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IWHindu sep 1 to Sep 7


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At Lhasa, Tibetans still pray for Dalai Lama's return 1
Beijing firm on terms for Dalai Lama's return 1
Indians may reject al-Qaeda but LeT connection troubling: experts 1
No room for complacency 2
Al-Qaeda announcement not a threat: U.S. 2
Iraqi forces break militant siege at Amirli 2
IAEA probe into Iran nukes back to square one 3
Climate change threatens food production 3
Ban hopes Modi would attend key UN climate summit 3
Banking on inclusion 4
A big bang reform that may be spot on 4
Anti-poor, anti-women laws: expert 5
2-child norm for local bodies hurts sex ratio 6
Cardiovascular risk factors low but mortality high in India 6
Health Minister says Rota Virus vaccine will prevent infant deaths 7
Antibiotics in the chicken we eat 7
RAPS Unit-5 sets a record 8
'India for non-discriminatory nuclear regime' 8
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'U.S. monopoly over Internet must go' 9
N-deal highlights growing energy ties 10
India, Australia ink nuclear pact 10
SC judgement on delay in execution of death sentences 10
Death row convict may be heard in open court: SC 11
Justice as a Socratic process 12
Setting a troubling precedent 12
Centre told to clarify stand on citizenship of surrogate children 13
Women in politics: Lagging behind 13
'Germany, India strategic partners with excellent economic relations' 13
PM warns against forces of expansionism in the world 14
Lessons from China 14
Pakistan Taliban commander revolts against Fazlullah 15
After Syria and Iraq, AfPak on Islamic State radar 15
Looking beyond a tattered truce 16
I will neither resign nor go on leave: Nawaz Sharif 16
Pakistan's perennial crisis 17
Eroding democratic gains 18
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Pakistan parliament meets over political crisis 18
Pakistan protest groups upbeat on talks 19
Mangroves undergo change in Sunderbans 19
India suicide capital of Southeast Asia, says WHO 19
Govt committed to 24x7 power supply to all citizens: Goyal 20
A new sunrise 20
Ukraine talks must back cease-fire: Russia 21
Ebola will take six to nine months to control: WHO 21
Engaging with future leaders 21
We'll respond in court on LoP issue: Venkaiah Naidu 22
States free to add official language: SC 22
Japan to push for closure of ageing reactors 22
'Missing files no excuse for denying information' 23
Review of five environment laws ordered 23
Taking healthcare to India's remote tribes 23
SC reserves verdict on guidelines for encounter deaths probe 25
For a new paradigm of social justice 25
Towards a skilled workforce 26
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Move to appoint ex-CJI as Governor draws criticism 26
India-ASEAN FTA soon: Rajeev Kher 27
NATO allies agree to take on ISIS threat 27
IS recruitment of foreign fighters key issue for NATO: US 28
Islamic State expands into Egypt 28
The pendulum of the Islamic State 29
India slips to 71st rank in global competitiveness list 29
Solid start on procurement 30
Commendable initiative 30
Antrix-Devas spat reaches The Hague 31
Infrastructure: Connecting the nation 31
India, Japan to accelerate civil nuclear deal 32
'77% of girls in India face sexual violence by partner' 32
U.S. should lead on clean energy: Hillary 33
Gadkari orders sweeping changes in rural job scheme 33
New policy to speed up eco clearances: Javadekar 33
Looking beyond 2015 34
Current account deficit narrows 35
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For a WTO stand with PDS in hand 35
Slow governance responsible for decline in growth: Rajan 37
BRICS bank not aimed at challenging IMF, WB: Rajan 38
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At Lhasa, Tibetans still pray for Dalai Lama's return
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
Dalai Lama, The Hindu, international, tibet, china,
Lhasa's Norbulingka isn't a temple or a monastery, even so, thousands of Tibetan Buddhists
stream in here everyday, to offer scarves for the 14th Dalai Lama and pray for his return.
Norbulingka was the "summer palace" home of the Dalai Lama from 1956 to 1959, before
he fled to India. Set in the sprawling 36 acres of the earlier summer palace built for the
7th Dalai Lama, the current Dalai Lama's palace was closed to public for many years.
For decades, the Chinese government had kept the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR)
off limits to outsiders. Over the past few years, however, China has opened up Tibet for
tourism, allowing journalists on small 'guided' tours accompanied by information ministry
officials. On one such tour, The Hindu is part of a delegation of journalists from the SAARC
region, taken to see the preservation of the Norbulingka new summer palace.
Beijing firm on terms for Dalai Lama's return
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
Dalai Lama, The Hindu, Tibet, international, China,
The Tibetan Autonomous Region's Communist party Deputy Secretary, Wu Yingjie said,
"The Dalai Lama is welcome to return, as long as he accepts Tibet as a part of China. Our
talks with his envoys have always been smooth and are ongoing. However, it is his future,
not Tibet's that we are discussing."
Indians may reject al-Qaeda but LeT connection troubling: experts
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
al qaeda, LeT, The Hindu, international,
Counterterrorism experts in the U.S. who parsed the announcement of al-Qaeda boss Ayman
al-Zawahiri that the terror group would be setting up a "wing" in the Indian subcontinent,
suggested that while India's pluralistic democracy would militate against their efforts
the possibility of al Qaida tying up with Lashkar-e-Taiba could spell trouble for the government
of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There are several reasons to doubt al-Qaeda's ability
to have a significant presence in these regions: India is an open society with a robust democracy,
free media, and pluralistic values [and] the al-Qaeda message is unlikely to resonate with
most Indians." She added that the recent military gains by IS and its increasing efforts
to recruit militants from South Asia "has created alarm among the al-Qaeda leadership
that it will become second fiddle to IS." In this context it was noteworthy that Zawahiri
reiterated al-Qaeda's loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and refrained from
attacking Pakistan as al-Qaeda has in the past, she said, suggesting that this may reflect
the group's interest in demonstrating that its nexus with the Taliban was alive and well,
and it still hoped to be able to use Pakistan's tribal border areas as a safe haven for its
jihadist activities.
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No room for complacency
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
terrorism, al qaeda, The Hindu, international,
Al-Qaeda's declaration that it has set up a "branch" in the Indian subcontinent called Qaedat
al-Jihad poses serious questions for India and the new government. For al-Qaeda to establish
an operational base in India which has the third largest Muslim population in the world,
would be to pull off something of a coup. The government says the video recording through
which al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri made the announcement -- the group's most
direct call ever for jihad in India -- is genuine. Coming soon after the pull that the Islamic
State seems to have exerted on a few Indian youth through a campaign on the social media,
al-Qaeda apparently believes there is a market for jihad in India that is waiting to be exploited.
The video also supports the theory of rivalry between the two groups -- though the IS was
born from al-Qaeda, the older organisation has denounced its offshoot and cut off all links
with it. The portents from the video must not be allowed to become a justification for
a heavy-handed response that would end up treating members of an entire community
as suspects.
Al-Qaeda announcement not a threat: U.S.
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
terrorism, The Hindu, international, Al Qaeda,
The announcement by al-Qaeda that it has formed a branch for operating in India is not
an indication of the terrorist outfit gaining new capabilities, the United States on Thursday
said, asserting that it is committed to dismantling the group. The US, she said, has robust
counterterrorism partnerships in the region to combat al-Qaeda's destabilising influence,
to deny it safe haven, to counter violent extremism, and to build resilience against terrorist
groups. The creation of the group called "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent" was
announced by As Sahab, al-Qaeda's official media outlet, in a lengthy video posted on
social media sites including YouTube. Al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan,
but the group's leader Ayman al Zawahiri said 'Qaedat al-Jihad' would take the fight
to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Iraqi forces break militant siege at Amirli
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
The Hindu, international, iraq,
Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed
by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, as
a suicide bombing killed 14 people in Anbar western province, officials said. Breaking
the siege was a "big achievement and an important victory" he said, for all involved- the
Iraqi army, elite troops, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias. About 15,000 Shiite Turkmens
were stranded in the farming community, some 105 miles (170 kilometers) north of Baghdad.
Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State group's rampage across northern Iraq
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in June, the Shiite Turkmens stayed and fortified their town with trenches and armed positions.
IAEA probe into Iran nukes back to square one
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
Iran, nuclear, The Hindu, international,
A new and seemingly promising U.N. probe of allegations that Iran worked on atomic
arms has stalled, diplomats say, leaving investigators not much further than where they
started a decade ago and dampening U.S. hopes of reaching an overarching deal with Tehran
by a November deadline. The IAEA inquiry is formally separate from the U.S.-led talks.
But Washington says a successful IAEA investigation must be part of any final deal. That
now seems unlikely by the November 24, 2014 deadline already delayed from July 31
even if the two sides agree by then on the rest of a deal meant to limit Iran's nuclear capacities
in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran and the IAEA agreed in February to a new start to
the probe after a decade of deadlock, marked by Tehran's insistence that 1,000 pages of
allegations of nuclear activity were based on falsified intelligence from the United States
and arch-foe Israel. Since then, the U.N. agency has sought information on three issues
-- alleged experiments with detonators that can be used to set off a nuclear explosion; separate
work on high-explosive charges also used in nuclear blasts, and alleged studies on calculating
nuclear explosive yields.
Climate change threatens food production
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
environment, The Hindu, food security, climate change,
We've all heard about the dangers of climate change on world food security, but by 2050
our ability to produce food may be lowered by up to 10 per cent due to rising air pollution,
according to new research published by Nature Climate Change . "Our report found
this change in air pollution inhibits the growth of field-grown wheat by 10 per cent." .
"Rising temperatures and increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns are making
it harder to grow enough food to eat. "NGOs also need to work to give farmers in developing
countries access to up-to-date information on weather, climate, disaster early warning,
and markets, so they can make well-informed plans and responses. Farmers need to experiment
with agricultural approaches, so they are equipped to find solutions in an ever-shifting
climate."
Ban hopes Modi would attend key UN climate summit
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
environment, UN, The Hindu, climate change,
Mr. Modi is expected to reach New York on September 26 and will address the UN General
Assembly the next day, giving his first global speech to an audience of nearly 200 world
leaders and foreign ministers at the annual gathering of the world body's policymaking
organ. The one-day summit will mark the first time in five years that world leaders will
get together to chart a bold, new course of action on climate change. The Secretary-General
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has asked leaders to announce significant and substantial initiatives to help move the world
toward a path that will limit global warming.
Banking on inclusion
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
rupay, The Hindu, economics, financial inclusion,
The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana also marks the completion of 100
days in office by the NDA government. Many of the details of the scheme were made
available in advance, but the official launch on Thursday was in itself historic. A record
1.5 crore accounts were opened on the day of the launch, and an upwardly revised target
of opening 7.5 crore new accounts by January 26, 2015 looks achievable, given the high
levels of enthusiasm seen on the opening day. Apart from making available basic banking
facilities to every household, it is designed to provide social security through insurance
schemes, and in select cases, pension schemes. The sheer size and complexity of the logistics
involved in executing the gigantic inclusion plan will continue to amaze long after the
initial glitches are ironed out. To be executed in two phases -- the first will be for a year,
while the second phase will be between 2015 and 2018 -- the Jan Dhan Yojana plans to
extend financial services in a country where only 58.7 per cent of an estimated 24.67 crore
households have access to banking services . The RuPay smart card is probably an answer,
as it will keep the account-holders connected with the banks. For the macroeconomy, the
big benefit will be fewer physical cash transactions -- a development that will aid in the
implementation of official policies.
