The HINDU Notes – 16th October 2020 - VISION

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 16th October 2020


📰 No end to violence against women: SC

‘A majority prefer to suffer in silence’

•The Supreme Court on Thursday said crimes against women continued in a “never-ending cycle” in India.

•In a 151-page judgment, a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said women in India faced violence and discrimination in one form or the other in their various roles as daughter, sister, wife, mother, partner or single woman.

•Though the judgment called a 2005 law against domestic harassment as a “milestone”, the Bench said domestic violence continued to be the least reported form of violence towards women.

•Women continue to be vulnerable to these crimes because of non-retaliation, coupled with absence of laws addressing their rights and ignorance of the existing statutes. Societal attitude, stigma and conditioning also made women vulnerable to domestic violence, the court said.

•Also, relationships outside marriage were not recognised. This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence, not out of choice but of compulsion, the Bench, which included R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah, said.

•It said the progress of any society depended on its ability to protect and promote the rights of women.

•The observations came in a judgment that held that the relief granting right to residence to a married woman under the domestic violence law by a criminal court was relevant and could be considered even in civil proceedings seeking her eviction from the matrimonial home.

📰 Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan zoo revives ‘adopt-an-animal’ scheme

When one adopts an animal or a bird, the contribution goes to its care, feeding, enclosure enrichment and renovation.

•The Nandankanan Zoological Park (NZP) in Bhubaneswar, which suffered a huge loss following its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has revived its innovative ‘Adopt-An-Animal’ programme to mobilise resources for animals.

•The NZP is one of the leading zoos in the country in terms of its fauna population and species diversity. It had received a record 32 lakh footfall three years ago.

•With resources drying up due to the closure for more than six months, the NZP authorities revived the ‘Adopt-An-Animal’ programme.

•“We have received encouraging response from animal lovers. More than 100 organisations and individuals have come forward to adopt animals, pledging ₹22 lakh ,” NZP Deputy Director Bimala Prasanna Acharya said.

•When one adopts an animal or a bird, the contribution goes to its care, feeding, enclosure enrichment and renovation.

•The adoption scheme would bring public, corporate bodies and institutions closer to the zoo and heighten their love and passion for captive animals and birds, the authorities said.

•“The NZP earns in the range of ₹15 crore-₹17 crore from entry passes and outsourcing of boating and parking facilities every year. With a minimum of ₹50 lakh required per month for the upkeep of animals, the zoo faced huge hardships due to the loss of revenue following the closure,” Mr. Acharya said.

•Though the Odisha government had stepped in to provide funds for feed and medicines, critical gap persisted in other bare minimum necessities, he said.

Adoption certificate

•The zoo authorities came up with the scheme urging animal lovers to provide funds from ₹500 to ₹2.5 lakh. In lieu, a ‘Thank You’ in the form of an adoption certificate, a plaque in the zoo and income tax rebates are available to individuals and organisations.

•They are hopeful that ₹1 crore can be generated through adoption. The highest of ₹2.5 lakh per annum has been fixed to adopt an elephant, while ₹1.5 lakh is required for a melanistic tiger.

•Similarly, people can adopt the Asiatic lion and the Royal Bengal Tiger for ₹1 lakh per annum.

📰 GST shortfall | Centre to borrow ₹1.1 lakh crore on behalf of States

Opposition leaders termed the decision as a change of stance from the central government, while economists welcomed it as a cleaner way of raising the necessary funds swiftly.

•The Centre on October 15 made a departure from its stance that States should undertake market borrowings to bridge the ₹1.1 lakh crore of GST compensation shortfall this year, stating that the Government of India will now undertake the required borrowings in tranches and pass it on to States as a ‘back-to-back loan’ that will reflect on their own books. 

•The move may break the impasse between the Centre and States over the issue of borrowings to recompense the latter, with consensus remaining elusive despite extensive parleys over three meetings of the GST Council.  

•By October 14, 21 States and Union Territories such as Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to the Centre’s proposal that States undertake the borrowings to meet the GST compensation shortfall, with principal and interest repayments to be paid from future GST cess collections. States such as Kerala and West Bengal, which had been insistent on the Centre undertaking the borrowings, had begun preparing to move the apex court over the matter.  

•Opposition leaders termed the October 15 decision as a change of stance from the central government, while economists welcomed it as a cleaner way of raising the necessary funds swiftly and bring the focus back to fighting the pandemic on the ground. 

•“If the Centre has decided to borrow the ₹1.1 lakh crore and extend it to the states as back-to-back loans, I welcome the change of position,” former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said. 

•N.R. Bhanumurthy, vice-chancellor of the Bengaluru Ambedkar School of Economics University said, “This is a wise, timely and non-disruptive move from the Centre, especially when some States were planning to move the Supreme Court.”  He added: “It will offer a big breather to States, particularly those that have high fiscal deficits and would have had to pay higher rates if they approached the market.”   

