The News Editorial Analysis 22 September 2021 | Shikara Academy

Two more beaches in India have been awarded ‘Blue Flag’ certification, an international eco-level tag, taking the total number of such beaches in the country to 10, the Environment Ministry said on Tuesday.

The two beaches to receive the certification this year are Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Pondicherry, the ministry said.

Foundation for Environment Education in Denmark (FEE) which accords the globally recognized eco-label – Blue Flag certification, has also given re-certification for eight nominated beaches Shivrajpur- Gujarat, Ghoghla-Diu, Kasarkod and Padubidri-Karnataka, Kappad-Kerala, Rushikonda- Andhra Pradesh, Golden-Odisha and Radhanagar- Andaman and Nicobar, which were awarded the Blue Flag certificate last year.

These eight beaches got the Blue Flag certification on October 6 last year.

Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav took to Twitter to express happiness and congratulated everyone stating that it is another milestone in India’s journey towards a Clean and Green India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

‘Happy to announce India now has 10 International Blue Flag beaches with the addition of Kovalam and Eden beaches this year and recertification for 8 beaches which got the tag in 2020. Another milestone in our journey towards a clean and green India led by PM @NarendraModi Ji,” Yadav tweeted.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its pursuit of “Sustainable Development” of the coastal regions of India embarked upon a highly acclaimed and flagship program Beach Environment and Aesthetics Management Services (BEAMS) which is one of the initiatives under the ICZM approach that the MoEF&CC has undertaken for the sustainable development of coastal regions of India, with a prime objective to protect and conserve the pristine coastal and marine ecosystems through holistic management of the resources.

This was aimed at achieving the globally recognized and coveted International eco-label “Blue Flag”, accorded by the International Jury comprising of members from IUCN, UNWTO, UNEP and UNESCO. FEE Denmark conducts regular monitoring and audits for strict compliance with the 33 criteria at all times. A waving “Blue Flag” is an indication of 100 per cent compliance to these 33 stringent criteria and sound health of the beach.

Ministry of Education forms a National Steering Committee for the Development of National Curriculum Frameworks.

The 12-member committee, which has a three-year term, will be headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, who also headed the drafting committee of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

THE GOVERNMENT on Tuesday initiated the process to revise the NCERT textbooks, which are taught in CBSE-affiliated schools across the country, by setting up a committee for drafting the document that will lay down the broad guidelines for changes in the curriculum.

The 12-member National Steering Committee will be headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, who also headed the drafting committee of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The document, known as the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), was last prepared in 2005 under the UPA government, and before that, it was revised in 1975, 1988 and 2000.

The committee also includes National Book Trust chairman Govind Prasad Sharma, who has been the president of RSS’s education wing Vidya Bharati, which runs a chain of schools across the country. Sharma remains a member of Vidya Bharti’s central executive committee.Among others, the committee has Fields Medal recipient Manjul Bhargava, author of ‘The Lost River: On The Trail of Saraswati’ Michel Danino, Jamia Milia Islamia University Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar and Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh Vice-Chancellor T V Kattimani.

Bhargava and Kattimani were also part of the NEP drafting panel, apart from Kasturirangan.

The formation of the committee comes a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that school students will study under a new curriculum drawn from the NEP by 2022 when the country celebrates the 75th year of Independence.

Revisions in the school curriculum to correct alleged historical inaccuracies and incorporate elements of “ancient Indian knowledge” have long dominated the agenda of the RSS, which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP. Murli Manohar Joshi, who was the Human Resource Development Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government between 1998-99 and 1999-2004, had faced allegations of “saffronisation of education”.

A Parliamentary panel led by Rajya Sabha member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe had earlier this year taken up the issue of textbook reforms, seeking submissions on books containing “unhistorical facts and distortions”.

Since coming to power in 2014, the BJP government has effected some revisions in the curriculum, including the introduction of schemes and policies such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Digital India and move towards cashless economy.

Significantly, the NEP also states that elements such as knowledge from ancient India “will be incorporated in an accurate and scientific manner throughout the school curriculum wherever relevant” and that “Indian Knowledge Systems, including tribal knowledge and indigenous and traditional ways of learning, will be covered and included in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, yoga, architecture, medicine, agriculture, engineering, linguistics, literature, sports, games, as well as in governance, polity, conservation”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Union Ministry of Education said the NCF will be drafted “as per the perspectives of the NEP”, which is also mentioned in the education policy. The committee will also develop curriculum for early childhood, teacher and adult education, the statement detailing the terms of references of the committee said.


