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Showing posts from December 14, 2016

Behind Obama’s Waiting Game(theindianexpress)

Why did President Obama delay in taking official cognisance of the national security breach through Russian interference in US presidential elections although credible indications had surfaced in July? The Washington Post had published ‘The Post’s View’ on July 25 on alleged Russian meddling. On July 27, NBC News warned that Hillary’s election could be sunk by Russian hacking of her deleted e-mails. On the same day, Trump appealed: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” The New York Times interpreted this as: “urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyber espionage against a former secretary of state”.

The Washington Post added that Trump’s action violated the 1799 Logan Act, which bans private citizens from having any contacts to influence foreign powers with which the US is having disputes. Following this, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill demanded that Trump be investigated for violating the Logan Act. On October 7, James Clapper,…

Fifty shades of black(theindianexpress)

The compelling arguments against demonetisation as a policy instrument for tackling black money are now well-known. Demonetisation ignores the processes that produce black money as well as its biggest hoards in forms like foreign currency, gold or real estate; also, its toxic side-effects in terms of “collateral damage” are astronomically high. These reasons would be relevant if demonetisation were really an economic policy, but as many commentators have rightly pointed out, it is a political ploy rather than an economic initiative. There is nothing inherently wrong in this. Accusing elected governments of playing politics is like accusing fish of being wet. What matters is the kind of politics being played and its consequences for our society.

Ever since it came to power, the current regime has been trying to invent or promote issues that are media-friendly, impact large numbers and seem important — but lack clear criteria for determining success or failure. Once identified, these are…

RS passes Disabilities Bill with more benefits(thehindu)

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Disabilities Bill with the list of ‘disabilities’ expanded from seven to 21 and the quantum of reservation increased for people suffering from disabilities from three per cent to four per cent in government jobs.

In higher education institutions, the quota has been increased from three per cent to five per cent.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, moved in the Upper House earlier this month by Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters.

It provides for imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, along with a fine ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh, for discriminating against differently abled persons.

“If the Bill becomes a law, it will benefit millions. It recognises that persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities like autism and Down’s Syndrome also have a right to education and employment. We…

Can’t release water to T.N., State tells Supreme Court(thehindu)

Karnataka on Wednesday filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court, expressing its inability to release Cauvery waters at the rate of 2,000 cusecs a day to Tamil Nadu.

According to Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil, the State has informed the apex court in its petition that the cumulative water storage in all its four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin was just 15.92 tmcft as on December 11. The present storage was not even adequate enough to meet its drinking water requirements, the State said.

Such being the situation, which had arisen owing to the failure of north-east monsoon, it was impossible to release water at the rate of 2,000 cusecs a day to Tamil Nadu as directed by the apex court earlier, it said. “The Karnataka government filed the interlocutory application on Wednesday, after a detailed discussion with the State’s legal team. In all likelihood, the case may come up for hearing on Thursday,” the Minister said.

Drinking water shortage

With depletion of water levels …

Coastal roads stink as fish-laden lorries spill out waste(thehindu)

Unabated discharge of waste water on roads affects tourism and road safety


When one enters Karnataka from Goa or Kerala on National Highway 66, one would be welcomed by the pungent odour of fish (if not travelling by an air-conditioned vehicle) thanks to fish-laden lorries discharging wastewater on roads.

With transporters and exporters still following the age-old tradition of carrying marine products under the cover of ice, the melted ice along with residues of the marine products get collected in waste tanks fixed at the rear of lorries and mini-goods vehicles.

Hundreds of such vehicles move along NH 66 carrying marine products to different places, including ports in Goa and Mangaluru and also in Kerala.

While Goa and Kerala, which depend on tourism, have prohibited discharge of wastewater from fish-laden lorries on roads, no such enforcement is in place in Karnataka.

