The HINDU Notes – 24th July 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 24th July 2019

πŸ“° Supreme Court extends Assam NRC final publication deadline to August 31

The Supreme Court, however, does not accede to Centre, Assam pleas to conduct “sample reverification” of names included in and excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens

•The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the deadline for publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam from July 31 to August 31, 2019.

•A Special Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, however, did not accede to the “fervent” pleas of the Union and Assam governments to conduct a “sample reverification” of the names included in and excluded from the draft NRC published on July 30 last.

•Both the governments, in identical but separate applications to the court, said many names have been wrongly included and excluded from the draft NRC, and a sample reverification had become necessary to quell the “growing perception” that lakhs of illegal immigrants may have infiltrated the list, especially in districts bordering Bangladesh.

•“This is too great a matter... People's lives will be affected. We have to be 100% right. There cannot be a speck of doubt on the entirety of the NRC exercise... The error percentage in the border districts is just over 7%, while in other districts the average is over 12%,” Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court.

•He said the low error percentage in the border districts was suspicious, especially when over the years these areas had seen people cross the border illegally and settle down in the State, thus spoiling the opportunity of the natives to make a life for themselves.

•Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for Assam said the proposed sample reverification would only take the extended time the court had given till August 31. “It will not harm anybody and will give everybody satisfaction,” he submitted.

•But the court refused the plea, banking on a July 18 report of the court-appointed NRC Coordinator, Prateek Hajela, that reverification had been done on a district-wise basis during the adjudication of claims.

•"Mr Hajela, the Centre and Assam have made vehement, fervent pleas for a sample reverification. You tell us, as an officer of the court, if this is necessary?" Chief Justice Gogoi asked him.

Coordinator does not see the necessity

•“No, I do not see the necessity,” he replied.

•The CJI said the court was “more than satisfied” from Mr. Hajela's conclusion that a reverification is not necessary.

•When Mr. Venugopal repeated that the matter affected lives in the State, the CJI said, “everything we do affects lives.”

•The Centre and Assam had urged the court for a 20% sample reverification of names included in the draft in the districts bordering Bangladesh and a 10% sample reverification in the remaining districts of the State.

•Even in the last hearing, the court orally voiced its scepticism about the plea, pointing out that “Mr. Hajela's report said, while disposing of claims, 80 lakh names were reverified.”

•The court had said reverification of 80 lakh names would be mean that at least 27% of names were covered.

•“And you are asking for 20%... So, is there need for a sample reverification. If we are satisfied that verification has been done properly, then there is no need for a sample reverification, is it?” Chief Justice Gogoi asked Mr. Mehta then.

•The Assam government, represented by advocate Shuvodeep Roy, had said the 20% sample reverification should target the border districts where the incidence of illegal migration from Bangladesh was higher and where population growth has been reported higher than the State average as per census reports.

•The application filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs had tried to impress upon the court the “unprecedented large scale of complexities” involved in the NRC process.

•The draft NRC had included 2,89,83677 persons in the State as Indian citizens. But a total of 40,70,707 persons were left out. They were found ineligible to be considered for inclusion. The Centre said reverification should be done for both inclusions and exclusions.

πŸ“° Kumaraswamy govt. loses trust vote

Confidence motion moved by the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition is defeated by 6 votes

•The 14-month Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka collapsed on Tuesday, with Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy losing the confidence motion on the floor of the Assembly by six votes. He later tendered his resignation to Governor Vajubhai Vala.

•With the BJP announcing its decision to stake a claim to form a government, the transition of power and return of its State president B.S. Yeddyurappa as the Chief Minister is imminent.

•The confidence motion was put to vote late in the evening, six days after Mr. Kumaraswamy moved it and amid a protracted and heated debate on the issue of 15 resignations from the ruling parties allegedly engineered by the BJP.

•Though the outgoing Chief Minister was well aware that the numbers were stacked against him, he said he “would not run away” from the House and resign, but put the motion to vote.

•As Mr. Yeddyurappa also demanded that there be a division of vote, Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar counted the votes row by row. While 99 MLAs expressed confidence in the Kumaraswamy-led government, 105 opposed it. Mr. Ramesh Kumar announced that the motion was defeated and adjourned the House sine die.

•In a House of 225 MLAs (including one nominated member) 20 MLAs were not present at the time of voting. The absentees included 15 rebel MLAs who have resigned – 12 from Congress and 3 from JD(S), 2 Congress MLAs who abstained due to health reasons, 2 Independents and the lone BSP MLA.

