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Daily Current affairs 7 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

Consumer Protection Bill

 

What to study?

For prelims: Key features of the bill.

For mains: issues present with the Act, need for reforms and significance.

 

Context: Landmark Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 gets Parliamentary approval.

 

Key Provisions of the Bill:

(Note: For details of the bill, please refer https://www.insightsonindia.com/2019/07/31/consumer-protection-bill/. )

 

  1. Definition of consumer:

A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration

What it covers?

It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.

What it doesn’t?

It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose

 

  1. Six consumer rights have been defined in the Bill, including the right to:

(i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property; (ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services; (iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and (iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.

 

  1. Proposes to set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority:

It will be set up by the central government.

 

  1. Functions of CCPA:

CCPA shall promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. 

It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. 

 

  1. Penalties for misleading advertisement:

The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement. In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.

 

  1. Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission:

CDRCs will be set up at the district, state, and national levels. A consumer can directly file a complaint with CDRCs. 

 

  1. Jurisdiction of CDRCs:

The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore

The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore

Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.

 

  1. Product liability:

Product liability means the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.  To claim compensation, a consumer has to prove any one of the conditions for defect or deficiency, as given in the Bill.

 

Why is this Bill significant?

  1. Swift remedies: Presently Consumer only have a single point of access to justice, which is time consuming. Additional swift executive remedies are proposed in the bill through Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).
  2. Deterrent punishmentto check misleading advertisements and adulteration of products.
  3. Product liability provision to deter manufacturers and service providers from delivering defective products or deficient services.
  4. Ease of approaching Consumer Commission and Simplification of Adjudication process.
  5. Scope for early disposal of cases through mediation.

 

What’s missing?

  1. Does not address the fundamental problem of protracted and complicated litigation, the bane of consumer forums constituted under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
  2. Does provide for a regulator, but there is no proper focus on the duties of the regulator.
  3. The definition of ‘consumer rights’ in the Bill is not simple and straight forward, so that consumers at least know what their entitlements are.
  4. By not imposing judicial qualifications like in the Act of 1986 for members of the redressal body, the Bill indirectly allows appointment of non-judicial members to the district/state and national commissions. Conflict of interest could arise when government nominees hear cases involving a government entity.

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban

 

What to study?

For Prelims: PMAY- Urban- key features.

For Mains: Significance of the scheme, challenges ahead and measures needed to achieve the target.

 

Context: Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has instituted PMAY(U) Awards for Beneficiaries for the first time to recognise the contribution of States/UTs, Urban Local Bodies and Beneficiaries.

 

Significance:

This special award for beneficiaries is likely to enthuse the States / UTs to fulfil the dream of house for millions, a reality, and also encourage beneficiaries to build their house aesthetically using sustainable methods.

 

About PMAY- Urban:

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.

 

The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:

  1. Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
  2. Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
  3. Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
  4. Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.

 

Key facts:

  1. The beneficiaries are poor and people living under EWS and LIG categories in the country.
  2. The scheme is divided into three phases. In the first phase, a total of 100 cities will be covered from April 2015 to March 2017. In phase two, 200 cities will be covered from April 2017 to March 2019. In the third phase, the leftover cities will be covered from April 2019 to March 2022.
  3. The government is providing an interest subsidy of 6.5% on housing loans which can be availed by beneficiaries for 15 years from start of loan date.
  4. The government will grant Rs 1 lakh to all the beneficiaries of the scheme. In addition, Rs 1.5 lakh will be given to all eligible urban poor who want to construct their houses in urban areas or plan to go for renovation in their existing houses. One can also avail loans under this scheme to build toilets in existing houses.

 

Challenges ahead:

  1. According to the findings by ratings agency Crisil, the central government has to mobilise Rs 1 lakh crore in the next three years for achieving its target of building 1 crore houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U).
  2. This is going to be a tall task given the current fiscal arithmetic. The scheme also faces headwinds such as unavailability of land in prime areas, low participation of private developers on account of brand dilution, bidding mechanism, stringent cost and time schedules resulting in low yields, increasing construction costs due to absence of bulk sourcing of materials, and lack of new technology that impacts productivity, cost efficiency and quality.

