GS – 1

Social Justice

 Storm brewing? Gujjars unhappy with 1% quota:

Context

Gujjars in Rajasthan are unhappy over the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s latest decision to grant them 1% reservation within the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court

What has happened?

At present, the overall reservation in the state stands at 49%. Along with Gujjars, nomadic communities Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya have been included among the OBCs for quota in the government jobs and educational institution

Demand

They have reiterated their demand for sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Class (OBC) quota for extending the benefit to them

Present situation

At present, the overall reservation in the state stands at 49%. Along with Gujjars, nomadic communities Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya have been included among the OBCs for quota in the government jobs and educational institutions

Timeline of events

  • The state Assembly had on October 26 passed a Bill creating the “most backward” category within the OBCs for Gujjars and four other nomadic communities and given 5% reservation to them, while increasing the OBC quota from 21% to 26% and taking the overall quota in the state to 54%
  • However, the Rajasthan High Court restrained the state government from implementing the provisions of the Bill on November 9
  • Later, the Supreme Court restrained the state government from taking any action or decision on the administrative side or in any manner conferring the benefit of reservation, which would have the result of crossing the total reservation beyond 50%

Backdrop

Gujjars and others were earlier grouped as a special backward class and the state government had tried thrice to grant 5% reservation to them. However, the legislation was struck down every time by the High Court, which ruled that the quota had not only exceeded the 50% limit, but was also not supported by the quantifiable data supporting the claim of Gujjars’ backwardness

The brain behind the deadline: ‘It was not Raja’:

Context

2G scam verdict

A Raja, not responsible

The Special CBI Court that acquitted former Union Telecom Minister A. Raja has ruled that he was not responsible for either fixing a cut-off date for consideration of applications for Unified Access Services Licences or in altering a press release in a way that favoured two particular companies

What does the judgement say about A Raja’s role?

In his 1,552-page judgment, Special Judge O.P. Saini has absolved Mr. Raja of the charge of conspiracy by rejecting the testimony of senior officers who sought to put the blame on Mr. Raja for introducing September 25, 2007, as the cut-off date for applications and for the deletion of a paragraph from the release that appeared to indicate a change in the spectrum allocation policy

Prosecutions’ argument

It was the prosecution’s case that this cut-off date was suggested by Mr. Raja to accommodate the applications of Swan Telecom and Unitech for grant of UAS licences and allocation of spectrum

So, how the cut-off date was decided?

This date was actually the result of an internal discussion in the department to dispose of a limited number of applications in the first phase, keeping the limited availability of spectrum in mind, the court held

Deletion of a paragraph controversy

  • The controversy: It was alleged that Mr. Raja deleted a paragraph in a press release that had been cleared by the Solicitor-General, and this change amounting to a shift in the first-come, first-served policy from consideration on the basis of date of application to date on which payment of entry fee was made
  • Court’s view: CBI judge said that I do not find any merit in the submission of the prosecution that amendment in the press release led to redefining the concept of first come, first served on the basis of priority from submission of compliance to LOIs (Letters of Intent) against the established practice of priority from the date of receipt of application. The procedure was changed not by the press release, but after discussions in the department

Missing the pulse: (Hindu editorial)

Context

Farmers, like investors, need predictability and coherence in government policies

What has happened?

A 30% customs duty has been slapped on the import of Chana dal and Masoor dal 

Why, this move?

