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Daily Current affairs 28 DECEMBER 2018

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Karmapa kept India in the dark

 

The news:

  • One of the two claimants of the Karmapa Lama’ title among the Tibetan Buddhists, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, has obtained citizenship in Dominica without informing India despite being India's guest for many years since his exile from Tibet.

 

Background

Tibetan Buddhism:

  • Over the centuries, the Buddhism of Tibet developed into four main streams or lineages known as the "Four Major Schools of Tibetan Buddhism."
  • The four major traditions emerged as a result of the earlier and later dissemination of the Buddhist teachings in Tibet, and based on different scriptures, techniques of meditation etc.:
    • Nyingma
    • Kagyü
    • Sakya
    • Gelug
  • The colours of hats lamas wear are different among the schools.

Dalai Lama of Gelugpa School:

  • Gelugpa is the youngest school of Tibetan Buddhism, but is today the largest and the most important.
  • Its tradition is headed by the Dalai Lama. Practices are centered on achieving concentration through meditation and arousing the bodhisattva within.
  • The Gelugpa school has held political leadership of Tibet since the Dalai Lamas were made heads of state by the Mongol leader Güüshi Khan in 1642.

 

Karmapa lama of Kagyu School:

  • The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu school (the largest sub-school of the Kagyu).
  • Throughout the centuries, Karmapas have been the central figure in the continuation of the vajrayana lineage in general and the Kagyu lineage in particular.

Different claimants for Karmapa:

  • Ogyen Trinley Dorje claims to be the 17th in the line of Karmapa incarnations.
  • He escaped from Tibet in 2000 as a 14-year old.
  • His rival Trinley Taye Dorje had allegedly escaped to India from Tibet some years before, but was never officially recognised in Dharamshala as the Karmapa.

Attempts at Truce:

  • Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Taye Dorje met in France in October this year and vowed in a public statement to heal the divisions within the Karma Kagyu sect and to “bring the lineage together.”

 India's position on Karmapa:

  • The Dalai Lama as well as the Chinese government had, in 1992, recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the rightful heir to the position, but India has not accepted that.
  • On the question of the 17th Karmapa Lama, Indian government sources have told that New Delhi does not recognise Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the 'sole' Karmapa.
  • India claims a “neutral position” on which the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage is, given the rival claimant Trinley Taye Dorje.

 

Ogyen Trinley Dorje taking up Dominican Citizenship:

  • It was recently learnt that India was not informed by Ogyen Trinley Dorje before he took the passport of another country (the Commonwealth of Dominica).
  • He left India in May 2017 on a three-month visa to Europe. While continuing his stay abroad, he obtained citizenship in Dominica through investment in Jungle Bay. 
  • India is upset about the fact that he did not bother to inform authorities about his newly obtained passport even though he has been a guest in India for decades.

 

Confusion over Karmapa's return to India:

  • Some differences over the Karmapa issue have arisen in the government between the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) in recent years over who should have the final word on the modalities of the Karmapa’s return.
  • He had travelled out of India last year and has not returned despite saying on several occasions that he would do so.
  • There is also fresh confusion over the documents required by the Karmapa to travel to India for a conference of religious leaders in November.
  • Indian officials are saying that he cannot return on the Residential Certificate (RC) issued by India to Tibetan refugees, but by applying for visa at the Indian consulate or mission since he has acquired citizenship of another country.
  • On the other hand, Tibetan officials had claimed the Karmapa was being asked to return to India on the original Identity Certificate (IC) issued to him and surrender it.

Confusion over his allegiance:

  • Intelligence agencies are also believed to be divided over whether Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s allegiances remain with China (where he still has many supporters) or with the United States (where he has set up residence on a large estate for nearly two years now).
  • Differences persist in the government about whether Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s Tsurphu Labrang office should be given a permanent place for a monastery as well as clearance to receive foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

 

Section : International Relation

 

River Dolphins go missing in Sunderbans as water salinity rises

The News

  • A recent study on occurrence of Gangetic River Dolphin in Indian Sundarban show that the species occur in areas of low salinity in the Western sections of the island.

