TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY 1. High Court order on faculty quota will create ‘greater inequity’, Centre to tell SC 2. Right to marry person of one’s choice is integral to right to life & liberty: SC on Hadiya case 3. Cauvery water dispute: Supreme Court pulls up Centre, says submit plan by May 3 4. SC seeks govt report on facilities given to Rohingyas refugees in India INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India, Bangladesh discuss Teesta water sharing issue, Rohingya refugee crisis 2. India-US: ‘2-by-2’ dialogue put off, India says no to defence minister talks 3. India hopes Russia wouldn't do anything to harm its interests: Envoy Pankaj Saran C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Rain, hailstorm flatten crop, drench harvest in Punjab, Haryana and UP 2. Modi tasks Central PSEs to come up with growth plan in 100 days 3. Pesticide companies allege Rs 7k-cr ‘scam’ 4. Government allows thermal power gencos to use renewables 5. Indian tech start-ups may struggle to comply with new EU data law 6. Power ministry unveils scheme to help 2,500 MW stranded thermal plants DEFENCE 1. Armed forces get a big boost! Modi govt signs Rs 639 crore contract for 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. German physics Nobel laureate Peter Gruenberg dead at 78 ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT 1. Dams in India did more harm than good, says UN Water report D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. Patents and protecting public health F. Prelims Fact G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
1. High Court order on faculty quota will create ‘greater inequity’, Centre to tell SC
- The Union government is set to approach the Supreme Court this week to oppose the Allahabad High Court order, which paved the way for the UGC’s new formula for calculating reservation in faculty positions across universities, on the ground that it will drastically reduce the number of reserved posts, leading to “greater inequity” and “inadequate representation” of the SC and ST community.
- As first reported by The Indian Express on March 20, the Centre will file a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court this week in a bid to rollback UGC’s March 5 order, which announced that reservation for teachers will be calculated department-wise, instead of being based on the total posts in a university.
- The UGC order was based on the High Court verdict of April 2017 when, while hearing a case on teachers’ recruitment at Banaras Hindu University, it had said each department, rather than the entire university, should be treated as the “unit” on which reservations are based.
- Following a row and feedback from an inter-ministerial committee, the HRD Ministry is set to appeal against the above court order on the following grounds:
- The government has collected empirical evidence that shows implementation of the Allahabad HC order reduces the number of reserved teaching posts drastically.
- Reservation based on department or subject as a unit will lead to a situation in which many departments with single post cadres (usually the position of a professor) will be outside the purview of reservation.
- Even in departments having two or more faculty posts, but less than, say, 15 in a cadre, only one post will be reserved for an SC candidate at serial number 7 and for an ST candidate at serial number 14. So if a department has only six associate professor-level posts, then nothing will be reserved for SC/ST candidates. Reservation will only be implemented through rotation and that could take years.
- As per Article 16(4) of the Constitution, the Union government is empowered to make provision for reservation in appointments to posts under the state by executive orders.
- The Allahabad HC order impedes the government’s power to constitute as many cadres in any particular service as it may choose depending on administrative convenience and expediency.
- The judgments on which the High Court based its own order were concerned either with state legislations or incorrect advertisements issued by universities. These judgments did not examine the reservation policy of central government.
2. Right to marry person of one’s choice is integral to right to life & liberty: SC on Hadiya case
“The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution”, the Supreme Court said and set aside a 2017 order of the Kerala High Court which annulled the marriage of Kerala Muslim convert girl Hadiya and Shefin Jahan.
The three-judge bench delivered two separate detailed concurring judgments, one by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar and the other by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
The court also allowed the NIA to continue its investigation in respect of any criminality with the rider that it should not encroach upon their marital status.
The apex court had set aside the HC order on March 8 itself. However, it gave only a brief order then and said the detailed order would be pronounced later.
- “The choice of a partner whether within or outside marriage lies within the exclusive domain of each individual. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable.
- The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith. The Constitution guarantees to each individual the right freely to practise, profess and propagate religion.
- Choices of faith and belief as indeed choices in matters of marriage lie within an area where individual autonomy is supreme.
- Neither the state nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters. They form the essence of personal liberty under the Constitution”, wrote Justice Chandrachud.
- “Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe are at the core of constitutional liberty. The Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics.
- Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity.
- Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners,” he added.
The HC, said Justice Chandrachud, had entered into prohibited terrain by venturing to decide whether Shefin Jahan was a fit person for Hadiya to marry.
- “Our choices are respected because they are ours. Social approval for intimate personal decisions is not the basis for recognising them. Indeed, the Constitution protects personal liberty from disapproving audiences”, his judgement underlined.
- Justice Chandrachud added that strength of the Constitution lies in its acceptance of the plurality and diversity of the country’s culture. “The cohesion and stability of our society depend on our syncretic culture. The Constitution protects it. Courts are duty bound not to swerve from the path of upholding our pluralism and diversity as a nation”, he added.
