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Current Events 09 March 2017

 

NEWS

9th MARCH 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : GOVERNANCE  NGOs

Compassion International to wind up India operations

2.

GS III : S&T INDIAN

CSIR-Tech shut down for lack of funds

3.

GS II: POLITY JUDICIARY

SC to HCs: Don’t keep review pleas pending

4.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

2 more tiger reserves soon in Uttarakhand

5.

GS II: GOVERNANCE AADHAAR

Aadhaar must for BPL women for free LPG

6.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Fewer migratory water birds sighted at Ropar

7.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL UN

Open to new ideas on U.N. reform: G4

8.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-NEPAL

Nepal team in India amid call for stir

9.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka to release all 85 Indian fishermen in custody

10.

GS II : POLITY JUDICIARY

Take up border fencing: SC

11.

GS III : ECONOMY

Centre plumps for rural FMCG e-sales

12.

GS II: BILATERAL INDIA-MYANMAR

Centre mulls more ‘border haats

13.

GS II: POLITY  ELECTIONS

Electoral bonds to flag elections: FM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS II : GOVERNANCE  NGOs

Compassion International to wind up India operations

  • The government dismissed a statement by American Christian NGO Compassion International that it is being forced to shut down its operations in India next week because of “ideological” reasons, while the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) that was also accused by the NGO distanced itself from the issue.
  • “We have responded to the report (quoting Compassion International)”, an MEA official told, pointing to the MEA statement calling the allegation that an RSS activist in the U.S. had suggested that the Christian NGO re-route some of its funding through the RSS, “totally extraneous to the law enforcement action.”
  • He indicated they were “negotiating with an ideological movement that is fuelling the government.”
  • According to the allegation carried in the NYT, the proposal forwarded was that the [Indian] government “might view Compassion International more favorably if the charity routed a portion of its $45 million in annual charitable donations away from churches and through non-Christian aid groups, including Hindu ones.”
  • In March 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs had put Compassion International on a “prior permission” watchlist, effectively curtailing its ability to bring in funds for NGOs in India, some of which were accused of carrying out religious conversions.
  • Their case was taken up at the highest level by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in 2016.
  • After several appeals, CI announced that it is shutting down its India operations.


GS III : S&T INDIA

CSIR-Tech shut down for lack of funds

  • CSIR Pvt. Tech Ltd (CSIRTech), a company affiliated to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and primarily formed to commercialise technology developed by the 75-year-old organisation’s 37 labs, has been shut down.
  • CEO of CSIR-Tech Amitabh Shrivastava, an entrepreneur, told that a lack of legal support or funds, and delays in executing commercial deals by the CSIR’s labs, were among the key impediments to the success of CSIR-Tech.
  • There was no official memorandum that empowered CSIR-Tech to have exclusive rights to commercialise the CSIR’s patent portfolio,” he said, adding all employees had left as of November last and he was the “last employee” staying back only to shut it down.
  • Mr. Shrivastava said: “We did some deals with CSIR labs but it was all dependent on the enthusiasm of individual directors of labs. I arranged about Rs. 30 crore from investors, used that to pay salaries, but ultimately could not scale up because there was no funding from CSIR.”
  • Though a repository of myriad technology and innovative scientists, CSIR — the country’s largest patent holder — spends more on keeping its patents active than earning royalty out of them.
  • It has a relatively high rate of commercialising its patents (about 9% compared to a global average of 4%) but these earn too little.
  • Most of CSIR’s revenues are derived from consultancy, and projects for India’s defence and space activities. CSIR-Tech was conceived to address this problem.

 

 

GS II: POLITY JUDICIARY

SC to HCs: Don’t keep review pleas pending

  • The Supreme Court has asked High Courts to dispose off review petitions as expeditiously as possible to prevent any slow-up in the process of justice.
  • The court was hearing a case in which a plea for review of an order passed by a Single Judge Bench of the Kerala High Court on March 9, 2012 took four years to be decided on October 26, 2016.
  • The court issued a slew of guidelines for High Courts, litigants and their lawyers while dealing with review petitions.
  • It said “an endeavour has to be made by the High Courts to dispose off the applications for review with expediency.” The judgment observed that it was also the duty of a litigant to file his review plea against a judgment on time.
  • The court said it was the obligation of counsel filing an application for review to cure or remove the defects at the earliest.
  • Review petitions were often kept on “life support” by litigants and their lawyers to deliberately delay the process, it said.
  • An adroit (clever) method could not be adopted to file an application for review and wait till its rejection and, thereafter, challenge the orders in the special leave petition.

