TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Modi rules out ordinance on Ram temple for now C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT 1. Parliamentary committee irked by States’ insensitivity to Western Ghats D. GS4 Related E. Editorials INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. The bilateral transformation (India- Bangladesh Relations) 2. Strange bedfellows in West Asia (Israel and Saudi Arabia increasing intimacy) ECONOMY 1. Boost to plain packaging (Plain Tobacco Packaging) F. Tidbits 1. India, Pak. move towards release of civilian prisoners 2. Women line up for gender equality G. Prelims Fact 1. Cinereous vulture seen in Jharkhand 2. Inflation targeting H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that any decision on bringing an ordinance on the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya could be considered only after the judicial process got over.
- Recently, there has been a renewed pitch within the party as well as by its sister organisations in the Sangh Parivar for expediting the process of construction.
- The Sangh Parivar organisations are unhappy over the delay in resolving the matter and there are demands for an ordinance, similar to the one issued on triple talaq, to facilitate construction. The demand has been made even by the BJP’s ally, Shiv Sena.
- The matter will be heard by the Supreme Court on January 4. Petitions have been filed in the court for day-to-day hearing.
Related Concept – Godhra incident of 2002
- According to Hindu mythology, Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama and therefore it is a sacred place for Hindu religion.
- But in medieval period Mughal general Mir Baqi, built a mosque, named after Mughal ruler Babur. There were disputes since then and riots also took place.
- But in 1990, due to some political mobilisation, there was atmosphere of protest by Hindu religious groups and in large scale “kar sevak” visited Ayodhya from all parts of India, in support of demolishing Babri masjid and building Ram temple there.
- These movements caused huge amount of bloodshed and since then it is a disputed matter.
- After this, violence was followed by the Godhra incident in 2002, when “kar sevak” returning from Ayodhya in a Sabarmati Express were killed by fire in the coaches of train.
- This act was followed by the extended communal violence in Gujarat. That violence is like black spot in the history of the Gujarat and nation too, as people were killed without any mercy. Hindu and Muslim community became antagonist to each other.
C. GS3 Related
- Over 56,000 kilometres of ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats could not be earmarked as ‘no-go’ zones due to State governments’ ‘insensitivity’, a parliamentary committee has said. The panel has urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to constitute a committee to address the issues and grievances of local people.
- The panel, which keeps track of assurances given by ministers on the floor of the Upper House, presented its latest report on Monday. The panel had examined issues regarding the categorisation of the Western Ghats as ESA as per the recommendations of two committees led by Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan.
- Environment Ministry set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil.
- The panel was asked to make an assessment of the ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the entire range that stretches to over 1500 km along the coast, with its footprints in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
- It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
- It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat.
- It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
- The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.
None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.
- In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.
- Instead of the total area of Western Ghats, only 37% (i.e. 60,000 sq. km.) of the total area be brought under ESA under Kasturirangan report.
- A complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in ESA
- Distinguished between cultural (58% occupied in the Western Ghats by it like human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations) and natural landscape (90% of it should come under ESA according to the committee).
- Current mining areas in the ESA should be phased out within the next five years, or at the time of expiry of mining lease, whichever is earlier.
- No thermal power be allowed and hydropower projects are allowed only after detailed study.
- Red industries i.e. which are highly polluting be strictly banned in these areas.
- Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats has made several pro-farmer recommendations, including the exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
- Recently, in Bangladesh, the Grand Alliance led by the Awami League (AL), headed by incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won Bangladesh’s 11th general election.
- This development has delighted her supporters.
- Experts point out that this election is also a milestone for the coming of age of a new generation which is aspirational and is tired of the old political discourse that had deeply divided politics in Bangladesh.
- Experts point out that the electorate have voted for economic progress and a secular polity.
- It is important to note that the margin of victory has shocked and dismayed the Opposition parties that had coalesced into the National Unity Front (NUF), a coalition at whose core is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the AL’s bitter political rival.
- Former AL stalwart and famous jurist Kamal Hossain provided the leadership glue for the Opposition coalition.
- The BNP’s guiding force is U.K.-based acting-Chairman Tarique Rahman. The BNP is also nominally led by its Chairperson, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is currently in jail for corruption.