•A jubilant Mr. Yeddyurappa the fall of the government as a “victory of democracy.” He said after the trust vote, “The new era of development will begin in the State from tomorrow. My priority has always been farmers and I assure them that I will work towards their welfare,” he said.

•Mr. Kumaraswamy warned that the political instability, caused by engineered defections, would boomerang on the BJP. “I am sure you [Mr. Yeddyurappa] will see dropping of bombs soon after you form your ministry,” he said.

•CLP leader Siddaramaiah squarely blamed the BJP for the fall of the government. “The BJP that used money and muscle power has won in the number game, but has lost morally... We have not stooped down to their level. Our house has now been cleaned,” said Mr. Siddaramaiah.

•The 2018 Assembly polls had thrown up a fractured mandate in Karnataka. The numerical strength of parties, in the the House of 225, stood at 105 for BJP, 78 (Plus, one of Speaker) for Congress and 37 for JDS. The Congress and JDS had come together to form a coalition as a counter to the BJP.

πŸ“° Scrutinise RTI Bill: Opposition

No easy passage for the proposed amendments in the Rajya Sabha

•The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is going to be the next flash point in the Rajya Sabha with the Opposition members moving a resolution to send the legislation to a select committee.

•The resolution was signed by the Biju Janata Dal, a party that maintains a neutral stance in Parliament keeping its distance from the Opposition and the ruling party.

•The resolution has been moved by Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool and signed by the Congress, the RJD, the BJD, the CPI, the CPI(M), the DMK and others. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday.

•“It is an important Bill which has far-reaching implications. We are not against it in toto but we do feel that it needs a detailed scrutiny and since there is no standing committee as of now, it should be sent to a select committee for further study,” BJD’s floor leader in the Rajya Sabha Prasanna Acharya told The Hindu.

•Opposing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, B. Mahtab of the BJD said it sought to bring in changes involving the salaries and tenures of the Information Commissioners at the States and the Centre. This would end up reducing the Information Commission to the level of a government department and weaken its authority, he said.

•Under the amendments, the Information Commissioners, who now have five-year tenures, will have “terms as may be prescribed by the Central government” and salaries, instead of being on a par with those of the Election Commissioners, will be decided by the Central government.

•“Parliament has so far cleared 13 Bills without a single one sent to a standing committee. The Trinamool Congress has decided to demand that every Bill that is introduced from now on be sent to a select committee. It’s not to say that we oppose all Bills, but we want to improve them,” Mr. O’Brien said. The RTI Bill, he said, will curtail the statutory powers of the Information Commissioners.

•RJD leader Manoj K. Jha said that while the government cannot take away the Right to Information Act, it wants to make it dysfunctional.

•“The Act provided right to information without any caveats. The proposed amendments kill the very spirit of the Act and gives a tool for the government to control the Central Information Commission,” he said.

πŸ“° A bridge across the India-Pakistan abyss

It would be a travesty to waste the opportunities made possible by the Kartarpur corridor plan

•Ties between India and Pakistan are at an ebb — their lowest in two decades. The thread from this phase, as a series of events — the Kargil war (1999), the Agra Summit (2001), the attack on Parliament (2001) and Operation Parakram (2001-02) — meant a sustained period of deep hostilities, with diplomatic missions downgraded and travel routes truncated. Since 2015 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lahore visit in the same year, the leaders of both countries have not met for talks. In mid-2018, the backchannel diplomacy between the National Security Advisers of both countries was called off by Pakistan, while in September 2018, India called off a planned meeting between the Foreign Ministers in New York. In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in February this year, India attacked terror targets in Pakistan which in turn sent fighter jets to the border. Subsequently, after India moved missiles and deployed submarines, Pakistan raised a full air alert and imposed an airspace ban that lasted till mid-July.

Unbroken thread

•What has been disconnected from all those tensions are the talks on the Kartarpur corridor. The offer from Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to open the corridor was conveyed first by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and accepted by Mr. Modi, marking a rare moment of coordination between the two nations.

•That the talks have continued through one of the most difficult years in the relationship is equally remarkable; there have been three rounds of technical-level meetings to ensure both sides complete the infrastructure needed before November 2019, the 550th anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak.

