Earlier this week, India sent an amphibious warship, INS Airavat, to Madagascar.
Operation Vanilla: Navy delivered clothing, food and medicines, and also provided diving and communication assistance for evacuation.
The move follows an appeal by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina for international help to deal with an unprecedented situation caused by floods.
Humanitarian operations have emerged as a key component of the Indian Navy’s peacetime strategy in the IOR. In March 2019, the Navy deployed four warships for relief operations when Mozambique was hit by Cyclone Idai.
A few months later, the Navy sent two warships to Japan to assist in rescue efforts following Typhoon Hagibis.
A year earlier, Indian vessels had delivered urgent medical assistance to Sulawesi, Indonesia, after it was struck by a high-intensity earthquake.
Operation Samudra Maitri was launched after a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with naval planners mobilising assets and relief material in quick time.
The Navy’s new humanitarian approach, many say, is a maritime manifestation of Mr. Modi’s vision for the IOR, christened SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region).
It was in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that naval commanders first recognised the importance of large-scale relief and rescue missions in the IOR.
For over a decade, considerable resource and energy has been spent developing specialist capability and skills for naval humanitarian operations.
New Delhi’s resolve to burnish its ‘regional security provider’ credentials.
The highpoint of the Navy’s ‘benign’ efforts was the evacuation of over 1,500 Indian expatriates and 1,300 foreign nationals from Yemen in 2015 amid fighting for control of Aden.
Three years later, Indian naval ships were in Yemen again, to evacuate 38 Indians stranded in the cyclone-hit Socotra Island.
Evolving operations philosophy: ‘first responder’ Such an approach has the potential to create an extended sphere of Indian influence in the IOR.
Cause for caution: The key is to not let the underlying intent of a mission appear geopolitical.
However, unlike the U.S. and China that have in their inventory hospital ships fully equipped for medical assistance, India deploys regular warships and survey ships converted for medical aid.
The Navy’s expanding array of humanitarian missions reveals a need for greater coordination with the Indo-Pacific navies.
Humanitarian operations could serve as a springboard for a larger cooperative endeavour in the maritime commons.
A case of a maritime presence adrift
The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency tasked with regulating shipping, had mandated that merchant ships should not burn fuel with sulphur content greater than 0.5% beginning January 1.
Before the ban, fuel had a comfortable sulphur content limit of 3.5%, which was applicable to most parts of the world.
Past mandates on sulphur limits in American waters had led to many technical problems.
Efforts are ongoing to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone-depleting gases.
174 member states and three associate members There are also scores of non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations.
The IMO, like any other UN agency, is primarily a secretariat. The IMO’s policies or conventions have a serious impact on every aspect of shipping including the cost of maritime trade. Prominent maritime nations have their permanent representatives at London.
European countries move their proposals in unison and voting or support are given en bloc.
China, Japan, Singapore, Korea and a few others represent their interests through their permanent representative as well as ensuring that a large delegation takes part and intervenes in the meetings.
India’s permanent representative post at London has remained vacant for the last 25 years.
Number of submissions made by India in the recent past has been measly and not in proportion to India’s stakes in global shipping.
A classic case was the promulgation of “High Risk Areas” when piracy was at its peak and dominated media headlines.
The entire south-west coast of India being seen as piracyinfested, despite the presence of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. The “Enrica Lexie” shooting incident of 2012, off the coast of Kerala was a direct fallout of the demarcation.
The “High Risk Area” formulation led to a ballooning of insurance costs.
There was also great difficulty in introducing the indigenously designed NavIC (NAVigation with Indian Constellation) in the worldwide maritime navigation system.
Need of the hour
Right-thinking people from all walks of life mobilised in a manner befitting a vibrant democracy, and several State governments and Assemblies have expressed reservations.
Muslims have equal rights as all other citizens of India to assemble and protest.
Reducing the CAA debate into a question of Muslim rights alone is dishonour of the pluralist, inclusive Constitution of secular India.
After the success in kindling a national debate on the issue which is now before the Supreme Court that will litigate its constitutionality, anti-CAA protesters must now hold their fire.
Punish the police
Teams of police personnel have been visiting the Shaheen School for some days now, and they have already arrested a teacher and a parent so far, for an allegedly seditious and inflammatory play against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Section 124A, the provisions invoked concern insult aimed at provoking breach of peace, statements made with intent to incite people against the state and promote enmity between groups on the basis of religion.
It was only a few days ago that a Supreme Court Bench observed that words such as ‘anti-national’ and ‘sedition’ were being bandied about loosely these days.
The Disaster Management Act was enacted to effectively prevent, mitigate and prepare for disasters.
Disaster Management Act of 2005
Focus: improving preparedness, providing immediate relief, and protecting infrastructure.
it neglects a key aspect of disaster management – long-term recovery.
The Act rightly emphasises the need to move from responding to disasters to effective preparedness, which has led to most States investing in resilient infrastructure, early warning systems and evacuation.
1999 super cyclone in Odisha
2001 Bhuj earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
National Disaster Management Authority
State Disaster Management Authorities
District Disaster Management Authorities The Act’s enormous emphasis on preparedness has translated into timely warnings, relief shelters and massive evacuation exercises.
However, steps towards recovery and rehabilitation of disasteraffected people are hardly discussed. Recovery measures should address inherent vulnerabilities pertaining to livelihoods, education, water, sanitation, health, and ecology of the disaster-affected communities. Intangible losses such as psychosocial needs of the communities should be given equal emphasis.
Long-term recovery needs to be thought of alongside development in an integrated and comprehensive manner by combining with health, skill building, and livelihood diversification schemes.
Continuity and fiscal follow-through
The appointment of the Fifteenth Finance Commission by the President of India under Article 280 of the Constitution was notified on November 27, 2017.
It was required to submit the report by October 30, 2019 for five years for the period 2020-21 to 2024-25.
However, due to various political and fiscal developments, notifications were issued first, on July 27 extending the tenure of the Commission up to November 30, 2019, and again on November 29 requiring it to submit two reports, one for 2020-21 and the second covering the period of five years beginning April 1, 2021 and further extending the tenure up to October 30, 2021.
The first report submitted by the Commission was placed in Parliament by the Union Finance Minister before presenting the Union Budget on February 1, 2019.
The abolition of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir required the Commission to make an estimation excluding the Union Territory. The deceleration in growth and low inflation has substantially slowed down the nominal GDP growth which is the main tax base proxy; making projections of tax revenues and expenditures based on this for the medium term could have posed serious risks.
Poor revenue performance of tax collection and more particularly Goods and Services Tax. The Commission has continued with the approach and methodology adopted by the previous Commissions for tax devolution and revenue-gap grants.
There were media reports that the share would be reduced and by maintaining the share, the Commission has avoided controversy. By keeping the weight of 2011 population at 15% and giving an additional 12.5% to demographic performance which is the inverse of fertility rate, the Commission has shown sensitivity to the concerns of these States.
All the three layers of panchayats will receive the grant and 50% of the grant is tied to improving sanitation and supply of drinking water; the remaining is untied.
The Commission has worked out a framework for giving some sectoral grants as well. For 2020-21, it has recommended ₹7,735 crore for improving nutrition based on the numbers of children in the 0-6 age group and lactating mothers.
The challenge, however, will be to design and dovetail sectoral and performance grants with the existing plethora of central sector and centrally sponsored schemes.
How to reduce NRC’s administrative burdens
The absence of concerted efforts towards reorganising the government’s internal processes to improve the ease of identification, authentication, and verification of policy targets creates risks for the long-term viability of the expansion of such digitalised welfare. The European Union countries, as part of the 2017 Tallinn Declaration on e-Government, have come together to enact the ‘The Once-Only Principle (TOOP)’.
The EU’s Single Digital Gateway Regulation marks an important step towards making governments more responsive to concerns about privacy, the hardships faced by vulnerable social groups, and the lack of proportionality in the policy design for digitalising government. TOOP aims to remove unnecessary administrative burdens on citizens by mandating that citizens are not required to provide the same information more than once to the government.
TOOP requires the enacting of the legal and implementation framework that fully realises the individual liberties already bestowed by the Constitution and reiterated by the Supreme Court. However, laying down a legal framework and an implementation pathway for TOOP in India is only possible with a firm and earnest political leadership.
Under this law, the government first presents the full details of all the information which is already available with it to the citizen. It then requests that the individual verify and correct any errors, by providing multiple, noncoercive opportunities to furnish only further information or additional documents as necessary.
By enacting TOOP, Mr. Modi can lay claim to having made those rights substantial rather than merely symbolic.
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