- It is also important to note that acting-Chairman Tarique Rahman is former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s controversial son who fled from the country in 2008 and lives in exile. He is convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to murder.
- It is important to note that the AL has obtained a brute majority of 288 seats in a unicameral Parliament which has 300 directly-elected seats and 50 seats reserved for women. The latter are elected by the electoral college of directly-elected MPs, with proportional representation to parties elected to the Parliament.
- Further, Mr. Hossain’s monumental failure to deliver has left him and other Opposition leaders hurling allegations that the elections were “farcical” and asking that new elections be held under a non-partisan caretaker administration.
- The NUF managed to win just seven seats. The Election Commission, while taking note of some electoral malpractices and promising investigation, has declared the results valid and rejected the demand for new elections.
- The margin of victory has lent some traction to persistent allegations of electoral malpractices, hounding of the Opposition, large-scale arrests of Opposition workers and intimidation of voters.
- Election-related violence on polling day claimed 17 lives. Several Opposition candidates withdrew from the fray, citing violent obstruction by AL workers, kidnapping of their election agents and voters being obstructed from casting their votes. Yet international observers have concluded that the elections were largely peaceful, fair and credible.
- Though dogged by two consecutive controversial elections and increasing perceptions of authoritarian behaviour, Ms. Hasina is set for another five-year term in office.
- Experts point out that Ms. Hasina has an enviable record of delivering record economic growth. Bangladesh’s GDP grew at a rate of 7.6% in the last quarter, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
A Bipartisan consensus
- It is important to note that during the last decade of Ms. Hasina’s tenure as Prime Minister, high-level Bangladesh-India engagement has intensified.
- Further, experts point out that there is an irrevocable and irreversible bipartisan political consensus in India for upgrading relations across a comprehensive interface of ties.
- Also, experts point out that India’s ‘neighbourhood policy’ has focussed on Bangladesh, which has emerged as a key interlocutor in India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and sub-regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) Initiative.
- In Bangladesh too, a growing domestic political consensus, overriding fractious politics, has emerged in favour of close ties with India.
- Denial of support to Indian insurgent groups, with insurgent leaders handed over to India, has progressively built trust and confidence between the two countries. Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia with an annual turnover of around $9 billion plus an estimated informal trade of around $8-9 billion, across the 4,100-km-long porous border. Cooperation in connectivity, energy, security and intelligence matters has intensified.
- Experts point out that the Padma multipurpose bridge and the Akhaura-Agartala rail link will dramatically change connectivity within Bangladesh and with India. Waterways are also being revived to reduce the cost of trade.
- Improvement in bilateral ties has led to newer areas of cooperation such as cyberspace. Bangladesh has provided cyber connectivity between the international gateway at Cox’s Bazar to Agartala for faster Internet connectivity in India’s northeastern States.
- India has also become a partner in Bangladesh’s nuclear power programme, with the beginning of construction at the Rooppur nuclear power plant. India is poised to export around 1100 MW of power to meet the energy deficit in Bangladesh. Power projects totalling more than 3600 MW are under implementation by Indian companies.
- The adverse balance of trade has been a bilateral issue. The asymmetry in the economies of India and Bangladesh is the major factor. To enable more Bangladeshi exports to flow into India, duty free entry was granted in 2011 under the South Asian Free Trade Area. This has led to an increase in exports from Bangladesh from around $350 million to the current level of around $900 million. Bangladeshi exports have plateaued because of demand constraints in India and also because of limited items in the Bangladeshi export basket.
- An SEZ in Bangladesh for Indian manufacturing companies has been mooted and notified. When operational it will encourage Indian companies to manufacture there and export to India. Indian investment in Bangladesh has reached $3 billion. In 2017, 13 agreements worth around $10 billion were signed in the power and energy sectors.
- To offset the economic asymmetry, India has granted Bangladesh generous lines of credit (LOCs) and grants, with commitments reaching $8 billion. While LOCs mainly cover infrastructure and connectivity projects, grants flow into social sector development.
- Capacity building under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme is an important strand in bilateral ties and people-to-people interaction. Bangladeshis are among the largest groups of tourists into India.
