25 Sep 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. Panel approves nutrition norms
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential poll
C. GS3 Related
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. An indefensible ordinance
ECONOMY
1. Long road ahead
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Rethinking disaster management
F. Tidbits
1. Female circumcision issue goes to Constitution Bench
2. Making the most of immersion waste
3. Centre finalising tariffs on non-essential imports
4. Monsoon withdrawal to begin by weekend
5. SC to rule on barring accused in heinous crimes from polls
6. Centre to issue warnings on lynchings
7. Ayodhya reference verdict likely to be delivered on Friday
8. Renewed push for Statehood in Northeast
9. Sushma to focus on ‘South-South cooperation’
10. Mosquito population made extinct with genetic tweak
11. Amazon arm backs data localisation
12. Fears set off by IL&FS still roil markets
13. Odisha changes norms in food, procurement policy
G. Prelims Fact
1. Female circumcision issue goes to Constitution Bench
2. Making the most of immersion waste
3. Centre finalising tariffs on non-essential imports
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Panel approves nutrition norms

 

  • India’s top nutrition panel has recommended that severely malnourished children must be fed freshly cooked food prepared from locally available cereals, pulses and vegetables, and distributed by anganwadi centres, as part of the country’s first-ever guidelines for nutritional management of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

Background

  • The National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN) has approved guidelines proposed by Women and Child Development Ministry for severe acute malnutrition.
  • The measures are part of the community-based health management of children suffering from SAM.
  • The government had, till now, only put in place guidelines for the hospitalisation of severely wasted children who develop medical complications. Those norms were made public in 2011.

The guidelines

  • The guidelines outline the role of anganwadi workers and auxillary nurse midwives (ANMs) in identifying severely wasted children, segregating those with oedema or medical complications and sending them to the nearest health facility or nutrition rehabilitation centres.
  • The remaining children are enrolled into community-based management, which includes provision of nutrition, continuous monitoring of growth, administration of antibiotics and micro-nutrients as well as counselling sessions and imparting of nutrition and health education.
  • According to the recommendations, anganwadi workers have to provide modified morning snacks, hot cooked meals and take home ration for SAM children.
  • The morning snacks and hot-cooked meals, which are served at anganwadis to children between the age of three to six years, should be prepared freshly and served at the centralised kitchen/ anganwadi centres.
  • Locally available cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables and tubers, vitamin C rich fruits, as well as fresh milk and 3-4 eggs every week have also been prescribed.
  • Importantly, the government has also revised the method to be used to measure wasting and advised calculating weight based on the height of children instead of the mid-upper arm circumference.

National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN)

  • It has been constituted to make technical recommendations on policy-relevant issues on nutrition.
  • The role of the board is advisory in nature.
  • It has to advise the states and UTs on preventive measures and management of SAM children.
  • The board has to coordinate the collation, synthesis of existing scientific and operational research, identify research gaps and make technical recommendations for the research agenda.
  • It has to provide technical guidance on the design of nutrition surveys proposed by the states/UTs, other sectors and institutions and their coherence with ongoing National Health and other surveys.
  • It has to formulate India specific growth indicators including stunting.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential poll

 

  • Maldives President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat in the presidential election, making way for the joint Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
  • Senior parliamentarian of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mr. Solih secured 58.3% of the votes, while Mr. Yameen obtained 41.7%.

Background

  • The election comes after the Indian Ocean Archipelago, home to over four lakh people, plunged into a political crisis, triggered by Mr. Yameen declaring an Emergency in February.
  • About 2,60,000 voters were registered to vote in the presidential election that drew considerable international attention, amid concerns over the Yameen government’s apparent retreat from democracy.

 India’s reaction

  • India has welcomed the result of the Maldives’ presidential election and heartily congratulated the winning candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the President-elect, and expressed support for better ties.
  • The two leaders agreed to work closely together to further strengthen the close, friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.
  • Earlier, in a statement, the Ministry said the election process amounted to a triumph of democracy in the country where public election was established a decade ago.
  • The election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law.
  • In keeping with ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening the partnership, the statement said.

