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Daily Category  (Institutions and Bodies )

Global Tuberculosis Report

Context:

According to the Global Tuberculosis Report 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with impacts on care-seeking behavior, threatens to reverse the recent progress in reducing the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) disease.

Tuberculosis:

  • It is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that mainly affect the lungs.
  • It spread from person to person when people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • Tuberculosis is treated with a standard 6-month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision, and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

Key foundings:

  • The evidence from several high TB burden countries of large reductions in the monthly number of people with TB being detected and officially reported in 2020 is available.
  • India accounts for 26% of TB cases in the world and the TB notifications during the period January-June 2020 in India fell by 25% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • The TB notifications in India in February 2020 increased compared with January but then reduced sharply in April to reach less than 40% of the January figure before increasing to reach about 75% of the January figure in the month of June.
  • The dip in TB notifications has not been very sharp in India and the recovery after the dip has been more in India than Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Africa.
  • In India, notifications of people newly diagnosed with TB increased by 74% from 1.2 million to 2.2 million between 2013 and 2019.
  • In the case of India, there is a gap in the number of people newly diagnosed and reported due to a combination of underreporting of people diagnosed with TB and under-diagnosis.

Global Tuberculosis Report:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a global TB report every year since 1997.
  • The purpose of the report is to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the status of the TB epidemic.
  • The report is based primarily on data gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO) in annual rounds of data collection.

Govt initiatives:

  • The Nikshay Ecosystem: It is the National TB information system which is a one-stop solution to manage information of patients and monitor program activity and performance throughout the country.
  • Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY): It aimed at providing financial support to TB patients for their nutrition.
  • The Saksham Project: It is a project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that has been providing psycho-social counseling to DR-TB patients.

Source: The Hindu

Summit of Ministers of Justice of SCO

Context:

India Hosts Virtual Summit of Ministers of Justice of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Details:

  • It was the Seventh Meeting of Ministers of Justice of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member State.
  • Minister of justice of 8 countries- India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan participated in the summit. 
  • The summit deliberated on areas of cooperation; emphasized the high relevance of mutual exchange of legal information on counteraction to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and acknowledged the need for cooperation in the ADR mechanism area, among others.

Key outcomes:

  • To strengthen the work on the implementation of the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of the SCO Member States.
  • To continue the work on the implementation of the Action Plans of the working groups of experts on forensic activities and legal services for 2018-2020, as well as to develop Action Plans for 2021-2023.
  • Consider organizing exchange programs for representatives of the ministries (law and justice of the SCO member-states) to study the best practices in alternative dispute resolution.
  • To continue discussing the parties' positions on the issues of mutual legal assistance and development of legal services in accordance with national legislation.
  • Actively develop cooperation with the ministries of justice of the SCO observer and dialogue partner states.
  • Continue efforts to develop an online platform for the exchange of legal information, taking into account national laws.  

India’s initiatives in the field of Justice:

  • Pro Bono Legal Services to provide free legal aid to marginalized sections of the society.
  • 3.44 Lakh free legal consultations have been given to poor people through video conferencing under Tele-Law services.
  • e-Courts projects with Video-Conferencing facility and Virtual Courts as part of Government’s successful transformative change in process automation from the conventional brick and mortar court architecture.
  • Over 25 Lakh hearing through video conference, during the COVID19 pandemic, have taken place at various courts of India, out of which 9,000 virtual hearings have taken place at the Supreme Court alone.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

  • It is a permanent intergovernmental international organization established in 2001.
  • It was formed in Shanghai (China) by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in 2002 and came into force in 2003.
  • In 2017 Astana, the status of a full member of the Organization was granted to India and Pakistan.
  • The organization has two permanent bodies i.e. the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
  • Members:  India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Observer states are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.

Goals:

  • Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states;
  • Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology, and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
  • Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security, and stability in the region
  • Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair, and rational new international political and economic order.

Source: PIB

World Food Day

Context:

World Food Day is celebrated on 16 October every year by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

World Food Day:

  • In 1979, the Food and Agriculture Organization designated 16 October as World Food Day in 1979. 
    • Initially, World Food Day was launched to commemorate the establishment of FAO in 1945.
  • It promotes global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.
  • In the current on-going pandemic this year, the day is celebrated with the theme – ‘Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future."

Significance:

  • World Food Day creates many programs and activities to highlight and take necessary actions for food security and good nutrition for all, with a special focus on poor and vulnerable communities around the world.
  • Currently, more than 815 million people do not have enough to eat. Some 155 million children under the age of five (23 %) are chronically malnourished and stunted and may endure the effects of it for the rest of their lives. 
  • One in two infant deaths worldwide is caused by hunger.
  • It calls for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • It is a neutral intergovernmental organization established in 1945.
  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active healthy lives.
  • Headquarter: Rome.

Source: PIB

The Geneva Conventions

Context:

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) requested to Indian and Chinese governments that they observe the Geneva Conventions to which both countries are signatories.

  • The committee has requested after the Galwan clash in Ladakh in June 2020.

The Geneva Conventions (1949):

  • It is an international treaty that contains the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war.
  • It protects people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).

Features:

  • The first Geneva Convention: It protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during the war.
  • The second Geneva Convention: It protects wounded, sick, and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during the war.
  • The third Geneva Convention: It applies to prisoners of war.
  • The fourth Geneva Convention: It affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territory.

Article 3 of Geneva Conventions:

  • This article is common to the four Geneva Conventions.
  • It covers situations of non-international armed conflicts.
    • They include traditional civil wars, internal armed conflicts that spill over into other States, or internal conflicts in which a third State or a multinational force intervenes alongside the government.

Protocols of 1977:

  • Additional to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions were adopted in 1977. They strengthen the protection of victims of international (Protocol I) and non-international (Protocol II) armed conflicts and place limits on the way wars are fought.
  • In 2005, a third Additional Protocol was adopted creating an additional emblem, the Red Crystal, which has the same international status as the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC):

  • It is an international humanitarian organization established in 1863.
  • It has the mandate to monitor that signatories follow the rules in situations of conflict.
  • The ICRC operates worldwide, helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the laws that protect victims of war.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The ICRC is funded mainly by voluntary donations from governments and from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Source: Indian Express

Third Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA)

Context:

India and France re-elected as the President and Co-President of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) for a term of two years at the Third Assembly held on 14 October.

Vice-Presidents:

  • Four new Vice-Presidents also have chosen to represent the four regions of ISA.
    • The representatives of Fiji & Nauru for Asia Pacific Region; Mauritius & Niger for Africa Region; UK & Netherlands for Europe and others Region, and Cuba and Guyana for Latin America and Caribbean Region assumed the vice presidency.

Initiatives:

  • The Assembly also approved the initiatives of the ISA Secretariat in institutionalizing ISA’s engagement with the private and public corporate sector through the Coalition for Sustainable Climate Action (CSCA).
  • The Assembly has presented the report prepared by the World Resources Institute (WRI) which identifies the sources of funds, opportunities, and constraints, in scaling up solar investments and the contribution of ISA in assisting Member countries.
  • The ISA will work with WRI to develop a roadmap for mobilization of USD 1 trillion by 2030.
  • In the wake of the global pandemic, ISA responded by setting up ISA CARES (like PM-CARES in India), an initiative dedicated to the deployment of solar energy in the healthcare sector.
    • Objective: To solarize one primary health sector in each district of the target member countries.

