The HINDU Notes – 09th March 2018 - VISION

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Friday, March 09, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 09th March 2018

📰 Female foeticide a shame: Modi

Programme for girl child will now cover 640 districts

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inaugurated the expanded “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district. He also launched the National Nutrition Mission, aimed at improving nutrition levels of women and children and reducing low birth weight by 2% each year.

•The “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme, implemented as the Union government’s social campaign to create awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls, was expanded from the existing 161 to 640 districts of the country.

Change in mindset

•Addressing the function organised on International Women’s Day, Mr. Modi said people should change their mindset towards the girl child in order to bring equality between men and women. He said mothers-in-law should take the lead to protect the girl child and stop the practice of female foeticide, which was a matter of “deep shame.”

•“Let us resolve that there will be the same number of girls born as the number of boys. Both of them are equal,” Mr. Modi said, while affirming that gender imbalance had been created in the society because of the mistakes committed by several generations. This needed to be corrected by the younger generation.

•This was Mr. Modi’s second visit to Rajasthan in 2018 and the first after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha and Assembly by-elections last month. The Congress also swept the local body bypolls held in 21 districts on Wednesday. The State goes to polls in December this year.

•The Prime Minister also highlighted the significance of proper nutrition among children and described the changes in the lives of women and children brought about by the “Indradhanush” immunisation programme. He praised the Jhunjhunu district for registering a significant improvement in child sex ratio.

•Earlier, Mr. Modi interacted with women and their children and gave awards to Collectors of various districts for their performance under the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme. The districts included Sikar and Jhunjhunu of Rajasthan, Tarn Taran (Punjab), Sonipat (Haryana), Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) and Raigarh (Chhattisgarh).

Trafficking of women

•Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said the government was planning to introduce a Bill for preventing trafficking of women and children. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje highlighted the State government’s schemes and programmes for girls’ education and empowerment.

📰 Ringing in change, government style

The ‘Beti Bachao, Beto Padhao’ ringtone has been made mandatory for all govt. employees in Kashmir’s Samba district

•All government employees in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir have been directed to download the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” ringtone on their Jio mobile numbers. The order came from the office of Deputy Commissioner Sheetal Nanda on February 23, who demanded that a compliance report be filed within 24 hours.

•The government is in talks with Airtel and Vodafone for similar ringtones but the memo mentions only one service provider. According to Ms. Nanda, the decision was taken make sure the campaign message is widespread, and to “put a thrust on having a girl child.

In local language

•“A ringtone was prepared when the campaign was launched. We made a folk singer to sing it in Dogri, a local language. The ringtone was already available on the BSNL members. We got in touch with the Jio company too for the ringtone, which they agreed to,” Ms. Nanda told The Hindu.

•She had issued fresh directions to all the departments, including school staff, using the Jio numbers to download the ringtone, also used by the Deputy Commissioner herself. “I will ensure 100% compliance,” she said.

•Responding to the directive, Srinagar-based gynecologist and women rights activist Samina Maqbool said, “Making ringtones mandatory have hardly resulted in change of mindset when it comes to gender justice.”

Addressing root causes

•“The male-female ratio is alarming but at the same time it points at two areas where the government’s intervention is required now. One, high mortality rate among women in Jammu and Kashmir due to poor access to the healthcare and healthy food intake. Two, growing incidences of female foeticide and poor mechanism to stop sex determination in advance,” Dr Maqbool said.

•While downloading ringtones may help in sensitisation to some extent, “The real solution lies by working on the causes leading to the skewed male-female ratio,” Dr Maqbool said.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” (Save girl child-Educate girl child) campaign in January 2015 to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in India. As per the 2011 census, the adult sex ratio in India is 940 females for every 1000 males. The child sex ratio (of children between the ages 0 and 6 years) is far worse at 914 females for every 1000 males. Figures for Jammu and Kashmir are well below the national average with only 883 females for every 1000 males.

