The Hindu: November 26, 2015
The downing of a Russian plane by Turkey near the Syrian border is indeed a dangerous act that could escalate the already complex Syrian conflict into a much wider war. Ankara's claim that it acted only to defend its territory because the Russian jet had violated its airspace is hardly enough reason to justify its ghastly act. Turkey and Russia are not at war, and according to Ankara's own version the Russian incursion lasted only 17 seconds. How did it pose a security threat? An airspace violation is not the rarest of the rare incident in the modern world; nor does every country use firepower to deal with such occurrences. Turkey itself has a long history of violating airspaces and coping with such incidents in its airspace diplomatically. Israel had violated Turkish airspace to bomb Syria in 2007. Turkish and Greek planes violating each other's airspaces was quite common in recent years. Did Turkey use an F-16 to shoot down all those aircraft? More important, Syria is a complex war theatre where two coalitions consisting of dozens of countries and their proxies are fighting a jihadist group. Turkey, which at least on the record is part of the U.S.-led coalition, should have acted as a responsible power. It could have taken up the issue with Moscow and pushed diplomatically for solutions to prevent confrontations in the air. But by deciding to shoot down the Russian plane, Turkey has not only provoked Russia but strengthened the jihadis' hands by making it more difficult to settle the Syrian crisis.
It is not a secret that Ankara has been a supporter of Syrian rebels since the beginning of the civil war. Four and a half years into the conflict that killed lakhs of people and led to the rise of Islamic State, Turkey still appears to be obsessed with the removal of the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. One of the reasons that made parts of Syria a haven for global jihadism was Turkey's failure to seal its border, which effectively became a transit point for militants from around the world. It also faces allegations, such as the one Russian President Vladimir Putin raised on Tuesday, that Turkish officials are facilitating oil trade for IS, helping the group raise funds. Though Turkey, under global and domestic pressure, declared war on IS earlier this year, the focus of its bombers was not really on the jihadist group but on the Kurdish militias who were fighting IS on the ground. All these incidents pose serious questions about Turkey's commitment in the war against IS. Does Ankara really want to defeat the Islamists, or is it hand-in-glove with them for geopolitical reasons? Whatever the reality, the action against the Russian jet has only reinforced the latter view. If not, Turkey should seriously rethink its approach, apologise to Russia, and work along with other nations to settle the Syrian crisis.
· ghast·ly भयंकर
Causing great horror or fear; frightful or macabre.
· in·cur·sion छापा
An invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one.
· dip·lo·mat·ic व्यवहारकुशल
Of or concerning the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations.
· con·fron·ta·tion आमना सामना करा देना
A hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.
· pro·voke उत्तेजित करना
Stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.
· tran·sit परिवर्तन
The carrying of people, goods, or materials from one place to another.
· mil·i·tant आतँकवाद
A militant person.
· al·le·ga·tion आरोप
A claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof.
· re·in·force मजबूत बनाना
Strengthen or support, especially with additional personnel or material.
· hand in glove घनिष्ठ संबंध
>in close collusion or association.
The Hindu: November 26, 2015 03:01 IST
Aamir Khan's right to speak
In the Bharatiya Janata Party Parivar's revised reckoner, actor Aamir Khan is now a villain giving India a bad name. It happened the day he joined forces with writers, actors and scientists and re-opened the debate on intolerance in the country by voicing his own concern and his wife's anxiety and thoughts, perhaps fleeting, of relocating elsewhere. It was not long before that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had made him the brand ambassador of Swachh Bharat while continuing with him as the face of Incredible India. The underlying subtext to the criticism being heaped on Khan is that while the Narendra Modi government has been gracious to the actor, known for his contrarian positions taken in the past, Khan has been churlish, ungrateful and unmindful of the gestures made to him. The criticism of Khan, therefore, falls into an all-too-predictable pattern. If the writers who returned their awards were lampooned by fellow-writers for being unpatriotic, anti-national and motivated, Khan has been at the receiving end of his fellow-actors, some of whom have been vocal supporters of the current political leadership. In the clamour, Khan's concerns are typically given short shrift, particularly his comment that it is important to have a sense of security and justice, essential underpinnings of any democratic society. It is the perceived lack of both that prompted writers/scientists/artists and filmmakers to question the government and return their national awards in protest. Like them, Khan too has underlined the importance of both for the political leadership — in particular, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by reminding him that he is the elected leader of the people of the country and must connect with their concerns.
