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Daily Current affairs 1 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

PRAGATI

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the platform.

 

Context: The Prime Minister recently chaired his thirtieth interaction through PRAGATI – the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation.

 

About PRAGATI:

What is it?

PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) is a unique integrating and interactive platform.

  • The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.

 

Unique features:

  1. The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology.
  2. It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
  3. With this, the Prime Minister is able to discuss the issues with the concerned Central and State officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground level situation. It is also an innovative project in e-governance and good governance.
  4. It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States).
  5. Issues to be flagged before the PM are picked up from the available database regarding Public Grievances, on-going Programmes and pending Projects.

GS Paper 1:

Topics covered:

Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

 

Commission to Examine Sub Categorization of other Backward Classes

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Need for Sub Categorization, significance, issues involved and what can be done?

 

Context: Cabinet approves Extension of term of the commission constituted under Article 340 of the constitution to examine the issue of Sub-categorization within other Backward Classes in the Central List.

 

Background:

Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before the law. That means un-equals cannot be treated equally. Measures are required to be taken for the upliftment of un-equals to bring them on par with the advanced classes.

In view of this, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) proposed the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) back in 2015. In October 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind, in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 340 of the Constitution, appointed a commission to examine the issue of sub-categorisation of OBCs, chaired by retired Justice G. Rohini, to ensure social justice in an efficient manner by prioritising the Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs).

 

Need:

The decision to appoint the commission follows the Cabinet decision to examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among caste and communities included in the broad list of OBCs. At present, there is no sub-categorisation and 27% reservation is a monolithic entity.

 

Need for subcategorization:

Sub categorization of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs.

 

The terms of reference of the Commission are as under:

  1. To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of Other Backward Classes with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
  2. To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such Other Backward Classes.
  3. To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of Other Backward Classes and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

 

Significance of this move:

This decision, taken on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, reinforces, in the spirit of his teachings, the Government’s efforts to achieve greater social justice and inclusion for all, and specifically members of the Other Backward Classes.

 

Analysis:

  • The Union Cabinet’s decision to set up a commission to examine the issue of sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Classes speaks to the long years of failure in effectively preventing large sections of the creamy layer from taking advantage of the quota system to the detriment of the poorer sections among their own caste groups.
  • In effect, the Union government is now seeking to ensure a more equitable distribution of reservation benefits by further differentiating caste groups coming under backward classes on the basis of their levels of social and economic backwardness.

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

Atal Community Innovation Centre (ACIC) Program

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of Atal Innovation Mission, ACIC.

For Mains: Promotion of innovation at global level and efforts by India in this regard.

 

ContextAtal Innovation Mission (AIM) launches Atal Community Innovation Centre (ACIC) Program.

 

About ACIC Program:

Aim: The programme aims at spurring community Innovation in underserved and unserved areas of the country.

Significance: ACIC can serve as the bridge between the knowledge base existing in communities and the advanced technical ecosystem prevalent in the market base, addressing the needs of society.

 

Features of the program:

  1. ACIC is a new initiative of Atal Innovation Mission to support community innovation drive in the country.
  2. The program is directed to encourage the spirit of innovation through solution driven design thinking to serve the society.
  3. It will focus on underserved/ unserved regions of the country which at present lack a vibrant start-up and innovation ecosystem. 
  4. ACIC will be established either in PPP mode or with support of PSUs and other agencies.
  5. The maximum grant-in-aid support form AIM will be up to 2.5 crores subject following compliance to ACIC guidelines and contributing matching form the host institutions and their funding partner(s). 

 

About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

 

The Atal Innovation Mission shall have two core functions:

  1. Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs.
  2. Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated.

 

Impact:

  1. The Mission has undertaken many bold and forward-looking initiatives such as Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) and Atal Incubation Centres (AIC), which have received great traction;
  2. Many Ministries/Departments of Government of India have initiated innovation related activities with the help and technical support of AIM.
  3. Under the ATL program, more than 10,000 schools are expected to establish these labs by 2020.
  4. More than 100 Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) are likely to established around the country, supporting at least 50-60 startups each over the first five years.
  5. More than 100 innovators/startups are expected to receive some support for productizing their innovations.
  6. Each incubator is expected to foster 50-60 technology driven innovative Startups every four years.
  7. The potential for employment generation from these innovations driven Startups is quite high.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features, significance and the need for the bill.

