06, July 2017

1.Sikkim impasse: What is the India-China-Bhutan border standoff?

Source: Indian Express

Sikkim impasse: Indian officials have said that the road construction efforts by the Chinese PLA are aimed at getting closer to Doka La, the last Indian military post on its border with Bhutan and China.

What is the present controversy around the India-China-Bhutan standoff?

  • In June this year, India accused China of constructing a road in the disputed territory towards Doklam plateau, an objection that the Royal Bhutanese Army has also raised.
  • India intervened in the crisis supporting Bhutan’s stand and asking China to halt its construction work.
  • China claims Doklam plateau, an 89 sq km pasture that falls close to Chumbi valley at the corner of India-Bhutan-China tri-junction and is not very far from the Sikkim sector.
  • China stated that neither India nor Bhutan had any claim over the region.
  • In the aftermath of the standoff, China refused to allow the entry of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims into its territory through the Nathu La Pass on the Sikkim border.

What is the significance of the Doklam plateau and the Chumbi valley?

  • While Chumbi valley has served as a trade route from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok through Yadong and Gyantse on to Dalai Lama’s court at Lhasa, the enclave for a long time did not fall to the Chinese.
  • The valley holds strategic significance for India, China as well as Bhutan.
  • India sees it as a dagger pointed towards its so-called ‘chicken’s neck’ sector in the Northeast and rapid Chinese road construction in Tibet could make things difficult for India. At the same time, Sikkim is one of the few sectors where India has an advantage.
  • In the event of war, India’s Brigade-sized military presence inside Bhutan, stationed at Ha, allows it to attack the Chumbi valley from two sides, potentially cutting off Chinese troops stationed facing Sikkim.
  • But China’s recent assertions in the area are portentous for Bhutan which has never faced territorial issues with the the Dragon in the past. China, citing the 1890 China-Britain treaty, calls Doklam its own while Bhutan has disputed the fact saying the convention applies to the India-Bhutan border, not Bhutan and China.

How is the dispute affecting India-China ties?

  • Ever since the standoff came to light, there has been a series of arguments, counter-arguments and statements from both sides enough for the foreign ministries to interfere as well. Indian officials have said that the road construction efforts by the Chinese PLA are aimed at getting closer to Doka La, the last Indian military post on its border with Bhutan and China.
  • It also said the construction ‘would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India.’
  • India underlined that the two governments had agreed in 2012 that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the countries concerned. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.
  • On its part, China has repeatedly asserted its claim over Donglang (Doklam) and accused Indian troops of trespassing.
  • As of now, there is no push and shove at the border although tensions are high. Both countries have said they would use official diplomatic channels to find a solution to the dispute.

doklam-map Source: Indian Express

2.Prime Minister Modi’s Israel Visit

Source: The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Israel which is the first by an Indian prime minister to Israel resulted in the signing of seven agreements on areas including space, tech and agriculture.

The other prominent takeaways of the visit are the following:

  1. OCI card Prime Minister Modi has assured faster facilitation of OCI cards for Jewish Citizens of Indian origin in Israel. He also assured that the OCI card will be given even to those people of Indian origin who had served in the Israeli government’s compulsory army service.
  2. Air Connectivity The launch of a new Air India flight connecting India and Israel was announced, the flight is expected to connect Delhi/Mumbai with Tel Aviv.
  3. Israeli flower named after PM Modi As a special gesture, a new fast growing Israeli Crysanthumun flower was named “MODI” after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the Indian Premier’s visit to the Danziger flower farm, which is one of the leading floriculture companies of Israel having founded in 1953.
  4. Strategic partnership India and Israel have announced that they have elevated their ties to a strategic partnership as India has identified Israel as a major development and technological partner. Both countries have also agreed to combat growing radicalization and terrorism and expand co-operation in cyber security.
  5. Indian Cultural Centre Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the establishment of an Indian Cultural Centre in Israel to enhance people-to-people contacts between the two countries. Israel’s has also voiced its strong support to promote the practice of yoga by designating June 21 as International Yoga Day.
  6. Israel India Innovation Initiative Fund (I4F): The $40 million Israel India Innovation Initiative Fund has been launched as a five-year technology fund with an aim at growing the business relationship between both the countries. The similar type of fund had boosted Israel’s ties with that of the US in the past 40 years.
  7. Water conservation: The two agreements in the field of water deal with the “increasing awareness” of the need for water conservation, as well as an MoU between the Israeli Water Ministry and the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam Board.

Three MoUs on space cooperation included one for Electric Propulsion for Small Satellites, and for the development of an optical link as well as cooperation on atomic clocks.

At a meeting earlier with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Mr. Modi also coined the term “I4I” or “India for Israel”, as a response to Mr. Netanyahu’s formula of “Indian talent and Israeli technology equals India-Israel ties for tomorrow.”

3.SC asks government to formalise Election Commissioners’ appointment through Law

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to formalise appointment of election commissioners through law.


  • The Supreme Court has observed that even though the Election commissioners have been so far appointed in a very fair manner, there exists a legitimate expectation in the Constitution of India that Election Commissioners, who are charged with the free and fair conduct of elections be appointed through a “most transparent and just process” formalised by a law enacted by the Parliament.
  • According to the Supreme Court, at present due to lack of a parliamentary law, there is no transparency in the eligibility, criteria required for a person to be appointed as an election commissioner.
  • The court has observed that even the selection procedure of the CBI Director is formalised by a written law Election Commissioners For the conduct of free and fair elections, an independent Election Commission has been provided for in Article 324.

