[op-ed snap] Fortifying the Africa outreach

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India Africa bilateral; economic relations


CONTEXT

President Ram Nath Kovind commenced his seven-day state visit to Benin, Gambia and Guinea-Conakry and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in on a three-day visit to Mozambique.

Economic links

  • During the past five years, Indian leaders have paid 29 visits to African countries. Forty-one African leaders participated in the last India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015, where India agreed to provide concessional credit worth $10 billion during the next five years. By 2017, India had cumulatively extended 152 Lines of Credit worth $8 billion to 44 African countries.
  • India has also unilaterally provided free access to its market for the exports of 33 least developed African countries.
  • India escalated its commitments to Africa in an era of low-commodity prices when most other partners, including China, have scaled back theirs.
  • Its trade with Africa totalled $63.3 billion in 2018-19. India was ranked the third-largest trading partner of Africa having edged past the United States during the year.
  • Indians’ investments at $50 billion and Indian diaspora at 3 million are substantive when put in the continental perspective

Challenges:

  • The numbers are well below the potential for India-African economic synergy and are often dwarfed by the corresponding Chinese data.
  • There seems to be a conspicuous disconnect between Indian developmental assistance to and India’s economic engagement with Africa.
  • Any objective cost-benefit analysis of India’s development assistance to Africa is unlikely to impress. From the demand to remove the statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Ghana to the travails of Indian investors in Africa, from the occasional demonisation of the long-standing Indian community to the non-recognition of Indian academic degrees, India’s large developmental footprint in Africa does not produce commensurate empathy.
  • India’s aid being unconditional, the recipients often take it as an entitlement.

Way ahead:

  • Integrate the development assistance and economic engagement for a more comprehensive and sustainable engagement. It would also facilitate aided pilot projects being scaled up seamlessly into commercially viable joint ventures.
  • India’s aid to Africa should be reciprocated by acknowledgement and quid pro quo in terms of and institutional preference. India cannot simply be a cash cow for Africa, particularly when its own economy is slowing down.
  • We need to ask ourselves these: for all the development billions spent, how many mega-projects did Indian companies get and how many natural resources does India have access to in Africa?
  • We need to take direct control of our development programme instead of handing our funds to intermediaries such as the African Union, the African Development Bank Group and the Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement (TEAM 9), whose priorities are often different from India’s.
  • Our aid should be disbursed bilaterally and aligned with national priorities of the recipient state, which should be a substantial stakeholder and co-investor in schemes and projects from initiation to operation.
  • India’s development assistance should prefer the countries with their substantial interests. For instance, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Angola and Algeria are India’s top six trading partners in Africa, accounting for nearly two-thirds of its trade and half its exports to the continent; yet, they do not figure commensurately in India’s developmental pecking order. India’s own needs for raw materials, commodities and markets should be factored in its aid calculus
  • We ought to prefer aiding countries which are willing to help us — from access to their natural resources to using our generics
  • The aided project selected should be compatible with local requirements. They should be cost-effective, scalable, future-ready and commercially replicable.
  • For greater transparency, India should prefer its public sector to implement the aid projects
  • Indian Head of Mission in the recipient African state must be an integral part of the aid stream including project selection, coordination and implementation.

The aforementioned should not distract us from our duty to provide the needed humanitarian assistance to Africa: to be rendered promptly and with sensitivity, but without noise.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

[op-ed snap] In hate crime fight, a voice still feeble

Mains : Social Media Networks & Internal Security |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Mob Lynching - law, its flaws, requirements and case studies


CONTEXT

At a time when India is reeling under hate lynching, it is sobering to remember that it took the United States Senate 100 years to approve a bill to make lynching a federal crime. Over 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress since 1918, but all were voted down until the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 was approved unanimously in 2018.

Problem with lynching:

  • Hate lynching is designed as an act to terrorize an entire community. Though the number of murders seems small, these performative acts of violence succeeded in instilling intense fear among all African-Americans for decades.
  • Modern technology – video-graphing of mob lynching, widely circulating these images through social media, and celebrating these as acts of nationalist valor have instilled a pervasive sense of every day normalized fear in the hearts of every Indian from the targeted minority community. It is this which indeed makes lynching an ultimate act of terror.

Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of India recently asked the Union government and all the major States to explain what action has been taken to prevent these growing incidents of lynching, including passing a special law to instill a sense of fear for law amongst vigilantes and mobsters.

Significant statutes

  • The Uttar Pradesh Law Commission (UPLC) took the initiative to recommend a draft anti-lynching law.
  • Ordinance introduced by the Manipur government last year
  • Impunity as a crime: Both the Manipur statute and the UPLC draft create a new crime of dereliction of duty by police officials, holding a police officer guilty of this crime if he or she “omits to exercise lawful authority vested in them under law, without reasonable cause, and thereby fails to prevent lynching”. Dereliction also includes the failure to provide protection to a victim of lynching; failure to act upon apprehended lynching; and refusing to record any information relating to the commission of lynching. This crime carries the penalty of one to three years and a fine.
  • The UPLC goes further to include also a new crime of dereliction of duty by District Magistrates.
  • The creation of this new crime was also the key recommendation of the Prevention of Communal & Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill. Only the creation of such a crime will compel public officials to perform their duty with fairness, in conformity with their constitutional and legal duties, to ensure equal protection to all persons, regardless of their faith and caste.
  • Both the Manipur law and UPLC recommendations also lay down elaborate duties of police officials in the event of lynching. These include:
    • taking all reasonable steps to prevent any act of lynching including its incitement and commission
    • making all possible efforts to identify instances of dissemination of offensive material or any other means employed in order to incite or promote lynching of a particular person or group of persons
    • making all possible efforts to prevent the creation of a hostile environment against a person or group of persons.
  • Both sensitively and expansively lay down official duties to protect victims and witnesses
    • a victim shall have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any court proceeding and shall be entitled to be heard at any proceeding in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused, and to file written submissions on conviction, acquittal or sentencing
    • require the Superintendent of Police to inform the victim in writing of the progress in the investigation
    • the victim shall have the right to receive a copy of any statement of the witness recorded during investigation or inquiry and a copy of all statements and documents.
  • UPLC goes further than the Manipur statute in laying down the right to compensation.
    • It places the duty squarely on the Chief Secretary to provide compensation to victims of lynching within 30 days of the incident.
    • It states that while computing compensation, the State government must give due regard to bodily, psychological and material injuries and loss of earnings, including loss of opportunity of employment and education, expenses incurred on account of legal and medical assistance. It also lays down a floor of ₹25 lakh in case lynching causes death.

Challenges with legislation:

  • Text of the United States bill records that at least 4,742 people were lynched in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, but 99% of all perpetrators remain unpunished
  • Madhya Pradesh Cow Progeny Slaughter Prevention Act 2004 limits its scope only to cow-related lynching, and not lynching triggered by other charges. Its proposed amendments do not include any provisions to punish dereliction of duty, protect victim rights or secure compensation. All that it proposes is punishment for any act by a mob which indulges in violence in the name of cow vigilantism from six months to three years of imprisonment and a fine
  • Rajasthan has also tabled an anti-lynching bill. This prescribes higher punishments, an investigation by senior police officers, and mandatory compensation but not the critical elements of dereliction of duty or victim rights. Without these, they will make little difference on the ground.
Internal Security Trends and Incidents

[op-ed snap] : Transforming livelihoods through farm ponds

Mains : Different Types Of Irrigation & Irrigation Systems |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Understand what water harvesting is

Mains level : Importance of water harvesting for water conservation


CONTEXT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi explicated the need to implement innovative water management measures, stressing particularly the importance of rainwater harvesting both at the household and community levels. One intervention that has been tried out in various States, and needs to be taken up on a bigger scale, is the construction of farm ponds.

Background

  • With an increased variability of monsoons and rapidly depleting groundwater tables, large parts of India are reeling under water stress.
  • A number of peninsular regions like Bundelkhand, Vidarbha and Marathwada have been facing recurring drought-like situations.

Benefits of Farm ponds:

  • Farm ponds can be cost-effective structures that transform rural livelihoods.
  • They can help enhance water control, contribute to agriculture intensification and boost farm incomes. A recent study on farm ponds in Jharkhand and West Bengal found that they aided in superior water control through the harvesting not just of rainfall but also of surface run-off and subsurface flows. Some of them functioned exclusively as recharge points, contributing to groundwater replenishment.
  • They also helped in providing supplemental irrigation in the kharif season and an enhanced irrigation coverage in rabi. The yield of paddy, the most important crop in kharif, stabilised, thus contributing to greater food security.
  • However, this is possible only if they act as rainwater harvesting structures and not as intermediate storage points for an increased extraction of groundwater or diversion of canal water. The latter will cause greater groundwater depletion and inequitable water distribution.
  • Water retention: Farm ponds retained water for 8-10 months of the year; thus farmers could enhance cropping intensity and crop diversification within and across seasons. The area used to cultivate vegetables and other commercial crops also increased.
  • Figures indicate that the ponds were also a financially viable proposition, with a fairly high Internal Rate of Return, of about 19%, over 15 years.

Challenges:

  • In parts of peninsular India, the idea of a farm pond as an in-situ rainwater harvesting structure has taken a complete U-turn. Some of them are benefiting farmers at an individual level, but not contributing to water conservation and recharge.
  • They are being used as intermediate storage points, accelerating groundwater depletion and increasing evaporation losses as the groundwater is brought to the surface and stored in relatively shallow structures.
  • Need for inlet, outlet provisions – Maharashtra government is promoting farm ponds under a flagship programme that aims to dig over one lakh structures by offering a subsidy of up to ₹50,000 per farmer.
    • Most of them are being constructed without inlet and outlet provisions and their walls are raised above the ground level by only a few feet.
    • They cannot arrest the excess run-off as there is no inlet, and therefore they cannot be used effectively for rainwater harvesting.
    • Further, farmers line them at the bottom with plastic, restricting seepage and converting the ponds into intermediate storage points.
  • Such farm ponds have an adverse impact on the water tables and accelerate water loss. The usual practice here is to lift water from a dug well and/or a borewell, store it in the pond and then draw it once again to irrigate the fields, often using micro-irrigation. This intensifies competition for extraction of groundwater from the aquifer, which is a common pool resource.
  • In such cases, in the command area of the irrigation project, farmers fill up their farm ponds first when the canal is in rotation and then take it from the pond to the field. This can impede circulation of water.
  • During canal rotation, the aquifer will get recharged because of the return flow of water coming from the irrigated fields. This return flow benefits all, as most of the farmers access water though wells in this command. But if canals fill up the farm ponds first, it restricts their benefits only to the pond owners and, in the long term, reduces the overall return flow at the system level.

Farm ponds can act as effective harvesting structures and also yield healthy financial returns. But if they are promoted merely for on-farm storage of groundwater and canal water, they could accelerate, rather than reduce, the water crisis in the countryside.

Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Cabinet approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • Against the backdrop of rising cases in the Supreme Court, the Union Cabinet has approved increasing the number of judges in the top court from the present 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India.

Judges in Supreme Court

  • At present, the Supreme Court is working with its full sanctioned strength of 31.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges’ strength from 25 to 30 (excluding the CJI).
  • The decision of the Cabinet came days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wrote to PM Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

Why need more Judges?

  • Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law was not being formed.
  • This rise also aims to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.

What are Constitution Benches?

  • Constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the SC which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India or “for the purpose of hearing any reference” made by the President of India under Article 143.
  • It consist of at least five judges of the court.
  • This provision has been mandated by Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India.
  • The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.
  • Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as A. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (basic structure doctrine) and Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.

Timeline: Number of Judges

  • The original Constitution of 1950 had envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and seven puisne judges, leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI).
  • This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.
  • The working strength of the Supreme court was, however, restricted to 15 judges by the Cabinet (excluding the chief Justice of India) till the end of 1979.
  • But the restriction was withdrawn at the request of the Chief Justice of India.
  • In 1986, the strength of the top court was increased to 25, excluding the CJI.
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further augmented the strength of the court from 25 to 30.

Back2Basics

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution who has been

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India
  • is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the supreme court
Judiciary Institutional Issues

India’s biggest ever trial of tuberculosis vaccines

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BCB and other vaccines mentioned

Mains level : Elimination of TB in India



News

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has launched India’s first large-scale trial for two new tuberculosis (TB) vaccines.

New Vaccines

There are two vaccines being tested in the latest trial:

  • Immuvac (also known as mycobacterium indicus pranii or MIP), which is manufactured by Cadila Pharmaceuticals in Ahmedabad, and
  • VPM1002 manufactured by Serum Institute of India in Pune.

Why need new vaccines?

  • Scientists at the ICMR have felt a critical need for new TB vaccines that are more effective than the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine.
  • The BCG vaccine is used in the routine Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) in countries across the world. It is generally given at birth or in the first year.
  • The vaccine is over 100 years old and, while it has been partially effective in protecting infants and young children, particularly from the most severe forms of TB.
  • It provides poor protection against pulmonary disease in adolescents and adults.
  • It is for these reasons a need was felt to develop more effective preventive TB vaccines.

Rise of MDR TB

  • The new vaccines that are being put through the trials offer a chance to contain the accelerating spread of multi-drug resistant TB.
  • Treating TB requires a multi-drug course of treatment lasting six months; longer still for treating drug-resistant TB.
  • Treatment failure and recurrence can have devastating consequences.

