In the last few years, governance in India across sectors has been redefined through business process reengineering, technology and data analytics. Technology is reshaping the way government is designing and implementing programmes. The use of technology has brought in better systems, greater efficiency and is beginning to have a profound impact on governance
India has combined the use of unique biometric identifiers and financial inclusion for effectiveness in social benefits and to reduce the vast number of illegitimate beneficiaries under welfare programmes. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) has been implemented across 437 schemes, and helped save Rs 83,000 crore till date. Its implementation has led to 2.75 crore duplicate, fake or non-existent ration cards being deleted, and 3.85 crore duplicate and inactive consumers for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy being eliminated. The Public Financial Management System (PFMS) has led to the creation of a financial management platform for all plan schemes, a database of all recipient agencies, integration with core banking solution of banks, integration of state treasurers and tracking of fund flow to the lowest tier of implementation of plan schemes on real-time basis. PFMS has also led to just-in-time release of funds and efficient management in the use of funds, including ultimate utilisation.
Digitisation has led to lower costs in collection of direct taxes. Almost 98.5% of all income-tax (I-T) returns have been filed online. The I-T Department received 6.84 crore income-tax returns in 2017-18, a growth of 26%, and additionally, more than one crore new tax returns. Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) have triggered a plethora of private sector-innovated apps, which have significantly eased citizens’ bill payments towards services provided by GoI. BBPS has more than doubled the number of bills paid digitally from April 2017 when the pilot was launched. The value of bills paid on the platform has jumped by about 46% during this period. According to a KPMG report, the size of the bill payments market in India will reach .`9.4 trillion by 2020.
Digital payment transactions have now become extremely simple, thanks to the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) UPI. We have seen the emergence of Google Tez and WhatsApp payment. In 2017-18, India has seen over a billion transactions in volume and over a trillion rupees in value. There will be increased disruption with new players and new technologies. The rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) has resulted in a 50% increase in unique indirect taxpayers compared with the pre-GST system. This translates to a substantial 3.4 million new indirect taxpayers leading to a radical formalisation of the economy.
Finally, in the Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) programme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used technology to cut across departmental silos and geographical boundaries to ensure speedy project implementation. He has dealt directly with senior central and state officials to monitor, review and evaluate progress of social sector schemes and infrastructure projects that were facing severe bottlenecks. Through video conferencing, Modi held 25 PRAGATI meetings and cleared over 227 projects worth more than Rs 10.5 lakh crore. A recent Microsoft-International Data Corporation (IDC) study, ‘Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific’, predicts that digital transformation will add $154 billion to India’s GDP by 2021, increasing the growth rate by 1% annually. In 2017, about 4% of GDP was derived from digital products and services created directly through the use of technologies like Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
The Ayushman Bharat scheme will digitally link primary and community health centres with district hospitals. Along with the Rs 5 lakh health insurance, which will cover 50 crore Indians, it will ensure healthcare through a paperless, cashless, portable scheme. The health stack linked to Aadhaar will be transformational. For years, India has been a complex nation, making it difficult for the common man to access government services. The rapid adoption of digital technology across sectors is making things easy and eliminating all forms of human intervention. This has a major impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of governance.
Is the recent Wuhan summit between Indian PM and Chinese President a success? The outcome of this kind of a summit can only be determined not through the communiques and words, but action taken on the ground Many things are not visible right now and will unfold on the ground in the coming months and years. At this point, we can say that the principal achievement of the meeting is to put the strategic communications between the two countries on a new track
The Wuhan summit has inaugurated a new era of diplomacy where the top leaders of India and China meet more frequently and find time to take up issues in much greater detail Other positive outcomes of the summit :The Wuhan summit signals that they do not want to clash against each other through misunderstanding and miscalculation At the same time they would not like to have their bilateral relationship be mediated by third countries like the US. And neither would they like to have their relations with other countries(like the US or Pakistan) negatively impact on their own interaction
Confusion: On Chinese Commitments By assuring China that India will not militarily intervene in Maldives and refusing to have the Australians at the Malabar naval exercises, India has front-loaded some of its commitments Just what the Chinese have committed themselves to is not clear
The difficulties and challenges that the two sides confront lie in several important areas First: the disputed border Unless the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is clarified, it is difficult not to have periodic incidents like in Depsang in 2014 and Chumar in 2015 Also, there is no point in asking the Special Representatives designated to discuss the border issue, to intensify their work What is needed is action by the respective leaderships of China and India
Second: Need of peace keeping mechanisms Both sides need to urgently revitalise their peace keeping mechanisms on the border
Third: India and China need to resolve their problems on the economic front An immediate area of attention is in that of the trade balance which is heavily skewed against India But many Indian products like pharmaceuticals, Information Technology products and non-basmati rice are blocked from the Chinese market China needs to open up its markets to Indian goods
Fourth: Terrorism emanating from Pakistan As a friend of Pakistan and an important military partner, India feels that China should do more to restrain Pakistan Fifth: Need of a diplomatic mechanism to discuss regional issues Both sides must have a diplomatic mechanism through which they can discuss regional issues like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka Building on the idea of a joint project in Afghanistan, the two sides should explore joint third-country projects in some of these countries Sixth: Implementation of ideas at the lower level There is need for the top leaderships to sensitise lower level officials and military personnel as to what they are trying to achieve Unless the lower level officials implement the ideas, the high level meeting will be of no value
The government has informed the Supreme Court that it will introduce a DNA profiling Bill in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. The government was responding to a PIL in 2012 on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with cold cases of missing persons. The court said that with the competent authority undertaking to bring about a legislation there was no need for a mandamus from the Supreme Court in this issue
The Law Commission of India in its 271st report had prepared the draft Bill named The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions. The exercise was initiated by the Commission after the Department of Biotechnology forwarded its draft of ‘The Use and Regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016’
Recommendations of Law Commission :The Commission recorded that DNA profiling was indeed used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes The Commission said the procedure for DNA profiling if given statutory recognition, should be done legitimately as per constitutional provisions The Bill provides for the setting up of a statutory DNA Profiling Board to spell out procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories and grant of accreditation to these labs
The Board should also be tasked with advising the Centre and the State governments on the operation of these labs and ethical/human rights issues relating to DNA testing in consonance with international standards. The Board should also have the responsibility to supervise, monitor, inspect and assess the laboratories.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has come in for some flak for claiming that it has completed the job of providing all villages with electricity, something not done in the last 70 years. It is fair to say that the bulk of the work of rural electrification was done by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which had brought power lines to nearly 97 per cent of villages when it lost power in 2014.
Put simply, the NDA under Narendra Modi should claim credit for only the last three per cent, which included 18,452 villages which had no power and 1,275 other villages which UPA had wrongly categorised as having power. The NDA can legitimately claim it has electrified only the last 19,727 villages – and not the rest
However, this formulation is an over-simplification, and gives less credit to the NDA than it deserves. Reason: the effort involved in providing electricity to the last few thousand villages was much more than for some of the previous efforts in providing power to an equivalent number of villages.
It is common sense that the last mile in a project is often the most difficult. The villages that weren’t electrified earlier were not randomly left without power by previous governments. Many of them were special villages, that were either far from the electricity grid, or inaccessible in other ways
The next job is obviously to take power to every household – and this means connecting the power line to the 3.13 crore remaining households who live in villages that are electrified but don’t get it in their homes. Most of these households are in UP and Bihar, not the north-east or tribal areas. This just shows that despite sending the largest contingents of MPs to the Lok Sabha, it has taken a non-Hindi belt politician to bring light to the Hindi heartland.
Pronouncing their verdict on a PIL filed against the section in a packed courtroom, which empowers the police to arrest a person for allegedly posting ‘offensive materials' on social networking sites, a Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and RF Nariman said the section violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and was therefore was illegal. Terming liberty of thought and expression as "cardinal", the Bench said: “The public's right to know is directly affected by Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act."
"Section 66-A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety," said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. "Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme," said Justice Nariman, pronouncing the verdict.
"There is no nexus between public order and discussion or causing annoyance by dissemination of information. Curbs under Section 66A of the IT Act infringes on the public right to know."
Calling the written word of the provision, which comprises terms such as ‘"annoying", "inconvenient" and "grossly offensive", vague, the apex court said: “What may be offensive to a person, may not be offensive to others". The assurance given by one government was not binding on its successor, the Bench said. "Governments come and go but Section 66-A will remain forever," the bench said. The SC, however, refused to strike down two other provisions of the IT Act that provide blocking of websites.
It is a part of the efforts of the Government to encourage institutional arbitration for settlement of disputes and make India a centre of robust Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
The Amendments in the Act of 1996 will facilitate achieving the goal of improving institutional arbitration by establishing an independent body to lay down standards, make arbitration process more party friendly, cost effective and ensure timely disposal of arbitration cases.
To facilitate speedy appointment of arbitrators through designated arbitral institutions by the Supreme Court or the High Court, without having any requirement to approach the court in this regard. It is envisaged that parties may directly approach arbitral institutions designated by the Supreme Court for International Commercial arbitration and in other cases the concerned High Courts.
