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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 19 February 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. Pardoning powers of President.

2. Puducherry L-G orders floor test.

3. J&K Delimitation Commission.

4. No role in Tamil Nadu govt.’s quota decisions, Centre tells SC.

5. Quad meet.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. National Hydrogen Mission.

2. What is Extinction Rebellion?

 

GS Paper 4:

1. What are human challenge trials?

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Mahabahu Brahmaputra.

2. Dhubri-Phulbari bridge.

3. Majuli-Jorhat bridge.

4. FB blocks access to news in Australia.

5. Nurturing Neighborhoods Challenge.

6. Hyderabad wins global ‘Tree City’ status.

 


GS Paper  :  2


 

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

Pardoning powers of President:


Context:

The 12-year-old son of Shabnam, a death row convict from Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha, appealed to President Ram Nath Kovind to “forgive” his mother.

  • Shabnam has exhausted most of her legal remedies, and if executed, will be the first woman in independent India to be hanged for a crime.

(Please note, Only one jail in India –– the one in Mathura –– has the provisions for hanging a woman convict).

Clemency powers of the President under article 72:

It says that the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.

  1. Pardon– A pardon completely absolves the offender from all sentences and punishment and disqualifications and places him in the same position as if he had never committed the offence.
  2. Commutation– Commutation means exchange of one thing for another. In simple words to replace the punishment with less severe punishment. For example for Rigorous imprisonment-simple imprisonment.
  3. Reprieve– Reprieve means temporary suspension of death sentence. For example- pending a proceeding for pardon or commutation.
  4. Respite– Respite means awarding a lesser punishment on some special grounds. For example- the Pregnancy of women offender.
  5. Remissions– Remission means the reduction of the amount of sentence without changing its character, for example, a sentence of 1 year may be remitted to 6 months.

The pardoning power of President is wider than the governor and it differs in the following two ways:

  • The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
  • The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

Exercise of these powers:

  1. This power of pardon shall be exercised by the President on the advice of Council of Ministers.
  2. The constitution does not provide for any mechanism to question the legality of decisions of President or governors exercising mercy jurisdiction.
  3. But the SC in Epuru Sudhakar case has given a small window for judicial review of the pardon powers of President and governors for the purpose of ruling out any arbitrariness.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Pardoning powers of President vs Governors in India.
  2. Applicability of judicial review.
  3. Article 72 is related to?
  4. Article 161.

Mains Link:

Present a detailed comparison of pardoning powers of president and Governor in India.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

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

Puducherry L-G orders floor test:


Context:

The newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, Tamilisai Soundararajan, has directed the Assembly Secretariat to convene the House on February 22 to determine whether the Chief Minister enjoys the confidence of the House.

Floor test:

  • Floor test is a term used for the test of the majority.
  • If there are doubts against the chief minister, the governor can ask him to prove his majority in the House.
  • In case of a coalition government, the chief minister may be asked to move a vote of confidence and win a majority.

What happens in the absence of majority?

  • In the absence of a clear majority, when there is more than one individual staking claim to form the government, the governor may call for a special session to see who has the majority to form the government.
  • Some legislators may be absent or choose not to vote. The numbers are then considered based only on those MLAs who were present to vote.

Constitutional provisions:

According to Article 75 (3) and Article 164 of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the House of the People.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Floor test vs Composite floor test.
  2. Majority required to form the govt.
  3. Voting during floor test.
  4. Appointment of Chief Minister when there is clear majority vs Hung assembly.
  5. Can speaker cast his vote?

Mains Link:

Ambiguity in the law on conducting floor tests often lead to abuses and misuses. Comment.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

J&K Delimitation Commission:


Context:

J&K Delimitation Commission holds first meeting, Farooq Abdullah and other NC leaders not present.

Background:

The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6, 2020 to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which bifurcated the state into union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

What is Delimitation?

Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.

Who carries out the exercise?

  • Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. They are formally known as Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.
  • These bodies are so powerful that its orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged before any court.

Composition of the Commission:

According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission will have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.

