1. India tweaks line of credit plan for Africa
India has announced specific solar energy projects in parts of Africa in consultation with local governments and is seeking to ensure effective implementation of its Line of Credit of $1billion offered at a time when China is striving to emerge as a partner for much of the developing world.
- The initiative is part of the external affairs ministry’s efforts to finetune its earlier strategy of extending blanket LoC to African countries for implementing projects. The Modi government, at the International Solar Alliance meet in Delhi on March 11, extended the LoC specifically for 23 solar energy projects in 13 African countries. This was in contrast to the announcement by France, which made a blanket offer of 700 million euros (about $863 million) for solar projects.
- The goal is to also produce solar panels in India for these projects at rates which at cheaper than those made in China, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The external affairs ministry has decided to handhold LoC funded projects in Africa and elsewhere to ensure effective implementation and that there is no pilferage of funds. Africa, where more than two dozen projects have been completed during the past two-and-a-half years, has been a success story of India’s support to development and capacity-building projects through LoC mechanism.
- While Eastern Africa has been a traditional partner, India now desires to emerge as a significant development partner of countries in Francophone Western Africa.
- Development partnership is a key instrument of India’s foreign policy. Extending LoC on concessional terms is an important component of India’s development cooperation policy in Africa, Asia and South America.
2. Vietnam marks 50th anniversary of killings
Vietnam marked 50 years since the My Lai massacre in a memorial ceremony yesterday at the site of the killings that was attended by survivors, their families and around 60 US Vietnam War veterans and anti-war activists.
American soldiers killed 504 people on March 16, 1968, in Son My, a collection of hamlets between the central Vietnamese coast and a ridge of misty mountains, in an incident known in the West as the My Lai massacre.
- The ceremony fell just a week after a landmark visit by a US aircraft carrier to the nearby port city of Danang, evidence of warming ties between the former foes.
- A delegation of US Vietnam War veterans and anti-war activists met Mr Dung and other officials privately after the ceremony.
- The veterans and activists said they were preparing to send a letter, on behalf of the US, apologising for the massacre.
- The massacre, uncovered in 1970 by American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, polarised public opinion and energised a mounting anti-war movement in the US.
Though it took years for the American public to learn about My Lai – the largest and best documented of several suspected mass killings by the US during the war – the communist North reported the massacre much earlier in broadcasts dismissed as “red” propaganda.
3. Kepler Space Telescope nears the end of its life
After over nine years, the Kepler Space Telescope mission may be coming to an end. The reason: out of fuel. NASA engineers have determined that the unmanned deep space probe has only enough propellant left in its attitude control system to keep it properly oriented for a few more months. When this runs out, the spacecraft will no longer be able to collect data or transmit it to Earth.
- Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17B atop a Delta II rocket on March 7, 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope has already exceeded it first mission life many times. Its original mission estimate was for three and a half years, but this was extended as it continued to seek out extrasolar planets as it circled the Sun in its Earth-trailing orbit about 94 million mi (151 million km) from home.
- According to NASA, Kepler is now up against a much harder deadline as it runs out of the propellant used to keep it pointing in the right direction for both observation and maintaining contact with mission control back on Earth. Though there’s no way to directly measure how much propellant is left, engineers are monitoring the spacecraft for signs like a drop in tank pressure that will indicate when the end is imminent.
4. State Sponsors of Terrorism
Since 1979, the United States Department of State has routinely designated certain countries as ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, where it alleges that the said state had, “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. Besides countries, the department also notifies organisations and individuals to expose, isolate and deny them access to the US financial system. These listings can also assist the law enforcement activities of the US agencies and other governments to bear pressure on them.
However, the dimensions and dynamics of the term ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ has an exclusive US perspective, as opposed to an unbiased global outlook. From time to time, the list of the ‘rogue’s gallery’ has included countries like Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Libya. This US-centricity is reflected in the list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, which today includes North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria — all hosting anti-US regimes.
- Therefore, the covert US-CIA bankrolling and armament supplies to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s, operating and controlled from safe havens in Pakistan did not qualify Pakistan as ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’, then.
- Similarly, the fact that the sheikhdoms like the Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are credibly accused of having supported Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Taliban, Hamas etc, are spared the ignominy of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’. This convenient leniency afforded by the US is despite knowing the antecedents of the Saudis, as was exposed in the 2009 Wikileaks cables
Unbiased blacklisting needed
However, a more holistic and unbiased blacklisting of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ should entail countries that impact any other sovereign’s interest and not just that of the US — a fact that spared Pakistan (till recent years), as its proven complicity and support to terrorism in India in the 80s and 90s was either ignored or served motherhood platitudes that basically ensured the continuation of US support for Pakistan, till the ISI-created terror infrastructure started hitting the US interests and lives, directly.
‘State Sponsorship of Terror’ must encompass both the ‘acts of direct commission’ (arming and training terrorists), as also, the equally dangerous ‘acts of omission’ (providing indirect sanctuary, allowing fundraising and recruitment). The complex nature of modern ‘State Sponsorship’ needs a more stringent, sensitive and intolerant appreciation of the passive support systems that could be financial, diplomatic or even moral.