The amendment provides for creation of an independent body namely the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) which will grade arbitral institution and accredit arbitrators by laying down norms and take all such steps as may be necessary to promote and encourage arbitration, conciliation, mediation and other ADR Mechanism and for that purpose evolve policy and guidelines for the establishment., operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards in respect of all matters relating to arbitration and ADR mechanism. The Council shall also maintain an electronic depository of all arbitral awards,
The ACI shall be a body corporate. The Chairperson of ACI shall be a person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice or Judge of any High Court or any eminent person. Further, the other Members would include an eminent academician etc. besides other Government nominees
It is proposed to amend sub section (1) of section 29A by excluding International Arbitration from the bounds of timeline and further to provide that the time limit for arbitral award in other arbitrations shall be within 12 months from the completion of the pleadings of the parties.
A new section 42A is proposed to be inserted to provide that the arbitrator and the arbitral institutions shall keep confidentiality of all arbitral proceedings except award. Further, a new section 42B protects an Arbitrator from suit or other legal proceedings for any action or omission done in good faith in the course of arbitration proceedings
A new section 87 is proposed to be inserted to clarify that unless parties agree otherwise the Amendment Act 2015 shall not apply to (a) Arbitral proceedings .which have commenced before the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 (b) Court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such arbitral proceedings irrespective of whether such court proceedings are commenced prior to or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and shall apply only to Arbitral proceedings commenced on or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and to court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such Arbitral proceedings.
National Technology day :On 11th May, 1998 India achieved a major technological breakthrough by successfully carrying out nuclear tests at Pokhran. Also first, indigenous aircraft "Hansa-3" was test flown at Bangalore on this day and India also performed successful test firing of the Trishul missile on the same day. Considering above technological achievements on a particular date i.e. 11th May, the day of 11th May was chosen to be commemorated as National Technology Day.
No End To US’ Case Against India At WTO Despite Eased Poultry Import Norms : In 2015, India had lost the case filed by the US against measures put in place by New Delhi which prevented American poultry products to enter the Indian market. The US had said that the restrictions, placed by India to combat avian influenza, were not based on scientific validation. After the WTO panel ruled in favour of the US, India made two rounds of changes. The US, however, was not satisfied
The Bitter Truth Is That Nehru Was Right To Choose Partition :Blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for the Partition of India in 1947 has lately become fashionable in the country’s political discourse. It is the view of a number of academics and experts that Nehru was responsible for Partition because he did not agree to the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May 1946. This plan would have kept India united externally, but internally separated into Muslim majority and Hindu majority blocs, each with its own laws and systems of government, except in national level matters of armed forces, currency, international relations, etc, which would be overseen by a union government, where Hindus and Muslims would have equal representation
Nehru refused to agree to this plan. The second Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 June 1946 proposed that India be divided into two independent countries, one Muslim majority and the other Hindu majority. Nehru agreed to this.
Hindu nationalists concerned with Bharat’s loss of territory happily blame secular Nehru for having caused the Partition of Bharat. Muhammad Ali Jinnah's sympathisers, looking to blame Hindus for Partition and for Hindu-Muslim conflict, also hold Nehru responsible for Partition, claiming that under the first Cabinet Mission Plan, Partition would have been avoided and we would not be facing all the conflict of Muslim populations chafing against the Hindu-dominated state, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere.
Sustainable urbanisation is vital for India, which is a home to 1/6th of humanity. However, urbanisation in India is on the cusp of a disaster. The impending crisis is clearly reflected in various sustainability rankings
The silver lining is, India has started the course correction with the commitment to the Principles of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2015) and New Urban Agenda (NUA, 2016) propagated by the United Nations. NUA envisions the Future of Cities in 2030 as “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life. Cities for all where no-one & no-place is left behind.” NUA was formally adopted by the global community including India during Habitat III, UN-Habitat’s conference on Housing and Sustainable development in Quito, Ecuador, 2016.
Delhi’s Red Fort was adopted by the Dalmia group under the “Adopt a Heritage” scheme of the Tourism Ministry notified last year in September. Under the scheme, the group has been entrusted with the maintenance of the monument for five years at a cost of Rs 25 crore. In return, the group will get the privilege of displaying its name on plaques and signage within the site, “in a discreet manner and tastefully”. The scheme extends to 93 ticketed Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) monuments as of now.
The vision statement of the project says, “Ministry of tourism in close collaboration with ministry of culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) envisages developing the heritage sites, monuments and any other tourist sites by making them tourist-friendly to enhance the tourism potential and their cultural importance, in a planned and phased manner.”
Across the globe, there is a growing understanding that heritage resources are not the sole monopoly of the government and other stakeholders such as public or private companies or experts have to be involved in various capacities. For example, owing to resource crunch and a failing economy, Italy has entrusted some of its well-known monuments to private players, especially fashion brands. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country in the world.
This is not the first instance of government toying with the idea of involving private players. The National Culture Fund (NCF) was established in 1996 and is managed and administered by a council chaired by the Minister for Culture and an executive committee chaired by the secretary, Ministry of Culture. Members of the NCF council are from corporate houses, private foundations and experts in various art forms, academicians. Under ther NCF, it is possible for a donor to take up a project along with any specific aspect for funding and an agency for the execution of the project.
Thus NCF sought to augment the governments’ efforts and promote public-private partnership for heritage conservation and promotion. All contributions to the NCF are given 100 per cent tax exemption under Section 80 G (2) of the Income Tax Act of 1961.
The new scheme essentially repackages this older version where the government entrusts tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals. The private players called the ‘Monument Mitras’ , would be able to associate pride with their corporate social responsibility(CSR) activities and provide basic and advanced amenities at the destinations.
Concerns over heritage expertise of companies This is perhaps the biggest blind spot of the new scheme and some legitimate concerns have been raised by sector experts regarding the heritage expertise of the companies who would be taking over maintenance.
Solid waste management is a big issue in the country, and its sanitation. In states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala, failure on the solid waste management front has led to increase in vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. A record number of more than 1.5 lakh dengue cases were reported last year until 4 October with the number of fatalities being 226.
“The Koyambedu market complex generates nearly 200 tonnes of solid wastes a day. The bio-gas plant makes use of 30 tonnes of bio-degradable waste from the complex every day to produce an average 1,000 to 1,300 kilowatts of power. Though the plant uses only part of the generated waste, it is an objective lesson of putting bio-degradable waste to better use in the days to come,” says a source connected with the project. (He would not want to identify himself as he is not authorised to speak to the media.)
The pilot project was launched in 2006 at a cost of Rs 5.5 crore with Rs 3.75 crore coming from the Centre in the form of financial aid to help manage solid wastes through the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Resources. The state government has chipped in with the rest. The plant, which had a German machine, ran without any problem until the second half of 2011 when it developed a snag.
The bio-gas plant actually needs fruits and vegetables that produce more starch than water content. This was the reason why the plant ran into problems in 2008 when it could not source enough supply from the market complex. The wastes are brought from morning to evening by vehicles that are specially deployed. Most vendors in the complex keep the wastes in a bin and deliver it when the vehicle collecting the waste arrives at their outlet. In some cases, the vendors accumulate the waste in a particular area, which is then collected by the vehicles and taken to the plant.
Though the progress has been a little slow, the bio-gas plant is expected to help in management of solid wastes, which breed mosquitoes, in a big way over the next few years.
Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan, representing two Congress MPs, filed a motion in the Supreme Court (Supreme Court): that was normal business. That this motion challenged the dismissal by the Vice President of an impeachment petition against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra, was a bit shocking. What was very shocking was that they explicitly demanded that a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar should hear this motion.
This is audacious and presumptuous at the best of times, because if lawyers can specify which judge hears their cases, they might as well write the judgment as well.
In this instance, there were other complicated circumstances: the very motion to impeach the Chief Justice had arisen as the result of apparent bad blood between him and judges number two, three, four and five in seniority order – Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – had themselves involved themselves in the CJI impeachment issue by alleging mala fides on the part of the Chief Justice and holding an unprecedented press conference that caused the SC to suffer loss of face.
The simplest conclusion one could draw from this drama was that the lawyers had attempted to game the system knowing the facts of their case were not strong; therefore they were expecting that judges that they could influence (or worse, conspire with, or intimidate) would hear their case sympathetically, flouting convention and tradition, as well as their very oath and dignity of office. This is an absolute attack on the integrity of the Supreme Court, and should, quite rightly, attract the stiff penalties of contempt of court.
It is in the interests of all Indians that the Supreme Court regains the respect due to it as the apex court. The Supreme Court hears all sorts of frivolous stuff, in effect wasting its time. Solution: Make a strict rule that the SC will hear ONLY constitutional cases. All other cases will be referred down to lower courts As a corollary to the above, there will have to be final courts of appeal in non-constitutional cases
Create a system of SC-level regional courts of appeal that have SC judges being rotated through them. These courts will hear everything that exceeds the purview of high courts, for instance, inter-state disputes; as well as everything that is on appeal from the high courts that are non-Constitutional. The regional courts will need to be set up in each of the regions (eg. Chandigarh, Pune, Bangalore, Guwahati), and SC judges should be rotated through them, spending only their last five years before retirement in the SC itself.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) system, even if it had some real value at some time in the past, has now become an abomination. Anybody with enough money to hire some star lawyer (routinely done by dubious NGOs with covert foreign funding) can now bring anything directly to the Supreme Court. Solution: All PILs have to be filed at the district court level. If they have merit, let them wind their way up through the normal process of escalation and appeal, so that local and regional sentiments can be accurately assessed along with the points of law and science
Perhaps some of these are not viable, and some many need amendments to the Constitution, but judicial reform is a necessity today.
