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GS: 2


International relations:

Canada will not support separatists, says Trudeau(The Hindu)

Context:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured the Punjab government that Canada would not support any separatist movement in India

Details:

  • During a meeting, Punjab Chief Minister has sought the Canadian Prime Minister’s cooperation in cracking down on separatism and hate crime by a fringe element, constituting a minuscule percentage of Canada’s population
  • In response, Canadian Prime Minister asserted that Canada would not support any separatist movement in India
  • Punjab Chief Minister also handed over a list of nine Category ‘A’ Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in hate crimes in Punjab by financing and supplying weapons for terrorist activities, and also engaged in trying to radicalise youth and children in Punjab.

Fire and fury(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated once again that his regime cares little about the lives of its own people.

Why in news?

  • The barbaric campaign of airstrikes and bombardments launched by government forces in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, have killed at least 270 people in three days.

Eastern Ghouta:

  • Eastern Ghouta, with an estimated population of 400,000, is one of the last significant areas held by militants fighting the regime.
  • It fell into the hands of the rebels in the early stages of the seven-year-long civil war, and repeated government attempts to overrun it were foiled.
  • It was here that chemical weapons were used in 2013, killing hundreds of people.
  • There is a wide range of militant groups in Eastern Ghouta, including the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam, the Qatar-funded Faylaq al-Rahman, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.·      
  • The militants in Eastern Ghouta and the jihadist elements amongst them have repeatedly shelled government-controlled neighbourhoods in Damascus.

India dismayed at Male’s move(The Hindu)

Context:

India has its disappointment over the Maldives government’s decision to extend the state of Emergency for another month despite India’s objections

Details:

  • Indian External Affairs Ministry has issued a statement stating Maldives government’s decision to extend the state of Emergency as unconstitutional
  • However, the Maldivian Ambassador to India has denied the accusation that the move was unconstitutional.

Background:

  • India has issued a series of statements of concern over the Maldives Emergency declared by President Yameen on February 5, after the Maldivian Supreme Court overturned the imprisonment of nine opposition leaders
  • Since then, the Yameen government has put more leaders in prison and arrested the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and other judges.
  • India had rejected an offer by President Yameen to send an envoy to explain the circumstances, saying that democracy must be restored first

Other Developments:

  • In Washington, the U.S. State Department has issued a statement of concern
  • The European Union is expected to hold a meeting of senior Ministers to discuss the situation in the Maldives.

Pakistan Supreme Court rules ousted PM Sharif cannot lead his party(The Hindu)

Context:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif be removed as head of the political party he founded

Details

The decision has come six months after the court disqualified him as the Pakistan’s Prime Minister over unreported income.

Nawaz Sharif is also being tried by a separate anti-corruption court on other charges – proceedings ordered by the Supreme Court last July

What could be the impact of the ruling?

  • The new ruling could throw into disarray Senate elections due on March 3, with opposition figures saying it invalidates candidates from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nominated by Mr. Sharif.
  • The PML-N controls the lower house of parliament. Winning control of the Senate too would allow the PML-N to change the constitution to make Nawaz Sharif eligible to hold office again when the party contests a national election due later this year.
  • The Supreme Court order has overturned a legal amendment by PML-N lawmakers allowing Nawaz Sharif to remain party president despite being disqualified from public office by the Supreme Court

Bangladesh fears exodus of Bengalis from Assam(The Hindu)

Context:

According to senior officials of Bangladesh government, the country fears an exodus of Bengalis from Assam

Details:

  • Bangladesh has said that the ongoing process of compiling the National Register of Citizens in Assam may trigger an exodus of Bengalis and create one more Rohingya-like refugee crisis for Bangladesh,
  • It was further added that the process in Assam is threatening India-Bangladesh ties and will be exploited by anti-India elements and Islamic fundamentalists who are challenging the Awami League rule.
  • Bangladeshi policymakers are unanimous that the failure to conclude the Teesta water sharing agreement between India and Bangladesh has been disappointing and the ongoing process in Assam will complicate the situation further.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Learning from Cauvery(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:  

Supreme Court judgement on Cauvery water dispute highlights the role of water sharing issues on election outcomes

About the Judgement:

  • The overall allocation of Karnataka was increased by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu.
  • The enhanced allocation includes 4.75 tmc ft exclusively for drinking water requirements of Bengaluru.
  • The increase and decrease have been worked out, keeping the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order of 2007 as the reference point.
  • Except this modification, the verdict has essentially stuck to the final order.
  • The court was unequivocal on the formulation of a scheme to implement the modified final order, and it asked the Centre to draft the scheme in six weeks.
  • The scheme entails the creation of an implementation mechanism, called the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

What have been the reactions?

