The HINDU Notes – 13th June 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 13th June 2019

πŸ“° Retail inflation at 7-month high of 3.05%

•Retail inflation in May moved marginally up to 3.05% mainly due to a rise in food prices, notably vegetables. This is a seven-month high; inflation in April was 2.99%.

Good news

•However, there was good news on the industrial growth front with factory output rising by 3.4%, which is a six-month high.

•The growth was mainly driven by the electricity and mining sectors, with manufacturing growing by 2.8%.

πŸ“° Triple talaq Bill to be sent to Parliament again

•The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, paving the way for the legislation to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament. The Bill, which would replace the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance, 2019, once passed, would put a curb on the practice of talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq.

πŸ“° Indian Medical Council Amendment Bill cleared

•The Cabinet has approved the Indian Medical Council (Amendment Bill), 2019 and the Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment Bill), 2019 – both of which had lapsed in the 16th Lok Sabha session. The Bills will be re-introduced in the next Parliament session.

•The Medical Council Bill is aimed at bringing in transparencyand quality in the governance of medical education.

•Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment Bill), 2019, meanwhile, seeks to extend the period for reconstitution of the Central Council from existing period of one year to two years so that the tenure of the Board of Governors may be extended for a further period of one year with effect from May 17, 2019. Cabinet on Wednesday also approved the introduction of a Bill to amend the Dentists Act, 1948.

πŸ“° Cabinet nod for Aadhaar as ID proof at banks, telcos

•The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Bill to allow voluntary submission of Aadhaar as identity proof for use by private entities such as banks and telecom companies.

•‘The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019’, which will replace an ordinance, also gives a child an option to exit from Aadhaar on attaining 18 years of age. “The amendments proposed are the same as those contained in the Ordinance promulgated by the President on 2nd March, 2019,” the government said in a release.

•The government will introduce the Bill in the first session of Parliament. The Bill proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act that bars use of Aadhaar by private entities, while also providing for civil penalties for violation of Aadhaar.

πŸ“° Easy money can’t revive economy: SBI report

‘More direct and quicker fiscal measures required to push sagging growth’

•State Bank economists have opined that an easy monetary policy will be ineffective to push the sagging growth engine and that what is needed is more direct and quicker fiscal measures.

•The financial system is “in need for some serious repair” and the government should use the forthcoming budget for the same.

•“.. an easy monetary policy with a reasonable tight fiscal deficit will be ineffective in addressing the existing demand slowdown,” they said in a note on Wednesday.

•Support from the monetary policy — the RBI cut its key rates for the third time in 2019 and also changed the policy stance to accommodative last week to a nine-year low — is most welcome, the report said, underlining the need for help on the fiscal front.

•“We believe fiscal channel is more direct and quicker and financial system is in need of some serious repair,” the report said, adding “the government would do better with reasonable fiscal deficit assumptions and should be very clear of the fiscal consolidation path.”

Plummeting growth

•Growth plummeted to a nearly five-year low at 5.8% for the March quarter, pulling down the full-year GDP for FY19 to a low 6.8%.

•Questions have also been asked about the growth numbers by Former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramaniam, who said the growth numbers during the Modi government’s first innings till FY17 had been inflated by a whopping 2.5 percentage points.

•All eyes are on the budget as regards the policies which the new government may adopt.

•The ongoing crisis in the non-banking finance companies, which constitute up to a fifth of the overall lending in the economy, according to some watchers, needs immediate attention to revive the fortunes of the financial system, it said.

•The note warned there were some “limiting factors” like the Food Corporation’s massive borrowings from the National Small Savings Funds, which is already in excess of Rs. 2 lakh crore or 1 percent of GDP.

πŸ“° Jalan panel report on RBI reserves by June end

Bank has Rs. 9.6 lakh cr. surplus capital

•The Bimal Jalan committee, which is looking into the size of capital reserves that the RBI should hold, will have one more meeting before finalising its report to be submitted to the apex bank by the month-end.

•The six-member panel, under former RBI Governor Jalan was appointed on December 26, 2018, to review the economic capital framework (ECF) for the Reserve Bank after the Finance Ministry wanted the RBI to follow global best practices and transfer more surplus to the government.

•The RBI has over Rs. 9.6 lakh crore surplus capital with it.

•“The ECF panel will meet one more time and will submit the report by month-end,” an official told reporters here after the meeting.

