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 ina 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:
- Judicial recusals
- Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)
GS Paper 3:
- Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)
Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)
- Bushfire Management Program
- Disposable Diapers
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
- International Museum Expo 2023
- Link death and birth register
- Govt cuts subsidy on electric 2-wheelers
- Pangenome Map
- Tipping Points
- Climate Reparations
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Judiciary
Context: Calling it an attempt to indulge in ‘bench hunting’, a former SC judge refused (last week) to recuse himself from hearing a plea.
What is recusal?
- It is the act of declining to take part in an official activity, such as a court case because the administrative or court authority presiding over it has a conflict of interest.
- This conflict of interest can arise in many ways – from holding shares in a litigant company to having a prior or personal association with a party.
The practice of judicial recusals stems from:
- The cardinal principles of due process of law:
- Nemo judex in sua causa – no person shall be a judge in his own case.
- Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done.
- The oath of office: Both the SC and HC judges promise to perform their duties without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, in accordance with the III Schedule of the Constitution.
- Restatement of the Values of Judicial Life adopted by the SC: It forbids a judge from deciding a case where he holds pecuniary interest unless the concerned parties clarify that they have no objections.
Recent instances of judicial recusals:
- In the afore-mentioned case involving a former IPS officer (Sanjiv Bhat), recusal was sought on the ground that there was a likelihood of bias since the same Judge, a Gujarat HC judge had reprimanded the IPS officer.
- The CJI rejected an application seeking his recusal from hearing petitions seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
- Justice Gita Gopi of the Gujarat HC recused herself from hearing Rahul Gandhi’s appeal seeking a stay on his conviction in the criminal defamation case.
Why do judges recuse?
- To prevent the perception that the judge was biased while deciding a case.
- When an appeal is filed in the SC against an HC judgment delivered by the concerned judge before his elevation.
What is the procedure for recusal?
- Although several SC judgments have dealt with the issue, India has no codified rules governing recusals.
- There are two kinds of recusals – automatic (where a judge himself withdraws from the case) or when a party raises a plea for recusal.
- The decision to recuse rests solely on the conscience and discretion of the judge and no party can compel a judge to withdraw from a case.
- If a judge recuses himself, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to an alternate Bench.
Do judges have to record reasons for recusal?
Since there are no statutory rules governing the process, it is often left to the judges themselves to record reasons for recusals.
- The majority of the time, the grounds for recusal are not made public, which endangers judicial transparency.
- However, the Delhi HC recently ruled that any investigation into the reasons for recusal would constitute an interference with the course of justice.
What rules have the SC formulated in the past?
- Ranjit Thakur v. Union of India (1987): To determine if a judge should recuse, what is relevant is the reasonableness of the apprehension of bias in the mind of the concerned party.
- State of West Bengal v. Shivananda Pathak (1998): Judicial bias is a condition of mind which renders the judge incapable of impartiality in a particular case.
- SC Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015): Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry is needed to establish whether there is a ‘real danger’ of bias.
- Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Ors (2019): Merely having a legal opinion does not disentitle one from being impartial.
Practice in foreign jurisdictions:
- The United States has a well-defined law on recusals, which details the grounds for recusal – financial or corporate interest, a case in which the judge was a material witness or a lawyer, and a relationship to a party.
- The United Kingdom’s law laid down a standard to look at the likelihood of bias from the perspective of a fair-minded and reasonable observer.
- It is the judge’s ‘constitutional duty’ to be ‘transparent and accountable’ and therefore reasons must be indicated for recusal (Justice Kurien Joseph).
- There is a need for ‘procedural and substantive rules to deal with the growing frequency of recusal pleas (Justice Madan Lokur).
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: International Relations
Context: Addressing the opening session of the FIPIC-3 summit (in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea/PNG), the PM of India highlighted the importance of the 14 members of the FIPIC.
The Pacific Island Countries (PICs):
- It consists of the 3 major groups of islands: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, and commonly refers to the 14 countries scattered in the South-West Pacific Ocean.
- These are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
- The region comprises strategically located (at the crossroads of significant maritime trade routes) small island nations, with small populations and resource-rich Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
- Their profile is rising particularly given the popularity of the Indo-Pacific construct.
India’s engagement with the PICs:
- In the early 19th century, Indian workers were taken to the region to work as indentured plantation labourers and most of whom settled particularly in Fiji and PNG.
