TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Want to settle all issues in a friendly ambience: Hasina C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. SC refuses to interfere with NGT fiat on PVC pipes 2. Unique telescope link offers new view of stars ECONOMY 1. CoC is not proactive enough D. GS4 Related E. Editorials INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Tipping point in West Asia POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Service & cadre: Not just UPSC exam, score in foundation course may also matter ECONOMY 1. The RERA report card F. Prelims Fact G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday said that there are various pending issues between India and Bangladesh, making an obvious reference to the Teesta river water dispute, and that they wanted to settle all of them in a friendly ambience.
- Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in two back-to-back events at Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan — the convocation of the university and the inauguration of the Bangladesh Bhavana — and laid emphasis on the shared cultural heritage.
- Hasina also urged for cooperation from all to put pressure on the government of Myanmar so that over one million Rohingya, who had taken shelter in Bangladesh, could return to their country
A rare example
- The Prime Minister of Bangladesh gave an emotional speech on how India stood by Bangladesh during its liberation war of 1971 and then in 1975 when her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and other members of her family were assassinated.
- Reflecting on the land boundary agreement which settled the enclave issue, she said it was a rare example of border issues between two countries having been sorted out “amicably.”
- Modi said the relations between the two countries were born out of “shared struggles of the past” and both were facing common problems like climate change.
- He underlined the importance of mutual cooperation and said both countries can learn from each other in areas of public policy and culture.
Demand for water
- West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is going to have a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Kolkata on Saturday evening.
- The key question of Saturday’s meeting between the Prime Minister and Ms. Banerjee is whether West Bengal will accept Bangladesh’s demand for releasing adequate water during the lean season. The Teesta water-sharing negotiations have been going on for decades, but yet to reach anywhere close to a settlement.
- An official of the Bengal’s Irrigation Department stated earlier that it was not clear to them what would Bengal gain by releasing water during the lean season. Especially when there is no water in Teesta in the winter, the lean season.
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday met captains of industry and urged them to explore business opportunities in her country.
- She interacted with a section of the industry in a closed-door meeting whose main agenda was to explore India-Bangladesh business opportunities. Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner among the SAARC countries.
- She stressed the importance of creating a conducive, win-win situation for investors from both the countries to set up units in either country. She said that three land banks — near Dhaka, near Kusthia on the West Bengal-Bangladesh border, and near Chittagong — have been created for investors.
- She also spoke of the improvements in the economy and the emerging consumer market and creation of road and railway infrastructure to improve connectivity.
- Hasina has been listing the several advantages that the Indian industry could reap through investments in her country. These include a steady economic growth, competitive cost structure and a large market.
- Her government is offering attractive incentives to Indian investors like 100% repatriation of profits and invested capital.
C. GS3 Related
- The Supreme Court on Friday refused to intervene with an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to freeze its own directive to publish a warning about hazardous lead content in Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes.
- The Bench reasoned that the May 2 order was an interim one and the issue could be sorted out in the NGT itself, instead of being litigated in the Supreme Court.
- Last year, the NGT asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to lay down standards for the use of lead in PVC pipes. The measure was to be implemented in consultation with the Indian Bureau of Standards. The tribunal intervened after learning that lead content in water pipes, used in buildings, contained toxic materials.
- The National Green Tribunal’s decision was based on a petition filed by Jan Sahyog Manch, an NGO, for a directive for remedy to ecological damage caused by lead in the manufacture of PVC pipes.
Lead and the environment
- Apart from some amount of lead found naturally in the environment, an increased amount of lead gets concentrated due to human activities like burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing etc.
- Toxic effects of this heavy metal cause environmental and health problems, particularly in children. Mental retardation is one such example.
- Sources of lead pollution in India may be divided into two major categories: Industrial and domestic.
- The industrial lead exposures are mainly due to the particulates generated by coal burning and roasting of minerals i.e. iron pyrites, dolomite, alumina etc.
