GS:2

International relation:

House panel quizzes govt. on foreign policy (The Hindu) 

Context

“India has always been there for the Maldives and will continue our commitment to be the ‘first’ friend,” said the MEA, which also acknowledged that the 2015 visit to the Maldives by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “was cancelled at the last minute due to political developments in the Maldives.”

Rift in the relations

India’s ties with the Maldives has turned cold since the first week of December when Male signed a Free Trade Agreement with China after rushing it through Parliament

Maldives’ reaction

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom during the weekend tried to address India’s concerns and said India is Male’s “closest friend and ally” and both sides are also working on an FTA

Other issues raised

  • India-Nepal ties: A Rajya Sabha member also raised India-Nepal ties following the return of K.P. Sharma Oli as the newly elected leader of Nepal because Mr. Oli is known to be a critic of India’s policies
  • Visa issue: The Committee also raised the issue of visas for Pakistani civil society activists who wish to travel to India. “Pakistan’s civil society and intellectuals have been staunchly democratic and great supporters of normalisation of India-Pakistan ties and therefore there is no ground to delay visas for them,” an MP said
  • The meeting also discussed the recent developments over the Doklam standoff with China and the ongoing negotiations with Pakistan over Kulbhushan Jadhav

MEA’s response

The Ministry of External Affairs in its statement kept before the committee said India wishes to engage Pakistan on established principles but “there will be no compromise on matters pertaining to India’s national security and incidents of cross-border terrorism and infiltration will be dealt with firmly.”

Pact soon to build marine capacity (The Hindu) 

Context

The upcoming International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography (ITCOocean) at the Indian National Centre For Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) here is all set to sign up with UNESCO to cater to the worldwide need to build technical and management manpower capacity in marine, coastal sustainability and response to marine natural hazards

Contribution to SDG 14

To be recognised as Category 2 Centre (C2C) of UNESCO, the Rs. 100-crore institute in Pragatinagar (Kukatpally) will be in a position to contribute to the United Nations body’s Sustainable Development Goal-14 (SDG 14)

SDG 14

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Backdrop

India had offered to set up the ITCOocean for the benefit of countries around the Indian Ocean rim (26 from Asia and Africa) after an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of 150-odd member countries decided to go for developing capacity building following the tsunami of 2004

What is operational oceanography?

Operational oceanography involves systematic ocean studies and providing information services to the blue economy like fishing, disaster management, shipping and ports, coastal management, environmental management, offshore industries and also for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard

Why ITCOocean?

INCOIS needed expertise to interpret large data generated through research vessels on the ocean and our observation posts in studying marine resources, monsoons and about climate change. ITCOocean aims to bridge that gap

Collaboration

ITCOocean has also tied up with Norway’s Nansen Scientific Society and the Research Council to collaborate in teaching and research

This year on Jerusalem (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

India’s vote at the UN is in line with its leading power ambitions, and not just a legacy of nonalignment

India’s new foreign policy strategic doctrine

The goal is to transform India from being a ‘balancing power’ to a ‘leading power’ on the international stage

India’s stand

India’s Jerusalem vote can be interpreted as a continuing adherence to its traditional policy of nonalignment. But a more appropriate interpretation of the vote is possible within the framework of India’s leading power ambitions. To do that, we need to also see the vote in conjunction with two other votes in the recent past at the UN

  1. Support to Mauritius: The first was in June, when India supported a move by Mauritius to take its sovereignty claims over the British-controlled Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), against the wishes of the U.S
  2. Winning a seat at ICJ: The second was in November when India won a seat on the ICJ, in spite of active opposition from the U.S.

Options before India

India had the following options, other than what it finally chose, while voting for UNGA resolution,

  • Vote against the resolution: If India had voted against the resolution, it would have ended up in the company of seven countries that joined the U.S. and Israel. These are Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo, the combined population of which roughly equals the population of Delhi
  • Abstain the resolution: The second option was abstaining, along with Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Benin, Canada, Cameroon, Croatia, Haiti, etc

Why abstaining from the vote was not an option?