International Solar Alliance (ISA):

  • It is an initiative launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France in 2015 at Paris on the side-lines of the COP-21.
    • Objective: To collectively address key common challenges to the scaling up of solar energy in ISA member countries.
    • It also aims to undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology, mobilize investments needed for massive deployment of solar energy,
  • Members: Till now, 87 countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA, and of these 67 have deposited their instruments of ratification.
    • Nicaragua, a Central American country is the 87th and the latest country to sign the agreement.
  • The Government of India has allotted land to the ISA in the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) campus, Gurugram.
  • The government has also released a sum of Rs. 160 crore for building infrastructure and meeting day to day recurring expenditure of the ISA up to the year 2021-22.

Source: PIB

Pakistan Re-elected to the UNHRC

Context:

Pakistan has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Details:

  • Among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region vying for four seats in the UNHRC, Pakistan secured the highest number of votes.
    • Now, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on January 1, 2021.
  • Since the UNHRC’s establishment, this is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the United Nations’ premier body on human rights.
  • In secret-ballot voting in the 193-member UN General Assembly Pakistan secured 169 votes, Uzbekistan received 164, Nepal 150, China 139, and Saudi Arabia lost the race with just 90 votes.

Allocation of seats:

  • Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.
  • Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was all but decided in advance because all the other regional groups had uncontested slates.
    • Earlier, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the US, and Canada called on UN member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them unqualified.
  • Russia and Cuba, running unopposed, also won the seats.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC):

  • UNHRC was established in 2006.
  • Objective: To promote and protect human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.

Members:

  • It has 47 members elected for three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups. Members are elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms.
    • Five regional groups for membership: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe.
  • To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly.
  • Members are elected directly by secret ballot by the majority of the UN General Assembly. 

Sessions:

  • The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September.
  • Headquarter: Geneva, Switzerland

Source: The Hindu

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Context:

Prime Minister of India has decided to release the commemorative coin of Rs 75 denomination to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • It is a neutral intergovernmental organization established in 1945.
  • FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • Objective: To achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
    • It strives to provide information and support sustainable agriculture through legislation and national strategies, with a goal of alleviating hunger.

Composition:

The FAO is composed of seven departments:

  1. The Agriculture and Consumer Protection: It promotes agriculture to eradicate human poverty while also protecting the environment and ensuring safe food practices and standards.
  2. The Climate, Biodiversity, Land, and Water: It promotes sustainable management practices for land, soils, energy, water, biodiversity, and genetic resources.
  3. The Corporate Services, Human Resources, and Finance department support the entire FAO organization.
  4. Economic and Social Development: It promotes economic development through internal production and trade.
  5. The Fisheries and Aquaculture: It promotes the management of aquaculture and fishing.
  6. The forestry department promotes the management of resources through forestry.
  7. The Technical Cooperation department supports member countries in their programs and responds to food- and agriculture-related threats and crises.

India and FAO:

  • Indian Civil Service Officer Dr. Binay Ranjan Sen was the Director-General of FAO from 1956-1967.
    • The World Food Programme, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, was established during his time.
  • India’s proposals for the International Year of Pulses in 2016 and the International Year of Millets 2023 have also been endorsed by FAO.
  • The ICAR has started the Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) program for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition, Nutri-smart villages for enhancing nutritional security.

Source: PIB

Ratification of the Stockholm Convention

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved the ratification of the Stockholm Convention by banning seven hazardous chemicals that are harmful to health and the environment.

  • The seven banned chemicals are listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention.
    • These are: (i) Chlordecone, (ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, (iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether, (iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether, (v) Pentachlorobenzene, (vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and (vii) Hexachlorobutadiene.

Details:

  • The Cabinet has delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.

Impact:

  • Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central and peripheral nervous systems, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and child development. 
  • The regulation prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import, and export of these chemicals.
  • The ratification process would enable India to access the Global Environment Facility (GEF) financial resources in updating the National Implementation Plan (NIP).
  • The Cabinet further delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to Union Ministers of External Affairs and Environment with regard to POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.

The Stockholm Convention:

  • It is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs, which are identified as chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/environment, and have the property of long-range environmental transport.
  • India had ratified the Stockholm Convention in 2006. The Ministry of Environment had notified the 'Regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants Rules in 2018 under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • India had ratified as per Article 25 (4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default "opt-out" position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/acceptance/approval or accession is explicitly deposited with the UN depositary.
  • POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations, and negotiations among member countries.

The Global Environment Facility:

  • It was established in 1991 as a pilot program with the World Bank.
  • Objective: To assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainability development.
  • It was restructured and become a permanent, separate institution in 1992 during the Rio Earth Summit with objectives to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

Source: All India Radio

India Celebrating Wildlife Week

Context:

India is celebrating Wildlife week from 2nd to 8th October.

  • Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in India between October 1 and 8. The annual theme of the campaign is to promote the preservation of fauna.

Background:

  • Wildlife Week was conceptualized in 1952 with the overall goal of raising awareness to serve the long-term goal of safeguarding the lives of wildlife through critical action. 
  • Indian Board of Wildlife was constituted in 1952; the wildlife day celebration started in 1955 and later upgraded to the wildlife week celebration in 1957. 
  • Indian Board of Wild Life works to improve awareness of the preservation of wildlife. 

Objectives:

  • To make people more aware of the conservation and protection of wildlife.
  • Throughout Wildlife Week, experts conduct hands-on workshops to bring the more complex aspects of wildlife conservation within the reach and understanding of all age groups. 

Theme: 

  • This year the 66th Wildlife Week was celebrated with the theme RoaR (Roar and Revive) - Exploring Human-Animal Relationships.
    • The theme aims at providing a platform to celebrate the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms.

Biodiversity in India:

  • India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, it contributes about 8% of the known global biodiversity.
  • The rich biodiversity is due to diverse ecological habitats namely Forest, Grassland, Wetland, Coastal, and Marine and Desert ecosystem.

Initiatives:

  • Central Zoo Authority has instituted the Prani Mitra awards to encourage the zoo officers and staff working towards captive animal management. 
  • A report titled “Economic valuation of ecosystem services, National Zoological Park” was also released during this occasion. This study, one of the first of its kind in India and perhaps the entire world.
  • Central Zoo Authority recognizes around 160 zoo and rescue centers that enforce global standards in animal housing and welfare. Over 567 captive animal species (with 114 species under the endangered category) with overall 56481 individual animals are currently housed in Indian zoos. 
  • The Government of India has initiated focused conservation of flagship species on Project Modes. The Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Project Snow Leopard are glimpses of this initiative. 

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL):

  • It is a statutory Board constituted officially in 2003 under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It is chaired by the Prime Minister and is responsible for the promotion of conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  • The board is ‘advisory’ in nature and can only advise the Government on policymaking for the conservation of wildlife.
  • The standing committee of NBWL is chaired by the Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
  • The standing committee approves all the projects falling within protected wildlife areas or within 10 km of them.

Source: DD News

‘Daring Cities 2020’ Conference

Context:

Chief Minister of Delhi will be among the five urban leaders from around the world to speak at the prestigious ‘Daring Cities 2020’ conference on October 7.

  • The conference is being hosted by the ICLEI and the City of Bonn, Germany, with the support of the German government.

Daring Cities:

  • It is a global forum on climate change for urban leaders tackling climate emergencies, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It showcases and catalyzes exemplary local climate action to tackle the climate emergency, including ambitious resilience-building and climate mitigation efforts.
  • It was created by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn (Germany).
  • It builds upon the experience and network established during the Resilient Cities Congresses convened annually from 2010 to 2019 by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn.

Daring Cities 2020:

  • It will be a three-week event comprising high level and visionary speakers, a series of informative workshops, and personal networking opportunities in a variety of virtual formats to accommodate different topics, time zones, internet bandwidth limits, and languages.
  • The event will help to set the course to COP26, Daring Cities 2021, and beyond.
  • The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in 2021 in Glasgow, UK.

