Daily Current Affairs 13.05.2023 ( Top court ruling on services is a boost for representative government in Delhi , AYUSH collaboration with ICMR for scientific validation is right step , Inflation slips to an 18-month low of 4.7% , Centre prepares new Model Prisons Act with focus on reform , Ten Kuki legislators from Manipur demand ‘separate administration’ , Cyclone Mocha to be severe, but little threat to India: IMD , Manufacturing, electricity output drag IIP growth to a 5-month low )

Daily Current Affairs 13.05.2023 ( Top court ruling on services is a boost for representative government in Delhi , AYUSH collaboration with ICMR for scientific validation is right step , Inflation slips to an 18-month low of 4.7% , Centre prepares new Model Prisons Act with focus on reform , Ten Kuki legislators from Manipur demand ‘separate administration’ , Cyclone Mocha to be severe, but little threat to India: IMD , Manufacturing, electricity output drag IIP growth to a 5-month low )


1. Asymmetry, power

Top court ruling on services is a boost for representative government in Delhi

Asymmetric federalism has been a positive feature of India’s polity, but even the most pragmatic arrangement may not always guarantee harmonious relations between the Centre and its constituent units. The wrangling between the Union government and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) has been an endless saga for years, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly sought to lay down the terms of their relationship in the way the territory is governed. In the latest verdict, a Constitution Bench has ruled that the elected government does indeed have control over administrative services. However, it is limited to services related to the extent of its current executive and legislative powers, which extend to all subjects under the State and Concurrent Lists, except for the three excluded ones — public order, police and land. The Centre’s argument, that in the absence of a Public Services Commission for Delhi and in view of the phrase “insofar as such matter is applicable to Union Territories” the subject of ‘services’ will not fall under the Delhi government’s remit, was rejected. The Court’s unanimous verdict rejects the attempt to read the phrase as one that imposes an additional limitation on its legislative and executive powers. The Court has emphasised the sui generis nature of Delhi, so that its Union Territory status is not used to limit the role of the elected government. The five-judge Bench ruling again underlines the principle that a representative regime should not be undermined by an unelected administrator.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been embroiled in a prolonged tussle with the Lieutenant Governor over several issues, will be elated with the Court’s ruling that “the involvement of the Union of India in the administration of NCTD is limited by constitutional provisions, and any further expansion would be contrary to the constitutional scheme of governance”. However, even yet another Constitution Bench verdict underscoring the representative character of the GNCTD may not be enough to end the underlying power struggle in Delhi, as long as the Centre continues with its efforts to clip the powers of the government because of its antagonism towards the Aam Aadmi Party. It is five years since the Court observed that constitutional trust between high functionaries is needed to resolve matters, but there is no sign of the conflict abating. In practical terms, the provisions of the GNCTD (Amendment) Act, 2021, which sought to strengthen the hand of the Lt. Governor in running Delhi, may continue to be a source of conflict. The validity of its provisions is also under challenge before the Supreme Court, an indication that the legal tussle is hardly over.

2. Welcome initiative

AYUSH collaboration with ICMR for scientific validation is right step

In a welcome move, the Ministry of AYUSH and ICMR have at last joined hands to undertake quality human clinical trials to generate evidence on the benefits of using ayurveda along with modern medicine (evidence-based medicine) in treating certain disease conditions of national importance. With its decades of experience in conducting human clinical trials, it makes eminent sense to rope in the ICMR to design and conduct these trials. To begin with, the collaboration will be restricted to ayurveda. The other systems of AYUSH — yoga, unani, siddha and homoeopathy — may be included, and each system will be tested together with modern medicine when the central councils of the respective AYUSH systems are ready to work with the ICMR. An expert committee will soon decide the area/disease conditions to be included for detailed clinical testing using both ayurveda and modern medicine. Initially, clinical trials for each disease may have two arms — modern medicine as the standard of care as well as a combination of modern medicine and ayurveda. The arm that uses both ayurveda and modern medicine will, if at all, only be able to validate the superiority of combining the two for better outcomes. Scientific validation of superior outcomes of combined therapy using ayurveda and modern medicine will form the basis on which integrated medicine will be offered to patients. Encouraging trial outcomes might probably serve as a starting point to undertake further trials using ayurveda interventions alone to evaluate their effectiveness and understand the mechanism of action; this is currently not within the ambit of the agreement.

While the initiative may right away not provide scientific validation of ayurveda interventions in treating disease conditions when used singularly, it is the first major step in evidence-based approach of validating medical interventions. Though trials using ayurveda and other systems of AYUSH have been conducted in the country, they suffer from major limitations, thus making the outcomes meaningless. The ICMR’s expertise is sure to help in overcoming the major obstacle in scientific validation, which all systems of AYUSH currently suffer from. Evidence, as the practitioners of AYUSH refer to, is nothing but anecdotal, which is not an alternative to evidence-based approach. Lack of scientific validation, as a stand-alone intervention or as adjunct to modern medicine, has been the bane of alternative medicine in India. No sincere, large-scale attempts have been made to address this serious shortcoming. The collaboration with the ICMR is, therefore, a step in the right direction.

