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.Punjab law to stop sharing Ravi, Beas waters illegal: SC
Article talks about the decision of the SC wrt SYL dispute
What has happened?
Supreme Court has declared that Punjab went back on its promise to share the waters of rivers Ravi and Beas with neighboring States like Haryana by unilaterally enacting the controversial Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act of 2004.
A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave gave its opinion on a Presidential Reference made to it 12 years ago, on July 22, 2004, questioning the constitutional validity of the Act.
What SC said?
- The apex court concluded that the Act was illegally designed to terminate a December 31, 1981, agreement entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate the waters of Ravi and Beas in “the overall national interest and for optimum utilisation of the waters
- By introducing the 2004 Act, the State defied two back-to-back apex court verdicts, pronounced in 2002 and 2004. Verdict one had directed Punjab to complete the SYL Canal in a year. The second judgment had ordered the formation of a central agency to “take control” of Punjab’s work on the canal
- The State exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this court and therefore, the Punjab Act of 2004 cannot be said to be a validly enacted legislation,
. Devise plan to monitor air pollution, says SC
In the wake of the dangerously high level of pollution in Delhi, Supreme Court has asked the government and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) whether it intends to just sit back and watch people, gasping for breath, finally die in a polluted national Capital.
Directions by SC
- Devise a central mechanism: SC directed the Centre and the CPCB to hold a meeting on November 19 with the authorities concerned and come up with a comprehensive plan for a central mechanism to
- Monitor pollution in actual time
- Fix the different grades of pollution levels & measures to counter them
- Monitoring stations: The number of air ambience monitoring stations required in Delhi, among other factors. “You must have plans. How will you have spread of stations (to monitor air quality) that will clear the picture? You need to immediately plan as to how many stations will be reasonable, looking into the importance of the situation. You must prepare a plan and tell us,” the Bench told the CPCB chief
The Centre had promised to inform the court about its comprehensive plan to grade pollution and warn the public about the air toxicity levels
- However, instead of a plan, the Bench found that Delhi had just three air ambience monitoring stations – Dwarka, Dilshad Gardens and Shaadipur – with no central monitoring system to collate real-time pollution data and inform the public
. NGT for Central, State panels to monitor pollution
Article talks about the steps NGT is taking to counter the current levels of pollution in Delhi
Directions given by NGT
- Banning vehicles: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan governments to consider banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles
- Monitoring committees: Setting-up of centralised and State level monitoring committees to prepare action plans to combat pollution
- Every State committee, at its first meeting, should notify one district where land use of agriculture is high and make it a model district for implementing orders to stop stubble burning.
- Using helicopters to sprinkle water: Bench headed by NGT chairperson said that when the particulate level in the environment reaches the state of “severe emergency”, which is when level of PM2.5 is 251 and that of PM10 is 431, measures like sprinkling of water in through helicopters should be used
NGT has already asked neighboring states especially Punjab to consider withdrawal of incentives – including free power – to farmers burning crops waste.
- Happy seeders: The court explained that in case of such an emergency, States should immediately provide Happy Seeders or other such machines to farmers to help them remove agriculture residue
. SYL Land Bill unwarranted, says court
The Supreme Court, referring to its 2006 Mullaperiyar dam judgment, held that a State Assembly “cannot through legislation do an act in conflict with the judgment of the highest court which has attained finality”
A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave gave its opinion on a Presidential Reference made to it 12 years ago, on July 22, 2004, questioning the constitutional validity of the Act.
The opinion termed the enactment of the Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill in 2016 by the current Akali Dal government as “unwarranted developments” when the Presidential Reference was still pending in the apex court.
Giving back the land rights
The 2016 Bill, which is yet to receive the assent of the Governor, planned to give back to the farmers over 5000 acres acquired for the canal.
Note: Read about the Mullaperiyar dam controversy & subsequent SC judgement here
. Exclusive e-platform soon for payments to govt
The demonetization move is backed by a proposed single window system that enables electronic remittances to various departments
In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Office had set an ambitious target to shift at least 90 per cent of all government transactions that involve payments or receipts from citizens and businesses to electronic or paperless mode by the end of 2016, replacing the use of cash, demand drafts, cheques and challans in government offices.
What is government aiming for?
Centre is trying to move all the government transactions to the cashless mode, with the Centre working on a new single window e-payment system that individuals or businesses can use to make payments to any central or State department.
