Executive and the Judiciary
Provide relief in cases of unnatural jail death, SC tells Centre, States: (The hindu, Editorial)
- The Supreme Court directed the Chief Justices of all High Courts to suo motu register petitions to identify the kin of prisoners who died unnatural deaths from 2012 and order the States to award them compensation.
What has the Bench observed?
- It is important for the Centre and State governments to realize that persons who suffer an unnatural death in a prison are also victims, sometimes of a crime and sometimes of negligence and apathy or both.
- There is no reason at all to exclude their kin from receiving compensation only because the victim is a criminal, the Bench observed.
What were the considerations earlier for compensation?
- Typically, the National and States Human Rights Commissions decide and award compensations in cases of custodial torture, deaths, etc.
- However, compliance by State governments is low as these commissions do not exercise any power of contempt.
- The States rather go for a long-drawn appeal in the high courts and later on in the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Why is this judgement significant?
- This judgment is significant as the high court will now directly award compensation and ensure compliance by the States.
- The Supreme Court referred to its judgment as a voice of the victims and an end to the silence of the dead.
- Human rights in a welfare state is not dependent on the status of the person, whether he is a criminal or a victim.
- The payment from the year 2012 was chosen because National Crimes Records Bureau has records of unnatural deaths from that year.
- The judgment came on a letter addressed to the apex court in 2013 by its former Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti on the deplorable conditions of 1382 prisons across the country.
- The court put the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on a deadline of December 31, 2017, by which it had to formulate procedures for tabulating the number of children who suffered unnatural deaths in custody or in child care institutions and take remedial measures.
SC notice to Centre on plea to ban Blue Whale: (The hindu, Editorial)
- The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a petition for an immediate direction to ban online game ‘Blue Whale.’
Why is the game getting banned?
- The game ‘Blue Whale’ is suspected to be behind the deaths or attempted suicides of teenagers and young adults hooked to it.
- The blue whale on-line game encourages people to take part in increasingly dangerous harmful dares that finally culminate in instructions by the administrators to kill themselves.
What did Supreme Court decide?
- The Bench issued notice to the government on a petition by advocate C.R. Jaya Sukin, representing another lawyer N.S. Ponnaiah, who wanted the government to take immediate steps to spread awareness about the dangers of playing the game and end its availability online.
- The court asked Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal to assist the court.
What were the arguments given?
- Mr. Sukin argued that till now government has not taken any sufficient steps even when the number of cases of self-inflicted injuries and suicides were increasing.
- The petition said the game had spread its tentacles across the cities and was enticing even school students to play.
Government Policies and social issues
SC issues notice on student safety : (The hindu, Editorial)
- A plea seeking framing of “non- negotiable” child safety conditions and implementation of guidelines to protect school children from sexual abuse and murder pressed the Supreme Court to seek responses from the Centre and all State governments.
What is the issue?
- The PIL filed raised the issue of children being exploited and subjected to child abuse repeatedly within the boundaries of the schools.
- It also demanded that Central and State governments notify a set of “non-negotiable” child safety conditions for schools.
What is Supreme Court’s response to the PIL filed?
- The Bench issued notices and sought the responses within three weeks from the Union Human Resource Development Ministry and all State governments and union territories.
- The court has sought proper implementation of existing guidelines of authorities including the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on prevention of child abuse in schools.
- Referring to the guidelines, it said every school is required to have a “child protection policy which should be understood, explained and signed by all employees or recruits.”
- All new employees must go through a day-long orientation programme on issues relating to child protection within a month of their joining, the plea said referring to the guidelines.
Unions toughen stand on reforms: (The hindu, Editorial)
The Labour Ministry set to discuss five proposals in the Code on Industrial Relations Bill with trade unions.
What is the issue?
- The Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015, had proposed to combine Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
- It is supposed to be an attempt to encourage compliance and improve the ease of doing business.
- Central Trade Unions want the proposed Code on Industrial Relations Bill to be scrapped
- They have opposed the government’s plans to ease retrenchment norms and to restrict trade union membership under the Industrial Disputes Act
What proposals in the Code on Industrial Relations Bill are set to be discussed with the Trade Unions?