- The domestic lead exposures come mainly from cooking by use of the solid fuels (i.e. coal, biomass, agriculture waste, etc.), paints, ceramic glazes, cosmetic and fold remedies, drinking water and food, etc.
- Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) chairman M.S. Sahoo said that the Committee of Creditors (CoC), which is a group of people who represent a company’s creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding, is not being proactive enough in dealing with the cases and that the best of the code is not used.
- He was of the view that it is the role of the CoC to tell a business what all the possibilities are, so that the resolution plan can address all the issues and emphasised on CoC’s need to focus on resolution rather than recovery.
- He said that the code says that it is maximisation of value of assets for the corporate debtor, not for a stakeholder or a set of stakeholders. Moreover, CoC is in the position of a custodian or a trustee. So, it has a higher responsibility to look after the interest of all stakeholders.
- FICCI president Rashesh Shah discussed the consequences of 75% creditor approval required for plans to be passed and said that a lot of good plans were getting rejected because small creditors could hold up the whole process. He suggested that the threshold of rejection of a plan should be brought as low as possible, about 51%.
Also Read | Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
So far, Iran’s response to U.S. provocation has been rhetorical but President Rouhani has little room for manoeuvre.
- The long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict in West Asia has been overshadowed by new flashpoints in the region, both internal and external, since the Arab Spring.
- The fight against the Islamic State and its offshoots, beginning with Iraq;
- The Syrian conflict that has drawn in the S., Russia, Iran and Turkey;
- Renewed skirmishing between Israel and Iran across the Golan Heights; and
- The civil war in Yemen where the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Iran has heightened tensions, exposing old regional fault lines.
- Growing drumbeats of a wider conflict can threaten to overturn the boundaries imposed after World War I.
- To this volatile mix, new uncertainty was added, when President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. was walking out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- A flurry of diplomatic activity followed with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visiting Beijing, Moscow and Brussels.
- In Brussels, he met the E-3 (France, Germany and U.K.) Foreign Ministers and the European Union (EU) High Representative Federica Mogherini to explore how the deal could be salvaged.
- This was followed by a summit in Sofia later in May where the EU leaders directed the European Commission to activate the Blocking Statute which forbids European companies from complying with the extra-territorial effects of U.S. sanctions.
- It also asked the European Investment Bank to set up a special purpose vehicle to protect European companies’ investments in Iran.
- Conceived in 1996, the Blocking Statute was a response to U.S. legislation imposing extra-territorial sanctions on companies engaging with Cuba.
- It empowered the EU to sequester assets of U.S. companies in Europe, equivalent to the penalties imposed on European companies.
- Eventually, the stand-off was resolved by introducing a waiver.
- The difference is that in 1996, the Clinton administration was sympathetic to the EU stand but in 2018, the Trump administration is prepared to be tougher than the U.S. Congress!
- This is clear from U.S. that unveiled a dozen conditions for Iran to fulfil including a permanent end to uranium enrichment, unfettered access for the inspectors, end to missile proliferation, ending support to Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi rebels (Yemen), Shia militias (Iraq) and Taliban and complete withdrawal from Syria.
- It is not a Plan B but an ultimatum, with no room for dialogue or diplomacy.
Rationale for the Iran deal
- Moreover, it throws down the gauntlet not just to Iran but also to its European partners.
- Many Europeans have expressed support for curbing Iran’s missile proliferation and testing and finding a way to extend nuclear enrichment restrictions beyond the 15-year timeframe set by the JCPOA.
- However, rather than walk away while Iran remains in full compliance with its obligations, the E-3 and EU would like to preserve the JCPOA and build upon it.
- On the other hand, the Trump administration would like to tear up the JCPOA and push Iran to negotiate a new deal under pressure of stronger sanctions.
- The push for JCPOA had come with the realisation by the Obama administration that Iran had successfully accelerated its uranium enrichment programme after the slowdown caused by the Stuxnet attack in 2009.
- By November 2013 when negotiations began and Iran agreed to freeze its programme, it was in a position to produce enough highly enriched uranium (25 kg) for one nuclear bomb within three months.
