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02 March, 2020

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II US-Taliban sign landmark agreement International Relations
Centre to review list of monuments under ASI
Bill to amend Banking Regulation Act
GS-III Migratory species in India
Water crisis in Himalayan regions
GS-II : International Relations
US-Taliban sign landmark agreement

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the agreement and its implications

 

News: India has signalled its acceptance of the U.S.-Taliban and U.S.-Afghanistan peace agreements in Doha and Kabul that aim to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, by sending envoys to witness them.

 

What are the agreements called?

1. US-Taliban agreement: “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognised by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban, and the United States of America.”

 

2. US-Afghanistan agreement: “Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.”

 

 

Aim of the agreements signed

The two agreements set out a course for the next 14 months, including the pull-out of U.S. troops, the denial of space to foreign terrorist groups and any violence against the U.S. and allies, and intra-Afghan dialogue.

 

 

What are the salient points of concern?

 

  1. Does the term “U.S. and Allies” include India?

In the Doha agreement, the Taliban has guaranteed “enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies”. However, it is unclear whether India, which is not a U.S. ally, is included in this definition, and whether Pakistan-backed groups that threaten India, would still operate in Afghanistan. The Kabul declaration with the Ghani government more specifically commits to stopping “any international terrorist groups or individuals, including al-Qa’ida and ISIS-K, from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States, its allies and other countries.”

 

  1. Impact of prisoner release and lifting sanctions
  • Officials worry most about the “mainstreaming of the Haqqani network”, which Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists reportedly fight alongside and were responsible for the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

 

  • According to the agreements, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations, and the remainder in another three months. Officials also point out that the U.S. has committed to taking Taliban leaders off the UN Security Council’s sanctions list by May 29, 2020, which could considerably bring down the number of terrorists Pakistan is accused of harbouring, according to the FATF grey-list conditions. This might benefit Pakistan during the June 2020 FATF Plenary, when it faces a blacklist for not complying.

 

  1. Handing powers to Taliban
  • In the Doha agreement, the U.S. has committed to clearing five bases and bringing troop levels down to 8,600 in four and a half months, and even appears to submit to the possibility of a Taliban-led government, by extracting promises that the Taliban will not provide “visas, passports, travel documents or asylum” to those threatening the U.S. and its allies. This appears to sideline the “Intra-Afghan” dialogue, and India’s support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.

 

  • In the last section of the agreement, the U.S. and Taliban seek “positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive”.

 

  1. Afghan govt. in peril?

This indicates that the Ghani government, which India has recognised as winner of the 2019 election, will only serve for an interim period. This also raises a big question mark on the future of Afghanistan’s government, and whether it will remain a democracy.

 

  1. Terms of agreement still nebulous
  • All Taliban demands have been front-loaded, while the actual terms of the ‘peace deal’ are yet to be negotiated between the Taliban and the Afghan side, facilitated by the U.S. So, much of the heavy lifting remains.

 

  • There is no reference to the Constitution, rule of law, democracy and elections.

 

  1. Impact on India
  • After a closer look at the texts of the two agreements distributed to news agencies diplomatic and security experts say the impact on India may be a cause for worry for the government.

 

  • Experts warned the Afghanistan-Pakistan dialogue facilitated by the U.S. on cross-border terrorism and mechanisms must not cut India out of the region’s security architecture.
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GS-II :
Centre to review list of monuments under ASI

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance; about Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958; about ASI

 

News: The number of monuments under the Centre’s protection could increase as the government is planning a review of those under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the ones protected by the State governments.

 

Current scenario

  • At present, 3,691 monuments nationwide are protected by the ASI, with the highest number, 745, in Uttar Pradesh.

 

  • The list of the Centrally protected monuments had not seen a substantial increase in many years, and important sites under the State governments could be added to the list. On the other hand, there were some monuments that could be removed from the Central list and placed under the State governments.

 

 

About the move

  • The list of Centrally protected monuments can go up to 10,000. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are about 7,000 temples, many of which are hundreds of years old. On the other hand, there are some monuments under the ASI that can be shifted to the State list.

 

  • There were some sites that could be moved from the Central list, allowing development works in their vicinity. There is a ban on construction within 100 metres of a Centrally protected monument and regulated construction within 100-200 metres under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. The Act protects monuments and sites that are over 100 years old.

 

 

About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of India. It was established in 1861. It works under Ministry of culture.

 

  • The major functions of Archaeological Survey of India include maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.

 

  • Under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958, the ASI has declared 3656 monuments to be of national importance in the country.

 

  • ASI has also undertaken major conservation works abroad besides carrying out excavations, explorations, images and other studies in countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia and Egypt.
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GS-II :
Bill to amend Banking Regulation Act

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the amendment and its significance; about steps taken in banking sector

 

News: The Parliament is likely to clear a Bill to amend Banking Regulation Act during the second leg of Budget session. The session ends on April 3.

 

Cooperative Banks in India

There are 1,540 co-operative banks with a depositor base of 86 million having total savings of about Rs.5 lakh crore.

