Rohingya Conflict

India’s outreach to Myanmar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-Myanmar relations

The Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff have recently visited Myanmar reflected India’s multidimensional interests in the country.

Try this question:

Q.Myanmar is the key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach. Analyse.

India-Myanmar relations

  • There are two lines of thinking that drive India’s Myanmar policy: engagement with key political actors and balancing neighbours.
  • For Myanmar, the visit would be viewed as India’s support for its efforts in strengthening democratization amidst criticisms by rights groups over the credibility of its upcoming election.

Non-interference in internal politics

  • The political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s has been to support democratization driven from within the country.
  • This has allowed Delhi to engage with the military that played a key role in Myanmar’s political transition and is still an important political actor.
  • A key factor behind the military regime’s decision to open the country when it initiated reforms was, in part, to reduce dependence on China.

India as an alternative

  • By engaging Myanmar, Delhi provides alternative options to Naypyidaw.
  • This driver in India’s Myanmar policy has perhaps gained greater salience in the rapidly changing regional geopolitics.

Recent initiatives

  • Like in other neighbouring countries, India suffers from an image of being unable to get its act together in making its presence felt on the ground.
  • The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw (the capital) may seem a routine diplomatic activity.
  • However, establishing a permanent presence in the capital where only a few countries have set up such offices does matter.
  • Interestingly, China was the first country to establish a liaison office in Naypyidaw in 2017.
  • India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion.

Strategic calculus

  • This is an indication of Myanmar’s growing significance in India’s strategic calculus.
  • It also shows India’s evolving competitive dynamic with China in the sector at a time when tensions between the two have intensified.
  • Another area of cooperation that has expanded involves the border areas.
  • Furthermore, the recent announcement that India was transferring a Kilo-class submarine to Myanmar demonstrates the depth of their cooperation in the maritime domain.

The balancing act

  • For Delhi, the balancing act between Bangladesh and Myanmar remains one of the keys to its overall approach to the Rohingya issue.
  • Delhi has reiterated its support for “ensuring the safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons” to Myanmar.
  • By positioning as playing an active role in facilitating the return of Rohingya refugees, India has made it clear that it supports Myanmar’s efforts and also understands Bangladesh’s burden.
  • For Delhi, engaging rather than criticizing is the most practical approach to finding a solution.

Conclusion

  • For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach.
  • Delhi’s political engagement and diplomatic balancing seem to have worked so far in its ties with Myanmar.
  • Whether it has leveraged these advantages on the ground to the full is open to debate.
  • The aforementioned initiatives could be the beginning of change on the ground by establishing India’s presence in sectors where it ought to be more pronounced.

J&K – The issues around the state

Outsiders can now buy land in Jammu and Kashmir

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Abrogation of Art. 370

People, as well as investors outside Jammu and Kashmir, can now purchase land in the Union Territory (UT) as the Centre has notified new land laws for the region.

What is the new criterion?

  • Under the newly introduced J&K Development Act, the term “permanent resident of the State” as a criterion has been “omitted”, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest in the UT.
  • Under the ‘transfer of land for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or education’, the government may now allow the transfer of land.
  • According to amendments made to “The Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land.
  • No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist.
  • No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector.
  • Under a new provision, an Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements.

Note: These laws do not apply to the UT of Ladakh. The Centre is likely to notify separate land laws for the UT of Ladakh soon.

Also read:

[Burning Issues] J&K New Domicile Rules

Criticisms of the move

  • Political parties have opposed the move citing the sale of the state.
  • With these new laws in place, tokenism of the domicile certificate has been done away with, as purchasing non-agricultural land has been made easier.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UAPA

Mains level : UAPA

The Centre has designated 18 key operatives and leaders of extremists groups as individual terrorists under the recently-amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Try this question for mains:

Q.“Anti-terror laws should not be used as a tool to silence the critics of the government.” Discuss in context to the recent amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

About UAPA

  • The UAPA is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India
  • It is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004.
  • It was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act” was added to the list of offences.

Recent amendments

  • The Centre had amended UAPA, 1967, in August 2019 to include the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.
  • Before this amendment, only organisations could be designated as terrorist outfits.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Water on the Moon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Artemis, SOPHIA, VIPER

Mains level : Study of water on moon

The Moon has water at places where none had been detected before and has potentially more water than previously believed in regions where it was already understood to exist.

Try this MCQ:

Q.NASA’s VIPER mission sometimes seen in news is related to the study of-

a)Moon

b)Venus

c)Sun

d)None of these

Water on the moon

  • In two separate studies in Nature Astronomy, scientists have reported findings with potentially huge implications for sustaining humans on the Moon in the future.
  • One study reports the detection of water on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time.
  • The other estimates that the Moon’s dark, shadowy regions, which potentially contain ice, are more widespread than thought.

Why is the discovery of water important?

  • Apart from being a marker of potential life, water is a precious resource in deep space.
  • For astronauts landing on the Moon, water is necessary not only to sustain life but also for purposes such as generating rocket fuel.
  • NASA’s Artemis programme plans to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 and hopes to establish a “sustainable human presence” there by the end of the decade.

What was known about water on the Moon?

  • Previous Moon studies, including by the ISRO Chandrayaan-1 mission, have provided evidence for the existence of water.
  • In 2009, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard Chandrayaan-1 found water molecules in the Polar Regions.

