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Insights Daily Current Events, November 06, 2013

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November 06, 2013

NATIONAL

It’s for Centre to decide on opinion polls: Election Commission

  • The Election Commission (EC) has deferred the matter regarding ‘ban on opinion polls’ and has instead asked the Centre Govt. to take a call on this matter.

  • At present, the ban on displaying election material, including election survey results — under Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 — applies only to the electronic media, cinematograph or other similar apparatuses and not to the print media. Similarly, the ban on conducting or publicizing an exit poll is valid from the commencement of poll hours for the first phase till the end of poll for the last phase.

  • The proposal to defer the matter to the government is part of a list of electoral reforms the EC has sent to the government.

Earlier in 2004 at the all-party meeting:

  • The EC had recommended placing some restriction on the publication of results of Opinion/Exit Polls. “Such a restriction would only be in the wider interests of free and fair elections”. Opposing the argument that dissemination of survey results was linked to right to information, the EC has opined that election results have, in the past, differed from the predictions made on the basis of exit polls: “Thus, the information claimed to be disseminated turned out to be disinformation in many cases.”

  • The EC recommended that there should be a restriction on publishing the results of such poll surveys for a specified period during the election process, as prevailed in many western democracies.

  • The all-party meeting was convened in April 2004 after the Supreme Court struck down the EC’s 1998 order issuing guidelines on regulating opinion and exit polls. The Supreme Court had then observed that the EC did not have the power to enforce the guidelines. Later, the guidelines were withdrawn.

  • It was decided by all members at the 2004 meeting that conducting of opinion polls and publishing of their results should be proscribed from the day of issue of notifications till the completion of the polls.

Criticism:

  • Critics have opposed the ban, since Prohibition of publication of opinion/exit polls would be a breach of Article 19(a) of the Constitution of India.

  • However, some political parties are pro- banning of opinion polls- as this would influence the minds of the voters and such polls does not reflect the correct opinion as they are usually conducted by different agencies and restricted to limited voters.

Article 19:

  • The Constitution of India provides the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights.

  • The right to freedom in Article 19(a) guarantees the Freedom of speech and expression, as one of following six freedoms – 19 (b)- Right to assembly; 19(c)-association; 19(d)-movement; 19(e)-residence; 19(f)- profession.

UNESCO could declare Darjeeling toy train ‘endangered’, fears MoS

  • Fearing that the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) – declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1999 – may lose the status unless renovation of the damaged railway tracks is undertaken, Minister of State for Railways has urged the West Bengal government to begin work immediately.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

India starts historic mission to Mars

  • The nation’s prestigious interplanetary mission to Mars got off to a flying start on 05th November, 2013.

  • The spacecraft first going into orbit around the earth signalled the start of its 300-day voyage to the Red Planet. If everything goes well during its challenging journey through deep space, it will be put into the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

  • The Mars orbiter has five scientific payloads, all built by the ISRO centres – A colour camera for optical imaging of the Earth’s surface; a methane sensor; a thermal infrared camera to study geological activity; a Lyman Alpha Photometer to study the Martian atmosphere; and a payload to study the neutral composition of the planet’s upper atmosphere.

Mission highlights are:

  • It was the longest PSLV mission at 44 minutes — the previous missions lasted about 18 minutes.

  • This was the silver jubilee lift-off of the PSLV. Out of the 25 launches, 24 had been successful in a row.

  • The Mission symbolises India’s assured access to space.

Debate over ‘space race’ in China:

  • However, the launch has promoted a debate over ‘space race’ in China, which failed in its bid to put into orbit a Mars mission just two years (2011) ago.

  • China was of the view that the international community should ‘make joint efforts’ to ensure “peace and sustainable development” of outer space.

  • China has itself made great strides in its space programme, most notably going forward with ambitious plans to put up its own space station in 2020. China’s technology is lagging behind only that of the U.S. and Russia. Earlier in 2013, China launched its fifth manned space mission and became only the third country to carry out a docking exercise in space, between its spacecraft and an orbiting laboratory module.

INTERNATIONAL

India, China begin joint drills with focus on terror

  • India and China have begun a 10-day joint military drill on counterterrorism — the first such exercise between the two sides in five years, in Miaoergang, a town southwest of ‘Chengdu’ — the provincial capital of the western Sichuan province (southwestern China) aimed at boosting trust between the militaries.

  • The two contingents will conduct counter-terrorism drills involving tactical hand signals, arrest and escort, hostage rescue, joint attacks and ‘a comprehensive anti-terror combat drill’.

  • Just a week before (Last week of October, 2013) had both countries signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to expand confidence-building measures (CBMs). The drill is in this direction.

  • Chengdu is the headquarters of one of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) seven Military Area Commands (MACs). The Chengdu MAC holds responsibility for the entire Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as the middle and eastern sections of the border with India.

  • The larger objective is to expand confidence and trust between two militaries, which are often grappling with tensions along the border.

Background:

  • This is the third round of the “hand-in-hand” drills that the two countries initiated in 2007 in Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan province. The second round was held in Belgaum, Karnataka, the following year.

