Table of Contents:
A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:
D. GS4 Related
Useful News Articles
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here today folks! J
B. GS2 Related
Topic: International Relations
Category: India-Saudi Relations
Location: The Hindu
- Expatriates in Saudi Arabia and their Saudi employers alike voiced unease about a proposal the government is studying to impose income tax on foreign workers to make up for falling oil revenues
- Around a third of the 30 million inhabitants of the world’s top oil exporter are foreigners, many of them drawn, despite ultra-conservative social restrictions, by the absence of tax and the lure of salaries higher than they could secure at home
- A National Transformation Plan of economic reforms said 150 million riyals ($40 million) had been set aside for preparing and implementing tax on expats, but the Saudi Finance Minister said no decision had yet been taken
- The collapse in oil prices after mid-2014 has pushed Saudi Arabia to contemplate a radical overhaul of all parts of its economy, including new taxes, privatisations, a changed investment strategy and sharp cuts in government spending
- Both Mexico and Switzerland have announced their support for India’s entry to the NSG, (both countries have held strong positions on non-proliferation in the past )
- Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Austria are among countries still holding out against India, China being the big block
- Pakistan, which had applied for membership a week after India did in May, said it was warning NSG members that India’s entry would disturb “strategic stability in South Asia”
- The Centre is contemplating an amendment to the rules on dealing with sexual harassment cases to make the committee on sexual harassment share its findings with the complainant in cases where no action is recommended or contemplated against the accused
- The committee would also have to consider any representation against its findings as an appeal before completing its report
Category: Accidents and deaths-figures and measures
- An official report, released by Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry said 1.46 lakh people were killed in road accidents in India in 2015 — an increase of five per cent from 2014
- The report said a majority (54.1 per cent) of those killed in road accidents during 2015 were in the age group of 15-34. Among cities, while Mumbai had the highest number of accidents (23,468), Delhi saw the most number of deaths (1,622) in road accidents
- Also, drivers’ fault was responsible for 77.1 per cent of the accidents, deaths and injuries, mainly because of over-speeding, the report noted
- The Centre has decided to form the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board through an executive order after it failed to push the Road Safety Bill in the parliament. The proposed body will have a permanent office and five or six members with expertise in road engineering, road safety, automobile manufacturing, traffic and trauma care
- “Setting up a road safety body through an executive order makes it toothless. The idea to float a Bill was to give powers to the board to set standards, independent of the government, and not give recommendations,” said a member of the S. Sundar Committee on road safety and traffic management, which in 2007 mooted the idea of setting up a Road Safety Board
- Speaking at a high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) the Health Minister of India reiterated India’s commitment to fast track progress on ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030
- He proposed a five-point strategy to end AIDS
- The five-point strategy includes adoption of the fast track target — reaching 90% of all people in need with HIV treatment — committed to maintain the TRIPS flexibilities; creating an inclusive society with programmes that work towards restoring the respect and dignity of individuals, and lastly, global solidarity
- He stated that India was committed to enforcing TRIPS flexibilities to make drugs affordable. More than 80% of the antiretroviral drugs used globally are supplied by the Indian pharmaceutical industry,” he said
- The Secretary-General of the UNO called on the international community to reinforce and expand on the “unique, multi-sector, multi-actor approach” of UNAIDS, and to ensure that the annual target of $26 billion in funding, including $13 billion for the next three years, is met
C. GS3 Related
Category: cyber security
- India has declined to give security clearance to the Internet giant’s Street View service, primarily due to objections raised by the Defence Ministry
- Google representatives made a presentation on Street View for the MHA. They had told the officials then that the platform would be useful for tourism and disaster management
- But the proposal was rejected, primarily amid security concerns after the terror attack at the Pathankot airbase. Investigating agencies suspect that terrorists used Google maps as they were aware of the airbase’s topography
Category: World Economy
Location: The Hindu
- The RBI Governor has urged greater co-ordination among countries to tackle spill-over effects – the impact that economic policies in some countries may have on other economies
- “How do we take cognizance of the fact that the world is quite integrated and therefore, policies across countries have spill-over effects and today we don’t have a system to coordinate these spill-overs; each country does what it has to and other countries have to accept that and the consequences,” he said