  • Cheap imports could hit farm incomes especially at a time when domestic production of pulses is at a record high and a bumper rabi crop is expected
  • With an adequate domestic stockpile of pulses and with international prices remaining low for a prolonged period, the Centre fears that traders may still prefer to import some pulses rather than buy the fresh crop from local farmers at higher prices

Situation wrt pulses

  • Upsurge in imports: There has been a significant upsurge in imports, in the range of 30% to 46%, in four out of the first six months of this financial year
  • The value of chana imports in this period rose 373%, while masoor grew 204% year on year
  • Key contributors: Chana and masoor were the key contributors for India’s pulses imports rising to over $1.6 billion between April and September, compared to $1.2 billion in the same period last year
  • In September, masoor imports shrank 56% in value terms while chana imports grew by a little over 200%
  • Disaggregated data for the last two months are not available, but overall pulses imports have cooled off since September, with total pulses imports shrinking nearly 30% in October and about 38% last month

Author’s contention

Author points out that the real issue is reflexively raising or breaking such tariff walls, as the production cycle warrants which doesn’t add up to a serious long-term policy, aimed at boosting farm incomes and ensuring food security. In the case of a key protein source like pulses, import duties may be counterproductive going forward

Why this recent move is not sound?

  • Threat to dal diplomacy: India has dal diplomacy interests with more than 40 other countries, for whom the latest move will be of concern, especially since there is already 10% import duty on toor dal and a hefty 50% duty was levied on yellow peas in November
  • Predictability is good: Farmers, like investors, need predictability and coherence in government policies
  • Duty hike is counterproductive: Just as a duty hike on electronic goods won’t directly prop up local manufacturing or curb their consumption, hiking import duties on one dal or another won’t make farmers better-off — though traders who accumulated cheaper imports will benefit

Who built the Indus Valley civilisation?

Context

Genetics is about to answer a question that has vexed historians for a century. Tony Joseph examines the range of possible answers and their implications

Various theories

There has been no shortage of informed and uninformed guesses about the identity of those who lived during Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro civilization

  • Proto-dravidian speakers: Some have argued that they were speakers of a proto-Dravidian language (the predecessor of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and others)
  • Ancestors of Munda tribals: Some say that they were the ancestors of today’s Munda tribals
  • Vedic Aryans: Some believe that they were Vedic Aryans who spoke Sanskrit or proto-Sanskrit (a language that belongs to the Indo-European family which includes English, Persian, German, Italian, and so on)

Till now, nobody has ever had enough evidence to settle the issue one way or the other, and so the debate has raged on endlessly and often bitterly

All of this could change now.

Latest discovery

  • Four ancient skeletons have been excavated from a village called Rakhigarhi in Haryana
  • Skeletons are of a couple, a boy and a man
  • These people lived roughly 4,600 years ago when the Indus Valley civilisation was in full bloom

Who discovered the site?

The site was excavated and the skeletons recovered in the beginning of 2014 by a team of archaeologists led by Professor Vasant Shinde, vice chancellor of the Deccan College, Pune

How this discovery shall help & why Rakhgarhi is different from other similar sites?

  • Use of advanced technology by employing techniques like facial recognition and study of the remains of their habitation will help in understanding their daily habits and ways of life
  • The DNA analysis will also help figure out their height, body features, and even the colour of their eyes. In other words, we will know, rather intimately, and with a fair degree of certainty, who lived in the Indus Valley city of Rakhigarhi

It is in that sense that the Rakhigarhi ancient DNA project is unlike any other archaeological excavation that has been done in India

Shinde’s other expedition: Farmana

The last time Shinde tried to take ancient DNA from an Indus Valley site was when he led an excavation at Farmana in 2007-2010. Farmana is also in Haryana, about 100 km away from Rakhigarhi, and the team excavated probably the largest Harappan burial site, with more than 70 burials. But that didn’t turn out well

  • “One of our aims was to understand the Harappan population and we wanted to get DNA for that. So we excavated the burials and tried to extract the DNA but we failed miserably
  • We even got some scientists from Japan. They also failed, even though they had used some advanced techniques. Then we realised that our method was wrong, in the sense we had kept the burial site open for too long — one and half to two months, so that people could see that we were not there to dig out treasures. This is a different kind of treasure for us
  • A lot of people came, and contamination also happened. Then big rains came and everything got flooded. So we realised that we had done it wrongly