What is different in the new discovery?

  • This time, it is confirmed H20 molecules, discovered in Clavius Crater in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
  • And it is the first time water has been detected on the sunlit side, showing it is not restricted to the shadowy regions.
  • SOFIA, which is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner that flies at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, has an infrared camera that picked up the wavelength unique to water molecules.
  • The data showed water in concentrations of 100-412 parts per million trapped in 1 cubic metre of soil.

How could the water have formed?

  • Space rocks carrying small amounts of water could have bombarded the Moon.
  • Alternatively, the Sun’s solar wind could have carried hydrogen, which then reacted with minerals in the lunar soil to create hydroxyl, which later transformed into water.
  • The sunlit surface retaining the water presents a puzzle since the Moon does not have a thick atmosphere.
  • One possibility is that the water gets trapped into tiny bead-like structures that were created in the soil by impacts from space rocks.
  • Alternatively, the water could be hidden between grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight, NASA said.

So, how widespread is water on the Moon?

  • On the sunlit side, it is not yet known whether the water SOFIA found is easily accessible.
  • On the other hand, the hidden, shadowy pockets on the lunar surface called “cold traps” are spread across a combined 40,000 sq km, the other study has reported.
  • The cold traps have gone without sunlight for potentially billions of years. If they do contain ice, it means water is going to be more accessible than previously assumed.

What next?

  • SOFIA will look for water in additional sunlit locations to learn more about how the water is produced, stored, and moved across the Moon.
  • Meanwhile, NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will carry out a mission to create the first water resource maps of the Moon.

Judicial Reforms

Live-streaming of Courts

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Transparent and accessible judicial proceedings

Attorney General of India has pushed for live-streaming court proceedings to make hearings accessible to all. But CJI sounded a cautionary note, saying it was susceptible to “abuses.”

Why such demands?

  • In a first in India, the Gujarat High Court has begun live streaming of Court Proceedings on YouTube.
  • The issue of live-streaming came up as a Special Bench led by the CJI was taking stock of the virtual court system initiated soon after the pandemic lockdown.

Live-streaming of Court

  • Justice Chandrachud was one of the three judges on the Bench that gave the verdict on live-streaming in September 2018.
  • In fact, he had noted in his separate opinion that live-streaming of proceedings would be the true realization of the “open court system.”
  • His suggestions were later adopted as guidelines in the September 2018 judgment.

Why there should be live-streaming?

  • The open court systems protect the right to access justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Further, publishing court proceedings is an aspect of Article 129, per which the Supreme Court is a court of record.
  • Journalists, young lawyers, civil society activists and academics would all benefit from live streaming, the Court opined.
  • Moreover, open courts help foster public confidence in the judiciary.
  • Further, court proceedings must also be documented and preserved for posterity. Both audio-visual recordings and transcripts of oral arguments should be maintained for this purpose.

Issues with live-courts

The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) of the Department of Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice have tabled its report on the functioning of Virtual Courts and Digitization of Justice Delivery in Parliament.

Following are the four key considerations and recommendations of the committee as far as mainstreaming of virtual courts is concerned:

(1) The question of access:

  • A large number of litigants and advocates lack internet connectivity and requisite infrastructure and means to participate in virtual hearings and the process. This has serious implications.
  • The obvious one being that a large chunk of our citizenry is vulnerable to being excluded from the process of justice delivery owing to factors beyond their control.
  • The committee also opined that the judiciary considers solutions such as mobile video conferencing facilities to allow for meaningful participation from those living in remote geographies.

(2) The degree of comfort:

  • A highly underrated but equally consequential factor is whether everyone, even if access to reliable internet connectivity is universal, is comfortable and well versed with the new tools and mediums of justice delivery.
  • Big, well-to-do law firms and advocates in urban areas would face no issues as compared to those participants in rural areas given the digital divide.

(3) The idea of open courts itself:

  • Virtual courts allegedly threaten the constitutionality of Court proceedings and undermine the importance of Rule of law which forms a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Expressing concern over the opaqueness of such hearings, critics state that virtual courts are antithetical to the open court system given the limited access that they allow for.

(4) The question of Privacy and Data Security:

  • This is where the report makes some interesting and innovative suggestions vital to the performance of any digital justice delivery mechanism.
  • It also took note of the fact that most virtual court proceedings in India currently take place using third-party software or platforms and a few of them have already been rejected earlier on grounds of being unsafe to use.
  • The committee noted how courts across the world have had instances of intrusion and data privacy or security concerns while adapting to an entirely virtual mode of conducting hearings.

Still, digital records are necessary

  • Litigants depend on the information provided by lawyers about what has transpired during the course of hearings.
  • When the description of cases is accurate and comprehensive; it serves the course of open justice.
  • Again, if a report on a judicial hearing is inaccurate, it impedes the public’s right to know.

Best examples

  • Internationally, constitutional court proceedings are recorded in some form or the other.
  • In Australia, proceedings are recorded and posted on the high court’s website.
  • Proceedings of the Supreme Courts of Brazil, Canada, England and Germany are broadcast live.
  • The Supreme Court of the US does not permit video recording, but oral arguments are recorded, transcribed, and available publicly.
  • And democracies aside, in China, court proceedings are live-streamed from trial courts up to the Supreme People’s Court of China.

