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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 18 May 2020

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

2. International Health Regulations.

3. India opposes rejoining RCEP over China concerns.

4. International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

5. 4th and 5th Tranche of measures towards Government Reforms and Enablers under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Why the govt had to inject money into the power sector?

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. microRNA

2. Aatmanirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojana.

3. International Day of Light.

4. National Migrant Information System (NMIS).

5. Troglomyces twitteri.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

What to study?

For Prelims: NALSA- composition, establishment, functions and reports.

For Mains: Need for and significance, challenges present and measures needed to make them more effective.

Context: NALSA has released a report on number of undertrials released during the lockdown period.

Highlights:

  • Legal services institutions have intervened to release 42,529 undertrial prisoners as well as 16,391 convicts on parole to de-congest prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The highest number of undertrial prisoners released was 9,977 in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 5,460 in Rajasthan and 4,547 in Tamil Nadu, 3,698 in Punjab and 3,400 in Maharashtra.

Background:

There are 1,339 prisons with approximately 4,66,084 inmates. The rate of occupancy at Indian prisons at 117.6%.

 Need:

The Supreme Court observed in March that physical distancing, an effective measure to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, would be difficult in prisons.

Further, the court issued guidelines, formed committees and asked the legal services authorities to work together and release undertrial prisoners and those on bail and parole to bring the prison population down.

About NALSA:

NALSA has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to weaker sections of society.

The aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.

‘Nyaya Deep’ is the official newsletter of NALSA.

Composition:

As per section 3(2) of Legal Service Authorities Act, the Chief Justice of India shall be the Patron-in-Chief.

Second senior-most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.

Important functions performed by NALSA:

  1. Organise Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  2. Identify specific categories of the marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes.
  3. Provide free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal.

State and district legal services authorities:

In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.

In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.

Need- Constitutional basis:

Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.

Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Who appoints Patron-in-Chief and executive chairman of NALSA?
  2. Eligibility criteria?
  3. Who heads state and district legal services authorities?
  4. Constitutional provisions in this regard?

Mains Link:

Discuss the roles and functions of NALSA in ensuring free legal aid to the poor and needy.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

International Health Regulations

What to study?

For Prelims: IHR- origins, objectives and particulars.

For Mains: Significance and the need for IHR, role of WHO in times of health emergencies.

Context: Fifty-eight countries, including 27 members of the European Union and India have moved a draft resolution demanding evaluation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s response towards novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The resolution will be tabled in the 74th World Health Assembly to be convened by the WHO.

What the resolution demands?

  1. Tough action against and transparency on the response to the coronavirus outbreak by China.
  2. Address questions raised about the World Health Organization (WHO) as an organisation and its response to the pandemic.
  3. An “impartial”, “independent” and “comprehensive” evaluation to review lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated response.
  4. The “effectiveness” of mechanisms at WHO’s disposal — namely the 2005 International Health Regulations.

What is IHR?

The International Health Regulations, or IHR (2005), represent an agreement between 196 countries including all WHO Member States to work together for global health security.

  • Through IHR, countries have agreed to build their capacities to detect, assess and report public health events.
  • WHO plays the coordinating role in IHR and, together with its partners, helps countries to build capacities.
  • IHR also includes specific measures at ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks to neighbouring countries, and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions so that traffic and trade disruption is kept to a minimum.

Criticisms surrounding WHO’s response in the wake of pandemic:

  • WHO was late in declaring not only human-to-human transmission but also global health emergency and then the pandemic.
  • Till as late as February, the WHO did not support countries for imposing travel restrictions to China.
  • The WHO has come under sharp criticism not just from the United States but other quarters as well for its response being ‘China-centric’.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Health under 7th
  2. WHO funding mechanism.
  3. What is world health assembly?
  4. What is IHR?
  5. When a disease is declared as pandemic and endemic?

Mains Link:

Discuss why WHO is being criticised for its response in the wake of COVID-19 induced pandemic? What should have been its response?

Sources: down to earth.

 

Topics Covered: Effects of policies of other nations.

