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It will focus on self-reliance; lockdown to continue with significant changes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said a new-look Lockdown 4.0 beyond May 17 was in the offing, while announcing an economic stimulus package for ₹20 lakh crore (estimated at 10% of the GDP), with a clearly defined leap towards economic reforms that will, in his words, lead to Atmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-reliant, resilient India.

This amount includes packages already announced at the beginning of the lockdown, incorporating a slew of measures from the RBI and the payouts under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.

‘Relook at systems’

Addressing the nation on television, Mr. Modi said the whole world was reeling from the crisis engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as was India. In this crisis, however, India had had an opportunity to look at systems and institutions that were in existence before the crisis hit and how they crumbled. “We have been hearing for many years that the 21st century will be India’s century and this crisis is, I believe, one that carries a message, that we have to move forward not just to combat the crisis but to prevail,” the Prime Minister said. “That can happen when we are self-reliant.”

Ramped-up capacity

He gave the example of India’s ramped-up capacity in producing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks required by medical personnel and frontline health workers to illustrate his point that India could achieve this.

“When the first case hit us, we didn’t produce either of these things. Now, within weeks we have the capacity to produce 2 lakh of PPE and 2 lakh of N95 masks everyday,” Mr. Modi said.

Clarifying that by self-reliance he did not mean insularity and suspicion of the world as in the past, but embracing the world in the spirit of Vasudheva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).

“Self-reliance in this sense is neither exclusionary nor isolationist, it is for helping the world, with our actions. In the past whenever we have acted it has impacted the world in a positive way — be it solving the Y2K riddle in 1999 or our campaigns against open defecation, tuberculosis and polio,” Mr. Modi said.

He said that the new edifice of this self-reliant India would be based on the five pillars of the economy, infrastructure, demography, technologically driven systems and to strengthen demand and supply chains, with the supply chains being based on local sourcing.

Jaishankar attends seven-nation meet on UN body

S. Jaishankar

As tensions between the U.S. and China rise over the novel coronavirus pandemic, India, which is set to take over as the next Chairperson of the World Health Organization’s decision-making executive body in May, is faced with a major choice on whether to support a U.S. move to reinstate Taiwan’s observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA) or to China’s opposition to it.

On Monday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar attended a seven-nation virtual meeting of Foreign Ministers, convened by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which appeared to be part of Washington’s efforts to gain support for its move to effect changes at the WHO.

The U.S. has, in the recent past, accused it of acting as a “PR agency” for China during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jaishankar will take part in a virtual meeting of the 8-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) led by China and Russia, which will discuss responses to the pandemic. The meeting was held on the same day the U.S. Senate passed an Act (S.249) to “direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization”, beginning with its decision-making body, the WHA. The Geneva-based WHA will hold a virtual meeting on May 18 and 19 to elect members to the 34-nation Executive Board, among other things, and it will be followed by a Board meeting on May 22.

Officials have confirmed that India’s nominee will take over as the Chairperson, replacing Japan.

India’s factory output plummeted to record lows in March, with the Index of Industrial Production contracting 16.7%, reflecting the drastic impact of the countrywide lockdown that began on March 25. This comes after a positive growth of 4.5% recorded in February.

Manufacturing sector output slumped 20% in March, while electricity generation shrank almost 7%, according to data released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The mining sector remained flat, without any growth or contraction in output.

“I have been looking at IIP data from April 1982 onward, and this is the biggest ever contraction since then. It is no surprise, as all industrial activity was halted for one week, apart from State-level lockdowns which began earlier,” said D.K. Pant, chief economist of India Ratings and Research, part of the Fitch group.

“April is going to be much worse. I would project a 60-70% decline,” said Pronab Sen, eminent economist and former Chief Statistician of India. “Frankly, I don't think most industries will see any recovery. FMCG sector may begin some recovery in May, but the rest of the industry is going to continue in the doldrums.”

All categories of manufacturing industries showed a contraction in production in March, with the worst affected being the automobile sector, which saw a 50% decline, and the computer and electronic products sector, which fell almost 42%. The manufacture of machinery, electrical equipment and other metal products saw a 31-33% fall in output.

“Auto sector has been in negative territory for a while now. This goes beyond the India lockdown,” said Dr. Sen, noting that supply of both electronic components and auto parts were affected by the earlier shutdown in Wuhan, China.

The most resilient sectors were coke and refined petroleum products, which only contracted 1.8%, and food and beverages manufacture, which shrank 10.5% and 6.4% respectively. “For a lot of MSMEs, they may have already lost the plot,” said Dr. Sen.

No ongoing face-off or build up of armed troops at the lake, says Army spokesperson

Pangong Tso lake

Helicopters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came close to the border during the face-off with the Indian Army near Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh last week, but there was no air space violation on either side, Indian Air Force (IAF) sources said on Tuesday.

