Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 30 July 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 2:
- Statutory bodies.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Objectives, composition, functions and significance of the Central Wakf Council.
Context: A national conference of Central Waqf Council (CWC) was recently held.
What is it?
- Central Wakf Council is a statutory body established in 1964 by the Government of India under Wakf Act, 1954 (now a sub section the Wakf Act, 1995).
- It has been established for the purpose of advising Centre on matters pertaining to working of the State Wakf Boards and proper administration of the Wakfs in the country.
- It is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists.
Composition and appointments:
The Council is headed by a Chairperson, who is the Union Minister in charge of Wakfs and there are maximum 20 other members, appointed by Government of India as stipulated in the Wakf Act.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 2:
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Procedure to change the name of states in India.
Context: Over the years, several demands have been made, for reasons that could be either political or administrative, to change the name of West Bengal.
- A request in 2018 was rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in November 2018 due to the similarity between “Bangla” and “Bangladesh”.
Rationale behind renaming:
The state government first proposed the renaming in 2016. West Bengal argues for the change saying bureaucrats and politicians from the state often complain that they are asked to speak at the end of every national-level meeting in Delhi. This was because the speakers’ lists at such meeting are prepared according to alphabetical order of the states they represent. If West Bengal gets the new name, it will leapfrog from bottom of the list to the top of the pecking order.
The renaming will help the state appear at the fourth spot after Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Assam in the alphabetic order of the states.
The procedure of renaming of the state can be initiated by either the Parliament or the State Legislator and the procedure is as follows:
- The renaming of a state requires Parliamentary approval under Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution.
- A bill for renaming a state may be introduced in the Parliament on the recommendation of the President.
- Before the introduction of the bill, the President shall send the bill to the respective state assembly for expressing their views within a stipulated time. The views of the state assembly are not binding, neither on the President nor on the Parliament.
- On the expiry of the period, the bill will be sent to the Parliament for deliberation. The bill in order to take the force of a law must be passed by a simple majority.
- The bill is sent for approval to the President. After the approval of the said bill, the bill becomes a law and the name of the state stands modified.
Initiation by a State:
If any fresh proposal comes from states to the Home Ministry, it will prepare a note for the Union Cabinet for an amendment to the Schedule 1 of the Constitution. Thereafter, a Constitution Amendment Bill will be introduced in Parliament, which has to approve it with a simple majority, before the President gives his assent to it.
Sources: the hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Disaster and disaster management.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: key features, need for and significance of the charter.
Context: India, by virtue of being a member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ has received a satellite data related to the Assam floods from other member nations including France, Russia and China.
About International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’:
- It is a non-binding charter.
- It provides for the charitable and humanitarian related acquisition of and transmission of space satellite data to relief organizations in the event of major disasters.
- Initiated by the European Space Agency and the French space agency CNESafter the UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria in July 1999.
- It officially came into operation on November 1, 2000 after the Canadian Space Agency signed onto the charter on October 20, 2000.
- Only agencies that possess and are able to provide satellite-based Earth Observation data can be members of the International Charter. The members cooperate on a voluntary basis.
How it works?
- The Charter is a worldwide collaboration, through which satellite data are made available for the benefit of disaster management. By combining Earth observation assets from different space agencies, the Charter allows resources and expertise to be coordinated for rapid response to major disaster situations; thereby helping civil protection authorities and the international humanitarian community.
- This unique initiative is able to mobilise agencies around the world and benefit from their know-how and their satellites through a single access point that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no cost to the user.
Faced with a major emergency, rescue and relief organisations that are armed quickly with reliable and accurate information are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.
Satellites routinely monitoring Earth from space and delivering data to support rapid damage mapping offer an objective tool to aid disaster management.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- IPR related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims: GI tags and about Rasagulla and controversy surrounding it’s origin.
For Mains: Significance of GI tags.
Context: Odisha has bagged the geographical indication (GI) tag for its local version of “Rasagola”.
This GI tag, numbered 612, is the second for Odisha. It got its first GI tag for Kandhamal Haldi.
This tag comes amid a years-long debate between West Bengal and Odisha over where the sweet had originated.
