The HINDU Notes – 06th December 2018 - VISION

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Thursday, December 06, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 06th December 2018

πŸ“° Soon, all Aadhaar holders may get opportunity to opt out

Government is finalising a proposal to amend the Act, following Supreme Court order upholding it but with conditions.

•The government is in the last stages of finalising a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act to give all citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and the data.

•This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders.

•A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional.

UIDAI proposal

•“The initial proposal was prepared by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It submitted that once a child turns 18, he/she will be given six months to decide if he/she wants to withdraw,” a senior official said.

•This proposal was sent to the Law Ministry to be vetted. “The Ministry further recommended that the option to withdraw be made available to all citizens, and not be limited to a particular group,” the official added.

•However, the proposal, which will now be sent to the Cabinet, is likely to benefit only those who do not have a PAN card or do not require one, as the court had upheld the linkage of PAN with Aadhaar.

•Over 37.50 crore PANs have been issued till March 12, 2018. Of these, the number of PANs issued to individuals stood at more than 36.54 crore, of which about 16.84 crore PANs have been linked with Aadhaar.

•In line with the court order, the proposal seeks to appoint an adjudicating officer to decide whether a person’s Aadhaar-related data need to be disclosed in the interest of national security.

•The court had also struck down Section 33(2), which allowed disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below Joint Secretary. It had said an officer above Joint Secretary should consult a judicial officer and together take a call.

πŸ“° The Taiwan card: on Taipei’s ties with mainland

Taipei’s fine balance in its relationship with mainland China is coming under stress

•The huge gains for the opposition Kuomintang, or the Chinese Nationalist Party, in Taiwan’s local elections may help in gradually improving the island’s ties with mainland China. Equally, the adverse results in some of its strongholds could complicate matters for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party government ahead of the 2020 general elections. President Tsai Ing-wen has stepped down as the party chief, owning moral responsibility for the setback; her re-election bid is in doubt. The pro-independence stance of the DPP is at variance with Beijing’s repeated assertion of its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it insists it is prepared to defend through the use of force. All the same, the Taiwanese government has been equally concerned to not allow the long-standing dispute to escalate to a point of jeopardising the strong trade relations between the two territories. But this delicate balance has turned somewhat more precarious since Donald Trump became President of the United States. Ever since his election, he has sought to leverage Taiwan to pressure China in the U.S.’s ongoing trade war. A first indication was the congratulatory call he received from Ms. Tsai on his poll victory. The episode raised concerns over the status of U.S.-China diplomatic relations, established in 1979, and the consequent downgrading of the U.S.’s ties with Taipei to unofficial exchanges. The 2018 Taiwan Travel Act aims to promote greater engagement between Washington and Taipei. Similarly, the new headquarters of the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei is symbolic of the shift. The Taiwanese President’s recent visits to the U.S. and interactions with several Congressmen have predictably angered Beijing.

•Meanwhile, frictions between the two neighbours have also increased. Taipei has alleged that the recent mayoral elections were marred by Beijing’s meddling, with money funnelled illegally to fund opposition campaigns. Business corporations have come under pressure to take down references to Taiwan as a separate entity. Beijing is believed to be applying overt and covert pressure to stop countries from according diplomatic recognition to Taipei. In an echo of China’s increasing economic clout among developing countries, a number of African and Central American states have withdrawn formal ties with Taipei and established links with Beijing since Ms. Tsai became President. In a referendum coinciding with the polls, the people rejected a proposal to rename the country’s Olympic team as Taiwan, instead of the current Chinese Taipei. The verdict is an indication of the limited support for independence and a greater preference to maintain the status quo. Taiwan stands to gain by staying clear of big power rivalries.

πŸ“° Colombo’s perceptions

India encounters a range of reactions in Sri Lanka: appreciation, support, suspicion and opposition

•There are no winners in the political crisis in Sri Lanka. President Maithripala Sirisena, whose actions triggered the crisis, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who as Prime Minister lost two confidence votes, and Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Prime Minister who enjoys majority support in Parliament, are locked in a draw.

