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Updating of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the Citizenship Amendment Bill could lead to a redrawing of the demographic map of South Asia, give new life to the discredited two-nation theory.
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan
- But members of those communities living in the three countries do not seem to welcome the proposed amendment
- There are fears that the proposed amendment would make the communities it represents more insecure, not less
- It would embolden political forces that would like to evict them from their lands and force them to leave Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and cross into India
Minority dynamics in South Asia
- Developments in India have long affected the plight of minorities across the border
- The suspicion of dual loyalty has been a persistent source of anxiety and fear for minority communities in the Subcontinent
- There are many instances of communal conflict in India creating a backlash against minorities in Bangladesh
What is the contention about?
- People whose names will not appear in the final NRC in Assam are likely to face a gloomy future
- They have long been subjects of suspicion of being false nationals
- The NRC will now officially bestow on them the status of stateless citizens or of non-citizens with no rights
Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950
- It was a bilateral agreement between the two governments on the security and the well-being of minorities
- Its main goal was to reassure “minority populations of their security within the country and to discourage them from migrating”
- The Pact even provided an institutional infrastructure — including provincial and district minority boards — to address the concerns of threatened minorities
- Thanks to this Pact, large numbers of minority migrants who had crossed the Partition’s border because of communal violence felt encouraged to return to their homes on the other side
History of minority safeguards
- The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — conventionally thought of as the foundational event of the modern international state system — included safeguards for religious minorities
- Concluding minority treaties was the instrument of choice for the protection of minorities during the early part of the 20th century when the unraveling of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires had led to the emergence of a number of new minority situations in the reconfigured political space
- In the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the great powers assigned the task of enforcing the minority protection clauses of those treaties to the League of Nations
- Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rights of minority communities have featured in a number of bilateral agreements
- The European Union also emphasizes the bilateral mode of addressing tensions arising out of the minority question
- There is an illusion of unilateralism that marks Indian policy right now
- Abandoning the illusion of unilateralism may be the first step in creating a durable regime of minority protection in the subcontinent
- India will participate in deliberations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in New York on an important issue concerning resolution of commercial disputes.
- Commercial disputes are resolved not only through courts and arbitration but also through mediation.
- The deliberations will consider how these settlement agreements in disputes in international commercial transactions will be implemented by courts in different countries.
An important draft
- Several concerns make this draft important for India and its businesses. Mandatory pre-litigation mediation has been introduced in commercial disputes.
- The adoption of the convention will address a policy gap on outcomes from the mediation process involving cross-border disputes.
- With a definitive legal framework recognising and enforcing mediated settlement agreements, businesses will be encouraged to consider mediation in managing and resolving disputes that arise in their commercial transactions.
- India has lost substantial earnings as a result of international disputes being taken for resolution outside the country. Strengthening the dispute resolution policies will encourage dispute resolution in India, where the commercial relationship once began.
- As is evident, international transactions involve the application of different laws, by virtue of the persons from different countries being involved, or their undertaking a business in a third country.
- The draft convention that is now under consideration relates to the enforcement of settlement agreements arising from disputes in international commercial contracts. The convention will link laws adopted by countries to recognise domestic mediation and extend them beyond their boundaries.
- UNCITRAL has formulated principles on which countries should recognise and enforce mediation agreements arising from cross-border disputes.
- Once formalised, countries will have a consistent framework for enforcing mediation agreements made in other countries.
- The draft convention defines mediation as a “process whereby parties attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person (the mediator).
- The mediator lacks the authority to impose a solution upon the parties to the dispute.” Courts of a country before which a mediated settlement agreement is brought must ensure implementation of the terms of settlement.
- The courts will allow a party to a settlement agreement to rely on this agreement as a defence in cases filed on the basis of disputes already settled by the agreement.
Enforcement of settlement agreement
- When the settlement agreement comes up before the court for implementation or enforcement, the court will review it on the basis of certain conditions.
- These include the capacity of the parties to enter into the agreement, the question whether the subject matter of the agreement is one that can be settled through mediation in terms of its domestic laws, and so on.
- Once the agreement has been reviewed, the court must enforce the agreement on the terms agreed. Courts can decline enforcement only on these conditions. The importance of the draft convention is in the identification of these conditions after careful deliberation.
- Mediated settlement agreements typically don’t need court assistance for enforcement since the terms of settlement have been chosen and determined by the parties.
- However, with this convention comes the certainty that settlement agreements through mediation will be acknowledged as a resolution of the dispute, and will be respected and enforced.