‘Gray’ and ‘black’ lists
This entails the maintenance of a diplomatically embarrassing ‘gray’ and ‘black’ list of countries that are designated “non-cooperative” in the global fight against moneylaundering and terror-financing. Pakistan was put on the ‘gray’ list for three years starting 2012, and it now faces the prospects of re-entering the humiliating list owing to a joint motion proposed by the US, Britain, France and Germany who have blown the lid on Islamabad’s continuing chicanery and incorrigible deceit.
1. India ranks 133 in World Happiness Report
- India continues to lag behind most of its neighbours, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, ranking 133 in the latest World Happiness Report released by the UN.
- The report ranked Finland as the happiest country, closely followed by Norway and Denmark. Burundi was listed as the least happy country.
- According to the report produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), India’s happiness score fell by 0.698 points, bringing it down from its last year’s position of 128. In the report that included 156 countries, Pakistan was ranked 75, Bhutan at 97, and China at 86.
- Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were ranked 101, 115 and 116 respectively.
- The US and the UK were in 18th and 19th place respectively.
- All of the top ten countries for overall happiness 2015-2017 are in the top 11 countries for immigrant happiness based on surveys covering 2005-2015.
2. US drags India to WTO over six export subsidy schemes
- The Trump administration has mounted a fresh offensive against India by dragging it to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for providing what it termed as export subsidies through half-a-dozen schemes, including SEZs and the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme.In its request to hold consultations with India, the first step before legal action, the US has argued that the incentives violate WTO agreements as India is no longer below the economic benchmark of $1,000 per capita gross national income (GNI).
- While Indian authorities said they would respond to the US request for consultations within the specified 60 days, they argued that like other countries in the past, India should be allowed a transition period of eight years.
- When the WTO was set up, developing countries that had a GNI of over $1,000 per capita were allowed eight years to wind up their export promotion schemes.
- Indian officials pointed to the anomaly in the WTO treaties and said a country which had $950 per capita GNI may not be allowed a transition period, while a country above the threshold at the time the agreement came into force got eight years to wind up incentives.
The US accused India of not just continuing with the incentives, which were allowed till the limit was exceeded in 2015, but said the government expanded the scope of the programme.
3. NEW DRAFT FOREST POLICY MOOTS URBAN GREENERY
Seeking to replace the country’s 30-year-old national forest policy, the Centre has come out with a new draft policy which calls for promoting urban greens, public private partnership models for afforestation, strengthening forest fire prevention measures and plantations in catchment areas to rejuvenate water bodies among many proposals to protect India’s green cover.
The draft National Forest Policy (NFP) 2018, released by the environment ministry on Wednesday for stakeholders’ comments and suggestions within a month, also takes into account the role of forest in addressing the challenge of climate change.
It seeks to sync it with the country’s forestry-related ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ targets under the Paris Agreement where India has promised to rapidly increase its forest cover so that an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is created by the year 2030.
SALIENT FEATURES OF DRAFT NATIONAL FOREST POLICY, 2018
- 1. Public private participation for afforestation in degraded forest areas
- 2. Promoting urban greens
- 3. Measures to safeguard ecosystems from forest fire (map the vulnerable areas; develop and strengthen early warning systems)
- 4. National Community Forest Management Mission for participatory forest management
- 5. Afforestation in catchment areas for river rejuvenation and water recycling
- 6. Economic valuation of forests
4. The global solar alliance must catalyse innovation
Lack of lowcost finance is now the principal barrier to rapid deployment of clean energy technologies
- The world’s newest intergovernmental organisation — the International Solar Alliance (ISA) — was born on December 6, 2017. First announced during the Paris climate meetings in 2015, so far 61 countries have signed the ISA Framework Agreement, and 32 have ratified it. At the ISA Founding Conference in New Delhi on March 11, representatives of 46 countries converged along with the senior members of 10 development banks. India and France, ISA’S co-sponsors, should be congratulated for their commitment to the cause.
- The alliance now needs concrete actions to follow through on its promise. It has three aims: to aggregate demand to reduce solar technology costs, to lower the cost of finance for rapid solar deployment, and to pool resources for next generation of solar R&D. What would that mean in practice? Any ISA programme should be respectful of national sovereignty, applicable in various regulatory environments, and yield maximum returns on limited amounts of public funds. These ideas could demonstrate that ISA is truly an action-oriented organisation.
- In principle, if solar-rich but capital-poor developing countries plan for solar power, a big global market would emerge. ISA could work with its members towards a coordinated tender for large-scale solar deployment.
- Keeping in mind that ISA is not a multilateral bank, its role would be best demonstrated if it facilitated market-ready financial instruments, which crowded in large volumes of private investment. ISA members should politically signal their readiness to work with existing public and private institutions.
