leading to a ramping up of fossil fuels production in the last year. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit to Washington set the ball in motion for enhancing trade.

Trade deficit

•Mr. Trump himself pointed to energy trade as an instrument to bring down U.S trade deficit with India and called Mr. Modi in August to “welcome” the first shipment of American crude to India, after a break of 40 years. “Energy is an important area to focus on to reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries. India needs a lot of energy and the U.S has it in abundance,” pointed out Nisha Biswal, President of U.S.-India Business Council.

•Indian public and private sector companies have invested approximately $5 billion in shale assets in the U.S.

•Natural gas imports from the U.S are also on the rise.

📰 For more equity: on long-term capital gains tax

The 10% long-term capital gains tax should be revised by allowing indexation

•The Centre’s decision to bring back the long-term capital gains tax (LTCG) on equities, which was scrapped in 2004-05, seems to be a hasty move to plug the widening fiscal deficit ahead of an election year. With investors in equities enjoying terrific returns over the last few years, it is not a surprise that they have become targets for the government to secure additional revenue. The decision to announce the imposition of 10% tax on gains of over ₹1 lakh made on any form of investment in listed equities and mutual funds with a holding period of over one year will hit the average middle class investor. Not surprisingly, the sharp fall in both the Nifty and the Sensex after Budget day has been linked to the new tax, along with the government’s abandonment of fiscal goals. But given that the sell-off was part of a wider correction in global stock indices, it may be hard to draw a definite conclusion on the exact impact of the LTCG. The Centre has justified the new tax arguing that it helps avoid the erosion of its tax base and levels the playing field between financial assets and investment in manufacturing.

•One legitimate concern is whether raising the tax burden on equities, rather than lowering the tax and other barriers to investing in alternative assets, is the right way to address the distortionary effect of taxes. Further, the smaller differential between short and long-term capital gains tax itself will discourage the long-term holding of stocks in favour of short-term trading activity. While this might serve to improve liquidity in Indian markets and add to the government’s revenue, it is also likely to discourage to some extent the growing culture of investing in equities for the long run. Besides, the securities transaction tax (STT), which was introduced in lieu of the LTCG in 2004 and penalises the buying of stocks for purposes other than just intra-day trading, has been left untouched by the government. The double whammy of the STT and LTCG will further privilege short-term trading in stocks over long-term investment. Being the only country in the world to impose both the STT and LTCG, India is also likely to become a little less attractive to foreign investors when compared to its peers. A complete rollback of the new tax is too much to expect — Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia has justified the higher tax levy saying that the capital gains accrue from zero effort. Despite the constraints, the government would do well to at least soften the negative impact of the new tax by allowing indexation (allowing a set-off based on inflation rate) of capital gains and removing the STT on equity investments. Tough love for the well-off is not a bad strategy for a pre-election Budget, but it is important to be careful about maintaining India’s credibility in the global money markets in the process.

📰 Fearing cryptocurrencies

They pose a threat to the massive economic power that national currencies provide their governments

•The hope that private cryptocurrencies would become mainstream money suffered a setback last week. In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the first time explicitly said that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are not legal forms of money in India and that the government would take steps to eliminate their use. Mr. Jaitley is not the only politician worldwide to consider cryptocurrencies a danger to the status quo. Under the guise of protecting investors, governments in China and South Korea recently took steps to suppress the use of cryptocurrencies, thus adding to the extreme volatility of their price moves. Why are governments so keen to destroy private cryptocurrencies?

•The reason is that these currencies pose a significant threat to the massive economic power that national currencies, such as the rupee and dollar, provide their governments. Today every country’s government has a legal monopoly over the issuance of the currency that its people use. This means that no entity other than the government may create and sell currencies. The very point of legal tender laws is to ban anything other than the currency issued by the government from being used as a medium of exchange.

•Such government control over money, however, offers politicians enormous benefits. For example, a politician wanting to fund populist programmes can gather the funds he requires by creating money out of thin air with the help of the central bank. This will eventually lead to price inflation that affects the common man, but it at least saves the politician from having to impose higher taxes that could affect his popularity. In this scenario, the rise of cryptocurrencies offers ordinary people the rare opportunity to choose among multiple currencies in the marketplace. In fact, in a currency market free from government intervention, any private entity would be free to issue its own currency with the hope that it would soon become a hit with customers.

