Table of Contents:
A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:
C. GS3 Related:
D. GS4 Related
Useful News Articles
A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
Topic: Federal Relations
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously quashed the Arunachal Pradesh Governor’s decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a move which triggered political unrest in the sensitive border State and culminated in the declaration of President’s rule on January 26
- The five-judge Bench directed the immediate imposition of status quo ante as on December 15, 2015
- The Bench said the Governor is not an “all-pervading super constitutional authority”
- All the Governor did here, the court said, was to use his constitutional authority to ostensibly favour an “invalid breakaway group” of MLAs disqualified under the Tenth Schedule
Topic: Federal Relations
- With three more deaths on Wednesday, the Kashmir Valley remained on the edge for the fifth consecutive day
- According to a police spokesman, stone throwing continued on Wednesday and “stray and intermittent incidents were reported from 13 places in north and south Kashmir
- In a joint statement, the separatist leaders extended the shutdown call by two days and asked Pakistan-occupied Kashmir “to join them in the protests”
- They welcomed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement on Kashmir
- Reacting to the Prime Minister’s meeting in Delhi, the separatists said: “Kashmir is neither an issue of law and order nor an economic problem. It is an old political and human problem that needs to be addressed according to the aspirations of the people and the ground realities in Kashmir”
Topic: Federal Relations
- As the number of protesters suffering eye injuries in Kashmir clashes touched hundred, the Health Ministry on Wednesday sent a three-member team of eye specialists from the AIIMS in New Delhi to Srinagar to assist the State government in treating the injured
- Hundreds of people have been injured in the clashes, many of them in the eye because of excessive use of pellet guns by security forces to control the protesters
- After Kashmir’s violent unrest in 2010, security forces started using pellet guns as a “non-lethal” measure to avoid civilian fatalities
- A single pellet gun cartridge carries 500 pieces of tiny metal laced with gun powder. On pulling the trigger, the gun sprays the hot metal pieces haphazardly. These pellets can pierce the skull and eyes, leading to blinding other severe complications
- “If you are within the 10-metre range you can get fatally injured,” a senior police officer said
Topic: Federal Relations
- What can go right in Kashmir?
- long term political engagement, transparent development policy and creation of employment opportunities will make a difference in J&K. Democracy should come as a liberating force for people and restore dignity
- Readiness to re-look into how Mr. Wani was killed and revisit each civilian killing to understand if any excessive force was used against protesters could send a positive signal
Topic: Rights Issues
- The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved proposals for extending several benefits to “persecuted” minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in India on long-term visas
- They can now take up self-employment, buy property, open bank accounts and get drivinglicences, PAN card and Aadhaar
- They are allowed free movement within the State of their stay, and can get their long-term visa papers transferred from one State to another
- The government has permitted them to apply for long-term visas from the place of their current residence, even if they have moved to the present place without seeking permission
- The powers will be delegated to the Collectors of 16 districts in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for two years for registration as citizens of India
- “The Collector or District Magistrate would be empowered to authorise an officer not below the rank of Sub-divisional Magistrate for administering the oath of allegiance to the applicant,” the Cabinet note says on granting citizenship
- The government has waived the penalty on late application for extension of their short- or long-term visas. The registration fees for citizenship will be reduced to Rs. 100 from Rs. 3,000-15,000. Soon, the Citizenship Rules, 2009, will be amended to help such persons get citizenship
Topic: SCS Disputes
Category: International Affairs
- China pre-emptively dismissed the entire PCA proceedings in 2014 by refusing to participate in the arbitration and rejected this week’s ruling as “null and void”
- Beijing had ratified the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1996 and it is based on the laws framed by the convention that an unfavourable ruling was slammed on China by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, the Netherlands
- Yet the ruling is likely to have a geo-strategic ripple effect in a region that has for a long time been a hot zone for confrontational military manoeuvres. For years now China has been creating artificial islands in the SCS, and sparked worldwide tensions when it unilaterally set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in 2013
- While China has rejected UNCLOS principles in its claims against the Philippines, it is expressly invoking the Convention’s provisions in its claims against Japan, regarding the dispute surrounding the fuel-rich Senkaku Islands
- The ruling also draws attention to the glaring fact of non-ratification of UNCLOS by the U.S. Washington may now have to reconsider ratifying the Convention itself, especially if China decides to withdraw from it and thus undermine support for a global rules-based order
Topic: SCS Disputes
Category: International Affairs
- China on Wednesday said it could establish a military Air Defence Zone in the South China Sea (SCS), but combined its hardening position on the ruling by an international tribunal on the SCS, with a fresh offer of a dialogue with the Philippines
- The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying that that the tribunal’s ruling can serve “as a foundation on which we can start the process of negotiations which hopefully will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of the maritime dispute in the SCS.”
