December 04, 2013
Communal violence Bill
- The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 was crafted by the National Advisory Council (NAC).
- The bill aims at creating a framework for preventing pogroms such as the attacks on Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and the provision of relief for victims of such violence. It has kicked up a storm with some people criticizing it as “draconian” and “anti-Hindu” and others dismissing it as “toothless and meaningless”.
- Broadly, the bill targets acts that result in injury and were directed against persons because of their affiliation to any group. Such acts include sexual assault, hate propaganda, torture and organized communal violence.
- The bill creates a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice, and Reparation, charged with preventing acts of communal violence and monitoring investigations into incidents.
- It also covers the punishment of officials who fail to discharge their duties in an unbiased manner during outbreaks of such violence.
- According to the Bill, only violence against a minority community is considered communal violence. Hence critics argue why not violence against the majority community should not be considered as communal.
- The bill’s attempt to correct institutional bias against religious and linguistic minorities has drawn fire from Hindu nationalists, who see it as evidence of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s appeasement of Muslims.
- The Bill is viewed as a threat to India’s communal harmony
- State Govt’s argue that ‘law and order’ and ‘public order’ are State subjects, and several provisions of this Bill encroach on the federal structure of the Constitution.
Union Government to have powers to resolve water-sharing disputes in new States
- The Union Govt. will have the powers to decide the sharing of water resources and assets in the river basins (Krishna and Godavari) between Andhra Pradesh and proposed Telangana after the bifurcation, if the two are unable to do so through a mutual agreement within specified time.
- If the two States, after the bifurcation, are unable to resolve sharing of utilisable water in the river basins within one year, the Centre will be empowered to take the decision unilaterally by the end of the second year. In the case of projects running in these basins, the States would get two years to arrive at the sharing formula in consultation with the Centre failing which, again the Union government would step in to do so unilaterally in the third year after creation of the State (the sharing of water resources has been one of the most contentious points in the creation of the Telangana State.)
- The Centre also proposed to set up a river management board. The board will be funded by the two State governments on the basis of a formula that would be decided on the benefit-sharing ratios.
- This board would regulate the implementation of the benefit-sharing agreement struck either between the States or by the Centre either on water supply or on power generated.
- The board shall hold powers to regulate irrigation, water supply, hydro-power, navigation and terms of industrial use of river resources. In order to avoid any enduring battle between the two States over specific projects or critical water resources, the centre would have the veto in case dispute arises between the States on the powers of the board.
- This would provide the way to resolve ownership and benefit-sharing issues that the Centre believes could emerge in case of large, controversial and on-going projects such as the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project.
IIMC to become institute of national importance
- The government has decided to upgrade the 48-year-old Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) to a degree-awarding ‘Institute of National Importance’.
- These institutes will be able to design, develop and offer programs which they consider relevant and appropriate for the national needs.
- After the upgrade, IIMC would award degrees, in addition to postgraduate diplomas it was now offering. The institute would also be able to award M.Phil and PhD degrees and carry out research to enhance its role as a think tank on communication and media as was originally envisaged by representatives of UNESCO and renowned mass communication specialists from India and abroad.
India offers help to destroy Syrian chemical weapons
- India, an aspirant to next month’s international conference on Syria, has offered the services of its experts to help in destruction of Damascus’ chemical weapons arsenal.
- In addition, it has offered to contribute $1 million towards this effort by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
- India had demonstrated its expertise a couple of years ago during an exercise in Tunisia.
- The percentage of Indians in the OPCW inspection worldwide has always been high and Indian laboratories, especially the one at Gwalior.
- The Indian offer of financial assistance is timely because a meeting of OPCW’s Conference of State Parties is underway at The Hague to consider measures to ensure compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and decide on the programme and the scale of financial contributions to be paid by its members.
- While all production facilities in Syria have shut down, there is this unfinished business of destroying the chemical weapons stocks, and destruction.
- India is offering its experts not only for destruction and verification, but to train personnel participating in the UN/OPCW mission as well. India is one of the founder signatories to the CWC and, as a chemical weapons possessor state, has fully completed destruction of its weapons in accordance with the Convention.
(To know more about OPCW, CWC refer our ‘Insights Current Event Analysis October, 2013)
Iran opposes Afghan-U.S. pact
- Iran has firmly opposed the proposed security pact between Afghanistan and the U.S, highlighting that differences on crucial issues between Iran and U.S will persist, despite the game-changing nuclear deal that was signed in Geneva in November, 2013. (The Iran’s position is exactly opposite to the stance adopted by the West)
- According to Iran, the proposed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghan and U.S. will not serve the government of Afghanistan, its people or the region. (The BSA would give legal backing for a part of American troops(around of 8,000 to 12,000 troops) to stay beyond 2014, in Afghanistan)
- The security pact has stimulated a heated debate inside Afghanistan and beyond. It is feared that, the positioning of U.S. forces would have an impact not only on the stability of Afghanistan, but of neighbouring countries as well, including China, Pakistan, India, Iran, the Central Asian Republics and Russia. It might also lead to extremism in Afghanistan.
- However, the NATO Secretary General has warned that if Afghan fails to sign the security deal with the U.S., then NATO would also withdraw its training and advisory mission in Afghanistan after 2014.
U.N. launches drones in DR Congo
- The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has officially launched a surveillance drone in the strife-torn northeast in the first such move by the United Nations.
- The U.N. mission in the DR Congo, MONUSCO, currently has two such drones.
- The drones, which are unarmed and exclusively equipped for surveillance flights, are intended to help the U.N.to watch over North Kivu, a mineral-rich province prey to dozens of armed movements, which MONUSCO troops have been ordered to neutralise, including by force.
