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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 21 October 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. Govt. increases poll spend ceiling by 10%.

2. Finance Ministry to divest Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

3. What is Quad grouping?

4. China- Taiwan relations.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Ayushman Sahakar.

2. Cyber Crime and Cyber Security in India.

3. Kaleshwaram eco-clearance violates law: NGT.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Ind Spring Board.

2. Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs).

3. Demchok sector.

4. Smart fence along LoC.

5. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Vessels Traffic Monitoring Systems (VTMS).

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act and other related issues.

Govt. increases poll spend ceiling by 10%:


Context:

The Law Ministry has increased the ceiling on poll expenditure for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by 10%.

  • An amendment to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 in this regard has also been notified.
  • The last time the expenditure ceiling was enhanced was in 2014 just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

 Significance of the move:

  • The move follows a recommendation by the Election Commission in view of curbs imposed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • This also comes as a relief for political parties and candidates as they deal with additional expenditure on public rallies and meetings in view of precautions that need to be taken in line with Covid-19 health protocols.
    • This included additional expenditure on sanitisers, masks and regulation of crowds so as to adhere to social distancing norms.

As per the changes:

  • The limit for all states/UTs where the cap for Lok Sabha poll was Rs 70 lakh, has been raised to Rs 77 lakh; and for states/UTs with Rs 54 lakh as existing limit, to Rs 59.4 lakh.
  • For assembly polls, candidates in states/UTs with Rs 28 lakh as the expenditure limit, can now spend up to Rs 30.8 lakh and those with Rs 20 lakh as existing limit, up to Rs 22 lakh.

Measures in place to ensure transparency:

Candidates must mandatorily file a true account of election expenses with the EC.

  • An incorrect account, or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years under Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Why there is a need for ceiling on expenditures?

  • Limits on campaign expenditure are meant to provide a level-playing field for everyone contesting elections. It ensures that a candidate can’t win only because she is rich.
  • The 255th Report of the Law Commission on electoral reforms argued that unregulated or under-regulated election financing could lead to “lobbying and capture, where a sort of quid pro quo transpires between big donors and political parties/candidates”.

Further reforms:

Cap on party spends:

The EC has asked the government to amend the R P Act and Rule 90 of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, to introduce a ceiling on campaign expenditure by political parties in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

  • It should be either 50% of or not more than the expenditure ceiling limit provided for the candidate multiplied by the number of candidates of the party contesting the election.
  • The limit will ensure level playing field for all political parties and curb the menace of unaccounted money in elections.
  • It will also control the money power used by political parties and their allies.

Supreme Court observations:

Supreme Court of India has said that money is bound to play an important part in the successful pursuit of an election campaign in Kanwar Lal Gupta Vs Amarnath Chawla case.

  • Voters get influenced by the visibility of a candidate and party and huge election spending thus impacts voter’s choice.

Various Committees and Commissions in this regard:

  1. Law Commission of India- 170th Report on “Reform of the Electoral Laws” in 1999.
  2. Election Commission of India- Report in 2004 on “Proposed Electoral Reforms”.
  3. Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms in 1990.
  4. Vohra Committee Report in 1993.
  5. Indrajeet Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections in 1998.
  6. National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution in 2001.
  7. Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2008.

Recently, the Law Commission in its 255th Report has also made several recommendations on electoral reforms under 3 categories namely viz:

  1. Limits on political contribution and party candidate expenditure.
  2. Disclosure norms and requirements.
  3. State funding of elections.

These recommendations of the Law Commission are under consideration of the government.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Overview of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
  2. Revised poll spending limits.
  3. About election commission.
  4. Who decides on issues related to poll spending?
  5. Is there any limit on party spending?
  6. Various committees and Commissions in this regard.

Mains Link:

Money is bound to play an important part in the successful pursuit of an election campaign. Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Finance Ministry to divest Wildlife Institute of India (WII):


Context:

Finance Ministry is planning to divest the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) of its status as an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

  • This has triggered anxiety among scientists at the organisation.

What are the concerns expressed over this move?

The major responsibility of this Institute is to provide advice to MoEF based on scientific information on policy and management of the country’s Wildlife Resources. This role can only be performed and remains relevant as long as the institute remains a part of the MoEF.

  • Further, the government will cut funding to the institute by 25% every year, and it could become a ‘Deemed University’ engaged in teaching and research.