•In its original proposal put up at the GST Council meeting in August, the Centre said the shortfall on account of GST implementation will be borrowed by States through issue of debt under a Special Window coordinated by the Finance Ministry. “The GOI will endeavour to keep the cost at or close to the G-sec yield, and in the event of the cost being higher, will bear the margin between G-secs and average of State Development Loan yields up to 0.5% through a subsidy,” it had said. 

•Mr. Bhanumurthy said the new approach of the Centre borrowing from the market is a far simpler mechanism and may help bring the reluctant States on board.   

•Asserting that this borrowing, to be conducted through a special window, won’t affect the Centre’s fiscal deficit or expand general government debt, the finance ministry said this is being done to ensure that States won’t have to pay different interest rates for these borrowings. This will also be an administratively easier arrangement, the Ministry pointed out.

•“Under the Special Window, the estimated shortfall of ₹1.1 lakh cr (assuming all States join) will be borrowed by Government of India in appropriate tranches. The amount so borrowed will be passed on to the States as a back-to-back loan in lieu of GST Compensation Cess releases,” the finance ministry said in a statement.  

•“This will not have any impact on the fiscal deficit of the Government of India (GOI). The amounts will be reflected as the capital receipts of the State Governments and as part of financing of its respective fiscal deficits,” the ministry explained, adding that this will avoid the prospect of individual States having to pay differential interest rates if they borrowed this corpus as a State development loan.   

•On October 15 morning, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said that some States are likely to approach the Supreme Court against ‘discriminatory and illegal action of Centre regarding GST Compensation’. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had planned to take a final decision on the State’s stance at a meeting with top officials.  

•The Finance Ministry stressed that the country’s general government debt, which includes both the Centre’s and States’ borrowings will not increase due to this step. “The States that get the benefit from the Special Window are likely to borrow a considerably lesser amount from the additional borrowing facility of 2% of GSDP (from 3% to 5%) under the Aatma Nirbhar Package,” it noted.  

📰 Dealing with a deluge: On Hyderabad floods

As floods swamp Hyderabad, the focus is on the inadequacy of drainage infrastructure

•A deep monsoon depression over the west central Bay of Bengal, which weakened as it moved over Telangana, resulted in downpours over several districts in the State, severely affecting the city of Hyderabad as well. On October 13, the monthly average rainfall of Hyderabad for October (103.6 mm according to Skymet) was surpassed on a single day when 192 mm of rain fell. According to the India Meteorological Department, this is the highest rainfall for October recorded in Telangana’s capital since 1903. Such a high intensity downpour in a short span is bound to affect a densely populated urban area, and Hyderabad was no exception. At least 24 people were killed and several localities submerged and isolated following incessant rains and the overflowing of the city’s lakes. Other districts were badly affected too: roads damaged and irrigation tanks breached. The monsoon storm that never became a cyclone, has managed to cross the east (Andhra Pradesh) and west coasts (north Karnataka and Maharashtra) of India. This is rare and a rain-related disaster event that is difficult to plan for. Floods and deluges, like any other disaster, disproportionately affect the poor. Disaster management agencies have managed to limit the impact of the disaster as many of those marooned in submerged areas and flooded houses were rescued. But the extent of the damage and the turmoil show a lack of preparation and disaster mitigation, a problem that plagues most urban centres in the country.

•Much of the damage was due to the overflowing of lakes — in particular, the Hussain Sagar Lake in the middle of the city and the breaching of storm water drains. Construction over lake beds and encroachments of drainage channels have been identified as problems that have exacerbated flooding and inundation in the city in the past (the deluge in August 2000, for example). But the little that has been done to unblock existing storm drains over the last decade has not been enough to handle the requirements of the city, which still depends upon an antiquated sewerage and drainage system. Hyderabad urgently needs to expand and remodel its drainage system. Besides lakes and canals, wetlands and watersheds play a vital role in absorbing excess rainfall, but regrettably, rapid urbanisation in the twin cities has resulted in the loss of a large portion of the wetlands. An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2016 revealed that 3,245 hectares of water bodies were lost in Hyderabad between 1989 and 2001. In the long term, the effects of flooding due to deluges can only be mitigated if urban planners take into account the hydro-geology of cities and ensure that construction, development and land occupation do not take place in a way that reduces the area of wetlands.