India is aspiring to be a ‘leading power’, hence, it must be more forthright and articulate in expressing its position on issues confronting the world. As it did, for instance, by speaking up on the Belt and Road Initiative. So, abstaining was not an attractive option for an aspiring leading power

Advantages of voting in favor

Voting for the resolution put India in the company of the overwhelming majority of the world. It kept India in the company of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), groupings that India continues to value under the present government

India has far more significant interests in West Asian peace and stability than many of these countries

Chagos archipelago vote

Mauritius wanted the UNGA to request the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on its sovereignty claim over archipelago as it considers it as an unfinished agenda of decolonisation. The U.S. recognises U.K. sovereignty over the territory and they jointly operate the Diego Garcia military base there. India voted in support of the resolution, overcoming the fear of a bilateral dispute being taken to ICJ

  • The resolution was passed with 94 countries voting in favour, 15 against and 65 abstaining

ICJ contest

In November, the U.S. supported the U.K. in its contest against India for an ICJ seat, as did all other permanent members of the Security Council

  • India stood its ground and won the day as the UNGA overwhelmingly supported it, forcing other permanent members to limit their support to the U.K., which finally withdrew its candidate. It is not difficult to draw a link between the two votes

Leading power ambitions are not realised by declaring unquestioning allegiance to anyone.

Conclusion

Three UNGA votes over six months are more about multilateral diplomacy coming of age. India can be great friends with the U.S. and Israel and still disagree with them on some issues

On the line: on India-China boundary talks (The Hindu)

Context

The meeting between the Special Representatives of India and China —  National Adviser Ajit Doval and State Councillor Yang Jiechi— on the boundary question on December 22, the 20th so far, was unique for a number of reasons

Why this meeting was unique?

  • After a period of 20 years: The talks came more than 20 months after the last round, reflecting a period of extreme strain in India-China ties, including the 70-day troop stand-off at Doklam this year. Previous meetings had followed each other within a year
  • Also, at the recent Communist Party Congress, Mr. Yang was elevated to the Political Bureau, and this is the first time the Chinese side has been represented by an SR of such seniority

As a result, the two sides were best poised to move ahead in the three-step process that was part of the Agreement on ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question’ in 2005 — that is, defining the guidelines for the settlement of border disputes, formulating a framework agreement on the implementation of the guidelines, and completing border demarcation

Talks guided by

They were guided by the Modi-Xi agreements of 2017, including the ‘Astana consensus’ that “differences must not be allowed to become disputes”, and the understanding at Xiamen that India-China relations “are a factor of stability” in an increasingly unstable world

Threats to peace

Since 2013, when the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement was signed, there has been a steady decline in relations in all spheres. The border has seen more transgressions, people-to-people ties have suffered amid mutual suspicion, and China’s forays in South Asia as well as India’s forays into South-East Asian sea lanes have increasingly become areas of contestation

In India, this is seen as the outcome of China’s ambition of geopolitical domination. In this vitiated atmosphere India views every move by China as a targeted assault — such as the Belt and Road Initiative with the economic corridor with Pakistan, the free trade agreement with the Maldives, and the blocking of India’s membership bid at the Nuclear Suppliers Group

In turn, Beijing sees the U.S.-India defence agreements, the Quadrilateral engagement with Japan, Australia and the U.S., and Indian opposition to the BRI quite the same way. The stand-off at Doklam was a hint of what may ensue at greater regularity unless greater attention is paid to resolving the differences for which the SR meetings process was set up in the first place

Social issues:

A glimmer of hope? – on transgender identity (The Hindu Opinion)

Context  

Self-identification should be the basis for access to benefits and entitlements for transgender persons

Self-identification should be the basis for access to benefits and entitlements for transgender persons

Will the long years of waiting to recognise the identity of transgender persons finally end in this winter session of Parliament with the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016?

