Insights Daily Current Affairs, 26 Aug 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 26 Aug 2017


 

Paper 2:

 

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Northeast yet to implement SC judgement on parliamentary secretaries

 

The Supreme Court had in July struck down an Assam legislation of 2004, which allowed the appointment of parliamentary secretaries, viewing it as “unconstitutional”. However, no state in the Northeast has implemented it as yet.

  • Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya, which appointed parliamentary secretaries as a matter of political convenience, have not yet implemented the SC judgment.

 

Background:

The Supreme Court, in July, held unconstitutional a law enacted by Assam government in 2004 that allowed appointment of parliamentary secretaries enjoying the rank of minister of state. As per the Act parliamentary secretary was given the rank and status of a minister of state and exercised such powers, functions and duties as were assigned by the chief minister.

  • The court said, “Article 194 does not expressly authorise the state legislature to create offices such as the one in question.” Therefore, the legislature of Assam lacked the competence to create the post of parliamentary secretaries.
  • Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have 26 parliamentary secretaries, which is more than 43% of the total strength of the 60-member legislative assemblies of the two states.

 

Who is a parliamentary secretary?

A Parliament Secretary is similar to a Minister of State who assists a Minister in his or her duties.

 

Issues associated:

Office of profit: First, the Constitution specifies conditions which disqualify MPs, MLAs, Municipality and Panchayat members from membership of their respective institutions. The first is holding an “Office of Profit” under the state or central government. The essence of this disqualification is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member. MPs and MLAs hold the government accountable for its work, and if they held an “Office of Profit” under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence and might not discharge their constitutional mandate fully.

Cap: Second, the Constitution caps the number of members in the union and state cabinet. Article 164(1A) specifies that the number of ministers including the Chief Minister has to be within 15% of the total number of members of the Assembly (10% in the case of Delhi, which is not a ‘full’ state).

Over the last few years, courts across the country have struck down the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries for violating the Constitution.

 

Sources: et.


 

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

SC verdict to affect ban on slaughter

sc verdict ban on slaughter

The Supreme Court has said that its landmark judgment declaring right to privacy a fundamental right would have “some bearing” in matters relating to slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra. It is argued that the right to eat food of one’s choice was now protected under privacy.

  • The SC observed this while hearing a batch of appeals filed against the HC verdict decriminalising the possession of beef in case of animals slaughtered outside the state.

 

Background:

The Bombay High Court had on May 6 last year struck down Sections 5(D) and 9(B) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995.

While Section 5(D) criminalises possession of flesh of cows, bulls or bullocks, slaughtered outside Maharashtra, Section 9(B) imposed burden on the accused to prove that meat or flesh possessed by him/her does not belong to these animals. The State government had filed an appeal in the top court.

 

BEEF BAN VS PRIVACY:

The Maharashtra government had on August 10 moved the apex court challenging the high court’s verdict striking down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef of animals, slaughtered in or outside the state, on the ground that it infringed upon a person’s “right to privacy”.

The Maharashtra government has challenged in Supreme Court the Bombay High Court’s May 6, 2016 order that decriminalised the possession of beef, in case of animals slaughtered outside the state.

 

High Court judgment:

The High Court had struck down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef of the animals, slaughtered in or outside the state, on the ground that it infringed upon a person’s “right to privacy”.

  • The court had termed as “unconstitutional” the provisions which held mere possession of beef as crime, saying only “conscious possession” of the meat of the animals slaughtered in the state would be an offence.
  • In its judgment, the High Court had upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks imposed by the Maharashtra government, but had decriminalised possession of beef in case the animals were slaughtered outside the state.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

ISTD mulls a national registry of skilled people

 

Indian Society for Training and Development (ISTD) is planning to form a national registry of skilled people to help upgrade the large number of unskilled population in the country.

 

Need for such a registry:

Since a large number of workforce live below poverty line and are early school dropouts, they find getting decent employment difficult. Therefore, ISTD aims to bring out a registry of trainers in every skill so as to improve the economic condition of such workers. There are around 600 trades that need certified trainers. This include popular ones in the field of construction, textile, jewellery making, retail, handicrafts etc.

 

About ISTD:

The Indian Society for Training & Development (ISTD), established in April 1970, is a national level professional & non-profit society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. It has a large membership of individuals and institutions involved in the area of training and development of Human Resource from Government, Public and Private Sector Organization & Enterprises; Educational and Training Institutions and other Professional Bodies.