📰 Chance for peace: on US and North Korea's relations

The U.S. should grab North Korea’s offer of talks, and enable an environment of trust

•The visit by a South Korean delegation to Pyongyang and the subsequent North Korean offer to hold talks with the U.S. mark perhaps the most serious attempt in a decade to reduce tensions in the peninsula. South Korean officials who met the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said Pyongyang is willing to denuclearise if the military threat to the North is eliminated and its security guaranteed. The situation has been fraught since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, especially after he threatened the North with “fire and fury”. As Pyongyang continued its weapons programme, Washington kept up economic pressure with biting new sanctions. But even in the face of tensions and repeated war rhetoric from both North Korea and the U.S., South Korean President Moon Jae-in kept open the diplomatic channels after assuming office last summer. This strategy appears to have yielded the current breakthrough. The North first sent Kim Yo-jong, Mr. Kim’s influential sister, to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea last month, which was followed by the meeting between the South Korean officials and Mr. Kim. Both Koreas have now agreed to hold a summit between Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon, while the North has promised to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests if talks with the U.S. are initiated.

•This is a marked shift from the aggressive foreign policy that Mr. Kim has pursued since he succeeded his father in 2011. It also signals that his militaristic foreign policy is linked to perceptions about the survival of his regime, something for which he may be willing to reach a diplomatic settlement with the U.S. Raising hopes further, Mr. Trump has responded cautiously, calling the diplomatic outreach “a serious process… by all parties concerned”. Still, the path ahead will not be smooth, given the lack of trust between the U.S. and North Korea and the bitter experience of the past engagement. Even days after South Korea issued a statement about the North’s willingness to discuss denuclearisation and normalisation of ties with the U.S., Pyongyang is yet to confirm it. It could be waiting for a more concrete response from the U.S. Meanwhile, for Mr. Trump, who favours a muscular foreign policy and who even attacked his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for pursuing talks with North Korea, Pyongyang’s offer poses both an opportunity and a challenge. He can embrace both if he is serious about defusing the nuclear tensions in the Korean peninsula. If a clear and realistic plan for negotiation comes directly from Pyongyang, the U.S. should enable a conducive environment for such talks by delaying the next military exercises with South Korea, scheduled to take place in April.

📰 A new NAM for the new norm

India must seek nonaligned partnerships which can work together outside the influence of the U.S., China and Russia

•From all accounts, the Cold War is breaking out again. The United States has identified both China and Russia as adversaries, whose leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, are strong and determined to stand up to a faltering Donald Trump, who is desperately clinging on to doctrines of ultranationalism and nuclear hegemony.

The Russia dare

•Mr. Putin has just announced that Russia has invincible doomsday machines like an underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead powerful enough to sweep away coastal facilities, aircraft carriers and a hypersonic vehicle impossible to intercept as it flies in a cloud of plasma “like a meteorite”.

•Cuba is in the dog house again and the “axis of evil” has emerged once again under Iran’s leadership. This time it is a three-cornered Cold War, without any corner having committed countries to act together as military allies. Potential allies are hedging, with no viable grouping to protect the interests of the weak and the poor. If the Cold War is here in a new form, can a reincarnation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) be far behind?

•NAM is anathema today even to those who helped shape it and revelled in it for years. India was one of its leaders, if not the leader. India had a stake in its integrity and India toiled tirelessly to keep it on the middle road, not to be hijacked by Cuba to the left or Singapore to the right. We fought to keep Egypt within it when every Arab country wanted it to be ousted in 1979 after the Camp David agreements. Indira Gandhi risked a bear hug from Fidel Castro as she took the NAM gavel to save it from the uncertain leadership of Iraq. Had it not been for India, NAM would have been wound up at a ministerial meeting in Ghana in 1991 soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was characterised as the “last gasp of the old style radicals”.

•India argued vehemently against those who felt that NAM had outlived its utility. Since the essence of nonalignment was freedom of thought and action, India insisted that it was valid whether there was one bloc or no bloc. Even while building alliances with others, we availed of the NAM umbrella to promote our national strategies when it suited us. The very lack of homogeneity and unity in NAM enhanced its utility for us. One forum where we effectively used the NAM constituency was the Working Group on UN Reform, where we blocked an effort by the U.S. and others to add Germany and Japan as permanent members and close the doors for further expansion.

