The HINDU Notes – 16th February 2018 - VISION

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 16th February 2018

📰 Protecting the girl child

Positive developments are taking place with regard to female genital mutilation

•The courage of a group of Dawoodi Bohra women, who were subject to female genital mutilation (FGM) and recently began speaking about it publicly, has “shone a light” upon the often debilitating, secretive process in India, like never before.

•Two important developments have followed in the wake of this community coming forward with their personal stories: a broader and more intense dialogue against the practice has evolved, and the most committed followers of the practice from the community have retaliated.

•A newly formed association of women from the community who believe in the practice describe it as khatna, khafz, or female circumcision. They consider it to be a harmless cultural and religious practice of over 1,400 years that involves a tiny excision of the prepuce, which is the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris. Khatna is carried out on girls as young as seven years of age. These women insist that female circumcision and FGM are different things: while followers of the tradition say that the purpose is to achieve taharat or religious purity, those who do not subscribe to the practice believe that it is meant to curb the sexual urges of a woman.

•These assertions notwithstanding, every aspect of the practice, including the nomenclature used, has now become contested. Anti-khatna activists equate the practice to FGM. They point out that the “tiny excision” fits into the World Health Organisation’s definition of Type 1a FGM, which is the removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only. Further, new research in India suggests that much more damage is caused than a tiny excision. Besides excessive bleeding, infections and painful sex, psychological trauma, anxiety and fear are the less recognised side effects of FGM.

•Early this month, MP Shashi Tharoor released a study called ‘The Clitoral Hood: A Contested Site,’ on the occasion of International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on February 6. The study noted that khatna is often done by the traditional cutters, some of whom have performed several thousands of procedures, a fact that would be consistent with the number of known cases of botched procedures.

•One mitigatory approach that anti-khatna activists demand is for traditional cutters to be educated about the harms of genital cutting, and be trained in alternative income-generating activities. Given that there are attempts to medicalise the procedure, activists have also called for the Indian Medical Association to emphasise that female genital cutting violates a fundamental code of medical ethics, which is to do no harm. On the one hand, these activists have engaged with the community and the clergy in a bid to bring the practice to an end in a reasonable manner. Simultaneously they have filed intervention applications as part of a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court.

•This marks the first instance of an FGM case being lodged in the highest court of India, with hope that it may follow in the steps of Australia, where individuals have been convicted for FGM.

📰 Dealing with hijacking

•The hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 and the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., in which aircraft were used as missiles, were wake-up calls for India to tighten the 1982 vintage anti-hijacking law. The need was also felt to make hijacking punishable with death penalty.

•The government felt that the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 had insufficient penalties and was not comprehensive enough to deal with new challenges. In fact, it was hardly a deterrent for prospective offenders.

•The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 repealed the 1982 Act. Its objectives are in tune with the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. The Act further incorporated the September 2010 Beijing Protocol Supplementary to the Convention which specifically dealt with “unlawful acts against civil aviation by new types of threats”. The Act highlighted the government’s concern for expedient measures to be taken during hostile acts of seizure or exercise of control of aircraft which jeopardise the safety of persons and property.

•The new law revamped Section 3 of the 1982 legislation to expand the definition of hijacking to seizure or take over of an aircraft using “any technological means”. This takes into consideration the possibility that a hijacker need not be physically present inside the aircraft to take control of it.

•According to the Act, even a credible “threat” to hijack an aircraft amounts to hijacking. The definition of ‘hijacking’ also includes an attempt to commit the crime, abetting, organising, participating in it as an accomplice, and unlawfully and intentionally assisting a person involved in hijacking to evade investigation or prosecution or punishment. Here, a person who does not actually participate in the hijacking but “directs” someone else to do it is equally liable.

•Section 4 allows capital punishment if the hijacking leads to the death of a hostage, a security personnel, or any person not involved in the offence. The alternative is life imprisonment. The Act makes it clear that imprisonment for life means “imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life”. There is no chance of remission.

•An aircraft is considered to be “in-service” from the beginning of its pre-flight preparation by ground personnel or crew for a specific flight until 24 hours after “any landing”.

📰 You value a rape at ₹6,500, ‘shocked’ SC asks M.P. govt.

Pulls up States for not filing affidavit on Nirbhaya Fund use

•Are you doing charity by paying ₹6,500 to a rape victim, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday after going through an affidavit filed by the Madhya Pradeshgovernment on the compensation given under the Nirbhaya Fund scheme.

Maximum funds

•The apex court said it was “shocking” that Madhya Pradesh, which was among the States that received maximum funds from the Centre under the Nirbhaya scheme, was disbursing a meagre ₹6,000-₹6,500 to each victim of sexual assault.

•The Nirbhaya Fund scheme was announced by the Centre in 2013 after the horrific December 16, 2012 gang-rape and murder case in Delhi, to support the initiatives of governments and NGOs working for women’s safety.

•A Bench comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, while perusing Madhya Pradesh’s affidavit, said: “According to your (Madhya Pradesh) affidavit, on an average you are paying ₹6,000 to a rape victim. Are you doing a charity? How can you do so? You value a rape at ₹6,500?”

•“For Madhya Pradesh, the figures are fantastic. There are 1,951 rape victims in Madhya Pradesh and you are giving them ₹6,000-₹6,500 each. Is that good, commendable? What is this,” the Bench asked, adding, “this is total insensitiveness”.

Pulls up Haryana

•The Haryana government also faced the wrath of the top court for not filing its affidavit giving details of the Nirbhaya Fund disbursement.

