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[Mission 2022] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 21 December 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.

 

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Questioning the impartiality of the Election Commission.

2. J&K Delimitation.

3. NDPS bill.

4 Labour Codes.

5.India and Taiwan Relations.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Green hydrogen.

2. Changes to Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

 

Facts for Prelims:

  • Open Acreage Licensing Policy.

Questioning the impartiality of the Election Commission

GS Paper 2:

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

 

Context:

The opposition has questioned the impartiality of the upcoming elections in five states after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey attended an online interaction called by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

  • Critics have said that the PMO cannot call the EC for such interactions as the poll panel is an independent body.

 

What has the Centre said?

An official communication from the Law Ministry, which is the administrative ministry of the Commission, said the meeting had been called to discuss electoral reforms. Also, the Ministry claimed that the session was an “informal interaction”.

 

What’s the issue now?

  • The “directive” from the PMO has raised concerns about the independent functioning of the Commission, whose autonomy successive CECs have sought to protect zealously.
  • The “informal interaction” has also raised questions about the neutrality of the Commission, especially when elections to crucial States are around the corner.

 

How independence of the EC is ensured by the Constitution?

The Election Commission is a constitutional authority whose responsibilities and powers are prescribed in the Constitution of India under Article 324.

  1. The Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
  2. It is the Commission which decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.
  3. It is the Commission which decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
  4. The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions.
  5. By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.

 

Communication between EC and the Government:

  • The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry for the deployment of security forces during elections.
  • In such cases, the Home Secretary is often invited in front of a full commission where the three commissioners are also present.
  • The Law Ministry spells out the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy.

 

Recent such incidents:

  • During the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the EC under Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in an election rally in Latur, had referenced his campaign with an appeal on behalf of the armed forces.
  • There have also been various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
  • This year, the Commission’s belated decision in banning election campaigns in the midst of a rampaging pandemic, raised eyebrows.

 

Insta Curious:

Have you heard of A-WEB(Association of World Election Bodies)? Is India a member ? Read Here.

 

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.

Mains Link:

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

Sources: the Hindu.

Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission:

GS Paper 2:

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

 

 Delimitation Commission:

Context:

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission (headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai), has made the following recommendations:

  1. Increase six seats for the Jammu division and one for the Kashmir division.
  2. Reserve 16 seats for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) communities.

 

Implications:

J&K will have a 90-member Legislative Assembly now, up from 87 prior to the Centre’s decision to end J&K’s special constitutional position.

 

Basis of these recommendations:

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission has said that it will base its final report on the 2011 Census and will also take into account the topography, difficult terrain, means of communication and convenience available for the ongoing delimitation exercise.

 

Delimitation exercise in J&K- a timeline:

  1. The first delimitation exercise, carving out 25 assembly constituencies in the then state, was carried out by a Delimitation Committee in 1951.
  2. The first full-fledged Delimitation Commission was formed in 1981 and it submitted its recommendations in 1995 on the basis of 1981 Census. Since then, there has been no delimitation.
  3. In 2020, the Delimitation Commission was constituted to carry out the exercise on the basis of 2011 Census, with a mandate to add seven more seats to the Union Territory’ and grant reservations to SC and ST communities.
  4. Now, the total number of seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be raised to 90 from the previous 83. This is apart from 24 seats which have been reserved for areas of PoK and have to be kept vacant in the Assembly.

What is delimitation and why is it needed?

The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6 last year to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002, passed by the Centre in August 2019 along with other J&K-specific Bills.

  • 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.

NDPS Bill, 2021:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Government policies and issues surrounding.

 

Context:

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was recently passed in Parliament.

  • It seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated on September 30 this year.

 

Objective of the Bill?

The bill was introduced by the government to rectify an error that made provisions in Section 27 of the Act — providing for punishment of those financing illicit trafficking — inoperable.

  • This happened in 2014, when the Act was amended in 2014 to ease access of narcotic drugs for medical necessities, but the penal provision was not amended accordingly.
  • In June 2021, the Tripura High Court found the oversight in the law and directed the Union Home Ministry to amend the provisions of Section 27.

 

What necessitated this amendment?

The drafting error was highlighted when an accused moved a special court in Tripura contending that he could not be charged for the offence as Section 27 A is referred to a blank list. The Tripura High Court subsequently asked the Centre to amend the law.

Current Affairs

 

What was the error?

The anomaly crept in when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was amended in 2014 to allow better medical access to narcotic drugs, removing state barriers in transporting and licensing of “essential narcotic drugs”.

  • Prior to the 2014 amendment, clause (viiia) of Section 2 of the Act, contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), wherein the term ‘illicit traffic’ had been defined.
  • This clause was re-lettered as clause (viiib) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viiia) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act.

