The HINDU Notes – 04th December 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 04th December 2019

📰 National shame: On gender sensitisation

Gender sensitisation and wider societal changes are needed to end sex crimes

•Last week’s brutal rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad has led to an outpouring of anger across the country and in Parliament. Several MPs questioned the adequacy of criminal laws and a judicial system that permits under-age convicts to get away with lenient punishment and others sentenced to death to escape the noose through mercy petitions. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government was “ready to make more stringent provisions in law”. After the 2012 Nirbhaya outrage in Delhi, and on the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed, by bringing in changes to the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Key amendments were brought in to provide for death penalty for rape that led to death of the victim or reduced the survivor to a persistent vegetative state and anyone found guilty of rape more than once. In 2018, further changes introduced death as the maximum punishment for every perpetrator in a gang-rape when the victim is less than 12, and life-long imprisonment if the victim is less than 16. In the Delhi case, a fast-track trial court sentenced four to death in September 2013, while the only juvenile accused was freed after a stint at a remand home. The Supreme Court dismissed their appeals against conviction in 2017; two years on, the convicts have filed curative petitions in the court and one has already written to the President of India for clemency.

•As protests rocked Hyderabad demanding speedy justice, four lorry workers, arrested on charges of raping and killing the veterinarian returning from work, were kept in solitary confinement. After the Nirbhaya incident, the UN Human Rights chief had called rape and violence against women in India a “national problem” which would need “national solutions”. Unfortunately, in the past week, rapes and assault have been reported from Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The National Crime Records Bureau which released its 2017 data this October said a total of 3.59 lakh cases of crimes against women were reported, a 6% rise compared to 2016. Of this, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty comprised 21.7%, and rape 7%. For every rape reported, there are many which go unrecorded as patriarchal mindsets remain unchanged. A suggestion by an MP that rapists “must be brought out in public and lynched” is hardly the answer. Better policing, fast-track courts, quick sentencing are the need of the hour as each can serve as a deterrent. What should be included in every curriculum is gender sensitisation, right from school. Public places must be made safer for all. Boys and girls should be raised right in an atmosphere of freedom and a culture of mutual respect. The cycle of rapes, outrage and amnesia must end.

📰 Opposition demands debate on electoral reforms

Shiv Sena, BSP, TRS also sign motion by 16 parties seeking return to paper ballot in place of electronic voting machine

•At least 16 Opposition parties have signed a motion demanding a debate on “electoral reforms for free and fair elections”. The parties are likely to ask the Narendra Modi government to revert to paper ballot in place of the electronic voting machine.

•The signatories include BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra and Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s Keshava Rao. The two parties have so far not been part of any Opposition efforts and it is the first time in this session that they have decided to stand with the rest of the Opposition on the issue.

•If Chairman Venkaiah Naidu allows the debate, it will be held next week. The parties that have signed the motion include the Trinamool, Congress, DMK, NCP, RJD, PDP, Samajwadi Party, MDMK, TDP, AAP, Kerala Congress(M) CPI (M) and CPI. The Shiv Sena, which recently parted ways with the BJP, has also joined forces with the Opposition. This is the second instance when it has backed the rest of the Opposition in demanding a debate. Earlier it was one of the signatories to push the government to debate the current economic situation.

•“This is one issue where all the parties feel strongly. There are many issues on electoral reforms that we need to raise, be it the opacity of electoral bonds which allows the BJP to garner maximum funds in comparison to all the other parties,” an Opposition leader said.

•The parties submitted the motion in the morning. There is near unanimity on the issue of reverting to the paper ballot. The issue has been raised by BSP supremo Mayawati on several occasions since the 2019 Lok Sabha results.

•“The EC after several meetings has not been able to give us a satisfactory reply on EVMs. If there is even an iota of doubt on whether they can be tampered with they shouldn’t be used at all,” another Opposition leader said.

•The Opposition parties will be flagging the recent incident from Pennsylvania for Northampton County judge’s election where tampering of the electronic voting machine was reported. The officials blamed it on a bug in the software. “This is a worldwide demand that paper ballots are safer and far more trustworthy. Ahead of the 2020 presidential elections in the U.S. many are demanding reverting to paper ballot,” a third Opposition leader pointed out.

📰 One state push for Israel and Palestine?

