IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 10th February 2018
US blocks India’s request at WTO for JNNSM related dispute
Part of: Mains GS Paper II-
- The US has blocked India’s first-time request for the establishment of a panel to settle a dispute on whether the country complied with a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling against domestic sourcing of solar cells and modules mandated in its national solar power generation programme.
- Canada and the EU supported India’s call for a compliance panel.
- The US continued to disagree with India’s claims of compliance and reiterated its right to use WTO procedures for retaliation .
- New Delhi is seeking the establishment of a compliance panel again as the WTO rules don’t allow any country to block a second request.
The DSB, in 2016, had ruled in favour of a US complaint against the requirement that power producers under JNNSM should compulsory procure a part of solar panels and modules for their projects from local producers as it argued that the provision discriminated against foreign producers.
Article link: Click here
Health Index Report by NITI Aayog
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Issues related to health
- Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu were the top rankers in NITI Aayog’s latest Health Index report.
- NITI Aayog has for the first time, attempted to establish an annual systematic tool to measure and understand the heterogeneity and complexity of the nation’s performance in the health sector.
- The document has been developed by NITI Aayog with technical assistance from the World Bank and in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The report indicates that Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh showed the maximum improvement in indicators such as Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate, full immunisation coverage, institutional deliveries, and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
- Common challenges for most States and Union Territories include the need to focus on addressing vacancies in key staff, establishment of functional district cardiac care units, quality accreditation of public health facilities and institutionalisation of human resources management information system.
Article link: Click here
General studies 3:
- Indian Economy
General studies 4:
- Ethics and human interface
- Probity in governance
Unethicality in India
India was ranked the most unethical of 13 major economies in the 2016 Global Business Ethics Survey, behind even Brazil and China. Last year, Ernst and Young’s Asia-Pacific Fraud survey found that unethical practices are rife in India’s business community.
Seventy years after Independence and more than 25 years after landmark economic reforms, India, despite its many obvious attractions, is seen as a tough place to do business in.
Red tape and the inconsistent and arbitrary manner in which our governments have administered taxes and investment rules and regulations.
Also, Indians are seen as highly unethical.
Unethicality not just restricted to politicians and civil servants:
- This is not just about politicians. Political corruption plagues many societies.
Even the Scandinavians are not above making pay-offs when it suits their interests as we saw in the Bofors scandal.
- The negative perception of India is not even about our civil servants. True, India ranked 79th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index, and last year the same organisation found India to be the most corrupt country among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Nearly seven in 10 Indians who had accessed public services — be it schools, hospitals, official documents, utility services, the police or courts — had paid a bribe versus only 0.2 per cent in Japan, the least corrupt country.
The decline of public morality is now mirrored by fall in ethics in the private sector.
The cancer of corruption has spread well beyond the corridors of power to our educated and affluent elites — professionals, salaried employees and businessmen — who are increasingly on the take.
Corruption in public life:
- Foreign investors and companies complain that Indian businessmen don’t understand the concept of good faith in negotiations.
- Legal agreements are routinely flouted.
- Illegal diversion of profits by promoters is common.
- The non-performing loan crisis in India’s banks is largely due to cheating and fraud by crony capitalists with the connivance of bank executives.
These dishonest practices are carried abroad. Indians in the management ranks are known for taking cuts on deals and purchasing contracts. Indian names feature disproportionately in insider trading scandals on Wall Street and the City in London. Even in Silicon Valley, Indians dealing with outsourced staffing for technology companies are notorious for collecting facilitation fees through their spouses.
Cause of concern:
Back in the days of the licence raj, many blamed corruption in India on red tape and socialist controls. However, even as the economy has been liberalised to a great extent since 1991, corruption has only grown worse and today infects not just government but Indian businesses and corporate life.
Even low-income levels are no excuse — dishonesty appears to have more than outpaced rising compensation packages.
The corroding ethical fabric of the country is not just an issue of morality for its own sake. No economy can perform at a high level without a basic level of integrity.
