Get Wired 2/6: India, Pakistan & ICJ, Maggi controversy, GDP discrepancies and More

1. India now wants to move ICJ against Pakistan

Until now, India has held that it cannot invoke the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice for disputes involving armed conflicts or a Commonwealth country like Pakistan. On Monday, it reversed itself, saying the exceptional circumstances of the torture and killing of Capt Saurabh Kalia during the 1999 Kargil war have forced it to review its position and seek the Supreme Court’s nod to approach the ICJ against Pakistan.

2. Brand ambassadors in a soup

While the controversy regarding alleged violations of food safety standards by Maggi noodles rages on, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said all parties involved, including ‘brand ambassadors’ are liable. Paswan said action could be taken by the government against the manufacturers, ad agencies and promoters or endorsers of products that violate standards.  While corporate sector types say actors who advertise the product could be ethically liable for such violations, making them legally liable would be “stretching it too far.” On Tuesday, a Bihar court ordered the police to register an FIR against Maggi brand ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta and to “arrest them if necessary.”

3. IIT-M defends itself on free speech

IIT-Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurthi has said the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle was not in fact banned, but only that an explanation was sought from it for the “non-observation of certain guidelines”. Ramamurthi said the email asking for their response was misunderstood as a ban, adding that he hoped the issue would be resolved soon. The email sent to the APSC, however, had clearly mentioned that the group had been de-recognized. The director’s statement comes after the incident sparked concerns regarding the increasing threat to free speech and dissent. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has also decided to intervene, seeking an explanation from IIT-M.

4. PIL on delays to Food Security Act

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on the delayed implementation of the Food Security Act. The Act stipulates that its provisions be implemented within a year of its passing. The government however, has passed administrative orders in June 2014, October 2014 and March 2015, delaying the law from coming into force. PUCL is asking that the law, which includes provisions regarding pregnant and lactating women, mid-day meals, and integrated child development services among other, be implemented at the earliest.

5. Serve fish to tackle malnutrition, says minister

Amid the controversy regarding the pilot scheme to include eggs in anganwadi schemes in Madhya Pradesh that CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan shot down, Kusum Mehdele, his Animal Husbandry Minister has proposed fish be served to tackle malnutrition among children. Sharing the stage with the strictly vegetarian CM, she said she had no problem in talking about non-vegetarian habits in public and that she would soon make MP full of fish and full of tortoises. She said she did not think it was wrong if those who eat non-vegetarian food at home are provided non-vegetarian dishes, stopping just short of prescribing fish for anganwadis. The official press release issued for the event made no mention of her speech, acknowledging only that she spoke.

6. Scrapped laws part of repeal list

Working on the Prime Minister’s intention of repealing outdated laws, the government has so far repealed over a hundred laws, and was seeking to repeal a further 187 by introducing the third Bill of this kind in the Lok Sabha on the 13th of May. 30 of these laws, however, have already been repealed, most by the previous two Bills themselves. The Prime Minister’s Office is upset over the faux pas, which will have to be corrected by introducing official amendments to the pending Bill.

7. Discrepancy between GDP estimates and IIP

The CSO estimates India’s manufacturing sector to have grown by 7.1 per cent in 2014-15, and by 8.4 per cent in the last quarter. However, data on the index of industrial production (IIP), released by the same body, tell a different story. Manufacturing growth, according to the IIP, stood at 2.3 per cent for 2014-15 and 3.6 per cent for the last quarter. Government officials have explained the difference by claiming that while the IIP measures manufacturing volume, a rise in manufacturing value would have been ignored by the IIP data and incorporated in the GDP data. Harish Damodaran and Sandeep Singh argue, however, that even after taking such a difference into consideration, it should be the evidence on ground that tells us the true story. An analysis of 286 manufacturing companies that are part of the BSE-500 index list shows that net sales have in fact dipped by 2.3% in 2014-15, and dipped by 15.8% in the last quarter.

8. Beef ban paralyses livestock trade

Every year ahead of the sowing season, farmers in Maharashtra would exchange old and redundant cattle for younger stock. This time, the peak season of livestock trade faces a lull owing to the government’s decision to extend the ban on cow slaughter  to bullocks. This cuts off the demand from abattoirs, which were key customers for old livestock. Raids by Hindutva groups causing panic amongst traders and leading to falling cattle prices have created an unfortunate situation in Maharashtra of  “cattle in Gaushalas and men in jail”, reports writes Priyanka Kakodkar.

9. Won’t tolerate communal violence, says Modi

In a response to recent hate speeches by sangh parivar and BJP leaders,  Prime Minister Modi told UNI in an interview that although some “unfortunate” comments had been made, the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom was non-negotiable and that acts of communal discrimination or violence would not be tolerated.

10. France now questions militant secularity

French Education Minister Najat-Vallaud Belkacem has spoken out against militant secularity in the country, saying that recent years have seen a misunderstanding of the notion of secularity, leading to the disassociation of young people with it. France has had a long history of secular tradition that has in recent years seen the implementation of rules prohibiting students wearing conspicuous sings of religion. The law has been controversial, leading to instances where mothers wearing the hijab have not been allowed on school trips, and one instance where a girl was banned from school as a long, black skirt was deemed a conspicuous sign of Islam.