- The visa regime has been liberalised and over a million visas are issued to Bangladeshi citizens annually.
- With the rise of religious radicalism and terrorism, defence and security issues will require greater cooperation.
- Bangladesh has taken strong and effective steps against those who have been inspired by the Islamic State and involved in terrorist strikes. Islamist organisations have been breeding grounds for religious radicals and extremist views.
- Experts point out that these forces will pose a considerable challenge for governance in Bangladesh in the future. With the massive loss, the NUF is likely to boycott the Parliament and take to street agitation, sullying Bangladesh’s reputation as a democracy.
Certain Challenges that lie ahead
- There will be setbacks in India-Bangladesh ties, like the current Rohingya issue, which has imposed a huge economic and security burden on Bangladesh. Bilaterally, the issue of the illegal migration has already acquired a high profile in India with the publication of the draft National Register of Citizens in Assam. This will require deft handling of bilateral ties. Sharing of river waters will remain a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.
- China’s security and economic footprint has grown in South Asia and managing this will remain a challenge for both countries. While Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on military hardware from China, India has provided a $500 million LOC for procurement of defence-related goods from India. This momentum must be maintained and intensified.
- India has welcomed the election results and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first leader to telephone and congratulate Ms. Hasina. Bangladesh-India relations have reached a stage of maturity and with further upgrading and integration of infrastructure, bilateral ties can be expected to grow stronger in the future.
- There is growing show of bonhomie between the Israel and Saudi. This can be explained in large part with reference to the old adage, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” with respect to Iran. Both the countries perceive Iran as the primary threat to their strategic interests in West Asia.
- Saudi Arabia is engaged in a fierce competition with Iran for influence in the Persian Gulf and wider West Asia.
- Iran is a potential challenger to Israel’s nuclear monopoly in West Asia and uses its influence in the Levant to impede Israeli dominance of the region.
Reason for Israel getting closer to Saudi
- First, Saudi Arabia’s lead in establishing relations with Israel, even if covert, is likely to induce other Arab states, especially the oil rich monarchies of the Gulf, to open their economies to Israeli investment and technical expertise, thus bringing Israel substantial economic benefits.
- Further, Israel’s success in achieving this objective is critically dependent upon developing a significant, even if unacknowledged, relationship with Saudi Arabia.
- Second, the Israeli government estimates that improved relations with the Saudi government will help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Tel Aviv’s satisfaction. This means Israel continuing to control the entire territory between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea without giving the Palestinians any civil or political rights.
- Third, Israel and Saudi Arabia have a common interest in preventing the democratisation of Arab countries.
- Authoritarian governments in the Arab world allow Israel to parade itself as the only democracy in West Asia.
- Saudi Arabia is mortally afraid of a democratic wave in the Arab world since it would further highlight the despotic nature of its regime. This apprehension drove its opposition to the democracy movements, especially in Egypt and Bahrain, during the short-lived Arab Spring.
- The Saudi-Israeli rapprochement has been actively supported by the Trump administration.
- The United States is extremely interested in the formation of a joint front between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran, America’s principal adversary in West Asia.
However, the Yemeni misadventure and Khashoggi murder has temporarily suspended this active engagement with Israel as Saudi cannot take greater political risks at this moment.
- One can, therefore, conclude that their common hostility towards Iran and their close security relationship with the U.S. will eventually prompt Saudi Arabia and Israel to resume their covert relationship and eventually make it public.
- However, their contacts are likely to remain frozen for some time until the Khashoggi murder recedes from public memory.
- Attractive colors, eye-catching designs, and engaging characters are critical marketing tools that when placed on tobacco products attract new customers – including nonsmokers and the youth.
- Appealing packaging designs drive sales, promote tobacco brands, and mislead consumers about the harsh realities and danger of tobacco use.
- In order to overcome this issue Plain packaging is the mantra for health menace.
What is Plain Packaging?
It is also known as generic, neutral, standardised or homogeneous packaging. This requires that packaging has a uniform plain color and texture; mandates standard shape, size and materials of packs; and prohibits any branding, logos or other promotional elements on, inside or attached to the packaging or on individual products.
