December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed snap] Taking advantage of BRI

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Reasons why should India Participate in BRI


CONTEXT

The China-led initiative’s global reach signals the advent of a new order led by Asia, which cannot exclude India.

Reasons To participate in BRI

  1. Rise of Asian Century
  • The defining feature of the 21st century is that Asia, not China, is at the centre of the world.
  • The BRI is part of a transformation triggered by colonialism and industrial capitalism from the 1840s and influenced by the UN institutions and global rules from the 1950s.
  • Of the estimated $30 trillion increase in middle-class consumption growth estimated by 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from Western economies and most of the rest from Asia.
  • China’s population is nearly one-third of the total population of Asia but by 2050 its population of working age will shrink by 200 million people while in India the working-age population will increase by 200 million.
  • Asians are not subscribing to a “China-led Asia”, which would imply returning to the colonial order.

2. Change of Global Order

  • The global spread of the BRI signals the political end of the old order where the G7 shaped the economic agenda.
  • Italy, a member of the G7, is joining the BRI, despite the publicly voiced objection of the U.S., just as Britain joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015. Asians are gravitating to the new as it better meets their needs, not because the old is crumbling.

3.Meeting infrastructure needs

  • The Asian Development Bank, not China, drew global attention to infrastructure as the key driver of economic growth in Asia and the financing gap of $26 trillion.
  • The most visible feature of the BRI is the network of physical and digital infrastructure for transport, energy transmission and communications, harmonised with markets for advanced manufacturing and innovation-based companies.
  • Two-thirds of the countries funded by the initiative have sovereign debt ratings below investment grade, and their being part of supply chains is a catalyst for growth.
  • A recent analysis identified only eight out of 68 countries at risk of debt default, which does not affect the overall viability of the $3 trillion reserves of China for potential investment.
  • There are cases of excess debt, political corruption and policy shifts following change in governments but overall the BRI remains popular.
  • For example, Nepal has just chosen the Chinese gauge over the Indian one for its rail network.

4. Towards Multilateralism

  • The BRI, faced with criticism over lack of transparency and insensitivity to national concerns, is evolving towards standards of multilateralism, including through linkages with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The International Monetary Fund describes it as a “very important contribution” to the global economy and is “in very close collaboration with the Chinese authorities on sharing the best international practices, especially regarding fiscal sustainability and capacity building”.

5.Strategic Objective

  • For the BRI to have strategic objectives is not unusual.
  • The Marshall Plan in the 1950s also required recipients to accept certain rules for deepening trade and investment ties with the U.S. Chinese control over supply-chain assets like ports provides the ability to project naval power, which will however remain minuscule compared to that of the U.S. — comprising 800 overseas bases.
  • The BRI’s commercial advantage has certainly increased China’s international weight and India needs to shape the new standards to benefit Indian technology companies .

Indo-Pacific Picture

  • India’s China dilemma, as it ends its ambivalence towards China, revolves around assessment of the extent the Asian giants need each other for the Asian century.
  • Prime Minister has declared a cooperative vision of the ‘Indo-Pacific’, contrary to the containment-based view of the United States.
  • Need for India’s support – China also recognises the difficulties inherent in the interlinked international and domestic agenda of the BRI, and needs India’s support for reform of global governance, which was an important part of last year’s discussion at Wuhan.
  •  Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Concerns –India should respond to the strategic complexity arising from the BRI, a key part of which cuts through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, through three related but distinct diplomatic initiatives.

Way Forward

  • Highlight Territorial Concerns – India needs to highlight that a British-led coup by the Gilgit Scouts led to Pakistani occupation of this territory and seek appropriate text recognising India’s sovereignty — a drafting challenge but not an insurmountable one.
  • South Asian Character to BRI – New Delhi should give a South Asian character to the two BRI corridors on India’s western and eastern flanks, by linking them with plans for connectivity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Third, India needs work towards ‘multilateralising’ the BRI with a set of rules.
Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] In defence of hung House

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Coalition Government Can be stable when operate with consultation.


CONTEXT

Campaign planners the world over have woven veritable fables and fictions around themes like “chaotic coalitions” and virtues of “strong” leaders. Which is more preferable — unstable minority governments or elected dictatorship?

Political History of coalition Government

  • Were all the previous minority regimes so weak and indecisive?
  • 1991 Economic Reforms – In 1991, economic reform was launched by the Narasimha Rao government, which at that point of time did not even enjoy a legislative majority.
  • Pokhran 2 – Pokhran 2 was ordered by a minority PM who also stood up to the rigours of the subsequent US embargo.
  • Kargil War – The Kargil war was fought in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a caretaker PM without the backup of surgical strikes.
  • Nuclear Deal – The contentious nuclear deal with US was valiantly pushed by a “weak” PM. In the process, the lacklusture PM managed to stage Indian political history’s darkest cloak and dagger operation to rope in the most difficult anti-Congress politician.
  • The millennium’s first decade was India’s golden era of investment and growth.
  • It happened under two politically-riven coalitions.

Reasons for the desirability of the coalition –

1.Political Consensus Culture

  • What makes minority governments desirable is that they prevent extremes and create a culture of political consultation and consensus.
  • A crippling demonetisation or surgical bravado might not have happened under the constraints of a hung Parliament.

2.More federal – By their very nature, the coalitions tend to be more federal and allow wider scrutiny of the executive’s decisions.

3. Voice to Civil Society

  • Such governments allow more say to the members of civil society and social activists.
  • Initiatives like the RTI, RTA and Land Acquisition Act might not have been possible under an all-powerful supremo.

Why did coalition Governments fall in the past?

  • Coalitions are not inherently unstable and growth is not synonymous with strong leader.
  • The fall of the Deve Gowda government was not due to the dissensions in the UF.
  • It was triggered by outside supporter Sitaram Kesri’s prime ministerial aspirations.
  • The Congress pulled down the I K Gujral government in the hope of a return to office in 1998 on an elusive Rajiv sympathy wave.
  • Yet all the 14 UF parties stood together with their two PMs and went to the next elections as an alliance.
  • Rainbow coalitions under Atal Bihari Vajpayee (six years) and Manmohan Singh (10 years) together held office from 1998 to 2014.
  • This was a credible achievement.
  • The dispute resolution mechanism under the 20-month UF of federal and left parties calls for a deeper appraisal for its institutionalised functioning founded on pre-decision consultations and consensus.
  • Vajpayee worked under constant pressure from Chandrababu Naidu, J Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee.
  • Within his Parivar, the RSS under K S Sudarshan, an ardent adherent of swadeshi economics, tried to put hurdles to Vajpayee’s reform initiatives.
  • It objected to privatisation, labour reform, the patents bill and FDI in retail and insurance. Yet Vajpayee was hailed as a successful liberaliser.

Working of Populism And Authoritarianism

  • In India, populism meant bestowing preferred vote banks with economically unjustifiable freebies.
  • It is not so in the global context.
  • Elected dictators world over display a tendency to short-circuit the functioning democratic institutions to establish a direct communication with voters.
  • They avoid making a statement on floor of the House, but address people directly.
  • Constitutional bodies are treated as hurdles and must be seized or rendered comatose.
  • Media control is their forte.

 

Judiciary Institutional Issues

Explained: What happens when judges face allegations?

