The HINDU Notes – 19th July 2019 - VISION

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Friday, July 19, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 19th July 2019






📰 Aadhaar can take you places, but not to Nepal

Can’t be construed as ‘any other ID’ issued by govt.: NCDRC

•Following a complaint seeking compensation from an airline for refusing to accept Aadhaar card as a valid document for travel to Nepal, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that Aadhaar cannot be construed as “any other ID issued by the Government of India” for travel to the country.

•The observations came after contentions put forth by the complainant that the Aadhaar card falls within the category of “any other” ID issued by the government that is required for identification purposes at the time of issuance of boarding passes.

•“This argument is erroneous. As Aadhaar number is a 12-digit random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down by the Authority and [it] can in no manner be construed to be ‘any other ID issued by the Government of India’ in the specific context of it being an acceptable travel document to travel to Nepal,” the Bench held.

₹10,000 cost imposed

•Taking note of the fact that the Bureau of Immigration “specifically proscribes” the use of Aadhaar as a valid travel document to Nepal and Bhutan, the NCDRC dismissed the complaint while imposing cost on the complainant for moving a “frivolous” complaint.

•“The complaint is dismissed with stern advice of caution to the complainant through the imposition of ₹10,000 to be deposited by the complainant with the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the District Forum... the objective being to emphasise that consumer protection fora are not meant to be tools for creating nuisance by filing frivolous and vexatious complaints,” the consumer panel observed.

•The directions came while the apex consumer disputes redressal forum was hearing an appeal moved by SpiceJet against orders of the district forum and state commission that had allowed the complaint against the airline.

📰 OIC’s curious record on Xinjiang

While the bloc has made repeated references to Kashmir, it has been ambivalent about China’s treatment of Uighurs

•In an epochal development, India became the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Abu Dhabi in March. The final declaration eschewed the customary reference to Jammu and Kashmir. This can be considered unique since the previous Dhaka Declaration in May 2018 had contained this reference. Credit must go to the strong personal and state-to-state ties built by the Narendra Modi government with important OIC states, especially the UAE. At the same time, one of the resolutions did refer to Kashmir and expressed concern at the situation of Muslims in India.

•The OIC, representing 57 member states and a population of about 1.8 billion people, is the world’s second-largest intergovernmental organisation after the UN and is committed to protecting the interests of the Muslim world. It routinely expresses solidarity with Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Bosnia, as well as with the peoples of the Turkish Cypriot state, Kosovo and Jammu and Kashmir.

•However, the organisation, while making repeated references to Jammu and Kashmir, has traditionally disregarded the fact that India is a democratic and secular country, where every citizen is protected by the Constitution and is free to practise one’s religion. It has also conveniently disregarded the fact that India regularly holds State and general elections, including in Jammu and Kashmir.

Turning a Nelson’s eye

•On the other hand, it has turned a Nelson’s eye to the human rights violations committed by its own members, like the actions of the Pakistani state in Balochistan.

•However, the organisation’s record on China’s Xinjiang province, which is in the news on account of alleged violations of human rights and curbs on religious freedom of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic groups, is far more curious.

•The main Abu Dhabi declaration, like the Dhaka Declaration, made no reference to China or its Muslim minorities. Further, it is intriguing that one resolution passed at Abu Dhabi chose to “commend the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens”. This would have come as a huge relief to Beijing, especially after a review held by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2018 had claimed, citing credible reports, that Beijing had turned the Uighur autonomous region into “something that resembles a massive internment camp”.

•Earlier, a Human Rights Watch report issued in September 2018 had also criticised Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang.

•On its part, China has defended its policies and claimed that its so-called ‘internment camps’ are actually vocational centres meant to “to educate and save [the local people of Xinjiang] who were influenced by religious extremism”. In its White Paper in November 2018, Beijing had projected Xinjiang’s culture as an integral part of Chinese culture.