Details:

  • Delhi CM has been invited alongside urban leaders and decision-makers from Bogota (Colombia), Sao Paolo [Brazil], Los Angles, and Entebbe (Uganda) to discuss multilevel action to tackle the climate emergency and environmental sustainability.
  • The event recognizes these five as daring urban leaders who are going beyond the limits imposed by their respective local contexts to take bold climate action.
  • Delhi CM will speak on how Delhi has responded to the existing climate emergency, air pollution crisis, including recent innovative solutions such as the Pusa decomposer and the first-of-its-kind EV policy in India to tackle air pollution in the Capital.
  • The distinguished leaders from Latin America, Africa, North America, and Asia will also present their thoughts on the most essential changes that should be achieved in their respective city/region in the next five years so that their plans to tackle climate emergencies are accelerated.

Source: The Hindu

Amnesty International India

Context:

The government had frozen all bank accounts of Amnesty International India, leading to all of its work in the country coming to a halt.

  • Amnesty International India has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.
  • Amnesty International India is a part of the global human rights movement spearheaded by Amnesty International. It has its registered office in Bangalore.

Argument by Amnesty:

  • Amnesty has alleged that the government has frozen its bank accounts due to repeated calls for transparency and against the human rights violations in the country.
  • The European Union (EU) has also expressed its concerns against the action of the government citing the valued work of Amnesty International worldwide.
  • Recently, Amnesty International India had demanded an independent investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by the police during the north-east Delhi riots and the establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Amnesty International India stood in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws and for human rights work in India, it operates through a “distinct model of raising funds domestically.
  • Attacks on Amnesty International India is only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government.

Argument by the Government:

  • In order to circumvent the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA) regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
  • A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty India without the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs under FCRA. This rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.
  • India doesn't allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.

Amnesty International:

  • It is an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded in 1961.
  • Objective: To publicize violations by governments and other entities of rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), especially freedom of speech and of conscience and the right against torture.
  • Headquarter: London, UK
  • In 1977, it was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Source: The Hindu

Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs)

Context:

The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation of India, and The New India Assurance Co have been identified as Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs) for 2020-21 by insurance regulator IRDAI.

  • The IRDAI would identify D-SIIs on an annual basis and disclose the names of such insurers for public information.

Domestic Systemically Important Insurers:

  • It refers to insurers of such size, market importance, and domestic and global interconnectedness whose distress or failure would cause significant dislocation in the domestic financial system.
  • These are perceived as insurers that are ‘too big or too important to fail’.
  • The continued functioning of D-SIIs is critical for the uninterrupted availability of insurance services to the national economy.

Significance:

  • The three public sector insurers have been asked to raise the level of corporate governance.
  • Identify all relevant risks and promote a sound risk management culture.
  • The D-SIIs will also be subjected to enhanced regulatory supervision of the IRDAI.

Issues:

  • Given the nature of operations and their systemic importance, the failure of D-SIIs has the potential to cause significant disruption to the essential services they provide to the policyholders and, in turn, to the overall economic activity of the country
    • These considerations require that D-SIIs should be subjected to additional regulatory measures to deal with systemic risks and moral hazard issues.
  • Systemic risk is the possibility that an event at the company level could trigger severe instability or collapse an entire industry or economy.
  • Moral hazard is a situation in which one party gets involved in a risky event knowing that it is protected against the risk and the other party will incur the cost. It arises when both parties have incomplete information about each other.

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI):

  • It is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999.
  • The agency's headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where it moved from Delhi in 2001.
  • IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.

Source: The Hindu

Vodafone case, and the Hague Court Ruling

Context:

The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled that India’s retrospective demand of Rs 22,100 crore as capital gains and withholding tax imposed on Vodafone Group for a 2007 deal was “in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment”.

  • The court has asked India not to pursue the tax demand any more against Vodafone Group.

About the case:

  • In 2007, Vodafone had bought a 67% stake in Hutchison Whampoa for $11 billion. This included the mobile telephony business and other assets of Hutchison in India.
  • Later, the Indian government for the first time raised a demand of Rs 7,990 crore in capital gains and withholding tax from Vodafone, saying the company should have deducted the tax at source before making a payment to Hutchison.
  • Vodafone challenged the demand notice in the Bombay High Court, which ruled in favor of the Income Tax Department.
    • Subsequently, Vodafone challenged the High Court judgment in the Supreme Court, which ruled that Vodafone Group’s interpretation of the Income Tax Act of 1961 was correct and that it did not have to pay any taxes for the stake purchase.
  • The same year, the then Finance Minister, circumvented the Supreme Court’s ruling by proposing an amendment to the Finance Act, thereby giving the Income Tax Department the power to retrospectively tax such deals.
    • Once Parliament passed the amendment to the Finance Act in 2012, the onus to pay the taxes fell back on Vodafone. ???????
  • The Act was passed by Parliament that year and the onus to pay the taxes fell back on Vodafone. The case had by then become infamous as the ‘retrospective taxation case’.

Retrospective taxation:

  • It allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items, or services, and deals and charge companies from time behind the date on which the law is passed.
  • Countries use this route to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies that have, in the past, allowed companies to take advantage of such loopholes.
  • Governments use a retrospective amendment to taxation laws to “clarify” existing laws.
  • Apart from India, many countries including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Italy have retrospectively taxed companies.

Bilateral Investment Treaty:

  • In 1995, India and the Netherlands had signed a BIT for the promotion and protection of investment by companies of each country in the other’s jurisdiction.
  • The treaty had then stated that both countries would strive to “encourage and promote favorable conditions for investors” of the other country.
  • Under the BIT, the two countries would ensure that companies present in each other’s jurisdictions would be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy full protection and security in the territory of the other.
  • While the treaty was between India and the Netherlands, Vodafone invoked it as its Dutch unit, Vodafone International Holdings BV, had bought the Indian business operations of Hutchinson Telecommunication International Ltd. This made it a transaction between a Dutch firm and an Indian firm.
  • In 2016, the BIT between India and the Netherlands expired.

Permanent Court of Arbitration:

  • One of the major factors for the Court of Arbitration to rule in favor of Vodafone was the violation of the BIT and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
  • In 2014, when the Vodafone Group had initiated arbitration against India at the Court of Arbitration, it had done so under Article 9 of the BIT between India and the Netherlands.
    • Article 9 of the BIT:  Any dispute between “an investor of one contracting party and the other contracting party in connection with an investment in the territory of the other contracting party” shall as far as possible be settled amicably through negotiations.
    • Article 3 of the arbitration rules of UNCITRAL: Constitution of the arbitral tribunal shall not be hindered by any controversy with respect to the sufficiency of the notice of arbitration, which shall be finally resolved by the arbitral tribunal”.
  • In its ruling, the arbitration tribunal also mentioned that now since it had been established that India had breached the terms of the agreement, it must now stop efforts to recover the said taxes from Vodafone.

Source: Indian Express

G4 Meeting

Context:

Foreign Ministers from the Group of 4 met virtually. The four countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a time frame.

  • Group of 4 (G4) consists of India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany.
  • G4 is a group of countries that are seeking permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Details:

  • The Ministers reaffirmed their common resolve to take decisive steps towards the early and comprehensive reform of the Security Council that was envisaged in the 2005 World Summit.
    • The 2005 World Summit was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
  • The G4 will work with other reform-minded countries and groups to start text-based negotiations without delay and seek “concrete outcomes” during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • G4 Ministers reiterated support for each other’s membership to the UNSC given the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • All governments expressed strong and unambiguous commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
    • It set up two new bodies:
      • A Peacebuilding Commission to help countries in transition from war to peace
      • A strengthened Human Rights Council.

India’s Position:

  • India will commence a two-year non-permanent term on the UNSC in January 2021
  • It has long sought a permanent seat at the Council.
  • Four of the five permanent members of the Security Council USA, UK, France, and Russia support giving India a permanent seat at the Council. Only China is opposed to this.
  • India is also seeking reforms to democratize the UN, such as UNSC reforms and UN peacekeeping reforms.

Concerns:

  • An informal "coffee club" or Uniting for Consensus Group has opposed UNSC reforms.
  • Most members of the club are middle-sized states who oppose bigger regional powers grabbing permanent seats in the UN Security Council.
  • Italy and Spain are opposed to Germany's bid for UNSC’s permanent membership.
  • Pakistan is opposed to India's bid. 

Source: The Hindu

Striking a blow against Assam’s inclusive ethos

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently the Assam government promulgated a law mandating the Assamese language to be taught from Classes I to X in both public and private schools including the KendriyaVidyalayas.

This editorial discusses on how Assam's language law is indicative of a homogenised nationalism overtaking minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.

2. STATUS OF THE LAW

Current scope of the law

  • The Governor of Assam has already given a formal assent to the Cabinet’s decision.
  • The law however will not be applicable in Barak Valley, Bodoland Council and other Sixth Schedule areas, where Bengali, Bodo and other indigenous languageswill take precedence respectively, over Assamese.
  • The law has risen the spirits of ‘Assamese nationalists’, who demand the extension of the law to the exempted areas as well.
  • There is little debate over how the law will affect other communities like Misings, Deoris, Rabhas and the other smaller tribes and their mother tongues.

3. DATA AND POLITICS

3.1 Misusing statistical data for homogenization

  • Politicians have been using statistical data to construct a linguistic hierarchy and homogenisation in a region.
  • Such moves are motivated to construct and stabilise the regional political economic hegemonies.
  • The census-driven communal split of Hindi and Urdu in North India, which presumes Muslims to be Urdu speakers, while Hindus to be Hindi speakers, most evidently manifests the above idea.
  • This politicization has led to the marginalisation of other regional languages such as Magadhi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Garhwali which are now deemed as mere dialects of the Hindi language.
  • It is to be noted that these so-called dialects of Hindi language have their own rich literary and linguistic traditions.
  • The writer is of the view that this was a political demographic move to ensure dominance of Hindi and Hindi-Hindu elites at the national level.

3.2 Similar Exercise in Assam

  • A similar political demographic plot based on language is being hatched in Assam as well, where the census data is used to project a ‘danger’ to the Assamese language, of which the ‘infiltration’ of Bengali-speaking communities is considered to be the primary reason.
  • The number of speakers of Assamese in 2011 consensus was 48.38% of the population, while in 1971 consensus was 60.89%.
  • This shows a considerable decline in the number of Assamesespeakers in four decades.
  • However, upon a closer and empirical look one notes that  most tribal communities have their own mother tongues, while simultaneously speaking  Assamese not because of school education but due to the fact that Assamese is the dominant market language, especially in the Brahmaputra Valley.

4. CONCERS OF TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

4.1 Impact on tribal languages

  • The forced imposition of Assamese on tribal languages has had an adverse effect on the latter especially those tribal languages, which do not enjoy any constitutional protection.
  • The census data shows a steady decline in the number of speakers of tribal languages.
  • The Mising tribe saw an increase of 41.13% in the number of speakers in the 2001 Census while by 2011 census the numbers reduced to 14.28%. Similarly, the Deorisspeaker fell from 56.19% in the 2001 Census to 15.79% in 2011 census.
  • The Rabhas community have almost completely obliterated their language.
  • Other tribes such as the Sonowal-Kacharis and Tiwas have almost completely lost their languages.

4.2 Plight of tribal communities

  • Tribal communities have been demanding linguistic and territorial protection and attention from the Assam State Government for a long time.
  • The State Government of Assam, after a long struggle by the Mising community introduced the Mising Language as an additional subject in Classes 3 and 4 in the Mising-dominated areas through a gazette notification.
  • The Mising Language was also to be the medium of instruction at the primary level and other initiatives such as appointing Mising language teachers, translating books into Mising, and introduction of Mising textbooks were also planned.
  • By 1994, only 230 teachers were appointed after which the whole process came to a halt.
  • The clause of introducing Mising as the medium of instruction was never implemented.

4.3 Forced Homogenization

  • The attempts of forced homogenisation have always been resisted by the Tribal Communities.
  • The Protest of the Khasi along with other tribal communities against the Official Language Bill in 1960 led to the formation of Meghalaya.
  • The origin of the Bodo movement for autonomy also lie in the same bill.
  • Tribal communities has frequently highlighted that the discourse of ‘Assamese Nationalism’ has a very narrow and limited outlook with almost no scope for other communities.
  • Despite this negligence, tribal communities in Assam like Misings, Deoris, Rabhas, etc. have always supported the Assamese movement against the imposition of Bengali language or Hindi in Assam.
  • However, in return of their support to Assamese, these communities have found themselves consistently marginalised.
  • The State governments and the hegemonic forces in the region have always derecognised the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of these tribes.

4.4As a job requirement

  • In addition to the legislation in question, according to the Home Minister of Assam, the Assam Government is pondering over a separate legislation making the learning of Assamese language until matriculation, a mandatory condition for government jobs in Assam.
  • Such moves indicate precedence of a non-inclusive homogenised Assamese nationalism over inclusion of minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.
  • Legislations like this alienates the linguistic identities of various tribes of Assam like the Misings, Deoris and Rabhas, etc. and restricts the definition of ‘Axomiya’ to just the speakers of Assamese.

5. THE EFFECT OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

  • During the course of anti-(CAA) movement in Assam, a new definition of 'Assamese indigenous' emerged, which was inclusive of tribal and other non-Assamese communities and was based on domicile rather than language alone.
  • Demands regarding protection of indigenous land, culture and languages was raised during the struggle.
  • The anti-(CAA) movement could have been a point of departure in the ‘Assamese Nationalism’ discourse.
  • The government's decision to make Assamese language compulsory in schools has weakened heterogeneous aspirations and anti-hegemonic build-up in the anti-CAA movement in Assam.

6. CONCLUSION

The tribal communities of Assam acknowledge the threats posed by infiltration to the native languages and culture but they are also apprehensive about the Assamese hegemony and homogeneity.

This law will only further increase the marginalisation of these communities and fuelling ethnic tensions and triggering social conflicts once again.

The progressive sections in Assam must overcome the politics of fear and work towards a more inclusive ethos of Assam.

10th East Asia Summit

Context:

Minister of State for External Affairs attended the 10th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

Details:

  • During the meeting, views were exchanged on the current regional and international developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The meeting mainly focuses on ways and means to strengthen the leaders-led EAS platform and to make it more responsive to emerging challenges on its 15th anniversary.
  • The meeting was attended by foreign ministers of the EAS participating countries and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam.
  • The meeting reviewed the status of commitments made under the EAS framework and the progress in the implementation of the Manila Plan of Action (2018-2022) to implement the Phnom Penh Declaration on the EAS Development Initiative.
    • In 2012 EAS Development Initiative was adopted by the EAS Leaders.
  • 15th EAS Summit scheduled in November 2020.

