The HINDU Notes – 02nd August 2019 - VISION

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Friday, August 02, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 02nd August 2019

πŸ“° Ayodhya land dispute: Supreme Court to consider mediation panel’s report

A 5-judge Constitution Bench last month had asked the panel to inform the court by August 1 to enable it to proceed further in the matter.

•The Supreme Court is likely to consider on Friday the “outcome” of mediation proceedings conducted by a panel set up to amicably resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya and may decide whether to hear the matter or continue with the mediation. A five-judge Constitution Bench on July 18 had asked the panel to inform the court by August 1 to enable it to proceed further in the matter.

•It is understood that the Kalifulla panel has submitted its report on Thursday in a sealed cover about the progress made in the in-camera mediation proceedings.

•“We request the mediation panel to inform the court the outcome of the mediation proceedings as on July 31 ...,” said the bench, also comprising justices S.A. Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A.Nazeer.

•The bench, which had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18, had said that its contents will remain confidential as per its earlier order.

•The apex court had on July 11 sought a report on the mediation process and said that a day-to-day hearing might commence from July 25 if the court decides to conclude the mediation proceedings.

•It had requested Justice Kalifulla to apprise it by July 18 about the progress of mediation till date and its present stage.

•It had passed the order while hearing an application filed by a legal heir of one of the original litigants, Gopal Singh Visharad, seeking a judicial decision on the dispute and conclusion of the mediation process, alleging that not much was happening there.

Panel members

•The panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, was earlier granted time till August 15 by the apex court for completion of mediation after its earlier report had said that the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.

•The top court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including those related to the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security and travel, should be arranged forthwith by the state government so that the proceedings could commence immediately.

•The bench was earlier told by Hindu bodies, except the Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they were not in favour of the court’s suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies had supported the proposal.

•Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

•On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.

πŸ“° With district-wise data, Assam govt. pushes for NRC

With district-wise data, Assam govt. pushes for NRC
Heated debate in Assembly as data suggests many in districts dominated by indigenous people have been left out

•The Assam government on Thursday pushed for re-verification of the applications for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) after district-wise data presented in the Assembly suggested most people in areas bordering Bangladesh have been included in the citizenship list, while many in districts dominated by the indigenous people have been left out.

•This triggered a heated debate between the legislators of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling coalition and the Opposition led by the Congress, which was against re-verification.

‘Threat to integrity’

•The debate began after BJP legislator Debananda Hazarika doubted the fairness of the NRC scheduled to be published on August 31.

•“A fair NRC will be like the Magna Carta but a flawed one would threaten the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he said.

•Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary provided data that said more than 90% of the names in four districts bordering Bangladesh had been included, while many have been excluded in districts dominated by indigenous people. The data said 91.78%, 92.33%, 91.96% and 92.78% people in Muslim-dominated Dhubri, Karimganj, Hailakandi and South Salmara districts have been included in the NRC.

•Barring Hailakandi, the others border Bangladesh. In Barpeta and Nagaon, two other Muslim-dominated districts, names of 86.6% and 85.8% people have been included.

•“In the indigenous and tribal-dominated districts such as Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, Baksa and Sonitpur, 14-15% people have been excluded. Likewise, 22% people in Bongaigaon and 18% in Guwahati have been excluded,” Mr. Patowary said.

•The districts where the least number of people have been included in the NRC are Darrang (69%) and Hojai (67%).

Not error-free

•To drive home the point that the NRC was not error-free, Mr. Patowary cited the example of South Salmara.

•Several people in Salmara traced their roots to a single legacy person to get fraudulently into the NRC.

•Other BJP legislators said suspected citizens have been engaged in the NRC upgrading work and a few have already been arrested.

•Mr. Patowary said that the State government would appeal to the Supreme Court again for the extension of the NRC exercise to facilitate “much needed” re-verification.

•The apex court had last month rejected the State and Central government’s plea for 20% sample re-verification in border districts and 10% in other areas.

•It was to be done in order to ensure an error-free NRC.

SC’s rejection

•The Supreme Court’s rejection of the plea followed NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela’s submission that 27% re-verification had already been done.

•“His claim is irrelevant as he had not taken the people of Assam into confidence while carrying out the 27% re-verification as claimed,” Mr. Patowary said.

•The Minister slammed Mr. Hajela for keeping the the State and Central governments in the dark despite using 55,000 State government employees for the updating exercise and spending ₹1,200 crore of the government’s money to prepare a list that “leaves room for doubt”.

πŸ“° India evaluating Pakistan proposal for consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav

Response will be sent through diplomatic channels, says Ministry of External Affairs.

•India is examining Pakistan’s proposal to grant consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Navy officer, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on espionage and terrorism charges in 2017.

•Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said the established channels were being used to convey India’s response. “We have received a proposal from Pakistan. We are evaluating the proposal in the light of the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” he said, without spelling out the modalities. Nor did he say whether conditions were attached to the proposal.

•“We will convey to Pakistan the response through diplomatic channels,” he said.

•Sources said the proposal was received earlier this week.

•Media reports in Pakistan indicated that Pakistan had agreed to allow an Indian diplomat to meet Mr. Jadhav at 3 p.m. Friday. However, the Ministry of External Affairs refused to confirm the reports. 

•On July 17, the ICJ asked Pakistan to grant “without further delay” consular access to Mr. Jadhav. India had been demanding diplomatic access ever since he was arrested on March 3, 2016. It moved the ICJ for consular access and a fair trial. 

•Pakistan has alleged that he was involved in terrorism-related activities in Balochistan, the largest but trouble-torn province of the country. But India has been maintained that he was abducted from Iran where he was into legitimate business. 

•Pakistan on Wednesday said it had arrested an Indian in Dera Ghazi Khan. Reports suggested that he had made a statement, admitting to his being an intelligence operative. 

πŸ“° Fed’s insurance policy: On Federal Reserve’s rate cut

The rate cut is aimed at insuring against global risks to favourable U.S. economic outlook

•The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced its first reduction in the funds rate since 2008, a move that was widely expected. Elaborating on the Federal Open Market Committee’s rationale in deciding policy action, Chairman Jerome Powell was emphatic that the aim was to provide a measure of insurance, especially given that the outlook for the U.S. economy remains favourable. The quarter percentage point interest rate cut, he said, was designed to support economic growth by ensuring that confidence was kept intact and “intended to insure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade policy uncertainty.” In the space of less than three quarters, the Fed has pivoted from talking of further rate increases, to being on hold, to finally cutting interest rates as a global economic slowdown is exacerbated by trade tensions unleashed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressively insular approach to trade ties. The U.S. economy, which expanded by 2.9% in 2018 and posted a 3.1% expansion in the first quarter, slowed to a 2.1% pace in the second quarter, with the ongoing trade war with China blamed for a manufacturing slowdown as well as a decline in business investment. Just last week, the IMF pared its forecast for global growth in 2019 by 0.1 percentage point to 3.2%, warning that “risks to the forecast are mainly to the downside”. The IMF cautioned that further trade tensions could dent sentiment and slow investment, a theme that Mr. Powell too referred to, when he said the rate cut was intended “to help offset the effects these factors are currently having on the economy.”

•The Fed Chairman, however, finds himself in an unenviable situation with the rate reduction satisfying neither the sharply critical President who appointed him in 2018, nor the markets where investors fretted that Mr. Powell had failed to signal the start of a protracted easing cycle. A fair part of the problem appears to be of his own making as the central bank chief muddled his messaging, speaking at one point during the post policy press conference of a “somewhat more accommodative stance”, and at another emphasising that the move was not the start of a long series of rate cuts. Central bankers at the best of times have a delicate balancing act to perform to ensure that policies to support growth do not lead to a dilution of focus on price stability. In the Fed’s case, Chairman Powell is clearly concerned that with inflation in the U.S. stubbornly refusing to move toward the central bank’s 2% objective, there is a risk that persistent global disinflationary pressures could at some point feed into the domestic economy, undermining its efforts to spur wage and price gains. For the RBI, the Fed’s move signals that, for now at least, it can stay on its accommodative path in the confidence that U.S. investors seeking rate arbitrage may hit the pause button on plans to head home.

πŸ“° Finding the data on missing girls

The figure quoted by the government fails to completely take into consideration deliveries in private hospitals.

•Female foeticide continues to increase at an alarming rate, as per the Sample Registration System (SRS) data released in July for the period 2015-2017. The sex ratio at birth (SRB) has been dropping continuously since Census 2011, coming down from 909 girls per thousand boys in 2011-2013 to 896 girls in 2015-2017, to quote the yearly SRS Statistical Reports. In the 2014-2016 period, of the 21 large States, only two — Kerala and Chhattisgarh — had an SRB of above 950 girls per 1000 boys. Thus at present, about 5% of girls are ‘eliminated’ before they are born, despite the promises of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme.