•The court had last month directed all States and Union Territories to file an affidavit indicating the amount received by them under the Nirbhaya Fund, the amount disbursed by them and the number of victims who had received it. As many as 24 States and UTs are yet to file their affidavits.

•When Haryana’s counsel said they haven’t filed the affidavit, the Bench observed, “It is a very clear indication of what you feel for safety of women in your State.” “You take your time and tell the women in your State that you do not care for them,” the Bench said.

•In its order, the Bench noted that despite all talks, discussions and intent expressed on gender justice, 24 States and UTs have not yet filed their affidavits.

•It asked these States and UTs to file their affidavits within four weeks, “if at all they were interested” in the welfare of women.

📰 A deepening crisis

Our national aspirations will remain unmet at long as we fail to prioritise education

•The more necessary it seems, the less likely it gets. That is the story of public spending on education. In 1966, the Kothari Commission had said in its voluminous report that India should aim at spending 6% of its GDP on education. More than half a century later, we are spending less than 3% of our GDP on education. D.S. Kothari’s recommendation gives us a symbolic measure of the importance given to education. At the time the commission chaired by him was drafting its report, India was passing through a difficult period. Famines, wars and political uncertainty were taking their toll. The economy was stuck in sluggish growth, and the idealism of the freedom struggle was waning.

Walking the talk

•Conditions are rather different today. By any standards, India is more prosperous today and people’s aspirations are higher. Education is valued across different sections and strata. Despite this favourable social climate, education has failed to become a matter of national concern. Every year, the Union Budget indicates that it is not a high priority although it is loudly announced to be so. This year’s Budget is no different. It offers a marginal increase on different routine expenses and reduction on some. There is no sign of funds to enable institutional recovery after a prolonged period of damage caused by financial cuts in higher education. In elementary education, supply of funds for improvement in quality is no more certain. No funds are in sight to sustain the bold dream of making the Right to Education a sustainable reality.

•In his Budget speech, the Finance Minister referred to the importance of teacher education. This was a welcome reference and somewhat rare too. Teacher training constitutes a relatively invisible, low-status sector of the system. It seldom receives high-level attention. A few prestigious colleges that were set up under British rule a century ago have lost their sheen. In the discourse of policy too, teacher training stays on the margins. And the current popular term ‘public policy’ does not cover teacher education at all. Some years ago, its inner reality was revealed by a commission appointed by the Supreme Court under the chairpersonship of the late Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma. The report of this commission brought to public attention the dismal state of teacher education, especially the corruption that has seeped into the regulatory system put in place in the mid-1990s. Rampant commercialisation and rigid bureaucratic control combined to stifle any possibility of academic growth in teacher education. The Justice Verma Commission offered several good remedies to improve the regulatory structure, and for a little while it seemed as if things were moving forward. But the progress could not be sustained.

Four-year option

•The Finance Minister made a special mention of the four-year integrated B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) programme as a way forward for achieving quality in teacher training. The big question that has remained unanswered since the commission submitted its report is whether the Central government will spend the money the sector needs. So far, the indications have been that teacher education will have to pay for its own growth. What the government is willing to invest in is mainly the in-service part of the sector. Pre-service courses like B.Ed. continue to have a huge market outside public institutions, like departments of education in universities. The long history of the four-year integrated B.Ed. course in the confines of the Regional Institutes run by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) offers the hope that it may perhaps do well in the broader world as well, but that hope is contingent on a big, presently daunting question.

•That question is whether the government is aware of its responsibility towards higher education. Teachers for all levels are directly or indirectly affected by institutions of higher education. A nursery teacher needs to benefit from current knowledge in child psychology, and someone teaching language in primary classes must know how to leverage contemporary knowledge about how children learn reading or how to impart bilingual skills. The secondary teacher is directly affected by conditions in undergraduate colleges. If they have no science labs and adequate faculty, the graduates who opt for school teaching as a career can hardly do justice to the adolescents who choose to study science. These are reasons why the degraded state of undergraduate education limits the potential impact of training on a schoolteacher’s academic capacity.

•Barely a decade ago, the Yash Pal report on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education presented a bleak picture of undergraduate education and offered recommendations for improving it. Implementing these recommendations will need increased public spending. Above all else, it will call for an institutional recovery road map. Neither extra money nor a recovery plan is in sight.

•It is a legitimate question why India does not worry about its educational crisis or why it does not invest more public funds in education. One way to seek an answer is to look back. In the first few decades following Independence, resources were limited and they were used for other, more immediate needs. Then, for a little while, it seemed as if education might become a priority because social demand for it had increased. However, before this demand could acquire a political voice, the state got seduced by the option to privatise education. Now, we are in an advanced stage of that fascination. Any suggestion is welcome provided it avoids arguing for more funds from the public exchequer. How long this viewpoint will continue to shape public policy in education is anyone’s guess.

Increasing damage

•But one thing is certain. The damage our institutional apparatus has suffered over the last three decades has begun to hurt our long-term national economic interests and social goals. We need to recognise that growing inequality and dissonance among youth are a consequence of malnourished institutional experience. The United Nations discourse of sustainable development should remind us that our national aspirations might get a jolt if we fail to prioritise education.

