Tuesday, 28 February 2017

RCEP, an attack on food sovereignty, must be junked – PCFS

RCEP, an attack on food sovereignty, must be junked – PCFS 

In time for another round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) starting from February 27 to March 3 in Kobe, Japan, which is said to be crucial in spelling out the chances that the free trade agreement or FTA will be approved by the end of the year, we of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) reiterate our opposition to the RCEP. 

As a neoliberal trade deal covering 3.5 billion or almost half of the world’s population with a gross domestic product of USD 22.5 trillion, RCEP will mean intensified attacks on the food sovereignty of its poorest member-countries. It will strengthen the monopoly control of the biggest agrocorporations within the 10 members of ASEAN, India, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and China and even in the world. 

Despite attempts to make it appear that ASEAN countries or Japan are exercising leading roles in RCEP, it is no secret that the FTA is led by China and will stand to benefit the biggest capitalists of China more than any of RCEP member-countries. 

The RCEP is not only the World Trade Organization (WTO), especially its Agreement on Agriculture, in another clothing. In seeking to advance the neoliberal trade and investment agenda behind the WTO, RCEP – like the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) – is bound to be worse than the WTO.

One of the pillars of the RCEP, and other mega-FTAs, is an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which is already being used in existing trade deals to push back existing victories of national governments and people’s movements in fighting for food and economic sovereignty. The use of such mechanisms will surely be intensified under the RCEP against prospective advances in national policies in favor of farmers, small-scale food producers and the people. Commentators have every right to argue, on this basis, that RCEP means the death of democracy in its member-countries.

The lack of transparency in the text of the RCEP and the lack of consultation as to its content are merely symptoms of the thoroughly anti-democratic and pro-monopoly character of the FTA itself. The said FTA was created not by farmers and peoples, but by giant agrocorporations and giant corporations with the collusion of the Chinese government and the most powerful governments within the FTA.

Commentators are already using progress in the talks for the RCEP to push newly-installed US President Donald Trump to junk on his campaign promise to withdraw from the US-led TPPA, to which the China-led RCEP is widely perceived to be a counterweight. 

RCEP will affect not just its member countries. Because it is very big, and even bigger than the TPPA in purchasing power parity terms, it will strengthen the monopoly agrocorporations and other monopoly corporations not only within its sphere but also in the entire world.

à RCEP will strengthen the focus of poor countries on producing cash crops for export, instead of food for domestic consumption.

à RCEP will open up the lands of its poorest members to foreign ownership, for the operations of agricultural and mining corporations. It will make the struggle for genuine land reform even more difficult, by concentrating lands in the hands of big foreign corporations, by securing their hold through ISDS mechanisms, and by reversing prior efforts to redistribute lands to farmers.

à RCEP, which is said to be focused at present on reducing tariffs, will allow advanced capitalist countries to dump their heavily-subsidized agricultural produce to less developed countries, thereby destroying the livelihood of small farmers and domestic agriculture systems in the latter.

à RCEP will strengthen monopoly agrocorporations’ hold on the intellectual property rights over seeds, plants and traditional knowledge. This will mean the plunder or denationalization of biodiversity and traditional knowledge in many of the RCEP member-countries.

à RCEP will strengthen the dependence of farmers, indigenous peoples and other small-scale food producers on imported and commercial inputs.

à RCEP will mean attacks on labor rights across-the-board, and therefore attacks on the rights of food and agricultural workers, who already suffer from the worst working conditions in terms of low wages, contractual employment, and attacks on trade-union rights.

à RCEP will undermine the right of its member-countries to reject genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) that they have not approved and to subject those GMOs to a prior risk assessment. It will ensure the uninterrupted trade of GMOs to the benefit of major GMO producers and exporters.

à RCEP will surely worsen the militarism and militarization in the region to ensure the implementation of policies that are harmful to farmers, indigenous peoples, small-scale food producers and the people. To safeguard big investment interests, it allows for the deployment of so-called “investement defense forces.”

As a neoliberal trade deal that seeks to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of big corporations, RCEP will also be harmful to developing countries’ struggle for industrialization, access to cheaper medicines, quality social services, and protection of the environment.

Signing into RCEP will rollback the victories of the farmers and peoples of various countries in fighting for food sovereignty and against thoroughgoing liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization of economies. It will mean signing on to a worse version of the WTO.

Leaders of the RCEP aim to seal the agreement this 2017. We are calling on all organizations of farmers, indigenous peoples and small-scale food producers as well as their supporters including NGOs, and all food sovereignty activists around the world, to uphold the said constituencies’ interests and fight RCEP.