Significance of open-courts

  • India stands alone amongst leading constitutional democracies in not maintaining audio or video recordings or even a transcript of court proceedings.
  • Court hearings can be turning points in the life of a nation: ADM Jabalpur comes readily to mind. More recently, there is any number of cases where the Supreme Court’s judgments have changed citizens’ lives.
  • Ayodhya, Aadhaar, Section 377, Sabarimala, NRC and the triple talaq judgments are among them.

Various moves for accessibility

  • Over the last few years, the Supreme Court has taken steps to make justice more accessible. The Court started providing vernacular translations of its judgments.
  • Non-accredited journalists were permitted to live-tweet court proceedings. During the lockdown, journalists have been permitted to view virtual court proceedings in real-time.

Way forward

  • There should be live-streaming cases of constitutional and national importance as a pilot project, including Constitution Bench cases.
  • Matrimonial cases and those involving national security could be excluded.

Conclusion

  • The SC has chosen to play an influential role as an institution of constitutional governance.
  • The public is rightly interested and has a right to know, about court proceedings in constitutional courts as well as trial and appellate courts.
  • Openness and transparency reinforce the public’s faith in the judicial system.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

Debate over Plasma Therapy’s efficacy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plasma therapy

Mains level : Efficacy of the plasma therapy

Recently published findings on convalescent plasma therapy on Covid-19 patients have triggered a debate over its efficacy.

Plasma Therapy

  • Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. Convalescent plasma, extracted from the blood of patients recovering from an infection, is a source of antibodies against the infection.
  • The therapy involves using their plasma to help others recover. For Covid-19, this has been one of the treatment options.
  • The donor would have to be a documented case of Covid-19 and healthy for 28 days since the last symptoms.

Tap to read more: https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/convalescent-plasma-therapy-2/

What has happened to spark the debate?

  • An ICMR study has found convalescent plasma was not associated with a reduction in progression to severe Covid-19 or all-cause mortality.
  • While the use of this therapy seemed to improve the resolution of shortness of breath and fatigue in patients with moderate Covid-19, this did not translate into a reduction in 28-day mortality or progression to severe disease.
  • Progression to severe disease or death at 28 days after enrolment occurred in 44 (19%) of the participants in the intervention arm as compared to 41 (18%) in the control arm.

What happens if ICMR does remove the therapy from its guidelines?

  • The authorisation of convalescent plasma as a treatment for Covid-19 in India has led to questionable practices such as calls for donors on social media, and the sale of convalescent plasma on the black market.
  • The ICMR has been cautious because of the trial findings.
  • However, those guidelines are not necessarily binding and it is too early to dismiss convalescent plasma therapy. But there are other issues.
  • The therapy involves resource-intensive processes such as plasmapheresis, plasma storage, and measurement of neutralizing antibodies.

Way ahead

  • This is a new virus, and around the world, the evidence is still emerging on the best therapeutic options.
  • Covid care is individualized care. Use of the right medication on the right patient does work.
  • Some of the therapies can be continued on compassionate grounds.
  • However, the potential harms of the non-immune components of convalescent plasma should be rigorously investigated.
  • Only donor plasma with detectable titers of neutralizing antibodies should be given to trial participants, to ensure that the potential for benefit exists for all intervention arm patients.

Try this question:

Q.What is convalescent plasma therapy? Discuss its efficacy and limitations for COVID-19 treatment.

Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

Kisan Suryodaya Yojana

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kisan Suryodaya Yojana

Mains level : Not Much

PM has launched the ‘Kisan Suryodaya Yojana’ aimed at providing day-time electricity to farmers in the State of Gujarat for irrigation and farming purposes.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q. The term ‘Domestic Content Requirement’ is sometimes seen in the news with reference to-

(a) Developing solar power production in our country

(b) Granting licences to foreign T.V. channels in our country

(c) Exporting our food products to other countries

(d) Permitting foreign educational institutions to set up their campuses in our country

Kisan Suryodaya Yojana

  • Under the scheme, farmers will be able to avail power supply from 5am to 9pm for irrigation purposes.
  • Around 234 transmission lines are to be installed under the scheme. Each line is to carry the power of 66 KW. They are to be erected to a total length of 3,490 km.
  • Dahod, Patan, Mahisagar, Panchmahal, Chhota Udepur, Kheda, Tapi, Valsad, Anand and Gir-Somnath have been included under the Scheme for 2020-21.
  • The remaining districts will be covered in a phase-wise manner by 2022-23.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Base Year of CPI- Industrial Workers revised to 2016

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CPI, WPI, Base Year

Mains level : Inflation management

The Labour and Employment Ministry has revised the base year of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) from 2001 to 2016.

Why such a move?

  • This revision reflects the changing consumption pattern, giving more weightage to spending on health, education, recreation and other miscellaneous expenses while reducing the weight of food and beverages.

What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

  • The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care.
  • It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them. Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living.
  • The CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.
  • Essentially it attempts to quantify the aggregate price level in an economy and thus measure the purchasing power of a country’s unit of currency.

Types of CPI in India

  • CPI in India comprises multiple series classified based on different economic groups.
  • There are four series, viz the CPI UNME (Urban Non-Manual Employee), CPI AL (Agricultural Labourer), CPI RL (Rural Labourer) and CPI IW (Industrial Worker).
  • While the CPI UNME series is published by the Central Statistical Organisation, the others are published by the Department of Labour.
  • From February 2011 the CPI (UNME) released by CSO is replaced as CPI (urban), CPI (rural) and CPI (combined).

How it is different from WPI?

  • CPI is different from WPI, or Wholesale Price Index, which measures inflation at the wholesale level.
  • While WPI keeps track of the wholesale price of goods, the CPI measures the average price that households pay for a basket of different goods and services.
  • WPI measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods before they reach consumers; goods that are sold in bulk and traded between entities or businesses (rather than consumers).
  • Even as the WPI is used as a key measure of inflation in some economies, the RBI no longer uses it for policy purposes, including setting repo rates.
  • The central bank currently uses CPI or retail inflation as a key measure of inflation to set the monetary and credit policy.

Major components of WPI

  • Primary articles are a major component of WPI, further subdivided into Food Articles and Non-Food Articles.
  • Food Articles include items such as Cereals, Paddy, Wheat, Pulses, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Eggs, Meat & Fish, etc.
  • Non-Food Articles include Oil Seeds, Minerals and Crude Petroleum
  • The next major basket in WPI is Fuel & Power, which tracks price movements in Petrol, Diesel and LPG
  • The biggest basket is Manufactured Goods. It spans across a variety of manufactured products such as Textiles, Apparels, Paper, Chemicals, Plastic, Cement, Metals, and more.
  • Manufactured Goods basket also includes manufactured food products such as Sugar, Tobacco Products, Vegetable and Animal Oils, and Fats.

Note: WPI has a sub-index called WPI Food Index, which is a combination of the Food Articles from the Primary Articles basket, and the food products from the Manufactured Products basket.

Now try this PYQ from 2014 CSP:

Q.With reference to India, consider the following statements:

  1. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) in India is available on a monthly basis only
  2. As compared to the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI (IW)), the WPI gives less weight to food articles.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Back2Basics: Base Year

  • A base year is the first of a series of years in an economic or financial index. It is typically set to an arbitrary level of 100.
  • Any year can serve as a base year, but analysts typically choose recent years. They are periodically revised to keep data current in a particular index.
  • A base year is used for comparison in the measure of business activity or economic index.
  • For example, to find the rate of inflation between 2013 and 2018, 2013 is the base year or the first year in the time set.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Forex Reserves hit a record high

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Components of forex reserves

Mains level : Not Much

India’s foreign exchange reserves touched a lifetime high of $555.12 billion, according to RBI data.

Aspirants must make a note here:

  1. Authority managing FOREX in India
  2. Components of FOREX
  3. IMF’s SDRs
  4. Emergency use of FOREX

What are Forex Reserves?

  • Reserve Bank of India Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 set the legal provisions for governing the foreign exchange reserves.
  • RBI accumulates foreign currency reserves by purchasing from authorized dealers in open market operations.
  • The Forex reserves of India consist of below four categories:
  1. Foreign Currency Assets
  2. Gold
  3. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
  4. Reserve Tranche Position
  • The IMF says official Forex reserves are held in support of a range of objectives like supporting and maintaining confidence in the policies for monetary and exchange rate management including the capacity to intervene in support of the national or union currency.
  • It will also limit external vulnerability by maintaining foreign currency liquidity to absorb shocks during times of crisis or when access to borrowing is curtailed.

Where are India’s forex reserves kept?

  • The RBI Act, 1934 provides the overarching legal framework for the deployment of reserves in different foreign currency assets and gold within the broad parameters of currencies, instruments, issuers and counterparties.
  • As much as 64 per cent of the foreign currency reserves is held in the securities like Treasury bills of foreign countries, mainly the US.
  • 28 per cent is deposited in foreign central banks and 7.4 per cent is also deposited in commercial banks abroad.
  • In value terms, the share of gold in the total foreign exchange reserves increased from about 6.14 per cent as at end-September 2019 to about 6.40 per cent as at end-March 2020.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Gold tranche(Reserve tranche) refers to (CSP 2020)-

(a) A loan system of World bank

(b) One of the operations of a central bank

(c) A credit system of WTO granted to its members

(d) A credit system granted by IMF to its members

Rising above the 1991 crisis

  • Unlike in 1991, when India had to pledge its gold reserves to stave off a major financial crisis, the country can now depend on its soaring Forex reserves to tackle any crisis on the economic front.
  • The level of Forex reserves has steadily increased by 8,400 per cent from $5.8 billion as of March 1991 to the current level.

Human Rights Issues

NHRC advisory on Sex Work

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHRC

Mains level : Sex workers

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recognised sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on “Human Rights of Women in the context of COVID 19”.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Recognizing sex workers as informal workers is a myopic and moralistic objection of human rights activism. Discuss.

What is the NHRC advisory?

  • The NHRC in an effort to secure the rights of all excluded and marginalised women included sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on ‘Women at Work’.
  • The advisory asked officials to recognise sex workers as informal workers and register them so they are able to avail the benefits of a worker.
  • The Ministries have been asked to issue temporary documents so that the sex workers like all other informal workers, can access all welfare measures and health services.

Why is the advisory important?