West Bengal and Odisha had staked their claim on GI tag for Rasagola. In 2017, West Bengal secured the GI tag for its “Banglar Rasogolla”.
Bengalis claim that the Rasgulla was invented in the 19th century by Nobin Chandra Das at his Bagbazar residence in Kolkata, while Odias believe that the tradition of Niladri Bije where Rasgulla is offered started in the 12th century.
Now with Odisha also securing a certificate for a similar but somewhat differently named delicacy, it seems both will be relishing the sweet end.
About GI tag:
What is it?
A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory.
Significance of a GI tag:
Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
Once the GI protection is granted, no other producer can misuse the name to market similar products. It also provides comfort to customers about the authenticity of that product.
Provisions in this regard: GI is covered as element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property.
At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In India, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999 governs it.
Sources: the hindu.
GS Paper 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
What to study?
For prelims: RCEP- Key facts and Geographical location of member countries.
For mains: Why is India concerned, gains and losses from this, what India needs to do?
Context: The 16-nation group led by ASEAN countries is making a push for India to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Free Trade Agreement.
What you need to know about RCEP?
- RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- Aim: RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
Why has it assumed so much significance in recent times?
When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people. India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
Why is India concerned?
Greater access to Chinese goods may have impact on the Indian manufacturing sector. India has got massive trade deficit with China. Under these circumstances, India proposed differential market access strategy for China.
There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.
If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive with other RCEP members’ exports in each RCEP market, and the ensuing export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and the subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee can only be left to imagination. Some of the sectors that have been identified as potential sources of India’s export growth impulses under RCEP to the tune of approximately $200 billion.
There are more compelling trade and economic reasons for RCEP to become India-led in future, than otherwise. India would get greater market access in other countries not only in terms of goods, but in services and investments also.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: India should not allow the RCEP trade deal to fail. Do you agree. Comment.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Highlights of the Bill and key functions of the National Dam Safety Authority, concerns expressed by states over the Bill.
Context: Opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha have expressed deep reservations about the Centre’s decision to introduce the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, asserting that the legislation, which is ostensibly aimed at providing uniform safety measures across the country, would undermine the powers of State governments since water is a State subject.
- The bill is too focused on structural safety and not on operational safety.
- There is inadequate compensation to the people affected by dams.
- There is need for an independent regulator as well as for a precise definition of stakeholders.
- Many states say it encroaches upon the sovereignty of States to manage their dams, and violates the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. They see it as an attempt by the Centre to consolidate power in the guise of safety concerns.
Why Centre is introducing this Bill?
Though the subject does not fall under the purview of Parliament, the Centre has decided to introduce this bill mainly because dam safety is an issue of concern in the country. And there are no legal and institutional safeguards in this regard.
Highlights of Dam Safety Bill, 2019:
- The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.
- The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.
- The Bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authorityas a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
- The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government.
- The Bill will help all the States and Union Territories of India to adopt uniform dam safety procedures which shall ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits from such dams. This shall also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property.
- It addresses all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, Emergency Action Plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, Instrumentation and Safety Manuals. It lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.
- Over the last fifty years, India has invested substantially in dams and related infrastructures, and ranks third after USA and China in the number of large dams. 5254 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 447 are under construction. In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams.
- While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure for ensuring dam safety.
- The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), Central Dam Safety Organization (CDSO) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) has been making constant endeavours in this direction, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.
- This can be a matter of concern, especially since about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old. A badly maintained, unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment.
- India has had 36 dam failures in the past.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
What are Microdots?
Why in News? The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has issued a draft notification amending Central Motor Vehicle Rules, allowing motor vehicles and their parts, components, assemblies, sub-assemblies to be affixed with permanent and nearly invisible microdots.
What are microdots?
Microdot technology involves spraying the body and parts of the vehicle or any other machine with microscopic dots, which give a unique identification.
These microdot can be read physically with a microscope and identified with ultra violet light source.
The microdots and adhesive will become permanent fixtures/affixation which cannot be removed without damaging the asset, that is the vehicle itself.
