GS: 2

International relations:

3 Pak jawans killed in cross-LoC raid (The Hindu) 

Context

Cross Border raid by Indian army

What has happened?

Three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a cross-border raid by Indian Army on a temporary post across the Line of Control (LoC) on Monday. The raids come just two days after four soldiers of a patrol team were killed in an ambush by Pakistan

A local tactical level action

It was a local tactical level action decided by the local commanders. It was a short distance raid about 200-300 metres inside the LoC on a patrol team at a temporary post

Backdrop

A Major and three soldiers were killed in Cease-Fire Violation (CFV) and ambush by the Pakistan army along the LoC at Rajouri in the Pir Panjal Valley on Saturday

  • Increase in CFV: There has been a significant increase in CFV this year along the LoC with over 800 incidents reported compared with 228 last year

Pak protests

Pakistan summoned India’s acting Deputy High Commissioner to protest the “unprovoked” firing by the Indian Army that killed three soldiers

Casualties

There were at least three confirmed casualties with one other personnel injured. However, intelligence sources suggest there could be more casualties as a patrol team typically consists of eight to ten personnel. After the raid, there was heavy firing on both sides; intermittent firing was still continuing at the time of filing this report

China moots Afghan entry into CPEC (The Hindu) 

Context

China on Tuesday flagged the possible inclusion of Afghanistan in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — a move that is likely to irk India

What has happened?

Speaking to the media in Beijing on Tuesday, Mr. Wang (Chinese foreign minister) advocated that Afghanistan could join connectivity initiatives, in view of the urgency of improving its people’s lives

Backdrop

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remark of opening the door for Kabul’s entry in an expanded CPEC in the backdrop of the first foreign ministers trilateral dialogue of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Joint statement

A joint statement released at the end of the one day conference said that the three countries reaffirmed their commitment towards “advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative”.

Analyst’ view: Balancing Chahbahar

Analysts say that the proposal for landlocked Afghanistan’s, access to the port of Gwadar — the starting point of CPEC — may be intended to balance if not undermine the trilateral agreement among India, Iran and Afghanistan, which gives Kabul access to the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Jadhav’s family harassed: India (The Hindu)

Context

A day after the meeting of former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav with his mother and wife in Islamabad, India sharply criticised Pakistan for stage-managing what it called an exercise that “lacked credibility” and held in an “atmosphere of coercion.”

How Jadhav’s family was harassed?

  • The women were intimidated, separated from Indian officials, harassed by the Pakistani media and even made to change attire, remove their necklace (mangal sutra), bangles and shoes “under the guise of security precautions.”
  • Mr. Jadhav’s mother was also “prevented” from speaking in her mother tongue, Marathi, with her son and interrupted repeatedly, while they were separated by a glass partition throughout the meeting. The government also said it was worried about Mr. Jadhav’s medical condition

Pakistan’s reaction

If Indian concerns were serious, the guests or the Indian Deputy High Commissioner should have raised them during the visit, with the media, which was readily available, but at a safe distance, as requested by India

Backdrop

  • On Monday, the Pakistan government facilitated the meeting between Mr. Jadhav and his mother Avantika and wife Chetana at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, the first such meeting since the announcement of Mr. Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016 over alleged charges of terrorism
  • Since then, he has been convicted in a military court and sentenced to death, and his appeal for clemency is now under process
  • India has officially requested the family meeting several times. Although the Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh was present for the interaction at the MFA, both Pakistan and India made it clear this did not constitute “consular access” for which a case is being fought at the International Court of Justice at The Hague

Indias first pod taxi on the way to follow US safety norms (The Hindu) 

Context

The much-awaited India’s first pod taxi project has moved a step closer to reality after a high-level panel recommended inviting fresh bids for the same conforming to the strictest safety standards on the lines of those prescribed by an American body

