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LIST OF NEWSPAPERS COVERED

BUSINESS STANDARDBUSINESS LINEDECCAN HERALDECONOMIC TIMESFINANCIAL EXPRESSHINDUHINDUSTAN TIMESINDIAN EXPRESSPIONEERSTATESMANTELEGRAPHTRIBUNE

                                           CONTENTS

CIVIL SERVICE 3-5COMPUTERS 6-15EDUCATION 16-23ELECTIONS 24-26FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS 27-28HEALTH SERVICES 29-33INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 34-36JUDICIARY 37LABOUR 38-39LIBRARIES 40-41LOCAL GOVERNMENT 42PARLIAMENT 43POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT 44PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 45PUBLIC FINANCE 46SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 47-49TAXATION 50-53

CIVIL SERVICE

HINDU, NOV 29, 2017

Delhi Chief Secy shifted to Centre

Delhi Chief Secretary M.M. Kutty was on Tuesday transferred to the Centre, with the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approving his posting as an additional secretary in the Department of Economics Affairs in the Union Finance Ministry.

Mr. Kutty, a 1985 batch IAS officer of the UT cadre, will replace Dinesh Sharma, a 1983 batch officer who is superannuating on Thursday. Mr. Kutty’s transfer comes just a year after he was appointed as Delhi Chief Secretary on November 29, 2016.

Year-long tenure

In his year-long tenure, Mr. Kutty and the Aam Aadmi Party dispensation had a few run-ins. Earlier this year, Mr. Kutty had moved the Delhi High Court seeking to stay contempt proceedings started by the Delhi Assembly against him. The Questions and Reference Committee of the Assembly had instructed the Chief Secretary to include adverse remarks in the annual confidential report of an official, which he declined to do, citing orders from the Lieutenant-Governor that all services related matter should be referred to him.

INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 29, 2017

Lok Sabha gets new Secretary-General

Senior IAS officer Snehlata Shrivastava was appointed the new Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. She would take over from Anoop Mishra.

Senior IAS officer Snehlata Shrivastava was appointed the new Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. She would take over from Anoop Mishra.

Belonging to the Madhya Pradesh cadre (1982 batch), she is currently Secretary, Justice, in the Law Ministry. She would assume charge on December 1. Shrivastav would be the first woman to be appointed to the post, although the Rajya Sabha has had a woman secretary-general — B S Rama Devi — in the past, who also served as the Governor of Himachal Pradesh after retirement.

The secretaries-general of the two Houses enjoy the rank of the Cabinet Secretary. Mishra, her predecessor, was also a serving IAS officer when he was appointed as the Secretary-General in 2014.

ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 28, 2017

Government doubles deputation allowance for employees

NEW DELHI: The deputation allowance given to central government employees has been increased by over two- fold to Rs 4,500 from the existing Rs 2,000 per month, according to an order issued by the personnel ministry. The move is based on the recommendation of the seventh central pay commission. "In case of deputation within the same station, the deputation (duty) allowance will be payable at the rate of five per cent of basic pay subject to a maximum of Rs 4,500 per month," it said. This allowance will be payable at the rate of ten per cent of basic pay, subject to a maximum of Rs 9,000 per month, in case of deputation involving change of station, the Department of Personnel and Training order issued on Friday said. "The ceilings will further rise by 25 per cent each time dearness allowance is increased by 50 per cent," it said. The deputation allowance at present are granted at the rate of 5 per cent of basic pay, subject to a ceiling of Rs 2,000 per month for deputation within the same station or 10 per cent of basic pay, subject to a ceiling of Rs 4,000 per month for deputation not within the same station.

INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 29, 2017

Woman IAS officer named Karnataka chief secretary

Ratna Prabha is currently the seniormost IAS officer in service in Karnataka and will have a tenure of four months leading up to the Karnataka elections next year.

After appointing a woman IPS officer as state police chief for the first time last month, the Congress government in Karnataka on Tuesday named a 1981-batch woman IAS officer as chief secretary. Ratna Prabha, 59, a Dalit, will be the third woman to be the chief secretary of Karnataka.

Prabha, who served many years as secretary for information technology in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government before returning to Karnataka a few years ago, had last year lost out in the running for the chief secretary post to her batchmate Subhash Chandra Kuntia.

Prabha was appointed chief secretary on Tuesday with Kuntia due to retire at the end of the month. Last year, amid reports of heavy lobbying for the top bureaucratic post, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was accused by the Opposition of overlooking Prabha and appointing the low-profile Kuntia who was in Delhi in the central government since 2012.

Prabha is currently the seniormost IAS officer in service in Karnataka and will have a tenure of four months leading up to the state elections next year.

On October 31, the Karnataka government had in an unprecedented move appointed senior woman IPS officer Neelamani N Raju, 57, as state police chief. The 1983-batch officer, the senior most in the state, was an underdog in the race for the post of the police chief on account of her relative inexperience in serving in executive roles in Karnataka Police.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah eventually decided to go by seniority in picking Raju to avoid legal complications.

COMPUTERS

FINANCIAL EXPRESS, NOV 30, 2017

Cyber security: Why prevention focus system is not much effective todayPrevention-focused security may have worked earlier, but it is not much effective today.

Published: November 30, 2017 5:39 AM

The success of a company’s IT security does not depend on trying to prevent a cyber attack, but in the ability to predict, detect and respond to such attacks on time.

By Rishikesh Kamat

Despite advancements in security technology and a wide array of preventive measures adopted by companies, we continue to see cyber attacks such as WannaCry, Mirai bot and Petya. A reason cyber attacks are difficult to prevent is today’s device-driven ecosystem (mobiles, wearables, Internet of Things), too many interconnected systems, a lot of open platforms available and huge data being transacted over global networks. There are sophisticated malware creators and cyber attackers who have a variety of opportunities to penetrate systems. The tried and tested phishing, volumetric DDoS and ransomware attacks continue to flourish. Prevention-focused security programs may have worked earlier, but they are not as effective today. Yet we have seen that much organisational effort and resource allocation goes towards prevention of security incidents, and much lesser towards detection and response. Malware attacks are a good example of how detection and response become crucial. Hackers are building higher levels of sophistication with each passing day. A few months ago, hackers used an advanced reconnaissance system to target tech domains, including those of Cisco, Microsoft and Google. It shows that even enterprises at the cutting-edge of technology, despite taking steps towards prevention, eventually fail to prevent a malware attack, and end up fire-fighting when an incident arises. Without sufficient response and remediation mechanisms, a lot of damage is done, including network crashes, before the situation is brought under control.

At the Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit 2017, analyst Earl Perkins spoke about shifting your security focus to detection, response and remediation. The logic is that those who would want to penetrate your IT systems would eventually get through, irrespective of your investments in preventing attacks. The success of your IT security programs does not depend on trying to prevent the attack, but in the ability to predict, detect and respond to attacks on time. So, rather than focus on building stronger and taller gates, it makes sense to have an outside-in approach to security incident detection and response. Data and analytics are critical components of a predictive and responsive risk mitigation and incident management set-up. Techniques like behavioural analysis of networks, real-time threat monitoring and retrospective tracking of network activity allows IT teams to detect and understand the nature of an attack before it happens.

One of the challenges of creating a highly responsive security management environment is aggregating and analysing network and system information. The process works only if:

Real-time data is available;

Security teams have the right tools and expertise to take timely decisions;The organisation has a responsive mechanism, including standardised and tested policies to mitigate the risk; and Security personnel have well defined run books that state what needs to be done during and after an attack.

CIOs looking to adopt a responsive approach to security management need to consider new, managed security offerings, referred to by Gartner as Managed Detection and Response Services (MDRS), which provide powerful analytics, skilled professional, 24×7 detection and response, and state-of-the-art remediation processes. Gartner projects that 15% of midsize and large organisations are expected to use MDRS, as against 1% at present. Organisations that currently use a managed security service provider would be in a better position to move to the MDRS, since they would already have certain standard response and remediation mechanisms in place. In addition, for companies that are starting out with security infrastructure, there is a great opportunity to leverage best-in-class managed security service provider and build even stronger detection and response capabilities at the outset.