- The imposition of an ADIZ would require overflying planes to first notify China
C. GS3 Related
- The Islamic State may have set up sleeper cells in India owing to the influence of foreign-funded Islamic seminaries and preachers who teach an exclusivist version of Islam, says the new Iraqi Ambassador to India
- “Islamic seminaries and televangelists are powerful tools in the war that the IS is waging, and that is why countries should exercise more control on these sections,” he said
- He said Iraq and Syria were the victims of a few powerful regional intelligence organisations in West Asia and North Africa that were using the radicalised youths from different parts of the world as cannon fodder for their wars. “The radicalised youths do not understand that they are the puppets who are motivated by a brand of religion and are used by intelligence agencies fighting proxy wars in West Asia,” he said
Topic: Foreign Casualty
- Two C17 aircraft of Indian Air Force left for Juba with the Minister of State for External Affair onboard
- There are 600 Indians in South Sudan, 450 of them in the capital city of Juba
- South Sudan has been hit by violence which has claimed hundreds of lives till now. The conflict is because of clashes between government troops and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar
D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance
Topic: Federal Relations
- Once again, a Chief Minister unseated by internal rebellion that enjoyed the backing of a friendly regime at the Centre is set to return to office. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that status quo ante as on December 15, 2015, should be restored in Arunachal Pradesh
- This means that NabamTuki will return as Chief Minister and KalikhoPul, the dissident who formed the government with the help of the BJP after a brief spell of President’s Rule, and even proved his majority in a floor test in February, will have to go
- In Arunachal Pradesh, events took an unseemly turn last December when the Governor, intervened in an apparently partisan manner by advancing a session of the State Assembly by nearly a month and asking the House to take up a motion to remove the Speaker as the first item on the agenda. This led to a shutdown of the legislature at the behest of the Chief Minister and the Speaker, and the dissidents holding a parallel session at a makeshift venue, where the Speaker was ‘removed’ and a ‘no-confidence’ motion against the government adopted. The subsequent imposition of President’s Rule and the installation of the Pul regime raised questions about the propriety of the BJP-led Central government’s approach to Congress-ruled States
- Legally, the main significance of the Arunachal Pradesh verdict lies in the clarity it provides on the Governor’s role. The Governor has no authority to resolve disputes within a political party; nor is he the conscience-keeper of the legislature. He has no discretionary power to advance an Assembly session without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers; nor can he fix its agenda
- On the Governor’s defence that he was acting to prevent constitutional improprieties such as a Speaker, for whose removal a motion was pending, adjudicating on the disqualification of some MLAs, the Court has made three points about the Governor’s intervention: he had no role in the removal of the Speaker, he had no authority to interfere in the Speaker’s powers under the anti-defection law, and he had no basis to act on the views of a group of 21 breakaway Congress MLAs, who clearly did not constitute a two-third fraction of the 47-member Congress Legislature Party to be lawfully recognisable
- Tuki may now struggle to demonstrate his majority as 14 MLAs disqualified under his regime have been reinstated by a recent judgment of the Guwahati High Court. Whether he survives or not, this is not the last we will hear about the issue of how manufactured majorities in State Assemblies are to be dealt with in the constitutional scheme of things
Topic: SCS Disputes
Category: International Affairs
- As expected, Beijing lost no time in rejecting the unanimous ruling of an international tribunal at The Hague that China has no legal basis for much of its claims on the South China Sea. But given the tribunal’s lack of powers to enforce its rulings, a resolution of the dispute with the Philippines will have to be the stuff of international diplomacy
- Generally, this is not such a bad thing as judicial verdicts on issues of contested sovereignty can trigger a nationalist backlash. The court at The Hague ruled that China’s claims to the waters within the so-called “nine-dash line”, with wide-ranging economic interests, was in breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The case was brought to the court in 2013 by the Philippines, centring on the Scarborough Shoal, but Beijing chose to boycott the proceedings. Yet, the Vice Foreign Minister of China, while asserting China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea, has committed to negotiations with the Philippines following the ruling. Indeed, China now has more compelling reasons to reconsider its overall position
- The setback at The Hague comes at a critical juncture in China’s bid to bolster its global economic status. This relates to its long-standing ambition to be accorded recognition as a market economy under the World Trade Organisation. As the 2016 deadline looms, China insists the upgrade is automatic as per WTO rules. The European Parliament thinks otherwise, and voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding resolution in May to delay a decision. Currently, Brussels levies anti-dumping tariffs on imports from Beijing to mitigate the effects of supposedly unfairly low prices on a range of commodities
- Against this backdrop, the Chinese leadership is unlikely to allow itself any distraction in the form of a long-drawn confrontation in its backyard, with its adverse diplomatic fallout. Instead, Beijing is more likely to rally support to its cause for increased trade. History bears witness to a more constructive play of diplomatic forces in similar high-stakes inter-state disputes
- For instance, although Washington ignored a 1986 verdict of the International Court of Justice, concerted pressure led to the eventual end to U.S. backing for Nicaraguan insurgents. In the current case at The Hague, the U.S. can’t exert much moral pressure as it has not even ratified the United Nations Convention. Conversely, as a party to the law alongside Manila, there is more pressure on Beijing to comply. It is possible that big-power plays on the South China Sea will now be behind us. After three years of litigation, this does not seem like a bad thing after all
Topic: Federal Relations
- Anti-India feelings were steadily on the rise after over 120 Kashmiris were killed at the hands of the J&K police and Central forces in 2010. The seeds of a new indigenous insurgency were sown by the hasty manner in which Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013 during the rule of the previous government. Let’s remember that all this was happening during a decade when terrorist infiltration from Pakistan was lower than ever before thanks primarily to the border/Line of Control fence that was erected in J&K in 2004
- The combined result of this mishandling has been a sharp, and worrying, spike in the number of home-grown militants: educated, armed, religiously inclined and ideologically motivated, and not necessarily shepherded. Second, years since the violent insurgency of the 1990s was put down, there is today a disquieting rise in the legitimacy for armed militancy among civil society and the educated classes of the Valley
- Its miserable history of mishandling Kashmir has hardly taught New Delhi how to deal with Kashmir, despite fighting the insurgency for close to three decades now.
