The Hindu: October 5, 2015 02:35 IST
Gas pricing and some issues
The government last week announced the new price of natural gas produced in the country, as part of a periodic revision mandated by the new gas pricing formula that it adopted in October 2014. The formula mandates a price revision once every six months on the basis of the prevailing prices in gas-surplus countries such as the United States, Mexico, Russia and Canada. So the new price of $3.8 per unit — in effect from October 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 — is 18 per cent lower than the previous price. This is likely to hurt producers such as Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Oil India, but will be welcomed by CNG and PNG consumers, not to mention the government, which will now find its fertilizer subsidy an easier pill to swallow. However, despite the perceived benefits of the new gas pricing policy, there are several issues that come along with it. The first is to do with how the formula is constructed. The price in India is pegged on the benchmark prices of the previous year, and takes effect after a time-lag of a quarter. For example, the price applicable in the period April 1-September 30, 2015 was based on the average benchmark prices over January-December 2014. This means India's gas prices follow the global cues with a time-lag.
Another point to consider is why the government in its wisdom decided to peg the price of Indian gas to these four hubs. Prices in Asia are higher. The Rangarajan Committee took this fact into account and recommended $8.4 per mmBtu, but it was ignored. Then there is the question that was once raised by Arvind Kejriwal, on why gas prices must be linked to the market if the cost of supplying it in India — namely, out of Reliance Industries' KG-D6 basin — is a fraction of the market rate. There has been much controversy surrounding this, to no adequate conclusion. One of the most important issues to do with the price of domestic gas being pegged to global benchmarks is that any gains could be offset by losses on account of the rupee's movement. Several research agencies say the almost 6 per cent depreciation of the rupee over April-September 2015 will mean the net impact of the fall in the price of gas will actually be significantly lower. Gas pricing is a politically sensitive issue, it being a key input in important sectors such as fertilizer and power. Much as in the case of oil, the government has been lucky that prices of natural gas are falling globally. But this could well be temporary: if the global price increases, then the price in India will also eventually increase.
A short cylindrical piece of wood, metal, or plastic, typically tapered at one end, that is used for holding things together, hanging things on, or marking a position.
A thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance.
A consideration or amount that diminishes or balances the effect of a contrary one.
The Hindu: October 5, 2015 02:45 IST
Great expectations in Sri Lanka
The unanimous adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka last week is notable for the pragmatism that informs it. The idea of an external investigation into the conduct of the military and the political leadership has been bearing down on the island nation for some years now. The erstwhile Rajapaksa administration responded with defiance and belligerent opposition to any move towards accountability, except one that was formulated and executed by the government on its own terms. The moves tended to divide the international community on whether to bail out Sri Lanka or come down on it. In a welcome departure from this trend, countries have come together and adopted, with Sri Lanka's consent and participation, a resolution that emphasises justice and accountability for excesses committed by both sides, especially in the last phase of the civil war; on a political process to devolve power to the ethnic minorities; and an overall commitment to strengthen governance and democracy and end what many thought was an atmosphere of impunity. The political transformation that this year's presidential and parliamentary elections ushered in is the main reason for the international community to have come together to aid Sri Lanka in a much-needed process of self-rejuvenation. Its democratic institutions and instruments of governance require a systemic overhaul after having been undermined by the previous regime. This factor has obviously impelled the world to encourage the present Sirisena-Wickremesinghe dispensation by means of a consensus resolution rather than weaken the government's domestic popularity by imposing an intrusive mechanism.
