Indian Express Explained 26th April 2020

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1)Explained: What’s behind diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea?

In the middle of the global coronavirus pandemicChina has been busy increasing its presence in the South China Sea. This time the focus of its acquisitory attention are the two disputed archipelagos of the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands in the middle of the South China Sea waters, between the territory of Vietnam and the Philippines. This past week, Beijing unilaterally renamed 80 islands and other geographical features in the area, drawing criticism from neighbouring countries who have also laid claim to the same territory.

What is the Spratly Islands dispute about?

There has been an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs, cays etc.

Since 1968, these nations have engaged in varying kinds of military occupation of the islands and the surrounding waters, with the exception of Brunei, that has contained its objections to the use of its maritime waters for commercial fishing.

Although the Spratly Islands are largely uninhabited, there is a possibility that they may have large reserves of untapped natural resources.

What is the Paracel Islands dispute about?

The Paracel Islands dispute is slightly more complex. This archipelago is a collection of 130 islands and coral reefs and is located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam.

Beijing says that references to the Paracel Islands as a part of China sovereign territory can be found in 14th century writings from the Song Dynasty. Vietnam on the other hand, says that historical texts from at least the 15th century show that the islands were a part of its territory.

What was the most recent dispute about?

Following the recent establishment of new administrative districts on both Spratly and Paracel Islands, China’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly announced that the Chinese government had “named” 80 islands, reefs and other geographical features around the two archipelagos with Chinese names. The last time China had unilaterally engaged in a similar initiative was in 1983 where 287 geographical features had been renamed in the disputed chain of islands.



2)Explained: As Saudi Arabia abolishes flogging, a look at how it crushes dissent in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s state human rights commission said that the country has abolished flogging as a punishment for crime.

What kind of crimes was flogging a punishment for?

Before it was abolished, flogging was mandatory as a form of corporal punishment for several offences including murder, breach of peace, homosexuality, consumption or possession of alcohol, adultery, pestering girls, spending time with the opposite sex, insulting Islam and bringing in liqueur chocolates into the country, among others. Before the ban on women drivers was lifted in 2018, any woman caught driving could also be sentenced to flogging. This form of corporal punishment could be used by judges at their discretion as an alternative or in addition to other punishments.

Even though Saudi Arabia seems to be progressing towards a more open society, with the ban on women drivers lifted in 2018 and women not requiring permission from their male guardians to apply for a passport anymore, there have been several instances of women rights activists being arrested. In 2019, over a dozen women’s rights activists were charged, according to Amnesty International, for the nature of their human rights work, which includes promoting women’s rights and calling for an end to the male guardianship system.

3)Chit Funds / Chitty / Kuri/ Miscellaneous Non-banking Company:-

Chit funds are essentially saving institutions. They are of various forms and lack any standardised form.

Chit funds have regular members who make periodical subscriptions to the fund. The periodic collection is given to some member of the chit funds selected on the basis of previously agreed criterion. The beneficiary is selected usually on the basis of bids or by draw of lots or in some cases by auction or by tender. In any case, each member of the chit fund is assured of his turn before the second round starts and any member becomes entitled to get periodic collection again.

Chit funds are the Indian versions of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations found across the globe.

Official Definition

As per Section 2 (b) of the Chit Funds Act 1982, chit means “a transaction whether called chit, chit fund, chitty, kuri or by any other name by or under which a person enters into an agreement with a specified number of persons that every one of them shall subscribe a certain sum of money (or a certain quantity of grain instead) by way of periodical installments over a definite period and that each such subscriber shall, in his turn, as determined by lot or by auction or by tender or in such other manner as may be specified in the chit agreement, be entitled to the prize amount.A transaction is not a chit within the meaning of this clause, if in such transaction, –

  • some alone, but not all, of the subscribers get the prize amount without any liability to pay future subscriptions; or
  • all the subscribers get the chit amount by turns with a liability to pay future subscriptions;

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