 

Background

Status of Gangetic River Dolphin in India:

  • Gangetic River Dolphin is a fresh-water species classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List.
  • Ganges River Dolphin inhabits the river systems of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.
  • However the freshwater mammal number is declining over the years with only about 1,800 left in the Indian part of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, down from about 4,500 in 1982.
  • Thus it is given the highest level of protection possible under the 1972 Indian Wildlife Protection Act.
  • Further Gangetic Dolphin was declared national aquatic animal in 2009. 
  • Further in 2010, National Dolphin Action Plan was approved to save the highly endangered freshwater mammal.
  • In 2017, in its 1st report under Namami Gange, Wildlife Institute of India warned that Gangetic Dolphin is declining and may soon become extinct.

 

Key Findings

  • According to the study among all the hydrological parameters, surface water salinity was found to be a key factor influencing the distribution of Gangetic River Dolphin.
  • The recorded salinity range from three zones in the Indian Sundarbans reflects a comparatively hypersaline central part, eastern section is comparatively less saline upstream and ‘hypo-saline’ western section.
  • Accordingly the western parts of Sunderbans including lower streams of Hooghly and Muriganga, with ‘hypo-saline environment’, showed major congregations of Gangetic River Dolphins.
  • However the eastern and central segment with ‘hyper-saline’ environment showed low or no sighting of the species.
  • There has been no sighting record in the waterways wherever the salinity level crosses 10 ppt.
  • The encounter rate of dolphins was consistent in all seasons mostly in hyposaline waters (<1 ppt) and in moderate salinity (1-10ppt).
  • Hypo-saline and moderately saline waters occur close to the estuarine mouth of Ganges. 

 

 

Reasons for Decline

  • The decline of Gangetic River Dolphin  in the Indian Sundarbans may be attributed to the combined effect of
    • Increased sedimentation
    • Reduced freshwater
    • Increased salinity
  • Construction of Farakka Barrage resulted in significant increase in salinity in eastern section.
  • Rivers in central section of Indian Sundarban are also tidally fed resulting in high salinity in central region.  
  • Salinity also varies on account of seasonal changes, fresh water flow and tidal influence.
  • The rise in sea level due to climate change is one of the reasons for the increase in salinity of waters of rivers and channels.
  • Further the use of nylon nets by fishermen threatens these species.
  • Freshwater dolphins are blind and thus communicate through echolocation (tiny sound waves).
  • The nylon in the nets absorbs sound waves instead of reflecting them.
  • As a result of getting entangled in the nets, dolphins drown which relts in their decline.
  • Dolphins are mammals and must come out of the water every five to seven minutes to breathe.
  • Pollution is another cause where breeding of dolphins is affected.

 

Amid protests, triple talaq Bill passed

The News

  • The Lok Sabha has passed the Muslim women (protection of rights on marriage) bill, 2018.

 

Background

  • The Supreme Court(SC) in August 2017 held the Islamic practice of instant triple talaq unconstitutional and struck it down.
  • A bill was also passed by Lok Sabha in this regard but it got stuck in Rajya Sabha.
  • To give effect to this verdict, the central government passed an ordinance in September 2018.
  • The data shows that as many as 477 cases of triple talaq had been reported since January 2017 with over 200 coming after the Supreme Court verdict declaring ‘talaq-e-biddat’ as void. 
  • Due to this and also because after passing an ordinance it has to be converted into a law within 6 months, the central government came with a revised bill on criminalizing instant Triple Talaq.

 

Highlights of the news

  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 17, 2018.
  • It replaces an Ordinance promulgated on September 19, 2018. 
  • The Muslim women (protection of rights on marriage) bill, 2018to make triple talaq or instant divorce among Muslims a punishable offence is now passed by Lok Sabha on 27th December with a large margin of 245-11 votes.
  • The fresh bill is proposed to supersede an earlier bill passed in the LokSabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The bill relaxed some of the stringent provisions of the legislation cleared by the House a year ago which was thereafter stuck in Rajya Sabha amid opposition.
  • The reworked bill makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence, even as the united opposition pitched for referring the bill to a ‘joint select committee’ of the Parliament, claiming its provisions were unconstitutional.
  • It faces almost certain defeat in Rajya Sabha with major non-NDA parties raising objections.
  • In the entire debate on the bill, retention of the penal clause in the amended Bill, remained a sore point, with the opposition demanding that even this version be sent to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny.