 

Context: The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, has been passed by the Rajya Sabha.  

 

Key highlights: 

Compensation for road accident victims: The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour. The central government may also make a scheme for providing interim relief to claimants seeking compensation under third party insurance. 

Motor Vehicle Accident Fund: The Bill requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India. 

The fund will be utilised for: (i) treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme, (ii) compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident, (iii) compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and (iv) compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government. 

This Fund will be credited through: (i) payment of a nature notified by the central government, (ii) a grant or loan made by the central government, (iii) balance of the Solatium Fund (existing fund under the Act to provide compensation for hit and run accidents), or (iv) any other source as prescribed the central government.

Good samaritans: The Bill defines a good samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.  The assistance must have been (i) in good faith, (ii) voluntary, and (iii) without the expectation of any reward.  Such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in providing assistance to the victim. 

Recall of vehicles: The Bill allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users. 

The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to: (i) reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or (ii) replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.

National Transportation Policy: The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments.  The Policy will: (i) establish a planning framework for road transport, (ii) develop a framework for grant of permits, and (iii) specify priorities for the transport system, among other things. 

Road Safety Board: The Bill provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification. The Board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management including.

Offences and penalties: The Bill increases penalties for several offences under the Act. 

Taxi aggregators: The Bill defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services). These aggregators will be issued licenses by state. Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

 

Issues with the bill:

  1. With a Fund already existing to provide compensation for hit and run accidents, the purpose of the new Accident Fund is unclear
  2. State governments will issue licenses to taxi aggregators as per central government guidelines. Currently, state governments determine guidelines for plying of taxis.  There could be cases where state taxi guidelines are at variance with the central guidelines on aggregators
  3. While the penalties for contravening provisions of the proposed scheme on interim relief to accident victims are specified in the Bill, the offences that would warrant such penalties have not been specified.  It may be argued that imposing penalties without knowing the nature of the offences is unreasonable.
  4. States also have concerns about their powers being curtailed in the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill.

GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

  1. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the convention.

 

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA) resulting from mediation by the Republic of India scheduled to be held at Singapore on 7th August, 2019.

 

About UNISA:

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (“the Convention”) on 20th December 2018.

The convention is also known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” (the Convention).

 

Key features:

  1. The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements, akin to the framework that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York, 1958) (the “New York Convention”) provides for arbitral awards.
  2. The Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion, refuse to grant relief. Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.

 

Benefit:

Signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors and shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

 

Initiatives to promote ADR Mechanisms:

  1. In order to encourage international commercial arbitration in India, to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration the Government is establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) as a statutory body.
  2. The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, has been further amended and legislative exercise to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is currently underway.
  3. A new Chapter (IIIA) has been inserted in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, for mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement in certain category of cases.

 

Significance of ADR:

It is felt that a reliable and responsive alternative dispute resolution system is essential for rapidly developing countries like India. While business disputes need speedy resolution, litigation is the least favoured method for that. The Indian judicial system is marred by delays because of which businesses suffer as disputes are not resolved in a reasonable time period. Therefore, need for alternative dispute resolution processes like negotiation, mediation conciliation and arbitration is felt from time to time.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Cabinet approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Collegium system for the appointment of judges, selection and removal of SC judges, overview of NJAC.

For Mains: Issues with Collegium system and why was NJAC struck down? Need for urgent reforms.

 

Context: Cabinet approves increasing strength of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34.

At present, the sanctioned strength of the apex court is 31.

 

Need:

59,331 cases are pending in the top court. Due to paucity of judges, the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law are not being formed.

Therefore, increase in strength is needed so that the SC can function more efficiently and effectively as it will go a long way to attain the ultimate goal of rendering timely justice to the litigant public.

 

Background:

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 originally provided for a maximum of 10 judges (excluding the CJI). This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 in 1977.

In 1988, the judge strength of the SC was increased to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.

 

Who appoints judges to the SC?

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the appointments are made by the President of India.

The names are recommended by the Collegium.

