Daily Current Affairs 01.08.2022( The need for a distinction between blasphemy and hate speech, The technology powering hybrid electric vehicles, PMLA verdict an erosion of constitutional buffers, India’s ‘wheat waiver’ WTO demand is risk-fraught, Core constraints)

Daily Current Affairs 01.08.2022( The need for a distinction between blasphemy and hate speech, The technology powering hybrid electric vehicles, PMLA verdict an erosion of constitutional buffers, India’s ‘wheat waiver’ WTO demand is risk-fraught, Core constraints)


1. The need for a distinction between blasphemy and hate speech

What is the history of Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code? How should “blasphemy” be treated in the statute as opposed to hate speech?

The legality of Section 295(A) was affirmed by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. The court said that the punishment under Section 295(A) deals with aggravated form of blasphemy which is committed with the malicious aim of offending any religious sensibilities.

Insulting a religion may be disputed but should not be legally outlawed. The reason for this is because hate speech laws are predicated on the critical distinction between criticising religion and encouraging prejudice towards individuals because of their faith.

Blasphemy laws which prohibit religious criticism in general are incompatible with the principles of a democratic society.

Kumar Kartikeya Kamya Wahal

The story so far: While Mohammad Zubair of Alt News was arrested for tweeting a still picture from a movie that had some religious context attached to it, Nupur Sharma, a member of the BJP, has been absconding with no coercive action taken against her for her inflammatory remarks on a prime-time TV show. Have the inadequacies of free speech laws been exemplified in these cases? What regulations govern criticism versus hate speech?

What is the history of Section 295 (A)?

As far as laws in India go, there isn’t formal legislation against blasphemy. The closest equivalent to a blasphemy law is Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which punishes any speech, writings, or signs that “with premeditated and malicious intent” insult citizens’ religion or religious beliefs with a fine and imprisonment for up to three years.

The history of Section 295(A) of the IPC can be traced back to 95 years. In 1927, a satire was published which had obscene parallels to the Prophet’s personal life. It was indeed very offensive to the Muslim community but the erstwhile High Court of Lahore observed that the author of this cannot be prosecuted as the writing did not cause animosity or hostility between any communities. Thus, the offense did not fall under Section 153(A), which dealt with maintaining public tranquility/order. However, this incident gave rise to a demand that there be a law to protect the sanctity of religions, and thus, Section 295(A) was introduced.

The legality of Section 295(A), which had been challenged in the Ramji Lal Modi case (1957), was affirmed by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. The apex court reasoned that while Article 19(2) allows reasonable limits on freedom of speech and expression for the sake of public order, the punishment under Section 295(A) deals with aggravated form of blasphemy which is committed with the malicious aim of offending the religious sensibilities of any class.

How has the legislation been interpreted?

Down the line, the apex court redefined the test it laid down in the Ramji Lal Modi case. It decided that the connection between speech and disorder must be like a “spark in a powder keg”.

In the case of Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh vs Ram Manohar Lohia the Supreme Court stated that the link between the speech spoken and any public disorder caused as a result of it should have a close relationship for retrieving Section 295(A) of IPC. By 2011, it concluded that only speech that amounts to “incitement to impending unlawful action” can be punished. That is, the state must meet a very high bar before using public disturbance as a justification for suppressing expression.

Should there be a difference between blasphemy laws and hate speech laws?

The wording of Section 295(A) is considerably too wide. It cannot be stated that deliberate disrespect to religion or religious sensibilities is necessarily tantamount to incitement. The Supreme Court has said on several occasions that perhaps the goal of hate speech statutes in Section 295(A) is to prevent prejudice and ensure equality. Unfortunately, there is a huge disparity between this interpretation and the actual wording due to which the law is still being exploited at all levels of administration.

Insulting religion or religious figures may be disputed or condemned but it should not be legally outlawed or prosecuted. The reason for this is because hate speech laws are predicated on the critical distinction between criticising or ridiculing religion and encouraging prejudice or aggression towards individuals or a community because of their faith.

Are hate speech cases rising?

As per the data given by the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB), there has been a huge increase in cases registered promoting hate speech and fostering animosity in society. The data reads that while there were only 323 cases registered in 2014, it had increased to 1,804 cases in 2020.

However, this can also be due to the steep turns in the dynamics of our current society. Section 295(A) is now usually used to penalise religious dissent, satire, and any comedic content with religious references.