 

 

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

2 more tiger reserves soon in Uttarakhand

  • With the Uttarakhand forest department focusing on tiger conservation, the State is soon to get two new tiger reserves, work towards which is under way.
  • The Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, which falls under the Terai Arc Landscape spanning across India and Nepal, and the Surai Range in the Terai East division of the Uttarakhand forest department are the two proposed tiger reserves.
  • “We [in the forest department] are currently undertaking a public consultation exercise to apprise people residing in the two areas [of the Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary and the Surai range] about the plan to get the areas notified as tiger reserves, and to take their consent,” State chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati told.
  • Uttarakhand now has two tiger reserves – the Corbett Tiger Reserve and the Rajaji Tiger Reserve.
  • According to the tiger census data released in 2015, Uttarakhand has 340 tigers making it a State with the second highest tiger population in the country after Karnataka.

 

 

GS II: GOVERNANCE AADHAAR

Aadhaar must for BPL women for free LPG

  • The government has made having an Aadhaar card must for poor women to avail of free cooking gas (LPG) connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • While the government in October 2016 made the unique identification number mandatory for everyone to get LPG subsidies, it has now extended the same for free cooking gas connections to women of BPL households.

 

 

 

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Fewer migratory water birds sighted at Ropar

  • Fewer winter migratory water birds from central and north Asia were sighted at the Ropar Wetland in Punjab this season, apparently because of increasing human interference.
  • Asian Waterbird Census 2017, conducted by Wetlands International, South Asia, and Punjab’s Wildlife Preservation Department on January 16 this year, revealed that the number of water birds this season stood at 2,302 as against 3,114 last year.
  • The birds that came up this year included oriental darter and river papwing, both put on the red-list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Ropar has been declared a wetland by the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands.
  • Asian Waterbird Census is part of the International Waterbird Census of Wetlands International, South Asia, which conducts the exercise every January across Asia and Australia.
  • The census revealed that while the number of Eurasian coot, barheaded geese, ruddy shelduck, oriental darter and river lapwing dwindled this year, that of graylag goose and red-crested pochard increased.
  • “Due to local disturbance such as threat and unavailability of food, the number of certain species decreases on many wetlands. At Ropar, boating, fishing and human disturbances along the riverbanks seem to drive away the water birds,” AWC Delhi State coordinator told.
  • Ropar is a riverine wetland with hardly any vegetation; but there are farmlands along the riverbanks where geese and ducks go for feeding. However, farmers try to keep them away from their land. This explains the dip in the number of bar-headed geese and ruddy shelduck which could have moved to other areas,” he said.
  • With seasonal wetlands getting dry because of global warming, migratory birds going to a particular wetland switch to nearby wetlands, lakes, reservoirs with a large open area for seasonal congregation. Hence, the number of certain species increased.

Wetlands International

  • Wetlands International is a global organisation that works to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity.
  • Wetlands International’s work ranges from research and community-based field projects to advocacy and engagement with governments, corporate and international policy fora and conventions.

The Montreux Record

  • The Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
  • It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
  • List of Indian wetlands of International importance included in the Montreux Record are

1) Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan

2) Loktak Lake, Manipur.

  • Chilika Lake was removed from the register in 2002 in light of the improved conditions of the lake. In fact, Chilika lake is the first Ramsar site in Asia to be removed from the Montreux record

 

 

GS II : INTERNATIONAL UN

Open to new ideas on U.N. reform: G4

  • In a bid to get the U.N. reform process moving, India and other G4 nations have said they are open to innovative ideas and willing to not exercise veto as permanent members of a reformed Security Council until a decision on it has been taken.
  • In a joint statement delivered by India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Syed Akbaruddin at an inter-governmental negotiations meeting, the G4 nations — India, Brazil, Germany and Japan — emphasised that an overwhelming majority of the U.N. member-states supported the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership in a reformed Security Council.
  • The question of veto had been addressed by many from differing perspectives but the G4 approach was that the problem was not one of quantity (of extending it immediately to new permanent members) but of quality — of introducing restrictions.
  • Mr. Akbaruddin, on behalf of the G4, said the group was open to “innovative” and differing ideas compiled in a composite text to achieve U.N. reform.

G4 nations

  • The G4 nations comprising Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan are four countries which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
  • Unlike the G7, where the common denominator is the economy and long-term political motives, the G4’s primary aim is the permanent member seats on the Security Council.
  • However, the G4’s bids are often opposed by Uniting for Consensus movement, and particularly their economic competitors or political rivals.