 

Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge:

  1. The norms relating to the eligibility has been envisaged in the Article 124 of the Indian Constitution.
  2. To become a judge of the Supreme court, an individual should be an Indian citizen.
  3. In terms of age, a person should not exceed 65 years of age.
  4. The person should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.

 

Is the collegium’s recommendation final and binding?

The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval. The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.

 

Judicial Reforms needed:

  1. The need of the hour is to revisit the existing system through a transparent and participatory procedure, preferably by an independent broad-based constitutional body guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
  2. The new system should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
  3. The system needs to establish a body which is independent and objective in the selection process.
  4. Setting up a constitutional body accommodating the federal concept of diversity and independence of judiciary for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary can also be thought of as an alternate measure.
  5. As of now, instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appointment in order of preference and other valid criteria.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

J&K Reservation Bill

 

What to study?

For prelims: Key features of the bill.

For mains: concerns and issues associated, what is the way out?

 

Context: Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Bill. Passed by Lok Sabha last week, the Bill partially amends a Presidential Order of 1954 in order to amend the state’s Reservation Act.

 

Highlights:

  1. It aims to extend the reservation in appointments and promotions for state government posts to socially and educationally backward classes.
  2. The bill paves the way for people living near the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir to get the benefit of reservation in jobs, promotion and educational institutions on par with those living along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC).
  3. The compulsory seven-year service for those appointed on the basis of residence near the LoAC will also be applicable to people near the International Border.
  4. Socially and educationally backward people with annual incomes above three lakh rupees cannot apply for reservations. However, this limit does not apply to people living near the LoAC and the new bill includes people residing near the International Border in this exemption.

 

Opposition:

While no one in J&K has opposed the decision to provide benefits to SCs, STs and EWS, there has been opposition to the route taken by the Centre and its nominee the J&K Governor, on the ground that they “breached” Article 370 while issuing the amendment to the 1954 Presidential Order.

The 1954 order is an executive order issued by the President under Article 370 to extend provisions of an Act of Parliament to J&K State, which can be done only with the concurrence of the state government.

At the centre of the controversy is the question whether the Governor, in the absence of an elected government, has the authority to give consent to extend a law of Parliament and change the constitutional arrangement between J&K and the Union.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

GS Paper 3:

Topic covered:

Awareness in space.

 

India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of ASAT missile, Low Earth Orbit.

For Mains: Need, significance and concerns associated with ASAT missile, the issue of space debris.

 

Why in News? Four months after India successfully tested its anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities, experts tracking the debris created by the event have reported that 40% of it has still not decayed. India had claimed after the test that the debris would decay within 45 days after the event.

 

What is it?

Mission Shakti is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

As part of the mission, an anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapon was launched and targeted an Indian satellite which had been decommissioned. Mission Shakti was carried out from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore.

 

Significance:

India is only the 4th country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, and Entire effort is indigenous. Till now, only the US, Russia and China had the capability to hit a live target in space.

 

Why do we need such capabilities?

  1. India has a long standing and rapidly growing space programme. It has expanded rapidly in the last five years. The Mangalyaan Mission to Mars was successfully launched. Thereafter, the government has sanctioned the Gaganyaan Mission which will take Indians to outer space.
  2. India has undertaken more than 100 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, experimental satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites meant for scientific research and exploration, academic studies and other small satellites. India’s space programme is a critical backbone of India’s security, economic and social infrastructure.
  3. The test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard our space assets. It is the Government of India’s responsibility to defend the country’s interests in outer space.

 

Raising concerns:

Outer space has become an “arena of rivalry between major powers.” At the same time, there was common concern on space debris. Satellites today have to avoid almost 6,00,000 debris of over 1cm travelling at speed faster than a bullet.

As space gets increasingly crowded, there is need to regulate space traffic on the lines of air traffic or railways.

 

What is space debris?

Space junk is an ever-growing problem with more than 7,500 tonnes of redundant hardware now thought to be circling the Earth. Ranging from old rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft through to screws and even flecks of paint – this material poses a collision hazard to operational missions.

The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station (ISS), space shuttles, satellites and other spacecraft.

