TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY 1. Can court sessions be live-streamed?’ 2. SC stays new Tribunal Rules 3. SC seeks govt. response on acid attacks INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Trump, Modi decide to work together 2. PM Modi begins Arab outreach from Jordan 3. Modi in Ramallah today, to discuss peace process 4. Why is exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed seeking India’s help? 5. Is it the end of the road for Khaleda Zia? HEALTH ISSUES 1. Kerala, T.N., Punjab top health index C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Issue of Fiscal Competency SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Strongest solar magnetic field measured on Sun 2. Bio-inspired robots can mimic live fish D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. Are fiscal risks increasing? ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY 1. Murky mining F. Prelims Fact G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- The Supreme Court on Friday asked for the assistance of the Attorney-General on a plea to live-stream proceedings of the Constitution Bench in nationally important cases, such as those on Aadhaar and decriminalisation of gay sex, in the Supreme Court.
- A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra decided to seek K.K. Venugopal’s opinion on a petition filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising in her personal capacity.
- Jaising said courts around the world allowed their proceedings to be recorded, though they differed in their ways.
- She said some judges in the constitutional court in India had historically been reluctant about the idea of recording court proceedings because it would “capture every sentence” in the banter between judges and lawyers which were merely a way to elicit responses and not a sign of how the judge would finally decide the case.
- Jaising, however, said there were different methods to resolve such reluctance and listed the means adopted by courts globally.
- Some courts allow publication after a gap of 30 minutes, some ban recording of proceedings only in trial courts as that would compromise witnesses, some give edited versions of the proceedings, some record the proceedings but do not air it in public, some give out transcripts of proceedings.
- She said such apprehensions should not create a roadblock in the public’s right to information.
- The Supreme Court, in a bid to usher in transparency, had earlier allowed the installation of CCTV video recording with audio in trial courts and tribunals.
Citizen’s right to know
- Jaising said citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed.
- If live streaming of top court’s proceedings is not possible, then alternately the video recording should be allowed the senior lawyer had argued.
- The Supreme Court on Friday effectively stayed the applicability of provisions of the Central Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, experience and other conditions of service of members) Rules, 2017 which gave the government primacy in making key appointments to tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, acting on a petition filed by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, directed that the terms and conditions of service of members of the National Green Tribunal shall be governed by the provisions of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
- The Bench also accepted the suggestions made by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Bar Association, represented by senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, which froze the implementation of the new Rules framed under the Finance Act of 2017.
- Primarily, the court accepted the formation of an interim search-cum-selection committee in respect for appointment of both judicial and administrative members to CAT.
- The panel includes the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, Chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal, and two secretaries nominated by the Government of India.
- The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and the States to respond to a petition that said frequent acid attacks on women continued to occur despite the ban on acid.
- The petition filed by advocate Anuja Kapoor submitted that 1189 incidents of acid attacks were reported between 2010 and 2016.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also asked the National Legal Services Authority to file its response.
- Kapoor, who appeared in person, said the compensation given to acid victims should be increased from the paltry Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 12 lakh to help cover their medical expenses and ensure their rehabilitation.
- She also sought a direction for a single-window clearance of relief measures for acid victims.
- With the emergency in the Maldives still in place and worries about a constitutional crisis, New Delhi is in touch with both Washington and Beijing over the situation, officials confirmed on Friday.
- S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the telephone to discuss the upcoming 2+2 ministerial- level meeting in Delhi, when the situation in the Maldives was discussed, the White House said.
- Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in the Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law. They had also discussed working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
- However, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also cautioned the Maldives against any plan to bring in Chinese naval or security reinforcements to Male.
- According to the readout, Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi also spoke of the situation in Myanmar, the plight of Rohingya refugees and the denuclearisation of North Korea.
- The MEA, however, made no comment on the conversation, and the nature of cooperation India and the U.S. would undertake in the Maldives.
- In Beijing, foreign ministry officials also confirmed that China was “in touch with India” and the U.S. China was one of the three countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that Mr. Yameen sent special envoys to discuss reasons for his actions. India rejected the envoy’s visit.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral discussions with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Friday, the External Affairs Ministry said in an official statement.
- The parleys with the king in Amman was the first of Mr. Modi’s meetings during the four-day trip to the West Asian region, which will include a historic first visit to Palestine scheduled for Saturday.
