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Insights Daily Current Events, December 14, 2013

ARCHIVES

December 14, 2013

NATIONAL

Cabinet gives nod to Disabilities Bill

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, a comprehensive measure that covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities. It will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

Provisions in the Bill:

  • The Bill provides for 5% reservation in public sector jobs and makes the private sector more accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment. It provides incentives for the private sector to take such measures.
  • On political participation, the proposed law says every person with disability who fulfills eligibility requirements is entitled to be registered as a voter. He/she should not be disqualified from exercising the voting right on the grounds of disability, irrespective of any stipulation to the contrary in any law for the time being in force.
  • Any person who is unable to vote in person due to disability or because of admission to hospital for treatment is entitled to opt for postal ballot. It requires the Election Commission to ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • The proposed law also allows mentally unsound women the right to fertility and prescribes punishment for forced abortion or hysterectomy on them.

Mind-Mapping:

  • Why do we need such a Bill? What was missing in the Disability Act of 1995, which prompted for a new Bill?
  • What are the steps taken by the Government of India (GOI) with regard to persons with disabilities? What is the role of civil society groups or citizens in this regard?
  • How far as the government institutions or the private sectors have made their premises disabled-friendly?
  • Also look out for examples –where disabled persons have faced embarrassment. For example: Recently a disabled woman was prevented from entering the flight (or airport) due to some security checks.
  • Who are the other persons who have the option for ‘postal ballot’? Why is this option given?

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P.S : Currently the winter session of the Parliament is going on, so reading  “parliament’’ Chapter (Polity) will help you understanding the key-terms – ‘Vote-On-Account’ , ‘Consolidated Fund of India’, ‘ Demands and Appropriation Bill’, ‘Question hour’ etc.

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Code of Conduct for Ministers revised

  • In order to insulate the bureaucracy from political interference, the Union Cabinet has revised the Code of Conduct for Ministers (both Union and States) by adding a new provision as per which Ministers cannot force civil servants to take decisions that may be in conflict with their duties and responsibilities.
  • The revised Code of Conduct states that the “Minister shall uphold the political impartiality of the civil services and not ask the civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the civil servants.”
  • The revised code will take immediate effect in the case of the Union Council of Ministers. In the case of the States and the Union Territories, the revised code will be forwarded to the Chief Ministers for adoption.

Mind-Mapping:

  • Why do we need a code of conduct for Ministers? Do we have a similar code of conduct for bureaucrats, civil society groups, media? If so how effective are these codes really?
  • With the revision of code of conduct, how would it impact the governance of the country?
  • Code of conduct is also related to Ethics; Significance of Code of Conduct.

INTERNATIONAL

India- Maldives strategic interest

  • In the direction of furthering the relationship between the two countries, India has promised a second Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv (indigenously-built), to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
  • Earlier in 2010, India had donated an ALH to Maldives.
  • India and the Maldives have maintained close ties over the years and Indian naval ships and aircraft were deployed for surveillance of the Maldivian exclusive economic zone at their request.
  • Over the years, the Indian Navy has trained Mauritian naval pilots; extended training support to several nations, including Vietnam, conducted coordinated joint patrols, and supplied military hardware (including surveillance aircraft) to countries like Myanmar.
  • This is a part of the geostrategic measures undertaken by India to support friendly nations in the Indian Ocean rim to augment capacity.
  • Initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a geographical grouping of 35 Indian Ocean littorals, and biennial naval exercise ‘Milan’ went a long way in reaffirming the confidence nations in the region had in India.

Related Information:

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS)

  • IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues and, in the process, endeavors to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to common understanding and possibly agreements on the way ahead.
  • The inclusiveness of this forum means that all the principal maritime agencies of states in the IOR are members, unless they desire otherwise, thereby involving participation by almost all the littorals in the region to address cooperative maritime issues.

http://ions.gov.in

Milan:

  • Milan basically is a biennial conglomeration of Asia-Pacific maritime navies, hosted by the Indian Navy, to foster bonds of ‘friendship across the seas’, boost interoperability and share views on common maritime issues.

Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

  • IORA was established in 1997 to promote cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. It seeks to expand mutually beneficial cooperation through a consensus-based, evolutionary and non-intrusive approach. IORA is the only regional forum linking most countries on the Indian Ocean rim through an annual Foreign Ministers’ meeting.
  • In 2011 six priority areas of cooperation were identified for IORA. These include: Maritime Safety and Security, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Fisheries Management, Disaster Risk Management, Academic and Science & Technology Cooperation, and Tourism and Cultural Exchanges.

Courtesy – www.dfat.gov.au/geo/indian-ocean/iora.html

Mind-Mapping:

  • Historical relationship between India & Maldives.  India’s Strategic interests with respect to Maldives. Relationship between India and Maldives in recent times, especially last 2 years (till the recent elections & the future prospects)
  • What is India’s stake and concerns over Indian Ocean?
  • What are the geostrategic measures undertaken by India to support friendly nations in the Indian Ocean rim to augment capacity?
  • Significance of IORA.

Former India, Pakistan spy chiefs call for direct channel for RAW, ISI

  • Former Indian and Pakistani intelligence officials have called for greater contact between the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to prevent regional crisis and push forward new thinking on the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir
  • It is said that, what covert services can achieve is not at times even conceivable in political or diplomatic channels. RAW & ISI help to guard against panic reactions. The two services are also capable of preventing another incident of the kind which occurred in Mumbai in November, 2008.

