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Insights Daily Current Events, December 10, 2013

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December 10, 2013

NATIONAL

 Role of NOTA in the recent State Elections

  • ‘None of the Above (NOTA)’ is an option given to the voters for the 1st time to reject all contestants.
  • Though there has been a difference in opinion on the impact and relevance of NOTA across the political group, in the tribal areas the actual impact of NOTA could be felt.
  • While in Chhattisgarh, 3.07% of the valid votes went to NOTA the highest among the four States in which elections were held; Delhi recorded 0.63 %.
  • In Chhattisgarh even a marginal difference in vote share makes or mars government formation. This time, the difference is less than 0.75% between the winning BJP and the Congress.
  • Following the trend, it would be realized that the political parties should put up acceptable candidates and avoid dubious ones; though some may disagree, as it has made less impact on the outcome of the elections. For instance Delhi recorded a meager 0.63% and in Mizoram very few exercised the choice, with figures ranging from 36 to less than 200 hits.
  • According to a leader of a political party, “All NOTA has done is to give voters a right to exercise, which is a fundamental right; but there was neither clarity on what it meant nor its consequences.
  • However, going through the results for every State, it is obvious that in more than 60 % of the constituencies, the third highest number of votes went to NOTA. This suggests that the option attracted those who never go to vote, possibly out of disenchantment with the system and has provided voters with an opportunity to express themselves rather than abstaining.

Facts & Figures:

  • The NOTA’s figures in the Left Wing Extremists-dominated areas of Bastar may as well be an expression of disenchantment with electoral politics, as espoused by the Maoists, as it may be an individual voter’s dislike for the candidates in fray in places like Chitrakot, where more than 10,000 voters chose the option. In the Konta constituency in Chhattisgarh, where CPI candidate Manish Kunjam secured third position, the difference of votes was just 2,100, whereas 4,000 voters chose NOTA.
  • Interestingly, the percentage of NOTA voters was high in the tribal belts of Rajasthan, compared with urban areas. The total percentage of NOTA in the State was 1.92 %.

 India’s mid-day meal scheme ranked 12th among lower-middle-income countries

  • A global report by the World Food Project (WFP) for 2013 on 169 countries has said that India has the largest school feeding programme in the world, catering to over 114 million children, but stands 12th among 35 lower-middle-income countries covering 79% of its total number of school-going children.
  • The report “State of School Feeding Worldwide, 2013” draws from a global survey conducted by WFP in 2012.
  • The report lauds India’s mid-day meal scheme as a ‘good example of a mixed implementation approach’ with two procurement processes-
    • for food grains, which are subsidized Centrally through the government-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI), and
    • for other items like fresh fruits or vegetables, procured at the State level.
  • The report notes that gross primary enrolment grew between 2001-2002 and 2007-2008 in India, following the implementation of the mid-day meal programme, particularly among Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  • However, the report adds an important rider – “school feeding can only help if the other major elements that are prerequisites for learning such as teachers, textbooks, curriculum and an environment conducive to learning are also in place.” It warns that care should be taken to avoid using teachers or education staff to prepare food, since this merely taxes the system that school-feeding programmes aim to enhance.
  • The report also says that the nutritional impact of the programme is yet to be evaluated. The links with health and nutrition could be strengthened considerably by better coordination between sectors. Other weaknesses remain, such as insufficient allocation of budget for food transportation and infrastructure. Add to it, even late disbursement of government funds too has a negative impact.
  • In a significant recommendation, the report proposes linking the programme to the agriculture sector which ‘can potentially benefit the entire community as well as the children.’ Countries like Brazil, Chile and Scotland have demonstrated the effectiveness of purchasing school food locally in order to simultaneously “feed children better and stimulate the local economy.”

 More about Mid-day meal Scheme:

  • The Mid Day Meal Scheme is a multi-faceted programme of the Government of India that, among other things, seeks to address issues of food security, lack of nutrition and access to education on a pan nation scale.
  • It involves provision for free lunch on working days for children in Primary and Upper Primary Classes in Government, Government Aided, Local Body, Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) and Alternate Innovative Education (AIE) Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Ministry of Labour.