C. GS3 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. An indefensible ordinance

Note to Students:
Note to the Students: From a UPSC point of view there are a few important areas to cover in this article. These are: 1) The Concept of Ordinances 2) The controversy surrounding repeated promulgation of Ordinances 3) The issue of making instant triple talaq a criminal offence 4) The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017

The News:

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet decided to take the ordinance route towards making instant triple talaq a criminal offence.
  • This decision has come under a lot of criticism as being a sign of undue impatience.
  • Several sections believe that this is a matter that required deliberation, especially after keeping in mind that serious objections were raised to some of the provisions of the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha.  
  • Specifically, in the words of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, there was an  “overpowering urgency and compelling necessity” that gave birth to this ordinance.
  • The reason he sighted was that talaq-e-biddat continued unabated despite the Supreme Court’s order last year.

Larger Background:

A Note on the The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017:

  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Law and Justice, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 28, 2017.
  • The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.  
  • Further, it defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.

Importantly, the Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to three years along with a fine.

What is a cognizable offence?

A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.

What about allowances?  

  • A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.  
  • Further, the amount of the allowance will be decided by a First Class Magistrate.

What about the custody of minor children?

  • A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.  
  • Further, the determination of custody will be made by the Magistrate.

What is Talaq-e-biddat?

Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

The Issue of Contention:

  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, as approved by the Lok Sabha, sought to give statutory form to the Supreme Court ruling of 2017 which had declared talaq-e-biddat as illegal.
  • In its provisions, the Bill made this form of divorce punishable by a three-year prison term and a fine.
  • Facing Opposition concerns, the government proposed significant changes to dilute the provisions relating to the treatment of talaq-e-biddat as a criminal offence.
  • Unfortunately, despite a notice for these amendments being given, the matter was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the last session.
  • It was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha due to a lack of consensus.
  • Currently, it is not clear as to what may have prompted the government to take recourse to the extraordinary power of promulgating an ordinance.
  • It is supposed that the upcoming elections to some State Assemblies this year may be a contributing factor.  

A Note on Ordinances

  • It is outlined under Article 123 in The Constitution Of India.
  • Specifically, it says that:
  • If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require.
  • An Ordinance promulgated under this article (Article 123) shall have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament.
  • Every such Ordinance shall be laid before both House of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassemble of Parliament, or, if before the expiration of that period resolutions disapproving it are passed by both Houses, upon the passing of the second of those resolutions.

Critical Analysis

  • The fact of the matter is that barring a few isolated cases, there is no documentary evidence to show that the incidence of instant triple talaq had reached alarming levels.
  • Thus the hasty nature in which a presidential ordinance was promulgated needs to be examined.
  • Further, as per Article 123 of the Indian Constitution, the President of India is required to ensure the existence of circumstances “which render it necessary for him to take immediate action”.
  • Thus, it is believed that the Centre, must make public the evidence presented to the President. This can be done so in the interest of a fair debate.
  • Experts believe that the triple talaq ordinance is poorly conceived and drafted. They further assert that it is bound to fail the test of judicial scrutiny on several grounds.
  1. For example, Section 2(b) of the ordinance defines talaq-e-biddat as any form of talaq “having the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce”.
  • However, it lays down in Section 3 that such a pronouncement in any form whatsoever “shall be void and illegal”.
  • Unfortunately, no explanation is offered as to how the pronouncement can be “void” and have “the effect of instantaneous and irrevocable divorce” at the same time.
  • Further, section 4 mandates a three-year imprisonment and fine for this void act, and Section 7 declares it a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
    Experts believe that the fixation with talaq-e-biddat, even when it does not dissolve the marriage, is confusing.

     2) There is a constitutional perspective to this as well. For example, barring constitutional amendments under Article 368, the Parliament of India is not competent to enact any law which is inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution.

A Note on Article 13

  • Specifically, Article 13 (2) states: “The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.”
  • Further, Article 123 (3) warns that if an ordinance “makes any provision which Parliament would not under this Constitution be competent to enact, it shall be void.”

3) Further, the ordinance, insofar as it arbitrarily curtails the personal liberty of a citizen without his having committed any offence, violates Part III of the Constitution.

  • Specifically, Article 21 states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
    Further, there are some important observations in cases to make note of. For example:    
  • The Supreme Court of India had in several cases, made it clear that “law” means reasonable law, not any enacted piece, and also that a procedure established by it has to be fair, just and reasonable to avoid being struck down as unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the ordinance fails on all these counts.
  • Some cases in which this was observed include Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978) and K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017).  

