Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

India launches third IT corridor in China

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy| Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Xuzhou IT Corridor Project

Mains level:  India’s IT Sector


News

  • India has launched its third IT corridor in China that will facilitate partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies.

Xuzhou IT Corridor Project

  • China being a dominant manufacturing country requires software, IT and IT enabled services to transform towards smart manufacturing.
  • The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) entered into a partnership with China’s Xuzhou city from Jiangsu Province in China to help develop the IT corridor.
  • The IT industry body has already launched such corridors at Dalian and Guiyang cities to cash in on the burgeoning Chinese IT industry market.
  • These have already sprung up opportunities to the tune of 24 Million RMB (USD 4.6 million) and 62 Million RMB (USD 8.9 million) respectively, it said.

Benefits

  • The first two corridors have paved the way for cooperation in co-create mode in the emerging technologies such as AI, IoT and Analytics in the Chinese market.
  • Xuzhou is the geographic and economic center of over 20 cities and in China’s regional economic layout, the city has slowly established itself as an industrial powerhouse.
  • Xuzhou is an important comprehensive national transportation hub and its proximity from major industrial and economic hub like Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Suzhou.
  • This will facilitate match-making between Indian companies wanting to collaborate with companies in Huai Hai economic zone looking.
  • This partnership will help create more jobs in Xuzhou and India and facilitating talent transfer between the two countries.

About NASSCOM

  • The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) is a trade association of Indian Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.
  • Established in 1988, NASSCOM is a non-profit organisation.

Electoral Reforms In India

Explained: Model Code of Conduct

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MCC

Mains level: Ensuring fair elections


News

Background

  • The Election Commission of India has announced dates for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with the country voting in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 and the with results on May 23.
  • With this the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into effect and has called upon all parties to strictly adhere to the same.
  • The code lays down a list of dos and don’ts for the political parties ahead of elections.

Model Code of Conduct

  • It is a set of guidelines issued by ECI to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
  • The rules range from issues related to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, content of election manifestos, processions and general conduct, so that free and fair elections are conducted.

When does it come into effect?

  • According to the PIB, a version of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
  • It was largely followed by all parties in the 1962 elections and continued to be followed in subsequent general elections.
  • In October 1979, the EC added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections.
  • The MCC comes into force from the date the election schedule is announced until the date that results are out.

Restrictions imposed under MCC

The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.

I. For Governments

  • As soon as the code kicks in, the party in power whether at the Centre or in the States should ensure that it does not use its official position for campaigning.
  • Hence, no policy, project or scheme can be announced that can influence the voting behaviour.
  • The code also states that the ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc. which may influence the voters.
  • Political parties or candidates can be criticised based only on their work record and no caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters.

II. For Political Parties

  • The party must also avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
  • The ruling party also cannot use government transport or machinery for campaigning.
  • It should also ensure that public places such as maidans etc., for holding election meetings, and facilities like the use of helipads are provided to the opposition parties on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.

III. Campaigning

  • Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited.
  • The 48-hour period is known as “election silence”.
  • The idea is to allow a voter a campaign-free environment to reflect on events before casting her vote
  • The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media is also considered an offence.
  • Mosques, Churches, Temples or any other places of worship should not be used for election propaganda. Bribing, intimidating or impersonation of voters is also barred.

Is it legally binding?

  • The fact is the MCC evolved as part of the ECI’s drive to ensure free and fair elections and was the result of a consensus among major political parties.
  • It has no statutory backing. Simply put, this means anybody breaching the MCC can’t be proceeded against under any clause of the Code..
  • The EC uses moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.

What if violated?

  • The ECI can issue a notice to a politician or a party for alleged breach of the MCC either on its own or on the basis of a complaint by another party or individual.
  • Once a notice is issued, the person or party must reply in writing either accepting fault and tendering an unconditional apology or rebutting the allegation.
  • In the latter case, if the person or party is found guilty subsequently, he/it can attract a written censure from the ECI — something that many see as a mere slap on the wrist.
  • However, in extreme cases, like a candidate using money/liquor to influence votes or trying to divide voters in the name of religion or caste, the ECI can also order registration of a criminal case under IPC or IT Act.
  • In case of a hate speech, a complaint can be filed under the IPC and CrPC; there are laws against the misuse of a religious place for seeking votes, etc.

Using powers under Art. 324

  • The Commission rarely resorts to punitive action to enforce MCC, there is one recent example when unabated violations forced EC’s hand.
  • During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the EC had banned a leader and now party president from campaigning in order to prevent them from further vitiating the poll atmosphere with their speeches.
  • The Commission resorted to its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to impose the ban.
  • It was only lifted once the leaders apologised and promised to operate within the Code.

What if given Statutory Backing?

  • Both the ECI and several independent experts, believe that giving statutory backing to the MCC would only make the job of the Commission more difficult.
  • This is because every alleged offence will then have to go to an appropriate court, and right up to the Supreme Court.
  • Given the flaws of our legal system, election petitions filed decades ago are still pending before many High Courts — it is anybody’s guess what that situation might lead to.

