Blog

Daily Current Affairs 12.09.2022 (The tedious process of adoption, The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rajasthan, Behind the Pakistan F-16 deal, a tale of many wheels, ‘Adopt a TB patient’ drive finds mitras, Third stealth frigate of Project 17A Taragiri launched in Mumbai, India-Bangladesh ties, a model for bilateral cooperation, Nose dose, We need civil society engagement in Kashmir)

Daily Current Affairs 12.09.2022 (The tedious process of adoption, The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rajasthan, Behind the Pakistan F-16 deal, a tale of many wheels, ‘Adopt a TB patient’ drive finds mitras, Third stealth frigate of Project 17A Taragiri launched in Mumbai, India-Bangladesh ties, a model for bilateral cooperation, Nose dose, We need civil society engagement in Kashmir)

5-7

1. The tedious process of adoption

What laws determine adoption rules in India? Why is referring cases to District Magistrates cause for concern?

From September 1, District Magistrates (DM) have been empowered to give adoption orders instead of courts. All cases pending before courts have to be now transferred. 

The revised rules have parents, activists, lawyers and adoption agencies worried as cases already before courts for the past several months will have to be transferred and the process will have to start afresh. The Central Adoption Resource Authority says there are nearly 1,000 adoption cases pending before various courts in the country. 

Adoptions in India are governed by two laws — the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. 

Jagriti Chandra

The story so far: From September 1, District Magistrates (DM) have been empowered to give adoption orders instead of courts. All cases pending before courts have to be now transferred. Hundreds of adoptive parents in the country are now concerned that the transfer process will further delay what is already a long and tedious process. There are questions whether an order passed by the executive will pass muster when an adopted child’s entitlements on succession and inheritance are contested before a court.

What do the amended rules say? How did they come about?

The Parliament passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 in July last year in order to amend the Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act), 2015. The key changes include authorising District Magistrates and Additional District Magistrates to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act by striking out the word “court”. This was done “in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability,” according to a government statement. The District Magistrates have also been empowered under the Act to inspect child care institutions as well as evaluate the functioning of district child protection units, child welfare committees, juvenile justice boards, specialised juvenile police units, child care institutions etc.

The Act and the corresponding rules came into effect from September 1. The amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016 say, “all the cases pertaining to adoption matters pending before the Court shall stand transferred to the District Magistrate from the date of commencement of these rules.”

Why is there concern over the revised rules?

The revised rules have parents, activists, lawyers and adoption agencies worried as cases already before courts for the past several months will have to be transferred and the process will have to start afresh. A petition for adoption orders is filed after a parent registers for adoption, who is then assessed through a home study report, referred a child and subsequently allowed to take a child in pre-adoption foster care pending an adoption order. A delay in such an order can often mean that a child can’t get admission into a school because parents don’t yet have a birth certificate, or like in one case, parents unable to claim health insurance if a child is admitted to a hospital.

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) says there are nearly 1,000 adoption cases pending before various courts in the country. Parents and lawyers also state that neither judges, nor DMs are aware about the change in the JJ Act leading to confusion in the system and delays. According to CARA, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is drafting a letter to be sent to State governments clarifying that where adoption orders have already been given, or will be given shortly, the DMs should consider them valid. But there are also larger concerns.

“District Magistrates don’t handle civil matters that bestow inheritance and succession rights on a child. If these rights are contested when a child turns 18, a judicial order is far more tenable to ensure the child is not deprived of his or her entitlements.” says Nilima Mehta, former Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Mumbai.

What is the adoption procedure in India? What are the challenges?

Adoptions in India are governed by two laws — the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Both laws have their separate eligibility criteria for adoptive parents.

Those applying under the JJ Act have to register on CARA’s portal after which a specialised adoption agency carries out a home study report. After it finds the candidate eligible for adoption, a child declared legally free for adoption is referred to the applicant. Under HAMA, a “dattaka hom” ceremony or an adoption deed or a court order is sufficient to obtain irrevocable adoption rights. But there are no rules for monitoring adoptions and verifying sourcing of children and determining whether parents are fit to adopt.

There are many problems with the adoption system under CARA but at the heart of it is the fact that there are very few children in its registry. According to the latest figures there are only 2,188 children in the adoption pool, while there are more than 31,000 parents waiting to adopt a child which forces many to wait for upto three years to be able to give a family to a child. This allows traffickers to take advantage of loopholes in HAMA. These concerns were also highlighted by a Parliamentary panel in August in its report on the “Review of Guardianship and Adoption Law”, which recommended a district-level survey of orphaned and abandoned children.

According to Nilima Mehta, what is needed is a “child-centric, optional, enabling and gender-just” special adoption law like in other countries. “HAMA is a parent-centric law that provides son to the son-less for reasons of succession, inheritance, continuance of family name and for funeral rights and later adoption of daughters was incorporated because kanyadaan is considered an important part of dharma in Hindu tradition. As far as the JJ Act is concerned, the law handles issues of children in conflict with law as well as those who are in need of care and protection and only has a small chapter on adoptions,” Dr. Mehta explains.