- The CJI and Justice Khanwilkar in their judgement said the High Court had been “erroneously guided by some kind of social phenomenon that was frescoed before it.”
- “The social values and morals have their space but they are not above the constitutionally guaranteed freedom”, the two judges said adding it is a constitutional and a human right. “Deprivation of that freedom which is ingrained in choice on the plea of faith is impermissible. Faith of a person is intrinsic to his/her meaningful existence. To have the freedom of faith is essential to his/her autonomy; and it strengthens the core norms of the Constitution. Choosing a faith is the substratum of individuality and sans it, the right of choice becomes a shadow.”
The court called Hadiya’s father as an obstinate one who has endeavoured immensely in not allowing his daughter to make her own choice in adhering to a faith and further making Everestine effort to garrotte her desire to live with the man with whom she has entered into wedlock.
The court termed this a manifestation of the idea of patriarchal autocracy and possibly self-obsession with the feeling that a female is a chattel.
The High Court, the judges said, erred by reflecting upon the social radicalization and certain other aspects and added this was absolutely unnecessary in a Habeas Corpus petition like the instant one.
The bench said that non-acceptance of Hadiya’s choice would mean abdication by the Constitutional Court which is meant to be the protector of fundamental rights. “Such a situation cannot remotely be conceived.
The duty of the court is to uphold the right and not to abridge the sphere of the right unless there is a valid authority of law. Sans lawful sanction, the centripodal value of liberty should allow an individual to write his/her script. The individual signature is the insignia of the concept,” it said.
- Faulting the HC order as “wholly fallacious”, the bench said that it was for the law-enforcing agency to take action if there was any criminality involved, and the HC could not have justified her “detention” unless she was booked under some law.
- Hadiya converted to Islam in January 2016. Months later, she married Jahan, triggering allegations of forced conversion.
- Claiming that her daughter had been “brainwashed”, Hadiya’s father K M Ashokan moved the Kerala High Court which annulled the marriage and sent Hadiya to her parents’ custody last May. On appeal by Jahan, the Supreme Court summoned Hadiya, interacted with her in open court and then sent her to continue her studies in a Salem college.
- The NIA, meanwhile, has been probing whether Hadiya was forced to convert to Islam. The NIA’s probe, on direction from the Supreme Court, began in August last year. The agency filed a status report of its probe in the court and stated that there was a well-oiled machinery behind the conversion of Hadiya and other girls.
- The court said the realisation of a right is more important than the conferment of the right. “It is so because the individualistic faith and expression of choice are fundamental for the fructification of the right. Thus, we would like to call it indispensable preliminary condition,” said the Chief Justice.
3. Cauvery water dispute: Supreme Court pulls up Centre, says submit plan by May 3
Pulling up the Centre for not sticking to the March 29 deadline for framing of a scheme to implement the award for distribution of the Cauvery river waters, the Supreme Court directed the government to come up with a draft scheme by May 3.
- The delay over implementation of the river share award has sparked off protests in Tamil Nadu, and raised the pitch in poll-bound Karnataka.
- A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, turned down the Centre’s request for three more months to act on its February 16 verdict and directed it to prove its bonafide by submitting the draft. It also asked Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to ensure peace on the emotive issue.
Citing assembly elections in Karnataka, the Centre on March 30 had asked the Supreme Court to extend by three months the deadline for implementation of the judgment, saying there were fears that any announcement on Cauvery may vitiate the election process and cause serious law and order problems.
- The February 16 order in the decades-old Cauvery water dispute laid down the water share of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. It allocated more water to Karnataka and asked the state to release 177.25 tmcft water to Tamil Nadu from its inter-state Biligundlu dam.
- The court also directed that a scheme shall be framed by the Central government within a span of six weeks for implementation of the award.
- The Centre approached the court, seeking clarification on the nature of the scheme and more time for implementation. The Tamil Nadu government too filed a contempt plea against the Centre for not drawing up the scheme by March 29 as directed by the top court.
The bench said the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) order has been merged with the court’s decree. It also clarified the Centre’s doubts regarding the scheme. Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who appeared for the Tamil Nadu government, said that a scheme ultimately must provide for a board or an implementing authority. The CJI agreed to this.
Ministry of Water Resources told that the Centre is now free to frame the scheme which need not exactly be what the tribunal (CWDT) has said. The tribunal is recommendatory in nature and they have the flexibility to interpret the nature of the scheme.
- In its application, the Centre sought clarification from the Supreme Court on its direction, saying there were differences between some of the parties on the subject. It asked whether the court was open to the Centre framing the scheme at variance with the recommendations of the CWDT regarding the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
- The plea pointed out that the CMB, as recommended by the CWDT, was purely a technical body, and wanted to know if the Centre could modify its composition and include administrative and technical experts for effective conduct of the business of the Board and considering overall sensitivity of the issues involved.
- It also wanted the court to clarify whether the CMB to be constituted by the Centre can have functions different from the ones recommended for Cauvery Management Board by the CWDT.
