UPSC 2017: Comprehensive News Analysis – December 20

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY
1. Ensure level-playing field for the disabled in higher educational institutions: SC
2. Round-up of Bills to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament
3. Centre examining health effects of e-cigarettes: Nadda
4. Parliament gives nod to IIM Bill
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
1. China a threat, India an ally: Trump
2. China slams U.S. strategy as ‘Cold War mentality’
3. U.S. partnership vital in Asia-Pacific: India
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. e-way bills for transport of goods
2. CAG picks flaws in Centre’s accounting
3. CAG pulls up food regulator
4. ‘Need to bolster WTO process’
5. ‘Northeast policy to aid trade with ASEAN’
INTERNAL SECURITY
1. Intelligence on Terror
D. GS4 Related
E. Prelims Fact
F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY

1. Ensure level-playing field for the disabled in higher educational institutions: SC

 Supreme Courts observation:

  • Higher educational institutions, both government ones and those who take government aid, should ensure a level-playing field for disabled persons or face action for discrimination.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act:

  • Act provides for not less than 5% reservation in seats during admissions
  • This law has not so far been complied with observed the Supreme Court and it cautioned that appropriate legal action would be initiated against defaulting educational institutions.

Constitution of committee:

  • The apex court directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to constitute a committee to consider the feasibility of having guidelines for accessibility of students with disabilities in universities and colleges.
  • The expert committee may also consider the feasibility of constituting an in-house body in each educational institution (of teachers, staff, students and parents) for taking care of day-to-day needs of differently abled persons as well as for implementation of the schemes that would be devised by the expert committee

Supreme Court raised three key issues:

  • Three key issues – the non-implementation of reservation of seats in educational institutions as provided in the Disabilities Act, the lack of proper access for orthopaedically disabled persons in educational institutions and the absence of provisions and facilities for teaching disabled persons.
  • The Court noted that a provision under the 2016 Act provided that persons with benchmark disabilities shall be given an upper age relaxation of five years for admission in institutions of higher education.
  • The court said the educational institutions concerned should submit a list of the number of disabled persons admitted in each course every year to the Chief Commissioner or State Commissioner under the Disabilities Act.

2. Round-up of Bills to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • It seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 by incorporating clauses to introduce third-party insurance, enhance road safety, and develop a framework for regulating taxi aggregators like Ola, Uber, and Meru
  • The Bill proposes to set a ceiling for third party insurance in case of an accident
  • The Bill caps liability at Rs.10 lakh in the case of fatalities, and Rs.5 lakh for grievous injuries
  • A solatium fund is to be instituted to compensate victims of hit-and-run accidents

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill

  • The FRDI Bill is aimed at insuring the money of a bank’s depositors in case the bank would have to be liquidated
  • The FRDI Bill proposes the setting up of a Resolution Corporation, “whose direction and management vests with the Board, subject to the terms and conditions of the Act”
  • A ‘Corporation Insurance Fund’ is the financial vehicle which will be used to garner insurance inflows
  • The bail-in clause has emerged as the major bone of contention with depositors
  • This gives banks the authority to issue securities in lieu of the money deposited

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017

  • This Bill seeks to assimilate the Indian diaspora into the democratic process by allowing them to cast their votes through postal or e-ballots
  • If the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 is passed by Parliament, it has the potential to make a tangible difference in electoral politics
  • This is because parties would also have to accommodate the interests of NRIs, which may be far removed from those of their compatriots

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017

  • It is being re-introduced after factoring in the changes recommended by the Upper House
  • The basic objective of the law is to institute the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)
  • Its functioning would be analogous to that of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
  • The Constitution grants NCSC the jurisdiction to investigate complaints regarding discrimination against backward castes and Anglo-Indians
  • The Bill will create a constitutionally mandated body to look into the complaints of educationally and economically backward classes
  • The body will have the power of a civil court in dealing with complaints brought before it

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017

  • This law would make the practice of triple talaq a criminal offense
  • Triple talaq is a practice by which a Muslim man can arbitrarily divorce his wife by repeating the word talaq (divorce) three times
  • The Supreme Court had termed triple ‘un-Islamic’ in August

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and grant citizenship to illegal migrants, especially those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction
  • The law defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner who enters the country without valid travel documents or one who overstays his visit
  • A foreigner who has been residing in the country for the past six years or has been in government service for that duration of time will qualify for citizenship, as opposed to the old law which required 11 years of domicile to prove naturalization
  • This clause is waived for individuals of the aforementioned religions who are persecuted in their countries

