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Insights Daily Current Events, December 21, 2013

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December 21, 2013

NATIONAL

Union Govt. moves apex court for review of Section 377 ruling

  • Recently the Supreme Court (SC) had upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), according to which homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults is illegal and an offence. With regard to this the Union Govt has moved the apex court seeking a review of its ruling.

Union Govt’s view:

  • According to the Union Govt., the SC’s ruling is contrary to the principles of equality and liberty which is mentioned under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Moreover, Section 377 which criminalises intercourse ‘against the order of nature’ is a reflection of outdated law of the United Kingdom which was transplanted into India in 1860. But now with passage of time it has become arbitrary and unreasonable.
  • Also the SC’s observation that only a miniscule had been penalised so far under the law was ‘irrelevant when it comes to deciding an issue of constitutionality.’
  • The Centre had filed a review petition inorder to avoid a grave miscarriage of justice to thousands of LGBT [lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender] persons, who have been aggrieved by the order and have been put at risk of prosecution and harassment, upon re-criminalisation of their sexual identities. Following the High Court judgment that decriminalised, adult consensual sexual acts in private, including homosexual acts, a considerable number of LGBT persons had come out in open about their sexual orientation and identity in their families, and at workplaces, educational institutions and public spaces. All these people would now suddenly become vulnerable to abuse and discrimination and require immediate relief.

Mind mapping for this topic is already done in previous news analysis.

Western Ghats protection draft notification

  • In the view of implementing the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats, the Environment Ministry has come up with the draft notification for the Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in six States.
  • In the backdrop of protests in Kerala, the Environment Ministry has made explicitly clear that plantations, agriculture and other routine activities in the ESA, declared under the Environment Protection Act, 1972, would not be restricted or impacted.
  • The High Level working group headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan had declared 37% of the area of Western Ghats ESA. Under Act, only activities explicitly mentioned in the formal notification of the ESA are banned, while others are permitted by default.

Guidelines (Draft Notification):

  • The Ministry reiterated that any expansion of or new mining, quarrying and sand mining would be banned.
  • New thermal power plants, heavily polluting industries, building and construction projects of an area 20,000 sq. metre and above, and township and area development projects between 50 ha and above or with a built-up area of 1,50,000 sq. metres would also not be allowed.
  • All other projects that are not expressly banned under the government orders would be permitted only with the consent of gram sabhas.
  • Only in mining would the existing projects be phased out within the next five years or at the expiry of the lease, whichever is earlier. In other cases, new projects and expansion of the existing ones and related activities would be banned. The existing projects would continue.

Regarding Kasturirangan, Madhav Gadgil Reports on Western Ghats related issues refer our ‘Insights Current Events Analysis Magazine’ (OCTOBER, 2013)

Mind-Mapping:

What are the main objectives of Kasturirangan , Madhav Gadgil Reports? Difference between the two reports? Why was the Madhav Gadgil Committee formed?

What do you mean by Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) and what is the issue? What kind of activities can be taken up in these areas- ESA?

Objections against the reports? Reasons for protests in Kerala?

Do you think strict compliance to the reports and Environmental clearance will have an impact on development?

INTERNATIONAL

BCIM corridor gets push after first official-level talks in China

  • India and China have taken the first step towards pushing forward an ambitious corridor linking the two countries with Bangladesh and Myanmar, as representatives from the four nations held the first ever official-level discussions about the project recently.
  • For the first time the four nations have come up with a schedule/timeline on taking the plan forward.
  • The corridor would run from Kunming (Chinese city which borders Myanmar) to Kolkata, linking Mandalay in Myanmar as well as Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
  • The plan would “advance multi-modal connectivity, harness the economic interests, promote investment and trade and facilitate people-to-people contacts.
  • The recent talks saw the four countries come up with an ambitious proposal that included developing multi-modal transport, such as road, rail, waterways and airways, joint power projects and telecommunication networks.
  • The BCIM project was also discussed during the Chinese Premier Li’s meet to India recently. The corridor would not only boost strategic ties with India, but also as a means to inject vitality into its landlocked south-western provinces, which have the highest poverty rates in China.

