The HINDU Notes – 30th September 2019 - VISION

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Monday, September 30, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 30th September 2019


📰 Obesity and undernutrition coexist, finds study





Obesity and undernutrition coexist, finds study
Delay in release of first-ever nutrition survey conducted by the Centre causes concern among health experts.

•Nearly 10% of children in the age group of 5-9 years and adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years are pre-diabetic, 5% are overweight and another 5% suffer from blood pressure. These are among the key findings of the first-ever national nutrition survey conducted by the Centre, yet to be made public, providing for the first time hard evidence of the coexistence of obesity and undernutrition, among school going children.

•The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNICEF between February 2016 and October 2018 is the first study undertaken to measure malnutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies through biochemical measures such as blood and urine samples, anthropometric data as well as details of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and kidney function in children and adolescents.

•The National Family Health Survey (NFHS), however, collects anthropometric data (weight for age, height for age, weight for height, mid-upper arm circumference) to measure prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight and household dietary intake to measure deficiencies.

•Moreover, these are collected for children in the age group of 1-5 years and adults, but not for school going children between the age of 5 and 19 years.

•The study exclusively accessed by The Hindu found prevalence of indicators of non-communicable diseases alongside indicators of undernutrition shown by various NFHS surveys such as stunting, wasting and underweight.

•A quarter of 5-9 and 10-19 year-olds were thin for their age, one in five children 5-9 years’ old were stunted. A total of 1.12 lakh children and adolescents (0-19 years) were surveyed for height and weight measurements and 51,029 children (1-19 years) for biological samples.

•Due to the seriousness of these findings, there has been concern expressed by medical practitioners and nutrition experts on the delay by the government in releasing the study. On September 3, the Ministry held a video-conference with National Health Missions of all States to discuss the study and many have been waiting for it to be released.

•An official of the Directorate General of Health Services said the report is likely to be made public any day. However, many closely involved with the study said the delay by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is inexplicable as the findings have been known for nearly six months and both NITI Aayog and the Prime Minister’s Office had given their assent for making them public. With September being observed as Poshan Maah or Nutrition month, many argued that not all findings may be palatable to the Centre, forcing it to postpone releasing the study.

•Health policy experts said the study showed that the government will have to focus on obesity alongside undernutrition as part of its Nutrition Mission.

📰 A week after high-profile MoU, questions cloud Petronet-Tellurian deal

Shares of Indian PSU tanked amid concerns over prices, lack in demand and long-term lock-in period of investment without final agreement

•One week after it was announced with considerable fanfare at the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, several loose ends are yet to be tied up in the $2.5 billion (₹17,668 crore) investment planned by Indian PSU Petronet in American LNG company Tellurian.

•According to information with The Hindu, the first sign of trouble for the deal came at the signing itself on September 21, when it became clear that what was signed in the presence of Mr. Modi was not the actual agreement, but only a second Memorandum of Understanding.

•On February 14, Petronet and Tellurian had already signed an MoU for 5 million tonnes a year and an 18% equity stake. Tellurian Inc. had promised to “make a final investment decision and begin construction in the first half of 2019” for its Driftwood LNG project in Louisiana and had been negotiating to complete the agreement in time for Mr. Modi’s visit.

•Asked why the deal could not be signed in time, Tellurian said the current MoU was more focused, without giving details of how it differed from the previous one.

•“Petronet had been evaluating what type of volumes they needed and were ready to get more specific with this MOU. Over the coming months, we will be negotiating contract details and aim to complete documentation in March 2020,” senior vice-president, public affairs and communication at Tellurian Inc., Joi Lecznar stated in written replies to The Hindu.

•Petronet stocks plunged 7% when Indian markets opened last Monday, over news of the massive investment plan in the U.S.

•A report by news agency PTI — which Petronet did not deny — said the Indian company’s board had disfavoured the Tellurian deal at a meeting in May 2019.

Board worried

•Reasons for the board’s disquiet included major price drops in LNG, India’s demand shortfall, expected LNG supply from the Indian market and a negative experience with “locking in” contracts for a long period.

•Worried by the stock prices, it is learnt that Petronet officials held a conference call with major investors to reassure them about the deal with Tellurian.

•Petronet LNG did not respond to email and phone queries by the time of publication of this story.