•Taking into consideration the SRS estimates, the Niti Aayog acknowledged the seriousness of the problem in its latest report. However, despite all the officially acknowledged facts, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani claimed in the Lok Sabha that SRB has improved from 923 to 931 girls. She was quoting data from the Health Management Information System (HMIS), a fundamentally flawed source that largely considers home deliveries and births in government institutions. Data from the HMIS are incomplete and not representative of the country as a whole as births happening in private institutions are under-reported. The HMIS report itself acknowledges that based on the estimated number of births, the number of reported births is much less in both the years considered — 2015-16 and 2018-19.

Points of delivery

•The differences among the three points of delivery become evident when SRB is calculated using data from National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4). Of the 2.5 lakh reported births in the 2010-2014 period, the distribution of births at home, government hospitals and private hospitals was 21%, 52% and 27% respectively and the corresponding SRB figures were 969, 930 and 851.

•Thus, private hospitals had a disproportionate excess of male children births, which the HMIS sample excludes. It is to be noted here that sources in the Niti Aayog confirmed that they did consider HMIS data but found after statistical examination that it was unreliable and therefore used SRS.

•Further, even when we only consider institutional deliveries in government hospitals, the SRB is falling. The worst regional SRB for government sector was for Northern India (885 girls per thousand boys). The picture was somewhat better for Central India (926) Southern India (940) while the performance of Eastern India (965) and Western India (959) was even better.

•In the Northeast, where the government is the dominant health-care provider, the government sector SRB rivalled that of the private sector (both are 900).

•For too long, institutional births have been the goal of the government. That data for the private sector are more skewed has not been articulated in the NFHS reports or adequately dealt with by the Health Ministry. For two decades, in visits to hospitals, particularly private, too often we observed more male children even when the total number of births were small in number. So, we used NFHS 4 data to quantify this bias. It is criminal to use public funds to privilege boy births and facilitate discrimination against girls right from birth. However, for years, in the special neonatal care units (SNCU) set up by the government, there was an excess of about 8% male children in several States.

•Regrettably, the government has prioritised an expansion of SNCUs rather than deal with the issue of the ‘missing girls’. Protecting the integrity of birth statistics will help the people, governments and health professionals to focus on ameliorating the known gender gaps at birth rather than be complacent with dubious claims.

Bias over first-born child

•An analysis of the NFHS-4 data also revealed a bias when it comes to the first-born child — the SRB is among first-born children was 927, meaning that 2.5% of first-born girls are eliminated before birth. This was not the case historically.

•Our field visits to various parts of India in the past five years, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where one in every three Indians is born, revealed a massive expansion of ultrasound clinics even in remote corners. And in the absence of a stringent implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act),practically anyone who wants to determine the sex of the foetus is able to get it done illegally. Therefore, the increased deterrence in States like Maharastra, Haryana and Rajasthan in recent years has been undermined by the laxity of the biggest States.

•We are disappointed that the Central Supervisory Board established under the PCPNDT Act has not met for over one-and-a-half years. It should have ideally met at least thrice during this period. We hope the new Health Minister restores the regularity of the meetings. The Supreme Court has been continuously reminding medical associations since 2002 of their obligation to follow the law, its latest reminder being the formidable 92-page judgment against the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI) earlier this year. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has to ensure that private hospitals don’t profit from discrimination against girls before birth.

πŸ“° Bandipur Sanctuary now worth a staggering ₹6,405 cr.

Each rupee spent on reserve generates benefits of ₹716.3

•If monetary values could be assigned to tiger reserves, then the Bandipur Tiger Reserve would record a staggering ₹6,405.7 crore annually, says an economic evaluation of tiger reserves released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. For every rupee spent on the reserve, the rate of return through various tangible and non-tangible benefits is an incredible 700%.

•The study, authored by the Centre for Ecological Services Management at the Indian Institute of Forest Management, estimates the economic valuation of Bandipur and nine other tiger reserves in the country. The objective, states the report, is to enhance tiger conservation by highlighting the holistic economic benefits of protected areas.

•Researchers used an array of methods to determine the economic, scientific, educational, cultural and recreational services of tiger parks. For Bandipur, the report notes that every rupee spent on the management of the reserve sees the area generate intangible and tangible benefits amounting to nearly ₹716.3.

