Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 12 October 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
- What election manifestos must do, why they matter?
- Kanyashree scheme.
- RCEP: Opportunity, fears in regional trade deal.
GS Paper 3:
- NASA ICON Mission.
- ‘Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’ (CCIT).
- Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
Facts for prelims:
- What is elastocaloric effect?
- Emperor penguins.
- DHARMA GUARDIAN – 2019.
- Mobile App “mHariyali”.
GS Paper 2:
- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
What to study?
For Prelims: Guidelines on Election Manifesto, statutory backing.
For Mains: Why political parties come up with Election Manifesto? Need for, concerns and measures to make them accountable.
What are Manifestos?
Election manifestos are not legally enforceable documents. This has been reiterated by the Supreme Court in 2015.
They are a formality, and their release is often no more than a photo-op in the campaign of political parties. They are frequently delayed, leaving no time for voters to go through the contents in order to make informed choices.
Guidelines on election manifestos:
- In 2013, the Election Commission of India, acting on directions given by the Supreme Court, added guidelines on election manifestos in the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
- In S Subramaniam Balaji vs Govt. of Tamil Nadu and Others (July 2013), a Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi ruled that the “distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people”, and “shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree”.
- The court also directed the Election Commission “to frame guidelines for the same in consultation with political parties”.
- It suggested that “a separate head for guidelines for election manifesto released by a political party can also be included in the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties & Candidates”.
Additions to Model Code:
After the Supreme Court’s directions, the Election Commission met with recognised national and state parties for consultations, and then issued the following guidelines under Part VIII of the MCC:
- The election manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution and further that it shall be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of Model Code of Conduct.
- The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution enjoin upon the State to frame various welfare measures for the citizens and therefore there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare measures in election manifestos. However, political parties should avoid making those promises which are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters in exercising their franchise.
- In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.”
Prohibitory period for manifestos:
The guidelines also laid down the prohibitory period for the release of manifestos during elections:
- In case of single-phase election, manifesto shall not be released during the prohibitory period, as prescribed under Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- In case of multi-phase elections, manifesto shall not be released during the prohibitory periods, as prescribed under Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, of all the phases of those elections.”
- In Section 126 of the RP Act, the ‘prohibitory period’ signifies the “period of forty-eight hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll”.
Sources: Indian Express.
- Women and women related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of the Scheme.
For Mains: Significance and performance of the scheme.
Context: The state government of West Bengal is setting up Kanyashree University in Nadia district and Kanyashree colleges across the state so as to empower girls.
About Kanyashree scheme:
What is it? Kanyashree is a conditional cash transfer scheme aiming at improving the status and wellbeing of the girl child by incentivising schooling of teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 18. It received the United Nations Public Service Award last year.
Performance of the scheme: Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried. This initiative led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, increase in female education and female empowerment.”
Facts for prelims:
The United Nations, in 2017, awarded the West Bengal government the first place for Public Service for its “Kanyashree” scheme.
Sources: the hindu.
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview and key features of RCEP.
For Mains: Significance and concerns expressed by India, way ahead.
Context: Eighth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting is being held in Bangkok.
What is the RCEP?
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade deal that is currently under negotiation among 16 countries — the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the six countries with which the ASEAN bloc has free trade agreements (FTA).
- The ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, has FTAs with India, Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand.
- Negotiations on the details of the RCEP have been on since 2013, and all participating countries aim to finalise and sign the deal by November.
What does the RCEP propose?
- The purpose of RCEP is to create an “integrated market” spanning all 16 countries, making it easier for products and services of each of these countries to be available across this region.
- ASEAN says the deal will provide “a framework aimed at lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region”.
- The negotiations are focussed on areas like trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, and small and medium enterprises.
Why is the RCEP important?
It is billed as the “largest” regional trading agreement ever — these countries account for almost half of the world’s population, contribute over a quarter of world exports, and make up around 30% of global Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services produced in a year).
How does India stand to gain?
