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Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

The ambit and the limits of ‘diaspora diplomacy’op-ed of the day

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Indian diaspora and limits on its ability to influence.


Context

It is necessary for New India to look at the political choices of Indian migrants abroad through a more realistic lens.

Indian diaspora

  • Largest diaspora and highest remittances: India has the world’s largest diaspora, about 17.5 million and receives the highest remittance of $78.6 billion from Indians living abroad (Global Migration Report 2020).
  • Impact of the diaspora back home: Members of the diaspora, often seen as more “successful” and therefore more influential, can have a big impact on their relatives back home.

Certain wrong premises: The promise of the diaspora’s dual power is based on certain faulty premises.

1. Transferability of vote: To start with, the transferability of votes has not yet been proven conclusively.

    • It is necessary and timely that the government re-analyses the benefits accrued from the diaspora’s political presence through a more realistic lens.
    • One obvious reason is that the Indian community isn’t large enough to make a difference in the voting patterns in any of these countries.
    • The second is that the population that comes out for the rallies doesn’t represent the entire diaspora.

2. Not necessarily support the government: The second issue is that politically active members of the Indian diaspora don’t necessarily support the Indian government’s actions, and often because they are of Indian origin, hold the government in New Delhi to higher standards than they do others.

  • Concern over CAA and Kashmir Issue: The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson for Asia, Ami Bera, voiced his concerns quite plainly about Kashmir and Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) during a visit to India last month.
  • Criticism of the government actions: The sponsor of the U.S. House resolution on Kashmir (HR745) Pramila Jayapal; co-chair of U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s campaign Ro Khanna; and former presidential contender Kamala Harris, have all been openly critical of the government’s actions.

What should the government do? The conclusion for the government is that it cannot own only that part of the diaspora that supports its decisions, and must celebrate the fact that members of the Indian diaspora, from both sides of the political divide, are successful and influential.

3. Diaspora as a factor in bilateral relation: The government must ensure that its focus on the diaspora doesn’t become a factor in its bilateral relations.

  • While it is perfectly legitimate and laudable to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian citizens in different parts of the world, it must tread more lightly on issues that concern foreign citizens of Indian origin.

4.Introduction of India’s internal politics:

  • The introduction of India’s internal politics into this equation is another new angle, one that led the British Foreign Office to remonstrate with India about interference last December.
  • Politically affiliated Indian diaspora chapters are now also playing old India-Pakistan fault-lines amongst immigrants, which in the past were fuelled by Pakistani agencies.
  • In California primaries this month, local “Hindu-American” groups protested against Democratic candidates like Ro Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan caucus and for criticising New Delhi’s actions.

5. Impact on diaspora:

  • Conflating POI with citizens of India: The government must consider the impact that policies conflating the PIOs with Indian citizens could have on the diaspora itself.
  • Ability to assimilate: Most immigrant Indian communities have been marked by their ability to assimilate into the countries they now live in.
  • Much of that comes from a desire to be treated as equal citizens, not as immigrants, while a few also have bad memories of anti-immigrant sentiments in the 1960s and 1970s in Europe and the U.S. when they were targeted and accused of “divided loyalties”.

Conclusion

Laying claim to diasporas kinship and culture and taking pride in their success is one thing. It would be a mistake to lay claim to their politics, however.

 

Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

A tale of two bugsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : Paper2- India has shown that it has political will, technical capacity and financial resource to control the infectious diseases it need to marshal these resou.rce to eradicate TB


Context

India needs to take TB at the same level of seriousness at which it is dealing with the Covid-19.

Contrast and between the response

  • Tuberculosis in India: Indians will still have to contend with other deadly respiratory tract infections which spread via airborne transmission. We will still have to contend with one particular bug which kills millions of us and which has been around for millennia. Tuberculosis.
    • But all comparisons between COVID-19 and TB end with the superficial observation that they are both deadly respiratory tract infections.
  • Speedy tackling of COVID-19: COVID-19 began its march through humankind barely half a year ago and, in record time, scientists have identified the virus and hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated to controlling its spread, developing vaccines (at last count, more than a dozen candidates) and testing medication regimens for those infected.
  • Waning of the epidemic: While the virus has spread to over 100 countries, the epidemic already shows signs of waning in the Asian countries where it hit first and hardest.

