Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 16 August 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 1:
- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About Maharshi Badrayan, contributions and awards, what is Vedanta philosophy?
Context: President Awards the Certificate of Honour and Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman for the Year 2019.
About ‘Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman’ Awards:
The Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman distinction is conferred on persons in recognition of their substantial contribution in the field of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Pali, Prakrit, Classical Oriya, Classical Kannada, Classical Telugu and Classical Malayalam.
Introduced in the year 2002.
Eligibility: Given to selected young scholars in the age group of 30 to 45 years.
Carries a certificate of honour, a memento and a one-time cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.
Who was Maharshi Badrayan?
- He was an Indian philosopher about whom almost no personal details are reliably known.
- Badarayana is regarded as having written the basic text of the Vedanta system, the Vedāntasūtrak.a. Brahmasūtra.
- He is thus considered the founder of the Vedānta system of philosophy.
- The date of Badarayana and his Brahma Sutras is uncertain. Different scholars have dated the Brahma Sutras variously from 500 BCE to 450 BCE.
The text systematizes and summarizes the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Upanishads. It is one of the foundational texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy.
What is contains?
The Brahma sutras consists of 555 aphoristic verses (sutras) in four chapters. These verses are primarily about the nature of human existence and universe, and ideas about the metaphysical concept of Ultimate Reality called Brahman.
- The first chapter discusses the metaphysics of Absolute Reality.
- The second chapter reviews and addresses the objections raised by the ideas of competing orthodox schools of Hindu philosophies as well as heterodox schools such as Buddhism and Jainism.
- The third chapter discusses epistemology and path to gaining spiritually liberating knowledge.
- The last chapter states why such a knowledge is an important human need.
GS Paper 3:
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Ban on single- use plastics- significance.
Context: In response to Prime Minister’s call on India’s 73rdIndependence day, to make India free of single use plastics, a massive public campaign will be launched engaging all stakeholders.
What are single use plastics?
There is no central and comprehensive definition for single-use plastic, crucial for any ban to be successful. Governments currently use various definitions.
Some states like Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh banned plastic bottles and Tetra packs, single-use straws, plastic/styrofoam tea cups/containers, etc. But many like Bihar banned only polythene bags.
India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:
More than 20 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products.
India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
All such efforts have yielded positive results: Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg.
Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
Collect-back system: The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 are clear that producers, importers and brand owners must adopt a collect-back system for the plastic they introduce into the environment. However, not much has been done to take the process forward.
Extended Producer Responsibility clause: Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
What is needed?
Governments must start charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently, which will lead to recovery and recycling.
State and local governments should upgrade their waste management systems, which is necessary to even measure the true scale of packaging waste.
Role of local bodies: Local bodies should consult manufacturers or importers to assess the problem. Cities and towns need competent municipal systems to achieve this.
A central legislation with a clear definition of what constitutes single-use plastic is also necessary.
Mains Question: India has made a lot of progress in reducing plastic waste but a lot more still needs to be done. Comment.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 3:
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: CDS- need, roles and functions, practice so far and significantly.
Context: In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff.
About the Chief of Defence Staff:
The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.
Roles and functions of CDS:
CDS shall provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.
It offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.
Practice so far:
India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured.
The senior-most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.
Why change it now?
CoSC arrangement is seen as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”.
The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets.
The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years.
Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to disincentivise the upgrade of the post.
What is the case for having a CDS?
The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC).
Although the KRC did not directly recommend a CDS — that came from the GoM — it underlined the need for more coordination among the three Services, which was poor in the initial weeks of the Kargil conflict.
- The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure.
- It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
- Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate.
- Also, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased.
- The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel like in the US military.
What are the arguments against?
- Theoretically, the appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness.
- India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.
- Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation.
- The absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.
Sources: Indian Express.
Mains Question: What is the office of Chief of Defence Staff that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day address? Where did the idea come from, and what is the CDS supposed to do? Explain.
GS Paper 2:
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
What to study?
For prelims: Key features of the scheme.
For mains: need for, significance of the scheme, backwardness of villages and ways to address the issue.
Context: The ward and village volunteer system has been launched in Andhra Pradesh.
Aim: The system is aimed at ensuring an efficient and corruption-free delivery of the government’s welfare schemes to households.
- Village Volunteers System will take governance to the doorsteps of the people.
- The programme would involve 2.8 lakh volunteers.
- The volunteers will conduct door-to-door visits and provide the benefits under various programmes to eligible beneficiaries.
- The volunteers will identify the problems being faced by people in their jurisdiction and take steps towards solving them.
- Village secretariats would be set up in each village to deliver governance to people in 72 hours.