Bogus cases of 295(A) have been launched on certain web series like Tandav, which reportedly offended religious emotions.According to the filed FIR, the series purportedly presents Hindu gods in a demeaning manner.

There have also been incidents where citizens performing stand-up comedy have been arrested only because they had religious references in their script.

The inadequacies of the rules of free speech are further exemplified in the previously mentioned cases of Mohammad Zubair and Nupur Sharma.

These cases show how regulations don’t draw a line between criticism and premeditated hate speech. Failing to articulate these distinctions diminishes fair use of the Section and makes it more difficult to define and penalise the actual crime of hate speech.

How should one deal with incidents of blasphemy?

Blasphemy laws which prohibit religious criticism in general are incompatible with the principles of a democratic society. In a free and democratic society, there should be no screening of discourse and dissent. The only feasible solution that stands on the thin line of protection of faith and questioning hate speech should be keeping blasphemy in the statutes but de-criminalising it.

2. The technology powering hybrid electric vehicles

What are the pros and cons of hybrid electric vehicles? How is it different from normal EVs?

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) uses an ICE (a petrol/diesel engine) and one or more electric motors to run. It is powered by the electric motor alone, which uses energy stored in batteries, by the ICE, or both

The efficiency of HEVs will be determined by their ability to recover as much energy as possible while braking, with a higher degree of energy recovery lowering fuel consumption. A regenerative braking system (RBS) while enhancing fuel economy also helps in energy optimisation resulting in minimum energy wastage.

The HEVs can be categorised into micro, mild and full hybrid vehicles, based on the degree of hybridisation. The hybrid variants of the Maruti Suzuki’s Grand Vitara and the Toyota’s Urban Cruiser Hyryder can be classified as full and mild hybrids.

Ishan Patra

The story so far: In recent months, automakers Maruti Suzuki, Toyota and Honda have launched hybrid electric vehicles in India, offering car buyers more choices in the nascent electric vehicle market. These new hybrid electric vehicles from different automakers, are relying on hybrid technology and its advantages over conventional internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered vehicles to change car buyers’ minds.

What is a hybrid electric vehicle?

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) uses an ICE (a petrol/diesel engine) and one or more electric motors to run. It is powered by the electric motor alone, which uses energy stored in batteries, by the ICE, or both. The powertrain of the HEV is more complex than a regular ICE-powered car as it has EV components and a conventional ICE. That means a typical HEV will have a low-voltage auxiliary battery, a traction battery pack to store electricity for the electric motor, an electric generator, an AC/DC converter, a power electronics controller, a thermal system to maintain working temperature, an ICE, a fuel tank, a fuel filler, a transmission and an exhaust system.

How do HEV powertrains work?

HEV powertrains are designed to power cars in a series, parallel or series-parallel (power split) methods. A series HEV uses only the electric motor to drive the wheels, while the ICE powers the generator, which in turn recharges the battery. A parallel HEV, based on the driving condition, uses the best power source to power the vehicle. It will alternate between the electric motor and the ICE to keep the car moving.

A series-parallel HEV offers a combination of both models and allows to split power, wherein power is routed from the ICE alone or from the battery to the electric motor to drive the vehicle. Moreover, in all three designs, the battery is charged through regenerative braking technology.

How does regenerative braking work?

A regenerative braking system (RBS) used in automotive applications has several advantages like better braking efficiency in stop-and-go traffic which enhances fuel economy and also helps in reducing carbon emissions. Besides, RBS also helps in energy optimisation resulting in minimum energy wastage.

Based on the type of RBS, the energy recovery happens in multiple ways. A kinetic system can recover the energy lost during braking and then use this energy to recharge the high-voltage battery of the vehicle. An electric system generates electricity through a motor during sudden braking. Lastly, a hydraulic system uses pressurised tanks to store the vehicle’s kinetic energy and can offer a high energy recovery rate which is ideal for heavy vehicles.

The efficiency of HEVs and EVs will in large part be determined by their ability to recover as much energy as possible while braking, with a higher degree of energy recovery lowering fuel consumption. The amount of recoverable energy depends upon factors like vehicle speed and stopping pattern. The adoption of regenerative braking technology in the auto industry is increasing on account of the operating efficiency of vehicles through reduced fuel consumption and the extended range of batteries.