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

  • The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in 2014
  • The 2016 version of the legislation identifies transgenders as being “partly female or male, or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”
  • This definition which draws a clinical caricature is a departure from the intention of the original Bill to cleanse society of the stigma it placed on transgenders
  • The anti-discriminatory clauses of the Bill are extended to education, healthcare, and social security
  • Transgenders will also be provided rescue, protection, and rehabilitation
  • Educational institutions have been directed to adopt an inclusive approach that is gender-neutral

3. Centre examining health effects of e-cigarettes: Nadda

In news:

  • The government is examining the legal implications and health effects of e-cigarettes
  • The Health Ministry had constituted three groups to study the various aspects of e-cigarettes

Three groups formed:

  • Group one studied the legal implications of this e-nicotine drug induce system
  • The second group studied the health effects
  • The third group studied advocacy
  • All three sub-groups have given their reports and the Ministry is working on them

4. Parliament gives nod to IIM Bill

 In news:

  • Parliament has unanimously passed a Bill to grant the Indian Institutes of Management the power to grant degrees instead of post-graduate diplomas
  • The Bill also allows students to acquire doctoral degrees from the IIMs

Doctoral degrees

  • Earlier, fellowships of the IIMs were not regarded as Ph.D.s, which led students to complete their diplomas and go abroad if they wanted to earn a doctoral degree
  • The passage of this Bill will pave the way for more research at these prestigious institutions

Administrative changes

  • The Bill also confers on the 20 IIMs the status of institutions of national importance, granting them greater functional autonomy by restricting the role of the government in them
  • As per the IIM Bill, 2017, a Board of Governors will appoint the Director of each IIM
  • A search-cum-selection-committee will recommend the names and the director will be eligible for variable pay as determined by the Board

Category: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

1. China a threat, India an ally: Trump

 In news:

Objectives of President Donald Trump’s new national security strategy:

  • Promised support for India’s emergence as a “leading global power,” while identifying China, Russia and Islamism as main threats.
  • Enhancing India’s global standing from being a ‘balancing power’ to be a ‘leading power’ has been a stated strategic objective of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • US to expand its defence and security cooperation with India, a major defence partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships throughout the region.
  • Increase quadrilateral cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India
  • India finds a mention as a partner in Mr. Trump’s plans for South and Central Asia and Indo-Pacific, while China is named as a threat in both sections.
  • US to deepen its strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.

2. China slams U.S. strategy as ‘Cold War mentality’

 In news:

  • China and Russia, decried President Donald Trump’s first national security strategy — which pilloried both nations as challengers to U.S. power — as a “Cold War mentality” with an “imperialist character”.
  • China and Russia challenges American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.

Threat to U.S.

  • The security strategy warns that Russian nuclear weapons are “the most significant existential threat to the United States”.

3. U.S. partnership vital in Asia-Pacific: India

 In news:

Statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry:

  • The Indo-U.S. partnership helps maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Statement was issued hours after President Donald Trump announced the new National Security Strategy of the U.S. and described India as a “leading global player”.
  • A close partnership between India and the U.S. contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region as well as to the economic progress of the two countries

India-U.S. Designations Dialogue:

  • Both the sides (India and the U.S.) held the inaugural of India-U.S. Designations Dialogue focussing on specific groups and individuals responsible for cross-border terrorism against India.
  • Both sides exchanged information about the strategy to be followed to isolate and ban terrorism-related individuals and organisations.

Key Fact: India has been campaigning for banning Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Masood Azhar at the UN but has failed in its goal due to China’s opposition.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. e-way bills for transport of goods