- Allowing bigger companies to retrench workers without the government’s permission
- Increasing the severance pay by three times
- Restricting outsiders’ role in trade union leadership
- Changing the definition of ‘workers’
- Procedure for recognition of trade unions
Governance and related issues
The people’s way out: (Indian express, editorial)
At a time when Kashmir is in serious turmoil, the civil society should take a lead to stop Kashmiri youths from getting radicalized.
What is the situation in Kashmir?
- Bloodshed has become a common scene in Kashmir
- Al Qaeda has raised its head.
- The struggle in Kashmir has also lost its international attention. The declaration of Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terrorist organisation has weakened the theme of Kashmir problem as an internal struggle.
- The government’s approach has failed to appeal the people.
What can the civil society do?
- In Kashmir, there is an urgent need for strong civil society movement to end the crisis situation.
- The civil society should take a lead to stop Kashmiri youths from getting radicalized.
- To start with, the representatives of the three regions- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should together to find a cohesive way forward.
- Though Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have many differences, there is common ground which can be found for people who have lived together for centuries.
- The existing civil society groups in Jammu and Kashmir like the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society have failed to go beyond their anti-army and anti-government stance. These groups should urgently reform themselves.
- Local citizens of the state should take direct responsibility to arrest the problem
What are the previous successful civil society movements in India?
The Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA):
- It was formed it 1984 to fight the drug and alcohol menace in Nagaland.
- Later, NMA made “Shed No More Blood” its motto and took on the task of negotiating between various underground groups to check violence in the state
- It was formed in 1977 in Manipur
- Its initial focus of fighting alcoholism and drug abuse
- Later, it expanded to countering human rights violations and the development of society at large.
The arc to Tokyo: on India-Japan ties : (The Hindu, Editorials)
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India, part of annual summits between the two countries, has set strategic ties on a fast track.
What are the latest developments?
- The Ahmedabad – Mumbai bullet train project, was launched by Mr. Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- India’s decision to partner with Japan for the 508-km, ₹1.1 lakh-crore project is as much about politics as it is about infrastructure.
- Japan has been keen to export its high-speed train technology along with rolling stock, and India’s move to confirm the Japanese contracts while China wins’ projects along its Belt and Road railway line is significant.
- India has also extended to Japan an offer denied to any other country, which is to assist in infrastructure development in the Northeast.
The talk about North Korea as a joint challenge
- Mr. Abe considers North Korea as a joint challenge for both India and Japan.
- Mr Abe also pointed to China for supporting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.
- The clause calling for zero tolerance on terrorism referenced China’s veto on the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief being put on the list of UN-designated terrorists.
- Both the title of the joint statement, “Toward a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific”, and substantive paragraphs on cooperation in the region indicate a much closer alignment between India and Japan in countering China’s influence in the South China Sea.
- The coming into force of the India-Japan nuclear deal and more military and maritime exercises will reinforce such efforts.
India – Japan trade relations
- While Japan is India’s largest donor and the third largest provider of FDI, bilateral trade has steadily declined since 2013, and is down to $13.61 billion in 2016-17 from $14.51 billion the year before.
- The contrast with India-China trade, at $71 billion a year, and Japan-China trade, at $279 billion, is stark.
- Therefore, the decision to finalize four new locations for special Japanese industrial townships may be only one way of addressing the difficulties businessmen face in India.
BJP States tell police to push back Rohingya: (The hindu, Editorial)
- The refugee crisis in Myanmar.
- India’s security concerns with respect to the Rohingya muslims migrating to India.
- The UN has called the crisis as a text-book example of ethnic cleansing.
Assam and Manipur have placed their forces on alert
- The Centre is yet to spell out its stand on undocumented Rohingya.
- However, BJP-led State governments in Assam and Manipur have asked their police, especially in the border districts, to “push back anyone who tries to cross the border.”
- While Assam shares a 262-km border with Bangladesh, three other north-eastern States — Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland — are also front-line States.
- Sources say the decisions by the State governments follow “intelligence inputs from the Centre that terror groups could use the refugee crisis to sneak in their members and pose a security challenge to the country.”
What is the Rohingya crisis?