In many ways, the Prime Minister's silence continues to cause anxiety among civil society members, particularly in the minority community. Mr. Modi's comments on the minority community during the Bihar campaign, without directly referring to them, have led to significant disquiet. The political leadership in the Central government and in the BJP remains resistant to addressing these anxieties by taking questions, reinforcing apprehensions. There is also something deeply disturbing in the suggestion of the BJP's ally, the Shiv Sena, that Aamir Khan be sent to Pakistan, for Khan is a Muslim, and the coding in the formulation is not intended to be subtle. Bollywood, of which Khan is an integral part, has never traded on religious identities. The actor has been forced to clarify that neither he nor his wife has any intention of leaving India. Forcing citizens to abjectly clarify their patriotism is not the sign of a liberal democracy. Every Indian must have the right to critique her country. When fellow-citizens receive the critique as a sign of betrayal, it is a sign of illiberalism. When those fellow-Indians happen to be connected to power, directly or politically, democracy is truly in trouble.
· reck·on·er सम्मिलित करना
A table or device designed to assist with calculation.
· fleet·ing अस्थायी
Lasting for a very short time.
· un·der·lie स्थापना करना
(especially of a layer of rock or soil) lie or be situated under (something).
· Heap ढेर
Put (objects or a loose substance) in a pile or mound.
· gra·cious दयालु
Courteous, kind, and pleasant.
· con·trar·i·an प्रतिकूल
A person who opposes or rejects popular opinion, especially in stock exchange dealing.
· churl·ish कंजूस
Rude in a mean-spirited and surly way.
· un·grate·ful नमकहराम
Not feeling or showing gratitude.
Not conscious or aware.
· lam·poon आक्षेप
Publicly criticize (someone or something) by using ridicule, irony, or sarcasm.
· clam·or कोलाहल
A loud and confused noise, especially that of people shouting vehemently.
· dis·qui·et अशांत होना
A feeling of anxiety or worry.
· sub·tle संवेदी
(especially of a change or distinction) so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe.
· Abjectly निराशा में
In a hopeless resigned manner;
India trails neighbours
The end of 2015, which marks the conclusion of the 25-year period (1990-2015) for reaching the millennium development goals (MDG), is in sight and a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study looks at how well the world, particularly those parts of it at medium and low human development levels, has fared in the key area of maternal mortality two years before (1990-2013) the closing bell rings. Picking out the maternal mortality rate (MMR) benchmark (the number of mothers dying within six weeks of child birth per 100,000 live births) makes sense as it gives an idea of the state of mother and child care - which is a good proxy for the level of human development achieved. One of the goals set was to bring down the MMR by 75 per cent from its 1990 levels. Countries which had some distance to go in 1990 have been categorised as being "on track", "making progress" and "making insufficient progress".
By these measures, two small South Asian countries, Nepal and Bhutan, the former is particular far poorer than India, have made outstanding progress and are classified as being "on track". In comparison, India is "making progress", as are Bangladesh and Pakistan. What is remarkable is that both Nepal and Bhutan were far behind India in 1990 (Nepal at 790 and Bhutan at 900, compared to India's 560). But now, Bhutan (at 120) has overtaken India (at 190) by miles, so to speak. Bangladesh which was slightly ahead of India remains so, as does Pakistan. The same story is told by the figure of the average annual percentage change in the indices: Bhutan leading the fall at -8.4 per cent, followed by Nepal at -6 per cent and Bangladesh at -5 per cent, with India in the second lowest position at -4.5 per cent, ahead of only Pakistan which clocked -3.6 per cent. These figures are a severe indictment of the regimes (they cut across the entire political spectrum) and policies that India has experienced in the past decades. India's rapid economic growth in the period has taken it to the second place in the region in terms of per capita income, but Nepal and Bangladesh with lower incomes have done better on maternal mortality.
There is, therefore, an urgent need to look at policies to do better in the future. Since it is the poor who cannot afford better private care and so contribute the most to India's relatively high MMR, there is an urgent need to raise the level of public spending on health care. Higher pay for government doctors and nurses, which a new pay commission award is likely to bring, will be a move in the right direction. This must go with vastly better administration. The various current schemes under the National Health Mission dealing with postnatal care must be reviewed at the highest level.
Of or relating to a mother, especially during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth.
· mor·tal·i·ty मृत्यु
The state of being subject to death.
· prox·y प्रतिनिधि
The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.
· in·dict·ment कलंक
A formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.