A big bang reform that may be spot on
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan yojana, The Hindu, Financial inclusion, economics,
The Narendra Modi government's Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY), an ambitious
scheme for financial inclusion aimed at creating 7.5 crore new bank accounts in the banking
sector by January 26, 2015, has its sceptics and critics. There is more than a fair chance
that they will be proved wrong. Bank nationalisation saw a huge expansion in branches
into the hinterland. The expansion of the branch network, in turn, caused money kept under
the mattress to be swept into the banking system. Cash under the mattress may be savings
for an individual but these do not translate into "saving" for the economy. "Saving," in
economic terms, is whatever is available for lending or investment, that is, savings that
come into the financial system. Bank nationalisation caused the saving rate to go up from
12 per cent of GDP in 1968-69 to 20 per cent in 1979-80. The rise in saving facilitated
a commensurate rise in the investment rate from 13 per cent to 21 per cent. The increase
in the investment rate set the stage for the growth rate of the economy to shift from the
much-derided "Hindu" rate of 3.5 per cent up to the 1970s to 5.5 per cent in the 1980s.
It was the first shift in trajectory in India's economic growth in the post-Independence
period. In these new conditions, the long-run benefits of financial inclusion began to kick
in. Inclusion not only increases deposits, it brings in low-cost deposits through savings
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and current accounts. For PSBs, the high proportion of low-cost deposits in total deposits
turned out to be a source of competitive advantage. Their financial performance improved
through the 1990s and the noughties and even after the financial crisis of 2007 until the
problems in the infrastructure sector came to the fore. Judged over some three decades,
bank nationalisation proved a winner with financial inclusion being a key driver of success.
JDY has the potential to have a similar impact. It could see the household saving rate
go up and boost the overall saving rate. And it could impart a shot in the arm to PSBs which
have been losing market share to new private sector banks. Financial inclusion entails
upfront costs but begins to pay off once a certain scale has been reached. Right now, DBT
covers 28 schemes, mostly payment of pensions and scholarships. It will soon cover payment
of subsidies as well as wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Payment of subsidies is scheduled for the first phase of
financial inclusion, that is August 2014-August 2015. Once this happens, PSBs will have
substantial "float" funds (on which they pay zero interest) in the accounts they have opened.
These are equivalent to low-cost deposits and should compensate for high operational
costs. Over time, banks should have in place the infrastructure and the processes to make
loans to the new account holders. Small loans have been freed from interest rate regulation
and we know from the experience of micro-finance institutions that they can be hugely
lucrative. Then, there is the fee income from selling insurance products. Putting all these
together, in the long-run, JDY could replicate the effect that nationalisation had on the
financial performance of PSBs. There are details that need to be worked out. Every account
under the scheme comes with a RuPay debit card and Rs.5,000 overdraft facility in the
first phase. In the second phase, a Rs.1 lakh accident insurance facility and a Rs.30,000
life insurance facility will be added. First, it is "big bang" reform alright but not quite
what advocates of reforms have been urging. Mr. Modi has sensed the need for a game-changer
at a time of flagging economic growth. Second, the government has decided that financial
inclusion is best pursued through PSBs. This is rather different from the view implied
by the decision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to use new institutions, such as payment
banks and small banks, to push inclusion. The government's reliance on PSBs makes
sense -- and not just because there is an enormous infrastructure that can be readily tapped.
Where regulation is weak and contracts ill-developed, it is best to use public institutions
to attain larger objectives, instead of relying on regulation or public-private partnerships.
Anti-poor, anti-women laws: expert
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
The Hindu, local government, polity,
Laws enacted by 11 State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political
eligibility to candidates with maximum two children has severely affected the sex ratio,
a new research has found. There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain
eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage,
. They are anti-poor and anti-women," she said. "In a country with such a vast unmet need
for family planning measures, which is unable to guarantee the survival of children, it
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is unacceptable that such laws are imposed,"
2-child norm for local bodies hurts sex ratio
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
The Hindu, polity, local body,
India's attempt at a China-type population control policy appears to have had drastic but
unintended consequences. Laws enacted by State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s
restricting political eligibility to candidates with two or less children did reduce family
sizes in those States, but severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found. Over
the period, 11 Indian States passed laws disqualifying persons with more than two children
from contesting panchayat elections. Some States like Bihar, Gujarat and Uttarakhand
enacted such laws later, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh repealed
their laws after 2005. Uttarakhand and Bihar implemented the law only for municipal elections.
Laws enacted by 11 State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political
eligibility to candidates with maximum two children has severely affected the sex ratio,
a new research has found. There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain
eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage,
Cardiovascular risk factors low but mortality high in India
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
The Hindu, science & tech, Cardiovascular risk factors, health,
People living in low-income countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe
have the lowest risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) compared with those living
in high-income countries like Canada, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates. Yet, the
rate of deaths from CVD is highest in the low-income countries, not in the high-income
countries. The risk factors and the rate of deaths are intermediate in 10 middle-income
countries. However, the incidence of nonmajor cardiovascular events was highest in the
high-income countries. The risk factors for cardiovascular problems include smoking,
high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stress, insufficient intake of vegetables
and fruits and sedentary lifestyle. There are two main reasons why the high risk factors
for CVD did nottranslate into higher death rates in high-income countries. First, there was
better control of risk factors and "frequent use" of proven drugs to reduce the risk of deaths.
Second, people living in the high-income countries had greater chances of undergoing
interventions like bypass surgery/angioplasty to prevent death. What is surprising is that
while the mortality rate was nearly the same in rural and the urban areas in the high-income
countries, the low-income countries too showed the same trend. "Everyone thought the
prevalence of risk factors has come down in the high-income countries as there are fewer
deaths. But this study shows the risk factors have not come down but are tackled better,"
"As the risk factors increase in India, the mortality goesup. So the cardiovascular crisis
is waiting to worsen unless we improve the healthcare system,"
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Health Minister says Rota Virus vaccine will prevent infant deaths
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
Rota Virus vaccine, The Hindu, science & tech, health,
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan called for strengthening universal immunisation
programme (UIP) to eradicate infant mortality in the country and said there should be more
research to fight disease burden. He said the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine in
the UIP should be considered one of the most "pro-people decisions" taken by any government
in recent years because it has the potential to drastically reduce infant mortality, particularly
among the poorest sections of society. "Earlier Rotavirus vaccines were expensive and
beyond the reach of ordinary Indians. We are losing 52 children per 1000 live births every
year. On top of that Rotavirus Diarrhoea snatches at least 1 lakh. This government did
not lose time before introducing the vaccine in the UIP. The plan of action on its deployment
has also been put in place," he said. Beginning 2015, the Rotavirus vaccine will be introduced
as an additional dose along with the first, second and third doses of DPT in the UIP. It
is also proposed to establish an expert committee to assess the progress in a few states
and union territories on the basis of the disease burden and vaccine availability.
Antibiotics in the chicken we eat
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
antibiotics, poultry, The Hindu, science & tech, health,
But there is a danger here. Just as with chemicals in the mango, or oxytocin in milk (a
hormone that supposedly increases milk output in cows and buffalos), we now have a health
hazard looming large in commercially produced chicken. The hazard here is the use of
antibiotics in the feed given to the chicken for faster growth and to prevent any infection
during hatching. Famous hatcheries such as Venky's, Vetline India and Skylark Hatcheries
regularly use antibiotics in order to reduce feed conversion ratios. Why are these dangerous?
Repeated and prolonged exposure will lead to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria.
And these resistant strains will be passed on to the humans who consume them. Even the
un-mutated bacteria in the meat can directly unleash an assault on the microbes in our
guts. And note too that the antibiotics used in poultry are the same as the ones used for
humans. Some of these are: (i) Ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, (2) Do
not allow the use of antibiotics in feed and improve the regulations of the Bureau of Industrial
security (BIS) accordingly, (3) Do not allow the use of antibiotics critical for humans in
animals, (4) Train veterinarians on the judicious use of antibiotics, (5) Set pollution standards
and install pollution control systems to limit transfer of resistant bacteria and antibiotics
from poultry farms to the environments, (6) Encourage development, production and use
of alternative antibiotic-free growth promoters such as herbal supplements and better farm
management practices, and (7) Develop an integrated surveillance system to monitor antibiotic-resistant
trends in humans, animals and the food chain.
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RAPS Unit-5 sets a record
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
nuclear, The Hindu, science & tech, raps,
In a demonstration of operational excellence and robustness of the Indian nuclear power
reactors, the fifth unit at Rawatbhatta of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) recorded
a continuous run of 765 days on Saturday at its full capacity of 220 MWe. This is the second
highest operating record after a unit (500 MWe) of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station
in Canada achieved a continuous run of 894 days which ended in 1994. While the first
unit at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, reaching criticality was an emotional moment for the
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), RAPS-5's record was a different kind of proud
achievement, he said. Vinod Kumar, Station Director, RAPS-5 and 6, told The Hindu
in the Control Room of the unit 5, that the factors behind the record were micro and meticulous
planning done by the reactor engineers during its bi-annual shutdown, improvement in
the ventilation systems, dust control and assessing the health of the critical equipment.
d the record run demonstrated the maturity of the indigenous technology of the Pressurised
Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRS), which use natural uranium as fuel, and heavy water
as both coolant and moderator. RAPS-5 would be shut down on Saturday night to assess
the health of its critical equipment, to perform in-service inspection and leak tests in the
reactor building.
'India for non-discriminatory nuclear regime'
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
nuclear, The Hindu, science & tech,
Earlier, Australia was insisting that it would not supply natural uranium to India unless
India signed the NPT. (Natural uranium is the fuel used in India's Pressurised Heavy Water
Reactors - PHWRs ). Mr. Sinha said: "We cannot sign the NPT, [with India] having been
a strong supporter of the non-discriminatory [nuclear] regime. All our international agreements
have got a few common elements. It means that cooperation will extend to full civil nuclear
cooperation. We will be bound by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards
in respect of facilities in which these equipment, material or fuel will be used if they are
coming through the international cooperation but not beyond that." As already indicated
at the time of India signing the civil nuclear agreement earlier, the AEC Chairman said,
"We are declaring certain facilities, under the Separation Plan, to come under the IAEA
international safeguards agreement." These facilities were eligible to receive international
supplies of uranium. India had already been receiving supplies of uranium from Areva
of France, Russia and Kazhakasthan. These supplies of uranium could be used, in principle,
in any of the safeguarded facilities in India, he explained.
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'U.S. monopoly over Internet must go'
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
surveillance, The Hindu, science & tech, internet,
Unfortunately, the Brazil Netmundial convened in April, 2014, with the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), following objections raised by [Brazilian]
President Dilma Rousseff to the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on her government,
only handed us a non-binding agreement on surveillance and privacy-related concerns.
Today, China and Russia are capable of challenging U.S. dominance. Despite being a
strong commercial power, China has not deployed Internet technology across the world.
The Chinese have good infrastructure but they use U.S. Domain Naming System, which
is a basic component of the functioning of the Internet. One good thing is because they
use the Chinese language for domain registration, it limits access to outsiders in some
way. India too is a big country. It helps that it is not an authoritarian country and has many
languages. It should make the most of its regional languages, but with regard to technology
itself, India has to tread more carefully in developing independent capabilities in this area.
As far as European countries are concerned, they are mostly allies of the U.S. and may
not have a strong inclination to develop independent capabilities in this area. Africa again
has potential; it can establish its own independent Internet network which will be patronised
by its burgeoning middle classes. The ICANN Domain Naming System (DNS) is operated
by VeriSign, a U.S. government contractor. Thus, traffic is monitored by the NSA, and
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can seize user sites or domains anywhere in
the world if they are hosted by U.S. companies or subsidiaries. The U.S. government is
adamant on controlling the ICANN DNS. Thus, copies (mirrors) should be made available
in other countries out of reach from the FBI. Fragmentation of the Internet is not such
a bad thing as it is often made out to be. The bone of contention here is the DNS monopoly.
