Friday, 10 July 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 10/07/2015

India – Pakistan Talks
Indian Prime Minister met his Pakistani counterpart in Ufa, Russia today after more than a year. This was followed by a joint statement made by Foreign Secretaries of two countries which included following –

A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs.
Decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days.
Mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
Relations with Pakistan saw several ups and downs in short span of new Indian government. A fresh start was made by PM Modi by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his oath taking ceremony but this followed cancelling of talks between Foreign Secretaries on issue of Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmir separatist Hurriyat Leaders. This was followed by fierce ceasefire violations from Pakistan, which was handled well by BSF. New low came when Indian operation ‘Hot Pursuit’ on India-Myanmar border irked Pakistani leadership, prompting them to give irresponsible statements. Given all this, latest engagements appear as a blatant about turn, which lacks a cohesive Foreign Policy. But experts disagree and feel that the only permanent foreign policy possible with Pakistan is of ‘constant maneuver’ and adjusting to the changes in larger system. Constituents of this ‘larger system’ are almost all countries strategically important for India – U.S., China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan etc.

When we are dealing with Pakistan we are also dealing with wide array of diplomatic combination and permutations. Pakistan due to its strategic location punches much above its weight. U.S. used Pakistan to destabilize Soviet Union with help of Mujahedeen. Further, Pak helped US handling its interests in Middle East. On other hand China engaged with Pakistan to keep check on aspirational India. Pakistan was perhaps behind establishment of diplomatic relations between U.S. and China in 1970’s. While geopolitics has changed significantly in 21st century, yet Pakistan retains its strategic significance.

Pakistan remains strategic ally of US and China. US aid is still pouring in and China just has agreed to construct a $ 46 billion ‘Economic Corridor’ in Pakistan. China reaffirmed its commitment to Pakistan by vetoing in its favor, the resolution against Pakistan’s release of Lakhvi. Further, China made Indian membership to SCO contingent upon Pakistan’s membership, thus trying to equate two countries. Now, both countries are set to become members of SCO next year which opens a new chapter in Indian diplomacy.

India has to take care that SCO does not become a forum for treating bilateral issues between both countries as multilateral ones. In recent meet Pakistan gave agreed that issues should be solved without external interferences. It should be noted that, not only India, but almost all allies of Pakistan are also its victims. US had bitter experience of 9/11 which had some links with Pakistan. On the top of this, Osama Bin Laden was found hidden in Pakistan. Same is the case with Uighur insurgency in China. Citizens of both nations have been selectively killed by terror emanating from Pakistan. Russia has fresh bitter experience with Pakistan, for latter’s role in disintegration of USSR. Off late Pakistan itself is feeling victimized by terror. Even then Russia, forced by harsh western sanctions, has started to engage with Pakistan. This is typical era of interest based diplomacy in which nations are friends and foes at the same time.

Indian Prime Minister has agreed to visit Islamabad to participate in SAARC submit in 2016. It has been said time and again that just talks between political establishments is not enough. So, talks at DG levels of both Border Security Force and Pakistan Ranger will be held, which will be followed by DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) level talks. Along with this, commitment to release fishermen and promote religious tourism is cause of optimism. However, commitment of Pakistan regarding Mumbai tragedy is likely to be mere lip service for obvious reasons. Regarding talks on terrorism Pakistan NSA will meet Indian counterpart in Delhi.

Having said this India Pakistan relation will most likely remain as it was in past. Pakistan wants parity with India. Being well aware that it can’t match the grandeur of India, it wants to bring India down. This is unwavering ideology of Pakistan. It was same logic behind the argument for partition by Muslim League. Three powers which shape this ideology in Pakistan are: elected government, It’s armed forces and clergy. They still have hangover of Mughal Rule which they think of as rule by Muslims over Hindus. Given such ideological base nothing constructive is going to come out of it. Notwithstanding all this, India has no option but to engage with Pakistan, while giving strong messages when needed. Engagement becomes even more compelling given change in attitude of Afghan government.

India, US ink pact on sharing account info
To curb overseas tax evasion and black money, India and the U.S. recently signed an inter-governmental agreement to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
  • This agreement makes it obligatory on the part of the two nations to exchange information on offshore accounts of each other’s citizens in their respective territories.
About the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA):
  • The U.S. government enacted FATCA in 2010 to obtain information on accounts held by US taxpayers in other countries.
  • Under FATCA, foreign financial institutions in the U.S. will have to provide information about Indian account holders to the U.S. government’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which will forward the information to the Indian government.
  • The Indian government will provide similar information to the IRS.
  • As of now, the U.S. has such agreements with more than 110 jurisdictions and is engaged in related discussions with many other jurisdictions.
  • Financial institutions such as banks, brokerages or mutual funds that do not comply with this agreement will face a 30% withholding tax on all payments from the U.S.
  • This automatic exchange of information is scheduled to begin on September 30.
Indians in The Royal Society
The names of two researchers based in Bengaluru are all set to be entered in a historic charter book containing the who’s who of the scientific world.

The two Researchers are:
  • Professor of Biology Kamaljit Bawa, who founded the independent research organisation Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).
  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) physicist Ajay Sood.
Some facts:
  • These researchers will join a select group of scientists from the country to be inducted as a fellow by London’s The Royal Society.
  • Sood is the only scientist whose work has been based entirely in laboratories in India.
  • Among the Indian and Indian-origin scientists inducted as fellows and foreign members, two have been intimately involved with research in Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS).
About Royal Society, London:
  • It is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society still in existence.
  • It was founded in November 1660 and was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as “The Royal Society”.
  • The Society today acts as a scientific advisor to the British government, receiving a parliamentary grant-in-aid.
  • The Society acts as the UK’s Academy of Sciences, and funds research fellowships and scientific start-up companies.
NDDB launches mobile app for dairy farmers
The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has launched a mobile application that will recommend a balanced diet for cows and buffaloes to help boost dairy farmers’ income by raising milk yield and cutting feed cost.

About the app:
  • The mobile application is named ‘Pashu Poshan‘.
  • The application, which will be available on both web and android platforms, can be accessed by registering on the INAPH portal (inaph.nddb.coop).
  • This application will benefit dairy farmers across the country. They will get information about balanced ration for their cows and buffaloes through this application. The use of this application is expected to boost milk output and income of dairy farmers.
  • To use this application, the farmer needs to provide complete animal profile, including breed, age, milk production, fat content in milk apart from food items being currently fed to the animal along with the cost in order to formulate the balanced ration formula.
  • India is the largest milk producer in the world, but the biggest challenge for the domestic dairy sector is low productivity of its bovine population as compared to developed countries.
Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan (RAA) Launched by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, former President of India recently launched the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan (RAA).

About the Abhiyaan:
  • Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan is a unique concept developed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development that aims to inculcate a spirit of inquiry, creativity and love for Science and Mathematics in school children.
  • It aims to encourage students to learn sciences beyond the classrooms. It is an effort to take forward the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Teach in India’.
  • Under Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan, government schools will be mentored by Institutes like IITs/ IIMs/ IISERs and other Central Universities and reputed organisations through innovative programmes, student exchanges, demonstrations, student visits, etc to develop a natural sense of passion towards learning of Science and Maths.

