GS Paper II- International Relations.

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

What’s Happening-
U.S. President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions on Iran’s weapons procurement network , provoking an angry response from Tehran in what is an increasingly tense stand-off.

Key Points discussed were:

Reasons for Sanctions:

  • The new measures by USA was in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test and its support for the Huthi rebels in Yemen, who recently targeted a Saudi warship.
  • The new sanctions do not yet mean that the U.S. has abandoned commitments it made under the deal to lift measures aimed at Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Iran reacted angrily to the sanctions, vowing to impose “legal limitations” on Americans that Tehran alleges are involved in creating and supporting “extreme terrorist groups”.

Strategic review:

  • The immediate trigger for the sanctions was Iran’s test, of a ballistic missile that U.S. officials judge to have been capable of one day carrying a nuclear warhead.
  • Huthi forces attacked a Saudi warship operating off Yemen, U.S. official said: “We’re very concerned about freedom of navigation in the Bab el-Mandeb area.”
  • The senior official said Iran was “not necessarily responsible for every tactical decision” made by Huthi forces, but that it will be made to bear responsibility for its “proxies”.

Background-
Huthi rebels, a powerful faction in Yemen’s civil war which U.S. intelligence believes is armed and supported by Iran.

International Body:
UN Security Council Resolution 2231:
The United States has already protested about Iran’s missile test at the United Nations, arguing it was “inconsistent” with UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu, MEA.

GS Paper II -Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Kohima calm after violence

What’s Happening-
Protesters unrelenting; bodies of youths killed in police firing laid to rest
Prohibitory orders issued by the Kohima district administration in some areas continued to be in force with no report of any untoward incident even as the bodies of two youths killed in police firing during the protests were laid to rest.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC), Kohima, said the bandh against the movement of government vehicles and functioning of government offices would continue until its demands were met fully.

Two demands met’

  1. The government had fulfilled two demands of the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee —
  2. Declaring the process of elections to urban local bodies null and void.
  3. Suspending police personnel involved in the January 31 firing that led to the killing of the two youths.

Why bandh – continue:

  • However, the demand for the resignation of Chief Minister Zeliang and his Cabinet colleagues had not been met.
  • Therefore, the bandh against the government would continue.

Governor’s assurance:

  • Nagaland Governor P.B. Acahrya, looking into the prevailing situation.
  • The Governor had assured action against wrongdoers.

Human Rights Violation:

  • A mob went on a rampage to vent its anger against the killing of two protesting youths in police action and to oppose the elections to the urban local bodies.

Background-
Traditional tribal bodies which considered Article 234(T) – providing 33 per cent reservation for women – as an infringement upon Naga tradition and customs as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution.
Women groups under the banner of Nagaland Mothers’ Association (NMA) and Joint Action Committee for Women’s Reservation (JACWR) on their part have approached the Supreme Court.
The Nagaland government announced civic bodies’ elections in December 2016 followed by the announcement of 33 per cent reservation of seats for women.
Various tribal bodies including Naga Hoho, the apex organisation of all major tribes, have been opposing the civic elections.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 2

GS Paper II –  Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Centre spurns Gujarat’s plea to end duty on scrap-ship imports

What’s Happening-
The Centre has rejected a demand from Gujarat, which leads in ship re-cycling, to give an impetus to the sector by abolishing the 2.5% Basic Customs Duty (BCD) levied on ships imported for scrap.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The state government’s proposal BCD was turned down by the Centre saying such a move will, among other things, harm primary manufacturers of iron and steel because items obtained from the scrap generated from breaking up of ships will compete with the products manufactured by them.

Why BCD eliminate?

  • According to the state government, the 2.5% BCD — levied on vessels and other floating structures for breaking up — needs to be eliminated as India’s major ship breaking industry competitors such as China and Pakistan do not impose any customs duty on scrap for ship breaking industries.

35% global share:

  • India accounted for around 35% share globally in 2014 in ship recycling — the main method of disposal of old ships — in terms of tonnage of ship.
  • Within India, Gujarat is the leader in the labour-intensive segment as over 90% of ship recycling in India takes place at Alang-Sosiya Ship Recycling Yard.

Domestic steel makers:

  • The move was aimed at protecting domestic steel makers in the backdrop of the decline in prices of these items as well as surge in cheap imports of iron and steel.

Central Government’s argument:

  • Reducing the BCD on ship-breaking further from 2.5% to zero will “disturb the rationalisation in rates between vessels and other floating structures for breaking up and melting scrap of iron or steel (other than stainless steel).”
  • Eliminating the duty will also increase the ‘duty differential’ (to 12.5%).
  • Due to all these reasons, “there is no economic justification” for abolishing the BCD on ships for breaking up”.

Background-
Alang-Sosiya Ship Recycling Yard:
The yard, developed by the Gujarat Maritime Board in 1982, provides direct and indirect employment to over 1.5 lakh people.

Ship-recycling policy’

  • The Gujarat government announced a ‘ship recycling policy’ to encourage the segment, promote eco-friendly industrial activity at Alang-Sosiya, as well as to help it tide over the slowdown experienced during 2011-15, when there was a 50% fall in the number of ships dismantled and tonnage.

Economic factors Hurting:

  • The State said the factors that hurt the ship recycling industry include rupee depreciation and high volatility against the U.S. dollar leading to ship breakers postponing their purchases (imports of old ships), lower increase in steel prices in India as well as competition from countries such as China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.