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Daily Current affairs 22 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

NISHTHA– National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement

 

What to study?

For prelims: Key features of the initiative.

For mains: Need for and significance.

 

Context: Union HRD Minister launches NISHTHA to build capacities of 42 Lakh government teachers across the country.

 

About NISHTHA:

  1. NISHTHA is the world’s largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world.
  2. It has been launched to improve Learning Outcomes at the Elementary level.
  3. The basic objective of this massive training programme is to motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.
  4. The initiative is first of its kind wherein standardized training modules are developed at national level for all States and UTs. However, States and UTs can contextualize the training modules and use their own material and resource persons also, keeping in view the core topics and expected outcomes of NISHTHA.
  5. The prominent features of this integrated programme are activity based modules including educational games and quizzes, Social-emotional learning, motivational interactions, team building, preparation for school based assessment, in-built continuous feedback mechanism, online monitoring and support system, training need and impact analysis (Pre and Post training).

 

Expected outcomes:

  1. Teachers will get awareness and develop their skills on various aspects related to Learning Outcomes, Competency Based Learning and Testing, Learner-centered Pedagogy, School Safety and Security etc.
  2. This integrated programme aims to build the capacities of around 42 lakh participants covering all teachers and Heads of Schools at the elementary level in all Government schools, faculty members of State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERTs), District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) as well as Block Resource Coordinators and Cluster Resource Coordinators in all States and UTs.

 

Need and necessity for such programmes:

  1. Teachers today are also expected to be aware of the provisions regarding Gender, The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
  2. The integrated programme therefore seeks to train all heads and teachers as first level counsellors to be alert and responsive to the needs of the students, in addition to promoting joyful learning and taking special care of the requirements of special children.

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Infrastructure- energy.

 

SARAL – ‘State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index’

 

What to Study? 

For Prelims and Mains: Meaning, significance and potential of roofto solar energy, challenges therein.

 

ContextSARAL – ‘State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index’ was recently launched.

The Index evaluates Indian states based on their attractiveness for rooftop development.

SARAL is the first of its kind index to provide a comprehensive overview of state-level measures adopted to facilitate rooftop solar deployment.

 

About the index:

SARAL has been designed collaboratively by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Ernst & Young (EY).

 

SARAL currently captures five key aspects:

  1. robustness of policy framework 
  2. implementation environment 
  3. investment climate 
  4. consumer experience 
  5. business ecosystem

 

Significance of the index:

  1. It encourages each state to assess the initiatives taken so far, and what it can do to improve its solar rooftop ecosystem.
  2. This will help states to channelize investments that can eventually help the sector grow. 
  3. In addition, such an exercise is likely to create a more conducive environment for solar rooftop installations, encourage investment and lead to accelerated growth of the sector.

 

Key findings:

  • Karnataka has been placed at the first rank.
  • Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have got 2nd, 3rd and 4th rank respectively.

 

What is rooftop solar?

Rooftop solar installations — as opposed to large-scale solar power generation plants — can be installed on the roofs of buildings. As such, they fall under two brackets: commercial and residential. This simply has to do with whether the solar panels are being installed on top of commercial buildings or residential complexes.

 

What are the benefits?

  • Rooftop solar provides companies and residential areas the option of an alternative source of electricity to that provided by the grid.
  • While the main benefit of this is to the environment, since it reduces the dependence on fossil-fuel generated electricity, solar power can also augment the grid supply in places where it is erratic.
  • Rooftop solar also has the great benefit of being able to provide electricity to those areas that are not yet connected to the grid — remote locations and areas where the terrain makes it difficult to set up power stations and lay power lines.

 

What is the potential for rooftop solar in India?

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has pegged the market potential for rooftop solar at 124 GW. However, only 1,247 MW of capacity had been installed as of December 31, 2016. That is a little more than 3% of the target for 2022, and 1% of the potential.

 

Way ahead:

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, of which 100 GW solar power is to be operational by March 2022, of which 40 GW is expected to come from grid connected solar rooftops.

To achieve our rooftop solar targets, it is important to develop an ecosystem that ensures information symmetry, access to financing and clear market signals.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

ICJ Jurisdiction on Bilateral Issues

 

What to study?

For prelims: ICJ related key facts.

For mains: Can ICJ interfere in bilateral issues, Overview of Kashmir issue.

 

Context: Pakistan has said it will approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Kashmir issue, weeks after India revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

 

Background:

Pakistan’s decision comes days after a rare closed-door consultations on Kashmir by the UN Security Council which ended without any outcome or statement from the powerful 15-nation UN organ, dealing a huge snub to Islamabad and its all-weather ally China to internationalize the issue.

 

Possibilities of ICJ’s jurisdiction if Pakistan takes the Kashmir issue to the ICJ?

