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GS 2

SC pulls up Centre for its delay in appointing a Lokpal

News:

  1. The government affidavit on Lokpal is “wholly unsatisfactory” says Supreme Court.

Important facts:

2. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, filed a contempt petition against the government for not appointing a Lokpal despite an April 2017 judgment by the court

3. On this the court said that government’s stand on completing the appointment of a Lokpal, an ombudsman to protect the common man from corruption in public service and power centres, was “wholly unsatisfactory.”

4. Recently, the selection committee led by PM Modi met on the choice of a search committee for the Lokpal.

5. Search Committee:

  • The committees will shortlist the candidates for Lokpal.
  • It will comprise 50% members from the SC/ST category, OBCs and the minorities and women.
  • The committee will comprise seven persons, including the chairperson.
  • The members will be experts from the diverse background such as banking, law, insurance, management etc.

6. Reasons for not implementation of the Lokpal act:

  • The Lokpal  and Lokayukta Act 2013 was not implemented till now because there was no Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the 16th Lok Sabha.

7. The 2013 statute include the LoP as a member of the selection committee.

8. The act intends the LoP to be the part of the selection committee of the PM, the CJI, and the Speaker , which has to first appoint an eminent jurist among their ranks.

 

Proving the hardliners in Tehran right

Article:

  1. Stanly Johny, author, highlighted that the cornerstone of Donald Trump’s West Asia policy is Israel’s security.

Important facts:

2. The U.S. president Donald Trump recently gave open threats against Tehran from historical hostility towards post-revolutionary Iran, to engagement during Obama era.

3. The focus of Trump’s West Asia policy, is Israel’s security and the containment of Iran is a subplot of this approach.

4. America’s traditional allies, Israel and the Sunni Arab, were upset with Mr. Obama’s outreach to Iran.

5. Obama’s approach was focussed on restoring some balance in the region, which was shaken up by revolts in the Arab world and civil wars.

6. The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran had opened new opportunities for both Washington and Tehran to reimagine their relations.

7. Iran, as the UN atomic watchdoghas been fully compliant with the terms of the nuclear accord.

8. Other signatories of the deal, including the European Union, still stick with it.

9. Mr. Trump, has called it the “worst deal ever” in American history.

10. Anti-Iran bloc

  • Trump wants U.S. policy to swing back to America’s traditional allies, Israel and the Sunni Arab world.
  • They saw the nuclear deal and the subsequent opening up of the global economy for Iran as further helping Tehran consolidate its position in West Asia.
  • By dumping the nuclear deal, Trump’s plan is to deny Iran the economic benefits of the nuclear deal, incite Iranians against the regime and scuttle Tehran’s within Syria using Russian help.

11. Comparison of Iran with other countries:

  • Iran is not a great military force.
  • It spends far less on defence than what Saudi Arabia, its regional rival, does.
  •  In 2016, Iran spent $12.7 billion on defence, compared to Saudi Arabia’s $63.7 billion.
  • Even in terms of percentage of GDP, Iran, at 3%, is behind even Jordan, which spent 4% in 2016, not to mention Saudi Arabia’s 10% and Israel’s 6%.
  • It’s to overcome this asymmetry,Iran has adopted a ‘forward defence’ doctrine, empowering militias and proxies in other countries.
  •  This upsets both Israel and the U.S.  because at the time of war, Iran could activate these groups, unleashing havoc in its neighbourhood targeting both America and Isreeli soldiers.

12.In the past, there have been different attempts, from both Iran and the U.S., for a rapprochement.

13. After the 9/11 attack, Iran offered cooperation to the U.S. in its war against the al-Qaeda and Afghanistan.

14. Recent steps:

  • The U.S. administration with a rational policymaking machine would have appreciated the deal and consolidated it, by retaining the checks on Iran.
  • Iran is a country which had an active nuclear programme and came forward to negotiate a deal with world powers. But the deal has been jettisoned by the U.S., which is now threatening Iran with force.
  • On the other hand, North Korea, built nuclear bombs and missiles, threatened the U.S. and its allies and is living in a permanent state of war in East Asia.

 

Lok Sabha passes anti-graft amendment Bill

News:

  1. The Lok Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

Important facts:

2. Key features of the Bill are given below:

  • The Bill seeks to punish bribe-givers and bribe takers.
  • Jail terms of three to seven years, besides fine, to those convicted by receiving or giving brides to public officials.
  • The public servants will be prosecuted after government sanction.
  • The verdict on corruption cases should be given within    two years.
  • The Bill makes a distinction between “Collusive bribe givers” and those who are “coerced”. The Bill seeks to protect those who report the matter within 7 days.

