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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 19 December 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. SC stays Andhra HC order to study ‘constitutional breakdown’ in State.

2. Supreme Court raps govt. on rising cost of COVID care.

3. Parliamentary panel calls for migrant workers’ database.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Government exploring setting up bad bank, all other options.

2. India mulls E20 fuel to cut vehicular emissions.

3. Intentional genomic alteration (IGA) and GalSafe pigs.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. U.K., U.S. in top 5 hirers of IT contract staff.

2. Boko Haram.

3. All have equal right to practice religion.

4. SolarWinds hack.

5. Paris fined for appointing ‘too many women’ in senior positions.

6. IND-INDO CORPAT.

7. Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

8. What is the ‘Christmas Star’ conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter?

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

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

SC stays Andhra HC order to study ‘constitutional breakdown’ in State:


Context:

The Supreme Court has stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court order intending to embark on a judicial enquiry into whether there is a constitutional breakdown in the State machinery under the Jagan Mohan Reddy government, requiring a declaration of President’s rule.

What’s the issue?

High Court, on October 1, while deciding habeas corpus petitions filed by relatives of persons remanded in judicial custody or on bail, had suo motu summoned the State counsel to assist it in deciding “whether in circumstances prevailing in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the court can record a finding that there is constitutional breakdown in the State or not”.

What has the Supreme Court said?

  • It was not up to the High Court to enquire and recommend President’s rule in a State.
  • It is Article 356 that deals with failure of constitutional machinery in a State. This is a power [to impose President’s rule] exclusively vests in the Executive.

Observation by the state government:

  1. The High Court’s observation violated the Basic Structure doctrine of the Constitution.
  2. The constitutional courts do not have any judicially discoverable and manageable standards to determine if there has been a constitutional breakdown.
  3. This is a serious encroachment on the powers of the executive as enumerated under the Constitution and is thus violative of the doctrine of separation of powers.

What is President’s Rule in the Indian context?

Article 356 of the Constitution of India gives President of India the power to suspend state government and impose President’s rule of any state in the country if “if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.

  • Upon the imposition of this rule, there would be no Council of Ministers. The Vidhan Sabha is either dissolved or prorogued.
  • The state will fall under the direct control of the Union government, and the Governor will continue to head the proceedings, representing the President of India – who is the Head of the State.
  • The imposition of the President’s rule requires the sanction of both the houses of Parliament.
  • If approved, it can go on for a period of six months. However, the imposition cannot be extended for more than three years, and needs to be brought before the two houses every six months for approval.

Revocation:

  • A proclamation of President’s Rule may be revoked by the President at any time by a subsequent proclamation. Such a proclamation does not require parliamentary approval.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is President’s Rule?
  2. Article 356 is related to?
  3. How and when it is imposed?
  4. Revocation.
  5. The doctrine of separation of powers under the Indian Constitution.

Mains Link:

Discuss the issues associated with President’s Rule and the role of Governor of a state in recommending that.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

Supreme Court raps govt. on rising cost of COVID care:


Context:

Supreme Court recently passed its order on Covid 19 care by the Government.

  • The court took note of the issue of the deteriorating health of fatigued doctors, nurses and medical workers.

Need for government’s intervention:

Medical care during the pandemic has become so costly that ordinary people cannot afford it at all.

Right to health (Article 21) includes affordable treatment. For whatever reasons, the treatment has become costlier and it is not affordable to the common people at all.

  • Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished.

What should the government do?

  1. It is the government’s duty to ensure affordable medical treatment for COVID-19 patients.
  2. A successful “World War” on the virus depends on “government-public partnership.
  3. The government should be transparent about the facts and figures regarding COVID-19 infection spread. Otherwise, the people will be misled and they will be under the impression that everything is alright and they will become negligent.
  4. The government needs to work out a mechanism to give “intermittent rest” to the frontline workers.
  5. States should consider a curfew on weekends/nights.
  6. In a micro containment zone or in an area where the number of cases are on the higher side, to cut the chain, they should be sealed.
  7. There should be complete lockdown so far as such areas are concerned. Such containment areas need to be sealed for a few days except for essential services.
  8. State and local authorities should either make more provisions for affordable treatment in their hospitals or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Right to Health and Article 21.
  2. Provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
  3. What is DM Act?
  4. Bodies established under this act.
  5. Composition of NDMA.
  6. Powers of states and centre under DM act.
  7. What is a notified disaster?