Digital India: MPEDA launches mobile-based apps
The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), nodal agency for promotion of marine exports from India, has launched two mobile based applications, which would help farmers get prices on shrimp and capture data on aquaculture through mobile.
  • These initiatives were launched under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme.
  • Under these initiatives , MPEDA will provide price related market information of Vannamei and Black Tiger shrimp to farmers. The farmers have to give a missed call to a predetermined number and they will get the prices of various grades of these two shrimp varieties in major markets such as Japan, the U.S. and EU through an SMS.
  • The service will be provided free of cost to farmers all over India and would enable them to make an informed decision on harvest of their produce and get better price realisation.
  • The mobile app called mKrishi will enable farmers get expert guidance on all operations, besides helping with book keeping and weather information. mKrishi is under pilot in Gujarat and will be extended all over India in the next three months.
About the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA):
  • MPEDA is a statutory body under Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The role envisaged for the MPEDA under the statute is comprehensive – covering fisheries of all kinds, increasing exports, specifying standards, processing, marketing, extension and training in various aspects of the industry.
  • It acts as a coordinating agency with different Central and State Government establishments engaged in fishery production and allied activities.
In your opinion, why is left wing extremism in India is still thriving despite efforts made to curb its activities? Critically examine.
Left Wing Extremism started with the philosophy of replacing the existing social and political order by socialist or communist pattern of society. The means for transformation adopted by them is violence and non-cooperation with the State. This has resulted into the lives of thousands of the innocent peoples and the security personnels in the last 50 years. Communist Party of India(Maoist) Party is the major left wing extremist outfit operating in the country. The nine maoist affected states are: Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, M.P. and U.P.

The Government of India(GoI) has taken several measures to curb the menance of left wing extremist through deploying security forces as well as promoting development in the maoist affected areas, but all are in vain because of some of the reasons:

1. Ideological change : The earlier issues like 'encroachment of tribals','corporate exploitaton','human rights violation' are no more their demand. Now they want to control the state in their hand through violence activities. The issues like destructing school buildings, roads, hospitals proved that they are against development .Panchayatraj Extended to Schedule area Act (PESA) was enacted to provide political autonomy in tribal areas, but their activities against the act and killing of panchayat memebers proved that they do not want political autonomy too. This is quiet unconstitutional and intervention of the State is much required. Integrated Action Plan launched in 88 districts seems not much fruitful.

2. Policies failure: As major minerals resources are distributed in tribal areas. Excavation of mineral resources has displaced them without providing proper rehabilitation. This has developed their sentiments against the State. Recent Land Acquisition ordinance has also failed to solve the issue.

3. International hands: There is no doubt that insurgents are funded by the foreigner belligerent countries. This is for harming the country politically, socially and economically.

4. Violence activities: To control the violent insurgents, government has also adopted violent methods. From both side major of the population that are being killed are innocents. Peoples Liberation Gureilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI(Maoist) has been created to act violently. Government has also deployed Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA) against them. But these violence activities has only aggravated the situation.

The GoI is ready to talk with them. But, maoists are against any talk. Their demands could only be met when they will adopt constitutional means. Government must focus to educate them and distribute fruits of development in priority basis in the left wing extremist affected areas.

Do you think the political parties should be brought
under the ambit of the Right to Information Act? Justify. 
RTI Act 2005 has proved to be a very effective tool to hold public servants and public authorities accountable.However there is a strong need to bring political parties(PP) within its ambit.
1-PP work in public interest and in the process they avail many tax benefits and facilities like office etc. and the burden falls on the taxpayer .Hence they are accountable to the citizens.
2-Citizens have right to make informed choice in elections so they must be aware of internal practices prevelent in PPs.
3-Disclosure of information would help in curbing flow of black money in election process, making it more fair and transparent.
4-Disclosure would increase they credibility of PPs and increase voters confidence in them, thus bringing about healthy competition among PPs and reforming our electoral process and polity.
5-PPs would be forced to adopt democratic way of doing internal work and making decisions.
Thus holding PP accountable under RTI would strengthen the roots of democratic polity and boost economy.

“We are not facing a shortage of energy. We are facing a technical challenge in capturing it and delivering it to consumers.” With reference to India’s power problems, critically comment on the statement 
India has the third largest reserves of coal, significant thorium reserves, capacity for solar power, numerous rivers with hydropower feasibility, tidal energy, geo thermal, wind and newly found abundant coal bed methane and shale reserves. Still large proportion of population without electricity access. The reason for this paradox are mostly technical such as :

1) Coal - Poor coal quality of indian reserves and inadequate coal washing, coal gasification technology.
2) Solar - Lack of storage batteries technology, insufficient micro grid and low capacity of our national grid does not allow extensive usage of solar power.
3) Nuclear - Thrid stage nuclear generation uses thorium reserves. We still haven't reached there. Moreover, no progress on Fourth generation nuclear reactors.
4) CBM and shale require state of the art fracking technology which is unavailable.
5) Other renewable energy require technology upgradation to make them affordable and comparable to other resources.

These technological challenges have not allowed us to adequately capture our resources. Moreover, coupled with AT&C loses, inability to stop thefts and inadequate distribution network has made electricity expensive. Nevertheless, the government through the Deendayal gram jyoti yojana, Integrated Power Development Scheme(IPDS), National solar mission and recent coal auction seeks to resolve these issues.

Discuss the importance of microgrids for the Indian economy. (200 Words)

Write a note on the science and effectiveness of earthquake early warning system.
-Uttarakhand recently got its second Earthquake Early Warning System. This system would enable an early warning of earthquake of magnitude 5 or more in the area.

-The earthquakes are generated by the sheer pressure generated at the fault lines. The first of these waves to generate are P-waves which are followed by S-wave. The devastations are caused by S-waves and not by P-waves. The early warning system helps detect P-waves and alarm before the S-waves hit the surface. The warning can be before 1-40 seconds depending upon the distance from the epicentre.

-These systems are very affecting in preventing many injuries and saving lives. These has been installed and successfully tested in many countries such as Mexico, California and Japan. This would be more helpful in areas which are at a distant from epicentre as they would get more time.

-Even in places which are not so far from the epicentre, the warning giving 4-5 seconds can be of much help. This would let people hiding in safe places.

-These system would be of much help in train and metro as early warning would prevent them from derailing and saving many lives.

-With the current earthquake devastation in Nepal, India has to take a learning. India has to install these equipment in the earthquake prone zones. India envisages of “Smart City project”. These cities should be at least as smart as giving early warning for earthquake in India.

Daily News Mail - News of 09/07/2015

Afghanistan government – Taliban Peace Talks
Peace talk between Afghanistan and Taliban was held at Islamabad in which both leaders agreed to engage in future for Afghanistan’s peace. Meeting was also attended by American and Chinese diplomats as observers. Unity Government in Afghanistan led by Ashraf Ghani has been encouraged by US and China to engage with Taliban in face of calibrated withdrawal of US forces.

Just few days back Afghan’s parliament was attacked by Taliban in which intelligence alleged involvement of Pakistan’s ISI. Strangely, soon after this Intelligence units of both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that calls for intelligence sharing and coordinated counterterrorism operations. It is widely known that Pakistan has been providing sanctuary to Taliban Fighters, including their leader Mullah Omar. Further, Deadly terror group Haqqani Network is from long time carrying terror activities, drugs and arms trade in Afghanistan. It is hardly a secret that both Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network are close to highest echelons of power in Pakistan.