FINANCIAL EXPRESS, NOV 28, 2017

Individuals may get big data privacy boost as Shri Krishna panel report moots protection of personal informationMoots protection of sensitive personal data or information be brought under the law.

By: Rishi Ranjan Kala 

Social media sites, telecom operators, government agencies and every such body that gets to collate data on individuals by way of the nature of their operations would soon be governed by a set of laws that would protect an individual’s sensitive personal data or information (SPDI). The justice BN Srikrishna committee mandated by the government to draft a data protection law has come out with its white paper which has laid down that sensitive personal data or information by which a person is identifiable would need to be protected and would be brought under an ambit of law that would prescribe punishments in case of violations. What this essentially means is that any social media site, search engine, telecom operator or government agency cannot sell or disclose SPDI of individuals. The Srikrishna panel has identified health information, genetic information, religious beliefs and affiliation, sexual orientation, and racial and ethnic origin as SPDI. It has also placed caste and financial information too in this category. “In other categories such as philosophical or political beliefs, an assessment may be made whether these are matters in which a person has an expectation of a high degree of privacy,” the white paper has noted.

“It is data about/relating to an individual that may be the subject matter of protection under the law. Data in this context ought to include any kind of information including opinions or assessments irrespective of their accuracy,” the 223-page report that has now asked for stakeholders’ comments has noted. It has further said that data from which an individual is identified or is identifiable/reasonably identifiable may be considered to be personal data. The identifiability can be direct or indirect.

The white paper has, however, clarified that all information is not personal data. Only such information by which a person can be identified would be categorised as SPDI and come under the ambit of law. “Data could be in a form where individuals stand identified or in other cases it is possible that they could be identified. Whether an individual is identifiable or not is a question of context and circumstances. For instance, a car registration number, by itself, does not reveal the identity of a person.

However, it is possible that with other information, an individual can be identified from this information,” the paper has observed. Analysts FE spoke to said that the present practice wherein search engines or social media sites that map individuals’ choices, tastes and practices and sell them to third parties would be checked once the data protection laws are formalised. Earlier this year the Supreme Court already recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right.

FINANCIAL EXPRESS, NOV 24, 2017 

Cyberspace security: This is message PM Narendra Modi gave to 120 countries on internet useExhorting delegates and officials from more than 120 countries to work towards a “formal collaborative framework” for a secure internet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said nations must ensure that the digital domain does not become a playground for terrorism and radicalisation.

Exhorting delegates and officials from more than 120 countries to work towards a “formal collaborative framework” for a secure internet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said nations must ensure that the digital domain does not become a playground for terrorism and radicalisation. Inaugurating the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS), Modi said digital technology serves to empower mankind and there is a need to ensure that the exercise continues. He further said security agencies across the globe must share information to counter the “ever-changing threat landscape”. GCCF was launched in 2011 with a view to discuss and establish globally accepted rules for behaviour in cyberspace. It also aims to create a platform for governments, civil society and industry to deliberate on how these rules can be implemented. This is the fifth edition of the annual event, which has earlier taken place in London, Budapest, Seoul and The Hague.

The Prime Minister said: “The large multi-stakeholder participation at this event is proof of the global endorsement that this platform has received. Nation states, the industry, academia and civil society, all need to work towards a formal collaborative framework. This will enable a secure cyberspace, which improves quality of life.” Modi said the quest for an open internet often leads to vulnerability and it must be ensured that vulnerable sections of the society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cybercriminals. “On a related note, nations must also take responsibility to ensure that digital space does not become a playground for the dark forces of terrorism and radicalisation. Information-sharing and coordination among security agencies is essential to counter the ever-changing threat landscape. Surely, we can walk the fine balance between privacy and openness on one hand, and national security on the other. Together, we can overcome the differences between global and open systems on one hand, and nation-specific legal requirements on the other,” he said.

Modi stressed the need for training of a well-equipped and capable professional workforce to counter cyberthreats. “We need to ensure that cyberprotection becomes an attractive and viable career option for the youth,” he added. The PM invited the global investor community to invest in Indian start-ups. “Cyberspace remains a key area for innovation. Our start-ups today are looking to provide solutions to common everyday problems and improving the lives of people. I am confident that the global investor community will recognise the immense potential waiting to be tapped from India’s start-up pool. I invite you to invest in this space and be a part of the unfolding story of Indian startups,” he added.

During the event, Modi also launched the Umang app, which will provide access to over 100 citizen-centric services, including Digilocker and E-Aadhaar. Right to access non-negotiable: IT minister on net neutrality Stressing that India upholds internet privacy governed by the rule of law and constitution, electronics and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said the people’s right to access cyberspace is not negotiable.

“The debate is going on, but you may recall my statement in Parliament that right of access is not negotiable. Therefore, without going into the larger nuances of net neutrality in India we have taken a new position. Right of access is important and non-negotiable,” he told reporters when asked about India’s response on net neutrality following reports that the US’ Federal Communication Commission plans to repeal rules on net neutrality.  Citing the example of Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, he said, “Facebook has a powerful presence and is most important in India, we respect that. But I was handling the communications department (telecom ministry) and this whole thing about Free Basics came about… When I examined that I said that to get free you have to enter only from one gate. I took a very firm stand. Indian internet democracy does not admit of one gate”.

BUSINESS LINE, NOV 24, 2017

Internet for all is not negotiable: Prasad

Maintaining that the right for all of access to internet is “non-negotiable”, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday the government will not allow any company to restrict entry of Indians into the worldwide web.

“Without going into the larger nuance of net neutrality in India, we have taken a new position — that right of access is important and is not negotiatble,” he said.

The minister said the government had not accepted Facebook’s Free Basics programme as it offered access to only select internet services. Speaking at the Global Conference on Cyberspace, Prasad said: “When I was handling the Communications Department, my friend Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) met me with the idea of Free Basics a number of times. Free Basics is that everything will be free if you enter through my (Facebook’s) gate, namely education, health, entertainment, etc. To which, I replied that India is a democratic country and we don’t believe in one gate.”

The government plans to make six crore people in rural areas digitally literate under the PM’s digital literacy programme, he .

Digital literacy

“Under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, one crore people in rural backward areas have already been made digitally literate, and another six crore will be trained in the next two years.”. The minister said India is trying to create an “inclusive, safe and secure cyber space for sustainable development. The focus is on looking beyond mere digitisation to digital technologies as means to empower people.”

On cyber diplomacy, he said: “In this new world order, collaboration and cooperation among nation States is entering a new phase. There is already recognition for such cooperation in areas such as cyber defence and security. However, rules of engagement relating to international concerns, including cyber warfare espionage and crime, need to be evolved.”

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 24, 2017)

INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 29, 2017

Internet must be open: TRAI backs net neutrality

“The use of Internet should be facilitated in such a manner that it advances the free speech rights of citizens, by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas,” recommended TRAI.

TRAI recommendations on net neutrality: Here is how the regulator plans to monitor and enforce

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday recommended upholding the basic principle of net neutrality by keeping the Internet open and prohibiting any service provider from discriminating on the basis of content by either blocking, throttling, or “fast-laning” any apps, websites or web services.

The recommendations follow a consultation process that lasted for over a year, after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sought TRAI’s views on the issue in March 2016, with an aim to “finalise a viewpoint” on net neutrality.

“No one owns the Internet, so it should be open and accessible to everyone. Service providers have the power of becoming gatekeepers of the Internet but they should not indulge in doing so with this important platform,” TRAI chairman R S Sharma told The Indian Express.

“The use of Internet should be facilitated in such a manner that it advances the free speech rights of citizens, by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas,” recommended TRAI.

The regulator’s proposal to adhere to the tenets of net neutrality comes days after the US Federal Communication Commission said it would repeal the 2015 laws that aimed at upholding this broad principle of neutrality, giving consumers equal access to Web content, and barring broadband providers from blocking or slowing access to content, or charging consumers more for certain types of content.

TRAI also recommended that “specialised services” and content delivery networks (CDNs) be excluded from the scope of “any rules on net neutrality”. While the regulator has not laid down a clear definition of specialised services, it said the DoT may identify these services, and the status should only be given if a service follows two broad principles. First, “such services are not usable or offered as a replacement for Internet access services”; and second, “the provision of such services should not be detrimental to the availability and overall quality of Internet access services”.

