Pharmacist-only rule puts government in a bind In most health programmes, health workers dispense medicines
A recent order by the Kerala High Court upholding the contention of pharmacists that only qualified and registered pharmacists be allowed to dispense drugs at medical shops and health-care institutions is turning out to be a vexatious issue for the government. The order could interfere with innumerable national health programmes, including the tuberculosis / filariasis control programmes, wherein field workers dispense medicines. The order was issued on a petition filed by an individual pharmacist. Accused of violating the Pharmacy Act of 1948, the Health Department explains that its field workers are only “handing out” the drugs prescribed by a medical practitioner and not “dispensing” drugs in the true sense of the term. What seems to have irked pharmacists is a circular dated June 24, 2016, issued by the Director of Health Services, that the drugs for NCDs be dispensed through subcentres, wherein Junior Public Health Nurses (JPHNs) may hand over drugs to registered patients. The pharmacists point out that according to S 42 of the Pharmacy Act, only a registered pharmacist shall compound, prepare, mix or dispense any medicine on the prescription of a medical practitioner. The circular is a violation of the Pharmacy Act, they claim. “We began the NCD control programme in 2012. About 36 lakh people have registered under it, with at least half of them depending on the government supply of free drugs. We supply medicines through subcentres for people to have uninterrupted access to medicines. Strict instructions have been given that only drugs prescribed by the doctor be given to patients,” a health official told The Hindu. . Pharmacists’ version Pharmacists say the government has been violating the Pharmacy Act and that pharmacists are not included in any of the national programmes. “Our job involves technical expertise and is not just about the handing over drugs,” general secretary of the Kerala Government Pharmacists’ Association K.M. Muraleedharan said.
HC upholds one-time tax for taxies
The Kerala High Court has upheld the government decision to impose one-time tax on taxies for 15 years. Dismissing a petition filed by the Kerala Travel Operators’ Association and other taxi operators challenging the government decision, the court observed that “merely for the reason that the permit expires by eight or nine years, as the case may be, is not a reason to conclude that motor vehicle tax cannot be levied for a larger period or life-time tax cannot be received.” A one-time tax for 15 years on taxies was introduced in the budget of 2014. The petitioners contended that as taxi vehicles could be used as taxies in terms of Rule 82(2) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules only for nine years, the imposition of a life-time tax on them was illegal. The court said the one-time tax could not be equated with the grant of permit under Rule 82 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules. In other words, the Motor Vehicle Taxation had nothing to do with the grant of permit for operating a vehicle as a tourist taxi or a motor cab, the court added.
Money matters Indian millennials are flexible and in no hurry to make heavy financial commitments, says Anil Pharande
Everything that your parents may have advised you about owning a home may be incorrect if you are a millennial under the age of 35. Don’t blame yourself for this — your parents operated by a rigid set of values that they have simply passed on to you. It was a simple enough formula — get a good education, get married, have kids and buy a big flat in the city. This is — or was — the quintessential Indian middle-class dream. This dream (and the formula) may continue to have relevance to quite a few youngsters, but the way life works for today’s millennials in India is no longer so rigid as it was for their parents. In the first place, we have a rapidly evolving and increasingly competitive job market in India. Unpredictable Career charts of Indian millennials are no longer as predictable as those of their parents were — nor does a sound college education guarantee the best job. Also, millennials are the ‘job hopping’ generation which wants to sample different lines of work and companies with varied work cultures. This is one reason why many Indian millennials initially prefer to rent rather than buy their homes. Secondly, because they don’t have limited career options, young Indians today are marrying later. The typical millennial family of today is essentially nuclear and does not subscribe to the values that drove the much larger and much more complex joint family package. They are more flexible and value their freedom, so they are not overly invested in making heavy financial commitments as soon as they are able to (making such commitments was a defining factor of the previous generations of Indians). What does this mean in terms of their home purchase decisions? For one thing, it means that a smaller flat — even for a dual-income household — is perfectly adequate to begin with. What increasingly matters for the young, smart socially conscious Indian nuclear family of today is not necessarily size, but: value for money (banks and developers should understand by now that dual income does not equal dual gullibility). Being able to get to and from work conveniently, good public transport connectivity,two car parking spaces, fast broadband + Wi-Fi connectivity and other smart home features are key. Upgrading to larger homes should be an option, but it is by no means the only acceptable path for the Indian millennial to follow. For the previous generations, the ‘upgradation’ route was more or less socially enforced – but that trend is now history. Projects that do not meet the requirements of today’s generation of working professionals are not going to work for this buyer segment, regardless of the market conditions. Indian millennials are far more inclined to purchase their first homes in the suburbs, not in the city centre. They are also far more likely to buy homes in organised townships with stand-alone infrastructure and their own schools, healthcare and shopping / entertainment facilities. Townships with their own office complexes offering potential walk-to-work or cycle-to-work possibilities and those close to major employment hubs such as IT parks and manufacturing belts are the most preferred. The writer is Chairman — Pharande Spaces
Road to restoration The Govindaji temple is a blend of traditional and modern, says Chitra Ramaswamy