•While this could be beneficial to citizens, who could choose between currencies, it erodes governments’ monopoly control over money. In the presence of alternative currencies, for instance, people may partially give up using national currencies issued by governments, as elaborated by Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek in Denationalisation of Money. Instead, they might opt to use private cryptocurrencies that offer more stable or predictable purchasing power than, say, the rupee. It is thus little wonder that governments have banned or otherwise undermined bitcoin and other private currency systems.

•Nevertheless, until now, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have failed to show signs of value stability owing to extreme price fluctuations. This is partly because they have only gained acceptance as a speculative asset rather than as a medium of exchange. In a competitive marketplace, however, such currencies are likely to be ousted eventually by competing currencies that better satisfy the tastes of buyers.

📰 ‘Services growth in Jan. fastest in three months’

Sector, however, ‘laggard’ compared with manufacturing

•The Indian services sector remained in expansion mode in January, registering the fastest rise in activity in three months driven by a renewed increase in new business orders, says a survey.

•Even though growth rates for activity and employment accelerated since December, it remained weaker than their respective long-run survey averages.

Faster expansion

•The seasonally-adjusted Nikkei Services Business Activity Index improved to 51.7 in January, up from 50.9 in December, signalling a faster expansion.

•The index remained above the neutral mark of 50 in January, that separates growth from contraction for the second consecutive month. In November, the index stood at 48.5.

•“The recovery across India’s service sector continued during January, with growth in output picking up to the joint-strongest since June 2017 as underlying demand conditions improved,” said Aashna Dodhia, economist at IHS Markit and author of the report.

•Indian service providers addressed new business inflows and rising backlogs by expanding workforces for the fifth consecutive month in January. Moreover, the rate of job creation was the fastest since last September.

•“Meanwhile, job creation accelerated to the second strongest in over six-and-a-half years, but as firms struggled in receiving timely payments, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) continued to be a key constraint to businesses, and the service sector remained a laggard relative to its manufacturing counterpart,” Ms. Dodhia said.

📰 Making health insurance work

The National Health Protection Scheme is disconnected from primary care. It also needs to be scaled up

•It is unusual for a health programme to become the most prominent feature of a Union Budget. The previous government missed the bus when it failed to implement the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage (2011). Yet, those recommendations resonate in the Budget of 2018, with commitment to universal health coverage, strengthening of primary health care (especially at the sub-centre level), linking new medical colleges to upgraded district hospitals, provision of free drugs and diagnostics at public health facilities, and stepping up financial protection for health care through a government-funded programme that merges Central and State health insurance schemes.

•Whatever be the time and resources needed to fully implement these initiatives, the Budget sends a strong message that health is now in the spotlight of politically attractive policy pronouncements. From now on, no government can ignore people’s legitimate aspiration to get the health services they desire and deserve. However, health care is not just a matter of health insurance, involving as it does many other elements such as the availability of a multi-layered, multi-skilled health workforce. Further, there is health beyond health care, dependent on many social determinants.

The NHPS, operationally

•The scheme will provide cost coverage, up to ₹5 lakh annually, to a poor family for hospitalisation in an empanelled public or private hospital. The precursor of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), provided limited coverage of only ₹30,000, usually for secondary care. Though it improved access to health care, it did not reduce out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE), catastrophic health expenditure or health payment-induced poverty. The NHPS addresses those concerns by sharply raising the coverage cap, but shares with the RSBY the weakness of not covering outpatient care which accounts for the largest fraction of OOPE. The NHPS too remains disconnected from primary care.

•The NHPS will pay for the hospitalisation costs of its beneficiaries through ‘strategic purchasing’ from public and private hospitals. This calls for a well-defined list of conditions that will be covered, adoption of standard clinical guidelines for diagnostic tests and treatments suitable for different disorders, setting and monitoring of cost and quality standards, and measuring health outcomes and cost-effectiveness. Both Central and State health agencies or their intermediaries will have to develop the capacity for competent purchasing of services from a diverse group of providers. Otherwise, hospitals may undertake unnecessary tests and treatments to tap the generous coverage. The choice of whether to administer NHPS through a trust or an insurance company will be left to individual States.