In this context, a usual scarecrow brandished by the U.S. government is fragmentation,
or Balkanisation, of the Internet. All monopolies resort to similar arguments whenever
their turf is threatened by a looming competition. Furthermore, the proprietary naming
and unstable service definitions specific to the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google,
Twitter, and more, have already divided the Internet in as many closed and incompatible
internets of captive users. Unfortunately, the phrase "Internet governance" is too abstract
for most people and governments to be interested in. The most crucial question is what
kind of society do you want to live in? Should governments allow citizens to end up as
guinea pigs for global Internet corporations? The revelations by NSA contractor Edward
Snowden have proved beyond doubt that user data held by Internet companies today are
subject to pervasive surveillance. Conducting these intrusive activities by controlling the
core infrastructure of the Internet without obtaining the consent of citizen users is a big
concern and should be debated in public. Therefore, debates about Internet governance
are no longer alien; they involve all of us who are part of the network.
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N-deal highlights growing energy ties
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
nuclear, The Hindu, international, Australia,
Australia on Friday boosted its credentials as India's core energy partner by signing a
deal for uranium supplies, and imparted urgency to the transfer of coal for thermal power
plants, facing severe shortage of the resource. The nuclear deal follows two years of dialogue,
ending with the lifting of Australia's longstanding ban on exporting uranium to help offset
India's chronic energy deficit. Observers point out that the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal has
paved the way for countries like Australia, a major ally of the United States, to emerge
as India's nuclear supplier, despite New Delhi's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT). India runs 20 atomic reactors at six sites, generating 4,780 MW of electricity
-- a mere two per cent of the country's total power output. But the government has ambitious
plans to generate 63,000 MW of nuclear power by 2032. Observers say both India and
Australia aspire to be investors in a broad spectrum of areas including energy. In July,
the Australian government approved a $16.5 billion investment by the Adani group in
a coal and rail project in the province of Queensland. Indian industry wants urgent coal
imports from Australia as thermal power plants in the country are facing acute shortage
of coal. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday that India
had invested more than $ 1 billion in Australia in the last decade, but the Australian contribution
in India stood at a more modest $ 600 million.
India, Australia ink nuclear pact
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
nuclear, The Hindu, international, Australia,
Australia will now be a "long-term reliable supplier of uranium to India," said an External
Affairs Ministry press release, and will provide for the "supply of uranium, production
of radio isotopes, nuclear safety and other areas of cooperation." "Environmental groups
are very hard to please and we have very high environmental standards in Australia. I am
confident that there can be no reasonable objection to the current proposal. Adani Group
is speaking of $16 billion for this mine, and India's investments of under $20 billion will
almost double the total amount," said Mr. Abbott.
SC judgement on delay in execution of death sentences
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
mercy petition, The Hindu, death sentences, polity,
In a few hours on Tuesday, a Five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will
deliver judgment on whether inordinate delay in execution of death sentences amounts
to, in effect, subjecting a death row convict to a double punishment of life imprisonment
and death penalty. Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton Nariman, who authors the verdict
for the Bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, would also primarily address the
question as to whether review of death penalty awarded in rarest of rare cases should continue
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to be done in the privacy of the judges' chambers or transparently in open court, while
affording the death row convict the last opportunity to fight for his life. The judgment
would be based on a batch of identical writ petitions filed by eight death row convicts,
including three in the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case, Pakistani national Mohammed
Arif alias Ashfaq in the Red Fort Attack case of 2000, 1993 Bombay serial blasts 'mastermind'
Yakub Memon and B.A. Umesh and Sunder, both convicted in multiple murders. The
convicts' petitions have separately demanded that review petitions filed against death sentence
should be heard in open court by a Bench comprising from three to five judges as the issue
involves taking a person's life. They challenged the constitutional validity of the practice
of judges being able to hear and dismiss review petitions by "circulation" -- in judges'
chambers -- rather than in open court with the convict allowed to make oral arguments.
However, the judgment follows the implementation of the newly amended Supreme Court
Rules 2013 from August 19. The amended rules provide that "every cause, appeal or other
proceedings" in a death penalty case would be heard by a Bench of not less than three
judges. Death penalty matters were usually heard by Two-Judge Benches. The 2013 Rules
extend to pending death penalty-related cases also. It says any pending death sentence
matters in which a Bench of less than three judges are of the opinion that the accused deserves
death, the matter concerned will be referred to the Chief Justice of India, who will in turn
constitute a Three-Judge Bench to hear it.
Death row convict may be heard in open court: SC
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
death sentence, The Hindu, polity,
A Five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, decide
that review of death sentence cases will be heard in open court by a Bench of three judges.
In a 4:1 majority judgment, the Bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha directed
that death row convicts whose death penalty have been reviewed by a Bench of less than
three judges can move the Supreme Court in one month to re-open their review petitions.
The Bench was hearing a batch of writ petitions seeking the court to address the question
as to whether review of death penalty awarded in rarest of rare cases should continue to
be done in the privacy of the judges' chambers or transparently in open court, while affording
the death row convict the last opportunity to fight for his life. The judgments were based
on a batch of identical writ petitions filed by eight death row convicts, including three
in the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case, Pakistani national Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq
in the Red Fort Attack case of 2000, 1993 Bombay serial blasts 'mastermind' Yakub Memon
and B.A. Umesh and Sunder, both convicted in multiple murders. The convicts' petitions
separately demanded that review petitions filed against death sentence should be heard
in open court by a Bench comprising from three to five judges as the issue involves taking
a person's life. They challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of judges being
able to hear and dismiss review petitions by "circulation" -- in judges' chambers -- rather
than in open court with the convict allowed to make oral arguments. The 2013 Rules extend
to pending death penalty-related cases also. It says any pending death sentence matters
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in which a Bench of less than three judges are of the opinion that the accused deserves
death, the matter concerned will be referred to the Chief Justice of India, who will in turn
constitute a Three-Judge Bench to hear it.
Justice as a Socratic process
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
death penalty, The Hindu, polity,
It may appear to be a mere question of procedure, but by mandating an oral hearing the
Supreme Court has imparted greater substance to the disposal of review petitions of those
sentenced to death. a five-Judge Constitution Bench has carved out a significant exception
to the general rule that review petitions need not be heard in open court, but instead may
be disposed of by circulation among the judges. Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, writing
on behalf of the majority of four judges, has adopted the only mode of reasoning by which
the Bench could have allowed the prayer for an oral hearing: by making open court hearing
a constitutional requirement under Article 21 and anchoring the rule on the irreversibility
of carrying out the death sentence. Secondly, the majority has concluded that oral hearing
is an integral part of 'reasonable procedure', by considering the possibility of two judicial
minds coming to diametrically opposite conclusions on the same facts and circumstances
as to whether the death penalty would be warranted. Normally, given that a full trial and
hearing at two appellate levels precede the resort to review jurisdiction, denying oral hearing
at that stage may not violate the objective of public justice or reduce disposal to the outcome
of a 'secret conclave'. However, death sentences impinge on the right to life, which is
at the apex of a rights pyramid in which personal liberty and other fundamental rights come
immediately below. While the Court did not concede the plea that all cases attracting
the death sentence be heard by a Bench of five judges, it has agreed that review petitions
are often "inartistically drafted", and disposing them of solely based on written grounds
may not meet the ends of justice. It has quoted Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer with approval
that "the power of the Socratic process and the instant clarity of the Bar-Bench dialogue
are too precious to be parted with."
Setting a troubling precedent
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
The Hindu, polity, judiciary,
Raj Bhavans were normally assigned to career politicians and bureaucrats whose knowledge
of statecraft would be available to the State governments to whom they were expected
to be a friend, philosopher and guide. A few judges of High Courts have held post-retirement
sinecures as Governors, but the Chief Justice of India has always been seen as too exalted
a person to be accommodated in a Raj Bhavan. The only Supreme Court judge who was
appointed as a Governor was Justice Fathima Beevi from Kerala, who served as Governor
of Tamil Nadu between 1997 and 2001. Justice Sathasivam's decision to opt for a five-year
retirement period as first citizen of a state will set a troubling precedent. If at all the judiciary
was to be represented among the incumbents of gubernatorial houses, it is wrong to have
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appointed a man who, till a few months ago, was sworn to render justice without fear or
favour in quarrels between the citizen and the Union. A mandatory cooling-off period
-- such as the two-year period for public servants transiting into private employment -- must
be applied to this case also. Public confidence in an impartial judiciary is a necessary prerequisite
for an independent judiciary. That confidence is sometimes undermined by doubts on the
part of the citizen: that the judge may be enticed by a post-retirement sinecure that the
state may offer. If the head of the institution himself accepts a post-retirement appointment
where no judicial skills are called for, the very independence and impartiality of the judiciary
will be called into question.
Centre told to clarify stand on citizenship of surrogate children
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
surrogacy, The Hindu, polity,
The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the government to clarify its stand on the citizenship
of children born via an Indian surrogate mother in India, but whose biological mother is
a foreign national. "Under the Constitution, a child born here from an Indian surrogate
mother is entitled to Indian citizenship, but what happens if the biological mother is a foreign
citizen and the child applies for citizenship of that country," a Bench led by Justice Ranajan
Gogoi asked. Today, Justice Gogoi suggested whether the government could even consider
dual citizenship for surrogate children born in such circumstances.
Women in politics: Lagging behind
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
The Hindu, polity, women,
India has one of the lowest percentages of women parliamentarians among South Asian
democracies. India's 11 per cent representation is lower that those of Bangladesh (19.8
per cent), Nepal (29.9 per cent) and Pakistan (20.7 per cent). Since Independence, India
has never had a woman Finance Minister -- in control of the nation's money. Neither has
there been a woman Defence or Home Minister. Current External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj is the only woman among the 27 Foreign Ministers who have represented India
till now. And Smriti Irani is only the second woman to be at the helm of the Education
Ministry.
'Germany, India strategic partners with excellent economic relations'
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
The Hindu, international, Germany,
There are also reports that Germany has offered better terms to India for the MMRCA
fighter aircraft deal, in case the deal for the Rafale aircraft is not completed. How hopeful
are you that India will rethink the deal? We believe that the Eurofighter Typhoon consortium
has made a good offer, and we support it. At the same time, however, we respect the Indian
Government's right to make a sovereign decision in this matter. Germany has been a key
member of ISAF in Afghanistan. As international forces prepare to pull out, how worried
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are you about the security situation there, and do you think India should accept the Afghan
government's request for more lethal hardware and transport vehicles to assist their army?
The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are already in charge of combat operations
across the country. By the end of the year, they will have assumed full responsibility for
their country's security. ANSF have faced challenges, but they have proven they are capable
of providing security for the Afghan people,
PM warns against forces of expansionism in the world
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
The Hindu, international, china,
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday warned against the forces of "expansionism"
in the world and said today's global situation looked more like the 18th century. Suggesting
that the world was divided into two streams of "Vistarvaad" (expansionism) and "vikasvaad"
(developmentalism), the Prime Minister referred to encroachment on nations, their takeover
and "entry into seas". The remark of "entry into seas" in this part of the world could be
read as a reference to China, but Mr. Modi himself spoke in general teams. Ease of business
Addressing a business meeting on Monday, his first day of official meetings, Mr. Modi
said a "special management team" would be set up in the Prime Minister's Office to ensure
ease of business and speedy clearances. He said that a Japanese management system had
been introduced in the Prime Minister's Office to make the PMO more efficient.