The recommendations also call for keeping Internet of Things (IoT) within the purview of non-discriminatory restriction, with the exception of critical services.

The regulator has also suggested exempting CDNs from the scope of net neutrality rules, arguing that CDNs add efficiency to the network by reducing latency, mitigating congestion and freeing up network capacity for other purposes. CDNs are a layer in Internet networks (outside public Internet), used by content generators to store their data at suitable geographical locations. TRAI has added a rider calling for more transparency relating to arrangements between telecom companies and CDNs.

Experts suggest that the CDN exemption could strengthen the position of integrated operators which also provide content. “The proposed regulations are likely to give integrated operators an upper hand versus pure play connectivity providers. For example, any operator with own content platform, which is working only on its own network, will be able to charge differential pricing. This may give such an integrated operator advantage versus a pure play connectivity provider,” Edelweiss Research said in a note.

However, an official with one of the telecom companies, on condition of anonymity, said the CDN exemption would be taken care of by the regulator’s recommendation that the service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract “that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment”.

TRAI has also suggested allowing telecom and Internet service providers to deploy “reasonable” traffic management practices from time to time, given that such interventions are “proportionate, transient and transparent in nature”. To monitor and investigate whether service providers are adhering to the rules, the regulator also suggested that a multi-stakeholder body be set up, led by industry, and comprising members representing different telecom and Internet service providers, large and small content providers, representatives from research, academia, civil society organisations and consumer bodies.

However, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan Mathews said the suggestion to form a committee to review and decide on network management violations is “unnecessarily bureaucratic”, and not in keeping with “light touch regulation or the ease of doing business”.

“The DoT is already well positioned to investigate any violation of licence conditions and it already has all the necessary enforcement mechanisms in place. Hence, such a heavy-handed approach is not necessary, as is now being proposed by TRAI,” Mathews said.

EDUCATION

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 30, 2017

UGC warning to institutes: Drop ‘university’ from name or lose ‘deemed’ statusThe first of the two UGC letters was addressed to seven institutes -- including Pune’s Symbiosis International University, and the Bengaluru-based Christ University and Jain University -- directing them to change their names.

Neelam Pandey 

Leading educational institutes such as Symbiosis, Manipal and Teri could lose their “deemed to be” status if they fail to convey by Thursday their acceptance of a University Grants Commission (UGC) directive to drop “university” from their names.

The higher education regulator on Wednesday issued two separate orders to 29 deemed universities, where hundreds of thousands of students are enrolled.

The compliance report should be emailed by 4pm on Thursday or “necessary action would be initiated against the institutions, which may include recommending withdrawal of the declaration” notifying them as deemed-to-be universities, the UGC said in the two letters, copies of which are with Hindustan Times.

Wednesday’s directives stem from a Supreme Court order of November 3, asking the UGC to stop deemed-to-be universities from using the word “university” in their names.

The first of the two UGC letters was addressed to seven institutes -- including Pune’s Symbiosis International University, and the Bengaluru-based Christ University and Jain University -- directing them to change their names.

While granting them the deemed status on the UGC’s recommendation, the government had used the word “university” with their names.

The second directive was issued to Manipal University, Delhi’s Teri University, KLE University in Belagavi, and 19 other institutes. They have been asked to drop the word university and “revert” to the names notified by the government at the time of granting of deemed-to-be status.

Manipal University, for instance, was registered as Manipal Academy of Higher Education and KLE University as KLE Academy of Higher Education and Research.

The UGC wrote to 123 institutes twice -- on November 10 and 13 -- to comply with the SC order within 15 days. Of these, 29 institutions didn’t respond.

The Energy and Resources Institute, better known as Teri, is ready for name change.

“It has taken us time because we are going through an approval process to change the name back to Teri School of Advanced Studies. That is the name we had in 1999 when we started,” Teri University pro vice chancellor Rajiv Seth said.

They changed the name to Teri University in 2006 because the UGC allowed it, he said, adding, “Now that the SC has ruled that we cannot use the word university, we will change it back by tomorrow.”

After the November 10 UGC circular, Manipal University decided to change the name to Manipal Academy of Higher Education, registrar Dr Narayana Sabhahit said.

“The process of changing the name will be completed before the prescribed deadline… We will be communicating the decision to UGC shortly,” he said. “I would also like to highlight this is just a change of name and our status as deemed to be university remains unchanged.”

Symbiosis did not respond to emails sent by HT.

The deemed status is granted to higher education institutes doing quality work in a particular stream. For instance, Symbosis specialises in management studies and Manipal in engineering.

These institutes can’t be called universities because their expertise is not multidisciplinary but the deemed tag brings academic status and privileges of a university.

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 29, 2017

DU colleges struggling to pay salaries as Kejriwal govt holds back fundsAs things stand now though, some colleges affiliated to the University of Delhi do not have the funds to pay their staff in December

Heena Kausar 

There are 12 colleges in DU that are fully funded by the state government.(Hemant Mishra/Mint)

A group of Delhi University colleges, fully funded by the state government, are struggling to pay their staff salaries as the government has maintained that money will only be released after they form governing bodies. There are 12 colleges in DU that are fully funded by the state government.

After an “interim” relief from the government, however, the colleges in question will be able to pay the salaries for November. As things stand now though, the colleges do not have the funds to pay their staff in December.

The issue arose after the Arvind Kejriwal government announced in July that it would withhold funds for 28 colleges, partially or fully funded by it, as the Delhi University had not formed governing bodies (GB) as required. Among those, the 16 partially funded colleges have adequate funds for now as 95% of their grants come from the University Grants Commission.

With the government having released funds till September, the crunch for the 12 colleges started in October and the institutions were forced to divert funds and use surplus funds to pay salaries to their staff. The government had announced that it would pay funds for release of salary for October as an “interim measure” after colleges complained they would not be able to pay their staff.

Atishi Marlena, advisor to education minister Manish Sisodia, said the government sanctioned the release of funds on Monday as promised to DU Teachers’ Association as an interim relief.

About the salaries for November, Marlena said, “The rest of the money will be released after the formation of the GB.”

But with funds meant for October coming only on Tuesday, the colleges again found themselves in a tight spot this month.

“For giving our staff October’s salary, we had to divert some funds. Today (Tuesday) morning, we received the funds for the last month. But this is only interim and we will face the same crunch next month,” said SK Garg, principal, Deen Dayal Upadhayay College.

Payal Mago, principal of Shaheed Raj Guru College, said unless the matter is resolved, the colleges will continue to face the problem at the end of every month. “The funds government promised have come in November and it is not even sufficient to pay salaries. But this is no solution as the government has only released funds for one month. We will pay this month’s salary using last month’s fund. But what about December?” she asked.

Poonam Verma, principal, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, expressed similar concerns.

The tussle over the formation of the GBs has left these 12 colleges scrounging for funds with the staff hoping each month that their salary arrives on time.

The governing body of each college has 15 members out of which five are nominated by the government.

The government and the university are unable to finalise the GBs with both blaming the other for the delay. Government officials said they had sent a list of names to the university after selecting it from a panel that DU had sent, but in October the university withdrew the original panel and sent a reduced panel for selection of names. There has been no update since then.

HINDU, NOV 29, 2017

Rethink school education

Uday Balakrishnan

The shift to private education is not good. Government schools ought to be the drivers of change

In Uncertain Glory — India and its Contradictions , Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen begin their chapter on education with a quote from Rabindranath Tagore: “The imposing tower of misery which today rests on the heart of India has its sole foundation in the absence of education.” This is as true today as it was nearly 90 years back.

While India highlights its ever-improving literacy levels, educationally it is a terrible under-performer, too embarrassed to participate in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment tests covering reading and computational skills for 15-year-olds. Successive studies have repeatedly established that a majority of those in each class in India have educational attainments much lower than the one they are in. Data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development show that only half of all students who enter primary school make it to the upper primary level and less than half that — around 25 million — get into the 9-12 class cycle. We have around a million primary schools and only half that number at the upper primary level. The number of secondary schools is less than 150,000 for a country of 1.3 billion, and even this comes down to just 100,000 at the higher secondary level. While there are around five million primary school teachers, at the secondary level the number is just 1.5 million. India has persisted with a schooling system that has long failed its young.

