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International relations:

Hasina inaugurates nuclear power plant construction (The Hindu)

Context

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated construction work on the much-awaited Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Ishwardi, located in the western part of the country

Addition of electricity to the grid

The plant is expected to add 2,400 MW of electricity to the national grid by 2024, helping the country meet its increasing demand for electricity

  • Implemented by: The mega project is being implemented by state-run Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission with financial and technological support from Russia through its state nuclear agency, Rosatom

India to participate?

There is a possibility that India will be participating in the project

  • No document is signed yet and it is under negotiation
  • Though India cannot directly take part in the construction of nuclear power plants — as it is not a member of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group — it has signed individual agreements with Bangladesh and Russia

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports. The group first met in London, hence, its also known by the name of London Club

  • Members: NSG consists of 48 members which include the five nuclear weapon states US, UK, France, China, and Russia. It is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding. Decisions, including on membership, are made by consensus

Why India wants an entry into NSG?

Membership of the NSG means:

  1. Access to technology for a range of uses from medicine to building nuclear power plants for India from the NSG. India has its own indigenously developed technology but to get its hands on state of the art technology that countries within the NSG possess, it has to become part of the group
  2. Help in scaling up nuclear power production: With India committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources, there is a pressing need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG. Even if India today can buy power plants from the global market thanks to the one time NSG waiver in 2008, there are still many types of technologies India can be denied as it is outside the NSG
  3. India could sign the Non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and gain access to all this know-how but that would mean giving up its entire nuclear arsenal. Given that it is situated in an unstable and unpredictable neighbourhood India is unlikely to sign the NPT or accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that puts curbs on any further nuclear tests
  4. Commercialization of nuclear power: With access to latest technology, India can commercialize the production of nuclear power equipment. This, in turn will boost innovation and high tech manufacturing in India and can be leveraged for economic and strategic benefits

For example:

Indo-Lanka cooperation: India has signed a civil nuclear energy co-operation pact with Sri Lanka. Currently, this entails training people in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including use of radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety, nuclear security, radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation

Should India get access to advanced nuclear technologies, it can start building updated versions of its own fast breeder reactor and sell it to countries such as Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. Bangladesh is currently looking at buying Russian reactors for power generation

  1. A boost to Make in India: Having the ability to offer its own nuclear power plants to the world means spawning of an entire nuclear industry and related technology development. This could give the Make in India programme a big boost
  2. Blocking entry of Pakistan:Should India get membership to the NSG, it can block Pakistan from its membership as entry into the grouping is by consensus only. This is one of the reasons why China is pushing to include Pakistan as well as pointing out that India as a non-signatory to the NPT cannot be a member

Why India’s position is strong and it is likely to get a NSG membership in future?

An impeccable record: India’s contention is that its nuclear technologies are indigenously developed and it has a clean non-proliferation record unlike Pakistan whose non-proliferation record was tainted with the revelations that its nuclear scientist A.Q Khan sold nuclear technologies to countries such as North Korea. China’s non-proliferation record too is tainted with allegations that it has helped Pakistan on the sly, but given its economic clout the country is unlikely to attract sanctions.

Doklam is in our area, says China (The Hindu)

Context

Doklam issue

What has happened?

Chinese military has hinted at maintaining sizeable presence of its troops near the area of Doklam standoff during winter, asserting that the region is in Chinese territory

Backdrop

India and China resolved the 73-day tense standoff on August 28 at Doklam after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stopped building a strategic road close to India’s narrow Chicken Neck area connecting north-eastern States

  • India objected to the road building by the PLA, saying that it endangered the security of the narrow corridor
  • Bhutan also claims the Doklam area to be its part
  • According to official accounts, both China and India in the past used to withdraw troops from the advanced regions of that area during the winter which is harsh

Doklam standoff

Where is it?

Doklam is a tri-junction between India, China, and Bhutan, where the road construction activities of China were strongly objected by the Indian armed forces. As per the mutual understanding of India and Bhutan, both the nations consider this area as a Bhutanese territory. But China claims that the tri junction between the three nations should be on the south side of the plateaus.

 

Doklam& the tri-junction

Bhutan’s stand

Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry called it a “direct violation” of agreements reached in 1988 and 1998 to maintain peace and refrain from unilateral action in the area pending a final border settlement

Chinese claim

China claimed that India’s border guards, in responding to Bhutan’s call for help, had “illegally trespassed the boundary into Chinese territory” when they confronted the Chinese army construction team

Strategic importance of Doklam for India

For India, securing the Doklam Plateau is seen as essential to maintaining its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States.

  • India has said the Chinese road project threatens its access to the corridor, while China has questioned why India should even have a say in a matter that concerns only Beijing and Bhutan

India-China disputed borders

Background

  • China has been frustrated with India’s refusal to sign onto a massive effort to build railways, ports and roads reaching from Asia to Europe and the Middle East. The project includes a China-Pakistan economic development programme aimed at absorbing as much as $46 billion in investment, most of it from Chinese banks
  • China also has complained bitterly for decades over India’s accepting the Dalai Lama as a refugee in 1959. The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader has kept his headquarters in northern India since fleeing Chinese-ruled Tibet.