Lessons from China
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
The Hindu, economics, China,
Even without a major financial allocation function (which is likely to go to the Ministry
of Finance), the new government can change the design for centrally sponsored programmes
that have not performed despite decades of being in place (such as sanitation, Integrated
Child Development Services) if the Prime Minister wishes to take this role seriously, by
mandating solutions on the line ministries and following up with incentive funds for the
purpose. Second, in China, Five Year Plans continued to be prepared after the economic
reforms just as they had been prepared before 1979. They did not move to a mere long-term
perspective plan. A long-term perspective plan has little practical value other than laying
out a vision. There is another lesson for India from the Chinese system. In contrast to
China, India remains one of the most fiscally centralised federal systems in the world.
The one-size-fits-all design of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) -- the source of
much resentment of State governments for long -- has only recently begun to be loosened
with the share of "untied funds" rising under each CSS. Unfortunately, we have had a
fiscally centralised Centre on the one hand and a Planning Commission that has historically
promoted one-size-fits-all CSSs on the other. The new Planning Commission should change
the latter, and work towards changing the former. Programmes are devised with top-down
designs where the Centre provides funds and the States implement them. Decades of experience
demonstrate that this method of planning or programme design does not work. The new
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reformed body must conduct pilot programmes using alternative design elements before
they are rolled out at the national level. In this context, now that the newly created Independent
Evaluation Office, an office attached to the Planning Commission, is likely to be eliminated,
there is a case for a division in the new body that should be entrusted with experimenting
and piloting programmes. In fact, the roll-out of the insurance component of the Jan Dhan
Yojana that is only due to commence a year from now, must undergo a pilot before taking
it to scale. One role of the new body should be to bring together the 17 sectors identified
in the manufacturing chapter of the 12th Plan and the relevant stakeholders (State governments,
industry, labour, academics) on a regular basis so that industrial policy does not remain
the preserve of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. This would be similar
to the role the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) plays in China.
Pakistan Taliban commander revolts against Fazlullah
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan, The Hindu, Taliban, international,
A powerful commander of the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday revolted against the leadership
of Mullah Fazullah and announced the militant group's split, in what appeared to be a
serious blow to the outfit linked to brazen attacks inside Pakistan. The new group called
TTP Jamatul Ahrar is headed by Omar Khalid Khorasani who was the Taliban chief in
Mohmand tribal region and is considered as a ruthless commander. Ehsan accused Fazlullah,
nicknamed "Mullah Radio", of betraying the group and joining hands with people who
had been involved in the killing of Taliban fighters. But Khorasani is also closely linked
with al-Qaeda and his emergence as independent leader may result in a new wave of terrorist
attacks in Pakistan.
After Syria and Iraq, AfPak on Islamic State radar
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
Pakistan, ISIS, The Hindu, international, Afghanistan, iraq, syria,
Formerly known as the ISIS, the group introduced itself as Daulat-e-Islamia (Islamic State)
in the pamphlet and made an appeal to the local population for supporting its jihad (struggle)
for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. A number of hardline groups operating in
border areas have already announced support for the outfit. Among them, Abdul Rahim
Muslim Dost and Maulvi Abdul Qahar, stalwarts of Saudi Arabia-backed Salafi Taliban
groups operating in Nuristan and Kunar Provinces of Afghanistan, have extended support
to the self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Recently established Ahrarul Islam, a
faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, is already working on the lines of ISIS. Similar
is the status of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement , also known as Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan.
Ahrarul Islam doesn't believe in boundaries between Islamic countries, therefore, it is
working for the establishment of a network throughout South and Central Asian regions.
The group doesn't recognise al-Baghdadi as the caliph, but considers Afghan Taliban
chief Mullah Omar as 'commander'.
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Looking beyond a tattered truce
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
pakistan, The Hindu, international,
First, because of social media, there is more information in the air, though insufficient
for informed opinion. Second, the images from West Asia are all over, causing apprehension
about the play of violence nearer home. Third, there is concern about how events in Afghanistan
will turn out once the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraws. Finally,
the so-called information revolution regularly points out chinks in our armour and the
supposed weakness in our defensive capability, thus creating a perception of imminent
danger. But why does the Line of Control (LoC) go "live" from time to time and remain
"under control" at other times? For their cause to remain effective, the separatists in Jammu
and Kashmir and their sponsors across the border need turbulence of any form: street protests,
criminal acts, terrorist strikes, or attacks on the security forces. On its side, it is working
overtime to control a raging internal militancy even before the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan,
so as to initiate endeavours to fill the strategic space vacated by the ISAF. Therefore, Pakistan
has three strategic priorities in order of importance: first, its internal security; second, Afghanistan,
and third, Jammu and Kashmir. The third priority would have remained just there, had
it not been for a couple of spoilers: the unexpected emergence of political stability in New
Delhi, the inability to induct or sustain sufficient terrorist cadres and leadership in Jammu
and Kashmir's hinterland, and the coming election in November in Jammu and Kashmir.
The firing this time has apparently been most intense not on the LoC but along the International
Border, which Pakistan calls the Working Boundary. Infiltration through this sector is
easier due to shorter distances to the population centres. However, diversions are necessary
through firing. This is incorrect. It needs to be brought to public attention that the Indian
Army is not trigger-happy, but neither is it unprofessional not to respond. Its response
is focussed and for effect. It has a history of spectacular achievements on the LoC. It were
the violent exchanges on the LoC in 2013 which resulted in two major incidents leading
to the loss of lives of Indian soldiers and the resultant negativity about the lack of an effective
response from our side. For long the Indian Army has effectively responded in its own
unstated way, reserving the time and the place for such response. It has never brought
this to the public domain in the time-tested way of keeping military actions outside the
public gaze.
I will neither resign nor go on leave: Nawaz Sharif
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
pakistan, The Hindu, international,
Addressing a meeting of leaders of political parties here, Mr. Sharif said he would not
allow to set a precedent under which a few people make hostage mandate of millions of
people. "We have rule of Constitution here and we will not allow any one to abrogate it,"
The Express Tribune quoted Mr. Sharif as saying. Following the meeting a joint declaration
pointed out that future of Pakistan is linked with democracy and any deviation can be dangerous
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for federation of Pakistan. The leaders expressed their firm resolve that they stand by the
Prime Minister in the struggle to defend the democracy. All parliamentary parties decided
to become party to the petition filed in the Supreme Court for supremacy of the Parliament,
Radio Pakistan reported. Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf
chairman Imran Khan are agitating since August 14 against alleged rigging during the
last year's general elections. The political crisis has triggered violent clashes in Islamabad,
leaving three persons dead and over 550 injured.
Pakistan's perennial crisis
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
Pakistan, The Hindu, international,
Although most political parties represented in Parliament have rallied to the side of preserving
the country's fragile democratic system, there are still powerful forces that oppose democracy.
Elsewhere, protesters would make their point and go home while their leaders built up
support to challenge the government at the next election. But here they camped outside
Parliament for several days while the leaders garnered live television coverage from air-conditioned
shipping containers. When the leaders incited violence, the Army offered to protect state
buildings but neither soldiers nor the police were willing to forcibly end the sit-in. Mr.
Sharif clearly wanted to avoid that fate by allowing Mr. Khan and Qadri to paralyse life
in Islamabad without using force and creating martyrs. Mr. Khan and Qadri are hoping
to bypass the waiting time until the next elections even as they tap into disenchantment
in Punjab's urban middle class. Pakistan has a long history of direct and indirect military
intervention in politics, usually after a round of street violence or a political stalemate.
In 1969, General Yahya Khan replaced Pakistan's first coup-maker, Field Marshal Ayub
Khan after five months of protests. Pakistan's deeper malaise, the belief that the road
to power in Islamabad runs through or should run through Army headquarters. Admittedly,
some things have changed in Pakistan. The major political parties are no longer willing
to align with the military to topple their rivals and the country's boisterous media does
not allow the kind of secret manoeuvres that were the hallmark of palace coups and military
takeovers of the past. Moreover, the Army now insists that it has no political agenda. But
the generals continue to cast a long shadow. But Pakistan cannot forever remain in crisis
mode if it is to make progress as a modern nation. The military's policy tripod that includes
emphasis on Islam as a national unifier, hostility towards India as the principal foreign
policy objective and an alliance with the United States that helps defray the costs of Pakistan's
massive military expenditures cannot endure with its debilitating effects. Pakistan's disproportionate
focus on ideology, military capability and external alliances continues to weaken Pakistan
internally. Pakistan's GDP stands at $222 billion in absolute terms and $547 billion in
purchasing price parity -- the smallest economy of any country that has so far tested nuclear
weapons. Disruptions, such as the recent stand-off, are unlikely to enable consistent economic
growth. But macroeconomic issues and problems such as Pakistan's low literacy and
poor quality of education barely get any mention in Pakistan's national discourse. The
oversimplified Pakistani middle class narrative focusses on Kashmir and India and on
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opposing the corruption of elected civilian leaders. The world sees Pakistan as an incubator
for terrorism but Pakistanis are lost in debates unrelated to this existential threat. His governance
is poor and his tendency to fly solo diminishes his ability to fulfil his grand promises. He
needs to recognise that winning an election does not mean that elected leaders can govern
arbitrarily and only with the aid of family members. Mr. Sharif's weaknesses, however,
do not justify abuse for being pro-American and pro-Indian heaped on him by Imran Khan
and his over-exuberant supporters in the Pakistani media. If he is ousted by an orchestrated
crowd, a similar fate will await his elected successors.
Eroding democratic gains
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
pakistan, The Hindu, international,
The events that have unfolded in Pakistan over the last two weeks have all but wiped out
the country's small democratic gains of the last six years. A few thousand protestors under
the leadership of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
(PTI), and a rabble-rousing cleric, Tahir ul Qadri, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, have
effectively held the nation hostage, refusing to call off their agitation until the elected government
of Nawaz Sharif resigned. The Pakistan Army denies it but there has been much speculation
about its role in the protests from the start, fuelled in recent days by the allegations of
a top PTI leader who broke ranks with Mr. Khan. In any case, the Army's eagerness to
use the situation to tilt the civilian-military balance decisively in its favour has been all
too apparent. Despite his huge mandate, Mr. Sharif's 15 months in power have been marked
by all-around drift. He may survive this crisis for now as Mr. Khan stands politically isolated,
save for support from Mr. Qadri and his following.
Pakistan parliament meets over political crisis
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
Pakistan, The Hindu, international,
Pakistan's parliamentarians held an emergency session on Tuesday over the political crisis
roiling the country as thousands of anti-government protesters remained camped out in
front of the parliament building, demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation.
The session of both houses the National Assembly and the Senate is an attempt to rally
support behind the prime minister, who is facing the biggest threat to his tenure since he
took office a little more than a year ago. Anti-government demonstrators led by cricket
star-turned-politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri converged on the capital
in mid-August. The protests turned violent this weekend, when clashes between the demonstrators
and police left three people dead and hundreds injured.
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Pakistan protest groups upbeat on talks
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
Pakistan, The Hindu, international,
Talks between the two warring sides -- the government and -- the Imran Khan-led Pakistan
Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) -- were
held late on Wednesday night. Two separate meetings took place overnight with the first
one being held between the government committee and the PTI and the second between
PAT, government and opposition parties' 'Jirga', a committee of opposition politicians
led by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Siraj-ul-Haq. Though the talks were inconclusive, leaders
from both sides said there were some positive outcomes from the talks.
