Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (31st July)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Final draft of NRC with 2.9 crore names released in Assam

  • The much-anticipated second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on Monday with 2.9 crore names out of the total 3.29 crore applicants in Assam.
  • The names of 40.07 lakh applicants did not find a place in the historic document, touted to be a proof of Assamese identity.
  • The first draft of the NRC was published during the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 this year, containing 1.9 crore names.
  • The process for making claims and objections will begin on August 30 and continue till September 28. Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections.
  • The application process for the NRC started in May 2015 and a total of 6.5 crore documents were received from 68.27 lakh families across Assam.

What is NRC?

  • The NRC (National Register of Citizens) is a list that contains the names of Indian citizens of Assam.
  • This list aims at including the names of all Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.
  • The NRC was prepared in 1951 after the Census of 1951. Assam is the only State with an NRC.
  • Those who wanted their names in the final list of the NRC had to furnish proof of existence of their name in the legacy data.
  • The descendants and applicants born after 1971 were asked to submit documents pertaining to an ancestor.
  • The NRC updating process began in 2015, following a Supreme Court directive to the government to keep up with the Assam Accord of 1985.
  • One of the key clauses of the accord stated that all immigrants who had entered Assam on or after March 25, 1971 were to be identified and deported.
  • This is seen as an attempt to eliminate illegal immigration from our neighbouring regions.
  • However, it has also resulted in fear and anxiety among people, as those excluded from the list will be considered foreigners or immigrants.
  • More than 40 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were left out of the complete draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), which was published on Monday. The five year exercise was completed at a cost of Rs. 1,220 crore.
  • The remaining 40,007,707 applicants, whose names didn’t figure in the list will be given ample opportunity through a process of claims and objections till September 28, and their citizenship status will not be questioned till the final, error-free draft is prepared.
  • Those not on the list include 2.48 lakh Doubtful-voters (D-voters) and their siblings and descendants.

Uproar in Parliament

  • Uproar over publication of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam led to the early adjournment of the Rajya Sabha.
  • In the Lok Sabha, amid calls by MPs for a debate, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the sensitive issue should not be politicised.

More: Five things to know about Assam’s National Register Of Citizen

2. Parliamentary panel to probe U.K.-India relations

    • Trade, visa policy, security to be among the areas of focus
      A British parliamentary committee is looking into relations between Britain and India — including the impact of Britain’s visa regime — as part of a wider examination of the future of “Global Britain”.
    • The inquiry comes at a time when tensions between the two countries have heightened amid Indian concerns about the U.K.’s reluctance to ease visa norms for students and professionals.
    • The committee will look at the issue of bilateral trade as well as the impact of Britain’s visa policy, and cooperation on regional security, counterterrorism, technology, innovation and multilateral institutions.
      The committee said the relationship is as an important “test case” for the government’s “Global Britain” strategy, and pointed to a number of questions.
    • These include: how strong is the bilateral relationship; how should Britain balance political, strategic and trade issues in determining its relationship; and, does the U.K.’s visa regime facilitate the type of relationship the government seeks with India?
      Parliamentarians in both houses have sought to scrutinise the changing world in which Britain is seeking to strengthen relations outside the EU.
    • In May, the House of Lords committee on International Relations held an evidence session on relations with India, as part of an inquiry into U.K. foreign policy in changed world conditions.
  • Issue Areas between India-Britain
    • Earlier this month, Britain’s former High Commissioner to India, Sir Richard Stagg, told a meeting of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group that a “lack of trust” permeated bilateral relations, warning that Britain did not have a strategy.
    • He also said that London’s approach was based on “random” and “inevitably ineffective” interventions by members of the government.
    • Alongside the visa issues, he pointed to Indian concerns around Britain’s Pakistan policy. He said there were also concerns that Britain was not doing enough to facilitate the return of those India sought to extradite, including high net worth individuals.
    • Earlier this year, in a dig at British authorities, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that Mr. Modi had told Prime Minister Theresa May, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit, that British courts shouldn’t lecture India on prison conditions.