Now, more than ever, the farmers, indigenous peoples and small-scale food producers of the world are called upon to intensify our fight: Fight for food sovereignty! Fight for land, food and genuine development! Oppose the RCEP and other FTAs!
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APC Secretariat

TAPI

TAPI


Economic Developments

Pipeline construction and gas-field development on the 1,680 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline commenced in Turkmenistan in 2015. Commissioning of the project is likely to be delayed by one year from 2019 to 2020 because of inability of Turkmenistan to achieve financial closure on the project. It was earlier scheduled to attain this by December 2016, but now it has been moved forward to June 2017. The four countries have signed a US$10-billion investment agreement for the pipeline. The Tapi pipeline is projected to export up to 33bcm/yr from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India over 30 years.
China is falling well short of Turkmen expectations regarding the amount of gas it imports, in the process damaging the latter’s economy. Turkmenistan has supplied China with a total of 160bcm of gas since deliveries started in December 2009. This indicates that deliveries in 2016 totalled 30bcm or less. Such a level falls far short of Turkmenistan’s export target and casts a long shadow over goals set out by president Berdimukhammedov in May 2014, when he declared that “annual export of natural gas to China will amount to 40bcm by 2016 and up to 65bcm by 2021.”
Turkmenistan's GDP growth slowed to 6.2% in 2016 from 6.5% in 2015. Economic growth has been slowing since 2015 as energy prices dropped and Russia halted imports of Turkmen gas, leaving China as its major buyer.
Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister stated that the country’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has been beneficial for the country. Opposition in Kyrgyzstan has charged that government has done nothing to improve economic situation in the country and create favorable conditions for local businesses to enter the EEU market. In 2016 Kyrgyzstan’s trade with EEU declined by 18.6% as compared to 2015 and amounted to US$1.9 billion. Imports from non-EEU countries increased: from China by 150%, from Turkey by 12.2%, and from USA 130%.  Kyrgyzstan’s transitional period with preferences will end in August 2017 and the country will then be required to obey common rules for all EEU member states. Farmers cannot export their products because they do not meet the requirements of EEU technical regulations. Despite criticism of MPs, Deputy Prime Minister expressed optimism focusing on a 3.8% GDP growth and an increase in customs duties by 8 billion soms in 2016. Exports in 2016 grew by 5.1% and reached US$1.54 billion, compared to a 22% decrease in 2015. Imports decreased by 3.7% in 2016, compared to a 29% decrease in 2015.
Government stated that Kyrgyz economy declined because of unfavorable economic situation in Russia and Kazakhstan, the main trading partners of Kyrgyzstan.  Kyrgyzstan’s economic growth is expected to be about 2.7% in 2017. In January-November 2016, remittances from Kyrgyz labor migrants working abroad amounted to US$1.493 billion, 20.9% more than in the same period in 2015. 
Central Bank of Uzbekistan decided to keep the refinancing rate at the earlier level of 9% per annum. This was done to keep inflation under control, stimulate investment and promote economic growth. Inflation in the country in 2016 was 5.7% compared to 5.6% a year earlier. In 2017, inflation is expected to be between 5.7%-6.7%. Uzbekistan has been growing steadily on account of its vast natural resources of oil, natural gas and gold. Uzbekistan's economy grew by 7.8% in 2016 compared to an 8% growth in 2015 reflecting a weaker external environment and slower growth in the industry. The government has forecast GDP growth of 7.8% in 2017.  
President Nazarbayev in his state-of-the-nation address on 31st January, 2017, launched the third phase of Kazakhstan's economic modernisation. The Plan looks beyond the current difficult global economic conditions to prepare the country for challenges and opportunities in years ahead to make it among the 30 most developed nations of the world by 2050. Nazarbayev emphasized the importance of expansion of business environment and improvement of conditions for mass business. To achieve that goal, it is necessary to minimize the state’s involvement in the economy and develop public-private partnership.
Position of Kazakhstan in the American Think Tank Heritage Foundation’s “2017 Index of Economic Freedom’’ moved up significantly by 27 positions from 69 to 42 with an improvement of 5.4% in overall performance. Amongst Central Asian States, Kyrgyzstan comes next at 89, Tajikistan stands at 109, Uzbekistan at 148 and Turkmenistan brings up the rear at 170 out of a total of 180 countries. For purpose of reference, India stands at 143 (a decline of 3.6% in performance and fall from 128th position in the previous year), China at 111, Russia at 114, Sri Lanka at 112, Bangladesh at 128, and Pakistan at 141.
World Bank has forecasted that Kazakhstan’s GDP will grow from 0.9% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018 and 4% in 2019. Much of this has to do with the government’s own infrastructure spending. As the economy opens up, Kazakhstan climbed the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and is now ranked 35th. According to World Bank, 80% of all foreign money coming into Central Asia heads to Kazakhstan. World Bank has ranked it as one of the 20 most attractive countries in the world for investors.
Total value of exports and imports of Kazakhstan equals 53% of its GDP with average applied tariff rate of 3.3%. 
Tajikistan's trade turnover decreased significantly over 2016. Between 2003 and 2013, Tajikistan’s GDP grew by an average of 7.2% per year, while employment expanded at only 2.1% annually. The low level of product diversification and reliance upon natural resources makes the Tajik economy susceptible to volatile commodity prices. The country adopted a new National Development Strategy covering 2016-2030, which envisages Tajikistan transforming from a mainly agrarian based economy to an industrialized economy.
In 2016 Tajikistan’s foreign debt reached US $2.3 billion or 32.7% of the country’s GDP. Today, Tajikistan’s largest international creditor is China, accounting for more than half of the country’s total debt. Tajikistan’s other large creditors are the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank. In 2016, Tajikistan’s exports amounted to US$898.7 million and imports stood at US$3 billion.  