· vastly बहुत अधिक
To an exceedingly great extent or degree
· post·na·tal जन्मोत्तर
Of, relating to, characteristic of, or denoting the period after childbirth
Work it out
As Parliament's winter session gets underway, political battlelines have been drawn sharply. While several bills are on the agenda, the topmost priority is the passage of a constitutional amendment bill that will enable the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax regime by April 2016. The proposed GST will subsume all indirect taxes and is expected to improve ease of doing business as well as boost government revenues as it unifies the whole country into a single market. Despite bipartisan support for the idea, the GST bill has been stuck for the better part of a decade. Its initial introduction was planned in April 2010. The NDA government has passed the bill in the Lok Sabha, but failed to build consensus in the Rajya Sabha, where it lacks a majority. Now, the inability to pass the GST bill will be seen as the weakening of the NDA's reform momentum, with adverse impact on the investment climate. The NDA has failed to pass the other key legislation — the land acquisition bill — after a near-washout of the monsoon session. Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday cautioned against the "potential headwinds" in case the drift continues. To be sure, weak global cues — India's exports have fallen for 11 straight months — and an impending US rate hike may further aggravate the gloomy news for the Indian economy.
Three outstanding issues need to be resolved. The most important one has to do with the exact quantum of the GST rate. The Congress is adamant this number should not be more than 18 per cent, generally understood to be the revenue-neutral rate. State governments, foregoing their capacity to tax under a GST regime, reportedly resent a higher rate. A higher rate may also bring down compliance. However, the BJP has described the demand to cap the GST rate at 18 per cent — in such a manner that changing it will require a constitutional amendment — as preposterous. Another point of contention is the proposed 1 per cent inter-state levy, which the Congress wants scrapped. The last contention is about the way disputes should be resolved and the involvement of a judge in the process.
While leaders from both parties have expressed the desire to find a compromise, it is obvious that unresolved issues, which have nothing to do with the GST bill, are at play. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi sounded combative on Wednesday when he said that the BJP cannot "shut out" the Congress. On the GST, however, it is high time the Congress looked within and acknowledged the limits of an obstructionist politics. At the same time, it is also true that the primary responsibility for passing legislation lies with the government. Instead of publicly daring the Congress, the BJP should try to mend fences with the Opposition.
· un·der·way जारी
Having started and in progress; being done or carried out.
· sub·sume सम्मिलित करना
Include or absorb (something) in something else.
· pre·pos·ter·ous हास्यास्पद
Contrary to reason or common sense; utterly absurd or ridiculous
· con·ten·tion प्रतिस्पर्धा
· scrap फेंकना
Discard or remove from service (a retired, old, or inoperative vehicle, vessel, or machine), especially so as to convert it to scrap metal.
· mend fences
> clear its stand
Climate change: without a vision
AS the world prepares for the largest climate summit of its kind, the secretary general of the United Nations has stepped forward with a strong appeal for world leaders to "look beyond national horizons and to put the common interest first". Unfortunately, his own language describing that common interest was shrouded in ambiguity, revealing the large gaps that remain to be bridged. For instance, when talking about what he expects any binding agreement that emerges from the conference to contain, he steered away from referring to emissions targets, preferring to say only that any resultant accord must "provide clear rules of the road for strengthening global ambition". This is a vague statement with which to lay out one's expectations, and it points to the difficulties that lie ahead for the negotiators in Paris if they wish to avoid the pitfalls of the Rio de Janeiro accord in 1992, or the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Both those agreements failed to reach their goals of cutting carbon emissions worldwide. Whether Paris succeeds where they failed remains to be seen but if, on the eve of the summit, the secretary general himself has a hard time referring to setting targets for cuts in emissions, one can only say that a lot of work remains to be done.
One big difference between Paris and the other two attempts in the past to reach a global accord on climate change is that this time countries have submitted their own climate action plans which detail their vision for cutting carbon emissions starting from 2020, when any accord reached in Paris is supposed to go into effect. As part of the process, Pakistan too has submitted a document; but it would be something of a stretch to call it a vision. Not only does the document fail to make any commitment to curtailing emissions, it also fails to provide the single-most rudimentary number around which any climate action plan needs to be built: emissions per capita. The document simply states that "Pakistan is committed to reduc[ing] its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible subject to affordability, provision of international climate finance, transfer of technology and capacity building."
In short, Pakistan appears to be going to Paris with an old proposition: give us the money and we will talk about emissions. It is easy to predict that this gambit will not work. International support for a climate action plan will not come if there is no commitment on emissions cuts in the future. As a front-line state in the growing climate emergency, Pakistan needs to do much more to measure its emissions and present targets for the future without compromising on its developmental goals. Business as usual — trading funds in return for compliance with international obligations — is a bad way to begin the journey down this road.
· shroud कफ़न में लपेटना
Wrap or dress (a body) in a shroud for burial.
· steered away
to move or turn away from someone or something.
Give or grant someone (power, status, or recognition).
· ru·di·men·ta·ry मूलभूत
Involving or limited to basic principles.
· gam·bit जूआ
(in chess) an opening in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of some compensating advantage.
Nov 26 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Downing of Russian jet by Turkey highlights mistrust among those fighting IS
The shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkish forces along the Syrian-Turkish border further complicates the situ ation in that part of the world. The incident not only threatens to undermine whatever little understanding was developing between the Russian and American camps over Syria, but also highlights why stakeholders in West Asia have failed to unite against the Islamic State (IS) menace. Even after the horrific Paris terror attack, mutual suspicion prevents a concrete international campaign against IS.Fully aware of this situation, the jihadis have exploited the rivalries among regional nations to further their agenda and expand their so-called caliphate.
The situation in Syria today can be best described as a Mexican standoff among the foreign players they have their guns trained on both IS and each other. There are two pos sible outcomes from here. Either they mutual ly decide that IS is a bigger problem than their own rivalries and take a common position against the menace. Or they can wait for an external event to galvanise them into action against the jihadis. That external event could be a much bigger terror attack than Paris, possibly on the US mainland IS recently threatened to attack Washington.
Should that actually happen, it would have catastrophic consequences akin to the aftermath of the 911 terror strikes. And one must remember that it was the US's ill-conceived military intervention in Iraq that helped create the IS monster. Hence, the more prudent option is to galvanise an international effort against IS through the UN Security Council. Working through the UN platform will also provide military intervention with the requisite legitimacy . Simultaneously , a political solution to the Syrian civil war needs to be pushed through UN mediation among legitimate players. Only a truly international effort can resolve the Syrian imbroglio and destroy IS.
· men·ace हानिकारक
A person or thing that is likely to cause harm; a threat or danger.
· stand·off ड्रॉ
A stalemate or deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict.
· gal·va·nize प्रेरित करना
Shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.
Involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering.
· a·kin समान गुण वाला
Of similar character.
· pru·dent सावधान
Acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
An extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.
Nov 26 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
More Than a Tax Break for Vital R&D
India needs a holistic technology policy
It is welcome that the tax break for research and development under Section 35 of the Income-Tax Act is proposed to be scaled down to 100% from 200%, and not phased out.However, this falls far short of the coherent policy for technology development that India needs to become a major economic and strategic power. It is better to offer subsidy by way of a subvention, which is scrutinised and audited far more than a tax break. Such spending must dovetail into a revamped technology policy framework to upgrade local manufacturing and services, upgrade skills and digitise systems.
Quality growth and sustained competitive advantage emanate from developing cutting-edge proprietary technology across domains and fields, and not from simply buying know-how off-the-shelf. It requires vision to better allocate resources for technology and skill development. Sure, the Mangalyaan Mars mission has proved to be a resounding success, but India lags far behind the technological frontier in most prom ising areas, whether new materials, sustainable energy or computing. We need to keep in the mind that key tech nologies that go into the making of a smartphone, such as GPS, touchscre en display and myriad communicati on technologies, all trace their origin to focused state funding.
South Korea's Samsung and China's Huawei are now leading global players for mobile devices and networks due to sound national policy and resource allocation anticipating technological convergence and change. Notice that the standards for 5G mobile networks are already being written abroad, and Indian players, predictably , are nowhere in the picture. We even seem to lack expertise and well-trained PhDs in such vital areas as cyber security . We continue to grossly neglect knowledge creation.The student intake at the postgraduate level at IITs barely contain IIT students, most of whom leave engineering to join finance and general management. Lowering protection levels would probably prod industry to focus more on research and innovation.
· ho·lis·tic सम्पूर्ण रूप से
Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
· co·her·ent समझने में सरल होना
(of an argument, theory, or policy) logical and consistent.
· sub·ven·tion आर्थिक सहायता
A grant of money, especially from a government.
· scru·ti·nize जांचना
Examine or inspect closely and thoroughly.
· dove·tail ब्योरा
A joint formed by one or more tapered projections (tenons) on one piece that interlock with corresponding notches or recesses (mortises) in another.
· re·vamp नया करना
Give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to.
· em·a·nate उत्पन्न होना
(of something abstract but perceptible) issue or spread out from (a source).
· con·ver·gence एक ओर झुकाव
The process or state of converging.
· bare·ly नाममात्र को
Only just; almost not.