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GS-2


Polity and Constitution

SC clears 12 special courts to try cases against politicians

Context

The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the green signal for the Centre’s scheme to set up 12 fast track courts to exclusively prosecute and dispose of 1,581 criminal cases pending against Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies within a year.

Allocation of funds

  • A Bench of Justices directed the Centre to forthwith allocate ₹7.8 crore to the States for setting up such courts.
  • The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, has granted in-principle approval to the said allocation

Timeline

The States shall, in consultation with the High Courts concerned, make the courts operational by March 1, 2018

Still not enough

PIL petitioner and Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay said 12 courts were not enough to try 1,581 cases and ₹7.8 crore was too little to prosecute “criminal” politicians.

But Its’ a start

To this, Justice Gogoi responded that 12 courts are not the end of it. But let them start. It is very easy to blame, but to start something is difficult

Declared cases

The 1,581 criminal cases were declared by politicians in their nominations in the 2014 general elections.

Cases to be clubbed together

  • The scheme proposes to club the cases of several politicians together and have one court hear them
  • This way, the Bench expected a special court to finish at least 100 cases a year. 

Trace out pending cases

The Supreme Court directed the High Courts, acting through the various trial courts, to trace out from the case records the criminal cases pending against politicians and transfer them to the special courts concerned for adjudication.

 At rudimentary stage

The Supreme Court said the Centre’s scheme was “rudimentary” at this stage, but it would be open for modifications as and when the situation arises.

The Case

The order comes on a petition filed by Mr. Upadhyay for a life ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections

Next Hearing

The court said it would consider the issue in the next hearing in March.

‘Parsi woman allowed to perform last rites’

Context

A Parsi Trust on Thursday informed a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that it will allow a woman, who married a Hindu under the Special Marriage Act, to pray at the Tower of Silence and take part in the ceremonies following the death of her parent.

Goolrokh, represented by senior advocate Indira Jaising, has been arguing for her right to retain her religious identity, dignity and choice

  • The five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra took on record a memorandum submitted by the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust, which said that it would allow Goolrokh M. Gupta, the woman concerned, to perform the rites.
  • The Trust said it came to the decision after consulting its high priest and in “deference” to the Supreme Court orders.

In Earlier hearings

In the previous hearing, Chief Justice Misra had orally observed that a woman does not mortgage herself to a man by marrying him and that she retains her identity, including her religious identity, even after she exercises her right to marry outside her community under the Special Marriage Act.

Special Marriage Act: A statutory alternative

The court had prima facie observed that the Special Marriage Act of 1954 was seen as a statutory alternative for couples who choose to retain their identity in an inter-religious marriage.

Larger issues remain open still

The court said the larger questions of law regarding the religious identity of a Parsi woman and her right to marry outside her religion, among other issues, would remain open and be dealt with in the next hearing scheduled for the third week of January next year.

The Case

The Bench, also comprising Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is deciding if a Parsi woman can keep her religious identity intact after marrying someone from another faith under the 1954 Act.

Why Criminalise? (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

Centre’s draft law on triple talaq misreads the Supreme Court judgment 

Ill-conceived

  • The Centre’s move to criminalise instant triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) appears to be ill-conceived and thoughtless
  • It completely ignores the significance of the August 22, 2017 Supreme Court judgment which rendered legally inutile the use of the formulaic expression “talaq-talaq-talaq” (in any of its forms) as a means to instantly dissolve a Muslim marriage. 

Question Raised

Therefore, the question that needs to be answered is: When talaq-e-bidat does not result in the dissolution of the marriage, can its pronouncement be criminalised?

nullum crimen sine iniuria

The authors of the draft law seem to have given scant attention to one of the fundamental maxims of criminal jurisprudence, nullum crimen sine iniuria, which states that no person shall be punished for an act that does not prove to be significantly harmful to anyone.

