The HINDU Notes – 13th August 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 13th August 2019

πŸ“° Decision on Kashmir doesn’t affect LAC, Delhi tells Beijing

Measures aimed at better governance, says Jaishankar

•External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday reassured China that New Delhi’s decision to exercise greater administrative control over Ladakh would have no implications for India’s external boundaries or the Line of Actual Control with China.

•“The legislative measures were aimed at better governance and socio-economic development,” he told his Chinese interlocutors, referring to India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and making Ladakh, which borders China, a Union Territory.

‘No territorial claims’

•“There was no implication for the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control with China. India was not raising any additional territorial claims. The Chinese concerns in this regard were misplaced,” he said.

•Mr. Jaishankar’s remarks follow the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s earlier response that India had “continued to damage China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally modifying the form of domestic law.” The Chinese Foreign Office had also said that this practice was “unacceptable” and it would not have any effect.

•Speaking to the Indian media, Mr. Jaishankar said he had pointed out that regarding the boundary question, the two sides had agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement based on the 2005 Political Parameters and Guiding Principles.

•External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told the Indian media on Monday that in his talks, China had raised the question of Aksai Chin — a territory claimed by India, but which is under Chinese control.

•Regarding India’s decision to withdraw special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Jaishankar said that he had told his hosts that “this was an internal matter for India.” “The issue related to changes in a temporary provision of the Constitution of India and was the sole prerogative of the country.”

•He said his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi had also referred to rising tension between India and Pakistan as a result of these changes. In his response, Mr. Jaishankar said he had emphasised that “these changes had no bearing on Pakistan as it was an internal matter.”

•“It did not impact the Line of Control (LoC). Where India-Pakistan relations are concerned, the Chinese side should base its assessment on realities,” he had told Mr. Wang.

•“India as a responsible power had shown restraint in the face of provocative Pakistani rhetoric and actions. India has always stood for normalisation of the ties in an atmosphere free of terror,” he noted.

•Asked if he had objected to China’s reference to the UN charter and UN Security Council resolutions to resolve the Kashmir issue following Mr. Wang’s talks with visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday, Mr. Jaishankar said: “I am not here to have an argument with something they (the Chinese) did with Pakistan or some other country. I am here to represent my position and have a conversation with my counterpart. My counterpart raised certain issues related to legislative changes in India. I replied to that.”

•Mr. Jaishankar said discussions were also held on the situation in Afghanistan. “The Chinese Foreign Minister shared his assessment because they have been talking to various parties. He gave his assessment. We had a fairly detailed conversation.” There was also a dialogue on the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, he added.

πŸ“° PM-JAY to include cancer treatment soon, say health officials

‘Government realised that cancer care costs were causing massive financial crisis among people’

•If all goes as planned, cancer treatments will soon be covered under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), which is the Central Government’s health insurance scheme that aims to give medical cover to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families of approximately 50 crore beneficiaries, providing coverage of up to ₹5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

•So far, 16,000 hospitals have been empanelled, nearly 34 lakh beneficiaries have been admitted, and 9 crore e-cards have been issued, according to senior health officials.

Maximum mortality

•According to the World Health Organisation, the rate of mortality due to cancer in India is high, with cancer the second-most common disease in India, responsible for maximum mortality, with about 0.3 million deaths per year.

•Government figures note that the estimated number of people living with the disease stands at around 2.25 million, with over 11 lakh new cancer patients registered each year.

•“In India, the risk of developing cancer before the age of 75 years for males stands at 9.81% and females at 9.42%. Total deaths due to cancer in 2018 was 7,84,821 (Men: 4,13,519; Women: 3,71,302). The risk of dying from cancer before the age of 75 years stood at 7.34% in males and 6.28% in females.

•Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in India, followed by breast cancer and oral cancers.