Non-negotiable basic rights

The community has laid stress on the point that for them, dignity, respect, and access to health care are non-negotiable basic rights 

Self-Identification

Self-identification should be the sole criterion for gender recognition legally without the need of any other psychological, medical, or “expert” intervention

Self-declared Identity

Self-declared identity should also form the basis for access to social security benefits and entitlements

Nothing about us, without us

The community maintains that the basic principle of “nothing about us, without us” must be applied for all trans and hijra rights, health and welfare activities.

Rejected setting up of distinct screening committees

The community has rejected the setting up of district screening committees to recognise transgender persons as they say they are not objects or people with a contagious disease who need to be medically screened

Argument

  • Their argument, and rightly so, is that a medical assessment violates their right to self-identification and gender autonomy which are protected under the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution
  • Many do not want to be labelled as transgender or third gender but instead recognised legally by their self-identified gender of “male” or “female”.

The Kochi Metro example

Will the Bill have provisions to protect them from discrimination?

Bad experience

The experience so far has been that many who struggle to access jobs are discriminated against, forcing them to drop out.

For example, in May, when the Kochi Metro Rail Limited formally employed 23 transgender persons, eight of them dropped out after being unable to find suitable accommodation based on the monthly wages they drew (between ₹9,000 and ₹15,000)

Social discrimination

Many households were unwilling to let out their houses to them

Effective Enforcement mechanism is vital

Therefore, an effective enforcement mechanism is vital for the adjudication of anti-discrimination claims brought forward by transgender persons.

Some numbers

  • While in 2014, based on the Census, five million acknowledged their transgender status, activists say their number could be much higher
  • Over 66% of them live in the rural areas
  • The Census data also highlighted the low literacy level in the community, just 46% in comparison to the general population’s 74%
  • In fact there should be reservation to facilitate their admission to schools and appointment in public offices.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India pointed out that reservation is one of the time-tested ways of enabling historically disadvantaged populations to join the mainstream

Stigma and discrimination

But accessing even the rights they already have is not easy

Not easy admission to colleges

For example, even in an enlightened city such as Mumbai, young transgender persons seeking admission to college approach the transgender group leader, normally a person with clout, who then meets the college principal and, in most cases, secures their admission. Thereafter, the transgender person has to be on “best behaviour” and not stand out as that could compromise the admission.

Protection from violence and stigma

Hopefully the Bill will provide protection to transgender persons from violence and stigma which is a major factor

Problems faced

  • Often they are denied passage in public spaces and harmed or injured.
  • The hijra community, especially those who are a part of the ‘guru-chela’ structure in Hijra gharanas and practise the traditions of “mangti” and “badhai”, are often harassed, detained under begging prohibition laws, and forced into begging homes.
  • In the case of transgender children, their families, unable to accept their status, subject them to domestic violence, which often compels these children to leave home.

Need for comprehensive socioeconomic survey

  • Though several transgender persons have made a mark in the beauty and fashion industry, joined the police force, the academic world and even the Indian Navy, there is need for a comprehensive survey on the socio-economic status of the community
  • Transgender welfare boards are needed in different States. Transgender persons should take part in the national Census to generate accurate data.

A grey area

  • Transgender identity is not yet recognised in criminal law, whether as the third gender or as a self-identified male or female
  • There is also no clarity on the application of gender-specific laws to transgender persons. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is applicable to transgender persons (i.e., those who were male at birth). This amounts to double persecution.
  • Finally, the community wants mental health counselling support and free gender transition surgery facilities in government hospitals
  • There are other issues that worry transgender persons such as their right to property, adoption, marriage, pension, and care for the old and the disabled

Conclusion

Some of these issues may be resolved when the Bill, taking note of their concerns, is passed. The Bill could be the first big step towards equality and their recognition in the mainstream.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Centre moves SC against fixed term for police chiefs (The Hindu)

Context

The Union government has filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court to amend a 2006 order of the court that is being used by the States to appoint “favourites” as Directors-General of Police.