📰 Change of guard: On Jacob Zuma’s ouster

Jacob Zuma’s exit as South Africa’s President must lead to an institutional clean-up

•Jacob Zuma’s resignation as South Africa’s President brings an opportunity to start cleaning up its government and institutions. The ‘Teflon’ president, a moniker the 75-year-old earned for his survival skills, finally gave in to weeks of pressure from his own party, the African National Congress, ending an almost nine-year-long, scandal-hit presidency marred by hundreds of allegations and charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Despite having survived eight no-confidence motions, Mr. Zuma had little choice this time as his own party asked him to resign, with ANC legislators looking inclined towards even a no-confidence motion against him in parliament. The growing pressure on Mr. Zuma was also visible on some of those who allegedly colluded with him, notably the India-born Gupta brothers whose home in the swish Saxonwold suburb of Johannesburg was raided by the police on Wednesday. The trio — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta — whose business interests range from mining to media and technology have been accused of using their ties with Mr. Zuma to enable “state capture” by possessing inside information, influencing ministerial appointments and swinging multimillion-dollar state contracts. The timing of the raids was hardly a coincidence. The ANC is only too aware of the need to get its house in order before the 2019 general election. Putting Mr. Zuma through a no-confidence motion would have further exposed a party that went from leading South Africa out of apartheid to administering a system and country characterised by high levels of inequality and corruption and a flagging economy, with 30% unemployment and low growth.

•The way is now clear for the reformist veteran Cyril Ramaphosa, the new President. He has been a trade union leader, a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement and a close associate of Nelson Mandela. He led the effort to draft the country’s new constitution in 1994 and was an MP in the first post-apartheid parliament. With the ANC choosing Thabo Mbeki as Mandela’s successor in 1999, Mr. Ramaphosa’s presidential ambitions were dashed, and he focussed on his businesses instead — today, he is one of South Africa’s wealthiest black businessmen. In December, he won a close and bitter contest against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mr. Zuma’s ex-wife, to become ANC’s leader, and has now been given a shot at leading South Africa. Mr. Ramaphosa has spoken of a new phase and about prioritising the economy. This, in addition to his background in politics and business, gives reason to believe that South Africa has a significant opportunity for a change in direction and speed. However, whether and to what extent the new leadership will allow the law to independently take its course with regard to Mr. Zuma remains to be seen.

📰 Making up for lost time

India and Canada must use Justin Trudeau’s visit to take a long-term view of bilateral ties

•Justin Trudeau, Canada’s youthful, popular and telegenic Prime Minister, begins his much anticipated seven-day, five-city state visit of India on February 17. This is his first trip to India after he became Prime Minister in 2015, but he has always had India and Indians around him. He is familiar with Indian rituals and customs. He and his spouse are practitioners of yoga. He can even perform bhangra. He has several friends, advisors and colleagues of Indian origin, given that the Indian diaspora comprising 3.6% of the Canadian population is well-educated, affluent and politically suave.

The Khalistan angle

•He is particularly close to the Sikh community, which affectionately calls him ‘Justin Singh’. Never in Canadian history have at least 19 persons of Indian origin been elected to the House of Commons, of which 17 (15 Sikhs) represent Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party. He has rewarded four Sikhs with key Cabinet berths. As such these should have been heydays for India-Canada ties, but for the fact that this phase has also coincided with a resurgence in anti-India activities by emboldened Khalistani elements in Canada.

•In a first, the Ontario Provincial Parliament adopted a resolution moved by the ruling Liberal Party’s MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) Harinder Malhi, on April 6, 2017, terming the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as ‘genocide’. She was promptly rewarded with a cabinet berth. A peeved India described it as a “misguided motion based on a limited understanding of India, its Constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and its judicial process.”

•Next, on April 30, 2017, Mr. Trudeau himself showed up at the Toronto nagar kirtan where Khalistani flags and pictures of slain terrorists like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were conspicuously displayed. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had consciously shunned such platforms during his years in office.

•Not to be outdone, in December, self-appointed radical leaders imposed a ban on the entry of Indian officials in Canadian gurdwaras, which goes against all tenets of the inclusive, benign and liberal Sikh faith. It is heartening that several sober and influential Sikh voices have criticised and disassociated themselves from the move.

•The ‘Khalistani’ issue has figured prominently between India and Canada at all levels. However, Canadian political leaders and parties continue to mollycoddle the Khalisanti elements in the quest for electoral gains. What is incongruous is that the current Liberal government seems to be going beyond the needs of political and electoral arithmetic in courting the radicals. Naturally bilateral relations cannot but be impacted.

•Sensing the delicacy of the situation, the Canadian government appears to be strategising to contain the fallout. Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who has impeccable credentials, stated: “Throughout my life, I have been one of the strongest opponents of the Khalistani movement.” It is high time to put the issue to rest, though this may be unlikely given that Canadian leaders only seem to be looking at a tactical recalibration.

•That said, Canada has truly been a land of opportunity for the Indian diaspora. They have earned the affection and respect of Canadians, who are very inclusive. There many iconic rags-to-riches stories, like that of Prem Watsa, Chairman of Fairfax Financial Holding, who migrated from Hyderabad in the 1970s with a few dollars and is now known as the Warren Buffett of Canada. His company has invested over $1 billion in India during the last 30 months or so.

•Another welcome development in recent years has been a spike in investments by the well-endowed Canadian Pension Funds like CPPIB and CDPQ into India. Together, Canadian companies have have pumped in some $12-15 billion Canadian in India in sectors including real estate, financial services, distressed assets, modern logistics facilities and e-commerce.

•Early conclusion of the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), which have been under negotiation for several years, would boost our economic partnership. It would particularly open up the services sector allowing highly skilled Indian professionals, for whom there is a ready demand, to work in Canada. However, this is not likely to happen in a hurry. BIPPA is closer to finalisation, but India would prefer that both agreements be operationalised in one go.