- When thepresent government was formed in early 2015, there was hope that things would get better for J&K given the PDP’s popularity in south Kashmir and the BJP’s historic mandate in Delhi: one and a half years down the road, however, all that J&K is left with is the PDP’s political isolation and helplessness, and the centre’s inflexible political positions
- The PDP has repeatedly reminded the BJP on the need to deliver on the promises (such as “the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders, who will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections”) enshrined in the “Agenda of Alliance”. However, not one of the key objectives outlined in the document has been taken up by the coalition so far, not even for discussion
- On the day Wani was killed, the Supreme Court came down heavily (though in the context of Manipur) on the shocking extent of immunity provided to the armed forces. Indeed, this stinging indictment of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act — AFSPA — has come at a point in time when the BJP has been playing hide and seek with the PDP, and Kashmiris in general, on the AFSPA question even though a need for a relook at this draconian law was clearly mentioned in the coalition work plan. The court’s redefinition of the situation in Manipur as ‘internal disturbance’, summarily rejecting the Central government’s plea that it is a ‘war-like situation’, has undeniable implications for how New Delhi deals with Kashmir and the debates on draconian laws like AFSPA
- Human and political rights of Kashmiris must be respected and what the country’s Constitution guarantees in Article 370 should not be snatched away
- In our country, the government and the political class look for solutions only when there is trouble in Kashmir: they make calls for peace, and send an occasional all-party delegation to the Valley (as happened in 2010) and promise to look into the genuine demands. Sometimes even a team of interlocutors is appointed to negotiate with the dissidents. The tragedy is that once the trouble subsides, promises are forgotten and the committee reports, as usual, get ignored. There is therefore a need to look for sustainable political solutions if the government is serious about pacifying the conflict in Kashmir. The more you wait, the less appetite will there be in the Valley to talk to New Delhi: there was more positivity in the Valley about talks a decade ago than is the case now
- In difficult times such as these, hard decisions have to be taken and the political class should show courage to do so. Here are some suggestions to bring normalcy back to Kashmir: repeal or at least amend AFSPA, release political prisoners, institute a broad-based inquiry into extrajudicial killings in Kashmir, and open a result-oriented dialogue with the Valley’s dissidents to discuss the larger political questions as promised by the ruling coalition. If the Indian state could strike a peace deal with the Naga insurgents, why not Kashmir, which is even more central to India’s national security?
- With terrorism engulfing the region and the Islamic State waiting at the gates for an opening, India can ill-afford not to pacify its domestic insurgencies. Branding dissent as terrorism would only frustrate our efforts to deal with real terrorism
- Moreover, we should shed our national habit of pointing fingers at others when trouble brews in our country, and own up to our share of mistakes
- Finally, India and Indians need to speak to Kashmiris, openly and without prejudice
- Is Brexit a blow to globalisation? Globalisation has been interpreted in many ways. In broad terms, globalisation denotes the free movement of goods, services, capital, funds, ideas, technology and people across countries. Many people think globalisation is a recent phenomenon. This is not true. This has been going on for centuries. What has made it unique in recent times is the speed of the movement. Great Britain and many other countries in Europe have reached the present level of economic development only because of this free movement. In both demographic and geographic terms, Britain is a small country. It is not the size of the domestic market that determined its growth. London could not have emerged as the financial centre of the world but for the free flow of capital. The gamut of financial services offered by London is geared to meet world demand and not that of Britain alone
- Even after the exit from the EU, Britain cannot remain as an isolated island. It has to be part of an international trade regime which allows for free trade. What then could have motivated a little more than 50 per cent of the population to come out of the EU? It has something to do with the nature of the relationship within the EU
- The EU has evolved over the last seven decades. From a loose arrangement, it has become a tight bureaucratic organisation with its jurisdiction extending to multifarious activities. When the euro was created as a common currency, Britain opted out of it. The European Central Bank sets a common monetary policy stance for all member countries. This itself has been a source of irritation to many member countries. This came out prominently at the time of the Greek crisis. With the loss of one instrument of control — namely, the exchange rate variation — the entire burden of adjustment had to be through employment and output changes. As one commentator put it, the EU has moved up its aspiration from the idea of ‘common’ market to ‘single’ market. It is this transition which half of Britain has resented. The complex set of regulations emanating from Brussels has made at least a section of the British people feel that they have lost ‘independence’. Some of the elite of Britain who voted to ‘leave’ feel this way. They think that control has moved to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels
- What has induced the ‘non-elite’ to vote for Brexit was the EU’s migration policy. The free movement of people has been the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The low-paid jobs in the U.K. have been taken over by migrants predominantly from Eastern Europe. In an economy which has been growing slowly (even though the U.K. is a better performer than other European countries in recent years), this has come as a shock. The spirit of ‘nationalism’ still runs high. The poor in Britain feel that they have been cheated by the migrants. Absorbing migrants is not new for Britain. The Asian and African migrants constitute a significant proportion of the population. All this happened when the economy was strong and growing. But this is not the situation now, and the resentment is in one sense natural. However, looked at globally, the poor in the countries from which people migrate have benefited. The British have also gained to the extent that the free movement of people has enabled highly skilled professionals to find positions all over Europe
- The ‘leave’ vote thus was motivated by two considerations: one, the degree of integration that the EU was trying to impose, and two, the migration policy which allowed a free movement of people across countries
- Globalisation is not really the devil. If the EU arrangement had been restricted only to free movement of goods, services, capital and funds, it could not have led to any deep resentment. It is the attempt at greater economic integration that has been interpreted as a loss of sovereignty and resented. However, there is still a message for globalization
- Globalisation, with its emphasis on efficiency (since goods and services will get produced at the least cost centres), can lead to greater inequality theoretically. Within a country also, the more efficient including professionals gain disproportionately. This situation gets worse if economies are growing slowly
- The U.S. has always prided itself on saying that the system they have is ‘people’s capitalism’. Inequalities do not matter much when economies are growing strongly and when new entrants to the labour force find employment easily. Countervailing measures are needed to take care of the adverse impact of globalisation. For this reason, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater
- The developed countries face a serious dilemma. They have reached a stage in their development when further growth will be slow. This will have implications for absorbing the labour that gets added to the market. Complicating the situation is technological development which is increasingly labour-saving. New technologies have a twofold impact. First, they reduce the demand for labour in general. Second, in particular they make unskilled and semi-skilled work redundant. They demand new skills for which retraining may be needed. Distribution of income has thus become an issue which needs to be dealt with directly
- Brexit is not a blow against globalisation per se. It is a vote against greater economic integration beyond the free flow of goods, services, and capital. Labour does not stand in the same category as capital, even though both are factors of production. Migration hurts when the economy is at a low ebb. Britain, along with other developed countries, faces a basic problem of coping with a growth potential which is far lower than the growth rate they had seen before 2008. The sociological economic implications of this phenomenon are yet to unravel
Topic: India and U.S
Category: International Relations
- In the United States, immigration continues to be a deeply polarising issue that places high-skilled workers on H-1B visasat the centre of an inconvenient narrative
- The free movement of high-skilled workers plagues the U.S.-India bilateral relationship unlike any other issue, and it can be fixed with pragmatic reforms. But some facts need to be aired first so as to erase the myths that have become popular on the campaign trail
- H-1Bs visas are for high-skilled workers. The problem is that the demand for these workers far surpasses the annual allotment of 85,000 H-1Bs, 20,000 of which are slotted for master’s graduates. In fact, the U.S. needs 120,000 new computer engineers annually but American universities only produce one-third of that number. Hence, the need for the H-1B programme, which allows the U.S. to fill the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) gap. Simply put, bringing in tech workers from abroad creates jobs in the U.S. According to a study by Professor Madeline Zavodny of Agnes Scott College, Georgia, U.S., hiring 100 H-1B workers resulted in an additional 183 jobs for native U.S. workers
- Similarly, estimates show that by rejecting 178,000 H-1B visa applications in computer-related fields in 2007-08, the U.S. missed out on creating as many as 231,224 tech jobs for U.S.-born workers in the two years that followed
- But this isn’t just a jobs conversation. A National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) study released in September 2015 noted that Indian IT companies contributed $22.5 billion in taxes to the U.S. Treasury between 2011 and 2013. Plus, they supported over 411,000 jobs in the U.S., including 300,000 jobs for U.S. citizens and permanent residents during that time. More important, those jobs make U.S. companies more efficient so that they can compete globally
- All of which raises the question of why there’s a political issue in the first place. There is a myth that high-skilled workers on H-1Bs earn less than and — as a result — displace their native-born counterparts. In fact, high-skilled IT workers on temporary visas earn competitive salaries and cost their employers as much or more than their American counterparts. According to a May 2013 Brookings Institution publication authored by Jonathan Rothwell and Neil G. Ruiz, “H-1B [visa] workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally.”
