Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


GS: 2

International relations:

India ASEAN cultural ties a living link: Sushma Swaraj(The Hindu) 

Context

India’s cultural relation with Southeast Asia is centuries old and serves as a living link between the two sides, said the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday. Ms. Swaraj made the reference as she launched the final phase of events leading to the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit on 25 January, 2018. 

Dialogue Partnership

  • The meetings are held in preparation for the summit which celebrates 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership
  • The Dialogue Partnership was formed on 28 January 1992 when a Sectoral Dialogue Partnership with India was launched by ASEAN in its fourth summit in Singapore. 

Japan for greater ties with India in food processing(The Hindu)

Context

Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu on Tuesday said there was plenty of room to expand India-Japan ties, especially in  food processing, urban development, environment and sanitation as well as medicine. However, he wanted the Indian government to address the concerns of Japanese firms including on taxation, financial regulation and infrastructure.

Priority areas

He said the other priority areas for cooperation included water supply, sewage treatment, natural disaster management techniques, internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, start-ups and industrial corridors.

Tax Reduction

Japanese firms have been pitching, among other things, for improved infrastructure in India, uninterrupted power supply, reduction of Goods and Services Tax on hybrid and electric cars, easing foreign currency norms, including on external commercial borrowings.

High Speed Railways

A FICCI report released on the occasion cited the areas of cooperation between India and Japan, including high speed railways (linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad) and building Japanese Industrial Townships.

Infrastructure is an issue for Asean, India(The Hindu)

Context

Infrastructure and connectivity are among the major challenges facing India and Asean-member countries that are looking to further boost trade ties, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry C.R. Chaudhary said on Tuesday.

Trilateral highway

In the works are construction of a trilateral highway — India-Myanmar-Thailand — and extending that project to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project to improve links between India’s eastern ports and Myanmar’s Sittwe port, as well as the Asean-India maritime transport cooperation pact to eliminate barriers that trouble maritime trade

SAARC can learn from ASEAN experience (The Hindu)

Context

ASEAN has achieved the same level of peace and prosperity without going to war, as the Europeans did. At the same time there is no other region on Planet Earth that is so diverse.

Kishore Mahbubani’s latest book The ASEAN miracle advocates a Nobel peace prize for the regional grouping.

ASEAN a miracle 

  • ASEAN has achieved the same level of peace and prosperity without going to war, as the Europeans did even with so much diversity
  • When it was born in 1967, South East Asia was by far the most troubled place on earth. There were more bombs dropped in Indo-China (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) than all of Europe in World War II. And we overcame all that and created a community that is today so peaceful.

Divided on views but moving forward

  • All ASEAN countries have different positions on US and China, but they make efforts for good relations with both.
  • Some like Cambodia maybe more pro-China, Vietnam is more pro-America. But at the same time Vietnam’s number one trading partner is China. In 1979, the border between China and Vietnam had one million soldiers on each side confronting each other.

Steps to boost India-ASEAN relations

  • The ASEAN-India relationship is not just 25 years, it’s a few thousand years old, and it is important that the leaders draw from the deep well of history to build ties
  • Nine out of the ten ASEAN countries, all except Vietnam, have an Indian cultural base.
  • The second thing to push for is more flights between ASEAN and Indian countries, to facilitate people to people exchanges. 

Regular meetings for SAARC

SAARC should consciously study ASEAN and build a habit of regular meetings at all levels.

Having regular meetings makes a huge difference to trust levels

Countering BRI

India must integrate Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives etc. so closely economically, that they will always have to consider India’s views.

Spend time together

It is important for leaders and officials of countries to spend time together, because that is an important way to understand our commonalities and to break down the animosities that two countries feel

Taking the backseat

  • In addition, as the biggest country in the region, India should study Indonesia’s role in ASEAN. President Suharto was wise enough to say, we will let the smaller countries of ASEAN run the group, and took a backseat, and that is something India could try to do
  • Maybe sometimes that group will take decisions you don’t like, but eventually the group will come closer together.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Padmaavat order will not be recalled, declares SC(The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court declined a plea by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments to modify its decision to allow film ‘Padmaavat’ to be screened in theatres.

A 100 or 200 people cannot take to the streets and seek a ban’

The State governments approached the apex court to convey the apprehensions that the screening of the movie would trigger large-scale violence by caste groups, beyond the control of the law enforcement apparatus. 

Onus on the States

But the court stood firm by the right to creative speech and expression, putting the onus squarely on the State governments to take measures to protect the movie, its artistes and the public who come to watch it in the theatres.