The inexorable shift to private school education along with the Right to Education Act represents a failure of the public-school system. It is government schools that should be the drivers of change by becoming the first, not the last, choice of parents to send their children to. For that to happen, our public-school system must be swiftly and radically revamped, while our teacher training institutions, of which the District Institutes of Education and Training constitute an important part, speedily re-jigged to turn out world-class teachers, of the kind that will encourage children to stay on in, not drop out of, school.

It is time that India began viewing school education as a critical strategic investment and gave it the status of a vital infrastructure project. As all in-country efforts have failed, we should go in for a radical overhaul of our educational infrastructure with the help of countries that have an amazing record in providing quality school education — Finland, for instance. We can surely afford to pay for that.

If only India had begun revamping school education at the start of economic liberalisation, it would by now have had the world’s largest pool of well-educated and highly trained workers. Fortunately, India continues to have the largest number of young people anywhere. By ensuring they get a world-class education over the next few decades, India will be well on its way towards becoming a developed nation sooner than expected.

Uday Balakrishnan is visiting faculty at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 29, 2017

Involve students in framing curricula, this could overhaul education system in IndiaCurrent trends indicate that 20% of the world’s working age population will live in India by 2025. To ensure that this working age population has the skills to survive and be fruitfully employed is the biggest challenge that the education sector faces today

Last week, Mumbai University’s (MU) board of studies in Zoology set up a consultation with students in order to improve the Third Year syllabus for the Zoology (Honours) course. This was an effort to seek ideas from students in the drafting and framing of the curriculum. While , even within MU, the debate on the efficacy of such a conversation continues, the question of whether students should have a say in the curriculum they study is an important one.

As the principal stakeholders in the education system of the country, students have never really had a say in what they want to study. Some universities have a practice of students evaluating teachers, but neither is it an established one, nor is it taken very seriously. Mostly, it is only about the quality of teachers, and almost never about the curriculum and its usefulness. It would be an interesting exercise to understand the curriculum from the other side of the educator-student divide; and such an endeavour can only lead to a widening of our horizons. It is no secret that the higher education system in India is in need of a complete overhaul. Many of the courses on offer provide students with no real employable skills and do not manage to inspire students to take up further research. Teaching methods are outdated, infrastructure is almost uniformly poor, and the examination system entirely inadequate.

India stands at the threshold of a demographic dividend: Current trends indicate that 20% of the world’s working age population will live in India by 2025. To ensure that this population has the skills to survive and be fruitfully employed is the biggest challenge that the education sector faces today. It would make sense for the education sector to consult its primary stakeholders about what they wish to study and how, in order to make the system cater to their needs.

PIONEER, NOV 27, 2017

CONTRACT TEACHERS’ MASS RALLY IN CITY ON DECEMBER 8

5

The State Contractual Teachers’ Association on Sunday said it would hold a massive protest meeting against the Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards them on the Gandhi Marg in the Lower PMG area here on December 8.

About 20,000 contractual teachers would join the demonstration, said Association State convenor Amulya Mishra and others in a statement. 

Mishra said the association insists on fulfillment of its all seven demands at the earliest, Mishra said, lamenting that the Government has not met any of the demands despite repeated talks and assurances.

The demands include eradication of salary discrepancies as per Seventh Pay Commission, abolishment of OSS TET from 2016, adding of six-year contractual time to service period, provision of transfer and 15-day CL, payment of GP arrear, immediate regularization of 2009-10 Batch and abolition of contractual system and adoption of ‘equal pay for equal work’ as per the direction of the Supreme Court.

Association functionaries like Maheswar Sahoo, Ashok Panda, Bipin Sahoo, Subrajit Pratihari, Krushnachandra Jena, Soumyaranjan Mallick, Ajit Mohanty, Nabajyoti Mohapatra, Nirod Ratha, Pradeep Patra, Bhakta Charan and Jnana Ranjan Das joined Mishra in the statement.

TELEGRAPH, NOV 28, 2017

ICSE, ISC pass marks to be cut

Jhinuk Mazumdar and Subhankar Chowdhury

Calcutta: The ICSE pass percentage has been reduced to 33 from 35 and that of ISC to 35 from 40 from 2019, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations said on Monday.

"The objective of this is to bring about... uniformity with other boards in the country," said Gerry Arathoon, the council's chief executive and secretary.

Although the changes will be effective from 2019, schools have been advised to "implement the same pass mark criteria in your internal examinations... from the academic year 2018-19" for Classes IX to XII.

The pass mark in CBSE Classes X and XII is 33 per cent.

Arathoon told The Telegraph: "We have decided to come down to 35 per cent (for ISC). Our board has a certain credibility and we need to maintain that, and it's a matter of (just) 2 per cent (in comparison with the CBSE pass percentage)."

ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 24, 2017

Delhi government school guest teachers to get maternity benefits

Guest teachers in Delhi government-run schools will now be entitled to maternity benefits with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal approving a proposal regarding it. "It has been decided to extend the benefits under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 and Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017 to all guest teachers working in Directorate of Education, Delhi Government," an official order read. The Delhi School Tribunal had recently pulled up a private school for "illegally and arbitrarily" terminating the services of a contractual teacher on grounds that she asked for maternity leave, and ordered that she be "reinstated". The Delhi Guest Teachers Association has been demanding regularisation of over 17,000 guest teachers, pay parity when compared to permanent teachers and maternity benefits. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had at a meeting assured the association of fulfilling their demands. Melt excess "Belly fat" with this one simple trick NutraLyfe Profitable yet

ELECTIONS

TRIBUNE, NOV 27, 2017

After state polls, what will change?

Subir Roy, Senior journalist

Imponderable as the outcome of the elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat is just now, the result — of either the BJP getting a clear win or a slender win, or the Congress making it — will have varying politico-economic impacts.

After almost a year of adverse developments, beginning with demonetisation last November and going on to the adverse fallout of the Goods and Services Tax, the NDA dispensation appears to have hit a sweet spot - receiving a succession of positive report cards.

First came the sharp jump in India's rank in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business league table. This was followed by the global rating agency Moody's upgrading India for the first time in 13 years. And most recently has come the opinion survey by the US-based Pew Research Center finding popular support for Narendra Modi running at an 88 per cent high, compared to 58 per cent for Rahul Gandhi. 

Unsurprisingly, opinion polls and journalists' surveys put the BJP in a winning position by a handsome margin in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections and by a narrower but decisive margin in Gujarat. But thereafter has come the alliance between the Congress and the section of Patidars led by Hardik Patel. This has added a sharper edge to the challenge posed by the Congress to the long-term incumbent. Even before the alliance, there was visible discontent, described as unprecedented, among sections of the BJP over ticket distribution. 

The Congress-Hardik alliance has not by any means enabled the Congress to get under its belt the entire Patidar vote but the contest has just got keener. This makes a scenario building to gauge possible outcomes more difficult but that exercise still needs to be undertaken so as to get a measure of the policy options which will be before the BJP in the run-up to the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Recall that after scoring a resounding victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Modi bandwagon met with two setbacks in the Assembly elections: in Delhi and Bihar. Thereafter, for the UP Assembly elections, the party followed a strategy of seeking short-term safety - Hindu consolidation plus pragmatic adjustments based on caste and the pull of local leaders, some of whom had defected to the party not too long before the elections. 

This proved to be a winning formula and in its Gujarat campaign, the BJP has followed the same to the hilt. The Hindutva card is being played with a vengeance and a new low has been reached by a circulating a video depicting the majority community being terrified by Muslims. How seriously the Hardik challenge was being taken by the BJP even before the tie-up with the Congress is indicated by the circulation of a compromising video involving Hardik. 

Three probabilities

Imponderable as the outcome is just now, let us still look at three scenarios to gauge what lies ahead of the country as a whole.

