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Confusing consent: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • In acquitting writer-film-maker Mahmood Farooqui of the charge of rape, the Delhi High Court concluded that it could not be established without reasonable doubt whether the incident took place.

What is the court’s reasoning to conclude at such decision?

  • The court ruled that even if rape had taken place, it is doubtful that it was without the consent of the American researcher who pressed the charges.
  • The court, by and large, accepted her version of events, described her as a stellar witness, and found that vital aspects of her testimony were verified.
  • Considering that the victim’s unwillingness was only in her mind, the judge gave credibility to Farooqui’s defence that he was unaware of the lack of consent.

What does this mean?

  • When the court raises a doubt as to when exactly the consent was withdrawn, it seems the victim is being faulted for the man failing to comprehend a ‘no’.
  • Consent, a major ground for defence in rape cases, was allowed to be raised in the appeal although it was not made during the trial, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment.
  • Judicial decisions containing a mix of sound law and regressive personal opinion are not uncommon. This decision is an example of it.
  • When superior court orders contain such remarks, there is an inherent danger that they could be seen as a legal basis for deciding cases of rape.

Falling off the health-care radar: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Overview

  • The article discusses the problems with National Health Policy (NHP), and dealing and managing the non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

What are the issues with National Health Policy?

  • The National Health Policy (NHP), 2017 is unable to see the wood for the trees.
  • Life and death questions are dealt with perfunctorily or simply overlooked.
  • For example, it overlooks the rapid rise in the share of the old (60 years or more), and associated morbidities, especially sharply rising non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and disabilities.
  • With rising age, numerous physiological changes occur and the risk of chronic diseases rises.
  • The co-occurrence of chronic diseases and disability elevates the risk of mortality.
  • The recent report, Caring for Our Elders: Early Responses, India Ageing Report – 2017 (UNFPA), complements the NHP by focussing on the vulnerability of the aged to NCDs, recent policy initiatives and the role of non-governmental organisations in building self-help groups and other community networks.
  • While all this is valuable, it fails to make a distinction between the aged in general and those suffering from chronic conditions. It matters as many suffering from chronic conditions and disabilities may find it Nor are the important questions of the impact of these networks and their reliability discussed except in a piecemeal manner.

Is the health system well-equipped to deal with surging NCDs?

  • The health system is ill-equipped to deal with surging NCDs; nor is the staff well trained to treat/advise the aged suffering from dementia or frailty, and for early diagnosis and management of conditions such as hypertension.
  • The quality of medical care is abysmal, and hospitalisation costs are exorbitant and impoverishing.
  • Health insurance covers a fraction of medical expenses incurred.
  • However, many of these chronic conditions such as hypertension can be prevented or delayed by engaging in healthy behaviours. Supportive families and community networks often make a significant difference.

India Human Development Survey (IHDS): Analysis

  • Based on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2015, among aged males and females (over 60 years)¸ the proportions of those suffering from NCDs nearly doubled during 2005-12, accounting for about a third of the respective populations in 2012.
  • More females than males suffered from these diseases.
  • The proportions were higher among those over 70, and these doubled in the age groups 60-70 years and over 70.
  • A vast majority of those with NCDs had access to medical advice and treatment and the proportion remained unchanged during 2005-12.
  • As there is considerable heterogeneity in providers of medical help — from qualified doctors to faith healers and quacks — and a sharp deterioration in the quality of medical services, it is not surprising that the proportions suffering from NCDs have shot up despite high access.
  • Access to government health insurance nearly doubled but remained low as barriers for the aged remain pervasive. In any case, the proportion of medical expenses covered was measly.
  • The IHDS also provides data on inter-caste and village conflicts, with the proportion of those suffering from NCDs living in villages that experienced inter-caste or other conflicts more than doubling during 2005-2012. Lack of social harmony induces helplessness, disruption of medical supplies and network support.

Loneliness and immunity: Risk factor for NCDs

  • Loneliness is a perceived isolation that manifests in the distressing feeling that accompanies discrepancies between one’s desired and actual social relationships.
  • The link between loneliness and mortality is mediated by unhealthy behaviors and morbidity.
  • Research shows that loneliness increases vascular resistance and diminishes immunity.
  • Whether related to or unrelated to loneliness, a high risk factor for NCDs is daily consumption of alcohol, especially local brews.
  • Daily consumption of alcohol among the aged with NCDs rose more than twice over the period 2005-2012.

