Comprehensive News Analysis - 19 February 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. Belgium keen to join ‘Clean Ganga’ drive

2. Gay rights are human rights

3. India accepts need for ‘flexibility’ in global terror fight

4. Cabinet approval for trade facilitation pact ratification

C. GS3 Related:

1. Reliance to lift Iran oil after 5-yr gap

2. CCI orders probe against Monsanto joint venture

D. GS4 Related:
E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

1. A landmark for Indian scientists

others

Indian Express:

2. ‘Not just bad debts’

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn
G. Practice Questions
H. Archive

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Useful News Articles:

A. GS1 Related

— Nothing here today, folks! —

B. GS2 Related

1. Belgium keen to join ‘Clean Ganga’ drive

Topic: Governance, Government Policies

Category: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Location: The Hindu, Page 11

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Key Points:

  • Belgium is keen to take part in the “Clean Ganga” campaign and a Belgian mission with companies specialising in sanitation will meet Indian government officials soon.
  • Belgium has specific solutions which are unique in the world.
  • A Belgian Research Institute, Vito has developed a technology not only to clean sewage water but also to produce out of it, electricity.
  • Belgium also wants to diversify its trade with India from the diamonds business, which contributes to a large part of the bilateral trade.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Belgium as part of his EU tour in March.

2. Gay rights are human rights

Topic: Governance, Government Policies

Category: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors, Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections

Location: The Hindu, Page 13

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Key Points:

  • The human rights of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) people have reached centre stage. Curative petitions have been referred to a Constitution Bench with observations by Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur that “the issues sought to be raised are of considerable importance and public interest …”.
  • The Delhi High Court delivered its judgment on July 2, 2009 (Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar) decriminalising Section 377 in the case of consensual adult sex in private in theNaz Foundation 
  • This judgment opened up a new world of dignity, privacy and equality for the LGBTQ people. They were free of the yoke of criminality.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on December 10, 1948 states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. December 10 is Human Rights Day. Ironically, on December 11, 2013, a liberating and internationally acclaimed judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court after over four years.

Naz Foundation Judgement

  • TheNaz Foundation judgment declared that Section 377 in so far as it criminalised consensual adult sex in private violated Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
  • It brought human rights of LGBTQ people in line with international legal norms applied in Europe, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Fiji among others.

The Way Forward

  • TheKoushal judgment diminished the high standing of Indian human rights jurisprudence. It ignored a long line of the ECHR judgments. It exhibited a disconnect with the expanding horizon of human rights. Without being pejorative, a queer judgment on queer people has muddied the waters of India’s human rights record.
  • The balance must be rapidly restored by institutional action of the Supreme Court. The reference of the curative petitions to a Constitution Bench is the first step in the right direction.

3. India accepts need for ‘flexibility’ in global terror fight

Topic: International Relations

Category:   Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s
interests, Important International institutions

Location: The Hindu, Page 15

Key Points:

    • ·          Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke about sending troops to fight the IS in Syria- just weeks after this, India told the United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations that it recognizes the need for “flexibility” on international anti-terror operations if they are backed by U.N. authorization.
    • ·          The HIPPO (High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations) report is aimed at countering international terror groups.
    • ·          The HIPPO report has expanded the scope of counter terror operations beyond the traditional U.N. peace keeping operations by recommending that “ad hoc coalitions authorized by the U.N. Security Council” can undertake counter-terror operations with the intention of peacekeeping and peace-enforcement.

 

4. Cabinet approval for trade facilitation pact ratification

Topic: International Relations (GS Paper II), Governance (GS Paper II), Indian Economy (GS Paper III)

Category: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors (GS Paper II),

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests (GS Paper II)

Location: The Hindu, Page 18

Key Points:

  • The Cabinet has approved a proposal for ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of World Trade Organization (WTO), aimed at easing customs rules for expediting global trade flow of goods.
  • To facilitate domestic coordination and implementation of the TFA, the Cabinet meeting — chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — also cleared the proposal to set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) to be jointly chaired by the commerce and revenue secretaries.
  • These objectives are also in consonance with India’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative.
  • The WTO member-countries in November 2014 adopted a “protocol of amendment” to incorporate the TFA on goods in the overall WTO Agreement.
  • For the TFA to be operational, two-thirds (or 108) of the 162 WTO members will have to ratify it. However, only 69 countries have ratified it so far.
  • The TFA also contains measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
  • Trade experts had said ratifying the agreement so early could lead to India losing a bargaining chip to secure its interests.
  • That includes finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes and a mechanism to safeguard poor farmers from sudden import surge of farm products.

