The HINDU Notes – 02nd March 2018 - VISION

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Friday, March 02, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 02nd March 2018

📰 Assets of fugitive economic offenders will be seized

Union Cabinet approves introduction of Bill in Parliament

•In a bid to deter loan defaulters from fleeing the country, the Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the introduction of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, in Parliament which would allow the government to seize all domestic assets of a person deemed to be a fugitive economic offender.

•The Cabinet also approved the creation of a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), the posts of a Chairperson, three full-time members, and one Secretary for the proposed authority.

•“In Budget 2017-18, it was announced that fugitive economic offenders would have their assets seized,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out at a press conference after the meeting.

List of offences

•“The Cabinet has approved the draft Bill and it will be introduced in Parliament in the remaining portion of the Budget session,” he said. “There will be a list of scheduled offences along with the Bill.”

•“If the person commits an offence on the list, and a competent court has issued an arrest warrant, and the person leaves the country to avoid this, the court can deem him a fugitive economic offender.”

•According to the Finance Minister, the government would be able to seize all their domestic assets, not just those that were the proceeds of the crime.

•The Bill also has a provision for the seizure of their foreign assets, but this would require the cooperation of the relevant country, he said.

•“We will try to make sure this Bill is passed as expeditiously as possible because we cannot allow people to make a mockery of the law, that you first indulge in loot, and then refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of our legal system,” Mr. Jaitley said.

•The government in a release said that if at any point of time in the course of the proceedings prior to the declaration of the person as a fugitive economic offender, he returns to India and submits to the appropriate court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.

•The proposed NFRA is to act as an independent regulator for the auditing profession, in line with one of the key changes that has been made in the Companies Act, 2013, Mr. Jaitley said.

📰 ‘Situation sensitive along China border’

We face a difficult neighbourhood with myriad security challenges: Subhash Bhamre

•There is a possibility of escalation of tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, said Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre on Thursday.

•“Today we face a difficult neighbourhood with myriad security challenges... On the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the situation is sensitive and incidents of patrolling, transgression and stand-offs have a potential for escalation. While confidence building measures (CBMs) are enhanced, we shall take all actions as deemed necessary to ensure the sanctity of the LAC,” Dr. Bhamre said, addressing the annual Army seminar jointly organised by the Army and the Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

•Elaborating on it, he said: “There are so many things going on along all the borders and one of these might trigger an escalation.”

•Since the 73-day stand-off near the Doklam tri-junction, China has beefed up its presence closer to the LAC. While the situation remains peaceful, as summer sets in, there is possibility of increased transgressions along the LAC.

Defence budget

•A large part of the defence budget might appear to be a burden on the exchequer but actually it went into nation building, Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat said at the seminar.

•“There is always a concern amongst the citizenry and people in uniform on the defence budget… In the Army headquarters, we ordered a study on this and our preliminary reports suggest that anything between 35% and 37% of the annual budget contributes to nation building,” he said.

•Referring to the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, he said that while the services may be spending to maintain the troops deployed on such missions, the returns from such exercises go into the consolidated fund of India.

•Gen. Rawat said economic development and military modernisation should go hand in hand. “Economic rise will take place if the nation is secure,” he added.

📰 Mapping the Chinese century

As China offers a model for developing countries to follow, India must position itself suitably

•Each succeeding week brings fresh evidence of how anarchic the international global order has become. Quite a few nations, including many of the newer ones, are seeking a new salience in the affairs of their region, aiming to establish their dominance. This is one cause for many of today’s turmoils.

•The unfortunate aspect is that while there is greater clarity on the new challenges that nations face, the international system is unable to come up with sustainable solutions to deal with these multiple challenges. For instance, currently the U.S. is seen to be incapable of playing a balancing role in Asian affairs, and to have ceded ground to China. China appears unrivalled in Asia at present given its military might and economic power. The only opposition to China today comes from India.

