08 Dec 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. ‘Don’t drop Kashmiri from MHRD portal’
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Current account deficit widens to 2.9% in Q2
INTERNAL SECURITY
1. NSCN (K) faction asks Centre to revive ceasefire
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. M.S. Swaminathan calls GM crops a failure, Centre’s adviser faults paper
ENVIRONMENT
1. Expired dart fired on Avni, says probe body
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. An invitation to corruption? (The Electoral Bond Scheme)
2. End this long trauma (Habitual Offenders Act)
F. Tidbits
1. Luxembourg offers free mass transit for all
2. ‘Issue caste certificate for Hanuman’
3. ‘Religious education can counter terror’
4. Social media sites told to filter content using AI
5. HC stays Art of Living event at Big Temple
G. Prelims Fact
1. Mechanism to allow cultivation of GM crops in India
2. BT Cotton
3. BT Brinjal
4. HT Mustard
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. ‘Don’t drop Kashmiri from MHRD portal’

Context

  • Kashmir-based literary bodies are up in arms against a move by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to withdraw Kashmiri translations from its language-promoting portal, Bhasha Sangam, after Kashmiri Pandits objected to the “regional script” of the language.
  • The MHRD website, Bhasha Sangam, took down the Persian script, which is written from right to left like Urdu, and is widely used by the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Pandits prefer the Sharda script, which was in vogue around the 8th Century and is influenced by Sanskrit.
  • Writer M.K. Kaw was the first Kashmiri Pandit to push a proposal in 2005 before the HRD Minister to change the script. However, it was opposed in Kashmir and the proposal was shelved.

Bhasha Sangam

  • The government has launched a unique initiative called Bhasha Sangam to introduce school students to 22 Indian languages.
  • The initiative under Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat; Bhasha Sangam is a programme for schools and educational institutions to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian languages.
  • Another objective of Bhasha Sangam is to enhance linguistic tolerance and respect and promote national integration.
  • There are 22 languages listed in Schedule VIII of the Constitution but most students are familiar with only one or two languages.

 Ek  Bharat  Shreshtha  Bharat

  • Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat was announced on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 31st October (Ekta Divas).
  • Through this innovative measure, the knowledge of the culture, traditions and practices of different states & UTs will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between the states, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India.

 The Broad Objectives of the initiative are

  • To celebrate the unity in diversity of our nation and to maintain and strengthen the fabric of traditionally existing emotional bonds between the people of our country
  • To promote the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all states and union territories through a year-long planned engagement between states.
  • To showcase the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either state for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity.
  • To create an environment which promotes learning between states by sharing best practices and experiences.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Current account deficit widens to 2.9% in Q2

 

  • Current account deficit (CA) widened to 2.9% of GDP for the July-September quarter due to higher trade deficit compared with 1.1% during the same period of the previous year, the Reserve Bank of India said on Friday.
  • “The deficit widened due to sharp rise in oil prices. But now prices have corrected 31% from peak levels. Exports also picked up after rupee weakened against the dollar.
  • The central bank had intervened in the currency market by selling dollars to arrest the sharp fall in rupee. In 2018 till October, the rupee had weakened 15% against the dollar but reversed trend in November as oil prices softened. Latest data released on Friday showed foreign exchange reserves increased by $ 932.8 million to $393.718 billion in the week to November 30.
  • Overall, the country’s balance of payments was in deficit of $1.9 billion in the July-September quarter as compared with a surplus of $9.5 billion in the year ago period.

Balance of Payments

  • Countries trade with one another to buy and sell the goods. With the advent of globalization, investment to and from have also increased many fold. A country’s trade and other economic exchanges with the world are recorded on its external account in the form of balance of payment (BoP) transactions.
  • There are two components of BoP – Current Account  and Capital Account

 Current Account

  • It deals with current, ongoing, short term transactions like trade in goods, services (invisible) etc. It reflects the nation’s net income.

The components of Current Account

  • Goods – trade in goods
  • Services (invisible) – trade in services e.g. tourism
  • Income – investment income
  • Current unilateral transfers – donations, gifts, grants, remittances Note that grants might appear as component of capital account but are included in current account as they are unilateral, create no liability. Recipient does not have to give anything back in return.