Traditionally, the state governments also follow the NCF in revising their respective school curriculum through the participation of the State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), which draw up the State Curriculum Frameworks (SCF).Importantly, the newly constituted NCF has also been directed to draw inputs from the SCFs, which will have to be drawn up first, unlike in the past when the SCFs followed the NCF


“The Committee will finalize National Curriculum Frameworks after incorporating suggestions received from various stakeholders, i.e., states/UTs and also in the meetings of Executive Committee (EC) and General Body (GB) of the NCERT and Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE),” the statement said. The committee, which will have a tenure of three years, would also “reflect upon the implications of situations such as Covid-19  pandemic” on respective areas for future in drawing up the NCF.

SC collegium recommendations: 13 HCs set to get new Chief Justice

Coming amid concerns over judicial backlog resulting from the vacancies, the decision is seen as a significant step and reflects the “collective determination of the Collegium  to strengthen the judiciary by filing vacancies”.

In another determined push to fill judicial vacancies in High Courts and spruce up their working, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has recommended appointment of Chief Justices for eight HCs and cleared the transfer of five HC Chief Justices.

Coming amid concerns over judicial backlog resulting from the vacancies, the decision is seen as a significant step and reflects the “collective determination of the Collegium to strengthen the judiciary by filing vacancies”.It also comes hardly a month after the Collegium created a record of sorts by recommending nine judges to the top court, leaving it with just one vacancy out of a sanctioned strength of 34 judges. This was followed by recommendations to fill 94 vacancies in various HC, the highest ever by the Collegium in such a short period.

As per resolutions uploaded on the top court’s official webpage on Tuesday, Collegium members who met on September 16 recommended elevation of Acting Chief Justice (CJ) of Calcutta HC, Justice Rajesh Bindal, as CJ of Allahabad HC; and Justice Prakash Shrivastava of Madhya Pradesh HC as CJ of Calcutta HC. Acting CJ of Chattisgarh HC, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, has been recommended as the new CJ of Andhra Pradesh HC; while Justice Rituraj Awasthi, now with Allahabad HC, has been recommended as Karnataka HC CJ.The Collegium recommended Justice Satish Chandra Sharma of Karnataka HC for the office of Telengana HC CJ, and Justice Ranjit V More of Bombay HC as Meghalaya HC CJ. Justice Aravind Kumar of Karnataka HC has been recommended as Gujarat HC CJ, and Acting CJ of Himachal Pradesh HC, R V Malimath, has been recommended as Madhya Pradesh CJ.

While some of the eight CJ posts were already vacant, four more fell vacant after elevation of Justices Hima Kohli, Vikram Nath, Abhay S Oka and J K Maheshwari — who were CJs of Telengana, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Sikkim HCs, respectively — as Supreme Court judges recently.

The five CJs recommended for transfer are Justice Arup Kumar Goswami from Andhra Pradesh HC to Chhattisgarh HC, Justice Mohammad Rafiq from Madhya Pradesh HC to Himachal Pradesh HC, Justice Akil Kureshi from Tripura HC to Rajasthan HC, Justice Indrajit Mahanty from Rajasthan HC to Tripura HC, and Justice Biswanath Somadder from Meghalaya HC to Sikkim HC.

The resolutions also show that the Collegium, in meetings held on September 16 and 21, cleared the transfer of 23 HC judges. Five of these names are reiterations, indicating that the Collegium had decided to stand by its recommendation on them, notwithstanding representations from the individual judges to reconsider.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that the Collegium had proposed 28 names of HC judges for transfer and has learnt that the process is continuing with some more names.After assuming charge as the CJI in April this year, Justice Ramana has recommended nearly 100 names for appointment to different high courts, besides filling up nine vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court in one go. The 25 high courts in the country have a combined sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges and on May 1, 2021, they were functioning with 420 judges only.


Crisis at a Chinese giant.

China Evergrande Crisis: Explained – What is it? What triggered it? Impact on global markets? What next for investors? All you need to know.

Global stock markets on Tuesday were caught in the grip of contagion fears sparked by troubles at China Evergrande as growing risks the property giant could default on its massive debt prompted investors to flee riskier assets.China Evergrande Crisis News: For the past few days, China’s property giant Evergrande is continuously hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Even, global markets are witnessing the impact owing to reports that troubled property giant Evergrande would fail to make interest payments due next week. Rating agencies have warned the cash-strapped company could default on its debt. So, what this China Evergrande Crisis is all about?   What triggered the financial mayhem? What’s its impact on global markets? And, most importantly what next for global investors – Here is all you need to know:-

What is Evergrande?

