India, Bangladesh inaugurates 4 development projects via video conference:
- PM Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart PM Hasina, jointly unveiled development projects in Bangladesh, through video conference.
- The two countries jointly unveiled e-plaques for the supply of buses and trucks to Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) which were purchased with a line of credit from India.
- Furthermore, 36 community clinics in five districts, 11 water treatment plants in Bhandaria Pouroshova and the National Knowledge Network (NKN) Extension to Bangladesh were also inaugurated during the event.
- Speaking about the projects, Prime Minister Modi said: "All these projects are directly related to public life. These projects show that India-Bangladesh relations are playing an important and positive role in improving the quality of life of the people of both countries," in Hindi.
- He also noted that this was his sixth video conference with Hasina, underlining the close ties shared between India and Bangladesh.
- He also outlined how the inauguration of the clinics will positively affect around two lakh people, who will get accessible healthcare which is close to their homes in Bangladesh.
- The two countries share friendly relations which are rooted in history and culture. India was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as a separate and independent state, establishing diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence in 1971.
UN ban on Azhar: ‘Responsible solution’ can only come through talks, says China:
- With a section of the international community leading a proposal to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the United National Security Council (UNSC), China said that it has adopted a “responsible attitude” and followed the “rules and procedures” of the UNSC Resolution 1267 sanctions committee.
- During the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing in the national capital, Lu was asked if Azhar’s listing at the UNSC was discussed during the current round of tensions between India and Pakistan.
- For the last 10 years, China has single-handedly blocked the listing of Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist” at the UNSC Resolution 1267 sanctions committee. Three attempts in the last decade – 2009, 2016 and 2017 – have been blocked by Beijing at Islamabad’s behest.
- The proposal to list Masood Azhar at the UNSC, which has been sponsored by France and backed by the US and the UK, has also seen India reaching out to member nations of the UNSC ahead of the March 13 deadline to discuss any objections.
Official Secrets Act:
- Remarks made by the Attorney-General in the Supreme Court on March 6, of looking into “criminal action” against those responsible for making “stolen documents” on the Rafale deal public, have brought the Official Secrets Act into focus.
About Official Secrets Act:
- The law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.
- The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
- One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
- The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
- The most recent conviction under the Official Secrets Act came in 2018.
- The Delhi court held former diplomat Madhuri Gupta, who had served at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, guilty under the OSA.
- She was sentenced to 3 years in jail for passing on sensitive information to Pakistan’s ISI.
- In 2002, the then Kashmir Times journalist Iftikhar Gilani was arrested and charged under the OSA.
- The case was in relation with allegedly possessing secret documents relating to the deployment of troops in the Valley. The state later withdrew the case.
- In 2017, journalist Poonam Agrawal was charged under OSA for conducting a sting operation on an Army official who criticised the sahayak system in the Army.
Similar Laws in other countries:
- Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand, continue to use the legislation to protect state secrets.
- In 2001, Canada replaced its OSA with a Security of Information Act. The “official secrets” come under the Espionage Act in the U.S.
- On September 3, 2018, a Myanmar court awarded seven years’ jail to two Reuters journalists for illegally possessing official documents on the military’s alleged human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims.
- Malaysia has also been accused of using the OSA to silence dissidence.
New Visa agreement between India and Maldives:
- The new visa agreement between India and Maldives, providing a liberal visa policy for Maldivian citizens seeking medical treatment as well as education and business opportunities in India, came into force on March 11, 2019.
- The agreement has come into effect after all formalities including information being provided to all immigration offices, border points and customs authorities have been completed. India and Maldives had exchanged diplomatic notes for the implementation of the visa facilitation agreement in February 2019, following the approval by the Union Cabinet.
- The main aim behind the move is to boost people-to-people ties between the two countries.
- The agreement was signed during Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih's visit to India on December 17, 2018. Both the nations had agreed to implement the visa facilitation agreement after completing the required procedures.
- President Solih’s government has been strengthening ties with India after its decades-long friendship with India came under strain during former President Abdulla Yameen’s five-year rule, which saw him growing closer to China for various development projects.