- After independence, the region did not find much significance in India’s foreign policy.
- However, the changing geopolitical scenario and strategic and economic compulsions, rising naval capabilities have driven India to refresh and redesign its Pacific policy.
- India’s renewed interest can also be seen in the light of its own rechristened Act East policy.
- At this moment, the total annual trade between India and PICs is about $300 million – exports are around $200 million and imports are around $100 million.
The Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC):
- It was launched during the PM of India’s visit to Fiji in 2014 and includes 14 of the PICs.
- The FIPIC initiative marks a serious effort to expand (from the Indian Ocean) India’s strategic and commercial interests in the Pacific region.
India’s major assistance projects in the PICs:
- Setting up a special USD 1 million fund for adapting to climate change and clean energy, establishing a trade office in India, Pan Pacific Islands e-network to improve digital connectivity.
- India has increased the annual “Grant-in-Aid” from USD 125,000 to 200,000 to each of the 14 PICs for community projects of their choice, and launched a new Visitors Programme for PICs.
- At the FIPIC-2 (Jaipur, 2015), FICCI launched the Business Accelerator for FIPIC to provide necessary information and facilitation to businessmen on both sides.
The advantage to India: Presence of a sizable Indian Diaspora – nearly 40% of Fiji’s population is of Indian origin and about 3000 Indians live in PNG.
Challenges: India’s interaction with the PICs still largely revolves around its engagement with Fiji and PNG.
- Climate change is a crucial area of common concern where closer partnerships can be developed for effective and concrete solutions.
- For India, it is important to develop a comprehensive and clearly defined strategy to engage with all the PICs.
- The PM of India (at the FIPIC-3) called PICs “large ocean states”, highlighting their strategic-commercial importance for India.
- The recent efforts have brought India much closer to PICs and to further strengthen its ties, India should assist the development goals of the PICs.
Syllabus: E-Commerce/ Governance
Context: The article analyses the advantages and challenges of adopting an Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) in India.
What is ONDC?
The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a government initiative aimed at transforming the e-commerce market in India by shifting from a platform-centric model to an open-network model.
Similar to the success of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) project, which enables seamless money transfers across different payment platforms, the ONDC seeks to facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers regardless of the platforms they are registered on.
Explanation using an example:
Let’s imagine you want to buy a product online, like a smartphone. You are registered on Amazon, but you find a better deal on Flipkart for the same smartphone you want to buy. In the current system, you wouldn’t be able to purchase it from Flipkart because you’re not registered there.
But ONDC is like a big network that connects all the different e-commerce platforms together. So instead of being limited to one specific platform, you can buy products from different platforms, even if you are registered on only one of them.
Objectives of ONDC: Democratization and decentralization of e-Commerce; Inclusivity and access for sellers; Increased choices and independence for consumers and making goods and services cheaper.
Benefits and Challenges of ONDC:
|Benefits of ONDC||Challenges of ONDC|
|Level Playing Field for e-commerce operators||Technological Complexity of Implementation|
|Wider digital market access for MSMEs and traders||Customer switching from established platforms— a loss for established e-commerce companies|
|Drives competition and innovation in various sectors||Limited benefits as sellers are already free to list their products across various e-commerce platforms even in today’s platform-centric e-commerce model.|
|Increased freedom of choice for consumers—”Democratise e-commerce” and “provide alternatives to proprietary e-commerce sites”.||Limited benefits as services such as price-comparison that are offered by various private websites, already bridge the information gap and help buyers make better decisions.|
|Creates a neutral and regulated platform||Lack of clarity on addressing customer complaints and returns|
|Promotes openness, interoperability, and innovation||Major e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart hesitate to join ONDC due to loss of control, existing dominance, competitive disadvantage, infrastructure challenges, and control over pricing/policies.|
|Enhances transparency and accountability|
The way forward and Conclusion:
The success of the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) will depend on how efficient the listing of products from various sellers is and maintaining the quality of services. The government needs to focus on building a better digital space, implementing a digital education policy, conducting a well-funded adoption campaign, and providing a secured single window for issue resolution.
Discuss the significance of ONDC. (150 Words)
Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)
Bushfire is a wildfire that occurs in bushland or forested areas. It is characterized by uncontrollable flames that rapidly spread and can cause significant damage to vegetation, wildlife, and property.
