RBI wins battle to keep debt management role
- With the Union Finance Ministry reworking its proposal for setting up the Public Debt Management Authority, the Reserve Bank of India has won its biggest battle in its 80-year history.
- The watered-down proposal no longer envisages the RBI to relinquish control over the task of managing the Centre’s borrowings. Instead, the proposed authority, to be housed in the Finance Ministry and staffed mainly by government officials, is being given “limited functionality”. It will take over merely the “front office” for the management of the Centre’s borrowings, while the control over the “back office” will remain with the RBI.
- The authority will be set up through an executive order. The Finance Ministry has put on the backburner its earlier move of amending the RBI Act for setting up the authority. The new plan is to move amendments to the RBI Act for statutory status to the authority and for full transfer of control not before another year or two, the source said.
- “It has now been decided that the transfer of control over the management of government debt from the RBI will not be complete,” a top Finance Ministry source said . “The RBI has opposed the Ministry’s earlier proposal of complete transfer of control to the authority and not wanting to adopt a confrontational position, the Finance Minister has decided not to disturb the RBI set-up.”
- In Parliament last month, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley withdrew the amendments to the RBI Act announced in his Budget speech in February.
No land acquisition notification for now, A.P. tells High Court
- The Andhra Pradesh government on May 21 told the Hyderabad High Court that it will not issue any statutory notification for acquiring lands for the Capital Region immediately.
- The statement was made by the State’s Additional Advocate General Dammalapati Srinivas before Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao in the vacation court. The judge was dealing with a writ petition filed by Abhista Realty and Ventures Private Ltd and others. The petitioners challenged a government order (GO 166) issued by AP which exempts the Capital City Development Project from the rigours of two clauses in the Land Acquisition law of 2013. These clauses require social impact assessment to be made before acquisition of land and place stiff restrictions on acquiring multi-crop lands. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, in the original form, mandates that before acquiring land from citizens a social impact assessment has to be made. Further, unless it is extremely unavoidable, multi-crop lands should not be acquired. After the recent ordinance passed by the Central government amending the earlier law, infrastructure projects and four other projects are exempted from these two clauses.
Nelong Valley opens for tourists first time since 1962
- The picturesque Nelong Valley near the India-China border, which was closed for civilians after the 1962 war, has been opened for tourists.
- The valley, 45 km ahead of the border, falls under the Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi district.
- “Six vehicles will carry tourists from Bhairavghati to Nelong every day, but no one will be allowed to stay overnight within the 25-km area between Bhairavghati and Nelong,” Shravan Kumar, Deputy Director, Gangotri National Park, said.
- Foreigners are not allowed in the valley.
- At 11,600 feet, the valley is a cold desert, home to the snow leopard and the Himalayan blue sheep and offering a view of the Tibetan Plateau.
- “Tourists visiting the valley will see the wooden bridge once used for trade between India and China,” said Tilak Soni, an Uttarkashi-based mountaineer. Mr Soni said that geographically the valley looked like a replica of Tibet and also offered a view of the Tibetan plateau.
- After the 1962 war, villagers were shifted out of the valley and Indo-Tibetan Border Police checkpoints were set up in the villages.
Connecting the past:A bridge at the Nelong Valley
that was once used for cross-border trade
between India and China
Net neutrality panel sees no progress
- The first meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT to discuss Net neutrality could make little headway on Thursday after several members questioned the selective invitation to three private service providers and presence of BJP MP Nishikant Dubey as a special invitee. Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterated that the government was committed to “ensuring non-discriminatory” access to Internet for all citizens.
- Only Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular were invited by Chairman Anurag Thakur (BJP) for the meeting. Mr. Thakur had asked the three companies to submit a report by May 19.
- However, according to sources, the 120-page report was received only on May 20 and given to members on Thursday morning. Non-BJP members questioned how they were expected to read such a voluminous report in a few hours; that, too, on a vexed issue like the subject at hand. Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani is learnt to have joined the chorus of questions raised by the non-BJP members.
