The News Editorial Analysis 19th November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 19th November 2021

Bankers must support job creators, says Modi

Banks must be proactive in lending to smaller businesses: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked bankers to be more proactive in lending to smaller businesses and help improve the viability and scale of their borrowers’ operations to facilitate the country’s leap into the next phase of growth.

The country’s banking system was very strong now with bad loans at a five-year low, thanks to reforms to resolve their challenges over the past six or seven years. More than ₹5 lakh crore had been recovered from the lakhs of crores extended as loans before 2014 that had turned bad, he said. “The transparent and committed manner in which the government has worked is also reflected in the money received back by banks. In our country, when someone runs away after taking a bank loan, it is discussed a lot. But when a strong government gets it back, no one discusses it,” he noted wryly in an address to bankers and industrialists on “Creating synergies for seamless credit flow and economic growth”.

He added that efforts to bring absconding loan defaulters back into the country were still on. Policies, legislation as well as diplomatic channels had been deployed to convey a clear message – This is the only way, come back.

Prior to 2014, some had begun to think that banks belonged to them. “It had become a way of thinking that all that is inside banks is also ours. Whether it stays in the bank or with me, what difference does it make…’ And whatever was desired, was asked for. And whatever was asked for, was given. At that time, it wasn’t known that in 2014, the country will reach a different verdict,” he said.

‘A big milestone’

“Today, banks’ strength has grown so much that they are ready to energise the country’s economy and can play a big role in making India self-reliant. But you would have seen that milestone is also an indicator of our future journey. I see this as a starting point for Indian banks’ new future as well,” he remarked.

WTO must rein in nations violating trade rules: Goyal

Ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meet beginning later this month, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday hit out at countries not working transparently as per global trading rules, without naming China, and called for a reboot of the way the world body goes about its business to deal with such situations. Taking on the developed nations for seeking to treat countries with low per capita incomes on a par with far richer nations, Mr. Goyal urged them to introspect on whether they were letting the least developed and developing nations down on trade, sustainability as well as climate change goals. “The world today has to reassess whether countries across the world are truly and genuinely following the multilateral rules in terms of transparency, fair play and honest business practices,” the Minister noted and stressed that the WTO should review its affairs.

Sexual intent, not skin-to-skin contact, key: SC

Bombay HC had acquitted a man in POCSO case as he groped child over clothes

The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a Bombay High Court decision to acquit a man charged with assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) solely on the grounds that he groped the child over her clothes without “skin-to-skin” contact.

“The act of touching a sexual part of the body with sexual intent will not be trivialised and not excluded under Section 7 of the POCSO Act,” a Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi held.

Section 7 mandates that “whoever with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault”.

Justice Trivedi, who authored the judgment, observed that the “purpose of law is not to allow the offender to sneak out of the mesh of law”.

‘Absurd interpretation’

The court said limiting the ambit of “touch” to a narrow and pedantic” definition would lead to an “absurd interpretation”. The Bench noted that the most important ingredient in Section 7 was the sexual intent of the offender and not skin-to-skin contact.

The conclusion that “sexual intent” mentioned in the provision should be ex facie skin to skin would defeat the object of the provision. It would, rather than giving effect to the rule, destroy it.

Justice Trivedi, speaking for the Bench, said when legislature had clarified its intent, the court should not introduce ambiguity.

“The court should not be overzealous in searching for ambiguity when the words in the section are plain. Someone can wear a surgical glove and exploit a child and get away scot-free … This is an outrageous order,” Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, who moved the top court in the constitutional capacity of his office, had argued during the hearing.

Acceptance of IAS officer’s resignation challenged

‘Notice should be given three months in advance’

A PIL petition challenging the acceptance of the resignation of IAS officer P. Venkatarami Reddy, who filed nomination for MLC election as TRS candidate, by Chief Secretary was filed in Telangana High Court on Thursday.

The plea, likely to be heard by the High Court soon, was filed by J. Shankar and R. Subender Singh, hailing from Karimnagar and Siddipet respectively.

They sought a direction from the court to instruct the Election Commission of India and the Telangana State Legislative Council to reject nomination papers of Mr. Reddy.

The petitioners also wanted the court to declare acceptance of the officer’s resignation as arbitrary and illegal as it was in violation of rule 5 of All India Services (Death and Retirement benefits)-Rules-1958.