Capital Account

  • It deals with capital transactions i.e. those transactions which create assets or liabilities. It reflects the net changes in the ownership of national assets.

Components of Capital Account

  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
  • Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI)
  • External Borrowings such as ECB
  • Reserve Account with the Central Bank

The foreign investment is under capital account but dividends and income from investment comes under current account in the category income from abroad as dividend is transferred periodically, does not result in creation of asset or liability.

Category: INTERNAL SECURITY

1. NSCN (K) faction asks Centre to revive ceasefire

Context

  • A breakaway faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), led by Khango Konyak, has decided to revoke its decision of unilaterally abrogating the ceasefire agreement with the Union government with immediate effect.

Details of the issue

  • The chairman and general secretary of the NSCN(K) faction, Konyak and Isak Sumi, said in a joint statement that the outfit resolved to revoke the unilateral decision after holding wide consultations with NGOs and civil society groups of Nagaland in the past one month.
  • The statement said that the appeal made by various organisations and the “positive response” by the Government of India were also factors that led to its decision.
  • The NSCN(K) expects the Centre to respond positively by honouring its decision to revive the ceasefire in the interest of peace in Nagaland and the Naga people in general, the statement said.

NSCM

  • Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland, was formed to advance the Naga cause for sovereignty.
  • This organisation has operations in the Naga inhabited regions of India & Myanmar, with easy cross border access.
  • This group has had major splits. Issac-Muivah faction (NSCN – IM) is currently involved in peace talks with the Indian government, while the Kaplang faction with its major operations in Myanmar is designated as a terror outfit by India.

Greater Nagalim

  • A “Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland. That included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000 sq km, while the state of Nagaland consists of 16,527 sq km.
  • The claims have always kept Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh wary of a peace settlement that might affect their territories.
  • The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the ‘Greater Nagalim’ demand — “Integration of all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella” — as many as five times: in December 1964, August 1970, September 1994, December 2003 and as recently as on July 27, 2015.
  • The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) has been engaged in peace talks with the interlocutor of the Central government since 1997, when it announced a ceasefire agreement after an insurgency movement that started in Nagaland soon after India’s Independence.
  • The NSCN(K) had signed ceasefire with the Centre in 2001 but unilaterally abrogated (repeal or do away) it in March 2015 when the then chairman of the group, S.S. Khaplang, was alive.
  • In 2015, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) to end the long- drawn Naga insurgency after it agreed to give up the demand for sovereignty. Six Naga political groups joined the discussions later.
  • The Union government has also started separate talks with working committees of six Naga nationalist political groups since 2017.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. M.S. Swaminathan calls GM crops a failure, Centre’s adviser faults paper

Context

  • A research paper co-authored by leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, which describes Bt cotton as a ‘failure,’ was criticised by India’s Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), K. VijayRaghavan as ‘deeply flawed’.

Details of the issue

  • The paper, ‘Modern Technologies for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security’, appears in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Current Science. It is authored by P.C. Kesavan and Prof. Swaminathan, senior functionaries of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).
  • The article is a review of crop development in India and transgenic crops — particularly Bt cotton, the stalled Bt brinjal as well as DMH-11, a transgenic mustard hybrid. The latter two have been cleared by scientific regulators but not by the Centre.
  • “There is no doubt that GE (genetically engineered) Bt cotton has failed in India. It has failed as a sustainable agriculture technology and has, therefore, also failed to provide livelihood security for cotton farmers who are mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers,” according to the paper, “…The precautionary principle (PP) has been done away with and no science-based and rigorous biosafety protocols and evaluation of GM crops are in place.”
  • The piece also raises questions on the genetic engineering technology itself on the grounds that it raises the cost of sowing. Also, the insertion of foreign genes (in the plant) could lead to “molecular and cellular events not precisely understood.”
  • “The Kesavan and Swaminathan ‘Review’ (sic) is deeply flawed and full of errors. Needs scientific rebuttal,” Mr. VijayRaghavan tweeted from his personal account. Before being appointed the PSA, Mr. VijayRaghavan, a biologist, was Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, which funds a variety of molecular biology projects. Mr. Kesavan, who is the lead author of the piece, told The Hindu that he was unaware of Mr. VijayRaghavan’s comment but was expecting a “scientific, point-by-point response (of any flaws).”
  • Swaminathan, credited with leading India’s Green Revolution, has in recent years advocated ‘sustainable agriculture’ and said the government should only use genetic engineering as a last resort. “…Swaminathan emphasised that genetic engineering technology is supplementary and must be need based. Only in very rare circumstance (less than 1%) may there arise a need for the use of this technology,” according to the paper.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

