Art and culture
Women and child related issues
HC asks U.P. for details on child deaths :
- The Allahabad High Court on 18th August, 2017 directed the Uttar Pradesh government to explain and present findings of its enquiry into the death of children at the B.R.D. Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur.
- The government has dismissed allegations that 30 children died due to disruption of oxygen supply in the hospital on 10th and 11th August, 2017.
- But hearing a bunch of five PIL petitions seeking high-level, independent probes into the deaths, a Division Bench of Chief Justice D. B. Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma directed the government to file a counter-affidavit.
- The court has fixed the next hearing for August 28.
India and neighbours
- The Ministry of External Affairs said under an agreement, China has committed to share annual hydrological data with India but the same has not been shared this year.
Sharing of hydrological data
- There exists a mechanism named India-China Expert-Level mechanism started in 2006 to share hydrological data during the flood season for Brahmaputra and Satluj rivers.
- Under the Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs), the hydrological data is to be shared between May 15 to October 15 every year.
- From May 15 till now, India have not received any hydrological data from China.
- The last meeting of the mechanism was held in April 2016.
- The responsibility of sharing data is with China as it hosts the points of origin of the Brahmaputra and Satluj.
- The Mechanism is necessity for regional cooperation to control floods.
- The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs over the calculated deportation of about 40,000 Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar, asking for a detailed report within four weeks.
The observation of NHRC
- The government’s plan to deport the Rohingyas by setting up “detention centres”.
- The NHRC observed that the refugees are no doubt foreign nationals but they are human beings, they fear persecution.
- Before taking such a big step, the Government of India has to look into every aspect of the situation.
- Keeping in focus the fact that the members of the Rohingya community, who have crossed into India and are residing here for long, have a fear of persecution once they are pushed back to their native country.
- The NHRC emphasized on the Supreme Court’s decisions that say the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution apply to all, irrespective of their citizenship.
- It observed that its interference in the matter was appropriate given the potential implication on the human rights of the Rohingyas.
- The NHRC said that though India was not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, it was a signatory to many United Nations and world conventions on human rights.
- Till this date, India has evolved a practical balance between human and humanitarian obligations on the one hand and security and national interests on the other.
- From Nepal to the Philippines, countries in South and South-East Asia are keenly observing the Doklam crisis, wary of taking sides, but also keeping a close eye on subtle power shifts that the unfolding crisis embroiling China and India may reveal.
Different sides taken by different countries
- During a visit to Islamabad by China’s Vice Premier, Wang Yang, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence, the Pakistani side backed all positions adopted by China, ranging from Doklam to the South China Sea (SCS).
- Japan became the first G-7 country to support India’s position on the Doklam issue.
- In New Delhi, Japan’s Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu acknowledged that the Doklam area “is disputed between China and Bhutan,” countering Beijing’s claim that the stand-off was taking place on Chinese sovereign territory.
- Nepal, sharing common borders with India and China, has expressed neutrality on the Doklam standoff, and called for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the crisis.
- But in the Asia-Pacific, the Doklam face-off is being conflated with regional contests between China and several members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the SCS.
- The rising tensions in Doklam may have perpetrators on both sides of the fence, but for many in East Asia it underscores the fact that China is embroiled in multiple territorial disputes across the Eurasian landmass and rim land.
- The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP), quoted foreign policy specialists is reporting that the protracted border dispute between China and India in the Himalayas “has created a ‘spillover effect’ as China’s neighbours become unsettled by its tough handling of the escalating conflict between the two Asian giants.
- India’s standing up to China can only be a boon for South-East Asian countries even when they don’t say so openly.
- Any major power keeping China in check can only yield geopolitical benefits to South-East Asia as the region is wary of China’s growing assertiveness.
Strengthening of public health services must go along with leveraging of private sector resources.
- Strengthening of the country’s public health services must go along with private sector resources.
Need for the Public and Private health care partnership:
- Community Health Centres report a 65 per cent vacancy rate of specialists since governments are simply unable to attract and retain talent. For example:
- The recent Gorakhpur tragedy is just another reminder of the tragic consequences ultimately borne by our citizens.
- After decades of effort at strengthening our health system, the country is still struggling with the absenteeism of doctors — ranging from 28 per cent to 68 per cent in different states.
- In the prestigious AIIMS at New Delhi, there are 1.33 lakh cancer patients seeking care, of which only 36,000 get admitted with the number of beds available for chemotherapy being a mere 36.
- The urgency of supply shortage requires the strengthening of public sector while also leveraging private resources and capacities.
- Thus, the recent Niti-Aayog’s public–private partnership aims to ensure that district hospitals provide basic services for the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases at affordable rates or free of cost for those patients for whom the government chooses to cover such costs through insurance or through budgetary grants.
- The West Bengal government on 18th August, 2017 advised the Supreme Court against evolving a central selection mechanism for appointing judicial officers in State subordinate judicial services, saying it is against the principle of federalism practiced in Indian democracy.
- Government officials advised the SC not to rush into an area that is uncertain and and suggested that if at all the initiative is undertaken, such a mechanism should come through proper legislation if at all it is implicated.
- They also added that a central mechanism would contradict the constitutional duty of the State High Courts under Article 233 of the Constitution.
- The Article provides that the Governor should appoint district judges in consultation with the High Court concerned.
Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment
The Economic Survey volume II cautions policymakers of a possible deflationary cycle.
On the growth rate, while adhering to the forecast in Volume 1 for real GDP growth rate of 6.75%-7.5% this year, it suggests that the balance of risk has shifted to the downward side of the range.
- Just one day prior to the Economic Survey, the Finance Minister presented to Parliament the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework statement in pursuance of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003.
- The framework assumes that nominal GDP growth for the current (2017-18) and subsequent two years would be 11.75%, 12.3% respectively
- Inflation rate is expected to be about 4%.
- Savings and investment ratio has declined in the recent period.
- The savings-investment ratio would need to be increased.
- Reducing public dissavings through privatisations such as Air India and other measures to boost savings
- The demand boost inevitable comes from domestic consumption which accounted for about 90% of GDP growth in FY 2017.
- The survey projections accept the fiscal deficit of 3.2% in the current year and 3% for the subsequent two years.
Rekindling inflation :
- Faster resolution of the twin balance sheets is critical to rekindling private investment
- Accelerating the pace of agricultural reform
- Targeted capital expenditure
- Improving ease of doing business
- Multiple infrastructure initiatives like roads, and power
- Stressed sectors like telecom and power need speedier resolution
- The Economic Survey argues that India had moved to a low inflation trajectory, due to supply-side elasticity in agriculture and long-term softening of global oil prices.
- The Economic Survey seeks to highlight that for sustained 14 quarters the actual inflation (WPI-CPI) has undershot the projections made by the Reserve Bank (RBI).
- In the Indian context ral neutral interest rates hover around 1.2-1.75% and that the present rate is about 25-75 basis points above the neutral rate.
- On monetary policy, the central bankers have all over made calculations and undershot inflation targets.
- The inflation target is 4%.
- Multiplier benefits from low interest rate regimes are contingent on deeper structural reforms
- Regarding the exchange rate, real effective interest rates have appreciated significantly.
- The RBI has the unenviable challenges of managing significant inward capital flows with exchange rates which do not penalise domestic industry through a premium on cheaper imports.
- Fiscal tightening by states due to Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY),
- farm loan waiver,
- declining profitability of some key sectors like power and telecom,
- The shadow of unresolved twin balance sheet problems and transitional issues of the GST are contributory to deflationary pressures.
- The scheme UDAY is designed to clean up the balance sheets of electricity boards in the short run and is expected to improve management of electricity boards.
- Appropriate action on tariff fixation, regular billing cycles, monitoring timely collection by distributing companies is an integral part of the UDAY package.
- This would benefit state’s finances.
- For addressing the above mentioned issues, short term state specific measures would need to be innovatively conceived.
- The recent initiatives to improve the fertilizer mix through extensive soil-testing along with the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana will prove beneficial to stabilise farm incomes.
The Lack of an honest debate on inflation and monetary policy, is hurting India’s growth
- The entire sustained decline in inflation from 5+ levels has been missed by the RBI.
- Last 12 months average inflation of 3.4 per cent with the maximum of 5+ observed in August 2016.
- Deputy Governor in charge of monetary policy, Viral Acharya opines: “Higher real rates are justified in the meantime as absent efficient transmission, attempts to address symptoms of balance-sheet problems with aggressive monetary easing get wasted and can even backfire by misallocating investments, fueling asset price inflation, creating false hopes of a growth boost, and relaxing the pedal on deeper structural reforms.
- At the release of an edited book by Rakesh Mohan, one of India’s leading economists and thinkers, there ensued a panel discussion on what policies were needed to get India growing again.
- The eminent panel fully recognised that the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector, was not in good condition
- The panel discussed the importance of sun-spots affecting jobs.
- The median real policy rate in emerging economies is 0.8 per cent.
- Many economies (including Bangladesh and Vietnam) have negative real policy rates.
- Excluding Brazil and Russia, India has the highest real policy rate in the world, and the Russian rate is only 50 bp higher.
Union Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, recently announced that only electric vehicles (EVs) will be sold in India from 2030.
- The current National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) has set a sales target of only 5-7 million EVs and hybrid electric vehicles annually by 2020.
- The Indian automobile market, which include two, three-and four-wheeler, is expected to clock an annual sales figure of around 23 million by 2030.
- The transition would require a battery capacity of about 400 GWh (gigawatt hours) each year, equivalent to increasing the current global EV battery production by a factor of five, just to cater to the Indian EV market.
- This gigantic demand for batteries is an ideal opportunity for the domestic manufacturing industry and job creation.
- India has missed several such opportunities to be integrated in the global value chain for solar cells and wafers and electronics manufacturing due to a lack of suitable policy support.
- The annual EV battery market is expected to be around $30-55 billion and India cannot afford to fulfil the demand solely through imports.
- Among battery technologies available in the market, variants of lithium-ion batteries such as lithium-titanate, lithium-cobalt, and lithium-sulphurare predominantly used in electric vehicles.
- Study on India’s critical non-fuel minerals by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water(CEEW), manufacturing lithium-ion batteries would require critical minerals such as cobalt, graphite, lithium and phosphate.
- Lithium is used in pharmaceuticals, ceramics and glass, metallurgy and lubrication industry,though in much smaller quantities.
- 95% of global lithium production comes from Argentina, Australia, Chile, and China.
- The recent demand surge in the electric mobility market has already resulted in a twofold increase in lithium prices from $4,390 per tonne in 2013 to $ 9,100 per tonne presently.
- It is estimated by the CEEW that India would require about 40,000 tonnes of lithium to manufacture EV batteries in 2030, higher than the current annual global lithium production of 32,000 tonnes.
- China and the U.S., which have ambitious electric mobility targets, are way ahead in the race to secure lithium supplies.
- China, with the second largest reserves of lithium, is making strategic moves to control the majority of international lithium mining assets.
- China’s Tianqi Lithium holds a majority share in the expansion of the Talison Lithium plant in Australia, which would make it the single largest producer of lithium.
- U.S. based lithium mining companies have already secured mines in Chile, and also hold significant shares in several upcoming mining projects in Australia.
- China and U.S. will control a large share of the lithium production capacity.
- India has long-term trade relations with lithium-producing countries in Latin America through preferential trade agreement (PTAs).
- A recent extension of the PTA with Chile provides India some tariff concessions for lithium carbonate imports.
- India need to further diversify the supply risk by including lithium in existing PTAs or establishing new PTAs with other lithium-producing countries.
- There is need to formulate policies incentivising domestic public and private mining companies to invest in overseas lithium mining assets.
- India should also focus on creating a vibrant battery research and development ecosystem domestically.
- Research should focus on developing alternative technologies containing minerals with low supply risks and battery recycling techniques to recover associated minerals and materials.
- Constantly pushing research and development for substitutes and alternatives are vital to secure electric mobility.
Research and smart trade agreements are needed to realise India’s ambitious electric vehicles target. To meet India’s demands amid a global surge in electric vehicle demand, the entire mineral supply chain needs to be overhauled and expanded.