07 Dec 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Why strip Verma of powers suddenly: SC
2. Curative plea wants SC to set aside order on Asthana
3. Naveen writes to all CMs on women’s Bill
4. Will fill all CIC posts on Dec. 11, Centre tells SC
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Cabinet clears policy to double agri exports
ENVIRONMENT
1. Karnataka must set aside ₹500 cr. for Bengaluru lakes
2. Bulk of plastic litter is from tourism and fishing, and Gopalpur is the worst hit: study
3. Air pollution cause of 1 in 8 deaths
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Still on the last chance saloon (Conference of the Parties (COP-24))
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Shielding witnesses (Witness Protection)
F. Tidbits
1. Deaths in accidents due to potholes are unacceptable: SC
2. Manifesto of tribal rights issued
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Why strip Verma of powers suddenly: SC

Context

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, to explain the exigency that prompted it to take an “overnight” decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as CBI Director.
  • “The situation which prompted the CVC to take action against Alok Verma did not start overnight on October 23 [the day Mr. Verma was divested of his powers]… The Attorney-General said all this started in July.
  • That means you had tolerated him for two months,” Justice Gogoi observed before asking, “So what was it that required you [the CVC] to take a decision overnight on October 23?”
  • At one point, the CJI asked senior advocate Fali Nariman whether the Supreme Court, if the necessity arose, had the power to appoint an interim CBI Director.
  • Nariman, who has been appearing for Mr. Verma, considered the question for a moment before replying that the court could, indeed, do so in exercise of its “inherent powers” as the final interpreter of the Constitution.

Background

  • The CVC action against Mr. Verma was triggered by a complaint of misconduct filed by CBI Special Director R.K. Asthana with the Cabinet Secretary on August 24 against the backdrop of a bitter feud between the two top CBI officers.
  • Asthana’s complaint, alleging misconduct and abuse of authority against Mr. Verma, ultimately led to the divestment on the intervening night of October 23-24. Mr. Asthana was also exiled on the same day as his superior. “Extraordinary situations do need extraordinary remedies,” Mr. Mehta said, responding to the CJI’s question.
  • The tussle between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana started in 2017. It all started with Asthana’s appointment to CBI.
  • Verma handed over a confidential letter to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) over Asthana’s promotion to the post of CBI special director, claiming the latter was under investigation in the 2017 Sterling Biotech bribery case. However, Asthana’s promotion was cleared.
  • In June 2018, Alok Verma wrote another letter to the CVC that Asthana could not represent him in his absence since the latter faces allegations of corruption.
  • Later, Asthana shot back and filed a complaint against Verma accusing him of interfering in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) corruption case involving the family members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.
  • This bureaucratic infight between Verma and Asthana came to a head when the CBI named Asthana in a First Information Report (FIR) in a bribery case and the allegations escalated.
  • On October 21, the CBI charged Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who was under probe in the Moin Qureshi case in order to “wreck” the investigation.
  • The CBI has alleged that bribes were given at least five times between December 2017 and October 2018.
  • The charges against Asthana came to light after Dubai-based middleman Manoj Kumar gave a confessional statement before a magistrate stating that he paid Rs 2 crore to Asthana on behalf of Moin Qureshi, who is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering. Qureshi was arrested by the ED in August 2017 under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
  • On October 22, the CBI arrested its own DSP Devender Kumar in connection with the bribery allegations against Asthana. Kumar has been accused of fabricating the statements given by Sathish Babu Sana, a witness in the Qureshi case, showing that he had recorded a statement on September 26, 2016, in New Delhi. However, after investigation, it was found that Sana was never in New Delhi but in Hyderabad and joined the probe only on October 1, 2018.
  • Rakesh Asthana has been sent on leave, while CBI Director Alok Verma was relieved of his post and Deputy SP Devender Kumar has been suspended and sent to a seven-day CBI custody, M Nageshwar Rao appointed as the Interim CBI Director.