  • The judgement has brought joy in Karnataka
  • However, it has brought disappointment among certain sections in Tamil Nadu
  • Doubts have been expressed in Tamil Nadu on whether the Central government will see to it that the scheme is put in place within the given period as Karnataka goes to Assembly elections in a few months.
  • This has been complemented with Karnataka Chief Minister reiterating his opposition to the idea of the CMB.

Water sharing Issues and election outcomes:

  • Political leaders of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are under the impression that their position on the Cauvery dispute would determine their respective electoral fortunes.
  • However, this is not certainly true
  • For example, the success of the Congress in the 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections despite facilitating the notification of the final order in the gazette of the Central government barely three months before the polls cannot be explained

Way ahead:

  • Competitive politics on matters concerning water are not confined only to Karnataka or Tamil Nadu politicians but the same exists in other parts of the country too. A classic example is that of Punjab.
  • However, political leaders need to understand that their strident position on water do not guarantee victory in the elections
  • Electoral outcomes are shaped by a combination of complex factors.
  • It is time that water issues are de-politicised and political parties learn to see reason and respect the rule of law without getting carried away by electoral considerations.

GS:3


Economy:

‘New law cannot cure past breach’(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Mere absence of a law can be cured by subsequently enacting one with a retroactive effect, but this new law cannot cure “breaches” that occurred prior to it, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed orally during a Constitution Bench hearing in the Aadhaar challenge.

Introduction:

  • The judge, who is a part of the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, was referring to the mass collection of personal data from citizens during the pre-Aadhaar Act years from 2009 to 2016.
  • The Aadhaar law came into existence in 2016.
  • The judge was responding to submissions made by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, for petitioners, that the subsequent enactment of Aadhaar Act in 2016 cannot cure the “complete invasion of privacy” which occurred in the pre-statute years of the Aadhaar scheme.

‘Rights violated’

  • He said that abrogation of fundamental rights which occurred during the collection of personal. information during the pre-Aadhaar Act years was a “choate act” in itself
  • He claimed that the Aadhaar Act itself was “violative of fundamental rights”.
  • “No Act can retroactively protect fundamental right. There cannot be a retroactive assertion of substantial and procedural reasonableness… That is, the Act cannot ratify anything illegal,” Mr. Subramanium submitted.

As the borders begin to close(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • After the global financial crisis in 2008, the world has begun looking to developing nations to show the way to high economic growth and development.

Emerging economies involved in influencing global economic policies:

  • Emerging economies, India and China for example, have become increasingly involved in influencing global economic policies and voicing their development concerns and priorities in various multilateral fora.
  • These economies have benefited from increasing globalisation and the growing movement of goods and people between countries.

Global remittances:

  • These emerging economies are among the largest recipients of global remittances.
  •  Twenty-three countries, led by India and followed by China, the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan and Nigeria, receive over 80% of global remittances.
  •  However, as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the top five recipients are smaller nations: Haiti, the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Nepal and Tajikistan.
  • In these low- and middle-income countries, remittances have helped lift millions out of poverty and unemployment and enhanced their standard of living and human development.

Positive impact of migration on growth and development:

  • The positive impact of migration on economic growth and development through increased remittances is well established.
  • The experience of Kerala, which receives remittances equalling 36.3% of its gross State domestic product, is testimony to this.

Indian remittances:

  • India has witnessed sharp remittance growth since 1991.
  • Remittances, which were valued at $2.1 billion in 1991, touched $70.4 billion in 2014.
  • Since then, the value of remittances to India has seen a modest decline: $68.9 billion in 2015 and $62.7 billion in 2016.
  • There was a slight improvement last year — $65.4 billion.

Sources of remittances for India:

  • India receives about 56% of its remittances from migrants in West Asia, with the remainder from mainly North America and Europe.
  • Rapid changes in the economy and the sociopolitical climate in West Asia have had an impact on remittances.
  • Developments such as Brexit and the Trump presidency in the U.S. have further complicated matters.