SOURCE: Ananta Aspen Centre

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The camera exposes a dirty untruth

The camera exposes a dirty untruth


The camera exposes a dirty untruth
B Kolappan, The Hindu, Chennai, February 27, 2017
 
‘Kakkoos,’ a documentary made by a woman film-maker, says manual scavenging never disappeared
 
A public toilet comes sharply into view. Around the human waste there, sanitary napkins lie scattered, along with dead rats and other animals. A woman sanitary worker, using two sticks as tongs, collects them. At times, she is forced to pick them up by hand and make a heap before setting it on fire. Coughing constantly as smoke and fire emerges from the heap, she leaves the spot.
 
This scene from Kakkoos, a documentary released on Sunday, portrays the miserable lives and working conditions of conservancy workers who are forced to do manual scavenging in almost every part of Tamil Nadu.
 
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Documentary Film Kakkoos’s Trailer
 
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Staple your eyes if you must, but watch ‘Kakkoos’ Divya’s haunting film on manual scavenging
 
25 year old Divya Bharathi's Kakkoos is a searing documentary on the lives of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu.
 
In the beginning, you'll find yourself wishing for a stronger stomach to handle the visuals her unforgiving camera throws at you - toilets overflowing with feces, humans collecting feces with their bare hands, humans plunging their hands into drains and more - but as the film progresses, the disgust is no longer to do with what's being shown on screen.
 
Instead, the disgust turns towards yourself and the apathy that you, along with the rest of society, have shown this issue all along for far too long. 

Don’t sign “anti-people” Telangana land Bill, it’s a repeat of govt order quashed by High Court: President told

Don’t sign “anti-people” Telangana land Bill, it’s a repeat of govt order quashed by High Court: President told 

http://www.counterview.net/2017/02/dont-sign-anti-people-telangana-land.html

Bangladesh should look for ways to better protect Rohingyas than coming up with punitive plans

Bangladesh should look for ways to better protect Rohingyas than coming up with punitive plans

https://counterview.org/2017/02/28/bangladesh-should-look-for-ways-to-better-protect-rohingyas-than-coming-up-with-punitive-plans/

Bringing Telangana’s groundwater irrigated area under drip irrigation without any cost to farmers

Bringing Telangana’s groundwater irrigated area under drip irrigation without any cost to farmers

https://counterview.org/2017/02/28/bringing-telanganas-groundwater-irrigated-area-under-drip-irrigation-without-any-cost-to-farmers/

Food basket in danger

Food basket in danger

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/food-basket-in-danger-57079

ACTIVITIES AROUND US INVITATION MARCH 017

ACTIVITIES AROUND US INVITATION MARCH 017










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FTA ISSUES MARCH 017

Issue of workers immigration to influence Free Trade Agreement between India, UK

India to speed up FTA with Eurasian Economic Union
Our Bureau


India is speeding up the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union, which include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. India’s trade with these countries stands at about $10 billion.

Sunil Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of the five countries are eager to sign the FTA, and it can happen in less than a year.

