Read The Hindu Important Articles 05 December 2018
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Disabilities Act: States going slow on roll-out, says study
Only 10 States have notified rules under Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act
A study conducted by the Disability Rights India Foundation (DRIF) on the implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, across 24 States, has revealed that more than half have not notified the State rules, despite a significant lapse of time.
Ten States including Bihar, Chandigarh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Telengana, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have notified the State rules, the survey said.
The study, conducted in collaboration with the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD), said the Act, passed in December 2016, should have been notified by all States within six months.
The study, which concentrated on the States’ administrative machinery with respect to the Act, found that 79.2% of the States had not constituted the funds for implementation of the RPWD Act. Among the five States to have constituted the funds, Tamil Nadu has allocated Rs. 10 crore while Himachal Pradesh has allocated Rs. 5 crore.
“Only Tamil Nadu has taken some action with regard to providing an increased quantum of assistance for people with disabilities in social security schemes,” the report said.
Though 62.5% of the States have appointed Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities, “the progress has not been substantial. Only three States have constituted Advisory Committees, comprising of experts, to assist the State Commissioners” the study noted.
Out of the 24 States and Union Territories that responded to the study, Madhya Pradesh was ranked the highest, followed by Odisha, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands along with Jammu and Kashmir ranked the lowest. The national capital was ranked number 12.
While 58.3% of the States have not notified Special Courts in the districts for trying offences under the Act, 87.5% have not appointed a Special Public Prosecutors as mandated by the law, the study said.
Accounting methods of climate fund questioned
Only 12% of pledges have materialised: Ministry paper
The Finance Ministry has issued a ‘discussion paper’ that has criticised the accounting methods used by developed countries to report how much money they have given, so far, to developing countries to address climate change.
Accounting procedures, regarding the flow of climate finance, is one of the most controversial issues being debated at Katowice, Poland where countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015, that commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2C beyond pre-industrial levels.
In 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries, according to a 2010 agreement in Cancun.
In 2016, developed countries published a road map to $100 billion, which claimed that public climate finance levels had reached $41 billion per year in 2013-14. In 2015, India had disputed this figure arguing it was only $ 2.2 billion. “The 2017 numbers also tell a similar story. Only around 12% of total pledges to climate funds have actually materialised into disbursements,” the Ministry paper notes.
It argues that the definition of climate finance in the UNFCCC has remained “imprecise and incomplete.” There was no clarity on whether the developed countries’ commitment to ‘provide funds’ meant funds committed or those that made it to their intended recipients.
The total pledges to the Green Climate Fund, the largest multilateral fund, was a “meagre” $10.3 billion. Further, most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).
The growth in the reported climate specific finance actually slowed down from 24% between 2014 and 2015 to 14% between 2015 and 2016, the paper notes, quoting a report by the finance committee of the UN that manages climate-affairs.
The questions raised by the paper are similar to those articulated by India’s Environment Ministry-led delegation, now part of negotiations in Poland.
India’s Bhutan hydel project ready
Cooperation in Mangdechhu power project a sign of strong ties: Vijay Gokhale
India is expected to commission a major hydropower project in Bhutan in the coming weeks, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Tuesday.
Delivering a speech on India-Bhutan relations, the top diplomat said cooperation in the hydropower sector was a sign of strength of the time-tested ties between the two countries.
“This year we hope to commission the flagship 750 megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project, hopefully this month itself, and we are also working on a number of ongoing and planned projects that will ensure our relationship in this sector continues in the future,” said the Foreign Secretary assuring Bhutan of India’s commitment to work with the Himalayan country.
Adapting to the times
The Mangdechhu project was bagged by the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) and it will be implemented on a bilateral basis. The Foreign Secretary said India-Bhutan ties had adapted to the changing times. Bhutan’s latest democratic election had firmed up its position as a leading democracy in the region, he said.
Commissioning of the project will mark a highpoint in bilateral ties in the coming months.