•India and China both adhere to a rules-based international order, but a wide gap separates their perceptions of what constitutes the international order. This has more than ordinary significance today even as global powers are beginning to shift their stance, and a ‘balance of power’ approach is no longer the norm. For Asia, this is proving to be a destabilising development, affecting peace in the region as the U.S. is no longer willing to take on responsibilities for peace.

Setting the rules

•It is China that is now beginning to set the rules in accordance with its interests and values. China is enlarging the scope of its ambitions, being aware that no country in the Asian region, with the exception of India, can possibly stand in the way of it fulfilling its ambitions. The Belt and Road Initiative is only one manifestation of its growing ambitions. All signs point to China seeking avenues for global dominance, exploiting the weaknesses and inequalities that currently plague the international system.

•There is, thus, almost a surreal quality in the statements and announcements put forward by other Asian nations on how to limit China’s vaulting ambitions. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and the seeking of an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Summit in New Delhi fall into this category. It may have been intended to buttress ASEAN’s position on their dispute with China, but is unlikely to have any impact.

•China, for its part, is busy turning the South China Sea into its ‘military outpost’. It is setting up several military installations despite opposition from other claimants to rights over the South China Sea. The Spratly Islands have been transformed into a major stage for military manoeuvres, with the transformation of previously barren reefs into military installations. None of the other claimants — or for that matter even the U.S. — is in a position to check China’s activities. This reflects the measure of Chinese ascendance over the region.

•The recently concluded Chinese 19th Communist Party Congress (October 2017) and the developments that immediately preceded it should hence be of special significance for countries in the Asian region, especially India. If the Party Congress marked a return to the Mao era, what should be of even greater importance is that it made little secret of China’s intention to achieve global leadership. Accompanying this was a declaration of intent to make its military ‘world class’, one that is capable of ‘winning wars’.

•At the Party Congress, Xi Jinping, now the undisputed and unquestioned leader of both the party and the state, declared many times the dawn of a “new era” — an era of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Mr. Xi further talked of China’s pre-eminence in the east and described its rising “comprehensive national power” as leading on to global status. Not explicitly stated, but intrinsic to China’s belief, is that it is a big country with extensive economic, military and political might, and that it expects other smaller countries to accept its leadership.

An expansionist power

•China is thus poised to set its compass to become an ideologically revisionist and an expansionist major power — one that aims to create more strategic space that would compel regional powers (India not excluded) to defer to, and accommodate, its wishes. The current People’s Liberation Army strategy of moving out into peripheral areas vacated by the U.S. fits in well with such intentions. China has already fired its opening salvos shifting focus from the East and South China Seas to the Indian Ocean. It is steadily enlarging its concept of ‘expanded strategic space’, viz. from land to sea. More of this is on the anvil.

•If continuity of policy is dependent on the vision of one individual — in this case President Xi — the party statute is set to be amended to ensure continuance of Mr. Xi as President for further terms beyond 2023, so as to ensure strong and stable leadership until the middle of the 21st century. India has every reason to feel concerned and be on its guard.

•China is evidently working to a set plan, and in the belief that the conduct of a nation is critical to ensure the outcome of any geo-political or geo-strategic conflict. For the present, its intentions seem to be to convince nations in the Asian region about is intrinsic superiority and exalted status, based on notions of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘uniqueness’, paving the way for its leadership in the region.

Relations with neighbours

•Simultaneously, it has consciously set about damaging India’s relations with neighbours, including most recently Nepal and the Maldives. India’s relations with some of its other neighbours have also suffered due to China’s machinations, mainly through the provision of economic incentives, promises of infrastructure development, and certain ‘unseen benefits’. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (which provides China an opening to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean), for instance, has both an economic and a strategic imperative.

