The HINDU Notes – 04th January 2019 - VISION

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Friday, January 04, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 04th January 2019

๐Ÿ“ฐ A case of unprincipled criminalisation

The triple talaq Bill is a classic case of an unfair legislative move with a populist agenda

•In an essay published in the Washington University Law Review (1979), Martin R. Gardner posed a significant question whether an “illicit legislative motivation” could be “a sufficient condition for unconstitutionality”. He explored this “muddled area” in the context of religious motivation under the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution and said that “the claim that religious motivation justifies invalidation is controversial and largely conjectured”. He, however, identified “significant sectarian motivation” without a “secular purpose” as a ground for invalidation of the law.

•The content of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 (Triple Talaq Bill) clearly reflects a sectarian overtone that even attempted to mislead the public by distorting the Supreme Court judgment in Shayara Bano’s case (2017). In the ‘statement of objects and reasons’ attached to the Bill, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that in spite of the Supreme Court setting aside the practice of talaq-e-biddat in Shayara Bano, there have been reports of divorce by way of such means. He described the Bill as an instance of “state action to give effect to the order of the Supreme Court and to redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce”. He also lamented that the Supreme Court verdict “has not worked as any deterrent in bringing down the number of divorces by this practice among certain Muslims”.

Disproportionate punishment

•The Bill is a classic case of an unfair and deceptive legislative move with a populist agenda, which in a country like India should call for a novel and effective judicial scrutiny. First of all, in the emblematic judgment in Shayara Bano the majority on the Bench had invalidated the practice by terming it as unconstitutional. The simple and plain effect of the verdict is that the pronouncement of triple talaq is a nullity having no legal effect at all on a subsisting marriage, and despite the husband’s gesture, the matrimonial bond would remain intact, without being dissolved, in the eye of the law. Therefore, the Bill proposes to criminalise an act which is non est in the eye of the law. The disproportionate punishment of imprisonment for three years for a civil wrong without even a civil consequence due to the Supreme Court’s judgment is antithetical to the very idea of principled criminalisation. Paradoxically, it was in 2018 that the top court has ostensibly developed this concept by way of the verdicts on homosexuality (Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India) and adultery (Joseph Shine v. Union of India).

•Second, the majority verdict in Shayara Bano did not direct the government or Parliament to criminalise triple talaq or “to give effect to the order”, as implied in the Bill. There was no need to do so either, as the judgment got effectuated on its own. The judgment had no intention to create any deterrent, since the very act of triple talaq is void ab initio, according to the Supreme Court. The Bill thus tries to distort the intent and content of what the court said in Shayara Bano. An analogy between criminalisation of dowry and triple talaq does not make sense. In the case of dowry, transaction is a reality, whereas in triple talaq, after the top court holding that it is a nullity, there is no act at all in the legal sense to constitute an offence. The Bill thus assumes validity for an action which the court invalidated, and as such the very thematic premise for the Bill is artificial, erroneous and even contemptuous. The settled legal principle in India that no ill motive could be attributed to legislation would require a revisit, when politics overweighs constitutionalism.

•Third, criminalisation of triple talaq, can only motivate a “clever” husband to resort to other methods of divorce which do not fall within the ambit of the Bill or to simply desert his wife. Thus the Bill does not serve the Muslim woman’s interest.

Blow against tenets

•By trying to segregate a particular mode of divorce in a particular community and to punish the men of that community alone, the Centre is trying to shatter two fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution — equality in the eye of the law and secularism.

๐Ÿ“ฐ No plan to up judge retirement age: Law Ministry

Law Ministry responds to proposal from parliamentary panel

•The Law Ministry on Thursday said there was no proposal as of now to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 65 to 67 and of High Court judges from 62 to 65.

•The Ministry was responding to the recommendation of a Parliamentary Standing Committee that raising the retirement age of judges would help retain the existing judges, which in turn would help in reducing both vacancy and pendency of cases in short run.

•In August 2010, then Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily introduced the Constitution (114th Amendment) Bill, 2010 in the Lok Sabha.

•The Bill, which sought to increase the retirement age of High Court judges to 65, could not be taken up for consideration in Parliament and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

Panel’s concern

•The committee, in its report tabled in Parliament on Thursday, raised concern over the large number of vacancies of judges in High Courts.

•The Ministry countered that the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts is a continuous and collaborative process of the Judiciary and Executive.

•“While every effort is made to fill vacancies expeditiously, vacancies keep on arising on account of retirement, resignation or elevation of judges and increase in judge strength,” the Ministry said.

•It further stated that the time line for initiation of the proposals for filling up of vacancies is rarely adhered to by the High Courts.

•As of now, out of a total approved strength of 1,079 judges in 24 High Courts across the country, only 695 posts are filled.

•The committee headed by BJP lawmaker Bhupender Yadav was of the view that to reduce pendency of cases, the existing vacancy positions of judges need to be filled up immediately.

•As per the existing memorandum of procedure (MoP), the judge appointment proposal has to be initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court six months before the occurrence of vacancy. Within six weeks, the Chief Minister/Governor has to recommend on the proposal received from the Chief Justice.

•And within four weeks, the Chief Justice of India/SC Collegium has to recommend the proposal to the Law Ministry.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Many Swachh Bharat toilets defunct, unusable: MPs’ panel

‘Govt. failed to conduct survey to find out scope of problem, tainting ODF data and claims’

•Many toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission have already become defunct and unusable, according to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development. It slammed the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for not bothering to find out the scope of the problem, despite an earlier recommendation to conduct a survey.

•“Till the time the problem of toilets becoming dysfunctional is not tackled seriously by the Ministry, the objective of full household sanitation coverage in the entire rural areas of the country by October 2, 2019, would remain a distant dream,” said the committee in its report on the action taken by the government on earlier recommendations, which was presented to Parliament earlier this week.

Ministry claim

•In its reply, the Ministry claimed that only toilets built under previous schemes were defunct. “Dysfunctional toilets are those which were constructed under earlier rural sanitation programme, especially during Total Sanitation Campaign, with incentive of ₹500 to ₹3,200,” said the Ministry. Funds from the Finance Ministry’s Swachh Bharat Kosh, which channels private and corporate money to the mission, were being used to retrofit these defunct toilets constructed under earlier schemes, it said.

•However, the parliamentary panel made it clear that Swachh Bharat toilets were also dysfunctional.

•“To the utter dismay of the committee, it has been observed that many toilets already constructed under SBM have become defunct and non-usable due to various reasons pertaining to the quality of construction and scarcity of water. The committee was disturbed while taking cognisance of this situation and feel that for the success of this vision, the constructed toilets needs to be safe and sustainable so that they can be utilised for a long period of time,” the report said.

•The panel had recommended that the Ministry do an assessment to find out the number of such defunct toilets, and criticised the Ministry for not following the recommendation. “The Ministry reply is silent as to what action has been initiated to conduct the recommended survey for assessment of such toilets which have already become redundant and unusable,” it said.

•It had warned that the Swachh Bharat Mission’s data on open defecation was suspect as defunct toilets are being counted as functional. “The data on the SBM portal which indicates that the beneficiaries has already been provided with a toilet creates a situation wherein, if the toilets so constructed were not of good quality and become defunct within a short span of time and as such are not being used, are still counted as functional toilets,” said the report.

•“The beneficiaries are in no position to avail the re-allocation of construction of toilets and still go in the open.”

๐Ÿ“ฐ China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover lands on moon’s far side, sends back images

The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure

•China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover scripted history on January 3 when it made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon and sent back close-up images of the previously unexplored region, a giant leap for cosmic exploration and a major boost to the Communist nation’s quest to become a space superpower.

•Chang’e-4, named after a Chinese moon goddess and comprising a lander and a rover, touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the moon at 10:26 a.m. (Beijing time), China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

•The lunar explorer landed on the far side of the moon and has already sent back its first pictures from the surface, which were shared by state media. The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China’s ambitions to be a space power. The country aims to land a crewed flight on the moon in the coming decade.

•The US space agency NASA congratulated Chinese scientists on their success.

•“As part of the international science community, we look forward to learning about this rather unexplored part of our Moon exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

•The robotic spacecraft is carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region’s geology and will conduct biological experiments.

•The first-ever soft landing is being seen as a major milestone in space exploration because unlike previous moon missions that have landed on the Earth-facing side, this is the first time any craft has landed on the unexplored and rugged far side of the moon. The successful landing formally inaugurated the world’s first expedition to the far side that never faces the Earth and is expected to fulfil scientists’ long-held aspiration to closely observe the enormous region, state-run China Daily reported.

•Though the far side has been extensively photographed by spacecraft, starting with a Soviet probe in 1959, no probe had ever made a soft landing onto it. Scientists around the world have not been able to conduct close observations and surveys of the region for decades.

•The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on December 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province. It landed on the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken basin and then sent back a picture of the landing site shot by one of the monitor cameras on the probe’s lander, marking the world’s first image taken on the moon’s far side.

•The picture, published by the China National Space Administration, shows the place where Chang’e 4’s rover will be heading to roam and survey. Tidal forces on Earth slow the moon’s rotation to the point where the same side always faces Earth. The other side, most of which is never visible from Earth, is the far side of the moon.

•Direct communication with the far side of the moon, however, is not possible, which is one of the many challenges for the Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission. China launched a relay satellite, named Queqiao, in May, to set up a communication link between the Earth and Chang’e-4 lunar probe. This is the first time an attempt is made to explore the far side of the moon. Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.

•The far side of the moon is the hemisphere that never faces Earth, due to the moon’s rotation. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “dark side of the moon,” even though it receives just as much sunlight as its Earth-facing side. The Chang’e-4 mission will be a key step in revealing the moon’s mysterious side, a report by state-run Xinhua news agency said.

•The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, according to CNSA.

•Chang’e-4 mission has four scientific payloads developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia. Chang’e 4 is the fourth lunar probe launched by China since the country’s lunar programme was opened in 2004.

•Chang’e-4 includes two main parts: the main lander weighing about 2,400 pounds and a 300-pound rover. By comparison, NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars weighs about 400 pounds, and the Curiosity rover there is much bigger, at 2,000 pounds.

•The spacecraft is largely a clone of Chang’e-3, which landed on the moon in 2013. Named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese legends, the first Chang’e spacecraft was launched in 2007 to verify China’s lunar probe technology, obtain lunar images and perform scientific surveys. The Chang’e 2 followed in 2010 to carry out high-definition imaging of the moon and investigate landing conditions for the Chang’e 3. Chang’e 3 landed on the moon in 2013. Chang’e 3 released the first Chinese lunar rover, Yutu, on the moon. It worked there for around 1,000 days.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Improved Light Combat Aircraft gets green light for production

Improved Light Combat Aircraft gets green light for production
FOC tag signals that the indigenous fighter is fully equipped and fit for battle; delivery of first aircraft expected in Oct.-Nov. 2019

•On December 31, Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ quietly progressed towards manufacture in an enhanced, battle standard format.

•A new ‘limited’ clearance from military airworthiness certifier CEMILAC for the Indian fighter green-lights its production in a superior lethal version, multiple sources associated with the LCA programme confirmed.

•Hindustan Aeronautics Limted (HAL), which is mandated to produce the LCAs for the Indian Air Force (IAF), aims to get the first aircraft out in late 2019 in the just-cleared standard, its Chairman and Managing Director R. Madhavan said.

•“We have received drawings and documents related to this standard. We can now start activities such as planning, procurement of parts from vendors. We aim to deliver the first aircraft [in the cleared standard] in October or November 2019,” he said.

‘Tight lead time’

•“The lead time has become tight for us. As for the remaining aircraft, we must see how many of the 16 we can deliver by the middle of 2020,” Mr. Madhavan said.

•The LCA is being designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in Bengaluru. The IAF has asked HAL to make 40 LCA aircraft. Of this, 20 will be in the advanced ‘FOC’ (final operational clearance) format. Another 20 are in the earlier IOC (initial operational clearance) version.

•The FOC tag signals that the novice LCA is fully equipped and fit for battle. It adds many features over the IOC version, which Tejas achieved in December 2013. The IOC enabled the IAF to start flying it and in getting acquainted with its competences. Until then, only test pilots and ADA handled Tejas.

•“The latest clearance is a good development for HAL. My jigs were getting empty and we didn’t have anything to do after making the IOC-standard LCAs. We start now,” Mr. Madhavan said.

•Tejas was expected to be FOC-compliant much earlier, the last two deadlines being June-end and December-end of 2018.

•More than one source said what was given on December 31 is an interim or limited FOC; Tejas is still some distance away from being FOC standard. And that this was done to speed up production and keep HAL’s idling facilities engaged. Further improvements would follow in the ‘FOC-2’ phase.

•A higher-up in the defence set-up also confirmed the move: “It is ‘almost-full’ FOC. Very few additions [are there that] can be added later,” the person said.

•To get the final of FOC certification, the plane must have battle-time requirements — such as mid-air refuelling, AESA radar, electronic warfare suites, a variety of bombs and weapons, among others. It has passed mid-air refuelling and armament testing, while the full picture was not immediately available.

•The IAF has modified and upgraded its trainer requirement in its old package order of 40 LCA aircraft.

•It has opted to have all eight trainers in the FOC mode, instead of four each in IOC and FOC standards.

•Of the 16 fighters in the IOC version, 11 have been delivered, one is being flight tested and four are being assembled, he said.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Supreme Court revives Maggi suit against Nestle

Bench says the report on the Maggi noodles sample will form the basis for proceedings

•The Supreme Court spelt trouble for the Indian branch of the Swiss food giant Nestle on Thursday by resuscitating a ₹640-crore class-action suit filed by the government on behalf of thousands of consumers of the iconic Maggi noodles.

•The suit was filed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in August 2015 against Nestle India Limited on grounds of “unfair trade practices, sale of defective goods and sale of Maggi Oats Noodles to the public without product approval.”

•The suit was filed under Section 12(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This provision allows the Centre or a State, either in its individual capacity or as a representative of the interests of the consumers, to file a complaint in the consumer forum.

•The department claimed that Nestle was liable to pay ₹284.55 crore along with punitive damages of ₹355.4 crore for “gross negligence, apathy and callousness” on its part. Thus, the government demanded a total of ₹639.96 crore.

•On Thursday, a Bench led by Justice D.Y Chandrachud revived the suit in the NCDRC, which would hear it on the basis of a report filed by the Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute in 2016.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Child care homes don’t paint a rosy picture

Survey finds many shortcomings in their performance

•A pan-India survey of childcare institutions (CCI) conducted by the Centre has highlighted poor safety and security measures, inadequate monitoring of these facilities, and a lack of effort to trace parents of missing children sent to these homes.

•The full report of the survey titled ‘Mapping and Review Exercise of Child Care Institutions’, conducted between December 2015 and March 2017, was recently made public by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD).

•Some of the findings of this exercise were shared last year before the Supreme Court, which took suo motu cognisance of rampant child abuse at a shelter in Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

•The detailed report shows that only 46.7% of the total homes had adequate number of caregivers per child and only 28.7% centres were able to tend to inmates showing signs of hunger or illness and 65.9% of homes were able to actively supervise children under trauma, according to the report titled ‘Mapping and Review Exercise of Child Care Institutions’.

•The report also says that the lack of infrastructure facilities is “glaring” and finds that more than 1,000 homes did not have a dormitory for children, raising questions about sleeping arrangements made for them.

•The report finds that even though there are several mechanisms for monitoring, regular inspections of these shelters were not being carried out.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Hope with concerns in 2019

Five issues need to be addressed comprehensively if India is to achieve sustained high growth

•The New Year is always looked forward to with hope, whatever the conditions might have been the previous year; 2018 has been a mixed bag, both globally and domestically.

•Globally, the growth rate in 2018 was high, particularly in the United States. But strong signs of a trade war emerged, dimming hopes of faster international trade. Britain is passing through the pangs of separation from the European Union. Domestically, the first quarter growth rate was high. But signs are not good for the balance of the year. The rupee underwent a severe shock as crude oil prices rose, and abated after a fall in oil prices. While prices fell, agrarian distress accentuated.

•India’s growth rate in 2018-19 is forecast at 7.4% by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But it looks to be a touch-and-go situation. More likely, it will be slightly lower. Looking ahead, 2019 may not show any substantial rise in the growth rate. Even though the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has stabilised, much will depend on the pickup in the investment rate.

•The international environment is not that conducive for growth in our foreign trade; this will have an impact on our exports and, therefore, growth. Perhaps the growth rate will be between 7.2% and 7.5%. Though this may be the highest growth rate of any country, it falls short of our requirements.

•Going ahead, what are our major concerns?

Investment ratio

•In the final analysis, the growth rate depends on the investment rate and the productivity of capital or its inverse incremental capital-output ratio.