They requested the court to stay the acceptance of the officer’s resignation.

They contended that a notice has to be given three months in advance to Department of Personnel and Training Secretary if an IAS officer opts for resignation or voluntary retirement.

But Mr. Reddy attended the office work on November 14 and applied to the State government seeking permission for resignation (voluntary retirement).

The same day, the State government accepted his resignation. The next day, he was selected as candidate for Member of Legislative Council (MLC) post by the ruling party. Two days after resignation, he filed his nomination papers.

The petitioners contended that the Chief Secretary had no power to accept resignation of an IAS officer. They stated that to be eligible to contest as Member of Legislative Council a person should not be a government servant.

However, even before Mr. Reddy’s resignation was not formally completed, the Telangana Legislative Council accepted his nomination papers and this was not justified, the said.

Adoption case: intervention of child rights panel sought

Anupama questions KSCCW’s role in bringing child back

Expressing mistrust in the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare (KSCCW), Anupama S. Chandran, who has alleged that her child was given up for adoption without her knowledge, has sought the intervention of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights for bringing the child back. The KSCCW has been directed by the Child Welfare Committee to bring the child back within five days from Andhra Pradesh where he is under foster care.

Ms. Chandran has said in her representation that the commission must intervene to ensure that the child is brought to the State in a safe and child-friendly manner.

It is a matter of concern that the KSCCW, in the dock for illegally giving the baby in adoption, has been asked to bring the baby back to Kerala. Hence, the intervention of the commission is sought. The police and various child welfare agencies have failed to deliver justice in the case, she said.

DNA test

However, those at the CWC say the KSCCW is duty-bound to bring the child back. The council had earlier submitted an undertaking to the CWC in this regard.

Meanwhile, the CWC has instructed the council to conduct paternity and maternity tests on the baby boy as demanded by Ms. Chandran and her partner B. Ajith Kumar.

A stimulating alliance

Sustained engagement with States and easing their fiscal worries will rev up the economy

The Centre will release over ₹95,000 crore in one stroke to States this month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Monday, after meeting with Chief Ministers and State Finance Ministers to discuss the state of the economy and to sustain the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, no amount of central policy fixes will suffice to revive the country’s long-somnolent investment cycle without States working in tandem. The Government set aside the spate of recent confrontations with States over revenue, GST compensation concerns, and their fears about ‘encroachment’ on their powers, to initiate an economy-focused dialogue independent of Budget consultations and GST Council machinations. Its ready acceptance of States’ request to expedite the sharing of taxable revenues — as in the case of GST compensation for this year — is a token of the faith it seeks to imbue. While most States have positive cash balances, access now to double the funds than usual will help them ramp up capital expenditure. The cash flow could also help several States catch up on their capex targets, on which hinges an additional borrowing limit of 0.5% of their Gross State Domestic Product. The Finance Ministry’s clarification that the excise duty cuts on petrol and diesel shall not dent the tax pool shared with States has also soothed frayed nerves.

The rare and ‘one-off’ meeting with CMs yielded several ideas and policy proposals, including a simple demand that the Centre share leads about prospective investors and enunciate a clear policy on green clearances. While the Finance Ministry believes that investments are on the cusp of a take-off, public investments will need to do the heavy lifting for several more quarters before the private sector can be expected to spur the economy’s growth. The Centre and States need to combine forces to make it an easier and swifter journey through red tape for potential investors. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said that just 10 States have joined the single window clearance system for investors, and four more may join next month. It not only makes sense to sustain this free-wheeling economic dialogue with States because the economy still needs collective hand-holding, but it also merits a broad-basing of the framework to include key economic ministries, and occasionally, the Prime Minister too. Investment facilitation was a key agenda item, so it would have been apt to include the Industry Minister in the deliberations to nudge States into joining the single window system. Closing this somewhat informal channel for dialogue with the States, outside the framework of NITI Aayog and the National Development Council, would be a wasted opportunity with embedded economic costs.

