Demand for Special Status for States
GS Paper- II
Context– Recently, the Union Finance Ministry said unequivocally that the Government will not accept requests for “special category status” for any state, giving a severe blow to states such as Odisha and Bihar, who have been lobbying for it for years.
- The Bihar Finance Minister recently stated at the 49th GST Council meeting that if poor states are not provided particular support, regional inequities in the country will worsen.
- Earlier, the NITI Aayog recommended that the Government provide special financial help to the poorest states, emphasising that Bihar need particular financial assistance.
- Nevertheless, the Union government cited the Finance Commission, which recommended that no State be awarded special status for financial aid.
What is Special status to states?
- It refers to a provision in which the central government grants certain rights and financial aid to select states in order to foster their economic and social progress.
- Special status for states was initially created in 1969 to help nations with difficult terrain, critical international boundaries, and economic and infrastructure backwardness.
- Initially, it was only awarded to three states: Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, and Assam.
- Other states have been added to the list throughout the years, and 11 states now hold special category status.
- Article 371 makes unique provisions for Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Karnataka, among others.
- The President of India is also empowered by the Constitution to proclaim a state a “special category state” based on considerations such as steep terrain, strategic position, economic and infrastructural backwardness, and a poor resource base.
- One of the most significant issues involved with awarding governments special status is the potential of establishing regional imbalances.
- For years, certain nations have sought special status, resulting in political squabbles and conflicts.
- There is also the question of resource distribution, since special category states receive a greater proportion of government funds and financial aid.
- Special status is required.
- Special status can assist states with limited resources and infrastructure to catch up with more developed ones.
- It can also aid in the promotion of regional development, the reduction of regional inequities, and the promotion of national integration.
- It can also offer the state with a variety of benefits, such as tax breaks, financial aid, subsidies, and other perks to stimulate investment and growth.
- While India’s unique status has a constitutional mandate and benefits, it also confronts obstacles such as the potential of developing regional imbalances and the question of resource distribution.
- Nonetheless, if effectively implemented, it has the potential to be a powerful instrument for boosting regional development and minimising regional inequities in the country.
Source – The Hindu
Russia Suspends New START
GS Paper 2
Context: The Russian President announced the termination of Russia’s participation in the final major military accord with the United States, New START.
- The initial Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty/START-I was signed in 1991 between the United States and the former Soviet Union and entered into force in 1994.
- START-I expired in 2009, limiting the number of nuclear weapons (to 6,000) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to 1,600.
- This was followed by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)/Moscow Treaty, and later by the New START accord.
What is the New START?
- On February 5, the Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons went into force. It established additional verifiable limitations on intercontinental-range nuclear weapons (to be fulfilled by 2018). For example, 700 ICBMs, SLBMs (submarine-launched), and heavy bombers armed with nuclear weaponry have been deployed.
- After that, the United States and the Russian Federation agreed to extend the pact through February 4, 2026.
- How is the treaty’s observance ensured? Both sides performed on-site inspections, exchanged notices, met with the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and shared data.
What is the latest situation on compliance?
- Russia was not adhering to the New START, putting a source of stability in their relationship at risk.
- The United States seeks Russia’s strategic defeat, and the “theatre of the absurd” (the notion of existentialism) is vital to Russia.
- Throughout the decades, the two sides signed different weapons control treaties, putting a stop to the Cold War rivalry’s worrying nuclear arms race.
- But, profound gaps in their alliance, as well as the suspension of practically all accords in recent years, have heightened the prospect of a nuclear arms race once again.
Source – The Hindu
Vostro Accounts & its Functioning
GS Paper -II & III
Context- Twenty Russian banks have launched Special Rupee Vostro Accounts (SRVA) with Indian partner banks.
- A Vostro account is one held by local banks for international banks in the latter’s home currency, in this instance the rupee.
- For example, if CITI Bank in New York opens a Rupee account with ICICI Bank in India, it will be a Vostro Account for ICICI Bank.
