27 Jan 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Electoral bonds are a damp squib: Chawla
2. Patients urge adoption of rights charter
C. GS3 Related 
ECONOMICS
1. SC upholds bankruptcy code, cites improved financial flows
D. GS4 Related 
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS  
1. A failed coup in Venezuela (Crisis in Venezuela)
INDIAN ECONOMY 
1. E-comm talks: India must stand firm
INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Sanitation deaths continue in Delhi
F. Tidbits
1. Facebook move to unify chat apps may make them porous: report
2. SC to hear plea against changes to pension scheme
3. 10% reservation for the poor challenged in SC
G. Prelims Facts
1. 70th Republic Day
2. Bharat Ratna for Pranab, Deshmukh, Hazarika
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

 

1. Electoral bonds are a damp squib: Chawla

Context

  • The electoral bond scheme introduced by the government in 2017-18, which saw the ruling BJP getting the highest funding, had turned out to be a “damp squib and [a] huge disappointment” because of its failure to address the issue of black money paid to political parties, former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said here on Saturday. It had emerged as a “greater method of camouflage”, he said.

Electoral Bonds Scheme

  • The electoral bonds scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017-18 with an aim for increasing transparency in political funding.
  • It makes India first country in the world to have such unique bonds for electoral funding.
  • These bonds are bearer instrument in nature of promissory note and interest-free banking instrument.
  • It aims at rooting out current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to generation of black money in the economy.
  • These electoral bonds can be bought for any value in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore after fulfilling all existing Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and making payments from bank account.
  • It will not carry name of payee. The bond deposited by any eligible political party to its account shall be credited on the same day.
  • Electoral Bonds are valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue. No payment shall be made to any payee political party if bond is deposited after expiry of validity period.
  • Eligible political parties can encash electoral bonds only through their bank accounts. Electoral Bonds may be purchased by only citizen of India. An individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Only registered political parties, that have secured not less than 1% of votes polled in last election of Lok Sabha or legislative assembly of state, will be eligible to receive electoral bonds.
  • The cash donation has been capped at Rs. 2000 and beyond that donations are via electoral bonds.
 

2. Patients urge adoption of rights charter

Context

  • The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), a national platform working on health and healthcare services, urged the Ministry of Health to immediately implement the Charter of Patients’ Rights and ensure the inclusion of the entire range of patients’ rights without any dilution.
  • “In August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced its plans to implement this Charter, which was placed in the public domain for inviting comments up to 30th September, 2018. Although nearly 4 months have elapsed since this declaration of intent, there seems to have been no further progress on finalisation and adoption of the charter,” the group noted.

Need Charter of Patients’ Rights

  • There is no consolidated uniform document on patients’ rights that can be followed by all states uniformly.
  • Some states have adopted National Clinical Establishments Act, 2010 and certain others have enacted their own State-level legislations to regulate hospitals.
  • Right to non-discrimination in medical treatment is important right. Every patient has right to receive treatment without any discrimination based on his or her illnesses or conditions, including HIV status or other health condition, religion, caste, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Draft Charter of Patients’ Rights

  • Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released draft Charter of Patients’ Rights prepared by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
  • The draft charter is inspired by international charters and is guided by national level provisions with objective of consolidating comprehensive document on patients’ rights in India.
  • It provides patients with right to emergency medical care and informed consent, right to non-discrimination, seek a second opinion and choose alternative treatment options, if available.
  • It also includes 17 rights with description and draws upon all relevant provisions.
  • Ministry plans to implement the Charter of Patients’ Rights through State governments for provision of proper health care by clinical establishments.
  • This charter is expected to act as guidance document for Union Government and State Governments to formulate concrete mechanisms so that Patients’ Rights are given adequate protection and operational mechanisms are set up to make these rights functional and enforceable by law.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMICS

 

1. SC upholds bankruptcy code, cites improved financial flows

Context

  • In a whoop of victory for credits markets and entrepreneurship, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the constitutionality of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), saying the law sends a clear message that India is no longer “the defaulter’s paradise.”

