The Hindu Notes 30th July,2017

 Centre plans to remote-map canals

•The Centre plans to link all canals via a geographical information system that would allow them to be remotely mapped. V.K. Vohra, Commissioner (Irrigation) said that 99 projects, identified as a part of the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, would have canals under satellite scrutiny to ensure that they be completed on time.
•The Central government has earmarked Rs. 77,595 crore to states to complete a range of irrigation projects that have been stuck for decades owing to lack of funds, with the water ministry committed to ensuring that 99 such projects would be completed by 2020. Twenty-three would be completed by 2016-17 and 31 by 2017-18. One of the major reasons for the projects to remain incomplete was inadequate provision of funds by the concerned State governments.
•“Some of these canals could be hundreds of kilometres long and some much smaller,” said Mr. Vohra.

Sri Lanka completes $1 billion port deal with Chinese firm

An integral part of Belt & Road Initiative
•Sri Lanka on Saturday sealed a billion-dollar deal to let a Chinese state firm take over a loss-making port in a move that worries many, including India.
•The long-delayed $1.1 billion sale of a 70% stake in Hambantota port, which straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route, was confirmed by Sri Lanka’s Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.
•The government used tough laws against industrial action to stop workers going on strike this week to oppose the sale to China Merchants Port Holdings.
•India is nervous about China’s infrastructure moves into its traditional sphere of influence. “We have addressed geo-political concerns,” the Minister said at a signing ceremony in Colombo. China has accepted that everything in this agreement will operate under Sri Lankan law.”
•Negotiations over the deal were held up for months amid opposition from trade unions and political parties. The Minister said this week that several countries had raised fears about the sale. India and the United States are known to be concerned that China getting a foothold at the deep-sea port could give it a military naval advantage in the Indian Ocean.
•Samarasinghe said that Hambantota, 240 km south of Colombo, will not be a military base for any country.
•China Merchants built and operates Sri Lanka’s only major deep-sea terminal in Colombo, which can accommodate the world’s largest container carriers.
Strategic partner
•Executive vice president Hu Jianhua said the company wanted to make Hambantota the gateway to expanding economies in South Asia and Africa where it has similar port operations.
•“[The] business of Hambantota port will be cross border, across the Indian ocean, stretching to the Far East, to Europe and to the globe,” Mr. Hu said.
•“Sri Lanka will be well positioned to play a strategic role in the one-belt-one-road initiative of the government of the People’s Republic of China,” Mr. Hu said.
•Sri Lanka has signed up to President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative, which aims to strengthen China’s land and sea trade routes.
•India has snubbed Mr. Xi’s plan and skipped a May summit in Beijing that was attended by world leaders. Mr. Samarasinghe said Hambantota will be purely a commercial port, but any routine port calls by foreign navies will be regulated by Sri Lanka as in the case with the Colombo port.

Trump to sign Russia sanctions legislation

•U.S. President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation slapping punitive sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea that the Congress approved this week, the White House has said.
•The legislation bars Mr. Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.
•In its statement, the White House said Mr. Trump “negotiated regarding critical elements” of early drafts of the bill and approved the final draft “based on its responsiveness to his negotiations”.
•The Senate passed the bill, 98-2, two days after the House of Representatives pushed the measure through by a 419-3 margin. Both were veto-proof numbers.
•“President Donald J Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
•“He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it,” Ms. Sanders said without giving a time frame when it would be signed into law. The legislation, could put strain on Mr. Trump’s ability to improve ties with Russia.

A two-in-one solution

Experts call for integrating hepatitis testing and treatment as a component in the national programme for HIV
•Hepatitis C, a disease that closely mimics the deadly HIV infection, has been ignored for long, say medical experts. The chronic liver infection caused by the blood-borne hepatitis C virus (HCV) kills nearly 96,000 people in India annually. This, despite the fact that the availability of a range of new drugs has drastically improved its cure rate to over 95%.
Testing for two
•Experts also point to the threat of HCV co-infection with HIV, given that both diseases have same routes of transmission. “The need of the hour is to integrate HCV testing and treatment as a component in the already existing national programme for HIV,” says Dr. V. Sam Prasad, country manager, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, adding that instead of designing a new programme that may take years, tweaking an existing programme would be simpler and faster. He says just like HIV, that now has a ‘test and treat’ policy as a part of the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) guidelines, a revised version could add a similar approach for HCV.
•Like HIV, HCV can be transmitted through injectable drug use through the sharing of needles, reuse or inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment such as syringes and needles, and transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products. Though very uncommon, it can also be transmitted sexually and can be passed from an infected mother to her baby.
•According to Dr. A.R. Pazare, head of the medicine department at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, the cure rate of HCV was extremely low till about five years ago as there were merely two drugs to treat it. “But now, as many as 30 new drugs are now available. They have become a game changer for the disease,” he says, adding that despite this, the threat of disease continues due to the overlapping modes of transmission with HIV.
•“We should react quicker to curb it. Also, there is extremely low awareness about the disease.”
Co-infection cases
•Approximately 12 million people in India are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Globally, 2.3 million people living HIV are co-infected with HCV of which nearly 1.3 million are injectable drug users. While India lacks data on co-infections, rough estimates state that 60,000 people with HIV also have HCV.“It is highly impossible that these estimates are accurate,” says Dr. Prasad, adding that the disease often presents no symptoms and hence is diagnosed very late. “In most cases, liver cirrhosis or fibrosis sets in by then,” he says, adding that 20% of the patients are unaware of their status.
•A 2010 article published in the Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseasescited the results of a study carried out in the Department of Microbiology, Nair Hospital, Mumbai to track the co-infections of HIV with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV. Of the 540 HIV seropositive patients, 90 (16.7%) were positive for HBV and 7 (1.3%) were positive for HCV antibodies. While heterosexual high-risk behaviour was observed in 435 (80.6%) patients, 15 (2.8%) patients had a history of blood transfusion. Two patients (0.4%) who were intravenous drug users were positive for HIV, HBV and HCV. The article lay emphasis on the necessity of integrating HIV and HBV/HCV care into the National AIDS Control Programme and commence interventions and treatment guidelines for patients with HIV and HBV/HCV co-infection.
•A study published last year in The Lancet too stated that not only are people with HIV at much higher risk of HCV infection, groups such as people who inject drugs have an extremely high prevalence of HCV infection — over 80%. “There is a need to scale-up routine testing to diagnose HCV infection in HIV programmes worldwide, especially among high-risk groups, as the first step towards accessing the new, highly curative HCV treatments,” said an official of the World Health Organization, which had commissioned the study.Living independently, the Thoreau way
The 19th century writer was an archetype of what humans could aspire to be if we had the conviction to live life on our own terms
•On July 4, 1845, a 27-year-old Henry David Thoreau moved into a cabin near a lake called Walden Pond in Massachusetts, north-eastern United States. His goal, he wrote later, was “to live deliberately, to [con]front only the essential facts of life”. We learn of these and other words that speak of Thoreau’s intentions from the writings he left behind. His journals tracked his life from October 1837 to November 1861, eventually filling up 47 manuscript volumes.
•The most famous of his books was Walden; or, Life in the Woods , an assemblage of sustained thinking about life in a rural setting, deeply felt psychological insights amidst everyday life and some sharp criticisms of the society around him. All of these are sketched out in an artful prose that is extraordinary in its attention to the sensuousness and specificities of reality. As a book that has survived generations, Walden lives on in the cathedrals of American literary consciousness as a sort of moonlt gargoyle, tucked away, sitting vigil over modernity and its discontents.
200th birth anniversary
•In July 2017, as the politics of neo-nationalisms and hyper-patriotisms froths manically, America has begun to celebrate Thoreau’s bicentennial birth anniversary. For many, this is a moment of discovery. His words reveal — and not just to Americans — that it is possible to be a loving son or daughter of a nation, to be in thrall of its wilds and rivers and in admiration of its collective intelligence and spirit, and yet deny the strictures of convenient patriotisms. They also discover that more than his efforts to critique a society, it was his willingness to declare himself independent from social expectations, to live unburdened by convention, which made him a secular saint.
•Today, Thoreau is known far and wide across America. But this knowledge is hazy and is almost reluctantly remembered, much in the manner one remembers a long-forgotten cat that returns every now and then to mew in the attic of American intellectual life.
•Reading him in the month of his 200th birth anniversary, one can see what has attracted generations of readers and thinkers towards him. Thoreau emerges in our eyes as an archetype of independent thinking, a way to be free if only we had the strength and conviction to live life on our own terms.
•Schools with progressive curricula now teach their students excerpts from Walden . Whether high schoolers see in his life a quest for authentic living or merely self-indulgence is hard to tell. Over the past 200 years, however, not everybody has been welcoming of Thoreau or his influence. In early 20th century, the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes offered his curmudgeonly assessment that Thoreau was “[a] nullifier of civilization, who insisted on nibbling his asparagus at the wrong end”. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who wasn’t averse to seeing windmills for dragons, got a textbook of American literature proscribed from government-funded libraries because it contained Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience. The children, the Senator presumably feared, might learn to defy family, society and government in the name of their conscience. Today, it is fashionable in many quarters to indict Thoreau as a humourless misanthrope whose mother supposedly did his laundry!
•Few took Thoreau’s fierce commitments with an unyielding earnestness as much as Mahatma Gandhi did. As per Gandhi, Thoreau’s ‘civil disobedience’ “contained the essence of his political philosophy” A few decades later, Martin Luther King Jr. summarised Thoreau’s ideas on civil disobedience even more succinctly: “The basic aim was to refuse to cooperate with an evil system.”
•These history-changing admirers and students of his words notwithstanding, Thoreau’s loci of investigation, the site of transformative possibilities, remained the individual. Society, unlike for his contemporary Karl Marx, mattered to Thoreau only insofar as it could be used as a tool to aid the individual’s fullness of being. To this end, Thoreau’s life was dedicated towards improving his own mind and morals.
•He did so by the studying an astonishing variety of books, through an investigation of nature around him, and by understanding his own ethical commitments. All three aspects took inspiration from the religious literatures of the East, particularly India. Thanks to his neighbour and friend, the great writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau discovered the Bhagavad Gita and Samkhya Karika . These texts prodded an already sensitive young man towards a contemplative and observation-filled way of living.
•Thoreau’s willingness to see himself as a devotee of Nature’s omnipotence led him to oppose two key forces of his times: one, the expansionist instincts of America’s nascent industrial powers, and two, the overbearing omnipresence of the Christian church. The former led him to till the soil for the saplings of the anti-capitalist, deep-ecology movements that would sprout nearly a century later with Rachel Carson. As for the Church and its claims, Thoreau had little use for it.
•Nature was the one true God he worshipped and his own writings and sweat in its service were one true offering. Thoreau’s life was dedicated to discovering the world as it truly was — a world of sensations and sentiments shorn of ornament, machines, or even history. He, like the rest of us, probably didn’t succeed. But, his efforts teach us that if we wish to witness this unconcealment, a small hut by a lake can contain the world itself. We only need to learn to see it.

The exchange game

Maybe we should learn to admire and celebrate this so-called corruption in all its multi-hued glory
•Perhaps we have to start looking at ourselves a bit differently as a nation and a society. As any therapist will tell you, it helps a lot when you lose your delusions about yourself, see yourself in a different light, and start to register and process how other people see you. It’s only when you recognise your own problems and patterns that you can start to address them, to move away a bit from the internal distress those tics and traits, that repetitive behaviour, can cause. There is, of course, no ‘complete cure’ for one’s neuroses but there can at least be an attenuation, the reaching of a place from where you can manage and contain the problems.
The economy of power
•In this regard, I keep remembering something a friend pointed out many years ago. Though armed with a cosmopolitan education and a fully internationalised mind, this friend comes from a solidly rural, agricultural area and one day he asked me a simple question: “Why does everybody have a problem with corruption?”
•A slightly shocked laugh escaped me. “What? What do you mean? Corruption is bad. It rots our systems. It unfairly props up the rich and powerful. It forces the poor to stay poor, uneducated and subservient.”
•My friend was unmoved by this series of banalities. “No, I mean why do we even call it corruption? In the village, you trade and barter lots of things outside the official money economy and this thing, what we call corruption, is just our politicians and officials enacting our core nature, which is to trade whatever you have for maximum advantage. So, if you’re in a position of power, it’s completely natural that you will trade that power for some profit. This is who Indians are. It’s in your nature, whether you’re a village havaldar , a district collector, a judge in chhota court or big court, Chief Minister or Prime Minister. Other societies like tennis or badminton, we’re addicted to the thrill of the exchange game.”
•As I spluttered, my friend carried on. “And what is this strange notion the British established of corruption being bad? They founded their whole empire on the deepest corruption and then they made it illegal for us to be corrupt? Why? They leveraged what they had to gain an entire subcontinent and then to manage their little jagir they changed the rules! Why should we, as an independent country, pay any attention to their false laws and restrictions? We needed to create our own economy of power and we have. Of course it’s unfair to the poor but that’s the way life is, everywhere in the world.”
•The landscape changes depending on where you’re standing. The more you change your survey points, the better you understand a terrain. Similarly, when looking at yourself, you need to change your vantage point from time to time. So, it’s possible to look at our seventy years of Independence as a series of succeeding corruptions, or, if you like, a series of asymmetrical exchange games between different centres of power.
•Maybe we should say to ourselves: “Our nation is comprised of a million ongoing corruptions, some dying, others being born, like the cells of a human body, and that’s actually alright.” Maybe if we accept this, we wouldn’t feel so bad when this scam or that scandal is brought to light.
Shrug and carry on?
•Maybe we would just shrug and carry on, without undue guilt or self-loathing. “Oh? That billionaire got an unfair tax break for so many trillion rupees? Big deal. Happens. Chalo, aagey badho .” “ Achcha , so that Chief Minister’s name is in some bribe payment diary for so many crores? So? Big deal. What’s the cricket score?”
•Another useful shift would be that we widen the meaning of the word ‘corruption’ well beyond the narrow usage implying hera-pheri with money or land or some kind of wealth. People can also be corrupt in terms of political or religious power, without necessarily accumulating the trappings of dhan-daulat. Maybe what churns someone’s engine is not a flashy watch or fine clothes or a loaded Swiss bank account, maybe what really makes them ecstatic is watching a whole State or even a whole nation of 1.3 billion dance to their tune, jump up and down as their whims decree. Maybe that’s a thrill that money just can’t buy, or let’s say it’s one that can’t be bought only with money. Maybe partly fuelling that spiking pleasure is the knowledge that you have dealt, exchanged, lied and laughed and leveraged your way to the top of the ladder against all odds.
•Maybe we should learn to admire and celebrate this so-called corruption in all its multi-hued glory. Maybe we should study it and appreciate it fully, because this corrupt power addiction can rule over us in all sorts of guises, today using the name of Ram, tomorrow perhaps Ramrod in military fatigues, the day after under some red AK-47 flag, and the day after that under some snake-oil brand from the ‘Free Market’. Rather than fake yoga or Cow Urine Studies, maybe this is what our universities should be teaching.
Taking it in one’s stride
•Maybe we should be coaching our children in this art, pointing out the U-turns of our leaders with gasps of pleasure the way other societies point to great footballers changing direction and dribbling past opponents. Maybe we should learn to recognise and love the fact that we are a nation of conniving, duplicitous, double-dealing, back-stabbing, principle-free, ethics- mukt liars.

All lined up on the shelf

How you organise your books is both a deception and a revelation
•With summer drawing to a close, and holiday reading hopefully done, an item on most to-do lists is likely to be organising (or reorganising) our bookshelves, perhaps even whittling down our collections to fit on our limited shelf space. And since most of us hopefully are not given to tidying guru Marie Kondo’s drill, the reorganisation amounts to revisiting vital questions about our reading selves.
•For the record, here’s Kondo’s diktat from her bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up : put all your books on the floor, pick up each in your hands one by one, and see “whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it”, and thereupon decide whether you want to keep it or not. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I don’t know any reader who would find this remotely convincing.
Composing one’s self
•A more useful, and enormously thought-provoking, guide is Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price, a professor of English literature at Harvard. “To compose a bookshelf is to compose a self,” she writes in the introduction, and seeks out 13 writers to tease out clues about the self they expose through the organisation of their bookshelves. The result, captured along with lavish photographs in this 2011 publication, is an invitation variously to pry voyeuristically into these writers’ shelf space, to form a profile of their deliberative selves, and to pick up lines of questioning to interrogate ourselves.
•For instance, she asks the writer and critic Lev Grossman, “What proportion of the books that you read do you own — and what proportion of the books that you own have you read?” He doesn’t keep books that he knows he will never read, he tells her, while reckoning he’s read a “high proportion” of the books he does have. Novelist Junot Diaz, however, sets the bar rather more high. Everything he owns, he says, will eventually be read, adding: “But naturally I buy more than I can read, so there is always a hundred-book margin between what I own and what I’ve read. What is cool is that I’ve caught up a couple of times…”
•Which books on his shelves has he not allowed her to photograph, Price asks James Wood, novelist and book critic at The New Yorker . “I have a separate bookshelf for ‘unread books I want to read sometime soon,’” he replies, touching on the guilt many of us have that makes us hoard unread books in unseeable spaces.
•On a dilemma most readers or book owners have, he preaches a “generous selfishness”: do not lend a book to a friend, just give it, as “you will never get it back”. And, on another question that divides readers, he owns up not just to writing extensively in his books but also to dog-earing. Grossman may cite his book-reviewing commitments while admitting to scribbling even in first editions, but Wood says he writes notes, to-do lists, emails and phone numbers in the endpapers.
•His wife, Claire Messud, whose novels include The Emperor’s Children , is more ambivalent about owning books, likening her tendency in midlife to accumulate books to the smoker’s two-packs-a-day habit, one that is best broken for one’s well-being. She says: “At one time, collecting books that were my own, feeling I had my own intellectual and literary trajectory visible before me, seemed necessary and meaningful.” While sorting through one’s books and reading lists, this is an appraisal readers often forget about, to examine the arc of one’s life so far and identify the stretches when reading has mattered inordinately more.
•With novelist Gary Shteyngart, Price brings up another subject that divides readers: the smell of books. Shteyngart is “big on sniffing books”, saying the old Soviet ones remind him of “tomato soup in a cheap Soviet cafeteria”. (He was born in Leningrad.)
•There is, of course, a faint suspicion of being witness to a well-considered performance as these writers run through their organising principles for their libraries, their rough-and-ready tips on giving, receiving, lending books, their neat lists of their top 10 books, their capsules of their reading evolution. Ask a friend or the next person at the checkout desk at your library about any of this, and chances are the answer will not come in such a coherent whole. But then that is the biggest deception, isn’t it, to think that one’s reading self can be so cohesively profiled? So, as Kondo suggests, do put all your books on the floor — but only to place them right back on the shelves to find not how each gives you a thrill, but how the process of reassembling helps you know yourself a bit more.

A new mission for Mr. Modi

India’s drinking water crisis is nearing flashpoint
•I wouldn’t be surprised if Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels that he is running out of things to do at the moment. After all, the economy is ticking along nicely, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been rolled out, the Nifty has crossed the 10,000-point mark, Uttar Pradesh is won, Bihar is done and dusted, Rajya Sabha majority is pretty much in the bag and even the Gujarat wobble seems like getting sorted before the next election there. So, what next?
•He might want to turn his attention to a problem which tends to get ignored by policymakers and planners in general, and disappears from the political radar with the first sign of good rains — water.
•The problem is underfoot, literally, and hence out of mind. India is running out of water resources — principally groundwater resources — at an alarming rate. According to a recent study by the American Geophysical Union, the upper Ganges basin — home to more than half of India’s population — could run out of groundwater resources by 2050.
Wastage of rainwater
•It is not as if this is because India doesn’t get enough rain. India’s average annual rainfall is over 1,100 mm. But studies estimate that of the total available water, more than a quarter is lost to just evaporation and run-off losses. Less than a fifth of the rainwater actually gets used — nearly half simply flows out to the sea. The infrastructure to trap and conserve this rainwater either doesn’t exist or is so poorly maintained that capacities are usually a third to a half more than what is actually available.
•With growing urbanisation putting an ever-increasing pressure on the already creaky infrastructure, the problem is fast getting out of hand. According to statistics tabled by the Urban Development Ministry, in India’s six largest cities, water supply ranges from a low of half an hour per day in Hyderabad to a high of nine hours per day in Kolkata. But due to ramshackle infrastructure, most of this is lost in leakage. Consumption is still pretty low — averaging between 78 to 116 litres per capita per day. At least 22 of India’s 32 biggest cities face acute water shortage, with Jamshedpur, with a demand-supply gap of 70%, being the worst hit.
•With civic administrations failing to deliver, private enterprise has stepped in. Tanker supply has taken the place of piped water supply. And since almost all of this tanker water is tapped from groundwater sources, this has meant tremendous strain on groundwater resources. India extracts an estimated 257 cubic km of water from the ground every year — more than the U.S. and China combined.
•In peri-urban India, this has meant an alarming drop in water tables. In south India, which has perennially battled weak monsoons and consequent water shortages, an explosion of groundwater extraction has driven the water deeper into the ground, with nearly 30% of available groundwater accessible only at depths of more than 60 metres. In Chennai, for instance, where over 100 million litres of water per day is sourced by the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply Board, the city’s water utility, from farms and deep borewells, this is leading to rising conflict between urban and peri-urban and rural populations over water, with farmers from areas surrounding Chennai taking to the streets in protest.
•Meanwhile, policies lag behind by decades. The biggest thrust of governments remains on developing surface irrigation infrastructure, despite the known inefficiencies of this system. In unlined irrigation canals, the loss through seepage and evaporation is 40% — and this is before the water even reaches the field. And, in the field, most Indian farmers still prefer traditional watering systems of full flooding or border or furrow flooding, where another 40% of the water gets lost. In fact, though India nominally uses 83% of available water for irrigation and only 5% for domestic consumption, infrastructure issues and usage inefficiencies mean that both urban and rural water consumers face acute shortages, and see each other as the villains.
Rainwater harvesting
•The solution is simple. We need a two-pronged approach to solving our water crisis. One, we need to change our focus away from building more inefficient large dams and wasteful irrigation projects and towards conserving the rainfall bounty we get through rainwater harvesting techniques.
•Two, we need to improve efficiencies in agriculture. A mere 10% improvement in irrigation efficiency can solve the drinking water problem of our cities. And the technology is already available. Micro and drip irrigation, with the help of sensor-based technologies, can raise efficiency in water usage to up to 90%. Along with this, we need to rationalise water pricing. Water is badly mispriced in India, with neither the agricultural, industrial or urban consumers paying anything like a realistic price for water.
•This is where the Prime Minister comes into the picture. Only he has the ability to sell a grand vision, the political muscle to cut through differences between the Centre and the States and the focus to actually deliver outcomes in a finite time frame. And this needs to be done in mission mode. Now.