- The meeting in Amman is likely to serve as a warm-up session as King Abdullah II is scheduled to visit Delhi.
- The visit to Palestine to begin officially on Saturday is a de-hyphenated tour as Mr. Modi will enter the territory of West Bank without having to go through Israel.
- He is expected to leave for Ramallah, the Palestinian capital in a helicopter and leave for the United Arab Emirates after a daylong visit.
- Following the trip to Ramallah, Mr. Modi will leave for the UAE for a two-day trip which is expected to culminate in a number of bilateral agreements.
- The UAE media reported on Friday that India and the UAE were expected to launch the first-ever naval exercise in the Gulf region, near the coast of Abu Dhabi in March. Apart from such military and security cooperation, 12 to 14 agreements are likely to be signed, regional media has reported.
- Modi will have a busy schedule in the UAE, with meetings lined up with the country’s leaders, the Indian community and businessmen, India’s envoy in Abu Dhabi said.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-nation West Asia tour on Friday with a stopover in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he met King Abdullah II.
- Modi will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, where he will hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Ramallah.
- Talks between the two sides covered the Palestinian cause, and Jordan’s role in protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, based on the Hashemite custodianship over the holy shrines.
- In Ramallah, bilateral issues and the Israeli-Palestine peace process will be discussed by Mr. Modi and Mr. Abbas, Palestinian officials in Ramallah said.
- Earlier in an interview, Mr. Abbas said they would discuss the possible role India could play in the peace process.
- In Ramallah, the Prime Minister will lay a wreath on the tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, tour the Arafat museum (both are located on the Palestinian Presidential Secretariat premises), hold bilateral discussions and have lunch with the Palestinian leader.
- The visit comes weeks after Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to New Delhi. In July last year, Mr. Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel.
- Indian diplomats say the visit to Ramallah through Jordan without crossing through any of the Israeli checkpoints is consistent with India’s “de-hyphenation policy”.
- International actors may intervene to try and resolve the current crisis in the Maldives, but India alone can be the game changer, according to the island nation’s exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed.
- The ex-President — who has been living in London since 2016, after the U.K. granted him political asylum — is currently in Colombo.
- On February 5, the Maldivian government declared a state of emergency, following it up with a spate of high-profile arrests that have put President Abdulla Yameen under increasing international scrutiny.
- The U.S., the U.K., the European Union, India and the UN have all criticised his government for defying a Supreme Court order which had called for the release of his jailed political opponents, including Mr. Nasheed.
Earlier this week, the former President had appealed to India, asking for military intervention in the Maldives.
- Observing that he was aware of India’s “ambivalence” towards him, Mr. Nasheed said it was on account of two reasons — his opening of the Chinese embassy in Male ahead of SAARC summit in 2011, and the position he took around the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009, that the increase in global temperature should be below 2°C which, he said, was not well received by India.
- He had reasons for both, he explained, pointing to diplomatic obligations and his own campaign against climate change.
- His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and India have common interests and shared concerns — like the increasing Chinese presence in the Maldives, and the apparently growing Islamist radicalisation — he said.
- Nasheed has in the past accused China of grabbing land in the Maldives — he said he has commissioned research papers on the topic — and of creating a debt trap.
- Indicating that time was running out, he urged India to intervene soon. According to the Maldives’s Constitution, the Parliament needs to approve declaration of a State of Emergency within 48 hours.
- If the House is not in session — the government has indefinitely postponed Parliament session citing security concerns — it has to convene within 14 days.
- Meanwhile, a popular, privately-owned television network in the Maldives shut down late on Friday, citing threats to its staff, as the government continued its crackdown on dissent.
- Following Khaleda Zia’s conviction and jailing, political circles are rife with speculation on the future of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), ahead of the general election scheduled to take place at the end of the year.
- Soon after Dhaka’s Special Judge’s Court pronounced the verdict on Thursday in the ‘Zia Orphanage Case’, the BNP announced that its senior vice chairperson Tarique Rahman will run the party.
- BNP leaders are hopeful that Zia will get bail soon. However, legal experts say that she may have to stay in jail till her lawyers obtain a certified copy of the verdict and file an appeal.
- The bail process may be delayed if the certified copy does not arrive in time.
- Experts are also divided on whether Zia can participate in the December general election. The law stipulates that if someone is convicted for at least two years, he or she cannot contest the election for the next five years.
