UPSC 2017: Comprehensive News Analysis – December 30

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY
1. Punish the guilty for their crimes, not their poverty: Supreme Court
2. Disclosure of conflicts of interest
3. 98 private members’ bills introduced in Lok Sabha
HEALTH ISSUES
1. Issues with Clinical Trails
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Lok Sabha passes amendments to bankruptcy code
2. Finance Ministry follows RBI, warns about cryptocurrencies
INFRASTRUCTURE
1. Govt plans to set up bio-CNG plants and allied infrastructure
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. ISRO to launch 31 satellites in one go aboard PSLV
CYBER SECURITY
1. Data protection law on anvil
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. Punish the guilty for their crimes, not their poverty: Supreme Court

 Supreme Court’s observation:

  • A convict’s poverty should not be the reason for him to spend years in prison even after serving a substantial prison sentence, that too, merely because he is unable to pay the fine amount the criminal court had imposed on him.
  • The financial condition of the convict after a long period of incarceration and the plight of his “innocent” family should be taken into consideration to prevent, if at least reduce, the time he would spend behind bars for not being able to pay the fine imposed on him at the time of sentencing by the trial court.

Present situation:

  • Penal laws, besides sentencing a person to prison, also mandate him to pay a fine, which could run to lakhs of rupees, as punishment.
  • If the fine is not paid, or if the convict cannot afford it, as an alternative, he is made to suffer another prison term of up to one-fourth of the period of his substantial sentence.
  • This second prison term for defaulting in payment of fine begins immediately after his substantial sentence for the crime committed comes to an end.

2. Disclosure of conflicts of interest

 

  • In Bureaucracy there is a need for removing discretion and codifying the conflict of interest inherent in having senior bureaucrats assuming corporate roles post-resignation or retirement.

Best practices elsewhere

  • The idea of conflict of interest should naturally be linked with the aim of preventing corruption.
  • In the West, conflict of interest is seen to be at the root of all abuse of power by public officials for private ends.
  • Some bureaucrats seem to have meshed the virtues of public service with private profit in retirement.
  • They expose themselves to a potential conflict of interest — which when working in government is not automatically linked, in actions and perceptions, to corruption.
  • Instead, when whistleblowers and leaders with a conscience ask pertinent questions, terms such as anti-growth and anti-investment are used to target them.
  • To solve this conundrum, it is important to understand the scale of the problem, determine the right legal mechanism to deter and work towards changing our lackadaisical cultural norms on conflict of interest.
  • Vested interests have increasingly captured regulatory boards — consider the case of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. This regulator is theoretically supposed to be independent in monitoring food safety and yet, until 2014, industry representatives were regularly been appointed to scientific committees. It’s not that there are no policies against this on the books.
  • India has an official policy, regulated by the Ministry of Personnel, whereby senior bureaucrats have to seek permission for commercial employment after their retirement.
  • However, such grants of permission within cooling-off period depend primarily on government discretion, with no codified mechanism. There is nothing wrong in letting experienced bureaucrats utilize their expertise in the private sector — if adequate rules are framed and followed that enable the elimination of any conflict of interest.
  • We need legislation to make non-disclosure of a conflict of interest punishable. As with private member’s bill (The Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, introduced in 2012), the legislation ought to cover all arms of governance, including the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.
  • The recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Department of Personnel and Training, calling for early retirement if interested in post-retirement private service is established, needs to be implemented, besides increasing the mandatory cooling period to five years so that no undue influence can be exerted by the retired bureaucrat.
  • Also, the reasons for declining their requests for joining such firms need to be laid out clearly, to limit political concerns.
  • Finally, a culture of transparency needs to be fostered. It is not enough to simply have a non-public register of member’s interests for legislative representatives. Bureaucrats, retired and current, should talk openly about their post-retirement plans.
  • Public disclosure of their interests would clear the air, enabling their views to be given appropriate merit. An open, public data platform enlisting all post-retirement appointments of civil servants will increase transparency.
  • If we seek acknowledgement of conflict of interest in the corporate world, with significant oversight through consumer watchdogs, credit rating agencies and activist shareholders, we should also the same in our governance.
  • Perhaps some of this is cultural. We, as a nation, reacted differently to the Rajat Gupta case, with its inherent conflict of interest concerns, compared to prosecutors in the U.S. Such conflicts should be codified in a stringent legal framework, making compromise of the public interest a serious crime.
  • Cleaning up business interests, and strengthening a moral code over such conflicts is needed. Without such transformation, India’s society, governance and its private sector will remain open turf for insider trading.

3. 98 private members’ bills introduced in Lok Sabha

 In news:

  • As many as 98 private members’ bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • The bills were based on a wide range of issues from protecting stray cows to declaring work a fundamental right

Demand for two time zones

  • One bill demanded to establish two time zones in the country for more systematic, inclusive and progressive administration in the country

Other bills

  • A bill for probation on distribution, sale, and advertisement of online games showing violence and indecency
  • A bill seeking to constitute a National Commission to identify and deport illegal immigrants
  • A bill for screening and free medical treatment of woman suffering from breast cancer
  • A bill seeking to provide financial assistance to widows and dependent family members of farmers who have committed suicide
  • Bill to set up a new Bundelkhand Regiment in the Army
Basic Information:

Private members bill:

  • Members of Parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as private member’s bills
  • A private member bill can be introduced by both ruling party and opposition MPs
  • They can introduce a bill in the parliament after giving prior notice of one month
  • The bill needs to be passed in both houses of parliament
  • Once passed in both the houses, bill needs to get assent of the president to become an act
  • By set tradition, President can easily exercise his absolute veto power against such bills
  • In Lok Sabha, the last two and a half hours of a sitting on every Friday are generally allotted for transaction of “Private Members’ Business”, i.e., Private Members’ Bills and Private Members’ Resolutions

Category: HEALTH ISSUES

1. Issues with Clinical Trails

 

  • There is a troubling trend of financially needy people serially volunteering for trials to supplement their income.
  • This is a worldwide phenomenon, including in high-income regions like the U.S. and the European Union.
  • The problem arises when volunteers who are desperate for money deceive investigators, lying about their age, health or other medications, just so they can participate. Such serial volunteers are an especially vulnerable class of people, because of their poverty and low levels of education.
  • Under the Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act, an independent body of doctors and laypersons, known as an ethics committee, must oversee a trial to make sure the rights of such groups are safeguarded. But bioethicists say this isn’t happening.
  • Drugs and Cosmetics Act requires every trial death to be investigated,
  • In any trial that relies heavily on vulnerable groups like daily wage earners, the ethics committee can choose to monitor subjects intensively, and counsel them on health risks.
  • There are several tools to do this, like meeting participants and administering questionnaires to gauge their awareness.
  • The pervasiveness of serial volunteering and deception is not just a risk to participants but also taints the quality of data collected by CROs in bioequivalence studies.
  • This included hopping from one trial to another without a three-month gap in between, drinking alcohol, and hiding one’s health history. Such behaviour can distort trial data.
  • To avoid this, France and the U.K. today have a national registry of volunteers, while the U.S. is contemplating one. India, with its lower levels of income and awareness, could benefit more from such a registry, but has none.
  • The trials are called bioequivalence studies. When the patent on a drug expires, makers of generic versions must prove that these are metabolised by humans the same way as the patented drug.
  • This year, the U.S. drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), published a list of 267 off-patent drugs for which it was seeking generic versions. All drug-makers looking to address this market will need bioequivalence studies, opening up a large opportunity for Indian CROs. It’s a big business.
  • Unlike phase 2 and 3 trials that test for the first time if a drug is safe and effective in humans, bioequivalence tests involve medicines like melatonin that have a history of use in people. This makes bioequivalence studies relatively safer.
  • And yet the risk from a bioequivalence study on a cancer drug will be very different from the risk of an antibiotic study. The danger is that serial participants who are in it for money may paint both with the same brush.
  • Many trials are probably associated with minimal risks. However, some trials could be associated with potential risks that require careful consideration before consenting. This distinction should not be blurred, as is inevitable when persons volunteer for trials regularly.
  • The higher the payment, the more likely that a volunteer will ignore the risks, argue some bioethicists. Bioequivalence studies can pay up to Rs. 25,000 for a week-long commitment, during which a daily wage earner like Vangaru would have otherwise earned a tenth of the amount.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research’s ethical guidelines for biomedical research on humans suggest that a company only compensate a participant for the inconvenience and loss of earnings due to the trial, and refrain from “undue inducement” or gratuitous payments that can influence decision-making.
  • The large demand for volunteers and the supply of willing subjects has spawned a bustling marketplace for participation in bioequivalence studies. Dozens of groups on the instant messaging platform WhatsApp, with telltale names like “Anytime Money”, share information about ongoing studies.
  • A long list of drugs can trigger temporary psychosis, from alcohol and cannabis to some antibiotics, steroids and Parkinson’s drugs.
  • To be fair to CROs, willful deception by volunteers can be hard to flag, say bioethicists. But the problem is compounded by the cultural taboo surrounding trials.
  • Volunteers often keep their families in the dark, leaving them without a safety net when they fall ill or are exploited. The only way to tackle this trend in its entirety is through social campaigns to improve awareness.
  • For every clinical trial, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act requires participants to receive a copy of an informed consent form, which explains the trial protocol in great detail.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Lok Sabha passes amendments to bankruptcy code

 In news:

  • The Lok Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill 2017, paving the way for tightening loopholes in the existing code and making the resolution process more effective.
  • The bill replaces an ordinance that was brought in last month seeking to bar wilful defaulters, defaulters whose dues had been classified as non-performing assets (NPAs) for more than a year, and all related entities of these firms from participating in the resolution process.
  • The bill has diluted some of the stringent provisions of the ordinance and seeks to strike a balance in the trade-off between punishing wilful defaulters and ensuring a more effective insolvency process.
  • The bill allows defaulting promoters to be part of the debt resolution process, provided they repay the dues in a month to make their loan account operational and the resolution happens within the overall time frame specified in the code
  • This will help promoters who had submitted resolution plans before the ordinance barred them from taking part in the resolution process of companies.
  • The bill also allows asset reconstruction companies, alternative investment funds (AIFs) such as private equity funds and banks to participate in the bidding process.
  • Many of these entities acquire distressed assets and the classification of these assets as NPAs would have disqualified them from the bidding process.
  • The bill has also sought to bring any individual who was in control of the NPA under the ambit of the insolvency code.
  • It lays out that the individual insolvency law will be implemented in phases.
  • It also allows guarantors of insolvent firms to bid for other firms under the insolvency process.

2. Finance Ministry follows RBI, warns about cryptocurrencies

 Finance ministry warning:

  • Virtual ‘currencies’ (VCs) don’t have any intrinsic value and are not backed by any kind of assets.
  • The price of bitcoin and other VCs therefore is entirely a matter of mere speculation resulting in spurt and volatility in their prices.
  • There is a real and heightened risk of investment bubble of the type seen in Ponzi schemes which can result in sudden and prolonged crash exposing investors, especially retail consumers losing their hard-earned money
  • Consumers need to be alert and extremely cautious as to avoid getting trapped in such Ponzi schemes.
  • The government added that since VCs are stored in an electronic format, this makes them vulnerable to hacking, loss of password, malware attacks, etc, which could also result in a permanent loss of money.
  • As transactions of VCs are encrypted they are also likely being used to carry out illegal/subversive activities, such as terror-funding, smuggling, drug trafficking and other money-laundering acts.

Category: INFRASTRUCTURE

1. Govt plans to set up bio-CNG plants and allied infrastructure

 In news:

  • To promote the use of clean fuel, the oil ministry plans to set up bio-CNG (compressed natural gas) plants and allied infrastructure
  • The oil ministry will be working with state-run oil and gas retailers to set up the plants over the next two years

About Bio-CNG

  • Bio-CNG is a purified form of biogas with over 95% pure methane gas
  • It is similar to natural gas in its composition (97% methane) and energy potential
  • While natural gas is a fossil fuel, bio-CNG is a renewable form of energy produced from agricultural and food waste
  • A typical bio-CNG station comprises a biogas purification unit, a compressor, and a high-pressure storage system
  • Bio-CNG is being looked at as an environment-friendly alternative to diesel

Gas –based economy:

  • The government’s plan is to make India a gas-based economy
  • The government aims to increase the contribution of gas in India’s energy mix to 15% from the current 6.5%
  • India currently imports one-third of its energy requirement
  • The world’s third-largest crude oil importer is targeting halving its energy import bill by 2030

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. ISRO to launch 31 satellites in one go aboard PSLV

 In news:

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch 31 satellites, including India’s Cartosat-2 series earth observation space craft, in a single mission on January 10.
  • The mission will be the first ‘Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’ (PSLV) mission after the unsuccessful launch of the navigation satellite IRNSS-1H in August this year.
  • The mission would be a combination of 28 nano satellites from abroad, including Finland and the U.S., one micro and one nano satellite from India along with one Cartosat satellite, the official said.

Category: CYBER SECURITY

1. Data protection law on anvil

 In news:

  • India is emerging as a big center for data analysis.
  • The government is in the process of framing a data protection law
  • The government has set up a committee headed by Justice Srikrishna, retired Supreme Court Judge, on the issue
  • No proposal to make internet a fundamental right: The government was committed to providing Internet connectivity to all citizens. This does not entail that internet availability will be made a fundamental right

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

E. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Raut Nacha is a folk dance performed mainly by the tribal communities of which state?
  1. Rajasthan
  2. Jammu & Kashmir
  3. Assam
  4. Chhattisgarh

See

Answer

 

Question 2. Ghumura is an ancient folk dance that originated in which of the following states?
  1. Odisha
  2. Madhya Pradesh
  3. Rajasthan
  4. Karnataka

See

Answer

 

Question 3. Hemoglobin in humans has the highest affinity for which of the following gases?
  1. Methane
  2. Carbon Monoxide
  3. Nitrous oxide
  4. Carbon dioxide

See

Answer

 

Question 4. Which of the following countries does not share its border with Black Sea?
  1. Georgia
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Belarus
  4. Turkey

See

Answer

 

Question 5. The Nitisara of Kamandaka, also known as the Kamandakiya-Nitisara, was composed 
during the period of:
  1. Satavahana dynasty
  2. Gupta dynasty
  3. Kalachuri dynasty
  4. Nanda dynasty

See

Answer

 

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper III
  1. In what way could replacement of price subsidy with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) change the scenario of subsidies in India? Discuss.
  2. What are the impediments in marketing and supply chain management in industry in India? Can e-commerce help in overcoming these bottlenecks?
GS Paper IV
  1. Suppose one of your close friends, who is also aspiring for civil services, comes to you for discussing some of the issues related to ethical conduct in public service. He raises the following points :

    a) In the present times, when unethical environment is quite prevalent, individual attempts to stick to ethical principles may cause a lot of problems in one’s career. It may also cause hardship to the family members as well as risk to one’s life. Why should we not be pragmatic and follow the path of least resistance, and be happy with doing whatever good we can?
    b) When so many people are adopting wrong means and are grossly harming the system, what difference would it make if only a small minority tries to be ethical? They are going to be rather ineffective and are bound to get frustrated.
    c) If we become fussy about ethical considerations, will it not hamper the economic progress of our country? After all, in the present age of high competition, we cannot afford to be left behind in the race of development.
    d) It is understandable that we should not get involved in grossly unethical practices, but giving and accepting small gratifications and doing small favours increases everybody’s motivation. It also makes the system more efficient. What is wrong in adopting such practices?

    Critically analyze the above viewpoints. On the basis of this analysis, what will be your advice to your friend? (250 words)

 

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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