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Vigilante violence against carol singers, state response, raise questions about protection of minority rights in MP
What has happened?
30 priests and seminarians singing carols in a village near Satna town were detained by local police after Bajrang Dal activists accused them of trying to forcibly convert the villagers. One of the priests was arrested under the the state’s draconian anti-conversion law
An old practice
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the singers were from a nearby theological college and carol singing during the Christmas season has been a local practice for over 30 years now
With Christmas a few days away, the Bajrang Dal, by all accounts, aimed to spread fear among the small Christian population in the state. In November, Hindu Jagran Manch members had targeted a group of Christian children in Indore, who were on a train to attend a Bible study class, and claimed they were being taken to Mumbai for conversion
Why such incidents are dangerous?
Author states that in today’s times of social media, a single incident can polarise vast sections of a society. Hence, political leadership in the state should send out a strong message against hate campaigns
Criminalisation of conversion
It gives the impression that the state is willing to condone the violence of the vigilantes. The anti-conversion agenda, it must be remembered, has legal cover in Madhya Pradesh: Sweeping provisions in the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968, allow police to criminalise conversion
The authorities must act against the vigilantes and assure the Christian community that their constitutionally-guaranteed right to faith will be protected
Post polls, ‘doubling farmer income, skills mission revamp high on agenda’
What has happened?
Taking note of the BJP’s lacklustre performance in rural areas in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state as well as the development mandate in the hill state — will ‘prioritise and expedite agricultural reforms and employment generation’ initiatives from now on
Reforms will continue
This victory, in the backdrop of concerns over demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax regime, is a huge shot in the arm for the reform credentials, reform resolve and reform reinforcement of the [NDA] government. Therefore, the reforms will continue
- Doubling farmers income: Priority areas are likely to be the mission to ‘double the income of farmers by 2022’ as well as employment generation in sectors including housing and exports
- Revamping NSDC: Revamping of the National Skill Development Mission and an emphasis on the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (for “promoting apprenticeship training and incentivising employers keen on engaging apprentices”) were key with regard to job creation
- Farm sector: In the farm sector, the plan is to ensure that farmers are not just producers but are part of the entire value chain
- The government is compiling a list of all successful farm experiments in the country that have resulted in a substantial jump in the income of farmers involved in those projects, so that they can, in turn, be replicated and scaled up through about ten pilot projects
- Exports sector: In the exports sector, the government is studying supply-side constraints, especially the labour-intensive ones, with a view to increase employment
- Financial sector: In the financial sector, the current priority concerns protection of the common man’s savings and the focus was hence on the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, its controversial ‘bail-in’ clause and addressing concerns over depositors’ money in case of a lender failing, as well as a proposed law at the Central level to effectively regulate chit funds and to prevent fraud
Rave parties in Goa
What has happened?
Admitting the need to control rave parties, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said that his government had formed an Anti-Narcotics Task Force, comprising members of various law enforcement agencies, to draw a comprehensive action plan to combat trafficking of drugs
What CM said?
- Goa Police has identified joints in the tourism-savvy regions where drugs are consumed, and promised more action against drug use
- Without drugs you can’t dance until morning. With alcohol, you can dance at the most two to three hours
- Some night parties and hotels, shacks, persons, lodgings are on the radar of anti-drug agencies
- Goa being a global tourist destination, lakhs of tourists, international as well as domestic, visit the state every year and are the major target of drug peddlers/dealers. It is also learnt that these days, the drug dealers/ peddlers are using foreign tourists who are addicts to sell drugs, since foreigners can easily approach another foreigner with drugs
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said the proposed UPCOCA bill would help check crime and sought cooperation from the Opposition parties for its passage
Views of UP CM
- Speaking on an adjournment notice on law and order in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister said the bill, likely to be tabled soon, would be a remedy for crime in the state
- We are bringing the UPCOCA bill…if you want the mafias to be finished…we expect you to cooperate (to pass it)
- Reiterating that there would be no laxity on the issue of security, corruption and law and order, he said crime in the state was at its lowest and the people’s mandate in the country was its example
- He referred to the recent National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report and lashed out at the state of affairs under the previous government when as many as 31 riots took place in one year and no FIRs were filed
The Uttar Pradesh government recently approved a draft of a UPCOCA bill which was on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to combat land mafia, mining mafia and organised crime
Government staff rediscovering their creative side through Malayalam calligraphy
What has happened?