Anodyne appeals

•All nations have a right to reject external interference in their internal affairs. However, while the OIC remains critical of India, it is wary of treading on China’s toes. Various OIC resolutions have, in the past, referred only superficially to the matter. For instance, the Islamabad OIC meeting in May 2007 made only an anodyne request to its Secretary General “to make contact with the Government of China” on the matter “and to subsequently report on these consultations”. The Baku OIC resolution of June 2006 made an appeal “to give special attention to the conditions of Muslims in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and to examine the possibility of working out a formula for cooperation with the Chinese Government”.

•China has resented the use of the term “East Turkistan” in OIC documents, reminiscent of the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement of separatist Uighurs from Xinjiang. Yet, Beijing has engaged the OIC and just before the Abu Dhabi meeting, it welcomed an OIC delegation to Xinjiang, a development which perhaps played a role in the OIC ‘commending’ China.

•The organisation remains mindful of how far it can go with its criticism of Beijing considering that China is a major power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a large market for hydrocarbons and a source of arms and investment. Moreover, China refrains from preaching to others about human rights or systems of governance.

•As China’s continued import of oil from Iran suggests, countries under U.S. pressure and sanctions often turn to China for relief. In return, they do their best to guard China’s interests at the OIC.

•However, OIC countries, under the influence of Pakistan, support resolutions against India despite having excellent bilateral ties with the country. Recent developments — a call from Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri urging China to lift restrictions on Muslims in Xinjiang and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan chief Sirajul Haq’s raising concerns about the Uighur issue with the Chinese Ambassador — must, hence, have come as deep embarrassment to the OIC.

📰 The threat of Ebola

The health emergency declared by the WHO can counter the risk of a global spread

•After holding itself back on three occasions, the World Health Organization has declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The outbreak in Congo, officially declared on August 1, 2018, has killed nearly 1,700 people and made more than 2,500 people ill. While cases in other areas are reducing, Beni is the new hotspot. The announcement of the health emergency comes amid renewed concerns that the virus could spread to other countries. A single imported case of Ebola in Goma, a city in Congo with two million people and with an international airport bordering Rwanda, served as a trigger to finally declare a global emergency. Surprisingly, the spread to neighbouring Uganda last month did not seem to change the way the WHO assessed the situation. Even when a handful of Ebola cases were confirmed in Uganda, all the infected people had travelled from Congo and there had been no local transmission or spread within Uganda — one of the criteria used by the WHO to assess if an outbreak is a global emergency. This is the fifth time that the WHO has declared a global emergency. The earlier occasions were in February 2016 for Zika outbreaks in the Americas, August 2014 for Ebola outbreaks in western Africa, the spread of polio in May 2014, and the H1N1 pandemic in April 2009. Declaring an event as a global emergency is meant to stop the spread of the pathogen to other countries and to ensure a coordinated international response.

•There have been several challenges in interrupting the virus transmission cycle and containing the spread — reluctance in the community, attacks on health workers, delays in case-detection and isolation, and challenges in contact-tracing. But compared with the situation during 2014-2016, the availability of a candidate vaccine has greatly helped. Though the vaccine has not been licensed in any country, the ring vaccination strategy where people who come into contact with infected people, as well as the contacts of those contacts are immunised, has helped . Of the nearly 94,000 people at risk who were vaccinated till March 25, 2019, only 71 got infected compared with 880 unvaccinated who got infected. The vaccine had 97.5% efficacy; a majority of those who got infected despite being vaccinated were high-risk contacts. Owing to vaccine shortage, the WHO’s expert group on immunisation has recommended reducing the individual dose to meet the demand. What is equally important is for the G7 countries to fulfil their promise to the WHO to contain the spread. The agency received only less than half of the $100 million that was requested to tackle the crisis. The global emergency now declared may probably bring in the funding.

📰 India must back Taliban talks, says German special envoy on Afghanistan

Ambassador Markus Potzel is in New Delhi to discuss outcome of intra-Afghan dialogue.

•Urging the government to publicly express support for the ongoing peace process with the Taliban, the German special envoy on Afghanistan has said that the international community would like to see a larger regional role for India in the ongoing conflict and its resolution.

•The envoy, Ambassador Markus Potzel, is in Delhi for talks with the government on the outcome of the intra-Afghan dialogue held in Doha on July 7-8, as well as the larger peace process between Taliban representatives and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who met at the same time.