Lesson learnt

Shinde and his team learnt their lesson that once the skeletons are excavated, they should be documented and packed for analysis immediately

Research to be published soon

The research is expected to be published in a leading international journal in a month or so

Likely scenarios

Author looks at few possible scenarios as to what the upcoming report might say and how differently each could impact our understanding of our history

Scenario 1: The Harappans as Vedic Aryans

  • Outcome: In the ancient DNA from Rakhigarhi, scientists identify R1a, one of the hundreds of Y-DNA haplogroups (or male lineages that are passed on from fathers to sons). They also identify H2b — one of the hundreds of mt-DNA haplogroups (or female lineages that are passed on from mothers to daughters) — that has often been found in proximity to R1a
  • Impact of the outcome: it would cause a global convulsion in the fields of population genetics, history and linguistics. It would also cause great cheer among the advocates of the theory that says that the Indus Valley civilisation was Vedic Aryan.
    • The global churning would be caused by the fact that such a finding would go against the current understanding of the spread of Indo-European languages across Eurasia and also against current genetic evidence
    • R1a is the haplogroup most closely associated with Indo-European language speakers in a vast swathe of the Eurasian landmass, ranging from Ireland and the U.K. to Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Iran and northern India
    • In the majority of European countries, especially in central and eastern Europe, R1a has a frequency of 40-60%. In India, it has a frequency of about 17.5% — it is most common among north Indian Brahmins and least common among the tribals and the northeastern populations.
  • Globally accepted theory: The best globally accepted theory of Indo-European language spread is that proto-Indo-European, or the ancient language from which all other Indo-European languages arose, was spoken in or near the Pontic Steppes in Central Asia by horse riding, chariot-driving pastoralists who had also acquired mastery over bronze technology
    • With the advantage that these new practices and technology conferred on them, they began spreading out to Europe around 3,000 BC and to South Asia around 2,000 BC, carrying their language and culture with them. Ancient DNA findings from Central Asia in recent times have given a significant boost to this theory. For example, R1a-Z93, a sub-haplogroup of R1a that was found in ancient DNA from the Srubnya and Andronovo cultures in Central Asia, matches exactly the R1a-Z93 sub-haplogroup that is commonly found today in India.
  • Blow to the current theory: So, if the geneticists do find R1a among the ancient residents of Rakhigarhi (and also the mt-DNA haplogroup H2b), it will deal a blow to the currently accepted chronology of migrations from the Steppes. It would mean that R1a-carrying Indo-European language speakers were already well present in India around 2,600 BC when the Indus Valley civilisation was flourishing. For the advocates of the Vedic Aryans-as-Harappans theory, the finding would be the long-awaited confirmation of what they have always asserted without proof: The Indus Valley civilisation was Vedic, and the Aryans were those who built it.
  • R1a only represents a small group: Their opponents could still argue that the presence of R1a in Rakhigarhi might only be representative of a small, early band of newly arrived Aryans who may have merged with the local population and been buried in what must have been to them an alien civilisation

Conclusion

No matter how this debate proceeds, there is no question that finding R1a in the Rakhigarhi samples would give a significant boost to the theory that the Indus Valley civilisation was Vedic Aryan

Scenario 2: The Harappans as West Asian migrants who may have brought the Dravidian languages to India

  • Discovery of Y-DNA groups: Scientists discover Y-DNA haplogroups J2 and L1a among the Rakhigarhi residents, along with mt-DNA haplogroups such as HV, K1 and T1
  • Significance: All these haplogroups are often associated with the origins and spread of agriculture and urbanisation in the earliest cradle of human civilisation, the Fertile Crescent in West Asia
  • Region: This is a crescent-shaped region that would cover parts of today’s Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Israel, among others
  • Impact of the finding:
    • No major upset: A finding such as this would not cause a major upset to any existing understanding of Asian history, but it would disprove the theory that the Indus civilisation was built by Vedic Aryans. Why?
      • This is because the non-discovery of R1a and the discovery of haplogroups with West Asian affinities would suggest that when the Indus Valley civilisation was thriving, Indo-European language speakers were not present on location

Who would be cheered to hear such a result, though?