Mangroves undergo change in Sunderbans
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
mangroves, environment, The Hindu,
recent study of mangrove forests in Sunderbans has revealed a change in their vegetation
pattern, with the high salt-tolerant Avicennia species being edged out by Ceriops decandra,
a relatively less-salt tolerant variety of mangrove, suggesting an evolution of the mangroves.
"It was earlier believed that salinity is the main determining factor for the mangroves in
the Sunderbans. But the study points to pH ( which determines the acidity and alkalinity
of water) also being an important factor," Himadri Sekhar Debnath, principal scientist
involved with the project and former Joint Director of Botanical Survey of India ( BSI)
told The Hindu .
India suicide capital of Southeast Asia, says WHO
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
The Hindu, social, suicide,
India recorded the highest number of suicides in Southeast Asia in 2012, says a report
released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva on Thursday. The number
of victims was 2,58,075 -- 1,58,098 men and 99,977 women -- that year. Globally, the number
was 8,04,000. Data collated over a decade show most suicides in the world occur in Southeast
Asia, 39 per cent of those in low- and middle-income countries in the region. Suicide by
pesticide ingestion is among the most common methods employed globally and is of particular
concern in rural areas in Southeast Asia. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in
the 15-29 age group. There are indications that for each adult who die of suicide, more
than 20 attempt it, the report says. Pesticide consumption, hanging and use of firearms
are among the most common methods of suicide globally The report says that in richer
countries, three times as many men die by suicide than women; men aged 50 and above
are a particularly vulnerable group. In low-and middle-income countries, young adults
and elderly women have higher rates of suicide than their counterparts in high-income
countries. Women aged over 70 are more than twice likely to commit suicide than women
in the 15-29 age group.
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Govt committed to 24x7 power supply to all citizens: Goyal
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
The Hindu, power, economics,
Stating that they had inherited a 'crisis ridden power sector' from the previous government,
Minister of State (Independent Charge), Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy,
Piyush Goyal, on Sunday said they are working towards correcting the situation to ensure
24x7 power supply to all citizens in the next few years. The minister reiterated that the
government was committed to bring about a transformative change in the power sector
and ensure affordable 24x7 power for all homes, industrial & commercial establishments
and adequate power for farms, in the next few years. He added that in effort to ensure adequate
supply of coal for power plants, state-owned Coal India Ltd has set a target of 1 billion
tonne of coal production by 2019, from current levels of 500 million tonne. The minister
further informed that CIL has taken in principle decision to purchase 250 additional rakes
(for Rs 5,000 crore) to evacuate more coal, primarily to power plants. The government
has also invested Rs 7,000 crore in power grid security in states.
A new sunrise
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
manufacturing, japan, The Hindu, international,
Bilateral trade at $16.29 billion in 2013-14 accounted for just 2.13 per cent of India's total
trade and barely 1 per cent of Japan's. The low-profile trade relationship is especially
disappointing considering how much Japan has to offer in terms of investment and technology,
and how much India needs both. India may be one of the largest recipients of Japanese
ODA (Official Development Assistance), but when it comes to foreign direct investment
(FDI), it ranks low, well behind China. Japan has said it would invest 3.5 trillion yen
($33.5 billion) in India in the next five years in the sectors of infrastructure, manufacturing,
transport and clean energy, and on smart cities, all thrust areas for development for the
Modi government. Ever since India liberalised in the early 1990s, there has been steady
interest among Japanese companies and investors -- but they have often been frustrated
by complicated procedures and cumbersome processes. Actually, Japanese companies
willingly ceded market space in India to competitors from South Korea and China rather
than deal with the red tape. Mr. Modi harped on all the right themes including the three
Ds that India can boast of, namely democracy, demography and demand, while making
his pitch to Japanese business. With manufacturing costs increasing in China and given
the political issues between the two countries, Japanese businesses are looking to diversify,
and India presents a good choice with its huge market.
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Ukraine talks must back cease-fire: Russia
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
The Hindu, Ukraine, international, Russia,
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Russia would not intervene militarily
in Ukraine, defying reports by the Ukrainian government, NATO and Western nations
that Russia has already sent troops, artillery and tanks across Ukraine's southeast border
to reinforce the separatists. The envoys, who last met in July, included representatives
of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A separatist
leader, Andrei Purgin, also was to take part. Mr. Purgin told the Interfax news agency
that the separatists' priority was to win recognition of their independence in eastern Ukraine,
which has a large Russian-speaking population. He said they also were willing to discuss
the exchange of prisoners and a temporary cease-fire. Russia consistently denies allegations
that it has sent troops or equipment into Ukraine. But Col. Lysenko said on Monday that
"not less than four battalions and tactical groups of the Russian armed forces are active
in Ukraine." Fighting in eastern Ukraine between the separatists and the Ukrainian government
in Kiev began in mid--April after the annexation of Crimea. The fighting has killed nearly
2,600 and forced over 340,000 to flee their homes, according to the U.N.
Ebola will take six to nine months to control: WHO
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
Ebola, The Hindu, international, health, WHO,
The Ebola epidemic can be stopped in its tracks, but it will take at least six to nine months
and cost more than $600m, according to the director general of the World Health Organization
(WHO). The Ebola outbreak is "the largest, most complex and most severe we've ever
seen," spreading at a pace that outstrips effort to control it. Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal
and Sierra Leone have between them reported about 3,500 cases and 1,900 deaths. Medecins
Sans Frontieres, which says its volunteer doctors on the frontline are overwhelmed, has
called on UN member states to send in teams of military and civilian biohazard experts.
He said: "We don't have enough health workers, doctors, nurses, drivers and contact tracers.
Most of the infections are happening in the community, and many people are unwilling
to identify themselves as ill. And if they do, we don't have enough ambulances to transport
them or beds to treat them yet."
Engaging with future leaders
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
AIYD, The Hindu, australia, international,
It is the role of our governments to discuss and eventually agree on important policy issues
such as the prospect of a free trade agreement, the trade of uranium and education. However,
stronger ties between Australia and India ultimately rely on relationships, i.e., strong institutional,
professional and personal linkages. Organisations such as the Australia India Institute,
the Lowy Institute (through the Australia-India Roundtable) and the Australia India Youth
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Dialogue (AIYD) extol the virtues of such relationships by encouraging collaboration
at a people-to-people level. In a few months, 15 young leaders (18-40 years of age) from
India will visit Australia to meet and engage with 15 of the best and brightest young leaders
of Australia. Over the three-day conference, AIYD 2015 delegates will discuss critical
issues in the Australia-India relationship and key challenges and opportunities facing the
two countries.
We'll respond in court on LoP issue: Venkaiah Naidu
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
The Hindu, polity, leader of opposition,
the subject was not in the government's domain as the decision on whether or not to appoint
the LoP rested with the Speaker, who is the presiding officer, who, he stressed, had gone
by past tradition and practice.
States free to add official language: SC
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
The Hindu, polity, official language,
Asserting people's right to linguistic freedom, the Supreme Court has held that there is
no bar against a State Legislature declaring a language used in the State as an official language
for the convenience of its citizens. This means that a widely-used language in a State, once
declared an official language by the State Legislature, would find a place in official communications,
advertisements and even signposts. The U.P. Legislature had introduced Urdu as the second
official language of the State, besides Hindi, "in the interest of the Urdu-speaking people".
Japan to push for closure of ageing reactors
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
japan, environment, nuclear, The Hindu,
Japan will push nuclear operators to draft plans to scrap a quarter of the country's 48 reactors,
which are either too old or too costly to upgrade to meet new standards imposed after the
Fukushima disaster, the Nikkei reported on Friday. The government is betting that by
forcing older units considered more vulnerable to disaster to shut down it may gain public
support to restart newer units, the Nikkei reported. All reactors in Japan have been shut
down after the 2011 nuclear crisis at Fukushima caused by a major earthquake and tsunami.
Nuclear safety rules make it tougher to upgrade and run older reactors, and as many as
two-thirds of the country's 48 idled nuclear units may not return to operation because of
the high costs, local opposition or seismic risks, a Reuters analysis showed earlier this
year There are 12 reactors that will reach 40-year limit within five years and the government
is asking operators to come up with plans for de-comissioning older units by the end of
the year, the Nikkei reported. Both Mihama units are over 40 years old and have relatively
small capacity, so restarting them would bring only a limited profit boost and cost several
hundred billions of yen for inspections and safety measures, the paper said. If the company
decides to scrap the reactors within the business year that ends in March 2015, it will likely
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be forced to book up to 30 billion yen ($285 million) in extraordinary losses for the period
in impairment charges, the Nikkei added.
'Missing files no excuse for denying information'
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
The Hindu, polity, RTI,
Public authorities cannot take excuse of "missing files" for denying information under
the RTI Act as such claims have no legality under the transparency law for withholding
records, the Central Information Commission has held. "Unless proved the record was
destroyed as per the prescribed rules of destruction/retention policy, it is deemed that record
continues to be held by the public authority," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu
said in his order. In a terse order, the Commissioner said loss of records that are required
to be kept and maintained permanently, if considered as evidence in a case, should invite
criminal complaint against officials under section 201 of Indian Penal Code (punishable
with imprisonment which is directly proportional to seriousness of offence charged from
seven years to 10 years and for life.) "Claim of file missing or not traceable has no legality
as it is not recognised as exception by the RTI Act. By practice "missing file" cannot be
read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act. Mr. Acharyulu
recommended to the public authority to consider the issue "seriously" as the Commission
has been hearing excuse of missing files on many occasions and also to initiate action
under Public Records Act, 1993 against responsible persons. "If the file is really not traceable,
it reflects the inefficient and pathetic management of files by the Public Authority. If the
file could not be traced in spite of best efforts, it is the duty of the respondent authority
to reconstruct the file or develop a mechanism to address the issue raised by the appellant,"
he said.
Review of five environment laws ordered
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
environment, The Hindu, environment laws,
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; Wildlife (Protection)
Act, 1972; The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; and The Air (Prevention
and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 will be under the scanner.
Taking healthcare to India's remote tribes
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
tribe, The Hindu, social, health,
inclusive development, with food security, safe housing and sanitation being the rights
of every citizen. Health is intimately linked to these essentials of living. The health status
of India's tribal communities is in need of special attention. Being among the poorest and
most marginalised groups in India, tribals experience extreme levels of health deprivation.
The tribal community lags behind the national average on several vital public health indicators,
with women and children being the most vulnerable. Several studies on maternal health
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show poorer nutritional status, higher levels of morbidity and mortality, and lower utilisation
of antenatal and postnatal services among tribals. Under-five mortality rates among rural
tribal children remain startlingly high, at 95 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 compared
with 70 among all children. A recent study in Melghat area of Maharashtra revealed that
80 per cent of tribal women weighed under 50 kg and 74 per cent of under-five children
were malnourished. "Starvation deaths" continue to be reported from tribal areas, including
from advanced States like Kerala. Health problems prevalent in tribal areas include endemic
infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhoeal diseases, apart from malnutrition
and anaemia. Research has shown that 75 per cent of India's tribal population defecates
in the open and 33 per cent does not have access to a clean source of drinking water. Insanitary
conditions, ignorance, lack of health education and poor access to healthcare facilities
are the main factors responsible for the poor health of tribals. Further, displacement from
their traditional forest homes and natural source of food and lack of livelihoods makes
them dependent on the public distribution system (PDS) and other government handouts
for survival. Most tribal groups are traditionally hunter-gatherers and not accustomed to
agriculture -- their diets, therefore, are now severely limited in fruits and vegetables as
well as good sources of protein (including fish and meat). Polished rice and cereals available
through the PDS have replaced diverse dietary food baskets. Although the government
has provided for the establishment of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in tribal areas for
every 20,000 population and sub-centres for every 3,000 population, quality healthcare
is not available to the majority of tribals. Posts of doctors and paramedicals are often vacant.