Way forward:

  • As a first step, the four countries will identify realistic and achievable infrastructure projects to boost physical connectivity. Over the next six months, each country will come up with a joint study report proposing concrete projects and financing modalities, before the next meeting of the four nations in June 2014, hosted by Bangladesh.
  • The hope is that before the holding of the third joint study meeting, in India towards the end of 2014, the four countries would have agreed upon a cooperation framework including modalities of ‘financing projects’ that will pave the way for the actual implementation.

Mind-Mapping:

Why was BCIM corridor mooted? What are the advantages of this project to India?

South Sudan flare-up

  • South Sudan is in turmoil once again- the reason behind is not because of the inter-ethnic contest for political supremacy, but a larger tussle for the control and diversion of South Sudan’s rich energy and mineral resources.
  • This has also resulted in death of three Indian UN peacekeepers.
  • More than 500 people have so far been killed amid fears that a civil war may be on the cards.
  • The fighting has coincided with attacks on certain oil companies, signalling that the brewing political struggle could mask a larger tussle for control over the country’s resources. Land-locked South Sudan exports around 220,000 barrels a day from reserves that are the third highest after Nigeria and Angola in sub-Saharan Africa.

Courtesy- http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/54145000/gif/_54145841_southsudan_map.gif (image)

More about South Sudan & Sudan’s Conflict:

  • South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.
  • An overwhelming majority of South Sudanese voted in a January 2011 referendum to secede and become Africa’s first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993.
  • The new nation stands to benefit from inheriting the bulk of Sudan’s oil wealth, but continuing disputes with Khartoum and a lack of economic development cloud its immediate future.
  • Long based on subsistence agriculture, South Sudan’s economy is now highly oil-dependent. While an estimated 75% of all the former Sudan’s oil reserves are in South Sudan, the refineries and the pipeline to the Red Sea are in Sudan.
  • In January 2012, the breakdown of talks on the sharing of oil revenues led South Sudan to halt oil production and halve public spending on all but salaries.
  • A deal in March 2013 provided for Sudan to resume pumping South Sudanese oil in May, and created a demilitarised border zone.
  • Despite the potential oil wealth, South Sudan is one of Africa’s least developed countries. However, the years since the 2005 peace accord ushered in an economic revival and investment in utilities and other infrastructure.

 Courtesy- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14069082

 ECONOMICS

Higher gas price will help raise domestic production

  • The decision to almost double the natural gas price from April, 2013 would encourage investments in exploration and production (since a lot of money on technology and research to access the hydrocarbon) and in turn reduce the country’s dependence on imports.

According to the Petroleum Minister:

  • The higher gas price would help in increasing the production over 3 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves, which had been declared economically unviable at the current price of $4.2 per mBtu.
  • Several gas discoveries of firms such as Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and RIL had been declared unviable by the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) as the current gas price of $4.2 per mBtu was inadequate to cover the cost of production. “The option before the country is to either keep the gas finds under wraps and continue importing gas at $12-13 or pay much lesser than this price to domestic producers to bring the discoveries to production and cut foreign exchange outgo on imports. India might also end up importing 100 % if exploration is not encouraged.
  • The new price from April, 2013 would apply to all public and private producers of conventional gas and non-conventional fuel like coal-bed methane and shale gas.

For more information on ‘Gas price and its issues’ refer our previous ‘Current Events’.

Mind-Mapping:

Importance of Domestic resource mobilization?

Some externalities while extracting coal like its effect on environment, health etc.

What impact would it have on the stakeholders (producers, end-consumers, government) and the country’s economy with the increase in the price of the natural gas?

What are conventional and non-conventional fuels available in India? How best has India used its resources? Suggestions for making the optimum use of these resources.

CCI suggests more players in coal sector

  • In a recent order, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has recommended to the government that the coal mining sector be restructured by introducing more players. Due to Coal India’ monopoly, electricity consumers are paying higher user charges.
  • According to the order, the effects of various anti-competitive factors identified in the coal sector on the rest of the economy are widespread and create systemic risk. And inefficiencies in any one segment are felt in the entire value chain with a cascading impact on the end-consumers of electricity.

(The order passed on December 9, 2013 had penalised Coal India Rs.1,773 crore for abuse of market dominance.)

Mind mapping for this topic is already done in previous news analysis.

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