Consequently, vehicle operators keep the taps of wastewater tanks open whenever they are within Karnataka splashing the w…

SC seeks CBI reply on plea for larger probe in Rajiv case(thehindu)

Was there a ‘larger conspiracy’ behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi? Who were the ‘real conspirators’? These are the questions that A.G. Perarivalan, one of the convicts in the case, has been asking the courts for almost two decades.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court took up his cause and sought a reply from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Perarivalan’s allegations that there has not been an effective probe into the “larger conspiracy” behind the 1991 killing of the national leader.

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and L. Nageshwara Rao issued notice to the CBI on a petition filed by the convict from the Vellore prison in Tamil Nadu.

“Why was this further investigation required?” Justice Gogoi asked initially during the hearing.

“What was followed by the CBI was a ‘boom theory.’ That is there is a death, followed by an investigation into the boom and trial focusing only on the boom. But they have also to go into whether there was a larger conspiracy..…

Rights for the rightful owners(thehindu)

On the tenth anniversary of the historic passage of the Forest Rights Act, tribal resistance to defend their rights is growing even as government after government tries to dilute its provisions


On this day 10 years ago the historic Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed in the Lok Sabha. Its conception and passage was the result of the decades of struggles and sacrifices of millions of tribals across India, of their organisations, of numerous activists and intellectuals working on tribal issues, and because of the commitment and efforts of the Left parties.

Attempts at dilution

A century ago colonial chicanery had turned tribal owners of the forests and its resources into encroachers. A decade ago, the Indian inheritors of this legacy of fraud were working against the Bill till literally the last moment. The real encroachers and plunderers of the forests, the mining companies, the private power sector companies, those involved…

A wrong turn with the Rohingyas(thehindu)

The October killings and displacement should be investigated fairly and a long-term solution found


Myanmar’s de facto ruler Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a special informal meeting with Foreign Ministers of ASEAN next Monday in Yangon to discuss international concerns over the state of the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Since October 9, when soldiers poured into Rakhine, over 130 Rohingyas have been killed and dozens of buildings in their villages torched. The United Nations estimates that 30,000 Rohingyas have been displaced by the ongoing violence in Rakhine. According to analysis of satellite images from Human Rights Watch, more than 1,000 houses in Rohingya villages have been razed in northwestern Myanmar. Bangladesh has provided food and shelter to around 30,000 documented Rohingyas.

Perilous lives

Assuming office as the State Counsellor of Myanmar after her party’s landslide victory in 2015, Ms. Suu Kyi initiated the formation of an independent and representative advisory commissio…

India’s winning streak(thehindu)

India’s emphatic innings-and-36-run victory over England at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has effectively broken a jinx. Among all its Test cricket rivals, discounting the hype around games against Australia or the history that permeates jousts involving Pakistan, England had been a bugbear. Twice, India lost Test series in England in 2011 and 2014; it also suffered the ignominy of losing at home in 2012. Redemption finally came in Mumbai as Virat Kohli’s men secured an unassailable 3-0 lead with just the fifth and final Test remaining to be played in Chennai, starting Friday. The cobwebs of the past have been shed and a new order is in place. In its last 17 Tests, India remained undefeated, the highlight being 13 wins. This equals the purple patch from 1985 to 1987 that featured four victories, 12 draws and a tie across 17 games. India can do one better if it wins or at least draws at Chennai. The current winning streak includes five consecutive Test series triumphs: Sri Lanka, South Af…

Demonetisation’s deflationary shock?(thehindu)

That the Centre’s decision to withdraw high-denomination banknotes was going to impact economic activity in the short term was never in doubt. But the specific contours of the effects were probably a lot less understood at the time of that announcement. The deflationary shock has manifested itself in a deceleration in retail inflation, as demand for a range of goods and services has been damped. That the headline Consumer Price Index-based gauge hit a two-year low of 3.63 per cent for November is therefore no surprise, especially given the additional factor of a favourable base effect — the reading was 5.41 per cent in November 2015. The major contributor to the slowdown in price gains was the food and beverages group, where inflation eased to 2.56 per cent largely on the back of a slump in the prices of vegetables, a highly perishable commodity. But a closer look at the food group throws the spotlight on some trends that the Reserve Bank of India had flagged in its latest monetary p…