India opposes rejoining RCEP over China concerns

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of RCEP.

For Mains: Why India refused to sign?

Context: May 15 was the deadline for a response to a fresh proposal of India rejoining negotiations on the ASEAN-led trade Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Why India didn’t sign?

  1. India’s trade deficit with the RCEP nations is $105 billion, of which China alone accounts for $54 billion. Further relaxations would enhance the deficit.
  2. The worry is also over Chinese manufactured goods and dairy products from New Zealand flooding Indian markets, hurting domestic interests.
  3. The trade agreement was also seen as being detrimental to the government’s Make in India initiative.
  4. India was looking for specific rules of origin to ensure the trade pact wasn’t abused by non-partner countries and an auto-trigger mechanism to protect it from a surge in imports.
  5. Ecommerce and trade remedies were among other key areas of concern that failed to find satisfactory redressal.
  6. India has expressed its concerns over lowering and elimination of tariffs on products from other countries, as it would negatively affect the domestic agricultural and industrial sector.
  7. India was also worried about keeping 2014 as the base year for tariff reductions.

Relevance of RCEP post Coronavirus:

If anything the COVID-19 experience, and the experience of countries that have been overly dependent on imports from China or one country would have reinforced and revalidated the decision to stay out of RCEP.

But, how and why India should utilise this opportunity?

If India did want to rejoin the RCEP negotiations, there would be no better time than now, because it would send a signal to the world that not only is India an attractive place to invest, but also, its potential of being a global manufacturing hub.

India could also use the RCEP to generate “optimism” amongst Indian companies, given the uncertainty over demand and consumption due to the pandemic. Right now, businesses have very little to look forward to, and a major free trade area like the RCEP would be a good lodestar for them to revive optimism.

What is the RCEP?

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade agreement originally devised to consist of 16 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

The pact looks to drop tariffs and duties between the members so that goods and services can flow freely between them.

 Composition:

At the RCEP’s administrative core is ASEAN: an intergovernmental grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It was proposed that the ASEAN bloc will be joined with five dialogue partners: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

new_zealand

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. RCEP- composition and objectives.
  2. India’s free trader agreements with ASEAN countries.
  3. India dairy sector.
  4. Geographical location of asean countries.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Government policies and other measures.

4th and 5th Tranche of measures towards Government Reforms and Enablers under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan:

4th Tranche of measures are aimed at reforms in the eight sectors of Coal, Minerals, Defence production, Civil Aviation, Power Sector, Social Infrastructure, Space and Atomic energy.

  1. Private sector will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities.
  2. Research reactor in PPP mode for production of medical isotopes shall be established. Facilities in PPP mode to use irradiation technology for food preservation shall also be established.
  3. For boosting private sector investment, Government will enhance the quantum of Viability Gap Funding (VGF) upto 30% each of Total Project Cost as VGF by the Centre and State/Statutory Bodies.
  4. Restrictions on utilisation of the Indian Air Space will be eased so that civilian flying becomes more efficient. India to become a global hub for Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO).
  5. A Composite exploration-cum-mining-cum-production regime for minerals to be announced for enhancing Private Investments in the Mineral Sector.
  6. The distinction between captive and non-captive mines to allow transfer of mining leases and sale of surplus unused minerals production shall be removed.
  7. Commercial Mining in Coal Sector on revenue sharing basis instead of regime of fixed Rupee/tonne to be introduced. Coal Bed Methane (CBM) extraction rights will be auctioned from Coal India Limited’s (CIL) coal mines.
  8. FDI limit in the Defence manufacturing under automatic route will be raised from 49% to 74%. A list of weapons/platforms for ban on import will be notified. Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board to be implemented for improving autonomy and efficiency in Ordnance Supplies.
  9. Power Departments / Utilities in Union Territories will be privatised.

5th and last Tranche of measures!

An additional Rs 40,000 crore under MGNREGS to provide employment boost.