Constitutional Provisions:

  1. Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  2. Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Previous delimitation commissions- powers and functions.
  2. Composition of the commission.
  3. Who can set up?
  4. Are changes allowed in final orders?
  5. Which are the constitution provisions related?

Mains Link:

How and why delimitation of constituencies is carried out? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

No role in Tamil Nadu govt.’s quota decisions, Centre tells SC:


Context:

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has no role in the choices made by the Tamil Nadu government with regard to the provision of reservation for specific castes or communities in State government jobs and admissions.

What’s the issue?

The Centre was responding to a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, SC & ST(Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act of 1993, which provides 69% reservation in the State.

  • The petitioner contended that the Tamil Nadu Legislature acted “outside its competence”.
  • TN has identified and classified socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs), that too far in excess of the 50% limit on quota laid down by a nine-judge Bench of the SC in its judgment in the Indira Sawhney case.

Centre’s stand:

  • Inclusion or exclusion of any caste/community in the State List of SEBCs is the subject matter of the State government, and the Government of India has no role in the matter.
  • It referred to the Constitution (One hundred and second Amendment) Act of 2018, which details the difference in the procedure for inclusion or exclusion of castes and communities in the State List for SEBCs and the Central List.
  • The power to identify and specify SEBCs lies with Parliament only with reference to the Central List.
  • Under the newly-inserted Article 342A of the Constitution (One hundred and second Amendment) Act of 2018, the President notifies the SEBCs in a State after consultation with the Governor.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Constitutional provisions wrt to Reservations.
  2. Overview of articles 32, 226, 14, 15 and 16.
  3. Overview of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  4. What are writs?
  5. Difference in powers of SC and HC wrt writ jurisdictions.
  6. Indra Sawhney case verdict.
  7. 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: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Quad meet:


Context:

Quad members recently came together for a ministerial meeting.

  • Members discussed about the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Myanmar, and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region.

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.

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.

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.

 


GS Paper  :  3


 

Topics Covered: Infrastructure- energy.

National Hydrogen Mission:


Context:

Energy transition is underway at an exceptional level and several countries are betting on hydrogen to emerge as the top clean fuel with its high energy density and versatility.

  • Government of India’s (GOI) National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHM) initiative will capitalise on this.

Efforts in this regard:

  • Recently, the Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the NHM which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also disclosed that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalised by the end of this month and will thereafter proceed for approval of the Union Cabinet.

Challenges for India:

  1. One of the colossal challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.
  2. The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and is expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.
  3. The maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.
  4. The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.

What is Hydrogen fuel?

Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.

Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

Occurrence of Hydrogen:

  • It is the most abundant element in the universe. The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen.
  • Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element.
  • Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.
  • Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs. Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Storage:

Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid.

  • Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks.
  • Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.
  • Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids (by adsorption) or within solids (by absorption).

Potential of clean hydrogen industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. The only by-product or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water — making the fuel 100 per cent clean.
  2. Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel. It is due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency.
  3. In fact, a fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.
  4. Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.
  5. The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

What is Extinction Rebellion?


Context:

Delhi Police have named environmental activists Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob, and Shantanu Muluk, who are volunteers of this global environment movement.

What is Extinction Rebellion, also referred to as ‘XR’?

  • Initially, launched in the United Kingdom on October 31, 2018, as a response to a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • Now, it is a global movement which seeks to “rebel”, and asks groups to “self-organise”, without the need for anyone’s permission, to come up with collective action plans as long as they adhere to the group’s core principles and values.
  • It is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

The group has “three core demands” of governments around the world.

  • It wants governments to “Tell the Truth”, to “Act Now”, and to “Go Beyond Politics” in order to confront the climate and ecological emergency that the world is faced with.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


GS Paper  :  4


 

Topics Covered: Ethical Dilemmas.

What are human challenge trials?


Context:

The UK is set to conduct the first COVID-19 human challenge trials (HCT) within a month from now.

  • While human challenge trials (HCTs) have helped give important information about several diseases, some have been surrounded by controversy and questions about ethics.

