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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (13th July)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Spirit Of Sendai

  1. No other region in the world illustrates the now chronic nature of displacement caused by extreme weather events and climate change more than Asia and the Pacific
  2. Asia accounted for almost 50 per cent of the worldwide loss of life from disasters last year
  3. Last year, 18.8 million people were forced to run for their lives from floods, storms and earthquakes in 135 countries across the globe
  4. 11.4 million people were from across East and South Asia and the Pacific islands
  5. Reports suggest that a million people have been displaced by heavy monsoon rains, floods and landslides in India and Bangladesh, where the cyclone season also threatens

Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

  1. It was held in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, early July
  2. The conference has been convening every two years since 2005
  3. The focus of the discussions was on the clear need for accelerated implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030
  4. It is the global plan to reduce disaster losses that was adopted in Japan three years ago

About Sendai Framework

  1. It sets out seven targets for
  • reduction in loss of life,
  • numbers of people affected,
  • economic losses and damage to infrastructure through enhanced international cooperation,
  • better risk information and
  • early warning systems

The plan also sets a deadline of 2020 for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk mitigation

  1. Both India and Mongolia have adopted national strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework’s priorities
  2. Both are investing in developing and maintaining national disaster loss databases, which are essential to guide risk-informed investment at the local level in critical infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, public utilities and transport links
  3. Their example must be emulated by many other countries across the region because it is at the local level that the work of prevention and risk reduction starts to pay a dividend in terms of resilience
  4. It is also at the local level that most progress can be made on ensuring an inclusive approach to disaster risk management, one which includes the insights and experiences of those who may be marginalised and disproportionately affected by disaster events
  5. Women, girls, youth, older persons, persons living with disabilities and indigenous people should be actively recruited as agents of change in their communities

Way forward

  1. Rapid scale of urbanisation across the region is an opportunity to do development in a risk-informed, resilient way that avoids creating future disasters
  2. More than anything, it is the human cost of disasters that is the most compelling argument for action
  3. Real progress will bring down the numbers of families and people internally displaced by disasters

2. Section 377 and beyond

  • The Centre’s cautious stand keeps the focus only on the need to decriminalise gay sex.
  • There is finally good reason to believe that consensual gay sex may once again be decriminalised.

    Constitutionality of section 377

    • The ongoing hearing before a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court indicates that there is now a better appreciation of the need for equal constitutional protection to all individuals without any discrimination than was the case in 2013, when a two-member Bench declined to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as homosexuals constituted only a “minuscule minority”.
    • The Centre’s stand was believed to be critical when the current hearing began this month. The Union government is cautiously supporting the cause, but it has stopped short of taking a categorical position.
    • By leaving it to the Supreme Court’s wisdom to decide on the constitutionality of Section 377, the Centre has signalled it is not opposed to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships as long as these are limited to consensual acts between adults in private.
    • At the same time, its position is hedged against the possibility that the Constitution Bench, currently reconsidering the court’s 2013 judgment upholding the validity of Section 377, may venture into other rights for the LGBTQs relating to marriage and inheritance.
    • In the event of the court going into issues and rights that are not slated for reconsideration, it wants to file a detailed counter-affidavit spelling out its stand.
    • Observations by the judges of the Bench, including the Chief Justice of India, indicate that it is now focussing only on Section 377.

    Right to life and the right to privacy

    • However, at least one judge has observed that the question involved was not only one relating to sex, but the right to life and the right to privacy of those in such relationships.
    • The current hearing is taking place against the backdrop of a nine-member Bench’s verdict last year in Justice S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, which said “the right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”.
    • In other words, a whole gamut of rights flowing from the decriminalisation of homosexual relationships must be examined, if not now, then at least as and when they arise.

    Conclusion

    • Obviously worried about the reaction of some religious and conservative sections if homosexuality is decriminalised, the Centre has sought to dissuade the court from going into other related rights.
    • Its apprehension, perhaps, is that once homosexuality is no more an offence, it may lead to demands to legalise same-sex marriages and inheritance by survivorship among gay partners. While the current focus is on the urgent need to overturn the retrograde judgment of 2013 in Suresh Kumar Koushal, the extension of constitutional rights to citizens, irrespective of gender and sexual orientation, is long overdue.

3. Moon shine: on India-South Korea ties

  • The South Korean President Moon Jae-in undertook a four-day visit to India this week, when there is hectic diplomacy over the Korean peninsula, speaks of his commitment to improving bilateral ties.
  • India-South Korea ties have drifted too long — political ownership of them will help.

Significance

  • In fact, during his election campaign last year he had promised to raise bilateral ties to the level of South Korea’s relations with what it calls the four major powers: the S., Russia, China and Japan.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has often said he sees South Korea as a significant partner for India, and had travelled to Seoul. But despite the personal touch, and ambitions to align India’s Act East policy with Korea’s New Southern Policy, ties have drifted for lack of focus.
  • Trade, at $20 billion, is a fraction of the potential, given that India and South Korea are Asia’s third and fourth largest economies.
  • This figure has been a cause for worry, as the two countries had hit the $20-billion mark in 2011 after the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
  • The large trade deficit in South Korea’s favour has led India to be wary of further opening up.
  • In turn, Korean companies cite problems in doing business in India, despite a special “Korea Plus” desk set up by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015.
  • Tourism between the two countries has always been low, and strategically both New Delhi and Seoul are preoccupied with tensions in their immediate neighbourhoods and ties with the big world powers than with each other.