Hit refresh

•An effort was made in 2012 to craft a ‘Nonalignment 2.0’ in the context of the new global situation, India’s growing importance and the rivalry between the U.S. and China. The report moved the concept of nonalignment away from its origins. It reiterated that India needed to move quickly to extend its global role and influence. But the authors said India’s big challenge would be to aim at not just being powerful but to set new standards for what the powerful must do. India’s legitimacy in the world will come from its ability to stand for the highest human and universal values and at the global level, “India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative universality.”

•In a situation where the world is no longer bifurcated between two dominant powers, nonalignment today will require managing complicated coalitions and opportunities in an environment that is not structurally settled, the report said. The policy of “strategic autonomy” recommended that India should not take sides in the rivalry between China and the U.S. The report emphasised that for its strategic and foreign policy to be successful, India must sustain domestic economic growth, social inclusion and democracy.

•Coming as it did in the wake of a strategic partnership with the U.S., a revival of NAM, even with caveats of various kinds, did not seem to appeal either to the Manmohan Singh government or the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi too, NAM was nothing but a relic of the Nehruvian past and it did not form part of his vocabulary.

•As he pursued his priorities of development, security, neighbourhood and the diaspora, maintaining a constituency of the poor nations of the world had no place. In his transactional foreign policy, it is easier to act alone rather than as the spokesperson of a group. It was no wonder, therefore, that he did not find it necessary to attend the NAM Summit in Venezuela in 2016. India, which conceived and nursed the concept, was ready to cast it into the dustbin of history. We began a journey from the leadership of the super poor to become a super power.

Where we stand today

•Into the second half of his term, Mr. Modi’s balance sheet shows an altogether different scenario. As a close defence partner of the U.S. and a member of the “Quadrilateral”, India is right in the U.S. camp. As the baton of the orchestra passed into the hands of a wayward conductor, the new symphony in India-U.S. relations promised in 2016 has not quite materialised. Both China and Russia, which have been identified as adversaries in the U.S. world view, have their problems with India. Doklam and the Maldives have shown that China is in no mood for a compromise. In fact, China has attributed the increase of its defence budget to the formation of the Quadrilateral, which is being seen as a direct threat to China.

•An obvious way is to revive NAM by breathing new life into it and making it fit to deal with the new norm. But it has baggage, which may be difficult to unload. A movement conceived in the context of a bipolar world may not suit a tripolar world, which could become a multipolar world. A partnership of near equals like IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) with similar interests without any ideological conflict is probably the best model to follow. Something on the lines of the G-15 organised by India and like-minded countries some years ago could be put together with the objective of dealing with the kind of issues identified by Mr. Modi at Davos — climate change, terrorism and protectionism. The members may have links with the U.S., China and Russia, but should be able to work together without the undue influence of the three.

•Mr. Modi is not someone who will hesitate to think out of the box to achieve his objectives. Given the present impasse in international relations with little leeway for game-changing initiatives, India will do well to move away from being a camp follower of one of the emerging poles to create our own fourth pole.

📰 Trump says new tariffs will be ‘very fair’

Makes it clear that he will press ahead with tariff of 25% on foreign steel and 10% on aluminium

•President Donald Trump vowed to be flexible toward “real friends” of the U.S. as the White House prepared on Thursday to roll out punitive trade tariffs — singling out Germany for criticism and adding Australia to a list of likely carve-outs.

•Mr. Trump made it clear that he will press ahead with tariffs of 25% on foreign steel and 10% on aluminium, while saying Australia and “others” could be exempt — in addition to America’s neighbours and NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada.

Trade exceptions

•“We are going to be very fair, we’re going to be very flexible” Mr. Trump told his cabinet, pointing to winners and losers from the contentious policy.

•If America reaches a deal on renegotiating its trilateral trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, he said, “it is most likely that we won’t be charging those two countries the tariffs.”

•“We have a very close relationship with Australia,” he added. “We have a trade surplus with Australia, great country, long term partner, we’ll be doing something with them.” He also cited possible exemptions for unspecified “other countries.”