4. SC seeks govt report on facilities given to Rohingyas refugees in India
The Supreme Court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive report with details of the basic amenities being provided to Rohingya refugees by 5 May.
- These would include details of facilities such as health, sanitation and drinking water being provided to the Rohingya refugees in different camps across the country.
- The Centre said it could not discriminate between city slum dwellers and the Rohingyas living in the same settlements in provision of facilities and said that it would file a comprehensive report to the court.
This argument was opposed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, one of the petitioners against the proposed deportation, who said that human rights must apply in full vigour as far as provision of basic amenities was concerned and that this must be in line with Article 21 (right to life) under the Constitution.
The centre had told the top court on 31 January that the issue regarding deportation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar was better left to be decided by the executive.
- Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said it could not allow the country to be flooded-by allowing anybody to enter it and become a refugee capital.
- An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, including the petitioners, live in India and are registered with the UN refugee agency in India.
- Highlighting what it called the serious ramifications on national security, the centre had told the apex court in September that it should not interfere and let the government take a decision under a fair and just procedure on the issue of deportation of Rohingyas, many of whom had illegally crossed borders seeking refuge from widespread violence and discrimination in their home country, Myanmar.
- Citing India’s large population and its complex social, cultural and economic infrastructure, the centre said that it would take a decision keeping in mind the larger interest of the nation along with other factors such as its natural resources, requirements of the country’s population and the national security threat it may pose.
- It was submitted that as a sovereign nation, its first and foremost constitutional duty towards its citizens would be to ensure that the demographic and social structure of the country is not changed to their detriment and that the resources of the nation are used to fulfil their fundamental rights and not diverted.
- The court was hearing a batch of petitions including one filed by two Rohingya Muslims-Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir-who are currently living in India.
- In a 16-page affidavit, the centre had held that the current influx of illegal Rohingya immigrants into India was a potential threat to internal and national security and in such a situation, the government would take a policy decision based on several parameters, diplomatic considerations and potential dangers to the nation.
- It was submitted by the petitioners that the proposed deportation was contrary to constitutional protection under Article 14 (equality under law), Article 21 (right to life) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India.
- Deportation would also be in violation of the principle of non-refoulement that prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they face threat to their life and has been recognized under customary international law.
The case will be heard next on 9 May.
1. India, Bangladesh discuss Teesta water sharing issue, Rohingya refugee crisis
India and Bangladesh signed six pacts including one for the construction of a 129.5 km-long oil pipeline between Siliguri and Parbatipur, and discussed the Teesta river water sharing issue.
- The pacts were signed on the sidelines of a visit to Dhaka by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale who met his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohammed Shahidul Haque.
- The discussions also covered the Rohingya refugee crisis between Bangladesh and Myanmar, a PTI report from Dhaka said.
- Six MoUs including India-Bangladesh Friendship pipeline between Siliguri & Parbatipur, agreement between Department of Atomic Energy, India and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, were signed during the visit.
- This is part of India’s endeavour to undertake projects in Bangladesh in various socio-economic sectors, including education, culture, health, community welfare, road infrastructure for which India was providing funds under grant financing.
- The MoU on the oil pipeline is aimed at transporting diesel from India to Bangladesh with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum.
- It focuses on deepening bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector and the mutual benefits for both sides that would accrue from the proposed construction of approximate 129.5 km long oil pipeline from the Siliguri Marketing Terminal of the Numaligarah Refinery Ltd (NRL) in India to the Parbaripur depot of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
- New Delhi remained a committed development partner of Dhaka and has extended lines of credit of over $8 billion to Bangladesh in the last seven years. This is the largest amount of credit India has ever committed to any single country.
- India also extended full support to Bangladesh’s efforts for resolving the Rohingya crisis, including the early repatriation of the displaced people to Myanmar.
- India sent relief materials for 300,000 Rohingyas in September under ‘Operation Insaniyat’ to support Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts.
- The assistance included field hospitals with all facilities to extend women and child healthcare while the relief supplies planned for the second phase included milk powder, baby food, dried fish, cooking stoves and cooking fuel, raincoats and gumboots.
- On the Myanmar side, India is providing socio-economic support under our Rakhine State Development Programme including construction of pre-fabricated housing in order to meet the needs of the returning people.
The two countries discussed all aspects of the relations between the two nations, including the pending Teesta water sharing issue.
2. India-US: ‘2-by-2’ dialogue put off, India says no to defence minister talks
India has declined an offer from the US for talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis in lieu of the ‘2-by-2’ dialogue between India’s foreign and defence ministers and US secretaries of state and defence.
- The inaugural ‘2-by-2’ dialogue was scheduled to be held in Washington this month, but was postponed as the US Secretary of State-designate, Mike Pompeo, is still awaiting his confirmation by the US Senate.
- New Delhi considered Washington’s proposal, sources said, but declined the offer as it didn’t want to diminish the importance of India’s first ‘2-by-2’ dialogue at the ministerial level.
