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MAINS Q/A 11-05-2018

Q1. There is an immediate need to constitute a permanent dispute settlement body like the JRC, JCE of Indo-Bangladesh treaty, the Indus Commission, the US-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission etc. for the Cauvery dispute.


More than 80 per cent of Indian rivers are inter-state rivers. According to the Central Water Commission, there are 125 inter-state water agreements in India. Many of these agreements are more than 100 years old and had been executed without seriously considering socio-economic, political and geographical factors. These treaties have now become permanent sources of problems for many states. Continuous redrawing of state boundaries during the British regime and after Independence have kept the disputes alive.


For effective settlement of these disputes, equitable sharing of benefits is more important than equitable distribution of water.


The principle of downstream benefit-sharing is crucial for the successful implementation of these treaties. Further, water-sharing principles will have be based on the size of the river basin, population growth, historical claims, efforts taken by the state governments for water conservation, rainfall and changes in cropping patterns, scientific use of water, priority for agriculture, allocation for industry and power generation, flood control and domestic uses. These issues should be given due importance in negotiations. Therefore, it may be necessary to have independent or mutually agreed third parties revisit disputed treaties; bi/multilateral negotiations hold the key.


The water distribution agreement proposed by the World Bank in 1960 continues to be the basis of the Indus Water Treaty.


The permanent Indus Commission regularly exchanges information and ensures cooperation between India and Pakistan on the use of river waters amicably.


The US-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission has been successfully implemented since 1884 with the changing course of the rivers, the Rio Grande and Colorado.


This treaty has been amended more than seven times since its inception, based on the changes in irrigation uses, river boundaries, flood control, population growth, urbanisation, etc. The sharing of water during surplus and drought years is based on a five-year cycle of water flow data.


The 1996 Indo-Bangladesh Treaty on Water Sharing is based on lean season water availability. In 1972, the Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission (JRC) was established for flood forecasting, control, warning and managing the Ganga during the dry season at Farakka. An interim agreement was signed for water sharing in 1977. The lean season was defined for 150 days from January 1 to May 31.


A Joint Committee of Experts (JCE) headed by the irrigation secretaries of the two countries was constituted in 1985. Both sides agreed to reduce their water demand in the lean season.


In 1996, another treaty was signed by considering the average water flow for 40 years (1949-88). The assured minimum water quota sharing between the two countries was fixed on alternate three 10-day cycles during the lean season, including a critical lean period from March 1 and May 10.


The joint committee decides the daily flow and in case of disputes, it will be referred to the JRC and further to the governments. The water sharing arrangements is reviewed at five-year intervals or earlier on request from either side. Both up and downstream irrigation activities have been restricted.


Based on the bilateral negotiations in 1977, 1982, 1985 and the recent one, the two countries reached an effective mechanism for water sharing. Now JRC and JCE settle water disputes between the two countries.

The Indo-Bangladesh treaty can be the model for the resolution of the Cauvery dispute.


The bone of contention between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is about sharing water during the lean/scarce period. This dispute is alive for more than 200 years. It started between Mysore and Madras in 1807, which led to an agreement in 1892 and 1924. Though this agreement allowed for changes after 50 years, the linguistic re-organisation of states in 1956 triggered new problems.


There is an immediate need to constitute a permanent dispute settlement body like the JRC, JCE of Indo-Bangladesh treaty, the Indus Commission, the US-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission etc. for the Cauvery dispute.


The Cauvery Management Board proposed by the Supreme Court may act like these bodies. The states can even re-negotiate the existing treaty, involving mutually agreed third parties like World Bank to arrive at a permanent settlement.


Q2. What are the ethical issues involved in investigative journalism?

Right to privacy


Right to Reputation



The word “ethics” when associated with journalism practice has elicited various definitions including “a set of principles and norms that, at least to some degree, guided journalistic practice’’ or “a way of studying morality which allows decisions to be made when individuals face specific cases of moral dilemma’’ or “the study of the grounds and principles for right and wrong human behaviour’’.


The three scholars agree that ethics reflects human values such as courage, self-control and generosity and focuses on the standards of right and wrong


Journalists, in the course of their duty, deal with the choice between what is moral or immoral if published. They even have to deal with moral and legal issues regarding how they obtain information. The information that investigative journalists seek—that which touch on corruption, immoral behaviour and other vice are always private or hidden by the power elite and as such journalists are forced to dig deep to obtain information. Indeed, investigative journalism’s key controversy has centred on how journalists obtained information. “It has always been an ethical and legal grey area, in which journalists have often stepped over the boundaries in pursuit of stories’’ (Greenslade, 2008, p.324) and “sometimes it isn’t easy to avoid ethical problems’’


Q3. What is the Shangri-La Dialogue? Why is the Shangri-La Dialogue important?

The IISS Asia Security Summit was launched in 2002 by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government. This annual dialogue brings together defence ministers and military chiefs from 28 Asia-Pacific countries to talk about security in the region.

It gets its name from the location of the meeting, the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.

The dialogue gathers military representatives from some of the world’s most powerful countries to discuss pressing and significant defence and security issues.

The meeting is a chance for defence ministers, military chiefs and high-ranking defence officials to hold bilateral meetings on its sidelines.

