03 Nov 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Iran oil: India to get U.S. sanctions waiver
2. Russia to host Taliban dialogue
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Loans for MSMEs in 59 minutes
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Implementation of neutrino project stayed
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. How not to choose among allies (India- US Relations)
2. A judgment and its aftermath (Pakistan: Blasphemy Law)
F. Tidbits
1. Delhi HC dismisses plea to allow women of all ages, religions to enter all places of worship
G. Prelims Fact
1. Statue of Unity
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Iran oil: India to get U.S. sanctions waiver

Context

  • Eight countries will be given exemptions and “weeks longer to wind down” their trade with Iran, once U.S. sanctions against Iran kick in on November 5. This was clarified by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Friday during a conference call with some members of the press.
  • Pompeo said the list of eight “jurisdictions” would be released on Monday, two of which have already reached zero levels of Iranian oil imports.
  • He also clarified that the European Union (EU) — which consists of 28 countries including the U.K. — will not be one of the jurisdictions granted a temporary exemption.
  • India — for whom Iran is the third largest source of oil after Iraq and Saudi Arabia — is expecting to be on the list.

Background

US and Iran nuclear deal

  • It is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • It was signed between Iran and the P5, plus Germany and the EU in 2015. P5 is the 5 permanent members of the UNSC (US, China, France, Russia, and UK).

The deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme. Under the deal

  • Most of Iran’s enriched uranium was shipped out of the country
  • A heavy water facility was rendered inoperable
  • Operational nuclear facilities were brought under international inspection

In return, the deal involved lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

What happened after the deal?

  • October 2015: Iran conducts its first ballistic missile test since the nuclear deal. The US accuses Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution, but former President Barack Obama acknowledges that ballistic missiles are “entirely separate” from the nuclear deal.
  • Jan 2016: The IAEA acknowledges Iran has met its commitments under the nuclear deal, which sees most sanctions on Iran lifted. It takes time but Iran re-enters the global banking system and begins selling crude oil and natural gas on the international market. Next day, the US imposes sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile tests.
  • October 2018: Trump announces he will not re-certify the Iran nuclear deal as required, criticizing the accord by saying it “threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline.

What are US’s present concerns?

  • Trump administration says the deal did not target Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
  • It does not focus on Iran’s nuclear activities beyond 2025.
  • It also leaves Iran’s role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

2. Russia to host Taliban dialogue

Context

  • Russia has quietly invited a group of senior Afghan politicians to talks with the Taliban in Moscow, bypassing President Ashraf Ghani’s government in a move that has angered officials in Kabul who say it could muddle the U.S.-backed peace process.
  • Russia in August proposed holding multilateral peace talks in Moscow and invited 12 countries and the Taliban to attend a summit the following month.
  • But the meeting was postponed after Mr. Ghani rejected the invitation on the grounds that talks with the Taliban should be led by the Afghan government. The U.S. had also declined to attend.
  • Three senior Afghan officials said the government was unhappy that Moscow was pressing ahead with plans for talks.
  • “We requested Russia to cancel the summit because talking to the Taliban at multiple forums will further complicate the peace process backed by the U.S., but they rejected the request,” said a senior Afghan official who has been holding discussions with Russia.

Background

  • The Taliban is a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan which is at present waging war within that country.
  • It was founded in 1994 and from 1996 to 2001, it was governing the country enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic or Sharia law.
  • Many leading Muslims as well as much of the international community were highly critical of the Taliban government and ways.
  • Taliban then ruled it after 1996 as a totalitarian regime till it was removed by NATO-led coalition in 2001 forming a new democratically elected government political structure.
  • Hamid Karzai became the first ever democratically elected head of state in 2004 and the current President is Ashraf Ghani, since 29 September 2014.
  • Even after formation of a democratically elected government and removal of Taliban from power in Afghanistan, it still faces several internal issues and multipronged attacks by groups like Taliban and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
  • Taliban still controls very large parts of Afghanistan and insurgency and terrorist forces are still strong in the nation. The control of government is limited only to urban areas and highways in reality.
  • US led NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces have been in Afghanistan in the longest conflict engagement since World War II. They are trying to establish a Government in Afghanistan to a substantial extent and there is a ‘Rule of Law’.

Role of India in Afghanistan

  • India has focused on development of infrastructure and military aid in Afghanistan. India has aided the overthrow of Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.
  • India wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan and has worked on projects like Salma Dam.
  • India is also investing in the expansion of Chabahar port in Southeastern Iran, which will improve its connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Loans for MSMEs in 59 minutes

Context

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced 12 measures to boost the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, including a portal that would enable the units to get a loan in just 59 minutes and interest subvention of 2%.
  • The Prime Minister said firms registered on the Goods and Services Tax portal would be able to avail themselves of this facility on the portal itself.
  • “When you file GST returns, you will be asked if you want a loan,” Mr. Modi said. “GST-registered firms will also get a 2% rebate on interest rates. Being a part of the GST and being an honest taxpayer will become your strength.”
  • Modi said public sector companies had now been asked to compulsorily procure 25%, instead of 20%, of their total purchases from the MSMEs. He said that of the 25% procurement mandated from the MSMEs, 3% must now be reserved for women entrepreneurs.
  • Also, Mr. Modi announced a 2% interest subvention on fresh or incremental loans for all GST-registered MSMEs. “These 12 decisions will mark a new chapter for the MSME sector,” he said.

MSME

  • UN MSME Day is celebrated on June 27th across the world.

The new turnover based classification of MSMEs

  • A micro enterprise => less than Rs 5 crores;
  • A small enterprise => Rs 5 crore to Rs 75 crore;
  • A medium enterprise => Rs 75 crore rupees Rs 250 crore.

Significance

  • As MSMEs are generally labor-intensive, they have the capability to create more jobs to cater to a young demographic country like India.
  • They are also important for promotion of industrial development in rural areas, use of traditional or inherited skill, use of local resources, mobilization of resources and exportability of products.
  • Provides maximum opportunities for both self-employment and wage-employment outside the agricultural sector.

Challenges or issues

  • Absence of adequate and timely banking finance
  • Limited capital and knowledge
  • Non-availability of suitable technology
  • Low production capacity
  • Ineffective marketing strategy
  • Constraints on modernisation & expansions
  • Non availability of skilled labour at affordable cost

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Implementation of neutrino project stayed

Context

  • The National Green Tribunal stayed the neutrino project in Theni, Tamil Nadu, pending approval from the National Board for Wildlife. It said the India-based Neutrino Observatory was set to come up in an ecologically sensitive area of the Western Ghats.

India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)

  • The Neutrino Observatory for studying fundamental particles called the neutrinos would be in the Bodi West Hills region of Theni district, about 110 kilometres west of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
  • INO involves the construction of an underground laboratory. The project location was initially decided to be located in the Nilgiris but later, on grounds that it was too close to tiger habitat, was moved to a cavern under a rocky mountain in the Bodi West Hills.
  • Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy jointly support the project.

Neutrinos

  • Neutrinos are electrically neutral, elementary weakly interacting subatomic particles with half-integer spin.
  • They belong to the lepton family. Neutrinos were first proposed by Swiss scientist Wolfgang Pauli, are the second most widely occurring particle in the universe, only second to photons, the particle which makes up light.
  • Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons.
  • They are light. They have little mass or are nearly massless. They are no-charge particles that only interact with weak nuclear force.
  • In 2015, the Nobel prize in physics was awarded to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. Mcdonald for discovering neutrino oscillations demonstrating that neutrinos have mass.
  • Neutrinos are the least harmful of all elementary particles, as they almost never react with solid bodies.
  • The mass of a neutron is 1.67×10-27 kg while the mass of a neutrino is of the order of 1×10-37kg. Hence, a neutrino is about 17 billion times lighter than a neutron. The two are incomparable.

 Importance of INO

  • It will be the largest experimental facility to come up in the country. It will facilitate the development of cutting-edge technology and build sophisticated instruments.
  • Neutrinos may have a role to play in nuclear non-proliferation through the remote monitoring of nuclear reactors.
  • Understanding neutrinos could help in detection of oil and mineral deposits.
  • They may open up a faster way to send data than the current ‘around the earth’ model, using towers, cables or satellites as they can pass through the Earth.
  • Neutrinos are the information bearers of the universe — which are almost never lost in their path. Efforts in studying neutrinos at INO may help unravel the deepest mystery of the universe.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. How not to choose among allies (India- US Relations)

Larger Background:

A Look at the 2+2 Dialogue:

  • The 2+2 Dialogue is a format the U.S. employs with some of its closest allies. These allies include that of Japan and Australia.
  • The commencement of these 2+2 Dialogues have given the impression that India has come within the U.S. orbit of influence, detaching itself further from Russia.
  • This impression is further compounded by India signing on to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) recently.
  • However, in the midst of all this, what appears to be lost in translation, is that India still fancies a close relationship with Russia, one of its and most dependable allies.
  • In comparison, when we look at the Putin-Modi summit, the mega missile defence deal clearly took the shine off any promises made at the 2+2 Dialogue regarding future defence acquisitions from the U.S. Russia’s S-400 Triumf.
  • It is believed that Russia’s S-400 Triumf is possibly the best missile defence system in the world. Further, this deal comes with no strings attached. For example, there is no Russian equivalent of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in place.
  • The S-400 Triumf can be deployed against all enemies, irrespective of any other defence choices that India might have.

Russian Dependability:

  • It is important to note that there were several other concrete outcomes from the Putin-Modi summit. For example, India and Russia signed on to a document to expand civil nuclear energy cooperation and agreed on a second site for Russian nuclear reactors.
  • Further, India and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on a joint programme in the field of human space-flight, enabling Indian astronauts to be trained in Russia.
  • India and Russia also agreed on the virtues of a regional security architecture to provide security to all countries in Asia and in the regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This seemed to demonstrate a clear ‘mutuality of interests’.

The Role of the 2+2 Dialogue:

  • It is important to note that the 2+2 Dialogue between India and the US, for its part, marks a paradigmatic change in the nature of India-U.S. relations.
  • It hence needs to be viewed, more appropriately, as the culmination of a long-standing attempt by the U.S. to woo India. This is something that has been in the works for some time.

A few developments in this regard are noteworthy:

  • As a precursor to this, the U.S. had renamed the Asia-Pacific as the Indo-Pacific.
  • The US had blocked more than $1.5 billion in U.S. security aid to Pakistan. Further, U.S.-India economic cooperation was stated to have grown exponentially within two decades, with the total goods and services trade between India and U.S. increasing from $11.2 billion in 1995 to $126.2 billion in 2017.
  • Finally, U.S. foreign direct investment into India substantially increased during this period. The most important bait was India being accorded the status of a ‘major defence partner’.

The larger aim of the 2+2 Dialogue:

  • The underlying theme of the 2+2 Dialogue, aimed at forging a possible containment of China strategy, with India partnering the U.S. in this effort.
  • The U.S., at present, perceives China as posing a major challenge to its supremacy, and ‘the most significant threat to U.S. interest from a counter-intelligence perspective’.
  • Further, irrespective of whether or not China was specifically discussed or not in the course of the 2+2 Dialogue, it would certainly have weighed on the minds of the delegates.

The Russian Dynamic:

  • Russia was essentially seeking to cement a relationship with India that has existed for several years. It was not insisting on any exclusivity as far as relationships go.
  • Further, the U.S. wanted India to view foreign policy perspectives largely through a U.S. prism, and thereafter make a choice.
  • The situation is greatly complicated by the fact that the world today faces a post-Cold War situation. The rise of China’s economic power and its growing military might, and the re-emergence of Russia are significant pointers to this situation.
  • The U.S., hence, no longer holds all the cards.
  • At such a time, the 2+2 Dialogue and the Putin visit within a few weeks of each have has left India with more questions than answers on what options to follow.
  • It is important to note that India can hardly alienate Russia as it re-emerges as a key presence in Asia and Eurasia.

Editorial Analysis:

  • From a historical perspective, it is important to note that in May 2012, Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, visited Delhi on behalf of the Western countries negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal, with Iran, to convince India to cut its oil imports from Iran.

  • Later, in her book, “Hard Choices”, she recounted her tough battle with the Indian government, as she ran through the reasons India needed to help put pressure on Iran to return to the negotiating table for the six-party talks.
  • Eventually, India did agree to cut its imports by only about 15%.
  • However, cumulative global pressure had the desired impact on Iran, where inflation had risen more than 40% and oil exports declined from 2.5 million barrels of crude each day to about 1 million.
  • The JCPOA negotiations that followed eventually led to a deal hailed by the United Nations, that had quarterbacked the talks all through.

The JCPOA and the US:

    • It is important to note that the U.S. has given no evidence that Iran in any way violated the terms of the JCPOA — as a matter of fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s June report concluded that Iran’s stockpile of uranium and heavy water as well as its implementation of additional protocols were “in compliance” with the agreement.
  • Currently, unlike in 2012, the U.S.’s EU allies are now working closely with arch rivals like Russia and China to put a “special payments mechanism”, primarily with a view to supporting trade to Tehran to ensure that the Iranian regime does not walk out of the nuclear deal as well.
  • Further, it is important to take cognizance of the fact that while the U.S. may succeed in squeezing Iran economically, it is increasingly isolated politically, as was evident at the most recent Financial Action Task Force meet in Paris where the U.S. proposed sanctions on Iran for terror funding.
  • Even so, the U.S. has continued on its unilateral path, without a care for the very “rules-based international order” that it so often invokes.

The India Dynamic:

For India, the impact of the American sanctions plan would be manifold, regardless of the waiver.

Let’s take a look at some important points in this regard to illustrate further:

    • Firstly, there is the shock that sanctions would deal to the oil import bill, given that Iran is India’s third largest supplier. There are not only rising costs of oil to contend with, but also the added cost of having to recalibrate Indian fuel refineries that are used to process Iran’s special crude.
    • Experts believe that the second impact would be on India’s investment in the Chabahar port, which would face both direct and indirect sanctions: as shippers, port suppliers and trading companies refuse to participate in the project.
    • Further, it is important to note that when India had opened the tenders for cranes for heavy lifting at Chabahar a few years ago, for example, it found no takers, and eventually was forced to award the contract to ZPMC in 2017.
    • It is believed that this problem will only get more acute as sanctions kick in, threatening India’s $500 million investment in the port and its $2 billion plan for a railway line to circumvent Pakistan and reach Afghanistan and Central Asian trade lines.
    • Finally, experts believe that there would be the impact on India’s regional security situation, which could see the Iranian-Arab divide deepen, Afghanistan’s choices dwindle and an angry Iran pitched closer into the China-Russia corner.
    • Some experts also believe that what is most worrying for India is that all of the above outcomes will follow regardless of whether the U.S. gives India a waiver for sanctions or not.
    • There is a ‘waiver’ list, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hinted will be issued on 5th November, 2018. It is believed that this would stave off penalties and allow India to continue some of its trade with Iran, however, it will not restore the pre-2018 situation.
  • The U.S. has said that it is only issuing temporary waivers, and the waivers are strictly linked to the condition that countries receiving them keep cutting down their purchases from Iran.
  • It is important to note that along with the JCPOA-linked sanctions, India continues to face sanctions linked to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which puts more strictures on dealings with Iran, Russia and North Korea.
  • Thus, the waiver is therefore no magic wand to be wished for, as it only pushes the problems for India down the road.

Concluding Remarks:

The Impact on the India-Iran Dynamic:

  • Some experts believe that little thought has been given to Iran’s reaction if India keeps submitting to the U.S.’s sanctions regime against it.
  • With trade levels receding, the Iranian regime may well lose interest in the Chabahar option, and focus on its main port of Bandar Abbas instead, derailing India’s grander plans for regional connectivity.
  • What compounds matters is that there is also the worry that all of India’s sacrifices may come to naught, as US President, Donald Trump may well use the pressure placed on Iran to his own advantage, and possibly open talks with Iran at a later date.
  • It is important to note that just months after the U.S. demanded that India close its mission in Pyongyang, Mr. Trump was planning a summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
  • Given the heavy costs and in the complete absence of any benefits, it is surprising that India has not been more vocal in its protest against the U.S.’s actions.
  • In May 2018, when asked, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said very emphatically that India adheres only to “UN sanctions, not unilateral ones”.
  • However, critics have argued that all the government’s moves have been to the contrary, as American delegations have been allowed to come to Delhi and issue dire warnings, of the kind Nikki Haley, the U.S.’s envoy to the UN, did.
  • Meanwhile, Indian officials have made a beeline for Washington to discuss the reasons why India deserves a waiver, from both Iran and CAATSA sanctions. According to these officials, the U.S. has been apprised of India’s energy requirement compulsions, and of the cut of about 35-50% in its oil purchases from Iran.
  • On the CAATSA front, the U.S. has also been assured of a significant reduction in Indian defence dependence on Russia, and that no weapons procured, like the recently purchased S-400 missile system, would be used against American interests.
  • Some experts believe that as a result, if the U.S. presses on with sanctions, it would be a marked failure of Indian diplomacy. And if the waiver does come through, as is indicated, it will be no victory, but signify an abject submission to the sanctions themselves.
  • Thus, it is argued that with no gains in the offing from a policy of ‘pragmatism’, India may have been better off sticking to principle instead.

2. A judgment and its aftermath (Pakistan: Blasphemy Law)

Larger Background:

    • A Christian woman in Pakistan was accused of blasphemy.
    • The woman, Asia Bibi, was convicted in 2010 on little evidence of violating Pakistan’s law against blasphemy by insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
    • She spent years on death row before she was acquitted on 31st October, 2018 by the country’s Supreme Court.
    • However, despite her legal victory, which was hailed worldwide by rights groups, Ms. Bibi’s lawyers and her family have expressed fears for her safety because hard-line Islamist parties in Pakistan have called for her execution.
  • Ms. Bibi, an illiterate berry picker, was convicted of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.

  • She was accused by her Muslim neighbours who objected to her drinking water from the same glass as them because she was Christian.

  • Under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, her alleged comment is punishable by death.

  • In 2010, Ms. Bibi, at age 39, was sentenced to hang, but her final appeal remained pending until the Supreme Court decision on 31st October, 2018.

  • In intervening years, Ms. Bibi’s case became an international cause célèbre. Earlier this year, Rome’s Colosseum was lit in red in support of persecuted Christians, including her, and Pope Francis described Ms. Bibi, alongside a Nigerian woman who was captured by Boko Haram, as “martyrs”.

  • The Pope’s attention to Ms. Bibi’s case paralleled efforts by the European Union’s Special Envoy for the promotion of the freedom of religion or belief to secure her release by making it a condition for continued European market access for Pakistani products. The Pakistani government was informed that the future of Generalised System/Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status to Pakistan, which allows Pakistan duty-free access to EU markets, would be directly linked to the peaceful resolution of the blasphemy case.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Experts have pointed out that the reaction by extremist Islamist groups to the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit a poor Christian woman, eight years after she was charged with blasphemy, highlights the country’s deeper problem.

  • Unfortunately, Pakistan usually finds itself at the mercy of hardline clerics and unscrupulous individuals seeking to exploit religion for political gain. The result is not only loss of individual liberty but also a state of permanent crisis.

Weaknesses within the Pakistan State:

    • It is important to note that the Asia Bibi case has all the elements of Pakistan’s inherent weaknesses.

    • Firstly, the law allowed neighbours with a grudge to persecute Asia Noreen, usually referred to as Asia Bibi, and now, even belated judicial recognition of her innocence seems unacceptable to those rioting in the streets.

  • They want to kill someone against whom the Supreme Court found no credible evidence and are threatening apex court judges as well senior military commanders while trying to force Pakistan to a halt.

  • The reason the Supreme Court heard Ms. Bibi’s appeal and acknowledged in its judgment what had been widely known — that witnesses against her had either retracted their testimony or contradicted each other — can be found in Pakistan’s severe financial woes. Ms. Bibi got relief she should have been entitled to as a right just because the Chief Justice wanted to help a weak new government struggling to manage the country’s external finances.

A Note on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws:

  • Pakistan’s blasphemy laws date back to the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq.

  • A series of changes were introduced in the 1980s, making derogatory remarks against any Islamic personage a crime under Section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code and punishable by:

  1. three years in prison;
  2. prescribing life imprisonment for “wilful desecration of the Quran”; and
  3. punishing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed with “death, or imprisonment for life”.
    • Experts point out that Ms. Bibi’s case illustrates how blasphemy laws are used to persecute the weakest of the weak among Pakistan’s religious minorities.
    • As a poor Christian from a low caste, she was among the most vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination.
  • Further, the legal system — which, in theory, should be designed to protect the innocent — failed her in every way until political expediency necessitated otherwise.

    • It is important to note that laws prohibiting blasphemy or harming religious feelings exist in many countries, although in some places they are rarely used even if they still exist on the statute books.
  • However, Pakistan, has one of the highest numbers of blasphemy cases in the world. Here, the charge of blasphemy is used widely to settle grudges or property disputes.

  • There is also political advantage to be gained by appealing to the religious sentiment of majority Muslims against Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and members of other minority communities.

  • What compounds matters is that the constant state of religious frenzy that Pakistan’s machinery of state maintains as a guarantee of Pakistani nationhood heightens vigilante violence against alleged blasphemers and their alleged protectors.
  • As with her previous trials and appeals, large crowds gathered outside the court in Islamabad on 31st October, 2018, demanding that Ms. Bibi’s conviction be upheld, and the execution carried out.
  • Further, in messages sent to the media, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan asked soldiers to rebel against the Army Chief, saying that the acquittal presumably had the military’s backing.
  • It is important to note that as Pakistan gets increasingly isolated internationally, the military may have sought Ms. Bibi’s acquittal and reported departure to safety abroad to relieve some pressure on Pakistan’s image around the world.
  • She is reported to have left Pakistan and to have been reunited with her husband, daughters and grandchild.
  • The Jamaat-e-Islami, which, like Tehreek-e-Labbaik, has a very strong street presence, has asked its members to come out in Islamabad to demand that the acquittal be reversed. Even the army’s overt protégé, Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has joined the call for protests over the Supreme Court judgment.
  • Amidst reports of violence, the national media, especially television channels, have gone totally silent about Mr. Bibi’s release. They, too, are under threat from the baying mobs.

Concluding Remarks:

    • Experts point out that in an effort to claim moral leadership, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan attacked hardliners and appealed for calm in a televised address, taking a U-turn from his pre-election rhetoric that had projected him as a defender of the Prophet’s honour and a crusader against blasphemers.
    • According to Mr. Khan, the hardliners were “inciting [people] for their own political gain” and were “doing no service to Islam”.
    • However, ministers have also started negotiating with the extremist clerics, and it is only a matter of time before another U-turn is taken to fashion some compromise with the hardliners.
  • Finally, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Asia Bibi case is a small step in the right direction but a long journey awaits Pakistan in reversing the cumulative injustice it has meted out to its religious minorities over the decades.

F. Tidbits

1. Delhi HC dismisses plea to allow women of all ages, religions to enter all places of worship

 

  • The petition also sought that women of menstruating or non-menstruating age from every religion be allowed to enter and pray at all times at all temples in India.
  • The Delhi high court Friday dismissed a petition seeking a direction to ensure that women of all ages and religions are allowed to enter and pray at temples, mosques and Zoroastrian fire temples.
  • A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and VK Rao refused to entertain the plea saying it lacked “territorial jurisdiction”.
  • “Petitioner has not indicated which of the temples mentioned in the petition is under the jurisdiction of this court. None of the temples indicated here are within the territorial jurisdiction of this court. We are not inclined to entertain it. The petition is dismissed,” the bench said. The petition filed by advocate Sanjiv Kumar also said women should be ordained as “pujari”, imam or priest of their respective temples, mosques or churches to lead prayers.
  • It also sought that women of menstruating or non-menstruating age from every religion be allowed to enter and pray at all times at all temples in India.
  • A similar order was sought in favour of the entry of men in women-only temples such as Attukal, Chakkulathukavu, Santoshi Maa “Vrat”, Lord Brahma, Bhagwati Maa Temple and Kamrup Kamakhya. It sought orders declaring as unconstitutional the prevalent practice of denying Muslim women the right to observe fast and offer prayers during menstruation.
  • The petition also urged the court to direct the Centre to put in place norms allowing menstruating Hindu women to enter the kitchen as well as observe fasts, offer prayers and go to any place, and said denying this should be deemed “unconstitutional”.

G. Prelims Fact

1. Statue of Unity

Context

  • Statue of Unity has been inaugurated in Surat. The Statue of Unity is built in dedication to Iron Man Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who served as the first home minister of independent India. October 31, 2018 marks the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Patel.

Salient features of the world’s ‘tallest statue’

  • Height: 182 metres. This makes the statue almost twice the height of the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York.
  • Location: Around 3.5 km downstream from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, on islet Sadhu Bet on the bed of the river Narmada.
  • Cost: ₹2,989 crore (approx)
  • Sculptor: Padma Bhushan Ram V. Suthar, a 93-year-old acclaimed sculptor who graduated from the prestigious J.J School of Art in Bombay. He has sculpted masterpieces including that of Mother Chambal at Gandhi Sagar Dam in Madhya Pradesh, equestrian statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Amritsar, and numerous statues of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Construction period: 34 months. Work began on December 19, 2015.
  • Materials consumed: 70,000 tonnes of cement, 18,500 tonnes of reinforcement steel, 6,000 tonnes of structural steel and 1,700 metric tonnes of bronze, which was used for the outer cladding of the structure, according to a government statement.
  • Specialities: The statue is slender most at the base, which goes against the norms of what other tall statues have followed. The walking pose also opened up a gap of 6.4 metres between the two feet which then had to be tested to withstand wind velocity, says L&T.
  • Engineered to withstand wind speeds of up to 50 m per second (almost 180 km per hour wind speed)
  • Other challenges included doing justice to a legend’s statue, as opposed to that of an imaginary figure. “We evolved the design of the statue by using various techniques. We collected around 2,000 photographs from archives and zeroed in on one photograph, after consulting multiple stakeholders like historians and people who had seen Sardar. We used technology to convert the 2-dimensional photograph into a 3-dimensional model,” L&T said.
  • The statue is divided into five zones – Up to its shin is the first zone, comprising three levels, including an exhibit floor, mezzanine and roof. This zone will contain a Memorial Garden and a large museum. Zone 2 extends up to the statue’s thighs at 149 metres, while Zone 3 goes up to the viewing gallery at 153 metres. Zone 4 comprises the maintenance area and Zone 5 the head and shoulders.
  • The viewing gallery at the height of 135 metres can accommodate up to 200 people at a time.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements regarding Bathukamma festival:
  1. It is the floral festival celebrated predominantly by the Hindu women of Kerala.
  2. Bathukamma means Mother Goddess come alive.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

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

See

Answer
Question 2. Which of the followings pollutants are included to measure Air Quality Index?
  1. PM10
  2. PM2.5
  3. N2O
  4. SO2
  5. CO2
  6. O3
  7. NH3
  8. Pb

Options:

  1. 1,2,3,4,6,7
  2. 1,2,4,5,6,7,8
  3. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
  4. 1,2,4,6,7,8

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Answer
Question 3. ‘Shah Bano Case’ is related to which of the following?

 

  1. Talaq-e-biddat
  2. Polygamy
  3. Nikah halala
  4. All of the above

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Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (10 marks)

  2. Whether National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) can enforce the implementation of constitutional reservation for the Scheduled Castes in the religious minority institutions? Examine. (10 marks)

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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