- The aircraft will also be used to survey the porous borders between North Kivu and Rwanda and Uganda, in a bid to prevent these countries from providing support to groups inside DR Congo. However, Rwanda and Uganda have denied the charges of backing the M23.
- The U.N. accused both neighbouring countries of backing a powerful rebel group, the M23, which surrendered in November, 2013 after a joint assault by the Congolese army and a new UN special intervention brigade.
More about MONUSCO – UNO Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- MONUSCO took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation – the United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) – on 1 July 2010.
- The new mission was authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate relating, among other things, to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.
- Future reconfigurations of MONUSCO would be determined as the situation evolved on the ground, including: the completion of ongoing military operations in North and South Kivu as well as the Orientale provinces; improved government capacity to protect the population effectively; and the consolidation of state authority throughout the territory.
Courtesy – http://monusco.unmissions.org/
(To know more about disputes in Congo & M23 refer our ‘Insights Current Event Analysis October, 2013)
EGoM approves M&A norms for telecom
- The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Telecom, has approved the ‘mergers and acquisitions’ (M&A) guidelines, besides clearing the sale of over 400 MHz of 2G spectrum (1800 MHz band ), a move that would help further growth and consolidation of the cellular phone market in the country.
- The clearance of 400 MHz of 2G spectrum is valued at about Rs.36,000 crore, as per the reserve price recommended by the Telecom Commission, the Department of Telecommunications’ highest decision-making body.
- The Telecom Commission had already approved the draft M&A guidelines, which says that the market share of a merged entity should not exceed 50% of the subscriber base.
CICs can raise funds via ECB
- The RBI has allowed holding companies or core investment companies (CICs) to raise funds through external commercial borrowings (ECB) for project use in special purpose vehicles (SPVs) involved in infrastructure sector.
- The ECB proceeds would be utilized either for fresh capital expenditure (capex) or for refinancing of existing rupee loans availed of from the domestic banking system for capex.
- However, the RBI said that an earlier stipulation that maximum 25% of ECB raised by the infrastructure companies can be utilised for refinancing of the rupee loans availed from the domestic banking system (40% in case of power sector) would remain unchanged.
- The ECB for SPV can be raised up to 3 years after the commercial operations date of the SPV and the SPV should give an undertaking that no other method of funding will be utilized for that portion of fresh capital expenditure financed through ECB proceeds.
What do you mean by external commercial borrowings (ECB)?
- An external commercial borrowing (ECB) is an instrument used in India to facilitate the access to foreign money by Indian corporations and PSUs (public sector undertakings).
- ECBs include commercial bank loans, buyers’ credit, suppliers’ credit, securitised instruments such as floating rate notes and fixed rate bonds etc., credit from official export credit agencies and commercial borrowings from the private sector window of multilateral financial Institutions such as International Finance Corporation (Washington), ADB, AFIC, CDC, etc.
- ECBs cannot be used for investment in stock market or speculation in real estate.
- The DEA (Department of Economic Affairs), Ministry of Finance, Government of India along with Reserve Bank of India, monitors and regulates ECB guidelines and policies.
- For infrastructure and greenfield projects, funding up to 50% (through ECB) is allowed. In telecom sector too, up to 50% funding through ECBs is allowed.
- Borrowers can use 25% of the ECB to repay rupee debt and the remaining 75% should be used for new projects. A borrower cannot refinance its existing rupee loan through ECB. The money raised through ECB is cheaper given near-zero interest rates in the US and Europe, Indian companies can repay their existing expensive loans from that.
What do you mean by a holding company?
- A holding company is a company or firm that owns other companies’ outstanding stock. The term usually refers to a company that does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies.
- Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow the ownership and control of a number of different companies. In the United States, 80% or more of stock, in voting and value, must be owned before tax consolidation benefits such as tax-free dividends can be claimed.
Courtesy – Wikipedia
What are core investment companies (CICs)?
- Core Investment Companies, (CIC) are those companies which have their assets predominantly as investments in shares for holding stake in group companies but not for trading, and also do not carry on any other financial activity.
- These companies a minimum 90% of their assets in the group concerns either in the form of equity, preference shares or convertibles bonds or loans. Further the component of equity holdings should not be less than 60% of their assets.
- RBI has now recognized that such CICs justifiably deserve a differential treatment in the regulatory prescription applicable to Non-Banking Financial Companies which are non-deposit taking and systemically important.
- It is now decided by RBI that only those CICs having an asset size of Rs.100 crore and above would be treated as systemically important core investment companies.
Courtesy – www.iibf.org.in/documents/Core_Investment_Companies.doc
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
(This is in regard to Achievements of Indian’s in S & T)
CCMB scientists throw new light on evolution of life
- Indian scientists have solved one of nature’s mysteries related to evolution of life on earth.
- Scientists from the Structural Biology Laboratory of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have shown the precise mechanism through which all organisms, including human beings, exclude D-amino acids from protein synthesis.
- This finding has far-reaching implications both in terms of understanding the evolution of life and also in designing better synthetic biology strategies for making more diverse engineered proteins.
- Proteins carry out most of the biological processes in a living cell from the simplest bacteria to complex humans. Consisting of the basic building blocks known as amino acids which are linked together like a chain which in turn folds to perform specific cellular tasks like metabolic reactions, regulation of genes and providing defence against pathogens. And the manner in which most of the biological processes are carried out depends on the way the amino acids are assembled to form proteins.
- An enzyme called DTD was responsible for excluding D-amino acids from infiltrating into proteins during their synthesis. The study revealed one of the fundamental processes in evolution of life.