Current Affairs: 09-08-2017

PRELIMS

India, Iran call for early operationalisation of Chabahar Port

Topic: International relations

Why in news?

India and Iran have expressed commitment for early completion and operationalization of Chabahar Port besides strengthening bilateral ties.

Both countries in a series of meetings held during the Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari two-day visit to Iran to attend the inauguration of Hassan Rouhani second tenure as President.

Key Facts:

Both countries reviewed and assessed the progress in implementation of the decisions taken during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016, including the progress in the development of Chabahar Port. India also has conveyed its readiness to aid Iran in taking up operations in Chabahar Port during the interim period between the actual activation of contract.

Background:

India had requested Iran for an early submission of loan application for Chabahar Port Development to Exim Bank of India so that the contract agreement can be activated. The Iranian side earlier had requested India to provide up to $150 million credit and had made it a condition for activation of the Chabahar Port contract. The application for loan to Exim Bank of India is still awaited.

Chabahar Port:

Chabahar port is strategically located in the southeastern Sistan-Balochistan province, on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran’s border with Pakistan. In May 2016, India and Iran had signed a bilateral agreement, under which India agreed to refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600-metre long container handling facility at the port.

Signicance of Chabahar Port

  • Alternative route to Afghanistan: The Chabahar port, intended to provide an alternative route for trade between India and Afghanistan, by bypassing Pakistan. It will also ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan whih will lead to better economic ties between them. It will also ease connectivity to Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 which give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway. From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port can also be used for humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.
  • INSTC: It will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. It can signicantly boost import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India from Afghanistan. It can also help to reduce import cost of oil to India .
  • Countering Chinese presence: It will be benecial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea as China with help of Pakistan is developing the Gwadar port which is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

 

Government constitute committee to make drugs more affordable

Topic:Health related issues

Why in news?

The Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers has constituted a committee of joint secretaries for ensuring enhanced affordability, availability and accessibility of drugs for the citizens.

The committee will suggest ways to make pricing policy in favour of poor patients.

Terms of reference of the committee:

  • The committee will review the scope of Drugs (Price Control) Order 2013 (DPCO 2013) and suggest ways for strengthening the regulatory provisions of the order. It will also suggest ways to make DPCO 2013 more comprehensive in light of past experience of implementing the order.
  • It will also delve into making the existing mechanism for collection of market based data on prices of medicines more robust. It will also suggest ways for strengthening the existing pharmaceutical database management system. It will also look at procedural improvements and process of re-engineering in National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to ensure better and quicker implementation of the government policy and bring greater transparency to reduce litigations and review petitions.

 

ASEAN, 50 years on:

Topic:International groupings and agreements

Context:

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can look back with optimism on its incremental record on regional integration on the 50th anniversary of its founding on 8th August.

The policy of non-interference:

  • The original policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states was noteworthy.
  • But over the years, there has been growing appreciation that non-interference, if perceived as indifference, entails political cost, impeding more substantial engagement.
  • There has been recognition that the bloc’s expansion to cover ten countries, with highly diverse economic, political and cultural moorings, calls for a greater convergence of policies and more coordinated action.
  • China and India’s emergence as major economic powers has lent greater urgency to trade liberalization.
  • It then in 2007 led to adopting a legal charter with a mandate to establish free movement of goods, services, capital and skilled personnel by ASEAN.
  • With the 2015 launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, the bloc is on the threshold of realizing its ambition of emerging as an integrated single market and to engage the rest of the world with a unified voice.
  • Still there is little noticeable action on the ground in relation to reduction of tariffs, and intra-regional trade.

Comparison with European Union (EU):

  • The relatively slow pace of economic integration in the group, compared to the European Union is inherent.
  • The result was the establishment of transnational bodies, with definite powers of oversight, by pooling sovereignty among nations in the case of EU.
  • Contrariwise, except Thailand, the other original constituents of ASEAN had just emerged from colonialism as newly independent nation states.
  • Defending their sovereignty was bound to be a high priority for them during the Cold War, while their leaders were alive to the need to promote their collective security through a common framework.
  • ASEAN’s integration depends on deepening its democratic institutions.

 

MAINS

Putting an end to racism

Topic: GS-1, Social issues

Context:                                               

The Union home ministry, considers to make changes to the Indian Penal Code to make attacks which are racial in nature and are likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of religious or racial groups as “non-bailable’’ offences with a minimum three year jail term.

