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Daily News Analysis 17-03-2016

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

ESSENCE OF THE ARTICLE

1.         

 

India says safe neighbourhood will benefit all (Page 12)

a)     I.R

a)     India said that a peaceful and secure neighbourhood would yield rich dividends for SAARC countries even as it asserted that the time had come to take stock of the past decisions of the grouping on which there had been no movement.

2.

A new chapter in Myanmar (Page 10)

a)     International

a)    The election of U Htin Kyaw as Myanmars President is a watershed moment in its history. Htin Kyaws government would be its most democratic administration since 1962 when the military seized power.

3.

Putin sticks to his Syria plan (Page 11)

a)     International

a)     Russias military intervention was with the limited objective of changing the balance of power in the battlefield to bring stakeholders to the negotiating table.

4.

Parliament passes Aadhaar Bill amid acrimonious debates (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     Even as the Opposition aired its concerns over the possibility of mass surveillance, Parliament passed the controversial Aadhaar Bill 2016, after acrimonious debates in both Houses.

5.

Making India GI brand conscious (Page 11)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)     The current Indian legal framework for geographical indications needs to be strengthened to address quality control and consumer expectations.

6.

NPS can now be technically tax-free, says pension regulator (Page 15)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)     Retirement savings accumulated under the New Pension Scheme can now be totally tax-free at the time of withdrawal under certain conditions and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority had only urged the government to bring some parity in the tax treatment of different pension products it competes with, such as the employees provident fund.

7.

India to discuss trade curbs, projects at BRICS meeting (Page 16)

a)     Economy

a)     Official sources said the government is preparing a list of priority projects for which investments could be sought from other BRICS nations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

BACKGROUND

IMPORTANT POINTS

1.         

 

India says safe neighbourhood will benefit all (Page 12)

a)     I.R

a)    Indias neighbourhood first policy

b)     SAARC Standing Committee Meeting

c)     Convention on Terrorism, Narcotic Drugs and on Human Trafficking

a)     In his statement during the 42nd SAARC Standing Committee Meeting, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar said India was pursuing with vigour its neighbourhood first policy.

b)     He noted that the grouping had some useful agreements in the area of security, including the Convention on Terrorism, Narcotic Drugs and on Human Trafficking. However, he said the circulation of fake currency remained a challenge.

2.

A new chapter in Myanmar (Page 10)

a)     International

a)     Myanmar politics

b)     Myanmars Constitution

c)     National League for Democracy (NLD)

a)     The election of U Htin Kyaw as Myanmars President is a watershed moment in its history. Htin Kyaws govt would be its most democratic administration since 1962 when the military seized power.

b)     During this period, the generals ran a repressive regime that denied the people even basic democratic rights and isolated the country internationally.

c)     Finally a legitimate, democratic govt is in place, but there is deep disappointment at the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi (their rightful leader) could not become the President. A provision in the military-era Constitution bars Suu Kyi from assuming highest office as her children are foreign citizens.

d)     Her NLD lacks the parliamentary power to rewrite the Constitution. It was against this background that she nominated Htin Kyaw as the partys presidential candidate. Suu Kyi has made it clear that she will be in control of the government, irrespective of her constitutional status.

e)     Myanmar is one of poorest countries in Asia. In the years of isolation under the junta, economic growth stagnated, trapping millions in acute poverty. Getting the economy back on track is no easy task, and Myanmar will need regional and global assistance.

f)  Besides, though the generals have agreed to civilian takeover of political power, they still wield enormous influence over Myanmars institutions. One-quarter of seats in both Houses of Parliament are reserved for the military. This prevents any constitutional amendments without the militarys approval.

g)    The military also has direct control of three key Ministries: defence, home affairs and border affairs. Two recent actions of military indicate it is still not ready to cede influence over institutions completely. The first is its refusal to let Suu Kyi become the President.

h)     Second, by successfully getting Myint Swe (a controversial retired general who served the previous junta) elected as one of the two vice-presidents, the military has sent a clear message to the govt that it is not going to completely stay away from power.

i)     But the balance of power has clearly shifted in favour of the pro-democracy camp after the November elections. Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw will have to tread cautiously but purposefully to build on the democratic gains, and expedite Myanmars transition into a full democracy.

3.

Putin sticks to his Syria plan (Page 11)

a)     International

a)     Syrian civil war

b)     Islamic State (IS)

c)     Jabhat al-Nusra

d)     NATO

 

a)     Russian President Putins announcement on March 14 that the main part of the Russian military presence in Syria would be pulled out may have taken many by surprise. Most analysts and policymakers expected Russia to play a long-haul game in Syria.

b)     In Syrias case, the war against terrorism is unlikely to end in the foreseeable future, which would have provided Russia enough reasons to continue its military operations. But Putin said the objectives set for the Russian Defence Ministry have been generally accomplished.

c)     In the initial days of the intervention, Russian authorities had repeatedly claimed they would defeat terrorists in Syria. But they have not. After five-and-a-half months of Russian bombing, the IS still controls huge swathes of territory. Jabhat al-Nusra (an al-Qaeda affiliate) is also strong in parts of Syria.