Insolvency and Bankruptcy code

  • The IBC was enacted in 2016 to find a time-bound resolution for ailing and sick firms, either through closure or revival, while protecting the interests of creditors
  • A successful completion of the resolution process was expected to aid in reducing rising bad loans in the banking system
  • The court noted that IBC has witnessed an improvement in the total flow of resources to the commercial sector, both bank and non-bank, and domestic and foreign (relatable to the non-food sector), has gone up from a total of ₹14,530.47 crore in 2016-2017 to ₹18,469.25 crore in 2017- 2018 to ₹18,798.20 crore in the first six months of 2018-2019.
  • The court upheld certain relaxations given to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) under Section 29A of the Code. It the MSME form the “bedrock of our economy” and stringent restrictions through the IBC would adversely affect them. That is, instead of resolving crisis, it would lead to the untimely liquidation of MSMEs.
  • The court said the relaxation for MSMEs is proof that the legislature is alive to the anomalies within the Code and is taking steps to rectify them.

D. GS4 Related

 There is nothing from here for today!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

 

1. A failed coup in Venezuela (Crisis in Venezuela)

Note to Students:

This analysis is a combination of points as published in two articles featured in the Hindu on the 26th of January, 2019. The articles are “Crisis in Caracas” and “A failed coup in Venezuela”.

Brief Look at the Past:

  • The socialists, led by Hugo Chávez, came to power in 1999. After the U.S. attempted to overthrow Chávez and the socialists in 2002, things calmed down. Oil prices rose and the U.S. was distracted by events in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • For a decade, Venezuela was able to lead a regional process of integration on an anti-imperialist foundation.
  • But, when Chávez died in 2013, the experiment began to unravel. Oil prices fell dramatically, and the U.S. had already turned its attention to Latin America.
  • Currently, Venezuela faces a major political, economic and social crisis, with hyperinflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates.
  • Venezuela has grappled with an economic and political crisis of its own making for almost two years now. When oil prices started falling from its 2014 highs, it badly hit an economy that was over-reliant on petroleum exports and was borrowing heavily to fund its over-spending on social welfare programmes, which former President Hugo Chávez liked to describe as a “Bolivarian revolution”.
  • The opposition, whose attempts to overthrow the Socialists, including the 2002 coup against Chávez, had failed in the past, launched protests against Mr. Maduro. The government used brute force to suppress them, while the economic situation deteriorated. This left Venezuela in a constant state of economic hardships and violent street protests over the past two years.
  • Further, the main opposition boycotted the presidential election, held in the year 2018, which Mr. Maduro won with 67.8% vote. Mr. Guaidó’s claim is that the election was not free and fair and therefore Mr. Maduro is not the legitimate President — a claim that the U.S. and its allies back.

Editorial Analysis:

Current events in Venezuela:

  • Caracas, the capital of Venezuela has emerged as the fulcrum of geopolitical tension.
  • As a matter of fact, an attempted coup on January 23, 2019 has failed.
    The U.S. decided to recognise a member of the Opposition, Juan Guaidó, as the President of Venezuela.
  • S. officials called upon the military to rise up against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
  • Experts have opined that this was against the charters of the United Nations and of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
  • Experts have also pointed out that there is little respite for Venezuela- a country where tension sits heavily from one end to another.
  • It is important to note that thus far, the government of Mr. Maduro remains in power, and the military has pledged its faithfulness to the re-elected president. It is unlikely that the Venezuelan Opposition — controlled by the old oligarchy — will be able to engineer a coup from within the country. It tried such a political manoeuvre in 2002, which failed. This time it has failed again.

Current Situation of Crisis in Venezuela:

  1. Political Crisis:
  • The political crisis in Venezuela took a dangerous turn when Juan Guaidó, the new head of the National Assembly, declared himself “acting President”, challenging the authority of President Nicolás Maduro.
  • Soon after Mr. Guaidó’s announcement, the U.S., Canada, Brazil and a host of other Latin American countries recognised the 35-year-old leader from the Popular Will party as interim President.
  • A furious Mr. Maduro cut diplomatic ties with the U.S. and ordered American diplomats to leave in 72 hours.
  1. Economic Crisis:
  • Further, in Venezuela, oil prices have fallen to half of what they were at the highpoint of Chávez’s government.
  • Since the treasury of Venezuela is almost entirely replenished by the incomes from oil sales, the collapse of oil prices means the collapse of Venezuela’s public finances.
  • Unable to borrow easily, the country faces serious economic difficulties.
  • Sanctions by the U.S. and the seizure of refining sites in the Caribbean put the country into a situation of great crisis.
  • Further, Mr. Maduro’s government was clueless when the economy started collapsing.
  • At least 90% of the people now live below the poverty line, inflation is forecast to touch 10 million per cent this year, food and medicine shortages are widespread, and the economic woes have triggered a massive migrant crisis — nearly three million are estimated to have fled the country in recent years. No wonder that people are leaving the country, fleeing their homeland as it is suffocated for political purposes by the U.S. and its Latin American allies in the Lima Group.

Pressure from Neighbours:

  • Colombia’s Iván Duque and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro are both right-wing politicians who control the governments of Venezuela’s neighbours.
  • They have committed themselves to the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. Further, Venezuelans believe that Mr. Duque, Mr. Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump have overplayed their hands.
  • After the attempted overthrow in 2017, the Venezuelan government tried to deepen public participation by the formation of a Constituent Assembly. It is true that the oligarchy hated this idea and that the western press amplified its views about this being anti-democratic.
  • However, as many Venezuelans say, the Constituent Assembly and the many elections for candidates and referendums that came before 2017 have sharpened their political consciousness. Thus, it will be hard to fool them with talk of dictatorship.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Experts point out that the isolation of Venezuela is remarkable.
  • As a matter of fact, not long ago, the country was the heartbeat of the leftist assertion in the hemisphere. Now, with the emergence of right-of-centre governments in Latin America and with an explosive energy for regime change in Washington, matters are more complex.
  • Arreaza said that Mr. Maduro had invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to visit Venezuela. She has not yet come.
  • In conclusion, while Mr. Maduro shares a lot of the blame for the mismanagement of the economy, forcibly removing him from power with support from foreign nations may destabilise the country further, even leaving aside the legality of such a move. Guaidó may have hoped that by anointing himself a rebel President with backing from the U.S., he could win the support of sections of the armed forces, without which he cannot unseat Mr. Maduro.
  • However, that plan appears to have failed with the military declaring its loyalty to President Maduro.
  • Finally, the people of Venezuela deserve a better deal from a government that has led them to untold suffering and forced millions to flee the country. Destabilisation by interfering in the political process is not the solution.
  • What is required is a coordinated international effort to restore some degree of economic and political normalcy. In the long run, it is up to the people of Venezuela to decide their own political destiny.

Category: INDIAN ECONOMY

 

1. E-comm talks: India must stand firm

Note to Students:

This analysis is a combination of points as reflected from an article, titled, “E-comm talks: India must stand firm” published in the Hindu BusinessLine on the 26th of January, 2019.

Editorial Analysis:

  • In a show of strength, on the last day of the annual World Economic Forum meeting, nearly 70 countries, including China, issued a joint statement confirming their intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce.
  • Speaking at the same platform a day earlier, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, announced that he would “set in train a new track for looking at data governance — call it the Osaka Track — under the roof of the WTO”.

What are the implications of these developments for India, one of the largest economies that chose to stay away from the joint statement on electronic commerce?

  • At the outset, it is important to understand what the oligarchs of the digital world are seeking through the WTO negotiations on digital economy and e-commerce. First, they want to have access to free and unrestricted flow of data — the raw material that fuels their business.
  • Their principal targets are large developing countries, such as China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa, which generate large volumes of digital data.
  • Second, they seek to curtail the role of governments in regulating almost all key aspects of the digital economy. Third, they want to leverage the negotiation to reduce their cost of doing business and enhance their incomes, including, by prohibiting countries from imposing taxes on them and on their products.

On e-commerce, what exactly is happening at the WTO?

  • Over the past three years, there has been an aggressive push by the developed countries to initiate negotiations aimed at finalising binding rules on different dimensions of the digital economy.
  • The digital giants have managed to disguise their deep commercial interests and have succeeded in projecting these negotiations as being beneficial for developing countries.
  • Swayed by their narrative of “e-commerce for development”, many developing countries have joined the chorus for seeking negotiations on this issue.
  • However, prominent countries including India, Indonesia and most of the countries in Africa are firmly opposed to these negotiations, especially on the issue of cross-border data flows.

