Friday, 20 March 2015

India's Act East policy

Since the NDA government came to power in May, it has upgraded India’s Look East Policy (LEP) to the “Act East Policy” or the AEP. Put in simple terms LEP was designed in 1991 to reorient Indian foreign policy drive towards East Asia and Southeast Asia. But half-hearted commitment to the policy has severely restricted India’s footprint in these regions. This reflects a desire to correct this deficit in the face of increasing Chinese activity in the region. It has coincided with a flurry of visits by the Indian officials to the region that indicate early indication of a genuine shift in Indian policy.
A crucial component to actual implementation and success of this policy would be the North-East region (NER) as it is the gateway to the region beyond as well as being resource rich. Thus far the government is yet to unfold any visible and viable roadmap towards integrating the North-East region within the AEP framework. For AEP to succeed, it is important to quickly identify the potential sites in NER that may act as springboards from which the AEP may be launched. Thus, these would act as hinge-points for the AEP. The attempt is to identify one such potential hinge-point and then extend it to other similar sites within the region.
Within the NER, Assam occupies a central location with all other states ringed around and connected to the rest of India through it. It is also the strongest economically. Thus, both geography and economy dictates that Assam would play a large role in any such scenario- a hinge state vis-a-vis AEP. Hence, considering geography, accessibility and the economy the following cities may be considered s possible hinge-points- Guwahati, Silchar, Nagaon, Dibrugarh and Imphal.
Guwahati is the largest city and the gateway to North-East India. It is a major metropolis in India and one of the fastest growing cities in India. It is a major commercial, educational and transportation hub of the region. It boasts of premier educational centres such as IIT, University etc. It has also seen rapid boom in the services sector. A well developed industrial sector is present particularly in the petrochemicals sector as well as a major tea trading centre. It is very well-connected to all regions of the north-East and houses the only international Airport of the region. It also lies on the Dhubri-Sadiya National Waterway-2 (NW-2). Being the premier city of the region, it is absolutely vital for the overall development of the region and further integration with the AEP.
North East India
Silchar, on the south bank of Barak, is the district headquarters of Cachar, and occupies the central point of the Barak Valley region of Assam. The states of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya as well as Bangladesh are very close to it. It boasts of a Medical College, NIT and a Central University and is a educational hub of South Assam. Crucially, it lies at the on two major multi-national corridors- the BCIM corridor between Kolkata and Kunming and the link path for the Kaladan Multimodal Transport network, both of which are an integral part of AEP. Moreover, Silchar is on the eastern end of India’s East-West highway corridor and lies on the Lakhipur- Bhanga National Waterway- 6 (NW-6). It, thus is an important junction to this whole architecture.
Nagaon lies in the central region of the Brahpaputra Valley. It is situated on the East-West highway corridor which connects it to both to Guwahati and Silchar. It forms an important junction between Guwahati and Dibrugarh, at the far end of Brahmaputra Valley, which is the gateway to the Stilwell road. It is further connected to Tezpur by the bridge over Brahmaputra and via Tezpur, can easily link with the proposed Trans Arunachal Highway. Therefore it forms an important junction connecting the major towns of Assam.
Dibrugarh, is the gateway to the Stilwell Road, which connects Ledo to Kunming in China via northern Myanmar- a particularly key route for the AEP. Once the Bogibeel Bridge is completed, Dibrugarh would also get direct access to the eastern end of the Trans Arunachal Highway. It is also an educational hub of Upper Assam with premier institutions like a Medical College, University etc. It is located close to the major oil and coal producing regions of Assam and is a major tea trade centre- often called the tea city. It is a major commercial centre and acts as the gateway to the resource rich eastern Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is well connected by air, road and rail and is close to the easternmost end of the NW-6 and the Assam plains.
Imphal, being the capital of Manipur is the administrative, political and the commercial centre of Manipur. The relatively flat terrain of the Imphal Valley in a largely hilly state offers space to extend and develop. It’s laocated strategically on the BCIM corridor and is the gateway to Myanmar via Moreh crossing. It offers the most viable route for extending to East Asia and ASEAN. It is a very attractive staging point for linkages with Myanmar and ASEAN thus promoting AEP in a big way.
To transform the potential to practice, it is necessary for the govt. to step in and give a major push to transport and communication, skill development and economic well-being of the region. Currently, the BG conversion work of the crucial Lumding-Silchar section is nearing completion. BG conversion work of the rest of the section needs to be given high priority. Ongoing railway projects to Imphal and Aizwal must be expedited to relieve transport bottlenecks. Opening up the Stilwell road, completion of the Bogibeel Bridge and implementation of the Trans Arunachal Highway project must be fast tracked and integrated within the framework of Skill India, Smart cities and Make-in-India to provide a holistic template for the AEP.
Two recent developments may also be easily extended to this architecture and provide even greater integration. Recently, a joint Indo-Myanmar team commenced filed survey for the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service that is a part of the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral highway. The logical step should be to link it with the BCIM and East-West Highway for greater integration. Also, Tripura is using Ashuganj river port on Meghna in Bangladesh for importing food and other items. Meghna is the downstream name for Barak in Bangladesh that gives a good opportunity to link Ashuganj port to the NW-6. This would give direct access to the sea right upto Lakhipur at the Assam-Manipur border, potentially relieving the landlocked region.
This initiative represents the best chance of developing the NER and integrating it within India’s mainstream narrative. Thus far, the governments approach with respect to NER has been haphazard and lacks a holistic vision. By concentrating on a few well identified hinge-points and expanding via a Hub-and-Hinterland model- while stitching it within the larger AEP framework would help in unlocking the immense potentialities of the NER and consequently, full realisation of the AEP.

