Society and women related issues:
Female foeticide a shame: Modi(The Hindu)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8th March inaugurated the expanded “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district.
- Prime Minister also launched the National Nutrition Mission, aimed at improving nutrition levels of women and children and reducing low birth weight by 2% each year.
- Addressing the function organised on International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Modi said people should change their mindset towards the girl child in order to bring equality between men and women.
- He further added that female foeticide is a matter of “deep shame”
- He praised the Jhunjhunu district for registering a significant improvement in child sex ratio.
Indradhanush Immunisation Programme:
The Prime Minister also highlighted the significance of proper nutrition among children and described the changes in the lives of women and children brought about by the Indradhanush immunisation programme.
About Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme:
- The “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme is the Union government’s social campaign to create awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls
- It has been expanded from the existing 161 to 640 districts of the country.
- Earlier, PM. Modi had interacted with women and their children and gave awards to Collectors of various districts for their performance under the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” programme.
- The districts included Sikar and Jhunjhunu of Rajasthan, Tarn Taran (Punjab), Sonipat (Haryana), Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) and Raigarh (Chhattisgarh).
Trafficking of women
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has said the government was planning to introduce a Bill for preventing trafficking of women and children.
Ringing in change, government style(The Hindu)
All government employees in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir have been directed to download the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” ringtone on their Jio mobile numbers.
- The order came from the office of Deputy Commissioner on February 23, who demanded that a compliance report be filed within 24 hours.
- The government is in talks with Airtel and Vodafone for similar ringtones but the memo mentions only one service provider.
- According to the Deputy Commissioner, the decision had been taken to make the campaign message widespread, and to “put a thrust on having a girl child”.
- The ringtone has also been sung in local Dogri language
Major Gender-related Issues in Jammu and Kashmir:
- High mortality rate among women in Jammu and Kashmir due to poor access to the healthcare and healthy food intake
- Growing incidences of female foeticide and poor mechanism to stop sex determination in advance
- Downloading ringtones may help in sensitisation to some extent
- However, the real solution lies by working on the causes leading to the skewed male-female ratio. Government intervention is needed to tackle the major issues
“Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” Programme:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” (Save girl child-Educate girl child) campaign in January 2015 to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in India.
Sex Ratio in India:
- As per the 2011 census, the adult sex ratio in India is 940 females for every 1000 males.
- The child sex ratio (of children between the ages 0 and 6 years) is far worse at 914 females for every 1000 males.
- Figures for Jammu and Kashmir are well below the national average with only 883 females for every 1000 males.
Chance for peace: on US and North Korea’s relations(The Hindu Opinion)
The U.S. should grab North Korea’s offer of talks, and enable an environment of trust
What has happened?
- In a remarkable development that followed unprecedented meetings in Pyongyang, South Korea has said that North Korea has been willing to talk to US about giving up its nuclear weapons
- According to South Korea’s national security chief, North Korea has clarified that it had no reason to retain nuclear weapons if “the military threat to North Korea is resolved” and the country’s security can be guaranteed
- However, even days after South Korea issued a statement about the North’s willingness to discuss denuclearisation and normalisation of ties with the U.S., Pyongyang is yet to confirm it.
- It could be waiting for a more concrete response from the U.S.
Significance of the move:
- This is a marked shift from the aggressive foreign policy that North Korean leader, Kim has pursued since he succeeded his father in 2011.
- It also signals that his militaristic foreign policy is linked to perceptions about the survival of his regime, something for which he may be willing to reach a diplomatic settlement with the U.S.
- The visit by a South Korean delegation to Pyongyang and the subsequent North Korean offer to hold talks with the U.S. mark the most serious attempt in a decade to reduce tensions in the Korean peninsula.
- The U.S. should grab North Korea’s offer of talks, and enable an environment of trust
A new NAM for the new norm(The Hindu Opinion)
- With three-cornered Cold War around the corner, India must seek nonaligned partnerships
Three-cornered Cold War:
- The United States has identified both China and Russia as adversaries, whose leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are determined to stand up to a Donald Trump, who is clinging on to doctrines of ultranationalism and nuclear hegemony.
- Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation has announced that Russia has machines like an underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead powerful enough to sweep away coastal facilities, aircraft carriers and a hypersonic vehicle impossible to intercept as it flies in a cloud of plasma “like a meteorite”.
- Cuba’s “axis of evil” has emerged once again under Iran’s leadership.
