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Daily News Analysis 21-03-2016

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

ESSENCE OF THE ARTICLE

1.         

 

Japan says Indias nuclear MoU legally binding (Page 12)

a)     I.R

a)     Days before PM Modis visit to Washington DC for the Nuclear Security Summit, a senior Japanese diplomat told that India had committed to adhere to the control of nuclear material, traceability of nuclear fuel and consequence in case of a nuclear accident under the MoU on civil nuclear cooperation with Japan signed during PM Shinzo Abes visit to India in 2015.

2.

Standing up to patent bullying (Page 11)

a)     I.R

a)     The Modi govt must stop engaging US bureaucrats as patent consultants and instead showcase the Indian patent statute as an exemplar for a balanced regime.

3.

Hill-country Tamils dont want to be called Indian Tamils (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     Hill-country Tamils in Sri Lanka do not want to be called Indian Tamils anymore. This nomenclature of theirs has been a source of political and administrative discrimination and social antipathy, besides carrying a historical baggage.

4.

Tibetans-in-exile vote for a new political leader (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     Thousands of Tibetans-in-exile around the world voted for a new Parliament as well as for their choice of Sikyong (term for the so-called PM-in-exile), with more than 90,000 eligible to vote, a majority of them in India.

5.

Excitement high ahead of Obamas visit (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     President Obama embarked on March 20 on a historic trip to Cuba where a red-carpet welcome was prepared for him.

6.

Smart rate cut in small savings schemes (Page10)

a)     National

b)     Social issue

a)     BJP-led govt has decided to act boldly and slash interest rates on several Centrally sponsored savings schemes.

7.

Will GPF rate track PPF cut? (Page 15)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)     While the government has defended its move to cut rates on small savings schemes from April 1 2016, its own employees are anxious about the prospect of a similar lowering of interest on their retirement savings under the General Provident Fund or GPF.

8.

Palakkad Gap eco-restoration drive a non-starter (Page 8)

a)     National

b)     Environment

a)     The much-hyped Palakkad Gap eco-system restoration efforts initiated by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board last year with the active involvement of 17 local bodies and the Social Forestry wing of the Forest Department continues to remain a non-starter in spite of the claims that it would help address escalating heat in the region in the coming years.

9.

UNESCO updates protected biosphere reserves list (Page 20)

a)     Environment

b)     Geography

a)     The United Nations cultural body UNESCO has added 20 new sites to its network of protected biosphere nature reserves, including two in Canada and two in Portugal.

 

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

BACKGROUND

IMPORTANT POINTS

1.         

 

Japan says Indias nuclear MoU legally binding (Page 12)

a)     I.R

a)     India – Japan relations

b)     Civil nuclear cooperation

c)     Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

d)     Nuclear Security Summit

a)     Days before PM Modis visit to Washington DC for the Nuclear Security Summit, a Japanese diplomat told that India had committed to adhere to control of nuclear material, traceability of nuclear fuel and consequence in case of a nuclear accident under MoU on civil nuclear cooperation with Japan signed during PM Shinzo Abes visit to India in 2015.

b)     Though the bilateral agreement leaves out Indias military nuclear programme, experts warn that the agreed principles impinge on Indias independent nuclear programme as they imply intrusive inspection of civilian nuclear reactors as warranted under the Nuclear NPT.

c)     However, top experts on nuclear affairs describe the MoU as a backdoor attempt to draw India into the NPT.

d)     The principles of traceability and control over nuclear material are highly intrusive measures that will be used by the Japanese to trace the nuclear fuel that Japanese-origin reactors sold to India will contain.

e)     The MoU may destabilise Indias established nuclear deals with Russia and France as they too may demand similar commitments previously denied to them.

2.

Standing up to patent bullying (Page 11)

a)     I.R

a)     India – US relations

b)     United States Trade Representative (USTR)

c)     Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)

d)     World Trade Organisation (WTO)

e)     Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

f)     India National Intellectual Property Rights policy

a)  Earlier this month, the media reported that India privately assured US that it will not issue any more compulsory licenses. This report was reminiscent of a theory propounded by psychologist Lenore E. Walker in 1979 on abusive patterns in relationships.

b)     For years, the PhRMA has pounded India using the Office of the USTR (an administrative body) as its chosen mechanism to repeatedly criticise India and unfairly escalate issues on a yearly basis. The preaching from PhRMA filtered through the USTRs pressure tactic has been in complete disregard of the impact on Indias sovereignty and public health.

c)     The USTR process is a documented attempt to dominate and direct other countries trade postures. The process allows the US to unilaterally exert pressure indirectly to amend laws or cease fair implementation of local laws although the US has agreed to multilaterally resolve all disputes.

d)     Importantly, the legality of such unilateral Special 301 process of the USTR is shaky under the WTOs jurisprudence. Yet, it allows the US to cite the USTRs Special 301 process to take control of the dialogue - this forms Walkers second stage of the abusive cycle.

e)     The announcement from India, though, landed the country into the third stage. India is in classic third stage, with PM Modi attempting to pacify President Obama by instituting a committee to create a National Intellectual Property Rights policy long after the statutes were amended to become compliant with the WTOs Agreement on TRIPS.

f)     Now, the private announcement to not implement an important flexibility (compulsory license) established as a safeguard to protect public health firmly posits India into the end of the third stage of abuse. According to Walker, the fourth stage is a phase of relative calm and peace, which we hope India will enjoy.

g)    If there is a cautionary note here, it is that reconciliation never ends the cycle of abuse. Assuredly, neither PhRMA nor the USTR will relent or retract from this pattern until India economically harms itself by instituting TRIPS and other measures leaving the Indian generic industry on a suicidal path.

h)     Meanwhile, the Modi govt needs to appreciate that compulsory license is an important flexibility that countries negotiated as part of their membership with the WTO. India has one of the most sophisticated compulsory licensing provisions which is fully compliant with the TRIPS agreement.

i)     Under the Indian law, compulsory licenses can be granted on several grounds including satisfying eeasonable requirements of the public with respect to patented invention, ensuring availability to public at reasonable price, meeting the demand for the patented product, and tackling national public health emergencies.

j)     Importantly, compulsory licensing forms a part of a larger package of flexibilities that India negotiated with the support of other G-77 and African countries in the Doha Development Round. These are valuable concessions that India cannot afford to forget or renege from.

k)     In any event, it is best for the Modi govt to stop engaging US bureaucrats as patent consultants and instead showcase the Indian patent statute as an exemplar for a balanced patent regime to the rest of the developing world.

3.

Hill-country Tamils dont want to be called Indian Tamils (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     Sri Lanka internal issues

b)     Sri Lankas new Constitution process

c)     Indian-Origin Malayaha Thamilar (IOMT)

d)     Tamil Progressive Alliance

 

a)     Hill-country Tamils in Sri Lanka do not want to be called Indian Tamils anymore. This nomenclature of theirs has been a source of political and administrative discrimination and social antipathy, besides carrying a historical baggage.

b)     Making use of the ongoing process of constitutional reforms, the community wants the issue of identity to be resolved. It is particular that its identity should refer (wholly or partially) to a territory in Sri Lanka, even though certain sections of the community are not in favour of disowning their roots completely.

c)     Highlighting the issue of identity, a report prepared by experts on the initiative of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (a coalition of three parties representing the hill-country Tamils) has suggested that the community be called Indian-Origin Malayaha Thamilar.

d)   The report also suggests the establishment of non-territorial council for IOMTs, consisting of elected and nominated representatives of community.

e)     On the contentious issue of merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the document is for retaining the present structure of nine Provinces, which means that it does not favour the merger.

f)     As for the adoption of federalism, another long-standing demand of Tamils in North and East, the document describes Sri Lanka as a union of Provinces/regions, while seeking maximum devolution.

4.

Tibetans-in-exile vote for a new political leader (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     Tibet elections

a)     Thousands of Tibetans-in-exile around the world voted for a new Parliament as well as for their choice of Sikyong (term for the so-called PM-in-exile), with more than 90,000 eligible to vote, a majority of them in India.

b)     Final results for the 45 parliamentary seats are expected by April 27th, while the Sikyong results may be in by mid-April, as votes are collated from US, South America, Europe and other regions.

c)     The Sikyong post itself is not recognised officially by any country, but is part of the self-styled Central Tibetan Administration that looks after the welfare of lakhs of Tibetan refugees.

d)     The current Sikyong, the Harvard-educated Lobsang Sangay is hoping to be re-elected for another five-year term, but is pitted against the Speaker of the current Parliament Penpa Tsering.

5.

Excitement high ahead of Obamas visit (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     US – Cuba relations

b)     US embargo on Cuba

c)     Cold War

 

a)    President Obama embarked on March 20 on a historic trip to Cuba where a red-carpet welcome was prepared for him.

b)     The 3-day trip (the first by a US President in 88 years) is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in Dec 2014) ending a Cold War-era estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959.

c)     Since rapprochement, the two sides have restored diplomatic ties, signed commercial deals on telecommunications and scheduled airline service.

d)     Little progress on the main issues is expected when Obama and Castro meet on March 21.

e)    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide said it has signed three hotel deals in Cuba, a first for a US hospitality company since the 1959 revolution on the communist-run island. This came on the eve of US President Obamas historic visit.

f)     For Afro-Cubans, the presidential trip carries a special charge, a hope that an African-American leaders near-universal popularity among Cubans of all races will help end lingering prejudice and inequality.

g) Cubas state ideology of race-blindness means theres little official discussion of race, and few programmes to help black Cubans overcome the legacy of slavery and segregation.

h)     For many in Cuba, of all races, Obamas historic status as Americas first black President is inextricable from his history-making role in restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba and moving toward normalisation.

6.

