07 Oct 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. EC sets month-long poll schedule for 5 States
C. GS3 Related
HEALTH
1. What ails Delhi’s Infectious Diseases Hospital?
ECONOMY
1. Dena Bank plans to bring down gross NPA by Rs. 6,000 cr.
ENVIRONMENT
1. Eastern Ghats face loss of forest cover, endemic plants
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Is Facebook data breach serious?
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Opening doors to women at Sabarimala
F. Tidbits
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. EC sets month-long poll schedule for 5 States

Context

  • The Election Commission on Saturday announced that the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana will be held from November 12 to December 7. The results for all the five States will be declared on December 11.
  • The model code of conduct came into effect in four States — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan — immediately. The guidelines are already in place in Telangana, as directed by the Commission on September 27, following the premature dissolution of the Assembly.
  • Chhattisgarh goes to the polls first, with voting scheduled in two phases. The 18 Naxal-affected constituencies in the southern part of the State will go to the polls on November 12, while 72 other constituencies will be covered in the second phase on November 20, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O.P. Rawat said.

Basics

What is MCC?

  • These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
  • Aim: To ensure free and fair elections.

 When it comes into force?

  • The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.

Why do we need such code?

  • The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.

Evolution

  • The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.

 What it contains?

  • The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.

 Legal Status of MCC

  • The MCC is not enforceable by law. However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • The Election Commission has argued against making the MCC legally binding; stating that elections must be completed within a relatively short time (close to 45 days), and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
  • On the other hand, in 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding since most provisions of the MCC are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes, mentioned above.

C. GS3 Related

Category: HEALTH

1. What ails Delhi’s Infectious Diseases Hospital?

Context

  • The leafy, unhurried campus of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Diseases Hospital (MVIDH) masks an ugly truth.
  • Witness to 31 child deaths due to diphtheria last month, with the number of cases and the death toll continuing to rise, this medical facility has become the face of everything that can go wrong with India’s Universal Immunisation Programme and its subsequent disease management.
  • The 31 deaths, caused by the highly contagious disease of the upper respiratory system, could have been prevented through vaccination and strict surveillance. According to the findings of a probe committee set up by the Municipal Corporation, the children died despite being brought to the 150-bed general hospital in the capital due to lack of anti-diphtheria serum, which wasn’t procured on time.
  • Services at the hospital also suffer on account of lack of staff to attend to critical patients, absence of basic medical facilities such as isolation wards, intensive care units, ventilators, laboratories, X-ray services and ambulances.

More about Diphtheria

  • Diphtheria is a severe communicable and bacterial infectious disease that causes inflammation of the mucous membranes by forming a false membrane in the throat which creates a problem while swallowing food and during breathing.
  • It can also damage nerves by a bacterial toxin present in the blood. Currently, this syndrome is rare in developed countries. This disease spreads easily from one person to another but can be prevented by the use of vaccines.
  • The signs of diphtheria appear in a short period of time within three to five days after the infection has occurred. Some people do not feel any symptoms, while others do feel slight symptoms of a common cold. The most common and visible symptom of diphtheria is gray, thick covering on the tonsils and throat.
  • The first step in treating diphtheria is an antitoxin injection. This is used to minimize the effect of toxin produced by the bacteria. The doctors also prescribe antibiotics, such as erythromycin and penicillin to clear the infection. During the treatment, patients are instructed to stay in the hospital in order to avoid the spread of infection to others.
  • Diphtheria can be prevented to an extent by the use of vaccines and antibiotics. The vaccines for diphtheria is called DTaP. It’s normally given in a single shot with vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Dena Bank plans to bring down gross NPA by Rs. 6,000 cr.

  • Dena Bank plans to bring down its gross non-performing asset (NPA) by between Rs. 5,000 crore and Rs. 6,000 crore by end-March, said a top official.
  • “Our gross NPAs are about Rs. 16,000 crore. The target is to bring it down to Rs. 10,000 crore by the end of March 2019,” said MD and CEO Karnam Sekar, addressing the media, after he met the bank’s branch managers in the city. He was appointed to the post last month.
  • The Centre had earlier announced its intention to merge Dena Bank, Vijaya Bank and Bank of Baroda to form the country’s second largest public sector bank.

What is NPA?