Australia faces frequent bushfires due to its hot and dry climate, flammable vegetation like eucalypt forests, weather patterns including droughts and strong winds, and human activities like land clearing and arson.
To deal with it, a highly effective bushfire management program has been developed over the past 20 years. From April to June each year, fire managers use small controlled fires to reduce fuel loads and make the landscape safer. This practice, known as “painting with fire,” combines satellite data with Indigenous knowledge and expertise from pastoralists and park rangers.
Significance: The program has led to significant declines in fire across the region and has gained international attention as a model for fire management. It highlights the importance of integrating technology, local knowledge, and diverse skills to achieve sustainable and resilient environmental management.
Usage: Such techniques can be used for Indian forest fire management as well. Such solutions can be used in Disaster Management/ Environment/ Geography Questions.
Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)
Disposable diapers are single-use, absorbent diapers made of materials like plastic, absorbent polymers, and soft fibres. They are commonly used for infants and young children as a convenient alternative to cloth diapers.
Scientists have found a unique solution to make building materials cost-effective and environmentally friendly by incorporating disposable diapers into them.
Benefits: By using disposable diapers in construction, it can help reduce the environmental impact of traditional building materials like concrete. Recycling diapers in this way can make a positive difference by shrinking their carbon footprint and creating durable materials.
Usage: Such an example can be used in the Environment question to highlight the use of alternative materials in construction and minimization of wealth.
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: The Prime Minister inaugurated the International Museum Expo 2023 in New Delhi to celebrate the 47th International Museum Day (IMD).
- Also, India will have the world’s largest museum, Yuge Yugeen Bharat, that will capture 5,000 years of India’s history.
More about Museums:
|Museum||A museum is a place that preserves, collects, exhibits and interprets various objects and artefacts of cultural, historical, artistic, or scientific significance.|
|About International Museum Day||Observed on 18th May every year to raise awareness about museums.|
|About International Council of Museum (est. 1946; HQ: Paris)||Membership association and NGO that establishes professional and ethical standards for museums worldwide. The ICOM Red Lists of Cultural Objects at Risk are practical tools to curb the illegal traffic of cultural objects.|
|Importance of museums||It serves as a repository of knowledge, providing visitors with opportunities to learn, explore, and appreciate different aspects of human history, culture, and creativity. Provides inspiration from the past and a sense of duty towards the future.|
|Efforts by the Indian Government||Annapurna statue stolen from Banaras (recently returned from Canada), Mahishasur Mardini statue stolen from Gujarat (returned by New York’s Met Museum in 2018), and Chola Nataraja idols.|
|Administration of Museums in India||Not all museums are administered by the Ministry of Culture. Some are run independently under a Board of Trustees.|
|Notable Museums in India||National Museum, New Delhi; National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru; Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata; Asiatic Society, Kolkata; National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi.|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: A Bill to link birth and death register with electoral rolls will be introduced in the Parliament.
- If the birth and death certificate data are preserved in a special way, development works can be planned properly.
- Interlinking of various schemes
As soon as a person turns 18, the Election Commission will intimate him and make his voter card.
In case of someone’s death, the Census registrar will send a notice to the family that they have received information about the person’s death and the family has 15 days to object, following which the Election Commission will remove his name from the voter list.
Unique features in the Bill:
‘Geofencing of blocks’ to be covered under the Sample Registration System (SRS) is being done so that the enumerator cannot fudge the data and responsibility is fixed.
- Geofencing refers to the creation of virtual boundaries or perimeters around specific geographical areas.
About Birth rate:
It refers to the number of births per 1,000 individuals in a population over a specific period, typically measured per year. It is an indicator of the fertility level within a population.
About the Death rate:
Also known as mortality rate, it refers to the number of deaths per 1,000 individuals in a population over a specific period, usually measured per year. It represents the mortality or death occurrence within a population.
|Definition of Population Census||The total process of collecting, compiling, analyzing and disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, to all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country.|
|Nodal Ministry||Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.|
|Legal/Constitutional Backing||under the provisions of the Census Act, 1948; The population census is a Union subject under Article 246 of the India Constitution; 69th in the seventh schedule of the constitution|
|The decennial Census that was to be completed in 2021 has been indefinitely postponed, initially due to COVID-19 pandemic.|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: The Ministry of Education organised a workshop with the aim of unifying the 60 school examination boards operating in different States and union territories under one umbrella.