Court Observed

There is no way the court would back down

Otherwise, these people will make a virtue of creating trouble.

They will first create trouble and then make a virtue of creating trouble

Section 6 invoked by States

The States had invoked Section 6 of the Cinematograph Act of 1952 to argue that the law provided the State to finally decide whether exhibition of a movie may trigger public unrest.

SC stay

  • The court had further restrained all States from passing such prohibitory orders against the exhibition of the film.
  • The apex court had emphasised that it was “the duty and obligation of the State to maintain law and order”.
  • The Bench had made it clear that “once the Parliament has conferred the responsibility and power on a statutory Board and the Board has certified the film, non-exhibition of the film by States is contrary to statutory provisions”.

Dont probe Hadiyas Choice of Partner: SC(The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to stay away from prying into Hadiya’s choice to marry Shafin Jahan

“The court cannot question her choice,” said the Chief Justice.

  • The apex court was hearing an oral request made by Jahan, the man who married Hadiya, a homoeopathy student in her mid-twenties. Hadiya had converted from Hinduism to Islam before marrying Jahan.

Court Observed

  • “You can investigate any of the aspects, but you cannot investigate the marital aspect… you cannot investigate whether she married a good person or a bad person. That’s her choice,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed.
  • “Again, whether she made a good choice or bad choice in a husband, only she knows. Court cannot question her choice,” the Chief Justice observed.
  • Marriage and our choice of a life partner  should be segregated from any “criminal conspiracies, criminal attributives and actions.”
  • The court scheduled the case for February 22.

Constitute Mahanadi tribunal: SC(The Hindu) 

Context

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to set up a tribunal within a month to resolve the long-standing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the sharing of Mahanadi water.

Constitute tribunal

  • A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao asked the Centre to constitute the tribunal and said that all pending issues can be raised before it
  • The court, however, refused to grant any stay as sought by Odisha government on the seven pick up weirs (a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow) across the Mahanadi river, which flows through Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, before pouring into the Bay of Bengal.

Reform with caution (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Centre must act on the Malimath report on criminal law revamp, but with due care

Revisiting Malimath Committee Report

The Centre’s decision to revisit the 2003 report of the Justice V.S. Malimath Committee on reforming the criminal justice system needs to be examined through the prism of civil rights.

Controversial recommendations

It includes controversial recommendations such as making confessions to a senior police officer admissible as evidence, and diluting the standard of proof required for a criminal conviction. 

Valuable suggestions

It also contains valuable suggestions to revamp the administration of criminal law, covering the entire gamut of the justice system from investigation to sentencing, from matters of policy to the nuances of criminal procedure and the law of evidence.

Implemented suggestions

  • Its suggestion on permitting videography of statements has been implemented.
  • The definition of rape has been expanded and new offences against women have been added.
  • Its advocacy of substantial witness protection has not been realised, but victim compensation is now part of law. 

Ignore these recommendations

  • The Centre would do well to ignore the recommendations relating to making confessions to high-ranking officers admissible, and increasing the period of police custody from 15 to 30 days.
  • These provisions were available only in anti-terrorism laws that are now no more in force. There is no need to bring them into general criminal laws.

A lower standard of proof suggested

The Malimath report suggests a standard of proof lower than the current ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard. It moots a ‘clear and convincing’ standard, that is, it is enough if the court is convinced that something is true. Such a measure would have adverse implications for suspects, and requires considerable deliberation.

Need of reforms

There is some understandable disquiet about the state of criminal justice administration in the country and there is a crying need for a wide range of reforms.

Why reforms needed?

  • As the Madhava Menon Committee’s ‘Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice’ (2007) noted, such popular dissatisfaction arises from the low rate of conviction, the apparent role of money and influence in the outcome of cases, delayed and denied justice, lack of protection to witnesses and inadequate attention to crime victims.
  • The widespread perception that there is corruption on the one hand and a deep nexus between crime syndicates and politicians on the other, has added to the erosion of public confidence in the justice delivery system.

Govt. should tread lightly

Despite all these considerations, any move to make substantive changes in the way criminal justice is administered will have to be done with great circumspection, lest vital constitutional safeguards against abuse of police and judicial powers are violated in the process.

Conclusion

In the name of revamping the law, investigation and trial should not be altered in a way that undermines the principles on which the justice system was founded.

Making our roads safe(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The process of introducing legislation for road safety has been in the making for the past four years. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will rectify systemic issues

If passed by the Rajya Sabha, it will be the first of its kind to extensively reform existing legislation on road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Amendment Bill is robust and rectifies several systemic issues by providing for a uniform driver licensing system, protection of children and vulnerable road users, rationalising penalties, and much more. 

