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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | PDF Download

Date: 13 May 2019

MCQ 1

  1. The International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is a collaboration between
  2. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Secretariat
  3. TRAFFIC (The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network)
  4. INTERPOL
  5. World Customs Organisation 5. World Bank
  • Which of the statements given above is/are correct

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 3, 4 and 5 only

(c) 1, 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 2 and 3 only

  • ICCWC is the collaborative effort of five inter-governmental organizations working to bring coordinated support to the national wildlife law enforcement agencies and to the sub-regional and regional networks that, on a daily basis, act in defense of natural resources.
  • The ICCWC partners are the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization. This powerful alliance was formally established on 23 November 2010 in St. Petersburg, Russia during the International Tiger Forum when the signatures of all partners were included on the Letter of Understanding.
  • ICCWC’s mission is to strengthen criminal justice systems and provide coordinated support at national, regional and international level to combat wildlife and forest crime to ensure perpetrators of serious wildlife and forest crime will face a formidable and coordinated response

MCQ 2

  • A nuclear weapon uses a fissile materialto cause a nuclear chain reaction. The most commonly used materials are
  1. Uranium 235 (U-235) and Plutonium 239
  2. Uranium 238 & Thorium 232
  3. Uranium 238 & Plutonium 233
  4. Monazite sand

MCQ 3

  1. Beryllium oxide is used as a ‘moderator’ in nuclear reactors
  2. India does not have sufficient reserves of beryllium to meet her requirement of atomic power generation, so we import it totally.
  • Choose correct

(A) Only 1

(B) Only 2

(C)Both

(D)None

MCQ 4

  • Which of the following waterfowl/s is/are Critically Endangered?
  1. Red Headed Vulture
  2. Greater Adjutant Stork
  3. Great Hornbill
  • Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1 only

MCQ 5

  • With respect to Kanchenjunga Landscape, which of the following statements is/are correct?
  1. It falls in the territory of India, Nepal and Tibet.
  2. It is the part of the Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot
  3. It consists of ethnic communities like Lepchas and Walungpas.
  • Select the correct answer

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

  • Advantages of ECBs
  • ECBs provide opportunity to borrow large volume of funds
  • The funds are available for relatively long term
  • Interest rate are also lower compared to domestic funds
  • ECBs are in the form of foreign currencies. Hence, they enable the corporate to have foreign currency to meet the import of machineries etc.
  • Corporate can raise ECBs from internationally recognised sources such as banks, export credit agencies, international capital markets etc.
  • ECB is basically a loan availed by an Indian entity from a nonresident lender. Most of these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions. It is a loan availed of from non-resident lenders with a minimum average maturity of 3 years. The significance of ECBs their size in India’s balance of payment account. In the post reform period, ECBs have emerged a major form of foreign capital like FDI and FII.
  • A sweep account is a bank account that automatically transfers amounts that exceed, or fall short of, a certain level into a higher interest-earning investmentoption at the close of each business day. Commonly, the excess cash is swept into money market funds