- He has been critical of ‘ultra-low’ monetary policies adopted among some countries in the developed world. Their decisions to keep interest rates low to support growth and re-inflate their economies have impacted emerging market economies
- “The kind of anxiety comes at a time when a number of countries are already asking: Are we too integrated?”(implying Brexit)
Location: The Hindu
- The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the gatekeeper to the periodic table, has announced the proposed names for elements 113, 115, 117 and 118: nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson
- Nihonium, symbol Nh, was discovered by scientists at the Riken institute in Japan. They are the first from Asia to earn the right to propose an addition to the table
- These new elements were discovered using the “hot fusion” approach, developed at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), in Russia
D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance
Topic: International Relations
Category: Indo-US Relations
- Defence ties between India and US have been consolidated in three ways in the past two years: in defence procurement from the U.S. as well as co-development projects, which are worth over $14 billion; in coordination, cooperation and sharing of information between the two defence forces; and increasingly, on the idea of working together on operations on piracy, peacekeeping and patrolling
- However, it is the strategic relationship, with India’s positioning on non-alignment that is most striking. Although the Centre has drawn the line at an alliance and “joint patrols”, it is clear from the joint vision statement signed in New Delhi last year that the government intends to move closer to the U.S. on defence issues
- In recognition, during Mr.Modi’s visit the U.S. declared India a “major defence partner”, a designation specially created to describe this new relationship and one that is just short of a military alliance
- In 2005, the then PM of India told the U.S. Congress of how “India’s growth and prosperity is in American interest”, and the heavy lifting has yielded annual bilateral trade of $107 billion now. On Wednesday, Mr.Modi took the theme forward by saying, “A stronger and prosperous India is in America’s strategic interest.”
- the government must take a pause as the U.S. administration changes to chart the road ahead. It must also factor in the strategic closeness with the U.S. on its other key bilateral engagements, from Russia to China, and within the neighbourhood
- Modi’s statement that a strong U.S. partnership will “ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation on seas” all the way from “Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific” will be read by Beijing with some concern; India should either reassure China or be prepared for a counter-move from Beijing on this count
- Modi seemed to suggest India has firmly put its Cold War compacts behind it when he said the Indo-U.S. relationship has “overcome the hesitations of history”
- If such a candid admission can be made across the seas inside the U.S. Congress, the Modi government would serve India’s foreign policy well to explain its strategic shift to Parliament too. This is a necessary domestic input to allow the relationship to be more meaningful
- If governments paid serious attention to the economic geography of India’s cities, they would be doing a lot more to prepare for annual weather events like the monsoon. UN Habitat estimates that by 2030 India will have 14 major clusters of cities accounting for 40 per cent of its GDP
- Other assessments indicate that nearly 80 per cent of economic production will be in urban areas by that year. What this underscores is the extremely vulnerable condition of cities as economic assets. Proof of this is available from catastrophic events such as unprecedented flooding in Chennai in 2015 and in Mumbai some years ago
- Even with weak insurance cover for the general population, the volume of claims in Chennai crossed Rs.5,000crore, highlighting the avoidable losses arising out of infrastructure deficits. Much of the total loss was borne by individuals. On the other hand, cities devote vast amounts of their revenue merely to repair roads after the monsoon rather than create new assets. This is a colossal planning failure, and governments should at least now draw up integrated plans to make cities andgrowing towns resilient to weather events and disasters
- This should begin with the creation of information systems that tell administrators about weather patterns, anomalies, flooding data and population impacts
- The Chennai floods exposed the mindless permissions for construction in floodplains, and the high tolerance to commercial encroachment of wetlands. They also highlighted the indifference among policymakers over providing decent housing for migrants. This approach is eroding the economic gains of urban India
- If megacities that face seasonal storms are to be strengthened, they should be provided with more water harvesting facilities in the form of urban wetlands with connected drains. Suburban lakes have to be revived. Natural ecological structures are readily available to achieve this
- City managers should not commit the mistake of building engineered systems to transfer precious rain flows to the sea, ignoring water security for growing populations. A transparent building code that alerts buyers to hazard-free property is vital
- Equally, governments need to ensure that during the monsoon, basic requirements of urban living such as transport, safe water supply, energy and health systems are not severely disrupted
