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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 29 January 2021

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. President’s address.

2. SEC censures two IAS officers, A.P. govt. objects.

3. Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms.

4. COVID-19 performance ranking.

5. Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties.

6. World Gold Council.

7. Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran deal”.

8. A global challenge to deliver vaccine.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Kala Utsav.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

President’s address:


Context:

As many as 18 Opposition parties have announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

President’s Address to the Parliament- Constitutional Provisions:

Article 87(1) says: “At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.”

First Constitutional Amendment: Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”. This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

What is in President’s address?

The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.

Motion of thanks:

The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs. During the session, political parties discuss the motion of thanks also suggesting amendments.

What procedures follow the address?

After the President or Governor delivers the address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country. This then paves the way for discussion on the Budget.

If the President disagrees with the text of the speech, are they still bound to read it?

  • The President or a Governor cannot refuse to perform the constitutional duty of delivering an address to the legislature. But there can be situations when they deviate from the text of the speech prepared by the government.
  • So far, there have been no instances of President doing so. But there has been an occasion when a Governor skipped a portion of the address to the Assembly.
  • In 1969, the Governor of West Bengal, Dharma Vira, skipped two paragraphs of the address prepared by the United Front government. The skipped portion described as unconstitutional the dismissal of the first United Front government by the Congress-ruled central government.

Are there parallels in other countries?

Similar provisions exist in other democracies.

  1. In the United States, it is referred to as the “State of the Union”. The phrase comes from an article in the US Constitution which specifies that the President, “from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
  2. In the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Queen’s Speech and is part of the ceremony to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About President’s address.
  2. Constitutional provisions.
  3. First Constitutional Amendment.
  4. What procedures follow the address?
  5. If the President disagrees with the text of the speech, are they still bound to read it?
  6. What is motion of thanks?

 Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of President’s address to the parliament.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

SEC censures two IAS officers, A.P. govt. objects:


Context:

The Andhra Pradesh government has “objected” to the censure notices issued by State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar to two senior IAS officials over preparations for the local body elections.

What’s the issue?

  • The State Election Commissioner had censured Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and PR Commissioner M Girija Shankar for their ‘failure’ to publish 2021 electoral rolls.
  • In the censure proceedings, Ramesh Kumar recommended compulsory retirement of the two IAS officers.

What has the state government said?

The State government has argued that this power is not in the domain of state election commissioner.

As per the guidelines, Election Commission is empowered to suspend:

  • Any officer or police personnel working under the Central government or public sector undertaking or an autonomous body fully or partially funded by the government for insubordination or dereliction of duty, besides making recommendations to the competent authority for taking disciplinary action, while engaged in preparation of electoral rolls or election duty.

However, censure is a penalty classified under minor penalties and the State government is the competent authority to impose the said penalty on a member of service serving with the affairs of the State and it has to be imposed by following the procedure laid down under Rule 10 of the AIS (D&A) Rules, 1969.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Article 243 vs 324, similarities and differences in powers of state election commissions vs Election Commission of India.
  2. Appeals against decisions of Election Commissions.
  3. Elections to Parliament and state legislatures vs Local Bodies.
  4. Powers of State Election Commissioner.

Mains Link:

Are the State Election Commissions in India as independent as the Election Commission of India? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms:


Context:

Rajasthan has become the 5thState in the country to successfully undertake Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms.

Rajasthan has joined four other States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Telangana, who have completed ULB reforms.

  • These reforms have been stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.

Implications:

  • Rajasthan has thus become eligible for additional reform linked borrowing.
  • Accordingly, the State has been granted permission by the Department of Expenditure to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs.2,731crore through Open Market Borrowings.

The set of reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure are:

  1. The State will notify:
  • Floor rates of property tax in ULBs which are in consonance with the prevailing circle rates (i.e. guideline rates for property transactions) and;
  • Floor rates of user charges in respect of the provision of water-supply, drainage and sewerage which reflect current costs/past inflation.
  1. The State will put in place a system of periodic increase in floor rates of property tax/ user charges in line with price increases.

Besides, the centre had identified four citizen centric areas for reforms. They are:

  1. Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System
  2. Ease of doing business reform
  3. Urban Local body/ utility reforms
  4. Power Sector reforms.

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to Health.

COVID-19 performance ranking:


Context:

The COVID-19 “performance index” has been put together by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

About the Index:

  • The index seeks “to gauge the relative performance of countries”.
  • The index is based on six different indicators, including confirmed cases and deaths per million people and the scale of testing.
  • Publicly available and comparable data on Covid-19 response was used for this index.

How were the countries ranked?

  • Countries were sorted into broad categories on the basis of regions, political systems, population size, and economic development.
  • This was done to determine the variations that may have existed in the way different nations handled the pandemic.
  • China was excluded from the list due to lack of publicly available data.

Performance of various countries:

  1. New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan have been ranked the top three spots, respectively.
  2. India has ranked 86th.
  3. Sri Lanka was the best faring nation in South Asia, ranking 10.
  4. Maldives was at 25, Pakistan at 69, Nepal at 70, and Bangladesh at 84.
  5. The lowest score was given to Brazil.
  6. Mexico, Colombia, Iran and the United States too featured among the bottom five countries in terms of performance.