4) Fourthly, Article 123 empowers the President to promulgate an ordinance only when urgent situations arise during the recess of Parliament.
– However, in the case of triple talaq, no such emergency came to light.

  • As a matter of fact, the triple talaq Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha, was already being debated across the country.
  • The Centre had cited the reason of a lack of consensus among parties, and decided not to table the amended version of it in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session.
  • The fact that the Centre decided not to table the amended version of the bill in the Rajya Sabha, indicates that the Bill did not have the approval of the Upper House of Parliament.
  • Unfortunately, the recent turn of events seems to suggest that the legislature was undemocratically circumvented.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Long road ahead

Note to the Students:

The issue of Universal Health Coverage has been covered quite frequently over the past few issues of The Hindu. For students who are reading this topic for the first time, we have taken the liberty towards giving a broader context to the larger issue which needs to be understood.

Larger Background:

  • The poor condition of healthcare in the country is not a secret, especially in India’s villages where infrastructure is in a dilapidated state. Government hospitals often fail to provide necessary health services to the poor, with private hospitals being out of the reach of most people. The country’s growing population and lack of resources has made matters worse. According to the 2011 census, India’s population is over 1.2 Billion, make it the second most populous nation in the world after, China.
  • Many organizations, including the United Nations have estimated that by 2025, India would be the most populated nation in the world, surpassing China.
  • More than 32% of total deaths in India are due to heart-related ailments. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, India is ranked low in the Healthcare index; India stands at a rank of 154. This index is out of 194 countries. But despite this, the budget allotment on healthcare services is extremely low.
  • India spends less than 2% of her GDP on public healthcare. But now the Government is working on improving public healthcare services. The National Health Protection Mission or Ayushman Bharat Yojana, launched by the Government is the first major step in this direction. Ayushman Bharat Yojana is a program which aims to create a healthy, capable and content new India. It will also focus on the poor and weaker sections of the society. It aims to provide insurance of upto 5 lakh rupees to each family. The new scheme also intends to improve secondary and tertiary healthcare services for crores of Indians.

There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat:

  1. The first is to create a network of health and wellness centres that will bring the healthcare system closer to the people. The centres will provide comprehensive healthcare, including treatment for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. Besides this, they will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services; also Rs. 1200 crore have been allocated for this flagship programme.

The scheme will cover more than 10 crore poor families, which is approximately 50 crore persons. It will also setup wellness centres which will give poor people OPD facility near their homes.

  1. The second flagship programme under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ is the ‘National Health Protection Scheme’. The National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. It will provide coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family, per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • Universal health coverage is getting prioritised as a part of political reform with the launch of two pillars.

The pillars are the

  1. Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY): Ayushman Bharat (AB)
    Under this scheme, 1.5 lakh health sub-centres are being converted into health and wellness centres.  
  2. The National Health Protection Mission (NHPM)
    This aims to provide health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family, per annum, reaching out to 500 million people.
  • It is important to note that the “best health care at the lowest possible cost” should be: a) inclusive
  1. make health-care providers accountable for cost and quality
  2. achieve a reduction in disease burden, and
  3. eliminate catastrophic health expenditures for the consumer.

Analysis:

  • The Ayushman Bharat Scheme has been rolled out as a health protection scheme.
  • This Scheme will provide guaranteed access to treatment that is free at the point of delivery to about 40% of the population selected on the basis of censused socio-economic indicators.
  • Experts believe that this is the essential first step on the road to universal health coverage.
  • Ever since the Centre has announced that 10.74 crore families identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census data will be given an annual Rs. 5 lakh cover under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (the insurance component of the scheme), the question of eligibility appears settled.
  • The allocation of just Rs. 2,000 crore during the current year to the PMJAY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) cannot provide the promised cover to the large population sought to be included.
  • Unfortunately, not all States and Union Territories are in a position to raise their own share, and a few of the States have not even joined the scheme.
  • Thus, the challenge of funding, remains.
  • Further, without adequate budgetary commitments, the implications of pooling the financial risk for such a large segment of the population of India through a) insurers or b) state-run trusts or societies make the outcomes uncertain.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Guaranteeing health-care access using private or public facilities presumes tight cost control.
  • However, in the case of the PMJAY, this is to be achieved using defined treatment packages for which rates are prescribed.
  • There are issues which need to be ironed out as well. For example, costs are a contested area between the care-providers and the Centre, and many for-profit hospitals see the government’s proposals as unviable.
  • Experts believe that the State governments should have been persuaded to regulate the hospital sector under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, which dates back to 2010.
  • Further, the law broadly provides for standardisation of facilities and reasonable rates for procedures. However, apprehensions of fraud have prompted Ayushman Bharat administrators to announce that some key treatments should be availed through public sector institutions. Unfortunately, public facilities have been neglected for long.
  • In conclusion, it is essential to reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary hospitals for expensive treatments by investing in preventive and primary care facilities.
  • It is in these sectors that the 150,000 health and wellness centres of the National Health Protection Mission can play a valuable role.
  • Finally, the first-order priority should be to draw up a road map for universal health coverage, through continuous upgradation of the public sector infrastructure.

