UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis Feb05 2019

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. SC upholds government’s Haj policy
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. 11 EU nations back Guaido as President
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMICS
1. Centre may relax angel tax norms for start-ups, sets up panel
ENVIRONMENT
1. Entire Aravalli area is devastated, rues SC
2. Fundraiser to secure 96 elephant corridors
3. Emission levels rising faster in Indian cities than in China
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Visa crackdown (Indian Diaspora) 
2. America has lost the Afghan war
3. Wrong on the Rohingya
F. Tidbits
1. NREGS labourers for more working days
2. NRI moves SC for free transportation of bodies
G. Prelims Facts
1. 4 February - World Cancer Day
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

 

1. SC upholds government’s Haj policy

Context

  • The Supreme Court has upheld the Haj Policy 2019-23, which categorises the Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) on the parameters of their experience and financial strength. The court found “nothing arbitrary or unreasonable” in such a classification by the government.

Details of the judgment

  • In a judgment, a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer also drew a line on their power of judicial scrutiny of government policy decisions.
  • “It is settled law that policy decisions of the Executive are best left to it and a court cannot be propelled into the unchartered ocean of government policy,” Justice Sikri, who authored the verdict, said. Justice Sikri wrote that “public authorities must have liberty and freedom in framing the policies.”
  • The 22-page judgment said the policy was finally drawn on the basis of feedback received from more than 180 individual private tour operators (PTO) and associations, including the Indian Federation Haj PTOs of India and jointly by other PTO associations.
  • The court said the government had paid equal attention to both experience and financial prowess of the HGOs while classifying them into various categories.

Haj Pilgrimage Through Haj Group Organisers

  • Ministry of Minority Affairs is the nodal ministry to conduct Haj pilgrimage in India. Haj pilgrimage for the Indian Pilgrims is conducted either through Haj Committee of India (HCoI), which is a statutory organization under the administrative control of Ministry of Minority Affairs or through the Private Tour Operators (PTOs).
  • The quota of pilgrims is divided between Haj Committee of India (HCOI) and Private Tour Operators (PTOs).
  • The Hajj 2002, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made it mandatory for the PTOs to come through their respective Governments. Therefore, from the year 2002, the Government of India evolved a system under which private operators/ travel agents were registered as PTOs and following the registration were allocated quotas from the overall number of seats specified for PTOs.
  • Till the year 2012, the PTO Policy was formulated annually. However, in the year 2013, a five year PTO Policy for Haj 2013-17 was approved by Hon`ble Supreme Court of India. This Policy remained valid till Haj 2017.
  • Based on the recommendations of Haj Policy Committee and the evidence based study conducted by IIT Delhi, Ministry framed the PTO Policies for Haj 2018 and subsequently for the next five years i.e. Haj 2019-23.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

 

1. 11 EU nations back Guaido as President

11 EU nations back Guaido as President

Context

  • Eleven European nations joined the U.S. in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim President, heightening a global showdown over Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.
  • The EU members’ coordinated move followed the expiry of an ultimatum for Mr. Maduro to call a new election and aligned them with Washington against Russia and China.

Background

What’s happening in Venezuela now?

  • Venezuela has for several years faced a devastating economic collapse that has created a humanitarian crisis and caused millions to flee the country. Maduro, a socialist dictator, has overseen much of that collapse. He was reelected last May, but many citizens and international observers claim the process was rigged and that his presidency is a sham.
  • Juan Guaidó claims that Maduro’s rule is thus illegitimate. He says that according to the country’s constitution, he, as the head of the National Assembly (the country’s legislative body), is now the rightful, albeit temporary, president of the country — not Maduro. He doesn’t plan to hold on to the presidency indefinitely, he says, and will call for new elections in the future.
  • President Donald Trump, along with a number of other world leaders, has now officially recognized Guaidó as the country’s legitimate ruler — and Maduro has retaliated by severing diplomatic ties with the US. Experts caution that the situation could escalate into a dangerous political showdown.
  • The Socialist government responded by warning that the top military leadership would come out “in support of the constitutional President”, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said. He added the military would show “backing for the sovereignty” of Venezuela.

 

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMICS

 

1. Centre may relax angel tax norms for start-ups, sets up panel

Context

  • The government has decided to set up a five-member working committee to look into the angel tax issue and come up with guidelines in one week. It also agreed to implement some key changes requested by start-ups regarding the issue.
  • According to a January 16 notification, start-ups whose aggregate amount of paid-up share capital and share premium after the proposed issue of share does not exceed ₹10 crore are eligible for exemption from the tax.

