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Daily Current affairs 13 May 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

 

In news- India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM):

  • IIDEM is an advanced resource centre of learning, research, training and extension for participatory democracy and election management.
  • The Institute has been developed in collaboration with the Government of India, United Nations, the Commonwealth and inter-governmental organisations like Sweden based International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

 

Roles and functions:

The Institute will be a national and international hub for exchange of good practices in election management.

  • It works for enhancing voter education, and developing human resource for efficient conduct of free and fair elections in India. Along with this it is also set to develop mutually beneficial partnership with other countries.

 


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

Paper 2:

Topic covered:

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

US-China tariff wars

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: US China tariff wars-causes, effects, implications on other countries and what is needed?

 

Context: US recently decided to hike tariffs to 25 per cent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. This move could impact goods trade in more than 5,700 product categories and spark off another round of tariff wars between the two largest economies of the world.

 

Trade Impact:

  • The biggest Chinese import sector impacted by the hike in tariffs is the $20 billion-plus category of internet modems, routers and other data transmission devices, alongside printed circuit boards used in a number of US-made products.
  • Furniture, lighting products, auto parts, vacuum cleaners and building materials are also faced with higher levies.
  • The tariffs could hamper the rebound in the US economy, with consumption likely to take a hit as these tariffs would be paid by American consumers and businesses.

 

Impact on India:

There could be a short-term impact on the stock markets over fears of the escalating trade war between the US and China.

In the longer run, while a slowdown in the US economy does not augur well for emerging markets, the trade war heralds a silver lining for some countries. India is among a handful of countries that stand to benefit from the trade tensions between the world’s top two economies, the UN has said in a report.

 

Benefits for other countries:

Countries that are expected to benefit the most from the trade war are the EU members as exports in the bloc are likely to grow by $70 billion. Japan and Canada will see exports increase by more than $20 billion each. Other countries set to benefit from the trade tensions include Australia, with 4.6 per cent export gains, Brazil (3.8) India (3.5), Philippines (3.2) and Vietnam (5), the study said.

 

Origin of the US-China dispute:

  • Trump slapped heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items from China in March last year, and China responded by imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American imports.
  • The dispute escalated after Washington demanded that China reduce its $375 billion trade deficit with the US, and introduce “verifiable measures” for protection of Intellectual Property Rights, technology transfer, and more access to American goods in Chinese markets.

 

Why should the world be worried?

  • In a report earlier this year, the IMF noted that the US-China trade tension was one factor that contributed to a “significantly weakened global expansion” late last year, as it cut its global growth forecast for 2019.
  • Also, this exacerbates the uncertainty in the global trading environment, affects global sentiment negatively, and adds to risk aversion globally.
  • The higher tariffs could lead to the repricing of risk assets globally, tighter financing conditions, and slower growth.
  • The trade tensions could result in an increasingly fragmented global trading framework, weakening the rules-based system that has underpinned global growth, particularly in Asia, over the past several decades.

 

Sources: The Hindu.


Paper 3:

Topic covered:

Biotechnology related issues.

 

MANAV : Human Atlas Initiative

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: About the initiative, key features, significance and concerns associated.

 

ContextDepartment of Biotechnology (DBT) has launched MANAV : Human Atlas Initiative, towards improving knowledge on human physiology.

 

What is MANAV : Human Atlas Initiative?

  • It is a project funded by DBT.
  • aims at creating a database network of all tissues in the human body from the available scientific literature.
  • It is a project that involves scientific skill development for annotation, science outreach along with handling big data.
  • The programme will involve gaining better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing and have a wholistic analysis and finally drug discovery.

 

Who can participate in this project?

  • The project can be signed up by students who are in their final year graduation and above. Students from the fields of biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, botany, zoology, bioinformatics, health sciences, systems biologists, pharmacologists and data sciences can associate with this project.
  • Even participants having a science background but not necessarily involved in active scientific research can be part of this network.

 

Why is MANAV important?

  • So far, researchers and students have had little or no expertise in reading scientific literature and develop or build further information on the same. This platform will impart key skills to the student community to read classified scientific literature, in this case, on individual tissue-basis, and perform annotation and curation.
  • Since all the information generated will pass through multiple levels of reviews, it will be an Atlas or a reliable collection on human body tissues. This collated data can be useful for both future researchers and parallelly, to the clinicians and drug developers, who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.