- The ‘2-by-2’ ministerial dialogue was announced in August 2017 in a White House readout of a telephone call between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- During the preparatory talks in Washington last month, the US side pressed the Indian side to sign the two foundational agreements for defence cooperation: Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), earlier known as the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
- In 2016, India and the US had signed the third foundational agreement: Logistical Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which has since been operationalised.
- COMCASA, is needed if any classified military information is required to be exchanged between US and Indian armed forces, and would allow India to fully utilise the communication security equipment on military platforms it imports from the US.
- BECA provides for sharing and data gathering of geospatial information between the two militaries.
India’s concerns about COMCASA
- Despite signing LEMOA, New Delhi has not been convinced about signing COMCASA as a blanket agreement encompassing all communication across military platforms. Sources said India is willing to consider signing a COMCASA kind of agreement separately for every equipment that it imports from the US.
- Pentagon is, however, scheduled to send a team of officials and lawyers to New Delhi later this month to explain the need to sign COMCASA and BECA. Sources said the chances of signing these two agreements before the 2019 elections are rather slim.
- The two countries, sources said, have also agreed to institute a new amphibious exercise which will be announced shortly. Discussions on sale of armed UAVs and F-16 fighter jets by the US to India did not lead to any substantive progress during the preparatory talks.
3. India hopes Russia wouldn’t do anything to harm its interests: Envoy Pankaj Saran
India today hoped that Russia would not do anything to harm its interests as it steps up ties with Pakistan, underlining that New Delhi and Moscow enjoyed a multidimensional relationship based on mutual trust and strategic convergence.
- Calling nuclear energy as one of the most important and best examples of strategic cooperation between India and Russia, Indian envoy to Russia Pankaj Saran has said Russia is the only country which is building a nuclear power plant in India today.
- Our total installed generation capacity currently is 330 GW. India’s needs in the future are much higher. No single country or source of energy will be able to meet our requirements, but in any scenario Russia will be a major partner.
Relations between Russia and Pakistan.
- Russia is strengthening its military ties, including conducting military exercises, with Pakistan. In 2016, Russia and Pakistan held their first ever joint exercise called ‘Druzhba 2016’.
- In 2017, the special forces of Russia and Pakistan conducted a joint counter-terrorism exercise in the Mineralnye Vody region in Russia.
- Russia’s ties with Pakistan has become stronger since the two signed a military cooperation agreement in 2014.
Noting that India-Russia relationship has withstood the test of time, Saran said the bilateral cooperation has become even more relevant as the world is readjusting to the emergence of new powers.
Role in Afghanistan
- Underlining that India and Russia have the same objectives in Afghanistan, Saran said India wants to help Afghanistan build a safe, secure and stable society, to defeat the evil of terrorism and eradicate the threat from narcotics.
- Saran also noted that there is a deficit in information about Russia in India, as well as about India in Russia.
C. GS3 Related
1. Rain, hailstorm flatten crop, drench harvest in Punjab, Haryana and UP
Rain accompanied by high wind and isolated hailstorm walloped the food bowl states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, drenching harvested produce in grain markets and damaging ripe wheat and other winter crops in farms.
- Thestorm flattened wheat crop in several districts of Haryana and affected harvesting, according to farmers and administration officials. Also, it damaged this year’s wheat and mustard produce stacked in bags at wholesale markets.
- The farmers are worried that their wet wheat will not be procured until it dries in the next few days. The rain has delayed harvesting by nearly a week.
- The forecast is for more rain in the next 48 hours. Western disturbances are present over areas bordering Pakistan, which have attracted clouds over northern India.
- Punjab reported a similar scenario as rain and strong wind flattened crops in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Patiala, and Mohali districts. The state agriculture department said there’s no need to panic as the rain fell in isolated areas.
- Farmers and officials of procurement agencies reportedly covered harvested crops with tarpaulins in several places.
- The freak storm also damaged crops in eastern UP, while the administration asked sub-divisional magistrates to inspect rain-hit areas and assess the loss.
- In Bareilly and Moradabad regions, ripe wheat crop on an estimated 90 acres was flattened or submerged in water following spells of rain from Sunday evening till Monday afternoon. Hailstorm in some areas of Bareilly and Rampur affected crops.
2. Modi tasks Central PSEs to come up with growth plan in 100 days
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed heads and senior officials of around 331 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) to task them with a new mantra to emerge as the third arm of revenue generation to boost India’s GDP.
- Addressing the CPSE Conclave-Vision 2022, Modi put forth five challenges and asked for roadmaps with measurable targets to be prepared within 100 days towards fulfilling the vision of New India by 2022.
- The five challenges included:
- How will the CPSEs increase their Geo Strategic Reach?
- How to reduce India’s import bill?
- How to coordinate for innovation and research?
- How to use CSR funds for bringing the 115 aspirational districts on par with national indices?
- What new model they have to offer for the development of New India?
