Editorials - 04-01-2021

Allies and political alliances need to be rearranged and the country requires a new political instrument for governability

“The UPA is dead and it lies buried in akabristanin Bharuch.” This pithy observation was made by a senior Congressman, though he dare not publicly claim its authorship. The reference was to the last resting place of Ahmed Patel who was generally acknowledged to be the informal ‘convenor’ of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that ruled India from May 2004 to May 2014. Sooner or later, the polity will need to address the central issue: Is the United Progressive Alliance truly dead and has the time come to put in place a different understanding and arrangement to take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

UPA, blunted and a target

As a tender of political currency, the UPA is worth as much as a pre-demonetisation two thousand rupee note. Its only notional value is to provide a false sense of exalted importance to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who remains its titular head. As a working political arrangement, the UPA is a blunted and useless instrument.

Yet, the “UPA” remains a convenient shorthand for the amorphous political groups and parties arrayed in opposition to the NDA, even though the grouping has no common theme or purpose. Past loyalties and solidarities are not remembered among the erstwhile UPA partners, but it remains a handy object of abuse and ridicule for the Prime Minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its designated abusers. The UPA is dubbed the enemy, an unholy congregation of unprincipled leaders and parties.

The BJP gets some purchase because of the Congress’s insistence on preening itself as the centre of the UPA as it happens to be the largest party, even though its paltry kitty of 50 odd seats is not enough for it to demand the Leader of the Opposition status in the Lok Sabha. This claim, in effect, boils down to an expectation on the Congress’s part that its leader, Rahul Gandhi, be acknowledged as the potential ‘shadow’ prime minister, the only national alternative to Narendra Modi.

And that remains the rub because all potential partners are painfully aware that the Congress’s feebleness and infirmities have much to do with the whole unresolved question of a Rahul Gandhi leadership. These possible allies concede that the BJP has laughed its way to bigger and bigger Lok Sabha tallies by mocking and ridiculing the Rahul Gandhi pretensions.

Nonetheless it is pertinent to keep in mind that, on its part, the NDA, as per the 2019 results, still does not command the majority of popular vote; its combined vote share was nearly 45%, of which the BJP’s contribution was 37.4%; but, now with the departure of the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal, the NDA figure stands reduced. The majority can be said to remain firmly immune to the Modi charm.

A credible alternative

The task before the non-BJP forces and groups will remain about how to cohere in a manner as to present a credible alternative to Mr. Modi’s BJP. But before it can convert itself into an electoral entity, it will need to graft for itself a collective political persona.

It should be taken as axiomatic that these last seven years of the Modi raj have, inevitably, produced a new political economy of satisfaction and anger, a new matrix of anxieties and resentments, and a new calculus of fear and triumphalism. The political challenge is how to mobilise the emerging aspirations and unaddressed discontents; how to provide hope and encouragement to those who have been made to feel helpless, powerless, even disenfranchised.

These frustrations manifest themselves in a million mutinies, big and small, all over India. Meaningful terms such as “struggles,” “resistance” and “movements” may have disappeared from the mainstream media’s lexicon, but these continue to have a meaning and relevance as unjustness and inequities continue to define our society.

The Congress cannot be an honest partner in this venture. Both the Congress and the BJP are parties ofstatus quoand both are unsympathetic to the masses’ yearning for a gentler India. Except for apro formadifferent take on the Hindu-Muslim divide, the Congress and the BJP represent the same coin.

Platform not Congress-centric

A Congress-centric alternative to the BJP no longer works. A new national front is needed: an umbrella platform under which very many forces and individuals may get incentivised to take shelter. The Indian political class is remarkably expedient; a new consortium should enable a Naveen Patnaik to firmly de-wean away from the BJP or offer a way out to Nitish Kumar or, as also to accommodate and tame an Asaduddin Owaisi. Just as there are no permanent enemies, there can be no permanent disenchantment. Maharashtra has shown the extent to which partners and allies can be remulched.

