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All About AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958)

December 11, 2011

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, or AFSPA, as it is commonly known, has been a subject of intense discussion and debate. AFSPA has been in force in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, and the ‘draconian’ law has been the reason of wide protests.

What is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act?

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) was preceded by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance 1958. The Ordinance gave the armed forces certain special powers in the ‘disturbed areas’ of Manipur and Assam.

It was replaced by AFSPA on September 11, 1958. Currently, AFSPA is applicable to the seven states of the North-East, i.e. Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.

AFSPA empowers the governor of the state, or the central government to declare any part of the state as a ‘disturbed area’, if in its opinion there exists a dangerous situation in the said area which makes it necessary to deploy armed forces in the region.

When did the act cover Jammu and Kashmir?

In the backdrop of the growing insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, the Central government issued a similar enactment known as the The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.

It empowers the governor or the Central government to declare any part of the state as a ‘disturbed area’ if in its opinion special powers are required to prevent (a) terrorist acts aimed at overthrowing the government, striking terror in the people, or affecting the harmony of different sections of the peop#8804 or (b) activities which disrupt the sovereignty of India, or cause insult to the national flag, anthem or India’s Constitution.

What are the special powers given to army officials?

Under Section 4 of the AFSPA, an authorised officer in a disturbed area enjoys certain powers. The authorised officer has the power to open fire at any individual even if it results in death if the individual violates laws which prohibit (a) the assembly of five or more persons; or (b) carrying of weapons. However, the officer has to give a warning before opening fire.

The authorised officer has also been given the power to (a) arrest without a warrant; and (b) seize and search without any warrant any premise in order to make an arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunitions.

Individuals who have been taken into custody have to be handed over to the nearest police station as soon as possible.

Prosecution of an authorised officer requires prior permission of the Central government.

What has been the role of the judiciary?

There were questions about the constitutionality of AFSPA, given that law and order is a state subject. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA in a 1998 judgement (Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India).

In this judgement, the Supreme Court arrived at certain conclusions including (a) a suo-motto declaration can be made by the Central government, however, it is desirable that the state government should be consulted by the central government before making the declaration; (b) AFSPA does not confer arbitrary powers to declare an area as a ‘disturbed area’; (c) the declaration has to be for a limited duration and there should be a periodic review of the declaration 6 months have expired; (d) while exercising the powers conferred upon him by AFSPA, the authorised officer should use minimal force necessary for effective action, and (e) the authorised officer should strictly follow the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ issued by the army.

Has there been any review of the Act?

On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed a five member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.

The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations:

(a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967;

(b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and

(c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.

The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.

These recommendations have not been implemented.

What is the present status of the Act?

In Manipur, Irom Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast for 11 years, seeking the repeal of the act in Manipur. Till date, the government has not agreed to this demand.

Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir government has asked for some parts of the state to be removed from the list of ‘disturbed areas’. However, the army has opposed this and according to news reports, a compromise formula is being framed to be discussed at the meeting of the unified command (the highest decision making body on the security affairs of the state).

At the time or writing this post, the matter was still under consideration.

Authored by – Pallavi Bedi for  PRS Legislative Research

LTE and Wimax

November 29, 2011

Understanding Long Term Evolution (LTE)

November 29, 2011

All about 4G

November 29, 2011

What is LTE?

LTE, or ‘Long Term Evolution’ , is the latest wireless mobile broadband technology that will power future 4G, or fourth generation, networks designed primarily for data transmission at unprecedented speeds. It uses spectrum to carry data traffic, just as we need roads to carry vehicular traffic. Spectrum may be likened to a highway of airwaves on which mobile signals travel.

Since LTE uses wider chunks of spectrum, data speeds on LTEbased 4G networks are nearly four times faster than on 3G. An iPad user, for instance, will be able to watch videos at LTE speeds of 300 Mbps while a laptop user will be able to download a chunky 25MB file in seconds if adequate spectrum is available. LTE is also a scalable bandwidth technology that works alongside 2G and 3G. So a 3G operator can easily upgrade his network to LTE.

WHEN WAS IT DEVELOPED?

LTE’s genesis goes back to November 2004, when a workshop was held by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) in Toronto to define ‘Long Term Evolution’ . The 3GPP was a global alliance of top telecom associations who tried to identify the next wave of mobile tech after UMTS, the 3G technology based on GSM.

IS LTE BETTER THAN WiMAX?

Wireless communication happens over paired or unpaired spectrum. Paired spectrum is two equal chunks of airwaves for sending and receiving information while unpaired spectrum is a single strip of airwaves meant to either receive or send information.

Voice signals travel over paired spectrum while data communications works better on unpaired spectrum as people download more than upload. WiMAXhad an edge as long as it was the sole wireless technology working commercially over unpaired spectrum . But the WiMAXparty crashed when an LTE variant, TDD-LTE — which also worked over unpaired spectrum — arrived.

