Insights Daily Current Affairs, 13 December 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Disaster and disaster management.
NDRF teams pre-positioned in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for cyclone Vardah
In view of development of cyclone Vardah over Bay of Bengal, 19 flood rescue teams of NDRF have been prepositioned in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu as a proactive deployment.
The Disaster Management Act has made the statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
- Two national calamities in quick succession in the form of Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Gujarat Earthquake (2001) brought about the realization of the need of having a specialist response mechanism at National Level to effectively respond to disasters. This realization led to the enactment of the DM Act on 26 Dec 2005.
Role and mandate of NDRF:
- Specialized response during disasters.
- Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations.
- Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills.
- Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills.
- Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards).
- Community Capacity Building Programme.
- Organize Public Awareness Campaigns.
Why it is said to be UNIQUE?
- It is the only dedicated disaster response force of the world.
- The only agency with comprehensive response capabilities having multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone nature.
- Experienced paramilitary personnel specially trained and equipped for disaster response.
- Capabilities for undertaking disaster response, prevention, mitigation and capacity building.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Railways mulls exclusive suburban tracks
Indian Railways is planning to build exclusive rail tracks for suburban trains in a bid to ease congestion.
Why not use existing rail tracks?
Since running suburban services on existing tracks adversely affects the capacity of freight trains and long-distance trains, it would not be possible for Railways to use existing infrastructure for the purpose of suburban services.
At present, the Railways is running suburban train services in certain sections on the tracks laid primarily for long-distance trains. The Railways has framed the draft guidelines to address the demand for more suburban trains from the state governments.
Guidelines for suburban railway projects:
- Suburban railway projects are proposed to be implemented and operated through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with equal equity participation from the respective state governments and the Railways.
- SPV would be empowered to propose a surcharge on passengers for recovering operating losses and capital costs of such projects.
- State governments would set up a dedicated urban transport fund through “levy of dedicated taxes, levies, betterment tax, impact fee”, among others in the “influence zone of proposed railway station” to finance the capital cost of suburban train projects.
- The Indian Railways, on request from the SPV, may restructure fares on suburban trains and impose a surcharge to recover the operating losses and the capital cost “if operating losses are not recovered from the dedicated urban transport fund.”
- The state governments will be required to conduct feasibility studies of the project at their own cost which will be examined by zonal Railways and subsequently sent to Indian Railways.
- States will also have to ensure there is no delay in land acquisition and Indian Railways will only contribute its equity share to the SPV once 70% of the land to be acquired is made available by the state government.
- Additionally, states will have to bear the complete cost of land acquisition, leasing of railway land and resettlement and rehabilitation.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
The Indo-Pacific potential
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he is known is on his official visit to India.
Significance of this visit:
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Jokowi met on the sidelines of the 9th East Asia Summit in Myanmar in 2014, this is the first time in the two years that they have been in power that they will meet substantively.
Why is Indonesia important for India?
- Indonesia is a latent Asian power. It is the world’s largest archipelago, straddling the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It can potentially control virtually all the straits linking the southern Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
- Indonesia can play a stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific region as China is showing its naval muscle in the South China Sea and its strategic and commercial reach through the One Belt One Road initiative.
- Medan industrial zone in north Sumatra is strategically important for India. A shipping service from Chennai or Krishnapatnam to Medan via the Andaman Islands could be used to export Indian goods to offset, at least partly, the large imbalance in India’s trade with Indonesia.
- India could also learn lessons on tourism promotion from Indonesia — from Bali, for instance, where Indians rank high in the list of nationalities visiting that island. India could also learn from Bali about a more ‘simple’ Hinduism that is relatively free from caste and sectarian divisions.
Why India is important for Indonesia?
- Indonesia is a maritime axis requiring a strong naval force to protect its territorial integrity, fishing waters and energy interests, supported and funded by strong economic growth. India can help Indonesia in this regard.
- India could recognise Indonesia’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific region and help work towards a future where both countries can be partners for security in the region.
- There is, at present, a battle being waged in Indonesia over the role of religion, ethnicity and language that in some ways mirrors India’s own. India has a stake in the diversity of Islam found in Indonesia against exclusive and homogenising influences. Indonesia and India can provide complementary models for the coexistence of religious minorities with majoritarian communities in Asia based on their own traditions of coexistence.
