The HINDU Notes – 28th September 2019 - VISION

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 28th September 2019

📰 At UN General Assembly, Narendra Modi calls for unity against terror

Prime Minister's speech highlights development and environment at the 74th session of United Nations General Assembly.

•In an address to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly that combined elements of a campaign speech and a call to action, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday showcased his government’s developmental and environmental record, and set out its agenda. He called for unanimity in combating terrorism and said the UN needed to adopt a new direction.

•“When a developing country is able to successfully implement the world’s biggest sanitation campaign within the Clean India Mission, building over 110 million toilets in just 5 years for its countrymen, all its achievements and outcomes are an inspirational message for the entire world,” Mr. Modi said.

•“The largest number of supreme sacrifices made by soldiers of any country for UN peace keeping missions is from India,” Mr. Modi said, adding, “We belong to a country that has given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.”

•On terrorism, Mr Modi said, “The lack of unanimity amongst us on the issue of terrorism, dents those very principles, that are the basis for the creation of the UN. And that is why, for the sake of humanity, I firmly believe, that it is absolutely imperative, that the world unites against terrorism, and that the world stands as one against terrorism.”

•Through the past week, both the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minster S Jaishankar have, either explicitly or implicitly called out Pakistan for its support of cross-border terror.

•Saying a fragmented world was in nobody’s interest, Mr. Modi called for a new direction to multilateralism and to the UN, saying it was no longer possible, due to modern technology to be confined within ones borders.

•Outside the venue, Indian Americans, The Coalition Against Fascism in India, Dalit groups, Kashmiris, Sikh Khalistanis and Pakistanis staged a protest against India’s action in Kashmir.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday highlighted his government’s achievements in financial inclusion, biometric identities, health coverage and the Clean India Mission, in which over 110 million toilets had been built in five years.

•Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr. Modi declared several targets for the next few years. This included a nationwide campaign to “make India free of single-use plastic” which was currently under way and targeting eradication of tuberculosis in India by 2025.

•In addition to the developmental themes he had brought up in speeches earlier this week, Mr. Modi reiterated India’s leadership in the environmental arena, and reminded his audience that India has one of the lowest emissions on a per capita basis.

•Revisiting a theme from his address at the Climate Action Summit on Monday, Mr. Modi declared a target of 450 GW of solar energy capacity for India (time frames were not provided). 

•He also invited “all countries to join” the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure – an intiative India has launched with countries like the UK, Australia, Fiji and the Maldivives to build infrastructure resistant to natural disasters.

•His speech also included references to Mahatma Gandhi, and Swami Vivekananda. He also quoted Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundranaar, saying, “Yadum, Ooray, Yaavarum Kelir” [we belong to all places and we belong to everyone]. Significantly, he called Tamil the world’s “most ancient” language. The NDA government has been recently criticised for promoting Hindi over other Indian languages.

📰 Panscheel must for peace: Chinese envoy

He says Wuhan meet improved ties

•The Chinese envoy on Friday urged India to follow the principle of peaceful co-existence as devised in the Nehruvian era.

•Speaking at a public reception to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Ambassador Sun Weidong said the bilateral relationship had received a new boost after the Wuhan summit last year and that old differences were being addressed.

•“The principle of Panchsheel should be followed in bilateral relations between India and China to ensure peaceful coexistence. We have some differences but those differences are being dealt with by special mechanisms. Both sides should keep making progress so that our old relationship can be strengthened in the near future,” said Mr. Sun at the event organised by the India-China Friendship Association.

•The Chinese Ambassador spoke about the old ties of collaboration between Chinese anti-colonial struggle and the freedom fighters in India and recollected the contribution of Deng Xiaoping in setting China on the path of development.

•“Relationship between our two countries acquired new a new spirit after President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Wuhan last year and ever since our relationship has moved ahead,” said the Ambassador who has taken charge recently.

•Earlier, Chairman of the India China Friendship Association R.N. Anil handed over a resolution for President Xi Jinping urging him to further strengthen bilateral political, trade and people to people relationship. India is expected to host President Xi in October though the exact date of his visit to India remains unannounced till now.