Personal Rapid Transit

  • PRT is an advanced public transport using automated electric pod cars to provide a taxi-like demand responsive feeder and shuttle services for small groups of travellers and is a green mode of uninterrupted journey
  • The projected ₹4,000-crore pod taxi scheme — also known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) — is a dream project of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, and the NHAI has been mandated to execute it on Delhi-Gurgaon pilot corridor (12.3 km) from Delhi-Haryana border to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon on a PPP (public-private partnership) basis

Plagued by delays

The ambitious project has been plagued by delays as government think-tank Niti Aayog raised some red flags, asking the highways ministry to direct initial bidders to prepare a 1-km pilot stretch as all the technologies were unproven

  • Subsequent delays were caused due to formation of the high- powered committee to lay down safety and other specifications

Pilot project

The pilot project, to be taken up on design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis, is meant for a 12.3-km stretch from Delhi-Haryana border on NH 8 (near Ambience Mall) to Badshahpur via Rajiv Chowk, IFFCO and Sohna Road

China promises info on Tibet Talks (The Hindu) 

Context

China will maintain communication with India on efforts to manage the massive lakes formed by landslips on the Brahmaputra in Tibet following an earthquake last month, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday. The formation of these lakes had triggered fears of a sudden flooding on the Indian side.

Formation of lakes

Reports say three huge artificial lakes, whose size and the volume of water impounded are yet to be ascertained, were formed in the Brahmaputra, locally known as the Yarlung Tsangpo, due to landslips after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Tibet

  • Verification by the Chinese authorities had revealed that the lakes were on the eastern section of the India-China boundary

Imminent danger of flood

The massive accumulation of water has caused concerns that if the lakes merge or overflow, millions of people downstream along the banks of both the Siang (in Arunachal Pradesh) and the Brahmaputra (in Assam) would be affected

After the sanctions (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

Fresh round of sanctions imposed on N Korea by UN Security Council

What do the sanctions entail?

The sanctions include an 89% curb on refined petroleum imports into North Korea, stringent inspections of ships transferring fuel to the country, and the expulsion of thousands of North Koreans in other countries (who send home crucial hard currency) within two years

Purpose of the sanctions

The stated aim of the sanctions regime has been to force North Korea to halt its nuclear programme and start disarmament negotiations 

Narrow scope for military action

In September, North Korea detonated its sixth underground nuclear device, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. That assertion remains unverified, but experts believe the explosion was many times more powerful than previous detonations

  • The development has served as a reminder to the U.S. that the scope for military options may be increasingly narrowing

Solution

Author states that a revival of stalled peace negotiations between the P-5 nations and North Korea may be the only realistic alternative on the horizon. The successful conclusion of the 2015 civilian nuclear agreement between the P-5 plus Germany and Iran affords a constructive template to move ahead with North Korea

  • Countries that backed the recently adopted UN nuclear weapons abolition pact should likewise lobby Pyongyang

Social issues:

 

Countering the growing inequality (The Hindu)

Context

Indian social policy must raise health and education levels all around, as China has done

World Inequality Report

The release recently of the World Inequality Report 2018 has brought into focus an aspect of economic progress in India. This is the continuous growth in inequality here since the mid-1980s

  • To grasp this, consider the reported finding that the top 1% of income earners received 6% of the total income in the early 1980s, close to 15% of it in 2000, and receives 22% today
  • As this is a report on a global scale, we can see the trend in inequality across the world, providing a comparative perspective across countries.

Comparison with China

  • In particular, it enables a comparison of economic progress made in India and China. This is not flattering of India
  • Since 1980, while the Chinese economy has grown 800% and India’s a far lower 200%, inequality in China today is considerably lower than in India
  • The share of the top 1% of the Chinese population is 14% as opposed to the 22% reported for India
  • Growing inequality need not necessarily accompany faster growth, observing that inequality actually declined in China from the early 21st century
  • By then China had grown faster for longer than most countries of the world ever did

Basket of indicators

The findings in the World Inequality Report serve as grist to the mill that is the study of the progress of nations. But before we proceed to reflect on them we may pause to consider their underlying methodology.