A strategic partnership

•During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Canada in April 2015, both sides agreed to elevate their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership. Truth be told, the strategic content remains wafer thin. The ties essentially rest on 3Es — economy, energy and education. India has started importing uranium from Canada, beginning 2015. Canada also has sizeable reserves of oil and gas. Over time Canada could become a key partner in India’s quest for energy security.

•With declining interest in Britain and some uncertainty over the U.S.’s policies, Indian students have begun heading for vocational and higher education to Canada in larger numbers. An added attraction for them is that Canada routinely provides a three-year work visa upon completion of studies, which opens up avenues of gainful employment and citizenship. Canada also continues with a liberal immigration policy. In 2016, some 40,000 Indian immigrants were admitted into the country.

•Till recently, knowledgeable Canadians would say with pride that there was a little of their country in every Indian home, as significant quantities of Canadian pulses were being imported by India. Both nations also have some collaboration in agri-tech and much more can be done. We are fortunate to have complementary economies and capable human resources. There is enough potential for stepping up cooperation in areas like information technology, science and technology, clean and green tech, aviation and outer space, cold-climate warfare, cybersecurity, counterterrorism and tourism. The need of the hour is to strengthen mutual trust and confidence, by taking a long-term view of the relationship.

📰 China slams Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh

Says it will not help in ‘enabling conditions’ for border talks and better ties.

•China has slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, saying it was not helpful in creating “enabling conditions” for boundary talks and improvement of Beijing-New Delhi ties.

•Xinhua news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang as saying on Thursday that China was “firmly opposed” to Mr. Modi’s visit to the “disputed area.”

•“China’s position on the China-India boundary question is consistent and clear-cut,” Mr. Geng said.

•“The Chinese government has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader's visit to the disputed area,” the spokesperson observed.

•He added: “We will lodge stern representations with the Indian side.”

‘Important consensus reached’

•Mr. Geng said that China and India had reached “important consensus” on properly managing disputes, and the two sides were working to resolve the territorial disputes through negotiation and consultation.

•“The Chinese side urges the Indian side to honour its commitment and abide by the relevant consensus, and refrain from taking any action that may complicate the boundary question.”

•He urged India to cherish “the hard-won momentum of improvements in bilateral relations and create enabling conditions for the boundary talks and the development of bilateral relations.”

📰 Rouhani to push for investment

‘India, Iran on the same positive track’

•Indian investment in Iran, including billions of dollars in connectivity, infrastructure and oil projects topped the agenda as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived for a three-day visit to India on Thursday.

•“The two countries are on the same positive, right track,” Mr. Rouhani said, just before leaving for Hyderabad.

•He told reporters that the Chabahar investment project is a “key objective” for Iran while several MoUs would be signed after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Threat of sanctions

•The visit, which comes close on the heels of a decision by the Modi government to allow Indians to invest in Iran in rupees signals an independent line from the United States, which is threatening new sanctions against Iran in the coming months.

•“Last month we allowed investments in rupees to be made in Iran for the first time. With the exception of Bhutan and Nepal, at present all foreign investments have to be made in dollars, so this is a step to stimulate our interest in Iran,” said a government source, who didn’t wish to be identified.

•The rupee investment plan is expected to ease the path for businessmen wishing to circumvent challenges posed by the current sanctions regime against Iran.

Banking hassles

•Although many of the sanctions were officially lifted after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on nuclear scrutiny was signed in 2015, the U.S.’s stern posture on Iran has meant that few international banking and insurance companies are willing to assist investments there. “The absence of banking and payment channels have been a challenge for Indian businessmen, and we have been making special efforts to address those challenges. We have been in discussions on new investment routes, a double tax avoidance agreement, preferential trade agreements, and a rupee-rial mechanism,” the source added.

•Officials also said the government was committed to “speeding up” work at the Chabahar Shahid Beheshti Project, denying reports that there had been any “slowdown” due to pressure from the U.S.

•Mr. Rouhani will arrive in New Delhi on Friday ahead of official meetings on Saturday.

📰 'We are autonomous,' Prasar Bharati rejects Ministry’s directives

Chairman A. Surya Prakash and members of the Prasar Bharati Board, took “strong exception” to the “wording of a direction” to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati.

•Aggressively defending its autonomy, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has rejected a range of “directives” coming from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, saying they constituted “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act.

•Chairman A. Surya Prakash and members of the Prasar Bharati Board, at their meeting on Thursday, took “strong exception” to the “wording of a direction” to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati. A sizeable number of employees, both in Doordarshan and All India Radio, work on contract and sacking them without arranging for an alternative would lead to the collapse of both organisations, Prasar Bharati officials said.

•The Ministry’s proposal to hire two senior journalists, Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumdar, was withdrawn as the board was not in favour of hiring media persons on exorbitant compensation packages, internal Board documents seen by The Hindu said. The Ministry had fixed an annual compensation of ₹1 crore for Mr. Zarabi and ₹75 lakh for Mr. Majumdar. The members argued that the highest compensation paid to contractual employees in Prasar Bharati was about ₹1.6 lakh a month and a jump to ₹1 crore a year cannot be justified.

‘Violation of provisions’

•Another agenda item withdrawn during the board meeting was the appointment of a serving IAS officer as Member (Personnel) on the Prasar Bharati Board.