📰 The top court and a grave of freedom

The corpus of judgments by the highest court is replete with cases where the bogey of security has trumped basic rights

•The most powerful court in the world? A protector of fundamental rights? One’s heart sinks. There are scores of shibboleths that need dispelling in India, but foremost among them is the notion that the Supreme Court acts, in the words of its second Chief Justice M. Patanjali Sastri, as a “sentinel on the qui vive”.

Rights in Kashmir

•If the court’s handling of the cases concerning the unending suspension of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir should tell us anything it is this: freedom is of dispensable merit. Nothing else can explain the court’s disdain for the writ of habeas corpus, which has now been stripped of all meaning, and the court’s dogged refusal to so much as review the prevailing suspension of liberty in the region, simply because “security matters” are involved. Yet, for some reason, even otherwise sagacious commentators continue to place special faith in the judicial process. They see the condonation of the continuing wrongs inflicted in J&K — including the judges’ failure to account for the practical freezing of the J&K High Court’s functioning — as a mere aberration. But when we probe deeper what we see is a court that has so often in the past been a grave of freedom.

•Ordinarily, when we think about the Supreme Court and its record in preserving civil liberties, our collective minds hark back to the dark days of the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency. Then, the court’s status as a check on democratically obtained authority reached its nadir, when it ruled in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla that fundamental rights could be validly negated during a period of the Emergency. But this judgment is scarcely an outlier — it is merely an extreme exposition of the court’s default frame of mind.

Faulty trade-off

•Throughout history the court has consistently seen individual liberty as an expendable value. Its corpus of judgments is replete with cases where it has allowed the bogey of security to trump freedom. That such a trade-off is neither constitutionally mandated nor rooted in a logic of the rule of law has barely placed any constraints on the court. This has meant an upholding of a plethora of legislation, including The Preventive Detention Act, 1950; The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 or (AFSPA); Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971; The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985, or TADA; and The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. Although some of these statutes have since been repealed, each of them allowed, among other things, the political executive of the time to define and cite “security of the state” as a legitimate reason for limiting a citizen’s rights. As Ujjwal Kumar Singh has argued, these judgments have resulted in the exception becoming the norm, and in the creation of a seemingly permanent state of emergency.

•The groundwork for this record, however, was laid at the very founding of the Supreme Court. Today, we are prone to offering encomiums to the court’s earliest years, but nowhere is its inherent and deeply felt distrust of fundamental freedoms more apparent than in its first big constitutional verdict.

•The year was 1950, and the communist leader A.K. Gopalan, who had been detained without trial, even after Independence, was incarcerated under a freshly minted Preventive Detention Act, a legislation that was passed hot on the heels of the Constitution’s inauguration. Supporting the statute, the state cited Article 22, which provided, among other things, a set of procedural guarantees to persons detained pre-emptively. But what the government failed to see was that the provision was primarily incorporated to ensure that even those persons confined in exigent circumstances were entitled to a set of basic rights.

•The article, it ought to have been clear, hardly provided a carte blanche to Parliament permitting it to legislate and allow for preventive detention on arbitrary grounds. Indeed, as M.K. Nambyar, who represented Gopalan in court, argued, “no amount of fine phrasing could disguise the fact that preventive detention without trial is utterly repugnant to the universal conscience of civilized mankind”.

•But the court endorsed the law. It saw the Constitution’s provision of a framework for preventive detention as a parliamentary licence. What is more, even more damagingly, the court held that the guarantee of a right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 could be denied so long as there existed a validly enacted piece of legislation. To the majority on the court (which included Justice Sastri), the various freedoms that Article 19(1) guaranteed — such as the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the freedom to move freely throughout India — were simply not available to a person detained under a penal law. Therefore, in its belief, the state had no obligation to show the court that a statute providing for preventive detention was otherwise reasonable and grounded in one of the constitutionally stated exceptions. The upshot was catastrophic: the court had effectively held that so long as a law providing for preventive detention conformed to the procedural requirements of Article 22, it could mandate confinement without trial on any arbitrary basis.

