The Hindu Important Articles 23 November 2018

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The Hindu Important Articles 23 November 2018

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India, Pak. commit to Kartarpur corridor

Letters exchanged to build infrastructure for Sikh pilgrims to visit holy site
India and Pakistan exchanged letters on Thursday committing to build the required infrastructure for visa-free direct travel by Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, allowing them to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Na

India, Pak. commit to Kartarpur corridor
nak Dev in November 2019.

‘Victory for peace’

The move was described by a Pakistani Minister as the “victory of peace lobbies” in both countries.

Officials of both countries will meet soon to discuss the logistics of the corridor and the point of border-crossing where the roads, which pilgrims on the Indian side will take from Dera Guru Nanak Dev in Gurdaspur district, will lead directly to the border, and from the Pakistani side of the border directly to the Kartarpur Darbar Sahib Gurdwara, a senior official confirmed to The Hindu .

Where waste is given new life in the form of art

Bhubaneswar’s Open Air Museum of Waste-to-Art has 28 stunning sculptures by 18 artists
Waste disposal is a huge challenge for every Indian city, but Bhubaneswar has found a special use for some of its metal waste — it has transformed them into works of art. The Bhubaneswar Open Air Museum of Waste-to-Art, coming up in the Kalinga Nagar township, has 28 impressive sculptures created from metal scrap.

The sculptures are mostly of birds and animals, with peacocks, tigers, turtles and elephants giving a new twist to the idea of recycling metal waste. The open-air museum came about after the Artists Network Promoting Indian Culture (ANPIC), an artists’ forum, suggested holding an international public art symposium in collaboration with the Bhubaneswar Development Authority for promoting the Hockey World Cup, which will begin here on November 28.

Focus on animals

Artists from the participating countries gathered in Bhubaneswar and began work on the sculptures on November 1. “The ANPIC decided to hold the symposium on the theme of pollution. We should be careful about disposing of waste in landfills, as it may cause contamination… Animal sculptures dominate the exhibits as it is animals that are first affected by pollution,” said Kantakishore Maharana, one of the curators of the symposium. The symposium-cum-workshop ended on November 20, the day the museum was inaugurated.

Organisers had a tough time translating the idea into reality. About 50 tonnes of waste materials were collected from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Once the foreign artists landed in Bhubaneswar, they started conceptualising the art works.

Fourteen foreign and four Indian artists, along with 24 co-artists, mostly students from local art schools, and 24 welders worked tirelessly to create the sculptures, which have struck a chord among local art lovers.

‘Do you view undertrial prisoners as humans?’

SC slams primeval conditions in jails & observation homes
The Supreme Court asked the government on Thursday whether it viewed undertrial prisoners and children who suffered primeval conditions in jails and observation homes as “human beings.”

Undertrial prisoners accounted for 62% of India’s prison population, against the world average of 18-20%, the court said. The statistic raised questions about the humaneness of our system, it said.

A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said officials hardly went out of their offices to visit these prisons or observation homes. It took two Supreme Court judges — Justices U.U. Lalit and A.K. Goel (retired) — to visit the Faridabad jail and observation home to understand the full horror of the living conditions of the inmates.

‘Very pathetic’

“Just go and have a look… Your officials do not know because they have never been to a jail or observation home. They do not step out. Taps are leaking, no whitewash, clogged sewage, toilets not working… The situation is very pathetic. That’s why two judges of the Supreme Court got very agitated when they saw…what is happening,” Justice Lokur addressed Additional Solicitor-General Aman Lekhi, for the Centre.

The two judges informed the court of their visit, and the court took cognisance of the letters.

“The whole thing has become a joke… Do these people have no rights? Are they even seen as human beings. These are children… Are these children not citizens of our country? Please visit these jails and observation homes,” Justice Lokur said.

The court compared the condition of the undertrial prisoners and the juveniles in observation homes with that of influential prisoners who watched TV shows on sofas and “enjoy life” in prisons. “Is there a parallel system running in jails? Do they [the influential prisoners] have special rights? What have you done about Tihar Jail,” Justice Lokur asked Mr. Lekhi, showing him media reports and pointing to one, saying “he [the prisoner] is enjoying TV and God knows what all he is enjoying.”

Shocked SC terms state of forensic labs as ‘utter chaos’

Home Ministry document reveals high vacancies
A Ministry of Home Affairs document in the Supreme Court on Thursday shows that vacancies in the country’s forensic labs are alarmingly high even as cases pile up in trial courts and undertrial prisoners languish in jails.

The forensic laboratories, at both the Central and State levels, are used to examine crucial evidence which could decide between life and death in many criminal cases. The role of the laboratories have expanded lately with the emergence of cybercrime and drug-related offences. They also play a major role in using medical evidence to crack sex crimes.