  1. The new Public Sector Enterprise Policy promotes the entry of private companies into every sector of industry, while limiting public sector enterprises to only strategic sectors.
  2. In strategic sectors, at least one enterprise will remain in the public sector but private sector will also be allowed. In other sectors, PSEs will be privatized.
  3. Decriminalisation of Companies Act violations involving minor technical and procedural defaults such as shortcomings in CSR reporting, delay in holding of AGM etc. to de-clog the criminal courts and NCLT.
  4. State governments have been given more fiscal room in the current crisis with the hiking of their borrowing limits from 3% to 5% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). However, the hiked limits will be conditional on States implementing reforms related to ration portability, ease of doing business, power distribution, and urban local bodies.
  5. Public Expenditure on Health will be increased by investing in grass root health institutions and ramping up Health and Wellness Centres in rural and urban areas. Infectious Diseases Hospital Blocks to be setup in all districts.
  6. PM eVIDYA, a programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education to be launched immediately.
  7. Manodarpan, an initiative for psycho-social support for students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional well-being to be launched immediately as well.
  8. National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission for ensuring that every child attains Learning levels and outcomes in grade 5 by 2025 will be launched by December 2020.
  9. Further enhancement of Ease of Doing Minimum threshold to initiate insolvency proceedings has been raised to Rs. 1 crore (from Rs. 1 lakh, which largely insulates MSMEs).
  10. Suspension of fresh initiation of insolvency proceedings up to one year, depending upon the pandemic situation.
  11. Central Government to be empowered to exclude COVID 19 related debt from the definition of “default” under the Code for the purpose of triggering insolvency proceedings.
  12. Direct listing of securities by Indian public companies in permissible foreign jurisdictions.
  13. Private companies which list NCDs on stock exchanges not to be regarded as listed companies.

five_trance

Sources: pib.

 

Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: ITU and related information.

Context: World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2020 was observed on 17 May with the theme “Connect 2030: ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Background:

It has been celebrated annually on 17 May since 1969, marking the founding of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865.

About International Telecommunication Union (ITU):

It is an agency of the United Nations (UN) whose purpose is to coordinate telecommunication operations and services throughout the world.

Originally founded in 1865, as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU is the oldest existing international organization.

Headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ITU consists of three sectors:

Radiocommunication (ITU-R) — ensures optimal, fair and rational use of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.

Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) — formulates recommendations for standardizing telecommunication operations worldwide.

Telecommunication Development (ITU-D) — assists countries in developing and maintaining internal communication operations.

Membership:

There are 193 Member States of the ITU, including all UN member states except the Republic of Palau, plus the Vatican City.

Membership of ITU is open to only UN members, which may join the Union as Member States, as well as to private organizations like carriers, equipment manufacturers, funding bodies, research and development organizations and international and regional telecommunication organizations, which may join ITU as non-voting Sector Members.

Functions:

  • The ITU sets and publishes regulations and standards relevant to electronic communication and broadcasting technologies of all kinds including radio, television, satellite, telephone and the Internet.
  • The organization conducts working parties, study groups and meetings to address current and future issues and to resolve disputes. The ITU organizes and holds an exhibition and forum known as the Global TELECOM every four years.
  • Another important aspect of the ITU’s mandate is helping emerging countries to establish and develop telecommunication systems of their own.
  • Although the recommendations of the ITU are non-binding, most countries adhere to them in the interest of maintaining an effective international electronic communication environment.

India and the ITU:

India has been an active member of the ITU since 1869 and has been a regular member of the ITU Council since 1952. In November 2018, India was elected as a Member of the ITU Council for another 4-year term (2019-2022).

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Who can be a member of ITU?
  2. What is ITU Council?
  3. International Telegraph Convention.
  4. Can private organisations be a part of ITU?
  5. Objectives of ITU.

Mains Link:

Discuss the roles and functions of ITU.

Sources: pib.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Infrastructure- energy.

Why the govt had to inject money into the power sector?

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview of power sector in India- stakeholders from generation to consumption, role of private players.

For Mains: Power sector- underlying challenges, policies to address them and need of the hour measures.

Context: As part of its strategy to bring India’s battered economy back on track, India will provide ₹90,000 crore liquidity injection for the fund-starved electricity distribution companies (discoms).

This is part of the first tranche to combat the economic disruption from the coronavirus lockdown, that has worsened the already precarious finances of power discoms.

How this works?

State-owned Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) will infuse the liquidity by raising an amount of about ₹90,000 crore from the market against the receivables of discoms. The state governments will provide a guarantee.

This one-time time liquidity infusion will be used to pay the central public sector power generation companies, transmission companies, independent power producers and renewable energy generators.

Why this was necessary?

Energy consumption, especially electricity and refinery products, is usually linked to overall demand in the economy.

With at least 10 states losing about a third of the power supplied to their consumers in distribution losses, their overdues have not only hit power producers, but have also contributed to stress in the banking sector.

Besides, the electricity demand load shifted to homes during the lockdown, resulting in lower realizations. With peak electricity demand coming down, commercial and industrial power demand has taken a hit after many factories shut down.

How the power sector works?

It is a three-stage process:

  1. First stage: Electricity is generated at thermal, hydro or renewable energy power plants, which are operated by either state-owned companies or private companies.
  2. Second stage: The generated electricity then moves through a complex transmission grid system comprising electricity substations, transformers, and power lines that connect electricity producers and the end-consumers. Further, each state has a State Transmission Utility (STU) along with private transmission companies which are responsible for setting up intra-state transmission projects.
  3. Third stage: This last mile link is where discoms come in, operated largely by state governments. However, in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata, private entities own the entire distribution business or parts of it.

Discoms essentially purchase power from generation companies through power purchase agreements (PPAs), and then supply it to their consumers (in their area of distribution).

But, why financial situation of state discoms is in poor condition?

  1. In India, electricity price for certain segments such as agriculture and the domestic category is cross-subsidised by the industries and the commercial sector. This affects the competitiveness of industry.
  2. There is also the problem of AT&C (aggregate transmission and distribution losses), which is a technical term that stands for the gap between the cost of the electricity that a discom gets from the generating company, the bills that it raises and the final realisation from the collection process from end-consumers.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Electricity under 7th
  2. What are AT&C losses?
  3. What is Power Grid?
  4. Energy availability per capita in India.
  5. What is UDAY scheme?

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for and significance of special measures announced by the government for the power sector in India.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


microRNA:

  • They are non-coding molecules, meaning that they do not translate into protein.
  • They are part of our line of attack against a viral infection.
  • They fight the virus by latching on to the virus’s genetic material (RNA) and cutting it.

Why in News?

Age and underlying health conditions make people more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This is because the attacking microRNA numbers dwindle in them.

Aatmanirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojana:

  • The scheme offers a loan of up to Rs 1 lakh for a period of three years to small entrepreneurs and self-employed workers.
  • The scheme also aims to cover domestic helps, vegetable vendors, construction workers, and others who have lost their incomes in the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Eligibility: Applicants to the scheme will need guarantors to help push their case before credit societies and urban and district cooperative banks that will hand out Rs 5,000 crore worth of collateral-free loans. They will also need to be aware of the penalties in case of a default.

International Day of Light:

  • The United Nations marks the International Day of Light (IDL) — an annual initiative held globally to raise awareness on the critical role played by light-based technologies in everyday life — on May 16.
  • May 16 was selected for the occasion as it marks the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman.
  • The IDL is administered from the International Basic Science Programme (IBSP) of UNESCO, and its Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste, Italy.

National Migrant Information System (NMIS):

  • It is a central online repository on Migrant Workers to facilitate their seamless movement across States.
  • Developed by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • It has additional advantages like contact tracing, which may be useful in overall COVID-19 response work.

Troglomyces twitteri:

A new species has just been discovered using a Twitter image and thus has been named as Troglomyces twitteri.

  • It is a type of parasitic fungus.
  • It belongs to an order called Laboulbeniales — tiny fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.

troglomyces
 


Insights Current Affairs Analysis (ICAN) by IAS Topper