•“The proposal mooted by the Ministry of I&B was dropped. The chairman and members took strong exception to the wording of the resolution. They also said provisions of the PB Act would be violated and the office of Vice-President would be denigrated,” the documents said. Under the rules, a committee led by the Vice-President has to recommend the person to be appointed as Member (Personnel) and Member (Finance), who have to be whole-time members and employees of Prasar Bharati.

•“When section 6 (7) says whole-time members shall be employees of the corporation, how can anyone suggest that an in-service IAS officer be appointed member (personnel),” said the documents.

DD Free Dish

•The board also objected to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s direction to stop all e-auction of channels on DD Free Dish. The directive will “wreck the finances of Prasar Bharati” and the Corporation stands to lose ₹300 crore, it said.

•Doordarshan’s Free Dish service was inaugurated in 2004 with 33 channels. It now carries 104 television channels and 40 radio channels and reaches 20 million homes. It provides coverage throughout India, except Andaman and Nicobar islands, through a set top box for which no monthly subscription fee is required.

•When DD Free Dish was started, the General Entertainment Channel slots were auctioned for ₹25 lakh a year. They now command ₹8.5 crore a year.

•The Ministry also wants general entertainment channels to be replaced by channels run by Union Ministries.

•The Prasar Bharati Board, however, has contended that it would make the bouquet uninteresting. The viewership of Doordarshan would “crash and Tata Sky and Zee Entertainment Dish TV will go laughing all the way to the Bank,” the documents stated.

📰 Cauvery water dispute: Supreme Court to deliver verdict on February 16

•A Special Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, on February 16 will pronounce the verdict on appeals filed by Tamil Nadu,Karnataka and Kerala against the final award of the Cauvery Waters Tribunal in 2007 on the allocation of water to them.

•On September 20, 2017, the final day of the marathon hearings in the appeals, Tamil Nadu made a fervent plea to the Bench — comprising Justices Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar — to not reduce it to the state of a beggar before Karnataka.

•Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, urged the court to initiate a “fundamental change” in the water sharing arrangement. “Several years have gone by... the river is perennial, but the litigation should not be,” it submitted.

•Mr. Naphade made it a point to express sceptcisim about the Central government's initiative in resolving the decades-long Cauvery dispute. Tamil Nadu said it wanted a judicial order and did not want to depend on a Centre that took six years to publish the Tribunal award in the gazette in 2013.

Centre pulled up

•The Centre, represented by then Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, tried to apprise the Bench that it was Parliament's call to finalise the water sharing scheme under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956. But the court remained firm, saying the judiciary has a role and the judgment in the appeals would speak for itself.

•Before reserving the judgment, the Bench pulled up the Centre for not implementing the final award of the Tribunal and questioned the reluctance to set up a Cauvery management Board.

•The Centre justified that it had set up the Cauvery River Water Authority and Supervisory Committee following the Supreme Court's direction, and was waiting for the court to clarify the position. Mr. Kumar submitted that it was waiting for the court to clarify its position on the tribunal award.

•The final arguments saw senior advocate Fali Nariman, for Karnataka, urging the court to realise that the Tribunal award, fixing monthly water releases to Tamil Nadu without any regard to the availability of water in Karnataka, was harsh.

•During the hearing on July 18, 2017, Mr. Nariman said “It is perverse for the Tribunal to have fixed monthly water releases to Tamil Nadu without any regard to the availability of water in Karnataka. It is like the tribunal ordering god to send rain to the State. How can the tribunal fix the quantity of water to be released.”

•He had argued that the Tribunal had not even considered the requirement of two-third of Bengaluru on the “erroneous consideration that the city is not entitled to the supply of water from the Cauvery”. The needs of Bengaluru were not considered when the Tribunal earmarked water for domestic and industrial requirements of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It spared 1.85 tmc to Karnataka and 2.73 tmc to Tamil Nadu for consumptive use.

The 1924 pact

•In the hearing on July 12, the Bench dealt with the 1924 agreement for water sharing. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on that day were at loggerheads with each other after Mr. Nariman claimed Tamil Nadu had breached the agreement by extending its irrigation lands from the prescribed 21.38 lakh acres to 28.2 lakh acres utilising 566 tmc of Cauvery water.

•The court had to intervene with Justice Misra observing that “every State is a part of our nation. We do not want States to quarrel”.

•Arguments were led on various issues, including how the “real shares” of each riparian State should have been determined by the tribunal on the basis of needs by taking into account the contribution of water by each States to the river valley, the population of each State in the basin depending upon the waters and the cultivatable area of each State in the basin requiring application of water to raise crops.

•Karnataka argued that the Tribunal should have given due weight to the climatic factors, hydrological cycle, engineering factors and geographical positions in the basin while assessing the needs of each State.

Agreement in 1892

•The arguments on the dispute go back to years as 1892, when an agreement was signed between the erstwhile princely State of Mysore and the Madras Government.

•Though Karnataka termed the agreement an “unconscionable bargain” reflecting an “inequality of bargaining power” and which has no validity after the birth of the Constitution, Tamil Nadu countered that the 1892 agreement was preceded by a good deal of mutual consideration of both the interests of the Madras Presidency and Mysore State.

•The Supreme Court, on January 4, 2017, ensured that Karnataka would continue to release 2000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

•The final arguments were preceded by an initial judgment of the Supreme Court by which it had established its power to hear the dispute.

•On December 9, 2016, the Supreme Court delivered a verdict refusing the Centre's stand that it lacked the jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

•The Centre had argued that the parliamentary law of Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 coupled with Article 262 (2) of the Constitution excluded the Supreme Court from hearing or deciding any appeals against the tribunal's decision. The Centre had claimed the tribunal award was final.