Kumar was speaking to media on the sidelines of an event here on Tuesday to announce the second edition of CapIndia — the joint expo by Chemical Export Promotion Council, Plastics Export Promotion Council, Chemical and Allied Export Promotion Council of India and Shellac and Forest Products Export Promotion Council. The expo will be held here on March 21 and 22.

India stands to gain from the pact with Eurasia, as its imports from these countries are greater than its exports to them, he added.



Aadhaar as money bill

Aadhaar as money bill

What exactly is a money bill?

 FEBRUARY 27, 2017 

Or, why we need to reconsider the Aadhaar Act, with all its implications for privacy

The Supreme Court will begin hearing final arguments next month on a writ petition challenging the validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016 — or the Aadhaar Act. The proceeding, initiated by Jairam Ramesh, a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, primarily questions the legality behind the Union government’s move in introducing the Aadhaar Act as a money bill. Through this categorisation, the government had the law enacted by securing a simple majority in the Lok Sabha while rendering redundant any opposition to the legislation in the Upper House of Parliament.

Imperils liberties

During preliminary hearings, the Supreme Court has suggested that it isn’t entirely convinced of the merits of Mr. Ramesh’s petition. But a closer examination will only show that the introduction of the Aadhaar Act as a money bill contravenes the bare text of the Constitution. In this case, the breach is particularly disturbing, because the legislation imperils our core liberties, in manners both explicit and insidious.
Originally, Aadhaar was conceived as a scheme to provide to every Indian a unique identity number, with a purported view to enabling a fair and equitable distribution of benefits and subsidies. There is little doubt that the scheme’s introduction, with no prior legislative backing, was a flagrant wrong, and was completely unjustifiable as a measure of democratic governance. For this Mr. Ramesh’s party, the Congress, must take full responsibility. But, when a draft of a statute was eventually introduced in the Rajya Sabha, in December 2010, it was done so as an ordinary bill. This meant that both Houses of Parliament had to provide their imprimatur to the bill for it to become law.

Nonetheless this draft legislation contained serious misgivings, so much so that a parliamentary standing committee released a detailed report differing with the government of the time over critical aspects of the bill, particularly its treatment of concerns over privacy and protection of data security. In the meantime, given that the Aadhaar project was being implemented even without statutory support, public interest petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the project’s legitimacy. In these cases, the court issued a series of interim orders prohibiting the state from making Aadhaar mandatory, while permitting its use only for a set of limited governmental schemes.
In March 2016, the Union government withdrew the earlier bill, and introduced, in its place, as a money bill, a new draft legislation, titled the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Bill, 2016. This categorisation was extraordinary because a money bill, under India’s constitutional design, requires only the Lok Sabha’s affirmation for it to turn into law. Right on cue, within days of the bill’s introduction, the Lower House, in complete disregard of the Rajya Sabha’s protestations, passed the legislation, as Act No. 18 of 2016. This law, Mr. Ramesh now argues, is patently illegal, because its classification as a money bill infringes the Constitution’s mandates.
A money bill is defined by Article 110 of the Constitution, as a draft law that contains only provisions that deal with all or any of the matters listed therein. These comprise a set of seven features, broadly including items such as the imposition or regulation of a tax; the regulation of the borrowing of money by the Government of India; the withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund of India; and so forth. In the event a proposed legislation contains other features, ones that are not merely incidental to the items specifically outlined, such a draft law cannot be classified as a money bill. Article 110 further clarifies that in cases where a dispute arises over whether a bill is a money bill or not, the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision on the issue shall be considered final.

Flawed counterpoint

The government’s response to Mr. Ramesh’s claim is predicated on two prongs: that the Speaker’s decision to classify a draft legislation as a money bill is immune from judicial review, and that, in any event, the Aadhaar Bill fulfilled all the constitutional requirements of a money bill. A careful examination of these arguments will, however, show us that the government is wrong on both counts.
 To be fair, the assertion that the Speaker’s decision is beyond judicial review finds support in the Supreme Court’s judgment in Mohd. Saeed Siddiqui v. State of UP(2014). Here, a three-judge bench had ruled, in the context of State legislatures, that a Speaker’s decision to classify a draft statute as a money bill, was not judicially reviewable, even if the classification was incorrect. This is because the error in question, the court ruled, constituted nothing more than a mere procedural irregularity.
But there are significant problems with this view. Chief among them is the wording of Article 110, which vests no unbridled discretion in the Speaker. The provision requires that a bill conform to the criteria prescribed in it for it to be classified as a money bill. Where a bill intends to legislate on matters beyond the features delineated in Article 110, it must be treated as an ordinary draft statute. Any violation of this mandate has to be seen, therefore, as a substantive constitutional error, something which Siddiqui fails to do.
There are other flaws too in the judgment. Most notably, it brushes aside the verdict of a Constitution Bench in Raja Ram Pal v. Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha(2007), where the court had ruled that clauses that attach finality to a determination of an issue do not altogether oust the court’s jurisdiction. That is, the bench held, there are numerous circumstances where the court can review parliamentary pronouncements. These would include instances where a Speaker’s choice is grossly illegal, or disregards basic constitutional mandates, or, worse still, where the Speaker’s decision is riddled with perversities, or is arrived at through dishonest intentions.