Election Commission:

  • In India, the Election Commission consists of three members. These all are appointed by the President for a term which is fixed by the President.
  • However, conditions of service and tenure of office of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioner are determined by an act of parliament titled The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991.
  • This act has fixed the following: The chief election commissioner or an election commissioner shall hold office for a term of 6 years or age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The chief election commissioner and other commissioners are paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the Supreme Court. On retirement, they are entitled to a pension payable to a judge of the Supreme Court. All business of the election commission shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously. If the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority.

4. Multiple Banking System for EPFO contribution and payments by Signing of Agreement between EPFO and Public & Private Sector Banks- (Ministry of Labour & Employment)

Source: PIB

Government’s mandate for facilitating ‘Ease of doing business’, EPFO has taken a step further. The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour & Employment, EPFO has entered into agreement for collection of EPF dues from employers and payment to beneficiaries as well through multiple-banks in place of erstwhile single banking system.

Zero transaction charge

  • This is the first time that the EPFO has tied up with private banks – namely, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank.
  • Earlier, only State Bank of India was authorised to collect contributions from employers and make payment to employees. The move will help the EPFO save about ₹300 crore annually as the five banks have agreed to zero transaction charges.
  • Tied up with 10 banks now to collect provident fund contribution and pay dues to the workers. EPFO settles around 1.16 crore claims every year and collects ₹75,000 crore annually from establishments under the EPF Act.


  • It will facilitate all the stakeholders of EPFO by allowing the employers to deposit their EPF dues in a hassle-free, anywhere, anytime manner and PF members by direct payments of their bank accounts.
  • Consequent upon signing of agreement, the employers having bank account with these banks may deposit EPF dues directly in EPFO’s account using internet banking on real time basis instead of going through the aggregator mode.

Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)

  • EPFO is a statutory body of Union Government that comes under the aegis of Ministry of Labour and Employment.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.
  • Functions: Administers a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme (1952), Pension Scheme (1995) and an Insurance Scheme (1976). It is one of the largest social security organisations in India in terms volume of financial transactions undertaken and number of covered beneficiaries.

MERIT app (Merit Order Despatch of Electricity for Rejuvenation of Income and Transparency)’ and the e-bidding

MERIT app (Merit Order Despatch of Electricity for Rejuvenation of Income and Transparency)’ and the e-bidding portal for providing e-Bidding solution to States to select Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for procurement of power by transferring their domestic coal under the scheme of flexibility in utilization of domestic coal.

5.It’s raining loan waivers

Source: The Hindu

Why are governments writing off loans made to farmers?

  • Farm loan waivers have a long history in India, and they have mostly been used as a tool by governments to temporarily address the problem of farmer distress.
  • Presently, farmers have been affected by a rapid fall in the prices of farm goods after a year of bumper production. This has forced them to default on the loans they borrowed from banks. State governments, given the high costs involved, have been unable to procure the produce of farmers at remunerative prices. So they have resorted instead to loan waivers that cost less money.

What is the impact of loan waivers?

  • Loan waivers impose a significant cost on the budgets of State governments since banks will have to be compensated by the governments for the losses they incur.
  • Further, the offer to waive off loans could end up increasing the cost to governments by encouraging wilful default by farmers who can actually afford to pay off their loans.
  • Loan waivers also lead to the problem of moral hazard.
  • Farmers, when they know that the government will waive off their loans when things go wrong, are more likely to make poor investments or take higher risks. Some, like former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, have argued that loan waivers are only the symptom of an underlying problem. The real problem, they argue, may be populist lending that has pushed Indian farmers into a debt trap.

What could be an alternative solution to the agrarian crisis?

  • Indian agriculture faces a secular crisis due to the risks involved in agriculture, and the lack of sufficient returns.
  • Many economists have argued that this cannot be solved through temporary populist measures, but instead requires structural reforms. Such reforms can help improve farmer incomes and also encourage farmers to seek their livelihood in more profitable sectors of the economy.

6.Scientists discover reasons behind 2015 Chennai Floods

Source: The Hindu

A study conducted by the University of Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay has found out that the extreme El Nino conditions and warming of the Bay of Bengal had resulted in unprecedented heavy rainfall in Chennai for three days between November 30th to December 2nd in 2015.

Salient findings:

  • El Nino usually causes less than normal rainfall in the case of south-west monsoon. However, it does the reverse in the case of the northeast monsoon. It causes above-normal rainfall during the northeast monsoon.
  • This is due to the difference in seasonal wind patterns between the two monsoons.
  • The researchers had carried out a simple linear correlation analysis that points out that the sea surface temperature at the Bay of Bengal is positively correlated with northeast monsoon rainfall. It has been found out that the magnitude of correlations of northeast monsoon rainfall with El Nino conditions and the Bay of Bengal warming to be almost same.
  • Based on several experiments, the scientists have attributed around 21% of the intensity of the extreme Chennai rainfall to the extreme El Nino condition The consistent warming of the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is also considered as an important factor for the floods by the scientists.
  • However, scientists are yet to ascertain whether the contribution from the tropical Pacific to extreme rainfall during the northeast monsoon occurs only at the time of extreme El Nino or whether normal El Ninos too are capable of causing them.

El-Nino El-Nino is a weather phenomenon, during which temperature at sea surface is warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures. El Nino is a warming of the Pacific Ocean between South America and the Date Line, centred directly on the Equator, and typically extending several degrees of latitude to either side of the equator. It accompanies high air surface pressure in the western Pacific. El Niño occurs when tropical Pacific Ocean trade winds die out and ocean temperatures become unusually warm

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