The official said India and Bhutan were now interacting at the level of parliamentarians and civil society participants, while also maintaining close dialogue at the official levels.
The Foreign Minister of Bhutan Tandi Dorji told The Hindu on Tuesday that Bhutan would maintain its special relationship with India in the future.
The Foreign Secretary’s comments came at the end of a conference organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) that was organised to mark half century of diplomatic ties between Delhi and Thimphu.
India, U.S. will sort out sanctions waiver: Mattis
Nirmala Sitharaman gets guard of honour at Pentagon
India and the U.S. are planning to “sort out” issues around a U.S. sanctions waiver related to India’s purchase of the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia, U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis told the press at the Pentagon on Monday.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is now on a visit to Washington.
Asked if he expects India to get a waiver, Mr. Mattis said, “Yeah, you know, India has spent many, many years in its non-aligned status. It’s drawn a lot of weapons from Russia. We have a growing strategic confluence of interests with our country and theirs… and we’ll sort out all those issues here today, and in the days ahead.”
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump in April 2017.
However, the President may make an exemption to CAATSA as per the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY19 — Mr. Mattis was pivotal in pushing for this part of the legislation, citing India and other countries as examples of those with historic ties to Russia now wanting to purchase U.S. defence equipment.
Ms. Sitharaman was given an extended honour cordon (guard) at the Pentagon on Monday where she and other Indian officials visited for talks with Mr. Mattis and his team. Ms. Sitharaman and Mr. Mattis spoke briefly on bilateral ties and Mr. Mattis took a few questions from the press.
Regarding the White House reaching out to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan about supporting the peace process in Afghanistan, Mr. Mattis said, “It’s time for everyone to get onboard, support the United Nations, support Prime Minister Modi, support President Ghani and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here.”
US envoy on Afghan peace in Pakistan for talks about Taliban
U.S. envoy visits Pak. to discuss Taliban talks
U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and army officials on Tuesday to discuss how to bring the Taliban to peace talks, said officials. He was also expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and later scheduled to travel to Afghanista
The architecture is not the force
How a business friendly government has failed to arrest the slide in private investment
It may appear that the recent hullabaloo over GDP (gross domestic product) growth in the past decade has cast a shadow over assessment of the economy’s progress since 2014, but it is not so. There exists enough information for this as GDP is not the sole indicator on which one needs to rely in such an exercise. Arguably, investment is another, mainly private investment, for governments can always raise their capital outlay ignoring the calculus of profitability.
The profit-economy link
For a private investor, on the other hand, financial commitments are based closely on anticipated profit. The expectation of profit is itself tied to the expected state of the economy. As much of the future is uncertain, some part of its expectation is likely to be based on current trends. Thus, private investment is tied both to the present state of the economy and its anticipated vigour. For a government interested in invigorating the economy, then, it is essential to inspire confidence in the private investor. The investment meant here is the expenditure on productive capacity as opposed to buying shares or even durable goods in secondary markets.
Private investment in relation to output has in most years since been lower than what it was in 2014. This may come as a surprise to some as the government of Narendra Modi had appeared a business friendly one. While noting the slide in private investment, two points may be made. First, the private sector comprises two segments, the corporate and the unincorporated, termed household, in Indian national accounts. Since 2014, after initially declining private corporate investment has shown a mild rise while household investment has fallen sharply. The overall effect has been downward. This despite the pro-business reputation of this government and the strong and repeated communication of the Prime Minister that it would support those who ‘Make in India’. Clearly this talk has not been enough to convince private investors, who probably find insufficient dynamism in the economy today and are unsure of the likely impact of the government’s policies on its future. The most business friendly government at the Centre in recent times has not had success in turning around a slide in private investment. This is the second point to note.
While ‘adventurist’ has been pronounced as a verdict on the economic policy since 2014, a purely economic explanation is at hand. The government may have mistaken the architecture for the force. For an economy, by architecture we would mean the framework within which activity takes place while force is the ebb and flow of the demand for and supply of goods.