C. GS3 Related

1. Reliance to lift Iran oil after 5-yr gap

RIL_854199f

Topic: Indian Economy (GS Paper III), International Relations (GS Paper II)

Category: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests (GS Paper II),
Changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth (GS Paper III)

Location: The Hindu, Page 17

Keypoints:

  • India’s Reliance Industries Ltd, owner of the world’s biggest refining complex, is preparing to lift oil from Iran next month after a gap of about five years, said an industry source with knowledge of talks between the two.
  • The Indian conglomerate, stopped Iranian oil imports in 2010 because it was worried that the threat of U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with the Islamic republic would complicate its efforts to boost market share for its fuels in the United States.
  • Officials from Reliance recently visited Iran to chalk out the details for resumption of trade ties with Tehran, and to begin with, National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) will be supplying a million spot barrels each of condensate and crude oil to Reliance in a single cargo.
  • The shipment will make Reliance Iran’s first new Indian oil customer since the lifting of the sanctions.
  • Iranian oil, mainly heavy, sour grades such as Norouz and Soroush, accounted for about 8 percent of Reliance’s overall imports in 2009. Analysts, however, said it could be difficult for Iran to resume supplying those grades, which Reliance would be seeking to achieve higher refining margins.

2. CCI orders probe against Monsanto joint venture

Topic: Indian Economy (GS Paper III), Governance (GS Paper II)

Category: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors (GS Paper II), Bio-technology (GS Paper III)

Location: The Hindu, Page 17

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Keypoints:

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has sought a probe into a joint venture of Monsanto arguing that there exists a prima facie case of abuse of dominant position against the firm regarding supply of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds.
  • This decision by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a result of the complaints from ‘informants’ (Nuziveedu Seeds, Prabhat Agri Biotech and Pravardhan Seeds) as well as stakeholders including National Seed Association of India and BJP Kisan Morcha to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. They alleged that Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (or MMBL) abused its dominant position by charging unreasonably high trait fees (value for the trait of insect resistance conferred by the Bt gene technology) for Bt cotton seeds,” even “higher than what is determined by state governments.”
  • The complainants also alleged that the company was exploiting permissions given by the government to market Bt cotton technology by creating a monopoly through restrictive agreements for unjust enrichment by charging high trait value from its licensees and ultimately from farmers. They also claimed that the sub-licensing agreements with the Indian seed manufacturing companies are anti-competitive under the Competition Act.
  • MMBL is a JV between Monsanto Inc, USA (MIU) and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (MAHYCO) engaged in sublicensing of Bt cotton technology of MIU in India.
D. GS4 Related

— Nothing here today, folks! —

E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

1. A landmark for Indian scientists

Topic: Science and Technology

Category: Achievements of Indians in science & technology

Location: The Hindu, Page 12

Keypoints:

  • The Union Cabinet has granted in-principle approval for a gravitational wave detector in India.
  • The clearance, awaited for five years, comes close on the heels of the detection of the elusive gravitational waves for the first time; the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in Washington and Louisiana in the U.S. found evidence of gravitational wavescoming from two black holes colliding and fusing together 1.3 billion light years away.
  • By virtue of having the same sensitivity as the LIGO detectors in the U.S. and being geographically separated by thousands of kilometres, the Rs.1,200-crore LIGO-India project, scheduled to become operational in about eight years, will at once vastly improve the level of accuracy and ability to detect new gravitational wave events.
  • Since all detectors may not be operational all the time — for instance, the VIRGO detector, based near Pisa in Italy, had remained shut on September 14, 2015 — the addition of an Indian detector will increase the chances of detecting events that generate gravitational waves.
  • When the advanced LIGO and LIGO-India detectors reach their full sensitivity, many more events will become detectable and the ability to detect faraway signals would also increase dramatically. For instance, 50 to 100 gravitational wave-generating events a year may become detectable. And in the case of neutron stars, signals from as far away as 600 million light years could be detected as compared with 200 million light years now.

