Background – Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Xi Jinping of China on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Tashkent . President Xi welcomed India’s accession to the SCO and said it would strengthen it. Prime Minister Modi thanked President Xi for China’s support to India’s membership of the SCO. Prime Minister Modi then spoke of the NSG Plenary Meeting in Seoul which is to discuss India’s membership of the NSG. The Prime Minister urged China to make a fair and objective assessment of India’s application and judge it on its own merit. He said China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation :-
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasianpolitical, economic, and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russian Federation, 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. On July 10, 2015, the SCO decided to admit India and Pakistan as full members.
India and SCO – Future Prospects:-
Challenges and Opportunities
India’s membership in the SCO will add significant heft and muscle to the Organization particularly in the backdrop of the anaemic international economy. India is the fastest expanding major global economy today, with annual GDP growth of 7.5 per cent. It represents the third largest economy (USD 8 trillion) in PPP terms and the seventh largest (USD 2.3 trillion) in nominal dollar terms.
It inspires confidence on other indicators like FDI, inward remittances, savings rate, pace of economic reforms, etc. Its large market, favourable demographics and technological prowess augur well for the other economies of the grouping. Its growing energy demand promises an assured market to resource rich (oil, gas, uranium, coal) Central Asia and Russia.
SCO will need to assume responsibility for providing security in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the withdrawal of US and NATO ISAF forces. India will be able to play its due role in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan which is assuming disturbing proportions due to the Taliban’s increasing attacks.
Terrorism and radicalism are the most formidable challenges confronting the region and international community today. India has been a victim of terrorist attacks for the last 30 years. Battling with terrorism has provided invaluable perspicacity to the Indian security establishment in intelligence gathering, training, foiling terrorist operations, etc. The threat of terrorism to the SCO region is particularly grave on account of continuing violence in Afghanistan, which can embolden regional groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, etc. to destabilize governments in Central Asia.
The scourge of radicalism also looms large over the region with the expanding influence of the Islamic State (IS) and the reported desertion of several members of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, etc. to join the IS ranks. Several hundred young men and women have fled their homes in Central Asia to bolster IS forces that are spreading to Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India can share its experience of handling the twin scourges of terrorism and radicalism with SCO members to mutual benefit. India can also enhance its engagement with the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Central Asia is part of India’s extended neighbourhood. But India and Central Asian countries have failed to realize the immense potential in promoting security, political, economic, trade, investment, energy ties because of the lack of common land borders. Another reason is the lack of frequent visits at the highest level to Central Asian States. SCO membership will provide a welcome opportunity for Indian Prime Ministers to meet the Presidents of Central Asian States regularly and frequently. India’s potential participation in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will add further value to the partnership.
To obviate the lack of direct land connectivity with Central Asia, and Pakistan’s refusal to provide access through its territory, India is actively collaborating to develop the Iranian seaport of Chabahar with possible financial and technical support from Japan. The agreement to develop Chabahar and associated rail-network at a cost of USD 500 million was signed by Prime Minister Modi with the Presidents of Iran and Afghanistan during his recent visit to Iran. India has also prioritized the construction of the International North-South Transport Corridor.
Central Asia represents the ‘’near-abroad’’ for Russia. Both India and Russia can collaborate for reciprocal benefit in several areas including agriculture, SMEs, pharmaceuticals, IT, etc. India has demonstrated its determination to strengthen its multi-faceted relations with Central Asia through Modi’s historic visit to the five Central Asian Republics in July 2015. Several Agreements were signed. The Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline whose construction commenced in December 2015, is a bright example of a mutually beneficial project.
Some commentators have expressed concern that the induction of India and Pakistan could shift the focus of SCO from Central Asia to South Asia and could disrupt the SCO’s smooth and consensual functioning through an emphasis on India-Pakistan bilateral disputes. This appears highly unlikely. India’s only objective is to engage with SCO members to promote peace, security, connectivity, energy trade, people-to-people contacts and economic development in the region.
Some Chinese analysts opine that the membership of India and Pakistan will provide a role for the SCO to mediate in their disputes. The argument advanced is that the SCO’s predecessor, the Shanghai Five, was established to demarcate boundaries between its member states. It successfully achieved this. This appears to be wishful thinking. India has made it abundantly clear that there is no role for third-party mediation in India-Pakistan conflict. A resolution is possible only when Pakistan stops using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
India’s membership of the SCO is a win-win proposition for the Organization, for Central Asia, for Russia, for China as well as for India. Members will reap huge benefits if they conduct themselves with responsibility.
NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
Background :-The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had ordered a hospital in Mumbai to pay Rs 12,000 to a patient who had contracted HIV 20 years ago after blood transfusion.Based on the data revealed by The National Aids Control Organisation, in India, at least 2,234 people are reported to have been infected with HIV while getting blood transfusions in the last 17 months.
It is a quasi-judicial commission set up in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.The commission is headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. Section 21 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 posits that the National Consumer shall have jurisdiction:-
> To entertain a complaint valued more than one crore.
> It also has Appellate and Revisional jurisdiction from the orders of State Commissions or the District fora as the case may be.
> Section 23 of the Act provides that person aggrieved by an order of NCDRC, may Appeal to Supreme Court of India within a period of 30 days.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
> It is a benevolent social legislation that lays down the rights of the consumers and provides for promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers.
> The Act mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness.
> The Central Council is headed by Union Minster In-charge of the Dept. of Consumer Affairs and the State Councils by the Minister In-charge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Governments.