- Without entering into a domestic debate on religion, India can strengthen Indonesia’s democratic credentials by advocating its admission in a revived India-Brazil-South Africa forum as a pluralist democracy that is an alternative to what appears to be a rise of intolerance in many democracies.
The India-Indonesia relationship has been one of potential rather than realisation. Notwithstanding the efforts made during the tenures of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the partnership has not yet gathered traction. Both countries should ensure that this visit is not just another diplomatic formality but is utilised to turn the relationship into one of the defining ones in Asia.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Beyond the court’s remit
The Uttarakhand High Court has crossed its legal remit by extending a government policy of prohibiting liquor outlets in the vicinity of places of worship, to cover Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi from April 2017. This decision is based on a petition filed in the court.
- With this, the Uttarakhand High Court has drifted outside the confines of law and entered the domain of morals and desired behaviour.
In doing so, the court has cited Article 47 of the Constitution. It says it is the duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of the people and improve public health, and to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs.
What’s the concern now?
According to some experts, such judgments set a wrong precedent. Earlier this year the Supreme Court also refused to entertain a petition seeking a nation-wide ban on alcohol, observing that this was a matter of policy into which it cannot venture.
- It is one thing to cite constitutional goals to justify state action against liquor or drugs; it is quite another to cite them as a justification for judicial directions.
- The Supreme Court has also cautioned judges against assuming powers based on individual perceptions or notions. Because, howsoever noble an idea may be, courts should be wary of making rules on their own, as it would amount to transgressing into the policy domain.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Islamic State retakes ancient city of Palmyra
Islamic State militants have recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Syrian troops. In winning back Palmyra, the extremist group appeared to be taking advantage of the Syrian and Russian preoccupation with Aleppo, timing its attack to coincide with a major government offensive to capture the last remaining opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city.
Islamic State militants were expelled by Syrian and Russian forces from the city nine months ago. The militants had spent 10 months in Palmyra, during which they blew up a number of temples and caused other destruction – severing the heads of statues and partially damaging two temples and famous arch.
Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.
Palmyra is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site and home to some of the world’s most magnificent ancient ruins. The city is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and was eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire, before passing to almost all empires to have operated in the region over some 2,000 years.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Government committee lists digital measures to cut cash usage
A committee, headed by former finance secretary Ratan Watal, has suggested ways to encourage digital payments.
The government has been pitching for a less-cash economy after it demonetised old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8.
- It has asked for a 30-90 days’ timeline for implementing a number of measures that the committee hopes can cut in half India’s cash usage from 12% of GDP in three years.
- The committee has suggested an independent mechanism within the overall central banking structure.
- The committee has pitched for greater use of Aadhaar and mobile numbers for making digital payments as easy as cash.
- It has also called for inter-operable payments between bank and non-banks as well as within non-banks.
- To give the entire digital payments effort a focused boost, in its most significant recommendation it has proposed to make regulation of payments independent from the function of central banking.
- The Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems (BPSS) can be given an independent statutory status within the overall structure of the RBI and called Payments Regulatory Board, the committee has suggested. The BPSS currently functions as a sub-committee of the Central Board of RBI.
- The committee has called for amendments to the Payments and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 to provide for this board apart from giving an explicit mandate for competition and innovation, open access and interoperability, consumer protection, regulations on systemic risks and data protection.
- It has suggested encouragement to digital payments within the government, a suggestion that has already rolled out with government prescribing thresholds and waiving charges. A ‘DIPAYAN’ fund is proposed from savings generated from cashless transactions to expand digital payments along with a ranking of states, government departments, districts and panchayats to encourage digital payments.
- Operations of payment systems like Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and National Electronic Fund Transafer (NEFT) could be outsourced after a cost benefit analysis. These payment systems should be upgraded to 24×7 in due course of time, the committee has suggested.
Facts for Prelims
New Italy prime minister:
Paolo Gentiloni has been named as Italy’s new prime minister following reformist leader Matteo Renzi’s resignation in the wake of a crushing referendum defeat.
New Zealand’s prime minister:
New Zealand’s ruling National Party has appointed Bill English as the country’s new prime minister following last week’s shock resignation of his popular predecessor John Key.
New ISI chief:
Pakistan’s new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has appointed Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as director-genereal of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), replacing Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar.
New UN secretary general:
- Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres was recently sworn in as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- He is the ninth U.N. chief in the body’s 71-year history.
- N. chiefs are charged with promoting sustainable development, working for peace around the globe, protecting human rights and dealing with humanitarian catastrophes.