UPSC 2017: Comprehensive News Analysis - July 22

TABLE OF CONTENT

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
Polity
1. Protect transgenders from Section 377: Panel  
2. India performs miserably in war on inequality
3. Protection performs miserably in war on inequality
4. Audit performs miserably in war on inequality
5. ‘Major deficiencies in Army’s ammunition reserves’ 
6. Untrained teachers get 2 years to qualify
C. GS3 Related
Economics
1. Taxing Body Parts
2. Agrarian crisis: the challenge of a small farmer economy
D. GS4 Related
E. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn
F. Bills/Acts/Schemes/Orgs in News
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

 

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UPSC Current Affairs 2017: News Analysis

 

A. GS1 Related


Nothing here for Today!!!

 

B. GS2 Related


Category: POLITY

1. Protect transgenders from Section 377: Panel

In news:

  • A parliamentary panel- the standing committee on social justice and empowerment, has suggested that the Centre exempt the transgender community from the ambit of the law criminalising homosexuality, noting that welfare of this socially marginalised group requires an initiative in this direction.
  • Other recommendations: the panel has said that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill should recognise transgender persons’ right to marriage, partnership, divorce and adoption.

Section 377: Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

2. India performs miserably in war on inequality

In news:

  • India has been ranked 132 out of 152 countries in an index that rates countries by their commitment to reducing inequality.
  • The first report edition of the index, released recently, showed that OECD countries headed by Sweden ranked the highest while Nigeria was at the bottom.
  • The US had the highest level of inequality among developed countries, though it is the wealthiest country in history.
  • Neighbors ranking:

Bhutan-143, Nepal- 81 and China- 87.

Index:

  • The index and the inequality report were put together by the international NGO Oxfam and Development Finance International to measure the efforts of governments that had pledged to reduce inequality as part of the sustainable development goals.
  • The index mainly focused on redistributive actions governments can take, rather than those that would prevent rising inequality in the first place.

Key tool to reduce inequality:

  • Progressive taxation, where corporations and the richest individuals are taxed more in order to redistribute resources and ensure the funding of public services, is a key tool for governments committed to reducing inequality.

Why India is unable to reduce inequality?

  • The report noted that government spending on health, education and social protection was woefully low in India.
  • The tax structure looks reasonably progressive on paper, but in practice much of the progressive tax is not collected.
  • India fared poorly on labour rights as well as respect for women in the work place.
  • The report said that if India were to reduce its inequality by a third, 170 million people could be raised out of poverty. In contrast, it noted how Namibia had halved the poverty rate from 53% to 23% with very high spending on health and education.

3. Protection of personal data a right: Centre

Context:

  • The Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution Bench is hearing a petition filed by students — led by Karmanya Singh Sareen — alleging that a contract entered into between Facebook and instant messaging platform WhatsApp in 2016 was a violation of the citizens’ right to privacy.
  • This data includes photographs, messages and pictures shared by users on WhatsApp.

Centre’s observation:

  • Personal data is an integral part of one’s dignity and life.
  • Any sharing of personal data by service providers or social media platforms, which impinges on a person’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, requires regulation.

Regulatory mechanism: a regulatory mechanism is in the offing to protect people from personal data leaks online.

4. Audit slams Railways on food quality

Context:

  • A Comptroller and Auditor General report tabled in Parliament has found severe deficiencies in the catering services of the Indian Railways, with several stations and trains serving food items “unfit for human consumption”, unpurified tap water being used for food preparation, and food being left unprotected from insects and rats.

CAG audit highlights:

  • Articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuff, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorised brands of water bottles, etc, were offered for sale on stations.
  • Cleanliness and hygiene standards were not being maintained in the catering units at stations and on trains.
  • Unfair trade practices at stations and in trains: Bills were not provided for the food items served on trains; waiters and catering managers on the trains did not carry printed menu cards with tariffs; the food served was less than the prescribed quantity; unapproved packaged drinking water was sold; and Proprietary Article Depot items were being sold in railway stations at their maximum retail prices
  • The report also found that the weights and prices of the items sold at railway stations were different from the open market, and that the unit price of food articles sold in railway premises was significantly higher.