- Further, if the court were to decline enforcement, this will be done on grounds that are known to international parties.
- One hundred and seventy-four countries recognise mediation and conciliation as a method of resolving disputes, and as an alternative to going to courts.
- International business and dispute resolution institutions such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the Singapore International Mediation Centre and the World Intellectual Property Organisation all have established rules and assist businesses in resolving disputes through mediation.
- Businesses, in turn, have turned to mediation as the first step in resolving differences that arise in their international disputes.
- The convention is opportune and will facilitate legal reform to ease dispute resolution.
- The government is set to replace the apex higher education regulator, University Grants Commission (UGC), with a higher education commission by repealing the UGC Act, 1951, for better administration of the HE sector.
- Centre has placed in the public domain a draft Bill for eliciting suggestions from educationists.
The Draft Bill
- The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018, takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality.
- The new regime separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education.
- While HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) – or another mechanism that will be put in place later – will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
- Another key feature of the draft legislation is that the Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
- Moreover, non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence (Till now, the UGC had no such powers. All it could do was to release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees).
- All institutions approved by the UGC will have to comply with the academic standards laid down by HECI within three years after the new law is passed by Parliament and notified by the union government. If an institution fails to do so, its approval will be revoked.
- The HECI will have a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 12 other members to be appointed by the central government, including ex officio members, eminent academics and a doyen of industry.
- Of the 12 members, three members will represent union government namely: secretary of higher education, secretary of ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and secretary, department of science and technology.
- The secretary of the commission will act as the member-secretary.
- HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
- It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law.
- The transformation of the regulatory set-up is based on the principles of minimum government and maximum governance, separation of grant functions, end of inspection raj and focus on the academic quality.
- The draft Act is in accordance with commitment of the government for reforming the regulatory systems that provide more autonomy to higher education institutes to promote excellence and facilitate holistic growth of the education system.
- UGC staff would be retrained to adapt to the HECI regime, which would be fully digital and do away with file work.
Other plans to reform Higher Education sector
- Over the last four years, the HRD ministry has deliberated on several models like a single regulator for higher education by merging UGC, National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE); however, the plans were not taken forward.
- Once the HECI Bill is passed by Parliament, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teachers’ education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines.
- The rupee slid to a 19-month low against the dollar as concern that rising crude oil prices could widen the country’s current account deficit and stroke inflation combined with fears of a trade war that could spur capital outflows to weigh the Indian currency down.
- The Indian rupee has slumped almost 7% against the dollar so far this year, making it one of Asia’s worst performing currencies.
- The rupee’s depreciation is in line with other emerging market currencies as the dollar index has strengthened in the wake of the U.S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates.
- Elevated oil prices are also weighing on rupee as India’s dependence on oil imports is very high.
- Other factors that are impacting Indian currency are the political uncertainty in the wake of upcoming State elections and the general elections of 2019.
- This combined with the concerns over earnings outlook has led to FPI [foreign portfolio investor] outflows.
- Concerns about inflation and the fiscal deficit also impacted bond prices.
- Equities too fell due to losses in energy, PSU bank, media, infrastructure, realty and metal stocks amid signs of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and other world economies.
- On the positive side, the rupee’s weakness should aid exports amid improving global growth outlook.
- India enjoys a good cushion of foreign exchange reserves and the RBI is in a good position to control heightened volatility in the currency.
- The President of India inaugurated the Udyam Sangam-2018, being organised by the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to celebrate the 2nd United Nations Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (27th June)
- On this occasion, he also launched the Solar Charkha and MSME Sampark Portal.
- The Udyam Sangam-2018 is an important effort in developing effective eco-systems for MSME sector.
- The Sangam will provide representatives of finance, training and educational institutions, industry, media, state governments and NGOs an opportunity to engage in extensive discussions to strengthen the eco-systems in this sector.
- ‘Sampark Portal’ is a digital platform to connect five lakh job seekers with recruiters
- It will be very useful in developing skill-pool and in enabling trained youth to know about different employment opportunities.
India’s MSME Sector
- MSME sector is called the backbone of our economy.
- This sector is the second largest employment provider after the agricultural sector.
- Our demographic dividend shall be most gainfully utilized in this very sector.
- This sector generates more employment opportunities at a lower cost of capital.
- And the most important thing about this sector is that it creates jobs in rural and backward areas.
- This sector could help in achieving the goal of inclusive growth through empowerment of weaker sections and decentralization of development.
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