1. First, if Gujarat returns a marginally favourable verdict for the BJP and Himachal an unambiguous one. What will be the impact of this on economic policy? Arun Jaitley has already indicated that the attempt to strictly abide by fiscal stability norms, resulting in a tight-fisted approach to spending, can be eased a bit. 

This is not surprising in the run-up to the General Election (in 2019). So, expect a regime of pre-election freebies resulting in fiscal easing. Expect a change in policy only after the elections, unless inflation numbers start ringing alarm bells. Even then, the reaction will not be to tighten spending norms but to reduce import duties to ease the supply of essentials and pressure on prices. 

An imponderable is the import price of oil. If this goes up, then import duties will be reduced so as not to court unpopularity by raising domestic prices. But there is a limit to this. What can truly make the government sit up and think is a worsening of the balance of payments situation in tandem with the deterioration in the fiscal situation. 

Now let us examine the political stance Modi is likely to take in the year and a little more ahead. Emboldened by the two victories, there is a likelihood that the tried and tested formula which worked in UP and Gujarat will be put into play again. This will lead to a business-as-usual Hindutva stance that will put the secular character of the republic and its governance, already under pressure, to further stress. This is not the India that its founding fathers, including Vallabhbhai Patel, envisioned, but neither is present-day Turkey in the image that its founder Kemal Ataturk had before him. 

2.Now let us look at the second scenario which is still — despite the Congress-Hardik alliance — a less likely one. According to it, the Congress, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, finds its mojo and, aided by the pact with Hardik's group, prevents the BJP from getting a clear favourable verdict in Gujarat. This will result in the Hindu consolidation line being followed with greater vengeance while economic policies remain the same as in the first scenario. 

3.This leaves us with a third scenario — the BJP secures a clear indisputable verdict in both Himachal and Gujarat. Such an outcome will reaffirm the personal charismatic appeal of Modi, proving that most of the electorate 

will go along with his leadership, irrespective of the temporary hardships (demonetisation and introduction of GST) that he may ask them to bear. This can make him feel secure and confident in taking up a more fundamental reform agenda by looking at hitherto neglected areas. He may devote some attention to setting India's agricultural house in order. He may seek to raise the ease of doing business for micro, small and medium businesses where jobs are created. He may also - you never know - ease up on the Hindutva agenda, rein in cow vigilantes in particular and minority-bashing in general. 

Of the three scenarios, the first is most likely, the second is less so and the third is the least probable.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 24, 2017

No proposal to withdraw cheque book facility, clarifies finance ministrySome media reports said there is a possibility that the central govt may withdraw bank cheque book facility in the near future, with an intent to encourage digital transactions.

The finance ministry on Thursday said there is no proposal to withdraw the bank cheque book facility, which is an integral part of the payments landscape.

The clarification comes in the backdrop of reports in a certain section of media that there is a possibility that the central government may withdraw bank cheque book facility in the near future, with an intent to encourage digital transactions.

This has been denied by the government and reaffirmed that there’s no such proposal, it said in statement.

“The Government of India has reaffirmed that there is NO proposal under consideration to withdraw the bank Cheque Book facility,” the finance ministry said in a tweet.

Post demonetisation, the government has been pushing digital transaction with an aim to move towards less cash society.

The ministry emphasised that while the government is committed to transform India into a less cash economy and promote digital and electronic transactions, “cheques are an integral part of the payments landscape”.

It said cheques form the backbone of trade and commerce, by being negotiable instruments, which often serve as the security for underlying trade transactions.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, in the budget speech for 2017-18, had said that as the country moves faster on the path of digital transactions and cheque payments, “we need to ensure that the payees of dishonoured cheques are able to realise the payments”.

HEALTH SERVICES

STATESMAN, NOV 26, 2017

The silent killers~I

Jaydev Jana 

    

If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness, only then is it possible to help him.

~ Hippocrates

Diseases are adverse health conditions which can impact the overall well-being of an individual and can occur by ‘chance’ or ‘choice’. For centuries, communicable diseases (CDs) were the main factors responsible for deaths around the world. Life expectancy was often limited by uncontrolled epidemics. The fight against AIDS, as well as tuberculosis and many other CDs, is far from over in spite of medical research and achievements in terms of vaccination, antibiotics and improvement of life conditions. While CDs continue to grip many parts of the world with fear, research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and leading epidemiologists has identified another global epidemic and the biggest killers.

These are not contagious or chronic diseases. They can be prolonged and are usually the result of a combination of genetics, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. The other stark feature of these disorders is their ability to affect any human being world over without barriers of geography, race, ethnicity, region or religion. The ‘noncommunicable disease’ (NCD) cases ~ heart ailment, stroke, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, respiratory diseases, etc. ~ all share common risk factors, including unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and chewing tobacco, and a huge consumption of alcohol. Though the risk factors for many of these illnesses also rooted in our DNA, the trigger to their early onslaught and unmanageable is definitely one’s lifestyle. Most of the NCDs are referred to as ‘lifestyle’ diseases which are not restricted to adults alone, they have started affecting children as well. The shift in purchasing power and the advent technology have changed our way of life. With less physical activity, greater availability of resources and little or no time to spare, we have become vulnerable to ailments that were unheard of in the 1960s and Seventies.

There is evidence that the poorest members of society and malnourished children are at risk. For some, vulnerability begins in the womb. Dr. David Barker’s theory, coined as Barker Hypothesis by the British Medical Journal in 1995, states that “maternal dietary imbalances” at the critical period of development of the womb can trigger an adaptive redistribution of the foetal resources in such a way that such adaptation and metabolism predispose individuals to NCDs like heart diseases, obesity and diabetes later in life.

According to WHO’s Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases 2010, NCDs are sweeping the world and appear to be the leading factors behind death, killing more people every year than other causes combined. In the introduction to the report it is also mentioned that “of the 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008, 36 million ~ almost two-thirds ~ were due to NCDs, notably cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. The combined burden of such ailments is rising fastest among lower-income countries, populations and communities, where they impose large, avoidable costs in human, social and economic terms. About one-fourth of global NCD-related deaths take place before the age of 60.”

Going by the updated statistics of WHO, NCDs kill about 40 million people each year, equivalent to 70 per cent of all deaths globally. And four groups of the most common diseases ~ cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory ailments and diabetes ~ account for over 80 per cent of all premature NCD deaths. The ailment not only affects health but also productivity and economic growth. It appears from the latest fac-sheet of WHO that every year 15 million people die from NCDs between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 80 per cent of these ‘premature’ deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Premature deaths, illnesses and disabilities at a young age impact heavily on socio-economic development and productivity. By 2020, it is predicted that NCDs will account for around 80 per cent of the global burden of disease, causing seven out of every ten deaths in developing countries, compared with less than half today. It is also feared in the report that among the poor people of low- and middle-income countries ‘a vicious cycle may ensure: poverty exposes people to behavioral risk factors for NCDs and ,in turn, the resulting NCDs may become an important driver to the downward spiral that leads families towards poverty. As a result, unless the NCD epidemic is aggressively confronted in the most heavily affected countries and communities, the its mounting impact will continue and the global objective of reducing poverty will be undermined.

The first health-of-the-nation report, India: Health of the Nation’s States, prepared as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016, has recently been published. The report provides estimates of the impact of 333 disease conditions and injuries and 84 risk factors for every state from 1990 to 2016. In 2016, NCDs, which include heart ailments, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and mental disorders, accounted for 61.8 per cent of the total deaths. CDs, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases accounted for 27.5 per cent and injuries accounted for the rest. NCDs took the heaviest toll in all states, but relatively more in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab and Goa. In the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PECD), India has stated that NCDs account for 53 per cent of the “disease-burden” in the country and more than six out of ten people die from NCDs. It is reported that roughly 5.8 million Indians die every year due to NCDs; it has been projected that by 2025 roughly 7 million Indians will die. The pertinent question that arises is: Are Indians more susceptible to many of the lifestyle disease?