What is the role of networking?

  • Another measure is the proportion of those married and widowed.
  • However, children often play an important role in elderly support with the caveat that filial piety shows signs of diminishing.
  • An important point is that today, ‘women are increasingly filling other roles, which provides them with greater security in older age.
  • But these shifts also limit the capacity of women and families to provide care for older people who need it’.
  • That social networks are effective in providing support to the aged is far from axiomatic as there are questions of size of a network, whether it is proximal or non-proximal and whether there is social harmony.
  • If social networks are instrumental in bonding together in periods of personal crises, this could compensate for a lack of family support, e.g. widows living alone, and help alleviate morbidity.

What does the World Report on Ageing and Health 2015 say?

  • The World Report on Ageing and Health 2015 (WHO) is emphatic about what is known as ageing in place.
  • That is the ability of older people to live in their own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or level of intrinsic capacity.
  • This reinforces the case that solutions to those with chronic diseases lie within but also outside health systems.

Conclusion: Policy perspective

  • From a policy perspective, health systems have to be configured to deal with not one NCD but multiple NCDs to manage them better.
  • The impact of multimorbidity on an old person’s capacity, health-care utilization and the costs of care are significantly larger than the summed effects of each.
  • Besides, the reconfigured medical system must be complemented by stronger family ties and social networks.
  • This is not as Utopian as it may seem as examples of such complementarities abound.

For The Children’s Sake: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

India needs to join the Hague Convention on child custody.

Why do child custody disputes occur?

  • Child custody disputes that sometimes erupt when a marriage dissolves create challenging and disruptive environments for children.
  • This disruption is magnified when parents cannot agree on living arrangements, especially if one parent takes unilateral action and removes children from their country of residence, often in violation of that country’s laws.
  • Families may suddenly find themselves in legal disputes in multiple countries, resulting in significant financial and emotional tolls.
  • These legal battles can drag on for years, leaving children in limbo and potentially harming their development.

Consensus to address the problems

  • A global consensus has emerged to address this problem.
  • Ninety-eight countries spanning all continents, cultures and religions recognize that despite different laws and norms, we share a commitment to the best interests of children.
  • This consensus underscores that when parents cannot agree, the courts in the country where a child lives are best suited to settle custody issues.
  • This consensus also reflects another principle as more families elect to live in a foreign country, they agree to follow the laws and respect court decisions in their country of residence.
  • This is the basis of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a vital international instrument that works to protect children from the harmful effects of international   One of the Hague Convention’s greatest strengths is that disputes are resolved within months, not years, allowing parents and children to move on with their lives.

Safeguards provided by the convention

  • The Convention offers multiple safeguards to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected.
  • This begins with a focus on preventing parents from unilaterally removing children.
  • The Convention encourages all parties to seek mutually acceptable child custody arrangements in accordance with the laws of the country they are living in.
  • If a parent unilaterally removes the child to another country, the Hague Convention sets forth a process to resolve the issue.

Issues related to the convention

  • The Convention does not resolve the custody dispute; it simply stipulates that the courts where the family has been living are in the best position to make child custody decisions.
  • Children are not automatically returned to the left-behind parent.
  • If a court orders children to be returned to their home country, it is then up to the courts there to decide on custody, in the best interests of the children.
  • There are many examples in which courts awarded custody of the child to the taking parent and the child then relocated abroad with that parent.
  • Critics sometimes worry that joining the Convention will force abuse victims to return to their abusers.
  • However, Article 13 of the Convention allows courts to decide not to return abducted children if the return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation.

Conclusion

  • As the US-India relationship continues to expand and strengthen, India needs to join the community of 98 countries that have taken the important step of joining the Hague Convention. The children and families of both of our nations deserve better.

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Debunking myths about India’s multilateralism: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

  • The article discusses the issues that prevent India from understanding what considerations influence India’s diplomacy.