Further, Pakistan and Afghanistan almost never in past had a cozy relationship. Afghanistan doesn’t recognize the border i.e. Durand Line right from 1893 when it was demarcated by British. Federally Administered Tribal Area or FATA, which Afghanistan claims, lies on Pakistan side of Durand line and is inhabited principally by Pashtun Tribals. This is the area in which most of the anti- Afghanistan or Pro-Taliban or even Anti Pakistan terror groups operate.

Pakistan’s establishment has done hardly anything to win the confidence and trust of Afghans. Afghans are much aware that Pakistan doesn’t want them to be a democracy or even pursue an independent foreign policy. India enjoys immense goodwill among Afghans. Some surveys indicate that Indians (or India) are trusted by Afghans more than any other nationality. In this scenario, a democratic government will obviously be Pro- India as was the case with Hamid Karzai. This doesn’t fit well with their policy of ‘Strategic Depth’ under which Pakistan must have Afghanistan on its side in case of aggression from India. Otherwise Pakistan can face war on two fronts when its resources don’t permit war even at single front.

However, present establishment is Afghanistan under Ashraf Ghani seem to be bowing before Pakistan and Taliban. Ashraf Ghani believes that peace in Afghanistan is only possible with cooperation with these both parties, which is true to much extent. Other case might be the political insecurity of Ashraf Ghani. Last elections in Afghanistan were anything but fair. That the compromise was arrived between him and Abdullah Abdullah is another thing, but he must know well that he doesn’t have pure legal democratic mandate to rule Afghanistan. So he might be counting on these powers for his political survival.

It is believed that Taliban is no more a homogeneous group, at least ideologically. One faction is willing to enter into peace process, while other led by Mullah Omar wants to stick to Jihad and some of its commanders are looking upto Islamic State to further their personal ambitions. Few of them have already defected to IS and some others may follow. With all this it is highly likely that IS with gain footprint in Afghanistan. On other hand, peace process with a mere faction of Taliban will not take negotiators anywhere.

US have burnt its fingers badly in Afghanistan and is now seeking a face saving exit, while preserving its long term interests. Other regional countries mainly China and Pakistan are trying best to turn tide in their favor. China believes that its Uyghur insurgency in Xinjiang can only be curtailed through cooperation of Taliban and Pakistan. This attitude is deplorable as this provides incentives for ambitious powers to use terrorism as tool for diplomacy. Further, economic interest of China is also there as they have invested in Iron ore and oil sector.

India and Afghanistan entered into a ‘Strategic Partnership Agreement’ future of which is doubtful in current scenario. India has so far invested about $ 2 billion in Afghanistan, much of which went in social sector. India is perhaps only country to invest so much in social sector without any quid pro quo. India should actively pursue its strategic interest and continue to expand its foothold in the country. Political relationships are temporary and India has bigger relation with people of Afghanistan which doesn’t change with change of rule.

Centre wants to break forex reserves
The central government is examining if India’s foreign exchange reserves held by the Reserve Bank can be deployed for funding infrastructure projects or recapitalising public sector banks.
  • According to rough estimates of the Finance Ministry, bad loans-ridden banks would require capital infusion of about Rs. 40,000 crore over two years.
  • India’s forex reserves is doing pretty well. Recently, it touched a record $355.46 billion.
However, as of now, the proposal does not enjoy unanimous support within the government. The government doesn’t own the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

But, can the government deploy these reserves?
  • According to a former RBI Governor, the government could deploy the reserves held by the central bank for recapitalisation of banks. The government could also draw from the RBI’s balance sheet for this objective.
However, the procedure might not be easy for the government to do so as the Board of the Reserve Bank had to approve it. Even the RBI would be unwilling to deploy reserves for scuh risky purposes by compromising BoP.

Forex reserves – Quick look:
Foreign exchange reserves are an important component of the balance of payments and an essential element in the analysis of an economy’s external position.
  • The components of India’s foreign exchange reserves are foreign currency assets (FCA), gold, SDRs and reserve tranche position (RTP) in the IMF.
  • Foreign Currency Assets (FCA) is the biggest component of the forex reserves.
India to contribute $18 billion to BRICS’ $100-billion foreign exchange reserves pool
India is all set to contribute $18 billion to the $100 billion foreign-exchange reserves pool that is being set up by five nations of the BRICS grouping.

  • To help each other “in case of any problems with dollar liquidity”.
  • The Agreement on setting BRICS Pool of Conventional Currency Reserves was signed on July 15, 2014 at the summit in Fortaleza (Brazil). The agreement was signed in Moscow after a meeting of the Finance Ministers and heads of the central banks of the BRICS countries.
  • The operational agreement regarding this was signed by the central banks of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on July 7, 2015 in Moscow. The Operational Agreement details the working procedures of the Pool to be observed by BRICS central banks, and defines their rights and obligations.
  • The Agreement outlines the terms of mutual support for member states in the framework of the Agreement on BRICS Pool of Conventional Currency Reserves.
About the Pool:
  • The pool is being set up according to an agreement signed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • It will be a $100 billion pool, with maximum $41 billion coming from China.
  • India’s contribution of $18 billion to the Pool will be same as that of Brazil and Russia. South Africa would chip in $5 billion.
  • The fund will be an “insurance instrument” that members nations could draw on if they experience problems with their balance of payments.
  • The Pool will go into force on July 30.
  • The Pool is tasked to ensure mutual provision of US dollars by the central banks of BRICS members in case of any problems with dollar liquidity.
  • The Pool would help BRICS members to maintain financial stability in case of volatility in dollar exchange rate.
  • The BRICS nations account for nearly $16 trillion in GDP and 40 per cent of the world’s population.
Racist slur can land you in jail for 5 years

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs recently told the Delhi High Court that it has decided to amend the Indian Penal Code to make “racial discrimination” a non-bailable criminal offence.
  • Accordingly, any derogatory reference meant to discriminate against the race of a person from the Northeast or any other part of the country will become a non-bailable offence with punishment of up to five years in jail.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs is in the process of finalising a comprehensive Bill for insertion of new Sections 153C and 509A in the Indian Penal Code, which will be introduced in Parliament after inter-Ministerial consultation.
What the Law says?
  • Under the amended law, any word, sign or gesture insulting the race of a person will be punishable with a three-year prison term.
  • Any word, gesture, written statement or activity aimed at discriminating against the race of a person or promoting violence against a particular race will invite a prison term of five years.
  • Concerned over the spate of attacks on people from the Northeast in Delhi, the High Court had earlier asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to change the existing SC/ST Act or make other stronger prosecuting laws to protect the victims.
  • The Central government had set up the M.K. Bezbaruah committee which recommended a series of punitive actions to prevent such attacks. The ministry has accepted most of the recommendations made by the committee.
Modi, Putin discuss India’s accession to Shanghai block
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently resolved to take strategic bilateral ties forward and discussed India’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • Modi is in Russia primarily for BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summits.
  • India is currently an observer in the multilateral grouping.
About the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
It is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
  • The SCO is seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • Its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a quarter of the world’s. With observer states included, its affiliates account for about half of the world’s population.
  • The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
  • It also has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers, and Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners.
Entire Nagaland declared as ‘disturbed area’
The Centre has declared entire Nagaland as a “disturbed area”.