  • Genetically Modified Organisms, are the ones in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way as to get the required quality.
  • The technology is often called ‘gene technology’, or ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering’ and the resulting organism is said to be ‘genetically modified’, ‘genetically engineered’ or ‘transgenic’.

Advantages of GM crops

  • Crop Protection: The initial objective for developing GM plants was to improve crop protection. GM crops have improved resistance to diseases, pest, insects and herbicides. They also have improved tolerance to cold/heat, drought and salinity.
  • Insect resistance is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants.
  • Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides.
  • Economic benefits: GM crops can increase yield and thus income.
  • Genetically modified foods have a longer shelf life. This improves how long they last and stay fresh during transportation and storage.
  • Food Security: Given the increased growth of global population and increased urbanisation, GM crops offer one of the promising solutions to meet the world’s food security needs.

 Issues with GM crops

  • Human Health Risks – Potential impact on human health including allergens and transfer of antibiotic resistance markers
  • Environmental concerns: They can reduce species diversity. For example, Insect-resistant plants might harm insects that are not their intended target and thus result in destruction of that particular species.
  • GM technology could also allow the transfer of genes from one crop to another, creating “super weeds”, which will be immune to common control methods.
  • Viral genes added to crops to confer resistance might be transferred to other viral pathogens, which can lead to new and more virulent virus strains.
  • Economic Concerns: Introduction of a GM crop to market is a lengthy and costly process.
  • It does not result in high yields as promised. For instance, the highest yields in mustard are from the five countries which do not grow GM mustard — U.K., France, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic — and not from the GM-growing U.S. or Canada.
  • Critics claim that patent laws give developers of the GM crops a dangerous degree of control over the food supply. The concern is over domination of world food production by a few companies.
  • Ethical Concerns: Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values by mixing among species There have also been objections to consuming animal genes in plants.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Expired dart fired on Avni, says probe body

Context

  • The committee constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to enquire into the death of tiger T-1 (the official name of the tigress known as Avni) in Pandharkawada on November 2, has concluded that the dart shot to immobilise the big cat had been used about 56 hours after it was prepared, well past the recommended 24 hours.
  • The probe panel also faulted the planning and conduct of the operation that resulted in the tigress being shot and killed.

National Tiger Conservation Authority     

  • NTCA is a statutory body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change.
  • It was provided statutory status by the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 which had amended Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It addresses the administrative as well as ecological concerns for conserving tigers, by providing a statutory basis for protection of tiger reserves.
  • It also provides strengthened institutional mechanisms for the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and endangered species.
  • It ensures enforcing of guidelines for tiger conservation and monitoring compliance of the same.
  • It also places motivated and trained officers having good track record as Field Directors of tiger reserves.

Related Concept – Project Tiger

  • Aims at conserving India’s national animal i.e. Tiger.
  • Launched in 1973
  • Currently there are 50 tiger reserves
  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy.
  • The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
  • The Project Tiger aims to foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.
  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Wild tigers are found in 18 States in India.
  • The All India tiger estimation is carried out once in every four years.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. An invitation to corruption? (The Electoral Bond Scheme)

Larger Background:

What are Electoral Bonds?

