UPSC Exam: Comprehensive News Analysis - December 21

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY
1. No plan to take away J&K’s special status, says Centre
2. UPCOCA tabled, Opposition fumes
3. Revision of Archaic Laws
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS
1. Finding used copters for Kabul
2. India, Myanmar seal deal
3. Lobbying intensifies for India’s UNGA vote on Jerusalem
4. India –US Security Cooperation
C. GS3 Related
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY
1. The 2017 Wetland Rules
2. ‘2017 may be among top 3 hottest years’
ECONOMY
1. The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill
2. Oil Market
INTERNAL SECURITY AND DEFENSE RELATED DEVELOPMENTS
1. IAF initiates step to buy 83 Tejas aircraft
D. GS4 Related
E. Prelims Fact
F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY

1. No plan to take away J&K’s special status, says Centre

 In news:

  • The government informed Parliament that there was no proposal as of now for abolition of Articles 35A and 370 which give special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 35A and the PIL:

  • Article 35A was added to the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954 and it empowers the State legislature to define the State’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges.
  • Article 35A was challenged by an NGO before the Supreme Court by seeking its abrogation.
  • The PIL said the Jammu and Kashmir government, under the guise of Articles 35A and 370, was discriminating against non-residents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.
  • Petitioners contention: Article 35 A is against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”. Restricting citizens from other States from getting employment or buying property within Jammu and Kashmir is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
Basic Information:

Article 35A: “Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights. — Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State:

(a) defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be, permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; or

(b) conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects—

(i) employment under the State Government;

(ii) acquisition of immovable property in the State;

(iii) settlement in the State; or

(iv) right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide,

shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provision of this part.”

2. UPCOCA tabled, Opposition fumes

 In news:
  • Uttar Pradesh Control of Organized Crime Act, 2017 (UPCOCA)
  • Opposition claim: UPCOCA could potentially be used as a tool to suppress rivals, settle political vendetta and target specific communities.
  • Government’s claim: the proposed law is a remedy against organised crime.

Features of the UPCOCA:

  • The UPCOCA law would give special powers to the police to arrest offenders and members of the crime syndicates.
  • The State would be empowered to seize the property of such people after taking the consent of a special court constituted to hear the cases.
  • Properties acquired through illegal activities and organised crime would also be seized.
  • Some of the crimes defined under the UPCOCA are: land grab [government and non-state property], illegal mining, manufacture and sale of illegal medicines and illicit liquor, money laundering, wildlife smuggling, extortion, abduction syndicate, hafta collection, murder and conspiracy to murder and white-collar offences.
  • If found guilty, offenders would face a minimum jail term of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment or even death sentence.
  • The accused will not be granted bail for six months after the arrest.

3. Revision of Archaic Laws

  • A huge number of obsolete Acts remained in the law books despite losing their relevance and utility.
  • It has been only in the last three years that nearly 1,800 obsolete laws have been repealed.
  • In the latest round, 235 outdated Acts and nine pre-Independence Ordinances have been repealed.
  • These pieces of legislation may have been relevant and necessary at the time they were introduced, but in the absence of a periodic review they continue to burden the statutory corpus.
  • These laws are archaic mainly because the social, economic and legal conditions that required their enactment does not obtain today; they are also not in tune with the progress of democracy since Independence.

Some Archaic Laws

  • Among the Acts repealed are the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1911, the Bengal Suppression of Terrorist Outrages (Supplementary) Act, 1932, and the Preventive Detention Act, 1950.
  • The country still has a body of ‘anti-terror’ legislation as well as preventive detention laws. Although such laws remain in the statute books, these particular enactments are redundant.
  • Other questionable legal provisions, for example, those on ‘sedition’ or exciting disaffection against the state, remain; so do ‘adultery’ and ‘sex against the order of nature’.Such obsolete concepts and notions that underlie law-making also require an overhaul.

