The HINDU Notes – 28th February 2018 - VISION

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 28th February 2018

πŸ“° Into priesthood: on training Dalits to become priests

Does training Dalits to become priests break down caste hierarchy or create another layer of stratification?

•Under normal circumstances, the training of 500 Dalit and tribal youth by a conservative religious institution such as the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), with the aim of helping them become priests in Hindu temples, would be hailed as a reformative and a revolutionary step, even in a region that has seen the worst of caste oppression symbolised by the violence against Dalits in Karamchedu and Tsunduru. For progressive Hindus, such a programme would represent long-overdue inclusive, perhaps disruptive, social engineering that could bring marginalised communities, previously barred from entering temples for fear of “impurity”, into the mainstream. Elevating a few from among these oppressed communities to priesthood, even in small neighbourhood temples of the TTD in far-flung areas of Andhra Pradesh, could serve as a reparation of sorts.

•However, for status quoists, drenched as they tend to be in “pure” orthodoxy, this initiative to appoint Dalit and lower caste priests by the end of March is apparently being considered a breach of their exclusive privilege. The arguments made against the proposal appear to question whether those who eat non-vegetarian food, or have a variety of other such lifestyle habits that differ from those of the privileged class, could endure the rigours of maintaining “purity from outside and inside” and be able to chant mantras. What is conveniently forgotten is that the Supreme Court in 2015 held that caste and birth should not determine induction of priests in temples. Rather, domain knowledge, traditional codes of practice, and the Constitution’s guarantee of equality before law should be applied.

•Imagine a non-Brahmin boy born to poor daily wagers, wearing the archetypal dhoti and entering the sanctum sanctorum of a local temple to render mantras with a flourish and perform pujas. This suggests that rigid, divisive caste hierarchy may be on the wane.

•Despite these small steps forward, some activists describe it as “window dressing”. For Kancha Ilaiah, who is an academic and an activist, this mode of training and appointing Dalits in their neighbourhood temples would not change the basic structure of Hinduism and the “so-called tradition of following agamasastras,” or doctrine for temple rituals. “Unless Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis are trained in proper theological schools and appointed in main temples like Tirumala, Hinduism does not become a spiritual democratic system… its spiritual fascist system will continue,” he argues.

•The other challenge for this initiative is to demonstrate why it is even a priority to train Dalits to become priests. Are we unwittingly creating another social layer or a “sanskritised class of purity” when what we should focus on is creating a contemporary era of scientific and rationale thinking? Didn’t even B.R. Ambedkar speak of the limitations of temple entry for Dalits? Wouldn’t the monies deployed be better spent on quality schools in Dalit and tribal habitations?

πŸ“° Going grey: on Pakistan and the FATF watch list

Will being put on the watch list force Pakistan to withdraw state support to terror groups?

•The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that monitors countries on action taken against terror-financing and money-laundering has decided to place Pakistan back on its watch list, or “greylist”, from June. The decision is both appropriate and overdue, given Pakistan’s blatant violation of its obligations to crack down on groups banned by the Security Council 1267 sanctions committee that monitors groups affiliated to the Taliban (which originally included al-Qaeda affiliated groups), such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Haqqani network. Their leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar continue to hold public rallies and freely garner support and donations. In the process, both the LeT and JeM, which continue to praise and claim credit for terror attacks in India, have grown their bases in Pakistan, with fortress-like headquarters in Muridke and Bahawalpur that the authorities turn a blind eye to. By doing this, successive Pakistani governments have jeopardised ties with India, and shown disregard for the outcry against terrorism worldwide. One violation was a Pakistani court’s bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, LeT operational commander and a key planner of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Under the 1267 sanctions ruling, banned entities can get no funds, yet Lakhvi received the bail amount, and the authorities have since lost track of him.

•It is surprising, then, that the first round of talks of the International Cooperation Review Group that makes its recommendations to the FATF plenary failed to reach the consensus needed to list Pakistan, despite a formidable team of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany proposing the resolution against it. That the initial support for Pakistan came from China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is cause for concern in New Delhi, given the recent diplomatic outreach by India. Equally significant, however, is China’s turnaround in the plenary session two days later, when it dropped objections to the resolution, indicating that its support for Pakistan is negotiable and not set in stone. The FATF listing will not miraculously change Pakistan’s behaviour, and this is not the first time it has been listed as a country with “strategic deficiencies” in countering terror-financing and money-laundering. However, if the greylisting comes as part of a concerted campaign to hold Pakistan accountable, and pressure is ratcheted up with financial strictures on its banks and businesses and targeted sanctions imposed against specific law enforcement and intelligence officials, it may yet bear fruit. The hope is that such sanctions will persuade Pakistan to stop state support for these terror groups and become a responsible player on the global stage and a responsive neighbour.