Here is a timeline of events chronicling how the situation unfolded:

June 16 – The Indian Army intercepts and stalls road-laying efforts by the Chinese in the Doka La area of the Doklam plateau, leading to a standoff between units of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China. There is dispute over the plateau, which is just north of the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet

June 20 – The Bhutanese envoy in New Delhi registers protest against Chinese intervention into its territory

June 23 – China refuses entry to pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar — a site considered holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains — citing damage to roads due to rains in Tibet

June 28 – The Chief of the Army Staff, BipinRawat, visits Sikkim to take stock of the situation

June 29 – China tests a 35-tonne military tank in Tibet, near the Indian border

July 6 – China calls off a meeting between Premier Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 meet, saying the “atmosphere was not right.”

July 18 – Chinese foreign ministry asks India to immediately withdraw its troops to avoid any escalation of the situation. India should not use “trespass” into the Doklam area in the Sikkim sector as a “policy tool” to achieve its “political targets”, said Chinese officials

July 22 – India and China should engage in direct dialogue free of any “coercive aspects” to reduce the tension over a military standoff in Doklam, the Pentagon says

July 27 – The Air Force station at Panagarh in Bardhaman district gets its first set of multi-skilled transport aircraft C-130J Super Hercules manufactured by Lockheed Martin of the United States. Officials say the deployment at the strategically important air base has nothing to do with the Doklam standoff. National Security Adviser AjitDoval holds talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jichei, covering “bilateral issues and major problems.”

July 31 – Chinese border guards enter one kilometre into Indian territory and threaten shepherds grazing cattle in the Barahoti area of Uttarakhand’sChamoli district.

August 3 – India must withdraw its troops on the Doklam plateau or face ”serious consequences”, says a senior Chinese diplomat in New Delhi. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tells  the Rajya Sabha that “war was not a solution,” referring to the stand-off with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army at Doklam, adding that “wisdom was to resolve issues diplomatically.”

August 4 – China says it has shown “utmost goodwill” over the prolonged military standoff with India in the Sikkim sector but warned that its “restraint” has a “bottom line“.

August 9 – Defence Minister ArunJaitley tells the Rajya Sabha that the armed forces were strong enough to meet any challenge to the country’s security, underlining that lessons had been learnt from the 1962 war. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama describes India and China as close neighbours but cautioned against “harsh words.”

August 17 – State-run media house Xinhua releases a video in English, entitled “The Seven Sins of India”, which accuses India of “trampling international law” and “confusing right and wrong” over the Doklam crisis. A video surfaces of the August 15 skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops by the Pangonglake in Ladakh. However, shots were not fired, and the brawl was restricted to fisticuffs and stone-throwing

August 18 – Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu makes comments supporting India’s position on Doklam. Japan and China are locked in a stalemate over eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China is also involved in territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea

August 25 – China agrees to tackle trade imbalance. Beijing says it does not want Doklam stand-off to hurt trade and promises to send a delegation to India by December to help build trade ties

August 28 – India and China mutually agree to de-escalate tensions in the Doklam plateau, bringing putative closure to the dispute that created fears of outright armed conflict between the two nuclear weapon states

Such a strange silence: India’s stand on the Rohingya crisis (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

India’s reticence on the Rohingya crisis undermines its democracy and global standing

What has happened?

The Pope has been in South Asia this week, with the focus of his stops in Bangladesh and Myanmar on the reconciliation and rehabilitation of more than 836,000 Rohingya (including 623,000 since August, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration) who have fled gruesome violence in Myanmar

Multiple foreign visits

Author states that many foreign leaders have visited refugee camps in Bangladesh

  • The U.S. sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Myanmar
  • The British and Canadian international development ministers
  • Singapore’s Foreign Minister has made trips to Naypyidaw and Dhaka, exploring a role for ASEAN countries to help in the crisis
  • Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali took the European Union’s Foreign Affairs High Representative along with the German, Swedish and Japanese Foreign Ministers for a survey of the refugee camps

Has any Indian leader visited the camps?

No

China’s mediation

In a rare shift of position from not involving itself in the internal politics of another country, China decided to play a mediatory role in the issue, and its Foreign Minister went to Dhaka to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on November 18, and then to Naypyidaw to meet President HtinKyaw

  • 3-phase solution: Within days, Bangladesh and Myanmar announced an agreement to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees back to Rakhine province in about two months, as part of what Chinese foreign minister called a three-phase solution

India: A silent neighbor

Author points out that as the subcontinent’s biggest nation and neighbour to both Bangladesh & Myanmar, as well as the country most likely to be affected if the numbers of Rohingya refugees continue to grow, India in fact should be showing the most initiative in this crisis

Blunders by India

Author states that India until now has failed to handle this issue appropriately all the while committing blunders along the way

  • Refusal to acknowledge the crisis: Indian PM, during his visit to Myanmar, refused to refer to the Rohingya in his press statements in Naypyidaw in early September. Nor did India refer to anything other than the terror strike by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army while discussing the violence in Rakhine. It wasn’t until two days later, and after some prodding from Ms. Hasina, that the Indian foreign office even issued a statement of concern over the refugee crisis
  • Refusal to endorse Bali declaration: In Bali, India refused to endorse a 50-nation parliamentarian conference’s declaration because it referenced the Rohingya. Every other South Asian country, including Buddhist-majority Bhutan and Sri Lanka, endorsed the Bali declaration

