23 Aug 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Quad countries discuss ocean security
2. Riyadh seeks death penalty for Shia woman activist
3. Assad may use chemical weapons again: Bolton
4. Malik fits PM Modi’s plans for Kashmir
HEALTH ISSUES
1. Curbing open urination is next step
2. ‘State can stop voluntary retirement of doctors’
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. SC shocked at 2 lakh ‘missing’ children
C. GS3 Related
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Accept 700 cr. UAE offer or compensate us, says Kerala
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. ISRO awaits advanced materials
ECONOMY
1. Finmin to PSB CEOs: check NPA frauds or face action
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
GOVERNANCE
1. Retrograde move
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Pulling back from the brink
EDUCATION
1. In search of greatness
F. Tidbits
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Quad countries discuss ocean security

 

  • The Quad grouping is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. and should not be seen in an exclusive context.
  • Quad should not be regarded in any comparative or in an exclusive context. This four-country meeting is an important modality.
  • There are various modalities where India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. interact, including on a bilateral and trilateral basis.
  • There was an event for the launch of a report on the policy recommendations on Indian Ocean security by four think tanks from the Quad countries at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
  • The other think tanks, which include Australia National University, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, USA, along with VIF formed the Quadripartite Commission on Indian Ocean Regional Security, which put out a series of 20 policy recommendations for stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • One of the recommendations is that the four countries should work to oppose “the establishment of permanent Chinese military bases” in the IOR and demonstrate to China that security needs can be met through cooperation with other nations.

2. Riyadh seeks death penalty for Shia woman activist

 

  • Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against five human rights activists from the kingdom’s Eastern Province currently on trial in a secretive terrorism court, groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
  • Among the detainees is Israa al-Ghomgham, whom Saudi activists said was the first woman to possibly face the death penalty for rights-related work. Charges against her include incitement to protest and providing moral support to rioters.

Monstrous, says HRW

  • ALQST, a London-based Saudi rights group, reported the decision involving Ms. Ghomgham’s case earlier this week. A government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Activists said the trial was ongoing, and denied social media reports that the detainees had already been executed.
  • Saudi Arabia, under its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to crack down on dissent, with many activists, including women, arrested in the past one year.

Protests in 2011

  • Ghomgham is a prominent Shia Muslim activist who documented mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province, starting in 2011. She was arrested from her home in December 2015.
  • Most of the country’s Shia minority lives in the oil-producing Eastern Province and some have complained that their religious ceremonies are banned or interfered with by Sunni authorities, and that they lack opportunities for work and education. The government has denied the charges.
  • Saudi Arabia has previously executed Shia activists on what rights groups called politically-motivated charges.

3. Assad may use chemical weapons again: Bolton

 

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser warned on Wednesday that the United States would respond “very strongly” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons in an offensive to retake Idlib province.
  • The northern province of Idlib is home to the last major rebel bastion in Syria. Mr. Bolton also said that the Trump administration was not seeking to oust Iran’s leadership with its reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

4. Malik fits PM Modi’s plans for Kashmir

 

  • The appointment of Satyapal Malik as J&K Governor on Tuesday, the first politician to hold that post since militancy-hit the State in the 1980s, is a clear pointer to the government’s thinking.
  • According to senior sources in the Union government, the choice of Mr. Malik, a seasoned politician who has been a Socialist, a Congressman and joined the BJP in 2004 over the course of his career, hews to the roadmap Prime Minister Narendra Modi has for the State, especially the next six months which are crucial.
  • In the late 1980s and early nineties, we had non-civilians as Governors. Then we had a career bureaucrat in Mr. N.N. Vohra. The next logical appointment was that of a politician to that post, a progression with the political process.
  • Malik was to be appointed last year itself, especially because he had excellent relations with the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, having served in the V.P. Singh government between 1989-90.
  • For some reason that couldn’t happen, and while the relationship with the Muftis was important then, his reputation as a seasoned politician who has relationships across the political spectrum is helpful.
  • There are, said a senior Home Ministry official, three basic things that are to be aimed for in the next six months. The first is to accelerate development projects.
  • In this case, Mr. Vohra had stopped the use of the Constituency Development Fund of legislators once the Assembly was placed under suspended animation. Mr. Malik is expected to allow for its use again.
  • The Assembly is in suspended animation. It hasn’t been dissolved, and legislators in order to engage in various aspects of political activity especially connected to development of their constituencies, require these funds.
  • The second priority is internal security, where the Governor has a more supportive role, and his advisers a more hands-on one. Here, the fact that he is a political appointee will help synergy.
  • The third is to bridge the governance gap, in terms of appointments in key positions and cracking down on corruption.
  • After that, the government will take a call again on how to take forward the political process, whether to announce polls, to continue with Governor’s rule or explore options of government formation under the current legislative strength.
  • Sources said that ever since Mr. Vohra’s term came to an end last year (he has been on an extension), the question of who would be his replacement was being discussed at the highest level of government.
  • Five names were finally shortlisted, Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao, former Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, Mr. Malik, Admiral Shekhar Sinha and BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna. Mr. Malik was picked, despite his own reservations, as he fit the bill perfectly.

