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CATEGORY: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

  1. Chinese Involvement in Teesta River

THE ISSUE IN NEWS

Bangladesh is likely to receive USD 1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river.

The Teesta river water conflict is an issue of contention  between India and Bangladesh

Teesta River

  • It is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
  • It originates In the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
  • Drainage: It covers almost the entire floodplains of Sikkim draining 2,800 sq km of Bangladesh. For West Bengal, it is the lifeline of half-a-dozen districts in North Bengal.
  • In March 2020, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) opened a 360 feet long bailey suspension bridge over Teesta river in Munshithang, Sikkim.

Main Points

  • The Project: The restoration and management project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods and tackling the water crisis in Bangladesh in summers.
  • India-Bangladesh Teesta Dispute:
  • Bangladesh sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty 1996.
  • The treaty is an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.
  • In 2015, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Dhaka generated expectations to take forward the issue but it still remains unresolved.
  • In India, individual states have significant influence over transboundary agreements, impeding the policymaking process.
  • West Bengal is one of the key stakeholders of the Teesta agreement and is yet to endorse the deal.

Bangladesh-China Relations

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports with the trade heavily favouring China.
  • In 2019, the trade between the two countries was USD 18 billion. China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh recently and the move has been widely welcomed in Bangladesh.
  • The concession comes from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the least developed countries.
  • China has promised around USD 30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
  • China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh which has been a matter of legacy, strengthening the defence ties. Bangladesh forces are equipped with Chinese arms including tanks, missile launchers, fighter aircraft and several weapons

India-Bangladesh Relations

  • Both countries have a robust relationship with each other carefully cultivated since 2008, especially with the Sheikh Hasina government.
  • Bangladesh’s crackdown against anti-India outfits has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.
  • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and the economic and development partnership has benefitted it.
  • India also grants 15 to 20 lakh visas every year to Bangladesh nationals for medical treatment, tourism, work and just entertainment.
  • India has provided developmental assistance worth USD 10 billion, making Bangladesh the largest recipient of India’s total of USD 30 billion aid globally.
  • For India, Bangladesh has been a key partner in the Neighbourhood First Policy.
  • Both have cooperated on pandemic-related moves and India has provided medical aid to Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh supported India’s call for a regional (SAARC) emergency fund for fighting Covid-19 and declared a contribution of USD 1.5 million in March 2020.
  • Bangladesh is ready to collaborate in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, including its trial and looks forward to the early and affordable availability of the vaccine.
  • The first trial run for trans-shipment of Indian cargo through Bangladesh to Northeast states under a pact on the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports took place in July 2020.
  • However, the proposed countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 have annoyed the relations.
  • Bangladesh has expressed reservations about CAA and has held it unnecessary. Bangladesh has expressed concerns at the rise in killings at the Indo- Bangladesh border by the Border Security Force (BSF).
  • Indian Foreign Secretary has recently visited Dhaka to discuss “security-related issues of mutual interest” while trying to address the potential irritant issues.
  • Bangladesh has requested to reopen travel through Benapole-Petrapole land port which has been halted by the West Bengal government in the wake of the pandemic.

Way Forward

  • India needs to become even more sensitive to Chinese defence inroads into Bangladesh.
  • The Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, so it is crucial to solve it as soon as possible.
  • India has to implement all its assurances in a time-bound manner otherwise the latent anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh threatens to damage the friendly ties.

 

  1. Military Coup in Mali

THE ISSUE IN NEWS

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has resigned after soldiers had arrested him and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse in the capital, Bamako as part of a coup.

  • It has prompted its West African neighbours to threaten border closures and sanctions against the coup leaders.

Main Points

  • Background: The 2011 crisis in Libya led Mali along the path to chaos. Weapons from Libya were supplied across the Sahara Desert and fuelled a separatist conflict in northern Mali.
  • This turned into an Islamist militant offensive which prompted a coup in the capital Bamako (Mali).
  • Reasons: Mali has three overlapping sets of problems:
  • Political crisis that grew out of the disputed legislative elections of March 2020.
  • Economic crisis due to economic stagnation, corruption and further complications by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was dissatisfaction among the troops due to poor payments.
  • Security crisis due to the failure to contain terrorism and jihadists and the actions of the military against civilians.

Military Coup:

  • It calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People and has pledged to stabilise the country by enacting a political transition and stage elections within a reasonable time.
  • It has imposed a curfew and closed the borders sealing the country.
  • It would respect all the past agreements, including Mali’s support for anti-jihadist missions in the region and its commitment to the Algiers process which is a 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of the country.
  • It held that United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), France’s Barkhane force, the G5 Sahel (Institutional framework of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), Takuba (a European special-forces initiative) will remain Mali’s partners.