- If her appeal is accepted and she gets bail, she can participate. However, if the higher court upholds her sentence, she will get disqualified.
Boycott of last poll
- With its staunch ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the BNP had boycotted the 2014 general election, allowing an easy win to the Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
- The party, largely disorganised since the last election, has also failed to show much of its strength on street despite levelling allegations of oppression against the government.
- It was widely anticipated that Zia would participate in the forthcoming election, irrespective of whether her demand for a poll-time caretaker government was met. Now, most observers are certain now that without her, the BNP is likely to face a political crisis.
- Some analysts also see a distinct shift in tone when it comes to the BNP’s reaction to Zia’s conviction. The party has showed its strong resentment to the verdict, calling it “politically motivated”, but has not called for a hartal or a blockade.
- However, given the party’s present limited organisational ability, it may be too ambitious for it to lead a successful anti-government agitation for now, political pundits think .
- H.M. Ershad, who ruled Bangladesh for nine years before being ousted by a mass upsurge in 1990, was in jail for corruption for several years when Zia was in power. Ershad is now a free man and heads his own political party, the Jatiya Party.
- However, it is too early to predict what lies in store for Khaleda Zia. The irony inherent in Bangladesh’s political culture is that corruption charges against political leaders are perceived as victimisation by most supporters, even if the corruption is real. Therefore, Zia may enjoy sympathy when in jail.
- Meanwhile, violence erupted in major cities across Bangladesh as news of the guilty verdict spread on Thursday, with BNP supporters clashing with police and activists from the ruling party.
- Around 3,500 opposition activists and officials were arrested in a sweep by security forces ahead of the verdict, according to the BNP.
- Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu were the top rankers in the NITI Aayog’s latest Health Index report which has for the first time tried to establish an annual systematic tool to measure the heterogeneity and complexity of the nation’s performance in health.
- The document, developed by the NITI Aayog with technical assistance from the World Bank and in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, indicates that Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh showed the maximum gains from base to reference year in indicators such as Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate, full immunisation coverage, institutional deliveries, and People Living with HIV on Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
Another report in June
- The next report will be released in June this year and district hospitals too would be ranked. It would rank 730 district hospitals based on their performance.
- Manipur registered maximum incremental progress in indicators such as PLHIV on ART, first trimester antenatal care registration, grading quality parameters of Community Health Centres, average occupancy of key state-level officers and good reporting on the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
- Lakshadweep showed the highest improvement in indicators such as institutional deliveries, TB treatment success rate, and transfer of National Health Mission funds from the state treasury to implementation agency.
- Kerala ranks on top in terms of overall performance but sees the least incremental change as it had already achieved low levels of Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate and replacement level fertility, leaving limited space for any further improvement.
Common challenges for most States and Union Territories include the need to focus on addressing vacancies in key staff, establishment of functional district cardiac care units, quality accreditation of public health facilities and institutionalisation of human resources management information system.
Additionally, all larger States need to focus on improving the Sex Ratio at Birth. This Index is expected to nudge States towards further achieving a rapid transformation of their health systems and population health outcomes.
C. GS3 Related
- Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday trashed the Opposition’s charge of fiscal mismanagement, stating that the four-year-old NDA government’s journey was that from a state of policy paralysis to structural reforms.
- Jaitley expressed surprise over former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s charge that by reducing corporate tax to 25% for companies with turnover up to Rs. 250 crore.
- Jaitley said it was Mr. Chidambaram, who as then Finance Minister had drafted the Direct Tax Code mooting the idea of 25% corporate tax.
- The NDA government is also considering a legislation changing it to the turnover criteria for classification of industries. For medium scale industries, it would be Rs. 250 crore, he said.
- The Finance Minister said the idea behind lower tax was to enable MSMEs to invest more, which would create more jobs. The same trend was noticed in the United States (with below 20% corporate tax) and other competing economies.
- Owing to this, while covering 99% of industries, the revenue forgone would be Rs. 7,000 crore, whereas implementing it across the board would have cost Rs. 40,000-50,000 crore.
- Jaitley said indications from the Agriculture Ministry were that the basis for calculations would be actual paid out cost plus family labour.
- Jaitley also assured the House that the proposed health coverage plan for 10 crore families would in all likelihood be implemented completely this year.