  1. Before understanding the electoral bond let’s define what a bond is. Bond is a debt instrument which generally has following instrument
    1. The issuer will come under a debt/liability
    2. The rate of interest is usually referred to as coupon rate
    3. There is a term/maturity period
  2. Although the term “bond” is used the “Electoral Bonds”, these instruments will not have all the features of the bond (no interest rate, returns will go to the political parties-having said so, all of this will be clear when the government in consultation with RBI will come out with a policy)
  3. These Electoral bonds are instruments/securities which will be used henceforth to donate funds to the political parties. These bonds will be on the lines of bearer bonds or promissory notes wherein the issuer (bank) will be the custodian and will pay the one who holds the bonds (political party). The features of electoral bonds and the process involved is:
  • These bonds will be issued by notified banks.
  • The donor to the political party may approach these banks and purchase the bonds.
  • The donor will be allowed to purchase the bonds through cheque/digital payment. Hence the identity of the donors will be protected (if the donors are identified, they may get caught up in political rivalry-especially if the donor is a businessman)
  • The donor will donate these bonds to the political party.
  • The political party has to encash it into the account which is registered with the Election Commission of India.
  • As per the information provided so far, these bonds will have a short tenure (in terms of few days)
  • These bonds will not provide any kind of tax benefits.
  • The deadline for implementation of this was 1st April 2018.
  • The parties will be asked to file returns of donations under the IT Act.

A More Detailed Look:

  • A donor can purchase electoral bonds from a specified bank only by a banking instrument.  He would have to disclose in his accounts the amount of political bonds that he has purchased.  
  • The life of the bond would be only 15 days.  A bond can only be encashed in a pre-declared account of a political party.  
  • Every political party in its returns will have to disclose the amount of donations it has received through electoral bonds to the Election Commission.  
  • The entire transactions would be through banking instruments.  As against a total non-transparency in the present system of cash donations where the donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed, some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.  
  • How much each donor has distributed to a political party would be known only to the donor.  This is necessary because once this disclosure is made, past experience has shown, donors would not find the scheme attractive and would go back to the less-desirable option of donating by cash.  
  • In fact the choice has now to be consciously made between the existing system of substantial cash donations which involves total unclean money and is non-transparent and the new scheme which gives the option to the donors to donate through entirely a transparent method of cheque, online transaction or through electoral bonds.  
  • While all three methods involve clean money, the first two are totally transparent and the electoral bonds scheme is a substantial improvement in transparency over the present system of no-transparency.

In the whole process there are three important stakeholders:

  • Donor – the policy/framework which will be announced in the coming days will dictate the eligibility provisions related to the donors (generally the citizens and non-resident Indians are allowed to invest in the bonds issued by RBI)
  • Notified Banks – The introduction of such securities will require the amendment of RBI act.

Political Party: Till now the political parties were supposed to maintain the records of all the donors who donated above Rs 20000 through cheque. As a result it was observed that there were large number donations with a value lesser than Rs 20000. Hence the government has brought down the limit to Rs 2000.

Brief Note on the the in-built security features of the Electoral Bonds:

  • The Purchaser is allowed to buy electoral bond (s) only on due fulfillment of all the extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account.
    • The Bond does not carry the name of payee or any other details by which the buyer can be identified. Likewise no detail of political party depositing the bonds is noted on the electoral bonds. Thus, any particular bond cannot be identified or associated with any particular buyer or political party deposits it.  
    • Further, the Electoral Bonds have some built in security features to eliminate chances of forgery or presentation of fake bonds.
  • These include a random serial number invisible to the naked eye. This number is not noted by the SBI in any record associated with buyer or political party depositing a particular electoral bond. It is, thus not linked to any party transaction when the Bank issues a bond to the buyer. As such the number is not being used or can be used to track the donation or the buyer.
  • SBI does not share the serial number with anybody, including the Government and users.   

Importance of the Electoral Bonds

  • The ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.
  • It will also boost digital transactions.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Early this year, 2018, the government introduced an Electoral Bond Scheme purportedly with a view to cleansing the prevailing culture of political sponsorship.
  • But the programme’s failings have been so blindingly obvious, and its consequences so utterly devastating to rectitude and transparency in government, that even O.P. Rawat, who just retired Chief Election Commissioner, thought it fit to deliver a damning indictment of the scheme.
  • “There are many grey areas in this because when there is no ceiling on party expenditure and the EC (Election Commission) cannot monitor it, how can you be sure that what is coming in is not black money as there is a secrecy of the donor,” Mr. Rawat told The Economic Times in an interview last week. “Even foreign money can come and even a dying company can give money now… So, prima facie it appears the scheme cannot really deliver whatever it was intended to.”