Committees Recommendations

  • In a 2014 interim report, the first of four such reports on obsolete laws, the Law Commission noted that the panel had been identifying Acts for repeal in many of its reports in the past.
  • Its 96th and 148th Reports recommended a good number of such laws. In 1998, the P.C. Jain Commission recommended the withdrawal of a large body of legislation, and also noted that as many as 253 Acts identified earlier for withdrawal still remained on the statute book.
  • Nine ordinances issued by the Governor-General between 1941 and 1946, covering subjects such as war injuries, war gratuities and collective fines, are being removed from the statute book only now.
  • It is odd that the Howrah Offences Act, 1857, the Hackney-Carriage Act, 1879, and the Dramatic Performances Act, 1876, have been in force well into the current century.

Why Should Archaic Laws be repealed?

  • The problem with not removing archaic laws is that they could be invoked suddenly against unsuspecting and otherwise law-abiding citizens.
  • It is a welcome sign for good governance that the present government is updating and trimming the statute book.

A Permanent Commission

  • Given that legislation is quite a prolific activity, especially in the State Assemblies, it would be advisable to have a permanent commission to review the existing body of law and identify those that require repeal as often as possible

Category: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS

1. Finding used copters for Kabul

In news:

  • India is considering buying several second-hand Russian-made Mi35s for the Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) from other countries
  • This particular move indicates the closer cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow on Afghanistan.
  • The plan will see New Delhi cooperating with Russia on military support for Afghanistan, with the U.S. on development support, and with Iran on trade cooperation for goods to Afghanistan.

Key Facts:

  • India is already training military officers including a batch of women officers at its military academies
  • Afghanistan is in the midst of a full transition from its old hardware, and Soviet–era generals, to U.S. hardware, and a next-generation NATO-model Army by 2022.

2. India, Myanmar seal deal

 In news:
  • India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Myanmar.
  • The MoU will help create conditions for the return of the displaced Rohingya
  • It also includes building of pre-fabricated homes for the displaced population.

3. Lobbying intensifies for India’s UNGA vote on Jerusalem

 Context:

  • The draft resolution on the status of Jerusalem will be presented before the UNGA.
  • The resolution calls for “the final status of Jerusalem to be resolved through negotiations”.
  • It expresses deep “regret” on the US’ stated position on Jerusalem.

In news:

  • International lobbying has intensified to get India on board for the session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
  • UN is likely to adopt a resolution in opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

India’s stance:

  • India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.

Expert’s opinion: India should stay away from the voting to show its opposition to the “exclusivist” approach by both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.

4. India –US Security Cooperation

National Security Strategy

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announced the National Security Strategy (NSS) for his country during his tenure.
  • NSS has used some positive words in the strategy paper representing an affirmation of India’s stature, and acknowledge India’s emergence as a leading global power.
  • It mentions plans to encourage Indian economic assistance in the region, and outlines U.S. support to India’s leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region as a priority.

How other countries see it?

  • US’s views of China’s assault on the “sovereignty” of South Asian nations and of Pakistan’s continued support to terror groups are closely aligned with India’s concerns in the neighbourhood.
  • It is significant that the U.S. has highlighted them. In its response, New Delhi has appreciated the strategic importance given to India as well as the common objectives that India and the U.S. now share.
  • Predictably, the five countries singled out by the U.S. for criticism have not been as warm in their response.
  • China has accused the U.S. of pursuing what it calls a cold war mentality and the zero-sum game.
  • Russia has said that the strategy reeks of imperialism as the NSS accuses China and Russia of using their military might to deny America access to what it calls critical commercial zones.Pakistan, Iran and North Korea have also been dismissive.

Should India go ahead?

  • India must be mindful that in welcoming the U.S.’s categorisations of its security threats, it doesn’t unthinkingly get swept into an American clinch.
  • To begin with, the U.S. articulation of its perceived challenges has swung wildly over the past year of the Trump administration.
  • It would be wise to await a stabilisation in Mr. Trump’s policies, or at least concrete action to back its words.
  • For example, while the U.S. has talked of countering China’s influence in South Asia, it has not backed this with actual financial assistance for infrastructure critical to the region.
  • Equally, while Mr. Trump’s words on Pakistan and terrorism are sharp, the U.S. has yet to show its hand, either in terms of military action or withholding of coalition support funds.
  • While the U.S. strategy deals with global concerns, the past year has seen American withdrawal from pacts ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Paris agreement on climate change.
  • A tough U.S. security strategy can only be realised through cogent policymaking — whether it is on Israel-Palestine, North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan, Mr. Trump has been publicly at odds with his key advisers.
  • A watch-and-wait stance is still India’s best option to preserve the autonomous and pluralistic nature of its engagement in areas where the U.S. faces its greatest challenges.