The War on Terror is in peril

  • The world needs to be united on the issue of terrorism and resolve contradictions
  • A floundering war
  • First, the original mission that the War on Terror was named for is floundering. Not only has the coalition of about 60 countries that sent troops and offered logistical support for ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ failed to end terrorism in Afghanistan, it appears it is preparing to hand the country back to the oppressive Taliban regime that it defeated in December 2001. This, despite the fact there is no guarantee that the terror groups living in safe havens in Pakistan will not also have the run of Afghanistan once the coalition pulls out.
  • The war in Afghanistan was only one of the many coalitions the U.S. led in the name of the War on Terror: 46 nations joined the ‘coalition of the willing’ to defeat Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, and 19 were a part of the coalition that ousted Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya in 2011. The U.S. and allied countries were sidetracked by the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, which led them to bolster anti-Bashar al-Assad groups in Syria. This eventually paved the way for the IS to establish a ‘Caliphate’ in territories in Syria and Iraq. The next coalition was formed to fight the terror of the IS. The number of global terror attacks (maintained in a Global Terrorism Database by the University of Maryland of events from 1970 to 2018) per year went up from 1,000 in 2004 to 17,000 in 2014. It is clear that the countries in question — Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq — are far from free of the spectre of terrorism. Despite the defeat of the ‘Caliphate’ territorially, the IS or its franchises are appearing in new parts of the world. Sri Lanka is the latest on that list.
  • Second, rather than helping fight pan-Islamist terror groups, the War on Terror appears to help the IS and al-Qaeda more, giving them a footprint far bigger than their actual abilities. This helps them recruit and radicalise Muslim youth from around the globe, and allows them to own terrorists around the world as their own, as IS leader Abu Bakr alBaghdadi did in a rare video posted shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks.
  •  The brutal attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, for which the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, have reignited discussion on the global ‘War on Terror’. Scholars and officials across the world are studying the links of the bombers to the IS’s former ‘Caliphate’ in Syria, where at least two of the bombers are believed to have travelled, and several leaders have now called for a greater focus on the global dimensions of the counter-terrorism effort. The attacks in Sri Lanka, however, also underline the many cracks in the concept of a global ‘War on Terror’, and raise questions on what it has achieved in the time since the term was coined by former U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
  • Not a ‘fight for Islam’
  • Third, the narrative they build of a “fight for Islam” is equally false. According to the Global Terrorism Database,of the 81 terror attacks in which more than 100 were killed (high casualty) since 2001, more than 70 were carried out in Islamic or Muslim-majority countries. In a specific search of high casualty terror attacks on religious institutions since 2001, 18 of the top 20 were by Islamist groups on mosques. The War on Terror thus appears to be a concept peddled mostly by pan-Islamist groups and propagated most often by extremists of other religions as a motive for terror attacks, such as the 2011 Utoya island attack in Norway or the New Zealand attacks this year. Governments in countries affected by terrorism must not subscribe to this narrative blindly.
  • In Sri Lanka, for example, the reason the members of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) were successful in their diabolical plot had as much to do with the fact that intelligence inputs given by India were ignored as it did with the fact that since the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lankan authorities had let their guard down and ignored growing internal fault lines. As a result, despite complaints about the speeches that suspected mastermind Mohamed Zahran Hashim made as a preacher of a mosque in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, he went unchallenged. Police and intelligence agencies also failed to keep a stern eye on other NTJ bombers who were IS returnees, despite the fact that only about 32 Sri Lankans in all are believed to have travelled to IS territory.
  • Approaches to fighting terror
  • Fourth, it is necessary for countries fighting terrorism to learn more closely from their differences, rather than try to generalize from experience. Comparing European states like the U.K., France and Belgium, where hundreds of immigrant Muslims have enlisted for the IS, to South Asian states like India, where Muslim populations are indigenous and only a few dozen are believed to have left for Syria, is akin to comparing apples and oranges. Indian officials have also claimed a higher success in deradicalising IS returnees, because they have enlisted whole families, neighbourhoods and local Maulvis in their efforts. In Bangladesh too, after the 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, government advertisements asked mothers to check on their children’s activities. This acknowledgement that radicalised terrorists are a part of a community is in stark contrast to the current debate in many European countries that are refusing to take IS returnees and their families back. Similarly, several Central Asian states propagate a much more hard-line approach on counterradicalisation, by banning beards and hijabs, while China’s reeducation internment camps in Xinjiang have raised questions about human rights. The success or failure of each of these approaches must be studied before deciding their applicability elsewhere.
  • Fifth, the world community must address contradictions in the War on Terror. For 20 years, the world has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism at the United Nations. This has held up the passage of the Indian-sponsored proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Despite the fact that Jaish-eMohammad chief Masood Azhar has been targeting Indians incessantly for years, they must ask why China allowed his UN Security Council designation as a global terrorist only after mentions of his attacks in India were removed. They must ask why the U.S. is focused on billing Iran the “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism”, while states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that have funded and sheltered Islamist terror groups are still treated as “frontline allies” on terror. And why, despite all their resources and expertise, the alliance of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand that share global intelligence was unable to see the impending threat in Sri Lanka. Unless the world is truly united on the issue and resolves such contradictions, the global War on Terror will only be as strong as its weakest link.

Protecting forest fringes

  • How city-forest cooperation can be facilitated
  • India is among the fastest urbanising major countries and forest-rich nations of the world. The current trend of fastpaced, spatial urban expansion is increasing the proximity between forests and the cities. In the next 10 years, this situation is likely to pose a severe sustainability challenge.
  • In major cities such as Gurugram, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Bengaluru, forests have already faced the brunt of encroachments, roads and highways, local extinction of wildlife, contamination of water bodies, and disturbances originating from the urban neighbourhoods. Across India, many more critical wildlife habitats and biodiversity areas are going to face a direct impact from cities in the near term.
  • Despite this disconcerting pattern, neither the ongoing urban programmessuch as ‘Smart Cities’, nor the draft of the new Forest Policy, 2018, look ready to tackle this challenge. Urban planners and city administrators have ignored the fact that forests are natural shock-absorbers that provide green relief to our grey cities, shield them from the effects of climate change, and aid in urban issues such as air pollution, scarcity of drinking water, flood control and ‘heat islands’. Prioritising forest-city proximity will put the onus on cities to incorporate nature in their design. The question is, where and how will city-forest cooperation kick-start?
  • Recently notified eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around protected areas hold the key to the place and the process in this regard. These zones are strips of land outside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries earmarked by the Ministry of Environment for sustainable management. The ESZ committee and its plans fulfil basic conditions to facilitate interdepartmental collaboration of the forest departments, urban bodies and civil society.
  • However, urbanisation close to forests often means that dense neighbourhoods expand up to the fringe of the forest, as has happened in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Bannerghatta in Bengaluru, and the Guindy National Park in Chennai. In the absence of physical buffers and hard fences, therefore, these forests will have to be soft-fenced from unscrupulous development. To create a working ground for soft-fencing, urban masterplans must recognise land use at forest fringes, according to ESZ guidelines. In addition, cities should secure wildlife corridors and ‘green belts’ that connect urban forests with a wider natural landscape.
  • Most importantly, urban residents need to create social fences by strongly advocating for forests in their cities. The urban citizenry today aspires for a green, pollution-free and serene living environment. Integrating forests with urban planning and governance provides an opportunity to shape cities that not only cater to citizens, but also have the citizens actively involved in shaping the city’s future.

Of shells, companies and GDP

  • The government must put the MCA-21 data under scrutiny and bring transparency in calculating corporate output
  • The background
  • In 2015, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) issued a new GDP series with 2011-12 as the base year, replacing the earlier series with the 2004-05 base-year as a routine matter. Usually, the revision leads to a slight expansion of the absolute GDP in the base year, but its growth rate does not change, implying that the underlying pace of economic expansion in the two series has remained the same. This time was different, however. The absolute GDP size — the sum of the value of all (unduplicated) goods and services produced in a year — got diminished slightly in the base year, and its growth rates went up subsequently.
  • Faced with public scrutiny and scepticism, the CSO defended the revision by claiming that it had followed the latest global template (the System of National Accounts 2008), applying improved methodologies to a newer and larger data set; hence the new GDP was kosher. In a first, the new series estimated private corporate sector (PCS) GDP directly using the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ (MCA) statutory filing of financial returns, MCA-21. Accounting for over a third of GDP, as the non-financial PCS now spans widely, the revision has affected the estimates of many industries and services. Hence the GDP debate has mostly centred on the PCS.
  • Since the MCA-21 database is much larger than those used earlier — like the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) for manufacturing or the Reserve Bank of India sample of large companies for estimating corporate saving and investment) — the CSO claims the new GDP better captures the economy’s value addition, especially of smaller enterprises and services activities. Critics, however, wonder if it is a case of a better description or an overestimation.
  • About a third of nongovernment non-financial companies in the services sector are not traceable is the finding of a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) survey for 2016-17 that has just been released. Since such entities could be shell/fake/bogus companies included in the MCA-21 database of “active” companies used for estimating the gross domestic product (GDP), the new finding could imply that private corporate sector GDP is being currently overestimated, denting the official growth narrative.
  • Screening and setback
  • Though now contributing over a half of GDP, services sector output estimates are poorer, outside of the public sector and large private sector companies. To redress the shortcoming, the CSO is committed to launching an annual survey of services (on the lines of the ASI). As a first step, the NSSO carried out a survey of non-government and non-financial companies/establishments in 2016-17, using three list frames (or the universes of enterprises) to draw samples for the survey, the MCA sample being the largest. A 10% sample was drawn from the CSO’s universe of 3.5 lakh active non-financial companies. After due screening, at the survey stage, the NSSO, to its shock, found that 45% of the selected companies did not respond to the survey.
  • The NSSO report says, “About 45% of MCA units were found to be out-of-survey/causality.... Non-response of a large number of units was a major setback for this survey. This happened due to unit non-response, closure of the unit, unit found to be the one other than headquarter, unit out of coverage or unit non-traceable.”
  • To its dismay, the NSSO found the results to be so poor that it had to abandon the planned output of two-volume survey results, and instead settle for a brief technical report which was released recently. It candidly admitted the difficulties the NSSO faced in the survey: “Many units, particularly of the MCA list, were not identifiable due to lack of proper/adequate postal addresses. Therefore, many notices could not be delivered. A large number of out-of-coverage units was also found in the list. Affixing signatures on Schedule 2.35 for out-of-coverage units was time-consuming and difficult as owners were reluctant to sign. In many cases, it was found that the selected enterprises had not prepared the Annual Audit Report for 2015-16 or the balance sheets any time before.”
  • The inference could be that such companies are likely to be shell/fake/spurious entities that remain legally registered (but merely on paper), without actually producing goods and services.
  • Impact of estimation
  • What does this imply for GDP estimation? Apparently, quite a lot since they are part of the universe of active companies for which GDP is estimated. Though it may not be possible to show how much difference it would make to the GDP level and growth rate (in the absence of more information), the survey findings could bring down the growth estimates.
  • However, those knowledgeable have dismissed such an apprehension on two counts: one, shell companies add value to the economy, hence their deletion would underestimate GDP; two, as all active companies are said to submit their audited accounts at least once in three years, the contribution of shell companies is well captured in the MCA database.
  • Both arguments seem questionable. Shell companies, by definition, do not produce goods and services; they help the promoter/owner to hide profits or evade taxes/regulation. A dictionary meaning of a shell company is “a company existing as a legal entity but having no significant assets, independent business operations, etc., often owned or controlled by another company and used for various, often illegal purposes”.
  • The argument that all active companies under the MCA have filed statutory returns at least once during the last three years is a bureaucratic fiction. If it were true, there would be at least one year for which there would exist data for seven-eight lakh companies, which has never been the case. In reality for most years data are available for around three lakh active companies, estimates for which are inflated (or multiplied) for the (fictitious) universe of about 10 lakh active companies. As the database is not made public and the methodological details are not adequately revealed, there is no way of verifying the veracity of the official estimates — an issue critics have flagged since 2015.
  • If the share of shell/fake/bogus companies in the universe of active companies in the MCA-21 database is as high as what is found in the NSSO’s services sector survey, then GDP estimates based on a more realistic list of working companies are likely to be smaller. Hence this could affect the corporate sector’s GDP level and its growth rate.
  • Case for scrutiny
  • In sum, the NSSO’s survey of active companies in the services sector discovered that 45% of them could not be traced or misclassified; hence they could represent or be shell/fake/bogus companies.
  • The finding throws into sharp relief the poor quality of the MCA-21 data set, which has formed the backbone of the new GDP series. The NSSO survey results have added more questions about the beleaguered GDP series, strengthening doubts that have arisen from various aspects of the revision process. As a first step towards dispelling the growing distrust in the new GDP series, the government should put up the MCA-21 data for public scrutiny and lift the opacity of the methodology used in estimating corporate sector output.

Deal in danger

  • Time is running out for European signatories to the nuclear pact to address Iran’s concerns
  • Iran’s decision to reduce its commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which sought to curtail its nuclear capabilities, is more of a warning than a move to break the nuclear deal. Iran has been under economic and political pressure since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal a year ago. The U.S. has since amped up its anti-Iran rhetoric and reimposed sanctions. While President Hassan Rouhani clinched the agreement in 2015 despite opposition from hardliners, his promise was that it would help lift sanctions, providing relief to Iran’s economy. But the economic benefits did not last even three years, weakening Mr. Rouhani’s position in Iran’s complex power dynamics. With the U.S. having ended the sanctions-waiver it had given to certain countries, including India, on purchasing Iranian oil, from the first week of May, the Iranian economy has come under more pressure. It is in this context that Mr. Rouhani announced the suspension of some of the restrictions in the deal.
  • Iran will immediately stop shipping out excess enriched uranium and heavy water. Mr. Rouhani has given 60 days to other signatories to find solutions to shield Iran’s banking and oil sectors from U.S. sanctions. In theory, excess enriched uranium and heavy water allow Iran to expand its nuclear programme, but it hasn’t announced any such plan. The big threat is that it will resume higher levels of enrichment to build weapons unless its grievances are addressed in 60 days. Iran’s response may appear to be calibrated. It hasn’t quit the deal as the U.S. did. And its concerns are genuine as it is being punished even as it is compliant with the terms of the agreement. But Iran’s move to put the remaining signatories on notice could be the start of the formal unravelling of the deal. European countries have been working on a mechanism, which is still in the initial stages, that allows Europe to trade with Iran through a barter system avoiding the dollar and circumventing sanctions. But it hasn’t covered oil trade, the mainstay of Iran’s economy. If Europe doesn’t do enough in 60 days and Iran sticks to its threat, the deal will collapse, giving more reason to the U.S. to escalate hostilities. It has, among other things, deployed an aircraft carrier and a bomber squad to the Gulf. A practical alternative would be for Iran to end this brinkmanship and deepen cooperation with other signatories instead of breaking the deal. Europe, on its part, should stand firmly up to the U.S.’s unilateral threats and pressure, and come up with ways to help Iran. A collapse of the deal would not only exacerbate the Iran nuclear crisis but also set a bad precedent in international diplomacy.

Substantive equality

  • The Supreme Court decision rightly rejects the notion that quotas affect efficiency
  • The Supreme Court verdict upholding a Karnataka law to preserve the consequential seniority of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates promoted on the basis of reservation is notable for being the first instance of quantifiable data being used to justify reservation. After a similar 2002 law was struck down on the ground that there was no data, as required by the judgment in Nagaraj (2006), the Karnataka government appointed a committee to collect data on the “backwardness” of SC/ST communities, the inadequacy of their representation in the services and the overall impact of reservation on the efficiency of the administration — parameters laid down in the 2006 verdict as constitutional limitations on the power to extend reservation in employment. Based on the report, the State enacted a fresh law, which has now been upheld on the ground that it is compliant with the Nagaraj formulation, as well as the clarification found in Jarnail Singh (2018). A key principle in this decision is that where reservation for SC/ST candidates is concerned, there is no need to demonstrate the ‘backwardness’ of the community. The other pre-requisites of a valid system — quantifiable data on the ‘inadequacy of representation’ for classes of people identified for reservation, and an assessment of the impact of such quota on the “efficiency of administration” — remain valid. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s judgment applies the rule emerging from Jarnail Singh, which decided that Nagaraj did not require reconsideration. At the same time, it held that Nagaraj was not right in insisting on data to justify the ‘backwardness’ of SC/ST communities, as it contradicted a nine-judge Bench decision in Indra Sawhney (1992).
  • The judgment places in perspective the historical and social justification for according reservation, rejecting the argument that quotas, by themselves, affect administrative “efficiency”. It says merit lies not only in performance but also in achieving goals such as promotion of equality, and that India’s transformative Constitution envisages not just a formal equality of opportunity but the achievement of substantive equality. It accepts the subjective satisfaction of the government in deciding the adequacy of representation, subject to the norm that there should be relevant material before it. One must also recognize the constant tension between legislative intent and judicial interpretation. Most judgments on affirmative action indicate that the courts are laying down constitutional limitations, lest the equality norm, a basic feature of the Constitution, be given the go-by. It is welcome that the backwardness of the SCs and STs no more needs to be demonstrated. Policy-makers should heed the appeal contained in the judgment: there is no antithesis between the concept of efficiency and the inclusion of diverse sections of society in the administration. While data on representation may be a requirement, the idea that reservation has an adverse effect on administration must be rejected.