- This scheme involves provision of one volunteer to cover 50 families in each village. Identity cards would be given to the volunteers and they would be given an honorarium of Rs 5,000 per month.
- The volunteers would first identify the beneficiaries, get to know their problems and then delineate the schemes being provided by the government for them.
Significance of the scheme:
The basic idea behind implementing the scheme is to infuse confidence among the people and to see that their basic needs are met. The scheme would be able to reach the poorest of the poor and make villages self-sufficient.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 2:
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: SPTF- objectives, funding, need for and significance.
Context: India has contributed $1 million to the UN Special Purpose Trust Fund for the Resident Coordinator System.
The Special Purpose Trust Fund (SPTF) is a specific fund housed within the UN Secretariat.
It has been established to receive, consolidate, manage and account for all contributions and financial transactions of the new Resident Coordinator (RC) system, in a transparent and effective way.
Funding sources include three streams:
- Voluntary contributions from Member States.
- The doubling of cost-sharing amounts from UN entities who are members of the United Nations development system.
- A 1% levy applied to contributions for UN development-related activities earmarked to a single agency, single programme or project.
THE UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR:
The UN Resident Coordinator (RC) system encompasses all organizations of the United Nations system dealing with operational activities for development, regardless of their formal presence in the country.
The RC system aims to bring together the different UN agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operational activities at the country level.
Role: Resident Coordinators lead UN country teams in 129 countries and are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General for development operations.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Tamil Nadu Becomes Fifth Indian State to Declare a State Butterfly:
- Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais)has been declared as its state butterfly by Tamil Nadu.
- Locally known as Tamil Maravanmeaning ‘Tamilian Warrior’, the canopy butterfly, usually sized between 60 and 75mm, belongs to the family of brush-footed butterflies or the Nymphalid.
- Endemic to the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, Tamil Yeoman is usually seen at the foothills and moist evergreen forests of the state’s mountainous regions.
- It has become the fifth India state after Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock) to bestow a state emblem status.
Summaries of important Editorials:
One Nation One Election:
Context: PM Narendra Modi calls for ‘One Nation, One Election’.
What are simultaneous elections?
Simultaneous elections refer to holding elections to Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Panchayats and Urban local bodies simultaneously, once in five year.
Need for simultaneous elections arises because of the problems associated with frequent elections:
- The massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections.
- The policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time.
- Impact on delivery of essential services.
- Burden on crucial manpower that is deployed during election time.
- It also destabilises duly-elected governments and imposes a heavy burden on the exchequer.
- It also puts pressure on political parties, especially smaller ones, as elections are becoming increasingly expensive.
- It also increases the cost of management to the election commission.
Merits of Simultaneous elections:
Governance and consistency: The ruling parties will be able to focus on legislation and governance rather than having to be in campaign mode forever.
Reduced Expenditure of Money and Administration: The entire State and District level administrative and security machinery will be busy with the conduct of elections twice in a period of five years as per the current practice. Expenditure can be reduced by conducting simultaneous elections.
Continuity in policies and programmes.
Efficiency of Governance: Simultaneous elections can bring the much-needed operational efficiency in this exercise. Populist measures by governments will reduce.
Simultaneous elections can also be a means to curb corruption and build a more conducive socio-economic ecosystem.
The impact of black money on the voters will be reduced as all elections are held at a time.
But, why it is difficult to go for simultaneous elections?
The biggest challenge is achieving political consensus, which seems to be “chimerical”.
Regional parties will be more opposed to the idea than national parties because there is always a tendency for voters to vote the same party in power in the state and at the Centre in case the Lok Sabha polls and the state elections are held together.
Also, according to IDFC, there is a 77% chance that the Indian voter will vote for the same party for both the state and Centre when elections are held simultaneously.
For simultaneous elections to be implemented, Changes to be made in Constitution and Legislations:
Article 83 which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament need an amendment
Article 85 (on dissolution of Lok Sabha by the president)
Article 172 (relating to the duration of state legislatures)
Article 174 (relating to dissolution of state assemblies)
Article 356 (on President’s Rule).
The Representation of People Act, 1951 Act would have to be amended to build in provisions for stability of tenure for both parliament and assemblies. This should include the following crucial elements:
- Restructuring the powers and functions of the ECI to facilitate procedures required for simultaneous elections
- A definition of simultaneous election can be added to section 2 of the 1951 act.
Any changes must require both a constitutional amendment and judicial approval that they do not violate the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
A focused group of constitutional experts, think tanks, government officials and representatives of political parties should be formed to work out appropriate implementation related details.