The tall pillars reminiscent of the ruins of Parthenon in Greece, and of the hut-shaped roof temples characteristic of West Bengal, are striking. We are in front of the Shri Govindaji temple within the sprawling Kangla Fort precincts in Imphal, Manipur, greeted by a pair of elephants at its steps. Terracotta has been an integral aspect of Indian architecture, used in several forms, especially in temples of West Bengal and East India. The twin-celled edifice built in 1842 during the reign of King Nara Singh features a portico, sanctum and circumambulatory paths. The east-facing structure, made from brick and Burmese teak, stands on a raised platform with an open verandah which forms its faï¿½ade. First steps During the British conquest of Manipur, the British looted and auctioned the original marble slabs that paved several areas of the temple, and also the gold leaf that adorned its dome. The shrine also suffered structural damage from three successive earthquakes, including the massive one that occurred in 1869. Apathy and negligence accentuated the damage. The ceiling — which was barrel vaulted — collapsed, and was also exposed to weathering. Its walls which developed massive cracks because of the earthquakes, worsened because of weedy growth in their crevices. The walls and floors retained dampness and the stucco plaster on the external walls suffered extensive damage. Wooden beams, rafters, balustrades and parapets lay in various states of ruin. The deity of Krishna (as Govindaji installed in the sanctum sanctorum) was removed, and restoration and renovation of the temple structure began in more recent times to preserve it for posterity and as a heritage monument. Challenging task The task required getting appropriate materials and skilled artisans, craftsmen to undertake the restoration which required a blend of traditional architectural techniques with traditional art forms. With predominant parabolic contours, Manipuri temple art and architecture closely resembles Hindu building design of West Bengal. Its temple building style reveals its roots in the ancestral huts of forest dwellers, crafted mostly from bamboo. In keeping with the characteristic Manipur temple construction style that is based on the tenets of Vaastu Shastra, the Govindaji temple has a square plan. The restoration process has integrated modern technology with traditional science, to take care of seismic disturbances in the area. Local materials Locally available materials have been used. Craftsmen have successfully addressed damage due to moisture, repaired cracks and masonry joint damage, and also replaced sculpted motifs that adorn various walls of the temple. Undamaged old bricks which were retrieved from the ruins of the monument were aired, sun dried and reused in the renovation process. Bamboo, which grows abundantly in Manipur, has replaced timber, to restructure the roof. Its light weight, high tensile strength and flexible characteristics have been put to good use, in making the roof sturdy and earthquake-resistant. The vault has been completely rebuilt with a grid of bamboo, inspired by the weaving pattern of traditional basket making. Steel reinforcements have been sparingly used at the corners. Care has been taken to water-proof the structure at the plinth level to prevent dampness from damaging the edifice. Wells have been dug in the surrounding area to ensure it. The rectangular hall which opens out from the sanctum has a circumambulatory path on three sides and opens out into the verandah. Columns of sturdy pillars contribute to the verandah area and support the beam of the brick structure. Mini shrines Mini shrines adorn the four corners of the roof above the verandah, while the immediate space above the verandah is a cornice adorned with three tiers of railings. The third level of rectangular railings culminates in a dome, the arches of which converge to form the base of a flat rectangular surface on the top. The parabolic-shaped dome in Bengal architectural style blends with the railing ornamentation which is typically Islamic. Following the renovation, though Imphal has experienced tremors of various magnitudes, the temple structure has remained intact without any cracks.
Selling of mid-sea catch accounted: RBI
The Indian bank accounts of deep sea trawlers are properly perused when shipments of catches are made at mid-sea by such trawlers, according to an affidavit filed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the Kerala High Court. The RBI said it had also issued a circular on the procedural aspect of mid-sea transshipment by Indian-owned deep sea fishing vessels. As per the RBI circular as well as the guidelines for deep sea fishing, the authority to receive information pertaining to mid-sea transshipment by the LoP (Letter of Permit) holders was the Union Ministry of Agriculture. Petitioner’s demand The affidavit was filed in response to a public interest writ petition filed by M.K. Salim of Kollam seeking a directive to stop the practice of transshipment of catch by licensed Indian trawlers (LoP) operating in the high sea to US trawlers or bunkers in the nearby ports of the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and other southeast Asian ports. The RBI also dismissed the allegation of the petitioner that all rules had been flouted by the trawlers in broad daylight and had been looting the sea wealth, causing loss to the exchequer every year in terms of foreign exchange. The High Court had earlier expressed its displeasure over the failure of the RBI to file an affidavit on the transshipment of catches by the trawlers done at deep sea.
Small savings interest rates cut by 0.1%
The government has lowered the interest rates on small saving schemes such as Public Provident Fund (PPF), Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) and Sukanya Samriddhi scheme by 0.1% for the April-June quarter, a move that would prompt banks to cut their deposit rates. For April-June, these have been lowered by 0.1 % across the board compared to January-March. However, interest on savings deposits has been retained at 4% annually. Since April last year, interest rates of all small saving schemes have been recalibrated on a quarterly basis. A Finance Ministry notification said investments in the PPF scheme would fetch lower annual rate of 7.9%, the same as 5-year National Savings Certificate. The existing rate for these two schemes is 8%. KVP investments will yield 7.6% and mature in 112 months. Senior citizens scheme The one for girl child savings, Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, will offer 8.4% annually, from 8.5% at present, while it will be the same at 8.4% for the five-year Senior Citizens Savings Scheme. The interest rate on the senior citizens scheme is paid quarterly. Term deposits of 1-5 years will fetch a lower 6.9-7.7% that will be paid quarterly while the five-year recurring deposit has been pegged lower at 7.2%.