Employees of the Economics and Statistics (E&S) Department in Kerala have launched manuscript magazines (Kaiyezhuthu Masika), with the aim of promoting Malayalam and giving a creative break to the staff from the drab world of statistics, surveys and computations
Manuscript magazines with elegant calligraphy were once a popular and low-cost means of communication and channelling creativity
Why the format started losing steam?
The format started losing popularity with the advance in printing technology
Revival via Niravu
But it is seeing a revival after a handful of employees at the Economics and Statistics Department in Ernakulam district decided to launch their first manuscript magazine, titled Niravu. Soon, their colleagues in Kottayamand Wayanad came up with their own magazines Kaiyoppu (Signature) and Kathir (Paddy Ears) respectively
Inspiration for others
The popularity of these initiatives is now inspiring employees in other districts and departments to bring out their own magazines. The 90-page Niravu is into its second issue, three months after the first came out
Not an easy task
Publishing a manuscript magazine is not easy. Contributions of the employees are rewritten by those with good handwriting skills. Pencil drawings and colour sketches are included in the magazine
Despite their fascination for the written format, the editors are not indifferent to technology. They are using the digital platform to popularise the magazine by circulating it in PDF format
What has happened?
The four-member committee appointed by the Haryana government to probe into the death of seven-year-old Adya Singh during dengue treatment at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, has also found faults with the treatment of patients from Economically Weaker Sections at the hospital
As per the conditions under which land has been given to Fortis for construction of hospital at confessional rates, “subsidised rates at 30% of the normal charges shall be charged for 20% of functional beds for the weaker section of the society”.
Findings of the panel
According to the panel
- The hospital uses high-cost drugs for the EWS patients deterring them from opting for treatment, even as every follow-up patient is shown as a new case to increase their number
- FMRI has provided the medical records and bills of 15 patients, who had been extended 70% discount on their admission charges
- It has been observed that they (FMRI) are showing every follow-up patient as a new case so as to increase their number. Most of their patients are chronic renal failure cases and every time they come for dialysis, they are counted as new patients
- Even for EWS patients higher-cost drugs are used by FMRI despite same-composition medicines being available in their pharmacy at much lower prices
- We do not create any differentiation between EWS and paying patients, neither logistics wise, nor on usage of drugs and consumables
- Each time a patient visits the hospital on a different day, a new episode is created and it is treated as a new number. This is the practice followed by all hospitals
Prioritizing national sovereignty over alliances, President Donald Trump is poised to outline a new national security strategy that envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition
What is going to happen?
Prioritizing national sovereignty over alliances, President Donald Trump is poised to outline a new national security strategy that envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change, and de-emphasizes multinational agreements that have dominated the United States’ foreign policy since the Cold War
Focus of the plan
Plan will focus on four main themes,
- Protecting the homeland and way of life
- Promoting American prosperity
- Demonstrating peace through strength; and
- Advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world
Previous strategy document
The last such strategy document, prepared by then-President Barack Obama in 2015, declared climate change an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.”
- Trump plan removes that determination following the administration’s threat to pull out of the Paris climate accord but will mention the importance of environmental stewardship
Emphasis of the document
- The draft emphasizes that U.S. economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might
- It would stress the U.S. is interested only in relationships with other countries, including alliances like NATO, that are fair and reciprocal
- Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East
- The strategy document will not make explicit reference to Russian attempts to meddle in the U.S. political system, but an official said it would highlight the importance of ensuring the resilience of U.S. democratic institutions
Latest development with regard to Rafale deal
What has happened?
The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France for 36 Rafales was arrived at to meet the critical requirement of the Air Force (IAF) and was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)
- In 2000, a proposal was mooted to procure 126 Mirage-2000 jets to replace the Mig-21s in service which was later converted to the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for which the Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued in 2007. Of the 126, 18 were direct fly-away aircraft and 108 were to be licence manufactured in India
- In September 2016, India and France signed the €7.87-billion agreement for the aircraft, spares, weapons, 10 years of annual maintenance and associated equipment. The deal has a 50% offset clause to be executed by Dassault and its partners
- On completion of field evaluation trials, only two of the six vendors were found to be fully compliant and the Dassault Aviation was declared the L1, Ms
Allegations of a scam
Recently, the Congress party had alleged a “huge scam” in the deal and accused the Modi government of “promoting the interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends”
What has happened?