Are acts of terrorism really committed by people who literally have nothing to lose? It would make sense to understand it thus if we see terrorism as a nihilist pursuit. But, terrorism in fact is political, militantly political, with a clear modus operandi, strategies and set-in-stone objectives. That is why reducing terrorism to be the refuge of the poor, the uneducated and the unemployed is insincere considering that rabid Islamist or Naxal ideologies are not merely romantic.
Assuming that they are such would lead to the understanding that it is easy to brainwash people and hence lack of education could be a factor. But, in both cases, the ideologies have transcended mere romanticism and have become a legitimate intellectual pursuit. That is why the indignation is no longer reserved for those who speak, propagate and facilitate but for only those who act. Education is no longer a barrier for extremism, but perhaps an enabler to give the intellectual heft and normalisation that an extremist ideology demands.
The surprise reserved for the ‘militant professor’ seems to present the same old stereotype that the economically oppressed and educationally alienated people pick up guns. Like the poor Naxals in Jharkhand or the Fidayeen in Kashmir. But, the truth is any form of violent extremist movement is likely to draw more people who are educated as they are the ones who can bring in the expertise and the effort to help sustain interest in the cause.
Education and wealth brings in the privilege which allows people to move away from concerns of mere economic subsistence and allows them to be fully devoted and committed to any militantly extremist cause. Look at the case of Kobad Ghandy and Anuradha Ghandy. Both were from extremely privileged backgrounds and highly educated and went on to lead the armed Maoist struggle in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.
Islamist terrorism and Naxal activities in India are both extremely complex pursuits and require a high level of intelligence rather than indoctrinated foot-soldiers. The Islamist movement in Kashmir is no different than what is happening globally. Impoverishment or lack of awareness has nothing to do with such politics. In fact, a heightened sense of awareness and an intellectual legitimisation of the goals could be propelling more educated youth towards terrorist activities. Look closely and you will see that Rafi Bhat was only putting ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ into action.
If education is no deterrent to the former, then it will certainly not be to the latter.
The insolvency resolution process, which appeared to be going full steam ahead last February with over Rs 1 lakh crore of bad loans involving various steel and cement companies appearing close to resolution, has run into quicksand due to multiple legal challenges.
If these legal issues are not resolved quickly, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) could well go the way of earlier attempts to recover bad loans or revive units under the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act (SICA) and the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 (RDDB). SICA, RDDB and the debt recovery tribunals set up under them to recover bad debts failed to deliver because the legal processes were stretched endlessly, making the recovery of assets pointless.
In the case of Binani Cement, the second highest bidder, UltraTech Cement, raised its bid after it became clear that Dalmia Bharat had bid higher. With the lenders keen to negotiate and settle with Dalmia Bharat, UltraTech upped the ante by seeking to buy out the entire stake of the promoters where lenders would not have to take any haircut, but the lenders were unwilling to let go of the bird in hand for two in the bush. UltraTech moved the Supreme Court, which, thankfully, refused to intervene, but the NCLT asked the committee of creditors (CoC) to consider UltraTech’s bid before taking a final call.
legal challenges have had the net effect of rendering worthless the proviso that resolutions must be finished in 270 days. The NCLT has ruled that days spent in litigation will be excluded from the 270-day calculation. This has the potential to kill a key objective of creating the IBC – timebound resolution of cases. Decisions of the resolution professional can be challenged at the NCLT, which can be appealed at the NCLAT (the appellate tribunal), and finally in the Supreme Court.
The only real solution is to tweak the law, now that these cases have highlighted the loopholes that militate against early resolution. The NCLT has already asked the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) to change the laws that create confusion and legal issues. IBBI is a regulator which regulates the profession as well as processes involved in insolvency. Clearly, it has much work to do so that IBC does not lose its way in the maze of legal challenges.
In a move that is sure to pinch Pakistan, Turkey has backed India’s bid for an observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a forum of Islamic nations in the world, Economic Times has reported. Turkey’s backing comes as a shot in the arm for India, as the forum is often used by Pakistan to peddle its propaganda against India. The forum consists of 57 member nations and several observer states. The forum describes itself as a “collective voice of the Muslim world”, but has lately been criticised as several nations with large number of Muslims are excluded from it.
India’s bid has been strongly backed by neighbouring Bangladesh, whose foreign minister AH Mahmud Ali said, “A number of countries – not OIC members – have a large number of Muslims as their citizens. Muslims may be a minority in those countries, but in terms of numbers they often exceed the total population of many OIC member countries.”
Turkey backing India will further strengthen India’s case as it is considered one of the leading powers in the Islamic world. It has historically been an ally of Pakistan and the change in stance represents the changing geopolitics in the world. The OIC, in a resolution on Kashmir last year, had "reaffirmed continued support to the people of held Kashmir in their struggle for the realisation of their right to self-determination."
The resolution, pushed by Pakistan after the killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani, was strongly condemned by India with several OIC member nations too expressing reservations against the strong resolution. India’s presence as an observer can be used to check future such actions by Pakistan.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra correctly rejected a petition from Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief Pramod Muthalik claiming that the Congress party manifesto for Karnataka appeals to minority voters. This would be a violation of the secular spirit of the constitution and also article 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951, which bars appeals based on religion, caste, race, community or language.
While the petitioner’s counsel claimed that the Congress manifesto was violative of what the court held in Abhiram Singh Vs CD Commachen, Justice DY Chandrachud, who was on the bench along with the CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar, disagreed, saying that “offering a remedy to alleviate the social or economic backwardness of a community is not an appeal in the name of religion.” Also, there was the question of whether the reference in article 123(3) of the RPA would be about the religion, caste or community of the candidate or the voter. (By implication, this means a manifesto promise to one community may not automatically constitute an offence under the Act).
The court is right for the simple reason that it is almost impossible to separate appeals to religion or caste from those that appeal to broader constituencies, but couched in different language.
The intent of article 123(3) in the RPA may be noble, but one wonders whether it is not inimical to democracy itself. One can bar hate speech or exhortations to violence, but trying to restrict the kind of issues one can raise in an election amounts to a bar on free speech itself. Isn’t democracy supposed to be about people speaking their minds freely? The bench said that offering to improve the lot of a minority community is not an appeal to religion, but this is sheer sophistry. In many parts of Karnataka today, Muslims are being urged to vote for the Congress en bloc as the BJP is seen as antithetical to their interests. The appeals are not about giving Muslims better education or job opportunities. The underlying appeal is for Muslims to not vote for a Hindu party
But even more important, what if the issues bothering sections of the electorate do not relate to jobs or education, but religious (or caste) identity? On what basis can the law, or courts, say that identity issues cannot be relevant in an election? Can one arbitrarily decide that only education and jobs and health are legitimate, and not anything else? Aren’t right-wing parties rising in Europe due to fears of being swamped by Muslim immigrants? If these issues can be raised fearlessly in those democracies, the only right way to combat it is through other parties speaking in different voices. It is foolish to pretend that the same issues can’t be raised in India.
And if a party appeals for votes in the name of freeing temples from state control, would it be an appeal in the name of religion? Article 123(3), in fact, goes well beyond just banning appeals to religion, language and caste, and says that even use of national symbols (like the flag or emblem) is not acceptable. Key emotive issues in the Karnataka election are Kannada (versus Hindi, which is about language), promoting a new state flag (symbols) and redesignating Lingayat as non-Hindu. (religious identity) If the provisions of this article are implemented in letter and spirit, most candidates in most parties should be disqualified.
The only things to ban are appeals for hatred against some community or the other, and calls for violence against some groups of citizens. In some respects, the RPA is also a restriction on free speech. Time we amended it to make it saner and more supportive of free speech
The $16 billion Walmart purchase of 77 per cent of Flipkart, India’s No 1 e-tailing marketplace, marks a turning point in the evolution of Indian entrepreneurship. It is now obvious that great ideas will ultimately get taken over by Big Money from outside India. Even if there are laws to enable Indian entrepreneurs to retain higher voting rights after equity dilutions in the companies they founded, the trend is irreversible.
In this kind of cash glut, Indian promoters have no chance in case any tech company wants to acquire an Indian success story. Amazon is believed to have topped Walmart’s offer to buy out Flipkart, but the offer was not taken up as the chances of that deal going through the Competition Commission of India were slim.
To convert the loss of Flipkart to foreign owners into a positive for India, we now need to act fast on the policy front to ensure that most of the gains of current and future entrepreneurship remain with India.
The next thing, of course, is to legislate laws to enable entrepreneurs to retain high voting shares even when they must dilute capital to investors. Only this will enable the Olas and Paytms to remain Indian in future, even though these companies are already substantially owned by foreign investors. If Uber buys out Ola’s founder, he will, of course, be a multi-millionaire, but the business becomes foreign-owned, and all future gains will accrue to Uber’s shareholders.
To make Indian entrepreneurship flourish, we need to give top priority to ease of doing business. We probably need a permanent task-force in states and at the Centre to keep simplifying rules and regulations until we reach Singapore levels of simplicity. States like Karnataka and Maharashtra should, in fact, drive this change by making ease of doing business their main focus. Once a couple of states become hotspots for start-ups, the rest will follow. In India, reform now has to be led by states.