The Reasoning

Talaq-e-bidat pronounced after August 22 does not in any manner harm or violate the rights of the wife unless the husband refuses to perform his conjugal duties or forces his wife to leave the matrimonial home by fraudulently claiming that his triple pronouncement has broken the marriage.

An option for men who want to keep their marriage intact

  • It has been observed that most husbands who resort to talaq-e-bidat do so in a fit of emotional rage, or out of a misunderstanding of Muslim law
  • In the former case, men express profound regret within a short time as irrevocable divorce was never the original intention of their outburst. Such men will heave a sigh of relief when they realise that, thanks to the Supreme Court, their marriage is intact.

Punitive measures might prove counter intuitive results

  • But if they are stigmatised with punitive imprisonment the chances of their marriage disintegrating are very high and the proposed law will end up being the bane of their lives.
  • Even in the case of men who think instant talaq irrevocably breaks the marriage, their misunderstanding is the result of reliance on sectarian fatwas which reiterate the validity of talaq-e-bidat despite the SC having ruled that it is “manifestly arbitrary” and not an integral part of Islam for being un-Quranic.

Sectarian Fatwas

  • These fatwas are invariably based on traditions of questionable authenticity and an innovative ruling of Caliph Umar, which is supposed to have legitimised instant talaq to deter men from adopting this undesirable practice
  • Paradoxically, it is also claimed that the Caliph flogged men when they resorted to instant talaq.

But this anecdotal evidence lacks credibility

  • First, why would the Caliph legalise the very misogynist practice he was trying to abolish? It would have made sense if he had simply derecognised the annulment of marriage through talaq-e-bidat
  • Second, if he was going to inflict a punishment for instant divorce why did he legalise it?

Verification needed

Keeping in mind the attribution of zaif (weak) and mauzu (fabricated) reports to the Prophet himself, Muslim theologians must verify if the ruling ascribed to Caliph Umar was made up to justify a retroactive legislation in favour of talaq-e-bidat.

Blind Faith

On the contrary, they appear to have full faith in it

Most Muslim organizations in favour

And this could be the reason why most Muslim religious organisations have not opposed the Centre’s intention to criminalise instant talaq. Indeed, even before the August 22 judgment, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had proposed social boycott as punishment for resorting to talaq-e-bidat

The Justification

The justification of this punitive measure is based on the belief that the pronouncement of three divorces in one sitting results in the commission of a sin, namely, the irrevocable dissolution of marriage.

Dead Letter

But as explained above, when the SC “set aside” instant triple talaq, it meant that this medieval formulation is now a dead letter and will no longer be effective in annulling a Muslim marital contract. And this is the law of the land today under Article 141.

A cognisable offence

Therefore, making the mere pronouncement of instant talaq a cognisable offence would not only negate the apex court’s judgment, it would amount to unwittingly aligning with the AIMPLB’s anachronistic view that talaq-e-bidat breaks the marriage irrevocably.

Suggestions

Given these facts, the right approach would be to launch a massive campaign across India to publicise the Supreme Court judgment, and simultaneously find ways to stop Muslim theologians from issuing misleading fatwas on talaq

Conclusion

Criminalising acts that do not result in the commission of crimes will be legally untenable.

Governance

Govt. looking at JVs in ordnance sector

Context

The Defence Ministry is conducting a detailed performance audit of ordnance factories functioning under the Department of Defence Production, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

Detailed performance audit under way

The government is examining the ordnance factories to explore ways to boost their productivity, including through possible joint ventures (JV) through possible Transfer of Technology .

Why?

There are 41 factories under the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and there have been several demands to undertake reforms to improve their productivity and efficiency

DRDO

In an effort to given greater role for the private sector, the Defence Research and Development Organisation has also asked to “identify patentable products that can be commercialised.”

Defence Start-ups

  • The Centre is looking at organically grown industrial parks with inclination towards defence partnerships
  • To begin with, Chennai-Bengaluru and Mumbai-Pune-Aurangabad are being looked at as they have a large pool of start-ups that can help in defence manufacturing.

ill prepared for future(Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

There is a grave lack of engineering skills. This impacts industry, affects programmes such as Make in India.