The East Asia Summit:

  • It is the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with issues relating to security and defense.
  • Since its inception in 2005, it has played a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical, and economic evolution of East Asia.
  • In 1991, the concept of an East Asia Grouping was first promoted by Malaysia.
  • In 2005 the first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Members:

  • India is a founding member of the East Asia Summit.
  • The EAS comprises the ten member states of ASEAN along with 8 other members Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.
  • The EAS membership represents around 54% of the world’s population and accounts for 58% of global GDP.

EAS Chair:

  • The EAS can only be chaired by an ASEAN member.
  • The chair of ASEAN is also the chair of the EAS and rotates annually between the ten ASEAN member states.
  • There are six priority areas of regional cooperation under the framework of EAS:
    • Environment and Energy
    • Education
    • Finance
    • Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases
    • Natural Disaster Management.

Source: Business Standard

International Literacy Day 2020

Context:

September 8 marks the celebration of International Literacy Day.

  • Theme: ‘Literacy teaching and learning in the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.’

Background:

  • At the 14th session of UNESCO’s general conference in 1966, the first-ever International Literacy Day was declared and since then it has been celebrated annually on September 8 with an objective to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals and communities around the world.

Literacy at the global level:

  • About 775 million adults lack the minimum education that is required to be literate and of those, 60.7 million children are out of school or are rare attendees.
  • According to the UNESCO’s ‘Global Monitoring Report on Education for All’ (2006), South Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate, at 58.6%, and the causes for this illiteracy range from severe poverty and the prejudice against women.

Literacy in India:

  • Definition: A person aged seven and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language, is treated as literate.
    • A person, who can only read but cannot write, is not literate. In the Censuses prior to 1991, children below 5 years of age were treated as illiterates.
    • It was decided at the 1991 Census that all children in the age group 0-6, would be treated as illiterate by definition and the population aged seven years and above only would be classified as literate or illiterate.
    • The same criterion has been retained in the Censuses of 2001 and 2011. Further, a person need not receive any formal education or acquire any minimum qualification to be treated as literate.

Data:

  • According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) survey, Kerala has once again emerged as the most literate state in the country (96.2 %)
  • Andhra Pradesh featured at the bottom with a rate of 66.4 %.

The report on ‘Household Social Consumption:

  • Education in India as part of the 75th round of National Sample Survey – from July 2017 to June 2018’ provides for state-wise detail of literacy rate among the persons aged seven years and above.
    • According to the study, after Kerala, Delhi has the best literacy rate at 88.7 %, followed by Uttarkhand’s 87.6 %, Himachal Pradesh’s 86.6 %, and Assam’s at 85.9 %
    • Rajasthan is the second-worst performer with a literacy rate of 69.7%, followed by Bihar at 70.9 %, Telangana at 72.8%, Uttar Pradesh at 73 %, and Madhya Pradesh at 73.7 %
    • The study has pegged the overall literacy rate in the country at about 77.7 %. In rural areas, the literacy rate is 73.5 % compared to 87.7 % in urban areas of the country.
  • At the all-India level, the male literacy rate is higher at 84.7 % compared to 70.3 % among women.
  • The survey showed that the male literacy rate is higher than the female literacy rate among all states. In Kerala, the male literacy rate is 97.4 % compared to 95.2 % among females. 

Source: Indian Express

World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS)

Context:

The first World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS) being organized by the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

Objective: To bring the spotlight on accelerating affordable and sustainable clean green energy by showcasing and deliberating on the innovative state of the art next-generation technologies in solar power.

Details:

  • The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), as the convenor of ISA Global Leadership Task Force on Innovation, worked with ISA in organizing the summit.
    • The summit will focus on:
      • Bringing light on affordable and sustainable clean energy.
      • Global Session of CEOs,
      • Vision 2030 and beyond Establishing decarbonized Grid Disruptive Solar Technologies Solar Beyond power sector

The summit conducted with an aim:

  • To build common knowledge E-Portal.
  • To develop innovative financial mechanisms and reduce capital costs.
  • To formulate programs that will promote solar applications.
  • On capacity building for absorption and promotion of solar technologies.
  • To facilitate Research and Development among member countries.

The summit has launched the following initiatives and guidelines:

  • Solar Photo-voltaic Technician Skill development initiative.
  • ISA Cares Initiative.
  • Undergraduate Programme (UG) for small Islands, Developing states, and Least Developed Countries.
  • Price Exploratory Global bid for energy that will provide access to 47 million households through solar parks.
  • Advisory for manufacturers to produce solar kits-based ventilators.
  • Action plan to develop 20 GW of solar parks. 

International Solar Alliance

  • The ISA comprises 121 sunshine countries lying between the two tropics that are tropic of cancer and tropic of Capricorn.
  • The organization is headquartered in Gurugram, Haryana.
  • ISA was initiated by India and it was proposed at the Paris Climate change Conference of 2015.
  • The countries work with an objective of efficient use of solar energy so as to reduce the dependence of other fuels.

Source: PIB

 Development Finance Institution (DFI)

Context:

The central government is planning to set up a new  Development Finance Institution (DFI) with the objective to fill the gap in long-term finance for infrastructure sectors of the country.

Details:

  • The DFI will be used to finance both social and economic infrastructure projects identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP).
  • Role of Government in DFI:
    • The DFI can have two types of character:
      • Either it should be promoted by the government.
      • Or it should be given a private sector character with the government restricting its holding to 49%.
  • Recently, the Finance Ministry inaugurated a NIP online dashboard which provides details on investment opportunities. This feeds from an earlier report of a high-level task force under Economic Affairs Secretary which had drawn up projects totalling investments of Rs 111 lakh crore across roads, railways, energy and urban sectors over the coming five years 2020-25.

Advantages of DFI:

  • The DFI is fully held by the government and it would be helpful in fund-raising. 
  • The securities from the DFI could be made SLR (Statutory Liquidity Ratio) eligible. This will encourage banks to subscribe to the securities issued by DFI and fulfil their SLR obligations.
    • RBI requires banks to set aside 18 % of their net demand and time liabilities towards SLR.
  • However, the issue involved in this is that the senior management of the DFI may be hounded by investigative agencies such as CBI, and be subject to the scrutiny of CAG and the CVC.

Development Finance Institution (DFI):

  • DFIs are specialized institutions set up to provide development/ Project finance and owned by central governments.
  • DFIs usually get funds from national or international development institutions.
  • DFIs strikes a balance between commercial operational norms as followed by commercial banks.
  • DFIs are not just plain lenders like commercial banks but they act as companions in the development of several sectors of the economy.

Classification of DFIs:

  • Sector-specific financial institutions: These institutions are focusing on a specific sector to provide project finance. Ex: National Housing Bank is solely related to Housing projects, EXIM bank is mainly focused on import-export operations.
  • Investment Institutions: These institutions facilitate business operations, such as capital expenditure financing and equity offerings, including initial public offerings (IPOs). Ex: LIC, GIC and UTI.

Way forward:

There is a huge funding gap that existed in the infrastructure space. Banks are unable to provide long-term finance to projects. If India has to grow 8-10 % continuously, credit growth must be 12-14 %. Infrastructure projects require long-term funds, and given the scale of investment required, a large DFI is a good idea.

Source: Indian Express

5th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meeting

Context:

Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism attended the 5th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meeting.

  • The meeting was held under the chairpersonship of Russia.
  • The discussion was held on the impact of the epidemiological situation on the cultural sphere in the BRICS countries and review of the possible implementation of joint cultural online-projects within BRICS.

