Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Insights Daily Current Events October 24, 2013

Note: PDF will not be provided on daily basis. It will be launched as a free magazine at the end of the month. Aspirants are requested to discuss current events below in the comment box. Reading current events here itself and sharing your opinion helps you and others too.


October 24, 2013


Political Parties under RTI ambit?


  • On June, 2013 the Central Information Commission (CIC) had directed all six national political parties to appoint public information officers (PIOs) within six weeks, as they all have at some point of time received funding from the government.

  • The CIC directive was opposed by the political parties with almost absolute consensus. On the basis of this reaction, the government had decided to amend the RTI Act and even the Cabinet had cleared this amendment. But the matter was referred to the Standing Committee in view of public sentiment against the political parties’ refusal to subject itself to scrutiny, and opposition from some political parties.

Present Situation:

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances scrutinizing the Right to Information (Amendment) Act (RTI) with regard to the question of bringing political parties within its ambit will be looking forward at the Supreme Court(SC) judgment in the Thalapalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. case

  • The case is of  prime importance since the term “substantially financed” by the government needs to be clearly defined by the SC in making any further move to bring the resisting political class’ under the RTI’s ambit.

  • And this (substantially financed) was the rationale provided by the CIC for bringing political parties under the RTI.

  • Earlier in the October, 2013 judgment, the Court had defined the term ‘substantially financed’ as, “Merely providing subsidiaries, grants, exemptions, privileges etc., as such, cannot be said to be providing funding to a substantial extent, unless the record shows that the funding was so substantial to the body which practically runs by such funding and but for such funding, it would struggle to exist.”

  • The above judgment would support the political parties’ claims of being private bodies and would likely provide an escape route to political class from CIC order.

  • However, one must bear in mind that, as elements constituting a multiparty system which is an inherent part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, political parties cannot get away from the duty of transparency as easily as other NGOs.

  • Recently even the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati has said that, political parties should abide by the CIC’s order and has opposed the Bill pending in the parliament which seeks to keep political parties outside the ambit of RTI.

Government’s argument:

  • However, the Government has its own reasons. If the political class comes under the RTI ambit then it would hamper their smooth internal functioning as this would open up political parties to petitions regarding their decision-making process as well as expose them to harassment.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill to address the issue of surrogacy

  • According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare the proposed ART Bill should provide for comprehensive safeguards in order to address the issue of surrogacy and provide adequate safeguards to protect the surrogate mother.

  • Following are the safeguard measures suggested by the ministry to the the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),which is responsible for drafting the ART bill:

  • To protect the surrogate mother from exploitation, one should be provided with independent legal representation and mental health counseling.

  • Since surrogacy arrangements usually take place between parties with unequal power, education and economic status, the Bill should provide for punitive action in case the provisions of the Bill are either not followed or misused. The emphasis should be to ensure that the benefits of surrogacy are most beneficial to those who are weakest in the supply chain (the surrogates).

  • Safeguards should be comprehensive to include financial, social and physical wellness of the surrogate mother, irrelevant whether the surrogate mother is sought by an individual or a couple or whether they are Indians or foreigners.

  • There should be provisions to state that the mental health and the decision making ability of the woman must be certified in order to permit her to act as a surrogate mother. In this context, it should be provided that she should not be less than 25 years and should have an experience of at least bearing two children of her own. This is in line with giving prime importance to the health of the surrogate mother.

  • The ART clinics should not only counsel the patient and individuals but all couples desirous of understanding the process with all its implications in social and legal issues. The physicians should ensure that appropriate procedures are used to screen and counsel both the intended parents and surrogate mother. Referral for mental health counseling should be provided before initiation of a pregnancy to permit the potential surrogate mother to explore the range of outcomes and possible long-term effects and to evaluate her psychological risks and vulnerabilities as well as the possible effects of surrogacy on her existing relationships and on any existing children.

  • The Bill should also contain provisions- whether or not a surrogate mother can expect to receive a fee for her services and the manner in which his fee is determined and paid. Payment, if made, should be construed as compensation for the surrogate mother’s time and effort, her initiating and carrying the pregnancy, her participation in labour and delivery, her acceptance of the risks of pregnancy and child birth and her possible loss of employment opportunities. Under no circumstances should payment be made contingent on the delivery of a live born and healthy child.


India- China for more friendly exchanges (Everything you need to Know about the recent agreement between the two countries have been comprehensively covered. Also refer to yesterday’s news analysis (23rd, October)

  • At the conclusion of talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the following agreements were made.

Border Issue: On the Border Defence Co-operation Agreement (BDCA):

  • BDCA was one of the nine agreements signed by both sides.

  • India and China have agreed not to use force (exchange of fire or an armed conflict) in case of face-offs on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

  • This was among a set of confidence building measures (CBM) contained in the BDCA.