Uniting for Consensus movement

  • Uniting for Consensus (UfC) is a movement, nicknamed the Coffee Club, that developed in the 1990s in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Under the leadership of Italy, it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 nations (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) and is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Security Council.

 


GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-NEPAL

Nepal team in India amid call for stir

  • An official Nepali delegation, led by a Maoist leader from the plains, is in the capital to lobby with India for the newly-announced election process.
  • The visit of the parliamentarians came even as the Madhesi agitators called for a strike in Nepal on 10 March 2017 protesting against the local-level election which was announced without completing the amendment process.
  • “The election process is necessary. But the people’s aspirations from the Madhes region too has to be addressed as without it there could be negative fallouts,” said Prabhu Sah, leader of the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Nepali Parliament during an interaction with civil society members.
  • Mr. Sah indicated that the situation could fast deteriorate without a steady political dialogue between the Madhesis and the government.
  • The committee members met leading India- Nepal interlocutors and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.
  • The visit is significant as it began on 7 March 2017 when four Madhesi protesters died in police firing near Rajbiraj.
  • The Madhesis however hardened their position even as the parliamentarians continued with their visit to India. Following a meeting on 7 March 2017, leaders of the umbrella organisation, the United Democratic Madhesi Morcha, declared a nationwide strike on 10 March 2017against the election process.


 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka to release all 85 Indian fishermen in custody

  • The Sri Lankan government decided to release all 85 Indian fishermen who are now in its custody.
  • The Indian government too is likely to reciprocate the gesture and release the 19 Sri Lankan fishermen in its custody, the source said.
  • The development comes two days after Tamil Nadu fisherman K. Britjo was shot dead in the Palk Bay.
  • Tamil Nadu fishermen have accused the Sri Lankan Navy of opening fire at the fisherman, but the Sri Lankan Navy has denied the charge.
  • Terming it a matter of “grave concern”, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry assured India of all possible cooperation in probing the death.
  • The release of the 85 fishermen is in line with the Sri Lankan government’s policy of swiftly releasing fishermen it arrests on charges of poaching, but retaining the trawlers seized.
  • As of 8 March 2017, a total of 146 Indian trawlers are in Sri Lankan custody.

 

 

GS II : POLITY  JUDICIARY

Take up border fencing: SC

  • The Supreme Court asked the Union government to release funds for fencing the India- Bangladesh border to check illegal migration into Assam.
  • A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F. Nariman perused the Centre’s status report on the progress made in the works relating to securing and fencing the International Border.
  • “Without going into the merits of the submissions, we are of the view that the task of border fencing and physical manning of the border [where fencing could not be done] has to be undertaken and concluded,” the court observed.
  • Additional Solicitor-General P.S. Patwalia said some tenders had been finalised and work orders issued to successful bidders to undertake the exercise of border fencing.
  • The court was hearing the pleas of the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, the Assam Public Works and the All Assam Ahom Association filed in the aftermath of the riots in 2012 and 2014.

 

 

GS III : ECONOMY

Centre plumps for rural FMCG e-sales

  • The Centre has initiated talks with FMCG companies to sell their products online in rural areas through common service centres (CSCs) as it looks to increase the business for such centres.
  • While a deal has already been worked out with Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda, negotiations are underway with the likes of Procter and Gamble and Crompton Greaves, an official said.
  • “The government is focused on expansion of CSCs because of their inherent strength to transform rural India. With the sale of FMCG products, the door has been opened for popularising e–commerce through CSCs.”
  • There are more than 2.5 lakh CSCs across the country which enable people, particularly in rural areas, to access government services online. These services include ration card, birth certificate, train tickets and online form submission, among other things.
  • Going beyond delivery of public services through such centres, the Centre is now opening up to tie-ups with private companies for their products to be sold through CSCs to increase profits for Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs).
  • The move will help VLEs who run CSCs to earn commission on the products sold while also enabling access for customers in rural areas to these products.
  • According to estimates, a VLE is likely to earn a commission in the range of 12-20% on FMCG products, which is far higher than less than 10% on other services offered.
  • CSC also has a tie up with Videocon d2h and Reliance Jio to sell their connections.