Road map on Converging interests

  • Agreement to invoke the “early harvest” clause in the 2010 CEPA will allow both to do away with tariffs in 11 areas, benefiting Indian seafood exporters and food processing units, as well as South Korean petrochemical companies.
  • The inauguration of Samsung’s biggest mobile factory in Noida will bring investment and create jobs in India.
  • More Korean companies should be persuaded to invest, by projecting a counter-narrative to the failed bid by the steel company Posco to set up its plant in Odisha.
  • Much will depend on negotiations on the regional free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Strategic importance

  • India has asserted its place as a “stakeholder” in the Korean peace process, while South Korea has for the first time shown an interest in talking about an Indo-Pacific policy.
  • In the short term, a symbolic token towards shared interests will be seen in a joint “capacity-building” programme in Afghanistan.
  • At a time when U.S. foreign policy is capricious and unpredictable, and China’s is making purposeful moves towards global domination, it is important that the South Korea-India partnership grows and consolidates, to contribute to stability in the region.

4. India needs to focus on water efficiency

Preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India complements the noble vision of doubling farmer incomes by 2022.

  1. Over the past few months, concern and awareness about water resources have reached an unprecedented high
  2. Two successive events have led to such a watershed change in discussion on water resources
  3. First, the news came in that Shimla is running out of water and was forced to turn away tourists that drive the city’s economy during summer
  4. Second, NITI Aayog released the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June

Findings in CWMI

  1. The CWMI is a pioneering exercise that seeks to identify, target and improve key water resources-related indicators
  2. The index has a set of 28 key performance indicators (KPIs) covering irrigation status, drinking water and other water-related sectors. Critical areas such as source augmentation, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation practices, sustainable on-farm water use practices, rural drinking water, urban water supply and sanitation
  3. This index highlighted the current plight, showing how low-performing states house approximately 50% of India’s population, and how 21 major cities may run out of the groundwater by 2021

Water usage pattern in India

  1. Presently, irrigation water use accounts for 80% of the available water, i.e. 700 BCM
  2. Within the limited availability of 1,137 BCM, we need to cater to the growing demand of the population, including domestic water requirement, industrial requirement, ecology sustenance, and power generation requirement
  3. The present level of irrigation efficiency for surface and groundwater is 30% and 55%, respectively

Measures that need to be taken

First, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and other water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems

  • Conventional surface irrigation provides 60-70% efficiency, whereas, higher efficiency of up to 70-80% with sprinkler and 90% with drip irrigation systems can be achieved

Second, the states should continue to focus on command area development (CAD)

  • This is now part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on “more crop per drop”
  • CAD will play a critical role in bridging the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilized (IPU)

Third, the cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones

  • Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency
  • Now it is time to focus on more nuanced aspects of water-use efficiency and agriculture productivity

Fourth, we need to address the issue of fragmentation in farming

  • There are two measures to tackle this issue
  • States can expedite the adoption of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016—which can lead to consolidation of small farms
  • The second option may provide early gains—creating and ramping up farmer producer organizations (FPO)
  • FPOs provide a sense of ownership to farmers and encourage community-level involvement with lower transaction costs
  • Almost 70% farmers in India are marginal farmers and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in forming the FPOs
  • This will lead to economies of scale on farm produce, water-usage and cost of production

Way Forward

  1. The above measures have huge scope for changing the landscape of water efficiency in the irrigation sector, which accounts for the majority of water resource consumption in India
  2. Doubling farmers income by 2022 is a noble vision, but preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India is as critical

5. Rescuing the rupee: A peek into the RBI’s arsenal

With the current-account deficit set to widen, thanks to higher oil prices and outflows from stocks and bonds, the rupee could be in for some more weakness.

  1. With the current-account deficit set to widen, thanks to higher oil prices and outflows from stocks and bonds, the rupee could be in for some more weakness
  2. Increasing the interest rate and burning billions in foreign reserves have done little to reverse the rupee’s standing as Asia’s worst-performing currency this year
  3. India could turn to other weapons in its arsenal if things deteriorate further

Factors affecting rupee

  1. Trade wars
  2. Sanctions on Iran
  3. Oil prices
  4. The US Fed rate decisions

Tools available with RBI

1 Raising rates

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)hiked rates for the first time in four years in June and is likely to follow through in the coming months
  • Part of the reason behind a rate hike is to maintain stability on the rupee front
  • The central bank doesn’t target the exchange rate and attributes any rate moves to its goal of containing rising prices

2 Intervention

  • The RBI is suspected to have intervened regularly in the foreign exchange market
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves fall to $406 billion
  • Of these nearly $100 billion are in short-term debt, assets which the RBI considers are hot money and can leave the country anytime

Higher tariffs

  • The trade war is a new weapon in town
  • India, with its past experience of relying on higher duties to curtail imports, could use it to curb current-account deficit
  • In the aftermath of taper-tantrums in 2013, India hiked import duty on gold bullion and jewellery. That saw inflows shrink, helping narrow the current-account gap

Tap non-residents

  • One of the last resorts will be to turn to wealthy non-resident Indians to replenish precious foreign currency reserves
  • India has that option and also a sovereign bond issuance

Fight panic

  • Verbal intervention is always an option
  • RBI officer had said that India has sufficient “firepower” to deal with the rupee’s decline

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