  • The BDCA would ensure ‘peace, stability and predictability’ on the borders.  Since peace and tranquility on our borders must be the foundation for growth in the India-China relationship. It provides a mechanism to manage and defuse face-offs when it happens and also provides an environment which would eventually prevent it from happening.

  • The BDCA envisages a graded mechanism, starting with meetings between border personnel in all sectors of the LAC, followed by periodic meetings between officers of the regional military headquarters, then Higher-level meetings between the two ministries of defence, and also there will be working mechanism for consultation and co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs, and the India-China Annual Defence Dialogue.

  • A hotline between the two military headquarters is under consideration.

  • India and China have also agreed that if the two sides come face-to-face in areas where they have differing perceptions of the LAC, “both sides shall exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side, treat each other with courtesy and prevent exchange of armed conflict”.

  • This will not affect India’s right to build infrastructure at the border. Both the sides have recognized, like in all previous agreements — 1993, 1996 and 2005 — that “the border is asymmetrical, that what is on their side is different from our side. Each side will approach its security in its own way”.

  • Other CBMs in the BDCA include joint celebrations by military personnel at the border on major national or military days and festivals, organising non-contact sports, and joint small-scale tactical exercises.

  • The BDCA also acknowledges that there is a lot of non-military activity along the LAC, and prescribes ways to manage this, including assisting each other on locating livestock, people or vehicles that have may have strayed, and combating smuggling of arms and wildlife. This is to ensure local issues are settled locally between local commanders on the ground.

  • Special Representatives on the boundary question have been “encouraged” by the two leaders to continue their efforts.

Another significant agreement was Strengthening Co-operation on Trans-border Rivers:

  • In the trans-border river agreement, an earlier MoU to provide hydrological date in the flood season has been extended to cover a longer time period. Unlike the existing agreement, the new one is not just about sharing data, but has widened the scope to discuss “other issues of mutual interest.”

  • This would specifically be related to the hydropower projects that China is building on the Brahmaputra. Construction of a 510 MW project had begun at Zangmu, and three other projects got the go-ahead in January, 2013. India always wanted more transparency from the Chinese side on the number and size of these projects.

Agreement on the Economic front:

  • Trade:

  • The two countries also discussed ways to bridge the increasingly widening trade imbalance, which, in 2013 is on track to exceed even last year’s record $28 billion. After nine months of this year, the deficit reached $24.7 billion, with India’s exports down by 22.5 per cent. Bilateral trade in 2012 reached $66 billion.

  • Manufacturing:

  • China’s biggest power companies have, for the first time, agreed to set up a permanent presence in India by opening power equipment service centres to address concerns of their increasingly large customer base.

  • Hitherto, the Chinese power companies had limited their business to selling equipment, despite the growing import demand from India and needs for servicing.

  • Though India imports 60,000 MW-plus of Chinese equipment, adequate capacity to service this equipment is a major issue.

  • The agreement would create a new institutional mechanism that will further deepen economic co-operation between the two countries.

  • China pushed for Bangladesh-Myanmar-India-China (BMIC) economic corridor along the south Silk Route.

Agreement on boosting Tourism:

  • To co-operate in the roads sector, and exchange ideas on transport policy and transport technology, as well as ‘sister cities’ agreements between New Delhi and Beijing, Kunming and Kolkata, and Chengdu and Bengaluru aimed at boosting tourism.

  • India also brought up the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and Chinese infrastructure-building in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

  • Though there was little progress made over China issuing stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh. And also both sides were unable to reach an agreement on industrial parks, with the Chinese side yet to decide on a location with around five sites under consideration.

  • 2014 has been designated as a “Year of Friendly Exchanges” between India and China and both countries would discuss with Myanmar ways to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel.

India-Bangladesh extradition treaty takes effect & further cooperation on Customs

  • The extradition treaty between Bangladesh and India came into effect with the handing over of the instruments of ratification of the much-awaited pact. The two countries will now be able to exchange convicts or undertrials as and when required.

  • The treaty will allow exchange of convicts sentenced for more than a year in prison but will not be applicable to political prisoners and asylum seekers. Both sides have the option to cancel the treaty in six-month notice.

  • India can now take back ULFA leader AnupChetia, who has been lodged in prison for many years, from Bangladesh. Dhaka too can bring back fugitive crime lords such a Subrata Bain and Sazzad Hossain and put them on trial.

  • The treaty would further strengthen the security of the two countries.

Certain steps were taken with regard to Customs cooperation:

  • India and Bangladesh have decided to leave two important land ports open seven days a week from January, 2014 to support greater trade. The land customs stations at Benapole-Petrapole and Akhaura-Agartala will remain operational seven days a week from January 1.

  • The 9th Joint Group of Customs (JGC) also identified 16 stations as ‘high bilateral trade importance’ and agreed to take measures for synchronisation of working hours and days. It agreed on extending the car pass system to those stations to allow movement of trucks of the importing country for unloading cargo.

  • Both sides also greed to consult relevant stakeholders to simplify the travel in ‘Maitree Express,’ the lone direct train service between Dhaka and Kolkata.