  • The Society is affiliated to the International Federation of Training and Development Organizations (IFTDO), USA and Asian Regional Training and Development Organizations (ARTDO), Manila.
  • ISTD Organizes Training Programs, all over the country both at Chapter and National Levels. The Programs cover selected areas of HRD with special emphasis on Training of Trainers, Training Goals & Objectives and Training Tools & Technologies.
  • ISTD has been designated as the National Nodal Agency to `Testing and Certification’ of Skilled Workers in the organized and unorganized sectors.

 

Sources: et.


 

Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

Uttar Pradesh launches Chief Minister’s Helpline

Master

UP state government has proposed to operationalise a 1,000-seater grievance cell in Lucknow —to be christened ‘Chief Minister’s Helpline’ —which will be capable of handling as many as 80,000 calls a day from harried residents from across the state on a single toll-free number.

 

Key facts:

  • The set-up, to be monitored by the chief minister through a special dashboard, will allow 55,000 outbound calls per day for followup action, right up to the block level where officials are responsible for resolving issues.
  • Complainants will receive a commitment through text message on their mobile phone, specifying the “minimum time” required to resolve the problem.
  • Grievances will be automatically escalated to higher officials at the district headquarters, then to divisional headquarters and ultimately to top officials sitting in Lucknow if a complainant is not satisfied with the resolution.
  • The 24*7 call centre will be privately run to ensure complaints are listened to by operators without bias, and analytical reports will be prepared for the UP government, suggesting how services can be improved.
  • The state government will nominate 10 officials from the departments that receive the maximum number of complaints and they in turn will train some of the private call operators to become subject matter experts on processes and schemes of various departments.
  • A key feature of the system will also be capturing suggestions and feedback from citizens. As per the proposal, one of the main objectives of this programme is “not only to run a call centre but also to collect information for the government so that it can achieve better quality of service for the residents”.

 

Significance of this move:

The CM’s helpline will arm citizens with a big power – of simple calling up a number and reaching the CMO with their grouse and getting an assured timeline for redressal. This move aims to solve citizens’ grievances at their doorstep in a time-bound manner.

 

Sources: et.


 

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

MPs fret over trade deficit with ASEAN

th26 asean

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has questioned the government for suggesting that the country’s increasing trade deficit with ASEAN nations is due to imports of essential commodities and has strongly recommended that India seek better market access for its products and services with the 10-nation bloc.

 

Trade deficit with ASEAN:

India has suffered a trade deficit in respect of five ASEAN members — Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Lao PDR — over 2015-16 and 2016-17, with the biggest deficit emerging in trade with Indonesia.

  • Under the existing trade agreement, Indonesia has committed a tariff elimination on 50.1% of its items which is the least in comparison to other ASEAN member States. The least tariff elimination by Indonesia has resulted in biggest trade deficit from India amongst all ASEAN member States.
  • Among the other top 10 commodities imported from ASEAN, consumer electronics grew at the highest pace in 2016-17 (18.33%), followed by ships and boats (12.82%), electronic components (11.72%) and telecom instruments (9.17%). India’s second-largest export commodity to ASEAN — buffalo meat — saw a 4.92% increase in 2016-17 to reach $2.78 billion.

 

Essential commodities:

The Ministry of Commerce apprised the panel that the imports of essential commodities — coal, petroleum and edible oils — from ASEAN constitute a significant percentage of India’s imports and that ‘if these essential commodities are excluded, India will have a better or positive balance of trade position.’

As per official data, among the ‘essential commodities’ cited by the government, imports of coal fell by 2.5% in 2016-17 from a year earlier, while vegetable oil imports grew by 3.7% to touch $6.19 billion in 2016-17. Crude petroleum imports rose by almost 50% in 2016-17, but exports of petroleum products (India’s top export product to the ASEAN bloc) surged 58.4%.

 

Concerns:

Absence of quality norms: While exports of agricultural products from India faced high import tariffs and barriers, leading to a sharp drop in trade, India’s food processing sector had raised concerns about the ‘near absence of quality norms’ for import of cheap processed food products from ASEAN countries.

Non- tariff barriers: Concerns have also been raised about the imposition of safeguards and non-tariff barriers by ASEAN nations on exports of India’s textiles and pharmaceuticals.

 

What needs to be done?

Better market access: India must seek better market access for goods where India has an edge over ASEAN nations, like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, to improve the trade balance.