> It also provides for a 3-tier structure of the National and State Commissions and District Forums for speedy resolution of consumer disputes.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) :-
The Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, participated in the First Annual General Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) held at Beijing, China recently.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) :-
Headquarters :- Beijing, China
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an international financial institution that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.
The bank has 37 member states (all “Founding Members”) and was proposed as an initiative by the government of China.The initiative gained support from 37 regional and 20 non-regional Prospective Founding Members (PFM), all of which have signed the Articles of Agreement that form the legal basis for the bank.
The United Nations has addressed the launch of AIIB as having potential for “scaling up financing for sustainable development for the concern of global economic governance.The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
Issues with LED :-
Excessive blue light emitted by light emitting diodes (LED) can adversely impact human health, according to a report recently released by the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Science and Public Health. The report looked at LED street lighting on U.S. roadways.
The human eye perceives the large amount of blue light emitted by some LEDs as white. Blue light directly affects sleep by suppressing the production of the hormone melatonin, which mediates the sleep-wake cycle in humans.
Compared with conventional street lighting, the blue-rich white LED street lighting is five times more disruptive to sleep cycle.
The correlated colour temperature (CCT) of first-generation LEDs, which are currently used, is 4,000K. Higher CCT values indicate greater blue light emission, and in the case of 4,000K LED lighting, 29 per cent of the spectrum is emitted as blue light.
However, at 3,000K, the blue light emitted is only 21 per cent and appears “slightly warmer in tone”. While discomfort and disability glare is reduced, there is only a 3 per cent drop in energy efficiency compared with 4,000K LED lighting.
Monetary Policy Committee :-
Recently the Government amended the RBI Act to hand over the job of monetary policy-making in India to a newly constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
What is it?
The new MPC is to be a six-member panel that is expected to bring “value and transparency” to rate-setting decisions. It will feature three members from the RBI — the Governor, a Deputy Governor and another official — and three independent members to be selected by the Government.
A search committee will recommend three external members, experts in the field of economics, banking or finance, for the Government appointees. The MPC will meet four times a year to decide on monetary policy by a majority vote. And if there’s a tie between the ‘Ayes’ and the ‘Nays’, the RBI governor gets the deciding vote.
Why is it important?
Until recently, India’s central bank used to take its monetary policy decisions based on the multiple indicator approach. Its rate decisions were expected to take into account inflation, growth, employment, banking stability and the need for a stable exchange rate.
As you can see, this is a tall order. Thus, RBI (with the Governor as the focal point) would be subject to hectic lobbying ahead of each policy review and trenchant criticism after it. The Government would clamour for lower rates while consumers bemoaned high inflation. Bank chiefs would want rate cuts, but pensioners would want high rates. RBI ended up juggling all these objectives and focussing on different indicators at different points in time.
To resolve this, RBI set up an Expert Committee under Urijit Patel to revise the monetary policy framework, and it came up with its report in January 2014. It suggested that RBI abandon the ‘multiple indicator’ approach and make inflation targeting the primary objective of its monetary policy.
It also mooted having an MPC so that these decisions could be made through majority vote. Having both Government and RBI members on the MPC was suggested for accountability. The Government would have to keep its deficit under check and RBI would owe an explanation for runaway inflation.
The MPC may put a stop to the public skirmishes between the Government and the RBI. But with the RBI governor holding the casting vote, don’t expect controversies to die down.
National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP)
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP).The NMEP primarily aims at accelerating the exploration activity in the country through enhanced participation of the private sector.
The policy emphasizes on making available baseline geoscientific data of world standards in the public domain, quality research in a public-private partnership, special initiatives for search of deep-seated and concealed deposits, quick aerogeophysical surveys of the country, and creation of a dedicated geoscience database etc.
The Ministry of Mines will carry out auctioning of identified exploration blocks for exploration by private sector on revenue sharing basis in case their exploration leads to auctionable resources.
If the explorer agencies do not discover any auctionable resources, their exploration expenditure will be reimbursed on normative cost basis.
Government will carry out a National Aerogeophysical Program for acquiring state-of-the-art baseline data for targeting concealed mineral deposits.
A National Geoscientific Data Repository is proposed to be set up to collate all baseline and mineral exploration information generated by various central & state government agencies and also mineral concession holders and to maintain these on geospatial database.
Government proposes to establish a not-for-profit autonomous institution that will be known as the National Centre for Mineral Targeting (NCMT) in collaboration with scientific and research bodies, universities and industry for scientific and technological research to address the mineral exploration challenges in the country.
On the lines of UNCOVER project of Australia, the government intends to launch a special initiative to probe deep-seated/ concealed minerals deposits in the country in collaboration with National Geophysical Research Institute and the proposed NCMT and Geoscience Australia.
Ministry of Railways has taken another seminal measure by launching ‘NIVARAN’, an online system for redressal of service related grievance of serving and former railway employees.
Railways being the single biggest civilian employer in the country with over 1.3 millions strong workforce, have created a well – structured multi layered enterprise wide mechanism for addressing staff matters.
This online system facilitates the employees to lodge their grievances and also monitor their progress. The system would also provide facility for lodging appeal to the higher authority in case the decision is not found satisfactory. Highest controlling authorities shall also be able to monitor the progress of grievance redressal by field offices.
The Application is developed by CRIS, the IT arm of Indian Railways, on the basis of process designed by Establishment directorate of Railway Board which deals with staff matters and technical guidance of Computerisation and Information System directorate.