The HINDU Notes – 08th November 2019 - VISION

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Friday, November 08, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 08th November 2019

📰 Maharashtra tops in justice delivery: Report

The country, as a whole, has about 18,200 judges with about 23% sanctioned posts vacant, says the India Justice Report.

•Maharashtra has topped the list of states in delivering justice to people followed by Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana, according to a report by Tata Trusts.

•Among the small states (where population is less than one crore each), Goa has topped the list followed by Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh, it said.

•The India Justice Report 2019 is based on publicly available data of different government entities on the four pillars of justice delivery — police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid.

•Releasing the report, former Supreme Court judge Justice M. B. Lokur said the findings highlight very serious lacunae in the justice delivery system.

•“This is a pioneering study, the findings of which establish beyond doubt very serious lacunae in our justice delivery system. It is an excellent effort to mainstream the issues concerning our justice system, which in fact affect every aspect of society, governance and the economy,” Justice Lokur said.

•“I fervently hope the judiciary and the government will take note of the significant findings, and the states too will act to urgently plug the gaps in management of the police, prisons, forensics, justice delivery, legal aid and filling up the vacancies,” he said.

•The ranking is an initiative of Tata Trusts in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS- Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

•As per the findings, the country, as a whole, has about 18,200 judges with about 23% sanctioned posts vacant.

•“Women are also poorly represented in these pillars, constituting just seven per cent of the police. Prisons are over-occupied at 114%, where 68% are under trials awaiting investigation, inquiry or trial. Regarding budgets, most states are not able to fully utilise the funds given to them by the Centre, while the increase in spending on the police, prisons and judiciary does not keep pace with overall increase in state expenditure,” the report said.

•“Some pillars also remain affected by low budgets. India’s per capita spend on free legal aid-which 80% of the population is eligible for — for instance is 75 paise per annum,” it said.

•The report, in order to assess the capacity of states to deliver justice, looked at data indicators from the four pillars.

•The indicators, across the pillars, covered the themes like infrastructure, human resources, diversity (gender, SC/ST/OBC), budgets, workload and trends over the last five years.

📰 Junking fast food: On norms against food rich in fat, sugar and salt

Enforcement is key in preventing school children from accessing unhealthy food

•In a welcome step, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified a draft regulation aimed at prohibiting the sale and advertisement of food rich in fat, sugar and salt to schoolchildren inside the school premises and within 50 m around it. It comes in response to the 2015 order from the Delhi High Court directing the central agency to frame norms to promote healthy diets in schools. Besides prohibiting the sale of junk food, the FSSAI requires schools to simultaneously encourage and promote a safe and balanced diet. In a bid to shield the children from consuming unhealthy food items and snacks, the FSSAI prohibits food companies that manufacture such items from advertising or offering for free such foods in school premises and within 50 m of the campus. To thwart food companies from luring children to consume foods rich in fat, sugar and salt, the companies are prohibited from using their logos, brand names and product names on books and other educational materials, as well as on school property such as buildings, buses, and athletic fields. As a general guidance to provide wholesome food, the agency recommends the use of a combination of whole grains, milk, eggs, and millets; it also listed a set of general guidelines for selection of food products that can be offered in schools.

•Even as malnutrition accounted for over seven lakh (68%) deaths in children under the age of five years in 2017 in India, there is rising obesity in schoolchildren in many States. According to a July 2017 study, India, with 14.4 million, had the second most number of obese children among 195 countries. A recent study found 23 States to have child overweight prevalence more than the national average, with six States having a prevalence of over 20%. Several studies have shown how a western diet affects the composition and diversity of gut bacteria and sets the stage for many metabolic diseases. Hence, any attempt to reduce and discourage the intake of unhealthy foods, which is a major cause of unhealthy weight gain in children, should be welcomed. The challenge will be in enforcement, particularly in preventing the sale and promotion of unhealthy food near schools. For instance, despite the sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of a school being prohibited, violation is more the norm than the exception. Shops that sell tobacco products very often also sell many of the packaged unhealthy foods that the FSSAI now wants to ban. The onus of inculcating healthy eating habits also starts at home. Besides taking steps to reduce the intake of unhealthy food, both schools and parents should ensure children get adequate physical activity, which is increasingly being neglected for various reasons. It is a combination of healthy food and regular physical activity that will go a long way in bringing up healthier children.

