Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 08 August 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 3:
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
What to study?
For prelims: About the award and key contributions of Vikram Sarabhai.
For mains: Contributions of India and Indians to the development of space technology.
Context: As part of centenary year celebrations of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, father of Indian space programme, ISRO has announced its “Vikram Sarabhai Journalism Award in Space Science, Technology and Research”.
The award recognizes and rewards journalists who have actively contributed towards the field of space science, applications, and research.
Eligibility: The nominations are open to all Indians who have a good experience in journalism.
The names of the selected candidates will be announced on August 1st, 2020.
About Vikram Sarabhai and his contributions:
Vikram Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919. Sarabhai was instrumental in forming India’s future in astronomy and setting up the country’s space research facilities.
- Based on his persuasion, the Indian government agreed to set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962.
- Sarabhai was the first chairman of the committee.
- The INCOSPAR was restructured and renamed as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969.
- Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad in the year 1947. The laboratory started its operation from RETREAT, Sarabhai’s residence in Ahmedabad. Its first topic of research was cosmic rays.
- He also set up India’s first rocket launch site in Thumba, a small village near the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala.
- Vikram Sarabhai was also responsible for bringing cable television to India. His constant contact with NASA paved a way for the establishment of Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1975.
- Sarabhai was the mastermind behind building India’s first satellite, Aryabhata.
- He was one of the founding members of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).
- Vikram Sarabhai received the Padma Bhushan in 1966 for his contribution to India’s progress. He was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972, posthumously.
GS Paper 2:
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: UNIDO- composition, Objectives, functions and significance.
Context: UNIDO and National Institute of Solar Energy to initiate a skill development programme for different levels of beneficiaries in the solar thermal energy sector.
NISE and UNIDO will engage national and international experts to bring the best practices by developing specialized training material.
The agreement is part of the ongoing MNRE-GEF-UNIDO project implemented jointly by UNIDO and to support capacity building and skill development of technical manpower in the Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy Technologies (CST) which are being used to replace conventional fossil fuels e.g. coal, diesel, furnace oil etc. and save costs and emissions in the industrial process heat applications.
- UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability.
- It is also a member of UNDP.
- As of 1 April 2019, 170 States are Members of UNIDO.
- Members regularly discuss and decide UNIDO’s guiding principles and policies in the sessions of the Policymaking Organs.
- The mission of UNIDO, as described in the Lima Declarationadopted at the fifteenth session of the UNIDO General Conference in 2013, is to promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) in Member States.
- UNIDO’s mandate is fully recognized in SDG-9, which calls to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”.
UNIDO’s programmatic focus is structured in four strategic priorities:
- Creating shared prosperity.
- Advancing economic competitiveness.
- Safeguarding the environment.
- Strengthening knowledge and institutions.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 2:
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For prelims: Key provisions of the bill.
For mains: Need for and significance of the bill, challenges present and other ways to address these challenges.
Context: Parliament has passed Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 for speedy eviction of unauthorised occupants from government residential accommodations.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill amends the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971. The Act provides for the eviction of unauthorised occupants from public premises in certain cases.
- Notice for eviction: The Bill adds a provision laying down the procedure for eviction from residential accommodation. It requires an estate officer (an officer of the central government) to issue a written notice to a person if he is in unauthorised occupation of a residential accommodation. The notice will require the person to show cause of why an eviction order should not be made against him, within three working days. The written notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the accommodation, in a prescribed manner.
- Order of eviction:After considering the cause shown, and making any other inquiries, the estate officer will make an order for eviction. If the person fails to comply with the order, the estate officer may evict such person from the residential accommodation, and take possession of it. For this purpose, the estate officer may also use such force as necessary.
- Payment of damages: If the person in unauthorised occupation of the residential accommodation challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in court, he will be required to pay damages for every month of such occupation.
- The amendments will facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of unauthorised occupants from Government residences, and those vacant residences will be available for allotment to eligible persons on maturity of their turn in the waiting list.
- This will decrease the waiting time for availing the facility of residential accommodation.
The Government of India has to evict unauthorized occupants from Government accommodations under the provisions of PPE Act, 1971. However, the eviction proceedings take unusually long time, thereby reducing the availability of Government accommodations to new incumbents.
Under the existing PPE Act,1971 as amended by PPE Amendment Bill, 2015, the eviction proceeding take around 5 to 7 weeks’ time. However, it takes much longer, even years, to evict unauthorized occupants.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 2:
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: UNRWA- functions, funding, significance and challenges.
Context: India has contributed USD 5 million in 2019 to UN Palestine refugee agency. The contribution was provided in support of UNRWA’s core programmes and services, including education, health care, and relief and social services.