Elements to the architecture
It is possible to see four elements of the architecture as visualised by the Modi government: the presence of foreign direct investment (FDI), a digital payments network, a streamlined indirect tax regime and less government. The government has had some success in moving the economy towards such an architecture. Almost the first significant economic move of the Prime Minister was to have met American CEOs while in New York in 2014. This has been followed by an increase in FDI to record levels since. But the fact remains that FDI is not a large part of total capital formation in India, and, therefore, even at the heightened level cannot really make too much of a difference. Also, FDI into India has generally flowed to sectors with a lower multiplier effect on output. Then came the demonetisation, initially spoken of as a ‘surgical strike’ on black money hoards but subsequently rationalised as nudging Indians towards adopting digital payment. The inevitable formalisation of the economy was to lead to more tax revenue for the government, enabling greater spending on infrastructure.
Next came the launching of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The government cannot claim all the credit for this desirable move, for a restructuring of the indirect tax regime has been on the books, if not in the works, since the 1970s and there has been a high degree of participation of the States in its launching. However, in the haste to appear as reforming, the Central government may have overlooked the need for a strong information technology (IT) network, education of the taxpayer and a facilitating tax bureaucracy. The States may well have agreed to the date of launching as they were to be compensated for any loss of revenues. Finally, the counterpart of the election slogan, ‘minimum government’, has materialised in the form of a steadily declining share of public expenditure in the economy. So the government has been able to achieve the architecture that it aspired to. Extensions of it have reached the two arms of macroeconomic policy. First, there was the move to what is referred to as a ‘modern monetary policy framework’. This has meant that the sole objective of monetary policy would be inflation control. That there can be collateral damage to growth is considered inconsequential. Fiscal policy has been guided by ‘fiscal consolidation’ or a focus on deficit reduction. That this could be achieved by varying combinations of the revenue deficit and public investment appears not to have been considered.
A significant part of the promise of demonetisation and the introduction of the GST, namely higher public revenues from formalisation, has not materialised. In fact, there are reports of the possibility of the fiscal deficit target for this year being breached due to lower than expected indirect tax revenues. On the other, it is clear that the dip in the growth rate in 2016-17 was due to demonetisation. The economy had slowed in the very next quarter after it was implemented, with the manufacturing sector actually contracting. As for the macroeconomic policy that has been pursued since 2014, it has acted as a pincer movement on aggregate demand. Rising interest rates, presumably needed to ensure that the inflation target is met, and fiscal consolidation are sure to have crimped it. Apart from any immediate effect of lowering the fiscal deficit, the route it has taken may also have consequences for long-term growth. In 2017-18, Central government capital expenditure was lowered in real terms. A less recognised aspect of the modern monetary policy framework is that the real exchange rate has appreciated since its adoption. This could only have reduced the demand for India’s exports, further lowering aggregate demand and holding back private investment.
The economic policies of the Modi government have failed to enthuse the private sector. Private investment has continued to slide during its tenure. A most natural thing for the government to have done would have been to raise substantially its own investment. This it has not done. A rising public investment can nudge the private sector to follow suit as the latter perceives superior growth prospects raising the latter’s expectation of profits. Actually, “minimum government” is an unimaginative maxim for governing the economy.
The government must respond imaginatively to the emergent economic situation. In the context, to the extent that sliding private investment reflects declining profit expectations, economic policy must anchor profit expectations. Under India’s new monetary policy framework, institutionalised by this government, the monetary authority aims to anchor inflationary expectations but this by itself can do little to convince firms of improved profits in the future. That this is how the economy works may be surmised from the fact that inflation has trended down steadily since even before 2014 but that has not revived private investment.
Pulapre Balakrishnan teaches economics at Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana
Cutting through the smog
Practical interventions exist to tackle the issue of stubble burning
Incidents of stubble burning — following the harvest of paddy crop in Punjab and Haryana — cannot be averted by imposing fines, or giving notice or giving farmers capital subsidy. Instead, the issue requires long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.
