[op-ed snap] The IBSA task list

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IBSA

Mains level : Kochi meet revive IBSA to secure south south cooperation.


CONTEXT

Even as two member-states (India and South Africa) of the IBSA Dialogue Forum have been busy with national elections and the third (Brazil) is settling down after its recent presidential elections, their foreign policy mandarins met in Kochi, May 3-5. The central goal was to develop a blueprint to rejuvenate IBSA, widely viewed as a unique voice for the Global South. Will this endeavour succeed?

History of IBSA

  • The idea of creating a grouping composed of major democracies of three continents, Asia, Africa and South America, emerged from the disarray at the end of the 20th century, and the perceived need for developing countries to forge decisive leadership.
  • IBSA was launched through the Brasilia Declaration in 2003.
  • Its summits, between 2006 and 2011, gave it a special global profile.

Downfall of IBSA

  • But, 2011 onwards, BRICS, the larger group comprising IBSA countries, China and Russia, started to overshadow IBSA.
  • IBSA has been unable, until now, to hold its sixth summit.
  • Nevertheless, a series of events marking its 15th anniversary, held during 2018-19, have imparted new momentum to the endeavour to revitalise IBSA.

Importance of IBSA

Solidarity among developing countries – Throughout the period of its marginalisation by BRICS, a strong body of officials and experts in the three countries has held the view that IBSA is the true inheritor of solidarity among developing countries, which was nurtured from the Bandung Conference (1955) through UNCTAD and G-77 to the BAPA+40 Declaration (2018).

South – South Cooperation – It is the champion of South-South Cooperation, and the advocate of a coordinated response by developing economies to secure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 Shared Values – The glue that binds IBSA countries together is their faith in democracy, diversity, plurality, inclusivity, human rights and rule of law. This was reiterated through the IBSA Declaration on South-South Cooperation, issued in Pretoria in June 2018.

Reforms in International Organisations –

  • Notably IBSA remains determined to “step up advocacy for reforms of global governance institutions in multilateral fora”.
  • In particular, it is strongly committed to the expansion of the UN Security Council.
  • As Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj put it, “We three have to ensure that our collective voice is heard clearly in BRICS and other groups on UN Security Council reforms, since if we do not speak for our own interests, no one else will.”

Kochi meeting

  •  The IBSA Academic Forum, comprising independent experts, held its sixth session in Kochi after a hiatus of over seven years.
  • This forum hosted a candid and comprehensive exchange of views on the continuing relevance of IBSA; the need for a strategy to secure SDGs and cement South-South Cooperation; expanding trade cooperation; and the shared goal of enhancing academic collaboration on issues relating directly to the needs of democratic societies.

Revitalisation Of IBSA

  • First, the three Foreign Ministers have been meeting regularly to provide coordinated leadership to the grouping.
  • Second, while the India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund) is small in monetary terms, it has succeeded in implementing 31 development projects in diverse countries: Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, State of Palestine, Cambodia and Vietnam, among others.
  • Third, India has been running an innovative IBSA Visiting Fellows Programme through the Delhi-based think tank, RIS or Research and Information System for Developing Countries.

 

Conclusion

  • The idea of IBSA remains valid.
  • The special responsibilities it bears cannot be discharged by BRICS. I
  • n fact, strengthening IBSA could increase the effectiveness of BRICS and encourage it to follow a more balanced approach on key issues of interest to India, Brazil and South Africa.
  • Hence, the current endeavours to infuse greater dynamism in IBSA are well-timed.
  • They would need buy-in by the government that comes to power in India. Support by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, who has just won re-election as President, would be crucial.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[op-ed snap] Being responsive

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India's rejection of human rights report on J&K requires an insight into Rights violation in valley.


CONTEXT

The government’s decision to shut down communication with UN Special Rapporteurs seeking to question India on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir may appear extreme, but is in line with its reaction to such international reports over the last few years.

Background

  • In a letter dated April 23, India’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva wrote to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rejecting any reference to the UN’s original June 2018 report on J&K as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and refused to respond to questions about deaths of 69 civilians between 2016 and 2018 in violence in the Valley.
  • In its objections, the government said the report was “false and motivated”, that its conclusions and recommendations were violative of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and accused the Special Rapporteurs preparing the report of “individual prejudices” against India.
  • In addition, India drew notice to the Pulwama attack this year, calling terrorism the “grossest” violation of human rights, not the allegations against the security forces.
  • As a result, the government has decided to treat all allegations made by the UN Special Rapporteurs as a “closed chapter” and will not engage further on it.