Plurilateral negotiation:

  • On account of the stiff opposition from some developing countries, the proponents have failed to secure a mandate to negotiate multilateral rules on e-commerce at the WTO. Consequently, they have changed track and are now actively seeking to initiate negotiations among a group of willing countries — commonly referred to as plurilateral negotiations.
  • However, even for a plurilateral agreement on e-commerce to become a part of the WTO, it would require consensus of the entire membership, including countries not part of the plurilateral group.

Why has India wisely chosen not to align itself with the proponents of e-commerce?

  • At the core of India’s approach on this issue lies the reality that the country would be one of the largest creators of data in the world. This advantage can be leveraged to nurture its domestic digital economy so that it acquires a share in the digital economy commensurate with its status as a significant global source of data.
  • On the other hand, if India is compelled by any future agreement at the WTO to allow unrestricted free flow of data across borders, then its ambition in the high-value digital segment would take a hit. In such a scenario, the country would be unable to monetise the raw material of the digital economy and would be reduced to becoming merely a consumer of digital products.

Moving ahead from Davos, what challenges would India face in respect of e-commerce negotiations at the WTO?

  • With the weight of more than 70 countries behind the plurilateral initiative and the joint statement at Davos, India is likely to come under intense pressure from different directions to join the e-commerce negotiations.
  • Given Abe’s statement about Osaka Track on data governance, negotiations on e-commerce at the WTO is likely to be the foremost item on the agenda of the leaders, when they meet later this year, during the last week of June, in Osaka for the G20 Summit. At this meeting, Abe and leaders of some developed countries would seek to persuade India’s Prime Minister to join the WTO negotiations.
  • As part of the preparations for this important meeting, various ministries in India, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of External Affairs need to work in tandem. The country must not feel apologetic during the G20 leaders’ summit in defending its interest in the digital economy by refusing to sign on to WTO negotiations on this issue.

Pressure from domestic lobbies

  • Domestically, we are likely to see lobby groups and experts lament that by staying out of the negotiations on e-commerce, India is missing out an opportunity to influence the rules that may get finalised.
  • This commonly heard sentiment totally ignores the reality, and past experience, at the negotiating table. On issues of their deep interest, it is the developed countries that inevitably write the core rules. The influence of developing countries has been limited to fighting for some exceptions. Even if we do not like it, this stark reality needs to be acknowledged.
  • Further, there is hardly any issue in e-commerce negotiations, on which India may stand to gain. Instead, its participation would be more about limiting the damage that might arise from binding rules in this area.
  • Further, experts have opined that given the mood of the proponents, it is unlikely that they will accommodate any development concerns of India.
  • In short, even if the country is inside the negotiating room, it is unlikely to wield any meaningful influence on the final rules.
  • Some lobby groups in India, with one foot in the developed world, are seeking to create a narrative that prospects of exports of IT and IT-enabled services would improve on account of e-commerce negotiations at the WTO.
  • Without any detailed examination, some in the government appear to have accepted this narrative. If the text of e-commerce provisions in some of the existing free trade agreements are an indicator, then there is unlikely to be any gain for India’s IT and ITES exports from e-commerce rules at the WTO.

Concluding Remarks:

  • In conclusion, let us bear in mind that no nation can prosper if it hands over its raw material to other countries for free.
  • This is precisely what would be required of India if it becomes a party to an agreement on e-commerce at the WTO.
  • If the country has to benefit from opportunities in the digital world, then the entire government must speak in one voice and act coherently at multiple international platforms and protect national interest. Failure to do so would compromise our digital future.

Category: INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

 

1. Sanitation deaths continue in Delhi

Note to Students:

This article is a summary of points as featured in the Hindu as featured on the 27th of January, 2019.