What Aadhaar Act shows

A simple reading of the Aadhaar Act would show us that its contents go far beyond the features enumerated in Article 110. If anything, it is the provisions in the legislation that pertain to the Consolidated Fund and its use that are incidental to the Act’s core purpose — which, quite evidently, is to ensure, among other things, the creation of a framework for maintaining a central database of biometric information collected from citizens. Ordinarily, a draft legislation is classified as a money bill when it provides for funds to be made available to the executive to carry out specific tasks. In the case of the Aadhaar Act, such provisions are manifestly absent. The Speaker’s decision to confirm the government’s classification is, therefore, an error that is not merely procedural in nature but one that constitutes, in substance, an unmitigated flouting of Article 110.
In many ways, Aadhaar has brought out to plain sight the worryingly totalitarian impulses of our state. The government has argued, with some force, that Indian citizens possess no fundamental right to privacy. This argument, however, is predicated on judgments of the Supreme Court that have little contemporary relevance, and that have, in any event, been overlooked in several subsequent cases where the court has clarified the extent of the liberties that the Constitution guarantees.

Right to privacy

Privacy is important not merely because it advances the cause of equality and freedom but also because it is, in and of itself, a treasurable value. A failure to protect privacy adequately can have disastrous consequences that affect our abilities to determine for ourselves how we want to live our lives. And the Aadhaar Act hits at the core of this value. It permits the creation of a database of not only biometric information but also various other private data, without so much as bothering about safeguards that need to be installed to ensure their security. We scarcely need to stretch our imaginations to wonder what the government — and other agencies to which this information can be shared without any regulatory checks — can do with all this material.
That a statute so pernicious in its breadth can be enacted after being introduced as a money bill only makes matters worse. It has the effect of negating altogether the Rajya Sabha’s legislative role, making, in the process, a mockery of our democracy. It is imperative, therefore, that the court refers the present controversy to a larger bench, with a view to overruling Siddiqui.
Suhrith Parthasarathy is an advocate practising at the Madras High Court


Aadhaar as money bill: If Speaker is wrong, court can set it right, says SC

The bill was passed during the Budget session in 2016 after overruling the amendments moved in Rajya Sabha.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:February 14, 2017
EVEN AS it acknowledged the authority of the Speaker in a Parliamentary democracy, the Supreme Court Monday said the court would not hesitate to correct a Speaker if he says “blue is green”. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who had challenged the Speaker’s decision to treat the Aadhaar bill as a money bill. The bill was passed during the Budget session in 2016 after overruling the amendments moved in Rajya Sabha.
“Yes, we have identified the role and authority of the Speaker. But if the Speaker says blue is green, we will ask the Speaker to say it is blue…that we will set right,” said a bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar. The bench, also comprising Justice N V Ramana, added: “When we go wrong, larger benches set aside our orders and correct it. So why cannot we do it (vis a vis Speaker)?”

Representing Ramesh, senior lawyer and a former minister in the UPA government P Chidambaram said that Aadhaar, by no standard, could be certified by the Speaker as a money bill since it did not meet the conditions of Article 110(1) of the Constitution. “On the face of it, we can show that it cannot be called a money bill. The conditions are clear that a bill can be certified as a money bill if it contains ‘only’ such provisions that deal with the aspects mentioned under Article 110,” argued Chidambaram.