Category: DISASTER MANAGEMENT

1. Rethinking disaster management

Note to Students:

The issue of the Kerala Floods has been featured in The Hindu over the past few days now. In fact, this is a very relevant topic for students to prepare from the perspective of Disaster Management. Here we have suitably signposted the Editorial Analysis into multiple headings.

  1. “Context”: The talks about the broader context of the issue, taking into consideration specific points that may have been featured in previous editions of The Hindu. The thought process behind including this section is to give a ‘storyline’ approach to an aspirant when he/she goes through this topic.

  2. “Editorial Analysis”: This particular section gives an insight towards the specific points covered in the specific editorial that is the subject of our study.

  3. “The Way Forward/Concluding Remarks”: This sections gives aspirants concluding points that are taken from the article in question as well as some forwarding looking points taken from other articles, as and when required.

The important aspect to note here is that the issue being discussed in the news assumes priority over just the article.

Context:

  • This article assumes importance in the wake of the devastating floods that affected the state of Kerala.

  • In particular, this article talks about how Kerala has a unique opportunity to put in place climate-resilient water management system.

  • It is important to note that there were allegations of ‘human blunders’ while the government said that it couldn’t have done anything more.
    The fact of the matter is that India has not learnt its lessons from recent floods, in the states of Assam, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Crucially, without addressing the underlying causes, history will repeat itself in another state of our country, if not in Kerala.   

The Underlying Causes:

  • The first cause is that of ‘Reluctant dam managers’.
  • In the state of Kerala, as is with the case of other states, more flooding was caused by emergency releases from dams that were full.
    In fact, according to a World Bank analysis, while preparing the National Hydrology Project (NHP) in 2015 showed that although weather forecasts are more accurate now, dam managers, who are especially bureaucrats are reluctant to authorise advance controlled releases.
    Why is this so?
  • Experts believe that this is partly because of the fact that operating schedules are not based on predicted rainfall.
  • Currently, the world has moved to dynamic reservoir operations based on weather forecasts.
  • It is important to also mention that the political leadership and the bureaucracy too do not tolerate mistakes. As a consequence of this, dam managers are reluctant to risk their careers and order controlled releases in advance.
  • The National Hydrology Project (NHP) is improving hydro-meteorological and weather forecasting systems across India. Having said this, it is felt that unless dam managers feel free to take credible risks, these will not be used for dynamic reservoir operations.
  • It is increasingly felt by many experts that a ‘plan B’ is also needed for water scarcities such as basin-scale water modelling and analysis supporting contingency planning (inter-basin transfers, linking canals to intermediate storage structures, and water re-allocation to higher-priority uses). Unfortunately, none of these exist in India today.

The second cause is that of Blocked waterways.

  • Unfortunately, the story across Kerala is that roads, railway lines and housing colonies are being laid and built without regard for natural water-ways, but with formal planning permission.
  • Further, the State Department of Inland Waterways focusses on large waterways while district and local panchayats have no mandate or interest in maintaining these to reduce flood risk. The State Disaster Management Agency also ignores them.

The third is Unprepared populations.

  • Inspite of the fact that India is a signatory to the UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, unfortunately, little has changed on the ground.
  • In Kerala, most people were caught unawares by the ferocity of the flooding.
  • Had information been disseminated and absorbed earlier, disaster risks could have been greatly reduced.