- Rather than act like a laboratory, ISA should design targeted and time-bound innovation prizes for the developing world. Participating countries should contribute initial funds with co-financing from private research consortia. Advanced market commitments to procure products meeting defined parameters would give added incentives for private investment. In fulfilling niche but strategic roles, ISA must work closely with industry, investors and civil society. As a nimble newbie on the international block, ISA could chart a new course.
- THE ALLIANCE HAS THREE AIMS: AGGREGATE DEMAND TO REDUCE SOLAR TECHNOLOGY COSTS, LOWER THE COST OF FINANCE FOR RAPID SOLAR DEPLOYMENT, AND POOL RESOURCES FOR NEXT GENERATION OF R&D
5. Dalai Lama event: Not Delhi or Dharamsala stadium, but temple zone
- Tibetans in exile have moved the venue of an event to mark 60 years of Dalai Lama’s stay in India from the cricket stadium in Dharamsala to a temple complex in the region.
- The event was to be held in New Delhi initially but was shifted to Dharamsala shortly after a government note asked senior leaders and officials to refrain from attending it.
- The Tibetan government in exile had approached the administration for permission to use the cricket stadium but the organisers later decided to hold the programme in the temple complex where the Dalai Lama and his followers have been living for decades.
- Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had sent out a note last month to Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, following which the latter issued a directive that it was not ‘desirable’ for senior leaders and government functionaries of the Centre or states to participate in programmes of the Tibetan government in exile.
China has described the Dalai Lama as a ‘dangerous separatist’.
- External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman are set to make separate visits to China next month.
6. Collegium selection & ensuring integrity (Article 124)
THE Constitutional design under Article 124 was of both separation and checks. The appointing authority for higher judiciary was the executive, whilst the power to remove was given to the legislature. Though appointments and transfers were largely isolated from the political executive, the judiciary overlooked the need to create an adequate inhouse mechanism to discipline errant behaviour of brother judges after appointment. It was a fallacy to presume that collegium appointments would not require disciplining measures short of removal proceedings.
Writ of Scire Facias
The English courts had developed an alternate mechanism to expedite judicial self-disciplining through the Writ of Scire Facias. It was a seldom used writ which failed to find its mention in the Blackstone Treatise, therefore, not finding its place in Indian praxis. Its adoption could have enabled the courts to hear legitimate public grievances on judicial misconduct.
- The judiciary tries to exercise limited self-discipline by not allocating cases to an impugned judge. under the Judges (Protection) Act 1985, the sanction is no longer needed to prosecute a retired judge, successful convictions do not eschew continuing benefits. Therefore, Justice Karnan or Justice Qudussi would continue to hold their benefits.
- Article 121 prohibits the Parliament from discussing the conduct of a judge, except to follow a laborious route under Article 124(4). The Hamilton-Brutus consensus on the American Constitution understood that there was a need to only keep extreme cases of integrity lapses as suitable ground to call misbehavior under a removal motion. Therefore, substantive misbehaviour for a judge follows a high threshold under the Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968. Mandates of a Motion of 50 (or 100) MPs, a three-member inquiry committee, a quasi-trial, and separate special majorities of both the Houses of Parliament, makes the removal route arduous.
The limitations identified with the existing disciplining mechanisms are threefold.
- First, removal proceedings are elaborately slow and can be easily frustrated.
- Second, self-disciplining does not keep the Judge out of public office.
- Third, even criminal indictment doesn’t sever public benefits that Judges enjoy. Therefore, reforms are required which address all these concerns.Procedural difficulties under Article 124(4) can be relaxed without diluting the institutional boundaries between the judiciary and the legislature. The default mechanism can be used by the Parliament to initiate suo motu removal.
7. Arresting the drift
India needs to re-engage with its ally Russia, which is getting closer to China and Pakistan
- Through the vicissitudes of the past 70 years since Independence, Russia has been a time-tested ally of India. Since the Soviet era, both countries have shared such amicable relations that the U.S. and its allies often registered their suspicions about India being a part of the Soviet camp during the Cold War, despite New Delhi’s affirmations that it was a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.
- Although India has traditionally sought to maintain a delicate balance between superpowers and refrained from groupism for its own advantage, in recent years this position appears to have shifted in favour of finding new allies, based on India’s self-perception as an emerging power in the global system, and its calculations about the changing alignments of power across the world. This change has, to an extent, fuelled India’s interest in joining the Quad.
- India’s traditional equations with Russia have shifted, and Russia’s interest in getting closer to Pakistan and China has grown. Indeed Russia-Pakistan relations seem to be on an upward trajectory, with Russia signalling its support for Pakistan’s candidature to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Joint military exercises between Russia and Pakistan, of the kind held in October 2017, are another major concern for India, given the long history of India-Russia defence ties and the depth of mutual trust that it has engendered between the two militaries.
- The immediate concern regarding this drift is that a Russia-China-Pakistan trilateral could emerge if India doesn’t play its cards well. It is easy to imagine that both China and Pakistan would be eager to support such an alliance as it could arrest India’s strategic momentum in the region and globally. Russia’s new Ambassador to India, Nikolay Kudashev, has taken charge at this critical juncture, a tough time for bilateral ties yet a positive opportunity to broaden areas of cooperation. If people-to-people contact between the two countries is promoted more, it could help ensure deeper linkages and fortify past associations.