•Doklam (in Bhutan) during 2017, and the Maldives this year are test cases in China’s determined bid to enlarge its ‘strategic space’. The Doklam standoff, notwithstanding India’s claims, has created a degree of uncertainty about India’s ability to match China’s ambitious inroads into India’s neighbourhood. The Maldives imbroglio has led to the distancing from India of a long-term dependent ally, viz. the Maldives, which seems to be moving into China’s orbit. China already has a lookout in the southern-most archipelago of the Maldives and is currently seeking to establish a ‘joint ocean observation station’ in one of the northern atolls, giving China a vantage point overlooking the main shipping lanes in the western Indian Ocean. There are also reports of increased deployment of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean Region, and reports of frequent underwater movements of Chinese submarines to designated ports in the Indian Ocean Region apart from the establishment of naval bases in Djibouti and Gwadar.

•In the meantime, China is offering ‘a new choice’ or model for developing countries to follow. This posits a direct challenge to the democratic model followed by India which emphasises a more liberal order. Alongside systematic moves made to diminish India’s image in the region, and its resort to ‘salami tactics’, China hopes to strike a blow against India without engaging in an open conflict. Consequently, India needs to urgently come up with a pre-emptive strategy to prevent China from succeeding in its efforts. India should position itself suitably, ideating an alternative model that is much less threatening to countries in the region. The attempt should be to counter China’s vision of international relations — that puts a premium on expanding and flexing its military capabilities and provides dubious economic benefits under the rubric of trade and market access — with an alternative model. It must also restrict China’s present ascendency in regard to port infrastructure and maritime commerce in the Indian Ocean that is giving China an advantage in regional affairs.

The only bulwark

•India is the only bulwark in Asia to counter Chinese designs and expansionism. It alone can prevent a further expansion of China’s ‘strategic space’ and a Chinese takeover of the entire region.

📰 Is AI a danger to humanity?

Purely intelligent creatures, whether peopleor machines, are bad for humanity

•There are three standard counter-responses to the claim that technology can be dangerous in itself. One, the fault is not in technology but in the humans who use such technology: guns don’t kill, only people do. Two, technology is as useful as it can be harmful. Three, technology will always be under our control and so we can literally pull the plug when we want.

•All these views can be effectively challenged, particularly in the case of artificial intelligence (AI). There is a fundamental difference between a knife, or even more complex machines, and AI, and that is the degree of independence that AI technologies have. An AI machine is an autonomous entity and from what we have seen of such machines, they are like other human beings in terms of their capacities for decision and action.

Enforcing a particular view

•The real worry about these technologies is the emphasis on intelligence rather than other characteristics of human beings. AI is an attempt to reproduce superintelligent humans. It chooses one aspect of human beings, namely this vague idea called intelligence, and artificially magnifies it to an extent that allows the machine to do things far better than humans can. The success of these machines only reinforces the success of a particular view of human beings: not their vulnerability and finitude (characteristics that have catalysed so much of great music, art and literature), but largely some calculative capacity.

•Purely intelligent creatures, whether people or machines, are bad for humanity. The restricted meaning of intelligence in AI is that associated with superlative memory, calculative power, decision-making capacity, high speeds of action, etc. These machines thus become superbeings, and a society filled with many superbeings is a recipe for disaster.

•Being human is not about superintelligence and super capacity. It is about living with others and learning to live within our limitations. Vulnerability, decay and death characterise any living form. AI machines are a mirror to our desire for immortality and absence of human weaknesses. There is nothing wrong in this desire per se, but building surrogate machines is not the way to achieve this.

•AI has not been used to get rid of poverty, to have more equitable distribution of wealth, or to make people more content with what they have. The types of AI we have, including war machines, will primarily be dictated by profit for the companies that make them. Is this what we need? It would be a sad world where ‘life’ forms come into existence based on the logic of profit.