In 2015, the then Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi centralised the entire adoption system by empowering CARA to maintain in various specialised adoption agencies, a registry of children, prospective adoptive parents as well as match them before adoption. This was aimed at checking rampant corruption and trafficking as child care institutions and NGOs could directly give children for adoption after obtaining a no-objection certificate from CARA. But the new system has failed in ensuring that more children in need of families are brought into its safety net.

“Yes, there was a need to check malpractices and improve monitoring. But in the new system the soul in adoption is gone. The human contact, bonding and psychological preparedness has been taken away. Therefore, parents may look at other ways to adopt a child.” One other dangerous repercussion of this is that in the past few years, there is an increasing number of disruptions and dissolutions, where children are returned after an adoption is formalised.

2. The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rajasthan

How is this initiative different from the MGNREGA for villagers? What are some of the similar schemes being implemented in other States?

The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme has rolled out in Rajasthan with the objective of providing economic support to the poor and needy families living in the cities through work to be provided on demand for 100 days in a year. 

Those in the age group of 18 to 60 years residing within the limits of urban local bodies are eligible to demand and get employment in the identified segments.

The initiative may benefit the ruling Congress in the run-up to the 2023 State Assembly election, as the party will highlight it as a major step to address the plight of urban poor.

Mohammed Iqbal

The story so far: The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme has rolled out in Rajasthan with the objective of providing economic support to the poor and needy families living in the cities through work to be provided on demand for 100 days in a year. The Congress government has touted it as the country’s biggest scheme to give guaranteed jobs to the people residing in cities, on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for villagers started by the UPA government at the Centre in 2006.

Who are eligible to get jobs?

Those in the age group of 18 to 60 years residing within the limits of urban local bodies are eligible to demand and get employment in the identified segments. There is no income limit, though the poor and destitute people, especially those who lost their livelihood during the pandemic, will be given preference. More than 3.5 lakh people across the State have got themselves registered under the scheme so far and job cards have been issued to 2.25 lakh of them.

A budgetary provision of ₹800 crore, announced by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in the State Assembly earlier this year, has been made for the scheme in 2022-23. At least 50 persons in each ward of urban local bodies will be given employment and the work permitted under the scheme will be approved and executed through committees at the State, district and local body levels. The State government will also reward the municipal bodies doing good work under the scheme. The cost of material and the payment for the labour for work of general nature will be in the ratio of 25:75 and will vary for special work which needs technical expertise. The State government’s Department of Local Bodies will be responsible for the scheme’s implementation.

What are the categories of tasks?

The tasks to be carried out under the scheme have been clubbed mainly under eight heads. The first is environment protection, which will involve tree plantation at public places, maintenance of parks and watering plants on footpaths and dividers. The next is water conservation, where the tasks may be allotted for cleanliness and improvement of ponds, lakes and stepwells, construction, repair and cleaning of rain water harvesting structures and restoration of water sources. Other categories are heritage conservation, removal of encroachments and illegal boards, hoardings and banners, stopping defacement of property and service-related works.

As part of convergence, the people engaged under the employment guarantee scheme can be employed elsewhere in other schemes, already having a material component, which require the labour. Eligible people will get work such as tree plantation, cleaning ponds, collecting garbage from door to door and segregating it and catching stray animals. Apart from all these categories, the State government can add new tasks or amend the ones already included in the list. A Jan Aadhar card, introduced by the State government, or its registration slip will be required for registration, which can be done at e-Mitra centres. While more than 31,000 muster rolls have been issued for the work, the wages will be paid at the rate of ₹259 a day to unskilled labourers and ₹283 a day to skilled labourers. The ‘mates’ or supervisors on top of the labourers will get ₹271 a day. Livelihood rights activists feel that though the scheme would help reduce distress among the urban population, the ultimate test of its success will be to ensure that it improves the wage rate in the labour market, which was one of the major contributions of MGNREGA.

What will be its political implications?

The Congress government has tried to reach out to large sections of the population with the launch of the scheme and has sought to make an emotional connect by naming it after the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. While experts have opined that the labour force participation rate’s gap between the rural and urban areas is widening, a few other schemes, including the payment of unemployment allowance, are already operative in the State. The latest initiative may benefit the ruling Congress in the run-up to the 2023 State Assembly election, as the party will highlight it as a major step to address the plight of urban poor, which had not received much attention earlier. The identification of unemployed youths in urban areas may require an approach different from the one adopted in the villages for MGNREGA. Besides, the kind of jobs provided under the scheme will be different than those in the rural areas and will need a more skilled workforce. The scheme may turn out to be a game changer for the people who lost their jobs in the pandemic and are struggling to make ends meet amid high inflation.

Are similar schemes operative in other States?