Over the years, much work has been done towards estimating the human toll of NCDs, but work on assessing the economic toll is far less advanced. However, a report titled The Global Economic Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases 2011 of the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health states that NCDs already pose a substantial economic burden and over the next 20 decades the burden will be more than $30 trillion, representing 48 per cent of the global GDP in 2010 and pushing millions of people below the poverty line. Although high-income countries currently bear the biggest economic burden of NCDs, the developing world, especially middle-income countries, is expected to assume an ever larger share as their economies and population grow.

The writer is a retired IAS officer

(To be concluded)

STATESMAN, NOV 27, 2017

The silent killers~II

JAYDEV JANA    

Another report titled  Economics of Non-Communicable Diseases in India, 2014, crafted by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health examines the economic impact of such diseases to the Indian economy. It has been calculated that the country stands to lose $4.58 trillion before 2030 due to NCDs and mental health conditions. Moreover, lifestyle diseases can impede workforce productivity by increasing the rates of absenteeism, diminishing the energy and focus on workers, and depleting critical workplace skills. Let us examine the most common types of lifestyle diseases affecting us as a race and a geographical entity.

Cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke) have emerged as the top contender among others to be responsible for causing the maximum mortality globally as well as in India. Over six million people died of NCDs in India in 2016, with Ischemic heart being the leading cause of death, according to the findings of the 2016 study that has recently been published in the medical journal, The Lancet. Genetically, Indians are susceptible to high cholesterol levels and diabetes.

This has assumed an epidemic proportion. High blood pressure, smoking and diabetes are among the factors known to increase the risk of stroke, a condition in which the blood supply to a region of the brain is obstructed or a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Nearly 15 per cent of the planet’s adult population smokes. Tobacco is the world’s leading preventable cause of death, responsible for the death of six million people yearly. About one in ten of those deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease. Smoking impacts circulation by narrowing the arteries, damaging the lining of blood vessels and increasing the risk of blood clots. This more than doubles the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke and shortens a smoker’s life by about a decade. Drinking is also a massive problem.

Each year, alcohol kills more people than AIDS and tuberculosis combined, about 2.5 million in all, including more than 3 lakh individuals who have not yet reached their 30th birthday. Those deaths are due to injury, cirrhosis of liver, cancer and heart ailments. Heavy drinking can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke. It enlarges the heart and raises harmful triglycerides.

Another contender that is trying to attain the No. One position in terms of mortality rates is diabetes. India is home to the highest number of diabetics; roughly 30 million and growing daily. It has been predicted that the country will be saddled by 80 million diabetics by 2030. Type 1, an autoimmune condition and Type 2, an insulin-malfunction condition have become a possible threat for every human life. Several studies highlight the nutritional status of ancestors to be the major “causative factor”, apart from lifestyle changes. Generations of malnutrition followed by rapid changes of lifestyle have led to a surge in the number of people affected by metabolic disorders.

Every biochemical activity is coded in our DNA and the sudden increase in energy-dense food has caused severe alterations at the epigenetic level, resulting in obesity. Certain factors behind Type 2 diabetes have been identified, and this makes Indians and South Asians generally more prone to suffer than their European counterparts.

Such dissonances have been collectively termed as ‘evodeviation’. This implies that human cultural evolution, determining the sources and methods of food production, has occurred at an ever-increasing pace, whereas human biology has simply not had time to adapt to the evolutionary process. Lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and stress are to an extent manageable.

Obesity is the most visible and yet most neglected non-communicable disease. Without immediate action, millions suffer from an array of serious health disorders because of growing overweight and obesity. Joint disorders like osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart diseases, etc. are among the consequences. Obese populations have a 69 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 47 per cent greater chance of suffering a stroke than those with normal weight.

Obesity is one of the major public health challenges of the 21st century. India is ranked to be third most obese country in the world.  The country is now battling both obesity and malnutrition. In India, two in five children are malnourished, yet one in five is overweight. Over-reliance on proceed foods rich in fat and sugar are responsible for abdominal obesity.

Certain types of cancers can be attributed to familial/genetic disorders. Cancer of the breast and colon have been linked to obesity, while consumption of tobacco and diet with a high salt content can cause tongue, oral and gastrointestinal cancer. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle have been linked to around 13 different types of cancer. Treatment of cancer entails a huge expenditure, driving poor families to penury.

Others NCDs include professional stress, heat, sound, dust, fumes, pollutants etc. which can cause respiratory failure and increased risk of strokes, adverse lung condition. Certain factors can also disturb our biological clock causing irritability, mood swings, fatigue, etc, weakening our immune system and resulting in many other complications.

If these lifestyle diseases are not checked, this ‘slow-motion disaster’ (a term coined by former WHO Director General Margaret Chan) could render struggling nations bankrupt and leave citizens further mired in poverty. NCDs threaten progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a target of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030 through prevention and treatment.

With so many proven statistics in hand, it is imperative to tighten our laces, strengthen our collective action to take the steps required for the optimal approach to the prevention and control of such ailments. An active lifestyle, healthy diet and the need to avoid smoking, drinking and drugs must be encouraged.

In the words of Paul Bulcke, CEO, Nestle, Switzerland: ‘We speak about healthcare, and most of the time we are talking about caring for sick people, not caring about health. At the end of the day, health is not something you ‘use’, it is something you keep. But we can only create and ‘keep’ health by working together to provide a broad health-promoting ecosystem with the individual at the centre.’

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

TELEGRAPH, NOV 24, 2017Challenging ties- India and the dynamics among the US, Russia and China

Kanwal Sibal

The cross-linkages of India's relations with the United States of America, Russia and China raise challenges. India's strategic relationship with the US is becoming stronger. Its defence ties are expanding with the purchase of about $15 billion of defence equipment in the last few years. Donald Trump has supported the major defence partner status accorded to India by the US Congress and expressed readiness to work "together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States". However, meaningful participation on the US's part in the Make in India campaign remains uncertain. To the US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions enunciated under Barack Obama, Trump has added a significant geopolitical nuance by referring to the region as Indo-Pacific which makes India more central to Asian security. On terrorism-related issues, the US's designation of Syed Salahuddin as well as the Hizbul Mujahideen itself is important politically as it delegitimizes this Kashmiri terrorist group located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Trump's review of America's Afghanistan policy has elements that respond to India's interests. There are clear signals of increasing toughness towards Pakistan unless it ceases to provide safe havens to terrorist groups, although what actions the US would take remain unclear.

The US is India's largest economic partner as a single country, with $115 billion of two-way trade in goods and services. But under Trump, pressure to reduce our trade surplus will be exerted, apart from H1B visa related issues. The US has endorsed our strategic opposition to China's Belt and Road Initiative, although how far the US can or will devise strategies to counter it is open to question. While the US's capacity and will to counter the sea-based element of the BRI are more visible, they are not so on land. The US favours a greater role for China in Afghanistan, as the revival of the 'Quad' (the US, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan) shows. Trump's recent visit to China and other East Asian countries has caused confusion about the US's policy towards Beijing. Trump's unnecessary personal acclamation of Xi Jinping and the reliance on China to contain North Korea precludes any tough measures against Beijing in the immediate future. The China factor is important in our developing strategic convergences with the US, and Trump's inconsistent handling of China puts us in a predicament.

The sharp deterioration in US-Russia ties raises challenges for India as our relationship with Russia is of considerable importance and we need to maintain an equilibrium in these two relationships. Strong ties with Russia are necessary to keep our foreign policy balanced. In an uncertain and fluid international environment, the core value of the India-Russia relationship remains unchanged. Defence remains the strongest pillar of India-Russia ties. With almost 70 per cent of equipment with India's armed forces being of Russian origin, the strategic stakes involved in the relationship are huge. The challenge now is to mobilize Russian participation in the Make in India programme which would require building of private sector partnerships for defence production. The latest US sanctions targeting every major Russian defence company dealing with India creates a potentially problematic situation. Russia is the only country building nuclear power plants in India. The agreement on Kudankulam units 5 and 6 has given a further boost to this cooperation. After years of efforts, India and Russia have made headway in energy cooperation, irrespective of whether Indian investments in oil fields in Russia or LNG supply contract, both at the State level and in the Indian private sector. The biggest weakness in the India-Russia strategic partnership is the low level of bilateral trade - less than $8 billion. With State directed trade being no longer possible, the private sector on both sides have to fill the breach, but this is not happening. The market and technology needs of the most advanced and dynamic sectors of the Indian economy, coupled with the diminishing role of the government sector, have reduced the opportunities for Indo-Russian economic cooperation. Both India and Russia have long-term interests in insulating Central Asia from religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Lately, however, gaps are developing between India and Russia on the role of the Taliban and Pakistan in Afghanistan. Russia has publicly opened channels of communication with the Taliban and has advocated a flexible approach towards it. It has also been reaching out to Pakistan. Its activism in this region seems to be a product of a strategy to counter the US across a broad geopolitical canvas.We cannot take India-Russia relations for granted and need to tend them, especially when Russia is under pressure from the West and has been pushed into the arms of China, with significant implications for India.