The centre says that it finds that a “dangerous condition” prevails in Nagaland and armed forces should assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order.

  • The centre declared Nagaland as a disturbed area in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 for a period of one year with effect from June 30, 2015.
  • The decision came almost a month after NSCN-K, the dominant Naga rebel group, attacked an army convoy in Manipur’s Chandel district and killed 18 soldiers.
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act:
It is an Act empowering armed forces to deal effectively in ‘Disturbed Areas’. Any area which is declared ‘Disturbed’ under the disturbed areas act enables armed forces to resort to the provisions of AFSPA.

Who declares an area as disturbed?
  • The choice of declaring any area as ‘disturbed’ vests both with state and central government.
Special powers provided to armed forces:
  • After an area comes under the ambit of AFSPA, any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or another person of equivalent rank can use force for a variety of reasons while still being immune to the prosecution.
  • The act was passed on 11 September 1958 by the parliament of India to provide special legal security to the armed forces carrying out operations in the troubled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura (seven sisters).
  • In 1990 the act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to confront the rising insurgency in the area.
  • In Manipur, despite opposition from the Central government, state government withdrew the Act in some parts in Aug, 2004.
The government can declare AFSPA in the following conditions:
  • When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
  • When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
In an area declared, “disturbed” an army officer is legally free to carry out following operations:
  • Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons.
  • Destroy any shelter (private or govt.) from which armed attacks are made or likely to be made or attempted to be made.
  • Arrest any person without warrant who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence.
  • Enter and search, without warrant, any premises for purpose of arrest or to recover any person, arms, explosives.
  • Search and seize any vehicle suspected to be carrying an offender or any person against whom any reasonable suspicion exists that he has or is about to commit an offence.
  • Provide legal immunity to the army personnel found involved in any violation or ethical breach i.e., they cannot be sued or prosecuted.
The decision of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ cannot be challenged in a court of law. In 2005 the Jeevan Reddy Commission said that AFSPA should be repealed and the clauses that are required should be included in other Acts.

NGT order may affect 80 projects in Tamil Nadu
The National Green Tribunal has set aside an office memorandum by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that allows post-facto clearance for projects. With this nearly 80 construction projects in Tamil Nadu are likely to come to a standstill.
  • The projects require prior environmental clearance as per the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006. Most of the projects had commenced construction and then sought environmental clearance, while a few had applied for clearance, but started construction before sanction was given.
  • The Tribunal has come down on seven of the project proponents who impleaded in the case.
About the National Green Tribunal (NGT)
The National Green Tribunal has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • The tribunal also deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • The sanctioned strength of the tribunal is currently 10 expert members and 10 judicial members although the act allows for up to 20 of each.
  • The Chairman of the tribunal who is the administrative head of the tribunal also serves as a judicial member.
  • Every bench of the tribunal must consist of at least one expert member and one judicial member. The Chairman of the tribunal is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
  • Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
  • The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts. Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
NJAC: SC seeks details of States’ ratification
The Supreme Court has sought details from the Centre about the ratification process of the 99th Constitution Amendment incorporating the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law by State Assemblies.
  • The Centre had earlier told the court that as many as 20 states have approved the Constitutional amendment to replace the Collegium system with the NJAC.
NJAC is a body responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. It seeks to replace the collegium system of appointing the judges of Supreme Court and 24 High Courts with judicial appointments commission wherein the executive will have a say in appointing the judges.

  • A new article, Article 124A, (which provides for the composition of the NJAC) will be inserted into the Constitution.
  • The NJAC Act also seeks changes in articles 124,217,222 and 231.
The commission will consist of the following members:
  • Chief Justice of India (Chairperson, ex officio)
  • Two other senior judges of the Supreme Court next to the Chief Justice of India – ex officio
  • The Union Minister of Law and Justice, ex-officio
  • Two eminent persons (to be nominated by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister of India and the Leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then, the Leader of single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha), provided that of the two eminent persons, one person would be from the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or OBC or minority communities or a woman. The eminent persons shall be nominated for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for re-nomination.
Functions of the Commission:
  • Recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India, Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of High Courts and other Judges of High Courts.
  • Recommending transfer of Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts from one High Court to any other High Court.
  • Ensuring that the persons recommended are of ability and integrity.
Under the present Collegium system, the Chief Justice of India would consult the four senior most judges of the Supreme Court for Supreme Court appointments and two senior-most judges for high court appointments.

Australian Gets Fatal ‘One-In-A-Million’ Brain Disease
An Australian has been diagnosed with the rare, degenerative brain condition sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

About Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD):
  • CJD is a rare, degenerative disease of the brain that is not linked to the consumption of meat and occurs in one in a million people per year in Australia.
  • CJD is caused by an agent called a prion. Prions are misfolded proteins that replicate by converting their properly folded counterparts, in their host, to the same misfolded structure they possess.
  • It has no treatment or cure and the disease is fatal within weeks or months after the onset of symptoms.
  • CJD has been likened to mad cow disease.
  • Most cases of CJD occur because of mutations with a person’s brain and are not spread from other people.
  • The first symptom of CJD is rapidly progressive dementia, leading to memory loss, personality changes, and hallucinations. Other frequently occurring features include anxiety, depression, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and psychosis. This is accompanied by physical problems such as speech impairment, jerky movements (myoclonus), balance and coordination dysfunction (ataxia), changes in gait, rigid posture, and seizures.
  • As of now, no generally accepted treatment for CJD exists.
Invasive species of snail spotted on Goa varsity campus
The Giant African Land Snail (GALS) was spotted on the campus of Goa University at Taleigao, near Panaji, recently.
  • It is listed as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
  • This species is one of the most damaging land snails in the world.
Why is it a cause for concern?
If these snails multiply, there will be a threat to agro-horticulture and public health since they act as a vector of human diseases like Eosinophilic meningitis, which is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasite that nematode commonly resides in the pulmonary arteries of rats. The parasite is passed on to humans through eating raw or improperly cooked snails or freshwater prawns.

“India has mastered atomic, space and missile development, but continues to import basic defence equipment.” Critically comment.
India, that have sent mission into Mars, the only country in the world to launch successful mission into Mars in their first attempt and that too with a meager cost of only 450 crore. Agni-IV, a nuclear capable ballistic with a range of 4,000 km is ready for induction in Army is completely built by DRDO, India. Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor(PFBR) is ready to achieve criticality in Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Plant and then we will reach into the second stage of India's three-stage nuclear power programme. With achieving these, don't know why we are still lagging in defence technology and equipments manufacturing. When it comes to defence equipments and technology, we are not able to manufacture assault rifles, bullet proof jackets and snow boots. We relies on Russia, Israel, France, U.K. and U.S.A for meeting our defence demands.