England’s mental health experiment

Sparks global interest in its goal of a primary care system for all of Britain
•England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.
•The rapidly growing initiative, which has got little publicity outside the country, offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country: in remote farming villages, industrial suburbs, isolated immigrant communities and high-end enclaves. The goal is to eventually create a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.
•At a time when many nations are debating large-scale reforms to mental health care, researchers and policymakers are looking hard at England’s experience, sizing up both its popularity and its limitations. Mental health-care systems vary widely across the Western world, but none has gone nearly so far to provide open-ended access to talk therapies backed by hard evidence. Experts say the English programme is the first broad real-world test of treatments that have been studied mostly in carefully controlled lab conditions.
•The demand in the first several years has been so strong it has strained the programme’s resources. According to the latest figures, the programme now screens nearly 1 million people a year, and the number of adults in England who have recently received some mental health treatment has jumped to 1 in 3 from 1 in 4 and is expected to continue to grow.
•Mental health professionals also say the programme has gone a long way to shrink the stigma of psychotherapy in a nation culturally steeped in stoicism.
•“You now actually hear young people say, ‘I might go and get some therapy for this,’” said Dr. Tim Kendall, clinical director for mental health for the National Health Service. “You’d never, ever hear people in this country say that out in public before.”
•A recent widely shared video of three popular royals — Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge — discussing the importance of mental health care and the princes’ struggles after their mother’s death is another sign of the country’s growing openness about treatment.
What data shows
•The enormous amount of data collected through the programme has shown the importance of a quick response after a person’s initial call and of a triage-like screening system in deciding a course of treatment. It will potentially help researchers and policymakers around the world to determine which reforms can work — and which most likely will not.
•“It’s not just that they’re enhancing access to care, but that they’re being accountable for the care that’s delivered,” said Karen Cohen, chief executive of the Canadian Psychological Association, which has been advocating a similar system in Canada. “That is what makes the effort so innovative and extraordinary.”
•The programme began in 2008, with $40 million from Gordon Brown’s Labour government. It set up 35 clinics covering about one-fifth of England and trained 1,000 working therapists, social workers, graduates in psychology and others.
•The programme has continued to expand through three governments, both ideologically left and right leaning, with a current budget of about $500 million that is expected to double over the coming few years.
•Patients also do simple, real-world experiments, to see if feared consequences materialise.
•The biggest challenges may be those created by runaway demand. Therapists are booked solid; some are juggling 25 clients at a time, and the line to get in the door is long, creating the same complaints about waiting lists that the National Health Service has for many medical services and procedures.NYT

Indian IT supports 4.5 lakh RCEP jobs

The sector, however, faces issues due to curbs on movement of professionals for short-term work
•Indian IT-Business Process Management (BPM) sector is supporting close to half a million jobs in 15 Asia-Pacific nations that are in negotiations for a mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
•This is in addition to the sector accounting for 3.5 million jobs in India — which is also part of the proposed mega FTA, officially known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving, thereby, a total of 16 Asia-Pacific countries.
•However, the Indian IT-BPM industry — despite supporting so many jobs and investing billions of (U.S.) dollars in the RCEP region – has been facing a host of problems, including restrictions on movement of professionals for short-term work, according to industry body Nasscom.
•This was stated by Nasscom in a presentation made by its senior director (global trade development), Gagan Sabharwal on July 25 before a gathering of the RCEP industry groups. The trade negotiators were later shown some highlights of the presentation.
•The RCEP technical-level negotiations were held during July 18-28 in Hyderabad, where India made a strong pitch for liberalisation of services, including norms to ease temporary movement of professionals across borders.
•The Nasscom presentation showed the Indian IT-BPM sector supported 4.54 lakh jobs in 15 RCEP countries (excluding India) and made investments worth “several thousand millions of (U.S.) dollars across the (RCEP) region.”
•Of the 4.54 lakh jobs, 1.72 lakh (or about 38%) were direct jobs while 2.82 lakh (or about 62%) were indirect jobs.
‘Several restrictions’
•Nasscom, however, pointed out the Indian IT-BPM sector was subjected to several restrictions in the RCEP region on temporary movement of professionals.
•These included trouble in getting visas (Singapore), increase in minimum salary levels for foreign short-term workers (Singapore and Australia), mandatory police clearances and hike in visa costs (Australia), lack of country-wide validity of visas (China), job quotas (Indonesia), requirement of legalised marriage certificates (Philippines).
•It further said the “irritants” for business visa travellers included the requirement of minimum bank balance (Philippines), very short-duration single entry visas (China), requirement of original invite letter with certificate of incorporation of the invitee (Japan), mandatory work permit for stay of over 15 days (Indonesia).
•On the suggestions from the Indian IT-BPM industry regarding the broad contours of an “RCEP Services Visa / Work Permit’, Nasscom said visa or work permit should be given to skilled resources for short duration (up to 3-5 years) for all intra-company related movement. There should be time-bound fast-track immigration clearance and easier expat registration, it said.
•There should be no conditions including caps, quotas, levies and charges, it said, and argued against onerous measures such as certifications from end-consumer.
•Also, there should not be any requirement of contribution to the host social security regime if the applicant shows proof of continuing association with the home country regime, the apex body said.

IGIB researchers rein in cancer cells

Controlling the level of telomerase can probably prevent cancer metastasis
•Researchers at Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have found the mechanism by which controlling the levels of telomerase can help in reining in the growth of cancer cells and probably prevent cancer metastasis. The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
•Unlike normal cells, most cancer cells have high levels of telomerase and this leads to more than normal length of the telomere. Telomeres protect chromosome ends somewhat like the plastic clips at the end of shoelaces that prevent fraying of the ends. While cells die when the telomere becomes shorter beyond a certain limit, in the case of cancer cells the length of the telomere is maintained thereby ensuring extended life span of the cells.
•In normal cells the telomerase is kept under tight control. But in about 85% of all cancers the telomerase levels are more than normal leading to malignant transformation and aggressive metastasis in many cases. “It is not clearly understood how telomerase is kept under tight control in normal cells and how the telomerase levels gets increased in cancerous cells,” says Dr. Shantanu Chowdhury from the Genomics and Molecular Medicine Unit at IGIB and the corresponding author of the paper.
•It is already known that when the amount of a particular protein that suppresses the spread of cancer (metastasis) called nonmetastatic 2 (NME2) is high the tendency of the cancer to spread is low. But what came as a surprise is the role of this protein in controlling the telomerase levels as well. “How NME2 controls metastasis is not clearly understood. But surprisingly we found that NME2 controls the levels of telomerase,” Dr. Chowdhury says.
The mechanism
•The researchers found that NME2 binds to a DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) found in the telomerase promoter. Once bound, the NME2 facilitates a well known suppressor of gene expression (REST complex) to bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase.
•“Experiments show that if you don’t have NME2 then the REST suppressor cannot bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase,” says Dhurjhoti Saha from IGIB and one of the first authors of the paper.
•“We used proteomics approach to study the protein-protein interactions. We could identify protein members of the REST complex that interact with NME2. The IGIB team then confirmed the role of the REST complex and its function,” says Dr. Ramesh Ummanni, from the Centre for Chemical Biology at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad and a co-author of the paper.
Drug target
•“We established that the DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) could be a possible drug target once we understood the mechanism of NME2 binding to the promoter followed by the REST suppressor complex,” Dr. Chowdhury says. The involvement of a DNA structural architecture allowed the team to use small molecules that recognised the specific structure.
•Since the amount of NME2 is low in many metastatic cancerous cells, the researchers used small molecules that were able to function like NME2 by recognising and binding to the DNA structure. “We screened 20 molecules and 11 were able to bring down the telomerase level in fibrosarcoma cancer cells,” Dr. Chowdhury says.
•Based on the initial lead from the small molecules, the researchers are planning to synthesise new molecules to optimise for drug-like characteristics for therapeutic use. The molecules will then be tested on animals.

J.D. Hooker, Indian plants and the unexplored Himalayas

We should pause and reflect on the current status of the documentation of India’s amazing plant wealth
•Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, one of the greatest explorers of the nineteenth century, and the closest friend of Charles Darwin, was 32 years old when, in 1849, he visited the then remote kingdom of Sikkim in the Eastern Himalaya. Over a two-year period, he travelled widely in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya and described over 3,000 species of plants for the tiny state of Sikkim, 7,096 square kilometre in size.
•After Hooker returned to England he went on to write, over a 25-year period, the seven-volume Flora of the British India —the first and still the only authoritative account of the plants of the vast sub-continent. June 30, this year, marked Hooker’s 200th birth anniversary.
•While celebrating the bicentenary of Hooker’s birth and his enormous contribution to the documentation of biodiversity in one of the hottest global hotspots of biodiversity, we should pause and reflect on the current status of the documentation of India’s amazing plant wealth, the pace of global environmental change that is impacting this plant wealth, and the prospects for sustainability in the Himalaya, particularly the Eastern Himalaya, where Hooker conducted his most notable studies that led to the compilation of the flora of a vast region.
•It is questionable if the pace of cataloguing life in India or South Asia has advanced very much since Hooker’s time. The descriptions of many plant genera on which Hooker worked still remain incomplete. Hooker, for example, wrote to Charles Darwin about the taxonomic status of Impatiens: “I took down the most difficult genus of Indian plants I could think of to work at:—viz. Impatiens of which there are just 100 Indian species! I have made the first draft of a monograph of them…” (J.D. Hooker to Charles Darwin, December 2, 1857: Since the pioneering work of Hooker, species of Impatiens from the entire Himalaya or India have not been fully catalogued.
•Hooker’s exploration of the Indian sub-continent was very limited. He could visit only a small part of the huge sub-continent. In present-day India alone, the genus Impatiens, for example, is now known to contain more than twice the 100 or so species estimated by Hooker: the British India at the time of Hooker included Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. New species of Impatiens from the Himalaya are being described every now and then. Thus, further work is necessary to fully document India’s incredible diversity of plants, especially from the unexplored regions of the Eastern Himalaya.
Stupendous effort
•It is interesting that Hooker single-handedly organised the effort to write the flora of a sub-continent, extraordinarily rich in species. British India at Hooker’s time perhaps had more than 25,000 species of flowering plants. Hooker described about 16,000 of these species. With modern digital and other tools, and a sound infrastructure for field work that Hooker could not dream of, Indian scientists have a great opportunity to complete Hooker’s unfinished task, and to produce a complete, modern authenticated list of India’s plants.
•The neglect of plant exploration in India, particularly in the Eastern Himalaya, where Hooker began his professional career, is ironic. The Eastern Himalaya, along with Hengduan Mountains, matches the Andes that include the lowlands of South America, as among the world’s richest centres of plant diversity. There are thousands of economically important species, many such as rhododendrons, orchids, poppies, primroses and, of course, Hooker’s balsams (Impatiens) of immense horticultural significance. Many species remain to be discovered: despite the lack of systematic exploration, from 1998 to 2014, according to the World Wildlife Fund, India, 375 species of new plants were discovered in the Indian part of the Eastern Himalaya.
Changing landscape
•At the same time, the Himalaya is changing rapidly. When Hooker visited Darjeeling and Sikkim, he writes in his Himalayan Journals that he could see dense forests all around him. These forests now exist as a patchwork of fragments, and are threatened by a host of factors such as expanding populations, infrastructure development (roads and hydropower) and climate change.
•There is thus an urgent need to conserve remaining biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services, particularly in the light of a recent report about the world wide “annihilation” of the biological world, also termed as the sixth mass extinction. Our country, for instance, has lost more than 50% of the populations of many of our large mammals.
•This decimation of life is particularly ironic when many species are yet to be discovered, and when the evidence is mounting that nature provides us with a host of economic benefits that we had not thought of before. Take for example a recent, widely publicised, study that shows that economic flows from six selected tiger reserves range from US$128 million to US$271 million per year.
•A commitment to fully document the richness and the value of life in the Himalaya for the benefit of our society might be the best way to celebrate the birth anniversary of one of the greatest plant explorers of the world.
•Kamal Bawa is Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the President of the Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). R Ganesan is a Fellow at ATREE. The views expressed are their own.
Tackling obesity in mice
•A study published in Cell identified two new populations of cells in the brain that regulate appetite and may help develop drugs to treat obesity by controlling hunger signals.
•Researchers located through whole-brain imaging, the two types of cells in a part of the brainstem called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) that becomes activated in hungry mice.
•Subsequent imaging of other mice that were fed more than their normal amount of food, until they were full, revealed a different pattern of DRN activity. These results indicated that neurons in that part of the brain played a role in feeding behaviour.
•They then determined which of the neurons were involved.
•Genetic analysis of the activated cells showed that the neurons triggered by a full belly released glutamate, while the neurons triggered by hunger released a different neurotransmitter, known as GABA.
•Researchers were able to turn on the glutamate-releasing cells in obese mice. This suppressed the animals’ food intake and made them lose weight. It also confirmed that the DRN neurons turned on by hunger did indeed drive food intake.
•Similarly, flipping on the GABA-releasing neurons in the same part of the brain had the opposite effect and increased food intake.
•Turning on the “hunger neurons” automatically turned off the “satiety neurons,” maximising the effect, researchers said.

A device to test infants’ field of vision

Accurate quantification now possible
•An advanced device to measure the field of vision of infants has been developed by scientists at L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. The device, named pediatric perimeter, can be used to test the eyesight of infants between two and 12 months. Currently, there is no specific perimeter device to measure the field of vision in infants. As a result, most of the eye defects arising during infancy get detected only in adulthood.
•The pediatric perimeter helps to measure the area of vision and also the reaction time of infants. The innovation was recently published in Translational Vision Science and Technology.
•Most doctors and optometrists use a crude way of assessing visual fields by bringing bright toys from the side of the eye to the centre and see if the infant is attracted.
•While there is no accurate quantification when such methods are employed, the use of pediatric perimeter addresses this shortcoming. Besides infants, the device can also be used on patients with special needs where testing using conventional perimeters is not possible.
Testing method
•The device consists of a hemispherical dome fitted with LEDs in all directions which are controlled using a computer program. The infant is placed inside the dome in the lying down position. The baby’s eye and head movements when the LED is switched on randomly are monitored by an infrared camera mounted on the top of the dome. The test takes only 6-10 minutes .The reaction time (time taken for the infant to look at the LED after it is switched on) measured helps identifying infants with developmental delay — healthy infants react within 380 milliseconds and those with developmental delay took 663 milliseconds.
•To measure the area of vision, the LED was switched along the dome starting from the left and right sides to the centre, and also from front to back. The infants gaze was monitored by the camera and the degree of eye movements along with the reaction time was calculated to identify visual field defects. Many neurological factors can cause impairments in the vision of an infant.
•The device was validated using adults with normal vision and those with glaucoma and retinal defects.
•“The device is the result of collaborative effort of optometrists, ophthalmologists, engineers and designers from all over the world at Srujana Center for Innovation at the institute,” says Mr. Koteswararao Chillakala, Embedded Systems Engineer from the Srujana Centre for Innovation at L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad in an e-mail to The Hindu.
•“Few patients with squint eye realise their visual field defect only when they come for cosmetic correction. It is therefore essential to test infants and address their visual defects as early as possible,” explains Dr. PremNandhini Satgunam, Associate Research Optometrist at L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad.

Daily Current Affairs 30th July,2017

1) DRDO develops India’s first unmanned tank ‘Muntra’
•Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed India’s first unmanned tank, which has three variants – surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance in areas with nuclear and bio threats. It is called Muntra (Mission UNmanned TRAcked) and has been rolled out of the Chennai lab.
•The tanks will facilitate Indian Armed forces in conducting unmanned surveillance missions. Muntra-S has been developed for unmanned surveillance missions, whereas Muntra-M is built for detecting mines. Muntra-N will be deployed in areas where nuclear radiation or bio weapon risk is high.
2) Care Companion Programme is a Health Scheme Launched in Punjab
Care Companion Program
•The state govt. of Punjab has launched ‘Care Companion Programme’ is a Healthcare Scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to promote better health status in the state. The program will disseminate across the state through better family engagement and education.
•Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab has entered into an memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Noora Health India Trust, is a healthcare NGO that have fully dedicated to patients care. This NGO will spread awareness program as a caretaker education that works to improve patient health outcomes under the award winning Care Companion Program (CCP).
3) United Nation’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons: 30 July
•The United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2017 is observed across the world on 30 July. This year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) selected ‘Act to Protect and Assist Trafficked Persons’ as the focus of the Day.
•The theme emphasizes one of the most pressing issues of the large mixed migration movements of refugees and migrants. The day aims at raising awareness of the plight of human trafficking victims, and promoting and protecting their rights.
4) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi declared as interim Pakistan Prime Minister
•The ruling Pakistan Muslim League has selected Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be the interim prime minister of Pakistan.
•Nawaz Sharif had recently resigned as Pakistan Prime Minister after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office. The court disqualified Sharif under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
5) Shiva, Manoj , 3 other strike Gold at Czech Boxing Tournament
•Indian boxers packed quite a heavy punch at the 48th Grand Prix Usti Nad Labem, clinching five gold, two silver and one bronze medal at the event in the Czech Republic.
•World Championships bronze-medallist Shiva Thapa in 60 kg, former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Manoj Kumar in 69 kg, Amit Phangal in 52 kg, Gaurav Bidhuri in 56 kg and Satish Kumar in +91 kg category claimed gold medals after winning their respective summit clashes last night.
•Kavinder Bisht in 52 kg and Manish Panwar in 81 kg settled for silver medals. Earlier, Sumit Sangwan had claimed a bronze in 91 kg category after going down in the semifinals.
6) PV Sindhu has appointed as a Group-I officer in AP
pv sindhu, N. Chandrababu Naidu, andhra pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, andhra pradesh, badminton, sports news, indian express
•Rio Olympic medallist PV Sindhu was honoured with the post of Group-I officer in Hyderabad as the Andra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu presented her with the appointment letter on Thursday.
•After presenting her with the appointment letter, the Chief Minister uploaded a picture of the ceremony and tweeted, “Issued an appointment order to @Pvsindhu1 for the post of Group-1 officer. Hopeful that she’ll bring more laurels to the country.”
•To that, Sindhu replied “Thank you for supporting me sir! I will work hard to bring more laurels to the country.”

The Hindu Notes 29th July 2017

Scientists set sail to unlock secrets of lost continent

Investigation of samples taken by drilling into rock will help discover how Zealandia has behaved over millions of years
•Scientists are attempting to unlock the secrets of the “lost continent” of Zealandia, setting sail on Friday to investigate the huge underwater landmass east of Australia that has never been properly studied.
•Zealandia, which is mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific, was once part of the Gondwana super-continent but broke away some 75 million years ago.
•In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s Journal GSA Today in February, researchers made the case that it should be considered a new continent.
•They said it was a distinct geological entity that met all the criteria applied to Earth’s other continents, including elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.
Large landmass
•Covering five million square kilometres, it extends from south of New Zealand northward to New Caledonia and west to the Kenn Plateau off Australia’s east.
•Drill ship Joides Resolution will recover sediments and rocks lying deep beneath the seabed in a bid to discover how the region has behaved over the past tens of millions of years.
•The recovered cores will be studied onboard, allowing scientists to address issues such as oceanographic history, extreme climates, sub-seafloor life, plate tectonics and earthquake-generating zones. Co-chief scientist Jerry Dickens, from Rice University in Texas, said the region was a vital area to study changes in global climate.
•“As Australia moved north and the Tasman Sea developed, global circulation patterns changed and water depths over Zealandia fluctuated,” he said. “This region was important in influencing global changes.”
•Australian National University’s Neville Exon said the two-month expedition would also help better understand major changes in the global tectonic configuration that started about 53 million years ago.
•This is around the time that the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for volcanoes and earthquakes, came into existence.
Hidden from view
•In the February scientific paper, lead author Nick Mortimer said experts had been gathering data to make the case for Zealandia being a continent for more than 20 years.
•But their efforts had been frustrated because most of it was hidden beneath the waves.
•“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent,” he said.

Building block of life found on Saturn’s largest moon

Researchers analyse data on Titan from the Cassini mission
•An important building block of life has been discovered in the hazy upper atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Using data from the Cassini mission, scientists identified negatively charged molecules called ‘carbon chain anions’ in the atmosphere of Titan.
•These linear molecules are understood to be building blocks towards more complex molecules, and may have acted as the basis for the earliest forms of life on Earth, scientists said.
•The discovery of the carbon chain anions is surprising because they are highly reactive and should not last long in Titan’s atmosphere before combining with other materials.
Hazy atmosphere
•It is completely reshaping current understanding of the hazy moon’s atmosphere, they said.
•The detections were made using Cassini spacecraft’s plasma spectrometer, called CAPS, as it flew through Titan’s upper atmosphere, 950 – 1,300 kilometres above the surface.
•The data shows that the carbon chains become depleted closer to the moon, while precursors to larger aerosol molecules undergo rapid growth. This suggests a close relationship between the two, with the carbon chains ‘seeding’ the larger molecules that are thought to fall down to, and deposit on, the surface.
•“We have made the first unambiguous identification of carbon chain anions in a planet-like atmosphere, which we believe are a vital stepping stone in the production line of growing bigger, and more complex organic molecules, such as the moon’s large haze particles,” said Ravi Desai, a PhD student at University College London.
•“This is a known process in the interstellar medium — the large molecular clouds from which stars themselves form — but now we have seen it in a completely different environment, meaning it could represent a universal process for producing complex organic molecules,” said Desai, lead author of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters .
Exoplanet possibility
•“The question is, could it also be happening at other nitrogen-methane atmospheres like at Pluto or Triton, or at exoplanets with similar properties?” he said.
•Titan boasts a thick nitrogen and methane atmosphere with some of the most complex chemistry seen in the solar system.
•It is even thought to mimic the atmosphere of early Earth, before the build-up of oxygen.

Fight against terror, BRICS told

Meets Chinese President Xi Jinping along with other NSAs
•National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has called upon the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping to exercise international leadership in countering terrorism, in tune with the growing role of the emerging economies in setting the global agenda. During his opening remarks on Friday at the seventh BRICS meeting of National Security Advisers, Mr. Doval, without referring to any country, urged the BRICS countries “to show leadership in countering terrorism.”
•He also advocated that the five emerging economies should work towards setting the agenda “on strategic issues of regional and global importance.” Later, accompanied by the security chiefs of other BRICS members, Mr. Doval called on Chinese President Xi Jinping.
•Mr. Xi, in his address to the BRICS NSAs, praised them for building a mutual trust and cooperation among the member nations.
•Though the meeting was meant to iron out the security agenda of the BRICS summit, slated for September, Mr. Doval’s call on Mr. Xi acquired a bilateral context in view of the Doklam face-off.
Doval wants BRICS to fight terrorism
•Though the meeting was meant to iron out the security agenda of the BRICS summit, slated for September, Mr. Doval’s call on Mr. Xi, acquired a sharp bilateral context, in view of the on-going military face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam plateau area.
•President Xi said that having successfully completed its first 10 years, the BRICS in the coming decade can focus on three areas: security communication and coordination, financial cooperation as well as cultural exchanges. He added that these three aspects should guide the BRICS mechanism, to enable the stable growth of the five emerging economies.
•Mr. Doval, in his earlier remarks, proposed that the BRICS should pull its collective weight in shaping the international system, by pointing out that the grouping had grown in “global significance over the years.”
•“It is natural we should hold a BRICS forum to discuss security issues that impact global peace and stability.” Along with seeking common ground on major security threats with its emerging economy partners, India also appeared simultaneously engaged in resolving military tensions with China, during Mr. Doval’s visit.
Contradictory ties
•The contradictory relationship, where collaboration co-exists with serious differences, was evident when Mr. Doval met with China’s State Councillor Yang Jichei on Thursday evening.
•The Xinhua news agency reported that in the three separate meetings that he held with the visiting NSAs, Mr. Yang exchanged views on “bilateral relations, international and regional issues and multilateral affairs, and set forth China’s position on bilateral issues and major problems.”

SC rejects abortion plea of 10-year-old

It would be in the interest of neither the rape victim nor foetus, says court; calls for State-level boards to hear urgent cases
•A 10-year-old rape victim has been left with no choice but to continue with her pregnancy after a medical panel informed the Supreme Court on Friday that an abortion will endanger both the girl and her 32-week-old foetus.
•On July 24, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar had directed doctors from P.G.I., Chandigarh, to medically examine the girl and file a report in court on whether the “health of the girl child concerned, who is stated to be of the age of 10 years, and also that of the foetus, would be adversely affected, if the pregnancy is continued for the full term”.
•In a short hearing, the court perused the report filed by the doctors in a sealed cover and denied permission for an abortion.
•“In view of the reasons recorded, it would neither be in interest of the girl child nor her foetus of 32 weeks to order abortion,” the court observed.
Permanent boards
•But the Bench went on to urge the government, represented by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, to consider setting up permanent medical boards across the States so that women, especially child rape victims, could receive expedient access to medical care.
•The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark. An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby.
•Presently, women are forced to undertake the cumbersome process of approaching different courts, from district courts to high courts and finally the Supreme Court, for permission to medically terminate their pregnancies which are over 20 weeks.
•The frequent number of such cases which have come to the Supreme Court range from child rape victims to destitute women to women with substantial foetus abnormalities.
•“In all such cases, time is very short. We are considering those cases under Article 142 (orders passed by the apex court to do complete justice). Can a permanent medical board be set up at State-level to examine the cases till the Bill is pending for amendment into the law?” the Bench asked Mr. Kumar.
Amendment pending
•An amended Bill of the 1971 law which extends the bar from 20 to 24 weeks has been in the cold storage for the past three years. This draft Bill allows women, whose pregnancies are within 24 weeks, reproductive rights in consultation with their medical practitioners. The draft Bill also allows abortion beyond 24 weeks in case the foetus suffers from substantial abnormalities.
•As of now, women who have crossed the 20-week limit need a judicial order to even get medically examined on their plea for abortion.
•In the case of the 10-year-old, a Chandigarh district court had refused to let the victim undergo abortion on July 18.
Time lost
•Subsequently, the PIL petition by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava for medical termination of her pregnancy was urgently mentioned in the Supreme Court on July 21. The child was medically examined only on July 26 on the orders of the apex court. She was allegedly raped by her maternal uncle. An FIR has been registered.

Most private hospitals evade tax: CAG

No process to track non-filers in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Delhi, says report
•A performance audit of India’s private hospitals has revealed that a majority of the institutions is evading tax. The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), released on Friday, pointed out that data on ‘non-filers’ of income tax was available only in three states — West Bengal, Assam and Gujarat.
•The auditors found that Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu had no process of identifying hospitals that were evading tax.
•“The detailed list of non-filers along with action taken thereof could be furnished in respect of West Bengal, Assam and Gujarat only, where out of 18,333 cases, Income-Tax Department had closed 3,627 cases and the remaining 14,706 cases were “under verification/action pending” or were yet to be closed. Audit found that no such process of identification on non-filers through a monitoring system existed in Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu,” the audit said.
•The private sector accounts for 80% of out patient care and 60% of in patient care in the country. According to State-wide data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the health sector attracted Foreign Direct Investment of Rs. 23, 169.91 crore between April 2000 and September 2016. Yet, the report states that most private hospitals and practitioners did not submit valid Permanent Account Numbers (PAN).
•In West Bengal, out of 19,822 registered practitioners, PAN registration of only 4,849 cases could be traced.
Unjustified exemptions
•In Maharashtra, a study of charitable hospitals — that avail a tax exemption — found that private hospitals availed “unjustified exemptions” amounting to Rs. 249.66 crore involving a revenue impact of Rs. 77.14 crore.
•On the basis of data from Charity Commissioner in Mumbai, the CAG analysed 10 trust hospitals and found that none of them fulfilled the conditions of Bombay Public Trust Act. “Bed occupancy in eight out of 10 hospitals was less than the mandated 10% for weaker sections,” the report added.