Another idea is to open up potential government-owned tech and non-tech companies for private management, but not necessarily ownership. For example, companies like IRCTC, which has a monopoly in railway ticketing, should give stakes to future Sachin Bansals to run and expand through acquisitions and organic growth. If needed, the government can retain a majority stake through shares with higher voting rights, but it must leave the running of such enterprises to competent private managers. The government ownership is important to retain successful tech companies in Indian hands, but private management is needed to ensure that bureaucracy does not stifle such companies.
To make Indian entrepreneurship flourish, we need to give top priority to ease of doing business. We probably need a permanent task-force in states and at the Centre to keep simplifying rules and regulations until we reach Singapore levels of simplicity. States like Karnataka and Maharashtra should, in fact, drive this change by making ease of doing business their main focus. Once a couple of states become hotspots for start-ups, the rest will follow. In India, reform now has to be led by states.
India does not lack for entrepreneurship. It will not lack for capital, too, in a world where capital is available in endless quantities at low-return rates. What we need to do is to ensure that this capital builds Indian intellectual capital that remains as far as possible in Indian hands, serving Indian interests.
US President Donald Trump has possibly made his worst policy mistake in announcing an end to the nuclear deal with Iran – a deal which committed the latter to abandoning its nuclear weapons programme, reducing its uranium hoard, and limiting uranium enrichment to levels far below where they can be used for making nuclear weapons
For Iran, this could mean another bout of economic sanctions, and the possibility of attacks on its nuclear facilities by Israel and the US. It is said to be evaluating all its options. For the US, this means a loss of credibility in the Shia world, for dubious gains in the Sunni world. In the fight for leadership of the Muslim world, the Saudis may have temporarily gained the upper hand, but Iran, with its 80 million population (versus 32 million Saudis), and strong influence in Shia Iraq, Syria and Yemen, is not a pushover for anybody. It could also gain sympathy from a wider group of Islamists with long-term animus for the US. Just as the US attack on Iraq gave rise to murderous Islamist groups, the same could happen with Shia groups across the world.
For Europe and China, which have huge trade interests in Iran, including oil, the US decision will create unpleasant dilemmas. Europe, which is still struggling to shrug off its low-growth phase, will try to salvage the deal. It will have to consider the likelihood that its post-war benefactor has now turned rogue, and hence an unreliable partner in foreign and economic policy. For China, another major disruption in global trade will be unwelcome, given its as-yet-unfinished transition from being excessively dependent on exports to a domestic-consumption-driven economy
European, Chinese and Russian leaders will thus try hard to salvage the nuclear deal even after the US has opted out, but a lot will depend on whether US sanctions – that could follow – will bite Iran hard. If it does, one cannot see Iran agreeing to a deal with Europe and China minus the US. In fact, Iranian leaders may well conclude that going nuclear is the only way to prevent US blackmail in future. Far from getting a better deal, the US may find that it loses whatever leverage it has in the Islamic world.
For India, the oil price flare-up will be the main concern, with possible impact on our investment in the Chabahar Port.
Worse, unstable West Asia will become even more unstable, as Iran-backed forces provoke further turmoil. Soon after the Trump announcement, Iranian forces inside Syria are said to have fired several rockets into Israel, eliciting a retaliation from the Jewish state.
The post-Second World War global power structure is being dismantled in front of our eyes. It was always going to die slowly, but Trump is hastening the change.
The decline of the US began with 9/11, which triggered a long-term investment in counter-terror operations and wars in West Asia. According to one estimate, the US has spent more than $4.5 trillion in fighting terror and the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. But by opening a new front with Iran, even if it does not result in war, the costs have only gone up. No country can retain global economic leadership if it spends so much on protecting itself.
If 9/11 and the US response to it triggered its economic decline, this attempt to make a permanent enemy out of Iran is going to accelerate the decline. We can expect the following outcomes if Trump does not pull back from the brink.
Europe will slowly delink from US leadership and chart its own path, with Germany and France providing the leadership.
China’s rise as the world’s No 2 superpower will be speeded up.
Russia and Japan will be forced to kowtow to China, now that US leadership is seen as undependable.
Indian will have to loosen its ties to the US, given its growing isolation and unreliability. Its bargaining counter with China has just gotten weaker.
Global Islamism will get a new lease of life. And Israel, which has been advocating a tougher line with Iran, will find itself more isolated than ever.
One can only hope that Trump’s new aggression with Iran is a bluff meant to extract concessions, but one can’t count on it. When dangerous forces are unleashed, one cannot count on the possibility that they can be put back into the bottle. The US move to get the Russians out of Afghanistan helped create Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Its attack on Iraq led to the Islamic State. One wonders what new and more dangerous forces are going to tumble out of this higher level of confrontation with Iran.
India was ranked fourth out of 25 nations in Asia-Pacific region in the inaugural Asia Power Index released by Australian think tank Lowy Institute.
It measures overall power of countries and territories in Asia-Pacific region. A country’s overall power is its weighted average across eight measures of power – economic resources, military capability, diplomatic influence, economic relationships, resilience, future trends, defence networks and cultural influence
Three of the world's four largest economies are in Asia and United States is Pacific power. By 2025, two-thirds of world’s population will live in Asia, compared to just over a tenth in the West. According to it, US remained to be pre-eminent power in Asia, while China, an emerging superpower is rapidly closing in on United States.
It ranked Russia, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Pakistan, Philippines and North Korea as middle powers, while Bangladesh, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Laos and Nepal as “minor powers.”
The index held that Japan and India are countries sharing major power status. It labelled Japan as smart power and called India giant of future. India was ranked fourth on parameters of economic resources, military capability and diplomatic influence. It was ranked fifth on resilience. However, on the parameters of cultural influence and future trends, India scored well by ranking third in both. India also scored low on measure of economic relationships and defence networks, ranking seventh and seventh respectively.
Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) has in its 2018 edition of Indian Pharmacopoeia approved modern, animal-free tests for drug manufacturers. It will spare animals from suffering due to drug experiments.
It provides guidelines on tests for drugs manufactured and marketed in India. It replaces pyrogen test carried out on rabbits and abnormal toxicity test carried out on guinea pigs and mice with tests that can be done in test tubes. These guidelines will come into effect from July 1, 2018.
The pyrogen test will be replaced by bacterial endotoxin test or monocyte activation test which can be carried out in test tubes. For abnormal toxicity test, Vaccine manufacturers can apply for waiver by getting compliance certificate from National Control Laboratory.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India was pushing for doing away with cruel methods of testing on animals for the past several years. It had written to IPC in 2015 with several suggestions. These suggestions were discussed in a meeting of expert committee on vaccine standards that was held in 2016 and few of them have finally approved by IPC.
Pyrogen test is carried out to check impurity or substance that can cause adverse side-effects. For the test, drug is injected into rabbit and animal is closely observed for feverish symptoms. The abnormal toxicity test is carried out to check potential hazardous biological contamination in vaccine formulations. This batch test is done before product is approved for marketing. In this, mice or guinea pigs are injected with vaccine. The scientists observe if there is death of any animal.
Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) :
IPC is an autonomous institution of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to set standards of drugs in country. Its basic function is to update regularly standards of drugs commonly required for treatment of diseases prevailing in the region. These set of standards are published under title Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP) similar to British Pharmacopoeia and United States Pharmacopeia. IPC publishes official documents for improving Quality of Medicines by way of adding new and updating existing monographs in form of IP. It also promotes rational use of generic medicines by publishing National Formulary of India. IPC was established by executive orders in 1945 according to Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. It is headquartered in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative CHRI report had noted that only 18 states had passed new Police Acts since 2006, while others had issued government orders/notifications. Not a single state has incorporated the directives in full conformity with the Supreme Court’s scheme, it pointed out.
Shah, a former chief justice of the Delhi high court and former chairperson of the Law Commission, said even after 12 years, when the Supreme Court issued the directives to the states on bringing about police reforms, the implementation had been poor, with only two states complying with the directives.
On the states that had passed laws on police reforms, Singh said “unfortunately most of these have to actually legitimise the status quo to circumvent the SC’s directions and monitoring. Not surprisingly the first state to pass the Act was Bihar.” The implementation, Singh said, had also lacked because the apex court did not take up the contempt pleas against the erring states. “The Justice Thomas report in 2008 had expressed ‘complete dismay’ at the non-implementation of the directives, and four years later the Justice Verma Committee formed in the wake of the Nirbhaya case had dedicated 22 pages to thrust on holistic reforms in police while cautioning that they were an absolute must if an atmosphere of security was to be created for women and children.”
Shah said the “health of police also tells us about the state of governance. When there is no accountability, everything gets compromised. In such times, the rights of the marginalised tend to be undermined and the idea of rule of law soon vanishes.”
Pointing out that there had been nearly two dozen official studies on police reforms, Shah said “what is needed is clearly a change in mindset along with resources. For, as of now, “the Raj lives on in the police in India and generally people feel that police has an indifferent attitude,” he added.
He also noted that one of the issues not addressed in the study was the discrimination faced by lower ranking officers in the police who are often referred to as “inferior” even in official parlance. No wonder, he said, the dissatisfaction among the lower ranks was high and this is was one of the reasons behind the high level of suicides witnessed among the lower ranks in the police force.
