TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related GOVERNANCE 1. Centre may scrap UGC, proposes new regulator C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Japanese mission reaches far-off asteroid D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY & GOVERNANCE 1. National Register of Citizens in Assam and the Citizenship Amendment Bill INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Encouraging mediation to settle disputes F. Tidbits 1. ICSSR’s new vision: make research relevant to policy 2. Govt. nod for adding 6.5 MMT oil reserves 3. ‘GST impact positive on overall business’ 4. Rupee tumbles to 19-month low on oil 5. Centre raises ethanol price to Rs.43.7/ litre 6. Cabinet okays Rs.2,000-cr. capital infusion for export guarantor across FY2017-20 7. Tariffs on Indian goods to be lowered 8. How a failing port gave China vital foothold 9. Nepal welcomes ‘2+1’ dialogue mechanism 10. ‘No-fly list has cut down unruly flyers’ G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- The government is set to replace the apex higher education regulator, University Grants Commission (UGC), with a higher education commission by repealing the UGC Act, 1951, for better administration of the HE sector.
- Centre has placed in the public domain a draft Bill for eliciting suggestions from educationists.
The Draft Bill
- The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018, takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality.
- The new regime separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education.
- While HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) – or another mechanism that will be put in place later – will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
- Another key feature of the draft legislation is that the Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
- Moreover, non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence (Till now, the UGC had no such powers. All it could do was to release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees).
- All institutions approved by the UGC will have to comply with the academic standards laid down by HECI within three years after the new law is passed by Parliament and notified by the union government. If an institution fails to do so, its approval will be revoked.
- The HECI will have a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 12 other members to be appointed by the central government, including ex officio members, eminent academics and a doyen of industry.
- Of the 12 members, three members will represent union government namely: secretary of higher education, secretary of ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and secretary, department of science and technology.
- The secretary of the commission will act as the member-secretary.
- HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
- It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law.
- The transformation of the regulatory set-up is based on the principles of minimum government and maximum governance, separation of grant functions, end of inspection raj and focus on the academic quality.
- The draft Act is in accordance with commitment of the government for reforming the regulatory systems that provide more autonomy to higher education institutes to promote excellence and facilitate holistic growth of the education system.
- UGC staff would be retrained to adapt to the HECI regime, which would be fully digital and do away with file work.
Other plans to reform Higher Education sector
- Over the last four years, the HRD ministry has deliberated on several models like a single regulator for higher education by merging UGC, National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE); however, the plans were not taken forward.
- Once the HECI Bill is passed by Parliament, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teachers’ education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines.
C. GS3 Related
- A Japanese probe has reached an asteroid 300 million km away to collect information about the birth of the solar system and the origin of life after a more than three-year voyage through deep space.
- The Hayabusa2 probe successfully settled into an observation position 20 km above the Ryugu asteroid.
- The successful mission came just days before the UN’s International Asteroid Day on June 30, an event to raise awareness about the hazards of an asteroid impact and on how to counter such a threat.
- Scientists hope to glean clues about what gave rise to life on the earth from samples taken from Ryugu, which is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water.
- Photos of Ryugu — which means “Dragon Palace” in Japanese, a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale — show an asteroid shaped a bit like a spinning top with a rough surface.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
Why in news?
- Updating of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the Citizenship Amendment Bill could lead to a redrawing of the demographic map of South Asia, give new life to the discredited two-nation theory.
National Register of Citizens (NRC)
- It is a list of Indian citizens which is meant to decide who is a bona fide Indian citizen and those who fail to enlist in the register will be deemed illegal migrants. First list was made in 1951 across India according to the census of that year.
- It is for the first time that it is being updated and that too only in Assam. Now, it is not linked to census but one has to link oneself to a family member whose name had appeared either in the NRC of 1951, or to any of the state’s electoral rolls prepared till midnight of 24th march 1971.
- The year of 1971 is chosen as it was agreed in Assam accord 1985.If the applicant’s name is not on any of these lists, he can produce any of the 12 other documents dated up to March 24, 1971, like land or tenancy record, citizenship certificate or permanent residential certificate or passport or court records or refugee registration certificate.