A ringside view

•Against this backdrop, what are the perceptions among the main political actors, which impact Sri Lanka-India relations? A delegation of eminent Indian scholars, former civil servants and a retired navy chief, led by Lalit Mansingh, former Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Kalinga Lanka Foundation (KLF), was in Colombo last month. The delegation’s candid discussions with four leading think tanks and numerous key players on different sides of the political divide provided a ringside view of the situation.

•Cutting across party lines, a clear bipartisan consensus emerged about Sri Lanka’s continuing need to nurture a positive engagement with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives to improve the relationship evoked appreciation. But given the asymmetries in size and power, Sri Lanka finds itself overwhelmed by India’s presence. Hence, resisting India’s overtures for closer cooperation may be seen as part of Sri Lanka’s assertion of its independent identity.

•From the Sri Lankan perspective, cultivating China as a counter to India makes strategic sense. The country needs huge capital for its development. China seems to be the only source willing to provide it, albeit on increasingly tougher terms. Many Sri Lankan intellectuals and policymakers reject the notion of a Chinese ‘debt trap’ and criticism of the 99-year lease given to China for Hambantota Port as ‘neo-colonial’. They argue that they would accept Chinese money, but refuse to embrace China’s presence. Rather unconvincingly, they claim expertise in knowing and dealing with China.

•On India-China rivalry, pro-Rajapaksa interlocutors sought a balance in Sri Lanka’s ties with the two Asian powers. A strong, though unrealistic, plea was made suggesting that China-Sri Lanka relations should not be seen from the narrow prism of the complex relations between India and China. They advanced two additional arguments: one, for most projects Colombo had approached India initially and turned to China only later; two, ‘China delivers, while Indian bureaucracy delays’ was a constant refrain.

•It appears Sri Lanka may be turning away from its identity as a South Asian nation to assert its role as an Indian Ocean country, imbued with an ambition to connect better with ASEAN and Japan. Discontent over the impasse in SAARC and challenges in strengthening the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation are behind this shift. Economic opportunities that could result from better international maritime connectivity and the potential of the blue economy are other motivations. Concerning the Indian Ocean, Colombo clamours for India’s collaboration in its efforts to turn the region into one of peace and harmony. Some express support for reviving the trilateral maritime cooperation among India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Others believe that India and China must cooperate for the region’s benefit.

Economic issues

•On economic cooperation with India, Mr. Wikremesinghe has been more upbeat than the President or Mr. Rajapaksa. In retrospect, one of the triggers for the crisis was his insistence to move ahead with projects identified in the MoU signed with India in April 2017 that had Mr. Sirisena’s opposition. Mr. Wikremesinghe, on a recent visit to Delhi, sought to transfer Mr. Modi’s concern over delays in project implementation to Mr. Sirisena. Besides, Mr. Wikremesinghe’s apparent refusal to take seriously Mr. Sirisena’s anxiety over reports of an attempt on his life brought the two to the breaking point.

•The KLF delegation heard how the Sri Lankan industry feared being flooded by Indian goods and professionals. The Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement is yet to reach finalisation. Assessment in Colombo is that Indian investors prefer to invest at home; hence Sri Lanka’s push to attract new investments from Southeast Asia and beyond. The point, however, is that all investors will be risk-averse when the country is unstable and politically fractured. The Sri Lankan Tamil view continues to be supportive of a proactive policy stance by India.

•India encounters a range of reactions in Sri Lanka: appreciation, support, suspicion and opposition. Indian diplomacy plays on a sticky wicket. New Delhi is committed to refraining from interference in a neighbour’s internal affairs, but it will always defend its vital interests. While being fair to all sides, it is closely monitoring the unfolding crisis.