- The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has fixed March 31, 2018 as the deadline for insurance policy holders to link Aadhaar and PAN, or Form 60, to their policies.
- For new policies, the process has to be completed within six months.
Regarding granting OBC status to farmers not falling within creamy layer
What has happened?
The Supreme Court has decided to entertain a writ petition seeking ‘farmers’ who do not fall within the creamy layer to be recognised as Other Backward Classes (OBC) as an occupational group irrespective of their caste and religion
Argument behind the PIL
The PIL argued that the inclusion would arm the ryots with constitutional rights to protect their livelihood
Respond to the petition
The court asked the Centre, the Gujarat government and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to respond to the petition
- The petition, filed by Rajeshkumar Patel, questioned the validity of the office memorandum of the Gujarat government issued on September 13 which increased the slab of income to ₹8 lakh to raise the number of the OBC classes
- The Centre’s memorandum was followed shortly in October by the State government’s order.
Cybersecurity needs to be integrated in every aspect of policy and planning
India is a key player in the digital world
- India is one of the key players in the digital and knowledge-based economy, holding more than a 50% share of the world’s outsourcing market
- Pioneering and technology-inspired programmes such as Aadhaar, MyGov, Government e-Market, DigiLocker, Bharat Net, Startup India, Skill India and Smart Cities are propelling India towards technological competence and transformation
- India is already the third largest hub for technology-driven startups in the world and its Information and Communications Technology sector is estimated to reach the $225 billion landmark by 2020.
Prosperity with problems
However, these achievements come with a problem:
- Innovation in technology, enhanced connectivity, and increasing integration in commerce and governance also make India the fifth most vulnerable country in the world in terms of cybersecurity breaches, according to the Internal Security Threat Report of 2017 by Symantec. Till June 2017, 27,482 cybersecurity threats had been reported in the country, according to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team’s report.
- As this is a 23% increase from 2014 figures, it coincides with rapid growth and innovation in the ICT sector.
India recognizes this
The good news, though, is that India recognises this. The second Global Cybersecurity Index, released by the International Telecommunication Union in July, which measured the commitment of nations to cybersecurity, found that India ranked 23 out of 165 nations.
Types of attacks
Of the cybersecurity attacks:
- Ransomware attacks have been the most common in the last few years (Ransomware is a type of software that threatens to publish a person’s data or block it unless a ransom is paid)
- Apart from WannaCry and Petya, other Ransomware attacks that made news globally were Locky, Cerber, Bucbi, SharkRaaS, CryptXXX and SamSam.
- The success of each of these inspired new attacks. The ransom demands also increased — the average mean ransom demand rose from $294 in 2015 to $1077 in 2016, according to Symantec.
Data breach at Zomato
In India, in May 2017, a data breach at the food delivery App, Zomato, led to personal information of about 17 million users being stolen and put for sale on the Darknet. The company had to negotiate with the hacker in order to get it taken down
Uber also affected
Similarly, hackers stole data from 57 million Uber riders and drivers. Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to keep the data breach a secret.
Android under threat
- While Windows operating systems were the most vulnerable to cyberattacks, a number of Android threats have been reported in the last couple of years, including potent crypto-ransomware attacks on Android devices.
- The attacks aren’t limited to mobile phones and e-Pads. All devices, including televisions that use Android, are also potentially vulnerable.
In 2016, the first known Ransomware, named KeRanger, targeting Mac users was also reported.