•A government official privy to the deal negotiations, however, told The Hindu: “The pricing of gas is volatile. What looks like a bad deal now will look brilliant when prices change, and they will, and vice-versa.”

•Apart from the prices, a bigger problem is the demand deficit for LNG, given the recent downturn in manufacturing, coal dependence, and the lack of regasification plants and pipeline infrastructure in India.

•“The timing of the deal will be crucial, when the supply of gas will start for India,” National Head of Energy and Natural Resources at KPMG India Anish De said. “In the next two to three years, the Indian market will be over-supplied, and the current spot prices are such that getting into any long term deals will not be easy.”

•In 2011, another PSU, GAIL had entered into 20-year contracts with American companies Cheniere Energy and Dominion Eenergy to buy 5.8 million tonnes of LNG a year with fixed annual fees. It has since been reselling much of it to other markets due to lack of demand.

Same protagonists

•Disquiet has also been growing over an ongoing lawsuit between Cheniere and its former CEO and Chairman Cherif Souki, who founded Tellurian Inc. after he was dismissed by the Cheniere board in 2015. At the time, the board had questioned his plans to build the same Driftwood LNG project, which includes a liquefaction plant and 96 km pipeline, terming them “too ambitious”.

•For the current project, Tellurian is looking at a number of investors including Petronet India to help finance construction for Driftwood, offering 1million tonnes per year of offtake for every $500 mn of investment. Significantly, both Mr. Souki in his previous capacity at Cheniere Energy, and Petronet LNG India CMD Prabhat Singh, as Director, Marketing for GAIL had helped negotiate the former U.S. deal in 2011 as well.

Prestige project

•Both U.S. and Indian officials say the Petronet-Tellurian deal is now a prestige project for India-U.S. relations that are otherwise facing headwinds over trade issues, and both Prime Minister Modi and President Donald Trump have hailed the deal publicly.

•On Friday, State department Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said the deal was “so important” to the relationship because it showed that investment was a two-way street where “India is investing and creating jobs in America” with the Petronet investment resulting in an estimated 50,000 jobs and $60 billion in exports.

•Much will depend on how quickly the two sides can negotiate the agreement, and at what cost to Petronet.

•“With PM Modi’s support and plans, we are confident in India’s ability to provide the necessary infrastructure,” Tellurian’s spokesperson told The Hindu when asked how soon the deal will fructify and what assurances of purchases Petronet has provided. “Again, the significance of the U.S. and Indian government support cannot be understated,” Ms. Lecznar wrote.

📰 Home and abroad: On India’s rightful place in the world

India must take its place in the world by privileging universal rights everywhere

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the UNGA catalogued welfare and development schemes that he had initiated. He sounded like a seer in his call for unity of humanity, but it was his emphasis on Indian diversity that stood out for its remarkable departure from the sort of domestic politics he and his party, the BJP, have come to be associated with lately. India’s achievements in housing, sanitation, health care, banking and education are significant, as the PM noted. His tenacious public campaign on issues such as water conservation, environment and girls’ education has brought these issues to the centre of the development discourse and he deserves full credit for it. Mr. Modi has consistently presented material development as an end in itself, sometimes ignoring that it might be at the cost of other markers of progress such as expansion of freedoms and equity. This idea is also the explanation of his government’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir, as reflected in his own pronouncements and those of other officials, during their diplomatic outreach in the U.S. A Prime Minister’s use of a global pulpit to showcase India’s progress and diversity to a world that is divided, and deliver a message of unity, would have been inspiring for all Indians. But his UNGA speech sits at odds with his campaign speeches at home, and corresponding administrative measures.

•The claim that there can be a neat insulation of internal issues of a country from global concerns is antithetical to the rationale of all global institutions, particularly the UN. Populist politics around the world has sought to privilege national sovereignty over universal values and commitments, slacking off efforts to tackle critical challenges that are transnational. Human rights, democracy and liberty are as much global questions as climate change, health and terrorism. Selective globalisation is difficult to sustain or defend. India cannot aspire to meet global best practices in governance, infrastructure and investment climate on the one hand and on the other, choose to overlook soft power attributes such as tolerance, pluralism and diversity. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bluster on Kashmir and the implied threat of a nuclear war were irresponsible and over the top, but that is beside the point. India cannot wish away questions regarding Kashmir at international fora. The best — and the only way — to keep domestic issues domestic is to resolve them through internal dialogue and accommodation. Tamil poet Kaniyan Pungundranar’s verse Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir — all places are our own, everyone is our kin — that Mr. Modi cited to underscore India’s ancient faith in universalism is a tenet far from fulfilment, but worth striving for. Deviation from it could be detrimental, and would have consequences at home and abroad.