For additional readings, pls navigate through:

Model Code of Conduct: Evolution, Enforcement, Effects, Legal Status

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sundarbans Wetlands

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sunderbans

Mains level: Conservation of Wetlands


News

Sundarbans Wetlands

  • This January 30th, the Indian Sundarban was accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention.
  • It comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
  • Located on the southwestern part of the delta, the Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
  • It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India, and with an area of 4,23,000 hectares is now the largest protected wetland in the country.

Richness of Sundarbans

  • The Indian Sundarban met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ — presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
  • The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.
  • The Ramsar website points out that the Indian Sundarban is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
  • Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here.
  • Recent studies claim that the Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

Importance of Ramsar recognition

  • The Ramsar status will help to highlight conservation issues of the Sundarbans at the international level.
  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992, and with Indian Sundarban getting it too, international cooperation between the two countries for the protection of this unique ecosystem will increase.
  • This could lead to a better conservation strategy for flagship species such as the tiger and the northern river terrapin.

Various threats

  • While the Indian Sundarban is a biodiverse preserve, over four million people live on its northern and northwestern periphery, putting pressure on the ecosystem.
  • Concerns have been raised about natural ecosystems being changed for cultivation of shrimp, crab, molluscs and fish.
  • The Ramsar Information Sheet lists fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources as a “high impact” actual threat to the wetland.
  • The other threats are from dredging, oil and gas drilling, logging and wood harvesting, hunting and collecting terrestrial animals.
  • Salinity has been categorised as a medium and tourism as a low impact actual threat in the region.
  • Along with anthropogenic pressures, it is also vulnerable to climate change and requires better management and conservation practices.

Back2Basics

 Ramsar Convention

  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
  • The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
  • Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide freshwater and food, and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
  • Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
  • Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.

RBI Notifications

A SWIFT response could have saved banks : RBI

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SWIFT

Mains level: RBI’s move preventing bank fraud


News

  • Much before the scam came that to light at the PNB in 2018, the RBI had earlier cautioned the banks about the possible misuse of the SWIFT infrastructure and directed them to implement safeguards.

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication

  • The SWIFT infrastructure is the global messaging software that enables financial entities to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardised and reliable environment.
  • In order to use its messaging services, customers need to connect to the SWIFT environment.
  • Messages sent by SWIFT’s customers are authenticated using its specialised security and identification technology.
  • Messages remain in the protected SWIFT environment, subject to all its confidentiality and integrity commitments until they are safely delivered to the receiver.
  • It does not facilitate funds transfer, rather, it sends payment orders, that must be settled by correspondent accounts that institutions have with each other.
  • On receiving this message through SWIFT, banks abroad, mostly branches of domestic banks abroad provide funds to the company.

RBI fines banks for non-compliance

  • Even the PNB scam failed to wake up banks was mainly due to people and process failure not so much a technology failure.
  • Despite repeated warnings, the PNB fraud, touted to be among the biggest in the industry, happened. This prompted the banking regulator to again remind banks about the possible misuse of SWIFT.
  • The RBI came down heavily on the banks, imposing monetary penalty on 36 banks, including the SBI, ICICI Bank and the Yes Bank — to name a few.
  • These banks failed to implement the safeguard which was mainly integrating the SWIFT infrastructure with Core Banking Solution (CBS) within a time frame.
  • The Banking Regulation Act allows the RBI to impose a maximum penalty of Rs. 1 crore for a single breach.

Now, what is Core Banking Solution?

  • Core Banking Solution (CBS) is networking of branches, which enables Customers to operate their accounts, and avail banking services from any branch of the Bank on CBS network.
  • It is regardless of where he maintains his account.
  • The customer is no more the customer of a Branch. He becomes the Bank’s Customer.

Why such move?

  • One of the main reason is for not maintaining the timeline though many of them have complied with the norms now.
  • Another is, since the CBS was required to be integrated with SWIFT, the question is whether CBS was equipped for this.
  • It means compliance was required from third-party vendors and their lack of readiness also could have led to delays.
  • Third, even if the third-party software was ready, the bank may not have used it effectively.
  • And, finally, there could be some small banks who may be not have started the process.

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: About the mission

Mains level:  Issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to drive clean, connected, shared and sustainable mobility initiatives in the country.
  • It also approved a Phased Manufacturing Program to support large-scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell-manufacturing giga plants in India, to localize production across the electric vehicles value chain.

About the Mission

  • It entails creation of a phased manufacturing programme (PMP) valid for five years till 2024 to support setting up of a few large scale, export competitive integrated batteries and cell manufacturing Giga plants in India.
  • To implement gigawatt-scale battery manufacturing, a National Storage Mission will initially focus on large-scale module and pack assembly plants during the fiscal year that starts next month, followed by integrated cell manufacturing by 2021-22.
  • It will prepare a roadmap for India to leverage its size to produce innovative, competitive multi-modal mobility solutions to be deployed globally.

Why such move?