Methodology

  • First, the results are based on the share of top incomes
  • This is not invalid but some of the findings may alter if we adopt measures of inequality that characterise the entire distribution
  • To be precise, the inequality ranking of China and India may now reverse 

China Superior

But this need not hold us back as it is evident that China’s performance is far superior all round to that of India.

  • China has grown faster, has far lower poverty and far higher average income, and its income distribution is less unequal at the very top

The World Bank data

  • The World Development Indicators data released by the World Bank show that per capita income in China was five times that of India in 2016 while the percentage of the population living on less than $1.90 a day was about 10 times less at the beginning of this decade
  • India has a forbidding gap to traverse in all directions, but for now let us focus on inequality.

India becoming less equal

  • India-based researchers have for some time now pointed out that the country is becoming less equal since 1991
  • Also, we need not turn to the experience of China to recognise that growth need not be unequalising. We know independently that inequality in India declined for three and a half decades since 1950 even as the economy grew steadily, though maybe not spectacularly
  • It is important to comprehend this outcome if we are to understand the source of inequality in India, not to mention why India lags China.

Why comparison is relevant?

  • Though representing different political systems, they had both been large agrarian economies at similar levels of per capita income when they had started out in the early 1950s
  • Moreover, the absence of democracy in a society does not by itself guarantee faster economic growth and greater income equality
  • For a populous poor country to lift itself to a higher growth path and stay there requires imaginative public policy and a steady governance

Example

We can see this in the divergent economic histories of North and South Korea.

Question arises

So what is it that China did better than India?

The Chinese clue

If there is to be a meta narrative for China’s economic development, it is that its leadership combined the drive for growth with the spreading of human capital.

Human Capital Profile

Rectangle for China

Human capital may be understood as a person’s endowment derived from education and robust health. When a population is more or less equally endowed, as it was in China when it began to draw ahead, the human capital profile of a country may be represented by a rectangle.

Pyramidical for India

Now the returns to labour would be relatively equal compared to the country in which the distribution of human capital is pyramidical, which is the case for India

Level of Schooling

  • To see the latter better, note that the share of the Indian population with secondary schooling is less than 15%
  • China had by the early 1970s achieved the level of schooling India did only by the early 21st century

Spread of Health and Education

The spread of health and education in that country enabled the Chinese economy to grow faster than India by exporting manufactures to the rest of the world

Manufacturing export

  • These goods may not have been the byword for quality but they were globally competitive, which made their domestic production viable
  • The resulting growth lifted vast multitudes out of poverty.

More Women participation

An ingredient of this is also the greater participation of women in the workforce of China, an outcome that eludes India.

Democracy neither a barrier nor a facilitator

This brings us back to India. India has lower per capita income, persistent poverty and by all accounts rising inequality

  • It may be said in the context that economic progress here has been neither efficient nor equitable. Democracy per se cannot be held responsible for this
  • There are States in India with superior social indicators than China
  • This shows that not only is democracy not a barrier to development but also that similar political institutions across India have not resulted in same development outcomes across its regions.
  • Nor can we remain complacent that democracy is combined with superior social indicators in some parts of India when income levels are lower here than what China has demonstrated is achievable.

Deepening democracy

  • Given the growing inequality in India, the direction that public policy should now take is evident
  • There is need to spread health and education far more widely amidst the population
  • India’s full panoply of interventions, invariably justified as being pro-poor, have not only not spread human capital, but they have also not been able to prevent a growing income inequality.
  • A ritualistic focus on the trappings of democracy, from frenetic election campaigns to stylised skirmishes in the legislatures, has not worked to deliver its promise

 

Conclusion

We now need to reorient public policy so that the government is more enabling of private entrepreneurship while being directly engaged in the equalisation of opportunity through a social policy that raises health and education levels at the bottom of the pyramid.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

BCI mulls ban on practice by law makers (The Hindu)

What has happened?