In a major boost to defence logistics along the border with China, India's longest road and railway bridge connecting Dibrugarh in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh is likely to be inaugurated later this year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While all the civil work would be completed by July this year, two more months would be needed to finish the electrical and signalling work on the 4.94 km bridge, said Mahender Singh, chief engineer, construction, Bogibeel project.
The Bogibeel bridge is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the end of this year, officials said. The bridge, which is the second longest in Asia, has three lane roads on top and double line rail below. The bridge is 32 metres above the water level of the Brahamaputra and is fashioned on a bridge that links Sweden and Denmark.
For the government, the bridge, officials said is both a symbol of development in the northeast as well as part of a strategic move solving logistical issues for the armed forces stationed at the China border to get supplies from Tezpur.
Bogibeel is part of infrastructure projects planned by India to improve logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. This includes the construction of a trans-Arunachal highway on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, and new road and rail links over the mighty river and its major tributaries such as the Dibang, Lohit, Subansiri and Kameng.
The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size. Whoever controls this area has a major strategic advantage. Golan Heights is the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War, territory which Israel annexed in 1981. Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognised internationally.
Having control of the Golan gives Israel a vantage point from which to monitor any Syrian military movements towards Israel. The area is a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply. The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel’s only ski resort.
United Nations peacekeepers have been in the Golan Heights since 1974 supervising a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. The United States considers the Golan Heights to be Syrian territory held under Israeli occupation subject to negotiation and Israeli withdrawal. The United States considers the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, both the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter).
In an indication of a slight upswing in bilateral military ties after a distinct chill, India has dispatched a warship to Maldives to undertake joint surveillance and patrol of the archipelago’s sprawling Exclusive Economic Zone. Two officers and eight sailors from the Indian Navy’s elite marine commandoes wing are also currently at Maafilhafushi in Maldives, which is 145 km north of Male, to train its personnel in diving and tactics under the second such asymmetric warfare training exercise called “Ekatha” from April 28 to May 15.
Bilateral ties between the two countries had soured after Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on February 5 declared emergency in the archipelago following an order by the country's Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticized trials.
Maldives had subsequently declined India's invitation to participate in its eight-day mega naval conclave called “Milan” at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from March 6 to 13. Maldives had later also asked the Indian government to take back one of its two Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALHs) gifted to the archipelago
With an eye firmly on China, India has provided military aid, training, “capacity-building” and EEZ surveillance to Maldives over the last several years. Apart from gifting a fast-attack craft, India has stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel in the archipelago to operate the ALHs and help the MNDF.
Waste management is an enormous problem in the country. From segregation to collection and disposal, there are serious inefficiencies across the chain. Ultimately, it all comes down to people adopting the 3Rs of reduce, reuse, and recycle at home. Poor management of solid wastes is causing mosquito breeding and, in turn, resulting in the spread of vector-borne diseases.
This is because India’s urban population is expanding at an exponential rate of 3-3.5 per cent annually. According to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), at this rate of population growth, waste generation would increase 5 per cent every year.
Municipal solid waste management in India falls under the jurisdiction of urban local bodies (ULBs) and is governed by Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules (MSWR). However, according to a 2013 report by the Central Pollution Control Board, majority of ULBs do not have adequate action plans for enforcement of MSWR. The report also highlights that no city in India does complete segregation of waste at dwelling units and on an average, only 70 per cent waste collection is observed, while the remaining 30 per cert is again mixed up and lost in the urban environment. Of the total waste collected, only 12.4 per cent of the waste is scientifically processed and the rest is disposed in open dumps. Let’s look at some of the dimensions to understand the problem.
One of the major hurdles faced in the country is the lack of segregation of waste at source. There are different categories of municipal solid waste (MSW), and they are:
Biodegradable waste: Food and kitchen waste, green waste (vegetables, flowers, leaves, fruits) and paper;
Recyclable material: Paper, glass, bottles, cans, metals, certain plastics, etc;
Inert waste matter: C&D, dirt, debris;
Composite waste: Waste clothing, tetra packs, waste plastics such as toys;
Domestic hazardous waste and toxic waste: Waste medicine, e-waste, paints, chemicals, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, spray cans, fertiliser and pesticide containers, batteries, and shoe polish. Lack of knowledge of the differences (or knowingly turning a blind eye to these differences) creates the first major challenge to waste management.
Problems and challenges faced in waste management.
Segregation: There is no organised and scientifically planned segregation of waste either at the household level or at the community bin. A large chunk of this activity is taken care of by manual rag pickers and such segregation takes place in an unorganised and unsafe manner. The revised SWMR 2016, however, require all waste generators to segregate the waste at source. Responsibility of generators was introduced to segregate waste into three categories – wet, dry, and hazardous waste. In addition, the generator has to pay a ‘user fee’ to the waste collector and a ‘spot fine’ for littering and non-segregation, the quantum of which is decided by the local bodies.
The implementation of these rules, however, remains limited. While the responsibility of segregating is on the generator, due to a lack of awareness, most households and commercial units rarely follow this rule.
The impact of segregation at source can be immense. Cities like Indore have achieved a near-total segregation at source, thanks to its municipality’s massive investment in creating awareness. Indore was ranked first in Swach Survekshan 2017 for being the cleanest city in India. According to Joseph Jegan, founder of kuppathotti.com, an online portal that provides doorstep collection of recyclable waste in Chennai and Pune, “segregating degradable and non-degradable wastes is the biggest challenge.” He suggests that waste generators should ideally segregate their waste into bio-degradable, non bio-degradable, and recyclables. This would make processing them much easier.
Transport and collection: Most of the waste collected from household or commercial units is transferred into metal or concrete communal bins. Once again, the transfer is managed by unorganised workers who collect waste door-to-door. Such bins are mostly open dumps, creating health hazards. According to Priyadharshini, the chief executive and founder of Wastewinn Recyclers Pvt Ltd, a social enterprise start-up involved in end-to-end waste management, “the first and foremost requirement of waste management is a right destination with proper infrastructure to process the generated quantity of waste. As a company the main challenge we faced was to find a space to setting up our organic waste processing unit.”
Reuse/recycle: This entails activities like collecting those materials from the waste, which could be gainfully retrieved and utilised for making new products. Since unsegregated waste is dumped at community bins, its optimal recycling is not possible. However, rag-pickers usually sort out and take and sell recyclable material like plastics and glass.
Disposal: Almost every city, town, or village follows an unscientific disposal of MSW such as open dumping and landfilling. India has over 60 landfills across cities. Unscientific dumping is one of the major causes of surface-water contamination during the monsoon and ground-water contamination due to percolation. Jegan also points out that as most of the landfills are located near cities, these areas become a source of communicable diseases to the residents. Ideally, they must be located away from the city, and only 75 per cent of the landfill types must be used to dump the wastes and the remaining 25 per cent should be kept free around the fillable area.
Delhi, for example, is home to Bhalswa and Ghazipur landfills, which are prone to fires and generate huge amounts of greenhouse gases every day. Despite orders from a panel constituted by the Delhi High Court, which recommended implementation of a policy focusing on the conversion of wastes to energy, compost, and useful by-products, no action has been taken till date and the hazardous sites continue to exist.
Potential of our waste
Landfills produce harmful greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
Methane emission from landfills is about 13 per cent of the global methane emission and is about 818 million metric tons per annum in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent. In India, estimated methane emission is about 16 million metric carbon dioxide equivalent per annum through landfills. If this volume of waste was to be used productively, India would have been able to generate 439MW of power from combustible component and refuse-derived fuel, 72MW of electricity from landfill gas, and 5.4 million metric tons of compost for agriculture use as methane has 23 times higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, MSWR does not permit leachate recirculation in India. In addition, India lacks the infrastructure to put this waste to use. Hence, this remains an unused resource.
Similarly, the bio-degradable and organic matter from the waste can also be used to make manure which can be plugged into our agricultural sector. The waste generated in India has more organic content – about 50 per cent – as compared to the 30 per cent generated by developed countries, but once again we lose out in absence of a well-defined policy as well as infrastructure.
India is looking to develop its cities as smart cities, and one of the basic requirements for this would be to have a long-term plan for solid waste management for every city. While on one hand we need stringent policies for cities to process their waste and not landfill them, on the other it is also important for households to take up the responsibility and segregate their waste. Compost pits should be mandatory for every locality to process organic waste. Community participation has a direct bearing on efficient waste management.
While the government is doing its bit, it might not be enough till all of us adopt sustainable waste disposal practices at home. Priyadharshini, a waste management expert, while applauding the government’s efforts like the Swachh Bharat Mission, suggests adopting the 3Rs at home: reduce, reuse, recycle
Global attention has been devoted to water scarcity and its effect on Indian farmers. However, new analysis from Indian researchers suggests that far more good could come if irrigation were combined with seed improvement.
Tata Trusts and Copenhagen Consensus have commissioned new research by noted experts from India and around the world, looking at measures that would help Indian states respond to major challenges and improve their competitiveness, economic performance, and the well-being and prosperity of citizens. The new research focuses on establishing how much different policies would cost, and what they would achieve overall in economic, environmental and societal benefits.