8. Guillotine: Fast-track lawmaking
The guillotine is a large, weighted blade that can be raised to the top of a tall, erect frame and released to fall on the neck of a condemned person secured at the bottom of the frame, executing him by instant decapitation. It was widely used during the French Revolution, including on King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and was a method of execution in France until the country stopped capital punishment in 1981.
- In legislative parlance, to “guillotine” means to bunch together and fast-track the passage of financial business. It is a fairly common procedural exercise in Lok Sabha during the Budget Session.
- After the Budget is presented, Parliament goes into recess for about three weeks, during which time the House Standing Committees examine Demands for Grants for various Ministries, and prepare reports. After Parliament reassembles, the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) draws up a schedule for discussions on the Demands for Grants. Given the limitation of time, the House cannot take up the expenditure demands of all Ministries; therefore, the BAC identifies some important Ministries for discussions. It usually lists Demands for Grants of the Ministries of Home, Defence, External Affairs, Agriculture, Rural Development and Human Resource Development. Members utilise the opportunity to discuss the policies and working of Ministries.
- On Wednesday, therefore, all Demands for Grants were “guillotined”: the Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill (containing the consolidated Demands for Grants) with a spending plan of Rs 89.25 lakh crore, were introduced, voted on, and passed by voice vote, all within 30 minutes.
- It was an unusual step because there were still three weeks left in the Budget Session. While the government is technically within its rights to fast-track legislative business, the Opposition has criticised it for “stifling the voice of democracy”, and unfairly bypassing convention.
9. To seize and punish: Taking on fugitive economic offenders
- The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha this week, aims to provide for measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the process of law in India. It is a deterrent for those offenders who continue to stay outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. The larger objective of the proposed legislation is to “preserve the sanctity of the rule of law”.
- In its statement of objectives and reasons, the government refers to the “several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts anticipating the commencement of criminal proceedings or sometimes during the pendency of such proceedings”. Fugitive businesspersons Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi have resisted the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
- The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences, such as obstructing investigation in criminal cases and wasting the precious time of courts.
- The Bill adds teeth to the existing civil and criminal provisions, which have been rather inadequate in dealing with the problem. It is armed to ensure that fugitive economic offenders return to India to face action in accordance with the law. Bill defines a “fugitive economic offender” as an individual who has committed a scheduled offence or offences involving an amount of Rs. 100 crore or more and has fled abroad or refused to return to India to avoid or face criminal prosecution.
- The proposed law empowers authorities to survey, search and seize. Under this law, the competent authorities can confiscate the property and crime proceeds of a fugitive economic offender and disentitle him from putting forward or defending any civil claim for his assets.
- Rejuvenate: restore (a river or stream) to a condition characteristic of a younger landscape
- Collegium: an advisory or administrative board
- Fallacy: failure in reasoning which renders an argument invalid.
- Writ: a form of written command in the name of a court or other legal authority to act, or abstain from acting, in a particular way.
- Impugned: dispute the truth, validity, or honesty of (a statement or motive); call into question.
- Eschew: deliberately avoid using; abstain from.
- Indictment: a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.
- Decapitation: an attempt to undermine a group or organization by removing its leaders.
- Stifling: making one feel constrained or oppressed.
1. Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76
Tributes poured in on Wednesday to Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions. He died at the age of 76 in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
- Hawking was driven to Wagner, but not the bottle, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21. Doctors expected him to live for only two more years. But Hawking had a form of the disease that progressed more slowly than usual. He survived for more than half a century.
- Hawking once estimated he worked only 1,000 hours during his three undergraduate years at Oxford.
- Hawking’s first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.
2. Russian spy: UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.
- Mr Allen said the UK government has asked the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an independent watchdog, to verify its identification of the substance used in Salisbury.
- The US ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington stood in “absolute solidarity” with Britain, citing the “special relationship” between the two countries and saying the US would “always be there” for the UK.
- The mass expulsion is the largest since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.
- Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a bench on 4 March.
Moscow refused to meet Mrs May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting Mrs May to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia.
- Expelling 23 diplomats
- Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight
- Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
- Ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
- Suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia
- Plans to consider new laws to increase defences against “hostile state activity”
3. Finance Bill, 2018 passed in Lok Sabha
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the Finance Bill 2018, which contains taxation proposals of his fifth and final budget, as well as the appropriation bill that details spendings in various departments, amid din created by slogan-shouting opposition.
- The bills were passed by voice vote. Ruling BJP-led NDA has an absolute majority in the Lower House of Parliament.
- the two Bills also have to go to Rajya Sabha but since they are money bill they would be considered approved if the Upper House of Parliament does not return them within 14 days. The Opposition has an upper hand in the Rajya Sabha.