 

Significance of the scheme:

PMAY-U does offer a huge opportunity for several sectors by setting off a virtuous cycle.

One crore houses would mean an opportunity for over Rs 2 lakh crore of home loans, and incremental consumption of 80-100 million tonne of cement and 10-15 million tonne of steel.

The construction opportunity is of about four billion square feet over the life of PMAY-U and all that would translate into 9-10 crore incremental jobs over the execution period.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

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

Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

 

Article 371 of the Constitution

 

What to study?

For prelims: Article 371- overview.

For mains: need for and significance of temporary provisions, rationale behind and issues related.

 

Context: Northeastern states of India have expressed apprehension that having rendered Article 370 irrelevant, the government might unilaterally move to abrogate or modify Article 371.

However, the government has clarified that it had no intention of removing Article 371 of the Constitution.

 

What is Article 371 all about?

Articles 369 through 392 appear in Part XXI of the Constitution, titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’.

Article 371 of the Constitution includes “special provisions” for 11 states, including six states of the Northeast.

Articles 370 and 371 were part of the Constitution at the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950; Articles 371A through 371J were incorporated subsequently.

 

Overview:

  1. Article 371, Maharashtra and Gujarat: 

Governor has “special responsibility” to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat; ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government.

 

  1. Article 371A (13th Amendment Act, 1962), Nagaland:

Inserted after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963.

Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion or social practices, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land without concurrence of the state Assembly.

 

  1. Article 371B (22nd Amendment Act, 1969), Assam:

The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Assembly consisting of members elected from the state’s tribal areas.

 

  1. Article 371C (27th Amendment Act, 1971), Manipur:

The President may provide for the constitution of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning.

 

  1. Article 371D (32nd Amendment Act, 1973; substituted by The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014), Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:

President must ensure “equitable opportunities and facilities” in “public employment and education to people from different parts of the state”. He may require the state government to organise “any class or classes of posts in a civil service of, or any class or classes of civil posts under, the State into different local cadres for different parts of the State”. He has similar powers vis-à-vis admissions in educational institutions.

 

  1. Article 371E:

Allows for the establishment of a university in Andhra Pradesh by a law of Parliament. But this is not a “special provision” in the sense of the others in this part.

 

  1. Article 371F (36th Amendment Act, 1975), Sikkim:

The members of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in the House of the People. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections.

 

  1. Article 371G (53rd Amendment Act, 1986), Mizoram:

Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Assembly… so decides”.

 

  1. Article 371H (55th Amendment Act, 1986), Arunachal Pradesh: 

The Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”.

 

  1. Article 371J (98th Amendment Act, 2012), Karnataka:

There is a provision for a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education. A proportion of seats in educational institutions and state government jobs in Hyderabad-Karnataka can be reserved for individuals from that region.

 

  1. Article 371I deals with Goa, but it does not include any provision that can be deemed ‘special’.

 

Significance:

All these provisions take into account the special circumstances of individual states, and lay down a wide range of specific safeguards that are deemed important for these states.

In these range of Articles from 371 to 371J, Article 371I, which deals with Goa, stands out in the sense that it does not include any provision that can be deemed “special”. Article 371E, which deals with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, too, is not that “special”.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

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

 

Currency Manipulation

 

What to study?

For prelims: What is currency manipulation, how is a country designated as a currency manipulator?

For mains: On going trade war between China and the US, concerns and impact on other countries.

 

Context: US officially labels China a ‘currency manipulator‘.

The announcement by the US Treasury follows a sharp fall in the value of the Chinese yuan against the dollar.

 

Why is the US worried?

A weaker yuan makes Chinese exports more competitive, or cheaper to buy with foreign currencies.

 

Background:

China has a long history of facilitating an undervalued currency through protracted, large-scale intervention in the foreign exchange market.