Separately, Army spokesperson Col. Aman Anand said there was no ongoing face-off at the Pangong Tso lake or any “build-up of armed troops in the area”.

“There was no border violation on either side. IAF SU-30MKI fighters were airborne in Ladakh on routine flying and were not scrambled in response to the helicopters,” IAF sources said.

Locally resolved

Stating that incidents of face-off and aggressive behaviour occur on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Col. Anand said patrols disengaged after local-level interaction and dialogue.

“Temporary and short-duration face-offs occur as boundary is not resolved. Troops resolve such incidents mutually as per established protocols,” he said in response to reports of an ongoing stand-off at the site.

There were two incidents of face-off between Indian and Chinese troops last week which resulted in injuries to several soldiers on both sides.

The first incident occurred on May 5 near Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh while the second face-off occurred on May 9 at Naku La in Sikkim.

Army sources stated that the face-off at Pangong Tso occurred on the intervening night of May 5 as patrol teams came across each other and was resolved by the morning of May 6. Pangong Tso has seen such several incidents in the past including in 2017 and in 2019.

As per existing agreements between India and China, operation of fighter aircraft and armed helicopters is restricted to a distance from the LAC.

According to the ‘Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAC in India-China Border Area’ of 1996, “combat aircraft (to include fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, military trainer, armed helicopter and other armed aircraft) shall not fly within 10 km of the LAC.”

Partnership between Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has been guided by cooperation, despite their divergent composition

The Parliament Building in New Delhi.V. V. Krishnan V. V. Krishnan

The Indian Constitution provides for parity of powers between the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in law, making an exception in some cases.

The Money Bill or Finance Bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha which only can approve the Demands for Grants.

On the other hand, the Rajya Sabha has some special powers as requiring to adopt a resolution allowing Parliament to legislate on subjects in the State List and creating All India Services, besides approving proclamations of Emergency and President’s Rule when the Lok Sabha is dissolved.

Renowned British philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill as early as in 1861 said in his great treatise Considerations on Representative Government that management of free institutions requires conciliation; a readiness to compromise; a willingness to concede something to opponents and mutual give and take.

The Bryce Conference on Reform of House of Lords in early 20th Century observed that a second chamber is to interpose only so much delay in the passing of a Bill into law as may be needed to enable the opinion of the nation to be adequately expressed upon it. Famous constitutionalist Abbe Sieyes pithily noted that if a second chamber dissents from the first, it is mischievous; if it agrees, it is superfluous.

Obstructionist tag

If the House of the People is prone to passions of the moment and volatile political considerations, is the Rajya Sabha free from the same? Has the Rajya Sabha been obstructionist?

To understand these in perspective, a scrutiny of law-making in the country since 1952 may be in order.

Elections to the Lok Sabha are held every five years and before that on dissolution of the House. For the Rajya Sabha, one-third of the members are chosen every second year reflecting its permanent nature. While the Lok Sabha elections hold a mirror to the recent will of the people, the Rajya Sabha is envisaged to convey the same in different phases of development marking some continuity. The Executive lasts only as long as it has a majority in the Lok Sabha, but in law-making, both the Houses are at par. Given the possible variations in the composition of both the Houses on account of different modes of election to them, did it impact the nature and speed of legislation?

Unlike Lok Sabha

An analysis undertaken by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat recently revealed that during the past 68 years since the first general elections in 1952, the government of the day had a majority in the Rajya Sabha only for 29 years and was in a minority for 39 years, including an unbroken stretch for the past 31 years.

This pronounced divergence in numbers in the two Houses of Parliament does not indicate any adverse impact on the broader course of legislation except in a few cases. Since 1952, the Rajya Sabha held 5,472 sittings and passed as many as 3,857 Bills till the Budget Session this year. There are, however, a few discordant notes during this long journey of legislation. But there is no case for terming Rajya Sabha as “obstructionist”.

So far, Parliament held only three Joint Sittings to resolve differences between both the Houses. The first instance was in 1961 when the then Nehru government enjoyed a majority in the Rajya Sabha but the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959 suffered a defeat. In 1978, the Banking Services Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1977 was rejected by the Rajya Sabha and in 2002, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002 could not pass the Rajya Sabha scrutiny.

The Rajya Sabha was taunted as regressive when it rejected the Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 1970 for abolishing privy purses to erstwhile rulers after it was passed by the Lok Sabha. In 1989, the Constitution (Sixty-fourth and Sixty-fifth Amendment) Bills seeking to empower local governments fell short of the required special majority in the Rajya Sabha, though the government had the numbers.

The required spirit of cordiality between the two Houses suffered a dent on some occasions. First when Rajya Sabha members were not included in the Public Accounts Committee in 1952. Again, when the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 1953, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, some members questioned its certification as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker. When the controversy was thickening, Prime Minister Nehru intervened, asserting that “For those who are interested in the success of the great experiment in nation building that we have embarked upon, it is a paramount duty to bring about this close cooperation and respect for each other (House).”