Response to the TB

  • How long has the TB infected us? On the other hand, TB is as old as humanity itself, infecting us for at least 5,000 years.
    • The infecting agent, a bacterium, was identified way back in 1882, by Robert Koch, signalling one of the landmark discoveries which laid the foundation of modern medicine.
  • How was the response to TB? The subsequent response to this disease, which was infamously called the White Plague and was a leading cause of death globally at the start of the 20th century, is similar to what we see today for COVID-19, but played out over decades rather than months.
    • Measures taken: TB was made a notifiable disease, campaigns were launched to prohibit spitting and containment policies, including sequestering infected persons, were implemented.
  • The first vaccine was produced over a hundred years ago, and the first curative treatments available by the 1950s.
  • Divide between rich and poor in TB infections: TB was largely beaten in the rich world, not only because of these medical miracles but also thanks to the dramatic reduction in poverty and improvement in living standards.
    • There is compelling evidence that addressing these social determinants was even more impactful than medical interventions in the war against TB.
  • The disease of squalor: TB has always been, and this is even more true now than ever before, a disease of poverty and squalor. And no country is more affected than India.
  • Every TB statistic is grim:
    • We are home to 1 in 4 of the world’s TB patients.
    • Over 2.5 million Indians are infected.
    • In 2018, over 4,00,000 Indians died of the disease.
    • To put this in stark perspective, more people died of TB in India last week than the entire global death toll of COVID-19 to date.
    • Contrast with the response to COVID-19: Given our urgent, energetic and multifaceted response to the latter Covid-19, one is left wondering why we have failed so miserably for another bug, particularly one which has been around for so long, which has been exquisitely studied and characterised, which is preventable and treatable, and which most of the world has conquered.

Why TB has not been given such attention?

  • It is because those who suffer from TB are not likely to be boarding international flights or passing through swanky airports to attend conferences.
  • It is because TB infects people in slower tides, slow enough for industries to replace the sick with healthier recruits without endangering the bottom line.
  • It is because TB does not threaten the turbines that keep the global economy throbbing.
  • It is because TB no longer poses a threat to rich and powerful countries.
  • It is because those who have TB live on the margins and have little political influence.
  • It is because TB control requires society to address the squalid environments, which shroud the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Indians.
  • It is because TB is a medieval scourge that reminds us of our shameful failure to realise a just, humane and dignified life for all our people.

Conclusion

If there is one lesson from COVID-19, it is that India, and the global community, has the political will, technical capacity and financial resources to act in a committed and concerted way to control infectious diseases. It needs to marshal these assets to eradicate TB, the most pernicious and pervasive infection of all, both through addressing its social determinants and scaling up effective biomedical interventions. But, for this to happen, we will have to be as concerned about the health needs of those who travel by foot and bicycle as we do for those who board cruise ships and international flights.

 

 

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

The real reformop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3-How IBC has fared so far?


Context

The IBC has started emerging stronger as it delivered on its promise, passed the constitutional muster, earned global recognition and became the preferred option for stakeholders in case of default.

Demystifying the myths surrounding IBC

Myths about recovery:

Most of the myths surround recovery. Consider the following example for quick appreciation.

  • M/s. Synergies Dooray was the first company to be resolved under the IBC. It was with the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) for over a decade.
  • The realisable value of its assets was Rs 9 crore when it entered the IBC process. It, however, owed Rs 900 crore to the creditors.
  • How much did IBC recover? The resolution plan yielded Rs 54 crore for them.
  • Some condemned IBC because the resolution plan yielded a meagre 6 per cent of the claims of the creditors, disregarding the fact that they recovered 600 per cent of the realisable value of the company, which had been in the sick bed for over a decade.
  • If the company was liquidated, assuming no transaction costs, the creditors would have got at best Rs 9 crore — 1 per cent of their claims.

The myth that recovery under IBC is dismal

  • Let’s examine the myth that the recovery through resolution plans is dismal.
    • Two hundred companies had been rescued till December 2019 through resolution plans.
    • They owed Rs 4 lakh crore to creditors. However, the realisable value of the assets available with them, when they entered the IBC process, was only Rs 0.8 lakh crore.
    • The IBC maximises the value of the existing assets, not of the assets which do not exist. Under the IBC, the creditors recovered Rs 1.6 lakh crore, about 200 per cent of the realisable value of these companies.
    • Why creditors had to take a haircut? Despite the recovery of 200 per cent of the realisable value, the financial creditors had to take a haircut of 57 per cent as compared to their claims. This only reflects the extent of value erosion that had taken place when the companies entered the IBC process.
    • What is the conclusion? As compared to other options, banks are recovering much better through IBC, as per RBI data.

