Sunday, 31 May 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 26/05/2015

Salwa Judum-2 is born in Bastar
  • Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma and former leaders of the anti-Maoist militia formed “Vikas Sangharsh Samiti” on May 4 in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, which will carry forward the work of Salwa Judum in Bastar.
  • “I had invited all the leaders and workers associated with the Salwa Judum for a meeting on Monday. The new samiti will strive to bring peace to Bastar,” Chhavindra Karma said.
  • Asked if it could be called Salwa Judum part two, Mr. Karma said, “Yes, you can call it so. The new outfit will undertake padyatra (marches) in various parts of Bastar to spread awareness against Maoism. We will seek the help of the State government so that our awareness campaigns would be followed by development works in the region.”
  • The Supreme Court had declared the Salwa Judum “illegal and unconstitutional” and had ordered its disbandment in 2011.
“Peaceful movement”
  • Led by former Congress leader Mahendra Karma, the anti-Maoist militia was blamed for large-scale “forcible displacement” of Bastar tribals and extra-judicial killings.
  • “The Salwa Judum part two will be peaceful. Our main aim is to finish Maoism in Bastar and bring development. Already more than 18 village panchayats have banned the entry of Maoists in their villages,” claimed Mr. Karma.
  • Chaitram Mattami, P.Vijay, Sattar Ali and Sukhram Dadi, who had led Salwa Judum in their respective areas in its first edition, attended the meeting on May 4.
  • Chaitram Mattami, P. Vijay and Mr. Chhavindra Karma would be leading the new anti-Maoist outfit and its first major event will take place in Karma’s ancestral village Faraspal in Dantewada on the second death anniversary of Mahendra Karma on May 25. He died in a Maoist attack in 2013.
  • All Salwa Judum leaders from Konta block in Sukma to Bhopalpattnam block in Bijpur district of Bastar attended 4 May’s meeting, claimed Mr. Karma.

Bastar IG backs Karma junior’s campaign
  • The Bastar range Inspector General (IG) of Police, S.R. Kalluri came in full support of the Vikas Sangharsh Samiti (an anti-Maoist group formed by Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma’s son Chhavindra Karma) on May 25 and called it “an attempt to bridge the gap of so-called historical injustice” towards Bastar tribals.
Round-the-world solar plane readies for Pacific crossing
  • Solar Impulse (Si2), the solar plane on a mission to fly around the globe without a drop of fuel, is all set for a challenging 8,000-km journey on May 26, flying non-stop from Nanjing in China to Hawaii in the central Pacific, a media report said on May 25.
  • For Si2, which is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells installed on its 72-metre wings, it will be its greatest challenge yet, BBC reported, adding the experimental aircraft could take five-six days and nights of continuous flight to reach its destination.
  • So far, Si2’s flights were restricted to about 20 hours’ maximum duration.
  • The aircraft began its journey on March 9.
Solar Impulse 2

Direct tax collection target for 2015-16 achievable: Das
  • The direct tax collection target of Rs.7.98 lakh crore for the current financial year was likely to be met on account of improvement in economic growth, government said on May 25.
  • “The target of Rs.7.98 lakh crore that has been set for 2015-16 is very much achievable. It is a very realistic target, aligned with the kind of GDP growth, which has been forecast in the economic survey and it is also based on our internal analysis and past and historical trends,” said Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das. Mr. Shaktikanda Das has asked the Income Tax department to address the issue of delay in processing as well as incorrect processing of the returns filed.
  • “All the rectification of mistakes has to be done in a maximum period of six months,” he said at the annual conference of top tax officials here.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 25/05/2015

200 rallies to mark 1 year of govt.
  • The BJP will celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s one year in office with a week-long campaign called “Jan Kalyan Parv”, or people’s welfare festival, aimed at countering a flood of charges that the government’s policies are “pro-corporate” and “anti-poor”.
  • The party will hold 200 rallies across the country with Mr. Modi scheduled to address the first meeting at Nagla Chandrabhan village in Mathura, the birthplace of Deendayal Upadhyaya, on May 25. All Union Ministers, BJP MPs and MLAs, and Chief Ministers of party-ruled States, besides the party’s Central and State office-bearers, will travel across the country to highlight the government’s achievements.
Order of seniority

  • Work will be assigned by order of seniority. Each Minister has been asked to be at a city to spearhead the campaign on May 26. Party MPs have been asked to spend a week in their respective constituencies describing their achievements. Each government department is preparing a booklet and an e-booklet for the cadres.
  • Besides rallies, 200 press conferences have been planned to talk about the initiatives of the government.
  • BJP president Amit Shah will address a press conference in Delhi on May 26, and will speak at a public rally at Karnal the same day. The next day, Mr. Shah will be in Surat and from there, he will go to Panaji on May 28. He will address press conferences in the morning and public rallies in the evening at both places.
  • “All Central Ministers, MPs, Chief Ministers, Ministers in States and MLAs, besides office-bearers at the Central and State levels, will address 200 big rallies and 5,000 ‘jan sabhas’ across the country till the tehsil level,” senior party leader and Union Minister Ananth Kumar said on Saturday.
  • He said that all Union Ministers would give three days to the exercise during which they would address three big rallies and three press conferences.The massive outreach programme to mark the NDA government’s one year in office is similar in scale to Mr. Modi’s successful Lok Sabha election campaign during which he held 5,827 public meetings across India.
  • In the run-up to last year’s Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had claimed that Mr. Modi had reached out directly to between 50 million and 100 million people.
India set to become water scarce by 2025: report
  • Although India is set to become water scarce country by 2025 due to demand-supply mis-match, the water sector is expected to see investment of $13 billion from overseas players in the next few years, a new study has said.
  • “With increasing household income and increasing contributions from the service and industrial sectors, the water demand in the domestic and industrial sectors increasing substantially,” says a study conducted by EA Water, a leading consulting firm in water sector.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of country’s irrigation and 80 per cent of domestic water use comes from groundwater, which is rapidly depleting.
  • However, overseas players from Canada, Israel, Germany, Italy, United States, China and Belgium see big investment opportunity worth $13 billion in the domestic water sector. “The industry is expected to receive Rs. 18,000 crore in the next three years,” the report said.
  • The country provides huge opportunities across the spectrum in infrastructure development for water supply and wastewater management.
  • The industrial market is going to be the big opportunity till 2020, with growth in wastewater recycling and industrial water treatment, the report said.
  • Maharashtra is emerging as a hub for the water sector. Over 12 international companies have already set up design and engineering centres in Mumbai and Pune.
Heat wave claims over 470 lives in A.P., Telangana
  • The heat wave claimed more lives on May 24, and no respite appears in sight as the meteorological department forecast similar conditions in the coming days. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh accounted for over 470 deaths reported in the past few days.
  • Till May 24, 290 have died in Andhra Pradesh and at least 186 in Telangana. Given that most of those who died were labourers, the State governments are planning to reschedule employment schemes such as the MGNREGA.
  • Bamrauli in Allahabad was the hottest at 47.7 degrees Celsius on May 24. Khammam district of Telangana registered 48 degrees Celsius on May 22.
  • “Severe heat wave conditions will continue in coastal Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and some parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha on May 25. Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan, besides a few places in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Chhattisgarh, will also remain affected,” said an India Meteorological Department official.
Dust storms likely

  • The weather department has forecast dust storms and thunderstorms in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry may witness similar conditions on May 26 and 27.
  • Delhi is expected to record a maximum of 45 degrees Celsius in the coming week.
Army to get 114 Dhanush guns in three years
Army hasn’t inducted any new gun after Bofors scandal
  • The Army’s quest for new artillery is nearing completion with the indigenous gun upgraded by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) clearing trials.
  • The Army has placed an indent for 114 guns in the first phase and these will be delivered in three years, informed sources said.
  • “After the Pokhran fiasco with one barrel-burst, Dhanush barrels were tested in Sikkim under cold conditions and in other temperatures — and came out with flying colours. The Army is fully satisfied,” officials said .
  • A Dhanush prototype suffered a barrel burst during firing trials at Pokhran in August 2013 which delayed the process.
80% indigenous
  • The initial deal for 114 guns is expected to cost around Rs.1,600 crore. Pleased with the performance of the gun, the Army has given strong indications of an additional order for 481 guns, sources added.
  • The Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish 155-mm Bofors howitzers bought by India in the mid-1980s based on the original design. It is a 155-mm, 45-calibre gun with a maximum effective range of 38 km in salvo mode compared to the 39-calibre, 27-km range of the original guns.
  • It is 80 per cent indigenous, with the APU (auxiliary power unit), electronic dial sights and a few other small items being imported.
India's indigenous artillery gun 'dhanush'