Objection to OHCHR report

Justified Objections

  • India’s objections to the OHCHR report, the first of its kind when it was released in 2018, and the follow-up this year are understandable, given the often selective nature of allegations raised by the UN body.
  • It is also clear that demands for action against Indian officials and amendment of laws can cross the line on Indian sovereignty.
  • The call by the previous HCHR that the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent and international tribunal to investigate India’s record in Kashmir was seen to be invasive, and could be dismissed by New Delhi as well.

Question in need of answers

  • However, the government cannot quell the troubling questions that the UN report and the Special Rapporteurs’ submissions raise simply by rejecting them.
  • To begin with, most of the sources for the OHCHR report are official Indian authorities, State and national human rights commissions, international human rights agencies as well as reputed Indian NGOs.
  • This is therefore a view from within India, not some disengaged UN official, and must be taken very seriously.
  • Two Kashmiri NGOs also released a report on Monday documenting 432 specific cases of alleged brutality by security forces in Kashmir, including electrocution, ‘water-boarding’ and sexual torture of civilians, of which only about 27 were taken up by the State Human Rights Commission.

Way Forward

  • The government must press for due process and justice in each of these.
  • Eventually, India will be judged not only by how close it stands to the world’s most powerful countries, but how much the state extends itself to the most vulnerable within its own boundaries.
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Power under pressure

Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UDAY

Mains level : UDAY has not been Successful in achieving its aim.


CONTEXT

Launched in November 2015, the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) was designed to turn around the precarious financial position of state distribution companies. But as the NDA government ends its term, indications are that the turnaround hasn’t materialised, with several targets being missed.

Background

  • Broadly, the scheme had three critical components.
  • Takeover of discom debt by state governments, reduction in aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, timely tariff revisions and elimination of the gap between the average per unit cost of supply (ACS) and average revenue realised (ARR) by FY19.
  1. AT&C losses
  • First, at the aggregate level, the AT&C losses for major states stood at 19.05 per cent as against the target of reducing them to 15 per cent by the end of FY19.
  • In the case of some states, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, the losses are of a much higher magnitude, suggesting that pilferage continues to be rampant.

2. ACS- ARR Gap

While the ACS-ARR gap was supposed to be eliminated by FY19, it remains as high as Rs 0.25 per unit. In many states, the gap is even higher. Part of the problem can be traced to inadequate tariff hikes. While it is true that some states have aggressively raised tariffs, the median hike remains muted. This is where political compulsions overtake commercial decisions.

3. Power subsidy

Then there’s also the issue of whether the power subsidy released by state governments is adequate. As a result, discoms have reported financial losses to the tune of Rs 21,658 crore at the end of FY19, reversing the declining trend since the launch of UDAY, say reports.

Impact

  • This deterioration in the financial position of discoms does not bode well for the entire power sector chain.
  • Reports suggest that dues by state discoms to power generators have in fact risen.
  • And though the recent CERC order on tariff relief for independent power producers is positive for producers, it runs the risk of timely realisation, as the financial position of discoms continues to precarious.

Conclusion

Other Inefficiencies –

  • Apart from these, there are several other operational efficiency targets under UDAY, such as feeder metering, smart metering and feeder segregation. Progress on these is mixed.
  • For instance, not much progress has been made in the case of smart metering above 200 and upto 500 kwh and above 500 kwh.

Need for quick action – These issues need to be addressed quickly or else discom losses will rise further to levels where talks of another bailout are likely to surface.

More fiscal space with states – The only difference being that, this time around, state governments have little fiscal space to offer support.

UDAY Scheme for Discoms

Reserve Bank set to create a specialised supervisory cadre

Mains Paper 3 : issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) under RBI

Mains level : NPA Crisis


News

  • The RBI has decided to create a specialised supervisory and regulatory cadre within the RBI in order to strengthen the supervision and regulation of commercial banks, urban cooperative banks and NBFCs.

Need for a regulatory Cadre

  • This move is followed a series of events including the IL&FS defaults, ICICI Bank loan issue, PNB fraud and the liquidity issues in the NBFC sector in the last two years.
  • The present structure of supervision in RBI in the context of the growing diversity, complexities and interconnectedness within the Indian financial sector is too complex.
  • There were complaints that the RBI was lax in the supervisory functions, especially in timely detection of frauds and poor governance in the banking sector.

All banks audit is not possible

  • When Urjit Patel was the governor of the RBI, the central bank had said that its supervisory process does not constitute an audit of banks.
  • With the number of commercial bank branches being more than 1,16,000 in the country it would be impossible to cover each and every branch under the RBI’s supervisory process.

If not RBI, then who performs supervisionary functions? 