International Perspective:

Most modern cities have elaborate flood management plans (underground flood basins and spare riverbeds in the Netherlands).

Editorial Analysis:

  • Weather disasters are being affected by climate change, which is in turn, being caused by humans.
  • As a consequence of this, the devastation is worsened by the collective failure of governments and businesses to invest in building resilience despite the evidence on runaway climate change.
  • From a historical perspective, we learn lessons from the recent Kerala floods, Hurricane Harvey (Houston, U.S., 2017) and Typhoon Haiyan (the Philippines, 2013).
    What we must take note of is that responses to disasters must be proactive, not just reactive.

The Way Forward:

  • Firstly, reconstruction efforts must involve rebuilding in a better way.
  • Experts believe that climate proofing in Kerala calls for structures to be built with wind- and water-resistant materials. It should be noted that the higher cost will be more than offset by avoided repairs. Secondly, people need to relocate out of harm’s way.
  • Thirdly, early warning is vital. The importance of this is highlighted by the fact that because of investments in these systems, Cyclone Phailin (2013) claimed less than 40 lives in Odisha, whereas the superclyclone in 1999 in the State had killed 10,000 people.
  • Unfortunately, in Kerala, there was no timely forecast from national weather services. Experts believe that the State needs a reliable flood forecasting capability.
  • Fourthly, there needs to be tougher implementation of logging and mining regulations in fragile ecologies. It is important to note that deforestation worsened the effects of Kerala’s floods and mudslides, as the report of the Western Ghats ecology expert panel 2011 had warned.
  • Further, it is suggested that River-basin specific flood inundation modelling with climate change simulations is a necessary first step to understand the full impact of potential unprecedented flooding.
  • River-basin specific flood inundation modelling with climate change simulations includes worst-case scenarios such as twice the maximum historical rainfall.
  • The next important aspect is that the local community should co-manage water resources with the government. This can be done by planning intermediate storage, drainage and emergency responses.
  • Further, there must be massive awareness generation, to ensure that airports are not extended into river floodplains. This is an unfortunate situation witnessed with the  Chennai airport and the Adyar river.
  • It is important to address issues such as  deforestation, encroachment and unplanned construction.
  • India must use the best-available information for decision-making. This would include,
    a) improved hydromet systems and weather forecasts,
    b) robust modelling of catchment water flows with simulations of different climate-related scenarios,
    c) international norms for safety factors and building codes.
  • India must also prioritise buffers, flexibility and adaptability. This includes:
    1. reviewing safety criteria of dams and canals,
    2. re-building these with higher safety factors,
    3. creating new intermediate storages, and introducing dynamic reservoir management.
  • The Kerala floods are estimated to have cut off about 2.2% of the State’s GDP.
  • Bolstering resilience must be made central to recovery.
  • Lastly, multilateral agencies including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank may be well-positioned to provide financing. This is vital when budgets are stretched.
  • We must also reduce the vulnerability of the poor who pay a disproportionately higher cost in calamities.

F. Tidbits

1. Female circumcision issue goes to Constitution Bench

 

  • The Supreme Court on Monday referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench petitions seeking a declaration that the practice of female circumcision or ‘khafz,’ prevalent in the Dawoodi Bohra sect, amounts to female genital mutilation (FGM) and is a violation of women’s right to life and dignity.
  • A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud observed that the issue deserved to be examined by a Constitution Bench.

Observations

  • Earlier, at hearings, Justice Chandrachud had observed that circumcision leaves permanent, emotional and mental scars in a young girl.
  • The Chief Justice had orally observed that the Constitution does not allow a person to cause injury to another.
  • The Bench had said the practice should be tested in the light of constitutional morality.

Arguments in favor

  • The practice is essential to religion and had been continuing since the 10th century.
  • Female circumcision is not FGM.

2. Making the most of immersion waste

 

  • Bhagyanagar Utsav Samithi and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) have discussed salvaging material from immersed idols next year onwards.

How it has to be done?

  • They have to examine some of the samples that have been removed from the lakes to see what material can be salvaged.
  • Following testing, those in the process of making idols have to be consulted to determine feasibility for reuse.

Background

  • An estimated 75,000 idols of various sizes were immersed in Greater Hyderabad during the 10-day festivities this year.
  • Attempts by municipal agencies to promote eco-friendly material like clay have seen limited success.