Can’t ban MPs from other professions: SC Says conflict of interest argument makes sense but court cannot frame policy
“There are doctors who became IAS officials and engineers who are diplomats,” Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar said, finding no merit in a petition to ban legislators from practising other professions, especially law. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, dismissed a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay despite strong arguments raised by the latter that beedi or liquor barons eventually become MPs and sit on committees to influence the destiny of their businesses. “This is a serious conflict of interest… There are politicians who sign at Parliament and come here to appear for private clients… is that not conflict of interest? They get salaries as parliamentarians, why should they come as lawyers,” Mr. Upadhyay argued. The Chief Justice said he had a valid point, but the court could not frame policies. “Principally your arguments make sense, but how can we frame policy? If there is a law, we will support it,” Chief Justice Khehar said. Mr. Upadhyay said in his petition that the restriction imposed on public servants and judges against engaging in other professions should apply to lawmakers. Many legislators who doubled up as advocates were even retainers of big corporate bodies’ entities, thus giving rise to a situation of conflict of interest between their constitutional duties as legislator and lawyer meant to vouchsafe the private interests of their clients. Call for uniform policy “We cannot curb corruption without having a uniform policy relating to conflict of interest and restricting our legislators from practising other professions as similar to the restriction imposed on public servants and members of the judiciary … many lawmakers hold corporate retainership and defend their lawbreaker clients in courts. It is not only immoral, unethical, but also a violation of Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India Rules,” Mr. Upadhyay contended. Primary role “With 543 Lok Sabha MPs representing more than 1.3 billion people, a Member of Parliament on an average represents more than 2.25 million people. Similarly, a Rajya Sabha MP is the voice of his State in Parliament and, as such, has a very important role in our federal political system. The primary role of an MP is as a legislator. “Thus, MPs must attend Parliament every day and dedicate themselves full-time for the welfare of people,” the petition said.
Connected by air Udan has started the process of tapping India’s civil aviation opportunities fully
Six months from now, 43 cities will be mainstreamed on India’s flight connectivity grid, an outcome of the Udan scheme launched to spur regional flights covering distances up to 800 km. These include a dozen airports where limited but irregular flights operate, and as many as 31 destinations that are not connected at all despite the existence of airport facilities. The scale of India’s untapped civil aviation opportunities can be gauged by the fact that these constitute less than 10% of India’s inactive airports/airstrips — 394 out of 450 are dormant currently. The Udan scheme is a critical component of the national civil aviation policy unveiled last June. It offers viability gap funding to operators to fly smaller aircraft to such airports with a commitment to price tickets for at least half of the seats at ₹2,500 for an hour-long flight. In the first round of bids, 11 new or existing airline operators pitched for more than 200 routes. The Centre has approved 27 proposals from five players, adding 128 routes to India’s aviation map. The estimate is that this will add 6.5 lakh new seats with a subsidy of ₹200 crore. The most heartening aspect is that these include six proposals for 11 routes that don’t seek any subsidy under the scheme, proving there is an untapped economic potential. The benefits for tourist hotspots such as Agra, Shimla, Diu, Pathankot, Mysuru and Jaisalmer — that would now be just a short flight away, replacing cumbersome road or rail journeys — are obvious. But the significant multiplier effects of aviation activity, including new investments and employment creation for the local economies of other destinations could be equally profound. Provided this model is sustainable and more regional flights come up under the scheme, the availability of slots at larger airports that would emerge as hubs could become an issue — particularly at capacity-constrained airports such as Mumbai. The second airport at Navi Mumbai may help ease congestion, but that is still years away. In cities where new airports have been developed, such as Bengaluru, abandoned old facilities could be revived as dedicated terminals for low-cost and regional flights. Separately, new no-frills airports must be encouraged where traffic is expected to hit saturation point in coming years. Recently, four new foreign investors and a few domestic players have expressed interest in managing operations at state-run airports such as Jaipur and Ahmedabad. This marks a revival in investor interest after a long lull. It is time to revisit provisions that offer existing private operators of large airports (burdened by debt) the right of first refusal on any new airport proposed within 150 km. Most interested bidders for the Navi Mumbai airport stayed away over this clause. Last but not the least, this development must start a rethink within the Indian Railways, as it could now lose traffic on some routes.
The mob’s bias An attack on Africans in Noida is a chilling reminder of the racial prejudices we harbour
The attack on a small group of Africans in Greater Noida, a suburb of the national capital located in Uttar Pradesh, has once again thrown a spotlight on a disturbing trend in the country: mob violence, and specifically the targeting of persons of African origin in many of these instances. What is particularly disturbing and shameful is that the attack took place in a busy shopping mall without a single bystander, shopkeeper or security guard intervening. This has, understandably, touched an anxious chord about their personal safety among the thousands of African nationals who live, work and study in and around Delhi. While the police have made some initial arrests and opened cases against several hundred unnamed persons on charges of rioting in the wake of video footage of the attack going viral, such incidents of racial violence need a stronger response from the administration and civil society. That the attack was ostensibly triggered by accusations that some African students were linked to drug-dealing and were somehow responsible for the death of a local student is no justification for taking the law into one’s hands, leave alone indulge in such violence. That the law enforcement machinery and the courts are the only places for seeking redress for any breaches of law cannot be overemphasised. That a mere rumour can trigger such violence is truly alarming. It is difficult to see this incident in isolation from other instances of discrimination against African nationals who have taken up residence in cities around the country. Last year, the murder of a Congolese student in Delhi compelled African Heads of Mission to threaten a boycott of Africa Day. The message was not lost on anyone that the envoys had been moved to consider such an extreme step just months after New Delhi hosted the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, in October 2015, where they had announced their resolve to “enhance Africa-India relations… based on the principles of mutuality, complementarity and true sense of solidarity as well as the promotion of people to people interactions.” In the end, Africa Day went as planned, but the point had been made, that even as India makes abundant effort to deepen ties with the 54 countries of the African Union, this cannot be achieved without understanding and acting upon the aspirations of nationals of these countries. In modern diplomacy, the quality of people-to-people contact is a factor in determining the overall strength of a bilateral relationship. But even as Indian diplomats move to assure African students in Greater Noida about their safety, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj discussing the matter with U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, this issue is not about foreign affairs. It is a reminder of the latent racism in India, of the terrible prejudices too many of us harbour, and of the need for a political and social effort to overcome it.