 

What are the applications of information generated through MANAV?

The aim of the project remains to understand and capture the human physiology in two stages – in a normal stage and while in a disease stage. Such a database on individual tissues, once ready, can come handy in tracing the causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decode the body’s disease stage linked to tissues and cells. The teams will also study any potent elements or molecules that have never been used in the form of drugs, to target the specific cells or tissues.

 

Sources: Indian express.


Paper 2:

Topic covered:

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

 

SC/ST quota in promotions

 

What to study?

For prelims: Names of relevant SC cases and constitutional provisions wrt to SC/ST welfare.

For mains: Significance of Supreme Court verdict and its implications.

 

Context: Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, has upheld the constitutional validity of a 2018 Karnataka law granting consequential seniority to government servants promoted on the basis of reservation.

 

The Verdict:

While upholding the validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2018, said it “has cured the deficiency” on account of which a 2002 law on reservation in promotions had been quashed in 2017.

The “deficiency” referred to was the lack of an exercise to determine and collect quantifiable data on inadequacy of representation, backwardness and the impact on overall efficiency before the law was enacted, as mandated by the Supreme Court’s 2006 judgment in M Nagaraj vs Union of India.

 

What’s the issue?

Karnataka’s 2018 law protects consequential seniority from April 24, 1978. The Karnataka legislature enacted the 2018 law after the Supreme Court invalidated the 2002 Act in B K Pavitra vs Union of India. Striking down the 2002 law in 2017, the Supreme Court had said that Sections 3 and 4 of the Act were ultra vires of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution on the ground that the exercise mandated in the Nagaraj judgment had not been carried out.

 

Observations made by SC:

  • Quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is “not at odds with the principle of meritocracy” and is “true fulfilment of effective and substantive equality by accounting for the structural conditions into which people are born”.
  • The providing of reservation for SCs and STs is not at odds with the principle of meritocracy. Merit must not be limited to narrow and inflexible criteria such as one’s rank in a standardised exam, but rather must flow from the actions a society seeks to reward, including the promotion of equality in society and diversity in public administration.

 

Why this is significant?

This Supreme Court order is significant because it underlines “a ‘meritorious’ candidate is not merely one who is ‘talented ‘or ‘successful’ but also one whose appointment fulfils the constitutional goals of uplifting members of the SCs and STs and ensuring a diverse and representative administration”.

 

Constitutional basis- Article 335:

Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.

Need: Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity. The proviso contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.

Significance: The proviso is an aid of fostering the real and substantive right to equality to the SCs and STs. It protects the authority of the Union and the States to adopt any of these special measures, to effectuate a realistic (as opposed to a formal) consideration of their claims to appointment in services and posts under the Union and the states. It also emphasises that the need to maintain the efficiency of administration cannot be construed as a fetter on adopting these special measures designed to uplift and protect the welfare of the SCs and STs.

Indra Sawhney vs Union of India and M Nagraj case:

  • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion. It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment. It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
  • On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs. The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
  • Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
  • The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.

 

Sources: The Hindu.

 


 

Facts for prelims:

 

What happens if any of the Election Commissioners dissent?

  • If some difference of opinion persists even after oral deliberations and discussions, such dissent is recorded in the file. All opinions carry equal weight, which means the CEC can be overruled by the two ECs.
  • In normal practice, while communicating the decision of the Commission in executive matters, the majority view is conveyed to the parties concerned. The dissent remains recorded in the file.
  • In case dissent is to be recorded in a case of judicative nature, the dissenting member may like to record a separate opinion/order.

 

Limits on campaign expenditure:

Need: Limits on campaign expenditure are meant to provide a level-playing field for everyone contesting elections. It ensures that a candidate can’t win only because she is rich.

The 255th Report of the Law Commission on electoral reforms argued that unregulated or under-regulated election financing could lead to “lobbying and capture, where a sort of quid pro quo transpires between big donors and political parties/candidates”.

Imposed by: The Election Commission imposes limits on campaign expenditure incurred by a candidate, not by political parties.

