Insights Daily Current Events, December 20, 2013
December 20, 2013
AAP gets the status of a State party
- The Election Commission (EC) recognised the AamAadmi Party (AAP) as a State party after the party fulfilled the eligibility conditions set by the EC for granting the status. The party which took part for the 1st time in the elections (Delhi) won 28 of the 70 seats securing about 30%.
Conditions to get the status of ‘State Party’:
- According to EC rules, to get the EC’s recognition as a ‘State party’ there are 2 conditions required:
- All the candidates set up by the party together should get a minimum of 8% of the valid votes polled in the entire State or secure a minimum of 6% of the total votes polled.
- The party should also win one Assembly seat for every 25 seats in that State.
Privilege of the Status (being a State Party):
- Among the privileges of being a “state party” are participation in all-party meetings convened by the EC/the State/Central governments, a permanent common symbol for all their contestants, and licence to address voters through All India Radio and Doordarshan during elections.
- The AAP, which was allotted “broom” as the election symbol by the Commission, will now have the choice of retaining the “broom” as its permanent election symbol or it can design its own poll symbol provided it fits within the rules and regulations of the Commission.
Mind – Mapping:
- What are the other benefits of being recognised as a state party? How is a national party recognised and what are its privileges?
- What are the laws that govern the parties (like representation of peoples act and its salient feature, code of conduct for parties).Some info on party finance, accountability etc.
Cabinet nod for FTA in trade and services with ASEAN
- The Cabinet has approved a free trade agreement (FTA) in trade and services with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- The Agreement on Trade in Services is to be signed under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CECA) between India and the ASEAN. The CECA between India and ASEAN was signed in 2003. The Cabinet had approved the Agreement on Trade Goods under the CECA with the ASEAN in 2009.
- The FTA (approved recently- December, 2013) in trade and services is aimed at boosting the movement of Indian professionals in the 10-nation ASEAN. It would protect, promote and increase foreign investment flows into the country and would also remove trade barriers for the free movement of Goods and Services.
- However, some critics pointed out that, FTAs were signed recklessly harming considerably the domestic industry, especially the manufacturing sector.
To know more ASEAN, CEPA, CECA refer our ‘Insights Current Events Analysis Magazine’ (NOVEMBER, 2013)
Mind – Mapping:
- Positive and negative impact of FTAs on various sectors. India’s FTAs with other countries especially neighbourhood.
- Potential of ASEAN as a growth engine and its contribution to Indian growth in terms of connectivity, economic growth, infrastructure, people-people contact(social impact on demography) and its effects on national policies etc.
Continuation of Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill (It was covered in yesterday’s Current Events)
- After West Bengal, it is Opposition parties in Assam who have staged a State-wide protests against the tabling of the Constitutional amendment bill in the RajyaSabha to facilitate swapping of land enclaves with Bangladesh.
Whereas, enclaves in north Bengal have welcomed tabling of LBA Bill:
- Despite the opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister, the organisations working for the rights of residents of enclaves and local public representatives have shown positive reaction towards the Bill.
- Reason for their support- tabling of the Bill would pave way for Parliament to debate about the enclave’s rights for the first time since Independence.
- There are about 51,000 people living in Stateless condition in 162 enclaves in India and Bangladesh; the enclave-dwellers have been denied basic rights of health and education.
- Role of state governments in determining India’s foreign policy.
- Booster for Indo-Bangla ties. Other measures initiated to improve border ties between India-Bangladesh (Like teesta water sharing, Integrated Check posts, Border haats etc).
Positive signals in Indian research on HIV vaccine
- Indian researchers have claimed that they have got some positive early leads for developing a vaccine that will prevent people contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- A preliminary screening showed four ‘neutralising antibodies’ that can block HIV. Studies are on to ascertain whether any one of these or a combination of these can be used as a vaccine to protect against the Indian HIV subtype, Clade-C.
- The developments have taken place in the past three months, raising hopes of developing at least a therapeutic, if not preventive, vaccine. The researchers believe that, a world without AIDS now looks a possibility.
- The isolation of the antibodies has led to establishment of a global project ‘Protocol G,’ and in India it was taken up by the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI).
- Vaccines prevent nearly three million deaths every year from infectious diseases, avert disease morbidity and enable more rapid economic and social development. Tuberculosis, HIV and malaria are the major diseases for which preventive vaccines are not available.
- Despite global efforts, the scientific community is nowhere close to developing a vaccine to prevent HIV infection because HIV isolates are highly variable. There is lack of an ideal animal model for HIV to screen vaccines. HIV infects, suppresses and destroys key cells of the immune system. Importantly, natural immunity to HIV fails to completely control infection.
Mind mapping for this topic is already done in previous news analysis.
CIL gets clearance for CBM gas exploration
- The Union Cabinet has given its approval to allow Coal India Ltd. (CIL) to carry out exploration of coal bed methane (CBM) gas in its existing mines, a move that will unlock nearly 100 million tonnes of medium grade coking coal and about one trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas.
- The existing rules prohibit mining firms from extracting CBM during mining as the policy does not allow for simultaneous extraction of CBM and coal. CBM exploration and production is allowed only in pure coal-seam gas bearing blocks, which are auctioned. Since 2001, 33 CBM blocks have been awarded in four auction rounds. According to the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), India has CBM reserves of about 4.6 trillion cubic metres.
- At present, three CBM blocks are producing around 0.15 million standard cubic metres per day (mscmd). This is likely to touch 7.4 mscmd by 2013.
- CIL holds at least 20% of the estimated 60 billion tonnes of coal resources in India. It has coal mines in eight States, which are estimated to have CBM reserves of 3.5-4 trillion cubic feet. It was felt that many of the acreage of CIL were gaseous and unsafe mines, where mining of coal would be possible only after the extraction of CBM.
