While discussing the multidimensional personality of Dr B R Ambedkar, it is but natural to forget that first and foremost he was an economist. In fact, he was the first Indian to be awarded a PhD in economics and has extensively worked on the problems of the Indian economy.
Dr Ambedkar had published three books in the field of economics dealing with the public finance and monetary economics: Administration and Finance of the East India Company, The Evolution of the Public Finance in British India and The Problem of Rupee: Its Origin and Solution.
According to Ambedkar, the finances of a country are to be judged from the viewpoint of the development expenditure and within it the public works, but the record of the British rule on this front was abysmal. Most of the revenue from India went into the military expenditures mainly due to the costly foreign wars waged by British India in the service of the Empire.
Furthermore, unlike other British dependencies, no provision was made for India’s military expenditure from the British exchequer. It was all entirely borne by the Indian revenues. He further points to the unequal trade and tariff polices, which kept India open to imports from Britain while imposing heavy duties on exports to Britain. This led to the destruction of Indian manufacturing base.
According to Ambedkar, ‘justice’ was missing in the fiscal policies of the British rule. The burden of taxation fell mainly on the poor instead of rich, and the public expenditure was geared towards maintaining the privileges and conspicuous consumption of the elite; i.e. zamindar class and government officials instead of public welfare. He also pointed out that due to the extraction policies of the British and flawed taxation policies, the base of taxation itself was shrinking and it was a major reason for the shortfall in revenue collection.
It is this work, which laid the foundation for his contribution later on in crafting the Centre-state relations under the new Constitution, and also laid down the basic principles of what was to become the finance commission of India.
He also focused on the issue of an appropriate standard for the currency system. British India had adopted the Gold-Exchange Standard instead of the Gold Standard. But according to Ambedkar, the Gold Standard was best suited for the creation of a stable monetary condition by stabilising the value of rupee. Here, he differed with John Maynard Keynes, who was an advocate of the Gold-Exchange Standard. According to Ambedkar, Gold-Exchange Standard system lacked the stability and predictability of the Gold-Standard system and also the control over the power of the government to issue the currency. The potential of issuing currency indiscriminately under the Gold-Exchange Standard, he argued, would destabilise the value of the currency by causing depreciation in its value.
Moreover, this would render it unfit to function as the money, thus destabilising the whole economy. The concerns expressed by Ambedkar came true in the post-Independence era of deficit financing by automatic monetisation of the government debt. The excessive printing of the currency to fund unrestrained government spending did harm the economy.
He advocated that the science and technology must be used to reclaim the cultivable waste land for distribution among the landless. However, since, agriculture in itself is not sufficient for wealth generation he advocated that it must be supplemented by the subsidiary and cottage industry. But for the development of these industries, he argued, the development of the electricity was the first requirement./p>
Therefore, he placed immense emphasis on the development of multi-purpose river valley projects like Damodar, Mahanadi, Sone. We can see that he was laying down the foundation of an integrated development strategy. But he goes further and argues that the agricultural prosperity depends on the maintenance of the forest cover, which ensures proper rainfall and ecological balance. Thus, he also brought in the basic concepts of the sustainable development into his economic vision even if he only touches the topic, which has today acquired immense importance.
The objective of trying to codify the manner in which cases are allocated was to mend fences within the Supreme Court. The body of mediators comprised Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud (all of whom are potential Chief Justices) and Justice A.K. Sikri.
The group saw this attempt as aimed at trying to “institutionalise and strengthen the practices and conventions in diverse areas under the administration of justice in the Supreme Court of India”. The five mediator judges held hectic parleys with the Chief Justice and the four senior-most judges. They proposed a committee to be formed.
These conventions of the apex court include that major cases should be heard by the Chief Justice of India, and if not possible by the CJI, the case should go to the second court and so on in the descending order of courts. The constitution of Benches should be as per the seniority of the judges, the Chief Justice's court should sit in a combination of three judges and five-judge Benches should hear any case involving substantial questions of law in accordance with Article 145 (3) of the Constitution.
The committee would establish as norms the Chief Justice of India's various duties and functions, primarily as Master of Roster. Once all this was done, it was hoped the norms would be published on the Supreme Court website. The mediators believed this would clear the dark clouds hanging over the institution.
Jaitley announced that a defence production corridor would come up between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, starting from Mysuru and running down south to Trichy. Chennai, Salem, Hosur, Trichy, and Coimbatore – the industrial cities that have all the wherewithal in terms of infrastructure, manpower, and finance – will form the Tamil Nadu part of the defence corridor.
The new establishment has tried revising the defence procurement policy (DPP) and also tinkered with the offsets model. There have also been significant changes in the And then there is the Make In India initiative.
The reforms in the defence procurement policy has helped the Defence Ministry immensely. During the 2017-18 financial year, the Ministry spent more than what it was allocated in the budget. That is in stark contrast to the fact that all these years, allocation to the Defence Ministry has gone under-utilised.
The sector has now been opened to 100 per cent foreign direct investment. Not just the defence industry, even emerging aerospace markets in Asia and West Asia can be tapped by emerging entrepreneurs. Besides, the Centre has decided to allow investments in the manufacturing of small arms and ammunition that is critical for the Indian defence forces.
India will also be able to drive home with its competitive labour costs that make up over 30 per cent of total costs in developed nations. Competitive labour in itself can bring down the defence manufacturing by at least 25 per cent – a key aspect when defence ministries across the world are restricted by budget allocations
Tamil Nadu has 36 operational Special Economic Zones – the highest – in the country. The state enjoys a logistical advantage of having airports at Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai, and Tuticorin. (Salem has been added to the map now, and Bengaluru airport is a few hours’ drive away!) The other plus point for the state is that it is well-connected by road and sea too, with ports at Madras, Ennore, Kattupakkam, and Tuticorin – a factor most of the investors in Tamil Nadu point out. (The Kochi port is another nearby option.)
The state, which has received $27 billion as foreign direct investments from 2000 to 2017, also boasts of a vibrant youth population with around 30 per cent being in the 20-35 years age group. With over 500 engineering colleges and another 500 polytechnics, Tamil Nadu can be a state that will offer vast skilled and educated manpower
Initiatives have already been launched in Tamil Nadu with a Defence Park being set up in collaboration with the Coimbatore District Small Industries Association and the launch of Innovation for Defence Excellence. Industrialists in the western districts of Tamil Nadu are eager to take advantage of the opportunities and deliver, what with the state unable to witness any major investment in the last couple of years.
The thousands of small and medium industries that line up from Bengaluru to Chennai, Salem, Coimbatore, and Trichy are all capable of meeting the Defence Ministry needs. These industries, which have great engineering capabilities, are expected to meet the stringent quality norms, given their track record over the years.
At least 44 districts in the country have been removed from the list of areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) as Maoist influence and violence has shrunk to the 30 worst-hit districts, The Economic Times has reported. According to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Maoist influence has shrunk in the last four years due to a multi-pronged strategy and development-related measures.
The ministry had categorised 106 districts in 10 states as LWE-affected districts. These districts come under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme. As part of this scheme, the government provides reimbursement of expenditure on transportation, communication, hiring of vehicles, stipend to surrendered Maoists, construction of infrastructure and much more. However, the division of large districts into smaller ones has resulted in the increase in the number of districts to 126. With the addition of 8 new districts, the total number of SRE districts now stands at 90.
Government’s development efforts, such as the Integrated Action Plan under which Rs 1,000 crore is provided as 100 per cent grant to 35 LWE-affected districts, has helped curb Maoist violence. A committee headed by the District Collector and consisting of the Superintendent of Police of the District Forest Officer takes decisions on how to utilise the fund sanctioned under the scheme.
In 2015, the NDA government had adopted the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’, which aimed at addressing Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the country. In the last couple of years though, Maoists have managed to carry out big strikes killing scores of policemen. In Chhattisgarh, over two dozen policemen were killed in separate incidents in 2017; at least nine CRPF personnel were killed in a similar attack in Sukma last month.
In 2015, the total number of LWE-affected districts was 106. It rose to 126 in 2017 following bifurcation of states and districts, and the expansion of Maoists activities. All expenses incurred by the affected areas are covered under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme of the MHA, which provides funds for transportation, communication, hiring of vehicles, stipend for surrendered Maoists, and temporary infrastructure for security forces.
Of the 106 districts, 36 accounted for 80 to 90% of the country-wide LWE violence, and were categorized as “Worst Affected Districts”. In its recent review, the Home Ministry noted that 44 of the 126 districts reported negligence violence, and they were removed from the list. Eight new districts which witnessed Maoist movements were added to the SRE list. Currently, 30 instead of 36 of the worst affected districts account for 90% of the LWE violence
What were the criteria for removing the districts and including new ones ? The primary criterion was ‘incidents of violence’. The 44 districts, which have been excluded, did not report any significant incidents of violence due to LWE in the last three years.
Similarly, three new districts in Kerala were added following reports of Naxal movement, and their overground activities. Incidents of violence have seen a 20% decline with a 34% reduction in related deaths in 2017 as compared to 2013. The geographical spread of LWE violence also shrunk from 76 districts in 2013 to 58 districts in 2017. The new districts will receive the SRE fund from the Centre, which will monitor development and security-related projects. Last year, the combined SRE expenditure in LWE-affected districts was Rs 445 crore.
The multi-pronged strategy primarily includes development and security aspects of affected districts. Projects related to development include infrastructure, roads, cellphone connectivity, bridges and schools. As per MHA data, 2,329 mobile towers were installed in Maoist-affected areas in the first phase of the project aimed at improving cellphone connectivity, with the maximum number of towers being installed in Jharkhand (816), followed by Chhattisgarh (519). In the second phase, the government plans to install another 4,072 mobile towers.
Similarly, 4,544 kilometers of road have already been built of the sanctioned 5,422 km. The second phase of constructing 5,411 km of road will start soon, and is estimated to cost Rs 10,780 crores. Earlier, 11 of the 36 worst affected areas had no Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV), and only six Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs). Now, all the 36 districts have JNVs, and eight districts have functional KVs. Three new KVs are also being built. Eight bridges, which were built to enhance connectivity to remote areas in LWE-affected states, were constructed at a cost of nearly Rs 1,000 crores.
The Power Ministry has categorised charging batteries of electric vehicles as a service, a move which will help such stations operate without licence and encourage the use of e-vehicles. Transmission, distribution and trading of electricity need licences under the Electricity Act. Therefore, all utilities have to seek licences for sale of power to consumers.
The Ministry said in a clarification that during the charging of e-vehicles, a station does not perform any activity related to the transmission, distribution or trading of electricity. “Hence charging of batteries of electric vehicles through charging station does not any require licence under the provision of the Electricity Act 2003,” it said.
An official had earlier said the policy on charging stations on points along identified corridors — draft of which has been finalised by the Central Electricity Authority — would provide that the price of power for charging e-vehicles be capped at the average cost of supply in the State, excluding discom transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, plus 15%. The policy is expected to help the tariff for charging at an economical level of below Rs. 6 per unit.
In the present scenario, the EVs make economic sense as their per km running cost is less than a rupee, whereas the same cost for petrol and diesel works out to an average of Rs. 6.50. The government’s National Electric Mobility Mission Plan launched in 2013 aims at ensuring 6-7 million electric and hybrid vehicles in India by 2020. The vision enunciated two years ago is for India to have 100% EVs by 2030.
Farming is largely completely dependent on the vagaries of nature, and the number of extreme weather events are only rising. In early March this year, in sheer desperation, 30,000 farmers trudged 180 kms over 6 days on foot from Nashik to Mumbai, braving unrelenting 40°C heat, calloused feet, fatigue and total uncertainty of outcomes just to let the world know their lot and convey their grievances to the not so responsive government.
Harnessing the right technology available within India and globally can offer fast and dependable solutions to multiple issues of governance in agriculture sector providing most needed relief to the distressed farmers, cutting delays, inefficiencies, corruption and costs. Government of India’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) is one glaring example crying for such a solution. Another targeted application can be creating geotagged databank of all waterbodies villagewise with actual volumes, etc.
The farmer uses a 4G feature phone linked to his Aadhaar number and bank account to take geotagged pictures of crop damage and uploads it. The backend software checks his land holding and last 10 years’ yield in that village, taluka and district. Digitised historical data of hyper-localised crop yields looped into artificial intelligence (AI) enabled software estimates damage and sanctions a benchmark payout which reflects in the insurance company’s computers. This, in turn, triggers a payment into the farmer’s bank account. This means no middlemen, no human error and no overhead costs. Digitised land records will have to be baked into this cake for all the other ingredients to make sense.
Currently, crop insurance schemes cover farmers who typically see huge delays in getting the payout when their crops are destroyed. By embracing the right combination of technology and human intelligence, farmers can be paid at least 75-80% within 24 hours in best case scenario and a week at the latest compared with months or even years of delay today.
Variants of such schemes are already up and running in the West. A start-up in Silicon Valley began by offering Total Weather Insurance based entirely on crop and location. Customers buy policies online. Premiums cost $30 per acre per year. Payouts for weather related crop failures are made without farmers having to prove losses.
We, in India, can adapt these templates and can do better on many parameters, providing invaluable succour to distressed farmers. Farmers could take pictures of their farms from predetermined locations periodically (say weekly) and build a chronological data dump as a reference point in case of extreme weather related loss. The same process continues till harvest. Straightaway, the manpower bottleneck is removed and farmers are in charge of their content. Thus, villagers and not middlemen become the hub of crop data.
Agreed, that farmers will not be quick to trust technology after many bitter harvests but making them partners in the process is a baby step towards winning them over. Insurance policies for India’s farmers must become a rite of passage in our fields. With a smartphone and high quality connectivity, we are already halfway there.
The constitutional amendment for National Judicial Commission with a facilitating Act were struck down. This was done on the ground that while the amendment affected judicial review as an aspect of the “basic structure” of the Constitution, the Act, in effect, diminished the “primacy” of the CJI and the collegium. The court went an extra mile to ask the executive to propose a Memorandum of Procedure (MoP). The executive has not yet finalized it
Accepted procedure for appointment : The Union government had itself accepted the new collegium system of five senior-most justices. It was also accepted that the executive will convey its concerns to the CJI if a security issue was involved. If the collegium reiterated the names, the names will become final
Reform of the system A new and creative National Judicial Commission Act can be enacted, which is acceptable to both the high organs of governance. The CJI should be and must remain, in a position of robust dialogue with dissenting brethren and blend his power as master of the roster with respect for the suggestions and opinions of others
The Union home ministry has flagged off the e-FRRO (e-Foreigners Regional Registration Office) scheme to expedite visa services for foreigners visiting India. The e-FRRO scheme is aimed at building a centralized, transparent online platform for foreigners to avail visa related services and to provide faceless, cashless and paperless services to the foreigners with a user-friendly experience
In the new system, foreigners would be able to get as many as 27 visa and immigration-related services in India from the comfort of their place of stay. Using the e-FRRO application, foreigners can apply online and obtain the services through email or post without appearing in person at the FRRO office
The United Nations took a major step to address the tragedy of road accidents by launching the UN Road Safety Trust Fund. This is to spur action that could save lives and prevent the loss of opportunity associated with road accidents
About the fund : The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will be the secretariat for the trust fund. The trust fund will support efforts along the five pillars of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Period 2011-2020 has been designated as the Decade of Action for Road Safety
SDGs and road safety : Two Sustainable Development Goals targets deal specifically with road safety. They aim to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. Another target aims to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems as well as improve road safety for all
A draft white paper released by the Law Commission of India on Tuesday recommends holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, possibly in 2019. It suggests amending the Constitution to realise this objective.
It recommends that in 2019, the election could be held in phases. In the first phase, it says, elections to the legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with the Lok Sabha in 2019 could be held together. The rest of the States could go to elections in proximity with the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
Citing no-confidence motion and premature dissolution of House as major roadblocks to simultaneous elections, the commission says the parties which introduce the no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government.
It even suggests the relaxation of the “rigours” of the anti-defection law in the Tenth Schedule to prevent a stalemate in the Lok Sabha or Assemblies in case of a hung Parliament or Assembly. The panel says that in case of mid-term elections, the new Lok Sabha or Assembly would only serve the remainder of the term of the previous Lok Sabha/Assembly and not a fresh term of five years.
The commission says the Centre should get the Constitutional amendments, if agreed upon, to be ratified by all the States so as to avoid any challenge to them. It also says that the Prime Minister/Chief Minister should be “elected” to lead by the full House like the Lok Sabha Speaker.
India has won an election to a crucial non-governmental organisation committee in the United Nations after garnering the highest number of votes besides getting elected by acclamation to other subsidiary bodies in five separate polls
The U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held elections to a number of its subsidiary bodies in United Nations on April 16. The ECOSOC focusses on advancing the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.