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Grounds for removal of SC Judges

Mains level : Grounds for removal of SC Judges


News

Background

  • Recently allegations of sexual harassment were made by a former employee of the Supreme Court against the CJI.
  • However it was later claimed by a litigant that he was offered to “frame” the CJI.
  • While judges indeed require powerful protection against motivated accusations, due process demands that an expeditious, thorough, fair and impartial probe is carried out in the matter.
  • The extraordinary developments at the country’s highest seat of justice offer an opportunity to revisit some larger questions around its accountability.

The question of ‘good behaviour’

  • Constitution protects judges against the will of the masses, of Parliament, and of the all-powerful executive.
  • A judge of the SC cannot be removed except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session.
  • Such removal can be initiated on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

The question of ‘good behaviour’

  • The Constitution does not define ‘misbehavior’ and ‘incapacity’.
  • The Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006 sought to establish a National Judicial Council to inquire into allegations of incapacity or misbehavior of judges of the HC and SC.
  • It defined misbehavior as willful or persistent conduct which brings dishonour or disrepute to the judiciary; or willful or persistent failure to perform the duties of a judge; or wilful abuse of judicial office, corruption, lack of integrity; or committing an offence involving moral turpitude.
  • The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, tried to lay down enforceable standards of conduct for judges.
  • It proposed to widen the definition of ‘misbehaviour’ by adding “corruption or lack of integrity which includes delivering judgments for collateral or extraneous reasons, making demands for consideration in cash or kind”, or “any other action… which has the effect of subverting the administration of justice”.
  • Failure to declare assets and liabilities, or wilfully giving false information was also included within the definition of ‘misbehaviour’.

No single definition yet on ‘misbehaviour’

  • In C Ravichandran Iyer vs Justice A M Bhattacharjee & Ors (1995), the Supreme Court said ‘misbehaviour’ could not have a straitjacketed definition.
  • But if the conduct of a judge leads to the credibility of the judiciary being called into question, it should be considered misbehaviour.
  • Misconduct prior to assuming office is not exempt — in 2009, Rajya Sabha passed an impeachment motion against Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court for allegedly misappropriating funds several years before he became a judge.

What should be the standard of proof for ‘misbehaviour’?

  • While rejecting the Opposition’s notice for impeachment of CJI, RS chairman cited the “lack of substantial merit”, and said the charges had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
  • But impeachment is not a criminal trial.
  • In all civil matters, the standard of proof is the “preponderance of probabilities”.
  • In Australia and South Africa, this is the standard of proof in the impeachment process of judges.
  • India does not currently have a statutory mechanism to examine the misconduct of judges, and short of the complex process of impeachment, there is no mechanism available to make judges accountable.

Allegations against judges

  • While no judge has so far been removed by impeachment, several have faced allegations of corruption, and a couple of them of sexual harassment as well.
  • An allegation of corruption or sexual harassment, if proved, ought to count as misbehaviour or misconduct.

Addressing Sexual harassment at Courts

  • In 1997, the Supreme Court noted that “the present civil and penal laws in India do not adequately provide for specific protection of women from sexual harassment in work places”, and laid down the ‘Vishakha Guidelines’.
  • Sixteen years later, Parliament enacted The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
  • The Supreme Court has a Gender Sensitization and Internal Complaints Committee headed by a woman judge, with a majority of woman members.
  • The committee has a laid-down procedure for dealing with complaints of sexual harassment on the premises of the court.
  • But it has no power to deal with complaints against the CJI or judges. In respect of misconduct by judges, the in-house process can be initiated only by the CJI.
  • The Regulations are silent on a situation where the allegation is against the CJI himself.

Accountability must persist with conscience

  • In K Veeraswami vs Union Of India And Others (1991) the Supreme Court ruled that in case of an allegation of corruption against a judge of the Supreme Court, the President would order an investigation in consultation with the CJI.
  • And, if the allegation is against the CJI himself, the President would consult other judges and act on their advice.
  • Prior to this judgment, the Prevention of Corruption Act was applicable only to public servants.
  • Justice K Jagannatha Shetty wrote: “The judiciary has no power of the purse or the sword. It survives only by public confidence.
  • The judge whose character is clouded and whose standards of morality and rectitude are in doubt may not have judicial independence and may not command the confidence of the public.
  • He must voluntarily withdraw from the judicial work and administration.
  • Veeraswami was only about allegations of corruption, but it is being followed for all allegations, including the commission of crimes against judges of constitutional courts.

No man is above the Law

  • The rule of law demands judicial accountability. Accountability makes the exercise of power more efficient and effective.
  • The British constitutional theorist A V Dicey wrote that “no man is above the law [and] every man, whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals”.
  • Legal equality is the cardinal principle of the rule of law, and everyone including judges, must respect it.

Should CJI undergo trial?

  • To place judicial performance beyond scrutiny would be myopic, as liberty without accountability is freedom of the fool.
  • Power without responsibility is the anti-thesis of constitutionalism. Accountability of public officials, including judges, is the very essence of a mature democracy.

Way Forward

  • Judicial accountability promotes at least three discrete values: the rule of law, public confidence in the judiciary, and institutional responsibility.
  • Both judicial independence and judicial accountability are purposive devices designed to serve greater constitutional objectives.
  • Though the independence of the judiciary is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, it is not an end in itself.
  • In fact, it is an instrumental value defined by the purposes it serves.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Worlds first Malaria Vaccine: RTS,S (Mosquirix)

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the vaccine

Mains level : Malaria and its incidence in India


News

  • The WHO welcomed a pilot project in Malawi of administering a malaria vaccine to children below the age of 2 years.

RTS,S vaccine (Mosquirix)

  • The vaccine has been developed by GSK — the company is donating about 10 million doses of the product for the pilot.
  • It was created in 1987 by GSK, and was subsequently developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • RTS,S aims to trigger the immune system to defend against the first stages of malaria when the Plasmodium falciparum parasite enters the human host’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite and infects liver cells.
  • The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting the liver, where it can mature, multiply, re-enter the bloodstream, and infect red blood cells, which can lead to disease symptoms.
  • In 2014, the vaccine cleared phase III clinical trials which certified that it was both effective and safe for use in humans.

Why fear Malaria?

  • Malaria is a potentially life-threatening parasitic disease caused by the parasites Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), P.falciparum, P.malariae, and P.ovale transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito.
  • Malaria, according to the WHO, remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes.
  • Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk from its life-threatening complications.

Why trials in Malawi?

  • A total 3, 60,000 children across three African countries — Malawi, Ghana and Kenya — will be covered every year with the vaccine.
  • Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 2,50,000 children die from the disease every year.
  • Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death.

How badly is India affected by malaria?

  • India ranks very high in the list of countries with a serious malaria burden.
  • In 2018, 3,99,134 cases of malaria and 85 deaths due to the disease were reported in the country, according to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
  • Six states — Odisha (40%), Chhattisgarh (20%), Jharkhand (20%), Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram (5-7%) — bear the brunt of malaria in India.
  • These states, along with the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, account for 90% of India’s malaria burden.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

[op-ed snap] A natural next step

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUSINDEX

Mains level : India Australia Partnership


CONTEXT

This month was a historic moment in the India-Australia bilateral relationship. Under our joint naval exercise known as AUSINDEX, there was the largest ever peacetime deployment of Australian defence assets and personnel to India.The deepening India-Australia security relationship must be seen against the backdrop of expanding bilateral ties.