He said that there was an apprehension that any bill could be certified as a money bill to dispense with the need to seek majority in the Rajya Sabha since a money bill could very well be passed by the Lok Sabha itself. Dealing with the previous judgments of the apex court, Chidambaram contended that power of judicial review was not curtailed in cases of substantive infraction of the provisions of the law and that the decision of the Speaker could be deemed to be final only in cases of procedural irregularities. “This court has held that if there are unconstitutionality and substantive infractions, decision of the Speaker could also be judicially reviewed,” he said.
Countering his views, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that judgments have held that the court had no power to sit in appeal over the decisions of the Speaker and that proceedings inside the House were immune. “The Speaker is a high constitutional functionary. It cannot be argued that the Speaker would certify all bills as money bills. There is no question of this court examining the Speaker’s decision,” said Rohatgi.
Disagreeing with the AG’s argument, the bench retorted that it appreciated the Speaker’s peculiar position in the parliamentary democracy but the court also had the power to correct his decisions if they were brazenly wrong. At this, Rohatgi said that Aadhaar was passed as a money bill since it had to withdraw money from the consolidated fund of India. “Under Article 110(1), there is a provision that a bill can be passed as a money bill if its deals with provisions ‘incidental’ to the other essential conditions,” he said.

The bench, on its part, accepted the AG’s argument to some extent and told Chidambaram that he would have to convince the court why they should interfere with the Speaker’s decision. “Tentatively, we are not with you but you can definitely convince us on the next date,” said the bench, adjourning the matter for four weeks. A Constitution Bench is expected to sit during the summer vacation in May-June to adjudicate a clutch of petition on the validity of Aadhaar, especially in view of the concerned regarding right to privacy.

Is the Aadhaar Bill a Money Bill?

  MAY 10, 2016

We take look at what a Money Bill is and why the government has pushed the Aadhaar Bill through it.
What is a Money Bill?
A Money Bill is one that contains provisions for taxes, appropriation of funds etc. Money Bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to such bills passed by the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can suggest amendments, but it is the Lok Sabha’s choice to accept or reject them.
How is Aadhaar connected?
The NDA government chose to introduce the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 as a Money Bill. The Lok Sabha >cleared the Bill and passed it to the Rajya Sabha.
While the NDA has a majority in the Lok Sabha, it does not in the Rajya Sabha. This led to intense debates in the Upper House, led by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. The House >recommended several amendments to the Bill, which was passed with a majority in the House.
What was the Opposition about?
The Opposition’s main concern was with the usage of Aadhaar data to>facilitate mass surveillance . Originally, the Aadhaar project was supposed to be voluntary, but this Bill makes enrolment compuslory. The Bill contains a blanket ‘national security’ clause, a clause bound to induce misuse.
What happened next?
Parliament >passed the Aadhaar Bill , even as debates raged in both Houses. “I am questioning the competence of this House to legislate the Bill,” Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) said, arguing that the Bill was also being considered by the Supreme Court and was beyond “the legislative authority” of the House.
What now?
Mr. Ramesh then moved the Supreme Court >challenging the treatment of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill. Earlier, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who moved the Bill and piloted them in both the Houses, had turned down the Opposition argument that Parliament cannot legislate as the matter is before the Supreme Court.

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Monday, 27 February 2017

India's manufacturing falls by 3.7%; micro, small industries suffer 35% job loss, revenue dips by 50%: Report

India's manufacturing falls by 3.7%; micro, small industries suffer 35% job loss, revenue dips by 50%: Report 

http://www.counterview.net/2017/02/indias-manufacturing-falls-by-37-micro.html


By Our Representative
A top data site has revealed that sales of manufactured goods fell 3.7% during 2015-16 – the first decline in seven years – sparking fears of layoffs in the coming months. In a major expose, quoting Reserve Bank of India (RBI) figures, the site says, “The sales of manufactured goods were falling even before demonetisation, affecting sectors ranging from textiles to leather to steel.”


“In November 2014, just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his Make-in-India campaign, Nokia shut its factory in Chennai, rendering 6,600 full-time workers jobless”, the report, written by Prathamesh Mulye, a journalist with 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters, points out. The manufacturing sector constitutes 15-16% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and supports 12% of the workforce.
“A range of factors including falling investment, increased input costs and higher import duties have caused demand for manufactured goods to fall, a trend that was visible before demonetisation and has strengthened since”, the report says, though adding, in 2015-16, “The services sector grew by 4.9%, faster than the 3.7% recorded in the previous financial year.”



