The HINDU Notes – 12th March 2020 - VISION

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 12th March 2020

πŸ“° ‘States to be asked to invoke Epidemic Disease Act’

Centre has constituted a Group of Ministers to review the steps taken for the management of COVID-19

•“It has been decided that all States/Union Territories should be advised to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the Ministry/State/UTs are enforceable,” Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said on Wednesday, after a meeting of a high-level Group of Ministers here.

•The GoM was constituted to review the measures taken for the management of COVID-19 in India.

•Ms. Sudan added that as a measure of prevention, it is reiterated that as per the travel advisory, passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany should undergo self-imposed quarantine for 14 days from the date of their arrival, and their employers should facilitate work-from-home for such employees during this period.

•The meeting was also attended by Secretaries and other senior officials of the relevant Ministries and Departments.

IMA’s appeal

•Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said that sharing data of infected people on a daily basis with the public has created panic across the country.

•It appealed to the government to “classify the data” of the pandemic and take appropriate action with “clinical precision.”

•In a release, the association noted that doctors and hospitals remain a silver lining in otherwise clueless situations for the common man, and every doctor should function as a source of credible information in their locality and instil confidence and trust in the public.

•The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) also issued new guidance to help protect children and schools from transmission of the COVID-19.

Practical checklists

•“The guidance provides critical considerations and practical checklists to keep schools safe. It also advises national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans for educational facilities,” the release said. The release noted that in the event of school closures, the guidance includes recommendations to mitigate against the possible negative impacts on children’s learning and well being. “This means having solid plans in place to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options such as online education strategies and radio broadcasts of academic content, and access to essential services for all children. These plans should also include necessary steps for the eventual safe reopening of schools,” it said.

•The group added that the guidance, while specific to countries that have already confirmed the transmission of COVID-19, is still relevant in all other contexts.

•“Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their community,” the guidance said.

πŸ“° ‘Forcible dispossession of a person’s property is a human rights violation’

Due process of law is must, says Supreme Court

•The Supreme Court has reiterated that forcible dispossession of a person of his private property without due process of law is a violation of human rights.

•In a recent judgment by a Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul, the court stressed that right to property is both a human right and a constitutional right — the latter under Article 300A of the Constitution.

•“It is accepted in every jurisprudence and by different political thinkers that some amount of property right is an indispensable safeguard against tyranny and economic oppression of the government... Property itself is the seed bed which must be conserved if other constitutional values are to flourish,” the judgment quoted a precedent.

•The verdict came on the acquisition of a few acres in Sikkim by the State’s Agriculture department in 1980 for building the Progeny Orchard Regional Centre. The land was recorded in two names — 1.29 acres in the name of the Maharaja of Sikkim and 7.07 acres in the name of Man Bahadur Basnett, who was the father of the original appellant in this case. The judgment found that “in this case, the appellant could not have been forcibly dispossessed of her property without any legal sanction...”

•The court gave the State three months’ time from the date of the judgment for it to “make up their mind as to what they want to do”. “Would they still like to retain the land by issuing a proper notification, or would they like to surrender possession of the land. In either eventuality, the question of payment for use and occupation would still arise, which will have to be determined in accordance with law,” the judgment said.

πŸ“° Pesticide sector hit by input issues

Local inventories sufficient for now but further disruptions may hurt, says govt.

•The Indian pesticide industry is heavily dependent on Chinese imports for raw materials, and could be heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to an analysis prepared by the Agriculture Ministry.

•The Ministry estimates that domestic inventories may be sufficient for the kharif sowing season, but any further supply disruptions could hurt farmers. Industry insiders and analysts say that a good rabi or winter crop season and the possibility of a locust attack could deplete inventories sooner than expected, raising prices by about 15%.

•“Pesticide industry in India heavily depends on import of around 15 technical insecticides from China,” says the analysis submitted to the Finance Ministry last week as part of an overall assessment of the impact of the virus outbreak on Indian industries. Technical insecticides are an intermediate product used in the manufacture of commercial pesticides.

•“Out of the 15 pesticides, Acephate, Cartap, Buprofezin, Pretilachlor represent 80-90% trade from China whereas Imidacloprid, Azoxystrobinb, Imzathapyr, Acetamiprid represent 40-50% import from China. Few technical insecticides, which are manufactured in India, also involve the raw material, which is sourced from China,” says the analysis, accessed by The Hindu.

•“There is a major supply gap, as no container has come from China in the last two months. In fact, it started in early January when factories were shut for their New Year festival, and then, there was the coronavirus,” says Rajesh Aggarwal, MD, Insecticides India.