It is also attended by legislators, academic experts, journalists and business delegates from around the globe, making it a vehicle for public policy development and discussions on defence and security in the Asia-Pacific.


The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore is the most important regular gathering of defence professionals in the Asia-Pacific region, a vital annual fixture in the diaries of ministers and their civilian and military chiefs of staff.

Since its launch in 2002 the Dialogue has built confidence and fostered practical security cooperation, by facilitating easy communication and fruitful contact among the region’s most important defence and security policymakers.

All speaking slots for plenary sessions and break-out groups at the event are allocated to ministers, other senior official delegates or distinguished legislators with strong defence credentials. Several simultaneous break-out groups are held during one half-day of the summit, allowing in-depth discussion of a greater variety of critical regional security topics.

The Dialogue’s agenda is intentionally wide-ranging, reflecting the many defence and security challenges facing a large and diverse region. Each year it recognises emerging as well as established regional security concerns. Past speakers have included prime ministers and senior ministers from China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and other regional powers, as well as the United States.

Over the years ministers have used the Dialogue to propose and advance initiatives on important security issues. These include maritime security in the Malacca Strait, the implications of regional states’ submarine capabilities, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, regional security architecture, humanitarian and disaster relief, and the idea of a ‘no first use of force’ agreement in the South China Sea.

Official delegations have made increasingly intensive and effective use of the Dialogue as a venue for bilateral, trilateral and multilateral meetings with security partners. While the precise content of these private meetings has usually remained confidential, they have sometimes resulted in public joint statements on defence and security cooperation in the region.


Q4. Reforms in agriculture marketing reforms require nudge from the Union Government. Comment


It may be interesting to note that it was during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister that some reforms in domestic agri-markets were attempted when a model Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Committees (APMC) Act 2003 was suggested to the states. As many as 22 states have adopted it in some form, yet it failed to transform the agri-marketing structure in India.

The system kept suffering from highly fragmented markets with insufficient infrastructure. Levies and intermediation fees remained high and uneven across states and APMC licensees monopolised trade, leading to rent-seeking and a lower share for farmers in the consumer’s price.

It was against this backdrop that the BJP’s 2014 election manifesto promised to create a unified national agricultural market (NAM), which would reduce the costs of intermediation and wastages, benefiting farmers as well as consumers.

In April 2016, a NAM scheme was launched. The Union government budgeted Rs 200 crore for two years and proposed a one-time grant of Rs 30 lakh (later increased to Rs75 lakh in Budget 2017-18) to every mandi which joined the NAM platform.


There were three preconditions for any state to come on-board the NAM: They had to ensure

  • one trading license for the entire state,
  • (ii) have a rationalised single levy/market-fee, and
  • (iii) ensure electronic trading/auction. But satisfying these pre-conditions necessitated reforms in the APMC Act and so, rightfully, the government came out with the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) (APLM) Act 2017.

It shifted the focus from regulation (under APMC) to promotion and facilitation (under APLM), setting the right tone for agri-marketing reforms.

How far has it moved and whether farmers and consumers have gained from it is the moot question.

As per the Dalwai Committee Report 2017-18 (Volume IV), there are close to 29,547 marketing points. Of these, 22 per cent or 6,615 are regulated markets under the APMC and 22,932 are regional periodical markets (RPMs).

On an average, a farmer gets a regulated market in the radius of about 12 km and an RPM in a radius of about 7 km. Out of these 6,615 markets, the NAM scheme aimed to bring 585 markets (9 per cent) on the e-market platform by the end of the financial year 2017-18. Quite commendably, as on March 2018, all targeted mandis, that is, 585 that are in 16 states (see infographic) and two Union Territories (Chandigarh and Puducherry) have been integrated with the NAM platform.

But these 585 mandis brought only 90.5 lakh farmers on the platform, that is less than 7 per cent of the 14 crore Indian farmers.

Besides, this value is also artificially inflated by adding the value of MSP procurement operations by states like Haryana. By including such transactions made at a fixed price (MSP) by a fixed buyer (procurement agency) onto the e-NAM platform, the true spirit of e-NAM —. of free and competitive marketing — fades.

Additionally, as per the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, most of the reported transactions are intra-mandi. Inter-mandi and inter-state trading on the platform is minimal.

  • What this means is that the states on e-NAM have not been able to provide farmers with better price discovery in other mandis within the same state or across states. The Department also acknowledges that the e-payment facility is not available at most mandis and that there is no competitive bidding reported in these states
  • This clearly implies that the monopoly of the APMCs continues unabated even in the 18 states/UTs and the aim of creating a truly unified NAM with an efficient price discovery mechanism is still a far-fetched dream.
  • And it may not materialise even in the next five years unless the following steps are taken in a concerted manner:

One, there must be an unyielding focus on agri-market reforms starting with the basics of assaying, sorting and grading facilities for primary produce as per nationally recognised and accepted standards. Two, suitable infrastructure at mandi-level (like godowns, cold storages, driers, etc) to maintain those standards must be created. Three, uniformity must be brought into commissions and fee structures that together do not go beyond about 2 per cent of the value of the produce. And finally, a nationally integrated dispute resolution mechanism must be evolved to tackle cases where the quality of goods delivered varies from what is shown and bid on the electronic platform.


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