The HINDU Notes – 24th December 2018 - VISION

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Monday, December 24, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 24th December 2018

πŸ“° When Gandhi’s statue is removed in Ghana

It is a reminder of his subsequent evolution, and India’s changed place in the world today

•In two blockbuster movies, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani gave us the simplistic but comforting and ‘feel good’ strategies of ‘Jadu ki Jhappi’ and ‘Gandhigiri’. The first stratagem must have inspired Congress president Rahul Gandhi to walk across to the treasury benches in the Lok Sabha and hug an astonished Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The second philosophy for our times was trotted out by a charming underworld don, played by Sanjay Dutt, trying desperately to woo a radio jockey Janhavi, played by Vidya Balan, in Lage Raho Munna Bhai.

Squaring with Gandhism

•Inviting him to a senior citizens’ home, she asks him to demonstrate his purported mastery of Gandhian thought. His muse, the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, comes to his rescue, and Munna Bhai spouts a piece of wisdom we would do well to recollect, given the prolific production and demolition of statues today. Gandhi would have said, remarks our attractive don, remove my photographs from public places, rename roads that bear my name, and take off my statues from their pedestals. Just remember what I had to say about how we ought to live together.

•We remember Gandhi’s concern with the liberation of Indians from colonial rule, as well as from the dark underside of our own personalities. We also remember that he failed to engage with the plight of Africans in a colonised South Africa, where he lived for 21 years. We know that he used disparaging language for Africans. For these and related reasons his statue was brought down by academics and students at the University of Ghana, Accra earlier this month. The act may be reversed, but it prompts a rethink. We have to recognise the flaws in Gandhi’s approach to Africa the way we recognise the Eurocentrism of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the great 19th century German philosopher.

•Accepting that philosophy, religion and art took root in the Orient — Persia, China, Egypt and India — Hegel suggested that India, like China, is a phenomenon which is antique as well as modern: “It has always been the land of imaginative aspiration and appears to us still as a fairy region, an enchanted world. In contrast with the Chinese state, which presents only the most prosaic understanding, India is the region of phantasy and sensibility.” However, after explorers, missionaries, traders and commercial companies conquered India, and the exotic became the known and the mundane, continued Hegel in a series of lectures on the ‘philosophy of history’, it became clear that India had nothing to offer the world. He said India cannot teach the West; its tradition is a matter of the past; it has never reached the level of philosophy and science which is a genuinely and uniquely European achievement. The history of philosophy in India, concluded Hegel, is but the pre-history of Europe: India is stagnant, ripe for conquest.

•Hegel’s views on India are of some significance because philosophy departments established in Indian universities in the 19th century were heavily influenced by Hegelian and Kantian intellectual traditions. These departments trained students who went on to become leaders of the freedom struggle. One of the recurrent themes in nationalist self-representation is the greatness of ancient India and consequent decline. Shades of Eurocentrism continue to shape perceptions of who we are, where we have come from, and how we can recover greatness. Hegel’s philosophy was flawed, he was a product of the age of colonialism.

Africa, then and now

•Whereas the questions political philosophy asks of the human condition (for example, liberation) are eternal, the answers offered by political thinkers are bound by reasons of time and space. We have to locate a body of thought in its political and intellectual context. We can hardly judge thinkers by current standards — that is unfair. Gandhi’s thought and attitude were also the product of his age, and as imperfect as our past and current philosophies are. Still, right-thinking Indians should reflect on whether we need to apologise to our African colleagues for the mistakes that Gandhi made a century ago.

•There is, however, some reason for puzzlement. The Indian government surely knew that African thinkers and scholars were angry with Gandhi, and of the resentment his words had evoked. Why did the then President, Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurate the installation of the statue in the University of Ghana, Accra campus in June 2016? Soon after, in September, academics at the university launched a petition that the statue should be removed. They cited two reasons: one, Gandhi was racist; and two, the government of Ghana should privilege African heroes and heroines over foreigners.

In Tripura

•The present holders of political power in India should be able to comprehend the impact of the latter part of the statement — they are the original expounders of a narrow nationalism. In March 2018, two statues of the leader of the mammoth struggle against Tsarist Russia, Vladimir Lenin, were brought down in Tripura by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that had swept to power in the State. A Lenin statue at the College Square in Belonia was ripped up, and razed to the ground with the help of a bulldozer. This was followed by the uprooting of another Lenin statue in Sabroom by a mob. The demolition of Lenin’s statues was justified by BJP leaders on the ground that he was not an Indian, never mind that the man had led a massive struggle of the poor and the oppressed against imperial Russia and established a worker’s state. It degenerated just like states established by right-wing forces have deteriorated. But there is no denying the genius of a man who could inspire millions of people to raise their heads and speak back to oppression.