Our China relationship is the most difficult to handle. China now openly seeks hegemony in Asia although it is camouflaged in projects such as the BRI. This, if fully implemented, will expand China's influence in the Eurasian region where the US's power is weak or receding, and it will be also at Russia's cost. China's decision to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through territory that is legally Indian is a major strategic choice. India is opposing the BRI as it will further consolidate Chinese power in our larger neighbourhood, constraining India's room for manoeuvring. India's immediate security environment is also threatened by Chinese inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Our capacity to influence these countries to align themselves with India's legitimate interests, or, at least, not damage our interests, is impaired by Chinese presence and influence. China continues to maintain pressure on India on border issues to keep New Delhi off-balance. The Doklam incident, coming after China's repeated opposition to India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and to the UN's designation of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist, has underlined the fact that China remains India's unrelenting strategic adversary. The resolution of the Doklam crisis should not be seen as a turning page in India-China relations. That the BRICS communiqué mentioned the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad has to be balanced against China's subsequent praise of Pakistan for its sacrifices in combating terrorism.

Strategic coordination between Russia and China has increased to counter the variable US pressures on both countries. Western sanctions on Russia and the continuing attempts to isolate it have allowed China to gain geopolitical ground. China has the advantage of a huge economic relationship with the US that limits the latter's options in dealing with its disruptive and expansionist policies. The vacuum created by Russia's diminished power has been filled by China. China's growing strength and Russia's decline has changed the balance within the Russia-India-China dialogue as well as in BRICS in favour of China. This is to India's disadvantage, as the China relationship has become more important for Russia than its India relationship. Even within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, China is the dominant player. The antagonism between the US and Russia has led the latter to challenge American interests where it can. This explains Russia's reported support for the Taliban and for Pakistan at a time when its relationship with the US has come under strain. All in all, the dynamics of the US-Russia and Russia-China relations do not favour India's interests.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

JUDICIARY

TRIBUNE, NOV 28, 2017

Judicious balance: Higher courts’ role is clear and necessary

FOR two successive days the Chief Justice of India and various union ministers expressed themselves to have different ideas about the judiciary’s role in our constitutional scheme of things. There is an air of disagreeableness to these differences. The union ministers, rather rambunctiously, gave the impression of speaking down to the judiciary. Arguably, this bluff and bluster is the very signature tune of the Modi government, meted out to all and sundry and this weekend it just happened to be the judiciary’s turn to be at the receiving end. This is not the first time the NDA regime has articulated its views in this vein. Indeed, any government that enjoys a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha chafes at any institutional restraint. The executive’s  aggressive tone can be traced to the unfortunate erosion the judiciary has suffered in its image in recent months. There have been far too many occasions when the higher judiciary did not add to its institutional reputation. The Supreme Court had taken a bold and firm stand on the National Judicial Appointment Commission, thereby reviving the Collegium. Unstated in that assertion was a claim that the judiciary had the talent, competence, rectitude and temperament to produce a slate of unblemished nominees for High Courts and the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the judiciary is yet to reclaim the high moral ground vis-à-vis the other two constitutional organs. Nonetheless, the Union Law Minister’s contention that the judiciary must trust the Prime Minister in the appointment of judges is a flawed argument. Elections are conducted in a democratic arrangement to choose a political party to exercise the executive power of the State; in the process, someone gets to become the prime minister who, in turn, is deemed to be the leader of the country, enjoying the trust and confidence of the citizens. Yet the very essence of the constitutional democracy is that the executive power must remain subject to limits prescribed in the Constitution, and it is for the judiciary to define and determine, from time to time, those limits. Judicial review, even judicial activism, remains central to the larger architecture of constraints and restraints. 

LABOUR

BUSINESS STANDARD, NOV 24, 2017

EPFO subscribers will get benefit of equity investments from FY19EPFO has invested Rs 32,500 crore in equities

Arindam Majumder 

EPFO may cut interest rate from 8.65% to 8.5% for FY18 on Nov 23Soon, your PF account will be transferred automatically when you shift jobsDownload admit card for UPSC Enforcement/Accounts Officers (EPFO) exam 2018EPFO's new enrolment scheme works, 10 million members added in three months

The government has finally agreed on a mechanism on how to disburse the benefit of return from investing in equity to provident fund subscribers. The decision of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) — highest decision-making body today approved EPFO’s exit policy which has spell out how the body plans to monetise its stock exposure to benefit subscribers and subscribers account will be accrued by the end of FY18.

 Under proposed unitisation policy, EPFO will keep the cash and equity component for a subscriber. The 15 per cent invested every month in equity would be allotted to subscribers in the form of units.

The dividend earned by EPFO on its equity investment would also be distributed among the subscribers, thus fetching higher returns. “When a subscriber wants to withdraw his savings from PF, he can opt for either cash or equity,” M Sathiavathy, secretary of Labour and Employment ministry said. She added that whenever the subscribers take advance or settle their PF accounts, the ETF units would be liquidated by the EPFO.

The number of ETF units that a subscriber will receive in his account will depend on the market price of the unit. For instance, out of Rs 1,000, if Rs 150 is the equity component and price of a single unit is Rs 50, the subscriber will get 3 units.

“The process has been smoothened, subscribers do not have to do anything, the subscriber will get two component in his account, I am happy that finally, workers whose money has been invested will get the benefit of it,” said Vrijesh Upadhyay, general secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, who is a member of the CBT. 

The total money invested in equity since 2015-16 is around Rs 32,500 crore and the return has been healthy at around the annual rate of 21.8 per cent. EPFO functions under the Labour ministry and started investing in stocks in August 2015. In 2015-16, it invested 5 per cent of the annual incremental corpus in equities and in 2016-17, 10 per cent. EPFO has an annual incremental corpus of more than Rs 1.2 lakh crore and 15 per cent of that will be at least Rs 18,000 crore.

LIBRARIES

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 30, 2017

In a first, Supreme Court library to get woman lawyer’s portraitKapila Hingorani was the first Indian woman to graduate from Cardiff Law School in Britain and was the first lawyer to file a public interest litigation in the top court in 1979.

Bhadra Sinha 

The Supreme Court will put a portrait of a woman lawyer in one of its libraries for the first time in the 67-year history of India’s top court.

A colour photograph of illustrious barrister Kapila Hingorani, known in legal circles as the Mother of PILs, will be seen alongside images of judicial luminaries MC Setalvad, CK Daphtry and RK Jain in the court’s second library.

“This was long overdue,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said after releasing her portrait on Tuesday. The honour for Hingorani should have come much earlier as she was a true harbinger of justice for the voiceless, he added.

Hingorani, the first Indian woman to graduate from Cardiff Law School in Britain, was the first lawyer to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the top court in 1979.

Her plea was for prisoners awaiting trial for years — sometimes spending more time in prison than the maximum sentence they would have got if convicted for the crimes they were accused of.

WHO IS HINGORANI?

· Kapila Hingorani is called the mother of PILs. Her first PIL led the top court to lay down guidelines for speedy trials.

· The second important PIL which Hingorani filed in the SC related to denial of salary to thousands of employees of Bihar government, ranging from 4 months to 94 months.

· A barrister, Hingorani was the first Indian woman to have studied law at Cardiff.

· Though her family settled in Nairobi and London, she chose to stay in India as she was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.

Her PIL led the top court to issue extensive guidelines for speedy trials and about 40,000 undertrial prisoners were released.