India: Holding back

India, which has a tradition of rushing humanitarian aid and medical assistance, doctors and volunteers to other nations — for example, after the 2004 tsunami, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar, and the 2015 Nepal earthquake — has been seen to visibly hold back during the Rohingya crisis

Position at UN: Allowing other countries to take lead
At the UN too, India’s voice has been consistently muted, ceding space to other countries to take the lead on the issue

  • The U.K., for example, hosted a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with Myanmar’s National Security Adviser and Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, attended by senior officials from Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and the U.S
  • Abstention by India: At the UNGA’s Third Committee vote, India abstained on a resolution calling for an end to military action, one of 26 abstentions on the proposal to send a UN fact-finding mission to Myanmar — 135 countries voted in favour of the resolution. While India’s vote is consistent with its position on interventionist resolutions, it doesn’t mark itself out for principled leadership of any kind. If anything, the votes have had a bearing on India’s standing in Bangladesh, one of its closest allies in the region, whose leadership is struggling to cope with the flow of refugees as Ms. Hasina braces for a tough election next year

The Impact

All of India’s actions since the outbreak of this round of violence in Myanmar have negated its position as a regional, subcontinental and Asian leader

What should be done now?

  • Put concerns about repatriation on hold: Firstly the impression that the government’s decision to push out nearly 40,000 Rohingya living in India since 2012 is guided by its domestic political compulsions is not conducive to India’s international ambitions. Therefore, it may be necessary for India to put its own concerns about repatriation on hold until it is able to work with both Bangladesh and Myanmar on the issue, preferably in a trilateral format. This should have been easier for India than for China, given it already works with them on regional issues as a part of BIMSTEC
  • Proper refugee policy: Even though it is not a signatory to any UN refugee convention, India has a proud tradition of giving a home to neighbors in distress:
    • from Tibetans in 1960s to East Pakistanis in the 1970s, from Sri Lankans in the 1980s to the Afghans in the 1990s
    • More recently, the Indian government even changed its long-term visa rules to help minorities fleeing violence from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan

If India now says it cannot help Rohingya, who are a minority in Myanmar, it is either saying that Rohingya are not Myanmarese or that Myanmar is not a neighbour, both of which contradict previous positions. India also has a unique position as a country that is home to every religion practised in the region and must play to this strength

Conclusion

India, which has high stakes in global and regional governance, must ensure its voice is heard on the Rohingya crisis. Mumbling as part of a chorus while one of the biggest human tragedies is unfolding across two of India’s borders does not suit a nation with global leadership aspirations

Indian Constitution and Polity:

SC junks Centre’s plea for more time to publish draft NRC in Assam (Indian Express)

Context

The Registrar General of Citizen Registration had sought more time and Attorney General K KVenugopal had backed the request

What has happened?

The Supreme Court has rejected the Centre’s plea for more time to publish the draft National Register for Citizens (NRC) for Assam and said it will be published after midnight on December 31

SC’sresponse to the request

The court slammed the request for more time saying “it is the sheer inaction on the part of the executive in dragging the matter for a period of over three years and the absence of any justifiable cause to hold back even a partial publication that has led the Court to direct publication of the draft NRC on or before 31st December, 2017

Attorney general’s position

The Attorney General said part publication of the draft NRC could result in a law and order situation as a large segment of the people would understand their names have been excluded

Present situation wrt claims

In the application seeking extension, Registrar General of Citizen Registration added that the,

  • The claims remaining to be verified are of 38 lakh persons where doubts have arisen in respect of documents and particulars
  • 47 lakh where doubts have arisen over parental linkage, and 29 lakh cases kept in abeyance of married women who submitted Panchayat Secretary Certificate

Should Padmavati be screened? (The Hindu)

Context

Different views are presented as to whether Padmavati be screened or not?

YES

Authenticity of Padmavati

Author states that for all we know, Padmini or Padmavati is a fictional character, created by the Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in the 16th century. While AlauddinKhilji’s siege of Chittor in 1303 is a historical event, the legend of Padmini has little historical evidence and most modern historians have rejected its authenticity

Judging even before viewing

Nobody except its maker or the scriptwriter knows what the film is about. How can passers-by decide that it should not be shown to the people?