3. Centre finalising tariffs on non-essential imports

 

  • The government has finalised the list of non-essential items on which it will be imposing import tariffs.
  • The list will be notified soon, would include electronics, gems, select items of steel that are also manufactured in India, imported apples, and almonds, among others.
  • The main issue under consideration was whether to include gold in it.

Significance

  • The government had earlier this month, announced the easing of overseas borrowing norms for manufacturing companies, removal of restrictions on foreign portfolio investment in corporate bonds and tax benefits on masala bonds.
  • The imposition of tariffs on the import of non-essential items is expected to bolster these efforts in stabilising the rupee’s levels.

4. Monsoon withdrawal to begin by weekend

 

  • The monsoon will likely start withdrawing from the country by the last week of September, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said in a forecast.
  • Typically, the monsoon begins its withdrawal from the 1st week of September, but it has been delayed primarily due to the development of cyclonic conditions.
  • Figures from the IMD say that India is facing a 9% rainfall deficit and 11 of India’s 36 subdivisions — spanning 29% of the country’s area — have seen a deficit of 29% in monsoon rains between 1st June and 23rd September.
  • The maximum deficit has been in northeastern India — with Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya recording a 32% and 28% shortfall in their monsoon quotas.
  • Jharkhand, Bihar, Saurashtra and Kutch, Rayalseema and north interior Karnataka are among the subdivisions that have registered a deficit greater than 25%.

5. SC to rule on barring accused in heinous crimes from polls

 

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, is scheduled to pronounce its judgment on petitions to bar politicians facing charges of heinous crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping, from contesting elections.

Observations

  • The Bench, including Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Rohinton Nariman, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had made it clear that the Supreme Court could not legislate for Parliament.
  • Chief Justice Misra had pointed out the urgency to do something to keep criminals at bay and prevent them from contesting elections.
  • The Chief Justice had voiced the Supreme Court’s anguish at the helplessness of society to prevent criminalisation of politics at the very entry-point itself.
  • The CJI had pointed out that Parliament was obliged under Article 102 (1) (e) (talks about disqualification to stand as a candidate for election to the Lok Sabha from a Parliamentary Constituency) to make a law.
  • Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had submitted that fast-track courts to try cases against politicians was the only solution.

Background

  • Under the Representation of the People Act, convicted lawmakers are disqualified, but not those facing charges.

6. Centre to issue warnings on lynchings

 

  • The Centre has assured the Supreme Court that it and the State governments would, within a week, start broadcasting on radio and TV a stern message that mob lynching and violence would invite the wrath of law.

Background

  • The Centre’s promise came in response to a query by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on whether the court’s directions on the matter had been complied with.
  • On July 17, the Supreme Court directed the Union and the State governments to disseminate through radio, television and other media platforms, including the official websites of the Home Department and the State police forces, the message that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequences under the law.

Concerns

  • Nothing appears to have been done on the ground.
  • The court said eight States and Union Territories were yet to file reports indicating their compliance with the July 17 verdict.

Way forward

  • People must be made to realise the gravity of their acts, and for this, they ought to dread the long arm of the law.
  • An empowered Group of Ministers is considering a specific law against lynching.

7. Ayodhya reference verdict likely to be delivered on Friday

 

  • The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce its judgment on September 28 on whether to refer the question if a mosque as a place of prayer is an essential part of Islam in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid appeals to a Constitution Bench.

Background

  • A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer had taken up the long-pending Ayodhya land title appeals against the Allahabad High Court judgment of 2010, which had ordered a three-way partition of the disputed land.
  • Chief Justice Misra had in the beginning observed that the appeals would be decided like any other civil suit, shorn of any religious sentiments displayed by the parties.
  • However, as the hearings progressed in the appeals, the Muslim appellants pressed that the place of a mosque in Islam and the importance of the practice of offering prayers inside a mosque should be first decided by a five-judge Bench.
  • The bone of contention here is an observation made in a 1994 SC judgment in the Ismail Farooqui case that a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere.

8. Renewed push for Statehood in Northeast

 

  • Statehood movements have gathered momentum across the Northeast, with a renewed push for Bodoland, a proposed State comprising areas beyond the four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
  • Organisations such as All Bodo Students’ Union, Peoples’ Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement, and two factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland organised a pro-Statehood rally at the BTC headquarters in Kokrajhar in western Assam.
  • The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation, a tribal body with sway in four of Nagaland’s most backward districts, has stepped up its demand for the creation of the Frontier Nagaland State.
  • The Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura, the BJP’s ally in Tripura, raised pro-Statehood slogans while observing the 10th Twipraland Demand Day on August 23. The demand for carving out a separate State has been intermittent since 1997.

9. Sushma to focus on ‘South-South cooperation’

 

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj kicked off her week-long diplomatic engagements at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and attended a special meeting on drugs.
  • Swaraj’s meetings will focus on issues such as climate change, digital infrastructure, sustainability and South-South cooperation.

Background

  • The 73rd UNGA is taking place against the backdrop of increased American hostility towards the world body in particular and multilateralism in general.

10. Mosquito population made extinct with genetic tweak

 

  • Scientists have succeeded for the first time in wiping out an entire population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the lab using a gene editing tool to programme their extinction.
  • Malaria affected more than 200 million people worldwide in 2016 and killed nearly 4,50,000. It remains one of the deadliest of infectious diseases.

How does it work?

  • So-called gene drive technology works by forcing evolution’s hand, ensuring that an engineered trait is passed down to a higher proportion of offspring — across many generations — than would have occurred naturally.

The experiment

  • In experiments with the species Anopheles gambiae, scientists at Imperial College London tweaked a gene known as doublesex so that more females in each generation could no longer bite or reproduce.
  • After only eight generations, there were no females left and the population collapsed due to lack of offspring.
  • The next step will be to test the technology in a confined laboratory setting that mimics a tropical environment.

Significance

  • This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries.

11. Amazon arm backs data localisation

Context

  • Governments have a right to request the data that is sensitive be stored in their own country so they can apply their own rules to that data, regional managing director of Amazon Web Services has said.

Background

  • The statement comes amid opposition from experts and foreign firms over proposed data localisation norms in India.
  • The draft ‘The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018’ proposes that critical personal data of Indian citizens be processed only in data centres located within the country, while personal data may be transferred outside India.
  • However, at least one copy of the data will need to be stored in India. The proposal has been termed as regressive and a trade barrier by experts.

12. Fears set off by IL&FS still roil markets

 

  • The liquidity crisis at IL&FS, the quarter-end rush to dress up balance sheets by banks and redemption pressure on mutual funds (MFs) have all combined to trigger a liquidity deficit in the system which has led to short-term rates on commercial papers (CPs) rising up to 50 basis points (bps) within a week.
  • The rate on three-month CPs is about 8.5%, up 40-50 bps as compared to a week ago. The rate on certificate of deposits of similar maturity is about 7.8%, up 20 bps.
  • This prompted the Reserve Bank of India to announce that it will conduct an open market operation (OMO) to purchase government bonds to infuse liquidity worth ₹10,000 crore into the system.

NBFCs

  • The ongoing concerns related to liquidity woes at non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are affecting the broader market sentiment.

Impact

  • Interest rate-sensitive sectors such as banking, realty and automobiles bore the maximum brunt with some of the sectoral indices losing in the range of 3-5% each.
  • The overall market breadth was extremely negative with more than 2,100 stocks in the red on the BSE, as against only 500 gainers.

Concerns

  • NBFCs were growing rapidly and if their ability to refinance gets impacted, then growth will ultimately be impacted.
  • The recent events have impacted investor sentiment though the pre-emptive action by government and regulators has sent the message loud and clear that the situation is being watched.
  • The fact that Indian markets have not reacted much to high oil prices and political uncertainty on account of national elections scheduled next year leads to a conservative view on the markets.

Factors responsible

  • NBFCs and financials are getting impacted due to a combination of factors like concerns related to IL&FS, hardening of yields and the U.S. Fed meeting scheduled later this week.
  • The larger market fall can be on the back of other macro headwinds such as higher crude and falling rupee. While valuations were expensive, the market was earlier supported by earnings growth.

Regulators step in

  • According to market participants, the concerted efforts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) over the week-end and the statement by Finance Minister has helped assuage the concerns to a large extent.
  • The Government will take all measures to ensure that adequate liquidity is maintained/provided to the NBFCs, the Mutual funds and the SMEs, Arun Jaitley said.
  • The RBI and the SEBI jointly said that they are closely monitoring the developments in the financial markets and are ready to act, if required.

