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Current Events 18 May 2016



18 MAY 2016


Geospatial Bill: India upset as Pak. moves UN

The discussion around the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, turned into a diplomatic war of words when India “firmly” rejected Pakistan’s objections to the draft Bill, saying Islamabad does not have any right to object to an internal “legislative matter” of India.

“The proposed bill is an entirely internal legislative matter of India, since the whole of the State of J&K is an integral part of India. Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi in the matter,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.

The draft Geospatial Information Bill plans to bring in a set of legally binding regulations regarding the geospatial information of India which may include provisions to penalise inaccurate depiction of India in maps. .

The MEA’s response came after Pakistan wrote to the UN Secretary General raising “serious concerns” over the draft Bill, specifically criticising the depiction of Jammu and Kashmir in the bill as “incorrect and legally untenable”.

Invokes international law
Earlier, in Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Office issued a statement saying it has expressed “serious concern” to the UN over a draft bill in the Indian Parliament over the map of Kashmir and has asked the world body to uphold its resolutions and urge India to stop such acts which are in “violation of international law.”

The letter from Pakistan stated: “Through the passage of this Bill, the Indian government would penalise the individuals and organizations who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.”

India rejects Pakistan protests over geospatial Bill

Pakistan’s observations on the depiction of J&K marks the first time that a Bill has drawn diplomatic opposition from a neighbouring country.

Former diplomat T.P. Srinivasan said India was right in reminding Pakistan that it cannot interfere in former’s decision to have its own maps and regulations regarding the geospatial data.


Cap on cab fares likely to check surge rates

The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry is likely to prescribe a cap on fares in its new city taxi policy to check surge pricing by cab aggregators like Uber and Ola. The policy is, instead, likely to make digital meters mandatory for all taxis.

Strict measures
The Centre’s proposal to cap taxi fares comes in the wake of strict measures initiated by Karnataka and Delhi against taxi aggregators for charging excess fares through their surge pricing models.

Aggregators’ defence

The Transport Ministry official said aggregators use cabs with all-India permits or luxury cab permits, allowing them to use the ‘surge pricing’ model at present.

Govt. to address issue

The government will address this as cabs working with aggregators will be required to secure a city taxi permit under the new proposed policy.

At present, all-India taxi permit vehicles are not allowed point-to-point pick-ups and drops within the city.

The Centre will also widen the distinction of taxis, presently categorised as air-conditioned and non-air conditioned cabs.


Chabahar tops agenda of Modi’s visit to Iran

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Iran .The government announced, even as sources told that he will follow it up with a visit Afghanistan in June.

Both visits — in what India considers its “extended neighbourhood” — will focus on infrastructure development.

The Chabahar port development project will top Mr. Modi’s agenda in Iran, while he is expected to visit Afghanistan to inaugurate the $300-million Salma dam and hydroelectric power plant, known as the Afghanistan-India friendship dam.

Mr. Modi’s visits will complete the triangle as he is expected to sign the trilateral trade treaty with Iran and Afghanistan for Chabahar, which was finalised during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s trip to Tehran last month.

Reconstruction project
The Ministry of External Affairs announced that Mr. Modi would visit Iran on May 22-23 to meet President Hassan Rouhani in an official visit that would “provide a timely thrust to the ongoing efforts of the two countries and their business entities to expand bilateral cooperation and mutually benefit from new opportunities in the wake of lifting of secondary sanctions against Iran earlier this year.”

Repayment of dues

Among issues on the agenda are agreeing on a channel for repayment of $6.5 billion in unpaid dues from India to appropriate corresponding banks in Iran, an Memorandum of Understanding on developing the Chabahar port project and the trilateral transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, India’s stake in the Farzad-B oilfields, the announcement of investments from Indian companies in the Chabahar “Free Trade Zone,” and security and defence pacts.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Iran is a rare stand-alone visit indicating that India hopes to fast-track ties and build on the alternative route for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.


‘No profiteering at the cost of farmer’

Even as several prominent private builders have come under suspicion for delayed completion of housing projects, the Supreme Court has declared land a “scarce natural resource” and forbidden the government from using its powers of compulsory land acquisition to strip poor farmers of their livelihood only to transfer such land to private builders to feed their business interests.

Benefiting the rich

Land, acquired in the name of residential or commercial projects, should revert to its rightful owner — the farmer — in case the project does not take off. No third party has any rights on the land, the apex court said.

Violation of rights

The judgment exposes how the Haryana government violated guaranteed fundamental rights of equality and right to property and life by transferring the titles of over 250 acres of land acquired from farmers in Rohtak to a private builder.

The judgment concluded that the builder would never have been able to pull off the transactions on acquired land without assurances from the State. Noting that acquisition of land is a “serious matter,” the apex court held that even the plight of investors in plots and flats on the land in question came secondary to the concern of the farmers.

If the law allows the State to take land for housing needs, the State itself has to keep the title or dispose of land consistent with Article 14 after completion of acquisition. If after initiation of acquisition, process is not to be completed, land must revert to the owner and not to anyone else directly or indirectly,” the court held.


Sykes-Picot pact haunts efforts to end Syrian civil war

One hundred years ago , Britain and France signed a secret agreement carving out “spheres of influence” that ultimately created the modern Western Asia.

Colonial manipulation

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, named for its British and French authors and the map it produced, is now widely considered a low point in colonial efforts to manipulate the region to fit the interests of outsiders.

Decentralisation of power

Out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the British ultimately obtained mandates over Palestine and Iraq; the French got what is now Syria. 


Now, a ‘tatkal’ system to expedite patent examination

The government has amended rules and introduced several measures including a system similar to ‘tatkal’, to expedite examination of patent applications by start-ups as well as entities choosing India for the first filing of patent. This comes in the backdrop of 2.37 lakh patent applications pending in the country.

The government, incidentally, is aiming to bring down the time period for initial examination of patent applications from the present 5-7 years to 18 months by March 2018. It had also announced the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy to push IPRs as a marketable financial asset and economic tool, promote innovation and entrepreneurship/start-ups, while protecting public interest.

Expedited examination

Under the ‘tatkal’-like system applicants can opt for the ‘expedited examination’- route on the grounds that they have chosen India as the competent International Searching Authority or International Preliminary Examining Authority in the corresponding international application, and file their applications first in India. The ‘expedited examination’-route is also available to all entities that qualify as a start-up as per the definition for start-up provided in the Patent Rules. The applications for this route have to be filed only electronically. 

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