 

Technologies that can tackle the problem in future are:

  1. Moving an object out of the way by altering its orbit is one method of diverting a potential crash, but the sheer amount of debris requires constant observation and prediction – by any means necessary.
  2. Nasa’s Space Debris Sensororbits the Earth on the International Space Station. The sensor was attached to the outside of the space station’s European Columbus module in December 2017. It will detect millimetre-sized pieces of debris for at least two years, providing information on whatever hits it such as size, density, velocity, orbit and will determine whether the impacting object is from space or a man-made piece of space debris.
  3. REMOVEdebris, satellite contain two cubesats that will release simulated space debris so that it can then demonstrate several ways of retrieving them.
  4. Deorbit mission: There are two emerging technologies being developed under what’s known as the e.Deorbit mission to grasp the wayward space junk, or to catch it.
  5. Other technologies include moving objects with a powerful laser beam. It is important to start doing that soon, current scientific estimates predict that without active debris removal, certain orbits will become unusable over the coming decades.

 

Way ahead:

Arms race in outer space should not be encouraged. India has always maintained that space must be used only for peaceful purposes. It is against the weaponisation of Outer Space and supports international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.

India believes that Outer space is the common heritage of humankind and it is the responsibility of all space-faring nations to preserve and promote the benefits flowing from advances made in space technology and its applications for all.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims:

 

Significance of US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on India:

Context: The US Federal Reserve has announced a quarter-percentage-point cut in interest rates — the first rate cut by the US central bank in 11 years.

US rate cut impact on India:

  1. A rate cut in the US is good for emerging market economies and is projected to catalyse a debt and equity market rally in countries such as India.
  2. Typically, emerging economies such as India tend to have higher inflation and thereby higher interest rates than those in developed countries such as the US and Europe.
  3. As a result, FIIs would want to borrow money in the US at low-interest rates in dollar terms and then invest that money in bonds of emerging countries such as India in Rupee terms to earn a higher rate of interest.
  4. When the US Fed cuts its interest rates, the difference between interest rates of the two countries increases, thus making India more attractive for the currency carry trade.

 

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU):

Context: Union Cabinet has approved setting up of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) at Moscow, Russia.

  • This will be third such Technical Liaison Unit. Department of Space (Dos) already has instituted technical Liaison Units, namely ISRO Technical Liaison Units (ITLU) at Washington, Untied States and Paris, France with prime objective to liaise with various Government and space agencies in US and Europe, respectively.
  • It is mandated to collaborate with Space agencies and industries in Russia and neighbouring countries for mutually synergetic outcomes.
  • It will enable effective technical coordination for timely interventions on diversified matters with Russia and neighbouring countries for realization of the programmatic targets of ISRO.

 

Reservation jobs in factories for locals in Goa:

Context: Goa government planning to reserve 80% jobs in factories for locals.

The plan comes after Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly last week passed the AP Employment of Local Candidates in Industries and Factories Bill, 2019, that mandates employment of at least 75 per cent state candidates in the respective units.


 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Transforming livelihoods through farm ponds:

Context: Construction of farm ponds has emerged as an innovative water management measure.

 

Need:

  • Increased variability of monsoons and rapidly depleting groundwater tables.
  • large parts of India are reeling under water stress.
  • A number of peninsular regions like Bundelkhand, Vidarbha and Marathwada have been facing recurring drought-like situations.

 

Benefits of farm ponds:

  1. Cost-effective structures that transform rural livelihoods.
  2. Help enhance water control, contribute to agriculture intensification and boost farm incomes.
  3. Aid in superior water control through the harvesting not just of rainfall but also of surface run-off and subsurface flows.
  4. Help in providing supplemental irrigation in the kharif season and an enhanced irrigation coverage in rabi.

 

Concerns associated:

  1. If these ponds act as intermediate storage points for an increased extraction of groundwater or diversion of canal water, it will cause greater groundwater depletion and inequitable water distribution.
  2. Farm ponds may benefit farmers at an individual level, but not contributing to water conservation and recharge.
  3. They may be used as intermediate storage points, accelerating groundwater depletion and increasing evaporation losses as the groundwater is brought to the surface and stored in relatively shallow structures.

 

Conclusion:

Farm ponds can act as effective harvesting structures and also yield healthy financial returns. But if they are promoted merely for on-farm storage of groundwater and canal water, they could accelerate, rather than reduce, the water crisis in the countryside.

 

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