The cost of technology

•Unlike a gun, the AI machine is a performer in itself. To think that such machines will be subservient to us all the time is wishful thinking. We haven’t learnt anything about the master-slave relation if we think that these machines are only meant to be our ‘slaves’ which make our lives ‘easier’. All technologies come with a cost (not just economic but also social and psychological) and we have very little idea of the cost that AI will extract from us. Most worryingly, these thinking machines, which are smarter than us, will know exactly how to manipulate us to the extent that we will not be able to see their negative effects.

•The only good thing about horrible dictators like Adolf Hitler is that they eventually die. Imagine a Hitler who lives forever? This is what AI machines can do. The foolishness of men will come to haunt the future of humankind in more ways than one. Is AI the final beginning of the end?

📰 Reducing the carbon footprint

To join the war on climate change, India must establish an emissions trading scheme

•With hot summers, warm winters, increasing diseases, famines and droughts, and violent acts of nature, we can see how climate change is affecting our daily lives. India, which aims to be a global superpower, seems to have approached the subject half-heartedly, hiding behind the veil of protecting its growing economy.

Ways to fight it

•To join other nations in the war on carbon, India needs to undertake a comprehensive approach, which can be done by establishing an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

•An ETS is a market-based mechanism where a cap is set on the amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases that can be emitted by covered entities. The emitters can either reduce their emissions to adhere to the cap or buy additional allowances from other entities to compensate for their deficiency. One allowance gives the right to the holder to emit one tonne of carbon. Imagine that ‘X’ emits 120 tonnes of carbon per annum. The ETS sets a cap of 100 tonnes of carbon per annum (equivalent to 100 allowances) on it. ‘X’ would have the option to either reduce its emissions to 100 tonnes of carbon or buy 20 allowances to cover the difference.

•A separate and independent regulatory authority must be set up to implement the ETS. This would ensure that the ETS is insulated from the political influence of climate sceptics. The authority must strive to educate emitters about ETS and inform them of cheap methods to reduce their carbon footprint. It must act as a ‘technical consultant’ when the emitters submit their ‘compliance plans’ (discussed below). It must also plan for contingencies and be ready to use the tools at hand to prevent market failure.

•Strategic decisions must be taken with respect to inclusion of industries under the ETS. Highly carbon-intensive industries (such as the coal sector) would have to be included under the ETS to maintain its effectiveness. However, with respect to the other industries, State governments must be empowered to add to the list of covered entities after giving due weight to factors such as area-specific emission profiles, financial position of the entities, impact on the economy, and administrative costs. For instance, in Delhi, the commercial sector emits 30% of the city’s total carbon emissions, and in Ahmedabad the sector accounts for a mere 4% of total emissions. It would be reasonable to cover the commercial sector in Delhi under the ETS due to its large contribution to emissions, and due to the financial position of the corporations to employ carbon-saving technology. It would not make sense to cover the same sector in Ahmedabad, as the authority would have to bear unreasonable administrative costs to administer the ETS.

How to ensure compliance

•The ETS must obligate the emitters to design a ‘compliance plan’, setting out its own medium and long-term goals, with an explanation of how it would achieve them. The big emitters must be required to adhere to their compliance plans, and sanctions must be imposed in case of any non-compliance. It is imperative to maintain the price of the allowances within a certain desirable range. If the price of the allowances is too high, it may result in increased non-compliance and force the emitters to reduce output, thereby hurting the economy.

Controlling price volatility

•There are three suggested measures for controlling price volatility: safety valve trigger, price-based market stability reserve (MSR), and banking.

•A ‘safety valve trigger’ is a mechanism whereby, if prices touch a predetermined level, actions are initiated to drive them down. For instance, under the U.S. Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, if the price of the allowances touches $10 after 14 months from the beginning of the programme, the compliance period is extended by one year. This mechanism allows the emitters to average out their emissions. For instance, say emitter ‘X’ (with a cap of 100 tonnes of carbon per annum) emitted 110 tonnes of carbon in the first year (due to sudden increase in the demand in the economy) and 90 tonnes of carbon in the second year. If the safety valve is triggered in the first year, X’s average annual emissions would be 100 tonnes, and X would not be required to buy any additional allowances.

•Similarly, in the MSR, a certain number of allowances are released in the market if the price of the allowance hits a predetermined level. Once the additional allowances are released in the carbon market, the supply would increase, leading to a reduction in the price of the allowances.

•Banking offers respite to the emitters on an individual basis. An emitter, in anticipation of high prices, would be allowed to ‘bank’ his unused allowances for the next compliance period. However, such banking must be restricted to consecutive compliance periods and to a certain percentage of total emissions.

•With this skeletal framework, India can be part of the global mission to curb climate change.

📰 War and peace

Kabul extends a peace proposal to the Taliban. But will it be accepted?

•Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of talks with the Taliban is the most comprehensive peace proposal to have come from Kabul since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Speaking at the Kabul Process, a two-day security conference in the city with more than 20 countries including India represented, Mr. Ghani promised to recognise the Taliban as a political party, called for confidence-building measures and asked them to recognise the Kabul regime and the constitution. The Taliban was told to open an office in Kabul; passports and freedom of travel were offered to those involved in negotiations. This is not the first official attempt to make peace with the Taliban. In July 2015, Taliban and Afghan government representatives held talks in Pakistan. But the talks collapsed when it emerged that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died two years earlier. Ever since, the Taliban has stepped up its violent campaign, killing thousands. This time the difference is that the Afghan government has come up with a seven-point plan of engagement with the Taliban and invited the group for talks without preconditions: the previous formulation was that the Taliban should choose between war and peace. Mr. Ghani has not set any time limit for the Taliban to respond. He has said the views and proposals of the Taliban would be considered, thereby lobbing the ball into the Taliban’s court.

•Mr. Ghani’s offer comes a month after U.S. President Donald Trump ruled out talks with the Taliban. The Trump administration has also committed more troops to Afghanistan. But given how much Kabul relies on the U.S. for support, it is unlikely that Mr. Ghani would have made such a significant offer to the Taliban without U.S. consent. The reason could be desperation. After more than 16 years of war, the Afghan government is helplessly watching the Taliban spread its influence across rural areas. In the east, the Islamic State has gained ground. Over the years the U.S. had tried tactics including a troops surge, putting pressure on Pakistan to use its leverage with the Taliban and promoting secret talks. But nothing worked, and the Taliban has established a strong presence in almost two-thirds of Afghanistan, and is constantly on the offensive. It has shown a capacity to strike at the most fortified positions in Kabul, but knows it cannot capture the city as long as the Americans remain committed to the government’s security. Therefore, both sides have an incentive to break the stalemate and try direct negotiations for a way out. If the Taliban accepts Mr. Ghani’s proposal, that could set the stage for a constructive engagement between the militants and the government, and provide hope for some much-needed relief to the war-hit Afghan people.

📰 Buoyant again

But this GDP growth coincides with higher public spending, which risks fanning inflation

•The latest economic data from the Central Statistics Office reveal that India’s GDP expanded at a brisk 7.2% pace in the three months ended December, an acceleration from the 6.5% posted in the second quarter. On the face of it, the numbers are cause for cheer and optimism, with gross fixed capital formation, a key measure of investment demand, showing a healthy improvement. Sectoral gross value added (GVA) figures also reflect a broad-based pickup in activity from the preceding quarter. The only three laggards last quarter were mining; utility services (including electricity, gas, and water supply); and trade, hotels, transport and communication services. The contraction in mining is of particular concern. The October-December quarter in 2016 was, however, the period when the Centre implemented the widely disruptive demonetisation of high-value currency notes, and so one has to bear in mind the base effect on the latest third-quarter data. Also, the CSO’s second advance estimates of national income for the full financial year are a lot more sobering. Both GDP and GVA growth estimates for 2017-18 have been revised upwards from the first-cut projections made in early January — GDP growth to 6.6% from 6.5% earlier as a result of GVA expansion being lifted to 6.4% from January’s 6.1%. But the assumption for increase in net taxes has been pared, reflecting the struggle to ensure buoyancy in GST revenue collections.

