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Daily Current affairs 19 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

BASIC countries

 

What to study?

For prelims: BASIC Nations.

For mains: Need for, significance and challenges before the grouping.

 

Context: The BASIC countries recently held their 28th Ministerial meeting on Climate Change in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

 

Who are the BASIC?

The BASIC group was formed as the result of an agreement signed by the four countries on November 28, 2009.

They are a bloc of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

 

Significance of the grouping:

  1. The signatory nations have a broadly common position on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising the massive funds that are needed to fight climate change.
  2. The BASIC countries constituted one of the parties in the Copenhagen Accord reached with the US-led grouping; the Accord, was, however, not legally binding.
  3. The BASIC group wields considerable heft purely because of the size of the economies and populations of the member countries.
  4. Brazil, South Africa, India and China put together has one-third of the world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the world’s population, and when they unitedly speak in one voice this shows their determination.
  5. BASIC is one of several groups of nations working together to fight climate change and carry out negotiations within the UNFCCC.

 

Need for this grouping:

In light of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C released in October last year, the group took note of its findings that highlight the “high vulnerability of developing countries to climate change effects and high resultant costs of adaptation”.

  • The findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming make it incredibly clear that the impacts of an already warming world are significant, and that impacts at 2°C are catastrophic compared to those of 1.5°C. Yet, the BASIC ministers recalled the Paris goal of limiting the temperature rise to well under 2°C, and aspiring to limit it to 1.5°C, suggesting their continued pursuit of 2°C as the target temperature limit.
  • The BASIC countries also contend that their nationally determined contributions (NDCs)— voluntary pledges of national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—have demonstrated “a high level of ambition in the context of poverty and sustainable development”.

 

Way ahead:

While developed countries must take the lead to reduce GHG emissions and enable developing countries to scale climate action. It is critical that all countries actively step-up to rapidly reduce global GHG emissions within their own jurisdictions and collectively work with each other to limit warming to 1.5°C.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

Legislative Council

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features, composition and formation of legislative councils.

For Mains: Significance and issues related.

 

ContextThe Madhya Pradesh government has indicated that it plans to initiate steps towards creation of a Legislative Council.

 

What are the Legislative Councils, and why are they important?

India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.

A second House of legislature is considered important for two reasons: one, to act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House and, two, to ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.

 

Why do we need a second house?

  1. They can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
  2. They can be used to delay progressive legislation.
  3. They would strain state finances.
  4. Having a second chamber would allow for more debate and sharing of work between the Houses.

 

Criticism:

  1. Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected.
  2. It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer
  3. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
  4. While Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t. MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
  5. As regards Money bills, only fourteen days’ delay can be caused by the Council, which is more or less a formality rather than a barrier in the way of Money Bill passed by the Assembly. 

 

Creation of a legislative council:

Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.

Currently, six states have Legislative Councils. Jammu and Kashmir too had one, until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

 

Strength of the house:

As per article 171 clause (1) of the Indian Constitution, the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one third of the total number of the members in the legislative Assembly of that state and the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.

 

How are members of the Council elected?

  1. 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly.
  2. 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state.
  3. 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
  4. 1/12th by registered graduates.
  5. The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.

Legislative Councils are permanent Houses, and like Rajya Sabha, one-third of their members retire every two years.

 

Do Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads have similar powers?

Not really. The constitution gives Councils limited legislative powers. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.

 

Way ahead:

There is need of a National Policy on having Upper House in State Legislatures. The provision of the law for Councils to have seats for graduates and teachers should also be reviewed.

There is a need for wide range of debates and public and intellectual opinion to have an Upper House in all state legislatures. Legislative councils should be a responsible body that can also form their part in policies and programmes for the development of states.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 

Mains Question: Why Some States in India have Bicameral Legislatures? Discuss the relevance of the Legislative Councils in the States in the backdrop of recent demand of certain states to create the second house. 


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered: 

  1. Awareness in space.

 

Parker Solar Probe

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of the probe.

For Mains: Significance of the mission, why study sun and the Corona?

 

Context: On August 12, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed a year in service. It is part of NASA’s “Living With a Star” programme that explores different aspects of the Sun-Earth system.

