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GS-2


Breaking the silence 

Breaking the silence 

Context

The report, on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act, looked into the reasons why most cases end up in acquittal; the conviction rate is below 20 per cent, it noted

Why most cases end up in acquittal under POCSO?

Victims turned hostile succumbing to pressure from the accused or the family. Also, the legal procedure is long-drawn, giving ample time to both parties for “negotiations”. And, most of the complainants were from the economically weaker strata of the society.

The positive

The fact that cases were reported, the accused were booked and dragged inside legal corridors is an act of courage. Otherwise, in most cases, stories are muffled inside homes

No retrospective effect

The POCSO Act, instituted in 2012, does not function on a retrospective basis, like many other criminal laws. Going by the laws of 2007, penetration by finger or tongue could not be defined as rape, as per Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which changed in 2013. The only law on the rescue would have been Section 354 — assault with intent to outrage modesty — but its implications doesn’t correspond to the gravity of the crime

What needs to be done?

The legal system in place has its limitations in dealing with child sexual abuse, but they should be addressed with urgency. The number of courts and judges should be increased, cases should be heard on a fast-track basis, and victims should be counselled daily at the time of the trial. In addition, amendments can be made so can adults can report child abuse retrospectively

Raising awareness

  • Author states that what she missed in her case was not legal remedy, but a talk on child sexual abuse with my parents and teachers, like the one I had on menstruation. The education system — schools, teachers, and parents — plays a more crucial role in this regard
  • Workshops or one-to-one counselling should be conducted on a war footing to make children aware of how to identify bad touch, say “no” to the perpetrator, and be able to share the incident with an elder
  • There are activists and non-profit organisations which hold such workshops, but their reach is limited. The move by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to educate students on good and bad touch, through books and films in the session from next year, is a welcome one. The text, which will also serve as a guide for teachers, will have helpline numbers, a brief on the POCSO Act and the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights

Conclusion

The incidence of sexual assault on children is rising everyday. To lend a non-judgemental ear and talking openly with children is a simple step. They could gather the courage to refuse, report to their friends or elders, or share a past incident. Legal battles could be victories for the victims, but the ultimate aim ought to be the personal growth of the survivors

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Arbitrary and irrational 

Arbitrary and irrational 

Context

Bill to criminalise triple talaq

Backdrop

  • On August 22, 2017, a five judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority 3:2 judgment, set aside the practice of Talaq-e-Biddat (triple talaq)
  • The minority view of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, who led the Bench, and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer was that triple divorce is a valid form of divorce

Author’s contention

The proposal by the government to introduce a Muslim Woman Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill in the winter session of Parliament — wherein a husband who resorts to instant triple talaq can be jailed for up to three years and fined — needs closer scrutiny as there is stigma attached to criminal conviction

  • If Parliament wants, it can enact a law on it. But nowhere in its judgment has the top court said that triple divorce is to be criminally punished
  • No need for a separate law: In the Supreme Court judgment, the majority of three judges had already “set aside” triple divorce. Under Article 141 of the Constitution, this is the “law declared by the Supreme Court”. Hence there is no need for any separate law as triple divorce no longer dissolves marriage

Concurrent list

Parliament has the power to legislate with respect to personal laws under Entry 5 of the Concurrent List

Article 141

It states that

‘The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India’

Why a new law is not necessary?

  • Criminalising doesn’t helps: The belief that if wrongful conduct becomes a crime, people will refrain from indulging in it is both erroneous and not been substantially proved by any authentic empirical research
  • No legitimate state interest affected: Since triple divorce no more dissolves marriage, its pronouncement is inconsequential and in no way adversely affects either the wife or society. Thus no legitimate state interest is adversely affected

Punishing for mere utterance

Author states that,

Are we going to insist on mensrea (guilty intention) or make triple divorce a ‘strict liability’ offence which would mean that even if the person did not intend to divorce his wife, he would be punished for mere utterance of the word “divorce” thrice?