However, responding to the report, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta described the situation in these labs as “utter chaos, utter chaos”.

Across country

The document of November 20 shows that 164 posts out of total 450 in the six Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSLs) under the Directorate of Forensic Science Services are lying vacant. These labs are located in Bhopal, Chandigarh, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune.

In fact the Central Bureau of Investigation’s only CFSL has 87 vacancies out 184 total sanctioned posts.

Justice Gupta highlighted how 40% of the total 7,582 sanctioned posts in the 31 forensic labs across various States are vacant. This makes it 3,685 vacancies in States’ FSLs.

In Uttar Pradesh’s single State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL), of 1,132 sanctioned posts, 830 are vacant. “That makes it an 80% vacancy,” Justice Lokur remarked.

Likewise, Bihar’s SFSL has 126 vacancies out of a total sanctioned strength of 191 posts, while Tamil Nadu’s lab has 124 vacancies out of a total sanctioned strength of 496. In Delhi, there are 78 vacancies out of 318 sanctioned posts.

“Surely these are not vacancies for peons. Officers ensure they have at least four peons to one officer. These vacancies are for higher officers,” Justice Gupta orally observed.

“And people are dying in jails… how long will it be like this?” Justice Lokur added.

‘Release from dams didn’t lead to deluge’

Odds of Kerala floods were 0.06%: study
The devastation wrought by the Kerala floods of August could not be attributed to the release of water from dams, says a computer-simulation of flood storage and flow patterns by a team of researchers.

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and the Purdue University, United States, say that the odds of such floods were “0.06%” and no reservoir management could have considered such scenarios.

Different scenarios

All 39 dams in the State had reached their full reservoir level by July-end, and were incapable of absorbing the torrential volumes in August leaving dam-managers with no choice but to release them. The scientists analysed different scenarios with combinations of reservoir storage (85%, 75%, 150% and 25%) at different time periods (end of June and end of July), along with different soil moisture conditions, which has a bearing on river flows.

What they found was that in the hypothetical scenario that there were no dams in the Pampa River Basin (PRB) — there are 17 dams and barrages — the “peak discharge” at locations downstream of the Idukki reservoir would have been “reduced by 31%.” This, however, wasn’t a reduction enough to have prevented the inundation, according to the researchers.

“The major share of the total flood flow was by Perinjankutty (3,500 m3/s), which is a near uncontrolled tributary, while the 14 controlled releases from Idukki had contributed only 1, 860 m3/s… the results indicated that the role of releases from the major reservoirs in the PRB to cause the flood havoc was less,” the authors say in the study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the peer-reviewed Current Science .

Dead-storage levels

A simulation of the section of the Periyar river at Neeleswaram showed that even if reservoirs were emptied out to their dead-storage levels of 25%, it still would have meant flows far in excess of the maximum capacity that could have been contained with the river banks.

“Most dams are designed to store as much water as possible to the full reservoir level for hydropower planning,” said K.P. Sudheer, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-M. “So, maintaining 25% storage beats the point of having a dam in the first place.”

EU, U.K. reach draft deal on post-Brexit relationship

Agreement is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver it, says PM May
The British government’s Brexit process reached another milestone as the European Commission said that the U.K. and the EU had agreed at a negotiator level and in principle the draft political declaration on the future relationship between the two sides.

While observers continue to pick apart the statement — which has been leaked to U.K. media — to assess whether the government’s ambitions set out by the U.K. have been enmeshed in it, the development marks a symbolic victory for Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of a summit on Sunday. In the summit EU leaders are set to finalise and formalise details of both the exit process and outline of future relations.

The development also follows last week’s news that Britain and the EU had agreed to the draft terms of the withdrawal.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Prime Minister May insisted the declaration was the “right deal for the U.K.” and honoured the public vote. “The British people want this to be settled… that deal is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver it.”

Unlike the withdrawal agreement, which would be binding, the political declaration is more of a statement of future ambitions of what a new relationship — including when it comes to the movement of people and goods and services — would entail.

Controversy over the terms of the withdrawal agreement led to several ministerial resignations and letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister, though an initiative to oust her through formal party processes appears to have been abandoned for now, for want of support from backbench MPs.

Frictionless trade
The 26-page document has not been officially published though the Guardian newspaper published a leaked draft on its website. It appeared to suggest that Brexit would fail to deliver the frictionless trade with Europe that many had envisaged.

The declaration established the parameters of an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership”. However, in one section on checks and controls at the border, the agreement pointed to arrangements that could lead to a “spectrum of different outcomes for administrative processes as well as checks and controls, and note in this context their wish to be as ambitious as possible, while respecting the integrity of their respective markets.”