•The ECF panel was mandated to submit its report to the RBI within 90 days of its first meeting which took place on January 8. Following this, the panel was given a three-month extension.

•Asked about the reason for delay in finalisation of the report, the official said, “There may be differences of opinion, but that is being discussed“. Other members include Rakesh Mohan, former Deputy Governor of RBI and Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg.

πŸ“° Navigations in Bishkek

The regional aspirations of Central Asian countries contradict India’s goals

•At the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, India will have to navigate between two contradictory imperatives. While on the one hand it must act as a willing partner of regional cooperation led by China and Russia, on the other it must avoid being seen as a part of the ‘anti-American gang’. It could also be seen as a paradox that India wants to fight against terrorism through a body that includes states that pose the biggest threats to Indian security.

Trade and terrorism

•In Bishkek, Russia and Central Asian countries are likely to express “broad support” for China in its escalating tariff fight against the U.S. India is equally concerned about this trade war, but it is unclear whether it will join the others in slamming U.S. protectionism. New Delhi is seemingly confident of dealing with the U.S. without necessarily supporting China. For Chinese President Xi Jinping, whipping up anti-Americanism serves to stave off mounting opposition against his anti-corruption campaign and concentration of power. It is also notable that all SCO members barring India are enthusiastic supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

•The summit is likely to have a muted agenda. SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov has hinted at adopting documents to deepen multilateral cooperation and discussing non-conventional issues such as the fight against drug trafficking, cooperation in IT, environmental protection and healthcare. Terrorism is likely to be approached from the angle of improving the situation in Afghanistan and not necessarily of curbing the terrorist elements emanating from Pakistan. China is sure to offer its experiences of dealing with counterterrorism, and the deradicalisation measures it has taken in Xinjiang. China’s achievement in expanding its high-speed rail network to restive Xinjiang comes with enormous economic and security implications for Eurasia. China has also enhanced its military projection capabilities to meet any potential crises beyond its western frontiers.

•Kyrgyzstan is the latest to create an international near-border trade centre in Alai district bordering China. If the regional countries switch to adopting the Chinese railway track gauge of 1,435 mm, then China will be successful in uniting Eurasia to challenge a united Europe. As the situation unfolds, China and Russia are adopting a new era of global strategic partnership. Where India fits in is the question.

On the sidelines

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with President Xi on the sidelines of the summit will be critical, especially as Mr. Modi is now being guided by his new External Affairs Minister. This meeting also comes after China’s decision to withdraw its technical hold on listing Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The key concern for the two leaders is the impact of the U.S.-China trade war, but judging from the trends, both sides seem to be gearing up for a big settlement of pending bilateral issues.

•Mr. Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is important to save the S-400 contract deal against Washington’s mounting threat to act under CAATSA. India and Russia have an ambitious economic agenda drawn up for 2019, and Mr. Putin might reiterate his invitation to Mr. Modi to be the chief guest at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. It would be a good opportunity for India to explore Russia’s Far East region not just for developing economic cooperation but also for exploring the prospects of transferring skilled labourers to offset Chinese demographic threats in the region. Russia is also keen that India joins the Arctic: Territory of Dialogue Forum.

•India seems committed to work within the SCO to develop a ‘cooperative and sustainable security’ framework, to make the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure more effective, and participate in efforts to bring about stability in Afghanistan. Even though the regional aspirations of Central Asian countries contradict India’s goals, these countries back India’s proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Mr. Modi is certain to bring up India’s resolve to fight terrorism by drawing the SCO’s attention to the attacks in Pulwama and Sri Lanka. But China would not like India to use the SCO to name and shame Pakistan.

•India may stick to its position on BRI, but accelerating progress on the International North-South Transport Corridor, the Chabahar Port, the Ashgabat Agreement and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway should be very much on the cards.

The Pakistan policy

•The India-Pakistan stalemate endures but the environment has changed a little since India’s air strikes in Balakot. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been less belligerent, but whether the Pakistani military is taking tougher measures to curb anti-India terror groups is not known. Mr. Khan will have to demonstrate clearly if he wants Mr. Modi to give diplomacy a chance should they meet on the margins of the SCO meet. Mr. Modi might chart a new policy course in favour of normalising ties, especially since India has scored a point with Masood Azhar being designated as a global terrorist at the UNSC.

