The HINDU Notes – 05th March 2018 - VISION

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Monday, March 05, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 05th March 2018






📰 Myanmar puts off border pact

India keen on signing agreement to streamline free movement along border

•Myanmar has indefinitely deferred signing an agreement with India to streamline the free movement of people within 16 km along the border.

•India is keen to sign the agreement but Myanmar — citing “domestic compulsions” — has asked more time before the agreement is sealed.

•On January 3, the Union Cabinet had approved the agreement between India and Myanmar on land border crossing to enhance economic interaction between people of the two countries.

Border passes

•To give it shape, the Centre had asked four States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — that share the unfenced border with Myanmar to distribute “border pass” to all the residents living within 16 km from the border.

•The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been deferred twice in the past seven months.

•It was to be signed in September last year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Naypyidaw for a bilateral visit. India tried to again push the agreement in January when Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was in New Delhi with nine ASEAN leaders as chief guest for the Republic Day parade.

•“Myanmar has been dragging its feet on the agreement. They have asked for more time and are reluctant due to domestic compulsions. They fear that if they sign the pact, the international agreement will have to be adhered to,” a senior government official said.

India raised issue

•An official said as per the proposal, there would have been no restrictions on the movement of people across the borders.

•The domiciles were to be allotted border passes and those going across for agriculture, work or to meet relatives should carry the pass at all times.

•The official said both the countries intend to put a system in place after India raised the issue of movement of extremists and smugglers freely across the border.

•Naorem Premkanta Singh, a militant arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), who was part of the group that attacked an army convoy in 2015 in Manipur’s Chandel district killing 18 personnel, has said in his interrogation that they were in India for five days after the attack before crossing over to Myanmar on foot.

•He is alleged to have said the ambush party moved together and were able to walk to Myanmar even though an Indian army helicopter hovered above to look for the suspects.

•India and Myanmar share a 1,643 km unfenced border along Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km) and Mizoram (510 km) and permit a ‘free movement’ regime upto 16 km beyond the border.

📰 “India’s Christians, Sikhs face discrimination”

•The British government was asked to raise concerns on the treatment of Christian and Sikh minorities in India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April.

•During a debate in the House of Commons on ‘freedom of religion or belief’ last week, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Martin Docherty-Hughes highlighted figures which showed that India had risen to the position of ‘the 11th most dangerous country for Christians’.

•“Well-known people... continue to call publicly for the country to be free of Christians by 2021. So far, there have been 23,000 incidents of physical and mental abuse against Christians of all denominations, and 6,35,000 Christians have reportedly been detained without trial or unfairly arrested...” he said.

•Mr. Docherty-Hughes also referred to the situation of Sikhs in India, arguing that a debate on the push for self-determination needed to be separated from religious persecution issues. Jagtar Singh Johal, a citizen from the SNP legislator’s constituency, was detained by Punjab authorities during a visit last year.

•“The number of Sikhs detained for very long periods by state authorities continues to rise across all the States that make up the Indian nation... That is a matter not only for those who practise the Sikh faith in India, but for every U.K. citizen — including many constituents of Members here — who wishes to travel to the Punjab to visit holy sites and/or their families,” he said. He called on the government to raise questions on both issues during CHOGM.

•Mark Field, Minister for Asia and the Pacific, accepted that Mr. Docherty-Hughes had raised “profound” points and pledged to call Parliament’s attention to the issue. MPs would “appreciate that diplomacy sometimes needs to be done behind closed doors, rather than with megaphones,” he said, during the Westminster Hall debate, a forum for Members of Parliament to debate topical issues.

📰 Righting wrongs in land acquisition

A Supreme Court Bench will decide whether the law has to be interpreted expansively or in a narrow sense

•In July 2011, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government embarked on an ambitious project to rewrite the law on land acquisition. How the government acquired land from private parties had long been the subject of heated dispute, often resulting in violent conflict.

•Several previous governments had made attempts to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, but none had met with much success and the Act continued as an instrument of state oppression and forced displacement.

•It was a milestone achievement of the UPA government when the historic Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act was passed in September 2013 with the full support of all political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party. In fact, amendments suggested by the then Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, were readily accepted and made part of the law. The opening speaker in the debate was Rajnath Singh who welcomed the new law. The law provided for greatly enhanced compensation, consent of those whose land was sought to be acquired, and detailed rehabilitation and resettlement provisions (including employment, land for land, and other beneficial schemes). In other words, it changed the relationship between the state and the individual by empowering the latter against the former.

Returning land

•It also included a retrospective clause. Section 24 of the new Act provided that under certain circumstances, acquired land could be returned to affected families. Data are being compiled, but it would be correct to say that thousands of families who had previously given up all hope had their acquisition proceedings set aside and their land returned under Section 24. This Section was upheld and imbued with substance by several judges of the Supreme Court and various High Courts. But in a stunning volte-face, the Narendra Modi government brought in a draconian ordinance on January 1, 2015 to render this Section inoperative along with many other progressive and pro-farmer provisions in the 2013 law. However, in the face of overwhelming nationwide protests led by the Congress and other like-minded parties, on August 30, 2016 Mr. Modi announced in a ‘Mann ki Baat’ speech the withdrawal of the amendments proposed by his government.

•Now, the Supreme Court, in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (February 2018), has effectively implemented the provisions of the lapsed ordinance with regard to the retrospective clause. Given that it is at variance with other Benches on the issue, this has now led to the constitution of a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court to decide whether the Section has to be interpreted expansively or in a narrow sense.

•As the Supreme Court gets ready to decide on the fate of this Section in a law that has positively impacted the lives of several farmers/ land owners, it would be appropriate to revisit the legislative intention that existed at the time of its drafting.

•It was clear at the draft stage itself that a new law on land acquisition would necessarily have to address the cases of those who had suffered (and continued to suffer) due to the unacceptable provisions of the 1894 law. There were still conflicts surrounding acquisitions that had been initiated decades earlier and where the acquired land was lying unused, bringing no benefit to the state or the former owner.

•A test had to be laid down to determine in which cases land could be returned to the original owners. After much deliberation, including with leaders of the then opposition, a formula was arrived at. There would be three categories. The first category would comprise of those for whom the land acquisition award had been made less than five years prior to the coming into force of the new law (before January 1, 2014 and after January 1, 2009). In such cases, the new law would not apply; the proceedings would continue under the old law. The second would be where the award had not been made (on the date of the new law coming into force) but the acquisition proceedings had been initiated. In such cases, the land owners would be entitled to enhanced compensation and all other rehabilitation and resettlement benefits as provided under the new law, but the acquisition process would continue under the 1894 Act. The third category would comprise of the cases of those for whom the land acquisition award had been made f
ve years (or more) prior to the new law coming into force and where either compensation had not been paid or there had been no physical possession of the land. It was reasoned that five years was enough time for the acquiring authority to resolve all disputes, failing which it made no sense to hold on to the land.

•The Supreme Court decision in the Indore case does two things: one, it relaxes the existing definition of compensation paid from the active requirement of offering the compensation and depositing the same in court (laid down by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in a historic 2014 decision). Now, an offer followed by deposit in the government’s own treasury is sufficient to qualify as compensation paid. Two, on the subject of physical possession, it lays down that the period where the government is prevented from taking possession of the land due to the operation of a stay order or injunction shall not be counted towards the stipulated five-year requirement. The 2013 Act had no such caveats or qualifications because (i) the compensation would have to be offered in a meaningful fashion rather than the passive act of mere deposit in the treasury where it anyway resides; and (ii) stay or no stay, five years was sufficient time for a government to resolve any pending litigation on the subject. Having studied the ground reality for over three years, we can safely say that these new requirements (laid down by the Bench in the Indore case) will likely render the Section inoperable.

Land owner versus the state

•This interpretation stands in contrast to a majority of the Supreme Court’s earlier judgments that upheld the Section and applied it expansively in favour of the land owner. In those judgments, the Section was (correctly, in our opinion) interpreted in favour of securing the land owners’ interests over those of the state. This was in sync with the foundational premise of the 2013 Act that it was never meant to help the state hold on to its land banks or to deny return of land on the basis of narrow technicalities. The question is simple: If a land owner has refused compensation, should that land be forcibly acquired by the government in the name of ‘development’?

•The Supreme Court of India has often been at the forefront in the fight for the rights of the individual vis-à-vis the state. It has on several occasions secured far-reaching protections for the individual and made legislative safeguards stronger. We hope that the new five-judge Bench will continue in this fine tradition.

📰 ‘Defaulting promoters must be barred from bidding’

Axis Bank’s Shikha Sharma also bats for stronger NCLTs

•Axis Bank chief Shikha Sharma has called for creating a better credit culture for long-term benefits and opined that one way to achieve it is to debar defaulting promoters from bidding for their assets during insolvency proceedings.

•With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) doing away with all the past dispensations to resolve the bad loan problem, and voting for initiation of insolvency proceedings against erring borrowers, there is a need to strengthen the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLTs), she said.

•“Certainly, a lot more cases are going to go to the NCLT; so it is important that their capacity is expanded so that they can deal with all cases,” the managing director and chief executive of the third largest private sector lender told PTI. Ms. Sharma said there is “some conversation” on this aspect already and added that the RBI would have kept such a requirement in mind already.

‘Long-term benefit’

•She said the promoters of companies against whom banks had initiated insolvency proceedings should be kept out of the bidding process for the same assets for the long-term benefit of improving credit culture.

•A short-term goal for banks would be to look at maximising the value from the assets which are being put up for bidding and that can happen by allowing the promoters to bid for the assets, while from a longer-term perspective getting the right credit culture where every borrower repays is more important, she said.

📰 ‘Discrete norms for new and replacement parts a threat’

Dual certification is a burden on small units, say officials

•The different standards in place for original equipment and replacement auto parts can cause major issues related to safety, emissions and performance of the vehicle, the government has said in the new draft National Automotive Policy.

•Currently, automotive components being supplied to original equipment manufacturers in India must conform to Automotive Industry Standards guidelines, whereas those being sold through the aftermarket channel need to be certified as per Bureau of Indian Standards. “Discrepancies between the standards of new and replacement parts can cause major issues in safety, emissions, and performance of the vehicle. Also, the dual certification requirements lead to higher cost of compliance for smaller manufacturers. The Department of Heavy Industry had sought stakeholders’ comments on the draft policy by February 26, and expects to finalise the policy ingredients in a couple of months,” according to officials.

Shift to cleaner vehicles

•Besides, poor domestic capability for producing components used in green vehicles will be a major bottleneck for shifting to cleaner vehicles, the government said in the draft policy, observing there is a “critical need” to improve technology access, capability and skill levels of component manufacturers.

•According to the draft policy, technology transfer and domestic capability building has potential growth opportunity in auto components sector after the entry of several international component manufacturers.

📰 Avoid trade wars

Throwing free trade out of the window will make Americans and everyone else poorer





•World leaders did well to avoid protectionist trade policies in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008. After all, they had learned their lessons from the global trade war of the 1930s which deepened and prolonged the Great Depression, or so it was thought. American President Donald Trump last week announced that his administration would soon impose tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium into the U.S. for an indefinite period of time. The European Union, one of the largest trading partners of the U.S., has since vowed to return the favour through retaliatory measures targeting American exporters. The EU is expected to come out with a list of over 100 items imported from the U.S. that will be subject to scrutiny. For his part, Mr. Trump has justified the decision to impose protective tariffs by citing the U.S.’s huge trade deficit with the rest of the world. He explained his logic in a tweet on Friday which exposed a shocking ignorance of basic economics. He likened his country’s trade deficit to a loss that would be set right by simply stopping trade with the rest of the world. International trade, like trade within the boundaries of any country, however, is not a zero-sum game. So the trade deficit does not represent a country’s loss either, but merely the flip side of a capital account surplus. This is not to deny that there are definitely some losers — for example, the U.S. manufacturing industry which lost out to competition from countries such as China due to increasing globalisation. But throwing free trade out of the window would only make Americans and everyone else poorer.

•Despite the global backlash, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will walk back on his decision, especially given its populist resonance. Steelworkers in key States in the U.S. played a significant role in Mr. Trump’s election win in 2016. In fact, these are the only people who will benefit from the steel and aluminium tariffs while American consumers as a whole will pay higher prices for their goods. Mr. Trump’s desire to appeal to populist sentiment also explains why his protectionist turn comes in the midst of steadily improving economic growth. With Mr. Trump’s tariffs not going down well with the EU, it will be important to see how China and other major trading partners respond to his opening salvo. They can take a leaf out of the books of major global central banks which have shown enough maturity to avoid using currency wars as a means to settle disputes. Instead of retaliating with more tariffs, which could cause the current dispute to spiral into a full-fledged global trade war, the U.S.’s trading partners must try to achieve peace through negotiations.