Annual UN General Assembly and India’s diplomacy

  • The international community’s attention focuses on New York for the annual UN General Assembly.
  • The Indian delegation is sizeable, not least in its agenda.
  • Besides meeting with leaders from 20 states, Indian officials are participating in discussions on UN reform, counter-terrorism, climate change, human rights and peacekeeping.
  • The annual event also gives us an opportunity to audit and clear up some longstanding myths that cloud our thinking and judgment on India’s multilateral diplomacy.
  • These myths propagate perceptions that have outlived their utility.
  • Such views prevent us from better understanding what considerations influence India’s multilateral diplomacy, how her behaviour, influenced by strategic considerations, has changed over the years, and why it is important to view India’s multilateral positions in the context of the country’s economic trajectory.

India as a multilateral naysayer

  • India is regarded as a “naysayer” while negotiating international rules and while interacting on multilateral issues like climate change, nuclear proliferation, trade, etc.
  • By identifying India as a multilateral naysayer, India has either blocked multilateral efforts from going forward, refused to accede to rules that others have agreed to or has blocked multilateral negotiations.
  • Defensiveness has restrained India’s potential and multilateral ambitions.
  • Almost all states enter multilateral settings with a set of concerns they hope to secure without conceding much in return.
  • Negotiations are characterized by attrition where compromises and breakthroughs are made on the margins.

Ideas shape India’s multilateral postures

  • A myth is that ideas and ideologies shape India’s multilateral postures. Interests are lost in the picture.
  • India’s multilateral interventions at the UN were shaped by the political currents of the time, particularly decolonization and the desire for autonomy in foreign policy and development.
  • Growth has generated convergence in some areas, like trade, public health, intellectual property rights, and increasingly on issues like climate change.
  • India has pushed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization to liberalize tariffs in industries like services and agriculture where Indian firms have a competitive advantage.
  • At the World Health Organization, India endorsed a strong set of rules to curb rising tobacco use worldwide, having seen the raging effects of tobacco consumption at home.

Multilateralism and power politics

  • We focus more on big-ticket multilateral issues, like nuclear proliferation and arms control, international trade, climate change, and the UN Security Council.
  • These issues matter and India’s ability to deftly manage them redounds to her position in the international system.
  • Multilateralism is more prosaic and defined by incremental advances made within international organizations.
  • India has negotiated international rules covering issues like tobacco control, desertification, food security and agriculture, labour, disability rights, and refugee rights.
  • India’s positions on such issues are also influenced by other ministries (health, agriculture, environment, commerce, etc) which have different interests and priorities from diplomats from the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
  • Institutions affect India’s multilateral postures.

Need for pragmatism in India’s multilateral diplomacy

  • Pragmatism imply being more amenable to cooperating with other states and international organizations, adopting progressive and collectively minded stances on issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation.
  • Cooperation becomes Trojan horse to nudge India to accept commitments that may not be in the national interest.
  • Evidence suggests that India has been pragmatic in its multilateral interventions since the 1980s to advance and defend its core interests through multilateral engagement, resist or abstain from international rules when necessary.
  • India needs to be open and willing to proactively shape and ratify the rules where national and global interests converge.

India to back Syria in fight against IS: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • India’s its support to Syria in the fight against terrorism

What is the news all about?

  • The grand mufti of Syrian Republic is visiting India
  • Both the parties have exchanged views on terrorism

What is the importance?

  • Bilateral relations would improve further by such visits
  • The issues like several Indians joining the IS, and fighting for the terror group in Syria and Iraq was discussed
  • Such discussions will help Syria in formulating inclusive policies in the line of India’s unity in diversity in India.

Palestine to seek support of Indians: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • Palestine on Wednesday said India’s recent display of support has boosted the ongoing political reconciliation in the country.

Introduction:

  • A senior Palestinian diplomat said the speech of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the Non-Alignment ministerial in New York encouraged the Palestinian cause, and said his country would seek support from all sections of Indians for protection of the Al Aqsa mosque.
  • He highlighted that following internal reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas factions, the move for an independent Palestine will gain new momentum.
  • During her speech, Ms. Swaraj had cited India’s traditional support for the rights of the Palestinian people and said, “For independent India, support for the Palestinian cause has been a reference point of its foreign policy.”

Positive contribution:

  • In his speech at the UN delivered recently, President Mahmoud Abbas strongly urged the international community to pressure Israel for the implementation of the two-state solution, and pledged to give a chance to the peace plans of the U.S.
  • He also indicated that Ramallah would begin a new outreach to all parts of India and in this respect a beginning would be made with two India-Palestine friendship societies to be inaugurated soon in Odisha and Punjab.