- The main component of this plan is PARAKH or the National Assessment Centre which has been set up as an organisation under the National Council of Educational Research and Training.
Need for unifying various school boards:
- To establish a common platform and framework that ensures fairness, equity, and seamless transitions for students across different boards and regions.
- To align curriculum standards, grading systems, and evaluation methodologies to enhance credibility, recognition of certificates, and grades obtained across boards.
- Unification also aims to address the prevailing rote examination culture and promote holistic assessments that encompass various dimensions of a student’s abilities and potential.
- It emphasizes the importance of well-designed question papers, balanced assessments, and reducing the burden of high-stakes examinations while effectively measuring student progress.
It has been launched as part of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 which envisaged a standard-setting body to advise school boards regarding new assessment patterns and the latest research and promote collaborations between them.
- It will be tasked with holding periodic learning outcomes tests like the National Achievement Survey (NAS) and State Achievement Surveys.
- It will work on three major assessment areas: large-scale assessments, school-based assessments, and examination reforms.
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: The government has decided to reduce the subsidy provided under the FAME-II scheme for electric two-wheelers starting in June.
Ministry of Heavy Industries notified changes:
- The subsidy for electric two-wheelers would be reduced to ₹10,000 per kilowatt hour (kWh) effective 1 June 2023 from ₹15,000 currently.
- The cap on incentives for such vehicles has been lowered to 15% of the ex-factory price of vehicles from the earlier 40%.
- But the total amount allocated toward providing incentives for these vehicles will be raised from the current ₹2,000 crores.
The rationale for changes:
The intention behind lowering the subsidy and increasing the funds for electric two-wheelers is to support more consumers through the FAME scheme with the available funds.
About the FAME Scheme:
|Background||FAME India is part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan and aims to encourage electric vehicles through subsidies. It covers all vehicle segments.|
|Phases of the scheme||Phase I: Started in 2015 and completed on March 31, 2019. Phase II: Started in April 2019 and completed on March 31, 2022.|
|Technologies covered||Hybrid & Electric technologies, including Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles.|
|Monitoring Authority||Department of Heavy Industries, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.|
|Four focus areas||Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects, Charging Infrastructure.|
|Objectives||Encourage faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles through upfront incentives. Establish necessary charging infrastructure.|
|Salient features of Phase II||Emphasis on electrification of public transportation, including shared transport. Incentives are mainly applicable to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes. Benefits extended to vehicles with advanced batteries like Lithium-Ion.|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: A pangenome reference map has been built using genomes from 47 anonymous individuals from Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, East Asia, and Europe.
About Pangenome Map
|What is Pangenome Map?||A pangenome map is a way of looking at the collective genetic information of a group of related organisms or species. It goes beyond just one individual’s genetic makeup and considers the genetic diversity within that group.|
|What is genome and genome sequencing?||The human genome refers to the entire set of DNA in the nucleus of every cell in the human body. It is like an identity card (e.g., Aadhar) unique to each individual. Genome sequencing is a method used to determine the precise order and arrangement of the four letters (A, T, G, and C) in the genome. It helps us understand human diversity at the genetic level and our susceptibility to certain diseases.|
|What is a reference genome?||A reference genome is a complete set of genetic information for a specific individual. When newly sequenced genomes are compared, they are matched against a reference map called a reference genome.|
|How pangenome map is different from the Reference genome?||While a reference genome represents a single individual, a pangenome map captures the genetic diversity and variation across multiple individuals or populations.|
|Principle||The concept of a pangenome acknowledges that a species’ genome is not a fixed entity and is different for different individuals. This genetic variation contributes to differences in traits, disease susceptibility, and other biological characteristics.|
|Why is a pangenome map important?||A pangenome map provides a comprehensive understanding of a species’ genetic content. This helps explain genetic differences, and human diversity, study gene evolution, identify disease-associated genes, and understand the overall genomic architecture of a species.