Suggestions:

  • Digital Online Exhibition: Exploring possibilities of hosting a Digital Online Exhibition on a shared theme towards the end of 2021 under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Museums.
  • Joint Exhibition: The National Gallery of Modern Arts, New Delhi will host the BRICS Joint Exhibition titled ‘Bonding Regions & Imagining Cultural Synergies’ under the auspices of the BRICS Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries in 2021.
  • BRICS Corner: Opening the BRICS Corner under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Libraries proposed to be inaugurated during India's BRICS Presidency in 2021. The Corner will disseminate information related to the history and culture of BRICS countries.
  • Cooperation and content sharing: Extending full cooperation and content sharing for the website envisaged under the BRICS Alliance.

BRICS:

  • BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • In 2009, the first BRIC summit took place in Yekaterinburg (Russia). 
  • In 2010, South Africa was invited to join BRIC after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.
  • in 2014 during the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (Brazil) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank. 

Cultural Cooperation among BRICS Nations:

  • In 2017, the agreement on cooperation in the field of culture (2017-21) between the governments of BRICS nations was signed.
  • In 2018, the BRICS nations endorsed institution-to-institution collaborations in the form of BRICS Alliance of Museums, BRICS Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries.

Source: PIB

UNSC Rejects Pakistan move to list Indians as Terrorists

Context:

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has rejected Pakistan’s requests to list four Indians as designated terrorists under its 1267 Committee for Counterterrorism Sanctions.

Background:

  • Earlier this year Pakistan, with the support of UNSC permanent member and its ally China, had moved the 1267 Al Qaida sanctions committee to designate two Indians as global terrorists after accusing them of terror attacks in Balochistan and Peshawar and even registered FIRs against them.
  • Pakistan has tried to get four Indian nationals listed as global terrorists. All four were working in Afghanistan, have left the country and returned to India.
  • Earlier, these countries had put a hold on the listing, to give time for evidence to be provided. 

Details:

  • Due to the lack of evidence the USA, UK, France, Germany, and Belgium blocked Pakistan's requests due to lack of evidence.
  • India’s Permanent Representative to the UN mentioned that Pakistan’s attempt to politicize the 1267 special procedure on terrorism by giving it a religious color, has been thwarted by the UN Security Council. 
  • India believes that Pakistan is trying to hit back after India managed to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist under the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee.

UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee:

  • The resolution was adopted unanimously in 1999.
  • This committee oversees the implementation of sanctions pursuant to UNSC resolutions 1267 (1999) 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015).
  • The committee is one of the most important and active UN subsidiary bodies working on efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to Al Qaeda, Taliban, and the Islamic State group. It prepares a consolidated list of people associated with these organizations.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC):

  • It was established in 1945 and one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN).
  • Its objective is to ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new UN members to the General Assembly, and approving any changes to the UN Charter. 
  • It is the only UN body that has the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states.
  • Headquarter: New York, USA.

Functions and powers:

  • Maintaining peace and security at the international level. It takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to peace or act of aggression.
  • UNSC can also deploy UN peacekeeping operations and impose sanctions on states.
  • It can also impose diplomatic relations severance, financial restrictions and penalties, blockades, and even collective military action if required.

Members:

  • A total of 15 members are therein UNSC, out of which 5 are permanent and 10 are not permanent.
  • Permanent members: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States
  • Non-permanent members: Belgium Dominican Republic, Estonia,  Germany, Indonesia, Niger, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, South Africa, Tunisia, Vietnam
  • The non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
  • The members include three from Africa, while Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean have two members each.
  • In June 2020, India was elected as a non-permanent member, winning 184 out of the 193 votes at the UNGA. This membership is for 2021-22.

Source:  Indian Express

A safety net post COVID-19 Crisis

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

In the post COVID-19 crisis situation, India needs to address many problems however the two problems that require the most immediate and special attention are improving India's healthcare system and devising a scheme to provide minimum income support to the weak and vulnerable groups.

This editorial analyses the second issue in detail and proposes a new and feasible design of the implementation of basic economic support for the poor and the vulnerable.

2. PROVIDING A BASIC INCOME

2.1 Issues with Universal Basic Income (UBI)

  • UBI has been one of the most discussed economic support schemes in recent years in India.
  • It is not the implementation but the feasibility of the UBI scheme that is the critical question.
  • The most essential problem with non-universal targeted schemes is that of identification of beneficiaries.
  • A narrowly targeted program is bound to run into complex problems of identification and this will lead to exclusion and inclusion errors.

2.2 Addressing the identification problem

  • The editorial presents three solutions to address the problem of identification of beneficiaries and achieve the objective of providing a basic minimum income to poor and vulnerable groups in both rural and urban areas. There are as follows:
    1. Providing cash transfers to all women above the age of 20 years
    2. Expanding the number of days provided under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act)
    3. Devising a national employment guarantee scheme in urban areas.
  • The above-stated proposals will not run into the problem of identification.
  • The editorial suggests a combination of cash transfers and an expanded employment guarantee scheme to provide for a basic minimum income for poor and vulnerable groups.

3. IDENTIFYING BENEFICIARIES OF CASH TRANSFERS

  • The problem of identifications in cash transfers can be resolved by providing cash transfers to women above 20 years of age.
  • This criterion can be easily identified, as the age of the person is available in the Aadhaar cards.
  • The female population in India above the age of 20 is close to 42.89 crores and providing them with a minimum amount of Rs 4,000 annually as cash transfer will cost the government around Rs 1.72 lakh crore which is 0.84% of GDP.
  • This income will be in addition to the income from the expanded scope of MGNREGA.
  • If women with a well to do economic status choose not to take the benefit of the cash transfers, this will lessen the burden on the government. 

4. EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF MGNREGA

4.1 Expanding MGNREGA in rural areas

  • Although the MGNREGA guarantees 100 days of employment, presently, it is availed of only for 50 days.
  • Strengthening the MGNREGA can benefit the poor and informal workers significantly.
  • The editorial suggests adoption of two strategies with regards to MGNREGA.
  • Since the economic burden and distress is disproportionately higher in the rural areas, the number of days of guaranteed employment under the MGNREGA should be expanded from 100 to 150 in rural areas.

4.2 Introducing MGNREGA in urban areas

  • The government should also mull at introducing an Employment Guarantee Act in urban areas as well.
  • During the fiscal year, the government incurred a cost of Rs 67,873 crore for providing 48 days of employment to 5.48 crore of rural households. The wage expenditure out of the cost incurred stood at Rs 48,762 crore.
  • The government has increased the per day wage rate from Rs 182.1 in 2019-20 to Rs 202.5 in 2020-21.
  • The government should aim to provide employment to 5.48 crore rural households and 2.66 crore urban households (together accounting for 33% of total households in the country).
  • At the revised wage rate of 202.5 per day, the total wage expenditure for providing150 days of employment to the 33% of total households will be Rs 2.47 lakh crore which is 1.21% of GDP, while the total expenditure (wages and materials) will be Rs 3.21 lakh crore (1.58 percent of GDP) in 2020-21.
  • This calculation includes the already committed current expenditure of generating around 50 days of employment in rural areas.
  • Subtracting the already committed expenditure the additional expenditure needed for providing 150 days of employment to both rural and urban areas will be Rs 1.9 to 2.5 lakh crore which is around 1 - 1.22% of GDP.

4.3 A new design for MGNREGA in urban areas

  • A nationwide urban employment guarantee scheme will be very beneficial to improve urban livelihoods under the COVID-19 crisis where a majority of urban households have suffered from job cuts and pay cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and are in great distress.
  • The design and implementation of the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme can be different from MGNREGA.
  • Instead of providing employment to only unskilled as in MGNREGA, employment to both unskilled and semi-skilled workers can be provided in the urban areas, as there is a demand for semi-skilled workers as well in the urban centers.
  • A person working in MGNREGA and in the urban program can get Rs 30,000 if 150 days are provided.