- The functioning of both houses of Parliament has been stalled since the second half of the Budget session began on March 5 as opposition parties raised issues ranging from India’s biggest bank fraud to division of Cauvery river water and special package to Andhra Pradesh.
The provisions of Finance Bill, 2018 relating to direct taxes seek to amend the Income-tax Act, 1961 (hereafter referred to as ‘the Act’) to continue to provide momentum to the buoyancy indirect taxes through deepening and widening of the tax base, reducing the corporate tax rate for micro, small and medium enterprises, promoting horizontal equity in personal income-tax and enhancing the effectiveness, transparency and accountability of the tax administration.
4. Different Forms of Cyber-Bullying Explained
It involves the bully sending offensive and malicious messages to an individual or a group and is often repeated multiple times. Cyberstalking is one form of harassment that involves continual threatening and rude messages, and can lead to physical harassment in the real, offline world.
Flaming is similar to harassment, but it refers to an online fight exchanged via emails, instant messaging or chat rooms. It is a type of public bullying that often directs harsh languages, or images to a specific person.
Exclusion is the act of intentionally singling out and leaving a person out from an online group such as chats and sites. The group then subsequently leave malicious comments and harass the one they singled out.
Outing is when a bully shares personal and private information, pictures, or videos about someone publicly. A person is “outed” when his information has been disseminated throughout the internet.
Masquerading is a situation where a bully creates a fake identity to harass someone anonymously. In addition to creating a fake identity, the bully can impersonate someone else to send malicious messages to the victim.
5. What sparks an India-Pakistan crisis?
The “surgical operation” earlier this month killing the mastermind of the Sunjuwan Army camp attack (Jammu) was lauded as a major victory for Indian security forces, but for some observers, it is surprising that such a seemingly provocative episode closed with such a measured response.
- The comparison was worrisome. Uri sparked Indian retaliation that could have easily escalated and Kaluchak triggered the second “peak” of the 2001-02 crisis that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of all-out war. Whenever such an audacious attack occurs, analysts hold their breath anticipating a major military confrontation between two nuclear powers, something the world has not witnessed in almost 20 years.
- A crisis involves three properties — acute threat, significant abnormality, and temporal pressure — and factors that shape perceptions of these can increase or decrease the risk of crisis onset. In our analysis, we found that features of a provocation typically assumed to precipitate escalation — high fatalities, civilian or iconic targets, critical geography, or government leaderships — do not appear to be correlated with the onset of crisis. Instead, provocations correlated with crises exhibit intensified abnormality, like attacks involving complex assaults over an extended duration.
- Sunjuwan involved an extended duration complex attack to draw attention and provoke Indian overreaction. Nevertheless, the attack was missing some important correlates of a crisis. It did not follow after cumulating cross-border attacks and occurred amidst the backdrop of National Security Adviser dialogue.
6. The right to live and the right to die
GOING a step further after its historic judgment in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011), a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Common Cause v. Union of India made it legal for a terminally ill patient to decline to prolong his/her life with life support measures and provided for the “living will” which is “advance directive” in which an individual can express his/her will in advance whether s/he would like to live with life support system in a vegetative state or would like to die. In case the person has not left such a will, families of the incurably comatose will be entitled to give consent to withdraw life support to reduce the period of suffering.
The court has given detailed guidelines to check its misuse.
- The living will (advance directive) can be executed only by an adult of sound mind who is in a position to communicate, relate and comprehend the purpose and consequences of executing the document.
- It must be voluntary and executed after full knowledge about it, and it shall be stated in writing in clear words when the treatment is to be stopped.
- Procedure has been laid down regarding the execution of the will.
Requirements set out in Aruna Shanbaug’s case, which also allowed passive euthanasia, were quite rigorous. Only a high court Bench of at least two judges could allow the plea for passive euthanasia after bona fide consent of patient’s relatives and the opinion of an expert panel of “reputed doctors” comprising a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a physician.
This judgment is also an extension of the privacy judgment delivered last year in which the Supreme Court held that the right of the individual to decide how to use his/her body is embedded in the Constitution. Justice DY Chandrachud, in his separate but concurring judgment, has written that “the right not to accept medical treatment is essential to liberty. Medical treatment cannot be thrust upon an individual, however, it may have been conceived in the interest of the individual”.
Many cases of vegetative illness are reported when the patient or his relative wants to pull out the life support system but remains helpless as the law did not permit.
- In 2004, Vankatesh of Hyderabad died a disconsolate man. Suffering from muscular dystrophy, he wished to donate his organs before they got infected and for this he pleaded for mercy killing. The Andhra Pradesh High Court rejected his mother K. Sujatha’s petition to remove his ventilator after doctors rejected the plea as it went against their Hippocratic Oath.