•But Trump took aim at Germany — the biggest economy in the EU trade bloc — as a bad actor likely to face tariffs.

•Railing against countries that had “taken advantage” of the U.S., the President accused Germany of behaving unfairly by contributing much less than the U.S. towards the funding of NATO. “We have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years on trade and on military,” he said.

Aimed at Germany

•“If you look at NATO, where Germany pays one percent and we are paying 4.2% of a much bigger GDP — that’s not fair,” he said.

•“So we view trade and we view the military, and to a certain extent, they go hand in hand.”

•Last week Mr. Trump stunned the world — and many in his own camp — with an off-the-cuff announcement of his tariff plan.

•He cited Chinese overproduction and national security concerns as the main driver. Since then the White House has scrambled to catch up, Mr. Trump’s top economic advisor Gary Cohn — who opposed the move — quit in protest and stock markets sank.

•More than 100 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Mr. Trump expressing “deep concern” about the policy.

Backlash promised

•Trade experts at the Peterson Institute now believe U.S. allies — rather than China — will be disproportionately hit and imports to America cut by around $14 billion.

•The European Union, Mexico and Canada have all warned they will retaliate, with the decision threatening to sour already vinegared trans-Atlantic relations.

•The European Union has vowed to hit back with tariffs on items from steel to peanut butter, bourbon and denim — most of which are produced in states that Mr. Trump needs to win reelection. “Trade wars are bad and easy to lose,” EU President Donald Tusk warned.

•As Mr. Trump has pressed ahead, his staff have tried to limit the fallout. “We’re going to have sensible relations with our allies,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted Wednesday.

•Data released on Wednesday showed the U.S. foreign trade deficit widened in January to its highest level in nine years. Mr. Trump blamed the deficit on his predecessors, while also taking aim at Beijing. “China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the U.S.,” he tweeted.

📰 China says ties with India continue to grow

‘Focus is on building mutual trust’

•China on Thursday lauded Indian and Chinese leaders for demonstrating a “strategic vision” which had helped defuse last year’s Doklam crisis, and acknowledged that ties between the two countries were poised for a rapid transition.

•Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at an annual press conference that India-China ties were seeing a turnaround. “Despite some tests and difficulties, the China-India relations continue to grow.” Mr. Wang stressed that China was keen to forge closer India-China ties, cemented by a focus on greater dialogue-based on “mutual trust”.

•In response to question on the flurry of visits by the Chinese and Indian officials after the Doklam standoff in the Sikkim sector, Mr. Wang said: “The Chinese dragon and the Indian elephant must not fight each other but dance with each other. If China and India are united, one plus one will not only include two, but also 11.”

•Mr. Wang and Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi had visited India in December, in the backdrop of the post-Doklam meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the September summit of the BRICS countries in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had visited China last month for talks with top officials.

‘Keen on rebuilding ties’

•“Through Mr. Gokhale’s visit, we wanted to demonstrate that we were as keen as China in rebuilding post-Doklam ties,” a diplomatic source told The Hindu. A spate of track-1 meetings is now in the pipeline, including the China-India strategic economic dialogue next month, which is likely to be preceded by visits to India of Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and of Guo Yezhou, Vice Minister in the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

•Mr. Wang stressed that “more far-sighted leaders” have come to realise that as the largest two developing countries each with a population of more than a billion, “China and India must do everything to empathise with and support each other and avoid mutual suspicion and attrition”.

•The Foreign Minister, however, stressed that New Delhi and Beijing must focus on building “mutual trust,” which would be the key for the further advancement of the relationship. He pointed out that “mutual trust is the most precious commodity in the India-China relations.”

Not even Himalayas can stop us

•“With political trust, not even the Himalayas can stop us from friendly exchanges. Without it, not even level land can bring us together.”

•Mr. Wang underscored the urgency of Beijing’s readiness to befriend India. “Let me put this to our Indian friends: our shared understandings far outstrip our differences. Our interests far outweigh the frictions. China is ready and willing... ready to inherit and take forward traditional friendship, and be a friend and partner of the Indian people,” he observed.