Updating of NRC
- In the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) — the Supreme Court has set June 30 as the deadline — as well as the citizenship amendment bill, there is an illusion of unilateralism that marks Indian policy.
- Citizens, non-citizens, minorities, The Indian approach to the minority question has not always been so insensitive to regional dynamics.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- But members of those communities living in the three countries do not seem to welcome the proposed amendment. Only those who have moved to India, and now live their lives as members of the majority community, do.
What are the issues?
- The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council for example, has expressed fears that the proposed amendment would make the communities it represents more insecure, not less.
- It would embolden political forces that would like to evict them from their lands and force them to leave Bangladesh and cross into India.
- Organisations like the Oikya Parishad have had to fight back rumours that the bill is the result of their reaching out to friendly political forces in India and to the Modi government.
- Developments in India have long affected the plight of minorities across the border.
- The suspicion of dual loyalty has been a persistent source of anxiety and fear for minority communities in the Subcontinent.
- There are many instances of communal conflict in India creating a backlash against minorities in Bangladesh.
- In diplomatic meetings with Bangladesh, the politicians are reluctant to broach the subject of unauthorised migration. They pretend that India has no such problem with Bangladesh.
- One can hardly blame Bangladeshi officials for treating the NRC exercise as a matter of Indian domestic politics with no implications for their country. Even as the process nears completion, the official position of Bangladesh remains that there are no unauthorised Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.
- The NRC exercise and the citizenship amendment bill, in their eyes, are meant only to serve domestic constituencies; they do not belong to the high table of diplomacy and strategic affairs.
- Senior Bangladeshi officials claim that India has never raised the question of deporting illegal immigrants in discussions at any level with the Bangladeshi government. India has not challenged this position.
- This illusion of unilateralism is the main reason why people whose names will not appear in the final NRC in Assam are likely to face a gloomy future. They have long been subjects of suspicion of being false nationals.
- The NRC will now officially bestow on them the status of stateless citizens or of non-citizens with no rights. It is remarkable that the Supreme Court, which has mandated and monitored the updating of the NRC, has not been more proactive on this aspect of the question.
The Indian Approach
- The Indian approach to the minority question has not always been so insensitive to regional dynamics. The illusion of unilateralism is of relatively recent vintage.
- Indeed, the NRC exercise and the citizenship amendment bill — and the illusion of unilateralism driving them — would have been incomprehensible to political leaders of the Partition generation.
- It is worth recalling that the landmark Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950 was a bilateral agreement between the two governments on the security and the well-being of minorities.
- Its main goal was to reassure “minority populations of their security within the country and to discourage them from migrating”.
- The two governments not only made a commitment to mutual accountability, the Pact even provided an institutional infrastructure — including provincial and district minority boards — to address the concerns of threatened minorities.
- To be sure, the relief that the Nehru-Liaquat Pact would afford proved to be temporary. Yet thanks to this Pact, large numbers of minority migrants who had crossed the Partition’s border because of communal violence felt encouraged to return to their homes on the other side. The bilateral premise of the process may be more relevant today than we recognise.
World of Diplomacy
- The bilateral way of approaching the question of minorities has a long history.
- Even the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — conventionally thought of as the foundational event of the modern international state system — included safeguards for religious minorities.
- Concluding minority treaties was the instrument of choice for the protection of minorities during the early part of the 20th century. This was when the unraveling of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires had led to the emergence of a number of new minority situations in the reconfigured political space.
- In the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the great powers assigned the task of enforcing the minority protection clauses of those treaties to the League of Nations. By the time the Nehru-Liaquat Pact was signed, the United Nations had replaced the League of Nations.
- But the memory of the League of Nation’s way of dealing with the minority question influenced the thinking of the leaders of the Partition generation.
- The events that led to the outbreak of the Second World War discredited the League’s system of minority rights protection.
- The UN Charter, therefore, makes no reference to minority rights.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Abandoning the illusion of unilateralism may be the first step in creating a durable regime of minority protection in the subcontinent.
- If India continues to hide behind the unilateral illusion, future historians will blame political leaders of the post-Partition generations for being unwitting accomplices to redrawing the demographic map of South Asia.
