TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY 1. 9 parties oppose proposal for simultaneous elections GOVERNMENT SCHEMES 1. Rath Yatra to showcase Swachh Bharat Mission in Odisha GOVERNANCE 1. Centre plans stronger defences for key data C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY 1. Fish samples in Chennai test positive for formalin 2. Chuck that plastic for a bamboo sipper 3. Biodegradable plastic made from tree glue 4. Arunachal stares at water scarcity ECONOMY 1. Govt. taps RBI to track all transactions 2. Telecom firms oppose TRAI’s public Wi-Fi model D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. The U.S.-China trade war SOCIAL JUSTICE 1. Discriminatory practice F. Tidbits G. Prelims Fact H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
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B. GS2 Related
1. 9 parties oppose proposal for simultaneous elections
Political parties were divided on the issue of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections during consultations with the Law Commission of India. As many as nine parties expressed their reservations while four parties supported the move.
Concerns raised by parties
- The parties argued that the move was against “basic tenets of the Constitution.
- The Working Paper does not seem to have considered that the Lok Sabha is also capable of being dissolved before its five-year tenure. If such a situation were to happen, it is unclear whether all Legislative Assemblies will also be dissolved to synchronize the electoral process again.
1. Rath Yatra to showcase Swachh Bharat Mission in Odisha
- With Odisha placed at the bottom of Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) coverage in the country, the Centre has urged the State government to use the forthcoming Shree Jagannath Rath Yatra festival in Puri as a platform to spread the message on twin-pit toilet access and usage.
- Utilising the auspicious occasion with the twin-pit toilet usage messaging will go a long way in helping Odisha reach ODF status through behavioural change of millions of rural citizens attending the festivities.
- Odisha has been the worst performer in executing the SBM in the country. Since October 2, 2014, when the mission was launched, only 38.08 lakh household toilets have been constructed, and IHHL coverage in Odisha has been estimated at 57.82%.
- Bihar has slightly better coverage than Odisha with 58.9%. As many as 18 States and Union Territories have already achieved 100% coverage. Uttar Pradesh, a bigger State, has achieved 79.14% coverage of households with IHHL.
- As far as Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages are concerned, Odisha figures among five lowest-performing States. Only 23.42% villages in Odisha have qualified for the ODF tag.
- While neighbouring Chhattisgarh has already achieved the 100% milestone, only two of Odisha’s 30 districts have been been declared ODF.
1. Centre plans stronger defences for key data
- Worried about sensitive information making its way to the Internet, the Home Ministry is upgrading policy to secure government data and control access to it.
- A senior Ministry official said earlier the files were locked in a cupboard and accountability could be fixed, but with the advent of Digital India, there was ambiguity over a number of issues.
- Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who recently presided over a meeting to review the evolving cyber threats, directed that the National Information Security Policy and Guidelines (NISPG) be upgraded and updated for the government sector.
Changes from the past
- In 2013, cybersecurity, which was the sole preserve of the Home Ministry, was moved to the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) under the Prime Minister’s Office.
- The critical infrastructure was moved to the National Technical Research Organisation and the non-critical part to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. An official said the new policy would cover issues pertaining to the Official Secrets Act.
What are the other issues with the digital mechanism?
- There are issues relating to physical security of a computer. Like what happens if the device becomes obsolete? What about the hard disk, will it be destroyed before the computer is discarded?
- Then there are issues relating to the network as well. If information is riding on own cyber cable, then everything can be encrypted, but if it is riding on a commercially available one, then you will have to make sure that guidelines are complied with
- Basically, the whole policing system in India that began in 1860 is now being replicated in cyberspace. It will evolve gradually. The new guidelines will also take care of that.
- If 50 people are accessing some data, it requires a wider security network. Audit trail has to be left, red flags should be raised. We need to take cognizance of the threats and accordingly upgrade the measures.
C. GS3 Related
1. Fish samples in Chennai test positive for formalin
As many as 11 out of 30 samples of fish species purchased from Chinthadripet and Kasimedu, the two major fish markets in Chennai, on two different days, have tested positive for formalin, a cancer-inducing chemical used illegally to preserve fish.
- Formalin is used widely as a preservative and disinfectant. Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. In the long run continued exposure causes harm to the kidneys, liver and can even cause cancers.
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) officials have been undertaking tests at fish markets and harbours across the State to test for formalin following a scare in neighbouring Kerala that fish sourced from here were chemically contaminated.