📰 Changing the status quo

The Home Ministry’s move to merge the Assam Rifles with the ITBP is a step in the right direction

•The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed that the Assam Rifles should be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and serve under the operational control of the MHA. At present, the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force, is under the administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence. The Army is opposed to this proposal.

History of Assam Rifles

•Formed as Cachar Levy in 1835 to assist the British rulers in maintaining peace in the Northeast, the Assam Rifles, which had just about 750 men, proved its capability and efficiency. This necessitated its expansion. The unit was converted into the Assam Military Police Battalion with two additional battalions in 1870. They were known as the Lushai Hills Battalion, Lakhimpur Battalion and Naga Hills Battalion. Just before World War I, another battalion, the Darrang Battalion, was added. They all rendered great service by assisting the British in Europe and West Asia during the war. These battalions were then renamed Assam Rifles. They continued to be regular armed police battalions, but with the ‘Rifles’ tag, which was a matter of honour for their competence, on par with any regular Army battalion.

•It was after the Chinese aggression in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh that the Assam Rifles battalions were placed under the operational control of the Army. Assam Rifles personnel who were acclimatised to the region were better suited for operations then. It needs to be remembered that one of the major causes for India’s defeat was the fact that the regular Army units were not used to the extreme weather. The decision taken then was in keeping with the requirements. This is not the case any more.

•All Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are acclimatised to almost every region of the country now due to country-wide deployment of all CAPF battalions. The operational role performed by the ITBP at 18,700 feet in Ladakh is testimony enough to its capability to guard the border in any part of the country. It needs to be noted that back in 2001, the Group of Ministers had stated that the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ should be strictly adhered to. If ITBP can guard the India-China border in Ladakh, there is no reason why it cannot guard the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.

•The concept of having two masters for an organisation — one for administrative control and another for operational control — is not only absurd but also leads to problems of coordination. Therefore, the Home Ministry’s move to merge all its 55,000-strong Assam Rifles with the ITBP is a step in the right direction.

Opposed to the move

•The Army argues that the Assam Rifles should be merged with it, to ensure national security. It requires no wisdom to conclude that the Army would lose its promotional avenues once this paramilitary force is merged with the ITBP, as it would be directly under the control of the Home Ministry. At present, nearly 80% of officers’ ranks from Major upwards are held by Army officers on deputation. A Lieutenant General of the Army holds the post of Director General of Assam Rifles. It is natural for the Army to oppose the move.

•For the time being, the Chief may be appointed from among IPS officers. But for the tussle between the IPS and the CAPF officers, consequent to the CAPF being brought under the fold of Organised Group ‘A’ Service this year, it would be the direct officers of Assam Rifles who will eventually take up the top posts.

•The Home Ministry, under Rajnath Singh, took up the issue of merger with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The matter is in the Delhi High Court now after retired personnel filed a petition saying they were facing difficulties in drawing pension because of dual control. The merger issue needs to be taken up on priority by the CCS so that doubts are cleared. The modalities of absorbing the officers should be worked out to stall any situation of a vacuum being created once the deputationists are repatriated to the Army.

📰 Real estate shelter: On Alternative Investment Fund

The Alternative Investment Fund could help revive the stressed sector

•From first looks, the long-awaited package to support the real estate sector, cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday, appears well-designed. The ₹25,000 crore Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has expanded in both size and scope from the earlier one announced in September. And the variables are clear such as the unit sizes that will be supported. The AIF will provide funds to bail out stalled real estate projects with unit size of less than ₹2 crore a unit in metros and ₹1 crore in other places. The Centre will contribute ₹10,000 crore, with the State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation of India providing the balance. The fund, to be managed by SBICAP Ventures, will offer support to viable projects with a positive net worth and registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority. What makes the scheme good is that it will also apply to projects that have been declared as non-performing assets by banks and to those lined up before the insolvency court. Apart from real estate promoters, this will also aid lenders, mainly finance companies and banks, whose funds are locked up in these projects. According to Ms. Sitharaman, over 1,600 projects involving some 4.58 lakh housing units are stalled for want of funds. There are also unsold units across the country with one market estimate putting their value at over ₹4 lakh crore. Most of the stalled projects are solvent but stuck for liquidity and with support from the AIF, can be completed, unlocking value not just for buyers but also precious cash for the project promoters and their lenders.