      Issue of overstayers
    • India also pulled out of signing an agreement on the return of illegal migrants because of the 15-day period that would have been stipulated in the agreement for documents to be verified, which India viewed as unrealistic.
    • Britain’s Trade Secretary Liam Fox then linked the decision not to include Indian students in a relaxation of visa requirements to the non-signing of the agreement and the issue of Indians overstaying their visa.
    • While India acknowledged that there are overstayers, it contested the scale of the problem

3. The narrow and the transformative

  1. Certain cases have placed the apex court at the heart of the culture wars.
  2. The Aadhaar challenge was argued on the relatively straightforward basis of when and to what extent the state can exercise its coercive power over individuals.
  3. The 377 and Sabarimala hearings have seen clashes between the invocation of personal rights and the claims of cultural and religious groups.
  4. This is set to continue with the forthcoming adultery hearings, where the state’s objection to the decriminalisation of adultery is premised on the argument that it would destroy the institution of marriage.

The strategy of containment

  1. Whenever a constitutional challenge brings individuals against the state, the court’s task is to find if there has been a breach by the state, and it must strike down the offending law (or rules), and vindicate the rights at issue.
  2. This is because these conflicts often represent deep, long-standing and irreconcilable divisions in society, touching issues of personal belief and conviction.
  3. This strategy of containment creates a situation where, for the most part these conflicts remain submerged.
  4. The fear of permanent defeat prompts all parties to maintain a tense equilibrium. One method of resolution is through the courts.
  5. Unlike in political or economic disputes, a decisive loss in personal belief risks creating deeply embittered and alienated communities, and risks an erosion of faith in the neutrality and impartiality of state institutions.
  6. Ex: Constitution framers consciously refrained from directly addressing them: for example, the framers of the Constitution deliberately placed the provision for a uniform civil code in the unenforceable DPSP chapter, thinking that it was too divisive to be made a FR.

The narrow approach

  1. To avoid overreach, there is a popular school of thought that asks the court to tread with particular caution when questions of culture are at stake.
  2. As far as possible the court should avoid hearing and deciding such questions altogether. If it is must to decide, then it should do so on the narrowest grounds possible.
  3. The role of the court, in short, is to do everything it can to lower the stakes, and take a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to the conflict rather than an ideal-oriented, expansive one.
  4. In the Section 377 hearings, the government stated that it would not oppose the “reading down” of Section 377 as long as it was confined to same-sex relations between consenting adults in private.
  5. During oral arguments, every time the petitioners pressed for something more, government counsel urged the court to limit itself to simple decriminalisation, and nothing more.

The transformative approach

  1. The philosophy of Constitutional Adjudication holds that the Constitution is a transformative document, whose goal is to erase and remedy long-standing legacies of injustice.
  2. A particular feature of these injustices is their deep-rooted, social and institutional character. In the Indian context, the most obvious example is that of caste.
  3. The ill influence of caste-discrimination in our society not only prompted the inclusion of a specific article in the Constitution abolishing untouchability (Article 17), but it gave rise to a constitutional vision of equality that specifically included affirmative action.
  4. Consequently, the narrow approach sees a culture war triggered by the disruption of a carefully-maintained accommodation of cultural difference.
  5. The transformative approach sees a long-suppressed protest against a system of hierarchy and subordination that has found its utterance in the language of constitutional rights.
  6. Ex: In the 377 hearings, it was argued that decades of social exclusion and ostracism of the LGBT community could not be remedied simply by “decriminalisation”.
  7. Rather, it would require the court that no institution, public or private, would be permitted to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, or deny any person their civil rights.

Way Forward

  1. In section 377 case, SC ruled for equal moral membership of the LGBTQI community.
  2. Similarly, in the Sabarimala case, Court ruled that constitutional morality must prevail over precepts that are rooted in any particular religion.
  3. In these cases, therefore, the court is faced with a stark choice between the narrow and the transformative approaches to navigating the choppy waters of culture and the Constitution.
  4. Which direction it chooses to take, depends upon what it believes the Constitution is for and will have profound consequences in the years to come.

4. A long-term strategy to reduce crude imports

  1. The oil industry has been witnessing significant turmoil and uncertainty in recent months
  2. The primary benchmark for international oil prices, the Brent crude, reached a level ($80.49 per barrel) in May that was not seen since 2014
  3. Histrionics around the US sanctions on Iran have also affected sentiments considerably
  4. In recent weeks, tariffs imposed by the Donald Trump administration and the increasing production from Saudi Arabia and Libya have caused the abatement of prices

Impact on India

High oil prices is a double whammy for India:

  1. It would widen the country’s trade deficit
  2. And also impose a fiscal burden on account of fertilizer, kerosene and LPG subsidies

Possible options to reduce oil prices & their impact

  1. The expectation is that the excise duty on petroleum products might be lowered unless the recent fall in prices sustain
  2. The government had collected around ₹2 trillion from such duties in 2017-18, which played a crucial role in fiscal management
  3. So, lowering the excise duty would exert pressure on the fiscal balance
  4. Alternatively, oil marketing companies (OMCs) may be asked to absorb losses but that would intrude on their capital expenditure plan
  5. That would also send rather negative signals to markets, which have been watching out for any government moves on price control and passing over subsidy burdens to oil producing and marketing companies, and, in effect, rolling back pricing reforms

A strategy that can be used

  1. India now needs a carefully devised strategy that is not driven by short-termism but aims to gradually insulate the country from global oil price volatility
  2. Such a strategy should be centred on three things:
  • Expediting the migration to electric mobility
  1. Since the transport sector accounts for around 70% of the total diesel sales in the country, it is an appropriate sphere for a transition from traditional fuels to electric motors
  2. A favourable incentive mechanism (subsidy up to 60% of the total cost of an electric bus) to help the adoption of electric buses gain traction is already in place
  3. What we now need to do is to get the pace of building electric vehicle (EV) supportive infrastructure to catch up with the addition of new electric buses to the public transportation system
  4. Within the transport sector, trucks alone account for around 28% of the diesel consumption. Thus, creating dedicated electric corridors for trucks on the highways could go a long way in curbing oil imports
  • Expanding the biofuel blending in petrol
  1. Increasing the blending proportion of domestically available biofuels in cooking gas and transportation fuel is another way to reduce India’s reliance on imported crude oil
  2. Ethanol is mainly used for blending in our country and it is mostly derived from sugarcane molasses means its production is contingent on weather patterns
  3. Sugarcane, refining of which creates molasses, is a water-intensive crop, so fresh incentives to increase ethanol production may not be good economics in a country where water scarcity is a serious problem
  4. Hence, methanol, produced from coal, should be given more weightage when it comes to blending
  5. Besides, biodiesel supply should be augmented by making jatropha farming more productive through genetic modification
  • Stimulating exports
  1. If all these measures together reduce oil imports by 20%, the country could save up to $18 billion a year in terms of foreign exchange (assuming oil prices stay around their current level)

Way Forward

  1. Reducing the country’s reliance on oil imports would bode well for energy security, and make our financial markets less volatile in the event of untoward developments in the oil market
  2. The savings from reduced oil imports could in turn be used to finance infrastructure projects, which are crucial for India’s long-term growth prospects

5. The big five at 10

BRICS Summit, 2018

  1. The heads of state and government of all five BRICS nations including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa convened for the 10th BRICS Summit from July 25-27, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. The summit saw the BRICS leaders come together and discuss various international and regional issues of common concern and adopted the ‘Johannesburg Declaration‘ by consensus
  3. The declaration reaffirms principles of democracy, inclusiveness and agrees to fight unilateralism and protectionism

Johannesburg Declaration

  1. In the age of Twitter, BRICS has produced a 102-paragraph-long Johannesburg Declaration, one of the longest in recent years
  2. It implies that this important multilateral grouping has a lot to say about the state of the world
  3. The leaders jointly reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of mutual respect, sovereign equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration
  4. The BRICS leaders have used the summit to reject the growing unilateralism and instead reiterate their commitment to the strengthening of multilateral institutions, calling for stronger intra-trade within member states
  5. This stemmed from their broader commitment to cooperate for strengthening multilateralism, the rule of law and an equitable international order

BRICS not performing as per agenda

  1. BRICS is still far from achieving its initial goals: reform of global financial governance, the democratisation of the United Nations, and expansion of the Security Council
  2. This is partially because two of its members (China and Russia) do not want the other three members (India, South Africa and Brazil) to obtain parity in the global pecking order

Fourth Industrial Revolution

  1. The other big idea emanating from the summit is to help nations to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  2. Participants embraced it, articulating the need for a new strategy on employment, education and skill development as the digital revolution unfolds
  3. The leaders commended the establishment of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR)
  4. The BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) aims to deepen BRICS cooperation in digitalisation, industrialisation, innovation, inclusiveness and investment and to maximise the opportunities and address the challenges arising from the 4th Industrial Revolution
  5. PartNIR will make a meaningful contribution only if it goes beyond the five ministries of industry
  6. It should engage with the private sector and young innovators working at the cutting edge of technology today

BRICS Plus continues

  1. The BRICS outreach to Africa began at the last summit hosted by South Africa, in 2013
  2. It has picked up momentum now but African leaders want more
  3. They need big loans from the New Development Bank (NDB) for their infrastructure projects
  4. China introduced the “BRICS Plus” format at the Xiamen summit last year by inviting a few countries from different regions
  5. South Africa emulated it, arranging the attendance of top-level representation of five nations of its choice: Argentina, Jamaica, Turkey, Indonesia and Egypt
  6. The precise role of “BRICS Plus” countries will take time to evolve
  7. An immediate benefit is the immense opportunities it provides for networking among leaders

The relevance of BRICS today

  1. As a partnership that represents over 40% of the world’s population and accounts for 22% of global GDP, BRICS will continue to be an influential voice as long as its convergences prevail over its divergences
  2. With 10 years of development, BRICS has grown into an important platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries
  3. Together, the nations account for 26.46 per cent of the world land area, 42.58 per cent of the world’s population, 13.24 per cent of the World Bank voting power and 14.91 per cent of IMF quota shares
  4. According to IMF’s estimates, the BRICS countries generated 22.53 per cent of the world GDP in 2015 and they have contributed more than 50 per cent of world economic growth during the last 10 years

6. ‘Bubble risk’ brews as unsecured loans rise

  • With retail loans largely driving bank credit growth, and unsecured loans constituting almost a third of the retail portfolio, analysts say a ‘bubble’ may be brewing, meriting closer monitoring.
  • With corporate credit growth sluggish, lenders have been on a retail lending spree. Banks’ unsecured loans are at a record high, contributing 32% to the retail loan basket, which at 25% of the total loan book, is almost at its peak, according to a report by Jefferies.
  • RBI data shows that while overall credit growth as on May 25 was 10.9% year-on-year, retail loans grew 18.6% and outstanding dues on credit cards grew 33.1%.

‘RBI cautions’

  • The RBI has flagged the issue, with Deputy Governor N.S. Vishwanathan observing that retail loans come with their own caveats.
  • There appears to be taking hold a herd movement among bankers to grow retail credit and the personal loan segment.This is not a risk-free segment and banks should not see it as the grand panacea for their problem-riddled corporate loan book. There are risks here too that should be properly assessed, priced and mitigated.
  • The delinquency rate, however, has remained steady, a TransUnion Cibil study showed. Delinquencies for personal loans fell 19 basis points (bps) over the year to 0.52% at the end of March, while for credit cards it rose 9 bps to 1.7%.
  • Personal loans and dues on credit cards are examples of unsecured loans, while other retail loans include home and auto loans. Unsecured loans are riskier as they lack collateral that accompany home, auto loans.
  • As Indian consumers continue to expand beyond cash-based purchases, these products provide access to short-term liquidity as well as, in the case of credit cards, transactional convenience.
  • Moreover, given the low and steady delinquency rates for these products, consumers are demonstrating their ability to effectively manage the credit they are taking on.

‘Fastest growth’

  • The Jefferies report, citing the TransUnion Cibil study, said unsecured personal loans grew the fastest, at 49%, driven by a 27% growth in customers and 19% growth in average ticket size. The bigger worry is the growth in the ‘New to Credit’ segment.
  • Observing that credit cards were one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 2016 demonetisation, TransUnion Cibil said the number of consumers with access to credit cards as well as aggregate balances had reached all-time highs.
  • The number of credit card accounts at the end of March was 32.6 million while the outstanding balance was Rs. 75,700 crore. Credit card outstandings grew 43% till March 2018.
  • In a report, JM Financial said unsecured loans had grown at a compounded annual rate of 31% over the last four years for the top 5 private banks.

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