Ethnic relations in India:

  • Ethnic relations in Indiahave historically been complex.
  • “Ethnic relations” refers to attitudes and behaviors toward people of other ethnicities or races.
  • India is extremely diverse ethnically, with more than 2,000 different ethnic groups.
  • Furthermore, within India, there is also significant diversity within regions, and almost every province has its own distinct mixture of ethnicity, traditions, and culture.
  • Throughout the history of India, ethnic relations have been both constructive and destructive.

Examples of constructive relations are as follow:

  • People of different religions and castes take part in each other’s festivals and celebrations.
  • At times, people of one religion have provided protection an event held by individuals of another faith.
  • Inter-caste marriages occur, and have helped to decrease inter-caste discrimination.
  • Certain state governments now encourage inter-caste or inter-faith marriages by providing incentives.
  • People visit the shrines of other religions. For example:
  • Some Hindus visit Ajmer Dargah, an Islamic shrine; meanwhile, some Muslims visit the Hindu Sabarimala temple and Vavar shrine.

Examples of destructive relations are as follows:

Attacks on Africans:

  • The recent attacks on Africans have raised concerns about the safety of foreigners in India and an alarming trend of hate crimes and racism in the country. For example:
  • On Monday, March 27, 2017 hundreds of people in New Delhi went on a mob rampage and attacked several African students.
  • It was not the first time that Africans living India have faced brutal attacks. Experts say these incidents reflect on the growing xenophobia and a deep-rooted racism in Indian society against “dark-skinned” people.
  • Over the years India, an attractive destination for Africans for higher studies and medical tourism, has been wooing Africa for business opportunities.
  • But these attacks will affect bilateral ties adversely.
  • It will damage recent Indian initiatives to promote people-to-people contact under India-Africa forum summit initiatives.

Discrimination against North-East Indians:

  • In recent years there have been many reports of discrimination against people from North-East India.
  • Young people from the northeast, about 15,000 a year, have been making their way to the capital, fleeing the insurgencies and looking for better education and work opportunities.
  • It isn’t just physical differences that make people from the northeast stand out in a big city but the fact that the northeast is geographically distinct from the rest of the country, connected to it by just a narrow strip of land known as the Siliguri Corridor.

Anti-discriminatory laws that exist in India:

Racism laws deal with any discrimination against anyone on the basis of race. Any words, signs attempting to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, or indulging in any activity intended to use criminal force or violence against a particular race shall make the person indulging in such activity liable.

  • According to the Right to equality of the Constitution of India there shouldn’t be any discrimination on basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth etc.
  • Article 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of Constitution of India deals with right to equality.
  • There are few laws which have been passed by Indian legislature dealing with anti-discrimination. These include:
  • Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • There is also Hindu Succession Act, 1956 under which daughters are given equal inheritance rights, now.
  • Recently in July, 2017 the Home Ministry has proposed to amend two provisions in the IPC, that is, Section 153A and Section 509A.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram have given their assent to the proposed law.
  • Three Union Territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshwadee have also agreed to the Centre’s proposal.

Suggestions: the need for a strict anti-discriminatory law:

  • In the absence of an anti-discrimination code, there is no comprehensive statutory definition of discrimination that takes into account different manifestations of discrimination and its impact.
  • India’s external affairs and home ministries need to make concerted efforts to sensitise the police and the public at large about how racism contradicts the nation’s past and present ideals.
  • One way to do this is to raise awareness about how Indians and people of Indian origin are able to live peacefully and prosper in African countries and other parts of the world.
  • In addition, the external affairs ministry should have a department dedicated to addressing human rights violations against foreigners in the country.
  • Indian NGOs also have a role to play.
  • They can lead community awareness programmes against racism and push for adequate legislation, drawing on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (2001).
  • As most Africans in India are students, the human resources ministry needs to hold anti-racism campaigns on university campuses.
  • Educational institutions in India should be told about the importance of scholarship programmes for Africans.
  • Efforts should also be made to educate Indian students about African countries.
  • Anti-racism sentiments should be discussed at the commencement of every India-Africa summit and should be formalised in treaties.
  • Societies do not change on their own, we need to create conditions for this change, which includes identifying groups and areas that are perpetrating these kind of hate attacks. 

 

 

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