Tuesday, 24 November 2015

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25 nov 2015

prepared by ashok sharma

The Hindu: November 25, 2015 00:14 IST

Crime and penalty in Bangladesh

 

The ongoing war crimes trial in Bangladesh, which seeks to heal decades-old wounds in society by finding and punishing those who committed grievous crimes during the country's liberation war in 1971, has invited applause and also raised concerns. After more than 40 years of independence, justice is finally being seen to be done as the Sheikh Hasina government took it upon itself to see the trials through. These crimes remained unresolved all these years because of Bangladesh's complex post-liberation history. That the past is unresolved is still seen in the present, as the fundamentalists and even the Pakistan government have opposed the trials and the subsequent punishment. The secular civil society, on the other hand, has put pressure on the government to carry forward the trial and punish the war criminals. This contradiction was on display once again when two convicted war criminals — Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party — were hanged on Sunday.

 

While there's little doubt that the Awami League government is committed to doing what it can to punish the war criminals, what acts as a dampener is its embrace of the death penalty as a means to bring in justice. From a moral standpoint, executions actually weaken the Bangladesh government's position in its struggle with the extremists. It gives the trial proceedings the colour of revenge rather than the conviction of justice, which should be the basis of a state's legal system. On the other side, these executions happen at a time when Bangladesh is grappling with the problem of Islamist fundamentalism. If the Sheikh Hasina government thought that these hangings would weaken the Islamist politics in Bangladesh, it could well be proved wrong in the long run. The hard-line position the government is taking against the opposition could help extremist groups recruit followers from among embittered opposition sympathisers. Recent incidents in Bangladesh show that it is already happening. Despite the government's tough position and the hanging of its leaders, Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamist party, is still organisationally strong, and has vowed to "take revenge" by "establishing Islam in Bangladesh". Further, it may not be a coincidence that attacks against secular writers and their publishers have been on the rise ever since the execution of war criminals started. In other words, the government's position has sharpened the contradictions of the present rather than redressing the injustices of the past. The challenge before Dhaka is huge. It has to ensure that those who committed crimes against humanity during the war are brought to justice, while at the same time preventing Islamist forces from using that process to their benefit. By bringing the war criminals to trial and punishing them to life imprisonment, they could have brought the tragic events to a just closure, but relying on the death penalty dampens the otherwise welcome process.

 

·        dampener

A discouraging event or remark.

 

·        em·brace

Hold (someone) closely in one's arms, especially as a sign of affection.

 

·        grap·pling

A grappling hook or grappling iron.

 

·        em·bit·ter

Cause (someone) to feel bitter or resentful.

 

·        vow

Solemnly promise to do a specified thing.

 

·        re·dress

Remedy or set right (an undesirable or unfair situation).

 

·        clo·sure

The act or process of closing something, especially an institution, thoroughfare, or frontier, or of being closed

 

·        damp·en

Make slightly wet

 

 

The Hindu: November 25, 2015 04:51 IST

Not without our girls



New data from the Census have confirmed yet again what is now very well known — the Indian desire for a male child, even if at the exclusion of a female child, is widespread and well-established. Within this known phenomenon, however, are two different and in some ways contrasting processes that are going on simultaneously among different socio-economic groups, processes with great import for India's demographic future. On the one hand, there is a clear birth advantage for male children in India, an advantage of such magnitude that it is almost certainly artificial. Among women who had one child, 22 million said that they had a girl and 28.5 million had a boy, clearly indicating a disproportionately large number of boys being born. Even given the small genetic and biological advantage that boys enjoy, meaning that a slightly larger number of boys than girls are naturally born, there is an implication of pre-natal sex selection which is leading to more boys being born. This unnatural disadvantage continues in slightly larger families; half of all families with two children have a boy and girl, another one-third have both boys, and just one-sixth have both girls. It is only in large families that the trend reverses.



India has had remarkable success in lowering fertility to the extent that its southern States have now reached replacement levels of fertility, at which the population growth will stabilise and the population as a whole will stop growing. What's all the more admirable is that this change has come largely without coercive measures of the sort adopted by China, with the belief that education, access to health and economic prosperity, particularly for women, automatically drive down female fertility among all social groups. However, there is growing evidence that in the absence of a genuine transformation in gender relations, the push for smaller families is making pre-natal sex selection more common. While families might have chosen in the past to have repeated pregnancies until a male child was born — as borne out by the far higher likelihood of the youngest children of a large family being boys — as smaller families become a social norm, families are being pushed towards artificial methods of ensuring a male offspring. Indeed, the new Census data bear witness to this. Smaller families are more likely to have more boys than girls, while the larger ones have more girls than boys. Anecdotal evidence suggests that lack of access to pre-natal sex determination technology meant better sex ratios among more marginalised communities, but with growing urbanisation these barriers are falling too. India must build on its success at bringing down fertility levels, but it cannot be unmindful of the immense cost to its girl children this is coming at. It must begin a meaningful conversation on gender equality, backed with a gender-equal economic regime, going forward, or this will be a hollow demographic transition.

 

·        ex·clu·sion

The process or state of excluding or being excluded.

 

·        im·pli·ca·tion

The conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it is not explicitly stated.

 

·        an·ec·do·tal

(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.

 

·        im·mense

Extremely large or great, especially in scale or degree.

 

·        un·mind·ful

Not conscious or aware.

 

·        hol·low

Having a hole or empty space inside.

 

Business Standard

Waiting for the shine



The 1999 gold deposit scheme attracted 15 tonnes in 16 years and the 2015 gold monetisation scheme has got only 400 grammes two weeks after launch. It is obviously early days yet for the latest scheme, but the initial response to the government's much-publicised plan to monetise 20,000 tonnes of gold owned by households and institutions shows that it has performed well below expectations. This is unfortunate as, according to official estimates, around 20,000 tonnes of gold worth over Rs 52 lakh crore are lying idle with households and temples in the country, and India imported 915.54 tonnes of gold in 2014-15 against 661.71 tonnes in the previous financial year. In the past five years, the average demand for gold has been 895 tonnes annually - roughly one-fourth of the global gold demand. A well-planned scheme would have been worth the effort to stem this demand.



On paper, the scheme had something for everyone. It was an improvement over the 1999 deposit scheme; for individuals, the entry barrier was reduced to 30 gm of gold instead of the earlier one's 500 gm. Besides, earnings were exempted from capital gains tax, wealth tax and income tax. But there were some obvious loopholes which the government had chosen to ignore at the time the scheme was launched. For example, the scheme mandated that gold purity had to be assessed from a recognised centre. But nobody bothered to note that there are not enough such centres available. In fact, one estimate says there are only 35-40 such collection centres in the entire country. For banks, collecting gold from remote places and lending it to jewellers in certain pockets of the country was considered impractical. Fortunately, the government has now woken up to the problem and has decided to step up the gold testing and refining network, with the objective of increasing the number of refineries from four to 20 and testing centres from 29 to 55 by December. There are 13,000 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)-licensed jewellers in the country, all of whom are to be asked to provide testing facilities for the scheme. The government has asked BIS to hasten the process of registration of jewellers as collection agents, and issue licences within 15 days. Gold refiners and hallmarking centres with a year's track record will also be allowed to sign up. The effect of all these changes is yet to be seen - though there are still doubts whether this would be enough to change the scheme's fortunes.



The biggest stumbling block for the scheme is something the government has no control over - and that is the mindset issue. Very few Indian consumers would be happy to see their ornaments melted down, and any government would find it difficult to tackle 1.2 billion people's collective obsession with the yellow metal - and that too for an annual return of 2.50 per cent. And then there is the fear of the taxman. Individuals may be worried that if they pledge a significant amount of gold with banks, the income-tax department may want to know the source of that gold.

 

·        loop·hole

An ambiguity or inadequacy in the law or a set of rules.

 

·        im·prac·ti·cal

(of an object or course of action) not adapted for use or action; not sensible or realistic.