  • The advisory included sex workers among groups that they were considered as part of vulnerable and marginal sections of society thereby consider them as citizens who are deserving of the protection of human rights.
  • To do this, NHRC had sought expert advice, and both the government and constitutional bodies had stood by the protection of the human rights and dignity of sex workers.
  • For many, it is a welcome move and an important milestone in achieving constitutional rights for sex workers.

Legality check of such work

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act — lays down that the institution of prostitution is illegal.
  • Sex is either a consensual engagement between two adults or it is rape.
  • Commercial sex, if engaged through any institutional process is illegal and liable for prosecution. Hence the Government of India never recognised sex work.

Criticisms of this advisory

  • The feminists who wish to end sex slavery are critical of this NHRC’s move.
  • There has not been a single instance where a woman has voluntarily gone into prostitution.
  • Therefore they have regarded this as an absolute failure to not provide viable options to women to engage in productive work.

Back2Basics: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The NHRC is a statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA).
  • This act defines Human Rights as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.

Functions

  • Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by the government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
  • Protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation

Composition

The NHRC consists of The Chairman and Four members (excluding the ex-officio members)

  • A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, or, One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions serve as ex officio members.

OBOR Initiative

What is Blue Dot Network?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Dot Network, BRI

Mains level : Blue Dot Network

A group of US Senators has written to India asking to join the Blue Dot Network.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Blue Dot Network recently seen in news is a global alliance for:

a) Beaches Certification

b) Infrastructure development

c) 5G connectivity

d) Patents regulation

The Blue Dot Network

  • Blue Dot is a US-led collaboration with Australia and Japan that supports private-sector-led infrastructure financing opportunities in response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • It was formally announced on 4 November 2019 at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok, Thailand on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit.
  • It is led by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia.
  • It is expected to serve as a global evaluation and certification system for roads, ports and bridges with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

Fundamental difference between BRI and Blue Dot

  • While the former involves direct financing, giving countries in need immediate short-term relief, the latter is not a direct financing initiative and therefore may not be what some developing countries need.
  • The question is whether Blue Dot offering first-world solutions to third-world countries.
  • Secondly, Blue Dot will require coordination among multiple stakeholders when it comes to grading projects.
  • Given the past experience of Quad, the countries involved in it are still struggling to put a viable bloc. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Blue Dot fares in the long run.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System (KLIS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaleshwaram Project, Lift irrigation

Mains level : Kaleshwaram Project

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) wants a relook at Kaleshwaram Project since the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

The Kaleshwaram Project

  • The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects.
  • It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
  • This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers with the Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district.
  • It would reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.

Records to its glory

  • The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps.
  • By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, the water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
  • The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprises water tunnels.

How important is KLIS to Telangana?

  • The project will enable farmers in Telangana to reap multiple crops with a year-round supply of water wherein earlier they were dependent on rains resulting in frequent crop failures.
  • This year, Telangana farmers have already delivered bumper rabi crops of paddy and maize due to better irrigation facilities and an extended monsoon.
  • KLIS covers several districts which used to face rainfall deficit and the groundwater is fluoride-contaminated.
  • Apart from irrigation, a main component of the project is the supply of drinking water to several towns and villages and also to twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
  • Mission Bhagiratha, the Rs 43,000-crore project to supply drinking water to every household in villages, draws a large quantity of water from the KLIS and some quantity from projects on River Krishna.
  • There is a burgeoning freshwater fishing industry in the state.

Issues raised by NGT

  • The NGT has observed that the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project to increase its capacity.
  • By increasing its capacity to pump 3 TMC water from 2 TMC, large tracts of forest land and other land was taken over and massive infrastructure was built causing adverse impact on the environment.
  • Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River.
  • Such issues have to be examined by the statutory authorities concerned.

B2Basics

National Green tribunal

  • It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
  • NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • The NGT has five places of sittings, New Delhi is the Principal place of sitting and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four.

Structure of NGT

  • The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • A Selection Committee shall be formed by central government to appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members.
  • There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.

Electoral Reforms In India

Govt. hikes poll expenditure ceiling by 10%

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ceilings on Election expenditure

Mains level : Election expenditure and associated issues

The Law Ministry has increased the ceiling on poll expenditure for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by 10% following a recommendation by the Election Commission in view of curbs imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Try answering this question:

Q.Ceiling on election expenses ends up being counterproductive and encourages candidates to under-report their expenditure. Critically analyse.

New ceiling on poll expenditure

  • The ceiling on poll expenditure varies across States, with candidates in Assembly elections in bigger States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu now allowed to spend up to ₹30.8 lakhs as against ₹28 lakhs earlier.
  • For a candidate contesting a Lok Sabha poll in these States, the revised ceiling on poll expenditure is now ₹77 lakhs instead of the earlier amount of ₹70 lakhs.
  • Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and a few Union Territories, based on the size of their constituencies and population, have a lower ceiling on poll expenditure.
  • Here while the enhanced ceiling for a Lok Sabha candidate is now ₹59.4 lakhs those contesting an Assembly can spend up to ₹22 lakhs.

How are such ceilings made?

  • Such changes are made by amending the Conduct of Elections Rules.
  • The last time the expenditure ceiling was enhanced was in 2014 just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

What doesn’t account to Election expenditure?