Our call to deport Rohingya: Centre: (The Hindu)

Background

  • Rohingya Crisis; Government of India’s stand to deport the ‘illegal immigrants’.
  • NHRC had observed that the ‘refugees’ are no doubt foreign nationals, but are human beings.

What’s new

  • The Home Ministry has replied to a notice issued by the NHRC.
  • The ministry has defended its decision, deeming Rohingya ‘illegal immigrants’.
  • Various provisions of the Foreigners Act and the Passport Act, which bar foreigners from illegally staying in the country were mentioned in the reply.
  • It is conveyed in the reply that the decision to deport the Rohingya rests with the Centre; this was told to the Apex court as well.
  • Deportations of Rohingya will take place as per the laid down procedure.

Security Reasons

Following reasons were cited by the centre in its affidavit filed in the SC:

  • Fragile North-Eastern Corridor
  • Radicalization among the Rohingya
  • Possibility of violence against the Indian Buddhists

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Army hits ultras on Myanmar border: (The Hindu)

Context

  • Indian Army wreaked heavy casualties on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN(K) militants in an operation close to the Myanmar border in the early hours of 27th September.

Causalities

  • The Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command has said that army suffered no casualties.
  • The Army did not specify the number of insurgents killed or injured in the attack.
  • In its tweet, the Command identified the insurgents as members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), the key rebel group that had pulled out of the 14-year-old ceasefire in March 2015 and has been on the warpath with security agencies ever since.

How did the ceasefire take place?

  • The firefight started around 4.45 a.m. when an Army patrol team was fired upon.
  • Indian troops retaliated swiftly and brought down heavy retaliatory fire on the insurgents.
  • Army sources said 10-12 teams followed the inputs from the initial contact, and carried out the operation in Mon district of Nagaland.

Operation was Confined to border

  • The Army emphasized that the operation was limited to the Indian border.
  • It is reiterated that Indian troops did not cross the international border.

CCS clears internal security scheme: (The Hindu)

Context

  • It will strengthen law and order mechanism and modernize the police forces.

What has happened?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved Rs. 25,000-crore internal security scheme to strengthen country’s law and order mechanism and modernize the police forces.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by the Prime Minister, gave its approval for the implementation of the umbrella scheme, Modernization of Police Forces (MPF), for 2017-18 to 2019-20.

More about the scheme

  • This is the country’s biggest ever internal security scheme.
  • The financial outlay over the three-year period is Rs. 25,060 crore, out of which the Central government’s share will be Rs. 18,636 crore and the States Rs. 6,424 crore.
  • Special provisions had been made under the scheme for internal security, law and order, women’s security, availability of modern weapons, mobility of police forces, logistical support, hiring of helicopters and e-prison among others.

New initiatives for improving internal security

  • Central budget outlay of Rs. 10,132 crore had been earmarked for internal security-related expenditure for Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern States and those affected by left wing extremism (LWE).
  • A scheme for special Central assistance (SCA) for 35 districts worst hit by LWE had been introduced with an outlay of Rs. 3,000 crore to tackle the issue of underdevelopment.
  • An outlay of Rs. 100 crore had been earmarked for police infrastructure upgradation, training institutes, investigation facilities, etc. in the northeastern States.
  • The new initiatives were being introduced to provide assistance to States for upgradation of police infrastructure, forensic science laboratories, institutions and the equipment available with them to plug critical gaps in the criminal justice system.
  • Police stations would be integrated to set up a national database of crime and criminal records.
  • It would be linked with other criminal justice system such as prisons, forensic laboratories and prosecution offices.
  • It also provides for setting up a state-of-the-art forensic laboratory in Amravati and upgradation of the Sardar Patel Global Centre for Security, Counter Terrorism and Anti-Insurgency and the Gujarat Forensic Science University.

EPFO gets notice under GST: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Goods and Service Tax (GST) Intelligence unit has slapped a notice on the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) for defaulting on payment of service tax.

Introduction:

  • The GST The Intelligence Unit has also sought to examine the PF department’s records till 2016-17.
  • It had sought for overall records of all its regional and zonal offices and issued separate notices to EPFO’s different offices.