 

·        has·ten

Be quick to do something

 

 

 

Indian Express

City of new dreams



Declaring that "India and Singapore have been together at many crossroads of time," Prime Minister Narendra Modi traced the interconnectedness of the two nations through ties of history, culture, kinship and commerce. He underscored the Southeast Asian city-state's special role in India's reform and modernisation story today. The bilateral relationship, that started with Singapore's independence 50 years ago, has now been elevated to a strategic partnership. India has sought to draw lessons from the economic and civic success of a tiny nation with scant resources. As Modi pointed out in the 37th Singapore Lecture he delivered on Monday, Singapore is not only India's largest trading partner in Southeast Asia but also its "biggest source and destination" for investment, and a major partner in newer projects like smart cities, clean energy and sustainable infrastructure.

Singapore's role in shaping the Asian future is no less significant. In calling Singapore "India's springboard to the world and gateway to the East", Modi harked back to leaders who shaped modern India's relations with Southeast Asia. Like P.V. Narasimha Rao more than two decades ago, whose government formulated and enacted the Look East policy, this was Modi's reaffirmation of New Delhi's commitment to "Act East" by cultivating good relations with all Asian powers, including China, Japan and Korea, as well as accelerating India's economic integration with Asean, the "anchor of our Act East policy".

India has signed a new, enhanced bilateral defence cooperation agreement with Singapore along with nine deals, including on cyber security, civil aviation and shipping. But for much of the last decade, Delhi has let Singapore and its Southeast Asian partners down by failing to step up to the larger security role these nations expected it to play. The new defence pact reinforces Delhi's commitment to be a net security provider in East Asia and the Pacific. Modi has said that the seas, space and the cyber domain shouldn't become "new theatres of contests" but avenues of "shared prosperity". Given that this statement was made in the context of the standoff in the South China Sea, India must use its own experience in keeping its border with China stable, despite "unresolved issues" — in the PM's own words — to offer help in keeping the sea lines of communication navigable for all. As it steps up its military-economic diplomacy in the region, that's the first challenge Delhi will face. It is one it cannot afford to fail.

 

·        trace

Find or discover by investigation.

 

·        kin·ship

Blood relationship.

 

·        el·e·vat·ed

Situated or placed higher than the surrounding area.

 

·        hark

Listen.

 

·        en·act

Make (a bill or other proposal) law.

 

·        av·e·nue

A broad road in a town or city, typically having trees at regular intervals along its sides.

 

·        stand·off

A stalemate or deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict.

 

 

The Guardian

view on the downed Russian jet: stay cool, Ankara and Moscow



uesday's downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey on the Syrian border was a nerve-jangling event. It raised the spectre of a direct confrontation between two large powers: one a Nato member, the other nuclear-armed. The already complex Syrian war suddenly threatened to spill over into something even wider. Turkey said the plane was shot down after repeated warnings that it had violated its national airspace, which Russia denies. Russia's Vladimir Putin fired back that it was "a stab in the back carried out by the accomplices of terrorists".



Yet at the same time both sides have also been keen to avoid an uncontrollable escalation. Mr Putin said the incident would be "analysed" – suggesting a cooler tone – and although Turkey convened a Nato meeting, it chose not to activate the alliance's collective defence clause. The harsh rhetoric on both sides speaks to domestic audiences, but the strategic risks are also obvious.

It is crucial that cool heads should prevail in Moscow, Ankara and in Nato. Yet there are also lessons to be drawn. One of these is the urgent need for restraint and better information-sharing among all those who are carrying out airstrikes over Syria.



A deeper conclusion is that, despite all the official talk of a common effort, irreconcilable strategic interests continue to clash. Turkey and the western powers are still in very different places to Russia over the fate of the Assad regime. Russia's military involvement in Syria has overwhelmingly focused on targeting western-supported anti-Assad rebels – not Isis. It is still unclear how much of that has changed since the Paris attacks, or since Moscow acknowledged that Isis had blown up a Russian civilian plane over Sinai.



Russia still describes all those who oppose Assad as terrorists. Turkey may have wanted to mark a red line, after Russian military activity had increased in regions close to its border. Building up a unified international coalition against Isis may be a good slogan. But, as this incident has shown, it is a slogan that involves a large helping of illusion.

 

·        jan·gle

Make or cause to make a ringing metallic sound, typically a discordant one

 

·        spec·ter

A ghost.

 

·        con·fron·ta·tion

A hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.