- This time it is a three-cornered Cold War, without any corner having committed countries to act together as military allies.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM):
- Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is curse today even to those who helped shape it and revelled in it for years.
- India had a stake in its integrity India toiled tirelessly to keep it on the middle road.
- Had it not been for India, NAM would have been wound up at a ministerial meeting in Ghana in 1991 soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
- India argued vehemently against those who felt that NAM had outlived its utility.
- Since the essence of nonalignment was freedom of thought and action, India insisted that it was valid whether there was one bloc or no bloc.
- An effort was made in 2012 to craft a ‘Nonalignment 2.0’ in the context of the new global situation, India’s growing importance and the rivalry between the U.S. and China.
- The report said that in a situation where the world is no longer bifurcated between two dominant powers, nonalignment today will require managing complicated coalitions and opportunities in an environment that is not structurally settled.
- India’s big challenge would be to aim at not just being powerful but to set new standards for what the powerful must do.
- India’s legitimacy in the world will come from its ability to stand for the highest human and universal values and at the global level.
- The policy of “strategic autonomy” recommended that India should not take sides in the rivalry between China and the U.S.
- Strategic and foreign policy to be successful, India must sustain domestic economic growth, social inclusion and democracy.
Reincarnation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the wake of Cold War (in a new form):
- An obvious way is to revive NAM by bringing in new provisions and making it fit to deal with the new norm.
- A partnership of near equals like IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) with similar interests without any ideological conflict is probably the best model to follow.
- Something on the lines of the G-15 organised by India and like-minded countries some years ago could be put together with the objective of dealing with the kind of issues identified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Davos — climate change, terrorism and protectionism.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not someone who will hesitate to think out of the box to achieve his objectives.
- In the wake of a strategic partnership with the U.S., a revival of NAM, did not seem to appeal either to the Manmohan Singh government or the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
- For Prime Minister Narendra Modi too, NAM was nothing but a relic of the Nehruvian past and it did not form part of his vocabulary.
- Therefore, the prime Minster did not find it necessary to attend the NAM Summit in Venezuela in 2016.
China says ties with India continue to grow(The Hindu)
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that China was keen to forge closer India-China ties, cemented by a focus on greater dialogue-based on “mutual trust”.
Rebuilding India and China ties:
- A spate of track-1 meetings is now in the pipeline, including the China-India strategic economic dialogue.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that “more far-sighted leaders” have come to realise that as the largest two developing countries each with a population of more than a billion, must do everything to empathise with and support each other and avoid mutual suspicion and attrition.
- New Delhi and Beijing must focus on building “mutual trust,” which would be the key for the further advancement of the relationship.
- There is a need to replace suspicion with trust, manage differences with dialogue and build a future with cooperation.
- Mr. Wang dismissed the “Indo-Pacific” strategy, which included the formation of the quad grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. as “froth in the Pacific and Indian Oceans”
- A tribunal on whether further details of British involvement in the run-up to the 1984 Operation Blue Star should be made public was set to conclude.
- It is important to come to a conclusion as the issue of Indian sensitivities around Sikh separatism both past and present and its potential impact on U.K.-India bilateral relations took centre stage.
- Counsel for the Cabinet Office sought to argue against further Cabinet Office and Prime Ministerial documents to be made public on the ground that they related to discussions involving intelligence services and that issues around separatism continued to be viewed as a “threat to the existence of the Indian state” and of the “highest sensitivity.”
- Counsel leading the appeal for the publication of the documents argued that “serious human rights abuses were committed against the Sikh community in India” and that the public disclosures were necessary to fully understanding the wider factors influencing the relationship and the context of what was done.
- There had been little sign in the evidence presented to the court that the issue remained a highly sensitive political issue in India, with the potential to damage bilateral relations, pointing to the failure of Britain to consult India on the 2014 disclosures.
- In the concluding session, the Cabinet Office’s counsel focused on the Section 23 exemptions, as well as exemptions relating to Section 27 of the same Act relating to impact on a diplomatic partner.
- Summing up the conclusions of the FCO witnesses, the expectations of the Indian government would be that Britain would apply “particular importance to questions of confidentiality” and that there remained “particularly sensitivities” around the issue of Sikh separatism.
- However, the appellant’s position that there was little evidence to support the Cabinet Office position regarding current Indian sensitivities about further disclosures, was also supported by the Counsel for the Office of Information Commissioner.
- Sources have suggested India holds a neutral position on the issue.
- Because viewing the decision on whether to release further information on the case is a purely domestic matter for Britain.