Need for sustainable data system

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that for effective road safety management, it is imperative to have an institutionalised and sustainable data system.
  • The inefficiencies of a predominantly manual system, given the scale of licences issued every year, results in lakhs of licences being issued without the prescribed checks and balances.
  • In the absence of a central registry, often multiple licences are held by one person for different States.
  • Low penalties for licensing offences allow erring drivers to be behind the wheel and get away with life-threatening violations.

Digitizing licensing procedure

The Bill addresses each of these challenges by introducing technology in the licensing procedure.

  • A digitised, uniform and centralised driver licensing system will go a long way in ensuring ease of access, efficiency and transparency in the filtering process.
  • The Bill also proposes to introduce digitisation in the monitoring and enforcement of traffic laws.

Kerala example

Electronic monitoring and enforcement can already be seen in practice in Kerala. The State has a ‘city surveillance and traffic monitoring system’, and automated traffic enforcement systems to detect traffic light violations as well as speeding. The enactment of the Bill will facilitate the replication and creation of such digitised systems for all other States.

Children in focus

  • The WHO asserts that using child-restraint systems in vehicles decreases the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and 54-80% for small children
  • In the current piece of legislation, there is no provision for protection of children, and this lacuna has been addressed for the first time. 

Steps taken for children in the new bill

  • The Bill proposes to mandate the use of protective headgear by every person above the age of four driving, riding or being carried on a two-wheeler
  • It provides for measures to be laid down for the safety of children below the age of four.
  • Similarly, the Bill mandates the use of safety belts and child restraints for those under 14 years and introduces a fine of ₹1,000 for the driver or guardian for the violation of the same.

Penalties

For decades, penalties for behaviour that results in fatalities and grievous injuries have remained minimal, largely unrevised, and, consequently, have failed to deter violators.

Rationalizing fines

  • This Bill promises to rationalise these fines. For instance, the penalty for drunk driving has been increased to ₹10,000 for the first offence and ₹15,000 for the subsequent one.
  • For exceeding lawful speeds, the penalty has been increased to ₹1,000 for light motor vehicles and ₹2,000-4,000 for medium and heavy motor vehicles.
  • For the non-use of helmets and seat belts, the fines have been increased from ₹100 to ₹1,000

Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety

  • As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, India has committed to reducing, by 2020, the number of road crash fatalities and serious injuries by 50%
  • This will be impossible to achieve if the sole statute governing road safety in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is not overhauled.
  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will serve as the first and most essential step towards fulfilling this vision.

CPI(M) plans impeachment motion against CJI(The  Hindu)

 

Context

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said here on Tuesday that the party was trying to build a consensus on moving an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the budget session of Parliament.

Yechury says party is in discussion with other Opposition parties on the possibility of moving it in the budget session

Sources say Mr. Yechury has reached out to the Congress and the NCP for now and will speak to others soon. The Congress, however, remains mum on the issue.

‘Preliminary stage’

  • Opposition will have enough numbers to get the motion through, he said the discussions had not reached that stage.
  • By the rules, signatures of 50 MPs are required to move a motion of impeachment. “Such a motion can’t be moved unless the Congress with its 57 members is too on board.
  • Moreover, the CJI is retiring in October. It is a messy process and there is only a bleak chance that we will be successful,” a Trinamool Congress leader said. The party has refused to divulge its position.

GS: 3

Economy:

A scheme that draws scientists but leaves them in the lurch (The Hindu)

Context

A scholarship scheme managed by the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) to help young, talented scientists embark on independent research careers at Indian labs is drawing flak with complaints of harassment, tardy fund disbursal and concerns that the scheme hasn’t catalysed enough jobs.

 

Claims of success

The DST claimed the programme is a success. Of the 238 fellows selected in 2011 and 2012 or those who’ve reached the end of the fellowship, 143 or about 60% have got full-time jobs.

“Globally, 5%-10% of the doctoral researchers get permanent positions… this is by comparison an excellent turnout,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST. “However we cannot force universities to recruit students.” A “combination of circumstances” — the Fellow’s ability to gel with the institute’s functioning, their performance and luck played a role in a candidate’s success.

“I’m aware that some faculty are unhappy but ultimately 100% placement is impossible and it has always been explicitly made clear that the fellowship isn’t a guarantee of employment,” he added.