- On the positive side, city residents have a higher degree of education, capability and financial wherewithal, and these should help administrations find durable solutions. Much of urbanising India is yet to be built, and it can be designed to withstand the vagaries of monsoons and other weather events
3. Letting our films fly
Category: Freedom of Expression
- Benegal committee recommendations are bound to draw more attention after the recent furore over ‘Udta Punjab’. Their first step — the recommendation that the Board certify films instead of censoring them indiscriminately — is in the right direction, but instances such as Udta Punjab are pointers to the possible chinks in this newly proposedarmour
- Take, for instance, how the provision of certification comes with one huge rider: that certification can be denied when a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
- The section states: “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.” Section 5B (2) further states: “Subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (1), the Central Government may issue such directions as it may think fit setting out the principles which shall guide the authority competent to grant certificates under this Act in sanctioning films for public exhibition.”
- In the case of Udta Punjab these guidelines have been cited for suggesting a number of deletions. These include the names of places — Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Moga, Tarn Taran, Jashanpura, Ambesar. It also includes the name Punjab itself, and words such as election, MP, MLA, and Parliament. The CBFC has objected to the fact that a dog is called Jackie Chan, to the many cuss words in songs and dialogues, the itching and scratching gestures of a character, and close-ups of people injecting drugs
- It has demanded the deletion of a dialogue describing the Punjab as “Zameenbanjarteaulaadkanjar” (Of barren lands and progenies who are pimps). It is a clear indication that the film would have definitely landed in trouble even if we were in an era of certification rather than censoring
- It is a given that artistic expression and creative freedom should not be curbed, and audiences should have the right to make informed viewing choices. But that cannot be achieved just by a call for viewership categories alone. Though there cannot be rigid guidelines for certifying films, there is a need for more far-reaching changes aimed at a larger institutional revamp and systemic alteration in the entire functioning of the CBFC, which ensure that a film isviewed in entirety for its overall impact than in such a piecemeal manner
- This is more so for films that show bitter truths of life. Documentaries, especially those based on contentious political incidents and issues, have an even more difficult passage, be it Rakesh Sharma’s Final Solution on the 2002 Gujarat riots or Kamal Swaroop’s recent Dance for Democracy/The Battle of Banaras on the big electoral fight of the 2014 LokSabha elections between NarendraModi, then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, and AamAadmi Party (AAP) chief ArvindKejriwal
- The archaic Cinematograph Act itself needs to be updated, and various sections modified. How can we ensure that concepts like integrity of the country, decency and morality enumerated in Section 5B don’t remain open to partisan interpretations and misuse? How can a film rise above and not remain vulnerable to individual (mis)readings and (mis)understandings? These questions will have to be constantly raised and tackled head-on, even after the dust settles on Udta Punjab
- It is important to look more closely at the functioning of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), to which the producers of Udta Punjab have now appealed. A statutory body, the Tribunal hears appeals from any applicant who is aggrieved by an order of the CBFC. The FCAT decision, however, can also be challenged in the courts
- Currently it is headed by Justice S.K. Mahajan and its members include politician ShaziaIlmi, actor PoonamDhillon, lawyer Bina Gupta, and journalist ShekharIyer
- In recent times, while a sex comedy like Great Grand Masti got the FCAT’s clearance, Dance for Democracy/The Battle of Banaras did not. Nonetheless, there is often talk about strengthening the specialised Tribunal to address all cinema-related issues rather than have people rush to the nearest High Court, along the lines of legislation in other fields of quasi-regulation/licensing such as the Securities Appellate Tribunal for capital markets, and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal as regards telecom
- There is yet another crucial hurdle to artistic freedom. Apart from the Union Act, every State has its own supplementary rules of censorship. Even films with certificates have been stopped at the State level on a perceived threat to law and order. These include the Punjabi film SaddaHaq, Kamal Haasan’sViswaroopam, PrakashJha’sAarakshan, ShoojitSircar’s Madras Café, and Sanjay LeelaBhansali’sGoliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela. Experts say that there could be a provision in the Act that a certified film’s exhibition will ordinarily not be suspended, or that the order of suspension of exhibition may not be passed unless the producer has been given a hearing
- There are far too many hurdles to the free and fearless flight of a film
Topic: International Groupings
- The India-US Joint Statement released on June 7 said President Barack Obama and Prime Minister NarendraModi “looked forward to India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime” (MTCR), and that Obama “welcomed India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)”
- What are MTCR and NSG, and why does India want to be their part?