Says States are appointing ‘favourites’

  • The Union government has filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court to amend a 2006 order of the court that is being used by the States to appoint “favourites” as Directors-General of Police.
  • The Home Ministry moved the court earlier this month to seek clarity on the order that ensures a two-year fixed term for the DGPs.
  • A senior official of the Ministry said some States were misusing the order and appointing officers about to retire, giving them a fixed term of two years, irrespective of the superannuation date. The official said the implementation of the order was not monitored effectively.

Andhra govt. under fire

  • Recently, the Home Ministry wrote a strong letter to the Andhra Pradesh government after the State forwarded a panel of seven officers of the rank of DGP, including three on the verge of retirement
  • The State had kept the post vacant for months and issued an order on November 24 to appoint N. Sambasiva Rao, an IPS officer of the 1984 batch, who was to retire on December 31. Mr. Rao is likely to hold the post till the 2019 elections.
  • In 2016, the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal issued an order allowing IPS officer Surajit Kar Purkayastha to stay in office for two years, though he attained superannuation on December 31.
  • The late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had used the order to appoint Ashok Kumar, an IPS officer of the 1982 batch, as the DGP in November 2014 for a fixed term of two years, though he attained superannuation in June 2015. Mr. Kumar, however, took voluntary retirement in September 2016, two months before the end of his tenure.
  • The All India Services Act, 1951, bars any officer from remaining in office after retirement, unless cleared by the Centre. The Home Ministry is the cadre-controlling authority for IPS officers, and the Supreme Court order is being increasingly misused by the States to appoint officers close to the regime

Ministry to frame norms

  • The official said the Ministry would lay down guidelines to ensure that only those who had a minimum of one-and-a-half to two years to retire were included in the panel.
  • The court issued the order for a fixed two-year term for the DGPs after Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, filed a petition on police reforms

Skewed outlay for defence: panel (The Hindu)

Context

Expressing concern over the decreasing share of capital allocation in the defence budget compared with the revenue component, adversely the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence said the Defence Ministry should overhaul its planning and budgeting mechanism to ensure “a prudent and equitable distribution of funds to revenue and capital heads”.

MPs’ committee says falling capital allocation will affect modernisation

“Both components are equally important aspects of the budget; however, the committee members are deeply anguished to note that with each year, the ratio of revenue-to-capital outlay is skewed as the budget for capital acquisitions for the services is declining in comparison to revenue allocations, adversely affecting the modernisation process of our forces,” the panel said in its observations.

Based on a report

These observations were part of the report presented in Parliament last week for “action taken by the government on the observations/recommendations contained in the 31st report”.

Ministry’s reply

To the committee’s recommendation in the earlier report, the Ministry replied that while revenue outlay expenditure follows a pattern due to its inherent characteristics, capital outlay fluctuates depending on milestone payments and new accruals, which may not necessarily increase every year.

Revenue Component

The revenue component caters to salary, other recurring expenses, requirement of stores, transportation, revenue works and maintenance and others, while the capital component is for procurement of weapons and systems.

GS: 3

Economy:

The rise and fall of the WTO (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Less than 25 years after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created, its future as a body overseeing multilateral trade rules is in doubt. The failure of the recent ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires is only symptomatic of a decline in its importance.

Power of the collective: on intimate partner violence (The Hindu)

Context

Self-help groups can help address the problem of intimate partner violence

Self-help groups can help address the problem of intimate partner violence

Violent acts, at the hands of a husband or a partner (intimate partner violence, or IPV), are distressingly common worldwide

Beliefs

These stem from the belief that women who don’t obey or don’t perform their set gender roles deserve to be beaten

Perpetuate patriarchy

Intimate relationships are important sites where violence against women is used to perpetuate patriarchy

WHO

The World Health Organisation estimates that almost one-third of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, which affects their physical and mental well-being

Parental Violence

Boys who witness parental violence are more likely to use it in their adult relationships; girls are more likely to justify it.

