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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

An attempt at Nuclear Free World: International treaty to ban Nuclear Weapons


Context


A UN General Assembly committee had voted to launch negotiations last year on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons despite fierce opposition from the world’s nuclear powers last year. A resolution presented by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil was adopted by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions, following weeks of lobbying by the nuclear powers for ‘no’ votes.

And, in the last week of March, at the United Nations in New York, history was made as diplomats from about 130 countries started formal talks on the international treaty to ban nuclear weapons.


What is the treaty about?


  • The negotiations aim to create “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” citing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”
  • The goal is to declare it illegal for any country to produce, possess, stockpile, deploy, and threaten to use, or use nuclear weapons.

What are the reasons for taking up of the resolution now?


  • Nuclear weapons — unlike chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions — have not yet been prohibited in a comprehensive and universal manner.
  • The nuclear weapons ban talks are the fulfilment of a long-standing demand that all countries deserve equal security. The very first resolution at the UN, passed in 1946, called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”
  • The driving force for the demand for a nuclear weapon-free world is a simple humanitarian impulse, the love and compassion for other human being.
  • Nuclear weapons are the ultimate means of mass destruction and history has shown their use brings immeasurable death and suffering.
  • The NPT of 1968 contains only partial prohibitions, and nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties prohibit nuclear weapons only within certain geographical regions.
  • Non-nuclear states have expressed increasing frustration with the current nuclear regime and the ineffective movement towards disarmament.
  • With nuclear weapons states modernising and in some cases increasing their arsenals, instead of discarding them, more states are becoming disillusioned with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and lending their support for an outright ban.
  • As of 2016, it is estimated that more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remain in global stockpiles.

Background leading up to the talks


  • The very first resolution at the UN, passed in 1946, called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”
  • Proposals for a nuclear-weapon-ban treaty first emerged following a review conference of the NPT in 2010, at which Disarmament advocates proposed the ban treaty as an alternative pathway forward.
  • In 2014 a group of non-nuclear-armed nations known as the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) presented the idea of a nuclear-weapon-ban treaty to NPT states parties as a possible “effective measure” to implement Article VI of the NPT, which requires all states parties to pursue negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament. The NAC argued that a ban treaty would operate “alongside” and “in support of” the NPT.
  • In 2015, the UN General Assembly established a working group with a mandate to address “concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for attaining and maintaining a nuclear-weapon-free world.
  • In August 2016, it adopted a report recommending negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
  • In October 2016, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly acted upon this recommendation by adopting a resolution that establishes a mandate for nuclear-weapon-ban treaty negotiations in 2017 (with 123 states voting in favour and 38 against, and 16 abstaining). A second, confirmatory vote took place in a plenary session of the General Assembly in December 2016.

Other Attempts to prevent increase of Nuclear Weapons


1. Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) 1963: Prohibited all testing of nuclear weapons except underground.

2. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — signed 1968, came into force 1970: An international treaty (currently with 189 member states) to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty has three main pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.

3. Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) 1972: The United States and Soviet Union could deploy ABM interceptors at two sites, each with up to 100 ground-based launchers for ABM interceptor missiles. In a 1974 Protocol, the US and Soviet Union agreed to only deploy an ABM system to one site.

4. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) — signed 1996, not yet in force: The CTBT is an international treaty (currently with 181 state signatures and 148 state ratifications) that bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. While the treaty is not in force, Russia has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1990 and the United States has not since 1992.

5. Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), 1974: A group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

6. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), 1987: A multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km. India officially became a member on 27 June 2016 with the consensus of the 34 member nations.

7. International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, also known as the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC), 2002: an arrangement to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles. The HCOC does not ban ballistic missiles, but it does call for restraint in their production, testing, and export. India joined the Hague Code on 1 June 2016.


Criticism of Non Proliferation Treaty


  • The Non Proliferation Treaty, signed in 1968, recognised five nuclear states – the US, the UK, the USSR (now Russia), China and France – and agreed to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the gradual decommissioning of atomic weapons.
  • But India and Pakistan are also believed to have nuclear weapons and both countries refused to sign NPT. The treaty essentially states that only the five winning powers of World War II have the right to have nuclear weapons. India refuses to sign this “discriminatory” treaty. India’s traditional position has always been either those five too denuclearize or every country has the same rights to have nuclear weapons.
  • Israel, another non-signatory, remains deliberately opaque about its nuclear status and has never carried out a public test, but is believed to have at least some weapons of mass destruction.
  • North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and has been carrying out nuclear tests with increasing frequency over the past few years.

Why are nuclear powers not supporting it?


  • The four of the UN Security Council nuclear powers — Britain, France, Russia and the United States — voted against the resolution while China abstained, as did India and Pakistan.
  • The nine known nuclear states all oppose a ban treaty. They say an outright ban would not work and they should stick with the “gradual approach”.
  • They reason that the “Bad actors” cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons at the cost of those trying to maintain peace and safety”
  • In the current perilous context, considering in particular the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, several countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability.
  • Many of the non-nuclear-armed members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), along with Australia and Japan, are also resistant to a ban treaty, as they believe that US nuclear weapons enhance their security.

Conclusion


  • Against this backdrop, the proposed treaty offers a significant opportunity, at the very least, to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in deterrence and subsequently to move towards a nuclear-free world order.
  • To be clear, the treaty will not eliminate existing nuclear weapons in the first instance; it is more likely to establish an international norm that prohibits the development, acquisition, manufacture, possession, transportation, transfer or use of nuclear weapons.
  • As envisaged in these negotiations, the treaty is likely to allow for the future membership of nuclear armed states with the objective of eliminating their nuclear arsenals, but only in cooperation with them.
  • Thus, by participating in the negotiations, nuclear-armed states could underscore their commitment to a nuclear-weapon free world and also contribute to the contours of the treaty. By staying out, they gain nothing and lose goodwill.

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Questions

  1. There is a serious legal gap in the nuclear weapons, as they are the only weapons of mass destruction (unlike chemical and biological weapons) that are not prohibited by international law. Give an account of efforts made by the UN to ban weapons.
  2. Are the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty negotiations unsuccessful? Critically comment.

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Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017

 


Context


The long-awaited, a crucial public health legislation guaranteeing equal rights to India’s HIV community – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 was passed by the Parliament.