Larger Background:

  • Scavenging has been an occupation imposed upon certain citizens of the country by the society, which later on continued as a traditional occupation where a section of people among Scheduled Castes was ordained to clean the night soil and carry it manually on their heads.
  • This class of citizens of India is known as Manual Scavengers. Manual scavenging exists primarily because of absence of water borne latrines. Using a broom, a tin plate and a drum, they clear and carry human excreta from toilets, more often on their heads, to dumping grounds and disposal sites.
  • They are exposed to the most virulent forms of viral and bacterial infections that affect their skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.Their children are also caught up in this quagmire. Under these circumstances, it is almost impossible for their children to become educated. Mostly, the women of the families of the scavengers are engaged in scavenging.
  • Even though, in modern times these people desire to leave the profession, their social, economic, educational and cultural aspects have made it difficult for them to find an alternate profession.
  • The social stigma of untouchability continues to stick, in one form or the other largely because of the unclean nature of their occupation.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Recently, a 37-year-old sanitation worker, named Krishnan lost his life on January 20, 2019 after he entered a drain in North Delhi’s Wazirabad area, attempting to unclog it with his bare hands, and without any safety gear.
  • While the Delhi police registered a case against the contractor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promised the deceased worker’s family Rs. 10 lakh and a job, the incident has left people asking — why are workers still being forced to clean drains and sewers manually?

What does the law say?

  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, notified on September 18, 2013, terms manual scavenging a “dehumanising practice” and aims to end the practice and the use of insanitary latrines. The Act states that “no person, local authority or agency” can construct an insanitary latrine and directly or indirectly employ a manual scavenger.
  • It prohibits any person, local authority or agency from employing anyone for “hazardous cleaning of a sewer or septic tank,” the maximum punishment for which has been set at a two-year jail term and Rs. 2 lakh in fine.
  • Further, besides the Act, the Delhi government came up with the Delhi Water Board Septage Management Regulations, 2018, to regulate the handling of sewage and make it safer for workers.

Have the laws been implemented?

  • Under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the State governments are supposed to have a State-level monitoring committee as well as district-level vigilance committees.
  • Though it is supposed to meet once in six months, the Delhi State Monitoring Committee, headed by the Chief Minister, held its first meeting ever on September 24, 2018.
  • After the meeting, Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, who is also a member of the committee, admitted in a statement that manual scavenging had not stopped, as evident from the death of five workers cleaning a tank last September (September 2019) at Moti Nagar. He added that the implementation of the Act had not been effective. While the government issued orders to district magistrates and other officers to ramp up the implementation of the law, including the identification and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, people are still being made to enter drains and septic tanks to clean.
  • While issuing notice to the Delhi government in the Wazirabad case, the National Human Rights Commission on January 21, 2019 pulled up the authorities.
  • “Despite legal provisions as well as the Supreme Court guidelines safeguarding the interest of sewerage cleaners, precious lives have been lost owing to the apparent lack of supervision and lackadaisical attitude of the authorities,” the NHRC observed.

What is the government doing?

  • According to Delhi government officials, private contractors or residents’ welfare associations continue to hire labourers to clean drains and septic tanks as they find it cheaper and more convenient than renting machines, which are not readily available.
  • In the Wazirabad case, the police said the contractors had hired the deceased sanitation worker, named Krishan and other workers for Rs. 400 a day each.
  • Certain experts have pointed out that the mechanical cleaning of drains would help end the use of manual scavengers to a great extent.
  • Also, it is important to note that the Delhi Jal Board was in the process of procuring 200 sewer cleaning machines by March, 2019.
  • Having said this, some experts are still worried about septic tanks and drains in Delhi’s slums and unauthorised colonies, where the narrow lanes would prevent the vehicles from entering.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Currently, the government is looking for technological solutions to the problem, besides planning to train manual scavengers to get other jobs.
  • A team of experts from the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology and the Delhi Technological University, as well as officers of the three municipal corporations of Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board, are expected to meet this month (January, 2019) to discuss the solutions.
 

F. Tidbits

 

1. Facebook move to unify chat apps may make them porous: report

Context

  • WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption — the hallmark of users’ privacy — may be challenged if Facebook integrates the popular mobile messaging platform with the less-secure Instagram and Messenger, a report in technology website The Wired said on Saturday.