- The deliberations at the UN Commission on International Trade Law will facilitate legal reform to ease dispute resolution
- India will participate in deliberations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in New York on an important issue concerning resolution of commercial disputes.
- Commercial disputes are resolved not only through courts and arbitration but also through mediation.
- The deliberations will consider how these settlement agreements in disputes in international commercial transactions will be implemented by courts in different countries.
An important draft
- Several concerns make this draft important for India and its businesses. Mandatory pre-litigation mediation has been introduced in commercial disputes.
- The adoption of the convention will address a policy gap on outcomes from the mediation process involving cross-border disputes.
- With a definitive legal framework recognising and enforcing mediated settlement agreements, businesses will be encouraged to consider mediation in managing and resolving disputes that arise in their commercial transactions.
- India has lost substantial earnings as a result of international disputes being taken for resolution outside the country. Strengthening the dispute resolution policies will encourage dispute resolution in India, where the commercial relationship once began.
- As is evident, international transactions involve the application of different laws, by virtue of the persons from different countries being involved, or their undertaking a business in a third country.
- The draft convention that is now under consideration relates to the enforcement of settlement agreements arising from disputes in international commercial contracts. The convention will link laws adopted by countries to recognise domestic mediation and extend them beyond their boundaries.
- UNCITRAL has formulated principles on which countries should recognise and enforce mediation agreements arising from cross-border disputes.
- Once formalised, countries will have a consistent framework for enforcing mediation agreements made in other countries.
- The draft convention defines mediation as a “process whereby parties attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person (the mediator).
- The mediator lacks the authority to impose a solution upon the parties to the dispute.” Courts of a country before which a mediated settlement agreement is brought must ensure implementation of the terms of settlement.
- The courts will allow a party to a settlement agreement to rely on this agreement as a defence in cases filed on the basis of disputes already settled by the agreement.
Enforcement of settlement agreement
- When the settlement agreement comes up before the court for implementation or enforcement, the court will review it on the basis of certain conditions.
- These include the capacity of the parties to enter into the agreement, the question whether the subject matter of the agreement is one that can be settled through mediation in terms of its domestic laws, and so on.
- Once the agreement has been reviewed, the court must enforce the agreement on the terms agreed. Courts can decline enforcement only on these conditions. The importance of the draft convention is in the identification of these conditions after careful deliberation.
- Mediated settlement agreements typically don’t need court assistance for enforcement since the terms of settlement have been chosen and determined by the parties.
- However, with this convention comes the certainty that settlement agreements through mediation will be acknowledged as a resolution of the dispute, and will be respected and enforced.
- Further, if the court were to decline enforcement, this will be done on grounds that are known to international parties.
- One hundred and seventy-four countries recognise mediation and conciliation as a method of resolving disputes, and as an alternative to going to courts.
- International business and dispute resolution institutions such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the Singapore International Mediation Centre and the World Intellectual Property Organisation all have established rules and assist businesses in resolving disputes through mediation.
- Businesses, in turn, have turned to mediation as the first step in resolving differences that arise in their international disputes.
- The convention is opportune and will facilitate legal reform to ease dispute resolution.
- In an attempt at making research projects awarded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) move from pure ideological research to one that is in sync with policy imperatives, the apex social science research body has formulated a blue print of key areas for future research.
- It has sent a vision document called IMPRESS (Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences) to the government.
- This apart, it has also made a tentative list of themes on which it would like to support research.
- These include research proposals on public private partnerships, food security, Make In India (a key policy initiative of the present government), federalism, regionalism and its implications, etc.
- Significantly, one of the thrust areas mentioned in the document is the idea of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies, another idea supported by the present government.
- Fake news, paid news and media ownership also figure among the thrust areas for research.
- The ICSSR has also internally formulated some key themes for research, apart from the document shared with the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- These include agrarian issues, farmers’ distress, agricultural growth, poverty alleviation, revitalisation of manufacturing, trade and investment policy, liberalisation and lost opportunities, etc.
- The Cabinet approved the establishment of strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) facilities at two locations —Chandikhol in Odisha, and Padur in Karnataka — with a total capacity of 6.5 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT), which works out to another 12 days of reserves.