Agreeing to disagree

The U.S., China will have to be even-handed over their conflicts on trade, regional tensions

As much as the virtual summit meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, spotlighted multiple points of continuing strategic dissonance between the U.S. and China, it equally appeared to underscore in their minds the need for them to find common ground on contentious issues including trade and tensions surrounding Taiwan and the South China Sea. The summit itself was a long time coming, given that Mr. Xi has not been able to travel abroad owing to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mr. Biden entered office around that time too. Further, in March 2021, at a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between senior officials from both countries, a heated exchange ensued after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that without the rules-based international order there would be a “much more violent world” and that Chinese activities in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, threaten that order, and were not internal matters. In that context, it is unsurprising that even though the summit meeting yielded no major breakthroughs, Beijing was quick to claim a diplomatic victory, with Chinese state media proclaiming, “Biden reiterates he doesn’t support Taiwan independence.” Such messaging is almost certainly directed towards a domestic audience given that Mr. Xi is consolidating power to secure a third term for himself, a process that will culminate next year in the CPC’s 20th Congress.

At the top of the policy agenda that is causing bilateral friction is trade. After the bruising trade war with China prior to 2020, under a Trump White House, relief came in the form of the Phase 1 Trade Agreement, which requires that China buy $380 billion worth of American goods by the end of 2021. That has not happened, according to some analysts, in part owing to a shortfall in orders from Beijing for Boeing aircraft in view of the aviation slowdown. Yet, compromise may not be far away in this space, as the U.S. Trade Representative hinted that the Trump-era practice of permitting exemptions for certain goods from trade tariffs may be resumed. On Taiwan’s independence, while the U.S. post-summit readouts suggest that Washington is adhering to its long-standing policy in this matter — that it acknowledges but does not recognise Beijing’s claim over Taiwan under the One China policy — the Chinese side indicated that Mr. Xi said, “It is playing with fire…..” Such comments likely signal that China will respond robustly to any western moves seen as strengthening Taiwanese independence, for example through direct arms sales to Taipei. Both sides will have to be even-handed in managing their conflicts on trade and regional tensions or else risk these issues spilling over into the global arena and disrupting the fragile ongoing recovery in economic growth and public health.

The heavy lifting on climate action must begin

Glasgow’s success was that it finished building the scaffolding for climate action, and countries must respond now

Will the recently concluded, and much reported on, Glasgow climate meeting (COP26) make a difference to humanity’s efforts to address global climate change? Glasgow’s success was that it finished building the scaffolding for climate action initiated through the Paris Agreement. But true success depends on whether countries are receptive to these nudges. Without generating greater political support for implementation within countries, international negotiations do risk becoming the ‘blah, blah, blah’ talk-fests that youth activists such as Greta Thunberg warn about.

Hits and misses

Yet, Glasgow was necessary for stronger action to address climate change because it put in place levers that stimulate domestic processes, such as the formulation of domestic pledges or ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs). Drawing on the insights from a webinar organised by the Centre for Policy Research, what were Glasgow’s successes and failures?

Mitigation, or efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as always, grabbed the headlines. Glasgow strengthened the Paris Agreement mechanism of eliciting pledges from countries and ratcheting them up over time. It requested countries to update and strengthen 2030 emission targets in their NDCs by the end of 2022, earlier than previously expected, created a benchmark of five yearly cycles for updates, urged countries to prepare long-term emissions strategies, and strengthened mechanisms to scrutinise both.

Success at Glasgow was explicitly defined around ‘keeping 1.5 degrees alive’ through such pledges. When added up by modellers, the flurry of net-zero pledges extracted pre-Glasgow, including a surprise net zero by 2070 pledge by India, showed that limiting warming to 1.5º° is still technically feasible, but only just. In the jargon of climate negotiations, Glasgow clarified the ‘ambition cycle’, and this appears to have had results in the form of enhanced pledges.

There are two problems with this interpretation. First, the Paris, and Glasgow, approach focusing on target-setting gives insufficient importance to the challenge of implementing those targets. Long-term aspirational targets to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ get the headlines, but detailed shorter term 2030 targets, for which today’s politicians can be held accountable, have received less attention. A focus on shorter term targets and their implementation — which India to its credit has been highlighting — will be important. Second, by calling on countries to strengthen targets to align with the Paris Agreement objectives without explicitly considering that countries have different roles and responsibilities in doing so risks side-stepping, again, the long-standing issue of climate equity. Future arguments over how we know whether a countries’ pledges are adequate and fair are guaranteed.

On coal use

The question of equity crystallised around a specific high profile clause calling for the ‘phase down of unabated coal power and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. India ended up at the centre of this particular storm, because it was the Indian Minister who read out an amendment modifying ‘phase-out’ to ‘phase-down’ for coal, among other changes, although the language originated from the U.S.-China statement. India’s real concerns included not precluding subsidies for social purposes, such as for cooking gas; querying whether from an equity point of view, all countries should be asked to limit coal use at the same time; and noting the lack of mention of oil and gas.