•“I hope the two sides will be free from mental inhibitions and meet each other halfway. Let us replace suspicion with trust, manage differences with dialogue and build a future with cooperation.” Mr. Wang dismissed the “Indo-Pacific” strategy, which included the formation of the quad grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. as “froth in the Pacific and Indian Oceans”.

•“They get some attention but may soon dissipate. Contrary to the claims made by some academics and media outlets, that the Indo-Pacific strategy aims to contain China, the four countries’ official position is that it targets no one. I hope they mean what they say, and their action will match their rhetoric.”

•Mr. Wang asserted that “a new cold war is out of sync with the times, and inciting bloc confrontation will find no market.”

📰 Tribunal on 1984’s Operation Blue Star focuses on Indian sensitivities

U.K. govt. opposes disclosure of more documents

•A tribunal on whether further details of British involvement in the run-up to the 1984 Operation Blue Star should be made public was set to conclude later on Thursday, as the issue of Indian sensitivities around Sikh separatism both past and present and its potential impact on U.K.-India bilateral relations took centre stage.

•Counsel for the Cabinet Office sought to argue against further Cabinet Office and Prime Ministerial documents to be made public on the ground that they related to discussions involving intelligence services and that issues around separatism continued to be viewed as a “threat to the existence of the Indian state” and of the “highest sensitivity.”

•However, counsel leading the appeal for the publication of the documents argued that “serious human rights abuses were committed against the Sikh community in India” and that the disclosures were necessary to fully understanding the wider factors influencing the relationship and the context of what was done.

•“From our point of view, we see a very compelling public interest in anything that helps us join the dots,” the counsel for the appellant, freelance journalist Phil Miller, told the tribunal.

Political issue

•She argued that there had been little sign in the evidence presented to the court that the issue remained a highly sensitive political issue in India, with the potential to damage bilateral relations, pointing to the failure of Britain to consult India on the 2014 disclosures.

•The appellant, Irish law firm KRW, is acting on behalf of Mr. Millerwho is seeking four files relating to the Operation Blue Star to be made public. Details of Britain’s involvement in the operation first emerged in 2014 when Mr. Miller, researching cabinet office papers published under the U.K.’s 30-year-rule, came across the mention of the U.K.’s involvement in the 1984 operation.

Advisory role

•Following the revelations, then Prime Minister David Cameron ordered his Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Haywood to review the findings.

•The review concluded the U.K.’s role in June 1984 was “purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage in their planning,” and also had “limited impact”.

•Mr. Miller is challenging a 2015 decision by Britain’s Information Commissioner that supported the Cabinet Office decision not to release the additional Cabinet Office and Prime Ministerial files on the operation.

•While open parts of Wednesday’s hearing focussed on what constituted “historical” information, and what would have “real implications” for bilateral relations today (a distinction that the Cabinet Office legal team sought to make), much of Thursday’s hearing focussed on issues around the Joint Intelligence Committee, and whether freedom of expression exemptions applied to briefing documents for the committee. Under section 23 Britain’s Freedom of Information Act 2000, information held by a public authority is exempt from disclosure requirements if it relates to bodies including the security services, secret services, and special forces and other bodies.

•The Cabinet Office legal team has sought to maintain that the information in the suppressed files had to be substantially different and pose a threat to bilateral relations, irrespective of which political party was in power in India, compared to what had already been divulged. “There is a good deal of institutional continuity on India around territorial integrity…violent extremism,” Owen Jenkins, a senior civil servant, formerly the head of South Asia and Afghanistan at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the tribunal during Thursday’s hearing. The tribunal has switched between open and closed evidence sessions, which excluded appellant counsel.

•In the concluding session on Thursday, the Cabinet Office’s counsel focused on the Section 23 exemptions, as well as exemptions relating to Section 27 of the same Act relating to impact on a diplomatic partner. Summing up the conclusions of the FCO witnesses he said that the expectations of the Indian government would be that Britain would apply “particular importance to questions of confidentiality” and that there remained “particularly sensitivities” around the issue of Sikh separatism. “The Indian government regards such separatist movements as a threat to the existence of the India state…with the highest order of sensitivity….the passage of time does not diminish the significance of this information in this case.”