  • The expenditure incurred by leaders of a political party on account of travel by air or by any other means of transport for propagating programme of the political party is not considered to be the election expenditure.
  • Any expenditure which is done for service of the Government and discharge of official duty is also not considered to be election expenditure.

Role of Election Commission

  • The EC imposes limits on campaign expenditure incurred by a candidate and not political parties.
  • However, it does not cover expenses incurred either by a party or the leader of a party for propagating the party’s programme.
  • Also, candidates must mandatorily file a true account of election expenses with the EC.
  • An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years as per Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Digital India Initiatives

Ghar Tak Fibre Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FTTH, Ghar tak fibre

Mains level : Internet connectivity, Digital divide

The government’s ambitious ‘Ghar Tak Fibre’ scheme — which aims to connect all the villages with high-speed internet — is off to a slow start in poll-bound Bihar.

Note the features of FTTH connections. They make a perfect case for a statement based prelims question. Also, try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements regarding optical fibres:

  1. A layer called the cladding, which has a refractive index more than that of the core, surrounds the core of the optical fibre.
  2. Light is propagated in an optical fibre by refraction and internal reflection.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ghar Tak Fibre scheme

  • The Scheme will be implemented by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • It aims to connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with high-speed optical fibre internet by 31st March 2021.
  • Under the scheme, Bihar has to provide at least five fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections per village and at least one WiFi hotspot per village.

What is FTTH?

  • Fiber to the home (FTTH), also called fibre to the premises (FTTP), is the installation and use of optical fibre from a central point directly to individual buildings such as residences, apartment buildings and businesses to provide high-speed internet access.
  • FTTH dramatically increases connection speeds available to computer users compared with technologies now used in most places.
  • FTTH promises connection speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Ladakh Fault in Indus Suture Zone (ISZ)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan orogeny

Mains level : Not Much

A recent survey has found that a tectonic fault line that runs through Ladakh, all along the Indus river, is not inactive as was previously thought and is, in fact, moving northward.

Tap here to read more about Himalayan orogeny:

Indus Suture Zone (ISZ)

  • A suture zone is a linear belt of intense deformation, where distinct terranes, or tectonic units with different plate tectonic, metamorphic, and paleogeographic histories, join together.
  • The ISZ represents a belt of tectonic compression caused by the underthrusting of the Indian shield/ plate against the Tibetan mass.
  • It marks the boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates.
  • The suture zone stretches from the North-Western Himalayan syntaxis bordering the Nanga Parbat to the East as far as the Namche Barwa Mountain.

Its tectonic activity

  • The Karakoram Range and the Ladakh plateau lie to the north of ISZ and originally formed a part of the European plate.
  • The zone has been neo-tectonically active for the past 78,000-58,000 years.
  • While the frontal and central parts of the Himalayas — the Shivaliks, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim — are still known to be active and moving.
  • The fault line runs all along the Indus river, from China through India and Pakistan.
  • The study was conducted in Ladakh from the north of Ladakh’s capital, Leh, to the Tso Moriri lake, a distance of 213 kilometres.

Why the Ladakh region is more vulnerable?

  • Fault lines weaken the rock formation in the region through which it runs, making the area vulnerable to excessive erosion and landslides.
  • What makes the Ladakh region vulnerable is that unlike other areas in the Himalayas and the rest of the country, there is very little vegetation here and very few trees that can root the soil down.
  • So, in the case of a flash flood or a cloud burst, this can have a widespread impact.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Five Eyes (FVEY) group of nations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Five Eyes’ group of nations, End-to-end encryptions

Mains level : Not Much

India joins the UK in drive known as ‘Five Eyes’ group of nations, as a seventh member against encrypted social media messages.

Map the countries in ‘Five Eyes’ group of nations.

‘Five Eyes’ group of nations

  • The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The origins of the Five Eyes alliance can be traced back to the Atlantic Charter, which was issued in August 1941 to lay out the Allied goals for the post-war world.
  • These countries are parties to the multilateral UK-USA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
  • India is among seven countries to back a UK-led campaign against end-to-end encryption of messages by social media giants such as Facebook, which they say hinder law enforcement by blocking all access to them.

A formal expansion

  • The UK and India joined this group to ensure they do not blind themselves to illegal activity on their platforms, including child abuse images.
  • This marks an expansion of the so-called “Five Eyes” group of nations, a global alliance on intelligence issues, to include India and Japan.

For a common cause

  • All members claim that end-to-end encryption policies such as those employed by the social media giant erode the public’s safety online.
  • They have made it clear that when end-to-end encryption is applied with no access to content, it severely undermines the ability of companies to take action against illegal activity on their own platforms.
  • It also prevents law enforcement investigating and prosecuting the most serious crimes being committed on these services such as online child sexual abuse, grooming and terrorist content.

Back2Basics: End-to-end encryption

  • End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only communicating users can read the messages.
  • It is regarded as the most secure way to communicate privately and securely online.
  • By encrypting messages at both ends of a conversation, end-to-end encryption prevents anyone in the middle from reading private communications.
  • In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Next Generation Treasury Application (NGTA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NGTA, Forex Reserve

Mains level : Not Much

In a bid to improve its functioning, the RBI has decided to move to the Next Generation Treasury Application (NGTA) for managing the country’s foreign exchange and gold reserves.