An expert committee of the Bar Council of India is considering a plea to ban lawmakers — Members of Parliament and Members of the Assemblies — from doubling up as practising advocates, saying they are salaried public servants and cannot ride two horses at the same time

Advocates act

The three-member panel is examining the provisions of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules in this respect. They will file their report in the next few days

Members of the panel

The panel is composed of top BCI — the country’s topmost lawyers’ body — office bearers and advocates B.C. Thakur, R.G. Shah and D.P. Dhal

Petition

The petition filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay contended that MPs and MLAs draw their salaries from the Consolidated Fund of India, hence, are “employees of the state”. Petition further contended that,

  • It amounted to “professional misconduct” that MLAs and MPs, who get salary and other benefits from the public fund, appear against the government. Some of these lawmakers even hold corporate retainer-ships. They appear against the State to defend their lawbreaker clients in the Court of Law, which is the matter of conflict of interest
  • While an advocate should be fully dedicated to his profession, legislators are also expected “to dedicate their fulltime to public and their constituents ahead of their personal and financial interests
  • It is impossible for a person to perform two fulltime duties at a time. Therefore, MLAs and MPs must be barred from practicing as an advocate

Legal provisions

  • The BCI Rule 49 restricts a salaried employee from practising as an advocate, the petition said. Many senior advocates practising in the Supreme Court are also party politicians and sitting MPs
  • Under Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 2(c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, MLAs and MPs are public servants. Hence, allowing them to practice, as an advocate and restricting other public servants is arbitrary, irrational and violation of Articles 14-15 of the Constitution

Activists pick holes in triple talaq bill (The Hindu)

Context

Triple Talaq bill

What has happened?

The Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) that has been on the forefront of the battle against triple talaq is of a view that a range of changes are required in the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that will be tabled at the Lok Sabha next week

BMMA’s views

  • The Bill lacks a holistic approach on gender justice, and leaves out problems such as polygamy, age of marriage andhalala(a practice where a woman is made to go through a consummated nikaah with another man in order to go back to her former husband)
  • Bill should be referred to a Parliamentary standing committee to include gender-just provisions
  • On criminalization: The purpose of the Bill is gender justice, and criminalisation in itself cannot serve this objective. Recognising the importance of deterrence in law, they demanded that the deterrence should be guided by earlier progressive laws on bigamy, dowry and prevention of domestic violence
  • Harsh approach: The Bill takes a harsher approach by making triple talaq a non-bailable and cognisable offence, attracting a penalty and imprisonment up to three years
  • Proper alternative methods: The Bill makes triple talaq illegal, but fails to suggest alternate methods that need to be followed. The Bill needs to lay down the procedure of divorce as per the talaq-e-Ahsan method, involving reconciliation and mediation between husband and wife lasting for a minimum 90 days. In case of divorce after this procedure, the wife should receive financial support for herself and her children

AIMPLB’s rejection

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has rejected the legislation on the whole, stating that it should be withheld and withdrawn. They have also called for consultations with their members before preparing the Bill

A new method

BMMA has developed a method of divorce based on the Quranic injunctions in its draft, which it has sent to government authorities, including 62 parliamentarian

How India rejects bad patents (The Hindu)

Context

In 2005, India made some remarkable amendments to the Indian Patents Act of 1970, to keep medicines affordable in the country. Since then we have faced a significant blowback not just from the global pharmaceutical industry but also from developed world including from the U.S. and the European Union.

Strong standards for patents have filtered the bad from the good, with the least administrative and financial burden.

  • At the heart of the matter are the strong standards for patents which India introduced to promote genuine innovation across all fields of technology, in perfect compliance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms
  • In contrast, developed countries have weaker standards as a result of incessant lobbying by corporate behemoths.

The background

The findings of a new study which examined all 1,723 pharmaceutical applications rejected by the Indian Patent Office (IPO) between 2009 and 2016 have been an eye-opener.

Section 3(d)

Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act, a provision introduced to restrict the patenting of new forms of known pharmaceutical substances, became the subject of international attention after its use in rejecting a patent application by Novartis for the anti-cancer drug, Gleevec. We found that exceptions to patentability in Section 3 of the Act, which includes Section 3(d), were responsible for 65% of all rejected pharmaceutical patent applications.

Challenges before Section 3(d)

  • Over its short lifetime, Section 3(d) has survived a challenge to its constitutionality before the Madras High Court, and Novartis’s fight against the rejection of its patent that went to the Supreme Court
  • Both courts ruled decisively to uphold the legality of Section 3(d)
  • The United States Trade Representative has also repeatedly rebuked India for this provision in its Special 301 Report, despite its perfect compliance with WTO norms
  • While the world’s attention is still fixed on this legal experiment that the Indian Parliament introduced into law, there has been a dearth of information on how the IPO has applied Section 3(d)

Rejected using Section 3(d)

  • An astonishing 45% of all rejected pharmaceutical patent applications cited Section 3(d) as a reason for rejection: the applications were identified as mere variants of known compounds that lacked a demonstrable increase in therapeutic value.
  • Between 1995 and 2005, prior to our new law, India provided a temporary measure to receive patent applications for pharmaceutical products at the IPO, called the mailbox system.

Gradual increase in the section

  • Though introduced in 2005, the use of Section 3(d) gradually increased from 2009 when mailbox applications were examined
  • The spike coincides with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Novartis case, in April 2013
  • It would appear that this judgment provided legal certainty to Indian patent law in general, and Section 3(d) in particular, enabling the IPO to weed out trivial innovations.

At the patent office

In the last decade, we found that the IPO rejected about 95% of all pharmaceutical patent applications on its own

Only 5% were through the intervention of a third party, such as a pre-grant opponent

Frequent grounds of rejection

Our basic patentability criteria, that the invention should be new, involve an inventive step (also known as non-obviousness), and should be capable of industrial application, were the most frequently used grounds for rejection, followed by the exceptions to patentability grounds in Section 3.

Trivial Innovations

  • Section 3(d) invaluably equips the IPO with a yardstick to evaluate applications that are merely trivial innovations over existing technology
  • Trivial innovation must result in a far better product in order to qualify for patent protection.

Arguments against section 3(d)

Within the arcane world of patent law, an argument against provisions such as Section 3(d) is that it is no more than an extension of one of the basic requirements of patentability: non-obviousness.

Advantage of Section 3(d)

  • The advantage that a provision such as Section 3(d) provides is the ability to question an application at the IPO itself without having to go through expensive and time-consuming litigation. The high cost of litigation poses significant barriers
  • Cases are often settled before reaching a conclusion, in pay-for-delay settlements negotiated by patent owners, where generic manufacturers are essentially paid to stay off the market
  • Patent litigation is expensive, but it is the patient who eventually pays a higher price — by being subject to exorbitant medicine prices, driven by the unmerited exclusivity that bad patents create.

As a check

  • Without Section 3(d), the Indian public would have to bear the burden of invalidating a bad patent through litigation.
  • India is certainly not alone in facing two connected challenges: constrained government budgets and urgent public health needs.

Conclusion

As Section 3(d) has been efficient in separating the bad patents from the good in India, it would be a wise move for other developing countries, grappling with similar challenges, to incorporate similar provisions in their law.