The probe seeks to gather information about the Sun’s atmosphere and NASA says that it “will revolutionise our understanding of the Sun”. It is also the closest a human-made object has ever gone to the Sun.

 

About the mission:

What is it? NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds. Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.

Journey: In order to unlock the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft will fly through the sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Goals: The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

 

Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:

  1. Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
  2. Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
  3. Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

 

Why study corona?

The corona is hotter than the surface of the sun. The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system. Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field and can play havoc with communications technology on Earth. Nasa hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.

 

Why do we study the sun and the solar wind?

  1. The sun is the only star we can study up close. By studying this star we live with, we learn more about stars throughout the universe.
  2. The sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth. The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed.
  3. The sun also affects Earth in less familiar ways. It is the source of the solar wind; a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past Earth at speeds of more than 500 km per second (a million miles per hour).
  4. Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.
  5. Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics. The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.
  6. The solar wind dominates the space environment. As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Delimitation of Constituencies

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: What is delimitation, why is it needed, how is it carried out and special provisions w.r.t to J&K.

 

Context: Since the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, delimitation of their electoral constituencies has been inevitable. While the government has not formally notified the Election Commission yet, the EC has held “internal discussions” on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, particularly its provisions on delimitation.

 

Delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution:

  1. Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  2. As far as delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last Delimitation Commission of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.
  3. As for Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts, they mandate a separate Delimitation Commission for J&K. In actual practice, the same central Delimitation Commission set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.
  4. While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution.
  5. Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  6. There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026. This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court.

 

Why is delimitation needed?

Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.

In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.

The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.

It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

 

How is delimitation carried out?

Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.

  1. The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.
  2. Under Article 82the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  3. Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  4. Composition: The commission is made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
  5. Functions: The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same. The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  6. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
  7. The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
  8. The Commission also holds public sittings. After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  9. The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

 

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission), as the Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.

This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census. Subsequently, the Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.

Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002. There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

 

Why there has been no delimitation in recent past?

The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states. Although unintended, this provision implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.

To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026. This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.

So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 1:

Topics covered:

Issues related to women.

New rights for Saudi women:

 

Context: Women in Saudi Arabia scored a significant victory earlier this month, after they were allowed to travel abroad without obtaining permission from a male guardian, apply for passports, and register their marriages and divorces.

The new rules allow any person 21 and older to travel abroad without prior consent and any citizen to apply for a Saudi passport on their own.

 

Significance:

In highly conservative Saudi Arabia, these steps, deemed natural almost everywhere else in the world, constitute key social reforms.

The changes are a potential game-changer for Saudi women’s rights in the kingdom. The legal system was long criticized because it treated women as minors throughout their adult lives, requiring that they have a husband or father’s permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad. In some cases, the male guardian was a woman’s own son granting her the necessary travel permissions.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

Facts for prelims:

 

2 new species of freshwater fish found:

Context: Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered two new species of freshwater fish from the north-eastern and northern parts of the country.

Key facts:

  1. Glyptothorax gopii is a new species of catfish. It was found in Mizoram’s Kaladan river. It is dark brown on its dorsal surface, and its ventral surface is of a yellowish-light brown. 
  2. Garra simbalbaraensiswas found in Himachal Pradesh’s Simbalbara river. It has a yellowish-grey colour fading ventrally.

Both fish, measuring less than seven centimetres, are hill stream fauna and are equipped with special morphological features to suit rapid water flow.

 

National Sports Awards:

Context: National Sports Awards 2019 have been announced.

Key facts:

National Sports Awards are given every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports.

  1. Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson over a period of four year.
  2. Arjuna Award is given for consistency outstanding performance for four years.
  3. Dronacharya Award for coaches for producing medal winners at prestigious International sports events.
  4. Dhyan Chand Award for life time contribution to sports development.
  5. Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskaris given to the corporate entities (both in private and public sector) and individuals who have played a visible role in the area of sports promotion and development.
  6. MAKA Trophy:Overall top performing university in inter-university tournaments is given Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy.

 

Odisha to Set Up Maritime Board:

Context: A proposal for establishment of the Odisha Maritime Board for administration, control and management of non-major ports and non-nationalised inland waterways was recently approved by the State Cabinet.