Air pollution is a worry especially in north India. Stubble burning is said to be a key factor behind the formation of a dense cover of smog in this part of India though its contribution is less than 20%. Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but what is at fault are the flawed and short-sighted policies of the Central and State governments.
Policy of rotation
In the 1960s, wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in foodgrain production. Large public investments in irrigation and adoption of high yielding varieties under the Green Revolution helped achieve the goal and make the nation food secure. However, the negative externalities in terms of land degradation, adverse soil health due to overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and plummeting water tables have surfaced.
The share of paddy (rice) in the gross cropped area in Punjab has increased from 6.8% in 1966-67 to almost 36.4 % in recent years, while it has increased from 4.97% to 20% in Haryana. The increase has undisputedly been at the cost of the area under maize, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane. The policy of minimum support price for crops, in tandem with their assured procurement and input subsidy, have left farmers with no option but to follow this rotation. Besides, Punjab enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period (some time in June instead of the earlier practice in May). A shorter period of sowing days prohibits transplantation before a notified date, which in turn limits the window available for harvesting paddy to between 15 and 20 days. As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and maintain crop yield find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution.
One possibility to curtail the practice is to ensure that the government encourages crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops by extending price incentives and better marketing facilities. In some districts, farmers have started growing kinnow fruit but are often dissuaded due to high price volatility and the absence of a market. The policy of a ‘price deficiency system’ — as initiated in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — should be adopted to strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops. Another option is to replicate the Telangana model of providing farmers an investment support of Rs. 8,000 per acre each year and withdraw price-based support.
Punjab faces another serious problem: labour shortage. In the Agricultural Census 2011, average land-holding size has increased from 2.89 hectares in 1970-71 to 3.77 hectares in 2010-11 — higher than the national average of 1.5 hectares. Paucity of labour for various farm operations is substituted by machines for which the government extends financial support.
A road map
Farmers have already made investments in seed drill machines for sowing wheat after paddy harvest. Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers. Even if the machine is available at a subsidised rate of nearly Rs. 1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance. It is not a viable option for small and marginal farmers who hardly earn Rs. 60,000 in a year. Imposing a fine for burning straw is again unreasonable. The fine imposed per hectare is much lower than the cost incurred on a ‘happy seeder’.
A feasible remedy could lie in the setting up of custom hiring centres or inviting companies to make investments for rental purposes. If the state provides an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements and earn additional income — there are examples of this in Nigeria and also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it would be akin to the ‘Uberisation of agriculture’. It would avoid stubble burning and at the same time make farming more mechanised, cost effective and a source of employment.
Another far-sighted approach could be in effective use of paddy straw. Unlike wheat residue, which is used as fodder, paddy straw is non-palatable to animals as it has high silica content. Farmers, who have already been sensitised to refrain from burning residue, should be given options such as biomass generation. Now, hardly 20% of straw is managed through biomass power plants, paper and cardboard mills. The government should use geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe and encourage installation of biomass plants at such locations. This will not only reduce transportation costs for the firm or village entrepreneurs but also help the government achieve its target of generating 227GW based on renewable energy sources by 2022. Farmers can also be incentivised to sell the residual for additional income. The residual has uses, such as in paper, cardboard and packing material making and also hydroseeding (defiberised rice straw can be used in hydroseeding for erosion control).
Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran are Professor and Research Scholar, respectively, at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
‘Our calorie-oriented approach to agriculture is no longer sustainable’
The Principal Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance on rural distress, the GDP back series data, NPAs, and slow GDP growth in the second quarter of this FY
The government has come under a lot of criticism over its estimates for economic growth during the United Progressive Alliance years and for the slowdown in GDP growth in the second quarter of this financial year. Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance, argues that even though the GDP back series lowered growth for previous years, the growth rates were still “decent” if seen in isolation. The real concern, he says, was that macro stability indicators fared much worse during that time. Excerpts from an interview on the non-performing assets (NPA) situation, the IL&FS crisis, and meeting the fiscal deficit target this year:
The question of the day is to do with the GDP back series data. What are your key takeaways from the new data?