In recent days, China has taken concrete steps to devalue its currency, while maintaining substantial foreign exchange reserves despite active use of such tools in the past.

 

What is currency manipulation and who determines it?

The US Department of the Treasury publishes a semi-annual report in which the developments in global economic and exchange rate policies are reviewed.

If a US trade partner meets three assessment criteria, the US labels it a currency manipulator.

The US Treasury department defines currency manipulation as when countries deliberately influence the exchange rate between their currency and the US dollar to gain “unfair competitive advantage in international trade”.

 

How are countries identified for the currency manipulation list?

  1. The US Treasury has established thresholds for the three criteria. First, a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US is one that is at least $20 billion.
  2. Second, a material current account surplus is one that is at least 3% of GDP.
  3. Third, persistent, one-sided intervention reflected in repeated net purchases of foreign currency and total at least 2% of an economy’s GDP over a year.

 

Rationale behind:

The Treasury’s goal is to focus attention on those nations whose bilateral trade is most significant to the US economy and whose policies are the most material for the global economy.

 

What next?

When the US Treasury labels a country a currency manipulator – as it has done here with China – the next step would normally be for negotiations to begin between the two countries. In this case, trade negotiations have already been going on for more than a year.

The process also opens the path for America to introduce tariffs. Again, that’s already happening as part of Mr Trump’s ‘America First‘ approach to trade.

 

Under the 1988 Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act, the U.S. will have to negotiate with China or take its case to the International Monetary Fund. Potential penalties by the U.S. include:

  1. Banning the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — an American government agency that invests in developing countries — from financing China.
  2. Excluding China from U.S. government procurement contracts.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

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

 

UNSC Resolution 47 on Kashmir

 

What to study?

For prelims: Overview of UNSC resolution.

For mains: Is the involvement of third party needed to solve the Jammu crisis, issues involved and sovereignty related concerns.

 

Context: Pakistan PM Imran Khan has termed the Government of India’s decision to remove the special status for the state of Jammu and Kashmir by modifying Article 370 as illegal since it violates UNSC resolution 47.

 

What is Resolution 47?

Resolution 47 of the UNSC focuses on the complaint of the Government of India concerning the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir, that India took to the Security Council in January 1948.

In October 1947, following an invasion by soldiers from the Pakistan Army in plainclothes and tribesmen, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh sought assistance from India and signed the Instrument of Accession. After the first war in Kashmir (1947-1948), India approached the UN Security Council to bring the conflict in Kashmir to the notice of Security Council members.

 

Who were the UNSC members who oversaw the issue?

The UN Security Council increased the size of the investigating council to include six members along with permanent members of the UNSC. Along with the five permanent members, China, France, UK, US & Russia, non-permanent members included Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Syria and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

 

What happened at the UNSC?

  1. India’s position was that it was ready to hold a plebiscite, a direct vote in which an entire electorate votes on a specific proposal, to know of the people’s desire and accept the results of the vote.
  2. Pakistan denied its involvement in the conflict and counter-accused India.
  3. In response the UNSC, under Resolution 39 (1948) stated “with a view to facilitating…the restoration of peace and order and to the holding of a plebiscite, by the two Governments, acting in co-operation with one another and with the Commission, and further instructs the Commission to keep the Council informed of the action taken under the resolution.”
  4. It also ordered for the conflict to cease and to create conditions for a “free and impartial plebiscite” to decide whether Jammu and Kashmir would accede to India or Pakistan.

 

What did the UNSC order Pakistan to do?

The UNSC ordered that Pakistan was to withdraw its tribesmen and Pakistan nationals who had entered “the State for the purpose of fighting” and to prevent future intrusions and to prevent “furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State”.

It was also ordered Pakistan to cooperate with maintaining peace and order.

 

What did the UNSC order India to do?

The UNSC had a more comprehensive set of orders for India.

