GS: 2


International relations:

Myanmar puts off border pact(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Myanmar has asked India for more time before the agreement to streamline the free movement of people within 16 km along the border is sealed.

Background:

  • On January 3, 2018 the Union Cabinet had approved an agreement between India and Myanmar on land border crossing to enhance economic interaction between people of the two countries.
  • To give it shape, the Centre had asked four States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram that share the unfenced border with Myanmar to distribute “border pass” to all the residents living within 16 km from the border.
  • But the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been deferred by Myanmar twice in the past seven months.
  • India tried to again push the agreement in January when Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was in New Delhi with nine ASEAN leaders as chief guest for the Republic Day parade.

Reason for Myanmar’s reluctance:

  • Myanmar is reluctant to sign the agreement due to domestic compulsions.
  • They fear that if they sign the pact, the international agreement will have to be adhered to.

Provision of the proposal:

  • As per the proposal, there would have been no restrictions on the movement of people across the borders.
  • The domiciles were to be allotted border passes and those going across for agriculture, work or to meet relatives should carry the pass at all times.

Key fact:

  • India and Myanmar share a 1,643 km unfenced border along Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km) and Mizoram (510 km) and permit a ‘free movement’ regime upto 16 km beyond the border.

“India’s Christians, Sikhs face discrimination”(The Hindu)

Context:

The British government has been asked to raise concerns on the treatment of Christian and Sikh minorities in India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April.

Discrimination faced by Christians and Sikhs in India:

  • During a debate in the House of Commons on ‘freedom of religion or belief’, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Martin Docherty-Hughes highlighted figures showing discrimination against Christians and Sikhs in India
  • India has risen to the position of the 11th most dangerous country for Christians
  • There have been 23,000 incidents of physical and mental abuse against Christians of all denominations, and 6, 35,000 Christians have reportedly been detained without trial or unfairly arrested.
  • Mr. Docherty-Hughes also referred to the situation of Sikhs in India, arguing that a debate on the push for self-determination needed to be separated from religious persecution issues.
  • The number of Sikhs detained for very long periods by state authorities continues to rise across all the Indian states

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Righting wrongs in land acquisition(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 is in news

About the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

  • The law provided for greatly enhanced compensation, consent of those whose land was sought to be acquired
  • It also provided detailed rehabilitation and resettlement provisions, including employment, land for land, and other beneficial schemes
  • It also included a retrospective clause: Section 24 of the new Act provided that under certain circumstances, acquired land could be returned to affected families.

Section 24:

What are the cases in which land could be returned to the original owners?

The first category:

  • It would comprise of those for whom the land acquisition award had been made less than five years prior to the coming into force of the new law (before January 1, 2014 and after January 1, 2009).
  • In such cases, the new law would not apply; the proceedings would continue under the old law.

Second Category:

  • It would be where the award had not been made (on the date of the new law coming into force) but the acquisition proceedings had been initiated.
  • In such cases, the land owners would be entitled to enhanced compensation and all other rehabilitation and resettlement benefits as provided under the new law, but the acquisition process would continue under the 1894 Act.

Third Category:

  • The third category would comprise of the cases of those for whom the land acquisition award had been made five years (or more) prior to the new law coming into force and where either compensation had not been paid or there had been no physical possession of the land.
  • It was reasoned that five years was enough time for the acquiring authority to resolve all disputes, failing which it made no sense to hold on to the land.

Ordinance to make Section 24 inoperative:

  • The current government brought in an ordinance on January 1, 2015 to render this Section inoperative
  • However, on August 30, 2016 Prime Minister Modi announced the withdrawal of the amendments proposed by his government.

Recent in news:

  • The Supreme Court, in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (February 2018), has effectively implemented the provisions of the lapsed ordinance with regard to the retrospective clause.
  • Given that it is at variance with other Benches on the issue, this has now led to the constitution of a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court to decide whether the Section has to be interpreted expansively or in a narrow sense.

Implication of the Supreme Court decision in the Indore case:

  • It relaxes the existing definition of compensation paid from the active requirement of offering the compensation and depositing the same in court
  • On the subject of physical possession, it lays down that the period where the government is prevented from taking possession of the land due to the operation of a stay order or injunction shall not be counted towards the stipulated five-year requirement.

GS: 3


Economy:

‘Defaulting promoters must be barred from bidding’(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Axis Bank Chief has called for creating a better credit culture for long-term benefits.

How to achieve better credit culture?

  • One way to achieve it is to exclude the defaulting promoters from bidding for their assets during insolvency proceedings.
  • With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) doing away with all the past dispensations to resolve the bad loan problem, and voting for initiation of insolvency proceedings against erring borrowers, there is a need to strengthen the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLTs).
  • It is important that the capacities of NCLTs are expanded so that they can deal with all cases.
  • The promoters of companies against whom banks had initiated insolvency proceedings should be kept out of the bidding process for the same assets for the long-term benefit of improving credit culture.
  • A short-term goal for banks would be to look at maximising the value from the assets which are being put up for bidding and that can happen by allowing the promoters to bid for the assets.
  • From a longer-term perspective getting the right credit culture where every borrower repays is more important.

‘Discrete norms for new and replacement parts a threat’(The Hindu) Analysis

The different standards in place for original equipment and replacement auto parts can cause major issues related to safety, emissions and performance of the vehicle, the government has said in the new draft National Automotive Policy.