Basic Information:

CAG:

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is an authority, established by the Constitution under Constitution of India/Part V – Chapter V/Sub-part 7B/Article 148, which audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government.
  • The CAG is also the external auditor of Government-owned corporations and conducts supplementary audit of government companies, i.e., any non-banking/ non-insurance company in which Union Government has an equity share of at least 51 per cent or subsidiary companies of existing government companies.
  • The reports of the CAG are taken into consideration by the Public Accounts Committees (PACs) and Committees on Public Undertakings (COPUs), which are special committees in the Parliament of India and the state legislatures.
  • The CAG is also the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department, the affairs of which are managed by officers of Indian Audit and Accounts Service, and has over 58,000 employees across the country.
  • The CAG is mentioned in the Constitution of India under Article 148 – 151.
  • The CAG is ranked 9th and enjoys the same status as a judge of Supreme Court of India in Indian order of precedence

5. ‘Major deficiencies in Army’s ammunition reserves’

Context:  Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report highlights a dismal picture of the Army’s War Wastage Reserve (WWR) ammunition, especially of high caliber equipment needed to wage intense war.

Highlights:

  • No significant improvement in the availability of WWR ammunition.
  • On the efforts to procure ammunition, the CAG noted that there continued to be a critical deficiency in the availability and quality of ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) since March 2013.

War Wastage Reserve (WWR): WWR is the reserve quantity of ammunition needed to meet the requirements for the expected duration of operations.

6. Untrained teachers get 2 years to qualify

Context:

  • Lok Sabha passes Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Objective:

  • Bill offers untrained teachers teaching in schools time till March 31, 2019, to acquire B.El. Ed (Bachelor of Elementary Education) or D. El. Ed. (Diploma in Elementary Education) qualifications to hold their jobs as teachers.

Rationale behind the introduction:

  • Many new schools had come up in the days of educational expansion under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the RTE, and many teachers who were hired did not have requisite degrees, some having studied only till school.
  • They were given five years to train themselves, and many did, but 5-6 lakh private schools teachers and 2.5-lakh government school teachers still did not have the requisite degrees.

 

C. GS3 Related


Category: ECONOMICS

1. Taxing Body Parts

Context:

  • Unfortunately, items of luxury, whose deprivation causes no challenges to human existence is being prioritised and charged less compared to aids and appliances that are essential items for persons with disabilities.

Current tax bracket:

  • The GST on aids and appliances for persons with disabilities uses such as Crutches, callipers, hearing aids, walking frames, etc. would attract a GST of 5 per cent.
  • But the items used to embellish your body, will attract less and in some cases, no GST.
  • Kajal, kumkum, bindi, bangles and even human hair are not taxed at all, and gold and diamonds will attract a GST of just 3 per cent.
  • Puja samagri like rudraksha, prasadam, panchamrut, cotton wicks etc. are also exempt from GST.
  • There is a lower slab of 0.25 per cent for items like unpolished stones.

Rationale: It is to enable the domestic manufacturer to claim input tax credit for raw materials used in the manufacture of these products.

Impact on the disabled and other vulnerable sections:

  • Aids and appliances that are essential items for persons with disabilities for their daily routine, access opportunities of education or employment or enjoyment of other rights or the discharge of duties as a responsible citizen.
  • The fact that without aids and appliances the disabled are deprived of all these and forced into a dis-empowered state of seclusion

 Earlier tax regime

  • Items like Braille printer, refreshable Braille display and Braille note-taker, talking watches and clocks, audio labelling devices, DAISY players are entirely imported items and did not attract any taxes earlier.
  • There are no domestic manufacturers of these products.
  • Raw materials like aluminium extrusions, square tubes and round tubes of aluminium used in the manufacture of artificial limbs and many rehabilitation aids were exempt from the earlier tax regime.
  • It needs to be underlined that input tax credit is, in any case, merely a by-product of the tax channels’ unification, the weeding out of redundancy and the cascading taxes rife in the system that existed earlier.

Possible Solution:

  • If the intent of the government is to protect the domestic industry, the government has to take the following concrete steps.
  • Help Indian manufacturers build capacity by way of a technology incubator.
  • Extend existing indigenous manufacturers’ scattered production centres into a nation-wide network of distribution, customisation and servicing.

Basic Information:

GST Council: The GST Council aims to develop a harmonized national market of goods and services. The composition of the GST Council includes:

  • The Union Finance Minister (as Chairman),
  • The Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance, and
  • The Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other Minister, nominated by each state government.
  • The decisions of the GST Council will be made by three-fourth majority of the votes cast. The centre shall have one-third of the votes cast, and the states together shall have two-third of the votes cast.