2. Curative plea wants SC to set aside order on Asthana

 

  • Common Cause, an NGO, has filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court for setting aside its earlier decision upholding the appointment of Rakesh Asthana, a senior IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, as a Special Director of the CBI.
  • The curative petition, a rare remedy, alleged a violation of the principles of natural justice and urged the court to set aside its November, 2017 verdict upholding the appointment. A review petition filed by the NGO was dismissed by the court in January 2018.
  • The curative petition highlighted how the court had wrongly dismissed the CBI Director’s note, raising objections to the appointment, on the ground that the Central Vigilance Commission’s selection committee had considered them.
  • It said the November, 2017 judgment was silent on Mr. Asthana’s alleged links with Sterling Biotech and the Sandesaras. The judgment did not give any finding on the non-filing of property details, which the petition said was mandatory for vigilance clearance for any appointment or empanelment or promotion.

Curative petition

  • The concept of Curative petition was evolved by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr (2002) where the question was whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final judgement/order of the Supreme Court, after dismissal of a review petition.
  • The Supreme Court in the said case held that in order to prevent abuse of its process and to cure gross miscarriage of justice, it may reconsider its judgements in exercise of its inherent powers.
  • For this purpose the Court has devised what has been termed as a “curative” petition. In the Curative petition, the petitioner is required to aver specifically that the grounds mentioned therein had been taken in the review petition filed earlier and that it was dismissed by circulation.
  • This has to be certified by a senior advocate. The Curative petition is then circulated to the three senior most judges and the judges who delivered the impugned judgement, if available. No time limit is given for filing Curative petition.

3. Naveen writes to all CMs on women’s Bill

4. Will fill all CIC posts on Dec. 11, Centre tells SC

Context

  • Appointments to fill at least four vacancies on the Central Information Commission will be finalised on December 11, the Centre told the Supreme Court this week, according to one of the petitioners in the case.

Details of the issue

  • The government’s counsel also informed the court that the Centre intends to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, said the petitioner Anjali Bhardwaj.
  • The 11-member Commission, the highest appeal body available to applicants seeking information under the RTI Act, is currently operating with only three members in the wake of multiple retirements. The eight vacancies include the Chief Information Commissioner, who completed his tenure last month.
  • While the Centre listed the RTI Amendments Bill, 2018, for introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament, Opposition MPs had protested, citing concerns that the proposed amendments to salary and tenure norms would compromise the independence of the commissions at the Central and State levels.
  • Apart from the CIC, a number of State Information Commissions (SICs) are also operating with multiple vacancies, leading to a rising pendency of cases, petitioners told the apex court.

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  • CIC was established in 2005 by Central Government under provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act (2005).
  • The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.
  • The general superintendence, direction and management of affairs of Commission are vested in Chief Information Commissioner who is assisted by Information Commissioners.
  • CIC hears appeals from information-seekers who have not been satisfied by the public authority, and also addresses major issues concerning the RTI Act.
  • CIC submits annual report to Union government on the implementation of the provisions of RTI Act.
  • The central government inturn places this report before each house of Parliament.
  • The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of – The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee; the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

Functions and Powers of CIC

  • It can order inquiry into any matter if there are reasonable grounds.
  • It can secure compliance of its decisions from the public authority.
  • It can recommend steps to be taken for promoting such conformity, if public authority does not conform to provisions of RTI Act.
  • It receives and inquires into a complaint from
  • It examines any record which is under control of the public authority and which may be withheld from it on any grounds during the enquiry. While inquiring, it has powers of civil court.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Cabinet clears policy to double agri exports

Context

  • The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the Agriculture Export Policy, aimed at increasing India’s exports to $60 billion by 2022 from the current $37 billion, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu announced.

Details of the Policy

  • “We have managed to increase agriculture exports to $37 billion from $30 billion in just one year,” Mr. Prabhu said at a press conference. “With this policy, we aim to increase that to $60 billion by 2022. This is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of doubling farmers’ income.”
  • The objectives of the policy are, apart from doubling farmers’ income, to diversify the export basket and destinations, and to boost high-value and value-added exports, with a focus on perishables.
  • The policy also aims to promote the export of “novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional” products, according to a press release. The objective also is to provide an institutional mechanism for market access, tackling barriers, and dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary issues.
  • In order to do this, the Centre will work with the State governments to create clusters that can focus on particular crops.

Doubling the farmer’s income by 2022

  • The Prime Minister has announced the government’s goal of doubling the farmer’s income by 2022. This would require the farmer’s income to rise by around 12% per year on average, over the next 5 years. This is in nominal terms, i.e. not adjusted for inflation.