“The political declaration confirms that Britain is heading for a hard Brexit — if it can solve the Irish border problem and avoid the backstop… The language is warm but the message is brutal,” said Tom Kibasi, director of the IPPR think tank.

Years of talks
“It merely promises years of negotiations to an unknown destination,” said Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP and prominent campaigner for a second referendum.

However, the declaration appeared to live up to one point repeatedly stressed by U.K. authorities: their intention to end free movement and bring in “visa-free travel” for short-term visits only.

In a concession to pro-Brexit critics unhappy with the Northern Ireland backstop (effectively an insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland), the declaration also notes a “determination” to replace the backstop solution with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border on a permanent basis.

“The entire ‘deal’ has been driven by the fact May’s only ‘real’ red line isn’t ‘frictionless trade’, leaving customs union, Ireland/Northern Ireland — and certainly not business) economy — it’s ending free movement,” tweeted Jonathan Portes, a senior fellow at the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.

Aligning the triad

INS Arihant’s inaugural sea patrol must spark a debate on the state of India’s nuclear deterrence
The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine that completed its sea patrol earlier this month, will contribute significantly to making India’s deterrence capability more robust. Submarine-based nuclear capability is the most survivable leg of a nuclear triad, and its benefit must be seen especially in the light of the growing naval capabilities of India’s potential adversaries. In this light, certain questions need to be addressed on the third leg of India’s nuclear triad, as well as major challenges for strategic stability in the southern Asian region.

Arihant’s missing links

While it is true that India’s deterrence capability is a work in progress, there is nevertheless a need to carry out an objective assessment of what INS Arihant can and cannot do, and the implications thereof. To begin with, there is no clarity on whether the first deterrence patrol of INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped missiles on board. If not, the deterrence patrol would have been intended for political purposes devoid of any real deterrent utility. Without nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board an SSBN (ship submersible ballistic nuclear) such as INS Arihant, it might not be any more useful than an ordinary nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN).

Second, even if INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board, it is not clear what ranges they would cover. Reports suggest that it had the 750 km range K-15 missiles on board, which is insufficient to reach key targets in, say, China or Pakistan unless it gets close to their waters, which would then make the Indian SSBN a target. While the K-4 missile (3,500 km range) currently under development would give the country’s sea deterrent the necessary range vis-à-vis its adversaries, INS Arihant would not be able to carry them on board. The Navy would require bigger SSBNs (S-4 and S-5) to carry the K-4 ballistic missiles. In other words, deterring India’s adversaries using the naval leg of its nuclear forces is a work in progress at this point of time.

Third, if indeed the objective of India’s nuclear planners is to achieve seamless and continuous sea deterrence, one SSBN with limited range is far from sufficient. Given the adversaries’ capabilities in tracking, monitoring and surveilling India’s SSBNs, it would need to invest in at least four more. Maintaining a huge nuclear force and its ancillary systems, in particular the naval leg, would eventually prove to be extremely expensive. One way to address the costs would be to reduce the reliance on the air and land legs of the nuclear triad. Given that India does not have ‘first strike’ or ‘launch on warning’ policies, it can adopt a relatively relaxed nuclear readiness posture. New Delhi could, in the long run, invest in a survivable fleet of nuclear submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missies of various ranges, and decide to reduce its investment in the land and air legs of its nuclear deterrent, thereby reducing costs. While this might bring down costs without sacrificing the country’s deterrence requirements, inter-service claims might frustrate such plans.

Finally, the naval leg of the nuclear triad also poses significant command and control challenges. As a matter of fact, communicating with SSBNs without being intercepted by the adversaries’ tracking systems while the submarines navigate deep and far-flung waters is among the most difficult challenges in maintaining an SSBN fleet. Until such sophisticated communication systems are eventually put in place, India will have to do with shallower waters or focus on bastion control, which in some ways reduces the deterrence effect of SSBNs, as bastions would be closer to the ports..

Impact on strategic stability

INS Arihant’s induction will also have implications for regional stability. For one, it is bound to make the maritime competition in the Indian Ocean region sharper, even though the lead in this direction was taken by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) a long time ago. Hence, the dominant driver of India’s SSBN plans appears to be China’s expanding inventory of nuclear submarines. The PLAN’s Jin class submarine with the JL-2 missiles with a range of 7,400 km began its deterrent patrol several years ago. Chinese nuclear-powered submarines (reportedly without nuclear weapons on board) have been frequenting the Indian Ocean on anti-piracy missions, creating unease in New Delhi. INS Arihant in that sense is a response to the Chinese naval build-up. Pakistan’s reaction to India’s response to China would be to speed up its submarine-building spree, with assistance from Beijing. Add to this mix China’s mega infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, with its ambitious maritime objectives; and the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, with India, U.S., Japan, and Australia.