 

C. GS3 Related

Category: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & ECOLOGY

1. The 2017 Wetland Rules

  • This year, a new legal framework for wetlands was passed, the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, replacing the earlier Rules of 2010.

Role of Judiciary

  • Recently, a judgment by the Uttarakhand High Court, stating that Ganga and Yamuna rivers are “living entities”, captured the national imagination.
  • Also this year, the Supreme Court passed an order directing States to identify wetlands in the country within a stipulated timeframe.
  • At the same time, the Supreme Court order directs States to come forward and notify wetlands.
  • For example, as lagoons like Chilika (Odisha) and Pulicat (Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh) are characterised by a mix of saline and fresh water, the flows of each type need to be maintained; river floodplains contain wetlands that require conservation so they can refuel the river with fish and other aquatic life during flooding.

Changes in Policy

  • The 2017 Wetland Rules have been criticised for doing away with strong wetland monitoring systems and omitting important wetland types.
  • The 2010 and 2017 Rules for wetlands both emphasise that the ecological character of wetlands ought to be maintained for their conservation.
  • ‘Ecological character’ refers to processes and components which make the wetland a particular, and sometimes unique, ecosystem.
  • Under the new Rules, no authority to issue directions, which are binding in nature to desist from any activity detrimental to wetland conservation, has been prescribed to State wetland authorities.

Challenges in the New Policy

  • There are challenges ahead in identifying wetlands – multiple and competing use is just one of them.
  • Understanding the historic spread and ecological character will be important.
  • In the 2010 Rules, some related criteria were made explicit, such as natural beauty, ecological sensitivity, genetic diversity, historical value, etc. These have been omitted in the 2017 Rules. There are a few reasons why this is problematic.
  • First, there is multiple interest around wetlands. Multiple interests also have governance needs, and this makes it absolutely necessary to identify and map these multiple uses.
  • Secondly, it is crucial to identify ecological criteria so that the wetlands’ character can be maintained.
  • The key to wetland conservation is but conserving or managing the integrity of the wetland ecosystem.
  • Finally, restriction of activities on wetlands will be done as per the principle of ‘wise use’, determined by the State wetland authority. Whether wise use will include maintaining ecological character remains to be seen.
  • Salt pans are an example how one use (of making salt) has trumped the other (of environmental balance). Salt pans as ‘wetlands’ have been omitted from the new Rules.
  • They were identified as wetlands in the 2010 Rules, as they are often important sites of migratory birds and other forms of biodiversity.
  • The omission in the 2017 Rules suggests that while saltpans do exist as wetlands, they do not require any conservation or ecological balance.
  • The inference can also be that it would be acceptable to tip the environmental balance or integrity of such a wetland, which could lead to damage and pollution.

Deepor Beel: A Case study

  • The issue of wetlands being multiple-use areas and subsequently being abused due to clashes of interest found centre-stage this year with the observations of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the case of Deepor Beel.
  • Deepor Beel is a Ramsar site and a part of it is also wildlife sanctuary in Guwahati, Assam. (‘Ramsar Sites are designated because they meet the criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance.’)
  • This wetland harbours a wide variety of biodiversity, and also suffers from intense man-made pressure — the city’s municipal waste is dumped close to the Beel.
  • Large, meat-eating storks (Greater adjutant storks) are ironically found eating from the mountains of garbage at the site. Potential impacts of contamination or poisoning from the garbage are still unknown. This January, 26 storks died.
  • The fact that Deepor Beel (Beel means water body) exists as a wetland does not prevent garbage dumping; this is a fate faced by many wetlands.
  • The NGT’s observations on Deepor Beel are interesting and symptomatic of what is happening in several wetlands.
  • In an inspection done by the judicial member of the Tribunal, it was noted that waste was being dumped “not beyond the site but within it,” and “demarcations are made by drying out areas or cutting off water sources”.
  • The Tribunal has asked for the “traditional” spread of the wetland.Given all the modern uses of wetlands, or the use of the wetland only for its land, looking at traditional cartography may be one way to understand catchments of wetlands.
  • It may also be a way of restoring some modicum of ecological character, identity or ‘rights’ to wetlands, as the river judgment suggested.

2. ‘2017 may be among top 3 hottest years’

In news:

  • The year 2017 will likely be among the three warmest years on global record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • The first 11 months of 2017 were the third warmest on record, behind 2016 and 2015
  • Much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfing much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces.
  • Arctic and Antarctic sea ice coverage remain at near record lows.
  • 2017 may also be the warmest year without an El Nino — a climate phenomenon that causes global temperatures to shoot up.
Basic Information:

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 191 Member States and Territories
  • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences
  • Its supreme body is the World Meteorological Congress

El Nino

  • El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe
  • El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America
  • El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific
  • The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific

Category: ECONOMY

1. The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill

 Why New Bill?

  • Banks have become a repository of public faith in the financial system. So long as consumers have unrestricted access to deposits, their faith in the banking system is maintained.
  • The fractional reserve system works on this faith. Thus, a failure of a bank has repercussions that go well beyond savings and lending; it has an impact on the systemic stability of a country.
  • The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill is exactly that — an attempt to make the system more credible, less chaotic, and systematic in times when credibility is at risk, by treating banks differently from regular corporations. The Bill brings in a system of risk-based monitoring of financial institutions.

Some Features of the Bill

  • At the stage of ‘critical’ risk to viability, when the proposed Resolution Corporation takes the decision to use a particular method of resolution which includes the tool of a ‘bail-in’, it is the Corporation that takes all decisions, and not the bank.
  • Resolution Corporation can use this tool only in consultation with the regulator.
  • During the global financial crisis, when tax-payer money was used to recapitalise the banking industry, large financial institutions and their managements took unprecedented risks.
  • The crisis hit and bankruptcy loomed close, the risk-takers were not penalised.Governments across the world recapitalised using public money.
  • ‘Bail-in’ was an attempt to break this cycle of moral hazard and distributional inequity associated with ad hoc government hand outs.

Safeguards in the law

  • The Bill makes it explicitly clear that only such liabilities may be cancelled where the liability/instrument contains a bail-in provision.
  • It makes it abundantly clear that the Resolution Corporation will specify the liabilities to be bailed in. These will be specified in regulations that will be put up in the public domain before finalisation.
  • Creditors/depositors will need to consent in advance to have their liabilities bailed-in. Even when liabilities are being bailed in, the Bill makes it incumbent upon the Resolution Corporation to follow the prescribed route.
  • Here, uninsured depositors are placed higher over unsecured creditors and amounts due to the Central and State governments.
  • Lastly, the Bill gives aggrieved persons a right to be compensated by the Resolution Corporation if any of the safeguards have not been followed during a bail-in or in the conduct of any other resolution action.
  • The law provides for an ex-ante consent for certain liabilities to be bailed in.
  • The Bill simply adds another tool of resolution without taking away from the government’s implicit guarantee to depositors.

Global Scenario

  • The most developed resolution regimes in the world have a more stringent, mandatory regime in place.
  • The EU Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and Single Resolution Mechanism empowers authorities to impose mandatory restructuring of shareholder and creditor claims. This is not the case in India.
  • In 2010, an article in The Economist article focussed on how a bail-in could have changed the outcome for Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
  • In 2008 the only option was to choose between systemic failure and a taxpayer bail-out.

2. Oil Market

How did oil fare in 2017?

  • The price of oil rose this year as the supply-cut agreement signed by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2016 managed to survive despite a lot of speculation otherwise.
  • Brent crude oil trades at around $64 a barrel currently, which represents a gain of over 12% year to date, after dropping to an intra-year low of just below $45 in June.
  • It is notable that the price rise this year looks quite subdued compared to the rally last year which saw prices almost double after dropping below $30 in January.
  • Still, the current price of oil is far from the historic highs, of well over $100, that lasted until the latter half of 2014.

Oil’s nemesis

  • Like in the case of any other commodity, supply and demand determine the price of oil.
  • On the supply side, shale oil producers in the United States, who killed a multi-year bull market in oil by ramping up global oil supply, are still the biggest threat to any significant rise in oil prices.
  • Another problem that is likely to crop up as the price of oil slowly heads up north is the rising threat of OPEC members cheating on the supply-cut agreement. This could push down oil prices down as some rogue producers, wanting to exploit higher prices, will increase their investment and output.
  • On the demand side, the shrinking of world money supply as central banks, particularly the U.S. Federal Reserve which supplies dollars used as currency in the oil market tighten monetary policy, will exert a downward pressure on the price of oil.

Where will oil go in 2018?

  • As 2017 draws to an end, analysts have come up with varied targets for oil prices in 2018.
  • Their estimates mainly depend on their judgment of whether OPEC will seize back control of the oil market. Last month, OPEC agreed to extend its supply-cut agreement until the end of 2018, which has led some analysts to stay bullish on oil.
  • Agencies such as the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, however, foresee shale production rising in 2018 and beyond. If so, this should cap any significant rise in oil prices unless there is an equally strong response from OPEC to cut supply.
  • In all, a secular bull market in oil looks unlikely given the stiff resistance offered by U.S. shale producers, who have shown their ability to cut costs at quick notice and survive in a bearish environment, against OPEC. Geopolitical tensions, however, may offer OPEC some brief respite at times.

Category: INTERNAL SECURITY AND DEFENSE RELATED DEVELOPMENTS

1. IAF initiates step to buy 83 Tejas aircraft

About Tejas:

  • The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-seat, single-jet engine, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Navy.
  • The aircraft has a tail-less compound delta-wing configuration, which provides for high maneuverability
  • It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters.
  • In 2003, the LCA was officially named “Tejas”, which means “Radiant” in Sanskrit.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

E. PRELIMS FACT

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Which one of the following sets of elements was primarily responsible for the origin of 
life on the Earth?
  1. Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sodium
  2. Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen
  3. Oxygen, Calcium, Potassium
  4. Carbon, Hydrogen, Potassium

See

Answer

Question 2. Vultures which used to be very common in Indian countryside some years ago are
rarely seen nowadays. This is attributed to 
  1. The destruction of their nesting sites by new invasive species
  2. A drug used by cattle owners for treating their diseased cattle
  3. Scarcity of food available to them
  4. A widespread, persistent and fatal disease among them

See

Answer

Question 3. In the Parliament of India, the purpose of an adjournment motion is
  1. To allow a discussion on a definite matter of urgent public importance
  2. To let opposition members collect information from the ministers
  3. To allow a reduction of specific amount in demand for grant
  4. To postpone the proceedings to check the inappropriate or violent behaviour on the part of some members

See

Answer

Question 4. Which of the following are included in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?
  1.  A dispute between the Government of India and one or more States
  2. A dispute regarding elections to either House of the Parliament or that of Legislature of a State
  3. A dispute between the Government of India and a Union Territory
  4. A dispute between two or more States

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 4
  4. 3 and 4

See

Answer

Question 5. ‘Project Dantak’ refers to
  1. The construction of road and telecommunications network by India’s Border Roads Organisation, in Bhutan
  2. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s programme to set up dental clinics through PPP mode in every district
  3. The Income Tax Department’s initiative to e-verify large cash deposits made during the window provided for depositing high-denomination currency notes with banks
  4. An India Post virtual museum showcasing all philatelic items associated with India’s Men in Uniform

See

Answer

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper II
 
  1. Positive discrimination is at the heart of “Equal protection of the laws”. Discuss.
GS Paper III
   
  1. Analyse critically whether the existing cropping in different parts of India would need any change for better agriculture performance in future.

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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