What’s more, leading vendors unveiled compatible gear commercially in 2010. This LTE variant was heralded by the world’s top telcos as the coolest technology for highspeed data communications on the go. WiMAXsuffered a body blow when big telcos across China, India and the US also embraced TDD-LTE . Commercialisation of TDD-LTE devices hit fast-track after Qualcomm pitched for wireless broadband spectrum in the 2010 auction and won 20MHz of BWA airwaves in four circles. Even WiMAXbackers like Clearwire in the US and Yota in Russia warmed up to LTE. Ditto with WiMAXgear vendors like Nokia and Cisco.

IS TDD-LTE CATCHING ON IN INDIA?

Not as yet. But that said, the first seeds of an LTE ecosystem were sown when Bharti Airtel joined some of the world’s top LTE backers at Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona to launch the Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI). Global deployment of this technology was in fact at the heart of last year’s auction of BWA airwaves in India.

But the big challenge to fast-track deployment of TD-LTE in India is the paucity of compatible devices and smartphones. Only Qualcomm has launched TDD-LTE multi-mode devices. NSN is slated to unveil 4G devices by the time LTE network rollouts start happening in India by December ’11 to early-2012 .

Source & Courtesy – Economic Times

Should private airlines be bailed out?

November 29, 2011

Why are Indian airlines in the red despite rising passenger traffic?

Because of high taxes on fuel and rising operational costs. Moreover, cutthroat competition in the sector prevents airlines from raising ticket prices. Taxes constitute 40% of an airline’s total expenditure, far above the global average of 32%. Besides, revenues barely cover operational costs. For instance, operating margin for Kingfisher stands at 0.12 while it is negative for Jet Airways (-8.25%) and Spice Jet (-6.7%).

Why can’t airlines raise fares to cover these costs?

Fierce competition in the Indian skies prevents them from doing so. In the case of Jet, cost per available seat km (ASKM) rose to Rs 3.31 in the second quarter of this fiscal compared with Rs 2.74 in the previous quarter. In contrast, revenue passenger km (RPKM) has crawled up to Rs 3.63 from Rs 3.5.

So if an airline goes bust, should the government bail it out?

The tempting answer is that those responsible for corporate recklessness must bear the consequence, but in real world things are not so simple. Many experts argue that had Lehman Brothers not been allowed to go bust, the financial crisis could have been less damaging. But, a corporate bailout sends the wrong signal or creates a ‘moral hazard’ of encouraging more recklessness, the cost of which is borne by the taxpayer.

What is moral hazard?

In economic theory, the concept of moral hazard comes from the insurance industry where an individual or a company behaves differently when he is protected from a risk than when he is exposed to the risk. The guarantee of insurance can make the insured less risk averse, as he knows he is protected from the financial consequences of his actions.

How does the concept apply to bailouts?

If a company believes its existence is crucial for the economy or for public good, it may be tempted into taking reckless risks believing that the government will step in to bail it out if it were to land in trouble. Therefore, any rescue of troubled private sector firms makes others believe that they could also be similarly helped out if things went wrong.

Source and Courtesy - Economic Times

What is a Dim Sum Bond?

November 29, 2011

China’s growing affluence and influence over the world economy has created huge demand for assets denominated in yuan, the basic unit of the renminbi. China is also keen to globalise its currency to offset any losses to its record foreign exchange reserves due to weakness of the dollar. This has led to the creation of the Dim Sum bond market in Hong Kong.  ET explains the concept.

What Is A Dim Sum Bond?

A bond denominated in yuan and issued in Hong Kong. Derived from a traditional Chinese cuisine that offers a variety of small eats, Dim Sum bonds are issued by Chinese government and companies as well as foreign entities.

What Makes Dim Sum Bonds Attractive For Investors?

Investors across the world are looking for opportunities to make money out of China’s phenomenal growth, but the country’s stiff capital controls prohibit them from investing in Chinese debt. Dim Sum bonds offer an avenue to such investors. Investors are rushing to the Dim Sum market on expectations that Beijing will continue to let the yuan appreciate. Exposure to yuan-denominated assets also provides an alternative to bonds issued by western governments and companies and fits well with the Principle of Diversification, that a portfolio containing different assets and kinds of assets carries lower risk.

Lower interest cost is also encouraging companies to raise money through the Dim Sum market. Last month, IDBI Bank became the first issuer of Dim Sum bonds from India. It sold 650 million yuan ($102 million) of three-year bonds priced at a fixed coupon of 4.5% per annum. The bank said it cut a percentage point off its dollar funding costs by going to the Dim Sum market. Reports say infrastructure lender IL&FS is also planning to raise $100 million through yuandenominated bonds.

Is There A Limit On Such Issuances By Indian Entities?