Difficulty in proof

Since the cardinal principle of criminal law is presumption of innocence and the burden of proof is always on the prosecution which has to prove the case beyond a shadow of a doubt, how will the poor wife prove instant triple divorce if declared orally when no one else was around? The husband will be entitled to acquittal claiming the benefit of doubt

Who will pay compensation?

Since the law makes the husband liable for the payment of maintenance, how will he pay maintenance if he is sent to jail?

Relevant question

On what basis has the Bill provided for imprisonment of three years?

Under IPC
For what crimes does the IPC reserve imprisonment of three years?

  • Section 148, which is on rioting and armed with deadly weapon, has a provision of three years or with fine, or with both
  • Section 153A, which is on promoting enmity between different groups, is also for three years, which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine
  • Section 237, which punishes the import or export of counterfeit coin, has the same term
  • Section 295A: It is the same again with Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs)

Smaller fines

  • Section 304A (Causing death by negligence)
  • Section 147 (punishment for rioting)
  • Section 171E (Punishment for bribery)
  • Section 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life)
  • Section 272 (Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale)
  • Section 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class)
  • Section 290 (Punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for)
  • Section 337 (Causing hurt by act of endangering life or personal safety of others)
  • Section 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint)
  • Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property)

All the above have much smaller terms of imprisonment and fines

These serious crimes are in no way comparable to an individual who instead of taking three months to divorce his wife, just took a minute in making all three pronouncements. Such divorces generally happen out of extreme anger when a person really does not know the nature and quality of his act, and already an exception from criminal liability

Arbitrary penalty

Thus imprisonment of three years for triple divorce is excessive, arbitrary and irrational, and violative of Article 14

Conclusion

Ideally, divorce should not be treated by divorcees as the end of the world. Our women do not need men to lead a dignified life. We must remove the stigma attached to divorces. Triple divorce should be nothing more than civil contempt of the Supreme Court

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A great betrayal 

A great betrayal 

Context

State impunity continues for acts of torture. Lawmakers and court have not stepped up to their duty

Backdrop

On February 19, 2016 Ashwani Kumar, a senior advocate and former Union minister of law, filed a petition before the Supreme Court of India to ensure a standalone law compliant with the UN Torture Convention. On November 26 (otherwise the day on which the Constitution came into force), the SC dismissed the petition

Basis of dismissal

Relying on judicial observations as widely reported in the media, the court mentioned three related grounds

  • First, Chief Justice DipakMisra asked: “How can we compel the government to make a law? Can we ask the government to ratify a treaty by way of a mandamus?”
  • Second, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said “the government has to take a political decision on whether it should ratify the treaty”
  • Third, when Ashwani Kumar maintained that it was the duty of the court to fill the gaps in written law, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar observed: “But it is a policy matter”

Disappointing

  • The learned chief justice was correct in the abstract but disappointing in the context; the petitioner did not ever ask for a mandamus in the first place because it would violate the supremacy of Parliament in its own legislative domain
  • The prayers before the Court did not ask for enforcing a treaty by a court order. The question of compelling the legislature to make a law also never arose

SC has used this power before

The suggestive jurisprudence of the SC is as old as the court itself and the petitioner painstakingly demonstrated this. The SC has used this power on many subjects concerning, for example, participative decision-making, forest rights, right to information, ragging on campus, right to education, judicial services, inter-country adoptions, consumer jurisprudence, sustainable development law, and privacy rights. The SC remains open to nudge a slow moving legislature into quick action

State consent not required

If the anti-torture norms have become part of customary international law binding on all states, does not the constitutional concern require the Indian state to follow it? The 273rd Report of the Law Commission has now clearly stated that anti-torture norms are norms of international law, which do not depend on state consent

Present situation

  • Although from 2007 onwards India has committed to taking steps to ratify the torture convention yet no steps have been taken to enact a suitable enabling law required for accessing the UN convention, which is what the RajyaSabha Standing Committee did after hearing all concerned parties
  • In preparing a bill, consented to by all political parties, the committee functions as a mini-Parliament and its draft bill should have been enacted.