The Great Indian Engineering Paradox

India produces more engineers than China and the US combined

  • Quantity over Quality

But in the past seven years, several reports have pointed out that India’s engineering institutes do not provide state-of-art skills

  • Different surveys indicate same thing
    • A NASSCOM survey of 2011, for example, pointed out that only 17 per cent of the engineering graduates in the country are employable
    • This signaled a mismatch between the demands of industry and the technical education system
  • Governments do nothing

The then UPA government did little to address this situation But the NDA government has done no better.

  • National Employability Report

Last year, the National Employability Report revealed that more than 80 per cent of the students who passed out of engineering schools in 2015 did not have the competencies required by industry

  • Deeper Problems

An investigation by this paper, this week, has highlighted another paradox and shown that the rot runs deeper

  • No takers for engineering seats
    • In 2015-16, eight lakh BE/BTech engineering students graduated, a little over a quarter of those who finished the science stream that year
    • Yet, there are no takers for more than 50 per cent of seats in the country’s engineering colleges, the investigation has revealed.
  • Effect on Make in India
    • The state of engineering colleges could have a bearing on the Make in India programme that aims to bolster the country’s manufacturing capacity and generate 100 million jobs by 2022
    • According the programme’s website, Make in India will “foster innovation, enhance skill-development and build best-in-class infrastructure”. 

Highly skilled engineers needed

This will require highly-skilled engineers who can design products to meet the requirements of international competition

The Problem

The poor student intake in the country’s engineering institutes presages a shortage of human capital for the project. 

Global Comparison

Globally, higher education has expanded in two contrasting ways

Strict Regulation

Through strict regulation with rigorous insistence on quality, resulting in gradual growth of high-quality institutes

Low Entry Barriers

Low entry barriers, leading to a proliferation of colleges, but of lower quality

India has taken the second path

When it comes to engineering colleges, India has taken the second path

The AICTE needs to wake up

  • The All India Council of Technical Education’s (AICTE) criteria for setting up such colleges pertain to infrastructure, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries and student-teacher ratio
  • The AICTE also has a model curriculum, revised every five years, that affiliated universities use as a base to prepare their own syllabus

Reality is different

  • But this newspaper’s investigation shows that most colleges follow decades-old programmes
  • With the challenge of automation looming large over manufacturing, the AICTE, and its affiliated institutes, will have to pull up their socks in order to ensure the competitiveness of Indian industry. 

International

Looking for balance in power(The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

The Russia-India-China trilateral meet is New Delhi’s attempt to overcome challenges in ties with Moscow and Beijing

Scope of talks

The broader discussions, according to a joint communique of the 15th meeting, “took place in the backdrop of the political scenario in West Asia and North Africa, numerous challenges in putting the world economy back on the growth track, concerns relating to terrorism, transnational organised crime, illicit drug trafficking, food security, and climate change.” 

Growing Divergences

But what was perhaps interesting was Russia and China’s continued attempts to frame global and regional politics through a similar lens, and the growing divergences between India and them

Russia wants India to join OBOR

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that he believes that India can benefit by joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative
  • The specific problem in this regard should not make everything else conditional to resolving political issues

Criticism of Closed bloc arrangements/Cliques/spheres of Influence

Targeting India’s participation in the ‘Quad’, he also underlined that a sustainable security architecture cannot be achieved in the Asia-Pacific region with “closed bloc arrangements.”

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also cautioned against “spheres of influence” and “cliques” by arguing that China opposed “hegemony and power politics and disagree with the sphere of influence and cliques and promote the democratisation of international relations.” 