📰 Two Asian powers and an island

Unlike China, India has not accomplished much in Sri Lanka in the Sirisena years.

•The imposing Lotus Tower in Colombo, which was opened to the public recently, is considered to be the latest symbol of Sri Lanka-China ties. An agreement to build this structure, which is to serve as a multi-functional telecommunication tower, was signed by the two countries in 2012.

•It may look ironical that much of the project’s execution took place under a regime which came into office at a time when there was a “strong anti-China mood”. In the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was backing Maithripala Sirisena, had assured people that another Chinese project, the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, would be scrapped. Soon after Mr. Sirisena became the President, work on the Port City came to a grinding halt. Then, there was also uncertainty over the fate of the Hambantota port, the development of which was originally offered to India by Mahinda Rajapaksa on becoming Sri Lankan President in November 2005. (India was said to have examined Hambantota purely from the point of view of economics, overlooking the strategic angle.)

Two different records

•However, all of this is now history, as Colombo-Beijing ties have stood the test of time. China has been able to resolve all the controversies over these projects. The Port City’s execution is underway without any major hitch. When it becomes a reality, it will stand beside the Colombo port, which serves as a major transshipment hub for India. A Chinese company has got Hambantota on lease for 99 years along with associated land of 15,000 acres. More importantly, Sri Lanka is a member-country of the Belt and Road Initiative.

•Notwithstanding an argument by some international experts that economic ties with China are driving Sri Lanka into a “debt trap”, the bilateral relationship on the economic front is only becoming stronger. According to the 2018 annual report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, imports from China accounted for 18.5%, just a little less than the 19% from India.

•On the other hand, India cannot claim to have accomplished much in the Sirisena years, despite its “neighbourhood first” policy since May 2014. Apart from clinching a joint venture deal in May with Japan and Sri Lanka to develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port, India cannot boast of having taken up any major infrastructure project in Sri Lanka. Not much is known about the status of a project to renovate the Kankesanthurai harbour in the Northern Province, for which India provided over $45 million in early 2018. There seems to be little progress in India’s proposals to develop the Palaly airport in the North, (where commercial flight services in a limited way are expected to be launched shortly) and acquire a controlling stake in the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. And for all practical purposes, the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement, an improved version of the existing bilateral Free Trade Agreement, has been shelved.

•In recent years, only a couple of social sector projects of the Indian government — building 60,000 homes for Tamils of the civil war-torn Northern and Eastern Provinces as well as those in the hill country region, and the provision of ambulance services all over the island — gathered momentum. Both these are being carried out using grants of the Indian government. In July, an agreement was signed to upgrade a key railway segment, connecting the north and the south, at $91 million.





•However, given its potential and willingness to do more in development cooperation, India cannot remain satisfied with such a modest track record. When Mr. Wickremesinghe visited New Delhi about a year ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern over delays in projects proposed by India. The joint development of an oil storage facility in Trincomalee is one such project which has been discussed for years. What can be a matter of consolation for New Delhi is that Colombo, about a year ago, reversed a decision to award a $300-million housing project, meant for the North, to Beijing.

Deeper ties

•China-funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka may look great, but India-Sri Lanka ties are deeper and more complex. As Mr. Modi said, “In good times and bad, India has been and will always be the first responder for Sri Lanka.” India’s assistance during the 2004 tsunami and Mr. Modi’s visit to Colombo in June (the first foreign dignitary to do so) in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks show India’s sincerity of approach.

•Despite these deep ties, it is true that India and Sri Lanka have seen some unpleasantness in bilateral relations in contemporary times. The anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983 dragged India into the Sri Lankan Tamil question. Events such as the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in March 1990 and the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 made New Delhi adopt a “hands-off approach” towards Colombo till the final phase of the civil war. In the last five months of the war that ended in May 2009, India repeatedly conveyed to Sri Lanka that the rights and welfare of the civilian population should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE. But this was not considered sufficient by protagonists of the proscribed organisation and some others who have been accusing the Indian government of having played a role in the LTTE’s defeat.