 

·        spill

Cause or allow (liquid) to flow over the edge of its container, especially unintentionally.

 

·        ac·com·plice

A person who helps another commit a crime.

 

·        keen

Wail in grief for a dead person; sing a keen.

 

·        con·vene

Come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble.

 

·        rhet·o·ric

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

 

·        re·straint

A measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control or within limits.

 

·        ir·rec·on·cil·a·ble

(of ideas, facts, or statements) representing findings or points of view that are so different from each other that they cannot be made compatible.

 

·        il·lu·sion

A thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses

 

 

The Dawn

Regional connections



THE latest Joint Economic Commission session between Pakistan and Afghanistan has ended without any breakthrough, and that is regrettable.



This was the 10th JEC session, and the first one following Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's visit last year; both sides still aired more or less the same views they have always expressed following the extensive talks, and the only progress to show was on paper.



Kabul voiced disappointment at the pace of progress in implementing the 48-point agenda agreed upon during President Ghani's visit, while Islamabad pointed to thorny "security issues" as the main sticking point.

The raft of agreements that now await implementation between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan makes an impressive list now, but the situation on the ground stubbornly refuses to budge.



This makes for a sad sight because both parties involved have much to gain from advancing the mutually agreed agenda for enhancing connectivity between their countries.



Kabul has long demanded access to New Delhi for its trucks, as well as permission to carry commercial cargoes back. India too has long asked for overland access to Kabul from the Wagah border.



The matter remains stuck due to Pakistani fears that such connectivity could be the means of expanding the Indian presence in Afghanistan, with security implications for Pakistan.



The deep irony here is that greater regional connectivity is the best guarantor of regional security, while at the same time it is perceived as a potentially destabilising element.



Given the extreme reluctance of the government in India to engage with Pakistan at the moment, it appears that hopes for a breakthrough in the near future in the matter of overland transit trade between Afghanistan and India are dim.



But the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan goes beyond India, and so does the dialogue coming out of the JEC sessions.



Talks to advance the import of electricity and natural gas from Central Asia to Pakistan appear to have made much more progress than the question of transit trade, but thus far the projects in question — Casa 1000 and Tapi — also have large security-related question marks hanging over them.



The success of these projects is closely linked to that of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. And once again, the stakes that are being held hostage by security considerations are far too large to ignore since the energy surpluses of Central Asia are a natural solution to the energy deficits of South Asia.



Crucial to the logjam is the fact that both India and Pakistan feel they can get what they want without engaging the other, a perception that has the potential to freeze the status quo indefinitely into the future.



The just concluded 10th JEC session has illustrated how considerations growing out of an antiquated mindset and a retrogressive brand of geopolitics can stall initiatives that have the promise to solve problems in the 21st century

 

·        break·through

A sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.

 

·        air

Express (an opinion or grievance) publicly.

 

·        thorn·y

Having many thorns or thorn bushes.

 

·        raft

A flat buoyant structure of timber or other materials fastened together, used as a boat or floating platform.

 

·        budge

Make or cause to make the slightest movement.

 

·        guar·an·tor

A person, organization, or thing that guarantees something.

 

·        dim

(of a light, color, or illuminated object) not shining brightly or clearly.

 

·        rec·on·cil·i·a·tion

The restoration of friendly relations.

 

·        log·jam

A crowded mass of logs blocking a river

 

status quo

·        an·ti·quat·ed

Old-fashioned or outdated.

 

·        retrogressive

Retrograde: going from better to worse

 

·        stall

A stand, booth, or compartment for the sale of goods in a market or large covered area

 

 


Nov 25 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

House Beautiful

 