Any future solution must be one that rectifies past evils and offers democracy to all Palestinians

•The recognition of the U.S. State Department of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank is yet another indication that the two-state solution is dead. There are 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and they will soon be one third of the overall population. When the Zionist settlers in the 1930s became one third of the population, Palestine was doomed. This is when the Zionist leadership began to contemplate the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

•The West Bank is under a similar danger. Vast areas have already been ethnically cleansed, and the rest are enclaved in spaces that at any given moment Israel can turn into inhabitable areas, as it did in the Gaza Strip. This policy has so far been immune from any significant international rebuke.

Imaginary homeland

•The “Green Line” — the 1949 armistice line that separates Israel from the West Bank — is a figment of the imagination of those who support the two-state solution. It was replaced by a greater Israel, ruled by the Israeli nationality law passed in 2018 that states that only the Jews have the right of self-determination all over historical Palestine, sanctions the continued colonisation of the country and upholds its apartheid system.

•This new reality requires a different approach by anyone caring for the future of the Palestinians and respects their basic rights. This is now a struggle for a regime change. A regime that allows half of the population living between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean to have all the privileges and continue to rob the other half of its living space, lands, rights, dignity and life. Such an oppressive reality is not solved by a “peace process” but only by decolonisation that would reformulate the relationship between the third generation of Jewish settlers who arrived in the late 19th century and the indigenous population of Palestine on the basis of equality.

•Decolonisation is rightly associated with processes that took place in the first half of the last century (such as the one leading to the liberation of India), but that does not mean colonisation disappeared from the rest of the globe. Even more importantly, the process of decolonisation, apart from two places, Algeria and South Africa, has not affected settler colonial projects which ended in the creation of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, to mention but few of those cases.

Ongoing ‘catastrophe’

•In some cases, the settler community acted upon the logic, defined by the late Australian scholar, Patrick Wolfe, as “the logic of the elimination of the native”. This led to the genocide of native Americans and aboriginals. But even there the struggle continues for recognition, restitution and equality. In Palestine, that logic was translated to an incremental process of ethnic cleansing, which the Palestinians call “the ongoing Nakba” (Nakba in Arabic is catastrophe and is used in the Palestinian narrative to describe the ethnic cleansing of 1948).

•The Zionist movement succeeded in expelling half the Palestinian population in 1948 and since 1967 led to departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from all over historical Palestine (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel). Today, the Israeli government continues to dispossess land and take away resources from Palestinians, thus creating conditions that become and more unsustainable for many Palestinians.

•In the 1960s and 1970s the Palestinians resisted this policy of colonisation and dispossession with an armed struggle in their quest for freedom and liberation. In many ways, the Hamas in Gaza seems still to believe that this can be an effective tool in the struggle. But quite a few Palestinians seem to prefer a different kind of popular resistance, given the imbalance of power between the strongest military force in West Asia and the weakest one.

•The “march of return” — the weekly peaceful demonstrations by thousands of Palestinians on the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel is one example of a different kind of a popular resistance, which demands not only the end of the inhuman siege on Gaza and its two million people that has led to a human catastrophe there, but also the right of return of the refugees to their homes; 80% of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are refugees who live near their lands, villages and towns from which they were expelled in 1948.

•Popular or armed resistance on the way to liberation would have not been needed had international diplomacy bravely examined the origins of the conflict in Palestine and on its basis support a just and lasting solution. But the international community, and mainly western political elites, fully support Israel and remain silent in the face of continued dispossession of Palestinians. It adopted the two-state solution as its mantra for what should be done and was supported by the Palestinian leadership which hoped to salvage at least part of Palestine (22%). This approach has failed miserably. Israel has established that any sovereign Palestinian state is impossible. And now we have an American administration that fully endorses Israel’s wish to de-politicise the Palestinian question and allow Israel to fully extend its sovereignty all over historical Palestine (and by that also rejecting categorically the right of any Palestinian refugee to return — a right recognised by the UN in its Resolution 194 from December 11, 1948).

•We wasted 50 years in trying to push towards this solution and the end result of this effort was more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a total separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; and now we see another fruit of this approach — an American recognition of the Judaisation of the West Bank.