•The incremental capital output ratio is a catch-all expression. It depends upon a multiple number of factors such as quality of labour, which again depends on education and skill development levels, and technology, which is constantly changing. For ensuring a sustained high growth, we need to raise the investment ratio and keep the incremental capital-output ratio at 4. The Gross Fixed Capital Formation ratio has fallen from 35.8% in 2007-08 to 28.5% in 2017-18. The journey to raise the investment ratio is not going to be easy. ‘Animal spirits’ must be revived. A tranquil political and economic environment needs to be nurtured.

Banking system

•An important factor affecting economic growth is the condition of our banking system. Non-performing assets (NPAs), including stressed assets, as a proportion of loans of public sector banks stood at 16.7% as of March 2018. As many as 11 public sector banks are under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA). This restricts the lending abilities of these banks. Added to this, the non banking financial company (NBFC) system is also under stress. This is partly a reflection of the stress in the banking system since most NBFCs borrow from banks. Recapitalisation of public sector banks will partly solve the problem. It is not clear at this point how much it will help in adding to lending capacity.

•Some have advocated providing more capital to banks outside the PCA framework as that will increase their lending capacity immediately.

•Today, banks are responsible both for short-term and long-term lending. Their inability to lend affects the availability of working capital as well as capital expenditures.

•The decision to pump in more capital to public sector banks must be completed soon. The growth rate in the industrial sector will depend on how quickly the banking system comes back to normalcy.

Employment growth

•There is a great concern about the inadequate growth of employment. Honestly, we do not have satisfactory employment numbers. The employment data in the organised sector are reliable. But the employment in the informal sector is much larger. One question that is asked is that if growth is around 7%, why is there no corresponding growth in employment? We need to keep two factors in mind. Growth can occur either as a result of increase in investment or because of better utilisation of existing capacity. It is growth which is led by new investment that leads to a significant increase in employment. But growth caused by improved efficiency of utilisation of existing capital can lead only to a marginal increase in employment. Much of the growth seen in the last few years is of the latter variety.

•Second, the increase in employment seen in the period between 2004-05 and 2009-10 was because of the rapid growth of the information technology (IT) and financial sectors. The IT sector has slowed down. The financial sector is under stress. Employment in these sectors was visible and educated entrants into the labour market found ample opportunities. The IT sector growth rate is not likely to pick up significantly as this industry is undergoing many structural changes. The revival of the banking system depends on a number of factors. Thus, even from the point of view of employment, the key factor is the pickup in investment.

•India’s external sector has grown and is well integrated with the rest of the world. India’s trade in goods and services as a percentage of GDP has grown to 42% of GDP. Therefore, what happens in the rest of the world affects India’s growth very much. India’s balance of payment situation has been comfortable since liberalisation. However, there are vulnerabilities as seen in September-October 2018, when the value of the rupee suddenly plummeted when crude oil prices rose and there were simultaneously capital outflows. RBI intervention and the subsequent fall in crude prices have restored the value of the rupee. In April-November 2018, India’s exports of goods grew by 11.6%. However, we need to note that exports growth was 5.2% (2016-17) and 9.8% (2017-18). Strong growth in exports is a must if we have to keep the current account deficit (CAD) at a manageable level.

•The forecast for world trade and output is not encouraging. There are too many uncertainties which include an intensification in the trade war. Along with export promotion, we also need to contain some of our large imports. A watch on India’s CAD is critically important if we have to achieve growth with stability.

Agrarian distress

•The future growth also depends on the performance of agriculture. Agrarian distress is widespread. Strangely, the fall in prices of agricultural products is in one sense a reflection of our success in raising output. Some years ago, the concern was a rise in the price of pulses to abnormally high levels. But today the picture is reversed. Thanks to increase in production, prices have fallen. Similar is the case with respect to vegetables, particularly onion. The need of agriculturists is income in current prices. The solution to the fall in prices lies in government intervening in the market and buying off the surplus over normal levels. The market will then automatically take prices to the normal level. The important requirement in this context is not only the financial capacity of the government to procure but also adequate physical arrangements to procure and store. The procured agricultural products can be sold by the government in later years when output is low or utilised in any safety net programme.