Censor issues

  • Committee formed: A committee headed by ShivaramKaranth was formed in 1979 to advise the government on the film industry and how quality of films could be ensured
  • Author’s stance: Author who himself was a member of the above committee, alond with few other members, had decided that censor is a shame and should be done away with
  • Other’s view: Other members requested them to not to recommend scrapping of censorship as the censor certificate was what saved them whenever someone went to court against their big-budget films

No provision to ban

There is no provision for banning a film in the certification rules. The rules are only meant to classify films into various categories. We are now witnessing a furore over a film that has not been censored or seen by the people. This is a dangerous trend and cannot be permitted if we value the core principles of democracy

NO

Impact of myth

Author states that even if we consider it to be a myth, the story of Padmini has survived in literature and folklore, and has been received by people over centuries as a saga of courage. Socially speaking, such inspirations are beacons for society as it marches onwards

Freedom

  • Author states that voices demanding for an unrestricted freedom of expression suffer from a major contradiction. Do they allow the same unfettered freedom against themselves or fight for it consistently? We have examples of denial of freedom of expression to Salman Rushdie and TaslimaNasreen, who have been hounded for long for their views. How is it that Rushdie’s freedom is no freedom for these people while Sanjay LeelaBhansali’s is?
  • While resorting to the oft-repeated pretext of safeguarding ‘freedom of expression’, attempts are being made to deprive a community of its hitherto received cultural memory

Conclusion

Oral traditions, literature and folklore play an important role in the life of a community. Attempts to distort that understanding through a powerful medium like a film may hurt sensibilities, thus creating law and order problems. To ignore the profound impact traditions have on the life of the people may lead to avoidable disturbances and chaos

IT’S COMPLICATED

Intervention of social media

Until now our cinema has been seen as a space where screenwriters expressed their imaginations on-screen and the audience carried on their discussions/ debates in their independent private spaces off-screen

  • So far, this was seen under the aegis of a constitutional right called freedom of expression which was also concomitant with the freedom to agree/disagree or even offend. But the intervention of modern social media seems to have changed the entire scenario
  • It’s strange that a small outfit from Jaipur called KarniSena claiming they represent all Rajputs could manage to garner so much attention across India. They reach millions instantly through social media with their vitriolic statements

Questions need answering

It is more complicated than merely stating that the film should be released immediately. There are several questions that need to be answered

  • Why have historians not come out into the open and publicly stated that this controversy is baseless since there is no historical proof of Padmavati ever having existed?
  • Or have we, as Indian citizens, actually accepted myths, legends and folktales as lawful historical references?
  • Why is Prasoon Joshi, our Censor Board chief, the lyricist who wrote all the rebellious songs for Rang De Basanti, keeping quiet?
  • When the nation has not cared to include filmmaking as a valid industrial/academic activity, how does one expect people to acknowledge cinema as a fine art?

Film-making: Not so respectable

Author states that film-making is still not considered a cultured or respectable art form. To change that,

  • Film studies should be included as part of school curriculum. IITs and engineering colleges should include film technology as a specialised vocational pursuit. That is the only way to make this profession of filmmaking respectable

Responsibility without power (Indian Express)

Context

That the government in Delhi is elected yet circumscribed points to a constitutional anomaly. Apex court should correct it

Article 239 AA

Author states that the problem of jurisdictional conflicts between Delhi’s elected government and the lieutenant governor (LG) is attributable to the conundrum called Article 239 AA of the Indian Constitution

  • Special constitutional set up: Incorporated in the Constitution in 1992, it creates a “special” constitutional set up for Delhi. A popularly elected assembly, a council of ministers responsible to the assembly, a certain demarcation of responsibilities between the LG and the council of ministers, a method for resolving the difference of opinion between the council of ministers and the LG are the main features of this arrangement

Changed circumstances

Author states that the above set up works well only when there is same government in Delhi & Centre. With AAP forming government in Delhi, the difficulties began to emerge

HC’s judgement

The Delhi High Court judgment declared that the LG is the only decision-making authority in the National Capital Territory

Present situation

Presently, the Supreme Court is looking into the powers of the elected government and those of the LG.

  • Issues: There are two main issues:
  1. Whether the elected government is the final authority in respect of matters assigned to it by the Constitution?
  2. Whether the LG has primacy when a difference of opinion arises between him and his council of ministers on matters of governance?

Key difference

Author mentions that the Article 239 AA, though claimed to be a special provision meant for Delhi, in fact, contains most of the provisions of the Government of Union Territory Act, 1963

  • Demarcation of responsibilities: The difference is in the demarcation of responsibilities between the elected government and Delhi’s LG
    • As per Article 239 AA (3) (a), the Delhi assembly can legislate on all those matters listed in the State List and Concurrent List as are applicable to union territories, excluding public order, police and land. These three items are reserved for the LG
    • Under Article 239 AA (4), the council of ministers has the executive power to execute all matters in respect of which the assembly has the power to make laws

Article 239 AB (a)

Article 239 AB (a) which says “if the administration of the National Capital Territory cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of Article 239 AA,” the president can dismiss the council of ministers

  • The council of ministers is responsible for Delhi’s administration and if it fails in its functions, it will be removed by the president. But the council of ministers cannot be removed for the breakdown of the constitutional machinery unless they are vested with the power to take final decisions on matters of administration

Article 239 AA (b)

Article 239 AA (b) says that the council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the assembly. But if the council of ministers is not the final decision maker what will it be accountable for? The president intervenes in Delhi’s administration on a report from the LG saying that the administration cannot be carried on. If the LG administers himself, how can he report to the president that he has failed? It is also absurd to think that the council of ministers will be removed for the failure of the LG

Referral to the president

The other issue relates to the right of the LG to disagree with the council of ministers on any matter and refer it to the president