A disconnect

•This idea, that fundamental rights exist in a silo, has since been overruled in R.C. Cooper’s case (1970). But the court’s ostensible change in attitude has not translated into actual rulings limiting the government’s ability to detain people without reason. Quite to the contrary, the rationale employed in the judgment in Gopalan was applied when the court upheld the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, or MISA, a few years later in Haradhan Saha (1974). The Constitution, the court wrote there, conferred rights under Article 19, but it also “adopted preventive detention to prevent the greater evil of elements imperilling the security, the safety of a State and the welfare of the Nation”.

•Gopalan’s logic persisted through the ensuing decades when the court upheld the TADA and the AFSPA, respectively, in Kartar Singh (1994) and in Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights (1997). In the former, a divided bench found little wrong with allowing custodial confessions to be considered admissible as evidence. In the latter, the court granted to the government a warrant to extend and apply the legislation with impunity to any area designated as “disturbed” for any unlimited period the government thought fit.

•The ritual burying of Gopalan has, therefore, had little practical consequence. Despite the ostensible change in the law, the court has continued to uphold statutes that treat basic civil liberties as a trifling inconvenience merely because they deal with a special class of offences. As Justice R.M. Sahai noted in his dissenting opinion in Kartar Singh, the court has effectively taken the “law back once again to the days of Gopalan”.

Almost a template

•That the Constitution requires pursuance cannot be doubted. The Supreme Court, even in recent times, has intervened to resuscitate some of the document’s most foundational guarantees. Notably, in K.S. Puttaswamy (2017), a nine-judge bench unanimously ruled that a promise of a right to privacy is embedded in Article 21. There, in his concurring opinion, Justice R.F. Nariman affirmed, among others, Justice Fazl Ali’s dissenting opinion in Gopalan, the foresight of which, he held, “simply takes our breath away”. Yet, as we have seen time and again, when the stakes are at their highest the Supreme Court reverts to type, bringing to mind Sir Edward Coke’s aphoristic appeal in the House of Commons for the Petition of Right: “Shall the soldier and the justice sit on one bench, the trumpet will not let the crier speak.”

📰 As Xi comes a-calling, a footprint without traction

Nepal will gain little from China’s outreach unless there is a recalibration in its long-term vision of development

•Earlier this week, on September 24, in a two-day event attended by the top brass of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) which included the Prime Minister, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the NCP with the Communist Party of China. Signed on the sidelines of the programme, “Communist Party of China’s Opinion about Xi Jinping Thought and Ideological Discussion between Nepal Communist Party and Communist Party of China”, it was in preparation for the visit of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping in October, his first since assuming presidency in 2013. The last time a Chinese President visited Nepal was 23 years ago, in 1996.

Looking north

•In August 2014, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Nepal, Kathmandu shut to welcome him. It was called a historic visit by an Indian Prime Minister after more than a decade-and-a-half. It felt as if the India-Nepal relationship would undergo changes as a number of sops were announced. Less than a year later, when a big earthquake struck Nepal, India was quick to respond with help and relief materials. This made everyone feel that the changes in ties were for real. But months later, India which was dissatisfied with the Nepal Constitution imposed a blockade that changed the perception about Mr. Modi and India forever. It was an act that alienated a whole generation of Nepali youth, and Nepali leaders played the nationalism card to reach out to China. Chinese interest grew after the earthquake and the blockade. With the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), exchanges and interactions between the two countries grew. Nepal signed agreements with China to ensure it was not “India locked”, in turn opening transit and trade opportunities through its northern border.

Inertia in reaching out

•Nepal, in its nearly 70-year journey after the Rana autocracy ended in 1950, has yet to leverage its bilateral or multilateral ties. From the days of the Shah kings who ruled directly till 2006 to the current form of a federal democratic republic, Nepal’s engagements with the outside world have been more of theatrics, speeches and little action. After the 2015 earthquake, China, India and other countries pledged approximately $4-billion for reconstruction; India pledged more funds, but Nepal has been tepid in utilising these funds. Scouring for grants remains key while there has not been much traction on agreed projects being implemented. It has never been about seeking investments and get into a partnership model such as what Bangladesh has been able to do successfully with both China and India.

•With a strong patriarchal and feudal culture embedded in Hinduism, rituals dominate Nepali life. With people from the Bahun (Brahmin) community dominating the bulk of leadership in politics and bureaucracy, there is much emphasis on rituals rather than an understanding of the deeper issues. Therefore, there is little expectation about the upcoming visit apart from keeping nationalism alive from an electoral point of view: in general about creating doubts about India to making anti-India statements.