•The symbolism for pilgrims who will be able to travel from Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur just a few kilometres inside Pakistan, which are sites where Guru Nanak spent his last few years, goes well beyond the date and year. This is a route that the Guru and his followers traversed with ease for half a millennium until Partition resulted in the India-Pakistan border cutting through it. While Sikh pilgrims have been given easy access since then to Guru Nanak’s birthplace at Nankana Sahib, the circuitous 200 km route to Kartarpur via Amritsar-Wagah has been off limits. The Kartarpur shrine has one of the last copies of the original Guru Granth Sahib; there are some who believe that it contains not only the wisdom of the 10 Gurus but is itself the 11th and last Guru. Giving life to the wishes of so many will also ensure political dividends in India, an aspect no government in the State or at the Centre can ignore.

Some irritants

•Despite the rich significance of the corridor, there were many reasons for the earlier hesitation to revive the project. The Kartarpur corridor project is an issue that has been raised by India for several decades, with New Delhi’s reasons for wanting the corridor clear. However, in the case of Pakistan, these have not been as transparent, with the military establishment’s surprise backing only raised doubts on whether Islamabad has an ulterior motive. In a dossier handed over during the last round of talks on Kartarpur on July 14, India spelt out its apprehensions over Pakistan allowing separatist Khalistani groups, including those funded by groups based in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to try and influence pilgrims. Of specific concern is the ‘Referendum 2020’ plan by the Sikhs for Justice group (banned by India).

•This group has already held a series of public events in the U.S. and the U.K. demanding a ‘worldwide referendum’ on a separate Sikh state. The other irritant is the possible use of the corridor for drugs and arms movement; there are many routes and tunnels at the border between the two Punjabs. The terror threat by Pakistani Punjab-based anti-India groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad is also a constant concern.

•Agreeing to the Kartarpur corridor means the government has made an exception from a matter concerning national policy for a matter of faith. In the last few years, every avenue has been shut down from those for official, bilateral and regional (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) talks to even those for travel and tourism. Trade too has ground to a halt with cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade route suspension the latest casualty.

•With such strictures in place, New Delhi’s decision to embark on a course that will need regular and repeated India-Pakistan meetings is nothing short of a breach of its otherwise firm “no talks without terror ending” policy. For example, at a time when Indian and Pakistani Ministers do not even hold talks when they meet at multilateral conferences, New Delhi sent two senior Ministers to Pakistan to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for the event. It remains to be seen who the government will send to the inauguration, and whether Mr. Modi, who has likened building the Kartarpur corridor to the fall of the Berlin wall, will grace the occasion.

A range of possibilities

•With the Kartarpur exception to India’s policy on Pakistan now established, it is necessary to see whether it can be built on to create a mechanism for broader conversations between India and Pakistan. The obvious extension from this would be for having other faith-based “corridors” for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims in both countries; this would be in addition to the list of 20 shrines (15 in Pakistan, five in India) that were negotiated under the 1974 Protocol on visits to Religious Shrines.

•The template that Kartarpur has given both sides is also worth considering for the format of other bilateral negotiations given that the talks have been immunised from both terror attacks and election rhetoric. The venue of the talks, at the Attari-Wagah zero point, lends itself to more successful outcomes too away from the glare of the media, without focus on arrangements for both parties. The two sides can cross over, meet for the duration of talks and return after issuing a pre-arranged joint statement.

•The timing of the Kartarpur opening may also lend itself to exploring other bilateral engagements.

•Ahead of the next plenary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October, Pakistan will remain under pressure to keep terror groups subdued. According to various reports, infiltration figures at the LoC are significantly lower (a 43% reduction since the Balakot strikes in February); officials have marked about 20 terror camps in PoK they believe have been “shut down” recently. Civilian and military casualties from ceasefire violations have also reduced. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, which has been buoyed by Mr. Khan’s U.S. visit and by Pakistan’s new-found acceptance in the international community for its role in Taliban talks, and Mr. Modi’s government, which has been bolstered by its strong electoral mandate, will also be in the strongest positions politically to forge agreements.

•Thus, it would be a travesty to waste the opportunity made possible by the Kartarpur corridor, and by extension, the founder of the Sikh faith himself (revered by Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan) to bring both countries back to the table for talks. The most famous story at Kartarpur is the one of the ‘miracle’ that Guru Nanak wrought after his death as his Hindu and Muslim followers debated late into the night whether their Guru should be cremated or buried. When they awoke, his body had vanished, replaced by flowers which they divided up. The Guru Nanak’s ‘samadhi’ and grave were built side by side. As pilgrims across the border pay a visit in November, it should be clear what the bigger miracle is: that the Kartarpur exception has been made at all.