Mains Link:

Discuss how the right to health as a Fundamental Right is being ensures in the Country.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Parliamentary panel calls for migrant workers’ database:


Context:

The standing committee on Home Affairs has released its report “Management of COVID-19 pandemic and related issues”.

Key Recommendations:

  1. A national database of migrant workers should be collated at the earliest to ensure that if ever there is a repeat of a COVID-19-like pandemic, the relief measures should reach the intended beneficiaries.
  2. The database should have details of the source State, the destination State, skill set of the worker and other contact details.
  3. The Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 — the two guiding laws during the pandemic — are insufficient.
  4. Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 should be reviewed. The Act is outdated as it was framed in the colonial era, which was even well before the Spanish flu of 1918.

Need for a database:

During the extended lockdown, the task of identifying the location and disbursing relief measures to the migrant workers became difficult as the Central government did not have any data of the migrant workers.

  • In the absence of a comprehensive national database, it is difficult to extend the relief measures by the government to the intended beneficiaries.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Ordinance? How and when is it promulgated?
  2. Definition of violence in the ordinance.
  3. Previous examples of implementation of Epidemics Diseases Act, diseases for which it was declared.
  4. A notifiable disease.
  5. Implementing agency, penalty, protection and inspection of people under the act.
  6. Handling of the plague epidemic by British, criticisms by Tilak through his papers.

Mains Link:

Discuss the key provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Government exploring setting up bad bank, all other options:


Context:

The government is exploring all options, including setting up of a bad bank, to improve the health of the country’s banking sector, Economic Affairs Secretary Tarun Bajaj said recently.

Need for:

It is not just necessary but unavoidable in the present circumstances when NPAs are likely to balloon and much of the resolution will have to take place outside the IBC framework.

Concept of Bad Bank:

  • A bad bank is a bank set up to buy the bad loans and other illiquid holdings of another financial institution.
  • The entity holding significant nonperforming assets will sell these holdings to the bad bank at market price.
  • By transferring such assets to the bad bank, the original institution may clear its balance sheet—although it will still be forced to take write-downs.

Why be concerned about bad loans?

  1. Indian banks’ pile of bad loans is a huge drag on the economy.
  2. It’s a drain on banks’ profits. Because profits are eroded, public sector banks (PSBs), where the bulk of the bad loans reside, cannot raise enough capital to fund credit growth.
  3. Lack of credit growth, in turn, comes in the way of the economy’s return to an 8% growth trajectory. Therefore, the bad loan problem requires effective resolution.

Benefits:

  1. This helps banks or FIs clear-off their balance sheets by transferring the bad loans and focus on its core business lending activities.
  2. Large debtors have many creditors. Hence bad bank could solve the coordination problem, since debts would be centralised in one agency.
  3. It can effect speedier settlements with borrowers by cutting out individual banks.
  4. It can drive a better bargain with borrowers and take more stringent enforcement action against them.
  5. It can raise money from institutional investors rather than looking only to the Government.

What are the Concerns or demerits of such banks?

Suppose, say for example, a bank sells bad loans. Then, it has to take a haircut because when Rs 100 goes bad, the actual amount that can be expected is lower than Rs 100 and that leads to haircut. When it takes haircut that will impact the P&L (Profit & Loss).

So, till that particular aspect is not addressed, creating a new structure may not be as potent in addressing the problem.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is an Asset Reconstruction Company?
  2. What is a bad bank?
  3. Who can set up a bad bank in India?
  4. What are stressed assets?
  5. What are non performing assets?

Mains Link:

Discuss the merits and demerits of setting up of bad banks.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation

India mulls E20 fuel to cut vehicular emissions:


Context:

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has published a draft notification and invited comments from the public for adoption of E20 fuel as an automobile fuel.

  • E20 fuel is a blend of 20% of ethanol and gasoline.

Present status:

The current permissible level of blending is 10% of ethanol though India reached only 5.6% of blending in 2019.

Benefits of E20 fuel in particular and ethanol blending in general:

  1. To reduce vehicular emissions.
  2. To reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, etc.
  3. To reduce the oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange and boosting energy security.

Challenges ahead:

Compatibility of vehicles with the percentage of ethanol in the blend would have to be defined by the vehicle manufacturer.