Category: HEALTH ISSUES

1. Curbing open urination is next step

2. ‘State can stop voluntary retirement of doctors’

 

  • The State can stop government doctors from taking voluntary retirement in public interest, the Supreme Court has ruled.
  • The fundamental right to retire is not above the right to save lives in a country where government hospitals cater to the poorest, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S. Abdul Nazeer said in its judgment.
  • The concept of public interest can also be invoked by the government when voluntary retirement sought by an employee will be against public interest.

Scarcity of doctors

  • The court said public health was suffering from a scarcity of doctors. Qualified doctors did not join the public service, and even if they did so, they chose voluntary retirement and went into lucrative private practice.
  • It said the poor could not be put in peril by a paucity of specialists in government hospitals. The State governments had an obligation “to make an endeavour under Article 47 to look after the provisions for health and nutrition.
  • The doctors, as citizens, had certain fundamental duties under Article 51(A) towards their fellow citizens. The right to practise a profession under Article 19(1)(g) was subject to the interest of the general public, the court said.
  • The ruling is based on an appeal by the Uttar Pradesh government against the Allahabad High Court’s decision to allow Dr. Achal Singh, who was working as Joint Director, Medical, Health and Family Welfare, in Lucknow, to voluntarily retire with effect from March 31, 2017.
  • Though the High Court allowed Ms. Singh to retire, it rued the way government doctors were seeking voluntary retirement almost every day in the State.
  • The High Court said the government healthcare sector needed senior doctors as they were “absolutely necessary to run the medical services which are part and parcel of the right to life itself.”

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. SC shocked at 2 lakh ‘missing’ children

 

  • Discrepancies in two government-commissioned surveys, both a year apart, submitted in the Supreme Court show that over two lakh children, said to be residing in childcare homes, are “missing.”
  • A 2016-17 survey, commissioned by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, shows that 4.73 lakh children reside in care homes nationwide.
  • However, the number of children in care homes came down to 2.61 lakh in the data submitted by the Centre before the Supreme Court in March 2018. The data were gathered by the Centre from the States.
  • The Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta said they found the disparity “very, very disturbing,” and children were not just numbers.
  • The amicus curiae said that of the 9,589 childcare institutions across the country, 1,596 were overcrowded and 97 districts were without childcare homes.
  • Children were subjected to corporal punishment and other abuse in these homes. The court asked Ministry officials present how many children were missing in the country, besides these two lakhs.
  • The Bench proposed to set up oversight committees at the national and State levels to monitor the functioning of childcare homes. Counsel for the Centre sought time to seek instructions on the suggestion.

C. GS3 Related

Category: DISASTER MANAGEMENT

1. Accept 700 cr. UAE offer or compensate us, says Kerala

 

  • The Kerala government has asked the Centre to go by the 2016 National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) while taking a call on the UAE government’s offer of 700 crore rupees in assistance or compensate the State for the loss of such a hefty sum.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had welcomed the UAE government making the 700 crore offer. It is only natural for nations to help each other. Moreover, the National Disaster Management Plan, brought out by the Central government in May 2016, does state clearly that any voluntary offer of assistance from other countries can be accepted.
  • The relevant section of the chapter on ‘International Cooperation’ of the NDMP reads:
  1. As a matter of policy, the Government of India does not issue any appeal for foreign assistance in the wake of a disaster.
  2. However, if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the Central Government may accept the offer.
  3. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, is required to coordinate with the Ministry of External Affairs, which is primarily responsible for reviewing foreign offers of assistance and channelising the same.
  4. In consultation with the State Government concerned, the MHA will assess the response requirements that the foreign teams can provide.