New India Ratnas
This was for the first time in 75 years that a conclave of all CPSEs was held. The PM outlined three mantras for CPSEs – incentives, imagination and institution building in order to bring about a transformation.
- PM Modi also tasked the companies to prepare measurable targets to integrate innovation and research of all CPSEs for better outcome, a road map by PSUs to optimally utilise their CSR funds and prepare a new development model for the country.
Contribution of PSUs
The share of CPSEs in net value addition as a ratio to the GDP stood at 4.63% in 2016-17, against 4.12% in 2015-16. CPSEs contributed more than Rs 3.85 lakh crore to the central exchequer in FY17 by way of taxes, interest, dividend, etc, up 40% year-on-year.
Competition between PSUs of China and India
- In recent years, the competition between PSUs of China and India have intensified overseas for commodities such as crude and minerals.
- With India’s merchandise trade in deficit, Modi asked CPSEs to prepare an action plan to reduce their import bills by 10-15% annually.
- These firms’ foreign exchange outgo on imports rose 19.2% year-on-year to Rs 3.61 lakh crore in 2016-17.
- Modi asked the executives to deliberate on the ways to improve the CPSEs’ return on equity (RoE) from the present level of around 11%, which was much lower than their private sector peers.
- He also asked the CPSEs to increase the share of MSMEs in their procurement from the current level of 19% and timely release payments to these smaller units, which play an important role in job creation. He also asked the CPSEs to gear up to meet challenges posed by disruptive technologies.
The government is drawing up a plan for the CPSEs, in what could signal its intent to revamp these units so that they can more efficiently contribute to the economy and nation building.
The overall net profit of 257 operating CPSEs went up by 11.7% to Rs 1.27 lakh crore in FY17. They recorded a turnover of more than Rs 19.5 lakh crore, 6.5% higher over the previous year.
3. Pesticide companies allege Rs 7k-cr ‘scam’
The manufacturers have demanded the Centre not to allow foreign companies to import pesticide formulations without registering technical details or information about the active ingredients with Indian regulators. (PTI)
- There is an unnoticed scam of more than Rs 7,000 crore by permitting import of readymade pesticide formulations by multinational companies. If the imports are not stopped and with no supportive policy for the domestic pesticide industry, there could be a forex loss of over Rs 10,000 crore by 2020.
- The manufacturers have demanded the Centre not to allow foreign companies to import pesticide formulations without registering technical details or information about the active ingredients with Indian regulators. A technical is a high purity chemical which is the active ingredient and first registered anywhere in the world.
- According to the manufacturers, the proposed Pesticide Management Bill-2017 should provide a level playing field for Indian companies as it is being finalised in the next three months.
- Further, there is no clarity on definitions and registration procedures for formulations and technical details which may lead to harassment of manufacturers and traders by authorities.
- The country imports Rs 16,000 crore worth of formulations every year while the domestic demand was pegged at up to Rs 25,000 crore. The registrations are being granted for imports of readymade pesticide formulations without registering Technical Grade material, twisting Insecticides Act, 1968.
- The Pesticides Management Bill 2017 (PMB 2017), the new legislation to replace Insecticides Act, 1968 to govern pesticides regulations, is suitable to importers and MNCs, thereby killing the domestic pesticides industries, he said.
- Incidentally, there has been a 20% increase in prices for some of the products which were being imported from China and stopped recently. This calls for a comprehensive policy to step up local production, he added.
- According to Confederation of All India Small and Medium Pesticides Manufacturers Association (CAPMA), one of the biggest problems faced by farmers as well as pesticide industry is the government policy of allowing registrations for import of readymade pesticide formulations without registering the Technical Grade material used in the formulations in the country.
- The policy guidelines created in the year 2007 gives total monopoly to importers, mainly MNCs to charge exorbitant prices from farmers for the pesticides imported, restricting entry of Indian manufacturers.
- The monopoly by importers leads to higher profit margins of over 200-400% looting poor farmers. For instance, Bispyribac Sodium 10% SC is a broad spectrum herbicide formulation used in rice cultivation.
- When there was single registration under formulation import of the product, the cost of the product was rS 8,500 KL but due to the judicial intervention by PMFAI through Gujarat High Court when registrations were granted for same product to two to three Indian companies, the price of the product came down to `3,000 KL.
The bad policy of allowing formulation import without registering the Technicals has resulted in no new investments in new plants in last 10 years by big companies to manufacture Technical products in the country, thus leading to closure of many manufacturing factories of formulators in the country.
- The Pesticides Management Bill 2017 (PMB 2017) is silent on the need for compulsory registration of Technical Grade pesticides (active ingredients) in India, which means it can create monopolies for formulation importers. Insecticide Schedule which is an integral part of Insecticide Act, 1968 is missing from PMB.
- Insecticide Schedule which serves as guide to identify all recognised/registered pesticides is very key for farmers and pesticide industry.
- In PMB 2017, there is no clarity on definitions and registration procedures for pesticide formulations along with Technical Grade products, which will lead to harassment of manufacturers and traders. Over regulations of exports of pesticides in PMB can adversely affect exports of pesticides.