The case of West Asia

  • The Arab Spring in 2010 and subsequent counter-revolutionary moves by states had an impact.
  • The theme of nationalisation took over the Arab world.
  •  Along with declining oil prices and sluggish regional economies, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the regional governments decided to prioritise filling their workforce with their nationals.
  • Among the six GCC countries, only the United Arab Emirates and Oman continue to maintain their erstwhile immigration policy. However, Oman began “Omanisation”, a policy aimed at replacing expatriate workers with trained Omani personnel, back in 1988.
  • The other four, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have tightened their immigration policies to appease increasingly restive youth, many of whom were unemployed and participated in protests during the Arab uprisings.

Saudi Nationalisation Scheme or Nitaqat system:

  • In 2011, the Saudi government enacted “Saudisation”, officially known as Saudi Nationalisation Scheme or Nitaqat system in Arabic, with a view to reducing unemployment among Saudi nationals.
  • In this  incentives was announced for companies and enterprises performing in accordance with this system.

Reducing unemployment in West Asia:

  • Governments in West Asia have been trying to reduce unemployment and “demographically engineer” the workforce whereby legal, social and political separations between nationals and non-nationals would shift.
  • Kuwait, for example, between 2016 and 2017, reduced unemployment from 16.5% to 1%.
  •   Saudi Arabia regularised five million irregular workers and cracked down on illegal migrants.
  • There were also attempts to increase control over foreign workers, as opposed to sponsors, and curtail abuse by employers, though these efforts were timid.
  • The younger natives of West Asia, who are increasingly becoming educated, will replace migrants in the coming years, in turn leading to a reduction in remittances, especially to the South Asian and Southeast Asian regions.

Kerala’s remittance economy

  •   Since the 1970s, the Gulf region has attracted millions of Malayalis, with remittances amounting to over 36% of the State’s GDP.
  • Kerala is unique in this sense that no other large State in India depends so much on remittances.
  • This also makes the southern State the perfect setting to study the phenomenon of migration.
  • The Kerala Migration Surveys, conducted by the Centre for Development Studies, have studied migration from Kerala since 1998.
  • In 2016, for the first time in 20 years, the Malayali migrant community got smaller by 10% to 2.2 million. This was on account of nationalisation policies and because decades of migration had made Malayalis educated and skilled enough to aim for more specialised professions.
  • Unskilled and semi-skilled migrants from Kerala were not only replaced by migrants from other Asian countries such as the Philippines and Nepal, but also by other Indian migrants from Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • This 10% decrease in migration is expected to result in a similar decrease in remittances to the State.
  • Remittance flows to Kerala saw a sharp rise of over 40% between 2011-2014.

Kerala faces the huge challenge of rehabilitating:

  • Return emigrants account for 1.2 million of Kerala’s population.
  • The State thus faces the huge challenge of reintegrating and rehabilitating them into the society and the economy.
  • This demands innovative policies targeted at skilling, reskilling and educating both prospective and returned emigrants.
  • In this context lower migration and remittances will be a disaster for the State.
  • Utilising local resources and job creation might end up in a better position overall.

Europe as a largest remittance sending region in the world:

  • Another chunk of remittances is from North America and Europe.
  •  Europe is also the largest remittance-sending region in the world, surpassing even West Asia.
  • The recent refugee crisis, the largest since World War II, has unsettled European economies, fuelling xenophobic and anti-immigration sentiments.
  • Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump in the U.S. are also expected to have a drastic impact on migration and the flow of remittances.
  • Data from the U.K. show a large exodus of other Europeans.
  • The popular effect of Mr. Trump’s stronger immigration policies and the temporary ban on immigrants from certain Muslim majority nations are conspicuous in the results of domestic elections and a surge in markets.

Conclusion:

India must remember that with the rapid and large-scale economic and cultural changes in West Asia, Europe or the U.S., the future of emigration and remittances remains uncertain. The Kerala Migration Survey 2018 and the proposed India Migration Survey 2020 will explore these issues and evolve adequate policy responses.

The nuts and bolts of a fraud(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • Recently, PNB found that the SWIFT system had been misused by junior-level branch officials, who had fraudulently issued letters of undertaking (LoUs) on behalf of some companies for availing buyers credit from overseas branches of Indian banks.

How did the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam work?