EPFO’s stand:

  • The EPFO said that the PF office was exempted from paying service tax from April 2016 and hence, its services were exempt from any levy under the new indirect tax system.
  • It also challenged the demand for levy of service tax on statutory administration charges and interest charged by EPFO.
  • The EPFO cited an order dated April 13 from the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal which said that it was not liable to pay service tax on the statutory activities performed under the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952.

India woos SMEs in Britain: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • India’s effort to attract small and medium-sized British businesses

What is the news all about?

  • The Indian High Commission in London has begun an initiative to encourage small and medium-sized British businesses to invest in India
  • The high commission is working to identify 50 companies that have the strength and interest in working in India

What are the components of India’s market entry support system?

  • Strategic advisory, legal and financial advisory, product financing, location services and mergers and acquisitions advisory

What are the sectors with the probability of investment?

  • Defence, pharmaceutical and food sectors

The great unwind: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve last week announced that starting in October, it would begin to gradually roll back its nine-year programme of quantitative easing (QE).

What is quantitative easing?

  • Under the programme, the central bank has been buying bonds and other debt instruments like mortgage-backed securities from the open market since 2008. As the Fed creates fresh dollars to buy these securities, it helps to pump in more dollars into the U.S. economy. QE has been carried out in the hope that increased money supply would help stimulate the economy.

Why is it being rolled back now?

  • The U.S. central bank resorted to QE in the immediate aftermath of the 2007-08 financial crisis in order to boost a falling economy by injecting money through QE as short-term interest rates.
  • Now the Fed has grown more confident about recovery in the U.S. economy, which, in the quarter ending June, grew at its fastest pace since 2015.
  • Inflation has shown some signs of strength. As modern central banks are in the business of keeping inflation and growth at manageable levels, it is no surprise that the Fed has now decided to pull the plug on QE.

How will it affect the world economy?

  • Lower demand from the Federal Reserve should cause interest rates on U.S. bonds to rise from their current, historically low levels. This is likely to make these bonds more attractive to investors, as they can now be purchased at lower prices in order to earn higher yields.
  • Investors are likely to sell their other investments offering lower returns to invest in U.S. bonds, which could cause some turbulence in financial markets.

Impact on india

  • The Indian stock market, for instance, has witnessed a steady outflow of foreign capital as foreign institutional investors have sold out their holdings to invest elsewhere.
  • The rupee too has shown weakness as investors pull money out of India. This is likely to continue until the risk-adjusted returns on various investments equalise.

The way the wind blows: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • New developments in wind energy sector in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu

Wind energy in Tamil Nadu

  • TN has historically struggled to evacuate the huge amount of power generated by its wind farms.
  • This happened because of its inability to predict wind-power generation in advance and contract coal power generation accordingly.
  • However, TN has taken the lead in using good forecasting techniques since 2015.
  • It has resulted in a steady rise in the amount of wind energy being evacuated.

Two conflicting developments

  1. A milestone for the wind energy sector in TN. On July 11, the state evacuated more than 5000 MW of wind power, replacing almost 1000 MW of thermal energy. On this day, wind energy accounted for almost a third of the state’s electricity demand.
  2.  Bleak market sentiment. This year, India decided to go for auctions to discover energy tariffs, rather than feed-in tariffs fixed by regulatory commissions.
  • This has resulted in record low prices of wind energy in the country.
  • Many states are now refusing to sign Power Purchase Agreements at feed-in tariffs.
  • Energy companies feel the low prices will cut into their profits.
  • Auction by Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission has resulted in even lower wind energy prices in the state.
  • Other problems like arbitrary curtailment of wind power and backlogs in payment further erodes their faith in participating in the auctions at low margins.

Future prospects and way forward

  • TN is expected to fully realise its renewable energy potential once the Raigarh-Pugalur green power transmission corridor is completed by 2019.
  • In the context of the two conflicting developments mentioned above, TN has a unique opportunity at hand. It has successfully showcased the benefits of better planning and forecasting in integrating wind energy in its energy mix. It has the largest wind capacities in the country.
  • The transitions may not be smooth, but, TN and other states need to ensure the balance for regulatory clarity and market stability and investor confidence.
  • Most importantly TN must continue to build on its planning process for the sector.

A GST good and simple: (Indian Express, Editorial)

Context

  • There is lots work to be done if the landmark reform GST is not to become a tryst with disaster.