Nepali politics

•The biggest feature of the Nepali communist ignored by parachute analysts is that communism to Nepal came through Calcutta and not straight from China. Therefore, what we see in Nepal is the West Bengal version of communism rather than a Chinese one. First, the communist movement like the one in West Bengal has been about multiple factions that keep splitting and coming together rather than it being about one single and unified party. At one point in time, people had lost count of how many communist parties in Nepal were overground and underground.

•Second, the communist movement in both India and Nepal has been about rent-seeking on positions and selling rhetoric and hypocrisy. It has been about talking about Red Book during the day and on other diametric subjects later. This is in stalk contrast to the Chinese societal model of hard work and encouraging entrepreneurial pursuits.

•Third, Nepali communists, especially the former insurgents, still talk about Mao and the Maoist ideology. In China, Mao is a word best avoided and is jarring for the current key leadership. Finally, in China, over the years, when a majority group within the party decides on an issue, people with opposing views accept the decision and do not challenge them in the future. You can debate on an issue but after a decision is made, you abide by it. Nepali communism has been about continuous infighting and creating fiefdoms rather than accepting an individual’s leadership.

•The recent rise of the Nepali communist has been due to the empathy of and support from the Communist parties of India that were part of the United Progressive Alliance. The Maoists, while underground, received tacit support. With the communist parties in India in disarray now, the Nepali communist leaders are looking for options. With the co-chair of the NCP, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in line to succeed Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, other leaders such as Madhav Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal who became Prime Ministers earlier with Indian support are trying to look for options in China.

•While Chinese engagement in Nepal has increased post the BRI phase and with revamping of outreach policies, those backing the few projects with Chinese investments have not been happy with the government as they now face the same problems that other investors are experiencing. Foreign direct investments to Nepal are low and the way government has functioned does not really encourage large Chinese investors to look at Nepal seriously enough. The increase in Chinese businesses in Nepal has remained mostly low level examples being operations in hotels and restaurants. Till there is a complete recalibration in Nepal’s long-term vision of development, a willingness to implement investor-friendly policies and enable concrete steps towards efficiency, President Xi’s visit will be once again be one made by a “friendly neighbour or cousin”, who brings some gifts, exchanges pleasantries and then moves on.

📰 Chandrayaan 2 Vikram Lander had a hard-landing, may be hiding in a shadow: NASA

NASA releases images of Vikram’s targeted landing site captured by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

•U.S. space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has officially said moon lander Vikram had a hard-landing and that its own orbiting spacecraft could not get clear pictures of Vikram’s crash site during its recent flyover.

•NASA on Thursday night released a set of hazy lunar surface images of the southern site where the lander probably crashed on September 7.

•Vikram’s precise location eluded the sharp camera of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) when it last flew over the probable site on September 17.

•The LRO captured a 150-km-wide area in the southern lunar highlands but the pictures were not clear as it was sunset and light had faded.

•A NASA statement titled ‘Obscured in the lunar highlands?’ said, “[So] far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander.

•It is possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow. The lighting will be favourable when LRO passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander.”

•This was the reconfirmation that Indian Space Research Organisation and the space community have awaited to figure out where and how the lander of the Chandrayaan-2 mission had fallen when it attempted to touch down on moon.

•The LRO, orbiting moon since September 2009, has a camera with 50-cm high resolution and goes around in an eccentric orbit of 20 km x 165 km.

•The remaining Indian orbiting module has a camera with a 30-cm resolution. ISRO already has pictures sent by it from its 100-km height soon after the landing failed.

•The landing region lies between two craters about 70° south of the lunar equator and about 600 km from its shadowy south pole.

•The orbiting Chandrayaan-2 and the LRO routinely fly over the same spot at regular intervals. Images from their next flyovers could help ISRO give conclusive information, Indian experts said earlier.

•ISRO on September 7 only said that it lost signal contact from a descending lander merely three minutes and 2.1 km before its scheduled soft-landing on lunar surface. A team of experts is analysing the crash landing, it recently said.