Ways to improve the income of farmers:

  • MSP and procurement is one of the ways to improve farmer’s income.
  • There is need to improve productivity.
  • For any real increase in income, farmers require higher returns for their produce
  • The marketable surplus from agriculture has to be enhanced.
  • Need to look at making a value addition to biomass.
  • There is need to devise ways to lower the cost of production and reduce the risks involved in agriculture such as pets, pathogens and weeds.
  • Addressing the ecological challenge requires more technology while the economics requires more public policy interventions.
  • Professor M.S. Swaminathan, founder of the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation noted that it was high time that the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers to provide the minimum price of the total cost of production plus 50% are implemented.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Karnataka must set aside ₹500 cr. for Bengaluru lakes

Context

  • Coming down heavily on the Karnataka government for failing to “protect and rejuvenate” Bengaluru’s Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed the State government to transfer ₹500 crore to an escrow account.

Details of the NGT direction

  • Observing that untreated sewage continued to flow into the water bodies “indiscriminately”, a Bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, directed the State government to deposit ₹50 crore to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as environmental compensation.
  • The amount is to be utilised for execution of action plans to clean the water bodies.
  • The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palika (BBMP) had been directed to deposit an environmental compensation of ₹25 crore. The green panel further said that the State government had to furnish a performance guarantee to execute the plan in a time-bound manner. “The performance guarantee will undertake to pay a further amount of ₹100 crore for failure in execution of the action plan,” the NGT said.
  • A panel, to be headed by former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde and comprising representatives from the CPCB, the State Pollution Control Board and T.V. Ramachandra of the Indian Institute of Science, would monitor implementation.
  • “The committee may oversee the timelines and the action plan, which may be prepared by the State of Karnataka or the BBMP,” the Bench said.

National Green Tribunal

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • It draws inspiration from India’s constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • It aims for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It has Original Jurisdiction on matters of “substantial question relating to environment” and & “damage to the environment due to specific activity” (such as pollution).

Principles of Justice adopted by NGT

  • The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, it will be relatively easier for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.
  • While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles.

2. Bulk of plastic litter is from tourism and fishing, and Gopalpur is the worst hit: study

Context

  • In addition to air and water pollution, India can now add one more category to its pollution worries: beach pollution. And here, tourism and fishing are the biggest culprits, contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches, according to a study by the National Centre of Coastal Research (NCCR).

Details of the Study

  • The NCCR conducted a qualitative analysis of the litter on six different beaches on the eastern and western coasts. It found that plastic litter from tourism alone accounted for 40%-96% of all beach litter.
  • After tourism, fishing was the next biggest source of litter. While fishing nets were a major contributor, the processing of fish on the beach also produced a lot of litter.
  • Also, the proportion of biomedical litter was high in urban areas, such as Elliot’s Beach and Fort Kochi Beach.
  • The study looked at tonnes of litter across these six beaches on September 15, 2018, the International Coastal Cleanup Day.
  • M.V. Ramana Murthy, Director, NCCR, said India needed a national marine litter policy to control and manage waste on land and prevent its entry into the marine environment.

Analysis of the issue

  • Management – Litter on the beach also shows that there is no responsible waste management system. One reason why people abandon their garbage with such impunity may be the paucity of waste receptacles along the beach.
  • Stakeholder – There is also abdication of responsibility by the companies, distributors, restaurants and shopkeepers who manufacture, market and sell these products.
  • Government -Garbage on the beach also shows a lack of attention by authorities towards this issue though it concerns health, hygiene and protecting natural spaces — all of which are key to attracting tourists.
  • Rule of law – There are no police or other such representatives on beaches who are empowered to enforce the law and hand out fines. Just as justice needs to be seen to be done, respect for the law arises from its implementation and the visible presence of an agency dedicated to deterrence and application of the law.
  • Attitudinal change – Behaviour change communication (BCC) could be the key to changing attitudes and behaviour patterns. India has seen success with this method regarding nutrition for expectant mothers. A critical element of BCC is having requisite infrastructure. In this case it would mean installation of waste receptacles, proper collection and management, and proper policing.
  • Technology – While technology such as clean composting can help, it is an insufficient response to an attitudinal issue.
  • The ability to add to the litter and enjoy a dirty beach is something unique to this part of the world.
  • Lasting change may only come when people realise that their enjoyment of the beach is inextricably linked to keeping that beautiful environment garbage-free.