Maruti Suzuki, Toyota and Honda have introduced HEVs with multiple powertrain choices, including self-charging strong-hybrid electric vehicles (SHEVs) that use RBS for self-charging the HEVs. As per a study by iCAT, a government testing agency, SHEVs can run 40% of the distance and 60% of the time as an EV with the petrol engine shut off.

While regenerative braking systems are already available in most EVs, the technology is also used in electric railways. Rail transit can be described as frequent acceleration and braking of trains across many stations. This increases the potential for braking energy recovery using energy storage systems, which can recuperate and reuse braking energy from metro cars, further enhancing energy efficiency. A portion of a train’s energy consumption can be saved by using traction systems that allow regenerative braking.

What are the different types of HEVs?

The HEVs can be categorised into micro, mild and full hybrid vehicles, based on the degree of hybridisation. The hybrid variants of the Maruti Suzuki’s Grand Vitara and the Toyota’s Urban Cruiser Hyryder can be classified as full and mild hybrids.

A full HEV will have a larger battery and a more powerful electric motor compared with a mild HEV. As a result, a full HEV can power the vehicle for longer distances using just electric mode, whereas a mild HEV cannot drive using only the electric motor and uses the battery at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic to support the ICE. Micro hybrids do not offer electric torque assistance as they lack an electric motor, but they have an idle stop-start system and energy management functions. Full HEVs offer better fuel economy compared with the other two types of HEVs but they also cost more than them.

Then there are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that are just like full HEVs, but they can be charged using a wall outlet, as they have an onboard charger and a charging port. PHEVs generally use the electric motor until the battery is almost drained, and then automatically switch to the ICE. PHEVs accounted for about 23% of 1.95 million global EV shipments in the first quarter of 2022, as per market research firm Counterpoint.

What are the main advantages of using hybrid technology?

Fuel efficiency is a major factor for most people considering buying a car. Most vehicles with hybrid technology offer better fuel efficiency, more power, and minimum emissions. The design of hybrid vehicles for reduced engine size and car weight as compared to ICE vehicles, translates into increased mileage to favour the demand for these vehicles. Moreover, with the increase in total power and torque, HEVs can deliver instant torque and provide high torque even at low speeds.

What are some challenges of hybrid technology?

In a price-sensitive market like India, one of the major challenges for HEVs is the high vehicle cost. Battery, a vital component of an HEV, increases the cost of the vehicle, making it pricier than vehicles powered only by an ICE. The RBS also adds to the higher cost of an HEV.

Are HEVs helping the auto industry transition from ICE vehicles to EVs?

The automotive industry is transitioning, with an increasing focus on hybrid and battery electric vehicles (BEVs or EVs). Meanwhile, the rise in fossil fuel prices, increase in the adoption of clean mobility solutions, and stringent government norms for emission control drive the growth of the global EV market.

“SHEVs will play a critical role not only in reducing fossil fuel consumption, carbon emissions and pollution but also in creating a local EV parts manufacturing eco-system while simultaneously protecting the huge existing investments and jobs related to ICE parts manufacturing thus ensuring a faster and disruption-free technology transition,” Vikram Gulati, EVP at Toyota Kirloskar Motor, told The Hindu.

He further added, “SHEV adoption will also accelerate BEV adoption as these technologies have common electric powertrain parts that will help in creating aggregation of demand at parts level for local manufacturing, thereby helping in reducing cost for SHEVs and BEVs to create a viable ecosystem for electrified vehicles.”

3. Editorial-1: PMLA verdict, an erosion of constitutional buffers

It enables the reintroduction of an ‘unconstitutional’ law and also holds that the linked bail conditions are not arbitrary

India’s criminal justice system, we are led to believe, is built on a set of received axioms that are inherent to the basic precepts of justice and fairness. These include the idea that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty; the idea that a person detained on suspicion of having committed an offence would be entitled to bail pending trial; the idea that a criminal law ought not to be retroactive; the idea that a person accused of an offence must be informed of the charges made against him; and the idea that a suspect has a privilege against incriminating herself.

Today, each of these principles is so consumed by a welter of exceptions that their bases have lost all vigour. Regrettably, this erosion in our values has time and again received the Supreme Court of India’s imprimatur. The latest example is the judgment of a three-judge bench in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary vs Union of India, delivered on July 27. In it, the Court has upheld vast parts of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, despite the law’s inversion of seemingly time-honoured maxims of criminal jurisprudence.