Approximately 21 lakh people are living with HIV, as per government estimates. The adult prevalence is in the range of 0.3%, of which around 40% are women. Despite this enormous progress and the availability of testing and treatment, stigma and discrimination against HIV affected individuals in India remains widespread.

There is a need to provide an environment to such people in which they feel protected


Salient features of the Bill:


  1. Prohibition of discrimination against HIV positive persons:

 

  • Discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them has been prohibited on various grounds.
  • These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to: (i) employment, (ii) educational establishments, (iii) health care services, (iv) residing or renting property, (v) standing for public or private office, and (vi) provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies).
  • The stipulation for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education has been prohibited.

 

  1. Data Protection and Privacy

 

  • Disclosure of HIV status shall only be permitted with the affected person’s informed consent, and if required, by a Court order. Establishment keeping records of information of HIV positive persons have been directed to adopt data protection measures.

 

  1. Positive Rights Conferred on persons with HIV
  • HIV positive persons below the age of 18 years have the right to reside in a shared household, and enjoy the facilities of the household.
  • Central and State Governments have been made responsible for
    • preventing the spread of HIV or AIDS,
    • providing anti-retroviral therapy and infection management for persons with HIV or AIDS,
    • facilitating their access to welfare schemes especially for women and children,
    • formulating HIV or AIDS education communication programmes that are age appropriate, gender sensitive, and non-stigmatizing, and
    • Laying guidelines for the care and treatment of children with HIV or AIDS.

4. Court Proceedings

  • Courts have been directed to dispose of on priority basis, cases relating to HIV positive persons. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the Court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant.
  1. Ombudsman

 

  • The complaints relating to violation of the Act, as well as the provision of health care services shall be inquired into by an ombudsman, who shall be appointed by each State Government. The ombudsman is expected to submit a report to the State Government every six months, stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken and orders passed.
  1. Informed Consent

 

  • It ensures that no HIV test, medical treatment or research will be conducted on a person without his informed consent. No person shall be compelled to disclose his HIV status except with his informed consent, and if required, by a court order.

Analysis of the law


  • It is not the case that before coming of this bill, these people (infected with HIV) were not empowered. But with the passage of this bill they will get more powers.
  • Legal and penal action against those who do not adhere to the provisions of the bill and for creating an environment against the HIV patients is a welcome measure.
  • The protection would be provided to the people working in the health institutions. Facilities, secured environment and logistics would be provided.

What more could have been done?


India’s HIV community, however, confessed itself ‘disappointed’ as the Bill places an obligation on the State governments to provide treatment “as far as possible”, making it weak and open to interpretation.

  • A concrete assurance and safeguard of treatment in the Indian Constitution with constitutional or legal status would have gone long way in assuring people that the government stands committed for free treatment of HIV patients.
  • The Government should promote research to check HIV virus and come out with aggressive strategies on this, especially in high risk areas, counselling and testing.
  • There is no coordination between the Centre and the states to deal with the HIV issue. Government should also look for insurance cover for the affected people with the premium being paid by the government.
  • HIV Positive people should be given the right to adopt children.
  • Currently the national HIV programme has weakened due to budget cuts, with recently India facing nationwide stock-outs of diagnostic kits and pediatric formulations of anti-retrovirals (ARTs). Budgetary allocation should increase. And the Bill doesn’t give legal options to patients in case stocks run out.

Additional Information


  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of a combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus, and stop progression of the disease.
  • India runs second largest Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) programme in the world the rate of new HIV infections have dropped by 67%, from 2.5 lakh to 85,000 and AIDS related deaths have declined to 54%, which is more than the global average.
  • The government spent Rs 2,000 crore on ART alone and this was a 100% centrally-sponsored scheme
  • Under Goal 4 of the Millenium Development Goals, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis had to be arrested and reversed.
  • There are 22,000 HIV testing centres in the country, which conducted 2.9 crore HIV tests, including 1.3 crore pregnant women.
  • Indian Pharma industry has a big role to play in making cost-effective medicines available to the people

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Questions

  1. Human-rights perspective to public health is important which has been missing in Indian laws related to health. Situation seems to be changing now. Examine with respect to Mental Health Bill and HIV Bill.
  2. In the long-term, our goal should be to make an India where no new HIV infection occurs. Outline different programs and laws brought about by the government of India.

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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

The Economics of Happiness

 


Context


India is among the world’s least happy nations, and became even less happy in the last year, India ranked at 122 out of 155 countries in the World Happiness Report 2017, four notches below its previous rank of 118.


World Happiness Report Criteria


  • The happiness rankings are based on six factors:
  • GDP per capita,
  • healthy years of life expectancy,
  • social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble),
  • trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business),
  • perceived freedom to make life decisions, and
  • generosity (as measured by recent donations)

Growing Importance of Happiness as Measure


  • The happiness is increasingly considered the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. So much so that one now reads headlines such as “Happiness is the new GDP”.
  • In the US, for instance, the state of Maryland (officially reports a measure called Genuine Progress Indicator which accounts for inequality, environmental degradation, health, and leisure.
  • Since the 1970s, Bhutan has been using an index of Gross National Happiness instead of GDP to measure success
  • In 2016, Madhya Pradesh became the first Indian state to set up a “department of happiness”

Will we truly be better off with a happiness index replacing the GDP?


Short Answer: The answer suggested by a wide body of research is a big no. And the reason is simple: if finding happiness is difficult, measuring it is even more so.

Long Answer: Reasons

  1. A seminal 1964 paper published by the American economist Richard Easterlin showed that happiness and GDP did not move in the same direction although happiness and incomes within countries were correlated. The so-called ‘Easterlin paradox’.
  2. A recently published report by the London School of Economics suggests that mental health has greater impact on reported life satisfaction than Income. The income gaps explain only 1% of the variation in happiness in the community whereas differences in emotional well-being explain over 4%, the report found.
  3. The study also finds that spending on diagnosing depression and anxiety is likely to reduce misery by 20% which equals the effect of measures that are aimed at eradicating poverty, unemployment, and serious illnesses.
  4. Economists and economic policy-makers believe that it is inextricably linked to the pursuit of money and material well-being. To put it rather crudely, many economists think that money does buy happiness, at least till a certain level of income. The problem with such methodologies is that the data, or the answers to the questions, are not independent of space and time. In some countries, people might shy away from responding positively even when they are actually “happy”. On the other hand, some people may be compelled to respond that they are satisfied with their lives because of the prevalent norms in the society or community they live in. This makes the cross-country comparison of happiness deeply problematic.