  • A rival political party running the government at the Centre would be the surest guarantee that the LG will disagree with most of the decisions of the government of Delhi, bringing governance to a standstill
  • Such a provision virtually nullifies the executive power vested in the council of ministers under clause 4. It cannot be the intention of the lawmakers to take away the powers vested in the elected government and establish the primacy of the LG as the purpose of the constitutional amendment was to provide a democratic government for Delhi and not to enhance the powers of the LG

Clause 4

Clause (4) deals with the exercise of power by the LG on the aid and advice of the council of ministers as well as the exercise of discretionary powers without such aid and advice. When these powers are exercised, there is a likelihood of conflicts between the council of ministers and the LG on the scope of the matters in the discretionary list and the other list. It is only reasonable to refer such matters to a higher authority like the president

  • But in regard to other matters of governance, the council of ministers should be left free to exercise the executive power as contemplated in Clause (4) of Article 239 AA

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that since the lawmakers retained the confusion in the text of Article 239 AA (4) it may be a fit case for the Supreme Court to read down the provision to mean that the LG would refer to the president only matters concerning conflict of opinion on items reserved for the LG and those assigned to the assembly

Social Issues:

Buried in the rankings din (Indian Express)

Context

Article is about the Global Gender Gap report 2017

Miscellaneous

  • Improved investor rating: The credit rating company, Moody’s, has upgraded India’s investment ranking from the lowest to one notch up
  • Rise in Ease of doing business ranking: India rose 30 spots in “Ease of Doing Business” rankings, from 130 to 100

Global Gender Gap Report

  • Published by: World Economic Forum (WEF)
  • The Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment
  • India’s position: India slipped 21 places in this ranking compared to last year, to 108th place, behind neighbors China and Bangladesh

Why did this not generate commensurate analysis and introspection?

Probably because of the belief that the ease of doing business has direct consequences for economic growth and material welfare, whereas gender rankings are more about fairness, equity, or empowerment — warm-glow concepts that are difficult to define and change

Global Gender Gap Index

The Global Gender Gap Index, which was first introduced in 2006, is a combination of four different sub-indices, each summarizing multiple indicators

  • Lies b/w 0 & 1:The index lies between 0 and 1, with 1 denoting complete parity
  • Focusses on women’s relative position wrt men: It is important to note that this index focuses on gender gaps, and not on whether “women are winning the battle of the sexes”, that is, the focus is on the position of women relative to men (that is, gender equality), rather than to their absolute position (that is, women’s empowerment)
  • The idea is to track changes in gender gaps both over time and across countries
  • Emphasizes on few key measures: It doesn’t include everything that matters for gender equality, but focuses only on a few key measures. Thus, it should not be seen as a comprehensive text on gender equality, but as a useful pointer or a highlighter of key summary statistics that can be reliably measured and tracked

What does the above table shows?

The table shows the values of the overall index, as well as the four sub-indices, and India’s rank in a set of 144 countries in each of these for 2016 and 2017

Observations: Gender gap worsened

Overall, we see that India’s position has slipped by 21 points despite the fact that the value of the index has fallen marginally. This slide in India’s position reflects that gender gaps in India on these dimensions have worsened, both over time and relative to other countries (that is, other countries have done better)

Components responsible

Author mentions that the two subcomponents of the index that account for this slide over time are

  • Economic participation and opportunity: It further includes 3 indicators,
    1. The participation gap (difference in labour force participation between men and women)
    2. The remuneration gap (captured by a hard data statistic of ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income, as well as a qualitative indicator about wage equality for similar work)
    3. The advancement gap (measured through two hard data statistics: Ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers)
  • Political empowerment: This measure identifies gender gaps in the highest level of political decision-making, and includes the ratio of women to men among ministers, among parliamentarians, and in terms of years in executive office (president or prime minister) over the last 50 years

Performance of SE Asia region

South Asia as a region has the second lowest value of the index. In other words, the region is marked by low gender equality

India has worsened in

  • Political empowerment, as well as in the share of managers, legislators, technical and professional workers
  • It continues to lag behind in terms of gender gaps in the health indicators

India has progressed in

India’s progress in the educational indicators has been good, in that

  • It has succeeded in closing the gaps in primary and secondary education enrollment, and has almost closed the gaps in tertiary enrollment as well

Lessons from Bangladesh

In South Asia, Bangladesh has a much better ranking than India at number 47, with lower gender gaps than even the US, which is at number 49. Bangladesh has continued to lower gender gaps on all indicators, defying the usual stereotypes associated with religion and poverty

Significance

What is significant about this particular ranking is that it is compiled by the World Economic Forum, a Swiss organisation, which engages the “foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Could this be because gender gaps matter for business and growth?

Observations

Report states that,

  • Losing out on talent: Talent is important for competitiveness and to find the best talent, everyone should have equal opportunity: When women and girls are not integrated, the global community loses out on skills, ideas and perspectives that are critical for addressing global challenges and harnessing new opportunities
  • Economic cost of gender gap: An OECD estimate reveals that gender-based discrimination in social institutions could cost up to $12 trillion for the global economy, and that a reduction in gender discrimination can increase the rate of growth of GDP

Conclusion

As we celebrate the rise in the ease of doing business rankings, it is critical to remind ourselves that success and competitiveness of business depends as critically on gender equality, as on tax reforms and infrastructure development.

