The Russian ride: on Modi’s meeting with Putin
- Prime Minister Modi visit to Sochi for an informal summit with Russian president Putin.
2. Informal summit with Russia came soon after the Wuhan meeting with Chinese president Xi Jingping.
3.Aim of the meeting was to reset and rebalance bilateral ties between India and Russia that have weakened over the past few years.
4. In last few years, India is drifting closer to the U.S. and Russia to China.
5. Reasons for Prime Minister Visit to Russia are:
- Firstly, Prime Minister wanted to reassure Russia that new US law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, would not hit $12 billion trade of Military hardware and energy.
- Secondly, India want reassurance from Russia that Russia’s recent military exercises and helicopter sales to Pakistan as well as its outreach to the Afghan Taliban would hurt national security interests of India
- Thirdly, there is new push to strengthen relation driven by Global Instability caused by Donald Trump Administration. India appears to have decided it can no longer depend on consistency in the U.S.’s foreign policy.
6. A comprehensive shift in foreign policy must be accompanied by greater transparency. Informal summits of the kind in Sochi and Wuhan are also useful to break the ice and reset relations when needed.
7. Official outcomes of these Informal summits were that India and China will cooperate in Afghanistan, while India and Russia will coordinate on the Indo-Pacific.
8. India at the time of global flux is riding on two boats at once, one with US and its allies & Russia and China.
Narendra Modi to visit Indonesia, Singapore
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Indonesia and Singapore between May 29 and June 2 to boost India’s Act East Policy.
- The External Affairs Ministry has announced that during the tour the Prime Minister would focus on agreements in defence, skill development and connectivity.
- India’s interest in Indonesia
- India is interest on maritime domain awareness and Navy-to-Navy cooperation.
- India wants to renew its defence cooperation agreement.
- To reach an agreement in the areas of defence, space and science and technology.
- India wants to upgrade ports and airports of Indonesia. India would soon be getting access to the strategic port of Sabang on the Strait of Malacca.
- In Singapore Prime Minister is scheduled to take part in Shangri La Dialogue and express India’s view on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Shangri La Dialogue is a platform to articulate regional security issues.
Sheikh Hasina to have luncheon meeting with Modi
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the inauguration of Bangladesh Bhavana at the Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan.
- Both the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Rabindra Bhavana, the museum that houses Rabindranath’s original manuscripts, paintings, letters and sketches.
- Shantiniketan University founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921
- Bangladesh confirmed that in Santiniketan the sharing of water of the Teesta River will be discussed.
- Tariq Karim, a leading expert on India-Bangladesh ties observed that the real block for the Teesta agreement is that West Bengal has to sort out its problems internally with the Centre in India.
- Tariq Karim also observed that to offset Teesta India could do certain things like
- Upgradation of the Ganges water barrage
- Revisit Hasina-Singh agreement to change the narrative from sharing of waters, to managing the water basins.
- Tariq Karim also says that Bangladesh must influence India to pressurize Mayanmar for swift and sustainable return of Rohingyas.
Trump cancels summit with North Korea’s Kim
- U.S. President Donald Trump called off his planned June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which was to take place in Singapore.
- In March, Mr. Trump had accepted an offer from Mr. Kim of a summit, conveyed through South Korean interlocutors.
- But on Thursday US called of meeting blaming North Korea to show open hostility and anger. Trump in his letter to Mr. Kim said that it is inappropriate to have long-planned meeting at this time.
- Earlier in the day, North Korea demolished its nuclear test site in a series of huge explosions as a group of foreign journalists looked on. North Korea’s state media called the closure of the site part of a process to build “a nuclear-free, peaceful world” and “global nuclear disarmament.”
- In recent statement Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, talked of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” with the U.S, threatening to call off the summit.
- The statement from North Korea was in response to a statement from U.S Vice-President Mike Pence, in which he warned off a “Libya model” if Mr. Kim did not agree to denuclearise.
- Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi dismantled his nuclear programme in an agreement in 2004 but ended up murdered by political opponents supported by America in 2011.
- The leader of North Korea had met with South Korean President President Moon Jae-in, and traveled to China twice to meet with President Xi Jinping since the announcement of the summit.
For better protection of human rights
- The recently approved the Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018 seeks to empower the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC)
- Aim:Better protection and promotion of human rights in India
- It is an amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
- The amendment will make NHRC and SHRCs more compliant with the Paris Principle in terms of autonomy and will help the institutions effectively protect and promote human rights
- Key Proposals
- Proposes to include “National Commission for Protection of Child Rights” as deemed Member of the Commission
- Proposes one additional woman member in the composition of the Commission
- Proposes to enlarge the scope of eligibility and selection of Chairperson of NHRC as well as the State Human Rights Commission
- Proposes to incorporate a mechanism to look after the cases of human rights violation in the Union Territories
Clean Air India Initiative’ launched
- Prime Minister of Netherlands Mark Rutte launched the ‘Clean Air India Initiative’ in the national capital on Thursday.
- The campaign aims to curb air pollution in Indian cities.
- The Clean Air India Initiative is a collaborative project between Get In The Ring, the government of the Netherlands, Start-up India, and INDUS Forum, an online matchmaking platform of Indian and Dutch businesses.
- An ‘INDUS impact’ projects is initiated to curb the severe air pollution in Delhi.
- It aims to halt the hazardous burning of paddy stubble by promoting business partnerships that “upcycle” it.
- This entails using paddy straw as feedstock to make materials that would find use in construction and packaging — a technology and expertise that Dutch companies are keen to market in India.
- To solve the global problems Mark Rutte suggests
- Governments must articulate about the problems they want to solve
- bring together the right partners
- Channelise entrepreneurs in the right direction
- Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, said that Sustainable businesses present an opportunity to do social good, as they represent a for-profit orientation in the right framework.
- Experts estimating that 80% of India is not covered by AQM data collecting which is the first step toward monitoring and combating air pollution.
- This improves the business opportunities for Dutch firms for sale of equipment (such as sensors), data, and solutions concerning air quality monitoring (AQM).
Government order on coal supply may hit non-power sectors
- The Non power sector companies raise their concern over government’s decision to prioritise coal supply to power plants.
- The government’s decision to prioritise coal supply to power plants will impact other industries dependent on coal such as cement and aluminium.
- To address the shortage of coal with power plants government has instructed the companies such as Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) to supply coal only for power plants.
- According to data with the Central Electricity Authority, 17 power plants had super-critical (less than three days worth) of coal stocks while three power plants had critical (less than five days worth) of stocks.
- The Railway Board instructs all zonal railways on May 18 about loading of coal for power houses (i.e. plants of Central/State power utilities and IPPs) from goods sheds should be accorded higher priority till June 30, 2018. These instructions were made applicable from May 19 onwards.
- The CPP (captive power plant) consumers have signed fuel supply agreements (FSA) with CIL (Coal India Limited), which is a legally binding agreement with long-term coal supply assurance and hence abrupt stoppage of supply will bring the industry to a grinding halt.
- Captive power plant Association said that CIL’s coal supply to independent power producers (IPPs) had grown every year and by as much as 8.1% in 2017-18. But the supply to captive power plants contracted by 6.2% in 2016-17 and saw no growth in 2017-18.
- Stoppage of supply of coal to power industry would have a severe impact on the downstream industry like transmission and distribution, packaging, cement, consumer products, paper, tyre manufacturing, resulting in a loss of jobs for millions.
- Analysts blame government for its laxity regarding maintaining critical stocks and its untimely decision to stop all coal imports for power generation which increase the pressure on domestic supplies.
- Non power sector companies accuse the government to stop the supply of coal abruptly with a notice of few hours. Government doesn’t follow the normal practice of informing one month prior to make alternate arrangements.