On coal specifically, India is actually on a strong footing substantively, as our investments in new coal-fired plants have been much less than projected even a few years ago. Nonetheless, the term ‘phase-out’ is of considerable importance to vulnerable countries, and, that India introduced the amendment although the language originated elsewhere, has given us a somewhat unnecessary diplomatic black eye. From an environmental point of view, more explicit discussion of coal, but ideally all fossil fuels, is a positive, including for India. From a developmental view, however, India is concerned that explicit mention of coal constrains us in our choice of fuel. A possible way out is for India to explicitly seek global support for an accelerated transition away from coal, an approach taken by South Africa.

Adaptation — preparing for the reality that some climate impacts are unavoidable — has long been neglected in global negotiations, reflecting a global power imbalance that places less weight on the concerns of vulnerable nations. In this context, it was a partial win that Glasgow set up an explicit two year work programme for a ‘global goal’ on adaptation.

However, the important complementary agenda of ‘loss and damage’ – compensating for unavoidable impacts that go beyond adaptation — received at most lip service. Even though there was discussion of a specific mechanism, backed by funding, to the dismay of small, vulnerable nations, only a ‘dialogue’ was established. At the core is the fear among some developed countries that taking forward the loss and damage agenda will open the door to a call for reparations.

Finance, the central issue

Climate finance promised to be the central issue of COP26, with considerable frustration from developing countries that the decade-long commitment of $100 billion had not been met. Beyond expressing ‘deep regret’ at this failure — a diplomatic slap on the face for developed countries — Glasgow did no more than establish a work programme on post-2025 financing and continue tracking progress on the $100 billion. The exception was a call to double adaptation finance by 2025. Since current levels of finance are already low, this implies mobilising about $40 billion, which is well short of estimated needs; the United Nations finds current needs are $70 billion and rise considerably in coming years.

However, there were indications that the climate finance discussion may become more complex. South Africa announced it had received multi-donor support of $8.5 billion to support a ‘just transition’ out of coal, and India is reportedly negotiating support from the World Bank to address coal mine closures. Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney indicated that companies committed to net zero initiatives could marshal a scarcely believable $130 trillion, suggesting growing efforts to mobilise private finance. Developing countries have long insisted that publicly funded climate finance is a right devolving from the ‘polluter pays’ principle rather than aid. However, these tendencies suggest that to access substantial funds may require embracing a more multi-stranded approach.

There were two particularly important ‘nuts and bolts’ elements of what is called the ‘Paris Rulebook’ that were completed in Glasgow. First, the transparency framework was completed, which includes reporting rules and formats for emissions, progress on pledges and finance contributions. While India and some other countries pushed for separate rules for developed and developing countries, the Glasgow outcomes narrowed this gap. To ratchet up pledges and action over time, this enhanced transparency is crucial and, other than issues of capacity, there is little justification for separate developing and developed country transparency requirements.

The second key was completion of agreed rules for carbon markets, the complexities of which had stymied agreement for four years. For example, credits generated from earlier periods, including through the Clean Development Mechanism were permitted, but only from 2013 onwards. Rules were put in place to limit the scope for ‘double-counting’ of credits by more than one country.

Support at home is now key

What Glasgow accomplished was necessary, if not sufficient, for accelerated climate action. The meeting hit many, but not all, of its procedural benchmarks by building scaffolding for the future. But the real determinant of success or failure rests on national politics and popular support for climate change within countries — how countries use the scaffolding. For India, these politics are complex because they revolve around simultaneously balancing concerns over whether our policy space will be limited by inequities embedded in the global mitigation efforts, and our own interests as a vulnerable country in enhancing and accelerating climate action. A balanced view requires consideration of both objectives.

Navroz K. Dubash is a Professor at

the Centre for Policy Research

Missing an inclusionary vision for the urban poor

The Tamil Nadu draft resettlement policy clings to a tired model of peripheral resettlement that fails on social justice

In Chennai, where involuntary resettlement of slum dwellers has been practised for at least two centuries, the last two decades alone have seen over 55,000 families forcibly moved to large state-built ghettos outside the city. In the absence of a policy, these relocations have been governed by ad hoc government orders or by guidelines of specific projects or funding agencies.