This can shed light on disease prevalence, aid in discovering new genes for rare diseases, design better diagnostic methods, and facilitate the discovery of novel drugs for those diseases.
|Pangenome map and India||The current pangenome map does not include genome sequences from Indians. However, it can still help map Indian genomes against existing error-free and complete reference genomes.|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: A study suggests that climate change could push up to 30% of species over tipping points as their geographic ranges experience unforeseen temperatures.
About Tipping Points:
|Definition||‘Tipping points’ are thresholds where the earth’s systems can no longer stabilize. Crossing these points becomes more dangerous with increased warming.|
|Explanation||For example, the melting of Greenland’s ice can reach a tipping point where the ice loss accelerates, leading to a significant rise in sea levels.|
|Examples of tipping point||Melting of Greenland ice; Collapse of Antarctic glaciers (resulting in sea level rise); Destruction of Amazon forests; Melting of all permafrost, etc.|
|Recent Findings||Five dangerous tipping points may have already been passed due to 1.1°C of global heating caused by human activity.|
|Impacts on Animals||When their geographic ranges experience unfamiliarly hot temperatures, up to 30% of species could be at risk. This can lead to habitat loss and potential extinction. Animals may need to adapt or migrate to cooler regions, but the short timeframe makes it challenging.|
|Actions Needed||Urgent action to reduce carbon emissions is crucial to mitigate harm and prevent an extinction crisis. Conservation efforts should be guided by early warning systems to protect vulnerable species.|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: A new study has found that the world’s top 21 fossil fuel companies owed over US $ 5 trillion in climate reparations, to be disbursed over a 26-year period from 2025 to 2050.
The companies with the highest reparations: ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, and Shell.
About Climate reparations:
|Definition||Climate reparations aim to rectify climate injustice by requiring those most responsible for climate change to provide support to those who have been wronged.|
|Principles of Climate Reparations||Polluter pays principle (Polluters should be held liable for the costs of remedial action); More responsibility of rich countries (for past historical emissions); Reparations-based approach to climate refugees; Rich countries should provide financial and technological support to developing nations|
|Steps Taken||Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) (Established in 2013 to compensate developing countries affected by climate disasters); Green Climate Fund (promise of $100 billion per year by 2020); Least Developed Countries Fund|
|Additional Measures Needed for Reparations||Establish an international compensation commission to handle claims from countries that have incurred adaptation expenses, similar to the United Nations Claims Commission; Prioritize adaptation measures; Establish a separate channel for loss and damages; Long-term climate finance; enforce legal measures for petroleum companies to share a part of their profit for GHG mitigation efforts|
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has tripled its payout to the Indian government, deciding to transfer ₹87,416 crores as surplus for the accounting year 2022-23 (nearly three times the ₹30,307 crores transferred in the previous fiscal year)
- Also, RBI has increased the Contingency Risk Buffer to 6%, up from 5% in the previous year.
About RBI’s surplus transfer to the government:
|Definition||RBI’s surplus transfer to the government refers to the transfer of excess income over expenditure by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This transfer is mandated by the Reserve Bank of India Act of 1934 and is done annually.|
|RBI’s Earning||Returns earned on foreign currency assets (such as bonds, treasury bills) and deposits with other central banks; Interest on holdings of local rupee-denominated government bonds; Management commission on handling the borrowings of state governments and the central government.|
|RBI’s Expenditure||Printing of currency notes, Commission was given to banks and primary dealers for underwriting borrowings, contingency funds and staff expenses.|
|Surplus Transfer Policy||Finalized based on the recommendations of the Bimal Jalan committee.|
|Reasons for the transfer||Perception of RBI being overcapitalized compared to other central banks; The excess capital could be put to productive use by the government; Higher dividends of RBI from public sector banks and oil marketing companies; Increased earnings on investments, valuation changes on dollar holdings, revaluation of forex assets|
|Implications||Helps government in bank recapitalization during economic slowdown; Enables government to stimulate the economy; Helps meet the fiscal deficit target|
|About Contingency Risk Buffer||It refers to a reserve maintained by the RBI to protect the economy against potential financial stability crises or unforeseen risks. It serves as a cushion to absorb any adverse shocks.
In view of the RBI’s function as a lender of last resort, it needs to maintain some Contingent Risk Buffer (CRB) to insure the economy against any tail risk of financial stability crisis. The Bimal Jalan Committee recommended that the CRB needs to be maintained at a range of 5.5% to 6.5% of the RBI’s balance sheet.
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