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Current Affairs 01-05-2018

By : brainykey   May 1, 2018

North Korea, South Korea and the Korean War

Relevancy

  • G.S. Paper 2

Why in news?

  • North Korea and South Korea have jointly declared that the Korean War will be finally over.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for the first time on Friday.
  • In this meeting they pledged to ensure peace, prosperity and the unification of the Korean peninsula.

What is North Korea’s plan on denuclearization?

  • The leaders of North Korea and South Korea had a meeting and signed a joint statement to seek a peace treaty to formally declare the Korean War over.
  • According to a recent decision N.Korea would carry out the closing of the Punggye-rinuclear test site.
  • The nation would soon invite experts of South Korea and the U.S. as well as journalists to disclose the process to the international community with transparency.
  • Recently the administration has also expressed readiness to hold direct candid talks with USA and South Korea.
  • Apart from this N.Korea has also indicated that no fresh missile or nuclear tests will take place until talks are in progress.

Why this move by North Korea?

  • In 2017, Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
  • USA was eager to play up his role in achieving a breakthrough with Pyongyang through a tough rhetoric, strengthened global sanctions and diplomatic efforts to further isolate the authoritarian regime.
  • Due to this North Korea realized that the safety and security of its regime can be guaranteed only by USA and it is necessary for the nation to engage with USA.
  • South Korea confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
  • Pyongyang has long wanted to see an end to the U.S. military presence and nuclear umbrella over the South.

What are the uncertainties in the outcomes?

  • There are speculations that terminating Punggye-ritest site is useless as it has been already destroyed during earlier nuke tests, apart from this site there are two more test sites that are even bigger.
  • It is also unclear whether North Korea would host U.S. experts at its Punggye-ri underground testing site before or after the summit.
  • USA is pressing for the N.Korea to give up its weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.
  • For which Pyongyang is demanding as yet unspecified security guarantees to discuss its arsenal.
  • Even agreeing a treaty to formally close the conflict will be complicated as both Seoul and Pyongyang claim sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.

Pitch for equality

  • The differences between Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon on the question of denuclearisation are evident.
  • While Mr. Moon emphasised that complete denuclearisation was essential for peace, Mr. Kim did not utter the “D” word.
  • North Korea will seek parity with South Korea in terms of nuclear security and well-being, which is hard to accomplish in the short term.

What is the Indian connect to the issue?

  • Denuclearisation is key to the whole process as it means different things to different people.
  • North Korea seems to have another model in mind; an Indian model nuclear deal in which it gets recognised as a “technologically advanced responsible state” on the basis of certain strategic assurances.
  • The direct threat that they faced from the U.S., South Korea and Japan must have resulted in the aggressive approach, but now that North Korea has established its nuclear capability, it is inclined to negotiate its way into removing sanctions and shaping its future.
  • In fact, it seems to be following India’s choreography in shaping its nuclear policy.
  • In a way, Mr. Kim has gone further than India by suspending all missile tests and taking steps to shut down a nuclear test site, to which the U.S., South Korea and China have reacted positively.

What can be expected from the upcoming US-North Korea talks?

  • South Korea would be far more reluctant to make any concessions to North Korea without an agreement on denuclearization.
  • The forthcoming negotiations will prove whether the Indian model will help North Korea in restoring peace in the Korean Peninsula and having a cooperative relationship with the U.S. and the rest of the world.
  • Some amount of domestic reforms at home, in terms of civil liberties, would help North Korea make its case better.

 

Biological Disasters

Relevancy:

  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper III
  • Disaster management, Biological disasters, biological agents as agents of mass destruction, WMD

Why in news?

  • NDMA conducted its first-ever Mock Exercise on Bio-Disasters at Patna airport

What are Biological disasters?