Indian Constitution and Polity:
SC restores Hadiya’s marriage(The Hindu)
- The Supreme Court has set aside a Kerala High Court order who cancelled the marriage of Hadiya to Shafin Jahan, whom she had married after converting to Islam.
- The Supreme Court recognised and upheld Ms. Hadiya’s freedom “to pursue her future endeavours according to law”.
- This means Ms. Hadiya is free to leave her college hostel at Salem and join Mr. Jahan.
- A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud observed that the High Court “should not have annulled the marriage”.
- Marriage and plurality are the fundamental core of our culture.
- But, the moment public law (law of relations between individuals and the State) is allowed to encroach into marriage, it allows the state interfere in individual choices of a citizen.
- It is not just the state, but parents too cannot wield their influence against adults who marry a person of their own choice.
- It is not for the courts or the state or the parents to question a woman’s choice of her husband.
Karnataka govt. unveils State flag(The Hindu)
The Karnataka government has unveiled the State flag ( nada dhwaja ) for Karnataka.
- If approved by the Centre, Karnataka will be the second State to have a flag after Jammu and Kashmir.
- The proposal will be now sent to the Union Home Ministry for approval since a State has no powers to announce its own flag.
- The government in Karnataka constituted a nine-member committee to design a state flag and look into the legalities of it.
- The State Cabinet had earlier approved the proposal of having separate flag for Karnataka
Flag in Karnataka:
- Karnataka has had an unofficial flag since the mid 1960s.
- The red and yellow flag was created by Kannada writer and activist Ma Ramamurthy for a pro-Kannada political party called the Kannada Paksha.
- For years, there has been a demand to recognise it as the state’s official flag.
- Recently unveiled the red-white-yellow flag has the State emblem at the centre
- The existing legal provisions do not prohibit states from having their own flags
- When asked about the Constitutional provisions for a State to have its own flag, Karnataka CM said there was no bar in the Constitution on the States having their own flag.
Protecting couples from mobs(The Hindu Opinion)
- The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill has been doing the rounds among States for the past seven years.
Why in news?
- The Supreme Court is expected to frame guidelines in a judgment to protect adult couples from the fury of the mob.
- So far, 23 States have responded to the Bill with suggestions; the other six have not responded yet.
Purpose of the Bill:
- The proposed law, drafted by the Law Commission of India, is meant to penalise honour killings and uphold the right of adults to marry persons of their own choice without unlawful interference from caste panchayats or persons and relatives intent on harming the couple.
- The Law Commission has concluded that honour killing does not require a spate provision.
Definition of murder:
- The Law Commission has concluded that honour killing does not require a separate provision.
- The definition of murder in Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code would suffice “to take care of the situations leading to overt acts of killing or causing bodily harm to the targeted person who allegedly undermined the honour of the caste or community.”
- The 2011 Bill defines “unlawful assembly” as a group of persons who congregate with the “view or intention to deliberate on or condemn any marriage.
- They condemn such marriages on the basis that such marriage has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.
- “Marriage” under the draft legislation includes “proposed or intended marriage.”
- The punishments are meted out in a phased manner.
- Participating in any unlawful assembly is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but which may extend to one year and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 10,000.
- Making exhortations that endanger the liberty of a couple is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to two years and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 20,000.
- Criminal intimidation of the couple or their relatives or supporters is punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but which may extend to three years and is also liable to a fine of up to Rs. 30,000.
- The maximum punishment in case of actual harm or injury caused shall extend to seven years of imprisonment.
- The provisions under the proposed law do not negate the offences under IPC but only adds to them.
Union govt. to set up Arbitration Council(The Hindu)
The Union Cabinet has approved the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
Function of Arbitration Council:
Arbitration Council will grade institutions that offer alternative dispute resolution mechanism for commercial disputes.
Significance of the Arbitration Council:
As India attracted foreign investments, it is essential to provide for a reliable platform that included arbitration and resolution of commercial disputes in a time-bound manner.
- Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey recently said the Ministry was engaged in the “important task” of finding buyers for Air India and its subsidiaries as well as for Pawan Hans.
- EoI would be the first such for Air India, while for Pawan Hans it would be a revised document.
- The announcement came in the backdrop of the government paving the way for a stake sale in the debt-laden airline last year.
- The Union Cabinet had in-principle approved divestment in Air India and the government followed it up by permitting foreign airlines to invest up to 49%, under the approval route, subject to certain conditions
- The Ministry is also in the process of moving amendments to the Act governing the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in the current session of the Parliament for better use of the entity’s land parcels.