However, the road ahead will not be smooth. A credible judicial mechanism will have to be evolved and foreign resources such as judges and prosecutors will have to be incorporated with care. An investigation process that inspires the confidence of victims to come forward and depose will have to be put in place. Fixing command responsibility for the bombing of civilians and the execution of those who surrendered, especially on political functionaries and their family members, is not going to be easy and must be marked by due process. The challenge is much bigger than the one relating to finding a political solution. For some, the idea of a judicial mechanism that includes foreign judges to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and other offences may seem to fall short of the international inquiry of the sort they favour. To others, it is a rare opportunity to address several issues that defy a solution. A fair conspectus of assumptions underlying the Human Rights Council resolution is that it promotes reconciliation and truth-seeking and may lead to a sense of closure for the victims and a possible guarantee of non-recurrence, and that it opens up yet another opportunity for a political solution. These expectations cannot be belied.
(of two or more people) fully in agreement
Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
· bear down
› to put more effort into doing something:
We're giving up too many points - we have to bear down.
Open resistance; bold disobedience.
Hostile and aggressive.
Exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action
Show or guide (someone) somewhere.
The phenomenon of vitality and freshness being restored; "the annual rejuvenation of the landscape
Drive, force, or urge (someone) to do something.
Exemption from a rule or usual requirement
Remove from office suddenly and forcefully.
(perpetrate) perform an act, usually with a negative connotation; "perpetrate a crime"; "pull a bank robbery"
Openly resist or refuse to obey.
A summary or overview of a subject.
(of an appearance) fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.
After the lynching
Communal approach undercuts basics of Constitution
Reactions over the past few days show that many commentators recognise the enormity of the crime committed against an innocent Muslim family in western Uttar Pradesh, on the outskirts of the Capital. Its significance and portents go far beyond this single episode. That recognition has escaped the cohorts of the Sangh Parivar, including at least one minister in the central government. You could arguably ignore the comments of what are euphemistically referred to as "fringe elements" of the Hindutva mainstream, though that too is questionable because of the role such elements play in creating a climate of hate that then encourages criminal action - like attacking youngsters in pubs. That said, what is particularly noteworthy is that the leading lights of the government have been silent on the subject. That includes the Bharatiya Janata Party president and the prime minister, who has also been remiss in not pulling up his culture minister (also the parliamentarian for the area) for a series of gratuitous or offensive remarks: that the lynching was an accident, that those arrested are innocent, that he will organise a 'mahapanchayat', and more in the same vein. The police decision to send the meat in the victim family's refrigerator for testing as to whether it is beef also shows a mindset that ignores the law - eating beef is not a crime in the state, and the heinous nature of the killing does not change depending on whether the meat was beef or mutton.
Only the willfully blind will not see the pattern of recent events. The right of Muslims in a Haryana village to build a mosque on land to which they had clear title has been denied recently, for all practical purposes. The followers of a Goa-based sect, the Sanatan Sangathan, have been implicated in the murder of rationalists, but the attitude of some advocates of Hindutva reflects what Lyndon Johnson said about a country's dictator: "He may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch." Mukul Kesavan observed recently that the forces of Hindutva feel "freed of the euphemisms that cripple politically correct conversation". This is certainly true, as they have become steadily more aggressive and speak more plainly than before - revealing their mindset, motivations and objectives with a clarity that is hard to ignore. From criticising pseudo-secularism, some Hindutva votaries now argue that secularism itself is alien to India (since church and state were never combined in the same person, unlike in Europe). However, that has not stopped their cohorts from wishing that Nepal's new constitution had defined the country as a Hindu state.
If communal plain-speak goes unchallenged, including encouragement from responsible members of the government, it is the Indian system that will be on trial. If a communal approach is brought to the actions of the state, including to criminal prosecution and jurisprudence, it would undercut the basics of the Constitution which offers equality under the law to all citizens, and forbids discrimination in the name of creed. Do all citizens have rights that are justiciable, or only some? Already, Muslim representation in Parliament has fallen sharply - not because Muslim candidates aren't there but because they have become unelectable in states like Uttar Pradesh. The Muslim presence in the administration, the police force, etc. is also low. The community may have only itself to blame for some of this. The important point is that it is possible to have faith in the system even if you don't have much of a voice in it. Take that away, and an important line would be crossed, with potentially fateful consequences for everyone.