  • Biological disasters are causative of process or phenomenon of organic origin or conveyed by biological vectors, including exposure to pathogenic micro-organisms, toxins and bioactive substances.
  • They may cause loss of life, injury, illness or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.
  • Examples of biological disasters include outbreaks of epidemic diseases, plant or animal contagion, insect or other animal plagues and infestation. Biological disasters may be in the form of:-
  • Epidemic affecting a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time, examples being Cholera, Plague, Japanese Encephalitis (JE)/Acute Encephalitis  Syndrome (AES); or,
  • Pandemic is an epidemic that spreads across a large region, that is, a continent, or even worldwide of existing, emerging or reemerging diseases and pestilences, example being Influenza H1N1 (Swine Flu).

Biological Agents as Causes of Mass Destruction:

  • Whether naturally acquired or artificially introduced, highly virulent agents have the potential of infecting large numbers of susceptible individuals and in some cases establishing infectious chains.
  • The potential of some infectious agents is nearly as great as that of nuclear weapons and, are therefore, included in the triad of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC).
  • The low cost and widespread availability of dual technology (of low sophistication) makes BW (Biological Weapons) attractive to even less developed countries.
  • In addition, advances in biotechnology have made their production simpler and also enhanced the ability to produce more diverse, tailor-made agents.
  • Biological weapons are different from other WMD as their effects manifest after an incubation period, thus allowing the infected (and infectors) to move away from the site of attack.
  • The agents used in BW (biological warfare) are largely natural pathogens and the illnesses caused by them simulate existing diseases.
  • The diagnosis and treatment of BW victims should be carried out by the medical care system rather than by any specialised agency as in the case of the other two types of WMD.
  • Another characteristic of some of these attacks, e.g., smallpox, is their proclivity to set up chains of infection.
  • The production and use of biological agents is simple enough to be handled by individuals or groups aiming to target civilians.
  • Thus, BT is defined by CDC as, ‘the intentional release of bacteria, viruses or toxin for the purpose of harming or killing civilians’.

Sources of Biological Agents:

  • Theoretically, any human, animal or plant pathogen can cause an epidemic or be used as a biological weapon.
  • The deliberate intention/action to cause harm defines a biological attack.
  • A wellknown example is the incident in the USA where members of a religious cult caused gastroenteritis by the use of Salmonella typhimurium.
  • The organism causing the illness was such a common natural pathogen, that, only the confessional statements of the perpetrators (when the cult broke up) revealed the facts.
  • However, certain characteristics need to be present for an organism to be used as a potential biological agent for warfare or terrorist attack.
  • Of these, anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, brucellosis and botulinism toxin can be considered as leaders in the field.
  • It is the causative agents that have to be catered for in the context of BT at all times.
  • The use of agents that target livestock and crops could be as devastating as human pathogens, in terms of their probable economic impact on the community

 

SOCIAL AUDIT

Relevancy:

  • GS Mains paper II, IV, and Optional- Public Administration
  • Polity and governance, Social Audit, Accountability and transparency

What is the basis of social audit

  • Social audit is based on the principle that democratic local governance should be carried out, as far as possible, with the consent and understanding of all concerned. It is thus a process and not an event.

Defining social audit?

  • A social audit is a way of measuring, understanding, reporting and ultimately improving an organization’s social and ethical performance.
  • A social audit helps to narrow gaps between vision/goal and reality, between efficiency and effectiveness.
  • It is a technique to understand, measure, verify, report on and to improve the social performance of the organization.
  • Social auditing creates an impact upon governance. It values the voice of stakeholders, including marginalized/poor groups whose voices are rarely heard.
  • Social auditing is taken up for the purpose of enhancing local governance, particularly for strengthening accountability and transparency in local bodies.
  • The key difference between development audit and social audit is that a social audit focuses on the neglected issue of social impacts, while a development audit has a broader focus including environment and economic issues, such as the efficiency of a project or programme.