Only the brand name, product name, quantity of product and contact details may appear on packaging, in a standard typeface, together with other mandatory information such as health warnings and tax stamps.
- Tobacco packaging and labelling do not promote tobacco products by means that are false, misleading or deceptive.
- Packaging carries health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use
- Parties to undertake a comprehensive ban (or restrictions) on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Examples from the world
- In December 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging following the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) guidelines.
- It has also been implemented in France and the United Kingdom (both 2016), Norway and Ireland (both 2017) and New Zealand and Hungary (both 2018).
- Thailand and Saudi Arabia will join a growing club of nations introducing plain packaging of tobacco products in 2019. They are the first in the Asian and Arab regions, respectively, to adopt the tough measure in order to curb tobacco consumption.
- Understandably, the tobacco industry was opposed to Australia’s plain packaging initiative.
- But the ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in June 2018, favoring plain packaging, has struck a blow against the tobacco industry.
- The WTO panel, while rejecting the notion that Australia had unjustifiably infringed tobacco trademarks and violated intellectual property rights, said the plain packaging law led to “improving public health by reducing use of and exposure to tobacco products”.
Statistics that show that pictorial warning has led many people to quit smoking in India:
- In April 2016, India increased the size of graphic pictorial warnings, by 85%, on the packaging of tobacco products (both front and back).
- The percentage of users in India who thought of quitting because of such warning labels increased sharply to 62% (cigarette), 54% (bidi) and 46% (smokeless tobacco users), according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-2017, when compared with the survey results of 2009-2010.
- Likewise, tobacco use among those aged 15-24 years showed a six-percentage point reduction (18.4% in 2009-10 to 12.4% in 2016-17). The number of tobacco users dropped by eight million.
Evidence has shown it has helped in reduction world over:
- The base includes a large body of peer reviewed studies that have been the subject of three systematic reviews (two in the United Kingdom and one in Ireland). This evidence supports the conclusion that plain packaging:
- reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products
- restricts use of the pack as a form of advertising and promotion
- limits misleading packaging, and
- Increases the effectiveness of health warnings.
- Plain packaging along with other measures led to 0.55 percentage point reduction in smoking prevalence in Australia, translating into at least 1,18,000 fewer smokers.
- Therefore with higher taxes and large pictorial warnings, plain packaging can serve as a tool to deter new users and prompt existing users to quit.
- In a peace overture, India has asked Islamabad to take back dozens of Pakistani nationals who have completed jail terms here. The Indian request came in the context of the exchange of the lists of prisoners in both countries on the first day of the new year.
- “India has also asked Pakistan to expedite response in the cases of 80 Pakistan prisoners who have completed their sentences and await repatriation for want of nationality confirmation by Pakistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement after India handed over a list of 249 civilian Pakistani prisoners and 98 fishermen in its custody.
- Pakistan shared lists of 54 civilian prisoners and 483 fishermen in its jails, who it claims are Indian.
- Of the total number of Indian prisoners, Delhi has asked Islamabad to release 17 civilian prisoners and 369 fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed. The MEA said India had shared details of the reconstituted Joint Judicial Committee and of the medical professionals who are expected to visit Pakistan to help the elderly and mentally unsound Indian prisoners.
- Lakhs of women assembled under the aegis of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Tuesday to create an almost unbroken human wall that stretched for 620 km from Kasaragod in north Kerala to in the south.
- Women from all walks of life participated in the programme which the LDF had posited as a political counter to Hindu right-wing forces opposed to the entry of women to Sabarimala.
- Senior women, homemakers, women clad in hijabs, lawyers, transwomen, actors, artists, doctors, teachers, students, authors, civil servants, unskilled workers, government employees, members of social organisations such as the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam congregated alongside National Highways.
- They stood shoulder to shoulder for 15 minutes after 4 p.m. to form a human wall with few apparent cracks in the line.
- The programme ended with a joint pledge to harness the power of enlightenment principles to insulate society against revanchist forces that sought to push Kerala back to the dark ages of casteism and discriminatory religious practices.