'Make in India' vs 'Made in India'
At Aero India, 2015 Prime Minister Narendr Modi has said that defence manufacturing was at the heart of 'Make in India'. But there is major difference between 'Make in India' and 'Made in India'. How much of strategic partnership we will develop with the foreign companies, they will not part with their core technologies. We have developed indigenously HAL Tejas, but more than 35% of its core parts like engine, avionics, display and etc. are imported. We are not self-reliant. We need to develop these core technologies with the effort of our brains, which are getting drained. More capital infusion in Research & development needed.
However some of efforts are taken like recently INS Vikrant ready to be inducted into Navy, built by Cochin Shipyards limited. Naval Design Bureau stride impressively in ship building design. We are the second highest importer of arms, next to Saudi Arabia. We need to focus on defence research and substitute imports with exports. This will not only enhance our capabilities but Balance of Payments also.
Write a note on the challenges being faced by the food processing industry in India. Also examine importance of FDI in this sector and measures taken by the government to boost the same.
Food processing industry is a nascent yet booming sector in India. It has experienced 8% growth in the last five years and is among the largest employment creator (6% in 2012). Despite its huge potential, this sector has stiff challenges like:

a) It requires huge initial capital, which Indian entrepreneurs lack or cannot get easily.

b) It is intimately linked with agriculture and for food producing to grow, certain fundamental reforms like APMC reforms, linking of mandis, extension services, crop insurance etc need to be urgently made in our agriculture and food procurement system.

c) Technological backwardness, lack of cold storages etc, non compliance or lack of knowledge of International food safety norms are impediments in the growth of the industry.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is essential in driving this sector as huge initial capital is required to build infrastructure facilities like warehouses, food grain handling systems, cold storages etc. Positive influx of FDI to the tune of 20 % investment is noticed in the last couple of years. The government has taken several initiatives to make the sector even more lucrative for foreign companies. It has announced tax benefits for setting up ware houses, abbatoirs, bee houses; removed excise duty on milk products etc.

The government has put concerted effort in this industry and made it a prime focus of Make in India and announced a centrally sponsored National Mission on Food Producing to be implemented through the states which targets 25 % growth in the sector by 2025 by providing incentives for creating infrastructure and doing research. Recent impetus on contract farming will also invite FDIs in this sector.

Name any three most dangerous invasive species and explain how these species affect native ecosystem.  Also suggest measures needed to address their threats. (200 Words)
Invasive species are plants or animals that do not belong to a particular place but has been brought by humans accidentally or intentionally.With the increase in global trade and communication these invasive species have expanded their horizons.
Some of the examples of most dangerous invasive species are the Giant African Land Snail,zebra mussels and Asian carp.These species affect the native ecosystem in the following ways:
1.The can cause irreversible extinction to the native species.eg mongoose have caused demise of many vertebrates in the tropical cane growing islands.
2.Causes livestock damages ,with disease risk.
3.They hurt the local food supply ,eg the quagga mussels sucked up most important nutrients of the Lake Michigan.
4.They may cuse public health problems.eg allergies.
5.It may cost harm to the economy as these species clog the canals ,boat engines,hurt the skiiers ,fishing industry etc.
Important measures to curb it includes:
1.There is a need for research and development on the conditions that result in the spread of these species so as to curb them.
2. The infrastuructural changes in terms of insulating the boats and canals from being clogged.
3.More Information needs to disseminated among the local people to be careful about these species and inform concerned authorities.

Do you think India should use its huge foreign exchange reserves to finance infrastructure projects or to recapitalise fund-starved banks? Critically discuss.
Foreign exchange is the precious component of country's fiscal health.with india attaining its all time high exchange reserve of $350 billion,there are suggestions to put it to use by investing in capitalisation of banks,and funding of infrastruture projects to ensure growth.
RBI rightly rejected the idea of using it at present for various reasons.There are many reasons to not risk foreign reserves.Among them are-
1) reining volatile conditions in global market and economies do not rovide suitable conditions.
2) india being import oriented economy with imports dominating exports by large margin.
3) fall of oil prices along with reduced prices of indian imports has led to increase in foreign reserves.
4) India not completely in sustainable growth path with slowdown of manufatcuring and services 
5) uncertainty in Infra projects and banks with High NPAs restrict space for risking forex reserves in them.
6) RBI could not use forex to shield the mismanagement of govt finances by political authorities.
India rather than investing and risking precious forex reserves should shore up its reserves to sustainable levels by aiming to doubling the current amount within specific period.
once india diversifies its exports along with that attains sutainable levels of forex reserves with improved levels of exports and reduction in imports or atleast zero imports,it would be prudent to use forex for developmental purposes as the present levels are not sustainable considering volatile situation of west asia and diminishing exports to western nations.

Critically comment on the recent black money law and examine the merits and demerits of the same.
Black money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 is the first major measures directed at tackling the menace of black money in India.

Its merits can be outlined as:

1. It is the first law directed at black money stashed abroad.

2. It provides for stringent punishment for defaulters.

3. It will generate much needed revenue for the country.

4. It includes a compliance window that will attract less penalty and as such, it encourages self-compliance..

Its demerits can be outlined as:

1. It does not talk of measures to bring back black money from abroad, unlike the US Foreign Account tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

2. It is nothing new in that the provisions were already there in the Income Tax Act. Only the punishment has been made more stringent.

3. It does not differentiate between assets stashed abroad and social security contributions of Indians in other countries, which they mandatorily paid while working there.

Nevertheless, the Act is welcome measure directed at cleaning the mess of black money in India, but it needs to be followed by other measures to bring back the black money home, by cooperation and collaboration with other countries.

How will India benefit from the membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation? Do you think SCO’s objectives are in consonance with India’s foreign policy aspirations? Examine.
SCO was formed in the year 2001 by group of 'STAN' countries along with Russia and china for the regional co-operation in military ,economy and culture to bring about overall socio-economic development int the central asia.The recent indications of India getting a full time membership is a very welcome sign for india and it reflects the need of India's role in bringing about the socio-economic development across central asia by other central Asian countries. .

SCO consist of nations which are highly rich in hydrocarbons and India being energy starved nation will highly benefit from the membership.The energy co-cooperation will increase and take to a new higher level apart from the co-operation arising out transitional bi lateral engagements.

India's foregin policy dealing with counter terrorism and insurgeny will get a fillip , as the SCO countries are also facing similar situation in the region.This will enhance strategic ties and intelligence exchanges thus promoting regional security.

India's bid for UNSC seat will get a boost since the vote of SCO countires will be important.With economic situation in the world in doldrums,SCO will provide india a new platform that will promote and enhance the regional trade thus giving boost to the economy.Participation in Trans- continent railway system will be benficial.

SCO will also prove another platform to settle the long standing boundary dispute with china and pakistan, and reducing the trust deficit and increase in overall activity of trade and people-to-people relationship.

Thue we can see that the SCO objectives are in overall concurrence with the India foreign policy in respect to military,economic and culture.And with India's entry it will only put India in right direction of socio-economic prosperity of India as well as in central asia and help in realising our PMs dream of achieving 'vasudeva kutumbakam'.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 08/07/2015

Critically evaluate India’s progress in achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Eight aspirational goals set out in the Millenium Development Goals to be achieved in 15 years which was started in 2000. The goals are set to eradicate extreme poverty & hunger, achieve universal primary education, reduce maternal mortality and infant mortality, reduce gender disparity, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria or other diseases, environment sustainability and global partnership for development.

