18 Feb 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
GEOGRAPHY
1. Scientists discover massive mountains under Earth’s crust
B. GS2 Related
C. GS3 Related
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. HAM radio operators put their hobby to test
ENVIRONMENT
1. Caught down the wire: Punjab’s blackbuck fight for existence
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. How the 16th Lok Sabha fared
2. Delhi dilemma - On Delhi’s Statehood status
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Strange emergency –National Emergency in the United States
F. Tidbits
1. Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

Category: GEOGRAPHY

1. Scientists discover massive mountains under Earth’s crust

Context: Scientists have discovered massive mountains in the Earth’s mantle.

Highlights:

  • According to a study published in the journal Science, scientists found another layer apart from crust, core and mantle.
  • They used data from an enormous earthquake in Bolivia to find mountains and other topography on a layer located 660 km straight down, which separates the upper and lower mantle.
  • It is found to be 660 km wide so they named it as 660 km boundary.
  • For this study, the key data came from waves picked up after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake the second-largest deep earthquake ever recorded that shook Bolivia in 1994.
  • The researchers also examined a layer 410 km down, at the top of the mid-mantle “transition zone,” and they did not find similar roughness.
  • The presence of roughness on the 660-km boundary has significant implications for understanding how our planet formed and evolved.

B. GS2 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

C. GS3 Related

Category: DISASTER MANAGEMENT

1. HAM radio operators put their hobby to test

Context: To help the public during natural calamities such as cyclonic storms members of the Amateur Radio Society of Odisha got together at an uninhabited island within the Chilika Lake to test their operational skill and technology.

Highlights:

  • The use of this technology for communicating to the outside world can be useful for cyclone and flood-prone states like Odisha.
  • The uninhabited island was chosen as it is inaccessible by conventional telecommunication network.
  • Radio signals were used for the transmission of messages by the private HAM radio operators of Odisha.
  • Solar power was used to operate the HAM radios.
  • It was an attempt to simulate real-life situation during any natural calamity when all conventional modes of communication cease to exist as it happened during the Titli cyclone.

What is HAM radio?

  • HAM radio or Amateur Radio is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together.
  • People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Caught down the wire: Punjab’s blackbuck fight for existence

Context: According to the Punjab State government data as many as 25 blackbucks died in 2018.

Background:

  • The recent incidents of death of Blackbucks have raised concern among the civil society and Punjab government.
  • Blackbuck is the state animal of Punjab.
  • It faces a severe threat from stray cattle, attacks by stray dogs, and habitat fragmentation due to change in land use fencing agricultural fields and cropping patterns over the past few years.
  • Other unnatural reasons for blackbuck deaths include road accidents and falling into water storage tanks and concrete drains.
Blackbucks
  • The blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) is an antelope indigenous to the India plains hence also known as the Indian antelope.
  • It is also found in India, Nepal and Pakistan.
  • The blackbuck is an antelope of the same tribe (Antilopini) that includes gazelles, the springbok and the gerenuk but it stands out of all due to the adult male horns which are spirally twisted, V-shaped, and covered with pronounced ridges nearly to the tips.
  • The Females are generally hornless.
  • It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah.
  • Blackbucks are primarily grazers and frequent open short grassland, but they can survive in semi-desert where there is sufficient vegetation, and they often frequent nearly barren salt pans. However, they avoid woodland and shrubland.
  • It is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. How the 16th Lok Sabha fared

Important bills were passed; but going forward there must be a debate on the anti-defection law.

Context:

The 16th Lok Sabha had its final sitting last Wednesday, marking an end to the five-year period.

Analysis of the performance of 16th Lok Sabha:

  • The 16th Lok Sabha was surpassed only by the preceding one in terms of the low number of hours it worked. It met for 1,615 hours, 40% lower than all full-term Parliaments.
  • This Lok Sabha sat for 331 days (against a 468-day average for all previous full-term Lok Sabhas), and lost 16% of its time to disruptions.
  • It shows a decline in the number of sitting days over the decades as well as a significant part of the scheduled time lost to disruptions.
  • There were no extreme incidents — an MP used pepper spray in the 15th Lok Sabha — MPs often broke the rules.
  • The House was often disrupted by MPs carrying placards, entering the well, and even on occasion, blocking their colleagues from speaking. A big casualty was Question Hour — the Lok Sabha lost a third of this time and the Rajya Sabha 60%; consequently, just 18% of the starred questions in each House got an oral reply.
    • Starred Question:  A Starred Question is the one to which a member desires an oral answer in the house, having a distinguishing mark of an asterisk. When a question is answered orally, Members of Parliament have the option to raise the Supplementary Questions based on the replies to the starred questions.
  • Another notable event was the Speaker blaming unruly behaviour for her inability to count the required number of MPs demanding a no-confidence motion but allowing the Union Budget to be passed in the interim. There was a similar episode at the end of the 15th Lok Sabha when the Speaker was unable to conduct a no-confidence motion but let the House pass the Act to bifurcate the State of Andhra Pradesh.
    • No Confidence Motion: In India, a motion of no confidence can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Parliament of India). The motion is admitted for discussion when a minimum of 50 members of the house support the motion.

Key legislation:

However, Parliament made some important laws.

  • The Goods and Services Tax was implemented.
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy code was enacted.
  • The IIM Act gave premier management educational institutions a level of autonomy not available to other public educational institutions.
  • The Juvenile Justice Act allowed children (between 16 and 18 years) accused of committing heinous crimes to be prosecuted as adults.
  • Mental Healthcare Act, The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 were passed: for treatment of mental health patients, and those with HIV/AIDS.
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the disability legislation was passed by the Indian Parliament to fulfill its obligation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007.
  • There were some efforts to address the issues of corruption, black money and leakages.
    • The Prevention of Corruption Act was amended to make bribe-giving an offence.
    • Laws were made requiring a declaration of assets held outside India.
    • Fugitive economic offenders act was passed to declare as fugitives those economic offenders who had fled the country.
  • The Aadhaar Act was passed to create a biometric-based identity system.

Bill passing:

  • The Aadhaar Act was passed as a Money Bill — and was upheld by the Supreme Court. There were debates questioning the legitimacy of Aadhaar bill being passed as money bill.
    • The issue here is that the Constitution defines a Bill as a Money Bill if it contains provisions that exclusively relate to taxes or government spending.
    • Importantly, such Bills need majority support only in the Lok Sabha, with the Rajya Sabha having just a recommendatory role.
    • Arguing that Aadhaar was primarily a subsidy delivery mechanism, and not an identity system seems like a stretch, but that was the majority decision of the Supreme Court.
  • There has not been much conversation on the various Finance Bills that have been passed as Money Bills. It is difficult to see how these Bills would fall within the narrow definition of Money Bill, as defined in Article 110 of the Constitution.
  • The Finance Bill is traditionally introduced with the Budget, and contains all the legislative changes to tax laws. Therefore, it is usually a Money Bill. However, Finance Bills, in the last few years, have included items which have no relation to taxes or to expenditure of the government.
    • The Finance Bill, 2015 included provisions to merge the regulator of commodity exchanges with the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
    • The Finance Bill, 2016 included amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act which relate to donations to non-profits.
    • The Finance Bill, 2017 went further and changed the compositions of 19 quasi-judicial bodies such as the Securities Appellate Tribunal, the National Green Tribunal and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), and repealed seven other bodies including the Competition Appellate Tribunal.
    • About half the clauses of the 2018 Bill were on issues unrelated to taxes.
    • Even the Finance Bill, 2019 presented with the interim Budget amended the provisions related to attaching property under the money laundering law.

Bills that would lapse:

  • A few other Bills, such as the Triple Talaq Bill and the Citizenship Bill, were passed by the Lok Sabha but will lapse as they were not passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • It is evident that the government was able to have its way on every issue in the Lok Sabha and was held in check only due to a lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha; even this check was bypassed occasionally using the Money Bill route.
  • The government could do this as a result of the anti-defection provision which gives complete control of all party votes to the party leadership.
    • The Tenth Schedule (anti-defection provision ) was inserted in the Constitution in 1985. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
    • A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.This implies that a legislator defying (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue can lose his membership of the House.
    • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
    • This law has converted MPs from being representatives of the people to delegates of the party.
    • If the party in government has a majority of its own, it can have any provision passed; even coalition governments have to convince just a handful of leaders of their alliance partners.

Way forward:

Parliament plays the central role in our democracy by holding the government to account and scrutinising proposed laws and financial priorities. With the end of the 16th Lok Sabha, it is an undeniable fact that many important bills were passed. But it is time to ponder on how to make this institution more effective. An important step will be by reviewing the anti-defection law that has hollowed out the institution.