- After Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, kinetic options were off the table and there was no appetite for regime change.
- Post-Arab Spring, Barack Obama felt that the S.’s West Asia policy of dual containment served Israeli and Saudi interests but restricted American options in the region.
- He concluded that the JCPOA with its stringent verification provisions would slow down Iran’s nuclear programme, freezing it for 15 years, with accompanying sanctions relief strengthening the moderate elements in Iran represented by President Hassan Rouhani, and consequently increasing U.S. diplomatic options.
- In the Trump administration, They had pushed for retaining the JCPOA but with the induction of Secretary Pompeo and NSA John Bolton, the shift in the U.S. approach is apparent.
A coalition of the willing
- Pompeo’s speech questions the achievements of the 1979 Iranian revolution and is a barely veiled suggestion for regime change.
- His speech is reminiscent of the then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s speech in August 2002 when he made the case for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a leading sponsor of terrorism, had lied and cheated about his nuclear programme, had oppressed his people who deserved a life of dignity and freedom and was behaving like bully seeking regional domination. In March the following year, the U.S. invaded Iraq.
To dismantle JCPOA
- Saudi Arabia and Israel had applauded Mr. Cheney’s speech then and today support Mr. Trump’s decision to dismantle the JCPOA.
- For both countries, the U.S. policy of dual containment (of Iran and Iraq) was a security bonus.
- They perceived the JCPOA as a move towards ending Iran’s isolation and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are Mr. Trump’s original cheerleaders.
- Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a costly adventure in Yemen heightening tensions with Iran.
- In Syria, Iran has built up its presence by bringing in Shia militias and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps advisers to support the Syrian army, leading to growing tensions with Israel. Earlier, Israeli forces would strike weapons locations or convoys in Syria intended for strengthening Hezbollah.
- There has been an escalation targeting Iranian efforts to build infrastructure close to Golan Heights.
- After the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, Iran retaliated with a rocket barrage on Golan Heights resulting in a massive Israeli response targeting more than 70 Iranian targets inside Syria.
A critical point
- So far Iran’s response has been rhetorical but Mr. Rouhani has little room for manoeuvre as hardline elements in Iran critical of the deal are gaining ground.
- He is waiting to see if the Europeans, together with Russia and China, can save the JCPOA that has enabled oil exports to grow from 1 million barrels a day in 2015 to 2.6 million, and permitted access to western goods and technologies in sectors such as oil exploration, aviation, etc.
- In an address to Iranian officials, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he expected the E-3, Russia and China to take up the matter in the UN Security Council, for the E-3 to stop criticism of Iran’s missile tests and regional behaviour and ensure concrete economic guarantees.
- However, the signs are not promising as large European companies cannot afford U.S. sanctions;
- Total and Airbus are already pulling out of their multibillion dollar deals. Iran does not want to be accused of killing the JCPOA but soon it will need to decide how long it will continue to abide with its intensive inspections regime.
- The day it issues that warning or ratchets up its responses in the region towards Israel and Saudi Arabia, it might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
- Just as it is more difficult to verify Iran’s full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty without the JCPOA’s enhanced verification provisions, it is more difficult to justify going to war with Iran when it is in full compliance with JCPOA. The U.S. decision may just have tipped the balance.
- The government is assessing if the 15-week foundation course for new recruits at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) can be turned into a scoring exercise and if the service and cadre can be allocated based on their “performance” there.
- Service & cadre: Not just UPSC exam, score in foundation course may also matter The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration
- In a move that will significantly alter the way civil servants are inducted, marks secured by candidates in the UPSC civil services examination may not be the sole criterion for allotting them the all-India service of their choice.
- As is the norm, those who clear the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission are allotted the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and other central services based on their UPSC exam ranks.
- After that, they are sent to LBSNAA for training, which starts with a 15-week foundation course before the recruits branch out to service-specific training programmes.
- As per documents reviewed, the Prime Minister’s Office now wants to alter that process and allot services and cadres to candidates only after taking into account how they fare in the Foundation Course.