That is hard to answer. One could say that the advocates of Dravidian language speakers would be, because there are grounds to think that the migrants from West Asia may have spoken a language or languages closely related to today’s Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and so on. But the difficulty is that for the Dravidian partisans to cheer this result, they would also have to accept the fact that they too were migrants to India, much like the Sanskrit or proto-Sanskrit-speaking Aryans who arrived many millennia later

What are the grounds for theorising that the West Asian migrants might have brought Dravidian languages with them?

There are two grounds,

  1. The presence of the Dravidian language, Brahui, in Pakistan’s Balochistan region. This fact leaves a tantalising possibility that there was a time when a Dravidian-related language was spoken widely in this region, before the Aryan migrations forced a language shift
  2. Linguistic research findings that show similarities between Dravidian languages and Elamite, the extinct language of Elam, an ancient civilisation with its capital at Susa, an area that would fall in the southwest region of Iran today

Yet to be proved

These grounds are yet to be fully proved — there is, for instance, an argument that Brahui speakers are comparatively recent migrants from Central India to Baluchistan

Possible questions

But if we assume that these grounds are valid, the question that arises would be:

Why did Dravidian languages survive and thrive in south India, while getting almost wiped out in the north?

  • The argument could be that when the Indus Valley civilisation collapsed around 2,000 BC (for various reasons that may include climate change), there were large-scale movements of population, some of which may have been to the south where their language and culture took hold and flourished, perhaps replacing other languages that were being spoken there by the early descendants of the original Out of Africa (OOA) migrants who settled in India around 60,000 BC.
  • On the other hand, the Dravidian language-speaking Indus Valley people who remained in the north were probably overwhelmed by the later migrations there of Indo-European language speakers, resulting in a language shift towards the latter
    • Discovery of Daimabad: The fact that one of the latest sites of Indus Valley civilisation to be discovered was in Maharashtra in a deserted village called Daimabad in Ahmednagar district provides some support to the theory of a migration of Indus Valley citizens southwards after the collapse of the civilisation in the Indus Valley itself
    • The late Harappan culture at the Daimabad site is dated to 2,300-1,800 BC.

Other possible explanations

But this, of course, is not the only possible explanation. It is conceivable that the West Asians who migrated to the Indus Valley spoke a language or languages closer to, say, Sumerian or Akkadian rather than proto-Dravidian, and that these languages went extinct possibly under the impact of later migrations

Scenario 3: The original settlers of India as Harappans

  • Outcome: Scientists discover Y-DNA haplogroup H and mt-DNA haplogroups M2 and M36 in the Rakhigrahi ancient DNA. All these haplogroups are indisputably autochthonous, or indigenous
    • In other words, they are descendant lineages of the original OOA migrants. These lineages are spread far and wide across India today, though they vary significantly in their distribution
    • Female mt-DNA haplogroups that are descended from the OOA migrants dominate the Indian population with a frequency of 70-80% today, while Y-DNA lineages of the same descent are present at a far lower percentage, of around 10-40%, depending on the population group
    • Asymmetry no surprising: This asymmetry is not necessarily surprising — male lineages die out and get replaced at a faster rate than female lineages because of the male-biased nature of human conflicts and wars, at least from the Neolithic period onwards
    • Considering the widespread presence of OOA lineages among the Indian population even today, it would not be surprising if the scientists were to find H and M lineages in ancient Rakhigarhi
  • Significance: It would suggest that agriculture and urban civilisation in the Indus Valley were, by and large, an indigenous development, not necessarily driven by large-scale migrations from anywhere else

