Insights Daily Current Events, 29 January 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Gujarat anti-terror bill sent back
A controversial anti-terror bill passed by the Gujarat assembly and earlier rejected by two Presidents, has been withdrawn by the union Home Ministry after President Pranab Mukherjee returned the bill, seeking clarifications on some points.
- The Home Ministry will shortly submit a re-worked bill to the President for his consent.
- The GCTOC Bill, 2015, has been hanging fire since it was first introduced it in 2003. The Gujarat Assembly in March 2015 had passed the stringent Bill retaining controversial provisions that had twice earlier led to a previous such Bill being rejected by the President.
- The Bill was first rejected by then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004, demanding that the clause relating to interception of communication be removed. It was again rejected when Pratibha Patil was the President.
- In July 2015, the Home Ministry had sent back the controversial Bill to the State government asking it to clarify on certain issues raised by the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT).
- The IT Ministry has objected to the provision in the Bill which allows authorization of interception of telephone conversations and their admissibility as evidence before a court of law.
- The Gujarat government had strongly rebutted the objections raised by the IT Ministry. In its reply, the Gujarat government cited the subjects mentioned in the ‘concurrent list’ under which the Centre and the State share the responsibility of formulating ‘criminal law’ and ‘criminal procedure.’
About the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015:
The Bill is a re-worked version of the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill (GUJCOC), 2003.
Controversial provisions in the Bill:
- The Bill provides for admissibility of evidence collected through interception of mobile calls of an accused or through confessions made before an investigating officer, in a court of law.
- Clause 16, which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court.
- The bill empowers police to tap telephonic conversations and submit them in court as evidence.
- It extends period of probe from stipulated 90 days to 180 days before filing of charge sheet.
- The legislation makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable.
- The Bill provides immunity to the State government from legal action.
Is it really needed?
Citing past terror attacks in Gujarat, the Gujarat state government says such a bill is necessary to prevent cross-border terrorism. Gujarat also has a vulnerable coastline.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.
Centre hand-picks 20 smart cities for first phase of plan
The Union government has announced the names of the first 20 urban areas that will be developed as smart cities. These 20 cities will be the first to receive funds, thus kickstarting the process of developing them into ‘smart cities’. The next two years will see the inclusion of 40 and 38 cities, respectively.
- The selected cities will be equipped with basic infrastructure, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity and e-governance mechanisms.
On what basis these cities were selected?
The selection was done on the basis of replies to a questionnaire. The urban development ministry had received proposals for 97 cities from state governments.
- The cities in the first list have made it to the top of the competition based on implementation framework, including feasibility and cost-effectiveness which has a weightage of 30%, followed by result orientation (20%), citizen participation (16%), smartness of proposals (10%), strategic plans (10%), vision and goals (5%), evidence-based city profiling and key performance indicators (5%) and processes followed (4%).
- Bhubaneswar has topped the list of 20 Smart Cities followed by Pune and Jaipur coming second and third.
- There are five capital cities among the 20 smart cities chosen.
- None of the cities are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. On the other hand, some states have two or more nominees – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Smart cities mission:
The Smart Cities mission, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was launched in June 2015 with the government releasing the guidelines and mission statement for the 100 Smart Cities project. It will provide central funding of Rs 50,802 crore to the selected cities for improving their infrastructure and service delivery through application of better technology and e-governance.
- States and Urban local Bodies (ULBs) will play a key supportive role in the development of Smart Cities. Smart leadership and vision at this level and ability to act decisively will be important factors determining the success of the Mission.
According to mission guidelines, the total State and Central financial assistance for each smart city would be Rs. 1,000 crore. The central government will grant every winning city a sum of Rs. 500 crore as overall cache of start-up funds and the State governments will provide an additional Rs. 500 crore.
- The Central government has created an outside agency named Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will be headed by a CEO, and will be given powers to “execute” the proposed developments and projects.
- The professionally managed SPV will be empowered to execute the smart city projects in a timely and cost-effective manner while ensuring that the quality of the outcomes is benchmarked against global standards.