Rajya Sabha members objected to when the Lok Sabha Speaker referred the Major Port Trust Bill, 1963 to its Select Committee without involving Rajya Sabha members and this Bill was later referred to its own Select Committee again.

Continuing with some reservations voiced in the Constituent Assembly about having a second chamber, some members of the Lok Sabha moved resolutions as early as in 1954 and again later in 1971, 1972 and 1975 for the dissolution of the Rajya Sabha. But wise counsel prevailed and such efforts were thwarted.

As per the constitutional provisions, the Rajya Sabha at best could hold a Money Bill for 14 days during when it has to return such Bills without or with amendments for the consideration of the Lok Sabha. There were some occasions when such amendments of the Rajya Sabha were accepted by the other House as in cases of the Travancore Cochin Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 1956, The Union Duty of Excise (Distribution) Bill and the Estate Duty and Taxes on Railway Passenger Fares (Distribution) Bill, 1957 and the Income Tax Bill, 1961.

During these years, the government of the day enjoyed a majority in the Rajya Sabha. At the same time, there were instances when amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha were rejected by the other House.

There were occasions when the Rajya Sabha sat over Bills passed by the Lok Sabha for a long time including the Prevention of Corruption Bill, 1987 and the Dock worker (Safety, Health and Welfare) Bill, 1986. If this was checking hasty legislation, the Rajya Sabha had passed five Constituent Amendment Bills in one day on Auguest 25, 1994 when the government of the day did not have the numbers. The Rajya Sabha has also made amendments to several Bills passed by the Lok Sabha and these were accepted in several cases by the other House.

Though the present government, too, does not have the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha, members of different parties rose to the occasion in passing landmark legislation relating to the GST, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, Triple Talaq, Unlawful activities, Reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir, Citizenship amendment and so on.

This goes to prove that numbers in the Rajya Sabha is not an issue as far as law-making is concerned. It is a different concern which applies broadly to the legislatures of the country.

Increasing disruptions

An analysis by the Secretariat revealed that the productivity of the Rajya Sabha till 1997 has been 100% and above and the past 23 years have thrown up a disturbing trend of rising disruptions. Productivity fell to 87% during 1998-2004, 76% during 2005-14 and 61% during 2015-19.

While the time spent by the Rajya Sabha on legislation since 1978 remained the same at about 29%, a concern emerges in respect of the ‘Oversight’ function of the House. Legislatures ensure accountability of the executive through Questions, Calling Attention Notices etc. Time share of this important Oversight function of the Council of States in the total functional time of the House during 1978-2004 was 39.50%. This fell to 21.99% during 2005-14 and to 12.34% since 2015.

This decline is primarily on account of disruptions forcing cancellation of Question Hour frequently. Disruptions also dent the quality of law-making as seen in passing of Bills without discussion sometimes.

However, the Rajya Sabha is proving to be more and more a ‘deliberative’ body with increasingly more time being spent on this function. The time share on deliberations under instruments like Short Duration Discussions, Zero Hour, Special Mentions, Discussion on Budgets and working of ministries, Motion of Thanks to President etc was 33.54% during 1978-2004. It rose to 41.42 % during 2005-2014 and to a high of 46.59% during 2015-19.

After the initial frictions, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha have proved to be constructive partners in steering the socio-economic transformation of the country since 1952, co-scripting pioneering laws. This partnership has been guided by the required spirit of co-operation and camaraderie despite divergence in the composition of both the Houses for most part of this journey. By virtue of this, Rajya Sabha can’t be said to be ‘obstructive’.

What needs to be addressed by all the stakeholders is that while enabling Rajya Sabha to retain its independence, it should not be seen as ‘disruptive’ as evidenced over the past two decades. Political passions should not be the basis of such disruptions, if the perception is that they are. The line between obstruction and disruption is very thin and we should guard against it. Both the sides of the House have a stake in proper functioning of Rajya Sabha.

(M. Venkaiah Naidu is

Chairman of Rajya Sabha)

Govt. did not follow due process while changing the name of IDSA, executive council members say

The institute was renamed after Manohar Parrikar.

Due process was not followed while changing the name of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), leading members of the premier think tank have told the government during a high-level meeting held on May 8.

The Hindu has learnt that several members of the executive council (EC) of the renamed Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) told Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that they should have been consulted before the institute was renamed.

The 165th edition of the Executive Council of MP-IDSA met on May 8 in a meeting chaired by Mr. Singh. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, a few members participated through video conference. However, during the meeting, which was attended by Director General of MP-IDSA Sujan Chinoy, some members of the EC said that MP-IDSA is a registered society and changing the name of the institute should have been effected only after taking the EC into confidence. One member said that as a procedure, any change in nomenclature of the Institute calls for a proposal to be cleared by the General Body.