A new national ‘front’ will have to anchor itself in a common political purpose and a shared sense of national destiny. A minimum understanding can be forged around four imperatives: first, restoring a balance between the Centre and the States — the Centre has made a mockery of the federal spirit and arrangement; restoring a sense of partnership and participation to the minorities—it is entirely unhealthy that a ruling party of 303 MPs cannot boast of a single Muslim member; restoring the constitutional institutions to their original vitality as a much needed check on arbitrary and absolute power; and, restoring a semblance to sensitivity and civility to our political life — there is too much violence and ugliness against citizens.

As a serious endeavour

All this is predicated on a premise that the non-Congress, non-BJP platform will not just be a feast of vultures but a serious endeavour in national responsibility and moral seriousness. And such a congregation should be able to hold out an assurance that these leaders are cognisant of the fault lines gnawing the polity; they will need to project a confidence that not only do they have a good idea how these breaches can be plugged but they also have what it will take to ensure that new fault lines do not ensnare the polity. That it can deliver governability and coherence, unity and stability — and, that, it would not push India into uncertainty and anarchy.

Too much of strong leadership has robbed India of its democratic exuberance and constitutional dynamism. Come to think of it, there is nothing inevitable about an extravagantly flamboyant Virat Kohli; a quiet, effective Ajinkya Rahane can also deliver.

Harish Khare is a senior journalist based in Delhi

The dilution of patent working disclosure rules hampers the effectiveness of India’s compulsory licensing regime

The central government recently published the Patent (Amendment) Rules, 2020 (https://bit.ly/3oaJZqZ), amending the format of a statement that patentees and licensees are required to annually submit to the Patent Office disclosing the extent to which they have commercially worked or made the patented inventions available to the public in the country. The amendment has significantly watered down the disclosure format, and this could hamper the effectiveness of India’s compulsory licensing regime which depends on full disclosure of patent working information. This in turn could hinder access to vital inventions including life-saving medicines, thereby impacting public health.

Disclosure of information

In exchange of a 20-year patent monopoly granted to an inventor, India’s patent law imposes a duty on the patentee to commercially work the invention in India to ensure that its benefits reach the public. In fact, the purpose of granting patents itself is to not only encourage innovation but also ensure that the inventions are worked in India and are made available to the public in sufficient quantity at reasonable prices.

A failure of this duty could trigger compulsory licensing (https://bit.ly/3pKKhVI) or even subsequent revocation (https://bit.ly/3nc9Ptj) of the patent under the Patents Act, 1970. Further, courts have refused an interim injunction in cases alleging infringement of a patent which has not been worked in India. Thus, the information on the extent of the working of the invention in India is critical for the effectiveness of these public interest measures provided by law to check abuse of patent monopoly (e.g. excessive pricing or scare supply of the invention). Accordingly, section 146(2), a unique provision not found in patent laws of most other countries (https://bit.ly/34ZOvB5), requires every patentee and licensee to submit to the Patent Office an annual statement explaining the extent to which they have worked the invention in India. The disclosure is to be made in the Form 27 format as prescribed under the Patent Rules, 2003. This statement is meant to help the Patent Office, potential competitors, etc. to determine whether the patentee has worked the invention in India and made it sufficiently available to the public at reasonable prices.

Unfortunately, patentees and licensees as well as the Patent Office have blatantly disregarded this statutory requirement. Also, there has been significant pressure from multinational corporations and the United States government to do away with this requirement.

The PIL

The recent amendment to the form was made pursuant to a PIL (https://bit.ly/3b08Jyt) filed by Shamnad Basheer before the Delhi High Court in 2015. The PIL brought to the Court’s attention the rampant non-filing and defective filing of Form 27 by patentees/licensees and sought a direction to the government to strictly enforce the patent working disclosure rules and take action against the violators. The PIL also called for a reform of Form 27 (https://bit.ly/3pIfkl9), arguing that the information it sought was grossly insufficient to ascertain the extent of the working of the patent.