Transcending democracy beyond elections The argument that people are gullible or that they always make the right electoral choices is simplistic
There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies… And this seems to be the final revolution. — Aldous Huxley, 1961. The Left, the liberals, and those in political opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi are in shock about the mandate given to his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh. The question that especially arises in their mind is how could people, especially, the poor, support a party that has wrought the hurtful effects of demonetisation. The bafflement has produced responses among the commentariat and politicians which term the people as dumb, and brainwashed. Former U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s reaction to the results was: “people may not have liked my Expressway and voted for Bullet train.” Here one is reminded of Bertolt Brecht’s sardonic suggestion to the Soviet-backed Communist government of East Germany which was trying to delegitimise the massive worker’s rebellion of 1953: Would it not be easier/In that case for the government/To dissolve the people/And elect another? Misreading reality On the other side, are responses which celebrate the victory of the BJP as a celebration of the wisdom of the people. And once the “wise” people have delivered a verdict such as this, then policies such as demonetisation, and “surgical strikes,” are necessarily correct and cannot be questioned. The argument that people are gullible and easily brainwashed, or that they are intelligent and always make the right choices are both simplistic. For it abstracts people from their social contexts with vast discriminations of caste, class, religion and gender, and a culture that is meant to justify these hierarchies. It is a culture that is heavily weighed against rational and critical thinking. Not understanding these concrete realities and the constraints they impose lead to superficial analysis. Thus, the general election of 2014 and the present U.P. elections are seen as a communal vote whereas the general elections of 2004 and 2009, and the recent Delhi and Bihar Assembly elections are secular votes. There are, of course, elements of truth in this. But the pertinent question here is how do people alternate between being communal and secular? A problem with these readings is that it produces a particular reality: that of reducing democracy to elections, or I what I call the electoralisation of democracy. This fails to understand the larger structural changes, especially in the economy, that are taking place in society. This is the reason why election results produce such bafflement and, also, the helplessness among the progressives in countering a verdict such as that of U.P. In seeking to bring about social transformation only through elections, the progressive forces fail to understand the shifting ground underneath the surface of electoral contests. Therefore, the electoral defeat of BJP will not mean that its communal world view does not enjoy social currency anymore, or the victory of the Congress party is a triumph of secularism in society. The last two and a half decades have seen the distinctive emergence of Hindu majoritarian nationalism as an electoral force. But that outcome is the result of a decades-long social transformation. Authoritarian populism To this majoritarian nationalism, we can add the new tendency of what the theorist, Stuart Hall, has called as authoritarian populism. Authoritarian populism is the ability to fuse together disparate disenchantments arising from the crisis of economic development and politics into an authoritarian nationalist solution. It is not that socialism, secularism, and anti-caste ideologies have failed as concepts. Rather, these ideologies have not built, in practice, an educational system which goes beyond the privileging of technical education, an everyday culture which goes beyond caste, gender, and religion, and an economic framework based on real equality. They have advanced largely only as electoral forces. In between elections, these ideologies have not struck roots, allowing other forces to take their place. In castigating the people for not making progressive choices, what is missed is their lack of schooling in a culture of critical thinking. People process information on the basis of the pedagogies they are exposed to. A commercial, media-controlled popular culture and an educational system suffused with the dominant cultural values is not the most conducive atmosphere for the flourishing of a real democracy. Is it surprising then that a Hindu nationalist and authoritarian populist solution has become appealing in the present, or that the ruling party could appoint Yogi Adityanath, the Hindutva leader who has openly issued inflammatory communal statements in the past, as U.P. Chief Minister? Propaganda thrives Here, the factual accuracy of the actual achievements of an authoritarian populist regime seems immaterial. People just believe them to be true. Nevertheless, arguments based on “post-truth” to explain this are misleading. The problem is not that truth or “objective facts” are irrelevant (except for those who willingly propagate untruths). Rather, there are few avenues to access truth with the increasing domination of the media by corporate monopolies, and that the competence to distinguish between truth and falsehood is impaired in a pedagogical system where rationality is reduced to instrumental goals, and in an economic system where all ethical considerations are sacrificed at the altar of profit. It is in these conditions that propaganda thrives and the 10,344 WhatsApp groups of the BJP in U.P. operate sending (mis)information such as how the Muslim population in India, which is 14% now, will be a majority by 2050! This is believed even by the well-to-do, and educated classes. How do we then blame the oppressed classes with little access to even a technical education, and when their own historical traditions of critical thinking have been appropriated or diffused by the dominant society? At the other end of the spectrum, the superlatives used even by progressive critics to describe the U.P. victory as a Modi “wave” or “magic” also participate in the reduction of democracy to elections, and elections to one individual. Here, there is no discussion of the systematic attempts at communal polarisation through localised riots under way since many years. The spectacular amount of material resources at the command of the national ruling party and that were spent in the elections are not scrutinised. And in a nation in which caste is the single most important marker of one’s life chances, there are shocking proclamations like the “Modi wave” signifies “the end of caste”. This ignores the adroit micromanagement of caste complexities in U.P. by the BJP. Building a counter move Any move to build an oppositional movement to authoritarian populism and majoritarian nationalism will have to, of course, contend with the popularity of Mr. Modi. But to talk of a seamless Modi wave ignores that it is not a monolith and it still has breaks and contradictions even in a social context largely pitted against rational thinking. Even electorally, the Modi wave does not seem to have touched the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal, where in 1,111 Assembly seats, the BJP has 23, which is 2%. For those who revel in the wave, these States — which have nearly 25% of the Indian population — do not count. The argument that one should accept a verdict without question because it is the people’s mandate ignores the fact that large numbers of people arrive at decisions under conditions which are not always rational or democratic. Democracy is not a popularity contest. And the dominant majority is not the ethical majority. If in a village of 1,000 people, 600 people are in favour of stoning a woman to death for the alleged crime of adultery, is that democratic because there is a majority decision? If the bane of Indian democracy — its reduction to electoral majorities and manoeuvring —must be overcome, then people cannot be castigated for being brainwashed, or for delivering unpalatable verdicts. And rather than elect a new people, it is necessary to build a new people by building new social conditions, which is immensely more challenging than winning elections. Nissim Mannathukkaren is Chair, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada
Sharpening a pro-choice debate The Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill is a good point to take the euthanasia-related debate forward
The introduction of a Bill in Parliament to govern end-of-life medical care appears to have been missed in all the din of political developments. Tabled by MP Baijayant Panda, the Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill, 2016 contains several prominent features: it recognises the validity of advance medical directives by terminally-ill patients, which physicians will be bound to respect while treating them, and it also emphasises the need to account for palliative care when making end-of-life-care decisions. However, the provisions most likely to attract popular attention are those permitting physician-assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients. In its judgments in the Aruna Shanbaug and Gian Kaur cases, the Supreme Court has stated that the law currently only permits passive euthanasia, i.e. withdrawal of life-saving treatment. The administration of a lethal drug dose by a physician (active euthanasia) or by the patient herself (assisted suicide) would constitute attempts to commit or abet suicide under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. However, in both these judgments, the court stated explicitly that assisted suicide was only illegal in the absence of a law permitting it. Therefore, assisted suicide could be legalised if legislation was passed by Parliament to that effect. Right to assisted suicide The first efforts have been made in this direction through this Bill, which recognises the right of terminally-ill patients to withhold and refuse medical treatment, and to express their desire to a medical practitioner to assist them in committing suicide. It does not permit active euthanasia. Once the practitioner is satisfied that the patient is competent and has taken an informed decision, the decision will be confirmed by a panel of three independent medical practitioners. This Bill is a bold and welcome step in many respects, and is a significant improvement over the draft Ministry Bill that it is based on. It moves away from decision-making based on the ‘best interests’ of the patient and recognises the right to die with dignity. However, there is need to clearly think through some of the provisions in this Bill and the procedures it sets out. This Bill adopts a modified definition of “terminal illness” from a draft Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill, which was released by the Ministry of Health in May last year. However, like the draft Bill it is based on, it defines the term as a persistent and irreversible vegetative condition under which it is not possible for the patient to lead a “meaningful life”. The use of this subjective phrase would require second parties to decide whether a person in a permanent vegetative state is living a life that is meaningful. Persons with disabilities, in particular, are likely to be disadvantaged by such an understanding of “terminal illness”. It also gives rise to the practical question of how a person in a permanent vegetative state will be able to self-administer the lethal dosage of drugs to commit suicide. In the case of incompetent patients, or competent patients who have not taken an informed decision about their medical treatment, the Bill lays down a lengthy and cumbersome process before any action can be taken for the cessation of life. Once the medical practitioner and independent panel are satisfied that euthanasia is medically advisable, permission would have to be sought from the High Court. The practitioner would then have to receive clearance from the Medical Council of India (MCI). Such a procedure is advisable for an act like assisted suicide which might be prone to abuse. However, it would be a violation of patient autonomy if it were applied to instances of merely withholding or withdrawing medical treatment. Decisions on such withdrawal are made often and on a regular basis, and the procedure prescribed must not tie up the medical practitioner and family of the patient in litigation. Further, given that the MCI has been affected by corruption and institutional incompetence, and likely to be overhauled completely, it is not advisable to place complete reliance on it. Ideally, its role should ideally be limited to framing guidelines and providing guidance when requested. The way ahead Efforts to allow assisted suicide have gained traction around the world in the recent past, with Albania, Colombia and Germany and Switzerland having legalised it in various forms. Even in India, the debate over euthanasia, patient autonomy and the interests of the state in preserving the life of persons is currently playing out in various fora, including the courts and the executive. While the ethical implications of these acts have been debated endlessly, there is a need to debate how such a law would be operationalised. This will help to ensure the constitutionally guaranteed right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and to minimise misuse of the law. This Bill acts as a great starting point, and must take these debates into account to be implemented effectively. Nivedita Saksena is a lawyer working on public health at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
Notify HIV-hit children as disadvantaged group: SC This will enable them access to free education
In a significant step, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered State governments to consider issuing a notification under the Right to Education law, declaring children living with/affected by HIV as a ‘disadvantaged group’ deserving additional rights to help them gain free and compulsory education, a fundamental right under the Constitution. A Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud gave States four weeks to issue the notification under Section 2 (d) of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009, which mandates the State governments concerned to issue a notification that a child belongs to a disadvantaged group based on reasons ranging from caste, social, cultural, linguistic, geographical, gender, etc. The Act makes education compulsory for children between six and 14 years of age. The Bench ordered that those States which are “unwilling” to issue a notification under Section 2 (d) should file an affidavit “explaining why they consider it unnecessary” to inform that children living with HIV do not belong to a disadvantaged group. The court however noted that at least 11 States have already issued the notification. The order was based on a petition filed by NGO Naz Foundation (India) Trust, represented by senior advocate Anand Grover, which pointed out that HIV-hit children face denial of admission, outright expulsion, segregation, breach of confidentiality to being given chores like cleaning toilets. According to NACO estimates in 2012-2013, around 20.9 lakh people were living with HIV in 2011. Children less than 15 years of age account for seven percent (1.45 lakh) of all infections.