Delhi tops crime chart among metro cities (The Hindu)

Context

Article talks about the latest data released by National Crime Records Bureau. It focusses on the data wrt Delhi

Crime in Delhi

  • Despite the marginal dip it witnessed in crime against women, Delhi continued to record the highest number of such cases in 2016 among metropolitan cities
  • The city ranked no. 1 in terms of crime rate that accounts for 33.1% share among metropolitan cities when it comes to women’s safety
  • Delhi accounted for the maximum number of rape cases among 19 major cities, at 40%. The figures for ‘cruelty by husband and his relatives’ and ‘dowry deaths’ stood respectively at 29% each
  • Marginal decrease in crime against women: Overall, crimes against women in Delhi only marginally decreased from 17,222 cases in 2015 to 15,310 in 2016
  • In year 2016, Delhi accounted 2,155 cases of rape, 669 cases of stalking and 41 cases of voyeurism, followed by Mumbai where 359 cases of stalking and 28 cases of voyeurism were reported

Spurt in rape cases, with M.P., U.P. leading the table (The Hindu)

Context

Latest data released by NCRB

Data

  • Increase in crime against women: There was an increase of 2.6% in crimes in 2016 compared to the previous year
    • Highest in UP: Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of heinous crimes such as murder and those against women in 2016
    • Uttar Pradesh registered 14.5% (49,262) of the total cases of crime against women, followed by West Bengal 9.6% (32,513 cases) in 2016
  • Increase in rape cases: Rape cases recorded an increase of 12.4% from 34,651 cases in 2015 to 38,947 in 2016. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh reported the maximum cases of rape at 4,882 (12.5%) and 4,816 (12.4%), followed by Maharashtra 4,189 cases (10.7%)
  • U.P. recorded 9.5 % of the total cases of crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), followed by Madhya Pradesh (8.9 %), Maharashtra (8.8 %) and Kerala (8.7%)
  • A total of 48,31,515 cognizable crimes comprising 29,75,711 Indian Penal Code crimes and 18,55,804 special and local laws crimes were reported in 2016, showing an increase of 2.6% over 2015 (47,10,676 cases)
  • Crime against children: The total number of crimes against children in 2016 was 1,06,958, which is 13.6% more than 2015 (94,172 cases)
  • Juvenile: Cases reported under juveniles in conflict with the law have shown a mixed trend for the past three years with the decline of 13.1 % in 2015 (33,433 cases) over 2014 (38,455 cases), followed by an increase of 7.2 % in 2016 (35,849) over 2015.

Data on fake notes

For the first time, the NCRB included data on the seizure of fake Indian currency notes in its report

  • In 2016, a total of 2,81,839 fake notes with a face value of ₹15,92,50,181 were seized. Around 40% of these fake notes were seized from Delhi, followed by Gujarat (39,725 notes with a face value of ₹2,37,24,050) and West Bengal (32,869 notes having a face value of ₹2,32,95,800)

Atrocities against SCs

  • Increased by 5.5%: Atrocities against Scheduled Castes have increased by 5.5 % (40,801 cases) in 2016 over 2015 (38,670 cases)
  • Highest in UP: Uttar Pradesh (10,426 cases) reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes, accounting for 25.6 % of total cases, followed by Bihar with 14 % (5,701 cases) and Rajasthan with 12.6 % (5,134 cases) in 2016

Atrocities against STs

  • Increased by 4.7%: Atrocities against Scheduled Tribes have increased by 4.7 % in 2016 (6,568 cases) over 2015 (6,276 cases)
  • Highest in MP: Madhya Pradesh (1,823 cases) reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes accounting for 27.8 % of total such cases, followed by Rajasthan 18.2 % (1,195 cases) and Odisha 10.4 % (681 cases) in 2016

Riots

Decrease in riot cases: The cases of riots reported in 2016 were down by 5% compared to 2015

  • A total of 61,974 cases of riots and group clashes took place in the country in 2016 compared to 65,255 the previous year
  • Highest in Bihar: The highest – 11,617 cases – were registered in Bihar, 8,018 in Uttar Pradesh and 7,898 in Maharashtra

Custodial deaths

As many as 60 cases of custodial deaths or disappearance from lock-ups were reported in 2016 of which 12 were in Maharashtra, nine each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, five in Madhya Pradesh, four in Punjab, three each in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh and two in Rajasthan

Protecting children from ‘abduction’ (The Hindu)

Context

Article focusses on The Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016

Need

  • Over three crore Indians living abroad have cross-border marriages. When such a diverse family unit breaks down, children suffer as they are dragged into an international legal battle between their parents
  • Children are “abducted” by one parent and taken to a country with a different culture. This can be traumatic as they are also cut off from the other parent. The Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016 seeks to address the issue

Hague Convention

Law commission has framed the draft of the bill which is in sync with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980

  • Convention seeks to protect a child from the harmful effect of wrongful removal and secure prompt return and reintegration of the child in an environment of his/her ‘habitual residence

