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Current Events 14 April 2016



14th APRIL 2016



Militaries of US, India to share their facilities

In a significant decision that could have far-reaching implications for India’s military posture, India and the U.S. have agreed “in principle” on a logistics support agreement — the first proposed in 2004 and resisted by the UPA government for a decade — that would make it easier for both militaries to share each other’s facilities.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was the highlight of U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter’s three-day visit to India, which began in Goa. It ended with a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Besides LEMOA, Mr. Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar announced initiatives to strengthen the growing strategic partnership.

Denying that LEMOA would facilitate basing of U.S. troops in India, Mr. Carter said: “It makes it more routine and automatic for us to operate together.” The three “foundational agreements” guide the U.S. high technology cooperation with other countries. Besides LEMOA (traditionally called the Logistics Support Agreement), the others are Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

Talks did not make much progress under the UPA government because of the fierce opposition from the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony as the agreements were perceived too intrusive and would be seen as compromising on India’s nonaligned stance.

The UPA government was also cautious about the sensitivities of both Russia and China, though New Delhi was moving closer to the U.S. However, under Mr. Modi, New Delhi has been taking firm steps, indicating its willingness to forge a closer strategic relationship with Washington.

The two countries also agreed to set up a new Maritime Security Dialogue “between officials from our respective Defence and External Affairs Ministries” and conclude an agreement to improve maritime domain awareness with an arrangement to improve sharing of data on commercial shipping traffic.

“Both countries will also deepen cooperation in Maritime Domain Awareness by finalising a ‘White Shipping’ Agreement,” he added.

With China in mind, the joint statement reiterated the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the region, including “in the South China Sea.”

In this context, the two countries agreed to start Navy-to-Navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare.


India hands over remains of WW-II soldiers to US

In a moving ceremony at the end of U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit, India handed over the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in plane crashes during World War II in India’s Northeast.

The U.S. has flown several air missions over the Himalayas called the ‘hump’ from 1942 onwards to counter the Japanese. The U.S. had approached India with coordinates of the air crashes about 12 years ago and after initial search by the Army the eventual recovery was undertaken by a specialist team from the U.S. Defence Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA).

One set of remains was recovered in Arunachal Pradesh between September 12 and November 17, 2015, while a second set was unilaterally turned over to DPAA by a third party from the same region. The remains that were turned over to the DPAA are possibly related to a C-109 that crashed on July 17, 1945, travelling from Jorhat, India, to Hsinching, China.


North Kashmir on boil as death toll touches four

Northern Kashmir remained on edge as the death toll in the firing by security forces touched four in Handwara town, leading to a fresh wave of violent protests and a near-complete shutdown across the Valley.

Recognising the gravity of the incident, Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda and 15 Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Satish Dua visited Handwara and described the killings as “highly regrettable.” They said an inquiry into the incident would be completed quickly.

Three persons, including a woman working in her kitchen garden, were killed in Handwara, more than 70 km from Srinagar, during a demonstration. Violent protests, during which an Army picket was set alight, were fuelled by allegations of molestation of a college girl by an Army man.

Four First Information Reports “to look into the role of the police and the Army in the killings, besides investigating the mob violence and the molestation allegations” have been registered at the Handwara police station.


Maharashtra govt gets CAG rap for financial management

Accusing the Maharashtra government of deficient financial management, the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for 2014-15 has said the state government has gone in for unnecessary or excessive supplementary provisions which have largely remained unused.

The report has also highlighted 612 sub-heads from the budget documents in which 50 per cent of the total expenditure was incurred in the last month of financial year (March 2015). “After the close of the financial year, the supplementary appropriations found to be unnecessary or excessive will be commented as an irregularity in the Appropriation Accounts,” the CAG report said.

As per the report, supplementary provisions aggregating Rs 12,586.98 crore obtained in 43 cases — Rs 10 crore or more in each case — during the year proved unnecessary as the actual expenditure was less than the original provision. The original provision was around Rs 1.22 lakh crore while the actual expenditure was about Rs 1.06 lakh crore.

Supplementary provisions are extra money allotted over and above budgetary allocations to departments based on the inference that the original allocation will not be enough. Interestingly, the BJP and the Shiv Sena had termed this as ‘financial indiscipline’ when they were in the Opposition.

According to the CAG report, departments which have unspent amounts of above Rs 1,000 crore are education, rural development and SC/ST welfare (see graphic). Among the 43 heads under which money remained unspet are police administration, jails, forest, housing, urban development, irrigation, power, art and culture.

The CAG has also highlighted the government’s ‘rush of expenditure’ in the closing month of the financial year. “According to the Bombay Financial Rules, 1959, rush of expenditure in the closing month of the financial year should be avoided. Contrary to this, in 612 sub-heads, expenditure exceeding Rs 10 crore which also constituted more than 50 per cent of the total allocation, was incurred in March 2015,” the report said.

It says there are 41 grants where expenditure exceeding Rs 20 crore and also constituting 50-100% of total expenditure was incurred in March 2015. “Uniform flow of expenditure is the primary requirement of proper budgetary control which is lacking in the grants/major heads as shown in the report, indicating deficient financial management,” the report said.


Water-starved India looks West to revive its rivers

India is looking West to learn how to clean and conserve its polluted and dwindling water resources. Grappling with water shortage and pollution in key rivers, the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) is entering into a slew of agreements with Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom to learn how they cleaned and revived key rivers as well as used technology to manage drought and used sparse water better.

The MoWR signed an agreement with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) of Germany to help with cleaning the Ganga. The ‘Namami Ganga’ is a flagship Rs. 30,000-crore programme of the NDA government to clean the Ganga and restore its flows by 2020.

The way to do this, according to the government, is to have public sector undertakings develop 52 sewage treatment and effluent treatment plants (STPs) and cleaning up a number of ghats, besides using skimmers at 11 places to take muck out of the river stream. Germany, that will contribute Rs. 22.2 crore to the endeavour, will provide technical consultancy to deal with industrial effluents in Uttarakhand, before they empty out into the river.

“Germany’s ultimate goal is to bring back ‘Mother Ganga’ in India to its pristine condition as it has been done successfully for ‘Father Rhine’ in Germany,” said German Ambassador Martin Ney.

Similar agreements were in place with the U.K. for expertise in reviving aquatic life at the head of the Ganga. In the case of Israel, the Ministry said, technologies for water purification and filtration were likely to be shared.

Indian companies already use desalination technologies sourced from Israel but officials said there was much more scope for further engagement.


Can menstruation be a factor in temple entry, asks Supreme Court

Questioning taboos entrenched in the Indian psyche from time immemorial, the Supreme Court decided to answer whether a physiological phenomenon like menstruation can be a guiding factor for denying women of a certain age the right to enter and worship in a temple.

The SC bench is hearing on the constitutionality of the entry ban on women between ages of 10 and 55 at the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala

The SC Senior advocate Indira Jaising representing a group of students part of the ‘Happy to Bleed’ campaign said gender stereotyping in Indian temples violates the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. She asked the court how the healthy biological process of menstruation is used in the name of religion to discriminate against women.

 The argument put forth is that the deity does not want his celibacy to be disturbed.  Ms. Jaising counter-argued insisting that the traditional argument is that women of that age will “disturb” the deity’s celibacy. “The onus of causing disturbance is on women. If you are true celibate, why blame women for disturbing you? This is a classical blaming-the-victim game,” she contended.

The students want the apex court to decide whether society should continue to bear with “menstrual discrimination.

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