A narrow outlook

In October 2021, the Tamil Nadu government released its first-ever draft “Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy” for public comment. While long awaited, the policy is also premature. It is not anchored in a comprehensive housing and habitat policy that defines a framework for affordable housing, slum clearance, and land use in which the relocation of slum dwellers to remote peripheries is specified as a last-ditch option.

The draft policy aims to “ensure that slum dwellers are treated fairly and humanely when they are resettled from objectionable poromboke lands”. But resettlement needs to be located within an explicitly stated vision of integration and inclusion of vulnerable communities into the mainstream. Instead, this policy restricts its scope to managing procedures for eviction and resettlement.

Mass ghettos on the peripheries of cities have emerged all over the country as the default mode for rehousing the evicted urban poor. The consequences have been well documented. In places such as Bawana (New Delhi), Vatwa (Ahmedabad), and Mahul (Mumbai), scholars, journalists, and fact-finding committees have highlighted the enduring pathologies produced by these poorly serviced colonies. While broken livelihoods are widely recognised as the most serious impact of resettlement, a host of other problems such as alcohol and substance abuse, criminalisation of youth, and safety threats to women and girls are also endemic to these sites. Many residents sell or rent out their allotments and return to informal settlements in the city to safeguard their painstakingly crafted pathways to a better life.

A resettlement policy, dealing as it does with the city’s most vulnerable populations, must be visionary, proactive and far-sighted. It should ensure minimal disruption of the ecologies of survival and mobility that these households have constructed over time. If it needs to uproot them, it must ensure that the state does everything it can to support their rapid re-integration into the urban mainstream and improve their lives. Delhi’s slum rehabilitation policy recognises this by defining in situ rehabilitation as its principle strategy, with relocation envisaged only “in rare cases”.

Tamil Nadu led the way

Chennai has a history of implementing innovative and inclusionary models of slum clearance. Tamil Nadu historically led the country in providing large-scale low-income housing through land acquisition or by regularising and upgrading informal settlements. The sites and services projects of the 1980s, which produced around 57,000 plots in Chennai, proved scaleable, cost-effective, and successful in facilitating socio-economic mobility for their residents over the long term. The projects built mixed-class and mixed-use neighbourhoods by providing plots of varying sizes for different income groups on State-acquired land, and incorporating industrial and commercial spaces within the sites. By allowing families to design, build, and incrementally expand their homes to accommodate growing families or rental units, these schemes vastly expanded the supply of affordable housing over time with minimal outlay by the State. Despite their peripheral location, they were sited near existing developments where trunk infrastructure such as roads, water supply and public transport was already available. Thirty years later, they have emerged as thriving and dynamic neighbourhoods, well integrated into the urban fabric.

The deficiencies

Instead of leveraging these achievements to allow low-income families to consolidate their foothold in the city, the Tamil Nadu resettlement policy implicitly clings to the tired and discredited model of mass peripheral resettlement.

The policy defines its scope as resettling people evicted “for implementing court orders, other developmental projects or enforcing various acts or rules”. In other words, it simply subserves the government’s implacable intent to remove “encroachers” — defined as non-titleholders — for a wide range of discretionary purposes ranging from mitigating disaster vulnerability to clearing land for “smoothing traffic” or for various infrastructural or developmental projects. Since a large proportion of urban land across Indian cities, including plots purchased and registered, lack the holy grail of legal title, the policy builds on a foundation of widespread vulnerability to eviction without recourse. Contrast this with Odisha’s award-winning slum rehabilitation project which is transforming urban economies and futures by giving land rights to slum dwellers.

Despite pious language, the Tamil Nadu draft policy is churlish about any real commitments to integration. For example, in addressing the crucial question of distance, it stipulates that travel time by bus or train “should not be more than half an hour to reach the nearest urban areas from where people are expected to be relocated”. This is, perhaps deliberately, ambiguous. The “nearest urban area” could be a small town. A resettlement colony sited a 30-minute bus ride from a small town can effectively ruralise urban workers, as has occurred in the Gudapakkam resettlement colony built in 2014, about 50 km from Chennai city. A clear stipulation of the maximum distance from the previous residence would do the job that this clause pretends to be doing. The Delhi policy, for instance, specifies that the alternate accommodation will be provided “within a radius of 5 km”.