πŸ“° Centre may bring back curbs in Andamans

The Restricted Area Permit regime was lifted this August from 29 islands, including North Sentinel, to promote tourism

•The Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Nand Kumar Sai, has said the Centre may like to revisit its decision to lift the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) system from 29 islands of Andaman and Nicobar, after the death of U.S. citizen John Allen Chau.

•Mr. Sai, who is leading a delegation of the Commission to the islands, told The Hindu that the lifting of the regime proved problematic and the decision had “many pros and cons that needed to be re-looked”.

•“I feel that the government should rethink its decision to open these 29 islands to foreigners as the presence of the Sentinelese and their desire to avoid [contacts with] outsiders demonstrate that these are sensitive zones,” he said.

•However, the death of John Allen Chau could not be linked to the withdrawal of the regime. “The Commission will deliberate upon the issue once we return to Delhi and finalise our report on the incident.”

•To develop tourism, the RAP regime, in place since 1963, was lifted around August this year from 29 islands, including the North Sentinel (where Chau was reportedly killed). Though the regime was withdrawn, a tourist is required to take permission from the Forest Department and the local administration as it is protected under two other Acts.

•Mr. Sai said there might have been some carelessness in tracking the movements of Chau. “We have spoken to senior members of the administration, including Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Admiral (retired) D.K. Joshi,” he said.

•“It is good that the administration is persisting in its efforts to recover Chau’s body; it should be done without further disturbing the Sentinelese,” he said.

•“We also met representatives of NGOs working here, including those of the VHP and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (affiliated to the RSS)...,” he said.

•“Our visits to the Nicobar islands have revealed that there has been much conversion activity by Christian missionaries, and our view is that further contact with tribal groups that have various degrees of exposure to other societies should be on their own terms, and nothing should be forced upon them,” he said.

πŸ“° 'India third largest contributor to carbon emission'

'India third largest contributor to carbon emission'
India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.

•Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.

•India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017. The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use, according to the study that was published simultaneously Wednesday in several leading scientific journals.

•This week, representatives from more than 190 countries have begun discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, on ways to equitably cut carbon emissions.

Second year in a row

•CO2 emissions have now risen for a second year, the study’s authors say, after three years of little to no growth from 2014 to 2016. The rise in 2017 was 1.6%.

•The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third. China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.

•Emissions in the U.S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline.

•Lead researcher Corinne Le QuΓ©rΓ©, Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at UEA, said in a statement: “We are seeing a strong growth of global CO2 emissions once again. Emissions need to peak and rapidly decrease to address climate change. With this year’s growth in emissions, it looks like the peak is not yet in sight.”

•Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.

•Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues, the study’s authors.

πŸ“° ‘Big bird’ to push high-speed data era

GSAT-11, launched from Guiana, will take satellite-based internet to remote areas

•India’s first six-tonne-class ‘big bird’ in space, advanced communication satellite GSAT-11, was put into orbit in the early hours of Wednesday from the European spaceport in Guiana in South America.

•Its mission is to enable high-speed satellite-based Internet services to users in rural, remote areas and to businesses down home over the next 15 years.

•The heaviest ever to be built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the 5,854-kg satellite was launched from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou at 2.07 a.m. IST on Wednesday, December 5. The local time at the launch centre was 5.37 p.m on December 4.

•The satellite and the launch fee have cost ISRO ₹1,200 crore.

•The liftoff of GSAT-11 and a South Korean co-passenger satellite on European space vehicle Ariane 5 VA246 was watched and cheered by ISRO Chairman K. Sivan.

•In his post-launch remarks, Dr. Sivan said, “It will meet most of the requirements of providing broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible village panchayats under Bharat Net which is part of the Digital India initiative.”

•Launched in October 2011, Bharat Net (earlier called the National Optical Fibre Network) aims to provide 2.5 lakh village panchayats with e-banking, e-education, e-health and e-governance among others through reliable broadband connectivity.