The Rajasthan government has prepared the employment guarantee programme after studying similar such schemes operative in other States. Several States are looking favourably towards an urban version of MGNREGA. These schemes include the Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in Kerala, Urban Wage Employment Initiative under UNNATI in Odisha, Mukhya Mantri Shramik Yojana in Jharkhand and Mukhya Mantri Yuva Swabhiman Yojana in Madhya Pradesh.

The demand for a job guarantee scheme in the cities is increasing because of the growing distress among the urban poor, higher unemployment rates in urban areas in comparison with villages, the persistently high inflation affecting the people and the prevalence of low-wage and poor quality informal work in urban areas. Moreover, as against the rural unemployment being mostly seasonal, unemployed people in the cities face problems throughout the year.

3. Behind the Pakistan F-16 deal, a tale of many wheels

The sale was considered only symbolically important by the U.S., but it had many strings attached

The sale by the United States of F-16 military aircraft to Pakistan, announced in 2005, was celebrated as a sign of deepening strategic ties between Islamabad and the Bush administration in Washington.

Privately, however, the U.S. acknowledged the “reality” that the F-16 programme would not change India’s “overwhelming air superiority over Pakistan.” In fact, the cables bluntly assert that the F-16s would be “no match for India’s proposed purchase of F-18 or equivalent aircraft.”

Fully aware of such limitations, the U.S. continued to press ahead with the deal, and the leaked cables document hectic parleys to bring it to fruition.

S. Arun Mohan

India has raised “strong objections” during official meetings, with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu in Delhi last week, to the U.S. plan for Foreign Military Sales worth $450 million for hardware, software and spares for the F-16 fighter jet programme with Pakistan. In this article, published on May 30, 2011, S. Arun Mohan through confidential cables acquired by The Hindu through WikiLeaks talks about how the U.S. had used the F-16 jet deal to “yield foreign policy benefits for the U.S.” at the expense of Pakistan. 

The sale by the United States of F-16 military aircraft to Pakistan, announced in 2005, was celebrated as a sign of deepening strategic ties between Islamabad and the Bush administration in Washington. Described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an attempt to “break out of the notion that [India and Pakistan are in] a hyphenated relationship,” the decision was met with anguish in New Delhi. But leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggest that the sale was used only to further America’s broad strategic interests, with Pakistan standing to gain little from the deal.

The despatches, from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, indicated that the deal was, among other things, meant to assuage Pakistan’s fears of an “existential threat it perceived from India.” The diplomatic cables, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, suggested that the purpose of the sale was to divert Pakistan’s attention from “the nuclear option,” and give it “time and space to employ a conventional reaction” in the event of a conflict with India (> 151227: confidential). Privately, however, the U.S. acknowledged the “reality” that the F-16 programme would not change India’s “overwhelming air superiority over Pakistan.” In fact, the cables bluntly assert that the F-16s would be “no match for India’s proposed purchase of F-18 or equivalent aircraft.”

Given India’s “substantial military advantage,” one cable (> 197576: confidential) even surmised that the F-16s would at the most offer “a few days” for the U.S. to “mediate and prevent nuclear conflict.”

Fully aware of such limitations, the U.S. continued to press ahead with the deal, and cables document hectic parleys to bring it to fruition. Before the agreement was signed in September 2006, the U.S. played hardball to make Pakistan sign the Letter of Acceptance (LoA). Islamabad had threatened to delay it further, raising additional demands. The U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad, Ryan Crocker, suggested that Washington “convene” the Pakistani Ambassador, Ali Durrani, to remind him that “missing the deadline [to sign the LoA] would have serious ramifications.”

“Do not think there is a better deal out there if this one expires,” was one of Ambassador Crocker’s suggested bargain lines for Washington to use (> 77877: confidential/noforn). The agreement was inked two weeks after the cable was sent.

At the time of signing the LoA, Major General Tariq Malik, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Production, had expressed reservations about the payment schedule as an “immense strain on Pakistan’s fiscal and foreign exchange reserves…, jeopardising growth.” But Mr. Malik’s memo was dismissed by Mr. Crocker as “separate from the valid, legal contract” ( > 80337: confidential/noforn ).

But when “a cash-strapped” Pakistan government approached the U.S. two years later for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to perform mid-life updates for the existing F-16 fleet, the succeeding Ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, was concerned that Washington would be “rewarding economic mismanagement.” The annual disbursement of FMF had “produced a culture of entitlement within the Pakistani military,” according to the diplomat (> 151227: confidential).

Why, then, did the U.S. push hard to realise the agreement, apart from the stated objective of “additional business for U.S. defense companies”?

If, according to American diplomats, the threat from India was the primary consideration for the Pakistan military, the F-16 sales would not tilt the strategic balance by their own admission. However, the cables suggested that the U.S. was confident that Pakistan would “still fully invest in its territorial defense, despite current economic challenges.” On the other hand, “our [U.S.] cancelling the sale would emphasize that we favor maintaining Indian superiority at Pakistan’s expense and feed anti-Americanism throughout the military” ( > 197576: confidential ).

Another reason to sell F-16s, according to the same cable, was to “exorcise the bitter legacy of the Pressler Amendment” in the 1990s, when the U.S. refused to deliver F-16s that Pakistan had paid with “national money.” Pakistan was even made to undertake costs for storing the fighters in Arizona.

For the Pakistan military, the new deal would be tangible proof of the “post-9/11 bilateral relationship.

Avoiding a blow-up

“The bottom line is that Pakistan cannot afford the $2 billion required to complete this F-16 program,” wrote Ambassador Patterson in 2009 (> 189129: secret). “At the same time, nothing is more important to good military-military (and overall U.S.-Pakistani) relations than avoiding a blow-up over the F-16 case.”

Even if the sale was considered only “symbolically important” by the U.S., the deal came with many strings attached.

The U.S. was more interested in the use of F-16s by Pakistan for counter-terrorism purposes along the Af-Pak border.

Although the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) had been disinclined to use F-16s “due to the risk of collateral damage in civilian areas,” Ms. Patterson suggested linking the FMF for mid-life updates to “explicit commitments by the PAF that accept Close Air-Support training” (> 151227: confidential).

A year after the agreement was concluded, Pakistan learnt that mid-life updates for the F-16s could only be performed in a third country. Since the LoA did not bear any references to “cryptokeys” for the aircraft, officials were also worried that the U.S. would withhold the capability of the F-16s. When these concerns were raised by President Pervez Musharraf and Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood, the U.S. response was hardly comforting.

“We know many in Washington are dismayed by what they consider a juvenile reaction on Pakistan’s part. The Pakistanis do not fully understand our requirements for sharing encrypted devices and need to be reassured that the aircraft will still fly without the cryptokeys.” (> 122429: secret) Eventually, it was agreed that Pakistan would pay $80 million to perform the updates in Turkey. The U.S. also expressed concerns about basing the F-16s in Pakistan due to “concerns about potential technology transfer to China.” The outcome? Pakistan was made to fork out another $125 million to “build and secure a separate F-16 base” (> 197576: confidential). The purported aim of selling the F-16s to Pakistan was to “yield foreign policy benefits for the U.S.,” but the cables reveal that these benefits were gift-wrapped almost always at Pakistan’s expense.

The Pakistan Cables were shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan

4. ‘Adopt a TB patient’ drive finds mitras

Scheme introduced to engage the community in India’s fight at eliminating tuberculosis by 2025

The Union Health Ministry’s “adopt a TB-patient” (Ni-kshay Mitra) initiative — probably the only one-of-its-kind in the world — announced on Friday had 1,78,443 TB patients and 1,667 Ni-kshay Mitras (donors) enrolling till Sunday evening.

The programme was brought in to fill the critical “community” element into India’s fight towards eliminating TB by 2025 under the Pradhan Mantri TB-Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan.

“Though the efforts of the government are yielding significant results, the community and the institutions in society could play a critical role in filling the gaps and addressing the social determinants, thereby contributing to the national goal,” a Health Ministry official said.

The official said that for the effective engagement of the community for eradicating TB in India, the Ministry was implementing community support for TB patients — the Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan.

The donors include cooperative societies, corporates, elected representatives, individuals, institutions, non-governmental organisations, political parties and partners willing to adopt the health facilities (for individual donor) and urban wards, blocks, districts and States for accelerating the response against TB to complement the government’s efforts, as per the district-specific requirements in coordination with the district administration.

Additional support

According to the Ministry, the State and the district administration would support the donorsin prioritising the districts and in providing guidance on the critical gap analysis and district-specific needs.

The support provided to the patient under this initiative is in addition to the free diagnostics, free drugs and the Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana provided by the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) to all the patients notified from both the public and the private sector.

The Ministry said that donors would provide additional support to all the on-treatment TB patients who had given consent for support, in the selected health facilities, blocks, urban wards, districts and States. “Only individual donors can choose the patients from a given health facility.

Others have to choose the entire geographical unit (blocks, urban wards, districts and States),” noted a Health Ministry official.

He added that the type of additional assistance that may be provided by the donors to on-treatment TB patients who had given consent for support shall include nutritional support, additional investigations, vocational support and additional nutritional supplements.

The minimum period of commitment for providing the support to the TB patient will be one year. The Ministry said that the initiative would increase the active involvement of society in the fight against tuberculosis.

“This activity aims at increasing awareness among the public regarding tuberculosis and the involvement of the community in supporting the treatment cascade shall also help in the reduction of the stigma. Ultimately, improved nutrition for TB patient shall result in better treatment outcomes,” the Ministry explained in its guidance document.

India has the world’s highest tuberculosis (TB) burden, with 26 lakh people contracting the disease and approximately four lakh people dying from it every year. The economic burden of TB in terms of the loss of lives, income and workdays is also substantial. TB usually affects the most economically productive age group of society resulting in a significant loss of working days.

Nikshay Poshan Yojna

About

  • The NPY was launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • It aims to support every Tuberculosis (TB) Patient by providing a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of Rs 500 per month for nutritional needs.
      • Since its inception around Rs 1,488 crore has been paid to 5.73 million notified beneficiaries.

Performance:

  • As per India TB Report 2022, only 62.1 % of 2.1 million notified cases across the country received at least one payment in 2021.
    • In Delhi, which has the highest burden of all forms of TB at 747 cases per 100,000 people, only 30.2 % of patients have got at least one DBT.
      • Other poor performers are Punjab, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In the North East, Manipur and Meghalaya fared the worst.

Challenges:

  • Several hurdles were found in the DBT for both health providers and patients such as non-availability of bank accounts and unlinked bank accounts.
    • Lack of communication, stigma, illiteracy and the multi-step approval process as key hurdles.
    • States have their own nutritional support schemes, but caveats remain here too; for instance, some schemes are only for patients showing resistance to TB drugs.

Status of TB in India

  • As per India TB Report 2022, during 2021, the total number of TB patients was more than 19 lakhs. In 2020 it was around 16 lakhs, increasing 19 %.
  • In India, the mortality rate due to all kinds of tuberculosis increased by 11% between 2019 and 2020.
  • The total number of estimated TB-related deaths for the year 2020 was 4.93 lakh, which is 13 % higher than the estimates of 2019.
  • Malnutrition, HIV, diabetes, alcohol, and tobacco smoking are the comorbidities that impact a person suffering from TB.

Initiatives to Combat TB

Global Efforts:

  • The WHO has launched a joint initiative “Find. Treat. All. #EndTB” with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership.
    • WHO also releases the Global Tuberculosis Report.

India’s Efforts:

  • National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025), The Nikshay Ecosystem (National TB information system), Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY- financial support), TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign.
    • Currently, two vaccines VPM (Vaccine Projekt Management) 1002 and MIP (Mycobacterium Indicus Pranii) have been developed and identified for TB, and are under Phase-3 clinical trial.
    • The Saksham Project: It is a project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that has been providing psycho-social counselling to DR-TB patients.

5. Third stealth frigate of Project 17A Taragiri launched in Mumbai

Taragiri, the third stealth frigate of the Project 17A, was launched on Sunday by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) here.

The ship has been built using integrated construction methodology which involves hull blocks construction in different geographical locations and integration/erection on slipway at MDL.

The keel of Taragiri was laid on September 10, 2020, and the ship is expected to be delivered by August 2025.

The vessel is being launched with an approximate launch weight of 3,510 tonnes and is designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house design organisation — the Bureau of Naval Design.

The MDL had undertaken the detailed design and construction of the ship which was also overseen by the Warship Overseeing Team (Mumbai).

The first ship of Project 17A, Nilgiri, was launched on September 28, 2019, and is expected to begin sea trials in the first half of 2024.

According to the officials, the estimated cost of Project 17A is around ₹25,700 crore. The second ship of P17A class Udaygiri was launched on May 17 this year and is expected to start the sea trials during the second half of 2024. The keel of the fourth and the final ship was laid on June 28.

The ship, 149.02 metre long and 17.8 metre wide, is propelled by a CODOG combination of two gas turbines and two main diesel engines which are designed to achieve a speed of over 28 knots at a displacement of approximately 6,670 tonnes.

The steel used in the hull construction of P17A frigates is an indigenously developed DMR 249A which is a low carbon micro alloy grade steel manufactured by the SAIL.

Officials said that the indigenously designed Taragiri will have a state-of-the-art weapons, sensors, an advanced action information system, an integrated platform management system, world class modular living spaces, a sophisticated power distribution system and a host of other advanced features.

“It will be fitted with a supersonic surface-to-surface missile system and the ship’s air defence capability is designed to counter the threat of the enemy aircraft and the anti-ship cruise missiles would revolve around the vertical launch and long range surface to air missile system,” the officials added.

Project 17A

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), India’s major procurement body subservient to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), approved a proposal in June 2009 for the acquisition of 7 stealthy frigates – codenamed “Project 17A” – in keeping with the Indian Navy’s aim to build a sleet of 160 ships. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), India’s topmost decision making body on defence and issues of national security, approved the plan for the “development cum construction” of the 7 frigates in September 2012.  The Indian Navy initially supported a plan to build the first two frigates at an overseas shipyard in order to shorten the project’s total construction time; nonetheless, this recommendation was overturned by India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), which preferred local frigate manufacture.

The 7 frigates were intended to be a “follow on series” to the Shivalik class frigates (Project 17), that were also being constructed for the Indian Navy at the same time except with more advanced capabilities. The seven frigates’ schematic design was finished in mid 2013. The CCS officially authorised the programme in February 2015, which included the building of seven specified frigates over a five year period.

Technical Facts of Project 17A

  • Type: Guided Missile Frigate
  • Displacement: 6,670 tonnes (6,560 long tons)
  • Length: 149 metres m (488 ft 10 in)
  • Beam: 17.8 metres (58 ft 5 in)
  • Draft: 5.22 metres (17 ft 2 in)
  • Depth: 9.9 metres (32 ft 6 in)
  • Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
  • Range: 2,500 nmi (4,600 km) at 28 kn (52 km/h) and 5,500 nmi (10,200 km) at 16–18 kn (30–33 km/h)
  • Crew: 150 (Including 35 officers)

Difference between P-17 and P-17A

The P-17A is a derivation of the Shivalik class frigates (P-17), a three-ship multi-mission frigate type that currently serves as the Indian Navy’s workhorse frigates; both classes have significant design similarities: –

  • In contrast to the P-17, which utilises an outdated single-arm missile launcher, the P-17A is the very first class of frigates within the Indian Navy to deploy vertical launching system (VLS) cells for shooting its surface-to-air missiles.
  • The P-17A and the P-17 have comparable hull geometry; nonetheless, the P-17A’s hull measurements, especially its length and breadth, are around 4-5 percent larger than the P-17’s.

6. Editorial-1: India-Bangladesh ties, a model for bilateral cooperation

The contributions of the Sheikh Hasina government to nurturing the special ‘bonding’ need to be acknowledged

The state visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, to India (September 5-8) has amply showcased the high stakes of both polities in their bilateral ties, imbued with regional significance. Delhi and Dhaka are fully conscious that they must get this vital equation right, constantly strengthening and deepening their cooperation and countering the challenges they face. Only then can this relationship be convincingly projected as a major success for their foreign policies. Even before reaching New Delhi, Ms. Hasina underlined the importance of the special “bonding” between the two nations, where one helped in the liberation of the other, and where both have worked together closely, especially since Ms. Hasina came to power again in 2009.

Dhaka’s expectations

In one of her most candid interviews given just prior to her visit, Ms. Hasina vividly recalled how India had helped her all the way when she faced the greatest personal tragedy of her life: the assassination of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and a number of other members of her family. It was a national catastrophe. The shelter, security and support extended by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and subsequent governments shaped Ms. Hasina’s worldview and her perception of India. As Prime Minister, she reciprocated the gestures adequately by taking firm action against anti-Indian insurgent groups soon after assuming power. Since then, the two governments have successfully resolved several old problems such as the exchange of conclaves and the conclusion of long-pending land and maritime boundary agreements. But other challenges remain.

Four specific issues seem to trouble the Bangladeshi side. First, the continued presence of 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar in 2017 has created enormous pressure on the economy and social harmony. Ms. Hasina has said India is a big country that should “accommodate” them. Further, she wants stronger support from India to facilitate their early return to Myanmar. Second, the absence of agreement on sharing of the Teesta’s waters, pending since 2011 due to West Bengal’s refusal to relent, and the broader issue of joint management of 54 common rivers, have been constant grievances. Third, India’s sensitivity to growing cooperation between Dhaka and Beijing rankles the authorities in Bangladesh. Ms. Hasina has stressed the point that if there were differences between India and China, she did not wish to “put her nose to it”.

Four, she has conceded that despite her government’s secular policy, “incidents” against the Hindu minority have occurred, but her government has acted against miscreants. At the same time, she has expressed concern about the safety of minorities in India, pointing out that “it is not only (in) Bangladesh, even in India also sometimes minorities suffered”.

The context above helps to evaluate the outcome of Ms. Hasina’s latest India visit. She last visited India in 2019. She played host to the Prime Minister and the President of India, when they visited Bangladesh in March and December 2021, respectively. The visits marked triple epochal celebrations: the birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of Nation; the golden jubilee of Independence; and 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh. These visits were utilised to reach new agreements and add further content and momentum to the relationship. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted, “The warmth and frequency of our leadership level contacts is a testimony to our close neighbo[u]rly partnership.” This process has continued unhindered. The latest visit resulted in seven agreements designed to increase cooperation in the diverse domains of water sharing, railways, science and technology, space, media and capacity building.

Specific outcomes

Indian officials identified several specific outcomes of Ms. Hasina’s discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. First, there was the agreement “to continue close security cooperation” over counter-terrorism, border crimes, and border management. Second, the two sides recommitted themselves to enhancing their development partnership which is already quite extensive and multi-faceted. Third, they agreed “to build resilient supply chains” between the two countries and “across the region”. A significant decision was to launch the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022 and to conclude negotiations by the time Bangladesh graduates from least developed country status in 2026. Finally, the leaders favoured expanding connectivity through more rail, road, inland waterways, and coastal shipping linkages. They agreed to build on the impressive successes achieved in the past decade in this sphere.