- On expenses, the Finance Minister said the basic principle was that the bigger the size of population, the lower the per capita premium. He said it would be affordable, adding that the NITI Aayog had carried out an assessment.
- Astronomers in Japan have observed the strongest magnetic field ever directly measured on the surface of the Sun.
- The researchers using the HINODE spacecraft determined that the field was generated as a result of gas outflow from one sunspot pushing against another sunspot.
- “HINODE’s continuous high-resolution data allowed us to analyse the sunspots in detail to investigate the distribution and time evolution of the strong magnetic field and also the surrounding environment,” said Joten Okamoto from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).
- Finally, the longtime mystery of the formation mechanism of a stronger field outside an umbra than in the umbra, has been solved.
- Magnetism plays a critical role in various solar phenomena such as flares, mass ejections, flux ropes, and coronal heating.
- Sunspots are areas of concentrated magnetic fields. A sunspot usually consists of a circular dark core (the umbra) with a vertical magnetic field and radially-elongated fine threads (the penumbra) with a horizontal field.
- The penumbra harbours an outward flow of gas along the horizontal threads.
- The darkness of the umbrae is generally correlated with the magnetic field strength. Hence, the strongest magnetic field in each sunspot is located in the umbra in most cases.
- Okamoto and Takashi Sakurai from NAOJ were analysing data taken by the Solar Optical Telescope onboard HINODE, when they noticed the signature of strongly magnetised iron atoms in a sunspot.
- Surprisingly the data indicated a magnetic field strength of 6,250 gauss. This is more than double the 3,000 gauss field found around most sunspots, researchers said.
- Previously, magnetic fields this strong on the Sun had only been inferred indirectly.
- More surprisingly, the strongest field was not in the dark part of the umbra, as would be expected, but was actually located at a bright region between two umbrae.
- Finally, the longtime mystery of the formation mechanism of a stronger field outside an umbra than in the umbra, has been solved
- Biomimetic robots have been deployed alongside live animals to better understand the drivers of animal behaviour, including social cues, fear, leadership, and even courtship.
- However, the encounters have always been unidirectional – the animals observe and respond to the robots.
- Scientists at the New York University in the US have now developed robots that can watch back.
- Researchers tapped advances in real-time tracking software and robotics to design and test the first closed-loop control system featuring a bioinspired robotic replica interacting in three dimensions with live zebrafish.
- The team tested the interaction of the robotic replica and live zebrafish under several different experimental conditions, but in all cases, the replica and the live fish were separated by a transparent panel.
- In preference tests, zebrafish showed greater affinity- and, importantly, no signs of anxiety or fear – toward a robotic replica that mirrored its own behaviour rather than a robot that followed a pre-set pattern of swimming.
- While mirroring is a basic, limited form of social interaction, these experiments are a powerful first step toward enriching the exchange between robots and live animals.
- This form of mirroring is a very simple social behaviour, in which the replica seeks only to stay as close as possible to the live animal.
- Scientists are now investigating social interactions among live zebrafish to better understand the animals’ natural cues and responses.
- We are learning what really matters in zebrafish social interactions, and we can use this information to help the robot interpret and respond appropriately, rather than just copying what it sees.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for Today!!!
- After the presentation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act in 2003 and the related FRBM Rules in 2004, the target fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 3% for the Union government was achieved only once, in 2007-08, when it was 2.5%.
- The FRBM Act was amended twice, in 2012 and 2015.
- The revisions in 2015 shifted the date for achieving the 3% target to 2017-18.
- By this year, the amended revenue deficit target was put at 2% of GDP.
Resetting the framework
- Budget 2018-19 has proposed amending the FRBM Act again, which will shift the target of 3% fiscal deficit-GDP ratio to end-March 2021.
- But on the bench there was no target set for revenue deficit.
- The new statutory anchors relate to the general and Central government debt-GDP ratios that are to be reduced to 60% and 40% of GDP, respectively, by 2024-25, based on the recommendations of the report by the FRBM Review Committee. Missing the fiscal responsibility targets year after year and changing the statutory framework time and again bring the credibility of the government’s commitment to fiscal discipline in the spotlight.
- As per the requirement of the FRBM Act of 2003, and amended in 2015, a medium-term fiscal policy statement has been presented by successive governments in each Budget, setting three-year rolling targets for fiscal, revenue, and effective revenue deficits and outstanding debt of the Central government.