Objectives of social audit

  • Assessing the physical and financial gaps between needs and resources available for local development.
  • Creating awareness among beneficiaries and providers of local social and productive services.
  • Increasing efficacy and effectiveness of local development programmes.
  • Scrutiny of various policy decisions, keeping in view stakeholder interests and priorities, particularly of rural poor.
  • Estimation of the opportunity cost for stakeholders of not getting timely access to public services.

Advantages of social audit

  • Trains the community on participatory local planning.
  • Encourages local democracy.
  • Encourages community participation.
  • Benefits disadvantaged groups.
  • Promotes collective decision making and sharing responsibilities.
  • Develops human resources and social capital

To be effective, the social auditor must have the right to:

  • seek clarifications from the implementing agency about any decision-making, activity, scheme, income and expenditure incurred by the agency;
  • consider and scrutinize existing schemes and local activities of the agency; and
  • access registers and documents relating to all development activities undertaken by the implementing agency or by any other government department.
    • This requires transparency in the decision-making and activities of the implementing agencies.
    • In a way, social audit includes measures for enhancing transparency by enforcing the right to information in the planning and implementation of local development activities.
    • Several states have declared all Gram Panchayat plan documents related to beneficiary selection, budget cost estimates, etc. to be public documents.
    • However, social audit arrangements have mostly been ineffective because there is no legal provision for punitive action.
    • States should enact legislation to facilitate social audit by the Gram Sabha.

Powers of Gram Sabha in Social Audit:

  • The most appropriate institutional level for social audit is the Gram Sabha, which has been given ‘watchdog’ powers and responsibilities by the Panchayati Raj Acts in most States to supervise and monitor the functioning of panchayat elected representatives and government functionaries, and examine the annual statement of accounts and audit reports.
  • These are implied powers indirectly empowering Gram Sabhas to carry out social audits in addition to other functions.
  • Members of the Gram Sabha and the village panchayat, intermediate panchayat and district panchayat through their representatives, can raise issues of social concern and public interest and demand an explanation.

Social audit committees

  • Social audit can also be used for auditing the performance of all three PRI tiers with a social audit committee at each level.
  • These committees should not be permanent, but can be set up depending on the nature of programmes/schemes to be audited.
  • Social audit committee members can be drawn from among programme stakeholders.
  • It is advisable to use the services of retired functionaries of different organizations, teachers or persons of impeccable integrity living in the Zilla Panchayat/Block Panchayat/Gram Panchayat jurisdiction.
  • Both facilitators and social audit committee members can be trained by social audit experts.

Key factors for successful social audit

  • Level of information shared with and involvement of stakeholders, particularly of the rural poor, women, and other marginalized sections.
  • Commitment, seriousness and clear responsibilities for follow-up actions by elected members of the Gram Panchayat.
  • Involvement of key facilitators in the process.
  • How to enhance local capacities for social audit
  • Organization of a mass campaign to increase public awareness about the meaning, scope, purpose and objectives of social audit.
  • Establishment of a team of social audit experts in each district who are responsible for training social audit committee members (stakeholders).
  • Implementation of training programmes on social auditing methods – conducting and preparing social audit reports, and presentation at Gram Sabha meetings.

Social development monitoring (SDM): a social audit process

  • SDM is a periodic observation activity by socially disadvantaged groups as local citizens who are project participants or target beneficiaries.
  • It could also take the form of action intended to enhance participation, ensure inclusiveness, articulation of accountability, responsiveness and transparency by implementing agencies or local institutions, with a declared purpose of making an impact on their socio-economic status.

Conclusion

To sum up, the following proposals can be made to make social audit a regular and effective institution to promote the culture of transparency and accountability through the Gram Sabha.

  • States should enhance Gram Sabha powers to make them effective instruments of participatory decision-making and ensuring accountability of PRIs in local development planning.
  • An agency like the Ombudsman can be set up to look into complaints of local maladministration.
  • Development functionaries found guilty of violating established norms for local development planning should be punished.
  • It is important to ensure that rural poor are given due protection when they wish to stand up to speak against any misconduct.
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