Additionally, the non-availability of essential drugs and equipment, inadequate infrastructure,
difficult terrain and constraints of distance and time (one Auxiliary Nurse Midwife is responsible
for 15-20 scattered villages), and the lack of transport and communication facilities further
hinder healthcare delivery. Though some traditional practices and superstitions persist,
acceptance of modern medicine has increased in recent years, but access to good care is
the major issue. Levels of illiteracy are high, with 47 per cent in rural areas and 21.8 per
cent in urban areas being unable to read and write. Better educated tribal communities
will be better aware of their healthcare needs (and rights) as well as of better care-seeking
practices. The poor health of tribal populations cannot be overcome by mere establishment
of more PHCs and sub-centres. Scarcity of trained manpower for health is a major problem
and an obstacle to the extension of health services to rural and tribal areas. Traditional
healers, who are often the first point of care, can be sensitised and trained to deliver simple
interventions like ORS for diarrhoea and anti-malarials as well as to refer patients to the
PHC in a timely manner. Tribal boys and girls (who complete school but often have no
further opportunities) could be trained as community health workers or nurses and incentivised
to stay and work in their own communities. . Health is intimately linked to food and nutrition
security, safe housing and availability of sanitation and clean drinking water.
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SC reserves verdict on guidelines for encounter deaths probe
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
encounter killing, The Hindu, polity,
The petition was filed by NGO, People's Union for Civil Liberties' (PUCL) which, along
with NHRC, had also suggested the setting up a separate and independent probe agency
under NHRC or the state human rights commission to probe every encounter killings.
The plea has sought that unless proved beyond doubt that an encounter was genuine,
no officer should be promoted or rewarded and compensation money for dependents of
every fake encounter killing should be equivalent to the reward money given to the police
in such operations. During the hearing, the court was told that some states like Tripura,
Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunanchal Pradesh and Telangana have not set up state
human rights commission.
For a new paradigm of social justice
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
dalits, The Hindu, social, social justice,
the Indian state has sought to put forth dozens of laws and programmes to attenuate these
deep social inequalities and two-thirds of a century after independence, social inequalities
in Indian society are a far cry from what they were when the country came into being.
In recent years, the country has been witnessing social change that is gradually weakening
the iron grip of status hierarchies, and India's Dalits are slowly seeing its benefits. But
the gains are more social than economic. The collective turnover of these 1,000 Dalit entrepreneurs
is nearly Rs.10,000 crore. Almost none of them has received support or preferential treatment
from the government. They did not even consider approaching institutions like the National
Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) which is mandated
to promote entrepreneurship among Dalits. The transaction costs are simply too high when
compared to the very modest amounts of funds handed out by people who have little knowledge
of the issues. It is also pertinent to remember that three-fourths of Dalits (about 150 million)
still live in villages. What they don't need are grandiose government schemes which people
ignore with justifiable contempt. Instead three policy challenges raised by the Prime Minister
in his Independence Day speech -- skills, manufacturing and urbanisation -- if addressed
well, will do more for Dalit entrepreneurs, for the community and the country at large,
than the dozens of stand-alone schemes that exist currently. The policy discourse has so
far focussed on the preferential model over and above what is practicable. Job quotas without
jobs are meaningless. Dalits will find very limited economic opportunities in government
jobs for the simple reason that these barely exist relative to the numbers of Dalit youth
joining the workforce. The emphasis should be to ensure universal access to quality education
and health care and other basic public goods for all people and ensure that all those left
out due to a variety of reasons are covered. Currently, we ensure access but pay little attention
to quality or standards. Second, manufacturing offers more scope for would-be Dalit entrepreneurs
for the simple reason that the children of the elite simply cannot take the heat and dust
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and the distant locations that are inevitable in setting up a manufacturing unit in India today.
They prefer service-related occupations in metros in air-conditioned offices. If manufacturing
takes off in India, Dalit entrepreneurs, with a little help and nudge, will enter manufacturing
supply chains and some of them will grow into large firms in their own right. Having faced
trying circumstances growing up, there are many more willing to roll up their sleeves and
do what it takes to get the job done. But for this they -- like most small enterprises -- face
credit constraints because they lack collateral. It is ironic that in India, nationalised banks
are on socialist principles; today, public sector banks have lent tens of thousands of crores
to big businesses but have little money to lend to aspiring small entrepreneurs. Third,
social hierarchies are much more rigid in rural India, and an urbanising India offers better
opportunities for aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs. The metros today are so expensive that entry
for new entrepreneurs with few financial resources and limited social networks will be
much more difficult. An urbanisation strategy that focusses much more on small and medium
towns and that attracts large manufacturing investment (both domestic and foreign direct
investment) will create more opportunities for Dalit entrepreneurs in manufacturing supply
chains.
Towards a skilled workforce
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
manufacturing, The Hindu, economics, skill development,
In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister spoke of his 'skilled India' mission
to promote holistic development. There is no doubt that India needs to equip its youth
with greater work skills. At present, the country churns out a mostly semi-literate workforce
without the requisite marketable skills in a globalised world. As Mr. Modi stressed in his
speech, with 65 per cent of the population under 35 years of age, India will have to think
of reaping the demographic dividend. However, India ought to set its sights higher than
what Mr. Modi envisaged when he lamented the shortage of drivers, plumbers and cooks.
The real challenge is not to find low-paying jobs for the unemployed, but to equip those
entering the workforce with the necessary skills in a competitive environment. The importance
of promoting the manufacturing sector was highlighted both in the context of creating
employment opportunities and developing a balance between imports and exports. The
exhortation to multinationals to sell in any country but manufacture in India, also came
in the context of putting to use the education and capability of India's youth. Skill and
talent are the results of education and training, and India must lay greater stress on its educational
infrastructure before it can attain higher levels of growth. The skill set of India's youth
have to necessarily match that of the world's best.
Move to appoint ex-CJI as Governor draws criticism
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
cji, The Hindu, polity, judiciary,
The Centre's reported move to appoint former Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam as
Governor of Kerala has come in for criticism both from political parties and from the legal
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community. Eminent Supreme Court lawyer Fali Nariman was equally scathing: "I do
not appreciate or approve of the idea of a former Chief Justice of India or a judge of the
Supreme Court accepting a sinecure appointment like that of a Governor. Judges "seeking
jobs" or "a seat in Parliament" from the Executive gravely affects the concept of "independence
of the judiciary" -- proudly and repeatedly proclaimed - alas only by sitting judges of the
Supreme Court (!) -- as a 'basic feature of the Constitution'."
India-ASEAN FTA soon: Rajeev Kher
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
FTA, The Hindu, international, ASEAN,
Signing of the two pacts -- FTA in services and investments -- were scheduled during the
India-ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting in Myanmar last week. But the meeting was
postponed as Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not able to attend
the meet due to domestic compulsions. In December last year, the Union Cabinet had approved
the free trade agreement between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN). Unlike in India, ASEAN members have to approach their respective Parliaments
for ratification of such pacts. The agreement, if implemented, will help boost movement
of Indian professionals in the ASEAN region. It will also facilitate more investments in
the services sector. Trade between India and South East nations' bloc ASEAN stood at
about USD 76 billion in 2012-13. Both sides aim to increase it to USD 100 billion by 2015.
The ASEAN members are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
NATO allies agree to take on ISIS threat
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
ISIS, The Hindu, international, nato,
The United States and nine key allies agreed Friday that the Islamic State group is a significant
threat to NATO countries and that they will take on the militants by squeezing their financial
resources and going after them with military might. Laying out a strategy for Iraq, Mr.
Obama hinted at a broader military campaign, likening it to the way U.S. forces pushed
back al-Qaida along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, taking out the group's leadership,
shrinking its territory and pounding at its militant followers. To do that, the U.S. used persistent
airstrikes, usually by CIA drones. So far, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have been largely limited
to helping Kurdish forces and protecting refugees. But Mr. Obama has set a goal of dismantling
and destroying the Islamic State, and said Friday that the U.S. will continue to hunt down
the militants just as it did with al-Qaida and with al-Shabab in Somalia. "I think it is absolutely
critical that we have Arab states and specifically Sunni-majority states that are rejecting
the kind of extremist nihilism that we're seeing out of ISIL, that say that is not what Islam
is about and are prepared to join us actively in the fight", Mr. Obama said The Islamic
State group espouses a radical form of Sunni Islam and initially invaded Iraq to fight its
Shiite government. "What we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that
has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can't do us harm," Mr. Obama
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said. He added that U.S. ground troops in Syria are not needed to accomplish the goal,
but instead can work with moderate partners on the ground in the country. One prong of
a Western coalition approach would be for the nations' law enforcement and intelligence
agencies to work together to go after the Islamic State's financing both in banks and more
informal funding networks. But as long as the Islamic State has access to millions of dollars
a month in oil revenue, it will remain well-funded, U.S. intelligence officials say. NATO
also agreed to increase cooperation among nations on sharing information about foreign
fighters. A number of nations, including the U.S., have noted that radicalized citizens have
been traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight, raising alarms that they could return to their home
countries and launch attacks.
IS recruitment of foreign fighters key issue for NATO: US
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
isis, The Hindu, international, nato,
Underscoring the importance of coordinated efforts in this regard, they cited the joint action
by the military forces of the U.S., France, Australia, and the UK to deliver humanitarian
supplies to the citizens of Amerli in northern Iraq in recent days. They pledged to extend
such cooperation in fighting IS to other strategic aspects including the "strong Chapter
7 UN Security Council Resolution enacted last month that calls on all member states to
take decisive action to stop the flow of foreign fighters, counter ISIL's financing." At one
of the events on the sidelines of the NATO dialogue Mr. Kerry noted that U.S. President
Barack Obama would be leading a National Security Council meeting in New York in
the course of United Nations General Assembly, which would focus specifically on the
challenge of dealing with foreign fighters taking up arms with IS.
Islamic State expands into Egypt
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
Egypt, isis, The Hindu, international,
Islamic State, fighting to redraw the map of the Middle East, has been coaching Egypt's
most dangerous militant group, complicating efforts to stabilise the biggest Arab nation.
Confirmation that Islamic Sate, currently the most successful of the region's jihadi groups,
is extending its influence to Egypt will sound alarm bells in Cairo, where the authorities
are already facing a security challenge from home-grown militants. The success of Islamic
State in seizing large parts of Syria and Iraq has raised concerns in Egypt, where authorities
are battling Ansar as well as militants who have capitalised on the chaos in post-Gaddafi
Libya to set up over the border. Islamic State became the first jihadi group to defeat an
Arab Army in a major operation after steamrolling through northern Iraq in June almost
unopposed by the Iraqi military
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The pendulum of the Islamic State
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
isis, The Hindu, international,
Only if the social conditions that produced the IS -- the inequality and the despair -- are
altered could it be truly vanquished Discomfort is palpable in the regional capitals. U.S.
air strikes cannot destroy IS. The canny IS prefers to swing across the vast territory that
it threatens. A proper ground assault against IS cannot come because of the contradictions
of U.S. policy in the region. In Iraq, U.S. air power did not only deliver the advantage
to the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga , but also to the Turkish and Syrian
Kurdish fighters (the YPG and the PKK). Turkey and the U.S. see the PKK as a terrorist
organisation, although it and its Syrian ally the YPG have been fierce in their defence of
what they called Western Kurdistan (Rojava or north-eastern Syria). The Shiite militias
of Iraq (Badr and Salaam Brigades as well as the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq) and the Shiite militia
of Lebanon (Hezbollah) have also been unyielding against the IS -- again the U.S. and
the Europeans claim Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation and they hold the Badr Brigades,
trained by Iran, at arm's length. Responsibility for the emergence of the IS vests with
a number of key actors. The United States' reckless war on Iraq created the reservoir for
jihadis , as money from the Gulf Arabs came to sustain them in an emerging sectarian
clash against an ascendant Iran. The narrow and suffocating Assad and al-Maliki regimes
- which alienated large sections of Sunnis - propelled the disenfranchised to reckless rebellion.