Aspirants must make a note here:

1.Authority managing FOREX in India

2.Components of FOREX

3.IMF’s SDRs

4.Emergency use of FOREX

What is NGTA?

  • The NGTA, according to the RBI, would be a web-based application providing scalability, manoeuvrability and flexibility to introduce new products and securities, besides supporting multi-currency transactions and settlements.
  • It would be supporting various transactions in asset classes like Fixed Income (FI), Forex (FX), Money Market (MM) and Gold.
  • It would be used for managing the foreign exchange reserves in a more efficient way, mitigate risk, achieve operational efficiencies, dealing in various asset classes and reporting.

Objectives of NGTA

The objectives of the proposed system include:

  • dealing in various asset classes (like Fixed Income Securities, Forex, Money Market, Gold);
  • portfolio management; workflow management; reserve management;
  • integration with various third-party and in-house systems; and dashboards, reports, widgets.

Features of NGTA

  • The NGTA shall automatically fetch all the relevant details of a security/contract from a trading platform.
  • It shall support all internationally accepted conventions pertaining today count, interest computation, holiday logic, shut period-dividend, ex-dividend, cash flows, and odd coupon.
  • With respect to transactions in gold, the NGTA shall support purchase, sale, deposit (including rollover and premature withdrawal).
  • On maturity of a gold deposit, there can be exact, under or over delivery.

Back2Basics: Forex Reserves

  • Reserve Bank of India Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 set the legal provisions for governing the foreign exchange reserves.
  • RBI accumulates foreign currency reserves by purchasing from authorized dealers in open market operations.
  • The Forex reserves of India consist of below four categories:
  1. Foreign Currency Assets
  2. Gold
  3. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
  4. Reserve Tranche Position
  • The IMF says official Forex reserves are held in support of a range of objectives like supporting and maintaining confidence in the policies for monetary and exchange rate management including the capacity to intervene in support of the national or union currency.
  • It will also limit external vulnerability by maintaining foreign currency liquidity to absorb shocks during times of crisis or when access to borrowing is curtailed.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

What is Debt-to-GDP Ratio?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Debt-GDP ratio

Mains level : Not Much

India’s public debt ratio, which remarkably remained stable at about 70% of the GDP since 1991, is projected to jump by 17 percentage points to almost 90% a/c to IMF.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Most of India’s external debt is owed by governmental entities.
  2. All of India’s external debt is denominated in US dollars.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Why such a spike?

  • The increase in public spending, in response to COVID-19, and the fall in tax revenue and economic activity, will make public debt jump by 17 percentage points to almost 90% of GDP.

What is Debt-to-GDP Ratio?

  • The Debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio between a country’s government debt and its gross domestic product (GDP).
  • It measures the financial leverage of an economy.
  • A country able to continue paying interest on its debt-without refinancing, and without hampering economic growth, is generally considered to be stable.
  • A country with a high debt-to-GDP ratio typically has trouble paying off external debts (also called “public debts”), which are any balances owed to outside lenders.
  • In such scenarios, creditors are apt to seek higher interest rates when lending. Extravagantly high debt-to-GDP ratios may deter creditors from lending money altogether.
  • A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces and sells goods and services sufficient to pay back debts without incurring further debt.
  • Geopolitical and economic considerations – including interest rates, war, recessions, and other variables – influence the borrowing practices of a nation and the choice to incur further debt.

Nobel and other Prizes

Explained: Auction theory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Auction Theory, Nobel Prizes

Mains level : Auction theory and its utility

This year, the Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to Paul R Milgrom and Robert B Wilson for “improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats”.

Do you remember the 2G spectrum scam, Coalgate scam etc. that rocked the nation? Can you relate this auction theory for bidding public assets to private entities?

What is Auction?

  • Essentially, it is about how auctions lead to the discovery of the price of a commodity.
  • Auction theory studies how auctions are designed, what rules govern them, how bidders behave and what outcomes are achieved.
  • When one thinks of auctions, one typically imagines the auction of a bankrupt person’s property to pay off his creditors.
  • Indeed, this is the oldest form of auction. This simple design of such an auction — the highest open bidder getting the property (or the commodity in question) — is intuitively appealing as well.

Evolving definitions of auction

  • Over time, and especially over the last three decades, more and more goods and services have been brought under auction.
  • The nature of these commodities differs sharply. For instance, a bankrupt person’s property is starkly different from the spectrum for radio or telecom use.
  • Similarly, carbon dioxide emission credits are quite different from the spot market for buying electricity, which, in turn, is quite different from choosing which company should get the right to collect the local garbage.
  • In other words, no one auction design fits all types of commodities or seller.

The Auction Theory

Three key variables need to be understood before we move to actual propositions.

(1) Rules of the auction

  • Imagine participating in an auction. Your bidding behaviour is likely to differ if the rules stipulate open bids as against closed/sealed bids.
  • The same applies to single bids versus multiple bids, or whether bids are made one after another or everyone bids at the same time.

(2) Commodity or service

  • The second variable is the commodity or service being put up for auction. In essence, the question is how each bidder values an item.
  • This is not always easy to ascertain. In terms of telecom spectrum, it might be easier to peg the right value for each bidder because most bidders are likely to put the spectrum to the same use.
  • This is called the “common” value of an object.