Smart rate cut in small savings schemes (Page 10)

a)     National

b)     Social issue

a)     Employees Provident Fund (EPF)

b)     Public Provident Fund (PPF)

c)     Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP)

d)     National Savings Certificates (NSC)

e)     RBI

f)     US Federal Reserve

a)     BJP-led govt has decided to act boldly and slash interest rates on several Centrally sponsored savings schemes. The decision will upset senior citizens, and the salaried middle class that forced the govt to reconsider its decision to tax a portion of the EPF corpus upon withdrawal.

b)  The govt has also decided to reset these rates every quarter. The objective is to align them with market rates. It has not come all of a sudden: there were enough hints to indicate that the government is not averse to shedding its populist mindset and looking to deal with economic issues from a realistic perspective.

c)     For instance, the govt has excluded people above an annual income threshold from availing of the subsidy for LPG for household use. And though the govt finally abandoned the Budget 2016 proposal to tax EPF, it was a clear indicator of things to come.

d)     Viewed in this context, there is a method in the manner in which the government has set out to implement its economic agenda. Its latest action on small savings could yet deliver the unkindest of cuts to its core constituency, the middle class.

e)     For, the rate cut covers a broad spectrum of schemes, including the Public Provident Fund, the Kisan Vikas Patra and the National Savings Certificates. Surprisingly, the cut has also not spared schemes with a larger social intent, such as those for girl children and senior citizens.

f)     Read in tandem with US Federal Reserve decision last week to keep its interest rate policy unchanged, the rate cut on the Centrally backed small savings schemes must clear the way for the RBI to lower its policy rates. Though the RBI had slashed its key policy rate by 125 basis points in 2015, banks had been extraordinarily reluctant to pass on the full benefits to borrowers.

g)     The rate cuts on savings schemes represent a necessary course correction to right the distortions in the system. It will also inevitably usher in a competitive cost structure in the economy for the greater public good. The cuts make good economic sense, and the govt should stand firm on it.

7.

Will GPF rate track PPF cut? (Page 15)

a)     National

b)     Economy

a)      General Provident Fund (GPF)

b)     Public Provident Fund (PPF)

a)  While the govt has defended its move to cut rates on small savings schemes from April 1 2016, its own employees are anxious about the prospect of a similar lowering of interest on their retirement savings under the General Provident Fund.

b)     Historically, the rate of return credited to all govt employees under the GPF has moved in tandem with the returns on PPF investments.

c)     On March 18, the govt announced that the PPF rate has been lowered from 8.7 percent this year to 8.1 percent for the first quarter of 2016-17.

d)     The 8.7 percent rate on GPF and other govt staff PFs remains in effect till further orders. Last April, while notifying the interest rate on all state PFs including the GPF, the govt said it had decided to link these rates to the PPF rates for 2015-16. However, the PPF rates would now be recalibrated every quarter.

8.

Palakkad Gap eco-restoration drive a non-starter (Page 8)

a)     National

b)     Environment

a)     Palakkad Gap

b)     Western Ghats

c)     Bharathapuzha river

d)     Deforestation

e)     Global warming

 

 

 

a)     The much-hyped Palakkad Gap eco-system restoration efforts initiated by Kerala State Biodiversity Board last year with the active involvement of 17 local bodies and the Social Forestry wing of the Forest Department continues to remain a non-starter in spite of the claims that it would help address escalating heat in the region in the coming years.

b)     The 45-km Palakkad gap in the Western Ghats is facing serious environmental destruction largely owing to indiscriminate sand and granite mining. Massive deforestation is killing the Bharathapuzha and its tributaries, which flow through the area, and its highly fragile eco-systems.

c)  Biodiversity Board initiative was aimed at rejuvenating the river eco-system by restoring the green cover.

d)     It was also perceived as a step to counter the challenges posed by global warming, destruction of wildlife habitats and adverse changes in land use pattern.

9.

UNESCO updates protected biosphere reserves list (Page 20)

a)     Environment

b)     Geography

a)     UNESCO biosphere reserves list

b)     Isle of Man

c)     Mexicos Isla Cozumel

d)     Island of Sao Jorge

e)     Tajo River

 

 

a)   The UN cultural body UNESCO has added 20 new sites to its network of protected biosphere nature reserves, including two in Canada and two in Portugal. The total number of biosphere reserves is 669 across 120 countries.

b)     In Canada, the Tsa Tue area in the countrys Northwest Territories that includes the last pristine arctic lake was added to the list, as was the Beaver Hills region of Alberta, which has a landscape formed by a retreating glacier.

c)  Britains Isle of Man (located in the Irish Sea in a biologically diverse marine environment) and Mexicos Isla Cozumel were also selected for the network.

d)     And in Portugal, the entire Island of Sao Jorge (the fourth largest in Azores Archipelago) was designated a reserve in addition to Tajo River region between Portugal and Spain.

e)     The list of new UNESCO biosphere reserves also includes sites in Algeria, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines and Tanzania.

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