Transitioning to Trump’s America(thehindu)

Donald Trump is drafting for his Cabinet a careful mix of people from the old guard of the Republican Party, billionaires with no experience in public office, and former military officers In the one month since his election as the 45th President of the United States, the one campaign promise that Donald Trump has certainly tried to live up to is to be “unpredictable”. But there is also a predictable pattern that is emerging from his picks for important administration positions to date. Mr. Trump has selected a climate denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an Attorney General who has faced allegations of racism, a Labour Secretary who heads a company that employs a large number of low-wage workers and does not support wage increases, an Education Secretary who believes the American public school system must be dismantled, a Housing Secretary who believes the government has no role to play in combating housing discrimination, and a National Security Adviser (NSA) wh…

Transitioning to Trump’s America(thehindu)

Donald Trump is drafting for his Cabinet a careful mix of people from the old guard of the Republican Party, billionaires with no experience in public office, and former military officers


In the one month since his election as the 45th President of the United States, the one campaign promise that Donald Trump has certainly tried to live up to is to be “unpredictable”. But there is also a predictable pattern that is emerging from his picks for important administration positions to date.

Mr. Trump has selected a climate denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an Attorney General who has faced allegations of racism, a Labour Secretary who heads a company that employs a large number of low-wage workers and does not support wage increases, an Education Secretary who believes the American public school system must be dismantled, a Housing Secretary who believes the government has no role to play in combating housing discrimination, and a National Security Adviser (NSA) who h…

More than a BIT of protectionism (thehindu)

The Narendra Modi government’s stand on foreign investment is bewildering. On the one hand, it rolls out the red carpet to foreign capital under ‘Make in India’. On the other, it reduces legal protection for foreign investors. The reported expiration of India’s bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with the Netherlands on November 30, due to India unilaterally terminating the treaty, is a classic example. India has also issued notices to around 50 countries to terminate BITs, which includes about 20 European Union (EU) member countries. These will come into force soon. These treaties play a critical role in protecting foreign investment by holding host states accountable for the exercise of their regulatory power through an independent international arbitration mechanism, thus furthering international rule of law. BITs involve a certain degree of trade-off between protecting foreign investment and preserving the host state’s regulatory power.

The narrative on BITs in India has oscillated f…

The decisiveness of 1971 (thehindu)

December 16, 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of Vijay Diwas, the day the Pakistan Army in East Bengal surrendered before Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command, in 1971. A new nation was born after a struggle which lasted but a few months and had its roots in the Pakistan general election of December 1970.

The run-up to war

The Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a massive majority in the provincial legislature and in all but two of East Pakistan’s quota of seats in the new National Assembly, thus gaining a clear majority. The largest party in West Pakistan was the Pakistan Peoples’ Party headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who threatened to boycott the assembly and oppose the government if Mujib was invited by Gen. Yahya Khan, then President of Pakistan, to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister despite the fact that he had won an overall majority. Mujib was left with no option but to start a civil disobedience mov…

Turkey’s derailed war on terror(The Hindu)

IN Islamic State Turkey is facing a multi-dimensional security crisis. Its forces are deployed on two battlefronts — in the southeast, where most of the country’s 15 million Kurds live, to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); and in Syria to face off threats from the Islamic State (IS) as well as Kurdish rebels. But these operations have hardly helped the country secure its cities from terror attacks, as seen in Saturday’s blasts in Istanbul that killed 44 people, mostly police officers. The attack has been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the PKK, which said they were taking revenge for the ongoing military operation in the southeast and the continuing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader. The unrelenting terror attacks over the past few years show that something is wrong with law enforcement and security arrangements in Turkey, a country otherwise known for functional institutions and a tough security regime, or a deep state. Even …