- Letters have gone out from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to various cadre-controlling ministries, seeking their views on the proposed move.
- “Examine the feasibility of giving due weightage to the performance in the Foundation Course and making service allocation as well as cadre allocation to All India Service Officers based on the combined score obtained in the Civil Services Examination as well as in the Foundation Course,” reads the letter from Vijoy Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, DoPT, to various departments.
- The Foundation Course, a combination of activities carried out at the academy, consists of academic components such as public administration, law and political science, besides a number of extra-curricular activities such as trekking, village visits and interaction with fellow probationers.
- At present, the Foundation Course counts for 400 marks, but, along with the other phases of the probation period, only goes towards establishing seniority within the batch.
- The latest move to give weightage to the Foundation Course in determining the services and cadres has divided groups of serving and retired civil servants.
- While some said the move could give rise to a trend where high-ranking candidates will no longer get services of their choice, others welcomed the idea.
- Padam Vir Singh, who served as director at LBSNAA and was at the Academy for 13 years before his retirement in 2014, said “it was not a bad idea at all”.
- According to him, the short interview that candidates give, after clearing the UPSC-conducted civil services exam, isn’t enough to “judge them properly”.
- “The idea of including the Foundation Course as part of the overall assessment of the candidate will help in getting the right people for the right service. The probationers themselves will be able to make a better choice after the Foundation Course by matching their ambition with their aptitude,” Singh said.
- Upma Choudhary, current Director of the academy, did not respond to emailed queries, SMS and calls for a comment.
- “It is a very bad idea,” said a senior UP-cadre bureaucrat, adding that it “will destroy the purpose for which officers go through the Foundation Course”. “If this idea goes through, there will be maara-maari (tussle).
- Probationers will compete for every mark so that they get the service of their choice.
- Sycophancy will reign supreme at the academy,” he said.
Previous committee recommendations
- The idea itself is not new. In 1989, a committee headed by historian Satish Chandra had recommended that the examination for recruitment be divided into three stages – the preliminary examination, the main examination as well as a Foundation Course – before the service and cadre is allotted to the successful candidate.
- The Committee had in turn cited the report of the Kothari Committee (1974-76), headed by scientist and educationist DS Kothari, which had a similar opinion.
- “The FC is officially a time to relax after having cleared the gruelling civil services examination.
- There, we are prepared to be officers, mix with people from other services. There is no element of competition there,” said another central government officer.
- A DoPT officer said the matter had come up at a meeting with the PMO, following which comments were sought from all cadre-controlling ministries.
- “After the comments come, we will compile and put them up for discussion in our department and that is how the matter will process”.
- An officer who is preparing to reply to the DoPT letter said service recruitment rules will have to be amended to accommodate the new idea.
- “Induction to every service is as per laid down recruitment rules. We are going to reply that recruitment rules will have to be amended if this move is to be formalised”.
Why in news
- A year after the real estate legislation came into effect, the follow-up in many States has been dismal.
- It is a year since the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) came into effect (May 1).
- But stocktaking presents a dismal picture as far as its implementation and expected benefits are concerned.
- There is still a long way to go before the real estate sector operates in an “efficient and transparent manner and protect the interest of consumers”, as set forth in the statute’s preamble
A record of extremes
- Only 20 of the 28 States (the Act is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir) have framed the rules stipulated under RERA to carry out its legal mandate.
- In some States such as Uttar Pradesh, the Act’s provisions have been watered down in favour of builders by altering the definition of “on-going projects” which need registration under RERA.
- There is also a dilution on the penalties for non-compliance.
- Similarly, the speedy dispute redress mechanism envisaged by the Act is yet to take shape.
- Apart from Maharashtra, only Punjab and Madhya Pradesh have appointed a permanent regulatory authority (to be established within a period of a year).
- To ease the transition, RERA allows State governments to designate an existing body as the regulatory authority until a permanent one is established.