What is ethanol?

Ethanol is a biofuel and a common by-product of biomass left by agricultural feedstock such as corn, sugarcane, hemp, potato, etc.

What has the Government done and is doing in this regard?

  1. National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC) has allowed Surplus rice available with the FCI to be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and for blending in petrol.
  2. The Government of India launched the EBP programme in 2003 for undertaking the blending of ethanol in petrol to address the environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning, provide remuneration to farmers, subsidize crude imports and achieve forex savings.
  3. The National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 envisages that during an agriculture crop year when there is projected over supply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval NBCC.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is ethanol? How is it produced?
  2. Difference between ethanol and molasses?
  3. What is ethanol blending programme?
  4. Benefits of ethanol blending?

Mains Link:

Write a note on the 2013 EBP programme.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Intentional genomic alteration (IGA) and GalSafe pigs:


Context:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a first-of-its-kind intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs referred to as GalSafe pigs.

  • These pigs may be used for food and human therapeutics.
  • This will be the first time that the regulator has approved an animal biotechnology product for both food and biomedical purposes.

What is intentional genomic alteration?

  • Intentional genomic alteration in animal’s means making specific changes to the genome of the organism using modern molecular technologies that are popularly referred to as “genome editing” or “genetic engineering”.
  • Such changes in the DNA sequence of an animal may be carried out for research purposes, to produce healthier meat for human consumption and to study disease resistance in animals among other reasons.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Facts for Prelims:


U.K., U.S. in top 5 hirers of IT contract staff:

  • The findings of the survey — titled ‘Global Demand for Indian IT Contractors’- have been released.
  • The survey was conducted by contractor hiring platform Techfynder.
  • The findings are based on responses of 52,000 contractors between January and December.

Key findings:

  • The U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Africa are among the top countries attracting and retaining highly-skilled Indian workers in the contracting marketplace.
  • Due to the pandemic, many businesses were going online to offer their products and services, which has further raised demand for software engineers, Java developers, cybersecurity engineers, data scientists, web developers and UI/UX designers.

Boko Haram:

Boko Haram is a violent Islamist insurgent group that has spread from northeast Nigeria to neighbouring West African nations of Niger, Chad and Cameroon in the Lake Chad Basin.

Why in News?

344 abducted Nigerian boys freed by Boko Haram.

All have equal right to practice religion:

Allahabad High Court grants protection to man booked under Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion ordinance.

Fundamental Rights at stake:

  1. Right to privacy as a basic fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  2. Article 25 provides that all persons have equal right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions of Part-III of the Constitution.

SolarWinds hack:

  • It is a cyberattack recently discovered in the United States.
  • It has emerged as one of the biggest ever targeted against the US government, its agencies and several other private companies.

Paris fined for appointing ‘too many women’ in senior positions:

  • Paris city authorities have been slapped with a €90,000 (over Rs 80 lakh) fine for appointing too many women to top-level positions in 2018 and violating a national rule designed to ensure gender parity in employment.
  • Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo — who led the drive to bring more women into the city’s government — has mocked the fine as “unfair”, “irresponsible” and “absurd” during a meeting of the city council.

What’s the issue? What is the ‘Sauvadet law’?

In 2018, 11 women and five men were appointed to leadership positions in Paris’ city hall. Since 69 per cent of the appointments went to women, the decision was technically in violation of a law introduced in 2013, known as the ‘Sauvadet law’, which requires a minimum of 40 per cent of appointments for each gender.

IND-INDO CORPAT:

  • 35th edition of India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) held recently.
  • Conducted between the navies of India and Indonesia.
  • The aim is to ensure the safety and security of shipping and international trade in the region.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):

  • Launched by Modi in September 2019 at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York, US.
  • 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.

What is the ‘Christmas Star’ conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter?

After nearly 400 years, Saturn and Jupiter the two largest planets in our solar system will be brought closest in the night sky by an astronomical event called the “great conjunction” and popularly referred to as the “Christmas Star”.

So, what is the “Great Conjunction”?

  • A conjunction is not unique to Saturn and Jupiter however, it is the name given to any event where planets or asteroids appear to be very close together in the sky when viewed from the Earth.
  • Astronomers use the word “great” for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn because of the planets’ sizes.

The “Great Conjunction” happens once in about 20 years because of the time each of the planets take to orbit around the Sun.


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