•Lenin’s and Gandhi’s thought will continue to inspire the poor and the marginalised whether or not there are statues in their name, as our Munna Bhai suggested. The setting up of a statue is, after all, more an assertion of the petty vanities of people in power, than homage to the person whose statue it is.

A rejection of India?

•However, in Ghana something else is going on. This was clear in the petition drafted by academics at the University of Ghana. They not only rejected Gandhi, they rejected India. The petition, which was signed by more than 2,000 people, stated that it is better to stand up for African dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian superpower. There was a time when India under Jawaharlal Nehru had stood for the rights of all people in the postcolonial world. Today the Government of India has made it clear that it is interested in little but acquiring profits through trade, and in securing acres of land for Indian industrialists in countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. When it comes to racism, Indians, regrettably, are second to none. It is these factors that arouse affront and ire in the African mind. India has lost out on solidarity, it is now seen as a state interested only in gleaning profit from other countries with whom it shares a notorious history of colonialism. Can the Indian government refrain from rubbing salt into the wound inflicted by our shared history of colonialism and exploitation? Can we show some solidarity with, and some sensitivity towards our African co-travellers in the path from colonialism to mature democracy?

πŸ“° What is altruistic surrogacy?

India has to be wary of the kind of exploitation it is fostering 

•What is an altruistic surrogacy arrangement? According to the new Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, approved by the Lok Sabha last week, it includes contracting a ‘close relative’ as a surrogate by a heterosexual married couple who have been childless for five years of their marriage. This line, in gist, separates altruism from the commercial tinge that surrogacy carries with it.

•How is an act of selflessness translated into thinking about a pregnancy that is aimed towards relinquishing the child to a close relative? In the U.K., laws on surrogacy allow only altruistic arrangements where the surrogate can be paid only ‘reasonable expenses’. The fluidity in defining reasonable expenses means that this should ideally include payment for medical treatment, and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) but may include other ‘expenses’. In most of Australia, altruistic surrogacy entails restricted — in different parts of the world, varying levels of legal restrictions, or complete bans are practised — pre-approved payments to the surrogate, including for diet during the pregnancy, and/or for the medical treatment. However, altruism also entails the provision that the surrogate is the legal mother of the child, which can be transferred to the parents through a legal process, including adoption. In many countries in Europe, the act of gestation defines motherhood, even though the egg used for the pregnancy through IVF may belong to the couple entering the arrangement.

Role of the surrogate

•As per the new Surrogacy Bill, the surrogate in India continues to fulfil her role as a gestate. In keeping with the insistence on gestational surrogacy, which makes the use of IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies mandatory, the current Bill is faithful to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010. The latter has governed the practice of surrogacy till the Surrogacy Bill of 2016 banning commercial surrogacy comes into effect. Motherhood did not belong to the surrogate; she was trained to think of herself as a gestate, as research by Amrita Pande suggests, and the relinquishment of the child was an absolutely essential clause within the draft bills on commercial surrogacy, and in practice in the surrogacy contract.

•The commercial surrogacy arrangement in India was an exchange of money for services: and yet, clinics and surrogacy agents went to great lengths to transform the commercial element of the surrogacy arrangement, primarily identified as the surrogate’s fees, into gift-giving, and sacrifice. That motherhood could be for sale is a matter of distress and shock.

•In that sense, altruistic surrogacy is not very different from its opposite commercial variant. Unlike the U.K., altruism in India is being defined through the tie of kinship, not through the exchange of payment for ‘services rendered’. Here, kinship and family hide the commercial element entailed in seeking a surrogate from among close relatives. Thus, much of the criticism against the Surrogacy Bill in Parliament points toward the lack of definition that the category of the ‘close relative’ carries.

