1. World is in crisis and it’s not clear how long it will last, says Modi
Global south does not have an adequate voice in global governance says PM and promises that India will amplify it during G-20 presidency
The world is facing a lasting crisis and there is no clarity about how long this “state of instability” will last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, inaugurating the Voice of the Global South Summit.
The global south does not have an adequate voice in the “eight-decade-old model of global governance” and it should shape the “emerging order, Mr. Modi said.
He added that the countries of the global south would drive the world economy in the 21st century.
“Most of the global challenges have not been created by the global south. But they affect us more. We have seen this in the impact of the COVID pandemic, climate change, terrorism and even the Ukraine conflict. The search for solutions also does not factor in our role or our voice,” the Prime Minister said.
He was addressing the two-day virtual summit that saw participation from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the leaders of a number of other countries, including Vietnam.
Mr. Modi said India’s 2023 goal was to represent the global south, assuring them that “…your voice is India’s voice. Your priorities are India’s priorities”. “As India begins its G-20 presidency this year, it is natural, our aim is to amplify the voice of the global south,” he said.
The countries of the global south should unite and change the unequal “global political and financial governance” structures, said the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the global south has been understood as the postcolonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America but over the years the definition has undergone changes as multiple regional organisations and conflicts within this vast bloc of countries have introduced changes in its composition.
2. Vegetable prices help cool inflation
A steep 15.1% fall in vegetable prices in December 2022 drove down India’s retail inflation to a 12-month low of 5.72% — keeping it below the central bank’s 6% tolerance threshold for the second straight month after a ten-month streak above it.
There was, however, little relief beyond vegetables as inflation in food items such as cereals, milk, spices accelerated further to 13.8%, 8.5% and 20.3%, respectively. For rural consumers, inflation remained high at 6.05%, with food prices rising over 5%, compared to just 2.8% in urban India.
“Excluding vegetables, retail inflation actually rose to 7.2% in December from 7% in November — led by rising prices of cereals, pulses, milk, meat and fish, and fuel,” said Crisil chief economist Dharmakirti Joshi.
Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, also hardened to 6.1% from 6% in November, which Mr. Joshi termed the “biggest worry”.
Among services, inflation remained high for personal care and effects (8.1%), household goods and services (7.43%), miscellaneous and health services (6.1%).
Fuel and light inflation stood at 11%, while clothing and footwear price rise remained sharp at 9.6% in December.
“The concern is that core CPI inflation remains sticky above 6%, with evidence of high inflation in services sector,” said Rajani Sinha, chief economist at CARE Ratings. The Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in early February, to determine if more rate hikes are warranted to cool price rise, will be ‘a close call’ amid sticky core inflation, she reckoned.
Consumer price inflation may yet inch back up to 5.8-6% this month, cautioned Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA, as food inflation will have an ‘unsupportive base’ and core inflation is expected to remain elevated through this quarter with producers passing on higher costs and the demand for services staying robust.
3. India has made marked progress in LAC infra development: Army chief
Annual ritual: Army Chief General Manoj Pande addressing the Annual Press Conference in New Delhi on Thursday.
From creating 6,000 km of border roads to improving all-weather connectivity in regions of Ladakh and Kameng, the Army has expanded infrastructure on this side of the Line of Actual Control with China, says General Manoj Pande
While there are reports of infrastructure build-up on the Chinese side, what does not come to the fore is what infrastructure has been developed on our side, Army chief General Manoj Pande said on Thursday, stating that there has been “marked improvement” and there are plans for all-weather connectivity and alternative connectivity.
Terming the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China “stable but unpredictable”, he said that in terms of numbers, there has been a slight increase in the number of Chinese troops opposite the Army’s Eastern Command, which he said came for training and have remained. He said five of the seven flashpoints have been resolved with the ongoing talks at various levels.
Elaborating on infrastructure development, Gen. Pande said in the past five years, the Border Roads Organisation has constructed close to 6,000 km of roads; of this, 2,100 km has been along the northern borders. As for the upgrade of bridges, needed to carry guns and tanks, as much as 7,450 metres of them were constructed, he stated.
“The frontier road, which runs a total of 1,800 km, will connect various valleys in Arunachal Pradesh. The plan has been reenergised and funding has been assigned. Some work on it is already under way,” General Pande said.
There is the aspect of all-weather connectivity in both Ladakh and Kameng in Arunachal, he further stated. In Ladakh, there is the Zojila tunnel and the Z-Morh tunnel, which will link the valley to Ladakh and will be operationalised by the end of the year.