•“I am here to brief the Indian government, and I wanted to share my information about Doha and the Intra-afghan dialogue,” Mr. Potzel, who organised the Doha talks told a select group of journalists ahead of his meetings in South Block on Friday. The talks in Doha co-sponsored by Germany and Qatar ended with an unprecedented joint statement agreed to by more than 60 representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government officials (in their personal capacities), civil society members, politicians and women leaders. The statement included a commitment to reduce violence and bring civilian casualties “to zero”.

•India has refused to be a part of talks with the Taliban directly, sending only retired officials in a “non-official” capacity for one round of talks in Moscow last year. Last week, “four-party” talks between the U.S., Russia, China and Pakistan appeared to cut India out of the talks on Afghanistan’s future. However, officials indicate that the next round of talks with regional powers will be held soon, which would invite India, central Asian neighbours like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as Iran.

•“I am not here to give advice, but I would wish that the Indian government come out in the open and establish their position on the peace process,” said Mr. Potzel. “Germany also hopes to see India join the next round of regional talks on Afghanistan,” he added.

•In a statement ahead of the German envoy’s meetings, the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated India’s traditional position on supporting only an “Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled” process, which includes the government in Kabul.

•“We believe that all initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government. Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate and should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday, in a veiled reference to Pakistan-sponsored groups in Afghanistan and the Taliban, that continue to carry out terror attacks and refuse to hold direct talks with the Ghani government.

•The German envoy is likely to discuss India’s concerns with the process, as well as positions on the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September 28. Both Germany and India share the hope that elections will not be put off in order to facilitate the peace process with the Taliban, and also are not in favour of a “transitional government” being put in place if elections need to be postponed again.

📰 Ethanol biorefinery to come up in Vidarbha

BPCL to set up plant in Bhandara manufacturing ethanol from rice straw

•Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) will set up Maharashtra’s first ever ethanol biorefienry in Vidarbha’s Bhandara district at a cost of nearly ₹1,500 crore.




•“The State government has finalised the location along with BPCL and it will be set up in Bhandara’s Makardhokda village. The plant will manufacture ethanol from rice straw and will be set up on 46 hectares of land that is currently with the Revenue Department,” said Parinay Fuke, Guardian Minister of Bhandara.

•The project will utilise 2 lakh tonne of rice straw annually and has a capacity to produce 700 tonne of biofuel. This project is one among 12 such refineries planned in different States.

•“Bhandara and Gondia districts annually produce 3.62 lakh and 3.87 lakh rice straw annually. The supply of raw material won’t be a problem. This project is likely to create around 10,000 jobs directly or indirectly,” he said. The rice straw will be collected, chopped and dried and then supplied to the refinery.

•The Revenue Department holds 146 hectares at the site, out of which 46 hectares will be used for this project. The government plans to set up allied industries in the remaining land. The process to hand over the land to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation has begun and once complete, the land will be notified as industrial. After this, it will be handed over to BPCL.

•“We expect to initiate the project within a year. BPCL will ensure environmental clearances. We will be charging BPCL a nominal fee of up to ₹3 crore for the land,” said Mr. Fuke.

•The National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, aims to increase the percentage of ethanol in petrol and diesel. Currently, it is at nearly 2% in petrol, while in diesel, biofuel is less than 0.1%. An indicative target of 20% of ethanol in petrol and 5% of biodiesel in diesel is proposed by 2030.

📰 SEBI opposes Centre’s proposal to transfer surplus money to CFI

Regulator says the plan will undermine its autonomy

•The government’s proposal to transfer surplus money with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) has met with a strong opposition from the regulatory body.

•The capital markets regulator feels that the proposal would result in compromising its “autonomy and its ability to function effectively” towards the progress and development of the Indian securities market.

•The government has proposed an amendment to the SEBI Act, which states that the SEBI would constitute a reserve fund and 25% of the annual surplus of the general fund would be put in the reserve fund. Further, the size of such reserve fund cannot exceed the total of annual expenditure of the preceding two financial years.