The Purpose:

  • To identify the smallest amount of virus required to infect a person.
  • To help doctors understand how the immune system reacts to SARS-CoV-2.
  • To identify factors that influence how the virus is transmitted, including how an infected person transmits the virus into the environment.

First, let us understand how vaccines are developed and tested?

In most regulatory regimes, vaccines take several years to develop, and their development typically proceeds through three phases of clinical trials.

  1. In Phase 1, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine.
  2. In Phase 2, the clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended.
  3. In Phase 3, the vaccine is given to several thousand people and tested for efficacy and safety. During this phase, participants either receive the vaccine or a placebo.

What are human challenge trials? How do they take place? Why is it significant?

In this, participants of the vaccine group and placebo group upon consent are deliberately exposed to the infection – thus are “challenged” by the disease organism.

  • Such trials could save valuable time in developing a vaccine, as researchers would not have to wait for participants to contract the infection under real-world conditions.
  • By replacing conventional Phase 3 testing of vaccine candidates, such trials may subtract many months from the licensure process, making efficacious vaccines available more quickly.

The ethical concerns:

  • Critics have questioned undertaking such trials for Covid-19, a potentially deadly disease for even those who are less at risk, and which researchers are still in various stages of studying.
  • In 2016 , even WHO has observed that such research can appear to be in conflict with the guiding principle in medicine to do no harm.

Need of the hour:

  1. Well documented historical examples of human exposure studies would be considered unethical by current standards.
  2. It is essential that challenge studies be conducted within an ethical framework in which truly informed consent is given.
  3. When conducted, human challenge studies should be undertaken with abundant forethought, caution, and oversight.
  4. The value of the information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects. Information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Facts for Prelims:


Mahabahu Brahmaputra initiative:

The program is aimed at providing seamless connectivity to the Eastern parts of India and includes various development activities for the people living around River Brahmaputra and River Barak.

The launch of Mahabahu-Brahmaputra will be marked by the inauguration of:

  1. The Ro-Pax vessel operations between Neamati-Majuli Island, North Guwahati-South Guwahati and Dhubri-Hatsingimari.
  2. The shilanyas of Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminal at Jogighopa and various tourist jetties on River Brahmaputra and launch of digital solutions for Ease-of-Doing-Business.

Dhubri-Phulbari bridge:

  • The 19-km long four-lane bridge connecting Dhubri in Assam and Phulbari in Meghalaya will be India’s longest bridge once completed.
  • It will be built at an estimated cost of Rs 4,997 crore was approved in February 2019 and work of have been awarded in November 2020.
  • Assam & Meghalaya will have a direct connection with West Bengal through this bridge.
  • The bridge will be located on NH-127B, originating from Srirampur on NH-27 (East-West Corridor), and terminating at Nongstoin on NH-106 in the State of Meghalaya.

Majuli-Jorhat bridge:

  • Connects Nemati ghat to Kamlabari ghat on the Brahmaputra river.
  • The bridge will provide easy and all-time access to the people living in remote areas in Majuli Island with the rest of Assam to meet their health, education and day to day development activities.

FB blocks access to news in Australia:

Facebook has blocked Australians from sharing news stories.

  • The move is in response to the escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organisations for content.

What’s the issue?

  • Facebook acted after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it and Google pay for Australian journalism.
  • The Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets, whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.

Nurturing Neighborhoods Challenge:

  • Launched by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry.
  • It is a challenge for cities to develop and implement initiatives to improve the quality of life of young children, caregivers and families.

Context:

The Urban Affairs Ministry has announced the names of the 25 cities selected for the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge under the Smart Cities Mission.

Hyderabad wins global ‘Tree City’ status:

  • Hyderabad has won a green contest among cities in India, and emerged one of the ‘Tree Cities of the World’.
  • That title has been bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • The city was evaluated on five metrics: ‘Establish Responsibility’, ‘Set the Rules’, ‘Know What You Have’, ‘Allocate the Resources’, and ‘Celebrate the Achievements’.
  • Hyderabad has been selected for its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forestry.
  • With the recognition, the city joins 120 others from 23 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

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