- In August 2009, Jeet Narain, a marginal farmer of Mirzapur, UP, filed a mercy death plea for his four sons aged between 10 and 16, all suffering from muscular dystrophy. It sent shockwaves among similar patients struggling against odds to live a life of hope
1. RBI bans all Indian banks from issuing LoUs, LoCs
Rs 12,700-crore fraud at Punjab National Bank has prompted the Reserve Bank of India to ban the use of letters of undertaking (LoUs) and letters of comfort (LoCs). LoUs and LoCs are two of the instruments issued by Indian banks to domestic importers to get foreign exchange from banks abroad at a cheaper rate.
- RBI issued the directive on LoUs and LoCs on Tuesday, about a month after it was discovered that diamond merchants Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi had misused LoUs issued by PNB to defraud the bank of over $2 billion. An LoU is a type of guarantee between two banks that allows the issuer bank’s customer to get foreign exchange from another Indian bank’s foreign branch in the form of short-term credit.
The RBI decision could potentially push up the cost of imports by up to half a percentage point, besides putting foreign banks on an even keel with Indian banks in financing imports. The RBI directive is effective immediately. However, “letters of credit and bank guarantees for trade credits for imports into India may continue to be issued subject to compliance with” existing regulations
- Ban on the use of LoUs and LoCs could inconvenience some Indian corporates that have a longer working capital cycle—meaning those companies which take several months to get back the money used in their business by selling their goods, compared to other companies that can recover their money in weeks.
- Indian corporates use LoUs to make payments to those companies from which they buy goods to send to India. It is alleged that Modi and Choksi had used LoUs much beyond the limit they were eligible to and finally defaulted on the payments to PNB.
2. SC shuts the door on foreign law firms
Keeping India’s legal market exclusively for Indians, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practise law in the country either on the litigation or non-litigation side. This means overseas lawyers or firms cannot open offices in the country, appear in courts or before any authority or render other legal services, such as giving opinions or drafting documents.
“We hold that the expression ‘fly in and fly out’ will only cover a casual visit not amounting to ‘practice’,” the Bench said, adding that any dispute in this issue would be decided by the Bar Council of India.
The court also ruled that foreign law firms and lawyers did not have an “absolute right” to conduct arbitration proceedings and disputes arising out of contracts relating to international commercial arbitration. Though they might not be debarred from conducting arbitration in India arising out of international commercial arbitration, they would be governed by the code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India. Sections of the legal fraternity have been opposing their entry, contending that Indian advocates are not allowed to practise in the U.K., the U.S., Australia and other nations, except on fulfilling onerous restrictions like qualifying tests, experience and work permit. It was also argued that foreign lawyers cannot be allowed to practise in India without reciprocity. The closely watched case saw 32 law firms from various countries participating.
- They had argued that there was no bar on a company carrying on consultancy or support services. The Bar Council of India contended that even non-litigious practice came under the term ‘practice of law’, and that could be done only by those enrolled under the Advocates Act in the country
3. Oppn protests as govt pushes finance bills amid stalemate in Lok Sabha
The government on Tuesday brought key elements of the Budget for passage in Lok Sabha amidst the ongoing stalemate in Parliament prompting complaints from opposition parties that it is trying to bulldoze its way through without discussion.
The proposed list of business signalled the intent of the government to aggressively push these issues through parliament which has hardly seen any business done this session, with the Congress and a few other opposition parties seeking a debate on the fraud at Punjab National Bank, the Telugu Desam seeking special status for the state of Andhra Pradesh, and the AIADMK and the DMK, the appointment of the Cauvery Management Board.
Opposition parties such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, the CPI (M), the DMK and the NCP wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan arguing that the time was allotted for discussions on the Demand for Grants of six ministries but the schedule of debate was yet to be finalised. “Without deciding/ informing the date and time of Guillotine and passing of Finance Bill to all Party leaders, it is quite unusual to include them in List of Business,” the letter said.
4. In mystery attack on Russian double agent, tactics of Cold War and a new aggression
British Prime Minister Theresa May Monday served an ultimatum on Russia, seeking an explanation by end of the day Tuesday, over how former spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Salisbury, Southwest England. May said evidence suggested Skripal was targeted by a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia”. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced investigations into attacks on as many as 14 people, allegedly by Russia’s security services or mafia groups.
- He is a former Colonel who was part of the Russian army’s intelligence wing until 1999. He then worked for the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow until 2003. He was arrested in Moscow in December 2004 for spying for Britain, and sentenced to 13 years in prison in August 2006. Russian prosecutors said British intelligence, the M16, had paid Skripal $ 100,000 for “sensitive” information he had been supplying since the 1990s. In July 2010, Skripal was the beneficiary of a spy swap, and had since been living a quiet life in the UK.
———> What is the basis of the UK’s accusations against Russia?
Skripal was a double agent, a spy who had double-crossed colleagues in the Russian intelligence wing, betrayed fellow army veterans, and provided information to Britain that inflicted considerable damage on Russian intelligence. Also, British investigators have identified the nerve agent used in the attack as belonging to a family of deadly substances known as Novichok, believed to have been developed by the Soviets in the 1970s. A number of high-profile deaths linked to Russia have taken place on British soil.
———-> Why do dissidents in the UK seem particularly vulnerable?