The GST Council will make recommendations on:

  • Taxes, cesses, and surcharges to be subsumed under the GST;
  • Goods and services which may be subject to, or exempt from GST;
  • The threshold limit of turnover for application of GST;
  • Rates of GST;
  • Model GST laws, principles of levy, apportionment of IGST and principles related to place of supply;
  • Special provisions with respect to the eight north eastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand; and
  • Other related matters.

2. Agrarian crisis: the challenge of a small farmer economy

Context: problems faced by farmers

Importance of Agricultural sector:

  • With a large population to feed, imports will not solve our problem if there is a severe drought and food shortage
  • Though agriculture now accounts for less than 15% of gross domestic product (GDP), it is still the main source of livelihood for nearly half our population

Reason behind the current Agrarian crisis

(1). Landless Farmers

  • Around 83% of rural households are either entirely landless or own less than 1 hectare of land
  • Farmers’ tiny plots of land can no longer sustain whole families, especially in rain-fed agriculture, which accounts for two-thirds of India’s total cultivable area

(2). Shortage of money

  • Landless or marginal farmers lack the resources to either buy or lease more land or invest in farm infrastructure like irrigation, power, farm machinery, etc.
  • About 52% of agricultural households are estimated to be in debt, and the average size of household debt is Rs 47,000

(3). Different kind of Risks

  • Weather: The large majority of small farmers are dependent on the rains. A weak monsoon or even a delayed monsoon means a significant loss of output
  • Soil: The next risk is weak soil fertility, pests and plant diseases
  • Price: The better the crop the lower would be the price
  • Net income sometimes collapses if there is a very good crop of perishables 

MSP benefits large traders instead of farmers:

  • For foodgrains like rice and wheat, government procurement at the minimum support price is supposed to protect the farmer
  • But MSP benefits the large traders who sell grain to the government
  • Small farmers typically do not have enough marketable surplus to justify the cost of transporting the crop to government corporations in the towns
  • In the case of other crops, Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) have the opposite effect
  • Farmers have to sell their produce through auctions in regulated markets controlled by cartels of licensed traders
  • These licences give traders oligopolistic market power

Solution to farmer problems: Cooperative farming systems

  • There are several variants of cooperation ranging from collective action in accessing credit, acquiring inputs and marketing to production cooperatives.
  • This also includes land pooling; labour pooling; joint investment, joint water management and joint production.

Advantage of Cooperative farming systems

The advantages of aggregating small farms into larger, voluntary, cooperatives include:

  1. Greater capacity to undertake lumpy investment in irrigation and farm machinery,
  2. More efficient farming practices,
  3. Greater bargaining power and better terms in the purchase or leasing of land,
  4. Access to credit,
  5. Purchase of inputs and the sale of produce

 

D. GS4 Related


Nothing here for Today!!!

 

PIB Articles                           

 

E. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn


 

F. Bills/Acts/Schemes/Orgs in News


Bills in News About the Bills
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. In addition, the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers.
  • A transgender person must obtain a certificate of identity as proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to invoke rights under the Bill.
  • Such a certificate would be granted by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee. The Committee would comprise a medical officer, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a district welfare officer, a government official, and a transgender person.
  • The Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare. It directs the central and state governments to provide welfare schemes in these areas.
  • Offences like compelling a transgender person to beg, denial of access to a public place, physical and sexual abuse, etc. would attract up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The Supreme Court has held that the right to self-identification of gender is part of the right to dignity and autonomy under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, objective criteria may be required to determine one’s gender in order to be eligible for entitlements.
  • The Bill states that a person recognised as ‘transgender’ would have the right to ‘self-perceived’ gender identity. However, it does not provide for the enforcement of such a right.  A District Screening Committee would issue a certificate of identity to recognise transgender persons.
  • The definition of ‘transgender persons’ in the Bill is at variance with the definitions recognised by international bodies and experts in India.
  • The Bill includes terms like ‘trans-men’, ‘trans-women’, persons with ‘intersex variations’ and ‘gender-queers’ in its definition of transgender persons. However, these terms have not been defined.
  • Certain criminal and personal laws that are currently in force only recognise the genders of ‘man’ and ‘woman’.  It is unclear how such laws would apply to transgender persons who may not identify with either of the two genders.
Articles in News About the Articles
Article 148. Comptroller and Auditor General of India