Strategies

Strategies to address IPV have included legal reforms, awareness creation drives, and strengthening of women’s civil rights

Resolution Mechanisms

  • As criminal justice solutions have largely been inaccessible to socially precarious women, a more inclusive alternative is to have collective-based resolution mechanisms. The potential of large-scale groups of women, such as self-help groups (SHGs), becomes critical in the Indian context.
  • India has experimented with many models of community dispute resolution mechanisms — the Nari Adalats (women courts) in various States, Women’s Resource Centres (Rajasthan), Shalishi (West Bengal), and Mahila Panchayats (Delhi) — which have seen IPV as a public issue rather than a personal problem. Several NGOs have co-opted these models so that women can resolve cases of violence without getting entangled in tedious legal processes.

SHGs

  • SHGs are the most widely present collectives across regions
  • The experiences of large-scale programmes offer valuable insights into action for IPV redressal within SHG-led development models
  • These, as well as previous models, provide two key lessons — one, collectives of women need adequate investment for building their capacities; and two, mediation of IPV requires specialised structures to avoid manipulation by kinship relations and political affinities.
  • Not all groups of women become safe spaces to discuss violence.
  • SHGs must first become enabling spaces where the economic and social concerns of women are stated as priorities
  • Freedom from violence must be stated as a necessary component of empowerment. It takes time for most women to recognise that violence is unacceptable
  • To enable them to understand this, there must be investment in specific training, and gender analysis processes
  • SHGs are mostly seen as administrative entities. Their social role can be enhanced to tackle the widespread problem of IPV.

34 power projects in distress; Centre not to bear NPAs (The Hindu)

Context

Chhattisgarh accounts for 10 of the projects; government says contracting parties must honour the PPAs even if conditions turn difficult

Backdrop

Last week, the Ministry submitted a list of 34 such projects to a parliamentary panel on energy. Ten of them are in the BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh.

Detailed questionnaire

The panel had posed a detailed questionnaire to the Union Ministries of Power, Coal and Finance, the Reserve Bank of India, the lender banks and the developers. While many of the questions were answered, the government continued to refuse to reveal the exact amount that these projects owe to the banks.

Government’s Reply

In its reply, the government has all but shrugged off the responsibility of the high levels of non-performing assets (NPA) in the power sector.

  • The decision to set up a power plant is taken by concerned developer based on his own assessment
  • The developer has to arrange all inputs like land, water, necessary clearances, sale of power under the power purchase agreement.
  • In case of power sector, over-projection of demand of electricity accompanied with the aggressive bidding decision were made by the developers and hence some of them are running in profit and a few are in loss

Blaming the bidders

The government was vociferous in blaming the bidders of such projects, saying they should have known about the costs and efficiencies prior to bidding and quoting the low tariffs that they did.

Coal not available

The government accepted that one of the top reasons for financial stress in thermal power projects is the unavailability of fuel arising due to the cancellation of coal blocks

Contracting parties obliged to adhere to PPA

It has been observed that the contracting parties are obliged to adhere [to] the terms and conditions of the PPA even if it becomes onerous to one of the parties to perform the contract due to change in market or other parameters subsequent to the signing of the PPA if such change is not covered by the provisions of the PPA

Developers beg to differ

In their answers, they have almost uniformly stated that the delay in the projects is due to reasons beyond their control

Example

  • In its reply, IDFC Bank, which has financed R.K. Powergen in Chhattisgarh, says that though the plant was initially to be set up in Tamil Nadu, it was shifted to Chhattisgarh on the Ministry’s recommendation.
  • The company signed an MoU with the Chhattisgarh government in 2005
  • The company was allotted a coal block in 2008. This allocation was later cancelled by the Supreme Court
  • The Chhattisgarh government also refused to honour the PPA. “The government has been resorting to coercive measures pressuring the company to cancel the PPA,” the bank said.

SHAKTI

The Ministry says SHAKTI, or Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyla (Coal) Transparently in India, will provide “substantial relief” for six of the 34 projects.

Condonation of delay scheme only for bona fide directors’ (The Hindu)

Context

Only bona fide directors will benefit from the proposed scheme that will provide a three-month window for defaulting companies to submit their filings, a senior government official said.

Plan not open for directors of ‘struck-off’ firms, says Corporate Affairs Secretary

The Condonation of Delay Scheme, which would be rolled out by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, is expected to come as a relief for disqualified directors. It is to be operational from January 1 to March 31, 2018.

‘Many affected’

  • Since so many people were affected, the government felt that some resolution was required without compromising the fight against illegal activities.
  • The scheme is not open for directors of struck-off companies. They can come only when they [those companies] are restored through the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)

Steps by Corporate Affairs Ministry

  • As part of clamping down on illicit fund flows, the corporate affairs ministry has disqualified more than 3.09 lakh directors of companies which failed to submit annual filings for a long time.
  • Following the move, concerns were raised that many directors of genuine companies have also been disqualified
  • Besides, some individuals moved courts against their disqualification.

Director Identification Numbers

  • As per a draft circular, the Director Identification Numbers of disqualified directors that have been deactivated would be ‘temporarily activated’ during the scheme period.
  • After submitting the filings under the scheme, a company concerned would have to file a separate form seeking condonation of the delay along with a fee of ₹30,000, it added

Economy Individual insolvency code in phases: Sahoo (The Hindu)

Context

Steering the ‘smooth and fast-paced’ journey of the insolvency law, the IBBI is now looking to put in place the regime for individual insolvency in a phased manner, according to its Chairperson M.S. Sahoo.

Guarantors are priority in phase one’

  • About 500 corporates have been admitted for resolution and about 100 companies have commenced voluntary liquidation under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), which is a little more than a year old.
  • As it enters 2018, individual insolvency regime and facilitation of corporate insolvency transactions are among the main priorities for the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India.

PSBs asked to rationalise overseas, domestic branches (The Hindu)

Context

The finance ministry has asked public sector banks to look at rationalising their domestic and overseas branches as part of the reform process to strengthen their financials.

FinMin move is part of process to bolster balance sheets

The banks have been advised to pursue closure of loss-making domestic and international branches as part of a capital-saving exercise

‘Burden on financials’

There was no point in running loss-making branches and placing a burden on the balance sheet, so banks should look at not only big savings but also small savings like these for improving overall efficiency

Banks taking the initiative

  • Many banks, including State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB), have already taken initiative.
  • Besides, Indian Overseas Bank has rationalised the number of regional offices in the country by reducing 10 regional offices from the existing 59, eyeing optimum utilisation of resources and reduction in administrative costs.

No need for multiple banks in a country

  • The Ministry is of the view that there is no need for multiple banks in a single country, sources said, adding that banks can explore a single subsidiary formed with 5-6 banks coming together for conserving capital and realising economies of scale.
  • As part of the rationalisation strategy, PNB is exploring the sale of stake in its U.K. subsidiary, PNB International. Bank of Baroda and SBI are also examining the issue of consolidation

Can commit $2 bn in guarantees for India’ (The Hindu)

Context

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency — an arm of the World Bank group — which provides non-commercial guarantees, has supported 110 countries with $19 billion in guarantees across 850 projects.

MIGA’s guarantees can trigger about five times as much in FDI, says its CEO

MIGA’s CEO and executive VP, Keiko Honda, explains how foreign direct investment receives a fillip due to the guarantees, and the agency’s plan for India.

Entering in India to provide guarantees

  • The G20, including India, has strongly encouraged multilateral development banks (MDBs) to help bring in more private investment to developing countries
  • By doing this, we can increase the money coming to countries — like India — that have strong potential

To draw private investors

The ADB or the World Bank Group can be used to even draw private investors to sectors they generally don’t approach, such as basic healthcare and education.

Change in behavior

With India now having graduated from being low income to a lower middle-income country, this change in behaviour means more opportunities for private companies to finance projects in India.

Countries now careful on sovereign guarantees

Some central governments used to give a lot of sovereign guarantees for their projects. But now, central governments in countries like Indonesia are more careful on how much sovereign guarantees they can extend.

India needs to protect its credit rating

The Indian government is also smart, and heading in the same direction. The country needs to protect its credit rating and manage its balance sheet, which means municipalities and state governments have to take risk on to their own balance sheets. This is a global trend, and India is probably ahead of others in this regard.