- It is used by domestic banks to provide international banking services to its clients who have global banking demands.
- Banking services include wire transfers, commercial transactions, receiving deposits, and document collection on behalf of another bank.
- Domestic banks have greater access to overseas financial markets and can serve international clients without physically being present in other countries.
SRVA has three critical components:
- All exports and imports must be denominated and invoiced in Indian rupees.
- Exchange Rate: The exchange rate between the currencies of the trading partners would be established by the market.
- Settlement: The ultimate settlement is also conducted in Indian National Rupees (INR).
Vostro VS Nostro Account
- Nostro and Vostro are Latin terms that mean “ours” and “yours,” respectively. Although a Nostro Account is defined as a record of deposits kept by a bank with a foreign bank in the currency of the nation holding the money, a Vostro Account is one that is handled on behalf of another bank by a correspondent bank.
- The distinction between the two is that it is written from the perspective of two separate banks, namely depositor and holder.
- LORO Account: When two banks hold Nostro Accounts with a third bank, the Nostro Account of one bank with the third bank becomes a Loro Account for another bank in this situation. For instance, suppose the Bank of Japan and the Bank of India both have Nostro Accounts in Bank of America.
Bank Eligibility Criteria
- Banks from partner nations would first contact a licenced local dealer bank, which would then seek approval from the supreme banking authority for the establishment of an SRVA.
- Domestic banks would be responsible for ensuring that the correspondent bank does not come from one of the countries listed in the most recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Public Statement on High Risk and Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions.
- Approved banks are permitted to open numerous SRV accounts for banks from the same nation.
The SRVA’s Need
- According to the Economic Report (2022-23), SRVA would lower net demand for foreign money for the settlement of current account-related trade flows.
- It would also minimise the need for foreign exchange reserves and the country’s reliance on foreign currencies, making it less sensitive to external shocks.
- Indian exporters might get advance payments in INR from abroad clients, promoting INR as an international currency in the long run as the rupee settlement mechanism acquires traction.
Source – The Hindu
Spain introduced Menstrual Leaves
GS Paper- II
Context- Spain is the first European country to offer paid menstruation or period leave.
- According to a law enacted in February 2023, the Spanish government will foot the expense for monthly paid leaves of three to five days when a doctor’s letter is presented.
- The legislation also includes provisions for free menstrual hygiene supplies to be made available at educational institutions, prisons, and social service centres.
What exactly is menstruation?
- Menstruation is the natural, healthy discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus through the vagina.
- Menstruation is also referred to as a girl’s or woman’s ‘period’ or’monthly’.
- Menstruation occurs once a month for most women. It normally lasts three to seven days.
- It indicates that a girl is currently fertile.
- It is a sort of leave in which a woman may be eligible to take paid absence from her job if she is menstruation and unable to go to work as a result.
- Global picture: Numerous Asian nations have period leave regulations, with Japan being the first to establish one in 1947. It was done by South Korea in 2001.
- Nike incorporated menstruation leave into its Code of Conduct in 2007. Zomato, a food delivery business, implemented a “period leave” policy for women in 2020.
- As ‘States’ manage the issue of health in India, their experiences have differed.
- Since 1992, the Bihar government has provided two days of period vacation to female employees.
Arguments in favour of paid maternity leave
- Workplaces must account for biological variances among coworkers.
- Throughout their monthly cycle, women endure a variety of health difficulties, including cramps, back and muscular pains, bloating, migraines, nausea, and dysmenorrhea, all of which have an affect on their job productivity.
- Many girls in India drop out of school around puberty due to a lack of education and access to sanitary products.
- Menstrual leave, like maternity leave, will promote gender equality.
- Article 14 of the Indian Constitution (right to equality), according to a Public Interest Lawsuit (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court of India, is being infringed since certain states have menstrual leave regulations in place while others do not.
Reasons against paid maternity leave
- Most nations have been hesitant to adopt paid menstruation leave as national policy.