📰 Gen. Rawat gets baton of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee

•Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) BS Dhanoa, who retires on September 30, on Fiday handed over the baton of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) to Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The ceremony was held in South Block.

•Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria will take over as IAF Chief from ACM Dhanoa, after which Gen. Rawat will be the most senior Service Chief. In the present set-up, the most senior Chief functions as the Chairman COSC.

•In a major decision aimed at military reforms and tri-Service integration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his last Independence Day address, announced the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who will be above the three Chiefs.

•A high-level committee, including the Cabinet Secretary and the Defence Secretary, has been appointed to finalise the modalities and charter of the new role, and the recommendations are expected to be submitted to the government in November, a defence source said.

•The CDS will act as the single-point military adviser to the government on military and strategic issues.

•The present COSC is an additional role and the tenures have been very short. For instance, ACM Dhanoa took over as the Chairman COSC on May 31 from former Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba. He had been in the role for only few months as he steps down on September 30. Gen Rawat who will take over as Chairman COSC then, is set to retire on December 31 after three years in office. However, as the most senior Chief, he is set to be the country’s first CDS.

📰 ‘Centre looking to ease foreign investment limits in govt. bonds’

Aim is to get securities included in global indices: sources

•India is looking to ease foreign investment limits in government bonds, as it seeks to get its securities included in global bond indices in the next two years, three government officials with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

•New Delhi is considering creating a special window for foreign passive investors that focus on index investing, one of the officials added, even as it seeks to counter the risk posed by hot money flows from more actively managed funds.

•The investors in the new window will not face the same caps as India currently has on such investments from foreign portfolio investors, the person said.

•The officials, who asked not to be named as they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, did not provide any timeline as the issue is still in the early stages of discussion.

•The spokesman for the Finance Ministry did not reply to an email and message seeking comments, while the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) declined to comment.

•Relaxing investment limits and a removal of restrictions on currency convertibility are among the criteria that firms operating global bond indices consider before including any country and determining its weightage in such indexes.

•India currently has limits on the amount of government and corporate bonds foreign investors can hold, and controls on the rupee’s convertibility too.

📰 ‘Heart attack linked to air pollution’

‘Heart attack linked to air pollution’
About 200 in one lakh Indians prone to cardiac issues, says study

•Air pollution could well be the new equivalent of smoking for heart diseases. A study, conducted by Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, which tied up with institutions such as NIMHANS and St. John’s Research Centre, Bengaluru, found that approximately 35% of patients with no conventional risk factors suffered from cardiovascular diseases (CAD) due to reasons linked to air pollution.

•The study was released on Friday, ahead of World Heart Day observed on September 29.

•Previously, air pollution was exclusively linked only to respiratory diseases. But in recent times, multiple clinical studies have proved the role of air pollution in causing cardiovascular diseases, said the researchers.

The new tobacco

•The research was carried out on 2,400 patients in the Premature Coronary Artery Disease (PCAD) Clinic from April 2017 to April 2019. Patients under the age of 40, who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, were registered.

•The study shows that 26% of the patients were working in different types of jobs in the private sector; 15% each were agriculturists and daily wage workers, 12% were working in technical fields, and 6.5% were housewives. As many as 24% of the patients were drivers, which accounted for the most common nature of work among PCAD patients.

•“Air pollution is a new tobacco; it kills more people than smoking. Out of one lakh Indians, about 200 people are prone to heart diseases due to air pollution. We conducted in-depth research on people who did not posses any risk factors who had heart diseases, and we discovered that their blood contained higher haemoglobin levels. But this kind of carboxy haemoglobin doesn’t account as a healthy factor, and these were observed especially in drivers who were more exposed to air pollution,” said C.N. Manjunath, Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute.

•He also said now, more young Indians are vulnerable to heart diseases and air pollution is an emerging risk factor for heart attack. “A person stranded in a traffic junction for five minutes in a polluted area will be exposed to the effect of smoking five cigarettes,” he said.

•The report pointed out that transport is one of the major sources of emissions in Bengaluru. The PM10 annual average over Bengaluru is still almost 1.5 times the National Ambient air Quality Standards. This can adversely affect health, it said.