Electoral Bond Scheme: Too opaque?

  • Some experts have opined that in its present form, the scheme permits not only individuals and body corporates, but also “every artificial juridical person,” to purchase bonds, issued by the State Bank of India, in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore, during specified periods of the year.
  • Issued in the form of promissory notes, once a bond is purchased the buyer can donate it to any political party, which can then encash it on demand.
  • Currently, the government claims that since these bonds are purchased through banking channels the scheme will eliminate the infusion of black money into electoral funding.
  • However, critics of the scheme have pointed out that not only is this argument palpably false, as a simple reading of the scheme’s terms shows us, the programme also virtually endorses corruption in political funding, as Milan Vaishnav has argued.

A Case In Point:

  • Consider, for example, the fact that the scheme allows for complete anonymity of the donor. Neither the purchaser of the bond nor the political party receiving the donation is mandated to disclose the donor’s identity. Therefore, not only will, say, the shareholders of a corporation be unaware of the company’s contributions, but the voters too will have no idea of how, and through whom, a political party has been funded.
  • Further, critics have also pointed out that just as damaging to the most basic democratic ideals is the elimination of a slew of other barriers that were in place to check the excesses of corporate political sponsoring.
  • For instance, the programme removes an existing condition that had prohibited companies from donating anything more than 7.5% of their average net-profit over the previous three years.
  • This now means that even loss-making entities can make unlimited contributions.
  • Additionally, the requirement that a corporation ought to have been in existence for at least three years before it could make donations — a system that was meant to stop shell concerns from being created with a view purely to syphoning money into politics — has also been removed.

Two Important Judgments: A Close Look

  • The dangers inherent in unregulated funding of political parties, especially by corporations, have been apparent for many years.
  • It is important to point out that even as early as in 1957, in a pair of judgments outstanding in their lucidity and prescience, the Bombay and the Calcutta High Courts warned Parliament of the perils in allowing companies to freely add to party coffers.
  • It’s a threat, wrote Chief Justice M.C. Chagla, of the Bombay High Court, which is likely to “grow apace and which may ultimately overwhelm and even throttle democracy in the country”.
  • The court was conscious that, given the circumscriptions of the law, it could scarcely deny, in the case before it, permission sought by Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. to amend its memorandum of association, to allow the company to make contributions to different political interests. But this did not stop the court from drawing Parliament’s attention to the problem.
  • Another point that is worth mentioning here is that of  H.M. Seervai, who was representing Tata. The court noted, conceded that the least the company could do was to disclose clearly in its yearly balance sheet the list of donations made by it. But, to Chief Justice Chagla, such a condition was grossly insufficient. It was imperative, he ruled, that not only the company’s shareholders, but electors too must know how a party is being financed. For democracy, he believed, couldn’t function unless the voters had free and complete access to information about the parties for which they were going to vote.
  • As a matter of fact, only months earlier, faced with a similar petition, the Calcutta High Court had made an almost identical appeal. “To the cynic it appears to be a plea of the company to have a legal sanction to bribe the Government of the day, to induce policies that will help the company in its business,” wrote Justice P.B. Mukharji.
  • If amendments of this kind were allowed, and if joint stock companies serve as adjuncts to political parties, he added, the “man who pays the piper will then call the tune”.
  • The judgments were recognising a bedrock principle of democracy: that public action ought to be guided by transparency and fairness.
  • Unfortunately, however, in the years since, critics point out that every effort has been made to endorse opacity in political funding. Critics point out that the electoral bonds scheme, unless immediately withdrawn, may well irredeemably damage India’s democratic edifice.
  • Further, as petitions filed in the Supreme Court point out, the scheme suffers from at least two foundational defects.
  • These defects are as follows:
  1. It was incorporated on the back of a series of amendments made to legislation, including the Representation of the People Act, the Income Tax Act and the Companies Act, which were introduced in the form of a money bill.
    • That the scheme flouts a number of fundamental rights.