Almost all countries have shown remarkable effort in meeting the target. The number of people now living under extreme poverty has declined from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 830 million in 2015.

India progress on achieving MDGs:

1. India has halved the number of people under extreme poverty. However, still India is carrying the highest number of hungry people in the world. China has shown remarkable achievement in this field that has now only 4 percent people under extreme poverty, it was 61 percent in 1990.

2. Maternal mortality ratio(MMR) was 190 in 2013 but the target is to achieve 109 MMR; similarly there is also slow progress in decline of Infant mortality ratio(IMR) from 88 in 1990 to 44 in 2012. Inspite of the schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram, the result is not overwhelming.

3. The country is still struggling with diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria or others. Although there is decline in HIV cases, but the country has third highest number of people infected with HIV.

4. Universalisation of primary education under the aegis of Sarva shiksa Abhiyaan is still not fully implemented. India has more number of school drop-outs. Many poor children is working as labourer in hotels and shops. Mid Day Mill scheme is launched to reduce drop-outs.

5. On the matter of environment, India is one of the few countries that has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions in relation to its GDP from 0.65 kg of carbon dioxide per $1 of GDP in 1990, which fell to 0.53 kg in 2010.

We have achieved 11 out of 22 MDGs target. We could have done more than that but with only 4.1% of GDP investment in public healthcare and 3.1% in education, this scenario is not going to change in the near future.
In your opinion, what should be the primary objectives of the New Development Bank being established by BRICS countries and how these objectives should be achieved? Discuss. (200 Words)Analyse the importance of Central Asian countries in India’s fight against terrorism.
BRICS countries is launching New Development Bank with initial capital of $100 billion. The objectives of the bank is to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects in their own countries as well as others.

This bank should not follow the principle of World Bank or IMF. The groupings have major population struggling with poverty, unemployment and basic infrastructure facilities. Hence the primary objectives of the bank should be The primary objectives of the NDB should be to achieve three zeros by 2050: zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions. This could be achieved only with the investment in social business projects. The social business is not a profit-driven but mission driven business.

Financing of capitalist projects will only be profitable to money-makers. The goal of NDB must be to unleash the potential of youths and with the use of innovative technologies, we can build social business to solve complex social, economic and environment problems. Currently, India is holding the largest population of youth generation and need of the hour to mobilise them in building social business so that inequality and disparity can be minimised.
For the sustainable development of the environment, financing of eco-friendly social businesses will be more profitable to the countries instead of serving the money-making businesses. The countries should be committed to eliminate non-renewable energy and zero-tolerance against greenhouse gas emission by 2050.

By following these strategies, NDB can set example for other funding organisation. Sustainable development, good governance and eliminating social problems should center theme for the newly created NDB.
Analyse the importance of Central Asian countries in India’s fight against terrorism. (200 Words)
Terrorism has acquired a new shape with the ISIS-Taliban cobweb spreading across the world. This has rung an alarm bell for India,which has one of the largest muslim population,but has so far been effective in insulating its population form the radicalism.but with the ISIS attaining a global presence by using internet to recruit its members world across,India needs to do more to counter the terrorism.

Pakistan and Afghanistan would have otherwise acted as a buffer to India against the spread of terrorism in the West Asia,but these two countries are themselves plagued with the terrorism.in such a case,Central asian countries play a major role.

Geopolitically,these countries provide a route to the Middle East.The middle east is already on the boil with a plethora of terrorist attacks taking place there.Sharing a border with the middle east,the terrorism might easily influence central asian countries.Hence if India indulges in information-sharing of such activities in these areas and take up counter-terrorist activities here,the spread of terrorists to India can be stopped,with the Central asian countries acting as a buffer for India.

Diplomatically,India has had good relations with Central asian countries since a long time,hence futher maintaining this relation will build a confidence in the muslim population in India,which might curb spread of radicalism in our country.

Economically,these countries have huge resources,especially oil.Development of ties on the economic front with this area will develop these countries,and economic development of the masses here will further curb the spread of terrorism here,helping India indirectly. One such step is the operation of the TAPI pipeline,which will economically affect the area.

Hence,the key to prevent spreading of terrorism in India is by harnessing the good relations with the Central Asian nations.
“The National Judicial Appointments Commission gives government primacy over judiciary”. 
NJAC act was notified by government after this was passed by parliament and half of the states.
NJAC act is enacted for replacing the collegium system of appointing the judges. 
As per NJAC composition it will have
1) CJI as ex-officio chairperson
2) Law minister
3) Two other supreme court judges
4) Two eminent personalities which will be selected by a committee of Prime Minister, CJI, leader of opposition.
In India democracy is based on separation of judicial powers frome executive and legislature.
Which is seen as the basic structure of Constitution and this cannot be altered .Now if two eminent personalities are chosen by PM and leader of opposition and also there is no qualification defined for these two persoanlities which gives a chance to government to interfere in the work of NJAC. Also, there are chances the person appointed by government will be easily influenced by government. Law minister inclusion in NJAC is also seen as the same interference.So it means government has three people in NJAC , two eminent personalities and one law minister which can influence all the appointments because any two person can veto any appointment but if we see same is the case with Judges, there will be three judges as well in NJAC , CJI and two supreme court judges. So it is not a primacy for government but a sure hindrance in case they dont agree. Which is seen as interferening Judicial work.

In a diverse country like India and also as per constitution Judicial Independence is must so it will be better if Judicial independence is maintained and for that we can clearly define the eligibility for two eminent personalities and also more judges can be included in that committee so that we can be sure that there was no government primacy.
Critically comment.Critically comment on the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act and its impact on Indian women.
The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 is one of the four hindu code bills enacted during Nehru regime in1956. This act defines guardianship relation between adults and minors as well as between people of all ages and their property .
according to the law-

1 .Father is the primary guardian for legitimate son and unmarried daughter and
mother is the secondary guardian
2. Mother is primary guardian only for children of age less than five.
3. For adaptive son adaptive father is the primary guardian and mother is the secondary guardian

This kind of law only strengthen the patriarchal system of society where legally too women are considered as secondary . Indian constitution talks about equality of men and women but still in some laws like this legal discrimination is common.

In many public and private institutions like schools, banks,for employments etc. name of the father is essential which again buttress the patriarchal system of society and makes the women’s position secondary.

With the recent SC judgment allowing unwed mothers to take legal guardianship of child without fathers's consent,earlier Sc's recognition of both father and mother as legal guardian ,are steps in a positive direction.and significant for children born out of sex workers and one step for safeguarding women's right.