Global warming may have ‘devastating’ effects on rice
- A report published in the journal Science Advances finds that due to rise of carbon dioxide, rice will lose some of its protein and vitamin content, putting millions of people at risk of malnutrition.
- The report is based on the field studies in Japan and China. Report finds that Carbon dioxide presence in atmosphere would reach 568 to 590 parts per million by the second half of this century from Current levels of 400 ppm.
- This can have devastating effects on the rice-consuming countries where about 70% of the calories and most of the nutrients come from rice.
- Countries which consume the most rice and have the lowest gross domestic product (GDP), such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are at high risk.
- Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide can have an impact on the nutrient content of plants we eat. Protein and vitamin deficiencies can lead to Stunting growth Birth defects, Diarrhea, Infections and early death.
- Other major findings are
- Iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 which help the body convert food to energy were all reduced in the rice grown under higher CO2 conditions.
- Vitamin B1 levels decreased by 17.1%
- Average Vitamin B2 decreased by 16.6%
Windfall oil tax on ONGC in offing to soften fuel prices
- The government is looking for various options to moderate the retail price of petrol and diesel.
- The government may levy a windfall tax on oil producers like Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC)
- The tax may come in the form of a Cess, will applicable when oil prices cross $70 per barrel. Oil producers, who get paid international rates for the oil they produce from domestic fields, would have to part with any revenue they earn from prices crossing $70 per barrel mark.
- It is argued that $70 per barrel threshold for the windfall tax is sufficient to cover for capital expenditure requirement of ONGC and other oil producers.
- The government may levy cess on all oil producers — both public and private sector — so as not to attract criticism of stifling State-owned explorers.
- A similar tax was considered in 2008 when oil prices were on the rise but the idea was dropped after stiff opposition from private sector firms like Cairn India.
- Windfall tax is levied in some of the developed countries globally.
- The U.K. in 2011 raised the tax rate to be applied to North Sea oil and gas profits when the price was above $75 per barrel.
- Second option is cut in Excise Duty. But, Finance Ministry is reluctant to cut excise duty as it has to ensure adequate funds are available to social welfare schemes.
- Government is also looking for providing Fuel subsidy to Oil producing companies like ONGC.
- These companies in turn would provide discounts on crude sold to downstream refining and marketing companies, IOC, BPCL, and HPCL. This discount helped the retailers make good a part of the losses they incurred on selling petrol and diesel below cost.
- The Centre levies Rs19.48 as excise duty on a litre of petrol and Rs15.33 on diesel. State sales tax or VAT varies from state to state. Unlike excise duty, VAT is ad valorem and results in higher revenues for the State when rates move up.
Government schools to get grants for buying sports equipment
- To promote sports in schools, central government has decided to grants fund to school for sports equipment.
- The grants for sports are an integral part of Samagra Shiksha Scheme.
Note: Samagra Shiksha a scheme provide to make school education an integrated whole from pre-school to Class-12.
- According to Ministry of Human Resource Development the government will provide every year money to all 11.5 lakh government schools for the purchase of sports equipment which include:
- Primary school will receive ₹5,000 for sports equipment.
- Upper primary school will receive ₹10,000.
- Secondary and senior secondary school will receive ₹25,000.
- At least minimum of one hour to be given daily for sports activity.
- Sachin Tendulkar in his maiden speech highlighted that sports should be seen as important as School Curriculum.
- The government has paid attention to learning outcomes to check and overcome the low-quality education.
Divided by the Brexit Debate
- A by-election is to be held in UK which is crucial in gauging the mood of both the nation and the stand on the Labour Party with respect to BREXIT.
- The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Heidi Alexander,a popular anti-Brexit MP,
- Janet Daby, a Labour candidate who supports remaining in the European single market as well as the customs union, won the internal party contest.
