News Wrap


The world travel and tourism Council, has ranked India number three in tourism sector, after China and United States. Contribution of tourism to GDP, money spent by foreign tourists and domestic tourists, and investment in the tourism sector are the four indices to the rankings. In 2013-14, nearly 67.2 million people in India were employed in the tourism sector, which increased to 81.2 million people in 2017-18. Currently 12.38% employment in the country, is coming from the tourism sector alone, which is the highest after the agricultural sector in India. Income from foreign tourists is around Rs 1,77,000 crore (approx) annually. With good and specialised hospitals and highly qualified doctors, medical tourism is an emerging sector. The high General Sales Tax (GST) for luxury hotels is 28%, and another 5% for booking which means the effective tax is around 33%. This has affected adversely the Indian tourism industry, particularly high-end foreign tourists. Besides the GST refund is very complicated for foreign tourists. Thailand and Malaysia have just 6% GST, and in China it is 5%. Outside India, the highest tax on tourism is in Italy, at 10%.

Health and Education
Under Ayushman Bharat scheme of the Union Government of India, giving cash to people can help the economy grow. The Rs 75,000 crore Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, transfer the first instalment of electronic transfers of Rs 2000 each, in accounts of 1.01 crore farmers. Promises extend to those who have been left out, will get it soon. But the government needs to pursue health and education efforts, in order to build opportunity for and capabilities of people. The real economy needs healthy and educated people who can drive growth. The Ayshman Bharat scheme does not help in boosting primary health care capabilities. Both the Congress Manmohan Singh government and the BJP Narendra Modi government have neglected primary healthcare. The new Ayushman Bharat scheme aims at the wrong population, and is not incentive compatible. The scheme does not boost immunity and health of infants and children, through better dietary supplements at the primary healthcare level. If the government spends on health, people get specialised care, but only if they survive early dangers of life. Based on the growth rates measured within the two GDP series, the NDA government has under performed, in comparison to Manmohan Singh's first five years. BJP was only marginally better than Manmohan Singh's last five years. Serious reservations about the new methodology have been raised. The new GDP numbers do not match trends in other economic parameters, such as growth in bank credit, investment and tax collections, which normally move in tandem with the GDP. Agrarian crisis has deepened since 2014, and growth in rural wages has been falling. Profitability of the Indian banking sector has declined every year from 2013 onwards, and has turned negative in 2018. The NPA ratio (non-performing assets to total gross loans) has shot up significantly between 2015 and 2018. Only the banking sectors of crisis-stricken Greece and San Marino, have performed worse than India's in 2018. The central government has waived Rs 3,50,000 crore loans taken by corporate houses. Rs 11,50,000 crore are the new performing assets of corporate and industry.

Ground water depletion
From Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, 32 cubic km of water is being lost every year, which is much more than the usual, and it is only partially being recovered in successive monsoons. The largest ground water depletion in the world is happening in northern India. The epicentre of this fast-developing crisis is Delhi, and it is getting worse in summer. In a drought year, the extraction in the same areas in northern India, is going up to 100 cubic km of water. Ground water is being pumped out 70% faster than what the Central Ground Water Board of India estimated earlier. Around 172 cubic km of water was pumped out in the 1990s every year. With the surge in population growth and shrinking surface water resources, the level of water in underground aquifers in the region is falling by more than 10 cm per year. The National Geophysical Research Institute estimates Delhi requires 1 cubic km of water a year for drinking, industrial and domestic purposes. Delhi along with several other metros, could run out of ground water by 2020. Drying up of the Indo-Gangetic basin, comprising some 2000 kms of land from Pakistan to Bangladesh, may trigger moderate earthquakes. Ten years ago, arsenic contaminated water was noticed in some parts of West Bengal and Bihar. It is now being seen moving in a northwest direction. All the groundwater pumping is happening for agriculture. Paddy is getting infected with arsenic, and there are fears that it will affect other crops.

Crimes Against Humanity
As Israeli snipers targeted people clearly identifiable as children, health workers and journalists, a United Nations probe has found evidence that Israel committed crimes against humanity. Israel immediately rejected the findings as "hostile, deceitful and biased". On the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry investigated violations committed during demonstrations in the Gaza strip between 30 March 2018 and 31 December 2018. More than 6000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers during weeks of protests. The Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. Even persons with disabilities were shot. There were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli troops killed and injured Palestinians "who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat". The demonstrations were civilian in nature. The Commission has dismissed claims by Israel that the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism. Despite some acts of significant violence, the demonstrators did not constitute combat or military campaigns. Israel did not co-operate with the probe, nor provide access to Gaza. Israel has maintained that no institution can negate Israel's right to self-defence, and it's duty to defend its residents and borders from violent attacks.

Vol. 51, No. 43, Apr 28 - May 4, 2019