Evergrande Group, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls and one of its biggest private sector conglomerates.

– The company says it has more than 200,000 employees and supports 3.8 million jobs in construction and other industries. Evergrande says it has 1,300 projects in 280 cities and assets worth 2.3 trillion yuan (USD350 billion).

What is China Evergrande crisis?

Global investors are watching nervously as one of China’s biggest real estate developers struggles to avoid defaulting on tens of billions of dollars of debt, fueling fears of possible wider shock waves for the financial system.

– Evergrande, which reportedly faces at least $83.5 million in interest payments due on Thursday, with a 30-day grace period, is raising concerns about a liquidity crisis among all Chinese and Hong Kong property companies, as markets quickly turn off access to dollar funding.

– Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares have fallen 85% since early 2021.

– Its bonds are trading at an equally deep discount.

– Evergrande was caught out by new limits regulators imposed on real estate-related borrowing as part of the Communist Party’s marathon campaign to reduce reliance on debt.

– Economists have been warning China’s rising debt is a potential threat for more than a decade.

China Evergrande Crisis: Impact on global markets?

– Global stock markets on Tuesday were caught in the grip of contagion fears sparked by troubles at China Evergrande as growing risks the property giant could default on its massive debt prompted investors to flee riskier assets.

– Selling pressure persisted in early trade in Asia ahead of a major test for Evergrande this week, which is due to pay $83.5 million in interest relating to its March 2022 bond on Thursday. It has another $47.5 million payment due on Sept. 29 for March 2024 notes.

– Both bonds would default if Evergrande fails to settle the interest within 30 days of the scheduled payment dates.

– Investors also fear troubles at China`s property sector, one of the key engines of the country`s stellar economic growth over decades, could have ripple effects across the global economy.

China Evergrande Crisis: What next? The Road Ahead?

– Investors are waiting to see what Chinese regulators might do, but analysts say they appear to be focused on protecting home buyers by ensuring apartments already paid for are completed.

– The government has injected money into other insolvent Chinese companies, but economists say Beijing appears determined to avoid doing that with Evergrande.

– In a letter on Tuesday to employees, Evergrande’s founder, Xu Jiayin expressed confidence the company will survive. “Evergrande will surely get out of the darkest moment as soon as possible,” Xu said in the letter marking the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival.

China’s Lehman moment? What experts say

Some commentators suggest Evergrande might become China’s Lehman moment, referring to the failure of Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers, a forerunner to the 2008 crisis. But economists say the risk of wider financial market contagion is low.

“A managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence,” said MacAdam of Capital Economics.

Evergrande has USD 18 billion of outstanding foreign-currency bonds, but much of that is held by Chinese banks and other institutions. Unlike Lehman, whose assets were financial instruments whose prices can swing wildly, Evergrande has 1.4 trillion yuan (USD 215 billion) of land and partially completed projects with relatively stable prices.

“In the unlikely event of an outright default, China’s banking system has an annual profit of 1.9 trillion yuan and reserves of 5.4 trillion yuan against bad loans, which could easily absorb the loss,” Larry Hu and Xinyu Ji of Macquarie Group said in a report.

For a citizen’s police

Creating citizen-centric police

Meeran Chadha Borwankar writes: Supreme Court’s directions in ‘Prakash Singh’ have remained on paper, obstructed by politicians and corrupt police officers. People must demand accountability on police reforms.

September 22 needs to be celebrated as “Police Reforms Day” because of the Supreme Court’s historic verdict on this day in 2006 in a writ petition by Prakash Singh and others. The three-judge bench consisting of Justices Y K Sabharwal, C K Thakker and P K Balasubramanyan studied the “distortions and aberrations” in the functioning of the police and had given seven significant directions. If implemented, they will be game-changers for the citizens of India and the police.

However, politicians and corrupt police officers together are obstructing the implementation of the reforms. The Sachin Waze-Param Bir Singh-Anil Deshmukh saga is a recent example of dangerous collusion. It is for ending such unholy nexuses that the SC had intervened to set law enforcement agencies free from the clutches of self-serving political leaders. To enable honest police officers to concentrate on their professional work of crime prevention, investigation and maintenance of public order, instead of being used and abused by those in power. One major cause for the tardy progress of police reforms is the lack of public awareness and sustained interest in law enforcement.