- Another contentious issue pertained to the absence of other stakeholders, particularly state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL. Also, the absence of over-the-top (OTT) players and consumer groups was questioned. “Why has this meeting been turned into a sponsored group meet,” a member questioned during the hour-long discussion. Besides Mr. Advani and Mr. Thakur, those present included Derek O’Brien (Trinamool Congress), P. Karunakaran (CPI-M), K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao (Congress) and Salim Ansari (BSP).
- The next meeting is likely to be held in early June. While the committee members are not allowed to speak on the meeting, Mr. O’Brein tweeted, “Delhi is hot. But deliberations at Parliamentary Committee meetings just got even hotter. Any suggestion on which organisations can provide balanced/credible opinion representing the interest of the Internet user.”
- While the debate on Net neutrality has been on at the global level for a long time, in India, it was triggered when country’s largest operator Airtel announced plans to charge customers for VoIP(Voice over IP) services such as Skype and Viber.
March of the IS
- The Islamic State’s recent takeover of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, followed by its seizure of the historic city of Palmyra in Syria suggests that rumours of the impending(meaning of impending - be about to happen) demise(meaning of demise - death) of the armed group are vastly exaggerated. Months of aerial bombing by United States-led forces may have weakened the spine of the insurgent organisation and led to the loss of some of the vast areas it holds across Iraq and Syria. Reports have suggested that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was injured in one attack and that control of the day-to-day functioning of the militias has passed on to other commanders. The resistance shown by Kurdish fighters both in Syria and Iraq — belonging to the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Regional Government respectively — has forced the IS to retreat from places such as Kobane and the adjoining Kurd-held territory close to Mosul in Iraq. The group has also suffered significant losses in Tikrit, the former stronghold of ex-President Saddam Hussein. But these losses apart, the resilience(meaning of resilience - the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity) of the group has been evident in its capture of Ramadi in the largely Sunni-populated and vast desert province of Anbar. The weaknesses of the Iraqi army — still to recover from its disbandment following the U.S. invasion — are evident. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s resort to help from the radical Shia militias might have the support of the Sunni councils in Anbar, but this could only exacerbate what is clearly a conflict that has its origins in heightened sectarian violence in post-U.S.-invasion Iraq.
- The IS has cunningly used as buffers vast territories in Syria and Iraq that it controls. An air-bombardment-only campaign is certainly not going to be enough even if it inflicts a toll on the group. The Syrian regime has been fighting too many battles against a variety of rebel forces. It lost some to rebel groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Idlib recently, and its tactical retreats from IS-held territory in the past have come to haunt Bashar-al Assad’s forces with the loss of Palmyra. The ancient city — which used to be a Silk route hub — is rich in historic and cultural artefacts; the IS, with its medieval and retrograde views, is expected to engage in destruction here as well. It is clear that the parcelled form of offensive action against the IS is not working well. The IS is bound to implode; it cannot forever sustain itself against a multiplicity of forces — the Syrians, the Iraqi army, the Kurds and the U.S.-led allies (even if they are only engaged in aerial bombing). But as long as there is no concerted action from all these forces targeting the IS in any cohesive manner, it will remain resilient and leave even more brutal trails of destruction in its wake than it has until now.
Half of Syria now under Islamic State’s control
- Islamic State now controls over half of Syria’s landmass after its seizure of Palmyra, where it has begun massacring a rebellious tribe and faces no opposition to its entry and sacking of the historic city’s ancient ruins.
- “There are no forces to stop them [entering the ruins],” Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said. “But the important thing also is that they now control 50 per cent of Syria.”
- IS seized Palmyra on Wednesday night after a week-long siege by the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad collapsed, drawing IS closer to the President’s strongholds of Homs and Damascus. IS has also and severed supply lines to Deir Ezzor in the east, which already faces an overpowering IS crackdown.