Centre funding yoga research

  • The Department of Science and Technology has funded a wide range of research institutions — including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Haridwar-based Patanjali Research Foundation, promoted by yoga proponent Baba Ramdev — to study the efficacy of yoga and whether it has a role in alleviating stroke, type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia.
  • Department of Science and Technology claims to have been highly selective and made it clear that [results] should be publishable in the top international journals.
  • SATYAM, an acronym for Science and Technology of Yoga and Medicine, has been conceived to develop good science around yoga and has nothing to do with religious beliefs, say associated officials.
  • The bulk of the studies are about measuring brain activity using electro-encephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging — standard tools that are used to check what kind of electrical activity takes place and which regions of the brain are most active — when the brain is involved in a variety of cognitive tasks.

 

 

GS II: BILATERAL INDIA-MYANMAR

Centre mulls more ‘border haats

  • The government is mulling opening more ‘border haats’ (border markets), encouraged by its success at the India-Myanmar border.
  • The “informal trade” with Myanmar through the ‘border haat’ was “functioning very well.” It is restricted to local produce in those areas.

Border haats

  • The border haats aim at promoting the wellbeing of the people dwelling in remote areas across the borders of two countries, by establishing traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets.
  • Currently, four border haats are operational, along the India-Bangladesh border.
  • Two border haats are located in Meghalaya and two are located in Tripura.
  • The trade at border haats is permitted to be carried out in Indian Rupees/Bangladesh Taka and on barter basis.
  • Governments of India and Bangladesh have approved six more border haats.
  • Government of India has also executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Government of the Republic of Union of Myanmar on establishment of border haats along their border.

 

GS II: POLITY  ELECTIONS

Electoral bonds to flag elections: FM

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the electoral bonds will be made available ahead of the elections and would remain valid for a few days.
  • The concept of electoral bonds was introduced by Mr. Jaitley during his Budget 2017 speech in order to bring some transparency to the electoral funding process.
  • These bonds have to be authorised under a scheme under the Income Tax Act.
  • “It will open for a limited period of time during the elections, or maybe a little before the elections.”
  • “The life of a bond will be just a few days. Knowing the manner in which people have laundered money, the bond should not become a parallel currency,” the Finance Minister added.
  • A bond can be purchased by any donor only by cheque or electronic payment, only at authorised banks. You can donate these bonds only to a political party.
  • These are redeemable in only one account of that party, registered with the Election Commission.”
  • Mr. Jaitley in his Budget speech had also announced that the cap on cash donations to political parties would be reduced to Rs. 2,000 from the earlier Rs. 20,000.
  • “Over time, grass root donations slowed down and so parties had to attract bigger donations,” the Minister said. “That’s a disturbing change that has happened,” he added.

Electoral bonds

What is it?

  • Electoral bonds will be issued by a notified bank for specified denominations. If you are keen to donate to a political party, you can buy these bonds by making payments digitally or through cheque. You are then free to gift the bond to a registered political party. The bonds will likely be bearer bonds and the identity of the donor will not be known to the receiver.
  • The party can convert these bonds back into money via their bank accounts. The bank account used must be the one notified to the Election Commission and the bonds may have to be redeemed within a prescribed time period.
  • But this does not sound like a bond, you say? What’s the principal and where’s the interest? The electoral bond is more like a bail-bond than a Government or corporate bond. Electoral bonds are essentially like bearer cheques. The issuing bank will remain the custodian of the donor’s funds until the political party redeems the bond. So, only the RBI will most likely be allowed to issue these bonds, to be sold through notified banks.

Why is it important?

  • Today, most political parties use the lax regime on donations to accept cash donations from anonymous sources. Nearly 70 per cent of the Rs. 11,300 crore in party funding over an 11-year period came from unknown sources, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
  • Currently, political parties are required to report any donation of over Rs. 20,000 to the IT department. But there has been a trend of more donations flowing by way of hard cash in smaller amounts. To fix this, the Budget has reduced the disclosure limit to Rs. 2,000 and insists that any amount over this must be paid through cheque or the digital mode. The idea is that electoral bonds will prompt donors to take the banking route to donate, with their identity captured by the issuing authority.
  • But there are loopholes to electoral bonds too. While the identity of the donor is captured, it is not revealed to the party or public. So transparency is not enhanced for the voter.

Why should I care?

  • If you want to play an anonymous benefactor to a political party, electoral bonds are a neat vehicle. But do note that income tax breaks may not be available for donations through electoral bonds. So if you are keen to support a political party, chances are you will have to choose between remaining anonymous and saving on taxes. Also, in the electoral bond route, while the party may not know the identity of the donor, the bank will.
  • But there do not seem to be many precedents to such a bond in other countries, even where political funding is well evolved. It may have been worthwhile to study alternate methods and ensure the process leads to more accountability for voters, before shaking things up.

 

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