Land Odinance, 2015

Promulgated on 3 April, 2015
  • Limits relaxed in acquiring Agri land.
  • Defence, Rural Infrastructure, Affordable Housing
  • 80% local consents not required for private projects.
  • 70% local consents not required for public projects.
  • Social Impact Assessment relaxed.
  • With relaxation, now this law is again similar to Land Bill of 1894. 
  • Consent not required for Public Projects.
  • Defines 5 categories for public interest projects.
  • Surrender land if held unutilised for 5 years.
  • Ordinance does not apply for land held up in court disputes.
  • 'Private entity' = Proprietorship, Partnership, Company
  • Private Companies definition changed to Private entity.
AFSPA explained - 

Daily News Mail - News of 24/05/2015

Jayalalithaa takes back the reins in T.N.
  • About a year ahead of Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa took over again as Chief Minister in a swift, swearing-in ceremony that lasted about half-an-hour on May 23.
  • Acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case, but still facing the prospect of an appeal against the acquittal in the Supreme Court, Ms. Jayalalithaa assumes office at a time when her party requires a morale boost; the government has seemed directionless in her absence.
  • This is the fifth time she has taken oath as Chief Minister — thrice after an election victory and twice following her acquittal in court cases. She was unseated twice while in office by court orders.
  • Ms. Jayalalithaa took her oaths of office and secrecy in the presence of Governor K. Rosaiah. She was followed by her Cabinet colleagues who, in batches, took the oath together in an apparent bid to save time.
  • BJP leaders from New Delhi did not attend the ceremony, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Ms. Jayalalithaa and conveyed his best wishes to her on Twitter. Union Minister of State Pon. Radhakrishnan represented the Centre at the ceremony.
  • After the swearing-in ceremony, Ms. Jayalalithaa drove back to her Poes Garden residence.
  • On May 23, she will be visiting the Fort St. George, the seat of power, to get the government to gallop at full speed, official sources say.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Governor K. Rosaiah 
at the swearing-in ceremony in Chennai

Daily News Mail - News of 23/05/2015

L-G well within his powers to appoint officials, says Centre
  • Amid the impasse over division of powers in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party unequivocally backed Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung on May 22, saying it was not mandatory for him to consult Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on matters such as appointment of officials.
  • Mr. Kejriwal cried foul, accusing the Centre of backstabbing the people of the capital and alleging that the Prime Minister’s Office was trying to run Delhi through the Lieutenant-Governor.
  • “Pre-Independence, the Queen of England used to send notifications to the Viceroy of India. Now, Jung ‘Saheb’ is the Viceroy and the PMO is London,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
  • A Gazette notification, issued by the Union Home Ministry late on Thursday night, said the Lieutenant-Governor would have jurisdiction over matters connected with services, public order, police and land.
  • It left matters pertaining to services of bureaucrats to be settled by the Lieutenant-Governor, allowing him discretionary powers to seek the opinion of the Chief Minister as and when the former deemed it fit.
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA)
This scheme was launched in March, 2009 with the objective to enhance access to secondary education(student between 14 and 18 years) and to improve its quality. The implementation of the scheme started from 2009-10. It is envisaged to achieve an enrolment rate of 75% from 52.26% in 2005-06 at secondary stage of implementation of the scheme by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation. The other objectives include improving quality of education imparted at secondary level through making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms, removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers, providing universal access to secondary level education by 2017, i.e., by the end of 12th Five Year Plan and achieving universal retention by 2020.

Important Physical Facilities Provided Under The Scheme Are:
(i) Additional class rooms, (ii) Laboratories, (iii) Libraries, (iv) Art and crafts room, (v) Toilet blocks, (vi) Drinking water provisions and (vii) Residential Hostels for Teachers in remote areas.
Important Quality Interventions Provided Under The Scheme Are:
(i) appointment of additional teachers to reduce PTR(Pupil Teacher Ratio) to 30:1, (ii) focus on Science, Math and English education, (iii) In-service training of teachers, (iv) science laboratories, (v) ICT enabled education, (vi) curriculum reforms; and (vii) teaching learning reforms.
Important Equity Interventions Provided In The Scheme Are:
(i) special focus in micro planning (ii) preference to Ashram schools for upgradation (iii) preference to areas with concentration of SC/ST/Minority for opening of schools (iv) special enrolment drive for the weaker section (v) more female teachers in schools; and (vi) separate toilet blocks for girls.

Implementation Mechanism Of The Scheme
The scheme is being implemented by the State government societies established for implementation of the scheme. The central share is released to the implementing agency directly. The applicable State share is also released to the implementing agency by the respective State Governments.

Revision Of Certain Norms Of The Scheme
The Government of India has approved the following revised norms of RMSA, with effect from 01.04.2013 :
  • To permit State/UT Governments to use State Schedule of Rates(SSOR) or CPWD Rate, (whichever is lower) for construction of civil works permissible under the RMSA.
  • To increase the Management, Monitoring Evaluation and Research (MMER) from 2.2 percent to 4 percent of the total outlay under the programme, with 0.5 percent of the 4 percent earmarked for national level and the rest of the 3.5 percent as part of the State allocation. In cases of States where even with this enhanced allocation of 3.5 percent MMER would not be adequate and would hamper the activities under the head, within the 3.5 percent of the overall State MMER component; variations across State/UTs can be approved by the PAB, subject to a maximum of 5 percent of the outlay in any particular State/UT.
  • To subsume the other Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Secondary Education– Information and Communication Technology (ICT)@ School, Girls’ Hostel, Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage(IEDSS) and Vocational Education(VE) in their existing form under the Umbrella of RMSA.
  • To extend the benefits of RMSA to aided Secondary Schools (excluding infrastructure support/core areas, i.e. Teacher’s salary and Staff salary) for quality interventions as per RMSA umbrella schemes components for aided schools.
  • To continue existing fund sharing pattern of 72:25 for the remaining of the 12th Plan the period for non-NER States and 90:10 for NER States (including Sikkim).
  • To authorize the RMSA Project Approval Board (PAB) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to consider for approval Integrated Plan of the umbrella scheme of RMSA, including the four subsumed Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Secondary Education.
  • To authorize the release of funds to the RMSA State Implementation Society directly for all components of the RMSA umbrella scheme.

Midday Meal Scheme
  • The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in Primary and Upper Primary Classes(Class 6 to 8) in Government, Government Aided, Local Body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and Alternate Innovative Education Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of Labour. Serving 120,000,000 children in over 1,265,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres, it is the largest such programme in the world.
  • The central and state governments share the cost of the Midday Meal Scheme, with the centre providing 75 percent and the states 25 percent. The central government provides grains and financing for other food. Costs for facilities, transportation, and labour is shared by the federal and state governments.
The entire school education can be divided in to four parts, namely, primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. The National Policy of Education (1968 & 1986) and its revised formulation (1992) envisaged a uniform pattern of school education (10+2 pattern, 12 years of schooling) across the states. Since education is on the concurrent list, i.e. state subject; the States & UTs are free to evolve their own pattern of school education. Eight years of primary education is envisaged in two stages: a junior stage covering a period of five years and a senior stage covering a period of 3 years. It needs to be mentioned that 8 years of compulsory education was envisaged as one integrated unit, although there were two stages in the cycle.
In twelve states primary education consists of Grades I to IV where as in rest of the states it is Grades I to V. The National Policy advocates Grade I to V at the primary and VI to VIII at the upper primary level of education. The states that have adopted Grades I to IV as its composition of primary level generally have grades V to VII as part of the upper primary education. Like elementary education, the secondary level of education has also got divergent composition across the states. While in 19 States & UTs, secondary stage consists of Grades IX and X; it consists of Grades VIII, IX and X in thirteen States & UTs (EFA the Year 2000 Assessment, Country Report: India). However, it may be noted that within a state, a complete uniformity is in existence but the type of institutions that offer school education (management) vary across the states and even within its districts and blocks. Different type of institutions that are in existence are schools run by government management, schools under the local bodies and private managed schools. The private managed schools can further be divided into private aided and unaided schools. In addition, private unrecognized institutions spread over across the country both in rural and urban areas are also in existence in large number. 