•Loan waivers are at best short-term solutions. The fundamental problem is one of increasing productivity and enabling farmers to achieve increased output and better prices. There is also a basic weakness that we have to address. The average size of landholding is so small that any amount of increase in productivity will not give adequate income. Farmers have to think in terms of consolidation of landholdings so that they can get the benefits of larger size. Small farmers will also have to think in terms of higher value-added products like vegetables. A combined attack to increase productivity, consolidate landholdings and improve marketing is needed to assure farmers of better income.

•Thus there are five concerns as we stand at the beginning of 2019. These are: raising the investment ratio; putting the banking system back on the rails; employment generation through better growth; enhancing export growth to contain the CAD; and removing agrarian distress by increasing productivity and consolidation of small landholdings. These issues need to be addressed comprehensively, if we have to achieve sustained high growth.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Dark side of the moon: on China's moon mission

China’s successful mission will greatly advance knowledge of earth’s satellite

•China joined a select group of countries with successful missions to the moon, when its spacecraft, Chang’e-4, successfully made a landing at ‘10.26 on January 3’, according to the China National Space Administration. It landed at a spot on the moon’s far side, the Von Kรกrmรกn crater, which is untouched by earlier missions from earth. After landing, Chang’e-4, named after the Chinese moon goddess, relayed a close-up image of the ‘far’ side of the moon through the communication relay satellite Queqiao. The Queqiao satellite was launched last May by China for the very purpose of helping Chang’e-4 communicate with earth, as a direct communication with it is not possible from the moon’s far side, which never faces earth. The Chang’e-4 mission carries payloads, of which two are in collaboration with Germany and Sweden, respectively. The instruments include cameras, low-frequency radio spectrum analyser, lunar neutron and radiation dose detectors, and many more. Among other things, the mission could pave the way to setting up a radio telescope on the far side of the moon.

•Considering that earth is right next door to the moon, we know precious little about it. Its formation and early evolution present mysteries which, if understood, could guide us in planetary studies, and help in understanding exoplanets. The near side, which faces earth, has dark patterns; the far side, turned away, is marked with circular spots that are craters formed by meteorite collisions. The moon’s near side is believed to have a thinner shell, so that when meteorites bombarded it they cracked its shell, releasing lava which gushed out and covered traces of the impact and left dark patches. Being thicker, the far side did not face such an erasure and bears the marks of the crater impacts. This mission could verify these theories and discover the reason behind these dichotomies. The moon’s far side also differs from the near side in that it is shielded from all the radio waves emanating from earth. Communication devices and satellites have made it too noisy for radio astronomers to easily and accurately interpret signals. The near side of the moon also suffers from this problem of noise. On the other hand, the far side is a quiet place and a haven for earthly aspirations to set up a radio telescope that could reveal astronomical mysteries, such as the structure of the universe shortly after the Big Bang. China has now joined the U.S. and the former USSR as the only countries to have made a “soft landing” on the moon. But beyond underlining China’s technological advances, Chang’e-4 could herald a new chapter in lunar exploration.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Ease capital requirements for banks: House panel

Stringent RBI norms unrealistic, unwarranted, says report

•A parliamentary panel on Thursday asked the central bank to ease its rules on capital requirements for banks so that they can increase lending.

•“Such stringent norms stipulated by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) for our banks ... is unrealistic and unwarranted,” said a report tabled in parliament by the Parliamentary Committee on Finance.

•The report comes after the government and some of the board members of the RBI have put pressure on the central bank to relax capital requirements for banks as they seek to boost credit and economic growth. Former RBI governor Urjit Patel, who quit last month, opposed the government’s demand for lowering capital requirements and warned about the need for a cushion to offset unexpected risks.

•Indian banks are required to maintain a minimum capital to risk weighted asset ratio (CRAR) at 9%, against the global Basel-III requirement of 8%. On top of that, they have to keep a capital conservation buffer that is supposed to climb to 2.5% by March 2019. The rollback of additional capital requirements could release about ₹5.34 trillion ($76 billion) into the economy by releasing capital for lending. On Friday, the RBI, in a report, opposed the call to relax current risk weighting rules used to calculate capital requirements, saying they fortified banks against the risk of failure. However, it did announce its intention to review capital regulations.

‘Dilution may harm’

•The ratings agencies have warned against dilution of capital norms for banks.

•Saswata Guha, country director, financial institutions, at Fitch Ratings, said capital ratios for many banks were well below global standards and any relaxation could prove detrimental to banks and their ability to absorb unexpected losses.

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