G. Prelims Fact
- It is usually during the winter that a distinctly dark large bird – the Cinereous vulture, with a blacked-tipped pink beak – migrates from the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia to warmer places, including India.
- While earlier records of this migratory bird have revealed that it comes to northern parts of India up to Rajasthan, bird watchers and researchers were baffled to find it in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.
- Interestingly, the Cinereous vulture (classified as Near Threatened under the IUCN Red List) was found with three other endangered species of vultures – the Himalyan Griffon, White-rumped vulture and the Long-billed vulture.
Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus)
- The cinereous vulture is one of the heaviest and largest raptors in the world.
- In many countries, this bird is called ‘monk vulture’, because of it’s upright standing neck feathers that resemble the hood of a monk.
- In the last two hundred years, the cinereous vulture greatly decreased in numbers in most distribution areas, especially by poisoning, habitat destruction and reduction of food supply.
- In many European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Slovakia and Romania), the species became extinct.
- Thanks to strong efforts in many different projects (e.g. the protection of breeding sites, taking actions against poisoning, restoration programs), the numbers are now slowly increasing, especially in Spain, where the population is now of more than 2,000 pairs.
- Furthermore, in France a successful reintroduction project has resulted in the re-establishment of the species (25+ pairs), Greece (around 28 breeding pairs in the only remianing colony in the Balkans). The total European breeding population (including Turkey and Russia) is approximately 1800 pairs.
- The cinereous vulture nests in trees and sometimes on cliffs. Like most other vultures, cinereous vultures are monogamous. Couples build huge nests that are reused each year.
- Cinereous vultures have a specialized type of hemoglobin in their blood, allowing them to effectively absorb oxygen even at great heights. On thermal winds they ‘float’ to these great heights in search of carcasses.
Similar Incident – Himalayan griffon vultures visit habitat in Telangana
- In a rare occurrence, two Himalayan griffons (Gyps Himalayensis), categorized as Old World Vulture, were sighted at the colony of long-billed vultures (Gyps Indicus) conservation project situated at Palarapu cliff in the forests of Nandigoan village in Penchikalpet mandal. The discovery brought cheer among ornithologists and biologists.
- Forest officials opine that the arrival of the birds could be associated with winter migration to the south, as the birds are known to be long distance fliers.
- The significance of the sighting, the experts opined that Pala Rapu can become a winter migration destination for the birds from the north.
The Himalayan vulture
- The Himalayan vulture or Himalayan griffon vulture is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae.
- It is one of the two largest Old World vultures and true raptors.
- Himalayan griffons do not breed in the first three years, and hence juvenile birds of the species do not remain in breeding grounds to avoid competition.
- The species has been listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.
- It is also found in Kazakhstan, China, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Thailand, Burma, Singapore and Cambodia.
- This refers to an approach to monetary policy where the primary mandate of a central bank is to manage the rate of price inflation in the wider economy.
- Economists who support inflation targeting believe that a stable inflation rate is essential to keep the economy fully employed while protecting the value of the currency at the same time.
- Central banks with an explicit inflation targeting mandate usually have a target range of inflation.
- They try to keep inflation within the target range by adjusting the economy’s money supply.
- The policy of inflation targeting, which was first introduced in some European countries in the 1970s, became a popular approach in the 1990s.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. The Gadgil Committee, recently in news, is related to
- Banking reforms
- Western Ghats
- Women empowerment
- Disabled persons
Question 2. Consider the following statements:
- The Right to Property is not conferred to the citizens by the Constitution of India.
- Fundamental Rights are available only against the arbitrary action of the State.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding the rights of minorities:
- Indian Constitution recognizes only religious minorities’ rights.
- The term minority has not been defined anywhere in the Constitution.
- The right to protect the distinct language, script or culture of a section of people under Article 29 is available only to the minorities.
Which of the above is/are NOT correct?
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 1 and 3
- Only 3
- All of the above
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- Recently India has witnessed some of the lowest temperatures recorded in last two decades in its northern states. In this context, examine the reasons behind the same. (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
- The government has recently rolled out a national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) and identified five sectors – health care, agriculture, education, infrastructure and transportation for its adoption. Analyse the impact of AI in these sectors? (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
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