- Several males, and even some women, have described it as a discriminatory action. It may depict women as less capable than men; it may call into question women’s job efficiency; and the fact that Serena Williams won a major tournament while pregnant demonstrates that women do not require any “special” treatment.
- Even in locations where such regulations exist, there have not been many takers since just altering one legislation does not result in the eradication of menstrual taboos. Many women are hesitant to discuss their menstruation health.
- The menstrual experience varies from woman to woman, and even from month to month for the same woman.
- Mandating paid leave may deter women from being hired. According to a survey, nearly 1 million women lost their employment in India in 2018-19 due to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2016, which increased paid maternity leave from three to six months.
- Increase the amount of legally mandated paid sick days for both men and women (but keeping it equal).
- Promote regulations that enable workers to work from home for a set number of days each month.
- Besides from that, the emphasis should be on normalising menstruation and promoting ‘Effective Menstrual Hygiene Management.’
Source – Indian Express
Deputy Speaker Is An Officer of Parliament
GS Paper – II
Context- Even after three years and seven months, the current Lok Sabha has not elected a Deputy Speaker, and the non-election has reached the Supreme Court, which has allegedly written a notice to the Union government; traditionally, a Deputy Speaker is as significant as the Speaker of the House.
What is the procedure?
- The Lok Sabha has two presiding officers, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, who are elected by the members of the Parliament.
- Article 93 of the Constitution: According to Article 93 of the Constitution, these two presiding officials are chosen one after the other as soon as the House meets following the election.
- Electing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker: Traditionally, the Speaker has been elected following the oath-taking. The Deputy Speaker is then elected within a few days.
Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha’s Office
- The Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha is accountable for the Lok Sabha and is not subordinate to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. & He/she is the Lok Sabha’s second-highest-ranking legislative official.
- In the event of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha’s death or sickness, he or she serves as the presiding officer.
- In India, the office of Deputy Speaker is traditionally offered to the opposing party.
- Nonetheless, if a government does not choose to support an Opposition member for political reasons, it is allowed to select a member of its own party.
The Office’s Historical Importance
- The Deputy Speaker’s position dates back to the Government of India Act of 1919, when he was known as Deputy President since the Speaker was recognised as the president of the central legislative assembly.
- Although the principal tasks of a Deputy Speaker were to preside over assembly sittings in the Speaker’s absence and head select committees, etc., the position was deemed necessary to share the duty of running the House with the Speaker and supervise the fledgling committees.
The Office’s Significance
- When the Speaker’s office is empty, the Deputy Speaker assumes all of the Speaker’s functions, including the authority to decide disqualification petitions under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
- The Speaker has no authority to revise or overturn a Deputy Speaker’s decision. A judgement made by the Deputy Speaker is not appealable to the Speaker.
Although the Deputy Speaker has these rights only when the Speaker is absent, his choices are definitive and binding when he issues a verdict. If the Speaker is gone for an extended period of time owing to sickness or otherwise, the administration will have to deal with the unpredictability of a verdict or an unfavourable decision by a Deputy Speaker from the Opposition ranks. Article 93 provides a required provision that the House must follow.
Source – Indian Express
The India-US ICET: Transformative Impact On Bilateral Relations
GS Paper -II
Context- The United States and India launched their collaboration on crucial and emerging technologies earlier this month (ICET). If realised, the potential of this programme might have a revolutionary influence on India-US ties. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval stated on the eve of the meeting that the main requirement was to turn intentions and ideas into deliverables. This is generally when a slip occurs.
- During the 1960s, India has made many attempts to join the US technological bandwagon.
- Yet, all of them have failed, owing to a mismatch in the goals for which the two countries partnered.
- Unlike previous incarnations, this one arrives at a time when India, too, is developing technical and managerial capabilities and rising as a significant economic force.
What is the Critical and Emerging Technologies Initiative (ICET)?
- In May 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joseph Biden inaugurated the ICET programme.
- Strategic technological collaboration and defence industrial cooperation between the two nations’ governments, industries, and academic institutions.