We shifted the calculations to a new 2011-12 base in 2015. This is done periodically to realign national accounts to the changing structure of the economy. All new GDP data are done on this basis but we needed to extend it backwards to provide a longer series. This is what was announced last week. The CSO (Central Statistics Office) is a professional body and the methodology is as per internationally accepted standards.
Some insinuations have been made that these revisions are politically motivated. In fact, when this series was originally introduced in 2015, one of the results was that the growth rates for 2012-13 and 2013-14 were revised up very significantly. In the case of 2012-13, it was revised up significantly [twice], from 4.7% to 5.1%, and then further to 5.5%. So, the new series increased the growth rates for certain years of the previous government and was welcomed. If the same methodology now lowers the growth rates of earlier years, that is how it is.
Do the new numbers change the way we look at the economy in the recent past? Did we never really hit a high-growth phase of over 9%?
The revised back series growth rates would still count as decent growth rates in isolation. The real issue, I would argue, were the macroeconomic stability numbers. There was a spike in inflation to double digits and a large and irresponsible expansion in credit which later led to banking NPAs. Current account and fiscal deficits widened sharply. Thus, India was marked out as one of the ‘Fragile Five’. So, while the new GDP growth numbers for 2005-06 to 2011-12 are somewhat weaker than previously calculated, the real problem was in macro stability.
What’s your outlook going forward on the NPA situation? Do you think we need one more round of recapitalisation, more than what was already promised?
We introduced, in the last few years, much more stringent recognition norms for NPAs and capital requirements for banks. Recognition is now done strictly, and NPAs have been mostly taken into account. We are using the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to resolve/liquidate/auction NPAs. In this way, we are making our way through the old problem loans. Meanwhile, as a part of a revival plan, Rs. 2.11 lakh crore was earmarked for recapitalising banks. This is being deployed in a calibrated fashion. More will be made available if necessary.
What’s the lesson on regulation in light of the IL&FS crisis in the NBFC (non banking financial company) sector?
The NBFC sector is now a much more significant part of the economy than it used to be. We need to pay attention to regulating it and, in particular, pay special attention to larger institutions by taking into account their systemic importance, their asset-liability mismatch, and so on.
The other lesson is that the credit market needs to be kept flowing during periods of stress. Otherwise it freezes up and causes a liquidity contagion of its own. In India, everybody pays attention only to the stock market whereas it is the credit market that is at the heart of the financial system.
With the rise of the NBFC sector, aren’t banks less important? Will there be a problem now with NBFCs slowing?
When we cleaned up the banks and slowed their expansion, the space was taken up by NBFCs. But now NBFCs themselves will go through a period of consolidation. The immediate credit market roll-over problems have been eased but many of them will now have slower growth. Parts of the economy, particularly some of the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), have experienced a credit squeeze. So, we need to make sure that adequate credit reaches them. The good news is that mainstream bank credit has revived and is growing at over 14% year-on-year.
We also have the problem that real interest rates are very high, especially for SMEs. If you are borrowing at 12% (not uncommon for SMEs), when inflation is at 8%, that’s one thing. But it’s quite another when inflation is at less than 4%. A real rate of 800bps (basis points) is very high by any standards. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has brought down structural inflation by some 500 basis points. That’s a good thing, but we now need to take step two, which is to structurally lower interest rates in real terms so that it is compatible with the new level of inflation.
Economists often ignore the long-term, second-order effect of high interest rates. High interest rates may lead to low inflation in the short to medium term. In the long term, however, high interest rates have a supply side impact such that capacities are not created, infrastructure is not built, and the economy gets indebted. The riskiness of the financial system increases, and fiscal burden rises. Thus, higher interest rates in the long run actually lead to higher inflation. This is not a case for arbitrarily bringing down interest rates suddenly. But once we have anchored lower inflation, there is a case for systematically lowering real interest rates.
What is your take on the government meeting its fiscal deficit target this year?
This government is committed to fiscal responsibility. The fact that we are debating a fiscal deficit of 3.3% or 3.5% of GDP is in contrast to when we used to debate 5% or 6%. It is true that disinvestment of Air India is delayed. Monthly GST (Goods and Services Tax) collections are a bit lower than the target rate, but remember we are getting higher collections in others areas — customs collections will benefit from a weaker rupee; direct tax collections have improved from better compliance. Even in disinvestment, we have raised much more through recent ETFs (exchange traded funds) than people realise.
In light of the ongoing tussle between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Finance Ministry, what is your take on central bank autonomy?
Every Finance Ministry and central bank in the world debates these issues. The question is, what is the institutionalised way of doing it? We value RBI autonomy, but this autonomy is within the framework of the RBI Act. Greater autonomy also means greater accountability. To whom is the RBI accountable? As per the RBI Act, it is accountable to its Board. Just as we institutionalised monetary policy decisions by creating the MPC, in the same way we have institutionalised our relationship with the key regulator through its Board. In fact, as a result of this precedent, we have effectively institutionalised our relationship with every regulator.
Why has GDP growth slowed to 7.1% year-on-year in the July-September quarter?
Part of the decline in the year-on-year growth rate from 8.2% to 7.1% is due to a higher statistical base. This was anticipated. However, part of the decline is due to factors such as the spike in energy prices, disruptions in NBFC credit and the impact of global liquidity tightening. These factors had an impact from end-August to end-October, but have substantially abated since. Latest bank credit data suggest that more funds are flowing to the commercial sector, albeit the net impact after the NBFC slowdown is unclear. Similarly, global oil prices have dropped and the U.S. Fed’s tightening cycle is likely to be less steep. Manufacturing PMI readings for November were also strong.
We have seen major reforms like the MPC, GST and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in the last few years. What should we expect next?
The last 25 years of reform were about the withdrawal of the Indian state from things it should not do and creating transparent policy frameworks for the private sector. This is why the words ‘reform’ and ‘liberalisation’ are often used interchangeably. This is still unfinished business but we have made substantial progress over several governments. The next 25 years of reform, however, must focus on getting the state to deliver on the things it should do. This will mean reforming the legal system, streamlining the administrative system, delivery of municipal services, and so on. This will require thinking about reforms in a very different way.
What is the way forward to tackle the various issues facing our agriculture sector and the farmers?
The immediate strategy is to make sure our MSP procurements go through and that reasonable incomes reach farmers. But there is a longer-term debate to be had about our agricultural policy as a whole. In this context we have to look at the fact that our agricultural policy framework was set up in the 1960s in a period of scarcity, so it is aimed at producing ever more calories. Our population growth has radically declined and is now growing at less than 1%. In such an environment, our calorie-oriented approach to agriculture is no longer sustainable. We need to rethink farm policy: how to produce more proteins, more cash crops, more investment in cold-chains, preservation of indigenous varieties, and so on.
The new series (in 2015) increased the growth rates for certain years of the previous government and was welcomed. If the same methodology now lowers growth rates of earlier years, that is how it is
We need to rethink farm policy: how to produce more proteins, more cash crops, more investment in cold-chains, preservation of indigenous varieties, and so on.