- Importing country imposes its own regulations on pesticides exported from India which is to be followed before any such pesticides are used in that country. Seeking huge data on export registrations will only hinder competitive edge in pesticide exports, he said.
- The registration committee framed new guidelines in 2007 conflicting Insecticides Act 1968, which helped importers derive monopoly for products which are more than 25 years old.
- It is relevant to note that FAO/WHO and other major agricultural nations such as the US, Europe, Australia, Brazil, China, among others, also mandates registrations of Technical Grade Pesticides before granting registrations for Formulations except India.
- If at all registrations are to be granted for Formulation Import, then registration of Technical Grade products is made compulsory, which could avoid unjustifiable monopolies to avoid competitive market for key agri inputs like pesticide formulations.
4. Government allows thermal power gencos to use renewables
The power ministry has allowed thermal power generation companies (gencos) the flexibility of using renewable energy sources to meet their contractual generation obligations. The move is aimed at easing complexities faced by electricity distribution companies (discoms) to comply with the mandate of buying a certain portion of electricity from renewable energy sources.
- To meet renewable purchase obligations (RPOs), discoms have to find suitable balancing power sources to support the infirm nature of renewable energy, adding to their exisiting financial stress.
- Under the new mechanism, thermal gencos can set up renewable power plants at their existing power stations, or anywhere else, thus allowing discoms to meet their RPOs through existing PPAs.
- Apart from facilitating the mission of having 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022, the move would also partly insulate thermal gencos from taking the hits stemming from the ongoing transition in the country’s energy mix.
- The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission would make necessary regulatory changes to implement the scheme. The Central Electricity Authority will monitor the scheme, and suggest changes and road maps for its success.
- According to IDFC Securities, the scheme will allow power generating companies such as NTPC to set up wind/solar power stations and avail of the benefits of this policy, given that some of the power stations located far from pithead have an energy charge higher than Rs 3/unit.
- In a push to increase the share of green energy in its installed capacity, NTPC has recently come up with tenders for 4,750 MW of wind and solar power projects.
5. Indian tech start-ups may struggle to comply with new EU data law
The European Union’s (EU’s) upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which envisages strict rules for handling personal data of users, is proving to be costly for Indian technology start-ups that have operations in Europe.
- The new regulation that takes effect on 25 May specifies new protocols for handling and storing private data, and sharing it with third parties. Flouting GDPR regulations can attract fines of up to €20 million, or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover.
- Europe is an important market for start-ups operating in the business-to-business (B2B) segment and mobile gaming. Hefty fines and strict regulations could hinder a firm’s operations or lead to a complete shutdown, according to start-ups and policy experts.
- GDPR is enforceable even if companies do not have an office in the EU or do not operate in the EU, but handle private data of EU citizens.
Most small tech companies that export software to Europe do not sign any formal service or legal agreement, in an attempt to stay away from auditors.
Such measures to get around regulations could prove to be fatal for small organizations, legal experts said.
- The new regulations also leave a lot of room for interpretation and the level compliance differs according to the size of the company.
- For example, a part of the law suggests firms should maintain a reasonable level of data protection, but the law itself does not define what reasonable protection is.
- The biggest problem firms face while trying to comply with GDPR is the lack of clearly-defined guidelines. There is no single authority to certify the level of compliance. This leaves a lot of subjectivity and hence can cause confusion amongst smaller companies that may not have easy access to the right legal entities.
- Nevertheless, policy experts and Internet rights activists believe that GDPR also sets new data protection standards in place, which is likely to be adopted by other countries as well.GDPR will be the most comprehensive dedicated legislation on data protection ever formulated.
- This is not to say that GDPR, once in force, will immediately make things better for everyone as there certainly will be difficulties initially in adapting current industry practices to this stricter and more nuanced framework.
- It will be especially challenging for businesses that serve the European market while operating from jurisdictions with more relaxed data protection laws, as reconciling GDPR with domestic regulations will be a complicated process.
6. Power ministry unveils scheme to help 2,500 MW stranded thermal plants
- In an attempt to bring some relief to the stressed thermal power sector, the government has introduced a pilot scheme to procure electricity from power plants without PPAs. A combined capacity of 2,500 megawatt (MW) will be procured through this scheme.
- Though no timeline for inviting tenders has been announced, the power ministry said PTC India would sign three-year (mid-term) power purchase agreements (PPAs) with successful bidders and contract with power distribution companies (discoms) to sell electricity.
- The pilot plan proposes that a single entity, which quotes or matches the lowest bid in the auction, would be allocated a maximum capacity of 600 MW. A company cannot quote part capacity from different power stations in the same bid. If PTC procures power less than 55% of contracted capacity in a month, the power plant would be paid a compensation, whose quantum would be linked to spot power prices at the Indian Energy Exchange.