      It is important to note that Article 110 of the Constitution allows the Speaker to classify a proposed legislation as a money bill, only when the draft law deals with all or any of the subjects enlisted in the provision.
      • These subjects comprise a set of seven features, including items such as the imposition of a tax, the regulation of the borrowing of money by the government, the custody of the Consolidated Fund of India, the appropriation of money out of the consolidated fund, and any matter incidental to the subjects explicitly mentioned in Article 110.
      • However, as hard as we might try, though, it’s impossible to see how the provisions pertaining to the electoral bond scheme could possibly fall within any of these categories.
      • Critics point out that the Finance Act, through which these amendments were introduced, therefore did not deal with only those matters contained in Article 110.

        Perspective on Fundamental rights
      • Critics point out that the scheme is equally destructive in its subversion of the fundamental rights to equality and freedom of expression.
      • They add that there’s no doubt that the Constitution does not contain an explicitly enforceable right to vote. But implicit in its guarantees of equality and free speech is a right to knowledge and information.
      • Also, it is important to note that our courts have nearly consistently seen “freedom of voting” as distinct from the right to vote, as a facet of the right to freedom of expression and as an essential condition of political equality. In the absence of complete knowledge about the identities of those funding the various different parties, it’s difficult to conceive how a citizen can meaningfully participate in political and public life. As Ornit Shani’s wonderful book, How India Became Democratic, shows us, the institutionalising of equality through the principle of one person one vote, and through the creation of the universal adult franchise, was critical to building India’s republican structure.
  • Finally, when the power of that vote is diluted through opacity in political funding, democracy as a whole loses its intrinsic value.

2. End this long trauma (Habitual Offenders Act)

Larger Background:

  • The term, ‘De-notified and Nomadic Tribes’, can be traced to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871.
  • The colonial government notified nearly 200 tribal communities to be hereditary criminals, cementing their societal identity as outcasts and subjecting them to constant harassment by the administration.
  • After India gained Independence, these tribes were ‘de-notified’ from the list of Criminal Tribes, and, hence, the term.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Experts point out that several reasons can be ascribed to the state-sanctioned stigmatisation of the DNTs in India under British rule, including the strategy to identify their allies and at the same time, subdue and monitor activities of rebellious tribal communities in India.

A Look at the Draconian Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871

  • It is important to note that the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871 allowed for close supervision and control over the mobility of the tribes which were notified by the provincial governments.
  • The Act was amended in 1897, 1908 and 1911 to give sweeping powers to the authorities, some as draconian as allowing the state to remove any child of the age of six and above from its ‘criminal’ parents. By 1924, certain provisions were amended, and the Act was finally applicable to the whole of British India. Along with the introduction of laws such as the Forest Acts and the Salt Tax Act, the British threw a noose around the the lives of DNTs using stringent regulations.
  • It is only in independent India that the need was felt to shift the collective burden of criminality to the individual, which led to the CTA being repealed and the Habitual Offenders Act (HOA) being enacted in various States. However, not all States enacted it.  

A Look at the Present Situation

  • Currently, a variant of the HOA Model Bill as proposed by the Union Government then stands enforced in 10 States across the country, having been enacted in many more.
  • However, critics point out that the HOA functioned as a mere extension of the CTA. Nomadic and semi-nomadic communities continued to face harassment at the hands of law enforcement agencies.
  • Critics add that the mere repeal of the CTA could not change the mindset of government officials or members of society. The fact is that even in the 21st century, DNTs continue to face ostracisation by society at large.
  • Also, given their centuries-old tradition of constant movement, they often do not possess any residential proof, which leaves them out of the majority of the government’s developmental schemes. Those deemed eligible for such schemes were randomly grouped under the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes categories. As a result, most members of the DNTs continue to be out of the orbit of steps being taken to end discrimination (picture shows DNTs staging a demonstration in Madurai, Tamil Nadu).