πŸ“° Faltering steps in the anti-AIDS march

The commitment to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030 needs strong and fearless leadership

•The Joint UN programme on AIDS, commonly known as UNAIDS, is facing one of the worst challenges afflicting the global AIDS response — this time an existential threat questioning its very relevance. The UN Secretary-General, AntΓ³nio Guterres, is expected to appoint a new executive director after the departure of Michel SidibΓ© in May 2019 on the recommendation of the programme coordinating board which manages the organisation. There are strong contenders from Africa and the U.S. in the reckoning among those who have been shortlisted.

A pivotal role

•At such a crucial time, it is disturbing to hear voices again questioning the relevance of UNAIDS for the global response.

•There are suggestions that AIDS should go back to the World Health Organisation (WHO) where it originally belonged to some 25 years ago. And that the new executive director should be equipped with an exit strategy to wind up the organisation.

•Since its establishment in 1994, UNAIDS has been able to successfully mobilise world opinion to mount an exceptional response to an epidemic which has consumed over 20 million lives with still no effective treatment or cure. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) 2001 was a game changer with the adoption of a political resolution that itself was exceptional in many ways. The creation of a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and the slashing of prices of AIDS drugs by Indian generics have brought treatment within the reach of many countries. Today some 22 million people are under antiretroviral therapy (ART) and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV has become an achievable goal by 2020. The organisation has provided leadership to many countries which in 10 years (2001-2010) could halt the epidemic and reverse the trend.

The epidemic is still alive

•However, at a time when it should be leading the global response to end AIDS as a public health threat, the organisation has started to falter in its strategy. First came the extremely optimistic messaging blitz that the world was going to see the end of AIDS very soon. This is far from true. Regions such as eastern Europe and Central Asia and West Asia are nowhere near reaching that goal, with many countries such as Russia witnessing a raging epidemic among drug users and men who have sex with men (MSM) communities. With the top leadership in UNAIDS exhorting countries to bring AIDS “out of isolation” and integrate with health systems, the political leadership in many countries have thought that AIDS is no more a challenge.

•Second has been the thinking that the AIDS epidemic can simply be treated away by saturating anti retroviral (ARV) coverage. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is forgotten that AIDS affects the poor, the marginalised and criminalised communities disproportionately as they face challenges in accessing the ‘test and treat’ programmes. The ever increasing number of young people who are joining the ranks of vulnerable populations do not get prevention messages like in the past. National programmes do not any more consider condoms, sexual education and drug harm reduction as central to the prevention of HIV transmission that results from unprotected sex and drug use. Funding for non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations working on prevention has virtually dried up.

•Third has been the weakening of country leadership of UNAIDS in many high-prevalence countries. Senior country-level positions are, in many instances, held by people who do not possess the core competence to constructively engage political leadership to undertake legal reforms and provide access to services to marginalised populations.

Weakening activism

•But the biggest setback has been the lost voice of vulnerable communities which was the main driving force of AIDS response in the decade after UNGASS. Activism surrounding AIDS has suddenly fizzled out emboldening many countries, especially in Africa, to further stigmatise and discriminate by enacting new laws that criminalise vulnerable sections of society.

•To add to its woes, the charges against one of the senior most staff and his exit from the organisation have seriously compromised UNAIDS at a time when the global response needs its leadership the most. The new executive director will have an unenviable task of not just restoring the credibility and relevance of the organisation but strengthening its presence at country level and making it more meaningful to the communities which look to it for leadership. The new executive director has to work relentlessly to place prevention of the epidemic and empowering communities at the centre of global response.

•With 1.7 million new infections and one million deaths occurring every year, we can’t afford to drop the ball half way. The commitment to end AIDS by 2030 is ambitious but not impossible to achieve. What we need is a re-energised UNAIDS with a strong and fearless leadership from a person of high integrity and commitment along with a sincere effort to remove the deadwood from the organisation. Any thought of winding it up or giving the mandate back to WHO would be suicidal at this moment.

πŸ“° The complexities of Naga identity

The Nagaland govt. will face many hurdles in its quest to compile a list of indigenous inhabitants

•The Nagaland government’s move to compile a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) opens up possibilities in the context of the decision to link the register to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system without a consensus on the definition of an ‘indigenous inhabitant’.

•One such possibility is of RIIN pushing the negotiators engaged in the ongoing Naga peace talks to articulate new and hardened positions on the contentious issue of integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas.