 

Objective of the amendment

  • To bring multi-state co-operative banks under effective regulation of RBI, in order to address weaknesses in co-operative banking sector.

 

  • The proposed legislation will help prevent a repeat of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank-like crisis.

 

Steps taken by the government in banking sector

In the last couple of years, the Department of Financial Services has taken several steps to promote responsive and responsible banking.

 

  • As part of clean banking initiative, project cash flows were ring-fenced, enforcement of terms of loan agreements and prior validation of backward and forward linkages were made integral to lending processes.

 

  • Besides, the number of banks in loan consortium was capped, reducing borrowers' ability to play one lender off against another.

 

  • This was accompanied by data driven risk scoring and scrutiny, comprehensive diligence across data sources and strengthened credit assessment.

 

  • To ensure financial health of public sector banks (PSBs), recapitalization of Rs.4 lakh crore was undertaken in the last five years. Provision coverage ratio reached a record high of 77 per cent. NPA and slippages are declining with improved asset quality.

 

  • As a result of various initiatives taken by the government the number of PSBs under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) is down from 11 in 2017 to four.

 

  • As many as 12 out of 18 banks are in profit this year as against 19 out of 21 in loss just two years ago with the help of record recovery and reduction in bad loans.
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GS-III :
Migratory species in India

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new list of migratory species; about CMS; about ZSI

 

News: With new additions to the wildlife list put out by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), scientists say that the total number of migratory fauna from India comes to 457 species. Birds comprise 83% (380 species) of this figure.

 

Background

  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) had for the first time compiled the list of migratory species of India under the CMS before the Conference of Parties (COP 13) held in Gujarat recently. It had put the number at 451. Six species were added later. They are the Asian elephant, great Indian bustard, Bengal florican, oceanic white-tip shark, urial and smooth hammerhead shark.

 

  • COP 13 of CMS has focussed on transboundary species and corridor conservation.

 

 

About the CMS list

  • Globally, more than 650 species are listed under the CMS appendices and India, with over 450 species, plays a very important role in their conservation.

 

  • The ZSI had compiled a list of the 451 species of migratory animals found in India. With the addition of new species to the CMS Appendices, the number is now 457.

 

  • The birds make up the bulk of migratory species. Before COP 13, the number of migratory bird species stood at 378 and now it has reached 380. The bird family Muscicapidae has the highest number of migratory species. The next highest group of migratory birds is raptors or birds of prey, such as eagles, owls, vultures and kites which are from the family Accipitridae.

 

  • India has three flyways (flight paths used by birds): the Central Asian flyway, East Asian flyway and East Asian–Australasian flyway. Another group of birds that migrate in large numbers are waders or shore birds. In India, their migratory species number 41, followed by ducks (38) belonging to the family Anatidae.

 

  • The estimate of 44 migratory mammal species in India has risen to 46 after COP 13. The Asian elephant was added to Appendix I and the urial to Appendix II of the CMS.

 

  • The largest group of mammals is definitely bats belonging to the family Vespertilionidae. Dolphins are the second highest group of mammals with nine migratory species of dolphins listed.

 

  • Fishes make up another important group of migratory species. Before COP 13, the ZSI had compiled 22 species, including 12 sharks and 10 ray fish. The oceanic white-tip shark and smooth hammerhead shark were then added. The total number of migratory fish species from India under CMS now stands at 24.

 

  • Seven reptiles, which include five species of turtles and the Indian gharial and salt water crocodile, are among the CMS species found in India. There was no addition to the reptiles list.
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GS-III :
Water crisis in Himalayan regions

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the study and its key findings

 

News: A survey regarding water situation in Himalayan regions was recently published in the latest edition of the journal Water Policy.

 

About the survey

The researchers surveyed 13 towns across Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan to understand the challenges of the urban denizens of these regions.

 

Key findings of the survey

  • Eight towns in the Himalayan region of Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan were nearly 20%-70% deficient in their water supply.

 

  • Unplanned urbanisation and climate change are the key factors responsible for the state of affairs, the study underlines.

 

  • The places surveyed are extremely dependent on springs (ranging between 50% and 100%) for their water, and three-fourths were in urban areas. Under current trends, the demand-supply gap may double by 2050, the researchers warn.

 

  • Communities were coping through short-term strategies such as groundwater extraction, which is proving to be unsustainable. A holistic water management approach that includes springshed management and planned adaptation is therefore paramount.

 

  • Across the region, the encroachment and degradation of natural water bodies (springs, ponds, lakes, canals, and rivers) and the growing disappearance of traditional water systems (stone spouts, wells, and local water tanks) are evident.

 

  • Although only 3% of the total Hindu Kush Himalayan population lives in larger cities and 8% in smaller towns, projections show that over 50% of the population will be living in cities by 2050, placing “tremendous stress” on water availability.

 

  • Rural areas have typically garnered much of the attention in terms of development and issues surrounding urban environments have been “sidelined”.
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