  • India has a significant market potential for batteries and electric vehicles.
  • Electric vehicles are creating a big demand and due to this demand, the cost of batteries will further come down.
  • IESA estimates the market for energy storage would grow to over 300 GWh during 2018-25.
  • It is working with various EV and charging infrastructure companies through its MOVE – Moving Onwards with Vehicle Electrification – initiative to catalyze the adoption, through indigenous manufacturing, of EV components.
  • Currently, more than ten companies are engaged in module and li-ion pack assembly in India and we expect four to five large companies to enter cell manufacturing in the next two to three years.
  • With appropriate policy support through this mission, Indian companies will be able to diversify into energy storage business.

Terms of reference

  • The programme will provide a plan which will send a clear signal to the industry to make the necessary investments in capacity to localize the value chain.
  • The creation of a PMP would localize production along the entire electric vehicles value chain.
  • The mission will have an inter-ministerial steering committee chaired by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
  • The mission will also coordinate with key stakeholders in ministries/ departments and states to integrate various initiatives to transform mobility in India.

Forest Fires

Explained: Why are fires frequent at the Bandipur reserve?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Mains level: Prevention of forest fires


Context

  • A five-day fire that raged through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve has reportedly burnt more than 15,400 acres of forests.
  • Between February 21 and 25, the reserve saw 127 fire counts in various ranges of the 912 sq km forest.
  • While K’taka Forest Department scrambled to put out the blaze, an Indian Air Force helicopter sprayed over 19,000 litres of water in seven sorties.

Why it matters?

  • While fires are not uncommon at Bandipur, what has surprised officials is their intensity and frequency.
  • The worry now is the long-term damage to the ecosystem, which is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere that hosts the world’s largest tiger population, at more than 575 (2014 census).
  • Over 400 fire watchers were placed, but questions have arisen whether the precautions were enough, especially since Bandipur has had frequent fires.

How susceptible is it to fires?

  • Bandipur is a dry deciduous forest in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats, and is no stranger to fires. Periods of drought invariably lead to fires.
  • A study has shown that between 1974 and 2014, 67% of the Nilgiri Biosphere had seen some form of forest fire, with Bandipur having reported the most incidents.
  • The 2018 monsoon was particularly strong, but the year-end northeast monsoon has failed.
  • If the monsoon led to dense growth, the blistering heat since September has turned vegetation brittle and dry, with vast swathes becoming tinderboxes.
  • As with most forest fires, it is assumed that Bandipur’s ignition was man-made as miscreants set fire in multiple locations.
  • Compounding matters is the ubiquity of lantana camara, an invasive weed species native to South America, that has spread through nearly two-thirds of the forest area.

What is the impact?

  • India’s forest policy encourages a zero forest fire approach for its protected landscapes — whether it is Bandipur or the rainforests of the upper Western Ghats.
  • Scientific literature has shown this blanket approach may be doing harm to dry, deciduous forests where trees have evolved to co-exist with fire.
  • The trees in this landscape were closer to those in a savanna than in rainforests 100 km away. Trees have dramatically thicker barks, implying that they had evolved to be fire-resistant.
  • When fires are relatively frequent, adult tree mortality in these systems is very low.
  • Many saplings sprout shortly after the fire from underground reserves, and the system returns to its original state in a few years.
  • Conversely, when fires are suppressed — including by curbing the tribal practices of controlled fire burning — a greater biomass builds up that can lead to high intensity fires which affect the ecosystem negatively.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Do forest surveys separately

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


News

  • A high-power committee constituted by the MoEFCC has recommended that the biennial forest surveys exercise by the government to estimate forest cover explicitly demarcate trees grown in forests from those grown outside.

Why such move?

  • Currently, the government counts both plantations and private lands towards estimating the portion of India’s geographical area covered by forest.
  • This isn’t an ecologically sound principle.
  • India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, which was made public in Feb 2018.
  • The document says that India has about 7,08,273 sq. km. of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km.).

Govt. stance

  • Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long-standing goal of the government since 1988.
  • Various editions of the SFR have over the years reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%.
  • So the government also includes substantial patches of trees outside areas designated as forests, such as plantations or greenlands, in its assessment.
  • The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 sq. km. or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 sq. km. in 2015.

Assist this newscard with:

Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?

Civil Services Reforms

Explained: India’s Official Secrets Act, its history and use

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Official Secrets Act, RTI

Mains level: Utility and misuse of the aforesaid Act


Context

  • The Attorney-General has asked for “criminal action” against those responsible for making “stolen documents” on the Rafale deal public, has brought the Official Secrets Act into focus.
  • The colonial-era law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.
  • Governments have also faced criticism for misusing the law against journalists and whistleblowers.

The Official Secrets Act

  • The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • It was an amended and more stringent version of The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV) of 1889, brought in at a time when a large number of powerful newspapers had emerged in several languages across India.
  • Fearless editors opposed the Raj’s policies on a daily basis, building political consciousness among the people, and facing police crackdowns and prison terms to uphold their mission and convictions.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
  • In April 1923, a newer version of the Official Secrets Act was notified.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

Ambit of the Act

  • The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5.
  • The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.
  • Since the classification of secret information is so broad, it is argued that the colonial law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  • Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency.