- Yet members of the U.S. Congress who used to champion H-1Bs by proposing to quintuple the annual allotment have flipped positions to appeal to the political winds. The IT services industry has been tainted by isolated media accounts of U.S.-born workers training in their foreign replacements. But the reality is that U.S. companies must remain technologically competitive. And that’s precisely what they hire U.S. and Indian IT companies to do
- Nevertheless, as a result of political dynamics, the U.S. Congress doubled H-1B visa fees in December, punishing Indian companies to the tune of $400 million over a decade and prompting India to file a case at the World Trade Organisation over a discriminatory fee increase that largely targets Indian companies. It is politically convenient to charge these companies when the U.S. Congress needs to pay for something. After all, those companies have little influence in Washington. The Indian Prime Minister raised the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama when the fee hike was signed into law as part of December’s Omnibus Appropriations Act
- The law’s so-called 50:50 fees are clearly discriminatory and should be eliminated. The law provides that increased fees would apply to companies with (a) more than 50 U.S.-based employees and (b) more than 50 per cent of its U.S.-based workforce on H-1B or L-1 visas. If the U.S. Congress does not strike down this discriminatory trade barrier that disrupts the market, then it should level the playing field by reducing the amount assessed per petition, spreading the cost to every organisation that uses the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes instead of targeting Indian firms through the 50:50 trigger
- But that’s not the only reform that should be made. Industry should push the U.S. Congress to rally around more visas for small businesses. Critics claim that smaller companies and start-ups don’t have the resources that larger IT firms have to procure their share of H-1Bs
- To address these concerns, which have been raised by members of the U.S. Congress, we propose maintaining the current number of 65,000 H-1Bs for larger companies, adding an additional 50,000 visas for small and medium enterprises exclusively, and taking on an extra 30,000 visas for master’s graduates
- The U.S. could make these changes solely to improve its strategic relationship with India, which serves as a bastion of stability in an otherwise difficult region. But that’s not why the U.S. Congress should act. It should act because innovation — and the hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with new companies — rests on a global, mobile workforce
- In India, 300 million people don’t have access to electricity, power cuts are rampant and per capita power consumption is significantly lower than the world average
- But “India is likely to experience the energy surplus of 1.1 per cent in 2016-17,” says the Load Generation and Balance Report (LGBR) 2016-17 of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), which functions under the Power Ministry
- Surplus or deficit is determined by calculating the difference between the demand for power and availability. It is the definition of “demand” that lies at the base of this paradox
- “While calculating power demand, only people who are connected to the grid and have access to electricity at present are taken into consideration,” says the Chairperson of the CEA, told The Hindu. The “real demand” that encompasses all citizens would be known only when India achieves the goal of ‘Power for All’, towards which the government is actively working, he says
- Taking this definition into consideration, there has been a significant improvement. The deficit has gradually reduced from 11 per cent in 2008-09 to 2.9 in 2015-16 and for the first time, there will be a surplus in 2016-17
- But if there is surplus power, why do we have power cuts? State discoms are unable to buy electricity due to poor financial health. There is unused power lying in the grid
- Transmission and distribution constraints are also responsible for power cuts. To solve this problem, the government launched the Ujjawal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) in November 2015. By operational and financial turnaround of discoms, UDAY is expected to facilitate reliable, adequate and sufficient power supply to consumers, among other things
- The state of power in the country is best captured by looking at the per capita power consumption. On an average, in 2015-16, the per capita consumption in India was 1,070 kWh, less than the world average of 3,026 kWh, as per data from the International Energy Agency. It is also the lowest among BRICS nations
- The low per capita consumption is mainly due to a large population, a low per capita income and a huge population not having access to electricity. Note that six States — Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura — will be power-surplus in 2016-17 but the per capita availability in the States is lower than the national average. Overall, as per LGBR, 17 States will have power-surplus in 2016-17
- Power demand for India grew by 6.6 per cent in 2014-15 and 4.2 per cent in 2015-16. In the last two years, Bihar — which has the lowest per capita power availability, witnessed the highest percentage growth, with demand increasing by around 25 per cent in both years
- This is indicative of more people getting connected to the grid, the official said.To meet the growing demand for electricity, the government is increasing the installed generation capacity as well. Hope there would be a power-surplus even when all Indians will have access to electricity
Topic: Federal Relations
- The formal launching of the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati — a Northeastern equivalent of the NDA — shows the BJP’s impressive capacity to learn, both from its successes and its failures. What has inspired the formation of this BJP-led alliance of regional parties, at least to some extent, is the narrative of an ideological victory in Assam as a result of the successful harnessing of regional aspirations
- But the trouble is that there is a tension between the ideological space of regionalism in Northeast India and the ideological grandstanding that ruling party ideologues have engaged in since the BJP’s win in Assam. Largely because of the state’s geographical location and its recent history of political turmoil, there has been a great temptation to read into it a historic shift of ideological preferences
- The rise of regional parties in most parts of India, as it has become quite apparent by now, has not been at the expense of national parties, except during the early days of the regional party phenomenon. This is because both the Congress and the BJP have been rather creative in responding to the rise of regional political parties
- In Northeast India the real issue is not whether the BJP delivers on the rhetoric of good governance and development, or succumbs to the agenda of Hindutva. If NEDA wishes to be more than just an anti-Congress electoral alliance it should boldly take on two of Northeast India’s most difficult issues: (a) the ambiguities of citizenship that grow out of the region’s long history as a settlement frontier and the conflicting memories and competing narratives of the Partition; and (b) the awkward inter-state border disputes. The illusive search for authentic borders won’t end them; there has to be a pragmatic acceptance of the sanctity of colonial district borders as the best we have got
- There is nothing in the actions and statements of the new government and those related to NEDA so far to suggest that a bold policy agenda on these issues is on the cards
The Union Cabinet has approved the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal VikasYojana (PMKVY) with an outlay of Rs.12000 crore to impart skilling to one crore people over the next four years (2016-2020). PMKVY will impart fresh training to 60 lakh youths and certify skills of 40 lakh persons acquired non-formally under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
Financial support to trainees will be given in the form of travel allowance, boarding and lodging costs. Post placement support would be given directly to the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). Disbursement of training cost to training partners will be linked to Aadhaar and biometrics for better transparency and targeting. Skill training would be done based on industry led standards aligned to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF).