  1. It said that after the Pakistani army and tribesmen had withdrawn from the State and the fighting had ceased, India was to submit a plan to the Commission for withdrawing forces from Jammu and Kashmir and to reduce them over a period of time to the minimum strength required for civil maintenance of law and order.
  2. India was ordered to appraise the Commission of the stages at which steps had been taken to reduce military presence to the minimum strength and to arrange remaining troops after consultations with the Commission.
  3. Among other instructions, India was ordered to agree that till the time the Plebiscite Administration found it necessary to exercise the powers of direction and supervision over the State forces and police, these forces would be held in areas to be agreed upon with the Plebiscite Administrator.
  4. It also directed India to recruit local personnel for law and order and to safeguard the rights of minorities.

 

How did India & Pakistan react to the UNSC Resolution 47?

Both countries rejected Resolution 47.

Why India rejected?

India’s contention was that the resolution ignored the military invasion by Pakistan and placing both nations on an equal diplomatic ground was a dismissal of Pakistan’s aggression and the fact that the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession.

India also objected to the Resolution’s requirement that did not allow India to retain military presence which it believed it needed for defence.

The Resolution’s order to form a coalition government, would also put Sheikh Abdullah, the Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, in a difficult position.

India also believed that the powers conferred on the Plebiscite Administrator undermined the state’s sovereignty. India also wanted Pakistan to be excluded from the operations of the plebiscite.

 

Why Pakistan rejected?

Pakistan on the other hand, objected to even the minimum presence of Indian forces in Kashmir, as allowed by the resolution. It also wanted an equal representation in the state government for the Muslim Conference, which was the dominant party in Pakistani-held Kashmir.

 

Final outcome:

Despite their differences with the provisions of Resolution 47, both India and Pakistan welcomed the UN Commission and agreed to work with it.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


 

Facts for prelims:

 

Mt. Elbrus:

Why in News? Indian Mountaineering Expedition team to climb Mt. Elbrus.

Key facts:

Mt. Elbrus is the highest peak in European Continent.

It is a dormant volcano in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, near the border with Georgia.

About the National Handloom Day:

National Handloom Day was observed on August 7 across the country to honour the handloom weavers.

Why August 7? to mark the 1905 Swadeshi movement. It was on August 7, 1905 that the formal proclamation of the Swadeshi Movement was made in a meeting at the Calcutta Town hall. The movement involved boycotting British products and the revival of domestic products and production processes.


Summaries of important Editorials:

 

The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts:

Context: Fast-track courts are in the limelight yet again. The government has proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts to clear the cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court in a suo motu petition had also issued directions, stating that districts with more than 100 cases pending under the POCSO Act need to set up special courts that can deal specifically with these cases.

 

FTCs in India:

Fast-track courts (FTCs) have been around for a long time, with the first ones being established in the year 2000.

At the end of March, there were 581 FTCs operational in the country, with approximately 5.9 lakh pending cases, Uttar Pradesh having the most number of cases. However, 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs.

 

Is it sufficient?

Increasing the number of courts as a recourse to deal with the mounting backlog has been a common practice. However, without fully optimising the current mechanisms and resolving the problems, sanctioning more judges and more courts may not provide the intended results.

 

Existing issues:

  1. There is decline of FTCs across the country.
  2. There are systemic issues prevalent in the States that have the courts. There is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States, with certain States primarily allocating rape and sexual offence cases to them and other States allocating various other matters.
  3. Several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.
  4. Inadequate staff and IT infrastructure.
  5. Delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories.
  6. Frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the cause list.

 

What needs to be done now?

  1. Identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is as important for timely disposal of cases as increasing the number of judges.
  2. Given the vacancies in subordinate courts across the country, it also needs to be seen whether States will hire additional judges or appoint FTCs from the current pool of judges.
  3. Equal attention must be paid to both the metropolitan and far-flung non-metropolitan areas.
  4. Critical issues such as inadequate court staff, improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs, which affect the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs, must be comprehensively addressed.
  5. The final responsibility of making sure that the entire exercise results in a positive change vests with the States. For the FTCs to become successful, States will need to take stock of the issues at the ground level.

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