The objectives of the mid-day meal scheme are:

  • Improving the nutritional status of children in classes I-V in Government, Local Body and Government   aided schools, and EGS and AIE centres.
  • Encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities.
  • Providing nutritional support to children of primary stage in drought affected areas during summer vacation.

Courtesy- http://www.archive.india.gov.in/sectors/education/index.php?id=7 & Wikipedia

 Military security, public interest ignored in Adarsh housing: PAC

  • In its report on the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Defence Ministry has said a group of select officials holding key posts have subverted rules and regulations, suppressed facts and took cover under  welfare of servicemen and war widows and children in cornering prime public land in Mumbai.

What does the report say?

  • The committee, chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, has deplored the “cavalier manner in which the serious issue of security was overlooked to the detriment of the security installation” by the Ministry. This despite the fact that the 31-storey Adarsh building has security imperatives as per its own admission.
  • According to the PAC, the Ministry and military authorities ignored these aspects when the building was coming up. But they had admitted before the panel that there was a security issue as the ‘Adarsh building is the tallest one and facilitated observation of military vehicles and personnel moving into and out of the Colaba Military Station.
  • It criticised the Ministry for “non-cooperation with the audit” with a view to blocking parliamentary scrutiny.
  • Regarding NoC (no-objection certificate) that was given to the society, the Ministry said it was issued by local defence authorities because of mismanagement of defence land, poor record keeping and lack of mutation of land already in the possession of the armed forces.
  • The multiplicity of agencies managing defence land contributed to the maladministration, with no centralised information available on the holdings.
  • Terming this a ‘monumental failure at all levels of governance,’ the PAC lamented that the public servants entrusted with safeguarding the public trust had brazenly betrayed it by acting against all norms of the public interest and probity.

Some ‘advertisements’ promote patriarchal set-up, finds parliamentary panel

  • Endorsing the move to broaden the scope of the definition of the word “advertisement” to include the new forms of communication within the ambit of The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), a parliamentary standing committee has taken note of regressive advertising along with the indecent portrayal of women across various media platforms.
  • Always a much-debated issue, indecent representation of women became a subject of much concern in the wake of the December 16, 2012 gang rape incident in Delhi which shook the nation. Incidentally, the Government moved a bill to amend the IRWA three days before the gang rape.
  • In its report on ‘The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012’ that seeks to widen the scope of the 1986 legislation — the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) has said that, some “advertisements promoted the patriarchal set-up by assigning traditional roles to women, thereby being regressive.”

Practical approach taken by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD:

  • Having raised this issue, the Committee has asserted that all forms of advertisements through any medium must be regulated to curb indecent representation of women. However, it has also taken on board the apprehension of some stakeholders that “what constituted as obscenity was highly subjective and interpretation of it may lead to unnecessary harassment at the hands of the police.”
  • In this regard, the Committee has suggested that police officers be trained properly to deal with cases of indecent representation of women so that there is no scope for subjective and personal interpretations of the term “indecent.” Further, the Bill could provide for seeking the opinion of senior police officers in such matters.
  • Besides it being a subjective matter, the Committee also acknowledged the fact that obscenity and indecent representation of women could vary in different places or different cultural contexts. Another reality factored in by the Committee is the changing perception in society on various issues.

More about Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (IRWA)

  • The IRWA focuses on indecent representation of women and brings under its ambit references that are derogatory to the dignity of women. The IRWA, 1986 was enacted with the specific objective of prohibiting the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting or in any other manner.
  • The existing Act, in its present form, covers the print media. However, over the years, technological revolution has resulted in the development of newer forms of communication such as internet and satellite based communication, multi-media messaging, cable television etc.
  • It has, therefore, become imperative to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media, on one hand, and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any such form.

 Courtesy – http://pib.nic.in

INTERNATIONAL

Afghan’s Prez reaches out to Iran to counter U.S. pressure on pact

  • Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has reached out to Iran to counter attempts by the U.S to push Afghan to sign a security pact that would keep thousands of U.S. troops on the ground beyond the official withdrawal deadline of 2014.
  • During the President’s visit to Iran, Mr. Karzai and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani have decided to sign a comprehensive “friendship” pact that would also cover “regional security” issues.
  • It is said that, Afghanistan has agreed on a long-term friendship and cooperation pact with Iran. The pact would be for long-term political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, and regional peace.
  • In tune with this decision, Iran has reinforced its opposition to the presence of foreign forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
  • The U.S. had earlier warned that it would be ready to exercise the “zero option” implying that no troops would be available after 2014, at a time when Afghan security forces appeared unready. Working in tandem with the Americans, NATO has also threatened that its forces would not supplement U.S troops after 2014, in case a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was not to be signed.