πŸ“° Maldives declines invitation for MILAN exercises

•Maldives has declined an invitation to join the MILAN series of multilateral exercises hosted by Indian in March at Andaman and Nicobar.

•“We have invited Maldives, but they declined it. They did not give any reasons but I think it is due to the current situation there,” Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba said. He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organised by Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation.

•MILAN is a congregation of littoral navies conducted biennially by Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command. It began in 1995 with participation of four countries.

•Adm Lanba dismissed concerns over the presence of Chinese ships near Maldives. He said China has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in Indian Ocean and India has been monitoring their movements. “They have a standard pattern of operating. There has been no change in it,” he said.

•MILAN is scheduled to be held from March 6-11. This year 23 countries have been invited of which 16 have confirmed so far.

Hambantota port

•Speaking at the dialogue, Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka Navy Adm R.C. Wijegunaratna dismissed speculations surrounding the Hambantota port. “I can assure that no action whatsoever will be taken which will jeopardize India’s security concerns,” he said.

•Adm Wijegunaratna stated that their leaders had assured India that Sri Lanka would not enter into any military alliances for the security of Hambabtota. It will be done by Sri Lanka armed forces and Navy, he added.

•In December last year, Chinese companies took over Hambantota port on long term lease, raising concerns in India.

Maldives clarification

•Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed issued a statement that the country's is unable to participate due to the state of emergency in Maldives.

•"My attention has been drawn  to media reports stating that the Maldives has declined India's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan.

•"I would like to clarify that the Maldives is unable to participate in the naval exercise during this time due to the current circumstances of a State of Emergency being in effect for those under investigation for serious crimes. During such a time especially, security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness.

•"Also the participation of Maldives Naval Officers would have been as observers only.

•"When situations warrant that officers be at their post, back at home, we have held back on deploying them to participate in training programs overseas, and as such, not being able to participate in the naval exercise at this time is not extraordinary.

•"The Maldives and India enjoy a long history of excellent defence and military cooperation and it is a tradition that we are confident that will endure and continue indefinitely."

πŸ“° Cornered by the Quad?

The four countries will have to show that their infrastructure development plans are a match to Chinese ambitions

•Last November on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila, the Quadrilateral arrangement involving Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. saw a revival as officials exchanged notes on regional and global security. It has been a remarkable turnaround in the prospects of an arrangement which had collapsed a decade ago under the weight of Chinese dΓ©marches. In 2017 it was an assertive Beijing that brought the four Indo-Pacific powers together to manage the externalities arising out of the scale and scope of China’s rise.

Challenging China

•Despite an initial meeting, there has been a range of questions on the viability of the Quad arrangement, and specifically on its agenda given that the grouping has often been wary of explicitly annoying the Chinese.

•But there are signs of emerging priority areas. Last week it was revealed that the four countries are working to establish a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Though the plan is still in its nascent stage, it is clear that the normative order China is trying to construct in the economic sphere will not go unchallenged. As Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said recently in a media interview in London,“We want to work with China to ensure that their infrastructure investment is commercially sustainable, is transparent and adds to the economic growth that is so needed in our part of the world.”

•The Quad has expressed reservations on the BRI in its own ways. But the four countries have rightly recognised that merely opposing it will not advance their agenda given the hunger for infrastructure in large parts of the world. According to some estimates, developing nations in the Indo-Pacific itself need around $26 trillion through 2030 for their infrastructure needs. As a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the BRI is aimed at situating Beijing at the core of the global economy by building global transport links across the world. China’s ambitions in this regard have also kept expanding with its first official Arctic policy white paper which talks of a “Polar Silk Road.” The Quad nations will have to present their own model if only to underscore the normative differences between the Chinese and their approach. China with its BRI is providing a new economic template to the world, and it is important for those powers which view Beijing’s approach as top-down, opaque and self serving to pro-actively provide credible alternatives. The scale and scope of the Chinese economic footprint can only be tackled if the Quad nations combine forces. Unlike the military option, this is a softer side of the “Quad” engagement and its members are already undertaking connectivity projects around the world. India and Japan, for example, are working on an ambitious Asia-Africa Growth Corridor linking Southeast Asia to Africa. The idea of an Indo-Pacific “quad” has been much talked about but this will be the first concrete manifestation of the idea in operational terms.