A sensitive policy would build measures to ensure the adequacy, quality and timeliness of amenities in resettlement sites. While “integrated townships with all amenities” has been the stated norm for two decades now, resettlement colonies saw these amenities arrive slowly, haltingly, sometimes a decade or more after the move, often following sustained pressure from residents and activists, and often too late to prevent the irrevocable breakdown of fragile livelihood and educational trajectories. High drop-out rates, of women from the labour force and children from schools, have been the norm in these colonies.

Engage with the problems

Given this record, the resettlement policy must demonstrate a more convincing intent to provide decent service standards at the new sites. “Transport facilities” cannot mean starting with a few bus routes and increasing them over time, but must comprise adequate, reliable and affordable arrangements before resettlement to ensure that workers seamlessly maintain their links to their workplaces. Livelihood support cannot simply mean “skill development training” which almost surely will not translate into employment for an over-40-year-old vendor from the city. Most crucially, an effective policy must engage seriously with the complex problems that render these settlements unsafe for women, children and youth.

Karen Coelho is an Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies

SC says sexual intent is key to POCSO Act

The court, while setting aside the High Court decision, confirmed the guilt of the offender in the case and sentenced him to three years of rigorous imprisonment, subject to the period he had undergone.

Mr. Venugopal had argued that the High Court order would set a “very dangerous precedent” and cripple the intention of the POCSO Act to punish sexual offenders. He stressed that the High Court order had a deleterious effect when the number of POCSO cases had reached 43,000 in a year.

On January 19, a Single Judge of the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench created a furore by acquitting the man under the POCSO Act and holding that an act against a minor would amount to groping or sexual assault only if there was “skin-to-skin” contact.

The High Court had concluded that mere touching or pressing of a clothed body of a child did not amount to sexual assault.

RBI panel moots law to regulate digital lending

It proposes a nodal agency to vet apps

A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Working Group (WG) on digital lending, including lending through online platforms and mobile apps, has recommended a separate legislation to oversee such lending as well as a nodal agency to vet the Digital Lending Apps.

The group ‘set up in the backdrop of business conduct and customer protection concerns arising out of the spurt in digital lending activities’ has also mooted a Self-Regulatory Organisation for participants in the digital lending ecosystem.

Besides a separate law to prevent illegal digital lending activities, the group has proposed development of certain baseline technology standards and compliance with those standards as a pre-condition for offering digital lending solutions.

It has also suggested that disbursement of loans be made directly into the bank accounts of borrowers and servicing of loans be done only through the bank accounts of the digital lenders.

All data collection must require the prior consent of borrowers and come ‘with verifiable audit trails’ and the data itself ought to be stored locally, it mooted.

Amid row over Pentagon-mentioned village within Arunachal, second illegal Chinese enclave found near LAC

This village in the Shi-Yomi district lies 93 km east of another China-constructed village in Arunachal Pradesh. Satellite images show the village did not exist till 2019.

The News Editorial Analysis 19th November 2021

Amid simmering controversy following a Pentagon report on China constructing a village within Arunachal Pradesh, another Chinese enclave has now been detected along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the same state. 

“China has constructed a second enclave or cluster of at least 60 buildings in Arunachal Pradesh,” a media channel reported.

This village in the Shi-Yomi district lies 93 km east of another China-constructed village in Arunachal Pradesh. Satellite images show the village did not exist till 2019.


In a recent report, the US Department of Defense had flagged China’s building of a village comprising 100 houses along the LAC in Arunachal. Taking strong note of the report, India’s foreign office had said it does not accept any such illegal construction.

“India has neither accepted such illegal occupation of our territory nor has it accepted the unjustified Chinese claims,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said.

China has been developing integrated Model Villages along the 3,488-km LAC for dual-use so as to double up as an extended cantonment. 

Meanwhile, the 23rd meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs was held on Thursday.

The two sides had candid discussions on the developments since the last meeting of Corps Commanders on October 10. 

“It was agreed that both sides should hold the next (14th) round of the Senior Commanders meeting at an early date to achieve the objective of complete disengagement from all the friction points along the LAC in the Western Sector in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements and protocols,” the MEA said in a statement. 

Ensure stability

The two sides also agreed that both countries should in the interim continue to ensure a stable ground situation and avoid any untoward incident on the Line of Actual Control.