Sections of Indian industry feel that being part of RCEP would allow the country to tap into a huge market, if the domestic industry becomes competitive. Pharmaceuticals and cotton yarn are confident of gains, and the services industry too, may have new opportunities.
And what are the concerns?
- Several industries feel India needs to be mindful of the amount of access it gives to its market. There is fear that some domestic sectors may be hit by cheaper alternatives from other RCEP countries. Apprehensions have been expressed that cheaper Chinese products would “flood” India.
- Critics are also not confident that India would be able to take advantage of the deal, given its poor track record of extracting benefits from the FTAs with these countries. India’s trade gap with these countries may widen if it signs the RCEP deal, they say. (See figures with map above)
- Industries like dairy and steel have demanded protection. The textile industry, which has already raised concerns about growing competition from neighbouring countries with cheaper and more efficient processes, fears the deal would impact it negatively.
- There are some differences within industries. The bigger players in steel, for example, are apprehensive of the potential impact on their businesses; however, makers of finished goods have argued that limiting steel supply to domestic producers through higher import duties will put them at a disadvantage.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper 3:
Awareness in space.
What to study?
For Prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the mission, why study ionosphere?
Context: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched a satellite ICON to detect dynamic zones of Earth’s Ionosphere. The satellite Ionosphere Connection Explorer (ICON) was launched from an aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coast.
About ICON Mission:
- The ICON satellite will study the Earth’s Ionosphere. It includes various layers of the uppermost atmosphere where free electrons flow freely.
- The ICON mission is the 39th successful launch and satellite deployment by Pegasus rocket.
This mission is operated by the University of California.
- It was originally planned to launch in late 2017 but delayed due to the problems with the Pegasus XL rocket.
It is equipped with 780-watt solar arrays to power the instruments.
Earth’s Atmospheric Layers:
Troposphere: It starts at the Earth’s surface and extends 8 to 14.5 kilometers high (5 to 9 miles). This part of the atmosphere is the most dense. Almost all weather is in this region.
Stratosphere: It starts just above the troposphere and extends to 50 kilometers (31 miles) high. The ozone layer, which absorbs and scatters the solar ultraviolet radiation, is in this layer.
Mesosphere: The mesosphere starts just above the stratosphere and extends to 85 kilometers (53 miles) high. Meteors burn up in this layer.
Thermosphere: It starts just above the mesosphere and extends to 600 kilometers (372 miles) high. Aurora and satellites occur in this layer.
Ionosphere: It is an abundant layer of electrons and ionized atoms and molecules that stretches from about 48 kilometers (30 miles) above the surface to the edge of space at about 965 km (600 mi), overlapping into the mesosphere and thermosphere. This dynamic region grows and shrinks based on solar conditions and divides further into the sub-regions: D, E and F; based on what wavelength of solar radiation is absorbed. The ionosphere is a critical link in the chain of Sun-Earth interactions. This region is what makes radio communications possible.
Exosphere: This is the upper limit of our atmosphere. It extends from the top of the thermosphere up to 10,000 km (6,200 mi).
- Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
What to study?
For Prelims: CCIT- key facts.
For Mains: Significance and the need for convention, terrorism- threats, concerns and need for international cooperation in curbing.
Context: Vice President appeals to world community to ensure early conclusion of UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
What is it?
The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism is a proposed treaty which intends to criminalize all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, and safe havens. It is a draft proposed by India in 1996 that is yet to be adopted by the UNGA.
What does it call for?
Universal definition of terrorism: no good terrorist or bad terrorist.
Ban on all groups regardless of country of operation, cut off access to funds and safe havens.
Prosecution of all groups including cross border groups.
Amending domestic laws to make cross-border terror an extraditable offence.
It also addresses, among other things, the issue of Pakistan’s alleged support for cross-border terrorism in south Asia.
Concerns expressed by various countries:
US + allies: concerns over definition of terrorism, including acts by US soldiers in international interventions without UN mandate.
Latin American countries: concerns over international humanitarian laws being ignored.
There are also concerns that convention will be used to target Pakistan and restrict rights of self-determination groups in Palestine, Kashmir etc.