When and why did the Finance Commission decide so?

The move follows a review by its Expenditure Department of 194 autonomous bodies across 18 Ministries. Of them, 109 bodies must be merged into 26, and government must “disengage” from 23, one which is the WII.

What are Autonomous Bodies (ABs)?

Autonomous Bodies are set up whenever it is felt that certain functions need to be discharged outside the governmental set up with some amount of independence and flexibility without day-to-day interference of the Governmental machinery.

  • These are set up by the Ministries/Departments concerned with the subject matter and are funded through grants-in-aid, either fully or partially, depending on the extent which such institutes generate internal resources of their own.

Why government is taking such measures?

Despite a laid out administrative structure in Autonomous Bodies (ABs), there are a number of governance issues that need review.

Nature of these Bodies:

They are mostly registered as societies under the Societies Registration Act and in certain cases they have been set up as statutory institutions under the provisions contained in various Acts.

Issues with autonomous bodies:

  1. Accountability: These bodies are funded by taxpayer’s money. However, there have been complaints that they don’t follow the policies of the government and are accountable the way the government departments are.
  2. Recruitment issues: The mode of recruitment and recruitment rules differs for each of these bodies.
  3. Non-Adherence to Envisaged Goal.
  4. No uniform audit procedure: Some ABs are audited by CAG whereas many are done by chartered accountants.

Suggested reforms:

  • A legal framework should be devised which defines the boundaries of its working, its autonomy, and the various policies that it must follow.
  • To bring about uniformity in the policies, a task force needs to be set up under a pan-Indian agency such as SSC or UPSC.
  • Rationalisation of their numbers: ABs that have outlived the cause for which they were established may need to be closed or merged with a similar organisation or their memorandum altered as per the new charter.
  • Collaborated Approach: To ensure the participation of ministry officials, committee meetings of similar ABs should be held together so that the appropriate authorities could provide meaningful suggestions.
  • Uniform Independent Auditing: Audits of ABs should be undertaken by an independent agency.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Wildlife Institute of India.
  2. Various autonomous and statutory bodies under the Environment Ministry.
  3. What are Autonomous bodies? Who constitutes them?

Mains Link:

Discuss the issues related to the functioning of various autonomous bodies and suggest reforms.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

What is Quad grouping?


Context:

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said that eventually the Quad group of countries should become more formalised once the parameters of cooperation were understood.

Why there is a need for formalisation?

Despite renewed efforts, the QUAD has faced criticism over its lack of formal structure. There have been calls for institutionalisation, a formal agreement to transform the group into a formidable anti-China bloc.

A lot has changed over the years. Each member state has faced the heat of China’s increased aggression.

  1. China has grown in might and influence and is keen on picking up fights.
  2. After attempting to influence Australia’s domestic policies, it slapped punitive tariffs on the country.
  3. It is engaged in what has become a routine border confrontation with India.
  4. China has flared up territorial disputes with Japan with regards to the Senkaku Islands and is battling a fully-fledged trade war with the United States.

What has been India’s stand on this?

While India has been historically hesitant over explicitly defining its anti-China associations, the recent border confrontations at Ladakh give us enough cause to reassess the profits and pitfalls of such formalisation.

What is Quad grouping?

The quadrilateral security dialogue includes Japan, India, United States and Australia.

  • All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.

Genesis:

The grouping traces its genesis to 2004 when the four countries came together to coordinate relief operations in the aftermath of the tsunami.

  • It then met for the first time in 2007 on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
  • The intention was to enhance maritime cooperation between the four nations.

Significance of the grouping:

  • Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.
  • Members share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security.
  • It is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US and should not be seen in an exclusive context.

What are China’s views on the Quad?

There is a general understanding that the Quad would not take on a military dimension against any country. The strategic community in China, nevertheless, had branded it an emerging “Asian NATO”.

Notably, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s “Confluence of Two Seas” address to the Indian Parliament gave a fresh impetus to the Quad concept. This recognised the economic rise of India.

Conclusion:

QUAD is, through its intent, a label, a geostrategic vision and a foreign policy instrument for India to balance China via global networking. When a tipping point is reached, it provides scope for the forging of an alliance amongst the world’s most formidable militaries. Until then, the QUAD’s future as a platform for multilateral engagement is secure.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Quad- composition.
  2. When was it first proposed?
  3. Countries and important islands in the Indian Ocean region.
  4. Geographical overview of Indo-Pacific region.
  5. Important seas and straits in the region.

Mains Link:

A formal revival and re-invigoration of the Quad is called for to maintain peace and tranquillity and to ensure observance of the UN Law of the Seas. Examine.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

China- Taiwan relations:


Context:

China has asked India to approach ties with Taiwan “prudently and properly”, and said it would “firmly oppose” any official exchanges between New Delhi and Taipei.

What’s the issue?

The statement from China came in response to reports that India and Taiwan were considering going forward with talks on a trade deal.

  • India and Taiwan in 2018 already signed a bilateral investment agreement.
  • India-Taiwan trade ties have expanded since, and Taiwanese firms are prominent investors in India, although India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic relations.

China- Taiwan relations- Background:

China has claimed Taiwan through its “one China” policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalist, to flee to the island in 1949 and has vowed to bring it under Beijing’s rule, by force if necessary.

  • China is Taiwan’s top trading partner, with trade totaling $226 billion in 2018. Taiwan runs a large trade surplus with China.
  • While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
  • Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Taiwan would have the right to run its own affairs; a similar arrangement is used in Hong Kong.
  • Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Asian Development Bank under various names.

Indo- Taiwan relations:

Although they do not have formal diplomatic ties, Taiwan and India have been cooperating in various fields.

India has refused to endorse the “one-China” policy since 2010.

south_china_sea_2

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Location of Taiwan and its historical background.
  2. Regions being administered by China under One China policy.
  3. Is Taiwan represented at WHO and the United Nations?
  4. Countries in South China Sea.
  5. Qing dynasty.

Mains Link:

Write a note on India- Taiwan bilateral relations.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Ayushman Sahakar:


Context:

Launched recently.

What is it?

It is a scheme to assist cooperatives play an important role in creation of healthcare infrastructure in the country.

Formulated by:

National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), an autonomous development finance institution under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Key features and implementation of the scheme:

  • NCDC will extend term loans to prospective cooperatives.
  • A fund will be created for the purpose.
  • Any Cooperative Society with suitable provision in its byelaws to undertake healthcare related activities would be able to access the NCDC fund.
  • NCDC assistance will flow either through the State Governments/ UT Administrations or directly to the eligible cooperatives.
  • The scheme also provides working capital and margin money to meet operational requirements.
  • The scheme provides interest subvention of one percent to women majority cooperatives.

Cooperatives in healthcare and why focus on them?

There are about 52 hospitals across the country run by cooperatives. They have cumulative bed strength of more than 5,000.

  • By virtue of their strong presence in rural areas, cooperatives utilizing the scheme would bring revolution in comprehensive health care services.

Benefits of the scheme:

COVID 19 pandemic has brought into focus the requirement of creation of more facilities.

  • Therefore, NCDC’s scheme will be a step towards strengthening farmers welfare activities by the Central Government.
  • With this scheme, villagers will get many facilities including hospitals, medical colleges.

In line with the National Health Policy, 2017:

The scheme aligns itself with the focus of the National Health Policy, 2017, covering the health systems in all their dimensions- investments in health, organization of healthcare services, access to technologies, development of human resources, encouragement of medical pluralism, affordable health care to farmers etc.

In line with the National Digital Heath Mission:

The scheme would bring transformation in rural areas.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Focus of the scheme.
  2. Formulated by?
  3. Eligibility.
  4. Provision for Working capital under the scheme.
  5. Provision for interest subvention.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of the scheme.

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

Cyber Crime and Cyber Security in India:


Context:

National Cyber Security Coordinator Lt Gen (Dr) Rajesh Pant recently made the following observations on Cyber Crimes in India:

  • Cyber crimes in India caused Rs 1.25 trillion loss in 2019.
  • Cyber threats will continue to increase as the country starts developing smart cities and rolling out 5G network, among other initiatives.
  • There are only a few Indian companies who are making some of the cyber security products and there is a big vacuum in the sector.
  • So, a dedicated industry forum for cyber security should be set up to develop trusted indigenous solutions to check cyber attacks.