- The in-principle approval is to take up the project under PPP model to reduce budgetary support.
- The terms and conditions of such participation would be determined by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in consultation with the Ministry of Finance after conducting road shows to elicit requirements of market, including prospective investors.
- Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a government-owned special purpose vehicle, has already built underground rock caverns for storing a total 5.33 MMT of crude oil at Vishakhapatnam (1.33 MMT), Mangaluru (1.5 MMT) and Padur (2.5 MMT).
- The total 5.33 MMT capacity under Phase-I of the SPR programme is estimated to supply approximately 10 days of India’s crude requirement.
- It is expected to augment India’s energy security.
- Close to a year since the implementation of GST, 77% of CFOs surveyed by Deloitte opine that the new tax regime has had a positive impact on overall business.
- Deloitte India’s annual CFO Survey for 2018, which reflects the views of more than 250 CFOs in India, indicates that the GST impact reflected better on the revenue and supply chain, while 58% CFOs saw an improvement in the ease of doing business.
- The industry witnessed negative impact on the working capital and finance cost post GST implementation.
- CFOs were optimistic in their short and medium term economic outlook.
- The rupee slid to a 19-month low against the dollar as concern that rising crude oil prices could widen the country’s current account deficit and stroke inflation combined with fears of a trade war that could spur capital outflows to weigh the Indian currency down.
- The Indian rupee has slumped almost 7% against the dollar so far this year, making it one of Asia’s worst performing currencies.
- The rupee’s depreciation is in line with other emerging market currencies as the dollar index has strengthened in the wake of the U.S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates.
- Elevated oil prices are also weighing on rupee as India’s dependence on oil imports is very high.
- Other factors that are impacting Indian currency are the political uncertainty in the wake of upcoming State elections and the general elections of 2019.
- This combined with the concerns over earnings outlook has led to FPI [foreign portfolio investor] outflows.
- Concerns about inflation and the fiscal deficit also impacted bond prices.
- Equities too fell due to losses in energy, PSU bank, media, infrastructure, realty and metal stocks amid signs of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and other world economies.
- On the positive side, the rupee’s weakness should aid exports amid improving global growth outlook.
- India enjoys a good cushion of foreign exchange reserves and the RBI is in a good position to control heightened volatility in the currency.
- The Union government increased price of ethanol, used for doping in petrol, by almost Rs.3 per litre to Rs.43.70 in an attempt to cut India’s oil import dependence as well as to give higher price for sugarcane.
- India, which is more than 80% dependent on imports to meet its oil needs, has mandated blending of up to 10% ethanol in petrol, but inadequate availability has restricted this to below 4%.
- Higher price for ethanol extracted in the process of making sugar from sugarcane will incentivise higher ethanol production.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved a capital infusion of Rs.2,000 crore into the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC) to be infused over the three financial years 2017-20.
- The break-up of the infusion would be Rs.50 crore in 2017-18, Rs.1,450 crore in 2018-19, and Rs.500 crore in 2019-20.
- Separately, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also approved the contribution of grant-in-aid of Rs.1,040 crore to the National Export Insurance Account Trust (NEIA). The corpus is to be utilised during three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
- The corpus would strengthen NEIA to support project exports from the country that are of strategic and national importance.
- The infusion would enhance insurance coverage to MSME exports and strengthen India’s exports to emerging and challenging markets like Africa, CIS and Latin American countries.
- With enhanced capital, ECGC’s underwriting capacity and risk to capital ratio will improve considerably.
- With a stronger underwriting capacity, ECGC will be in a better position to support Indian exporters to tap new and unexplored markets.
- The increased capital infusion would also help ECGC to diversify its product portfolio and provide cost-effective credit insurance to exporters.
- Covers from ECGC will help in improving competitive position of India exporters in international markets.
- More than 85% of customers benefited by ECGC’s covers are MSMEs. ECGC covers exports to around 200 countries in the world.
- China will reduce or cut to zero tariffs on a total of 8,549 types of goods originating in India and four other Asian countries from July 1, according to the Ministry of Finance.
- The adjustment, covering products made in India, Bangladesh, Laos, South Korea and Sri Lanka, was part of the tariff concession arrangement reached under the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, it said.
