The News Editorial Analysis 29 October 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 29 October 2021

Mullaperiyar dam: old dispute between Tamil Nadu & Kerala, revived after recent rains.

The dam is located in the upper reaches of the river Periyar, which flows into Kerala after originating in Tamil Nadu. The reservoir is within the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed that the maximum water level in Mullaperiyar dam should be 139.50 ft until November 10. The dam is at the centre of a decades-old dispute: for Kerala, where it is situated, the dam presents a threat to lakhs living downstream; and for Tamil Nadu, which controls the dam, the water it provides is the lifeline of people in five districts.

The dam is located in the upper reaches of the river Periyar, which flows into Kerala after originating in Tamil Nadu. The reservoir is within the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The water diverted from the reservoir is first used for power generation in lower Periyar (by Tamil Nadu) before flowing into the Suruliyar, a tributary of Vaigai river, and then for irrigating nearly 2.08 lakh hectares in Theni and four other districts farther away.

Mullaperiyar dam: The current dispute

The Supreme Court order on Thursday came after a court-appointed supervisory committee had suggested 139.50 ft as the permissible level. The court has directed both states to go by the committee’s recommendation. Tamil Nadu had wanted the level increased to 142 ft as fixed by the Supreme Court in 2014, while Kerala wanted it within 139 ft as per a rule curve fixed until the end of the month.

What has revived the dispute is the unusual rains in the last couple of weeks, which have led to the water level inching towards its permissible level of 142 ft. On Thursday, it reached 138.15 ft. Kerala had wanted the level fixed at 136 ft, but the Supreme Court in 2014 allowed Tamil Nadu to raise it to 142 ft.

This time, while seeking a limit of 139 ft, Kerala pointed to a Supreme Court directive in August 2018 following the devastating floods in the state. One of the factors contributing to the floods was sudden discharge from the Mullaperiyar dam, after its water level went beyond 142 ft and all spillway shutters of the dam suddenly lifted. The excess water from Mullaperiyar had then flowed to downstream Idukki reservoir, which was also at maximum storage level. The unexpected flow forced Kerala to increase the discharge, leading to flooding of several parts of central Kerala.

The situation in 2021 is not different, claims the Kerala government. The Idukki reservoir, which is in the same district as the Mullaperiyar dam, was at 94% of its live storage capacity on Thursday, despite the shutters being kept opened for two weeks before they were shut on Wednesday. The overflow from Mullaperiyar would find its way to the Idukki reservoir, the government has argued.

What next

As part of regulating the water level, Tamil Nadu has agreed to release water through spillway shutters from Friday morning. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently wrote to Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin to draw maximum water and release downstream water gradually to the Kerala side. Anticipating lifting of the shutters, Kerala has started evacuating families living on both banks downstream up to the Idukki reservoir, which is 35 km away.

Kerala has been demanding a new dam replacing the existing one, and located 366 ft downstream. While Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan recently expressed his support to the idea, such a project would need the consent of Tamil Nadu. Construction of a new dam would also give rise to a demand for a new water-sharing treaty; at present, only Tamil Nadu has rights over the dam water.

Govt extends tenure of RBI governor for three years till Dec 2024.

The re-appointment of the RBI governor will be effective from December 10 or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

The government Friday extended the tenure of RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das for three years till December 2024. The re-appointment will be effective from December 10 or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the reappointment of Shaktikanta Das as Reserve Bank of India Governor for a period of three years beyond 10.12.2021 or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” read an official statement.

Das had served as former secretary of Department of Economic Affairs from 2015 to 2017.

Das, a 1980-batch Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, was entrusted with the task of overseeing the re-monetization of the economy after the shock decision to withdraw 86 per cent of the currency in circulation in November 2016.After his retirement, he was named India’s G-20 sherpa and also appointed as a member of the 15th Finance Commission.


Das, a history graduate from the prestigious St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, was brought to the Finance Ministry soon after the BJP-led NDA government came to power in mid-2014 and given charge of the crucial revenue department.

GST shortfall: Centre releases 44K crore as back-to-back loan.

On July 15 and October 7, the Centre had released Rs 75,000 crore and Rs 40,000 crore, respectively, to the states. With the release of funds on Thursday, the total amount has reached as back-to-back loan in-lieu of GST compensation is Rs 1.59 lakh crore.