Details of the Report

  • According to the report, to universally preserve end-to-end encryption poses a whole additional set of critical challenges for Facebook. The New York Times reported on Friday that Facebook planned to integrate chats within WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.
  • WhatsApp chats are currently end-to-end encrypted by default. Facebook Messenger offers the feature if you turn on “Secret Conversations”.
  • “Instagram does not currently offer any form of end-to-end encryption for its chats,” the report said, noting that Facebook will need to find a way to help users easily understand and control end-to-end encryption as the ecosystem becomes more porous.
  • WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum quit Facebook last year over difference of opinion with CEO Mark Zuckerberg when it came to data privacy and encryption.
 

2. SC to hear plea against changes to pension scheme

Context

  • The Supreme Court has posted for hearing on February 28 a petition filed by retirees and members of the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS), 1995, against the government and the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which administers the scheme.

Details of the issue

  • The petitioners claim that a 2014 amendment and a 2017 circular exclude thousands from receiving their rightful benefits under EPS 95.
  • EPFO’s August 28, 2014 amendment had raised the wage ceiling amount for the scheme to ₹15,000 and amended the option for contribution on higher salary for existing employees, introducing a cut-off date of September 1, 2014. It also reduced the pensionable salary considerably by averaging 60 months salary instead of 12 months to determine the last drawn salary amount.
  • According to the petition, the effect of this amendment is to exclude all new employees who joined after September 2014 from joining the pension scheme altogether; to exclude serving employees from benefiting from the option of contributing to the pension scheme on maximum salary; and to deny the benefit of opting for the scheme to retired employees if they missed the cut-off date.
  • The amendment and cut-off date were not given sufficient publicity to allow employees to opt for pension on higher salary if they wished, says the petition, adding that, “It is in these circumstances that the majority of the employees remained ignorant of the options available to them for the betterment of their life after retirement.”
  • In an October 2016 order, the Supreme Court had struck down the cut-off date clause in the amendment. Two months later, the Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO decided to comply with the order and allow members to get the benefit of pension on a higher salary. However, on May 31, 2017, EPFO issued a circular claiming that EPS 95 members from “exempt” companies were excluded from the benefits of the SC’s 2016 order. These are companies which are exempt from maintaining a provident fund with EPFO, but not exempt from participation in the pension scheme.
  • With confusion prevailing, another slew of petitions landed in the courts. Currently, at least 27 cases on various aspects of EPS 95 are pending in the Supreme Court.
 

3. 10% reservation for the poor challenged in SC

  • The Supreme Court on Friday sought the government’s response to petitions challenging the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, which provides 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for those economically backward in the unreserved category.
  • The law was passed by Parliament, and received the President’s assent. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, refused to stay it on Friday.
  • The Act amended Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backward- ness.
  • The petitions in the court said the Act violated the Basic Features of the Constitution. The petitioners argued that the 50% ceiling on quota has been “engrafted as a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution’s equality code” by the Supreme Court.
  • The Bench, also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna, issued notice to the government and ordered it to reply in three weeks.
  • One of the petitions, filed by Youth For Equality, represented by advocates Senthil Jagadeesan and Gopal Sankaranarayanan, contended that the Supreme Court, in a nine-judge Bench judgment in the Indira Sawhney case, had already settled the law that economic backwardness cannot be the sole basis for reservation. The plea argued that the Act was “vulnerable” and negated a binding judgment of the top court.
  • The petition contended that the amendments exclude the OBCs and the SC/ST communities from the scope of the economic reservation. This, it said, “essentially implies that only those who are poor from the general categories would avail the benefits of the quotas.” It said the high creamy layer limit of ₹eight lakh per annum ensures that the elite capture the reservation benefits.
 