This is not to suggest that the data on happiness is entirely useless.

But, it is hard to understand what people really mean when they respond to a question such as: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”

To aggregate these responses and to come up with a measure that is consistent across time and space appears to be a nearly impossible task.


Conclusion


The variation in well-being as measured by happiness indices is very well explained by a number of economic variables including GDP. The pursuit of happiness, at least for the developing world, lies in the pursuit of wealth and material well-being, irrespective of what the monarchy in Bhutan may say

Gross National Happiness

  • Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s.
  • The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.
  • The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars:
    • good governance,
    • sustainable socio-economic development,
    • cultural preservation, and
    • Environmental conservation.
  • Lately the four pillars have been further classified into nine domains in order to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values.
  • The nine domains are: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.
  • The domains represents each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, and the term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.

The GNH Index: What is it?

  • The Gross National Happiness Index is a single number index developed from 33 indicators categorized under nine domains.
  • The GNH Index is constructed based upon a robust multidimensional methodology known as the Alkire-Foster method.
  • The GNH Index is decomposable by any demographic characteristic and so is designed to create policy incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH.

Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) – 1994

  • Attempts to shift prevailing definition of progress from economic growth to people’s sense of quality of their lives.
  • The GPI assigns value to the life-sustaining functions of households, communities and the natural environment so that the destruction of these, and their replacement with commoditized substitutes, no longer appears as growth and gain.
  • GPI accounts for:
    • Unpaid work (housework, parenting, volunteer work and care giving) – Care Economy
    • crime and family breakdown
    • income distribution
    • resource depletion, pollution and long term environmental damage (wetlands, ozone, farmland)
    • defence expenditures
    • life span of consumer durables and public infrastructure and services
    • dependence on foreign assets
    • costs of road accidents, under-employment
  • The Quality of life has deteriorated at an accelerating rate since 1970 – the GPI went down as the GDP went up in the US.
  • In Canada, as the GDP went up, the GPI has not risen but has stayed constant.
  • The GPI does not yet measure human capital, social infrastructure/cohesion, genetic gene pool diversity, workplace environment, underground economy, or lifestyle induced disease.

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Questions

  1. What is Gross National Happiness? Explain (150 Words)
  2. Despite its fair share of problems, the GDP is a fairly robust exercise and can give policy directions. Comment.

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India-Australia Relations


Context


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in India and the visit is aimed at taking forward the ties with India to the next level and according to Australian foreign policy, India is a priority for their country.


Background


  • The formal relationship began for many Australians in 1950, when Robert Menzies became the first Australian leader to visit independent India
  • Our relationship has expanded dramatically since we established a Strategic Partnership in 2009.
  • India-Australia ties recently have been set by Tony Abbott, who visited India in September 2014—just months after Narendra Modi took office—and the Indian Prime Minister returning the visit in November 2014.
  • For more details, MEA document on India-Australia Relations

AUSTRALIA-INDIA – COMMON INTERESTS


Apart from the cliché that the relationship between our two countries was based on the three “C’s” of cricket, curry and the Commonwealth, there are other shared interests between us.

  • Australia and India are both liberal democracies which share a commitment to the rule of law, fundamental human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • We are both Indian Ocean states which understand that the big strategic and maritime challenges.
  • Today India is the fastest growing economy in the world.  Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy with significant strengths in mining, agriculture, technology and services.

Growing people-to-people ties

There has been a dramatic growth in people-to-people links over recent years.

  • The numbers of Indian-born Australians has tripled over the past decade.  Almost half a million of Australia’s 24 million citizens are now of Indian origin.
  • Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia; Hinduism the fastest growing religion.
  • There are 53,000 Indian students studying in Australia today, second largest source of overseas students.
  • And 233,000 Indians visited Australia in 2015, making India our eighth largest source of visitors.

Focus Areas of Relationship now


Australian PM has written an editorial in the Hindu and mentions that the three focus areas of relationship are Economic relations, Education and strategic partnerships.

  1. Economic Relations

 

  • India is fastest growing major economy today and it presents Australia a rare opportunity be a part of the growth story. From Mumbai to Melbourne, from Bengaluru to Brisbane, India will be in the market to buy some of the best things Australia has to offer.
  • Trade between our countries is a little less than $20 billion but there is huge potential to even quadruple it.

 

 

  1. Education Partnership

 

  • Australia is the second-most popular study destination for Indian students — 60,000 students went to Australia to learn.
  • Australian Government launched New Colombo Plan, to send more and more young Australians to India as a place to study and boost their own qualifications and experience.
  • Skill India Mission which Indian Government is aiming to train 400 million people by 2022, Australia can help us in this regard.
  • Collaboration between our institutes on high-end research, innovation, science and technology are central to developing our knowledge partnership.
  • Australia’s minister for education and training, senator Simon Birmingham, is bringing one of the largest Australian delegations of skills providers and higher education representatives to visit India to celebrate Australia’s knowledge partnership with India

 

  1. Strategic Relations

 

  • The security and stability of the Indo-Pacific is fundamental to both of us and my visit provides an opportunity to discuss key regional and geostrategic issues and strengthen our engagement.
  • Australia has recently adopted the terminology – “Indo-Pacific” moving away from the Asia-Pacific bringing India into the strategic frame of the region reflecting India’s greater involvement in East Asian affairs, both directly and also institutionally through the East Asian Summit.
  • Last year we saw new or expanded maritime, cyber, terrorism and transnational crime dialogues. We had our first bilateral maritime exercise – AUSINDEX – which will occur biennially now.
  • Civil nuclear cooperation agreement entered into force, enabling the export of uranium to India.

Challenges


  • Adani Group is facing opposition to its plans to invest $16.5 billion in a coal mine in Queensland. Australia’s largest coal project—which could fuel power generation for 100 million Indians and create 10,000 jobs in Queensland—has ignited protests from environment groups who are concerned that the development will increase carbon pollution and endanger the health of the Great Barrier Reef marine park in northern Queensland. Environmental opposition to the mine, which could begin production in 2020, has delayed the first phase of the project and prompted the company to cut underground capacity by 38%. This will be on table while negotiating deals.

Prospects in Other areas for Engagement


Energy

  • Australia is a natural partner for India in the energy sector. By the end of this decade, Australia is expected to overtake Qatar to be the largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas. Australia’s long-term and secure LNG supply can help diversify India its current highly concentrated import supplies from the Middle East.

Science & Technology

  • India and Australia have a strong track record of collaborating in research and innovation. The $84 million Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) is Australia’s largest.
  • The Australian Government’s $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda presents new opportunities to engage with India. The agenda resonates well with India’s ‘Start-up India’ and ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Space

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation has a proud record of space exploration, including recently with its successful Mars Orbiter Mission and launching 104 satellites in one go.
  • India can provide commercial Space applications to Australia for several of its Space initiatives.

 CECA & Regional Economic Architecture

  • The bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement – or CECA is currently under negotiation. For India, CECA would give improved access to the world’s twelfth largest economy.
  • With over half of India’s exports to Australia currently facing tariffs, it would quickly put India on the same tariff-free footing as other FTA partners of Australia, such as China – including for key Indian exports such as textiles and clothing, auto parts and jewellery.
  • And it would facilitate investment flows with Australia, which has the world’s third largest pool of investment funds under management.
  • And, on the issue of regional economic architecture, Australia has made clear its support for Indian membership of APEC.  APEC has an important role in nurturing regional economic integration.  The region and India would benefit from India being part of it

Conclusion


  • We share strategic interests in Asia, our economies are highly complementary, the values are closely aligned. We both value democracy, liberty, the rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression. We are both maritime nations for whom regional stability is of paramount importance. And this is recognised by the expansive agenda set out in our Framework for Security Cooperation.
  • There is a Little India in Melbourne, Diwali celebrations are carried out in Brisbane, and the long-established Sikh community on the North Coast of New South Wales, Indian-Australians are contributing a lot to the modern society of Australia.

We, therefore, have all the ingredients of a strong Australia-India relationship going forward.


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Questions

  1. What are the potential areas India and Australia could engage each other in to take the relations to the next level?
  2. After the racist attacks on Indians in Australia in 2009, the relations have improved leaps and bounds. Examine the prospects of India-Australia relations and areas of engagement.

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Will India abandon No-First-Use policy?


Context


A nuclear strategist from the MIT, said, “There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first.” Since then, there has been speculation among the strategic circles that India might reconsider its no-first-use strategy. Let us analyse the different aspects of it.


Background story of Evolution of India’s nuclear doctrine


  • Homi Jahangir Bhabha, the pioneer of India’s nuclear policy, made a decision in 1958 to extract plutonium from spent fuel at Trombay. And Estimates by several foreign countries – including the US – has been that India acquired nuclear weapon capability as early as the 1960s.
  • But India was not relentless in its pursuit of nuclear weapons during this period and had not tested by the time the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into being in 1968.
  • India conducted a “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974 – too late to be considered a nuclear weapon state by the NPT – and, unusually, it did not immediately weaponise.
  • The decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapons program was only made in April 1979 in response to intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear development, which accelerated following A.Q. Khan’s stealing of centrifuge technology from the Netherlands and a possible clandestine China-Pakistan agreement in 1976.
  • Throughout the 1980s, India made fitful attempts at developing nuclear weapon capability while pursuing disarmament objectives. At the same time, during the 1980s and early 1990s, China transferred fissile material, missile production facilities and uranium enrichment equipment to Pakistan. Additionally, in Pakistan, nuclear control fell into the hands of the military, causing further anxiety in New Delhi.
  • The decision for India to test a nuclear weapon was made in November 1995 by P.V. Narasimha Rao and preparations for a test began due to the following reasons
    • in the early 1990s that Pakistan had successfully weaponised with Chinese assistance and had the ability to produce at least ten bombs.
    • The perpetual extension of the NPT in 1995, which gave legal sanction to only five nuclear weapon powers, and negotiations towards a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would have prevented all countries from conducting nuclear tests.
  • India thus faced the very real prospect of two nuclear-armed adversaries (China and Pakistan) with which it had major territorial disputes. By being sandwiched between the NPT and CTBT, it also confronted an international regime that threatened to permanently legalise China’s arsenal, while denying India the right to conduct a nuclear test.
  • Under US pressure and heading into elections, fraught with other issues, PVN Rao delayed the order to test. Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power and after the Indian economy had strengthened itself enough to withstand international sanctions, bit the bullet and ordered the nuclear tests of 1998.
  • After 1998 nuclear tests, a semi-official body known as the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) was convened to deliberate a nuclear doctrine.
  • In January 2003, India’s cabinet committee on security issued a short summary of India’s nuclear doctrine.

Summary of the India’s Nuclear Doctrine


 

i.        Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent;

ii.        A posture of “No First Use” nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere;

iii.        Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.

iv.        Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.

v.        Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states;

vi.        However, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons;

vii.        A continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continued observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests.

viii.        Continued commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council.

 

·         The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister. It is the sole body which can authorize the use of nuclear weapons.

 

·         The Executive Council is chaired by the National Security Advisor. It provides inputs for decision making by the Nuclear Command Authority and executes the directives given to it by the Political Council.

Note: The full text of India’s nuclear doctrine has not been publicly released


Why is it now being said that India may abandon the No-first-use doctrine?


  • In a 2010 speech, then national security advisor Shivshankar Menon described India’s nuclear doctrine as “no first use against non-nuclear weapon states”. This suggested that India may use nuclear weapons was possible against another nuclear-armed competitor.
  • But this formulation was never repeated – and was, in fact, reversed in subsequent statements – suggesting that it is no longer a guiding principle.
  • In his 2013 speech, the then chairman of the NSAB, Shyam Saran firmly rejected the possibility of Indian doctrinal or strategic change as a response to Pakistan’s development of smaller nuclear weapons. A limited nuclear war, he stated, was not possible – “a contradiction in terms” – and whether the first weapon used was strategic or tactical was “irrelevant from an Indian perspective”.
  • He reiterated that “the central tenet of India’s nuclear doctrine was that India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but that if it is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflect unacceptable damage on the adversary

The speculations have been put to rest, it has again come to the fore, the MIT strategist writes following as the evidence for his claim:

  • India’s focus on developing highly accurate missiles, acceleration of ballistic missile defence
  • The development of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (Mirv) capabilities for its missiles.

Does this claim hold any water?


None of these moves sufficiently explains a possible change in India’s nuclear doctrine.

  • The development of accurate missiles is being undertaken as India’s yield of nuclear weapons is 15-20KT (kilotons) for its fission warheads and 250KT for thermonuclear warheads. The destruction caused by nuclear warheads goes down exponentially as the distance increases from the centre of the blast, hence the move towards improving the accuracy of weapon delivery systems.
  • BMD is a defensive mechanism aimed at neutralizing a nuclear attack rather than conducting a counterforce first strike. A BMD forces the enemy to reassess the number of warheads it requires for destroying a target. This imposes costs in terms of producing more warheads, delivery platforms, and the cost of maintaining and securing them.
  • India is developing Mirvs not for first strike but to retain a credible second strike option if India loses some of its missiles to an enemy first strike. For example, if India has 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with 6 Mirvs, and 30% of them are taken out by an enemy in a first strike, India will still be left with sufficient missiles and warheads to strike back and impose unacceptable damage on the enemy.

Why there is no possibility of change in India’s stance?


  • The talk of counterforce first strike is destabilizing and dangerous.
  • Instead of deterrence, it moves to the realm of fighting a nuclear war and trying to win it. It means hundreds if not thousands of warheads on hair-trigger alert and the risks that come with it.
  • Any signalling to India’s adversaries that India is moving to a counterforce first strike doctrine will make them take countermeasures and increase their own arsenal and look to strike India first, leading to a destabilizing chain reaction.
  • The assumption that India is moving towards a counterforce first strike doctrine and the evidence cited for it are on weak ground.
  • The unnecessary undermining of India’s nuclear doctrine and strategy has the effect of empowering hawks in India, who advocate for much greater military spending and a larger nuclear arsenal. It thus serves the opposite of the arms control community’s intended objectives.

Conclusion


While India’s doctrine needs a revision to be in tune with current strategic realities, the claims that it is moving to a counterforce first strike are erroneous.

Calling into question India’s stated intentions when it comes to nuclear doctrine and strategy is therefore very serious, as it has important implications for India’s own security and rise, for deterrence stability in South Asia, and for military spending and civil-military relations in India.

[su_box title=”Practice Questions” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#99bb41″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”20″]

  1. Examine the claims that India may abandon the No-first-use policy.
  2. What is nuclear doctrine? What are the features of India’s nuclear doctrine?

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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

India-Bangladesh Relations

 


Context


Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has landed in India. She was received at the airport by our PM Narendra Modi. This visit is closely being watched by the Chinese counterparts and Bangladeshis as it has created hype for several outcomes depend on this one.

Let us understand different aspects of the India-Bangladesh relations.


Introduction


  • With a population of nearly 170 million, Bangladesh is the eighth largest in the world. Even more important, it is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has been called the “miracle in the east”. In the international economic hierarchy, the only way for Bangladesh is up. India needs to recognize the factor of China’s growing popularity and counter to be able to have Bangladesh on our side. India is a natural partner of Bangladesh.

Background

  • India and Bangladesh, two South Asian democracies, neighbours have the longest common border of over 4,000 km with each other.
  • India was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as a separate and independent state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence in December 1971.
  • India’s connections with Bangladesh are cultural, social, civilizational and economic.

But, Bangladesh-India relations are perhaps the most complex bilateral equations in the subcontinent. Despite India’s role in Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, India is often seen as serving its own self-interests against neighbouring Pakistan.


Issues in the Bilateral Relations


Border Issues

  • Illegal immigration has always been a primary problem for India since the partition of Bengal. In view of this, recently, the Supreme Court asked the Centre complete the fencing of the India-Bangladesh border soon to check illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam.
  • Cattle smuggling is also an issue, which is considered to be one of the losses for India of losing its indigenous variety and trade. Cattle haats along the India-Bangladesh border are becoming a source of cattle for smuggling
  • Terrorist Infiltration has been a matter of concern of late. Recently a report sent by the Bangladesh Government to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs noted that approximately 2,000 operatives of the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami – Bangladesh (HUJI-B) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had entered India through the porous India-Bangladesh border. (Link for Analysis by IDSA)
  • Dumping of Fake Indian Currency Notes, recently several duplicate notes have been found along the border, which cripple the Indian Economy severely.

River Water Sharing – Teesta

  • India and Bangladesh, as good neighbours, have moved forward on other sectors like power, investment and security but the Teesta waters issue remains a big problem due to continuous protest by the Mamata Banerjee led West Bengal government. Bangladesh is unhappy about the lack of resolution on all the common rivers.
  • While India did put the river Teesta on the bilateral discussion table, the federal political dynamics has prevented the Centre from resolving the issue of water-sharing overruling Bengal’s position. Mamata Banerjee is of the view that with Bangladesh having its largest irrigation project, the Teesta Barrage, running, they do not deserve more water.
  • The treaty is particularly important for the Hasina government (which has often been accused by critics as leaning towards India) to show that there has been genuine progress in bilateral relations.
  • The Teesta waters issue apart, the Bangladesh side is also very keen about a Ganga Barrage and talks in this regard are expected during the summit.

Trade and Connectivity

  • Trade has been growing steadily between the two countries. At about 17% in the last 5 years.
  • A bus service and a train service between Kolkata and Khulna will also be launched as a rail link from Radhikapur in north Bengal.
  • Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) has been signed on the development of Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch of Kushiyara river and Sirajganj-Daikhawa stretch of the Jamuna river to improve connectivity between the two countries and this will help reduce logistics cost of cargo movement to northeast India and also reduce congestion through the Siliguri’s Chicken’s Neck corridor.
  • Connectivity is issue of mutual interest these initiatives on passenger and goods trains which will be of benefit to both Bangladesh and northeast India.
  • Dhaka also has the central role in shaping the future of sub-regional cooperation with Bhutan, Burma, India and Nepal. It is also a land bridge to East Asia and the fulcrum of a future Bay of Bengal community.
  • However, the most important issue in contemporary Asian geopolitics is transit and connectivity. In 2016 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Bangladesh, the smaller country agreed to join the One Belt, One Road Project (OBOR).
  • China is already investing in a number of infrastructure projects in the country including the deep sea port at Chittagong. It is likely that these projects will now be subsumed under the OBOR project.