Scenario 4: The Mundas in the Indus Valley

  • Outcome: Scientists discover Y-DNA haplogroup O2a and mt-DNA haplogroup M4a in the Rakhigarhi ancient DNA
    • These haplogroups are associated with the speakers of Austro-Asiatic languages such as Mundari, Santali and Khasi
    • These haplogroups and related languages are also present in Southeast Asia.
    • In India, speakers of these languages are currently found mostly in Central and East India
    • Even though a prominent philologist of Harvard University, Michael Witzel, has argued the case for a language close to Munda (which he calls Para-Munda) being one of the languages of the erstwhile Indus Valley, a finding of this nature will come as a surprise to most others
    • Inconsistency: One inconsistency is that the agricultural backbone of the Indus Valley civilisation was barley and wheat, while the Austro-Asiatic language family is spread across regions (such as Southeast Asia) where rice is the most important cultivar
    • In fact, one theory is that rice cultivation was pioneered in China from where it spread to Southeast Asia and was brought to India by the Austro-Asiatic language speakers
    • Impact: So, if the geneticists do find haplogroups O and M4a in Rakhigarhi, some of our current understanding of Indian history may have to be revised

One more possibility

With this, both the likely and unlikely scenarios of what the scientists could find stand broadly covered. Theoretically, one can add one more possibility –

Discovery of O3e and mt-DNA haplogroups

  • Outcome: The discovery of Y-DNA haplogroups O3e and mt-DNA haplogroup M33a, both of which are associated with speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages in eastern India such as the Garo, Naga and Tani
  • Ruled out easily: But this can be ruled out practically because current consensus is that Tibeto-Burman speakers arrived in India much later and, therefore, they couldn’t have been in the Indus Valley in 2600 BC.

Why, fighting over any possibility is meaningless?

But to fight over the findings would be pointless because,

  • Mixed lineage: Every single Indian, like the vast majority of the human population, is a descendant of migrants and almost every Indian carries multiple lineages. (The possible exception to this are the Onge tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar islands who escaped the large-scale genetic mixing that occurred in India between 2,000 BC and the early centuries of the Common Era, as suggested by recent genetic research)
  • Some of our lineages come from the original OOA migrants, some from Neolithic migrations from West Asia, some from Neolithic migrations from East Asia, some from Bronze Age migrations from the Steppes, and some from migrations that happened even later

One truth: Diversity

No matter what the geneticists come up with, the fact will remain that the sources of our civilisation are multiple, not single. Diversity is built into the way our population groups arrived, evolved and mingled. Our cultural traditions, myths, beliefs, practices, languages, and physical attributes are all, at the same time, both indigenously evolved and adapted as well as acquired from elsewhere, much the same as it is for every other civilisation on earth. Our uniqueness lies in the way we have created a common fabric out of it all, over time. What the genetic findings should help us do is understand the multiple sources of our civilisation, so that we can cherish our common heritage in a deeper, more meaningful manner

How DNA was captured?

It has been known for long that the key to many puzzles of ancient human history lies in ancient DNA (aDNA). But it was only within the last eight years or so that technology advanced enough for geneticists to confidently sequence aDNA extracted out of human skeletons that are thousands or even tens of thousands of years old.

Why extracting and analysing a DNA was a challenge?

DNA preserves far better in cold climates than in warm climates and, therefore, all the early aDNA studies were done on fossils recovered from cold regions. Extracting and analysing aDNA in Africa, India or West Asia remained a formidable challenge. The science of genetics had to wait for one more leap before it could tackle this problem too

How the latest discovery in genetics helped?