📰 The message in the Peace Nobel — multilateralism

That the pandemic could also be impacting the anti-poverty fight is another reason why the world needs full solidarity

•It is a paradox that precisely at a time when the salience of cross-national and global challenges has significantly increased, nation states are less willing to cooperate and collaborate in tackling them. COVID-19 recognises no national or regional boundaries as it rages across the world. One would have expected that countries, particularly those with technological and financial capabilities, would agree to pool their resources together to work on an effective and affordable anti-virus vaccine. Instead, there are several parallel national efforts under way even as the World Health Organization (WHO) has put together a Covax alliance for the same purpose. There is a competitive compulsion at work which may be appropriate in economic and commercial domains. When the lives of people are at stake, active collaboration would have enhanced our collective ability to overcome what has become a public health-cum-economic crisis. But we live in an era when nationalist urges, fuelled by a political opportunism, diminish the appeal of international cooperation. As pointed out by Nicholas Eberstadt of The National Bureau of Asian Research, “The post pandemic world will have no choice but to contend at last with a problem long in the making: the awful dilemma of global integration without solidarity.”

Looming food crisis

•This year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme (WFP) is a recognition of its role in combating hunger and malnutrition across the developing world. But the WFP’s achievement are modest, not because it is an inefficient institution, but because it is perennially under-funded. But more important is the message which this award is sending to the world — that we need multilateralism as an expression of international solidarity. It is also a warning that the novel coronavirus pandemic is reversing the substantial gains made in the fight against poverty.

•According to the WFP, 132 million more people could become malnourished as a consequence of the pandemic. To the 690 million people who go to bed each night on an empty stomach, perhaps another 100 million or more will be added. This counts for a major world-wide catastrophe and unless the conscience of the world is aroused, we will be condemning vast pools of humanity to living in wretchedness and deprivation. The Nobel Prize to the WFP will hopefully nudge our collective conscience to come together and relieve this looming humanitarian crisis.

The UN at 75 is still important

•The United Nations is at the centre of multilateral institutions and processes. It is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding. While it is a pale shadow of the vision with which it was invested at its founding, nevertheless it has kept alive the notion of international solidarity and cooperation. If it has become increasingly marginal in mobilising international responses to global challenges, the fault lies with its most powerful member countries. They have deprived the UN of resources. They have resisted efforts to institute long overdue reforms; 75 years on, its structure no longer reflects the changes in power equations that have taken place. It is anachronistic that a country such as India continues to be denied permanent membership of the Security Council. And yet despite these disabilities ,the UN is now an essential part of the fabric of international relations; its role has become even more important precisely because the salience of global issues has expanded and the need for multilateral approaches in finding solutions has greatly increased.

•India has been a consistent advocate of multilateralism and Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said: “India firmly believes that the path to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity is through multilateralism. As children of Planet Earth we must join hands to address our common challenges and achieve our common goals.”

Institutions and problems

•There is a network of multilateral institutions, several as part of the UN system. Others are inter-governmental in nature; still others may be non-governmental of a hybrid character. This is a network which enables governance in areas which require coordination among nation states and set norms to regulate the behaviour of states so as to avoid conflict and to ensure both equitable burden sharing and, equally, a fair distribution of benefits. This network continues to function and deliver benefits to participating states despite the less than propitious international environment. However, going forward, there are more complex challenges which would require a different mind-set and patterns of behaviour.

•While there are multilateral institutions they have become platforms for contestations among their member states. There is recognition of the need to cooperate but this is seen as compulsion rather than desirable. When participating in multilateral negotiations, whether at the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, or later at multilateral negotiations on climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, my brief would be the same as other country representatives — concede as little as possible, and extract as much as you can. If all delegations work on the same brief, is it any wonder that even a supposedly “successful” outcome is invariably the least common denominator? This may be appropriate when dealing with trade or security matters but not in tackling global challenges such as climate change or the current pandemic.

Globalisation here to stay

•Given the scale, urgency and seriousness of the challenges we confront, we need maximal, not minimal, responses. The dynamics of negotiations and their outcomes would dramatically change if delegations came with a brief to contribute as much as possible within the limitation of resources and demand the minimum in terms of assessed needs. This is the international solidarity which a globalised world requires to handle the dense interconnections that bind us.

•Globalisation may have stalled, but as we become increasingly digitised, there will be more, not less, globalisation. The pandemic has triggered galloping globalisation in the digital economy . Globalisation is driven by technology and as long as technology remains the key driver of economic growth, there is no escape from globalisation.

•Don’t we need to first focus on getting our domestic imperatives right and then think of international cooperation? In the contemporary world, the line separating the domestic from the external has become increasingly blurred. In tackling domestic challenges deeper external engagement is often indispensable. This is certainly true of climate change. Even if India’s carbon emissions became zero tomorrow, climate change would continue to affect us if others do not also reduce their emissions. The pandemic originated in a third country, but soon raged across national borders. If there had been a robust and truly global early warning system, perhaps it could have been contained.