Dilution of disclosure

The government acknowledged that the Form 27 format was problematic and provided an undertaking to the court to effect appropriate amendments. The court accordingly disposed of the PIL in 2018 (https://bit.ly/2JJcXiK), directing the government to complete the amendment process within the timelines mentioned in the undertaking. However, in non-compliance of the court’s order, the government published the amended form recently after a delay of almost two years. More importantly, instead of strengthening the form, the amendment has significantly weakened it further, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the amendment exercise.

Instead of calling for more elaborate details of the information already sought in the Form as suggested in the PIL, the amended form has removed the requirement of submitting a lot of such important information altogether, thus damaging the core essence of the patent working requirement and the Form 27 format. The form now requires the patentees and licensees to provide only for the following information: whether the patent has been worked or not; if the invention has been worked, the revenue or value accrued in India from manufacturing and importing the invention into India; and if it has not been worked, reasons for the same and the steps being taken towards working. They are no longer required to provide any information in respect of the quantum of the invention manufactured/imported into India, the licenses and sub-licenses granted during the year and the meeting of public requirement at a reasonable price.

How will the data on merely the revenue/value accrued from manufacturing/importing the invention enable one to determine the extent to which it has been worked and its public requirement has been met? The most basic data required for this assessment is the quantum or the total units of the invention manufactured/imported in India. It is the disclosure of this data by Bayer in Form 27 that played a crucial role in grant of India’s first compulsory license to Natco for the anti-cancer drug Sorafenib/Nexavar (https://bit.ly/3n8g9lx). The deletion of the requirement of its disclosure is thus shocking and defeats the very purpose of this Form.

The removal of the requirement of submitting any licensing information, including the disclosure of even the existence of licenses (instead of seeking further details such as names of licensees/sub-licensees and the broad terms of the licenses as suggested in the PIL), means that the patentees/licensees can just self-certify that they’ve worked the patent without having to support the claim with the data on how they’ve done so, including through licensing/sub-licensing the patent.

Further, the omission to mandate disclosure of details such as the price of the invention, its estimated demand, the extent to which the demand has been met, details of any special schemes or steps undertaken by the patentee to satisfy the demand, etc., as recommended in the PIL, makes it extremely difficult to ascertain whether the invention has been made available to the public in sufficient quantity and at an affordable price.

Impact on public interest

To conclude, the government has significantly weakened the critical duty imposed by the law on patentees/licensees to disclose patent working information, so much so that it has defeated the very purpose of it. The lack of this information could prevent invocation of compulsory licensing and other public interest measures in cases of patent abuse and make certain inventions inaccessible to the public. Such lack of accessibility in case of patented medicines could in turn have adverse consequences for public health of the country. Therefore, the government must reconsider its amendments to the form taking into account the PIL recommendations and re-amend it to restore as well as strengthen its spirit.

Pankhuri Agarwal is an IP law researcher and a Managing Editor at SpicyIP, an IP law blog. The views expressed are personal

There will possibly be a unanimous rejection of the Republican objections to Joe Biden’s electoral votes

While there is little doubt that Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021, the coming week will have major implications not only for the effectiveness of his administration but also for the future direction of U.S. politics and society.

At present, Republicans hold 52 seats and the Democrats 48 seats. Therefore, Republicans control the Senate. Unless the Democrats win both the runoff elections in Georgia, this situation will continue. Even winning one seat, which under normal circumstances would be a credible achievement, will not do any good as the Republicans will still have a majority of 51 against 49. Depending on the loyalty Donald Trump commands after January 20th and the political ambitions of the Senate majority leader, Mr. Biden may find it difficult to get even some, if not many, of his appointments ratified by the Senate let alone some of his major legislative bills. Therefore, the first issue of consequence for the Biden administration will be the results of the January 5 Senate by-elections in Georgia.

Announcing electoral votes

The second issue that will not have any direct impact on the Biden administration but would definitely affect the future course of party politics in U.S. will be on January 6 when the electoral votes are formally announced and tabulated in a Joint Session of Congress. Normally this is a sedate affair lasting less than a couple of hours and hardly attracts any attention. This year, however, it is likely to stretch out over a longer period and is likely to get minute-by-minute TV coverage and commentaries. (But that would not be unusual this election. In normal times, neither the media nor the public even notices the State Electoral College voting. This year, however, there was a day-long minute-by-minute media coverage of this process across all States.)