•However, the appellant’s position that there was little evidence to support the Cabinet Office position regarding current Indian sensitivities about further disclosures, was also supported by the Counsel for the Office of Information Commissioner.

•Sources have suggested India holds a neutral position on the issue, viewing the decision on whether to release further information on the case as a purely domestic matter for Britain.

•The tribunal is expected to rule by July, with the potential for further appeals.

•The case coincides with the launch of the legal process for a judge-led public inquiry on British involvement in Operation Blue Star earlier this week, by the Sikh Federation (UK), represented by KRW. Dabinderjit Singh, an advisor to the Sikh Federation (UK) said they believed that whatever the result of the ongoing tribunal it would help build their case for a public inquiry.

📰 SC restores Hadiya’s marriage

Kerala homoeopathy student is free to join husband

•The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a Kerala High Court order annulling the marriage of Hadiya to Shafin Jahan, whom she had married after converting to Islam.

•In an order coinciding with the International Women’s Day, the Supreme Court recognised and upheld Ms. Hadiya's freedom “to pursue her future endeavours according to law”. This means Ms. Hadiya is free to leave her college hostel at Salem and join Mr. Jahan. A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud observed that the High Court “should not have annulled the marriage”.

‘Core of culture’

•“Marriage and plurality are the fundamental core of our culture. Plurality in India should be zealously guarded,” Justice Chandrachud observed during an hour-long hearing.

•“The moment you allow public law (law of relations between individuals and the State) to encroach into marriage, you are letting the state interfere in individual choices of a citizen,” Justice Chandrachud said.

•Chief Justice Misra emphatically added that it is not just the state, but parents too cannot wield their influence against adults who marry a person of their own choice. It is not for the courts or the state or the parents to question a woman's choice of her husband.

Marriage still valid

•Justice Chandrachud agreed that a “marriage between two consenting adults is still a valid marriage” even if a reasonable number of persons happen to disagree with the wedlock.

•The Bench, in its short order, said Ms. Hadiya appeared before it on November 27 and “admitted her marriage” with Mr. Jahan.

•This statement of Ms. Hadiya, made in open court, became the very basis for overthrowing the Kerala High Court order of May 24, 2017, which called the marriage a “sham” and referred to it as “love jihad”.

•On November 24, 2017, Ms. Hadiya, a 26-year-old homoeopathy student from Kerala, was personally summoned to the Supreme Court on the basis of a habeas corpus petition filed by Mr. Jahan.

📰 Karnataka govt. unveils State flag

Now, the Centre has to approve it

•The Siddaramaiah government on Thursday unveiled the State flag ( nada dhwaja ) for Karnataka. If approved by the Centre, Karnataka will be the second State to have a flag after Jammu and Kashmir. The red-white-yellow flag has the State emblem at the centre. The proposal will be now sent to the Union Home Ministry for approval since a State has no powers to announce its own flag. Ahead of the Assembly elections, a separate flag has been part of the ruling Congress’ campaign focussing on regional pride.

Nine-member panel

•The decision followed a meeting of leaders of Kannada organisations and littérateurs convened to discuss the recommendations of a nine-member expert committee constituted to study and submit a report on the possibility of the State having a flag.

•The State Cabinet had earlier approved the proposal of having separate flag for Karnataka and empowered Mr. Siddaramaiah to take the final call after discussions. When asked about the Constitutional provisions for a State to have its own flag, Mr. Siddaramaiah said there was no bar in the Constitution on the States having their own flag.

•“The State flag will fly below the national flag as prescribed,” he said. “The BJP State unit should now bring pressure on the Union government to speed up the approval process,” he added.

📰 Protecting couples from mobs

The Supreme Court is expected to frame guidelines

•The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill has been doing the rounds among States for the past seven years. The proposed law, drafted by the Law Commission of India, is meant to penalise honour killings and uphold the right of adults to marry persons of their own choice without unlawful interference from caste panchayats or persons and relatives intent on harming the couple.