The myth that IBC is sending companies for liquidation:

    • What is the primary objective of IBC: Recovery is incidental under the IBC. Its primary objective is rescuing companies in distress.
    • More number of companies sent for liquidation: There is a myth that although the IBC process has rescued 200 companies, it has sent 800 companies for liquidation. The number of companies getting into liquidation is thus four times that of the companies being rescued.
    • The context for the numbers: Numbers, however, to be seen in context. The companies rescued had assets valued at Rs 0.8 lakh crore, while the companies referred for liquidation had assets valued at Rs 0.2 lakh crore when they entered the IBC process.
    • Looking from the value term angle: In value terms, assets that have been rescued are four times those sent for liquidation. It is important to note that of the companies rescued, one-third were either defunct or under BIFR, and of the companies sent for liquidation, three-fourths were either defunct or under BIFR.

The myth that IBC is resulting in huge job losses

  • The next myth is that the IBC is resulting in huge job losses through liquidation. It is misconstrued that 600 companies — for which data are available and which have proceeded for liquidation — have assets (and consequently employment) at least equal to the aggregate claim of the creditors — Rs 4.6 lakh crore.
  • Unfortunately, they have assets on the ground valued only at Rs 0.2 lakh crore.
    • Take the examples of Minerals Limited and Orchid Healthcare Private Limited, which have been completely liquidated. They owed Rs 8,163 crore, while they had absolutely no assets and employment.
    • What matters in this context is the assets a company has or the employment it provides — not how much it owes to creditors.
  • The IBC process would release the idle or under-utilised assets valued at Rs 0.2 lakh crore, which would have dissipated with time, for business and employment.
  • One also needs to consider the jobs saved through the rescue of 80 per cent of the distressed assets, and the job being created by these companies, post-rescue.

What changes IBC has brought?

  • Changed the behaviour of debtors: A distressed asset has a life cycle. Its value declines with time if the distress is not addressed.
    • The credible threat of the IBC process, that a company may change hands, has changed the behaviour of debtors.
  • Debtors are settling debt at an early stage: Thousands of debtors are settling defaults at the early stages of the life cycle of a distressed asset.
    • They are settling when the default is imminent, on receipt of a notice for repayment but before filing an application, after filing the application but before its admission, and even after admission of the application.
    • These stages are akin to preventive care, primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care with respect to sickness. Only a few companies, who fail to address the distress in any of these stages, reach the liquidation stage.
  • Value erosion at the liquidation stage: The value of the company is substantially eroded, and hence some of them would be rescued, while others are liquidated.
    • The recovery may be low at this stage, but in the early stages of distress, it is much higher — primarily because of the IBC.
    • The percentage of companies or distressed assets getting into liquidation is insignificant.
    • Stakeholders should increasingly address the distress in the early stages and the best use of the IBC would be not using it all.

Conclusion

Stakeholders who understand business and have the backing of sophisticated professionals are using IBC with open eyes after evaluating all options. There is no reason to doubt their commercial wisdom. The 25,000 applications filed so far under IBC indicate the value and trust that stakeholders place on the law — the ultimate test of its efficacy.

 

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

The circuit breaker in the stock marketPriority 1


The stock markets in India are witnessing historic single-day falls with an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.  Since the indexes plunged more than 10 per cent each day earlier, a circuit breaker was triggered for the first time since 2009 halting trading.

What are circuit breakers?

  • In June 2001, the SEBI implemented index-based market-wide circuit breakers.
  • Circuit breakers are triggered to prevent markets from crashing, which happens when market participants start to panic induced by fears that their stocks are overvalued and decide to sell their stocks.
  • This index-based market-wide circuit breaker system applies at three stages of the index movement, at 10, 15 and 20 per cent.
  • When triggered, these circuit breakers bring about a coordinated trading halt in all equity and equity derivative markets nationwide.

 

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Oculudentavis khaungraaePrelims OnlyPriority 1


Scientists have found the skull of a 99-million-year-old flying dinosaur that is tinier than the tiniest bird known to humans.

  • The bird-like dinosaur was found stuck in a gob of tree resin that eventually hardened into amber, preserving it for millions of years to come.
  • The fossil was dug up in 2016 from a mine in Myanmar. It was so slight; it likely weighed just 2 grams.
  • The dinosaur skull holds around 100 sharp teeth, which hints at its ferocious nature despite its small size.
  • It even had teeth in the back of its jaw, under its eye.