The global impact of terrorism:
- There was no change in the five countries most impacted by terrorism, which include Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan. All of these countries have been ranked in the worst five every year since 2013.
- Conflict continued to be the primary driver of terrorist activity for the countries most impacted by terrorism in 2017.
- In 2017, terrorist attacks in conflict countries averaged 2.4 deaths, compared to 0.84 deaths in non-conflict countries. Terrorist attacks are more lethal on average in countries with a greater intensity of conflict. In 2017, countries in a state of war averaged 2.97 deaths per attack, compared to 1.36 in countries involved in a minor armed conflict.
- There are numerous possible reasons for this difference. Countries in conflict have a greater availabilityof more military-grade small arms and bomb-making capabilities.
- Countries that are not in conflict tend to be more economically-developed and spend more on intelligence gathering, policing and counterterrorism.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Disaster and management.
What to study?
For Prelims: composition, objectives and significance of CRDI.
For Mains: Disaster preparedness and the need for information sharing and collaboration between various agencies.
- A platform where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster and climate resilience of infrastructure.
- It will create a mechanism to assist countries to upgrade their capacities and practices, with regard to infrastructure development in accordance with their risk context and economic needs.
Benefits and significance:
- This initiative will benefit all sections of society.
- Economically weaker sections of society, women and children, are the most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and hence, will be benefitted from the improvement of knowledge and practice in creating disaster resilient infrastructure.
- It will also benefit all areas with high disaster risk.
- In India, the north-eastern and Himalayan regions are prone to earthquakes, coastal areas to cyclones and tsunamis and central peninsular region to droughts.
Why do we need a global coalition?
- Many countries, including India, have over the years developed robust disaster management practices that have helped in sharply reducing human casualties in a disaster. However, the economic costs of a disaster remain huge, mainly due to the damage caused to big infrastructure.
- A global coalition for disaster resilient infrastructure would address concerns that are common to developing and developed countries, small and large economies, countries at early and advanced stages of infrastructure development, and countries that have moderate or high disaster risk.
According to a recent estimate by the World Bank, Cyclone Fani, which hit Odisha in May this year, caused damage to the tune of $4 billion. The losses in the Kerala floods last year could be in excess of $4.4 billion, according to a post-disaster needs assessment report by the state government. In the US, there were 10 climate change disasters this year in which losses exceeded S1 billion.
Sources: Indian Express.
Facts for Prelims:
What is elastocaloric effect?
It is a cooling effect produced when rubber bands are twisted and untwisted.
How it works? In the elastocaloric effect, the transfer of heat works much the same way as when fluid refrigerants are compressed and expanded. When a rubber band is stretched, it absorbs heat from its environment, and when it is released, it gradually cools down.
Applications: The elastocaloric effect, if harnessed, may be able to do away with the need of fluid refrigerants used in fridges and air-conditioners. These fluids are susceptible to leakages, and can contribute to global warming.
It is one of Antarctica’s most iconic species.
It is listed as ‘near threatened’ in the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Experts have demanded that the IUCN status of species should be changed to ‘vulnerable’ from ‘near threatened’.
- The experts also advocated that the emperor penguin should be listed by the Antarctic Treaty as a Specially Protected Species.
- The 1959 treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent.
DHARMA GUARDIAN – 2019:
- It is a Joint Military Exercise between India and Japan.
- Exercise DHARMA GUARDIAN is an annual training event which is being conducted in India since 2018.
Mobile App “mHariyali”:
- Launched by the Ministry of housing and Urban Affairs to encourage public engagement in planting trees and Green drives. The application provides automatic geo – tagging of plants. It will hence enable the nodal officers to periodically monitor the plantation.
- The app is aimed to encourage Public engagement in planting trees and other such Green drives.
- The Mahotsav is a mass plantation drive that was conducted in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. Under the program around 500 plants were planted by 150 people. Under this mass initiative till date, 25 rain water harvesting structures have been constructed, 21,756 plants have been planted and more than 3800 people participated.