Ph.Ds on the rise

  • According to the latest available statistics from the government, the number of science Ph.Ds is on the rise. In 2010-2011 5,271 doctoral degrees in science were awarded and this rose to 7,617 in 2014-2015
  • Relative to doctoral degrees awarded in all fields, however, there was a dip to 50% from 63.5% in the same period partly due to a rise in engineering-and-technology Ph.Ds to 28% from 20% in the same period. 

Systemic problem

  • This, even as several vacancies abound in colleges. As per the University Grants Commission, of the 9,878 Assistant Professorpositions2,457 are vacant
  • Gautam Desiraju, a professor of chemistry, at the Indian Institute of Science, said there was a “systemic problem” in how the scheme had unfolded over the years
  • Universities frequently had opaque hiring procedures and “corruption” was rife at several State universities.
  • Moreover, many leading institutions — including the IITs — didn’t recruit entry-level professors over 35, further queering the pitch for a new INSPIRE faculty member.

Growth was dipped below the 30 year average (The Hindu) 

Context

The former Chief Economic Adviser on India’s current slowdown in economic growth and the mix of policies needed to reignite it

The former Chief Economic Adviser on India’s current slowdown in economic growth and the mix of policies needed to reignite it

A vocal critic of demonetisation

  • I do not think it will confer any long-run benefits in terms of digitalisation because that is a slow, natural process.
  • There is no way that an emerging economy like India, with more than half the population still living in the informal sector, can leapfrog advanced economies and get there by a simple policy intervention.
  • The main damage of demonetisation is to India’s reputation as a professionally run economy, since it was an uncalled-for jolt to the market.

Consistent supporter of the other major reform, the GST

  • The GST was needed but It has been poorly implemented
  • For such a large policy shift, the planning and implementation design should have been much better.
  • Also, it should not be too multi-tiered, which is both inconvenient and makes one wonder if this is a sign of sector-specific cronyism
  • Once we go past these teething troubles, the GST should aid efficiency and growth 

Economy doing poorly

  • India’s economy is doing poorly on several fronts. Consider exports — they have dragged, with India’s trade deficit with China growing rapidly. Exports did seem to grow well from April to November last year, with an annual growth of 12.3%
  • But it was a time when several emerging economies did well and India’s performance fell short of many other nations, like Indonesia and Vietnam whose exports grew by 16% and 24%, respectively
  • India’s long-term prospects are very good, but to get out of the current morass, it needs a professionally designed combination of fiscal, monetary and international trade policy initiatives

Case for a focussed stimulus package now

  • India’s growth has dipped below average for the last 30 years.
  • Given that over the last 30 years India experienced a fairly steady increasing growth rate, this is something that should worry all well-wishers of India.
  • We do need a stimulus, which needs to be professionally designed and coordinated with the Reserve Bank.

Increase in obscurantism

  • There is indeed reason for concern about the rise in obscurantism
  • A country grows faster when you have a churn of ideas. If you want India to do well in the long run, you have to create space for that.
  • Its all right with a Minister believing that evolution did not happen, and that Darwin was wrong (referring to Minister of State for Human Resource Development Satyapal Singh who said that the theory of evolution is ‘scientifically wrong’) as long as those who believe Darwin was right are not shouted down as anti-national.

On pseudoscience being propagated by those in positions of power

The state must support scientific temper.

  • It will be a mistake if we put ancient medicine on a par with modern science. We should be proud of our intellectual heritage but it is foolish to claim that for every scientific breakthrough, we had done it first. This hurts a nation’s credibility
  • Second, while we should appreciate our heritage, we must not take that to be the final word.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra was a major work in early economics. But it will be foolish if we give ideas in that ancient text precedence over modern economics — be it the works of (John Maynard) Keynes or (Paul) Samuelson. We should feel free to contest these later thinkers but it will ultimately hurt us to silence them.
  • I stress this as an appeal to our leaders — political, corporate and thought — for the sake of the nation, they must reject obscurantism and promote openness and analytical thinking.

A risky recovery — on IMF’s global growth predictions (The Hindu Opinion) 

Context

Abroad-based recovery in global growth may be gathering steam, but the price the world will have to pay for it is still unknown. According to the IMF’s January update of the World Economic Outlook, the global economy is all set to clock its best growth rate in seven years in 2018 following a pick-up since mid-2016.

What

The IMF estimated that the global economy could accelerate to 3.9% in both 2018 and 2019, an upward revision of 0.2 percentage point over its previous estimates in October for both years, boosted by a cyclical recovery in global growth and the historic tax cuts in the U.S.

India’s economy to grow

India’s economy is projected to grow at 7.4% during the financial year 2019, and at an even faster pace of 7.8% the following year

China to slowdown

If the IMF’s predictions come true, India will be the fastest-growing major economy next year as China’s growth is expected to slow from 6.6% this year to 6.4% in 2019.