Central Government is taking several measures to control the price rise of pulses. On one hand Government is trying to give relief to citizens by importing pulses from foreign countries or taking action against hoarders, on the other hand Govt has taken several steps to increase pulses production and to incentivise pulses growing farmers. Recently, Govt has given a step hike in MSP for pulse crops to encourage farmers Central govt has decided to form a committee under the Chief economic advisor, Govt of India to make a long term plan to encourage pulse growing among farmers and to review MSP and bonus for farmers.
Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Ministry has taken several steps to increase pulse production. In the year 2013-14 under the National Food security mission only 482 districts of 16 states were included. Now all 638 districts of 29 states have been included in this plan. Goa, Kerala and 8 north eastern states and 3 hilly states have now been included in this mission.
Total 17 hundred crores is being allocated under National food security mission. For pulses, total allocation is Rs. 1630 crores. Central govt has allocated Rs. 1100 crores and 430 crores have been allocated by state govt.
Of this amount allocated for NFSM, 15% goes for production of new varieties of pulses. For expansion of cultivation of new kinds of seeds, Rs.7.85 lakhs mini-kits are being distributed to farmers free of cost in the year 2016-17, through State Governments.
In the year 2016-17, demonstration of new techniques for pulse production is being carried out in 31,000 hectares by 534 KVKs through ICAR & State Agriculture Universities and Rs.25.29 crores have been allocated for this purpose.
Seed Hubs are being created through different organisation like ICAR, State Agriculture Universities and KVKs for ensuring the availability of new kinds of seeds. In 3 years 150 seed centers will be established and availability of 1.50 lakh quintal improved seeds will be ensured by Central Government. For this purpose, Rs.139.50 crore have been approved for establishment of 93 seed centers during 2016-17 to 2017-18, out of which Rs.80.44 crore is proposed for 2016-17.
Govt is also concentrating towards the procurement of pulse crops. Inter Cropping of pulses with oil seeds, cotton and other crops, summer moong and cultivation of tur dal on paddy fields is being encouraged
Government is encouraging Farmer producer organisations (FPO) to grow seeds, to buy, and to use efficient technology and to ensure adequate prices to small and marginal farmers for their produce.
Recently, the extent of buffer stocks of pulses has been increased from 8 to 20 MTs. Central procurement agencies (NAFED, FCI, S.F.A.C.) has been to the tune of 69000 till 10th July. Chana and Masoor were procured at the rate of Rs.4900-7000 and Rs.5400-8500 per quintal respectively. The purchase of pulses is still in progress.
An amount of Rs.201 crore has been released to the 5 pilot States and Rs.228.97 crore to States in the extended phase. Following the success of the scheme in the 1000 pilot villages in Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, it is now extended to further 1500 Scheduled Caste majority villages in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Pradhan MantriAdarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) is a Centrally sponsored scheme which is implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for integrated development of Scheduled Caste majority villages having Scheduled Caste population of more than 50%.
The scheme aims to achieve integrated development of SC majority villages through convergent implementation of relevant schemes and providing gap filling funds to take up activities which do not get covered under existing schemes. The major components of integrated development of villages under PMAGY are:
(i) Physical infrastructure such as construction of roads, street lighting, access to safe drinking water;
(ii) Sanitation and environment;
(iii) Social infrastructure, human development and social harmony; and
The Women and Child Welfare Ministry is working in a convergence mode with NITI Ayog, Ministries of Health and Education and other stakeholders to deal with the problem of malnutrition on a war footing. The digitization of anganwadis is being taken up and both hardware well as software is being provided for real time monitoring of every child and every pregnant and lactating mother. The anganwadi workers will be given smartphones and the supervisors will be given tablets for which the State government should provide training to anganwadi workers to help shift to the new IT-based system.
Utmost priority is being given toBetiBachoBetiPadhao and Nutrition programmes which are to be implemented in mission mode. The BetiBachoBetiPadhao scheme has shown tremendous success due to active involvement of states and urged the states to exhibit the same for ICDS.
The WCD Minister issued strict instructions to the states to comply with the directives of the WCD Ministry pertaining to clean food, prepared untouched by hand with sufficient availability of micro nutrients. “We are also looking at further standardizing the supplementary nutrition so that hygienic, nutritious and locally acceptable food is given to the children and mothers through a standardized process of manufacturing and distribution. This is warranted as the current systems of adhoc procurement and preparation have not succeeded in reducing malnutrition” the Minister explained. She said that the WCD Ministry is making efforts to get the cost norms increased from the current levels so that better food can be provided to the beneficiaries.
The WCD Ministry urged the states to ensure proper utilization of funds for various schemes specially those provided for nutrition and ICDS.
- In an ideal world, all telcos should be paying a similar spectrum usage charge (SUC), but due to bad drafting of the rules in 2010, the government feels SUC for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum cannot be changed from 1%. Since this would have given RJio and Bharti Airtel—the two telcos who own BWA spectrum—an unfair advantage, the attorney-general came up with a compromise using a weighted average
- Under this formula, while Vodafone and Idea would pay an SUC of 4.7%, Bharti Airtel would pay 3.7% and RJio 2.9%. That’s not fair, but as both RJio and Bharti Airtel buy more spectrum in fresh auctions, the difference would have reduced. This formula was given to Trai to make its recommendations, but what has emerged is not only confusing, but also raises SUC and is bereft of logic
- TRAI wants to weight the SUC according to the revenue earned from each band—but since it is not possible to segregate revenues from each band, it is not clear how Trai comes out with its ‘factor’ by which it weights the revenues. A ‘factor’ of 4.56 is used for 900 Mhz spectrum in relation to 2100 MHz spectrum—how was this got and why should a pan-India ‘factor’ be used instead of a per circle one? There is no ‘factor’ given for 700/800 MHz, so how is this to be dealt with; is the ‘factor’ the same for ‘liberalised’(auctioned) and ‘unliberalised’ spectrum—if not, why not? Also, since spectrum revenues will change from time to time—if you use spectrum costs for calculating the ‘factor’, the same problem arises in each successive auction—Trai will have to periodically come out with a new factor, making the entire process of calculating SUC more uncertain
- It is true the government did not try hard enough to convince RJio/Bharti Airtel about the flat SUC, but the weighted average formula it suggested had a logic and the differences would reduce over a few years. Since Trai‘s recommendations will only worsen the gap, it’s best to just ignore them
Topic: Local Bodies
- Almost 70 per cent of the Indian population lives in villages. Therefore it is natural that for ‘inclusive’ development, the Government must focus on them. Placing the emphasis on creating ‘smart cities’ is flawed policy. We must give top priority to the development of ‘smart villages’ — preserving the sustainability of villages will positively impact cities in the long run
- In recent times, more cases of farmers’ suicides due to crop failure have been reported. Even after 70 years of independence, we lack a ‘support and guidance system’; nor do we have professional counselling for farmers. Many of them have no secondary source of income — this is a major lacuna
- The lack of job opportunities in villages coupled with less remunerative farming (except in the case of large land holdings) compels village youth to migrate to cities. There, many of them do not enjoy a reasonable quality of life because they manage to get only subsistence jobs. The migration is also uni-directional as they continue to live in cities in the hope of landing better jobs. In the long term, this leads to desertion from villages, dilution of village culture, reduced land under cultivation and, consequently, farm output. In the cities, uncontrolled migration adds to pollution, traffic problems, crime, and over-burdening of civic amenities and infrastructure
- The top priority should be the creation of opportunities for youths in villages, thereby discouraging migration to cities. Farming should be made a remunerative occupation, with guidance and mentoring to small farmers on how to get the best yield and market at remunerative prices. It’s important to train them to develop a secondary source of income. The benefits of schemes such as crop insurance, soil health card, and neem pesticides must reach the grassroots. Proper implementation is key. A helpdesk set up in every village and manned by trained individuals to handle farmers’ queries and provide solutions would be most useful
- We must create an eco-system that makes youth interested in working from their villages. BPOs/KPOs can operate from villages and young people can be encouraged to take up IT jobs there. Many jobs require computer skills instead of degrees
- The digitisation of post offices, rural banks, and IT-enabled services provide excellent opportunities. Projects supported by Digital India and Skill India should be integrated through a unified agency to reach villages. For instance, Skill India can empower youths to start their own small businesses after training as masons, mechanics, electricians, and drivers or to run repair shops, poultry and dairy farms, kirana stores, tea-shops, dhabas and so on
- India’s crafts thrive in villages, especially as cooperative ventures. Pottery, metal craft, weaving, jewellery making, wood craft, shell craft, cane craft, embroidery, ivory craft, glass craft and paper craft could be sources of income. The arts and crafts ecosystem of villages is impossible to recreate in cities. A great deal of export potential is hidden here. Senior/elderly artisans can be employed as ‘trainers’
- We have sizable tribal population in India, who live in villages, and do not wish to be uprooted. We need to make them part of development. Skill India can study the art/craft unique to each tribal cluster and train their youths to grow in their vocations. They will come into the mainstream by learning the use of new tools and techniques , without the fear of losing their lands, identity and culture
- Villages traditionally preserve large number of water bodies like ponds, wells, bawadis, canals etc. Training villagers in water harvesting methods, rejuvenating ponds/wells to improve water storage and sharing these good practices systematically with others, would help mitigate hardships.The NITI Aayog can draw a master plan to make every village smart in the next five years. Invite support from private institutions or NGOs; however, execution must remain with a governmental ‘nodal agency’
- Smart villages can translate into improved farm productivity, water conservation and economic independence to village youth. It makes great social, economic and political sense
Gujarat police have arrested Imran Batuk, one of the key accused in Godhra carnage casewas arrested from Malegaon, more than 14 years after the attack on Sabarmati Express in which 59 persons, mainly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were charred to death near Godhra railway station in Feburary 2002.His is the fifth such arrest in last one year byGujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).In 2011, a special trial court, which conducted trial under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Activities Act),had convicted 31 of the 94 persons named in the charge sheet. Out of 31 convicts, 11 were sentenced to death by the trial court, which had held that the attack on the train was a “pre-planned conspiracy.”
In her first remarks as Prime Minister of the U.K, Theresa May said she wanted to build a better country that worked for all its citizens and would battle to keep the United Kingdom together.She, like her predecessor, had backed Britain staying in the EU.
Noting that equal access to justice for all is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a Constitution Bench to consider the question of constitutionality of establishing a National Court of Appeal (NCA) with regional Benches to act as final courts of justice in criminal and civil cases.
“Cases are pending in the Supreme Court on an average of about 5 years, in High Courts for about 8 years, and anywhere between 5-10 years in trial courts… It is common knowledge that the huge backlog of cases in the Supreme Court not only attracts criticism from the litigant public but also from independent observers of the judicial system,” a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India observed in the reference to the Constitution Bench.A verdict in favour of the NCA would act as a great influence on the Parliament to amend the Constitution itself to make room for NCA.
The California Lieutenant and a group of 40 top academicians have sought “accurate and fair” representation of Hinduism in school text books in the U.S. state, which is currently in the process of revising.
Domestic airlines will be allowed to keep fuel charge component of a cancelled ticket and the Centre has mandated them to refund all the other statutory taxes and dues paid by passengers.As per the earlier proposal the cancellation charges included the base fare alone. The airlines will have to provide “all assistive devices” free of cost to differently -abled passengers. Domestic airlines had opposed this and requested the government to charge a nominal fee for providing certain devices such as ambulift and wheelchairs as they bear the cost of such devices provided by ground handling agencies.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the disinvestment of 15 per cent paid up equity of National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) out of its 90 per cent shareholding. It would result in estimated receipts of Rs.1,706 crore approximately to the government.The Cabinet also approval the revised cost estimate (RCE) of Rs.7,290.62 crore for the ongoing 1,020 MW Punatsangchhu-II Hydroelectric Project (HEP) in Bhutan. The total cost escalation for the project, at this stage, is Rs.3512.82 crore, according to the government.
International treaties and conventions on the Baltic Sea may provide answers to find a solution to the fishermen problem between India (Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lanka(Northern Province), according to Nirmala Chandrahasan, veteran legal expert.The Helsinki Convention was originally signed by seven Baltic coastal states in 1974 to address issues concerning sources of pollution.She emphasises there is no dispute between India and Sri Lanka on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and hence, the question of taking the matter to any international forum does not arise.
With northward movement of the monsoon trough, a break in rains is expected for a few days in central India and south India, except the extreme southern states. However, the north Indian plans and foothills of Himalaya will get heavy rains
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
- X Schedule (Constitution)
- President’s Rule
- Air Defence Identification Zone
- H-1B Visas
- National Court of Appeal
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following statements is/are correct about the Anti-Defection Law ?
- Anti-Defection Law is contained in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which was introduced by the 52nd Amendment in 1985
- A party could be merged into another if at least one-thirds of its party legislators voted for the merger
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2: Which of the following statements is/are correct about Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY)?
- Pradhan MantriAdarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) is a rural development programme launched by the Central government for the development of villages having a higher ratio (over 50%) of people belonging to the scheduled castes
- The plan is aimed to bring a number of development programs like Bharat Nirman, Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana (PMGSY),SarvaShikshaAbhiyan, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, ICDS etc. to select underserved villages
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 3: Which of the following is/are stated objectives Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana ?
- Encourage standardization in the certification process and initiate a process of creating a registry of skills
- Enable large number of Indian youth to take up skill training and increase productivity of the existing workforce
- Provide Monetary Awards for Skill Certification to boost employability and productivity of youth by incentivizing them for skill trainings
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) 1 and 2 only
d) All the Above
Question 4: Which of the following statements is/are correct ?
- An Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is airspace over land or water in which the identification, location, and control of civil aircraft is performed in the interest of national security
- India, Pakistan and China have such zones
a) 1 only
b) 2 and 3 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 5: H5N1 is also called:
a) Swine Flu
b) Bird Flu
c) Asian Flu
d) Spanish Flu
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