📰 Bridge-cum-barrage across Netravathi gets clearance

•The State Cabinet on Saturday granted approval for construction of a bridge-cum-barrage across the Netravathi connecting Adyarkatte, off the National Highway 75, and Harekala, near Mangalore University. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has earmarked Rs. 174 crore in the budget for this work.

•Apart from meeting the long-standing demand of connecting these two places, the project will help in harvesting water for many of the arid regions of Mangaluru Assembly Constituency. This project was part of the Paschima Vahini Scheme launched last year to build vented dams across west-flowing rivers, said Food and Civil Supplies Minister U.T. Khader here on Sunday.

•Talking to reporters, Mr. Khader said that the project has proposed the construction of a 7 m wide bridge downstream of the Thumbe Vented Dam. Below this bridge would be the barrage that will impound about 6 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water.

•A multi-village drinking water scheme estimated at Rs. 134 crore would help harvest water and meet the drinking water needs of the arid regions of the Mangaluru Assembly Constituency. “We (those from Ullal City Municipal Council) will be relieved from relying on Mangaluru City Corporation for supply of drinking water from the Thumbe Vented Dam,” he said.

•With Cabinet clearing the bridge-cum-barrage work, Mr. Khader said, the Minor Irrigation Department would start the work of preparing a detailed project report and then tenders would be floated. The bridge atop the dam would alleviate commuting woes of people around Konaje, Innoli, Harekala and surrounding areas. The residents of these areas now depend either upon boats to reach NH 66 on the northern bank of the Netravathi or on buses that take a circuitous route to reach the city.

Sand policy

•Mr. Khader said that the Cabinet has cleared a policy for extraction of sand from non-Coastal Regulatory Zone areas in Dakshina Kannada. As per the new norm, all residents, who have been in a taluk for five years or more, can apply for licence for extraction of sand. “This removes the monopoly of a few people involved in extraction of sand,” he said and added that this will help curb illegal sand extraction.

📰 TB drugs policy to be discussed at meet

Limited access to newer therapies in focus

•Global public health agencies will discuss the Union Health Ministry’s policy on rationing new tuberculosis medicines at a forthcoming meeting in New Delhi.

•The Hindu had reported on Sunday that advanced medicines to treat Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB) were available for only about 1,000 patients.

Policy concerns

•Reacting to the report, Dr. Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership — a Geneva-based nodal agency that recommends policy interventions — said on Twitter: “We take note & serious discussions will take place in #DelhiEndTB. People with TB in India to have access to new drugs and regimens as recommended by WHO guidelines - when & whom can use. Currently, not for all - check @WHO recommendations.”

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the March 12-17 ‘End TB Summit’ in the capital. The conference, hosted by the government, The Stop TB Partnership and the World Health Organisation (WHO) will discuss commitments from global heads of state ahead of the UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB in September. By conservative estimates, a third of the DR-TB patients need the newer therapies, Bedaquiline and Delaminid.

Case for control

•Arun Jha, Economic Adviser to the Health Ministry, said on Twitter that tighter control of new drugs was necessary to ensure patients do not become resistant to the newer therapies also.

•Prof. Jennifer Furin, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, said, “Patients seeking treatment for MDR-TB are not offered these drugs, with public health officials priding themselves on saving the drugs.”

📰 ‘Climate change has reduced coral cover’

‘Need a holistic approach for protection’

•Climate change has resulted in “substantial” reduction of the country’s coral cover and growth in the last two decades, according to conservation group WWF India which has stressed the need for formulating a “holistic” approach for their protection.

•It said the connectivity of India’s freshwater, coastal, offshore and marine systems must be taken into account when conserving such (corals) habitats and the management regimes must reflect this.

•Coral diversity and formation of reefs are centred around four major regions — the Gulf of Kutchh and the Lakshadweep atolls on the west to the Gulf of Mannar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the East.

•Besides these hotspots, patchy reefs are present in other coastal regions, from the coast of Goa and parts of the Malvan marine national park to the Kanyakumari district in southern Tamil Nadu.

•Ajay Arun Venkataraman of WWF-India said that recent years have seen a slew of anthropogenic impacts threaten the future and health of coral reefs.

•“Climate change is the primary threat, with multiple bleaching events occurring in the last two decades, resulting in substantial reductions to coral cover and growth. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have other more insidious effects on reefs, decreasing the pH of oceans and resulting in ocean acidification, which seriously hinder the reef building capacity of corals,” he said. Overfishing, unregulated coastal development, nutrient, heavy metal and chemical pollution also degrade the world’s reefs.




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