Sectors in which MIGA is looking to provide guarantees

Power generation, including hydro and renewables, transportation, including subways, ports, airports and toll roads.

Flexible

Focus on sectors where we can create higher development impact, and support the government’s development strategy

How much?

Honda: If there is a good opportunity, and we can find the right projects, we are ready to commit $2 billion in guarantees in India. With a multiplier effect, the $2 billion that we provide in coverage can often draw in $10 billion or more in private investment.

Feedback from private investors about the investment climate in India

  • The same foreign investors we work with closely in Turkey, Vietnam, Bangladesh, South, Africa, Brazil and Mexico are also willing to come to India
  • Some of them that are equity investors not only have money, but also expertise in areas like water treatment, building subways and metros and renewable energy.
  • Private investors we work with are interested in financing projects in India, and are asking us to join them
  • Our involvement in projects gives them a lot of comfort, and as they get more comfortable with the projects and local context, they may even cancel our guarantees after 3-4 years, which is perfectly fine with us.
  • Overall, FDI to developing countries has declined every year in the last six years. On the other hand, FDI has been increasing for India.

MIGA Performance Standards

  • These are environmental and social standards which help to structure and implement sustainable projects
  • Our experience is that once we structure projects, taking all the relevant risks into account, the chances of projects getting stuck later are much lower.

India a low risk country

  • We perceive India to be a low-risk country as compared to our overall portfolio
  • Close to 25% of our portfolio is in sub-Saharan Africa
  • We operate in far riskier environments, and help reduce the risk perception as well as actual risk for investors in those countries.

FDI generated for the guarantees in recent years

Honda: In financial year 2016-17 (July 2016 – June 2017), our direct guarantees totalled $4.7 billion. This had generated $16 billion of FDI. The year before, our direct guarantees amounted to $4.3 billion, and enabled FDI of $27 billion.

MIGA has been criticised by climate activists for promoting fossil fuels.

Climate finance is one of our top three focus areas. We are targeting that 28% of the annual guarantees we issue by 2020, as compared to 24% now, will be in climate finance. At the same time, 1.3 billion people in the world do not have access to power.

For kinder smart cities (Indian Express)

Context

Urban growth should address needs of children from poorer sections of society

Smart cities

Creating smart cities is a welcome move.  A smart city plan should provide for core infrastructure, which while ensuring a decent quality of life to its citizens, also focuses on a creating a sustainable and inclusive environment

Authors’ contention

However, while current smart city plans seem to focus on tangible outcomes that pertain to physical aspects of development, they fall short of addressing the requirements of the country’s human capital, including the welfare and well-being of all children

Issue 1: Migration

One such reality is the issue of migration from rural to urban centres. Such migrations almost always include children, many of whom get displaced and end up in street situations

Fast pace of urbanization

India is urbanising fast with over 7,000 cities and towns of different population and sizes. The country’s cities and towns constitute 11 per cent of the world’s urban population

  • As per the UN’s projections, India’s share in the world’s urban population will rise to 13 per cent by 2030. Making smart cities inclusive is also consistent with Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Increase in the number of street children

More than 3.6 crore children (in the age group of 0 to 6 years) live in urban areas, of whom at least 81 lakh live in slums. According to Save the Children’s recent report, ‘Life on the Street’, there are well over 20 lakh children on the streets of India

  • Various studies predict that 40 per cent of the country’s population will be living in cities and towns by 2030. This, unfortunately, could increase the number of street children manifold

SOP for street children

Save the Children and The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for children in street situations. The SOP has been endorsed by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development and needs to implemented on a pan-India basis

A child friendly city

  • According to the UN’s Smart City Framework, a “child-friendly city” should be a multi-dimensional and comprehensive concept, where, children are active agents and their opinion influences the decision-making process
  • Save The Children’s report, Forgotten Voices notes: “A child-friendly city is one that has a system of local governance, and is committed to fulfilling children’s rights, which include influencing decisions about the city, expressing their opinion, participating in social life, receiving basic services, walking and playing safely, living in an unpolluted environment and being an equal citizen.”

