There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Twenty-Sixth Edition we are covering the following news:
1. Analysing k-shaped recovery
2. China’s new plans amid rising tensions with India
3. What does scrapping Question Hour mean for the Parliament?
4. The big ban and unban of Indian Gamers Heart- PUBG
5. Draft Environment Impact Assessment
Since the coronavirus hit the world, creating a wave of recession in almost all economies, there have been debates about the “shape” of it. What does this mean? “Shape” is a term used by economists to describe different types of recessions. The most commonly used terms are V-shaped, U-shaped, W-shaped, and L-shaped recessions. For instance, in a V-shaped recession, which is the normal shape, the economy suffers a sharp but brief period of economic decline with a clearly defined trough, followed by a strong recovery. A “U” shape is similar but suggests the period of low economic activity and unemployment will last longer. “L” and “I” suggest more dire consequences of high unemployment with ramifications like debt defaults and overwhelmed health systems. “K” shape falls somewhere between “V” and “L”.
In this type, the line heading upward symbolizes those parts of the economy that have benefited from the pandemic and the downward one symbolizes those who have suffered. Typically, the wealthy benefit. Industries like technology, retail and software services have recovered from the industry while travel, entertainment, hospitality and food services industries have continued to decline.
During this pandemic, India’s growth potential had dropped from 6% to 5%. Per capita income in inflation-adjusted rupees in 2022-23 is likely to be no bigger than in 2019-20; which means three lost years, which further means that surplus capacity in all directions, and a collapse of new investment.
Companies servicing work or learn from home are having a enjoying sudden wealth, as are the makers of pharmaceutical products, while the commercial real estate market and makers of formal office shirts experience a slump. Qantas has taken to selling pyjamas! Within sectors, the big is eating the small. For instance, Jio swallows most of the Future Group, forcing the next in line, D-Mart, to adopt price discounting; and Adani acquires local airport monopolies and has a quasi-monopoly on ports. The concentration of profits in the hands of sector leaders has reached unprecedented levels. The forces causing the growth slowdown and rising inequality were there before the pandemic and these trends are now getting accentuated.
Even in America, the wealthiest are prospering as the stock market rallies but millions of Americans face the prospect of long-term unemployment. If the current trends continue, it is entirely possible that Wall Street banks and large retail outlet chains will flourish while small business owners, restaurants and service profession workers suffer.
In a social welfare model, governments would take care of the ones falling behind while enabling small and medium businesses to keep going. But increasingly, governments don’t have the capacity or the competence to deal with the scale of what confronts them. This encourages escapism through the politics and economics of nationalism, made worse by tribalism or nativism, the package accompanied inevitably by the erosion of institutional bulwarks and therefore state capture by powerful businessmen.
Recently, China accused that shots were fired by Indian soldiers along the disputed Himalayan border stretch for the first time in 45 years to threaten the Chinese border defence patrol officers, further claiming that it had responded to the “severe military provocation” with unspecified counter-measures. India was quick to reject this version of events. The Indian army accused Chinese troops of “provocative activities” by attempting to move in on its troops.
There has been bad blood between the two countries for a long time now, and with this accusation, the tensions have certainly escalated amid which China is planning a more than 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) push to accelerate infrastructure investment in Tibet. This push is to step-up the development of the remote and impoverished south-western region signalling Beijing’s intent to bolster frontier security. A number of major infrastructure projects and public facilities are in the works.
The plan includes completion of the challenging middle section of a high-elevation Sichuan-Tibet railway link, a railway line between Nepal and Tibet that has remained in the planning stages, and a newly planned dry port in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The 270 billion yuan section of the railway has been known for construction challenges posed by rough terrain and complex geology, notably the segment linking Sichuan’s Ya’an city with Nyingchi in southeastern Tibet near the border with India. They want to push ahead with the Tibet-Nepal Railway linking Kathmandu with Shigatse, but it has yet to gain much traction. Nepal is a buffer between China and India and is considered by New Delhi as its natural ally, but China has made inroads by pouring aid and infrastructure investment into what is one of the world’s poorest countries.
The clash in the western part of the China-India border in June was the worst violence between the Asian giants in decades, and there is little sign of easing tension, with more military action in the past week. Beijing has long aimed to build a high-speed rail network to make Tibet more accessible from China’s inland provinces. Beijing sent troops into Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and maintains a heavy security presence in the region and rejects criticism from rights groups, for instance China’s policies towards Tibet came under the spotlight again this year amid worsening ties with the United States but the former claims that it respects Tibet’s culture and religion.
This year has been one of many firsts. Keeping in line with that trend, the Parliament session will also be a session of many first. They will meet later this month after being in recess for 174 days. Aside from protection measures, there will be two other changes – there will be no Question Hour and Zero Hour might be curtailed, which happen to be the most visible aspects of Parliament functioning. During the Question Hour, MPs from the ruling party as well as the opposition pose tough questions to their colleagues who are ministers which forms a robust mechanism for Parliament’s scrutiny of government functioning.
Question Hour, in particular, plays an important role in our democracy. For instance, it was central in uncovering India’s first financial scandal. Its effectiveness became evident within the first decade of independence when in 1957 Congress MP questioned the Finance Minister about an investment made by the Life Insurance Corporation. Their questioning set the ball rolling for the uncovering of the first financial scandal in the country. In one of the Parliament’s publications, it has addressed how the Question Hour deepens the accountability of the government and referred to it as “a deterrent on bureaucratic inertia”. Over the years the presiding officers of both houses have also strengthened the functioning of Question Hour. During a session, they routinely refuse permission to suspend question hour to discuss an issue.
If the questions are dispensed with, the flow of information to the House from the government about very vital issues concerning the governance of the country will stop and the members will be deprived of opportunities to question the government and call it to account, especially this year given that It has been the longest gap between the budget and monsoon sessions in the last twenty years, if not more.
The right to ask questions flows from Article 75 of the Constitution. Therefore, in a way, every Question Hour is the manifestation of a direct kind of democracy in operation, in the sense that representation of the people directly questions the government on matters of governance, and the government is duty-bound to answer the questions in the House.
Admittedly, there were a few occasions when MPs who had asked questions during the question hour were not present in the house. The rules of Lok Sabha provided that ministers could put the written reply on the floor of the house, and no supplementary questions were allowed. However, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee believed that questions were a property of the house so even in the absence of the MP who had put in the question other MPs could ask follow-up questions to the minister.
The oral answering of questions is a live broadcast to the public which puts pressure on the government so ministers prepare extensively. Officers from their ministry are present in Parliament to brief them. It is their presence that has been cited in media reports as causing difficulties in holding Question Hour in the upcoming session. The initial announcement from Parliament seemed to suggest that MPs will not be able to ask any questions in the session, but they can ask ministers ‘unstarred questions’ which require written responses from them.
It will not be an easy session for both the government and the opposition. The government wants parliamentary approval for 11 ordinances and other bills pending from previous sessions. The opposition will be keen to corner the government on its handling of Covid-19, the state of the economy, and our relations with China and the nation deserves a clear answer on all these fronts. All other challenges aside, the curtailment of Question Hour will put a dent in Parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable for its work in the last six months.
The Centre banned 118 more Chinese mobile applications last week over concerns regarding “security, surveillance and data privacy”.
This came in response to the rising tensions over India-China border and the fresh Chinese incursion attempts in Indian territory at Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
With 50M downloads and 33M active users in India, PUBG is classified as one of the two unicorn mobile games in India by AppAnnie. This is sufficient to display the effect on PUBG Corporation due to its ban in India.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Corporation, or PUBG Corp, has been looking for ways to reverse the ban in India. If reports are to believed, PUBG Corp is now looking for an Indian distributor to run the popular battle royale game PUBG Mobile. Yesterday, the battle royale gaming company was reported hand over PUBG Mobile to a South Korean firm.
In order to reply to this ban and assure users that it is safe to use and will come back soon the gaming company said, “PUBG Corporation fully understands and respects the measures taken by the government as the privacy and security of player data is a top priority for the company. It hopes to work hand-in-hand with the Indian government to find a solution that will allow gamers to once again drop into the battlegrounds while being fully compliant with Indian laws and regulations. The company hopes to work hand-in-hand with the Indian government to find a solution that “will allow gamers to once again drop into the battlegrounds while being fully compliant with Indian laws and regulations”.
Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.
India being a signatory to the Stockholm Declaration (1972) on Environment, enacted laws to control water (1974) and air (1981) pollution soon after. But it was only after the Bhopal gas leak disaster in 1984 that the country legislated an umbrella Act for environmental protection in 1986. Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, India notified its first EIA norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources. Every development project has been required to go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance ever since. The 1994 EIA notification was replaced with a modified draft in 2006.
Earlier this year, the government redrafted it again to incorporate the amendments and relevant court orders issued since 2006, and to make the EIA process more transparent and expedient.
Though established to safeguard the environment, the EIA process, argue activists, often achieved the opposite by offering a façade of legal paperwork for a range of de facto concessions enjoyed by industries. For example, reports on projects’ potential (damaging) impact on the environment — the bedrock of the EIA process — are frequently shoddy and consultant agencies that prepare those reports for a fee are rarely held accountable. Lack of administrative capacity to ensure compliance often renders long lists of clearance conditions meaningless. Then there are periodic amendments exempting one category of industries or the other from scrutiny.
The Violations clause of the Notification is perhaps the most contentious clause. To clarify, a project is deemed to be in violation if it has been set up, or has undergone expansion, without obtaining the required Environmental Clearance (EC). In the past, the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has taken cognisance of violation cases. Projects have been appraised for damages caused to the environment and penalised according to the “polluter pays” principle. It’s being argued that by providing for consideration of violation cases in the Notification, the process of granting ex-post-facto clearance is being regularised; that this move signals a carte blanche for projects to proceed without obtaining a prior EC. In the Notification, “Dealing with Violation Cases” is covered under Clause 22. This is similar to the existing approach to violation matters. It differs insofar as henceforth matters of violation shall be governed by the EIA Notification itself, and not by separate notifications or office orders.
The documents of violation cases will be prepared only by consultants registered with and certified by the government. Their cost will have to be borne by the project proponent, as it logically should be. MoEFCC can ask for the fees to be deposited with its agencies, who will pay directly to the consultant organisation. This will ensure that bias or conflict of interest is completely eliminated.
This government is fully committed to resolutely protect our environment while promoting growth and employment generation for our young population. This balance has been often overlooked by ideologists of different persuasions. We cannot afford this any longer.