For connectivity to Leh from the other side, Atal tunnel is well known. There is also the Shinku la tunnel along the Nemu-Padam-Daricha road, which again is in the final stages of approval, Gen. Pande noted. “Once this happens, there will be all-weather connectivity from both sides to Ladakh.”
Speaking about Arunachal, he said there is also better all-weather connectivity to Tawang or Kameng sector. The Sela tunnel is likely to get operational by the middle of the year and one bridge further South at Nechiphu near Bomdila.
“In the context of habitats, especially Eastern Ladakh, we have close to 55,000 troops for whom habitat has been completed,” he shared. There has also been covered heated accommodation for 400-odd guns and 500 A-vehicles, he added.
Looking for alternatives
The Army has carried out an assessment on the reliance on some of the Soviet and Russian-origin equipment in its inventory in the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and is trying to identify alternative sources for spares and ammunition that has been impacted, Gen. Pande said.
About steps taken to address this issue, he said, “We got a waiver and sanction to procure, even if it is ex-imports, for the next two or three years. We have 40 such cases, including spares and ammunition, largely pertaining to air defence and tank fleet. We are looking at how the sustenance requirement is met.”
4. Under Constitution, law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all
The public criticism aired by Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) judgment may be seen as comments by a high constitutional authority against “the law of the land”.
The Supreme Court has held that its judicial pronouncements lay down the law. Article 141 of the Constitution mandates that a law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts, even the Supreme Court.
This is what the court has been trying to convey to the government and high constitutional authorities like Mr. Dhankar in its oral observations and orders recently. That is, as long as the NJAC judgment, which upholds the Collegium system of judicial appointments, exists, the court is bound to comply with the verdict. Parliament is free to bring a new law on judicial appointments, possibly through a Constitution amendment, but that too will be subject to judicial review.
A Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and A.S. Oka has told the Attorney-General to advise the government and constitutional authorities that “it is necessary that all follow the law as laid down by this court; otherwise sections of society may decide to follow their own course…”
Now, Mr. Dhankar had remarked that judicial review, as in the case of the NJAC law, diluted parliamentary sovereignty. He had used terms such as “one-upmanship”. He had said he did not “subscribe” to the landmark Kesavananda Bharati judgment of 1973 which had propounded the idea of the Basic Structure, upheld judicial review and limited the Parliament’s power under Article 368 to amend the Constitution.
‘Checks and balances’
Yet, the very same Kesavananda Bharati verdict had made it clear that judicial review is not a means to usurp parliamentary sovereignty but only part of a “system of checks and balances” to ensure constitutional functionaries do not exceed their limits.
“We are unable to see how the power of judicial review makes the judiciary supreme in any sense of the word. This power is of paramount importance in a federal Constitution. Indeed, it has been said that the heart and core of a democracy lies in the judicial process,” the top court had observed in the Kesavananda Bharati judgment.
A classic observation in this regard was made by Chief Justice Patanjali Shastri way back in 1952 in State of Madras versus V.G. Row.
He said judicial review was undertaken by the courts “not out of any desire to tilt at legislative authority in a crusader’s spirit, but in discharge of a duty plainly laid down upon them by the Constitution”. His words were reproduced by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar in his lead opinion for the Constitution Bench in the NJAC case in October 2015.
A reading of the NJAC judgment showed how the court had discussed instances when political parties, through Parliament, had intruded in the court’s power of judicial review. The 42nd Constitution amendment introduced during the Emergency period was one. His statement that Constitution amendments constituted the “will of the people” has been repeated by successive governments in court.
“The same argument had been repeatedly rejected by this court. Article 368 postulates only a ‘procedure’ for amendment of the Constitution. The same could not be treated as a ‘power’ vested in Parliament to amend the Constitution so as to alter the ‘core’ of the Constitution, which has also been described as the ‘basic features/basic structure’ of the Constitution,” the NJAC judgment had said, while upholding judicial independence as a basic feature of the Constitution.
5. India intensified crackdown on activists, media in 2022: Human Rights Watch report
The World Report 2023 of Human Rights Watch (HRW), released on Thursday, said that Indian authorities had “intensified and broadened” their crackdown on activist groups and the media through 2022, adding that the “Hindu nationalist” Bharatiya Janata Party-led government used “abusive and discriminatory policies to repress Muslims and other minorities”.
“The BJP government’s promotion of Hindu majoritarian ideology provokes authorities and supporters to engage in discriminatory and at times violent actions against religious minorities,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said adding that the authorities should be reining in party members and supporters responsible for these abuses instead of “jailing critics and shutting down rights groups”.