  • Starting February 1, all inter-State movement of goods worth over Rs. 50,000 will be tracked with the introduction of the e-way bill system under the GST regime.
  • All consignments moving more than 10 km from their origin will require prior registration and generation of an e-way bill through the GST Network, which will be valid for varying durations depending on the distance travelled.
  • A few States have already imposed their own requirements for such bills since the GST roll-out in July
  • All States must implement the bill system for capturing intra-State trade by June 1.
  • Therefore, a fully integrated tracking system for all taxable goods can be expected only then. This poses an interim headache for firms operating across States, as they will now face differing compliance requirements for inter-State trade and intra-State trade, depending on when individual States launch their own e-way bill systems.
  • To be fair, inter-State movement of goods was also tracked under the VAT (value-added tax) regime, but intra-State transactions were not.
  • Over 150 items of common use, including LPG cylinders, vegetables, foodgrain and jewellery, will be exempt from such transport permits, which can be checked by designated tax officials by intercepting a transporting vehicle. Goods moved on non-motorised conveyance, such as carts, have been left out.
  • In October, the GST Council had decided to introduce e-way bills in a staggered manner from January 1, with a nationwide roll-out on April 1, 2018.
  • After easing the GST burden on small businesses and exporters in its recent meetings, the GST Council’s decision on Saturday to advance the implementation of e-way bills just two days after polling closed in Gujarat signals that there are serious concerns on the tax collection front.
  • After a monthly Rs. 90,000 crore-plus inflow in the GST’s first three months, revenue in October plummeted to just over Rs. 83,000 crore. And this was even before substantive tax rate cuts made by the Council kicked in.
  • With States claiming a revenue shortfall of about Rs. 40,000 crore so far under the GST, the Centre, which has to fill that gap, is also feeling the pinch.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who faces a serious fiscal dilemma even before he presents the Union Budget in less than two months, has said the next set of GST features, such as e-way bills and matching of invoices, will make tax evasion difficult and bump up collections.
  • Plugging revenue leakages is essential, and encouragingly, Karnataka’s e-way bill experience in the first month saw very few glitches. Given industry’s nervousness, the government must simplify the onerous rules proposed for e-way bills (a one-day validity for distances up to 100 km, for instance), ensure that the IT backbone is robust, and make inspections the exception, not the norm.

2. CAG picks flaws in Centre’s accounting

 In news:

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has highlighted several flaws in the Union government’s accounting procedures for the financial year 2015-16
  • This could have led to an understatement of the fiscal deficit and revenue deficit for that year

Key issues:

  • The report highlighted the fact that the government had deferred payments amounting to more than 1.87 lakh crore in 2015-16, which would have also had an impact on its fiscal and revenue deficits for that year
  • Though the accounts of the government are prepared on cash basis, yet the deferment of liabilities to subsequent year cyclically has a bearing on computation of fiscal indicators
  • As a result of deficiency in estimating the expenditure on grants for creation of capital assets, the provision included in the Budget for grants for creation of capital assets was underestimated which has also impacted the correct estimation of effective revenue deficit
  • The report added that due to the misclassification of revenue expenditure as capital expenditure and vice versa, the revenue deficit was understated by 1,583 crore during financial year 2015-16
  • Amounts collected under levies and cesses were not transferred to the relevant funds, which led to an “understatement of revenue/fiscal deficit by an equivalent amount” during 2015-16

Transparency:

  • The CAG also noted that there were several issues with the transparency of the government’s account statements
  • Refunds of 1,29,482 crore were made from gross direct tax collections in FY2015-16 but no corresponding disclosure was available in the government accounts

FRBM targets

  • CAG pointed out that the government had failed to meet the FRBM targets for 2015-16 on both the fiscal deficit and the revenue deficit
  • Government had subsequently changed the targets and deadlines without making the relevant changes in the Act itself
  • The annual reduction targets were not in accordance with the provisions of the FRBM Act/Rules
Basic Information:

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003:

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003 (FRBMA) is an Act of the Parliament of India to institutionalize financial discipline, reduce India’s fiscal deficit, improve macroeconomic management and the overall management of the public funds by moving towards a balanced budget and strengthen fiscal prudence.

The main purpose was to eliminate revenue deficit of the country (building revenue surplus thereafter) and bring down the fiscal deficit to a manageable 3% of the GDP by March 2008.

However, due to the 2007 international financial crisis, the deadlines for the implementation of the targets in the act was initially postponed and subsequently suspended in 2009.

Targets and fiscal indicators

Subsequent to the enactment of the FRBMA, the following targets and fiscal indicators were agreed by the central government:

  • Revenue deficit

Date of elimination – 31 March 2009 (postponed from 31 March 2008)

Minimum annual reduction – 0.5% of GDP

  • Fiscal Deficit

Ceiling – 3% of the GDP by 31 March 2008

Minimum annual reduction – 0.3% of GDP

  • Total Debt – 9% of the GDP (a target increased from the original 6% requirement in 2004–05)

Annual reduction – 1% of GDP

  • RBI purchase of government bonds – to cease from 1 April 2006

3. CAG pulls up food regulator

In news:

  • The CAG has pulled up food regulator The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for issuing licences to business operators without complete documents.
  • 65 of the 72 State food laboratories, to which the FSSAI and the State authorities had sent samples, did not possess the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories accreditation.