2. Delhi dilemma – On Delhi’s Statehood status

Issue:

The Supreme Court’s split decision on the question of whether the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) has executive control over those in its service – points to the inherent complexity of the relations between the Delhi government and the Centre. It flags the need to address complexities in Centre-UT ties. There has been considerable debate over statehood issue of Delhi. 

Background:

When did the demand for Delhi’s statehood first come up? 

  • The demand for statehood came up as a result of the report of the Committee on Reorganisation of Delhi Set-Up or the Balakrishnan committee in 1987. The committee recommended setting up a legislative system and examined overlapping of authorities in matters of municipal governance. It agreed to give the national capital a special status and the union territory to have a legislative assembly that would be given powers to form laws on matters under the state list with exception to matters related to land, police, and public order. 
  • Not long after the AAP government registered a victory of 67 on 70 seats in Delhi Assembly election of 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs pulled back the services of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) from the Delhi government. With this move, the centre snatched away the right of Delhi government to take any kind of action (disciplinary or removal) against officers who engage in corrupt practices. The government also has no say in the issues pertaining to recruitment and conditions of service of officials of IAS, clerks etc. Also, AAP led Delhi government has accused the centre to be meddling in its work and putting barricade through LG.

Why is there a demand for complete statehood?

  • Statehood would bring control of administration completely under the state government. This set up would avoid multiplicity of authorities and the confusion caused thereby.
  • Delhi government claims that its lack of control over public order, police and land hinders its ability to efficiently plan Delhi’s development.

Details:

  • The disadvantages of not having full statehood status has been felt by many elected regimes in Delhi. But at present, the extent of bitterness has been severe.
  • Battles have been fought in the political and judicial spheres over whether some subject or the other falls under the Delhi government or is the exclusive preserve of the Centre.
  • A Constitution Bench ruling last year provided a framework to resolve such issues.
    • It held that the Lt. Governor has to act either on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, or abide by the decision of the President on a reference made by him.
    • The power to refer “any matter” to the President did not mean “every matter” should go that way.
    • Specific issues were left to a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, which has resolved most issues. It has upheld the Delhi government’s power to appoint prosecutors, levy and revise stamp duty on property transactions and issue notifications under the Delhi Electricity Reform Act.
    • Both judges agree that there is no ‘service’ in the Delhi government, as all its employees come under the ‘Central services’.
    • Its civil servants are drawn from the DANICS cadre, a service common to various Union Territories.
  • Status of public service and office of lieutenant governor in Delhi:
  • The split verdict by a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan has, in essence, affirmed the power of the Union government (through the office of the lieutenant governor) over the elected state government on crucial matters.
  • The Centre remains the cadre-controlling authority in Delhi and the Delhi Anti Corruption Branch cannot investigate central government officers.
  • The two judges, however, differed on whether the state government can manage cadre below the rank of joint secretary.
    • Justice Sikri believes that going by a Constitution Bench decision last year, the NCTD would indeed have the power to deploy officials within its own departments.
    • However, the absence of a public service in Delhi means Entry 41 in the State List (services; service commissions) would imply that it is a matter inapplicable to ‘Union Territories’, and therefore, the LG need not act on the Delhi government’s aid and advice.
    • Therefore, he favours a solution under which transfers and postings of officers in the rank of Joint Secretary and above could be directly submitted to the LG, and those of others be processed by the Council of Ministers and sent to the LG.
    • In case of any dispute, the LG’s view will prevail.
    • Justice Bhushan, on the other hand, has ruled that once it is accepted that there is no ‘service’ under the NCTD, there is no scope for its government to exercise any executive power in this regard.

Conclusion:

A larger Bench will now decide on the question relating to control over the services. The more significant challenge is to find a way out of the complexities and problems thrown up by the multiple forms of federalism and power-sharing arrangements through which relations between the Centre and its constituent units are regulated.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Strange emergency –National Emergency in the United States

Context:

Trump has declared national emergency to build US-Mexico border wall. The US President plans to make use of emergency powers to secure funding for his proposed US-Mexico border wall.

Background:

What is considered a national emergency?

  • What constitutes a national emergency is open to interpretation, but generally, it is seen as an event that threatens the security of the people of the United States.
  • According to the Congressional Review Service, a 1934 Supreme Court majority opinion characterized an emergency in terms of “urgency and relative infrequency of occurrence as well as equivalence to a public calamity resulting from fire, flood, or like disaster not reasonably subject to anticipation.”