Did the law undergo any changes over the years?

  • No. However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC) Report, 2006, suggested the Act should be substituted by a chapter in the National Security Act that incorporates the necessary provisions.
  • The reason: it had become a contentious issue after the implementation of the Right to Information Act.
  • The OSA does not define “secret” or “official secrets”. Public servants could deny any information terming it a “secret” when asked under the RTI Act.

Why it is problematic?

  • The SARC report stated that as the OSA’s background is the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, it created a culture of secrecy.
  • However, confidentiality became the norm and disclosure the exception. This tendency was challenged when the Right to Information Act came into existence.

Is withholding information the only issue with the Act?

  • Another contentious issue with the law is that its Section 5, which deals with potential breaches of national security, is often misinterpreted.
  • The Section makes it a punishable offence to share information that may help an enemy state.
  • The Section comes in handy to book journalists when they publicise information that may cause embarrassment to the government or the armed forces.
  • The Delhi High Court in 2009 has ruled that publishing a document merely labelled as “secret” shall not render the journalist liable under the OSA.

Do other nations have similar laws?

  • Several countries including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand continue to use the legislation to protect state secrets.
  • In 2001, Canada replaced its OSA with a Security of Information Act. The “official secrets” come under the Espionage Act in the U.S.

With inputs from:

The Hindu

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Large hydro projects get ‘renewable energy’ status

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Move towards India’s NDCs for clean energy


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a new hydroelectric policy aimed at boosting the sector, including according large hydro projects the status of renewable energy projects.

New Hydroelectric Policy

  • According to the new policy, large hydro projects will also be designated as renewable energy projects.
  • So far, only smaller projects of less than 25 MW in capacity were categorised as renewable energy.
  • The tag allows these to qualify as part of the framework for non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) of the states.
  • Under this, power purchasers will have to source a portion of electricity from large hydro projects.

Why such move?

  • Development of hydro power projects is important to provide India a stable grid, given the country’s commitment towards 160 GW capacity additions from infirm sources of power like solar and wind by 2022.
  • The new measures give developers the flexibility to determine tariff by backloading it after increasing the project life to 40 years, increasing the debt repayment period to 18 years and introducing an escalating tariff of 2 per cent.
  • This will help bring down the initial tariff of hydro power projects, which is normally on the higher side on account of including flood moderation and enabling infrastructure costs in the project cost.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

The Indian Museum of the Earth (TIME)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: The Indian Museum of the Earth (TIME)

Mains level: India’s geological and paleontological evolution


News

  • India has set in motion an ambitious plan to create Indianised version of the world-famous Smithsonian Museum, showcasing Indian subcontinent’s evolutionary history.

The Indian Museum of the Earth (TIME)

  • This museum will be modelled on the American Museum of Natural History, or the Smithsonian museum in the U.S.
  • The museum, which will be set up as a public-private partnership, would be located somewhere in NCR.
  • Unlike static museums that are commonplace, the proposed Earth museum would be a dynamic place to encourage fossil research, student activity, public outreach besides driving policy decisions.
  • The museum would be having a repository where individual collectors and researchers can submit their life long collection for safekeeping and allowing future generation researchers to study those samples.

India’s richness

  • India has a rich geological history and fossils dating back to the breaking up of the Gondwanaland super-continent nearly 150 million years ago.
  • Prominent fossils include the jaw of an extinct ape, Gigantopithecus bilaspurensi, dinosaur eggs so large they were mistaken for cannon balls, and the skeleton of a horned carnivore, Rajasaurus narmadensis, or the royal Narmada dinosaur.

Why need such museum?

  • India is home to a vast treasury of geological and palaeontological specimens that contain a wealth of scientific information about the planet and its history.
  • Several collections of fossils and important geological specimens weren’t properly organised, and they survived only due to the efforts of individual researchers who maintained them within their labs.
  • But these rare specimens are scattered in different labs all over the country.
  • India doesn’t have a single such museum of repute, or a repository where new finds may be compared to those already discovered.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO, French agency to set up maritime surveillance system

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Oceansat-3-Argos mission

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view


News

  • ISRO and its French counterpart CNES has sealed an agreement to set up a joint maritime surveillance system in the country.
  • The two nations will explore putting up a constellation of low-Earth orbiting satellites.

Oceansat-3-Argos Mission

  • The system will be augmented with the launch of Oceansat-3-Argos mission in 2020 along with a joint infrared Earth-observation satellite.
  • These will identify and track movement of ships globally – and in particular those moving in the Indian Ocean region where France has its Reunion Islands.
  • Before that, they will initially share data from their present space systems and develop new algorithms to analyse them, according to the Paris based National Centre for Space Studies.
  • They work together for the design and development of joint products and techniques, including those involving Automatic Identification System (AIS), to monitor and protect the assets in land and sea.

Other collaborations

  • The two agencies have put up two climate and ocean weather monitoring satellites Megha-Tropiques (of 2011) and SARAL-AltiKa (2013) that is considered a model.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Ministry plugs loophole that allowed plastic waste import

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Features of the Amendment rules

Mains level: Issues related to plastic waste disposal in India


News

  • Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU) said the MoEFCC.
  • The change in law was part of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019.

Salient features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management& Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019:

  • Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU).
  • Exporters of silk waste have now been given exemption from requiring permission from the Ministry.
  • Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from MoEFCC.
  • Industries which do not require consent under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, are now exempted from requiring authorization also under the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, provided that hazardous and other wastes generated by such industries are handed over to the authorized actual users, waste collectors or disposal facilities.

Why such move?

  • In spite of having a significant plastic pollution load of its own, and a ban on plastic waste imports, imported PET bottles from abroad for processing SEZ.
  • The influx of PET bottles was quadrupled from 2017 to 2018.
  • Indian firms are importing plastic scrap from China, Italy, Japan and Malawi for recycling.
  • India consumes about 13 million tonnes of plastic and recycles only about 4 million tonnes.
  • To incentivise domestic plastic recycling units, the government had banned the import of plastic waste, particularly PET bottles, in 2015.
  • In 2016, an amendment allowed such imports as long as they were carried out by agencies situated in SEZs.

Electoral Reforms In India

Explained: How a change in law has made election candidates more accountable

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Form 26

Mains level: Preventing money laundering by Politicians


News

  • Recently the Law Ministry made it mandatory for election candidates to reveal their income-tax returns of the last five years, as well as the details of their offshore assets.
  • This was done by amending Form 26, as suggested by the Election Commission of India.

Form 26

  • A candidate in an election is required to file an affidavit called Form 26 that furnishes information on her assets, liabilities, educational qualifications, criminal antecedents (convictions and pending cases) and public dues, if any.
  • The affidavit has to be filed along with the nomination papers and should be sworn before an Oath Commissioner or Magistrate of the First Class or before a Notary Public.

New changes

  • Earlier, a candidate had to only declare the last I-T return (for self, spouse and dependents). Details of foreign assets were not sought.
  • It is now mandatory for candidates to reveal their own income-tax returns of the last five years rather than only one, and the details of offshore assets, as well as the same details for their spouse, members of the Hindu Undivided Family and dependents.
  • Offshore assets, means details of all deposits or investments in foreign banks and any other body or institution abroad and details of all assets and liabilities in foreign countries

Intention behind the move

  • The objective behind introducing Form 26 was that it would help voters make an informed decision.
  • The affidavit would make them aware of the criminal activities of a candidate, which could help prevent people with questionable backgrounds from being elected to an Assembly or Parliament.
  • With the recent amendment, voters will know the extent to which a serving MP’s income grew during his five years in power.

Not so easily implemented

  • Like most recent electoral reforms in India, Form 26 was introduced on September 3, 2002, following a court order.
  • The genesis of the affidavit can be traced to the 170th Report of the Law Commission, submitted in May 1999, which suggested steps for preventing criminals from entering electoral politics.
  • One of the suggestions was to disclose the criminal antecedents as well as the assets of a candidate before accepting her nomination.
  • The then government did not act on the recommendation, leading to public interest litigation in Delhi High Court in December 1999.
  • In 2002 the Union government promulgated an Ordinance diluting the EC’s order.
  • The government subsequently also amended the Election Conduct Rules of 1961 on September 3, 2002, to prescribe Form 26 in which a candidate had to disclose the above information.
  • The SC declared the amendment null and void. The EC then issued a fresh order on March 27, 2003, seeking information on all five points mentioned in the SC order of May 2, 2002.

What happens if a candidate lies in an affidavit?

  • A candidate is expected to file a complete affidavit. Leaving a few columns blank can render the affidavit “nugatory”.
  • It is the responsibility of the Returning Officer (RO) to check whether Form 26 has been completed; the nomination paper can be rejected if the candidate fails to fill it in full.
  • If it is alleged that a candidate has suppressed information or lied in her affidavit, the complainant can seek an inquiry through an election petition.
  • If the court finds the affidavit false, the candidate’s election can be declared void.
  • The current penalty for lying in an affidavit is imprisonment up to six months, or fine, or both.
  • EC considered this as a corrupt practice.

Microfinance Story of India

PSBloansin59minutes.com emerges largest fintech lending platform

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: About the Portal

Mains level: Facilitating MSMEs in India


News

  • According to a report by global financial firm, Credit Suisse, the recently launched fintech portal, PSBloansin59minutes.com has, within three months, emerged as the largest online lending platform.

Portal “PSBLoansin59min”

  • It is one of its kind platforms in MSME segment which integrates advanced fintech to ensure seamless loan approval and management.
  • The loans are undertaken without human intervention till sanction and or disbursement stage.
  • A User Friendly Platform has been built where MSME borrower is not required to submit any physical document for in-principle approval.
  • The solution uses sophisticated algorithms to read and analyse data points from various sources such as IT returns, GST data, bank statements, MCA21 etc. in less than an hour while capturing the applicant’s basic details.
  • The system simplifies the decision making process for a loan officer as the final output provides a summary of credit, valuation and verification on a user-friendly dashboard in real time.