•The park, it says, generates “flow” benefits of ₹6,405.7 crore annually — translating to around ₹4.41 lakh worth of services per hectare protected. For instance, the cost saved by the State for conservation, protection and provisioning of water was pegged at ₹2,066.95 crore per year, climate regulation at ₹1,443.21 crore, and genepool protection of ₹1,263.74 crore annually. Other benefits include prevention of soil loss, biological control of disease, encouragement to pollination and others.

•Apart from this, the stock of timber, sequestered carbon and genepool protection of species is worth a staggering ₹31,476.15 crore annually in the 1,469.69 sq. km. core and buffer areas of the reserve.

•The report estimates that 3.06% of the flow benefits are accrued at the local level, while 16.01% are at the national level. The park also contributes nearly 1,121 billion litres of water to the Cauvery worth ₹2,067 crore per year; while the forests prevent soil loss and nutrient loss that would have cost ₹82.59 crore to rectify.

•At the global level the reserve’s forests store 1.2 crore tonnes of carbon (worth ₹8,6958 crore), apart from sequestering 3.45 lakh tonnes of carbon annually (or ₹1,418 crore worth of social cost saved annually).

πŸ“° Parley | Is banning cryptocurrencies the solution?

A blanket ban will push the currency into the black market and stifle innovation

•Recently, a government panel headed by senior bureaucrat Subhash Chandra Garg placed in the public domain a draft bill calling for a complete ban on private cryptocurrencies in India. The panel recommended a fine of up to ₹25 crore and a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone found to be owning or handling private cryptocurrencies. As an alternative to private cryptocurrencies, the panel recommended the introduction of a single cryptocurrency for the whole country that is backed by the Reserve Bank of India. Parag Waknis (Associate Professor, Ambedkar University) and Anil Antony (Convenor, Digital Media Cell, Kerala Unit, Indian National Congress) examine the soundness of the panel’s recommendations in a conversation moderated by Prashant Perumal. Edited excerpts:

What do you think about the Garg panel’s overall guidelines? The volatility of private cryptocurrencies is one of the reasons being given to ban them.

•Parag Waknis: Volatility doesn’t sound like a good rationale to ban cryptocurrencies because if cryptocurrencies are volatile, so are many other asset classes. We do not ban investments in any other asset class just because it is volatile. The decision of whether to invest in an asset or not should be left to the investor. The risk return calculation should be done by the investor, not the government.

•Also, banning the consumption of a good or service doesn’t really mean that people will stop consuming it. The market for the good or service simply goes underground and becomes hard to track. The market continues to exist, but the government cannot track it or tax it to gain revenue. This applies to cryptocurrencies as well.

•It is true that the price of cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, has been volatile. And that’s primarily because of their design. Bitcoin, for example, is designed in such a way that its supply rises rapidly first, but later very slowly, before stopping at a certain point.

You said that banning a currency would push it into the black market. That would also make it much harder for the government to regulate it, right?

•PW: Yes, exactly. In most cases, if the government feels that there is enough rationale to regulate the consumption of a commodity or a service or investments in a crypto asset, the best way forward is to come up with a regulatory framework that has incentives set right for the users. Maybe you can have a tax on capital gains from investing in crypto assets, just like you have taxes on investments in other assets.

•The Garg panel, while being opposed to the idea of private cryptocurrencies, still seems to be a fan of the blockchain technology. It has called for a national cryptocurrency backed by the RBI, which would probably be based on the blockchain.

•Anil Antony: The Garg panel opposing cryptocurrencies seems like yet another case of a group of people not really understanding a concept and hence trying to ban it. Most people equate cryptocurrencies with blockchain, but there is a huge difference between them. The cryptocurrency is just one application of the underlying blockchain technology. The blockchain technology has a lot more potential beyond cryptocurrencies.

An issue raised against cryptocurrencies is that they aren’t really backed by an underlying commodity or a sovereign government. But do you think it’s absolutely essential that a currency needs to be backed by a commodity or an institution for it to be widely accepted in the market?

•PW: No. The way we define money is that it is a generally accepted medium of exchange. So, it’s just trust that basically drives the value of money. There is nothing to back it, except trust. When two strangers have no other way of transacting with each other, when there’s no way they can verify the creditworthiness of each other, money helps. That’s all that we basically need. We need trust for that.