The UK is home to a large number of oligarchs fleeing the Putin regime. While May was prompt in her response on this occasion, she had, as Home Secretary in 2006, delayed a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death, citing the need to protect “international relations” with Russia. The inquest that finally began in 2011, concluded in 2016 that the Kremlin “probably” ordered the hit on Litvinenko.
- On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that his country had any role in the Skripal incident .Russia has also been quick to respond to May’s statements, rejecting the allegations and terming them as a “provocation”.
5. FinMin rules out happiness index
The finance ministry on Tuesday told Rajya Sabha that it had no plan to implement Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) for measuring the overall growth of the country.
- Critics have long pointed out that the GDP doesn’t capture overall well being of the citizens and there should be another index which also capture spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens.
- Member of Parliament Amar Shankar Sable had asked whether the government is contemplating to implement the process of fixing the criteria of Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) for measuring the overall growth. “There is no such proposal at present with the Ministry of Finance,” MoS (finance) Pon Radhakrishnan said.
- Since World War II, a nation’s success has been measured by the country’s economic output in monetary terms called GDP. However there has been also attempts to measure a country’s success through alternate means.
It was Bhutan which first evolved the concept of Gross National Happiness. Infact it was former Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who had coined the term “Gross National Happiness”.
In 2011, the UN general assembly passed a resolution inviting member states to consider measures that could better capture the “pursuit of happiness” in development.
6. What was the 20:80 gold import scheme?
In response to a stressed current account deficit in 2012-13 due to a surge in gold imports, the government at the time introduced an import scheme in 2013, which mandated that 20% of all gold imports would have to be exported.
At the time of its implementation, the 20:80 scheme was open only to banks and to public sector companies such as the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation and the State Trading Corporation of India. In May 2014, the RBI in consultation with the government widened the scheme to also allow Premium Trading Houses (PTH) and Star Trading Houses (STH), both private sector entities, to import gold.
- According to the Commerce Ministry, a review of the scheme found that since liberalisation in May 2014, gold imports had increased substantially, averaging about 140-150 tonnes a month. Within this, the government found that gold imported by STHs and PTHs increased 320% following the May 2014 decision compared with the earlier period.
- The share of these entities in the total gold imported into the country also increased from 20% before May to 60% after, according to the government.
- The government on November 28, 2014 scrapped the 20:80 scheme and removed all restrictions on gold imports.
- The Centre, citing the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, said that the average monthly import of gold fell to 71.5 million tonnes in the months following the abolition of the 20:80 scheme [December 2014 to March 2015] from the monthly average of 92.16 million tonnes in the period following the widening of the policy [June 2014 to November 2014].
7. Massive solar storm slamming into Earth on March 14, could cause power outages and stunning views of the Northern Lights
- Two gigantic solar flares erupting from the sun have been recorded by NASA.
- The space agency has said the resulting solar storm could strike Earth today and tomorrow and may disrupt satellites and cause power outages in some places.
- However, the charged particles that make up the solar storm could create stunning views of the Northern Lights as they interact with our atmosphere..
- The arrival of the solar storm coincides with the formation of ‘equinox cracks’ in Earth’s magnetic field, which form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 each year. Space weather is caused by the behaviour of the sun and can occur in the form of radiation storms, solar flares and, the one to worry about, coronal mass ejections – which sends scores of solar material into space, and sometimes hurtling towards Earth.
- Bulldoze: use force insensitively when dealing with
- Dissident: in opposition to official policy
- Provocation: action or speech that makes someone angry, especially deliberately.
- Hurtling: move or cause to move at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner
1. Rise in average temp causing more forest fires across country
The death of nine trekkers in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district was a tragedy waiting to happen with rising forest fires emerging as a threat to environment and life in the state and across the country.
In Tamil Nadu alone, the number of reported forest fires has increased from 89 in 2013 to 301 in 2017. In the same period, forest fires almost doubled in India, from 18,451 in 2013 to 35,888 in 2017. Increasing average temperatures across India, particularly in TN, and dry foliage because of lack of rainfall, according to experts. “The year we get less winter rainfall, the summer temperatures are higher, forests become highly prone to fires especially those that are near human habitation,” said Amit Kumar Verma, a researcher at the Forest Reported forest fires almost doubled three times Fires went up Research Institute. Tamil Nadu has seen both rising temperatures and dry conditions.
2. Rise of violent Buddhist rhetoric in Asia defies stereotypes
Buddhism may be touted in the West as an inherently peaceful philosophy, but a surge in violent rhetoric from small but increasingly influential groups of hardline monks in parts of Asia is upending the religion’s tolerant image.
- Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka last week led anti-Muslim riots that left at least three dead and more than 200 Muslim-owned establishments in ruins, just the latest bout of communal violence there stoked by Buddhist nationalists.
- Despite centuries of largely peaceful co-existence and trading, Buddhist fundamentalist groups portray Islam as invasive, toppling ancient Buddhist empires in Malaysia and Indonesia and now threatening the same for modern Buddhist nations through jihad or high birth rates.