 

Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

Explained: Social DistancingExplained


The last two days, a number of states in India have enforced measures aimed at reducing public gatherings. This is called “social distancing”.

How does social distancing work?

  • To stem the speed of the coronavirus spread so that healthcare systems can handle the influx, experts are advising people to avoid mass gatherings.
  • Offices, schools, concerts, conferences, sports events, weddings, and the like have been shut or cancelled around the world, including in a number of Indian states.
  • An advisory by the US Centers for Disease Control recommends social distancing measures such as: reducing the frequency of large gatherings and limiting the number of attendees; limiting inter-school interactions; and considering distance or e-learning in some settings.

What is the objective of such restrictions?

  • Compared to deadlier diseases such as bird flu, or H5N1, coronavirus is not as fatal —which ironically also makes it more difficult to contain.
  • With milder symptoms, the infected are more likely to be active and still spreading the virus.
  • For example, more than half the cases aboard a cruise ship that has docked in California did not exhibit any symptoms.
  • In a briefing on March 11, WHO officials said, “Action must be taken to prevent transmission at the community level to reduce the epidemic to manageable clusters.”
  • The main question for governments is to reduce the impact of the virus by flattening the trajectory of cases from a sharp bell curve to an elongated speed-bump-like curve.
  • This is being called “flattening the curve”. How does ‘flattening the curve’ help?
  • Limiting community transmission is the best way to flatten the curve.

What was the curve like in China?

  • The numbers show that the virus spread within Hubei exponentially but plateaued in other provinces.
  • Some say it’s because many of these countries learnt from the 2003 SARS epidemic.
  • Just as Chinese provinces outside of Hubei effectively stemmed the spread in February, three other countries —South Korea, Italy, and Iran — were not able to flatten the curve.

 

Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] Effects of Himalayan slip on its HydrologyPIB


Researchers from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism have found the mighty Himalayas subside and move up depending on the seasonal changes in groundwater.

Tectonic activity and groundwater

  • The Himalayan foothills and the Indo-Gangetic plain are sinking because its contiguous areas are rising due to tectonic activity associated with landmass movement or continental drift.
  • The new study shows that subsidence and uplift are found to be associated with seasonal changes in groundwater, apart from the normal, common reasons.
  • Water acts as a lubricating agent, and hence when there is water in the dry season, the rate of the slip of the fault in this region is reduced.
  • In the Himalaya, seasonal water from glaciers, as well as monsoon precipitation, plays a key role in the deformation of the crust and the seismicity associated with it.
  • The subsidence rate is associated with groundwater consumption.

Findings of the study

  • The researchers have made the combined use of GPS and Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) data, which has made it possible for them to quantify the variations of hydrologic mass.
  • The GRACE satellites, launched by the US in 2002, monitor changes in water and snow stores on the continents.
  • The combined data suggest a 12% reduction in the rate of the subsurface slip. This slip refers to how fast the fault is slipping relative to the foot and hanging wall.
  • The slip occurs at the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT), due to hydrological variations and human activities, over which there is the periodic release of accumulated strain.

About GRACE Mission

  • The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was a joint mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center.
  • Twin satellites took detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field anomalies from its launch in March 2002 to the end of its science mission in October 2017.
  • By measuring gravity anomalies, GRACE showed how mass is distributed around the planet and how it varies over time.

 

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] National Creche SchemePIB


The WCD Minister has informed about some progress in the National Creche Scheme. As of today, 6453 creches are functional across the country under the Scheme.

National Creche Scheme

  • Earlier named as Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme, the NCS is being implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through States/UTs with effect from 1.1.2017.
  • It aims to provide daycare facilities to children (age group of 6 months to 6 years) of working mothers.

Salient features of the Scheme

  • Daycare Facilities including Sleeping Facilities.
  • Early Stimulation for children below 3 years and pre-school education for 3 to 6 years old children.
  • Supplementary Nutrition ( to be locally sourced)
  • Growth Monitoring
  • Health Check-up and Immunization

Further, the guidelines provide that :

  • Crèches shall be open for 26 days in a month and for seven and a half (7-1/2) hours per day.
  • The number of children in the crèche should not be more than 25 per crèche with 01 Worker and 01 helpers respectively.
  • User charges to bring in an element of community ownership and collected as under:
    1. BPL families – Rs 20/- per child per month.
    2. Families with Income (Both Parents) of up to Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 100/- per child per month
    3. Families with Income (Both Parents) of above Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 200/- per child per month.