•This, along with GSAT-29 and GSAT-19, smaller satellites already launched from within India, will herald a new era of satellite-driven reliable high-throughput data services. Villages, remote locations and VSAT operators who drive private and public sector data services will be the main gainers.

•Enabling in-flight Internet and village web services are the government’s other goals: the latter promises to bridge the urban-rural digital divides

•GSAT-11 carries eight transponders for the first time in the complex and efficient Ka frequency band; and 38 transponders in the Ku band. The Ka band enables smart coverage of places with multiple and reusable spot beams.

πŸ“° A valid pause: on RBI holding rates

While holding rates, the RBI has wisely stuck to its policy stance of ‘calibrated tightening’

•The Reserve Bank of India’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged, given easing inflation and the slowdown in economic momentum, was both expected and reasonable. In fact, the RBI was prompted to sharply lower its projection for price gains after an unexpected softening in food inflation and a collapse in oil prices in a surprisingly short span of time — the price of India’s crude basket tumbled almost 30% to below $60 by end-November from $85 in early October. The monetary policy committee (MPC) now estimates retail inflation in the second half of the fiscal year to slow to 2.7%-3.2%, at least 120 basis points lower than its October forecast of 3.9%-4.5%. And it foresees the softness in prices enduring through the April-September half of next year, when headline inflation is projected to hover around its medium-term target of 4% and register in a 3.8%-4.2% range. The MPC’s decision to stand pat on rates must also have been bolstered by the findings in the RBI’s November survey of households’ inflation expectations: the outlook for price gains, three months ahead, softened by 40 basis points from September. On growth, the monetary authority has largely stuck with its prognosis from October, while flagging both external and domestic risks to momentum as well as the likely sources of tailwinds. Among the positives cited, beyond a likely boost to consumption demand and corporate earnings from softer fuel costs, are two key data points from the RBI’s own surveys. Capacity utilisation rose to 76.1% in Q2, higher than the long-term average of 74.9%. Also, industrial firms reported an improvement in the demand outlook for Q4. Still, the forecast for full-year GDP growth has been retained at 7.4%, on the back of an expected 7.2%-7.3% second-half expansion, with the risks weighted to the downside.

•Interestingly, and justifiably so, the RBI has opted to keep the powder dry by sticking to its policy stance of ‘calibrated tightening’. Given that its primary remit is to achieve and preserve price stability, the central bank is wary of the uncertainties that cloud the inflation horizon. For one, with the prices of several food items at “unusually low levels”, the RBI reckons there is the clear and present danger of a sudden reversal, especially in prices of volatile perishable items. Also, the medium-term outlook for crude oil is still quite hazy, with the possibility of a flare-up in geopolitical tensions and any decision by OPEC both likely to impact supplies. Buttressing this reasoning, households’ one-year-ahead inflation expectations remain elevated and unchanged from September. Most significantly, the central bank has once again raised a cautionary signal to governments, both at the Centre and in the States. Fiscal slippages risk impacting the inflation outlook, heightening market volatility and crowding out private investment. Instead, this may be an opportune time to bolster macroeconomic fundamentals through fiscal prudence.

πŸ“° Flying into losses

What is the crisis?

•The three main publicly listed airlines in the country — IndiGo, SpiceJet and Jet Airways — slipped from profitability to steep losses in the first nine months of the current calendar year. These airlines together account for 70% of the domestic market share.

Why are they in trouble?

•With crude oil prices having risen over the past year and a half, the cost of Aviation Turbine Fuel saw a 40% rise. Fuel accounts for the biggest expenditure for an airline — anywhere between 30 and 40% of the total expenditure incurred. At the same time, the rupee has seen a consistent fall and even breached 74 to a dollar in early October, though it has stabilised to a degree now. This meant that fuel costs apart, airlines were spending more on payments made in foreign currency for engine lease rentals, and maintenance and purchase of spare parts. Despite this rise in operational costs, the airlines have been unable to raise fares because of stiff competition among them. In fact, the lean months of July, August and September saw carriers wooing passengers with attractive offers in an attempt to fill up seats, as is the norm during this season every year.

