The HINDU Notes – 06th March 2020 - VISION

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Friday, March 06, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 06th March 2020

📰 NPR data useful for welfare schemes, says Home Ministry

It tells parliamentary panel that date and place of birth of parents will complete data for all households

•The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that it proposes to collect details on additional questions such as “date and place of birth of parents” in the National Population Register (NPR) to “facilitate back-end data processing and making the data items of date and place of birth complete for all household[s]”.

•The Ministry said there was a need to update the the NPR to “incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration”. “Aadhaar is individual data whereas NPR contains family-wise data,” it said. “Various welfare schemes of State and Central governments are generally family-based for which NPR data may be used.”

•Though the final NPR form for 2020 has not been made public yet but on February 18, Ministry officials informed the parliamentary panel that “during the update of NPR 2020, it is proposed to collect data on some additional items like place of last residence, mother tongue, Aadhaar number (voluntary), mobile number, passport (Indian passport holder), voter ID card, driving licence number, date and place of birth of father and mother”. The submission was made in response to a question by parliamentary committee members on the new questions in the NPR form.

•More than a dozen States including West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Delhi have demanded either that the NPR be scrapped or that the update be done using the 2010 form.

•The NPR questionnaire used in 2010 and 2015 had 14 columns. The Centre has proposed that the next phase of NPR will be conducted along with the house listing and house census exercise between April and September.

Ministry’s rationale

•On the rationale behind collecting details on date and place of birth of parents, Ministry officials said, “The date and place of birth of parents were collected in NPR 2010 as well for all parents who were enumerated within the household. For parents living elsewhere or expired at the time of enumeration, only the names of parents were collected. To facilitate back-end data processing and making the data items of date and place of birth complete for all household[s], the details of parents are being collected in a more comprehensive manner in NPR 2020.”

•The parliamentary committee on Demands for Grants of the Ministry, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, said there was dissatisfaction and fear among the people regarding the upcoming NPR and Census. “The Committee also feels that these apprehensions should have been duly ventilated in the media. The MHA must consider some way out so that the Census goes smoothly. Otherwise, there is quite a chance of the entire process being stymied in many States,” the panel said in its report tabled in the Parliament on Thursday.

📰 Yes Bank put under moratorium till April 3

Deposit withdrawal capped at Rs. 50,000; board superseded by Reserve Bank of India

•The government has put private sector lender Yes Bank under moratorium till April 3 and capped the deposit withdrawal at Rs. 50,000 after severe deterioration of the bank’s financial position.

•The decision was taken by the government after an application from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), a gazette notification said.

•Following the moratorium, RBI superseded the board of the bank and appointed Prashant Kumar, the deputy managing director and chief financial officer of State Bank of India (SBI), as the administrator. Mr. Kumar resigned from SBI to take up the role of the administrator.

•While assuring depositors that there was no need to panic, RBI said that it would explore and draw up a scheme in the next few days for the bank’s reconstruction or amalgamation, and with the approval of the government, would put the plan well before the end of the moratorium period of 30 days. During the moratorium period, the bank cannot grant or renew any loan or advance, or make any investment, but would be allowed to make certain expenses like salaries of employees.

•The withdrawal limit will be relaxed for depositors who need money for medical treatment, education, marriage or other ceremonies and any other unavoidable emergency. In these cases, depositors will be allowed to withdraw up to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakh.

•RBI said that the financial position of the bank deteriorated as it failed to raise capital to address loan losses, which resulted in rating downgrades and triggered invocation of bond covenants by investors, and withdrawal of deposits.

•“The bank has also experienced serious governance issues and practices in the recent years which have led to steady decline of the bank,” the RBI said.

•The central bank said it was in constant engagement with the bank’s management to find ways to strengthen its balance sheet and liquidity.

•While the bank management had indicated that it was in talks with various investors for capital raising, those plans did not materialise. The regulator said it had given adequate opportunity to the bank to draw a credible revival plan, which, however, did not materialise. “In the meantime, the bank was facing regular outflow of liquidity,” RBI said.