Recently, the yuan was added to the list of currencies in which Indian companies can raise funds overseas, in addition to dollar, euro, pound and yen. Indian firms can raise an equivalent of $1 billion in yuan.

How Big Is the Dim Sum Bond Market?

The Dim Sum market has risen from 10 billion yuan in 2007 to more than 100 billion yuan. Analysts forecast the market to grow beyond 300 billion yuan in 2012.

Where can Indian Issuers deploy The Proceeds?

Indian issuers can deploy the money for capital expenditure within China and use the proceeds for settling trade accounts. They can also enter into swap contracts to get other currencies. However, if the money is to be brought back to India, companies will have to comply with the External Commercial Borrowing guidelines set by the Reserve Bank of India.

Source and Courtesy – Economic Times

World Affairs: Unrest in Middle East and Africa

November 25, 2011

Here are the latest details of revolts and protests in the Middle East and North Africa:

BAHRAIN: A report by an independent rights commission into unrest said on Wednesday that Bahrain’s security forces used excessive power to suppress pro-democracy protests, including torture and coerced confessions.

- The report could offer the government and opposition the chance to restart dialogue or it could trigger an escalation.

- Troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states went into Bahrain in March to help quell the protests. The panel said 35 people were killed, including five security personnel, in the protests. It also urged a review of sentences handed down to those held responsible for the turmoil.

EGYPT: Street clashes continued in Cairo and other cities in clashes reminiscent of some of the worst violence during the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last February.

- At least 38 people have been killed according to a Reuters count in five days of violence. The health ministry said 32 people had been killed and 2,000 wounded.

- On Nov. 22 Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council that has run Egypt since Feb. 11, promised that a civilian president would be elected in June, about six months sooner than the army had planned.

- Elections for the lower house will start on Nov. 28 and for the upper house on Jan. 22, with each vote being held in three stages, Tantawi confirmed.

- Former President Mubarak is still on trial, accused of conspiring to kill protesters; 850 people were killed in the uprising that ended with Mubarak stepping down.

- Trial proceedings are on hold while the courts assess a request to change the judges’ panel. The next hearing in that case is Dec. 26.

- The military was welcomed in February, but it has revived the emergency law used by Mubarak and is now regarded with suspicion.

LIBYA: Prime minister designate Abdurrahim El-Keib named a cabinet line-up that aimed to placate Libya’s patchwork of tribes and regional interests. However, some of Libya’s clans said on Wednesday they would not recognise the government.

- Announcing the government was the latest step in Libya’s halting progress towards building new institutions, three months after the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

- Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, was captured early on Nov. 19 in southern Libya. Visiting ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, had not been captured.

- Muammar Gaddafi and an another son, Mo’tassim, were buried in the desert on Oct. 25, five days after the deposed Libyan leader was captured, killed and his body put on public display.

- Gaddafi’s death allowed the NTC to declare Libya’s “liberation” on Oct. 23 and meant an end to eight months of war.

SYRIA: French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday that France is seeking international recognition for the opposition Syrian National Council. He said the council “is the legitimate partner with which we want to work.” Earlier, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on an eight-month-old revolt threatened to “drag the whole region into turmoil and bloodshed.” A day earlier Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Assad of “cowardice”, bluntly telling him to quit.

- Assad said he had no choice but to pursue his military crackdown on street protesters, who have been seeking an end to 41 years of Assad family rule.

- Assad had said in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper there would be elections in early 2012 when Syrians would vote for a parliament to create a new constitution that would include provisions for presidential elections.

- An Arab League deadline for Syria to stop its repression passed on Nov. 19, with no sign of violence abating. Arab states met on Nov. 12 and suspended Syria after it failed to implement a deal struck on Nov. 2 to end bloodshed and pull its forces out of cities.

- Syrian authorities have blamed the violence on foreign-backed armed groups which they say have killed some 1,100 soldiers and police. The United Nations has said some 3,500 people have been killed in the unrest.

TUNISIA: Tunisia’s constitutional assembly, elected after a revolution that inspired the “Arab Spring” uprisings, held its opening session on Nov. 22.

- The Assembly, which will sit for a year to draft a new constitution, is dominated by Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party and its two coalition partners after the first democratic election last month.

- Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi offered assurances he will not impose a Muslim moral code and that he will respect women’s rights in planned changes to the constitution.

- Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” uprisings that ousted former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

YEMEN: President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and signed a deal brokered by Gulf states that eases him out of power after 33 years. Saleh is the fourth casualty of the Arab spring after Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

- Ten months of anti-government protests have paralysed Yemen, pushing it to the brink of civil war. Saleh had three times agreed to sign a transition deal brokered by neighbouring Gulf states only to back out at the last minute. A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted last month called on Saleh to immediately sign the initiative.

Source and Courtesy – Reuters

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