d)     Though the Syrian regime has made advances in the war, a total victory still looks unimaginable. The intervention has actually damaged Russias ties with Gulf kingdoms and deteriorated its relations with Turkey, a NATO member country.

e)     Russia started its bombing campaign on Sept 30 at a time when President Bashar al-Assad was feeling the heat of rebel advances. The government was struggling with acute manpower shortage and its control areas shrunk to the Alawite coastal belt, while almost two-thirds of the country was lost to rebels and terrorists.

f)     The external supporters of the rebels (mainly Saudi Arabia and Turkey) had persistently called for Assad to quit. So did the Americans. Most rebel groups had made the removal of Assad as the countrys president a precondition for talks. International analysts predicted an imminent collapse of regime. Then came the Russians.

g)     From the beginning of their involvement, the Russians were accused of targeting rebel forces instead of terror groups. As it emerges now, it was part of the plan. Putin knew that the IS could not be defeated through air strikes.

h)     For a larger offensive against the IS, the Syrian state has to be restored, which could be possible only through direct talks between the govt and the non-jihadist opposition forces. But the opposition (expecting a collapse of the regime) was not ready for talks. Russia has altered this stalemate, by weakening rebel positions and bolstering the regime.

i)     Russia never believed in a military solution to the Syrian crisis. It had reportedly offered transition in Syria in 2012 to Western nations for political reconciliation, an offer the US and European powers rejected because they thought Assad would fall.

j)     Russias fundamental goal is to keep its military interests in Syria. Its the only country where Russia has a naval facility outside the former Soviet region. Second, Russia does not want the Syrian regime to collapse and result in chaos, which it thinks would be a breeding ground for terrorists.

k)     At the same time, Russia seems to have made a realistic evaluation of actual situation in Syria. Its extremely difficult to repair the reputation of President Assad. The rebels are well-armed and supported by regional and global powers. So a protracted war is unlikely to serve anybodys interest.

l)     The ceasefire in Syria is surprisingly holding for the past two weeks, which itself shows that the fighting factions were desperate for a cessation of hostilities. The opposition has virtually accepted that another Libya cannot be repeated in Syria. And Putins move has brightened the possibilities for a compromise. The rebels and their backers (including the US) should take cue from Russians and respond positively.

4.

Parliament passes Aadhaar Bill amid acrimonious debates (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill 2016

b)     Lok Sabha

c)     Rajya Sabha

d)     Parliament

e)     Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC)

f)     Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG)

a)     Even as the Opposition aired its concerns over the possibility of mass surveillance, Parliament passed the controversial Aadhaar Bill 2016, after acrimonious debates in both Houses.

b)     The amendments to the controversial Aadhaar Bill pushed through by Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and later rejected in the Lok Sabha included one that sought to prevent disclosure of biometric or demographic information in the interests of national security which was seen as too sweeping. It was suggested that national security be replaced with public emergency or in the interests of public safety.

c)     Another amendment related to permitting individuals with Aadhaar numbers to opt out of the system, with the Central Identities Data Repository deleting all information and authentication records, and giving a certificate to that effect within 15 days.

d)     A third amendment provided for alternative identification for delivery of services, subsidies and benefits to those choosing not to enrol for an Aadhaar number.

e)     A fourth amendment mandated the inclusion of the CVC of the CAG in the Oversight Committee. The fifth amendment sought the deletion of a clause that allows the Aadhaar number to be used for purposes other than those provided in the Bill.

f)    The govts contention is that Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill 2016 would provide for good governance and efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services. The Opposition wanted the legislation to have safeguards to avoid sensitive private information of the individual from being disclosed or accessed on the whim of the Executive.

5.

Making India GI brand conscious (Page 11)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)     Make in India programme

b)     Indian Intellectual Property (IP) regime

c)     Geographical Indication (GI)

d)     Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act 1999 (GI Act)

e)     Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Agreement

f)     World Trade Organisation

 

a)     According to the author, one of the objectives of the Make in India programme is to improve and protect the Indian IP regime. The steps envisaged to achieve this objective include increased posts in IP offices, e-filing facilities, major fee reduction for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, holding awareness programmes etc.

b)     A less discussed IP right in this context is geographical indications. GIs indicate goods as originating in a specific geographical region, the characteristics, qualities or reputation thereof essentially attributable to such region.

c)     GI-branded goods possess a recall value amongst consumers who essentially attribute these characteristics, qualities or reputation to such geographical origin.

d)     Europe has been protecting GIs since the 1800s.

e)     GIs support and protect local production (as opposed to global production), generate local employment and are mostly untouched by industrialisation, originating in villages or small towns.

f)     Since consistent quality is a must in GI-branded goods, and often cements itself as a consumer recollection point, producers are expected to diligently follow specific production methods.

g)     Complying with World Trade Organisation obligations, India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 and has set up a registry in Chennai to register such names.