Angel Tax

  • Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
  • The tax, under section 56(2)(viib), was introduced by in 2012 to fight money laundering. The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.
  • There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.
  • In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

 

1. Entire Aravalli area is devastated, rues SC

Context

  • In a stinging attack on the Rajasthan government, the Supreme Court has said the State authorities are hand in glove with illegal miners who operate in the fast-depleting Aravalli region.
  • A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra was annoyed when the State’s counsel submitted that the ground-truthing exercise to ascertain the area where illegal mining had allegedly been conducted remained incomplete due to the recently held Assembly elections and the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Aravalli Range

  • It is a range of mountains running in North West direction between Delhi and Palanpur in Gujarat.
  • It constitutes a vital corridor between Asola Bhatti Sanctuary in Delhi and Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.
  • The 700km long range and its thick forest cover protects National Captial Region and fertile plains of India from effects of Desert.

  • Aravallis are the oldest mountain range in India and one of the oldest mountain systems of world.
  • The mountain range is spread towards northeast across the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. These are fold mountains of which rocks are formed primarily of folded crust when two convergent plates move towards each other.
  • The process is called orogency or orogenic movement –an event that takes millions of years to create a mountain range as the tectonic plates move only few centimetres every year. In earlier decades, Aravalli hills region had a thick forest cover which used to act as a green barrier and acted as an effective shied agains desertification.
  • Today, the forests in the Aravalli hills no longer effectively act as a green barrier. The forests of Aravallis range are now the most degraded forests in India; most of the indigenous plant species have disappeared.
  • Loss of vegetative cover will lead to the natural drifting of Thar Desert towards the northwest. Increased desertification of the National Capital Region (NCR) and its adjoining areas can lead to more environmental hazards. These include more dust in the air, greater unpredictability of climate, meagre recharging of groundwater, and drying up of several natural water bodies.
 

2. Fundraiser to secure 96 elephant corridors

Context

  • At a time when a recent survey found seven elephant corridors in the country impaired, the Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
  • The joint venture is aiming at raising £20 million (₹16 crore) to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years. The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land.
  • NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with WTI in the alliance.

Elephant Corridors

  • Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants.
  • The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
  • Elephant corridors are also crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
  • Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is more a conservation imperative.
  • Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.
  • Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.
  • Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
  • Efforts should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country. This includes acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government.
 

3. Emission levels rising faster in Indian cities than in China

Context

  • Urbanisation is accelerating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in India at a faster than in China – said the study, to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters.

Highlights of the Study

  • On an average, an Indian emitted about 20 kg per capita while commuting for work, with the highest (140 kg CO2) in Gurugram district (Haryana) and the lowest (1.8 kg CO2) in Shrawasti district (Uttar Pradesh), says a study that analysed the link between population density and emissions from transport, across India’s districts.
  • The experience in most developed countries was that urbanisation led to a reduction in emissions — more urbanisation meant shorter distances between the workplace and home and thereby, a preference for public transport. However this didn’t effectively apply to developing countries.

  • In China a 1% increase in urbanisation was linked with a 0.12% increase in CO2 emissions whereas, in India, it translated into 0.24% increase in emissions
  • India’s CO2 emission grew by an estimated 4.6% in 2017 and its per-capita emission was about 1.8 tonnes. In spite of being the 4th largest emitter, India’s per capita emissions are much lower than the world average of 4.2 tonnes. But those emissions have been growing steadily, with an average growth rate over the past decade of 6%, according to data from the Global Carbon Project.
  • Fuel price hikes aren’t always a solution to curb emissions. The mean commuting distance (among commuters) is 5.9 km, with the lowest 1.3 km in Longleng district (Nagaland) and the highest 14 km in Dharmapuri district (Tamil Nadu).
  • Delhi had the highest commuting emissions per capita — a factor that also contributed to its high level of pollution — and the national capital region had 2.5 times higher commuting emissions than Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.  Delhi’s higher socio-economic status and heavy reliance on private travel modes led to higher commuting emissions than in other megacities

D. GS4 Related

 Nothing here today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

 

1. Visa crackdown (Indian Diaspora)

Editorial Analysis:

  • The recent arrest of 129 Indians on the charge of willfully violating immigration laws to stay and work in the United States sends a stark message to youth looking for better prospects abroad: their efforts should begin with due diligence and strictly follow the letter of the law.
  • As a matter of fact, in the sting operation carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which threatens to encompass many more Indians in the ‘University of Farmington’ case, the contentious issue is whether they fell victim to unscrupulous recruiters who offered to secure an I-20 student document that allowed them to undertake paid work using the provision for Curricular Practical Training, or knowingly engaged in fraud.
  • Going by the indictment of eight recruiters of Indian origin, they knew they were violating U.S. immigration law when they enrolled students using fraudulent and unlawful means, and their profits included negotiated referral fees paid into their accounts by undercover agents.

What has the prosecution alleged? 

  • The prosecution has alleged that each student who enrolled in the ‘university’ was aware that there would be no classes, credit scores or academic requirements, and the intention was merely to “pay to stay” and gain access to employment.
  • It is important to note that these statements are, of course, subject to scrutiny during the trial of the alleged recruiters.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs has made the correct distinction between students who may have been duped and the recruiters.
  • Students who are eligible to pursue studies at an authorised university in the U.S. should, therefore, get a further opportunity and not be subjected to summary deportation or humiliation.
  • It must also not prejudice the prospects of such students who may apply in future for legal entry.

Was this the first case?

  • The University of Farmington case in Michigan is not the first instance of Indian students falling foul of U.S. immigration laws, although it stands apart as a racket exposed by a sting operation.
  • Others such as Tri-Valley University and Herguan University were degree mills run by individuals that used false claims and documents to enable youth to unlawfully stay in the U.S. and, in many cases, pursue employment.
  • It is important to note that these trends reinforce the need for good communication that would help students identify credentialed institutions that meet the requirements of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, and highlight the serious nature of visa fraud.
  • If the averments in the Michigan case are correct, the prospect of working in America attracted many of the 600 students who were recruited.
  • This should serve as a reminder to India’s policymakers that access to higher education, job-creation and raising of living standards to meet the aspirations of youth must receive priority.
  • Lastly, talk of an impending demographic dividend is meaningless without creating opportunities at home.
 

2. America has lost the Afghan war

Editorial Analysis:

A Brief look at history:

  • The Remnants of an Army, a famous oil on canvas painting by Elizabeth Butler, is a lasting image of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842).
  • This oil on canvas painting depicts William Brydon, a medical officer in the British Indian Army, arriving in Jalalabad from Kabul on horseback in 1842.
  • Both Brydon, who was wounded, and his horse look exhausted.
  • As a matter of fact, Brydon was the only survivor of the 16,000 soldiers and camp followers who were retreating from Kabul after the British invasion went awry.
  • One hundred and thirty-seven years later, it was the Soviet Union which sent troops to Afghanistan to bolster its client communist regime.
  • A decade passed before the Soviet troops too withdrew in ignominy.
  • And again in 2001, the U.S., the sole superpower of the post-Soviet world, sent troops to Afghanistan launching its ‘War on Terror’.
  • Now, after 17 years of the war, with the U.S. and the Taliban agreeing ‘in-principle’ to a framework for peace that would provide the Americans a face-saving exit from Afghanistan, it’s hard to miss the echoes from history.

Repeating mistakes of the past

  • Afghanistan has historically been a difficult place for external invaders, thanks to its complex tribal equations and its rugged mountainous terrain.
  • It’s a classic example of a country whose geopolitical destiny is defined by geography. The British Empire sent troops to Afghanistan in 1839 as part of the ‘Great Game’.
  • They feared that the Russians would take over Afghanistan and be at the border of India, “the jewel in the British Crown”.
  • To pre-empt that, they conquered Kabul, toppled the Emir of Afghanistan, Dost Mohammad Khan, and installed their protege Shah Shujah Durrani in power.
  • When the invasion became unsustainable in the wake of the violent resistance by tribal fighters, mainly the faction led by Dost Mohammad’s son, Akbar Khan, the British decided to withdraw. But while withdrawing, all their troops but Brydon were massacred, and Dost Mohammad went on to recapture Kabul.
  • The Soviets made the same mistake. They sent troops to Afghanistan after an intra-party coup in the country. The Soviets were wary of Hafizullah Amin, who captured power and assassinated Nur Mohammad Taraki, the leader of the 1978 communist coup.
  • In December 1979, Leonid Brezhnev deployed troops to Afghanistan. The Soviets staged another coup, murdered Amin, and installed Babrak Karmal, a Moscow loyalist, as President.
  • Given their defeat in the Vietnam War and their loss of Iran following the 1979 Revolution, the Americans saw the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as an opportunity. They began supporting the mujahideen, the tribal warriors who were fighting both the communist regime and its Soviet backers, with help from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which were worried about the expansion of communism to the Muslim world. A decade later, the Soviets realised that the occupation had become unsustainable and pulled back.
  • When the U.S. decided to attack the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, President George W. Bush said the ‘War on Terror’ would not end “until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated”.
  • This was a tall order. The U.S. toppled the Taliban quickly and Afghanistan eventually got an elected government under President Hamid Karzai.
  • Experts opine that after 17 years of fighting, the war has reached nowhere. Since 2009, when the United Nations started documenting the casualties of the war, nearly 20,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in conflict and another 50,000 wounded.
  • The U.S., which has spent some $877 billion on the war, has lost at least 2,000 military personnel in Afghanistan since the war began.

An unsustainable war:

  • It is important to note that the Taliban, which retreated in 2001, is on the comeback trail.
  • As a matter of fact, some estimates suggest that nearly half of Afghanistan, mostly the mountainous hinterlands, is now controlled by the Taliban. In the east, a small cell of the Islamic State is well-entrenched and has carried out a series of sectarian attacks in recent months, killing hundreds of Hazara Shias. The government is grappling with chronic corruption, and regional satraps call the shots outside Kabul.
  • S. President Donald Trump has made it clear many times that he wants to bring American troops back home.
  • Yet he decided to send more troops to Afghanistan in 2017 to step up the fight against the Taliban. Since then, the U.S. has carried out large-scale air operations in Afghanistan, but it has failed to arrest the Taliban’s momentum.
  • The group continues to hold sway in rural Afghanistan and retains the capability to strike anywhere in the country.
  • Just since 2014, Afghanistan has lost some 45,000 soldiers in battle. Amid mounting losses and an inability to break the stalemate in the conflict, the Americans, like the British Empire in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century, seem to have realised that the first major war of the 21st century is no longer sustainable.

The role of the Taliban

  • The question is, what next? The U.S. says it has got assurance from the Taliban that the group won’t provide a safe haven to terror groups in Afghanistan. It will also push for a ceasefire and intra-Afghan talks. But the fact remains that the U.S. has already conceded a lot to the Taliban.
  • The Taliban said it would not talk to the Afghan administration; it does not acknowledge the government’s legitimacy. The Americans accepted this and held direct talks with the insurgents, who negotiated from a position of strength.
  • The U.S. has also agreed, in principle, to pull out troops, the biggest Taliban demand, without any clear agreement on the future role of the Taliban.
  • Experts opine that this shows how desperate the U.S. is to get out of Afghanistan, a war it has lost badly. It will be exiting on terms largely dictated by the Taliban.
  • In conclusion, it would be naive to say that the Taliban fought the war for 17 years only to reach an agreement with the Americans.
  • It fought for power, which it lost with the arrival of American troops in 2001. And it’s certain that once the Americans leave, the Taliban will challenge Kabul one way or the other.
 

3. Wrong on the Rohingya

Larger Background:

Who is a refugee? (UN Definition)

  • A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.
  • A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
  • Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Who is an internally displaced person?

  • An internally displaced person, or IDP, is someone who has been forced to flee their home but never cross an international border. These individuals seek safety anywhere they can find it—in nearby towns, schools, settlements, internal camps, even forests and fields. IDPs, which include people displaced by internal strife and natural disasters, are the largest group that UNHCR assists. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid because they are legally under the protection of their own government.
  • Countries with some the largest internally displaced populations are Colombia, Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

Who is a stateless person?

  • A stateless person is someone who is not a citizen of any country. Citizenship is the legal bond between a government and an individual, and allows for certain political, economic, social and other rights of the individual, as well as the responsibilities of both government and citizen. A person can become stateless due to a variety of reasons, including sovereign, legal, technical or administrative decisions or oversights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlines that “Everyone has the right to a nationality.”

Who is an asylum seeker?

  • When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance.
  • An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.

What is the 1951 Refugee Convention?

  • The 1951 Geneva Convention is the main international instrument of refugee law. The Convention clearly spells out who a refugee is and the kind of legal protection, other assistance and social rights he or she should receive from the countries who have signed the document.
  • The Convention also defines a refugee’s obligations to host governments and certain categories or people, such as war criminals, who do not qualify for refugee status.
  • The Convention was limited to protecting mainly European refugees in the aftermath of World War II, but another document, the 1967 Protocol, expanded the scope of the Convention as the problem of displacement spread around the world.

Editorial Analysis:

What’s in the news?

  • Recently, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called for a report from India on the deportation of a group of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar in October 2018.
  • Some experts point out that India’s repatriation of the refugees contravenes international principles on refugee law as well as domestic constitutional rights.

A Look at the Global framework:

  • Refugee law is a part of international human rights law.
  • In order to address the problem of mass inter-state influx of refugees, a Conference of Plenipotentiaries of the UN adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951.
  • This was followed by the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1967.
  • One of the most significant features of the Convention is the principle of non-refoulement. The norm requires that “no contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
  • This idea of prohibition of expulsion lies at the heart of refugee protection in international law.
  • It is often argued that the principle does not bind India since it is a party to neither the 1951 Convention nor the Protocol.
  • However, the prohibition of non-refoulement of refugees constitutes a norm of customary international law, which binds even non-parties to the Convention. According to the Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of Non-Refoulement Obligations, UNHCR, 2007, the principle “is binding on all States, including those which have not yet become party to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol.”
  • Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

What does the Constitution of India say? 

  • Moreover, Article 51 of the Constitution of India imposes an obligation on the state to endeavour to promote international peace and security.
  • Article 51(c) talks about promotion of respect for international law and treaty obligations.
  • Therefore, the Constitution conceives of incorporation of international law into the domestic realm. Thus the argument that the nation has not violated international obligations during the deportation is a mistaken one.

Domestic obligations

  • The chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution differentiates citizens from persons. While all rights are available to citizens, persons including foreign citizens are entitled to the right to equality and the right to life, among others.
  • Some experts opine that the Rohingya refugees, while under the jurisdiction of the national government, cannot be deprived of the right to life and personal liberty.
  • The Rohingya are “among the world’s least wanted and most persecuted people,” according to a BBC report. In Myanmar, they are denied citizenship, the right to own land and travel, or to even marry without permission, says the report.
  • According to the UN, the Rohingya issue is one of systematic and widespread ethnic cleansing by Myanmar.
  • Therefore, the discrimination that the Rohingya face is unparalleled in contemporary world politics.

The Indian Perspective:

  • In National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996), the Supreme Court held: “Our Constitution confers… rights on every human being and certain other rights on citizens. Every person is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. So also, no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Thus the State is bound to protect the life and liberty of every human-being, be he a citizen or otherwise…”
  • Some experts have opined that India lacks a specific legislation to address the problem of refugees, in spite of their increasing inflow.
  • The Foreigners Act, 1946, fails to address the peculiar problems faced by refugees as a class. It also gives unbridled power to the Central government to deport any foreign citizen.
  • Further, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2019 strikingly excludes Muslims from its purview and seeks to provide citizenship only to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh and Buddhist immigrants persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • It is important to note that the majority of the Rohingya are Muslims.
  • Some experts point out that this limitation on the basis of religion fails to stand the test of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and offends secularism, a basic feature of the Constitution.
 

F. Tidbits

 

1. NREGS labourers for more working days

  • Unorganised labourers engaged for work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the rural areas of Rajasthan have demanded an increase in the days of wage employment from the present 100 days to 200 days in a financial year to every household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work.
  • The Rajasthan Unorganised Labour Union celebrated the NREGA Day at Ajmer district’s Jawaja village on Saturday, marking the day when the flagship rural employment scheme was launched in 200 selected backward villages across the country in 2006. The participating workers, who hailed the legislation as a milestone in social security, laid emphasis on steps to guarantee the right to work.
  • Over 500 daily wage earners from rural areas, agricultural labourers, domestic workers and those engaged in construction and mining sectors in the village panchayats of Jawaja panchayat samiti and Pali district’’ Raipur panchayat samiti took part in the event. They interacted on various aspects of NREGA and took out a rally through the lanes in Jawaja.
  • Labour movement leader Shankar Singh, who is co-founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), said the rights-based NREGS had been converted into the “discretion of administration” at several places, where full wages were not given to workers despite completing the tasks assigned to them.
 

2. NRI moves SC for free transportation of bodies

  • A UAE-based NRI, who claimed to have helped in repatriation of 4,700 bodies to 38 countries across the world, moved the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking a direction to the Centre for arranging free transportation of mortal remains of Indian nationals who die abroad.
  • The plea claimed that Air India transports bodies under the “Sentimental Shipments” category but the procedure adopted by the national carrier is inhuman and degrading in nature as it weighs the dead body and then levies charges on it.
  • A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and sought its reply in six weeks.
  • The plea was filed by Ashraf Thamarassery, working in Ajman in the United Arab Emirates, who deals with the problems and challenges faced by the socially excluded Indian emigrants particularly in the Gulf region.
  • Mr. Ashraf also sought a direction to all the States for the preparation of statistical records and data of the total number of Indians who currently stay abroad.
 

G. Prelims Facts

 

1. 4 February – World Cancer Day

  • The World Cancer Day 2019 was observed across the world on February 4, 2019 with an aim to unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer.
  • Cancer is a general term for a large group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Its causes, characteristics and occurrence can vary greatly. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body.
  • The day is observed every year with an aim to save millions of preventable deaths by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.
  • The Union for International Cancer Control, which organises the World Cancer Day every year, launched a new 3-year campaign with the theme “I Am and I Will”. The campaign is an empowering call-to-action, urging for personal commitment and represents the power of individual action to impact the future.
  • The theme for the World Cancer Day during 2016-2018 was ‘We can. I can.’

WHO Southeast Asia Report

  • In 2018, 18.1 million new cases of cancer developed worldwide; 9.6 million people died from the disease; 70% of the deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries, including those of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Southeast Asia region; and 67% of the region’s cancer patients died before the age of 70. The figures were released by the WHO Southeast Asia on World Cancer Day.
  • According to figures for India released by the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), one woman dies of cervical cancer every eight minutes in India; for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India; as many as 2,500 persons die every day due to tobacco-related diseases; and tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths in men and women in 2018.

Lancet Public Health Study

  • The risk of developing obesity-related cancer is increasing in successive generations, along with increasing rates of obesity, according to a new study.
  • Researchers studied the incidence of 30 of the most common cancers, including 12 that are obesity related, from 1995 to 2014 in people ages 25-84 — more than 14.6 million cases. The study was published is in Lancet Public Health.
  • Using five-year age cohorts, they found that for six of the 12 obesity-related cancers (multiple myeloma, colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic) the risk for disease increased in adults in the 25- 49 age bracket, with the magnitude of the increases steeper with younger age.
  • For example, compared with people born in 1950, those born in 1985 had a risk of multiple myeloma 59% higher, and a risk of pancreatic cancer more than twice as high at comparable ages. At the same time, incidence decreased for smoking-related and infection-related cancers.
  • The senior author, Ahmedin Jemal, a scientist with the American Cancer Society, said that diet and exercise are of course essential in reducing obesity rates, but that interventions by health care professionals are also needed.
  

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Question 1.Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG):
  1. They are centrally recognized special category from among the Scheduled Tribes
  2. Forest Rights Act, 2006 provided scope for the recognition of the PVTGs’ forest and habitat rights for the first time.

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 2.With reference to ‘Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification 
Security - Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REX)’ which of the following statements is/are correct? 
  1. It was developed by European space agency.
  2. It is a spacecraft to study on comet.
  3. It will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 3
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. The ‘Inclusive India Initiative’ of National Trust is specifically catering to:
  1. Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  2. Women from underprivileged backgrounds
  3. Children living in tribal areas who have poor access to health and education
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
 

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The INF Treaty – Signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it barred both countries from deploying land-launched cruise missiles in the 500- to 5,500-km range. In pulling out of the INF, Washington is effectively throwing away leverage it may have had with Russia on an issue of global concern. Critically examine the statement (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
  2. Terrorist organizations have invaded cyberspace and made it a battleground. They no longer rely on military force such as weapons, armor and bombs only. Instead, they become more and more savvy, and their strategies and tactics have technological orientation. Discuss the statement in the present context with special emphasis on India (12.5 Marks; 200 words)

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