Needs for Cooperation

China, meanwhile, continued to take an aggressive posture on Doklam and its aftermath. China and India have far greater shared strategic interests than differences, and far greater needs for cooperation than partial friction

Tension in the air

The tensions in the trilateral framework are inevitable given the changes in the global geopolitical environment

The origins

The original conception of this framework was a response to a very different global environment

  • Proposal from Russian PM in 1998

The proposal for a Moscow-Beijing-Delhi ‘strategic triangle’ had originally come from former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov during his visit to India in 1998, when he argued that such an arrangement would represent a force for greater regional and international stability

  • No Response from India or China

This did not elicit as enthusiastic a response from China and India as Russia had perhaps hoped for. Thereafter, the three countries continued to focus on improving the nature of their bilateral relationships, maintaining a safe distance from the Primakov proposal

  • A start in 2002

But, this idea of a ‘strategic triangle’ took a tangible form when former Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, and India — Igor Ivanov, Tang Jiaxuan and Yashwant Sinha — met on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2002

  • Regular Feature now

Despite the fact that nothing concrete emerged out of that meeting, it represented the first major attempt by the three nations to deliberate on world affairs, and since then has become a regular feature of interactions among the three states. 

Different Expectations of each nation

The three nations had very different expectations from this trilateral 

Russia’s move against the US

  • Russia’s role was key as its loss of power and influence on the world scene was a major cause of concern for its leadership
  • Russia tried to establish itself as the hub of two bilateral security partnerships that could be used to counteract U.S. power and influence in areas of mutual concern.

China’s ally against US

  • China emerged as a rising power that saw the U.S. as the greatest obstacle, if it was to achieve a pre-eminent position in the global political hierarchy
  • As a consequence, China recognised the importance of cooperating with Russia to check U.S. expansionism in the world, even if only for the short term

American Policies brought both nations closer

In fact, American policies towards Russia and China moved the two states closer to each other, leading to the formation of a new balance of power against the U.S.

India’s stance

India, on the other hand, had different considerations, as it was still far from becoming a global power of any reckoning.

Way of bringing balance in the global order

India saw in the trilateral a mechanism to bring greater balance in the global order as it believed that a unipolar U.S.-dominated world was not in the best interests of weaker states like itself, even as strategic convergence deepened between Washington and Delhi. 

Strengthening of Bilateral Partnerships only

Moreover, all three countries realised the enormous potential in the economic, political, military and cultural realms if bilateral relationships among them were adequately strengthened.

No Major Outcomes of the Trilateral

It merely resulted in declarations which were often critical of the West, and of the U.S. in particular.

Changing bilateral relationships

Yet this was also a period which saw significant shifts in Indo-U.S. ties as bilateral relations expanded while Russian and Chinese links with the U.S. have witnessed a downward shift.

The Joint Declaration

The joint declaration of the recent trilateral meeting said: “Those committing, organising, inciting or supporting terrorist acts” must be held accountable and brought to justice under international law, including the principle of “extradite or prosecute.” 

Stopped Short

It stopped short of naming Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, something that India would have liked in line with the most recent BRICS declaration. 

Chinese resurgence affecting the arrangement

  • An arrangement that had started with an attempt to manage American unipolarity is now being affected fundamentally by Chinese resurgence
  • Both Russia and India are having to deal with the externalities being generated by China’s rise 

Multipolar world order

  • While Russia is getting closer to China, India is trying to leverage its partnership with other like-minded states in the wider Indo-Pacific region
  • As a multipolar world order takes shape, India will have to engage with multiple partners so as to limit bilateral divergences. 

Challenges

The Russia-India-China template comes with its own set of challenges

China’s Global Times, commenting on the recent trilateral, suggested that “the leaders of the three only meet with each other on international occasions,” adding, “this indicates it does not have high status in diplomacy and cannot bear more functions.”

India is capable of holding its own

  • While this may be true, New Delhi’s continued engagement with the duo suggests that India is today confident of setting its own agenda in various platforms
  • Just as China engages with the U.S. on the one hand and with Russia on the other, a rising India is quite capable of managing its ties with Washington, Beijing and Moscow simultaneously
  • It will not always be easy, but in an age when the certitudes of the past are fast vanishing, diplomacy will have to tread a complex path.