IAS officers to reveal assets by January 31 (The Hindu)

Context

All IAS officers have been asked to submit details of their assets by next month, failing which they would be denied vigilance clearances needed for promotions and foreign postings, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has said

Directions issued

The DoPT has written to all Central government departments, States and Union Territories asking them to ensure submission of Immovable Property Returns (IPRs) by IAS officers by January 31, 2018

  • “In view of the DoPT’s instructions dated April 4, 2011, it is reiterated that failure to ensure timely submission of IPR would result in denial of vigilance clearance

2011 order

According to the 2011 order, officers who did not submit their IPR as on January 1, 2018, would be denied vigilance clearances and will not be considered for promotions and empanelment for senior-level posts in the government of India

Online module

An online module has been designed for filing IPRs. Officers have the option of uploading the hard copy of the IPR by January 31 in the online module

Number of IAS officers

There are 5,004 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers working across the country, according to DoPT

Rs 40000 cr forest fund in limbo (The Hindu)

Context

More than a year after the Union government brought in a law to allow the States to access seamlessly nearly ₹40,000 crore for regenerating forest land lost to industry, it is still to frame rules to get the money disbursed, says a written reply given in the Lok Sabha

Rules still to be framed

While States are getting money, it continues to be under an “ad hoc” mechanism whereby the Centre disburses it on a needs-basis. Rules have not been framed yet

  • Ironically, a year after the law came into being, disbursal this year has dropped to a three-year low

SC’s directions

The Supreme Court, in a 2009 order, had directed that an independent authority be charged with disbursing these funds, which paved the way for the Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill envisaging the creation of a permanent Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)

Backdrop

Last July, the Rajya Sabha signed into law the CAMPA Bill that allows the States to access nearly ₹42,000 crore — mostly collected from industrial projects as penalties — from CAMPA and channel it into afforestation projects

How much has been disbursed this year?

The government says only ₹1,827 crore was disbursed to the States this year as opposed to ₹2,213 crore and ₹2,057 crore in the preceding years

Bill passed after a heated debate

The Bill, which establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under each State, saw heated debated in Parliament last year.

  • Minister’s promise: It was finally passed after then Environment Minister, the late Anil Dave, assured the House that all objections raised — such as the provisions of the Bill vesting greater powers in the forest bureaucracy than on resident tribal people; the possible violation of tribal rights, and gram panchayats not having the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown — would be addressed within the Rules of the Bill

GS: 3

Economy:

India to become fifth largset economy in 2018 (The Hindu) 

Context

India is set to overtake the United Kingdom and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy next year, a report said Tuesday

News

Currently ranked seventh, India will move up to fifth place in 2018 and vault to third spot by 2032, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, said in its annual rankings

3 year low

The Indian economy hit a three-year low in the first quarter of the current financial year, due to demonetisation ‘in November 2016 to scrap high-value banknotes and following a tax overhaul

  • Growth slumped to 5.7% for the three months ending June but recovered slightly to 6.3% for the quarter ending September

Science and Technology:

Now, a big bubble theory (The Hindu)

Context

Scientists have said that the solar system could have formed in the bubbles produced by a giant, long-dead star, which was 40 to 50 times the size of the sun

No consensus

Despite the many impressive discoveries humans have made about the universe, scientists are yet to come to a consensus about the birth story of the solar system

Present theory

The prevailing theory is that the solar system formed billions of years ago near a supernova but the new scenario, explained in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal, begins with a giant type of star called a Wolf-Rayet star

Wolf Rayet star

  • They burn the hottest of all stars, producing tonnes of elements which are flung off the surface in an intense stellar wind.
  • As the Wolf-Rayet star sheds its mass, the stellar wind ploughs through the material around it, forming a bubble structure with a dense shell
  • The shell of such a bubble is a good place to produce stars because dust and gas become trapped inside where they can condense into stars
    • The researchers estimate that 1% to 16% of all sun-like stars could be formed in such stellar nurseries.

Presence of two elements

The study addresses a cosmic mystery about the presence of two elements in our solar system compared to the rest of the galaxy.

  • Meteorites left over from the early solar system suggests there was a lot of aluminium-26. In addition, studies increasingly suggest the solar system had less of the isotope iron-60.
  • This brings scientists up short, because supernovae produce both isotopes.
  • It begs the question of why one was injected into the solar system and the other was not. This brought the scientists to Wolf-Rayet stars, which release lots of aluminium-26, but no iron-60
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