Polity & Governance
- India ranked low in Press Freedom Index
- A step towards gender equality
- President’s Decision is subject to Judicial Review
Environment & Ecology
- Cabinet approves amendments in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015
- Cabinet approves signing the Paris Agreement
- Expansion of India – Chile Preferential Trade Agreement
Also in News
- Europe becomes world’s first region to end malaria
Polity & Governance
India ranked low in Press Freedom Index
India ranks abysmally low at 133 among 180 countries in the latest annual World Press Freedom Index, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
- The 2016 ‘World Press Freedom Index’ is led by Finland, which retained its top spot for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Netherlands and Norway.
- India jumped three spots from the 136th position it had in 2015.
- Among India’s neighbouring countries, Pakistan ranks 147, Sri Lanka (141), Afghanistan (120), Bangladesh (144), Nepal (105) and Bhutan (94). China is ranked 176.
- The United States is ranked 44th and Russia is placed at the 148th place.
- At the bottom of the index lies Eritrea at 180th rank. It is preceded by North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China at 179th, 178th, 177th and 176th position respectively.
About World Press Freedom Index:
World Press Freedom Index is published annually by RSF since 2002.
- It measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.
A step towards gender equality
In a step towards giving equal status to women officers, the Navy has granted permanent commission to seven officers and has formalised plans to grant permanent commission in eight branches from 2017.
- The seven woman officers were inducted as short-service commission (SSC) officers.
- So far women were allowed permanent commission in select streams by the Army and the Air Force while the Navy permitted only Short Service Commission for 14 years which means they were denied pension.
- Previously, the Army and IAF had granted permanent commission to women. There are currently only about 340 woman officers who have been granted permanent commission in select branches of the Army and IAF
- Overall, women number just 1,436 in the Army, 1,331 in IAF and 532 in Navy.
- In a landmark judgement in October last year, the Delhi High Court granted permanent commission for women and pulled up the Defence Ministry and the Navy for a 2008 order which it called “sexist bias.”
- Officials later clarified that the 2008 order for permanent commission was gender neutral and it granted women permanent commission along with male officers in three streams — education, law and naval construction as other areas had logistical issues.
What is a permanent commission?
- A permanent commission means a career in the Army/Navy till one retires.
- A permanent commission also entitles 20 years of service and a pension.
Difference between Short Service Commission (SSC) and Permanent Commission (PC):
- PC Officers have to compulsorily serve for 20 years, while SS officers have to serve a mandatory 10 years after which they have the option of continuing, if the army decides that they are fit for permanent commission.
President’s Decision is subject to Judicial Review
The Uttarakhand High Court has observed that the legitimacy of President’s decision to suspend the state assembly under President’s rule is subject to judicial review.
Observations made by HC:
- HC observed that President can take wrong decisions by referring to Union Government’s argument that he took the decision to impose President Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution in his “political wisdom”.
- It also ruled that legitimacy of inference drawn by President from the material placed before him by Governor is open to judicial review.
- The bench was hearing arguments on the petition filed by the ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand.
Environment & Ecology
Cabinet approves amendments in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015
The Union cabinet has given its approval to move official amendments in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill, 2015.
- The amendments in legislation will ensure expeditious utilisation of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), in an efficient and transparent manner.
- Apart from facilitating timely execution of appropriate measures to mitigate impact of diversion of forest land, utilisation of these amounts will also result in creation of productive assets and generation of huge employment opportunities in the rural areas, especially the backward tribal areas.
- The amendments include deleting some of environmental services for which credible model to assess their monetary value does not exist while it also provides for prior consultation with states for making a rule under it. The amendments provide for use of monies realised from the user agencies in lieu for forest land diverted in protected areas for voluntary relocation from protected areas.
About the CAMPA Bill, 2015:
- The CAMPA Bill is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities to compensate for forest land diverted to non-forest uses, by regulating and managing $5.3 billion (almost Rs.350 billion) collected over years.
- The bill basically envisages the establishment of a national Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) and state CAFs to credit amounts collected by state governments and Union territory administrations to compensate for the loss of forest land to non-forest projects.
The union government in April 2015 approved the bill for introduction in parliament. However, it was rejected in theRajya Sabha, where the government is in minority.[Ref: PIB, ToI]
Cabinet approves signing the Paris Agreement
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing the Paris Agreement adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties held in Paris in December 2015.
- The Paris Agreement on climate change is a milestone in global climate cooperation.
The salient features of the Paris Agreement:
- The Paris Agreement acknowledges the development imperatives of developing countries. The Agreement recognizes the developing countries’ right to development and their efforts to harmonize development with environment, while protecting the interests of the most vulnerable.
- The Paris Agreement recognizes the importance of sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption with developed countries taking the lead, and notes the importance of ‘climate justice’ in its preamble.
- The Agreement seeks to enhance the ‘implementation of the Convention’ whilst reflecting the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.
- The objective of the Agreement further ensures that it is not mitigation-centric and includes other important elements such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency of action and support.
- Pre-2020 actions are also part of the decisions. The developed country parties are urged to scale up their level of financial support with a complete road map to achieve the goal of jointly providing US $ 100 billion by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation by significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and capacity building support.
India & Paris agreement:
- India had advocated a strong and durable climate agreement based on the principles and provisions of the Convention. The Paris Agreement addresses all the important concerns and expectations of India.
Expansion of India – Chile Preferential Trade Agreement
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for expansion of India – Chile Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between India and Chile.
- Under the expanded PTA, Chile has offered concessions to India on 1,798 products and India reciprocated with concessions on 1,031 products.
- Under the proposed expanded PTA, 86% of India’s exports to Chile will get covered with concessions, which is likely to result in doubling of our exports in the near future.
India’s export basket with Chile is diversified and keeping in view the wide variety of tariff lines offered by Chile, the expanded PTA would immensely benefit India.
- Expansion of India-Chile PTA will enhance the trade and economic relations between the two countries.
- The expansion would be an important landmark in India-Chile relations and consolidate the traditional fraternal relations that have existed between India and Latin American countries.
A Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between India and Chile was signed in March, 2006, came into force in August 2007.
- Bilateral trade registered growth of 58.49% from 2006-07 to 2014-15 after the PTA came into force.
- India exported $570 million worth of goods to Chile in 2014-15 and imported goods worth $3.08 billion, leading to a trade deficit of $2.5 billion.
About Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA):
- A preferential trade agreement is a trading bloc that gives preferential access to certain products from the participating countries. This is done by reducing tariffs but not by abolishing them completely.
- A PTA can be established through a trade pact. It is the first stage of economic integration.
Also in News
Europe becomes world’s first region to end malaria
According to the World Malaria Report 2015, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), Europe has become the world’s first region to wipe out Malaria, a mosquito-borne vector disease with zero cases reported in the year 2015.
- Particular region or country is declared Malaria free by WHO after it has zero locally acquired malaria cases for at least three consecutive years.
- The number of malaria cases fell to zero from 90,712 between 1995 and 2015 in the countries of European region.
- The last cases were reported in Tajikistan in 2014.
Malaria in Europe:
- Until the end of World War Two, malaria was endemic throughout much of southern Europe. The Balkans, Italy, Greece and Portugal were particularly affected.
- Europe was declared malaria free in 1975, but the disease later re-emerged in the Caucasus, Central Asian republics, the Russian Federation and Turkey.