The Centre on Thursday released the balance Rs 44,000 crore to states as loan to compensate for shortfall in Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, taking the total amount to Rs 1.59 lakh crore this fiscal. These funds are in addition to normal GST compensation being released every two months out of cess collection.

“It is expected that this release will help the states/UTs in planning their public expenditure among other things, for improving, health infrastructure and taking up infrastructure projects,” the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.

The 43rd GST Council meeting on May 28, 2021, had decided that the Centre would borrow Rs 1.59 lakh crore in 2021-22 and release it to states and UTs with legislature on a back-to-back basis to meet the resource gap due to the shortfall in compensation, on account of inadequate amount collected in the GST compensation fund. This amount is as per the principles adopted for a similar facility in 2020-21, where Rs 1.10 lakh crore was released.

The funding support comes at a time when many of the states are strapped for cash. While the Central government’s tax collections have become buoyant due to sharp spike in direct tax mop up, many states are on a weak revenue position.

 “Covid has impacted states disproportionately and many of them are now hard pressed for funds. Funding is essential at state levels to step up capital expenditure and infrastructure creation,” a senior official said.

The move is expected to cool off yields in upcoming bonds auctions by states. “The early release of the balance amount of the back-to-back GST compensation loan to the states will help them to plan their expenditure in H2 FY2022, avoiding a bunching up at the end of the year. Moreover, it should help to compress the size of the SDL (state development loan) auctions in the immediate term, modestly cooling yields,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist, Icra.

On July 15 and October 7, the Centre had released Rs 75,000 crore and Rs 40,000 crore, respectively, to the states. With the release of funds on Thursday, the total amount has reached as back-to-back loan in-lieu of GST compensation is Rs 1.59 lakh crore.

The Rs 44,000 crore being released now is funded from the Government of India securities issued in the current financial year. These securities have a tenure of 5 years and are issued at a weighted average yield of 5.69 per cent. No additional market borrowing by the Central government is envisaged on account of this release.

India to stress ‘climate justice’ at COP 26 global summit: Environment Minister

World acknowledges India’s electric vehicle policy, commitment to increase forest cover, national hydrogen policy, says Bhupender Yadav

India will emphasizes climate justice and exhort developed countries to transfer the finance and technology necessary to deal with the fallout of global warming, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav told The Hindu on the eve of his departure to Glasgow to participate in the 26th edition of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP).

At least 195 countries are expected to participate in the meeting in Glasgow that is expected to take place from November 1-12. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be participating in a World Leaders Summit to be held next week as part of the COP.

In the upcoming Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending, India could raise the concept of ‘climate justice’ and ‘climate finance’. It is also expected to launch its own ‘climate tracker’ before the conference, reported News 18.

‘Climate justice’ involves a change in attitude, a more holistic approach which is the need at the global level. “Climate finance is a big issue which we will raise. Also, developed countries need to start from ‘net negative’ instead of ‘net zero’. India has so far not taken a call on the ‘net zero’ issue,” the report stated quoting a government source. A detailed document in the form of a booklet is supposed to be out soon that will explain India’s stance at COP 26. Another aspect India is expected to focus on is stressing the need for action on a global level, besides dialogue on climate change, citing its own example of the International Solar Alliance with France.

Mark Zuckerberg changes Facebook’s name to Meta, announces Metaverse plan to create new virtual world

CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s Connect 2021 keynote announced an all-new brand identity of Facebook, Meta.

Facebook is now called Meta, the company said on Thursday, in a rebrand that focuses on building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.
The name change comes as the world’s largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its services.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, said the new name reflected its work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service, which will continue to be called Facebook.
The metaverse is a term coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley. It refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm which can be accessed by people using different devices.
“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” said Zuckerberg. The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure.
The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators. In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Haugen has in recent weeks testified before a U.S.
Senate subcommittee and lawmakers in the UK’s Parliament. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”The company said in a blog post that it intends to start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, MVRS, on Dec. 1. On Thursday, it unveiled a new sign at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, replacing its thumbs-up “Like” logo with a blue infinity shape.
Facebook shares closed 1.5% higher at $316.92 on Thursday.
Tarnished Reputation
Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion. This year, the company created a product team in this unit focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort. In an interview with tech publication the Information, Zuckerberg said he has not considered stepping down as CEO, and has not thought “very seriously yet” about spinning off this unit.
The division will now be called Reality Labs, its head Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said on Thursday. The company will also stop using the Oculus branding for its VR headsets, instead calling them “Meta” products.
The name change, the plan for which was first reported by the Verge, is a significant rebrand for Facebook, but not its first. In 2019 it launched a new logo to create a distinction between the company and its social app.The company’s reputation has taken multiple hits in recent years, including over its handling of user data and its policing of abuses such as health misinformation, violent rhetoric and hate speech. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has also filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anticompetitive practices.
“While it’ll help alleviate confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company,” said Mike Proulx, research director at market research firm Forrester.