SC directions

  • Very recently, the SC issued directions about extra-judicial killings in Manipur. Many states especially urged India (in the Universal Periodic Review, 2012) to “finalise” accession to the UN Torture Convention, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council
  • Neither “internal political compulsions” and “weaknesses in the implementation” may produce legitimate law. If, as the SC has recognised, “even while dealing with the ‘enemy’ the rule of law would apply” and “police or the armed forces who have committed the excesses which do not have a reasonable connection with the performance of their official duty would be liable”, should the norm for dealing with co-citizens be any different?

Relevant questions

  • How does it happen that custodial deaths, custodial and interrogational torture are rarely prosecuted?
  • Why do state apparatuses continue to tolerate such abuse against human dignity and rights when a code of law reform and a speedy ratification of the UN Torture Convention remain available?

Conclusion

State impunity for acts of torture must surely find a dignified funeral at least after seven decades of India’s independence

Read More: This issue has also been covered here

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What does the FRDI Bill do for you? 

What does the FRDI Bill do for you? 

Context

Recently, a bill tabled in Parliament in August — the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill 2017 — has been making news due to its controversial ‘bail-in’ clauses

However, important as that clause may be, the other provisions of the Bill are equally so:

What the Bill seeks to do

  • The FRDI Bill is part of a larger, more comprehensive approach by the Centre towards systematic resolution of all financial firms — banks, insurance companies and other financial intermediaries
  • The Bill comes together with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to spell out the procedure for the winding up or revival of an ailing company.
  • The need for a specific regulation rose following the 2008 financial crisis, which witnessed a large number of high-profile bankruptcies. With the Centre also actively encouraging people to engage more with the banking sector — both through schemes like Jan DhanYojana and moves like demonetisation — it becomes critical to protect savers and those joining the formal economy in case a bank or insurance firm starts failing

The Bill’s main provisions

  • Resolution corporation: The Bill provides for the setting up of a Resolution Corporation — to replace the existing Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation — which will be tasked with monitoring financial firms, anticipating their risk of failure, taking corrective action and resolving them in case of failure
  • The corporation is also tasked with providing deposit insurance up to a certain limit yet to be specified, in the event of a bank failure
  • The Corporation will also be tasked with classifying financial firms on their risk of failure — low, moderate, material, imminent, or critical. It will take over the management of a company once it is deemed critical

Bail-in clause: Concerns abound

Among other tools, the FRDI Bill also empowers the Corporation to bail-in the company. While a bail-out is the use of public funds to inject capital into an ailing company, a bail-in involves the use of depositors’ funds to achieve those ends. This can be done either by cancelling the bank’s liabilities, or converting them into other forms, such as equity.

  • This has caused a lot of concern among depositors who are worried they may lose their hard-earned money deposited with banks. However, the fact is that the risk is no more or no less than it ever was
  • The Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation provides deposit insurance of up to ₹1 lakh. The rest is forfeited in the event of a bank failure. The FRDI Bill has not specified the insured amount yet, but it is unlikely to be lower than that amount, as the limit was set way back in 1993
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Does privacy outlive death, asks SC

Does privacy outlive death, asks SC

Context

The Supreme Court has thrown open the floor for debate on whether an individual’s fundamental right to privacy subsists after death. The question rose in a challenge raised against a Madras High Court order to produce the Aadhaar data records of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for verification of her fingerprints

Petition was filed by

The apex court stayed the High Court order on a petition filed by AIADMK leaders

Argument by the petitioners

  • They argued that the fundamental right to privacy remains alive even after the person’s death
  • The petition said the “intrusion” by the High Court into Jayalalithaa’s privacy would not have happened had she been alive. The court would have been forced to get her consent.“Her death does not make any difference as Right to Privacy is available to every citizenduring his/ her life time and even after the death of that person,” the petition said

SC will examine

The apex court has decided to examine whether the High Court’s order “amounts to intruding of fundamental right to privacy of a third party.”