A parallel

•Let’s look at the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA), 1994, as a parallel to the conversation on altruism and its linkages with commercial surrogacy. The Act prescribes that organ donors are allowed to donate their organs before death only to ‘near relatives’. Donating organs to ‘strangers’ or not near relatives before death is not allowed, and may be approved of only through the authorisation committee. The category of the ‘near relative’ appears again in a similar vein to the ‘close relative’. But unlike the Surrogacy Bill, the THOA identifies ‘near relatives’ as ‘spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister’. It’s a closed group of relatives — within the structure of the nuclear family unit — members who may not be eligible to be surrogates, unfortunately.

•In my research, IVF specialists found the mother and sister of the infertile woman to be perfect as gestational carriers. In 2004, in Gujarat, Nayana Patel, who later became famous for her surrogacy clinic in Anand, facilitated the surrogate pregnancy of a 43-year-old woman seeking to help her childless daughter and son-in-law to have a child of their own. Yet, the women belonging to the father-to-be’s family, such as his sister and mother as surrogates, carried associations with incest (even though gestational surrogacy is facilitated through technological interventions).

Word of caution

•By banning commercial surrogacy in favour of its altruistic avatar, the identification of ‘close relatives’ will take on a murky turn. Just like in the case of organ donation, wherein ‘strangers’ were dressed up as ‘near relatives’, in altruistic surrogacy too, similar negotiations may be entered into. In an overtly patriarchal society, women are always at the receiving end of ostracism and exploitation. In facilitating altruistic surrogacy among close kin, we have to be wary of the kind of exploitation we are fostering.

•Despite exempting gay couples, single men and women, and live-in couples from seeking surrogacy, not clearly defining the regulative mechanisms within altruistic surrogacy, and the very regressive approval for couples with differently-abled children to opt for surrogacy, the Bill does seek certain important changes. The push towards adoption is very welcome, as is the waiting period of five years. The popularity of IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies stems from a problematic conceptualisation of infertility itself, pushing couples to opt for invasive intervention within a year of unprotected coitus. Of importance now is to go back to understanding why and how the desire for children is socially mediated to help couples seeking surrogates, and vice versa.

πŸ“° Magistrate can’t order FIR on private complaint: SC

‘Executive Magistrate has no power under the Cr.PC

•An executive magistrate has no power under the Code of Criminal Procedure to direct the police to register an FIR on a private complaint filed before him, the Supreme Court has ruled.

•The recent judgment from a Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Navin Sinha concerned a direction passed by the Unnao Sub-Divisional Magistrate to file an FIR on a private complaint from a student who alleged that she was cheated into taking admission to a three-year law course at an unrecognised institute. The police filed a case of cheating and misrepresentation against the institute management. After the Allahabad High Court refused to quash the FIR, the institute managers moved the Supreme Court.

•“It is apparent that in the scheme of the Code, an Executive Magistrate has no role to play in directing the police to register an FIR on basis of a private complaint filed before him,” observed Justice Sinha, who wrote the judgment.

•“If a complaint is filed before the Executive Magistrate regarding an issue over which he has administrative jurisdiction and the Magistrate proceeds to hold an administrative inquiry, it may be possible for him to file an FIR himself... In such a case, entirely different considerations would arise,” the court said.

•However, in the present case, a reading of the FIR showed that the police registered the FIR on the direction of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, which was “clearly impermissible in the law,” the court said.

•“The Sub-Divisional Magistrate does not exercise powers under Section 156(3) of the Code. The very institution of the FIR in the manner done is contrary to the law and without jurisdiction,” it said.

•The Bench said it was up to the complainant to lodge her grievance with the jurisdictional magistrate under Section 200 of the Cr.PC.

πŸ“° Volcano-triggered tsunami toll climbs to 222 in Indonesia

Volcano-triggered tsunami toll climbs to 222 in Indonesia
Volcano Anak Krakatau erupts, triggering underwater landslide; Indonesian Vice-President says death toll likely to increase; Hundreds of buildings heavily damaged; Tsunami sweeps band members from stage; Disaster 14 years after Boxing Day tsunami killed 230,000.

•A tsunami killed at least 222 people and injured hundreds on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra following an underwater landslide believed caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano, officials and media said on Sunday.

•Hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” when the tsunami struck, almost without warning, along the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said.

•Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate to higher ground. By 10.40 a.m. GMT, the disaster agency had raised the death toll to 222 from 168, with 843 injured and 28 missing.

•TV images showed the seconds when the tsunami hit the beach and residential areas in Pandeglang on Java island, dragging with it victims, debris, and large chunks of wood and metal.

