The HINDU Notes – 21st November 2020 - VISION

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 21st November 2020


📰 In a first, MHA approves study on ‘status of radicalisation’

The study will attempt to legally define ‘radicalisation’ and suggest amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

•The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has, for the first time, approved a research study on “status of radicalisation in India.” The study would attempt to legally define “radicalisation” and suggest amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

•The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), the police think tank of the MHA, had invited research proposals from academicians and legal experts in the year 2018. It received 75 proposals, and two topics - “Status of Radicalization in India: An Exploratory Study of Prevention and Remedies” and “Functioning and Impact of Open Prisons on Rehabilitation of Prisoners” were shortlisted by the MHA in September.

•G.S. Bajpai, Director of the Centre for Criminology and Victimology, National Law University (NLU), Delhi, will conduct the research on radicalisation.

•Speaking to The Hindu, he said, “the study will be religion-neutral and will go by facts and the reported cases. Radicalisation is yet to be defined legally, this leads to misuse by the police. It should be defined and necessary amendments made to the UAPA.”

•Mr. Bajpai, who is also the member-secretary of Committee on Criminal Reforms constituted by the MHA to overhaul the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), said that the study would take a year to conclude as it required field visit and interviews with people.

•“Radicalisation has to be addressed in a systematic manner and a policy should be devised by the Centre. It is not merely a policing issue. In India, people are sensitive about religion, what we are attempting is correct interpretation of holy books such as Quran, Gita or Bible ,” he stated.

‘Misguided’ youth

•Aggressive policing measures could be counter-productive as the youth who were radicalised were “misguided” and not the culprits. “We have studied the Maharashtra model, where several youths were deradicalised. Merely sending young men behind the bars will not solve the purpose, right thinking people in the community will have to be mobilised,” he added.

•The United Nations’ 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning the IS (Islamic State), al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities had pointed out “significant numbers” of the IS and al-Qaeda members in Kerala and Karnataka. The report said, “One member State reported that the ISIL Indian affiliate (Hind Wilayah), which was announced on May 10, 2019, has between 180 and 200 members”.

•On September 16, Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy informed the Lok Sabha that the information was “not factually correct”. The House was told that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has registered 17 cases related to the presence of the IS in Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and arrested 122 accused persons.

📰 At UNSC, India calls for immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan

Calls for end to terrorist safe havens ‘operating across the Durand Line’

•India has told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it calls for an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire” in Afghanistan, while welcoming all opportunities to bring peace to the country.

•India’s position was articulated by its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti, at a UNSC meeting on Friday, convened under the Arria Formula (informally convened at the request of a UNSC member). Current and incoming members of the UNSC spoke on how the Council could support the Afghan peace process.

•The timing of the remarks is significant as India is weeks away from beginning a two-year term at the Council and comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that he would dramatically cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by January 15, an act that could potentially jeopardise the fragile peace process underway in the country.

•“For durable peace in Afghanistan, we have to put an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries operating across the Durand Line,” Mr. Tirumurti said, in a reference to Pakistan.

•India has been concerned that the Afghan peace process and premature withdrawal of NATO/ U.S. coalition forces could leave opportunities for terrorist networks that could target both Afghanistan and India. “The report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team under the Al-Qaeda/Da’esh Sanctions Committee has also highlighted the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan. For violence to end in Afghanistan, these terrorist supply chains must be broken,” Mr. Tirumurti said, asking the Security Council to speak “unequivocally against violence” and act against terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens.

•Speaking at the meeting, Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani said, “Together with our international partners and friends, we have paid a heavy cost for peace, and taken serious risks, but we have seen no dividends yet. The threat of terrorism has not been eliminated. As recently as May of this year, the UN issued a report providing evidence that despite assurances from the Taliban to the United States, Al Qaeda is still present and active in Afghanistan, harboured by the Taliban.”

•Mr Tirumurti also described India’s reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan since over the last nearly two decades.

•“It is a testimony to our unwavering resolve to Afghanistan’s peace and stability that we have invested both with sweat and blood for the development of Afghanistan,” he said.

•Mr Tirumurti outlined four requirements for peace and stability in Afghanistan. First, the process had to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Second, there must be zero tolerance for terrorism. Third, the gains of the last two decades cannot be lost.

•“In particular, India is convinced that the rights of women need to be strongly protected…the rights of the minorities and the vulnerable need to be safeguarded,” Mr Tirumurti said.