Involvement of Indian Scientists

  • Though Indian scientists were part of the LIGO project, their involvement was limited to theoretical aspects and data analysis.
  • The LIGO-India project will change this altogether as the construction, commissioning and running of the observatory will be India’s responsibility.
  • It will offer unprecedented opportunities for Indian industry and scientists from diverse fields to be actively involved in a scientific project of a scale never before seen in the country.
  • For instance, though many of the critical components such as mirrors and lasers will be shipped from the U.S., an ultra-high capacity vacuum system that can handle one million litres of vacuum (as in the case of CERN), and secondary optics, have to be manufactured in India.
  • An active programme to develop optics for the laser system that could be used in future upgrades to the detectors is already under way at the Indore-based Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology.
  • Currently only a few students from Indian institutions are able to participate in the LIGO project, but this will change completely when the observatory becomes operational in India, providing easier access for a larger number of students.
  • Besides playing a pivotal role in gravitational wave astronomy, the Indian observatory could thus be a catalyst in changing the landscape of Indian scientific efforts. Together with other mega projects such as the India-based Neutrino Observatory project, experimental science will at last get a much-needed boost in the country.

Others:

Indian Express

2.  ‘Not just bad debts’

Topic: Indian Economy (GS Paper III)

Category: Indian Economy and issues

Keypoints:

  • Taking suo moto cognisance on vaulting loan write-offs in the public sector banks (PSBs), the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the RBI to share with it the names of defaulters who owe more than Rs 500 crore and continue to lead a “lavish lifestyle”.
  • The focus on declaring NPAs — mandated by the RBI — has led to the PSBs declaring sharply reduced profits in the latest round of quarterly earnings. But while those who fall in such a category might invite the most outrage, the truth about PSBs hits closer home. In the absence of long-pending structural reforms, the PSBs have more to contend with than mounting NPAs.

Challenges facing PSBs

  • For one, rapid technological changes are sweeping the financial services sector. Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani says the financial sector is poised for its “WhatsApp moment”. This is represented by new applications such as Paytm, which has become the largest mobile wallet in the country within a few years, and handles greater transaction volumes than any other bank.
  • The second key challenge for existing PSBs is from greater competition induced by the RBI in the shape of more banks and a more differentiated pattern of banking, which aims at widening and deepening financial inclusion.
  • Historically, India has been conservative in introducing new banks. But that has changed in the past one year with the introduction of 23 new banks, including universal, payments, and small banks. Both these developments underscore the old dictum — survival of the fittest.

But do the PSBs have the staff, the top- and middle-rung managers, to devise a counter-strategy? The answer is no. And that is the third and most important threat looming over the PSBs.

  • According to a McKinsey & Co survey of 20 PSBs in 2013, an estimated 87 per cent of general managers (GMs), 65 per cent of deputy GMs and 50 per cent of assistant GMs would retire in the current financial year. Thanks to a hiring freeze in the 1990s, by 2020 the number of employees in the PSBs will fall off the proverbial cliff. Reduced profitability of the PSBs, inability to hire laterally as well as comparatively poorer remuneration, imply that even fresh recruitment is not without its challenges. What this means is that the proposed reforms by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are no longer a matter of choice, but a necessity. Without a structural overhaul, the ongoing clean-up may lead to — as Deepak Parekh, chairman of the HDFC group, has so evocatively described — too much anaesthesia that renders the patient comatose.
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:

i.  Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)

ii.  HIPPO (High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations)

iii. “Clean Ganga” campaign

iv.  Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO

v.  United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations

G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
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