Important issues

The issue raises a significant question as a part of modern man’s personal life and identity is embedded in the virtual world

  • The case raises the issue whether courts and authorities can order to see an individual’s personal data without consent after his or her death

Backdrop

The examination has to be done in the backdrop of the landmark verdict of nine judges of the Supreme Court which upheld privacy as a fundamental right on August 24. The judgement is silent on whether privacy continues after death.

Or does the definition of “life” in the judgement extend to after-life

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Next Door Nepal: Virtues of soft power 

Next Door Nepal: Virtues of soft power 

Context

Beijing finds a binding thread in Buddhism as India pursues hard diplomacy

What is soft diplomacy?

Typically, it’s a term that refers to attempts to engage directly with the public in round-about ways

Author’s contention: A weakening soft diplomacy

In first few paragraphs, author has tried to bring about the fact that religious and cultural underpinnings of our relationship with Nepal has weakened over time. While China, on the other hand, seems to have picked up a thread that India abandoned when it began to pursue a radical path in Nepal from 2006. India’s preference for radical political agendas have undermined, and even demolished, the institutions that facilitated cultural linkages between the two countries. This has contributed to the distrust between Kathmandu and New Delhi

Dictating Nepal’s political discourse

India, with the support of the European Union, literally dictated Nepal’s political course from 2006

  • Blocking efforts of indigenous populace: Together, they blocked the efforts of a large but disorganised section of the Nepali populace that wanted contentious issues like the shift from a monarchy to a republic and the adoption of secularism as state credo instead of continuing as a Hindu state to be settled through debate, and if necessary a referendum
  • Miscalculations by India: While aligning with the Maoists who were waging war against the state, dispensing with the monarchy, and asking its long-term ally, the Nepali Congress to support the Maoists, India miscalculated the impact these shifts will have, not only on Nepal’s politics, but also in the society

Efforts by China

Author states that China’s keen interest to develop Lumbini and build a railway line to Sigatse in Tibet via Kerung is an attempt on the part of Beijing to leverage soft power in bilateral relations, for it recognises that Buddhism can be a binding thread between the two countries

Unclear India

India, on the other hand, is unclear about how to repair the damage diplomacy has done to its soft power and the resultant confusion in the bilateral relations

  • Anti-India sentiment: The current anti-India sentiment in Nepal, which will also reflect in the mandate, is to a large part due to the 2015 economic blockade the present Indian government imposed on Nepal, which had yet to recover from a devastating earthquake

What lies ahead?

  • Review of the decision to dump monarchy: A section of the party wants the leadership to review its decision to dump the monarchy. This section argues that the monarchy managed to keep the communists under “check”, the authority of the state intact and state organs non-partisan and maintain social and inter-faith amity
  • The NC’s goal, when it was founded seven decades ago, was to consolidate democracy and protect Nepal’s independence. Its leaders supported a constitutional monarchy. Though the NC lacks the organisational strength and a charismatic leadership, it may have to confront the government if the communists pursue their past practice of capturing state organs including the judiciary
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A game of chicken in the Korean Peninsula 

A game of chicken in the Korean Peninsula 

Context

On North Korea, the world is way past tactical solutions. Only a comprehensive diplomatic solution will work

Event

N Korea has successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “breakthrough” that puts the U.S. mainland within the range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere

Read More: You can read more about the event here

Author’s contention: Nuclear crisis

Pyongyang’s neighbours, namely Japan and South Korea, and the international community, the U.S. in particular, have not reconciled to the new reality, provoking a nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula

Rationality of escalation

Kim Jong-un’s policy of taking on the entire international community is seemingly premised on the classical military strategy of escalating to de-escalate — to initially escalate to unacceptable levels so as to force one’s adversaries to make concessions in areas they otherwise would not. Being recognised as a nuclear weapon capable state would be the foremost objective; survival of his regime and an eventual removal of sanctions would be the natural consequences of such a recognition