•Reduced allocation for the National Health Mission and sidelining of its urban component raise concerns about primary care, even though the transformation of sub-centres to health and wellness centres is welcome. If primary health services are not strong enough to reduce the need for advanced care and act as efficient gatekeepers, there is great danger of an overloaded NHPS disproportionately draining resources from the health budget. That will lead to further neglect of primary care and public hospitals, which even now are not adequately equipped to compete with corporate hospitals in the strategic purchasing arena. That will lead to decay of the public sector as a care provider. This must be prevented by proactively strengthening primary health services and public hospitals.

How will it work financially?

•The NHPS is not a classic insurance programme, since the government pays most of the money on behalf of the poor, unlike private insurance where an individual or an employer pays the premium. However, the scheme operates around the insurance principle of ‘risk pooling’. When a large number of people subscribe to an insurance scheme, only a small fraction of them will be hospitalised in any given year. In a tax funded system or a large insurance programme, there is a large risk pool wherein the healthy cross-subsidise the sick at any given time. The NHPS will be financially viable, despite a high coverage offered to the few who fall sick in any year, because the rest in the large pool do not need it that year.

•However, the NHPS will need more than the ₹2,000 crore presently allocated. As the scheme starts in October 2018, the funding will cover the few months before the next Budget. It is expected to require ₹5,000-6,000 crore to get it going in the first year and ₹10,000-12,000 crore annually as it scales up. It will draw additional resources from the Health and Education Cess and also depend on funding from States to boost the Central allocation. The premiums are expected to be in the range of ₹1,000-1,200 per annum. They may be lowered if enrolment is high but will rise if utilisation rates are high.

What will the States do?

•In all the excitement about the Union Budget’s proposal of the NHPC, it is easy to forget that State governments have the main responsibility of health service delivery and also need to bear the major share of the public expenditure on health. The National Health Policy (NHP) asks the States to raise their allocation for health to over 8% of the total State budget by 2020, requiring many States to double their health spending. Will they be stimulated to do so, when the Central Budget has not signalled a movement towards the NHP goal of raising public expenditure on health to 2.5% of GDP by 2025?

•The NHPS needs a buy-in from the States, which have to contribute 40% of the funding. Even with the low cost coverage of the RSBY, several States opted out. Some decided to fund their own State-specific health insurance programmes, with distinctive political branding. Will they agree to merge their programmes with the NHPS, with co-branding? Will other States, who will also contribute 40% to the NHPS, demand similar co-branding? In a federal polity with multiple political parties sharing governance, an all-India alignment around the NHPS requires a high level of cooperative federalism, both to make the scheme viable and to ensure portability of coverage as people cross State borders. For the sake of all Indians, let us hope an all-party consensus develops around how to design and deliver universal health coverage, starting with but not stopping at the NHPS.

📰 Vehicular pollution to hit generations: SC

Asks Centre’s position on availability of BS-VI compliant fuel

•The Supreme Court on Monday described the issue of vehicular pollution as “very serious” and a “critical problem” and observed that it would have an impact not only on this generation but also on the children yet to be born.

•The apex court said the Government could not take the issue lightly and directed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) to file an affidavit indicating the position as regards the availability of Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission standard compliant fuel in Delhi.

•BS-VI emission standard is scheduled to come into force from April 1, 2020 across the country.

•A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) whether any study was conducted on environmental pollution, its effect on the health of people and the cost to deal with it.

•Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the MoEF&CC, said a study was underway and that he would get back to the court with its details.

•To this, the bench said if the Government did not have any material of its own and claimed that a scientific study carried out by any foreign scientist on the issue was useless, then it was creating a problem for itself as well as the people.

•“It is a very, very serious matter. It is a critical problem. It is going to impact children who are already born and who are going to be born. We do not think that the Government of India will take it so lightly.

•“It will have an impact for generations. There are slogans of sustainable development but this is very serious,” the bench observed.

•Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae (friend of the court), told the bench that the BS-VI norms should be made applicable in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) from April 1, 2019 as the government itself had acknowledged that the people were suffering due to pollution.

•She also questioned the April 1, 2020 timeline for BS-VI norms.

•“They cannot take the health of citizens so lightly,” Ms. Singh said, adding that as per the Centre’s affidavit, Rs. 80,000 crore were spent on BS-VI norms.