This sharpening of the maritime competition further engenders several regional ‘security dilemmas’ wherein what a state does to secure itself could end up making it more insecure. The net result of this would be heightened instability for the foreseeable future. However, once the three key players in this trilemma — China, India and Pakistan — manage to put in place the essential conditions for credible minimum deterrence, the effect of the instability could potentially decrease. But it’s a long road to such an outcome.

What would further complicate the relations among the three key players in the region is the absence of nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) among them. While India and Pakistan have only rudimentary nuclear CBMs between them, India and China have none at all. In the maritime sphere, neither pairs have any CBMs. Given the feverish maritime developments that are underway, the absence of CBMs could lead to miscalculations and accidents. This becomes even more pertinent in the case of Pakistan, which uses dual-use platforms for maritime nuclear power projection. In case of a bilateral naval standoff, the absence of dedicated conventional or nuclear platforms could potentially lead to misunderstandings and accidents. It is therefore important for India and Pakistan (as also India and China) to have an ‘incidents at sea’ agreement like the one between the U.S. and USSR in 1972, so as to avoid incidents at sea and avoid their escalation if they took place.

Command and control

India’s sea deterrent also throws up several key questions about the country’s nuclear command and control systems. To begin with, unlike in the case of the air or land legs of the triad where civilian organisations have the custody of nuclear warheads, the naval leg will be essentially under military custody and control given that there would be no civilian presence on board an SSBN. Not only would the SSBN have no warhead control by civilians (i.e., BARC scientists), its captain would be under the Strategic Forces Command, an organisation manned by military officers. Also, given that the warhead would be pre-mated with the canisterised missiles in the SSBN, what would be the finer details of the launch authority invested in the SSBN captain? The SSBN captain would have the authority to launch nuclear missiles on orders from the political authority. However, is there a fool-proof Permissive Action Links system in place to ensure that an unauthorised use does not take place? There needs to be more clarity on such issues.

In sum, while INS Arihant makes India’s nuclear deterrence more robust, it also changes deterrence stability in the southern Asian region as we know it. More so, it is important to remember that the country’s sea deterrent is still in its infancy, and its path hereon is riddled with challenges.

Happymon Jacob teaches Disarmament and National Security at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Get the model right

For state-sponsored insurance, governments should avoid insurance companies
World Bank data, in 2015, showed that nearly 65% of health-care expenditure in India is “Out of Pocket” (OoP). A report by the World Health Organisation has shown that around 3.2% of Indians would fall below the poverty line because of high OoP health expenditure. Thus, a national health insurance scheme like the Ayushman Bharat is welcome.

While the principle of insuring a vulnerable population is widely accepted, what is contentious is the model that the government has adopted — that of using insurance companies. High premiums are paid for these schemes. Ayushman Bharat, for instance, has enhanced the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) of the United Progressive Alliance government, to cover around 11 crore families with a yearly coverage of Rs. 5 lakh. Experts estimate this will require Rs. 25,000 crore per year, when fully implemented. Similarly, the Central and State governments jointly paid Rs. 17,796 crore for crop insurance (2017-18) under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

The flawed model

Insurance works on the principle of pooling the risk of policy holders. But another common sense idea must guide insurance decisions. If an individual, corporation or a government can bear a certain quantum of risk by themselves, it is not financially sensible to insure with an insurance company. This is because administrative overheads and profit margins of insurance companies are included in insurance premium costs.

At least if the companies involved in the process are restricted to the public sector, government funds would only be going from one pocket to another. But at a phase when India is trying to promote more foreign direct investment and private sector participation in insurance, it is only fair to provide a level-playing field to public and private sector insurance companies.

However, recently in Jammu and Kashmir, when a compulsory health insurance scheme for employees was rolled out by the Central government tied to a private insurer, it raised eyebrows and was subsequently rolled back. Similarly, last year, insurance companies made a bumper profit of 85% to the tune of Rs. 15,029 crore on crop insurance premium under the PMFBY.

Another pertinent issue is finding reinsurers for government insurance schemes, a problem that is being encountered by companies on the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana because of high claims.

Costs of insurance companies

Typical insurance company costs include designing insurance products to suit customer needs; actuarial input to assess and manage risk; advertising and marketing; empanelment (of approved service providers such as hospitals); administrative expenses to provide prior approval of claims; and processing, which includes functions such as fraud detection.