The national framework to improve nutrition for children must be upgraded on priority
The health, longevity and well-being of Indians has improved since Independence, and the high levels of economic growth over the past two-and-half-decades have made more funds available to spend on the social sector. Yet, the reality is that a third of the world’s stunted children under five — an estimated 46.6 million who have low height for age — live in India. A quarter of the children display wasting (that is, low weight for height) as well. As the Global Nutrition Report 2018 points out, this finding masks the wide variation in stunting levels in different parts of the country. District-level data show high and very high levels of stunting mainly in central and northern India (more than 30% and 40%, respectively), but less than 20% in almost the entire south. This shows the important role played by political commitment, administrative efficiency, literacy and women’s empowerment in ensuring children’s health. Food and freedom go together, and the availability of one strongly influences access to the other; social institutions can work to improve nutrition and children’s welfare in free societies, and the absence of hunger enables people to develop their capabilities. Governments should acknowledge the linkages and commit themselves to improved nutritional policies. The national framework to improve nutrition already exists. The Anganwadi Services scheme, which incorporates the Integrated Child Development Services, caters to children up to age six, and to pregnant and lactating women. If it has not worked well in several States, it must be subjected to a rigorous review and targeted interventions for supplementary nutrition made.
Among the factors affecting the quantity and quality of nutrition are maternal education, age at marriage, antenatal care, children’s diet and household size. Now that mapping of malnutrition at the district level is available, as in the Global Nutrition Report, it is incumbent on State governments to address these determining factors. A second issue is that of the quality of nutrition in packaged foods available to children. Going by the report, only 21% of these foods in India were rated as being healthy, based on overall energy, salt, sugar and saturated fat on the negative side, and vegetable, fruit, protein, fibre and calcium as positive factors. The fact that the global average of processed foods scored only 31% and a peak of 37% in New Zealand indicates that whole foods and cooked meals emerge superior. India should invest more of its economic prosperity in its welfare system, without binding itself in restrictive budgetary formulations. The Economic Survey 2017-18 put social services spending at 6.6% of GDP, an insignificant rise after a marginal decline from the 6% band during the previous year to 5.8%. The latest report on stunting and wasting should convince the Centre that it needs to understand the problem better and work with the States to give India’s children a healthy future.
A moving menace
Mob violence in the nameof cow protection is shredding civic order
The violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district is yet another notice of the toll being taken on civic order on account of the failure to crack down on vigilante mobs. Two persons, including a police inspector, lost their lives to bullets fired in Syana when villagers gathered outside a police post in protests over a rumour that cow carcasses had been found in the vicinity. In a curious coincidence, Monday’s violence touches back to the hate crime that marked the beginning of this long spell of vigilante violence over ‘cow protection’ across north India. Subodh Kumar Singh, the inspector killed in Bulandshahr, had been the first investigating officer when Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched near Dadri, also in western U.P., on September 28, 2015 on a rumour that he had beef in his possession. Then as now, an equivalence was sought to be made between the crime of mob violence and murder on the one hand, and the rumoured cow slaughter on the other. Alongside those charged with the violence, who include members of the Bajrang Dal, an FIR has been filed against seven Muslims for alleged cow slaughter. Investigations should reveal whether the mob at the police post formed organically, or whether there was a conspiracy to set up a communally polarising confrontation. In the din of pledges of speedy investigation by everyone from police to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, there is no equivalent messaging that no rumour or act of cow slaughter justifies mob violence.
Ever since the BJP came to power nationally in 2014, its governments in the States have moved to tighten laws prohibiting cow slaughter. Attendant to the legislative prohibition, bands of gau rakshaks, or cow-protection vigilantes, have created an atmosphere of fear, purportedly acting on suspicion of cow slaughter to round up and lynch at will cattle traders and passersby alike. Probes into the killing, in most cases, move in parallel with investigations into the allegations of cow slaughter or the possession of beef. And in a pattern that has crystallised, the hurt sentiments of gau rakshaks are played up to reinforce an equivalence between actual murderous crime and rumoured cow slaughter (often, as in the case of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan’s Alwar district in April 2017, just for transporting cattle). The police, picking up the political signalling or even out of fear of being outnumbered, tend to play down the gravity of the crime — as in the case of a lynching in Hapur this year, initially projected as an outcome of road rage. In a disturbing indication of the impunity gau rakshaks believe they enjoy, they have captured on camera incidents of violence, including Monday’s. Why wouldn’t they, when the state has been playing to their script.