Quality norms: Cheap import of poor quality processed food products should be looked into. Appropriate quality norms may be fixed for import of such products from ASEAN as well as other regions of the world.

Reduction in tariffs: The government must ensure reciprocity in the reduction of tariffs in products like steel. Efforts should also be there to improve India’s access to services trade in ASEAN, with a focus on increasing the footprint of Indian banks and financial institutions in the region.

 

Background:

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner with total trade in 2016-17 at $71.69 billion, constituting almost 11% of India’s overall global trade of $660.6 billion. Total exports to ASEAN in 2016-17 stood at $31.07 billion, while imports were $40.63 billion, creating an adverse trade balance of $9.56 billion.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

 

Topic: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Claims on Bt cotton need to be probed, says panel

 

Reigniting the debate on GM crops, a Parliamentary panel in a report has said the government agencies have portrayed “a rosy picture” on Bt Cotton which is far removed from the truth.

  • The report comes days after the government told the Supreme Court that the Centre could take a final decision on the regulator’s go-ahead for commercial cultivation of GM mustard by September-end.

 

Why the parliamentary panel said so?

The government cited only overall cotton output and not the average yield in area. India’s cotton yields increased by 69% in the five years (2000-2005) when Bt Cotton was less than 6% of total cotton area, but by only 10% in the 10 years from 2005-2015 when Bt Cotton grew to 94% of the total cotton area.

Also, 20 years after introduction of GM crops in 1996, only six countries continue to account for over 90 % of all GM crop area globally including U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada, China and India. “If GM technology was so good then why would all the countries not embrace it?” asked the committee.

 

Bt crops in India:

On May 11, the GEAC had recommended the commercial release of a high-yielding mustard variety — DMH 11 — developed by some Delhi university scientists. If this is okayed by the political establishment, it would be the third GM crop after Bt cotton and Bt brinjal to be approved by the regulator. While Bt cotton has been cultivated in the country since 2002, Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop okayed by GEAC, never hit the fields as an indefinite moratorium was imposed on its commercial release in early 2010 by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

 

Way ahead:

The panel slammed the government for its “casual” approach to the need for a scientific study of GM crop impact on health. It said, the “duality of the claims about the increase in yield of cotton” needs further examination.

Also, unless bio-safety and socio-economic desirability studies are done through a participatory, independent and transparent process, the committee has recommended that no GM crop should be introduced.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

 

RBI panel seeks rights-based data privacy in household finance

rbi

A Reserve Bank of India panel has sought rights- based privacy in household finance than the widely prevalent consent- based approach.

  • This was suggested by the Household Finance Committee of the central bank. The panel was set up following discussions in a sub-committee of Financial Stability and Development Council on April 26 last year.

 

Need for rights- based privacy:

Technological advances like machine learning and big data have changed the ways in which data is processed and as a result, have made consent a less-than- effective tool to protect personal privacy. Therefore, it is imperative to deploy an alternative system to protect data privacy.

 

Concerns expressed by the panel:

Lack of formal legal framework for data protection: All financial technology solutions require the use of households’ personal information, a form of wealth in itself. The panel is “worried” because the country lacks a formal legal framework for data protection.

Absence of legal framework: There is no formal privacy statute and the closest thing to a formal privacy law is in the rules enacted under Section 43A of the IT Act of 2000 that spell out, in general terms, privacy obligations that apply to anyone who collects and processes sensitive personal data. Continued lack of clear privacy regulations presents an ever-increasing risk to personal privacy.

 

Important recommendations:

Technically skilled intermediaries: The new law should create a class of technically skilled intermediaries authorised to review algorithms that process personal data to evaluate whether the data is being processed in a privacy-neutral manner.

Data commissioners: The new privacy framework should contemplate the creation of a Data Commissioner who shall be responsible for redress of grievances as well as for establishment of standards of accountability and transparency.

 

Steps to ensure accountability and boost transparency:

  • Data controllers (financial firms) will be responsible for ensuring accountability, transparency, non-discrimination and data security while processing data. They will be held accountable for any breach.
  • There should be a mandatory catastrophe insurance with automatically triggered pay-out in zones with high natural disasters like floods and earthquakes risks. This was the only mandatory suggestion made by the panel.
  • The panel also suggested a set of standardised norms across regulators for financial advice, supported with a fiduciary standard for financial advisers.

 

Sources: et.