CAG highlights:

  • The FSSAI had failed in ensuring that the customs authorities followed up the ‘Non-Conformance Reports’ issued by the regulator and take appropriate action to ensure that unsafe foods did not enter the country.
  • There were systemic inefficiencies, delays and deficiencies in the framing of various regulations and standards, amendments to regulations in violation of the Act and the specific direction of the Supreme Court.
  • Shortage of qualified manpower and functional food testing equipment in State laboratories and referral laboratories resulted in deficient testing of samples.
  • Neither the FSSAI nor the State authorities documented policies and procedures on risk-based inspections
  • The regulator did not have any database on food business.

4. ‘Need to bolster WTO process’

 In News:

  • Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said: The World Trade Organisation (WTO) process needs to be strengthened and taken forward.
  • India is having a strategic interest in the functioning of the multilateral trade system.
  • India is planning to host a mini-ministerial (meeting of a few WTO member nations) in February to further its position on the multilateral trade body and to pursue its interest in a fruitful manner (to get more support for food sovereignty and other issues including the ‘development agenda’ of the Doha Round talks.

Buenos Aires meeting:

  • The Buenos Aires meeting ended in an impasse with the US blocking the demands of over 100 developing nations, including India and China, on food security issues.
  • The US had also questioned the centrality of development in multilateral trade negotiations.

5. ‘Northeast policy to aid trade with ASEAN’

 In news:

Highlights of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report:

  • The new Industrial Policy being framed for the development of industries in the northeast would prove catalytic to the trade with Southeast Asian nations.
  • Of the $56 billion of FDI that came in in 2000-2017 from ASEAN countries, $54 billion was from Singapore.
  • Outbound FDI from India to ASEAN countries is a substantial amount of $52 billion.

Category: INTERNAL SECURITY

1. Intelligence on Terror

 

  • It is difficult to recognise the new generation of terrorists as a mere extension of the earlier lot of radical Islamist terrorists who were influenced by the teachings of the Egyptian thinker, Sayyid Qutb, and the Palestinian Islamist preacher, Abdullah Azzam, and adopted the practical theology of the Afghan warlord, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
  • There is less theology today and the new age terrorist seems to belong to an altogether different genre of terrorism.
  • This is not to say that the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai were not different in the methodology and the tactics used in the September 11, 2001 attack in New York City.
  • Nevertheless, the spate of recent attacks in Europe and parts of Asia, from 2015 to 2017 — beginning with the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January 2015, the major incidents at Brussels and Istanbul Ataturk airports as well as the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, all in 2016, to the string of attacks in London, Stockholm, Barcelona and New York, in 2017 — are very different in structure and the morphology from attacks of an earlier period.
  • Understanding the constantly altering trajectory of terror is important before charges of intelligence failure are levelled.
  • It has become axiomatic to attack agencies of intelligence failure whenever a major terror attack takes place. This need not be the case in every instance. The usual charge levelled is of the failure of intelligence agencies “to connect the dots”.
  • Most often, this is not true. There are many other reasons for adequate intelligence not being available to prevent a terror attack. The danger is that a wrong diagnosis could prevent further improvements in intelligence collection and analysis.
  • One common fallacy is that intelligence agencies have remained static, are rooted in the past, and that their personnel are inadequately trained to handle current day intelligence tasks.
  • While there is room for improvement, it is a mistake to presume that intelligence agencies have not made rapid progress and kept up with the times. Intelligence agencies today are well-versed in the latest techniques of intelligence gathering and analysis.
  • Agencies obtain vast amounts of information from both human and technical intelligence, not excluding signal intelligence and electronic intelligence, intelligence from satellites and photo reconnaissance, etc. This is apart from open source intelligence.
  • Agencies employ data mining techniques and are familiar with pattern recognition software. Today, noise and signals constitute valuable meta-data. Analysing meta-data has produced more precise information and intelligence than is possibly envisaged, and agencies well recognise the value and utility of this.
  • In addition, intelligence agencies have become highly adept in monitoring and exploiting open source material. Mapping and analysis of social networks is today a critical aspect of their work.
  • This is especially useful when it comes to unearthing covert terror networks. Many intelligence agencies today have an extensive database of several thousands of terrorists and potential terrorists.
  • Admittedly, intelligence agencies, like many other organisations, are risk-prone. They do make mistakes. Intelligence analysts, like analysts in other fields, are particularly vulnerable.
  • Problems also arise from inadequate sharing of intelligence across institutions and countries. All these, however, are a far cry from the charge of an inability or failure “to connect the dots”.
  • The real problem is that when dealing with terrorism and terror networks, no two situations in the actual world are identical. The nature of threats is such that they continue to evolve all the time.
  • Both the 2001 terror attack in New York and the November 2008 attack in Mumbai were one of a kind with few parallels at the time. Anticipating an attack of this nature remains in the area of an “intelligence gap” rather than an “intelligence failure”.
  • Most experts explain an intelligence gap as one denoting an absence of intelligence output while an intelligence failure is one where, based on available evidence, no warning was issued.