•As a result, by the end of September, market-leader IndiGo posted a loss of ₹6,52.1 crore — its first loss since being listed. The airline saw a nearly 60% rise in its expenses to ₹7,502.2 crore compared to the previous year. Of this, fuel expenses at ₹3,035.4 crore accounted for an almost 50% increase and the remainder was because of rupee depreciation and an inability to raise fares. Importantly, the cost incurred on fuel in the second quarter was double that in the same period last year.

•To make matters worse, as airlines embark on a massive fleet expansion, there are more seats to fill than ever before, as many of these airplanes are pressed into service on the already popular routes. All domestic airlines have among them more than 570 airplanes as of now. IndiGo alone has climbed up from 77 aircraft in March 2014 to 198 until December 2018, growing 2.5 times in the past four years. A third of this capacity addition by IndiGo happened during the current calendar year. Altogether, domestic airlines will be adding over 1,000 planes in the next seven-eight years.

What does it mean for passengers?

•An airline shutting down could impact connectivity and compress capacity on important routes and drive up airfares. Air travel is no more a luxury, but a necessity, and impacts the economy. So, possible airline failures will impact the public directly and indirectly.

•However, experts say that an airline closing down is unlikely, though there could be a merger or a consolidation.

What lies ahead?

•Short-term cyclical issues are unlikely to impact the long-term strategic outlook. India is the aviation market of the 21st century and experts see a profitable future for most Indian carriers, if infrastructure, policy and regulatory framework improve. According to the International Air Transport Association, the global aviation body, India will be the third biggest aviation market by 2024 after China and the U.S.

πŸ“° World's first baby born via womb transplanted from dead donor

The baby girl was born in Brazil via c-section and weighed 2.55 kg

•A woman in Brazil who received a womb transplanted from a deceased donor has given birth to a baby girl in the first successful case of its kind, doctors reported.

•The case, published in The Lancet medical journal, involved connecting veins from the donor uterus with the recipient's veins, as well as linking arteries, ligaments and vaginal canals.

•It comes after 10 previously known cases of uterus transplants from deceased donors — in the United States, the Czech Republic and Turkey — failed to produce a live birth.

•The girl born in the Brazilian case was delivered via caesarean section at 35 weeks and three days, and weighed 2,550 grams, the case study said.

Refined and optimised technique

•Dani Ejzenberg, a doctor at Brazil's Sao Paulo University hospital who led the research, said the transplant — carried out in September 2016 when the recipient was 32 — shows the technique is feasible and could offer women with uterine infertility access to a larger pool of potential donors.

•The current norm for receiving a womb transplant is that the organ would come from a live family member willing to donate it.

•“The numbers of people willing and committed to donate organs upon their own deaths are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population,” Ejzenberg said in a statement about the results.

•She added, however, that the outcomes and effects of womb donations from live and deceased donors have yet to be compared, and said the technique could still be refined and optimised.

Uterine problems

•The first baby born after a live donor womb transplant was in Sweden in 2013. Scientists have so far reported a total of 39 procedures of this kind, resulting in 11 live births. Experts estimate that infertility affects around 10 to 15 percent of couples of reproductive age worldwide. Of this group, around one in 500 women have uterine problems.

•Before uterus transplants became possible, the only options to have a child were adoption or surrogacy.

•In the Brazilian case, the recipient had been born without a uterus due to a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-KΕΆster-Hauser syndrome. The donor was 45 and died of a stroke.

•Five months after the transplant, Ejzenberg's team wrote, the uterus showed no signs of rejection, ultrasound scans were normal, and the recipient was having regular menstruation. The woman's previously fertilised and frozen eggs were implanted after seven months and 10 days later she was confirmed pregnant.

•At seven months and 20 days — when the case study report was submitted to The Lancet — the baby girl was continuing to breastfeed and weighed 7.2 kg