Now, two new research papers add to the volume of evidence on how to boost agricultural performance. The first of these is by Dinesh Kumar, executive director of the Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy (Irap), Hyderabad. It examines policies that would reduce the effects of water scarcity in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Rayalaseema region is hot and dry, with frequent droughts. Only about one-third of the crops are irrigated, and the rest are dependent on rain-fed cultivation, which is susceptible to the vagaries of the weather. Tanks are an important source of water for the rural economy, but—as in other areas—an explosion of well-irrigation has reduced the surface run-off into these tanks. The biggest victims are poor, small, marginal farmers, who depend on tanks for supplementary irrigation for their kharif crop.
There are major water transfer projects being implemented in Andhra Pradesh. This approach—moving surplus water into the tanks, so that they are full—ensures farmers can continue crop production when the tanks do not receive inflows. According to one estimate, the additional storage space available during a drought year is about 1,700 million cubic metres.
The annualized cost of the infrastructure and drainage required to fill the tanks is estimated to be about Rs4,500 per hectare, as well as another Rs2,000 for the annual operation and maintenance of the system. Assuming that the additional water will be used to irrigate around 65,000 hectares of paddy cultivated during winter, the overall annualized cost would be Rs43.2 crore.
Farmers, however, will earn more: The annual incremental net return is estimated to be about Rs9,000 per hectare. There would be further indirect benefits from energy savings because farmers wouldn’t need to pump groundwater, as well as from the incremental return from the increase in yield of wells and consequent expansion in the area served, and more intensive watering of irrigated crops. These benefits together add up to Rs15,000 per hectare per year, and the total annual benefits would be Rs159.2 crore.
This means that every rupee spent on the policy in Andhra Pradesh would generate benefits worth nearly four rupees. In Rajasthan, an analysis looking at the same approach but taking into account the specific conditions there, finds there would be benefits worth three rupees.
Kumar also examines state-specific policies: In Rajasthan, renovating the traditional water harvesting system would return three rupees for every rupee invested, while, in Andhra Pradesh, investment in drip irrigation and mulching of high-value crops would generate about five rupees.
Although many improved varieties of seeds have been released for cultivation, their full impact has not been realized owing to poor adoption rates as well as poor seed replacement rates.
The solution to this challenge involves spending money on producing more quality seeds (for all the major crops in each state) and promoting these among farmers. The cost over five years adds up to around Rs400 crore in Andhra Pradesh and Rs584 crore in Rajasthan.
But this will lead to better crop yields, increased production, and higher incomes. After reviewing the best evidence, the researcher suggests that yield gains of 10% can reasonably be expected with improved seed replacement rates. Even with this highly conservative assumption, the investment has huge pay-offs: Every rupee spent will have benefits to Andhra Pradesh worth around 15 times the costs, and 20 times in Rajasthan
With its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its embrace of international trade tariffs, the Trump administration has pulled back from the U.S. commitment to, and once powerful position in, the Asian sphere of influence.
China is aggressively working to fill that void. One of its key strategies for leveraging its economic and geopolitical power is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a nearly trillion dollar transportation and energy infrastructure construction juggernaut – a vast program launched in 2013 and not due for completion until 2049.
The BRI is the largest infrastructure initiative in human history, and includes the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land transportation route running from China to Southern Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting the port of Shanghai to Venice, Italy, via India and Africa.
The potential environmental impacts of the mega-construction program could be severe, warn analysts. China has committed to BRI environmental and sustainability standards, at least on paper, but the sheer size of the initiative, along with China’s past environmental record and its autocratic institutions, are cause for deep concern.
According to some analysts, Belt and Road, while it poses new and grave environmental threats to all of Asia and beyond, if managed properly and responsibly, could also offer extraordinary opportunities for green growth.
“Beijing hopes to replicate its development experience abroad, and in the process, export China’s new emerging technological and engineering standards, establish itself as a preeminent economic and trade partner for neighboring countries,” Cai said, adding that if “BRI is successful, this will bring China geopolitical clout.”
The seriousness of China’s commitment to international development and to global leadership conducted through its mega-infrastructure initiative was affirmed fully last October when the ruling Communist Party instituted the pledge to pursue BRI into its constitution.
But regardless of Xi’s promises, major environmental impacts from such a vast array of infrastructure projects seem inevitable, warned Courtney Weatherby, Research Analyst for the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington DC-based Stimson Center.
These impacts, she said, could be mitigated by adhering to international best practices, including the implementation of high standards for social and environmental impact assessments (EIAs), consultation with impacted communities, and making good-faith efforts to address impacts which happen as a result of each project.
One question of great concern to environmentalists is transparency. History has shown that rigorous environmental protections are most likely to be instituted and enforced in open societies where an independent judicial branch, media, activists and public can freely challenge government and business interests. China has no such history, and its construction projects around the world have long been plagued by a troubling environmental record.
With changes in how the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and its parent body Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) give out projects, the infrastructure sector has gathered momentum. The biggest beneficiary post the changes are however not the well established infrastructure majors but relatively smaller firms.
Data compiled by investment bank Equirus Securities for the NHAI shows that large firms such as Dilip Buildcon (Rs 18,770 crore), IRB Infrastructure (Rs 8,900 crore) and Ashoka Buildcon (Rs 5,500 crore) were the largest contract awardees, smaller firms including J Kumar Infraprojects, Madhucon Projects, HG Infra and several joint ventures between Monte Carlo and PNC Infratech grabbed up 48 per cent of the total bids awarded in the current fiscal.
Apart from smaller projects, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari’s much talked about Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) has seen smaller firms who earlier used to be sub-contractors for larger firms are now bidding for projects on their own. Introduced in 2016, the develop gets 40 per cent of the project cost under HAM from the government over five installments contingent on the project’s progress. The rest, while being borne by the developer can be recovered as annuity or toll.
With the switch over from Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) to HAM, smaller developers are able to bid for projects while the incumbent heavyweights can afford to skip several projects. Under BOT, till 2016, projects would usually only go to larger firms who could afford to put up the capital required to build the highway. The NHAI and MoRTH today prefer going in for engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) or HAM and then handing over the project to a private party under the toll-operate toll (TOT) method.
On 14 June 2014, State Council of China, under the premiership of Li Keqiang, published a document titled ‘Planning Outline for the Construction of Social Credit System’ with a stated aim to “provide the trustworthy with benefits and discipline the untrustworthy”. The document seeks to develop a pan-China Social Credit System (SCS) by 2020 that will assign every citizen a score based on their social behaviour. Pilots of the project have already been floated on a limited scale. Through this system, the Chinese state ostensibly seeks to develop a nationwide moral sincerity and trustworthiness amongst citizens, and also expand financial inclusion.
A critical study, however, reveals that this is just another tool of mass surveillance by the communist state and a giant leap towards creating a modern, technocratic police state, backed by an opaque technocratic regime. It should also be noted that this system is being enforced in Xi Jinping’s regime, which has seen an unprecedented consolidation of power and control over both the party and the government.
The Chinese system ostensibly aims to nationally develop a culture of trust and sincerity. It also aims to increase financial inclusion to sections that have hitherto remained unserved and beyond the scope of financial services, such as migrant workers, college students, rural citizens, etc. The scale of financial exclusion is that only less than a third of China’s 800 million potential bank customers are registered with the Credit Registry Centre. The system thus, as per the state’s narrative, seeks to widen the consumption of credit, whose demand has been on a rise in recent years. This rise in demand for credit and the parallel rise of e-commerce and digital mediums have brought new systems to assess a person’s credit worthiness. It is these social conditions and new-age systems that the Chinese state is capitalising on to create its police state.
While the project is not going to be mandatory until 2020, more than 30 local governments have already run pilots of the system. Eight large private firms have already floated their systems and these pilot systems clarify intentions of the Chinese state. Most prominent of these systems are Sesame Credit, a subsidiary of Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, which collects data through AliPay – Chinese version of PayPal, and China Rapid Finance, partner of Tencent, which runs WeChat, a popular messaging application. AliPay and WeChat both have access to a huge chest of data that they analyse to rate its users. The score is publicly visible on their social media profiles.
While their algorithms are not public, it is known that Sesame Credit rates its users on more than just their financial history. It also assesses its users on their credit fulfillment capacity, personal traits, and social behaviour and preferences. It is thus clear that implications of such ratings go well beyond the ambit of users’ personal finances.
Here it should be noted that neither credit scores are new, nor the collection and usage of our data. FICO score has been there for several decades and tech giants like Google already have a lot of data on us, through which they know us better than our closest friends. There have also been firms for a while now that assess a person’s credit worthiness by unconventional means, such as by assessing their lifestyle, which includes their public records and social media behaviour. Sun Valley-based Affirm does exactly this. There are other firms too, such as Zest Finance, InVenture and Branch, all of which function somewhat similarly and track a person’s everyday life to assess credit worthiness. A question may arise here that if all such things are already happening, then why is there such fuss about the Chinese doing something similar?
The fuss is about how the Chinese state is going to implement it. Even though the system might increase financial inclusion, one should keep in mind the primary aims of the project – to develop a trustworthy citizenry. According to the officials, the system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”. This further clarifies the state’s intentions. While those with higher scores will have a range of benefits such as quick loans, VIP check-ins at airports, foreign travel without documents, etc, low scores will get you barred from holding public office, booking train or plane tickets, or sending your children to better schools. You will also be subjected to stricter checks at airports and hotels.
