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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 30 October 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Women to be trained on par with men at the NDA
  2. No money left in MGNREGA coffers
  3. India-EU trade talks to resume by December 2021
  4. Indian military ineffective sans Russian equipment

 


Women to be trained on par with men at the NDA

Context:

Chief of the Army Staff said that the training of women at the NDA will be on par with the men.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the recent developments regarding Women in NDA
  2. Background on Women in defence services
  3. About the Supreme Court Judgement on Permanent Commission
  4. Important Observations in the SC Judgement on Permanent Commission for women
  5. Gender equality without adhering to any bias

About the recent developments regarding Women in NDA

  • The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in September 2021, sought applications from women to appear in the examination for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Naval Academy.
  • Physical standards and the number of vacancies for women candidates would be notified after it is received from the Ministry of Defence.
  • That comes after the Supreme Court passed the judgement for the induction of female candidates into the National Defence Academy (NDA) without any delay / postponement (as request by the Centre).
  • The admission of the women candidates in the national defence academy and naval academy examination (II), 2021, will remain provisional and subject to the final outcome of a writ petition pending in the court or such other order(s) as may be passed by the Supreme Court and action by the government.

Background on Women in defence services

% of women officers is more in Indian air force than army and navy.

 2017201820192020
Indian Army94981936401
Indian Air Force59595100
Indian Navy57385418 (in progress)
  • Indian Army is committed to comply to the judgement of Hon’ble Superme Court passed on 17th February, 2020 granting permanent commission to the women officers as per their qualification, professional experience, specialization, if any and organization requirement.
  • The commanding posts in the Indian Air Force (IAF) are decided purely on merit basis.  There is no embargo for detailment of women officers for Commanding Officers’ post in the IAF.
  • Male and female officers inducted into the Navy in various Branches/Cadres/Specialisations under similar schemes are treated at par and without discrimination for posting/billeting.

About the Supreme Court Judgement on Permanent Commission

  • The Supreme Court had ruled on February 2020, that the Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for the permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.
  • The verdict came on a nearly 10-year-old appeal filed by the government against the 2010 decision of the Delhi High Court to grant SSC women officers permanent commission.
  • The court ordered the government to implement its judgment in three months.
  • The court dismissed the government’s stand that only women officers with less than 14 years of service ought to be considered for permanent commission, and those with over 20 years of service should be pensioned immediately.
  • The court has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • Later the Supreme Court on March 2020, upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.

Important Observations in the SC Judgement on Permanent Commission for women

  • The Supreme Court dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype” and declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.
  • All the “excuses” given against the Permanent Commission for women- including motherhood and physiological limitations, reeked of a stereotypical mind-set.
  • The battle for gender equality is about confronting the battles of the mind.

Gender equality without adhering to any bias

  • The spirit of the order is the principle of non-discrimination. According to Article 16, Gender only cannot serve as the basis for inequitable and unequal treatment in any sphere, including in defence forces.
  • It also held that right to equality under Article 14 needs to be prescribed by a right to rationality that forbids any “blanket” and “absolute” prohibition.
  • There are examples of women soldiers in combat roles like in Israel, Germany, US and Australia.
  • This gender equality can be achieved by establishing professional standards and adhering to them without any bias.
  • The framework for the induction of women should be incorporated into a policy. As for the concern of preserving the female officers’ modesty and dignity, there should be elaborate codes of conduct to ensure no adverse incident occurs.

-Source: The Hindu


No money left in MGNREGA coffers

Context:

The Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme – has run out of funds halfway through the financial year, and supplementary budgetary allocations will not come to the rescue for at least another month.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Health and Poverty related issues, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  2. About the recent MGNERGA funds shortage

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.

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:
    • Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
    • Infrastructure Development
    • 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.

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

About the recent MGNERGA funds shortage

  • According to its own financial statement, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme shows a negative net balance of ₹8,686 crore.
  • This means that payments for MGNREGA workers as well as material costs will be delayed, unless States dip into their own funds.
  • Activists say the Centre is condemning workers to “forced labour” by delaying wage payments at a time of economic distress. However, the Centre is now accusing many States of “artificially creating demand” for work on the ground.
  • However, the scheme’s 2021-22 budget was set at just ₹73,000 crore, with the Centre arguing that the nationwide lockdown was over and that supplementary budgetary allocations would be available if money ran out.
  • Also, MGNREGA data shows that 13% of households who demanded work under the scheme were not provided work.

