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Q.1) French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India stands out for its strategic content. What are these major strategic takeaways from President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to India? (GS – 2)

Context:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘fairly successful’ visit to India paves way for a ‘clear roadmap’ for heightened Indo-French engagement over a range of areas from clean energy, education, trade, space, defence ties to maritime cooperation and geopolitics.

Major strategic takeaways from President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to India:

The agreements and discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Emmanuel Macron to strengthen strategic partnership are as follows:

  • The two leaders welcomed the signing of the “Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Republic of France regarding the Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information” between India and France.
  • Both sides also agreed to create an annual defence dialogue at the ministerial level.
  • The leaders also welcomed the “Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region”, as a guiding beacon for such partnership.
  • The two leaders welcomed the signing of the “Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Republic of France for the provision of reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces”, which seeks to extend logistical support on reciprocal access to respective facilities for Indian and French armed forces.
  • The two leaders noted with satisfaction the on-schedule progress in the implementation of acquisition related agreements, including the Rafale aircraft agreement signed in 2016.
  • They acknowledged that the Make-in-India initiative offers a valuable opportunity for Indian and French defence enterprises to enter into arrangements for co-development and co-production of defence equipment in India.
  • The leaders noted ongoing discussions between DRDO and SAFRAN on combat aircraft engine and encouraged necessary measures and forward looking approaches to facilitate early conclusion.
  • The two leaders agreed to strengthen counter-terrorism in Multilateral Fora such as UN, GCTF, FATF and G20 etc.
  • They called upon all UN member countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities.
  • The leaders also agreed to work together on early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN.
  • They also appreciated the long-standing relations and continuing interactions between their nuclear regulatory authorities, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and France’s Autorité de sûretéNucléaire (ASN) which have facilitated sharing of valuable experiences, best practices and developments related to nuclear safety and regulatory issues.

Q.2) What do you think are the reasons of replacing Simple ballot paper with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Can EVMs be tampered with? GS – 2

Introduction:

  • Electronic Voting Machines (“EVM”) are being used in Indian General and State Elections to implement electronic voting in part from 1999 elections and recently in 2017 state elections held in five states across India.
  • EVMs have replaced paper ballots in local, state and general (parliamentary) elections in India.

Need of EVM over simple ballot paper:

  • EVMs have had several advantages over ballot paper. They are as follows:
  • The foremost being the elimination of invalid votes.
  • A statistical exercise found that in more than 300 of the 36,000-odd seats where elections were held over the years, invalid votes were significant enough to have affected the mandate.
  • The EVM has rendered the invalid vote moot.
  • A paper by Brookings India also found that EVMs reduced electoral fraud and re-polling due to electoral rigging, and made elections a safe affair, thereby enhancing voter turnout.

Tempering of Electronic Voting Machine:

  • Unlike voting machines in some countries which are connected to a network, Indian EVMs are standalone.
  • Tampering an EVM through the hardware port or through a Wi-Fi connection is not possible as there is no frequency receiver or wireless decoder in the EVM machine.
  • For EVMs to be manipulated at the manufacturing level is impossible as there is no prior way in which the order of the candidate can be known besides the location where the EVMs will be used.
  • In addition, VVPAT machines now display the voter’s choice, thereby bringing an extra layer of verification.  

Q.3) Write short notes on:

a) 20:80 gold import scheme of 2013-14 (GS – 3)

b) National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) (GS – 3)

20:80 gold import scheme of 2013-14 (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • In response to a stressed current account deficit in 2012-13 due to a surge in gold imports, the government at the time introduced an import scheme in 2013, which mandated that 20% of all gold imports would have to be exported.
  • At the time of its implementation, the 20:80 scheme was open only to banks and to public sector companies such as the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation and the State Trading Corporation of India.
  • In May 2014, the RBI in consultation with the government widened the scheme to also allow Premium Trading Houses (PTH) and Star Trading Houses (STH), both private sector entities, to import gold.

Objective:

  • The scheme was designed to restrict the import of gold, conserve foreign exchange by imposing export obligations, and ensure that the premium from purchase and sale of gold resided in the hands of public agencies.
  • Review of the scheme:
  • According to the Commerce Ministry, a review of the scheme found that since liberalisation in May 2014, gold imports had increased substantially, averaging about 140-150 tonnes a month.
  • Within this, the government found that gold imported by STHs and PTHs increased 320% following the May 2014 decision compared with the earlier period.
  • The share of these entities in the total gold imported into the country also increased from 20% before May to 60% after, according to the government.
  • The government on November 28, 2014 scrapped the 20:80 scheme and removed all restrictions on gold imports.

b) National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • The Centre recently approved the proposal to set up the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), intended to serve as an independent regulator for the auditing profession.
  • Basis for the move:
  • Section 132 of the Companies Act, 2013 gives the Centre the power to set up such an authority.
  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also recommended that the National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards proposed in the Companies Bill, 2009 be institutionalised.

Powers and Functions:

  • National Financial Reporting Authority can recommend to the Centre about:
  • formulation of accounting and auditing standards and policies to be adopted by companies and auditors;
  • monitor and enforce such standards and policies;
  • oversee quality of services of the professions associated with the compliance of these standards and policies.
  • It can also investigate into professional matters or misconduct of any member or a firm of chartered accountants.
  • It can issue summons and examine on oath; it can also inspect any book, registers and documents of any professional/firms probed.
  • It may impose penalties and even powers to debar a member of a firm.
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