Even as the system is not yet fully into effect, the Chinese apex court, in September 2017, announced that over 6 million Chinese citizens have been barred from taking flights over the course of last four years for social misdeeds. Such repercussions are just a mere trailer of the horror film that the full implementation of the system may produce, and the trailer makes it clear that the system is a state’s tool to exclude those who do not cast themselves into the mould that the state would create for them, for it shall be the state that shall decide what shall make one trustworthy and what shall be a socially acceptable behaviour.
As for the culture of trust and sincerity, one may fall back on Black Mirror. In the episode, rather than becoming sincere as per the Chinese state’s belief, people became insincere and disingenuous. The system is going to turn society into a ‘number game’, in which people merely act in a certain manner to get a high score.
Such a system will allow the Chinese state to both create a citizenry that lives by its norms and also a mechanism to monitor every aspect of their lives. Such a system will also create a personalised surveillance and intelligence collection of over a billion people and turn private firms into government’s spy agencies.
All of this is in line with Pesident Xi Jinping’s plans. Now in his third term, Xi is on his way to create a totalitarian police state. Over the course of his two terms, he has already amassed power on an unprecedented scale, and now with SCS, he is set to bring the billion-plus citizenly too under his iron fist. Much like Xi, who has a host of yes-men around him, yes-men throughout history and the globe have applauded while the leader removed the limit of presidential terms with overwhelming majority and practically made himself/herself the president for life.
With a host of yes-men and policies set to govern the lives of a billion-plus people, the making of a police state under Xi is now fast underway, and if history tells us anything, it is that such developments are not healthy, not for the billion-plus people, and certainly not for their neighbours.
Bring our Kids Home (BOKH) is a non-governmental organisation in the US formed in 2015 by parents, including many Indians and Indian-Americans. The members of BOKH are aggrieved parents (mostly fathers) who have been lobbying with US government officials in Congress and the State Department to urge the Indian government to become a signatory to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention, which provides a way to return a child internationally abducted by a parent. According to the Hague Convention, such abduction may occur when a parent removes a child from his or her country of habitual residence in violation of the other parent’s custodial rights, even in cases where the parents are married or neither parent holds a custody decree prior to the abduction
At the annual US-India consular dialogue coming up on September 27 at Washington, DC, the US government will push the Indian side to accede to the Hague Convention. “Protection and welfare of American citizens overseas is one of the issues that we address. Cases where, following the break-up of a marriage, one parent takes away a child from the US without the consent of the other and often in contravention of a US court order, are of great concern
The first point to note is that this is a gendered issue, which concerns women who live in what has come to be known as NRI marriages. Often a male Indian migrant who is a green card holder comes to India to marry an Indian woman, not a green card holder, who he takes back on a dependent visa. They settle for example in the US and have children.
Trouble erupts between them, the matter is taken to a US court and decisions in relation to child custody are made there, or perhaps ex-party decisions when she has had to leave the country with her children. It is here the Hague Convention will enter the picture and require that if there was a court order in a foreign jurisdiction, and woman has returned to her country of origin with the child, her husband can apply to an executive authority for the return of the child based only on an order of a freight court which could be an ex-parte order (temporary order) or if the husband is “entitled “ to custody under a foreign law. The mother, will be a “child abductor” and an application can be made to the authority in India for the return of the child to the place of: “habitual residence”, that is the US or any other reciprocal country who has signed the convention.
It is now largely accepted that in recent years, primary caregivers — a majority of whom are mothers — have been the “abducting parent”. This fact has also been recognised by the Law Commission of India in its 263rd report, which states that globally 68% of the abducting parents were mothers, 85% of them being the primary caregivers.
In such a situation, returning to their country of origin by surreptitiously fleeing from their abusive husbands is often the only option open to them,”
“The structure of the convention is such that it considers all actions of removal or retention of a child across borders as being wrongful and requires the prompt return of the child to his/her state of habitual residence. The reasons behind the removal or retention of the child and the effect of his/her return is not taken into account”.
In her opinion, the left-behind parent often refuses to pay child support and uses the US government machinery to further control and harass the women who left them. Another fear is that Article (3) of Hague allows an institution to petition a child which would mean thatChild Protective Services would have more rights on the child than the parents themselves.
“The Convention, in fact, ignores the Indian judiciary and grants the power of returning a child to a bureaucrat. The Indian legal system examines each case in detail and is geared to act in the best interest the child and India should never become party to the Hague convention.”
Qn 1) Consider the following statements about ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY)’.
1. The scheme aims at sustainable ground water management with community participation in over-exploited and ground water stressed areas throughout the country.
2. The scheme is implemented by Ministry of Water Resources with World Bank assistance.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2
Learning zone: The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) aimed at sustainable ground water management with community participation in select over-exploited and ground water stressed areas in seven States (Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh).
ABHY is designed as a Central Sector Scheme with a total outlay of Rs. 6,000 Crore and is proposed to be implemented with World Bank assistance.
Why is this question important?
The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) is a new initiative of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Qn 2) The ‘Business Expectations Index (BEI)’ is published by which of the following ministry/organization?
A. Ministry of commerce and industry
B. Reserve Bank of Indian (RBI)
C. Ministry of Finance
D. NITI Aayog
Learning zone: The Business Expectation Index (BEI) is published by the Reserve Bank of Indian (RBI).
The nine indicators considered for computation of BEI are: (1) overall business situation, (2) production, (3) order books, (4) inventory of raw material, (5) inventory of finished goods, (6) profit margin, (7) employment, (8) exports and (9) capacity utilisation. It gives a single snapshot of business outlook in every quarter. BEI lies between 0 to 200, and 100 is the threshold separating expansion from contraction.
Why is this question important?
The RBI released the results of the 80th round of the Industrial Outlook Survey (IOS). As per the results, business sentiment in the Indian manufacturing sector improved, as reflected in the Business Expectations Index (BEI).
Qn 3) Consider the following statements about ‘Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana’.
The objective of the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana is to,
1. Provide partial compensation for the wage loss to all Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, including government employees.
2. Improve health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2
Learning zone: The objectives of the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) are: (i) providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child; and (ii) the cash incentives provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.
The maternity benefits under PMMVY are available to all Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers, except those in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or PSU or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force, for first living child of the family as normally, the first pregnancy of a woman exposes her to new kind of challenges and stress factors.
Why is this question important?
The Government of India has approved Pan-India implementation of PMMVY in all districts of the country
Expressing optimism about job growth in the renewable energy sector, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that India is set to create over 3 lakh new jobs in the wind and solar energy sector by 2022
India has set for itself a target of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy generation by 2022 and the sector is to witness massive job production if the country moves to meet the target. The organisation has also said that the the new jobs will ‘more than’ offset the losses in the traditional carbon-dependent energy industry.
ILO has made the prediction in its annual report titled ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs’ based on surveys of developers, manufacturers and solar and wind companies. It has however said that the job creation is conditional to the government commitment towards vocational training and the domestic capacity to meet the infrastructure requirements.
“To meet the target, the number of workers required by ground-mounted solar, rooftop solar and wind power projects, will need to increase. The potential for employment creation is conditional on the domestic capacity of solar module manufacturing and the establishment of vocational training programmes and certification schemes,” the report says.
It has also said that by 2030, more than 24 million new jobs will be created in the sector while six million jobs will be lost in the transition from industries reliant on carbon-based production. While India and several European countries are forecast to add more jobs in the energy sector, Middle East and Africa are forecast to have a negative job growth if they continue to rely on mining and fossil fuels
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam has been pushed into a very uncomfortable corner over the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Protests against the bill, which is now being examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), have peaked in Assam (except the Barak Valley that is populated by Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims).
Since the bill – it seeks to lower the waiting period for grant of Indian citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the existing 12 years to seven years – has been framed and introduced by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, the party unit in Assam finds itself unable to join the widespread protests that have rocked the Brahmaputra Valley which is predominantly Assamese.
Such is the intensity of opposition to the bill that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who had been conferred the title of ‘jatiya nayak’ (national hero) after he successfully petitioned the Supreme Court against the highly discriminatory Illegal Migration (Determination by Tribunals) Act, or IMDT Act as it was popularly known, is now being challenged. The IMDT Act of 1983 had shifted the burden of proving citizenship from an accused (of being a foreigner) as under the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the complainant (the state or an individual) and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005. Sonowal was even challenged by a BJP legislator and asked to justify his ‘jatiya nayak’ honorific. Other organisations have accused him of betraying the Assamese and Assam’s interests. An anguished Sonowal was forced to declare that he would quit his post if he failed to protect the interests of his state.
The opposition to the Citizenship Act from the indigenous Assamese and tribal groups of the state stem from their genuine fear of being reduced to a minority in their own state. Assam has had to suffer the burden of millions of migrants, mostly Muslims but Hindus as well, from Bangladesh since the turn of the last century. The British first started bringing in landless Muslim peasants from Bangladesh to cultivate the vast tracts of fertile but uncultivated lands in Assam. Later, immediately before and after Independence, Muslim politicians of Assam encouraged further influx of tens of thousands of Muslims from East Bengal (and then East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh) and changed the demographic profile of Assam
The JPC, which is examining the bill, has met many people and organisations in Guwahati and Silchar who have (respectively) opposed and supported the bill. That now threatens to create a divide between the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys. The JPC will conduct more hearings, and the bill has also been opposed by Meghalaya and other states in the region are also expected to come out against the proposed bill. Given this, and that passions are running high against this bill in Assam, it would be best to exempt Assam and others states of the North East from the purview of the bill.
The bill will provide succor to lakhs of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who have faced indescribable and terrible persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh at the hands of radical Islamists and even the state. They have no place to take refuge in except India, which simply cannot abandon them to their fate. Social, political and economic discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, physical atrocities on them (especially their womenfolk), forcible conversions to Islam and even killings by Islamists are pretty common in Pakistan and Afghanistan and continue to occur in Bangladesh. They have to be provided refuge by India. And these persecuted minorities should not be compared to Myanmar’s Rohingyas because the latter have many other countries, especially the Islamic nations, to turn to. The persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians don’t have that privilege. The argument that the proposed bill discriminates against Muslims (the Rohingyas) is a puerile one.
ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa (who has come overground) has threatened to withdraw from the ongoing peace talks if the Citizenship Bill is passed. But the ULFA has no moral right to even comment on the bill; the entire top leadership of the ULFA was sheltered in Bangladesh and received patronage from the earlier Khaleda Zia regime. ULFA cadres were sheltered in camps in Bangladesh and received a lot of assistance from the Islamist regime in power in Bangladesh then. The ULFA leadership did not utter a word against unabated influx from Bangladesh all those years since they could not risk incurring the wrath of their masters in Dhaka who wanted (and may still want) to change the demography of Assam. Instead, the ULFA gunned down innocent Nepalis and Biharis in Assam at that time in an attempt at ethnic cleansing. Even now, Barua and his comrades are under the control of foreign powers and have to do their bidding.
It is time the people of Assam question their leaders, including the ULFA, which falsely claims to protect Assam’s and Assamese interests. It is high time the people of Assam demand answers from their leaders on what they did on this burning (foreigners’) issue when they were in power. And it is also high time for the people of Assam to expose the hypocrisy of their leaders and punish them for encouraging influx from Bangladesh for their political gains. The proposed Citizenship Bill is not responsible for the threat posed to Assam and the Assamese by the presence of a huge number of foreigners in the state. Assam’s successive leaders and organisations like the ULFA, which whip up sentiments while falsely claiming to ‘fight’ for Assam are. And it is high time they are held accountable for all that they did, or did not do.
The Guild is not a representative body of journalists today. It represents the old media establishment, the old Lutyens insiders, not the huge expansion into the digital and other domains. The future of journalism is going to be in the convergent digital space, but the Guild has almost no representatives from this field.
Second, its composition is that of a fossilised, old-school elite, as can be seen from the names associated with it. Starting from the bottom of the list provided by the Guild, as of early 2017 we had “special invitees” like Kuldip Nayar and Mrinal Pande. The former is a 94-year-old journo whose best days ended in the 1970s during the Emergency. The latter is now a formal member of the Congress ecosystem, having recently been appointed group editor to National Herald, a party mouthpiece. As for the rest, the less said the better: the list is heavily Delhi- and print-biased, and includes some old incumbents, who can no longer be called journalists, having moved close to political parties.
Guild’s membership is largely old media, old establishment. It would be hard to find anyone under the age 60 in this group, when the real growth areas of the media are increasingly being run by much younger people, especially in the digital spaces.
Three, the Guild does not even meet the basic requirements of an institution: it has no website, no formal address or office, no schedule of meetings, not even a sensible structure with a virtual secretariat. According to one former insider, the Guild hardly ever meets, as most of its members have other things as priority. Some of the statements put out by it are the result of someone drafting them and passing them around for comments over email.
Four, the Guild has very little to show by way of commitment to being a non-partisan institution. Old members allege that when the Guild sends out fact-finding missions, sometimes they have accepted hospitality from state governments or governors, thus compromising their neutrality. As for the formal defence of journalists and writers facing state oppression, the Guild is often tongue-tied. Even as it worked up a lather over Irani’s fake news guidelines, it stayed mum when the Jammu and Kashmir judiciary issued a non-bailable warrant against Madhu Kishwar for a few negative tweets against a Kashmiri journo. The Guild did not cover itself with glory in defending free speech in this case. Nor has it stood up for the scores of regional journalists, who regularly risk life and limb to take on vested interests in their states.
The Union Cabinet yesterday (17 May) presented a new biofuels policy, with the provision to allow farmers to divert excess crops produced towards fuel production.The policy also set aside Rs 5,000 crore as a viability gap fund to set up second generation ethanol refineries over six years.
With the National Biofuels Policy 2018, the Centre looking beyond sugar and molasses to have livestock available to produce ethanol. Among the newer sources being considered are sugarcane, sugar beet, corn, cassava, sorghum, along with grains that are damaged and unfit for human consumption such as wheat, broken rice and rotten potatoes. Farmers at risk of not getting a good price for their produce during the surplus production season will be eligible to generate ethanol using the surplus. The generated ethanol cannot be mixed with petrol and and will require the approval of the National Biofuels Coordination Committee.
Municipal solid waste has also been addressed with policy, with the option of converting it into drop-in fuels. The scheme proposes higher purchase prices for second generation biofuel over first generation biofuel, namely bioethanol and biodiesel. Oil marketing firms in the country are currently setting up 12 biorefineries for second generation fuels at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore
According to the policy statement, ethanol production for blending with fuel in 2017-18 will be around 150 crore litres, resulting in foreign exchange savings of up to Rs 4,000 crore. Each litre of biofuel is expected to cut down carbon dioxide emissions by 20,000 tons. The production of biofuels is expected to increase the rural standard of life with more jobs being created across the country
B S Yeddyurappa of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now the Chief Minister of Karnataka. His swearing-in ceremony was preceded by arguments and counter-arguments in the Supreme Court in New Delhi from the sides of the Congress and the Union of India. At the end of the midnight hearing, the Supreme Court rejected the Congress’ plea of staying the swearing-in of Yeddyurappa while scheduling the next hearing of the case for Friday, 18 May.
Even as, and before, the arguments were being made in the Supreme Court, there were numerous articles and social media posts on why it would be right or wrong for the BJP to be invited to form the government in Karnataka. Many landmark judgements were quoted in the process, including the Bommai judgement, the Rameshwar Prasad judgement, and others. However, the truth in this case is far simpler. Whichever side of the debate you may be on, and whatever be your arguments, in this case, there is only one truth that counts – the decision on who to invite to form the government is the governor’s discretion, and that cannot be questioned.
The first thing to be noted is that the Constitution does not explicitly mention the procedure that is to be adopted by the governor when inviting a political party to form the government in a state. The governor has to rather rely on precedents and conventions to make their decision. Second, the judgement of the Supreme Court in S R Bommai v Union of India has no direct relevance to the situation in Karnataka. Bommai dealt with the power of the Union government to dismiss state governments and impose President’s rule in the case of a breakdown of Constitutional machinery as per Article 356.
In conclusion, it is entirely the governor’s discretion as to who should be invited to form the government when two opposing coalitions/parties claim to have majority on the floor of the house. The majority should be proven on the floor of the house, and the Governor of Karnataka has directed Yeddyurappa to do that in 15 days’ time.
Indore was declared as the cleanest city according to Swachh Survekshan 2017, an initiative of the Urban Development Ministry. The path to the top has been a long and hard one for the city, but the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) has ensured that solid long-term plans – and not quick fixes – were adopted to address the city’s problems. The IMC, which governs 85 wards and a population of over 27 lakh people, implemented a series of carrot-and-stick measures over the last year that has led to the position the city finds itself in now. The city has swiftly moved up from its 149th rank in 2014 to the top of the ladder this yea
The IMC especially placed great emphasis on waste segregation and door-to-door collection. So instead of “adding” dust bins, the city moved towards the more novel concept of a binless city, and removed over 1,400 bins. Earlier, in the absence of door-to-door collection, residents had no choice but to put their garbage in plastic bags and then throw them into public dustbins – more often than not, throwing the bags around the bin rather than inside it. As a result, heaps would accumulate over days with strays and rag pickers taking out their due share and leaving the rest of the surroundings unpleasant.
To further encourage participation, the IMC incentivised innovative solutions and practices through competitions and awards from the mayor and the municipal commissioner
While the IMC has levied heavy fines on those caught littering the roads to discourage the practice, incentives have been offered for those doing good work as well. A discount of 5-10 per cent was offered on property tax to those who installed bulk waste converters to compost organic waste. Many hotels grabbed the opportunity and now operate waste converters on their premises. For those who do not have the space to accommodate an organic waste converter, a waste collection fee ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 was charged every month.
Collecting garbage from every household is, however, only one aspect of the mission, the other being keeping the public areas clean. Main roads are swept thrice a day instead of twice as in most cities. Mechanical sweepers are used every alternate day. Roads are washed every night using pressure jets with the aim to make the city “dust-free”, a task that may sound impossible in other Indian towns.
Indore has successfully set itself apart from the usual lack of political will and blame games among different departments. The “foreign-like” state, as said by a number of its residents, is not only the result of technology and the manpower employed, but also the collaboration between the government (at both the state and city levels), non-state actors (non-governmental organisations and commercial establishments) and citizens.