Reactions:

  • France has urged Mali to return to civilian rule, saying “the fight against terrorist groups and the defence of democracy and the rule of law are inseparable”.
  • France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, has several thousand troops based in Mali fighting Islamist militant groups.
  • Various jihadist groups, some linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, are based in the deserts of northern Mali, from where they have spread to neighbouring countries, especially Burkina Faso and Niger.
  • The African Union had already suspended Mali on the account that military coups were something of the past and cannot be accepted in present times.
  • The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also taken swift action against Mali by closing borders, suspending financial flows and ejecting it from decision-making bodies.
  • The UN’s Security Council has demanded the immediate release of all government officials and the restoration of constitutional order.

Republic of Mali

  • Mali is a vast country stretching into the Sahara Desert in western Africa.
  • Once home to several pre-colonial empires, the landlocked, arid African country of Mali is one of the largest on the continent and is among the poorest in the world.
  • After independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship until democratic elections in 1992.
  • It has experienced several military takeovers and is currently battling to contain a wave of jihadist attacks and ethnic violence.
  • Capital:
  • Population: Around 19 million.
  • Area: 25 million sq km.
  • Major languages: French, Bambara, Berber and Arabic.
  • Religions: Islam and Indigenous beliefs.
  • Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc.

 

  1. ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks

THE ISSUE IN NEWS

India recently participated in the 6 roundtable meeting of the ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks (AINTT). ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

  • AINTT was established to provide policy inputs to India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries on future directions of their

Main Points

Issues Raised by India:

  • India highlighted the difficulties that were hindering strong response to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • It said that individual behaviour of many states and old-styled multilateral organisations prevented a collective response to global pandemic.
  • India indirectly referred to the failure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to issue a statement on the pandemic due to sharp differences between permanent UNSC members China and the USA.
  • The reference also included the USA pulling out of the World Health Organisation (WHO) after accusing it of acting on the behest of China – by declaring Covid-19 a pandemic late.
  • According to India the big issue that confronts the world after Covid-19 pandemic is not simply the state of the economy, but also includes the damage to societies or the challenges to governance.
  • The pandemic has also thrown a debate on the future directions of global affairs and world order.

Suggestions made by India:

  • It called upon the ASEAN countries to look beyond current practice in trade, politics and security to find solutions to the challenges posed by pandemic.
  • India urged for greater cooperation to counter challenges of pandemic and called for collective solutions.
  • As part of that, India asked the countries to adopt the idea of strategic autonomy to be used in the context of global supply chains.
  • The reference was to countries looking to move production facilities out of China or at least reduce their dependence on them after the pandemic exposed the weaknesses of overdependence on China.
  • Strategic autonomy can be defined as ‘the ability of a state to pursuits national interests and adopt its preferred foreign policy without being constrained in any manner by other states.

 

CATEGORY: GOVT. POLICIES

Expansion of the NCC

THE ISSUE IN NEWS

Ministry of Defence has approved the proposal to expand the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in border and coastal districts.

  • The expansion of the NCC was announced by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech.

Restructuring of the NCC was one of the key recommendations of the Committee of Experts (CoE) headed by Lt Gen DB Shekatkar (Retd) in 2016.

Shekatkar Committee

  • The Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar had constituted a committee to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces which submitted its report in December 2016.

Recommendations:

  • Closure of Military Farms and Army Postal Establishments in peace locations. Enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army.
  • Improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.
  • Recommended a roll-on defence budget to have enough capital expenditure available for modernisation as against the present practice of surrendering unspent capital budget at the end of each financial year.

Main Points

  • Expansion: A total of one lakh cadets from 173 border and coastal districts will be inducted into the NCC of which one-third of them will be girls.
  • The expansion plan would be implemented in partnership with the States.
  • Training and Administration: The Army will provide training and administrative support to the NCC units located in the border areas, Navy to the units in the coastal areas and Indian Air Force to the units close to Air Force
  • Benefit: It will provide trained manpower for disaster management and skill training to youth for making their career in the armed forces.
  • It will increase youth’s interest in careers in Navy, Coast Guard and also Merchant shipping avenues.
  • In the border area, the trained cadets can play supporting roles to the Armed forces in various forms.

National Cadet Corps

  • The NCC was formed in 1948 (on the recommendation of H. N. Kunzru Committee-1946), and has its roots to British era uniformed youth entities like University Corps or University Officer Training Corps.
  • The NCC falls under the purview of the Ministry of Defence and is headed by a Director General of three-star military rank.
  • It enrolls cadets at high school and college level and also awards certificates on completion of various phases.
  • The NCC cadets receive basic military training at various levels and also have academic curriculum basics related to Armed forces and their functioning.
  • Various training camps, adventure activities and military training camps are an important aspect of NCC training.
  • Significance: NCC cadets have played an important role over the years in relief efforts during various emergency situations.
  • During the ongoing pandemic, over 60,000 NCC cadets have been deployed for voluntary relief work in coordination with district and state authorities across the country.