All types

•The need for including cancer treatment into the healthcare package came from the fact that “the government realised that cancer care costs were causing massive financial crisis among people and many had to go without treatment. The Ayushman Bharat Yojana is now planning to include all types of cancers and their treatment under its healthcare packages. Talks are on and we should have a road map within the next three months. The healthcare packages for cancer treatment are not very comprehensive and we feel that improvements can be made,” said a senior health official.

•“In India, cancer treatment is very expensive and we would like to include treatment for all types of cancer in our health packages, which are cost-effective, proven and beneficial to patients. Patients often undergo multiple therapies for cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, which are very expensive. We want that nobody should have to go without treatment for the want of money, which is the rationale behind trying to include all cancer regimes under the programme,” he added.

πŸ“° An abrogation of democratic principles

The Kashmir move affects the robust nature of Indian democracy in addressing internal conflicts and alienation

•The recent abrogation of Article 370 ending the special status of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in the Indian Constitution along with the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, bifurcating the State into two Union Territories (J&K and Ladakh), have delivered a knock-out blow to the long-drawn-out peace process in Kashmir.

•These moves also herald a paradigm shift in the fundamental premises and parameters of India’s approach towards the Kashmir issue, with long-term implications for its political strategy of tackling such internal conflicts. There are three cardinal principles which successive political regimes have hitherto followed in addressing internal conflicts and seeking political reconciliation with alienated segments of the populace. These in turn have bolstered the robust and resilient nature of Indian democracy. The future, however, appears much more uncertain. Here is why.

Accommodative parameters

•The first principle entails adhering to the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution. Its far-sighted and malleable nature has stood the test of time. Since 1947, India has faced a wide-ranging nature of political demands ranging from secession, to the creation of a separate State for Jammu, Union Territory status for Ladakh and others seeking affirmative discrimination for the Dogri language, Scheduled Tribe status for Gujjars and Paharis and so on.

•In response, the central leadership has tried finding ways and means within the overarching parameters of the Indian Constitution and have rarely been disappointed. In view of the difficult circumstances under which the Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh had acceded to India, Article 370 itself offered an excellent example as to how the special needs and political aspirations of the people of J&K could be politically and constitutionally accommodated by India’s Constitution makers.

•Decades later, when Ladakhi Buddhists launched an agitation in 1989, demanding Union Territory status, the Indian Constitution once again made space for political experimentation by introducing intermediate state structures — the creation of two autonomous hill councils for Leh and Kargil.

Weakening federalism

•Against this backdrop, it is for the first time in independent India’s history that the Bharatiya Janata Party government has used constitutional provisions for opposite ends: to undermine and weaken India’s federal character by downgrading a State and territorially dividing it into two Union Territories without the consent of the people of J&K.

•The method adopted to execute this decision is of special concern because by equating or replacing the Constituent Assembly of J&K (which was dissolved in 1957) with the Legislative Assembly of J&K, and Parliament appropriating the latter’s powers since the State is under President’s rule, the Central government has acted unilaterally to reorganise the State of J&K.

•This rests not only on legally shaky ground but also flies in the face of constitutional norms and propriety. If this passes judicial scrutiny, it can then be done to any State in India, with drastic implications for its federal character.

•The second principle pertains to the maxim of ‘inclusivity’, that is, a political demand being made must be inclusive in terms of representing the interests of all those in whose name it is made. This supported bridge building and coalition-making among different communities certainly helped in shaping the peace process, in turn bolstering India’s deeply diverse and plural character.

•In J&K’s context too, it has also proven to be a critical common factor helping to explain the failures and successes of various political demands. The Kashmiri idea of self-determination in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual society, for instance, was to call for a plebiscite as mandated by the UN resolutions of 1949 or seek an independent and sovereign State of J&K, but this was not the approach taken by other communities such as the Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Gujjars, Bakkarwals, and Ladakhi Buddhists. In the 1950s, as indeed in the 1990s, the demand by Kashmiri Muslims for a right to self-determination or azadi was politically checkmated by these communities as their political choices were very different; time and again, an exclusively Valley-focussed approach has doomed the prospects of the peace process.