New challenges

  • One of the major challenges that all intelligence agencies face is a qualitative understanding of the newer, and many post-modern threats. These newer generation threats, including those by terror groups and outfits, often lie “below the radar” or beyond the horizon.
  • Anticipating such threats and their nature requires intelligence agencies to be constantly ahead of the curve. Anticipating newer threats is only partly facilitated by today’s technical advances such as new computing and communication technologies. However, these alone are not often enough to meet today’s intelligence needs.
  • As problems become more complicated, and as terror networks become even more sophisticated, there has to be recognition that the situation demands better understanding of factors that are at work.
  • Levelling mere charges or accusations against intelligence agencies of a failure to anticipate an attack by not “connecting the dots” could be misleading, if not downright dangerous.
  • All professional analysts in whichever field they operate face the same problem as intelligence agencies, and vividly outlined by David Omand, a former U.K. Intelligence and Security Coordinator as “seeing through a glass darkly when the information available to them is incomplete or partially hidden”.
  • Alongside this, and to fill the gap, there is a case for far greater sharing of intelligence and information among intelligence agencies worldwide than it exists at present. This is important to prevent another terror attack on the lines of the Mumbai 2008 attack.
  • It now transpires that certain foreign intelligence agencies had additional information about the possible attack which was not shared in time, and which led to an intelligence gap. This could have been avoided.
  • More important, such a situation should never arise in the future. Terror and terrorism is a universal phenomenon. Every nation is bound to share the intelligence available with it to prevent a possible major terror attack.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

E. PRELIMS FACT

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. The religion of early Vedic Aryans was primarily of
  1. Bhakti
  2. Image worship and Yajnas
  3. Worship of nature and Yajnas
  4. Worship of nature and Bhakti

See

Answer

Question 2. Which of the following parties were established by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar?
  1. The Peasants and Workers Party of India
  2. All India Scheduled Castes Federation
  3. The Independent Labour Party

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

See

Answer

Question 3. Lord Buddha’s image is sometimes shown with the hand gesture called 
‘Bhumisparsha Mudra’. It symbolizes 
  1. Buddha’s calling of the Earth to watch over Mara and to prevent Mara from disturbing his meditation
  2. Buddha’s calling of the Earth to witness his purity and chastity despite the temptations of Mara
  3. Buddha’s reminder to his followers that they all arise from the Earth and finally dissolve into the Earth, and thus this life is transitory
  4. Both the statements (a) and (b) are correct in this context

See

Answer

Question 4. Consider the following kinds of organisms:
  1. Bat
  2. Bee
  3. Bird

Which of the above is/are pollinating agent/agents?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

See

Answer

Question 5. The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the air is slowly raising the temperature 
of the atmosphere, because it absorbs 
  1. The water vapour of the air and retains its heat
  2. The ultraviolet part of the solar radiation
  3. All the solar radiations
  4. The infrared part of the solar radiation

See

Answer

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper II
TOPIC: RIGHTS ISSUE  
 
  1. “To ensure the level-playing field, it is not only essential to give necessary education to the persons suffering from the disability, it is also imperative to see that such education is imparted to them in a fruitful manner.” Discuss.
GS Paper III
   

TOPIC: CASE STUDY 
 
  1. You are the manager of a spare parts company A and you have to negotiate a deal with the manager of a large manufacturing company B. The deal is highly competitive and sealing the deal is critical for your company. The deal is being worked out over a dinner. After dinner the manager of manufacturing company B offered to drop you to the hotel in his car. On the way to hotel he happens to hit motorcycle injuring the motorcyclist badly. You know the manager was driving fast and thus lost control. The law enforcement officer comes to investigate the issue and you are the sole eyewitness to it. Knowing the strict laws pertaining to road accidents you are aware that your honest account of the incident would lead to the prosecution of the manager and as a consequence the deal is likely to be jeopardised, which is of immense importance to your company.

    What are the dilemmas you face? What will be your response to the situation?

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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