PMs agree to continue talks on Kachchativu
The Prime Ministers of Ceylon and India have agreed that discussions on the sovereignty over Kachchativu and connected matters in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar should continue. They exchanged views on a number of issues, including territorial waters, delineation of median line and fishing rights. A joint communiqué issued at the end of the visit of the Ceylon Prime Minister, Mr. Dudley Senanayake said ‘they formally explored the possibilities for fruitful collaboration between the two countries in this area and agreed that discussions of matters should continue.’ The highlight of the communiqué was the great satisfaction they felt over the increasing co-operation between their countries in regard to trade and economic matters. Among the subjects discussed by the two Prime Ministers were the bilateral relations between their countries including the progress made in the implementation of the Indo-Ceylon Agreement of 1964 and matters of common interest in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar.
RBI to inject Rs. 10,000 cr. via OMO tomorrow
The Reserve Bank of India(RB)I on Tuesday said it would inject Rs. 10,000 crore into the system through purchase of government securities on December 6 to increase liquidity.
The purchase will be made through open market operations (OMOs). “Based on an assessment of prevailing liquidity conditions and also of the durable liquidity needs going forward, the Reserve Bank has decided to conduct purchase of … government securities under open market operations for an aggregate amount of Rs. 10,000 crore on December 6, 2018,” the RBI said.
Devise norms for payment apps, RBI told
MeitY concerned about data security
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has proposed that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) come up with regulations to oversee collection, usage and sharing of data by payment service providers, even as the government is expediting discussions on the draft Personal Data Protection Bill.
This follows concerns raised by the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) over collection and storage of “sensitive personal data” by payment service providers via applications such as Google Tez, WhatsApp and Paytm, a senior official of the ministry told The Hindu.
During a review meeting on digital payments in October, the NCSC pointed out that there was no agreement between the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the banks and the applications that provided payment services. Additionally, there is no liability of NPCI and the payment service providers, the NCSC said. “Noting that there is a need for regulation on data flow of financial transaction, they also pointed out that there is no provision to protect the interest of the consumer against the pilferage, leakage and sharing of data, which is of sensitive nature,” the official said.
The NCSC recommended that there was a need to scrutinise all aspects of a relation – legal, technical and financial, between all the stakeholders in the payments ecosystem. “Payments service providers must comply with legal framework as well as regulations prescribed by the regulator,” the NCSC recommended.
“The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) supports NCSC’s recommendation and has suggested that RBI should lay down regulations, that would bind the collection, usage and sharing of data, by participants in the payments arena,” the official said.
In April, this year, the RBI directed all payments service providers to ensure that the data relating to payment systems operated by them were stored only in India. This came into effect in October 2018.
In July this year, a panel headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna submitted the draft personal data protection bill 2018. The draft bill proposed that critical personal data of Indian citizens be processed in a data centre located within the country. Additionally, it also recommended penalties on the data processor for any violation of the data protection law, besides talking about “explicit consent” and individual rights such as right to be forgotten, right of correction, updation, and data portability.
Patents granted by India up by 50% in ’17
Rose from 8,248 in 2016 to 12,387 last year
The number of patents granted by India shot up by 50% in 2017, keeping up a trend of steep increases, according to the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
The patents granted by India increased from 8,248 in 2016 to 12,387 last year, the WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators 2018 report released in Geneva on Monday said.
Last year’s number was more than double the 6,022 patents granted in 2015, according to WIPO statistics.
Of the patents granted last year, 1,712 went to entities and individuals based in India, and 10,675 to foreigners, according to the WIPO report.
The WIPO said that the steep increase in the number was driven by patents granted to foreigners, which accounted for 85% of the total increase.
The number of patents given to domestic entities has also shown an increasing trend: In 2016, 1,115 went to domestic individuals or entities and 7,133 to foreigners, and in 2015, 822 were granted to applicants in India and 5,200 to foreigners, the report said.
Globally, 1.4 million patents were granted in 2017. China led the world with 4,20,144 granted patents and was followed by the U.S. with 3,18,829.