(3) Uncertainty

  • The third variable is uncertainty.
  • For instance, which bidder has what information about the object, or even the value another bidder associates with the object.

The theory

  • Wilson developed the theory for auctions of objects with a common value — a value which is uncertain beforehand but, in the end, is the same for everyone”.
  • Wilson showed what the “winner’s curse” is in an auction and how it affects bidding.
  • As shown in the illustration, it is possible to overbid — $50 when the real value is closer to $25. In doing so, one wins the auction but loses out in reality.
  • Milgrom “formulated a more general theory of auctions that not only allows common values but also private values that vary from bidder to bidder”.
  • He analysed the bidding strategies in a number of well-known auction formats, demonstrating that a format will give the seller higher expected revenue when bidders learn more about each other’s estimated values.

Significance of Auction theory

  • Throughout history, countries have tried to allocate resources in various ways.
  • Some have tried to do it through political markets, but this has often led to biased outcomes. For Ex: The rationing of essential goods worked in State-controlled economies. People who were close to the bureaucracy and the political class came out ahead of others.
  • Lotteries are another way to allocate resources, but they do not ensure that scarce resources are allocated to people who value it the most.
  • Auctions, for a good reason, have been the most common tool for thousands of years used by societies to allocate scarce resources.
  • When potential buyers compete to purchase goods in an auction, it helps sellers discover those buyers who value the goods the most.
  • Further, selling goods to the highest bidder also helps the seller maximise his or her revenues. So, both buyers and sellers benefit from auctions.
  • Whether it is the auction of spectrum waves or the sale of fruits and vegetables, auctions are at the core of allocation of scarce resources in a market economy.

What are the criticisms levelled against auctions and what are the economists contribution?

1.Issue of Winner’s Curse

  • The most common one is that auctions can lead buyers to overpay for resources whose value is uncertain to them.
  • This criticism, popularly known as the ‘winner’s curse’, is based on a study that showed how buyers who overpaid for U.S. oil leases in the 1970s earned low returns. Dr. Wilson was the first to study this matter.
  • The rational bidders may decide to underpay for resources in order to avoid the ‘winner’s curse’, and Dr. Wilson argued that sellers can get better bids for their goods if they share more information about it with potential buyers

2.Auction formats

  • Economists traditionally working on auction theory believed that all auctions are the same when it comes to the revenues that they managed to bring in for sellers. The auction format, in other words, did not matter.
  • This is known as the ‘revenue equivalence theorem’.
  • But Dr. Milgrom showed that the auction format can actually have a huge impact on the revenues earned by sellers.
  • The most famous case of an auction gone wrong for the seller was the spectrum auction in New Zealand in 1990.
  • In what is called a ‘Vickrey auction’, where the winner of the auction is mandated to pay only the second-best bid, a company that bid NZ$1,00,000 eventually paid just NZ$6 and another that bid NZ$70,00,000 only paid NZ$5,000.
  • In particular, Dr. Milgrom showed how Dutch auctions, in which the auctioneer lowers the price of the product until a buyer bids for it, can help sellers earn more revenues than English auctions.
  • In the case of English auctions, the price rises based on higher bids submitted by competing buyers. But as soon as some of the bidders drop out of the auction as the price rises, the remaining bidders become more cautious about bidding higher prices.

Conclusion

  • The contributions of Dr. Milgrom and Dr. Wilson have helped governments and private companies design their auctions better.
  • This has, in turn, helped in the better allocation of scarce resources and offered more incentives for sellers to produce complex goods.

NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FCRA

Mains level : FCRA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked all NGOs seeking foreign donations to open a designated FCRA account at the State Bank of India’s New Delhi branch.

What is the FCRA?

  • The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
  • First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010 when a slew of new measures was adopted to regulate foreign donations.
  • The FCRA is applicable to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations. It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA.
  • The registration is initially valid for five years and it can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.

What happens once registered?

  • Registered associations can receive a foreign contribution for social, educational, religious, economic and cultural purposes.
  • Filing of annual returns, on the lines of Income Tax, is compulsory.
  • In 2015, the MHA notified new rules, which required NGOs to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds.
  • It ruled that it is not likely to prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with any foreign state and does not disrupt communal harmony.
  • It also said all such NGOs would have to operate accounts in either nationalized or private banks which have core banking facilities to allow security agencies access on a real-time basis.

Who cannot receive foreign donations?

  • Members of the legislature and political parties, government officials, judges and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution.
  • However, in 2017 the MHA amended the 1976-repealed FCRA law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.

How else can receive foreign funding?

  • The other way to receive foreign contributions is by applying for prior permission.
  • It is granted for receipt of a specific amount from a specific donor for carrying out specific activities or projects.
  • But the association should be registered under statutes such as the Societies Registration Act, 1860, the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, or Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.
  • A letter of commitment from the foreign donor specifying the amount and purpose is also required.

When is a registration suspended or cancelled?

  • The MHA on inspection of accounts and on receiving any adverse input against the functioning of an association can suspend the FCRA registration initially for 180 days.
  • Until a decision is taken, the association cannot receive any fresh donation and cannot utilise more than 25% of the amount available in the designated bank account without the permission of the MHA.
  • The MHA can cancel the registration of an organisation which will not be eligible for registration or grant of ‘prior permission’ for three years from the date of cancellation.