Request for Proposal (RFP)
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will be issuing a request for proposal (RFP) by December to set up a common e-governance platform for end-to-end transactional experience for a citizen, businesses as well as internal government functions
- What is RFP? – An RFP is issued by an agency to invite bids for a particular project from interested parties.
While it will not be mandatory for the government bodies to be part of the platform, the IT ministry will “continue to encourage and push” all departments to go cashless.
International (The Hindu)
. Modi in Japan, all eyes on nuclear deal
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepare to discuss the conclusion of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement after their talks on Friday, all eyes will be on whether India will accept a “nullification” or “termination” clause.
Civil nuclear cooperation deal
This deal will
- Open up access for India to cutting edge nuclear energy technology, reactors and critical parts. The deal has been held up for years over the clause, which stipulates that it would be cancelled if India were to conduct a nuclear test (nullification or termination clause)
Highlights of the visit
The key highlights of the visit are going to be,
- $1.5-billion deal for U-2 amphibious aircraft
- The civil nuclear agreement will be the highlight of the talks between Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe, which will follow business meetings and a call on Emperor Akihito.
India’s stance: India maintains a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, but has thus far refused to sign on to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or given any other undertaking outside of its commitments at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- Experts say: India might have to concede some ground keeping in mind the sensitivities of Japan, considering it is the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack
- Negative signal:Acceptance of the clause would send an unfortunate signalthat the IAEA safeguards are insufficient in ensuring that Indian nuclear energy facilities are used for peaceful purposes alone
. India slams World Bank process on Indus Treaty
India lashed out at the World Bank over its decision to favor Pakistan on the Indus Water Treaty dispute process over the Kishenganga and Ratle dam and hydropower projects. While India had asked for a neutral expert to be appointed over Pakistan’s objections to the projects first, Pakistan appealed directly for a Court of Arbitration (CoA) to be set up as it claims India has violated the 1960 treaty
What has happened?
Pakistan’s Water and Power secretary informed its Senate that the World Bank had begun the process requested by Islamabad under Arbitration Article IX of the Indus Water Treaty rather than India’s appeal for the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) or at most a neutral expert to mediate on what India called “technical issues” with Pakistan
Inexplicably, the World Bank has decided to continue to proceed with these two parallel mechanisms simultaneously. India cannot be party to actions which are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty
Internationalization of dispute
World Bank’s action of going ahead with Pakistan’s claim had escalated the differences into an international dispute.
. The forgotten war
In this article author has stated that Maoist problem cannot be solely seen through a myopic lens of law and order. Moreover, recent military victories does not mark the end of this movement as predicted by many in the military itself and the media.
Operation in Odisha
Author begins the article by reminding us of the recently held covert and successful military operation against Maoists in Malkangiri district in Odisha, by special forces, in which 30 Maoists were killed.
Down but not out
- Strong leadership: Author states that the strong leadership in its initial stages enabled the movement to withstand changes in methods adopted by the authorities, including techniques such as ‘cordon and search’ and counter-terrorist operations such as ‘Operation Green Hunt’
Changes over the years: Author points out that over the years the movement changed in its character and became more brutal and bloody (sanguinary)
- Core character retained: Even after the change it retained a semblance of being true supporters of the poor and the downtrodden, especially the tribal people
Why the Maoist movement should not be compared with Boko Haram in Africa?
The movement have lost some of the support it previously enjoyed among sections of the urban intelligentsia (intellectual elite), but Maoism still finds ground with some of the more ideologically oriented elements in universities and colleges. Hence, it should not be likened to Boko Haram or IS.
Note: it should be noted that recently Chhatishgarh government in its submission to SC said that only IS and Boko Haram are more dangerous than Maoists and termed it the 3rd most dangerous outfit in the world. For more info, read here
Movement has not died
The Maoist movement has not entirely lost its elan (energy). It is less visible in the urban areas, but in many pockets of the country, especially in the more remote areas in the heartland States of the country, the Maoist movement is still a force to reckon with. It is only kept in check by a large security presence
A dip in violence levels during 2013-2014 has been followed by signs of a Maoist revival in 2015 and 2016. Apart from West Bengal, where economic and developmental measures appear to have weakened the Maoist stranglehold, elsewhere in the country there are few signs that the movement is in retreat.