“The Minister took note of our dissatisfaction on this issue. We were quite clear that changing the name of the premier think tank in this manner showed disrespect for processes that should have been followed meticulously as IDSA was conceived as a society and government can not just change its identity,” said a member. The member said such decision-making affects the established identity of the Institute and casts a shadow on its autonomy.

Those who attended the meeting of the EC told The Hindu that they respect the contribution of the late Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the country’s security but maintained that attaching Mr. Parrikar’s name to IDSA politicises a defence-related institute and sets a precedent that they do not approve of.

“It’s not about the individual but the whole renaming itself. Defence institutions should not be named after politicians,” said a member on condition of anonymity. IDSA, which was set up in 1965, evolved to become the most famous think tank of the strategic affairs community in India over the years. In February, the government renamed the institute after the late Defence Minister and BJP leader Manohar Parrikar.

Global Nutrition Report says it has highest rates of inequalities in malnutrition

State of imbalance: India is among the three worst countries for steep within-country disparities in stunting.

India is among 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2020 released on Tuesday. It also identified the country as one with the highest rates of domestic inequalities in malnutrition.

In 2012, the World Health Assembly identified six nutrition targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition to be met by 2025. These require governments to reduce stunting by 40% in children under five and prevalence of anaemia by 50% among women in the age group of 19-49, ensure 30% reduction in low-birth weight and no increase in childhood overweight, increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50% and reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%.

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2020, India will miss targets for all four nutritional indicators for which there is data available — stunting among under-five children, anaemia among women of reproductive age, childhood overweight and exclusive breastfeeding.

Underweight children

Between 2000 and 2016, underweight rates have decreased from 66.0% to 58.1% for boys and 54.2% to 50.1% in girls. However, this is still high compared with the average of 35.6% for boys and 31.8% for girls in Asia.

In addition, 37.9% of children under five are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared with the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively.

One in two women of reproductive age is anaemic, while at the same time the rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.

India is identified as among the three worst countries, along with Nigeria and Indonesia, for steep within-country disparities on stunting, where the levels varied four-fold across communities.

Stunting level

Stunting level in Uttar Pradesh is over 40% and the rate among individuals in the lowest income group is more than double those in the highest income group at 22.0% and 50.7%, respectively. In addition, stunting prevalence is 10.1% higher in rural areas compared with urban areas.

The same applies for overweight and obesity, where there are nearly double as many obese adult females than there are males (5.1% compared to 2.7%).

Coming at a time the world is battling COVID-19, which has exposed different forms of socio-economic inequities, the authors have called for promoting equity to address malnutrition.

A ritualistic mural art and an intricately designed handloom cloth get their due

Telia Rumal can only be created with traditional handloom process.

Jharkhand’s Sohrai Khovar painting and Telangana’s Telia Rumal were given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag on Tuesday by the Geographical Indications Registry headquartered in Chennai. The application for the painting was made by Sohrai Kala Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti Limited while the application for Telia Rumal was made by the Consortium of Puttapaka Handloom Cluster-IHDS.

Local traditions

“The Sohrai Khovar painting is a traditional and ritualistic mural art being practised by local tribal women during local harvest and marriage seasons using local, naturally available soils of different colours in the area of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand. Telia Rumal cloth involves intricate handmade work with cotton loom displaying a variety of designs and motifs in three particular colours — red, black and white,” said Chinnaraja G. Naidu, Deputy Registrar of Geographical Indications. He added that the GI tag has been given to both these products after due verification.

The Sohrai Khovar painting is primarily being practised only in the district of Hazaribagh. However, in recent years, for promotional purposes, it has been seen in other parts of Jharkhand.

Traditionally painted on the walls of mud houses, they are now seen on other surfaces, too. The style features a profusion of lines, dots, animal figures and plants, often representing religious iconography. In recent years, the walls of important public places in Jharkhand, such as the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi, and the Hazaribagh and Tatanagar Railway Stations, among others, have been decorated with Sohrai-Khovar paintings.

Historic weave

Details provided in the application filed with the Geographical Indications Registry shows that Telia Rumal can only be created using the traditional handloom process and not by any other mechanical means as otherwise, the very quality of the Rumal would be lost.

During the Nizam’s dynasty, Puttapaka, a small, backward village of the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh had about 20 families engaged in handloom weaving, who were patronised by rich Muslim families and the Nizam rulers.

The officers working in the court of the Nizam would wear the Chituki Telia Rumal as a symbolic representation of status. Telia Rumals are offered at the dargah of Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan, with some devotees offering 50 or even 100 cloths. Telia Rumals were worn as a veil by princesses at the erstwhile court of the Nizam of Hyderabad; and as a turban cloth by Arabs in the Middle East.

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