CAG spots weaknesses in missile defence system

70% scanners in Air Force bases are ‘non-functional’
•The strategic missile system, a medium range supersonic surface to air missile system to counter aerial threats were “deficient in quality”, according to a report tabled by the Comptroller and Auditor General in Parliament on Friday.
•Over 70% of the under vehicle scanners (UVS) installed at Indian Air Force (IAF) bases were non-functional, the report said. It also said that the IL series of aircraft, which provides vital transport support to the IAF during contingencies, “has not been upgraded, and continue to fly with 1985 vintage avionics”.
•The report comes amid increased threat perception to defence installations in the wake of terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.
•The IAF in February said that out of the 57 UVS systems, 52 had been installed and only five were yet to be installed.
•However, 35 systems still remained in “unserviceable condition”.
Not enhanced
•“Even as on February 2017, over 70% of the procured UVS systems were not functioning or were uninstalled. Thus the security systems procured at a cost of Rs. 17.09 crore could not be utilised fully for the security of the air bases even after about five years. Besides, the security of the air bases could not be enhanced as envisaged,” the report said.
•“Strategic missile system is vital for the country’s air defence and deterrence capability. Audit found that the system delivered by Bharat Electricals Limited was deficient in quality,” the report added.

‘Scheme for banks not applied as envisaged’

Recapitalisation norms not met: CAG
•The Centre’s ‘Indradhanush’ scheme to recapitalise public sector banks (PSBs) based on their performance was not implemented in a manner envisaged, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)
•According to the CAG report tabled in Parliament on Friday, as per the scheme, a portion of the recapitalisation was to be based on the bank’ performance. However, this was not followed during disbursal of funds.
Rising NPAs
•The CAG report said gross NPAs with PSBs had risen sharply in recent years, from Rs. 2.27 lakh crore as of March 31, 2014 to about Rs. 5.4 lakh crore at the end of March 2016.
•The parameters used to determine whether banks required capital changed from year to year and in some years the rationale for capitalising banks was not even recorded. The audit report said the scheme’s target of raising Rs. 1.1 lakh crore from the markets by 2018-19 was not likely to be met.
•“Audit noticed that the estimation of the parameters based on which capital was infused altered from year to year and often within different tranches of the same year,” the report, an audit of bank recapitalisation efforts by the government between 2008-09 and 2016-17, found.
•“Audit also noticed that in some cases the rationale for distribution of GOI capital among different PSBs (Public Sector Banks) was not on record.”
•The report added that said some banks that did not qualify for additional capital as per the decided norms, were infused with capital, and in some cases, banks were infused with more capital than required.

Centre seeks inputs on trade, industrial policies, services

Academia has to do research in emerging areas: Sitharaman
•Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday sought inputs from the academia on three topics — Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) review, the proposed revamp of manufacturing and industrial policies and India’s proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on services sector liberalisation.
•Delivering the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), Ms. Sitharaman said she would like to receive inputs from the students and faculty as soon as possible on the FTP 2015-20 so that a comprehensively reviewed FTP can be released by September.
•In the backdrop of the Centre working on a new manufacturing and industrial policy to increase the contribution of the manufacturing sector in the country’s GDP to 25% by 2020 from the current level of about 16%, the Minister said as the (global) Industrial Revolution 4.0 is happening, the country needs more research on this emerging area showing how Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) will impact India’s manufacturing and services.
•It is learnt that India’s new manufacturing and industrial policies will bring manufacturing and services closer to ensure an increase in the contribution of services to manufacturing. Since India is already a part of many ‘global value chains’, the two new policies will aim to make India a global manufacturing hub in items including textile, pharmaceuticals and electronics. The Centre is working on these new policies to align the current manufacturing policy (of 2011) and the industrial policy (of 2009) with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that includes AI, robotics and IoT.
TFS pact
•Referring to India’s proposal at the WTO on a Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement for easing norms, including on movement of foreign professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work, Ms. Sitharaman said during a recent visit to the WTO headquarters, she was informed that the TFS proposal was gaining traction. She said, therefore, the Centre for WTO Studies at the IIFT and others from the academia should contribute on what more can India do in the area of global services trade.
•In her address, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said, “India needs to generate good quality manpower in large numbers at all stages of the knowledge pyramid if it has to become globally competitive in the manufacturing sector.” She said many policy-level challenges have retarded growth in the manufacturing sector in India.
•These include, among others, difficult business environment, infrastructural constraints, including peak power deficit, labour market limitations including a surfeit of labour legislation(s) and trade unionism as well as the difficulty in availing commercial bank credit particularly for small firms.
•Earlier, Ms. Sitharaman said a new campus of IIFT will be opened soon in Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh).

‘Regulators shouldn’t restrain innovation’

Sandbox approach needed to help nurture fintech: Kant
•India’s financial sector regulators should stop hindering ideas in the financial technology sector and instead opt for a regulatory sandbox approach to nurture innovative financial technology applications, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said on Friday.
•“It is very important that we allow technology to move forward and the regulators don’t become restrictors, which very often they do, but become facilitators and creators,” Mr. Kant said, stressing that the role of India’s regulators needed to evolve as they often became restrictors of growth.
•A regulatory sandbox is an experimental oversight mechanism for innovative products and services that do not fall into an existing regulatory regime or cut across traditional regulators’ domains. Such innovations are permitted to operate for a limited period of time at a limited scale to understand their efficacy and implications, so that the best alternatives for regulation can be evolved based on concerns that emerge.
‘Consumer-centric lens’
•“The sandbox needs to be designed to adopt this unified consumer-centric lens through a single integrated sandbox, serving all four financial sector regulators… technology will always be ahead of regulation,” said Mr. Kant, speaking at a CII event on making India a global fintech hub.
•He was referring to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).
•“The (sandbox) option can be a great way to unlock innovations for mass public adoption, because a regulatory sandbox balances the twin objectives of nurturing financial innovation and safeguarding consumer interests,” the Niti Aayog CEO said.
•Stressing that there are over 600 start-ups in the country in the financial technology (fintech) space, Mr. Kant said that letting them operate in a ‘live, but controlled environment with some regulations relaxed… will provide a solid evidence base’ on their strengths and weaknesses.
•More than 30 of those start-ups are focused on the peer-to-peer lending space alone and their market potential is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020. Several start-ups are working in areas such as virtual currencies like Bitcoins, Blockchain-based settlements and so on. The total fintech market in India is estimated to be worth $8 billion and is expected to grow to about $14 billion by 2020.
•“With more than $17 billion funding and over 1,400 deals in 2016, FinTech is one of the most promising sectors globally. With nearly $270 million funding in 2016, India is ranked amongst the top ten FinTech markets globally,” said a CII-Deloitte report on the subject released on Friday.
•Globally, regulatory sandboxes have been introduced in the U.K., Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and UAE. Each country has a certain “target group” for which sandboxing is done. All these countries have so far created a sandboxed environment to support financial institutions (FIs) and fintech firms, the report noted.
•In India, for instance, since cryptocurrencies are not recognised officially, virtual currencies stored in e-wallets are exposed to hacking and users are exposed to a lack of recourse in case of any problems or disputes. The RBI has been cautioning users about the risks of dabbling in virtual currencies that it does not recognise, since 2013.

Cinema & censorship

Sadly, the battle for free expression is having to be fought so often these days
•In a system that sets much store by retaining the power to censor films in the name of certifying them, random attempts by petitioners seeking cuts or even a ban often add to the pre-release anxieties of filmmakers. While rejecting the petition filed by a person claiming to be the daughter of the late Sanjay Gandhi to set aside the certificate granted to Indu Sarkar , a film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, the Supreme Court has rightly banked on a well-established principle that freedom of expression cannot be curtailed without a valid reason. It has reiterated that the film is nothing but artistic expression within the parameters of law and that there is no warrant or justification to curtail it. Earlier, the Central Board of Film Certification, which under its present director, Pahlaj Nihalani, has not exactly distinguished itself, had granted a certificate to the film after suggesting 14 cuts. The Revision Committee had reduced the number of cuts, leaving nothing to be adjudicated as far as the suitability of the film for exhibition is concerned. Yet, a single individual managed to create some uncertainty over the release of the film by approaching the courts. The film relates to events set during the 1975-77 Emergency and, going by the director’s disclaimer, its factual content is limited to 30%. Apart from the expression of concern by some Congress functionaries, there was little to suggest that anyone would take seriously the claim that the party’s leaders may be convincingly shown “in a bad light”.
•Recent experience suggests that the CBFC does not always see itself as a certifying authority, but rather plays the censor quite merrily. In the case of Udta Punjab last year, it was seeking to be the guardian of Punjab’s honour against the depiction of the high prevalence of drug addiction in the State. The Bombay High Court had to remind the CBFC that certification, and not censorship, is its primary role and that its power to order changes and cuts must be exercised in accordance with constitutional principles. More recently, the CBFC sought to play the moral censor with regard to Lipstick Under My Burkha , a film it thought was too “lady-oriented” to be given a certificate, presumably because it depicts their fantasies. The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal had to intervene to secure the release of the film, with an ‘A’ certificate. These instances demonstrate that challenges to freedom come from both within the systemic framework and outside. It is a matter of satisfaction that the courts prefer to protect the right to free expression rather than entertain excuses such as maintenance of law and order and public tranquillity, or someone’s sense of hurt or the fear of someone being portrayed in a bad light. It is disconcerting, nonetheless, that the battle for free expression is having to be fought so often these days.

The state’s domain

The proposal to allow the private sectorto run district hospitals has its risks
•The potential of India’s district hospital system to dramatically expand access to quality secondary and tertiary health care has never really been realised. The majority of patients today use the facilities created mostly by for-profit urban hospitals. That asymmetry could potentially be offset, though only in small part, through the proposal of the NITI Aayog and the Union Health Ministry to allow private entities to use the premises of the district hospitals to provide treatment for cardiac and pulmonary diseases and cancer. Viewed in perspective, a quick scaling-up of care for such non-communicable diseases is possible under the arrangement, because there are 763 functional district hospitals, with just five States led by Uttar Pradesh accounting for over 42% of the facilities. Yet, contracting out services in a virtually unregulated and largely commercial private system is fraught with risks. One major concern in such an arrangement is to ensure that the bulk of health spending, whether from government funds, subsidy or private insurance, goes into actual care provision, and that administrative expenditure is capped under the contract. Moreover, in consonance with the goal to provide health for all under the National Health Policy, care should be universal, and free at the point of delivery. A market-driven approach to providing district hospital beds for only those with the means would defeat the objective.
•Providing 50 or 100 beds in a district hospital may expand access to care, but such arrangements do not offer a cure for the larger problem of the growing non-communicable disease burden. Lifestyle choices and social determinants, such as tobacco and alcohol use, and environmental pollution, are often linked to such diseases. Controlling the epidemic, therefore, requires other policy approaches too. Given the already high prevalence of cardiac and pulmonary conditions, some arising from diabetes and hypertension, and cancers, having more beds for treatment is a necessity. It is incongruous, however, to opt for contracts of 30 years, given the move towards achieving universal health coverage and, aspirationally, a single-payer government-led model that mainly relies on public facilities. Strong oversight is also necessary to ensure that ethical and rational treatment protocols are followed in the new facilities, and procurement and distribution of drugs are centralised to keep costs under control. Ultimately, the success of such systems depends on medical outcomes on the one hand, and community satisfaction on the other. Both dimensions must find place in a contract, and be assessed periodically. A provision for audits, penalties and cancellation of contracts is essential. Given the recourse to tax funds for viability gap funding and use of public infrastructure, the operations should be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Not just a question of weeks

Parliament needs to take up the long-pending bill on updating provisions for abortion
•On Friday, the Supreme Court of India declined the abortion request of a 10-year-old rape survivor who was reportedly 32 weeks pregnant. Doctors who examined the adolescent opined that an abortion at this stage posed a risk to her life. Under the circumstances, the court could not have done much else. But this decision must be looked at in contrast to the recent landmark decision by the Supreme Court allowing an adult mother to abort her over-20 week foetus. The top court’s decision was not the first time that it had made an exception from the existing law. Like always, it relied on a report of a medical board which said that the infant was likely to suffer from a severe mental injury or cardiac problems that would require multiple surgeries. As is evident, leniency is not always extended from the existing legislation.
An arbitrary cap
•The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act stipulates a cap of 20 weeks within which an abortion can be performed. While advising an abortion, medical practitioners are expected to evaluate whether continuing with the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the mother or cause grave injury to her physical and mental health. Alternatively, the decision is based on whether there would be a substantial risk of the child being handicapped by physical or mental abnormalities. Notably, the Act also provides that if any of these medical eventualities is likely to arise, then the mother’s actual or foreseeable environment must also be taken into consideration.
•The 20-week cap is somewhat arbitrary and has drawn rightful criticism. Foetal impairments often get detected at the ultrasound done between 18 to 22 weeks, when the foetus is said to have “substantially developed”. But in a country where a majority of expectant mothers still seek advice from midwives and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), ultrasounds are only done when something “unusual” is suspected. Perhaps taking note of this, the government, in 2016, launched the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan under which doctors at private and government facilities are required to provide free antenatal care on the ninth of every month. While ultrasounds are also covered, some ASHAs report that free ultrasounds are often not offered.
•In fact, even before this programme, the government, in 2014, introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill. A step forward, it proposed increasing the abortion ceiling limit from 20 to 24 weeks. It introduced the concept of “substantial foetal abnormalities” — in which case the time period of pregnancy is irrelevant — and widened the scope of who could carry out the abortions by introducing the term “registered health care provider”, which included recognised practitioners of Ayurveda, Unani and homoeopathy.
•Unfortunately, the Bill is still awaiting approval. The Prime Minister’s Office is reported to have returned the proposed amendments and called for stricter implementation of the law. It believes that amendments to the Act are likely to give rise to illegal sex selection and abortion rackets.
Downside to legal restrictions
•In contrast, the World Health Organisation notes: “Legal restrictions on abortion do not result in fewer abortions nor do they result in significant increases in birth rates. Conversely, laws and policies that facilitate access to safe abortion do not increase the rate or number of abortions. The principal effect is to shift previously clandestine, unsafe procedures to legal and safe ones. Restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease the need for abortion, but it is likely to increase the number of women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Legal restrictions also lead many women to seek services in other countries/states, which is costly, delays access and creates social inequities.”
•The WHO report also says that “laws and policies on abortion should protect women’s health and their human rights. Regulatory, policy and programmatic barriers that hinder access to and timely provision of safe abortion care should be removed.” While at present, petitions questioning the constitutional validity of the Act are pending before the Supreme Court in India, in the past, provisions of the Act have been held to be reasonable restrictions placed on the exercise of reproductive choices. The court has observed that in the case of pregnant women, there is also a “compelling state interest” in protecting the life of the prospective child. Therefore, the termination of a pregnancy is only permitted when the conditions specified are fulfilled.
•But from a women’s rights perspective, should not a pregnant mother have the right to decide whether to go through full-term when there is even the slightest chance of a foetal infirmity and not “substantial foetal abnormalities”? It is fair to state that no woman who voluntarily chose to get pregnant is likely to seek an abortion unless there are compelling circumstances. Should not the wishes and desires of the person who will be the caretaker be considered?

•Abortion the world over is a sensitive topic. Arguments cut both ways. Each country has its own time limit within which the pregnancy may be terminated, but in most cases it’s more than 20 weeks. Given the advancements in medical science, a lot of abnormalities can be determined by an ultrasound midway through a pregnancy. Unfortunately, there appear to be no guidelines relating to the conduct of ultrasounds. As a starting point, we need uniformity in medical standards. Simultaneously, the long-pending Bill, which took into account some of the changed circumstances, needs to get passed. It would be helpful alongside to also lay down objective standards to be followed by health-care providers so that every case does not fall in the court’s cradle. If the cord isn’t cut, we will continue to rely on court-ordered termination of pregnancies, which, most times, is not the desired route for the delivery of justice in abortion cases.

Daily current Affairs 29th July,2017

1) International Tiger Day: 29 July
•The 7th International Tiger Day is observed globally on 29 July. This year’s International Tiger Day would be celebrated with the slogan ‘Fresh Ecology For Tigers’ Protection’.
•The conference of the heads of 13 countries – where tigers are available – held at Saint Petersburg of Russia in 2010 took the decision to mark the world tiger day on July 29 every year.
2) Dr. Harshvardhan launches “Sagar Vani” – An Integrated Information Dissemination System
•Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harshvardhan launched an app “Sagar Vani” on the occasion of Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
•‘Sagar Vani’ has been launched to disseminate ocean related information and alerts to the user community in timely manner for their safety.
3) Niti Aayog clears six proposals for high-tech public transport’
•Mass rapid transportation technologies such as hyperloop, metrino and pod taxis could soon be a reality in India after Niti Aayog cleared half-a-dozen proposals of the transport ministry exploring options to improve public transport.
•The think tank approved the proposals of the transport ministry with a condition that the ministry conducts trial run of all these technologies and puts in place safety measures before starting commercially operation. Once these safety parameters are tried and tested and the pilot run is successful, some of them including metrino, could be up for running by next year’s end.
4) Iran successfully launches satellite-carrying rocket into space
•Iran successfully launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket called ‘Simorgh’ into space. The launch took place at the Imam Khomeini National Space Station in Semnan.
•The development marks a significant step forward for the Islamic Republic’s young space program. It also raises alarm among the nation’s adversaries who fear that the same technology could be used to produce long-range missiles. The U.S. State Department has termed the launch as “provocative.”
5) IOB goes live with Bharat Bill Payment system
•Public sector Indian Overseas Bank has offered Bharat Bill Payment System, introduced by the National Payments Corporation of India, for its customers. BBPS is an integrated bill payment system that offers inter-operable online bill payments to customers.The services
•The services include online payments of electricity, telecommunication, DTH, water and gas bills, the Chennai headquartered bank said in a statement. Indian Overseas Bank is one of the three public sector banks (apart from Bank of Baroda and Union Bank of India) to get the approval from RBI for providing the service.
6) NPCI receives final nod from RBI to function as Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit
•National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the umbrella organization for all retail payment systems hasreceived a final nod from the Reserve Bank of India to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) and operate the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).
•On August 31, 2016, 8 BBPS operating units, which received in-principle approval from RBI, took part in the pilot. Almost after a year of running the pilot, streamlining the technology and business processes, NPCI has now received final clearance from RBI.

1) International Tiger Day: 29 July
•The 7th International Tiger Day is observed globally on 29 July. This year’s International Tiger Day would be celebrated with the slogan ‘Fresh Ecology For Tigers’ Protection’.
•The conference of the heads of 13 countries – where tigers are available – held at Saint Petersburg of Russia in 2010 took the decision to mark the world tiger day on July 29 every year.
2) Dr. Harshvardhan launches “Sagar Vani” – An Integrated Information Dissemination System
•Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harshvardhan launched an app “Sagar Vani” on the occasion of Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
•‘Sagar Vani’ has been launched to disseminate ocean related information and alerts to the user community in timely manner for their safety.
3) Niti Aayog clears six proposals for high-tech public transport’
•Mass rapid transportation technologies such as hyperloop, metrino and pod taxis could soon be a reality in India after Niti Aayog cleared half-a-dozen proposals of the transport ministry exploring options to improve public transport.
•The think tank approved the proposals of the transport ministry with a condition that the ministry conducts trial run of all these technologies and puts in place safety measures before starting commercially operation. Once these safety parameters are tried and tested and the pilot run is successful, some of them including metrino, could be up for running by next year’s end.
4) Iran successfully launches satellite-carrying rocket into space
•Iran successfully launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket called ‘Simorgh’ into space. The launch took place at the Imam Khomeini National Space Station in Semnan.
•The development marks a significant step forward for the Islamic Republic’s young space program. It also raises alarm among the nation’s adversaries who fear that the same technology could be used to produce long-range missiles. The U.S. State Department has termed the launch as “provocative.”
5) IOB goes live with Bharat Bill Payment system
•Public sector Indian Overseas Bank has offered Bharat Bill Payment System, introduced by the National Payments Corporation of India, for its customers. BBPS is an integrated bill payment system that offers inter-operable online bill payments to customers.The services
•The services include online payments of electricity, telecommunication, DTH, water and gas bills, the Chennai headquartered bank said in a statement. Indian Overseas Bank is one of the three public sector banks (apart from Bank of Baroda and Union Bank of India) to get the approval from RBI for providing the service.
6) NPCI receives final nod from RBI to function as Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit
•National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the umbrella organization for all retail payment systems hasreceived a final nod from the Reserve Bank of India to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) and operate the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).
•On August 31, 2016, 8 BBPS operating units, which received in-principle approval from RBI, took part in the pilot. Almost after a year of running the pilot, streamlining the technology and business processes, NPCI has now received final clearance from RBI.

The Hindu Notes July 28, 2017

Two C-130J aircraft arrive at Bengal IAF station

Part of eastern squadron and not linked to Doklam: officials
•While the standoff with China continues in Doklam, the Air Force Station at Panagarh in Bardhaman district of West Bengal has got its first set of the U.S.-made C-130J Super Hercules multi-skilled transport aircraft.
•Two of these aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin have arrived recently, while the station — named after Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh — is awaiting the arrival of four more within a month. The six medium-lift capability C-130Js will complete the first squadron of such aircraft in eastern India.
•Senior Defence Ministry officials did not want to connect the arrival of the aircraft with the Doklam standoff, and described it as the “fruition of an old plan”.
•The giant aircraft are described as one of the finest transport aircraft which can perform many duties simultaneously. The fuel-efficient aircraft can carry up to 40 tonnes; can move faster; and provide between crew comfort than the Ilyushin-76 (IL-76), a Russian-made aircraft the Air Force had been using for a long time. While the IL-76 could also carry 40 tonnes, it was a “fuel guzzler”, a senior Army official said.
•The C-130Js will be used by the Special Forces and a division of the Mountain Strike Corps, recently raised by the Army. The Corps has two divisions, instead of the usual three, with a strength of 80,000 personnel. One of the divisions will be stationed at the Panagarh station once it is fully raised. The first squadron of C-130Js was stationed at the Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad and performed its first landing exercise in 2013 at the Daulat Beg Oldi military base in Ladakh, adjacent to the Chinese border.
‘Fruition of old plan’
•“When the first batch of six C-130Js came to the country, it was envisaged that a second squadron would also come. This is the fruition of an old plan,” a senior Defence Ministry official said.
•The C-130Js can land on unpaved surfaces, para-drop special forces, and move faster fast with equipment and goods. It can return quickly to the base to dispatch the next team. Its movement and manoeuvrability is perhaps the reason the U.S. forces used the transport aircraft extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Doval holds talks with Chinese counterpart
Expectations of de-escalation of crisis
•National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Thursday held talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jichei, covering “bilateral issues and major problems,” signalling that the stand-off in Doklam between Chinese and Indian troops in the Sikkim sector was likely on the agenda.
•Referring to the three NSAs of the BRICS countries, who are in the Chinese capital, the official Xinhua news agency said: “[Mr.] Yang also separately exchanged views with the three senior representatives on bilateral relations, international and regional issues and multilateral affairs, and set forth China’s position on bilateral issues and major problems.”
•Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, highlighted the agreement reached in June in Astana between the countries to intensify “development partnership” and “people-to-people contact,” even as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India had not discriminated against Chinese companies.
•Mr. Akbar, responding to a question regarding China’s recent denial of visa to a group of journalists to Tibet and the remedial measures being taken to defuse the Doklam stand-off, said the two countries had agreed to work together.
•Ms. Swaraj maintained that despite commitment to improve bilateral ties, India had not hesitated to protest whenever differences arose with China about issues like stapled visas for Indian citizens from Arunachal or the visit of Dalai Lama to Tawang. She, however, maintained that India remained open to Chinese companies. “There is no policy to deny China [business opportunities],” she said to a question.
 SC for panels to examine dowry cases
Set up ‘family welfare committees’ in all districts under NALSA, says Bench
•Committees of social workers, homemakers, retired persons and other upstanding citizens will form the vanguard against frivolous complaints of dowry harassment in their localities.
•They will sift the genuine cases from the trivial ones. No suspect shall be arrested in a dowry case immediately after a complaint is registered.
•Police and the courts will have to wait for the committee’s inquiry report. The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the setting up of ‘family welfare committees’ in all districts under the aegis of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
Much abuse
•A Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit said Section 498A (dowry harassment) of the IPC had come under much abuse. Dowry complaints were being filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues.
•The three-member family welfare committees will be set up by the district legal services authorities. Members can be appointed from para legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons, “wives of working officers” and other citizens.
•Every complaint received by the police and the Magistrate will be passed on to the local committee, which will enquire into the genuineness of the complaint and file a report with the police official or Magistrate concerned within a month. The committee can directly get in touch with the parties involved, but the members will not be called as witnesses in case there is a trial.
•Till the report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be effected, the court said.
•Trial judges should close Section 498A cases based on matrimonial disputes once parties reached a settlement. In fact, bail should be given the same day, the court directed.