•While the moratorium was announced after the close of trading hours, Yes Bank shares had already shot up 26% after reports of a bail out plan led by the SBI.

SBI board gives nod

•Meanwhile, the SBI board, at its meeting on Thursday, gave in-principle approval to explore investment opportunities in Yes Bank.

•The lender confirmed this in a reply to the exchanges late on Thursday and said that no negotiations had taken place yet.

📰 Disabled and extremely poor

There is a link between disability, loss of employment and impoverishment in rural India

•Of the world’s population, 15% live with some form of disability. Are disabilities associated with economic hardships through loss of employment and consequent impoverishment in rural India? We tried to answer this question by using the two rounds of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data for 2005 and 2012.

•We compared poverty outcomes in 2012 and the prevalence of disability in 2005. The sequence of analyses summarised below is first, factors associated with disability; second, the relationship between rural employment and disability; and third, between poverty/or a welfare metric and disability in rural India. The central argument resting on these building blocks is that disabilities are likely to rise; they are associated with loss of long duration of employment; and thus, with a rise in poverty.

Patterns of disability

•The prevalence of disability was 9.70% in the rural population in 2012. Of the disabled, more than half (51.3%) suffered from two-four disabilities. Persistence was also largest in this range of disabilities (about 31% remained disabled between 2005 and 2012). The share of those suffering from one disability was largest in the age group 31-50 years, followed by 51-60 years. In the case of two-four disabilities, the largest share was found among those aged 31-50, 51-60, and then, among the older group, 61-70 years. The share of those suffering from more than four disabilities rose from those aged 31-50 years old to 61-70 years and then declined. Among the youngest (15-30 years), about 98% did not suffer from any disability. This declined among older age groups (just under 50% among the oldest, more than 70 years of age). In the 31-50 years age group, a vast majority did not suffer from any disability, and small proportions suffered from a single and multiple disabilities. A similar pattern was observed among those in the 51-60 years age group, with substantially lower proportions without any disability and larger proportions suffering from single and multiple disabilities. Among those aged 61-70 years, the proportion without disability was considerably lower, but those with single and multiple disabilities rose (about 30% had more than four disabilities).

•Employment in rural areas is disaggregated into categories: no employment, or less than 240 hours in the previous year (i.e., before 2012); part-time employment, or more than 240 hours; and full-time employment (at least 250 days and at least 2,000 hours). What is indeed striking is that among the disabled, the proportion of those not employed is just under half, and markedly lower in part-time and full-time employment.

•Instead of using a poverty cut-off, we used terciles of per capita expenditure (at constant prices). The bottom tercile denotes extremely poor, the next middle class and the third affluent. As non-disabled households are a huge fraction, it is not surprising that their shares are highest in each tercile. In the non-disabled households, the proportions are almost equally distributed among the terciles. In the lowest disability group (<0.31), the proportion in the first tercile is lowest, and highest in the second and third terciles. The highest disability group (>0. 60), however, offers a contrast. Their proportion in the lowest tercile is highest compared with other disability groups but slightly lower than the proportion in the second tercile. Their proportion in the third tercile not just within this disability group but also across all other disability groups is lowest. Thus, highly disabled are largely confined to extreme poverty. They face barriers to long-duration employment including discriminatory practices in hiring the disabled.

•Ironically, while the SDGs assign high priority to preventing and overcoming disability, the Budget for 2020-21 is almost cruel to those experiencing persistent health deprivation by cutting the health outlay.

📰 An unrest, a slowdown and a health epidemic

India has slid from being a global showcase of liberal democracy to a majoritarian state in economic despair

•It is with a very heavy heart that I write this.

•India faces imminent danger from the trinity of social disharmony, economic slowdown and a global health epidemic. Social unrest and economic ruin are self-inflicted while the health contagion of COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, is an external shock. I deeply worry that this potent combination of risks may not only rupture the soul of India but also diminish our global standing as an economic and democratic power in the world.

•Delhi has been subjected to extreme violence over the past few weeks. We have lost nearly 50 of our fellow Indians for no reason. Several hundred people have suffered injuries. Communal tensions have been stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by unruly sections of our society, including the political class. University campuses, public places and private homes are bearing the brunt of communal outbursts of violence, reminiscent of the dark periods in India’s history. Institutions of law and order have abandoned their dharma to protect citizens. Institutions of justice and the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, have also failed us.