Key Features

  • Majority stake of SIDBI & big 5 PSBs- SBI, Bank of Baroda, PNB, Vijaya and Indian Bank.
  • A first for MSME borrowers-Connect with multiple banks without visiting the branch.
  • Only Platform in the market with a Banker Interface which covers the Branch Level integrations (with maker-checker-approver) in tune with current systems of PSBs.
  • Only Platform that enables Bankers to create Loan Products in line with the Scoring models & assessment methods within their approved credit policy.
  • Only Platform that has an integrated GST, ITR, Bank Statement Analyzer, Fraud Check and Bureau Check.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

India downplays impact of U.S. GSP withdrawal

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSP

Mains level: Impact of US withdrawal of GSP status to India


News

  • Recently US President referred to India as a “very-high tariff nation” and demanded for a “reciprocal tax” on goods from India
  • Now it has given a 60-day withdrawal notice to India on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits extended by US.

GSP benefits to India

  • GSP benefits are envisaged to be non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory benefits extended by developed countries to developing countries.
  • In India’s case the GSP concessions extended by the US amounted to duty reduction of only USD 190 million per annum.

Addressing US objections

  • The US had initiated the review on medical devices and dairy industries, but subsequently included numerous other issues on a self-initiated basis.
  • These included issues related to market access for various agriculture and animal husbandry products, relaxation / easing of procedures related to issues like telecom testing / conformity assessment and tariff reduction on ICT products.

Unacceptable demands

  • On the issue of dairy market access, India has clarified that the source animal had never been fed animal derived blood meal, is non-negotiable given the cultural and religious sentiment, the requested simplified dairy certification procedure and without diluting this requirement was considered.
  • On reduction of our IT duties, India’s duties are moderate and not import stopping.
  • Any MFN duty reduction would almost entirely benefit third countries.
  • Accordingly, India extended willingness to extend duty concessions on specific items in which there is a clear US interest.

US trade deficit has also lowered

  • Due to various initiatives resulting in enhanced purchase of US goods like oil and natural gas and coal the US trade deficit with India has substantially reduced in calendar years 2017 and 2018.
  • The reduction is estimated to be over USD 4 Billion in 2018, with further reduction expected in future years on account of factors like the growing demand for energy and civilian aircrafts in India.
  • This reduction has happened in the face of a rising overall US trade deficit, including with some other major economies.
  • India is also a thriving market for US services and e-commerce companies like Amazon, Uber, Google and Facebook with billions of dollars of revenue.

Way Forward

  • The issue of Indian tariffs being high has been raised from time to time.
  • It is pertinent that India’s tariffs are within its bound rates under WTO commitments, and are on the average well below these bound rates.
  • On developmental considerations there may be a few tariff peaks, which is true for almost all economies.
  • India was agreeable to a very meaningful mutually acceptable package on the above lines to be agreed to at this time, while keeping remaining issues under discussion in the future.

Back2Basics

Generalized System of Preferences

  • The GSP is one of the oldest trade preference programmes in the world and was designed to provide zero duties or preferential access for developing countries to advanced markets.
  • The U.S. GSP programme was established by the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 and promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from one of the 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
  • In April 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it would review the GSP eligibility of India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
  • The proposed review for India was initiated in response to market access petitions filed by the U.S. dairy and medical device industries due to recent policy decisions in India, which were perceived as trade.

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

Red Sanders is now free of export restrictions

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Red Sanders and its uses

Mains level: Issue over trade of endangered species


News

  • All red sanders farmers, who were not allowed to export their produce as the foreign trade policy prohibited it, now can.
  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has revised its export policy to permit its export if it is obtained from cultivated land.

Why this move?

  • Ironically, the Indian government had itself asked for quotas to export red sanders from CITES as the tree is categorised as a species that needs protection.
  • Estimates suggest that there are more than 3,000 farmers across India who were unable to sell their produce due to the earlier export policy.
  • Earlier, only seized logs from smugglers were being exported depending on state government rules.
  • However, red sanders remains listed in the Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Red Sanders and its uses

  • Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), known for its rich hue and therapeutic properties, is high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan.
  • It is used in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.
  • Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that a tonne of red sanders costs anything between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the international market.

Why restrictions?

  • The tree is endemic to several districts in Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
  • But over-exploitation prompted the Union government in the 1980s to recommend inclusion of red sanders in Appendix II of CITES.
  • The Appendix II says that trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  • The species was listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1995, and subsequently export of red sanders was prohibited in 2004.

Lifting restrictions

  • In 2010, when the CITES was planning to suspend trade of red sanders obtained from India, the government submitted a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) report saying it must be allowed to export from cultivated sources.
  • So in 2012, India got an export quota on red sanders from CITES, under which the country could export 310 tonnes of red sanders obtained from “artificially propagated” sources and 11,806 tonnes of wood from seized sources.