Privacy built into Aadhaar Act, says UIDAI

It was responding to concerns raised by Supreme Court Bench about personal data landing in the hands of private players
•“Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act,” the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency implementing the Aadhaar scheme, has said in the Supreme Court.
•Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the UIDAI, made this emphatic claim on Thursday when apprehensions were raised by a nine-judge Bench that personal data collected during Aadhaar enrolment might make its way into the hands of private players, for whom such details would transform into “vital commercial information”.
•The court was, in turn, responding to a submission by Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, that citizens could not claim informational privacy when the state asks for data for a legitimate purpose such as Aadhaar. “There is no denying that it [Aadhaar] is a social welfare scheme, but you [the government] must first concede that the state is obliged to put a robust personal data protection mechanism in place,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.
•“There may be a billion Aadhaar card holders. I don’t want the state to pass on my personal information to some 2,000 service providers who will send me WhatsApp messages offering cosmetics and air conditioners … That is our area of concern. Personal details turn into vital commercial information for service providers. Have you got a robust protection mechanism,” Justice Chandrachud asked.
Fundamental right
•Justice S.A. Bobde wondered whether the Aadhaar Act of 2016 itself had any provisions to protect privacy. Mr. Venugopal then pointed to Section 28 of the statute dealing with “security and confidentiality of information”. It was in the State’s legitimate interest to keep personal data secure as this would make Aadhaar acceptable to one and all, he submitted.
•“So does this mean you do recognise privacy as a fundamental right?” Justice Bobde persisted.
•Here, Justice Rohinton F. Nariman observed that the government had dedicated an entire chapter in the 2016 Act to the protection of privacy and security. “So is this not a statutory recognition of privacy as a fundamental right,” he asked Mr. Venugopal.
•“A law [Aadhaar Act] may specifically provide for the protection of privacy because privacy is not recognised as a fundamental right,” said Mr. Venugopal, turning the judge’s question on its head.
•Justice Chandrachud said informational privacy was the most “vexed” portion of the ongoing debate as parts of personal data were already in the public domain. To this, Mr. Venugopal said informational privacy can never be a part of fundamental rights. There was no informational privacy against compelling state interests and public utility, for which the state can ask for fingerprints. But again, individuals can refuse if the information sought was totally irrelevant,” he said.

 Panel seeks details on AI divestment

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport set to meet government officials on Friday
•A Parliamentary Standing Committee has sought details from the government on its strategic disinvestment plans for national carrier Air India.
•The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, chaired by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Mukul Roy, is set to meet the Central government officials on Friday.
Hearing views
•“To hear the views of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (Ministry of Finance) and Air India on Disinvestment of Air India,” the agenda of the meeting said.
•The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on June 28 gave its in-principle approval for the strategic disinvestment of Air India and its subsidiaries.
•The CCEA also set up a group of ministers under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to examine the modalities of the national carrier’s stake sale. The Ministerial group will decide upon the “treatment of unsustainable debt of Air India, hiving off of certain assets to shell company, de-merger and strategic disinvestment of three profit-making subsidiaries, quantum of disinvestment and the universe of bidders.”
•Hours after the Union Cabinet gave its nod for Air India’s strategic disinvestment, India’s largest low-cost carrier IndiGo expressed interest in acquiring the flag carrier’s airline business, mainly related to its international operations. Tata Sons were also said to be reportedly in talks with the government to seek more details about the national carrier’s strategic disinvestment.
‘Fragile finances’
•Minister of State Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that the decision to divest a stake in Air India was based on government think-tank NITI Aayog’s recommendations in May this year.
•“In its recommendations, the Aayog had given the rationale for the disinvestment of Air India and has attributed the main reason as fragile finances of the company. AI has been incurring continuous losses and has huge accumulated losses,” Mr. Sinha said in a written reply.
•“Further, NITI Aayog in its report on Air India says that further support to an unviable non-priority company in a matured and competitive aviation sector would not be the best use of scarce financial resources of the Government,” Mr. Sinha added.
Sliding market share
•Mr. Sinha said in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that Air India’s market share on domestic routes had declined to 14.2% in 2016-17, from 17.9% in 2014-15. Air India had accumulated total debt of Rs. 48,876 crore till March 31, 2017. The carrier has been reporting continuous losses due to its high debt with its net loss at Rs. 3,728 crore in 2016-17, compared with Rs. 3,836 crore in 2015-16.

‘Good prospects for India-U.K. auto trade’

High tariff regime retarding sales of British luxury cars in India, says SMMT chief•Britain and India have the potential to expand post-Brexit trade in the auto sector, the head of the body representing British manufacturers said, as exports of U.K.-made cars to India rose 8.3% in the first half of the year, while those of Indian-made cars to the U.K. almost doubled. The 8.3% rise in sales of U.K. cars was driven by increased demand for British-made luxury cars, while the number of India-built cars rose by 48.6%.

•Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said that there were many opportunities for growth in areas such as in the development of autonomous, connected vehicles, as well as in the Indian after-market segment. “The U.K. currently has a negligible part of that market in India, but we have a lot of expertise and there are a lot of products that could be developed,” he said in an interview to this paper in London.

•“We want to develop those relations, but obviously it had to be mutual.” However, he added that the prospect of increasing sales of British-made luxury cars, for which there was great demand in India, remained limited with high tariff regimes still in place and expressed reservations about the potential for changing this. “One would hope so but history would suggest its going to be incredibly difficult,” he said.

•His comments came as the SMMT said U.K. car production fell 2.9% in the first half of 2017, as demand in Britain declined, which it attributed to the current uncertainty around the Brexit negotiations. The industry is also lowering its ambition of producing 2 million cars a year by 2020.

•“The U.K. automotive industry is in particularly challenging times in terms of production, new cars sales and level of investment,” said Mr. Hawes.

Interim arrangements

•The SMMT has been pushing for interim arrangements that maintain access to the single market and customs union to avoid a cliff-edge situation. ‘We are totally integrated with the European automotive industry — the future relationship we have is fundamental to our continued success. We need to maintain the barrier free trade that we currently enjoy,” he said, adding that reverting to WTO termswould be disruptive to the supply chain.

Public health, private players?
Private providers will be able to cherry-pick the lucrative districts where patients have a higher paying capacity
•The NITI Aayog has recently unveiled a grand plan to effectively privatise district hospitals in Tier-I and Tier-II towns. It has developed what it calls a “model concessionaire agreement” for provision of healthcare services for cardiac and pulmonary (lung) diseases and cancers. It is proposed that public facilities in district hospitals would be outsourced to private providers. They would be free to charge full treatment costs from patients not covered by government schemes (such as the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana) and the providers would be reimbursed by the government for treating patients referred by the government
Red-carpet treatment
•Private providers will be able to cherry-pick the most lucrative districts where patients have a higher paying capacity. The scheme also provides for an escrow account that would offset the risk to private providers posed by possible delays in reimbursement by the government. Providers would also secure access to public facilities such as ambulance services, blood banks and mortuaries. Clearly no effort has been spared to roll out the red carpet and ensure that private companies are able to freeload on public assets.
•What are the implications for accessible healthcare services? First, the proposal implies that most patients would have to pay for care even in public facilities. The promise that patients covered by government health insurance schemes would access care free of cost needs to be seen in the context of recent surveys which show that just 12-13% of people are covered by public-funded insurance.
•Second, the proposal is designed to further worsen inequity in access to healthcare services. Private providers will concentrate on better-off districts, leaving the poor and remote districts for the public sector to manage. This will further weaken the ability of public hospitals to attract and retain trained doctors and other health workers.
•Third, the scheme will expose thousands of patients to unethical practices by private providers, compromises in quality and rationality of services and additional ‘top-up services’. A specific section in the document on ‘risk management’ is primarily concerned about risks of private providers, with very little about robust mechanisms to protect patients from unethical practices.
•Fourth, outsourcing of hospital care to private providers inevitably becomes increasingly unsustainable over time as they ratchet up demands on reimbursements and fees. The proposal to hive off hospital care to the private sector is justified by the argument that public services are not financed adequately and face an acute shortage of trained human resources.
•The simple remedy could be to significantly enhance investment in public healthcare services, including in the training of health workers. The government’s singular resistance to follow such a path is linked to its ideological moorings, which find virtue in private enterprise and view public services as inherently inefficient. This scepticism regarding public services needs to be tempered by the experience that success stories of public health, in diverse settings such as the U.K., France, Cuba, Thailand and Sri Lanka, are all related to public systems.
•The NITI Aayog’s proposal involves the handing over of public assets to for-profit companies, and represents a clear abdication of duty by the government. The NITI Aayog describes itself as a ‘think tank’, unlike the Planning Commission of yore.
•It is understood that the scheme will be piloted in a couple of districts, presumably in Bharatiya Janata Party-governed States. Health care is primarily a State subject and State governments must first question the legitimacy of a supposed think tank to pronounce public policy.

What’s at stake in Hyderabad

India must counter Japan’s U.S.-style pressure at the RCEP talks and ensure affordable generic medicines
•Leaked texts are like leaked gases — you may never find the one responsible for it, but the mayhem caused by its release is hard to contain. Unsurprisingly, all public discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are centred around leaked documents. As India negotiates the RCEP — a free trade agreement that looks remarkably similar to the now failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but for the absence of the chief protagonist and dissenter, the United States — Japan now appears to be playing the role that the United States is known for: policing the intellectual property (IP) regimes of its trading partners. Unlike the TPP, where India and China were not parties, the RCEP will open two of the world’s fastest-growing economies to new standards of IP protection with some unforeseen consequences.
IP, investment and RCEP
•One of the conditions that have been put forth both in the TPP as well as the RCEP is the formation of an Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism and to include IP as an investment. Treating IP as an investment would allow private companies to raise investment disputes against the host country whenever they feel that the legal regime does not favour them. These disputes could be initiated by MNCs and especially the pharmaceutical industries that have until now had their hands tied in front of the Indian laws and the judiciary. Japan’s insistence on the inclusion of this clause comes as no surprise as it is the third-largest RCEP investor country. Countries like India and China, which will be the destinations for the investments, should include safeguards against these measures.
•The IP chapter in RCEP is at risk of including provisions far stricter than those mandated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The leaked IP chapter shows that both Japan and South Korea are mounting pressure to implement a TRIPS-plus regime in IP. Adhering to TRIPS-plus standards would be detrimental to developing countries that have benefited from generic competition and lower-priced medicines through the use of the flexibilities in TRIPS such as stricter patentability criteria and the absence of data exclusivity provisions. The few IP reforms discussed in the RCEP include data exclusivity, patent term extension, and much more lenient criteria for patentability.
•This would mean delay in the entry of generic versions of medicines, extension of patent monopoly for a longer time, and exclusivity for drugs that should not be patented if strict patentability criteria were to be applied. The RCEP negotiations on these fronts spearheaded by Japan appear to be an extension of the arm-twisting that developing countries like India have been repeatedly subject to by the U.S. as reflected in the most recent Special 301 Report released by the U.S. Trade Representative.
•The strong MNC lobby growing in Japan, especially on the pharmaceutical side, is a reason for its insistence on stricter IP rules. An example of this is the drug patented by Otsuka for the treatment of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).
•The company has been strategically withholding the registration of the patent in India, thereby preventing a generic version of the drug from being manufactured. In the event that a provision of data exclusivity is passed, the millions of TB patients in India would have to buy the high-priced drugs, which would have no cheaper generic alternative.
MFN clause
•The WTO has a most-favoured-nation (MFN) clause that obliges the concessions offered to the MFN to be offered to others. In essence, if India has an agreement with Japan (through the RCEP), India will be obliged to offer the same concessions to the U.S. as well as the other members of the WTO. The negotiating pattern reflects the reality of international law making. It is evident that developed countries are using FTAs to expand the existing standards of IP.
•At the 19th round of the RCEP negotiations currently on in Hyderabad, India must resist Japan’s U.S.-style pressure in this regard. Developing countries like India which have taken the leadership in instituting and using balanced intellectual property protection for pharmaceuticals should not only proudly protect their laws in the RCEP negotiations, they should also encourage other countries to adopt and use similar measures that ensure generic competition. The international trading system is not an end in itself and instead of adopting U.S. style lobbying on behalf of multinational companies in the RCEP negotiations, Japan would do well to recall its international commitments on health care and sustainable development and support developing countries in the region in their quest to ensure sustainable access to affordable medicines.

Daily current affairs 28th July,2017

World Hepatitis Day: 28 July
•World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July and brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
•The Theme for World Hepatitis Day 2017 is ‘Eliminate Hepatitis’. Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
2) Mumbai Metro launches India’s first mobile ticketing system
•Mumbai Metro announced the launch of India’s first Mobile Ticketing System ‘OnGo’ which will help commuters pass the AFC gates using their mobile phones.
•Commuters will be able to generate a QR Code through ‘OnGo’ service for current or future journeys upto a week in advance by clicking the mobile app wherein they would pay for their journey.
3) National Centre for Seismology launches an App ‘India Quake’
•Union Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harshvardhan launched an app “India Quake”  for Earthquake Parameter Dissemination on the occasion of Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
•The App will make information dissemination faster with no restrictions on the number of recipients. Any citizen can download this App and get the real time earthquake location information on his/her mobile.
4) Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif resigns over Panama Papers verdict
•Nawaz Sharif has resigned as prime minister of Pakistan following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court to disqualify him from office.
•The ruling came after a probe into his family’s wealth following the 2015 Panama Papers dump linking Mr Sharif’s children to offshore companies.
5) BSE inks cooperation pact with Egyptian Exchange
•Leading bourse BSE joined hands with Egyptian Exchange (EGX) for cooperation in exchange of information across business areas.
•Through this MoU a range of opportunities has been explored for the development of their businesses, products and markets to share knowledge and strengthen international connectivity.
6) Ajay Singh wins bronze medal in Asian Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships
•India’s Ajay Singh has won the bronze medal in Asian Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships at Kathmandu, taking India’s tally to three. Ajay got third place in 77 kgs men’s junior category lifting 143 kgs in snatch and 172 kgs in clean and jerk.
•S. Nirpupama Devi had won bronze in 69 kgs women youth category. Konsam Ormila Devi had won gold in 44kg weight category on an opening day.

The Hindu Notes 27th July,2017

‘Privacy a fundamental but wholly qualified right’

Nine-judge Bench prods AG to make govt. stand clear
•The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that privacy was indeed a fundamental right, but a “wholly qualified” one.
•This led a nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar on Wednesday to sum up Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal’s submission thus: “You are saying that right to privacy is a fundamental right. But not every aspect of it [privacy] is a fundamental right. It depends on a case-to-case basis.” Mr. Venugopal agreed to the court’s interpretation of the government stand.
•The acknowledgement from the Centre came after several hours of walking on the very brink of conceding that right to privacy is a fundamental right.
•Earlier, the court kept prodding Mr. Venugopal to make the government’s position clear.
•At one point, Chief Justice Khehar even said that the reference to the nine-judge Bench could be closed if the Centre agreed that privacy was a fundamental freedom.
•“Petitioners had argued that there is a fundamental right to privacy. You [Centre] had stalled them by saying that privacy is not a fundamental right. You quoted our eight and six judges’ Benches’ judgments to claim privacy is not a fundamental right. So, the five-judge Bench hearing the Aadhaar petitions referred the question ‘whether privacy is a fundamental right or not’ to us. Now if you are saying that privacy is a fundamental right, shall we close this reference right now itself?” Chief Justice Khehar asked Mr. Venugopal.
•The Attorney General explained to the Bench that the government did not consider privacy to be a single, homogenous right but rather a “sub-species of the fundamental right to personal liberty and consists of diverse aspects. Not every aspect of privacy is a fundamental right.”
•Some aspects of privacy were expressly defined in the Constitution, while some were not. Mr. Venugopal said there was a “fundamental right to privacy. But this right is a wholly qualified right.”

‘India-Israel ties can affect Al Aqsa conflict’

India must play a positive role: envoy
•India’s friendly ties with Israel could ‘interfere’ with the ongoing Israel-Palestinians conflict over the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, said the envoy of Palestine on Wednesday. The Ambassador, Adnan Abu Al Haija, termed Israel’s latest security measures in Al Aqsa compound a ‘religious war’ and said Palestine expected a “positive attitude” from the Indian government.
•“India’s present government is friendly to Israel. Previous governments were also close to Israel but this government is particularly so. India’s friendly ties with Israel could interfere with the present situation in Jerusalem,” said the envoy. “The Al Aqsa mosque is an Islamic place of worship. Jerusalem is a city of three religions and we respect all religions.” He, however maintained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Israel which excluded a visit to the Palestinian territory did not impact ties between two sides.
•The envoy said Israel had been trying to disturb the sanctity of the Al Aqsa mosque for a long time but for the first time since 1967 has begun the Judaisation process of the site which is holy to both Muslims and the Jewish. “The Judaisation campaign of Israel received a serious blow last year when UNESCO declared Al Aqsa mosque compound to be uniquely Muslim. This has infuriated Israel, which decided to go with the latest provocation,” he said.

RCEP: Boost for India on easier visa norms

Some ASEAN nations back bid
•India’s push for easier norms on movement of professionals across borders for short-term work in 16 Asia-Pacific nations, including itself, under a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) — is learnt to have found favour with some ASEAN-bloc members.
•The proposed FTA, officially known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is being negotiated by these countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
•The RCEP technical level talks are currently going on in Hyderabad.
Travel card
•A few ASEAN countries are also understood to be supporting India’s proposal for an RCEP Travel Card to facilitate visa-free multiple short-term entry across the RCEP region for business and tourism purposes.
•Official sources told The Hindu that while some countries of the ten-member ASEAN bloc have supported India’s call for detailed discussions to have binding commitments on temporary movement of professionals as part of the RCEP agreement, Australia and New Zealand (who are RCEP members) are blocking the move. “These positions keep changing during the negotiations, but we (India) are trying (to secure India’s interests in the services sector),” an official privy to the negotiations said.
•India, which has a vast pool of services professionals, including from IT/ITeS, sector, had been leading the talks on easing restrictions on temporary movement of professionals.
•Allaying the fears of many RCEP member nations that it would lead to migration of professionals from India and loss of jobs for locals, India has been saying that its demands on temporary movement of professionals and skilled workers should not be confused with permanent movement (or immigration).
•Meanwhile, Indian information technology industry body Nasscom informed the RCEP trade negotiators that the Indian IT-ITeS sector had supported 4.54 lakhjobs in the RCEP region (excluding India).
•Gagan Sabharwal, director, Nasscom, also said the Indian IT sector was facing many problems in the RCEP region with regard to temporary movement of professionals.

India pressed to open up procurement

More RCEP nations seek commitments on market access, equal treatment of foreign and local firms
•Pressure is mounting on India to open up its more than $300 billion-worth public procurement market under the proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
•Public/government procurement broadly refers to the process by which government (at the Central, State and local levels), its agencies/departments and State-owned enterprises procure goods and/or services only for their own use, and not for sale/resale commercially.
Binding commitments
•Official sources told The Hindu that an increasing number of countries including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as a few from the 10-member ASEAN bloc including Singapore and Malaysia, were pushing for binding commitments to mutually liberalise government procurement markets in the 16 Asia Pacific nations, including themselves and India involved in the mega-FTA talks.
•Incidentally, during the ongoing 19th round of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee meeting at the technical level being held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, the 16 countries agreed to constitute a Working Group on government procurement to take forward negotiations on the topic and include it as a separate chapter in the final agreement, sources said.
•They, however, said India would not give in to the demands from these countries for “market access and national treatment (equal treatment of foreign and local firms)” pertaining to government procurement in the RCEP agreement, and not even undertake any commitment on a “best endeavour basis.” Even in India’s separate FTAs with Japan, South Korea and Singapore (that are already in force), “market access and national treatment” have been kept out of the government procurement chapter. The maximum extent that India could go to, is to agree to ensure transparency and cooperation in government procurement matters (including information exchange and sharing of knowledge) as part of the RCEP agreement, they said.
•Sources said though RCEP member countries including Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore may not have a “PSU [Public Sector Unit] culture” as such, they had norms that indirectly made it difficult for foreign firms, including from India, to take part in their public procurement process.
‘Language barrier’
•Countries like China, Japan and South Korea, may outwardly have an open procurement market, but make it difficult for foreign firms to participate by phrasing requirements in local language, sources said.
•This ensures that domestic firms with a grasp over the local language get to submit the documents on time, unlike foreign firms who get hit by the language barrier, the sources said.
•India is not a signatory to the Government Procurement Agreement within the WTO framework because it wants to retain its policy space to meet its development needs through public procurement process. In May, the Indian government had brought out a policy providing preference in government procurement to local goods and services suppliers. This was to push the ‘Make In India’ initiative, ensure greater flow of capital and technology into domestic services and manufacturing, and in turn, boost job creation locally as well as promote small enterprises.
•Then in June, it came up with an order restricting or excluding from public procurement tenders in India, the firms from those nations where Indian suppliers are not allowed to participate and/or compete in government procurement process.

Policy boosts care for blood disorders

Under Centre’s move, people with thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia to be part of registry
•People living with thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other haemoglobin disorders can now look forward to better screening and treatment, based on the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s new policy.
•The Ministry recently released a policy on the Prevention and Control of haemoglobinopathies in India.
•Supported by the National Health Mission, Blood Cell and the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, the guidelines provide for screening of pregnant women during antenatal check-up, pre-marital counselling at college level and one-time screening for variant anaemia in children.
•The Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare) Anupriya Patel stated this in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on July 18.
•Thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia are the most frequently encountered ‘rare blood disorders’ in the country and impose a significant economic burden on families.
•The policy aims at creating treatment protocol benchmarks, to improve the quality of life of patients.
•It is also a guide on prevention and control, which includes antenatal and prenatal testing to reduce the incidence of live haemoglobin disorder births (currently pegged at 10,000-15,000 live births a year).
•Using public health awareness programmes and education, it highlights various haemoglobinopathies. The guidelines include the creation of a national registry to plan future patient services. The registry will also collect useful data, such as the location of patients to identify areas of high concentration, ethnicity or other characteristics, age distribution, records of deaths and their cause.
•Shobha Tuli, president of the Federation of Indian Thalassaemics, who contributed to the policy, said it was a big step to prevent haemoglobinopathies.
‘Provide all drugs’
•“Since not more than 20% of patients can afford treatment, the government should ensure that all patients get it free. Such free treatment is given in States such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka besides Delhi, and others should follow suit. All chelation drugs should be made available free because one drug does not suit all,” she said.
•The policy, however, makes no reference to carrier testing for relatives of patients.
•Namitha A. Kumar from the Centre for Health Ecologies and Technology (CHET), who is also living with thalassaemia said people with the genetic disorder unknowingly pass it on to their children, as preventive checks are not the norm in India.
•“In Pakistan, a law making carrier testing compulsory for relatives of thalassaemia patients was passed in February. A similar system is in place in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. I wish it could be made compulsory here too,” she said.
•Cecil Reuben Ross, Head of the Department of Medicine and Haematology in St. John’s Medical College Hospital, hailed the policy but said testing had to be voluntary.
•“There is more awareness about the condition now, especially after the Indian Council of Medical Research took up screening of 50,000 antenatal mothers and 50,000 college students a few years ago.
•“Testing cannot be made compulsory and people should opt for it. A concerted effort by people as well as government will help ,” Dr. Ross said.

Panel for action against farmers using herbicides on GM mustard

Anti-GM activists question efficacy of such regulation
•The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee’s (GEAC) sub-committee has drafted several recommendations on GM mustard before it approved the crop for commercial release in May this year. These included a proposal for legal action on farmers using the glufosinate-based herbicide (Basta) on the crop unless otherwise approved by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee.
•In response to an RTI query, the GEAC has provided minutes of the sub-committee’s May 11, 2017 meeting. The minutes, accessed by The Hindu, reflect an apprehension that farmers may use herbicides to kill weeds that grow in crops of herbicide-tolerant GM Mustard.
Detrimental to humans
•Glufosinate-based herbicides act as a neurotoxin and have adverse impacts on humans, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health.
•To a query on how the GEAC proposes to ensure adherence to its recommendations, GEAC sub-committee member C.R. Babu, also Director of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems, University of Delhi, told The Hindu that the Ministry of Environment and Forests was contemplating setting up a system to monitor the planting of GM mustard seeds when commercially released.
Bt cotton lessons
•However, anti-GM activists question how effective such regulation will be, drawing attention to the experience with Bt cotton, the country’s first and only commercially released GM crop. The GEAC had recommended plant refuges wherever Bt cotton was planted to ensure pests did not develop resistance to the Bt toxin.
•“In the case of Bt cotton the government’s record of ensuring adherence to recommendations has been very poor,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, activist and convenor of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture).
•On Monday, the Centre submitted to the Supreme Court that it would file its affidavit on its preparedness for commercial release of GM Mustard on July 29. The Supreme Court has asked the government to stay the commercial release of GM mustard until it does so.