Board for Financial Supervision (BFS)

  • The Reserve Bank of India performs the supervisory function under the guidance of the Board for Financial Supervision (BFS).
  • The Board was constituted in November 1994 as a committee of the Central Board of Directors of the RBI under the RBI (Board for Financial Supervision) Regulations, 1994.
  • Sub-committees of BFS are also constituted under the chair of Dy. Governor.
  • The primary objective of BFS is to undertake consolidated supervision of the financial sector comprising Scheduled Commercial and Co-operative Banks, All India Financial Institutions, Local Area Banks, Small Finance Banks, Payments Banks, Credit Information Companies, NBFCs and Primary Dealers.

Composition of BFS

  • The BFS has four Directors from the Central Board as members and is chaired by the Governor.
  • While the Deputy Governors of the Reserve Bank are ex-officio members, one Deputy Governor, traditionally the Deputy Governor in charge of supervision is nominated as the Vice-Chairman of the Board.

Other moves by RBI

  • The RBI had last week asked non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) with asset size of more than Rs 5,000 crore to appoint a Chief Risk Officer (CRO).
  • It clearly specified role and responsibilities amid growing worries over an “imminent crisis” in the NBFC sector due to credit squeeze, overleveraging, excessive concentration, massive mismatch between assets and liabilities and misadventures by some large entities like the IL&FS group.
NPA Crisis

New plants species with healing properties found in Manipur

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ZeliangrongTribes

Mains level : Utility of traditional knowledge of tribals


News

  • Scientists have identified new plants species in Manipur, whose medicinal or pharmacology properties were not known yet.

Traditional medicines of Zeliangrong Tribals

  • Scientists identified plants like Gynuracusimbua, Hedyotisscandens, Mussaendaglabra and Schimawallichii whose medicinal usage are reported for the first time and its pharmacological properties are not explored so far.
  • The researchers documented 145 medicinal plants that the healers use for treating 59 ailments.
  • They also found that the ethnic group used more than 40 species for treating more than one ailment.
  • In most cases, native healers were found using leaves as a primary ingredient in their formulation, owing to the year-round availability.
  • Additionally, they practice some uncommon methods such as using of guava leaves along with other medicinal plants for treating cold and fever.
  • Healers of this tribal group were also found using some rare and vulnerable species like Piperarunachalensis without being aware of the status of these plants.

About Zeliangrong ethnic group

  • Zeliangrong people are one of the major indigenous Naga communities living in the tri-junction of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland in India.
  • The term “Zeliangrong” refers to the Zeme, Liangmai and Rongmei Naga tribes combined together.
  • Earlier, the term also covered the Inpui tribe.
  • The proper noun Zeliangrong does not denote a tribe but, rather, a union of tribes or, rather, the apex tribe of three aforementioned tribes (Zeme Naga, Liangmai Naga, Rongmei Naga).
Tribes in News

Decision of Foreigners Tribunal Will Prevail Over NRC Order

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam


News

  • The Supreme Court has held that a tribunal’s order declaring a person as an illegal foreigner would be binding and prevails over the government decision to exclude or include the name from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Decision of Foreigners Tribunal >> Govt. Decision

  • The judgment said that the principle of ‘res-judicata’ (a judicially decided issue cannot be re-agitated) would apply on the decision of foreigners tribunal.
  • A person who has been declared an illegal immigrant cannot seek re-decision in normal circumstances.
  • The bench distinguished between the decisions of NRC and of foreigners tribunals and said that the latter’s order being the quasi-judicial one would prevail.
  • The court, however, said the persons whose names are not included in the NRC in Assam can produce documents including the ones related to family tree and seek review of the tribunals decision.
  • The court had said that it cannot create an appellate forum for those, declared as illegal foreigners by a tribunal, by using its power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
Citizenship and Related Issues

Evidence of water found on Ultima Thule

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ultima Thule

Mains level : Significance of the Mission



News

  • NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface — the farthest world ever explored by mankind.

Ultima Thule

  • Ultima Thule is a contact binary, with two distinctly differently shaped lobes.
  • At about 36 kilometres long, it consists of a large, strangely flat lobe — nicknamed “Ultima” — connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe — dubbed “Thule” — at a juncture.
  • Officially named (486958) 2014 MU69, it earned the nickname Ultima Thule following a public contest in 2018.
  • It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a disc in the outer Solar System (beyond Neptune) that consists of small bodies including Pluto.
  • 2014 MU69 was discovered in June 2014 by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope but is so distant that many of its characteristics remain to be understood.

About the mission

  • New Horizons, a space probe that was launched in 2006, became the first mission to visit Pluto in 2015.
  • Travelling farther into the Kuiper Belt, the nuclear-powered space probe has come within 3,500 km of Ultima Thule.
  • Images taken revealed that the object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, or a “snowman”, or a peanut spinning end over end, or could be two objects orbiting each other.
  • Flyby data showed that Ultima Thule is spinning like a propeller with the axis pointing approximately toward New Horizons.
  • NASA released a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries