Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Public Service Guarantee Acts

The Public Service Guarantee Acts is an effort to ensure time-bound delivery of services to the public. This legislation was considered because of the inability of citizen’s charters at enabling efficient and effective public service delivery. It involves putting people at the centre of public services and enabling them to claim the standards of service to which they are entitled.

The PSGA will uproot corruption at the lower level bureaucracy and bring about good governance, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of the administration. It has been passed in many states- Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and bills are under consideration in many others.

The procedure under the Public Service Guarantee Act is that
1.    The applicant willl receive a receipt when he submits an application, and the time begins from the date of submission which is mentioned the receipt.
2.    There is a fixed time for every officer to keep a file with him. If the officer in charge fails to provide the service in time the applicant can approach the first and second appellate officers. They would instruct the officer concerned to provide the service.
3.    In case of delay, the officer in charge will have to pay a fine. In the MP act the fine is to the tune of Rs. 250 per day, maximum of Rs. 5,000.
4.    The Appellate officer can also be penalized if he fails to ensure the delivery of service, and is unable to give any valid reason for non delivery of services.
5.    In the J&K Act, part of the fine shall be given to the complainant as compensation for delay in receiving the service.

Some of the services guaranteed in this Act include: Birth Certificate, Caste Certificate, Domicile Certificate, Tap water supply connection, Death Certificate, BPL Card, Driving License etc. Slowly more services and government departments will be brought under the purview of this Act.

India- Myanmar

Myanmar, a country of estimated 56 million people, has abundant natural resources such as oil, natural gas, timber, and minerals. Once known as the rice bowl of the world, it was the richest country in the region at the time it gained independence from colonial rule in 1948. Myanmar started as a parliamentary democracy, but was beset by ethnic strife from the start, and soon the different groups began to resist domination by the Burman, the majority ethnic group. 
Despite constitutional disputes, representative democracy survived in Burma until the military coup of 1962 led by General Ne Win, who held power for the next twenty-six years. Throughout this period, there were no free elections, and freedom of expression and association were almost entirely denied, and the economy deteriorated significantly. The military has extensive economic interests and its members occupy top positions in almost every government agency.
By mid-1988, food shortages and economic discontent led to mass protests, often spearheaded by monks and students. During the 1988 protests, Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence as the leader of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). In 1990, the junta held elections in which NLD garnered 82 percent of the vote despite Suu Kyi's house arrest. The military government refused to acknowledge the results, imprisoned many NLD politicians, forced others to flee, and continued to clamp down on dissent, closing the country to the outside world.
The junta renamed itself the State Peace and Development Council in November 1997 and continues under this name to the present day. In 2007 Burma witnessed protests led by Buddhist monks. [Monks in Myanmar have had a history of political activism dating back to colonial times. Monks enjoy the highest moral authority in Myanmar and monasteries play a prominent role in society, filling the gap in social services created by the government.] This was followed by the government drafting a new constitution and putting it to vote in May 2008 amid the humanitarian crisis from the cyclone. According to the junta the constitutional referendum won an overwhelming majority, but rights groups called the vote "a fraud." 2

History of India- Myanmar relations- Importance of Myanmar for India
India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. A large population of Indian origin (according to some estimates about 2.5 million) lives in Myanmar, with Chin, Kachin and Mizo tribes on both sides of the border..8
Myanmar was part of British India from 1886 when it was annexed by the colonial army. In 1937 it became a separately administered territory. Nonetheless there were strong links between the national leaders of India and Burma in their quest for freedom.
India had a close relationship with Myanmar's people. This warmed considerably in the wake of the 1988 mass protests against military rule when India staunchly criticized the military's repression and provided sanctuary to democracy activists. This resulted in ordinary people looking to India for support in their struggle for democracy. 

But that support ceased from the mid-1990s with India adopting a "pragmatic policy" towards Myanmar. India needed to deal with whoever was in power in Myanmar and with Suu Kyi unlikely to come to power, the Indian government needed to continue dealing with the generals. This was in recognition of the importance of Myanmar for India.

The importance of Myanmar to India stems from the following:
-       India and Myanmar share a 1640km long unfenced border. North-east insurgents (NSCN, ULFA, Manipur rebels) have been known to use this border to seek refuge in Myanmar, therefore security cooperation is a main component of bilateral relations. India has signed a mutual legal assistance agreement through which Indian insurgents held in Myanmar can be deported to India. This is the first time that Myanmar has signed such an agreement with any country.7

-       Can serve as transit to NE states bypassing Bangladesh. Burma has encouraged India to build cross-border infrastructure which will allow access to NE states from Sittwe port.
-       Can serve as transit to ASEAN states because Myanmar is an ASEAN member by opening road and rail links to the mainland ASEAN economies.
-       Myanmar is a member of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC). MGC is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – for cooperation in the fields of tourism, education, culture, transport and communication.8
-       Access to Myanmar's widely coveted energy resources (oil and gas) and hydropower capacity.
-       Recent reports of Myanmar's quest for the acquisition of nuclear weapons from North Korea (with Chinese and Pakistani help), though uncorroborated, are of concern to India as nuclear weapons in the hands of yet another military regime would not be conducive to long-term strategic stability in South Asia.5
-       Today India has become the fourth-largest investor in Myanmar and one of only eight countries known to regularly supply its army with lethal weaponry.  According to official statistics, Myanmar—India bilateral trade reached $1.07 billion in 2010—11, standing as Myanmar’s fourth largest trading partner after Thailand, Singapore and China.4

Chinese influence in Myanmar. Myanmar has been regarded as a “client state of China". Bilateral trade between China and Myanmar exceeds $1.5 billion and China is one of the major suppliers of arms to the junta. China, along with Russia, has consistently defended the government against efforts by mainly Western states to press UN sanctions. Its growing influence is a matter of grave concern:
o   China has made rapid advances into Myanmar and established close political, military and economic relations.
o   Myanmar provides China the shortest land route access to the northern Indian Ocean. China is developing Sittwe as a commercial port on the west coast. Additionally China is helping upgrade facilities at Coco Island port (Coco Islands are in the Bay of Bengal and are geographically part of the Andaman Islands archipelago). It is natural to expect/suspect  that Chinese naval activity in the Bay of Bengal will soon follow.5
o   China has signed a long-term agreement with Myanmar for the exploitation of its hydrocarbon reserves and for the transportation of oil and gas through a 1,100 km overland pipeline from Kyaukryu port in Myanmar to the border city of Ruili in Yunnan. This pipeline will reduce the distance by 1,200 km and make China less dependent on the Malacca Straits.
o   There are also concerns that China has set up radars in Myanmar territory to monitor Indian missile movements.
Thus its very important for India to develop a strong relationship with Burma to counter the spread of Chinese influence into the Indian subcontinent.

India’s recent engagement with Myanmar
Although India has engaged the Burmese junta, analysts say in reality India's benefits from cooperation with the junta have been disappointingly small on both the economic and security fronts. The Burmese regime plays India and China off of each other, protecting its own interests above all. But when forced to choose, the Burmese junta invariably favors Beijing. A case in point was the 2005 decision to award China a 30-year contract to develop the most valuable blocks of the Shwe natural gas fields despite India putting in a higher bid. This leaning towards China stems from the fact that, China has supported the junta from Western criticism and will expectedly continue to do so in the future too.  1.
On its part India supports democracy and democratization, but believes that this has to be an internal process. The GOI has used its influence with the generals to move towards an inclusive society and broadbased participation in governance. The Indian government had also persuaded the Generals to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Indian engagement with the junta has many positive outcomes too. It has created some goodwill in the Myanmar regime for India which was evidenced from Indian relief operations being allowed in the wake of the earthquake in March 2011. UN Under-Secretary General was allowed entry into Burma after Indian persuasion.
The situation has changed with the 2010 elections, which put in place a nominally democratic government. This has given India space to widen its engagement. Though the election was widely viewed as deeply flawed, it set in motion a process of change. New political institutions - a presidential system, two houses of parliament, 14 regional governments and assemblies - have been created. Civil society groups, which emerged in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, have reportedly grown in number in recent months.  Myanmar's parliamentarians and civil society activists have expressed interest in India's "considerable experience in parliamentary democracy and institution building".
Analysts opine that New Delhi should be clever and use its values and role as a leader within Asia to change the regional calculus on Burma. This means working with fellow democracies in the region such as Indonesia, Japan and Thailand to press for political reform and improvement on human-rights, economic and internal security issues that have external consequences for the region.1
By broadening the scope of its engagement in Myanmar while retaining its focus on security concerns and furthering economic interests, India appears to be winning back lost public goodwill. New Delhi is no doubt hoping that the people-centric projects and reaching out to the masses will make its relationship with its eastern neighbor more sustainable. 

Some projects that are under discussion or in the pipeline:
-       $120 million Kaladan multimodal transit and transport project that India has funded and constructed. This project will link landlocked Mizoram with Myanmar's Sittwe port. India is already upgrading Sittwe port. 6
-       an agreement for construction of an 80-kilometer road linking Rhi in India's northeastern state of Mizoram with Riddim in Myanmar's mountainous Chin province. The US$60 million project is expected to improve overland trade, providing a boost to the local economies
-       India pledged $10 million towards capacity building in Myanmar- will focus on the agricultural sector, which is the backbone of Myanmar's economy. India is setting up an agricultural research center.
-       India handed over 10 modern and disaster-proof rice silos to preserve grains during natural calamities. Ministry of Agriculture will be drawing up plans on extending cooperation to Myanmar. India has already agreed to provide $10mn for procurement of agricultural tools, and 100 computers to help computerize land records.
-       India will send an ASI team to help restore the 11th century Ananda temple in Mandalay region.
-       India has agreed to modernize the childerns hospital in Yangon.

Burma’s growing significance as the linking pin between South Asia and East Asia.
U Thant Myin in a new book envisages a fundamental reorientation of Asia with the two great civilizations of India and China being woven closer together and Burma playing the linking pin.
The Chinese were the first to recognize the great opportunity that Burma presented and in the 1990s unveiled plans to connect its interiors to the Indian Ocean. This realizes what has been termed a “two oceans policy” to link China to the World- first is Pacific  and the second would be Indian Ocean. In this vision Burma becomes a new bridge to the Bay of Bengal  and the seas beyond. This also resolves China’s “Malacca Dilemma”- China is heavily dependent on foreign oil, and approximately 80 percent of these oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, For Chinese strategists, the strait is a natural choke point where future enemies could cut off foreign energy supplies. Burma provides the alternative route needed. Chinese planners have declared that by 2016 it will be possible to travel from Rangoon to Beijing in a day, a grand route that they hope will one day extend to Delhi and therefrom to Europe.9
Meanwhile, India has its own ambitions. Not left behind is the US- the Obama administration has compromised its proclaimed promotion of human rights and democracy in its quest to counterbalance China. Some in the opposition believe the US, too, has begun to "Look East" and subjugated its previous commitment to promoting rights and democracy in Myanmar to the broader strategic policy aim of counterbalancing China. 

Myanmar has thus become a new testing ground for great power competition- a Great Game. 3 


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Full form: The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991

ICTY is an adhoc court established by a resolution of the UN Security Council. The objective is to prosecute serious crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The tribunal is located in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The ICTY indicted 161 persons, of whom the last two Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic were arrested in 2011. The ICTY has completed 81 cases, and is expected to conclude its work in 2014.

Additional Notes:

The ICTY was the first war crimes court created by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals.

Successes of ICTY:
-       "Spearheading the shift from impunity to accountability"- in the face of reluctance by prosecutors in Yugoslavia to take up these cases.
-       "Establishing the facts"
-       "Bringing justice to thousands of victims and giving them a voice"
-       "The accomplishments in international law"- fleshing out concepts of international criminal law
-       "Strengthening the Rule of Law"

Undoubtedly, the Tribunal’s work has had a major impact on the states of the former Yugoslavia. Simply by removing some of the most senior and notorious criminals and holding them accountable the Tribunal has been able to lift the taint of violence, contribute to ending impunity and help pave the way for reconciliation.


Monday, 5 September 2011

Sculpture: Gandhara and Mathura Schools of Art

Reproduced from: 

Gandhara art,  style of Buddhist visual art developed in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan between the 1st century bce and the 7th century ce. The style, of Greco-Roman origin,  flourished largely during the Kushan dynasty and was contemporaneous with another school of Kushan art at Mathura.

Gandhara region had long been a crossroads of cultural influences. During the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka (3rd century bce), the region became the scene of intensive Buddhist missionary activity. And in the 1st century ce, rulers of the Kushan empire, maintained contacts with Rome. In its interpretation of Buddhist legends, the Gandhara school incorporated many motifs and techniques from Classical Roman art, including vine scrolls, cherubs bearing garlands, tritons, and centaurs. The basic iconography, however, remained Indian.

The materials used for Gandhara sculpture were green phyllite and gray-blue mica schist, and stucco. The sculptures were originally painted and gilded. The Gandhara school drew upon the anthropomorphic traditions of Roman religionand represented the Buddha with a youthful Apollo-like face, dressed in garments resembling those seen on Roman imperial statues. The Gandhara depiction of the seated Buddha was less successful.