Steps that should be taken to make GST good and simple

  • e-way bills — The implementation of e-way bills should be postponed for at least a year. The existing electronic system is woefully inadequate to capture every movement of goods requires access to a portal for generation of an e-way bill. Further, most transport operators have only a few trucks and it will be cruel to inflict this torturous system on them when the Centre and states are ill prepared
  • monthly returns –The proposed system of filing GSTR-1, GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 — three returns per month — proved to be unworkable and necessitated the GSTR-3B return which is a monthly summary. This monthly return should be continued for a year till the electronic infrastructure is improved. It is also worth reconsidering the need to file 36 monthly returns per year per state. These provisions are ill-advised and need to be dropped.
  • matching of invoices — This system does not exist anywhere in the world and there is not a single logical reason why this should be implemented in India. It will place an intolerable burden on the electronic infrastructure and entail huge compliance costs for the small and medium sectors.
  • Exports — Under the earlier system, non excise exporters, merchant exporters and service exporters could simply export goods and services. In the GST regime, an exporter has to execute a letter of undertaking subject to eligibility or a bond with bank guarantee just to export. The government promised instant refunds but this has not happened. had the system functioned and all these input taxes were immediately and automatically refunded, the position would have been tolerable. But serious glitches in the electronic system have adversely affected the refund system resulting in serious working capital pressure on exporters. Unless the earlier system is restored, Indian exports will be seriously affected.
  • Interstate purchase/sale –The composition scheme, applicable to traders up to Rs 75 lakh, is a non-starter because it does not permit any inter-state purchase/sale.
  • Flat tax rate –It is necessary to seriously consider a flat-tax GST rate of, say, 10 per cent, on all businesses with a turnover of upto Rs 2 crore regardless of the product or service. The GST paid thereon should also be eligible for input credit. Such a reduction will be a terrific boost to the growth of goods and services, while eliminating huge paper work and electronic overload.
  • Amendments –It is necessary to stop making changes in procedure and adding new requirements. Seven amendments to the CGST rules in a span of less than three months and multiple amendments to notifications have only increased the confusion.
  • Multiple tax rates –The multiple rates of taxation and an elaborate classification system are bound to lead to classification disputes. It is imperative that classification is shrunk to three or four categories with not more than three applicable rates. A lower rate of GST will stimulate demand and spur economic growth because high taxes are always counter-productive.
  • Shared administration — The proposed system of shared administration will also lead to serious difficulties. It is better that the states are given exclusive jurisdiction to deal with assessees upto a turnover of Rs 10 crore or even Rs 25 crore so that the Centre can only deal with assessees with higher revenue.

Conclusion

  • The present GST system, like socialism, sounds wonderful in theory but is completely unworkable in practice. It is dangerous to proceed with the hope that things will eventually settle down.
  • Immediate steps are necessary to ensure that India’s second tryst with destiny does not become a tryst with disaster.

How deep is India’s economic mess?: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context:

  • Hindustan Unilever chief executive Sanjiv Mehta said that rural demand for its products has been weak because of the lingering effects of demonetization as well as the farm crisis.
  • Larsen & Toubro group executive chairman Anil Naik said that private sector companies are not in a position to launch new projects because of the excess debt they have on their balance sheets.

Reasons for slowdown:          

  • Sharp slowdown in quarterly growth due to inventory destocking by companies before implementation of the goods and service tax (GST).
  • Technical problem of the deflators used by government statisticians to convert nominal output growth to real output growth.

Manufacturing Purchasing managers index (PMI):

  • It moved into expansion territory in August after the slump in July.
  • The data for cement, coal and steel continues to be disappointing.
  • Foreign trade offers a ray of hope.
  • The high frequency indicators suggest that economic growth in the second quarter could see recovery from the disappointing levels of the first quarter.

Present growth:

  • Growth in gross value added has come down from 8.7% in the quarter ended March 2016 to 5.6% in the quarter ended June.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) data:

  • According to the recent data released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) offers some clues on the current state of the Indian business cycle.
  • The Indian economy bottomed out in the third quarter of 2013, according to ADB.
  • The subsequent upturn in the business cycle has lasted 14 quarters, higher than the average business cycle upturn of 12 quarters but lower than maximum of 18 quarters.
  • High-frequency data suggests that the Indian economy could see a small recovery in the second quarter of the current fiscal year while business cycle data shows that the cyclical expansion could be running out of steam.

Is Japan’s bullet train loan the best deal India has ever had?: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context:

  • Japan’s loan at 0.1% interest rate for the bullet train is not extraordinary, viewed in light of Japan’s low 0.05% interest rates and domestic economic conditions

Introduction:

  • Japan had offered India a 50 year loan at just 0.1% interest to fund the Ahmadabad-Mumbai bullet train link.
  • Japan had made a similar offer of bullet trains to Indonesia too, offering finance at 0.1%.
  • The rate of interest was much lower than the prevailing 10-year US treasury interest rate of around 13% in 1981-82.
  • Similarly, Russia in 1998 provided Dollar-denominated credit of up to $2.6 billion for the Kudankulam nuclear power station. The loan carried an interest rate of 4% per annum, lower than the then prevailing interest rate of 5.25% on a 10-year US Treasury bond.
  • The recent loan agreement on the bullet train only represents a continuation in the long history of bilateral external assistance on concessional terms.
  • Bilateral assistance from countries like Japan, Germany, Russia etc is often much cheaper compared to loans from multilateral agencies like the Asian Development Bank(ADB) and the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), according to a ministry of finance position paper in 2008.

The way forward for the electric vehicle push: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

  • India’s announcement and intention to move from fossil fuel-driven vehicles to electric vehicles is considered positive.

India building vehicles based on Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs).

  • Via joint ventures, technology licences and technology transfer, Indian manufacturers and suppliers have built full-fledged capabilities in ICEs.
  • Value engineering of these products ensured personal mobility for the Indian middle class at price points that are unmatched globally.
  • Today, about 40-50% of the domestic and export sales of Indian suppliers is tied to ICE.
  • The Indian automotive industry has leveraged its investments in ICEs to build scale and globally competitive manufacturing as well as engineering capability.

What are the pros and cons of the transition?

  • Technology transfer and joint ventures have to be encouraged to ensure indigenization of technology.
  • Customers will benefit from this transfer due to the Indian capability for cost-efficient engineering.
  • Industry must play as much a leading role in electric vehicles as it does today in ICEs to ensure employment, capability building and tax revenue.
  • Localization is vital to avoid replacement of an oil import bill with a battery import bill. The latter simply switches political dependency from the Gulf states to China.
  • Policy clarity is a must. While a number of green technologies can be pursued, the practical reality of the Indian automotive industry is that resources for investment are limited.
  • Policy consistency is equally crucial. Long-term investments are required; sudden policy changes that alter business case assumptions can drive companies into ruin.
  • Multinational corporations have technology available off-the-shelf and can relatively easy decide to engage or withdraw from the Indian market, e.g., General Motors. Indian companies are sure to lose out in unstable policy scenarios.
  • Technology risks such as liability issues around battery swapping, unstable battery technology, recycling of batteries and infrastructure requirements need to be assessed in detail.
  • Life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have to be considered when comparing battery electric vehicles with fossil fuel vehicles. GHG emissions during battery production and recycling must be reduced.

Western Ghats throw up a new snake: (Summary, Aarif)

Context

  • New species of snake has been found in western ghats.
  • Scientists have described a new species of non-venomous endemic snake, Aquatic Rhabdops, from the northern Western Ghats.

Aquatic Rhabdops

  • The three-foot-long nocturnal snake hunts for prey underwater,
  • scientist named the new species after its aquatic nature since the adults are mostly associated with freshwater forest streams and juveniles are seen in water-logged areas, mostly on rocky plateaus,
  • Rhabdops aquaticus, was till now considered a variant of the Olive Forest Snake, first described in 1863. However, the new study confirms that the Aquatic Rhabdops is a different one: they sport not only different colours and patterns, but also vary in other features of size, shape and structure, and also genetic make-up.

Endemicity

  • all Rhabdops snakes are endemic to India.
  • The Olive Forest Snake Rhabdops olivaceus is found only in the Western Ghats
  • the bi-coloured Forest Snake Rhabdops bicolor lives in a few localities in the northeast.
  • The Aquatic Rhabdops too is found only in the laterite plateaus of the northern Western Ghats in Goa, southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, in areas facing severe human pressures.

 

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