This happened sometime in 2014, when it was found that DNA taken from the inner ear region of the petrous bone could yield up to 100 times more DNA than other skeletal elements – a vital advantage, especially in poor DNA-preservation contexts. This discovery was followed by the development of new techniques to enrich the extracted DNA and filter out microbial and non-informative human DNA. These new methods were put to use first in a path-breaking study published in 2015 titled “Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East”, co-authored by geneticist David Reich of the Harvard Medical School

  • New tools and techniques required: Using these techniques required new tools and new skills, and scientist Niraj Rai, then with the CCMB and now with the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences in Lucknow, spent a few months in Harvard Medical School in 2016
  • Rai, who has done extensive work in population genetics, has been the leading Indian scientist directly involved in the ancient DNA analysis from Rakhigarhi and is now working on other ancient DNA samples from around the country. “The most difficult challenge was always ensuring the integrity of the DNA,” he says. “The petrous bone discovery was a turning point. Without it, this may not have been possible.”

GS – 2


Polity

UPCOC Bill falters in Legislative Council

Context

UPCOC bill

What has happened?

The State government’s UPCOC Bill on Friday hit a roadblock in the Legislative Council where a determined Opposition stalled its passage. Following its rejection, the Council Chairman referred the Bill to a House panel for scrutiny

Opposition in command

Riding on its strength in the Council, the Opposition members slammed the proposed legislation, which was passed by voice vote in the Assembly on Friday, saying its provisions were draconian and feared it could be used to settle political scores by the party in power

Publish first NRC draft for Assam by December 31: SC

What has happened?

The Supreme Court is standing firm by its order directing the government and the authorities to publish the first draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam by December 31, 2017

Backdrop

The Supreme Court is hearing a writ petition filed by Assam Public Works (APW) in July 2009 for identification of Bangladeshi foreigners in the State and deletion of their names from the voters’ list 

What was the Bench’s decision?

  • A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Nariman shot down fears expressed by the Centre that a volatile situation may arise if the draft NRC was published on or before December 31
  • The first draft is to be published after scrutinising the claims of citizenship of 2.38 Crore persons in the north-eastern State

Centre’s reservations

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal expressed reservations about publishing the draft NRC when lakhs of claims for citizen registration were still under scrutiny. At a hearing on December 15, the top law officer said there could be a law and order situation in the State

Claims under scrutiny

The Registrar General of Citizens Registration of India had informed the Supreme Court that 38 lakh people were under scrutiny in the State after their documents appeared doubtful. The parental linkage of another 47 lakh people were in doubt after the authorities matched their family trees. Finally, the cases of 29 lakh married women who had submitted certificates from the gram panchayat secretaries concerned were also under scrutiny

International relations

‘India, China must go beyond bilateral ties’

Context

The 20th round of Special Representative talks b/w India & China

What was discussed?

  • They discussed enhancing confidence-building measures and an “early settlement” of the boundary issue
  • The talks were referred repeatedly to the consensus reached by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the subject of bettering ties

Significance

  • The meeting also comes after a quadrilateral meeting of India-US-Japan-Australia, which China had expressed concerns about. Mr. Yang’s visit acquires additional significance as his stature has risen in China’s official hierarchy following the recent 19th Party Congress
  • Unlike Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who continues his presence in the Central Committee of the CPCMr. Yang has been elevated to the 25-member Politburo.

A capital mistake: on UN resolution against US’ Jerusalem move: (Hindu editorial)

Context

Jerusalem issue

No tolerance for pressure

  • The world witnessed in the past few days at the United Nations, on a resolution demanding that the U.S. rescind its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, was an unprecedented display of the arrogance of power
  • Never before in the history of the UN has a member state threatened, so publicly and so inelegantly, fellow member states with dire consequences if they did not fall in line with its position as the U.S. did. It should not come as a surprise if in the coming weeks and months the U.S. loses an election to one of the UN organisations, just as Britain lost its bid to a seat on the International Court of Justice, and for the same reason
  • The member states are not willing to put up any longer with the hubris of the Permanent Five

Damage to peace process

The Jerusalem issue is easily the most contentious one between the the Palestinians and the Israelis. Any attempt to unilaterally change its status will kill the peace process

Muted reactions

The immediate international reaction to Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was rather muted. Instead of condemning it, most voiced concern at the negative impact it would have on the peace process