  • Defence exchanges were suspended for more than a year in 2009, after China refused to host the then head of the Northern Command, citing its “sensitivities” on Kashmir. The move had came amid a disputed over China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Later, India agreed to resume defence ties after China withdrew the stapled visa policy, following the former Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in 2010.

M23 fighters in eastern Congo end rebellion

  • M23 (rebel group) in eastern Congo would be ending its rebellion after more than a year and a half of fighting as the Congolese military seized the last two hills held by the fighters.

  • The group would seek to resolve its grievances through “political means only”.

  • The dramatic developments came after the Congolese military, backed by the U.N. forces, stepped up its offensive against the rebels in October, 2013 as peace talks once again stalled.

  • Residents of Goma, a city of 1 million people that the M23 briefly overtook one year ago, expressed cautious optimism that the end of M23 could stabilise the area wracked by a myriad of rebel groups and militias.

  • However, critics have cautioned that M23 is only the latest reincarnation of discontent among ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo, and warned that other groups could emerge from its demise. M23 is said to have received military and financial support from the government of neighbouring Rwanda, whose president is also an ethnic Tutsi. But, Rwanda has denied this (the aid) despite evidence laid out in a report by a United Nations group of experts.

NSA spying outrageous, says Google chief

  • It’s now Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman’s turn to condemn the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance activities – describing it as “outrageous” and “possibly illegal”.

  • The documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed covert surveillance of the company’s internal server data.

  • The NSA had secretly broke into the main communications links connecting Yahoo and Google data centres across the world, positioning itself to ‘collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans’.

ECONOMICS

Oil imports from Iran drop sharply

  • Crude oil imports from Tehran have dropped by over 40% this year (2013).

  • With declining imports from Iran and no resolution to the rupee mechanism issue, the Centre government has already worked on a plan to substitute its imports from Iran by increasing its crude oil purchase basket from countries such as Iraq, Venezuela and Oman.

  • Earlier, Iran had opposed the 100% rupee payment mechanism, and had refused to ship oil deliveries under this mechanism. It was going back to the 45% rupee mechanism payment system, and the balance had to be paid either in euro, yen or rouble.

  • India and Iran had opened negotiations in October, 2013 to arrive at some settlement on the issue, but are yet to resolve the issue.

  • Similarly, the failure to make the oil insurance pool fund operational had badly impacted imports as major refiners in public and private sectors have been unable to source their crude imports from Iran due to lack of proper insurance coverage. The Rs.2,000-crore fund was to be financed through the contribution of Rs.1,000 crore by the Petroleum Ministry and a similar amount by state insurers, led by GIC.

  • But, the Petroleum Ministry is yet to release its first installment (Rs.500 crore) to make the fund operational, which is hampering imports.

  • Recently, it was said that India was targeting 13 million tonnes of oil import from Iran in 2013-14. Till October, 2013 India had imported around two million tones and the remaining 11 million tonnes would be realized during the remaining time period.

Background:

  • India has been, since July, 2011, paying in euro to clear 55% of its purchases of Iranian oil through Ankara-based Halkbank. The remaining amount due was remitted in rupee form in the accounts of Iranian National Oil Company in Kolkata-based UCO Bank. Payments in euro through Turkey ceased from February 6th, 2013 but the rupee payments for 45% of the purchases continued through UCO Bank. Iran later agreed to take all of the payments in rupees.

(Rupee payment helps save foreign exchange outgo, thereby reducing Current Account Deficit (CAD))

Article on ‘Patient rights and Doctor’s Accountability’

  • The issue is regarding ‘patients rights’ & ‘protection of the doctors’ incase of medical negligence. In some cases, medical negligence has even led to permanent life-impairment of the patient by over-dosage of anesthesia or when the treatment gone wrong.

  • On this lines, the recent Supreme Court’s verdict for a record compensation of Rs.5.9 crore (which is almost 3 times the amount of compensation originally determined by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) in a case of medical negligence strikes the right balance between the irreversibility of the loss of a precious human life and holding the medical fraternity to account for dereliction of duty.

  • Incase of criminal culpability of medical practitioners- the police is not allowed to proceed against doctors for negligence, unless authorised by expert medical opinion. This has also guaranteed legal protection to doctors to facilitate instantaneous and cashless treatment of victims of road accidents.

  • This was upheld by the SC in its 2009 verdict – ‘for negligence to amount to an offence, criminal intent on the part of medical practitioners would have to be established’. The Calcutta High Court had earlier acquitted two doctors, though it affixed civil responsibility.

The High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage of the Planning Commission in its report had recommended that:

  • There was a need for mandatory accreditation of all medical facilities in the public and private sectors and an independent evaluation of their performance, as the health care system in India (both public and private)   functions under sub-optimal conditions.

  • And a health regulatory authority to develop legal, financial and regulatory norms to regulate the health sector so that main focus would be ‘patient’s well-being’ and not ‘profit-making’.

  • According to World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standards- there should be ‘1 doctor per 1000 people’. But India’s doctor-to-population ratio is well below the stipulated standard’s –this needs to be given due consideration.

  • While fixing accountability is important, a holistic approach and effort is needed to realise the mission/aim of the medical professionals i.e., ‘to heal the sick and to create a disease-free environment for healthy living’.

(The medical professionals operate within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act)

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