Energy Cooperation

  • Energy cooperation between the two sides has also shown a lot of positivity with Indian state Tripura supplying a total of 160 MW of power to Bangladesh in addition to the 500 MW the country is receiving from West Bengal since 2013.
  • Bangladesh has sought extra 100 MW electricity from India to solve its power crisis, and will be likely on the negotiating table in this state visit by Sheikh Hasina.

Defence Cooperation

  • There are talks that a defence treaty is to be signed between India and Bangladesh, it will be a long-term defence deal that will allow for increased defence cooperation, information sharing, joint exercises, training and so on. However, India needs to figure out where it can meet Bangladesh’s security concerns, considering Bangladesh’s largest defence partner is China.
  • Expanding security cooperation with India could only enhance Dhaka’s global leverage. For India, a strong partnership with Bangladesh will help boost the prospects of peace and prosperity in the eastern subcontinent.
  • Defence deal between us in the basis of sovereign equality and geopolitical realities will take us a long way ahead.

Conclusion


The India-Bangladesh relations can be summarised as hanging on three ‘T’s- Tackling Terrorism, Trade + Transit, Teesta Treaty. This week when the three Bengalis sit at the table – Pranab Mukherjee, Mamata Banerjee, Sheikh Hasina we should hope resolve the issues and take the relationship forward so that the growing mutual trust and political comfort between Delhi and Dhaka, backed by Kolkata, will have one long-term consequence. It is important for India’s North East as well.


[su_box title=”Practice Questions” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#99bb41″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”20″]
Questions

  1. What are the straining points in India- Bangladesh relations?
  2. Would China factor down-weigh the growing trust and political comfort between Delhi and Dhaka? How could India match the China’s clout in the region?

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Prelims Capsule: Profiles of Personalities- Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833)

 


He was an influential socio-religious reformer whose works influenced the contemporary politics, administration, education and religion of India during pre-independence.

Ram Mohan early in his life went to Patna to study Persian and Arabic in a Madrasa at the behest of his father. Persian and Arabic were in high demand at that time as it was still the court language of the Mughal Emperors. He studied the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. Post completion of his studies in Patna, he went to Benares (Kashi) to learn Sanskrit. He mastered the language in no time and began studying scriptures, including the Vedas and Upanishads. He learnt English language at the age of 22.

  1. He established Atmiya Sabha in 1815, which is seen as precursor for socio-religious reforms in Bengal and thereby in India. Through Atmiya Sabha, he campaigned for the rights of women; he started opposing Sati System and Polygamy in Hindus, demanded property inheritance rights for Women.
  2. In 1817, he founded Maha Patshala which came be to known as Hindu College at Calcutta. This was re-named as Presidency College in 1855. He paved the way to revolutionizing education system in India in this college along with David Hare which later went on to become one of the best educational institutions in the country producing some of the best minds in India.
  3. In 1821, he established Sambad Kaumudi, through which he advocated for freedom of Press, induction of Indians into High ranks and separation of executive and judiciary. He also published a Persian news Magazine the following year named Mirat-ul-Akbar
  4. His efforts to combine true to the roots theological doctrines along with modern rational lessons saw him establish the Anglo-Vedic School in 1822 followed by the Vedanta College in 1826.
  5. In 1828, he established Brahmo Sabhaalong with Dwarkanath Tagore which later became Brahmo Samaj and was influential in bringing various social reforms in India; with the efforts of this Sabha in 1829 Lord William Bentinck abolished Sati through Regulation XVII. By this time he became a well-known figure in India.
  6. It was then, Akbar-II gave him the title of “Raja”, and Akbar-II sent him to England to persuade them for the cause of Mughal Emperor, in Bristol, England, he died of meningitis in the year 1833.
  7. Recently, the British government has named a street in Bristol as ‘Raja Rammohan Way’ in the memory of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
  8. His ‘Gaudiya Byakaran’ in Bengali is the best of his prose works. Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra also followed the footsteps of Ram Mohan Roy.

Some of his Publications are as follows:


  • Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidinor A Gift to Monotheists (1805),
  • Vedanta (1815), Ishopanishad (1816),
  • Kathopanishad (1817), Moonduk Upanishad (1819),
  • The Precepts of Jesus – Guide to Peace and Happiness (1820),
  • Sambad Kaumudi – a Bengali newspaper (1821),
  • Mirat-ul-Akbar – Persian journal (1822),
  • Gaudiya Byakaran (1826),
  • Brahmapasona (1828) and Brahmasangeet (1829) and
  • The Universal Religion (1829).

 

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Railway Development Authority to be Constituted

 

 


Context


The Union Cabinet has approved a major reform in Indian Railways, by allowing the formation of an independent railway regulator called Rail Development Authority (RDA).

It has been hailed as the having the potential to change the Indian Railways landscape. Let us go through what could be some of its functions and how it will enable development of Indian Railways.


Composition of Rail Development Authority


  • It will be set up with an initial corpus of Rs 50 crore to act within the parameters of the Railway Act, 1989.
  • The RDA will have a chairman and three members with a fixed term of five years each. They can be removed by the Central government only on certain grounds, including insolvency, conviction, and misbehaviour, physical and mental incapability.
  • It will be an independent body with a separate budget. The independence is ensured through provision of a separate budget, and the appointment and removal process.
  • The Central government will appoint the chairman and members by choosing from a panel of names recommended by the search and selection committee consisting of cabinet secretary as chairman, chairman railway board, secretary of the Department of personnel and training and chairman of any regulatory body of the Central government nominated by the cabinet secretary.

Functions of the RDA


The long-awaited regulator will perform four primary functions—

  1. Dissemination of information: It will collect, analyse and disseminate information and statistics concerning the rail sector and help the railways employ big data technology to manage and improve the operational efficiency of Indian Railways and complaint management.
  2. Tariff determination:
    1. The regulator will frame principles, recommend tariffs, principles for classification of commodities, frame principles for social service obligation and guidelines for track access charges on dedicated freight corridors.
    2. They will be only recommendatory; the final decision will be with the ministry.
  3. Ensuring fair play:
    1. The regulatory body will ensure a level-playing field for all stakeholders.
    2. It will help propose modifications and send suggestions or advisory notes on investment in railways by the Indian Railways, make suggestions regarding policies for private investment to ensure reasonable safeguards to PPP investors and to resolve disputes regarding future concession agreements.
    3. It rightly addresses the criticism that The Railway Board has been biased.
  4. Setting standards: It will help set efficiency and performance standards, and disseminate information in line with global best practices and benchmarking.