The thread in challenges

•When one speaks of the rising salience of cross-national issues we must also take into account the inter-connectedness among various challenges. For example, food, energy and water security are inter-linked with strong feedback loops . Enhancing food security may lead to diminished water and energy security. It may also have collateral impact on health security. Raising crop yields with current agricultural strategies means higher incremental use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides. India’s unprotected farmers are exposed to serious health risks as a result and often get bankrupted not due to crop failure but debilitating health costs. It is in recognition of these inter-connections that the international community agreed on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are cross-domain but also cross-national in character, and hence demand greater multilateral cooperation in order to succeed.

•Finally, this also points to the need for a more democratic world order since lack of cooperation from even a single state may frustrate success in tackling a global challenge. A fresh pandemic may erupt in any remote corner of the world and spread throughout the globe. Prevention cannot be achieved through coercion, only through cooperation. It is only multilateralism that makes this possible.

📰 The road to zero hunger by 2030

Resilient food systems will have to be built back as the world is not on track to achieve global targets

•Food is the essence of life and the bedrock of our cultures and communities. It can be a powerful means to bring people together to grow, nourish and sustain the planet. The exceptional circumstances we have all been living in through 2020 underscores this — not only does COVID-19 pose a threat to food security and agricultural livelihoods, it compounds the threats already faced by 690 million people around the world. This World Food Day, we — the food agencies of the United Nations (UN) — pledge to work together to end hunger, eradicate food insecurity and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2.

•There is much to be done. While we can all be proud of the progress we have made — for instance, agricultural productivity has improved significantly in recent decades — yet sadly, more than two billion people globally still lack access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food. Projections show that the world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, or to meet global nutrition targets.

•India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains. This strength has been evident through the pandemic. Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes from India’s large domestic food grain reserves in three months (April to June) through the Public Distribution System, providing much-needed emergency assistance to families around the country. The government also successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people from April to November 2020, including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million schoolchildren. Throughout the national lockdown imposed in March, there were efforts to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain due to restrictions on movements, and to ensure that agricultural activities weren’t disrupted. Thanks to these measures, agriculture grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares. This is a major achievement.

Malnutrition, anaemia

•But the focus on food during the COVID-19 containment measures has also brought out the multi-dimensionality of India’s food challenges — not least those centred around malnutrition and climate change. Even as malnutrition in India has notably declined over the past decade, the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic. Initiatives such as the Integrated Child Development Services — which provides cooked meals and take-home rations to 100 million children under the age of six, as well as to pregnant and lactating mothers — and the mid-day meal programme, are however stellar examples of how the government is working to fix these challenges.

•Climate change continues to be a real and potent threat to agrobiodiversity, which will impact everything from productivity to livelihoods across food and farm systems. Though India is dealing innovatively with climate change — for example, through the development of drought and flood tolerant seed varieties, weather-based agricultural advisories, promotion of millets, and small-scale irrigation — this year, we saw how climate-related shocks made it difficult for farmers to deal with pest and locust attacks, as well as floods and cyclones. Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity. These challenges multiply with an increase in fragmentation of landholdings. In India, more than 86% farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.

•All this points to two undeniable imperatives: the way we produce food must change through agroecology and sustainable production practices in agriculture and allied sectors; and second, we must stop the waste — one-third of the food we produce is wasted. That is why the UN, and our three agencies — the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (The World Food Programme) — are committed to working with government, civil society, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to build sustainable food systems.

Supporting India

•During the COVID-19-precipitated lockdown, the FAO, IFAD and the WFP worked in close coordination to support the Government of India’s Empowered Group 5 on facilitating supply chain and logistics management, so necessary items such as food and medicines were available. The agencies provided daily updates on the real-time situation on the ground, collating challenges/red flags, dynamic anecdotal data and good practices from their sources in the field. This prompted swift action in terms of resolving bottlenecks and ensured progress on addressing red flag issues.

•What is a food system? It is a framework that includes every aspect of feeding and nourishing people: from growing, harvesting and processing to packaging, transporting, marketing and consuming food. To be sustainable, a food system must provide enough nutritious food for all without compromising feeding future generations.

•As countries begin to develop and implement COVID-19 recovery plans, it is also an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so they can build back better and make food systems more resilient and sustainable. Today, with the FAO celebrating 75 years of fighting hunger in over 130 countries, IFAD becoming the first UN agency to receive a credit rating, and the WFP being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace this year, we are more committed — and better prepared — than ever to together develop solutions with the government, civil society and private sector.

Working in concert

•That is why this World Food Day (October 16), we call for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust. Everybody — governments, the private sector, civil society and local communities — has a role to play in transforming our food systems so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and provide decent livelihoods for food chain workers. We must all work in concert to make sure that our food systems nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together.