26 , August 2017

1.SC verdict to affect ban on slaughter
Source: The Hindu

The landmark judgment declaring right to privacy a fundamental right would have some resemblance in matters relating to slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra.

The Bombay High Court had struck down Sections 5(D) and 9(B) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995.

  • Section 5(D) criminalises possession of flesh of cows, bulls or bullocks, slaughtered outside Maharashtra
  • Section 9(B) imposed burden on the accused to prove that meat or flesh possessed by him/her does not belong to these animals.

A batch of appeals was filed before Supreme Court, against the HC verdict decriminalising the possession of beef in case of animals slaughtered outside the state.

Senior advocate observation after the privacy verdict: the right to eat food of one’s choice was now protected under privacy.

The Supreme Courts observations while deciding Right to privacy issue:  “nobody would like to be told what to eat or how to dress”, these activities come under the realm of right to privacy.

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2.Right to privacy verdict: Privacy realms span from abortion to euthanasia
Source: The Hindu

Justice J. Chelameswar observations in his judgement on privacy:The realm of the fundamental right to privacy span from women’s reproductive choice and choice of food or faith to euthanasia . Neither the State nor private persons have any business to intrude.

Present scenario

  • Right to reproductive choice

Women and girl children, including victims of rape, are fighting a battle for the right to abort their foetuses. Abortion is legally barred if the pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks.

  • Right to active euthanasia

It is a crime under attempt to suicide. A person who helps a terminally ill person to take his own life is booked under abetment to suicide.

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3.Claims on Bt cotton need to be probed, says panel
Source: The Hindu

A Parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury in a report released on Friday said the government agencies have portrayed “a rosy picture” on Bt Cotton which is far removed from the truth.

  • The report of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology claimed that the government cited only overall cotton output and not the average yield in area.
  • India’s cotton yields increased by 69% in the five years(2000-2005) when Bt Cotton was less than 6% of total cotton area, but by only 10% in the 10 years from 2005-2015 when Bt Cotton grew to 94% of the total cotton area.
  • The report slammed the government for its “casual” approach to the need for a scientific study of GM crop impact on health.
  • The committee pointed that  two decades after introduction of GM crops in 1996, only six countries continue to account for over 90% of all GM crop area globally including U.S, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, China and India.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture conceded to the committee that herbicide-tolerant gene may escape through pollen into nearby farm and fields, to another GM or non-GM crops.

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4.MPs fret over trade deficit with ASEAN
Source: The Hindu

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce Questions The government for suggesting that the country’s increasing trade deficit with ASEAN nations is due to imports of essential commodities and has strongly recommended that India seek better market access for its products and services like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, with the 10-nation bloc.

  • India suffers a trade deficit in respect of five ASEAN members — Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Lao PDR over 2015-16 and 2016-17, with the biggest deficit emerging in trade with Indonesia, the committee has noted.
  • Under the existing trade agreement, Indonesia has committed a tariff elimination on 50.1% of its items which is the least in comparison to other ASEAN member States,” the committee said.The least tariff elimination by Indonesia has resulted in biggest trade deficit from India amongst all ASEAN member States.
  • The committee chaired by BJP MP Bhupender Yadav has said India must seek better market access for goods where India has an edge over ASEAN nations, like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, to progress the trade balance.
  • The committee stressed that its inspection of the Indo-ASEAN trade dynamics assumed significance given that this year marks 25 years of the formal partnership.
  • The Ministry of Commerce apprised the panel that the imports of essential commodities — coal, petroleum and edible oils — from ASEAN constitute a significant percentage of India’s imports.
  • If these essential commodities are excluded, India will have a better or positive balance of trade position.
  • The committee also held that ‘if this approach or argument is subscribed, then there was no need for the trade agreement with ASEAN.’
  • The import of essential commodities will continue with or without the trade agreements.
  • The better market access in terms of higher export has not materialized and this is a matter of concern.
  • As per official data, among the ‘essential commodities’ cited by the government, imports of coal fell by 2.5% in 2016-17 from a year earlier, while vegetable oil imports grew by 3.7% to touch $6.19 billion in 2016-17.
  • Crude petroleum imports rose by almost 50% in 2016-17, but exports of petroleum products surged 58.4%.
  • Among the other top 10 commodities imported from ASEAN, consumer electronics grew at the highest pace in 2016-17 (18.33%), followed by ships and boats (12.82%), electronic components (11.72%) and telecom instruments (9.17%).
  • India’s second-largest export commodity to ASEAN — buffalo meat — saw a 4.92% increase in 2016-17 to reach $2.78 billion.
  • ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner with total trade in 2016-17 at $71.69 billion, constituting almost 11% of India’s overall global trade of $660.6 billion.
  • Total exports to ASEAN in 2016-17 stood at $31.07 billion, while imports were $40.63 billion, creating an adverse trade balance of $9.56 billion.

Effect on Food processing sector

  • The committee also found that while exports of agricultural products from India faced high import tariffs and barriers, leading to a sharp drop in trade, India’s food processing sector had raised concerns about the ‘near absence of quality norms’ for import of cheap processed food products from ASEAN countries.
  • The Committee recommends the Department to look into cheap import of poor quality processed food products.
  • It desires that appropriate quality norms may be fixed for import of such products from ASEAN as well as other regions of the world,” its report said.

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5.Commerce Ministry sets up task force on artificial intelligence
Source: The Hindu

Commerce and Industry Minister has constituted a Task Force chaired by V. Kamakoti of IIT Madras to explore possibilities to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) for development across various fields. The ‘task force on AI for India’s Economic Transformation’ will submit concrete and implementable recommendations for government, industry and research institutions.

It will have official participation from NITI Aayog, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Science & Technology, UIDAI and DRDO.

She said driven by the power of big data, high computing capacity, artificial intelligence and analytics, Industry 4.0 aims to digitise the manufacturing sector. The move comes in the backdrop of the government reviewing the manufacturing and industrial policies.

Note: The term “Industry 4.0” denotes the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It includes the digital transformation of the entire value chain process involved in the traditional manufacturing and production methods.

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6.Political freedoms necessary: SC
Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court in its privacy judgment said that a free environment for exercising political freedoms such as the right to dissent is necessary to end the malaise of corruption and diversion of funds and welfare benefits.

Court’s judgment:

  • The court said “Government leaders in authoritarian states” who choke citizens’ political freedoms find themselves often ill-prepared to resolve national crises.
  • The apex court said that lack of free flow of information and criticism has crippled the ability of the leadership to introspect on their actions and self-correct.
  • Quoting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: “Mr Amartya Sen’s analysis reveals that the political immunity enjoyed by government leaders in authoritarian states prevents effective measures being taken in critical situations like famine.”

An enabling atmosphere for citizens to dissent and scrutinise government measures add to the vibrancy of democracy.

Transparency in system:

  • Justice Chandrachud in his ruling said that capture of social welfare benefits can be obviated only when political systems are transparent and when there is a free flow of information.
  • Justice also said that the conditions necessary for realising or fulfilling socio-economic rights do not postulate the subversion of political freedom.

Conditions of freedom and a vibrant assertion of civil and political rights promote a constant review of the justness of socio-economic programmes and of their effectiveness in addressing deprivation. Scrutiny of public affairs is founded upon the existence of freedom. Therefore, civil and political rights and socio-economic rights are complementary and not mutually exclusive.

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