In 2007, the cartoonist Ali Ferzat said of the process called the Damascus Spring (2005),
"either reform or le deluge [the flood]." It was the flood. Alienated people who measure
their alienation in sectarian terms (Sunni) cannot be only defeated in the battlefield. Political
reforms need to be on the cards. So too must an alternative to the economic agenda pursued
in both Iraq and Syria since the mid-2000s. Under U.S. pressure, the Assad and al-Maliki
governments pursued neo-liberal policies that increased inequality and despair. Absent
a politics of class, the platforms against neo-liberal corruption took on a harsh sectarian
cast. The IS fed on that alienation for its own diabolical agenda. It can be halted by air
strikes and degraded by ground warfare. But only if the social conditions that produced
the IS -- the inequality and the despair -- are altered could it be truly vanquished.
India slips to 71st rank in global competitiveness list
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
Global Competitiveness index, The Hindu, economics,
Weighed down by challenging economic conditions for most part of the past year, India
has slipped to 71st position - the lowest among BRICS countries - in an annual global
competitiveness list, with Switzerland claiming the top spot. "Continuing its downward
trend and losing 11 places, India ranks 71st. The country's new government faces the challenge
of improving competitiveness and reviving the economy, which is growing at half the
rate of 2010," WEF said. "India's decline of 11 places to 71st, set against the gains of
the ASEAN 5 countries, suggests that the competitiveness divide South and Southeast
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Asia is becoming more pronounced," WEF said. The rankings are based on WEF's GCI
which is based on scores covering 12 categories. They are institutions, infrastructure,
macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training,
goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological
readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation. "The strained global geopolitical
situation, the rise of income inequality, and the potential tightening of the financial conditions
could put the still tentative recovery at risk and call for structural reforms to ensure more
sustainable and inclusive growth," WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab
said. As per the report, there is uneven implementation of structural reforms across different
regions and levels of development as the biggest challenge to sustaining global growth.
Talent and innovation are the two areas where leaders in the public and private sectors
need to collaborate more effectively in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic
development, it added.
Solid start on procurement
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
defense, Defence, The Hindu, procurement policy,
In a single stroke, the Narendra Modi administration has underscored its seriousness in
taking indigenisation of military hardware to the next level, and signalled its intent to end
the drought in military procurement, which had begun to affect defence preparedness.
A thrust to produce domestically advanced weaponry was imparted by the decision to
scrap the tendering process for the import of 197 light utility helicopters, eliminating the
European Eurocopter and the Russian Kamov from contention. The Defence Minister has
also injected fresh energy into the indigenous Arjun project by clearing the way for the
induction of 118 of the tanks. Simultaneously, the DAC cleared the production of Self
Propelled (SP) guns mounted on the chassis of an Arjun tank. The move reveals a proactive
doctrinal preference for swift battles, powered by mechanised forces, which would be
especially relevant in the desert border zones in and around Rajasthan. The clear message
that emerges from the decisions is that India is ready to work with western partners, including
the United States, provided a pure buyer-seller relationship is jettisoned in preference to
joint production partnerships
Commendable initiative
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
open defecation, The Hindu, social, health,
. Soon after he urged the corporate sector to " prioritise the provision of toilets in schools
under corporate social responsibility programmes, the social movement is slowly gaining
traction. Two companies -- Tata Consultancy Services and Bharti Enterprises -- have committed
themselves to playing their part in achieving the monumental task of ensuring that all schools
in the country have toilets for boys and girls in a year's time. Hindustan Zinc Limited
has increased by 10,000 the number of toilets it would build in villages in three districts
of Rajasthan; its earlier target number was 30,000. That Bangladesh reduced the prevalence
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from 34 per cent in 1990 to 3 per cent in 2012 is a potent reminder that the war against
open defecation has to be won in double quick time. This can be achieved only if building
toilets, both in schools and in households, continues to be a priority for the government
and every other sector in the country. The ramifications of open defecation are too grim
to be ignored. Many of the water-borne diseases -- cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, Hepatitis
A, typhoid and polio -- are linked to open defecation. Hence, it is no coincidence that nearly
14 per cent (over 300,000) of deaths among children in India under five years of age are
caused by diarrhoea-related diseases; diarrhoea is the second biggest killer in this age group.
Also, frequent diarrhoeal events result in malnutrition and, in turn, stunting in children
under five. The absence of toilets in schools is one of the reasons why girls drop out of
the system at an early age. There is a huge economic cost, too. According to a document
of the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Programme, the economic impact of poor sanitation
is about Rs.2.4 trillion (which represented 6.4 per cent of India's GDP in 2006). It is important
to remember that building toilets without building awareness and changing the mindset,
would still yield poor results.
Antrix-Devas spat reaches The Hague
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
The Hindu, Devas, economics, space, antrix,
he Antrix Corporation-Devas Multimedia spat over the cancelled contract for two Indian
Space Research Organisation (ISRO) satellites has come up before the Permanent Court
of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague. The compensation amount in this case is not specified;
some legal reports put it at $ 1 billion. However, Devas in its second legal front being
fought at the International Chamber of Commerce has claimed $1.6 billion (around Rs.
9,600 crore by current exchange rate) for breach of contract. Devas's three promoters
approached the PCA in July 2012 after the then Manmohan Singh government cancelled
the six-year-old contract in February 2011. They cited violation of a Bilateral Investment
Protection Treaty between India and Mauritius and invoked international justice rules under
UN Commission on International Trade Law.
Infrastructure: Connecting the nation
Wed, Sep 3, 2014
The Hindu, Sagar Mala project, economics, infrastructure,
Mr. Modi's vision for the re-imagination of India is bejewelled with a Diamond Quadrilateral
of bullet trains connecting the four metros; a Sagar Mala project connecting India's coastal
cities with the mainland; 100 new smart cities; and the revival of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's
ambitious river-linking project. But while Nehru's vision was driven by the public sector,
Mr. Modi intends to fuel his massive infrastructure drive through foreign investment and
public private partnerships, with half the $1 trillion required expected to come from the
private sector. For Railways, the government announced 100 per cent FDI through the
automatic route and hiked passenger fares to raise funds for boosting rail infrastructure.
In July, Mr. Modi met top officials of nine infrastructure Ministries, wherein laying 300
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km of new railway track and doubling of around 700 km, was proposed for the current
fiscal. In civil aviation, the government has revised the existing policy on regional air connectivity
to expand the air map with 87 new cities slated to be connected through low-cost airports
and airlines. Another major boost to the sector would come if the government manages
to convince the States to reduce taxes on aviation turbine fuel to 4 per cent from as much
as 33 per cent. So far, West Bengal is the only State to have slashed tax on ATF by 50
per cent, while Andhra Pradesh has offered conditional reduction of VAT on ATF. In shipping,
Mr. Modi plans to usher in port-led development through the Sagar Mala project which
would include ports, special economic zones, and rail, road, air and waterway connectivity
with the hinterland, including linkages of cold storage and warehousing facilities. His
government also introduced lifetime validity of shipping licences. To begin with, the government
is working to set up a $4-5 billion dollar infrastructure fund, with Japanese and Korean
participation, to finance infrastructure projects, besides hoping to raise Rs.58,425 crore
through disinvestment.
India, Japan to accelerate civil nuclear deal
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
civil nuclear deal, japan, nuclear, The Hindu, international,
India and Japan on Monday decided to accelerate negotiations on a civil nuclear deal to
conclude it at an early date even as Tokyo removed six Indian space and defence--related
entities from its end-user list. The two leaders directed their officials to further accelerate
the negotiations with a view to concluding the agreement at an early date, and strengthen
the two countries' partnership in non--proliferation and nuclear safety, a joint statement
issued after the bilateral talks here said. Japanese Prime Minister Abe commended India's
efforts in the field of non--proliferation including the affirmation that goods and technologies
transferred from Japan would not be used for delivery systems for WMD (weapon of mass
destruction). Modi also appreciated the decision of Japan Government to remove six of
India's space and defence--related entities from its Foreign End User List and said both
the nations look forward to enhanced trade and collaboration in high technology. The
two Prime Ministers affirmed their commitment to work together for India to become a
full member in the four international export control regimes: Nuclear Suppliers Group,
Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, with
the aim of strengthening the international non--proliferation efforts.
'77% of girls in India face sexual violence by partner'
Sat, Sep 6, 2014
The Hindu, social, gender, women, sexual violence,
India tops the list of countries where adolescent girls are subjected to sexual violence by
an intimate partner, says a report 'Hidden in Plain Sight' released by the United Nations
Children's Fund on Friday. According to the report, 77 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19
years in India have experienced sexual violence at least once in the form of forced sexual
intercourse or other forced sexual acts by their husband or partner. In India, about 41 per
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cent reported physical violence by their mothers/stepmothers while 18 per cent were abused
by fathers or stepfathers. Brother and sisters were the perpetrators in 25 per cent cases.
Most adolescent girls who are victims of sexual violence also report physical abuse and,
in India, that number stands between 10 to 20 per cent. The study also found a correlation
between violence and still births. Citing a study Child marriages also put women at a greater
risk for intimate partner violence the report says. Again citing a research study in India
and Nepal, it says women who were married off before turning 18 experienced increased
risk of both current and lifetime physical and sexual violence by a partner.
U.S. should lead on clean energy: Hillary
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
clean energy, USA, environment, The Hindu,
the U.S. should become what she called the world's 21-century clean energy superpower,
Ms. Clinton credited northern Nevada's selection for a $5 billion Tesla automobile battery
plant to the emergence of Nevada as a leader in solar, wind and geothermal energy projects.
Gadkari orders sweeping changes in rural job scheme
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
The Hindu, economics, rural job scheme,
Union Minister for Rural Development Nitin Gadkari has "ordered sweeping changes"
in the MGNREGA(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), mandating
that 50 per cent of all the works that are taken up at the district-level under the scheme
should only be for water conservation, according to an official statement released here.
The Minister has taken this decision with a view to mitigating drought and drought-like
situation, it added. . He also instructed the officials to reverse a 2011 decision of the UPA
government which allowed States to seek funds from the MGNREGA allocations for constructing
Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) under the guidelines of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.
When contacted, an expert warned that the Rural Development Minister's move to dictate
from Delhi what works should be taken up at the district level goes against the spirit of
the Act even if his intention seems fine in a period of monsoon shortfall. " In a period
of drought, the main effort of the Centre should have been to provide work and livelihood
to those dependent on agriculture, and instead it has reduced fund allocations and is now
telling States to target only certain districts, Ms. Karat said. The UPA government had
in September 2011 approved sanitation facilities as one of the permissible works under
the Act on the basis of requests from States, according to a Ministry circular.