•Though the official notification on RIIN has not mentioned a cut-off date to compile the proposed register, the authorities in Nagaland have till date issued indigenous inhabitant certificates using December 1, 1963 as the cut-off date. Nagaland was inaugurated as India’s 16th State on this date following the ‘16-point agreement’ between the government of India and the Naga People’s Convention on July 26, 1960.

Opposition from NSCN (I-M)

•The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which has been engaged in peace talks with the government of India since 1997, has opposed the compilation of RIIN asserting that “all Nagas, wherever they are, are indigenous in their land by virtue of their common history”.

•A statement issued by the ‘Ministry of Information and Publicity’ of the self-styled Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim reads: “The present move of the State government to implement [the] Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) is contradictory to the inherent rights of the Nagas. It is politically motivated to suit the interest of the groups advocating for the ‘16-Point Agreement’. The ‘Nagaland State’ does not and will not represent the national decision of the Naga people. It was formed purely to divide the Nagas.” The self-styled government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim is the parallel government run by the NSCN(I-M).

•On June 29, the Nagaland government notified that RIIN “will be the master-list of all indigenous inhabitants” of the State. All those to be included will be issued “barcoded and numbered indigenous inhabitant certificates”. It added that all existing indigenous inhabitant certificates would become invalid once the process of compiling RIIN is completed and fresh certificates issued.

•RIIN is different from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) as exclusion or inclusion in RIIN is not going to determine the Indian citizenship of anyone in Nagaland.

Three conditions

•Since 1977, a person, in order to be eligible to obtain a certificate of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland, has to fulfil either of these three conditions: a) the person settled permanently in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963; b) his or her parents or legitimate guardians were paying house tax prior to this cut-off date; and c) the applicant, or his/her parents or legitimate guardians, acquired property and a patta (land certificate) prior to this cut-off date.

•The compilation of RIIN also involves the complexities of deciding claims in respect of children of non-Naga fathers as well as non-Naga children adopted by Naga parents.

•If the Nagaland government goes ahead with a compilation of RIIN with this cut-off date, then all Naga people who have migrated to the State from the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in India after this day will have to be excluded.

•The NSCN(I-M) statement adds, “Nothing is conclusive on the Naga issue, until and unless a mutually agreed honourable political solution is signed between the two entities. Therefore, any attempt to dilute the final political settlement by justifying any past accord of treasons should be seriously viewed by all Nagas.”

•This clearly indicates the opposition the Nagaland government may have to face if it goes ahead with the move to compile RIIN. The Centre and the NSCN (I-M), which is the largest among all armed Naga rebel groups, signed a Framework Agreement in 2015, the content of which has still not been made public, in turn leaving room for speculation on the contentious issue of integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

•Unless otherwise clarified through an official notification, the proposed linking of RIIN with the ILP system may require large numbers of non-indigenous inhabitants of Dimapur district, more particularly the commercial hub (Dimapur town), to obtain an ILP to carry out day-to-day activities. Most of them migrated from other States and have been carrying out trade, business and other activities for decades. Migration also explains the higher density of population in Dimapur district (409 persons per sq. km) when compared to all the other districts in the State. The ILP is a travel document issued by the government of India to allow a ‘domestic tourist’ to enter Nagaland, and is valid for 30 days.

Streamlining ILP

•The Supreme Court, on July 2, dismissed a Public Interest Litigation seeking a directive against the Nagaland government’s move to implement the ILP in the entire State including Dimapur district, which had so far been kept out of the purview of the ILP system.

•A report prepared by the government, in collaboration with the UNDP in 2009, gave information on migration patterns in Nagaland. Titled ‘Rural-Urban Migration: A Thematic Report’, it said that in 2001, Assam was the State with the highest number of migrants to Nagaland (19,176 people), followed by Bihar (7,249 people) and Manipur (4,569 people). A large section of people (about 45% of them in the case of Assam, 59% in the case of Bihar and 25% in the case of Manipur) had migrated for better employment and business opportunities.

•While the move to streamline the ILP system to curb the influx of “illegal migration” to Nagaland has been welcomed by civil society, public opinion is still divided on compiling RIIN without a consensus on the cut-off date.

•As the Nagaland government has begun a consultation process on RIIN, it will be under pressure to de-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism from the proposed register and put it on hold till the ongoing peace process concludes and the final solution is worked out.

•Besides this, the complexities that may arise in streamlining the ILP mechanism due to non-issuance of domicile certificates or permanent residence certificates to a large number of non-Naga, non-indigenous inhabitants could also make the task even more difficult for the Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland government.

πŸ“° Giving ties with Seoul a facelift

India-South Korea relations are yet to reach their full potential despite making significant strides

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi met South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the G20 summit last month in Osaka. Both agreed to find common ground between Seoul’s ‘New Southern Policy’ and New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’.

•Today, India and South Korea have the shared values of open society, democracy and liberal international economic order and their mutual engagement is at a historically unprecedented level. Significant strides have been made in several areas of science and technology.

•The Indo-Korea Science and Technology Centre, established in Bengaluru in 2010 as a collaboration between the Indian Institute of Science and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, is a shining example in this regard.

•The emerging balance of power in the region has also started influencing the trajectory of defence ties. Co-production of the K9 Thunder howitzer is a prime example of the ongoing defence collaboration. With technology transfer from South Korea, India’s Larsen and Toubro plans to achieve over 50% localisation by manufacturing the key components of these weapon systems domestically as part of ‘Make in India’. Further, both countries have regularised education exchanges. Additionally, there is regular security dialogue between India’s National Security Adviser and the intelligence agencies of Korea.

The fallout of trade war

•The ongoing trade war between U.S. and China has also started playing into India-South Korea bilateral ties as South Korean companies are now finding it more difficult to sell their products in the U.S., whenever they are produced in their Chinese branches. Growing trade tensions have forced South Korean companies to contemplate moving their production facilities to locations outside China. India is emerging as a prime beneficiary here, not least because of the considerable size of the Indian domestic market, its cheap labour costs and a stable legal system.

•At the Osaka meeting, both leaders emphasised the need to create a new “synergy” to meet new challenges. Since India opened up its economy in the early 1990s, India-South Korea trade ties have grown from few hundred million dollars to $22 billion at the end of 2018. Today the major items that India exports to South Korea include mineral fuels, oil distillates (mainly naphtha), cereals and, iron and steel. South Korea’s main exports to India include automobile parts and telecommunication equipment, among others.

Trade target likely to be missed

•However, despite the robust ties, not everything is going as planned. The trade target of $50 billion by 2030 is most likely to be missed due to lack of adequate efforts. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, originally the core mechanism for economic ties, requires immediate upgrading. An early harvest agreed to last year, under which India agreed to reduce tariff on 11 commodities and South Korea on 17, failed to see completion.

•More than eight years into its existence, the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ICCK), is struggling to find its due space in promoting economic and business ties and spends most of its time organising social and cultural events. A new, empowered commerce body is the urgent need of the hour. The Indian Cultural Centre, established more than ten years ago, has failed to reach out to common South Koreans, who still fail to differentiate between India and Indonesia. While it teaches regional dance forms to children, the bigger picture of introducing India to the general South Korean population has been lost. Further, social and economic discrimination against Indians working and living in South Korea is still a regular occurrence.

πŸ“° PayPal mulls data localisation for India

Establishes technology centre

•American digital payments player PayPal is working with its partners on localisation of data as mandated by the Reserve Bank of India, said vice-president and head (engineering) of PayPal India Guru Bhat here on Tuesday.

•“As part of our operating set-up in India, we work with a lot of partners and we are working with them with the proposal right now on how to enable this for the country,” he said when asked if Paypal is considering ‘data localisation’ as mandated by the RBI.

•The RBI had, in April last year, asked payment firms to ensure their data were stored exclusively on local servers, setting a tight six-month deadline for compliance.

•That deadline was said to have been missed by some foreign firms, including credit card giants Visa and Mastercard.

•Policymakers in India believe storing data locally would help monitor and conduct investigations if the need arises.

•“In all the markets that we are prevalent or operative in, our intent is to have a platform that is compliant across all those platforms. So we have the same approach for India and all the laws of the land we will comply with,” Mr. Bhat further said. PayPal also launched its third global technology centre here.

πŸ“° IMF cuts India’s growth forecast for 2019-20 to 7%

Cites weaker-than-expected outlook for domestic demand

•The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut India’s growth forecast for 2019-20 to 7% from its forecast in April of 7.3% on poor demand conditions, it said on Tuesday.

•The IMF’s World Economic Outlook July update also cut India’s growth forecast in 2020-21 to 7.2% from the previous estimate of 7.5%.

•“India’s economy is set to grow at 7% in 2019, picking up to 7.2% in 2020,” the report said. “The downward revision of 0.3 percentage points for both years reflects a weaker-than-expected outlook for domestic demand.”

•This latest cut in the forecast follows a series of cuts by the IMF in its previous updates.

•In April, the IMF had cut India’s growth forecast for 2019-20 to 7.3%, which was 0.2 percentage points lower than the forecast made in January, which itself was 0.1 percentage points lower than the forecast made in October 2018.

•The forecast of 7.2% growth for 2020-21 is 0.5 percentage points lower than what was forecast made in October and January. The 7% forecast for 2019-20, however, is in line with those made by the Reserve Bank of India, Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian and the Asian Development Bank.

•The IMF has also cut its forecast for world GDP growth by 0.1 percentage point each in 2019 and 2020 to 3.2% and 3.5%, respectively.

•The growth forecast for emerging markets and developing economies has also been cut by 0.3 percentage points for 2019 to 4.1% and by 0.1 percentage points for 2020 to 4.7%.

πŸ“° Labour Bills meets with protest

Opposition demands that be referred to the Standing Committee on Labour

•The government on Tuesday introduced the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 and the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha amid protests from the Opposition that the move was being made at the behest of employers and not trade unions.

•Opposing the introduction of the Bill, Adhir Ranjan Chowdury, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said that the Bills should be sent to a Standing Committee for scrutiny. He said it would be a “grave injustice” if the Bill was not sent to a parliamentary panel for scrutiny. The Bills also needed more time to be allocated for discussion, Mr. Chowdhury said.

•N.K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and Saugata Roy of the Trinamool demanded that the Bills be sent to parliamentary panels for scrutiny, saying their passage will have large-scale ramifications.

•Mr. Roy said the government was referring to scrutiny reports on the Bill dating back to 2002, but held no consultations lately, adding that the Bills were being pushed at the behest of employers and not trade unions.

‘Consultations held’

•Mr. Gangwar said the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code was sent to the Standing Committee during the previous Lok Sabha, adding that the legislation had been drafted after consulting 13 workers’ organisations and that he would try to assuage concerns raised by the members.

•On opposition to the introduction of the Bill, especially the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Code, Mr. Gangwar asked the House to allow the introduction of the Bills, for the House to take a call later. The introduction of the Bills then took place.

•The government said it sought to bring in the next wave of labour reforms through these Bills that would subsume 17 Bills and improve the ease of doing business.

•The OSH Code simplifies, amalgamates and rationalises the provisions of 13 Central labour laws into a concise volume with certain important changes.

•It would apply to all establishments having 10 or more workers, other than those relating to mines and docks.

•It provides the concept of one registration for all establishments having 10 or more employees and constitution of the National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board to give recommendations at the Central and State levels.

πŸ“° UN climate envoy meets Javadekar

Initiatives by India discussed

•The United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, Luis Alfonso de Alba, met Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar and discussed India’s initiatives to meet its climate commitments.

•Ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York in September, Mr. de Alba, appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as his climate envoy, is visiting several countries and urging leaders and businessmen to do more to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

•“The Secretary-General is exhorting countries and leaders to come with concrete plans at the meeting and not mere policy statements. We need to be getting into a trajectory to achieve emission cuts to cap warming at 1.5°C,” Mr. de Alba said in a press briefing here on Tuesday.

•This implies countries enhancing their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050, a UN statement noted.

•Mr. Javadekar, in a series of tweets said, India was already taking a “leadership position” on achieving its Nationally Determined Contribution (or climate goals).

•“India had created 80,000 MW of renewable power and set a target of achieving 175,000 MW by 2022; reduced energy intensity by 21%, was increasing forest cover and that the distribution of 70 million gas cylinders under the Ujjwala scheme had helped save trees, reduce pollution and improve health,” the Minister tweeted.

•The UN also announced a ‘Clean Air Initiative’ that calls on governments to achieve air quality that is safe for citizens and to align climate change and air pollution policies by 2030.

•“The climate crisis and the air pollution crisis are driven by the same factors and must be tackled by joint action. Governments at all levels must have both an urgent need and huge opportunity to address it,” the United Nations envoy said in a statement.

•The Summit will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organisations to develop ambitious solutions in six areas: a global transition to renewable energy; sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities; sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans; resilience and adaptation to climate impacts; and alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the summit though this has not been official confirmed.

πŸ“° Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill: Centre usurping States’ rights, say MPs

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill: Centre usurping States’ rights, say MPs
They flag certain provisions of the Motor Vehicles Bill passed by the Lok Sabha

•The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote.