The government would soon introduce the credit rating system for cities so as to attract foreign investors.
What is a smart city?
There is no standard definition for this. It is different for different people. Simply put, a ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.
- Smart cities ensure that economic development and activity is sustainable and rationally incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers such as supply and demand. They benefit everybody, including citizens, businesses, the government and the environment.
According to the documents released on the Smart Cities website, the core infrastructure in a smart city would include:
- Adequate water supply
- Assured electricity supply
- Sanitation, including solid waste management
- Efficient urban mobility and public transport
- Affordable housing, especially for the poor
- Robust IT connectivity and digitalisation
- Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation
- Sustainable environment
- Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
- Health and education
sources: the hindu, pib.
Paper 3 Topic: e-technology in the aid of farmers.
IMD to issue block-level forecasts soon
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is planning to issue weather forecasts at the block level later this year.
Why do we need block-level forecasts?
On an average, 8-10 blocks make up each of India’s 688 districts but often the weather can vary quite significantly within a district, to the extent, that farmers need different types of forecast even if say 40 km apart.
Through this farmers could be warned, three to five days ahead, of potentially anomalous weather in their localities that could threaten their crops.
Significance of this move:
The IMD’s initiative comes even as a study by the National Council for Applied and Economic Research (NCAER) found that India has posted an improved agriculture-performance in rain-fed farming with a sizeable number of farmers attributing a 25% rise in their net income to improved meteorological advisory services.
- On the other hand, the report notes that nearly 75% of Indian farmers lacked reliable access to these services.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
IMF reforms: India, China, Brazil get more voting rights
The IMF’s 2010 quota and governance reforms have finally become effective and will give emerging markets like BRICS more power and greater say at the lender of last resort.
- The reforms were approved by the IMF’s Board of Governors in 2010. US foot-dragging on reforms to the institution had blocked changes meant to give more voting power to BRICS and other emerging economies, frustrating countries around the world.
- These reforms will double the IMF’s quota resources and reallocate the quota. That meant reducing the role of advanced European countries and Gulf states, and increasing that of emerging nations, particularly China.
- More than 6% of the quota shares will shift to emerging and developing countries from the U.S. and European countries. The combined quotas — or the capital countries contribute — doubles to about $659 billion from about $329 billion.
- China will have the third largest IMF quota and voting share after the United States and Japan, and India, Brazil and Russia will also be among the top 10 members of the IMF.
- China’s voting rights has increased to 6% from 3.8% and India’s voting rights has increased to 2.6% from the current 2.3%.
- S voting share will marginally drop, from 16.7% to 16.5%.
- With these reforms, for the first time, the Executive Board of the IMF will consist entirely of elected executive directors, ending the category of appointed executive directors. Currently, the members with the five largest quotas appoint an executive director, a position that will cease to exist.
These reforms will improve the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries in the International Monetary Fund and is conducive to protecting the IMF’s credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness. The reforms are the biggest change in the governance of the Fund since it was established after World War Two.
The IMF, along with the World Bank, was conceived in 1944 at a conference in Bretton Woods, in the US state of New Hampshire.
- It aims to preserve economic stability and to tackle – or ideally prevent – financial crises. Over time, its focus has switched to the developing world.
- The IMF is funded by a charge – known as a “quota” – paid by member nations – based on a country’s wealth.
- The IMF also acts as a lender of last resort, disbursing its foreign exchange reserves for short periods to any member in difficulties.
sources: the hindu, IMF.
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.
Train to Tehran winds along Silk Road into West Asia
China recently flagged of its first direct freight train to Iran from its trading hub of Yiwu, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang.
- The container train will cover a journey of 10,399 km in its maiden journey to West Asia in14 days.
- It will exit China through Alataw Pass in western China’s Xinjiang province, and then pass through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before heading for the Iranian capital.
- Yiwu is already connected by trains that head for Duisburg in Germany and Madrid.
The new train is part of China’s ‘Silk Road’ plan to increase its influence in Eurasia through infrastructure development and economic exchanges with the countries in the region that are lacking in development but rich in natural resources and geopolitical importance.