- The competitive bidding for the pilot scheme would be conducted by PFC Consulting, a subsidiary of the Power Finance Corporation. PFC Consulting had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with PTC India in January for exploring power procurement opportunities from coal-based power plants.But, the capacity and scope of procurement were not announced then.
- Tepid rise in growth in power demand, coupled by rampant capacity addition, has resulted in power plants running at low utilisation rates, making it difficult for a lot of them to regularly service debts and raising the risk of them turning into non-performing assets.
- More than 15.6 gigawatt (GW) of operational coal-based power plants have been classified as stressed assets due to the lack of PPAs. Research firm ICRA recently noted that only 7.6 GW of bids for long-term power procurement have been invited by discoms in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh over the past four years. Of this, PPAs have been signed only for 1.4 GW by Kerala and Telangana.
1. Armed forces get a big boost! Modi govt signs Rs 639 crore contract for 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets
The Defence Ministry today signed a contract with a defence firm for procurement of 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets for the Army at a cost of Rs 639 crore.
- The contract has been bagged by indigenous defence manufacturer SMPP Pvt Ltd. A major contract through capital procurement route, for procurement of 1,86,138 Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJs) has been signed.
- BPJs will provide 360 degree protection to the soldier in combat, including from hard steel core bullets.
- These bulletproof jackets will have ‘boron carbide ceramic’ which is the lightest material for ballistic protection. This makes SMPP BPJs the best of the class and will be able to provide ballistic protection at the lowest possible weight.
- The Defence Ministry said the new BPJs will boost the confidence of soldiers. It said the indigenously developed BPJs will give new impetus to the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government and provide confidence that Indian industry is capable of fulfilling the requirements of the armed forces.
1. German physics Nobel laureate Peter Gruenberg dead at 78
Gruenberg received the 2007 Nobel prize for physics, together with French scientist Albert Fert, after both had separately discovered so-called giant magnetoresistance (GMR) which led to a breakthrough in the development of gigabyte hard disks.
- Their work laid the foundations for the field of spintronics, which exploits the quantum mechanical spin of electrons for micro- and nanoelectronics, with applications ranging from video tape to MP3 players and hard disks, said the centre.
- Peter Gruenberg and his discovery of giant magnetoresistance decisively changed our lives.Without him, modern computers and smartphones as we know them would be unthinkable.
- Gruenberg also received the 2006 European Inventor of the Year award by the European Commission, the German president’s Future Prize in 1989, and honours in Israel, Japan and Turkey.
1. Dams in India did more harm than good, says UN Water report
Sounding a warning that over five billion people across the globe may run into water shortage, a United Nations report has pointed out that dams in India have done more harm than good to the cause of water security.
- Suggesting natural solutions to handle the water crisis, the UN World Water Development Report, 2018, notes that large-scale water development projects have led to major impacts like human displacement, and achieved only limited food security — one of the main objectives of such projects.
What does the report say?
- The report lays emphasis on the importance of “nature-based solutions” to meet the crisis, and calls for ancestral and indigenous solutions.
- The World Commission on Dams country study on India concluded that a century or more of large-scale water development had resulted in major social and ecological impacts, including substantial human displacement, soil erosion and widespread waterlogging while, contrary to stated objectives, achieving only limited food security benefits.
With India being world’s largest extractor of ground water, followed by the US, China, Iran and Pakistan — together accounting for 67 per cent of total abstractions worldwide, the report stated that even the water-rich high flood-prone regions like Gangetic basins are facing groundwater depletion.
- Water withdrawals for irrigation purposes have been identified as the primary driver of groundwater depletion worldwide, according to the report. About 800 cubic-km water is extracted globally for irrigation.
- Even though large-scale groundwater recharge programmes have been operating in India for decades, the focus has been on water-scarce areas, with no real emphasis on flood risk management. Highly flood-prone basins such as the Ganges are now showing clear signs of groundwater depletion.
- Warning conflicts over water, the report stresses that global food production by 2050 has to double to feed an estimated nine billion population. Currently, almost 800 million people are hungry across the world.
- Currently, an estimated 3.6 billion people (nearly half the global population) live in areas that are potentially water-scarce at least one month per year. This population could increase to some 4.8 to 5.7 billion by 2050.
- The stakes are high with two-thirds of forests and wetland lost globally, soil is eroding and deteriorating in quality.
- Since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in almost all rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.Water scarcity can lead to civil unrest, mass migration, and even to conflicts within and between countries.”
Pushing for watershed and water harvesting projects on a larger scale, the report acknowledges India’s efforts to generate awareness among communities on “ancestral survival systems”, which talk of ancient ways to ensure water security.
- The report also hails the success of solution presented by NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh — led by India’s Waterman Rajendra Singh — which is credited to have brought water back to 1,000 drought-stricken villages in Rajasthan.
- Through small-scale water harvesting structures in Rajasthan, the NGO successfully revived five rivers, recharged ground water level by six meters and increased agriculture production by 20 to 80 per cent.