Benefits: Use of this technology will help check theft of vehicles and also use of fake spare parts.
Automated multimodal biometric identification system (AMBIS):
Context: Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to adopt automated multimodal biometric identification system (AMBIS) About AMBIS: It aims to create a criminal database by addition of iris and face biometrics. Under this system, a digital database of fingerprints and photographs of criminals will be prepared, that will lead to a subsequent hike in conviction rate.
Context: Google has created a doodle on Muthulakshmi Reddi’s 33rd birth anniversary.
Who is she? Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi was India’s first legislator and also known as woman of many firsts.
Tamil Nadu Government declared that every year hospitals will celebrate her birth anniversary as ‘Hospital Day.’
She became the first female surgeon in a government hospital and the first woman legislator in the country during British India.
Summaries of important Editorials:
Ban or regulate? — On India’s policy on cryptocurrencies:
Context: An inter-ministerial committee recently recommended that India should ban all private cryptocurrencies.
The Reserve Bank of India has also repeatedly warned the public of the risks associated with dealing with cryptocurrencies.
Why the committee has recommended for a complete ban?
Governments and economic regulators across the world are wary of private cryptocurrencies. These Cryptocurrencies need neither a central issuing authority nor a central validating agency for transactions.
These currencies can exist and thrive outside the realm of authority and regulation.
They are even deemed a threat to the official currency and monetary system.
Is banning cryptocurrencies the most effective way to respond?
Seven jurisdictions, that the report cites, have not banned cryptocurrencies outright. Many of them, including Canada, Thailand, Russia and Japan, seem to be moving on the path of regulation, so that transactions are within the purview of anti-money laundering and prevention of terror laws.
Even in China, which India has taken a cue from, the ban has not achieved its objectives. Trading in China is now low but not non-existent.
Therefore, there are no official or other data available that point towards misuse of cryptocurrencies for illegal ends.
What is a cryptocurrency and how they operate?
A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. Cryptocurrencies use decentralized technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank. They run on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders. The most common cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin.
Concerns associated with the use of cryptocurrencies:
- The government is wary that regulation will provide legitimacy to “what is currently ambiguous,” and may lead to further rise in its valuation and end up contributing “to the investment bubble”.
- A currency that is not based on any real economic activity, unlike a sovereign currency whose value is based on the relative value of a tradeable basket of goods and services, cannot prima facie inspire much comfort.
- The security offered by encryption of cryptocurrency may be breached by hackers who are always lurking for any point of weakness. This may end up costing investors huge amounts of money because prices are attached to the currencies.
- Cryptocurrency exists only in essence such that there are no physical coins and notes. As a result, there is, therefore, no central place where the currency can be deposited for safe keeping.
- Cryptos are feared not just for their sheer speculative propensities, but also for their capacity to undermine sovereign currencies.
- Virtual currency is being traded anonymously over the Internet and used for a host of anti-national and illegal activities, from terror funding to illicit trade of arms and drugs and so on.
- The online use of this currency, was without any border restrictions or geographical constraints, resulting in danger to the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Benefits of cryptocurrencies:
Secure nature: Cryptocurrencies are encoded into a database.
No transaction fees are usually charged for transactions involving cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency does away with the need for a regulator.
By making everything public, cryptocurrency negates the need for a middleman.
No individual or organisation can manipulate Bitcoins because it is cryptographically secure and do not contain customers’ personal information.
What can be done?
- If authorised as an electronic payment system or designated a legal instrument, cryptocurrencies will fall under the purview of the RBI; capital gains and business transactions will be liable to tax, and foreign payments are also going to fall under the auspices of Foreign Exchange Management Act.
- Regulated cryptocurrencies will enshrine robust consumer protection provisions. In terms of benefits, this could be a force multiplier in India’s quest for financial inclusion, parallel to the electronic payment modalities such a digital wallets and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System.
- It could further reduce the cost associated with remittances, which brings annual earnings of close to 62 billion USD to India.
- It would also attract future business entrepreneurs, leading to innovation, generation of job and wealth creation in the due process of payments processing, e-commerce and taxation.