There are two ways, inter-alia, in ICJ statute under which Pakistan can take Kashmir issue to ICJ: one is Article 36 (1) and second is Article 36 (2).

  1. As far as Article 36 (2) is concerned, it will be very difficult or almost impossible for Pakistan to take India in ICJ on Kashmir as India has made a declaration on 18 September 1974 where it has kept itself being reserved from ICJ jurisdiction on two instances, inter-alia, i.e., first, that preventing the Court from entertaining cases involving two members of the Commonwealth (Article 2 of the declaration) and, second, its multilateral treaty reservation (Article 7 of the Declaration).
  2. If Pakistan goes to ICJ on Kashmir under Article 36 (1) which follows as “The jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases which the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations or in treaties and conventions in force”.

 

The compulsory jurisdiction of the Court under Article 36 (1) has three dimensions. Jurisdiction exists:

  1. In respect of all cases which parties refer to it,
  2. In terms of all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations, or
  3. In terms of all matters specially provided for in treaties and conventions in force.

So Pakistan may well approach ICJ jurisdiction under Article 36 (1) if either there is any treaty and convention in force exist between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue or otherwise dealing with the issue, or under the provision of UN Charter.

 

What the agreements say?

Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan on 2 July 1972 restricts the two countries, pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation (Article 1 (ii)), and more particularly in case of Jammu and Kashmir, neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations (Article 4 (ii)).

Under Lahore declaration on 21 February 1999, in its operative para, the two countries agreed to intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (Article 1), and shall intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda (Article 2).

 

So, what next?

Therefore, if the jurisdiction of the Court is founded on particular “treaties and conventions in force” or under the UN Charter under Article 36, paragraph 1, of its Statute, it becomes irrelevant to the Court to consider the objections to other possible bases of jurisdiction.

If Pakistan goes to ICJ against India’s violation of the principles and purposes of the Charter, as also envisaged and reiterated under Shimla agreement (Article (1)), pursuant to Article 36 (1) of the ICJ Statute, still Court will have no jurisdiction to entertain the Application on the basis of Article 36 (1) of the Statute as UN Charter contains no specific provision of itself conferring compulsory jurisdiction on the Court.

 

What is the procedure for filing a case in the ICJ?

  1. In case of a unilateral application, as per the rules of the court (1978), the applicant state (Pakistan, in this case) will have to specify the legal grounds for ICJ’s jurisdiction. In addition, it will need to state the precise nature of the claim, “together with a succinct statement of the facts and grounds on which the claim is based”.
  2. Proceedings, however, cannot begin until the country, against whom the application has been made, consents to the ICJ’s jurisdiction over the matter. Furthermore, to determine its jurisdiction in the early stages of the proceedings, the ICJ can request the parties concerned to “argue all questions of law and fact” and cite evidence about the issue.
  3. The proceedings can be instituted by way of a special agreement as well, which is bilateral in nature and in which the application can be filed by either party.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 1 and 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

Age of marriage different for men and women

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Laws in this regard, need for change.

 

Context: Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Centre and the Law Commission of India, seeking their response to the public interest litigation that sought a uniform age of marriage for men and women.

 

What the petition says?

It alleges that Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity, are violated by having different legal age for men and women to marry.

 

What the law says?

Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively.

  1. The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
  2. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  3. For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  4. In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
  5. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

 

Why have a minimum age for marriage?

The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.

 

Need for uniformity:

The different legal standards for the age of men and women to marry has been a subject of debate. 

In a consultation paper of reform in family law in 2018, the Law Commission argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.

Women’s rights activists too have argued that the law perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and therefore can be allowed to marry sooner.

The Law Commission paper recommended that the minimum age of marriage for both genders be set at 18. For the difference in age for husband and wife has no basis in law as spouses entering into a marriage are by all means equals and their partnership must also be of that between equals.

Two Supreme Court rulings could be significant to the context of this argument:

  1. In 2014, in National Legal Services Authority of India v Union of India, the Supreme Court while recognising transgenders as the third gender said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws.”
  2. In 2019, in Joseph Shine v Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity.”

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

CITES — Washington Convention

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: CITES- key facts.

 

Context: A resolution calling for Japan and the European Union (EU) to close their legal domestic ivory markets was not adopted at the ongoing 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva on August 21, 2019.

 

Background:

Currently, EU regulations afford too many opportunities for criminals to pass off ivory from poached elephants as antiques and export to other markets around the world.

Legal ivory markets and a lack of action against large illegal markets in certain countries continue to provide opportunities for criminal syndicates to traffic ivory.

 

About Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):

  1. It is an International agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species
  2. It restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs.
  3. It was signed on March 3, 1973 (Hence world wildlife day is celebrated on march 3).
  4. It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  5. Secretariat— Geneva (Switzerland).
  6. CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.