  1. Expenditure by a Lok Sabha candidate is capped between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, depending on the state she is fighting from.
  2. In Assembly elections, the ceiling is between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 28 lakh. This includes money spent by a political party or a supporter towards the candidate’s campaign.

However, expenses incurred either by a party or the leader of a party for propagating the party’s programme are not covered.

Candidates must mandatorily file a true account of election expenses with the EC. An incorrect account, or expenditure beyond the ceiling can attract disqualification for up to three years under Section 10A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

 

National Technology Day:

Context: Since 1999, May 11 is celebrated as National Technology Day to mark India’s technological advancements.

The National Technology Day 2019 theme: “Science for People and People for Science”.

Significance of the day:

  • On May 11, 1998, India detonated three nuclear bombs in the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam lead the Indian team of scientists to successfully test-fire the Shakti-1 nuclear missile at Rajasthan’s Pokhran test range.
  • Hansa 3, India’s first indigenous aircraft was first tested on the same day in 1998 in Bangalore.
  • Successful test firing of Trishul, a short range missile made in India, was also done on the same day.

 

Vacation Benches:

ContextRecently Hon’ble Supreme Court has notified its annual summer holiday from May 13, and listed the judges who will occupy the Vacation Benches for hearing urgent matters during this period.

What is Vacation Bench?

A Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court is a special bench constituted by the Chief Justice of India.

Need: The court takes two long vacations each year, the summer and winter breaks, but is technically not fully closed during these periods. Litigants can still approach the Supreme Court and, if the court decides that the plea is an “urgent matter”, the Vacation Bench hears the case on its merits.

During vacations the court generally admits writs related to habeas corpus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto matters for enforcement of any fundamental right.

Composition: Under Rule 6 of Order II of The Supreme Court rules, 2013 the CJI nominates the Division Benches for hearing of urgent miscellaneous matters and regular hearing matters during the summer vacation for the period. The rule reads that CJI may appoint one or more Judges to hear during summer vacation or winter holidays all matters of an urgent nature which under these rules may be heard by a Judge sitting singly. And, whenever necessary, he may likewise appoint a Division Court for the hearing of urgent cases during the vacation which require to be heard by a Bench of Judges.

Who else can appoint vacation bench? The High Courts and trial courts too have Vacation Benches to hear urgent matters under their jurisdiction.


 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Special category status:

Context: Odisha Chief Minister has demanded special category status from the Centre for his disaster-prone State, saying it faces natural calamities almost every year.

 

Why the demand?

Special category status was the need of the hour due to the massive loss to infrastructure which may stall growth of the State. The demand was raised stating that the assistance that the state gets from the Centre is mostly for temporary restoration of infrastructure. And a lot has to be spent from State’s own funds to work for the long-term. In the last five years the state had Phailin, Hudhud, Titli and now Fani. In addition to this, the state experiences massive floods.

 

What is Special Category Status?

There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others. The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.

 

Some prominent guidelines for getting SCS status:

  • Must be economically backward with poor infrastructure.
  • The states must be located in hilly and challenging terrain.
  • They should have low population density and significant tribal population.
  • Should be strategically situated along the borders of neighboring countries.

 

What kind of assistance do SCS States receive?

  • The SCS States used to receive block grants based on the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, which effectively allowed for nearly 30 per cent of the Total Central Assistance to be transferred to SCS States as late as 2009-10.
  • Following the constitution of the NITI Aayog (after the dissolution of the Planning Commission) and the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC), Central plan assistance to SCS States has been subsumed in an increased devolution of the divisible pool to all States (from 32% in the 13th FC recommendations to 42%) and do not any longer appear in plan expenditure.
  • The FFC also recommended variables such as “forest cover” to be included in devolution, with a weightage of 7.5 in the criteria and which could benefit north-eastern States that were previously given SCS assistance. Besides, assistance to Centrally Sponsored Schemes for SCS States was given with 90% Central share and 10% State share.

 

When was the first Special Category status bestowed?

  • The NDC first accorded SCS in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland. Over the years, eight more states were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and, finally, in 2010, Uttarakhand. Until 2014-15, SCS meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.

 

Way ahead:

Considering special status to any new State will result in demands from other States and dilute the benefits further. It is also not economically beneficial for States to seek special status as the benefits under the current dispensation are minimal. States facing special problems will be better off seeking a special package.

 

 

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