Background and Analysis of the move


  • The need for a regulator has been emphasised by various committees, including the
    • Bibek Debroy Committee on Mobilisation of Resources for Major Railway Projects and Restructuring of Railway Ministry in 2015,
    • the National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) in 2014 and
    • Expert Group under the Chairmanship of Dr Rakesh Mohan in 2001.
  • In Railway Budget 2015-16, minister for railways Suresh Prabhu had announced that for the purpose of orderly development of infrastructure enabling competition and protection of customer interest, it is important to have a regulation mechanism independent of the service provider. Further, it was proposed to set up a mechanism for making regulations, setting performance standards and determining tariff.
  • In Budget 2017, the NDA allotted a record 1.3 trillion for the Indian Railways, with gross budgetary support of Rs 55,000 crore.
  • Until now, reforms in Indian Railways like the increase in train tariffs and reduction in the number of railway employees have been withheld due to political reasons. This is a commendable move as the RDA will not have political considerations.
  • The move will improve the services offered to passengers, provide comfort to investors in the rail sector and will enhance transparency and accountability.

Bibek Debroy Committee focussed on the mobilisation of resources for major railway projects and restructuring of Railway Ministry and Railway Board.

  • Bringing private sector participation
  • Need for independent regulator

The Committee has observed that apart from its core function of running trains, Railways also engages in peripheral activities such as running schools, hospitals and a police force. It is expected that these various zones and divisions within the Railways will face increasing competition in the future. To enable themselves to compete effectively, they will need to reduce costs on these non-core activities that are non-remunerative in nature and instead improve the efficiency of running trains by greater resource allocation to this function. Non-core activities can be outsourced to private entities. An example cited by the Committee is that of subsidisation of education and medical facilities in alternative schools and hospitals respectively, including the private institutions.

PRS- Bibek Debroy Committee Report Summary


Conclusion


  • As part of the radical rethinking on improving the transportation architecture, the government did away with the separate railway budget, merging it in the Union budget.
  • Now the regulatory authority, together they will change the landscape of Indian Railways as it will help the national carrier take decisions on pricing of services commensurate with costs, protect consumer interests, suggest measures for enhancement of non-fare revenue, promote competition and encourage market development, create positive environment for investment, promote efficient resource allocation and benchmarking of service standards, and suggest measures for absorption of new technologies and human resource development, if the regulatory body is allowed to work without political considerations and its recommendations are largely accepted by the political executive.

[su_box title=”Practice Questions” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#99bb41″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”20″]
Questions

  1. Suggest innovative measures how Indian Railways could raise resources for modernization.
  2. Indian railways more from systemic issues and political compulsions. Examine the feasibility of an Independent regulator.

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Prelims Capsule

Prelims Capsule – Profiles of Personalities: Lala Lajpat Rai

 


Of the triumvirate – Lal-Bal-Pal ( Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal  Gangadhar  Tilak and  Bipin Chandra  Pal)  of  India’s freedom movement against the British colonial rule, Lala Lajpat Rai was a multi-faceted personality and led a life of ceaseless activity dedicated to a selfless service to the nation.

  • He was drawn into one of the most creative movements of the revitalization of 19th century India, Arya Samaj, founded and led by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Later on, he set up a Dayanand Anglo-Vedic school in Lahore.
  • As early as 1897, he had founded the Hindu Relief Movement to provide help to the famine -stricken people and thus preventing them falling into the clutches of the missionaries.
  • In the two articles he wrote for the Kayastha Samachar (1901), he called for technical education and industrial self-help. In the wake of the Swadeshi movement (anti-partition of Bengal. 1905-8), when “the idea of a national education caught the imagination of the whole of India”, it was Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who “propagated the idea”.
  • He went to set up the National College in Lahore, where Bhagat Singh studied.
  • When the agitation against increased irrigation rates and higher land-revenue began in Punjab, it was led by the Indian Patriots Association led by Ajit Singh (uncle of Bhagat Singh) and Lajpat Rai would often address their meetings.
  • For his growing involvement in the freedom movement, he was given the toughest prison sentences in Mandalay (now Myanmar) in 1907 without trial.
  • He also led the protest against the horrendous massacre of Jalianwalla Bagh.
  • He visited USA and Japan where he kept in touch with the Indian revolutionaries. In England, he also became a member of the British Labour party.
  • In recognition of his outstanding role in the freedom movement, he was elected President of the Indian National Congress at the Calcutta session (1920).
  • As he took much interest in the condition of the working class people, he was also elected as the President of the All India Trade Union Congress.
  • Gifted with a perceptive mind, he was a prolific writer and authored several works like
    • “Unhappy India”,
    • “Young India: An Interpretation”,
    • “History of Arya Samaj”,
    • “England’s Debt to India” and
    • a series of popular biographies on Mazzini, Garibaldi and Swami Dayanand.
  • As a visionary and man with a mission, he founded the Punjab National Bank, the Lakshmi Insurance Company and the Servants of the Peoples Society at Lahore.
  • A mass leader, he led from the front. While leading a protest march against the all-White Simon Commission in Lahore, he was brutally assaulted by the British authorities and was seriously injured which caused the untimely death of this towering freedom fighter in Lahore on 17 November 1928. 
  • It was to avenge this brutality Bhagat Singh took up arms along with and paid the ultimate price.

 

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Measures for Road Safety – Motor Vehicles Act Amendment Bill

 


Context


Indian roads are seeing the growing number of accidents and the resultant loss of life and livelihood. Nearly 5 lakh road accidents take place in the country every year, in which close to 1.5 lakh lives are lost.

  • So, recently Cabinet has cleared amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 through Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
  • Also Supreme Court passed a judgement to ban the liquor vends along the highway showing concerns for the rise of increased road accidents.

Thankfully the debate has shaped up towards increased road safety and role of state of implementing suitable policy towards it. Let us analyse the different aspects of Road safety


Background


  • India is a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration that mandates halving road accident fatalities by 2020, and the government is very serious about meeting this commitment.
  • WHO, in its Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, has recommended that countries should  implement road safety  activities according to “five pillars” which include

1.    Road Safety Management through institutions and legislative framework;

2.    Building  Safer Roads through proper design, engineering and traffic calming measures;

3.    Safer Vehicles promotion; 

4.    Safer Road Usage Education and through efficient

5.    Post-crash Response.

Actions Taken

Based on this recommendation the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has been making concerted efforts to promote road safety.

