'Common Man' creator no more
- The legendary cartoonist and creator of the Common Man , R.K. Laxman, one of post-Independence India’s greatest caricaturists, died of a cardiac arrest at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital here on Monday evening. He was 93.
- Mr. Laxman, born in the then Mysore on October 24, 1921, was the youngest of six sons of a school headmaster and became famous as his brother, writer R.K. Narayan. Growing up in the city’s idyllic environs, Mr. Laxman was influenced by the caricatures of the New Zealand-born Sir David Low, then the pre-eminent caricaturist of the Western world.
Permanent commission for women hanging fire
- As women officers made history by leading contingents of the three services at the 66th Republic Day parade on Rajpath, an appeal filed by the government against giving permanent commission to them in the Army lies pending and half-forgotten in the Supreme Court.
- For almost five years, this appeal on behalf of the Army against a Delhi High Court judgment of March 12, 2010 has travelled through various Benches of the apex court without reaching finality.
- Filed in the Supreme Court on July 6, 2010, the appeal sought a stay of the High Court decision, which observed that women officers “deserve better from the government.”
- The High Court had rejected the government’s contention that permanent commission could only be allowed prospectively. “If male officers can be granted permanent commission, there is no reason why equally capable women officers can’t,” the Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.C. Garg had reasoned.
- Women are inducted into the Army as officers under Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years, whereas their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.
- Due to their limited service span, the women officers are not eligible for pension, which requires a minimum 20 years of service. “Their release comes at a juncture when they are still in their mid-thirties and not trained for any other job,” the PIL pleas had argued.
The deadlock in Nepal
- The political turmoil in Nepal continues as the prospects of reaching a consensus over a new draft Constitution still appears bleak. The Constituent Assembly was expected to promulgate a new Constitution on January 22, but the political parties were unable to resolve their differences in order to complete the task. The intense optimism that accompanied the nation’s transition from being a monarchy to a republic about a decade ago has turned into dismay with the political parties repeatedly failing to deliver on their promises. Nepal witnessed a transition in 1990 from authoritarian monarchic rule to a constitutional monarchy, followed by a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006 with a peace agreement and the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008. The Interim Constitution of 2007 created a 601-member Constituent Assembly that also doubled as Parliament until a new Constitution was enacted. The Maoists emerged as the majority party in the April 2008 elections, but the Constituent Assembly failed to meet its 2012 deadline and so the Assembly stood dissolved and fresh elections were called. The second Constituent Assembly that was convened in January 2014 also failed to draft a Constitution. Rivalry and squabbles amongst parties are the main reasons for the state of political dysfunction. In the majority is a coalition of the Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party that has a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. The Maoist party, which performed dismally in the second round of elections, has partnered with the Madheshi Morcha, a coalition of regional parties from the southern plains.
- Federalism has become one of the most contentious issues to be resolved by the Assembly. This debate is closely tied to issues of identity and equality in a diverse nation with hundreds of communities, dialects and cultures. The ethnic and regional parties demand a federal structure that recognises and grants political autonomy to their groups, while its opponents warn that such sectarian politics threaten the country’s unified national identity by fuelling ethnic conflicts among groups. This genuinely significant problem of creating and redefining the essence and identity of a new constitutional democracy is, however, being jeopardised by power struggles among political parties that are exploiting and polarising the diversity of the regions for their own personal gains. On 25 January, Constituent Assembly Chairman Subash Nembang announced the formation of a proposal committee to prepare a questionnaire on the disputed issues of the new Constitution, which will then be voted upon by the Assembly. But with an Opposition that is vehemently opposed to the move, there is little room for optimism on this count at this point.(Source - The Hindu)
- Everybody was confident that U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit would be a good and successful one. The first U.S. President to be the chief guest at the Republic Day; the first U.S. President to visit India twice during his tenure. The question was whether it would be a great visit, and a historic visit. Clearly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted it that way and he has successfully put his imprint on India-U.S. relations.
- Between 1998-2000, the empathy between Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh built up over more than a dozen rounds of talks in less than two years, created the backdrop against which Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee changed the idiom of India-U.S. relations from “estranged democracies” to “natural allies,” a politically bold but also a risky move at a time when India was under sanctions after the May 1998 nuclear tests. Brajesh Mishra, Mr. Vajpayee’s Principal Secretary and National Security Advisor, effectively established benchmarks for the bureaucracy in terms of giving content to the vision. Once most of the sanctions were lifted and President Clinton undertook a successful visit to India in March 2000, the two countries started working on the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. This was carried forward with the Bush administration, though top level commitment between Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Bush was missing, because, as famously said, he found it difficult to understand Mr. Vajpayee’s long pauses.
- Manmohan Singh. Dr. Singh and Mr. Bush created the nuclear breakthrough in 2005 and continued to shepherd it through difficult domestic politics for three years, till the deal was finally inked in October 2008, just a month before Mr. Obama was elected to the White House. President Bush had faced a hostile Congress especially after 2006, which actively took up the agenda of the non-proliferation lobby in Washington while Dr. Singh, who did not receive the full backing of either his party or of his coalition partners, even threatened to quit, putting his political legacy at stake. It is interesting that this unlikely risk taker later recalled the India-U.S. Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as the memorable achievement of his 10-year tenure. Though the UPA came back with a stronger mandate in 2009, Dr. Singh was no longer “Singh is King” and gradually became a weaker Prime Minister, yielding often to “coalition dharma.” He developed a good equation with Mr. Obama who referred to him as a “wise guru” but Dr. Singh’s commitment to the bilateral relationship could no longer be translated into benchmarks, on account of a lack of adequate staff work and fractured authority. India-U.S. relations were put on the back burner, surfacing on the front pages only when a controversy like that of diplomat Devyani Khobragade erupted.
- The element of personal chemistry, reflected in Mr. Modi’s departure from protocol to receive his “friend” Barack at the Delhi airport, the image of the two leaders engaged in an animated conversation as they seemingly ironed out the last minute hitches in the nuclear deal on the lawns of Hyderabad House, the chai pe charcha , exchanges on how much sleep each got, was the equivalent of high fives. In fact Mr. Modi referred to the personal chemistry that he shares with Mr. Obama during their joint press conference and this has become the necessary catalyst to sustain the momentum in the relationship over the next two years. This has enabled Mr. Modi to convert the Obama visit into a great and historic event.
The centrepiece of the visit has been the “nuclear deal” though few details have emerged. There were two sticking points — administrative tracking which implies keeping track of all U.S.-supplied nuclear equipment and materials at all times and a U.S. requirement which India was reluctant to accept as it went beyond the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections that India had voluntarily agreed to (i.e. US abandoning its demand for tracking fuel supplies, even from third countries, to the Indian reactors. India had opposed this demand while agreeing for IAEA oversight, to which US has come around), and certain aspects of India’s nuclear liability law which U.S. suppliers (and other foreign and domestic suppliers too) found ambiguous and open-ended. It now appears that the U.S. has moderated its demand and will be satisfied with IAEA safeguards. In turn, the Indian side has explained its plans to set up an insurance pool amounting to Rs.1,500 crore (a ceiling under Indian law), half of which will be contributed by the suppliers and the operator (in this case, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) and the balance, by the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC) and four other insurance companies. The premium costs, at between 0.1 per cent, would amount to less than Rs.1 crore per reactor and can be easily factored into the overall costs. The Indian side has also made an assurance to provide a legal memorandum that suppliers will not be liable to general tort law claims and, accordingly, multiple, concurrent liability claims will not be entertained. In other words, recourse from suppliers in case of nuclear damage can only be under the Liability Act, which is now limited in amount. Presumably, the government is confident that this assurance will be able to withstand a legal challenge.