- Given the huge number of online users and continued efforts on affordable access, cybersecurity needs to be integrated in every aspect of policy and planning
- At the 15th Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team conference in Delhi, Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad highlighted the need for robust cybersecurity policies and frameworks
Government keen on cybersecurity research
- The government is keen to fund cybersecurity research. It announced that it will award a grant worth ₹5 crore to startups working on innovations in the field of cybersecurity
- India needs to quickly frame an appropriate and updated cybersecurity policy, create adequate infrastructure, and foster closer collaboration between all those involved to ensure a safe cyberspace
- Minister of Communications Manoj Sinha said at the Global Conference on Cyberspace 2017 that there must be enhanced cooperation among nations and reaffirmed a global call to action for all United Nations member nations to not attack the core of the Internet even when in a state of war
- This also clearly emphasises the fact that more than ever before, there is a need for a Geneva-like Convention to agree on some high-level recommendations among nations to keep the Internet safe, open, universal and interoperable
It is strange how India ignores some of its best intellectuals
Popular intellectuals ignored
Many of the greatest scientists that independent India has produced are little known, like hidden figures in their own homeland
- Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri in cosmology
- N. Ramachandran in protein crystal structures, and
- K. Majumdar and Dipan Ghosh who extended the quantum Heisenberg spin model
These are household names in the international scientific field, but are little promoted by the Indian scientific establishment, even neglected in graduate teaching
- This oversight reflects a serious problem for the sciences in India. India has numerous well-funded institutions designed to produce high-quality scientific research, but the resulting research is mostly mediocre
- What is worse is that many Indian scientists agree that the relatively small amount of world-class research they produce emerges despite the national scientific establishment, and not because of it
Flaws in the system (Expert view)
The physicist Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, until recently director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, is critical about the flaws that he sees
- Low hanging fruit: Our research institutes, despite having far greater resources, were full of clever people who were risk-averse and eased into safe, albeit good, research, but not the ground-breaking work of the earlier, colonial times. Local rewards not subject to global competition were low-hanging fruit — [these were] temptations too hard to ignore
- System run by Scientists who have turned into bureaucrats: Independent India’s project of building a national science establishment led to internal standards of judgment: the scientists in power certify each other’s work
- Grooming of yes-men: Dependent on political patronage for continued funding, these leaders groom loyalists and yes-men rather than cutting-edge researchers (and women are scarce)
- Set labels: In a culture where people tend to get perceived as “smart” or not, labels can stick for life: hard work yields no rewards unless one is already defined as smart. This has led to an insider culture, reproducing privileges rather than promoting excellence. It is the little-recognised lone rangers who usually produce the best work in such a system, and not the research groups that get the major share of resources
- Ignored by state: India’s scientific institutions have been a blind spot in the state’s modernisation project. They symbolise reason and are immune to criticism. Owing to a conscious decision at the time of independence, research institutions, which house a tiny elite, get most of the funding but universities get very little
Consequences of such system
- Theoretical work: All the significant work produced in India is theoretical work
- Poor experimental science: Experimental science “is very poor in India”. To succeed, experiments require at least two conditions:
- Guarantees of long-term funding: Funding varies with the political climate: there will be money to buy equipment but no certainty that resources will flow for all the years needed to ensure significant results
- Scientists’ collaboration with each other: Collaboration is a social process, not an intellectual one. It involves, among other things, physical labour together with others. But working with hands is not encouraged among scientists. The words used in Indian labs are: one needs hands to do experiments, not brains. Lab assistants are the hands, while scientists avoid what they regard as mere manual labour
- Far from creating a positive influence on society, Indian scientific institutions reflect the existing social make-up and even reinforce it. Bureaucrats no longer active in cutting-edge research regard themselves as capable of judging working scientists, dispensing with principles of peer review. And instead of creating a scientific esprit de corps and contributing to social debates, Indian scientists tend to shun public commentary, unless it is to serve as government spokespersons
Bringing to light the “hidden figures” in Indian science — without the help of a major motion picture this time — should lead to a wider discussion about the strange career of Indian science. Acknowledging internationally celebrated scientific accomplishments, and asking why they were ignored for so long, can start a useful discussion
Forest fires in the otherwise completely green landscape of the Western Ghats during the winter at Somanakadu valley of Barimale in the Charmadi range has set off alarm bells among the greens in the locality
This, they say, is done to encroach upon vast extents of reserve forests in the Western Ghats
Forest fires in the otherwise completely green landscape of the Western Ghats during the winter at Somanakadu valley of Barimale in the Charmadi range has set off alarm bells among the greens in the locality.
Where are these incidents happening?
Ironically, such incidents are happening frequently in the district/border area represented by Minister for Forests, Environment and Ecology, B. Ramanath Rai.
Not Natural but engineered
Environmentalists allege that these are not “natural” but attempts by estate owners in the region to extend their boundaries illegally into reserve forest areas.