3. Air pollution cause of 1 in 8 deaths

Context

  • India, with 18% of the world’s population, has a disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution. Moreover, one in eight deaths in India was attributable to air pollution in India in 2017, making it a leading risk factor for death.
  • This is according to the first comprehensive estimates of reduction in life expectancy associated with air pollution in each State, published by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, a venture of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with experts and stakeholders associated with over 100 Indian institutions.
  • These research findings published in The Lancet Planetary Health were released on Thursday at the ICMR.

Key findings

  • The key findings from the paper include the fact that 12.4 lakh deaths in India in 2017 were due to air pollution, which included 6.7 lakh deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths due to household air pollution.
  • Over half of the deaths due to air pollution were in persons less than 70 years of age. In 2017, 77% population of India was exposed to ambient particulate matter PM2.5 above the recommended limit by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The report states that the highest PM2.5 exposure level was in Delhi, followed by the other north Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.
  • There is increasing evidence globally and from India about the association of air pollution with premature death and disease burden. The findings in this paper are based on all available data on air pollution that were analysed using the standardised methods of the Global Burden of Disease Study.
  • This comprehensive effort over several years has for the first time produced what we believe are robust estimates of the health impact of outdoor and household air pollution in every State of India.
  • Further, the study states that the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), attributable to air pollution in India in 2017 for major non-communicable diseases were at least as high as those attributable to tobacco use.
  • The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level were less than the minimal level causing health loss, with the highest increases in the northern States of Rajasthan (2.5 years), Uttar Pradesh (2.2 years) and Haryana (2.1 years).

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Still on the last chance saloon (Conference of the Parties (COP-24))

Editorial Analysis:

  • Experts have pointed out that the world is in deep trouble.
  • A fact that lends credence to the above is that average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above preindustrial levels and such concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (410 ppm) has never been seen by humans before.
  • It is important to note that the 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland (December 3-14) is meant to take forward steps to address this threat of climate change.

The Geopolitics surrounding the Meeting:  

  • Experts point out that the purpose of the meeting in Katowice, Poland is to set guidelines, or agree on a rulebook, to implement pledges that were made by various countries at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.
    • It is also important to note that in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), planned ahead of the Paris COP-21, each country described the actions it would take and the levels to which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be reduced (mitigation).
    • Many of these countries also described what they would do to improve their capacity to live in a warmer world (adaptation), and the extent to which these goals required support in the form of finance or technology transfer.
    • Experts opine that given the fact that the Paris Agreement (PA) was ratified rapidly and went into force within a year (in November 2016), one would think that agreeing on how to implement something that everyone wanted would be straightforward. However, a few countries think otherwise.
  • At Paris, for example, the global community agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5° C above preindustrial levels since the effects can be dire beyond that.
  • For instance, small island nations already face devastating effects with the rise of mean sea levels due to climate change.
  • It is important to note that the current conference at Katowice comes soon after a special publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1.5 Degree Report, according to which what we need are far-reaching, speedy transformative changes in our societies in order to stay below 1.5° C.
  • Experts point out that calling for an immediate and drastic drop in GHG emissions through technology and lifestyles and a focus on mitigation and adaptation, the report was an “all hands on deck” alarm.