•The real estate sector is not only one of the biggest provider of jobs but also has a huge multiplier effect in the economy. Industries ranging from cement and steel to paints and sanitaryware stand to reap the benefits of a healthy real estate sector. This is apart from banks and financial institutions. While the AIF is a good idea, it is important that it is implemented without glitches. Too many good ideas have suffered due to bad implementation. The critical part will be identifying the genuine projects in need of support and ensuring that biases do not creep in. Also important will be attracting more investors into the AIF. The Finance Minister said that sovereign funds and other private investors have shown interest. These need to be followed upon quickly and money should be released from the AIF right away so that the trickle-down effect is felt before the end of this financial year. Along with private money in the AIF will also come return expectations that need to be managed. The government, through its latest move, and the Reserve Bank of India with successive rate cuts and liquidity infusion, have set the stage. The real estate industry now has to do its part.

📰 Data: Where does Kerala's Internet access stand compared to other States?

Data from the Internet And Mobile Association of India shows Kerala is already halfway to its goal of 100% coverage

•Finance Minister of Kerala Thomas Isaac on Thursday tweeted that the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project, pegged at ₹1,548 crore, would provide Internet to every household in the State. "For 20 lakh BPL households it will be free," the tweet read.

•The project has an ambitious timeline — it is slated for completion by December 2020.

•However, going by data in a recent report by the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), Kerala is already halfway to its goal of 100% coverage.

•According to the IAMAI report, titled 'India Internet 2019', Kerala's Internet penetration rate is the second highest in the country (54%), with Delhi NCR topping the list with 69% penetration.

•The chart below shows the Internet penetration rate (defined as number of individuals aged above 12 per 100 population who accessed the Internet in the last month; survey period January-March 2019).

•The lowest penetration rate was in Odisha (25), Jharkhand (26) and Bihar (28). It is to be noted that the figure for Jammu & Kashmir is not reflective of the current situation as the survey period was before it was divided.

•The IAMAI report also notes that Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have the highest proportion of female Internet users.

•TRAI data as of June 2019 also show that Kerala is well-placed in terms of Internet connections. It stands fourth among all telecom service areas in terms of Internet subscriptions per 100 population, behind Delhi, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. In urban areas, it does better — it ranks second behind Himachal Pradesh.

•Bihar has the lowest number, with 29 subscriptions per 100 population, while Uttar Pradesh's number stands at 34.

•It is to be noted that Kerala is among States with a huge gap between the number of rural and urban Internet connections. This is also the case in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.

📰 Government mulling changes to laws to address inter-regulatory issues

FM discusses economy at FSDC meet

•Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a review meeting on Thursday with the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) during which she discussed the state of the economy in detail.

•“The Council reviewed the current global and domestic macro-economic situation and financial stability and vulnerabilities issues, including... those concerning NBFCs and credit rating agencies,” the government said in a release.

•Speaking to reporters after the meeting, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that the government was looking into making specific legislative amendments to address inter-regulatory issues, including to the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 2002.

•“The state of the economy was discussed in detail and there were some inter-regulatory issues that were discussed,” Mr. Das said. “We also discussed cybersecurity issues and going forward, from the point of view of the macro requirements, what kind of approach the regulators would take, particularly where there is inter-regulatory overlap.”

•“With regard to strengthening the regulatory mechanism, there is a need for certain amendments in the relevant Act that governs the multi-State cooperative societies and there the process of amending certain provisions of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act is being taken forward by the government in consultation with the RBI,” Mr. Das added.