•Fourth, the transit rights of Afghanistan should not be used by countries “to extract [a] political price from Afghanistan,” Mr Tirumurti said — a reference to Pakistan obstructing the flow of persons and materials outside of Afghanistan, impacting, for instance, India-Afghanistan trade.

•Mr. Tirumurti assured Afghanistan of India’s support in its quest for peace during India’s UNSC term.

📰 Australia to temporarily host ISRO satellite tracking facilities

This would support India’s planned human space flight programme

•As part of steps to deepen cooperation in civil space activities, the space agencies of India and Australia were working together to position temporarily Indian tracking facilities in Australia, said Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews on Friday. This would support India’s planned human space flight programme.

•“These include earth observation and data analytics, robotics, and space life sciences. This mission will see India become just the fourth nation to send a crew into space,” Ms. Andrews said virtually speaking at the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020.

•The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has embarked on an ambitious plan to put an Indian in space by 2022 under Gaganyaan mission.

•“There are significant opportunities for space agencies, research organisations, and commercial sectors in both of our countries”, she stated.

2012 MoU

•India, Australia space cooperation is underpinned by a formal Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in 2012.

•Australian Deputy Consul General Michael Costa said both nations have been collaborating since 1987 to “support data calibration and laser raging for Indian satellites, launching Australian satellites, and conducting joint research”.

•At a virtual summit in June, both countries elevated the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and put in place practical agreements on cybersecurity, emerging technology and critical minerals.

•Since the summit, Ms. Andrews said, they have announced $15 million for extending the Australia-India strategic research fund for another four years to facilitate collaboration between researchers on strategically focused, leading-edge science and technology projects. The fund, the Australian government’s largest bilateral science programme, has seen a total commitment of nearly $100 million since 2006.

Cyber cooperation

•Tobias Feakin, Australia’s Ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology, said India and Australia concluded a framework arrangement on cyber and cyber-enabled critical technology cooperation. This was enhancing how the two countries collaborated to promote and preserve an open, free, safe and secure Internet.

•On the advantages Australia has for space cooperation, Lloyd Damp, CEO of Southern Launch, a company that provides rocket launch infrastructure and associated services, said: “Australia has many unique advantages in space, from our geographical position in the southern hemisphere, to our wide-open spaces and relatively low light pollution, to our expertise in satellite data applications.” This made Australia an ideal partner for space debris tracking and space traffic management activities, world-leading earth observation services, efficient rocket technology and launch services, and remote asset management, he added.

📰 Exercise Malabar concludes in Arabian Sea

Navy also carries out Coordinated Patrol with Thailand in Andaman Sea and delivers food aid to South Sudan in western Indian Ocean under Mission Sagar-II.

•The 24th edition of Exercise Malabar, which concluded on Friday, was reflective of the “commitment of the participating countries to support a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order,” the Indian Navy said in a statement. Simultaneously, it also carried out Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) with Thailand in the Andaman Sea and delivered food aid to South Sudan in western Indian Ocean under Mission Sagar-II.

•The naval exercise, consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S., was held in two phases this time. Australia joined the war games for the first time since 2007. In the backdrop of COVID-19, it was conducted in a ‘non-contact at sea only’ format.

•“In addition to ‘Dual Carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken during both phases of Malabar 2020, demonstrating the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the four friendly navies,” the Navy said.

Aircraft carriers deployed

•For Phase-II, Indian and the U.S. deployed aircraft carrier groups INS Vikramaditya and USS Nimitz respectively and P-8 long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for Anti-Submarine Warfare drills. The two aircraft carriers, along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, engaged in high intensity naval operations, including cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MiG-29K fighters of INS Vikramaditya andF/A-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye aircraft from USS Nimitz, the Navy said.

•Phase-I of the 24th edition of Malabar was held from November 3 to 6 off the Visakhapatnam coast in the Bay of Bengal and Phase-II was held from November 17 to 20 in the northern Arabian Sea. The Navy’s participation in Phase-I was led by Rear Admiral Sanjay Vatsayan, Eastern Fleet Commander, while Phase 2 was led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Western Fleet Commander.

•Malabar, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992, has seen increasing scope and complexity over the years. It became trilateral with the usion of Japan in 2015.

CORPAT with Thailand

•The 30th edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) concluded in the Andaman Sea close to the strategic Strait of Malacca. It saw the participation of indigenously-built missile corvette INS Karmuk and Thailand Frigate HTMS Kraburi, along with Dornier maritime patrol aircraft from both the navies.