ECONOMICS

Union Cabinet clears spectrum prices

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the reserved prices for spectrum sale as recommended by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on telecom Rs.1,765 crore per MHz pan-India for 1800 MHz band and Rs.360 crore, Rs.328 crore and Rs.125 crore per MHz in metro service areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, respectively, for 900 MHz band.
  • Notably, the spectrum prices were 26% lower than the base price in case of 1800 MHz band and 53% less in 900 MHz band than the previous auction prices. The government is hoping to garner over Rs.48,000 crore from the spectrum sale slated in January, 2014.
  • The decisions will result in further efficient utilisation of the scarce natural resource of spectrum facilitating expansion of telecom services in the country.

(The EGoM, headed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, had suggested the minimum price for the auction of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band at a 15 % higher rate than suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) at Rs.1,496 crore.)

Mauritius, India agree to ‘LoB’ clause

  • Mauritius has agreed to include a ‘limitation of benefits (LoB)’ clause in its revised tax treaty with India.
  • While specific details of this clause in the India-Mauritius tax treaty are being ironed out, LoB clauses are typically aimed at preventing ‘treaty shopping’ or inappropriate use of tax pacts by third-country investors.
  • The LoB clause limits treaty benefits to those who meet certain conditions, including those related to business, residency and investment commitments of the entity seeking benefit of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA).

To know more about DTAA refer our previous ‘Current events’

RBI governor blames domestic factors for economic woes

  • Attributing the current economic woes to stimulus provided by the government to tide over the global crisis of 2008, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said it eventually led to an overheated economy, high inflation and uncomfortable fiscal and current account deficits.
  • According to the RBI governor the economy had slowed to below 5% from an average of 8% during 2002-12, mainly on account of domestic factors.
  • The slowdown was largely a result of domestic factors (institutional weakness, withdrawal of stimulus) and one-third due to global factors.
  • While the stimulus did help growth initially, it eventually led to an over-heated economy, high inflation/wage growth and consequently deficits widening to uncomfortable highs.

(The then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, gave three stimulus packages to industry to combat the impact of global financial meltdown of 2008)

What do you mean by ‘Overheated Economy’?

  • When a prolonged period of good economic growth and activity causes high levels of inflation (from increased consumer wealth) and inefficient supply allocations as producers overproduce and create excess production capacity in an attempt to capitalize on the high levels of wealth. Unfortunately, these inefficiencies and inflation will eventually hinder the economy’s growth and cause a recession.
  • Rising rates of inflation are typically one of the first signs that an economy is overheating. As a result, governments and central banks will usually raise interest rates in an attempt to lower the amount of spending and borrowing.

http://www.investopedia.com

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY           

Nobel laureate backs genetically-modified crops

  • Scientists and others, who are in favour of genetically-modified (GM) food crops, have got support from an unexpected quarter – a Nobel laureate.
  • Richard J. Roberts, who won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1993, made a forceful case for promoting research on GM food crops and their use for public consumption, saying they were needed to at least take care of vitamin and other deficiencies in the developing world.
  • Describing the protest by “green” parties in Europe against GM crops as a “crime against humanity,” he particularly drew attention to the project to produce a GM rice variety for tackling the problem of Vitamin A deficiency in India and other countries.
  • According to Roberts, ‘The green parties are playing politics. About one-and-a-half (million) to two million children are affected by Vitamin A deficiency. It’s a crime against humanity.’
  • The professor also stressed the need for scientists to create awareness among the public and politicians on the scientific facts behind GM crops and other such contentious issues. ‘There is need for more science in politics and less politics in science.’ The science conclave is being organised since 2008 by the Ministries of Human Resource Development and Science and Technology, as part of an exercise to promote science and technology as a viable career for bright youngsters. Participants include science leaders from India and abroad, and school and college students.