Growth in Europe too?

What comes as a further surprise is the upward revision in growth forecasts for many countries in Europe, thanks to stronger demand.

Potential threats

The IMF, however, was not oblivious to the threats that could severely derail the broad-based economic recovery

Rise in debts

In particular, it warned about the “troubling” rise in debt levels across countries, including the U.S., which could pose a huge risk to financial stability and drag down economic growth.

Easy monetary policies might be derailed

It is no secret that since the 2008 financial crisis the global economy has been propped up mainly by the unprecedented easy money policies adopted by global central banks.

Such monetary conditions could cease to exist.

High interest rates

  • While central banks until now have been careful not to spook markets with the prospect of higher interest rates, it is unlikely that they can keep markets calm forever.
  • While it is hard to predict the next downturn, it seems the day of reckoning may not be too far as consumer price inflation begins to push central banks to rethink their dovish stance.

Conclusion

The IMF is right to urge countries to make use of the current rosy conditions to enact useful structural reforms. It is time countries recognise that monetary policy alone won’t solve all growth problems. 

Indian economy can be in top 3: Jaitley(The Hindu)

Context

India will likely be among the top three economies in the world in the next 25 years, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday, adding that India has shown an ability to grow during adversity.

‘Global integration has brought more resources’

  • “India has moved from the seventh largest to the fifth largest economy,” Mr. Jaitley said, while delivering the valedictory speech at the ASEAN-India Business and Investment Meet.
  • “The confidence of the new India is that it is getting more globally integrated and this opening out in terms of trade and investment has certainly brought not only additional resources but significantly improved upon India’s competitive strengths.”

Aspirational world

  • The Finance Minister said countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia, were now significantly picking up and opening up to investment.
  • “Therefore, India and the ASEAN represents the aspirational world,” Mr. Jaitley said. “This aspirational world houses two billion people and trade has the capacity to give a necessary impetus to the economy.”

Opportunity in India

  • Mr Jaitley said that India offered a great opportunity for investment, especially in the infrastructure sector, since, he said, there was a large infrastructure deficit in the country.

Awaiting SC nod on Aadhaar link(The Hindu) 

Context

The newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner, O.P. Rawat, on Tuesday said the electoral body would resume the exercise of linking voter identity cards to the Aadhaar database when  the SC gave the go ahead.

On electoral bonds

On electoral bonds, Mr. Rawat said the Commission had communicated its concerns to the government in 2015. “We received the notification about 10 days ago. Our Secretariat is examining its import vis-à-vis our suggestions,” he said.

AAP’s allegation

Responding to the AAP’s allegation that its 20 MLAs, who were disqualified on office-of-profit charge, were not given opportunity to present their case, Mr. Rawat said two notices were issued to them but they did not respond.

EC launching a Monitoring Cell

On Wednesday, the EC is launching a monitoring cell that will keep a close watch on “whatever is propagated through social media” and respond accordingly to ensure that “it is healthy for our electorate” by making suggestions for improvements.

PM calls protectionism as dangerous as terrorism(The Hindu)

Context

Sending out a strong message against protectionism and inward-focused economic policies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said such tendencies can be as dangerous as terrorism and climate change as he pitched for creating a “heaven of freedom.”

At World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, he decries new trade barriers.

  • Modi, who became the first Indian Prime Minister to address the World Economic Forum’s annual summit here in two decades, also talked terrorism, a major grave concern facing the world.
  • What was worse was people saying there was a difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terror. It was painful to see some youngsters getting radicalised, he said.

India as an investment destination

In an almost hour-long speech in Hindi, he sought to hard sell India as an investment destination, saying those wanting wealth with wellness and peace with prosperity should come to the country.

‘Heaven of freedom’

“Let us create a ‘heaven of freedom’, where there is cooperation and not division, fractures,” he said.

Protectionism

  • Protectionism is rearing its ugly head and there is risk of new tariff and non-tariff barriers coming up, the Prime Minister said, as he mentioned that division was not the solution to this problem of anti-globalisation.
  • While noting that in an interconnected world, globalisation was losing its lustre, he wondered, “Do global organisations created after the Second World War really reflect the aspirations and dreams of mankind today? With respect to the developing countries there is a very big gap.”
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Did you like what you read?

Enter your email address below to get all our updates in your inbox the moment it is published. Once you enter your email address, you will be subscribed immediately.


We do not spam you, so you can easily unsubscribe anytime, by clicking on unsubscribe link in the email.