General Observations:

  1. While some countries managed the coronavirus crisis better than others, the index noted that most countries “outcompeted each other only by degrees of underperformance”.
  2. Levels of economic development and differences in political systems didn’t have as much of an impact on coronavirus response as expected.
  3. On an average, countries with authoritarian establishments had no “prolonged advantage” in containing the virus.
  4. It was found that democracies had “marginally” more success than other governments in their handling of the pandemic.
  5. There was little “discernible difference” in a country’s performance by population size.
  6. Smaller countries with populations of fewer than 10 million people consistently outperformed their larger counterparts throughout 2020, although this lead narrowed slightly towards the end of the examined period.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties:


Context:

Calling 2020 as a year of “exceptional stress” in a relationship “profoundly disturbed” by the border crisis, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said a recognition of “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” was key to repairing India-China relations.

Background:

Twenty Indian soldiers, and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers, lost their lives in a clash on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley, following tensions that erupted in early May triggered by transgressions by China across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), massing of troops, and what India has described as a unilateral attempt to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in several areas in eastern Ladakh.

Actions by China which went against India’s interests:

  1. Issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010.
  2. A reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands (Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander).
  3. China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council as a permanent member.
  4. Blocking of UN listings of Pakistani terrorists.
  5. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty in J&K.

To solve the crisis, the External Affairs Minister suggested “three mutuals” and “eight broad propositions” as a way forward for the relationship. They are:

  1. Agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit.
  2. Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.
  3. Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, the rest of the relationship would be too.
  4. While both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.

Conclusion:

While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is LoC and how is it established, geographical extent and significance?
  2. What is LAC?
  3. Where is Nathu la?
  4. Where is Pangong Tso?
  5. Who administers Akashi Chin?
  6. Where is Naku La?
  7. Who controls what in Pangong Tso lake region?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of Pangong Tso for India and China.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

World Gold Council:


Context:

As per WGC, Gold demand in India hit a 25-year low at 446.4 tonnes in 2020, compared with 690.4 tonnes in 2019 due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown and on account of record high prices.

Gold & Economy:

As Currency: Gold was used as the world reserve currency up through most of the 20th century. The United States used the gold standard until 1971.

As a hedge against inflation: The demand for gold increases during inflationary times due to its inherent value and limited supply. As it cannot be diluted, gold is able to retain value much better than other forms of currency.

Strength of Currency: When a country imports more than it exports, the value of its currency will decline. On the other hand, the value of its currency will increase when a country is a net exporter. Thus, a country that exports gold or has access to gold reserves will see an increase in the strength of its currency when gold prices increase, since this increases the value of the country’s total exports.

About World Gold Council:

  • It is the market development organisation for the gold industry.
  • It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
  • It is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies.
  • It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
  • Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Gold imports and exports.
  2. About WGC.
  3. India’s gold consumption.
  4. Major gold producing sites in India.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran deal”:


Context:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently confirmed that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the “Iran deal”), the U.S. would re-enter it too.

  • The Trump administration had pulled out of the deal in 2018.

About the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA:

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

The 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Under the deal:

  1. Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.
  2. Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
  3. The Joint Commission was established, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is JCPOA? Signatories.
  2. Iran and its neighbours.
  3. What is IAEA? Relation with the UN.
  4. What is Uranium Enrichment?

Mains Link:

Write a note on JCPOA.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

A global challenge to deliver vaccine, says WHO executive board:


Context:

If 2020 was the year of discovery of COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 will be the year India faces the challenge of getting them to people across the world who most need it, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is the Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, has said.

What is the WHO Executive Board?

It is one of the WHO’s two decision making bodies. The other one is the World Health Assembly. The agency’s headquarters are located at Geneva in Switzerland.

Composition:

  • The executive Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health.
  • The Board chairman’s post is held by rotation for one year by each of the WHO’s six regional groups: African Region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asia Region, European Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Western Pacific Region.

Term:

Members are elected for three-year terms.

Functions:

  1. Sets out agenda for the Health Assembly and resolutions for forwarding to the Assembly are adopted.
  2. Gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly.
  3. Advises it and facilitates its work.
  4. The Board and the Assembly create a forum for debate on health issues and for addressing concerns raised by Member States.
  5. Both the Board and the Assembly produce three kinds of documents — Resolutions and Decisions passed by the two bodies, Official Records as published in WHO Official publications, and Documents that are presented “in session” of the two bodies.

Key facts:

  1. India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948.
  2. The first Regional Director for South East Asia was an Indian, Dr Chandra Mani, who served between 1948-1968.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. World Health Assembly- composition and functions.
  2. Regional bodies of WHO.
  3. Documents released by WHA and executive board.
  4. Chairmanship of EB.

Mains Link:

Discuss the composition and objectives of WHO executive board.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:


Kala Utsav:

Kala Utsav is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now called Ministry of Education) under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, to promote arts in education by nurturing and showcasing the artistic talent of school students at the secondary stage in the country.


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