Citizens cry out loudly if there is a cruel rape, merciless murder or daylight robbery but later go into a slumber, which encourages political parties to maintain the status quo. The SC, therefore, took the lead to initiate reforms aiming at citizen-centric policing. It mandated that all postings, from the officer-in-charge of a police station to the head of the department, should be based on merit. Currently, closeness to the ruling party is the sole criterion. Police officers, therefore, are busy cultivating politicians instead of looking after the interests of citizens. To check this all-pervasive detrimental practice of “cherry-picking”, the court had directed the formation of Establishment Boards for unbiased postings, transfers, promotions and other service-related matters regarding police officers. It involved the Union Public Service Commission for the selection of heads of state police forces. The court’s insistence on fixed tenure to all operational heads is to give adequate time to police leaders to implement their policies. Otherwise, their tenures have been solely dependent on the pleasure or displeasure of the ruling party. The creation of Security Commissions at the Centre and in states as directed by the court would ensure robust policy-making at both levels. It would also protect the police from unwarranted political pressures, enabling them to concentrate on core issues. The court has further sought a separation of law and order and crime investigation. It would reduce the workload of police officers. The ‘Status of Police in India Report 2019’ (SPIR) by Common Cause, Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Tata Trusts found that “police personnel of nearly all the states (are) excessively over-worked, with average personnel working for 14 hours a day”.

Another police reform that is entirely in the interest of citizens is establishing “complaint authorities” at district and state levels. Such impartial and independent committees are meant to enquire into the allegations of police misconduct or harassment and provide succor to the community.

The seven major reforms aim to revamp law enforcement agencies, but the response from the states has been lukewarm. One can also discern deliberate sabotage by political parties as they tend to appoint their favourites to Establishment Boards and complaint authorities. Giving extensions to preferred officers who are on the verge of retirement to harass or silence dissent is also being resorted to. As a result, these bodies, even if created in some states, have failed to win the confidence of either police officers or citizens. And this is not peculiar to any one political party, all of them are united in their effort to “cage the parrot”.

If police reforms are implemented in true earnestness, criminals like Vikas Dubey will not be allowed to kill police officers in uniform. Nor will felonious men go around raping women. Because officers leading police stations and districts, being men and women of merit, will act well in time to prevent such crime. If we want to ensure that criminals do not prowl fearlessly and wish to improve conviction rates, the merit of police officers should be the sole criterion for their appointment in police stations and above. And the Supreme Court has laboriously factored this in its order.

Presently, small-time criminals gradually become dons due to political patronage. Initially, they are used to threaten “inconvenient” persons. Gradually, they start their own extortion rackets or take to violence, adulteration or hoarding of essential commodities as local politicians successfully neutralise the police and other enforcement agencies. Entering into dubious land deals, real estate, hotel and restaurant businesses flushed with black money, they form dangerous criminal gangs. Giving protection to these illegal activities and collecting money from them enriches officers of different departments as well as politicians. It is a vicious cycle. And it is this politician-officer-criminal nexus that the SC tried to demolish in 2006.

It is in the interest of all of us to pursue police reforms vigorously and to hold Union and state governments accountable for their failure to do so. The Supreme Court has laid down a clear and cogent process for creating citizen-centric police. The onus of getting it implemented is entirely on us.

‘Real returns negative, need a review of tax on bank deposits’

Arguing for more sops to depositors, the SBI report said the threshold of exemption for senior citizens should be reviewed.

With the real rate of return on bank deposits remaining negative “for a considerable period of time”, it’s time to revisit the taxation of interest on bank deposits, State Bank of India said in a research report.

Arguing for more sops to depositors, the SBI report said the threshold of exemption for senior citizens should be reviewed. “The RBI can relook at the regulation that does not allow interest rates of banks to be determined as per age-wise demographics,” it said. The interest income from bank fixed deposits is subject to TDS (tax deducted at source) at 10 per cent but can be deducted at 20 per cent if PAN is not furnished. Banks deduct TDS on interest paid on fixed deposits when interest income exceeds Rs 40,000 (Rs 50,000 for senior citizens) in any given financial year. So, if the depositor is in highest tax bracket of 30 per cent, merely paying TDS of 10 per cent will not be enough. Retail inflation is above 5 per cent while one-year term deposit gets less than 5 per cent interest rate, giving negative returns on deposits.