Demographic impact

•The BJP government’s move has, however, not only completely swung the pendulum but is also antithetical to the very idea of inclusivity. By turning J&K, especially the Valley, into a virtually open air prison, with a full clampdown and information blackout, the message is clear: that New Delhi alone will decide the political future of the people of J&K with no room for any consultative process and no space for dissent.

•The decision to divide the State is particularly fraught with the risk of deepening regional and communal fault lines. While Ladakhi Buddhists, for instance, are now celebrating the fulfilment of their long pending demand for Union Territory’s status, the voices of Kargilis who are still under a strict curfew are yet to be heard. They may not support this decision because ‘a Union Territory without a legislature’ not only negates the idea of decentralisation of power to the grassroots (the undergirding principle of the autonomous hill council) but could well lead to a shifting of the loci of power to Leh, resulting in losing whatever gains they have assiduously made over the years.

•The celebrations by Kashmiri Pandits are anticipated because of the gross injustice and displacement they have suffered since their forced exodus from the Valley in the early 1990s. It remains to be seen whether the abrogation of Article 370 by itself, would facilitate their return to the Valley without the support of local Kashmiri Muslims and rising violence.

•Instead of making all communities equal stakeholders in the peace process, the BJP government’s decision may well end up pitching one community against the other. A deepening of societal fissures and communal fault lines do not go hand in hand with the agenda of peace-making.

•The third principle refers to a promise and the practices of holding a dialogue process and sharing political power with opponents of all hues. In Kashmir, successive Central governments have until now never shut the door of dialogue in the face of political opponents who have ranged from the Sheikh Abdullah-led Plebiscite Front in the 1960s to the Muslim United Front in the 1980s to the Hurriyat leadership since the 1990s. This also holds true for militant groups.

•While the bottomline of Congress governments has been a commitment by their opponents to abjure the path of violence and abide by the Indian Constitution, the erstwhile Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime was even more generous in offering the broad framework of ‘insaniyat, jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat’.

Political fallout

•In a significant point of departure, the present government is pursuing a hard, top-down approach. The Home Minister has categorically ruled out any dialogue with militants and the Hurriyat, and has even castigated the mainstream regional political leadership of the National Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party for being corrupt, promoting family rule and fomenting separatism and violence. This move has nullified the very idea of a process of dialogue and runs the risk of discrediting the mainstream politicians and obliterating the middle ground between the militants and mainstream politicians.

•The Prime Minister in his recent address to the nation, expressed hope that new leadership in Kashmir would emerge from grass-roots politics. It is important to note that in 1,407 out of 2,135 halqas or village clusters, there was no voting at all in the panchayat elections that were held in 2018. This does not lend credence to youth being optimistic about joining mainstream politics especially after the abrogation of Article 370, a move which is only likely to deepen the alienation. The Modi government faces an uphill task in identifying credible local partners in ushering in peace to the Valley, which may well end up in facing yet another impasse.

πŸ“° New rules can deny green cards for immigrants using public benefits

Those using Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers may find it more difficult to become U.S. citizens.

•Trump administration rules that could deny green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance are going into effect, potentially making it more difficult for some to become U.S. citizens.

•Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the United States, or what’s called a “public charge,” but the new rules, made public on Monday, detail a broader range of programmes that could disqualify them.

•U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status.

•Much of President Donald Trump’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration has been in the spotlight, but the rule change is one of the most aggressive efforts to restrict legal immigration. It’s part of a push to move the U.S. to a system that focusses on immigrants’ skills instead of emphasising the reunification of families, as it has done.

•The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don’t apply to U.S. citizens, even if the U.S. citizen is related to an immigrant who is subject to them.

‘Core principle’

•The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule change fits with the Republican President’s message. “We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

•“That’s a core principle of the American Dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.” Immigrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status.