5. FEASIBILITY OF THE PROPOSALS

5.1 Total cost of implementation

  • The total cost of all the three proposals viz. cash transfers to women above 20, 150 days of employment under MGNREGA, and 150 days of work for the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme will be around Rs 4.9 lakh crore or 2.4 percent of GDP.
  • However, the total cost of implementation of these proposals would be much lower because of the following reasons:
    • Since employment guarantee programs are demand-based programs, the number of days availed would be less than 150 days, which is the case presently as well.
    • Women from affluent families and well to do economic status may voluntarily drop out of the scheme.

5.2 Feasibility of the Scheme

  • The government is already incurring a total expenditure of Rs 67,873 crore on MGNREGA.
  • Given that the new schemes would cost around 4.9 lakh crore and that the government is already spending Rs 67,873 crore on MGNREGA, the government needs to mobilize an additional Rs 4.2 lakh.
  • The feasibility of raising an additional Rs 4.2 lakh crore is not easy.
  • Some analysts have suggested that removing all exemptions in our tax system can procure the said amount.
  • Experts also suggest eliminating non-merit subsidies, which is another item of government's expenditure.
  • While these steps may not look feasible on the surface, a meticulously crafted and balanced approach can help realize a substantial part of the total amount of Rs 4.2 lakh crore.

6. CONCLUSION

The post COVID-19 situation is worrisome and is here to stay for a long time. Under these circumstances, it is imperative that the state institutions should step up to provide a minimum income for the poor and vulnerable groups.

For the same purpose, this editorial suggests cash transfers for women above 20 years of age, increasing guaranteed employment under MGNREGAin rural areas from the present 100 to 150 days of work and the introduction of 150 days of work as an urban employment guarantee scheme.

Though this will cost around 2 percent of GDP, yet it will definitely help to reduce the distress caused to informal workers, including the migrant workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also help significantly in reducing poverty.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

  • The Union Government of India amended the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 on 2 October 2009 and the amended act was subsequently called Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

AIM - MGNREGA aims to provide a minimum of 100 days of guaranteed wage employment per year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Core Objectives of MGNREGA

  • Providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment per year to every household in the rural area as per demand leading to productive asset creation of desired quality and standards.
  • Enhancing the economic resource base of rural households.
  • Enhancing social inclusion.
  • Strengthening the third tier of government viz. Panchayati Raj Institutions.

Goals of MGNREGA

  • Guaranteed wage employment provides social and livelihood security to the most vulnerable sections of Indian society.
  • Leads to better utilization of rural resources and the creation of durable assets.
    • Empowers the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the Indian population particularly women, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), through legislative backing.
  • Strengthen decentralize and participatory planning by combining poverty alleviation and livelihood generation schemes.
  • DeepensGrassroot Democracy.

Source: The Indian Express - https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/corona-crisis-india-healthcare-system-universal-basic-income-mgnrega-migrant-workers-6487481/

Striking a blow against Assam’s inclusive ethos

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently the Assam government promulgated a law mandating the Assamese language to be taught from Classes I to X in both public and private schools including the Kendriya Vidyalayas.

This editorial discusses on how Assam's language law is indicative of a homogenized nationalism overtaking minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.

2. STATUS OF THE LAW

Current scope of the law

  • The Governor of Assam has already given a formal assent to the Cabinet’s decision.
  • The law however will not be applicable in Barak Valley, Bodoland Council, and other Sixth Schedule areas, where Bengali, Bodo, and other indigenous languages will take precedence respectively, over the Assamese.
  • The law has risen the spirits of ‘Assamese nationalists’, who demand the extension of the law to the exempted areas as well.
  • There is little debate over how the law will affect other communities like Misings, Deoris, Rabhasand the other smaller tribes, and their mother tongues.

3. DATA AND POLITICS

3.1 Misusing statistical data for homogenization

  • Politicians have been using statistical data to construct a linguistic hierarchy and homogenization in a region.
  • Such moves are motivated to construct and stabilize the regional political-economic hegemonies.
  • The census-driven communal split of Hindi and Urdu in North India, which presumes Muslims to be Urdu speakers, while Hindus to be Hindi speakers, most evidently manifests the above idea.
  • This politicization has led to the marginalization of other regional languages such as Magadhi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Garhwali which are now deemed as mere dialects of the Hindi language.
  • It is to be noted that these so-called dialects of Hindi language have their own rich literary and linguistic traditions.
  • The writer is of the view that this was a political demographic move to ensure the dominance of Hindi and Hindi-Hindu elites at the national level.

3.2 Similar Exercise in Assam

  • A similar political demographic plot based on language is being hatched in Assam as well, where the census data is used to project a ‘danger’ to the Assamese language, of which the ‘infiltration’ of Bengali-speaking communities is considered to be the primary reason.
  • The number of speakers of the Assamese in 2011 consensus was 48.38% of the population, while in 1971 consensus was 60.89%.
  • This shows a considerable decline in the number of Assamese speakers in four decades.
  • However, upon a closer and empirical look, one notes that most tribal communities have their own mother tongues, while simultaneously speaking  Assamese not because of school education but due to the fact that Assamese is the dominant market language, especially in the Brahmaputra Valley.

4. CONCERS OF TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

4.1 Impact on tribal languages

  • The forced imposition of the Assamese on tribal languages has had an adverse effect on the latter especially those tribal languages, which do not enjoy any constitutional protection.
  • The census data shows a steady decline in the number of speakers of tribal languages.
  • The Mising tribe saw an increase of 41.13% in the number of speakers in the 2001 Census while by 2011 census the numbers reduced to 14.28%. Similarly, the Deorisspeaker fell from 56.19% in the 2001 Census to 15.79% in the 2011 census.
  • The Rabhas community has almost completely obliterated their language.
  • Other tribes such as the Sonowal-Kacharis and Tiwas have almost completely lost their languages.

4.2 Plight of tribal communities

  • Tribal communities have been demanding linguistic and territorial protection and attention from the Assam State Government for a long time.
  • The State Government of Assam, after a long struggle by the Mising community, introduced the Mising Language as an additional subject in Classes 3 and 4 in the Mising-dominated areas through a gazette notification.
  • The Mising Language was also to be the medium of instruction at the primary level and other initiatives such as appointing Mising language teachers, translating books into Mising, and introduction of Mising textbooks were also planned.
  • By 1994, only 230 teachers were appointed after which the whole process came to a halt.
  • The clause of introducing Mising as the medium of instruction was never implemented.

4.3 Forced Homogenization

  • The attempts of forced homogenization have always been resisted by the Tribal Communities.
  • The Protest of the Khasi along with other tribal communities against the Official Language Bill in 1960 led to the formation of Meghalaya.
  • The origin of the Bodo movement for autonomy also lie in the same bill.
  • Tribal communities has frequently highlighted that the discourse of ‘Assamese Nationalism’ has a very narrow and limited outlook with almost no scope for other communities.
  • Despite this negligence, tribal communities in Assam like Misings, Deoris, Rabhas, etc. have always supported the Assamese movement against the imposition of Bengali language or Hindi in Assam.
  • However, in return of their support to the Assamese, these communities have found themselves consistently marginalized.
  • The State governments and the hegemonic forces in the region have always derecognized the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of these tribes.

4.4As a job requirement

  • In addition to the legislation in question, according to the Home Minister of Assam, the Assam Government is pondering over separate legislation making the learning of the Assamese language until matriculation, a mandatory condition for government jobs in Assam.
  • Such moves indicate the precedence of a non-inclusive homogenized Assamese nationalism over the inclusion of minority linguistic and cultural aspirations.
  • Legislations like this alienates the linguistic identities of various tribes of Assam like the Misings, Deoris, and Rabhas, etc. and restricts the definition of ‘Axomiya’ to just the speakers of Assamese.