- This has resulted in 13 States working with only a designated regulatory authority. West Bengal is yet to even designate a regulatory authority.
- Additionally, only six States have set up the online portal contemplated by the Act. In the Northeastern States, RERA has been challenged on certain constitutional grounds — of land belonging to the community and autonomous councils.
- Maharashtra, which has established both the regulatory authority(Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority, or MahaRERA) and the appellate tribunal, has shown that with earnest action, the Act and the establishment of the permanent regulator can have a positive impact in reassuring real estate purchasers. MahaRERA’s online portal has led to builders registering projects and a high degree of compliance in terms of registration by real estate agents.
- This along with fast track adjudication of consumer complaints has made the MahaRERA an example of how other States need to implement the Act.
Focus on the consumer
- Besides procedural compliances, implementation of the Act eventually needs to focus on consumer interests. In these efforts, rudimentary compliance must be eliminated and practicality adopted. For example, in U.P., a large number of new projects are concentrated in Ghaziabad or Gautam Budh Nagar/Noida.
- However, even though the Act provides for State governments to establish more than one regulatory authority, the interim regulator designated in U.P. is located in Lucknow.
- This has led to consumers being inconvenienced as they need to travel to Lucknow to file their complaints.
- One of the most notable provisions of the RERA is the requirement to keep 70% of funds received for a project in a separate escrow account, a step to prevent a diversion of funds which usually happens and in turn results in project delays.
- Perhaps because of this stipulation and the overall ill-health of the real estate sector, many developers are now facing insolvency proceedings under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
- Most of these pertain to projects which are not registered under RERA.
- And while the Insolvency Law Committee has proposed to treat home buyers as unsecured financial creditors, the insolvency process has many other complexities which can tie up consumers for much longer than they may have bargained for.
- There also appears to be a potential conflict developing between the IBC and RERA which needs to be checked as it would be against consumer interests.
- To overcome some of these challenges, there is heightened interest in real estate investment trusts.
- Many promoters hope that the crunch they now face due to credit freezes from banks may get resolved by cash flows from institutional investors in the form of these trusts.
- RERA also provides for the regulation and maintaining of records of real estate projects, the objective being to facilitate the growth and promotion of a “healthy, transparent, efficient and competitive real estate sector”.
- Given that the Central government is keen to curb black money, a large part of which has its origins in or finds its way into real estate, it needs to ensure that States give full effect to RERA.
Some course correction
- Recently, the Central government notified June 30 as the date by which all States have to do away with dilutions and bring in all incomplete projects within the ambit of RERA.
- This date is also the deadline by when permanent regulators have to be formed and for the websites of all States to become functional.
- One hopes that in due course, developers will recognise that they can no longer operate with impunity by arbitrarily escalating costs of construction or missing timelines without being held responsible.
F. Prelims Fact
Nothing here for today!!!
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements regarding the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
- The Code outlines separate insolvency resolution processes for individuals, companies and partnership firms.
- The process has to be initiated by the debtor only.
- Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India was established to oversee the insolvency proceedings in the country and regulate the entities registered under it.
Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?
- i) and ii) only
- ii) and iii) only
- i) and iii) only
- i), ii) and iii)
Question 2. Which of the following is/are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)?
Choose the correct option:
- i), ii) and v)
- i), ii), iii) and v)
- ii), iv) and v)
- All of the above
Question 3. Which of the following is incorrectly matched?
- Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay – Valmiki Pratibha
- Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay – Anand Math
- Rabindranath Tagore – Ghare Baire
- Dinabandhu Mitra – Neel Darpan
Question 4. Which of the following statement with respect to National Green Tribunal is incorrect?
- NGT has been established under National Green Tribunal Act, 2011.
- It consists of a full-time chairperson, judicial members and expert members.
- The Tribunal has Original Jurisdiction on matters of substantial question relating to environment.
- None of the above
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
Analyse Indo-Bangladesh relations in the light of their shared cultural heritage.
- Real Estate Regulation Act can change the real estate landscape in our country. Discuss.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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