G. Prelims Facts

 

1. 70th Republic Day

  • India has celebrated the 70th Republic Day. Republic day in India is celebrated every year on 26th of January to honour the Constitution of India as it came into force on the same day in the year 1950.
  • The Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950, a date specially chosen to coincide with the anniversary of ‘Purna Swaraj Diwas’. January 26, 1930 was marked as ‘Purna Swaraj Diwas’, or the day the nation would attain complete freedom from its colonisers by the Congress.
  • Theme: ‘life of Gandhi’ which is a tribute to the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
  • Chief Guest: President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. This is the second time a South African leader is Chief Guest at Republic Day — Nelson Mandela was the chief guest in 1995.
  • The 70th Republic Day parade had the highest number of women officers participating in the celebrations with Lt. Bhavana Kasturi leading a contingent of 144 male personnel. This is the first time in the history of Indian Army that a woman had leaded the Army services corps.
  • An all-women contingent of Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force had participated for the first time. The contingent was opened for women in 2012.
  • The weapons which showcased for the first time in a Republic day parade are M777 and K-9 Vajra ultra light howitzers along with the Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) missile of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • For the first time in the Republic Day parade, 32 aircraft did fly using a mix of traditional and biofuel.
  • Four former Indian National Army (INA) soldiers had participated for the first time in the parade. INA was an armed force formed by Indian nationalist Rash Behari Bose in 1942 in Southeast Asia during World War II.
  • `Sankhnaad’, a martial tune created for the Indian armed forces, played for the first time on the 70th Republic Day parade. Since Independence, the Indian defence forces have been playing ‘martial tune’ created by the Britishers. `Sankhnaad’ is based on Indian classical music.
 

2. Bharat Ratna for Pranab, Deshmukh, Hazarika

Context

  • President Ramnath Kovind on Friday conferred the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honour, on former President Pranab Mukherjee, along with social activist Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumous), and Assamese musician Bhupen Hazarika (posthumous).

Know about Bharat Ratnas

  • Born in 1935, Mukherjee served as president between 2012 and 2017. Fondly known as ‘Pranab Da’, he has been a senior leader in the Congress and had held several ministerial portfolios. He was also the finance minister from 2009-2012 under the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh. Having dabbled in politics in 1969, Mukherjee had worked closely with former PM Indira Gandhi, becoming one of her trusted lieutenants.
  • Deshmukh was a Sangh Parivar veteran, founder member of the Janata Party and one of the seniormost members of the Bharatiya Janata Party. A social activist, Nanaji played an important role in carrying out social restructuring programme in over 500 villages of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. He passed away on February 27, 2010 in Chitrakoot, at the age of 93.
  • Hazarika (1926-2011) was a singer and filmmaker, popularly known as Sudhakantha. He was born in Sadiya, Assam. Known for his flawless baritone and his trademark Nepali cap, he was respected nationwide, as a great balladeer and also came to be known as the ‘Bard of the Brahmaputra’.A poet and a lyricist, Hazarika also penned songs, which although written and sung in Assamese, have been known to have a universal appeal, stepped in themes of humanity and communal harmony.

Bharat Ratna

  • Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. The provision of Bharat Ratna was introduced in 1954.
  • Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for these awards. There is no written provision that Bharat Ratna should be awarded to Indian citizens only.
  • It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.
  • The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the government expanded the criteria to include “any field of human endeavour” in December 2011.
  • In terms of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the recipient’s name. However, should an award winner consider it necessary, he/she may use the expression in their biodata/letterhead/visiting card etc. to indicate that he/she is a recipient of the award.
 

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Question 1. The project “Development of Tribal Circuit” is sanctioned under which Ministry
  1. Ministry of Human resources and Development
  2. Ministry of tribal Affairs
  3. Ministry of Tourism
  4. Ministry of Culture

See

Answer

Question 2. Consider the following statements regarding Geographical Indication (GI) 
  1. GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, but not industrial products.
  2. GI tags last up to a term of 10 years, and cannot be renewed

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2 only
  4. Neither 1 and 2

See

Answer
Question 3. Net population size in an area will increase if
  1. If both birth rate and death rate is high
  2. If birth rate is high, but death rate is low
  3. If birth rate is low, but death rate is high
  4. If immigration rate is lower than emigration rate

See

Answer
 

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The world has changed since the formation of the WTO in 1995 and wants some upgrade and reforms in the Geneva-based body. Examine the statement (10 Marks; 150 words)
  2. The recent political crisis in Venezuela may not be in the interest of the country or the world in general but it offers benefits to countries like India and China. In this context write a note on the Venezuela’s present crisis and its effects on Indian economy. (10 Marks; 150 words)

See previous CNA