“Manufacturing”, on the other hand, “contracted for the first time in seven years, from a growth rate of 12.9% in 2009-10 to -3.7% in 2015-16”, the report says, adding, “Small-scale private companies, with yearly annual sales of less than Rs 100 crore, have been more seriously affected as their sales have contracted continuously for the last seven years.” 
“Having registered an 8.8% decline in 2009-10, their sales fell by 19.2% year-on-year in 2015-16”, the report says, quoting a textile manufacturing plant owner from Bhiwandi, 32 km northeast of Mumbai, as saying, while the cost of final product has increased, “we are unable to compete with cheaper imported Chinese products.”
A Mumbai-based small-scale gold jewellery manufacturer is quoted as saying that “higher export duty and decline in demand has led to reduction in sales even before demonetisation,” adding, “We were forced to reduce production. So, hiring of workers on contractual basis has also gone down.” 
Quoting from a new RBI study, the report says, “Investment has fallen because of a decline in demand, leading to lower sales and profits. New orders recorded a decline sequentially (quarter-on-quarter) as well as on a year-on-year basis and dipped into negative territory.” 
“Closure of 186 industrial units led to net job losses of 12,176 in the manufacturing sector over the last four years”, the report says, adding, post-demonetisation, there is “cash crunch” leading to fall in sales as well as a shortage of workers due to mass exodus from cities. 
Further quoting from a All India Manufacturer’s Organisation study, the report says, “In the first 34 days of demonetisation, micro- and small-scale industries have suffered job losses of 35% and a 50% dip in revenue.”
“A cutdown in industrial output for the fourth straight month in December, along with a depressed investment outlook, could lead to more layoffs”, warns the report quoting industry sources.

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Organic regulation in foreign countries

Organic regulation in foreign countries

Here're the links for the standards in some countries as noted in the parenthesis after each link.










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Bangladesh opens first solar-powered silo with climate-controlled facility

Bangladesh opens first solar-powered silo with climate-controlled facility

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/02/26/bangladesh-opens-first-solar-powered-silo-with-climate-controlled-facility

The climate controlled facilities at the northern district's Santahar can store approximately 25,000 tonnes of food. Officials say all types of food can be stored in the warehouse.
 
The prime minister arrived in Bogra around 12pm on Sunday to inaugurate a number of development projects. The Santahar silo was the prime minister’s first stop after arriving in the northern district.
 
The high-tech food storage project began in 2009 and was completed with the financial and technical support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

The Santahar location was chosen for the project due to its strategic position between Naogaon and Bogra and its access to road and rail.

Constructions began in 2013 with a budget of Tk 2.32 billion. JICA provided Tk 1.50 billion for the project.

 >>Storage capacity of 25,000 tonnes;

>>Two-storey facility with 16 separate storing facility with thermally insulated outer walls, doors and roof 

>>Equipped with humidity controllers and fire extinguishing measures;

>>The storage facility is also equipped with temperature controls;

>>Four forklifts are available to move sacks;

>>26,040 plastic palettes for rice preservation;

The prime minister planted a tree seedling at the warehouse’s premises. She then toured the facility.

Food Minister Qamrul Islam, Land Minister Shamsur Rahman Sharif, Jahangir Kabir Nanak MP, Abdur Rahman, Abdul Mannan, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, Abu Sayeed Al Mahmud Swapan, Sheikh Fazle Noor Tapas MP, Israfil Alam also accompanied Hasina.
The prime minister also inaugurated and opened the Nandigram Upazila Complex Extension Building and Hall, the Shahjahanpur Thana and Education for Visual Disabilities building, the Shibganj Upazila Freedom Fighters Complex, the Shonatala Shicharparha – 3 village project, 12 rehabilitation centres in the Sariakandi Upazila, solar powered irrigation projects in Adamdighi Upazila, the Bogra Family Planning Office, 10 Mother and Child Welfare Centres in Bogra Sadar Upazila’s Nungola Union, and a number of other buildings, roads and bridges  in the area.

The prime minister later addressed a public rally organised by the Bogra Awami League at the Santahar Stadium.

The last time Hasina went to the northern district was in 2015.

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A productive year for agriculture (South Asia : BHUTAN )

A productive year for agriculture : BHUTAN

http://www.kuenselonline.com/a-productive-year-for-agriculture/

February 25, 2017 

Yearender | Agriculture: The agriculture sector, that 58 percent of the population depends on for their livelihood, experienced some major milestones in the year of the Monkey.
Bhutan exported eggs to Kolkata, India for the first time.
The Farm Mechanisation Corporation was established and will provide farmers with machinery and mechanisation services at low and subsidised rates.
The Kuchi Diana Irrigation scheme, one of the largest in the country, in Yoeseltse gewog in Samtse was inaugurated. The 7.2km irrigation canal benefits more than 300 households of Yoeseltse and Sangacholing gewogs and covers more than 950 acres.
The ministry launched the much awaited National Forest Inventory Report. The three and a half years survey found that 71 percent of the country is under forest cover with an estimated tree count of 816.5 million trees.
The year also saw several important event and launches, the notable ones being the Highland Festival in Laya, the native poultry or breeding and conservation centre in Lhuentse, the National Mastiff Breeding Centre at Gasa, and National Yak Breeding Farm in Haa.
The new Regional Tiger and Cat Research Centre at Tingtibi, Zhemgang, and the Southern Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sarpang could bring much needed relief to the welfare of wildlife.
A newly discovered dragonfly was named the Gyalsey Emerald Spreadwing.
Electric fencing continues to protect crops from wildlife depredation. The ministry installed more than 651km of electric fencing in the 20 dzongkhags using locally fabricated materials. The fences benefit nearly 4,000 households and covers 6,000 acres of dry and wet lands.
India’s demonitisation campaign affected the cash crop export business. Farmers from Wangdue waited for more than a month to get paid for their potatoes.
Then there were the bans. The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) in May declared a ban on the import of beans and cauliflowers as test results showed toxic pesticide residues beyond the permissible limits. The country imported these vegetables from Falakata, India.
The authority then on July 24 banned the import of chillies from India for same reason after tests in regional testing centres in India and Thailand.
Immediately after the ban, local chilli producers and vendors hiked prices to more than Nu 400 a kilogramme.
The agriculture ministry scanned neighbouring states for safe chillies to import. The ministry’s winter chilli production plan misfired as the Food Corporation of Bhutan had to continue supplying about 20 metric tonnes of chillies across the country.
Some people were even arrested for illegally importing chillies from across the border.
The authority then banned the use of Potassium Bromate in bread or baked food products in July.
Citing toxic levels of heavy metals in seaweed products, BAFRA banned the import and sale of all forms of seaweed through a public notification on November 14.
The ministry continued to construct farm roads, distribute power tillers and green houses, and set up farm shops in every gewog.
The 100th of 200 planned farm shops was inaugurated in Sakteng, Trashigang. These farm shops market local farm produce and cater to the basic needs of farmers.
The government increased the loan ceiling of the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd (REDCL) from Nu 100,000 to Nu 500,000. As of today, 2,200 projects have been approved amounting to Nu 617 million.
Human-wildlife conflict and lack of irrigation facilities remain the two most challenging issues for the agriculture sector.
The continued existence of Human-Wildlife Conflict committees, also known as gewog environment conservation committees that have been formed to compensate in some form the loss of livestock or crops to wild animals, is currently under review.
There are 46 such committees formed in 15 dzongkhags across the country since the inception of the Human-Wildlife Conflict endowment fund in 2010. The forestry department had a target of establishing 126 such committees by the end of the 11th Plan from 11 in 2012.
Tshering Palden

Huge potential for Indian mfg cos in CLMV region: Nirmala

Huge potential for Indian mfg cos in CLMV region: Nirmala


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/huge-potential-for-indian-mfg-cos-in-clmv-region-nirmala/articleshow/57374703.cms 

| Feb 27, 2017 

Jaipur, Feb 27 () Indian companies in sectors like textiles, agri equipment, pharma and automobile have a huge opportunities to set up manufacturing units in Southeast Asian countries, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.
The CLMV nations (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) enjoy duty benefits under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSPs) of developed countries like the US and EU and this can be an attractive incentive for domestic units to set up manufacturing facilities there.
The Commerce and Industry Minister said: "There is an immense potential for us to tap these nations." She was here for the 4th India-CLMV Business Conclave, organised by CII.
She also said that these four countries are covered under the India-Asean free trade agreement and "Indian manufacturers could better utilise this agreement".
Addressing businessmen from both the sides, she said companies from both the regions can increase collaborations in sectors like skill development, agri equipment, plantation crops (coffee and pepper), two and three wheelers and pharma.
Speaking at the conclave, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said the state holds huge potential for both domestic and foreign investors.
"Rajasthan welcomes any investment queries from CLMV region," she said, adding areas where both the sides can enhance cooperation include manufacturing, textiles, pharma, fishery and healthcare.
Chhuon Dara, Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia, said the bilateral trade between India and CLMV has increased multi-fold in the last one decade.
He said CLM is an ideal place for setting up manufacturing units.
Cao Quoc Hung, Vietnamese Vice Minister of Industry and Trade, too said that both the regions can increase engagement in areas like mining and oil & gas and enhance ties in connectivity. RRI JD MKJ

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