•The court, however, held that the remedy under Article 136 was a constitutional right and it cannot be taken away by a legislation much less by invoking the principle of election or estoppel.

📰 PNB fraud: Diamond, gold jewellery worth ₹5,100 crore seized from Nirav Modi premises

Nirav Modi's passport revoked, assets seized, look out circular issued, says Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

•New Delhi - Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday that Punjab National Bank fraud–accused jewellery designer Nirav Modi was not part of the Prime Minister Modi’s delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "He was part of the CII [Confederation of Indian Industry] delegation," he asserted.

•He said Nirav Modi's passport had been revoked and a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against him.

•The Enforcement Directorate has searched premises linked to billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat today. The agency filed a ₹280-crore money laundering case against Mr. Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and business partner Mehul Choksi on February 14, following a complaint by PNB.

•Agency sleuths swooped down on at least 10 premises linked to the case early this morning. They searched Modi’s residence in Kurla, jewellery boutique in Kala Ghoda area, three company offices in Bandra and Lower Parel in Mumbai, three premises in Surat in Gujarat and Modi’s showrooms in Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony in Delhi.

•Agency sleuths swooped down on at least 10 premises linked to the case early on February 15. They searched Mr. Nirav Modi’s residence in Kurla, jewellery boutique in Kala Ghoda area, three company offices in Bandra and Lower Parel in Mumbai, three premises in Surat in Gujarat and Mr. Nirav Modi’s showrooms in Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony in Delhi.

Financial Services Secretary updates Jaitley on PNB case

•The ₹11,400 crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB) came to light because of the government’s pressure to clean up the banking system, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar said on Thursday after updating Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the case.

•Talking to reporters after meeting Mr. Jaitley along with senior bank officials, Mr. Kumar said the fraud transaction came to light “because of the pressure” from the government.

•“If it [LoUs] was to get rolled over, it would have got rolled over this time also,” he said, adding the next roll over came to notice on January 23.

•The secretary said the moment it came to notice that “it has to be rolled over, it was not rolled over. So, because of the pressure on the banks to clean up the system, they couldn’t do it and the bank itself detected it.”

•On why the fraud went unnoticed for seven years, Mr. Kumar said it is a “systemic issue” and has to be looked into.

•Earlier in the day, the secretary said PNB will make the required provisioning and it has “sufficient” funds for it.

•“Whole lot of assets will be recovered. Nobody will be spared,” Mr. Kumar said.

•He further said that the issue is an “isolated case of a single branch” and all possible action will be taken against the guilty persons.

•“This is not likely to escalate to other banks. We have already frozen the case,” he said, adding all other banks have been alerted about the case.

•Meanwhile, Mr. Kumar, who briefed the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance on Demands for Grants along with other secretaries, was also quizzed about the PNB fraud case by the lawmakers, sources said.

Diamond, gold jewellery worth ₹5,100 crore seized

•The Enforcement Directorate has seized diamond, jewellery and gold worth ₹5,100 crore in searches conducted at several properties linked to Nirav Modi in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, the agency’s officials say.

•ED officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say five properties belonging to Mr. Nirav Modi and the other accused in Mumbai are sealed by the agency. It’s now planning to move the Ministry of External Affairs with a plea to revoke his passport, the officials say.

•Diamond, jewellery and gold worth ₹5,100 crore have been seized during the searches, the officials say.

No one will be spared, says BJP

•Under attack from the Congress over a ₹11,400 crore scam allegedly involving designer Nirav Modi, the BJP on Thursday said no one involved in the PNB fraud case would be spared and the investigation was proceeding at a rapid pace.

•Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also clarified that Mr. Nirav Modi was not part of the delegation to Davos led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had reached there on his own.

Nirav Modi gave vague offers to repay money, says PNB chief Sunil Mehta

•Punjab National Bank (PNB) on Thursday said Nirav Modi, who allegedly defrauded the bank of about ₹11,400 crore, has come up with “some vague offers” to repay the amount, even as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) continued raids at properties connected with the jeweller designer.

•The country’s second largest PSU bank has detected a $1.77 billion (about ₹11,400 crore) scam where billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi allegedly acquired fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoU) from a branch in Mumbai to secure overseas credit from other Indian lenders.

•The ED on Thursday conducted multiple searches in connection with a money laundering case against jewellery designer Mr. Nirav Modi and others following a complaint by Punjab National Bank.

Congress targets PM

•Congress president Rahul Gandhi has targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the presence of Nirav Modi in a Indian business delegation in Davos. He said "being seen with the Prime Minister helped the businessman flee the country."

•"Guide to Looting India by Nirav MODI. 1. Hug PM Modi 2. Be seen with him in DAVOS Use that clout to: A. Steal 12,000Cr B. Slip out of the country like Mallya, while the Govt looks the other way. From1MODI2another," tweeted Mr. Gandhi moments before the Congress held a press conference on the issue.

'Businessmen not part of PM's delegation'

•Responding to the accusations about a Davos photo, government sources said that businessmen were not a part of the Prime Minister's delegation. Only the official delegation and accompanying media were part of his entourage.

•“A lot of people travel to Davos, we don't facilitate them. There was a 10-second photo-op and the Prime Minister stood for it but he left directly after. DIPP/Invest India organised the photo-op, but the Prime Minister did not meet anyone in the group,” the sources said.