Economic relations have been developing excellently. Bilateral trade has touched a high watermark of $18 billion. Logistics for power trade between Bangladesh and its neighbours — India, Nepal and Bhutan — have been put in place. India will assist Bangladesh by sharing its rich experience of innovation through startups.

About the issues flagged by Ms. Hasina, has there been progress? On the displaced people from the Rakhine state (the word ‘Rohingya’ was not used in deference to Myanmar’s sensitivity), India expressed appreciation for Bangladesh’s “generosity” in sheltering them, made an assurance of more material assistance, and reiterated its previous position to support their “safe, sustainable and expeditious return”. India is unable to do more. As expected, there was no resolution of the Teesta question, but in a significant forward movement, the two governments agreed on the sharing of the waters of the Kushiyara, the common border river. They also agreed to exchange data on other rivers, set up their priorities and begin formulating the framework for “the interim water sharing arrangements”.

The thrust of the discussion on China-related issues, if it took place at all, is not known. When pressed by the media, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra observed that the strategic priorities, interests, and concerns have all been “factored in our cooperative matrix of engagement”, stressing that this bilateral relationship stands “on its own merits”. The question of the safety of minorities did not find a place in the joint statement, but Dhaka routinely reiterates its commitment to protecting the Hindus in Bangladesh.

Sobering ground realities

In India, there are continuing worries about the cumulative and adverse impact of COVID-19 and the Ukraine war on Bangladesh’s economy. The country faces escalating protests on the streets that have been triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices, an erosion of foreign currency reserves, and a deepening financial crisis. Besides, the rising influence of fundamentalist forces, extremism, and radicalisation poses a serious danger to political stability. Thus, the contours of combined challenges before the Sheikh Hasina government as it faces parliamentary elections in 2023 become clear.

It is for Bangladesh citizens to elect their next government, but they should know that the contribution of Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League government to building a strong relationship with their largest neighbour is enormous and widely appreciated in India. Their leaders have jointly crafted and nurtured “a role model for bilateral and regional cooperation”. It deserves to be protected and strengthened, whatever the future may hold.

7. Editorial-2: Nose dose

The nasal vaccine against COVID-19 should help in quicker coverage of the population 

The history of the pandemic has been punctuated periodically by incremental developments in science and medicine. Funding, industry, and research were ploughed into laboratories with the hope that their petri dishes would yield solutions to save lives and retard the march of the virus. While many vaccines have provided that assurance of life, prevented hospitalisation and also reduced the severity of disease, it is only a nasal vaccine that carries within it the promise of preventing further transmission by countering it at the site of viral entry into the body. In that sense, the announcement that a nasal vaccine had been given emergency use authorisation for use as primary immunisation to the 18-plus age group is welcome. A nasal vaccine, if effective, is probably the most advanced tool to handle COVID-19 as of now, and by virtue of being a spritz in the nose or mouth, will be preferable to painful jabs, particularly with children or adults with trypanophobia that might have come in the way of their getting the vaccines. While in theory the nasal vaccine ensures that the virus is stopped from binding with host cells at the very point of entry into the human body, there is very little evidence of that working in a COVID-19 scenario among humans. While an influenza nasal vaccine has reportedly worked, three other nasal vaccines have been approved for use elsewhere in the world, but very little data is available from that. In the trials conducted by the Bharat Biotech for the nasal vaccine, developed in association with the University of Washington, “the reactogenic events and adverse events that were documented during the trial were highly comparable to the published data from other COVID-19 vaccines”. The company reportedly conducted a phase 3 trial with about 3,100 unvaccinated people who received two doses of the nasal vaccine, and a booster trial with about 875 people who received a single dose of the nasal vaccine as a heterogeneous booster. The company has also promised that it would publish the data from the trials soon in the public realm.

While the fall in cases has allowed the world to take its foot off the pedal, efforts against the disease will have to be pursued. But this drop in numbers does afford a certain pause in pace: the results of the trials and data must now be allowed to enter the public realm even as emergency use authorisation is being processed for use of drugs or vaccines in the community. The Government too must factor this in its agenda, emphasising the promotion of transparency, now and in the future, even as it ensures continuing commitment of various departments involved in battling all aspects of the virus. In addition, delivering the vaccines to the general public and covering those untouched by the primary two doses, and the boosters, should remain high on the agenda.

8. Editorial-3: We need civil society engagement in Kashmir

This alone can create confidence, restore trust and strengthen inter-community bonds

Over the last six months, the targeting of Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus in the Valley by militants has once again brought forward the question of their right of return as well as the safety of minorities living in the Valley.

After the Pandit exodus from the Valley in the 1990s, the first few years of this century saw government efforts to send Pandits back to the Valley. The United Progressive Alliance, under the Prime Minister’s return and rehabilitation of Kashmir migrants scheme, created government postings in the Valley for Kashmiri Pandit “migrant” youth. Mostly teachers, these government employees have lived in protected high-security enclaves, but their work requires them to leave these enclaves and mingle with the rest of the population. This had posed no threat to their lives until last October. Another segment, known as “non-migrant” Pandits because they never left the Valley, has lived in their own homes, without state-provided protection. Both sections feel vulnerable now due to the new incidents of violence against members of the community. The threat of a second exodus of the Pandit community has loomed on the horizon since last October. When, and in what circumstances, can Kashmiri Pandits expect to return and live without fear, without barbed wire walls, alongside Kashmiri Muslim neighbours? Can the pain and bitterness between the two communities ever be healed, trust restored, and the relationship between the Pandit and Muslim communities be rebuilt?

The importance of dialogue

In two decades of working in Jammu and Kashmir as a member of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR), I have learned that there is no top-down solution to the complex question of return. The government can enable it, but individuals and civil society will need to create conditions on the ground. They will have to encourage people to give up the blame game. Individuals or communities will have to search their hearts for where they have wronged the other, and build courage to acknowledge mistakes and restore trust.

Based on this, CDR supported the initiative for a dialogue proposed by two prominent young Kashmiris — one a Muslim and the other a Pandit — who had decided not to join the 1990s exodus. Both men had lived in Kashmir through the violence of the 1990s and the subsequent decades. Their sharply different perspectives on the incidents of that decade could have ended their initial conversation. But they decided to listen and talk to each other. Their conversations led them to persuade their larger communities that talking could lead to healing. It led to CDR’s ‘Shared Witness’, a Pandit-Muslim dialogue series, in December 2010.

Public intellectuals and other influential persons from both communities were participants. The dialogue series coincided with the launching of the Prime Minister’s job scheme. These dialogues created a social environment that enabled Kashmiri Pandits to take up government postings in the Valley. They focused on the events in and around 1990, and the incidents that triggered the displacement of the Pandit community. The conversations were difficult and emotional. Yet, no one left the table.

By the third dialogue, participants were sharing individual experiences that did not fit into the narrative that each community had built about the other. In that room, good and bad personal experiences were shared and tears shed — the lived reality of what happened in the early 1990s. There are similar stories of Partition — stories of cruelty and killings of thousands, but also stories of individuals and families who helped, rescued and protected people.

The conversations dived into the heart of communal differences. Participants pointed out that interdependence was not peculiar to Kashmir and was grounded in wider cultures; myths should not be created about an imagined past of communal “togetherness”; and relations between Pandits and Muslims in Kashmir could be described as “living together but separate”. Was religion the primary basis for the separateness? And were class and power centrally imbedded in the relationship between the two communities? The word ‘hatred’ was used repeatedly. What then could be the “minimum principles of engagement” towards reconciliation?

The issue of apology

The Muslim participants felt the Pandits were in denial of the struggle of the Muslims in the Valley, who were facing violence from the system. The Kashmiri Muslim was always portrayed as being misguided, aided and abetted by Pakistan. The protest in Kashmir was not against religion, but against structures of power and oppression. Pandits were aggrieved that the Muslims did not protest the Pandit killings, not even when the killers claimed them. That greater responsibility lay with the Muslims as they were the majority.

The issue of “apology” was also discussed. One Kashmiri Muslim said the violence perpetrated on Pandits was committed by people not chosen by him to represent the Kashmiri cause. Why should he apologise for the crimes of others? Other Muslim participants jumped in to say an apology was appropriate to acknowledge the failure of civil society to avert the exodus of the Pandits from the Valley. This failure was one of the most difficult conversations in the dialogue. And this question remains most relevant to the situation of Kashmir in 2022. One Muslim participant forcefully said civil society had failed then, acknowledged his personal failure in the matter, and said Kashmiris had to pay a heavy price for this subsequently. If some social organisations had acted quickly, the exodus could have been stopped. He also reassured the Pandits that they were not alone anymore. This had the effect of changing the atmosphere in the room immediately.

A respected Kashmiri Pandit public intellectual observed that the Pandit community too had suffered from a lack of leadership. At the time, senior political and intellectual figures in the community should have met and taken stock of the situation, and reached out to leading figures in the Muslim community. If this had happened, the exodus could have been prevented. Second, even after migration, a good leadership might have prevailed upon members of the community not to sell their properties in the Valley in a hurry.

The Pandits asked the Muslims, what kind of freedoms do you want? Which freedoms do you not have under the existing system? But they also acknowledged the need to understand why Kashmiri Muslims had these demands. There was a strong demand for cultural, economic, political safeguards for the Pandits’ return. They discussed the possibility of setting up a ‘Truth Commission’.

The reason I am writing about this dialogue so many years later is to show that attempts at healing were made during the past decade and can be made. Unfortunately, some of the gains have now been lost. We need an urgent civil society engagement between communities in Kashmir once again. This alone can create confidence, restore trust and strengthen inter-community bonds. It could also enable Pandits to fulfil the long-cherished dream of return — in peace and with dignity.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
kurukshetraiasacademy

kurukshetraiasacademy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.