What is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)?
- Established in April 1987, it is a voluntary association of 34 countries — 35, once India is formally included — and four “unilateral adherents” that follow its rules: Israel, Romania, Slovakia, Macedonia. The group aims to slow the spread of missiles and other unmanned delivery technology that could be used for chemical, biological and nuclear attacks
- The regime urges members, which include most of the world’s major missile manufacturers, to restrict exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km, or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction
What does India need to do to get in?
- Prospective members must win consensus approval from existing members. United States policy had been that members that are not recognised nuclear-weapon states — including India — must eliminate or forgo ballistic missiles able to deliver a 500 kg payload at least 300 km. The US, however, made an exception in 1998 for Ukraine, permitting it to retain Scud missiles and, in October 2012, South Korea was allowed to keep ballistic missiles with an 800-km range and 500-kg payload that could target all of North Korea
- For India, the US seems to have waived these terms, allowing it retain its missile arsenal. India’s membership should come through formally whenever the next MTCR Plenary meeting takes place — the last one was held in Rotterdam in October 2015
How does the MTCR work?
- Members must have national policies governing export of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space launch vehicles, drones, remotely piloted vehicles, sounding rockets, and their components
- There are two categories of exports: Category I, which are basically exports of complete products and major sub-systems and are meant to be extremely rare — with guidelines instructing members that “there will be strong presumption to deny transfers”; and Category II, which includes materials, technologies and components whose transfers can be made more easily, since they generally have civilian applications, even though these too are done with caution
Does joining the MTCR make getting missile technology easier?
- There are no special concessions for MTCR members. But India hopes its MTCR membership will be one more reason for the US to consider exporting Category 1 UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk, which have been key to counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen
- These drones have so far been sold to only one country, the UK, though unarmed versions have also been made available to Italy and South Korea. The US has been rethinking rules on exports, aware that competitors in Israel, Russia and China are working on similar products — and India wants to be at the head of the queue when the Reaper and the Global Hawk go on the market
Are there any sanctions for breaking MTCR rules?
- Rulebreakers can’t be punished. However, US law mandates sanctions for companies and governments that export MTCR-controlled items. The sanctioned entity can’t sign contracts, buy arms and receive aid for two years or more
Does the MTCR actually stop the spread of missile technology?
- Yes and no. North Korea, Iran and Pakistan acquired ballistic missile technology from China. But then, China began to feel the pinch of US technology sanctions — and announced, in November 2000, that it would stop exporting ballistic missile technology. Four years later, it applied for MTCR membership — but has been denied entry because of suspicion that some companies in the country are secretly supplying technology to North Korea
- Many others dropped missile programmes because of MTCR pressure: Argentina abandoned its Condor II ballistic missile programme (on which it was working with Egypt and Iraq) to join the regime. Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programmes. Poland and the Czech Republic destroyed their ballistic missiles
- It is possible China may now seek some kind of bargain, whereby it is given entry to the MTCR in return for letting India get into the NSG, where it wields a veto
Why does India want to be in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?