•Pakistan places high hopes on the SCO to regulate key regional security issues (Afghanistan and Kashmir) even though the SCO discourages bilateral disputes to be raised. Its other agenda would be to sell the Gwadar Port as a potential passage to landlocked Central Asian states, besides promoting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional economic integration and security cooperation.

•To be sure, none of the institutional-level measures including the joint SCO military exercises have so far entailed any satisfactory results in jointly fighting against terrorism. Nevertheless, the SCO is relevant for India to garner support for reforms of the UNSC to make the latter more representative and effective. India has been lending support to the member countries’ candidatures for non-permanent membership of the UNSC for a long time.

πŸ“° ‘Cyclone Vayu to be very severe’

Wind speeds of 175 km per hour likely during landfall on the Saurashtra coast

•With cyclonic storm ‘Vayu’ inching closer to Gujarat, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) classified it as a “very severe” storm and predicted wind speeds of up to 175 km per hour when it makes landfall on the Saurashtra coast around noon on Thursday.

•As per the IMD update on Wednesday evening, “Vayu is about 280 km south of Veraval in Gujarat and likely to move northwards and cross Gujarat coast between Dwarka and Veraval as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm in around afternoon of June 13, 2019.” According to the Gujarat government, the cyclonic storm is likely to be extremely severe when it will hit the coast between Veraval and Dwarka coast. It is considered to be the worst cyclone in the State after one in 1998. Ahead of its landfall, rough seas, rain and strong winds lashed the coastal districts of Saurashtra.

πŸ“° DRDO tests tech demonstrator

HSTDV will have multiple civilian use

•The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Wednesday conducted the test of an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) along with several critical technologies.

•“The DRDO launched a technology demonstrator vehicle to prove a number of critical technologies for futuristic missions from Dr Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said without identifying what the technology demonstrator was or if it met the objectives. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh witnessed the launch.

•The missile was successfully launched at 1127 hours and it was tracked by various radars, telemetry stations and electro optical tracking sensors through its course, the MoD added.

•The test was undertaken to validate several technologies including the HSTDV, a Defence source said. “Some technologies have been validated while some remained inconclusive of which the data is being analysed,” the source added.

•In the test, a missile with the technology demonstrator vehicle mounted on it is launched and the vehicle is released only after the missile reaches a certain altitude and velocity, one official explained.

•Former DRDO Chief V.K. Saraswat had said in 2008, as the Chief Controller, R and D (Missiles and Strategic Systems), that through the HSTDV project the idea was to demonstrate the “performance of a scram-jet engine at an altitude of 15 km to 20 km, is on”.

•“Under this project, we are developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scram-jet engine. This is dual-use technology, which when developed, will have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low cost. It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles of the future,” he had stated.

•In scram-jet technology, fuel combustion takes place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds.

πŸ“° How much plastic is in your diet?

‘People are ingesting 5 g of microplastic every week, equal in weight to a credit card’

•People worldwide could be ingesting 5 g of microscopic plastic particles every week, equivalent in weight to a credit card, researchers said on Wednesday.

•Coming mostly from tap and especially bottled water, nearly invisible bits of polymer were also found in shellfish, beer and salt, scientists reported.

•The findings, drawn from 52 peer-reviewed studies, are the first to estimate the sheer weight of plastics consumed by individual humans: about 250 g over the course of a year.

•Another study calculated that the average American eats and drinks in about 45,000 plastics particles smaller than 130 microns annually, while breathing in roughly the same number.

•“If we don’t want it in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue leaking into Nature every year.”

•In the last two decades, the world has produced as much plastic as during the rest of history, and the industry is set to grow by 4% a year until 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research.

75% plastic wasted

•More than 75% of all plastics winds up as waste.

•A third of that — some 100 million tonnes — is dumped or leaches into Nature, polluting land, rivers and the sea. On current trends, the ocean will contain one metric tonne of plastic for every three metric tonnes of fish by 2025, according to The New Plastics Economy report, published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

•Plastic particles have recently been found inside fish in the deepest recesses of the ocean, and blanketing the most pristine snows in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.

•The authors of Wednesday’s report were up front about the limitations of their research, starting with the fact that little is known about health consequences.

•Gaps in data were filled with assumptions and extrapolations that could be challenged, though the estimates, they insisted, were on the conservative side.

•They invited other researchers to build on their conclusions. “Developing a method of transforming counts of microplastic particles into masses will help determine the potential toxicological risks for humans,” said co-author Thava Palanisami, a microplastics expert at University of Newcastle.

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