•More importantly, the surplus of the general fund, after factoring in all the SEBI expenses and the transfer to the reserve fund, needs to be transferred to the CFI as per amendments proposed in the Finance Bill, 2019.

Staff missive to Centre

•In a communication to the government, the employees’ association of the SEBI had said that the proposal was “regressive” especially since the SEBI did not have any mandate to raise revenue for the government.

•SEBI Chairman Ajay Tyagi had also taken up the matter with the Ministry, while highlighting the employees’ concerns. “These proposed amendments are regressive in nature as they are against the spirit of the SEBI Act... Autonomy of a regulatory institution like SEBI is critical... The proposal would result in compromising SEBI’s autonomy and its ability to function effectively towards its stated objectives, and thus, hamper the progress of Indian securities markets,” stated the letter.

•Incidentally, all the penalties levied by the SEBI already go to the CFI. Similarly, settlement amounts are also credited to the CFI.

•The general fund of the SEBI, which currently has a balance of over ₹3,000 crore, is used to meet the expenses of the regulatory body, including salaries and allowances. The fund gets money via charges that the SEBI levies on market participants in the form of registration or processing fees.

•“Since inception, SEBI is also subjected to CAG audit and so far, not a single instance of financial imprudence has been observed by CAG. Accordingly, the involvement of the government in capital expenditure approval, in addition to the process of board approval, will not add any benefit to institutional efficiency, but rather slow down decision-making and would be contrary to the principle of minimum government and maximum governance,” stated the letter.

📰 Inappropriate template for a legitimate target

The Economic Survey, while rightly calling for a rise in private investment, incongruously invokes the East Asian model

•The recently-released Economic Survey either glosses over or ignores many acute challenges faced by the Indian economy — like the severe agrarian crisis; the troubles of loss-making and debt-ridden public sector units; and the issues plaguing public sector banks.

•While the Survey is not incorrect in highlighting the importance of incorporating insights from psychology into economics, it is odd that this has been done so late in the day. Many other countries like the U.K., Australia and Singapore have for long being applying such points to policy design and implementation areas and the issue has been discussed in India over the last few years as well. It is unclear what added value the report truly has to offer here.

•One issue that the Survey rightly underlines is the need for India to revive private investment if it is to achieve the magical $5-trillion economy status by 2024-25. However, what is odd here is that to stress this, the document invokes the age-old comparison between India and East Asian countries. It is rather strange that the Survey brings up something that has been taught in economic development classes over the last two decades.

How the NIEs prospered

•Here, a question that arises is: Can the East Asian model help revive India’s floundering investment rates? Some crucial reminders are worth underlining.

•The East Asian model was largely a story driven by the newly industrialised economies (NIEs) of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, and Japan earlier.

•Specifically, the prime goal in various NIEs from 1960s through to the 1990s (prior to the Asian Financial Crisis) was to raise gross savings rates. While the rise in household savings was partly due to the positive demographic dividend, a variety of other factors, including macroeconomic stability, low inflation, lack of social safety nets, inability to leverage (due to a highly regulated banking system) and forced savings (fully-funded Provident Funds) also played a role. State-owned enterprises had to operate with budget constraints. This, coupled with the fiscal discipline practised by the economies, ensured that the public sector did not crowd out private savings and, in some cases, actually added to national savings.

•Another goal was to ensure that the private savings were actually intermediated into the formal financial system, failing which the cost of capital would remain high and the availability of capital for investment would be low. To achieve this, importance was given to the establishment of a safe and secure public sector banking system (usually in the form of postal savings networks) where deposits were guaranteed by the central bank and interest incomes was taxed lightly, if at all. The state-owned banks were tightly regulated as financial stability was the cornerstone of overall macroeconomic stability.

•Financial inclusion was encouraged, though the focus was on actual use of the deposit accounts rather than just their opening. While the manufacturing sector was viewed as a growth engine and open to export competition, the banking sector, in all economies apart from Hong Kong, remained tightly regulated and closed to foreign banks. Even Singapore initially adopted a dual banking structure that sheltered the domestic economy largely from significant short-term bank flows. It resorted to a calibrated policy to allow fully licensed foreign banks only in the late 1990s.