  • Several Arab countries were not very vocal in their criticism. But soon, the Arab street asserted itself and forced the governments to take a more robust position
  • Egypt seems to have played a lead role in this. It drafted a resolution which avoided mentioning the U.S. by name; that would have made it difficult for Britain and others to support the draft
  • After the veto in the Security Council, Egypt and Turkey lost no time in bringing the matter to an emergency session of the General Assembly, where there is no veto

Voting on the resolution

  • In all, 172 member states cast their votes
  • This means 21 countries did not vote at all
  • A few of them seem to have lost their right to vote because of arrears in payment of their mandatory dues to the organisation
  • The resolution passed with 128 votes in favour, a comfortable two-thirds majority. Nine voted against, and 35 abstained
  • It would be interesting to watch how the presidential threat works out in practice in the case of Pakistan which voted against the U.S. Among India’s neighbours, Bhutan abstained
  • This might be explained either by its desire to demonstrate its independence from India or not to alienate the U.S., or perhaps a combination of the two

India’s voting

India voted in favour of the resolution. How this decision fairs with respect to Israel & US? Let’s have a look.

Israel

  • It has excellent relations with Israel, as ought to be. But an objective analysis suggests that it is Israel which needs India more than the other way around
  • India buys at least a third of Israel’s defence production. India is also very important to Israel for diplomatic and political reasons
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not cancel his forthcoming visit to India

US

In this case interest is mutual

  • Indian interest: We need American support for a few things such as the sale of their defence platforms and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group
  • US interest in India’s markets: The U.S. has a huge interest in India’s markets, especially given the latter’s insatiable desire to acquire, and almost limitless capacity to pay for, expensive military hardware
  • China factor: There is also the China factor. But since Mr. Trump has very recently described India as a leading global power and expressed his readiness to support it in reaching that status, India can perhaps relax. It is fortunate since it is not dependent on American aid, which can be cut off or reduced at will

Silence of Muslim community

Noteworthy has been the silence of the Muslim community in India, judging from the electronic and English language print media. Jerusalem has always been a ‘red line’ issue for them. The government would be justified in drawing its own conclusions from the relative absence of a Muslim reaction to the U.S. move

Proud of India, says Palestinian envoy:

Context

Jerusalem issue

News

Palestinians are proud of India and India’s support to the cause of peace in West Asia, the Ambassador of Palestine said, hours after India voted in favour of a negotiated solution to the issue of Jerusalem

Israeli ambassador’s reaction

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon reiterated his country’s claim to Jerusalem in the backdrop of the developments at the United Nations General Assembly

  • “Jerusalem always was the capital of the Jewish people, is and will continue to be the capital of modern Israel. No vote at the General Assembly can change that,” he said

Palestinian ambassador’s views

He said that the resolution was a clear sign that Israel could not lay any exclusive claim to Jerusalem

  • “There cannot be any state of Palestine without East Jerusalem as its capital. India has supported the two-state solution traditionally. We believe Jerusalem is the last and most sensitive of the dispute, and that is why we appreciate major countries like India which support a negotiated solution,” he said

GS – 3


Economy

SEBI raids brokers in data leak probe

Context

Raids by SEBI wrt alleged leak of sensitive financial information on social media

What has happened?

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) raided 34 locations on Friday, aimed at members of a particular WhatsApp group, as part of a probe into alleged leak of sensitive financial information by analysts and company officials over social media

Backdrop

It is believed that the raids were against members of a group known as ‘Market Chatters Group,’ however it could not be independently confirmed. An email query to SEBI remained unanswered till the time of going to press

Info sharing barred

Such select sharing of information by companies or even analysts is barred under the current regulatory norms and SEBI can issue show-cause notices to companies and even analysts alleged to be involved in such activities

Significance of the reaction

While it is widely known that restricted groups on WhatsApp and Facebook are used to discuss price sensitive information, SEBI’s actions will send strong signals that sharing of such information would attract the ire of the regulator

Precaution

SEBI, however, also needs to tread carefully as being a member of a group without any trade or further tipping someone may not be chargeable for insider trading

RCEP: India hardens stand ahead of ASEAN summit

Context

In a sign that India’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations could slow further, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has taken a strong stand that the country should restrain itself from concluding any such pact from which it would not gain in the medium term

What has happened?