‘Bitcoins must be regulated’

The digital currency can be a boon for the country, the report says
•Bitcoins can provide a superior route to encourage digital transactions, a report by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, adding it is essential to expand the regulatory framework for bitcoins to reinforce safety and security aspects.
•“Arguably, bitcoins can be a boon for the large population of the country which is still unbanked; it can provide them a superior and simple peer-to-peer digital currency trading platform through desktops and mobile devices,” the report, titled Industry Perspective on Bitcoins, said. However, it highlighted the importance of a regulatory framework and awareness programmes about benefits and dangers of bitcoins.

CAC adopts Codex norms for three spices

The standards will ensure availability of high quality, clean and safe spices

•In a significant move, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) adopted three Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme paving the way for an universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries.

•The CAC cleared these standards at its session held in Geneva recently.

•The adoption of Codex standards for the three spices, it is pointed out, will help evolve a common standardisation process for their global trade and availability.

•“This (Codex standard) will bring harmony to the global spice trade and ensure availability of high quality, clean and safe spices to the world,’’ said Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a statement.

•“It may be a small beginning considering the number of commodities waiting in the ranks for the standardisation process. But what is really heartening is that spices have made a definitive entry into the league of commodities having Codex standards, and India played a key role in achieving this objective,’’ she added.

‘Food code’

•The Codex Alimentarius or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Commission, also known as CAC, is the central part of the joint FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations)/WHO (World Health Organisation) Food Standards Programme.

•With the adoption of Codex standards, member-nations would now have reference points and benchmarks to align their national standards for spices with Codex.

‘GST, note ban to boost economy’

•Economic activity is expected to rebound due to a supportive monetary policy, the effect of the Goods and Services Tax, and the eventual formalisation of the economy due to demonetisation, according to a report by Fitch Ratings.
•The withdrawal of cash due to demonetisation had temporarily hurt economic growth in India, it said.
•“Nevertheless, we expect growth to pick up soon, helped by the supportive monetary policy of the previous two years — which was facilitated by a surge in bank liquidity due to demonetisation — and stepped-up structural reforms,” the report added. The report also highlighted uncertainty over the government committing to reducing its debt and the detrimental effect of farm loan waivers on states’ finances.

Questions of age

The SC has done right in refusing to extend POCSO to adults with mental retardation
•The Supreme Court has shown due restraint in declining to apply the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act to mentally retarded adults whose mental age may be that of a child. It would have been tempting to give a purposive interpretation to the term ‘child’ under POCSO, which refers to those below 18 years of age, and rule that it encompasses those with a ‘mental age’ of a person below 18. It would have been compelling to acknowledge how similarly a child and an adult with inadequate intellectual growth are placed when it comes to sexual assault: both may show the same lack of understanding about the situation they are in and incapacity to protest. No doubt, any expanded definition to encompass both biological and mental age within the POCSO framework would have helped extend its beneficial features to another section of vulnerable persons. The court has chosen the challenging path of analysing the import of such judicial interpretation, along with the question whether expanding the notion of age is within its remit. It has ruled that it is outside its domain. POCSO is meant to protect children from sexual offences. To extend it to adult victims based on mental age would require determination of their mental competence. This would need statutory provisions and rules; the legislature alone is competent to enact them. Judicial conferment of power to trial courts to treat some adults as children based on mental capacity would, in the Bench’s opinion, do violence to the existing law protecting children from sexual offences. It noted that there may be different levels of mental competence, and that those with mild, moderate or borderline retardation are capable of living in normal social conditions.
•The case before the court related to the rape of a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Her mother was concerned about the absence of a friendly and congenial atmosphere before the trial court. She approached the courts for a direction to transfer the case to a special court under POCSO, a law that mandates child-friendly procedures and features during the trial, taking into account her daughter’s mental age, which she said was that of a six-year-old. In a fateful turn of events, the lone accused died during these proceedings, bringing the criminal case to an end. The implication of the Supreme Court ruling is that the onus is always on trial judges to keep in mind the degree of retardation of victims and their level of understanding while appreciating their evidence. It would be unfortunate if cases get derailed because of either the victims’ inability to communicate effectively or because of the court’s difficulty in understanding their words or gestures. It is now up to the legislature to consider the introduction of legal provisions to determine mental competence so victims with inadequate mental development may effectively testify against sexual offenders.

Privacy in the public domain

The greatest challenge to privacy is from the private sector. It also stems from an indifference to our own privacy
•It is heartening to read the preliminary observations of the Supreme Court, made on July 19, regarding privacy as a fundamental right. Unfortunately, much of the debate on privacy seems to suffer from the leftovers of a certain traditional understanding of privacy and the private. In fact, it is no longer possible to decouple the idea of privacy from the mechanisms through which privacy is guaranteed. Since Aadhaar and many of the contemporary discussions on privacy are related to deep technological developments, the question of privacy should be rethought in the context of these technologies.
Secrecy and security
•Privacy is not a concept like the other fundamental rights. Moreover, our notions of privacy have changed and will continue to change. If there is one major catalyst for this change, it has been technology. Built homes are a simple example of how we develop a sense of privacy which is influenced by a technological development. Once we have a conception of home, we also have conceptions of bedroom, living room, toilet and kitchen. These spaces and conceptions created by very simple processes of technology create specific ideas of privacy.
•Two common ways of understanding privacy are through secrecy and anonymity. We believe that our bank balance must be private. Companies do not normally make public the salaries of all their employees. Universities do not make public the marks or grades of their students in a way that violates the privacy of the student.
•These notions of privacy are based on the need for security and protection. We do not want to divulge certain things about our wealth or life practices since they may be used by others to potentially harm us. So privacy becomes a way of protecting individuals or groups. But we also often overthrow privacy arguments for security purposes. We do not object to giving our biometrics when we apply for visas or when we join some private jobs.
•Contemporary technology has made possible many new innovations that have changed the very meaning and significance of privacy. From smartphones to the darknet, the fundamental trajectory is one to do with privacy. However, there are two worrisome aspects. In any discussion on privacy, there is a deep suspicion of the government and state, most times rightly so. But this suspicion does not extend to technology and its private agents, those that are responsible for the breakdown of the value of privacy today.
•Today, in times of growing privatisation, the greatest challenge to privacy comes from the private sector. It also stems from an indifference to our own privacy. We do not seem to value privacy today as in earlier times. Social experiments have shown that people are willing to have private information about themselves made public if they receive some monetary advantage.
•We do this all the time. When we search for a book or a ticket, we start getting advertisements related to these searches in our supposedly private emails. What we read, search, buy, talk and perhaps even think get stored, used and circulated. Everything is tracked and rerouted. We have no clue to the amount of information about our private lives that is out in the Web. All because we get free emails and free Internet access! Today, privacy has been deeply compromised through the offering of ‘free’ goods.
The state and private players
•Very often when we worry about questions of privacy, it is about the role of the government or the state. The state too can do much with the information on individuals that it collects through various voluntary as well as coercive means. The concern about privacy thus was a concern about potential misuse of such information. However, information about individuals is arguably much more in the private domain today than it is within various governments. Moreover, the mining of this information is taken up far more assiduously by the private compared to government institutions.
•The idea of privacy has always had a troubled relationship with privatisation. Private companies often have rules that protect them from being transparent in hiring policies, in affirmative action or even making public the salaries of all their employees. Private groups know best the power of the idea of privacy. They use this notion to protect themselves from governments and the public. They also realise that the greatest market that is perennially available to them is the market of trading information on privacy.
•A related problem is that the government has begun to look more and more like the private sector. Today, almost all politicians are rich entrepreneurs and hold powerful business interests. The public-private binary does not function in any useful sense as far as the governing class is concerned. Thus, privacy is not only open to manipulation by the government but even more so by the private sector. This is so especially because it is the private sector that is at the forefront of developing technologies that facilitate this mining, storing and sharing of information.
No free lunches
•The Trojan horse through which the state and private players enter our domains of privacy is through contemporary technologies. These technologies have now come to be seen as necessary. The fact that we so unthinkingly buy into this story shows the success of how these technologies have colonised us so effectively.
•The price we pay for modern technologies is not only money. The economic model that runs consumerism of modern technologies is quite different from the model of selling groceries. We are seduced by the amount of free things we get in a technological gadget. The websites are free; we can download millions of books and songs for which we had to pay earlier. Why are we being given so much that is free? Like almost everything else in this world, there are always hidden costs. The major cost that we pay is the cost of our privacy — the information on each one of our private lives and, through this information, more effective control on how we act and behave.
•This raises deeply troubling questions about making privacy a fundamental right. How will the Supreme Court judges be able to give a judgment on privacy as a fundamental right without also making possession, and the making, of technology as ‘rights’? How can they do this without imposing controls on predator technologies that enter the social world in the guise of making our lives comfortable? Some might argue that technology is only an intermediary tool that enables certain things, both good and bad.
•But to hold this view is to be blind to the changing modes of technological domination through digital and Internet technologies. Technology is no longer outside human and social processes; it co-creates and co-constitutes the human and the social.

Daily Current Affairs 27th July,2017

1) PM Modi inaugurates APJ Abdul Kalam’s memorial in Rameswaram
•Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the former President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s memorial at Pei Karumbu in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu on the second death anniversary of the former President. Mr Modi unveils a statue of Dr. Kalam and hoisted the National flag at the memorial.
•Mr. Modi will flag off Kalam Sandesh Vahini, an exhibition bus which will travel across the country and reach Rashtrapati Bhavan on 15th of October, which marks the birth anniversary of the former President. The majestic memorial for the missile man Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has been designed and built by the Defence Research and Development Organization.
2) Uttarakhand records second highest tiger count in India
•The count of tigers in Uttarakhand shot up to 242 with an increase of 63 big cats in the year 2017. The news was announced by Trivendra Singh Rawat, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.
•In addition, 11 cubs were also found in the two tiger reserves, the Corbett Tiger Reserve and the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, in the state. Uttarakhand is the second state in terms of tiger count behind Karnataka, which has 400 big cats. According to the latest statistics, at least 208 tigers have been identified in Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, up from last year’s 163. Also six cubs were identified there.
3) Cabinet approves revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds Scheme
•The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given approval for revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGB) Scheme with a view to achieve its intended objectives.
Two sets of changes have been made in the scheme:
1. Specific changes have been made in the attributes of the scheme to make it more attractive, mobilise finances as per the target and reduce the economic strains caused by imports of gold and reduce the Current Account Deficit (CAD).
2. Flexibility has been given to Ministry of Finance to design and introduce variants of SGBs with different interest rates and risk protection / pay-offs that would offer investment alternatives to different category of investors. Ministry of Finance (the issuer) has been delegated this power to amend / add to the features of the Scheme with approval of the Finance Minister to reduce the time lag between finalizing the attributes of a particular tranche and its notification.
• Following specific changes in the scheme have been approved:
i. The investment limit per fiscal year has been increased to 4 kg for individuals, 4 Kg for Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) and 20 Kg for Trusts and similar entities notified by the Government from time to time.
ii. The ceiling will be counted on Financial year basis and will include the SGBs purchased during the trading in the secondary market.
iii. The ceiling on investment will not include the holdings as collateral by Banks and Financial institutions.
iv. SGBs will be available ‘on tap’. Based on the consultation with NSE, BSE, Banks and Department of Post, features of product to emulate ‘On Tap’ sale would be finalised by Ministry of Finance.
4) Madras High Court makes Vande Mataram mandatory in Schools, Govt. and Private Offices
•The Madras High Court ruled that Vande Mataram should be sung in all schools and colleges across the state “at least once a week”, and in government and private offices “at least once a month”.
•Issuing the order, Justice M V Muralidharan stated, Considering the larger public interest and to instil a sense of patriotism in each and every citizen of the state, the national song ‘Vande Mataram’ shall be played and sung in all schools/ colleges/ universities and other educational institutions at least once a week (preferably on Monday or Friday).
5) Subhash Chandra Garg appointed as India’s Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of ADB
•Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg has been appointed as Indias Alternate Governor on the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Finance Ministry announced recently.
•Garg has been appointed in place of former DEA Secretary Shaktikanta Das. The appointment came into effect from July 12.
6) Axis Bank acquires FreeCharge for Rs. 385 crore
•Axis Bank announced the acquisition of Snapdeal-owned mobile payments provider Freecharge in an all-cash deal worth Rs385 crore. The deal is subject to regulatory approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the indicative time-frame to complete the acquisition is two months, the private sector lender said in an exchange filing.
•With this buyout, Axis Bank will get over 50 million customers of Freecharge along with its niche and patented technology and human resources. Founded in 2010 by Mumbai based entrepreneur Kunal Shah, FreeCharge started as a recharge deal coupons platform before turning into a full-scale mobile wallet.

Computer Awareness Previous Questions (IBPS Clerk Mains 2016)

Q1. The scrambling of code is known as:

(a) Encryption

(b) Firewalling

(c) Scrambling

(d) Deception

(e) Permuting


Q2. Which is the full form of VoIP?

(a) Voice of Internet Power

(b) Voice over Internet Protocol

(c) Voice on Internet Protocol

(d) Very optimized Internet Protocol

(e) Very official internet Protocol


Q3. Why do you log off from your computer when going out from your office?

(a) Someone might steal your files, passwords etc.

(b) In order to save electricity

(c) logging off is essential to increase performance

(d) logging off is mandatory you before go out

(e) logging off is a good exercise to perform regularly


Q4. Which of the following is not responsible for the performance of the computer?

(a) no of keys in the keyboard

(b) name of the video/graphics card

(c) memory in the video/graphics card

(d) the clock  speed of the processor

(e) no of cores available in the processor


Q5. Which of the following is used to access a file from the computer store:

(a) insert

(b) retrieve

(c) file

(d) print

(e) find


Q6. Hard drive is used to store :

(a) volatile data

(b) non volatile data

(c) permanent data

(d) temporary data

(e) intermediate data


Q7. Which of the following is the combination of numbers, alphabets along with username used to get access to a user account?

(a) password

(b) username

(c) title name

(d) host-id

(e) screen name


Q8. Which of the following is the type of software that has self-replicating software that causes damage to files and system?

(a) Viruses

(b) Trojan horses

(c) Bots

(d) Worms

(e) Backdoors


Q9. _______is used for very large files or where a fast response time is not critical. The files to be transmitted are gathered over a period and then send together as a batch.

(a) Batch processing 

(b) Online processing

(c) File processing

(d) Data processing

(e) Text processing


Q10.Which of the following system is a function of dedicated PCs?

(a) meant for a single user

(b) meant for the single task   

(c) deal with single software

(d) deal with only editing

(e) deal for music purpose


Q11.What can possibly be the drawback of e-mails?

(a) emails requires being physically  delivered to the user

(b) emails infects computer.

(c) emails are very expensive to transmit

(d) emails are slow to load

(e) people don’t  check emails regularly


Q12.Which of the following is a valid email address?







Q13.Which of the following character set supports Japanese and Chinese font?



(c) BCD


(e) Unicode


Q14.What is the full form of RTF?

(a) Richer Text Formatting

(b) Rich Text Format

(c) Right Text Fishing

(d) Right Text Font

(e) Rich Text Font


Q15.Which of the following is the text alignment available in word processing software that adjusts the left margin while keeping the right margin in any way?

(a) Justify

(b) Left Justify

(c) Right Justify

(d) Centre

(e) Orientation


Q16.Which of the following is false about the clock of the system?

(a) It is the property of the toolbar

(b) The system can periodically refresh the time by synchronizing with a time source

(c) System time is the current date and time of day.

(d) The system keeps time so that your applications have ready access to accurate time.

(e) The system bases system time on coordinated universal time (UTC).


Q17.Which of the following are properties of USB?

(a) Platform independent

(b) Platform dependent

(c) Source dependent

(d) Software dependent

(e) Software independent


Q18.An act of sending e-mails or creating web pages that are designed to collect an individual’s online bank, credit card, or other login information?

(a) Phishing

(b) Spam

(c) hacking

(d) cracking

(e) Malware


Q19.Which of the following is the organized collection of large amount of interrelated data stored in a meaningfully way used for manipulation and updating?

(a) Database

(b) File

(c) Folder

(d) Data-mining

(e) Data source


Q20.Which among the following cycle consists of an Input, processing, output and storage as its constituents?

(a) Processing

(b) Output

(c) Input

(d) Storage

(e) Data

Puzzle – Set 1

Eight friends- Misha, Neeta, Om, Piya, Rita, Siya, Tina and Umang visit different malls viz. Westend, Ansal Plaza, MBD and Flames are sitting around a circular table facing the centre of the table. Each mall is being visited by two people only, but not necessarily in the same order. All these friends have different phones i.e. -Motorola, Samsung Galaxy, HTC, Panasonic, Lava, LG, Oppo and Xiaomi. No two people visiting the same mall are sitting adjacent to each other except those visiting Ansal Plaza. The person who has Panasonic is sitting on the immediate left of the person who has Xiaomi. Rita neither has Xiaomi nor HTC. Umang has LG and visits MBD Mall and is sitting to the immediate left of Neeta, who visits Ansal Plaza. Neeta does not have HTC. Siya has Lava and visits Ansal Plaza, who is sitting opposite to Tina. Only Misha, who has Samsung Galaxy, is sitting between Tina, who has Panasonic and the person who has Oppo. Persons who visit Westend mall are sitting opposite to each other. Each of the persons who visits Flames is sitting adjacent to a person who visits Westend Mall. Piya does not have Xiaomi.


1) Who has a Motorola phone?

(a) Neeta (b) Piya (c) Om (d) Rita (e) None of these


2) Which phone is owned by Om?

(a) Xiaomi  (b) HTC  (c) Motorola (d) Samsung Galaxy (e) None of these


3) Who among the following visit Westend mall?

(a) Om and Umang (b) Rita and Misha (c) Piya and Om (d) Misha and Siya (e) None of these


4) Who is sitting opposite to the person who has LG phone?

(a) The person who has Panasonic phone

(b) The person who has Oppo phone

(c) The person who has Samsung Galaxy phone

(d) The person who has HTC phone

(e) None of these


5) Which of the following pair is sitting adjacent to the person who has Lava phone?

(a) Neeta and Umang (b) Rita and Piya (c) Piya and Umang (d) Umang and Om (e) None of these

The Hindu Notes 26th July,2017

China remains a threat: Army

It is expanding its influence in the region, says Vice-Chief of Staff Sarath Chand

•China, with its growing influence in the region, will remain a threat for India in the future, said Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand, Vice-Chief of Army Staff, on Tuesday even as he defended the comment of the Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, on a “two-and-a-half front war”.

•His comments come in the backdrop of the continuing standoff between the two Armies at Doklam which began on June 16 after Chinese troops tried to build a road in the disputed territory.

•“China is expanding its influence across the Himalayas into our neighbourhood. Despite having the Himalayas between us, it is bound to be a threat for us in the years ahead,” Lt. Gen. Chand said, addressing a joint seminar organised by the Army’s Master General Ordnance and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

•Last month, Gen. Rawat had said that the Army was “fully ready for a two and a half front war” — facing China, Pakistan and dealing with militancy simultaneously.

•Referring to the comments, Lt. Gen. Chand said, “He never meant to whip up war hysteria. He was merely stating a fact that we need to take care and we need to pay more attention to our security.”

Military modernisation

•Talking of China’s rapid military modernisation, he said a large portion of their defence spending remains undisclosed.

•In line with its modernisation, this year China has hiked defence spending to $152 billion, about three times that of India, but the real spend is estimated to be much higher.

On Pakistan

•On Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Chand said being a smaller country with smaller economy, it resorts to a “low-intensity conflict” with India rather than engage in a full-fledged war and said, “That suits its all-weather friend China.”

•He said Pakistan “stooped so low” by targeting schools and inflicting casualties on civilians along the Line of Control, and stated, “This is not something that we would do.”

•Stating that South Asia continues to be one of the most “volatile areas” in the world, he added, “India being at the centre of it is the security provider for this region.”

India rejects OIC move on vigilantism

•India on Tuesday strongly rejected the resolutions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that had expressed concern about the recent attacks on people by cow-vigilante groups. An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs stated that the resolutions adopted at the Organisation’s latest foreign ministers’ meeting were “factually incorrect”.
•“India notes with utmost regret that the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation, during its 44th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers , has again adopted certain resolutions which contain factually incorrect and misleading references to matters internal to India, including the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. India outrightly rejects all such references,” said the statement.
•The MEA added, “the OIC has no locus standi on India’s internal affairs. We strongly advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future.”
•The OIC noted that incidents of violence against the Muslim community were being committed by extremist Hindu groups and said it viewed such incidents “with grave concern”.

‘India’s concerns slowing RCEP talks’

Reservations over impact of duty elimination on local firms a key issue, according to Thai trade official

•India’s reservations regarding the potential adverse impact of eliminating duties on its local manufacturing and job creation is understood to be slowing down the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.

•The RCEP is a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia Pacific nations including India and China, and aims, among other things, to liberalise investment norms in the region, besides boosting trade by dismantling most tariff and non-tariff barriers.

•The “slow pace” of negotiations was worrying, Phairush Burapachaisri, vice chairman, Board of Trade of Thailand and Thai Chamber of Commerce, told The Hindu here on Tuesday. “We hear that while most RCEP countries have agreed to quickly eliminate barriers affecting goods trade, India is seeking more time to do so, and that is delaying the negotiations,” said Mr. Burapachaisri, who attended stakeholder meetings held with the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee on the sidelines of the RCEP negotiations. “The talks have already missed many deadlines and it looks like the negotiators won’t be able to conclude it this year. Asia Pacific is a fast growing region, but trade between countries in the region is affected by several barriers. If RCEP talks are not concluded quickly and these barriers are not eliminated, the region will miss out on many opportunities.”

•Meanwhile, Indian companies and industry bodies, including CII, flagged their concerns. The Centre’s ‘Make In India’ initiative to boost manufacturing and job creation could be hit by a hurried pact, they opined.

Widening trade gap

•Siddhartha Roy, economic advisor, Tata Group, said: “India’s trade deficit [annual] with RCEP nations is about $100 billion, and half of this is with China alone even without an FTA with China.”

•“Post India’s FTA with ASEAN, Japan and Korea [who are all RCEP members], our trade deficit with them have increased, and the government needs to take this into account during RCEP negotiations,” he said. “Eliminating duties under the RCEP will impact many sectors including steel, aluminium, auto-components, many engineering items and readymade garments.”

•CII Trade Policy Committee chairman Deep Kapuria said while many countries were urging greater focus on duty elimination, India ought to highlight the need for removal of non-tariff barriers including those in China.

Govt. may not split Air India for stake sale

Officials fear investors may be put off
•The central government may not sell Air India’s domestic and international operations separately. “We are not willing to go back to the days of Air India and [erstwhile] Indian Airlines, as the disinvestment process may become unattractive,” a senior Aviation Ministry official, requesting anonymity, said.
•This might come as a hurdle to low-cost airline IndiGo’s plan to acquire its international operations.
•“AI’s business cannot be split merely based on an expression of interest from a single private player. If we sell lucrative assets separately, it will make the divestment of the domestic unit and subsidiaries tricky,” the official added.
•The government’s concern is that Air India’s valuation may further take a hit if it hives off Air India into two companies and invites bids for its domestic and international operations.

Zero duty to hit Indian dairy industry: Amul

‘15 cr. farmers will be impacted by FTA’
•The Indian dairy sector, providing livelihood to 15 crore farmers, would be severely hit if import duties on milk and milk products were eliminated under any Free Trade Agreement (FTA) including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), according to the local dairy cooperative Amul.
•Separately, farmers’ organisations have threatened to hold nationwide protests if the dairy sector is opened up under the RCEP — the proposed mega-regional FTA involving 16 Asia Pacific nations including India — or any other FTA including those proposed separately with Australia and New Zealand.
Risk of cheaper imports
•Jayen Mehta, senior general manager, GCMMF Ltd. (Amul), who participated in a stakeholders meeting with officials negotiating the RCEP agreement here, told The Hindu that it was important for India to ensure that duties on all Indian dairy products were not eliminated or reduced under the FTA, as cheaper imports risked threatening local farmers’ incomes from dairy.
•Significantly, Mr. Mehta pointed out that as against 15 crore dairy farmers in India, there were only 12,000 of them in New Zealand and 6,300 in Australia.
‘Duty offers protection’
•Currently, the duty on milk and milk products ranges from 40% to 60%, which gives the local industry enough protection to build its competitiveness.
•However, if the duty is drastically reduced or eliminated under any FTA, the local industry would find it difficult to compete against producers, particularly from RCEP members like Australia and New Zealand — which control more than 35% of the global dairy trade and in excess of 50% of the intra-RCEP trade, Mr. Mehta said.
•Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, said, “Any attempt to open up our milk market to international trade under an FTA shall be resisted by all farmers’ organisations, and we will hold nationwide protests.”