Boosting Farmers

  • Though a farmer can grow the tree, he/she requires permits to fell and transport the wood, which was difficult to obtain.
  • Moreover, the price of this wood in the domestic market is less than half of what it is in the international market as the demand is low.
  • At the same time, the farmer could not even export it earlier as the foreign trade policy prohibited it.

What else can be done?

  • The GoI should also create a separate Timber Development Board under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare as a single-window system for all farming activities to facilitate export process.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Forest Rights Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various Forest Rights Acts and their provisions

Mains level: Repercussions of eviction of forest dwellers from their rights


News

Background

  • The Supreme Court put on hold its recent order asking states to evict forest-dwellers whose claims on land had been rejected under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.
  • The court’s decision to review its earlier verdict which would have displaced more than a million people from their homes in the forests, is a welcome move.
  • The SC acknowledged the need to ask whether due processes were followed by gram sabhas and state authorities before the claims for forest rights were rejected.

Colonial Legacy of the issue

  • In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs.
  • While procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed.
  • As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity.

The Forest Rights Act

  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

Provisions of the 2006 Act

  • The Act recognizes that tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities would be hard put to provide documentary evidence for their claims.
  • Rule 13 of the Act, therefore, stipulates that the gram sabhas should consider more than one evidence in determining forest rights.
  • The rule sanctions a wide range of evidence, including “statements by village elders”, “community rights” and “physical attributes such as houses, huts and permanent improvements made to land such as levelling, bunds and check dams”.

Core of the problem

  • The recent order is based on affidavits filed by the States, which does not make clear whether the due process of law was observed before the claims were rejected.
  • The Centre argues that the rejection of claims is particularly high in the States hit by Left-Wing Extremism, where tribal population is high.
  • The forest land claims of these tribes and forest-dwellers are mostly rejected by the States.
  • Being poor and illiterate, living in remote areas, they do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims.
  • The gram sabhas, which initiate the verification of their claims, are low on awareness of how to deal with them.
  • The rejection orders were not even communicated to these communities.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Greens in the red: Why Aravallis matter to National Capital Region

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aravalli Mountains

Mains level: Row over Haryana’s proposed amendment bill


News

Background

  • It was in 1900 that the then Government of Punjab enacted the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), aimed at “conservation of sub-soil water” and “prevention of erosion” by giving the state power to “regulate, restrict or prohibit” certain activities, including “clearing or breaking up” of land.
  • As a result, for the last 118 years, the Act provided notified tracts of land in the Aravallis protection against real estate construction, urbanisation and mining.

Haryana misadventures

  • The Haryana government passed an amendment Bill which environmentalists have since termed a “repeal” of the 1900 Act.
  • The Bill proposed several changes to the Act, including exclusion of land that falls under “final development plans” or any other “town improvement plans or schemes” from its ambit, leaving thousands of acres of the Aravallis vulnerable.
  • Days later the apex Court came down heavily on the Haryana government for the move, calling it “sheer contempt”, and restraining the state from implementing it.
  • In multiple orders over several years, the Supreme Court has reiterated the PLPA’s powers, recognising land notified under the Act as a “forest”.

Critical amendments the assembly passed

  • The amendment excludes “certain lands” from the ambit of PLPA, including land included in the “final development plans, town improvement plans or schemes, any public infrastructure”
  • It gives state government the power to “amend or rescind” any notification or orders made under PLPA
  • It gives state government the power to exempt “any class of person or areas or land” from “any or all provisions” of PLPA if it causes them “undue hardship”
  • It directed that PLPA orders and notifications will be valid for a period of 30 years, and the “regulations, restrictions or prohibitions” imposed shall “cease to exist” afterwards.

Why Aravallis matters?

  • The Aravallis in Haryana are home to over 400 species of native trees, shrubs and herbs, more than 200 native and migratory bird species, and wildlife that includes leopards, jackals, hyenas, mongoose and civet cats.
  • They are crucial to groundwater recharge, which is significant given the water scarcity the region faces during harsh summer months.
  • The thick forest cover helps to naturally purify air in a region plagued by high levels of vehicular and industrial pollution through the year

Many fears

  • The Wildlife Institute of India, in a 2017 report, had highlighted: “The forests of the Aravalli range in Haryana are now the most degraded forests in India, most of the indigenous plant species have disappeared.
  • The rapid deforestation and developmental activities are destroying the unique landscape that requires immediate conservation attention.

What if PLPA amended?

  • The PLPA amendment, if implemented, will also impact another legislation that is in place to protect the Aravallis — the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) — fear environmentalists.
  • There are two criteria for an area to be declared NCZ — it must either be recognised as a forest, or as Aravallis.
  • However, the Haryana government does not recognise the latter as a criterion for NCZ, and the only forests recognised in the state are PLPA notified lands.
  • If the PLPA is gone, then NCZ will also come under threat because Haryana is resisting the identification of Aravallis as a criteria for NCZ.
  • There will be no legal forest left; with the Aravallis not being accepted as a criteria, NCZ protection will go too.