Pushing back

•The biggest concern about the BRI is that it is a means of cementing Chinese economic hegemony and, in the process, challenges the foundations of the extant liberal economic order. While underlining their support for the need for global and regional connectivity in principle, the Quad members have been pushing back. India’s opposition has been the strongest partly because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India was the only major power which did not attend the BRI summit hosted by China last May. Japan has laid down specific conditions for its participation in the BRI even as it is looking to use its official development assistance to promote a broader “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” including “high-quality infrastructure”. Australia has challenged the principles which frame the BRI. U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has suggested that “no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘One Belt, One Road’”. After the U.S. pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, raising apprehensions about America’s continued commitment to Asia’s future, infrastructure investment in the region will bring it back in the game.

•Beijing has already expressed its unhappiness at the emergence of the “Quad” and will see moves to counter the BRI as an attempt to shift the balance of power in the wider Indo-Pacific. China’s worries will only increase as the combined might of these four powers is quite formidable. The possibility of major power coordination on managing global connectivity still remains a possibility but as more and more countries recognise the limits of Chinese approach, the Quad’s attraction will get even stronger.

πŸ“° Trump revs up rhetoric on Harley-Davidson duty

Unimpressed by duty cuts of 50%, he says Prime Minister Modi called him up but U.S. gets nothing and India thinks it is doing a favour

•U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticised Indian tariffs again, mentioning the import duty on Harley-Davidson motorbikes for the third time in a year. And for the second time in a week, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him up personally to tell him about cutting the tariffs as he had desired.

•“The Prime Minister, who I think is a fantastic man, called me the other day. He said, ‘We are lowering it to 50%.’ I said, “Okay, but so far we’re getting nothing.’ So we get nothing, he gets 50[%], and they think we’re doing — like they’re doing us a favour.”

•When Mr. Modi made the call, India had not officially announced the decision to cut tariffs on imported motorcycles. While his reference to Mr. Modi as “fantastic and beautiful” may have been seen as complimentary, Mr. Trump also clasped his hands, apparently mimicking the Prime Minister as he recounted the alleged conversation.

•The External Affairs Ministry refused to comment or confirm Mr. Trump’s remarks. Nor did it respond to a request for a readout of the conversation. After the last publicised telephone conversation on February 8, the White House announced that the two leaders had spoken on regional issues and “agreed to strengthen security and economic cooperation as they look forward to the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between their defence and diplomatic officials in April.” There was no mention of the Harley-Davidson issue. However, on February 14, Mr. Trump told members of Congress that Mr. Modi had called him up to inform him of the cuts, referring to him on that occasion as a “great gentleman”.

•Mr. Trump’s contention that Mr. Modi had given him the information was more surprising as it indicated that the PM may have informed Mr. Trump on February 8 of the tariff cut, though the Finance Ministry (Department of Revenue) notified it only on February 12 (Notification No. 26/2018-Customs), which amended the earlier rate of 100%. The President’s statement is a clear indication of continuing tensions on trade issues. A senior administration official told The Hindu last week that the recent Union Budget in which customs duties on several items were increased might “make it more challenging”.

Congress charge

•Calling Mr. Modi’s call to Mr. Trump an effort to please the U.S. President, the Congress accused him of “undermining India’s sovereignty and financial independence”. “Such contact on the part of the PM is alien to our democratic set-up and the accountability of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to Parliament,” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said.

πŸ“° Vietnam to discuss South China Sea with India

President Tran Dai Quang arriving on March 2

•Vietnam will take up South China Sea-related issues during the March 2-4 visit by President Tran Dai Quang. Speaking to the media here on Tuesday, the ambassador of Vietnam said that Hanoi wished to fully utilise the comprehensive strategic partnership with India and was likely to sign a civil nuclear agreement during the visit.

