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Insights Daily Current Events, December 19, 2013

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December 19, 2013

NATIONAL

Land Boundary Agreement Bill and its opposition

  • The West Bengal CM has expressed strong reservation over the introduction of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill in the Rajya Sabha and has said that the Bill was ‘forcefully introduced’ in Parliament without consulting the States involved in the boundary demarcation. (Other stakeholders – Assam, Tripura and parts of Northeastern States)
  • The West Bengal CM had also opposed the legislation in the past as well, stating that West Bengal would get only 7,000 acres of land and have to give away 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh.
  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill 2013 would give effect to the agreement between India and Bangladesh for demarcation of the land boundary and exchange of territories between the two countries.
  • The Leader of Opposition has said that, ‘Parliament has no jurisdiction to alter the territory of India. The territory represents sovereignty and are both a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and thus, cannot be reduced or altered by an amendment to the Constitution.’

To know more about Land Boundary Agreement Bill refer our previous ‘current events’

RTI Act: Parliamentary Standing Committee differs with AG’s opinion

  • The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has differed with the opinion of the Attorney General G.E Vahanvati over the proposed amendment to The Right to Information (RTI) Act, to exclude political parties as ‘public authorities’ and has held that the government was right in proposing the amendment.
  • The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 seeks to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 order to nullify the June order of the Central Information Commission that brought six national parties under the act’s ambit.
  • The Attorney General of India was apprehensive that this law would not sustain the test of judicial scrutiny as it was creating a class within a class without having any consideration to the principle of intelligible differentia having reasonable nexus with objective of the Act, whereas the Law Secretary was of the view that it was quite sustainable since Parliament has legislative competence to override the CIC decision. The Committee, however, subscribes to the opinion expressed by the Law Secretary.
  • The Attorney General has also said that, “Political Parties are foundation of democracy and need to be given sufficient protection from malicious and motivated application for which safeguards already exist under Section 8 of the Act.”
  • The parliamentary committee maintained that the aspects of transparency in financial matters of political parties were fully covered under existing laws and mechanisms. These include direction from Election Commission to the parties asking them to submit their accounts within 90 days after general election, inspection of accounts of candidate of political party and obtaining the same from the EC on payment of nominal charges, and declaration of assets and liabilities to the Ethics Committee of House by MPs.
  • There are apprehensions that, declaring political parties as public authority under RTI Act would hamper their smooth internal functioning as party rivals may misuse the provisions of RTI Act.

To know more about ‘Political parties under RTI’s ambit, refer our “Insights Current Events Magazine, OCTOBER 2013″

 Green Tribunal’s powers to deal with wildlife cases challenged

  • The National Green Tribunal’s powers to take up cases about wildlife have been challenged. The question of the tribunal’s jurisdiction has cropped up in a petition filed by an iron ore miner in Kohlapur, Maharashtra, asking for renewing his right to mine in a piece of land the government has said is a tiger corridor.
  • The case pertains to a mine operating in a village that falls between the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary but the case could now take a greater significance, besides deciding the fate of the tract of land between the two tiger-bearing areas that the environment ministry said is a corridor used by tigers.
  • The mine owner who applied for renewal of his lease to mine iron could not secure the forest clearance as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex body of the government in charge of tiger conservation, under the environment ministry said the lease fell in a wildlife corridor that needed protection.
  • The NTCA said so on the basis of research conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India for demarcation of land corridors used by tigers in 2010. The Wildlife Institute of India, the government’s premier body on wildlife conservation science, had said in 2010 that, “The block (where the mining occurs) is in the crucial corridor link between the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary. It is crucial for tiger movement in the Northern Western Ghat area in the State of Maharashtra. Small tiger populations in this area cannot be sustained without maintaining crucial connecting corridor links.”
  • The miner who was aggrieved, approached the National Green Tribunal claiming that his mine did not fall in the tiger corridor and the process of demarcating the corridor had not been legally carried out under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Government’s defence:

  • In the latest affidavit filed by the environment ministry in the ongoing case, the government defended its decision. But it also went a step ahead, stating that the miner, if aggrieved about the creation of the tiger corridor under the Wildlife Protection Act, can approach the “competent authority” under the Wildlife Protection Act.
  • The green laws that the tribunal is empowered to adjudicate on does not cover the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, though the body is empowered to deal with issues pertaining to forest clearances under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, besides other regulations and legislations.

More about National Green Tribunal (NGT):

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same. Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible. New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four place of sitting of the Tribunal.

Courtesy – http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/

To know more about Powers, Jurisdiction & Proceedings of the tribunal refer http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/about-us.php?id=5

Anti-Superstition Bill passed in Maharashtra Council

The Maharashtra State Council has passed the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, commonly known as the Anti-Superstition Bill.

 

INTERNATIONAL

Japan’s military plan ‘proactive pacifism’

  • Taking Japan a step further from its post-war pacifism, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has approved a new five-year defence plan that calls for the acquisition of drones and amphibious assault vehicles to strengthen the nation’s military as it faces the prospect of a prolonged rivalry with China over islands in the East China Sea.
  • The PM has described the spending plan as “proactive pacifism”. It could be noticed that from 2013, Mr. Abe (who is building on moves by previous Prime Ministers) has started increasing the military expenditure to help offset China’s rapid military build-up and the relative decline of U.S. influence in the region.
  • Under the new 10-year defence and a broader national security strategy, Japan will continue to build closer ties with the United States, whose 50,000 military personnel stationed in Japan still form the basis of Japan’s national security. But it will also acquire weapons meant to increase its own capabilities, acquisitions that would have once been unthinkable for a nation that viewed its military with suspicion after its disastrous defeat in World War II.
  • Japan is trying to build a comprehensive defensive posture that can completely defend the nation. There are apprehensions over China’s attempt to alter the status quo by force in the skies and seas of the East China Sea and South China Sea and other areas based on assertions that are incompatible with the established international order.
  • Political analysts say that China’s assertive stance in the dispute over the East China Sea islands has made Japan’s once proudly pacifist public more willing to accept an expanded role for the nation’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces. China’s claims in the South China Sea have also put it at odds with several countries in Southeast Asia that say they own some of the territory in question.
  • The 10-year military strategy approved calls on Japan to create a more mobile military that can deal with contingencies on far-flung islands, as well as so-called gray zone conflicts that might involve small numbers of terrorists or paramilitary attackers.
  • The strategy also calls on Japan to study whether it should buy or develop long-range strike capability, like cruise missiles, that would allow it to destroy a threat like a North Korean ballistic missile before it was launched.
  • Japan has so far abstained from such offensive weapons in order to maintain the defensive nature of its military, whose existence already pushes the limits of a post-war constitution that bars the nation from possessing ‘land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential.’
  • Mr. Abe is of the opinion to go even further by stretching the definition of self-defence to include action taken on behalf of allies under attack. For example, allowing Japan to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile heading toward the United States. That doctrine, known as collective self-defence, has run into stiff public opposition, including from a small Buddhist political party within Mr. Abe’s governing coalition.

(According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Japan had the fifth-largest military budget in the world last year. China had the second largest, behind the United States.)

 

ECONOMICS

Panel seeks review of Rangarajan formula on gas pricing

  • The Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas has sought a review of the Rangarajan formula for gas pricing, saying that the price should be fixed after factoring in the domestic cost of production.
  • Recommendation of the Committee:
  • According to the committee, the proposed formula is a simple average of two methodologies-  price of imports of LNG into India by different suppliers and weighted average of prices of natural gas prevailing at Henry Hub in USA, National Balancing Point (NBP) in London and netback import price at the well head of suppliers into Japan. Also the benefit of lower gas price at Henry Hub has been largely diluted by the inclusion of Japan’s liquefied natural gas prices, which includes 60%  royalty component linkage to Japanese Crude Cocktail and host of other factors.
  • The panel, headed by Andhra Pradesh MP Aruna Kumar Vundavalli, was of the view that Russia, which exports 40 to 50 % of its gas to Europe at a price of about $8.77 per mBtu, could be a better indicator of gas price. Russia is the world’s second largest gas producer and consuming country in the world and its prices could be incorporated as one of the reference price in the pricing formula.
  • The committee also pointed at omission of domestic cost of production of natural gas, which ranges from $2.48 to $3.63 for private and public sector firms, in the formula.The committee has recommended factoring domestic cost of production of gas for arriving at the price, and fixation of price of gas in rupee terms.
  • According to the Rangarjan pricing formula, the price will be revised quarterly. Prices for each quarter will be calculated based on the 12-month trailing average price with a lag of one quarter (i.e. price for April to June 2014 will be calculated based on the average for 12 months ended December 31, 2013). Using the approved formula, gas price in April-June (2014) is estimated at $8.2-8.4, nearly double the current selling price of $4.20.

India, Japan raise currency swap limit

  • India and Japan, has tripled the limit for the currency swap arrangement to $50 billion.
  • The Government of India has approved the enhancement of the bilateral currency swap arrangement between the RBI and the Bank of Japan from $15 billion to $50 billion.
  • This measure will further strengthen the bilateral financial cooperation between Japan and India.

To know more about Currency Swap, refer our “Insights Current Events Magazine, OCTOBER 2013”

Bitcoin crashes in China

  • Virtual currency Bitcoin, has crashed in China, falling almost 50 % after the country’s biggest trading platform BTC China banned deposits in yuan, following new restrictions imposed by the People’s Bank of China.
  • Bitcoin, invented in the wake of the global financial crisis by a mysterious computer guru using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, is a form of cryptography-based e-money. It can be stored either virtually or on a user’s hard drive, and offers a largely anonymous payment system.

To know more about Bitcoin, refer our “Insights Current Events Magazine, NOVEMBER 2013”  and http://insightsonindia.com/2013/12/17/all-about-bitcoins/

 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Biocon inks licensing pact with Quark Pharma

  • Biotechnology major Biocon has inked a pact with Quark Pharmaceuticals, Inc to develop a range of siRNA (small interfering RNA) based novel therapeutics. This collaboration will enable Biocon to co-develop, manufacture and commercialise QPI-1007, a novel siRNA drug candidate for ophthalmic conditions, for India and other key markets.

What is RNA interference (RNAi)?

  • It is a recently discovered process in cells that stops the action of specific genes by destroying mRNA and thus preventing translation of the gene product.
  • Two types of small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules – microRNA (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA) – are central to RNA interference. RNAs are the direct products of genes, and these small RNAs can bind to other specific messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules and either increase or decrease their activity, for example by preventing an mRNA from producing a protein. RNA interference has an important role in defending cells against parasitic nucleotide sequences – viruses and transposons – but also in directing development as well as gene expression in general.
  • RNAi has become a valuable research tool, both in cell culture and in living organisms, because synthetic dsRNA introduced into cells can selectively and robustly induce suppression of specific genes of interest. RNAi may be used for large-scale screens that systematically shut down each gene in the cell, which can help to identify the components necessary for a particular cellular process or an event such as cell division. The pathway is also used as a practical tool in biotechnology and medicine.

>Courtesy- http://www.theapprofessor.org/RNAinterference.html & Wikipedia

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An article on ‘Poverty and Employment’ had come in Today’s newspaper. The facts can be used in your GS answers and Essay-writing .

Refer the link below-

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/poverty-higher-among-employed-than-unemployed-report/article5476218.ece