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September 7, 2017

‘District-wise plan to help boost manufacturing’

  • The new commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday outlined his priorities. They include firming up a district-wise industrial investment plan to help boost the share of manufacturing in the country’s GDP, as well as improving India’s economic diplomacy to spur exports and investments.
  • His priorities also include addressing challenges being faced by exporters owing to the Goods and Services Tax, integrating India’s exports into the global supply chain, improving logistics to reduce transaction costs of exporters and bringing out an agricultural export policy.

‘Basis of decisions’

  • Addressing reporters, Mr. Prabhu said he had held a meeting with ‘Invest India’ (the government’s investment promotion and facilitation arm), and sought a district-wise plan for boosting investments in manufacturing and other sectors. “Ultimately every investor makes their investments in districts, and base their decisions on factors including the district’s human resources, natural resources and the law and order situation.” Noting that each district had core competencies, Mr. Prabhu said he would work with state governments to bring out a plan.
  • The minister said there would also be a re-evaluation of the ‘Make In India’ initiative to find out more ways to revitalise manufacturing. He also called for laying emphasis not only on the ‘Make in India’ initiative but also on ‘Design In India’ for attracting investments.

India, Japan to diversify defence ties

  • India and Japan on Wednesday agreed on a range of initiatives to diversify and deepen their defence cooperation.
  • These include anti-submarine warfare, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and technological cooperation.
  • On naval cooperation, the two Ministers noted the successful conclusion of the Malabar trilateral exercises including the U.S. in July.

Attacks by vigilantes must stop, says SC

  • Attacks on innocents by cow vigilantes must stop, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
  • It ordered the States and the Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers in every district to crack down on such groups.

Centre’s responsibility

  • Dalits and Muslims have reportedly been at the receiving end of violence unleashed by lynch mobs, especially in the four northern States. The court exhorted the Centre to uphold its constitutional mandate under Article 256 and direct the States to act against the groups.
  • The court directed the Centre to respond to a submission by senior advocate Indira Jaising, for Mr. Gandhi, that the government cannot wash its hands of its constitutional responsibility under Article 256. The Centre should reply to this argument in the spirit of “co-operative federalism.”


  • The Centre has maintained that violence by ‘gau rakshaks’ was a ‘State subject’ and it had no role to play, though it condemned all forms of violence.
  • “Non-violence is the founding faith of this country. The Centre cannot turn its back on the violence. The States have the responsibility to lodge First Information Reports against these vigilantes,” Ms. Jaising submitted.
  • Ms. Jaising said that most of the violent incidents had occurred on highways. The court directed the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police to take steps to protect the highways from vigilante mobsThe Centre must also indicate its views on this issue.


Modi’s call to respect Myanmar’s unity

  • After the Modi-Suu Kyi talks, 11 agreements were signed between the two sides in areas like maritime security, strengthening democratic institutions in Myanmar, health and information technology.
  • Mr. Modi, in his statement, stressed on scaling up security cooperation, saying that being neighbours, the two countries have similar security concerns.
  • Taking a strong stance on terror, Ms. Suu Kyi said, “Together we will ensure that terror is not allowed to take root on our soil or on the soil of neighbouring countries.”
  • Ms. Suu Kyi also thanked India for taking a strong stand on the terror threat that Myanmar faced recently.
  • Rohingya militants raided police posts in Rakhine last month, killing 12 security personnel.
  • Mr. Modi also asserted that India stood by Myanmar amid the challenges the country is facing. He said India had decided to grant gratis (no cost) visa to Myanmarese citizens who wished to visit the country.
  • Mr. Modi highlighted the development initiatives India was undertaking in Mynamar especially in capacity building, which Ms. Suu Kyi said her country needed the most. “I believe the democratic experience of India is relevant for Myanmar and that is why we are proud of our massive support in the capacity building…,” Mr. Modi said.

Child marital rape: SC Bench questions exception in penal law

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the reason for Parliament to create an exception in the penal law declaring that sexual intercourse by a man with his minor wife is not rape.The apex court asked the reason behind such an exception in the Indian Penal Code when the age of consent was 18 years for “all purposes.”
  • Section 375 of the IPC, which defines the offence of rape, has an exception clause that says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife aged below 18 is not rape. Responding to the query, government counsel submitted that the exemption was created after due thought and consideration by Parliament.

SC seeks affidavits on shared data

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed instant messaging platform WhatsApp and social media giant Facebook to file affidavits stating what user data they shared with “third parties.”
  • The Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is hearing a petition filed by two law students alleging that a contract entered into between Facebook and WhatsApp in 2016 on data sharing was a violation of a citizen’s right to privacy. The data, according to them, included photographs, messages, pictures and other personal documents shared by users on WhatsApp.
  • Initially, senior advocate Kapil Sibal representing WhatsApp, submitted that the instant messaging platform does not share any personal data of its users with third parties. He said only four details, ‘telephone number, type of device, last access of the user and registration date,’ are shared.
  • The petitioners, represented by advocate Madhavi Divan, countered that the court should injunct WhatsApp from sharing user data with third parties. Ms. Divan submitted that European privacy watchdogs have warned WhatsApp against sharing user information with parent company, Facebook. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. The petitioners argued that the same restriction should be imposed in India.
  • The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, submitted that a committee had been set up under former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna, on July 31, 2017 to identify “key data protection issues” and suggest a draft Data Protection Bill.

‘No instance of breach’

  • Mr. Sibal said the material shared by users on WhatsApp was encrypted and Facebook was no “third party.” He said billions used WhatsApp and there had never been a single instance of breach.

SC allows 13-year-old girl to terminate pregnancy

  • A medical board opinion said medical termination of her pregnancy was possible at this stage, but would have serious consequences on the Class 7 student from Mumbai.Medical experts, whose opinion was sought by the Supreme Court, said if the pregnancy was allowed to continue, the baby would be pre-term and would require intensive neo-natal care. Either way, the doctors told the Supreme Court, both the ‘mother’ and the baby would be at grave risk.
  • A Bench of three judges led by Chief Justice Misra, accompanied by Justices Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar, allowed the termination of pregnancy.
  • “Considering the age of the petitioner, the trauma she has suffered because of sexual abuse, the agony she is going through and the opinion of the medical board favouring termination of pregnancy, the termination of pregnancy should be allowed,” the court ordered.

20-week cap

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 does not allow abortion if the pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks. Under the 1971 law, an exception to the 20-week cap is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby. This was meant to be a safeguard against female foeticide.
  • The court had recently denied permission to a 10-year-old rape survivor from Chandigarh to abort her foetus.Shortly after, the girl gave birth. The apex court awarded Rs. 10 lakh compensation for the girl.

‘Untold suffering’

  • Senior advocate Indira Jaising who is intervening in the Supreme Court in the issue, had argued that the delay in offering urgent medical help to such abused women and children had led to untold suffering for them.
  • For a 10-year-old, pregnancy is indeed a ‘life-threatening’ situation warranting immediate intervention under the MTP Act , Ms. Jaising had argued.
  • Recently, the Centre had written to States and Union Territories about the apex court’s suggestion to appoint permanent medical boards to provide women, especially rape survivors, urgent access to medical care and to consider their requests for abortion.

India, China rebooting ties post-Doklam

  • Jolted by the military face-off in the Doklam plateau, India and China are rebooting their ties, by opening new channels of official communication to address points of friction before they develop into full-blown crises.
  • China’s apparent policy shift on international terrorism, as reflected in the BRICS statement, will be tested when the United Nations 1267 committee meets in October to discuss designation of Masood Azhar, the head of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, as an international terrorist. China has so far resisted putting Azhar on the list of global terrorists, but there is some optimism now that Beijing may be ready to shift its stance on this issue, notwithstanding its special relationship with Pakistan.
  • The new hands-on mechanism will supplement the already-existing periodically held “strategic dialogue”. It is expected to address concerns of an aspirational India and rising China in the region, including the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific.
  • Analysts say the thinking driving India’s Act-East policy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative is far from aligned. India’s Indo-Pacific doctrine is raising apprehensions in China that instead of pursuit of an independent policy, India is allowing itself to drift into a China-containment mode, with Tokyo and Washington as partners.
  • India has its own concerns about Chinese intentions in the South China Sea and the South Asian neighbourhood, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives.
  • Notwithstanding the intent to break common ground, India continued to differ with China and Russia on accommodating the Taliban to restore calm in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a major issue of discussion during Prime Minster Modi’s lengthy conversation with President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the summit.

State cancels controversial GO 64

  • The State government has cancelled the controversial G.O. 64 that gives eligibility for employment to candidates who studied in universities not recognised by the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR).Agriculture students have been agitating against the G.O. as it spells doom for students from recognised universities.