CATEGORY: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- Turkey-Greece Stand-off
THE ISSUE IN NEWS
France has recently deployed its military in the eastern Mediterranean Sea as tensions between Greece and Turkey over recently-discovered gas reserves.
- France stated that the military has been deployed to strengthen the autonomous assessment of the situation and to affirm France’s commitment to free movement, to the security of maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and respect for international law.
Reasons of The Stand-off:
- While European Union (EU) and its allies in West Asia and North Africa made plans to build a gas pipeline from the Mediterranean to Europe’s mainland to transport the gas. However, they kept Turkey out of it, this infuriated Turkey.
- The gas transport would help reduce the EU’s dependency on Russia. Earlier in 2019, the EastMed Gas Forum was formed by Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine, and Turkey was again excluded.
- Turkey challenged the EU pipeline project and reached an agreement with Libya to form an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from its southern shores to Libya’s
- Greece claimed the Turkish zone violated its maritime sovereignty and later announced its EEZ with Egypt, which clashed with Turkey’s zone.
- Reacting to the deal, Turkey sent its survey ship near the island of Kastellorizo area mentioned in the Greece-Egypt agreement. This is not the first time Greece and Turkey have been at odds. Over the past four decades, the countries have gone to war at least three times.
- Overlapping Claims: Turkey and Greece, vehemently disagree over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.
- Turkey says that despite having the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean it is confined into a narrow strip of waters due to the extension of Greece’s continental shelf, based on the presence of many Greek islands near its shore.
- The island of Kastellorizo, which is about 2 km off Turkey’s southern coast and 570 km from the Greek mainland, is a particular source of Turkish frustration.
Involvement of Many Countries:
- The highly complicated issue now has the potential to involve Europe, West Asia and North Africa.
- France, the EU’s most powerful military force, has thrown its weight behind Greece and Cyprus.
- Cyprus is physically divided with the southern part ruled by the internationally recognised government and the northern part controlled by Turkey.
- An alliance is also emerging among Greece, Cyprus, Italy and France, which is backed by Egypt, Israel and the UAE.
- If the EU wants to transport gas from the coast of Israel to Europe via Cyprus and Italy, an open conflict with Turkey cannot help. What is in everybody’s interest is to bring down tensions and find a diplomatic and mutually acceptable solution to the gas conflict.
- Excluding Turkey, which has a long Mediterranean coast, is unwise. Allowing a resurgent Turkey to bully smaller powers in the region would be strategically disastrous. The EU has to strike a balance between these two options.
- Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Project
THE ISSUE IN NEW
the Chief Minister of Punjab recently warned the Centre of political unrest in the state if asked to proceed with the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project.
- Punjab has staked claims to Yamuna’s waters and also reiterated the need for a tribunal on water sharing.
Background of the issue :
- 1960: The dispute can be traced back to the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan, allowing the former ‘free and unrestricted use’ of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
- 1966: Creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters.
- For Haryana to get its share of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna was planned (SYL Canal).
- Punjab refused to share waters with Haryana stating it was against the riparian principle which dictates that the water of a river belongs only to the State and country or States and countries through which the river in question flows.
- 1981: Both states mutually agreed for the re-allocation of water.
- 1982: Construction of 214-km SYL was launched in Kapoori village, Punjab.
- Agitations, protests and assassinations were carried out in protest creating the environment of terrorism in the state and making the issue of national security.
- 1996: Haryana moved the Supreme Court (SC) seeking directions to Punjab to complete the work on the SYL.
- 2002 and 2004: SC directed Punjab to complete the work in its territory.
- 2004: Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, terminating its water-sharing agreements and thus jeopardising the construction of SYL in Punjab.
- 2016: SC started hearings into a presidential reference (Article 143) to decide on the legality of the 2004 Act and declared that Punjab reneged on its promise to share the waters of rivers. Thus, the act was termed constitutionally invalid.
- 2020: SC has directed the Chief Ministers of both states to negotiate and settle the SYL canal issue at the highest political level to be mediated by the Centre.
- Punjab has asked for a tribunal for fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability.
- Punjab holds that there has been no adjudication or scientific assessment of river waters in the state till date.
- The availability of Ravi-Beas water has also come down from the estimated 17.17 MAF in 1981 to 13.38 MAF in 2013. A fresh tribunal would ascertain all this.
Punjab’s reason for Unwillingness:
- Punjab is facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of its underground aquifers for the wheat/paddy
- According to the Central Ground Water Authority’s report, its underground water is over-exploited in about 79% of the state.
- Punjab feels that it has utilised its precious groundwater resources to grow the crop for the entire country and should not be forced to share its waters as it faces the threat of desertification.
- Also, the youth of the state may start feeling that the state has been discriminated against once the construction of the canal restarts.
- Pakistan and secessionist organisations like Sikh For Justice could exploit the situation to foment trouble in the state.