Why the focus should be on smaller cities and towns?

The focus needs to be on smaller towns and cities in India. This is important because 68 per cent of India’s urban population does not live in metros but in towns that have a population of less than 100,000

Amending the smart city concept

The smart city concept in India is at a nascent stage. It could still include components that will make it compliant to children’s needs. It could aim to ensure that children do not end up in street situations

How can we make smart cities compliant to children’s needs?

This would require comprehensive planning and partnership among various policy-makers and stakeholders. Country’s young population is its biggest strength. But realising the full potential of this section will require including children from the most vulnerable and marginalised classes in the nation-building process

Conclusion

Addressing the needs of 20 lakh children in street situations, as well as other children across all smart cities, is not merely a question of their survival and dignity. It is also not merely a matter of moral responsibility: It is vital for ensuring a peaceful, prosperous and just India

Disaster management

Tackling Maoism (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Central Reserve Police Force lost 40 personnel in two  Maoist attacks in the first half of 2017 in Sukma, the most severely Maoist-affected district of Chhattisgarh

Shift in policy

The government’s response has matured in terms of deliverance — from reactive it has become proactive, and from localised it has become holistic

Proactive policing

Security forces are no longer reactive

  • Gariaband: When the Maoists decided to deepen their roots into Gariaband, the State government notified this division as a new district, which gave a fillip to development work. Many new police stations and security camps were set up to prevent any major Maoist attack. The cadre strength of the Maoists has consequently reduced
  • Raigarh: Similarly, a police action in Raigarh district eventually forced the Maoists to abandon their plan of expansion. The Ministry of Home Affairs, too, subsequently removed Raigarh from its Security Related Expenditure scheme.
  • Madhya Pradesh: When the Maoists decided to create a new zone in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, the target districts were immediately put on alert, so as not to allow them to gain ground. Security forces were redeployed to ensure better territorial command
  • As the Chhattisgarh police have experience in tackling Maoists in Bastar, they are now coordinating with the bordering States to strengthen intelligence and ground presence. Such coordinated proactive policing will dampen the Maoists’ plans

Not merely a law & order issue

The Maoist problem is not merely a law and order issue

  • Eliminating alienation: A permanent solution lies in eliminating the root cause of the problem that led to the alienation of tribals in this area
    • The focus now is to build roads and install communication towers to increase administrative and political access of the tribals, and improve the reach of government schemes
    • The government has enhanced the support price of minor forest produce like imli (tamarind). More bank branches have been opened to ensure financial inclusion
    • All India Radio stations in the three southern districts of Bastar will now broadcast regional programmes to increase entertainment options
    • A new rail service in Bastar is set to throw open a new market for wooden artefacts and bell metal

Progress in education

Despite the Maoists not wanting their children to study and get government jobs, remarkable work has been done in the field of school education and skill development. Earlier, the hostel of the Ramakrishna Mission in Narainpur was the only place where children could get quality education. Then, an educational hub and a livelihood centre in Dantewada district sprang up. Seeing its success, the government has now opened up livelihood centres, known as Livelihood Colleges, in all the districts

  • If the youth are constructively engaged by the government, the recruitment of youth by the Maoists will slowly stop

Role of civil society

However, winning a psychological war against the Maoists remains an unfinished task. Though the government’s rehabilitation policies have helped the surrendered cadres turn their lives around, security personnel are still accused of being informers and are killed

  • To end this, civil society must join hands with the government in realising the villagers’ right to development
  • Loopholes in implementing government schemes must not be used as a tool to strengthen the hands of the Maoists

Conclusion

The last two major attacks call for some serious introspection on the tactics used by the forces and their fitness to prevent any future attacks. The two-pronged policy of direct action by the security forces combined with development is showing results — the government has already made a dent in most of the affected districts and is determined to check the expansion of Maoists. The paradigm of proactive policing and holistic development should ensure more such significant results in the future

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