•So far, 23 States have responded to the Bill with suggestions; the other six have not responded yet. The Supreme Court has now stepped in to fill this legislative vacuum and is expected to frame guidelines in a judgment to protect adult couples from the fury of the mob.

•In the proposed law, the Law Commission has concluded that honour killing does not require a separate provision. The definition of murder in Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code would suffice “to take care of the situations leading to overt acts of killing or causing bodily harm to the targeted person who allegedly undermined the honour of the caste or community.”

•The 2011 Bill defines “unlawful assembly” as a group of persons who congregate with the “view or intention to deliberate on or condemn any marriage on the basis that such marriage has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.” “Marriage” under the draft legislation includes “proposed or intended marriage.”

•The punishments are meted out in a phased manner. Participating in any unlawful assembly is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but which may extend to one year and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 10,000. Making exhortations that endanger the liberty of a couple is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to two years and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 20,000. Criminal intimidation of the couple or their relatives or supporters is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to three years and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 30,000. The maximum punishment in case of actual harm or injury caused shall extend to seven years of imprisonment. The provisions under the proposed law do not negate the offences under IPC but only adds to them.

📰 Union govt. to set up Arbitration Council

Bill for independent body cleared

•In an effort to make India a global hub for arbitration, the government will set up an Arbitration Council that will grade institutions that offer alternative dispute resolution mechanism for commercial disputes.

•Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, briefing reporters on Thursday, said as India attracted foreign investments, it was essential to provide for a reliable platform that included arbitration and resolution of commercial disputes in a time-bound manner.

•On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

📰 ‘Centre to invite initial bids for Air India in a couple of weeks’

Ministry pushing for better use of AAI’s land parcels, says Civil Aviation Secretary

•Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey on Thursday said the Ministry was engaged in the “important task” of finding buyers for Air India and its subsidiaries as well as for Pawan Hans. He said he expected the expressions of interest to be issued within a couple of weeks.

•“We are committed to take it forward very, very fast,” he said, pointing out that the EoI would be the first such for Air India, while for Pawan Hans it would be a revised document. “So [if] any one of you is interested, I will be happy to host you,” he told the gathering at the inauguration of ‘Wings India 2018’, a four-day civil aviation and aerospace event that opened in Hyderabad.

•His announcement came in the backdrop of the government paving the way for a stake sale in the debt-laden airline last year. The Union Cabinet had in-principle approved divestment in Air India and the government followed it up by permitting foreign airlines to invest up to 49%, under the approval route, subject to certain conditions. The Ministry is also in the process of moving amendments to the Act governing the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in the current session of the Parliament for better use of the entity’s land parcels.

‘Keeping pace’

•The focus is to leverage and monetise AAI’s balance sheet and facilitate a manifold increase in its spend, from the existing Rs. 3,000 crore annually.

•The AAI proposes to spend Rs. 18,000 crore over four years on upgrading of airports, he said, underscoring the significance of adequate resources so the growth of airports does not lag the growth of the aviation sector.

📰 ‘India can bridge IT staff shortage in Japan’

Need for 2 lakh people now may rise 4-fold by 2030: JETRO

•Japan is facing a shortage of 200,000 information technology professionals due to an ageing population and falling birth rate and India can fill the gap with its huge talent pool, a Japanese trade official said. “There are about 920,000 IT professionals in Japan,” Shigeki Maeda, executive vice-president of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), said in an interview on Thursday.

•“There is an immediate demand for more than 200,000 professionals and the shortage is likely to touch 800,000 by 2030.”

•“India can bridge that gap. If a company in Japan has an immediate demand for say 5,000 engineers, only India can come to their aid. All sectors are facing the crunch as they are interlinked and connected... whether it is healthcare, agriculture, research and development or services or finance.”

Easing of rules

•Japan eased rules for issuance of green card and permanent residency status for highly skilled professionals in April last year. The new norms shortened the required period for permanent residency to one year from five years earlier.

•In 2016, there were 5,549 certified highly skilled foreign professionals registered in Japan. Of this 3,621 professionals were from China, 290 from the U.S. and 266 from India.