- These solutions can also contribute to other aspects of sustainable development, from ensuring food security and reducing disaster risk to building sustainable urban settlements and boosting decent work.
D. GS4 Related
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1. Patents and protecting public health
- A new chapter on the access to medication debate in India started when Shamnad Basheer recorded an open intrigue case under the watchful eye of the Delhi High Court.
- The appeal to bring up the significance of “working requirements” in the Patents Act, 1970; the need to correct Form 27; and the breaches by patentees in outfitting data.
- Generally, Form 27 looks for data to guarantee that the licensed material is sufficiently provided in India.
- In the event that the supply of the licensed development does not take into account the requests, statutorily the sensible necessity of general society with respect to the protected innovation is esteemed as not met.
- This will be a ground to look for mandatory permitting of the item inside India. The fundamental method of reasoning is to secure general wellbeing.
- Patent law awards to the patentees the benefit of getting a charge out of a constrained imposing business model with a specific end goal to accomplish the target of open advantage. Accordingly, the remuneration for getting patent imposing business model is a patent revelation.
- As a major aspect of the divulgences, patentees are required to reveal in the event that they are locally working their licensed creation in return for the gave benefits.
- Along these lines, Section 83 of the Patents Act expresses that “licenses are allowed to urge innovations and to secure that the developments are worked in India on a business scale and without limitations degree that is sensibly practicable” and that the imposing business model conceded to the patentees isn’t just to import the creation.
- Generally, laws in India have considered “working” the development as being so significant to the pleasure in the restraining infrastructure that non-working in India qualified an outsider for apply for a necessary permit.
- The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) gives adaptabilities and underscores the sovereign privileges of nations to weave in the ground substances of every nation while regarding their global exchange responsibilities.
- Passage 5(2) of the Doha Declaration traces the privilege of national governments to obligatorily permit licenses and the “flexibility to decide the grounds whereupon such licenses are conceded”, including the utilization of grounds not expressly determined in Article 31 of TRIPS.
- In this way, an absence of nearby working of the patent can be a reason for allowing a mandatory permit alongside different grounds, for example, high costs and non-supply of the protected development locally.
- In doing as such, the Doha Declaration enables the activity of sovereign rights to characterize when selective rights could be diminished to accomplish a bigger open intrigue result.
- Looking for neighborhood working data is a piece of India’s utilization of its sovereign rights.
- The state is committed to secure the privilege to a life of its nationals under Article 21, and this obligation is heavier than any obligation that the state may owe the patentees.
- The concede of licenses must add to the advancement of mechanical development and to the exchange and dispersal of innovation in a way helpful for the social and monetary welfare and to an adjust of rights and commitments.
- Presently, Form 27 expects patentees to present an announcement “with respect to the working of the licensed development on a business scale in India”.
- Indian Patents Act (Section 146) engages the Controller to require a patentee or a licensee to outfit explanations of how the innovation has been monetarily functioned in India.
- It additionally requires the patentees and each licensee to outfit the recommended explanations with respect to the innovation.
- The Controller likewise has the privilege to distribute the data got.
- The law requires straightforwardness and patentees and licensees should realize that they are bound by this law. In such manner, expecting licensees to make a full divulgence of the patent working data through Form 27 would not be considered strange. The risk for resistance with Form 27 must be a strict common obligation.
- India needs to value that the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules don’t preclude getting data on the neighborhood working.
- The Article 27 restriction against separation in view of whether the merchandise are privately made or imported applies to the give of a patent and not to justification for issuing a necessary permit.
- Further, the WTO’s law in Canada Pharmaceuticals expresses that “separation” does not boycott all types of separation and that it alludes to “aftereffects of the unjustified inconvenience of differentially disadvantageous treatment.”
- Nations like India joined to the licensed innovation fleeting trend to augment open doors for innovation exchange.
- Some portion of this activity includes enabling nearby firms to contend and enhance advancement, particularly on life-sparing pharmaceuticals.
- There is no knowledge in establishing patent laws that for the most part empower outside organizations to import into a locale, without utilizing it as an apparatus to cultivate logical and innovative advance at home.
- In this manner, revelations under Form 27 are required as a major aspect of a national procedure to enhance development and further innovation move into India, to keep up general wellbeing and to guarantee supply of pharmaceuticals broadly.
F. Prelims Fact
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G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements:
- Spintronics exploits the quantum mechanical spin of electrons for micro- and nanoelectronics.
- Its applications range from videotape to MP3 players and hard disks.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2. Consider the following statements:
- COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) is needed if any classified military information is required to be exchanged between US and Indian armed forces.
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement BECA provides for sharing and data gathering of geospatial information between the two militaries.
- India has signed the COMCASA and BECA agreements with US.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1 and 3 only
- All of the above
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
- Russia and Pakistan held their first ever joint exercise called ‘Druzhba 2016’.
- Russia is the only country which is building a nuclear power plant in India.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- The credibility of the ECI and the democratic process in the State is at stake. Illustrate with examples and suggest possible measures.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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