- The average rate or margin by which different governments have reduced the fiscal and revenue deficits relative to GDP has been quite low.
- The current Budget has retained the fiscal deficit at 3.5% of GDP, missing the budgeted target of 3.2% which was itself a deviation from the stipulated target of 3% for 2017-18 in the amended FRBM Act.
- A slippage margin of 50 basis points implies a delay in reaching the target by two and a half years given the average margin of reduction of 0.2 percentage points per year.
- In the absence of improvement in the fiscal deficit level in 2017-18, the debt-GDP ratio has increased to 49.1% in 2017-18 from 48.7% in 2016-17 rather than falling, which was the trend until recently.
- In the proposed amendment to the FRBM Act, key recommendations of the review committee were not accepted.
- It had wanted the target at which the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio was to be stabilised set at 2.5%. The government apparently continued with the 3% target.
- In fact, it can be shown that were the government to abide by the 3% mandate beyond 2020-21, the debt to GDP ratio would come down to 40% by 2024-25 with a nominal growth assumption of 11.5%.
- Thus, specifying the fiscal deficit target of 3% would have been enough to achieve the debt target.
- It had specified a revenue deficit glide path, reaching 0.8% by 2022-23. This too was not accepted.
- The target of revenue account balance is well recognised in the so-called ‘golden rule’ wherein a country may borrow as long as the entire borrowing is spent on capital spending. This can only be achieved by keeping the revenue deficit to zero.
- In the Indian context, the revenue deficit with some adjustments reflects government dis-savings. Unless government dis-savings are eliminated, it will be difficult to reverse the trend of a falling savings rate.
- Central government did not accept another recommendation of setting up a fiscal council, which could independently examine the economic case and justification for deviating from the specified targets.
- Fourth, in the committee’s recommendations, the debt-GDP levels of 60% and 40% of GDP for the general and Central governments, respectively, were to be achieved by 2022-23. These target dates have been shifted to 2024-25.
1. Murky mining
- Mining activity in Goa should now begin on a clean slate
- The Supreme Court order to halt the muddy course that mining has taken in Goa should help restore some balance to the exploitation of iron and manganese ore in the ecologically fragile State.
- State government displaying shocking disregard for rules and processes while renewing licences for a second time in 2015.
- It inexplicably chose not to exercise its right to view the licences as fresh leases that require new environmental impact assessments.
- Quite extraordinarily, it issued 31 orders on a single day, January 12, 2015, apparently to pre-empt the Centre’s Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Ordinance that came into force the same day.
- Now that the Supreme Court has ordered the termination of 88 licences, grant of fresh licences and proper accounting of the losses, mining activity in its entirety should begin on a clean slate.
- Future decisions should be guided solely by the true cost to the environment and to human health.
- Goa has argued that the mining industry is crucial to its economy as it brings in foreign exchange, provides employment and supports a transport industry.
- Yet, it is also true that the ore mined in the State is low in iron, reducing its value to the domestic steel industry.
- Given that mining has a severe destructive impact on the ecology, resumption of large-scale activity should await a scientific audit of how sustainable it is.
- Just last year, public protests over contaminated groundwater and fouled air, as in Sattari taluk, underscored the need for strict environmental controls.
- Union Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee found in 2013 that many of the past leases had been issued without the approval of the National Board for Wildlife, and miners had extracted ore in excess.
- The requirement for clearance from the Central Ground Water Board was ignored. Environment Ministry must display zero tolerance to such violations, reversing its indefensible decision of 2015 to lift its own abeyance order issued against unsustainable mining.
- The Supreme Court’s directions provide Goa with an opportunity: to change course and become a mainstream tourist State.
F. Prelims Fact
Nothing here for Today!!!
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements:
Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded national project status by the union government.
This dam is across the Godavari River.
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2. Which of the following are the parameters of Special Category Status?
- Low resource base, hilly & difficult terrain
- Non-viable nature of state finances
Which of the above statements are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 3. J-20 stealth fighter is a fighter aircraft developed by :
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
GS Paper II
Video conferencing in courts will advance the rule of law and bring accessibility and transparency in the administration of justice. Critically comment.
GS Paper III
- Missing the fiscal responsibility targets year after year and changing the statutory framework time and again bring the credibility of the government’s commitment to fiscal discipline in the spotlight.
- Can traditional and scientific medical systems be integrated? Examine.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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