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (English: The Education for All Movement) (SSA), is an Indian Government programme aimed at the universalisation of elementary education "in a time bound manner", as mandated by the 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory education to children of ages 6–14 (estimated to be 205 million in number in 2001) a fundamental right. The programme was pioneered by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The expenditure on the programme was shared by the Central Government (85%) and the State Governments. The Central share was funded by a number of external agencies, including the World Bank, DFID and UNICEF.

Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions. The central funding (in the ratio of 65:35 for general category States and 90:10 for special category states) would be norm based and outcome dependent. The funding would flow from the central ministry through the state governments/union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions. The funding to states would be made on the basis of critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which would describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education.

The salient objectives of RUSA are to;
  • Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
  • Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
  • Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
  • Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
  • Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
  • Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
  • Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in un‐served & underserved areas.
  • Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 22/05/2015

RBI wins battle to keep debt management role
  • With the Union Finance Ministry reworking its proposal for setting up the Public Debt Management Authority, the Reserve Bank of India has won its biggest battle in its 80-year history.
  • The watered-down proposal no longer envisages the RBI to relinquish control over the task of managing the Centre’s borrowings. Instead, the proposed authority, to be housed in the Finance Ministry and staffed mainly by government officials, is being given “limited functionality”. It will take over merely the “front office” for the management of the Centre’s borrowings, while the control over the “back office” will remain with the RBI.
  • The authority will be set up through an executive order. The Finance Ministry has put on the backburner its earlier move of amending the RBI Act for setting up the authority. The new plan is to move amendments to the RBI Act for statutory status to the authority and for full transfer of control not before another year or two, the source said.
  • “It has now been decided that the transfer of control over the management of government debt from the RBI will not be complete,” a top Finance Ministry source said . “The RBI has opposed the Ministry’s earlier proposal of complete transfer of control to the authority and not wanting to adopt a confrontational position, the Finance Minister has decided not to disturb the RBI set-up.”
  • In Parliament last month, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley withdrew the amendments to the RBI Act announced in his Budget speech in February.

No land acquisition notification for now, A.P. tells High Court
  • The Andhra Pradesh government on May 21 told the Hyderabad High Court that it will not issue any statutory notification for acquiring lands for the Capital Region immediately.
  • The statement was made by the State’s Additional Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas before Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao in the vacation court. The judge was dealing with a writ petition filed by Abhista Realty and Ventures Private Ltd and others. The petitioners challenged a government order (GO 166) issued by AP which exempts the Capital City Development Project from the rigours of two clauses in the Land Acquisition law of 2013. These clauses require social impact assessment to be made before acquisition of land and place stiff restrictions on acquiring multi-crop lands. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, in the original form, mandates that before acquiring land from citizens a social impact assessment has to be made. Further, unless it is extremely unavoidable, multi-crop lands should not be acquired. After the recent ordinance passed by the Central government amending the earlier law, infrastructure projects and four other projects are exempted from these two clauses.
Nelong Valley opens for tourists first time since 1962
  • The picturesque Nelong Valley near the India-China border, which was closed for civilians after the 1962 war, has been opened for tourists.
  • The valley, 45 km ahead of the border, falls under the Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi district.
  • “Six vehicles will carry tourists from Bhairavghati to Nelong every day, but no one will be allowed to stay overnight within the 25-km area between Bhairavghati and Nelong,” Shravan Kumar, Deputy Director, Gangotri National Park, said.
  • Foreigners are not allowed in the valley.
Cold desert
  • At 11,600 feet, the valley is a cold desert, home to the snow leopard and the Himalayan blue sheep and offering a view of the Tibetan Plateau.
  • “Tourists visiting the valley will see the wooden bridge once used for trade between India and China,” said Tilak Soni, an Uttarkashi-based mountaineer. Mr Soni said that geographically the valley looked like a replica of Tibet and also offered a view of the Tibetan plateau.
  • After the 1962 war, villagers were shifted out of the valley and Indo-Tibetan Border Police checkpoints were set up in the villages.
Connecting the past:A bridge at the Nelong Valley 
that was once used for cross-border trade 
between India and China

Net neutrality panel sees no progress
  • The first meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT to discuss Net neutrality could make little headway on Thursday after several members questioned the selective invitation to three private service providers and presence of BJP MP Nishikant Dubey as a special invitee. Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterated that the government was committed to “ensuring non-discriminatory” access to Internet for all citizens.
  • Only Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular were invited by Chairman Anurag Thakur (BJP) for the meeting. Mr. Thakur had asked the three companies to submit a report by May 19.
  • However, according to sources, the 120-page report was received only on May 20 and given to members on Thursday morning. Non-BJP members questioned how they were expected to read such a voluminous report in a few hours; that, too, on a vexed issue like the subject at hand. Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani is learnt to have joined the chorus of questions raised by the non-BJP members.
No OTT players

  • Another contentious issue pertained to the absence of other stakeholders, particularly state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL. Also, the absence of over-the-top (OTT) players and consumer groups was questioned. “Why has this meeting been turned into a sponsored group meet,” a member questioned during the hour-long discussion. Besides Mr. Advani and Mr. Thakur, those present included Derek O’Brien (Trinamool Congress), P. Karunakaran (CPI-M), K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao (Congress) and Salim Ansari (BSP).
  • The next meeting is likely to be held in early June. While the committee members are not allowed to speak on the meeting, Mr. O’Brein tweeted, “Delhi is hot. But deliberations at Parliamentary Committee meetings just got even hotter. Any suggestion on which organisations can provide balanced/credible opinion representing the interest of the Internet user.”
  • While the debate on Net neutrality has been on at the global level for a long time, in India, it was triggered when country’s largest operator Airtel announced plans to charge customers for VoIP(Voice over IP) services such as Skype and Viber.
March of the IS
  • The Islamic State’s recent takeover of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, followed by its seizure of the historic city of Palmyra in Syria suggests that rumours of the impending(meaning of impending - be about to happen) demise(meaning of demise - death) of the armed group are vastly exaggerated. Months of aerial bombing by United States-led forces may have weakened the spine of the insurgent organisation and led to the loss of some of the vast areas it holds across Iraq and Syria. Reports have suggested that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was injured in one attack and that control of the day-to-day functioning of the militias has passed on to other commanders. The resistance shown by Kurdish fighters both in Syria and Iraq — belonging to the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Regional Government respectively — has forced the IS to retreat from places such as Kobane and the adjoining Kurd-held territory close to Mosul in Iraq. The group has also suffered significant losses in Tikrit, the former stronghold of ex-President Saddam Hussein. But these losses apart, the resilience(meaning of resilience - the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity) of the group has been evident in its capture of Ramadi in the largely Sunni-populated and vast desert province of Anbar. The weaknesses of the Iraqi army — still to recover from its disbandment following the U.S. invasion — are evident. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s resort to help from the radical Shia militias might have the support of the Sunni councils in Anbar, but this could only exacerbate what is clearly a conflict that has its origins in heightened sectarian violence in post-U.S.-invasion Iraq.
  • The IS has cunningly used as buffers vast territories in Syria and Iraq that it controls. An air-bombardment-only campaign is certainly not going to be enough even if it inflicts a toll on the group. The Syrian regime has been fighting too many battles against a variety of rebel forces. It lost some to rebel groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Idlib recently, and its tactical retreats from IS-held territory in the past have come to haunt Bashar-al Assad’s forces with the loss of Palmyra. The ancient city — which used to be a Silk route hub — is rich in historic and cultural artefacts; the IS, with its medieval and retrograde views, is expected to engage in destruction here as well. It is clear that the parcelled form of offensive action against the IS is not working well. The IS is bound to implode; it cannot forever sustain itself against a multiplicity of forces — the Syrians, the Iraqi army, the Kurds and the U.S.-led allies (even if they are only engaged in aerial bombing). But as long as there is no concerted action from all these forces targeting the IS in any cohesive manner, it will remain resilient and leave even more brutal trails of destruction in its wake than it has until now.
Half of Syria now under Islamic State’s control
  • Islamic State now controls over half of Syria’s landmass after its seizure of Palmyra, where it has begun massacring a rebellious tribe and faces no opposition to its entry and sacking of the historic city’s ancient ruins.
  • “There are no forces to stop them [entering the ruins],” Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said. “But the important thing also is that they now control 50 per cent of Syria.”
  • IS seized Palmyra on Wednesday night after a week-long siege by the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad collapsed, drawing IS closer to the President’s strongholds of Homs and Damascus. IS has also and severed supply lines to Deir Ezzor in the east, which already faces an overpowering IS crackdown.