Govt. will meet Kerala’s needs through domestic efforts: MEA

  • India has said a polite ‘no’ to offers of foreign assistance to the Kerala flood victims. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement said India will rely on domestic resources for the State’s ongoing flood relief efforts.
  • In line with the existing policy, the Government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts.
  • It was the first time, since the floods struck Kerala, that the MEA clearly indicated India’s preference for domestic resources over foreign assistance.
  • However, certain foreign entities other than governments were welcome to contribute to disaster relief.
  • Contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would be welcome.
  • The formal declaration of India’s official position on foreign aid for flood relief in Kerala came hours after the ambassador of Thailand revealed that India was not accepting foreign offers for help.
  • The message from the Thai ambassador and the statement from the MEA spokesperson settled the debate over the reported offer from the government of UAE to help flood relief with Rupees 700 crore.
  • The total volume of financial support from the entire Gulf region (including UAE) is calculated to be far greater than the Rupees 600 crore that the government of India has declared for Kerala so far.
  • However, the official position is in accordance with the existing standpoint regarding foreign assistance which stems from the fact that India is “capable” of dealing with natural calamities.
  • It is understood that ‘as of now’ India will continue to deal with natural calamities in the way it has dealt with such episodes in the last 15 years when a convention to avoid foreign aid was adopted in the backdrop of the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 and the tsunami of 2004.
  • However, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has stated that his country is providing support to Kerala through institutions.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. ISRO awaits advanced materials

 

  • A national effort is needed to develop and produce advanced materials to drive the future space programme, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Sivan has said.
  • Along with high propulsion systems for its launch vehicles, the ISRO is pursuing materials that have extraordinary properties, such as aluminium and beryllium alloys and carbon nanotubes.
  • These are needed for the upcoming high-profile national missions such as the Human Space Programme (HSP), the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), re-entering crew capsules, fuel-saving scramjet missions and the distant single-stage launchers. Locally made materials would also help to cut imports and also lower mission costs.
  • In recent years, the ISRO has indigenised a large number of materials that are hard to get. This has reduced the import content from around 32% to 8% now.
  • However, development of advanced materials such as carbon composites and those for electronics is the immediate need of the space programme.
  • A national effort is required in these two areas. Lab-level R&D can produce small quantities of special materials. But there is a need to produce them in large quantities.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Finmin to PSB CEOs: check NPA frauds or face action

 

  • In a stern warning to bankers, the finance ministry has asked chief executives of public sector banks (PSBs) to check all NPA accounts exceeding Rupees 50 crore for fraud, else face criminal conspiracy charges, according to official sources.
  • This missive comes in the light of arrest of Bhushan Steel’s erstwhile promoter Neeraj Singal by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for alleged siphoning of funds.
  • The sources said that bankers could be held accountable under Section 120B of Indian Penal Code if they fail to report fraud in an account which is later unearthed by investigating agencies.

‘Criminal proceedings’

  • If the investigating agencies find diversion of funds in those defaulting accounts, bankers may be liable to face criminal proceedings, the sources said, adding that this advisory is like an extra precaution to keep bankers from getting into legal tangles.
  • More than a dozen companies undergoing bankruptcy resolution are being reviewed by banks and investigating agencies for fraudulent activities, including diversion of funds.
  • Indian banks are facing mounting non-performing assets or bad loans, especially at PSBs, which have reached more than 8 lakh crore rupees.
  • In addition, several banking frauds have been unearthed, including the Rupees 14,000-crore scam at PNB, carried out allegedly by diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and his associates.
  • A senior government official confirmed the development and said that some discrepancies had been pointed out in the case of a steel-maker and a real estate firm among 10-12 companies.

There were some inputs and lenders have been asked to provide transaction details of last five years. If required, banks will also undertake forensic audit.

