Avoid trade wars (The Hindu)

Righting wrongs in land acquisition  (The Hindu)

Staying ahead of the double helix  (The Hindu)

 

Avoid trade wars

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of U.S. decision to impose tariffs on metal imports.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • Determined to protect vital American industries, President Donald Trump declared that he will impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, dramatically raising the possibility of a trade showdown with China and other key trading partners. World stock markets have tumbled, as United States would impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imported aluminium.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The European Union which is one of the largest trading partners of the U.S., has since vowed to return the favour through retaliatory measures targeting American exporters. The EU is expected to come out with a list of over 100 items imported from the U.S. that will be subject to scrutiny.

 

 

 

  • Mr. Trump has justified the decision to impose protective tariffs by citing the U.S.’s huge trade deficit with the rest of the world. He explained his logic in a tweet on Friday which exposed a shocking ignorance of basic economics. He likened his country’s trade deficit to a loss that would be set right by simply stopping trade with the rest of the world.

 

 

 

  • International trade, like trade within the boundaries of any country, however, is not a zero-sum game. So the trade deficit does not represent a country’s loss either, but merely the flip side of a capital account surplus. This is not to deny that there are definitely some losers, for example, the U.S. manufacturing industry which lost out to competition from countries such as China due to increasing globalisation. But throwing free trade out of the window would only make Americans and everyone else poorer.

 

 

  • With Mr. Trump’s tariffs not going down well with the EU, it will be important to see how China and other major trading partners respond to his opening salvo. They can take a leaf out of the books of major global central banks which have shown enough maturity to avoid using currency wars as a means to settle disputes.

 

Way ahead

 

  • The decision received global backlash, but it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will walk back on his decision, especially given its populist resonance. Steelworkers in key States in the U.S. played a significant role in Mr. Trump’s election win in 2016. In fact, these are the only people who will benefit from the steel and aluminium tariffs while American consumers as a whole will pay higher prices for their goods.  

 

  • Instead of retaliating with more tariffs, which could cause the current dispute to spiral into a full-fledged global trade war, the U.S.’s trading partners must try to achieve peace through negotiations.

 

Question- U.S. decision to impose tariffs on metal imports raises concern as it could launch a trade war that could hurt other industries. Analyse.

 

Righting wrongs in land acquisition

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of section 24 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • Various Indian governments had made attempts to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, but none had met with much success and the Act continued as an instrument of state oppression and forced displacement, but in 2013 it was a milestone achievement of the then government, when the historic Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act was passed in September 2013 with the full support of all political parties.

 

  • The law provided for greatly enhanced compensation, consent of those whose land was sought to be acquired and detailed rehabilitation and resettlement provisions (including employment, land for land, and other beneficial schemes). In other words, it changed the relationship between the state and the individual by empowering the latter against the former.

 

Background- the 1894 Act

 

  • This Act was a pre-independent era legislation passed by the British for enabling the Government to acquire land for meeting the needs of industrialisation and in order to assist the promoters of industry and business, incidentally allowing entrepreneurs to possess cheap land in plenty.

 

  • With the large scale infrastructure development, setting up of Special Economic Zones in the recent past and in the wake of widespread agitations by farmers in States such as West Bengal, Orissa and Karnataka, the Central Government introduced the present land Bill in Parliament in the year 2011.

 

  • The bill had to undergo much change and had to embrace all aspects of acquisition, payment of fair amount of compensation and even rehabilitation of the owners relating to large areas of land acquired/ proposed to be acquired for development of roads, highways, construction of dams/ irrigation projects etc.

 

Assessment

 

  • The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, included a retrospective clause-Section 24, provided that under certain circumstances, acquired land could be returned to affected families.

 

 

  • Data are being compiled, but it would be correct to say that thousands of families who had previously given up all hope had their acquisition proceedings set aside and their land returned under Section 24, this Section was upheld and imbued with substance by several judges of the Supreme Court and various High Courts. But the government brought in a draconian ordinance on January 1, 2015 to render this Section inoperative along with many other progressive and pro-farmer provisions in the 2013 law. 

 

 

  • However, in the face of overwhelming nationwide protests led by like-minded parties, on August 30, 2016, the prime minister announced the withdrawal of the amendments proposed by his government.

 

 

  • The Supreme Court, in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (February 2018), has effectively implemented the provisions of the lapsed ordinance with regard to the retrospective clause. Given that it is at variance with other Benches on the issue, this has now led to the constitution of a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court to decide whether the Section has to be interpreted expansively or in a narrow sense.

 

 

  • The Supreme Court decision in the Indore case does two things-

 

  • Firstly it relaxes the existing definition of compensation paid from the active requirement of offering the compensation and depositing the same in court (laid down by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in a historic 2014 decision). Now, an offer followed by deposit in the government’s own treasury is sufficient to qualify as compensation paid.