AUSINDEX

  • The third iteration of our bilateral naval exercise, AUSINDEX, which has just concluded (April 2-16), builds on a fourfold increase in our defence engagement — from 11 defence exercises, meetings and activities in 2014 to 38 in 2018.
  • The Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command hosted an impressive array of high-end Australian military hardware, including the Royal Australian Navy’s flagship, HMAS Canberra and the submarine, HMAS Collins.
  • The Canberra is the size of a small aircraft carrier. She can carry over 1,000 troops and 16 helicopters. These vessels were joined by frigates, aircraft and around 1,200 sailors, soldiers and airmen and women.
  • As well as being Australia’s largest defence deployment to India, the exercise was the most complex ever carried out between  defence forces. For the first time, navies undertook anti-submarine warfare exercises.
  • And in a similar show of trust and cooperation, Indian and Australian maritime patrol P-8 aircraft flew coordinated missions over the Bay of Bengal.

Mark of greater alignment

1.Shared Values –

When Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, visited India earlier this year, in January, she emphasised on shared outlook as free, open and independent democracies, as champions of international law, as supporters of an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and as firm believers that ‘might is not right’.

2.Indo- Pacific Region –

  • A key element of Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy is partnering with India in the vibrant Indian Ocean Region.
  • India is a leader in this region and Australia is a natural partner for addressing shared challenges.
  • Together they  must continue to work together to combat transnational crime, terrorism, people smuggling, and illegal fishing, in order to  enjoy a peaceful and prosperous Indian Ocean Region.

3. Indian Ocean Concerns – As the nation with one of the longest Indian Ocean coastlines and with more than half of our goods trade departing Indian Ocean ports, Australia is committed to addressing humanitarian and environmental challenges inIndian Ocean neighbourhood.

Australia’s initiatives in Pacific –

  • Development Aid- In November 2018 Australia announced the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. This AU$2 billion initiative will boost Australia’s support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries.
  • Security Relationship –Australia will establish a Pacific Fusion Centre to provide real-time surveillance data for countries across the region as well as enhancing policing and military training both bilaterally and through regional centres.
  • Australia is  building diplomatic and economic relationships with Southeast Asia to build resilience and prosperity in region.
  •  The recently announced Southeast Asia Economic Governance and Infrastructure Initiative, worth AU$121 million, will help unlock Southeast Asia’s next wave of economic growth.

Growing links

  • All this activity is happening against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding India-Australia relationship.
  • People-to-people and economic links are on the rise.
  • The Indian diaspora in Australia is both strong and growing.
  • One in 50 Australians today was born in India; almost 90,000 Indian students studied in Australia last year; and over 350,000 tourists visited Australia from India in 2018.
  • We are working together to see India become a top three trading partner for Australia by 2035.

Way Forward

  • So on the one hand, we should welcome the successful AUSINDEX exercise as a step up in our strategic partnership.
  • At the same time, we should recognise it also as the natural next step in a friendship between Australia and India that is marked by growing trust, understanding and camaraderie.

 

[op-ed snap] In an oil slick

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Impacts of USA's ban on Iran oil on India's Interests


CONTEXT

Faced with the U.S.’s intransigent demand that all countries put a full stop to oil imports from Iran or face sanctions, the Indian government has indicated it will ‘zero out’ oil imports after the May 2 deadline.

What next?

  • Alternative Energy Sources – Statements from the Petroleum and External Affairs Ministries suggest the government’s focus is now on finding alternative sources of energy, and minimising the impact on the Indian market.
  • At last count, India was importing about 10% of its oil needs from Iran, although it had considerably reduced its intake over the last few months.

Reasons

  1. US’s Directions-
  • The U.S. has made it clear that Indian companies that continue to import oil from Iran would face severe secondary sanctions, including being taken out of the SWIFT international banking system and a freeze on dollar transactions and U.S. assets.
  • In response, Indian importers, including the oil PSUs, have decided that sourcing oil from Iran is unviable at present.

2. India’s Interests –

  • As a result, the government is seeking to explain the decision as a pragmatic one, taken in India’s best interests.
  • Officials point to the six-month reprieve, from November 2018 to May 2019, that they received from the U.S. in the form of sanctions waivers to import Iranian oil, and the exemption to continue developing the Chabahar port, as positive outcomes of the negotiations over the past year.

Caving under pressure

  • Such arguments are, however, not very convincing. India has, in effect, now decided to cave in to U.S. pressure on the issue less than a year after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India would recognise only UN sanctions, not “unilateral” ones.
  • In fact, last February Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s presence in Delhi to increase India’s oil intake from Iran.

Costs Due to ban

  • There are other real costs attached to the U.S. ultimatum that India may have to bear.
  • High Costs – The price of oil has already shot up above the $70 mark in April.
  • The threat to oil shipments – In addition, Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a key channel for global oil shipments, which would further lead to inflationary trends, not just for oil but other commodities too.
  • Other Interests – Any direct backlash from Iran for its decision will also jeopardise India’s other interests in the country, including its considerable investment in the Chabahar port, which India is building as an alternative route for trade to Central Asia.

Conclusion

  • In the larger picture, India isn’t just testing its traditional ties with Iran, but also giving in to President Donald Trump’s blatant bullying after his administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Building a counter – Instead of engaging in what appear to have been fruitless negotiations with the U.S. over the past year, India, China, the EU and other affected entities could have spent their time more productively in building a counter with an alternative financial architecture, immune to the U.S.’s arbitrary moves.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Outer space lessons

Mains : Achievements Of Indians In S&T

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gaganyaan

Mains level : Lessons for Gaganyaan from USA's lunar mission


CONTEXT

In furthering its outer space ambitions, India must study the experiences of other space powers.

Comparison with lunar Mission

  • As scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) work toward ‘Mission Gaganyaan’, to send three Indian astronauts into space, one can’t but make comparisons with the U.S.’s lunar mission in the 1960s.
  • At the time, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made a public statement about his administration’s determination to place an American on the moon by the end of that decade.
  • The U.S.’s objective, therefore, was to have a definite public-relations edge over the U.S.S.R. in the space race, which was marked then by intense rivalry between two Cold War powers
  • A breakthrough in space was thus a matter of prestige.
  • In the context of ISRO’s plan, the prestige value of ‘Mission Gaganyaan’ is sky-high, possibly in the same league as the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Apollo Mission to the moon.

Lessons  From Lunar Mission

1.High Costs –

  • A key lesson for India from NASA’s lunar mission is that a programme of that scale and magnitude often comes at a steep cost, monetary and non-monetary.
  • More than the monetary loss, it is the non-monetary loss that matters more, as it can lend currency to the idea that such a failure indicates a waste of time and resources.

2.Hurting the image of the country –

  • A failed mission deeply hurts the image of the country in the eyes of the outside world.
  • It raises doubts about the capability of the nation-state in question.

 

3. Political Cost  –

  • Politically, a failed mission of such magnitude could give voices in the opposition an opportunity to level criticism, perhaps weakening the incumbent domestically.
  • The diplomatic costs arise from the fact that losses in space missions can seriously impact the future of cooperation between space powers.
  • For instance, during the Cold War, both the U.S. and the then U.S.S.R. exaggerated each other’s failures in space missions considerably in order to influence the overall mood among and inclinations of other nations in their favour.
  • This was most easily achieved by making the rival look as weak as possible. Historically, the media played an active role in participating in such an agenda-driven propaganda.

Conclusion –

  • Outer space is often referred to as the ‘final frontier’ by major world powers, with the prize for conquering it being even more greatness on the world stage.
  • While India’s credentials were bolstered after the successful anti-satellite mission recently, significant success in ‘Mission Gaganyaan’ might provide India with that stamp of authority in outer space that it so keenly desires.
  • For that to happen, the lessons from the experiences of other space powers must be heeded.
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Explained: Life without Iranian oil

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Heated US-Iran relation and its impact of India and the World


News

Background

  • India has said the country is “sufficiently prepared” to deal with the impact of the US decision to curtail the temporary exemption from sanctions on the purchase of Iranian oil.
  • India has “a robust plan” that has been put in place for adequate supply of crude to refineries.
  • In the past several months India has worked hard to significantly diversify its energy sources in preparation for this situation.
  • But its ties with Iran are significant and historic, and New Delhi will work hard to maintain some links.

Iran and India’s oil basket

  • India, the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, meets more than 80% of its crude oil requirements and around 40% of its natural gas needs through imports.
  • India is Iran’s top oil buyer after China.
  • In 2018-19, it imported 23.5 million tonnes from Iran; in the previous year, almost 10% of its total 220.4 million tonnes of crude imports was from Iran.
  • Iran was the fourth largest supplier of oil to India in 2018-19, and other suppliers may not provide the same benefits in the form of price and credit facilities.
  • The US move comes at a time when the price of the Indian crude basket — an average of the Dubai, Oman and Brent crude benchmarks — has been rising, and the country is in the middle of gemeral elections.

Amidst US sanctions

  • Indian refiners have almost halved their Iranian oil purchases since Nov 18, when the sanctions came into effect.
  • At the time, the US had granted waivers for six months until May 2 to eight countries — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.
  • According to market players, Indian refiners are increasing their planned purchases from the OPEC, Mexico, and even the US to make up for the loss of Iranian oil.

Diversification efforts

  • As part of the diversification, India imported crude from the US for the first time two years ago.
  • The first US crude consignment reached Paradip on October 2, 2017.
  • Also, Indian oil companies had until February 2018 acquired stakes in 27 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Russia, and the UAE.
  • Recently, an Indian consortium picked up 10% in the Lower Zakhum offshore oil field in UAE, and IOCL acquired 17% in Oman’s Makhaizna oilfield.

No comparison for Iranian Oil

  • The big concern is that the substitute crude suppliers — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria and the US — do not offer the attractive options that Iran does, including 60-day credit, and free insurance and shipping.
  • The challenge is to secure an alternative supplier at competitive terms in an already tightening global situation.
  • The OPEC and allied producers including Russia have voluntarily cut output, which has pushed up oil prices more than 35% earlier this year.
  • The projected drop in Iranian exports could further squeeze supply in a tight market.

Potential impact on India

Analysts point to key metrics that could be impacted by the current situation:

I. Current account deficit:

  • Higher crude oil prices will widen the trade deficit and current account deficit, given that the value of imports goes up with crude oil.
  • A permanent increase in crude oil prices by 10% under ceteris paribus conditions could translate into the current account deficit increasing by 0.4-0.5% of GDP.
  • Given that each dollar increase in the price of oil raises India’s annual import bill by over Rs 10,500 crore.
  • Any spike in global crude prices could have a bigger impact on India’s deficit numbers in the absence of the Iranian cushion.

II. Rupee:

  • The currency could be impacted if the trade and current account deficits were to widen. An increase in the import bill will tend to put pressure on the rupee.
  • The coefficient of correlation between the absolute value of exchange rate and Brent between April 1, 2019 and April 22, 2019 was high at 0.62, the data show.

III. Inflation:

  • There could be significant impact on inflation, given how crude oil prices move and the extent to which the government allows the pass-through to the consumer.
  • Analysts do not expect a full pass-through until the elections are over.
  • The crude oil price could be an important consideration when the Monetary Policy Committee meets for its bi-monthly meeting in June.

IV. Fiscal impact:

  • There could be a two pronged impact on government finances — both on the revenue side and on the expenditure side.
  • On the revenue side, higher oil prices mean more revenue for the states as tax is ad valorem; for the Centre, though, it may not materially impact the fiscal math as the duty rates are fixed.
  • According to CARE data, subsidy provided on LPG was Rs 32,989 crore and kerosene was Rs 4,489 crore for FY20.
  • The expenditure impact would primarily be on account of fuel subsidy outlays.

Geopolitical Impact

I. Strait of Hormuz: world’s most critical oil choke point

  • After the US said it would prevent five of Iran’s biggest customers including India from buying its oil, Tehran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz.
  • The strait is a neck of water between its southern coast and the northern tip of the sultanate of Oman, and the lane through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil passes every day.
  • It is a threat that Iran has made earlier, too and this strategic area has seen several flashpoints erupt in Tehran’s fraught relationship with the West over the years.

II. State of play

  • Iran cannot legally close the waterway unilaterally because part of it is in Oman’s territorial waters
  • However, ships pass through Iranian waters, which Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy controls (recently named terror organization by US).
  • Annual war games by Iran involve missile tests. The Guards have warned that the security of the US and US interests are in Iranian hands
  • The US fifth fleet in Bahrain protects commercial shipping in the area. The US has said closing the Hormuz Strait would amount to crossing a “red line”

III. A test of Hostility

  • Massive stakes give Iran leverage, but closing the Hormuz Strait will amount to an escalation with unknown fallout.
  • This is one reason Iran has, in 40 years of hostility with the West, never yet acted on its threats to close the Strait.

IV. Choking trade routes

  • International energy markets are critically dependent on reliable transport.
  • Over 60% of the world’s petroleum and other liquids production moves on maritime routes.
  • The seven choke points in the map above are critical nodes of the world’s energy security grid.
  • Blocking them can lead to huge increases in energy costs and world energy prices.
  • Choke points are also the places where tankers are most vulnerable to pirates, terrorist attacks, political unrest, war, and shipping accidents.
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Kumbh brought Allahabad to verge of an epidemic, says NGT

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kumbh, NGT

Mains level : Solid Waste Management; Prospects and Challenges


News

  • Both the governments, at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, claimed to have organised a ‘swachh’ — clean — Kumbh in the winter of 2018-19, but the NGT seems to differ.
  • In fact, the quasi judicial body rang alarm bells about host city Allahabad being on the the verge of an epidemic.

Alarms raised by NGT

  • While predicting a rise in case of acute diarrhoea, enteric fever, viral hepatisis and cholera, the NGT said responsibility needs to be fixed so an epidemic can be prevented.

Why Kumbh left an epidemic behind?

I. Poor solid waste management

  • The green bench flagged poor solid waste management during the months-long religious gathering.
  • The NGT said 60,000 metric tonnes (mt) of solid waste had been collected at nearest SWM Plant which was lying untreated.
  • Of this, 18,000 mt was generated in Kumbh, but the plant was not operational since September 2018.

II. Polluted Groundwater

  • Also, the tribunal pointed out that groundwater too has been polluted.
  • Dirty water from toilets was being collected in kutcha pits.
  • The base of the soak pits had not been lined and the dirty water could percolate underground.

III. Ganga , the ultimate sufferer

  • The NGT found that a large number of toilets were constructed very close to the river.
  • The nearby geotubes had more sewage than it could treat.
  • The geo tube was not working satisfactorily and 50 per cent of the sewage from the drain was trapped and the rest was going into the Ganga.

IV. No lesson learnt from past

  • This is not the first Kumbh to have come under criticism for poor managment.
  • Things were far from perfect during the last Kumbh as well.
  • The CAG of India’s audit report of the event read, that no effective planning for protection of environment and pollution control was made for the Maha Kumbh.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[op-ed snap] Terror next door

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Reasons for Serial blasts in Sri Lanka


CONTEXT

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka could widen ethnic faultlines, threaten to disrupt a decade of calm.

Background

  • Sri Lanka’s decade of peace after the LTTE’s military defeat in May 2009 has been shattered with a diabolical plan to drag the country back into its darkest days.
  • The death toll is nearly 300 from the chain of eight bombings on Easter Sunday targeting churches and hotels across the island nation, worse than anything it has experienced at the hands of the LTTE in the three decades of civil war.
  • The scale and the ferocity of the attack has no precedent in Sri Lanka’s troubled history, one from which it believed it had finally emerged.
  • In the last decade, a generation of Sri Lankans has come of age for whom conflict was history, who have no experience of curfews and emergency regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
  • Now all this is threatening to engulf Sri Lanka again.

Fault in action on intelligence

  • it is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s acknowledgment that the country’s security apparatus had “prior information” on the attacks that causes more anguish.
  • The differences between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe appear to have played a good part in the security warning not being taken seriously.
  • The PM has alleged that he was not kept in the loop about the intelligence warnings.
  • If so, the inability of the country’s top functionaries to get along has had deadly consequences. It casts their leadership abilities in extremely poor light. However, the administration has done well to prevent any backlash on the Muslim community.

Reasons for attack

1.Rise of extremism and fundamentalism –

Given that investigators believe this was the handiwork of radicalised local Muslims, there have been straws in the wind of such radicalisation for years, as a reaction to attacks by the LTTE on Muslims through the 1990s, and after the war, to the rise of Buddhist fundamentalism that began targeting Muslims.

2.Spread of Wahabism

Sri Lanka, where nearly 10 per cent of the 22 million population is Muslim, has also not been insulated from the global spread of Wahabism.

3. Politicisation

Mainstream Muslim parties, major players in Sri Lanka’s robust democratic political space, had managed to keep the radicals at bay all these years despite the failure of the political class to repair the ethnic faultlines.

4.Local Grievances

The targeting of Christians, who are an even smaller minority in Sri Lanka than Muslims, and in a manner similar to anti-Christian incidents in other parts of the world, also points to more than a local grievance.

Conclusion

But it seems too early to say if the Easter bloodbath was the handiwork of ISIS, which would be searching for new spaces to compensate for its total loss of territory. Solving these puzzles will help Sri Lanka, also the rest of South Asia, to craft responses that ensure there will be no repetition of this nightmare.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[Op-ed Snap] Sovereignty And A Road

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Wuhan summit alone will not fasten India-China Relationship. Other Stepa are required.


Background

India has, once again, decided to not participate in China’s second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) due on April 25, which is likely to be attended by around 40 heads of government.

Situation after Wuhan Summit

  • The admiration of India’s attempt to engage China through the Modi-Xi Wuhan informal meeting has faded away in recent months
  • For instance, for the fourth time in a row, China blocked India’s bid to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UNSC, the CPEC is going on regardless of India’s stern objections vis-à-vis PoK, and the balance of trade is still hugely in China’s favour.

Loopholes in criticism

  1. High Expectations –
  • First, thanks to the overpublicising of the Modi-Xi meeting, the expectation bar was set to an unrealistically high level.
  • The Wuhan meeting was not about resetting India-China relations. It was an initiative to engage each other in a constructive dialogue.
  • Wuhan and subsequent steps were intended to only manage the differences and prevent relations from getting derailed.
  • The popular perception in the Indian media that because of Wuhan, China would not go ahead with the CPEC or support India on Masood Azhar and the belief in the Chinese media that it would lead India to join the BRI, are misinformed at best.

2. Not a stand-alone dialogue –Second, Wuhan was not a stand-alone dialogue, it was deeply embedded with the Doklam standoff. For the two countries, facing an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Doklam, Wuhan came as an opportunity to re-start the dialogue.

India’s response to BRI

  • India’s response to the BRF is not linked with the Wuhan spirit.
  • Territorial Concerns – It is deeply rooted in its territorial sovereignty concerns vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. The Chinese investments in Pakistan are complicating the matter with each passing day. India’s main concern remains the much-controversial CPEC that passes through the PoK.

Current Relationship

  • It is clear that China has been selective in addressing India’s concerns, and India too has adopted a similar approach.
  • China is mindful of the fact that without India’s participation, BRI will remain an incomplete project at best.
  • That is perhaps why China is keen to have another Wuhan-like dialogue. We do need more such meetings but only to facilitate the negotiation processes.

Way Forward

  • Pragmatic Approach- Considering the asymmetry in its relationship with China, India needs to continue its pragmatic and balanced policy of engaging China through dialogues while actively looking for ways to deal with the possible scenarios.
  • The institutionalisation of regional groups –The quest to institutionalise the Quad and Indo-Pacific seems to be turning into reality with the restructuring of the MEA’s ASEAN Multilateral Division and the Indian Ocean Region Division into the Indo-Pacific Division.
  • Trilateral Dialogues – Trilateral dialogues and search for avenues to normalise and improve regular healthy conversations with China are the best way forward.
  • Balance of relationships – Self-doubt over peace initiatives or hesitation in moving forward on the Quad are detrimental to India’s interests. One should not happen at the cost of the other. A careful balancing of both tracks will contribute to India’s stronger positioning in the region.
J&K – The issues around the state

Green issues in J&K

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dal and Wular Lake, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Green issues in J&K


News

  • Even as Articles 370 and 35A generate considerable heat in Jammu & Kashmir, crucial issues of ecology and environment remain conspicuously ignored by all.

Geopolitical fallouts impacting environment

  • Shrinking glaciers tops this list. Through summer these glaciers charge the Valley’s water bodies, like streams and canals used in irrigation and rivers that flow into Pakistan.
  • The state also witnesses two of its major lakes — Dal and Wular — become smaller.

I. Shrinking waterbodies

  • Dal, the mascot of Kashmir’s famed natural beauty and a major tourist puller, has shrunk around 36 per cent in almost four decades.
  • According to a study by Srinagar’s Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing, it has shrunk to 1,620 hectares in 2008 from 2,547 hectares in 1971.
  • Wular, which is the largest fresh water lake in Asia and was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990, is worse than Dal.
  • Since 1911, the overall water spread and marsh areas have shrunk by more than 50 per cent.
  • The water-holding capacity of the lake that helps prevents floods and drought is fast diminishing.

II. Conversion of farmlands

  • Over the past three decades, Kashmir has also witnessed a steady conversion of farmland into ones used for non-agricultural purposes.
  • As a result, food grain deficit, which in 1950-51 was 32 per cent, has now shot up to 81.5 per cent.

III. Issue over Indus Water

  • Recently, India threatened to stop J&K rivers from entering Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.
  • According to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), Pakistan gets water from three J&K rivers — Jhelum, Sindh and Chenab — and India gets the right to completely divert water from Punjab rivers — Satluj, Ravi and Beas.
  • Shrinking glaciers threaten to reduce the discharge in J&K rivers, which will reduce the distribution of waters between neighbours.
  • If there is less water available to meet J&K needs, even lesser will flow to Pakistan. This may impact the country’s agriculture and its economy.

IV. Issue over Hydropower

  • Another related issue is hydro-power generation, again a politically touchy issue.
  • Under IWT, the Valley can only generate electricity from run-of-the-river power projects.
  • So, the depleting discharge in rivers will mean a progressive decline in generation capacity.
  • But, as of now, J&K faces severe shortage of electricity, an irony for a state that exports power to the rest of the country.
  • According to an estimate, around 84 per cent of the 3593 megawatt of energy generated in J&K goes to  the northern grid and the state buys a chunk of  it back  for a hefty cost.

Kashmir is  in Despair

  • The state doesn’t even have an agency to address its water problems as IWT already takes care of the larger issue — the rivers.
  • About receding of glaciers, the state can hardly do anything. One of the factors that may be accentuating the shrinkage, apart from climate change, is Amarnath Yatra.
  • But regulating pilgrimage to protect the fragile environment is too politically sensitive an issue to be addressed.

Lack of awareness

  • J&K faces mass unemployment, an underperforming economy (as the state imports 96 per cent of goods) and dwindling tourism.
  • In popular perception, the accent in public discourse on development and environment issues is perceived as a motivated digression from the ongoing secessionist campaign.
  • People see these development and environment related issues as secondary to the political issues of existential nature confronting the state.
  • Issues like water, power and development are seen as a consequence of the political conflict in and over the state and are hence not considered addressable unless the conflict itself is resolved.

Way Forward

  • J&K is important for environmental stability of the subcontinent.
  • So the issues of the state’s disappearing water bodies, receding glaciers needs to be openly discussed on their merit unencumbered by the political and religious sensitivities and the interests.
  • Neglecting green issues in public discourse and the consequent lack of effective administrative redressal can cost not only J&K but the entire region heavily.
Right To Privacy

Right to travel abroad is a basic human right: SC

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 1958 Kent vs Dulles Judgment

Mains level : Right to travel abroad


News

  • The right to travel abroad is a genuine and basic human right like marriage and family, the Supreme Court has observed in a recent order.

Right to travel abroad

  • The court was hearing an appeal filed by an IPS officer who was refused permission to take a private trip abroad to visit relatives as he had a departmental enquiry pending against him.
  • The court ruled that the right to travel abroad is an important basic human right for it nourishes independent and self-determining creative character of the individual.
  • The right also extends to private life; marriage, family and friendship are humanities which can be rarely affected through refusal of freedom to go abroad and clearly show that this freedom is a genuine human right.

Referring the 1958 Kent vs Dulles Judgment

  • Setting aside the order, the Supreme Court referred to its Maneka Gandhi judgment upholding the right to travel and the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of 1958 Kent vs Dulles.
  • The Bench quoted the majority opinion of Justice William O. Douglas in the latter case which said freedom to go abroad has much social value and represents the basic human right of great significance.
  • The court said that this basic human right also extends to private life; marriage, family and friendship.
  • These are part of human nature which can be rarely affected through a refusal of freedom to go abroad.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

A new landscape on the horizon

Mains Paper 1 : Geographical Features & Their Location

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various rift valleys mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Intra-continental drifting


News

  • The recent scientific evidence has given a glimpse of the Earth’s changing contours—the African continent is splitting into two.

Africa is splitting

  • A place near Nairobi, Kenya had a large crack on the ground that appeared during an intense spell of rain and flooding.
  • The crack is 57 km long which is a locus of a future ocean formation.
  • Such an event happened 138 million years ago when the South American and African continents separated to give rise to the current South Atlantic Ocean.
  • All such signs on Earth’s surface point to a totally new landscape, which resembled how it looked like when it was formed 4.5 billion years ago one huge continent.
  • The farthest scientists can predict is that 250 million years from now all continents will unite again in one supercontinent and then will break apart again along the future rift systems.

Why such cracks?

  • At first, geologists thought the crack in Kenya was formed due to “erosion of soft soils infilling an old rift-related fault.
  • They later revealed that the crack had existed for quite some time, but was filled with ash from Mount Longmont, a volcano nearby.
  • The rain had washed away the ash to expose the crack. This triggered a debate whether the crack was a part of the East African Rift system.

Rift in systems

  • Rifts are the regions of extension of the crust and the lithosphere.
  • Continental changes take place at the boundaries of tectonic plates which are divisions of the uppermost layer of the Earth and swim around on the fluid mantle layer below it.
  • The extension may develop to a stage when two plates split apart, like in the example of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. So continental rifts are potential places where new oceans are expected to form.
  • These plates periodically crash into each other, giving rise to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions when the intensity is less over short periods of time.
  • Over longer periods of time, they create all the geological and geographical features that we find on Earth like mountains, valleys and oceans.

Intra-continental drifting

  • One of these processes is an intra-continental rift system which acts between tectonic plates and can give rise to rift valleys or even new oceans.
  • The African Rift Valley, which is between Ethiopia and Kenya, is a classical example of this geodynamic process.
  • There, volcanism, earth-quakes and fracturing of the Earth’s surface result from the enormous forces that tear the eastern portion of the African continent apart.

 East African rift system

  • The East African rift system is more active in terms of volcanism and it is connected to the global ocean rift (ridge) system through the Afar-Red Sea—Gulf of Aden triple junction.
  • The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are the rifts along which two continents break apart and new oceanic flow is formed.
  • There are numerous rift systems around the world but the most active ones are the East African rift, Baikal rift, West Antarctic rift, Rio Grande rift, the Rhine Graben rift system in Europe and Shanxi rift system in China.
  • When such geographical features become prominent enough they reshape the way the planet looks.
  • The rifts undergo massive geological changes—shoulders of rifts grow and get eroded by rain and melting snow.
  • At the same time, the axial parts of rifts subside and get filled with sediments, which gets eroded from the shoulders.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Workers and refugees are not criminals

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Refugees are not criminals and they should not be treated in that manner.


CONTEXT

The Mexican border was closed for hours on November 25, 2018 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to the U.S., after a group of migrants, including children and women, in Tijuana reportedly stormed the area.Global political action is required to reinforce the legitimate identity of a worker.

Rise of Xenophobic tendencies

  • Since the 1990s, not just international but even interregional workers have slowly been pushed into the rubric of ‘criminals’.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is a prime example of this: his victory was largely founded on his ability to depict international workers, particularly those crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, as ‘criminals’.
  • This tendency is present, though in less obvious versions, in almost all developed and developing countries, including the social welfare democracies of Europe.
  • It is also present within nations, as we in India witnessed in the recent ‘Gujarati’ backlash against workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  •  Politicians can garner extra votes by implicitly or explicitly equating international/interregional ‘workers’ with ‘criminals’, and states can openly devise blatantly differential treatment for them — as the children ripped away from their parents and the workers tear-gassed at the U.S. border can testify. This marks a significant development in recent years.

Reasons for labelling refugees as criminals

Most immigrants crossing a border are law-abiding and industrious workers, not ‘criminals’ — this remains the case today, as it was in the past.

1.Nature of capitalism – It longer needs workers as much as it did in the past.

2.Financial speculation –

  • Financial speculation has increasingly dwarfed international trade from the 1990s onwards.
  • More than that, much of financial speculation is based on factors other than the productivity of a sector.  A world dominated by financial speculation does not need workers in two ways:
  • Financial speculation does not depend on the production of workers.

3. Post-humanism –

  • It is used to suggest a world after human beings, a world run by artificial intelligence.
  • Inevitably, for those in power — either in terms of a monopoly on wealth or a monopoly on knowledge — a world of financial speculation leads to a ‘post-human’ world run by artificial intelligence.
  • Once workers become redundant and numbers are sufficient, then, inevitably, one can think complacently of replacing human intelligence with artificial intelligence.

Conclusion

  • Universal Solution – Solution has to be ‘universal’ and global. Global political action is needed to ensure international working rights, linked to human status and not the caprice of state or capital.
  • Otherwise, as the right to work can currently be ensured only by national governments, it will always be used to define other — ‘foreign’ — workers as actual or potential criminals.
  • The threat of monopoly of corporations– Soon it might well become the monopoly of corporations. It is basically being used to criminalise those workers who are not allowed — by nation-states or neoliberal capitalism or both — the legitimate identity of a worker.
  • And as this is a shrinking identity — there are fewer and fewer active workers under the impact of rampant financial speculation — it simply adds to the official metamorphosis of more workers into ‘criminals’.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] LoC trade, in perspective

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LoC

Mains level : Suspending trade across Loc might not prove to be a good idea.


CONTEXT

India last week suspended the cross-LoC trade, alleging misuse of the facility by individuals linked to terrorist groups.

Background

1. Origin of trade – These measures seems to have originated in a four-point proposal for Kashmir that began to get regular airing from about 2005 from then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The four points were:

    • The LoC will stay but Kashmiris on both sides will be allowed to move freely back and forth;
    • Self-governance or autonomy to the region, but not independence;
    • Gradual demilitarisation on both sides;
    • A joint supervision mechanism with India, Pakistan and Kashmir represented on it.
  • In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about “soft borders” and “making borders irrelevant” in Kashmir.
  • On July 7 that year, the Indian Embassy in Kabul was bombed, killing an Indian diplomat and a senior Army officer and several Afghans. The US and India said the ISI was behind the bombing.
  • But the India-Pakistan foreign secretaries’ talks were held as scheduled later that month on July 21 under the composite dialogue format, and they agreed to the opening of trade routes across the LoC.

The two sides then rushed to finalise the details in the following weeks, including at a meeting of the “working group of cross LoC CBMs” on September 22, 2008.

Positive Response

  • Both sides of Kashmir welcomed the opening of the trade routes.
  • PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said at the time “it is a dream come true”, and Sardar Attique Khan, the prime minister of POK, named the day “Youm-e-Karvaan-e-Commerce” (Day of the Caravan of Commerce).
  • The Mumbai attacks put a freeze on India-Pakistan relations, but the cross-LoC trade remained unaffected by that.

Hiccups and demands

  • The agreement was for zero duty trade for a list of 21 items.
  • It ran into problems almost immediately as traders on both sides floundered on currency and communication issues.

1. Establishment of Intra Jammu & Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IJ&KCCI) – A chamber of commerce, called the Intra Jammu & Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IJ&KCCI), came into existence.

2.Recommendations-

Banking Relations – They pointed to the need for banking relations and mutual acceptance of letters of credit, a communication network, a regulatory network to determine the composition of trade, and a legal network for dispute resolution.

Expansion of list, travel arrangements – The joint chamber recommended expansion of the list of items for trade, facilitation of travel and traders’ access to each other, infrastructure facilities, banking services, use of dual currency of both countries as the mode of payment with the US dollar as the reference point, inclusion of the services sector, and opening of more trade routes.

Complaints – There were complaints that the trade had expanded to include non-Kashmiri goods. The complaints were particularly loud from the traders at Wagah border who catered to the same markets and were envious of the zero-duty cross LoC trade.

Previous suspension

  • Once in 2015, trade was suspended for 40 days after drugs were discovered in a truck from Muzaffarabad.
  • The longest suspension came during the post-Burhan Wani killing agitation in the Valley, for three months.
  • There were other brief spells when trade was suspended, mostly at Chakan da Bagh, on account of heavy cross-border shelling.
  • However, Kashmiris point out that trade has never been suspended for under-invoicing or other such violations at any other port in the country where Customs and other enforcement officials strictly monitor the inflows and outflows, and the same could have been done at the LoC.
  • As for the involvement of former militants in the trade, this was seen as a welcome development towards creating “constituencies of peace” and building stakes for normalcy in the Valley.

Benefits of trade

  • In 2011, a four page report called Intra Kashmir Trade, jointly prepared by the Delhi-based IPCS, Conciliation Resources of London, and the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, said cross border trade had proved it could be insulated from the ups and downs in the India-Pakistan relationship, and had begun to establish a “bottom up” approach to peace-building.
  • Trade has attracted divided families and some former combatants and provided a non-violent and alternative vision for change and conflict transformation,” the report said.
  • It spoke about 40 former militants who had chosen to participate in the economic activity.
  • More than its value in currency terms, the cross Loc trade holds much symbolic value in Jammu & Kashmir, especially in the Poonch-Rawalakot sector, where there are more divided families and villages than at the Uri crossing point.
  • They would be hoping that the current suspension is not permanent.
Tax Reforms

[op-ed snap] Capital gains

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OECD

Mains level : Need to bring taxation reforms in face of new challenges


CONTEXT

India’s tax authority is now considering a revamp of the rules for taxing multinational companies as well as digital firms, with a committee of the Central Board of Direct Taxes recommending changes to protect the country’s revenue interests.

Reasons

1. Tax Avoidance – At the core of this move is the issue of taxation rights on income generated by global firms operating across various jurisdictions in an age of digitalisation and profit shifting or tax avoidance strategies marked by exploiting loopholes to transfer profits to low tax destinations.

2. Rise of gig Economy – The rise of the digital and the gig economy in particular, has made the concept of a physical presence as a threshold for taxation redundant, posing challenges to governments and fiscal experts.

3. Recommendations of International groups – The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)/ G-20 Base Erosion and Profit Sharing Project recognises this situation and envisages a global consensus on tax rules by 2020.

It has now forced governments to consider fundamental changes to taxation rules to ensure that tax revenues are not eroded.

Focus Areas of OECD Model

1. A new approach on profit attribution –  Indian authorities, like some of their peers globally, will now have to firm up their approach on profit attribution — the allocation of profits between jurisdictions where customers are located and where factors of production are located and where supply side activities are carried out.

2. Conflict regarding taxation rights

  • The OECD model tax convention favours granting taxation rights to the country of residence of the taxpayer, an approach which India and some other countries do not agree with.
  • Rather, they argue taxation rights should be allowed in jurisdictions where value is created and which contributes to demand by economic activity.

3. Allocation based on variables – The other proposal which is now being considered is a formula for allocation of such taxes among countries based on sales, payroll or wages besides assets and property.

Problems with the OECD Model

1. Discriminatory Taxation – Indian authorities have argued rightly that adopting the OECD model will mean not just losing revenues but also taxing local firms, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their foreign firms, with an adverse impact on competitiveness, demand, revenues and profits.

2.Need for predictability and stability – For a country like India, which needs greater inflow of capital to boost growth and create more jobs, what will count more is not the new formula or rules for taxing cross-broader activities, but the stability and predictability of its tax regime. That’s what foreign investors fret about.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] A bad deal

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LoC

Mains level : Suspending trade across Loc mightnot prove to be a good idea.


CONTEXT

Suspension of LoC trade is a poorly-thought move that shrinks the space for manoeuvre in Kashmir and with Pakistan.

Importance of trade

1.Confidence building In Kashmir – That it was launched at all, and survived the deep freeze of India-Pakistan ties that followed 26/11, growing in value and symbolic importance to Kashmiris on either side of the LoC over the next decade, was due to the all around acknowledgment that Kashmir needs special specific confidence-building measures, and that these need to be kept separate from the India-Pakistan relationship.