Associate firms involved

  • Similar modus operandi has been used by other promoters also, there had been intelligence inputs on associate companies being used for similar transactions.
  • SFIO is also looking into the books of companies which are currently undergoing debt resolution adding that this had been done on the basis of specific inputs provided by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
  • During the resolution process, the extensive audit of bankrupt companies has thrown up financial irregularities in several cases.
  • In June 2017, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had identified 12 stressed accounts, each having more than Rupees 5,000 crore of outstanding loans and accounting for 25% of the total non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks for immediate referral under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
  • In August, RBI had sent a list of 28 more firms to lenders for resolution by December 2017. These accounts also have some firms from the second list and those where later banks filed cases in NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal).
  • The NCLT benches handle banks’ bad debt resolution under the IBC.
  • Banks have to undertake a two-year transaction audit when they start the resolution process through IBC.
  • In case there are any issues or specific information, banks also conduct a forensic audit.
  • In August 2017, the SFIO was given powers to arrest people for company law violations.
  • SFIO is a multidisciplinary organisation having experts for prosecution of white-collar crimes and frauds under company law.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Retrograde move

Context:

The Punjab Cabinet has decided to amend the law to make acts of sacrilege against the holy books of major religions punishable with life imprisonment. It approved amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to make sacrilege(violation or misuse of what is regarded as sacred)  of religious texts punishable with life imprisonment. 

Issue:

  • The decision of Punjab Cabinet is unprogressive and is filled with undesirable consequences.
  • It may also set off a needless storm of legislation in the rest of India to satisfy to different groups.

Background:

  • In 2016, amendments were passed by the Punjab assembly specifically aimed at curbing acts of sacrilege targeting the Guru Granth Sahib. The Centre had then returned the Bills, saying that protecting the holy book of only one religion would make it discriminatory and anti-secular.
  • The earlier Bill was introduced by the Shiromani Akali Dal government following allegations of desecration of the holy book.
  • The current proposal is a slightly expanded form of amendments passed by the Punjab Assembly in 2016.

Details:

  • The proposal now cleared by the Cabinet aims to also cover the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagvad Gita.
  • The law will introduce a new section (Section 295-AA) in the Indian Penal Code(IPC).
  • Currently, Section 295-A of IPC i.e, ‘blasphemy law’, criminalises “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”.

Is there a need for a new law?

  • Section 295-A of IPC itself encompasses the provision to protect religious books from damage, insult and sacrilege.
  • While upholding its constitutional validity in 1957, the Supreme Court had clarified that the section “punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion when it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings”.
  • It is true that one limb of any blasphemy law, is aimed at preserving public order; and miscreants can fan disorder and tension by malicious acts such as damaging or desecrating a holy text. This can be invoked to jail someone for three years. Providing for a life term for the same offence in relation to religious texts would be grossly disproportionate.
  • ‘Sacrilege’ itself is a vague term, and would render the section too broad.
  • There is a history of misuse of laws aimed to protect religious sentiments, and those that seek to punish persons who promote enmity between different groups. They have a chilling effect on free speech, and give a handle to anyone claiming to be outraged to pursue provoking prosecutions.

Conclusion:

As prior permission of the Central or State government is needed to prosecute someone under such sections, a consequential amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure will be required. There is a case to read down Section 295-A and Section 153-A of the IPC that give scope to prosecute people in the name of protecting the feelings of a section of society. There is no case whatsoever to enhance jail terms.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Pulling back from the brink

Context: 

A group of scientists has published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences deliberating on how the Earth might move into a high temperature “hothouse earth” pathway from where there would be no return.

Earth’s equilibrium:

  • We are living in a delicately equilibrated earth where the temperature is just right for ecosystems to flourish.
  • The Holocene, the current geological epoch, which began about 12,000 years ago, is the stable epoch during which Homo sapiens settled and developed agriculture and other technological innovations. These led to social and economic transformations, which have brought the world to this juncture.
  • Human activity, supported by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, led to an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are now causing global warming.
  • This time period, the epoch when humans play a dominant role in shaping the earth systems, is being referred to as the Anthropocene.
  • The delicate equilibrium of the biosphere has to do with processes that amplify or dampen warming. For instance, melting of Greenland ice increases open waters that absorb more sunlight and then increase warming and cause further melting. This is a positive feedback.
  • With the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2), chemical-weathering increases and removes CO2 from the atmosphere over geological time — an example of a negative feedback.
  • When positive feedbacks become stronger than the negative ones, the system may change abruptly and get pushed out of equilibrium.
  • The earth and its systems have shifted between alternative states through long-term processes over its geological history. Now, it appears we are approaching some critical thresholds.