The plans to phase out the Facebook name even from products like video calling device Portal show the company is eager to prevent the unprecedented scrutiny from hurting the rest of its apps, said Prashant Malaviya, a marketing professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.
“Without a doubt, (the Facebook name) is definitely damaged and toxic,” he said.
Zuckerberg said the new name, coming from the Greek word for “beyond,” symbolized there was always more to build. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Thursday tweeted out a different definition “referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.”
Zuckerberg said the new name also reflects that over time, users will not need to use Facebook to use the company’s other services.
In 2015, Google reorganized to create a new holding company called Alphabet, as the popular search engine broke into new fields such as self-driving cars, high-speed broadband and expanded its cloud business. Snapchat also rebranded to Snap in 2016, the same year it launched its first pair of smart glasses.
Facebook, which this year launched its own pair of smart glasses with Ray-Ban, announced a slew of new AR and VR product updates during Connect. These included a way for people using its Oculus VR headset to call friends using Facebook Messenger and for people to invite others to a social version of their home, dubbed “Horizon Home.”
Zuckerberg also showed video demos of what the metaverse could look like, with people connecting as avatars and being transported to digital versions of various places and time periods. He said that the metaverse would need to be built with safety and privacy in mind.

UK eases travel norms, takes all countries off Covid-19 ‘red list’

Britain said it was removing the last seven countries on its travel “red list”, meaning travellers vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to quarantine after arriving in the UK.

The News Editorial Analysis 29 October 2021

Britain on Thursday said it was removing the last seven countries on its travel “red list”, meaning travellers vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel after arriving in the UK.

The countries are Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Once the change takes effect at 4 am (0400GMT) on Monday, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights at a cost of more than 2,000 pounds ($3,000).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the red category would remain “as a precautionary measure” in case it was needed later.

He said Britain will also recognise vaccinations given in more than 30 additional countries, including Peru and Uganda, bringing the total to more than 135.

At one time there were dozens of countries on the red list, with other nations classed as amber, for medium risk, or green for low risk. Britain scrapped the amber and green categories on Oct 4 and removed most countries from the red list three weeks ago.

Karnataka Govt. set to launch literacy programme in prisons from Nov. 1

About one-third of the inmates are illiterates, according to a survey

After a recent survey found nearly one-third of the prison inmates across the State to be illiterates, the Karnataka Government is set to expand literacy programme to enable them to read and write, from November 1.In a novel idea, Karnataka will start a literacy programme for prison inmates who cannot read and write, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said Thursday. The programme will start on the occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava on November 1.

There are about 16,000 prisoners in 50 prisons of the state. We are identifying illiterates among them. One estimate is that there are 6,000 illiterate prison inmates,” Jnanendra told a news conference. “They entered the prison with their fingerprint…
He said officials have formulated the programme and educated prison inmates will be roped in. “They will be paid for the lessons they do. Also, we will make use of resources under the government’s mass education programme,” Jnanendra said.
According to the minister, even under trials spend at least 1-3 months in prison. “We will teach till the time the inmates are in prison.”


 Drill commands for police in Kannada.


 From November 1, drill commands for police personnel will be given in Kannada as the government has decided to do away with the colonial hangover of English.
“Commands such as ‘attention’, ‘stand at ease’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ will be given in Kannada,” Jnanendra said. “Training is being given and the use of Kannada will start from November 1. This is a special effort we’re making,” he said.
Curbing film piracy A joint task force comprising crime branch and cybercrime sleuths has been formed to curb piracy affecting the Kannada film industry, Jnanendra said. “We need to protect filmmakers. The sector provides livelihood to lakhs of people. It’s a huge industry,” the minister said. Jnanendra also said the government is discussing changes to streamlining licensing for cinemas. “We’re discussing license fee discounts. We’re also thinking of levying fees once in five years,” he said, referring to the new Karnataka Cinema Regulation (Amendment) Rules, 2021.

The News Editorial Analysis 28 October 2021

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