Electric cars

•She also raked up the issue of electric cars in India and asked that when the manufacturers were able to make these cars, then why could they not shift to the BS-VI norms earlier.

•Ms. Singh also said that cars which were not BS-VI compliant should not be allowed to be registered after the new norms came into effect.

•Referring to data, she said pollution would come down by around 80% in case of the BS-VI vehicles, as compared to the BS-IV ones.

📰 Courting the rankings

India needs a granular road map to improve its reputation for ‘enforcing contracts’

•The euphoria over reports of India moving into the top 100 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business global rankings, which is credible, is bound to be dampened if there is acknowledgement of our dismal performance in one key component in the indices that make up these rankings; if there is a component that still has a dismal ranking it is the one about “enforcing contracts”. A nation’s ranking in the “ease of doing business” index is based on the average of 10 sub-indices which are: starting a business; dealing with construction permits; getting electricity connections; registering property; getting credit; protecting minority investors; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; and resolving insolvency.

Distance to frontier

•Of these, the one about “enforcing contracts” is directly dependent on a country’s ability to provide an effective dispute resolution system. In the World Bank report which covers 190 economies, evaluating them on 10 specific parameters required for doing business, India’s ranking in the ‘enforcement of contract’ component is 164 (in addition to an overall ranking, each component also has a separate ranking). The report says that it takes an average of 1,445 days (or nearly four years) to enforce a contract in India. In this, the distance to frontier (DTF) ranking score is 40.76. The all-told cost to a litigant to recover amounts legitimately due to him is 31% of the value of the claim. This is a shocking state of affairs.

•The DTF score must be explained. It measures the distance of a particular country’s economy from the “frontier” which represents the best performance. Simply put, the “frontier”, measuring 100, is the ideal situation and a DTF ranking indicates how far a country is from that ideal. Though India’s DTF score was 56.05 in 2017 and is projected to improve to 60.76 in 2018 in the overall ease of business rankings, unfortunately, in ‘enforcing contracts’ our score was a dismal 38.90 in 2017, projected to improve feebly to 40.76 in 2018.

Forum for resolution

•Aware of this threat posed to India’s business environment, Parliament even passed the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act. When the implementation of an Act is left to State governments, there is generally a hiatus in enforcement. Going by indications, this “Act” too appears to be no exception, possibly explaining why India’s ranking in “enforcement of contracts” has not appreciated much.

•The purpose behind the Act is to provide a forum with upgraded infrastructure to resolve a certain class of disputes, classified as “commercial disputes” in the Act, in a time-bound and effective manner. The legislation also requires establishment of appropriate infrastructure and manpower training on a constant basis. In identifying disputes above a specified value to qualify as commercial disputes, it has ensured that these courts are not cluttered up with small claims. The Act essentially paves the way for the setting up of commercial courts at the district level and a commercial division in High Courts that have original jurisdiction along with a commercial appellate division in the High Courts to hear appeals arising under the Act. By mandating that High Courts must show levels of disposal of such claims on their website, the Act also ensures transparency. However, for this statutory scheme to work, many players must play their respective parts.

•Five aspects that relate to the working of the Act require immediate consideration. First, while the Act contemplates the “appointment” of commercial court judges in districts, in most States the government there has merely vested the presiding district judge with powers to act as a commercial court. Given that the workload of principal district judges is already quite staggering, vesting them with the powers of commercial courts in districts strikes the first blow against the intent and purpose of the Act. Second, and this flows from the first aspect, whenever presiding officers are appointed to commercial courts, it must be ensured that they have experience in dealing with commercial disputes, as Section 3 of the Act ordains. Merely the fact that an incumbent is a district judge supplies no such experience. Third, in terms of Section 19 of the Act, the respective State governments must, in consultation with the High Courts, establish necessary infrastructural facilities to run these courts. Fourth, in terms of Section 20 , the State government is to establish facilities providing for the training of judges who may be appointed to these courts. Finally, and possibly most importantly, in terms of Section 17, statistical data regarding the functioning of these courts are to be displayed on the website of the respective High Courts.

•Without institutionalising these improvements, we cannot hope to make our commercial courts businesslike and our ranking in “enforcing contracts” any better.