•But advocates worry the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help. And they are concerned the rules give too broad an authority to decide whether someone is likely to need public assistance at any time, giving immigration officials the ability to deny legal status to more people.

•On average, 5,44,000 people apply annually for green cards, with about 3,82,000 falling into categories that would be subject to this review, according to the government.

•Guidelines in use since 1999 referred to a public charge as someone primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support for long-term institutionalisation.

•Under the new rules, the Department of Homeland Security has redefined a public charge as someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period.

•If someone has two benefits, that is counted as two months. And the definition has been broadened to include Medicaid, housing assistance and food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

•Following publication of the proposed rules last fall, Homeland Security received 2,66,000 public comments, more than triple the average number for a rule change at the agency, and it made a series of amendments to the final rules as a result.

•For example, women who are pregnant and on Medicaid or who need public assistance will not be subject to the new rules during the pregnancy and for 60 days after the birth of the baby.

•The Medicare Part D low-income subsidy won’t be considered a public benefit. And public benefits received by children up until age 21 won’t be considered.

•Nor will emergency medical assistance, school lunch programs, foster care or adoption, student loans and mortgages, food pantries, homeless shelters or disaster relief.

•Mr. Cuccinelli said the comments resulted in changes that “we think it made a better, stronger rule.” Green card hopefuls will be required to submit three years of federal tax returns in addition to a history of employment. And if immigrants have private health insurance that will weigh heavily in their favour.

πŸ“° All about India's dams

The Dam Safety Bill, which was recently passed in the Lok Sabha, provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams to prevent disasters, and institutional mechanisms to ensure safety.

•The Dam Safety Bill, aimed at developing uniform safety procedures for all dams across the country, has been introduced in the Lok Sabha for the third time.

•It was first introduced in Parliament in August 2010 and was referred to a standing committee, which submitted its report in June 2011. After this, attempts to pass the Bill in the 15th and 16th Lok Sabhas failed due to opposition from the States.

•The Bill enables the setting up of a National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) to formulate policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and to analyse causes of major dam failures to suggest changes in safety practices. To implement these policies, a National Dam Safety Authority will be set up.

•At the State level, the Bill provides for the constitution of a State Dam Safety Organisation to take care of its dams, and a State Committee on Dam Safety to review its work, among other things.

πŸ“° Headgear made mandatory for children above four years

Safety measures for children travelling on motorcycles

•In a significant move, protective headgear of prescribed standards has been made mandatory for children above four years while travelling on a motorcycle.

•The safety measures for the children travelling on motorcycles have been included in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 that is passed by Parliament.

•With the President of India giving assent to the Act, that has amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, on August 9, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice has notified the Act in the Gazette of India.

•To make the protective headgear mandatory for children, Section 129 of the principal Act has been replaced in the Act as “Every person, above four years of age, driving or riding or being carried on a motorcycle of any class or description shall, while in public place wear protective headgear conforming to such standards as may be prescribed by the Central government”.


•Only Sikhs wearing turban have been exempted from the provision of Section 129 that makes helmets mandatory for all riders of motorcycles above four years of age.

•The Act says the Central government may by rules provide for measures for the safety of the children below four years of age riding or being carried on a motorcycle.

•With this amendment, children from the Kindergarten classes will have to wear the protective headgear if they have to travel on motorcycles.

•At present, only protective headgear for children riding cycles are available in the market across the country. The decision of the Union government will see the markets flooded with protective headgear for children. For the parents, carrying headgear of children is another issue.

•Road safety expert and former director of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) T. Elangovan has called for providing a breathing space till the markets get ready with the protective headgear of prescribed standards. The parents should be made aware of the need of protective gear for children.

•“Pillion riders, including children, are more prone to the injuries than the rider of the motorcycle in case the vehicle collides. Helmets of prescribed standards fastened to the head by straps or other fastenings can avoid head injuries,” Mr. Elangovan told The Hindu.