Functions:

  1. The Board will function as a single window facilitator for the overall maritime development of the State.
  2. The Board will provide policy, guidelines and directions for the integrated development of ports and inland water transport keeping in view of the country’s security and defence related concerns.

Need: Odisha is endowed with a vast coastline of 480 km, having rich, unique and natural port locations and perennial rivers.

 

Mangdechhu Project:

Context: In his second visit to Bhutan, the Indian Prime Minister has inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant.

Key facts:

  1. The Mangdechhu hydroelectric project is a 720MW run-of-river power plant built on the Mangdechhu River in Trongsa Dzongkhag District of central Bhutan.
  2. Mangdechhu is one of the ten hydroelectric projects planned under the Royal Government of Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000MW hydropower by 2020 with support from the Indian Government.

 

Publicity Rath:

  1. It is a vehicle to be used for creating awareness about Bihar State government’s water resources schemes and steps to save and conserve water.
  2. The vehicle will create awareness on the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali (water-life-greenery) campaign via the audio-visual medium.
  3. The Publicity Rath will also make people aware of the fact that groundwater is the only source of water in the event of less rainfall and people will have to go for rainwater harvesting to conserve water.

 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Why minimum wage won’t fix India’s woes?

Context: The new Parliament passed the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 mandating a minimum wage across the country in its first session itself. This law mandates a universal minimum payment of  ₹178 a day.

 

Issues with the bill:

  1. The wage prescribed is less than half the  ₹375 a day recommended by a high-powered labour ministry panel.
  2. It is also miles away from the  ₹700 fair wage that the 7th Central Pay Commission had arrived at.
  3. The justification for a marginal increase is that this  ₹178 is now a definitive minimum for all workers, and will be universal across the country, across all sectors. It will, therefore, allow for wages to rise in informal sectors and will address the issue of gender-based disparities as well.

What’s the issue?

It is widely acknowledged that India has a serious wages problem. According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18, 45% of regular workers (those who are in the relatively stable, formal sector) are paid less than the minimum wage.

 

Need for labour law reforms:

Indian industry is shackled by a number of socialist-era laws that prevent Indian companies from becoming competitive: workers cannot be fired, organization structures are not flexible, transfer policies are not nimble enough, and a high human resource cost prevents companies from growing bigger. More than 45 central laws and at least 100 state-level legislations create confusion, complexity, and chaos. The burden of compliance is huge is the conventional wisdom.

The process of determining the minimum wage is complex to say the least. The level of compliance too is abysmal. It is to address these issues that this new law was passed.

 

Origin of minimum wage:

The debate on minimum wages started 80 years ago in the US when the Federal minimum wage was fixed at 25 cents an hour. In 2009, the wage went up to $7.25 a year.

India’s minimum wage system, according to the Economic Survey 2018-19, comprises of 1,915 minimum wages defined for various scheduled job categories across different states in the country.

 

Challenges ahead:

  1. The Indian government has chosen to increase minimum wages and push costs to businesses. The Centre will set standards and define minimum wages across industry, including for small businesses.
  2. Given our diversity, this will not be easy.
  3. Beyond the complications that such calculations bring, the government must grapple with costs and requirements changing significantly across the country, from the low-wage economy of Tripura to highly labour scarce areas like Kerala.
  4. It must also address questions on what constitutes fair wage and what defines a living wage.
  5. In India, small and unorganized businesses employ more than 90% of the workforce, an estimated 500 million people. This may lead to the threat of harassment from labour officials.
  6. 50% of the workforce is self-employed. Nearly 30% work on a causal basis, approaching the labour market in bursts and spurts. The new code therefore will actually only work for 20% of the total workforce. Even within this, more than half belong to very small enterprises that hire between one and five people. Making these tiny enterprises comply with new laws is, in any case, a tall order.

 

What needs to be done?

A single mandate on minimum wages will not be enough to tackle inequality. There are two other ideas that could possibly be introduced to address some of India’s persistent economic woes:

  1. Phelps idea of wage subsidies: Rather than state governments like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka mandating jobs quota for locals, they could actually provide wage support to companies, thus incentivising investment and local hiring, while keeping wage bills low for firms operating in competitive environments.
  2. The other idea comes from the labour ministry panel that had suggested a  ₹1,430 housing allowance for city-based workers. This would allow for labour mobility and address the housing concern.

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