Tight financial oversight

•So, while these economies were generally successful in encouraging savings, the cost of capital was rather high, not unlike the problem in India today. To tackle this, the East Asian economies undertook financial repression — conventionally understood as a ceiling price keeping lending rates lower than market equilibrium.

•This, in normal circumstances, would have led to disintermediation from the formal financial system, a consequent reduction in the quantity of financing and the creation of a shadow banking system. However, central banks of these economies maintained tight oversight, and selective capital controls ensured that the low-yielding savings did not leave their countries of origin, while limited financial development forestalled the possibility of people looking for savings alternatives.

•Along with these, the governments undertook sophisticated industrial policies to promote domestic investment, much of which was export-led (though not necessarily free-market based). The governments understood that a vertical industrial policy (of ‘picking winners’) would not work without a sound horizontal industrial policy (dealing with labour and land reforms, bringing about basic literacy and raising women’s participation in the labour force). Besides, incentives also had clear guidelines and sunset clauses and mechanisms were in place to phase out support. Thus, winners prospered while losers were allowed to fail.

•In addition, the bureaucracies of these East Asian economies had what Berkeley sociologist Peter Evans referred to as “embedded autonomy”. This allowed the state to be autonomous, yet embedded within the private sector and enabled the two to work together to develop policies or change course if the policies did not work. This made industrial policy operate as a process of self-discovery, as emphasised by Harvard economist Dani Rodrik. It is the lack of this embedded autonomy in the next-tier NIEs of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia that has been partly responsible for them being stuck in the ‘middle income trap’.

Heterodox policies, reforms

•Thus, much of the investment and export acceleration in East Asian countries was due to heterodox policies and reforms that were carefully calibrated, well-sequenced and implemented at a time when the external environment was far less hostile than it is today. These measures allowed the nations to benefit from their demographic dividends and transform themselves into developed economies in record time.

•In contrast, due to political and other compulsions, India’s reforms since 1991 have been rather haphazard and of a ‘stop-and-go’ nature with perverse consequences, all of which has made it much more challenging for the country to take full advantage of its demographic dividend.

•Successive governments have neither had the tool-sets and the policy space nor the embedded autonomy needed to drive the industrial transformation as in the East Asian countries.

•Though measures like reducing policy uncertainty; ensuring that the fiscal expenditures do not crowd out private savings and investment; enhancing the efficiency of financial intermediation; and dealing with land acquisition and environment clearances are all essential to reignite investment, we do not need to invoke the East Asian example to understand the importance of these.

📰 7,000 species added to IUCN ‘Red List’

Habitat destruction and hunting by humans are reasons for fall in numbers

•Mankind’s destruction of nature is driving species to the brink of extinction at an “unprecedented” rate, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned on Thursday, as it added more than 7,000 animals, fish and plants to its endangered “Red List”.

•The group has now assessed more than 1,05,000 species worldwide, around 28,000 of which risk extinction.

•While each group of organisms face specific threats, human behaviour, including overfishing and deforestation, was the biggest driver of plummeting populations.

•“Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history,” said IUCN acting director general Grethel Aguilar. “We must wake up to the fact that conserving nature’s diversity is in our interest.”

•Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, known collectively as Rhino Rays due to their elongated snouts, are now the most imperilled marine families on Earth.

•The False Shark Ray is on the brink of extinction after overfishing in the waters off of Mauritania saw its population collapse by 80% in the last 45 years. Seven species of primate are closer to extinction on the new list, including the Roloway Monkey of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, with fewer than 2,000 individuals left in the wild.

•Prime culprits are humans hunting the animals for bushmeat and “severe habitat loss” as forest is converted to land to grow food.

•More than 500 deep-sea bony fish and molluscs have been added to the list for the first time posing something of a conservation conundrum as the space they inhabit — 1,000 metres beneath the surface — is often beyond national boundaries.

•“The alarm bell has been sounding again and again concerning the unravelling crisis in freshwater and marine wildlife,” said Andrew Terry, director of conservation and policy at the Zoological Society of London.



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