Transfer unclaimed accruals to fund: IRDA

Senior Citizen Welfare Fund to benefit
•Insurance companies can no longer retain unclaimed amounts of policyholders if those accruals are more than 10 years old. Such sums need to be, instead, transferred to the Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund (SCWF) of the Centre.
•“All insurers having unclaimed amounts of policyholders for a period of more than 10 years as on September 30, 2017 need to transfer the same to the SCWF on or before March 1, 2018,” insurance regulator IRDAI said.
•The direction from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has come in the backdrop of the amendment made in April to the Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund Rules. The amendment expanded the purview beyond the unclaimed amounts in small savings and other saving schemes of the Centre, PPF and EPF.
•It brought in unclaimed amount lying with banks, including cooperative banks and RRBs; dividend accounts, deposits and debentures of companies coming under the Companies Act; insurance companies and Coal Mines PF.
•Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar had informed the Lok Sabha that unclaimed deposits as on March 31, 2016, with insurers (life and non-life) totalled Rs. 11,725.45 crore, rising sharply from the Rs. 7,227.23 crore in the previous year.
•Details as to how much of the unclaimed amounts was more than ten years were not immediately available. Unclaimed amounts include sum payable as death claim, maturity claim, survival benefit, premium due for refund and indemnity claims.

In the age of data

Without strong data protection laws, privacy as a right will be of little value
•As India awaits the judgment of a nine-member Bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar on whether privacy is a fundamental right, the moment is ideal for the country to redefine and reconstruct some of the elementary definitions and laws associated with ‘privacy’.
•Here, it is important to look at the issue from both privacy as well as a national security perspectives. The present time period is said to be the ‘age of data’ with private companies — ranging from social media platforms to e-mail services and messaging applications — storing humongous volumes of information, a lot of it outside India’s borders. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have more than 200 million active users in India, with India recently surpassing the United States in terms of the number of Facebook users.
•Data-colonising companies like these use the collected information in myriad ways. Individuals have limited control over how data collected from them are used; in many cases, they do not even have undisputed ownership of their own personal information. Further, the companies’ databases are also under constant risk of cyberattacks. The likelihood of such scenarios has prompted technology evangelists like Nandan Nilekani to press for an immediate creation of stringent data protection laws.
EU regulation
•To protect the privacy of its individual users, the European Union is to implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. Aimed at harmonising data privacy laws across Europe, it will impose stiff penalty of up to 4% of the company’s worldwide turnover in the event of a breach. Many companies will also have to ensure that even their vendors are fully compliant with the GDPR as a condition for running their businesses. Recognition of privacy as an individual right in India, without similar enforceable regulations, will be akin to raking water up a hill.
•Coming to collection of data by governments and agencies, we need to keep in mind that the Internet and the more virulent Darknet are being increasingly used these days by criminals and antisocial elements for illegal trade, trafficking and money laundering apart from recruitment to various terror outfits like the Islamic State (IS).
•Regulations that impinge on the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies as they battle these challenges would significantly compromise our social harmony and national security.
•Hence, what India needs more is effective data protection laws, along with strong independent watchdog institutions to ensure that the organisations handling our data do not go astray.

For a hygienic track

The CAG report on the railways should compel a quick upgrade of passenger services
•Among the most affordable transport systems in the world, India’s railway network carries millions of people every day, linking the remotest destinations. Yet, in a fast-growing country with rising ambitions, the system is caught in a time warp, unable to scale up its services to global standards and hobbled by inefficient management. Although the rot in passenger services has been repeatedly identified, it has only grown worse. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on catering services for the year ended March 2016 provides further evidence that little has changed in the system: food unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated and recycled items, packaged articles past their use-by date, and unauthorised items are sold on trains, all endangering the health of passengers. Such gross violations are all the more glaring because the administration has instituted a mechanism to penalise agencies such as the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and invites passengers to file complaints. Evidently, instances such as a Rs.1 lakh fine levied on the IRCTC for the presence of a cockroach in food supplied on the Kolkata Rajdhani Express three years ago have not resulted in any significant reform. Nor has private sector participation in food supply provided a panacea for the problems linked to departmental catering. It is unlikely, therefore, that the recently unveiled catering policy will make a big difference unless the process of identifying caterers, fixing prices, and ensuring quality control is transparent and is monitored by external auditors. Independent oversight can potentially improve other aspects of service as well, such as the quality and maintenance of linen, which the CAG has found to be shockingly substandard.
•The NDA government began its tenure with a focus on modernising India’s creaking railways, and several major announcements have been made, including the setting up of a long-pending Rail Development Authority to recommend tariffs and set standards. In the area of passenger services, any reform has to contend with the ‘open access’ character of rail travel in the country, since coaches are open to unlicensed vendors who sell food, water and other goods. Given the need for employment, it would be pragmatic to broaden the network and enrol more local distributors of certified articles, while implementing the core idea of the IRCTC running modern base kitchens. Audit findings of contractors on railway premises overcharging users and selling packaged food items at prices inflated over the open market are serious, and require immediate resolution. The experience with different models of service on trains in India merits a comparison with France, where unhappy passengers on the popular, high-speed TGV trains wanted public sector catering back a few years ago. Now that the CAG has given an exhaustive critique, it is imperative that the Railway Ministry brings about a visible change through its proposed reforms.

Context of the contest

The role of the President or the Vice President does not extend to articulating a national philosophy of India

•Indian democracy is both rumbustious and fractious. Yet there are moments when contested democracy gives way to broad agreement and the camaraderie of the political class. The election to the posts of President and Vice President is one such occasion.
•On July 25, the newly elected President of India Ram Nath Kovind was sworn in at the Central Hall of Parliament. The function was attended by Members of Parliament cutting across party lines and Chief Ministers who represented different political persuasions. Earlier, last Sunday, a cross-section of MPs attended a touching farewell to outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, a man associated with Indian parliamentary democracy since 1969.
•Not all those who attended both functions had voted for either President Kovind or President Mukherjee. Apart from one occasion, no choice of President has been unanimous. Though the election of 1969 involving V.V. Giri and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was by far the most bitterly contested, most other contests have been symbolic. Unsuccessful candidates have included C.D. Deshmukh, H.R. Khanna, K. Subba Rao, Tridib Chaudhuri, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and P.A. Sangma — all distinguished individuals who would have made copybook occupants of Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, the mere fact that the presidency was contested didn’t either diminish the office or ensure unending controversy over the person of the Head of State. Regardless of the pre-history of the person who becomes the Rashtrapati, the respect and dignity of that office has always been maintained by all shades of political opinion. Apart from Giani Zail Singh, no President has ever been caught in the cross-currents of partisan politics.
•The reason is obvious. The holder of a constitutional office such as the President or Vice President is not expected to be another battering ram on behalf of the Prime Minister and the ruling dispensation. The Head of State is, above all, expected to adhere to the letter of the Constitution. The only occasion the President can somewhat exercise his discretion is in selecting the Prime Minister in the event of a fractured election verdict.
•As for Vice President, his principal role is that of Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and, by implication, overseeing the function of Rajya Sabha TV. His discretionary powers are limited to showing a little extra indulgence towards some of the more voluble MPs and, perhaps, giving the Treasury benches a little elbow room.
A misplaced debate
•In view of the defined roles for the President and Vice President, Peter Ronald deSouza’s spirited intervention (‘The Vice President’s Mien’, The Hindu, July 24) comes as a surprise. He argues that the forthcoming election for Vice President is, in effect, a “battle between two ideas of what India aspired to be during its struggle for freedom and what India should be.” He backs this up with the assertion that the values imbibed by individuals in a shakha of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are totally at variance with the tradition of ethics and dharma that underpinned the Gandhian traditions of the national movement, and projects the contest as a rerun of the contest between Mahatma Gandhi and V.D. Savarkar, between an individual nurtured in the shakha that “debilitate(s) the mind” and the “grandson of both Rajaji and Gandhiji.”
•Prof. deSouza’s projection is a more erudite elaboration of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s claim of her contest with Mr. Kovind being a battle of ideologies. No doubt, he has grave misgivings of the larger political orientation of the Narendra Modi government. However, regardless of our individual characterisation of the government, I am baffled by Prof. deSouza’s claim that this has a bearing on who the MPs choose as the Vice President of India.
•The role of the President and Vice President has been rigidly defined by the Constitution. Fortunately, this role does not extend to articulating a national philosophy of India. If it did, the implications would be quite fearful. If, as Prof. deSouza contends, the battle is between noble and ignoble visions of what India stands for, does it imply that the latter would get short shrift under the Vice President of his choice? Given that the Modi government has a popular mandate until 2019, would the (unlikely) election of a Vice President blessed with both pedigree and dharma be the signal for a breakdown in relations between the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the government?
•The debate that Prof. deSouza has sought to trigger has a place. However, that place is at the hustings of a general election. By injecting this debate into the election of a constitutional post, he is advocating a complete subversion of the democratic political system. A President or Vice President with an agenda of waging a righteous civil war against an elected government belongs in the realms of putschist politics, not democracy.

The crossroads at the Doklam plateau

India must calibrate both its message and military moves to keep Bhutan on track with the special bilateral ties
•There are many strings that tie Bhutan to India in a special and unique relationship, but none are as strong as the ones laid down on the ground: 1,500 km, to be precise, of roads that have been built by India across the Himalayan kingdom’s most difficult mountains and passes.
•Since 1960, when Bhutan’s King Jigme Wangchuk (the present King’s grandfather) entrusted the then Prime Minister, Jigme Dorji, with modernising the country, that had previously stayed closed to the world, those roads built and maintained by the Indian Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under Project Dantak have brought the countries together for more than one reason.
A one-way street?
•“All the new roads [they] proposed to construct were being aligned to run southwards towards India from the main centres of Bhutan. Not a single road was planned to be constructed to the Tibetan (Chinese) border,” recounted one of independent India’s pioneers in forging ties with Bhutan, Nari Rustomji, a bureaucrat who also served as the Dewan, or Prime Minister, of Sikkim from 1954 to 1959, in his book Dragon Kingdom in Crisis . When the Chinese presented a fork in the road, Rustomji said, “with feelers to bring Bhutan within the orbit of their influence”, Bhutan stood firm in “maintaining an independent stand”.
•Just a few years later, during the India-China war of 1962, Bhutan showed its sympathies definitely lay with India, but it still wouldn’t bargain on that independent stand: when Indian soldiers retreated from battle lines in Arunachal Pradesh, they were given safe passage through eastern Bhutan, but on the condition that soldiers would deposit their rifles at the Trashigang Dzong armoury, and travel through Bhutan to India unarmed. (The rifles lie there till today.)
•As India seeks to understand the Chinese government’s intentions in the Doklam stand-off, it would be obvious and natural to see them in the context of deteriorating relations between New Delhi and Beijing for the past three years, or in terms of China’s own global ambitions, and its need to show its Asian neighbours its muscular might. But any explanation that does not consider China’s desire to draw space between India and Bhutan in the ongoing stand-off will be inadequate, and simplistic at best.
•The first and most important clue to this is the area involved in the stand-off itself: the Doklam plateau is an area that China and Bhutan have long discussed, over 24 rounds of negotiations that began in 1984. In the early 1990s China is understood to have made Bhutan an offer that seemed attractive to the government in Thimphu: a “package deal” under which the Chinese agreed to renounce their claim over the 495-sq.-km disputed land in the Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys to the north, in exchange for a smaller tract of disputed land measuring 269 sq. km, the Doklam plateau. Several interlocutors have confirmed that the offer was repeated by China at every round, something Bhutan’s King and government would relay to India as well. While India was able to convince Bhutan to defer a decision, things did change after India and Bhutan renegotiated their friendship treaty in 2007, and post-2008, when Bhutan’s first elected Prime Minister Jigme Thinley began to look for a more independent foreign policy stance. Some time during this period, the PLA is understood to have built the dirt track at Doklam that is at the centre of the current stand-off, including the “turning point”, and the Bhutanese army appears not to have objected to it then.
•During the next five years of his tenure, Mr. Thinley conducted more rounds of talks, including on the ‘Doklam package’, and even held a controversial meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (in Rio de Janeiro, 2012), suggesting that Bhutan was thinking of establishing consular relations with China, much to India’s chagrin. During this time, Bhutan also increased the number of countries with which it had diplomatic relations from 22 to 53, and even ran an unsuccessful campaign for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
•By 2013, India took matters in hand, and the Manmohan Singh government’s decision to withdraw energy subsidies to Bhutan on the eve of its general elections that summer contributed to Jigme Thinley’s shock defeat. When the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s government prepared his first round of boundary talks with Beijing a few months later, New Delhi took no chances. It dispatched both National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to Thimphu to brief him. China, it would seem, realised it could no longer press the Doklam point, and a year later even offered India the Nathu La pass route through Sikkim for Kailash-Mansarovar yatris.
•With the latest stand-off, that includes the cancellation of the Nathu La route, China appears to be back in the eastern great game that Bhutan has become, or an “egg between two rocks”, as a senior Bhutanese commentator described it. India must also consider that the PLA road construction that brought Indian troops to Bhutanese territory may be what is known as a “forcing move” in chess. By triggering a situation where Indian soldiers occupy land that isn’t India’s for a prolonged period, Beijing may have actually planned to show up India’s intentions in an unfavourable light to the people of Bhutan.
•The government must see that Bhutan’s sovereignty is no trivial matter, and avoid flippant comments as the one made by the Ministry of External Affairs last week, likening the question of whether Bhutan had sought the help of Indian troops at the tri-junction to “whether the ball came first… or the batsman had taken a stand before the ball was bowled”. The question does matter to Bhutanese people, and although their government has put out a gag request to newspapers on the Doklam stand-off for now, blog posts and social media write-ups by respected commentators indicate there is much disquiet over the idea that Indian and Chinese troops may occupy the plateau in a tense stalemate for months. It cannot have escaped South Block’s notice that the only statement issued by the Bhutanese Foreign Ministry during this time makes no mention of a “distress call” to India, only of its demarche to China. Finally, New Delhi would do well to refrain from differentiating between political factions inside Bhutan, unlike what it has done in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and recognise that there is no “anti-India” faction in Bhutan, even if some are calling for the establishment of ties with China.
In full view of neighbours
•India must also be aware that other neighbours are watching the Doklam stand-off closely. It would be short-sighted not to recognise that Bhutan is at one tri-junction with India and China, but Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan too have tri-junctions (at least on the map) with both countries, and China’s reference to “third country” presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is putting a spotlight on all of these. Bhutan is also the only country in the region that joined India in its boycott of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee project, the Belt and Road Initiative. In China’s thinking, any reconsideration of Bhutan’s unique ties with India, forged all those decades ago in asphalt and concrete, would be not only a prize, but possible payback.
•While Indian commentary has focused on the Narendra Modi government’s bilateral problems with Beijing, and India’s larger problems with China’s aggressive stance on the international stage, the truth is, this crisis is as much about the crossroads Bhutan finds itself at. India must calibrate both its message and its military moves in order to keep Bhutan on track with the special ties they share.

‘Weak public institutions best way to ensure social injustice’

The political scientist on the danger to India’s checks and balances, and the perils of the democratisation of mediocrity in universities
•Professor of political science and a holder of the Madan Lal Sobti Chair, Devesh Kapur has been director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary India at University of Pennsylvania since 2006. Mr. Kapur, who recently co-edited Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design, says our public universities have failed in fostering a spirit of inquiry, curiosity, tolerance and excellence among students. Excerpts:
•You have said you could see the making of a perfect storm in India.
•In the next few decades, we will see a youth bulge with a skewed sex ratio, one where people, the young people, have ostensible credentials but no real skills or knowledge because of how bad our education system is. So they have expectations and aspirations which are not going to be met. If you were very poor like in the past, life was short and brutish. But not now. And then add to it employment in the face of technological change which in every area requires fewer workers. All of this is coming together with a background of weak, if not weakening, public institutions to manage this. If you see institutions as mediating societal tensions, conflicts, this is what worries me the most about us.
Why do we have a scant regard for public institutions?
•In some ways, everywhere public institutions are challenged. Under the Trump regime, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon wants to dismantle the administrative state. In the end all institutions are some form of checks and balances, but if those in power do not want those checks and balances and they get re-elected repeatedly, then over time there is erosion and — I want to emphasise this — this is across political parties. The Left, the Socialists, the caste-based parties and the regional parties and the national parties, all have to share the blame for this.
•If you think of universities, especially public universities, as public institutions, what is amazing is that one cannot think of a single political party that had the least vision of higher education. After all, education is a concurrent subject, right? So, even if the Central government has a particular stance or non-stance, the States could have intervened.
•Look at the way our vice chancellors are selected. Many of them would not get a job as a lecturer in a decent college. There are reasons to believe that at least in some cases, they have paid their way there. Between 2000 and 2015, we set up almost six new colleges a day, every single day over 15 years including weekends. At its peak, the U.S., with way greater resources, set up one new college a week. And this, when we have the most regulated higher education system… the UGC (University Grants Commission), AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), etc.
But hasn’t the creation of universities and colleges opened access to those who didn’t have it in the first place?
•I think you can create all these universities and frame the rules. But the underlying ethos of higher education is a spirit of inquiry, a spirit of curiosity, a spirit of tolerance, a spirit that says excellence is important. In that sense higher education should be elitist. It should not be elitist by who enters, but in its intellectual ambitions. To push the frontiers of knowledge, you have to have high standards. The idea that you get grace marks to pass… what does that mean? Even the role of the courts. In fact, you could argue that if you look at the judges and many of the ways they write the judgments, it shows you what ails our education system.
But surely, that is linked to who the government selects?
•Here is the tragedy. We have the second or third largest country of people with college degrees in the world. Everywhere, whether public or private institutions, we have a shortage of talent. You know that old poem? Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink. We have graduates, graduates everywhere, but who do I hire? Yet we are setting up more IITs.
There are a few universities that are doing well…
•Very few, they are islands of excellence. But for the bulk of our population, public universities will, and should, continue to be very important. But we seem to be writing them off. Other than the very elite narrow technical institutes like IITs and AIIMS and IIMs, these have reduced what the purpose of education means to a basic functional instrument. Isse aap ko achchi naukri milegi (you will get a good job). They are not about thinking about the larger purpose of higher education. Does it make us better citizens? Does it make us think us broadly about the society we are embedded in, what we take from it and owe it?
•It is unclear why you cannot say that if you go to this institution, you must serve in some public function for two years after you graduate. In South Korea, Singapore and other countries, for many decades they had a compulsory draft regardless of your background. If you want to create a sense of genuine nationalism, of service to the nation, that’s where it begins. It doesn’t begin in sloganeering. Why shouldn’t IIT graduates be sent to help out panchayats with technical expertise?
•If you look at public loans for higher education, they were about Rs. 300 crore in 2000. Now they are Rs. 72,000 crore, the fastest-growing NPAs (non-performing assets) in the banking system. Basically, these moneys go to private colleges, many are run by politicians, teaching rubbish and in the end, the public sector will pay in any case. There will be a lot of pressure to write off loans. They did serve a good purpose in making education accessible to a large number of students. But it is not clear if democratisation of mediocrity will serve our society well. There has been a massive elite exodus. How many children of our senior politicians, bureaucrats study here?
What ails our public institutions?
•One of the extraordinary things is how undermanned they are. It’s not only about shortage of personnel in numbers, we have a shortage in quality. Partly I think this whole thing of everything at the top being reserved for the IAS, IPS has to go.
•There has to be much more sifting; after 20 years of service, one-third of them have to leave on the performance scale. The same thing has happened with our universities. Our universities are like the civil service, they are like babudom . Whether I work or not, I am going to basically go with time.
Aren’t you being elitist here?
•Whenever someone questions this, you will immediately be attacked as elitist. Ironically, weak public institutions are the best way to ensure social injustice. Who needs strong public institutions? It is the weak, not the strong. The strong will always be able to buy their way, whether it is education, police protection. The irony is in the name of social justice, we have undermined the very social justice we have claimed we were doing this for.
So, what do we do?
•The biggest hypocrisy is self-delusion. We always say the West is individualistic. We are one of the most individual societies — the idea of the collective good where the collective is large is absent. We are becoming more ghettoised, not less. I come back to the universities, which is where the young people are on the verge of adulthood. The first time you are meeting people from different parts of the country. Ideas are shaped. That’s the last time you are going to be open-minded. The pretences go away slowly.
•Look at the faculty of our public universities. Look at West Bengal. The first two Chairs — and by the way, back then it was private money — at Calcutta University: in physics, it was C.V. Raman, and in philosophy, it was S. Radhakrishnan. Go to the university now… all completely Bengalis. The parochialism that comes with that is frightening. We have gone backwards in a serious way. One of the things we should do in our Central universities is besides reservation, insist that half the students come from outside. We have stopped thinking about the larger role universities play in public life.
•How do you see the stifling of dissent on campuses in the name of nationalism? For instance, in the context of what happened in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The genuine conundrum we face is, if you are in a research programme funded by public money, what should be your role? Should it be activism or research?
•Research is not a part-time activity. Din bhar morcha kiya, raat ko do ghanta kaam kiya (Take part in protests through the day, do precious little at night). Good research requires tremendous commitment over a sustained period of time. You cannot get around it. That is the bottom line. An ordinary taxpayer may say, main kyon paise doon (why should I pay)? Or from the point of view of the young person: there are so many injustices, do you want me to keep aloof? I think there is an inherent tension we should recognise.
•But I do think… going back to the JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) movement, he had called students to protest. It seemed nice then. But look what it did to public universities in north India. It destroyed them. What became of the movement is that university politics became the springboard for political ambitions.
Why has our cultural debate become about Us versus Them?
•Partly there is a very distinct feeling from the Right that we were deliberately excluded. That it is our turn. Unfortunately, they don’t get Gandhi’s adage that an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. Vengeance may give you short-term pleasure, but it is not a recipe for building but for pulling down. Then you get into Us versus Them. Both sides are Indians. There is no us, them. This is our country, right? You see this in the U.S. where we see a tribalism on display. We have been sowing very poisonous seeds. We should be trying twice as hard to not be divisive. We should prepare our roofs now. We can’t do when the storm comes. By then we will be reaping what we are sowing now, and we should think very carefully what exactly we will be harvesting.

Daily Current Affairs 26th July,2017

1) Nation celebrates Kargil Vijay Diwas: 26 July
•The country is celebrating the 18th Anniversary of ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ today. On the occasion, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and three Chiefs of Services will lay floral tribute at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate.
•Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated on 26 July, commemorates India’s emphatic victory against Pakistan and honors the war heroes. On this day in 1999, the Indian Army successfully took control of posts at a treacherous high altitude and glaciated terrain across the Himalayas in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, after fighting for 60 days.
2) Union Home Minister Chairs First Meeting Of Islands Development Agency (IDA) IDA Focuses On Holistic Development Of Islands

Union Home Minister chairs first meeting of Islands Development Agency (IDA)
•The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh chaired the first meeting of the newly constituted Islands Development Agency (IDA). The IDA was set up on June 01, 2017 following the Prime Minister’s review meeting for the development of islands.
•The Union Home Minister presented the vision for developing India’s maritime economy while preserving the natural eco-system and addressing the security concerns. He emphasized upon the need for sustainable development of Islands with people’s participation.
3) BRICS Youth Forum opens in Beijing
•The 2017 BRICS Youth Forum opened in Beijing, China to discuss the development of the youth in the countries of the grouping. The theme of three-day forum is ‘Enhance BRICS Partnership, Promote Youth Development’.
•It gathered 50 youth representatives working as civil servants, scholars, entrepreneurs, artists and journalists from the BRICS countries. The five BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — first came up with the idea of establishing a dialogue mechanism for BRICS youth in 2014 during a meeting between BRICS leaders in South Africa.
4) Reliance Defence launches first two naval patrol vessels Shachi and Shruti
Reliance Defence launches first two naval patrol vessels Shachi and Shruti
•Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited ( a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure) announced the launch of its first two Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) – ‘Shachi’ and ‘Shruti’ – at their shipyard in Pipavav, Gujarat.
•The two NOPVs are ‘Shachi’ and ‘Shruti’ to be launched by a private sector shipyard in India.
•The five NOPVs are patrol ships armed with a 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) system along with two 30 mm AK-630 guns, which provide medium range and short range offensive and defensive capabilities.
5) Union Government approves construction of 30,000 affordable houses on Private land
Union Government approves construction of 30,000 affordable houses on Private land
•The Centre approved the construction of 30,000 houses for the urban poor on private land in Maharashtra’s Sholapur.
•The main aim is to give momentum to affordable housing in urban areas.
•Under the Centre’s flagship programme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry gave approval to the Central assistance of Rs 450 crore for the project.
•Under PMAY(U) the Raynagar Cooperative Housing Federation, Sholapur had submitted a proposal to build 30,000 houses for its members comprising beedi and textile workers and other urban poor belonging to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) at a cost of Rs 1,811 crore.
6) India to host maiden men’s World Boxing Championship in 2021
•The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has announced that India will host their first Men’s World Championship in 2021. The announcement was made after a two-day executive committee meeting that was held in Moscow.
•The AIBA Men’s World Championships 2019 will be held in Russia city of Sochi. The 2018 Women’s World Championships will also be held in New Delhi.