ED conducts searches on Nirav Modi's premises

•The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday conducted searches on premises linked to Nirav Modi in three States, in connection with his fraudulent transactions with the PNB.

•“Searches are underway at four locations in Mumbai, including Mr. Modi's office and showroom in Kala Ghodathree; in Surat; and two in Delhi,” an ED officer said.

📰 Gem of a scam: On PNB fraud

The PNB fraud must be speedily investigated to restore faith in the banking system.

•A regulatory filing to the stock exchanges by Punjab National Bank has blown the lid off a ₹11,500-crore fraud. Perhaps the largest such scam in India, it was perpetrated by a maverick diamond merchant in collusion with bank officials at a single branch in South Mumbai. For India’s second largest bank to be defrauded in the manner suggested is astounding, especially since there has been heightened scrutiny of public sector banks’ operations in the last few years. The bank’s audit committees and boards, as well as the central bank, which conducts routine financial inspections of banks’ books, have been ostensibly keeping a close watch on the loans that have turned substandard or are on the verge of default. The government, which has often blamed the pile of bad loans on crony capitalism during the UPA regime, just last month unveiled a plan to infuse about ₹1 lakh crore into 21 capital-starved public sector banks this fiscal. Of this, ₹5,473 crore is to be injected into PNB. So even if the actual loss the bank ends up incurring on account of this fraud is half the stated amount, its capital adequacy ratio will be back to the same level before the recapitalisation was announced. Its market capitalisation has tanked ₹8,077 crore over the past two days, with the share price falling over 20% since the news broke.

•The bank’s top brass has said it has acted promptly, suspending around 10 officials. The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked one retired and one serving PNB employee so far. It is also difficult to believe that a handful of junior employees could orchestrate such a massive fraud. The bank’s managing director has claimed that supervisory lapses are being probed, and the Enforcement Directorate has initiated a money laundering case against the main accused, billionaire-jeweller Nirav Modi, his wife Ami Modi and close associates and relatives. The firms run by him had seen a meteoric rise and an IPO was in the offing after buyouts of global players and a ramp-up of retail presence in India and abroad. It appears that the bank employees who assisted in the fraud routed large transactions for the borrowers by circumventing the core banking solution. This flies in the face of the government’s push for a digital payment economy. PNB has sought to blame overseas branches of other banks for not undertaking due diligence before accepting such transactions, but that may be too simplistic an explanation. An inquiry by the RBI must get to the bottom of the systemic lapses in this affair and fix accountability across the chain of command. The banker-borrower nexus has been blamed for problems in the banking system for years. This episode will set off fears of a nexus deeper than imagined. The RBI and investigating agencies should act speedily to restore trust in the banking system.

📰 PNB, Nirav Modi and a fraud that went undetected for 7 years

Proves lack of monitoring by banks concerned.

•Preliminary investigation into the alleged fraudulent transactions worth ₹11,500 crore has revealed a complete breakdown of supervision and auditing mechanism in Punjab National Bank’s Mumbai branch and overseas branches of the other banks concerned.

•The transactions remained undetected for almost seven years, despite the fact that the bank conducts internal and external audits on a regular basis.

•“Overseas branches of the other banks, which released payments on the request for settlement of import bills, also did not flag the discrepancies for such a long period. Therefore, complicity of the officials concerned in those banks can also not be ruled out at this stage,” said a senior ED official.

•The bank has pinned the whole blame on the then Deputy Manager, Gokulnath Shetty, and a low-rank staffer for the fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking (LoU) on behalf of the three firms associated with diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his family members. However, eight more officials have been suspended.

•As alleged, Mr. Shetty issued the LoUs without ensuring that the beneficiaries had been sanctioned the necessary credit limit or had deposited adequate cash with the bank as collateral.
•Also, the officials did not make any entry about the LoUs in the bank’s central database to evade detection. They, however, allegedly transmitted messages to the overseas branches of other Indian banks to honour the “fake” LoUs for settlement of import bills on the beneficiaries’ behalf.

•While LoU remains valid for only three months, the ED has found that in one case the letter with a validity of one year had been issued. This also remained undetected.

•At least two Hong Kong-based branches of Allahabad Bank and Axis Bank have been identified as involved so far.

•It is alleged that bills were also cleared for payments through PNB’s Nostro accounts with other banks that deal in foreign currency.

•As per rules, those availing such a credit facility are required to repay the loan within 90 days of the issuance of an LoU.

•However, it is alleged, the accused used to get another LoU issued during the validity period, for an amount that also included the pending sum.

📰 PNB fraud: ED suspects similar frauds in other banks

The agency is alarmed by the manner in which Letters of Undertaking were fraudulently issued to importers in connivance with certain PNB officials.

•The Enforcement Directorate may soon write to all the banks to report any fraudulent transaction, similar to those detected in the Punjab National Bank case, for speedy action against those involved.

•Alarmed by the manner in which Letters of Undertaking (LoU) were fraudulently issued to importers in connivance with certain PNB officials, the agency suspects that the same modus operandi could have been adopted in other banks to raise funds illegally in the name of settling import bills.

•LoU is a bank guarantee generated on behalf of importers for payments abroad. Under this arrangement, the issuing bank agrees to unconditionally repay the principal amount and interest thereupon. It remains valid for three months.

SWIFT system

•In the PNB case, the accused officials misused the Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system to verify the fraudulently issued LoUs, confirming to the overseas branches of several banks that they could extend foreign exchange credit to the beneficiaries.

•The SWIFT system is mainly used for clearing international wire transfers.