Tipping point:

  • The paper identifies a threshold beyond which the earth’s systems are no longer able to stabilise at intermediate rises in temperature.
  • It is pointed out that technology trends and decisions taken in the next decade or two will determine the path of the earth system over the next hundreds of thousands of years.
  • A geophysical tipping point is a threshold beyond which a system moves from one stable state to another. This study indicates that crossing a threshold (roughly determined to be about 2º Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times) would lead to the tumbling of a series of tipping points, like a set of domino effect.
  • The destruction of the Amazon forest due to wildfires, the loss of permafrost with warming, the weakening of CO2 absorption by the oceans or the melting of polar ice caps, among many other slow-moving catastrophes, are examples.
  • If many tipping points tumble beyond 2ºC (as suggested by the scientists), it would irrevocably disrupt ecosystems and societies and there would be runaway climate change, taking us to a hothouse earth.

The authors identify three clusters of tipping-linked cascades, out of human control, that could happen over time with rising temperatures.

  • Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (now over 400 ppm) are responsible for global average temperatures that are about a degree Celsius higher than at pre-industrial times. To find another time on earth with these levels, we need to go back some 3-4 million years to the mid-Pliocene, when sea levels were 10-22 m higher. The authors consider this stage to remain accessible only if there is a great deal of concerted effort in a remarkably short period.
  • In the mid-Miocene (about 15-17 million years ago), CO2 concentrations were 300-500 ppm and sea levels were 10-60 m higher than today. This is where the earth is possibly headed with continuing GHG emissions.
  • Even if the Paris Agreement of 2015 is implemented and we managed to keep warming below 2º C or even 1.5º C, the risk of a cascade of feedbacks that pushes the earth into the hothouse path may be unavoidable.

Way forward:

  • Technological solutions alone are insufficient. Fundamental shifts in social values and economic mores are essential. The changes required and ways to make them in an ethical manner are still being debated, with a lot of uncertainty on whether these can be accomplished.
  • In order to stabilise the earth, we would have to recognise and then carry out deliberate, sustained action to secure earth systems and also adapt to a warmer world. Some of these feedback effects, such as loss of Arctic ice, could be reversed over a few hundred years, but others such as Antarctic ice would take much longer.
  • Global emissions have risen by 1.4% last year. Deep cuts in GHG emissions, increasing carbon sinks, finding ways to remove CO2 and perhaps even deflecting solar radiation to modify the energy balance would all be needed along with adapting to living in a warmer world.
  • Given history and the state of the biosphere, some scientists are not hopeful about avoiding the hothouse path. Others believe that it could still be avoided and the earth could stabilise at a rise below 2º C through infrastructural, societal and institutional transformations.
  • Incremental changes along with increasing contributions from renewables and improvements in energy efficiencies would not be sufficient. There should instead be major changes in technological innovation, behaviour, values and governance. This is an unprecedented challenge for humanity.

Category: EDUCATION

1. In search of greatness

F. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements:
  1. The Fields Medal, popularly seen as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize, is awarded once in four years to two-four mathematicians below the age of 40.
  2. In the recently announced prize for 2018, an Australian mathematician of Indian origin, Akshay Venkatesh, was awarded.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
 
  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

Question 2. Consider the following statements:
  1. A city/ward is notified as ODF city/ward if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open.
  2. A city, ward or work circle could be declared ODF+ if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained.”
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
 
  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

Question 3. Consider the following statements:
  1. The Quad grouping refers to countries of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.
  2. Quadripartite Commission on Indian Ocean Regional Security put out a series of 20 policy recommendations for stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
 
  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. The  standpoint regarding foreign assistance  stems from the fact that India is “capable” of dealing with natural calamities.Critically analyse the rationale behind such policy.
  2. In order to stabilise the earth, we would have to recognise and then carry out deliberate, sustained action to secure earth systems and also adapt to a warmer world. Discuss in the context of a “Hothouse Earth”.

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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