3. Inflation slips to an 18-month low of 4.7%

Reading stays below RBI’s 6% tolerance threshold for price rise; it hit a high of 7.8% last April; prices of pulses, cereals, milk remain a concern

India’s retail inflation slid to an 18-month low of 4.7% in April, staying below the Reserve Bank of India’s 6% tolerance threshold for price rise for the second successive month, aided by the base effects from last April when it had hit an eight-year high of 7.8%.

Price rise faced by urban consumers cooled to 4.85% in April from 5.9% in March, while it moderated from 5.5% to 4.7% for their rural counterparts. Inflation as per the consumer food price index eased to 3.84% last month from 4.8% in March.

Economists emphasised that the base effects from April 2022 were visible in cooling inflation across all broad segments. However, higher inflation in pulses, personal care products as well as persistent sharp upticks in prices of items such as cereals and milk pose a worry even as vegetable prices are expected to see a seasonal surge.

On a sequential basis, the consumer price index (CPI) grew 0.5% while food prices rose 0.6% from March levels, double the month-on-month rise from February to March, when the headline retail inflation on a year-on-year basis was pegged at 5.66%.

While vegetable prices continued to fall year-on-year, dropping 6.5% in April, they were up 1.8% over March 2023 prices.

Edible oils and fats’ prices witnessed deflation for the third successive month, falling a sharp 12.33% from April 2022, when the immediate aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine conflict had led to a global supply shock.

“The 4.7% inflation print in April not only benefited from the high base but also the cooler than normal temperatures last month, which delayed the seasonal rise in prices of perishable items and helped keep prices of some vegetables under check,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA.

Milk and milk products’ inflation eased only marginally from 9.3% in March to 8.85% in April, as was the case for cereals (down from 15.3% in March to 13.7% in April), and spices that cooled slightly from 18.2% to 17.4% in April.

“The sequential price momentum in items like milk and pulses remains a concern,” said CARE Ratings chief economist Rajani Sinha, who expects retail inflation to remain below 5% till June and average 5.1% for 2023-24. “Weather-related disruptions could be the main threat to food inflation and the overall CPI inflation,” she reckoned.

Bank of Baroda chief economist Madan Sabnavis said price pressures were visible in pulses as well, whose inflation rose to 5.3% in April from 4.3% in March.

“As traders wait for the new crop in October, there will be pressure on prices and inflation will be on the higher side till then. The monsoon prospects are critical here as pulses are vulnerable given limited access to irrigation,” he noted.

There was a consensus among economists that the central bank would continue its pause on interest rate hikes, emboldened by the moderation in headline inflation, but rate cuts remain unlikely amid worries about the monsoon and the kharif crop.

4. Centre prepares new Model Prisons Act with focus on reform

The MHA says the Act will serve as a guiding document for States.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023,’ that will replace a British-era law to overhaul the prison administration, which will focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates, it said on Friday.

Among the salient features of the Act are provisions of punishment for prisoners and jail staff for use of prohibited items such as mobile phones in jails, establishment and management of high security jails, open jail, and provisions for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders. It also contains provisions for providing legal aid to prisoners, parole, furlough and premature release to incentivise good conduct.

130-year-old Act

Prisons in the country and ‘persons detained therein’ are a State subject and the existing law in this context, the Prisons Act of 1894 is a pre-independence era Act and is almost 130-years-old, it said. Two other related laws — The Prisoners Act, 1900 and The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950 are also decades-old. The Model Prisons Act, the Ministry said, might serve as a “guiding document” for the States, and for adoption in their jurisdiction. The MHA said it found that there were “several lacunae” in the existing Prisons Act and there was “conspicuous omission” of the correctional focus in the existing Act.

The Ministry, hence, directed the Bureau of Police Research and Development, a Union government think tank on policing subjects, to review the laws and prepare a new draft.

“The [existing] Act mainly focuses on keeping the criminals in custody and enforcement of discipline and order in prisons. There is no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the existing Act,” it said. It said a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ was finalised with the objective of holistically providing guidance and addressing the gaps in the existing Prisons Act.

“The BPR&D after holding wide-ranging discussions with State prison authorities, correctional experts etc. prepared a draft,” the Ministry said.

5. Ten Kuki legislators from Manipur demand ‘separate administration’

After-effect: People had to take refuge in temporary shelters after the recent violence in Manipur.