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has taken a strong stand that the country should restrain itself from concluding any such pact from which it would not gain in the medium term

RCEP

The RCEP is a proposed mega-regional FTA involving the 10 member countries of ASEAN and its six FTA partners including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand

Pressure on India

While there is immense pressure on India in the RCEP negotiations to commit to opening up (90%) of its traded goods, what is troubling the government is the fact that other RCEP countries have so far been lukewarm to India’s demands for greater market access in services, particularly on easing norms on the movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work

India isolated

India, which is defensive regarding opening up its goods sector, is currently virtually isolated in the RCEP talks, the sources said

Next round of talks

The next round of talks is in February in Indonesia. So far, 20 rounds of negotiations have been held, in addition to five ministerial meetings, three inter-session ministerials and one summit level talks between heads of state

Widening trade deficit

  • Significantly, while the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement was inked and enforced from January 1, 2010, India’s goods trade deficit with ASEAN widened from $4.98 billion in 2010-11 to $14.75 billion in 2015-16, and then narrowed to $9.56 billion in 2016-17
  • The huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India

India’s record share sales bring banks little cheer in fees

Context

Funds raised in India through share sales reached the most in a decade this year thanks to booming stock markets

News

Funds raised in India through share sales reached the most in a decade this year thanks to booming stock markets, but the rush to raise capital while investor sentiment remained bullish pushed dealmakers’ fee ratio to multi-year lows

Surge in stock index

India’s main stock indexes surged almost 30% in 2017 as investors bet on economic reform and corporate earnings recovery. That spurred almost $30 billion worth of share sales including a record $11.5 billion in initial public offerings (IPO)

Low fees for banks

But for banks which arrange the sales, fees earned as a percentage of funds raised hit the lowest in four years, Thomson Reuters data showed. That made arranging work in Asia’s third-largest economy the worst paid out of 11 Asian markets

  • This year was particularly low because a high proportion of deals involved state-run firms which typically pay paltry fees
  • An increasing number of banks involved in each deal also means fees are being split between more dealmakers, said the ECM head at a multinational bank, who was not authorised to publicly comment on fees and so declined to be identified. There is also a “new cycle of people willing to go down the fee curve,” the banker

What does a low fees signify?

Low fees mean regardless of higher deal volumes, many banks — especially foreign banks with high cost structures — are not aggressively expanding ECM teams

PCA only to improve banks’ health, says RBI

Context

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has once again clarified that prompt correction action (PCA) is imposed to encourage banks to improve their financial health

Backdrop

The reiteration comes in the wake of rumours on social media that some of the banks that are under PCA could be closed down

RBI’s statement

The PCA framework is intended to encourage banks to eschew certain riskier activities and focus on conserving capital so that their balance sheets can become stronger

Security and Defence:

HAL gets order for 15 attack helicopters:

Context

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on Friday received a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 15 limited series Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army

Backdrop

This development comes days after the IAF issue the RFP to HAL for manufacturing 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) in Mk-1A configuration

LCH

LCH is a 5.5 tonne class multirole attack helicopter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and is intended to play a major role in providing close air support to ground forces

  • It is the only attack helicopter in the world which can operate at heights of 12,000 feet
  • Presently, four technology demonstrators are under flight testing
  • The limited series production is a precursor for full-fledged serial production. Of the 15 helicopters, five are for the Army and 10 for the IAF

Backdrop

On August 26 this year then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley launched the production of LCH at Bengaluru and the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC) documents of the basic version were handed over to HAL

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