The Hindu Notes 25th July,2017

Don’t harbour unrealistic illusions, China tells India

Will safeguard security at any cost, says Defence Ministry
•China said on Monday that it will safeguard its security interests at “any cost” as its sovereignty was “indomitable”, amid a standoff with India in the Sikkim sector.
•Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian made this assertion ahead of this week’s National Security Advisers’ (NSA) talks to resolve the standoff.
•Maintaining China’s hardline stance on the issue, Mr. Wu told a media briefing that “India should not leave things to luck and not harbour any unrealistic illusions.”
‘Correct your mistake’
•Commenting on the over a month-long standoff between the troops of the two countries in the Doklam area in the Sikkim section, Mr. Wu urged India to “correct its mistake.”
•Stating that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had taken emergency measures in the region and continued to increase focused deployments and drills, he said, “We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region’s peace and tranquillity.”
•His comments came as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is set to travel to Beijing this week to attend the BRICS NSAs’ meeting scheduled to be held from July 27-28 during which he is expected to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. Both Mr. Doval and Mr. Yang are Special Representatives of the two countries in the boundary talks. Chinese officials say while there may not be a formal meeting between the two officials, keeping with Beijing’s public position that no talks will be held without India withdrawing troops, they could hold discussions on the sidelines to end the deadlock.

Centre seeks more time on cattle slaughter rules

Everything in totality is being considered, it tells SC
•The Centre on Monday asked the Supreme Court for more time to report back on the progress in modifying the controversial cattle slaughter ban rules. “Everything in totality is being considered,” it said.
•The rules ban the sale of cattle for slaughter in livestock markets. Hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the rules on July 11, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar had recorded a submission made by the Centre that a Madras HC’s stay on the implementation of the rules was applicable across the country.
Order challenged
•But the July 11 order itself had subsequently come under challenge. Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi filed an application asking the SC to clarify its order. Ms. Maulekhi contended that the High Court had only stayed a provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, regarding slaughter and not the entire gamut of rules and its twin — The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Act, 2017. However, the Centre had intervened with assurances that the Environment Ministry was having a re-look at the rules and “nothing would happen” in the meantime.
•Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha said the Centre would revisit the rules in the light of the public furore it had caused and fresh rules may be notified possibly in August 2017.
•The court scheduled the hearing on August 4.

Opposition seeks scrutiny of Banking Regulation Bill

Finance Minister says the issues will be dealt with when the Bill, which seeks to authorise the RBI to resolve the problem of stressed assets, comes up for a discussion
•Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017, in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The Bill seeks to authorise the RBI to resolve the problem of stressed assets, even as the Opposition demanded that it be sent to a standing committee for scrutiny.
•The Bill seeks to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, and replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated in May. It allows the RBI to open an insolvency resolution process in respect of specific stressed assets. The RBI will also be empowered to issue directives for resolution and appoint authorities or committees to advise the banking companies on stressed asset resolution.
Desperate step
•Before that, Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said he opposed the ordinance itself and called it a “desperate step by a desperate government”. Non-performing assets of banks have risen to over Rs. 9 lakh crore, and now the RBI was empowered to refer the cases to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board, he said.
•“It is the same RBI which had not been able to count notes [after demonetisation]. Giving such powers to the RBI will switch its attention from macro-economic issues to micro-economic issues and render the bank management useless,” Mr. Roy said. He wanted the Bill referred to a standing committee.
•Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked Mr. Jaitley if he wanted to respond to Mr. Roy’s remarks. The Finance Minister said the issues would be dealt with when the Bill came up for a discussion.

Admiralty Bill gets Rajya Sabha nod

One is on maritime claims and the other on footwear design institute
•The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed two Bills on jurisdiction and settlement of maritime claims and the Footwear Design and Development Institute. However, the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2017, could not be taken up.
•The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), Bill, 2017, passed by the Lok Sabha in March, seeks to consolidate the laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction, legal proceedings in connection with vessels, their arrest, detention, sale and other related matters. While earlier only the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras could take up maritime cases, the Bill extends the power to the High Courts of Karnataka, Kerala, Hyderabad, Orissa and Gujarat, besides any other High Courts as notified by the Centre.
Current scenario
•Moving the Bill, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Mansukh L. Mandaviya said the old maritime admiralty laws in India needed to be changed in accordance with the current global scenario. He said the Bill was aimed at bringing in clarity to the law.
•The Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill, 2017, as earlier passed by the Lok Sabha, is to establish it as an institution of national importance. Although all members supported the Bill, some said recent developments had an adverse impact on leather industry. Referring to the recent incidents involving “cow vigilantes,” Congress member P.L. Punia sought protection to those engaged in the industry.
•Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav and BSP’s Veer Singh raised the issue of Agra-based traders saying they were facing severe supply shortage.
•Responding to Mr. Yadav’s remarks, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman said flaws of the past were being corrected now.
•She said earlier, leather was being supplied from unregulated, unlicensed and illegal sources, which should not have happened.
•The government was just trying to regulate the supplies.
•Ms. Sitharaman informed the House that the programme currently has 12 campuses, of which seven units are already functional.

‘Enough political will to seal RCEP talks’

People’s groups seek to halt negotiations; claim FTA will harm farmers, industry
•India is ‘fully committed’ to taking forward the negotiations for a mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to ensure that it is a ‘balanced’ pact that benefits all the 16 Asia-Pacific nations including itself that are participating in the talks, according to commerce secretary Rita Teaotia.
•The senior official, in effect, dismissed speculations that the India-China border standoff will have an adverse impact on the trade talks.
•While the RCEP negotiations — aiming to liberalise norms in the 16 countries including India and China to boost trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region — are underway behind closed doors at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, several people’s groups from across the country held demonstrations demanding a halt to the talks.
•They claimed that the mega-regional FTA will, among other things, adversely impact not only farmers’ rights but also access to affordable medicines, besides threatening the protections to India’s digital industry.
Surge feared
•However, the commerce secretary told The Hindu that “all the 16 countries, including India, have expressed willingness to constructively engage in the talks and have put forward revised offers in goods and services to negotiate a mutually beneficial outcome.” Amid fears that the FTA will result in a surge in inflow of cheap goods into India from these countries including China, in turn impacting the Indian industry and farmers, the senior official said the Indian negotiating team is confident that they can “protect India’s interests and ensure that the FTA is not unfair to India.”
•“We are going to have more frequent rounds of negotiations. There will also be a Ministerial meeting in September,” she said, indicating that there is enough political will to expedite the conclusion of the talks.
•This is the 19th Round of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee meeting at the technical level. In addition to this, so far there have been four Ministerial Meetings and three ‘Inter-sessional Ministerial Meetings’.
•India Inc. is learnt to have reservations against India undertaking any binding commitment to immediately eliminate duties on most traded goods, as part of the FTA. However, Ms. Teaotia said “one should not underestimate India’s strengths in various sectors.” She added that FTA negotiations are always on the basis of “give and take” and that there will be “gains for India” from the pact.
•India is pushing for liberalisation of services, including easing norms for movement of professionals across borders for short-term work. However, the slow progress of the services negotiations has been worrying India.

Ambiguity on GST irks solar players

‘Suppliers yet to pass on input tax credits; higher costs will be passed on to end users’
•Ambiguity surrounding the Goods and Services Tax rate on various inputs is troubling the solar sector, with industry players also saying that their suppliers are not passing on the benefit arising out of input tax credits, leading to higher prices and eventually higher tariffs for customers.
•“There is no clarity when it comes to the GST rates,” Sanjeev Aggarwal, MD and CEO of Amplus Energy Solutions told The Hindu . “While the government is saying that there is a 5% rate on solar components, the truth is that the weighted average rate comes at about 10%. Some items are taxed at 18%, and some at the lower 5%. Others, like inverters, are even taxed at 28%.”
•“Suppliers have also not yet started passing on the benefits of the input tax credits to us, so we are not getting the advantage of that either,” Mr. Aggarwal added.
•While the 5% tax rate specified by the GST Council for solar components has increased the cost of the projects, the ambiguity over the other inputs — which are used for projects other than in the solar sector — is creating confusion among solar developers.
•“The module, which is almost half of the cost of the solar system…, earlier there was no tax on it,” Gagan Vermani, founder and CEO at MYSUN said. “Now, it has come under 5%. Ultimately, it will increase the cost of the modules by 5%. And, we have to pass this on to the customers. Our cost of procurement has gone up, so the selling price will also go up.”
‘End use classification’
•“There is also a little confusion on solar right now because the detailed gazette talks about structures, invertors, wires, and other components without specifying whether they are for solar or not,” Mr. Vermani added. “But there is a separate line item that says for solar utilities, the rate is 5%. So, there is confusion about whether an inverter, if it is being used for solar, comes under 5% or the normal rate of 28%.”
•“Because GST is an end-use tax, the government cannot even discriminate between uses by saying that, say, an inverter used for solar purposes will be taxed this much, but for other purposes at a higher rate,” Mr. Aggarwal said. “This will be very difficult to implement and will also lead to misuse. How will one prove for what purpose it is being used for?”
•The same is true for the other components as well.
•“Everyday we are sitting with our tax consultants and trying to figure out the eventual impact on our projects,” Sanjay Garudapally, director, business development, Rays Power Infra said. “We are getting different answers. Some are saying 10%, others are saying other rates. Nothing has been clarified so far since GST has rolled out, but we expect something to be done in about three weeks to a month.”

SC for more data on GM mustard

•The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to stop itself from embarking on any project on, or commercial release of, genetically modified (GM) mustard.

•A Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said an injunction order would be passed if it was found that GM mustard affected health and lives for generations.
•The court agreed with Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta’s suggestion to get more scientific information on GM mustard by July 28 to address the apprehensions raised by the court and petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, on the after-effects of GM mustard. The court scheduled the case for hearing on July 31.
•“If nothing happens, if there is no problem, then it is fine. But if there is going to be an impact, we would like to have an injunction in place, by either us or by you,” Chief Justice Khehar told Mr. Mehta categorically. Mr. Mehta said discussions and studies were still on about the large number of representations received from the public and scientific bodies about GM mustard.

What’s brewing in Darjeeling

The Gorkhaland movement constitutes an opting out of West Bengal’s domination and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India
•The Darjeeling hills are in crisis. A resurgent Gorkhaland movement and subsequent state crackdown have infused life with violent uncertainty. Visitors to the ‘queen of the hills’ will be hard-pressed to find the idyllic tea plantations, mountain views, and quaint footpaths that characterise Darjeeling. Challenging these figments of the postcolonial imagination has always been another side to Darjeeling, now undeniably visible in the tear gas, burning vehicles, crippling strikes, tourist evacuations, foreboding police and military presence, and deaths at the hands of both state forces and political activists.
•The current crisis was born of a perfect storm. In May, the West Bengal government announced Bengali as a compulsory language in schools across the State. By June, this triggered protests and claims of ‘linguistic imperialism’ in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts (where the lingua franca is Nepali). Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee then decided to hold a Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling for the first time in over 40 years. Little effort was made to include representatives of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) or the three hill MLAs, eliciting protests. The ensuing clash with police left government property destroyed and many protesters injured. The Army was brought in to staunch unrest, but it escalated instead. Subsequent protests and crackdowns have led to further destruction and deaths.
•With ‘Jai Gorkha, Jai Gorkhaland’ reverberating through the hills, Darjeeling has plunged again into the throes of agitation. Internet and cable television have been suspended for the last month. Strikes and security threats have devastated the local economy at the peak of tourist season. While fear is rampant, so is a shared sense of resistance and solidarity. Uncertainty notwithstanding, the crisis has made clear: Darjeeling is not what it’s often made out to be.
•The time has come to take a deeper look at the histories undergirding Darjeeling’s latest crisis. This requires asking: What is Gorkhaland? And why is it deemed necessary by those who call the region home?
The crux of the movement
•The Gorkhaland movement is a long-standing quest for a separate State of Gorkhaland within India for Nepali-speaking Indian citizens (often known as ‘Gorkhas’). With roots dating back over a century, Gorkhaland is a classic subnationalist movement, not unlike those that have produced other States, most recently Telangana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. Beyond all else, Gorkhaland is a desire for the recognition, respect, and integration of Gorkha peoples in the Indian nation-state. Contra popular misunderstanding, the movement is neither separatist nor anti-nationalist; it is about inclusion and belonging in India. As Gorkha National Liberation Front founder Subash Ghisingh explained during the first Gorkhaland agitation in the 1980s, “We Nepali-Indians who have nothing to do with Nepal are constantly confused with ‘Nepalis’, that is, citizens of Nepal, a foreign country. But if there is Gorkhaland then our belonging to an Indian State, just like your identity, will be clear.”
•With those demands unrequited, a second Gorkhaland movement emerged in 2007 under the leadership of Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and has flared intermittently. Heralding self-governance, recognition, and belonging in India, Gorkhaland remains the dream for Darjeeling citizens and many Nepali-speaking Indians across the country. It stands as a key means to redress the Gorkhas’ enduring history of discrimination, misconception, and marginalisation in India. Herein lies the rub — and primary antagonism with West Bengal. By demanding Gorkhaland, the people of Darjeeling-Kalimpong are opting out of West Bengal’s domination, and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India writ large.
•Understanding Gorkhaland requires understanding its underlying histories. In many ways, the Gorkhas of Darjeeling have yet to taste the liberation of India’s Independence. The local economy illustrates the continuities between the colonial and postcolonial eras: Gorkhas remain pegged to the lowest levels of employment, while outsiders own the tea industry, meaning its profits flow out of the hills. These economic constraints are exacerbated by the misunderstandings Gorkhas face when they seek education and work in places like Kolkata, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. Called ‘foreigners’, ‘outsiders’ and ‘chinkys’, racial discrimination affects aspiring Gorkhas at every turn.
Reasons for resurgence
•The political circumstances are equally frustrating. Since 1947, the Darjeeling-Kalimpong region has remained under the thumb of West Bengal, despite no substantive pre-Partition evidence to support West Bengal’s territorial claims to this region. Conciliatory set-ups like the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (1988-2012) and the GTA (2012-present) have failed to provide meaningful autonomy. These problems don’t emanate solely from the hands of Bengalis, yet much of the marginalisation coalesces under the shadow of West Bengal’s domination. Thus, when Ms. Banerjee and others stridently lay claim to Darjeeling, insisting that Bengal will never be divided, it strikes a nerve for the Gorkha peoples of India, evoking painful, yet ever-present, histories.
•Instances like the attempted imposition of compulsory Bengali are not read as one-off events or mere slights in Darjeeling. They are seen as extensions of precisely the histories of domination that the Gorkhas are trying to escape. Ms. Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) has lately made significant inroads into the hills. West Bengal’s recent creation of the Kalimpong district (2017) and the State’s doling out of Tribal Development Boards to ethnicities within the Gorkha conglomerate (Tamang, Sherpa, etc.) might appear well-intended gestures but in paving the way for the TMC’s electoral gains, they appear to many as clear examples of ‘divide and rule’ — causing splits in the Gorkha electorate and undermining the already-limited authority of the GTA. Indeed, the GJM’s instigation of the current agitation was at least partly in response to TMC encroachment. GTA elections were imminent, but the GJM’s popularity was waning in the face of considerable rewards flowing from West Bengal’s coffers. By summoning thousands to the streets, the GJM demonstrated its ability to evoke the emotional force of Gorkhaland. But then violence took hold, and the Gorkhaland movement once again became something else — something bigger than any one party.
•The sudden resurgence of Gorkhaland has caught many by surprise. But today’s turmoil mustn’t obscure deeper histories. For Gorkhas, the troubling realities of colonial and present-day Darjeeling are eerily similar: linguistic chauvinism, ethnic and racial discrimination, resource extraction, unilateral territorial claims, the denial of self-governance, political suppression; and ultimately, an unwillingness to respect the ‘native point of view’. This double bind of colonial nostalgia and neocolonial regional domination produces a sense of constant déjà vu, leading to the desperate feeling that genuine progress is out of reach. These unsettling truths demand some soul-searching.
•A reconsideration is in order. Brisk air, Himalayan vistas, and beautiful tea plantations may be Darjeeling’s enduring attributes, but these do not define the life experiences of those who call this embattled place home. Today’s unrest makes this painfully clear — and calls out in intermittently poignant and frustrated voices for a new kind of engagement.
•Rune Bennike (Copenhagen University), Sarah Besky (Brown University), Nilamber Chhetri (Maharashtra National Law University), Townsend Middleton (University of North Carolina), Roshan P. Rai (DLR Prerna), Swatahsiddha Sarkar (University of North Bengal), Debarati Sen (Kennesaw State University), Jayeeta Sharma (University of Toronto), Sara Shneiderman (University of British Columbia), and Miriam Wenner (Goettingen University) on behalf of The Darjeeling Studies Collective, a group of more than a dozen scholars with long-term research experience in the Darjeeling region

Bilateral catalyst

American cooperation in science, technology and innovation will help India’s start-up ecosystem
•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the U.S. is likely to deepen bilateral ties in multiple strategic areas. Among them, science and technology, a key driver for innovation and job creation in both countries, needs to take centre stage.
•The shared values and interests of both the countries provide the essential underpinning for future collaboration. Besides, India has the advantage of enjoying bipartisan support in the U.S. in this regard. Over the years, knowledge and technology have become central to most of the bilateral agreements and strategic dialogues between the two countries. Bilateral agreements such as the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy and joint participation in mega projects in the areas of fundamental science such as the High Intensity Superconducting Proton Accelerator, the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory and the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Mission will have a far-reaching impact. Going forward, we can reap higher pay-offs if collaborative engagements are focused on sector-agnostic technologies, such as information technology, nanotechnology, and gene-editing technology. This will have positive impact on all spheres of collaboration such as education, economy and trade, defence and homeland security, energy and climate, health, agriculture and space.
The science landscape
•To further strengthen the existing system of collaboration and help initiate new ones, we need to understand the science, technology and innovation (STI) landscape in the U.S. Learning the best practices on grant management and science administration from key American federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be a good starting point for India’s science departments and research institutions.
•Knowledge generated through science and technology needs to be capitalised in order to fuel the process of innovation and the creation of an entrepreneurial class which can help find solutions for the society at multiple levels. The American system provides one of the best models for this. The core components of our innovation ecosystem need to be supported by enabling systems and practices to transform technologies and inventions into products. Learning from U.S. institutions the practices of the innovation value chain — ranging from ideation to prototyping and business-friendly incubation of the prototypes and the fostering of a proper legal and investor-friendly milieu — will make a visible difference on the ground. Second, an innovation does not necessarily have to be of the cutting-edge kind. The right solutions should be need-based and affordable.
•Where required, we should model our institutional system to enable our scientists and engineers to pair up with business mentors to make the successful journey from the laboratory to the marketplace. The ongoing efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship through initiatives like the U.S.-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund, the Stanford-India Biodesign Programme and the Khorana Technology Transfer programme should be strengthened to enhance the efficiency and productivity of our emerging innovation system. Integrating American technologies with products of Indian grassroots innovations will enhance the value of the latter and make them scalable, affordable and marketable.
Deepening of ties
•A database of U.S.-based inventors, their inventions and technologies relevant to India needs to be created. Further, the existing collaborative partnerships and student exchange programmes between research institutions and universities in both the countries need to be strengthened at various levels — including university-to-university, university-to-industry, industry-to-industry, and consortia-to-consortia levels. Joint incubators, to enable Indian start-ups to introduce products in the U.S. market and to facilitate U.S.-based start-ups to enter India with inflow of technologies, mentors and best business practices, should be set up.
•Finally, the knowledge and skills of the successful Indian diaspora and Indophiles in the American administration should be leveraged to not only support the Indian start-up ecosystem but also to raise funds for programmes that will help India achieve inclusive development. India’s pledge to manufacture locally, create more jobs and stay ahead of the competition can be redeemed to a great extent by marrying the Indian skills of low-cost innovation, for example in launching satellites and in space exploration, with the American prowess in science and technology.

Taxing times for the States

The withering of the States’ fiscal independence under GST strikes at the core of federalism
•The new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, introduced by way of the 101st Constitutional Amendment, is based on a fundamental notion that uniformity in tax administration across the country is an idea worth cherishing. Indeed, the Union government has seemingly been so enthralled by its own enactment that it rolled out the tax on July 1 by organising an extraordinary midnight session of Parliament.
•At its launch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the GST as a “good and simple tax”, and as a reform of far-reaching consequences that would help integrate India into a single market with a standard rate of taxation. That India could take such a step, he said, was an example in “cooperative federalism”. Or, as some others have described it, the GST is a product of a pooled sovereignty, where the States have voluntarily waived some of the critical fiscal powers that they hitherto enjoyed under the Constitution.
Denting fiscal autonomy
•The rhetoric here can sound forceful. But much of this begs the question. For instance, we don’t know so far why uniformity in tax or the creation of a single market is necessarily a good thing for a country like India. We aren’t told how this will make us happier, or how it will enhance the causes of liberty and equality, the bedrocks on which our Constitution is built. What we do know, however, is rather damaging: that the GST, far from being a case of “cooperative federalism”, is really an incursion into the authority that India’s States have been permitted under the Constitution. The resultant withering of the States’ fiscal independence strikes at the core of the Constitution’s basic structure which the Supreme Court has held is inviolable.
•The Constitution, as originally adopted, establishes a clear, federal arrangement. It prescribes two levels of government, one at the Centre and the other at each of the States. Although matters of national importance, such as foreign affairs and the defence of India, are assigned to the Union, the responsibilities placed on the States are also particularly salient. For instance, the power to legislate on public order, public health and sanitation, agriculture, water and land are all exclusively vested in the State governments. This authority, as Chief Justice Maurice Gwyer observed in the context of the division made under the Government of India Act, 1935, which the Constitution largely assumed, is no slight matter.
•“We must again refer to the fundamental proposition… that Indian Legislatures within their own sphere have plenary powers of legislation as large and of the same nature as those of Parliament itself,” wrote Gwyer, in Bhola Prasad v. R . As the constitutional scholar H.M. Seervai has said, if Gwyer’s statements were true in 1942, when he wrote them, they are certainly true now, when we have State legislatures functioning under a system of Cabinet government.
Partners in taxation
•In this constitutional scheme, where State governments are seen as equal partners, the founders thought it necessary to be very careful in allocating the powers of taxation. The partition made for this purpose was highly intricate, and they ensured that the taxes assigned to the Union and the States were mutually exclusive. For instance, while the Central government was given the power to tax income other than agricultural income, and levy indirect taxes in the form of customs and excise duties, State governments were given the sole power to tax the sale of goods and the entry of goods into a State.
•This division of fiscal responsibility was made with a view to making States self-sufficient, and with a view to supplying to regional powers the flexibility needed to govern according to the respective needs of their people. The underlying idea here was that States should be uninhibited in tinkering taxation policies in whatever manner they desired so long as their laws conformed to the other constitutional diktats.
•When resisting changes suggested to the draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, which demanded that the rates of sales tax be subject to parliamentary law, B.R. Ambedkar put it this way: “It seems to me that if we permit the sales tax to be levied by the provinces, then the provinces must be free to adjust the rate of the sales tax to the changing situation of the province, and, therefore, a ceiling from the Centre would be a great handicap in the working of the sales tax.”
Confusion over GST Council
•The introduction of the GST, however, militates against this grand constitutional objective, against the aspiration set out in Article 1 of the Constitution, which declares India as a “Union of States”. In endeavouring to pursue the goal of creating a single market through a homogenisation of the tax regime, the amendment grants to both the Union and the State governments concomitant powers over nearly all indirect taxes. To further effectuate this effort, the law also creates a GST Council, which comprises the Union Finance Minister, the Union Minister of State in charge of revenue or finance, and the minister in charge of finance from each State government. In acting as a nodal agency of sorts, this council will recommend a number of things, among others the list of taxes that will be subsumed by the GST, the goods and services that will be exempt from the levy of tax, the rates at which tax shall be levied, and so forth. The council’s decisions will require a three-fourths majority, but the Central government’s votes will have a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast, according, thereby, to the Union a virtual veto.
•Now, there’s some confusion over whether the GST Council’s decisions are actually binding on the various State governments. The newly introduced Article 279A, which creates the council, describes its decisions as “recommendations”, but it also grants the council the power to establish a mechanism to adjudicate any dispute that might arise between any of its members in implementing the recommendations. If the council’s recommendations are to be treated as purely advisory, it leaves us wondering why we need a dispute resolution mechanism at all.
•Whichever way one wants to read the provisions of the new law, it’s clear that the amendment makes core changes to the fiscal division that the Constitution’s makers so meticulously devised. As a result, we could potentially have a scenario where one or the other of the States chooses to ignore the council’s advice, by levying additional tax not only on the sale of goods but also on services and manufacturing, subjects over which the Union enjoyed exclusive domain.
•On the other hand, if these recommendations are treated as obligatory, we are left with a situation where States would have altogether surrendered their fiscal autonomy to the Central government. In such a case, a State would be barred from fashioning its laws in a manner befitting the necessities of its people.
•India’s federal architecture is premised on a principle that promises the maintenance of an internal sovereignty, where States function as separate political entities within the domains allocated to them. But often the drive to maintain federalism, where the Constitution demands it, goes beyond any obligation to preserve the rights of the States. It goes to the root of the constraints against all arbitrary power, and, to that extent, this amendment is a grave onslaught on the Constitution’s basic structure.