The HRW said authorities across India arrested activists, journalists, and other critics of the government on what it called “politically motivated” criminal charges, including that of terrorism.
“The authorities in several BJP-ruled states demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorisation or due process as summary punishment for protests or alleged crimes,” the HRW said, adding that they also “misused” laws forbidding forced religious conversions “to target Christians, especially from Dalit and Adivasi communities”.
Referring to the release of the 11 Hindu men sentenced to life in jail in the Bilkis Bano case, and the celebration of their release by some BJP members, it said, “The action highlighted the government’s discriminatory stance toward minority communities even in cases of violence against women.”
On Jammu and Kashmir, the HRW said that even after three years of dilution of Article 370, “the government continued to restrict free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights there”.
It added that rights groups were harassed by Indian authorities throughout the country through tax raids, the use of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, and other allegations of financial irregularities.
Meanwhile, the HRW noted the increasingly liberal steps taken by the Supreme Court in India, citing the ruling to halt all use of the colonial-era Sedition law and banning of the two-finger tests to protect survivors of sexual assault.
The report said the government ‘misused’ laws forbidding forced religious conversions
6. Industrial output rebounded to 7.1% growth in Nov. after Oct. contraction
First uptick in output of consumer durables, non-durables after a streak of contractions, production grew across all six sub-sectors for the first time since June 2022; in comparison, October had seen just two sectors registering expansions
India’s industrial output bounced back to post 7.1% growth in November 2022, after shrinking 4.2% in October as per revised estimates.
The jump was aided by a base effect as November 2021 had clocked just 1% growth, but also marked a 6% uptick in output levels over October 2022, when the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) had recorded its lowest reading since November 2021.
After having contracted almost 6% in October, manufacturing output rebounded to 6.1% year-on-year growth, and logged a 6.55% sequential expansion. Mining output growth accelerated, from 2.5% in October, to 9.7%.
Electricity generation rose 12.7% in November, from just 1.2% year-on-year growth in October, but total generation shrank 1.5% from the preceding month.
‘Capital goods surge’
On end-use basis, production grew for all six sub-sectors for the first time since June, compared with just two sectors in October.
Consumer non-durables output grew 8.9% in November after four months of contraction, with production hitting the highest level since December 2021. Consumer durables output rebounded to grow 5.1% after three months of contraction, but was boosted by the base effect of a 5.7% dip in November 2021. Capital goods, which had contracted 1.7% in October, bounced up 20.7% in November and were 11.1% higher sequentially. India Ratings and Research economists warned that recovery in factory output had a long way to go and would need more policy support.
“The output levels of intermediate goods and consumer durables are less than pre-COVID levels,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha and Paras Jasrai.
7. Editorial-1: Capital stalemate
Governance is the casualty in the conflict between CM and LG in Delhi
The victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the recent Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections has added a fresh backdrop to the unceasing face-off between the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory and the elected government. Several Governors, who are all too eager to further the Bharatiya Janata Party’s politics, confront elected Chief Ministers from Opposition parties, but Delhi’s case is unique, given the vast executive power at the command of the Lieutenant Governor. The most recent flashpoint between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena came ahead of the January 6 election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the MCD, when Mr. Saxena appointed 10 aldermen and a BJP councillor to preside over the polls. The AAP alleged that Mr. Saxena had bypassed the tradition of appointing the senior-most councillor as the presiding officer. It has alleged that the aldermen appointed by Mr. Saxena were given voting rights in violation of the MCD Act, a question that remains unclarified. The party has pointed out that the Lieutenant Governor is ignoring the Council of Ministers and issuing orders to the bureaucracy directly on all matters, regardless of the division of power established by the Supreme Court between the two entities.
Technically, the Lieutenant Governor has executive control over only the three reserved subjects of police, public order and land; all other subjects (transferred subjects) lie with the elected government. But by virtue of being in control of the bureaucracy, and exercising the power to transfer, suspend or take any action against any employee of the Delhi government, the Lieutenant Governor’s authority extends beyond those. As its earlier interventions have not settled the dispute between the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government, the Supreme Court is currently examining the question afresh. Meanwhile, the relations between the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor are sliding further. The Lieutenant Governor sought a meeting with the Chief Minister, but then refused to give him time. Till October, the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister used to have weekly meetings. The Supreme Court’s calls for statesmanship and wisdom by actors have not resolved the stalemate, which is seriously impacting governance in the national capital. The heightened political competition between the AAP and the BJP has worsened the situation, but the root of it all is the legal ambiguity that needs to be dispelled.