- The new visa agreement provides a very liberal visa regime for Maldivian nationals to visit India for tourism, business, education and medical purposes.
- It also makes it easier for Indians to travel to the Maldives for business purposes.
- Under the agreement, Maldivian businessmen and tourists can stay in India for 90 days without a visa.
- The Maldivians with tourist visas can also stay in India for treatment if they suffer a sudden medical issue.
Modal Code of Conduct:
- Lok Sabha Election 2019 will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. With the announcement of dates, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into force and lays down a list of dos and don'ts for the political parties ahead of elections
- The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections, to ensure free and fair elections.
- This is in keeping with Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.
- The Model Code of Conduct is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
Evolution of MCC:
- According to the PIB, a form of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
- It was a set of instructions to political parties regarding election meetings, speeches, slogans, etc.
- In the 1962 general elections to the Lok Sabha, the MCC was circulated to recognised parties, and state governments sought feedback from the parties.
- The MCC was largely followed by all parties in the 1962 elections and continued to be followed in subsequent general elections.
- In 1979, the Election Commission added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to include guidelines regarding election manifestos, which it has included in the MCC for the 2014 general elections.
Key provisions of the Model Code of Conduct:
The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, party in power, and election manifestos.
- General Conduct: Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record and work. Activities such as: (a) using caste and communal feelings to secure votes, (b) criticising candidates on the basis of unverified reports, (c) bribing or intimidation of voters, and (d) organising demonstrations or picketing outside houses of persons to protest against their opinions, are prohibited.
- Meetings: Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting in time to enable the police to make adequate security arrangements.
- Processions: If two or more candidates plan processions along the same route, organisers must establish contact in advance to ensure that the processions do not clash. Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
- Polling day: All authorised party workers at polling booths should be given identity badges. These should not contain the party name, symbol or name of the candidate.
- Polling booths: Only voters, and those with a valid pass from the Election Commission, will be allowed to enter polling booths.
- Observers: The Election Commission will appoint observers to whom any candidates may report problems regarding the conduct of the election.
- Party in power: The MCC incorporated certain restrictions in 1979, regulating the conduct of the party in power. Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same. The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections. Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water, etc. Other parties must be allowed to use public spaces and rest houses and these must not be monopolised by the party in power.
- Manifestos: Added in 2013, these guidelines prohibit parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters, and suggest that manifestos also indicate the means to achieve promises.
Is the Model Code of Conduct legally binding?
- The MCC is not enforceable by law. However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- EC has argued against making the MCC legally binding; stating that elections must be completed within a relatively short time (close to 45 days), and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
- On the other hand, in 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding. In a report on electoral reforms, the Standing Committee observed that most provisions of the MCC are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes, mentioned above.
- It recommended that the MCC be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
India launches its 3rd IT corridor in China:
- India has launched its third IT corridor in China that will facilitate partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies The National Association of Software and Services Companies Nasscom entered into a partnership with Chinas Xuzhou city from Jiangsu Province in China to help develop the IT corridor
- IT corridor facilitates partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies by enabling Indian software and service industry associations to enter the Chinese market and seize the development opportunities in China.
- The corridor facilitates will facilitate match-making between Indian companies wanting to collaborate with companies in China looking to adopt digital transformation from verticals such as manufacturing, retail, automotive, healthcare and utilities and help them create innovative product and solutions in the co-create mode.
- The corridor will help create more jobs in China and India and facilitate talent transfer between the two countries.
- The earlier two corridors launched at Dalian and Guiyang cities has brought to fore opportunities with over 300 companies where more than 10 Indian SME companies have signed deals worth 31 Million RMB (USD 4.5 million).
- The first two corridors had enabled cooperation in co-create mode in the emerging technologies such as AI, IoT and Analytics in the Chinese market.
- IT corridor project between India and China strengthens India-China Digital Cooperation by leveraging the respective strengths in hardware and software to build innovative products and solutions in Co-create mode.