h)  Covering agricultural goods, manufactured and natural goods, textiles, handicrafts and foodstuffs, the GI Registrys website lists 238 registered names as of March 2016. While the list has popular GIs like Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea and Pashmina shawls, many names on the list are lesser known or never heard of, despite being in existence for decades.

i)     With emphasis laid on innovation, new initiatives and robust infrastructure, IP rights like patents, designs and trademarks can prima facie find a place in the Make in India programme. Despite the gradual rise in GI registrations, the role and scope of GIs in the Make in India programme has perhaps remained unnoticed in discussions.

j)   Considering that GI-branded goods can be made 100 percent in India without need for any FDI and that they can promote socio-economic development of the respective regions, GIs are perhaps the most ideal IP rights to foster and realise a programme like Make in India.

k)     The European law on the protection of names relating to agricultural goods and foodstuffs (ECR 1151/2012) recognises that GIs give a competitive advantage to producers and enable consumers to make more informed choices by providing clear information on origin-specific products and their characteristics.

l)     To preserve this consumer trust, the European law mandates: (i) effective verification and controls at multiple levels in the supply chain, ensuring compliance with product specification before placing it in the market and (ii) market monitoring of the use of the names to ensure legal compliance.

m)     In contrast, Indias GI Act does not lay much emphasis on inspection and monitoring mechanisms for GI protection. The only two references thereto appear in the enabling rules in Rule 32(6)(g) and Form GI-1. While Rule 32(6)(g) requires an applicant to list particulars of the inspection structure (if any) to regulate the use of GI, Form GI-1 perfunctorily asks for the details of an Inspection Body.

n)     The current Indian legal framework for GIs needs to be strengthened to address quality control and consumer expectations by insisting on multi-layered quality control systems as a precondition for registration. Other important issues faced by GI producer bodies are market access and funding for enforcement and marketing.

o)     Every region in India boasts of many locally produced unique goods and this law, with a few amendments to fill the serious missing gaps described above, coupled with diligent implementation can turn into a magic wand for the Make in India programme.

6.

NPS can now be technically tax-free, says pension regulator (Page 15)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)     New Pension Scheme (NPS)

b)     Employees Provident Fund (EPF)

c)     Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)

d)     National Pension System

a)     The regulators Chairman said that the retirement savings accumulated under the NPS can now be totally tax-free at the time of withdrawal under certain conditions and the PFRDA had only urged the government to bring some parity in the tax treatment of different pension products it competes with, such as the EPF.

b)     The govt had introduced a tax on 60 percent of EPF savings at the time of retirement in the Budget in a bid to make the NPS (savings under which were fully taxable at retirement) more attractive. At the same time, it made 40 percent of NPS accumulations tax-free. While EPF tax provision was rolled back last week, the partial tax break for NPS remains.

c)     He said our request was that the NPS should be brought on par with other pension products. Still, this exemption of upto 40 percent of the retirement corpus is a very big step that the govt has taken and it brings us closer to EPF and other pension products.

d)    The pension fund regulator (under the administrative control of the Finance Ministry) conceded that tax treatment of retirement savings has become a tricky thing, but asserted that it was not pitching for NPS to be made totally tax-free.

e)     The NPS which is now also referred to as the National Pension System, has 1.18 crore members, including state and central govt employees. It has assets of over Rs.1.15 lakh crore. By contrast, the EPF organization under the Labour Ministry oversees assets over Rs. 10 lakh crore.

7.

India to discuss trade curbs, projects at BRICS meeting (Page 16)

a)     Economy

a)     BRICS meeting

b)     Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI)

c)     Micro, Small and Sedium Enterprises (MSME)

d)     Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

 

a)     Official sources said the government is preparing a list of priority projects for which investments could be sought from other BRICS nations.

b)     They said the list of big projects (in addition to a proposal to set up a mechanism to expeditiously resolve non-tariff barriers that are hurting goods trade between BRICS member countries) will be taken up for discussion during the next months meeting of the groupings CGETI.

c)     Investments would be sought for projects (mostly in infrastructure sector) from other member nations viz. Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa

d)     The CGETI meeting sets the agenda for the BRICS trade and economy ministers meeting

e)     India is chairing the influential bloc BRICS for an 11-month term till Dec 2016. Indias list of projects will be similar to what Russia brought out during its term as the chair of the BRICS Group last year.

f)     The Russian list had included about 60 projects in oil and gas, coal, water resources, high-tech manufacturing, mining, engineering, aviation, agriculture, transport and logistics, information technology and satellite communication, many of which were to involve participation from companies, including those from India.

g)     India is also likely to put up a proposal at the CGETI meeting to boost services trade through relaxed visa norms. Besides, India will seek cooperation between BRICS countries on standards and technical regulations in goods and services trade.

h)     Russia and China are pitching for measures easing of norms to boost e-commerce trade. Russia and Brazil are demanding a mechanism to link the single window clearance mechanisms in the BRICS countries for better trade facilitation.

i)     Russia had also sought a mechanism to regularly discuss issues related to MSME in BRICS countries as well as the creation of a BRICS MSME Internet portal. China is keen on improved cooperation in intellectual property rights.

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