•However, with all their shortcomings, the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene Accord of 1987 and the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, envisaging devolution of powers for provinces, still provide a solid framework to address the ethnic question. Apart from a political settlement, the Northern and Eastern provinces, which account for less than 10% of Sri Lanka’s GDP, require economic development as there are signs of the youth there getting distracted from the pursuit of greener pastures. The Indian government is willing to walk the extra mile in this area, but what is wanting is a proper response from the Tamil political leadership.

•When Sri Lanka gets a new President in two months, India must sit with that leader not just to get expeditious approvals for all the pending infrastructure projects but also contribute to a holistic development of Sri Lanka’s youth. Also, New Delhi should sustain its interest on developmental issues concerning the hill country Tamils, regarded as the most backward in Sri Lanka. It will also be worth making one more attempt to encourage the voluntary repatriation of nearly 95,000 refugees who live in Tamil Nadu back to Sri Lanka. As a step towards this direction, the authorities should resume ferry services between Talaimannar and Rameswaram at the earliest.

•As once stated by the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, “Our aid is not to raid or invade”. A benign and comprehensive approach, backed by the sincerity of purpose, will not only earn India greater respect of Sri Lankans, but also send a message to other international players about the strength of its ties with Sri Lanka.

📰 Strictures in the name of security

The curfews, detentions and lockdown in Kashmir have only made the border, and our forces, more vulnerable

•The Narendra Modi administration has used a number of arguments — security, economic and welfare — to justify its new Kashmir policy. While the economic and welfare arguments have been shown to be based on little or false information, and the Modi administration’s actions have been challenged on both human rights and constitutional grounds, there has been relatively little discussion, let alone analysis, of the security argument.

•This lacuna is surprising given how often the security argument is parroted, especially on our television channels, and accepted as beyond question. Indeed, national security is a critical concern, not only for policymakers, but also for us ordinary citizens. That is why official assertions regarding security need to be examined and, if necessary, questioned.

Placing limits on rights

•The key question is whether, and at which point, security imperatives can supersede democratic and human rights. Some will argue ‘never’, though it is generally accepted by most democracies that there might be occasions when security threats require some limits to rights. The issue has been hotly debated in the U.S. and Europe, generally in relation to surveillance and privacy rights. Whichever side those governments and their institutions come down on, the debate is vociferous, public and subjected to scrutiny in terms of the nature and scale of the security threat. Where do we stand in comparison?

•On Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the official argument is that the dilution of Article 370 and demotion of the State to two Union Territories will enable better security. It is also argued that preventive detentions, curfews and a communications lockdown are necessary to prevent a security deterioration. The two appear contradictory: if the first slew of measures enables better security, what was the need for the second slew of measures? Conversely, if the second leads to better security then what was the need for the first?

•Ironically, the figures that the Modi administration presented in their submission to the Supreme Court against humanitarian relief petitions actually belie the security claim. From a high of 5,938 incidents of terrorist violence in J&K in 1995, with 2,600 casualties, violence has steadily declined to 365 incidents in the first nine months of this year, with 237 casualties. Surely, these figures do not suggest a major or even imminent security threat. Nor has the Modi administration presented any evidence of a planned attack that might constitute so serious a threat that it could only be thwarted by the lockdown of over six million people.

•In fact, the Modi administration acknowledges that the lockdown was necessary because widespread protests against its new J&K policy were anticipated. The government’s submission argues that “it was clear” that Kashmiri politicians would oppose the Modi administration’s decisions, “and they would not hesitate to attempt to ensure that the law and order situation deteriorates”. In other words, our government foresaw that there would be such enormous opposition to these decisions that it could only be quelled by tens of thousands of additional troops, hundreds of preventive detentions and a massive communications blockade.

Widespread resentment

•If that is the case, two questions arise. First, if the administration knew their new J&K policy would be widely, even violently, protested, why did they adopt it? Second, has this new policy made our security more rather than less vulnerable and, if so, in which ways?

•Certain facts are inescapable, and pose an immediate challenge for our forces. The Modi administration may not be able to keep the current lockdown in force for any length of time, though it was earlier rumoured it could last for as long as 18-24 months. Even with the lockdown, security forces have not been able to plug the gaps along the border with Pakistan: 60 terrorists have reportedly infiltrated in the past month. Given the widespread resentment not only at what has been done but also the way in which it was done, even the scant support our troops received from local communities may evaporate — indeed the threat of attacks from the rear is likely to rise exponentially.

•Beginning 10 years ago, cross-border militants had started becoming unwelcome in the Valley and their sanctuaries were drying up. They might now have renewed sustenance. Moreover, with the suspension of mobile telephony, intelligence on militancy will be more difficult to collect.

•These are formidable challenges for our security forces who have, unfortunately, been pushed back into the line of fire. The Modi administration is trying to compensate with better housing and allowances and there is some discussion within the Army about setting up integrated battle groups, but these would be for cross-border action rather than internal deployment. As defence and strategic analysts have long known, our security forces lack the range of protective equipment needed to deal with internal security, and their spans of duty are so long as to increase the stress that makes so many trigger-happy. We are yet to hear how the Modi administration plans to deal with these challenges. Perhaps we never will.

Cost to the taxpayer

•In the meantime, there are other aspects of the security argument to consider. In the past month, at a conservative estimate, Kashmiri industry has lost hundreds of crores of rupees, and the Modi administration has spent hundreds of crores, if we add the costs of sending and maintaining 40,000 plus additional troops, enforcing the lockdown and apple purchases and transport. A slew of further measures has been announced, such as 50,000 jobs, scholarships and internships, which will cost the Indian taxpayer several thousand additional crores per annum, and will most likely be unsuccessful in the goal of appeasing Kashmiri resentment. As violence mounts, so will our security costs, both human and economic. Is this a price we are willing to pay for what may turn out to be a self-generated security threat?

•The biggest cost, of course, is to the security of our democracy. Several millions of our citizens in J&K have been denied their fundamental rights of freedom of movement, commerce and expression for six weeks already, with no clear end in sight. In the U.S. and Europe, when security is allowed to trump democracy, it is for days, not weeks. The question is rarely if ever debated in relation to preventive detention, banning dissent, or blocking Internet and mobile phones — because in most democracies these concern fundamental rights that cannot be brushed aside in the name of security.

•We appear to have exited this group of democracies. More galling still, we appear to have done so over an issue, Article 370, which is held by the Modi administration to have had little substance left in it anyway. What then is this alleged public celebration about? Have we become a people who exult in the humiliation of our own, as so many Kashmiris believe?

📰 International Astronomical Union names asteroid after Pandit Jasraj

The asteroid, or more formally known as a minor planet, is located between Mars and Jupiter, and was discovered on November 11, 2006.

•The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an asteroid, discovered in 2006, after Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj.

•The asteroid, or more formally known as a minor planet, is located between Mars and Jupiter, and was discovered on November 11, 2006, by the Catalina Sky Survey, whose telescopes are based in Arizona in the United States. The privilege of naming a planet is first given to discoverers, who have 10 years to propose a name.

•The discoverer or team is expected to write a short citation, explaining the reasons for assigning the name, according to the IAU’s guidelines.

•All names proposed are judged by the 15-member Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the IAU, comprising professional astronomers with research interests in minor planets and/or comets from around the world. The Hindu could not immediately ascertain who proposed Pandit Jasraj’s name.

•Pandit Jasraj told The Hindu on the phone that he was delighted with the honour. “It’s the proximity of this named planetoid to Jupiter, or Guru, that strikes a chord. What I have today is due to the blessings and grace of my gurus and I dedicate this honour to Bharat.”

•Durga Jasraj, his daughter, said the news “came out of the blue” and it was a “privilege” that her father was named along with Johann Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Rabindranath Tagore, who also have minor planets named after them.

•As of September, there are 5,41,131 numbered minor planets of a total of 7,97,078 observed bodies, with the rest being unnumbered minor planets.

•“Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj (b. 1930) is an exponent of Indian classical vocal music. Jasraj is the recipient of numerous awards, honours, and titles, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. His distinctive voice traverses a remarkable four-and-a-half octaves,” reads an IAU citation available on the California Institute of Technology’s database on small planetary bodies.




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