(1) There shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General of India who shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal and shall only be removed from office in like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court

(2) Every person appointed to be the Comptroller and Auditor General of India shall, before he enters upon his office, make and subscribe before the President, or some person appointed in that behalf by him, an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule

(3) The salary and other conditions of service of the Comptroller and Auditor General shall be such as may be determined by Parliament by law and, until they are so determined, shall be as specified in the Second Schedule: Provided that neither the salary of a Comptroller and Auditor General nor his rights in respect of leave of absence, pension or age of retirement shall be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment

(4) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall not be eligible for further office either under the Government of India or under the Government of any State after he has ceased to hold his office

(5) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and of any law made by Parliament, the conditions of service of persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department and the administrative powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General shall be such as may be prescribed by rules made by the President after consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General

(6) The Administrative expenses of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, including all salaries, allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of pensions serving in that office, shall be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India

Article 149. Duties and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General

The Comptroller and Auditor General shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and of the States and of any other authority or body as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and of the States as were conferred on or exercisable by the Auditor General of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution in relation to the accounts of the Dominion of India and of the Provinces respectively.

Article 150. Form of accounts of the Union and of the States

The accounts of the Union and of the States shall be kept in such form as the President may, on the advice of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, prescribe

Article 151. Audit reports

(1) The reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India relating to the accounts of the Union shall be submitted to the President, who shall cause them to be laid before each House of Parliament

(2) The reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India relating to the accounts of a State shall be submitted to the Governor of the State, who shall cause them to be laid before the Legislature of the State

Schemes in News

About the Scheme

Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana
  • PMVVY is a Pension Scheme announced by the Government of India exclusively for the senior citizens aged 60 years and above
  • The Scheme can be purchased offline as well as online through Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India which has been given the sole privilege to operate this Scheme

Components of the scheme

  • Scheme provides an assured return of 8% p.a. payable monthly (equivalent to 8.30% p.a. effective) for 10 years
  • The scheme is exempted from Service Tax/ GST
  • On survival of the pensioner to the end of the policy term of 10 years, Purchase price along with final pension installment shall be payable
  • The scheme also allows for premature exit for the treatment of any critical/ terminal illness of self or spouse. On such premature exit, 98% of the Purchase Price shall be refunded
  • On death of the pensioner during the policy term of 10 years, the Purchase Price shall be paid to the beneficiary

 

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam


Question 1. The Nahar Wildlife Sanctuary (NWS) is located in which state?
  1. Rajasthan
  2. Assam
  3. Haryana
  4. Kerala
See
Answer
Question 2. The most important source of information about the agrarian conditions during 
Mughals is_______.
  1. Ain-i-Akbari
  2. Akbarnama
  3. Muntakhab-ul-Lubab
  4. Tarikh-i-Ferishta

See

Answer
Question 3. Which among the following is known as the earliest example of Panchayatana 
style of temple?
  1. Dashavatara temple at Deogarh
  2. Temple at Pathari
  3. Shatrughneshwara temple at Bhubaneshwar
  4. Lakshmana temple at Sirpur

See

Answer
Question 4. With respect to the President of India, which among the following statements 
is / are correct?
  1. A person who has been president of India is eligible for immediate re-election
  2. A person can not hold the office of president of India for more than two consecutive terms

Choose the correct option from the codes given below:

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 & 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 5. Which among the following in India are known for substantial coral reef 
formations?
  1. Gulf of Mannar
  2. Gulf of Kachchh
  3. Andaman and Nicobar
  4. Lakshadweep Islands

Choose the correct option from the codes given below:

  1. Only 1 & 2
  2. Only 2 & 3
  3. Only 2, 3 & 4
  4. 1, 2, 3 & 4

See

Answer

 

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G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions


GS Paper II

Indian Society

  1. “While there is no shame in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex or even straight – there is a most certain shame and dishonour in being a homophobe, a transphobe and a bigot,” Do you agree with this? Comment critically.
GS Paper III

Agriculture

  1. “Government procurement at the minimum support price is supposed to protect the farmer. But it mainly benefits the large traders.” Discuss.

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