  • Diamond merchant Nirav Modi has been accused of siphoning off funds worth about Rs. 11,500 crore from the public sector bank, PNB.
  • A key element of the scam is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network that connects banks and other financial institutions across the world.
  • Among other things, a bank that is part of SWIFT can use the system to convey credit instruments called letters of undertaking (LoUs) to other banks located overseas.
  • An LoU is simply a request made to another bank in the SWIFT network to loan money to a client.
  • The bank that issues the LoU essentially guarantees the bank that receives the LoU request that it stands by the creditworthiness of the borrower.
  • PNB alleges that employees at one of its branches in Mumbai issued fraudulent LoUs that were not authorised by its management.

Why did it happen?

  • PNB’s internal information systems were not seamlessly linked to SWIFT.
  • It is claimed that the huge fund transfers made via SWIFT to Mr. Modi’s companies by a few PNB employees went undetected for many years.
  • Many critics, blame flaws in the ownership of public sector banks.
  • The PNB scam came to light only after a whistle-blower exposed it.

Is this the first time?

  • SWIFT has been gamed by miscreants on a number of occasions.
  • In 2016, there was a cyber-heist of $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank.
  • Russia’s central bank recently reported that $6 million was stolen from a Russian bank last year by exploiting the SWIFT system.
  • Even the Reserve Bank of India stated this week that it had privately warned Indian banks about the prospect of misuse of SWIFT at least three times since August 2016.

RBI: inflation could spur shift in stance(The Hindu)

Context:

  • RBI Governor Urjit Patel observed that consumer price inflation was the main yardstick to determine policy rates.

Why in news?

  • The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could shift from its current ‘neutral’ policy stance to a ‘withdrawal of accommodation’ stance if headline inflation projection for the year ahead remained well above the target.
  • RBI has a mandate with keep retail inflation between 2% and 6%, decided at its sixth bimonthly policy review to keep interest rates unchanged, while maintaining a neutral stance.
  • RBI Governor Urjit Patel observed that consumer price inflation — the main yardstick to determine policy rates — had accelerated for a six consecutive month in December.
  •  Inflation was getting generalised with rising input prices.

‘Niti Aayog working on new list of sick PSUs’(The Hindu)

Context :

  • CEO Amitabh Kant has said that NITI Aayog has been working on a new list of sick and loss making Public Sector Units (PSUs) that could be privatised

Details:

  • NITI Aayog has already given recommendations with regard to strategic disinvestment of 40 PSUs.
  • Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) is working on it and the process is in an advanced stage
  • The government has set a target of ₹ 80,000 crore from disinvestment proceeds in 2018-19

Stake sales:

  • In the current fiscal, the government has earned more than ₹ 1 lakh crore from stake sales in public sector firms, as against the Budget estimate of ₹ 72,500 crore in 2017- 18 for the disinvestment process.

Budget allocation to NITI Aayog:

  • The Budget allocation for the NITI Aayog had been increased by more than 20% to ₹ 339.65 crore in 2018-19 from ₹ 279.79 crore in 2017-18

Science and Technology:

Magnificent launch(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

On February 7, U.S. tech and automobiles billionaire Elon Musk made history when the Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, was successfully launched by SpaceX

About Falcon Heavy:

  • The Falcon Heavy is a large cargo-lifting rocket developed by private spaceflight company SpaceX
  • The rocket lifted from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, using Launch Complex 39A
  • The rocket’s payload was a cherry-red 2008 Tesla Roadster electric car
  • The Roadster became the first automobile in deep space.
  • The rocket is 230 ft tall with 2,500 tonnes of thrust
  • The cost per launch is $90 million

Significance:

The launch of Falcon Heavy opens a new frontier in space exploration, particularly interplanetary missions and manned missions to the moon in the next few years and possibly to Mars in the next couple of decades.

Way ahead:

  • As of now, Falcon Heavy might not be a direct competitor to established space agencies for launching communication and other satellites as the focus is on the manned interplanetary mission.
  • There is a great business opportunity in launching data-gathering satellites at a lower cost while profiting from manned missions is uncertain.

Meet Avani, first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo(The Hindu)

Context:

Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi has become the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo

Details:

  • She flew a MiG-21 Bison
  • She undertook the sortie from IAF’s Jamnagar base
  • Three women pilots — Ms. Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh — had undergone strenuous training programme to fly fighter jets.
  • They were commissioned as Flying Officers in July 2016
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