Special Correspondent NEW DELHI: Road contractors may have to cough up upto Rs. 1 lakh per accidental death caused due to faulty road design and poor maintenance of the roads, according to the proposed Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill approved by the Union Cabinet on Friday. ï¿½ “We have proposed penalty of up to Rs. 1 lakh per accident to be paid by contractors caused due to faulty road design,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said at a press conference. Every year, more than 10,000 people die in road accidents due to potholes, a senior Ministry official said. In 2015, 1.46 lakh people were killed in road accidents in India which translates into 400 road deaths per day — an increase by 4.6 per cent from 2014, according to official estimates. ï¿½ The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha in August last year. The Bill was referred to Departmental Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture and the Ministry made some changes based on the Parliamentary panel recommendations which have now been approved by the Union Cabinet. ï¿½ Mr. Gadkari said the proposed Bill will be introduced in Lok Sabha “in the next few days.” The Bill also proposes settlement of insurance claims to family of a road accident victim within four months of the accident. It takes at least four to five years for the claim settlement, an official statement said. ï¿½ However, the insurance claim amount has been reduced to Rs. 5 lakh from Rs. 10 lakh from the earlier proposal. ï¿½ The new proposed Bill
Industries grossly pollute Ganga 30% of such units are not complying with norms, CPCB survey finds
Nearly 30% of the so-called Grossly Polluting Industries (GPI), along the Ganga, were not complying with norms according to a year-long survey by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). “Between December 2015 to January 2017, 302 GPIs were inspected by the CPCB of which … 141 units were found to be complying with stipulated norms, whereas 96 were found non-complying and 65 were found closed. Closure directions were issued to 45 non-complying units, show cause notices to 37 and letters to 14 non-complying units,” Minister of State for Water Resources Vijay Goel informed the Lok Sabha on Friday. GPIs are defined as industries that discharge more than 1,00,000 litres of waste water and/or hazardous chemicals. The CPCB has identified a total of 764 major polluting industries along Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Bihar. Tanneries comprise the bulk of polluting industries and 80% of the polluting industries are located in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, according to the National Mission for Clean Ganga, a Water Ministry body. 72 projects sanctioned Under the Namami Gange Programme till March 20, 2017, 145 projects are sanctioned at an estimated cost of ₹10,730.71 crore. Out of these, 72 projects are sanctioned for creation of 932.84 million litres per day (MLD) new Sewage Treatment Plants (STP), rehabilitating of 1091.00 MLD of STP and laying/rehabilitation of 4031.41 km sewer network for treating pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna. Till date, 13 projects have been completed and have created 198.13 MLD STP capacity (153.1 MLD for river Ganga and 45 MLD for Yamuna River) and laid 1147.75 km of sewerage network, Mr. Goel added.
India may be hit by U.S. trade review Country-specific report to identify violations; Trump administration mulls measures to reduce deficit
India is among the 16 target countries in a review of trade ties that President Donald Trump was scheduled to order late on Friday. The President would also sign a second order to strictly enforce anti-dumping and countervailing duties, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday. A “country-by-country, product-by-product” report will be prepared in 90 days that would form the basis of further measures that the Trump administration would take to reduce the country’s trade deficit. The report will identify “every form of trade abuse and every non-reciprocal practice that now contributes to the U.S. trade deficit,” Mr. Ross said. India is the ninth biggest trading partner of the U.S. and had a trade surplus of around $26 billion with the U.S in goods trade alone last year. Of its top 20 trading partners, the U.S. has a surplus with only five. With China, the U.S. had a deficit of $347 billion in 2016. The review will be to assess whether deficit is being caused by cheating, specific trade agreements, lax enforcement or World Trade Organization rules. China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Vietnam, Italy, South Korea, India, Malaysia, Thailand, France, Switzerland, Taiwan, Indonesia and Canada were countries named in the briefing by Mr. Ross and Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council. Trade abuses Mr. Navarro has been a long time critic of China, but on Thursday, he insisted the presidential executive orders were not exclusive to China and was not linked to the scheduled visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping next week. Mr. Trump has named China, Mexico and Japan repeatedly for allegedly unfair trade practices. He has never named India, but the 100% duty that India imposes on high-power motorcycles was mentioned in his first speech the U.S. Congress recently. The trade review will touch upon a litany of American concerns about trade with India — inadequate protection of intellectual property, state subsidies and tariff and non-tariff barriers. “India and the U.S. must trade more in energy, generic pharma and defence if the intention is to bring down trade deficit. Also, the U.S. must be open to movement of service professionals to the U.S.,” said Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI. Ahead of the President signing the executive orders, the U.S Trade Representative on Friday morning released its annual National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers that highlights foreign barriers to U.S. exports. The 20-page long chapter on India lists a range of trade restrictions by India such as an existing ban on animal-tested cosmetics and restrictions on dairy products and alcohol. It also accuses India of being opaque in its non-tariff regulations, and lists export subsidy programmes in several sectors as a matter of concern.