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

Second phase of fame to electrify public transport

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FAME Scheme

Mains level:  Issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


News

  • The second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (hybrid) Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme will come into force from April 1, 2019 with the Union Cabinet nod.
  • The scheme will be in effect for a period of three years at a proposed budget of Rs 10,000 crore.

FAME India II Scheme

  • The scheme is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India 1’ which was launched in April 2015.
  • The phase two of the scheme plans to support ten lakhs electric two-wheelers, five lakhs electric three-wheelers, 55 thousands four-wheelers and 7,000 buses.
  • The main objective is to encourage faster adoption of EVs by way of offering upfront incentive on the purchase and also by way of establishing a necessary charging Infrastructure.
  • The largely increased allocation for the new phase is a sign of the critical importance that India’s policy makers are currently placing on shifting to an all-electric Indian mobility sector.

Focus areas

  • In this phase two, emphasis is on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport.
  • The second phase will also not provide any incentive for passenger cars used for personal use.
  • In the two-wheelers segment, however, the focus will be on the private vehicles.
  • Demand Incentives on operational expenditure mode for electric buses will be delivered through State/city transport corporation (STUs).
  • In 3W and 4W segment incentives will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes.
  • To encourage advanced technologies, the benefits of incentives will be extended to only those vehicles which are fitted with advanced batteries like a Lithium Ion.

Necessary charging infrastructure

  • It also proposes for establishment of charging infrastructure, whereby about 2700 charging stations will be established in metros, other million-plus cities, smart cities and cities of hilly states across the country.
  • It will ensure availability of at least one charging station in a grid of 3 km x 3 km.

Impact

  • Inclusion of buses, taxi and e-rickshaws under Fame 2 will play a critical role to promote EVs.
  • The transition to electric buses is expected to not only help reduce carbon footprint but also save fuel.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed sanap] An opening in Abu Dhabi

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OIC

Mains level: OIC’s Invitation to India and change in relationship with Islamic world.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The invitation to Swaraj, coming 50 years after Pakistan compelled the OIC to disinvite India from the founding session, marks the emerging possibilities for India.

Importance of this invitation

  • India getting an invite to address the gathering of the foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation may not look like a big deal.
  • OIC has the distinction of competing with the Non Aligned Movement and the League of Arab Nations for the unflattering tag of the world’s most ineffective international organisation.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s participation at the meeting in Abu Dhabi is a significant discontinuity in India’s engagement with the Muslim world.
  • Its recasting India’s relations with the Middle East.

Change in the relationship with the middle east

  • Modi’s felicity to be befriend apparent adversaries — Saudi Arabia and Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Egypt and Turkey as well as Israel and Palestine.
  • Real breakthrough under Modi is the transformation of India’s engagement with the conservative Arab monarchies, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia. These two Muslim states have long been Pakistan’s closest international partners. Islamabad has flaunted ties to the UAE and Saudi Arabia as reflecting its special religious connect to the Middle East.
  • dia’s expanding political ties with the UAE and the House of Saud go back a number of years, they have acquired a special strategic character under Modi.

Shared  Interests

  • Relationship is also rooted in the shared interest between India and the Arab conservatives in blunting the edge of religious extremism and terrorism.
  • In the past, the conservative Arab monarchies were happy to turn a blind eye to the dangers of encouraging political Islam and condoning the Pakistan army’s support for terror and religious extremism in South Asia.
  • Today, no governments are more threatened by forces of religious destabilisation than the Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Equally important has been the region’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India, which is emerging as the world’s third-largest economy and one of the biggest hydrocarbon importers and labour exporters.
  • As the region’s geopolitics enters a turbulent period, the potential for India as a military partner is also coming into view.
  • That India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, of course, is the immediate explanation of the surprising invite for Swaraj to address the OIC.

Pakistan’s expected Response

  • Pakistani establishment must be expected to redouble the effort to poison India’s ties with the OIC.
  • It will not miss any opportunity to use the OIC to criticise India’s Kashmir policy.

Relevance of OIC

  • Like NAM again, the OIC is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with squabbles among member states.
  • Since everyone has a veto on what is said, nothing serious can be said,  about the many serious disputes between the member states that are now shaping the Middle East.
  • If Third Worldism in the case of NAM and pan-Arabism in the case of the League did not bind them into a cohesive force, Islamic identity was never going to be too strong a glue for the OIC.
  • While the OIC raises concerns about Muslim minorities in non-member states, it could never take up the problems that Shia or Sunni minorities face in countries across the Middle East.

Conclusion

The invitation to Swaraj, coming 50 years after Pakistan compelled the OIC to disinvite India from the founding session, marks the emerging possibilities for India to break out this unfortunate legacy. A non-ideological and interest-based relationship suits both India and the conservative Islamic states in the Middle East. Moving towards this new framework has allowed both sides to stop being defensive about engaging with each other.