Limited options

US: Having exhausted all its strategies, from imposing sanctions to isolating North Korea, Washington has neither any leverage nor is it in a position to make a successful military strike against the country

China: China is not only worried about a lethal nuclear fallout in its neighbourhood and the potential rush of North Korean refugees into its territory but also uneasy about what may otherwise be an excellent solution — a reunified Korea, something Beijing thinks will undercut its rising regional predominance

Russia: Russia, having had clandestine dealings with the North Korean regime in the past, also has no cards to play. And yet, if the unravelling of the Korean peninsula weakens Washington’s standing in the region further, Moscow and Beijing would certainly not mind that

Real Victims

Author states that the real victims in this case are Japan & South Korea. Seen as arch-rivals by Pyongyang and located in what is arguably the world’s most dangerous neighbourhood, Tokyo and Seoul would be the first to face Kim’s wrath

  • Danger to NPT: Going nuclear, in retaliation, would not take too much time or effort for either of these technologically advanced countries. The lack of a firm commitment from Washington on security commitments could potentially prompt them to develop a modest strategic arsenal which would have a domino effect for the region and the rest of the international system. In a self-help world of such kind, the NPT-led non-proliferation regime as we know it would cease to exist

Systemic crisis

Author states that at its heart the Korean nuclear crisis reflects a disorder in contemporary international system

  1. Failure of diplomacy: International diplomacy has failed in the region. The ability of the great powers to compromise and reach a workable consensus to deal with global crises seems to have considerably reduced especially with the arrival of Mr. Trump and the assertion of China and Russia. What is even more worrying is this: the failure of the great powers to arrive at a workable consensus in crisis situations is perhaps a sign of the times to come
  2. Mr Trump’s strategy: The current crisis is further intensified by the deal-breaking tendencies of Mr. Trump. For instance, his administration’s tirade against the Iran nuclear deal, the end result of long, arduous negotiations, is sending out all the wrong signals to the international community

Isolating states doesn’t work

Author points out that isolating states that “misbehave” does not resolve conflicts

  • Be it Pakistan, Iran or North Korea, isolating states in the international system can only further complicate existing crises
  • Joint international effort: The reason why we have been able to restrain the development of Iranian nuclear weapons is precisely because the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) reached a historic nuclear deal in 2015 despite pressure from within the U.S. and countries such as Israel to use force against Tehran

Had it not been for this deal, we would have had quite a mess in our neighbourhood today

Disarmament platitudes of N5

Author states that the N5’s lack of progress on their disarmament commitments have eroded the faith of the nuclear have-nots in the global nuclear order. In an indirect but relevant way, such erosion of a normative global order has contributed to the North Korean crisis

What should be done?

Author states that,

  • A sustained diplomatic solution: We are way past tactical solutions, and, therefore, only a comprehensive, sustained and diplomatic solution will work, though the result of which is uncertain, and the intent for which is non-existent among the great powers at this point. However, if indeed Kim is “escalating to deescalate”, Pyongyang might be open to such engagement especially since it has now gone beyond being forcibly disarmed. Moreover, for Kim, talking itself would constitute a form of recognition for his regime
  • Revival of Six party talks:The operational aspect of this approach would involve taking on board North Korea’s historical grievances, involving the regional powers including China and South Korea to reach out to Kim, and reviving the dormant Six Party Talks at the earliest. Revival of the Six Party talks is important precisely because entrusting China and or Russia to solely deal with North Korea would be unwise. Moreover, multilateral engagement would also prevent anyone from engaging in underhand dealings with Pyongyang

Way forward

Author states that rather than trying to disarm Pyongyang with impractical military solutions we need to consider ways of living with this new reality

Six party talks

The six-party talks were a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently since 2003 and attended by China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks were hosted in Beijing and chaired by China. North Korea decided to no longer participate in the six party process in 2009. In subsequent years, other participants, notably China, have called periodically for a resumption of the process.

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GS-3


NASA probes AI for space connect 

NASA probes AI for space connect 

Context

NASA scientists are planning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to better manage the increasing communications between its spacecraft and the Earth.