India topped the election to the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations. In one round of secret balloting, the Council elected Bahrain, China, India and Pakistan in the Asia Pacific States category and Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Nicaragua (Latin American and Caribbean States) to serve a four-year term beginning on January 1, 2019. India got the highest number of votes at 46, followed by Pakistan (43), Bahrain (40) and China 39. Iran lost the elections, having got only 27 votes. The Council elected by acclamation 11 other nations to serve the same four-year term.
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations is a standing committee of ECOSOC and its main tasks include consideration of applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by NGOs and consideration of quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs in General and Special categories.
India was also elected by acclamation to the Commission on Population and Development for a term beginning April 16, 2018 and expiring in 2021. Under its terms of reference the Commission is to assist the Council by arranging for studies and advising the Council on population issues and trends, integrating population and development strategies and population and related development policies and programmes.
India was among the 17 members elected by acclamation to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The elected members, to serve a three-year term beginning on January 1, 2019 and expiring on December 31, 2021 include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Swaziland, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Thailand, Belarus, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico Austria, France, Turkey and the United States. The Commission acts as the principal policymaking body of the U.N. in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. Its mandate includes improving international action to combat national and transnational crime and the efficiency and fairness of criminal justice administration systems.
Assam will roll out a comprehensive health insurance scheme on Wednesday (18 April) that could serve as a model for other states to emulate. Named Atal Amrit Abhiyan (AAA) after former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the novel scheme will be inaugurated by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in Guwahati. The scheme will provide coverage for a staggering 92 per cent of the state’s population.
Apart from all adult members of all BPL (below poverty line) families in the state, APL (above poverty line) families whose annual family income is up to Rs 5 lakh will be covered by the scheme. Enrolment kiosks have been set up in all district headquarters and 1.5 crore beneficiaries have already been enrolled. After providing citizenship documents, applicants will have their biometrics recorded and embedded in a smart card that will be given to them and will have to be produced to avail of benefits under the scheme.
Children up to 18 years of age belonging to eligible families will not be issued separate cards, but their names and biometric information will be tagged in the AAA card of the head of the family.
The novelty of Assam’s health insurance scheme lies in its user-friendliness. A 24x7 AAA call centre has been set up to guide beneficiaries. Besides, help desks have been set up in all empanelled hospitals and these will be manned by arogya mitras round the clock. “These arogya mitras will do the necessary hand-holding and shall ensure that the patients or their accompanying attendants do not face any problems.
A round-the-clock feedback and grievance redressal mechanism has also been set up and senior officers of the health department as well as senior doctors of government hospitals in the state will monitor the scheme very regularly. Sarma said he would also personally monitor and review the functioning of the scheme at regular intervals
Beneficiaries who want to avail treatment in the empanelled hospitals outside the state can call the AAA call centre, which will make all necessary arrangements, including travel to the hospital outside the state. Beneficiaries will be entitled to round-trip airfare of a maximum of Rs 30,000 for treatment outside the state and a daily allowance of Rs 1,000 a day for a maximum of 10 days. Within Assam, a patient and an attendant will get a travel allowance of Rs 300 per visit to an empanelled hospital subject to a maximum of Rs 3,000 a year.
Another unique feature of AAA is that unlike some other states’ health insurance schemes, all diagnostic tests done 24 hours prior to the admission of a beneficiary patient will be covered by it. “All one needs to avail cashless treatment in any of the empanelled hospitals is the AAA smart card which will have the beneficiaries’ data stored in them,” said Sarma, adding that Rs 400 crore has already been allocated for the implementation of the scheme in the current fiscal. Funds, he added, will be no constraint. While the AAA scheme has been fine tuned in consultation with government doctors and private healthcare providers over the past few months, Sarma says that further fine-tuning can be carried out whenever necessary.
The top Pentagon Admiral warned Congress that imposing any sanctions on India according to ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)’ for its purchase of significant defence equipment from Russia would have an adverse impact on the relationship.
Admiral Philip S Davidson, the nominee for the US Pacific Command Commander (PACOM), told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday during his confirmation that India’s military had long relied on the former Soviet Union and then Russia to follow with some of its technology and training. “We have to break down that historical background to a certain extent, break down is not the correct work but be willing to work with that so that we can move forward with India,” Admiral Davidson said.
The CAATSA includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors. India could face sanctions for purchasing high value military defence items, in particular state-of-the-art S-400 missile defence system, from Russia under the act.
“CAATSA sanctions pose a concern for our defense relationships in the Indo-Pacific with countries such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. If the U.S. decides to sanction these partner nations for their purchases of Russian equipment, this decision may hinder the growth of each developing partnership and increase each partner’s dependence on Russia,” Admiral Davidson warned. He also underscored the need to establish a foundation in a military-to-military relationship with India. It’s important to get to establish a foundation in a military to military relationship, Admiral Davidson said.
I think the historic opportunity for the United States going forward is probably with India and that would be a relationship that I intend to work on with great energy, he said.
The ongoing nationwide mega-combat exercise of the Indian Air Force (IAF) began in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district on Tuesday to examine the strategic preparedness of its infrastructure in the area. Though IAF officials maintained a distance from the media, sources said the exercise — ‘Gagan Shakti’ — began around 6.30 a.m. at Chinyalisaur town, 230km from the Indo-China border.
The first An-32 transport aircraft carrying IAF personnel landed at the Chinyalisaur airstrip around 7.15 am. The aircraft made a second landing at the airstrip at 7.45 am and a third at 8.01 am, the sources said. The exercise would continue in Chinyalisaur till Sunday, it added. ‘Gagan Shakti’ is said to be the IAF’s biggest such exercise in decades, to check its operational preparedness with a focus on dealing with all possible security challenges, including from China and Pakistan.
The two-week drill started on April 8 and would continue till the 22nd of this month, officials had said. Last Saturday, the IAF conducted a maritime air operation in the western sea board to check its deep strike capability in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.
Despite all the rhetoric about the collective rise of emerging powers including India and China, the United States remains the dominant power in the international system. By virtue of this power, it can effectively shape bilateral relations between any other countries. By extension, the US can also afford to alter its foreign policy, before any other country can, as and when the international situation requires it to. Under such circumstances, other countries could be taken by surprise and end up with a policy dilemma. All previous US administrations have displayed such policy flexibility. But the current American administration has abused it to such an extent that even its allies are now becoming victims.
Europe has the largest group of American allies but now it is feeling the cold headwind from the changing policy of US towards Russia, at a time when many European states are in a confrontation with Russia over the recent Salisbury nerve agent attack. In early April, they were astonished to find that American President Trump had proposed that the Russian President Putin visit Washington. In their conversation, Trump, against his advisors’ suggestions, had congratulated Putin’s election win. The timing of the US gesture to ease its relationship with Russia could not be worse, since the European memory is still fresh with a collective expulsion of Russian diplomats led by the US and followed by the European Union countries. US reversal of policy could mean a betrayal of European interest and this is something you will never do to your allies.
Japan, another major ally of the US, is witnessing a similar betrayal. Encouraged and supported by the US, Japan is spearheading a campaign to confront China in the Asia-Pacific region. Its efforts received not a reward but humiliation from the US. Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe had to humbly ask for a temporary exemption from the punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports initiated by Trump administration. What’s worse is that Japan might still have to make more concessions in bilateral trade re-arrangement talks despite the exemption. This cannot be explained solely by friendly fire damage: Japan’s legitimate interests have simply been overlooked.
Considering the way President Trump treats America’s traditional allies, other countries have no reason to expect continued cooperation from the US. More often than not, they will be unable to derive decent returns if the US keeps changing its policy stances at a frenzied pace. For instance, China was talked into supporting and implementing the resolutions by the United Nations Security Council to tighten sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The US was benefiting from such moves, at the cost of China’s relations with the Kim Jung-un regime. Soon China found its efforts were not appreciated by President Trump when he made a dramatic announcement in early March about his willingness to meet Kim Jong-un in person. China was left in a policy dilemma by the capricious US administration
Historically, America has proven itself as an unreliable partner time and again.
The government has extended its ambitious Poshan Abhiyaan to 235 additional districts in its second phase taking the total of districts covered by the national nutrition mission so far to 550 districts. The additional districts to be covered during the current financial year were decided on the basis of the level of stunting prevalent in district as well as to ensure those districts affected by left wing extremism and those declared aspirational districts by NITI Aayog left out in the first phase covered.