The MLAs say the State government tacitly supported the ‘unabated violence’ by the majority community and miserably failed to protect the tribals; Congress blames two Meitei Hindu outfits for arson and the looting of police weapons

As many as 10 legislators from the hill districts of Manipur, which includes those from the ruling BJP, have demanded a separate administration as the “State miserably failed to protect” them when the violence started on May 3.

In a press statement, the 10 MLAs said the Government of Manipur tacitly supported the “unabated violence” by the majority Meitei community against the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals, which has already partitioned the State and effected a total separation from the State of Manipur.

Stating that to live among the majority Meitiei community was “as good as death for our people”, the MLAs said, “Our people can no longer exist under Manipur as the hatred against our tribal community has reached such a height that MLAs, Ministers, pastors, police and civil officers, laymen, women and even children were not spared.”

“As the State of Manipur has miserably failed to protect us, we seek of the Union of India a separate administration under the Constitution of India,” the statement said.

Dinganglung Gangmei, BJP MLA and Chairperson of the Hill Areas Committee, distanced himself and other Naga MLAs from this demand. “This is a communal demand. We were completely kept in the dark,” Mr. Gangmei said.

The HAC comprises of 20 MLAs of the hill areas in the State — all belonging to Scheduled Tribes. Half of these MLAs are from Kuki communities whereas the other half are from Naga communities.

Significantly, along with Kuki communities, Naga tribes have also been opposing the demand to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the Meiteis.

The Congress meanwhile alleged that Arambai Tenggol, an outfit raised on the lines of Bajrang Dal in Manipur, is behind the arson of churches and looting of weapons from police camps.

Congress party’s Manipur in-charge, Bhakta Charan Das, told The Hindu that outfits such as Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, which had the blessings of CM N. Biren Singh, destroyed churches belonging to the Meiteis too.

However, Kuldiep Singh, Security Adviser, Manipur government, said no specific group could be blamed. “Till now, we have not found any evidence that weapons were looted by a particular group. Many weapons were robbed as a large crowd had gheraoed the police camps,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu.

Arambai Tenggol and the Meitei Leepun have been around for about two-three years but gained popularity in the past one year, according to many residents.

6. Cyclone Mocha to be severe, but little threat to India: IMD

Cyclone Mocha, currently located in eastern Bay of Bengal, is likely to be stronger than initially forecast but poses little threat to India, with all of its fury likely to be concentrated in Myanmar and parts of Bangladesh, suggests the latest forecast from the India Meteorological Department.

Mocha — classified as a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ — was centred over the central and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal on Friday evening, and was moving northeastwards with a speed of 12 kmph.

“It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and intensify further into an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm over East-central Bay of Bengal during the night of Friday,” the IMD said in its evening bulletin

Forecasts regarding the strength of Mocha earlier this week had said it would at most be a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’.

Significant rain

The IMD has a five-step classification for cyclones, with the weakest classified as a ‘cyclonic storm’ (with winds around 65 to 68 kmph) and the strongest a ‘super cyclonic storm’ (>222 kmph). An ‘extremely severe cyclone’ is just one grade below a ‘super cyclonic storm’.

By the time the storm reaches land — on Sunday as the current forecast suggests — it would be a ‘very severe’ cyclone.

Many parts of the Andaman and Nicobar islands will see strong rains and winds; many parts of Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and south Assam are likely to receive significant rain.

Its effects are likely to be focused in Myanmar and parts of Bangladesh, says the forecast

7. Manufacturing, electricity output drag IIP growth to a 5-month low

Industrial production expanded 1.1% in March, braking sharply from February’s 5.8% pace as power, consumer durables and non-durables posted year-on-year contractions; factory output growth moderated to 5.1% in FY23, from 11.4% a year earlier

Industrial output growth slid to a five-month low of 1.1% in March, slowing sharply from February’s 5.8% as electricity, consumer durables and non-durables recorded contractions from a year earlier, and manufacturing expanded just 0.5%.

Mining output grew 6.8% in March, while capital goods and infrastructure goods production rose 8.1% and 5.4%, respectively. Primary goods’ output growth, however, more than halved sequentially, from 6.9% in February to 3.3% in March.

Electricity generation contracted 1.6%, marking the first decline in at least a year. The dip in power output followed three months of 10%-plus growth through January and an 8.2% uptick in February.

Flagging consumption

Consumer durables’ output shrank for the fourth month in a row, contracting 8.4%.

For fiscal 2022-23, industrial production grew 5.1%, slowing from FY22’s 11.4% pace.

Electricity generation rose 8.9% in the year with mining and manufacturing, rising 5.8% and 4.5%, respectively.

“IIP growth of 1.1%… is a major disappointment as we had expected a better number of 3.5%,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda.

“The usual year-end phenomenon of production being ramped up in March did not happen this time. The IIP numbers also don’t gel with the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) indicators, so we need to view the PMI readings with caution,” he emphasised.

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