   Government should build bridges with opposition to pass key bills in Parliament's winter session The winter session of Parliament begins tomorrow. Since the mon soon session was a near washout, with opposition parties closing ranks and keeping Parliament deadlocked, the smooth functioning of this session is crucial. A number of key bills, such as the Goods and Services Tax Bill and the land bill need to be passed to kickstart Prime Minister Narendra Modi's long promised economic reforms.Eighteen months after the BJP-led NDA rode to power at the Centre, industry and the people of India are impatient to see substantive policy action that would impart some momentum to the fragile economy . After the debacle in Bihar, the BJP-led NDA government will face an invigorated opposition in Parliament. That means government will have to work extra hard to win opposition parties over and secure their support in driving legislation. Needless to say, the winter session may have enough grist for heated exchanges. The outcry over intolerance, the Dadri lynching, BJP's inability to rein in Hindutva hotheads who regularly come out with commu nally inflammatory statements are all likely to feature prominently in parlia mentary debate. It is important that BJP chooses the path of conciliation rather than confrontation, while de ploying its political leaders to build bridges with the opposition. One strategy could be to try and get the less contentious bills passed first.The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill to deal with cheque bounce cases, the Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill that enables the creation of commercial divisions in high courts and a bill to convert the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance into an Act are among those that could be passed without opposition filibuster. Today Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is slated to hold an all-party meeting to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament during the winter session. Government should use the occasion well and extend an olive branch to opposition parties. On its part, the opposition too must realise that holding Parliament to ransom indefinitely is not in national or even in party interest. Granted, BJP too prevented Parliament from functioning during UPA-II. But Congress and other parties who hold sway in Rajya Sabha need to rise above copycat politics now. The correct way to contest government's policies is through civilised debate ­ not the absence of it. Both the ruling NDA and opposition parties should practise responsible parliamentary politics and strive not to derail India's development agenda.

 

·        wash·out

An event that is spoiled by constant or heavy rain.

 

·        dead·lock

Cause (a situation or opposing parties) to come to a point where no progress can be made because of fundamental disagreement

 

·        kick-start

Start (an engine on a motorcycle) with a downward thrust of a pedal.

 

·        im·pa·tient

Having or showing a tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked.

 

·        de·ba·cle

A sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco.

 

·        in·vig·or·ate

Give strength or energy to.

 

·        grist

Grain that is ground to make flour

 

·        out·cry

An exclamation or shout

 

·        con·cil·i·a·tion

The action of stopping someone from being angry; placation.

 

·        con·ten·tious

Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.

 

·        fil·i·bus·ter

An action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures.

 

·        slate

Cover (something, especially a roof) with slates.

 

·        Strive

 To try to achieve a result; to make strenuous effort; to try earnestly and persistently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 25 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Indeed, 18% is a Sensible GST Rate





Worry that this would be too low is misplaced

A panel chaired by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian has reportedly recommended a goods and services tax (GST) rate of 18%. This is less than half the current incidence of cascading indirect taxes on goods. The rate is also the cap that the Congress wants prescribed in the GST law. The government would do well to accept a cap as well as the two other changes the Congress wants: do away with the 1% tax on inter-state sales and resolve tax disputes among the states or between the Centre and the states through a mechanism that excludes parties to the dispute. Continuing with a tax on inter-state sales on which the buyer cannot claim an input tax credit is against the logic of GST. And it is redundant as the Centre stands ready to compensate the states for any revenue loss during the transition.

The Centre and the states must settle for an 18% rate when all taxes imposed on goods and services are collapsed into one. By subsuming most indirect taxes, GST will cut out the cascade of multiple taxes that products bear. It will make pro duction efficient and lower retail pri ces. If about 60% of the country's non agricultural output were to be taxed at 18%, that would yield taxes to the tune of 10% of GDP . Taxes on corporate and personal income along with Customs fetch 7% of GDP right now. Considering that the combined tax collections of the Centre and the states are about 17% of GDP right now, 18% would indeed be more than a revenue-neutral rate. A manufacturer will be able to claim credit for all the taxes paid on inputs, leading to audit trails that will help expand the tax base and capture swathes of tax-evaded income. This, in turn, strengthens the case for a moderate GST rate.

 

Globally , the average VAT rate is about 16.4%. The European Union has set the minimum standard VAT rate at 15%, even as member-states are free to set their own rates. In India, a task force set up by the Thirteenth Finance Commission had recommended a single rate of 5% for central GST and 7 % for state GST. Taking all that into account, a rate of 18% is no way too low.

 

·        cas·cade

(of water) pour downward rapidly and in large quantities.

 

·        swathe

Wrap in several layers of fabric.swathe

 

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