•India and Thailand have been carrying out CORPAT along their International Maritime Boundary Line twice a year since 2005, with the aim of keeping this vital part of the Indian Ocean safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade.

•As part of Mission Sagar-II, INS Airavat arrived at Port of Mombasa, Kenya, carrying food aid for the people of South Sudan.

📰 Digital nation: On delivery of citizen services

The true measure of digitalisation would be seamless delivery of all citizen services

•Affordable smartphones and Internet access have made India a digital nation with an estimated 750 million connections and a thriving financial technology sector. Citizens inured to queues at dingy utility offices even to pay routine bills find this a major leap, thanks to fintech. Digital platforms providing goods and services, including online education and telemedicine, have grown vigorously during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many professionals have maintained productivity by working from home. Yet, it would be premature to declare digital as a way of life in India, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it at the Bengaluru Tech Summit. The true measure of digital nations is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy. What governance must achieve is a reliable system of digital welfare. A beginning has, no doubt, been made through government-to-citizen services using Common Service Centres, advice to agriculturists, digital payments of welfare benefits through bank accounts and, even legal advice online to four lakh people under the Tele-Law scheme. These represent a welcome advance, but if digital methods were applied to other sectors, such as road safety, the results could be dramatic — potentially reducing the accident mortality rate of about 1,50,000 deaths a year.

•In the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Modi’s forecast for enhanced adoption of technology in health and education will have resonance, although this was always a priority. In fact, successive governments failed to grasp the promise of achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2022, for which the erstwhile Planning Commission presented a road map a decade ago. Now, the nucleus plan is Ayushman Bharat, with a digital health identity for all. With the emphasis on digitalisation, it should be possible to achieve measurable progress early on at least on one UHC component — access to free, essential prescription drugs. A digital health ID would help prescribe and dispense essential medicines free. The Planning Commission estimated that the public procurement cost for this, in 2011, would be 0.1% to 0.5% of GDP. If this is a medium-term goal, the more immediate task of distributing COVID-19 vaccines looms as a test for the government. At a broader level, efficient digital government depends on transforming internal processes, and fixing deadlines for service delivery. The UPA could not see its electronic delivery of services legislation through, and it remains forgotten. If digital has to become a way of life, redefining the labyrinthine functioning of citizen-centric services would be a good place to start, with deadlines for government departments.

📰 The ‘Time Use Survey’ as an opportunity lost

Gaps in the Indian version’s data will impact Sustainable Development Goal 5.4 and the ILO’s resolution on defining work

•The all India Time Use Survey, 2019 has just been published by the Government of India. As a survey that has covered the entire country for the first time, the National Statistical Office needs to be complimented for accomplishing the task.

•The “Time Use Survey, or TUS, provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities. Its primary objective is to measure participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities... TUS is an important source of information on the time spent in unpaid care-giving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service producing activities of the household members. It also provides information on time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members”.

•The data collection was done for one day — normal or other day in a 24-hour time diary, beginning at 4 a.m. and till 4 a.m. the next day. In developed countries where literacy is high, time use is recorded in a 24-hour time diary by the respondents themselves, using 10-15 minute time slots.

•In India, where literacy is low, the time diary was filled in by interviewers in 30 minute time slots through face-to-face interviews. The International Classification of Activities for Time-Use Statistics of the United Nations Statistics Division, was used for classification of activities.

Key developments

•Two recent developments which have pushed up the demand for TUS globally are the commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, and the path-breaking Resolution of the 19th International Conference on Labour Statistics, on “Statistics of Work, Employment and Labour Underutilization — International Labour Organization 2013”. The Government of India is fully committed to the SDGs and has also indicated its inclination to implementing the second. TUS data are also required for understanding and monitoring major socioeconomic concerns of countries. Somehow, both these developments have not been incorporated in this first time use survey.

•Time use data are needed for implementing not only the SDG 5.4 on unpaid work, but also for implementing the SDG-1 to the SDG-10. Even for the SDG 5.4 — considered to be the most important SDG for measuring and valuing unpaid domestic services and unpaid care by women and men, and reducing unpaid work through public services and infrastructure — the Indian TUS data are not adequate. Unpaid work is usually valued using the input method, i.e. valuing the labour input in unpaid work using suitable prices (minimum wages of workers, housekeeper’s wages, opportunity costs or specialised wages). However, this valuation is not adequate, because it values only the labour input and leaves out the capital and technology used. Satellite accounts of unpaid work, however, takes into consideration capital/technology while computing the accounts. Satellite accounts of unpaid work use the principal functions concept, which can be compared with the national accounts functions. Under this approach, unpaid work is presented in terms of this classification of the functions, similar to the classification of the functions under the national-accounts. These accounts would be comparable with the national income accounts, and measure the correct contribution of unpaid work to the GDP.