Daily Current Affairs 25th July,2017

1) Ram Nath Kovind to take over as country’s 14th President today
•Mr. Ram Nath Kovind will take over as the 14th President of India today. He will be administered the oath of office by the Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar at a special function in the Central Hall of Parliament.
•The stage would be shared by President and President-elect, Speaker, Vice President and Chief Justice of India. After the oath of new President, a 21-gun salute will be honored followed by the acceptance speech of Mr. Kovind. Mr. Kovind was elected the President recently as a ruling NDA candidate. He defeated the Opposition parties’ nominee Meira Kumar by a huge margin.
2) Union Government launches ‘SHe-Box’ portal for Sexual harassment
•The Minister of Women & Child Development, Smt. Maneka Gandhi launched an online complaint management system titled Sexual Harassment electronic–Box (SHe-Box) for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace in New Delhi.
•The complaint management system has been developed to ensure the effective implementation of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013. Currently, this facility has been extended to employees of Central Government, the scope of the portal will soon be extended to women employees of the private sector also.
3) World’s first floating wind farm emerges off coast of Scotland
•The world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power in Scotland.
•The £200m Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-metre-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It will bring power to 20,000 homes.
4) AAI and Uttarakhand Govt ink MoU on aviation development
•Airports Authority of India (AAI), has signed an MoU with Government of Uttarakhand and joined hands with Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA). The MoU was signed by S. Ramaswamy, Chief Secretary, Government of Uttarakhand and Anil Gupta, General Manager (Business Development), AAI.
•The scope of the MoU is to identify relevant factors influencing the development of civil aviation infrastructure in Uttarakhand, assessing the commercial potential of various airports of the State, and identifying technical considerations for airport operations in the State.
5) Boxer Sachin Siwach wins Gold at Commonwealth Youth Games
•World Youth Champion Sachin Siwach clinched a gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, Bahamas after defeating Welsh boxer James Nathan Prober 4-1 in the final.
•Siwach, who won gold last year, was the only one of the 103 boxers to have clinched a gold so far in the tournament, taking place in Bahamas.  He had stormed into the finals after defeating SA Kuse 5-0. The World Youth Champion was also the flag bearer of India for the tournament.
6) Mithali Raj named captain of ICC Women’s World Cup team
•India skipper Mithali Raj was chosen as the captain of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 team by the International Cricket Council. The 34-year-old Indian was selected as captain after she led India to the final of the just-concluded ICC Women’s World Cup.
•Mithali led by example, scoring 409 runs during the 30- day tournament. The side includes four players from England, three from South Africa, and Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry. Mithali has been picked in the Team of the Tournament for the second time in her career.

The Hindu Notes 24th July,2017

Once hero, now ‘white elephant’

Decommissioned submarine Vagli lies idle in Chennai port after plan to convert it into a museum fails

•She served the Indian Navy and the nation for over 36 years and could have become only the second submarine museum of the country. But since her decommissioning in 2010, the Russia-designed submarine INS Vagli has taken a tedious and uncertain course. She currently lies idle at the Chennai port.

•The submarine, which was to be the centrepiece of the maritime heritage museum planned by the Tamil Nadu government in the tourist town of Mamallapuram, was expected to be displayed on a 30-acre stretch of land near the Shore Temple of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage group of monuments.

•However, the inability of a contractor to mount the submarine on the intended site at Mamallapuram has forced the vessel to lie idle at the Chennai port.

•While government sources say on condition of anonymity that the project turned out to be a “white elephant” and that they have urged the Navy to “take back” the vessel, Navy sources deny having received any such proposal.

•An official of the Chennai Port Trust confirmed that the submarine was still lying on its premises. “Officials have been regularly paying the dues,” the official added.

Plan made in 2012

•The Tamil Nadu government, under Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had in June 2012 decided to set up the maritime museum with the submarine, and senior Navy officials handed over INS Vagli to it in April 2013.

•In November that year, the then Tourism Minister S.P. Shunmuganathan visited Visakhapatnam along with senior officials to study the museum there, housed in the decommissioned submarine INS Kursura.

•INS Vagli has since witnessed a series of incidents. In January 2014, a worker died of asphyxiation while trying to clean the submarine. He was attempting to retrieve his cellphone, which had fallen into the vessel. Two others were hospitalised in the incident.

•Later that year, in April, a company that was awarded a contract towed the vessel to Mamallapuram, only to find that the submarine could not be mounted on the intended platform at the historic town. In June that year, INS Vagli was towed back to Chennai port.

Petitioner moves court

•Meanwhile, in April 2015, a petitioner moved the Madras High Court, seeking to find an alternative site for the museum, contending that the submarine being a “huge piece of voluminous scrap” had the “potentiality of inviting lightning”. However, the petition was dismissed by the Madras High Court, which observed that the matter fell purely within the administrative domain.

‘Wasteful expenditure’

•A 2016 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India questioned the process adopted by the government to move the submarine to Mamallapuram in one piece and observed that an “infructuous expenditure of Rs. 4.41 crore” was incurred due to a lack of proper planning.

•In December 2016, the submarine was almost damaged when Cyclone Vardah hit the Chennai coast.

•INS Vagli was commissioned into the Indian Navy at Riga in Latvia, which was part of the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1974, and was decommissioned at Visakhapatnam in December 2010.

Spanish scientists develop ‘anti-Zika drug’

Compound previously used as antibiotic
•Researchers from a southeastern Spanish university announced the discovery of a molecule that could be used as a potential drug to fight the effects of a Zika virus infection.
•In a statement on Saturday, the San Antonio Catholic University of Murcia said that scientists belonging to its Bioinformatics and High-Performance Computing research group had found that a compound previously used as an antibiotic countered the symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease, Efe news reported.
•“It’s a drug that had been withdrawn from the market because it had lost its potency as an antibiotic, but we know it can be administered to humans,” said Jose Pedro Ceron, a member of the research team.
•The molecular structure of the proteins involved in the Zika virus’ replication process was first described only a year ago.

Russia keen on selling MiG-35 jets to India

Official says talks on technical specifications are on
•Russia is keen on selling its new fighter jet MiG-35 to India with the MiG corporation’s chief saying the country has evinced interest in the aircraft and talks were on to understand its requirements.
•The Director-General of Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG, Ilya Tarasenko, said the MiG-35 was “the best” and definitely better than Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation combat aircraft F-35.
•He claimed that the MiG-35 would beat the American jet in air-to-air combat.
•Mr. Tarasenko, while talking to presspersons on the sidelines of the MAKS 2017 air show here, said after having presented MiG-35 in January, the MiG corporation began to promote the aircraft in India and in other parts of the world actively.
•“We are proposing supply of the aircraft for tenders in India and we actively work with its Air Force in order to win the tender,” he said.
Multi-purpose jet
•The MiG-35 is Russia’s most advanced 4++ generation multipurpose fighter jet developed on the basis of the serial-produced MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 combat aircraft.
•Asked if India had expressed any interest in MiG-35, Mr. Tarasenko said, “Of course they have.”
•MiG aircraft have been used by India for almost 50 years.

‘India’s approach to U.S. and China differs’

Former Obama aide explains how
•India frequently and assertively tries to shape comments from the United States on Pakistan during crises, but it does not do so in the case of China, said Dr. Joshua T. White, a former White House and Pentagon official in the Barack Obama administration.
•“The U.S. is largely sympathetic to the challenge that India faces in dealing with a territorially assertive China. Given the nature of Sino-Indian disputes, India technically does not ask for our help because it does not need it. But it knows that Washington presents a sympathetic ear and that if there were to be wider a Sino-Indian crisis, we will have a totally different conversation,” Dr. White said in conversation with The Hindu .
•This is in complete contrast to the approach taken on issues concerning Pakistan, where New Delhi is quite keen for condemnation of Islamabad’s actions from Washington, he added.
•“It is understandable that India more frequently and assertively tries to shape U.S. comments on Pakistan, given the nature of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the ways in which the U.S. has, by default, served as an intermediary in a crisis,” Dr. White stated.
Doklam standoff
•India is presently engaged in a major standoff with China at Doklam near the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction. On the Western side, there has been a flare-up in tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. While the India-China stand off began in June 16, the flare up on the LoC has been going on since the terror attack on the Army camp in Uri in September last year.
•In the early hours after Uri, India was quite assertive in wanting the U.S. government to label this incident as a cross border attack from Pakistan, said Dr. White, who is now an Associate Professor and Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University.
•While the U.S. was sympathetic to the Indian position, he said, “We wanted to do our own assessment of the attribution before we made a statement.”

CAG flags delay in work on corvettes

‘Designs constantly modified resulting in inadequate systems, inflated costs of anti-submarine vessels’
•The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has faulted the Navy and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. for delay in construction of anti-submarine warfare corvettes and hampering their capabilities because of delayed decisions.
•The report said the approved designs were amended 24 times till as late as last year.
Weapons not installed
•In the report presented in Parliament last week, the CAG, referring to specific equipment to be installed on two of the four ships delivered, said, “Against the 18 weapons and sensors to be installed on ASW corvettes, audit observed that the two ASW corvettes delivered were not fitted with ‘X’ weapon and sensor systems. Thus, ASW corvettes could not perform to its full potential as envisaged.”
•On the overall project, the report noted that while the Letter of Intent (LoI) was issued in March 2003, only a sketchy specification of the ship was made available to Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) and finalisation of system design as well as specification of equipment, weapon and sensor fit were to be undertaken by the Directorate of Naval Design.
•“The Directorate of Naval Design finalised the same only in the year 2006 and major modifications continued till 2008,” the audit report said.
•Due to the major design modifications, the cost went up from the original sanction of Rs. 3,051.27 crore to Rs. 7,852.39 crore.
•The first corvette was delivered to the Navy in July 2014 and the second in November 2015.
•According to the contract for the project, the third ASW corvette should have been delivered in July 2014 and the fourth one in April 2015.
•The auditor also noted that harbour acceptance trials (HATs) were still pending as of December 2016 in respect of the second ASW Corvette for over a year.
Trials incomplete
•In addition, Sea Acceptance Test (SAT) on six weapons and sensors in the first corvette and all weapons and sensors on the second one were pending satisfactory completion.

Payments bank: for the informal sector

How is a payments bank different from a commercial bank?
•There are two kinds of banking licences that are granted by the Reserve Bank of India – universal bank licence and differentiated bank licence. Payments bank comes under a differentiated bank licence since it cannot offer all the services that a commercial bank offers. In particular, a payments bank cannot lend. It can take deposits upto Rs. 1 lakh per account and it can issue debit cards but not credit cards. Commercial banks in India like State Bank of India or ICICI Bank, do not have any such restrictions.
What is the objective of a payments bank?
•The main objective is to further financial inclusion by providing small savings accounts and payments/remittance services to migrant labour workforce, low income households, small businesses and other unorganised sector entities.
Besides remittance, can payments bank undertake any other activity?
•A payments bank can work as a business correspondent (BC) of another bank. They can also distribute simple financial products like mutual fund units and insurance products.
How many payments banks have commenced operations?
•Out of the 11 entities that received in-principle licence for opening payments bank, 7 entities received the final licence. Four payments banks have started operations — Airtel Payments Bank, India Post Payments Bank, Paytm Payments Bank and Fino Payments Bank.
What is the minimum capital requirement for a payments bank?
•RBI has mandated the minimum paid-up equity capital for payments bank at Rs. 100 crore.
Where can a payments bank deploy its deposits?
•Apart from maintaining Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), these entities have to invest a minimum 75% of demand deposit balances in Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR)-eligible government securities or treasury bills with maturity of up to one year and hold a maximum of 25% in current and time/fixed deposits with other commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management.
Who all are eligible to set up a payments bank?
•RBI permits non-bank Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers, individuals and professionals, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), corporate business correspondents (BCs), mobile telephone companies, super market chains, companies, real sector cooperatives that are owned and controlled by residents and public sector entities to apply for a payments bank licence. Setting up of a joint venture by a promoter with an existing commercial bank is also allowed.

MPC members to get Rs. 1.5 lakh per meet, must disclose assets

RBI panel will need to observe ‘silent period’ 7 days before and after rate decision
•The government appointees on the powerful Monetary Policy Committee will be paid Rs. 1.5 lakh per meeting along with air travel and other reimbursements, but will need to observe a “silent period” seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”.
•The silent period and confidentiality requirements will also apply to the three RBI members, including the Governor, on the panel that has been deciding on policy rates since October last year, the central bank has said.
‘Conflict of interest’
•The members of the RBI Governor-chaired panel, which has to hold meetings at least four times in a year, are also required to be mindful of any conflict between their personal and public interest while interacting with profit making organisations and making personal financial transactions, the Reserve Bank said in its newly notified regulations for functioning of the committee.
•The six-member MPC, constituted in September 2016, has three persons appointed by the central government while the rest, including the Governor, are from the RBI.
•The members appointed by the government would “receive a remuneration of Rs. 1,50,000 for devoting time and work for each meeting of the committee… which they attend and other expenses relating to air travel, local transportation and accommodation as may be decided by the central board from time to time,” as per the regulations.
•The panel is required to meet at least four times in a year and the RBI has been convening a bi-monthly meeting of this committee.
•Chetan Ghate, professor at the Indian Statistical Institute, Pami Dua, director at the Delhi School of Economics and Ravindra H Dholakia, professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad are the three government-appointed members.
•Their appointment is for a period of four years or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
•Apart from RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Deputy Governor Viral V Acharya and Executive Director M.D. Patra are also part of the committee.
•The regulations do not mention whether any separate allowance would be given to the RBI members on the committee.
•Earlier this year, Mr. Patel and his deputies got a big pay increase with the government more than doubling their basic salary to Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 2.25 lakh per month, respectively.
•The “basic pay of the Governor and Deputy Governors” have been revised retrospectively with effect from January 1, 2016, and marks a huge jump from Rs. 90,000 basic pay so far drawn by the Governor and Rs. 80,000 for his deputies.
•According to the Monetary Policy Committee and Monetary Policy Process Regulations, 2016, MPC members should also take adequate precaution to ensure utmost confidentiality of its policy decision before that is made public and preserve confidentiality about the decision making process,
•These regulations were notified by the RBI earlier this month.
•“While interacting with profit-making organisations or making personal financial decisions, they shall be mindful of, and weigh carefully, any scope for conflict between personal interest and public interest,” the regulations said.
•Each member of the MPC has one vote and in case the numbers are equal, the governor has the casting vote.
•The MPC, which has the responsibility of achieving a set inflation target, should submit a report to the government in case of failure to achieve the required target.
•In such instances, the report shall be sent to the central government “within one month from the date on which the bank has failed to meet the inflation target“.
•The regulations further said the schedule of the MPC meetings for the entire fiscal year needs to be announced in advance.
•At least 15 days of notice is required for convening a meeting ordinarily, but an emergency meeting can be called with 24 hours notice for each member and technology-enabled arrangements need to be made for even shorter notice period meetings.
Annual disclosure
•All members need to disclose their assets and liabilities and update this information once every year.
•“Members shall observe a silent or blackout period starting seven days before the voting/decision ray and ending seven days after the day policy is announced. During this period, they will avoid public comment on issues related to monetary policy other than through the MPC’s communication framework,” the RBI said.
•Also, members cannot reveal outside the committee any confidential information accessed during the monetary policy deliberations.
•After conclusion of MPC meeting, a resolution needs to be made public including on the policy repo rate and any other monetary policy measures at the discretion of the Chairperson while keeping in view the functioning and timing of financial markets.

Forum concerned at ‘secret’ RCEP talks

Govt. should agree to a debate, says Yogendra Yadav
•Civil society organisations and trade experts on Sunday raised concern over the secrecy surrounding the negotiations regarding a proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia Pacific nations including India and China.
•Technical level talks of the proposed FTA, officially known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), are being held from July 18 to 28 at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.
•The RCEP, among other things, aims to liberalise investment norms as well as boost trade by eliminating/drastically reducing import duties on goods and bringing down ‘barriers’ in the services sector. The 16 nations account for a combined GDP of close to $50 trillion (or about 40% of the world’s GDP) and are home to around 3.5 billion people.
•After a day-long meeting, the ‘People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs and RCEP’ — an umbrella body representing farmers, industrial workers and service sector employees, street vendors, HIV-positive persons, tribals, environmental activists and women’s organisations, among others — said in a statement that the RCEP would have wide-ranging impact on agriculture, services, access to medicines, investment and e-commerce. Therefore, the government should place the details of the negotiations before the public and hold extensive and meaningful consultations with all stakeholders including the states, it said. Or else, India should immediately withdraw from RCEP negotiations, it added.
•Yogendra Yadav of the Swaraj Abhiyan and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee — who participated in the meeting here to protest the secrecy surrounding the RCEP negotiations — told The Hindu that “the final agreement might have pluses and minuses, but we should not be waiting till then to know whether it benefits only the big corporates and if it harms the interests of the farmers and small enterprises.’’
•He said, “when you can have the draft texts of even nuclear disarmament treaties in the public domain, what is the need to hide the draft text relating to the RCEP talks?” Mr Yadav said the process of scrutiny of FTAs involving India, including the RCEP, was extremely weak in the country. He said the government should immediately agree to a debate in Parliament on the pros and cons of the RCEP. “The RCEP should not be allowed to come into force till it is ratified by Parliament,” Mr Yadav added.
•Biswajit Dhar, professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the RCEP had the potential to eliminate the policy space of the government to address developmental concerns, and that the decisions could adversely impact future generations.
•He said, “according to the government’s promises, these FTAs are good for the country and will raise incomes. If that is so, then why aren’t the people allowed to see and understand what is going on in the FTA negotiations? Why is there such secrecy surrounding an FTA negotiation in a country which claims itself to be democratic?”
•According to the People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs and RCEP, among the apprehensions regarding the RCEP is the one that it might include patents on seeds paving the way for control of the seed sector by multinational companies. It could lead to elimination of duties on milk products and result in huge imports of such items from countries including Australia and New Zealand, the Forum said, adding that such a situation would hit small dairy producers in India. Besides, it could allow foreign investors to sue governments in secret international arbitration cases under an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism, the Forum added.

The boycott ban

Maharashtra’s law criminalising social ostracism is a template for other States
•Maharashtra’s new law prohibiting the social boycott of individuals, families or any community by informal village councils is a step in the right direction, given the pervasive nature of the problem. The progressive legislation, which received Presidential assent recently and was gazetted earlier this month, targets the pernicious practice of informal caste panchayats or dominant sections using ostracism as a means of enforcing social conformity. The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, may serve as a template for similar legislation in other States. The Act lists over a dozen types of actions that may amount to ‘social boycott’, which has been made a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years or a fine of Rs. 1 lakh or both. The practices it prohibits range from preventing the performance of a social or religious custom, denial of the right to perform funerals or marriages, cutting off someone’s social or commercial ties to preventing access to educational or medical institutions or community halls and public facilities, or any form of social ostracism on any ground. The law recognises the human rights dimension to issues of social boycott, as well as the varied forms in which it occurs in a caste-based society. Its progressive sweep takes into account discrimination on the basis of morality, social acceptance, political inclination, sexuality, which it prohibits. It even makes it an offence to create cultural obstacles by forcing people to wear a particular type of clothing or use a particular language.
•This is not the first law of its type. Bombay enacted a law against excommunication in 1949, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1962 after the Dawoodi Bohra community successfully argued that it violated the community’s constitutional right to manage its own religious affairs. One hopes the latest Act will not be vulnerable to legal challenge. Article 17 of the Constitution and the Protection of Civil Rights Act outlaw untouchability in all its forms, but these are legal protections intended for the Scheduled Castes. In reality, members of various castes and communities also require such protection from informal village councils and gatherings of elders who draw on their own notions of conformity, community discipline, morality and social mores to issue diktats to the village or the community to cut off ties with supposedly offending persons and families. The case of a mountaineer from Raigad is somewhat notorious. He had conquered Mt. Everest but could not escape a social boycott in his village because his wife wore jeans and did not wear a mangalsutra. It is not a proud moment for a country when special legislation is required to prohibit social discrimination, ostracism and practices repugnant to human dignity. Yet, given the prevailing circumstances, any legislative assault on abhorrent social practices ought to be welcomed.

Taming inflationary expectations

Who’d have thought under the MPC, the first case of deviation of the inflation rate would undershoot the target?
•The official inflation rate dipped to 1.5% last month, the lowest in almost two decades. Inflation is a politically more sensitive challenge than joblessness for the simple reason that it affects everyone, whether you have a job or not.
•India’s long-term record in managing inflation has been very impressive when compared with most developing countries. We have never had the bouts of hyperinflation experienced in many Latin American economies or seen even in countries such as Israel. The relatively high double-digit inflation experienced between 2010 to 2013 was an aberration, which had a political consequence. There have been very few instances of such persistent, multi-year, high inflationary episodes in our history. The credit for this goes to the vigilance of the political system and also to effective monetary management. Inflation is after all a monetary phenomenon — more money chasing fewer goods. So, controlling money supply is part of the strategy for controlling inflation.
Food prices as indicator
•But inflation is also an indicator of whether there is an excess demand or supply of goods. For instance, with a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables, prices plunge, even though money supply might be unchanged. Indeed, the recent drop in the inflation rate has been caused by a steep fall in the prices of vegetables (-17%) and pulses (- 22%). Conversely, and rather ironically, unseasonal rains in the north have destroyed a large part of the tomato crop causing prices to skyrocket. Food prices, especially of perishables, are notoriously volatile. High onion prices, even if temporary, have caused the downfall of governments in past elections. Food prices are a big component in the determinant of the overall inflation rate based on the consumer price index basket. Keeping them low and stable involves policies such as public procurement and a minimum support price regime. Inflation control thus involves a combination of monetary management along with measures to increase supply of goods (in the medium term) as also anti-hoarding measures or the release of stocks from government warehouses.
•Even though price stability is an important goal of government policy, it is now an exclusive mandate given to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Last year, in a landmark reform of monetary management, the government officially gave an inflation target to the RBI. Prior to this, the central bank had multiple objectives which included enhancing growth and reducing unemployment, although price stability was undoubtedly paramount. The new paradigm, called the “flexible inflation targeting” framework, aims for a numerical target given by the government. The main tool to achieve it is by setting the benchmark interest rate. This decision is now taken by the six-member monetary policy committee (MPC), chaired by the Governor. The current inflation target is 4% plus or minus 2%. The MPC is deemed to have failed if for three consecutive quarters the inflation rate falls outside the band.
Low inflation pointer
•Who would have imagined that in the new MPC regime, the first instance of deviation of the inflation rate would undershoot, not overshoot the target? Of course, technically, the MPC has not failed, for the June inflation rate of 1.5%, which is below 2%, may be transitory. However, there are strong indications and forecasts by many economists that point to low inflation in the coming months. Those numbers may be in the range of 2 to 4%.
•How did we get to this low inflation scenario? Partly it must be because the money supply has been kept “dear”, or tight. Thus, the benchmark rate (called the repo rate, or the rate at which the RBI gives money to banks) at 6.25% may be too high. Interest rates are the “price” of money, so if they are too high, money becomes scarce. If it is lowered, then there will be more money in circulation, more loans given out. But low inflation is also because of a steep fall in prices of fruits, vegetables and pulses, none of which was caused by high interest rates. These steep falls are highly seasonal. We have also benefited from low and stable crude oil prices, which are a crucial determinant of transport and energy costs.
•All eyes will now be on the MPC which meets again in less than two weeks. There is a strong feeling that high interest rates have deterred big industrial investments, or housing finance. High rates are crippling borrowers who try to come out of near-bankruptcy and are preventing a restructuring of stressed bank loans. India’s real interest rates, i.e. net of inflation, are quite high even compared to other developing countries. Much of the developed world has ultra-low rates, with some countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Japan even having negative interest rates. India needs much lower rates for higher GDP growth.
•But the job of the MPC won’t be easy. This is mainly because its task is to target future inflation, not the past. The future has some troubling portents. The short run impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is bound to be inflationary. That’s because a bulk of India’s GDP is in services whose tax rate has moved from 15% to 18%. Besides, while sellers wait for their refund, i.e. input tax credit under the GST, their cost of capital locked up might go up. Many State governments have introduced additional levies to counter their apprehension of a loss of revenue under the GST. Besides the GST, there is the impact of the award of the Seventh Pay Commission to government employees. This effect will cascade to public sector organisations and State-level employees as well, and put pressure on prices. A third factor could be the loan waivers announced in some States which can cause fiscal stress. High deficit spending is not compatible with lower interest rates. A fourth factor is the uptick in commodity prices worldwide as metals and food prices are looking up.
•The last, and probably the most important, factor weighing on the MPC’s mind would be inflation expectations. Household surveys conducted by the RBI indicate that people are expecting inflation to be close to 10% , not the 1.5% as is reported now. You may say that these expectations are irrational, but they do affect behaviour. In this season of salary increments, try giving someone a raise of 2%, as is common in the developed world. Workers will howl. Even their official dearness allowance is much higher. The real challenge is to slay this inflation expectations monster. In much of the western world, they are fighting disinflation if not outright deflation. But in India we are still struggling with inflationary conditions and expectations.
•In English the verb for inflation is inflate. It refers to rising prices. But in most Indian languages, the equivalent word in usage is “ mehengaai ”, which refers to affordability and cost of living. Not all inflation is unwelcome. So if stock prices go up, that is good cheer. But “ mehengaai ” is hated by all. A low and stable inflation rate is a perquisite for sustained high economic growth. Mehengaai is antithetical to it. In the medium term, the growth impact of the GST, the improving ease of doing business — and hence increasing supply of goods — and a strong domestic currency, will all help keep inflation low. But the short run challenge is to temper inflationary expectations and keep them tethered.