Now the age old Law should be amended to give equal guardianship for both mother and father so that both can be equally treated keeping in view the interest of childrenand as another step towards women empowerment.
Write a note on the working principle of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) and its importance for India’s nuclear energy program. (200 Words) 
The primary energy resource for electricity generation in India is coal which is adequate to meet the energy demand for about 50-70 years (500 GWe). The potential of other resources like gas, oil, wind, sol ar and biomass is very limited with their attendant problems The only other viable energy resource is nuclear. India has а moderate uranium reserve (50,000 t) i.e. 1-4% of world reserve and а large thorium reserve (5,00,000 t) i.e. 25% of world reserve.
Nuclear energy program in India is being implemented in three stages . Natural uranium fuelled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors(PHWR) are in operation / under construction in the first stage . The plutonium generated from PHWR will be amplified through breeding in Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) in the second stage. This will facilitate launching of large scale Тh- U233 fuel cycle in the third stage. FBR also utilize natural uranium fuel very effectively (~75 % ) through breeding and thus provide а rapid energy growth potential (300 GWe for about 30 у) . They also constitute а clean source of power unlike fossil fuel power stations. Several operating FBR worldwide are witness to their environment friendly performance. The use of Thorium in FBR in the third stage makes it а much larger resource (1500 billion tonnes of coal equivalent) than the combined coal, oil and gas resources. Thus FBR provides long term energy security utilizing the indigenous uranium and thorium reserves .
Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam i s responsible for establishment of fast breeder technology in the country. 

The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, designed and developed the technology for the PFBR. They are called breeder reactors because they breed more fuel than they consume.

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam, an important part of the country’s three-stage nuclear power programme. In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product. the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium. A Stage III reactor or an Advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232-uranium-233 fuelled reactors. This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium.

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam(40 km from Chennai in Tamil Nadu), an important milestone in the country’s three-stage nuclear power programme. The surplus plutonium (or uranium-233 for thorium reactors) from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India's needs for power.Unlike conventional reactors that use water to transfer heat, a PFBR uses liquid sodium as coolant. The PFBR is part of the three-stage nuclear power program. The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting the country's energy requirements. This is of special significance to the Indian nuclear power generation strategy as India has one of the world's largest reserves of thorium, which could provide power for more than 60,000 years
In recent years massive corruption in the competitive exams for professional courses and government conducted at both state and national level is coming into light thanks to vigilant media and courageous whistleblowers. In your opinion, what are the causes and consequences of this type of corruption? Critically discuss. (200 Words)
The recent Vyapam Scam in Madhya Pradesh has brougt to light the very real and omnipresent system of corruption in competitive exams for professional and government courses , rampant but seldom brought to light in many of the states
The spate of scams in recruitment exams conducted for government jobs (Vyapam, UP-PSC) and professional courses (All India PMT) brings to light the clear nexus between recruitment agency officials, middlemen and aspirants seeking to take the easy way out.

Driven sometimes by economic pressures or simply by preference for the quickest road to success to get a 'secure government job' or a seat at an institution, aspirants fall in the trap of corrupt officials. Who in turn see this pool of short-cut seekers as a captive market..

The various causes which can be attributed to it are:-
1. Holding in high esteem , the professional courses as compared to simple degree courses which makes them a coveted entity.
2. Expectation of high dividends and returns on completion of these courses and hence a bee-line to get into them.
3. Unjustifiable desire of parents to channel their children in such courses which presumably offer better job perspectives in a highly unemployed economy and hence no hesitation in spending/investing huge amounts of money in them.

The consequences of such scams are:-
1 . Admission of incapable students in professional streams which makes the particular chosen field hollow at its base and so leads to its deterioration at gradual levels.
2. Exclusion of capable students who fail to gain positions in such courses illegitimately and hence ttheir moral and professional discouragement.
3. Rampant growth and encouragement of corrupt officials who carry on with their malpractices.

Ministers make a plea on Sec. 8
The A. P. Government has urged President Pranab Mukherjee to ensure the enforcement of provisions under Section 8 of the AP Reorganisation Act.
  • A delegation of Ministers of the A. P. State Cabinet recently called on the President and submitted a representation on the problems faced by the Government ‘owing to the confrontationist attitude adopted by the Telangana Government’.
  • The delegation apprised Mr. Mukherjee of the alleged tapping of telephones of 120 important functionaries of the AP Government and the TDP by the Telangana Government.
What is Section 8 all about?
  • Section 8 of AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 empowers the governor to have control over administration of law and order in Hyderabad.
  • It gives the Governor in the common capital area (Hyderabad) the special responsibility for the security, life, liberty and property of all those who reside in the area.
  • The Section grants special powers to the governor to ensure security in Hyderabad, the shared capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, for 10 years.
  • The provisions were incorporated by the UPA government to address the concerns of people hailing from Andhra and Rayalaseema but residing in the common capital.
  • Section 8 says the governor can, after consulting the council of ministers of Telangana, use his personal judgment and take action in matters relating to law and order, including police transfers in the shared capital.
  • The police commissioners of Hyderabad, Cyberabad and the SP of the neighbouring district of Ranga Reddy are also required to furnish reports on law and order frequently to the governor.
  • The Act says the governor’s decision is final and the validity of anything he or she does cannot be called into question.
Why it is in news?
The issue has come to the fore again following the allegations of the AP government that the phones of its leaders have been illegally tapped by the Telangana police.

Kalpakkam breeder reactor to go on stream
The 500-MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam is getting ready to be commissioned in September.
  • When the reactor goes critical, it will signal India’s triumphant entry into the second stage of its three-stage nuclear power programme.
About the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR):
  • It is a 500MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, India.
  • It will use plutonium-uranium oxide as fuel and 1,750 tonnes of liquid sodium as coolant.
  • The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) is responsible for the design of this reactor.
  • Total costs, originally estimated at 3500 crore are now estimated at 5,677 crore.
  • The PFBR is part of the three-stage nuclear power program.
  • A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes.
What is India’s 3-Phase Nuclear Power Programme?
The Indian nuclear power programme, launched in 1954, envisaged a three-stage development of nuclear power generation from the country’s uranium and thorium resources.
  • The first stage programme consists of setting up of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs). PHWRs are natural uranium-fuelled, heavy water moderated and cooled. The uranium reserves in the country are adequate to support the first stage nuclear power programme of 10,000 MWe through PHWRs. In addition to generating power, PHWRs progressively make available plutonium as a by-product. The technologies for the reprocessing of plutonium from spent PHWR fuel and for fabrication of plutonium bearing fuels have been systematically established in India through research and development over the past several years.
  • The second stage of the nuclear power programme consists of effective utilisation of plutonium in Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) which will provide the key to full utilisation of the country’s uranium resources and prepare the way for the long-term utilisation of the more abundant thorium reserves. FBRs enable generation of more fresh fissile material than is consumed for power production. With the deployment of FBRs, the depleted uranium and plutonium generated in the first stage will permit an additional power potential to the extent of 3,50,000 MWe.
  • During the later part of the second stage programme, it is proposed to use thorium as blanket material in FBRs to generate U-233, another fissile material for use in the third stage programme based on U-233 fuelled reactor systems.
The 3-stages of Nuclear Power Programme are:
  • Stage-I: envisages, construction of Natural Uranium, Heavy Water Moderated and Cooled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Spent fuel from these reactors is reprocessed to obtain Plutonium.
  • Stage-II: evisages, construction of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) fuelled by Plutonium produced in stage-I. These reactors would also breed U-233 from Thorium.
  • Stage-III: would comprise power reactors using U-233 / Thorium as fuel.

India on track in cutting poverty: MDG report
Recently released Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report 2015 shows that India has halved its incidence of extreme poverty, from 49.4% in 1994 to 24.7% in 2011 ahead of the deadline of 2015 set by the United Nations.