Born in 1927 in Nairobi, Hingorani was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. The Supreme Court had just three woman lawyers when she began practising there. She was 86 when she died in 2013 after a remarkable career spanning nearly 60 years.

Hingorani and her three children — lawyers Aman, Priya and Shweta — fought more than 100 cases in the top court.

The Supreme Court Bar Association president Rupinder Suri said the portrait is a rightful recognition of Hingorani’s achievements as a member of the bar. “She was not just a lawyer but a barrister too. She could have lived in the UK, but chose India,” he said.

A plaque at her Cardiff alma mater also honours the pioneer among India’s woman lawyers.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

TRIBUNE, NOV 24, 2017

7th Pay Commission: Local bodies staff to get pay hike

Neena Sharma

Employees of the 92 local bodies will get their salary as per the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. 

While addressing mediapersons here today, Urban Development Minister Madan Kaushik said, “We have issued orders for 20 local bodies, while the orders for the remaining 72 local bodies will be issued later today or tomorrow.”

The minister said the delay was caused due to technicalities involved in the constitution of 20 new local bodies. “As the newly formed local bodies did not have elected representatives, there was a question of who would forward the proposal. It was finally brought forth by District Magistrates,” said Madan Kaushik. 

He further said the process of delimitation of 29 local bodies had been completed and the last publication was being awaited, adding the last publication for the 46 urban local bodies would be issued tomorrow. “Due to some last minute changes the proposal for the expansion of boundaries of local bodies in Dehradun, Haldwani, Shivalik Nagar and Lal Kuaon would be brought before the Cabinet again,” he said.

He said that the entire process of publication of notifications for the local bodies would be completed within a week. “We will then be left with the work of delimitation of wards,” he said. 

The swiftness with which the state government has completed the process of delimitation and its last publication has led to speculation about an early election to the 92 local bodies otherwise due to be held in April.

PARLIAMENTTRIBUNE, NOV 24, 2017 Parliament’s Winter Session to be held from December 15 to January 5

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs on Friday recommended that the Winter Session of Parliament be held from December 15 to January 5.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday met here to decide on the dates of the Winter Session.

“We request and seek cooperation from all parties, including the opposition, for smooth functioning of both Houses to make this session fruitful,” Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar said. PTIPOLICE

DECCAN HERALD, NOV 24, 2017

Karnataka will soon have university on police investigation: Minister

Ramalinga Reddy, Home Minister

The state government is planning to establish a separate university on police investigation, Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said on Thursday.

Replying to BJP's Tara Anuradha in the Legislative Council, he said the proposed university will help the state police adopt modern technology in the investigation of crimes, cyber crime. Besides, the Home department is spending Rs 80 crore for upgrading forensic science laboratory in Bengaluru, he added.

Tara said that the police personnel are using the traditional methods for the investigation of crimes. She also demanded the state government to come up with a policy for implementing welfare programmes for police personnel.

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

STATESMAN, NOV 28, 2017

Turmoil in Pakistan

A virtually lame-duck government in Pakistan has fared disastrously in its handling of the raging turmoil, as political as it is blasphemy-linked, in Islamabad. Details of the provocation for the upheaval are still rather fogbound; but the names of the parties involved would suggest that they are of the fundamentalist variety ~ Tehri-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwa, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Sunni Tehreek Pakistan. Not much is known of these fledgling political parties that have, for close to three weeks, been engaged in a robust expression of muscle-flexing, and crucially on the eve of the general elections. With rail and road connectivity snapped by blockades, the tremor in Islamabad has jolted the country no less.

Saturday’s mobilisation of the military and the killing of six people in shootouts have served to bring matters to a head. That said, the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has been remarkably restrained in his response. He hasn’t spoken in favour of ratcheting up operations against the disruptionists, but has appealed to the government and the political class for negotiations aimed at a settlement of the contentious issues. Given the fact that it is intrinsically a politically-inspired movement, the settlement must of necessity be political, without the terms of engagement being dictated by the men in uniform. This is the upshot of Sunday’s meeting of the Army chief and the Director-General, ISI, with the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. The fact that Gen Bajwa has had to curtail his visit to the UAE is suggestive of the gravity of the situation.

Blasphemy can be as emotive as it can be mortal; the killing of the Governor of Punjab by his orthodox security guard comes readily to mind.  This time, one major demand of the protestors is the dismissal of law minister Zahid Hamid over changes in a law related to the oath on the “finality of prophethood” in the Election Act, 2017.

With its leader fighting his battles in court, the ruling PML-N is virtually rudderless, a fact that in large part accounts for its bumbling approach to the protest as it spread from Lahore to Islamabad, with the resultant dislocation in such places as Faizabad, in the vicinity of the national capital. With elections scheduled next year and the government loath to rock the right-wing applecart, it has failed to act decisively to rein in the agitators and protect the life and property of the people.

The government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has watched rather helplessly as the federal capital ~ not too far from the Rawalpindi GHQ ~ has been held to ransom. In point of fact, civilian governance and the rule of law have been in suspended animation as has education in the dominant provincial capital of Lahore. This precisely is the impression that Pakistan has conveyed to South Asia and the world in the larger canvas. The crisis cries out for a settlement.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 27, 2017

Government, judiciary, bureaucracy must work for new India: PM Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday stressed on the need to maintain the delicate balance among the three wings of government, speaking on the concluding day of a function which also saw a spat between Union ministers and the head of the judiciary, Chief Justice Dipak Misra. The balance between the executive, legislature and the judiciary is the "backbone" of the Constitution, Modi said. All institutions draw their energy from the Constitution and should work together in the spirit of cooperation and channelise their energies to fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people, he added. President Ram Nath Kovind, who inaugurated the two-day event jointly organised by the Law Commission and Niti Aayog, had echoed similar sentiments. The three wings must respect each other's domain and trust each other, he said. Union ministers, including law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, kept the pressure on the judiciary on its alleged over-reach — encroaching on the executive and legislative turfs — for the second day on Sunday, prompting CJI Misra to stoutly defend the role of the judiciary as the guardian of the rights and liberties of citizens. "The Constitution expects that the institutions must function with a sense of mutual respect and there should not be any claim for supremacy by any of the wings," Misra said in his address at a Vigyan Bhavan function. "All institutions are bound by the principle of constitutional sovereignty," he conceded, but insisted that the court has to uphold the liberties of citizens. The CJI's remarks assume significance as the court readies itself to hear a host of politically crucial cases, such as the legality of the Aadhar scheme, and the Ayodhya tangle. "Citizens' rights have to be at the pinnacle, at the zenith, there can't be any compromise on the fundamental rights," he said. He discounted the criticism over over-reach saying that judges were conscious of when to interfere when PILs come to them. "We must accept constitutional sovereignty and we must surrender to it," he said. The function begun on Saturday on a controversial note, when government ministers had accused the court of over-reach.

PUBLIC FINANCE

ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 28, 2017

Former bureaucrat NK Singh appointed as 15th Finance Commission chairman

Former Rajya Sabha member and bureaucrat NK Singh will head the 15th Finance Commission, the government said in a notification, constituting the constitutional body that will decide the sharing of taxes between states and Centre for five years beginning April 1, 2020. The government has also charged the commission with drawing up a fiscal consolidation road map and if the revenue deficit grants to states should be continued, a notification issued by the government said. Other members of the commission are former department of economic affair secretary Shaktikanta Das, Anoop Singh, professor at Georgetown University, former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri, agricultural expert and NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand. Chand and Lahiri are part time members. The commission has to submit its report by October 30, 2019. As per the requirements of the constitution, the commission will decide the distribution of net proceeds of taxes between the centre and states and also within the states the share that will go to each state, according to the terms of reference approved. It will also decide the principles for grants in aid to states out of the consolidated fund of India and also the measures to augment consolidated fund of a state to supplement the resources of panchayats and municipalities in the state based on the recommendation of the finance commission of the state.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

HINDUSTAN TIMES, NOV 28, 2017

India must shed intellectual colonialism to excel in science and technologyWhile overthrowing political and economic colonialism, we have missed overthrowing intellectual

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