-Source: The Hindu


India-EU trade talks to resume by December 2021

Context:

After an eight year hiatus, India and the European Union (EU) are set to resume negotiations for a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) by December 2021.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India – EU BTIA
  2. What does EU Want?
  3. What does India want?

India – EU BTIA

  • India and EU had launched talks for having a wide-ranging Free Trade Agreement (FTA), officially called broad-based BTIA, long ago in 2007. The talks stalled in 2013 over differences on market access and movement of professionals.
  • Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between India and the European Union (EU) is expected to promote bilateral trade by removing barriers to trade in goods and services and investment across all sectors of the economy.
  • The BTIA was proposed to encompass trade in goods, services and investments.
  • The primary issue: India’s pursuit of self-reliance has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission. This is perceived by the European Union as India’s “protectionist stance”.
  • However, it is important to note that India seeks to signal that it means business and is not averse to signing trade agreements after it opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the last moment.

What does EU Want?

  • The EU wants India to liberalize accountancy and legal services. This has met with controversy as Indians do not want foreign lawyers and accountants to practice in India.
  • European banks have been eyeing India’s relatively under-tapped banking space. But they are suspicious of the restrictive rules on priority sector lending and obligation on financial inclusion.
  • EU is requesting India to reduce import duties on wines and spirits (France wants lower import tariffs on wines). But tax reduction on wines and spirits is not acceptable as these are regarded as ‘sin goods’ and the states which derive huge revenue from liquor sales, would be reluctant to cut taxes.
  • Import duties on Dairy products has to be reduced substantially by India according to the EU along with reduced taxes on automobiles.
  • The major contentious issues that remain are the differences on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), investment protection and trade in agriculture and food items. India fears that any commitment over and above the WTO’s intellectual property rights (TRIPS, or Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) will undermine its capacity to produce generic formulations.
  • The EU also seeks liberalisation of FDI in multi-brand retail and insurance

What does India want?

  • India is asking for ‘data secure nation’ status to be granted by the EU. The matter is crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access.
  • India also seeks improved market access Mode 1 (ITeS/BPO/KPO) and Mode 4 (movement of software professionals).
  • India demands that the EU help the country in the development of textile and chemical industry, including leather goods and apparels, as gaining better access to the EU may help in the expansion of these sectors and their operations, thereby contributing to the overall growth of the Indian economy
  • Other sticking points are the presence of non-tariff barriers that the EU imposes on Indian agricultural products in the form of sanitary and Phyto-sanitary measures which are too stringent and enable the EU to bar many Indian agricultural products from entering its markets

-Source: The Hindu


Indian military ineffective sans Russian equipment

Context:

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report has said that the Indian military cannot operate effectively without Russian supplied equipment.

The report is crucial in the pretext of the US administration’s review of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. More about the reports on India’s dependence on Russian equipment

More about the reports on India’s dependence on Russian equipment

  • According to the Military Balance 2021, India’s present military arsenal is heavily stocked with Russian-made or Russian-designed equipment.
  • There has been a considerable drop in India’s dependence on arms and equipment from Russia according to the report, but still the Indian military cannot operate effectively without Russian-supplied equipment and will continue to rely on its weapons systems in the near and middle terms.
  • According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), since 2010, Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds (62%) of all Indian arms imports.
  • Further, India has been the largest Russian arms importer, accounting for nearly one-third (32%) of all Russian arms exports.
  • Much of Russia’s influence in India comes through its willingness to provide weapons systems and technologies that no other country will export to India. Russia also continues to offer advanced weapons platforms at relatively attractive rates.
  • Around 10,000 pieces of military hardware are procured from Russia.
  • The Indian Army’s main battle tank force is composed predominantly of Russian T-72M1 (66%) and T-90S (30%).
  • India is also negotiating on the price of AK103 rifles for Make in India.
  • Indian Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier is a refurbished Soviet-era ship (INS Vikramaditya). The Navy’s fighter fleet comprises 43 MiG-29K.
  • The Indian Air Force’s 667-plane FGA (Fighter Ground Attack) fleet is 71% Russian-origin (39% Su-30s (Sukhoi), 22% MiG-21s, 9% MiG-29s).
  • All six of the service’s air tankers are Russian-made Il-78s.
  • The country’s only nuclear-capable supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, is produced by a joint venture with Russia.
  • The US however, only provides non-lethal defence technology like C-130j Super Hercules, C-13 Globemaster, P-8i Poseidon etc, while Russia provides high-end technology like Brahmos supersonic missile, S-400 anti-missile system.

-Source: Indian Express

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