- The Rohingya — a minority Muslim community in the Rakhine state of Myanmar on the border with Bangladesh — have been forced to flee the country following periodic ethnic clashes and crackdown by Myanmar’s Army.
- The Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless ethnic group. There are about a million of them, most of whom live in northern Rakhine.
- Myanmar’s government does not recognise them as citizens, which results in their legalised persecution.
- The latest bout of violence erupted last month, following an attack on a police post.
- Around 3,00,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh since the August 25 crackdown on their settlements.
- The UN has called the crisis as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
Three isn’t a crowd:(Indian Express, Editorial)
- China was the looming presence in this year’s India-Japan Special Strategic and Global partnership summit.
What are the issues concerning China?
- “Toward a Free, Open and Prosperous Indo-Pacific”, the title of the joint statement, gave away the common concern weighing down both countries.
- India went into the summit fresh from settling the Doklam row with China.
- A cordial BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, was a mood elevator but not enough to wipe out the worry that there might be more Doklams .
- Japan, which has its own troubles with China over territory and much historical animosity, was the only country that openly articulated its support for India during those two troubled months.
What does the joint statement signify?
- The joint statement calls for a “rules-based order” in the Indo-Pacific region where “sovereignty and international law are respected, and differences resolved through dialogue, and where all countries, large or small, enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development, and a free, fair and open trade and investment system”.
- The joint statement also took a swipe at China’s OBOR initiative by calling for transparency in the development of connectivity and infrastructure development in the region, and reaffirmed the India-Japan project to connect Africa and Asia.
- The defence and security co-operation between the two countries has steadily risen over the last few years, with the Malabar joint exercise the most high-profile representation of this.
- Both New Delhi and Tokyo have to keep in mind that they have independent relations with China, with problems unique to their own bilateral histories.
- The next step in the India-Japan partnership has to be constructive engagement with China.
Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment
Understanding the slowdown: (The hindu, Editorial)
- Causes responsible for the slowdown of Indian economy
What are the issues?
- There is a slowdown in Indian economy
- The GDP has lost momentum
- The reasons of slowdown are being explained as beyond the government’s control; that are deficient rains, the sluggish world economy, recent demonetization in the economy and Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- Both the GST and the demonetization failed to bring change in the numbers
What are the four engines of the economy?
- Exports, government investments, private consumption, and private investments
What has happened to the four engines?
- During the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) tenure – the four engines powered the economy
- Growth in government investments and private consumption remained on the track until it has started slowing down in the quarter ending June 2017
- Exports and private investments have lost momentum
What is the background?
- Government investments and private consumption depend on how well the economy is doing
- As incomes improve, private spending and tax collections pick up.
- The 2008 financial crisis was a big blow to the export business including India
- Recovery in the global economy has lifted exports of most Asian countries
- Indian export remained stagnated after the crisis
- The overvalued rupee eroded the competitiveness of Indian export
What are the challenges?
- The steps taken for improving the ease of doing business and the foreign investments regime have proved insufficient in restarting the private investments cycle
- The share of investments in GDP GDP has declined steadily for the past five years.
- New jobs are not created
- Without new jobs, consumption will only grow up to a point
- India’s economic future can improve significantly with investments-led growth
Why are investments on hold?
- The returns-risk projections of projects are not favourable
- Companies are not convinced that new factories will be sufficiently profitable
- The government is politically sensitive
- The government has set a low target for consumer price inflation
- The government is unable to progress on land and labour reforms
- Government’s policy on the bad bank has impacted small companies in raising finance
- The environment of constant shocks and unanticipated policy changes is hurting investment sentiment in the economy
Whom to be made responsible?
- There is no policy paralysis
- Decision-making is speedy which demonstrates the growing disconnect between policy tools and objectives
- The demonetization has dragged the slowing down economy
- The complicated design of the GST may have added to the vulnerabilities of the informal sector
Exports climb 10.3% reversing 5-month slowdown : (The hindu, Editorial)
- Ways to a sustainable growth of Indian export
- India’s merchandise exports grew 10.3% year-on-year to $23.8 billion in August, reversing a declining trend witnessed for five straight months.