India has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) core budget, from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2018.
- It is a relief and human development agencythat was established in 8 December 1949.
- Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.
- UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR.
- Funding: UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.
- Aid is provided in five areas of operation:Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
- UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance, across its five fields of operation Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1950.
- The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees 20% of the world’s refugees.
Challenges before UNRWA:
- The UN agency is going through a difficult financial situation due to voluntary contributions from a limited donor base.
- There is a projected shortfall of more than USD 200 million against a funding requirement of approximately USD 1.2 billion for UNRWA this year.
- The shortfall may impact the agency’s ability to provide essential services to the Palestine refugees, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.
- Besides, a corruption scandal involving sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation against whistleblowers and lots of business-class travel has gripped the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Need of the hour:
- Traditional donors of UNRWA should consider enhancing their contributions.
- Non-donor member states should consider contributing to UNRWA in solidarity with the Palestine refugees.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 1:
The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Quit India Movement- reasons, key features and outcomes.
Context: 77th anniversary of Quit India movement was observed on August 8th, 2019. Every year 8 August is celebrated in India as August Kranti Din.
What is Quit India Movement?
It was in 1942 when the world was going through the havoc caused by World War II. India too was facing the heat and after the Cripps Mission had failed, and on 8 August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi made a Do or Die call through the Quit India movement. Large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. However, as the movement didn’t get too much support from the outside, it was crushed and the British refused to grant immediate Independence, saying that it could happen only after the war had ended.
Who started Quit India Movement?
The Quit India movement was started by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 but drew protests from the All-India Congress Committee demanding what Gandhi called was “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. This forced the British to act immediately and soon all the senior INC leaders were imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhi’s speech.
Other key facts:
- Several national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Kalam Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were arrested.
- The Congress was declared an unlawful association, leaders were arrested and its offices all over the country were raided and their funds were frozen.
- The first half of the movement was peaceful with demonstrations and processions. The peaceful protest was carried till Mahatma Gandhi’s release.
- The second half of the movement was violent with raids and setting fire at post offices, government buildings and railway stations. Lord Linlithgow adopted the policy of violence.
- The Viceroy’s Council of Muslims, Communist Party and Americans supported Britishers.
The significance of the movement can be highlighted as follows:
- The movement was carried forward without the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, or any other leader, all of whom were jailed on its commencement.
All sections of people participated in huge numbers.
Decentralized command was the prime significance of this movement.
The British began to seriously think about the issue of Indian independence after seeing the upsurge among the masses. It changed the nature of political negotiations with British empire in 1940s which ultimately paved the way of India’s independence.
The slogan of ‘Do or Die’ remains the most Krantikari slogan to this day.
It is also a symbol of political betrayal. Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) and even the undivided Communist party opposed Gandhi as well as his call for complete civil disobedience.
However, some of the drawbacks were:
- Use of violent methods by the volunteers and participants.
The movement was crushed in a relatively short period of time by the British.
Lack of leadership did not lead to well-coordinated guidance and progress of the movement, with the intensity restricted to a few pockets.
Sources: the hindu.
GS Paper 2:
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the convention.
Context: India has signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA).
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (“the Convention”) on 20th December 2018.
The convention is also known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” (the Convention).
- The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements, akin to the framework that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York, 1958) (the “New York Convention”) provides for arbitral awards.
- The Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion, refuse to grant relief. Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
Signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors and shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Initiatives by India to promote ADR Mechanisms:
- In order to encourage international commercial arbitration in India, to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration the Government is establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC)as a statutory body.
- The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, has been further amended and legislative exercise to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is currently underway.
- A new Chapter (IIIA) has been inserted in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, for mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement in certain category of cases.
Significance of ADR:
It is felt that a reliable and responsive alternative dispute resolution system is essential for rapidly developing countries like India. While business disputes need speedy resolution, litigation is the least favoured method for that. The Indian judicial system is marred by delays because of which businesses suffer as disputes are not resolved in a reasonable time period. Therefore, need for alternative dispute resolution processes like negotiation, mediation conciliation and arbitration is felt from time to time.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 2:
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
What to study?
For Prelims: Collegium system for the appointment of judges, selection and removal of SC judges.
For Mains: Issues with Collegium system, Need for urgent reforms.
Context: Rajya Sabha approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34.
At present, the sanctioned strength of the apex court is 31.
59,331 cases are pending in the top court. Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law are not being formed.
Therefore, increase in strength is needed so that the SC can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain the ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public.
The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI). This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.
In 1988, the judge strength of the SC was increased to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.
Who appoints judges to the SC?
In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the appointments are made by the President of India.