- Extracting methane gas ahead of coal mining from seams will allow CIL help unlock very significant quantities of coal reserves in areas of Jharkhand, West Bengal.
- Potential of coal bed methane in overcoming the energy deficit India is facing. Some externalities while extracting CBM like its effect on environment, health etc.
- Identification on map of CBM resources in India. (prelims point of view)
Higher gas price for RIL gets Cabinet nod
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved giving Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) a higher price for natural gas from April 2013, subject to the company furnishing $135 million bank guarantee every quarter.
- According to the proposal approved by the Cabinet, the bank guarantee will be encashed if it is proved that RIL hoarded gas or deliberately suppressed production at the Dhirubhai-1 and 3 main gas fields in its eastern offshore KG-D6 block. The bank guarantee will cover the difference between the current gas price of $4.2 per million British thermal unit (mBtu) and the new rate which will come into effect from April 1, 2013.
- The Oil Ministry had initially proposed to deny the new gas prices (starting from April, 2014) till such time that RIL either made up for the shortfall in output during the past three years, or it is proved that the company was not responsible for production falling below targets. In fact, this had held up the notification of the new gas pricing formula that would be applicable to all producers in the public and private sectors for all forms of gas produced. The Petroleum Ministry has proposed that till the hoarding issue is resolved through arbitration and validation by independent international experts, RIL would have to keep furnishing the bank guarantee.
- Recently, the Finance Ministry had advocated some changes in the approved formula by excluding liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchases from the spot market, which, it said, was highly volatile. Prices of natural gas would be revised every quarter based on the average of the past four quarters, with a gap of one quarter. However, there was no word on the point raised by the Finance Ministry recently seeking a cap on the gas prices.
- Facts & Figures:
- Gas production from the D1&D3 fields has fallen to less than 10 million metric standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) from the peak of 54 mmscmd in March, 2010. Production has been lower than the target since the latter half of fiscal 2010-11, and it should currently have been 80 mmscmd, as per the 2006 investment plan. Output from the MA oil and gas field in the KG-D6 block, too, has fallen over 62%.
- Availability of natural gas in India. Composition of natural gas.
- Comparative analysis of environment impact of using natural gas, coal, LPG etc.
- Types of natural gases. Pricing mechanism of natural gas and similar fuels in India. Its upstream and downstream impact on various industries and end users etc.
Diamonds in Antarctic
- Scientists say they have discovered compelling evidence that diamonds exist in the icy mountains of Antarctica. The researchers have identified a type of rock in the permanently frozen region that is known to contain the precious stones. However, recovering any Antarctic mineral resources for commercial purposes is currently forbidden.
- Diamonds are formed from pure carbon under extreme heat and pressure at depths of about 150 km in the Earth’s crust. Volcanic eruptions bring the valuable crystals to the surface, usually preserved in another type of bluish rock called kimberlite.
- The presence of kimberlite has been a clue to significant deposits of diamonds in several parts of the world, including Africa, Siberia and Australia.
- Now researchers have, for the first time, found evidence of kimberlite in Antarctica.
- Even if diamonds were plentiful in this inhospitable region, there are still some significant legal barriers to their extraction.
- The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, added in 1991, explicitly bans any extraction activity relating to mineral resources, except for scientific purposes. However it is up for review in 2041 and could be subject to change.
- Any diamond resource sites in India? Indian presence in Antarctica.
- Research potential of the region. Some info on Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
Need for change in India’s Diplomatic policy
The two instances below makes us rethink on the existing diplomatic policy of India:
- The arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the United States and the other regarding the arrest of sailors in July, 2013 (and released just recently).
- In the later case, the two Indian sailors Sunil James and Vijayan were arrested by the Togo authorities. Reason- they had simply disembarked in Togo to report a pirate attack on their oil tanker. In an apparent instance of confusion, the Togo police charged them with the grave offence of aiding piracy. Criminal proceedings were initiated against both, and their families reliably informed that the trial would go on for an extended period of time. They were released after the Indian High Commissioner in neighbouring Ghana met the President of Togo to present their case.
- Given that the health of Mr. James and Mr. Vijayan had deteriorated, this diplomatic intervention by Indian and Togolese officials came not a moment too soon. Meanwhile, Mr. James’s son, all of 11 months old, died of illness earlier this month. By securing his release, the Indian government has ensured that the sailor gets to attend his son’s funeral. But it needs mention that the plight of the jailed men was taken up in earnest only after the death of Mr. James’s son came to the attention of the media and public.
- In this respect, a common thread runs through the arrests of Ms. Khobragade and the two sailors. Both cases indicate that Indian diplomacy has been too slow to respond to crises that were long in the making. Ms. Khobragade’s harsh treatment at the hands of U.S. authorities is a by-product of India’s inability to tackle a serious legal and humanitarian issue through diplomatic channels.
- If there was a chance to negotiate a mutually accepted understanding of how U.S. visa rules and minimum wage laws would apply to domestic help employed by Indian diplomats in the country, India did not exercise it. Similarly, Mr. James and Mr. Vijayan were languishing in a Togo jail for six months before India took up their cases.
- The zeal with which the Ministry of External Affairs has intervened in Ms. Khobragade’s case sits uncomfortably with its lax attempts to resolve the open-and-shut case involving the sailors.
- India’s diplomatic establishment needs to formulate a policy that deals with the concerns of Indians abroad not just of diplomats but of sailors, businesspersons, fishermen and others.
- As the global and business profile of India increases, it is only natural that more Indians find themselves in legal and diplomatic crosshairs around the world. Resolving their concerns effectively while deferring to the national laws of other states should be accorded a higher priority than has been in evidence.