- The focus is to leverage and monetise AAI’s balance sheet and facilitate a manifold increase in its spending, from the existing Rs. 3,000 crore annually.
- The AAI proposes to spend Rs. 18,000 crore over four years on upgrading of airports.
- Underscoring the significance of adequate resources so the growth of airports does not lag the growth of the aviation sector.
- Japan is facing a shortage of information technology professionals due to an ageing population and falling birth rate.
- India can fill the gap with its huge talent pool, executive vice-president of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), said.
IT professionals in Japan:
- There are about 920,000 IT professionals in Japan.
- There is an immediate demand for more than 200,000 professionals
- The shortage is likely to touch 800,000 by 2030.
- In 2016, there were 5,549 certified highly skilled foreign professionals registered in Japan.
- Of this 3,621 professionals were from China, 290 from the U.S. and 266 from India.
Easing of rules for issuance of green card:
- Japan eased rules for issuance of green card and permanent residency status for highly skilled professionals in April last year.
- The new norms shortened the required period for permanent residency to one year from five years earlier.
Easier to learn Japanese language for China:
- All the top Indian professionals are eager to go to the U.S.
- China is the most populous nation and it is easier for a Chinese to learn the Japanese language.
- It is also closer to Japan.
- Also, about 30,000 Japanese firms operate in China, much more than in U.S.
- In India 1,369 companies from Japan have set up base while only 71 Indian companies operate in Japan.
Japanese companies operating in India:
- Of the total number of Japanese companies operating in India, 220 are out of Maharashtra, 197 in Tamil Nadu and 162 in the National Capital Region.
U.S. new policy:
- The U.S. administration last month imposed curbs on H-1B visas affecting companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, which rely on the visas to do work for American firms.
- As per the new U.S. policy, companies will have to prove that its H-1B employee at a third-party site has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in a speciality occupation.
- Now on, H-1B visas would be valid only for the period for which the employee has work at a third-party site.
- Earlier, it was valid for three years at a time and the move came ahead of H-1B visa filing which starts on April 2.
Japan as a third largest investor for India:
- Japan has set an inward foreign investment target of $330 billion by 2020.
- Japan has become the third-largest investor for India after Mauritius and Singapore.
- Companies such as Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi have already initiated the process of establishing an R&D centre in India.
- Japan also eased rules for Indian travellers and from January this year, applicants do not require to submit their employment certificate and letters of explanation for multiple-entry visas.
- The number of documents to be submitted has been cut to three.
Science and Technology:
WHO launches plan for cheaper TB drugs(The Hindu)
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recently invited pharmaceutical companies around the world to submit proposals to manufacture affordable version of newer medicines for treatment of drug resistant tuberculosis.
- India has nearly 1.3 lakh DR-TB patients. However, the Health Ministry gets only 10,000 doses of Bedaquiline and 400 doses of Delaminid.
- The medicines are obtained as donations from Janssen(US) and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals(Japan), the respective manufacture.
- In the case of HIV, one company, Cipla, came up with a ‘AIDS cocktail’ combination of Stavudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, enabling effective treatment.
- The aim was to replicate the success of addressing the HIV epidemic.
- One of the aims is to achieve more competitive market and more affordable prices.
- Inclusion within the scope of PQ has also incentivised the development of fixed dose combinations, which have yielded much better results for patients.
Expression of Interest (EoI):
- WHO has requested drug makers to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) for Bedaquiline and Delaminid, two new-generation drugs, recommended for drug resistant-TB.
- Under WHO norms, drugs submitted upon such requests and complying with its standards are included in a list for procurement by the UN and other organisations.
Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS):
- Cheaper drugs to treat HIV became possible at the time as the Indian Patents Act did not provide for product patents on pharmaceutical products, until required by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- India became TRIPS compliant with pharma product patents in 2005.
Access to affordable drugs:
- With WHO’s backing, India will be able to accelerate introduction of generics.
- Inclusion of the two new drugs, Bedaquiline and Delaminid, in the pre-qualification call is being interpreted by aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as WHO’s backing for generics.
To address challenges of drug-resistant:
- WHO considers the two drugs key compounds to address challenges of drug-resistant TB.
- WHO also want to encourage generic competition to start finding ways to make these medicines available in countries where they are not yet registered.
- The EoI allows generics manufacturers interested in producing these two drugs, and currently facing technical challenges, to address their questions to WHO’s pre-qualification team.