Daiy News Mail - News of 21/05/2015

Hungarian author awarded Man Booker International
  • Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai was presented the Man Booker International Prize for 2015 at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on May 20.
  • The 61-year-old writer was on the shortlist of 10 names, which included Amitav Ghosh. The literary prize, worth £60,000 (around Rs. 60 lakh), is given to a living author of any nationality who has published fiction either in English or in English translation.
  • Unlike the annual Man Booker Prize for fiction, the international prize, given once in two years, is in recognition of a writer’s body of work and overall contribution to fiction rather than of a single novel.
  • Mr. Krasznahorkai’s novels are known to be complex and demanding — a single sentence can run to a page — and deal with dystopian and apocalyptic themes in which an impending civilisational crisis threatens the world. His novels include Satantango (1985, English translation 2012), The Melancholy of Resistance (1989, English translation 1998), and Seiobo Down Below (2008, English translation 2013).
  • Satantango was later adapted for a film, in collaboration with the Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr.
  • In the 1990s, Mr. Krasznahorkai began spending more time in East Asia, notably in Mongolia, China and Japan, and his writing began to feature themes from the aesthetics and literature of these countries. The Prisoner of Urga and Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens are books on his experiences in China and Mongolia.
  • In her speech at the award ceremony, Marina Warner, writer and academic, who chaired the judging panel, described Mr. Krasznahorkai as a “visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range”, and his work as “fiction as epiphany.”
  • “Laszlo acknowledges Kafka as a precursor, and his own ironies are clear-eyed, with a gift of re-churning reality so that what seems a far-fetched nightmare re-assembles into the all-too recognisable landscape. He can be lethal in his portraits of us human beings, yet also funny — gallows humour, surprisingly light-footed.”
Laszlo Krasznahorkai

LAC, PoK issues block full blooming of India-China ties
  • India and China have established a detailed framework of partnership during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, but the delay in clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Beijing’s proposed forays into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are hampering the full development of ties.
  • Diplomatic sources said the Prime Minister had been forthright in conveying to his hosts that the process to clarify the LAC, stalled since 2005, should be resumed.
  • The sources pointed out that the LAC clarification should be seen as part of an evolving architecture of confidence-building measures, which have been put in place to ensure peace along the border.
  • “We need to have the clarification of the LAC as the basis of the management of the border,” the sources said.
  • During his address at Tsinghua University, arguably his most important speech during his China visit, Mr. Modi stressed that LAC clarification could be done “without prejudice to our position on the boundary question”.
  • That allays apprehensions among a section of the Chinese establishment that India would insist on turning the LAC into a permanent border once it was clarified.
Minimalist(meaning of minimalist - a person advocating minor or moderate reform in politics) expectations
  • The sources pointed out that in the context of the LAC clarification, the minimalist approach would be to have a shared perception of each other’s positions, which alone would contribute immensely in easing tensions.
  • During talks, India has stated with clarity its objections to the making part of the proposed Pakistan-China economic corridor pass through the PoK.
Economic corridor
  • Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the Gwadar-Kashgar economic corridor as part of China’s “belt and road” connectivity initiative for integrating the economies of Eurasia.
  • India’s core concerns that are restraining ties, which include LAC clarification and the use of PoK territory in defining the Pakistan-China economic corridor, were covered in remarks by the Prime Minster at the Great Hall of the People.
Astra missiles test-fired successfully
The supersonic missile was launched from Su-30 MKI
  • After being postponed twice, two indigenously developed beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, Astra, were successfully launched from Su-30 MKI fighter jet in two developmental trials conducted at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha on May 20.
  • In the first trial, the supersonic missile was released when the fighter jet was performing a “very high-g manoeuvre.” In the second trial, the g manoeuvre was higher than in the first exercise.
  • A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) missile technologist said that extreme conditions were simulated for the missile’s launch in both trials when it was released at very low and very high altitudes. DRDO scientists plan to conduct another trial on May 21 to prove the long range capability of the missile.
  • With Ma 20’s tests, seven developmental trials were conducted and the missile is expected to be inducted by 2016 after a few more tests. The 3.8-metre tall Astra is a radar homing missile and one of the smallest weapon systems developed by the DRDO.
Astra Missile
Astra (Sanskrit: अस्त्र, Astra: Throwing Weapon) is an active radar homing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India. Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets (up to 20 km) and long-range targets (up to 80 km) using alternative propulsion modes.Except for a failure in one test, the missile has successfully completed all its tests. The missile was last tested on 18 March 2015 from a Su-30MKI fighter against a simulated live target.Astra uses a smokeless propulsion system.

As per a defence scientist, the missile is technologically more sophisticated than the nuclear capable Agni missile series of strategic ballistic missiles.
Astra Missile

India wants China’s backing for Security Council, NSG entry
  • During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here, India made it transparent that China’s explicit support for New Delhi as a full member of the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a grouping that promotes nuclear commerce while ensuring non-proliferation, will raise ties to “a new level”.
  • Analysts say that any accommodative shift in China’s position on the NSG is likely to recalibrate Beijing’s ties with Pakistan. Pakistan has been vocal in opposing India’s entry, after U.S. President Barack Obama backed New Delhi’s membership in January. The New York Times had earlier reported that Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, had issued a statement following Mr. Obama’s India visit that “Pakistan is opposed to yet another country-specific exemption from NSG rules to grant membership to India, as this would further compound the already fragile strategic stability environment in South Asia”.
Nuclear energy
  • Yet, nuclear commerce is slowly entering the China-India equation. Ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit, Liu Jinsong, Deputy Director-General in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, had listed nuclear power stations as one of China’s strengths which India could leverage.
  • The “harmonisation” of India’s “Mausam” and “Spice Route” connectivity projects with China’s “belt and road” initiative was not discussed in the talks, the sources said.
  • Contrary to assumptions in a section of the Chinese media that India wanted to monopolise the Indian Ocean, Mr. Modi said during his Tsinghua speech that “cooperation is essential” as “India and China conduct their international commerce on the same sea lanes.”
State of the economy

State of flux in Delhi
  • Partial statehood, Delhi’s peculiar constitutional situation, has posed challenges before every government that has ruled the national capital since 1993, the year an elected Vidhan Sabha was reinstated in Delhi. Central to this is the prickly issue of an elected government being forced to share powers with a non-elected Lieutenant Governor. So it is that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), armed with a sweeping mandate to govern Delhi and with a newfound sense of assertiveness, now finds itself in an almighty tussle with the LG over the appointment of an Acting Chief Secretary. This may appear to be a relatively minor issue, but at its heart is an attempt to make sense of the laws that define the issue of who runs Delhi. Article 239 (AA and AB) of the Constitution appears to grant the LG more discretionary powers than Governors in other States. Clause 4 of this Article says that there shall be a Council of Ministers in Delhi to aid and advise the LG “except in so far as he is, by or under any law, required to act in his discretion”. There is no specific provision, however, for the appointment of a Chief Secretary. Under the clause, should the LG have a difference of opinion with his Ministers the matter should be referred to the President. Pending a decision by the President, the LG can take immediate action if, in his opinion, the matter is urgent. But according to the Transaction of Business Rules for the Delhi government, the process of initiating the appointment of a Chief Secretary has to be done by the Council of Ministers. No such move was initiated in this particular instance, and so there should have been no difference of opinion to begin with.
  • This is a significant grey area, and the real surprise is that it has taken this long for a proper debate on it to happen. Partial statehood, by its very premise, involves some compromises in governance. The big political parties are able to deal with this by going through the ‘right channels’ to prevent a given situation from escalating. It helped that for several years Delhi was ruled by the same party that was in power at the Centre. Such a situation would never work for the AAP, which simply does not do political diplomacy. Delhi is also the only State the party governs, and it is understandably keen to push for more control for itself. Inevitably, things have taken an ugly turn with various civil servants caught in the crossfire, a sense of fear gripping the administration and many officers wondering who to listen to. It is imperative that the rules and laws governing Delhi are reviewed and areas of potential overreach by the Central government are eliminated quickly enough. Failure to do so could lead to a situation where government in the national capital is thrown into a state of flux again.