•Coastal residents reported not seeing or feeling any warning signs, such as receding water or an earthquake, before waves of 2-3 metres (6-10 feet) washed ashore, according to media.

•Authorities said a warning siren went off in some areas.

•The timing of the tsunami, over the Christmas holiday season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Dec. 26 in 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

•ΕŠystein Lund Andersen, a Norwegian holidaymaker, was in Anyer town with his family when Saturday's tsunami struck.

•“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20 metres inland. Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it,” he said on Facebook. “Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground through forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of by the locals.”

Evacuation warning

•Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches and a high-tide warning remained in place through until Dec. 25.

•“Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet,” said Rahmat Triyono, an official at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

•President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, said on Twitter that he had “ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims and care for the injured”.

•Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference the death toll would “likely increase”.

•Saturday's tsunami was the latest in a series of tragedies that have struck Indonesia, a vast archipelago, this year.

•Successive earthquakes flattened parts of the tourist island of Lombok, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed thousands on Sulawesi island. Nearly 200 people died when a Lion Air passenger plane crashed into the Java Sea in October.

•Rescue workers and ambulances were finding it difficult to reach affected areas because some roads were blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees.

•The western coast of Banten province in Java was the worst-hit area, Nugroho told reporters in Yogyakarta. He said at least 35 people were reported dead in Lampung in southern Sumatra.

•The waves washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing in Tanjung Lesung in Banten province, a popular tourist getaway not far from the capital, Jakarta, killing at least one musician. Others were missing.

•Around 250 employees of the state utility company PLN had gathered in Tanjung Lesung for an end-of-year event, company spokesman I Made Suprateka told Reuters. At least seven people were killed, and around 89 are missing, he said.

•Dramatic TV footage showed the seconds when the tsunami hit a concert at the event and washed away the stage where the band, Seventeen, was performing.

"Washed away"

•“The water washed away the stage which was located very close to the sea,” the band said in a statement. “The water rose and dragged away everyone at the location. We have lost loved ones, including our bassist and manager ... and others are missing.”

•Police officers rescued a young boy who was trapped in a car buried under fallen trees and rubble, according to a video of his rescue posted on Twitter by the Indonesian National Police, who did not give any information as to the boys identity.

•Officials were trying to determine the exact cause of the disaster.

•Anak Krakatau, an active volcano roughly halfway between Java and Sumatra, has been spewing ash and lava for months. It erupted again just after 9 p.m. on Saturday and the tsunami struck at around 9.30 p.m., according to BMKG.

•The tsunami was caused by “an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau” and was exacerbated by abnormally high tide because of the full moon, Nugroho said.

•Ben van der Pluijm, an earthquake geologist and a professor in the University of Michigan, said the tsunami may have been caused by a “partial collapse” of Anak Krakatau.

•“Instability of the slope of an active volcano can create a rock slide that moves a large volume of water, creating local tsunami waves that can be very powerful. This is like suddenly dropping a bag of sand in a tub filled with water,” he said.

•The eruption of Krakatau, previously known as Krakatoa, in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis.

•Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area once occupied by Krakatau, which was destroyed in 1883. It first appeared in 1927 and has been growing ever since.

•Neighbouring Malaysia and Australia both said they were ready to provide assistance if needed.

•Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and home to 260 million people, lies along the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas of the disaster-prone country, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

•In September, more than 2,500 people were killed by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, east of Borneo.

•Saturday’s tsunami also rekindled memories of the massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake that hit Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004. It spawned a giant tsunami off Sumatra island, killing more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries the majority in Indonesia.

πŸ“° No rise in working women despite high literacy levels: ICRIER study

No rise in working women despite high literacy levels: ICRIER study
Study cites combination of socio-economic factors such as marital prospects.

•A rise in literacy levels among women has failed to translate into an increase in the number of working women due to a combination of socio-economic factors such as the importance of education for improving marital prospects as well as higher prestige attached to households which keep women out of labour force, according to a new research.

•A study authored by Surbhi Ghai and published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has cited the Labour Bureau’s employment figures to show that there is a rise in the percentage of women out of labour force between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016 across all levels of education and age-cohorts.

•For example, the age cohort 30 years and above shows that the percentage of women with graduate degrees and above who are not in the labour force has increased from 62.7% to 65.2%. At the same time, the percentage of illiterate women out of the labour force too increased from 67.6% to 70.1%. The author says that this is an indicator that despite one’s educational attainment there has been a decline in the incentive for women to participate in the labour force.