Europe sets out tough Brexit terms Tusk rules out simultaneous talks on the terms of U.K.’s exit and a new trade deal
Hopes that Britain might be able to simultaneously negotiate the terms of its exit and a new trade deal with the EU were dashed on Friday, as European Council President Donald Tusk set out the initial terms of talks. He signalled that Britain would only be able to commence talks on the future relationship once there was “sufficient progress on the withdrawal”. He also ruled out a sector-by-sector approach, which the British government had previously indicated it would pursue, to ensure that the impact of Brexit on certain sectors such as the financial services and automobile would be minimised. “Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as suggested by some in the U.K., will not happen,” he said on Friday. Several national leaders of EU countries had previously signalled that trade talks might not be able to commence until the exit terms were finalised, but that was initially seen as a tough talk. Mr. Tusk’s remarks, however, highlight the challenge facing the U.K. as it attempts to secure both processes in a two-year period. “The reaction from Europe is very clear. This is what you may be saying but this is where we stand… Article 50 was the end of the beginning and the journey from now will be so complex and difficult and ridden with uncertainty,” said crossbench member of the House of Lords Karan Bilimoria, and chair of Cobra Beer. “From the business point of view, this is shocking.” Period of uncertainty “Following today’s comments by Donald Tusk, it is indicative that the existing period of uncertainty will continue to hover over businesses on the future of the U.K.’s trading relationship with the EU,” said Sarosh Zailwalla, founder of Zaiwalla & Co solicitors in London. “Under this continued period of uncertainty, Indian businesses and organisations operating out of the U.K. will also have to stall their plans unless and until more clarity emerges.” No special arrangement Liberal Democrat Tim Farron pointed to the clear exclusion of a sector-by-sector approach by Europe. “This leaves no doubt that [Brexit Secretary David] Davis’ comments about special arrangements for the car industry or the financial sector are worthless.” Mr. Tusk said that while the EU shared Britain’s desire to establish a close partnership, the talks would be “difficult, complex, and sometimes even confrontational.” However, Europe would not adopt a punitive approach as “Brexit in itself is already punitive enough.”
Brexit presents challenges and opportunities for India: envoy Says there is ‘political will’ on both sides to reach trade pact
Brexit will present opportunities as well as challenges for India, and its bilateral relationship with Britain, Indian High Commissioner to the U.K. Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha said this week, as the U.K. gave the European Council the formal notification that it plans to leave the union. While Britain is unable to negotiate free trade deals with other nations in the EU until its exit is concluded in March 2019, the country has made clear its eagerness to forge international trade accords, and is hopeful that it would be able to establish a free trade agreement with India. “We will constantly be monitoring developments especially those that impact on our bilateral relationship,” said Mr. Sinha. He added there was the “political will” on both sides to reach an agreement on trade. Announcing the triggering of Brexit earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain was not protectionist and wanted to be a truly global trading nation. However, hopes of a deal with India have encountered a mixed reaction: while India was the first non-EU country that Ms. May visited as Prime Minister, there are also concerns that immigration policy could stand in the way, among other things. Among the specific issues highlighted by Mr. Sinha and others in the past is the position of those in the services sector, as well as students, whose numbers from India have been declining dramatically in recent years. “Both sides have their own wish list,” said Mr. Sinha, regarding a potential future trade agreement. He added that in its negotiations on trade with any country, “freer movement of people is a priority, particularly with developed nations.” He said that it would be India’s expectation in post-Brexit Britain for IT professionals to be able to work freely and return home.
‘Infra deficit to take two decades to bridge’ Funds needed for transport, water management, says Jaitley
India has an infrastructure deficit that could take almost two decades to bridge, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday at the inauguration of the regional office of European Investment Bank (EIB) in Delhi. “One of the largest infrastructure creation programme which is going on in India and I think at least in the next two decades, I see India’s hands full in trying to expand its infrastructure and get rid of the deficit that existed in India,” Mr. Jaitley said. ‘No protectionist noises’ He added that there are no noises of protectionism in India as witnessed in other parts of the world. “Contrary to all the global noises we see in various parts of the world, there are no noises of protectionism in India and therefore, we are amongst the most open economies in the world,” the Finance Minister said. The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced commitment of €450 million for supporting sustainable transport and renewable energy projects. Out of €450 million funding, EIB has committed a loan of €200 million to State Bank of India for funding solar projects across India. SBI Managing Director B Sriram said the interest on the loan will be at a concessional rate. Besides, the EIB has also committed to release the second tranche of €250 million for construction of Lucknow Metro. Investment to pick up Stressing that investment will be required in sectors such as public transport, water management, rural infrastructure among others, he said investment will pick up momentum in the years to come. “I do see this programme of infrastructure investment picking up pace over next two decades because that’s the extent of deficit that we have in India,” he said. “As the world’s largest multilateral public bank and a global leader in financing climate action, the EU Bank recognises that the time is right to increase our engagement across South Asia,” EIB President Dr. Werner Hoyer said, adding that the bank has supported long-term investment in India for more than two decades. Mr. Jaitley said the opening up of EIB’s regional office in India will help it understand the value of investments in the country and also assist the government in attracting them to invest more in India. Dr. Hoyer later called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with senior officials of the Bank, according to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. “In course of the conversation today the Prime Minister explained India’s policies in the areas of climate change and environmental sustainability,” according to the statement.
Core sector growth slows to more than 1-year low Previous low of 0.9% was recorded in December 2015
The growth of eight core sectors slipped to a more than one-year low of 1% in February mainly due to decline in output of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers and cement. The growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors of coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity was 9.4% in February 2016. The previous low of 0.9% was recorded in December 2015. In January 2017, these sectors grew by 3.4%. The core sectors, which contribute 38% to the total industrial production, expanded 4.4% in April-February this fiscal compared to 3.5% growth in the same period previous financial year, according to the data released by the commerce and industry ministry on Friday. Commenting on the data, rating agency ICRA said: “We expect the IIP to post a subdued volume growth in February 2017.” However, coal and steel recorded positive growth during the month. The output of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers and cement contracted by 3.4%, 1.7%, 2.3%, 5.3% and 15.8%, respectively during the month under review. Coal output widened by 7.1 %, while steel output increased by 8.7 % and electricity by 1.5 %.