› If a crowd of people lynch someone who they believe is guilty of a crime, they kill them without a legal trial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope round the neck).
The outer parts of a town or city.
An ancient Roman military unit, comprising six centuries, equal to one tenth of a legion.
A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.
Lacking care or attention to duty; negligent.
Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.
Cause (someone) to become unable to move or walk properly.
Supposed or purporting to be but not really so; false; not genuine.
Statistics confirm that the criminal justice system is inefficient, and prejudiced against minorities and poor.
The National Crime Records Bureau figures for 2014 point to a problem that is still with us: almost 68 per cent of the inmates of India's overflowing prisons are undertrials, and 70 per cent of those convicted are illiterate.
Affluent states like Goa, Punjab, Gujarat and Haryana top the list of states with the highest percentage of undertrials who have been in prison for more than three months. Notably, 21.1 per cent of undertrials in jails are Muslim, even as their percentage among convicts is only 16.4 per cent, closer to the community's composition in the country's population. These statistics are yet more confirmation that India's criminal justice system remains grossly inefficient and blatantly prejudiced against the minorities and the poor. The cost of justice is kept prohibitively high by infrastructural flaws and deficiencies, while unreformed mindsets operating in a setting of poorly institutionalised norms contribute to the entrenched prejudices.
In 1987, the Law Commission, recognising that the low judge-to-population ratio is leading to pendency in courts, had recommended that India raise the number of judges from an average of 10 judges for a million people to 50 for a million. In the quarter-century since, the ratio has not improved. But missing judicial officers are only one part of the story. Physical infrastructure needs to be expanded and the necessary support staff provided to declog the system. The 13th Finance Commission had provided states with Rs 5,000 crore for developing judicial infrastructure, and the 12th Plan (2012-17) working group of the Union ministry of law and justice came up with a series of recommendations to overhaul the judicial system — but there is little to show by way of implementation and reform. For instance, the government proposed setting up 5,000 gram nyayalays in 2009 to ensure that "opportunities for justice were not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities" — only 159 had been set up by March 2015.
Delays in investigation slow down the trial process. The police force in most states is understaffed, short on equipment, ill-trained in modern investigation methods and all too vulnerable to political interference and control. Notably, Muslim representation is at an abysmal 6.5 per cent, contributing to an institutional prejudice against minorities that is often on display. The bottomline is this: An overworked and underequipped force with a lopsided recruitment strategy and weakly institutionalised norms of independence and impartiality is unlikely to be an unprejudiced and effective instrument of law enforcement, and of the criminal justice system
A person confined to an institution such as a prison or hospital.
Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely
Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
(declogging) That removed clogs (blockages)
Extremely bad; appalling.
With one side lower or smaller than the other.
Susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.
Oct 05 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Green In India
Government lays out ambitious plan to balance economic growth with emissions reduction
With the UNFCCC Paris summit fast approaching, India has finally submitted its post-2020 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) target towards climate change mitigation. Accordingly , it has promised to lower the emission intensity of GDP by 33-35% from 2005 levels in 2030. Simply put, India has committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emission per unit of economic activity . This is expected to cost $2.5 trillion over the next 15 years and India expects to receive both financial and technological help from developed countries to meet its self-imposed goal.
That said, the goal set by government is in the right direction. The emission intensity reduction target is achievable as India has been making steady progress towards a low-carbon growth path. Between 2005 and 2010, emission intensity of GDP declined by 12% on account of improvements in technology and legal changes brought about to raise emission standards across all areas.
This trend is set to continue with Indian cities expected to shift in steps to cleaner fuel over the next few years.
Of course, it's important for future governments to stick to this path and not give in to populist demands. Plus, combating climate change through the energy efficiency route would require India to not deviate from its plan of generating 40% of electricity (installed capacity) through non-fossil fuel sources. Government intends to dramatically ramp up nuclear, wind and solar capacity with the latter, in particular, increasing from 4GW to 100GW over the next seven years.