 

Features of the bill

  • The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
  • Definition
    • It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  
    • Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.
  • Offence and penalty
    • The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)  
    • The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by-
      • The married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or
      • Any person related to her by blood or marriage. 
    • Bail
      • The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused.
      • The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
    • Compounding the offence
      • The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared).
      • Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute. 
      • The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.  
    • Allowance
      • A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.  
      • The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
    • Custody
      • A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.
      • The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

 

 

 

Changes suggested in the previous bill and incorporated in the new bill

  • The new bill has incorporated several suggestions made by the Opposition during the debate last year on the Bill, it includes-
    • Removal of the clause that neighbours of the victim could file a case.
    • Conditions for bail and mediation have also been added to the Bill.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

New rules for e-commerce

 

The News

  • The government recently announced new e-commerce rules restricting players from selling the products of companies in which they have a stake.
  • The rules also cap the percentage of inventory that a vendor can sell through a marketplace entity (IT platform of an e-commerce entity) or its group companies.

 

Background

  • Indian retailers and traders complained that the giant e-commerce companies are using their control over inventory from their affiliates, and through exclusive sales agreements.
  • It is creating an unfair marketplace that allows them to sell some products at very low prices.
  • The All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) in October filed a petition with the anti-trust body Competition Commission of India (CCI) alleging that Amazon favours merchants that it partly owns, such as Cloudtail and Appario.
  • The lobby group filed a similar petition against Flipkart in May, alleging violation of competition rules through preferential treatment for select sellers.
  • The new regulations come in the backdrop of such complaints for unfair trade practices.

 

Inventory and Marketplace models of e-commerce

  • The inventory-based model of e-commerce: It is when the inventory of goods and services is owned by the e-commerce entity and sold to consumers directly. FDI is not permitted in the inventory-based model of e-commerce.
  • The marketplace model: It is when an e-commerce company simply provides an information technology platform in order to act as a facilitator between the buyer and the seller. Amazon and Flipkart are players in this segment (but have been alleged to be breaching into the inventory model).

 

New rules:

  • The government recently announced new e-commerce rules. The Ministry of Commerce issued a clarification regarding the Consolidated FDI Policy Circular 2017.
  • On sales:
    • E-commerce firms cannot hold stake in, or control vendor selling through its platform. Such an ownership or control over the inventory will render the business into inventory-based model (and comes with restrictions).
    • Inventory of a vendor will be deemed to be controlled by e-commerce marketplace entity if more than 25% of purchases of such vendor are from the marketplace entity or its group companies.
  • On discounts:
    • To curb the practice of deep discounts, the government said e-commerce players cannot directly or indirectly influence the price of goods and services.
    • The cash back that customers get as an incentive while online shopping should not be based on whether the product was purchased from an affiliate of the platform or not.
  • On Exclusivity: The new set of rules also bar an e-commerce marketplace from forcing any seller to sell any product exclusively on its platform.

 

How are various stakeholders likely to be impacted?

Impact on big marketplace retailers:

  • Cloudtail India Pvt Ltd is the biggest retailer operating on Amazon (Appario Retail is another big player), while WS Retail was the biggest seller on Flipkart.
  • Cloudtail’s and Appario's ownership shows a clear link with Amazon.
  • Under the new rules, Cloudtail and Appario, in which Amazon holds equity stake, may not be able to sell products on Amazon’s e-commerce platform (or Amazon will have to dilute its stake in these sellers).
  • Similar will be the case for WS Retail on Flipkart.
  • Thus, the changes will have a significant impact on the business model of e-commerce majors, as most of them source goods from sellers who are related party entities.
  • e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart, who have their private labels, will also not be able to sell them on their platforms if they hold equity in the company manufacturing them.

Impact on independent sellers on e-commerce sites:

  • Marketplaces are meant for genuine, independent sellers, many of whom are MSMEs (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises).
  • These changes will enable a level playing field for all sellers, helping them leverage the reach of e-commerce.
  • Fair marketplace to sellers: The government has said that e-commerce entities will have to maintain a level playing field, and ensure that they do not directly or indirectly influence the sale price of goods and services.
  • The policy mandates that no seller can sell its products exclusively on any marketplace platform, and that all vendors on the e-commerce platform should be provided services in a “fair and non-discriminatory manner”.
  • Services include fulfilment, logistics, warehousing, advertisement, payments, and financing among others.

Impact on consumers:

  • Consumers may no longer enjoy the deep discounts offered by retailers that have a close association with marketplace entities.

Impact on retailers:

  • The absence of large retailers will, however, bring relief to small retailers selling on these platforms.
  • Traders running traditional brick-and-mortar stores, who now find it difficult to compete with the large e-commerce retailers with deep pockets, could gain.