Features of the bill

  • Defining wrongful removal or retention: The Bill defines ‘wrongful removal or retention’ as an act in breach of custody to a person or an institution or any other body under the law of the country in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention
  • Applicable to children under 16 years: The Commission proposes to apply the law to those wrongfully removed or retained children in India who have not completed 16 years.
  • Establishment of a central authority:The Bill recommends the setting up of a Central Authority tasked with discovering the whereabouts of the child

The Authority will further act to

  • Prevent harm to the child
  • Secure the voluntary return of the child to his or her habitual residence
  • Exchange information relating to the child with the appropriate authorities of the contracting state
  • Institute judicial proceedings in the High Court concerned to secure the return of the child, provide free legal aid advice
  • Make administrative arrangements for the return of the child

Court can order return of the child in following cases:

  • The court can order the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained in India and if a period of one year has not elapsed from the date of removal or retention. However, the one-year cap is not final
  • The court can order return if it is established that the child is not settled in his/her new environment. It can refuse to order return if returning would expose the child to harm or if the child, on attaining an age and level of maturity, refuses to go back, among other conditions.

Many cybercrime cases not investigated (The Hindu)

Context

NCRB data on cybercrime& crimes against state

Data on Cybercrime

  • Lack of investigation: More than 12,000 incidents of cybercrime were reported in 2016, but nearly the same number of such crimes carried forward from the previous years had not been investigated
  • Increase of 6.3%: In 2016, 12,317 such incidents were reported and in 2015 the figure stood at 11,592, a jump of 6.3%
  • Highest in UP: Uttar Pradesh with 2,639 cases reported the highest number of incidents accounting for 21.4%, followed by Maharashtra with 2,380, Karnataka 1,101 and Rajasthan 941cases

Motives of cybercrime:

  • Illegal gain (5,987 incidents) and revenge (1,056) were the two top motives that accounted for cybercrimes
  • Sexual exploitation (686), insulting the modesty of women (569) and causing disrepute (448) constituted 13% of the crimes
  • There were 40 cases that were done with a “political” motive
  • 14 cases pertained to sale and purchase of illegal drugs
  • There were 149 cases of inciting crimes against a community
  • Three cases of inciting hate crimes against the country

Data on crimes against state

  • Tamil Nadu topped the list when it came to booking people for committing crimes against the State, which includes cases of sedition
  • Of the 6,986 cases registered in 2016, 1,827 or 26% cases were reported from Tamil Nadu, followed by U.P. 1,414, Haryana 1,286 and Assam 343 cases
  • Under the Official Secrets Act, 30 cases were reported
  • 922 cases were registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act
  • Highest in Meghalaya: Meghalaya with 42 cases registered the most number of cases under Sections pertaining to sedition and waging war against the country

Dealing with data (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

The dawn of the information age opened up great opportunities for the beneficial use of data. It also enhanced the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data

Underlying debate

Author states that the dawn of the information age opened up great opportunities for the beneficial use of data. It also enhanced the dangers of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data

Unauthorised leaks, hacking and other cybercrimes have rendered data bases vulnerable.

  • But it is the conflict between the massive scope for progress provided by the digital era and the fear of loss of individual autonomy that is inherent in any debates about data protection laws

White paper

It is against this backdrop that the White Paper was made public by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee to elicit views from the public on the shape and substance of a comprehensive data protection law

Two approaches

Author states that data protection law can be based on following two approaches,

  • European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, 2016: You can read more about it here
  • American model: In this model the norms are stringent for government departments processing personal information, while private entities have to abide by the norms of giving notice and receiving consent

Data protection in India

India does not have a separate law for data protection. Following safeguards exist,

  • Section 43A of the Information Technology Act provides a measure of legal protection of personal information
  • In 2012, the Justice A.P. Shah Committee recommended a set of principles for a legal framework for protecting privacy. Drawn from OECD guidelines, these principles were centred on sufficient notice and disclosure to citizens when data are collected, limitations on data collection and use, and norms related to data security and accountability
  • The Srikrishna Committee has also flagged seven major principles
    • It wants the law to be technology-agnostic (cynical of the technology) and enshrine the principle of informed consent
    • It favors data minimization and accountability of those who process and control data
    • It privileges a holistic approach as the law would apply to both government and private entities, but with “differential obligations”

Conclusion

It is legitimate to collect personal data in the public interest, but this information should be protected and used only for the purposes it was collected. Above all, the law must provide for a suitably empowered statutory authority to enforce its promised protection to citizens’ data


GS-3


Economy:

GDP growth rebounds to 6.3% in September quarter (The Hindu)

Context

India’s economy regained momentum in the September quarter as the manufacturing sector shrugged off any teething impact from the July 1 implementation of the Goods and Services Tax to propel gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 6.3%

Recovery

  • GDP growth in 2nd quarter: GDP growth recovered in the second fiscal quarter (July, Aug, Sept) from a three-year low of 5.7% in the preceding three-month period, while Gross Value Added (GVA) growth accelerated to 6.1% from 5.6% in the first quarter
  • This quarter’s positive result has been impacted significantly by growth in manufacturing
  • The manufacturing sector expanded by 7% in the quarter, a robust acceleration from 1.2% in the first quarter. Still, the pace was slower than the 7.7% seen in the second quarter of 2016-2017