 

  • Secondly. on the subject of physical possession, it lays down that the period where the government is prevented from taking possession of the land due to the operation of a stay order or injunction shall not be counted towards the stipulated five-year requirement.

 

  • As the Supreme Court gets ready to decide on the fate of this Section in a law that has positively impacted the lives of several farmers, land owners, it would be appropriate to revisit the legislative intention that existed at the time of its drafting.

 

  • It was clear at the draft stage itself that a new law on land acquisition would necessarily have to address the cases of those who had suffered (and continued to suffer) due to the unacceptable provisions of the 1894 law. There were still conflicts surrounding acquisitions that had been initiated decades earlier and where the acquired land was lying unused, bringing no benefit to the state or the former owner.

 

Way ahead

 

  • The Supreme Court of India has often been at the forefront in the fight for the rights of the individual vis-a-vis the state. It has on several occasions secured far-reaching protections for the individual and made legislative safeguards stronger. We hope that the new five-judge Bench will continue in this fine tradition.

 

QuestionExplain the issue of Section- 24 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013).

 

Staying ahead of the double helix

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that there is need of law against genetic discrimination.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

 

  • In a significant judgment, the Delhi High Court recently had termed “unconstitutional” discrimination in health insurance policies by United India Insurance Company involving a person with a heart condition which was perceived to be a genetic disorder. 

 

 

 

  • The court held, “Discrimination in health insurance against individuals based on their genetic disposition or genetic heritage, in the absence of appropriate genetic testing and laying down of intelligible differentia, is unconstitutional.”

 

 

 

  • With the recent decision, it has become imperatives that due social and ethical consideration given to genetic discrimination as the implications are far-reaching and can affect everyone.

 

 

Genetic discrimination

 

  • Genetic discrimination (GD) is understood to be differential treatment of those not showing symptoms but who are nevertheless treated differently on the basis of any real or assumed genetic characteristics.

 

  • GD is nothing new, there were robust policies of eugenics in the U.S. in the 1900s. These led to laws in many States that made sterilisation compulsory for those who expressed a range of conditions believed to be inherited.

 

  • Such conditions covered those with disability, who were poor, had mental health problems, were promiscuous, were dwarfs, and so on. Eugenics was also practiced in many countries in Europe, not just in Nazi Germany. Nordic countries, for example, passed eugenics laws in the 1930s and some of those stayed in the books until the 1970s.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • While the specific features of this case may depend on clauses in the original policy, this is a critical court decision around the broader question of discrimination on the basis of one’s genetic predisposition. As technology for genetic testing and tools to gather family history and compile them in databases become cheaper and more widespread the implications are far-reaching and can affect everyone.

 

 

  • With newer and cheaper methods to sequence entire genomes, the era of expanded genetic testing is already upon us, although not everyone may associate it with eugenics. Whether specific genetic tests themselves are scientifically valid, whether they add value to those tested, and whether they should be generalised for populations or communities raise a separate but linked set of issues.

 

  • In the U.S., the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law in 2008. GINA provides strong protection against access to genetic information and genetic discrimination in the context of health insurance and employment. It prohibits insurers from “requesting or requiring” genetic tests from an individual or members of the person’s family, or using genetic information to determine eligibility or establish premiums. It also prohibits employers from “requesting or requiring” genetic information for hiring or promotional decisions, or when determining eligibility for training programmes.

 

  • Geneticists are not in agreement on the usefulness of genetic tests or even on their veracity. Most importantly, very few single-gene health problems exist and the vast arrays of common diseases are related to the functioning of networks of genes in the milieu of other central cellular components and depend on lifestyle and environment.

 

Miscommunications

 

  • There is a popular notion of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) being the central and only player in cellular and genetic information and disease with a mere unfolding of characteristics is deeply flawed. While there is mounting evidence to oppose this perception of DNA as a master molecule, there is a lot of miscommunication among scientists and the media on this topic wherein a gene that codes for a protein associated with the outward expression of a condition is regarded as its cause.

 

  • Correcting this perception, even when genetic reductionist paradigms have shifted, is an uphill battle when commercial interests such as testing have been unleashed. India needs a law that prevents genetic discrimination. In this era of rampant genetic testing, we need to prevent discrimination and uphold “equal treatment under the law”.

 

  • Would the court have ruled the same way if the insurance company had done a genetic test and included a clause that this particular heart condition would not be covered? Equality under the law cannot have exceptions.

 

 

  • The situation is likely to get worse as people become more accepting of predictive genetic tests and insurance companies insist on them; at the moment, they generally use family medical history as the basis for determining premiums. In the medium term, there are also serious concerns related to the protection and privacy of medical and genetic data.

 

 

Way ahead

 

 

  • There should be no discrimination based on genetic information. Insurance is developed from pooling risks. If companies begin to insist on tests for everyone, then potentially no one will be insurable. Only universal health care can therefore be a viable solution.

 

 

Question Explain why the insurance law must be revisited to remove unreasonable exclusions in health policies?