•This accounting requires information on the assets of a household that includes assets used in domestic services, vehicles used in travel and commuting, and consumer durables, etc. The accounting also requires wage rates prevailing in different locations. Unfortunately, this information is not collected by this TUS in the background questionnaire. In the absence of this information, valuation will not be feasible in satellite accounts. Since there is no data collected on the ownership of the assets by gender, valuation by gender will not be feasible.

Defining work

•The ILO’s Resolution — referred to above — presents a new definition of work, new forms of work and a new labour force status classification. It defines “work” as “any activity performed by persons of any sex and age to produce goods or provide services for use by others or own use”. “Work” is divided into five categories: employment (production of goods and services for pay, profit or barter); own use production of goods and services by households; unpaid trainee work, volunteer work; and other work (compulsory work performed without pay to produce goods/services for others). Unpaid domestic services and unpaid care are now formally recognised as “work” for the first time.

•Clearly, the Resolution cannot be implemented without time use data. Several countries have initiated its implementation, and the ILO has also undertaken pilot studies in several countries. It was a good opportunity for India to implement the Resolution. However, the Standing Committee on Labour Force Statistics that designed the time use survey decided to keep the Resolution out and conducted an independent TUS. The TUS does not even have employment as one of the objectives of the TUS.

Breaks in Indian surveys

•Experts have always argued that Indian Employment/Unemployment Surveys, or EUS, tend to under-report informal workers, due to the nature of informal employment. Being frequently intermittent, scattered, temporary, short term or unstable, it is frequently not reported accurately by the EUS. Again, women frequently view work as a part of household work and under-report it. Also, the EUS are not equipped to collect data on multiple jobs performed by people, the time spent on work (i.e. intensity of work), the scattered nature of work, subsistence work, and work performed under simultaneous activities. The TUS, which collects comprehensive information on all human activities, provides improved estimates of the workforce as well as shed light on important characteristics of the workforce. The TUS can thus provide critical information to add the richness of the EUS. The Expert Committee on the 62nd Round of the NSSO on EUS therefore recommended that a national TUS should follow an EUS.

•A TUS collects data only for one or two days per person in a week, while according to the ILO, “a person is a worker if she/he has spent at least one hour on work in the reference week”. As informal work is frequently intermittent and irregular, the TUS information on one day’s work (for less than one hour) or non-work cannot qualify the person to be a worker or non-worker. It is quite likely that the person reporting as a non-worker on one day may be working on other days, or one reporting work may not work for one hour totally in the week. Thus, the TUS cannot provide information on the workforce/employment status of persons. It is necessary, therefore, to draw the TUS sample (which is always smaller) from the same sampling framework that is used by the labour force survey (EUS), with some common units. The TUS can complement the labour force survey (LFS) information. The independent TUS cannot provide estimates of the workforce/labour force.

•In short, the Indian TUS has missed two important opportunities — of implementing the SDG 5.4 and the ILO’s important resolution.

📰 India’s no to RCEP could still be a no

The circumstances under which New Delhi had distanced itself from the RCEP negotiations have hardly improved

•Last week, 15 East Asian countries agreed to take their economic integration several notches higher by forging the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest free trade agreement (FTA) ever. In 2019, RCEP members accounted for about 30% of world output and population and 28% of world trade. But more importantly, about 44% of their total trade was intra-RCEP, which is a major incentive for the members of this agreement to agree to the deal for this could contribute to the strengthening of the regional value chains. This may well prove propitious for the RCEP member countries in their efforts to recover from the downturn.

The objectives

•The initiative to establish RCEP was taken by the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2011. These countries had adopted a resolution “to establish an ASEAN-led process by setting out principles” that would allow ASEAN members to “engage interested ASEAN FTA partners in establishing a regional comprehensive economic partnership agreement”. The “Guiding Principles and Objectives”, the de facto negotiating mandate for RCEP, spoke of “progressively eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantially all trade in goods” and achieving “high level of tariff liberalization, through building upon the existing liberalization levels between RCEP participating countries and through tariff elimination on a high percentage of both tariff lines and trade value”. As regards services, RPCs agreed to conclude a comprehensive and high quality agreement that would “substantially eliminate restrictions and/or discriminatory measures”.