- Fish industry experts said that formalin or formaldehyde is sprayed on the fish or injected into the fish or the fish is dipped into the solution. This helps keep the fish fresh for a longer time. Usually, people who buy fish check the gills for freshness, if it is red it denotes freshness, when formalin is used the gills remain red for longer periods. In some cases, fishermen also apply kumkum to retain redness.
2. Chuck that plastic for a bamboo sipper
- A scientist from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has come out with a green alternative to use-and-throw plastic drinking straws, by tapping bamboo.
Benefits of Bamboo
- Not only is a bamboo straw biodegradable, it can be reused for years. People can keep one in their homes and use it multiple times like tooth brushes, avoiding plastic straws. And the cost? Just 50 paise per piece. Its longevity makes it cheaper than plastic.
- If the per capita consumption of plastic has to be brought down, it can be done by promoting natural products like bamboo and jute and other such innovations.
3. Biodegradable plastic made from tree glue
- Scientists have found that a natural ‘tree glue’ which stiffens plant cells can be turned into a strong, biodegradable plastic.
- The natural glue called lignin holds cellulose fibres together.
- Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK genetically modified a bacteria called Rhodococcus jostii to turn lignin into useful chemicals.
- There are only a small number of organisms that can break down lignin. Lignin is a byproduct of the paper making process.
- Normally the bacteria uses it for growth, and breaks it down into small molecules which it uses as food to grow.
- Plastic is notoriously difficult to recycle – and only 12 per cent of household waste is reprocessed. The rest is either burnt or goes to landfill.
4. Arunachal stares at water scarcity
- Arunachal Pradesh is staring at scarcity of water, the very resource that is expected to make the frontier State India’s hydroelectric powerhouse.
- More than 200 rivers and streams across Arunachal Pradesh have dried up.
- The scenario could be as grim as Shimla, the capital of another “presumably water-abundant” Himalayan State that underwent a severe water crisis recently.
What are the reasons?
- The drying up of water bodies is attributed to rampant destruction of forests besides thinning glaciers in the Eastern Himalayas due to climate change.
- The State’s forest cover has decreased from 82% to 79% and catchment areas of many rivers are under threat because of jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation and landslides.
- Large-scale hunting of animals, too, has been a factor in the depletion of the State’s natural resources.
- Many communities hunt birds and animals for food and adornment of traditional headgear. Wild animals such as Asiatic black bear, leaf deer and Mishmi takin are considered delicacies.
- Public cooperation was imperative for conservation of forests and wildlife in a State where much of the land is community-owned.
- The water scarcity has undermined the State’s much-vaunted hydropower potential, which the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy said is 25,962 MW. But only about 405 MW had been commissioned till 2017.
1. Govt. taps RBI to track all transactions
- In a move aimed at widening the crackdown on black money and following the money trail flowing in and out of thousands of shell companies, the Centre is planning to set up an information technology (IT)-based mechanism to keep a tab on all non-cash financial transactions in the country.
RBI as sole repository
- Currently, the idea is to make the RBI the sole repository of such information, which will not be made available to other agencies such as the income tax department and the enforcement directorate as a default.
- Such agencies may be required to make specific requests to the central bank if they want information on a particular set of entities.
- Although the data will be captured for all transactions irrespective of the size of the transactions, the large ones would be relevant for enforcement purposes.
What are the Anti-money laundering rules?
- Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, banks and financial institutions are already required to alert the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), under the Finance Ministry, to any suspicious transactions, cash or otherwise.
- Cash transactions of more than Rs. 10 lakh (including a series of transactions integrally connected to each other and exceeding Rs. 10 lakh in a month), need to be reported to the FIU.
- All suspicious transactions need to reported to the unit within seven days after it is concluded that those are suspicious in nature.
Why this step now?
- The move to track all financial transactions is the latest in a series to curb black money and identify shell companies.
- Following the 2016 demonetisation exercise that rendered more than 86% of the currency in circulation invalid, it was found there had been a significant spurt in the operations of shell firms that typically have no assets or active businesses.
- The Centre has shut down more than two lakh such entities. More than two lakh other firms that have not been carrying out operations have been sent notices.
- Depending on their responses, a decision would be taken on how many would be deregistered. In FY17, the FIU had received more than 15.9 million Cash Transaction Reports and 4.73 lakh Suspicious Transaction Reports.
2. Telecom firms oppose TRAI’s public Wi-Fi model
- Telecom operators have opposed public Wi-Fi model recommended by the sector regulator TRAI, saying it will adversely impact debt-ridden industry and compromise national security.