Fires again and again
- The region had seen forest fires this February too, destroying a vast extent of forest land, including Shola forests and grassland.
- Barimale region is the birthplace of Aniyur, Sunala, and Neriya rivulets — tributaries of the Netravathi.
- Recurring forest fires and consequent encroachment of forest land will have a cascading effect on the flow of the Netravathi, which has already been drying up between Belthangady and Bantwal in the district
- Charmadi range used to be covered with green grass at least till February.
However, deficient rainfall this monsoon dried up all the water sources making the grass dry. Mruthyunjaya rivulet, a tributary of the Netravathi, has its origin in the region
Many people have developed estates growing rambutan, rubber, coffee, among other produce at the foothills of the Western Ghats and have regularly been encroaching reserve forest lands.
The modus operandi of estate owners is to set fire to the forest first year, spray chemicals next year to completely denude the region of any green cover, and extend the boundary the following year.
Problems of the Department
Responding to this complaint raised by environmentalists, Mr. Rai said that the department has been taking action against those setting forests on fire and encroaching lands.
- But the department cannot procure helicopters as suggested by them since the country is “not that advanced”
- He said that the department recently recruited over 4,000 field personnel to guard the forest wealth.
Hunting goes on too
It is not just forest encroachment that goes on unabated in the Charmadi range of Western Ghats, but also hunting of wildlife in broad daylight, allege environmentalists.
Threats from the Hunters
Sahyadri Sanchaya’s Dinesh Holla encountered a group of about 35 people armed with guns and sharp weapons at Baluru Gudda near Kottigehara in Chikkamagaluru district during a recent trek. His attempts to dissuade the group from hunting were futile and instead he and his companions were “advised” to mend their way, he said. Mr. Holla’s complaints to the Forest Department did not get any response, but he got calls from the hunting gang warning him to keep away from informing the department, he alleged.
The World Inequality Report 2018
Who releases the world inequality report?
World Inequality lab
Aim of the report
- The World Inequality Report aims to become the reference global report on inequality and to attract extensive coverage in the international media. The first report will be published in December 2017
World Inequality Lab
The World Inequality Lab aims to promote research on global inequality dynamics. Its core mission is to maintain and expand the World Wealth and Income Database. It also produces inequality reports and working papers addressing substantive and methodological issues
- In addition to the year-round updates to the database and working papers, the World Inequality Lab publishes a biannual World Inequality Report. The objective is to highlight new findings and research analysis emanating from the database, and to draw implications for the global inequality debate
Observations of the report
- Income inequality in India has increased since economic liberalisation. This, it notes, is in contrast to the earlier decades when inequality dropped under socialist policies
- Middle class control a major share: It is true that the rich and the middle class control a major share of the world’s resources, which consequently is not available to the poor. They enjoy higher incomes from better jobs and investments, which allows them to outbid the poor to purchase various goods
- Income inequality will always exist: Income inequality will always exist in a market economy where people are allowed to engage in free exchange and earn incomes according to their personal capabilities. Doctors, for instance, earn many more times than plumbers and carpenters because they offer rare services
- We should look at income mobility rather than income inequality: The higher incomes of the rich and the middle class do not last forever in a marketplace that is free of legal entry barriers. More people will be attracted towards professions and businesses that offer higher returns, which in turn will drive up the incomes of the new entrants while driving down the returns of incumbents. This is why we must look at income mobility, which reflects the number of people moving up and down the economic ladder, and ways to foster it rather than inequality
- In fact, income inequality might even widen during times when there is a lot of economic mobility
- Enabling mobility: To enable mobility, however, the government needs to look beyond taxes and handouts, and ensure social goods — education and healthcare — for all in order to level the playing field
Why taxing the rich more will not prove helpful?
- What is not true, however, is that the poor will get to enjoy many luxuries if only the rich were taxed more and the money was used to write welfare cheques to the poor, thus boosting their purchasing power. Instead, when taxes are high, people who help produce the goods that the rich and the middle class enjoy today will have less of an incentive to do their jobs as before
- Workers, for instance, may no longer be attracted towards high-skill jobs when their income from such jobs is taxed at high rates. Investors too will have lesser reason to put in their money in crucial projects when their profits are taxed at high rates. In fact, India before economic liberalisation faced this problem when it tried to tax its way to prosperity