Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 07/07/2015

Prime Minister’s Visit to Central Asia
Prime Minister on 6th July left for Central Asian tour encompassing 6 countries i.e. Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and Russia. During this tour India will touch upon wide array of issues such as culture, security, natural resources and connectivity. Along with bilateral visits are the multilateral summits of BRICS and SCO at Ufa in Russia.

India considers Central Asia as its extended neighborhood, but geographical barriers makes them appear remote than any other country of the world. India as we know has been blocked by Pakistan and China. It depends solely on Iran for any connectivity. There have been sustained negotiations from last few decades’ connectivity and energy supplies, but so far India has not received even a meagre return on Investment. Region’s politics is extremely complex for India. It needs a pragmatic and dynamic personality in seat to break ice with Central Asian leader and that’s what Indian PM will be focusing on. In past, P.V. N. Rao, A.B. Vajpayee and M.M. Singh visited central Asian countries, but it made little difference. It was only J. Nehru who visited all 5 central countries in one visit in 1955 and he had exemplary understanding of culture of the region.

Till partition British India had regional (in turn cultural) contiguity with Central Asia, but after about 70 years of minimal contacts, that land appears alien. Central Asians on the other hand have strong nostalgic feeling about India which they still refer to as Hind or Hindustan. People to people contacts are minimal. These countries are having very strict visa regimes so tourism is almost nonexistent. India enjoys ample goodwill of Central Asians. But China with its deep pockets and accessibility has left little space for India. Economies of these countries almost wholly depend upon China and Russia.

China has developed unique understanding with these nations under which it extends loan meant for developing oil and gas sector of a particular Central Asian country and in repayment of that loan China is supplied Oil and Gas for decades. This is a win-win situation as it provides market for Oil and gas exploration companies of China, while it also takes care of its energy starved economy. On Indian side TAPI project is being negotiated, but its success depends upon Pakistan’s cooperation which is unlikely.

Connectivity for trade is another big problem. Current Imports from Central Asia moves all the way to Xinjiang, then to Shanghai and finally arrives at Mumbai, opposite route for exports. Currently trade with Russia happens through St. Petersburg. It’s absurd that trade with our ‘extended neighborhood’ takes longer time and costs than that with any other region of the world. So, India is investing heavily in Chabahar port of Iran which will be extended to Afghanistan through Delaram- Zaranj highway. International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is also being developed. This will be multimodal (sea, road, rail) corridor Linking India (Mumbai), Iran, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

It should be noted that India’s connectivity with Central Asia depends solely with Iran. Otherwise proactive current government has so far not given any significant impetus to India- Iran relations. It remains to be seen that what transpires after settlement of nuclear deal with Iran.

Security angle to this visit is of utmost importance. New global threat of ISIS has influenced Central Asia significantly as thousands are participating in conflict on IS’s side. Further, almost every threat to Indian establishment in history has emerged from Central Asia. Stability in Afghanistan is crucial for stability of world and depends much upon Central Asia. This is even truer when Americans are leaving and there is political immaturity and vacuum in Afghanistan.

If history tell us anything, it is that cultural and people to people links are much decisive than financial links. India is poised to loose dollar to dollar contention with China, but culturally people are relatively close to India. It was seen in recent electoral outcomes in Sri Lanka that people resent excess economic dependence on or alignment with a powerful country like China. Public was suspicious about Rajapaksa government’s over reliance on China, so they removed him through ballot. In contrast, if cultural links are established, then government is bypassed and this is an indestructible link.

Chinese ex-FM to be AIIB chief
China has named its former Finance Minister, Jin Liqun, as its choice to head the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is being seen as a rival to the U.S. and Europe-dominated banking institutions.
  • Former Finance Minister Jin Liqun has been formally nominated by China as its preferred candidate to head the $100 billion AIIB. He is currently the secretary-general of the interim multilateral secretariat for establishing AIIB.
Why he was chosen?
Since, China has 26.06% share of the votes in AIIB it gives China veto power over the choice of the president, which requires a 75% majority.