Bridge-cum-barrage across Netravathi gets clearance(The Hindu)

Context:

The State Cabinet of Karnataka has granted approval for construction of a bridge-cum-barrage across the Netravathi connecting Adyarkatte, off the National Highway 75, and Harekala, near Mangalore University

About the Project:

  • The project was part of the Paschima Vahini Scheme launched in 2017 to build vented dams across west-flowing rivers
  • A sum of Rs. 174 crore has been earmarked for the project
  • The project has proposed the construction of a 7 m wide bridge downstream of the Thumbe Vented Dam.
  • Below this bridge would be the barrage that will impound about 6 tmcft of water.

How will this project benefit?

  • The project will help in harvesting water for many of the arid regions of Mangaluru Assembly Constituency.
  • A multi-village drinking water scheme estimated at Rs. 134 crore would help harvest water and meet the drinking water needs of the arid regions of the Mangaluru Assembly Constituency.
  • The bridge atop the dam would alleviate transport problem of people around Konaje, Innoli, Harekala and surrounding areas.

Borrowing terms(Indian Express Editorial)

Context:

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) has raised its one-year MCLR or marginal cost of funds-based lending rate from 7.95 per cent to 8.15 per cent, while hiking similarly for two- and three-year loans.

Background:

  • The increase in MCLRs comes in the wake of rise in deposit rates.
  • SBI revised its upward retail term deposit rates by 0.15-50 percentage points.
  • Also, since September 2017, yields on 10-year Indian government bonds effectively the interest on the sovereign’s borrowings have gone up from around 6.5 per cent to 7.75 per cent.

Impact of the decision:

  • The interest rate cycle has turned.
  • It is an end to the ultra-low interest rates, resulting from the monetary stimulus measures unveiled by major central banks in response to the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • It is to be noted that such low rates for borrowers were neither sustainable nor fair to savers, especially fixed income earners.

Impacts of higher interest rates:

  • Higher interest rates aren’t favourable for the economy, just when it seems to be on the recovery path.
  • Together with rising oil prices, they could potentially squeeze profit margins and hurt consumer sentiment.
  • Also, there is clear evidence of a revival in bank credit demand.
  • This is where fiscal slippages and election-time populism on minimum support prices can really hurt.
  • By crowding out private sector borrowings and forcing the RBI to counter food inflation by tightening monetary policy, there is the danger of interest rates increasing more than what’s warranted.

Science and Technology

TB drugs policy to be discussed at meet(The Hindu)

Context:

Global public health agencies will discuss the Union Health Ministry’s policy on rationing new tuberculosis medicines at a forthcoming meeting in New Delhi.

Inadequacy of medicines:

  • The Hindu had earlier reported that advanced patented medicines used to treat Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB) are available to only about 1,000 patients out of the tens of thousands who need it
  • Bedaquiline and Delaminid, the new-generation drugs, are recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for DR-TB patients.
  • It is five years since Bedaquiline became available, but India has fewer than 1,000 patients on it.
  • According to the Union Health Ministry, only 81 patients have access to Delaminid
  • Nearly 1.3 lakh DR-TB patients need treatment but the Health Ministry has only 10,000 doses of Bedaquiline and 400 doses of Delaminid, obtained as ‘donations’ from Janssen (US) and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (Japan), the respective manufacturers.
  • On September 19, 2017, a panel chaired by Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, then Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research and currently the Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended, among other steps, that the Health Ministry consider issuing a compulsory licence (CL) for the two TB drugs.
  • The Union Health Ministry told The Hindu that it had requested Janssen and Otsuka, to grant Voluntary Licenses (VL) to Indian manufacturers.
  • However, both companies turned down the Health Ministry’s request.
  • But with the option of compulsory licence ruled out, and the companies that manufacture Bedaquiline and Delaminid refusing to issue VLs, the price at which the drugs will be sold are to be decided in meetings between officials of the TB programme and pharmaceutical companies

‘End TB’ Summit

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the March 12-17 ‘End TB Summit’ in the Delhi.
  • The conference, hosted by the government, The Stop TB Partnership and the World Health Organisation (WHO) will discuss commitments from global heads of state ahead of the UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB in September.

Environment:

‘Climate change has reduced coral cover’(The Hindu)

Context:

According to conservation group WWF India, climate change has resulted in substantial decrease in India’s coral cover and growth n the last two decades

Coral diversity in India:

  • Coral diversity and formation of reefs are centred around four major regions:
    • The Gulf of Kutch
    • The Lakshadweep atolls
    • The Gulf of Mannar
    • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Besides these hotspots, patchy reefs are present in other coastal regions, from the coast of Goa and parts of the Malvan marine national park to the Kanyakumari district in southern Tamil Nadu.

What factors lead to decrease in coral cover in India?

  • Climate change is the primary factor, with multiple bleaching events occurring in the last two decades, resulting in substantial reductions to coral cover and growth.
  • Increase atmospheric carbon dioxide have decreased the pH of oceans and resulting in ocean acidification, which seriously hinder the reef building capacity of corals
  • Other factors include:
    • Overfishing
    • Unregulated coastal development
    • Nutrient, Heavy metal and chemical pollution

What should be done for the protection of coral reefs?

  • WWF India has stressed the need for formulating a “holistic” approach for their protection.
  • It has said the connectivity of India’s freshwater, coastal, offshore and marine systems must be taken into account when conserving such (corals) habitats and the management regimes must reflect this.

 

 

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