•A study of the full-year projections reveals the pressure points. The same sectoral GVA data that at a quarterly level appeared to give promise of a more enduring recovery show momentum in five of the eight sectors decelerating. Of particular concern are the farm sector, where growth is set to slow to 3% from 6.3% in the previous fiscal; and manufacturing where the pace is expected to ease to 5.1% from 7.9% in the revised estimate for 2016-17. The latest Index of Industrial Production numbers that show manufacturing in April-December still significantly lagging behind the previous nine-month period, as also the Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index that shows growth in the sector slowed to a four-month low in February, add to concerns about manufacturing. With private final consumption expenditure, a crucial driver of economic momentum, still to gain traction over the full financial year, it is increased government spending that has undergirded the expansion. Here lies the rub. The leeway for more pump priming is restricted as fiscal deficit at the end of January has already exceeded 113% of the revised estimate for the full year. Any more profligacy by the government risks threatening price stability. With the banking sector beset by bad loans and increased scrutiny on lending in the wake of frauds, and exporters still to make the most of the revival in global trade demand, the economy is not yet out of the woods.

📰 Rumours and reality

It is not true that the Centre is discriminating against Tamil Nadu

•A renewed campaign about Tamil Nadu being “subjugated to the all-powerful” Central government has been observed in certain sections of the State, ever since former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation. Her death made matters worse not only for her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), but also for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). At this time of turmoil in Tamil Nadu’s political ecosystem, it is worth examining the reasons for this.

•The thrust of the campaign is that Tamil Nadu has got a “raw deal” in several areas such as culture, language and economic development. Credible or not, it has vociferous advocates. The “failure” of the State government to get exemption from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to undergraduate courses in medicine, and the decisions to implement the National Food Security Act and the scheme for turning around power distribution companies, popularly called UDAY, have come in handy for those running the campaign. The method of the campaign entails the invocation of Jayalalithaa’s “virulent opposition” to certain government policies and developments, even if they appear to ignore the fact that she often flip-flopped on some of these matters. For example, between September 2011 and March 2012, she shifted her position on the Kudankulam nuclear power project. On the UDAY scheme, just weeks before she fell ill, Jayalalilthaa gave her consent following certain concessions extracted from the Centre.

•The BJP and AIADMK representatives have, unsurprisingly, sought to counter this campaign, with mixed results. On his visit to Tamil Nadu last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to set the record straight, explaining at several public events how Tamil Nadu was benefitting under various schemes and projects of the Central government, especially under those taken up since he entered office.

•It is a fact that Tamil Nadu ranks first in terms of cumulative expenditure incurred in Central projects of 16 infrastructure sectors costing more than Rs. 150 crore. The 2016-17 Annual Report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation says the Centre had invested nearly Rs. 62,343 crore through 57 projects, accounting for around 10% of the expenditure made for projects taken up all over the country. Eventually, the total cost of the projects in Tamil Nadu is likely to go up to Rs. 85,000 crore. It is another matter that if one were to go by the parameters of the original cost of projects or the number of projects, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are ahead of Tamil Nadu. Nevertheless, these numbers suggest that in the broad sweep of resource-allocation politics between the Centre and States, Tamil Nadu is not being discriminated against. To an extent the core issue faced by “national parties” is that they sometimes have a shortage of representatives in certain States who can forcefully articulate their position. That may also explain why they remain unable to capture the main space in Tamil Nadu’s polity.

📰 A pact on transfer of prisoners

Its intent is to help prisoners in the process of rehabilitation

•The Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003 follows the dictum of the legendary Supreme Court judge, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, as stated in the Charles Sobraj judgment of 1978: “Compassion wherever possible and cruelty only where inevitable is the art of correctional confinement.”