  • A National Road Safety Policy has been put in place that recommends adopting a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the problem based on the 4 E’s viz Education, Engineering (both of roads and vehicles) Enforcement and Emergency Care.
  • Towards overhauling the institutional and statutory framework, the Ministry constituted a Group of Ministers from across states in March 2016 to deliberate upon and propose strategies for reducing road fatalities and to suggest actionable measures for implementation.
  • On the basis of recommendations of the GoM, the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill has been cleared by the Cabinet.

Highlights of the Bill


  • Under the Act, the liability of the third party insurer for motor vehicle accidents is unlimited.  The Bill caps the maximum liability for third party insurance in case of a motor accident at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and at five lakh rupees in case of grievous injury.
  • The Bill provides for a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which would provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
  • The Bill defines taxi aggregators, guidelines for which will be determined by the central government.
  • The Bill also provides for: (i) amending the existing categories of driver licensing, (ii) recall of vehicles in case of defects, (iii) protection of Good Samaritans from any civil or criminal action, and (iv) increase of penalties for several offences
  • The state governments have also been called upon to formulate action plans for improving road safety and implementing the same by fixing time bound targets for fatality reduction and identifying and allocating adequate manpower, financial and other resources to achieve the targets.
  • In response, a large majority of the state governments have constituted State Road Safety Councils (SRSC) , notified  Road Safety Policies , submitted Draft Action Plans for reducing accidents and fatalities and designated Lead Agencies for dealing with road safety issues. The rest are in the process of doing so.
  • The government will also set up a National Register for vehicles and driving licences, which will issue a unique registration number to remove duplication.
  • The Bill also enables the Centre to recall vehicles whose components or engine do not meet the required standards. Vehicle manufacturers can be penalised up to Rs 500 crore in case of non-complaince of rules in parts or engine.
  • The penalty for drunken driving is being increased by five times to Rs 10,000, and if such driving results in the death of another person, the driver can be charged with a non-bailable offence with a jail term up to 10 years.

Good Points


Road Engineering

  • Road engineering has emerged as another priority area. Road safety has been made an integral part of road designing and safety audits are being taken up for selected stretches of National Highways.
  • As short-term measures, rumble strips, reflective stickers at junctions, fixing signboard/ cautionary board, providing signage and speed restrictions are being used.
  • As long-term measures construction of vehicular under-pass, by-pass, flyover, crash barriers and slope stabilization techniques are being taken up.
  • Rectification of black spots is being accorded top priority; Rs 11,000 Crore have been set aside for rectification of black spots.

Vehicular Safety Standards.

  • Trucks are prohibited from carrying protruding rods; Antilocking Brake System (ABS) have been made mandatory for heavy vehicles;
  • Bus Body Code for safer and comfortable buses and Truck Body Code for safe cabins to drivers and other road users have been notified.
  • Mandatory Fitment of Speed Governors on Transport Vehicles to avoid over speeding.
  • In addition all public service vehicles, (except two and three wheelers, e-rickshaws) have to be equipped with or fitted with vehicle location tracking device and one or more emergency buttons.

 Road Safety Education

  • On the education front, the Ministry has roped in a large number of NGOs and also corporates to carry on public awareness campaigns on the issue of road safety.
  • The Ministry is also running campaigns through the print, electronic and social media to make people sensitive to the urgency of following traffic rules.
  • Every year, the week from 9th January to 15th January is observed as the Road Safety Week when a number of activities are organized to bring this issue into the public eye.

Other Measures by the Ministry


  • The Ministry is also implementing a scheme for setting up of Model Institutes of Drivers Training and Research and Model Automated Centers for checking fitness of the vehicles
  • The Ministry launched a Highways Advisory System as a pilot project on Delhi-Jaipur highway. It is a free-to-air information distribution system that uses radio to make the travelling experience on National Highways safer, faster and hassle-free.
  • For effective trauma care cranes and ambulances are provided to state governments under the National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme for deployment on national highway
  • The Ministry had launched pilot projects for Cashless Treatment of Road Accident Victims which it is proposed to implement this scheme along the Golden Quadrilateral, North South and East West Corridors (about 13500 km) as well at an estimated cost of about Rs. 250 Crore.

Setu Bharatam Initiative 

It is an ambitious programme with an investment of Rs. 50,000 crore to build bridges for safe and seamless travel on National Highways.

The programme aims at making all national highways Railway Level Crossing free by 2019.

208 new “road over bridges / road under bridges” are envisaged for construction, while 1500 bridges will be widened, rehabilitated or replaced.


Some Issues and lacunae in the policy


  •  The Bill caps the maximum liability for third party insurance, but does not cap the compensation amount that courts can award.  In cases where courts award compensation higher than the maximum liability amount, it is unclear who will pay the remaining amount.
  • Under the Act, compensation for hit and run victims comes from a Solatium Fund.  The Bill creates a new Motor Vehicle Accident Fund in addition.  With a Fund already existing to provide compensation for hit and run accidents, the purpose of the new Accident Fund is unclear.
  • State governments will issue licenses to taxi aggregators as per central government guidelines.  Currently, state governments determine guidelines for plying of taxis.  There could be cases where state taxi guidelines are at variance with the central guidelines on aggregators.
  •   While the penalties for contravening provisions of the proposed scheme on interim relief to accident victims are specified in the Bill, the offences that would warrant such penalties have not been specified.  It may be argued that imposing penalties without knowing the nature of the offences is unreasonable.

Conclusion


Solutions have certainly been set in motion in moving towards road safety. However, policies can lose all meaning if they are not implemented well. Rules can only be as effective as their enforcement.  Ensuring road safety is a matter of collective responsibility, and good results demand cooperation from every player – from policy makers to enforcement agencies, automobile makers to road users. Only then can we hope to save lives on our roads.


 
[su_box title=”Practice Questions” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#99bb41″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”20″]
Questions

  1. What are the steps taken by the government to improve road safety?
  2. Road Accidents are one of the biggest causes of deaths in India. Suggest measures to ensure road safety in India.

[/su_box]

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