•Several members cutting across party lines supported the safety and traffic violation aspects of the Bill, but said that through the amendment, the Centre was trying to take away the States’ powers with certain provisions of the draft law.

•“It is up to the States if they want to make their transport system more modern and efficient. The Centre would not interfere with the States’ working and only facilitate the implementation of the framework such as facilitating availability of foreign funds,” Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said in the House. The Bill seeks to weed out corruption and improve road safety, he said, adding that the government was “fulfilling its promises made on better, smoother roads and latest transport technology”.

•“The Bill proposes a National Transportation Policy for ushering in guidelines on the transportation of goods and passengers,” the Minister said. He announced that the Ministry would end the system of road monitoring being undertaken by independent engineers and it would be carried out by an expert company.

•Speaking on the way forward, he said that soon two-wheeler taxis would be a reality apart from functional waterways, ropeways, cable cars and skybuses.

•“We have also identified 14,000 accident-prone black spots in the country and ₹14,000 crore, raised from the ADB and World Bank, would be invested to rectify them with a view to control road accidents,” Mr. Gadkari said.

•Another important feature of the Bill is that new vehicles will be registered at the dealer level and it will eventually remove buyers’ interface with registration authorities.

πŸ“° Making the water-guzzling thermal plants accountable

An improved monitoring mechanism can play a key role

•The advancing monsoon has brought relief to many parts of India, but its progress has been slower than average and the country is still in the midst of a rainfall deficit, with millions facing an acute water shortage. Water is essential for human survival, and for agriculture and industry. It is important that India — which has only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources but about 18% of the world’s population — consumes water more sensibly.

•In India’s pursuit of 100% electrification goal, the country’s installed power capacity will need to be doubled. Even with the growth of renewable energy (RE), coal has been projected to be the backbone of the electricity sector till 2030 and beyond. Managing the electricity needs of a country that’s already dealing with water scarcity will be a challenge.

Located in water-scarce areas

•Thermal power plants (TPPs) consume significant amounts of water during the electricity generation process. Most of India’s TPPs are located in water-stressed areas, and water shortages have led to electricity-generation disruptions and significant revenue losses to the economy.

•In December 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a notification setting limits for water consumption by TPPs. However, the amended Environment Protection (EP) Rules codified in June 2018 ended up permitting TPPs to use more water than what was initially specified. There are certain mechanisms that need to be strengthened to make these regulations more effective.

•The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) recently released the format for TPPs to report on their annual water consumption. The power plants were asked to specify both metered and un-metered usage, report on the source (like river, canal or sea), and state the percentage of deviation from the water norms, along with the reasons and the corrective measures undertaken.

•These guidelines can be strengthened by including other relevant inputs. First, TPPs should disclose the amount of water consumed by them in previous years, so that a baseline for water consumption per TPP can be established, and subsequent reductions in water consumption can be quantified. Second, these reporting requirements — currently in the form of an Excel sheet on the CEA website — must be added to the EP Rules, to accord the disclosure process greater transparency and enforceability. Third, TPPs should also be required to submit verifiable evidence (for example, water bills) to support and substantiate the disclosures. Without these, the self-reporting guidelines will remain weak.

•Finally, the data supplied by TPPs should be placed in the public domain, so that the parameters disclosed can be studied in the context of region-specific water shortages, outages in the plants, and future research and analysis in this field.

Specifying penalties

•Section 15 of the EP Act provides for a blanket penalty for contravention of any provisions of the Environment Protection Act or EP Rules: up to five years of imprisonment and/or up to ₹1 lakh fine along with additional daily fines for continuing offences. However, the Act does not stipulate specific penalties for specific offences. Perhaps this is an area for review by the government, so that we have a more nuanced framework for enforcement and penalties.

•Further, the relevant officials in charge of enforcement, across the Ministry and the CEA, should be identified, and their roles clearly defined. The implementation of these norms should include milestones and time-based targets, and periodic monitoring of the progress of TPPs in making improvements.

•In addition to reducing the stress caused by TPPs, shifting to a more aggressive RE pathway will help India achieve its global climate targets. However, this will need further work — particularly to regulate water consumption by specific RE technologies. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has taken a first step by issuing a notice to State governments on reducing water use for cleaning solar panels and to explore alternative mechanisms to ensure that solar panels remain efficient.

•India will need to balance the needs of its growing economy with its heightening water stress. Stringent implementation of standards for judicious water use by TPPs, combined with the promotion of RE and energy efficiency, will offer pathways for achieving these goals.

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