- Based on existing rules for cyber cafes, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended that a new set of players to be called Pubic Data Office Aggregator (PDOA) should be allowed to resell Internet services through yesteryear PCO type of set-up that will be called Public Data Offices.
What are the concerns raised with new proposal?
- The proposal to sell internet services without a licence, will be a complete bypass of present licensing framework, detrimental to massive investments already made in spectrum, telecom infrastructure.
- However, a report said proliferation of public Wi-Fi can provide $3 billion potential revenue opportunity for telecom operators between 2017-2019, as it will help adding new customers and increasing data consumption by existing users.
- The study by Analysys Mason, commissioned by Google, found a significant fraction of users saying they would be interested in purchasing a new mobile broadband SIM card to continue accessing high-speed Internet, after having experienced high-speed Internet through high-speed wi-fi services from Google-Railtel.
D. GS4 Related
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1. The U.S.-China trade war
- After exchanging several threats over the last few months, both the United States and China implemented a tariff of 25% on imports worth $34 billion.
- This marks the official beginning of what China dubs as “the biggest trade war in economic history”
What is the impact of the U.S-China Trade Wars?
- While this trade war is far from the biggest the world has seen, it has the potential to cause some significant damage to the world economy.
- S. President Donald Trump, who began the year by imposing tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, has vowed to possibly tax all Chinese imports into the U.S., which last year added up to a little over $500 billion.
- Trump’s tariffs against China will likely resonate with voters who believe in his “America First” campaign and perceive the trade deficit with China as a loss to the U.S. economy.
- China, not surprisingly, has responded by targeting American exports like soybean and automobiles, a move that could cause job losses in American states that accommodate Mr. Trump’s voter base.
- Other major U.S. trading partners such as the European Union, Mexico, and Canada have also slapped retaliatory tariffs on various U.S. goods.
- In a globalised world, no country can hope to impose tariffs without affecting its own economic interests.
- Apart from disadvantaging its consumers, who will have to pay higher prices for certain goods, tariffs will also disrupt the supply chain of producers who rely on foreign imports.
- So both the U.S. and China, which have blamed each other for the ongoing trade war, are doing no good to their own economic fortunes by engaging in this tit-for-tat tariff battle.
- The minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve June policy meeting show that economic uncertainty due to the trade war is already affecting private investment in the U.S., with many investors deciding to scale back or delay their investment plans.
- China, which is fighting an economic slowdown, will be equally affected.
- The ongoing trade war also threatens the rules-based global trade order which has managed to amicably handle trade disputes between countries for decades.
- It could also isolate the U.S., which has refused to settle differences through serious negotiations, as other global economies strike trade deals on their own.
- On March 11 Asia-Pacific countries went ahead to sign a trans-Pacific trade deal while leaving out the U.S., which had pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in early 2017.
How worse can Trade Wars get?
- If global trade tensions continue to simmer, however, it may not be too long before countries resort to other destructive measures such as devaluing their currencies to support domestic exporters. The world economy, which is on a slow path to recovery, can do without such unnecessary shocks.
1. Discriminatory practice
Reports suggest that Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi may have been in violation of disability reservation provisions in student selection and faculty recruitment.
Challenges with respect to Reservation for persons with disabilities:
- Pervasive violations of disability reservation in the last two decades show a lack of progressive intent on the part of the authorities.
- This flies in the face of Parliament passing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Bill and enacting it as a law in 2016.
- On paper, the RPwD Act appears commendable as it has increased the quota of reservation for persons with benchmark disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher educational institutions.
- Since the Act came into force, there have been multiple instances of persons with disabilities having to fight their cases in courts to ensure that government and educational institutions comply with the disability reservation provisions.
- In government jobs and higher educational institutions, where the total seats offered are fewer, disability reservation takes a back seat. The argument often given by authorities is that due to the paucity of seats, the disability reservation cannot even be calculated.
- Many premier educational institutions and various State governments have been in violation of the prior Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995 and of the RPwD Act, 2016. The system is designed such that disability is seen as the inability of a person and therefore many differently abled candidates are not recruited, additionally contributing to the mounting huge backlog of vacancies.
- Many think that persons selected under reserved categories, especially under the differently-abled category, are not meritorious candidates and their selection brings down the quality of institutions in which they are selected. If this mindset prevails, we must expect the systemic violation of disability reservation to continue.
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G. Prelims Fact
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H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
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