Slowdown

  • GDP growth for the first half of the financial year (April-September) was 6% compared with 7.7% in the year-earlier period. GVA growth was at 5.8% compared with 7.2% over the same period

Agriculture: Worst performer

  • The sector that has performed worse is agriculture, which grew at 1.7% in 2nd Quarter. The performance in the agriculture sector has been held up by the non-crop sector. This year’s crop production, while higher than the five-year average, is lower than last year, which saw a strong growth
  • The agriculture sector grew by 2.3% in the first quarter, and by 4.1% in the year-earlier period

Improvement in GFCF

  • Gross Fixed Capital formation refers to the net increase in physical assets (investment minus disposals) within the measurement period. It does not account for the consumption (depreciation) of fixed capital, and also does not include land purchases
  • It grew by 4.7% in the second quarter compared with 1.6% in the first quarter

Slowdown in services sector

There has been a slowdown in the services sector, especially finance, transport, and hotels, all of which saw growth slowing in the second quarter compared with the first quarter

  • The possible causes could be the larger working capital requirements faced by services sector (especially export- oriented ones) and teething process issues post-GST implementation

‘Services, agri slowdown, a concern’ (The Hindu)

Context

Responses to the latest data on GDP growth

Cause of concern

While the rebound in GDP growth in the second quarter can act as a ‘confidence booster’ for the economy, the slowdown in the services sector, including finance, transport and hotels, as well as in agriculture is cause for concern

GST effect

Possible causes for the slowdown include the larger working capital requirements faced by the services sector (especially export-oriented ones) and severe process issues post-GST implementation

Way forward

The monetary policy announcement next week will be a perfect timing to give another shot to boost the sentiment. Also, the government should look at further consolidating its reform agenda in the Union Budget to be announced two months from now to give further boost to investment

Environment:

Some animals are more equal than others (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

Paying attention towards conserving species other than large mammals like tiger, elephants, rhinos, leopards and snow leopards

Attention only to large mammals: Smaller species ignore

There is a great deal of concern over the death and destruction of habitats of large mammals like elephants, rhinos, leopards and snow leopards because they attract tourists and bring in revenue

  • However, several smaller species die, or are near extinction, or are threatened in India. These include the the Great Indian Bustard, the house sparrow, the shy Indian pangolin, the caracal, the slender loris and the star tortoise, which do not evoke the same public outcry or action

Critically endangered Species

The National Board for Wildlife in 2012 identified more than 15 species, including the magnificent Hangul of Kashmir and the Barasingha of Madhya Pradesh, as critically endangered

Relevant question

Are we suffering from mega species myopia?

Support to other species

It is true that in protecting the tiger we are protecting an ecosystem. The big cat dominates the high grasslands. But what about the animals in the dry grasslands, the mountains?

  • Hog deer: The hog deer, which are prolific breeders, were the principal food of the tiger in the grasslands of Corbett National Park in the sixties. There was an abundance of them and it was a major species of the park, vital for the survival of the tiger. Now there may be just 20 of them in Corbett and no one seems concerned

Hog Deer

  • Great Indian bustard: One of the rarest species and undoubtedly one of the most endangered is the Great Indian Bustard, which is the State bird of Rajasthan

 

Great Indian Bustard

    • Endemic to Jaisalmer and Pokhran, its habitat was severely damaged by the nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998. Their numbers may be down to 60 in their home turf.
    • In Gujarat, not a single adult male has been sited. In the Naliya area of Kutch, the last bastion of the bustard in the State, power lines are pushing out the bird. In Maharashtra too, they are missing. The world population of the bird may be just 80
  • Mouse deer: The mouse deer (scientific name Chevrotain) is a miniature, just a foot high and tiptoes like a ballerina. It can be found in the Sal forests of south India, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Mouse deer meat is said to be delectable and before the Wildlife Act came into existence, it cost thrice the price of any other meat. The mouse deer raises its young in the hollow of the fallen Sal, but unfortunately these trees are used as fuel wood

 

Mouse deer

  • Caracal: The caracal has disappeared from the Kuno sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh. However, there are records of it being seen in Ranthambore in Rajasthan and in Kutch, Gujarat. It is feared that the Malabar civet cat may have gone into extinction

 

Caracal

Illegal trade

  • Pangolin: The pangolin, which can be found all over India, seems doomed because its scales, which are said to have medicinal value and are more expensive than gold, are sheared ruthlessly. Its meat too is in demand in China. Illegal trade continues not just in parts where there are tigers but also in parts where there are musk deer, otter, mongoose and other animals

 

Pangolin

  • Slender Loris: The slender Loris, a nocturnal animal found in the Western Ghats, and the tortoise are traded in the pet market

Slender Loris

  • Hangul: Now with reports of nomadic Gujjars making forays into Dachigam, the Hangul, the only deer species of its kind, is down to around 200

 

Hangul

  • Sangai:Manipur’s State animal, the brow-antlered deer or Sangai, which lives on the floating morass of Loktak Lake, is also fighting for survival with numbers down to around 200. However, with Sangai festivals and Sangai tour services, Manipur is going all out to protect them

Sangai

Conclusion

With so many small animals on the verge of extinction, it is time we gave priority to animals on the basis of the threat perception to them

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