•The former Natpac director says law enforcers should enforce rules to restrict travellers to two on a motorcycle. “Often, the children hold on to the rider and the chances of thrown off are high. If at all children are allowed as a pillion riders, they should be of 13 years and above.”

πŸ“° Rooting AI in ethics

A technology should be evaluated both on the basis of its utility and the intention of its creator

•We can intuitively recognise whether an action is ethical or not. Let us look at the theoretical basis of understanding ethics with an example. A cigarette company wants to decide on launching a new product, whose primary feature is reduced tar. It plans to tell customers that the lower tar content is a ‘healthier’ option. This is only half true. In reality, a smoker may have to inhale more frequently from a cigarette with lower tar to get the flavour of a regular cigarette.

•Let us analyse this from three dominant ethical perspectives:

•First, the egoistic perspective states that we take actions that result in the greatest good for oneself. The cigarette company is likely to sell more cigarettes, assuming that the new product wins over more new customers. From an egoistic perspective, hence, the company should launch the new cigarette. Second, the utilitarian perspective states that we take actions that result in the greatest good for all. Launching the new cigarette is good for the company. The new brand of cigarette also provides a ‘healthier’ choice for smokers. And more choice is good for customers. Hence, the company should launch the product.

•The egoistic and utilitarian perspectives together form the ‘teleological perspective’, where the focus is on the results that achieve the greatest good.

•Third, the ‘deontological perspective’, on the other hand, focusses more on the intention of the maker than the results. The company deceives the customer when it says that the new cigarette is ‘healthier’. Knowingly endangering the health of humans is not an ethical intention. So, the company should not launch this cigarette.

The flawed facial recognition system

•In the context of Artificial Intelligence (AI), my hypothesis is that most commercially available AI systems are optimised using the teleological perspectives and not the deontological perspective. Let us analyse a facial recognition system, a showcase for AI’s success. An AI system introduced in 2015 with much fanfare in the U.S. failed to recognise faces of African Americans with the same accuracy as those of Caucasian Americans. Google, the creator of this AI system, quickly took remedial action. However, from a teleological perspective, this flawed AI system gets a go ahead. According to the 2010 census, Caucasian Americans constitute 72.4% of the country’s population. So an AI system that identifies Caucasian American faces better is useful for a majority of Internet users in the U.S., and to Google.

Going by intention

•However, from a deontological perspective, the system should have been rejected as its intention probably was not to identify people from all races, which would have been the most ethical aim to have. In fact, the question that comes to mind is — shouldn’t digital platform companies, whose markets span many countries, aim to identify faces of all races with an equal accuracy?

•Social media is not the only context where AI facial recognition systems are used today. These systems are increasingly being used for law enforcement. Imagine the implications of being labelled a threat to public safety just because limited data based on one’s skin colour was used to train the AI system. Americans are taking note. Recent news reports suggest that San Francisco has banned use of facial recognition by law enforcement.

•The ethical basis of AI, for the most part, rests outside the algorithm. The bias is in the data used to train the algorithm. It stems from our own flawed historical and cultural perspectives — sometimes unconscious — that contaminate the data. It is also in the way we frame the social and economic problems that the AI algorithm tries to solve.

•With the proliferation of AI, it is important for us to know the ethical basis of every AI system that we use or is used on us. An ethical basis resting on both teleological and deontological perspectives gives us more faith in a system. Sometimes, even an inclusive intention may need careful scrutiny. For instance, Polaroid’s ID-2 camera, introduced in the 1960s, provided quality photographs of people with darker skin. However, later, reports emerged that the company developed this for use in dompas, an identification document black South Africans were forced to carry during apartheid.

•Understanding and discussing the ethical basis of AI is important for India. Reports suggest that the NITI Aayog is ready with a ₹7,500 crore plan to invest in building a national capability and infrastructure. The transformative capability of AI in India is huge, and must be rooted in an egalitarian ethical basis. Any institutional framework for AI should have a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach, and have an explicit focus on the ethical basis.