Article 143: Advisory Jurisdiction
- The Constitution under Article 143 authorises the President to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court in the two categories of matters:
- On any question of law or fact of public importance which has arisen or which is likely to arise. The SC may tender or may refuse to tender its opinion to the President.
- On any dispute arising out of any pre-constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanador other similar instruments. Here, the SC must tender its opinion to the President.
- In both the cases, the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court is only advisory and not a judicial pronouncement. Hence, it is not binding on the President.
- The references made by the President under Article 143 are decided by a Bench consisting of at least five judges.
Few important references made by the President to the SC under its advisory jurisdiction are:
- Berubari Union, 1960.
- Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, 1992.
- Rama Janma Bhumi case, 1993.
- Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.
- 2G spectrum case verdict and the mandatory auctioning of natural resources across all sectors, 2012.
- Punjab needs to understand the importance of the canal for Haryana and should rethink its previous stands.
- Adequate measures should be put in place before any new decision to keep the possible political turmoil in control. Neighbouring states and centre will have to play a crucial role.
- It’s time for the Centre to chart a new course centred on Punjab’s demand for a fresh tribunal for the division of the river waters.
CATEGORY: GOVT. POLICIES/ HEALTH
- Shortcomings of Indian Chemical Industry: TIFAC
THE ISSUE IN NEWS
Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) in a report has highlighted the shortcomings of the Indian chemical industry which prove to be barriers in competing with China.
- TIFAC is an autonomous organisation and think-tank of the Department of Science and Technology and it commissioned the report in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic had started accelerating in India.
- India does not have enough technology, plants and infrastructure to manufacture key chemicals in a cost-effective and less polluting manner.
- India has nearly stopped manufacturing several key Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API).
- India has given up the manufacturing of APIs for ascorbic acid, aspartame and antibiotics like rifampicin, doxycycline, tazobactam acid and even steroids.
- Production of intermediates such as atorvastatin, chloroquine, gabapentin, ciprofloxacin, cephalosporins, immunosuppressants has also been
- India depends on China for 67% of chemical intermediates and API that it needs to manufacture drugs and export.
- India also depends on the USA and Italy for API.
- The chemical industry is almost entirely dependent on China for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ).
- Hydroxychloroquine is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- In March 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggested its use to contain the spread of Covid-19 for restricted populations.
- Manufacturers are unable to meet the price at which chemicals are produced by China. Solvent and chemicals manufacturing costs in India are over 15% more than in China.
- The share of Indian bulk drugs and intermediates in the total pharmaceutical export mix reduced to 20% in 2018 from 42% in 2008.
Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
- These are significant ingredients in the manufacturing of drugs and are also called bulk drugs. The Hubei province of China is the hub of the API manufacturing industry.
- These are chemical compounds which form the building blocks of the APIs and are produced as a by-product during the production of API.
- Need for mission mode chemical engineering with defined targets for uninterrupted synthesis of API molecules.
- Creation of mega drug manufacturing clusters with common infrastructure in India. Development of a technology platform for biocatalysis for cost optimization and investing in the fermentation sector of large capacity.
- Biocatalysis refers to the use of natural substances from biological sources (such as enzymes) to speed up (catalyze) chemical reactions.
- Government encouragement for Indian companies working in chemical segments.
- Implementation of various recommendations by TIFAC will help India to become Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) in the pharmaceutical sector by reducing its import dependence.
- More schemes like the Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks and Production Linked Incentives (PLI) are needed to reduce the manufacturing cost of bulk drugs and promote domestic manufacturing.
- Contempt of Court
THE ISSUE IN NEWS
The Supreme Court found civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of court. The lawyer had made a defamatory tweet against the Chief Justice of India.
- Defamation of SC: The judgment said that the tweet scandalised the Supreme Court as an institution.
- It held that being the epitome of the Indian judiciary, an attack on the Supreme Court can lead to ordinary litigants and judges of High Courts across the country losing the confidence in the Supreme Court.
- Not to vindicate judges: However, the court acknowledged that its contempt powers could be used only to uphold the majesty of law and not to vindicate an individual judge against whom a defamatory remark is made.
- Suo Moto cognizance: The court said that the prior consent of the Attorney General (AG) of India is not required to suo motu initiate the inherent contempt powers of the Supreme
- The suo motu contempt powers of the top court is drawn from Article 129 of the Constitution.
- The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 cannot limit this power of the court. The statute only provides the procedure in which such contempt is to be initiated.
Contempt of Court Act of 1971
- According to the Contempt of Court Act of 1971, contempt of court is of two types:
- It is the wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
- It is the publication of any matter or the doing of any other act which scandalises or lowers the authority of any court, or interferes with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner.
- The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 punishes the guilty with imprisonment that may extend to six months or fine of 2,000 or both.
- Amendment: It was amended in 2006 to include “truth and good faith” as a defence. It was added that the court may impose punishments only if the act of the other person substantially interferes, or tends to interfere with the due course of justice
- It is criticized to be reminiscent of british colonialism in india as the contempt laws have been abolished from the United Kingdom itself.
- Demands have been raised to restrict contempt to only “wilful disobedience” of directions/judgments of the court and remove “scandalizing the court”.
- It is also said that it may lead to judicial overreach. There are high numbers of contempt cases pending in various High Courts and the Supreme Courts, which delays the justice administration by an already overburdened judiciary.
Review by the Law Commission:
- The Law Commission reviewed the Contempt of Court Act of 1971 in 2018 and noted:
- The powers of the contempt of the Supreme Court and High Courts are independent of the Act, 1971” and the contempt powers of the higher courts are derived from the articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India itself.
- Article 129: The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Article 215: Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Therefore, deletion of the offence from the Act will not impact the inherent constitutional powers of the superior courts to punish anyone for its contempt.
- India continues to have a high number of criminal contempt cases, while the last offence of Scandalising the Court in the UK was in 1931 which may be a reason for its abolition in the UK.
- The Commission observed that abolishing the offence in India would leave a legislative gap.
- It empowers the High Court to act if someone is in contempt of the subordinate courts. Diluting the Act would expose the subordinate judiciary to acts of contempt of
- The 1971 Act contains adequate safeguards to exclude instances which may not amount to criminal contempt as defined under Section 2(c) of the Act 1971. The statute has stood the test of judicial scrutiny for about five decades.
Suo Moto Cognizance
- A Suo Moto cognizance is a Latin term which means an action taken by a government agency, court or other central authority on their own apprehension.
- Article 32 of the Indian Constitution and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution lay down the provisions for filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court and High Courts respectively.
- This has given rise to the court’s power to initiate legal action on their cognizance of a matter.
- Suo Moto’s power of supreme court has been provided under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. Suo Moto’s actions by Indian courts are a reflection of judicial activism.
- Article 131 vests the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over any dispute arising between the states or between the centre and state.
- Minimum Wage
THE ISSUE IN NEWS
the International Labour Organization (ILO) has termed the current minimum wage fixing criteria in the Draft Code on Wages (Central) Rules, 2020 as ambiguous.
- On 7 July 2020, the Central government published the Draft Code on Wages (Central) Rules, 2020 in the Official Gazette and placed it in the public domain inviting objections and suggestions.
Fixation of the Minimum Wage:
- Number of Consumption Units: The Wage Code provides for the fixation of the minimum wage keeping in view the standard working class family, the equivalent of 3 adult consumption units.
- The assumption that a standard working class family consists just of 3 adult consumption units is questionable.
- This number has been arrived at by counting the male worker as 1 consumption unit, his wife as 0.8 consumption unit and two children as 0.6 consumption units each.
- The minimum wage under the code has been fixed by considering the estimate of expenses incurred towards food, clothing, shelter, fuel, electricity, children’s education and medical requirements. It also includes expenses on contingencies and miscellaneous items.
- However, the criteria prescribed for the fixation of the minimum wage have not taken into consideration all the expenses incurred to meet the minimum needs of a family in the present day.
- For instance, the expenses incurred towards transport, mobile phone bills and internet connection bills have not been considered at all.
- The clothing requirement at 66 metres of cloth per year per standard working class family is unrealistically low.
- It also does not take into consideration the additional clothing requirements of people in cold regions.
- The housing rent expenditure will be factored at 10% of the expenditure on food and clothing, which is unrealistic considering that the rent towards decent housing for a family in and around metropolitan areas will amount to at least Rs. 5000 per month.
Basis of Fixation of Wages:
- The fixation of minimum wages under the draft code has been kept on a day basis.
- However, trade union leaders have opined that fixation of wages on a day basis could disadvantage workers when compared to the fixation of minimum wages on a monthly basis.
Fixation of Floor Wage:
- The Code on Wages, 2020 introduces the concept of a floor wage, which empowers the central government to fix floor wages taking into account the minimum living standards of workers.
- The floor wage is a baseline wage below which minimum wages cannot be fixed by state governments.
- The Wage Code permits the fixation of different floor level wages for different geographical areas. However, this has given rise to the fear of flight of capital from areas where the wage is higher to areas where the wage is lower.
- There is also fear that it will lead to fixation of low wages by state governments in a bid to attract greater investments thus depressing the minimum wage.
- Also, the wage rules do not outline the exact criteria and methods for fixation of floor wage rates by the Central Government.
- Stating the exact methods of fixation of floor wage. This would enable the setting of the floor wage at an appropriate level after the wage code comes into effect.
- Fixing the periodicity of revision of the minimum wage. Of the two components of the minimum wage — basic wage and dearness allowance — the paper suggests revision of the basic wage every five years, a part which is missing in the proposed minimum wage rules.