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September 1, 2017

GDP growth boards slow train at 5.7%

  • India’s GDP grew at 5.7% between April to June this year — the slowest pace recorded in 13 quarters or since the NDA government assumed office in May 2014 — led by a sharp decline in industrial activity that officials ascribed largely to an inventory drawdown by firms ahead of the rollout of GST from July 1.
  • Dr. Anant stressed that a large part of this dip was due to a rise in input costs as well as an unprecedented “high level of inventory de-accumulation” in the first quarter as firms were worried if the GST regime would grant them input tax credits for output generated before its implementation. “If this is in anticipation of the GST price-levelling effects, then there may be a revival in the stocks in the second quarter. We must keep this in mind when interpreting the manufacturing data,” Dr. Anant said, adding that the negative wholesale price inflation (WPI) trends in the first quarter of last year, which made growth numbers high, had turned positive.
  • While the services sector did fairly well, growing at 8.7% compared to 9% in the same quarter last year, the gross value added by the agriculture sector dipped from 2.5% in the first quarter of last year to 2.3%.


‘Trade-distorting farm subsidies must go’

  • India and China have jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) calling for the elimination of the most trade-distorting form of farm subsidies by the developed countries as a prerequisite for consideration of other reforms in domestic support negotiations.
  • “This is an important proposal by India and China in view of the ongoing negotiations for the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference (MC) of the WTO to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017,” said an an official statement.
  • “It counters the efforts by some countries to target the subsidies of the developing countries while letting the developed countries retain their huge farm subsidies,” the statement added,
  • The MC is the WTO’s highest decision making body. As per the joint paper, developed countries, including the U.S., the EU and Canada, had been consistently providing trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than the ceiling applicable to developing countries, the statement said.

Parents are behind child marriages, says SC

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday said it was unfortunate that parents drive their minor children into marriage, while noting that at least one in three marriages in rural areas involve girl children below the age of 18.
  • “It is a hard reality and is unfortunate that most of the child marriages happening in the country are done by parents of the girl child. However, to this, there are odd exceptions when a minor boy and girl fall in love and marry on their own,” a Bench of Justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
  • The Bench is hearing a petition filed by NGO Independent Thought challenging the Exception 2 to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, which permits “intrusive sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 and 18 only on the ground that she is married.”
  • The NGO, represented by advocate Gaurav Agarwal, said the statutory exception to rape was violative of right to life, personal liberty, equality and is discriminatory.
  • The Exception is part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 and is contrary to the anti-child sex abuse law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 (POCSO).
  • Mr. Agarwal argued that the law “violates the health of not only the girl child concerned, but also generations to come.”
  • He said society must go forward and not get stuck with what was the social norm over 70 years ago.


Nationwide programme to test all TB patients

  • Beginning this month, health authorities will commence a nationwide programme to test every tuberculosis (TB) patient for signs of resistance to first-line drugs. Other than providing a realistic assessment on the scale of resistance to commonly-available tuberculosis drugs, experts said this could also reveal a large number of hidden tuberculosis patients, as well greater numbers of those with multiple infections of TB and HIV.
  • Even as India tops the world in the number of tuberculosis cases, the WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates that possibly as many as a million Indians with TB could be outside government scrutiny. In 2015 alone, nine million Indians were tested for suspected tuberculosis and about 900,000 were confirmed to be ailing from it. Nearly 3% of new TB cases and 18% of prevalent cases are believed to be drug resistant, though independent analyses peg these numbers as much higher.


  • The new policy, called the Universal Drug Sensitivity Test, which was formalised earlier this month, will be implemented using a molecular diagnostic test called GeneXpert, a US-developed technology tool being used worldwide since 2010. It can detect the TB bacterium as well check for resistance to rifampicin, one of the standard key TB drugs, within 90 minutes. Conventional tests take at least a day or more and require well-trained personnel for similar results.
  • The programme will first be implemented in the States mentioned and then expanded to rest of country. States that will first see this policy being implemented include Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
  • The WHO’s TB statistics for India for 2015 — the latest available — gives an estimated incidence figure of 2.2 million cases of TB for India out of a global incidence of 9.6 million.
  • An inability to rapidly diagnose multi-drug resistant tuberculosis has long been identified as among the chinks in India’s strategy to eliminate tuberculosis.

Optimal output

  • GeneXpert kits, though one of their kind, are also known to be expensive, as well as requiring air-conditioned settings and reliable electricity access for optimal output. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is in the process of testing a cheaper alternative to GeneXpert called Truenat MTB, which is reportedly more portable, battery-operated, and performs as well at lower costs.


Core sector output growth quickens to 2.4% in July

  • Core sector output grew 2.4% year-on-year in July, helped by a low base in sectors including steel and electricity. The production performance of eight core industries — which comprise 40.27% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) — in July 2017 was faster than June’s 0.8%, but slower than the 3.1% pace recorded in July 2016. Cumulative growth during April-July, 2017-18, was 2.5%.
  • “The modest uptick in core sector growth in July 2017 relative to the previous month was driven by a favourable base effect for steel, cement, fertilizers and electricity,” Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist, ICRA Ltd., wrote in e-mailed comments. “Nevertheless, half of the eight constituents recorded a YoY contraction in July 2017, namely, refinery products, crude oil, cement and fertilisers.”


Exports likely to grow at 8-10% in FY’18: CARE

  • CARE Ratings on Thursday said it expects India’s exports to grow at 8-10% and imports to increase at 10-11% in 2017-18. The ratings agency added that with the rupee strengthening past Rs. 64 per dollar, there was concern that any further appreciation would slow down exports. “While exports have grown to a certain extent following the pick-up in global demand, imports have also gone up due to increasing oil prices.”


Fiscal deficit in July: 92.4% of estimate

  • India’s fiscal deficit at July-end touched 92.4% of the budget mainly because of front loading of expenditure by various government departments.
  • In absolute terms, the fiscal deficit — the difference between expenditure and revenue — was Rs. 5.04 lakh crore during April-July 2017-18, according to data from the Controller General of Accounts (CGA).
  • During the same period of last financial year, 2016-17, it was 73.7% of the target.
  • For 2017-18, the government aims to bring down the fiscal deficit to 3.2% of the GDP. Last fiscal, it had met the deficit target of 3.5% of the GDP.