•“South China Sea issue will be discussed between leaders as the situation in the South China Sea is complicated. Some positive developments have taken place but the ground reality remains problematic,” said Ambassador Ton Sinh Thanh.

•Beijing’s claims over most of the South China Sea is a major issue between the two countries, and Hanoi has been one of the more vocal countries in the 10-member ASEAN grouping to find a solution to China’s expansionist policy in the crucial water body. The ambassador however assured that his country remained committed to maintaining cordial ties with Beijing.

•The envoy clarified that Vietnam had not yet firmed up its position on the One Belt, One Road initiative of China and said, “OBOR is a big project, we need to look into it whether it is good for the country or not, will then take a position on this.”

•The Presidential visit will begin with a stopover at Bodhgaya where President Tran will reach on February 2. The delegation will reach New Delhi later same day and both sides will hold official talks on February 3.

πŸ“° The 1947 singularity

India needs to build upon the rights-based approach that informed the country’s adoption of universal suffrage

•In the debates on India’s contemporary history, the meaning and significance of 1947 and of the framing of the Constitution have always been contested. Did the Constitution mark a moment of discontinuity with the colonial past, and a desire to transform Indian political and social structures? Or was it simply a transfer of political power and a change of rulers, leaving underlying institutional arrangements intact? Supporters of the second view marshal a formidable array of arguments to support their case that the Constitution was simply a continuation of what existed before, with a few cosmetic changes. They point out that two-thirds of the Constitution replicates the 1935 Government of India Act, that key enablers of colonial executive dominance such as the ordinance-making power and Emergency powers were carried over, and that the Constitution expressly endorsed existing colonial laws. This interpretation has sometimes been validated as well by the Supreme Court, which once pointed out that the Constitution “did not seek to destroy the past institutions; it raised an edifice on what existed.”

Incremental progress

•Central to this argument is the issue of suffrage. It is argued that in the thirty years before Independence, there had been a slow and incremental development of representative institutions in India. Waymarked by the 1919 and 1935 Government of India Acts, which established a limited franchise and allowed for the functioning of provincial legislative assemblies, the argument — again, in the words of the Supreme Court — is that the “new governmental set-up was [only] the final step in the process of evolution towards self-government.”

•This is not merely an academic debate. As the civil liberties lawyer K.G. Kannabiran pointed out, “Our political struggle retained with total composure the entire colonial legal system which had been effectively used against the freedom struggle”. Indeed, elements of this system have been upheld and endorsed by the courts, some quite recently. These include the laws of sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and far-reaching Emergency powers. All these provisions are based on similar logic: the colonial imperative of reducing citizens to subjects and placing their liberties at the mercy of centralised and unaccountable power.

•It is in this context that the publication of a new book — How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise — assumes great importance. Written by the Israeli scholar Ornit Shani, it is the story of the first general election of independent India. The preparations for this election were conducted in tandem with the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and the framing of the Constitution. They involved massive tasks such as the preparation of electoral rolls for an entire nation and the setting up of an electoral machinery, all against the background of a violent Partition and mass displacement of people.

•How India Became Democratic traces the mechanics of this process, which was truly epic in its scale, scope and imagination, and resurrects the histories of the bureaucrats and civil servants, the unsung heroes, who made it possible. Beyond that, however, it makes a crucial point: notwithstanding the existence of voting and the presence of representative institutions in pre-Independence India, the imagination and implementation of universal suffrage was not in any sense a “continuation”, or simply an “incremental development” of what existed before. Rather, it was revolutionary in the true sense of the word, a re-imagination of the social contract and the basic principles that underlay it.

Universal suffrage

•In at least four distinct ways, universal suffrage in independent India marked a decisive break from its colonial past. First, arithmetically: the franchise granted by the British regime in the 1919 and 1935 Government of India Acts was highly restricted, and at the highest (in 1935) no more than 10% of Indians could vote. Second, structurally: voting in British India took place under the regime of separate electorates, divided along class and economic lines. Third, the character of the electorate: voting entitlements were based on property and formal literacy-based qualifications, which reproduced existing social and economic hierarchies, and excluded the very people whose interests were most in need of “representation”. Indeed, women’s entitlement to vote was often linked to the status of their husbands. And fourth, voting was a gift of the colonial government, which could be granted or taken away at its will. Suffrage was a privilege accorded to a few Indians, and not a right that all Indians had to decide who would govern them.