 

Criticisms surrounding the Bill:

  • Few experts have observed that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of a citizen as it provides retrospective effect to offences starting 2014.
  • It also violates the fundamental rights in Article 21 because you can be punished for an offence for which there is a law in existence at the time of commission of the offence.

Current Affairs

 

NDPS Act:

  • It prohibits a person from producing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, storing, and/or consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
  • The NDPS Act has since been amended thrice – in 1988, 2001 and 2014.
  • The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.

 

Indian Government has taken several policy and other initiatives to deal with drug trafficking problem:

  1. The ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ or a ‘Drugs-Free India Campaign’ was flagged off on 15th August 2020 across 272 districts of the country found to be most vulnerable based on the data available from various sources.
  2. Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has begun implementation of a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.
  3. The government has constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016.
  4. The government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.

 

Insta Curious:

Did you know that the day June 26 was chosen by the UN General Assembly, on December 7, 1987, as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About UNODC.
  2. Overview of scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control”.
  3. Composition of Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD).
  4. National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse.
  5. About Narcotics Control Bureau.
  6. International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and theme this year.

Mains Link:

India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking. Critically examine its causes. Also comment on the role of the Government in combating drug problems.

Sources: the Hindu.

4 labour codes:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Government Policies and issues related.

 

Context:

India is likely to implement four labour codes (on wages, social security, occupational safety and industrial relations) by the next fiscal year beginning 2022.

  • Under these new codes, a number of aspects related to employment and work culture, in general, might change – including the take-home salary of employees, working hours, and the number of weekdays.

 

Opposition:

  • Trade unions, however, have planned to intensify their agitation this week against the codes in the wake of the government’s decision to repeal the three farm laws.

 

What are the demands by trade unions?

The two codes we accepted — on wages and social security — be implemented immediately and the two to which we had objections — industrial relations and occupational safety — be reviewed.

 

About the labour codes:

The new set of regulations consolidates 44 labour laws under 4 categories of Codes namely, Wage Code; Social Security Code; Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code; and the Industrial Relations Code.

  • The Parliament has already passed all the four Codes and it has also received the President’s assent.

The 4 codes are:

  1. The Code on Wages, 2019, applying to all the employees in organized as well as unorganized sector, aims to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments and aims at providing equal remuneration to employees performing work of a similar nature in every industry, trade, business, or manufacture.
  2. The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2020 seeks to regulate the health and safety conditions of workers in establishments with 10 or more workers, and in all mines and docks.
  3. The Code on Social Security, 2020 consolidates nine laws related to social security and maternity benefits.
  4. The Code on Industrial Relations, 2020 seeks to consolidate three labour laws namely, The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: The Trade Unions Act, 1926 and The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. The Code aims to improve the business environment in the country largely by reducing the labour compliance burden of industries.

 

Issues with these codes:

  • The work hours provisions for regular workers do not provide flexibility to fix work hours beyond eight hours a day.
  • The codes have also missed laying down uniform provisions for part-time employees.
  • There are also provisions that impact employee wages.
  • The labour codes also chalk out fines on businesses for non-compliance of provisions, second offences and officer-in-default. In the current pandemic situation, a majority of small businesses are in no position to adopt and implement the labour code changes.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the codes.
  2. Key provisions.
  3. Labour as a subject.

Mains Link:

Discuss the concerns associated with four labour codes.

Sources: the Hindu.

India-Taiwan relations:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: India and its neighbours.

 

Context:

India and Taiwan have started negotiations for a free-trade agreement and the setting up of a semiconductor manufacturing facility by a Taiwanese firm in India, in a significant step signalling their resolve to broad-base the overall bilateral economic engagement.

  • If the move to set up the semiconductor manufacturing plant succeeds, then it will be the second such facility to be set up by a Taiwanese company in a foreign country after a similar hub in the United States.

 

India’s position on Taiwan:

  • India’s policy on Taiwan is clear and consistent and it is focused on promoting interactions in areas of trade, investment and tourism among others.
  • Government facilitates and promotes interactions in areas of trade, investment, tourism, culture, education and other such people-to-people exchanges.
  • However, India doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but both sides have trade and people-to-people ties.

 

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.

 

Significance of India for Taiwan:

Taiwan is keen to deepen relations with various countries.

  • Also, China has ramped up military pressure, including repeated missions by Chinese warplanes near democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own and has not ruled out taking by force.

 

Way ahead:

India and Taiwan are celebrating 25 years of their partnership.

Mutual efforts between Delhi and Taipei have enabled a range of bilateral agreements covering agriculture, investment, customs cooperation, civil aviation, industrial cooperation and other areas. This growing relationship indicates that the time has come to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.