Why is this important this year? This process is a rather routine affair set out in the Electoral Count Act of 1887. It requires the opening and counting of electoral votes from the States — as required by the Twelfth Amendment — to commence at 1:00 p.m. on January 6, with both the Senate and the House of Representatives present in “the Hall of the House of Representatives” and the President of the Senate serving as “their presiding officer”.

Making objections

It then provides that the opening and counting of each State’s electoral votes will proceed State-by-State in alphabetical order. If there is only one submission of electoral votes from a State, the operation of the statute is acceptably straightforward and comprehensible: this submission must count according to the electoral votes contained therein unless there is an objection to the State’s electoral votes. The Act takes into account a situation where such objections are made. According to the Act, “Upon such reading of any such certificate or paper, the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any. Every objection shall be made in writing, and shall state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof, and shall be signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received.”

In the present instance, already a number of Republican Senators and Congresspersons have made known their support for such objections to be made when the results of some States carried by Mr. Biden are read out and announced. What happens when such objections are made?

The Act requires in such case: “When all objections so made to any vote or paper from a State shall have been received and read, the Senate shall thereupon withdraw, and such objections shall be submitted to the Senate for its decision; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, in like manner, submit such objections to the House of Representatives for its decision.”

What happens then? In the present instance where, from all accounts, only one “return” of electoral votes have been submitted for each of the States, the Act provides that“no electoral vote or votes from any State which shall have been regularly given by electors whose appointment has been lawfully certified to according to section 6 of this title from which but one return has been received shall be rejected, but the two Houses concurrently may reject the vote or votes when they agree that such vote or votes have not been so regularly given by electors whose appointment has been so certified.” In plain language, both the Houses must agree separately to uphold the objections and reject the votes. In the present instance, the objections will only be in respect of electoral votes won by Mr. Biden.

On January 6th, the Republicans will control the Senate with a majority of 51-48. Theoretically all the Republican Senators can vote to sustain the objection. However, the Democrats, having a strength of 222 members in a full house strength of 435, will control the House of Representatives. The House will, therefore, in all likelihood reject the objections. Since there will, under the circumstances, be no agreement between the two Houses to sustain the objection, it will be rejected and Mr. Biden’s electoral votes will not be disturbed. Therefore, the objections raised by some Republican Senators and Congresspersons are destined to fail. The lack of unanimity will be ascribed to partisan politics.

Danger for the Republicans

The real danger (to the Republican Party) is, however, that there may be unanimity between both Houses in rejecting the objections. As mentioned earlier, on January 6th there will be 51 Republican Senators and 48 Democrats. If two or more Republican Senators vote with their Democratic colleagues in rejecting the objections, then the Senate, too, would be rejecting the objections. Already according to press reports, a number of Senate Republicans have acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory, and several — including Senator Susan Collins (Maine), Patrick J. Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Mitt Romney (Utah) — have said that they plan to oppose any challenge to the electoral college vote. In addition, the Republican Senate Majority Whip John Thune isn’t whipping for or against Mr. Trump saying that the GOP leadership is letting members “vote their conscience.” Therefore, those Republican Senators who vote to sustain the objections cannot fall back on the excuse that they were following party directives. They will have to admit that they were either following their “conscience” or Mr. Trump. Both are unlikely to go well in future electoral battles.

Therefore, there is a strong possibility that there will be a unanimous rejection of the Republican objections to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes on January 6. It cannot but have some repercussions on the future direction of the Republican Party and U.S. political developments.

Dr. G. Balachandran is former Development Correspondent of The Hindu

Journalism creates a better-informed citizenry, which in turn creates a better collective future

In this first column of 2021, after a year of pandemic-induced hardships, I return to the topic that has been close to my heart for nearly four decades: journalism as a metaphor for hope. From reports on war to investigations that bring out the failures of the various arms of modern nation states, journalism’s focus is often on all the darkness around us but this is aimed at eventually bringing light to our lives.