 

Classifications:

It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. They are.

  1. Appendix I: It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
  2. Appendix II species: They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
  3. Appendix III species: They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.

 

Sources: down to earth.


 

Facts for prelims:

 

What is Floccinaucinihilipilification?

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ as “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless”.

Why in News? Used by Monetary Policy Committee member Chetan Ghate now, by Shashi Tharoor earlier.

Used in context: Ghate used the word to characterise the efforts of several economists who have raised doubts about the validity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) estimates.

 

Bavin Award:

Context: Conservationist Vivek Menon wins Clark Bavin Award.

About: The Bavin award is instituted by the Animal Welfare Institute for wildlife law enforcement officers, law enforcement agencies, agency administrators, criminal investigators, forensic scientists, attorneys, informants, and others who have gone beyond the call of duty and demonstrated a commitment and dedication to combating wildlife crime.

 

Kerala Cabinet approves appointment of women drivers for Govt, PSU vehicles:

Kerala government has approved a proposal to frame a new law for the appointment of women as drivers in State Public Sector Undertakings and various departments of the Kerala Government.

This is for the first time when any state government decided to allow women to drive government vehicles.

 

Report on illegal global trade in tigers by TRAFFIC:

The new report has been compiled by TRAFFIC, a NGO working in conservation and currently in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Key findings:

  1. Overall, conservative estimates of 2,359 tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories globally.
  2. On average, 60 seizures were recorded annually, accounting for almost 124 tigers seized each year.
  3. The top three countries with the highest number of seizure incidents were India (463 or 40.5% of total seizures) and China (126 or 11.0%), closely followed by Indonesia (119 or 10.5%).
  4. In terms of various body parts seized, India had the highest share among countries for tiger skins (38%), bones (28%) and claws and teeth (42%).

 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

What ails the existing microcredit model?

Context: Microcredit has gained much traction as a tool for ensuring the welfare of the most impoverished in the society but there are certain flaws in the model.

 

What is microcredit?

Microcredit refers to the granting of very small loans to impoverished borrowers, with the aim of enabling the borrowers to use that capital to become self-employed and strengthen their businesses. Loans given as microcredit are often given to people who may lack collateral, credit history, or a steady source of income.

 

Need for and significance of microcredit:

  1. The core idea of microcredit is that a small loan will provide access to the larger economy to people who typically live outside the scope of the institutions on which the mainstream economy rests.
  2. Such a loan is meant to enable them to commence with productive activities, and will give them the initial boost required to gain entry into an industry, after which production will be able to sustain itself, and the loan will gradually be repaid.
  3. Microfinance activities usually target low-income individuals, with the goal of helping them to become self-sufficient. In this way, microfinance activities have an aim of poverty alleviation as well.

 

Why are microcredit institutions failing to deliver long-term benefits?

  1. Lack of evidence of transformative effects of microfinance on the average borrower.
  2. The primary reason for the lackadaisical effects of microcredit is the stringent repayment schedule offered by most microcredit institutions.
  3. Since most borrowers to whom microcredit is given have little to no credit history as a result of their exclusion from traditional systems of credit, institutions offering microcredit are unable to judge the risk associated with lending to certain borrowers, and cannot be sure what the risk of them defaulting will be.
  4. To lower the risk of defaulting, microcredit lenders therefore resort to repayment schedules that demand an initial repayment that is almost immediate, after which borrowers must adhere to an inflexible weekly schedule for repayments.
  5. The effect of this is that borrowers are unable to use the loans on investments that will take some time to be fully realised, and instead are forced to use the loans they receive on short term investments that only boost production to an extent, and the overall growth of their incomes remains meager.

 

How can the microcredit system be reformed to have greater benefits for borrowers?

  1. Revise repayment schedule with some grace period to begin repayment.
  2. Switch from weekly repayment schedule to a monthly one.
  3. As for the barriers to assessing credit risk, these can be mitigated by using community information.

 

What are the other applications of microcredit?

  1. For entrepreneurs to begin production and attain self-sufficiency.
  2. Small microcredit loans can allow rural labourers to migrate to urban areas to find work during the lean season, when there is no work to be found on farms.
  3. Microcredit can be used in situations where seasonal factors cause drops in income to overcome these “seasonal credit crunches” and avoid taking decisions which cause people long-term negative impacts.
  4. Microcredit can also be used to dampen the effects of shocks like floods by providing people with a form of insurance that both increases production before the shock and provides a safety net after.

 

Way ahead:

Microcredit has a vast range of applications for poverty alleviation and general development, but existing systems require reform in multiple areas to allow for unfettered benefits that last. Furthermore, in areas were the application of microcredit is relatively new, microcredit systems must be carefully evaluated before they are put into place, so as to enable the greatest benefit from such institutions.

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