•“We understand they are now back up to about 40% production capacity, which has restarted in March. But there are still barriers on internal movement in China, plus [delays in] shipping out of China. So, the gap has built up, availability is very tight and now, prices have gone crazy.”

Increase in cost

•He estimated that there had been a 10-25% increase in the cost of these inputs from China. According to the Ministry analysis, the impact on farmers may not be immediate. “Functioning of domestic pesticides industries may not be affected immediately by the disruption of supplies from China since the industry in India is having inventories for at least next six months. Hence, for the ongoing kharif season, there may not be any adverse effect on the availability of pesticides to the Indian farmers,” it said.

•However, Mr. Aggarwal said inventories are lower than usual for this season because of excellent rains extending the rabi season in parts of the country.

•He estimated a 15% rise in the wholesale price of pesticides. Ratings and research agency Crisil also raised some red flags, although it felt that the procurement season for the rabi season is largely over. “In case the manufacturing facilities do not operationalise by end of February, there could be some impact in procuring raw material for the upcoming kharif season,” said an early impact report.

•Crisil Research director Hetal Gandhi added that the news of a locust attack in the region could increase demand and deplete stocks.

•“May is peak season for stocking, and there may be a 15-20 day delay,” she said, noting that delays in dispatches was the major concern. “The first quarter of the year accounts for 35% of revenue for Indian pesticide companies, so, if the raw material does not reach in time, there could be significant impact.” As India imports only 10% of its urea from China, as well as value-added fertilisers, this could also have a moderate impact on Indian farmers, she said.

•Mr. Aggarwal, who is also vice-chairman, Crop Care Federation of India, urged the Centre to issue faster clearances for imports and also facilitate manufacturing licences so that India can become self-sufficient here. “We need to use this opportunity to backward integrate and put up capacity, so that we are not dependent on imports,” he said.

•Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India president Pradip Dave agreed. “As manufacturing and logistics are paralysed in China, it’s a good time for India to increase its share in global markets. The government must help local manufacturing companies by granting registration from the Central Insecticide Board and manufacturing licences by States,” he said.

πŸ“° Supply chain problems hamper auto production

Sector exploring alternatives to China

•Automobile production across all categories, including that of passenger vehicles and two-wheelers, is likely to be ‘critically’ hampered due to supply chain disruption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly in China, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

•Stating that many automakers in India import about 10% of their raw materials from China, Rajan Wadhera, president at SIAM, said that the disruption in availability of these parts is likely to critically hamper production across all segments including passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, three-wheelers and two-wheelers. The disruption will ‘gravely’ affect electric vehicle production, Mr. Wadhera added.

•The auto industry, he added, had maintained inventory at the beginning of the year in anticipation of the Chinese New Year.

•However, with the current lock-down in China, supplies for BS-VI vehicles are likely to be impacted. “Manufacturers are exploring alternatives to fulfil their supply chain demands, but that would also take a substantial [period] of time to reach stable production scale as these components would need regulatory testing,” Mr. Wadhera added.

πŸ“° IndiGo says its revenue may take a big hit due to COVID-19

Airline cites fall in demand for travel, rupee depreciation

•IndiGo, the country’s biggest airline by market size, informed the stock exchanges on Wednesday that the spread of COVID-19 is likely to severely impact its revenues because of a fall in demand for travel.

•“Over the past few days... week-on-week, we have seen a 15-20% decline in our daily bookings. Please note that the numbers could change from here based on how the situation evolves. We expect our quarterly earnings to be materially impacted because of the above,” the airline said in its filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

•Since January, the airline has cancelled its operations to Chengdu, Guangzhuo and Hong Kong in China, as well as reduced its frequencies to several destinations in the southeast Asia.

•The airline has told the BSE that while it was able to initially redeploy aircraft freed up to other destinations and protect its revenue from any material harm, it was unable to do so any more as the passenger demand itself had taken a hit in the past few days.

•On March 9, Qatar barred entry for Indians as well as citizens from 13 other countries as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19.

Saudi ban

•Before that, Saudi Arabia barred non-Saudis from entering the kingdom and suspended the tourist visa for the religious pilgrims to Mecca. This meant that the short-haul international market for Indian carriers to the country's west and east have both been impacted.

•In what could be termed a double whammy, the airline also said that the sharp depreciation in rupee would hit the airline and its dollar denominated liabilities primarily because of the large number of planes it has on rent from foreign lessors.