Past, present and future

The Canadian media scholar, Herbert Marshall McLuhan, observed: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” His 1964 book,Understanding Media,was written with a perspective that human beings are “shuffling toward the twenty-first century in the shackles of nineteenth century perceptions.” At some level, past was presented both as a burden and Utopia in McLuhan’s analysis. But writer Toni Morrison looked at the rear-view mirror from a different point of view. Her fulcrum was firmly rooted in an egalitarian future — a destination towards which we drive with nearly 25% focus on the rear-view mirror (or the past) and 75% focus on the road called the present.

In her brilliant six-part ‘The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures’ at Harvard University, Morrison demonstrated how to be aware of the harshness of the past and the present and work out a way forward. She said: “But for humans as an advanced species, our tendency to separate and judge those not in our clan as the enemy, as the vulnerable and the deficient needing control, has a long history not limited to the animal world or prehistoric man. Race has been a constant arbiter of difference, as have wealth, class, and gender — each of which is about power and the necessity of control.” Her writings and approach give us not only tools to understand the world but also immense hope despite the reality of a very grim past and present.

I firmly locate good and responsible journalism within her idea of hope where past excesses are not romanticised. The pain and poignancy of struggle never become roadblocks in our march forward; they tend to become guiding markers instead. In this model, the agency is clearly with the citizens and it never gets transferred to strongmen leaders.

Some critics of journalism have asked me over the last few years what the benefits are of the two tracks of journalism: bearing witness and making sense. They argue that journalism focuses on a narrative of gloom that forces many people to avoid news altogether. However, for many, these two tracks contribute to strengthening the agency of citizens as they help them retain their curiosity to know about the happenings around them and cultivate a will for change. Silicon Valley is celebrating ideas like a custom-built news feed, personalisation, and machine learning. Its focus is more on capsuling news and analysis, which are propelled by metrics and analytics. The ideas of ‘echo chambers’ and ‘information silos’ are natural corollaries of this model. At a deeper level, the metrics-driven model looks at the present through a rear-view mirror. It successfully eschews the plurality of views as it focuses excessively on catering to the exclusive needs of an individual or an interest group.

Public good

It is my earnest view that journalism functions as a conscious breaker of silos. It has an inclusive approach where the focus remains on the idea of a public good. Despite the sway of WhatsApp, which has become the fountain head of disinformation, citizens turned to journalism when it mattered most. A survey by YouGov under its Covid-19 Consumer Monitor programme validated my theory that the ‘public good’ element in journalism will protect the sector from the vagaries of the market. The numbers for India are really encouraging. The important find of the survey was that 76% of the respondents in India said they had watched or read more news lately than they did earlier. This was the highest, followed by Japan, with 61%. The survey, contrary to popular belief, found that even those who are worried about the future opt to consume more news rather than avoid it. Journalism creates a better-informed citizenry, which in turn creates a better collective future.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

The gender gap in the agriculture sector will only widen more with the current farm laws

Eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan once said, “Some historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder, fibre and fuel.”

A common misconception

In India, whenever we talk about agriculture, we think of men as farmers. However, this is far from the truth. According to the agricultural census, 73.2% of rural women are engaged in farming activities but only 12.8% own landholdings. Due to cultural, social and religious forces, women have been denied ownership of land. This stems from the perception that farming is a man’s profession. The India Human Development Survey reports that 83% of agricultural land in the country is inherited by male members of the family and less than 2% by their female counterparts. Thus, women are mostly left without any title of land in their names and are excluded from the definition of farmers. Besides, 81% of women agricultural labourers belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, so they also contribute to the largest share of casual and landless labourers.

The government too turns a blind eye to their problem of non-recognition and conveniently labels them as ‘cultivators’ or ‘agricultural labourers’ but not ‘farmers’. Without any recognition, women are systematically excluded from all the benefits of government schemes. Moreover, they are not guaranteed the rights which they would otherwise be given if they were recognised as farmers, such as loans for cultivation, loan waivers, crop insurance, subsidies or even compensation to their families in cases where they commit suicide.

Non-recognition as farmers is only one of their problems. As the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) notes, they have unequal access to rights over land, water and forests. There is gendered access to support systems such as storage facilities, transportation costs, and cash for new investments or for paying off old dues or for other services related to agricultural credit. There is also gendered access to inputs and markets. Thus, despite their large contribution to the sector, women farmers have been reduced to a marginal section, vulnerable to exploitation.

The farm laws

Now they have a new worry: the farm laws. Since the government’s policies never aimed to reduce disparity or alleviate their distress, women farmers fear that the farm laws will further deepen gender inequality in the sector. MAKAAM, in its statement, has highlighted several issues with the laws. The first is the lack of any mention of MSP (minimum support price) that protects farmers from exploitation. It also highlights how women are barely in a position as empowered agents who can either understand or negotiate (written) agreements with traders and corporate entities who are seeking to enter into agreements with the farmers to purchase their produce or for other services. It is clear that farmers will have no bargaining power in the corporatisatisation of agriculture, where corporates will decide the price with no safety net or adequate redressal mechanism for the farmers. Consequently, the small marginal and medium farmers will be forced to sell their land to big agro-businesses and become wage labourers.

But while this struggle rages on, we must not forget the troubles of our women farmers. Perhaps that is why they are at the front line of this protest — to remind us that they are too are farmers and have an equal stake in this fight.

T. Sumathy aka Thamizhachi Thangapandian is an academic, Tamil poet, an MP (South Chennai constituency), and member of the Standing Committee (Information and Technology)

Opacity in communication is dangerouswhen there is high vaccine hesitancy

The stage is set for the biggest vaccine rollout in India’s history with the Drugs Controller General of India formally approving two vaccines for restricted use under emergency conditions: Covishield by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech. Though other vaccine candidates are in the fray too, these two set a precedent for how future COVID-19 vaccines will be evaluated and administered. India has been long known as a manufacturer of vaccines but less so as one that can develop from scratch, test and then provide it to the world. The pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to establish those credentials, but already a key step — of establishing the vaccine’s efficacy in the Indian population before rollout — has been side-stepped. A double-blinded phase-3 trial — where some volunteers get the vaccine and some do not and the rate of disease in both arms is compared to determine the vaccine’s ability — is among the foundations of evidence-based medicine. The SII because of its agreement with AstraZeneca has furnished data from a phase-3 trial in the U.K. and Brazil, but nothing publicly on how protective the vaccine was in 1,600 Indian volunteers. All of the leading vaccine candidates — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca itself — made public at least partial results of the vaccine’s abilities in their own populations before these were given a go-ahead by the respective regulators. Bharat Biotech, which is conducting such a phase-3 trial in India, is yet to furnish similar data because it has not been able to finish recruiting the required number of volunteers. The Indian data furnished by the companies only attest to the vaccine’s safety and its evoking some immune response. However, this pandemic has revealed multiple instances of therapies and interventions — from convalescent plasma therapy to a slew of antivirals — that seemed to work well under idealised lab conditions but did not measurably protect in real-world hospital conditions.

The concern from approving an untested vaccine is that it makes it nearly impossible to conduct a proper phase-3 trial. It will be unethical to expect volunteers to participate in a trial where there is only a 50% chance of being administered the actual vaccine, when they have the option of the real dose elsewhere. Both SII and Bharat Biotech, given the pace of recruitment and potential pool of volunteers, would have been able to generate much more data within mere weeks. So, it is hard to imagine why an emergency use authorisation of these vaccines was hurried through. Opacity marks the government’s communication strategy in a country where distrust of vaccines remains in spite of years of vaccination programmes and elimination of grave diseases. The government neglects this at the country’s peril.