Daily News Mail - News of 20/05/2015

The Big Data conundrum
  • Why is the government so anxious to make the ownership of an Aadhar card, which is officially voluntary, practically mandatory? Why did the online fashion store Myntra.com recently turn app-only, which means you can’t shop on it through the website or mobile browser but only by downloading the app?
  • Why is Facebook developing solar-powered drones to beam Internet from the sky? And why do both Facebook and Gmail keep badgering you for your cell phone number?
  • What is the need for something called internet. org when there is already an Internet out there? Why does our government want to invest in ‘Smart Cities’ when it is unwilling to invest adequately on education?
  • The answer to all these questions, as Bob Dylan might have said, is flowing in optic fibre cables. If not, it is definitely stored in a non-meteorological cloud somewhere. Its name: Big data.
  • The UID-Aadhar project will be the largest such citizen database on the planet. The reason Myntra wants its customers to transact only from apps is that consumer data is most valuable when tied to specific individuals, as it enables a closer tracking of user behaviour. It is also why Google, Facebook, and other tech companies want your mobile number.
  • It is because Mark Zuckerberg does not possess a search engine like Google does — which, as the entry point to the Internet for most people, is the ultimate instrument for generating consumer data — that he wants to start another, smaller ‘internet’ for those who cannot afford the full-size one.
  • As for Smart Cities, it is a blatant scheme to ensure that every citizen is dragooned into a digital grid at all times, so that she secretes a non-stop data trail from birth to death. This data trail, or big data would be continuously captured and processed for optimal value extraction (read monetisation).
  • If a world governed on the basis of big data is indeed the future, then what does this bode for humanity? The dominant consensus right now is overwhelmingly positive. But if we delve deeper, the use of big data and what it would entail for the future of human lives will unravel a problematic picture.

Make parties’ funding public: petition
  • A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on May 19 to declare political parties “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, making them liable to disclose their financial assets for public scrutiny.
  • The plea was filed by RTI activist Subhash Agarwal and the Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO whose legal battle led to the Supreme Court judgment in 2002 making it mandatory for electoral candidates to declare their criminal antecedents.
  • It arraigns political parties, including the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, for not complying with repeated orders by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose their assets.
  • The CIC, in both 2013 and on March 16, 2015, had declared all national and regional parties public authorities under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The petition argues that both orders were “final and binding.”
  • The petition questions the non-compliance of the parties with these two orders, and wants the apex court to direct national and regional parties to disclose complete details about their income as well as expenditure, entire details of donations and funding received by them irrespective of the amount donated and full details of donors making donations to them and to electoral trusts.
Core role in governance
  • The petition argued that political parties should come under the RTI law as they play a core role in governance, and in fact enjoy a “stronghold” over their elected MPs and MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. The Schedule makes it compulsory for MPs and MLAs to abide by the directions of their parent parties, failing which the member stands to be disqualified.
  • Besides, the plea contended that it will be within the average voter’s fundamental right to information to know the financial details of political parties to make an informed choice.
  • “Under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, all political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration under sub-section (7) of Section 29A. Therefore, political parties so registered must furnish information to the public under the right of information under Article 19(1)(a), since right of information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a),” the petitioners, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said.
No acche din for higher education
  • Not a single Indian institution of higher learning figures in the list of top 200 universities prepared by The Times Higher Education Supplement.
  • The government’s first Budget has not delivered achhe din for higher education in the country. The Union Budget for 2015-16 has reduced funds for higher education to the tune of Rs.3,900 crore in its revised budget estimates for the financial year 2014-15. The government has revised the figure to Rs.13,000 crore, as against Rs.16,900 crore for the plan allocation. The overall education budget of the Modi government is down from Rs.82,771 crore to Rs.69,074 crore. The government has also revised allocation for the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) — which is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 that aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions — to Rs.397 crore as against Rs.2,200 crore in the original Budget.

Move towards centralisation
  • Besides cuts in state funding which is a critical area of concern, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s overall approach to education is destructive of autonomy, creativity and diversity. The manner in which the state is intervening in higher education is causing concern among both teachers and students. There are alarming proposals to change the very nature of higher education. The most disturbing is the proposal to revive the Central Universities Act of 2009 which will require the Central universities to follow a common admission procedure and common syllabus. Even though the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime and the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government have been remarkably similar in their desire to introduce changes in the higher education system, most of the UPA’s major proposals got drowned in the Parliament logjam which continued till the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha. Also, there was some debate and opposition within the UPA government which could be another reason why the government couldn’t implement its agenda. This government is pursuing the reform agenda much more aggressively leaving little scope for dissent and disagreement.
  • The Central University (CU) Act seeks to replace the existing Central universities with one single Act which would require all universities to follow a “common” admission and “common” syllabus along with “transferable” faculty. India’s higher education system, serving a large and heterogeneous population, should ideally support a diverse and decentralised system. However, the CU Act will do the opposite; it aims at centralisation and homogenisation, ignoring the specificities and uniqueness of each university. Each University’s Act has a specific context and mandate, and each has developed its own pattern of knowledge production and reproduction. For example, the Delhi University Act (1922) was in response to the need to provide for the educational needs of an emerging India and incorporates a wide college network. The founding ideas of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, on the other hand are quite different from other institutions. The impulse for the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Act (1966) was to institutionalise the values and vision of “national integration, scientific temper, and humanism”. These Acts have shaped their curriculum, academic ethos, teaching and research. Nullifying these Acts would be a blow against diversity and pluralism as well as to minimum autonomy without which a university cannot function and flourish. It will narrow the space for innovation and create a teaching culture where creativity and critical thinking will be curbed.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 19/05/2015

Kudremukh park may not get tiger reserve tag
  • Shobha Karandlaje, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP, said on May 18 that the Union government was not planning to give tiger reserve tag to the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) which encompasses parts of Chikkamagaluru, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts.
Kudremukh also spelled Kuduremukha is a mountain range and name of a peak located in Chikkamagaluru district, in Karnataka, India. It is also the name of a small hill station cum mining town situated near the mountain, about 48 kilometres from Karkala and around 20 kilometres from Kalasa. The name Kuduremukha literally means 'horse-face' (in the Kannada language) and refers to a particular picturesque view of a side of the mountain that resembles a horse's face. It was also referred to as 'Samseparvata', historically since it was approached from Samse village. Kuduremukh is Karnataka's 3rd highest peak after Mullayangiri and Baba Budangiri. The nearest airport is Mangalore International Airport at Mangalore which is at distance of 99 kilometres.
Kudremukha - The Horse Face

Tiger Reserves of India
  • There are 48 tiger reserves in India which are governed by Project Tiger which is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  •  India is home to 70 percent of tigers in the world.
  •  In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers which increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.
  • Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve(Andhra Pradesh, Telangana) is the largest Tiger reserve in India .
  • Karnataka was home to the maximum number of tigers, the census said, emerging among the biggest gainers in big cat numbers alongside Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The 11,000 sq km of the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole complex now has the world’s largest population of a particular species of tiger, 570, the report said.
  • The roar, however, seemed absent in the traditional home of the tiger, Madhya Pradesh now has 308 tigers as compared to 406 in Karnataka and 340 in Uttarakhand.
Kick-starting an economic revival
An article by Subramanian Swamy, former Professor of Economics and Union Cabinet Minister of Commerce.