Defined in vague terms

Briefly put, “money laundering” refers to the process through which the proceeds from criminal activity are masked with a view to concealing their illegitimate source. From the mid-1980s onwards, countries around the world began to see a need to introduce special legislation to curb and punish this process. The PMLA came out of these initiatives. It defines the crime itself in vague terms. Section 3 of the Act says, “Whosoever directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists or knowingly is a party or is actually involved in any process or activity connected with the proceeds of crime including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming it as untainted property shall be guilty of offence of money-laundering.”

The definition makes for difficult reading. But as we can see it is pegged on the use of what is termed as “proceeds of crime”. This phrase is separately defined to mean property that is obtained out of the commission of a crime “relating to a scheduled offence”. The schedule, in the law’s present iteration, contains an array of breaches under 30 different statutes. These range from specific offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, such as murder, extortion and kidnapping, and offences under laws such as the Arms Act, 1959 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, to more minor infractions under the Copyright Act, 1957, and the Trade Marks Act, 1999. The judgment in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary confirms what ought to have been obvious on a bare reading of the law: although the offence under the PMLA is separately prosecutable, unless the proceeds of crime relate to a “scheduled offence” — or what is also described as a predicate offence — no case can be made out under the statute. In other words, if a person is ultimately acquitted or discharged in a case concerning the predicate offence, the charge under the PMLA can no longer be maintained.

The dangers

This finding, routine by itself, is perhaps the only silver lining in the judgment. As scholars of criminal law will surely attest to in the days to come, in almost every other regard the ruling either falls back on familiar misgivings in India’s criminal procedure law, or, worse still, creates a pathway for further violations of the Constitution. The lawyer, Abhinav Sekhri, has already published a fine analysis on different aspects of the judgment, particularly on the unfounded conclusion that the PMLA is not a penal statute, but a sui generis one, which means that the law can, according to the Court, overlook several constitutional safeguards, including the right against self-incrimination.

A section and bail conditions

Although many of the conclusions in the judgment are tenuous, none is more striking, and more damaging, than its ruling upholding Section 45. This provision imposes twin conditions for bail. Apart from mandating that the prosecutor is allowed a hearing before bail is granted, the clause also requires the court to be satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds” for believing that the accused is not guilty of the offence and that he or she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.

In its previous version, prior to an amendment made in 2018, the law classified the predicate offences contained in the schedule into two categories. It separated those which carried with it an imprisonment for a term no less than three years from other offences. The twin requirement was mandated only for those cases where the predicate offence was viewed as more serious. A two-judge Bench in Nikesh Tarachand Shah vs Union of India declared this version unconstitutional. The Court found the classification between offences unreasonable and the conditions themselves too disproportionate.

Now, Parliament could have introduced a new provision for bail, by removing the defects pointed out by the Court. But instead it chose to delete the classification that it had made, and imposed through Section 45 the twin conditions for all offences under the PMLA. The petitioners in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary argued that the legislature could not have validly amended a law that had already been declared unconstitutional. The Court, however, held that the judgment in Nikesh Tarachand Shah did not obliterate the provision and that Parliament was entitled to revive the law by deleting its defects. In this vein it found that the only flaw highlighted in Nikesh Tarachand Shah was the classification distinguishing different manners of offences in Section 45, which had now been removed.

This might have been an acceptable conclusion if Nikesh Tarachand Shah had indeed struck down Section 45 only on this ground. But a reading of the judgment shows (and strangely these portions find mention in the latter parts of the ruling in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary) that the Court also found the twin conditions by themselves manifestly arbitrary. Nikesh Tarachand Shah distinguished crimes of terror from crimes under the PMLA and pointed out that in virtually requiring something akin to a finding of innocence at the stage of bail, Section 45 far outweighed the ordinary demands of a penal law. This, therefore, should have meant that a provision for bail could not have been reintroduced into the PMLA without explicitly removing the twin conditions.