•The humanitarian intent behind the Act is to allow convicted foreign nationals a chance to get transferred to their home countries, and prisoners of Indian origin in other states to be brought back to India, to serve the remaining part of their sentences. It is based on the belief that being close to their families in their native countries would help prisoners in the process of rehabilitation.

•The 2003 Act allows a convicted foreign national to make an application to the Centre to transfer his custody from India to his native country. On receiving such an application, the Centre would get in touch with the officer in charge of the prison and conduct an enquiry into various aspects. These include whether there is any pending inquiry, trial or proceeding against the prisoner; whether the convict has been sentenced to death or convicted of an offence under military law; or if his transfer would be prejudicial to the sovereignty, security or any other interest of India.

•Then, the Centre would seek information from the country where the prisoner wants to get transferred. This would include a check on whether the convict is indeed a citizen of that country or not; the relevant law for the offence for which he is undergoing sentence; the duration of sentence for the particular offence in that country; and, finally, an undertaking from that country to administer the remaining sentence on the prisoner.

•Once the custody is transferred to an official of that country and the prisoner escapes from custody within India, any person shall detain the fugitive and produce him before the nearest police station. The convict shall be liable to face the punishment for escape.

•The same conditions would apply for an Indian prisoner transferred here from a foreign country on a warrant. If the sentence of imprisonment passed against the prisoner in that country is found incompatible with Indian law, either regarding its nature or duration, or both, the Centre may make it compatible, by order.

•In 2015, India also acceded to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the transfer of Sentenced Persons of 1983.

📰 ‘No expenditure cut in FY’18 to meet fiscal deficit target’

Revenue buoyancy to keep deficit well within target: Jha

•The government will not go for an expenditure cut in 2017-18 to meet fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP even as it has breached the level of 113.7% of the target, Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha said on Thursday.

•“There is no expenditure cut. There has been a policy, there will not be any expenditure cut,” Mr. Jha said.

•When asked how the government will meet the revised fiscal deficit target of 3.5%, he said indirect tax collections have already been factored into the revised target. The government has accounted for only 11 months of GST against 12 months of expenses as March GST numbers would come in April. Fiscal deficit has touched Rs. 6.77 lakh crore at the end of January 2018, 113.7% of the target for the year, on account of higher expenditure.

Upward revision

•The government had revised upwards the fiscal deficit at Rs. 5.95 lakh crore or 3.5% of GDP in the Union Budget 2018-19.

•Earlier, the fiscal deficit target was 3.2%. Mr. Jha said the economy is looking up as the key sectors are showing buoyancy and growth.

•“We expect that it will grow further and as per expectations. As far as fiscal deficit is concerned... a lot of adjustments will take place through recoveries which means that there is a net budgeting aspect,” he said.

•He said buoyancy in revenue also comes in the last two months of financial year and the fiscal deficit number will remain well within the revised target.

📰 Rural Odisha celebrates folk culture

•Holi and Dola Purnima celebrations in rural areas of Ganjam district in Odisha provide a platform for folk dancers and theatre troupes to showcase their talents.

•According to Bighneswar Sahu, convener of Odisha Folk Foundation (OFF), the week-long celebrations keep folk traditions alive.

•At Badakusasthali, the celebrations are part of a biennial folk festival started 136 years ago. Every night during the festival, the deities from the Radha-Krishna temple are taken out for a procession.

•Troupes of Bharat Lila, Krushna Lila, Daskathia, Ghudki, Gahana, Radha Prem Lila, Prahlad Natak, Jodi Sankha, Parava dance and Bagha Mukha dance are now camping at Badakusasthali. All families in this village have at least a folk dancer or are patrons of folk art forms, said G. Krishna Reddy, a performer himself. Performers enjoy entertaining the audiences here because they do not have time limits, unlike in government-sponsored shows, said Mr. Sahu. Some performances go beyond two nights.