‘NBFCs doing well’

•The RBI Governor said that the current state of NBFCs was discussed and there were many NBFCs that were performing well.

•“Today, both the banks and the markets are differentiating between the good NBFCs and the not-so-good NBFCs,” Mr. Das said. “Even today, we have a good number of NBFCs that are well-functioning, which are able to access funds from the market and loans from the banks, and in fact some of them have got overseas funding also.”

•He said that the RBI was monitoring the top 50 NBFCs, which represented roughly 75% of the asset size of the NBFC sector, and held regular interactions with them. However, he did acknowledge that there were some NBFCs that were still in trouble.

📰 EAT-Lancet diet too costly for 1.58 billion people, says study

‘At $2.84 per day, it exceeds daily per capita income in many low-income nations’

•A diet meant to improve both human and planetary health would be unaffordable for at least 1.58 billion people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, estimates a new study from researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in the U.S.

•Earlier this year, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health published recommendations for a universal diet that addresses both human and planetary health. The Commission suggested that adherence to this diet could ensure that our future food systems can sustainably and nutritiously feed the estimated population of 10 billion people in 2050.

•The new study, titled ‘Affordability of the EAT–Lancet reference diet: a global analysis’ and published on Thursday in The Lancet Global Health, sought to address what many felt was one of the main components lacking in the creation of the recommended diet, namely affordability.

•“When formulating this pioneering benchmark diet — addressing individual health outcomes as well as the health of the planet — the Commission deliberately did not take its cost into account,” said senior author William Masters, an economist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Tufts University.

•The research team also found that the EAT-Lancet diet was 64% more costly than the lowest-cost combination of foods that would provide a balanced mix of 20 essential nutrients. The EAT-Lancet diet has higher quantities of animal-source foods and fruits and vegetables than the minimum required for nutrient adequacy, and much higher quantities than are now consumed in low-income countries.

•“We found that the global median of the proposed diet would cost $2.84 per day (₹200). In low-income countries, that amounts to 89.1% of a household’s daily per capita income, which is more than what people can actually spend on food. In high-income countries, we found that the EAT-Lancet reference diet would cost 6.1% of per-capita income, which is often less than what people now spend on food,” said Kalle Hirvonen, lead author and development economist in Ethiopia at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

•In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 57% of people earn less than the local cost of the EAT-Lancet diet, in South Asia that figure is 38.4%, in West Asia and North Africa 19.4%, in East Asia and the Pacific 15%, in Latin America and the Caribbean 11.6%, in Europe and Central Asia 1.7% and in North America 1.2%.

•The EAT-Lancet Commission diet consists of a large amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grain, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils, some seafood and poultry. It has little to no red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables.

Varying prices

•Fruits, vegetables and animal-source foods are often the most expensive components of a healthy diet, but prices vary widely around the world, report the researchers.

•To compute the affordability of an EAT-Lancet diet in each country, the researchers drew on retail prices for standardised items obtained through the International Comparison Program, a collaboration between the World Bank and country statistical agencies. They used prices for 744 food items in 159 countries, from which they could identify the lowest-cost combination of items in each country to meet EAT-Lancet criteria. They then did the same for nutrient requirements and compared the cost of food in each country to survey data on household expenditure and income per capita from the World Bank’s PovcalNet system.

•“Though 1.58 billion is a lot of people, it is actually a conservative lower limit on the total number who cannot afford the diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission. The cost of food preparation and of non-food necessities ensure that an even larger number of people cannot afford that kind of healthy diet,” said Mr. Masters.

•“Even if many poor consumers were to aspire to consume healthier and more environmentally sustainable foods, income and price constraints frequently render this diet unaffordable. Increased earnings and safety-net transfers, as well as systemic changes to lower food prices, are needed to bring healthy and sustainable diets within the reach of the world’s poor,” said Mr. Hirvonen.

•Limitations to the study include the aspect that the models count only the least expensive items in each country, so other research would be needed to address the additional costs and barriers to food use imposed by time constraints, tastes and preferences.