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- The India-U.S. defence relationship has been given a significant boost with the three agreements signed recently after the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue in Delhi: the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), “hotlines” between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries, and the first tri-services military exercises between the two countries.
What is COMCASA?
- COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the U.S. to India.
- This would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use U.S. origin systems for secured data links.
- COMCASA is the third of four “foundational”, or enabling, agreements signed by India after more than a decade of negotiations, and is perceived as an inevitable consequence of the large amount of U.S. defence hardware it has been purchasing.
Which factors may have contributed to the emerging strategic convergence between India and US?
- First, the end of the Cold War provided an opportunity to both countries to review their relationship in the light of changing global and regional realities
- Second, with the opening of the Indian economy, the American private sector began to look at India with greater interest.
- The third factor is the political coming of age of the three-million-strong Indian diaspora. Its influence can be seen in the bipartisan composition of the India in the U.S. Congress and the Senate Friends of India group.
- The 2+2 discussions, held after two previous cancellations this year, brought much-needed focus on the India-U.S. relationship after months of drift and occasional discord.
- However, while trade was addressed, India did not receive a clear-cut assurance of its GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) status being restored, or of waivers on steel and aluminium tariffs imposed by Washington.
- Instead, U.S. officials said clearly that they expect India to increase imports of American oil and gas as well as aircraft in order to wipe out the trade surplus India enjoys.
- It is unclear whether the Centre has acquiesced to this blatantly anti-free market demand, but its silence on the matter is disturbing.
- The U.S.’s other demand, to “zero out” oil imports from Iran by November, is simply unreasonable.
- It would hurt India dearly not only because of costs at a time when the dollar is strengthening and fuel prices are going up, but also in terms of its substantial engagement with Iran.
- No public statement was made on what the U.S. will do on India’s investment in the Chabahar port once its full sanctions kick in on November 4. American officials also gave no firm commitment in their statements that India will receive a waiver to purchase Russian hardware, beginning with the S-400 missile system.
- While signing agreements the U.S. has pursued for years, India appears to have taken a leap of faith on its own concerns, expecting that the Trump administration will come through on waiving sanctions and being more flexible on trade issues.
- In order to realise the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region (2015), both countries will have to nurture the habit of talking and working together to diminish some of the prickliness in the partnership.
- Delhi must work with Washington in the next few months to ensure that the benefits from the 2+2 dialogue don’t add up only on the other side.
- Amidst some fanfare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), a financial service provider that will operate under the country’s age-old postal department.
Basics of IPPB
- The India Post Payments Bank seeks to leverage the expansive network of the postal department to ensure financial inclusion for the masses. It will have a network of 155,000 post offices and 30,000 postmen who have already undergone training to perform banking services.
- Leverage the strengths of India Post: The payments bank, where the Indian government holds 100 per cent equity, will leverage the vast network of the Department of Posts (DoP), which has more than 300,000 postmen and Grameen Dak Sewaks.
- Third licensee: This is the third entity to receive payments bank permit after Bharti Airtel and Paytm.
- Opening a bank account: You can open an IPPB account only through an Aadhaar e-Know Your Customer process. The account is ready almost instantly. The account holder is given a plastic card with a QR code with account details, so they do not need to remember their account numbers.
- Interest offered: It will offer a 4 per cent interest rate on savings accounts.
- Balance requirement: The account can be opened with a zero balance and payments banks can accept deposits of up to Rs 100,000 per account from individuals and small businesses.
- Products offered: The payments bank will offer a range of products such as savings and current accounts, money transfer, direct benefit transfers, bill and utility payments, and enterprise and merchant payments.
- Services like doorstep banking: Customers can avail of mobile banking, digital banking and doorstep banking
- The primary rationale behind the public payments bank idea is to help in the government’s goal of achieving financial inclusion by providing savings, remittance, and payments services to the rural and unorganised sectors of the economy.
- The payments bank will also have a digital platform that is expected to make financial services more accessible even from remote locations.
- A big challenge facing the new public payments bank is whether it can manage to earn the profits required to survive as a standalone business entity.
- Given the severe restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on how payments banks in general can employ their funds, the odds seem to be stacked against the IPPB at the moment.
- The first wave of new payments banks that commenced business last year — Airtel and Paytm — have not exactly set the market on fire. The payments bank model, it should be noted, is still untested even though prominent private companies such as Airtel and Paytm have shown interest in the space.
- Banks have traditionally stayed away from the business of pure deposit banking, unless customers have been willing to pay for these services, for a good reason.
- The IPPB promises to pay an interest rate of 4% to its savings account customers. To generate revenues, it plans to charge fees on money transfers and other financial services while investing idle customer deposits in safe government securities in order to earn interest. Whether this will be sufficient to cover interest and operational costs remains to be seen.
- Meanwhile, the IPPB is also likely to face stiff competition from private companies, which are generally more nimble in adapting to business realities and far more customer-friendly compared to the government-owned behemoths.
- With increasing competition, the IPPB’s revenues and margins are also likely to come under pressure. Yet, if it succeeds, the new payments bank could usher in a new era of rapid financial inclusion across rural India.
The SC had issued directions to prevent misuse Of SC/ST Act of 1989. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill of 2018 had restored the legislative intent of the original Act of 1989, which barred anticipatory bail to a person accused of insulting or hurting a Dalit. The SC has now refused to stay the amendments to the Act.
The Amendment Bill sought to insert three new clauses after Section 18 of the original Act:
- Preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.
- The arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval.
- The provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — which deals with anticipatory bail — shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.”
- The Centre brought the amendment after nationwide protests against the SC order which said there would be no automatic arrest and police must conduct a preliminary enquiry within seven days before taking any action.
- A month after Parliament amended the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to overturn a Supreme Court verdict introducing a provision for anticipatory bail, the legislation was back in the apex court with two PILs challenging the validity of the amendment.
- A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan agreed to hear the PILs and issued notice to the Centre to justify the validity of the amendment within six weeks.
- It, however, refused to stay operation of the law.
Why has the SC refused to stay the amendments?
- The effect of the draconian provision is that once any citizen of this country is charged under atrocity act he will be immediately arrested without following due process of law or preliminary inquiry and he is barred from applying for anticipatory bail.
- The court opined that the amendment is most draconian, barbaric and destroy the very basic structure of Constitution as it takes away liberty of the person to apply for anticipatory bail.
- It was also pointed out that in both the Houses of Parliament this amendment was passed by the voice vote, without any discussion or debate.
- The amendments were introduced without explaining why the Supreme Court judgement was wrong. The Supreme court has now, directed the government to reply to allegations that the amendments were meant to appease the Dalits ahead of the 2019 general election.
Iran has stuck to the agreed timeframe in its plans to hand over the operational responsibility of a part of the Chabahar port to an Indian company in a month. Iran’s Transport Minister at the Global Mobility Summit, said that Tehran would proceed with handing over responsibility of running the Chabahar port to an Indian company in a month.
Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.
Significance of Chabahar port to India:
- India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline.
- It will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India.
- Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- It will lead to better economic ties between Afghanistan and India.
Despite US displeasure:
- US Secretary of State said “We have told the Indians consistently, as we have told every nation, that on November 4th the sanctions with respect to Iranian crude oil will be enforced, and that we will consider waivers where appropriate, but that it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed. So we’ll work with the Indians.”
- Following the 2+2 dialogue with the U.S. delegates, Indian sources said they were expecting a ‘carve out’ on the Chabahar project as it is strategically important to India.
- This is an important exception that India hoped to receive even as the United States indicated that it would expect India to reduce dependence on Iranian crude and ‘zero out’ energy ties with Tehran.
Mobilize Your City (MYC)
- It is part of an international initiative which is supported by the French and the German Governments and was launched at 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in December, 2015.
- Based on a proposal made by AFD in 2015, the EU has agreed to provide funds of Euro 3.5 million through the AFD (Agence Française de Développement) to contribute to specific investments and technical assistance components within the programme in India.
- The MYC aims at supporting three pilot cities viz. Nagpur, Kochi and Ahmedabad in their efforts to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport.
- This will be done by implementing urban mobility plans at local level and to help India at national level to improve their sustainable transport policy.
Components of the Programme
- The three pilot cities selected under the programme as well as MoHUA will benefit from the Technical Assistance activities. The main components of the proposed assistance are:
- to support planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport projects,
- support to strengthening institutional capacity for regulating, steering and planning urban mobility, and
- learning and exchange formats with other cities across India for exchanges on best practices.
- The details of the project activities will be worked out by AFD in consultation with MoHUA and the three partner cities including institutions such as the respective Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities, the Municipal Corporations and any transport authority or transport related SPV.
Marking a bold departure from the existing code of ethics that covers the medical profession, the Indian Medical Association is in the process of redefining the code in order to ensure a much more contemporary outlook.
Indian Medical Association:
- IMA — an umbrella voluntary body that counts more than 2.5 lakh, or about a third, of the country’s doctors as its members.
- It is the only representative, national voluntary organization of Doctors of Modern Scientific System of Medicine, which looks after the interest of doctors as well as the well being of the community at large.
- It was established in 1928 as the All India Medical Association, renamed “Indian Medical Association” in 1930.
- It is a society registered under The Societies Act of India.
Need to redefine the code:
- The current code of medical ethics by the Medical Council of India dates back to 2002.
- Much has changed in the medical field since then and many relevant topics do not find a mention in the present code. Therefore, it became necessary to brainstorm on redefining the exising code.
- The code would subsequently be submitted to all the relevant Central Ministries – health, medical education, law and justice and the MCI – for consideration.
Questions being addressed:
- Can individual doctor advertise, have a website to promote her practice to compete with aggressively marketed corporate hospitals?
- Should the donation of cadaver organs be made mandatory for all?
- Is it important for medical students to study ethics throughout the duration of the MBBS course?
- The handbook would comprise 24 topics that either need to be reviewed or find no mention in the current code. For example, the current MCI norms do not allow doctors to publicise their practice through any type of advertising. The concern is that when Big private hospitals are constantly promoting their set ups through advertisements in all mediums,how will individual doctors, especially those who have just begun practice, survive such competition
- IMA believes that any publicity material should be ethical and approved after scrutiny by the respective State medical councils.
- The topic of ‘end of life’. “After much discussion, we are of a view that doctors cannot give consent for deciding on pulling the plug. We are against physician-assisted suicide. This decision can only be taken by relatives,” said Dr. Wankhedkar.
- Ethical issues around Assisted Reproductive Technology and surrogacy also find a mention in the handbook and the IMA states that doctors should ethically ensure that surrogates and egg donors are not exploited.
- The IMA also recommends that cadaver organ donations must be made compulsory for all unless an individual specifically states that he or she does not want to become an organ donor. As there is a long waiting list of patients for organ transplants. It is also observed that India carries out a high number of living donor transplants as compared to cadaver organ donations.
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