- Following India’s 1974 nuclear tests, the US pushed for setting up a club of nuclear equipment and fissile material suppliers. The 48-nation group frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment, with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons; members are admitted only by consensus
- India has been trying, since 2008, to join the group, which would give it a place at the high table where the rules of nuclear commerce are decided — and, eventually, the ability to sell equipment. Many countries that initially opposed its entry, like Australia, have changed stance; Mexico and Switzerland are the latest to voice support. India’s effort has been to chip away at the resistance, leaving only one holdout — China. But until China accepts India’s entry, there is no hope of membership.
Why does the US want India in the NSG?
- The answer lies in the US effort to strengthen the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, whose centrepiece is the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT. The NPT defines “nuclear weapons states” as those that tested devices before January 1, 1967 — which means India cannot ever be one. India — like Israel and Pakistan — thus refused to sign the treaty
- From 2005, though, President Bush’s administration sought ways to deepen strategic cooperation with India. Nuclear energy was a key means to strengthen cooperation, but since India wasn’t a member of the NPT, technology couldn’t be shared. Then, a way forward was found — the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement
- India agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes, and put the civilian part under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. India also changed its export laws to line up with the NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, and Australia Group — the four key nuclear control regimes. The US agreed to shepherd Indian entry into these regimes, which meant India would for all practical purposes be treated like an NPT member, even though it wasn’t one
Why doesn’t Pakistan want India in?
- The Pakistani argument is that giving India easy access to fissile material and technology for its civilian nuclear programme means it would have that much more material for its military nuclear programme. Thus, Pakistan says, the move to give India NSG membership is fuelling a nuclear arms race
- But this argument falls apart because Pakistan is resolutely opposed to a key international agreement called the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), which would cap the military nuclear stockpiles of all countries. The FMCT ought to put an end to Pakistan’s fears, but Islamabad has refused to sign
And what is China’s problem?
- Chinese diplomats say Beijing wants NSG entry to be norm-based — in other words, whatever rules govern Indian entry should apply to others too. Norm-based entry would, presumably, help Pakistan gain entry, something many in the NSG are certain to resist because of the country’s record as a proliferator of nuclear-weapons technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea
Why then did China go along with the NSG waiver in 2008?
- The 2008 one-time waiver allowed nuclear commerce between NSG members and India — the agreement that now allows Westinghouse, and its competitors in France or South Korea, to bid to set up civilian reactors in India. Back then, US-China relations were riding high — on the back of surging trade, and a common vision of how the international order should be structured. Today, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping are at odds over Chinese muscle-flexing in the South China Sea
What might tip the odds?
- India and the US have cards to play. China wants membership of the MTCR — and to enter that club, and see an end to key technology sanctions, it needs US help. European Union states too have denied China exports of critical military technologies, which might be a bargaining chip. All depends on how well India bargains — and how much Pakistan’s NSG membership actually means to China. Either way, this is going to be long diplomatic haul
Category: Freedom of Expression
- Is there any need for censorship in an age when everything is available on the Internet? Is there any need for a body which is appointed by the government to monitor the cinemas of India, a body which is increasingly getting caught up in needless politicking and the trading of ugly charges?
- There is everything desirable about proper certification of films: nothing good comes out of censorship exercised from a position of faux moral high ground. Or when cinema is made a political pawn.
- This is how the certification procedure works: once the film is complete, a filmmaker approaches the local office of the CBFC in order to obtain a censor certificate, without which the film cannot be exhibited. In other words, the crucial document which lets the film fulfil its destiny, and be shown to the viewers it was intended for
- There are nine offices of the CBFC — in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Cuttack and Guwahati: the idea is to let all major filmmaking centres have easy access to CBFC offices, keeping proximity and language familiarity in mind. The Mumbai office is the busiest, dealing with Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi films. It is the hot seat for obvious reasons, because that’s where Bollywood films fetch up for certification
- As a first step, an examining committee (EC) views the film and comes up with the category it thinks the film is appropriate for: U, U/A, or A, meant to denote, respectively, universal, parental guidance, and restricted-to-adults viewing. If a filmmaker’s expectation and the panel’s views match, then all is well
- A disagreement may lead the filmmaker to ask for a fresh look at the film. In such cases, a revising committee (RC) is set up. The members of this second panel cannot be the same. Additionally, on this second panel, the presence of one board member is mandatory
- The board, of about 22 to 25 members, is drawn from ‘experts’ — people who have domain knowledge, and can contribute to the growth of cinema and the arts — from all over the country. The board meets several times a year to examine and deliberate upon issues pertaining to the production and exhibition of cinema, of which certification forms an important part. It is meant to be advisory in nature. The board members are not expected to be involved in the day-to-day processes of certification, unless they wish to be
- The presence of a board member, which could also mean the chairperson, usually brings a more nuanced approach to the viewing at this second tier. There may be suggested cuts if the panel feels they are unsuitable for universal viewing, and once they are mutually agreed upon, usually the filmmaker goes away with the certification he or she desires
- When even that second level turns contentious, the filmmaker can take the film to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a Delhi-based quasi-judicial body comprising about five people, headed by a retired senior judge. Usually, the filmmakers’ plea — mostly to do with the number of cuts — is heard by a ‘more liberal’ body (which has usually been the reputation of the FCAT) at this stage. And usually, the film is ‘passed’ with either no cuts, or minimal cuts
- The last recourse of the filmmaker, should the film run into trouble at the FCAT too, is the Supreme Court. But usually at the Tribunal stage things get resolved, more or less amicably
- Filmmakers who want their film intact along with the desired certification can face a long, uphill battle. Most often, with the date of release around the corner, and fearing incurring financial losses any delays may cause, filmmakers may get pressured into agreeing with the certification that is handed out
- The chief problem is that the CBFC, which is still bound by the archaic, outdated guidelines formulated in 1952, has not internalised the implications of the difference between ‘censorship’, which is an overhang of the British era, and ‘certification’, which is the need of the present times
- The Censor Board, as it used to be called, and still is in popular parlance, has failed spectacularly to keep step with a new, resurgent India where viewers have instant, unfettered access to uncensored global content, which is watched, or not, on its own merits
- Well-reasoned, well-thought out certification simplifies the life of a viewer: at one glance it is clear which film is appropriate for which age-group. Extra caution or vigilance is valid only when the film can potentially impact children below 12: if you are over 18, and can be trusted to vote in a government, get married and have children, you can be trusted to watch what you want
- The mandate of the board (and all the panels and members associated with it) is to strengthen and sharpen certification procedures, so that viewers can make better, informed choices. Not to demand unconscionable cuts, on the basis of either a glaring lack of knowledge of the arts, or under pressure from any quarter. Or to deny certification to films “which show communities or individuals in Bad Light”, a favourite CBFC phrase
Category: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- India will become a functional member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) from this year. Along with India, Pakistan will also become a member of the forum. Both countries have been observers of the SCO for several years. India and Pakistan’s entry will expand the membership of the SCO from the current six — China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — to eight. It will also draw South Asia into the SCO geography, which, till now, has been confined to Central and East Asia
- The SCO has the potential to play a strategically important role in Asia given its geographical significance. The forum has the Central Asian countries at its core and is fanning out to include China, Russia, Pakistan and India, on its east, south and north, respectively. If it is able to draw in some countries from the Middle East, particularly those bordering Iran, it would cover a huge land mass in the world and would be among regional associations with the largest populations and energy and mineral resources
- The presence of Pakistan and India in the SCO provide its members the much-desired access to the Arabian Sea that leads to the Indian Ocean. However, notwithstanding several distinct strategic characteristics, such as being a forum of the world’s noted non-Anglo-Saxon Asian powers and a reservoir of abundant energy resources, the SCO has not been able to develop a constructive economic agenda
- Energy cooperation, which the Russian President had flagged in 2006 as one of the key goals of the SCO, has remained dormant. Rather, most energy cooperation between the SCO members has been happening bilaterally, such as the China-Central Asia gas pipeline. Beyond energy, China had proposed a SCO development bank in 2010, which has also remained a non-starter. Meanwhile, China’s interests have shifted to other regional initiatives like the New Development Bank of the BRICS and the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank
- One of the key reasons behind the SCO’s stunted growth in regional economic and strategic matters is the complicated dynamics between China and Russia. Neither has been willing to concede each other greater turf. India’s entry in the forum at this point in time would be visualised as a balancing factor for both. India might have some concerns over how the forum might react to its delicate relations with Pakistan. But this is unlikely to grow into a major concern as the rest of the members, particularly the Central Asian countries, are likely to maintain considerable distance from the Indo-Pak bilateral domain
- The long-term economic prospects of the SCO would, however, depend on its connection to the One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) infrastructure connectivity plan proposed by China for connecting Asia and Europe through land and sea. China would be aiming to utilise the SCO as an important organisation for drumming up regional support for the OBOR. In this respect, India, which till now has refrained from committing to the OBOR, might find itself on relatively weak ground. China is already working on connecting its western region to Central Asia through projects that are exclusive of the SCO. Its long-term objective would be to dovetail these projects into the OBOR network. This would be similar to the plans it has for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) projects.
- An important prerogative for India at the SCO would be to fix a strategy for the OBOR. Having a totally non-committal attitude to the OBOR is not the right way to approach an initiative that is slowing spreading deep and wide across Asia and is becoming bigger than all other ongoing regional connectivity plans. Much of what India might gain from the SCO will depend on its own calculations of the OBOR
IN and USN have regularly conducted the annual bilateral exercise named ‘MALABAR’ since 1992. Since 2007, MALABAR has been held alternatively off India and in the Western Pacific. The 19th edition of the exercise, Ex MALABAR-15, was conducted off Chennai and included participation by the JMSDF.
The 20th edition of the exercise, Ex MALABAR-16, is being conducted from 14 to 17 June 16 with the harbour phase at Sasebo (Nagasaki,Jaapn)from 10 to 13 June 16 and the sea phase in the Pacific Ocean from 14 to 17 June 16. The primary aim of this exercise is to increase interoperability amongst the three navies and develop common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations
b) Commission’s decision regarding alleged malpractices in Karnataka RajyaSabha elections
Based on information received from various sources regarding alleged malpractices in the ongoing elections to the RajyaSabha from Karnataka for which poll is scheduled to be held on 11th June, 2016, the Commission after taking into consideration the relevant facts and reports received from Returning Officers and Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka has decided to file an FIR against Mr. MalikarjunKhube, MLA and other involved persons under section 171 (B) of IPC and relevant provisions of Corruption Act 1988.
Further keeping in view the need for a deeper and wider probe, Commission has further decided that the matter be investigated by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
Category: Social sector
- The bottom of the pyramid (the poor) are indeed the leading focus of concern for affirmative action. The prime agenda is formulation of their sustained well-being. There has always been a debate as to how to measure the monetary aspect of well-being. There is an option between using income or consumption as the indicator of well-being
- Economic theory proposes that consumption, rather than income, more directly measures the material well-being of households. Conceptual issues strongly favour consumption, while reporting issues tend to favour income for most people, but not for the bottom of the pyramid
- However, using income may have its own advantages. But due to paucity of data on household income, most of the policy decisions related to benefits for the bottom of the pyramid are based on the National Sample Survey household expenditure data, which tells only the limited part of the whole story
Standardizing income and expenditure indicators following standard statistical techniques, a composite indicator can be generated by averaging these two
- Studies reveal that the average annual household income is underestimated based on income based computations, overestimated based on expenditure based computations, and it is midway that is appropriate.