New policy to speed up eco clearances: Javadekar
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
environment, The Hindu, e waste, eco clearances,
Interacting with the media here, Mr. Javadekar said the government would shortly come
up with a buyback policy for electronic goods to deal with electronic waste. 'e-waste,
a concern' Describing e-waste as a major concern, Mr. Javadekar said: "We will make
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it mandatory for the manufacturing companies to buy back used electronic items and ensure
its disposal is scientific because e-waste is a huge environmental concern. The scheme
is foolproof and we will launch it soon," he announced. "We have reduced our files by
one-third through decentralisation. Similarly, no Central clearance will be required by
States sharing international borders for fencing of up to 100 km. This has been done keeping
in mind the national security," the Minister explained.
Looking beyond 2015
Tue, Sep 2, 2014
Millennium Development Goals, The Hindu, social, MDGs,
The moral and practical imperatives of creating an equitable world and a sustainable planet
have increasingly become inescapable. These are not unattainable ideals either. This optimism
is foregrounded in a blueprint produced by the United Nations Open Working Group on
Sustainable Development Goals. The reason for the hope is based no less on the progress,
though modest, achieved on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals -- especially with
regard to halving extreme poverty five years ahead of the stated deadline. In 2010, the
world met the MDG target on potable water, as measured by access to improved sources
of drinking water. But the target with respect to sanitation was not realised. The 69th session
of the U.N. General Assembly is expected to consider the OWG's outcome document
as part of the process of formulating the post-2015 agenda. The 17 objectives and 169
specific targets that the OWG zeroed in on, as compared with the eight that constituted
the MDGs, in themselves may appear significant only in quantitative terms. The vision
encompassing the outcome document put together by the 30-member team is clearly much
wider in scope and far more ambitious than the objectives set out in its predecessor document.
For instance, the MDGs had posited an end to extreme poverty and halving, by 2015, of
the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day. The broad objective for the future
with regard to poverty is more ambitious. The OWG postulates a reduction by half of the
proportion of men, women and children of all age groups living in poverty in all its dimensions.
The specific target is to ensure by 2030 that nobody any longer lives on the equivalent
of less than $1.25 a day. Significant new additions are goals concerning food security,
life-long learning opportunities for all, universal social protection with a minimum floor
level, and resilient infrastructure. The currently dominant theme of economic growth has
been tied to the promotion of sustainable patterns of production and consumption, as well
as the generation of full employment and dignified work. On some accounts, the role of
the MDGs is marginal at a time when governments in the developing world are rethinking
the ends of their own policies and registering progress in improving the quality of life
for their populations. The other criticism is that too much emphasis was laid on quantitative
targets under the MDGs with little impact on quality -- as for instance with the accent put
on school enrolments. The flip side to these arguments is that sustaining the global momentum
on these targets contributes critically to strengthening domestic judicial and civil society
engagement. The latter forms a vital democratic input to ensure that issues of human development
remain high on the agendas of national governments.
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Current account deficit narrows
Mon, Sep 1, 2014
The Hindu, CAD, economics, current account deficit,
India's current account deficit (CAD) narrowed sharply to $7.8 billion (1.7 per cent of
gross domestic product) in the first quarter of 2014-15 from $21.8 billion (4.8 per cent
of GDP) in the year ago period. However, it was higher than $1.2 billion (0.2 per cent
of GDP) in Q4 of 2013-14. "The lower CAD was primarily on account of a contraction
in trade deficit contributed by both a rise in exports and a decline in imports," said the
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in a press release on Monday. The decline in imports was
primarily led by a steep drop of 57.2 per cent in gold imports, which amounted to $7 billion,
significantly lower than $16.5 billion. "Notably," said the RBI, However, net outflow
on account of primary income (profit, dividend and interest) amounting to $6.7 billion
was higher than that of $4.8 billion in the first quarter of 2013-14 as well as in the preceding
quarter ($6.4 billion). While net inflow, on account of portfolio investment, was $12.4
billion as against an outflow of $0.2 billion, net FDI inflow was substantially higher at
$8.2 billion ($6.5 billion).
For a WTO stand with PDS in hand
Thu, Sep 4, 2014
WTO, The Hindu, PDS, economics, trade facilitation,
In December 2013, two important items among the many others adopted at the Ninth World
Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali were the decisions respectively
on the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TF) and on Public Stockholding for Food Security
Purposes. The former relates to the reduction of administrative barriers to trade -- like dealing
with custom barriers, documentation and transparency -- while the latter concerns the procurement
and storage of food grains by state agencies for the public distribution of food. Recently,
global attention was focussed on these two items as India argued that the adoption of the
protocol on trade facilitation should be postponed till a permanent solution to public stockholding
for food security had been worked out. Despite intense pressure from the developed countries,
including the United States, India stuck to its stand even as the deadline for adopting
the protocol on TF passed on July 31. Only Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela stood with India
at the WTO. Later the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development came out
in support of India's position. According to the latest National Family Health Survey
(NFHS, 2005-06), about 40-45 per cent of children under the age of 3 years are underweight
and stunted. Close to 80 per cent of children aged between 6-35 months and 58 per cent
of pregnant women aged between 15-49 years are anaemic. About 33 per cent of women
and 28 per cent of men aged between 15-49 years have a below-normal body mass index.
In terms of malnutrition, India fares worse than many sub-Saharan African countries.
it is only natural that India places a high priority on food security. A key mechanism to
address the problem of hunger and under-nutrition has been the Public Distribution System
(PDS). It involves the procurement of food grains from farmers, transporting and storing
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them in warehouses and then distributing them to consumers. In recent years, the price
paid to farmers -- known as minimum support price (MSP) -- has been higher than open
market prices. Hence, PDS involves providing a subsidy to both farmers and consumers.
The subsidy to farmers, estimated to be about 20 per cent of the overall food subsidy, provides
income support to poor agricultural families. The subsidy to consumers, by providing staple
food grains at affordable prices, is necessary to increase consumption of poor families
and address the widespread problem of hunger and under-nutrition. Being a member of
the WTO, India is bound by the agreements that have been signed and ratified by its members,
including itself. According to Article 6 of the Agriculture Agreement, providing minimum
support prices for agricultural products is considered distorting and is subject to limits.
The subsidy arising from "minimal supports" cannot exceed 10 per cent of the value of
agricultural production for developing countries. PDS in India entails minimum support
prices and public stockholding of food grains. It is possible that, in some years, the subsidy
for producers will exceed 10 per cent of the value of agricultural production. In that eventuality,
India would have contravened the Agriculture Agreement and be open to legal action by
other members of the WTO. It is here that trade and food security collides for India. On
the one hand, India needs to continue with the PDS to address problems of hunger and
deprivation -- this involves procurement and public stockholding of food grains. On the
other hand, its membership in the WTO ties its hands on subsidy. The first comes from
a proposal circulated by the G-33 group of countries in November 2012. This proposal
argued for amending the Agriculture Agreement so that support for farmers (that comes
through procurement) in developing countries is allowed without limits. The second solution
was offered by India at Bali. The current method used by the WTO to compute the subsidy
to producers multiplies the amount of procurement with the difference between the procurement
price and a fixed reference price, which is the average of prices prevalent during the period
1986-88. This method is absurd because actual prices have increased several-fold since
1986-88. India has argued that the reference price used in the calculation should be moved
forward on a rolling basis. The developed countries are more interested in trade facilitation.
As negotiations proceeded, India saw a reluctance on the part of some developed countries
to deal with the issue of public stockholding. The possibility of a permanent solution to
the issue of public stockholding by the 11th Ministerial Conference (i.e., within the next
four years) would reduce substantially once the protocol on trade facilitation was adopted.
Hence, India refused to agree to sign the protocol on trade facilitation unless there was
an assurance of finding a permanent solution to the issue. A major and genuine fear of
WTO members is that India will dump its huge stock of food grains on the world market,
crashing food prices. The fact that India has an unusually large stock of food grains is
the result of the refusal of the government to disburse these food grains -- for instance,
through food for work programmes -- because of the fear of increasing the food subsidy
bill. The government could send appropriate signals by continuously releasing the food
stocks only in the domestic market, addressing at one go, the genuine concerns of WTO
members and the nutrition needs of its citizens. While many commentators have been
sympathetic to India's concern with food security, they have also argued for replacing
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the existing in-kind PDS with a cash transfer system. This would do away with procurement
and public stockholding, and automatically solve the WTO issue of subsidy to farmers.
Moreover, dismantling the existing in-kind PDS and replacing it with a cash transfer system
is also a more efficient way of distributing subsidies. The current system is plagued by
corruption and leakage that the cash transfer system will solve. Along similar lines, others
have supported the dismantling of the PDS even as they have argued for the continuation
of public stockholding to check price instability. First, the coverage, reach and effectiveness
of the existing PDS have improved over time. Second, there is significant variation in
the performance of the PDS across States. While some States like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala
and Tamil Nadu have consistently performed well, others like Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand
have improved significantly. Thus, arguments for dismantling the PDS are wrong-headed.
They are back door arguments for opening up the food economy to big, private capital
that can have deleterious effects on the livelihood of peasants and agricultural labourers.
India should continue with its stand at the WTO to demand a permanent solution to the
issue of public stockholding before the protocol on trade facilitation is signed. It should
also resist efforts to dismantle the existing in-kind PDS; on the contrary, it should make
every effort to strengthen it.
Slow governance responsible for decline in growth: Rajan
Fri, Sep 5, 2014
RBI, The Hindu, slow governance, economics, decline in growth,
Attributing decline in economic growth to "slow governance" and faulty allocation of
natural resources, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan has said gross
domestic product (GDP) will improve to 7 per cent in the next three years on the back
of political stability. "The sharp slowdown in GDP from 8-9 per cent growth to 4-5 per
cent in the last two years was caused by issues such as environment and land acquisition
problems, delays in withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimulus, irregularities around allocation
of natural resources and slow governance," a Citi report quoted Dr. Rajan as saying. Referring
to the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on coal block allocation, Dr. Rajan said it
"may create uncertainty in the short-term, but long-term, it is a positive development".
As regards inflation, he said it was still high because of supply-side rigidities. "Food inflation
is a source of discomfort and given the sub-par monsoon this year, there is a need to keep
an eye on food inflation," he said. Food inflation in July stood at 8.43 per cent. The retail
inflation was 7.96 per cent and Wholesale Price Index-based (WPI) inflation was 5.19
per cent. "Fiscal slippage has been arrested, but the quality of the deficit could be improved,
particularly on the subsidy rationalisation and capital expenditure front," he said. The
government aims to bring down fiscal deficit to 4.1 per cent this fiscal. The CAD, which
is the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, narrowed sharply to
$7.8 billion (1.7 per cent of GDP) in the first quarter of the 2014-15 fiscal. It was $21.8
billion (4.8 per cent of GDP) in the year-ago period.
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BRICS bank not aimed at challenging IMF, WB: Rajan
Sun, Sep 7, 2014
World Bank, BRICS bank, The Hindu, international, brics, IMF,
"I don't think it was primarily meant to challenge the existing multilateral institutions
but it certainly is saying look we have plenty of money ourselves, why don't we put some
of this money to use in a way that benefits us rather than necessarily depending on the
multilateral institutions to change which is taking much more time than anybody thought
of," he said. The BRICS bank is meant to provide patient money, risk capital to long term
projects, he said in a speech at an event organised in Chicago on Friday by the Chicago
Council on Global Affairs. "One of the biggest lacunae in emerging markets is patient,
risk-bearing money, so if we can have a bank which is willing to take junior stakes or equity
stakes...that would be a really good thing," he said. The announcement about the bank
and a $100 billion Currency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) that will help countries to deal
with short-term liquidity pressures, was made on July 15 at the conclusion of the 6th BRICS
Summit in Brazil attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Presidents Vladimir Putin
of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil.