The News Editorial Analysis 14th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 14th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 14th Dec 2021

Inflation spikes to 4.91% in November

Vegetable prices jump 7.45%

India’s retail inflation hardened for the second month in a row in November, touching 4.91% from 4.48% recorded in October, with urban parts experiencing a sharper rise in prices at a pace of 5.54% and vegetable prices jumping 7.45% from the previous month.

Transport and communication inflation eased only marginally to 10.02% in November, from 10.9% in October, despite tax cuts on fuel announced by Centre in the first week of the month, followed by most States paring their own fuel duties in subsequent weeks.

This suggests that upward price pressures persist, owing to the rise in input and commodity costs, as reflected in the wholesale price inflation touching a five-month high of 12.54% in October. November’s wholesale price trends are to be released this Wednesday. “With input price pressures forcing producers to raise prices in many sectors, the November retail inflation accelerated slightly faster than we had expected, shrugging off the favourable base effect and the cut in fuel taxes,” said ICRA chief economist Aditi Nayar.

Sanctions and rights

The action against RAB should deter overzealous law enforcement agents

The U.S. move to sanction a paramilitary unit in Bangladesh, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), has apparently caught the administration in Dhaka off-guard, prompting a diplomatic pushback including Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen summoning U.S. Ambassador to Dhaka Earl Miller to protest the action. Fresh on the heels of the U.S. President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit, which Dhaka was not invited to attend, the U.S. Treasury said that as per the allegations made by various NGOs, the RAB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement units were responsible for “more than 600 disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018, and torture”; there were also reports suggesting that the targets of these actions were Opposition party members, journalists, and human rights activists. The sanctions were invoked under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The RAB is a joint task force founded in 2004. Under the RAB’s mandate of ensuring internal security, intelligence-gathering on criminal activities, and government-directed investigations, principally relating to Bangladesh’s war on drugs, there have been “widespread allegations of serious human rights abuse” by the RAB, to the extent that they threaten U.S. national security interests by undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, according to the U.S. Treasury.

The broader picture of the U.S.’s application of sanctions to alleged human rights violators across the globe is that the latest list of allegations includes not just the RAB, but also government officials and administrators in the Xinjiang region of China, where the minority Uighur community is reported to have faced rights violations; citizens of North Korea suspected to be engaged in earning illicit incomes abroad to support the country’s arms trade and Russian institutions that have aided them; two military officials from Sri Lanka alleged to have committed gross rights violations against ethnic Tamils; and Chief Ministers of States in Myanmar who are alleged to have facilitated “ongoing brutal crackdowns against the people of Burma, including children and members of ethnic minority groups.…” A knee-jerk response to such sweeping sanctions is to either question their effectiveness or challenge their moral authority given that minorities in the U.S., such as African-Americans, are also periodically at the receiving end of rights violations. However, given the rampant degree of such violations worldwide, there is a case to be made for any policy by any country that highlights the role of specific individuals alleged to be involved. Especially across South Asia, it might be salutary for the broader cause of human rights if there is a ripple effect of the sanctions on the RAB. Indeed, if this action gives pause for thought to overzealous law enforcement agents who violently act out their prejudices against ethnic or religious minorities, that would be welcome.

Home truths on climate change

There is a gap between what the goverment says on the international stage and what it does at home

At the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the developed countries, which continue to be the most responsible for the destruction of the biosphere, resorted to their usual tactics of bullying the less developed world to accept higher targets for controlling greenhouse emissions when they haven’t done so themselves. In fact, they have failed to even implement their earlier commitments towards funds and technology transfer.

The reasons for the climate crisis affecting the world can be found in the reckless drive for profit maximisation by global capitalism led by the U.S. and its developed country allies. This has resulted in ecological destruction in the name of development. The effort in Glasgow was to push ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 as a standard across countries, without taking into account the cumulative emissions for which the Global North is mainly responsible. The effort by some to equate India and other developing countries with the U.S. and Europe as the worst “emitters” is also misplaced precisely for this reason of cumulative emissions. In its model of country-wise cumulative emissions, uses population as a factor in its report of October 5, 2021. It finds that “the U.S., Russia, the U.K., Japan and Canada account for 10% of the world’s population, but 39% of cumulative emissions”, while China, India, Brazil and Indonesia account for 42% of the world’s population but just 23% of cumulative emissions.

Looking inward

To find sustainable solutions, in addition to resisting the imperialist mindset of the developed world, we have to also look at the internal policies of the governments of developing countries. Most of these governments are committed to capitalist appropriation of natural and national resources. For example, the official delegation from India may have fought hard to protect sovereign decisions on the use of fossil-based energy requirements from the hypocritical demands of the Global North for additional commitments against use of coal. But in India, the government’s coal use policy is driven by its determination to hand over mineral resources, including coal, to the corporate sector. Even as India boasts of switching to solar energy to meet its emission control targets, it is privatising the coal industry, auctioning coal mines and encouraging open cast mines without the guarantee of end use, but for commercialisation and export. Thus, on the Glasgow stage, India’s ruling regime wears the crown of a developing country fighting against the aggression of developed countries on climate change responsibilities, but policies at home reflect the interests of domestic and foreign capital — coal is used as a commodity for profit, not necessarily for any development purposes.

It is a similar story on the declaration signed by over 140 countries to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.” India did not sign the agreement on the ground that the declaration linked trade to land use and trade falls under the purview of the World Trade Organization. However, within India, the promotion of policies towards corporatisation of agriculture and the encouragement to contract farming on conditions set by big agri-businesses undermines food security. The pursuit of such policies domestically damages the credibility of India’s stand on international platforms.

The same declaration has important commitments to “recognise and (extend) support to smallholders, indigenous peoples and local communities.” It was convenient for the government not to sign this since it is following policies that are opposed to these commitments. In a slew of amendments proposed to existing laws and policies, the government has moved to monetise, privatise, commercialise and even militarise forests, trampling over the recognised rights of forest communities and specifically tribal communities. These measures are reflected in the proposed Forest Policy of 2018, the suggested amendments to the Forest Act of 1927, the amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957, the changes proposed to the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act of 1957, and the adoption of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules. All these changes strip the Gram Sabhas of any voice in decision-making processes, even though they are affected directly, and make it easier to handover forests to the private sector. These policies have accentuated the diversion of forests for a variety of projects. From 2013-2019, it is estimated that 96% of tree cover loss occurred in natural forests. On the other hand, the Forest Rights Act of 2006, which recognises the rights and duties of Adivasis and traditional forest-dwelling communities, is being diluted with a high rejection of claims.

Setting an example

In the 2015 COP in Paris, the Government of India had promised that it would develop carbon sinks to the equivalent of 2 billion to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030. The government set up a Green Mission for the regeneration of forests, afforestation, additional forest and tree cover, and so on. The Estimates Committee of Parliament in its 2018-2019 report on progress towards these goals slammed the government stating that it “deplores the way that an issue pertaining to the existence of the earth is being handled.” The report stated that to fulfil the promise of sequestering the CO2 target, 30 million hectares of land are required to plant indigenous trees, not monocultures or plantations as is being done at present. Where will this land come from? Planting trees along national highways or along railway tracks as is being planned will be a very small component of the required target. At present, the lands of forest-dwelling communities are being forcibly taken away and used for plantations. The Gram Sabhas are not being consulted. The method of making those communities which have the least responsibility for carbon emissions pay with their lands and livelihoods is embedded in India’s climate change strategies as far as forest policies are concerned.

The clear gap between what is portrayed as a nationalist fight on the international stage and what is followed at home is even more stark with the present regime. The government must reverse its pro-corporate policies reflected in privatisation. It needs to call off its undeclared war on the Forest Rights Act and constitutional provisions that protect Adivasi communities. It is only with the cooperation of those who have protected forests that India can make a real contribution in the efforts to control climate change and be an example to the rest of the world.

Brinda Karat is a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau and a former Rajya Sabha MP

‘Call from within judiciary to change collegium system’

Draft for bringing transparency submitted by Government to Supreme Court pending, says Law Minister

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that there was a call from within the judiciary and parliamentarians to change the collegium system for appointment of judges. He said a draft memorandum of procedure for bringing transparency and accountability to the system was submitted by the Government to the Supreme Court, and it was pending.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill passed by both the Houses of Parliament was declared ultra vires by the Supreme Court in 2015.

“There is a call from several quarters to bring transparency to the appointment of judges. Till 1993, the appointments were taking place as per the Constitution, the President of India appointed the judges in consultation with the SC. Soon this changed and from 1998, the collegium system kicked in. So consultation was changed to concurrence… the nation should introspect on this important issue,” Mr. Rijiju said.

He said the Government should carry out its duty diligently in consultation with the top court.

‘Not a challenge’

“If the Government considers a particular person is not fit to be an SC or HC judge, how can we be forced to appoint that person…my words should not be construed as a challenge to the judiciary. If we are not crossing the line, then others should also not come in our way,” he said.

He said the Government had written to the Chief Justices of all High Courts to include names of members from the reserved categories while recommending names for appointment as judges.

John Brittas of the CPI(M) said it had been six years since the court struck down the NJAC, but “this Government has found it convenient and expedient so that there is a barter”. “The Government has successfully spiked the appointments of those who are inconvenient to them. And the Government has been sitting on the proposals of the collegium whenever they find certain names who are persona non grata for them. Some judges are transferred for unknown reasons as a punishment. But some Chief Justice openly speaks against secularism and thus the Constitution. No age criterion for becoming judges, some are rejected for want of age, some are appointed overnight,” he said.

Mr. Rijiju was participating in a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on a Bill that clarifies the process to count the age of retired judges to determine when they will get enhanced pension. The Bill was passed by voice vote in the Upper House. The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021 was passed earlier by the Lok Sabha.

Holistic solutions needed to tackle income inequality

The News Editorial Analysis 14th Dec 2021

In a country like India where privileges manifest in various forms—gender, caste and religion—the increasing wealth and income disparity only exacerbate the situation. Financial prosperity, which is said to blur other forms of social discrimination, is only deepening the divide as the rich are getting richer and the poor are falling off the curve.

As per the latest World Inequality Report, income and wealth inequalities in India are worse than what they were under British rule—when the richest 10% of the population took away 50% of the total income. Today, the situation is worse with the richest 10% accumulating 57%, while the share of the bottom 50% in the national income has shrunk to 13%. To put things in perspective, globally the richest 10% takes 52% of global income, whereas the poorest half earn 8% of it. The World Inequality Report succinctly puts it: “India stands out as a poor and very unequal country, with an affluent elite.”

India’s per capita income on a purchasing power parity basis has jumped five times from $1,200 in 1990 to $6,500 in 2020. However, this tremendous growth in average income hides the growing inequality within. The Inequality Report points out this irony: “This sharp rise in within-country inequalities has meant that despite economic catch-up and strong growth in the emerging countries, the world remains particularly unequal today.” 

Covid has only made things worse with many people working in the informal sector losing their livelihoods. And while the formal sector has captured the markets left vacant by informal sectors, it did not absorb a large workforce employed by the latter. A report by SBI Research recently pointed out that the share of the informal economy may have shrunk from 52% in FY18 to 20%. India’s labour force participation has also fallen below 50% in the last couple of years and is hovering around 47.5%. If seen through filters of gender, caste, religion and prevailing disparities, the income and wealth inequality may only point towards a more disturbing picture. It is probably time we see these inequality numbers in further detail to address the issue in a more holistic manner.

In major breakthrough, India successfully tests supersonic missile-assisted release of torpedo

In a major technological breakthrough, India on Monday successfully tested the Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system for the first time from a defence facility off the Odisha coast.

Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), SMART is a missile assisted release of lightweight anti submarine torpedo system for Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations far beyond torpedo range. The launch demonstrated India’s anti submarine warfare capabilities.

Defence sources said the test was conducted from a ground based platform at the Abdul Kalam Island at about 11.45 am. All the mission objectives including missile flight upto the range and altitude, separation of the nose cone, release of torpedo and deployment of Velocity Reduction Mechanism (VRM) have been met perfectly.

All the tracking stations, radars, electro-optical systems along the coast and the telemetry stations including down range ships monitored the event. “SMART is a game changer technology demonstration in the anti submarine warfare. It is one of the important missile technologies India has developed in recent times,” DRDO Chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy said.

SMART is a hybrid missile that incorporates technologies of two different weapon systems making it faster and stealthier. With this, India has got an anti-submarine weapon having much higher range. While the long range torpedo available in the world is around 50 km and rocket-assisted torpedoes can strike at a range of 150 km, the SMART will have a range of over 600 km.

“Once fired, the weapon system will fly like a supersonic missile in the air at a low altitude and eject the torpedo into water after it comes closer to the target. The torpedo will then move towards the target and destroy it,” said a scientist associated with the project.

The technology required for SMART has been developed by a number of laboratories, including the Hyderabad-based Defence Research Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Agra-based Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) and Visakhapatnam-based Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL).

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has congratulated the DRDO scientists for the significant achievement. “This will be a major technology breakthrough for stand-off capability in anti-submarine warfare,” he said.


The News Editorial Analysis 13th Dec 2021

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get in touch
close slider