Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- Maldives and india: $400-mn pact for connectivity
The issue in news
The Exim Bank of India and the Maldives’s Ministry of Finance have signed an agreement for $400 million in Male.
Main points :
- The pact follows India’s announcement of a $500 million package to the Maldives.
- The line of credit (LoC) will fund the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP).
- India has also pledged a grant of $ 100 million for the initiative.
- The grant and LoC come in addition to the previous LoC of $800 million, among India’s largest loans extended in the region.
Greater Male Connectivity Project:
- The GMCP will consist of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
- It would ease much of the pressure of the main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.
- Once completed, the project will streamline connectivity between four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in the Male region.
- Sri Lanka and Chinese loans
The issue in news
Sri Lanka is negotiating a $500 million loan with China.
- The negotiations come at a time when Sri Lanka is mulling ways to repay its mounting foreign loans. Sri Lanka is exploring all options, including the $1 billion currency agreement with India – under negotiation, greater investment in the securities market and bonds, as well as a $700 million syndicated loan from China.
- China had sanctioned a $500 million loan in March 2020 to help Sri Lanka cope with the pandemic.
- It recently received a $90 million grant from China, which would be used for medical care, education and water supplies in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
- Sri Lanka must repay a daunting $4.5 billion of its outstanding debt in 2021.
- The $500 million loan, if sanctioned, will take Sri Lanka’s total borrowings from China over $1 billion.
- China considers Sri Lanka to be a critical link in its Belt and Road Initiative and has provided billions of dollars in loans for Sri Lankan projects over the past decade. o The projects include a seaport, airport, port-city, highways and power stations.
- Critics say that the Chinese-funded projects are not financially viable and that Sri Lanka will face difficulties in repaying the loans.
- The U.S.-based credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit rating by two notches to the “very high credit risk” category.
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
- Plea to protect transgenders from assault: No penal provision
The issue in news
The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a plea to provide equal protection in law against sexual abuse for transgender persons.
- A petition said there was no penal provision that protected transgender persons from sex crimes.
- The PIL challenged the constitutional validity of certain clauses of Section 354A (outraging the modesty of a woman) of the IPC, to the extent that they are interpreted to exclude victims of sexual harassment who are transgender persons.
- The plea referred to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other criminal laws which do not mention offences against “transgenders, transsexuals, kinnar and eunuchs”.
- In spite of declaring transgender people to be a ‘third gender’ by this court, there is no provision/section in the Indian Penal Code which may protect the third gender from sexual assault by male/female or another transgender.
Steps taken to protect and end discrimination against transgender persons:
- The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constituted the National Council for Transgender Persons.
- Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in 2019.
The Act aims to end discrimination against transgender persons in accessing education, employment and healthcare.
The act also recognizes the right to self-perceived gender identity and provides for certification from a district magistrate which could be used for availing welfare schemes of the government. This would be the gender certificate.
- In cases of a transgender person having undergone gender-change surgery, the law says they can obtain a certificate from the medical facility. This can be used for applying for changes in the certificates.
- Many in the transgender community have raised concerns about the requirement of a certificate from the district magistrate.
- There is lack of knowledge about the transgender identity certificate under the Act. Given the lack of awareness and sensitization among the government officials, some of the transgender are finding it difficult to get the certification.
- Certification is needed to prevent misuse of welfare measures meant exclusively for the transgender. Given the fact that Transgender people are deeply deprived, any leakage of benefits meant for them would render the scheme i
- The PIL has urged SC to issue an order directing the respondents to pass an Anti-Discrimination Bill that penalises discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender.
- The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to make appropriate modification/interpretation of sections/provisions of IPC dealing with sexual assault to include transgender/transsexuals/kinnar and eunuchs in the definitions accordingly.
- It also sought a direction to the Centre to adopt and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Govt. moves to spur demand
The issue in news
In order to spur fresh demand of about 1 lakh crore in the second half of 2020-21, the Union Finance Minister unveiled a mini-stimulus of sorts.
- The mini-stimulus package comprises of: o Incentives for the government and public sector employees to spend more on consumer durables and services.
- Interest-free loans of 12,000 crore to the States for a 50-year tenure to finance capital expenditure.
- Centre’s capital expenditure plans have been enhanced by 25,000 crore (from the earlier allocation of 4.13 lakh crore).
- This is for spending on roads, urban development, water supply, defence infrastructure, and domestically-produced capital equipment for defence infrastructure.
- LTC cash vouchers have been announced for Central government and public sector employees as an alternative to spend the leave travel concession (LTC) benefits that expire in March 2021.
- Private-sector employers and State governments could also extend this facility to their employees.
- This would convert the LTC payout into a 33% subsidy for acquiring white goods.
- However, this is seen as a big blow to tourism. Experts warn that this boost is likely to be temporary and the measures may be inadequate to sustain demand.
- A flat 10,000 special festival allowance has been announced for all Central employees that could be repaid in 10 interest-free instalments.
- This would be given in the form of a prepaid Rupay card.
- Of the 12,000 crore loans offered to the States, 2,500 crore has been earmarked for the eight northeastern States, who could avail 200 crore each, and Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, who could avail 450 crore each.
- For the remaining States, loans of 7,500 crore would be available in proportion to their share of the Finance Commission devolutions. Fifty per cent of the loan would be given upfront, with the rest after the first tranche was utilised.
- Another 2,000 crore of loans would be available for the States that undertake three of the four reforms outlined for granting additional borrowing flexibility to the States under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package.
- Respond to petitions on new farm laws, SC tells Centre
The issue in news
The Supreme Court has asked the Central government to respond to petitions on the new agricultural laws recently passed by the Parliament.
- The petitioners have termed the recent agricultural reforms as the beginning of an antifarmer exploitative regime.
- While the court said that the mere passage of the laws does not give rise to a cause of action, it suggested the government to address these issues now as questions on the laws are likely to arise in the future in courts.