TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Rajasthan’s Gujjar quota faces a legal challenge 2. Kanyashree stipends are no shield against trafficking INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. UNSC blacklists Osama’s son C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. SpaceX astronaut capsule launched on ISS test mission D. GS4 Related E. Editorials INDIAN ECONOMY 1. Whose T&D loss is it anyway? (Discrepancies in the calculation of electricity losses) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India rejects OIC resolution on J&K 2. U.S. seeks detail of ‘misuse’ of F-16s F. Tidbits 1. Soldiers from Assam village fight a battle on the home front too 2. ‘Night shifts can raise risk of early menopause’ 3. Primary schools in Kerala to go high-tech G. Prelims Facts 1. Rule on reuse of cooking oil kicks in today H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
- The Congress government’s move to give 5% reservation to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities in jobs and education in Rajasthan, citing them as being an “extremely backward class”, has run into rough weather.
- A public interest litigation petition filed in the High Court here, challenges the quota Bill on grounds of an “untenable basis” of proportionality of population.
Details of the issue
- Activists Arvind Sharma and Badal Verma contend in their writ petition that the Bill — passed in the Assembly’s Budget session during the Gujjar agitation — had not only breached the 50% ceiling on reservation but had also cited the proportion of Gujjars’ population as per the last Census instead of referring to the quantifiable data of backwardness in education and public employment.
- The Assembly had unanimously passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Amendment Bill, 2019, on February 13.
- The writ petition is likely to come up for hearing in the Rajasthan High Court’s Jaipur Bench next week.
- Petitioners’ counsel Abhinav Sharma said while the State government had contended that the reservation was aimed at addressing the pressing need to uplift certain communities, the “actual compelling circumstance” was the Gujjar agitation, which had held the entire State to ransom.
Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019
- The Rajasthan government has passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Amendment Bill, 2019.
- The bill comes in the backdrop of two similar bills passed in 2015 and 2017 which were struck down by the Rajasthan High Court.
- The bill seeks to provide 5% reservation to Gujjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria. At present, the communities are provided 1% reservation under More Backward Classes (MBC).
- The bill has increased the OBC reservation in Rajasthan from the present 21% to 26%. It has also increased the income limit for defining creamy layer in OBC from Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh/annum.
- The Rajasthan government has also passed a resolution requesting the Centre to include the bill in Schedule IX of the Indian Constitution. This is because Rajasthan has breached the 50% cap on reservations set by the Supreme Court.
- A law enacted and included in the Ninth Schedule gets protection under Article 31-B (validation of certain Acts and Regulations) and is not subject to judicial review. However, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that all laws including those in the Ninth Schedule would be open to judicial review if they violated the basic structure of the constitution.
- Experts working with the non-government organisations on the issue said trafficking is a complex problem and one scheme, which provides impetus to girls to remain in school, cannot put an end to trafficking. Moreover, they also feel that under the K1 scheme the benefit of ₹750 annually is hardly a deterrent to trafficking.
Details of the issue
- Dipali, Manju and Sahanara (names changed) were all beneficiaries of West Bengal’s most talked about conditional cash transfer scheme, Kanyashree.
- However, despite being beneficiaries of the scheme, which according to the State government has 56.09 lakh beneficiaries so far, these three young women were trafficked between 2016-18.
- Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra ( GGBK), an organisation working with survivors of trafficking in South 24 Parganas, has been involved in the rescue of 21 trafficking survivors in 2018. “Of the 21 girls who were rescued, four of them were beneficiaries of Kanyashree,” Subhashree Ratptam of GGBK said.
- Kanyashree is an initiative taken by the Government of West Bengal to improve the life and the status of the girls by helping economically backward families with cash so that families do not arrange the marriage of their girl child before eighteen years because of economic problem.
- The purpose of this initiative is to uplift those girls who are from poor families and thus can’t pursue higher studies due to tough economic conditions. It has been given international recognition by the United Kingdoms Department of International Development and the UNICEF.
- Launched in 2013, the Kanyashree scheme has two categories of benefits. Under the first category or K1 category, ₹750 is paid annually to the girls in the age group of 13 to 18; under the K2 group, a one-time grant of ₹25,000 is paid after a girl turns 18, provided that she was engaged in an academic or occupational pursuit and was unmarried.
- Kanyashree is an overarching scheme apart from several other schemes aimed at combating trafficking.
- In September 2018, West Bengal government rolled out Swayangsiddha scheme to prevent trafficking. Under the scheme (which means self reliance) complaint boxes have been installed in the schools where girls can submit any complaint of stalking or harassment faced by them or any of their friends.
- Hamza bin Laden, the 30-year-old son of slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, had his Saudi citizenship revoked after United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Sanctions Committee blacklisted the terrorist leader. The security council also described Hamza as the “most probable successor” of Al Qaeda’s present chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
- Apart from the UNSC blacklisting, the United States government, as a part of its ‘Rewards for Justice’ programme, had also announced a bounty of $1 million for any information that leads to the capture of Hamza.
What does UNSC blacklisting of Osama bin Laden’s son mean?
- The blacklisting of Hamza would mean that he is subjected to a travel ban, freezing of assets along with an arms embargo.
- An assets freeze under the Sanctions Committee requires that all states freeze the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals.
- The travel ban entails preventing the entry into or transit by all states through their territories by designated individuals.
- Under the arms embargo, all states are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materials of all types to designated individuals.
C. GS3 Related
- SpaceX celebrated the successful launch of a new astronaut capsule on a week-long round trip to the International Space Station — a key step towards resuming manned space flights from U.S. soil after an eight-year break.
- This time around, the only occupant on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule was a dummy named Ripley — but NASA plans to put two astronauts aboard in July, although that date could be delayed
Details of the Mission
- The SpaceX company has launched a capsule designed to carry people from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- The mission is uncrewed for this flight, but if it goes well, the American space agency is likely to approve the system for regular astronaut use from later this year.
- SpaceX founder Elon Musk said this could be the first step towards opening space travel to commercial customers.
- The Dragon crew capsule is a variant on the ISS cargo freighter flown by SpaceX. Upgrades include life-support systems, obviously; and more powerful thrusters to push the vessel to safety if something goes wrong with a rocket during an ascent to orbit.
- Not since the retirement of the shuttles in 2011 has the US been able to put humans in orbit. It has been paying to use Russian Soyuz vehicles instead.
Who is this character Ripley?
- Because this is just a demonstration, there are no astronauts aboard – but there is a “test dummy”.
- Dressed in a spacesuit and sitting next to a window, this anthropomorphic simulator is fitted with sensors around the head, neck, and spine.
- It will gather data on the type of forces that humans will experience when they get to ride in the spacecraft.
- SpaceX has nicknamed the dummy “Ripley” – after the Sigourney Weaver character in the Alien movies.
D. GS4 Related
Note to Students:
This editorial analysis is from an article entitled, “Whose T&D loss is it anyway?” as published in the Hindu BusinessLine newspaper.
- Experts have opined that given the methodological discrepancies in the calculation of electricity losses, there is need for a model methodology.
- The Transmission and Distribution (T&D) loss and the Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) loss are often quoted metrics to assess the health of the electricity distribution sector.
- High losses could be due to low investment in the network, poor maintenance or theft.
Consequences of an increase in losses:
An increase in loss implies an increase in costs and consequently consumer tariffs.
- An analysis of six large States in India shows that a one percentage point (p.p.) increase in T&D loss results in a ₹200-₹400 crore annual increase in costs for the electricity distribution companies or Discoms in each State.
- Given its impacts, electricity regulatory commissions set targets for loss reduction.
Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY): A Perspective:
- There is also a commitment to loss reduction under the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY), a bailout scheme worth ₹5 lakh crore, aimed at ensuring financial viability of Discoms.
- Under this scheme, target specification and monitoring of losses take place on a division-wise basis.
- It is important to note that loss reduction is also tracked under the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), a union government programme worth ₹32,000 crore to strengthen network infrastructure.
- The annual loss reduction targets decided by regulators and under central government programmes are in the range of 0.25 to 5 percentage points in most States.
How is loss assessment affected?
- Loss assessment is affected by two long-standing metering challenges in the sector.
- Of these, one relates to the large presence of unmetered users whose consumption is not measured but estimated based on assumptions.
- The second is the lack of accurate metering infrastructure not only in the distribution network but also the transmission system.
- Keeping aside the impact of these issues, this editorial analysis highlights that the losses could vary by up to 4 percentage points depending merely on the methodology used for calculation.
- Hence, it is important to look at the underlying methodology and not just the reported number often quoted in headlines.
- T&D loss is calculated as the difference between input in the T&D network and sales to consumers.
- It is important to note that AT&C loss is calculated as the difference between the energy input in the distribution network and revenue collected for the same.
- The variation in losses due to the methodology adopted primarily depends on the treatment of four factors, which are detailed in the rest of this editorial analysis.
Alternate supply options
- Driven by rising Discom tariffs, many industrial and commercial enterprises have been meeting their demand through alternate supply options such as open access or captive generators.
- This demand is already more than 20 per cent of the Discom sales in many States and will continue to grow.
- Even though these consumers use the network, the T&D loss in the network is typically estimated without accounting for such demand.
- This treatment overestimates T&D loss by 2-3 percentage points.
- However, it does not change the AT&C loss calculated as this metric focuses only on the inputs and losses attributable to the Discom’s demand.
- Franchisees are appointed to manage billing, revenue collection and capital expenditure in high loss pockets of the Discom.
- While estimating the Discoms’ T&D loss, a franchisee is typically treated as a single consumer drawing power from the State transmission network.
- This is not reflective of how energy is handled in the system as the Discom consumers in the franchised area are connected to the distribution network and thus are also subject to distribution losses.
- This assumption leads to an under-estimation of T&D as well as AT&C loss by 1-4 percentage points.
- Given this treatment, it is quite possible for a Discom to show a dramatic, although notional reduction in losses simply by appointing franchisees in multiple circles.
- Depending on whether energy inputs are considered in the transmission or distribution network, there could be variation in losses calculated.
- Possibly due to a historical precedent, existing methodologies assume that all short-term and renewable energy procurement take place only within the State transmission network.
- However, purchase from outside the State and the generation of renewable energy in the distribution network has been increasing in the recent past.
- Not accounting for this change, results in an over-estimation of T&D loss 0.03-0.12 percentage points and an over-estimation of AT&C losses by 0.1-0.2 percentage points.
- Along with distribution loss, AT&C loss is also dependant on the Discom’s collection efficiency. Collection efficiency is expressed as the ratio between the revenue collected for sale of power by the Discom and the revenue billed for the same. The calculation methodology prescribed by the Central Electricity Authority accounts for revenue collected during the year as well as past receivables.
- In sharp contrast, the definition of collection efficiency on the National Power Portal managed by the Ministry of Power is only concerned with the revenue billed for the current year and explicitly excludes arrears.
- For a Discom which has had significant arrears in the past but has managed to increase collection for current and past receivables, there could even be a 10 percentage point variation in estimation of collection efficiencies depending on the methodology considered.
- Currently, it is not clear which methodology is used by Discoms to calculate collection efficiency for reporting AT&C loss. Keeping aside this dramatic possibility, variation in distribution loss alone due to changes in methodology is significant enough to meet the annual AT&C loss reduction target, as specified under UDAY for 19 States.
Concluding Remarks: The Way Forward
- Given these wide-reaching implications, it is important to have a standardised loss calculation methodology which transparently accounts for energy as handled in the system. Such a methodology should also account for recent sector developments.
- The Centre in consultation with State governments, regulators and Discoms should publish a model calculation methodology which can be adopted across States after extensive public consultation.
- Only then will using these metrics for the purposes of setting policy targets, making comparisons across States and for the assessment of progress under central sector programmes hold any merit.
- The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents.
- The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world.
- It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
Why in the news?
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently attended the inaugural plenary of the foreign ministers’ conclave of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as the guest of honour.
- It is for the first time that India has been invited to a meeting of the OIC, which is an influential grouping of 57 Islamic countries.
- India was invited to attend the OIC meeting in 1969 but Pakistan prevailed upon and got the invite withdrawn.
India’s Participation at the OIC Perspective:
- In a diplomatic move to isolate Pakistan, India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj said OIC nations must tell countries supporting terror to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to terror outfits.
- Further, underlining that the fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries Friday that India’s 185 million Muslims are “a microcosm of the diversity of India” and they “maintain strong cultural and linguistic heritage” and live in harmony with “each other and with their non-Muslim brethren”.
- The first Indian minister to address the OIC, Swaraj quoted from the Quran and other religious scriptures to underscore India’s diversity that “has ensured that very few Muslims in India have fallen prey to the poisonous propaganda of radical and extremist ideologies”.
- And in a diplomatic move to isolate Pakistan, Swaraj said OIC nations must tell countries supporting terror to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to terror outfits.
- It is important to note that Pakistan is a founding member of the OIC.
- Without naming Pakistan even once in her speech, Swaraj’s remarks were clearly directed at Islamabad.
- India’s first participation at the OIC came despite strong demands by Pakistan to rescind Swaraj’s invitation to address the grouping. This was was turned down by the host nation, the UAE, and resulted in Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotting the plenary.
- Asserting that the fight against terrorism is not against any religion, Swaraj said: “We are witnessing the terrible daily destruction in senseless terrorist violence. It is destroying lives, destabilising regions and putting the world at great peril. The reach of terror is growing, its lethality is increasing and the toll it is taking, is rising.”
Position Taken on Jammu and Kashmir:
- Rejecting a resolution by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) on Jammu and Kashmir that referred to “Indian terrorism” and “mass blindings”, the External Affairs Ministry said its stand on the matter was “well known”.
- The resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, another on the “India-Pakistan Peace Process” that praised Pakistan for its “efforts”, and a statement on “Muslim minorities” worldwide that called upon the Indian government to rebuild the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, came as an embarrassment for the government just a day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had addressed the gathering.
- “We reaffirm that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India,” the Ministry said in a statement after the conclusion of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi.
- The statement appreciated the invitation to Ms. Swaraj as a “historic gesture”.
- Officials underplayed the statements and references to India, pointing out that there were no negative references to New Delhi in the “Abu Dhabi declaration” document, which is the main communiqué.
- Experts opine that the other resolutions “don’t reflect or need a consensus” of the entire 57-nation group. “They are essentially national positions of individual countries, and often go unopposed”.
- Foreign Minister of the UAE Sheikh Abdullah attempted to explain the statements from what he called a “positive angle”. “I think the OIC has sent a very clear and positive sign to India and looks forward to strengthening such a relationship to a point where we can embrace India one day at the OIC,” he said.
- It is important to note that the language of the statements that were issued with Indian references are harsh, and while the OIC has regularly issued statements on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir that accuses Indian forces of atrocities, the statement on the “peace process between India-Pakistan” is unusual, not least given the tensions during the month of February, 2019 and the fact that there is no dialogue between the two countries at present.
- In one para, the resolution “condemns the trend of unprecedented escalation of ceasefire violations by Indian occupation (sic) forces”.
- In the resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the recommendations included an appeal to OIC members to “mobilise funds” for “humanitarian assistance to the Kashmiri people”.
- The U.S. is seeking more information from Pakistan on the potential misuse of American-made F-16 fighter jets by it against India in violation of the end-user agreement, the State Department has said.
Evidence shared by India:
- The Indian Air Force on 28th February, 2019 displayed parts of an AMRAAM beyond visual range air-to-air missile as evidence to “conclusively” prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir after India’s anti-terror operation in Balakot.
Statement of Denial by Pakistan:
- Pakistan on 27th February, 2019 categorically said that no F-16 fighter jets were used and denied that one of its planes had been downed by the Indian Air Force.
- “We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” a State Department spokesperson said when asked about reports that Pakistan had violated the end-user agreement with the U.S. in this week’s border clash with India.
- “Due to non-disclosure agreements in Foreign Military Sales contracts, we cannot discuss the specifics of end user-agreements contained within,” Lt Col Kone Faulkner, a Defense Department spokesperson had issued a statement.
- It is important to note that the United States, which is the largest seller of high-tech defence equipment globally, has a strong end-user monitoring agreement, and as a matter of practice takes all allegations of misuse of defense articles very seriously.
- Barpeta district’s Saru Harid, 145 km west of Guwahati, is often referred to as a village of ‘faujis’ (soldiers).
- At least half a dozen youth from the village of some 6,000 people, most of whom are Muslims, join the security forces every year. But that has not stopped the local administration, particularly the State’s Border Police, from suspecting them to be foreigners and asking them to prove their citizenship.
- The Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Border Security Force have never had a problem counting these soldiers as their own and deploying them to protect the country’s borders from the frozen reaches of the Siachen glacier to militancy-hit Kashmir or to combat home-grown insurgents.
- But these battle-hardened men from a western Assam village have struggled for years to overcome a bigger threat at home — a system that continues to doubt their citizenship.
- A reference case is made against a person if an investigation officer of the Border Police — set up in 1962, initially to prevent infiltration of Pakistanis — has sufficient ground for doubting his or her citizenship. Members of the unit have powers to check documents and if not available, can demand production of proof of citizenship within 15 days.
- Women who work in night shifts, even occasionally, are at an increased risk of early menopause, which can heighten the possibility of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and memory problems, finds a new study from the University of Dalhousie in Canada
- The study showed women who had done continued night shifts for 20 months or more in the preceding two years had a 9% increased risk of early menopause, the Daily Mail reported. If they had done rotating night shifts for more than 20 years, the risk rose to 73%.
- For women who went through menopause before the age of 45, shift work seemed to be particularly important. This could be due to disruption of their circadian rhythms, stress or fatigue, although more research is needed
- An early menopause could also come from the stress of working late at night, as stress hormones are believed to disrupt sex hormones like oestrogen. This could also increase the chance that a woman stops ovulating, according to the study published in the journal Human Reproduction.
- Previous evidence suggests working in ‘high-strain’ jobs and those with ‘difficult schedules’ is linked to earlier menopause.
- Nearly 10,000 primary schools in the State are poised to go high-tech when the new academic year begins in June. The government will install high-tech laboratories in all primary schools in three months.
- Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) has published the tender for the procurement of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) equipment for the proposed high-tech labs.
- According to the Minister for Education C. Ravindranth, Kerala will become the first digital State in education in the country, with the completion of the primary school high-tech lab project.
- The government turned to the high-tech laboratory after completing a project by which 45,000 classrooms were made high-tech.
- As many as 9,941 government and aided primary schools in the State would go high-tech by June.
G. Prelims Facts
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) recent directive prohibiting Food Business Operators (FBOs), whose consumption of edible oils for frying is more than 50 litres a day, from reusing cooking oil more than three times may be easier issued than implemented in Karnataka.
- Food safety officials, who admit there are several challenges to implementing the directive, which is to come into effect from March 3rd, said a strong ecosystem has to be created before enforcement.
- Though Karnataka is the first State to have a Bio Energy Development Board and re-used cooking oil is being collected from big chains of restaurants by biodiesel manufacturing units, the main issue is regarding the registration of such units and empanelment of aggregators collecting Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO).
Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil), an initiative that will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to bio-diesel.
- FSSAI also look at introducing regulations to ensure that companies that use large quantities of cooking oil hand it over to registered collecting agencies to convert it into biofuel.
- Under this initiative, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection of used cooking oil.
- For instance: McDonald’s has already started converting used cooking oil to biodiesel from 100 outlets in Mumbai and Pune.
- The food safety body says that by 2020, it should be possible to recover about 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for conversion into bio-fuel.
- Reducing the re-use of cooking oil in the food industry will have positive public health outcomes and its conversion into Bio-ATF will help the aviation sector reduce its carbon footprint
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
Question 1. Consider the following statements regarding Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK):
- It is a national level organization as an autonomous body under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development
- RMK provides loans to Intermediary Organizations (IMO) which on-lend to Self Help Groups of women
Which of the above statement(s) is/ are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 2. Consider the following statements regarding Common Services Centers (CSCs)
- They are ICT enabled kiosks with broadband connectivity for delivery of only Central Sector Schemes only.
- It is a strategic cornerstone of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).
Which of the above statement(s) is/ are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 3.Stree Swabhiman Project aims at-
- Creating special hospitals for women
- Creating new special educational institutions for women
- Creating a sustainable model for providing adolescent girls and women affordable sanitary products in rural areas
- Creating Vocational Training Centres for women
Question 4. Which of the following activities are undertaken by Krishi Vigyan Kendras?
- Capacity development of farmers and extension personnel to update their knowledge and skills on modern agricultural technologies
- To provide credit facilities to the farmers in collaboration with RRBs
- KVK would produce quality technological products (seed, planting material, bio-agents, livestock) and make it available to farmers
Which of the above statement(s) is/ are correct?
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 2 and 3
- Only 1 and 3
- All of the above
I. UPSC Mains practice Questions
- Write a note on the NASA’s ARTEMIS mission and Atmospheric Waves Experiment. (10 Marks; 150 words)
- Statutory backing to the CBI on an all India basis with a constitutional amendment is the need of the hour. Examine the statement (10 Marks; 150 words)
See previous CNA