India’s stance on Montreal Protocol

  • At the ongoing meeting of the multilateral agreement in Bangkok – Sticking to its (India) stand on not allowing phase-out of climate changing refrigerant gases, India has asserted that hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) must be dealt within UNFCCC talks, and not under Montreal Protocol.

  • Since Montreal Protocol is meant to deal only with ozone-depleting gases.

  • The U.S. has demanded that India should agree to set up a ‘contact group’ on HFCs in the Montreal Protocol, which would effectively begin the process of dealing with the gases out of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

  • Currently, the HFCs are handled and developed countries are required to cover the full costs for technology transitions under UNFCCC.

  • There are apprehensions from the Indian side that, its industry would be pushed to buy proprietary technology from companies in the U.S. and elsewhere at a very high cost to make the transition without adequate financial support.

  • India retaliated that, unless there is clarity on the costs and technological changes involved at the bilateral task force (between India & U.S.), there would be no further progress on this issue and India would not change its present stance.

  • India also blocked other proposals, including one from the European Union, which would indirectly open the forum to talks on HFCs within the Protocol.

  • At the Bangkok meet, India’s stance was equally supported by China, Brazil and some allies blocking the long-standing proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol, permitting it to deal with HFCs. As the protocol works by consensus, each country’s consent is mandatory to pass such a proposal.

What is Montreal Protocol?

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was designed to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere, and thereby protect the earth’s fragile ozone Layer. The original Montreal Protocol was agreed on 16 September 1987 and entered into force on 1 January 1989.

  • The treaty is structured around several groups of halogenated hydrocarbons that have been shown to play a role in ozone depletion. All of these ozone depleting substances contain either chlorine or bromine (substances containing only fluorine do not harm the ozone layer).

  • The details of polar ozone hole formation differ from that of mid-latitude thinning, but the most important process in both is catalytic destruction of ozone by atomic halogens. The main source of these halogen atoms in the stratosphere is photo dissociation of man-made halocarbon refrigerants (CFCs, freons, halons).


  • On 16th September 2009, the Vienna Convention (for protection of the ozone layer) and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.

Courtesy – UNEP website & Wikipedia

U.S. does not want rigid rules in global climate pact, 2015

  • The U.S. in its formal submission to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had emphasized on emission reduction targets for countries and accountability in the main agreement, leaving out all other linked elements, such as adaptation, finance and technology transfer, to the less demanding decision-making processes of the UNFCCC.

  • The U.S. does not want the new global climate agreement to have “rigid rules” or penalties for countries that do not meet their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

  • According to U.S. it would be unrealistic for rich countries to increase financing for fight against climate change, as it would dent the ambition of commitments and limit participation by countries.

  • Also the fiscal reality of the U.S. and other developed countries stands bleak. Apart from the recent financial crisis there are other obligations that it has to cater to like the aging population, infrastructure, education, health care.

  • Instead the U.S. is pro- private investments in climate financing.

  • Whereas the Least developed countries (LDCs) or the poorest countries have demanded that they be compensated for the damage from the global warming caused by the existing accumulated emissions that any level of mitigation or adaptation would be unable to prevent.

Syria weapons deadline will be met, says OPCW

  • According to an Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) timeline, backed up by a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution, Syria must complete the destruction of its entire arsenal by the middle of next year (2014).

  • The world’s chemical weapons watchdog is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the November 1, 2013 deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents as well as machinery used for filling munitions with mustard gas, sarin or other poison agents.

  • The Syrian government’s co-operation with the 18 of the 23 chemical weapons sites (the remaining would follow) has been appreciated by OPCW.

Implications of this move:

  • From now on, Syria will no more have the capability to produce chemical weapons. And also they will no longer have working equipment to mix or fill chemical weapons into munitions.

  • Norway too has confirmed to follow suit by considering a request to accept the bulk of the stockpile for destruction on its territory.


TRAI sticks to its proposal for reserve price cut

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reiterated its earlier recommendations for up to 60 % cut in the reserve price for sale of spectrum in the upcoming third round of auction.

  • Earlier in September, 2013, TRAI had sent its recommendations on ‘valuation and reserve price of spectrum’ in to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The DoT had sought clarifications of some of the recommendations.

  • Responding to clarifications sought, TRAI reiterated that the auction reserve price for spectrum in the 900 MHz band in some key cities be cut by 60%. It had also suggested 37 % cut in the reserve price for spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.

  • Further, it stuck to its stand of not auctioning 800 MHz band in the auction saying there was a large gap in the worth of spectrum in its present use as against its potential use, and it would not be prudent to take a hasty decision in the matter.

Banking ombudsman!!

  • The Banking Ombudsman Scheme was launched in 1995 by the industry regulator, the RBI, as an expeditious and inexpensive forum for resolution of complaints. It was amended in 2006 to include other services including credit card. The scheme covers all banks including regional rural banks and cooperative banks.