Regressive markers

The regressive markers in the projected path of the economy today make it worrisome as these indicate that if not rectified soon, the Indian economy can go into a tailspin. Though these markers are a consequence of the disastrous tenure of the previous government, now nearly a year on, they cease to be a credible excuse.

Some of these markers are: the Basel III norms for banks (effective from 2018; As per RBI: the transitional period for full implementation of Basel III Capital Regulations in India is extended upto March 31, 2019, instead of as on March 31, 2018. This will also align full implementation of Basel III in India closer to the internationally agreed date of January 1, 2019) which require Rs.2,40,000 crore for capitalisation. Moreover, to retain 51 per cent of the equity of public sector banks by the government, it will need, this financial year, Rs.1,21,000 crore. The 2015-16 Budget has provided for only Rs.11,200 crore, which is not even a tenth of this. With rising non-performing assets of banks, there is a risk of a banking crash much like the 1997-98 East Asian crash.

This year, the rainfall deficit affecting 67 per cent of the single crop farmers, will cause inflationary pressures and a substantial shortfall in production, thus causing more misery to the farmer. While rainfall is in nobody’s control, the economy, even today, lacks the necessary financial cushion to absorb the liabilities arising from crop failure and farmer destitution.

The rupee is on the edge of a fall as it happened in 2012-13. This is because there has been a large-scale sell-off or dumping of shares of Indian companies purchased by foreign investors earlier last year. Some foreign direct investment (FDI) companies have also pulled out. The fall in the rupee was a little moderated three months ago, but for the wrong reason: the increased inflow of funds from the subversive, corroding, money-laundering Participatory Notes (PN) derivative. But PNs are hot money derivatives and so can be pulled out anytime to cause a further devaluation of the rupee.

All these destabilising trends have had a profound impact on the stock market. One of these is in the form of market valuations now being well below the long-term average and even below the level in 2013. Therefore, it is no surprise that the top 10 corporate entities have reached a stage where their annual profits do not cover even their yearly debt repayments.

Negative factors

While India has demonstrated impressive prowess in IT, biotechnology, automobile ancillaries and pharmaceuticals, and has also accelerated its growth rate to become the third largest nation in terms of GDP at PPP rates, nevertheless, it still has a backward, agricultural sector employing 62 per cent of the labour force and where farmers are ending their lives unable to repay their loans.

The Indian economy is also saddled with a national unemployment rate that is over 15 per cent of the adult labour force, and a prevalence of child labour arising out of nearly 50 per cent of children not making it to school beyond standard five, a deeply malfunctioning primary and secondary educational system, 300 million illiterates and 250 million people in a dire state of poverty.

Moreover, India’s educated youth is skill deficient, risk averse in attitude and largely unemployable in the cutting-edge manufacturing sector. According to Macaulay’s Minute on Education, our universities still produce clerks for government administration and not innovators of the future.

Besides these, India’s infrastructure is in a pathetic state, with frequent power breakdowns even in metropolitan cities, a dangerously unhealthy water supply system in urban areas, and a very poor road network where there are gaping holes even on the National Highways.

India’s infrastructure requires about $150 billion to make it world class, while the education system needs six per cent of GDP instead of 2.8 per cent today.

Need for reform

These problems can be addressed only by comprehensive, second generation, systemic reform that makes the economy an efficient, competitive market oriented one that leverages our potentialities (such as our civilizational heritage of innovative intellect), and which minimises the inefficiency, squandering and corruption in the deployment of our vast resources.

India has much potential today to become a booming economy; it has a demographic dividend of a young population of average age of 28 years compared to China’s 35 years, the U.S.’s 38 years, Europe’s 46 years and Japan’s 49 years.

Internationally, Indian agriculture has the lowest yield in land and livestock-based milk products whose yield can easily be raised judging by the performance in experimental agricultural plots of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and by also borrowing agricultural techniques from Israel. Indian agriculture and milk products are also internationally at a low cost of production. With proper infrastructure and packaging, India can certainly become a global player in agricultural exports.

Even though India is also gifted with a full 12 months a year of farm-friendly weather, it grows just one crop a year in over 75 per cent of arable land when it can grow three crops a year. It also has the advantage of a highly competitive, skilled labour force and low wage rates at the national level, the advantages of which have been already proved to the world by the outsourcing phenomenon. What is needed is a bold commitment of sufficient resources to harvest this potential.

An open competitive market system can find these resources as has been demonstrated in the auction of the 2G Spectrum licences if the quality of governance and accountability is improved.

A transparent policy regime, auctioning of natural resources (if it is used for commercial private enterprise), and the unearthing of the vast $1.5 trillion in black money stashed abroad will enable the government to marshal sufficient resources for a massive investment in a second generation economic reform while reducing the tax burden on people.

As an economist, the only advice I can give the Modi government is to take some steps that will raise the morale of the consumer and investor. That means income tax abolition and reducing the annual interest rate to nine per cent.

The good news is that the built-in potential in the economy is easy to tap for revival, as is the basic resilience of the Indian people to face any situation as demonstrated from past crises.

Only one year of the mandate has elapsed, so there is still time to make the necessary course correction and put India on a fast, 12 per cent growth trajectory.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 18/05/2015