Unethical behaviour destroys trust. As trust erodes, the cost of doing business will soar, affecting India’s competitiveness and attractiveness as an investment destination.
Stricter rules and regulations and better policing of businesses are no solution for improving ease f doing business. No amount of compliance and governance can substitute for sound moral fibre.
We need to reflect more on the state of our morality as a nation.
Connecting the dots:
- India was ranked the most unethical of 13 major economies in the 2016 Global Business Ethics Survey. Unethical business practices is on rise. Analyze.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India’s policy towards Middle East region: Making it more practical
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Saudi Arabia recently and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is traveling to Palestine, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
India is expected to host President Hassan Rouhani of Iran next month.
Turns in the Middle East:
- Liberation from social controls imposed in the name of religion:
Women in Iran are taking off their head scarves in a bold protest against Iran’s rule on compulsory wearing of the veil in public. It was among the first prohibitions imposed by the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution.
Women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to drive as they await legal sanction this summer.
Riyadh has also lifted a four decade-old ban on movie theatres.
- The quest for “moderate Islam”:
Key leaders of the region, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, have all made reclaiming Islam from the extremist groups an important political priority.
For decades now, the region’s political leadership has been under pressure to yield to the conservative religious flank. Any reversal, of course, would be hugely consequential for India and the world.
- Meanwhile, the Sunni monarchies that traditionally looked to the United States to ensure their security, are taking matters into their own hands to shape the regional security architecture. Troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are battling groups backed by Iran across the region.
The Indian government must come to terms with a changing region and the opportunities it presents.
- Although Delhi’s relations with the Middle East have gained greater traction, many feel there is need for the articulation of objectives and a strategy to achieve them.
- There is need to formulate “Look West Policy” that puts India’s relations with the region on a sound basis.
The success of India’s “Look East Policy” provides a precedent. The transformation of India’s engagement with South East Asia was celebrated last month by the presence of the 10 ASEAN leaders at the annual Republic Day celebrations.
Challenge- Lack of forum:
One big difference between the Middle East an Southeast Asian regions is an institutional framework that facilitates India’s regional diplomacy.
If the Association of South East Asian Nations has been the vehicle for India’s expanding partnership with South East Asia, there is no similar forum in the Middle East.
- Groupings such as the Arab League, or the Organisation of Islamic Conference, were never really effective.
- Organisations like the Gulf Cooperation Council (though little focused) are beginning to crack amid the region’s turbulence. Once formed to counter the Iranian threat, the GCC is badly divided today.
- India needs to adopt a process-driven diplomacy, with multiple lines of continuous engagement. In the Middle East, the principal impulse has to be India’s own strategic appreciation of the region matched by a vigorous bilateralism.
- Rapport at the leadership level is critical for success in a region ruled mostly by monarchs and strong rulers.
- Delhi’s bureaucracy must be able to follow through on declarations and joint statements.
India needs to change its perceptions:
- In the first decades after Independence, India had bet that its commitment to pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism would counter Pakistan’s claims for special affection of the region as a state founded on Islam.
While religion remains important, pan-Islamism is no longer a dominant force in shaping the politics of the region.
The rise of sectarianism has undercut pan-Islamism.
- After the Cold War, India pursued a more practical policy towards the region. Even as India’s economic ties deepened after the economic reforms launched in 1991, Delhi appeared defensive in the region.
For example- Delhi’s persistent tendency to view the region in terms of the conflict between Israel and Arab states. This seems at odds with what is happening in the region.
Israel which with Iran tried to balance the Arabs, is now partnering the Sunni Arabs to defeat the growing influence of Shia Iran.
India needs to view the Middle East on its own merits, pays sustained political attention, and deliver on the Indian economic and security commitments made at the highest levels.
Connecting the dots:
- India needs to view the Middle East on its own merits, pays sustained political attention, and deliver on the Indian economic and security commitments made at the highest levels. Discuss.
For here to go
Testing the diagnosis
An unethical place
Revolution and regression