Steps taken by the Government to spread awareness about cyber crimes:

  1. Online cybercrime reporting portal has been launched to enable complainants to report complaints pertaining to Child Pornography/Child Sexual Abuse Material, rape/gang rape imageries or sexually explicit content.
  2. A scheme for establishment of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has been established to handle issues related to cybercrime in the country in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  3. Establishment of National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical information infrastructure in the country.
  4. All organizations providing digital services have been mandated to report cyber security incidents to CERT-In expeditiously.
  5. Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for providing detection of malicious programmes and free tools to remove such programmes.
  6. Formulation of Crisis Management Plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism.

What needs to be done ahead?

  • Regularly issue alerts/advisories,l.
  • Capacity building/training of law enforcement personnel/ prosecutors/ judicial officers.
  • Improving cyber forensics facilities etc.
  • Speed up investigation.

Finally, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects as per the Constitution of India. States/UTs are primarily responsible for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes through their law enforcement machinery.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C).
  2. National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC).
  3. CERT- In.
  4. Cyber Swachhta Kendra’s.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Kaleshwaram eco-clearance violates law: NGT:


Context:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has held that environmental clearance (EC) to the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP) was granted ex post facto, after completion of substantial work, by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) “in violation of law”.

What needs to be done now?

Fix accountability needs and take remedial measures.

  • For that purpose, it has directed the MoEF&CC to constitute a seven-member expert committee preferably out of expert appraisal committee (EAC) members with relevant sectorial expertise to go into the matter in light of the observations in the present case.

Terms of reference:

  • The expert committee could assess the extent of damage caused in going ahead with the project without EC — the period from 2008 to 2017 — and identify the necessary restoration measures.
  • It could look into relief and rehabilitation measures adopted and required to be further adopted, examine effective implementation of the environmental management plan submitted by the project proponent.

Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project:

Originally called Pranahita-Chevella project in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, it was redesigned, extended and renamed as Kaleshwaram project in Telangana in 2014.

It is aimed to make Telangana drought proof by harnessing the flood waters of the Godavari.

The project is an under-construction multi-purpose irrigation project on the Godavari River in Kaleshwaram, Bhoopalpally, Telangana.

  • The project starts at the confluence point of Pranahita River and Godavari River.

Why is it significant?

Waters of the Godavari will be tapped by reverse pumping and storage, thereby facilitating agriculture on over 38 lakh acres, helping rejuvenate thousands of tanks, providing water for industries, and supplying drinking water to Hyderabad and Secunderabad by creating a series of storage tanks and a network of pipelines.

The project will also support Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha schemes designed to provide drinking water to many villages and improve the capacities of tanks.

When completed, it will be the world’s largest irrigation and drinking water system.

kaleshwaram,

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


Ind Spring Board:

It is an initiative of Indian Bank and IIT Madras Incubation Cell (IITMIC).

  • It is an initiative for funding start-ups.
  • IITMIC will refer start-ups with proven technology and established cash flows to the bank. The bank, in turn, will extend loans of up to ₹50 crore to these units.

Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs):

  • It is a Collective Investment Scheme similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of money from individual and institutional investors in infrastructure projects to earn a small portion of the income as return.
  • The InvITs are regulated by the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014.

mint_graphit

Demchok sector:

  • It is a disputed region centered on the villages of Demchok, Ladakh and Dêmqog, Ngari Prefecture, situated near the confluence of the Charding Nullah and Indus River.
  • It is part of the greater Sino-Indian border dispute between China and India. Both India and China claim the disputed region, with a Line of Actual Control between the two nations situated along the Charding Nullah.

Why in News?

Chinese soldier who strayed across LAC in Ladakh’s Demchok sector released.

ladakh

 

Smart fence along LoC:

India is thinking of converting the entire fence over a 700 km stretch across the Line of Control (LoC) into a smart one due to the high cost.

  • A hybrid model is now being adopted. This model of the smart fence being tested will cost around ₹10 lakh per km.
  • The fence will be integrated with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, infrared sensors and cameras among others.

loc

Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Vessels Traffic Monitoring Systems (VTMS):

It is an indigenous software solutions Launched by Ministry of Shipping.

  • It determines vessel positions, position of other traffic or meteorological hazard warnings and extensive management of traffic within a port or waterway.
  • It contribute to the safety of life at sea, safety and efficiency of navigation and protection of the marine environment, adjacent shore areas, worksites and offshore installations from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic.

VTMS is mandatory under the IMO Convention SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea).

vts

Articles to be covered tomorrow:

  1. Govt. refuses to give details of CIC applicants.

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