- Naxalite revival: The entire Dandakaranya region, which includes vast areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, considerable parts of Chhattisgarh, especially southern Chhattisgarh, as also large spaces in Odisha and, in addition, Jharkhand and parts of Maharashtra, show signs of a Naxalite revival. The strategic importance of this entire region is quite obvious when one looks at the map of India
- Fashionable again: Author states that in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the movement has seen signs of revival with Maoist ideas becoming fashionable again, in the colleges and universities
Areas of revival
- In Telangana: Adilabad, Warangal, Nizamabad and Khammam are the areas in Telangana where signs of revival are currently evident
- Andhra Pradesh: Araku Valley
- In Chhattisgarh: Dantewada, Bastar, Bijapur and Sukma are the main centres of Maoist activity currently
Author states that in all of the above areas mentioned incidents of recent Maoist violence have been witnessed where security forces have been ambushed and killed
Still a long gap
Author states that although steps have been taken by the government to bring the ‘poorest of the poor’ out from the clutches of the poverty but still there is a long gap that needs to be bridged. This gap has allowed Naxalism to exploit the situation
Author points out that the Naxalism, when it started, around half a century ago was completely different than what it is today.
Between the first phase of Naxalism (1967 to 1972) and today’s Maoist movement, vast changes have occurred in classification of Naxalism. So, what are the changes, read on to find out,
- Rigid and military in nature: Now, it is highly rigid and militaristic movement, more intent on terrorizing segments of population than on supporting people’s causes
- Indigenous weapon factories: It maintains its own small arms factories where it fashions much of its weaponry
- Outside weapon sources:It has a well-established arms trail to obtain state-of-the-art weapons from sources outside the country
- Usage of new-age weaponry: It is extremely adept in the use of IEDs, and in resorting to unconventional methods to deploy them. This had led to large-scale security force casualties
Author states that, hence, this new-age Maoist movement cannot be considered as the legacy of the original movement
Author concludes by stating that, no matter what, Maoist movement is still exists due to the support in many rural pockets, and still more so in the more neglected and forgotten tribal regions of the country. It is still able to convey an impression that the Maoists are the ‘torch bearers’ of ‘an idea’, an idea of freedom from poverty and an idea of prosperity for all the underprivileged. Central and State governments, the administration and the security establishment need to recognise that the movement cannot be approached from a purely law and order point of view. The process of improving the conditions of the poor and the tribals clearly need to be speeded up if the movement is to be effectively checked.
. Theresa May’s underwhelming visit
Article talks about the recent visit of British PM Theresa May to India & the issues that were discussed plus the decisions that were taken
Author states that, both India & UK must realize the importance of a strong bilateral relation, keeping in mind that,
- India is the third largest investor in the U.K., and the U.K. is the largest G20 investor in India
After BREXIT, the process of which would be completed by 2017, UK is looking to explore a trade path outside of the EU, with preliminary talk expected on reviving negotiations for a free trade agreement that were first started in 2007.
- British PM’s visit was being seen in this light.
Author expresses astonishment that nothing substantial and monumental was signed during the visit despite so much talk going on around about prospective FTA.
Two MoUs signed
- On improving the ease of doing business
- On intellectual property rights
While London announced new restrictions on overseas students, including two-tier visa rules based on the “quality of courses”, and a crackdown on work visas to control migration, it chose to offer visas on a short notice scheme only for the extremely wealthy Indians as part of a “Grand Club”.
- This move has been criticized as a racist measure even by British newspapers
. The new colour of money
Author tries to bring forth the economics and politics of this most recent demonetization
Under the taxman’s radar
Author states that one good point where the current demonetization move cannot be faulted is the fact that all the money in bank accounts would come under the scrutiny of the authorities. Such a move is welcome because of the following reasons,
- Hiding income a crime: The concealment of income with a view to avoid tax is a crime. So, in a constitutional democracy such as ours, those who do conceal/ hide deserve to be punished
- Black money corrupts further: In order to evade the law, those with unaccounted wealth proceed to corrupt others, most importantly representatives of the state. This criminalizes the system further. So, the practice of tax evasion needs to be eliminated
Author further explains that,
- Foreign accounts: If black money is held in foreign bank accounts, the demonetization will result in nothing. If unaccounted money is not held as Rs.500 or Rs.1,000 notes, the demonetization move is pretty much useless
- Counterfeit notes: If there is a significant volume of counterfeit currency circulating in the form of Rs.500 or Rs.1000 notes, the demonetisation will also eliminate unaccounted money from this source. If counterfeit currency is actually used to de-stabilise the Indian Union, as has been claimed, demonetization will enhance national security.
How much this move shall limit the ability to generate unaccounted or black money in the future?
Policy to check black money at source
Author states that much of the unaccounted money is generated in the purchase and sale of gold and of property. The markets for gold and property are highly concentrated, with relatively few sellers exerting considerable control over supply. However, author says that, property firms, builders and jewelers being lesser in number would be easy to monitor for the government
- Legislation: Author states that government should make it mandatory through a legislation that all transactions in gold and property will go through banks
- Strict action by tax authorities
Conclusion: Author concludes by saying that the current move cannot ensure that black money generation is stopped. Nothing can stop the criminals from hoarding black money in the denominations of the new notes of Rs 500 & Rs 2000. Only strict oversight of transactions of the areas of the economy where notes of such denominations flourish can lead to that result
In this last paragraph, author states that, the present government has not been able to provide the kind of growth that it promised just before elections in 2014. So, the demonetization is a desperate move in order to display to people that government is intent on taking action.
Lastly, author points out at the fact that denomination on the new Rs 2000 note is written in the Devanagari numeral. He further states that our founding fathers hadavoided privileging any one language. This principle is also set to be breached.
. India hopes for fair resolution on U.S. work visa issue
India will take up the IT industry’s concerns regarding curbs on the non-immigrant temporary work visas as well as the absence of a bilateral social security pact
USIBC stated that
- Trump administration must expedite talks on the proposed India-US Bilateral Investment Treaty
- According to the USIBC’s more than 350 member companies, both American and Indian, the Trump administration must support India’s entry into the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, work to boost defence trade with India and engage with its government to enhance Intellectual Property protection in India
- S. should also take up market access barriers faced by American companies in India. This includes tariff increases on the importation of Information & Communications Technology products, foreign direct investment (FDI) barriers in insurance – especially with respect to ownership and control, inequitable FDI restriction in tobacco, and price controls in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry
- USIBC wanted the government led by Mr. Trump “to eliminate outdated and unfair tax for Indian workers by concluding an executive agreement with India on social security (totalisation agreement)
- Stats: five lakh U.S.-based Indian workers pay the 6.2 per cent Federal Insurance Contributions Act payroll tax on an ongoing basis
- Despite their contributions, which add up to $1 billion per year, they will never receive the benefits because they return to India before having worked for at least 40 quarters (approximately 10 years)
Following the Obama administration’s move to increase the fees for H1-B and L-1 visas (employment-based non-immigrant visas used mostly by the Indian IT sector for moving skilled workers to the US for short-duration work), Nasscom had said the move will result in the IT sector taking a hit of over $400 million annual
. Show me the money
Ban on Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes deals with stocks of black money. But push to a cashless economyis premature.
What is a cashless economy?
An economy in which consumers pay using credit or debit cards, electronic funds transfer, or shop online instead of paying by cash or bank check
Article deals with the recent demonetization measure taken up by the government. Nothing new has been covered in here.
Just give it a go through once.
. Marrakesh challenge
Developed countries will have to loosen their purse strings to ensure success of the Paris climate pact.
On November 4, the Paris Climate Change agreement came into force. By November 7, when the 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened in Marrakesh in Morroco, more than 100 countries had ratified the agreement.
What is expected out of Marrakesh?
Countries are expected to agree to a timeframe to put in place rules pertaining to the implementation of the Paris pact
CBDR still there
Author says that although the Paris agreement has dropped the idea that the industrial countries are responsible for the current level of Green House Gases (GHGs)& hence their responsibility to mitigate that level is higher than developing countries, its till retains the principle of CBDR (Common But Differentiated Responsibiity)
- The pact recognises that though climate change should be a common concern, mitigating it requires some countries to do more than others which means that the developed countries would have to provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries so that they can set up necessary infrastructure to clean up their systems
At the Copenhagen CoP in 2009, developed countries pledged more than 100 billion dollars in aid to developing countries by 2020. According to the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance, less than a third of that amount has accrued so far until 2016
Author concludes by saying that developing countries and island states have done their part by ratifying the agreement and the onus now lies on the developed countries to provide required technology and assistance.