- The ICET will be overseen and directed by the Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi and the White House in Washington.
- Increasing the resilience of semiconductor supply chains, space, STEM talent, and next-generation telecom ecosystems.
- Thus far, American assistance has been provided.
- The Cold War was a primary motivator of the process, persuading the US to offer broad aid to India in a variety of sectors. Although the Soviet Union rose to prominence in industries such as steel, heavy electricals, petroleum, and mining, the United States concentrated on modernising engineering and management education, science and technology (S&T), and agriculture.
- The United States assisted in the construction of India’s first reactors for research and power. An entire generation of Indian nuclear scientists was trained in the United States, including several who later assisted in the development of nuclear weapons.
- Massive US investment to modernise Indian education, particularly engineering and management, should have resulted in a burgeoning industrial sector, but the Indian economy stopped in the 1960s, and India ended up with a system in which IIT and IIM graduates benefited the US economy.
- The one sector where India did get long-term and significant advantages was agriculture, where American science and technology contributed to the Green Revolution and the end of a period of food scarcity.
- The Gandhi-Reagan Science and Technology Initiative resulted in the 1984 India-US Memorandum of Understanding on sensitive technology, commodities, and information.
- The United States agreed to help India’s Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) programme in 1987, and permitted the delivery of front-line GE 404 engines to India.
- India has progressively improved in its standing as a friend of the United States, purchasing billions of dollars in US weaponry and systems.
- It is now classified as a Major Defense Partner, rather than a Significant Non-NATO Ally, a far more useful term that Pakistan retains.
- The path has not been without difficulties, as seen by the pressures India has encountered as a result of CAATSA and its oil trading with Russia.
- The ICET has established a number of ambitious aims that will have a significant impact on India. Some are aspirational, while others are political. Some are exaggerated, such as the notion that the United States will assist India in developing superior jet engines.
- For the time being, the only option is to licence manufacture GE-404/414 engines for the LCA. This is not a new phenomenon. But, cutting-edge jet engines are the United States’ crown jewels, which it will not give up.
“This is a fantastic chance for India,” the finance minister said in an interview after delivering the Union Budget. We absolutely shouldn’t miss the bus this time.” The statement is more applicable to the ICET’s potential as a technology and industrialization bus.
Source – Indian Express
Facts for Prelims
Muziris: The ‘first emporium of India’ lost for 700 years
Context– Muziris was an important historic spice trading port. Murachipattanam was another name for it.
- As Kerala became a major spice trading centre, the old port of Muziris emerged as its focal point.
- According to Sangam literature, Roman ships arrived at Muziris bearing gold to be swapped for pepper.
- According to Pliny the Elder, the author of Periplus of the Erythrean Sea in the first century, Muziris could be reached in 14 days from the Red Sea ports on the Egyptian shore, simply dependent on the monsoon winds.
Decline of Muziris Port:
- By 1341, the contour of the water bodies in the Periyar River basin changed dramatically, and Muziris vanished off the map due to flood and earthquake.
Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity
Context: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued guidelines on “Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity.”
- The goal is to support making Digital Connectivity Infrastructure (DCI) an integral element of building development plans, similar to how water, electricity, and other building services are.
- Amendments to the Model Building Bye-Laws (MBBL) and the National Building Code of India (NBC); Buyer-builder contracts should include DCI requirements. Building rating system for DCI (on lines of green buildings rating)
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a regulatory agency established by the Government of India under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
Quality Control Orders
Context: The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Textiles has said that Quality Control Orders (QCOs) are required in all areas of the electrical industry.
- It will aid in saving the sector from unfair competition from opaque economies that are dumping low-quality and sub-optimal items into the country.
- In addition, the government has extended QCOs for ferronickel grade for another six months.
- It is an iron and nickel ferroalloy used to make stainless steel and nickel alloy steels.
- They are issued by various Ministries/Departments to control product quality and assure compliance with the authorities granted by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act, 2016.
- Goods cannot be produced, sold/traded, imported, or stocked unless they have the BIS mark.