Silk Road Initiative:
- The Silk Road project is an initiative by China to resurrect the ancient maritime Silk Road. It is perceived to be an attempt by China to ameliorate relations with South and Southeast Asia.
- This initiative is a pet project of President Xi Jinping for connecting Asia with Europe along a land corridor, with China as its hub.
- Under the new Silk Route, the Chinese want to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would radiate rail and road routes, which would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia.
- The Silk Road strategy’s ambitious vision aligns with Beijing’s goals much more closely than the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a reflection of the U.S. international trade model writ large.
- The Silk Road strategy aims to facilitate large-scale infrastructure construction, energy sale and transport, and relocation of manufacturing industries.
- This initiative aspires to deepen linkages between China and its neighbours via trade, investment, energy, infrastructure, and internationalization of China’s currency, the renminbi.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Helath.
Zika could infect 4 mn people: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Zika Virus Disease has gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.
- WHO expects the Zika virus, which is spreading through the Americas, to affect between three million and four million people.
What is Zika?
Until recently, Zika was a rare tropical disease associated with mild symptoms. It takes its name from the Zika forest in Uganda where it was first identified by scientists in the 1940s. It is spread by mosquitoes, and so is called an “arbovirus”, in the same family as West Nile and dengue fever.
- It attacks the nervous system and can lead to potentially fatal paralysis.
Spread of the virus:
Zika is spread by the Aedes genus of mosquito, which transmits the disease when it bites a person infected with Zika, then bites another host. The two most common mosquitoes to transmit the disease are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species.
Usually, Zika’s symptoms include fever, red and bumpy rash, joint pain and pink eye. However, many patients with Zika have no symptoms at all.
- There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
- An estimated 80% of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.
- It is believed that Zika is linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads.
- As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the [Americas] region.
WHO will shortly convene an emergency committee to help determine the level of the international response to the outbreak of the virus spreading from Brazil.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
India, U.S. clear 100 transfer pricing cases
India and the U.S. have reached an agreement to resolve more than 100 pending transfer pricing cases, one of the biggest deterrents for foreign investors planning an India foray.
- This agreement was finalised under the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) provision contained in the India-USA Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC).
- The agreement seeks to resolve past transfer pricing disputes between the two countries in the Information Technology (Software Development) Services [ITS] and Information Technology enabled Services [ITeS] segments. Some more are expected to be resolved soon.
How such agreements help?
- Transfer pricing is one of the biggest tax issues is the world today. Pending cases and issues are also one of the biggest factors keeping foreign investors wary of India.
- Such agreements will lead to a positive environment and will bring greater certainty. This greater certainty will lead to more investments flowing into India.
- It should be noted here that all those companies, embroiled in transfer pricing issues, are off-shoring companies. With these resolutions, more US companies will offshore work into India, have manufacturing in India, which will mean more employment here.
What is transfer pricing?
Transfer pricing refers to the setting of the price of goods or services sold between entities within an enterprise. For example, if a subsidiary sells good or services to its parent company, then the price set for this sale is the transfer price.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.
Agartala, Aizawl get $80 mn ADB loan
India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed an $80 million loan agreement for improving the infrastructure in the two North-Eastern cities of Agartala and Aizawl.
- The loan is the third tranche of a $200 million financing facility under the North-Eastern Region Capital cities Development Investment Program. The previous two tranches were aimed at improving the infrastructure in Shillong, Aizawl, Kohima, Gangtok and Agartala.
- The loan will be used for investments in water supply, solid waste management and sanitation in Agartala and Aizwal. It will also support urban reforms, benefiting nearly a million people in the two cities.
- The loan will support further investments to increase access to sustainable and improved urban services.
- Aizawl and Agartala were selected for the third tranche based on their progress on reforms and implementation performance under earlier tranches.
The third tranche loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources has a 20-year term. The Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the tranche 3 activities and overall program, which are both due for completion by June 2019.
ADB: ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region.