Incidence of TB in India

  • India contributes to 27 per cent of the global TB burden; the highest share globally. That is why, in 2017, the central government had committed itself to eliminating TB by 2025.
  • As per the 2018 annual report of the Central TB division of Ministry of Health, the incidence of TB was nearly 2.8 million annually, and the incidence of multidrug-resistant TB was 1,47,000 per year.
  • The total number of deaths because of TB (excluding HIV) was 4,23,000, and the incidence of HIV-TB was 87,000 per year.
Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on India

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : USD inflow in India


News

  • The US Federal Reserve has announced a quarter-percentage-point cut in interest rates — the first rate cut by the US central bank in 11 years.

Why is US Fed’s rate-cut significant?

  • The cut in interest rates is the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.
  • What is ironic is that this move comes despite a strong US economy and indicators such as job market data showing renewed buoyancy.
  • The rate cut follows months of pressure from US President who has been pushing the American central bank for a cut in rates.

Impact on India

  • A rate cut cycle means a weaker dollar, which is good for the US but may not be so for the rest of the world.
  • It has been seen in the past that as the dollar weakens due to lower growth tendencies, the rupee has tended to strengthen which will pose a conundrum for us as exports will come under pressure.
  • The exports will be reduced due to lower global growth and a stronger rupee. This will not be good for the current account deficit (CAD).

Benefits

  • A rate cut in the US is good for emerging market economies and is projected to catalyse a debt and equity market rally in countries such as India.
  • Typically, emerging economies such as India tend to have higher inflation and thereby higher interest rates than those in developed countries such as the US and Europe.
  • As a result, investors would want to borrow money in the US at low-interest rates in dollar terms and then invest that money in bonds of emerging countries such as India in terms to earn a higher rate of interest.
  • When the US Fed cuts its interest rates, the difference between interest rates of the two countries increases, thus making India more attractive for the currency carry trade.
FDI in Indian economy

Water Stress Index

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water Crisis Index

Mains level : Drinking water crisis in India



News

Water Stress Index

  • The sub-national Water Stress Index is formulated by London-based risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft.
  • It lists India as the 46th highest risk country in the world.
  • 11 of India’s 20 largest cities face an ‘extreme risk’ of water stress and seven are in the ‘high risk’ category.
  • According to the index, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Nashik, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Indore are among the cities facing ‘extreme risk’.
  • The index measures the water consumption rates of households, industries and farm sectors and the available resources in rivers, lakes and streams.

Indian cities are at risk

  • According to the report the average population growth rate among the 11 extreme risk cities is 49%; more than 127 million people will call them home by 2035.
  • The UN estimates that Delhi’s population will grow from 28 million people to above 43 million by 2035, a 52% rise while Chennai will grow by 47% to top 15 million over the same period.
  • The study says Chennai is the tip of the iceberg for India’s water stressed cities.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

President gives assent to Triple Talaq Bill

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the bill, President's assent

Mains level : Triple Talaq Issue


News

  • Hon’ble President gave his assent to the Triple Talaq bill, which makes giving instant oral triple talaq a criminal offense with provisions of jail term of up to three years.
  • The Triple Talaq law or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights On Marriage) Act, 2019, has come into effect retrospectively from September 19, 2018.

Key provisions of the Act

Defining Triple Talaq

  • It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.
  • Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

Offence and penalty

  • The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)
  • The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by: (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.

Grant of Bail

  • The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.

Settlement

  • The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared).
  • Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute. The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.

Alimony

  • A Muslim woman, against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.
  • The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.

Custody of Children

  • A Muslim woman, against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.
  • The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

Back2Basics

Presidents Assent and Vetoes

Veto Powers of the President of India – Comprehensive Notes

 

For additional readings navigate to the page:

[Burning Issue] Triple Talaq

Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements

Mains Paper 2 : Important International Institutions |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Singapore Convention

Mains level : ADR mechanisms


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA) resulting from mediation by the India.

About UNISA

  • The UN gen. assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation on 20th December 2018.
  • It is referred to as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” (the Convention).
  • The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements.
  • It is akin to the framework that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York, 1958) (the “New York Convention”) which provides for arbitral awards.
  • The Singapore Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion, refuse to grant relief.
  • Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
  • The provisions of the ‘Convention’ are in line with India’s domestic laws and the efforts made to strengthen Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.

Benefit

  • Signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors.
  • It shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Back2Basics

Initiatives to promote ADR Mechanisms in India

  • In order to encourage international commercial arbitration in India, to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration the GoI is establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) as a statutory body.
  • The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, has been further amended and legislative exercise to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is currently underway.
  • These initiatives are being taken with a view to encourage the settlement of commercial disputes, domestic and international, in India through ADR Mechanism of Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation.
  • A new Chapter (IIIA) has been inserted in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, for mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement in certain category of cases.
WTO and India