Record GST inflows in December augur well, but the economy is still in a flux

For a fiscally strapped government, scrambling to arrest the economy’s recessionary decline, the GST collections in the last month of 2020, of over Rs. 1.15-lakh crore, come as welcome tidings. With revenue receipts at just 40% of the Budget target in the first eight months of 2020-21, the government would hope that December’s indirect tax inflow, the highest since the indirect tax regime’s launch in July 2017, shall sustain over the last quarter of the year. GST inflows have now stayed above Rs. 1-lakh crore for three months in a row, averaging Rs. 1.05-lakh crore through October and November, before the December spike. After two quarters of a sharp shrinkage in the economy following the COVID-19 lockdown last March, this also infuses hope that the third quarter might see India’s headline growth rate resurfacing from subterranean depths. The Finance Ministry has stressed that the 12% year-on-year buoyancy in GST’s December kitty, the highest growth rate recorded in 21 months, reflects ‘rapid post-pandemic economic recovery’, bolstered by improvements in compliance following a recent crackdown on indirect tax evaders. It is important to discern how much of an impact stricter oversight and better compliance had on these revenues so as to distil what came from normal economic activity in November, which is what December revenues largely account for. Moreover, November included the fag end of India’s festive season so the numbers may moderate in the months to come, even though growth rates may stay high due to a low base effect as it gets close to a year after the lockdown.

But new GST rules, effective January 1, are expected to tighten GST compliance further so that part of the revenue booster should persist. Second, the GST on imports grew a robust 27% in November, even though overall merchandise imports contracted 13.33%. With December recording a 7.6% surge in imports, growing for the first time since February 2020, GST on imports should rise further in the coming month. Similarly, car sales surged for the fifth month in a row in December, which should not only boost the GST receipts in January but also bring in precious compensation cess. Whatever trajectory revenues take from here, pain points persist and some key niggling issues seem to be aggravating further. Core sectors recorded yet another contraction in November, with cement and steel slipping back after a minor uptick. New investments in the October to December 2020 quarter declined a whopping 88% from a year ago, as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Employment levels declined significantly in October, followed by almost 35 lakh job losses in November and continue to deteriorate through December, CMIE reckons. The Centre needs to address some of these challenges — in the coming Union Budget or outside — to recover lost ground faster.

After days of silence over the reported attempts at peace in Ireland, Reuter just now cables that the negotiations have broken down to a certain extent. The Government, it is alleged, are disappointed that the leaders of Sinn Fein offered no more effective guarantee than a mere truce. Granted a genuine desire for conciliation, this degree of stiffness on the part of Sinn Fein should not be such a violent disturber; the Government, it is open to guess, is still on the resolve that there is no parleying with Sinn Fein except as between master and servant. The glimmerings of a change of heart, which we seemed to discover a few days ago, have vanished. In spite of the Home Rule Bill, the suspicion is forced that the Georgian Cabinet finds the more effective panacea in terrorism. The policy of reprisals, upon which the Government embarked some months ago in defiance of all enlightened advice and warning, is being worked with an intensiveness suggestive of desperate agony rather than of ordered government.

Three unknown persons armed with deadly weapons walked into a ward in the Government Headquarters Hospital here [Cuddapah] last night, around 7-30, chased an in-patient, Thavva Chinna Subbi Reddi of Dumpalgunta village in Cuddapah Taluk, from bed to bed and killed him, inflicting as many as 14 stab injuries. The crime was witnessed by the other patients in the ward who could not resist the intruders. Dr. T.L. Narasimha Rao, Superintendent of the Hospital said the incident occurred in the ward when the Medical Officer on duty, the staff nurse and the ward boy were assisting the surgeon in the operation theatre. The Medical Officer, on hearing cries for help from patients, rushed to the ward from the operation theatre and saw Thavva Chinna Subbi Reddi lying in a pool of blood on the ground. He saw three persons armed with deadly weapons walking out of the ward and the hospital staff on duty could do nothing to seize them. The Superintendent said he informed the Cuddapah Town Police immediately about the incident. He also requested the Superintendent of Police to post a regular armed guard at the hospital. In the year 1968 a stabbing incident occurred near the out-patient ward of the hospital.