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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 17 June 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

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

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. 10th schedule of the constitution.

2. Reservation is not a fundamental right says Supreme Court.

3. Supplying washed coal.

4. IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme.

GS Paper 3:

1. Fifth State of Matter.

2. World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June.

Facts for Prelims:

1. Schizothorax sikusirumensis.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

10th Schedule of the Constitution

Why in News?

The Supreme Court has asked the Goa Assembly Speaker to respond to a plea filed by the opposition Congress party to decide on the disqualification proceedings against 10 legislators who joined the ruling BJP in July last year.

What’s the issue?

  • In July last year 10 MLAs, purportedly claiming to form a two-third of Indian National Congress (INC), decided to merge the said legislature party with the BJP and accordingly addressed a communication to that effect to the Speaker.
  • Based on the communication, the Speaker took note of the “alleged merger of INC’s legislative party in the Goa Legislative Assembly, and allotted the 10 seats in the Assembly along with the members of the BJP”.

However, petitioners contended that the legislators in question have incurred disqualification under Article 191(2) of the Constitution, read with para 2 of the Tenth Schedule (defection), and are liable to be disqualified as members of the Legislative Assembly.

What is the anti-defection law?

The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act.

  1. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  2. The decision on question as to disqualification on ground of defection is referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, and his decision is final.

The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.

Disqualification:

If a member of a house belonging to a political party:

  1. Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
  2. Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
  3. If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
  4. If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

Exceptions under the law:

Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances.

  • The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.
  • In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.

Decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review:

The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court. However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.

Advantages of anti-defection law:

  1. Provides stability to the government by preventing shifts of party allegiance.
  2. Ensures that candidates remain loyal to the party as well the citizens voting for him.
  3. Promotes party discipline.
  4. Facilitates merger of political parties without attracting the provisions of Anti-defection
  5. Expected to reduce corruption at the political level.
  6. Provides for punitive measures against a member who defects from one party to another.

Various Recommendations to overcome the challenges posed by the law:

  1. Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms: Disqualification should be limited to following cases:

A member voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party A member abstains from voting, or votes contrary to the party whip in a motion of vote of confidence or motion of no-confidence. Political parties could issue whips only when the government was in danger.

  1. Law Commission (170th Report):

Provisions which exempt splits and mergers from disqualification to be deleted. Pre-poll electoral fronts should be treated as political parties under anti-defection. Political parties should limit issuance of whips to instances only when the government is in danger.

  1. Election Commission:

Decisions under the Tenth Schedule should be made by the President/ Governor on the binding advice of the Election Commission.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Names of various committees and commissions with regard to Anti Defection law.
  2. Committees vs Commissions.
  3. Decision of presiding officer vs Judicial review.
  4. Merger vs Split of political parties.
  5. Is anti- defection law applicable to the presiding officer?
  6. Relevant Supreme Court cases and verdicts.

Mains Link:

Examine the provisions of Anti- defection law. Has this law largely failed to meet its objective? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Reservation is not a fundamental right says Supreme Court

What’s the Context?

The Supreme Court has said that reservation of seats to certain communities was not a Fundamental Right.

What’s the issue?

The Court said this while refusing to act on a petition filed by all political parties from Tamil Nadu who sought 50% OBC reservation in the all-India NEET seats surrendered by states. 

All political parties from Tamil Nadu filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

They accused the Centre of violating the “right of the people of Tamil Nadu to have a fair education” by not implementing the 50% quota for Backward Classes and Most Backward Classes for the All India Quota seats in medical and dental science courses.

Key observations made by the Court:

Reservation is not a fundamental right”. Hence, Article 32 could not be applied.

Therefore, not giving the quota benefits cannot be construed as a violation of any constitutional right.

Petitioners’ arguments:

Non-implementation of such reservations in the state amounted to violation of Fundamental Rights of its residents.