However, challenges abound. While nuclear power is bogged down by liability laws, wind and solar power generation is intermittent and presents transmission and storage problems. For these to be ramped up huge investments are required in smart grids and integrated transmission networks. This is where foreign aid in the form of soft loans and technology transfers comes in. Developed countries have a historical responsibility to vacate carbon space and help developing countries like India meet emission mitigation targets without compromising on their development needs. Besides, India's per capita emission continues to be far lower than the developed world and industrialised middle income nations such as China. In this scenario India's INDCs are fair and ambitious, allowing New Delhi to play a pivotal role in climate change mitigation while ensuring a decent standard of living for its citizens.
Exist in large numbers or amounts.
· bog down someone/something
› to prevent someone or something from moving on or progressing:
He's a big-picture leader and doesn't get bogged down in the details.
Oct 05 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Needed, a Real Tax Amnesty Scheme
For such schemes to work, trust is a prerequisite
The government has to draw the right conclusions from the measly amount declared under its black money amnesty scheme. Instead of threatening brimstone and fire upon those who failed to take advantage of the compliance window, as has been its wont so far, the government should launch an amnesty scheme without the defects that had made the recently concluded one fail. Rahul Bajaj hit the nail on the head when he said the scheme's primary flaw was lack of trust in the assurance that no penal action would follow in the wake of declaration of unaccounted past income. This must be addressed in a new amnesty scheme.
The government's hands, it must be conceded, are tied, when it comes to offering a blanket amnesty . It had assured the Supreme Court, in the wake of the successful Voluntary Declaration of Income Scheme of 1997, championed by P Chidambaram and N K Singh, that there would be no further amnesty for tax offenders. The best the gov ernment could offer, in this circum stance, is not to discriminate among declarants of black money and treat them all uniformly . Even this, the gov ernment did not. The government must apprise the court that the mater ial circumstances of governance, wh ich the executive and the legislature are best qualified to assess for the purpose of making policy, warrant a departure from its earlier commitment.With legal backing, it must offer a credible, uniform, onetime amnesty yet again, for the very reasons for which the just-concluded scheme had been launched.
Three concurrent reforms will discourage fresh black money generation. One is the goods and services tax, which creates multiple audit trails and makes hiding income difficult, particularly if registration of real estate is brought within its ambit. Another is cleaning up of political funding, so that industry no longer needs a war chest to lubricate its interface with the government. The third is legal reform to expedite resolution of disputes beyond final appeal, to prevent legal battles becoming a shield from penalty for tax offenders.
Admit that something is true or valid after first denying or resisting it.
Contemptibly small or few.
The scope, extent, or bounds of something.
Make (an action or process) happen sooner or be accomplished more quickly.
WITH the Senate set to begin a new session today, a relatively old issue is likely to come on the agenda again: the establishment of a constitutional court to sit alongside the Supreme Court and to deal specifically with matters of constitutional interpretation, as envisaged under the Charter of Democracy.
The historic 2006 agreement between the PPP and PML-N mooted the idea of a constitutional court in response to what was politically perceived to be a problem with the superior judiciary: under military dictatorships, the superior judiciary tended to validate distortions to the constitutional scheme of things.
The CoD purported to address that problem by recommending that for a six-year period, "A Federal Constitutional Court will be set up to resolve constitutional issues, giving equal representation to each of the federating units".
With the regular Supreme Court left to deal with so-called regular criminal and civil cases, judges nominated to the constitutional court by parliament were to work on removing the distortions in the Constitution and implementing its federal character, which envisaged a great deal of autonomy for the provinces, unlike the more centralised structure introduced by Gen Pervez Musharraf and previous military dictators.
A constitutional court was always going to be an awkward fit for a system rooted in common law, which does not easily recognise the difference between constitutional matters and 'regular' criminal and civil cases.
In truth, the idea of a constitutional court itself had a hint of political expediency to it — an ad hoc way of dealing with lopsided institutional structures that kept civilian politicians at a disadvantage.
The PPP, which is again pushing for the issue to be brought back on the political agenda, also revived the idea of a constitutional court when it was struggling with the hyper-activism of the Iftikhar Chaudhry-led Supreme Court.
The PML-N is now apparently opposed to the idea of creating a constitutional court. What these partisan manoeuvrings overlook though are two things. One, the charter of democracy, while implemented to a great extent, still has important parts of it that remain to be operationalised. In particular, accountability and oversight of military-run institutions have been stillborn.
Two, for a parliament that has sanctioned military courts because the ordinary criminal justice system was deemed too flawed to deal with terrorism-related issues, there remains a shocking lack of parliamentary interest in reforming the criminal justice system.
The political energy that may be about to be directed at supporting or opposing the creation of a constitutional court would surely be better spent focused on basic judicial reforms.
Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event
Raise (a question or topic) for discussion; suggest (an idea or possibility).
· ad hoc
› made or happening only for a particular purpose or need, not planned before it happens:
an ad hoc committee/meeting
The quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral; convenience.
A strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.
view on Denis Healey: the last of a great generation
the death of Denis Healey on Saturday means much more than the passing of a grand old man of British politics. He was the last of the political generation that shaped post-war Britain, men and women who had not only lived through, and often fought in, the second world war, but who had also seen at first hand the terrible years of sustained depression of the 1920s and the 1930s. In Labour, they were a generation who had seen the party torn apart in 1931 only to regroup, rebuild and emerge able to claim, as Harold Wilson so hubristically did in 1974, that Labour had become the natural party of government. They were the generation who were in politics to honour the vow: never again.
Today, when so much of what they built is being undermined, their sense of shared purpose is much more apparent than it seemed at the time. Labour spent most of the 1950s, the 1970s and the 1980s split into warring camps. The two wings of the party were fundamentally divided on nuclear weapons, and later on Britain's place in Europe.
But on the broad direction of the economy and on the role of the state, the party's view was more or less coherent. It was also in harmony with an electorate whose attitudes had been formed by the same experiences of peace and war. The generation of politicians who (unlike Major Healey) won their seats in the 1945 Labour landslide emerged with a mandate to reshape Britain, and they did it with such authority that, for most of the next 30 years, the Conservative party had no choice but to accede to the transformation.
Labour had national support for sweeping change, but that did not mean that delivering it would be straightforward, least of all in a country that was exhausted after six years of war and 20 years of economic recession. It is easy now to overlook the sheer political courage and energy it took to create a National Health Service against bitter and vociferous opposition, and to nationalise the hundreds of near-bankrupt private coal mines, the country's docks and its railways while introducing at the same time a scheme of welfare designed to slay Beveridge's five giants.
Yet creating the postwar settlement was in many ways easier than sustaining it would prove. As defence secretary throughout the Labour government of the 1960s and as chancellor during the 1970s, Healey was at the centre of the battle to keep it viable, not least in order to nurture the spirit that had helped to create it and was essential to support it. That meant reconfiguring foreign policy for a post-imperial Britain, pulling back from east of Suez, foregoing major spending commitments like a new fighter aircraft, and the bitter, often intensely personal rows over the morality and affordability of the nuclear deterrent. At the Treasury, Healey became the hated front man, making an argument that few in the party really understood, that the state itself needed to be reconfigured for altered circumstances.
In narrowly political terms, Healey's career might be judged a failure. The argument about the size of the state was lost for a generation. It remains the most divisive question in domestic politics. A less brilliant, more emollient character might have carried more weight with his successors. But he was the last of the lights that shone so brilliantly for a generation, and we mourn their passing.
(of two or more people or groups) in conflict with each other.
(of an argument, theory, or policy) logical and consistent.
Nothing other than; unmitigated (used for emphasis)
Kill (a person or animal) in a violent way.
Capable of working successfully; feasible