- In Sri Lanka, Buddhist militancy has gone mainstream, with clergy seen clashing with riot police and leading anti-government protests.
- During the brutal 26-year civil war, the ire of ultra-nationalists among the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority was focused on the island’s Tamil Hindus.
- Myanmar’s Wirathu has built a following railing against Muslims in incendiary sermons both in person and on Facebook — which closed down his page in January.
- While Muslims make up less than four percent of Myanmar’s population, Wirathu paints a millenarian portrait of an Islamic plot to eradicate Buddhism.
3. Macro data signals an economic turnaround
India’s factory output grew at a robust pace for the third straight month, at 7.5% in January, while retail inflation surprisingly slowed for the second consecutive month to 4.4% in February, signalling that the economy may be set on a strong recovery path.
- In December, the index of industrial production (IIP) grew 7.1%, while consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation had slowed to 5.1% in January.
The economy regained its momentum in the December quarter, recovering from disruptions caused by demonetization and implementation of the goods and services tax, to expand at 7.2%, the fastest in five quarters. Slower inflation may also dissuade the central bank from taking a hawkish stance in the upcoming monetary policy review on 5 April. In February, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) kept interest rates unchanged and warned that inflation risks were skewing upwards. It raised its March quarter CPI inflation forecast to 5.1% and projected an inflation range of 5.1-5.6% in the first half of the next fiscal year.
- The seasonal trend of rising food prices as summer approaches may prevent further easing of food inflation (3.26% in February) in the ongoing month, said Aditi Nayar, principal economist at rating company ICRA Ltd.
- In terms of industries, 16 out of the 22 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive growth in January. The highest positive contributors to the robust IIP growth continued to be digestive enzymes and antacids, followed by diesel, electricity, sugar and two-wheelers.
4. Why Nasa is going two million kilometres to mine an asteroid
Asteroids are known to be treasure troves of precious minerals. A Nasa mission is under way to test the feasibility on a nearby asteroid, and a niche group of companies is ramping up to claim a piece of the pie.
Nasa’s Osiris-Rex, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in 2016, has travelled over 1.3 billion km since, orbiting the sun for a year and hurtling past Earth to change course toward near-Earth asteroid Bennu
- Bennu comes very close to Earth every six years and scientists estimate asteroids of its type are made of about 10% iron and nickel
Shape & chemistry
During its time at Bennu, the spacecraft will analyse the asteroid’s shape and chemistry, sample its surface materials and collect data on its orbit so scientists can determine the likelihood of it crashing into Earth in the future
Back in 5 years
Osiris-Rex will begin its return journey back to Earth in March 2021. When it nears Earth in September 2023, it will eject the sample capsule, which will parachute to the surface.
Industry barons see a future in finding and harnessing water on asteroids for rocket fuel, which will allow astronauts and spacecrafts to stay in orbit for longer periods. Investors, including Richard Branson, China’s Tencent Holdings and the nation of Luxembourg, see a longerterm solution to replenishing materials such as iron and nickel as Earth’s natural resources are depleted.
5. Indo-French harmony: on President Macron’s visit to India
Much like the pioneering India-France strategic partnership of 1998, the agreements signed during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit are set to strengthen bilateral cooperation at a time of global flux. The Joint Vision Statement on the Indian Ocean Region is clearly aimed at countering China’s growing presence in the region. And the International Solar Alliance, recommitment to starting the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, and joint ventures on climate change cooperation are reactions to the U.S. abdicating its role by announcing its pullout from the Paris accord. The “reciprocal logistics support” agreement, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a “golden step” in defence cooperation, is a signal to Russia and to the U.S.-led alliance that partnered in the “Quadrilateral”, that both New Delhi and Paris feel the need to diversify strategic postures beyond their current choices.
- The daunting task ahead is made clear by Mr. Macron’s assertion that $1 trillion is needed to reach the ISA goals by 2030: India and France have so far committed $1.4 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.
France’s nuclear power story is a success, but negotiations between EDF and NPCIL for the Jaitapur plant, billed as the world’s biggest, have made very slow progress. While the two countries have committed to start construction by end-2018, they have missed deadlines multiple times. Bilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region too is more symbolic than substantive today, and much will depend on how closely the Indian and French navies and intelligence work together in the future. The presumed joint message to Beijing may also be blurred by Mr. Macron’s parallel commitment to help “lead” the Belt and Road Initiative with China. As two pluralistic democracies with a firm belief in a multipolar world order and in the future of Eurasia, India and France have numerous strategic convergences.
6. India world’s largest importer of major arms in the last four years
India was the world’s largest importer of major arms between 2012–16, accounting for 13 per cent of the global total sales, according to a new data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent institute that tracks arms proliferation among other issues in conflict studies.
India increased its arms imports by 43 per cent, between 2007–11 and 2012–16. In the last four years India’s imports were far greater than those of its regional rivals China and Pakistan, SIPRI said in its report released today on international arms transfer.
Rhetoric: the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing