Contents

  1. China and Pakistan sign military deal
  2. GST inflows top Rs. 1 lakh cr. 2 months in a row
  3. Environmentalists allege Violations in Chardham project
  4. Nobel Peace Prize to Leaders of Nations: Disappointment
  5. NREGS Demand: More panchayats have logged work

CHINA AND PAKISTAN SIGN MILITARY DEAL

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

China and Pakistan have signed a new military memorandum of understanding to boost their already close defence relationship, as China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General met Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad.

Details

  • Both the countries “exchanged in-depth views on the international and regional situations, the relations between the two countries and militaries, the equipment and technology cooperation and other issues”.
  • China also discussed on-going projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in which the Pakistani military is playing an increasingly prominent role.

China – Pakistan Relations from India’s Perspective

  • Pakistan has collaborated with China in extensive military and economic projects, seeing both seeing each other as counterweight to Indian-Western alliance.
  • With escalating border tensions leading to the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China and Pakistan aligned with each other in a joint effort to counter India and the Soviet Union as both have border disputes with India.
  • One year after China’s border war with India, Pakistan ceded the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China to end border disputes and improve diplomatic relations.
  • Since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Pakistan has supported China on most issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet and other sensitive issues such as human rights.
  • Since then, an informal alliance that initially began as mutual opposition towards India has grown into a lasting relationship that has benefited both nations on the diplomatic, economic and military frontiers.
  • Along with diplomatic support, Pakistan served as a conduit for China to open up to the West.
  • China has in turn provided extensive economic aid and political support to Pakistan.
  • In the past, China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, especially when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire plutonium and uranium enriching equipment from elsewhere such as the Chinese help in building the Khushab reactor, which plays a key role in Pakistan’s production of plutonium.

Military relations

  • There are strong military ties between China and Pakistan.
  • This alliance between two neighbouring East-South Asian nations is significant geopolitically.
  • The strong military ties primarily aim to counter regional Indian and American influence, and was also to repel Soviet influence in the area. In recent years this relationship has strengthened through ongoing military projects and agreements between Pakistan and China.
  • Since 1962, China has been a steady source of military equipment to the Pakistani Army, helping establish ammunition factories, providing technological assistance and modernising existing facilities.

Gwadar Deep Sea Port

  • China is the largest investor in Pakistan’s Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.
  • It is viewed warily by both the U.S. and India as a possible launchpad for the Chinese Navy, giving them the ability to launch submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean.

-Source: The Hindu


GST INFLOWS TOP RS. 1 LAKH CR. 2 MONTHS IN A ROW

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Gross revenues from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) crossed the Rs. 1 lakh crore mark for the second month in a row – With the collections in November 2020 being 1.4% higher than a year ago but a tad lower than October’s collections.

Details and Significance

  • The pick-up in GST revenues over the last two months could reduce the shortfall in GST compensation dues to States, but economists urged caution till December to assess if the economy is truly out of the woods after the festive demand factor has played out.
  • Cumulatively, the GST revenues from the first eight months of 2020-21 reflect a 17.4% dip from the GST revenues collected in the same period of 2019-20.
  • During the month of November 2020 – revenues from imports was 4.9% higher and revenues from domestic transaction (including import of services) are 0.5% higher than the revenues from these sources during the same month last year.
  • The average pace of growth in GST collections in October-November 2020 stood at a moderately healthy 6%.
  • The trends regarding the sustainability of demand will be clearer in the data on the GST collections for December 2020, which will be for the transactions that took place in the month of November 2020.
  • Among the major States, Andhra Pradesh (12%), Gujarat and Jharkhand (11%), followed by Tamil Nadu (10%), were the only ones to record double-digit growth in November’s GST revenues compared to a year ago.

-Source: The Hindu


ENVIRONMENTALISTS ALLEGE VIOLATIONS IN CHARDHAM PROJECT

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

Environmentalists have alleged that the contractors deputed by the government to make roads as part of the Chardham project are violating the Supreme Court orders on the appropriate road width to be followed in mountainous terrain.

Details

  • Environmentalists pointed out that hill cutting was rampant with mountain ecosystems being irreversibly harmed in the process.
  • Details of vulnerable sites and areas for muck disposal were provided to the Supreme Court-constituted High-Power Committee (HPC).

Chardham Project

  • Char Dham Expressway National Highway is a proposed two-lane (in each direction) express National Highway in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • Under the prestigious ‘Char Dham’ road project costing about ₹12,000 crore, BRO is constructing 250 km of national highway leading to the holy Hindu shrines of Gangotri and Badrinath.

The proposed highway will complement the under-development Char Dham Railway by connecting the four holy places in Uttarakhand which are:

  1. Badrinath
  2. Kedarnath
  3. Gangotri
  4. Yamunotri

All of these four sites are devoted to a specific deity. Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the 12 jyotirlingas and Badrinath, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Himalayan Ecology and Char Dham Project

  • The proposed four-lane expressway to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Bardinath in the hill state has been among the flagship projects of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The project evoked widespread concern among environmentalists and has been challenged in the courts.
  • Environmentalist groups, led by the Dehradun-based Citizens for Green Doon, had filed petitions last February in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) contending that the project was proceeding without environmental clearances and debris was being disposed haphazardly.
  • But the idea of the 900-kilometre road network in the sensitive mountains of Uttarakhand drew scepticism from environmental activists who fear the highways and the tourists they would bring in will be at the cost of the ecological balance.
  • In 2019, Supreme Court ordered the setting up of an independent committee to take a view on whether the Centre’s ambitious 900 – kilometre, ₹12,000 crore ambitious Char Dham project to improve road network connecting pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand, needs to be “revised” to minimise its ecological damage.
  • The order has modified portions of the earlier NGT order regarding the constitution of the High-Powered Committee (HPC).
  • It would consider the “cumulative and independent impact” of the Char Dham project on the Himalayan ecology.

-Source: The Hindu


NOBEL PEACE PRIZE TO LEADERS OF NATIONS: DISAPPOINTMENT

Focus: GS-II Governance

National Leaders – Winners of Nobel Peace Prize and Disappointments

Ethiopian Prime Minister: Abiy Ahmed

  • Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, and until 2019 he was hailed as a beacon for democratising Ethiopia and befriending Eritrea.
  • With ethnic tensions spiralling, Mr. Abiy resorted to violent means to manage the nationwide turbulence as it can be seen by the launch of a large-scale military offensive against separatists in the restive Tigray province, which led to the deaths of possibly thousands and forced tens of thousands to flee as refugees.

Columbian President: Juan Manuel Santos

  • Mr. Santos won the Peace Prize in 2016 for ending the decades-long civil war with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas.
  • Despite his image as a peacemaker, Mr. Santos’s presidency saw continuing paramilitary excesses and rampant human rights violations by agents of the state.

Myanmar’s State Counsellor: Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was chosen to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while in house arrest for her courageous activism against military dictatorship and her campaign for democracy.
  • But once she assumed the title of State Counsellor in 2016 under a power-sharing arrangement with the military in Myanmar, calls for revoking her Prize echoed in international public discourse.
  • Ms. Suu Kyi’s decision to team up with the repressive armed forces and defend her government at the International Court of Justice against charges of genocide of the Rohingya triggered a global uproar.
  • Several other awards heaped on her have lately been rescinded, with Amnesty International slamming her for “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for”.

U.S. President: Barack Obama

  • The Nobel Committee gave the 2009 Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama.
  • Shortly after receiving the Prize, Mr. Obama ordered an American troop surge in Afghanistan, deepening a bloody war.
  • In 2011, he also backed a disastrous military intervention in Libya and subsequently abandoned it when there was chaos.

Conclusion: Unrealistic expectations

  • It is unrealistic to expect Nobel Laureates running government machineries to behave like saints.
  • Giving the Nobel Prize to sitting prime ministers or presidents is inherently risky and these recipients should not be held to the gold standard of a Mother Teresa or Malala Yousafzai.
  • If one adopts a less perfectionist lens, all the problematic Nobel Laureates have done some good and some harm.
  • Unless the Nobel Committee consciously avoids picking incumbent politicians altogether in the future, there will always be reasons to be dejected by such Laureates’ records in hindsight.
  • Understanding them in their political contexts and in particular moments may help us reach a balanced final judgment.

-Source: The Hindu


NREGS DEMAND: MORE PANCHAYATS HAVE LOGGED WORK

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • An analysis of data available up to November on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) portal shows that demand for work has been at all-time high.
  • Despite a progressive relaxation in Covid-19 curbs to revive the economy, 96% of the gram panchayats have logged work under the scheme in the financial year (2020-21) as compared to previous seven years.

Details

  • The NREGS is a demand-based scheme and has emerged as a safety net during the pandemic for jobless migrant workers returning to their villages
  • The number of gram panchayats generating nil person days of work during the current financial year are at an eight-year low of only 3.42% of the 2.68 lakh gram panchayats across the country.
  • Over 96% of gram panchayats across the country have registered demand for work under NREGS from April till November-end.
  • Over 6.5 crore households, covering 9.42 crore individuals, have availed NREGS till November 2020, which is an all-time high.
  • The wage expenditure has also reached an all-time high of Rs. 53,522 crores during this period.
  • Highest demand for work came from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Tamil Nadu has reported the highest figure of households that availed the NREGS across the country, since July and has been followed by West Bengal.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA, is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • It covers all districts of India except the ones with 100% urban population.
  • MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
  • Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.

Features of MGNREGA

  1. It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  2. Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  3. It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.

Objectives of MGNREGA

  1. Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
  2. Increase economic security
  3. Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas

How MGNREGA came to be?

In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:

  1. Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
  2. Infrastructure Development
  3. Enhanced Food Security

This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.

-Source: Indian Express

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