  • NPA in terms of RBI regulations result out of non-payment of interest for a period of 90 days or non-payment of principle amount for 90 days or more. So beyond that point, it is called Non-Performing Asset. The loan is taken by the company on its assets from the bank. When the asset is not performing because they become doubtful and NPAs from doubtful become bad loans.
  • The problem name NPA is not of recent origin. Few years back, India suffered from a huge infrastructure gap and the banking sector was encouraged to get themselves into a lending spree for companies willing to undertake various projects. Public Sector Banks were actually pushed to provide loans for projects that were floated largely by the private sector.
  • The following have caused distress in the banks’ assets and have played part in the mounting NPAs – Prolonged downturn in the world economy, Falling commodity prices, Lack of due diligence and adherence to rules (inadequate and poor risk assessment of the proposals by the banks), Complex workings of the bureaucracy, Typical bureaucratic red tape, Long delays and gestation periods of several infrastructure projects, Delays in land acquisition and Politically inspired agitations
  • Post resolving stressed assets, there is no guarantee that it will not come up again. To prevent a recurrence of such failure, it is important to reform not just governance, but also regulatory oversight. The failures of banking regulation must be addressed and checks and balances created.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Eastern Ghats face loss of forest cover, endemic plants

Context

  • The Eastern Ghats spread across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, has lost almost 16% of its forest area over a span of 100 years, a recently published study shows.
  • Researchers from the University of Hyderabad studied historical maps and satellite images from 1920 to 2015 to understand the changes in land use and land cover.
  • The forest cover, which was 43.4% of the total geographical area in 1920, has reduced drastically to 27.5% in 2015. Over the years, about 8% of forest area was converted into agricultural fields, while about 4% converted into scrub or grassland.
  • Previous studies have shown that the Eastern Ghats is home to more than 2,600 plant species and this habitat fragmentation and destruction can pose a serious threat to the endemic plants.
  • While agriculture was the main reason for deforestation during the early years, post 1975, mining and other developmental activities such as the construction of dams, roads were the culprits. In 1920, the mining area was only 622 sq.km, and in 2015 it had increased to 962 sq.km.

Difference between Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats

Western Ghats 

  • Western Ghats are also known as Sahyadri in certain parts of India. They run parallel to the western coast of India. Since they are continuous without any major breaks, hence it is very difficult to pass through them.
  • Although this difficulty has been reduced in the present times due to the advanced transport technology, however in the olden days, it was definitely a huge task to pass the ghats and get onto the opposite side.
  • However, the western ghats do have passes such as the Bhor ghat, Pal ghat, and Thal ghat which makes it possible to travel through the western ghats despite the fact that they are continuous.
  • Although most of the peninsular rivers drain into the Bay of Bengal, their origin point is the western ghats. Important rivers such as the Tungabhadra, the Krishna, the Godavari have their origin point in the western ghats.
  • It must be noted that the western ghats of India play a very important role in the distribution of the monsoon rainfall on the western border of India. It causes the orographic rainfall due to which the windward side of the mountains receives a lot of rainfall, however, the leeward side remains dry.
  • The western ghats consist of evergreen forests too, however, the main crop grown there is the Coffee. The highest peak is the Anai Mudi.

Eastern Ghats 

  • The eastern ghats run parallel to the eastern coastal plains of India. Unlike the western ghats, they are discontinuous in nature and is dissected by the rivers that drain into the Bay of Bengal.
  • As discussed above, most of these rivers have their origin in the western ghats. It must be noted that the eastern ghats are lower in elevation than the western ghats.
  • The highest peak of western ghats is the Mahendragiri. The difference in the elevation levels of the highest peaks in both the ghats can also be compared.
  • Anaimudi which is the highest peak of the western ghats has a height of 2695 mts whereas Mahendragiri of eastern ghats is of 150 mts.
  • This gives us a fair idea of the differences in elevation levels of the hills in both the ghats. The main crop produced in the eastern ghats is the Rice, which is also the staple food of the people living in the region.
  • It must be noted that the Western and the Eastern Ghats meet at the Nilgiri hills.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Is Facebook data breach serious?

Note to the Students:

  • This particular topic as it reads falls under the domain of GS Paper III, wherein, it can be mapped to multiple subject areas- such as Science and Technology and Internal Security (threats to internal security).  
  • However, there is a dimension of this article which falls under the purview of GS Paper II (Polity and Governance), as it also deals with fundamental rights such as the Right to Privacy.

Editorial Analysis:

Why in the news?

  • On September 16, 2018, Facebook noticed an unusual spike in the number of times the platform’s ‘View As’ feature was being used.
  • This ‘View As’ feature allows users to see how their Facebook page will appear to another user.
  • The ‘View As’ feature was introduced by Facebook as a privacy control feature.
  • The ‘View As’ feature allows users to check the information they were sharing with others. However, this proved to be a point of vulnerability because of some bugs that were introduced in the software in July 2017.
  • Subsequent to this development, on September 25, 2018, Facebook announced that it had identified this as a malicious activity in which the access tokens of 50 million users were appropriated by unknown hackers, and certain personal details possibly accessed.

Brief Note on Access token:

  • An ‘Access token’ is a digital key that allows users to stay logged into Facebook on a device or browser without having to sign in repeatedly using their password.
  • These Access tokens extend their reach to other apps or services that users sign into using their Facebook account.
  • If hackers have the access tokens, they do not require passwords to get into Facebook accounts or apps like Instagram that utilise the Facebook login.

How did hackers take advantage?

  • It is believed that while using the ‘View As’ feature, Facebook’s video uploader tool also appeared on the page at times.
  • This generated an access token that was not the user’s but of the person the user was looking up.
  • To illustrate this further, let’s take an example: If Hacker A selected User B for ‘View As,’ and the video uploader appeared on the page, it generated an access token for User B which was then available to Hacker A.
  • As a consequence to this, Facebook had to force the affected 50 million users, and an additional 40 million users who had used the ‘View As’ feature since last July (July 2017) to log in again so that their access tokens changed.
  • It is believed that this breach is the largest in the history of the platform.

Action taken by Facebook

    • Facebook has since said it has resolved the bugs.
    • Also, pursuant to these developments, Facebook is said to be working with the FBI on the issue.
    • Facebook has also informed the Irish Data Protection Commission, since the European Union’s strict new data protection law states that it has to be informed within 72 hours if anyone in the European Economic Area is affected.
  • The Commission has started a probe, and Facebook faces a fine that could go over a billion dollars.

The Gravity of the Threat:

  • This breach again puts the spotlight on the vulnerabilities of Facebook,
  • Facebook claims over two billion users and along with Google controls more than half of the global digital advertisement revenue.
  • Facebook was caught on the wrong foot earlier this year, 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
  • The Cambridge Analytica episode revealed that data of up to 87 million users were harvested and used for political campaigning.
  • Aside from the direct impact of private data being accessed, it is important to note that massive data sets allow for psychological profiling.
  • This could lead to targeted political advertising and manipulation, especially at a time when crucial mid-term elections are due in the United States and in India.
  • This also undermines the faith in the ‘single sign-in.’ The Facebook sign-in has been utilised by a whole set of services, from gaming apps to news apps, as a way to log in to their sites or apps based on the idea that large digital entities like Facebook and Google provide better security. This trust now stands shaken.
  • While Facebook has reportedly refreshed the access tokens of all affected parties, the extent to which the hackers had access to connected third-party apps remains unclear.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Opening doors to women at Sabarimala

Note to the Students:

  • This particular topic has featured in the news many times over the past few days in the wake of the historic judgement by the Supreme Court of India. This acquires the critical mass of a key issue in the news as there have been multiple perspectives which have been reflected in press releases and opinions voiced by a vast section of society.
  • Here, we lend perspective to this issue, by first revisiting the background of the issue and some of the salient aspects of the judgement. We then move on to the points discussed specifically in this article that majorly focuses on the next steps which should be taken in order to make the temple ‘gender friendly’.  

Larger Background:

  • Recently, the Supreme Court’s ruled, in a 4:1 majority, that the exclusionary practice of women in the 10-50 age group from the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, violates the rights of women devotees.  
  • The apex court was assessing the constitutionality of the Sabarimala custom of excluding women in their ‘menstruating years’. The custom was allowed by Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship Act, 1965.
  • It is believed that this verdict of the Supreme Court establishes the legal principle that individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in matters of religion.
  • It is important to note that the state of Kerala had supported the entry of women into the temple, arguing that the “custom” of excluding women violated their rights.
  • However, on the other hand, the Travancore Devaswom Board had supported the custom of not allowing women into the temple, saying that temples across the country do not allow women who are menstruating. The Ayyappa Seva Sangham had argued that the court has to find a way to uphold this custom so that other “similar customs” are not disturbed.

A Note on Sabarimala:

  • The temple is situated atop a hill in the deep forests of the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district.
  • This ancient forest shrine, situated 210 km from Kochi, draws pilgrims from different parts of the country.
  • Recently, with the development of road transport and communication facilities, Sabarimala has been witnessing a phenomenal increase in the number of pilgrims. The Travancore Devaswom Board, administers the temple.
  • The Travancore Devaswom Board estimates that around 5 crore devotees had visited the temple during the last pilgrim season.
  • The season normally begins in mid-November and ends in January. The revenue from the temple last year (2017) was ₹255 crore.

A look at the majority view:

  • The majority held that devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and that the prohibition on women is not an essential part of Hindu religion.

A look at the dissenting view:

  • Justice Indu Malhotra was the lone dissenting voice.
  • Justice Indu Malhotra chose not to review the religious practice on the touchstone of gender equality or individual freedom.
  • Her view that the court “cannot impose its morality or rationality with respect to the form of worship of a deity” accorded greater importance to the idea of religious freedom as being mainly the preserve of an institution rather than an individual’s right.
  • She asserted that issues of deep religious sentiments should not be ordinarily be interfered by the court.
  • Further, she went on to add that the court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion. What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not for the court.
  • In conclusion, the Court has attempted to grapple with the stigmatisation of women devotees that is largely based on a medieval view of menstruation as symbolising impurity and pollution.
  • To Chief Justice Dipak Misra, any rule based on segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is indefensible and unconstitutional.
  • Further, devotion cannot be subjected to the stereotypes of gender.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asserted that stigma built around traditional notions of impurity has no place in the constitutional order, and exclusion based on the notion of impurity is a form of untouchability.
  • CJI Misra also went on to add that the devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination.
  • Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said the fundamental rights claimed by worshippers based on ‘custom and usage’ must yield to the fundamental right of women to practise religion. The decision reaffirms the Constitution’s transformative character and derives strength from the centrality it accords to fundamental rights.

Editorial Analysis:

How do things stand at the moment?

  • Post the verdict of the Supreme Court, it is up to the Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board to ensure that women who may choose to offer prayers at the temple during the coming pilgrim season are given protection. The season starts on November 18.
  • It is believed that the parties to the dispute are likely to seek a review of the verdict.
  • Currently, a protest against the ruling of the Court is gathering momentum in the State.
  • As things stand, there is no way of knowing how many women would turn up at the temple during the season.
  • It is important to note that with the political colour that the issue has acquired, the State government is treading cautiously, hoping that there would not be a sudden inflow of women devotees.
  • The police will deploy 500 additional personnel at the temple.

Current Challenges:

  • The biggest challenge is to create sufficient infrastructure to meet a possible increase in the number of devotees, especially women.
  • It is important to note that the mid-August floods brought down several structures.
  • One such structure is at Pampa, where the uphill trek to the temple begins. Among these were a temporary shelter, which could house 5,000 pilgrims at a time, three multi-storey toilet blocks, bathing ghats and three bridges across the River Pampa.
  • Post the recent floods, the pumphouse of the Kerala Water Authority still remains buried under a huge deposit of sand, and the waterlines on the banks of the river are clogged with sand, badly affecting drinking water supply.
  • Currently, the state government and the Devaswom Board are racing against time to put the place back into some shape before the season begins.
  • In conclusion, the real challenge will be restoration of drinking water and sewage facilities and creation of sufficient temporary facilities for devotees. Creation of such facilities for women especially is of urgent importance.
  • For decades, Sabarimala has almost exclusively hosted male devotees. With the Supreme Court extending the right of worship to women, the immediate challenge is to make it gender-friendly.

F. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. With reference to “ Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2015 “, 
which of the following statement(s) is/are correct?
 

  1. The Bill seeks to establish adjudicating authorities and an Appellate Tribunal to deal with benami transactions

  2. The Bill defines benamidar as the person in whose name the benami property is held or transferred, and a beneficial owner as the person for whose benefit the property is being held by the benamidar.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 2. Chirala a town in Andhra Pradesh is famous for
 

 

  1. Eco Friendly saari
  2. Kalamkari Art
  3. Leather Puppetry
  4. Metal craft

See

Answer
Question 3. With reference to “Sashkat” plan, recently in news, is related to which of the following?
  1. penalty on Individual who do not pay income tax
  2. aims at resolving the problem of bad loans with public-sector banks
  3. aims to improve mid day meal in the School
  4. It calls for imprisonment who seek for pre natal sex identification

See

Answer
  

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. What is meant by public interest? What are the principles and procedures to be followed by the civil servants in public interest? (150 words)
  2. “The Right to Information Act is not all about citizens’ empowerment alone, it essentially redefines the concept of accountability. Discuss. (150 words)

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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