Yet, Vijay Madanlal Choudhary not only grants sanction to Parliament’s effort at reintroducing a law previously declared unconstitutional but also holds that the requirements for bail are by no means arbitrary or unreasonable. This, the judgment does, not through any independent analysis of the PMLA’s objectives, but through a mere equation, in the Court’s belief, of the offence of money laundering with the offence of terrorism. The Court arrives at this finding unmindful of the fact that the predicate offences contained in the Schedule include crimes ranging from the discharging of pollutants under the Environment Protection Act to penalties for applying for a false trade mark under the Trade Marks Act.

Test of proportionality

We are fast approaching the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s judgment in K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India. In it, a nine-judge Bench declared the existence of a right to privacy. But the verdict turned momentous because it went beyond this otherwise unremarkable declaration. The Court held that fundamental rights operate not in silos, but by giving and taking meaning from each other and that any invasion of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom must satisfy a test of proportionality. This meant that every time the state impinged on a right, it had to show, among other things, that there existed not only a rational nexus between the law made by it and the objective at stake but also that it had satisfied itself that there were no less invasive means available to achieve the same aim.

Applied in its true spirit, Puttaswamy ought to have transformed India’s constitutional landscape. In theory, the Court had provided a road map for a jurisprudence grounded in ideas of justice, fairness, and due process. But the grand principles championed there in the abstract have failed to translate into genuine constitutional advancement. Instead, personal liberty has increasingly come to be seen as a pettifogging irrelevance.

4. Editorial-2: India’s ‘wheat waiver’ WTO demand is risk-fraught

Such a stand will dilute its core agenda of pushing for a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security

One of the cardinal demands of India in the World Trade Organization (WTO) — and rightly so — has been to find a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding (PSH) of food to protect India’s food security (PSH policy). India’s PSH policy is based on procuring food from farmers at an administered price (minimum support price or MSP), which is generally higher than the market price. The PSH policy serves the twin objectives of offering remunerative prices to farmers and providing subsidised food to the underprivileged.

However, under WTO law, such price support-based procurement from farmers is counted as a trade-distorting subsidy, and if given beyond the permissible limit, breaches WTO law. Currently, India has temporary relief due to a ‘peace clause’ which bars countries from bringing legal challenges against price support-based procurement for food security purposes. However, a permanent solution to this issue is still not in the offing.

The WTO ministerial meeting in June at Geneva did precious little to address this issue. Paragraph 10 of the declaration on food security adopted at the Geneva ministerial states: “We recognize that adequate food stocks can contribute to the realization of Members’ domestic food security objectives and encourage Members with available surplus stocks to release them on international markets consistently with WTO rules”.

As I have argued, prima facie this might show that India’s concerns about the PSH issue have been taken on board. However, for India, the real issue is not about maintaining adequate food stocks, which WTO rules do not prohibit, provided food is stocked by employing non-trade distorting instruments such as providing income support to farmers (cash transfers independent of crop production). India’s concern is that it should have the policy space to hold public food stocks using the MSP, which is a price support instrument. However, there is no mention of price support in the Geneva declaration.

New dimension

Conspicuously, in the run-up to the WTO ministerial meeting and, subsequently, India’s demand for a permanent solution to the PSH policy has acquired a new dimension. India insists that it should also be allowed to export food, most notably wheat, from the pool of the foodgrain procured under the MSP. This demand was recently re-articulated by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the G20 meeting in Indonesia. The Russia-Ukraine war has unleashed a food crisis in many countries. India perhaps wishes to capitalise on this opportunity.

However, WTO law proscribes countries from exporting foodgrain procured at subsidised prices. There is a sound economic rationale behind it. Allowing a country to export foodgrain procured at subsidised prices would give that country an unfair advantage in global agricultural trade. The country concerned will sell foodgrain in the international market at a very low price, which, in turn, might depress the global prices and have an adverse impact on the agricultural trade of other countries. Accordingly, paragraph 4 of the 2013 WTO decision on PSH for food security purposes, clearly states that countries procuring food for food-security purposes shall ensure that such procured food does not “distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other Members”.

The same spirit is reflected in paragraph 10 of the Geneva ministerial food security declaration, which states that countries may release surplus food stocks in the international market in accordance with WTO law.

Debatably, the WTO may agree to a temporary waiver to allow the export of wheat from public stockholdings given the ongoing food crisis in some countries. In fact, before the WTO ministerial meeting, India reportedly requested such a waiver. However, it is very unlikely that such a request will be acceded to.