•Consequently, in expanding the electorate from 10% to almost 100%; in abolishing separate electorates for a conception of universal citizenship; and above all, in decisively rejecting arguments that individuals who were formally “illiterate” were incapable of exercising the franchise, the Indian Constitution – and the first general election – were truly transformative in character. How India Became Democratic argues persuasively that in transforming voting from a privilege that was accorded to a select few to a right that could be enforced by all, independent India transformed the status of its people from subjects to citizens, in important and far-reaching ways. In the realm of the political, it was a transformation from hierarchy and subordination to radical equality.

•This insight should make us think more deeply about the Constitution’s transformative character. As Kannabiran wrote, “a Constitution framed after a liberation struggle... is like poetry, emotion recollected in tranquility.” Would it be a fair reading of this poem to assume that in the one, narrow sphere of elections and voting, it meant to transform subjects into citizens, but in all other political and social spheres, it intended to retain hierarchy and subordination? Would this be in tune with the freedom struggle itself, whose aspirations went much beyond the simple demand of periodic elections? Could it not, instead, be argued that universal suffrage was the most visible and tangible instance of the constitutional aspiration to democratise the Indian polity and society in its most comprehensive sense: that is, to democratise the relationship between the individual and the state even after elections, by constraining the amount of centralised power that the state could accumulate (even when it claimed to be acting in the best interests of citizens), and to democratise the relationships of power and dominance within other non-state institutions, such as the workplace and the family? Could it not be said, in language developed by South African constitutional scholars, that the Constitution intended to take us from a “culture of authority” to a “culture of justification” – that is, a culture in which every exercise of power and authority must be justified to those who are subject to it, even when it is said to be for their own good?

Changes in court

•There are recent signs that the courts have begun to understand this. In early 2017, in a very significant judgment involving the executive’s ordinance-making powers, the Supreme Court expressly departed from colonial precedents on the subject, and placed important limits upon the scope of presidential ordinances. Later in the year, when the court was hearing the dispute between the elected Delhi government and the Lieutenant-Governor (another colonial holdover), more than one counsel framed the issue in terms of the constitutional commitment to progressively deepening democracy. And indeed, many of the pending and upcoming cases in the Supreme Court’s docket involve questions of how much power the state can wield over individuals, what rights individuals have to decide for themselves how they will define their relationship with the state, and above all, how the constitutional “culture of justification” holds the state accountable for the uses and abuses of such power.

•In hearing and deciding these cases, the court has an opportunity to affirm the words of one of its greatest civil rights judges, Justice Vivian Bose, who recognised the deeply transformative character of the Constitution when he said: “Is not the sanctity of the individual recognised and emphasised again and again? Is not our Constitution in violent contrast to those of states where the state is everything and the individual but a slave or a serf to serve the will of those who for the time being wield almost absolute power?” How India Became Democratic helps us to understand that the answer to both those questions is an unambiguous “yes.”

πŸ“° Land Bill JPC hits a roadblock

Meet cancelled for lack of quorum

•A meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Land Acquisition Bill was cancelled on Tuesday for lack of quorum as only six of the 31 members turned up.

•The panel members have been questioning the relevance of the committee since the government itself has given up on the Bill. They were given notice for the meeting three weeks ago and repeated reminders were issued.

•“They’ve lost the plot. Chairman [a BJP MP] of the Parliament Committee on Land Acquisition Act calls meeting. Woefully short of quorum. 6/31 MPs. Meeting called off. Even BJP members ditch,” Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress MP and member of the committee, tweeted.

Widespread opposition

•The six members who came for the meeting were Mr. O’Brien, B. Mahtab of the BJD and Chairman Ganesh Singh and three others from the BJP.

•The JPC was set up in May 2015 after many political parties, even BJP allies, cane out against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015. It has had 25 sittings. “The committee should finalise its report and table it in Parliament. It may either reject the Bill or try to build unanimity on the contentious clauses. Either way, it has dragged on for too long,” Mr. Mahtab told The Hindu. The onus was on the Chairperson to bring out a report.

Pointless, says Cong.

•Within months of introducing the Bill in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat, in August 2015, Prime Minister Modi said it would go, and asked the State governments to bring in their own versions.

•The Congress members have stopped coming to the meetings, saying there was no point in it since the government itself has killed the Bill. Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, at a meeting last June, concurred with the Congress.