•This has happened even though there is gender parity in attainment of education. The gross enrolment ratio shows that there are equal numbers of boys and girls at secondary level and women remain in education longer.

Four factors

•The research paper attributes the trend to four major factors: the role education plays in marriage markets, social norms, poor condition for educated women and quality of education.

•The author argues that for many the incentive behind ensuring better education for their daughters is not so much the lure of a better paying job but the promise of a better marriage prospect. For instance, in 2011-2012, 60.3% of the divorced/ separated women constituting 0.4 % of the total population were working. But, only 32.5% of currently married women, at 50.5% of the total population, were in the workforce.

Social norms

•Social norms also ensure that higher prestige or social status is associated with families which keep their women out of the workforce.

•At the same time, the growth in formal sector jobs has not kept pace with the supply of educated women, which may have led to “crowding out of females” from the workforce.

Behavioural changes

•The research study recommends that government policies should focus on behavioural changes that make female employment more acceptable in the society, communication programmes on gender equality in secondary education to help students imbibe equitable gender norms as well as programmes that acknowledge child care as the responsibility of both parents.

πŸ“° Capital idea? on banks recapitalisation plan

The banks recapitalisation plan is per se not bad but funds must be distributed prudently

•With just months to go for the general election, the government looks all set to open the credit taps of the economy. The Centre has sought Parliament’s approval to infuse an additional ₹41,000 crore into public sector banks that are starved of precious capital to remain afloat. Along with another ₹42,000 crore that is already budgeted for infusion, this tranche will take the total planned funds infusion into banks this year to ₹83,000 crore. More important, the infusion will help banks boost lending and stimulate economic activity going into an election year. In fact, the latest fund infusion is aimed, among other things, to help a number of public sector banks to climb out of the Reserve Bank of India’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework. As many as 11 public sector banks have been stopped from lending freely by the RBI under the PCA framework due to their poor financial health. It is important that the additional capital is not wasted on banks that have not shown any improvement but rather used to support the weak ones that are on the recovery path. The government has said that PCA banks which have shown better performance in terms of reduction in NPAs and improvement in return of assets will be given priority. The proof will come when the allocations to individual banks are announced.

•There have been reports that four banks under the PCA — Allahabad Bank, Bank of India, Corporation Bank and Bank of Maharashtra — will soon be out of the restrictive framework. This is following a review by the Board for Financial Supervision of the RBI, which went over the financials of all the banks under the framework. While Corporation Bank and Bank of Maharashtra have shown a semblance of improvement in their asset quality and registered a profit in the September quarter, the other two are not over the hump yet. The government is obviously keen to free up the banks from restrictions on lending. But it flies counter to the RBI’s basic objective in keeping these banks under the PCA framework, which is to nurse them back to good health. In its eagerness to achieve its political objectives, the government should not end up pushing good money after bad by apportioning extra capital to these weak banks instead of supporting the ones that are on the recovery path. There are enough headaches for banks to handle in the form of the waiver of agriculture loans and the rising share of loans to small businesses, which are risky. While the idea of infusing more money into banks is not bad per se, given that they are grappling with inadequate capital, a lot depends on how and to which banks this money is distributed. This is where the government has to exercise prudence and caution.

πŸ“° India needs to open up dredging market: NITI

‘Country can’t handle big vessels sans proper draft depth’

•India needs to open up its dredging market to boost trade by its major ports, which currently cannot handle very large vessels in the absence of proper draft depth, government think tank NITI Aayog has said.

•More competition, mainly from global players, in dredging activities would help increase and maintain draft depth at ports and attract large vessels, enabling them to become hub ports, the Aayog pointed out.

•At present, the Dredging Corporation of India and a limited set of private vendors serve the Indian dredging market, limiting competition. “The government needs to open up the dredging market to attract more players, particularly international players, in dredging activities to increase and maintain draft depth at ports to attract large vessels and enable them to become hub ports,” it said.

•Foreign players will be attracted to the market if the government takes measures such as consolidating dredging contracts across cohorts of ports and withdrawing, at least temporarily, the right to first refusal given to Indian vendors, the Aayog said.

‘Action plan made’

•To enable major ports to handle large vessels, the government has already made an action plan to increase the draft depth of ports.

•Most major ports have already achieved a draft depth of 14 metres or more except Kolkata Port, where deeper draft has not been feasible.