•The PNB has also issued a note to all the banks cautioning them against the modus operandi adopted in the fraud. The bank found that the beneficiary companies were maintaining only current accounts with the branch and had not been sanctioned any credit limit.

•The Directorate’s searches in the PNB case will continue on Friday, even as more seizures are being reported from Jaipur.

📰 Parliamentary Panel seeks FinMin report

Questions recapitalisation process

•The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance on Thursday questioned finance ministry officials about the $1.77 billion fraud in the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) and asked them to submit a report on it.

•The committee, which met to deliberate on the demands for grant, asked officials including Secretary, Financial Services, Rajiv Kumar, as to how tax payers’ money could be used for recapitalising the bank which was not managed well.

•“Members expressed their concern over such large scale fraud in the Punjab National Bank and questioned the recapitalisation process of the state-run banks when they are not well managed and tax payers money is leaking,” said a member, who was present at the meeting.

Moily-led committee

•The committee is headed by senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily, while former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also member.

•“The committee has asked the finance ministry officials to submit a report before the panel on this fraud,” said another member who was present in the meeting.

📰 Trade deficit widens to $16.3bn in Jan.

Export growth positive for third time in a row; imports climb 26.1% outpacing exports, which rise by 9%

•The country’s goods trade deficit widened to $16.30 billion in January 2018 from $9.9 billion in the same month a year ago and $14.88 billion in the previous month owing to imports outpacing exports, data released by the commerce ministry on Thursday showed.

•The January trade deficit is a more than three-year high. It was $16.86 billion in November 2014.

•Exports for January went up by 9.07% year-on-year to $24.38 billion. However, goods imports rose 26.1% to $40.68 billion.

‘Positive trajectory’

•“Exports have been on a positive trajectory since August 2016 to January 2018 with a dip of 1.1% in the month of October 2017,” the ministry said in a statement.

•Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted that “export focused initiatives continue to bear fruit.”

•According to G.K. Gupta, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), though exports in January 2018 witnessed positive growth for third time in a row, the rate of growth is declining on a month-on-month basis. Besides, export growth of about 9%, more than 6% has been contributed by petroleum products alone.

•Labour-intensive sectors like garments, carpets, handicrafts, man-made textiles are exhibiting negative growth primarily due to liquidity crunch emanating from blocking of funds in GST, Mr. Gupta said in a statement.

•FIEO estimates that the trade deficit in this fiscal will touch about $150 billion.

•During the April-January 2017-18 period, trade deficit was $131.15 billion. Exports during April-January 2017-18 increased by 11.75% to $247.89 billion, while imports during the 10-month period of the current fiscal registered a 22.21% growth to $379.05 billion.

•FIEO wants the government to look into the refund issues by undertaking a clearance drive so as to clear all cases by March 31, 2018.

•Alternatively, banks may be asked to finance exporters against the pending GST refund claims with interest to be borne by the government, it said.

•Shipments of chemicals, engineering goods and petroleum products grew by 33%, 15.77% and 39.5% in January, while gold imports shrunk 22% to $1.59 billion. Shipments of ready-made garments declined by 8.38% to $1.39 billion last month.

•Oil and non-oil imports during January jumped by 42.64% and 20.49% to $11.65 billion and $29 billion, respectively. During April-January 2017-18, oil imports increased by 26.35% to $87.80.billion. Meanwhile, data put out by the Reserve Bank showed that the exports in services in December 2017 were valued at $16 billion. The imports stood at $9.85 billion.

📰 Boost for women’s cooperatives

•Women’s cooperative societies in Rajasthan will get loans for dairy and animal husbandry works at 5.50% interest rate from cooperative land development banks. These cooperative bodies are at present making transactions worth Rs. 1,100 crore.

•State Cooperative Minister Ajay Singh Kilak said at a workshop on financial strengthening of cooperative societies here on Thursday that the move would make thousands of women self-sufficient and provide new avenues for development of rural areas. The State government intends to bring one million women within the purview of cooperative sector.

•Under the State government’s Sahakaar Mahila Kalyan Yojana, cooperative loans worth Rs. 200 crore will be disbursed to women.

•The Minister affirmed that the existing rules and regulations would be changed if they create difficulty in achieving the targets.

📰 Week-long tiger census begins in Odisha today

900 cameras placed at strategic points for the exercise

•The Odisha government will employ 900 cameras during its week-long annual tiger census beginning Friday.

•Both direct and indirect methods will be used to ascertain the status of the big cats in the State.

•“The week-long census that coincides with the national tiger census will be carried out in all forest divisions. Field officials of all the divisions have been trained for the programme. About 900 cameras have been placed at strategic points from where capturing footage of the big cats would be easier,” Forest and Environment secretary Suresh Mohapatra told reporters here on Thursday.

•After completion of the week-long census operation, the data will be shared with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.

•Unlike earlier, the State government has brought the entire Similipal Tiger Reserve, which houses the State’s largest tiger population, under the scope of the census. Of the State’s total population of 40 tigers, 29 are stated to be in Similipal.

•The State forest department officials are hoping for a rise in the tiger population count this year.

•Earlier on January 19, a dolphin census was conducted across six coastal divisions of the State. The Forest and Environment Department's wildlife wing pegged the number of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Chilika Lake at 114. The dolphin population in the State has now gone up to 469 compared with 450 in 2015. A total of 307 dolphins have been sighted in the Bhitarakanika National Park. Of these, 108 were Indo-Pacific dolphins and 62 were Indian humpbacks.

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