What has caused the growth?
- The growth was driven mainly by engineering goods, petroleum products and chemicals
- Improvement in demand in overseas markets.
What are the factors of worry?
- The order booking position from October was not encouraging due to
- Rising global uncertainties
- Volatility of rupee
- Challenges on the domestic front that is Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Why has GST become a road-blocker?
- Blockage of funds under GST has resulted in least or no working capital
- There are uncertainties on refunds to be made in the coming months
What can bring competitiveness to Indian exports?
- In-depth sectoral analysis to pinpoint factors responsible – small and micro exporters
- Problems arising out of the GST regime implementation are addressed
Aadhaar to be linked to driving licence: (The hindu, Editorial)
- Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that the Union government would now link Aadhar with driving licenses.
Why to link Aadhar?
- It is a measure taken to help check the menace of multiple licenses.
- Considering Aadhaar as a safe and secure tool for good governance and empowerment, it will come to rescue when there will be any issue of multiple licenses.
Country of a chosen few: (Indian Express, editorial)
The paper by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel, ‘Indian Income Inequality 1922-2014 — From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?’ has shown that income inequality in India is at its highest level since 1922.
How far has India been successful to achieve inclusive growth?
- During the period 1980-2014, the share of the top 1% of India’s population in income increased from 6 per cent to 22%
- The share of the middle 40 % fell from 43%to 30%
- The share of the bottom 50% fell from 24 % to 15%
- The top 0.1% of earners captured a higher share (12%) of the total growth than the bottom 50% (11%)
- Thus, the scenario in India is grim. India has definitely not performed well in achieving inclusive growth.
What necessary conditions should the state follow to bring in inclusivity and mitigate income disparity?
- The present skewed income growth pattern needs to be curbed
- The issue of unemployment needs to addressed urgently
- The taxation structure also needs to be looked at for examining correctives like gift tax, wealth tax, estate duty etc.
ISRO to be back with launches in Nov.-Dec.: (The hindu, Editorial)
- The PSLV-C39 mission of August 31 failed to release a back-up navigation satellite into space.
What is PSLV?
- The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, commonly known by its abbreviation PSLV, is an expendable launch system developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits, a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially available only from Russia
- Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, India’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan (Mars orbiter) and India’s first space observatory, Astrosat.
What is Antrix?
- Antrix Corporation Limited is the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO).
- Antrix Corporation had made the PSLV rocket a globally famous and reliable space launch vehicle; it had lifted more than 200 small foreign satellites over years.
- On 15 February 2017, India successfully launched a payload of 104 foreign satellites in polar orbit around the Earth using PSLV tripling the previous record held by Russia for most number of satellites sent to space in a single launch.
What is IRNSS-1H?
- IRNSS-1H series satellite: The 1,425 kg-heavy satellite that was to join the NavIC constellation and provide navigation services for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- The IRNSS-1H was India’s eighth navigation satellite which was to be launched into an elliptical Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GSTO)
- The satellite would have served as a backup for IRNSS-1A, one of the seven satellites of the constellation whose three rubidium atomic clocks on board had stopped functioning.
- The satellite carried two types of payloads – for navigation and ranging.
What is NavIC or IRNSS?
- According The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) with an operational name of NAVIC is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system, that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services. It covers India and a region extending 1,500 km (930 mi) around it, with plans for further extension.
- The system at-present consists of a constellation of 7 satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.
Applications of IRNSS
- Alerts regarding bad weather or high tide could also be given to fishermen using the messaging services under NavIC. They can also be warned from crossing international boundaries.
- Merchant ships can use navigational information to track routes in the ocean.
- Search and rescue operations will also get easier. The position service of NavIC will help transport operators in tracking their goods. There can be better traffic management in cities, towns and highways.
- Some of the other applications include tracking movement of trains, alerting commuters at unmanned railway crossings, managing resources using geo-tagging and geo-fencing and management of land surveys and port operations using NavIC signals.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation expects to resume launch of satellites in a couple of months once its failure analysis committee releases its report. The committee is conducting tests on why the PSLV-C39 mission of August 31 failed to release a back-up navigation satellite into space.