 What powers does a president have when a national emergency is declared?

  • Through federal law, when an emergency is declared, a variety of powers are available to the president to use. Some of those powers require very little qualification from the president for their use.
  • Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the president may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens
  • However, under the National Emergencies Act, the president must name the specific emergency power he is invoking.

Examples from the past:

  • Since the National Emergencies Act became law, presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency, excluding weather-related events
  • The power to declare a national emergency is an extraordinary power, which has in the past been used for grave situations like the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • In 2009, President Barack Obama declared a national emergency amid the outbreak of H1N1, better known as swine flu and allowed the waiving of some rules such as privacy laws.

Details:

  • President Donald Trump has opted for the context of what he has described as “an invasion of drugs and criminals” from across the border with Mexico, for declaring National Emergency.
  • The move has further polarised Washington and put the strident immigration debate front and centre again.
  • The context for the emergency is the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, for 35 days, that resulted in the shuttering of nine government agencies.
  • The primary cause was Mr. Trump’s refusal to sign off on Congressional appropriations bills unless lawmakers agreed to hand over $5.7 billion to fund his plan to construct a border wall with Mexico.
  • As the cost to the U.S. economy of the shutdown soared close to $11 billion by late-January, Mr. Trump backed down on his demand, yet warned that unless Congress yielded on the border wall funding, “I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the U.S. to address this emergency.”
  • Now he appears to have made good on that statement, probably on the basis that during national emergencies U.S. law permits the diversion of funds from military or disaster relief budgets to tackle the “crisis” at hand. 

How can he get funds for a wall by declaring a national emergency? Where does the money come from?

  • According to U.S. law, a president can divert funds to a federal construction project during a declared national emergency.
  • In the case of the border wall, the money could come from the budget for the Department of Defense under something called “un-obligated” money. Under federal law, un-obligated money in the Department of Defense’s budget may be used by the military to fund construction projects during war or emergencies.

Can Congress get around it?

  • Congress can end a president’s call of a national emergency with a joint resolution. A joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires the approval of both the House and the Senate.
  • The resolution is submitted, just as a bill is, to the president for his or her signature, making it a law.

Already, the first few lawsuits challenging the emergency declaration are working their way through the courts. Further, Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, may under their constitutional powers vote to terminate the emergency. This would put the Republican-controlled Senate on the back foot by requiring it to clarify its position on the status quo, by either supporting or defeating such a resolution. While Mr. Trump’s supporters are celebrating their Commander-in-Chief’s chutzpah for this move, the truth is that it will only take the U.S. further away from the ideal of peaceful coexistence within a pluralistic democracy.

F. Tidbits

1. Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

Context: An Incan tomb has been discovered by the Archaeologists in the Lambayeque region, where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried.

It is believed the tomb belonged to a noble Inca based on the presence of “spondylus,” a type of sea shell always present in the graves of important figures from the Incan period. 

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about Blackbucks:
  1. The blackbuck is an antelope indigenous to the India plains.
  2. It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah.
  3. It is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list.
  4. Blackbucks are primarily grazers.

Which of the following is/are correct?

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

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements for ICJ:
  1. It was established in 1945 by the UN Charter.
  2. The ICJ is vested with the power to make its own rules.
  3. The ICJ is composed of fifteen judges elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council from a list of people nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration

Which of the above statements is/are incorrect?

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

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements about the Finance Commission:
  1. The Finance Commission is a constitutional body.
  2. It is an autonomous body.
  3. The commission is constituted to make recommendations to the president about the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Union and States and also the allocation of the same among the States themselves.

Which of the following is/are correct?

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

See

Answer
Question 4. Which of the following passes is not in the state of Jammu and Kashmir?
  1. Zoji La
  2. Khardung La
  3. Fotu La
  4. Shipki La

See

Answer
Question 5. Consider the following statements for CBI:
  1. CBI is a statutory body.
  2. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Establishment Act, 1946.
  3. The committee appointing the director of CBI has Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India as its member.

Which of the following is/are correct?

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

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Discuss the impact of monsoon in the Indian Economy. (250 words)
  2. Disruptions in the Parliament is a loss for the country. Critically analyse. (250 words)

See previous CNA