At Present

NASA spacecraft typically rely on human-controlled radio systems to communicate with the Earth. Cognitive radio, the infusion of artificial intelligence into space communications networks, could meet demand and increase efficiency

New thrust

By applying artificial intelligence and machine learning, satellites control these systems seamlessly, making real-time decisions without awaiting instruction

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PT related news:

PT related news:

ICAN receives Nobel Peace Prize (The Hindu)

Context

The leader of the group that won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize urged nuclear nations to adopt a United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons in order to prevent “the end of us”

ICAN

  • ICAN is a coalition of 468 grassroots non-governmental groups that campaigned for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by 122 nations in July
  • The treaty is not signed by – and would not apply to – any of the states that already have nuclear arms
  • Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director, urged them to sign the agreement.

Fact

Ms. Fihn delivered the Nobel lecture together with Setsuko Thurlow, an 85-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and now an ICAN campaigner

Protest by Developed nations

The United States, Britain and France sent second-rank diplomats to the Nobel ceremony, which Ms. Fihn earlier told Reuters was “some kind of protest”.

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How marine organisms degrade plastic bags 

How marine organisms degrade plastic bags 

Context: They add to spread of microplastics

A single plastic grocery bag could be shredded by marine organisms into over one million microscopic fragments, a study has found

Amphipod: Orchestiagammarellus

Marine scientists at the University of Plymouth examined the rate at which bags were broken down by the amphipod Orchestiagammarellus, which inhabits coastal areas in northern and western Europe

Main aim

Their main aim was to discover whether different types of plastic and the presence of a biofilm — a layer of organic material which accumulates over time — altered the rate at which such organisms broke down plastic debris

Four times as quickly

Through monitoring in the laboratory and on the shoreline, researchers demonstrated the bags were torn and stretched by Orchestiagammarellus, with microplastics subsequently being found in and around their faecal matter

Presence of biofilm enhanced the shredding

The type of plastic — conventional, degradable and biodegradable — had no effect on the rate of ingestion, however the presence of a biofilm meant the shredding took place around four times as quickly.

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WTO: diverse views fuel bleak prospect for outcomes 

WTO: diverse views fuel bleak prospect for outcomes 

Context

India, China, South Africa lead developing nations in seeking commitment to ‘multilateralism, development agenda’

Backdrop

The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Buenos Aires meeting commenced amid concerns on support for anti-globalisation, protectionism and bilateralism

Expectations of the majority member nations

Reaffirming commitment to multilateralism and rules-based trading system as well as negotiations with development agenda at the centre

But any resolution doubtful

However, due to the divergent views of the WTO members on several issues, including the outstanding ones in the ongoing Doha Round negotiations, there is little expectation that the outcome of the December 10-13 Ministerial Conference would be substantial

No new issues

The Doha Round had begun in Doha in 2001 with the ‘development agenda’ — to improve trading prospects of developing nations — at the heart of the talks

Developed countries want to discuss: 21st Century Trade Issues

However, countries, mostly from the developed world, want what they call the ‘21st century trade issues’ — such as e-commerce, investment facilitation, matters relating to small firms and gender equality — to be discussed for rule-making to enhance the relevance of the WTO.

Developing countries against introduction of such new issues

India, and several countries mainly from the developing world, are against introduction of such ‘new issues’ into the Doha Round, saying it is important to first resolve outstanding issues such as the ones relating to food security and protection of poor farmers before taking up new topics

Issues most likely to be addressed post Buenos Aires meet

  • Special Safeguard Mechanism(SSM, which will allow developing nations to temporarily increase tariffs to counter import surges or price declines, and in turn protect poor farmers)
  • Limiting harmful fisheries subsidies
  • Possible negotiations on e-commerce
  • Services trade facilitation(including easing rules regarding movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for temporary work or projects)

Support for India, China and South Africa

According to officials privy to the developments here, India, China and South Africa have the support of around 120 WTO member nations on the issue of continuation of the ‘development’ mandate of the Doha Round without any dilution.