5. THE EFFECT OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

  • During the course of anti-(CAA) movement in Assam, a new definition of 'Assamese indigenous' emerged, which was inclusive of tribal and other non-Assamese communities and was based on domicile rather than language alone.
  • Demands regarding the protection of indigenous land, culture and languages were raised during the struggle.
  • The anti-(CAA) movement could have been a point of departure in the ‘Assamese Nationalism’ discourse.
  • The government's decision to make Assamese language compulsory in schools has weakened heterogeneous aspirations and anti-hegemonic build-up in the anti-CAA movement in Assam.

6. CONCLUSION

The tribal communities of Assam acknowledge the threats posed by infiltration to the native languages and culture but they are also apprehensive about the Assamese hegemony and homogeneity.

This law will only further increase the marginalization of these communities and fuelling ethnic tensions and triggering social conflicts once again.

The progressive sections in Assam must overcome the politics of fear and work towards a more inclusive ethos of Assam.

Source: The Hindu - https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/striking-a-blow-against-assams-inclusive-ethos/article31965577.ece

India’s Election as a Non-Permanent Member of the UNSC and its implications

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently, India was elected unopposed to the non-permanent member seat of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

This editorial talks about India’s candidature to UNSC and its diplomatic consequences.

2. UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL (UNSC)

2.1 Structure of UNSC

The UNSC (United Nations Security Council) is composed of 15 members consisting of:

  • 5 permanent members  are:
    • China, France, Russia, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom
  • 10 non-permanent members:
    • Non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term.
    • Five out of Ten non-permanent members are elected every year by the General Assembly.

2.2 Details regarding the candidature of Non-permanent seats

  • 10 non-permanent seats are distributed among the regions of the world:
    • 5 seats for African and Asian countries
    • 1 seat for Eastern European countries
    • 2seat for Latin American and Caribbean countries
    • 2seats for Western European and Other Countries
    • Out of the five seats for Africa and Asia, 3 seats are for Africa and 2 for Asia.

2.3 Current Non-permanent members

The current non-permanent members of the Security Council

  • Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa. The terms for all of these countries ends in 2020.
  • While the term for Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam ends in 2021.
  • India’s tenure will begin from the start of 2021 and end with the end of 2022 (2 years).

3. INDIA AS NON-PERMANENT UNSC MEMBER

3.1 The current term 2021 -2022

  • India won with an overwhelming majority securing 184 out of the 192 valid votes polled.
  • Last year, India’s candidature was supported unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan and China.
  • India’s victory was ensured given than it was the only contestant for the Asia Pacific seat yet the Indian foreign policy establishment took no chances as the elections are conducted by secret ballot at the UN General Assembly and two-thirds of the votes are needed for victory.
  • Other elected non-permanent members are Mexico, Norway, and Ireland

3.2 India’s previous terms

  • India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 7 times, in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12.

3.2 USNC Presidency

  • The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the member states' names.
  • Recently, the office of the UN spokesperson released information regarding India’s presidency. India will assume the presidency of the UNSC for the month of August 2021, and again for a month in 2022.

4. INDIA’S COMMITMENT IN THE UNITED NATIONS

India sought support for its candidature by highlighting its commitment to multilateralism and reforms in the structure of the United Nations.

4.1 Need of Reforms in the UNSC

  • Lack of reforms has led to a highly unequal and inefficient Security Council.
  • Undemocratic UNSC: UNSC is one of the most undemocratic global bodies. Except for North America and Europe, other regions of the word are either underrepresented (Asia) or not represented at all (Africa, Latin America, and the Small Island developing states).
  • Issue of Veto Power: The five permanent members (P5) have the privilege of the veto, which in effect downplays the status of non-permanent members reducing them to the role of a rubber stamp. The veto power is often misused by P5 nations to serve the strategic interest of themselves and their allies. Since 1990, U.S.A has vetoed 16 times on Israeli-Palestinian relations while Russia has done it 17 times (8 times over the issue of Syria alone.).
  • Lack of Global Governance: There a lack of regulatory mechanisms for common global concerns like the Internet, Space, and international waters.
  • There is also a lack of unanimity on dealing with global issues of terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and public health (as seen in the current pandemic).
  • India is of the view that the structure of the UN Security Council does not reflect the realities of the 21st century.
  • India’s push for reforms has got increasing support from member countries but the attempts have been resisted by the permanent members.
  • The question of UNSC’s expansion has been very controversial. Controversies range from individual stakeholders and regional blocks competing for different positions and interests.

4.2 India’s objective during its tenure

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankarlaid out A “new orientation for a reformed multilateral system” (NORMS) detailing India’s overall objective during the two-year tenure.
  • India’s campaign brochure highlighted:
    • The demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions
    • A push for the India-led Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism
    • It also called for joint efforts for UN reform and expansion of the Security Council.

4.3 Achieving the intended goals

  • India’s success will depend on how it conducts its global diplomacy.
  • India needs to forge alliances and raise issues concerning countries beyond the permanent five.

4.4 India’s bid for Permanent Seat

  • India has sought the permanent membership at the UNSC.
  • India works closely with the G4 group (Brazil, Japan, India, and Germany) to make a case for structural reforms within the UNSC.
  • India has garnered wide support for its cause and its candidature for a permanent seat in the UNSC is getting stronger by the day.
  • India has been a founding member of the United Nations and on the forefront of participating in its initiatives like Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable development goals, and various UN summits, including on climate change.
  • India is at the forefront in UN Peacekeeping missions, with almost twice the number of peacekeepers deployed than by P5 countries.
  • India's intrinsic value of being the largest democracy in the world, being a nuclear weapon state and its increasing footprint on the global state attest to its candidature.
  • India’s has previously held the non-permanent member seat, 7 times and its efforts serve as a stepping-stone to prepare a bid for the permanent candidature.       

5. CHANGING GLOBAL ORDER AND UNSC

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all spheres of global business and the United Nations has not been left untouched.

5.1 Implications of COVID-19 pandemic

  • COVID-19 has already shaken up the global world order and the U.S.A – China rivalry has sharpened up.
  • Restriction on cross border movement and a call for protectionism, import-substitution, and self-sufficiency is gathering momentum all across the world.
  • It has also led to fresh debates on strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions.

5.2 Challenges before India

  • India faces a multitude of challenges.
  • UNSC is one of the most important multilateral decision-making bodies where the contours of global geopolitics are often drawn.
  • In a world that is being polarised day by day, India should avoid picking sides for the realization of short-term goals.

5.3 Challenges vis-à-vis Pakistan

  • Pakistan has always opposed India’s candidature to a permanent place at the UNSC.
  • Pakistan takes that strong view that if India is to become a permanent member of the UNSC, it should also attain the same position.
  • India should aim to raise the question of State-Sponsored Terrorism by Pakistan and constant cross-border filtrations by terrorist groups from Pakistan into Indian soil in the UNSC.
  •  India should also aim to gather support for viewing Kashmir as a bilateral issue and look to disengage the international community from the Kashmir Issue.

6. CONCLUSION

India is recognized as a rising global power today. There is a dire need for democratization and multilateralism all over the world and it is only obvious that the change should begin from the UNSC itself.

To serve its interests at the high table and push for its agenda of multilateralism and reforms, India should adopt value-based positions.

India should alsoaspire for the leadership of the non-permanent members of the Council and be the voice of the weaker and underrepresented nations.

Source: The Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/at-the-high-table-the-hindu-editorial-on-indias-un-security-council-win/article31863713.ece