The schools of Gandhara and Mathura each independently evolved its own characteristic depiction of the Buddha about the 1st century ce. Nonetheless the schools influenced each other, and the general trend was away from a naturalistic conception and toward a more idealized, abstract image. 

Mathurā art,  was a style of Buddhist visual art that flourished in the trading and pilgrimage centre of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India, from the 2nd century bc to the 12th century ad. Its most distinctive contributions were made during the Kushān and Gupta periods (1st–6th century ad). The material used was the spotted red sandstone from the nearby Sīkri quarries. The fact that these statues are found widely distributed over north central India, attest to Mathurā’s importance as an exporter of sculpture.

The Mathurā images are related to the earlier yaka (male nature deity) figures, a resemblance particularly evident in the colossal standing Buddha images of the early Kushān period. In these, and in the more representative seated Buddhas, the overall effect is one of enormous energy. The shoulders are broad, the chest swells, and the legs are firmly planted with feet spaced apart. Other characteristics are the shaven head; the uṣṇīa (protuberance on the top of the head) indicated by a tiered spiral; a round smiling face; the right arm raised in abhaya-mudrā (gesture of reassurance); the left arm akimbo or resting on the thigh; the drapery closely molding the body and arranged in folds over the left arm, leaving the right shoulder bare; and the presence of the lion throne rather than the lotus throne. Later, the hair began to be treated as a series of short flat spirals lying close to the head, the type that came to be the standard representation throughout the Buddhist world.

Jaina and Hindu images of the period are carved in the same style, and the images of the Jaina Tīrthakaras, or saints, are difficult to distinguish from contemporary images of the Buddha, except by reference to iconography. 

The dynastic portraits produced by the Mathurā workshops are of special interest. These rigidly frontal figures of Kushān kings are dressed in Central Asian fashion, with belted tunic, high boots, and conical cap, a style of dress also used for representations of the Hindu sun god, Sūrya.

The female figures at Mathura, carved in high relief on the pillars and gateways of both Buddhist and Jaina monuments, are frankly sensuous in their appeal. These delightful nude or seminude figures are shown in a variety of toilet (shringar) scenes or in association with trees, indicating their continuance of the yakī (female nature deity) tradition. As auspicious emblems of fertility and abundance they commanded a popular appeal that persisted with the rise of Buddhism.

Integrated Check-Post Project

The ICP project, is part of the government of India's initiative for better border management to put in place systems which address both security concerns, as well as facilitate cross-border trade and commerce.

An ICP is envisaged to discharge sovereign functions of security checking, immigration, customs and quarantine. It will also have facilities for smooth cross-border movement of persons, goods and transport like dedicated passenger and cargo terminal, service stations, fuel stations etc. An institutional framework viz. Land Ports Authorities of India (LPAI) will be established and charged with the responsibility to undertake the construction, management and maintenance of ICPs. 2

The 11th Plan provided for an initial outlay of Rs.635  crore during the plan period to set up 13 ICPs on the borders between India and Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar. Recently FinMin Chindambaram laid the foundation stone of ICP at the India-Bangladesh international border. The setting up of the ICP would augment trade relations and tourism and result in rapid multiplication of the bilateral trade volume. Seven of the 13 ICPs will be set up on the India-Bangladesh border. This is also a sign of improving relations and future prospects of trade between the two neighbours.

RBIs Draft New Banking Guidelines (Sep 2011)

1.    Eligible promoters should have diversified ownership, sound credentials and integrity and a successful track record of at least ten years.
2.    The RBI has barred groups having an exposure even of 10 per cent (by way of assets or income or both) in real estate and/or broking activities over the past three years. Evidently, these sectors are ‘speculative' in nature and the business model adopted in such businesses will be ‘misaligned' with that required by a bank.
3.    Corporate structure: New banks will be set only through a wholly-owned non-operative holding company (NOHC), which will be registered with the RBI as a non-banking finance company. All financial activities of the promoter group will come under the NOHC. The idea is to ring fence the financial interests of the group from its other business activities and give a measure of protection to the bank's depositors.
4.    The minimum capital requirement will be Rs.500 crore.
5.    Corporate governance: At least 50 per cent of the directors of the NOHC should be independent directors.
6.    The business model should propose how the bank proposes to achieve financial inclusion. The bank should have a fourth of its branches in unbanked rural areas.
7.    RBI will get necessary powers for extensive supervision.