The HINDU Notes – 11th May 2019 - VISION

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 11th May 2019

📰 SC/ST govt staff promotion: apex court upholds validity of Karnataka law

On March 6, a Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud reserved its judgement on a series of petitions.

•The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the validity of a new Karnataka law, granting reservation in promotion to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) employees.

•The Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (To the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2017 received the President's assent last year. It was published in the gazette on June 23, 2018.

•On March 6, a Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud reserved its judgement on a series of petitions.

•This judgment is significant as Karnataka becomes the first State to gain from a Constitution (five-judge) Bench order of September 2018 that modified a 2006 order requiring the States to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a SC/ST community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.

•The September judgement by the Bench led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had given a huge fillip to the government’s efforts to provide “accelerated promotion with consequential seniority” for SC/ST people in government service. It held that the M. Nagaraj judgement of 2006 was directly contrary to the nine-judge Bench verdict in the Indra Sawhney case.

•In the Indira Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that the “test or requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who indubitably fall within the expression ‘backward class of citizens’.”

📰 Supreme Court extends Ayodhya mediation process till August 15

The mediation panel says “progress” is being made in the talks. The next meeting with the stakeholders is in June.

•A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Friday gave the Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee time till August 15 to continue with its efforts to resolve the prolonged and strife-ridden Ayodhya title dispute.

•“We do not want to short circuit the mediation process. We will extend the time in order to enable the committee to complete the task assigned to it,” Chief Justice Gogoi addressed the parties present in the courtroom.

•The committee filed an interim report dated May 7 with the Constitution Bench.

•Sources said the panel conveyed that “progress” was being made in the talks and the panel was meeting with the parties.

•The next meeting with the stakeholders is in June.

•The panel of mediators comprises former apex court judge Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman; and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the country, as members.

•The court sent the Ayodhya dispute for mediation on March 8 in a bid to heal minds and hearts. It gave the panel an initial deadline of eight weeks.

•The eight weeks was the time given to the Muslim parties to examine the accuracy and relevance of the Uttar Pradesh government’s official translation of thousands of pages of oral depositions and exhibits in the Ayodhya title suit appeals pending since 2010 in the court. In fact, the court had invoked Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to propose mediation as an “effective utilisation of time” during the interregnum.

•“The report says the mediation process is on... We are inclined to grant them time,” Chief Justice Gogoi remarked.

•The committee has held several rounds of mediation with the stakeholders in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh and the mediation proceedings were held in camera.

•The court had stressed need for “utmost confidentiality” in the conduct of the mediation to ensure its success.

No reporting by media

•It had gone to the extent of opining that the media should refrain from reporting the mediation proceedings. “We are of the further opinion that while the mediation proceedings are being carried out, there ought not to be any reporting of the said proceedings either in the print or in the electronic media,” it said.

📰 Nobody’s happy about N. Korea missile launch, says Trump

I don’t think they are ready to negotiate, says U.S. President

•U.S. President Donald Trump said that “nobody’s happy” after North Korea raised the pressure over the future of their deadlocked nuclear negotiations by launching two short-range missiles.

•Mr. Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February broke up without an agreement or even a joint statement as the two failed to reach a deal on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions imposed over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

•Since then Mr. Kim has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.

•In what South Korea President Moon Jae-in termed an “element of protest”, the North “fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles” on Thursday, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. It was Pyongyang’s second such move in less than a week.

•At a White House event, Mr. Trump said U.S. authorities were looking “very seriously” at the launch of the “short-range missiles”. “Nobody’s happy about it,” he told reporters.

•“We’ll see what happens,” he added. “I know they want to negotiate, they’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they are ready to negotiate.”

•Thursday’s launches came hours after the U.S. Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, in his first visit since the Hanoi summit.

📰 Trump raises tariffs on Chinese goods

Beijing says it ‘deeply regrets’ the U.S. decision and promises to take countermeasures

•The trade war between the U.S. and China took a turn for the worse on Friday as the Trump administration increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. Tariffs on 5,700 categories of goods increased from 10% to 25% at 12.01 am on Friday.

•The tariffs went into effect just hours before U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He held a second day of talks in Washington on Friday. The session ended after about 90 minutes.

•“They were constructive discussions,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters as he left Mr. Lighthizer’s offices near midday. Mr. Mnuchin said the negotiations were done for the day.

•Mr. Liu, the lead Chinese negotiator, told reporters at his hotel in Washington that the talks had gone “fairly well”.

•Things have moved quickly over the past few days with tariffs kicking in days after Mr. Trump said they would, and five days after the administration notified the new rates in the Federal Register. This, despite Mr. Trump saying on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping had sent him a “very beautiful letter” offering to “work together” and “get something done”.

•The tariff rate on machinery and technology imports from China, whose value is about $50 billion, was already hiked to 25% last year in tit-for-tat tariff rounds between the two countries. Friday’s tariffs for the $200 worth of Chinese imports, “as part of the U.S.’s continuing response to China’s theft of American intellectual property and forced transfer of American technology,” was set to kick in January 1 as per a September 2018 announcement from the USTR, but it was held in abeyance as negotiations continued.