13. Odisha changes norms in food, procurement policy

 

  • The Odisha government has decided to facilitate entry of more small and marginal farmers and share-croppers into the procurement fold by bringing changes in the norms of food and procurement policy for the Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2018-19.

Old practice

  • The past practice was that of deducting towards personal consumption requirement at the rate of three quintals of paddy per member in the family of farmer for computation of marketable surplus of paddy.

Cabinet approval

  • The Cabinet, which approved the food and procurement policy for KMS 2019 to regulate all aspects of paddy and rice procurement during the ensuing KMS, decided that paddy (Kharif crop) will be procured between November, 2018 and April, 2019.
  • The paddy (Rabi crop) will be procured from May to June, 2019.
  • A tentative target to procure 55 lakh tonnes of paddy from farmers has been fixed which will be around 37 lakh tonnes in terms of rice.
  • Food Supplies & Consumer Welfare Minister has been authorised to revise the target if need arises.
  • The farmers would be paid the Minimum Support Price (MSP) fixed by the Central government at ₹1,750 per quintal for the common variety of paddy and ₹ 1,770 for Grade-A variety.
  • The money would be directly paid into the bank accounts of farmers within three days of the procurement.

MoU with Centre

  • While 23 lakh tonnes of the procured rice will be pumped into the Public Distribution System in the State, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) will evacuate the remaining 14 lakh tonnes of rice to other States as per the MoU with the Centre.

Process of procurement

  • Like previous year, paddy procurement process in all 308 procuring blocks will be conducted through paddy procurement automation system (P-PAS).
  • All documents in connection with paddy procurement shall be generated from computer through P-PAS software to make the process hassle-free and transparent.

Way forward

  • The State government should issue farmer identification cards to all farmers in order to bring more small and marginal farmers and share-croppers into the procurement fold.

G. Prelims Fact

1. AB-PMJAY

 

2. India’s 100th airport opens in Sikkim

 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the first airport in Sikkim.
  • With this, the number of functional airports in the country went up to 100.
  • The airport at Pakyong, about 30 km from Gangtok and surrounded by mountains, is a major boost to connectivity in the mountainous State.
  • The airport has been constructed at an estimated cost of ₹605 crore.
  • The airport would be linked to the Union government’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) regional connectivity scheme and the airfare for about an hour would come to ₹2,500.

3. Pharmacists day

 

The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI)

  • The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) is the statutory body of government of India also called as central council constituted under the Pharmacy Act, 1948.
  • It works under the Ministry of Health Services and Family welfare.
  • The Pharmacy Council of India is constituted by central government every five years.

Objectives

  • The objectives of the PCI are to regulate the pharmacy education in the Country for the purpose of registration as a pharmacist under the Pharmacy Act.
  • They also regulate the Profession and Practice of Pharmacy.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements with respect to The United Nations 
General Assembly (UNGA):
 

  1. It is the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN.

  2. It is the only principal organ of the United Nations (UN) in which all member nations have equal representation.

  3. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the UN and appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council.

Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?

  1. i) and ii) only
  2. ii) and iii) only
  3. i) and iii) only
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
Question 2. What is a Commercial Paper?
 
  1. It is an unsecured promissory note.

  2. It has a fixed maturity of not more than 364 days.

  3. It is a money-market security issued by large corporations to obtain funds.

  4. It carries lower interest repayment rates than bonds due to the shorter maturities.

Options:

  1. i) and ii) only
  2. ii), iii) and iv) only
  3. i), iii) and iv) only
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. Which of the following bodies is the apex research organisation for carrying out 
taxonomic studies on wild plant resources?

 

  1. National Biodiversity Authority
  2. Forest Survey of India
  3. Botanical Survey of India
  4. Zoological Survey of India

See

Answer
Question 4. Article 72 confers pardoning power on the President in cases:

 

  1. with death sentence
  2. where sentence is by court martial
  3. for offence against law
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
 
 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Judicial activism does not mean governance by the judiciary and the judiciary seems to have taken over governance of the country by default. In light of the above statement, analyse the rationality behind judicial activism.

  2. Analyse the contribution of political parties to the success of Indian democracy.

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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