A Look at a few specifics

    • Experts point out that when all nations agree on how to gather, count and report on their emissions and the process is standardised, the implementation of the PA becomes more grounded.
    • Further, there was reportedly some progress on these processes at the intermediate meeting held in preparation for the Katowice COP. However, there also has to be a general agreement on how to estimate adaptation. This is more complicated and varied and is still being developed.
    • There has been little, if any, progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development. It is important to note that Article 9 of the PA calls for financial support from developed countries that is significantly derived from public funds, which “should represent a progression beyond previous efforts”.
    • This was expected to result in at least $100 billion per year to address needs and priorities of developing countries for mitigation and adaptation.
    • Article 9.5 requires developed countries to communicate their levels of support, including pledges of additional finance.
    • Even a rough estimate of financial needs for implementing all the NDCs puts it at $4.4 trillion, according to a 2016 briefing paper from Germanwatch. The Climate Funds Update of 2018 notes that multilateral funds pledged until 2017 are less than $30 billion, of which around $20 billion has been deposited and about $4 billion disbursed.
    • Even according to the recent Summary Report of the Standing Committee on Finance under the UNFCCC, the total finance flows were around $38 billion in 2016, and much of this has been through multilateral funds.
    • It is important to note that global finance flows are estimated to be close to $700 billion, but this includes renewable energy investment and other cross-border flows. The 2018 Oxfam Climate Finance Shadow report estimates that net new finance amounts to only $16-21 billion.
    • In addition, there have also been charges of double counting and counting of development aid levelled against developed countries. According to a recent discussion paper from the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, what is required is credible, accurate and verifiable numbers on the climate flows expected from developed countries. Such reliable flow will encourage and persuade all countries that commitments made will be fulfilled. The inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries ensures that the fights on finance and technology will intensify in Poland, especially in the second week. These are very likely to impede progress on the rulebook.
    • It is important to note that the ethical foundations of the climate change fights on the global stage are based largely on the occupation of atmospheric carbon space by rich countries, leaving little room for growth by the latecomers, which are poor nations.
  • Countries with average income exceeding $15,000 typically have the capacity and finance and technology to reduce their emissions dramatically. As a matter of fact, they must also alter their lifestyles considerably, which is required for the transformational change that the 1.5 Degree Report calls for.
  • Some experts opine that trying to change what was agreed at Paris, as has been insisted upon by the U.S., for instance, is tantamount to renegotiating the PA, according to emerging economies and poor countries.

Concluding Remarks:

    • In conclusion, as extreme events are on the rise, the separate stream referred to as “loss and damage” needs attention.
    • This is a provision for support to poor countries experiencing economic and non-economic losses and destruction from climate change events. There has not been much progress on this issue by the task force set up to advance it. This is an important topic to be discussed at Katowice.
    • It is also important to note that the implementation of the activities for the PA formally begins in 2020 and concludes in 2030.
    • Currently, we are in the Doha Amendment period, or the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which has not been ratified. Experts point out that in a couple of years after the start of the PA implementation, we will have a stocktaking — reviewing progress and deciding on more stringent targets for the future. This renewed commitment towards the future means that countries have to trust each other, which would mean that fulfilling obligations is a foundation of future ambition and action.
    • Further, while the U.S. and its current policies are much to blame for the situation, other developed countries are not doing that much better. Australia and France have had political turmoil due to their climate policies even while experiencing severe weather events.
    • Protests on fuel charge hikes have impacted France. As a matter of fact, Europe is still heavily reliant on coal and European Union emissions were stable in 2014-2016.
    • The U.K. has been relying on fuel from fracking and many have remarked that the advances in California under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown are superficial and do not address fundamental issues.
    • In conclusion, experts opine that today’s children are inheriting from their parents and grandparents an earth that is out of control and heading to be 3-4º C warmer by the end of the century.
  • Finally, perpetual growth is not viable for any species. Business-as-usual policies with high consumption by the rich are driving the destruction of ecosystems and the mass extinction of species.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Shielding witnesses (Witness Protection)

Editorial Analysis:

  • In a major development, the witness protection programme is finally in place.
  • The Supreme Court has asked States to implement a scheme framed by the Centre to protect witnesses in criminal trials from threat, intimidation and undue influence. However, it is important to note that this is pending legislation by Parliament.
  • Further, it is important to note that given the abysmal rate of convictions in the country, it is inexcusable that it took so long.

The Need to Protect Witnesses:   

    • The need to protect witnesses has been emphasised by Law Commission reports and court judgments for years.
    • It is important to note that witnesses turning hostile is a major reason for most acquittals.
    • In the current system, there is little incentive for witnesses to turn up in court and testify against criminals. Besides threats to their lives, they experience hostility and harassment while attending courts.
    • Further, the tardy judicial process seldom takes into account the distance they have travelled or the time they have lost in attending court, only to be told they have to return another day.
  • As Justice A.K. Sikri points out, the condition of witnesses in the Indian legal system is “pathetic”, as it takes them for granted. It is gratifying that the court has played a proactive role in getting the Centre and the States to come up with a concrete proposal.
  • Experts point out that the Centre deserves credit for coming forward to suggest that its draft witness protection scheme be introduced by judicial mandate instead of waiting for formal legislation.