The Way Forward

    • To address these issues, the first National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted in 2003, and reconstituted two years later under the chairpersonship of Balkrishna Renke, which submitted its report in 2008.
    • The recommendations put forward found an echo in the Idate Commission, constituted with the similar mandate in 2015, and currently withholding public release of its report. However, denied funding by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in fulfilling its mandate of carrying out survey and field validation work, some experts have pointed out that the Idate Commission Report lacks the scientific data necessary to introduce reforms to address the plight of DNTs.
    • It is important to note that the NCDNT report clearly recommends repealing the various HOAs. This has also been the constant refrain of community leaders, representatives and civil society organisations — as the Act still casts its shadow of the state on communities.
  • Experts have pointed out that the onus is thus upon the lawmakers, who are at the helm of democratic institutions that govern the country, to finally bring down the curtains on this age-old, state-sanctioned stigmatisation, and act upon the demands put forth by the DNTs.
  • However, it is important to learn from previous mistakes. A mere repeal of the law will not address their need for establishing society-wide changes to gain access to political-social-economic welfare. Thus, the repeal of the HOA has to be accompanied by a slew of legal reforms to address the multitude of issues DNT communities face.
  • It is important to note that their unique lifestyle requires positive affirmation and development policies that cater to their long-standing and overlooked needs.
  • Further, it should be the duty of the government to be proactive and reach out to the DNTs since the latter would understandably refrain from seeking state help.

F. Tidbits

1. Luxembourg offers free mass transit for all

 

  • Luxembourg is a small country with big traffic jams. So when Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was sworn in for a second term earlier this week, his governing coalition promised free mass transit for all, which would make the country the first to offer such a benefit.
  • Luxembourg is barely larger than a city-state, with a population of about 5,60,000. But more than 1,80,000 workers commute across the border from Belgium, France and Germany.
  • Part of the problem is that Luxembourg already has the highest number of cars for its population in the European Union: 662 for 1,000 people, bringing it closest in the region to the United States, a world leader with more than 800 cars per 1,000 people.
  • The number of international commuters has doubled in the past two decades, rising more quickly than the country anticipated, Mr. Klein said. This has caused the kind of congestion that is familiar to those who commute into many big cities. Luxembourg’s highways are packed with cars, and overcrowded trains often suffer delays.
  • Free mass transit will be available from the beginning of 2020, said Dany Frank, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Mobility.

2. ‘Issue caste certificate for Hanuman’

 

  • The raging debate on whether Lord Hanuman was a Dalit on Friday took an interesting turn with Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia (PSPL) demanding the Hindu deity’s ‘caste certificate’ from the district administration.
  • The PSPL, launched in October after Shivpal Yadav fell out with his nephew and Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav, threatened to launch a sit-in if the district administration did not provide the certificate within a week.
  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had recently dubbed Lord Hanuman as a Dalit at a poll rally in Rajasthan.
  • “We have applied for the caste certificate of Lord Hanuman at the office of the Varanasi District Magistrate. As the CM has termed him a Dalit and dragged the deity into petty caste politics, we want his caste certificate,” PSPL youth wing district chief Harish Mishra said from Varanasi.

3. ‘Religious education can counter terror’

 

  • Strong religious education acts as a bulwark against radicalisation, and most of the Islamic State members had little knowledge of Islam, Asif Ibrahim, former envoy of the Prime Minister on countering terrorism and extremism, said on Friday
  • Ibrahim, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, was appointed by Narendra Modi as a special envoy in 2015.
  • At a conference organised by Policy Perspectives Foundation on India-UAE cooperation against radicalisation and terrorism, Mr. Ibrahim said 108 out of 180 million Indian Muslims joined the IS in the past few years.
  • “Around 50% of the recruits were Indians living in West Asian countries when they joined the IS and they were exposed to the Salafi radicals. 40% of the recruits were from the coastal regions of India,” he said.
  • “The current narrative is that the more religious you are, the more fundamentalist you are. This was proven wrong by the U.K.’s security agencies. They interviewed IS returnees and 90% of them had little knowledge of their religion. Strong religious education acts as a bulwark against radicalisation. So much so that in many madrasas (seminaries) in India, countering violent extremism is a key chapter in most religious texts,” Mr. Ibrahim said.
  • Adil Rasheed, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), said all Salafis were not radicals.

4. Social media sites told to filter content using AI

 

  • The Union government has asked social media platforms to emulate their practices in the U.K. in using Artificial Intelligence tools to identify and take down content inciting violence, a senior Home Ministry official said on Friday.
  • The Ministry has asked Twitter to engage “flaggers” and “voluntary organisations” to identify, detect and take down objectionable content in real time.
  • He said that after the government met representatives of Google, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and others, the compliance rates in honouring requests have gone up from 60% to 80%.
  • “Google has agreed to deploy pro-active tools to voluntarily identify and remove such content. Social media platforms have been asked to engage NGOs working in the field, and appoint a grievance redressal cell, for prompt action,” the official said.
  • The Ministry had asked Twitter to produce telephone numbers and other identifiable sources to help track suspicious accounts.
  • The Centre has stepped up its interactions with social media platforms to arrest the spread of rumours, and messages inciting unrest, cybercrimes and other anti- national activities. In May and June, over 20 people have been lynched based on fake posts or rumours floating on WhatsApp.
  • WhatsApp has been asked to keep the complete trail of forwarding of unlawful content and share “meta data”to identify the author of the content.

5. HC stays Art of Living event at Big Temple

 

  • The Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday granted an interim injunction against a meditation event organised by Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living at the Sri Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • A Division Bench of Justices K.K. Sasidharan and P.D. Audikesavalu granted a stay against the conduct of the event and directed the Thanjavur District Collector, Superintendent of Police and the Archaeological Survey of India to ensure that the temporary structure put up within the temple complex is removed. The case was adjourned to December 10 for further hearing.
  • The court was hearing a PIL petition filed by N. Venkatesh of Thanjavur, which sought a direction to the authorities concerned to cancel permission for the event at the temple premises.
  • Venkatesh said that the iconic temple was over 1,000 years old and by allowing private parties to put up temporary structures within its premises, the authorities were showing no regard for heritage.
  • After the order, the Art of Living Foundation, in a release, said it had made alternative arrangements and added that the meditation event would now take place at the nearby Kaveri Mandapam in Thanjavur.

G. Prelims Fact

1. Mechanism to allow cultivation of GM crops in India

 

  • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is apex body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country.
  • GEAC is also responsible for giving technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials. However, Environment Minister gives final approval for GMOs.
  • The safety aspects of genetically modified crops are assessed by the Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSCs), Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) constituted under Rules 1989 of Environment Protection Act (EPA) – 1986 based on Biosafety Guidelines and the Standard Operating Procedures
  • The Government of India follows a policy of case-by-case approval of transgenic crops.

2. BT Cotton

 

  • The Maharashtra Hybrids Seed Company (Mahyco) jointly with the US seed company Monsanto developed the genetically modified Bt Cotton to tackle the bollworm problem that had devastated cotton crops in the past.
  • In 2002, Bt Cotton became the first and only transgenic crop approved by the GEAC for commercial cultivation.

3. BT Brinjal

 

  • It was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the Dharward University of Agricultural Sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

4. HT Mustard

 

  • Dhara Mustard Hybrid(DMH-11) is an indigenously developed transgenic mustard. It is genetically modified variety of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) mustard.
  • It was created by using “barnase/barstar” technology for genetic modification by adding genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard self-pollinating plant.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. The PJ Nayak Committee report which was published in May 2014 is related to reforms in 
  1. Banking sector
  2. Agricultural sector
  3. Education sector
  4. Industrial sector

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the statements regarding the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP):
  1. India is the first country in the world to develop a document on ICAP
  2. Ministry of Environment and Forest Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released the draft on ICAP.

Choose the correct option:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 and 2

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding ‘e-Sahaj’ portal:
  1. It has been made to grant security clearance to private business individuals
  2. It comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Choose the right code:

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. A research paper co-authored by leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, which describes Bt cotton as a ‘failure.’ In this context critically evaluate the role of GM technology in the sustainable development of agriculture (150 words; 10 Marks)
  2. The Union government has asked social media platforms to emulate their practices in the U.K. in using Artificial Intelligence tools to identify and take down content inciting violence. In this context, write a note on the role of artificial intelligence in curbing the violent activities in the society (250 words; 15 Marks)

See previous CNA