- The by-election has reignited debate within the party about the direction of its strategy on Brexit, it has also highlighted the contradictory pulls on the party. Thus, the Labour party may be forced to specify EU exit strategy as internal rifts intensify
- Since the referendum, Labour has insisted that it had to abide by the decision of voters. “Labour respects the result of the referendum and Britain is leaving the EU,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said. Even though Mr Corbyn is personally of the opinion that remaining in Europe was in Britain’s best interests.
- Some analysts are of the opinion that more vigorous campaigning in favour of remaining from the Labour leadership could have yielded a different referendum result.
- Contradictions within the party:
- 83 members of the House of Lords defied a party whip to not vote for an amendment requiring the government to negotiate membership of the single market (the Labour Party is officially against remaining in the single market but wants some form of customs union membership).
- uncertainty has offered space for the resurgence of some of the older, centrist voices of the party, such as former leader Tony Blair, who in a blog warned that the party risked alienating voters, with its stance that offered the “worst of both worlds” convincing neither Remainers nor Leavers that it was taking up their fight.
- Four northern Labour MPs joined forces to demand the party’s support for a second referendum
- A poll of Labour party members recently found that over three-quarters wanted Britain to remain in the single market and the customs union, while leaders of Labour students and Young Labour came together to urge the party leadership to hold a vote on Brexit at a forthcoming conference.
- What is expected from the Labour party:
- Clarity on the party’s position on Brexit.
- What it means by “Customs Union Membership” which it seeks to negotiate during brexit.
- Would it be able to get the same benefits coming out of EU as it had while it was a member of EU.
- Would it be willing to oppose Brexit if those criteria were not met?
- Various Leave Campaign groups have been pushing for Brexit vigorously. This is reflected in their overspending. These investigations have encouraged a number of campaign groups that have sprung up to fill a political vacuum left by the two main political parties’ stand on Brexit. The campaigns being investigated include:
- Leave.EU, one of the main campaign groups, was fined over £70,000 for breaching spending limits by Britain’s Electoral Commission, while its CEO was referred to the police by electoral authorities.
- Vote Leave, the official leave campaign, supported by senior members of the cabinet, is under investigation for breaching the spending limits.
- People’s Vote,is a cross-party group pushing for a public vote on any final Brexit deal reached with the European Union (EU).
- Voting trends in 2015 General elections and the Brexit:
- 61% of those who voted Conservative in the 2015 general election voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum
- About 65% of those who had voted Labour in 2015 voted to remain.
- A number of northern Labour constituencies voted heavily to leave (despite, in many cases, having Labour MPs who campaigned to remain).
Seller beware: homebuyers and Bankruptcy Code
- The Union Cabinet decision to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), give a relief to home buyers.
- The Union Cabinet has cleared an ordinance amending the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), a law which came into force in November 2016 to hasten the process of winding up failed businesses.
- The government has refused to give details of the amendment.
- The amendment is expected to offer better treatment to homebuyers when it comes to recovering their dues from bankrupt companies.
- A 14-member panel formed by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had recommended last month that homebuyers should be treated as financial creditors during the bankruptcy resolution process.
- But economically, homebuyers are not like traditional creditors such as banks and institutional investors, they do not offer their money in expectation of excess returns.
- Homebuyers are only customer to real estate developers who want the delivery of their house that was promised to them.
- The amendment is expected to reduce the inconsistencies between the IBC and the Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA).
- RERA was introduced with the goal of protecting the rights of buyers by ensuring the timely and honest delivery of homes. RERA have had a relatively low status among the various stakeholders in a bankruptcy proceeding.
- The removal of this inconsistency can help courts deliver better justice to homebuyers in the future.
- In Jaypee Insolvency Case SC had to intervene in the Bankruptcy resolution Process to uphold the right of homebuyers.
- Upholding the right of homeowner could impact the real estate developers and large creditors like banks. But it will help in the development of a transparent and more efficient real estate market.