•In the past, Mr. Trump had threatened to increase tariffs on the remainder of Chinese imports as well, a threat he reiterated on Friday. The U.S. imported $558 billion of goods from China as per the USTR, with $250 billion attracting 25% tariffs as of Friday.

New round

•“The process has begun to place additional tariffs at 25% on the remaining $325 billion,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

•Last week, U.S. officials familiar with the discussions had said China had backtracked on commitments, prompting Mr. Trump’s decision to impose the new round of tariffs.

•China has said, via a Ministry of Commerce statement, that it “deeply regretted” the latest tariff development and has said it will take countermeasures.

•American agriculture has felt much of the heat of the tit-for-tat trade war with China. Mr. Trump sought to assuage concerns on Friday. With an election looming in 2020, the President cannot afford to alienate farmers — most of the top 10 agricultural States were won by Mr. Trump in 2016. “Your all time favourite President got tired of waiting for China to help out and start buying from our FARMERS, the greatest anywhere in the World!” he wrote on Twitter.

•Tariff increases will also mean U.S. firms paying more for Chinese inputs and those costs will be, at least in partially, passed on to American consumers.

📰 IIP at a 21-month low as manufacturing slows down

Contracts 0.1% in March, the first time since June 2013

•Growth in industrial activity dipped to a 21-month low in March, contracting 0.1% due in large part to a continuing slowdown in the manufacturing sector, according to official data released on Friday.

•The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) contracted in March for the first time since June 2013. To further put this contraction in perspective, the IIP grew a robust 5.33% in the same month of last year, and 4.39% in March 2017.

•Within this, the manufacturing sector contracted by 0.43% in March, the second consecutive month of contraction (it contracted 0.39% in February) and the third consecutive month of slowing growth.

•“The broad signals for the economy is a continuing slowdown and this is confirmed both from the output side and signals from the demand side,” said D.K. Srivastava, chief policy adviser, EY India.

•“The IIP numbers are giving the output profile of contraction and on the demand side, the sales of different sectors have been slowing.”

Rate cut

•One of the primary reasons for the slowdown in the overall economy is that the government has very little room to manoeuvre on the fiscal side, even though the Reserve Bank of India has done what it can on the monetary policy side with two successive interest rate cuts.

•“As per the use-based classification, contraction in capital and intermediate goods (indicative of subdued investment activity) further resulted in slowdown in the industrial output,” Care Ratings said in a report. “Uncertainties over general elections could be cited as one of the major reasons of lower activity in these segments.”

•The capital goods sector contracted for a third consecutive months, by 8.66% in March compared with a contraction of 8.92% in February. Intermediary goods sector contracted for the fifth consecutive month, by 2.55% in March, compared with a contraction of 5.05% in the previous month.

•“The fiscal deficit has exceeded the limits and even the revised estimates numbers might not prove to be true,” Mr. Srivastava added. “Because of this, there would be considerable constraints in stimulating the economy.There is not likely to be any big push as far as Central government budget expenditure is concerned. Even when new government comes in, they will find it difficult.”

•On the demand side, the consumer durables sector also contracted in March by 5.07% after being positive for three consecutive months, which is symptomatic of weak demand conditions in the country, Care Ratings added.

•Infrastructure sector, however, saw a strong turnaround in growth in March, coming in at 6.4%, up from 2.1% in February. The mining and quarrying sector saw growth slowing to 0.78% from 2.18%.

•The electricity sector witnessed a slight acceleration in growth to 2.17% in March from 1.32% in February.

•The general outlook for the upcoming months is subdued, according to economists and ratings agencies alike, who say that there is still no certainty about the RBI cutting rates in its monetary policy review in June.

•“The RBI will wait for the inflation numbers to come out and see in what way it is trending because of the pressure on oil prices,” Mr. Srivastava said.

📰 Chandrayaan-2 will carry 14 Indian payloads

Chandrayaan-2 will carry 14 Indian payloads
ISRO aims to land Vikram in unexplored lunar south pole

•Chandrayaan-2, the lunar lander mission planned to be launched during July 9-16, will have 14 Indian payloads or study devices, a mission update of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said.

•The 3,800-kg spacecraft includes an orbiter which will circle the moon at 100 km; a five-legged lander called Vikram that will descend on the moon on or around September 6; and a robotic rover, Pragyan, that will probe the lunar terrain around it.

•ISRO said all three modules will carry payloads but did not specify them or their objective. The orbiter alone will have eight payloads or instruments. The lander will carry four while the rover will be equipped with two instruments. “All the modules are getting ready for the Chandrayaan-2 launch,” a recent update had said, mentioning only 13 payloads.