The Rs. 9,000-crore mission will strive to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, and low birth weight by 2 per cent and anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) by 3 per cent annually over the three-year mission period.
Anganwadi supervisors have been roped in for the mission. The focus of the Abhiyaan is on the first 1000 days of the child and preventive care for adolescent girls, women and mothers. Home-based Care for Young Child(HBYC) would be a crucial component of the Abhiyaan.
In HBYC, ASHAs supported by Anganwadi workers will visit the homes of children aged between 3 to 15 months and sensitise mothers on energy density and diet of child, he said
So opposition parties led by the Congress have met with the Vice President and have submitted to him a notice for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra. By doing this, they risk serious embarrassment as they just don’t have the numbers to make a successful bid for the removal of the chief justice. Moreover, the process of impeachment is something that has never really been activated successfully in the past against a judge of the honourable Supreme Court.
The last time the provision was invoked against a judge of the apex court was in the early 1990s against Justice V K Ramaswami. The said motion did fail quite spectacularly on the floor of the House and the judge in question went on to serve the remainder of his term with some semblance of distinction as well. He even unsuccessfully contested an election to the Lok Sabha against Vaiko of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(MDMK) in Tamil Nadu from the Sivakasi constituency.
In this regard, it would be instructive to examine the bare text of the relevant Constitutional provision which is produced below:
124 (4) A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
Simply put, what is needed in order to actually remove a judge of the Supreme Court is a special majority of the members present and voting in both Houses of Parliament.
The provisions of the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968 do offer some hope to the opposition, in as much as under the said Act, they might find it not altogether impossible to initiate proceedings, if not take them to their logical conclusion. Section 3 of the said Act whereby the procedure for initiation has been laid down is reproduced below:
3 (1) If notice is given of a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of a Judge signed,- (a) in the case of a notice given in the House of the People, by not less then one hundred members of that House; (b) in the case of a notice given in the Council of States, by not less, then fifty members of that Council, then, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman may, after consulting such persons, if any, as he thinks fit and after considering such materials, if any, as may be available to him either admit the motion or refuse to admit the same. (2) If the motion referred to in sub-section (1) is admitted, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman shall keep the motion pending and constitute as soon as may be for the purpose of making an investigation into the grounds on which the removal of a Judge is prayed for, a Committee consisting of three members of whom - (a) one shall be chosen from among the Chief Justice and other Judges of the Supreme Court; (b) one shall be chosen from among the Chief Justices of the High Courts; and (c) one shall be a person who is in the opinion of the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman, a distinguished jurist.
A perusal of the said provision would make it amply clear that the opposition must mobilise at least a hundred members (Lok Sabha) or fifty members (Rajya Sabha) depending upon wherein it intends to initiate the process. Having said that, from thereon it is the discretion of the Speaker (Lok Sabha) or the Vice President (Rajya Sabha) as the case may be, to first make an assessment as to whether the motion is fit for him to constitute a committee to frame charges and conduct a prima facie appreciation of whether the complaints made against the judge in question contain any substance.
Assuming that the opposition manages to negotiate the second hurdle, the committee constituted under the provisions of the said Act has to come to a conclusion that the charges framed by it are substantial at the conclusion of a proper process of quasi-judicial inquiry and fact-finding. In such a scenario, the motion for removal has to go before both the Houses of Parliament where it has to be passed by a majority of the members of both Houses and a two-third majority of the members present and voting. In the unlikely scenario that the motion contemplated by the opposition is approved by the committee, it shall surely be defeated on the floor of the House.
Indian government’s “strong” push to increase account ownership through biometric identification cards helped narrow both the gender gap and the gap between the rich and poor, the World Bank said
In its Global Findex database 2017 released yesterday, the World Bank said that India has significantly reduced the gender gap in providing access to financial services as 77 per cent women against 83 per cent men now have bank accounts.
The total number of current and savings accounts in banks has risen from 122.3 crore in March 2015 to 157.1 crore in March 2017, the international body has noted. However, around 190 million Indian adults are without a bank account despite the success of the Jan Dhan Yojana.
A total number of 11,074 pending litigation and pre-litigation cases were taken up during the adalats in the district. These included cases relating to civil, land-acquisition, Domestic Violence Act, Motor Claims Tribunal Original Petition (MCOP), cheque bounce and maintenance cases.
As many as 2,420 pending litigation and pre-litigation cases were settled during Lok Adalats held at various places in the district on Sunday. The settled ones included civil cases, cheque bounce cases, labour cases and those pertaining to Domestic Violence Act. Principal District Judge S. Kumaraguru inaugurated the Lok Adalat held at the Combined Court premises in the city.
Among the slew of cases which were settled included 152 civil cases, 60 cheque bounce cases,151 MCOP cases and 13 labour cases, an official release from the District Legal Services Authority said.
Settled cases cannot be reopened
Encourage breeding of guppy or gambusia fish in large numbers; install mosquito nets on windows, doors, and ventilators of government hospitals; or provide mosquito nets dipped in mosquito repellents in all wards.
These are some of the preventive steps proposed by the Health Department as part of the Malaria Day programme on April 25 though doubts remain over their impact in containing the vector-borne disease which seems to be making a comeback.
Experts, however, said that no scientific study had been undertaken in Kerala on the advantages and disadvantages of releasing the exotic fish variety into the State’s natural waterbodies. Dinesan Cheruvatt, Joint Director, Fisheries, told The Hindu on Sunday that though guppy was a larvivorous fish species, it was not advisable to release it into our natural waterbodies. Guppy is a fish belonging to Trinidad and Tobago and the coastal South America.
The Modi government has clamped down on Naxalism in a big way. Several of their major leaders have either been killed, apprehended or have simply surrendered. In yet another success for the government, the Gadchiroli police has hunted down 14 Naxals in an encounter in the Tadgaon village. It is being hailed as the biggest success for the Gadchiroli Police thus far and has broken the back of the already depleted Naxals.
This has added to the string of successes for Gadchiroli police this year. It has already gunned down 17 Naxals this year including three divisional community members as opposed to 19 Naxals in the whole of 2017
In fact, this year has been full of massive onslaughts by the government and security forces on the Naxalites. Of late, a spate of aggressive assaults have been launched by the security forces against the Naxals. On 27th March, 15 Naxals were arrested by a joint team of STF, DRG, DF and CRPF out of which two were carrying bounties. In another success, 3 Naxals had surrendered before the ITBP on 29th March in Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh. However, an unprecedented success came for the CRPF and local police when 16 Naxals laid down their arms in Sukma, a Naxal stronghold area. This suggested that the government is decisively winning its ferocious battle against the Naxals.
The government has not only been clamping down by way of encounters and combing operations but has devised a holistic strategy to corner the Naxals from all sides. In 2017-2018, poppy cultivation worth Rs. 550 crores was destroyed by the SSB (a Central Armed Police Force). Therefore, the security forces have attempted to curb the financing of the Naxals in order to handicap them.
Going by statistics, the problem of Naxalism is shrinking both in size and severity. In fact, Naxalism is more or less restricted to four Naxal pockets in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Ninety percent of the Naxal attacks took place only in these four states. Even in the severely affected states, there have been fewer instances of Naxal violence.
However, this success has not come easily for the government. It has been the result of a revamped strategy taken up by the Modi government and the Home Ministry. The government is hitting the Naxals where it hurts the most. In a massive counteroffensive launched by the government, top level Naxal commanders and informers have been targeted. The construction and development activities are in full swing in the Naxal affected regions which is slowly taking the tribal areas out of wilderness. The Naxals no longer enjoy the cover offered by dense jungles. Naxals are exposed in the open and they are no longer able to move their men and ammunition as freely.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to roll out ‘Integrated initiative for prevention & control of viral hepatitis’ under National Health Mission (NHM) for prevention and control of viral hepatitis. The initiative will have budgetary support of more than Rs. 517 crore for three years. India is committed to eliminating the viral hepatitis by 2030.
Under this initiative, the ministry will scale up to 100 treatment and 665 testing centres over period of next three years in all states. It will address components such as surveillance, awareness generation, immunisation, safe blood, injection safety infection control, diagnosis of viral hepatitis, capacity building, research and monitoring. It is also proposed to establish 15 model treatment centres, which will function as referral centres for diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C and assist in capacity building.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Liver is vital organ that processes nutrients, filters blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed due to viral hepatitis or damaged, its functions are affected. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus and most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis is recognised as public health problem worldwide. India is committed to ending it by 2030.
Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions also can cause hepatitis. It can also spread through use of injectable drugs, unsafe health care, unsafe injection practises and transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products. Symptoms of hepatitis can include fever, fatigue, vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice. Treatment of Hepatitis depends on the diagnosis.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved restructured Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA). The restructured scheme will focus on training, building infrastructure, stepping up initiatives for e-governance under e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will be implemented during period from April 2018 to March 2022 with total proposed cost of the scheme is Rs. 7255 crore.
The scheme will extend to all states/UTs of country and will also include institutions of rural local government in non-Part IX areas, where Panchayats do not exist. The fund sharing ratio for scheme for state components will be 60:40 barring Northeast and hilly states where it will be 90:10. For UTs, central share will be 100%.
The scheme will have both central component- National Level activities including National Plan of Technical Assistance, Mission Mode project on e-Panchayat, Incentivization of Panchayats and state component Capacity Building of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), The implementation and monitoring of activities of scheme will broadly be aligned for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with main thrust on Panchayats identified under Mission Antyodaya and 115 aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog. It will converge capacity building initiatives of other ministries.
The restructured scheme will help more than 2.55 lakh Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to develop governance capabilities to deliver on SDGs through inclusive local governance with focus on optimum utilisation of available resources. It will strive to achieve key principles of SDGs, i.e. leaving no one behind, reaching farthest first and universal coverage, along with gender equality. It will give priority to subjects of national importance that affects the excluded groups the most, e.g. poverty, nutrition, education, primary health services, immunization, sanitation, water conservation, digital transactions etc.
It is designed keeping in view programmatic convergence with Mission Antyodaya Gram Panchayats (GPs) and 115 Aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog. Strengthening of panchayats under it will help to promote equity and inclusiveness, along with Social Justice and economic development of the community.Increased use of e-governance by PRIs will help achieve improved service delivery and transparency. It will strengthen Gram Sabhas to function as effective institutions with social inclusion of citizens particularly vulnerable groups. The scheme will help to establish institutional structure for capacity building of PRIs at national, state and district level with adequate human resources and infrastructure. It will progressively strengthened PRIs through incentivisation on basis of nationally important criteria which will encourage competitive spirit among them.
The recently announced Defence Planning Committee (DPC) – an overarching panel that will drive strategy, procurement and diplomacy – will be India’s most powerful military body yet. But it will be running against time, as key decisions need to be taken in the next few months. Though notionally reporting to the defence minister, the high powered body led by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval formalises the formidable influence the former intelligence bureau chief exerts over defence matters.
Notified this week, the committee has taken a long time to be set up and comes amid growing concern that defence planning and policy has not been a priority area for the government. After all, it is the only big ministry that has seen a change of guard four times; the Army has made strong public statements on the severe crunch of resources; and big procurement and the private industry drive is all but stuck.
The NSA, who is also advised by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), is known to have command oversight in operational matters of national importance. In the early days of 2014-15, when the International Border in the Jammu sector and the Line of Control in Rajouri-Poonch faced heavy cross-border firing, the NSA has been known to directly reach out to area commanders for ground reports, often with advice on how to tackle the situation.
Here is a short look at the four broad areas that the DPC will consider, and key priorities in each:
Policy and strategy (assessing risk and defence priorities, new national security strategy) : The key lookout will be the situation along the Line of Control (LoC), which threatens to spin out of control, given the large scale duels that India and Pakistan have entered into in the past three years. The possibility of these escalating to a limited conflict can no longer be termed as ‘remote’. Pressure moves by China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in support of Pakistan could also be a reality. Its other mandate – to formulate a national security strategy – will be a more complex task, though the groundwork for this is already believed to be ready.
Planning and capability development (cabinet approval and budgetary support for modernisation) : This mandate will bring the responsibility for major defence procurements – be it from foreign sources or indigenous manufacturers – to the DPC. Key decisions to be taken include judicious allocation of the limited budget to meet priorities. Given the resource crunch, critical decisions need to be taken on the future of contracts like the fifth generation fighter programme, acquisition of an additional aircraft carrier, purchase of the S-400 air defence system, and procurement of armed drones and modern, conventionally-armed stealth submarines.
Defence diplomacy (foreign acquisitions for strategic leverage) : This could prove to be a tricky task, given Russia’s growing annoyance at India blocking key long-term acquisitions from Moscow and the US’s impatience with the slow pace of defence cooperation and acquisition. While Russia has been making it clear that going slow on deals like the fifth generation fighter jet and the S-400 will have an impact on bilateral ties, the US has been pushing for a showcase defence procurement that will define the growing closeness between the two nations.
Defence manufacturing (indigenisation road map, research and development) : This has been a sore area for the industry. With four years gone by, not a single mega manufacturing project has been awarded to private industry, despite a clear government mandate to encourage Make in India and job creation. The DPC may need to look at how to implement the strategic partnerships policy that is now at the crucial stage of inviting Indian industry for major manufacturing jobs – submarines, fighter jets, and helicopters.
The Sunderban Reserve Forest, spread of 4,260 sq. km. with over 2,000 sq. km. of mangrove forests and creeks, is likely to be declared a Ramsar Site soon. Earlier this week, the West Bengal government gave its approval to the State Forest Department to apply for recognition under the Ramsar Convention.
Mr. Sinha said, being conferred the status of a wetland of international importance will not only be a matter of pride for the Sunderbans but also bring a lot of international scientific attention and intervention to the area.
The Indian Sunderbans, with 2,114 sq. km. of mangrove forests, comprise almost 43% of the mangrove cover in the country according to a 2017 Forest Survey of India report. Other than the forests, home to about 100 Royal Bengal tigers, the creeks and river systems of the Sunderbans are also part of the reserve forest and once conferred a Ramsar site status, it will be the largest protected wetland in the country.
Sunderbans is already a World Heritage Site, and another feather in its cap as a Ramsar site will not help in its conservation, even as the recognition has not helped the East Kolkata Wetlands. “What is required is the implementation of existing laws and regulations by the tribunals.
Other than threats such as climate change, sea level rise, widespread construction and clearing of mangrove forests for fisheries is posing a danger to the Sunderbans.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) in collaboration with Ministry of External Affairs has approved ‘Study in India’ programme to attract . foreign students to pursue higher education in India. The programme is similar to initiative launched by Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Canada.
It aims at boosting country’s share of international students and subsequently, improve global reputation and rankings of Indian educational institutions. The programme aims to promote Indian education to 2 lakh international students by 2023. 55% of the total seats will be available, under fee waiver scheme on merit basis.
The scheme will entail the admission of foreign students from 30 countries — with a focus on South Asia, South East Asia, West Asia and Africa — to study in 160 quality higher educational institutions of India as per NIRF ranks and NAAC grades
National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) goal of returning to the moon should see a major push in early 2019 with the lunar “Gateway” program.
The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is Nasa’s planned “staging” area intended for studies of the moon and the deep-space environment. The Gateway would also further Nasa’s goal of another human landing on the moon and will help determine whether water near the surface could be used to manufacture propellant for deep-space missions.
The moon’s gravity could also help a spacecraft reduce the blistering speeds used for six-month voyages back-and-forth to Mars, thus facilitating re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Meeting of the Development Committee (DC) of the World Bank Group and the IMF and the Restricted Session of the International Monetary and Finance Committee (IMFC) were recently held in Washington D.C.
The IMF Board of Governors is advised by two ministerial committees, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) and the Development Committee.
Composition: The IMFC has 24 members, drawn from the pool of 187 governors. Its structure mirrors that of the Executive Board and its 24 constituencies. As such, the IMFC represents all the member countries of the Fund.
Functions: The IMFC meets twice a year, during the Spring and Annual Meetings. The Committee discusses matters of common concern affecting the global economy and also advises the IMF on the direction its work. At the end of the Meetings, the Committee issues a joint communiqué summarizing its views. These communiqués provide guidance for the IMF’s work program during the six months leading up to the next Spring or Annual Meetings. There is no formal voting at the IMFC, which operates by consensus.
Development committee: The Development Committee is a joint committee, tasked with advising the Boards of Governors of the IMF and the World Bank on issues related to economic development in emerging and developing countries. The committee has 24 members (usually ministers of finance or development). It represents the full membership of the IMF and the World Bank and mainly serves as a forum for building intergovernmental consensus on critical development issues.
The nation celebrates the National Panchayati Raj Diwas (24th Aril) as this date marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
Activities of PM Modi on NPRD 2018: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mandla in Madhya Pradesh on the National Panchayati Raj Day. He launched the Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan, at a public meeting, and addressed Panchayati Raj representatives across the country, from Mandla.
The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from 24th April 1993 has institutionalized Panchayati Raj through the village, Intermediate and District level Panchayats. The impact of the 73rd Amendment in rural India is very visible as it has changed power equations irreversibly. Accordingly, the Government of India decided in consultation with the States to celebrate 24th April as National Panchayati Raj Day. Ministry of Panchayati Raj organises National Conference on 24th April every year to commemorate the National Panchayati Raj Diwas.
AFSPA was enacted on 11 September 1958 to bring under control what the government considered ‘disturbed areas’, essentially conflict-hit areas. It was first implemented in the Northeast, and then in Punjab. In September 1990, Parliament passed the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, which came into force retrospectively from 5 July 1990.
It can be applied only after an area has been declared “disturbed”. Earlier, states had the power to declare a territory thus, but in 1972, it passed to the centre.
Areas are considered disturbed “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. Section (3) of AFSPA empowers the governor of the state/Union territory to issue an official notification declaring the state or a region within as a “disturbed area”, after which the centre can decide whether to send in armed forces.
Parts of it are controversial. Under section 4 (a), mere suspicion gives a non-commissioned officer (or an equivalent rank in the armed forces) the power to shoot to kill. He can destroy any property, under section 4(b), if it is suspected of being used as a fortified position. Under section 4(c), anyone can be arrested without a warrant if it is suspected that he/she has committed a cognizable offence. Under section 4(d), force can be used to enter and search any house on suspicion of it being used as a hideout.
Which states are currently under AFSPA? Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Where has AFSPA been revoked? The home ministry has removed AFSPA from Meghalaya w.e.f 1 April 2018. It has also been removed from eight of 16 police station jurisdictions in Arunachal Pradesh. In 2015, AFSPA was lifted in Tripura.
According to defence experts, Meghalaya, Tripura and parts of Arunachal Pradesh have been declared free of insurgency. The Act had been imposed in keeping with the geographical terrain of these regions and to keep at bay any influx by Bodos, Nagas or other tribes from neighbouring states. Now, say experts, state police forces can handle disturbances.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and all States to remove references to leprosy as a disability from statute books, saying leprosy is curable and patients should not be victims of social stigma.
The court is hearing a PIL petition filed by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy to repeal 119 Central and State laws in practice since the 1950s which discriminate against leprosy patients, stigmatise and isolate them despite the fact that modern medicine completely cures the disease. Age-old beliefs about corrode minds and bring upon untold sufferings into the lives of leprosy patients, the Supreme Court observed.
There are 119 laws that discriminate against persons affected by leprosy in broadly the following five ways: (i) cause stigmatisation and indignity to persons affected by leprosy, (ii) isolate/segregate persons affected by leprosy, (iii) deny them access to public services, (iv) impose disqualifications on them under personal laws, or (v) bar them from occupying or standing for public posts or office,” Vidhi, represented by senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, had argued.
The petition has urged the court to intervene and pave the way for recognising the fundamental right to equality, dignity and equal opportunity of persons affected by leprosy.
On April 24, 1973, exactly 45 years ago, a 13-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court restrained, by a 7-6 verdict, Parliament from altering the “basic structure” of the Constitution. In Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, the court ruled that the basic structure of the Constitution is inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament.
“Basic structure” was interpreted to include the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of powers, federalism, secularism, sovereign democratic republic, the parliamentary system of government, the principle of free and fair elections, welfare state, etc.
Indira Gandhi was a powerful Prime Minister then, having been in the post since January 24, 1966. Her government was upset with the Kesavananda verdict, and struck back immediately with a powerful blow to the independence of the judiciary. Justice A N Ray, who was among the six dissenting judges, took over as the 14th Chief Justice of India on April 26, 1973, superseding Justices Shelat, Grover and Hegde, who were on the side of the majority in the case.
Political machinations to overturn the verdict followed. Attorney General Niren De moved the Supreme Court without even filing a review petition. Incredibly, CJI Ray, as the Master of the Roster, arbitrarily constituted a 13-judge Bench to review the verdict. Constitution of a Bench for review of the verdict without a review petition having been filed was unprecedented.
As the review hearing commenced, there was speculation that Justice Ray’s dissenting opinion of 1973 would be converted into CJI Ray’s majority opinion in 1975. After two days of impassioned arguments, on November 12, 1975, CJI Ray abruptly dissolved the 13-judge Bench. He had been forced to yield under immense peer pressure, and the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court was restored. But CJI Ray’s reputation was damaged irreparably.
Meanwhile, on August 10, 1975, the 39th Amendment introduced Article 329A into the Constitution, placing the election of the Prime Minister and Speaker of Lok Sabha beyond judicial review. The Amendment, passed during the Emergency, validated the election of Indira Gandhi after she was unseated on June 12, 1975 by the Allahabad High Court for indulging in corrupt electoral practices. [Article 329A was repealed by the 44th Amendment in 1979.] The SC struck down Articles 329A(4) and 329A(5) as being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
Even as Indira Gandhi’s appeal was pending before the Supreme Court, Parliament validated her election by amending the Constitution. This amounted to Parliament performing a judicial function in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers, a basic structure of the Constitution. The Kesavananda verdict had been defied by an authoritarian regime — which had to be corrected by the Supreme Court in the case popularly known as the election case, Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain.
April 28, 1976, was the darkest day in India’s constitutional history. In ADM Jabalpur vs S S Shukla, a Constitution Bench of the SC held by a majority of 4-1 that fundamental rights were suspended during an Emergency. CJI Ray and Justices Beg, Chandrachud and P N Bhagwati gave the majority verdict; Justice H R Khanna alone dissented courageously. The great judge was then superseded by Justice Beg, who became the 15th CJI on January 29, 1977. All the four judges who wrote perhaps the worst judgment in India’s constitutional history became CJIs; two of them — Justices Ray and Beg — by superseding their seniors.
It is ironic that while the Left Front in Kerala and the BJP at the Centre, both of which voted against Rajiv Gandhi’s historic constitutional amendments on Black Friday, October 13, 1989, are observing this historic anniversary on an impressive national scale, the Congress, more modestly, has left it to its pradesh units to observe the occasion as each deems fit.
It is possible to bemoan the condition of Panchayati Raj in the country 25 years after it received the president’s assent and was proclaimed as incorporated in Parts IX and IXA of the Constitution. There is much that remains to be done.
However, the obverse of the curious fact of political parties who opposed the amendment Bill in 1989 now celebrating the silver jubilee on such a nation-wide scale is that it reflects the national consensus that has evolved around Rajiv Gandhi’s original conception that the nation needs constitutional status, sanction and sanctity to ensure the third tier of local self-government. In consequence, Panchayati Raj has been made ineluctable, irreversible and irremovable — in sharp contrast to the four previous decades when local government was whimsical, uncertain, arbitrarily dissolved or even more arbitrarily extended.
It is important to recognise that all states have ensured the full and conscientious implementation of the mandatory provisions of the Constitution on local self-government institutions in both rural and urban India. Moreover, most state legislation has rendered statutory several of the recommendatory provisions of the Constitution such as the 29 and 18 subjects for devolution illustratively set out respectively in the 12th and 13th Schedules.
It is also very important to recognise that successive (central) Finance Commissions have so substantially increased funding to the local bodies, and progressively converted this into untied grants, that panchayats are flush with funds. If chairman NK Singh of the current 15th Finance Commission sees his way to increasing current funding by about 2 per cent of the divisible pool, we would be achieving standards of international best practice in respect of financing local bodies.
Uniquely, SC/ST representation is proportional to SC/ST population ratios in villages, talukas/blocks and districts respectively. Approximately one lakh sarpanches are SC/ST. Most staggering of all is the representation of women: Comprising about 14 lakh members, with some 86,000 chairing their local bodies, there are more elected women representatives (mostly from economically weaker and socially disadvantaged sections) in India alone than in the rest of the world put together!
Need for Effective devolution - The 2013 expert committee laid out in detail how to achieve this through the device of “activity mapping”. Further, it is imperative that activity maps be incorporated in the guidelines of all centrally sponsored schemes and that the massive amounts of money earmarked for poverty alleviation in all its dimensions be sent directly to gram panchayat accounts, reinforced by detailed activity maps to ensure genuine “local self-government”.
Second, financial incentivisation of the states to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats of the three Fs — functions, finances, functionaries. The World Bank offered me a billon dollar initial IFC soft loan to set up such an incentivisation fund. Unfortunately, the finance ministry turned it down, preferring to look the gift horse in the mouth. But outside funds are not really required if the ministry were to make provision for the domestic funding of such incentivisation.
Third, district planning based on grassroots inputs received from the village, intermediate and district levels through people’s participation in the gram and ward sabhas. In 2005, in full acceptance of the recommendations made by the V Ramachandran committee, the Planning Commission issued an extremely gratifying circular on the mechanics of this process — but then sabotaged its own directives largely because the only village the deputy chairman was acquainted with was the one in downtown Manhattan.
Fourth, following the example of Karnataka, to establish a separate cadre of panchayat officials who would be subordinate to the elected authority, not lording it over them, as happens, alas, far too often, especially in states with weak panchayat systems.
The Tourism ministry has awarded the Letters of Intent to nine agencies for 22 monuments of Phase-IV of the scheme, including the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh, Chittorgarh Fort in Rajasthan.
The private players will undertake gap analysis of the actual requirement of the basic and advanced amenities, within the permissible guidelines of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and prepare a Vision Bid Proposal accordingly for the site opted by them.Once vision bid is accepted, MoU will be signed with the related party for upkeep of the Monument for overall enhanced tourist experience.
The ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’ of Ministry of Tourism was launched on World Tourism Day i.e. 27th September, 2017. This project is a key initiative of Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archeological Survey of India (ASI), to develop the heritage sites / monuments and making them tourist-friendly to enhance the tourism potential and their cultural importance in a planned and phased manner.
The project plans to entrust heritage sites/monuments and other tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of tourist amenities. The project aims to develop synergy among all partners.
Monument Mitras: Successful bidders selected for adopting heritage sites / monuments by the Oversight and Vision Committee shall be called as Monument Mitras. The basic and advanced amenities of the tourist destinations would be provided by them. They would also look after the operations and the maintenance of the amenities. The ‘Monument Mitras’ would associate pride with their CSR activities.
The IDA was set up on June 1 this year following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting for the development of islands. The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister. Members of the IDA include cabinet secretary, home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).
India has signed a loan agreement with World Bank for US$ 125 million for “Innovate in India for Inclusiveness Project”.
The project seeks to nurture indigenous innovation, foster local product development and accelerate commercialization process by bridging critical skill and infrastructure gaps to promote affordable and innovative healthcare products generation for inclusive development and increasing competitiveness in India.
The project would support consortia of public, private, and the academic institutions to overcome the key market failures currently holding back the development of an innovative biopharmaceutical and medical devices industry in India.
Bicycle Projects Can Now Earn Saleable Credits under UN’s Clean Development Mechanism : Projects that increase bicycle use over fossil-fuel -burning vehicles can now earn carbon credits, thanks to a decision taken by the Board that oversees the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). ransportation of urban passengers accounted for 7 percent of global emissions in 2015. So, efforts to increase bicycle use could result in a significant benefit to the climate, not to mention improve health and well-being.
In 2015 in Paris, countries committed to limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius and to work towards the safer target of 1.5 degrees Celsius . Between 2015 and 2050, urban passenger traffic is expected to increase 50 percent, to 5.0 trillion passenger-kilometers, with most of this rise occurring in Asia. Recent studies have shown that increasing cycling’s share of urban travel could negate the climate effects of this increase.
The CDM was established to incentivize projects that reduce emissions and contribute to sustainable development. The ability to earn saleable credits under the mechanism inspired the registration of more than 8,000 projects and programmes in 111 developing countries, everything from clean cookstove projects, to wind power projects, to large industrial gases projects.
‘Judges’ press meet was Black Friday of judiciary’ : “The judges gave an impression as if they are crusaders and have come to address the press conference with the view to save democracy... no doubt, to come forward to save the democracy and to uphold the Constitution is duty of every citizen. But that does not mean that in the name of saving democracy, one can break the law and start beating/abusing /misbehaving his boss,” the petition said.
The labour ministry has been asked to speed up the passage of worker-friendly legislation and put on hold or slow down any laws that could be perceived to be against the interests of the country’s 500 million strong labour force, ahead of general elections that are a year away. Reforms that could be fasttracked include labour codes on wages, universal social security and those on occupational safety, health and working conditions at commercial establishments, said a top government official. However, work on the controversial code on industrial relations, parts of which make it easier to fire workers and was drafted in 2015, is unlikely to move forward despite the original bill having being toned down to reassure workers.
The code on wages has already been approved by Cabinet and is awaiting passage in Parliament while those on occupational safety and social security could be next in line, said the person cited above. The wages bill seeks to empower the Centre to set a minimum wage across sectors that states will have to abide by. It also aims to streamline the definition of wages by amalgamating four related statutes — the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
As part of the code on social security, the government has proposed a comprehensive system to provide retirement, health, old age, disability, unemployment and maternity benefits to the country’s 500 million workers, including farm labour. The draft code on occupational safety, health and working conditions (OSH) proposes to make the workplace free from hazards that can cause injury or disease and ensure dignity and wellbeing at the workplace. The code also makes it mandatory for establishments having at least 10 employees to give each one an appointment letter.
The labour ministry has already withdrawn two controversial proposals related to the Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill to make it more worker friendly. One was to allow factories with up to 300 employees to retrench workers and shut down without seeking government permission, up from 100 workers now. The other was a proposal to ensure that trade union office bearers in a unit had to be employed there.
15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will be held in the holy city of Varanasi in January. It will be organised by the Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Uttar Pradesh government.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated every year on January 9 to mark the contribution of overseas Indian community in the development of India. January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.
These conventions provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and Indian communities in India for mutually beneficial activities. These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.
The Bombay Presidency, the administrative subdivision in the British era, has a colourful history. The British first settled in Surat on the West Coast when the Mughal Emperor Jahangir let them start a factory in 1618. The British called their first acquisitions Western Presidency. When half a century later the British got control of the islands, which form the modern day Mumbai city, the capital was moved. Thus came about the Bombay Presidency in 1687. In effect, this was also the capital of the East India Company (EIC), which leased these islands from the British Crown. Until 1753, Bombay was the de facto EIC capital, after which the control transferred to Calcutta for almost a century and a half.
The Bombay Presidency included the following modern day areas - Konkan extending till Kasargod, Western Maharashtra, North Karnataka, all of Gujarat east of Ahmadabad, parts of Rajasthan, all of Sindh province of Pakistan, and some parts of Yemen and Oman!
The restructuring which started in 1935 took better part of the next 25 years to complete. Effectively on 1 November, 1956, all of the modern day Maharashtra and large parts of Gujarat constituted the Bombay state. While there was a one to one correspondence between a language and a state at this point, the Bombay state was the only bilingual state in India.
This Bombay state came into existence on the recommendations of the State Reorganization Commission (SRC), which had been established in December 1953.
A Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad had been active since 1946, canvassing for the creation of a larger Marathi speaking state. The initial SRC recommendation was to have a bilingual state which included all of Gujarat and Western Maharashtra, but not Vidarbha and included ceding territory to Mysore. This plan was rejected by then Congress leadership including prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who did not like this idea. Veteran Congress leader S K Patil, meanwhile, wanted to keep the Bombay city out of the larger state, and riding on the Congress view, the Nehru government proposed a trifurcation which involved a Maharashtra including Vidarbha, a Gujarat as it is today, but the Bombay city a separate entity. The Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad found both the ideas bad
The trifurcation plan was buried in the Parliament in August 1955, but with this, the creation of two different states was also buried as collateral damage. The government proposal then moved to the SRC recommendation of a bilingual state. The main reason was that while all parties agreed on potential creation of a Maharashtra and a Gujarat state, the ownership of the Bombay city was contested. Activists in both the states wanted the city. The government wasn’t able or willing to honour either claim. But since, Bombay could not be an independent state either; the plan reverted to a single bilingual state.
However, on 1 November 1956, the SRC recommendation to create a large bilingual state was accepted. This is when a remarkable period of 42 months began, which then generation of Maharashtra terms as almost a second independence movement. The efforts of the Samiti yielded results when on 1 May 1960 when Maharashtra and Gujarat were set up in their present shape.
According to the last agricultural census (which pertains to 2010-11, with the 2015-16 census report due this year), India had 138 million operational holdings, an increase of 7 per cent over 2005-06. This is testimony to the fact that land holdings continue to splinter, making the average size of holdings more and more uneconomic. The average operational holding is now down to 1.15 hectares from the earlier 1.23 hectares
The census classifies those with less than two hectares as small or marginal farmers, and 85 per cent of operational holdings represent small or marginal farmers. India has around 93 million marginal farmers (those with less than one hectare), and 25 million small farmers (those with under two hectares but above one hectare). Most farm loan waivers by states target these two groups, and it is thus fair to say that if farm distress is to be alleviated, it is this group that needs to be helped. The Narendra Modi government’s promise to double farm incomes will not become a reality unless this group’s incomes see a rise.
One way to experiment with UBI in India is to make it universal only for a specific group; and this group could be farmers with less viable farm sizes. A targeted farm basic income that focuses on those with less than two hectares can be a viable option even given current finances.
Paying Rs 10,000 annually to 117 million operating holdings that qualify as small or marginal farms will cost Rs 117,000 crore – the bulk of which can be financed from subsidy savings on fertiliser. Since this amount would come as additional income to farmers (over and above the prices they get for their produce in the market), there would be a real boost to rural incomes without necessarily busting the fiscal math.
As for those who are landless, we already have schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) to guarantee them a minimum income. The scheme can be extended for all off-season work at two-thirds the wages paid currently. Alternatively, it could be converted into a proper unemployment dole for the landless at half the MNREGA rate that involves doing some work.
Over the last few years the Indian Patent Office (IPO) has been focussing on granting patents expeditiously and reducing the backlog of pending applications. Newly recruited examiners have been sending in examination reports rapidly in a race to reduce the examination timeline and increase the grant rate. There needs to be some caution here as the IPO has set an example of having one of the toughest standards in the world to distinguish real innovation from trivial tweaks — a change brought about by the introduction of the anti-evergreening provisions in the Patents Act.
India hit the headlines when it incorporated certain anti-evergreening provisions such as Sections 3(d), 3(e) and 3(i) into the Patents Act to restrict patentability of a host of secondary patents — essentially alternative forms of already existing patented drugs aimed at further extending their term of protection.
In the last two decades, the IPO has granted 1,654 secondary patents, of which 91% were directed to formulations, compositions and combinations. Much of these would come under the purview of Section 3(d), which covers “combinations and other derivatives of known substance”, as well as under Section 3(e), which covers “substance obtained by a mere admixture resulting only in the aggregation of the properties of the components or a process for producing such substance”.
Whenever an objection is raised under these sections, the law requires the applicant to submit efficacy data for the former and demonstrate synergism for the later. However, the applicants bypass the stringent requirements under Section 3(d) by presenting their inventions as a composition or combination of known substances and steering away the objection from Section 3(d) to Section 3(e)
The possible explanations are: demonstrating synergy under Section 3(e) is a relatively easier exercise compared to the requirements of efficacy data under Section 3(d), as mandated by the Supreme Court in the Novartis case. Second, Section 3(d) is being interpreted narrowly by the courts and the IPO to apply only to a new form of a known substance, and not to combinations and compositions involving known substances.
Many children have died of malnutrition in India and yet Women and Child Development Ministers over the years haven’t decided what food to give children in anganwadis. This is worrying. How many more children must suffer from stunted growth before the Minister in charge of their welfare decides on whether to serve them hot-cooked nutritious meals or packaged/processed fortified mixes? And why does there have to be a choice between the two? Why can’t India incorporate both? Is it really that difficult to keep a close watch on the quality of food served to children between the ages of three and six as well as take-home ration for pregnant and lactating women?
The Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, and her predecessor, Renuka Chowdhury, have always exercised the easy option: dense, fortified food for malnourished children, courtesy the manufacturers. But early this month, Ms. Gandhi locked horns with her own officials on arriving at a solution. While her officers are batting for take-home rations that are locally available and processed, Ms. Gandhi favours a quickly served, nutrients-fortified alternative. It is an old debate; one that involves big biscuit-makers and assorted corn puff manufacturers on the one hand and social activists on the other, with children caught in between.
Data on malnutrition should serve as a wake-up call for the government: 38% of children are stunted and 35.7% are underweight in India. About 21% of children under the age of five are wasted (low weight for height), according to the National Family Health Survey-4 data
Eight years ago, when malnutrition deaths occurred in some districts in Maharashtra, a simple solution involving a protein-rich diet called Lapsi — a green millet mixture combined with water and milk — was given to malnourished babies. In Jharkhand, dry rations such as oil, dal, wheat or rice were given to mothers — until the contractor lobby forced the government to shift in favour of processed food.
Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka will reach its full 2 GW installed capacity making it the largest single-site solar plant in the world.
Indian solar power generation is going through interesting but highly dichotomous times. On the one hand, India has made rapid strides in the expansion of the installed capacity. On the other hand, this expansion, along with demand-side factors, has been highly deflationary for the power generation industry as a whole.
Recently, the city of Diu, a centrally administered territory, became the first city in India to generate its entire day-time power requirement through solar.
Another innovative use of solar power has been in promoting solar pumps for agriculture use. The government has recently launched the Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme, which envisages investing ₹1.4 lakh crore in agriculture solar sector. This includes central government assistance of Rs 48,000 crores. The central government wants to promote installation of about 18 lakh solar pumps across the country as well as move the existing 8 GW pump capacity to solar. The government will also move its tube wells which consume capacity of 8 GW to solar power. Solar power generation capacity of 10 GW would be added on barren lands across the country to support this initiative.
The states will also support this initiative as it will gradually reduce the load on their distribution companies (discoms) to supply power for agriculture. Standalone, off-grid solar power works well for agriculture as the peak hours of generation also coincide with peak hours of use and the power for operating agricultural equipment is not needed round the clock.
Indian discoms are obliged to use renewable power as part of their power supply. This is known as renewable power obligations (RPOs). Since RPO requirement may not always match the renewable generation capacity in a state, discoms trade in Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on designated power exchanges in the country. These certificates are then used to source renewable power as required and can be traded on exchanges.
The solar power developers were hit by two problems.
Firstly, after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), there was some confusion on how the solar panels were classified. The tax authorities were threatening levying import duties on panels coming in from China, which tend to be 8-10 per cent cheaper than the ones manufactured locally. This had resulted in several importers not clearing their stocks at various ports
Secondly, solar auctions conducted by various states had seen tariffs fall at a regular pace. These tariffs were not sustainable for several producers. Many solar auctions in the last few months have been cancelled as states were expecting tariffs around Rs 3 per unit, while producers were discovering Rs 3.2 to Rs3.5 per unit in auctions. Until there is clarity on duties and until auctions end around ₹3 per unit, neither the states nor the producers are going to be happy.
The Central government and Naga armed groups are said to have finalised the substantive portions of the peace accord which is likely to be signed before the monsoon session of Parliament.
The accord does not change the boundary of states; provides autonomous Naga territorial councils for Arunachal and Manipur; a common cultural body for Nagas across states; specific institutions for state’s development, integration and rehabilitation of non-state Naga militia and the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Sources said the accord does not involve any change in the boundaries of the states, thereby allaying fears in Manipur about the deal. It preserves the paramountcy of the Manipur state government while providing for an autonomous Naga territorial council in the state.
Besides Manipur, there will be an autonomous Naga territorial council in Naga-majority areas of Arunachal Pradesh but not for Assam. The accord also provides for a common cultural body for Nagas across states which will be statutory in nature. This body, which is envisaged as a socio-political platform, with “no political role”, will have representatives from all Naga tribes.
The accord also contains certain structural changes in the Nagaland legislature — a bicameral legislature and increase in the number of parliamentary and assembly seats from the state. It will also lead to formation of some specific institutions for development of the state as a commitment from the Centre.
The Naga armed groups will stand disbanded after the accord and the non-state armed militia who are eligible will be absorbed in central or state forces. Those who are not eligible will be rehabilitated by the government. The accord also promises the removal of AFSPA from Nagaland as a logical consequence of these actions.
The more substantive issue before the Centre pertains to fears of a violent reaction in Manipur Valley where there is a genuine sense of insecurity about the deal. The Centre and Manipur government are exploring ways to assure residents of Manipur Valley (which has 60% of state’s population with 10% of state’s land) that their land will be secure. As of now, while anyone can buy land in the Valley, the sale of land is restricted in the hills, an area dominated by Nagas. A law for Manipur restricting the sale of land in the Valley could be announced simultaneously with the signing of the accord.