A Closer Look:

    • In its minutiae the scheme appears workable, but its efficacy will be confirmed only with the passage of time.
    • It broadly classifies witnesses in need of protection into three types based on the threat assessment.
    • A witness protection order will be passed by a competent authority.
    • The scheme is to be funded by budgetary support from State governments and donations. This is at variance with the Law Commission’s recommendation in 2006 that the Centre and the States share the cost equally.
    • Further, basic features such as in camera trial, proximate physical protection and anonymising of testimony and references to witnesses in the records are not difficult to implement.
  • Experts point out that the real test will be the advanced forms of identity protection: giving witnesses a new identity, address and even ‘parentage’, with matching documents.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Experts point out that all this needs to be done without undermining their professional and property rights and educational qualifications.
  • The introduction of the scheme marks a leap forward. Until now, there have been ad hoc steps such as those outlined for concealing the identity of witnesses in anti-terrorism and child-centric laws. A few dedicated courtrooms for vulnerable witnesses, mostly child victims, are also functional.
  • However, expanding such facilities and implementing a comprehensive and credible witness protection programme will pose logistical and financial challenges. It will be well worth the effort, as the scheme could help strengthen India’s tottering criminal justice system.

F. Tidbits

1. Deaths in accidents due to potholes are unacceptable: SC

 

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday described as “unacceptable” the death of nearly 15,000 people in road accidents caused by potholes in the last five years and said the number was probably more than those killed on the border or by terrorists.
  • This indicates that the authorities concerned are not maintaining the roads properly, a Bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur said. Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta were also a part of the Bench hearing the matter.
  • The Bench perused a report filed by the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, which said 14,926 persons died in road accidents due to potholes from 2013 to 2017 across the country. “It is almost 15,000 deaths in five years, more that those killed on border or by terrorists,” the Bench said, adding, “These are government figures.”
  • It asked the Centre to file its response on the committee’s report after consulting all the States. The matter will be heard in January.

2. Manifesto of tribal rights issued

 

  • Tribal groups in Rajasthan have demanded that the next elected government in the State reveal the status of each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with reference to tribal communities and declare their status targets.
  • The activists said that no political party had depicted its commitment to work for sustainable development of tribal people.
  • A manifesto for rights of the tribal population, residing mainly in southern Rajasthan, has demanded that they be recognised as “custodians of ecosystem, nature and traditions” and paid an honorarium for their contribution to preservation of natural resources. Their environment-friendly practices were also highlighted in the charter of demands.
  • The document was released by the Tribal Development Forum, Vaagdhara, and other institutions working for tribal rights and food security here last week.
  • Joshi, social activist, said though 70% population in the tribal area depended on agriculture, which was primarily rain-fed, most of the government’s investment towards agriculture was dedicated to the irrigated crop area.
  • “A sustainable integrated farming system needs to be developed for benefiting small and marginal tribal farmers. Besides, agricultural subsidies should be broadened to promote traditional farming,” he said.
  • A monitoring mechanism should be dedicated to the SDG index in the tribal village panchayats, blocks and districts, said Mr. Joshi.

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. In which one of the following States is Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary located?
  1. Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Manipur
  3. Meghalaya
  4. Nagaland

See

Answer
Question 2. The well-known painting “BaniThani” belongs to the
  1. Bundi school
  2. Jaipur school
  3. Kangra school
  4. Kishangarh school

See

Answer
Question 3. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?
  1. An Israeli radar system
  2. India’s indigenous anti-missile programme
  3. An American anti-missile system
  4. A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

See

Answer

 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Common Cause, an NGO, has filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court for setting aside its earlier decision upholding the appointment of Rakesh Asthana, a senior IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, as a Special Director of the CBI. In this context, write a note on Curative Petition.
  2. The Union Cabinet recently approved the Agriculture Export Policy, aimed at increasing India’s exports to $60 billion by 2022 from the current $37 billion. In this context critically evaluate the India’s effort towards the doubling the farmers income by 2022.

See previous CNA