Mongolia gets $1-bn credit gift
  • India announced on May 17 a $1-billion credit line to Mongolia for infrastructure development as they upgraded their ties to “strategic partnership” and agreed to deepen defence cooperation besides exploring potential for tie-ups in areas such as the civil nuclear sector.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Mongolia, the first by an Indian Premier, held wide-ranging discussions with his Mongolian counterpart, Chimed Saikhanbileg, and the two leaders pledged to take bilateral economic partnership to a new level.
  • “I am pleased to announce that India will provide a Line of Credit of $1 billion to support expansion of Mongolia’s economic capacity and infrastructure,” Mr. Modi told a joint press interaction with Mr. Saikhanbileg at the State Palace here.
  • “Today, Mongolia is also an integral part of India’s Act East Policy,” he said.
  • “The destinies of India and Mongolia are closely linked with the future of Asia Pacific region. We can work together to help advance peace, stability and prosperity in this region,” Mr. Modi said, pitching for close bilateral ties amid China’s push for increasing its regional influence.
  • After their talks, the two signed a joint statement committing to consolidate ties and upgrade the comprehensive partnership to “strategic partnership” and agreed to renew their Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation.
  • The two sides inked 13 other pacts that include one on enhancing cooperation in border defence, policing and surveillance, air services, cyber security and new and renewable energy.
Kejriwal ups ante against Lieutenant-Governor Jung
  • Taking Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung head-on over the controversial appointment of Acting Chief Secretary Shakuntala D. Gamlin, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal vowed on May 17 to keep tabs on every move of the official.
  • Without naming Ms. Gamlin, wife of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress regional satrap Jarbom Gamlin, Mr. Kejriwal said the official was working as “a secretary of power companies” and had attempted to mislead him and his Power Minister repeatedly.
  • “She tried to get the [AAP] government’s assent in a way which would have affected our finances to the tune of Rs. 11,000 crore through what she claimed was a letter of comfort,” Mr. Kejriwal said addressing an “Auto Samvad” of autorickshaw drivers at Burari in North Delhi.
  • “The officer in question might be in office for the coming few days, but rest assured the government will keep an eye on her every move and not allow her to misuse the power of her office,” he said.
  • Ms. Gamlin was appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor’s office despite the objections of the AAP government.
Stalemate on FTA should end soon, says Cravinho
  • European Union Ambassador in New Delhi Joao Cravinho says though there have been no negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement with India, decision-makers in New Delhi and Brussels are keen on ending the stalemate.
  • “We haven’t had progress for two years, no negotiations, but there is a recognition that this stalemate has gone on far too long,” he said . The decision-makers have concluded that it is time to sit down and create a political momentum to finalise the deal.
  • “Personally, I am convinced we are less far apart than we were two years ago. The world has changed; even if we have not been negotiating and what it takes in terms of political capital is perfectly affordable. We need to have major decision-makers at the ministerial level sit down for talks, and I expect that to happen within a few weeks,” he said.
  • India’s participation at the OECD could offer the opportunity for discussions between New Delhi and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. Both Union Minister for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman and Ms. Malmström are expected to be present in Paris in June and officials are hopeful that a dialogue could be scheduled.
  • Work is also under way for fleshing out the details of the India-EU Summit scheduled for later this year. “We are working on a rich agenda, which will justify the summit.”
  • Mr. Cravinho said the India-EU Summit to be held later this year would have as its broad themes how Europe could support India’s transformational and development agenda, how India could support the challenges that Europe faced, and how India and Europe could work together on issues of global governance.
  • “India and the EU are major players in global governance, and coming together, finding a platform on which both can work, will mean not only contribution to each other but also towards global peace. The recognition of that will be part of the summit outcomes,” he said.
  • He said the Modi government had set an “ambitious transformational agenda,” and the EU countries, keen on partnering India in the implementation of schemes such as Smart City, Swachh Bharat and “Make in India”, were looking for appropriate responses.
  • Citing the example of the Ganga cleaning programme, he said EU members were strategising on how to share their best practices on river cleaning. “We have a number of interesting experiences in Europe, with cleaning the Danube, [the] Rhine, and [the] Thames. Those were massive cleaning operations, not only about water but also involved a massive transformation in the interaction between the population and the rivers,” he said.
  • Mr. Cravinho said that with a new government in place, there was a noticeable change in the pace of projects such as the one to develop Smart Cities. “We have been working with Mumbai for the last three years, well before the Smart Cities project was announced. It is interesting work that has gained speed in the last six months because of the change in government at the Centre and in the State. There is an understanding that business as usual is not an option, there is a lot of desire for change and a lot of energy,” he said.
  • On other areas of India-EU cooperation, including combating terrorism, Mr. Cravinho said there was a need to create fluidity in information-sharing. “There is a lot of information-sharing that can and should take place between India and Europe, helping each other understand different facets of terrorism. We have a counter-terrorism dialogue happening in Brussels soon, in which we will raise the issue of information-sharing and de-radicalisation; for instance, how to prevent marginalised groups from becoming radicalised for one reason or the other. We can share good practices.”
India-EU Free Trade Agreement
In 2007, the European Commission and India initiated discussions on an India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). As of March 2015, negotiations remained stalled after failing to resolve differences related to matters such as the level of FDI & market access, domestic-sourcing obligations in multi-brand retail, manufacture of generic medecines, European Union import restrictions, greenhouse gas emissions, civil nuclear energy generation legislation, EU farming subsidies, replacement of traditional cash-crops with sterile genetically-engineered and patented variants, regulation & safeguards for the financial and insurance sectors, cooperation on tax evasion & money laundering, overseas financing and monitoring of NGOs in India, work visa restrictions, technology transfer restrictions, cooperation on embargoes (Russia & Iran), etc.