•However, the Biju Janta Dal and others have said the Bill is the property of Parliament and the government needs to make a statement in Parliament to clear its intent.

•The Bill seeks to remove the consent clause for acquiring land for industrial corridors, public-private projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

πŸ“° No discrimination: on health insurance in India

Insurance law must be revisited to remove unreasonable exclusions in health policies

•The Delhi High Court’s order striking down a discriminatory exclusion clause in a health insurance policy, and upholding the claim of a patient, should have the broader effect of eliminating similar exclusions. The case involved a rare heart condition based on which United India Insurance Company rejected the claim, viewing it as a manifestation of a genetic disorder. By its very nature, such exclusion defeats the purpose of the health policy. But then, policies sold to individuals invariably contain a plethora of exclusions in the fine print, diminishing their practical value. They are heavily weighted in favour of the insurer. The court has struck a blow for the rights of the individual by holding that exclusion of the kind invoked does not just involve a contractual issue between the two sides, but the basic right to health flowing from Article 21 of the Constitution. It has gone further to interpret the right to health as being meaningful only with the right to health care, and by extension, health insurance required to access it. This is good advice. The Centre, which has committed itself to a universal National Health Protection Scheme, and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority would do well to heed it. They must review all the policies, and eliminate unreasonable exclusionary clauses designed to avoid claims.

•Several studies have pointed out that health insurance in India suffers from lack of scale, covering only about 29% of the households surveyed under the National Family Health Survey-4, that too in a limited way. The health-care system also lacks regulation of costs. There is asymmetry of information, with the insured member unable to assess the real scope of the policy or negotiate the terms with the provider. Questions such as these led to the enactment of a new health-care law in the United States during the Barack Obama administration, whereby strict obligations were placed on insurers and unreasonable exclusions removed. India’s health insurance and hospital sectors closely follow the American pattern, and are in need of strong regulation. This is necessary to define costs, curb frauds and empower patients. As the Delhi High Court has observed, exclusions cannot be unreasonable or based on a broad parameter such as genetic disposition or heritage. Insurance law has to be revisited to also ensure that there is a guaranteed renewal of policies, that age is no bar for entry, and pre-existing conditions are uniformly covered. Problems of exclusion will be eliminated if the payer-insurer is the state, the financing is done through public taxes, and coverage is universal. Given its stated intent to ensure financial protection against high health costs, India should adopt such a course. The short-term priority is to remove discriminatory clauses in policies and expand coverage to as many people as possible.

πŸ“° ‘Rational tax system soon to boost EVs’

•The government on Tuesday said it was trying to bring out an industry-friendly new National Automotive Policy as well as a rational system of taxation for promoting electric and hybrid vehicles.

•“We are going to work out a rational system of taxation for promotion of electric and hybrid vehicles in consultation with the Finance Ministry,” Department of Heavy Industry Secretary Asha Ram Sihag said. The policy will help create a more ‘enabling’ environment for the sector besides providing stability that overseas investors seek. The Ministry has invited stakeholder comments and is analysing them, he added.

πŸ“° ‘Korean investments will be protected’

India offers a lot of potential with huge market, enabling policy environment: PM

•Assuring Korean firms that their investments in India would be protected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon Korean companies to invest more in India.

•Speaking at the India Korea Business Summit, organised by the DIPP and CII, Mr. Modi said, “India offers a lot of potential for the Korean investors with its huge market and enabling policy environment.”

FDI inflows

•Korea ranks 16th in terms of FDI equity inflows to India with investments of $2.26 billion between March 2000 and April 2017. Mr. Modi added that the bilateral trade between India and Korea crossed $20 billion last year – for the first time in six years.

•More than 500 Korean companies, including Samsung, LG and Hyundai, have operations in India.

•Speaking at the same summit later in the day, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Indian economy had the potential to achieve a growth rate of more than 7-8%.

•Responding to a query, the Minister further said it was not possible to have one GST rate as the country had vast disparities. However, he assured investors that the government would undertake further reforms after improvement in tax compliance standards.

Tax compliance

•The next stage of reforms would start once India became a significant tax compliant society, he said.

•“For example, we have two standard rates and in the long run I do see them merging into one. For that to happen, it will take some reasonable time that is when the compliance levels start moving up,” the Minister said.