•ISRO has chosen a landing area at the hitherto unexplored lunar south pole, making it the first agency to touch down at the south pole if it succeeds in its first landing attempt. Chandrayaan-2 will be India’s second outing to the moon. ISRO will send the mission on its heavy lift booster, the MkIII, from Sriharikota.

•In October 2008, the space organisation had launched its orbiter mission Chandrayaan-1 on its PSLV booster. The spacecraft had 11 payloads. One of the U.S. payloads shares credit with Chandrayaan-1 for confirming the presence of water ice on the moon. Before that, the Moon Impacter Probe carrying the Indian tricolour image was made to hard-land on the lunar south pole.

📰 India facing critical shortage of healthcare providers: WHO

Bihar, Jharkhand, U.P. and Rajasthan are the worst affected

•Despite the health sector employing five million workers in India it continues to have low density of health professionals with figures for the country being lower than those of Sri Lanka, China, Thailand, United Kingdom and Brazil, according to a World Health Organisation database. This workforce statistic has put the country into the “critical shortage of healthcare providers” category. Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the worst hit while Delhi, Kerala, Punjab and Gujarat compare favourably.

•“Southeast Asia needs a 50% increase in healthcare manpower to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. India faces the problem of acute shortages and inequitable distributions of skilled health workers as have many other low- and middle-income countries,’’ said K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.

New courses needed

•He said that the need of the hour is to design courses for different categories of non-physician care providers. Competencies (and not qualification alone) should be valued and reform must be brought in regulatory structures to provide flexibility for innovations, he added.

•“Data on the prevalence of occupational vacancies in the health care system in India overall is scarce. Government statistics for 2008, based on vacancies in sanctioned posts showed 18% of primary health centres were without a doctor, about 38% were without a laboratory technician and 16% were without a pharmacist,” says a paper titled ‘Forecasting the future need and gaps in requirements for public health professionals in India upto 2026’ published in the WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health.

•The health workforce in India comprises broadly eight categories, namely: doctors (allopathic, alternative medicine); nursing and midwifery professionals; public health professionals (medical, non-medical); pharmacists; dentists; paramedical workers (allied health professionals); grass-root workers (frontline workers); and support staff.

📰 Amazon unveils its moon lander

Jeff Bezos outlines vision to build infrastructure that would sustain the colonisation of space

•Jeff Bezos, who heads both Amazon and space company Blue Origin, unveiled a lunar lander on Thursday that he said would be used to transport equipment, and possibly human beings, to the south pole of the Moon by 2024.

•“This is Blue Moon,” the world’s richest man said at a presentation in Washington, as curtains lifted to show a mock-up of a huge vessel weighing many tons and able to carry four self-driving rovers.

•“It’s an incredible vehicle, and it will go to the Moon,” he declared.

•Mr. Bezos didn’t announce a specific date for the project’s first launch, but said the lander would be ready in time to make President Donald Trump’s announced timeline to return people to the Moon by 2024.

•“We can help meet that timeline, but only because we started three years ago,” he said. “It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.”

Generating water

•The vehicle has been under development for the past three years, Mr. Bezos said. It will be capable of carrying scientific instruments, the four small rovers, and also a future pressurized vehicle for humans.

•The goal is to land on the Moon’s south pole, where ice deposits were confirmed in 2018. Water can be exploited to produce hydrogen, which in turn could fuel future exploration of the solar system.

•Fully loaded with fuel, Blue Origin will weigh about 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms), which will decrease to around 7,000 pounds when it is about to land, he said.

•The White House’s intention to return to the Moon in 2024 has sent NASA into a frenzy of activity since the end of March, because that particular mission was originally anticipated for 2028.

•Nothing is ready: not the powerful rocket necessary to transport vehicles and astronauts. Not the components of the future mini-station in lunar orbit, which will act as a rest-stop between Earth and the Moon. And not the lander or rovers needed by astronauts, among whom will be the first woman to set foot on Earth’s natural satellite.

Lunar colonies

•The lander’s unveiling came as Mr. Bezos outlined his broader vision to build an infrastructure that would sustain the colonisation of space by future generations of humans and shift polluting industries off the Earth.

•As space agencies prepare to return humans to the moon, top engineers are racing to design a tunnel boring machine capable of digging underground colonies for the first lunar inhabitants.

•“Space is becoming a passion for a lot of people again. There are discussions about going back to the moon, this time to stay,” U.S.-Iranian expert Jamal Rostami said at this year’s World Tunnel Congress in Naples.

•But the harsh conditions on the surface of the Moon mean that, once up there, humans need to be shielded from radiation and freezing temperatures in structures which maintain atmospheric pressure in a vacuum.

•They also need protection from meteorite strikes.

•“Imagine something the size of my fist as a piece of rock coming at 10-12 km per second, it can hit anything and would immediately destroy it,” Mr. Rostami said.

•“Our idea is to actually start underground, using a mechanism we already use on the earth, a tunnel boring machine, to make a continuous opening to create habitats or connect the colonies together,” he added.

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