Learning skills from Seoul
  • In his first year of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen his foreign destinations with careful thought. After wrapping up his visits to China and Mongolia, Mr. Modi will be in Korea on May 18 and 19 in recognition of the country’s potential importance in pushing the agenda of ‘Make in India’, skill development, employment generation and indigenisation of defence manufacturing.
  • The stage for the visit has already been set by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had, in December 2014, visited Seoul for the 8th Joint Commission meeting. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also went to Seoul in April to identify projects for closer defence collaboration.
  • South Korea and India have both economic and cultural ties, apart from similar historical trajectories. Their ancient bonds are based on the twin strands of Buddhism and the Princess of Ayodhya. Koreans widely believe that a princess from Ayodhya travelled by sea to Korea in 48CE and married King Kim Suro. A prominent branch of the Kim clan called the Gimhae Kims proudly claim this Indian lineage. The two countries also share bitter colonial experiences; they had to undergo post-independence horrors of partition. Both continue to face hostile nuclear siblings: Pakistan and North Korea, respectively.
Economic engagement
  • Despite this, India and South Korea did not take much notice of each other till the end of the 1970s. A nonaligned India pursued a policy of equal treatment of the two Koreas, which it finally abandoned in the 1980s.The emergence of South Korea as an Asian Tiger compelled India to look at it as a source of investment and technology. The dawn of real democracy in South Korea in the late 1980s brought it ideologically closer to India. The end of the Cold War and former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s ‘Look East Policy’ opened the doors for a rapid economic engagement with South Korea.
  • Korean Chaebols such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motors invested heavily in India in the late 1990s.Their success in capturing the Indian market is visible all around us. Korean investment in India is now more than $3 billion. Indian companies such as Tata Motors, the Mahindra Group and Birla Group have also invested more than a billion dollars in South Korea.
  • The first decade of the new millennium saw a rapid expansion of both economic and political relations. In 2010, India and South Korea became ‘Strategic Partners’ and implemented the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Bilateral trade surged to $20 billion in 2011, surpassing India’s trade with Japan. However, economic activities have been somewhat stagnant since then and require renewed energy and new ideas. For instance, the much-heralded $12 billion investment by the Korean steelmaker POSCO in Odisha has been stuck since 2005 in the quagmire of procedures for mining licences, land acquisition and environmental clearances. Both countries focus on the economic prosperity of their citizens. On strategic regional issues, they strive for a stable and peaceful external environment. However, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Mr. Modi differ widely on the other two regional giants: China and Japan. No consensus on this is expected at this summit.
  • In this background, Prime Minister Modi has clear objectives, but difficult issues to address. South Korean corporates have rich experiences of working in rather difficult Indian conditions but before investing more, they may wait for conditions to improve.
  • Prime Minister Modi will benefit from studying the Korean experience of rapid skill development in the 1960s and 1970s. The impressive industrial miracle of South Korea is based on its trained and dedicated manpower. The system of vocational training, technical education as well as Research and Development is driven by the requirements of industry. In these areas, India’s efforts are largely government-driven and practically divorced from industry requirements. Mr. Modi would also be surprised to learn that 3.4 per cent of Korean GDP is spent on research and innovation and 70 per cent of this amount comes from industry!
Lessons from shipbuilding
  • In the shipbuilding sector, South Korea has world class technology, but India has obsolescent equipment and management. Creative policy changes would be required in India to motivate Korean private shipbuilders to invest in India. Koreans by nature do not like joint ventures, guard their technology carefully and demand full managerial control. Just as the Rao government had allowed 100 per cent FDI to Korean companies in 1996 as a pioneering policy change, the Modi government should offer to lease a shipyard to the Koreans for the long-term on negotiated terms. Such a move would attract the Koreans to not only invest in shipbuilding in India but also bring in modern technology and equipment. Also, it is hoped that Prime Minister Modi’s visit will reopen the stalled negotiations for the acquisition of eight minesweepers from KangNam Company, which would be partly built at the Goa shipyard.
  • During the visit, Mr. Modi is likely to face some pressure from President Park for urgent revision of the CEPA. However, he must be cautious as the present CEPA has not generated any extra exports from India, and the bilateral trade gap is widening against India. Despite assurances, the Korean regulators continue to drag their feet in according approvals for import of Indian generic drugs and agricultural products. Indian IT companies have also been struggling for business in South Korea as Koreans hesitate in sharing data with outsiders.
  • Koreans may also press for the allocation of a site for Korean companies to build a nuclear power plant. They may offer state of the art technology and their overall costs for erecting a project would be about 20 per cent less than their competitors. In turn, India could offer to launch Korean satellites on its launch vehicles.
  • There is vast potential for the growth of tourism on both sides and India’s decision to grant ‘Visa on Arrival’ and e-visas to Koreans will facilitate tourism. Indian films, cuisine and yoga are widely popular in Korea. Korean pop music and TV serials are well known in India among the youth, particularly in the Northeast. Since the countries share a bond concerning the Princess of Ayodhya, they could even offer incentives to film producers for a joint production of a film based on the legend.
  • The key component of India-South Korea strategic partnership continues to be a robust economic engagement. This fits squarely with the present priorities of the Prime Minister to boost the manufacturing sector in India. But the Modi government would need to display more imagination and take bold steps to fully tap the potential of a deeper partnership with South Korea.
Taking a comprehensive view of quakes
  • The Nepal earthquake of April 25 is the largest in the Himalayan region since the 1934 quake which measured 8.2 on the Richter scale and destroyed not only parts of central Nepal but also the plains of northern Bihar in India. Mahatma Gandhi, shaken by the Bihar tragedy, wrote in the Harijan that the earthquake was “providential retribution to India’s failure to eradicate untouchability”. Although this statement dismayed the rationalist in Jawaharlal Nehru, it was Rabindranath Tagore who dared Gandhi by sending a letter to the Harijan saying, “Physical catastrophes must have origin in physical facts”. When Tagore, always far ahead of his times, made this insightful statement, the science of earthquakes had not developed. It was only in the 1960s that plate tectonics explained the origin of earthquakes.
  • Like other Himalayan quakes, the Nepal temblor is a dramatic manifestation of the ongoing tectonic convergence between the Indo-Australian and Asian tectonic plates that have built the Himalayas over the last 50 million years. A product of millions of years of crustal shortening, the Himalayas are under immense tectonic stress and occasional temblors. The last 200 years in the region have seen four great earthquakes. But central Himalaya has been an exception, researchers warn, and is considered to be susceptible to great temblors.
  • The Nepal quake is a painful reminder of what is in store for the communities that live in the region and in the adjoining Indo-Gangetic plains. Sadly, lessons after such tragic events are often short-lived in public memory. This quake, too, opens an opportunity to learn and understand the threats of great earthquakes which may occur in the vulnerable region of North India and we must retain these lessons.
Why was it so devastating?
  • The Nepal earthquake was devastating due to many factors. The source of the quake was shallow and the fault plane extended right up to densely populated Kathmandu. Added to this, Kathmandu is on a primitive lake basin that amplifies seismic wave energy. The slip of 1 to 3 metres recorded along the 160-km-long rupture showed strain built up over a century. Research implies that this segment has seen no great earthquakes in the last 700 years. Thus, the unspent accumulated slip needed to be released through this quake and will further be released through future quakes. This means that the segment, which includes parts of Uttarakhand, is capable of witnessing more damage. The Nepal earthquake rupture probably did not move towards the Indian plains in the manner that it did in the 1934 quake. But India may not be so lucky next time.
  • As India’s northern territory is interfaced with a 2,400-km-long seismically potential Himalayan arc, it needs to develop a workable strategy to lessen the impact of earthquakes in populated areas. The ability to minimise damage and prepare for the aftermath of an earthquake has to come from a deeper insight on earthquake processes, and analyses of large amount of data that will enable us to study the source and effects of a quake. The latest advances in seismic sensor technology, data acquisition systems, digital communication and computer hardware and software facilitate developing real-time earthquake information systems. In rapid data dissemination, India needs to learn from the U.S. Geological Survey. India’s close proximity to an active plate boundary makes rapid dissemination of seismic data necessary. India should give priority to not only install but also sustain dense networks of observatories for both weak and strong motion data — like Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. do. Using such data to understand source characteristics is one way of helping the seismological community understand and constrain the manner in which faulting occurred and its probable extent. This data can also be exploited to develop an earthquake alert system, which essentially uses the travel time difference between the body waves and surface waves. For example, a resident in Delhi can be given a few minutes of alert on a major Himalayan earthquake, originating about 250- km away, using the difference in travel time lag between the body waves and the damaging surface waves.
Better building practices
  • This would also allow us to quantify reasonably the expected ground motion in any region, which can be the basis for designing earthquake-resistant buildings. Our experience in the Himalayan towns, of moderate earthquakes (the 1996 Chamoli and the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquakes, for example), indicates that better building practices are major factors in lessening the impact of destructive events. Another learning experience is the historical example of the 1803 Uttarkashi earthquake which generated distant liquefaction in Delhi and Mathura and triggered landslides that smothered Himalayan villages. The top part of Qutb Minar toppled, too.
  • Yet, we haven’t made headway in risk assessment, the core database for disaster management. Risk assessment requires intense field studies, developing models that use data on the frequency and severity of a particular type of natural hazard that strikes an area, and combining this information with the nature and class of vulnerable structures. It would be prudent to calculate the earthquake risk in the region if such an earthquake were to happen in Uttarakhand. According to a study in 2000, if a 1905 Kangra earthquake were to occur today in the Himalayas, direct losses would amount to Rs.51 billion, cost around 65,000 lives and 4,00,000 houses. If all the houses were made earthquake-resistant, this would reduce to Rs.19 billion. The extra cost of retrofitting would be about Rs.19 billion, the loss of life would be reduced to one-fifth and the number of ruined houses would be reduced to one-fourth. It is also true that many new buildings in earthquake-prone areas do not comply with seismic codes because certificates of safety are easy to procure. People living in the hills should be encouraged to follow traditional building practices rather than concrete monstrosities. Laurie Baker, the legendary architect, had some meaningful suggestions to strengthen traditional houses in the Himalayas. Some of his pencil sketches, preserved in archives, will be useful in this regard. But it is also true that traditional stone houses using rounded boulders in the Himalayas are known for very poor performances during the earthquakes. The Indian Standard IS: 13828 (1993) suggests several methods to improve their design and construction to make them earthquake-resistant.
  • We need to focus not only on earthquake engineering but also on seismological research. For this to happen, along with an ambitious vision for a seismic network, we need trained manpower to conduct high-level seismological research. One way to reinvigorate both institutional and university-based research is to develop a strong framework where both can interact. Research without teaching and teaching without research are failed models, but we continue to follow this path. Seismology is a global science and interacting with the global research community should be encouraged. Our researchers must conduct research on equal footing with the international community. The Himalayas are a fantastic natural laboratory where earth processes can be captured live for new insights. Tackling future natural disasters will require a healthy mix of technology, scientific studies, trained and committed manpower, professionalism and the development of engineering skill and public awareness.

Caution and optimism
  • In the last two decades, the diplomatic emphasis in India-China relations has been on working on a strong economic relationship that would whittle down the strategic differences and feeling of adversarial relations that have piled up over time. The three-day visit to China by Prime Minister Narendra Modi stayed true to that script, but clearly built on the bonhomie generated during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s India visit in September 2014. If the emphasis during that visit was on building a “closer developmental partnership”, the reciprocal visit by Mr. Modi has been all about enhancing that relationship, mostly relating to trade and economics. This is evident in the joint statement issued after bilateral talks between Mr. Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The statement also seeks to address some of the concerns over the nature of the economic relationship. The magnitude of two-way trade has risen to $71 billion, but there has been a corresponding rise in the trade deficit. The statement suggests that both countries are cognisant of this deficit and are taking steps to address this, over and above those decided during Mr. Xi’s visit. The signing of 26 agreements detailing commercial investments worth $22 billion between companies also signifies the growing economic ties. The joint statement on climate change that reiterated the principles of “equity and common but differentiated responsibilities” to address issues of climate change and reiterated support for the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, was also timely. This would clear some doubts about China’s position following its joint communiqué with the U.S. on cuts in emission levels.
  • That said, the strategic distance remains: the joint statement and also Mr. Modi’s remarks during the visit recognise this fact. The boundary dispute finds mention in the joint statement; while progress in talks has been glacial ever since they began, there is the assurance that both sides will seek to maintain peace at the border as they work towards a solution. Mr. Modi’s delegation gave no indication that India is keen to participate in China’s ambitious “one belt, one road” initiative; the joint statement limited the reference to cooperation on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor. This suggests a degree of caution on India’s part over China’s role in India’s near and extended neighbourhood. Yet, Mr. Modi struck all the right notes in his speech engagement at Tsinghua University, suggesting the need to overcome strategic differences even while acknowledging the complexities as India seeks to build concomitant ties with other world powers. It is to be hoped that this emphasis, and ongoing engagement between the two leaderships at the highest levels would build further momentum to truly realise a strong India-China partnership for the 21st century.