- The goods include chemicals, agricultural and medical products, clothing, steel and aluminium products. The items from the five Asian countries will have a new tariff rate effective on Sunday.
- Every time Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes, though feasibility studies said the port wouldn’t work.
- The other frequent lenders like India had refused and Sri Lanka’s debt was ballooning rapidly under Mr. Rajapaksa.
- Over years of construction and renegotiation with China Harbor Engineering Co., one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises, the Hambantota Port Development Project distinguished itself mostly by failing, as predicted.
- With tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012. And then the port became China’s.
- The transfer gave China control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival, India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.
- The debt deal also intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending programme amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fuelling corruption and autocratic behaviour in struggling democracies.
- During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Mr. Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia.
- Though Chinese officials and analysts have insisted that China’s interest in the Hambantota port is purely commercial, Sri Lankan officials said that from the start, the intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location were part of the negotiations.
- Indian officials, in particular, fear that Sri Lanka is struggling so much that the Chinese government may be able to dangle debt relief in exchange for its military’s use of assets like the Hambantota port — though the final lease agreement with China forbids military activity there without Sri Lanka’s invitation.
- Nepal has welcomed China’s proposal of a two-plus-one mechanism, where China and New Delhi can jointly hold a dialogue with a third country in South Asia.
- The Chinese side has been emphatic that its relations with the Nepal will be conducted according to the five principles of peaceful coexistence — the basis for a foreign policy among equals.
- In the era of globalisation, it is imperative for Nepal to maintain close ties with both its neighbours — China and India.
- The Nepali Minister saw the rise of China and India as a big opportunity for the development of Nepal.
- The domestic airlines in the country collectively urged the government for a no-fly list in the country after an incident last year involving an MP who hit an Air India staffer with a slipper 25 times for being denied a business class seat in an all-economy plane.
- Last year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation unveiled the first-ever set of guidelines imposing a ban on flying, ranging from three months up to a lifetime, on passengers found guilty of misbehaving inside a plane.
- Incidents involving unruly passengers have seen a dramatic drop ever since the government announced rules for a national no-fly list.
- Before the no-fly list was brought out there were a lot of incidents where people were misbehaving on aircraft.
- But, once a whole set of regulations was issued, the number of incidents dropped dramatically.
- People recognise now that if they compromise safety onboard an aircraft, it will not be taken lightly and the consequences are going to be severe for them.
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements with respect to the Borneo island:
- The island is politically divided among three countries.
- It forms a part of Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia to the south.
- Indonesian natives call it Kalimantan.
Which of the above statement/s is/are incorrect?
- i) and ii) only
- ii) only
- ii) and iii) only
- None of the above
Question 2. Which of the following statements is incorrect with respect to Central Bureau of Health Intelligence?
- It is the National Nodal agency for Health Intelligence in the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
- It prepares the National Health Profile biannually.
- It functions as Collaborating Centre for World Health Organization.
- None of the above
Question 3. Which of the following statement/s is/are correct with respect to the Malabar Exercise?
- Exercise Malabar is a bilateral naval exercise involving the United States and India.
- In 2015 it became a trilateral exercise to include Japan.
- The annual Malabar series began in 1992 and focuses on Aircraft Carrier operations and Air defence only.
- i) and ii) only
- i) and iii) only
- ii) and iii) only
- All of the above
Question 4. Assertion: Parliament has no power to amend the Fundamental Rights. Reason: Article 368 comes under Article 13 as held by the Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharti case.
Choose the correct answer below:
- Both A and R is wrong
- Both A and R are correct but R is not the correct explanation of A
- Both A and R are correct and R is the correct explanation of A
- None of the above
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
In the globalized world order, domestic economic policy changes reflect the global sentiments. Explain with recent examples.
Democracy is essential for conflict resolution and nation building, particularly in pluralistic States. In this context, discuss the constitutional framework provided for conflict resolution in India.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
“Proper Current Affairs preparation is the key to success in the UPSC- Civil Services Examination. We have now launched a comprehensive ‘Current Affairs Webinar’. Limited seats available. Click here to Know More.”