2.Symbolic Value – Cross LoC interaction carried huge symbolic value in Kashmir, even though the trade itself has been far below its actual potential, and was tied up with red tape and the absence of banking facilities and telephone connections.

3.High Monetary Value – Moreover, it was being conducted through a barter system, as India and Pakistan could not reach agreement on currency transactions, even though its annual value grew from Rs 1 crore in 2008-09 to over Rs 3,000 crore at the present time.

1.Misuse of trade

  • It is unfortunate that the government has decided to “suspend” this Kashmir-specific confidence building measure now on the ground that it was being misused to push drugs, weapons and counterfeit currency into the Valley from across the border, as well as for trade in goods excluded from the list meant for cross-LoC trade.
  • After all, no trade routes into India are free from misuse.

2.Hawala –

  • Hawala, despite a severe crackdown, continues to exist as a channel through which Indians continue to send and receive money from abroad.
  • In the case of Kashmir, the absence of banking channels must have exacerbated the situation.

Alternatives –

1.Monitoring of trade routes-

  • If the government had apprehensions that the trade across the two sides of Kashmir was being used by terrorist benamis or other unscrupulous elements, the better course of action would have been to monitor the crossing points at Uri and Chakkan da Bagh through which it was taking place four times a week.
  • This is all in a day’s work for customs and other enforcement agencies, and this is how drugs were caught being smuggled in trucks from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Conclusion

1. Signals loss of control – Calling off an entire trade route because it is being misused by some sends out the message that the government has lost control, as with the highway closure.

2. Push to alienation – Plus, drawing increasingly tighter red lines in Kashmir, India only makes it more difficult for itself to get out of the corners it has painted itself into when the time for dialogue comes, as it will eventually.

3. Election motives – But if this has been done to create the impression in the rest of the country in the midst of election season that the government is unsparing with Kashmiris, it can only be described as cutting the nose to spite the face.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[op-ed snap] Humanise the law

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level : There is a need to tranform present forest law towards partnership and collaboration approach.


CONTEXT

Modernising colonial era laws is a long-delayed project, but the draft Indian Forest Act, 2019 is woefully short of being a transformative piece of legislation.

Need for reforms

1. Colonial Legacy – The original law, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, is an incongruous relic, its provisions having been drafted to suit the objectives of a colonial power that had extractive uses for forests in mind.

2. Ensuring Well being of Forest and forest dwellers – A new law enacted should make a departure and be aimed to expand India’s forests, and ensure the well-being of traditional forest-dwellers and biodiversity in these landscapes.

3. Community-led, scientific conservation – The need is for a paradigm that encourages community-led, scientifically validated conservation. This is critical, for only 2.99% of India’s geographic area is classified as very dense forest; the rest of the green cover of a total of 21.54% is nearly equally divided into open and moderately dense forest, according to the State of Forest Report 2017.

Draft Bill’s Proposals

1.Bureaucratic control of forests

  • The draft Bill reinforces the idea of bureaucratic control of forests, providing immunity for actions such as use of firearms by personnel to prevent an offence.
  • The hardline policing approach is reflected in the emphasis on creating infrastructure to detain and transport the accused, and to penalise entire communities through denial of access to forests for offences by individuals.
  • Such provisions invariably affect poor inhabitants, and run counter to the empowering and egalitarian goals that produced the Forest Rights Act.

Way forward to conserve Forest

1. Importance of Forests – India’s forests play a key role in moderating the lives of not just the adivasis and other traditional dwellers, but everyone in the subcontinent, through their impact on the climate and monsoons.

2. Improvement through collaboration – Their health can be improved only through collaboration.

    • Any new forest law must, therefore, aim to reduce conflicts, incentivise tribals and stop diversion for non-forest uses.
    • No commercial exploitation – This can be achieved by recognising all suitable landscapes as forests and insulating them from commercial exploitation.
    •  Partnership with communities and scientists – Such an approach requires a partnership with communities on the one hand, and scientists on the other. For decades now, the Forest Department has resisted independent scientific evaluation of forest health and biodiversity conservation outcomes.

Weaknesses of present Environment Policy

  •  Weakened public scrutiny – In parallel, environmental policy has weakened public scrutiny of decisions on diversion of forests for destructive activities such as mining and large dam construction.
  • Dilution of public hearings – Impact assessment reports have mostly been reduced to a farce, and the public hearings process has been diluted.

Conclusion

  • The government needs to launch a process of consultation, beginning with the State governments to ensure that a progressive law is adopted by all States, including those that have their own versions of the existing Act.
  • The Centre must hear the voice of all stakeholders and communities, including independent scientific experts.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

The Face of Disasters 2019 Report

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Face of Disasters 2019 Report

Mains level : Multiple facets of Disasters in India and thier effective management


News

  • The Face of Disasters 2019 report was recently published by Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS).

The Face of Disasters 2019 Report

  • The ‘Face of Disasters 2019’ report released by SEEDS as part of its 25th anniversary, analyses past trends, looking at disasters from a broader perspective to capture their varied facets.
  • The report talks about the need to look at disaster vulnerabilities that lie under the radar, waiting to strike.
  • Eight key areas have emerged that will be critical to consider as we look ahead:
  1. Water and the changing nature of disaster risk: A ‘new normal’ of rainfall variability is bringing challenges of too much and too little water, often in parallel.
  2. No disaster is ‘natural’: Risks lurking under the radar slip through the cracks because they don’t meet the idea of a ‘natural disaster’.
  3. The silent events: The disasters that go unseen leave those affected at even greater risk.
  4. Land becomes water (and water becomes land): Changes to the coastline are already affecting livelihood sources and will be hotspots for vulnerability in the future.
  5. The complexity of disaster impact: Beyond official ‘damages’, the long-term and uncaptured disaster impacts have life-changing consequences for affected communities.
  6. The urban imperative: Risk is rapidly urbanising and will affect everyone.
  7. Transformations in the third pole: Himalayan glaciers are melting, with serious implications for the whole region.
  8. Planning for what you can’t see: Earthquake risk is looming large under the radar, but are we prepared?

Significance of the report

  • Analysis of past trends shows us that 2019 will see unusual flooding, as well as heatwaves and drought that are already ongoing.
  • The complexity of disasters today requires a proactive and multi-pronged approach.
  • A single mega-disaster can wipe out hard-won development gains and recurrent small-scale stresses keep vulnerable families in a cycle of poverty.
  • While this multiple event pattern is repeated every year, only a few really capture the public attention. Other risks continue to intensify under the radar.

Way Forward

  • Current trends are reinforcing that disasters have multiple facets and complexities.
  • In 2018, India witnessed nearly every type of natural hazard, except a major earthquake and related events.
  • Floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, lightning strikes, cyclones and even hailstorms, a wide range of disasters impacted most of the country.
  • This poses some critical questions and issues and also points to risks that lie ahead. At the core is the idea that disasters cannot be seen in isolation anymore.
  • There is a clear need for comprehensive understanding of risks, and hyper-localised plans and allocation of resources to reduce them.

Back2Basics

Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS)

  • SEEDS, a non profit voluntary organization, is a collective endeavor of young professionals drawn from development related fields.
  • It originated as an informal group of likeminded persons, getting together for the purpose of creative research projects of academic interest.
  • The group was later formalized in early 1994 and has been active in the field ever since.
  • It is involved in research activities in Community Development, Disaster Management, Environmental Planning, Transport Planning, and Urban and Regional Planning.
  • Activities are carried out on behalf of government, semi – government and international development agencies. Independent programs on vital issues are also taken up.