History of International Women's Day

International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900′s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. 1911 also saw women’s ‘Bread and Roses’ campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
1918 – 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as ‘International Women’s Year’ by the United Nations. Women’s organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women’s advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
2000 and beyond.
IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
womens day
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970′s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.
Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google some years even changes its logo on its global search pages. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The United States even designates the whole month of March as ‘Women’s History Month’.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

OIL Production : Production sharing and Revenue sharing

Mechanism :-
  • Private company recover it’s total cost before handing to the government, after cost recovery profit will be shared by both private party and government as per the agreement.
  • Gold Plating chances are minimised, which has produced huge controversy in case of KG D6 Basin recently.
Disadvantage :-
  • Investing companies to receive all revenues only under an escrow account ( Detail in foot note) so that the government could protect its share of revenue, and in certain circumstances, restrict the contractors’ access to the account. The spirit of partnership and trust is completely missing.
  • Missing the importance of the uncertainty in Oil and gas :- draft provisions in the model contract, the contractor is expected to commit to a production profile and is liable to pay penalties if the actual production varies from the forecast by 25 per cent.
Production sharing:-
Mechanism :-
  • Investment company will invest all capital and take huge risks. Profit margin is also larger.
  • Once, resources are found and developed such as oil fields, then company can recover all their capital and investments. Later, the profit oil or production is shared between government and company.
Advantages :-
  • It encourage the more production which is needed for Indian Economic growth. India remains one of the least explored countries and could hold large potential resources. There is still a significant ‘yet to find’ hydrocarbon resources of over 120 billion barrels.
  • It’s suitable for the counties like India which do not have advance technology or the Capital to invest in oil exploration activity which have no certainty related to the outcome. OVL invested in bangadesh and Vietnam under such model.
Disadvantage :-
  • Gold plating :- The IM ratio = Revenue /Investment decide the profit share between the Government and Private. Private companies show more investment on the records .
(The two members including current DHC of the kelker committee dissented due to Gold plating chances )
( An escrow account is a temporary pass through account held by a third party during the process of a transaction between two parties. This is a temporary account as it operates until the completion of a transaction process, which is implemented after all the conditions between the buyer and the seller are settled.)