1. Russia Recognises Rebel Regions of Ukraine as Independent
Recently, Russia recognized the Ukraine rebel regions in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk – as independent areas despite calls from the west to put an end to the tensions.
The 2 areas:
- The Donbass region, comprising the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, has been at the centre of the conflict since March 2014 when Moscow (Russia) invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
- In April, pro-Russia rebels began seizing territory (with Russia supporting them through hybrid warfare) in Eastern Ukraine and in May 2014, the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.
- Since then, these predominantly Russian speaking regions (more than 70% speak Russian) within Ukraine have been witnessing shelling and skirmishes between the rebels and Ukrainian forces, creating around 1.5 million registered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and destruction of the local economy.
Reasons for rebellion in Donbass:
|Donbass has the largest coal reserves in Ukraine and is famous for its metal industry.
Almost 40% of the population in this area are ethnic Russians.
The Russian language is spoken by a majority of the people in this region.
- The Kyiv government ignored demands for devolution of power and recognition of Russian language here.
- The economy of Donbass was badly hit after 1991 breakup. With subsequent economic reforms, a new class of power elites arose who were politically connected and extremely corrupt. A great number of oligarchs rose here.
- After the soviet collapse, Ukraine faced accusations of excessive centralisation. The oligarchs of Donbass with their Russian leanings, became the spearhead of dissidence against Kyiv.
- In 2004, Yanukovych, one of the oligarchs and future president of Ukraine, raised demands of autonomy in southern and eastern Ukraine. However, protests arose against him called the orange revolution, against electoral fraud.
- Yanukovych became advocate of closer economic and military ties with Russia and cancelled the Ukraine-EU association agreement in 2013 to lean closer to Russia. it led to huge protests called the Euromaidan.
- After annexation of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk too held their own referendum and proclaimed independence. However, Russia didn’t recognise these 2 republics. Since then, violence has been a common scenario.
- One way to prevent the outbreak of a war would be to implement the Minsk agreements immediately, as Russia has suggested.
- Minsk 1 was written in September 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, i.e. Ukraine, Russia, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with mediation by France and Germany in the so-called Normandy Format.
- Under Minsk 1, Ukraine and the Russia-backed rebels agreed on a 12-point ceasefire deal, which included prisoner exchanges, delivery of humanitarian assistance, and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
- However, due to violations by both sides, the agreement did not last long.
- As the rebels moved further into Ukraine, in February 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE and the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement , now known as the Minsk 2 accord.
- The new agreement had provisions for an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, OSCE monitoring, dialogue on interim self-government for Donetsk and Luhansk, in accordance with Ukrainian law.
- However, these provisions have not been implemented because of what is popularly known as the ‘Minsk Conundrum’. This essentially means that Ukraine and Russia have contradictory interpretations about the agreement.
2. Untangling Kerala’s Lokayukta Controversy
The controversy surrounding the amendment to the Lokayukta Act of Kerala — effected through an ordinance —has raised the political temperature in the State.
|The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act delegates the power to States to establish by law the Lokayukta to deal with complaints relating to corruption against public functionaries.
The Lokpal has jurisdiction to inquire into allegations of corruption against the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Group A, B, C and D officers and officials of the central government.
After the conclusion of the investigation, the Lokpal may file a case in the special court in case the findings disclose the commission of offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act by the Prime Minister, Ministers or Members of Parliament.
Issues with lokayukta:
- Section 14 of the Lokayukta Act in Kerala which has now been amended said that if the Lokayukta is satisfied on the complaint against the public servant being substantiated that he should not continue to hold the post held by him.
- In other words, if the public servant is the Chief Minister or a Minister, he shall forthwith resign his office. Such a provision does not exist in any of the State laws or the Lokpal Act of the Centre.
- An investigative body does not have the legal authority to direct the public servant to resign his post on the basis of its findings.
- The Sarkaria Commission had suggested that the Governor can dismiss a Chief Minister only when he loses his majority in the Assembly and refuses to step down.
- No agency created by a law made by the Assembly, particularly an investigative body, can declare that its decision be carried out by the Governor. It would amount to a violation of the Constitution.
- State law includes the office bearers of political parties within its definition of ‘public servant’.
- The Lokayukta law was enacted to inquire into cases of corruption of public functionaries such as Ministers, legislators, etc. who are covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act.
- This Act does not include office-bearers of political parties in its definition clause.
- It further says that if the Lokayukta is satisfied by the action taken by the competent authority, he shall close the case.
- There is no provision in the central law under which the Lokpal can close the case before it reaches the court.
- The Lokayukta not being a court does not have the legal capacity to close the corruption case under any circumstances.
The Kerala Lokayukta Act should be re-examined by a committee of the Assembly and should be brought on a par with the Lokpal Act. A legislation which seeks to punish corrupt public functionaries should be placed above controversies.
3. How Big is the Insurgency Threat in Manipur?
Recently, the Centre Government has announced that it is ready to hold dialogue with insurgency groups in Manipur to bring lasting peace to the region.
Reasons for Rise of Insurgency in Manipur:
- The rise of separatist insurgency in Manipur is mainly attributed to perceived discontent over alleged “forced” merger of Manipur with the Union of India and the subsequent delay in granting it full-fledged statehood.
- While the erstwhile Kingdom of Manipur was merged with India on 15th October, 1949, it became a state only in 1972.
- Valley-based outfits have been demanding an independent Manipur. EG: People’s Liberation Army (PLA), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) etc.
- While the hills account for nine-tenths of Manipur’s geographical area, they are sparsely populated, with most of the state’s population concentrated in the valley.
- The Meitei community forms a majority in Imphal valley, while the surrounding hill districts are inhabited by Nagas and Kukis.
- In the early 1990s, the ethnic clashes between Nagas and Kukis led to the formation of several Kuki insurgent groups, which have now scaled down their demand from a separate Kuki state to a Territorial Council.
- The Naga movement in neighbouring Nagaland spilled over into Manipur’s hill districts is perceived in the valley as a “threat” to Manipur’s “territorial integrity”.
- Since, the demands of many of the outfits conflict with each other, any conventional agreement with one group becomes a cause for agitation by other groups.
- Given that peace talks are on with the insurgents groups, there has been a tendency for the groups to continue the armed rebellion by another faction, with merely a change in nomenclature or by forming a new group.
- The nexus between the politicians and insurgents and criminals adds to the woes of the state.
- Besides, most of the security issues are politicised by the political parties to gain mileage for vote banks by enhancing controversies.
- Manipur being a border state, with a porous international border in a hostile jungle environment, the inflow of arms and trans-border movement of insurgent outfits continues.
- In 1980, the Centre declared the entire Manipur as a “disturbed area” and imposed the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to suppress the insurgency movement, which remains in force till date.
- The NSCN-IM entered a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997, even as peace talks between them have still been continuing.
- Assam Rifles and the army had conducted operation “All Clear” in the hill areas, most of the militants’ hideouts had been neutralised.
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