 

What needs to be done?

  • Both sides can create a group of empowered persons or a task force to chart out a road map in a given time frame.
  • The time is ripe to expand cooperation in the field of healthcare.
  • Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies.

 

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.

  • 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.

Presently, Taiwan is claimed by China, which refuses diplomatic relations with countries that recognise the region.

Insta Curious:

Did you know that to this date, Taiwan is not a part of the WHO owing to objections from China? Read this to know more about the issue.

 

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 the South China Sea.
  5. Qing dynasty.

Mains Link:

Write a note on India- Taiwan bilateral relations.

Sources: the Hindu.

Green Hydrogen:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

 

Context:

The Centre is planning to use the green hydrogen fuel from wastewater by using solar energy. It is possible by using electrolyzers.

 

How this can be achieved?

By segregation of solid waste management using the rooftop solar, we can make green hydrogen with the help of electrolysers. The power and water cost of producing it would be negligible. We can use this fuel even in railway engines along with cement and chemical companies instead of coal.

 

Challenges:

The path for green hydrogen in the country is not clear and at the moment, production of green hydrogen is slightly more expensive than grey hydrogen.

 

What is green hydrogen?

Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen which has no carbon  footprint.

 

Significance of Green Hydrogen:

  • Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Targets and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.
  • Green Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.
  • In terms of mobility, for long distance mobilisations for either urban freight movement within cities and states or for passengers, Green Hydrogen can be used in railways, large ships, buses or trucks, etc.

 

Applications of green hydrogen:

  • Green Chemicals like ammonia and methanol can directly be utilized in existing applications like fertilizers, mobility, power, chemicals, shipping etc.
  • Green Hydrogen blending up to 10% may be adopted in CGD networks to gain widespread acceptance.

 

Benefits:

  • It is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
  • Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.

 

Insta Curious:

Hydrogen is an invisible gas. But, then how are they named green, pink and so on? Read here.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Green Hydrogen.
  2. How is it produced?
  3. Applications.
  4. Benefits.
  5. About the Hydrogen Energy Mission.

Mains Link:

Discuss the benefits of Green Hydrogen.

Sources: PIB.

Changes to Biological Diversity Act, 2002:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

 

Context:

Government has recently introduced the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha.

 

Highlights of the Bill:

  1. The Bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
  2. The Bill proposes to exempt AYUSH practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge.
  3. The Bill also facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
  4. The Bill brings more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
  5. The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
  6. The Bill has also clarified and strengthened the role of state biodiversity boards.

 

Why is the Biodiversity Act 2002 being amended?

  • People from AYUSH medicine urged the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
  • They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.

 

Concerns:

  • The main focus of the bill is to facilitate trade in biodiversity as opposed to conservation, protection of biodiversity and knowledge of the local communities.
  • The bill has been introduced without seeking public comments as required under the pre-legislative consultative policy.
  • There are ambiguous provisions in the proposed amendment to protect, conserve or increase the stake of local communities in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.
  • Activists say that the amendments were done to “solely benefit” the AYUSH Ministry.
  • The bill has excluded the term Bio-utilization which is an important element in the Act. Leaving out bio utilization would leave out an array of activities like characterization, incentivisation and bioassay which are undertaken with commercial motive.
  • The bill also exempts cultivated medicinal plants from the purview of the Act but it is practically impossible to detect which plants are cultivated and which are from the wild.

 

Biological Diversity Act, 2002:

  • Enacted for the conservation of biological diversity and fair, equitable sharing of the monetary benefits from the commercial use of biological resources and traditional knowledge.
  • The main intent of this legislation is to protect India’s rich biodiversity and associated knowledge against their use by foreign individuals.
  • It seeks to check biopiracy, protect biological diversity and local growers through a three-tier structure of central and state boards and local committees.
  • The Act provides for setting up of a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) in local bodies.
  • The NBA will enjoy the power of a civil court.

 

Insta Curious:

Have you heard about the Nagoya Protocol? Read about it here.

Sources: the Hindu.

Facts for Prelims:

 

Open Acreage Licensing Policy:

Context:

India has offered eight blocks of oil and gas in the seventh bid round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP).

  • The objective is to bring more area under exploration, leading to increase in domestic production and reduction of imports.

What is OALP?

Launched under the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) in 2017.

  • Under OALP, companies are allowed to carve out areas they want to explore oil and gas in.
  • Companies can put in an expression of interest (EOI) for any area throughout the year but such interests are accumulated thrice in a year. The areas sought are then offered for bidding.
  • It provides uniform licences for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbons, enabling contractors to explore conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources.
  • Fields are offered under a revenue-sharing model and throw up marketing and pricing freedom for crude oil and natural gas produced.

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