This is because, the Director General of Health Services is not following any of the following laws to provide reservations:

  1. The Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 to provide 50% reservation for OBC candidates in All India Quota in undergraduate as well as postgraduate medical courses in Tamil Nadu.
  2. 27% reservation for OBC candidates in All India Quota in undergraduate as well as postgraduate medical courses to other States.

Court’s verdict on Reservation in promotions:

In February 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in public jobs and no court can order a state government to provide for reservation to SC/STs.

Additional information:

Constitutional Provisions regarding Reservations: 

  1. Articles 15(4) and 16(4)state that the equality provisions do not prevent the government from making special provisions in matters of admission to educational institutions or jobs in favour of backward classes, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  2. Article 16(4A) allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.
  3. In the Indra Sawhney case of 1992, the Supreme Court fixed the upper limit for the combined reservation quota should not exceed 50% of seats.
  4. In 2019, the 103rd Constitution Amendment Act was passed empowering both Centre and the states to provide 10% reservation to the EWS category of society in government jobs and educational institutions.

Writ jurisdiction:

The Supreme Court under Article 32 and the High courts under Article 226 of the Constitution can issue the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto to check and enforce fundamental rights .

The Parliament under Article 32 can also empower any other court to issue these writs. However, no such provision has been made so far.

The Supreme Court can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights whereas a High court can issue writs for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights and also for an ordinary legal right.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is NEET?
  2. Constitutional provisions wrt to Reservations.
  3. Overview of articles 32, 226, 14, 15 and 16.
  4. What are writs?
  5. Difference in powers of SC and HC wrt writ jurisdictions.
  6. Indra Sawhney case verdict.
  7. When can Article 32 be suspended?
  8. Who can empower any other court to issue writs?

Mains Link:

Reservation is not a fundamental right. Discuss in the light of recent verdict of the Supreme Court.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Supplying washed coal

Context:

The government had recently amended the Environment Protection Act to drop the mandatory washing of coal supplied to thermal power plants.

This notification undid the government’s 2016 order, which made coal washing mandatory for supply to all thermal units more than 500 km from the mine as part of its climate-change commitments.

What’s the issue?

Few experts had opposed this move. They said, the notification would “undo whatever limited progress” was made so far in reducing pollution load at coal-based power stations.

However, the government defended its move and has questioned those opposing, “How is coal not dirty within 500 km, and how does it become dirty after 500 km?”

What was the rationale behind the mandatory washing requirement?

From January 2014 onwards, the Environment Ministry had been working towards “progressive reduction” of distance that unwashed coal would travel, keeping in view that ultimately all coals, irrespective of distance from supplying mines, will have to be washed and comply with less than 34 per cent ash limit.

  • This was done in line with the country’s stand in climate change negotiations – not to reduce coal consumption and rather focus on emission control.
  • Washing coal increases the efficiency and quality of the dry fuel.
  • In theory, a process like coal washing was supposed to be good for everyone; thermal power plants would have fewer operational problems due to poor coal quality.
  • The combustion of washed coal would be better from an emissions and local air pollution perspective, and the unnecessary transport of large amounts of ash and non-combustible material would be minimized.

This was ultimately aimed at the protection of the environment.

Why the present government decided to do away with this?

  • Agreeing that coal washing does not help reduce emissions, the power ministry has said that “coal rejects from washery find their way into the market for use by industries and create pollution”.
  • It said washing of coal is unable to meet its intended objective as “it merely localises the pollution around coal mines which otherwise would have been distributed over larger areas”.
  • It has also pointed out that the process of coal washing is cumbersome and costly. It also leads to reduction in the calorific value of the coal as well.

Way ahead:

The power ministry has instead batted for pollution control technologies at power generation units.

  • Under the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board, plants with close to 50 gigawatt of thermal power capacity need to install emission control systems.
  • It would also be beneficial to use raw coal instead of washed coal.
  • With the use of supercritical technology in power plants, technological improvement to arrest emissions, unwashed coal can be used efficiently and economically using washed coal which makes power generation costlier.

coal

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme

The Context:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed “serious concern” about Iran’s failure to cooperate with its probe into undeclared nuclear material in the country.

Observations made by IAEA:

  1. Iran had failed to give its inspectors access to two sites the agency wanted to visit.
  2. Iran didn’t answer questions about the use of possible undeclared nuclear material in the early 2000s and what had happened to it since.
  3. There is a big jump in Iran’s nuclear-fuel stockpile, far above the levels permitted under the 2015 pact.
  4. Iran has reduced its compliance with the nuclear deal in response to sweeping U.S. sanctions.

What next?

If Iran fails to answer the IAEA’s questions, the issue could be sent up to the U.N. Security Council, which has previously imposed sanctions on Iran.

However, permanent members of the security council Russia and China have publicly played down the significance of Iran’s past nuclear work.

Why this oversight is necessary?

The suspected work on a uranium metal disk, which could be used as a nuclear weapon component, and on neutrons—which are used to trigger a nuclear implosion—point to Iranian work on a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapons test or nuclear weapons device.

Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has grown by around 50% since February to 1,572 kilograms. That puts Iran’s stockpile of the nuclear fuel far above the limit of 202.8 kilograms stipulated in the 2015 nuclear accord.

With 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, Iran would likely have enough material to fuel a single bomb once the material is further enriched, a process some experts believe could take as little as three months.

Can Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) be reinstated?

It is clear that the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal cannot simply be reinstated.

Not only has Iran been in breach of key JCPOA commitments from day one of the agreement, it has now made significant progress toward nuclear bomb capabilities over the last two years since openly violating the agreement’s enrichment restrictions.

A simple return to the JCPOA, with its sunset clauses beginning to lift almost all restrictions on enrichment a bare three years from now, would all but guarantee full Iranian military nuclear capability in a very short period of time. 

What was the iran nuclear deal?

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

Why has US pulled out of the deal now?

Trump and opponents to the deal say it is flawed because it gives Iran access to billions of dollars but does not address Iran’s support for groups the U.S. considers terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah. They note it also doesn’t curb Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and that the deal phases out by 2030. They say Iran has lied about its nuclear program in the past.

About IAEA:

Set up as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family.

Reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Functions:

  1. Works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
  2. Seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

Board of Governors:

  • 22 member states (must represent a stipulated geographic diversity) — elected by the General Conference (11 members every year) – 2 year term.
  • At least 10 member states — nominated by the outgoing Board.
  • Board members each receive one vote.
  • Recommendations to the General Conference on IAEA activities and budget.
  • Responsible for publishing IAEA standards.
  • Responsible for making most of the policy of the IAEA.
  • Appoints the Director General subject to General Conference approval.

Programs:

  1. Program of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
  2. Human Health Program.
  3. Water Availability Enhancement Project.
  4. International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, 2000.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is JCPOA? Signatories.
  2. Iran and its neighbours.
  3. What is IAEA? Relation with the UN.
  4. Members of IAEA.
  5. Programs of IAEA.
  6. Board of Governors- composition, voting and functions.
  7. What is Uranium Enrichment?

Mains Link:

Write a note on JCPOA.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: 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.

Fifth State of Matter

Why in News?

NASA scientists on Earth have collaborated with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) to corral the first ever Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC)- the fifth state of matter- outside of Earth’s gravity.

The matter has been created in one of the coldest places in the universe- the Cold Atom Laboratory– a device on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Basics- What is a matter, an atom and molecule?

Matter is the “stuff” that makes up the universe — everything that takes up space and has mass is matter. 

All matter is made up of atoms, which are in turn made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. 

Atoms come together to form molecules, which are the building blocks for all types of matter.

Both atoms and molecules are held together by a form of potential energy called chemical energy.

Five states of matter:

There are four natural states of matter: Solids, liquids, gases and plasma.

The fifth state is the man-made Bose-Einstein condensates.

About Bose-Einstein condensate:

A Bose-Einstein condensate is so named because its existence was posited almost a century ago by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose.

This exotic material only exists when atoms of certain elements are cooled to temperatures near absolute zero.

At that point, clusters of atoms begin functioning as a single quantum object with both wave and particle properties.

When was it first created?

BEC was created by scientists in 1995. Using a combination of lasers and magnets, scientists cooled a sample of rubidium to within a few degrees of absolute zero.

At this extremely low temperature, molecular motion comes very close to stopping.

Since there is almost no kinetic energy being transferred from one atom to another, the atoms begin to clump together. There are no longer thousands of separate atoms, just one “super atom.”

 Why study BEC?

A BEC is used to study quantum mechanics on a macroscopic level. Light appears to slow down as it passes through a BEC, allowing scientists to study the particle/wave paradox.

A BEC also has many of the properties of a superfluid, or a fluid that flows without friction.

BECs are also used to simulate conditions that might exist in black holes.

Why is it easy to create BEC in space?

BECs have been produced in a variety of experiments on Earth since 1995, but these are hindered by gravity, which collapses the clouds in a split second.

To make a BEC, scientists must first corral and then supercool atoms.

  • In the near-zero gravity in space, they can mix the ingredients in a much smaller catchment “trap.” On Earth’s surface, the atoms begin to repel each other and fly apart almost instantaneously.
  • On Earth, laboratories can only maintain Bose-Einstein condensates for a matter of milliseconds. However, research aboard the ISS has created a Bose-Einstein condensate that persisted for more than a second.

nobel_prize

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a matter?
  2. Different states of matter?
  3. What is BEC? Why is it called so?
  4. When was the first BEC created?
  5. Required conditions for BEC?
  6. What is absolute zero temperature?
  7. Why it is easy to create BEC in space than on earth?
  8. What is Cold Atom Laboratory?
  9. The 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Mains Link:

Discuss how the study of BEC helps scientists under the dark matter.

Sources: toi.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June

Theme for 2020:

Food. Feed.Fibre. – the links between consumption and land.

Why June 17?

This day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1995, after the day when United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was drafted.

What is Desertification?

  • Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts.
  • It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.

About UNCCD:

Established in 1994.

It is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.

  • It is the only convention stemming from a direct recommendation of the Rio Conference’s Agenda 21.
  • To help publicise the Convention, 2006 was declared “International Year of Deserts and Desertification”.
  • Focus areas: The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • Aim: Its 197 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The end goal is to protect land from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide food, water and energy.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the nodal Ministry for this Convention.

Concerns for India:

India has witnessed increase in the level of desertification in 26 of 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13, according to the State of India’s Environment (SoE) 2019 in Figures.

More than 80 per cent of the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states: Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.

Top three districts with highest area under desertification or land degradation are Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (92.96 per cent during 2011-13 and 98.13 per cent during 2003-05), Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh (80.54 per cent during 2011-13 and 80.57 per cent during 2003-05) and Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir (78.23 per cent during 2011-13 and 78.22 per cent during 2003-05).

Main reasons that cause desertification in India are:

  1. Water erosion (10.98 per cent).
  2. Wind erosion (5.55 per cent).
  3. Human-made/settlements (0.69 per cent).
  4. Vegetation degradation (8.91 per cent).
  5. Salinity (1.12 per cent).
  6. Others (2.07 per cent).

Mains Link:

Differentiate between land degradation and desertification? Discuss impact of desertification on ecology.

Sources: down to earth.

 


Facts for Prelims


Schizothorax sikusirumensis:

It is a new species of fish discovered in Arunachal Pradesh recently.

  • The fish species belongs to genus Schizothorax.
  • The name of this fish species has been derived from the name of the rivers where it was found- junction of River Siku and Sirum near Gakang area under Mebo circle of East Siang District.

Schizothorax

Articles to be covered tomorrow:

  1. Galwan valley and Indo- China border issue.

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