- Clearly, the bottom of the pyramid households always struggle in maintaining their routine expenses due to their low income, which translates into minimal savings and a stressful life
- The harsh circumstances of their economic position are revealed when asked how confident they feel about their financial situation. An overwhelming 48% bottom of the pyramid household wage earners say they face great difficulty in meeting their basic needs. The lack of confidence about the stability of their major income source is cited as the main reason. Only 30% of these households express confidence about income stability. However, 29% of these households are optimistic that their economic situation will improve over the next three years.
- It may be argued that assessment over a single parameter (either income or expenditure) might present results which do not reflect the reality. The suggested approach (income and expenditure taken together) appears to provide a better way of understanding the level of household well-being, and it is worth considering in measuring economic well-being and also in identification of targeted population to provide necessary support and benefits
Category: State of Indian Economy
- We have before us a growth figure of 7.6 per cent for 2015-16 according to the Central Statistical Organisation. Considering that 7 per cent economic growth is the ‘new normal’ of the Indian economy, India seems to be doing good
- The Finance minister said the growth rate was healthy because of two essential factors; ‘higher public investment’ and ‘targeted welfare buck reaching the general populace’
- The contrary story, however, is stark. The middle classes are still aggrieved.This public investment-led growth has accrued to the people whose man-days have been garnered mostly in the rural areas through MGNREGA. And it has bypassed the campuses of the IITs and IIMs
- In other words, the biggest story that is trending in the ‘social media’ today is how Flipkart’s valuation has been declining rather sharply and how the company has put on hold its recruitment plans
- Since the main driver of the Indian ‘market’ economy is the middle class, their dissatisfaction could cause problems for the government
- Also, when you make people too dependent on the survival of the state, the latter begins to feel omnipotent. And that is the cornerstone of ‘feudalism.’ The backwards and the dalits will rise against that phenomenon
- Difficult days are ahead for the government if this continues
Category: Energy sector
- Prime Minister Modi has a tangible gain to show for his external exertions. All hurdles to its membership of the34-nation Missile Technology Control Regimehave been cleared. It has now got Switzerland’s backing for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the United States, which has been strongly endorsing India’s case, reiterated its full support for India’s membership of the NSG, Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement. PM Modi will hope to pick up Mexico’s endorsement when he meets with its president
- However, China continues to oppose India’s NSG aspirations. Washington’s backing will prove to be crucial in countering Beijing. The joint statement gives clear indication of US support for India
- Even though there is no reference to the South China Sea, a concession to Chinese sensibilities, it refers to India and the US as priority partners in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean
- The agreement between the two militaries to facilitate mutual logistics support including port visits and joint exercises, and the forward movement on nuclear power are the other indications
- Its import has not been lost on China which responded by downplaying the India-US relationship. China’s opposition to India has been couched in terms of India’s refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and parity with Pakistan. But the real reason for Beijing’s opposition is the access to technology that India will gain via entry to the nuclear club, giving it new economic and strategic benefits
- This was the prime consideration that had driven the US to enter into a civil nuclear agreement with India, breaking the technology denial regime to which India had been consigned after its nuclear tests
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following statements is/are correct?
- UNAIDS is a member of the United Nations Development Group
- Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases by 2015 is one among the Millennium Development Goals
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2: Which of the following isotopes are considered as weapon grade by IAEA?
- plutonium 239
- uranium 233
- uranium 238
a) 1,2 and 3
b) 1,2 and 4
c) 2,3 and 4
d) All the Above
Question 3: Which of the following countries have been involved in the Malabar Exercise?
- The USA
a) 1,2 and 3
b) 1,2 and 4
c) 2,3 and 4
d) All the Above
Question 4: Which ofthe following statements is/are correct?
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a political, economic, and military organisation
- Afghanistan and India would join the SCO in 2016
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 5: Which of the following statements is/are correct about The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013?
- Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees
- The District Officer(Collector) is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district
- The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence
- The Complaints Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days
a) 1 and 4
b) 2 and 4
c) 1,2 and 3
d) All the Above
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