U.S. efforts questioned

On the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM), an overwhelming majority of the WTO members have questioned efforts by the U.S. to block the appointment of judges to the appellate body — a move that they say would undermine the DSM

DSM

The DSM, according to the WTO, is “recognised as a fundamental pillar of the organisation” and “enjoys wide support and confidence among the membership, which values it as a fair, effective and efficient mechanism to solve trade problems.”

India’s joint proposal with China: backing of 120 member countries

India’s joint proposal with China — asking the developed nations to eliminate the most trade-distorting form of farm subsidies, known in WTO jargon as Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) — has the backing of about 120 WTO members including from Africa.

Developed countries have 90% of Global AMS entitlements

“Developed countries have more than 90% of global AMS entitlements amounting to nearly $160 billion. Most developing countries, including India and China, do not have AMS entitlements,” according to an earlier statement from the Indian government.

‘No onerous conditions’

India had made it clear that it would not accept a ‘permanent solution’ with onerous conditions that in turn make it tough for the [Indian] government or other developing countries as well to meet the food security needs of their people

SSM

On agricultural issues including the ‘permanent solution’ and SSM, India is working with G-33 (a group of 47 nations).

India gathering support

  • To get wide support on India’s interests, India’s commerce minister also met with the South Centre, an intergovernmental organisation of developing nations
  • Besides, he held a meeting with European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and conveyed India’s position on various issues including food security and e-commerce.
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Crunch time at WTO: On farm subsidies

Crunch time at WTO: On farm subsidies

Context

India faces a tough challenge on farm issues at the Buenos Aires ministerial meet

Backdrop

World Trade Organisation’s 11th biennial Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires

Joint Proposal from India and China

  • With the backing of more than 100 countries, a joint proposal from India and China to eliminate the most trade-distorting farm subsidies worth $160 billion in several industrialised economies is arguably the most contentious agenda item at the Ministerial
  • The two countries see this as a prerequisite to address the prevailing imbalance in the Agreement on Agriculture, which unfairly benefits developed countries.

Views on this Joint Proposal

  • The host Argentina has cautioned that the joint proposal could potentially unravel negotiations.
  • Lukewarm Stance of the US

Lending credence to such scepticism is the lukewarm stance the U.S. has adopted towards the WTO over the past year, suggesting that the Ministerial meet should serve as a forum for reflection rather than to shape substantive agreements.

Other Proposals to be discussed

  • Relating to new rules on farm subsidies
  • The elimination of support for unsustainable fisheries
  • And the regulation of e-commerce etc.

Major Dispute

The other major dispute centres on finding a so-called permanent solution to the large subsidies that underpin public stock-holding programmes to bolster food security in the developing world

G-33: Seeking complete exemption from commitments to reduce subsidies

  • The G-33 coalition — which includes Indonesia, China and India — seeks a complete exemption from commitments to reduce subsidies, such as minimum support prices, from this poverty-alleviation programme
  • India declined to negotiate

New Delhi has declined to negotiate any more trade-offs on this proposal at Buenos Aires, or accept calls for stringent transparency requirements to monitor these schemes

  • EU and Brazil’s conditional support

The EU and Brazil have expressed broad support for the G-33 coalition’s position on public stock-holding programmes.

Condition: But in return they seek agreement on their own proposal to reduce trade-distorting subsidies on a percentage basis, in both advanced and developing economies.

US exploring alternative routes to dispute resolution other than WTO

  • Washington has been exploring an alternative, unilateral route away from the formal dispute resolution mechanism of the Geneva-based body to settle perceived and real trade conflicts with partners
  • It has blocked fresh appointments to fill vacancies on the seven-member WTO appellate body
  • The risk of Mr. Trump’s protectionist rhetoric translating into economic barriers remains real

Conclusion

The response to that challenge is to make the gains of globalisation more visible and its transient downsides politically less painful. Trade leaders gathered in Buenos Aires can ill-afford to lose sight of this imperative.

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