The history of waivers at the WTO is fraught with huge let-downs. The recently adopted waiver on intellectual property (IP) for COVID-19 medical products is a case in point. The IP waiver is restricted to only COVID-19 vaccines and does not cover diagnostics and therapeutics. The shallowness of the IP waiver is further reinforced by the fact that it is limited to only patents and does not cover other IP rights.

Moreover, as per Article IX.3 of the WTO Agreement, waivers can be adopted only in “exceptional circumstances”. The WTO filibustered for two years acknowledging a once-in-a-century pandemic such as COVID-19 as an “exceptional circumstance” for the IP waiver. Thus, the possibility of it recognising an ongoing war between two nations as an “exceptional circumstance” to adopt a waiver for permitting wheat exports from public stocks is profoundly remote.

What the focus should be

Developed countries have historically opposed India’s PSH programme as they apprehend that India might divert some of its public stock to the international market, thus depressing global prices. While this argument should be taken with a pinch of salt, India actively pushing for exporting food from its official granaries gives fresh ammunition to the naysayers to stick to their guns in opposing a permanent solution to the PSH issue. Thus, India should revisit its stand on asking for a waiver for wheat exports from its public stockholding, which, in any case, was not a part of India’s PSH policy. Besides, as reported, the Government’s wheat procurement has been 57.5% less than the original target for this season. So, if the public procurement has been so low, what is the point in asking for a waiver to export wheat from the public stock?

Spending scarce negotiating capital on this issue might dilute India’s core agenda of pushing for a permanent solution for its PSH programme to attain the goal of food security and providing remunerative prices to the farmers. The laudable objective of helping countries facing food crises can be accomplished by strengthening India’s commitment to the United Nations World Food Programme. Or, if the domestic situation ameliorates, India can lift the ban imposed on private traders to export wheat. Negotiations at the WTO require crystal clarity of the core objectives that should be relentlessly pursued. Adding newer objectives and shifting goalposts might result in falling between two stools.

5. Editorial-3: Core constraints

Infrastructure sectors’ headline growth may be robust, but is not broad-based yet 

The eight core sectors of the Indian economy not only account for over four-tenth of its measured industrial output but also serve as an indicator of the momentum in investment activity through demand for items such as cement and steel. Electricity generation is a good proxy for overall demand in the economy while fertilizer production numbers help gauge agricultural activity. So, it is heartening that the official index to measure these sectors’ output has registered two successive months of double-digit growth. Factoring in the 9.3% uptick for these sectors in April — it was 19.3% and 12.7% in May and June — the first quarter of 2022-23 has seen output growth of 13.7%, despite the high base of 26% growth in Q1 last year. Total industrial output grew 6.7% in April and 19.6% in May. Based on June’s core sectors’ data, economists reckon industrial production to rise anywhere between 9% and 13% in June. These high numbers are a tad misleading because the first quarter of 2020-21 was marred by national lockdowns, and though output did not suffer as much during the second COVID-wave in Q1 of 2021-22, economic conditions were not ideal either. In any case, these base effects will start fading from July. For better context to assess where the economic recovery stands, industrial output in May was 1.7% over pre-pandemic levels and core sectors’ output in June is 8% over 2019.

What should cause concern is that the recovery is still fragmented and dissonant. Moreover, the rebound momentum seems to be flagging as core output declined 4.08% in June over May 2022. Just four infra sectors drove most of the growth in June, led by coal output jumping 31.1% and cement rising 19.4% from 2021 levels. Crude oil output tanked again in June after a positive blip in May, while natural gas grew a mere 1.2% and steel 3.3%. Refinery products grew 15.1%, driven by higher global oil prices making exports attractive, and electricity rose 15.5%, signalling domestic demand. The monsoon would dampen coal production, pressuring generators to import more coal if electricity demand sustains. The only two sectors to record a month-on-month growth in June — cement and fertilizers — also face headwinds. Cement production is expected to taper off on the same meteorological account as coal, even as an uneven monsoon could hurt fertilizer demand. The good news is that the Centre’s capital spending, critical to sustain the recovery, bounced remarkably in June to ₹68,000 crore from an underwhelming ₹28,000 crore in May — ensuring that a quarter of the year’s target has been met in Q1. With private capital still shy, global turmoil and local inflation playing spoilsport with the recovery, it is vital that the Centre keep the pedal pressed on this front and cajoles more States into availing the ₹1 lakh crore capex loan window soon.

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