3. Criticisms of the Bill:

  • Many members raised concerns that the seven-day period was too short and need to extend this time frame.
  • The Bill was critised for diluting from its original draft by introducing a provision to get prior permission for starting an investigation.

 

GS 3

India needs smart urbanisation

Article:

  1. Feroz Varun Gandhi, Politician, highlighted the need  for smart urbanisation

Important Analysis:

  1. 2. Over 34% of India’s current population lives in urban areas, rising by 3% since 2011.
  2. Smaller clusters have risen (from 34 to 50 clusters with 10-15 lakh population).
  3. According to one estimate, India’s urban population could increase to 814 million by 2050.
  4. Urban cities are facing following challenges on ‘smart cities’ front:-
  • Poverty and poor infrastructure
  • Poor urban planning
  • Increasing population led to increasing demands for basic services.
  • Over 90 ‘smart cities’ have identified 2,864 projects, India lags on implemention, with about 148 projects completed.
  • Shortage of affordable house despite government initiative.
  • Instances of floods in Mumbai, dengue in Delhi, lakes on fire in Bengaluru presents a worst picture.
  • Slow work on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project and the bullet train.
  • Low level of urban infrastructure investment and capacity building.
  • India spends about $17 per capita annually on urban infrastructure projects, against a global benchmark of $100 and China’s $116.
  • Various government schemes like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission not implemented properly.
  • Urban institutions also suffer from a shortage of skilled people.
  1. There is also differences on definition of Urban between state and central government
  2. In state the Governor notifies an area as urban based on the following parameters:
  • Population
  • Density
  • Revenue generated for the local administration
  1. The central government considers a settlement as urban in following cases:-
  • If it has an urban local government
  • Minimum population of 5,000
  • Over 75% of its (male) population working in non-agriculture activities.
  • Population density of atleast 400 per sq.km.
  • Many states consider such “census towns” as rural, and to establish governance through a rural local government or panchayat.
  1. However, many States consider such “census towns” as rural, and establish governance through a rural local government or panchayat.
  2. Solutions:
  • Needs systematic policy to deal with urban migration.
  • Internal migration in India helps in reducing poverty or prevents households from slipping into it.
  • Lowering the cost of migration, along with eliminating discrimination against migrants, while protecting their rights.
  • Revitalizing cities such as Meerut, building transport links and connectivity.
  • Urban policy makers also need to be cognizant of the historical context for urban development.
  • The creation of hill stations in northern India and the advent of the plantation economy, along with industrial township transformal trading networks.
  • The creation of cantonment and civil lines areas, along with railway stations in major cities led to the haphazard growth of urban areas.
  • Need different model of urbanization.
  • Need to empower cities, with focus on land policy reforms, granting urban local bodies the freedom to raise financing and enforce local land usage norms.

 

Cosmetic repair

News:

  1.  Recently, a group of banks signed an inter-creditor agreement.

Important facts:

2. The move comes after RBI dismantling of all the existing resolution mechanisms, such as the joint lenders’ forum in its 12 February circular

3. The banks include- public sector banks, private sector banks, and foreign banks.

4. About Inter-creditor agreements (ICA)

  • Inter-Creditor Agreement (ICA) was framed under the aegis of the Indian Banks’ Association
  • It follows the recommendations of the Sunil Mehta Committee on stressed asset resolution.
  • Both Bank and NBFC could be part of ICA

5. ICA is primarily focused on the ₹50 crore-₹500 crore and the ₹500 crore-₹2,000 crore categories.

6. The agreement highlighted the following points:

  • A majority representing two-third of the loans within a consortium of lenders can now override any objection to the resolution process coming from dissenting lenders.
  • Minority lenders who suspect they are being short-changed by other lenders can now sale either their assets at a discount to a willing buyer or buy out from other lenders at a premium.
  • The inter-creditor agreement is aimed at the resolution of loan accounts with a size of Rs 50 crore .
  • It is part of the “Sashakt” plan approved by the government to address the problem of resolving bad loans.
  • Such an agreement may persuade banks to embark more quickly on a resolution plan for stressed assets.
  • This is an improvement on the earlier model, which lied solely on the joint lender’s forum to arrive at a consensus among creditors.
  • It will now be easier for banks to sell stressed assets.

7. In the past, Indian banks have been forced by the RBI to recognize troubled assets, but their resolution had remained a challenge.

8. Problems in resolving stressed assets:

  • Disagreement between joint lenders is the biggest problem in resolving stressed assets.
  • The absence of buyers who can purchase stressed assets from banks, and the unwillingness of banks to sell their loans at a deep discount to their face value.
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