Charred soul of the nation

•With no checks, the fire of social tensions is rapidly spreading across the nation and threatens to char the soul of our nation. It can only be extinguished by the same people that lit it.

•It is both futile and puerile to point to past instances of such violence in India’s history to justify the present violence in the country. Every act of sectarian violence is a blemish on Mahatma Gandhi’s India. Just in a matter of few years, India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair.

•At a time when our economy is floundering, the impact of such social unrest will only exacerbate the economic slowdown. It is now well accepted that the scourge of India’s economy currently is the lack of new investment by the private sector. Investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs are unwilling to undertake new projects and have lost their risk appetite. Social disruptions and communal tensions only compound their fears and risk aversion. Social harmony, the bedrock of economic development, is now under peril. No amount of tweaking of tax rates, showering of corporate incentives or goading will propel Indian or foreign businesses to invest, when the risk of eruption of sudden violence in one’s neighbourhood looms large. Lack of investment means lack of jobs and incomes, which, in turn, means lack of consumption and demand in the economy. A lack of demand will only further suppress private investments. This is the vicious cycle that our economy is stuck in.

•Adding to these self-inflicted woes is the real threat of the COVID-19 epidemic that has originated in China. It is still unclear how far this global health hazard will spread and impact the world. But it is very clear that we should be fully prepared and ready to counter it. A health epidemic is one of the most dangerous threats that a nation can face. It is imperative that all of us collectively prepare to face this threat. We have not faced a public health crisis in contemporary times at the scale that the current crisis threatens to unfold. It is therefore important to launch a full-scale, mission-mode operation to counter this threat immediately.

Dealing with COVID-19

•Nations across the world have sprung into action to contain the impact of this epidemic. China is walling off major cities and public places. Italy is shutting down schools. America has embarked aggressively both to quarantine people as well as hasten research efforts to find a cure. Many other nations have announced various measures to address this issue. India too must act swiftly and announce a mission critical team that will be tasked with addressing the issue. There could be some best practices we can adopt from other nations.

•Regardless of whether this virus will enter our shores on a large scale or not, it is now evident that the economic impact of COVID-19 will be very big. International bodies such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have already pronounced a sharp slowdown in global economic growth. There are reports that China’s economy may even contract, which, if it happens, will be the first time since the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s. China today accounts for nearly a fifth of the global economy and a tenth of India’s external trade. The forecast for the world economy is quite dire. This is sure to impact India’s economic situation too. Millions of small and medium businesses in India that account for more than three-quarters of all formal employment are part of the global supply chain. In such an integrated global economy, the COVID-19 crisis can further slow India’s GDP growth by half to one percentage point, other things being constant. India’s economic growth was already tepid and this external health shock is bound to make things much worse.

Bringing in reforms

•It is my belief that the government must quickly embark on a three point plan. First, it should focus all energies and efforts on containing the COVID-19 threat and prepare adequately. Two, it should withdraw or amend the Citizenship Act, end the toxic social climate and foster national unity. Three, it should put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to boost consumption demand and revive the economy.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi must convince the nation, not merely through words but by deeds, that he is cognisant of the dangers we face and reassure the nation that he can help us tide over this as smoothly as we can. He must immediately provide details of the contingency plan for the threat of the COVID-19 scare.

•A moment of deep crisis can also be a moment of great opportunity. I recall that in 1991, India and the world faced a similar grave economic crisis, with a balance of payments crisis in India and a global recession caused by rising oil prices due to the Gulf War. But we were able to successfully turn this into an opportunity to reinvigorate the economy through drastic reforms. Similarly, the virus contagion and the slowing down of China can potentially open up an opportunity for India to unleash second -generation reforms to become a larger player in the global economy and vastly improve prosperity levels for hundreds of millions of Indians. To achieve that, we must first rise above divisive ideology, petty politics and respect institutional salience.