•“All the top Indian professionals are eager to go to the U.S.,” Mr. Maeda said. “Competition is tough in U.S. When you compare that to Japan, life is much easier. China is the most populous nation and it is easier for a Chinese to learn the Japanese language. It is also closer to Japan.”

•Also, about 30,000 Japanese firms operate in China, much more than in U.S. In India 1,369 companies from Japan have set up base while only 71 Indian companies operate in Japan.”

•Of the total number of Japanese companies operating in India, 220 are out of Maharashtra, 197 in Tamil Nadu and 162 in the National Capital Region.

•Mr. Maeda’s pitch comes at a time when the U.S. administration last month imposed curbs on H-1B visas affecting companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, which rely on the visas to do work for American firms.

•As per the new U.S. policy, companies will have to prove that its H-1B employee at a third-party site has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in a speciality occupation. Now on, H-1B visas would be valid only for the period for which the employee has work at a third-party site. Earlier, it was valid for three years at a time and the move came ahead of H-1B visa filing which starts on April 2.

•Japan has set an inward foreign investment target of $330 billion by 2020, Mr. Maeda said.

•“Japan has become the third-largest investor for India after Mauritius and Singapore. Companies such as Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi have already initiated the process of establishing an R&D centre in India.”

•Japan also eased rules for Indian travellers and from January this year, applicants do not require to submit their employment certificate and letters of explanation for multiple-entry visas. The number of documents to be submitted has been cut to three, he said.

📰 WHO launches plan for cheaper TB drugs

Invites proposals from pharma industry to produce affordable medicines

•The World Health Organization (WHO), on Tuesday, invited pharmaceutical companies around the world to submit proposals to manufacture affordable versions of newer medicines for treatment of drug resistant tuberculosis.

•A WHO spokesman said the aim was to replicate the success of addressing the HIV epidemic. Competition among Indian drug producers had then brought down the price of HIV medicines by 99% from $15,000 per patient per year to less than a dollar a day.

•WHO has now requested drug makers to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) for Bedaquiline and Delaminid, two new-generation drugs, recommended for drug resistant-TB. Under WHO norms, drugs submitted upon such requests and complying with its standards are included in a list for procurement by the UN and other organisations.

•India has nearly 1.3 lakh DR-TB patients, the most in the world, but the Health Ministry gets only 10,000 doses of Bedaquiline and 400 doses of Delaminid. The medicines are obtained as donations from Janssen (US) and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (Japan), the respective manufacturers.

•“One of the aims of pre qualification is to ensure that a greater number of manufacturers are supplying quality medicines, which, in turn, means a more competitive market and more affordable prices. We have seen this with HIV, where the pre-qualification of many predominantly Indian manufactured products brought the price down of many anti-retrovirals. Inclusion within the scope of PQ has also incentivised the development of fixed dose combinations, which have yielded much better results for patients,” said Daniela Bagozzi, communication manager, WHO.

•In the case of HIV, one company, Cipla, came up with a ‘AIDS cocktail’ combination of Stavudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, enabling effective treatment.

•Cheaper drugs to treat HIV became possible at the time as the Indian Patents Act did not provide for product patents on pharmaceutical products, until required by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). India became TRIPS compliant with pharma product patents in 2005.

Open to generics

•“The whole world looks to India to provide access to affordable drugs because of our capabilities. With WHO’s backing, we will be able to accelerate introduction of generics,” said D.G. Shah, secretary general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA).

•Inclusion of the two new drugs, Bedaquiline and Delaminid, in the pre-qualification call is being interpreted by aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as WHO’s backing for generics.

•Christophe Perrin, pharmacist at MSF, said, “It is clear from the EoI that WHO considers the two drugs key compounds to address challenges of drug-resistant TB. It also means that they want to encourage generic competition to start finding ways to make these medicines available in countries where they are not yet registered. The EoI allows generics manufacturers interested in producing these two drugs, and currently facing technical challenges, to address their questions to WHO’s pre-qualification team.”

•Arun Kumar Jha, Economic Advisor, Union Health Ministry, said, “We are not wasting a single moment in ensuring affordable versions of these medicines are scaled up.”

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