However, of these, the first three are not applicable to programmes such as Ayushman Bharat which will be fully funded by the government as a blanket scheme. The government is also funding more than 80% of crop insurance. The last three functions, i.e. empanelling service providers, pre-approving hospitalisation of patients and subsequently settling the claim, are commonly outsourced to third-party administrators (TPAs) even by insurance companies.

Trust mode and cost cutting

No insurance company has the kind of financial resources the Centre and the States have. Hence, governments must consider bearing the risk by themselves — known as the “trust mode” — instead of using insurance companies as risk-bearers and intermediaries. However, in India, governments continue to pay hefty sums in premium to insurance companies.

This phenomenon was researched in 2015 by Srikant Nagulapalli and Sudarsana Rao Rokkam of the Andhra Pradesh University. Studying the Aarogyasri scheme introduced in undivided Andhra Pradesh by the late Congress Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (the forerunner of the RSBY), they showed that the bid by insurance companies on such health schemes included a 20% margin for administrative expense and profit. By avoiding insurance companies and using TPAs instead, governments can save about 15%, or up to Rs. 6,000 crore per year. These savings will continue to rise due to rising premiums. Additionally, since premiums paid to insurance companies are transferred at the beginning of the year, there is an opportunity cost, which at current interest rates could amount to around Rs. 2,000 crore a year. The study also found the claim-to-premium ratio and customer satisfaction to be better in the trust mode than the insurance mode. It would also prevent exorbitant profits accruing to insurance companies in good cropping seasons as in 2017-18.

Those who recommend the use of insurance companies allude that the government lacks the expertise to manage insurance. While the “government has no business being in business” is the neoliberal mantra, insurance companies are a redundant layer in the government’s social security structure. The government has already proclaimed that it wishes to cut the intermediary through the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) and direct benefit transfers. It has also indicated that it wants to optimise fund utilisation through the recently introduced Public Finance Management System. Shifting to the trust mode will be the next natural step in this path, not only saving taxpayer money but also benefiting farmers and the underprivileged instead of insurance companies.

‘Americai’ V. Narayanan is a CPA, an IRDA certified insurance broker and Chairman of EasyInsuranceIndia.com. Kavya Narayanan is a commerce graduate

Unlawful dissolution

The J&K Governor’s action controverts what has been laid down by the Supreme Court
In dissolving the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly without giving any claimant an opportunity to form the government, Governor Satya Pal Malik has violated constitutional law and convention. Mr. Malik’s stated reasons for his action — “extensive horse trading” and the possibility that a government formed by parties with “opposing political ideologies” would not be stable — are extraneous. The Governor ought to have known that the Supreme Court has deprecated such a line of reasoning. In Rameshwar Prasad (2006), the then Bihar Governor Buta Singh’s recommendation for dissolving the Assembly the previous year was held to be illegal and mala fide. In both instances, the dissolution came just as parties opposed to the ruling dispensation at the Centre were close to staking a claim to form the government. In Bihar, the Assembly was then in suspended animation as no party or combination had the requisite majority; in J&K, the State has been under Governor’s rule since June, when the BJP withdrew from the coalition and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, of the Peoples Democratic Party, resigned. It is true that the PDP and the National Conference had not initiated any move to form a popular government for months and favoured fresh elections. But that cannot be the reason for the Governor to dissolve the 87-member House just when they were about to come together to form a likely 56-member bloc with the help of the Congress.

With the BJP backing Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone, the PDP may have sensed a danger to the unity of its 29-member legislature party and agreed to an unusual alliance with its political adversaries. Describing such an alliance as opportunistic is fine as far as it is political opinion; however, it cannot be the basis for constitutional action. As indicated in Rameshwar Prasad , a Governor cannot shut out post-poll alliances altogether as one of the ways in which a popular government may be formed. The court had also said unsubstantiated claims of horse-trading or corruption in efforts at government formation cannot be cited as reasons to dissolve the Assembly. Further, it said it was the Governor’s duty to explore the possibility of forming a popular government, and that he could not dissolve the House solely to prevent a combination from staking its claim. Mr. Malik’s remarks that the PDP and the NC did not show proof of majority or parade MLAs show shocking disregard for the primacy accorded to a floor test. J&K’s relationship with the Centre is rooted in constitutional safeguards as well as in the participation of its major parties in electoral politics and parliamentary democracy. Anyone interested in political stability in the sensitive State should ensure that democratic processes are strengthened. The potential for political instability in the future should not be cited as a reason to scuttle emerging alliances.