•And, finally, RCEP negotiations on a framework for investment “to cover the four pillars of promotion, protection, facilitation and liberalization”. It was, therefore, quite clear that the RCEP participating countries (RPCs) had given themselves an ambitious agenda of trade and investment liberalisation.

A comparison with the TPP

•Several commentators have observed that RCEP is not likely to usher in comprehensive economic integration in East Asia. It appears that this view has arisen by comparing RCEP with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have been the world’s most extensive FTA in terms of market opening had the Trump Administration decided not to abandon it. But there have always been doubts whether the TPP was promoting “free trade” or a highly discriminatory “managed trade”. This was because the TPP included several regulatory issues including the controversial labour and environmental standards and issues such as “anti-corruption”, all of which could raise regulatory barriers and severely impede trade flows.

•In contrast, RCEP includes traditional market access issues, following the template provided by the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, it also includes issues that are currently being discussed by several groups of WTO members as a part of their agenda to “reform the multilateral trading system”. These issues are electronic commerce, investment facilitation, which seems to be the first step towards a multilateral agreement on investment and creating an enabling environment for the participation of small and medium enterprises in global trade.

•While India has been opposed to the inclusion of all these issues in the WTO, the formation of RCEP could provide serious momentum to the discussions in Geneva, especially after the Organization convenes under its new Director General.

Progress made and problems

•The question is, would RCEP be able to realise its primary objectives of trade and investment liberalisation? In case of trade in goods, RCEP members have taken big strides towards lowering their tariffs. For instance, China has agreed to cut its average tariffs from 9.4% in 2014 (adopted as the “base year” for tariff cuts”) to 1.2% for Australia and all ASEAN members, by the 10th year of implementation of RCEP, and has also committed to reduce tariffs on almost 90% of its imports from these two RCEP members to 5% or less. Further, less than 4% of its products figure in the exclusion list, implying that their tariffs will not be reduced. Vietnam’s tariff offers to China look similar: average tariffs would drop from 10% in 2014 to 2% by the 10th year, and nearly 90% of its imports from China will be tariff-free.

•Moreover, Vietnam does not have an exclusion list. Among the major economies in the region, Malaysia has had the lowest levels of protection and this will be reduced as it implements its commitments under RCEP.

•In contrast to their market access commitments under goods, commitments made by RCEP members for services trade liberalisation do look shallow in terms of the coverage of the sectors. Movement of natural persons, an area in which India had had considerable interest, is considerably restricted. RCEP members have allowed relatively limited market access only to individuals in managerial positions or those having high levels of skills. The areas of investment and electronic commerce, in both of which India had expressed its reservations on the template adopted during RCEP negotiations, the outcomes are varied. The text on investment rules shows that it is a work-in-progress. The rules on dispute settlement procedures are yet to be written in, and, therefore, it will be interesting to see whether the controversial investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) mechanism is included.

•In case of electronic commerce, RCEP members have agreed not to “prevent cross-border transfer of information by electronic means where such activity is for the conduct of the business of a covered person”. However, a member can deny transfer of information if it is necessary to “achieve a legitimate public policy objective, provided that the measure is not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade”. In addition, members are free to adopt a “legal framework which ensures the protection of personal information of the users of electronic commerce”.

Re-engaging India

•In the months following India’s disengagement from RCEP negotiations, several RPCs had expressed their strong desire to get India re-engaged. These efforts are now “official”: prior to the signing of the deal, RCEP Ministers adopted a Declaration on India’s Participation in the agreement through which the door has been left open to India to join RCEP Agreement as an original signatory. Further, India has been invited to participate in RCEP meetings as an observer and in economic cooperation activities undertaken by RCEP members. And, finally, RCEP members have agreed to commence negotiations with India once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to the agreement The question is, have the circumstances under which India had distanced itself from the RCEP negotiations become any better for it to join the agreement in the near future?

•The answer seems to be unambiguously in the negative on two counts. The first is that during the RCEP negotiations, India had raised a number of concerns, two of which, namely, the levels of market access it was expected to provide, especially the deep cuts in tariffs on imports from China, and provisions relating to the investment chapter, have become even more significant over the past several months. Since the border clashes, India has imposed a number of import restrictions on Chinese products and has also subjected investment flows from its northern neighbour to greater scrutiny. Both these measures would have been infructuous if India were a party to the RCEP.

•Second, India’s initiative for its economic turnaround, the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, is primarily focused on strengthening domestic value chains, while RCEP, like any other FTA is solely focused on promoting regional value chains.