 

CATEGORY: SOCIAL ISSUES/SOCIAL JUSTICE

Women in Research and Development

THE ISSUE IN NEWS

As per the Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018, India’s private sector research companies appear to employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities than government-funded major scientific agencies do.

Main Points

  • 20,351 women employed in private R&D companies, about three in four were involved in “R&D activities”.
  • However, of the 23,008 women in major scientific agencies (government), fewer than half were in the same ‘R&D activities’ category.
  • Also, for every one woman, there are six male scientists in private sector R&D establishments. However, the ratio is four for one in major scientific agencies.

Science and Technology Indicators (STI)

  • The STI is a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India prepared by the National Science and Technology Management Information System, a division of the Department of Science Technology.

Reasons for low participation of women in R&D:

  • The recruiters and managers at private firms are held more accountable to hire as well as promote female employees, as compared to those in government offices.
  • The large drop in the number of women between the doctoral and professional stages appears to be in part due to social pressure on women to have a family which is seen as incompatible with a professional career.
  • There are also patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices, so many women are discriminated against at this stage as well, with administrators deciding that women ‘should’ be opting for family over a career.

Global Scenario:

Women in STEM:

  • UNESCO data from 2014-16 shows that only around 30% of female students select STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related fields in higher education.
  • Female enrolment is particularly low in information technology (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering and allied streams (8%).

Research as a Profession:

  • According to a 2018 fact sheet prepared by UNESCO on women in science, only 8% of researchers are women.

Share in Nobel Prizes:

  • Between 1901 and 2019, 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 616 Laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine, of which just 20 have been won by women.

Share in Abel Prizes:

  • In 2019, the American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, following 16 male mathematicians.
  • The Abel Prize is a Norwegian prize awarded annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians.

Share in Fields Medals:

  • The Fields Medal so far has also been awarded to only one woman mathematician, the late Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran, as opposed to 59 men since 1936.
  • The Fields Medal is awarded every four years by the International Congress of Mathematicians to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.

National Scenario

Women in STEM:

  • The female enrolment in science streams rose from 2010-11 to 2015-16. According to the NITI Aayog report in 2015-16, 9.3% of female students in Undergraduate (UG) courses were enrolled in engineering, compared to 15.6% across genders.
  • Conversely, 4.3% of female students were enrolled in medical science, compared to 3.3% across genders.

Research as a Profession:

  • Only 13.9% of women work as a researcher in India. At master’s and doctoral levels, female enrolment remained lower than overall

Presence at Technical Professions:

  • The NITI Aayog report has also found that in over 620 institutes and universities, including IITs, NITs, ISRO, and DRDO, the presence of women was 20.0% among Scientific and Administrative Staff, 28.7% among Post-Doctoral Fellows, and 33.5% among PhD scholars.

Gender Gap Index

  • According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2020, a study covering 153 economies, India has slipped to the 112 spot from its 108 position in 2018.
  • The report also says it would take nearly a hundred years to close the gender gap in various fields in India compared to the time it would take in other countries.

Work Participation:

  • According to the World Bank, India ranks 163 out of 181 countries in female labour force participation.
  • Also, India is one of the few countries in the world where women’s work participation rates have fallen sharply — from 29% in 2004-5 to 22% in 2011-12 and to 17% in 2017-18.

Inequality at Work:

  • According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a large percentage of all the jobs lost last year were held by women. Out of the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, women accounted for 8.8 million.
  • Indian women receive 34% fewer wages than men for equivalent work, spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work compared to a mere half an hour for men and are primarily engaged in low-paying, informal sector work.

Initiatives to Promote Women in Science

Vigyan Jyoti Scheme:

  • Vigyan Jyoti Scheme is launched by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • It is intended to create a level-playing field for the meritorious girls in high school to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in their higher education.
  • It also offers exposure for girl students from the rural background to help to plan their journey from school to a job of their choice in the field of science.

GATI Scheme:

  • The Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) will develop a comprehensive Charter and a framework for assessing Gender Equality in STEM

KIRAN Scheme

  • Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) Scheme is started by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) aimed to bring gender parity in the Science & Technology sector by inducting more women talent in the research & development domain.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme

  • BBBP is the joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development to ensure survival, protection, and empowerment of the girl child.

 

  • According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2018-19, the gender gap in the country narrowed as compared to the previous year, i.e. 2017-18.

 

  • Initiatives like She-box are ensuring workplace safety and boost better participation of women in all areas of economy,

Way Forward

  • Inequalities in gender participation in science emanate from social-economic issues, which can be treated by bringing behavioural change.
  • Also, better political representation of women can go a long way in deconstructing the stereotype of women Better workforce participation can only be brought by collective effort of the society and the people in governance.
  • Growth in jobs must be inclusive and new jobs need to be secure with better work conditions, including social security benefits.

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