Cricket’s final frontier

It is India’s best chance to win a Test series in Australia. But can it?
Cricketing reputations are sometimes made or shattered based on how a player performs against Australia. That’s been something of a trend ever since the West Indies began its free fall after losing to Australia in the mid-1990s. And Australia, in its own backyard, is considered the ultimate opposition. Sachin Tendulkar has scored 100 international centuries, but even today his splendid 114 at Perth during the 1992 tour of Australia is regarded as one of his finest. For Virat Kohli’s men, who have just set foot in Australia and narrowly lost their first Twenty20 encounter, the long tour presents an opportunity for India to reiterate its credentials. The International Cricket Council has ranked India as number one in Tests and placed it at the second spot in both ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals. Incidentally, in all three lists, Kohli’s men are ranked above Australia. The hosts remain a powerful force at home, but having been weakened by the ban-induced absence of Steve Smith and David Warner following the ball-tampering incident earlier this year in South Africa, they are shorn of their usual domineering aura. Australia is placed fifth, sixth and fourth in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s, respectively. The dip in performance has been matched by intense self-analysis about the manner in which Australia plays its sport. The ‘result-justifies-the-unsavoury-methods’ philosophy has been put through a wringer ever since Cameron Bancroft was caught rubbing a sandpaper on the ball.

It is in this theatre of tumult that the Indian team has landed. But the sobering truth is that Kohli’s men, like many of their predecessors, have been poor travellers beyond the subcontinent. There has been the odd upset but largely it has been a tale of debilitating defeats. In the previous tour of England, India lost the Tests 1-4 while honours were shared between the ODIs and Twenty20s. Cut to the present, the three Twenty20s are a prelude to four Tests and three ODIs. Batsman Kohli reigns supreme but his captaincy has come under scrutiny. The constant shuffling of the playing XI has triggered churn and the Indian skipper has to work on getting his nucleus right. There are some fine batsmen, a bunch of incisive fast bowlers and spinners with guile. The ingredients are there and there is some confidence in dealing with what may be viewed as a somewhat enfeebled Australia. But a potent pace attack led by Mitchell Starc offers a clear and present danger, especially in Tests. India has to exorcise the ghosts of the past, having never won a Test series in Australia. The circumstances are promising for it to correct that record.

Gandhi opposed Partition

Blaming Gandhi for Partition and by implication lionising his assassin is the worst form of historical revisionism
I was shocked when a young Indian professional recently advised me to listen to the audiotape of Nathuram Godse’s speech in the court trying him for Mahatma Gandhi’s murder to get the “right perspective” on both Gandhi and Godse. An obvious admirer of Godse, he found the assassin’s rant blaming Gandhi for abetting Partition convincing, thus implying that Gandhi’s assassination was a legitimate act of retribution carried out by a true Indian nationalist.

It is very disturbing to hear of this revisionist version of Gandhi’s assassination that by implication justifies Godse’s action. It not only tarnishes Gandhi’s reputation, but also flies in the face of recorded facts.

In reality, Gandhi opposed Partition until the very end. However, the Congress leadership had increasingly sidelined him by the end of 1946. By that time, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel had come to accept the idea of Partition without even the courtesy of consulting Gandhi. Eventually, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) accepted the Mountbatten plan to divide the country.

On the morning of June 3, 1947, the day the Partition plan was announced, Gandhi told Rajendra Prasad, “I can see only evil in the plan.” Reacting to a question by a reporter whether he would undertake a fast to prevent Partition, Gandhi, uncharacteristically dejected, replied: “If the Congress commits to an act of madness, does it mean I should die?”

It is a matter of record that Patel, on the advice of States Secretary V.P. Menon, had accepted the inevitability of Partition by December 1946 and had signalled this to Nehru. Patel was convinced, as he later stated, that “if India is to remain united it must be divided”. Nehru was also eventually convinced that Partition was a necessary evil in order to neutralise Jinnah’s nuisance value and to establish a strong and centralised Indian state which would not have been possible with Muslim League ministries in office in undivided Punjab and Bengal.

It is instructive to note that at the CWC meeting that accepted the Partition plan there were only two dissenters, both Muslim. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan opposed the plan declaring, “You [the Congress] have thrown us to the wolves”. Maulana Azad, a trenchant critic of Jinnah and the Muslim League and fervently opposed to Partition, remained silent in deference to his friend Nehru who had moved the Partition resolution. Everyone else, including Prasad and Govind Ballabh Pant, voted in favour of dividing the country. Blaming Gandhi for Partition and by implication lionising his assassin is the worst form of historical revisionism. In fact, it is a crime, which all thoughtful Indians must condemn unequivocally.

The writer is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University

Lok Sabha passes Tamil Nadu Bill

The Lok Sabha to-day [November 23, New Delhi] passed the Bill to rename Madras State as “Tamil Nadu”. The Bill will now go to Rajya Sabha for approval. There were cheers from all sides when the Chair announced that the Bill was passed. The Bill was welcomed by all sections, irrespective of party affiliations. New ground was broken when a Union Minister, Dr V.K.R.V. Rao, also participated in the debate, supporting the measure. He appealed to the ruling party in Madras to see that Hindi acquired an honoured place in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Y.B. Chavan, Home Minister, apologised to the House for his absence yesterday. He joined the rest of the House in describing the measure as a general expression of national pride. Incidentally, he disclosed that when he had a discussion on the subject, the Chief Minister of Madras, Mr. C.N. Annadurai, had thought of some other “musical name”. But Mr. Annadurai was prevailed upon by Mr. Chavan to have a name which would be understood by all. Mr. Chavan hoped the new name would bring the State one step nearer to integration of the country.

The Empire’s Victory. King’s Speech.

The King’s speech at the prorogation of Parliament [in London] was as follows: “My Lords and Gentlemen”. The occasion on which I address you marks the close of a period which will be forever memorable in the history of our country. The war upon which all the energies of my peoples throughout my Dominions for over four years have been concentrated has at length been brought to a triumphant issue. The conclusion of the armistice with the last of the powers ranged against us promises long, honourable and enduring peace. I have already sought an opportunity of expressing publicly to my peoples and my Allies the sentiments of heartfelt admiration and gratitude with which I regard the supreme self-sacrificing devotion that led to this glorious result.

Letters

Dissolving House
The Governor’s decision is politically motivated (“Amid contrasting claims, J&K Governor dissolves Assembly”, Nov. 22). The role of the Governor was discussed at length during Karnataka’s political turmoil. This is yet another instance of the Governor’s office being abused by the party in power. It’s unfortunate that Governors, who are required to be the guardians of democracy, fail to discharge their duties.

Vidhya B. Ragunath,

Thanjavur

That the PDP and the NC want to form an alliance shows that anything is possible in politics. No party can be trusted. It is obviously a difficult time for the BJP in the State as it clearly has few friends there right now.

F.T. Mulla,

Secunderabad

Instead of exploring all the possibilities of government formation, the Governor has taken the easy way out by dissolving the Assembly. His apprehension that the NC-PDP-Congress coalition would lead to an unstable government should have been put to test on the floor of the House. It appears as if no government can be formed without the BJP’s participation. The Governor’s decision will now surely be challenged in a court of law.

D.B.N. Murthy,

Bengaluru

The Governor was right in dissolving the Assembly. Though the Governor is bound to call the largest party in the House to form a government, it was not clear if the PDP and the PC’s claims were convincing. His decision has prevented horse-trading.

K.R. Srinivasan,

Secunderabad

Justice finally
The conviction of two persons for their role in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 will bring solace to the families of the affected (Justice: 34 years on”, Nov. 22). We have seen how those responsible for war crimes and genocide, whether in Germany or Cambodia, were punished after decades of trials. The law always catches up with criminals, even if it takes its own time to.

A. Mohan,

Chennai

Killed in the Andamans
It is unfortunate that U.S. citizen John Allen Chau was killed while trying to enter North Sentinel Island (“U.S. citizen killed by Andaman tribals”, Nov. 22). That he broke the law and tried to enter shows his arrogance. All those who aided him in entering the island should be held responsible for his death. The government should ensure that both the tribals and outsiders are equally protected.

D. Sethuraman,

Chennai

The Hindu ’s report did not mention that Chau was a missionary. It is important to mention this as it tells us why Chau went there. It wasn’t because he was a merely curious traveller.

Ramdas Naik,

Chennai

It is unfortunate that the tourist was killed. But he and those who helped him get to the island were at fault. Why should we disturb those who wish to remain undisturbed by modernity? North Sentinel island is not a tourist spot, and the tribals there are not statues to be gawked at.

T. Anand Raj,

Chennai

Why the RBI board needs to be recast

Members from corporate world, who have stake in financial markets, pose serious conflict of interest
At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008 when liquidity crunch hit the Indian credit market, the then finance minister P. Chidambaram constituted a liquidity management committee headed by the then finance secretary Arun Ramanathan. The decision raised eyebrows as liquidity management is a key function of the RBI. (One of the meetings of that committee was held in the head office of a public sector bank in Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai.)

An ‘annoyed and upset’ Duvvuri Subbarao, the then governor of RBI, called up the finance minister to say that he would not participate in the meeting. Mr. Subbarao himself penned the incident down in his memoir — Who Moved My Interest Rate – Leading the Reserve Bank of India through Five Turbulent Years.

The point is, even in such a turbulent economic circumstance, Mr. Chidambaram did not take specific policy-related issues to the RBI board. But things have changed now. In the last two board meetings of the central bank, specific issues such as bank capital, debt restructuring scheme, liquidity for non-banking finance companies and reviewing prompt corrective action framework, apart from economic capital framework, were discussed.

A statement issued by RBI after the November 19 board meeting, among other things, said, “The Board, while deciding to retain the CRAR at 9%, agreed to extend the transition period for implementing the last tranche of 0.625% under the Capital Conservation Buffer (CCB), by one year i.e. up to March 31, 2020.”

MSME debt recast

On the issue of debt recast scheme for micro, medium and small enterprises, the board ‘advised’ that the RBI should consider a scheme for restructuring of stressed standard assets of MSMEs. On capital, it was clear that the decision was taken by the board. Clearly, the government wants the board to be more hands-on. However, the board has members from the corporate world who have a stake in the financial markets, which poses serious conflict of interest.

For example, the present board has N. Chandrasekaran, who is the chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company and promoter of more than 100 Tata operating companies, including Tata Capital — a non-banking finance company. There’re also Dilip Shanghvi, MD, Sun Pharma and Manish Sabharwal, Chairman of Teamlease.

The RBI board will discuss the issue of liquidity problems of NBFCs in the next board meeting on December 14, apart from governance issues, and corporate borrowers will be an obvious beneficiary if steps are taken to address the issue.

To avoid conflict of interest, the RBI board should be reconstituted with academicians and technocrats who have no business interest in financial markets and could aid the RBI management with valuable inputs.

Falling crude puts OMC pricing under scanner

Falling crude puts OMC pricing under scanner

There is a large gap in the extent of fall between oil and petrol prices; pricing mechanism of OMCs is opaque and complex
Are oil marketing companies recovering the Rs. 1 per litre price cut of October 4 which they had made on the Centre’s instructions and absorbed into their financials?

While oil marketing companies (OMCs) deny that they are doing so, , analysts argue that the pricing mechanism is so opaque and complex that there would be no way to tell even if they were recovering it.

The government had, in early October, said it would cut the excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs. 1.5 per litre each, and that oil marketing companies would administer a further Rs. 1 per litre cut in the price.

At the time, the OMCs had said that the total effect of this on their finances would amount to Rs. 4,000-Rs. 5,000 crore in this financial year.

“The government asked OMCs to absorb that Rs. 1 cut in price, so there is no question of us recovering it,” Indian Oil Corporation said in response to queries from The Hindu . “We have given our calculations for what impact this would have fiscally.”

Since October 1, the Indian basket of crude oil has seen prices fall almost 24% as of November 21, whereas the price of petrol has fallen only 8.8% during that period. While this disparity in price levels can be explained to some point by the manner in which petrol prices are set in India, analysts say that this does not explain the large and growing gap between oil and petrol prices.

“One can’t expect petrol prices in India to move exactly as oil prices do,” one sector analyst said on condition of anonymity. “But there is no reason why there should be such a divergence between prices for such a long time. One can understand if the price reduction in petrol comes with a delay, but not if it doesn’t come at all, or only barely. They might be absorbing the Rs. 1 amount, but even that is not enough to explain the disparity.”

“In the Indian basket, there is always a lag that happens with crude price changes, since the procurement happens at a certain point of time, and the pump prices follow later,” Anish De, Head of Energy and Natural Resources at KPMG in India, said. “Further, while there will be a reduction in fuel prices if oil prices reduce, there won’t be by the same percentage. The reason is that it is a supply chain of which crude is one part. There is shipping, refining, supply and distribution, etc. Those are relatively fixed costs that do not vary with the price of oil.”

A complex process

“Petrol pricing is a complex process, difficult to be known to other than those directly involved,” Deepak Mahurkar, partner and leader — Oil & Gas Industry Practice, PwC India, said. “The international products, whose basket we use for pricing petrol products, do not move immediately and in tandem with the crude oil prices. There can be a lag. Arbitrages also change. The price stack up also includes in-land costs, over and above international products prices. The OMCs bear costs including dealers’ commission.”

These various components in pricing add to the opacity behind how the final retail price is determined. For example, if the global price is $65 per barrel, then there are transportation costs, cross-subsidy losses, handling losses, export parity price, dealercommission, and then taxes added to this.

“What they tell the Petroleum Ministry is that they are absorbing the Rs. 1 cost, but there is no way to tell if they are simply adding this Rs. 1 back into the pricing somewhere down the line,” the sector analyst added. “With oil prices and global petrol prices falling, this would be a good time for OMCs to be incorporating that Rs. 1 somewhere, and still cut petrol prices by some amount.”

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