•The civil society in Palestine and around the globe believes in a different way forward. Unlike its political elites it frames the situation in Palestine not as a conflict but a struggle against settler colonialism; not unlike the struggle against Apartheid South Africa. And hence the first step forward suggested by Palestinian civil society was to call upon the international community to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel in order to stop the “ongoing catastrophe”. This BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, campaign will continue until the people of the West Bank would be liberated from a military rule, the people of Gaza from the siege, the refugees return from their exile, and the Palestinians in Israel would be recognised as equal citizens.

Next Palestinian step

•The next step is now beginning to unfold. A clear alternative Palestinian call for the establishment of a one democratic state all over historical Palestine. At this moment in time it is a vision, soon it will become a clear Palestinian political programme. One that rectifies past evils by compensating and restituting lost land and property, enables the repatriation of the refugees, and offers democracy for all who live in historical Palestine, without any discrimination. This vision has now a growing support in the international community, among young Palestinians and progressive Jews inside and outside Israel. For many people it still looks like an insurmountable task — privileged people like the Jews of Israel would not willingly give up their position. But pressure from the outside, a continued popular struggle from the inside and a clear Palestinian vision for the future can turn this vision into reality. At least we will not waste another 50 years in looking for a lost key where there is light instead of searching for it where we lost it.

📰 GST revenues not enough for States’ compensation: Centre

Letter to States flags falling collections

•The Centre has written to all the States voicing concern that due to the lower Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, the compensation cess might not be enough to pay for losses arising out of the tax system.

•The communication comes at a time when several States, including Rajasthan, Kerala, Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal, have publicly urged the Centre to transfer pending compensation payments as they have not received the dues for several months.

•The government of Punjab has even said it may take the matter to the Supreme Court if the Centre does not release the dues.

•The issue will be discussed in detail at the next GST Council meeting, scheduled for the second fortnight of December.

•“Among other issues, the GST revenue position shall be discussed in detail at this meeting,” the Centre’s letter to the States, reviewed by The Hindu, said.
GST revenues not enough for States’ compensation: Centre
•“This discussion is quite critical as lower GST and compensation cess collections have been a major concern in the last few months.”

•“The compensation requirements have increased significantly and are unlikely to be met from the compensation cess being collected,” the letter added.

•This situation assumes significance because it was the promise of compensation to the States for losses arising out of GST implementation that convinced a large number of  reluctant States to sign on to the new indirect tax regime. The Centre had promised compensation for any shortfall in tax revenue due to GST implementation for a period of five years.

•In the letter, the Centre also asked the States to submit their suggestions by December 6 on augmenting GST collections. They were specifically asked to look into ways to review the items currently exempted from GST, review the tax rates and compensation cess rates on various items, and on improving compliance measures.

•These suggestions will be placed before the Committee of Officers from the States and Centre that has been set up to suggest measures to increase collections. 

•The government had budgeted for ₹6,63,343 crore in GST collections for the current financial year 2019-20, out of which it has collected only about 50% in the first eight months. It had targeted ₹1,09,343 crore of compensation cess collections, of which it has so far collected ₹64,528 crore.

📰 US threatens 100% tariffs on certain French goods

French Finance minister Bruno La Maire said that the EU would provide a “strong response” if the U.S. goes ahead with these tariffs.

•On the eve of U.S. President Donald Trump meeting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in London on the sidelines of the NATO alliance talks, the U.S. announced that it could levy up to 100% on $2.4 billion in French imports of into the country.

•These announcement, which comes after an adverse conclusion by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) following a trade practices investigation into France’s Digital Services Tax (DST), could including champagne, porcelain and some cheeses.

•The ‘301’ trade probe against France was launched in July after Mr Macron signed the DST into law, aimed at taxing digital companies that did substantial business in France. The DST is a 3% tax on the turnover of digital companies with global turnover of at least EURO 750 million, EURO 25 million of which is from France. U.S. tech giants including Google, Amazon and Facebook had called for the tax to be scrapped.

•The probe found that the “ French DST discriminates against U.S. digital companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon” as per a USTR statement which said the tax was inconsistent with prevailing tax principles due to its retroactivities, application to revenue rather than income and extraterritorial application. The statement said the tax was aimed at penalizing specific U.S. tech firms.

•French Finance minister Bruno La Maire said that the EU would provide a “strong response” if the U.S. goes ahead with these tariffs.

•The ‘301’ probe is a trade tool authorized by Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 which the U.S. uses to assert its rights under trade agreements if it decides American industries are facing “unfair” foreign trade practices. Having used the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism alone in recent times, the U.S., under the Trump administration, has brought the 301 back into use, launching a 2017 probe against China.

•“USTR’s decision today sends a clear signal that the United States will take action against digital tax regimes that discriminate or otherwise impose undue burdens on U.S. companies,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said via a statement released on Monday.

•The USTR was focusing on countering the “growing protectionism of EU member states” and may also open 301 investigations into the digital services tax against Turkey, Austria and Italy, Mr Lighthizer said.

•The announcement comes two days after the U.S. said it would consider increasing tariffs on EU imports after a WTO panel ruled in the U.S.’s favour in a case involving European subsidies to aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The U.S. had already levied taxes on certain EU farm products and civil aircraft in October, on the back of a related WTO ruling.

•The USTR announced a hearing on the proposed DST related action on January 7, before which the public has an opportunity to comment on it.

•While this particular round of tariffs does not impact India directly, the USTR’s use of 301 probes is of relevance to the country. Deputy USTR Jeffry Gerrish had said in July that a 301 probe was part of the menu of options the U.S. was considering at the time with regard to India. Currently, New Delhi and Washington are in the middle of negotiating a limited trade deal.

📰 Will take DRDO’s new deck-based fighter aircraft when it’s ready: Navy Chief

Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant expected to be operational by 2022

•The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has offered to develop a new twin-engine deck-based fighter aircraft for the Navy based on the experience of the Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and it should be ready by 2026, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on Tuesday. He also noted that the Navy expected to have the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1) Vikrant operational by 2022.

•“The Qualitative Requirements [QR] are being made. They said they should be able to push it out by 2026. If it meets our time and QR requirements, we will definitely take it [fighter aircraft],” he said at the customary annual press conference ahead of the Navy Day.

•In the case of the Naval LCA, it recently successfully completed the take-off and landing trials on the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa.

•Adm. Singh said the current LCA Mk-1 was a technology demonstrator and it would further be put to carrier compatibility tests. And if it worked, whatever lessons they had learnt the DRDO would plough back into the twin-engine deck-based fighter that they were offering now.

‘Three IACs needed’

•On the requirement for a third aircraft carrier, Adm. Singh said, “As the Navy Chief, I am convinced the country requires three aircraft carriers so that two are operational at any given time.”

•He said they were preparing the case for IAC-2 and finalising the requirements. After this, they would go to the government for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) and it would be followed by design consultancy to decide the exact contours. As of now, the Navy envisaged it to be 65,000 tonnes with Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) and full electric propulsion.

•On the IAC-1, which is under advanced stage of construction in Kochi, Adm Singh said all ship-building issues “are over” and trials would begin now. “We are almost certain that we will take delivery by February-March 2021, he stated and added that aviation trials would take a year after that. “We should have a fully operational carrier by 2022.”

Largest multilateral exercise

•The Navy is scheduled to host its largest multilateral exercise, MILAN off the coast of Visakhapatnam in March 2020, for which 41 countries have been invited. So far, over 15 countries have confirmed their participation. China has not been invited.

•Asked why China had been left out, Adm. Singh said they invited “like-minded” countries with whom India had interacted earlier. “We called people who we think are like-minded and this is our first attempt at such a large multilateral exercise. We have not even done Passage Exercises with the Chinese Navy so far. Others we have had much better interoperability,” he stated.

•To a question if the Navy would have an exercise with China given recent improvement in relations, Adm. Singh said, “That’s beyond my pay grade.”

Stabilising influence

•On the Indian Navy’s role in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Adm. Singh said, “Our intention is to have a stabilising influence and not a military influence in the region. When we had a dispute on the international maritime boundary line with Bangladesh, we resolved it through the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). On the other hand, in the South China Sea (SCS), we know what’s happening.” He was referring to the 2016 PCA verdict in favour of the Philippines that was rejected by China.

Chief of Defence Staff

•Asked about his expectations on the soon-to-be-created post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Adm. Singh said the views of the Services had been taken care of by the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), who then became part of the Implementation Committee. The committee has submitted its report to the government. It should be an empowered CDS, which would be able to make a difference, he said. “I hope the CDS is suitably empowered to carry out all the responsibilities that he is given.”