What about the vice-president?
India by virtue of being the second largest shareholder may get the post of vice-president.

India mulling proposal to join Eurasian Union
India is considering the option of signing a pact with the EEU, which has Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia as members, and will see the inclusion of Tajikistan later this year.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to Russia and five Central Asian nations could expedite the feasibility studies under way to assess whether India should sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
  • For this purpose, a joint study group, headed by a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, has been constituted and has been mandated to study the benefits of joining the trade bloc.
  • An invitation to join the bloc was extended by Russia, and a joint statement for establishment of a joint study group between India and the EEU was signed when Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited Russia recently.
How India will be benefitted?
  • India has to protect investment and trade from becoming imbalanced. It also has to ensure that its goods are not discriminated against. Hence, it is best for India to gain access to all important trade blocs.
  • India is keen to enhance its ties with the Central Asian countries, which have huge oil and gas reserves and are an important link to Afghanistan.
  • It will be an opportunity for improving trade ties as well as foster relations to check the menace of growing radicalization in the region.
About Eurasian Economic Union:
  • The Eurasian Economic Union is an international organization for regional economic integration. It has international legal personality and is established by the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • It provides for free movement of goods, services, capital and labor, pursues coordinated, harmonized and single policy in the sectors determined by the Treaty and international agreements within the Union.
  • The Member-States of the Eurasian Economic Union are the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.
  • The Union was created to comprehensively upgrade, raise the competitiveness of and cooperation between the national economies, and to promote stable development in order to raise the living standards of the nations of the Member-States.
  • The Supreme Council is the Union’s supreme authority. The Heads of the Member-States form the Supreme Council.
  • The Intergovernmental Council is a Union’s body consisting of the Heads of the Member-States Governments.
  • Eurasian Economic Commission is a permanent supranational regulatory body of the Union, with its members appointed by the Council of the Commission and the Board of the Commission. The core tasks of the Commission are fostering the conditions to support the operation and development of the Union, and drafting proposals in the field of economic integration within the Union.
  • The Court of the Eurasian Economic Union is the court of justice of the Eurasian Economic Union, which ensures the uniform application of the EAEU Treaty and other Union treaties by the Union Member-States and bodies.
  • The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 176 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars (PPP).
Controversial Meiji sites get world heritage status
The UN’s cultural body recently conferred world heritage status on a number of new sites including some seen as representative of Japan’s industrial revolution, as South Korea lifted its opposition to the listing.
  • UNESCO’s World Heritage committee added 23 sites considered representative of Japan’s industrial revolution under Emperor Meiji (1868-1910) to its vaunted list.
  • The 23 Meiji period (1868-1912) sites include coalmines and shipyards that Japan says contributed to its transformation from feudalism into a successful modern economy.
  • Japan is celebrating the sites’ inclusion, which is expected to boost tourism and opens up sources of funding for preservation work.
  • Inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list can bring economic benefits, because as well as being a powerful tourist draw, world heritage sites are eligible for financial assistance towards preservation.
South Korea had, in the past, opposed the application for world heritage status unless clear reference was made to the use of an estimated 60,000 labourers forced to work at seven of the sites, including the island coalmine Gunkanjima, during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

The period from 1868 until 1912 in Japan is called the Meiji era – after the name chosen by the young prince Mutsuhito, when he followed his father to the throne. Meiji means in Japanese ‘the enlightened rule’. During the Meiji period Japan underwent a stunning development from a medieval society to a leading economic and military power in Asia.