Inflation woes

Currently, retail inflation is above five per cent while one year term deposit gets less than five per cent interest rate, giving negative returns on deposits.

The total number of depositors in the banking system is around 207 crore and the number of creditors is at 27 crores. The total bank deposits at Rs 151 lakh crore constitute Rs 102 lakh crore of retail deposits, including that of senior citizens. “Clearly, real rate of return on bank deposits has been negative for a sizeable period of time and with RBI making it abundantly clear that supporting growth is the primary goal, the low banking rate of interest is unlikely to make a north bound movement anytime soon as liquidity continues to be plentiful,” said the report authored by Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic adviser, SBI.The negative return from bank deposits could be one of the reasons for households to divert funds to the stock markets for more returns. “This (negative returns on deposits) implies that the current bull run in financial markets is possibly a break from the past as households may have got into the bandwagon of self-fulfilling prophecy of a decent return on their investment,” the report said.

According to the SBI report, in banking sector’s total term deposits, contribution by 40 -million plus senior citizens, who remain much dependent on accrued interest income for meeting most of their fixed expenditure needs, hovers around 20 per cent.

For safety, govt amends ammonium nitrate rules.

Govt amends ammonium nitrate rules to curb pilferage, introduces fire-fighting provisions.

The government has amended the rules for ammonium nitrate to curb its pilferage, introduce fire-fighting provisions as well as improve ways to handle and store the chemical in the light of lessons learnt from the deadly Beirut explosion that killed about 140 people.

Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at Beirut’s port for six years that detonated in August 2020, wreaking death and destruction.

Additional Secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Sumita Dawra said that rules pertaining to five major areas — static and mobile pressure vehicles, calcium carbide, ammonium nitrate, gas cylinders, and petroleum and explosives — were examined in the light of lessons learnt from ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut.

There was a need to look at the rules to enhance safety, so that such incidents do not happen in India, she said.

She said that to curb pilferage of ammonium nitrate, provisions have been made to import the chemical in bagged form only, as this will help in reducing the handling of loose chemicals at ports and enhance safety.

“Provisions have been made for adequate fire-fighting facilities and shelters for security guards,” she told reporters here.

Ammonium nitrate received at the ports is now required to be removed/transferred to the nearby storage houses situated 500 meter beyond the port area, she added.

The capacity for storage of the hazardous chemical in small store houses has been enhanced by rationalizing the space and quantity requirement.

Besides, the rule has been amended to allow auction of the seized lots of ammonium nitrate, in a bid to ensure safe and speedy disposal.

Dawra also said that the amendments include provision for adequate fire-fighting facilities in storage and handling areas, improvement of flooring in storage and handling area, provision for auction of serviceable seized ammonium nitrate and disposal in case it is not fit for use, and specification of safety distance from port area has also been prescribed.

“In order to promote ease of doing business, the transfer of ammonium nitrate from one location to another of the same licensee has been permitted now. The rules have been amended to exclude regulation of stevedores (agency handling loading / unloading on ships),” she said.

The time for disposal (including enquiry, decision to grant or refuse) of the application for seeking ‘No Objection Certificate’ from District Authority or Director General of Mine Safety has also been reduced from six months to three months.

Regarding Calcium Carbide (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the additional secretary informed that to reduce compliance burden, PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) has increased the validity of license for storage of the chemical from three to ten years.

Also, provision for online fees payment facility has been provided in the rules.

To monitor premises for storage of Calcium Carbide, provision of geo-mapping of the premises has been incorporated in the Rules and will be made available to the concerned state and central authorities.

Further talking about Static and Mobile Pressure Vessels (unfired) (Amendment) Rules, 2021, she said that the changes have been made to introduce the concept of a third-party inspecting agency to carry out the work related to certification, testing, inspection and safety audit of the licensed premises.

To increase the number of competent persons to conduct testing and certification, the guidelines on minimum experience required has been reduced from ten to five years.

“Provisions have now been incorporated in the rules to allow transportation of cryogenic compressed gases such as Oxygen, Argon, Nitrogen, LNG through ISO containers in domestic areas,” she said.

This will help to transport Liquid Oxygen from surplus areas to deficit areas and promote multimodal transportation (by road, rail and waterways) of these gases and reduce the transportation cost as well as time.


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