Details of the report:
  • The report has set the limit for extreme poverty as those living on $1.25 or less a day.
  • India’s reduction in poverty is still less than that achieved by several of India’s poorer neighbors. Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have each outstripped India in poverty reduction over comparable time periods.
  • India still remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people
  • The report says that India has already achieved 11 out of 22 parameters in the report—spanning issues like education, poverty, health, and education— and is on track to achieve one more by the end of 2015.
  • On the environment front, India is one of the few countries that has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions in relation to its GDP. India emitted 0.65 kg of carbon dioxide per $1 of GDP in 1990, which fell to 0.53 kg in 2010.
MDGs: What are they?

These are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. They were set to be achieved by 2015.
  • These are time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.
  • They are also basic human rights-the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.
  • Since the adoption, there has been significant progress in many of the goals. But the progress has not been uniform. The progress differs from country to country and even within the country.
The eight millennium development goals are:
  • Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
  • Achieve Universal Primary Education
  • Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  • Reduce Child Mortality
  • Improve Maternal Health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
  • Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  • Develop a Global Partnership for Development
  • Each goal has specific targets, and dates for achieving those targets.
Why can’t we bring you under RTI, asks SC
In a step towards making political parties publicly accountable for their financial assets, the Supreme Court recently asked six national parties, including the BJP and the Congress, to come clean and explain their hesitation in disclosing complete details of their income, expenditure, donations and funding, including donor details, to the public under the Right to Information Act.
  • The court has given the political parties six weeks to file their responses on why they should not be declared as “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act 2005, making them liable to disclose their financial assets to the public.
  • The CIC had declared all national and regional political parties to be public authorities under the RTI in its 2013 order. In March this year, it had reiterated the order as “final and binding.”
The order came based on a petition. The petition was filed by noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, and NGO Association for Democratic Rights (ADR).
  • The petition argues that political parties should come under the RTI as they play a core role in governance, and, in fact, enjoy a “stronghold” over their elected MPs and MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. The Schedule makes it compulsory for MPs and MLAs to abide by the directions of their parent parties.
  • It contends that it would be within the average voter’s fundamental right to information to know the financial details of political parties.
  • the petition says that under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 all political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration under sub-section (7) of Section 29A. Therefore, political parties so registered must furnish information to the public under the right of information under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India, since right of information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).
  • It also contends that the Law Commission of India in its 170th Report on ‘Reform of the Electoral Laws’ in May 1999 had recommended transparency in the functioning of political parties.
Five States seek time to roll out Food Security Act
The government will soon take a call on extending the September 30 deadline for implementation of the National Food Security Act as most States are not yet ready to roll out the programme.
  • Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Kerala have sought over a year to implement the Act while UP has asked for six months.
What the states say?
  • Tamil Nadu says that the State has a universal public distribution system and limiting priority beneficiaries under the NFSA will “open a Pandora’s box.”
  • Bihar protested the number of beneficiaries fixed for the State under the Food Security Act and said over one crore poor had been left out making it difficult to identify beneficiaries.
  • J&K sought at least a year as it was still reeling under the impact of the floods that wreaked havoc in the State last year.
  • Gujarat says that the State government was planning to connect PDS beneficiary data, NREGA card holders and Socio-Economic Caste Census statistics for which it required at least a year.
  • Kerala has also sought a year as it was having problems with computerisation.
About the National Food Security Act, 2013:
  • Also called as the Right to Food act, this act aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It extends to the whole of India.
  • Under the provisions of this act, beneficiaries are able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals at the following prices:
  • Rice at 3 Rupees per kg
  • Wheat at 2 Rupees per kg 
  • Coarse grains (millet) at 1 rupee per kg.
Salient features:
  • 75% rural and 50% of the urban population are entitled for three years from enactment to five kg food grains per month at 3 Rupees , 2 Rupees, 1 Rupee per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively.
  • The states are responsible for determining eligibility.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
  • Children 6 to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
  • The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supplies of food grains.
  • The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of food grains.
  • The Public Distribution System is to be reformed.
  • The eldest woman in the household, 18 years or above, is the head of the household for the issuance of the ration card.
  • There will be state- and district-level redress mechanisms and State Food Commissions will be formed for implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the Act.
  • The poorest who are covered under the Antodaya yojana will remain entitled to the 35 kg of grains allotted to them under the mentioned scheme.
  • The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion(1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.
No mining, polluting units in eco-sensitive zones, says Javadekar
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar recently held a review meeting with State Environment and Forests Ministers to review the progress of demarcation of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats region.
  • He also discussed the further course of action in keeping with the recommendations of the 2013 Kasturirangan Committee report. As per the report, commercial mining and polluting industries would be strictly banned in areas identified as eco sensitive zones.
  • The environment Ministers of six States viz. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat attended the meeting.
Kasturirangan Report:
The Kasturirangan panel was set up to study the Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats. The Gadgil panel report had faced unanimous opposition from state governments for recommending that almost three-fourth of the hills, including plantations, cultivated lands and large habitations, be turned into a restricted development zone with an over-arching authority to regulate the region superseding the elected authorities’ role.

Recommendations made:
  • Around 60,000 sq km of Western Ghats, spread across six states, should be turned into a no-go area for commercial activities like mining, thermal power plants, polluting industries and large housing plans.
  • It has suggested that 90% of the natural forests left in the Western Ghats complex – adding upto 60,000 sq km and constituting 37% of the entire hilly belt — be conserved under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) provisions of the green law. The forest area falling within the ESA would also cover 4,156 villages across the six states.
  • The panel has said, “The villages falling under ESA will be involved in decision making on the future projects. All projects will require prior-informed consent and no-objection from the gram sabha (village council) of the village.”
  • The panel has recommended that there should be a complete ban on mining activity in this zone and current mining activities should be phased out within five years, or at the time of expiry of the mining lease. It has banned development of any township or construction over the size of 20,000 sq m in the ESA zone.
  • It has not recommended a ban on hydroelectric projects in the zone, but put a regime of stricter clearances for dams and other projects.
  • The report suggests doing away with the complete moratorium on industrial and mining activity in the two Maharashtra districts of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. It has suggested persisting with the ban only on the area of the two districts falling within the ESA and a strict regulation in the rest.
  • The report has steered clear from demanding a strict ecological control over the Western Ghat complex requiring changes and regulations on agricultural practices the way Gadgil committee report had suggested.
Fergusson College wins heritage status
Pune’s Fergusson College has been accorded the special heritage status by the University Grants Commission (UGC). It was founded in 1885.
  • With this status comes financial assistance for its upkeep.
  • The college, with buildings of gothic architecture on its leafy, 65-acre campus, has long been regarded as a landmark educational institution in Maharashtra.
  • The college, named after James Fergusson, the then Governor of Bombay Presidency, had been moulded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, R.G. Bhandarkar and M.G. Ranade.
  • The alumni include two Prime Ministers, theatre and film artists and writers.
  • The college is among the 19 institutions in the country to get the heritage status.
  • The idea of granting the heritage tags was mooted by the Centre in 2013 to enable the universities to receive financial grants worth Rs 8-10 crore per annum from the government for the improvement and upgradation of their respective campuses and other academic disciplines.