Iran oil imports to be cut over gas field row Indian refiners plan to cut purchases by a fifth to 1,90,000 barrels a day
Indian state refiners will cut oil imports from Iran in 2017/18 by a fifth, as New Delhi takes a more assertive stance over an impasse on a giant gas field that it wants awarded to an Indian consortium, sources familiar with the matter said. India, Iran’s biggest oil buyer after China, was among a handful of countries that continued to deal with the Persian Gulf nation despite Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme. However, previously close ties have been strained since the lifting of some sanctions last year as Iran adopts a bolder approach in trying to get the best deal for its oil and gas. Unhappy with Tehran, India’s oil ministry has asked state refiners to cut imports of Iranian oil. “We are cutting gradually, and we will cut more if there is no progress in the matter of the award of Farzad B gas field to our company,” one of the Indian sources said. Indian refiners told a National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) representative about their plans to cut oil imports by a fifth to 190,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 240,000 bpd, officials present at the meeting said. Indian Oil Corp. and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Corp will reduce imports by 20,000 bpd each to about 80,000 bpd. Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. will together cut imports by about 10,000 bpd to roughly 30,000 bpd, they said. In turn, NIOC threatened to cut the discount it offers to Indian buyers on freight from 80% to about 60%, the officials added. No comment was available from the Indian companies or NIOC. Cutting imports from Iran amid an OPEC-led supply cut exposes India’s refiners to the risk of struggling to find reasonably priced alternatives. “We expect that the market is currently undersupplied and that the draws in inventory are coming,” U.S. investment bank Jefferies said in a note to clients.
India to support ‘resistance’ to protectionism at G20 meet Country’s interests include ensuring ease of mobility for skilled professionals
Despite a formal statement by the world’s largest economies being silent on concerns over protectionist measures, India — which was a part of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting on March 17-18 — said Friday that it strongly supported ‘resistance’ to all forms of protectionism. “India strongly supports resistance to all forms of protectionism, and is fully with Germany (which is holding the G20 Presidency) on measures to open up trade in goods and services,” said Jayant Narlikar, Deputy Secretary, Finance Ministry and a member of the G20 India Secretariat, at an event organised by the German Embassy. Meanwhile, Andreas Lux, Head of G20 Presidency team (global economy / framework for growth), German Federal Ministry of Finance, said the failure to incorporate the sentence — “we will resist all forms of protectionism” — in the March 17-18 meeting communique was a “major setback for us (Germany) and India.” A communique issued at an earlier meeting in 2016 had included that phrase. Reports had said the phrase was dropped from the March communique as it did not receive U.S. support. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as having said the new administration considered that “the historical language was not relevant.” Referring to the March 17-18 meeting communique, which had only stated “We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies”, Mr. Lux said, “We hope for a much more positive language against protectionism at the Hamburg meeting (G20 leaders summit in July).” ‘Ability to survive’ Mr. Lux said G20 had the ability to cope with setbacks and survive them, adding that: “Lots of people in the new U.S. administration may not be used to (working on ) international cooperation… we will learn from them and they will learn from us… we are still quite optimistic (on ensuring resistance to protectionism),” he added. On expansion of the G20, he said there were no such plans currently, adding, however, that the G20 had been conducting a lot of outreach activities in countries, especially in Africa. Mr. Narlikar said issues of interest to India included ensuring ease of mobility of skilled professionals across the world. “There is a lot of talk about ‘free movement of capital’. We (India) are keen on free movement of labour, especially high-skilled labour, and we are ready to work with other G20 members on that.” India is also keen on ensuring energy access. “Every household needs to be given some kind of energy access. We know that eliminating (fossil fuel) subsidies which are inefficient and promoting wasteful consumption is important, and we even have direct benefit transfer scheme. However, we cannot agree to any timeline to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies,” Mr. Narlikar said.
Indian coders to get support for iOS apps Apple opens accelerator in Bengaluru
Apple Inc, the maker of the iPhone, announced the opening of its App Accelerator in Bengaluru. The company said that the accelerator would provide specialised support for developers making apps on its mobile operating system iOS, which is the foundation for its products like iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The firm said that it would also provide tools and best practices to help them hone their skills and transform the design, quality and performance of their apps on iOS. ‘Entrepreneurial spirit’ Apple said that India had one of the most vibrant iOS developer communities in the world and that already tens of thousands of developers in India make apps for iOS. It said the app accelerator in Bengaluru will help to further enrich the iOS app ecosystem. “We are impressed by the great entrepreneurial spirit in India, and are excited to provide a platform for these developers to share their innovations with customers around the world,” said Philip Schiller, senior vice president, Worldwide Marketing at Apple, in a statement. He said that in just the first few weeks, the company had already seen developers at the ‘App Accelerator Bengaluru,’ including Practo and Reliance Games, create innovative apps “that can meet the needs of customers in India and around the world.” “We are thrilled to be one of the first developers to collaborate with the team at the App Accelerator,” said Shashank ND, co-founder of healthcare tech startup Practo, that provides an app and web service for scheduling appointments with doctors. Each week, Apple experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers. The first-of-its-kind facility will also provide support and guidance on Swift, Apple’s powerful and intuitive programming language created to build apps for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Swift enables developers to write safer, more reliable code and create richer app experiences.