The names are recommended by the Collegium.
Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge:
- The norms relating to the eligibility has been envisaged in the Article 124 of the Indian Constitution.
- To become a judge of the Supreme court, an individual should be an Indian citizen.
- In terms of age, a person should not exceed 65 years of age.
- The person should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.
Is the collegium’s recommendation final and binding?
The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval. The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.
Other Judicial Reforms necessary:
- The need of the hour is to revisit the existing system through a transparent and participatory procedure, preferably by an independent broad-based constitutional body guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
- The new system should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
- The system needs to establish a body which is independent and objective in the selection process.
- Setting up a constitutional body accommodating the federal concept of diversity and independence of judiciary for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary can also be thought of as an alternate measure.
- As of now, instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appointment in order of preference and other valid criteria.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
Conservation related issues.
Context: The Environment Ministry has unveiled a draft Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF).
- The draft is part of a World Bank-funded project.
- The draft plan will dictate how prospective infrastructure projects situated along the coast ought to be assessed before they can apply for clearance.
- It lays out guidelines out for coastal States to adopt when they approve and regulate projects in coastal zones.
- The plan describes how “environmental and social aspects” ought to be integrated into the planning, design, implementation of projects.
- It says, projects should strive to avoid or minimise impacts on cultural properties and natural habitats, compensate any loss of livelihood or assets, adopt higher work safety standards, occupational and community health and safety.
The project seeks to assist the Government of India in enhancing coastal resource efficiency and resilience, by building collective capacity (including communities and decentralised governance) for adopting and implementing integrated coastal management approaches.
So far three coastal States, namely Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal, have prepared Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plans with support from the World Bank.
Such plans would be prepared for the selected coastal stretches in other States/UT, the project notes.
The key activities proposed for coastal zone development that consist of investments by States include:
- Mangrove afforestation/shelter beds.
- Habitat conservation activities such as restoration of sea-grass meadows.
- Eco-restoration of sacred groves.
- Development of hatcheries.
- Rearing/rescue centres for turtles and other marine animals.
- Creation of infrastructure for tourism.
- Restoration and recharge of water bodies.
- Beach cleaning and development.
- Other small infrastructure facilities.
Livelihood improvement projects include:
- Demonstration of climate resilient or salinity resistant agriculture.
- Water harvesting and recharge/storage.
- Creation of infrastructure and facilities to support eco-tourism.
- Community-based small-scale mariculture.
- Seaweed cultivation, aquaponics, and value addition to other livelihood activities.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Monetary policy refers to the policy of the central bank with regard to the use of monetary instruments under its control to achieve the goals specified in the Act.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is vested with the responsibility of conducting monetary policy. This responsibility is explicitly mandated under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
Instruments of Monetary Policy:
- Repo Rate: The (fixed) interest rate at which the Reserve Bank provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
- Reverse Repo Rate: The (fixed) interest rate at which the Reserve Bank absorbs liquidity, on an overnight basis, from banks against the collateral of eligible government securities under the LAF.
- Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF): The LAF consists of overnight as well as term repo auctions. Progressively, the Reserve Bank has increased the proportion of liquidity injected under fine-tuning variable rate repo auctions of range of tenors. The aim of term repo is to help develop the inter-bank term money market, which in turn can set market based benchmarks for pricing of loans and deposits, and hence improve transmission of monetary policy. The Reserve Bank also conducts variable interest rate reverse repo auctions, as necessitated under the market conditions.
- Marginal Standing Facility (MSF): A facility under which scheduled commercial banks can borrow additional amount of overnight money from the Reserve Bank by dipping into their Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) portfolio up to a limit at a penal rate of interest. This provides a safety valve against unanticipated liquidity shocks to the banking system.
- Corridor: The MSF rate and reverse repo rate determine the corridor for the daily movement in the weighted average call money rate.
- Bank Rate: It is the rate at which the Reserve Bank is ready to buy or rediscount bills of exchange or other commercial papers. The Bank Rate is published under Section 49 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. This rate has been aligned to the MSF rate and, therefore, changes automatically as and when the MSF rate changes alongside policy repo rate changes.
- Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR): The average daily balance that a bank is required to maintain with the Reserve Bank as a share of such per cent of its Net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) that the Reserve Bank may notify from time to time in the Gazette of India.
- Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR): The share of NDTL that a bank is required to maintain in safe and liquid assets, such as, unencumbered government securities, cash and gold. Changes in SLR often influence the availability of resources in the banking system for lending to the private sector.
- Open Market Operations (OMOs): These include both, outright purchase and sale of government securities, for injection and absorption of durable liquidity, respectively.