The BRICS countries are planning to create a currency pool under the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and officially launch their New Development Bank (NDB) in the upcoming Ufa summit in Russia. Critically examine the intentions behind such a currency pool and its likely consequences. (200 Words)
The Contingent Reserve Arrangement(CRA) as a part of NDB and the proposed creation of currency pool under it , is being launched by BRICS nations with intentions to provide protection against global liquidity pressures and when a member nation's currency issues is adversely affected by global financial pressures .It would also provide assistance to other countries suffering from the economic volatility.The initiative and it's different aspects are summarized as below:-
Positive impacts:-
1. the proposed currency pool would reduce the dependence of BRICS nations on dollars and euros for international trade and payments thus, serving as an alternative currency to the these traditionally dominant currencies of the Western nations in the international exchange and trade markets.
2.would reduce the risks of member nations from any volatility in the international market by shielding their currencies from any severe affects and allowing mutual trade to go unabated without mutual payments into dollars and euro .
3.The CRA will serve as buffer to overcome short-term liquidity pressure and meet unexpected risks or balance of payment burdens.
4. will facilitate currency swap among member countries and insulation to local economy and banks in the event of impositions of sanctions and financial embargoes .

Negative aspects or grey areas:-
1. dollar and euro are still the two most tradeable currencies in the international exchange market for trade and payments .It will be hard to challenge their dominance and promote any other currency as alternative .
2. The benefit of the currency pool under CRA would be limited to the trade and payments within the BRICS members only.Most of the BRICS members have far more trades in terms of volume and amount with non-BRICS nations than among themselves . 
However, the existing supremacy of the U.S. dollar, the new currency order likely to be set by CRA may not necessarily be a full alternative but it is sure a welcome beginning in that direction.

Critically analyse the way national education policy in India has evolved since independence, its changing objectives and various challenges it is facing since then. (200 Words)
India’s education policy since Independence got initiated with the University Education Commission [1950], Secondary Education Commission [1952] and the Education Commission [1964]. 
- The National Policy on Education [NPE, 1968] marked a turning point with focus on equal opportunity in education for national and economic integration.
- The 42nd CA Act, 1972 shifted Education to Concurrent List setting the stage for further reforms.
- Thereafter, NPE, 1986 provided for a national curriculum, "child-centered approach" in primary education & inclusive opportunity for women, SCs & STs and higher education reforms
- 86th CA Act, 2002 made Education a Fundamental Right under Article 21-A, and imbibed it in Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties. 
- In 2009 the Right to Education Act increased enrolment and propelled primary

Yet, despite huge efforts, the education policy faces following challenges, among others:
- Huge rate of drop outs in primary and elementary education
- Weak teaching faculty coupled with training facilities, outdated curriculum and poor infrastructure
- Exam oriented with focus on rote-learning system
- Poor employability of graduates 
- Wide disparities across socio-religious groups, genders and regions

The New Education Policy should tackle these challenges head-on and focus extensively on ACCESS, EQUITY and QUALITY, instead of propagating the same technocratic orientation.

It was recently reported that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is opposed to India’s labour reform measures. Write a critical note on these measures and examine why ILO is opposing to them.
Recently, a slew of measures that have been proposed by the Indian government in order to reform labour laws in the country ,have come under the criticism of several trade unions including the International Labour Organisations(ILO) .Some of these measures along with the positive and negative aspects of these proposed amendments are summarized as below:-
Positive aspects:-
1.a single online compliance portal providing for self-certification, would simplify procedures and complexity of filling compliance with the labor laws ,reducing the number of forms from 16 earlier to just 1,providing more business and investment friendly environment .
2. extending the liability for ensuring the safety of an instrument used in the factory to the designer of that instrument and mandating shelters and restrooms .
3.setting up universal account numbers (UAN) for Provident Fund holders UAN would mean portability of accounts of EPF subscriber,allowing them to transfer or register their accounts to any EPF available.
Negative aspects :-
1. Among the many amendments proposed to the Factories Act of 1948, one proposes to exempt units that employ 20 workers (instead of the present 10) if there is electricity and 40 workers (instead of the present 20) if there is no electricity, from the purview of the factories law. These numbers were set long ago. Apparently, if these amendments were passed, some 50% of the factories would no longer come under the purview of the factories law. 
2. a single online compliance window that ends surprise inspections by labor inspectors and in which a computerised lottery system will decide which factory is to be inspected might reduce compliance scrutiny and checks on industries. 
3.might lead to rampant and abrupt firing of laborers by industries. 
All these negative aspects are some of the concerns raised by the ILO and trade unions.

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