GS-3

Economy

Revival risks(The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

The Centre’s bid to dispel the pall of gloom over the economy has been helped in recent weeks by a sovereign rating upgrade from a global agency and a sharp improvement in India’s rank on a World Bank index for ease of doing business.

With prices rising and manufacturing slowing, the economy is still not out of the woods

The economy clocked a growth of 6.3% in the second quarter of this year, after slowing for at least four quarters.

Rising oil prices could pose a roadblock

But official data for the third quarter (October to December) so far suggest that the economy is still not entirely out of the woods and fresh headwinds, such as rising oil prices, could upset the fragile recovery 

Manufacturing growth driven restocking

Manufacturing growth, driven by restocking by producers after the rollout of the goods and services tax, was a major factor in the second quarter growth pick-up.

IIP slipped in October

After two months of robust 4%-plus growth, industrial activity however slipped in October, with the Index of Industrial Production reflecting just 2.2% growth. 

Performance of various sectors

  • October was a festive month but consumer durables production contracted by nearly 7%, mining was virtually stagnant, and manufacturing growth moderated to 2.5% from 3.8% last year
  • This coincides with exporters seeing a 1.1% slump in shipments in October, after growing at an average of over 13% in the second quarter
  • It is also borne out by the nearly 10% drop in GST collections that month compared to September

Slower Growth

The IIP has now grown just 2.5% in the first seven months of 2017-18, compared to 5.5% in the same period last fiscal.

Inflation rising

If the spectre of slower growth with weak exports at a time when global trade is recovering is not worrying enough, with job creation still to pick up, the latest inflation data set too is cause for concern

Prices at the consumer level rose at the fastest pace in 15 months this November, with inflation touching 4.88%, up from 3.6% in October and just 1.5% in June

This reflects a broad-based price rise under way, although it is led by fuel inflation (at 7.2%, from 6.1% a month ago) and food inflation (4.4%, from 1.9% in October)

Food prices shoot up

Within food, rising onion and tomato prices pushed vegetable inflation to a 16-month high of 22.5%; inflation in egg prices quickened from 0.8% in October to 8% in November.

Rise in Core Inflation

While some of this food inflation could wane in the coming months, there is greater concern about the rise in core inflation (excluding food and fuel) and inflation imported through high global prices

Oil Prices increasing

On Tuesday, oil prices breached the $65 a barrel mark for the first time in over two years.

Hard Choices

The government faces difficult choices

  • Slashing fuel taxes could calm inflation, but it would hit revenue collections that are already uncertain owing to GST deadline extensions
  • Not doing so would leave less room for the central bank to lower interest rates.
  • As the Economic Survey said, oil at $60-65 could hit consumption and public investment and dent private investment further. That is not a path to a sustained revival.

Aadhaar linking: CJI frowns upon hyperbole 

Context

Heading a five-judge Constitution Bench, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra refused to be moved by the “hyperbole and rhetorics” against Aadhaar linking.

SC Observed

Supreme Court had passed interim orders making Aadhaar voluntary before the Aadhaar Act came into existence in 2016.

139 Circulars

The Chief Justice’s remarks came on the first day of the Aadhaar hearing after senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair for petitioners, argued that despite repeated orders passed by the Supreme Court since 2014, the various agencies and government ministries have gone ahead to issue a whopping 139 circulars making Aadhaar mandatory for nursery admissions to welfare subsidies to student scholarships to CBSE and NEET exams — even for getting a death certificate or treatment for HIV.

Consistent stand

  • The Supreme Court had never flinched from its stand, taken consistently in its past interim orders, that Aadhaar should be “purely voluntary” till it took a decision on the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme one way or the other
  • These circulars were issued regardless of the fact that challenge against Aadhaar was still alive in the Supreme Court.
  • The series of government circulars making Aadhaar mandatory is in the teeth of the Supreme Court orders to continue Aadhaar as a voluntary exercise only for availing subsidies and “dimnishes the stature” of the highest court.

Government’s stance

Should it have come to the court everytime before notifying under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act?

Rights abrogated

Orders passed by the Supreme Court, including one by a Constitution Bench of the court in 2015, emphasising on the voluntary nature of Aadhaar was under Articles 32 and 142, using the court’s fundamental and extraordinary powers in the Constitution.

Protecting the citizen

The Supreme Court exercised judicial powers to insulate the citizen from parting with their fundamental right to privacy, dignity and voluntariness through state compulsion, force or coercion 

Fundamental rights abrogated

Fundamental rights of the citizen cannot be abrogated by the Aadhaar Act or any kind of legislation. It is against the rule of law and sanctity of judicial orders 

Overriding the court judgement?

How could the 139 circulars making Aadhaar linking mandatory override a judgment of a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upholding privacy as a fundamental right?

Beyond mere subsidies

Senior advocate argued that the circulars issued under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act have gone beyond mere subsidies. “In Chennai, Plus Two students require Aadhaar to attend their exams… you need Aadhaar to get a death certificate,” he submitted.

Article 144

Article 144 of the Constitution mandates the government to act in furtherance of Supreme Court orders, not against it

Data breaches

210 central websites have been breached, exposing the personal data of consumers who had linked Aadhaar.

No data protection law yet

Privacy is in peril if data is parted to telecoms. There is no data protection law in place till date

No remedy against data breach

  • Personal data given is not secured inherently
  • Data is not stored by the government, but outsourced to companies… American companies, who also supply to Pakistan
  • The individual has no remedy against data breach.

WTO meet ends without consensus: 

Context

Member countries fail to reach agreement on food security right, centrality of development.

Unable to reach an agreement

The December 10-13 meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s highest decision-making body in this ‘city of fair winds’ ended becalmed with the WTO’s 164 members unable to reach a consensus on substantive issues such as the food security right of developing countries and the centrality of development in multilateral trade negotiations.

But a Deal by 2019 on fishery subsidies

However, the Ministerial Conference managed to salvage a commitment from member nations to secure a deal by 2019 on banning certain forms of fisheries’ subsidies.

US blocked demands

During hectic parleys, the U.S. blocked the demands of more than a 100 developing nations, including India and China, to implement their food security programmes without onerous conditions

Every country important for a decision

Since all major decisions in the WTO need to be taken by ‘the membership as a whole’, even a single country can end up being the deal-breaker.

India held its ground

India, for its part, thwarted attempts by several countries, both developed and developing, to initiate binding discussions on what they called the 21st century challenges to trade — including e-commerce, investment facilitation and proposed norms for small firms

How?

This it did by refusing to budge from its position that members should first resolve outstanding issues (such as food sovereignty) of the ongoing Doha Round negotiations that began in 2001 with a ‘development agenda’ (for improving the trading prospects of developing nations), before considering ‘new issues’.

Don’t give up

Responding to a question from The Hindu on how the WTO would handle this failure, especially considering that some member nations had failed to comply with certain decisions that were part of previous Ministerial Declarations, Mr. Azevêdo said: “It is disappointing that in some areas, particularly where we had a [Ministerial] mandate as you pointed out, we could not get that outcome. But we don’t give up. We just continue. This is the nature of the multilateral system.”

No MC declaration

The meeting ended without a Ministerial Declaration as members could not agree on the centrality of development, which underlies the Doha Round, as well as special and differential treatment for all developing countries

Income share of top 1% surged: report 

Context

‘Inequality rose substantially since implementation of 80s’ deregulation reforms’.

World Inequality Report

Income inequality in India rose rapidly since the 1980s to a situation where the top 10% of the earners accounted for 56% of the income earned in 2014, according to a new report by economists, including Thomas Pickety and Lucas Chancel. 

Main points of the report

  • Inequality rose substantially since the 1980s following the implementation of the deregulation reforms by the government.
  • In 2014, the share of national income captured by India’s top 1% of earners was 22%, while the share of the top 10% of earners was around 56%
  • The top 0.1% of earners have continued to capture more growth than all those in the bottom 50% combined.
  • Rise in very top incomes
    • Indian inequality was driven by the rise in very top incomes
    • The income share of India’s top 1% rose from approximately 6% in 1982-1983 to above 10% a decade after, then to 15% by 2000, and further still to around 23% by 2014
    • The latest data thus shows that during the first decade after the millennium, the share of national income attributable to the top 1% grew to be larger than that pertaining to the bottom 50%
    • By 2014, the national income share of the bottom 50% — approximately 390 million adults — was just two-thirds of the share of the top 1%, consisting of just 7.8 million people.

‘Rising inequality’

“An even stronger increase in the share of national income was experienced by the top 0.1% and top 0.01%, whose shares grew fivefold and tenfold, respectively, from 2% and 0.5% to almost 10% and 5%, between 1983 and 2014 

Contrast with first 30 years following independence

According to the authors, this rising inequality is in sharp contrast to the trends seen in the 30 years following Independence, when income inequality was widely reduced and the incomes of the bottom 50% grew at a faster rate than the national average.

Why?

Socialist policies

  • After independence, [the then Prime Minister] Jawaharlal Nehru implemented a set of socialist policies, with strict government control over the economy, with an explicit goal to limit the power of the elite
  • The policies implemented by himself and his followers, including his daughter Indira Gandhi, up to the late 1970s, included nationalisations, strong market regulation and high tax progressivity.
  • These measure, and others, the report said, had a significant impact on reducing income inequality. 

Environment 

Haven’t declared Amarnath a silent zone, clarifies NGT: 

 Context

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday clarified its orders on ‘maintaining silence’ around the Amarnath shrine and said that its previous order had not been “correctly reported in different quarters”.

Only asked devotees to remain quiet in front of the shivling’

  • The only restriction that the Tribunal had placed and which is now reiterated to provide complete clarity is that the devotee or anyone standing in front of the Amarnath shivling shall maintain silence
  • Further, the Bench said the restrictions had been imposed keeping in mind the adverse effects that noise, heat and vibration can have on the natural formation.

One-way queue

  • Additionally, the Bench directed that a one-way queue of visitors had to be maintained at the shrine.
  • “On the last stairs, approximately 30 steps leading to the holy cave, it should be ensured that no person or pilgrim carries any material as it is already the practice of the Board,” said the Bench.
  • The NGT has directed all the authorities, including the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Amarnath Shrine Board, to comply with the orders. 

 Disaster Management

Whither disaster management after Ockhi? (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

More lives of fisherfolk would have been saved if disaster management action plans were implemented properly.

What is a Disaster?

  • A disaster is an event causing extreme disruption in a society’s functioning. It results in widespread human, material, and environmental losses which are beyond the ability of the affected people to cope with on their own
  • Most disasters — floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides — are due to nature’s fury. When a disaster causes death and destruction, it becomes a calamity beyond human endurance

Backdrop

  • This is what happened when cyclone Ockhi struck Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala on November 29th night and 30th morning.
  • As per the information given by fishermen associations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, over 120 fishermen are dead and about 900 are still missing
  • Fishermen who ventured out into the sea to help in rescue operations reportedly saw bloated bodies floating

Government in denial

  • The Tamil Nadu government continues to be in denial mode as far as the number of deaths is concerned, although there is some consensus on the number of people missing.
  • Cyclone Ockhi has left a massive trail of destruction in Kanniyakumari district.

Failure in damage control

There are three basic failings in the government’s response:

  • The cyclone warning was delayed
  • The warning, when it came, was ineffective because it could not be conveyed to thousands of fisherfolk who were already out at sea
  • Once the cyclone struck, there was no war-like mobilisation and action, which are the hallmarks of good disaster management. 

Timing of the forecast by IMD futile

  • Cyclone Ockhi’s devastation started within 12 hours of the first “rough seas” warning that was put out on November 29.
  • Such conditions may have deterred fisherfolk in other parts of Tamil Nadu, but not those in Kanniyakumari, which has among the highest density of fisherfolk in India
  • Given the limited quantity of fish in nearshore waters, many fisherfolk have diversified into deep-sea and long-distance fishing
  • Considering that their fishing voyages sometimes last from ten days to more than a month, the Indian Meteorological Department’s timing of the cyclone forecast was futile. 

Large numbers

The government’s own estimates suggest that 3,677 fishermen from Kanniyakumari and Kerala were lost in sea.

What should have been done

  • On November 30 morning, action plans should have kicked in and the Indian Coast Guard, with its seaborne vessels and helicopters, should have launched emergency search and rescue operations
  • Coast Guard ships should have taken along a few fishermen from the villages as navigation assistants (because they knew where to look for missingpeople) and should have intensely combed the area 

What happened instead?

  • Nothing of this sort happened, say fisherfolk in the worst-affected villages that the author visited: Neerodi, Marthandamthurai, Vallavillai, Eraviputhenthurai , Chinnathurai, Thoothoor, Poothurai, Enayamputhanthurai
  • The Coast Guard, they said, turned a deaf ear to their pleas
  • Even when the Coast Guard reluctantly moved with some fishermen on board, all it did was to go up to about 60 nautical miles and then stop saying that it cannot go beyond its jurisdiction.
  • Even so, the Indian Navy with its vast array of ships, aircraft and state-of-the-art technology should have stepped in immediately
  • This too did not happen. The resultant outcry forced Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to come to Kanniyakumari, conduct a review, and make some promises
  • A few days later, the government announced the rescue/recovery of several hundred mechanised/motorised fishing boats and over 3,000 fishermen who had landed on the coasts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala
  • While the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy staked claim to this “rescue” mission, the fishing community leaders say that all these boats and the fishermen drifted to the coast on their own.

Where is the Disaster Management?

What has happened to the National Disaster Management Act (2005), the National Policy on Disaster Management (2009), the National Disaster Management Plan (2016) and the National Disaster Response Force and infrastructure created thereof? Did the disaster management control room in Delhi function at all?

The need for compensation

The cyclone has also resulted in massive losses to the livelihoods of people living in the coasts due to the destruction of crops, banana, rubber, coconut and forest trees

Steps to take now

  • Relief and rehabilitation is going to be a monumental task and the State government alone cannot take the huge burden of providing a decent compensation to the victims of the cyclone.
  • This calls for the combined efforts of the Central and State government (departments of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries) and various departments (rubber board, coconut board, spices board, etc.)
  • To get things moving, the Central Relief Commissioner should immediately visit the district, make realistic assessments, and award reasonable compensation immediately.

Kalvari submarine a big step in defence preparedness: PM

Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally commissioned the first of six Scorpene diesel-electric submarines into the Navy on Thursday.

First of six scorpene-class diesel-electric vessels commissioned into the Navy

  • This is the Navy’s first modern conventional submarine in almost two decades since the INS Sindhushastra was procured from Russia in July 2000.
  • INS Kalvari is manned by a team of eight officers and 35 sailors

The Scorpene submarines

The Scorpene submarines can undertake different missions including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying and area surveillance 

“Khanderi” undergoing trials

The second of the Scorpenes, Khanderi, was launched in January 2017, and is undergoing sea trials

“Karanj” will soon be ready

The third, Karanj, is being readied for launch shortly.

Others in the pipeline too

The rest are in various stages of outfitting. The project is expected to be over by 2020.

What is a Scorpene

Scorpene is a conventional powered submarine weighing 1,500 tonnes and can go up to depths of 300m. It is built by DCNS of France.

The ongoing project

In October 2005, India had signed a USD 3.75 bn deal for six of submarines to be built by Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai with transfer of technology. Additional deals were signed with Thales and MBDA for systems and weapons.

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