- Market Stabilisation Scheme (MSS): This instrument for monetary management was introduced in 2004. Surplus liquidity of a more enduring nature arising from large capital inflows is absorbed through sale of short-dated government securities and treasury bills. The cash so mobilised is held in a separate government account with the Reserve Bank.
Which country has most number of languages?
2019 is the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages.
- Papua New Guinea has the highest number of ‘living’ indigenous languages in the world (840).
- India stands fourth with 453.
- Ethnologue, a directory of languages, lists 7,111 living languages worldwide.
- Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages worldwide when only first-languages are considered.
- In 2016, the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues pointed out that “40% of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing“.
- Several languages are now “endangered” and in the case of languages like Tiniguan (Colombian origin), there is just a single native speaker left.
- According to UNESCO’s ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger‘, 228 languages have become extinct since 1950.
Summaries of important Editorials:
The fragility of India’s federalism:
Context: By abrogating Article 370 and bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir State to create two Union Territories, the Centre has demonstrated the possibility of using the inherent flexibility in the federal order to centralise power and reshape the size, powers and stature of a constituent unit of the Indian Union.
What’s the main concern now?
The government’s ability to table and pass legislation with such important consequences for the fabric of federalism — while the elected assembly of Jammu and Kashmir is in abeyance — exposes the fragile set of compromises on which India’s asymmetric federal system rests.
Why the move to Abrogate Article 370 is being heavily contested?
- In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the negotiation of Article 370 was a transitional and contingent constitutional arrangement agreed in the midst of a continuing conflict while the Indian Constitution was being finalised.
- Over time, this ‘transitional’ clause had become a semi-permanent institutional compromise, although this was ever an uneasy compromise.
- Kashmir’s autonomy arrangements had been eroded under successive governments as tensions grew between the desire of Prime Ministers from Jawaharlal Nehru onwards to integrate the State more closely into the Indian Union and the desire of many Kashmiris to preserve a special status for their State.
- Since 1954, as many as 94 of 97 entries in the Union List and two thirds of constitutional articles have been extended to the State. This process has happened with the approval of the Supreme Court.
Asymmetric federalism involves the granting of differential rights to certain federal subunits, often in recognition of their distinctive ethnic identity.
Asymmetric constitutional provisions are a common feature of federalism in diverse societies.
However, asymmetric arrangements are often contested by majority national communities and by other regions without special arrangements.
Criticism of asymmetric arrangements:
- Asymmetric provisions are discriminatory, for instance, by placing prescriptions on who can own property in particular regions, or because they privilege certain kinds of ‘special’ identities over others.
- Alternatively, asymmetric status is presented as contributing to secessionist claims, hence the argument that Article 370 is the ‘root cause of terrorism’.
- Autonomy arrangements are also presented as anti-egalitarian because they prevent the extension of rights in force elsewhere in a country.
How Indian constitution envisaged federalism?
- By design, India’s federal institutions place relatively weak checks on the power of a government with a parliamentary majority.
- The design of federalism places fewer checks on the power of national majorities. For instance, the composition of the Rajya Sabha mirrors the composition of the Lok Sabha, rather than providing equal representation to States regardless of size, and the Rajya Sabha has weaker powers than the Lower House.
- Fewer powers are constitutionally allocated to federal subunits exclusively compared to more demos-constraining federations.
- Placing this kind of flexibility in the hands of the Central government was deliberate and designed to enable decisive Central action to protect national integrity in the aftermath of Partition.
- By granting the Central government the power to create new States or alter State boundaries under Article 3, and not giving State governments a veto over bifurcation, the Constitution enabled the Central government to accommodate linguistic and ethnic diversities in a way that would have been much harder in a more rigid federal system.
- It also enabled the Central government to adopt asymmetrical measures in the first place without facing a backlash from other regions that might have resented the ‘special’ treatment of minority regions.
Why federalism is contested by many experts?
Federalism is termed as a counter-weight to national populism since ‘the populist ideal requires that rulers move swiftly and surely to embody in law the popular decision on an electoral platform’.
By abrogating Article 370, bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir and downgrading the status of the successor units to Union Territories, the government has used the flexibility of the federal provisions of the Constitution to other ends. This is not the first time that a Central government has used its powers to bifurcate a State in the absence of local consensus. This was also seen with the creation of Telangana in 2014. As in the case of Telangana, the creation of the Union Territory of Ladakh does respond to a long-run demand in this region with a substantial Buddhist population. However, the decision to transform the remainder of J&K State into a Union Territory, at the same time as annulling Article 370, is a departure with profound and as yet unknown consequences in Kashmir, and wider implications for Indian federalism.