Below the line

| Updated on November 24, 2019

Sounds of silence

The silence of the government on the India-US trade talks is giving rise to a lot of speculations. The fact that the mini-trade package could not be finalised even after USTR Robert Lighthizer met Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal this month, cannot be just brushed away with the MEA’s explanation that the issues involved are “complicated”. The buzz is that it is Washington’s disproportionate demands compared to what it is prepared to give to India which is the main reason behind the delay.

There could be some truth in this as, based on media reports so far, while one is well acquainted with the long list of demands from the US side, the Indian list is very short. The US seems to want lower import duties on a large number of items ranging from apples and walnuts to mobiles and motor bikes, but India’s demand is seen as centred mostly around the restoration of the popular GSP (Generalised Scheme of Preferences) scheme for its exporters and market access for a handful of farm products.

It will be interesting to see how New Delhi, which spiritedly walked out of the RCEP bloc earlier this month for not being given its due, handles the situation with the US.

Agri Ministry still in 2018-19

The year 2018-19 seems to be a long one for the Agriculture Ministry, if one goes by the weekly All India Crop Situation (http://agricoop.nic.in/all-india-crop-situation?page=2 ) put out on the ministry website. Ideally, the year change is reflected on the site with the onset of kharif sowing every year. However, this year, the ministry seems to have forgotten to effect the change. As a result, the year continues to be described as 2018-19, even though we are half way into 2019-20 already.

Comedy of errors?

Is there a governance crisis in India? Some experts tend to think so going by the latest Company Law Committee recommendation to decriminalise certain provisions of the company law.

They wonder how can a wrong determined as a “criminal” offence in 2013 (when the new Companies Act was enacted) by the Corporate Affairs Ministry be now proposed to be treated as a “civil wrong” by the same ministry. You can’t treat a wrong as civil or criminal depending on the government in power is their argument. Some even contend that if the government does go about implementing the latest CLC recommendation, it could be seen as a travesty of legislative competence and social probity although the proposed move is being touted as measures to ensure “ease of living” for law-abiding corporates.

A debate takes political tone

The debate on pollution was supposed to be a non-political one as every Member of Parliament (MP) irrespective of the political party he/she belonged to had had first-hand experience of the ‘severe’ pollution level in the

National Capital Region of Delhi. However, it was tough to follow the ground rules as there were allegations and counter-allegations against each other by the parties. Then there was a controversy over the number of MPs present in the House during the debate. A senior leader of the ruling party then circulated photos of attendance sheet to show that more members of his party were present.

Finally, TMC Lok Sabha MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar stood with a mask on her face to participate in the debate to demonstrate the situation, but soon took that out saying it did not go well with the decorum of the House.

Divided over odd-even scheme

The Delhi pollution issue has not only led to skirmishes between political parties, but has also led to cracks in the ruling party BJP, with one of Delhi’s local politicians Manoj Tiwari supporting the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme, while another, Vijay Goel, opposing it. The Centre’s bureaucrats though are on the same page with the Kejriwal government.

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on November 24, 2019

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