📰 India, Nepal, Bhutan to count tigers in high altitude

A study jointly conducted by three countries had established that there were 52,671 of tiger habitat in high altitudes or Himalayan habitats of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

•With studies earlier this year reporting the presence of tigers in high altitude regions in India, experts from India, Nepal and Bhutan — under the aegis of their governments — will next year begin a detailed assessment on how entrenched tigers are, in these regions.

•A study jointly conducted by experts from three countries had, in a report this month, established that there were potentially 52,671 square kilometres of tiger habitat in high altitudes — or Himalayan habitats — of India, Nepal and Bhutan. 38,915 square kilometres of this habitat lay in India.

•While India is home to the most number of tigers in the world, most of them are focussed in Central India and the Western Ghats. The latest tiger survey, made public earlier this year estimated 2,967 tigers all over India.

•Camera traps laid in select districts of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, North Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh to detect the presence of tigers in higher altitudes found only three — two in Sikkim and one in Uttarakhand.

•“What we’re not sure of is whether these tigers are embedded there or whether they have migrated in from other parts of the country. A more detailed assessment is necessary to find this out,” said Rajesh Gopal, Secretary General, Global Tiger Forum. (GTF). The GTF is an intergovernmental body that coordinates activities on tiger conservation.

•In previous years, tigers have been reported in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal at elevations of 1765m, 3274 m and 2400 m respectively. Bhutan had recorded the presence of a tiger at 4,210 m.

•Recording the presence of tigers in high altitudes is important to judge the health of the species, as poaching and fragmented habitat are serious challenges to their population growth.

•As part of a “high altitude tiger master plan”, gathering background information on land attributes, ascertaining status of protection and engaging local communities in tiger conservation is critical. Potential high altitude tiger landscapes include the Valmiki-Chitwan-Annapurna (India-Nepal), Manas-Royal Manas-Jigme Dorji (India-Bhutan); Neora Valley-Torsa-Buxa-Phibsu (India-Bhutan); Askot-Pithoragarh-Nandhaur-Suklaphanta (India-Nepal); and Arunachal-Sikkim-bordering Bhutan (India-Bhutan).

📰 Capital expenditure on track to meet year-end target, says FM

Ministries told to provide plan for four quarters, release all dues to services and goods suppliers, Nirmala Sitharaman says.

•The government’s capital expenditure is on track and will meet the budgeted target by the end of the year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday.

•Ms. Sitharaman added that she had given instructions to all the major Ministries to release all pending dues and to also provide a capital expenditure plan for the next four quarters.

Total expenditure

•The central government’s total expenditure for fiscal 2019-20 through the Budget is ₹27.86 lakh crore, of which the capital expenditure is budgeted at ₹3.38 lakh crore (12.2%).

•Apart from this, the total grants-in-aid given to the Ministries and Departments amounts to ₹2.07 lakh crore, taking the total capital expenditure amount for 2019-20 to ₹5.45 lakh crore.

•The government on Friday said that as of August, 40.28% of the expenditure under the capital head, and 39.7% of the expenditure under the grants-in-aid head, had been assigned.

•“The government is on track to meet its budgeted capital expenditure by the end of the year, we expect 100% of the budgeted amount to be met,” Ms. Sitharaman said at a press conference following a meeting with 21 major Ministries to review their capital expenditure progress and future plans. “We have also asked the Ministries to provide a capital expenditure plan for the next four quarters,” she added.

•“Some Ministries orally spelt out their plans, but within the next week they will provide a plan to the Expenditure Secretary.”

•The Finance Minister also said she had made it clear to the Ministries that they must release all the pending dues to their services and goods suppliers at the earliest, and added that the impression she got from the Ministries was that the “little that was left pending would be released in the next few days”.

‘Get expenditure going’

•“At this stage, we are only looking at getting expenditure going,” Ms. Sitharaman said when asked whether the government would meet its fiscal deficit target for the year. “Nearer the time, we will have to look at reconciling this with our budgetary commitments.”

•Expenditure Secretary Girish Chandra Murmu said that of the about ₹60,000 crore of payments that were pending, about ₹40,000 crore had already been released.

•Ms. Sitharaman added that about 90% of outstanding GST refunds that were due had also been released as of August 23.