More about Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)

  • Research and Analysis Wing (RAW or R&AW) was formed in 1968; It is the primary external intelligence agency of India.
  • Its creation was necessitated post the Sino-Indian War 1962 and Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 which posed various gaps in intelligence gathering undertaken by Intelligence Bureau (which then handled both internal and external intelligence).

Function:

  • The primary function of RAW is collection of external intelligence and counter-terrorism. In addition, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations and persons to advise Indian policymakers.
  • R&AW is an effective and one of the primary instrument of India’s national power. It is also involved in the security of India’s nuclear programme.

Courtesy – Wikipedia

Mind –Mapping:

  • Role of RAW; Its significance in guarding India’s strategic interests with its neighbouring countries and especially with Pakistan?

India supports Afghan over its row with U.S

  • India has expressed its disagreement over the U.S. pressure on Afghanistan to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will limit the number of western troops in the war-torn country after 2014.
  • India and Afghanistan both see the BSA as important for the security and stability of Afghanistan. The Indian approach was not to pressurise, it would refrain from being intrusive and judgemental on the issue.
  • Issue:Over the timing of signing the BSA – The Afghan President wants the agreement to be signed by his successor after 2014 elections, in which he will not be eligible to contest, while the U.S. has threatened to walk out if it is not done immediately.
  • Apart from security issues, the other part of Mr. Karzai’s visit to India is economic. India is planning a major game-changing project in Afghanistan which will start taking shape once its Parliament approves new mining laws. Mr. Karzai has urged Indian businessmen to come forward and invest. The major investment planned by India is in Hajigak mines, said to be Asia’s biggest untapped deposits of iron ore.
  • The Afghan President’s focus is on three issues – the state of play on the BSA, the peace process and then the transition process.

Mind-mapping:

  • Relationship among the three countries – India, U.S., Afghanistan.
  • India’s geo-political & geo-strategic interests with respect to Afghanistan
  • How will the withdrawal of U.S forces from Afghan impact the future prospects of Afghan and the other stakeholders vying for stability of Afghan?
  • Significance of India’s support to Afghanistan (amidst U.S pressure)? Does this move indicates India’s rise in the International fora, as a country which can take independent decision? Is India a soft- State?

Curbs against the spirit of Geneva deal: Iran

  • Iran has slammed the decision by the U.S. to impose new sanctions, citing it as a step that undermines the spirit of the recently signed Geneva nuclear accord, which has promised to revive Iran’s ties with the West.
  • Imposition of new sanctions by the U.S. appeared to have been influenced by the hardening advocacy in Congress (U.S. Parliament) of retaining pressure on Iran.
  • On the other side, Russia has strongly supported Iran’s stand, stating the U.S. decision goes against the spirit of Geneva deal. The latest sanctions have targeted two Singapore based firms – Mid Oil Asia, and Singa Tankers. Mid Oil Asia is accused of supporting National Iranian Tanker Company in making money transfers, while Singa Tankers is charged with helping Tehran to make ‘urgent payments’.

Despite the latest curbs, the West has sent mixed signals to Iran in the post-Geneva phase:

  • The European Parliament (EP) delegation arrived in Iran, apparently to explore possibilities of deepening ties, especially the European oil companies are to enter Iran’s oil and gas sector.
  • Italian Foreign Minister has also planned to visit Iran, to discuss commercial and political ties marking the first official outing by an Italian top diplomat to Iran in nearly 10 years.

Mind-Mapping:

  • What was the agenda of the Geneva deal? Was the agenda achieved? What next?
  • What is the significance of the Geneva deal to Iran and other countries across the globe (with also India’s perspective)? Was the deal approved by all? If not which countries opposed the deal and, what was the rationale behind the opposition?

ECONOMICS

India’s trade deficit with China nears record $30 billion

  • According to a newly released trade data, India’s trade deficit with China in this year (till November, 2013) has reached a record $29.5 billion, exceeding last year’s annual figure,
  • The numbers underline the sharp decline in once-burgeoning trade, which reached $74 billion in 2011 when China became India’s biggest trading partner.
  • In 2012, there was a 20 % slump in India’s exports, largely on account of iron ore mining bans, coupled with the global slowdown, resulted in a 10 % decline as trade fell to $66.50 billion, even as both countries announced an ambitious $100 billion target for 2015.
  • The latest figures have cast doubt on whether that target may be achieved. During the period under reference, even as China’s trade with the rest of Asia as well as with its major Western trading partners has picked up, trade with India has remained in a slump, suggesting that causes were more structural rather than a reflection of global trends.
  • After 11 months of this year, India’s exports to China reached only $14.87 billion out of total bilateral trade of $59.24 billion.
  • Trade has grown more than 50 times since 2006, when the Nathu La pass, between Sikkim and the Shigatse prefecture in Tibet, was reopened. Most of the trade is made up of imports of Indian goods into Tibet, which reached $12 million in 2012. (The border market is open for only six months of the year)

Mind-mapping:

  • India – China’s trade relationship over the years.
  • Why does India have a huge trade deficit with China? How can this deficit be overcome?
  • What steps are taken by Indian Government in this regard?
  • Does the trade deficit have an impact on the security issues between the two countries?

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Gagan will be put in place by end of 2014

GPS aided geo augmented navigation or GPS and Geo-Augmented Navigation system (Gagan), a regional satellite-based augmentation system.

More about GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN):

  • GAGAN is a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) implemented jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI).

The main objectives of GAGAN are-

  • to provide Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace.
  • The system will be interoperable with other international SBAS systems and provide seamless navigation across regional boundaries. The first GAGAN navigation payload was flown on GSAT-8 which was launched on May 21, 2011 and the second on GSAT-10 launched on Sep 29, 2012.

Courtesy – http://www.isro.org