The Indian delegation was led by Additional Secretary (East Asia) from the MEA.

Where insurgency persists in northeast

The PLA is a rebel outfit comprising the Meiteis, the majority community in Manipur who reside mainly in the Imphal Valley.

Nearly a week after last Saturday’s insurgent ambush in Churachandpur, Manipur, that killed an Assam Rifles commanding officer, Col Viplav Tripathi, his family and four personnel of the paramilitary force, there is still no clarity over who carried out the attack and the motivation behind it. Although two groups, the People’s Liberation Army and a little-known Naga group called the Manipur Naga People’s Front, have claimed responsibility, the plausibility of the PLA’s involvement appears more likely.

The PLA is a rebel outfit comprising the Meiteis, the majority community in Manipur who reside mainly in the Imphal Valley. Although the attack took place in a district dominated by the Kukis, a major tribe in the state, the possibility of the PLA’s hand is more because it has bases in Myanmar, which borders Churachandpur. Many northeastern insurgent outfits had bases located in the Naga-dominated areas of Myanmar, particularly in the Sagaing division, but they were evicted and shut down after an agreement between India and that country in 2018. But several Manipuri insurgent outfits, including the PLA, are still harboured outside the Sagaing division. So it is possible that PLA rebels crossed into Manipur through the porous Indo-Myanmar border, carried out the ambush and made their way back to the neighbouring country.

But whichever the rebel group responsible for the attack and whatever the objective, the fact is that of all the states in the Northeast, Manipur remains the only one where simmering insurgency continues even now, whereas the guns have long fallen silent in all other areas. From Nagaland and Mizoram to Assam and Tripura, insurgent groups have either laid down their arms or become dormant following ceasefire agreements. This is not so in Manipur, where Meitei-dominated outfits have refused to either surrender or enter into any sort of agreement with the government. The timing of the attack is also significant. It comes at a time when the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M), which is at loggerheads with the PLA, is engaged in talks with the Centre to reach an agreement, reportedly before Christmas. The PLA perhaps wanted to send the government a message that it needs to be counted too.

Pakistan Parliament approves chemical castration of those convicted of multiple rapes

The bill is a response to a public outcry against a recent spike in incidents of rape of women and children in the country and growing demands for effectively curbing the crime.

Sex offenders convicted of multiple rapes in Pakistan could face chemical castration after Parliament passed a new legislation that aims to speed up convictions and impose tougher sentences.

The bill is a response to a public outcry against a recent spike in incidents of rape of women and children in the country and growing demands for effectively curbing the crime.

The passage of the bill comes almost a year after President Arif Alvi approved the new anti-rape ordinance that was cleared by the Pakistan Cabinet, calling for the chemical castration of rapists with the consent of the convict and setting up of special courts for speedy trails.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2021 bill was passed along with 33 other bills by the joint session of parliament on Wednesday. It seeks to amend the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“Chemical castration is a process duly notified by rules framed by the prime minister, whereby a person is rendered incapable of performing sexual intercourse for any period of his life, as may be determined by the court through administration of drugs which shall be conducted through a notified medical board,” according to the bill.

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed protested over the bill and termed it un-Islamic and against Sharia.

He said a rapist should be hanged publicly, but there was no mention of castration in Sharia.

Chemical castration is the use of drugs to reduce sexual activity. It is a legal form of punishment in countries including South Korea, Poland, the Czech Republic and in some states in the US, according to media reports.

Critics say fewer than 4 per cent of sexual assault or rape cases in Pakistan result in a conviction.

Supreme Court for CBI probe into Hindustan Zinc stake sale, Shourie points to closure report

The decision came on a 2014 plea by the National Confederation of Officers Association of Central Public Sector Enterprises and certain others, challenging the government’s proposed sale of its residual shareholding.

The Supreme Court Thursday gave a go-ahead to the Centre to disinvest its 29.54 per cent residual shares in Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL). At the same time, it directed a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the process of disinvestment of 26 per cent government shares in the company in 2002.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and B V Nagarathna said that after the 2002 disinvestment, HZL had ceased to be a government company within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1956, and was only a shareholder in the company and, therefore, entitled to sell its shareholding.

The decision came on a 2014 plea by the National Confederation of Officers Association of Central Public Sector Enterprises and certain others, challenging the government’s proposed sale of its residual shareholding.