•It is not my desire to offer a dire prognosis or to exaggerate fears. But I believe it is our solemn duty to speak truth to the people of India. The truth is that the current situation is very grim and morose. The India that we know and cherish is slipping away fast. Wilfully stoked communal tensions, gross economic mismanagement and an external health shock are threatening to derail India’s progress and standing. It is time to confront the harsh reality of the grave risks we face as a nation and address them squarely and sufficiently.

📰 Should the sedition law be scrapped?

Given its frequent misuse, either the courts must strike it down or Parliament ought to revoke it

•On March 2, a 43-year-old man was charged with sedition after he allegedly chanted pro-Pakistan slogans before the mini Vidhan Soudha at Kundapur in Karnataka’s Udupi district. Last month, the police arrested a school principal and a parent in Bidar, Karnataka, for an allegedly seditious and inflammatory play against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Over the last few months, many people protesting against the CAA have been charged with sedition across the country. In a conversation moderated by Jayant Sriram , Sanjay Hegde and Nandita Rao discuss why sedition still exists in the statute book, its misuse, and whether it should be done away with. Excerpts:

It is a matter of concern that a large number of sedition cases have been filed against people for protesting against the CAA. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 194 cases of sedition have been filed since the CAA was passed on December 11, 2019. More cases of sedition have been filed since December 11 than in the last three years put together, according to NCRB data. The data also show that while the number of sedition cases filed has been going up every year (numbers for sedition cases started being recorded from 2014) in the last four years, only four cases actually resulted in conviction. So, how useful is the sedition law?

•Sanjay Hegde:The point of the sedition law is essentially that of suppressing free speech and free thought, both of which are unpopular with the government. Where a critic can be silenced by the mere fact that there is a possible life sentence — that itself acts as a deterrent. These cases are often invoked against show-piece dissenters so that the rest fall in line. Governments are not really interested in convictions. In many of these cases, sanctions are also not given, but it is a useful tool in the hands of the local policemen who can first register a case. It’s also a useful tool in the hands of a local leader or the head of some faction who wants to shut down a particular dissenter in the locality. He can just rush to a police station, file a complaint, and urge them to take action. He then gets his nationalistic brownie points. And the speaker is often left wondering whether that case will proceed further. It has a chilling effect on people who think and speak freely. I don’t think any government is 
interested in actual prosecution. Most cases that are filed would not end in conviction if Section 124A, as read by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh (1962), is actually applied — often the speech complained about does not result in any actual incitement to violence whatsoever.

•Nandita Rao:Sedition is an offence which existed in our Indian Penal Code (IPC) before we got Independence because the colonial master wished to penalise anybody who was trying to overthrow the state. But the irony is that in independent India, of late, this provision is being used to bully and terrorise citizens. And in the Bidar case, where a parent and the principal of a school were charged with sedition for staging a play critical of the CAA, we saw that it was used — or rather misused — to bully and terrorise small children and a young woman. So, I think when the state begins to terrorise people with laws, then we are dangerously flirting with fascism.

•The Supreme Court, in its interpretation of Section 124A, clearly says that it has to be against the state, not against the government. I can criticise the BJP, I can criticise the Congress, I can criticise Mamata Banerjee, I can criticise the Communist parties. That is not sedition. When I start criticising the constitutional state of India, that is when I invite the charge of sedition and even there the Supreme Court clearly says that there has to be a direct incitement to violence. So, sedition is a very specific and a very serious offence, and when it is used to silence and terrorise the ordinary citizen who is raising a grievance, it is terrorism by the state. I really think that the National Human Rights Commission is duty-bound to map all these misuses of the sedition law. It should make the Commissioner of Police of that State personally responsible.

Sedition is a colonial relic and I think we can all agree that it’s being misused widely. Why then has it not been repealed yet? Why has it survived in the IPC for so long?

•SH:Sedition as a concept comes from Elizabethan England, where if you criticised the king and were fomenting a rebellion, it was a crime against the state. When they ruled India, the British feared Wahhabi rebellion. They brought the [sedition] law in, and it was used against our freedom fighters as well. You must remember that both Mahatma Gandhi and [Bal Gangadhar] Tilak were tried under this law and sentenced. When we became free we thought this law would go.

•Everybody promised that it would, but nobody actually did it. And they didn’t do it because every administrator has this thought that dissent is okay, but beyond a certain point it gets dangerous and an administration must have the means to control it. Now we have to ask, who controls it? It’s not a wise administrator who controls it or administers it. It is administered from the police thana level. Previously policemen were much more independent. But since Indian independence, the independence of the police has also been severely compromised. So, any local leader can almost bully a policeman into registering a case. After a case is registered, its purpose is done because it may get government sanction to proceed to trial. Or it may not. Now, with the explosion of the media, the social media and with other pressures, people find it more convenient to just sanction the prosecution and say, let the courts take care of it. But what this has led to is a situation where the process itself becomes the punishment and the process itself becomes a demonstration.

•The Congress party manifesto for the 2019 general election promised to do away with sedition. I’ve heard senior Congress leaders say, which idiot asked the manifesto committee to include this because it looks so ‘anti-national’ in the eyes of the voters. The average voter unfortunately just thinks that if you say something against a government elected by any majority, you are speaking against the nation. I think we need to do away with this law as soon as possible if we are to be a truly free and independent country.

•NR:I don’t think one needs to remove this law. It falls on the judiciary to protect Articles 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution. Justice Kurian Joseph recently made some anguished remarks that the police is neither independent nor professional. My position is that the time has come for the judiciary to set up a search committee in every State, and a particular judge of the High Court has to suo moto check each sedition case being filed. And if it is baseless, if it has been used to only terrorise the ordinary citizen expressing his views, it must be quashed without putting the onus on the citizen to come to the court. It’s true that the police have become totally politicised, but who is to stop this? Who is to guard us? It is the judiciary that has been charged with this job and they can’t expect the ordinary citizen to always come to the court. Our legal aid system is just not as robust as it should be. The problem is not with the section, but with its abuse.

•SH:I think the problem is with the section itself. As somebody correctly said, the essence of tyranny is in the making of harsh laws and then using those laws selectively against the people. The only current conviction which still stands under sedition, to my mind, is that of Binayak Sen and that was under the UPA government.

•So, it’s like this, administrators like this tool handy. Take away the tool and come back with specific laws on hate speech and speeches that incite violence. That is understandable, but to elevate ordinary dissent into an anti-national insurrection or uprising is certainly not on. The point is that if you keep a harsh law on the statute book, there will be misuse. And there’s no sense applying ointment thereafter. This has been on the statute book for more than 100 years. Experience has shown that it does not actually work. Experience has shown that it has led to great abuse. It’s time that we scrapped it and came up with something else.

•NR:One thing here is that hate speech is a totally different offence from sedition. Hate speech is when you provoke violence between two communities. You are not abusing the state. You are not telling people to revolt against the state. When you challenge the constitutional scheme of India, that is sedition. But when you provoke violence against a particular community, that is hate speech. It’s irrelevant which political regime has misused this. The question is, why has the guardian of our Constitution, the judiciary, with all its powers, failed to put an end to it and reassure the citizen that the right under Article 19 right is protected by the judiciary? So, any provision can be misused. If this law is removed, some other law will be misused. The judiciary really needs to start acting.
Will the impetus to repeal or change the law come from the judiciary or will it be Parliament that initiates the change?

•SH:I don’t think that there is a case for continuing this law, but there will never be political will to do away with it. Therefore, it just may be that the judiciary will have to re-look its earlier judgments and say that these filters simply do not seem to be working with the passage of time. What we had earlier held to be constitutional with safeguards and riders is no longer constitutional. It may just be that if the politicians don’t do it, then one day the judiciary in a Bench larger than five may have to take a fresh look at the sedition law and strike it down altogether. I don’t know which process will be longer.

•NR:I don’t agree because our judiciary has always been pro-executive. Also, it is only Parliament that revoked a law like POTA [The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002], which was draconian and flagrantly misused. All these laws have always been upheld by the judiciary. It is only the parliamentarians, when they get a push from the public, who swing into action. So, I do have that little faith in Parliament.