When The Indian Express sought his comments on the direction for a CBI probe, Arun Shourie, who was Union Disinvestment Minister in 2002, said: “If the SC has said register a case, let the case be registered. I am sure everyone concerned will cooperate fully. But here the point to see is this was challenged when it was disinvested. SC rejected the petition challenging the disinvestment. Now the SC has disregarded that order and asked the CBI to probe. CBI had filed a closure report in the matter. Now you say investigate again.”

“The officers who were dealing with this particular case (disinvestment) were very meticulous and cautious. It is not possible that these officers would do something that was contrary to the laid down procedures. The production of the company increased manifold after disinvestment. It was regarded as a great success at that time. If after 20 years, you are going to say that even though the CBI has found nothing, even though the SC has rejected a similar petition earlier, still a case should be registered, then the officers better watch out,” he said.

The disinvestment of HZL started in 1991-92 when the Union government sold 24.08 per cent of its shareholding in the domestic market. In 2002, the government disinvested 26 per cent of its equity in HZL in favour of Sterlite Opportunities & Ventures Ltd (SOVL).

In April 2002, SOVL acquired 20 per cent of HZL equity from the open market by a mandatory open offer, in compliance with norms of the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

In August 2003, SOVL exercised its first call option for 18.92 per cent of the equity holding, which was transferred in its favour in November 2003. Following this acquisition, SOVL became a majority shareholder with a 64.92 per cent equity stake in HZL.

Writing for the bench, Justice Chandrachud said “the Union Government is a shareholder of HZL. The control and management of HZL does not vest with the Union Government which has a residual stake of 29.54 per cent. The shareholding of SOVL stood increased to 64.92 per cent after the exercise of the first call option in 2002. During the course of hearing, this Court has been apprised by SOVL that it does not seek to exercise the second call option, in terms of the Share Purchase Agreement. It is in this backdrop that a decision has been taken by the Union Government to sell its residuary shareholding in the open market. The Union Government, in its capacity as a shareholder of HZL, is entitled to take such a decision”.

The government had opposed the petition, saying it was barred by principles of res judicata since the Supreme Court had dismissed a petition on the same issue by Maton Mines Mazdoor Sangh’s writ petition on December 10, 2012.

But the bench rejected this, saying the 2012 dismissal was “in limine, without a substantive adjudication on the merits of their claim” and hence “the present writ petition is not barred by res judicata”.

The bench also rejected the argument that its 2003 decision in Centre for Public Interest Litigation vs Union of India — wherein it said divestment of government stake in HPCL and BPCL, as a result of which the companies would cease to be government companies, could not be undertaken without amending the statutes under which they were nationalised — will apply in the case of HZL.

It said HPCL and BPCL were government companies when the disinvestment action was challenged, but HZL had ceased to be a government company in March 2002.

The CBI had registered a Preliminary Enquiry in the matter on November 6, 2013, but decided to file a closure report in 2017. While the Special Prosecutor, CBI Head Office, New Delhi, Director of Prosecution and Special Director recommended closure, the Additional Director, CBI, and some others recommended converting the preliminary enquiry into a regular case.

In view of the difference of opinion between the CBI Director and Director of Prosecution, the matter was to be referred to the Attorney General on October 17, 2014, the judgment said, adding “however, the status of this referral has not been alluded to before us, for determination of the closure of the preliminary enquiry”.

Directing a CBI probe, the bench referred to some of the points flagged by the investigators who had recommended registration of a regular case.

It pointed out that the Disinvestment Commission had recommended HZL disinvestment, though not beyond 25 per cent of the equity in order to retain control, but “the Core Group of Secretaries on Disinvestment, on 17 February 2000, had allegedly disregarded this recommendation and proposed a sale of 26 per cent, without any justification”. Ultimately, 26 per cent was sold, the ruling noted, adding “this was allegedly done on the basis of a senior government official’s note dated 27 August 2000, without further details or reasoning”.

The bench said “some… observations of the officials of the CBI, who recommended the conversion of the preliminary enquiry into a regular case, satisfy this Court’s conscience for exercising its exceptional powers to direct the CBI to conduct an investigation into the matter”.

Stating that “a prima facie case for a cognizable offence, as mandated in… the CBI Manual, has been made out in this case”, the bench directed registration of a regular case “by a full-fledged investigation” with status reports to the court.

The News Editorial Analysis 18th November 2021

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