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Daily Current affairs 8 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Gas hydrates produced under ‘space’ conditions

The News

  • In a significant step towards sequestration of carbon dioxide during extraction of methane, researchers at IIT Madras have demonstrated the formation of gas hydrates of methane and carbon dioxide at low temperatures and low pressures.

Background

What are Gas hydrates?

  • A hydrate is any chemical or mineral that contains water, bound within its chemical structure.
  • Gas hydrates are formed when low molecular weight gases like methane are bound within a solid crystal lattice formed by water molecules.
  • Naturally methane hydrates are found as sedimentary mineral in the continental shelf areas, permafrost regions, and marine sediments.
  • Thus methane hydrate sediments are found at conditions of low temperature and high pressure.

Energy potential of Gas hydrates

  • Methane deposits represent a very high energy potential if they were to be extracted and utilized.
  • The methane in methane hydrates is concentrated to about 160 times their gas volume at standard temperature and pressure values.
  • Further methane is the best alternative energy source to crude oil as it has 80% of the calorific value of crude oil.
  • Thus they represent an untapped resource that would help meet our expanding energy needs.

Problem in Extraction

  • While methane hydrates have high energy potential the challenge is to extract them from sea beds at such high pressure conditions.
  • Further methane extraction and use releases carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide as by-products.

Details of the research

  • Researchers have observed the formation of gas hydrates like methane hydrate and CO2 hydrates at low pressure conditions.
  • The methane and CO2 hydrates were produced at very low pressures (ten thousand billionth of atmospheric pressure) and temperature (as low as -263 degree C).
  • As a result gas hydrates can be produced in naturally occurring ice in the environment.

Significance

  • The process can help in carbon sequestration in carbon dioxide hydrates.
  • Further it also helps to sequester gaseous CO2 as solid hydrate under the sea bed.
  • It also makes it easier to extract methane from methane hydrates present in Krishna-Godavari Basin and sequester the resultant CO2 simultaneously.
  • Thus while it is a good step in the direction of energy security, it also helps in reducing the carbon footprint of the extraction process of methane from methane hydrates.

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Section : Economics

 

Leprosy is no longer a ground for divorce

The News

  • In a significant move to end discrimination of leprosy patients, the Lok Sabha has passed Personal Laws Amendment Bill, 2018 that aims to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce from various Acts governing marriages in India.

Highlights of the bill

  • The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 aims to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce under various personal laws governing marriages in India.
  • The Bill so passed seeks to amend 5 personal laws including
  • Divorce Act, 1869
  • Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954
  • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  • Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956
  • The law is introduced at a time when owing to advancements in medical science, leprosy is completely curable through multi-drug therapy including combination of three antibiotics namely clofazimine, dapsone and rifampicin.

Background

Leprosy in India

  • According to WHO, India accounted for over 60% of the annual new cases of leprosy in the world in 2016.
  • However the world has seen a reduction in leprosy cases from around 5 Million in 1980s to around 2 lakh in 2016.
  • WHO further revealed in its report that India had around 800 self-settled leprosy colonies.
  • According to National leprosy Elimination Programme a total 1.27 lakh new cases were detected in 2015-16.
  • The National Leprosy Eradication Programme, a centrally sponsored health scheme is also supported by WHO, ILEP, and few other NGOs.
  • As a result of NLEP, the prevalence rate of leprosy has come down from 57.8/10,000 in 1983 to 0.66/10,000 in 2016.
  • India had declared the national elimination target of leprosy by 2005.
  • However this is far from achieved.
  • Out of the total 2,14,783 cases of leprosy reported around the world, India had 1,35,485 cases in 2016.
  • In the last 4 years four states/UTs including Orissa, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Lakshadweep have shown a prevalence of more than 1 per 10,000 population suffering from leprosy.

Discrimination against People affected with Leprosy

  • Leprosy is recognised as a disability under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.
  • Although being completely curable, persons affected by leprosy continue to face discrimination.
  • Further Rights of Person with Disabilities Act 2016, mandates non-discrimination and equality for all irrespective of disability.
  • However according to National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, there are currently 119 provisions across various Central and State legislations that continue to discriminate against people affected by leprosy.
  • The provisions in these legislations not only violate the Rights of Person with Disabilities Act 2016 but also Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

 

Steps taken to end discrimination

  • The first attempt towards eliminating the discrimination in Indian laws was made in 2008, when NHRC recommended amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.
  • Further India is a signatory to United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’.
  • The Law Commission of India in its 256th Report also has recommended the elimination of discrimination against people affected by the disease.
  • A number of petitions are also filed in the Supreme Court to declare the discriminatory provisions under various laws as unconstitutional.
  • In a step in the direction to end discrimination the lok sabha has passed a bill to amend personal laws to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce.

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Section : Social Issues

 

Centre okays Citizenship Bill

The News

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill, and it is likely to be tabled in the Parliament today.

Background

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The Bill paves way to grant citizenship to six religious minorities, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014.
  • There was a strong resistance to the Bill in Assam as it would pave the way for giving citizenship, mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in Assam, who came after March 1971, in violation of the agreement of the Assam Accord, 1985.
  • Later a 16-member JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) was formed in August 2016 under the headship of MP Satyapal Singh to hear representations of various stakeholders.
  • Recently, the report was submitted by the the JPC, which recommended that Assam government should help settle migrants “especially in places which are not densely populated, thus, causing lesser impact on the demographic changes and providing succour to the indigenous Assamese people".
  • The committee also rejected the amendment to exclude Bangladesh from the list of benefactor countries.

About the Citizenship Act, 1955

  • The Citizenship Act (1955), defines the concept of Indian citizenship and lists out ways to acquire the same, explicitly denying citizenship to all undocumented migrants.
  • According to the law, the Indian citizenship can be acquired on various grounds including:
    • Being born in the country; or
    • Being born to Indian parents; or
    • Having resided in the country over a period of time.
  • The act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship.

What is the Assam Accord, 1985?

  • Assam witnessed a range of law and order problems and political turbulence driven by the anti-foreigners movement, in the early 1980s.
  • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed, signed by the Centre and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
  • Accordingly, those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote while the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.

About the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016

  • It makes illegal migrants who belongs to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians (Non- Muslims) communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  • The bill, also, widens the ground for the cancellation of an OCI registration by the Central Government. For example on violating any law (major as well as minor) in force in the country.
  • The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.

Key Issues and Concerns

  • The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.
  • The direct exclusion of Muslims from being eligible for this pathway under any circumstances makes the constitutional form and citizenship communal.
  • The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences (eg. parking in a no parking zone).
  • It is also argued that the Bill, if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC).
  • The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has also expressed its concern regarding some agencies who are inimical to India . Those agencies should not have a legal framework within which they can infiltrate their own people into our own country, which is a matter of great concern.

 

About Joint Parliamentary Committee

  • A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is an ad-hoc body.
  • It is set up for a specific object and duration.
  • Joint committees are set up by a motion passed in one house of Parliament and agreed to by the other.
  • The details regarding membership and subjects are also decided by Parliament.
  • Most committees of Parliament include MPs from both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

Centre decides to give 10 % quota for poor from general category

The News

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has cleared a 10 per cent job and education quota for “economically weaker” sections, meeting a key demand of upper castes.

Key Highlights:

  • The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent
  • The constitutional amendment bill would be required as the constitution does not provide for reservation on the ground of economic conditions. It envisages amendment to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.
  • The constitutional amendment bill seeks to insert a clause in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, introducing reservation for economically weaker sections in educational institutions and government jobs.
  • A constitutional amendment bill will be tabled in Parliament on 8th January 2019, the last day of the Winter Session. This will pave the way for the additional quota.

Note: For constitutional amendment, at least two-thirds of the members in both the Houses need to support the bill for its passage.

Who can get benefit of this reservation?

  • The reservation will be given to those economically weaker people who presently do not avail any benefits of reservation.
  • The bill is likely to introduces criteria like an annual income below Rs 8 lakh and not owning more than five acres of agricultural land for those seeking quota benefits
  • Among the major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, several trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other Upper Castes.
  • The poor among the other religions will also benefit from it.

Quotas according to the Constitution:

  • The Constitution envisages quota for socially and educationally backward classes besides Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and has no mention of economically weaker people.

Quotas according to Supreme Court:

  • The Supreme Court in its Indra Sawhney judgement had set a 50 per cent cap on quotas.
  • The court then said that reservations beyond 50% will hit Article 14 (right to equality). Half of jobs and seats in educational institutions must, therefore, be for the general merit category.
  • In the Indira Sawhney case, the court said that such quotas cannot be provided for poverty alone. It has to be poverty plus social and educational backwardness and the backwardness should reflect historic injustice through generations.

Earlier attempts of different State governments to cross the 50% cap

  • Influential castes like Marathas, Kapus and Jats have hit the streets in the last few years, seeking reservation benefits.
  • Though governments in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra have made laws, they are often struck down by the court on the ground of a Supreme Court judgement in the Indra Sawhney case had fixed a ceiling of 50 per cent on reservation.
  • A host of such petitions are still pending in the top court, some from Odisha and Tamil Nadu, where the states have cited local factors to exceed the limit.
  • Earlier, states used to insert such laws in the Ninth Schedule, placing them beyond judicial review. The top court blocked that route in the Coelho case, insisting that no law placed in the Ninth Schedule can violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Many states also tried to introduce quotas for the economically weak among unreserved categories in addition to reservations for socially and educationally backward because of populist reasons ahead of polls, insisting that these are different.
  • Some insisted that quotas for the SEBCs were an example of vertical reservations and were different from horizontal quotas such as those provided for the physically challenged, etc.
  • However, the Supreme court has asserted that the Constitution makes no case for quota on economic ground and only talks of educational and social backwardness besides those for the SCs and STs.

Procedure for the Constitutional Amendment

  • A constitution amendment bill can be introduced in any house of the parliament.
  • A constitution amendment bill can be introduced both as a government bill or a private member bill. However, if it’s a Private Member, then it has to be examined in the first instance and recommended for introduction by the Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions before it is included for introduction in the List of Business.
  • Prior recommendation of President is not needed in introducing the constitution amendment bills.
  • Constitution Amendment Bills are not treated as Money Bills or Financial Bills even if they have some provisions related to them.
  • A constitution amendment bill must pass in both the houses separately by absolute + special majority (absolute → more than 50% of strength; special → 2/3 of present and voting).
  • If there is a disagreement between the two houses on a constitution amendment bill, there is no provision of joint sitting to resolve the deadlock.
  • The bills which result in some changes in the constitution but passed by simple majority are not deemed to be Constitution Amendments.
  • If a bill seeks to amend the federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority.
  • Once the bill is passed in both houses, the bill is sent to president for approval.
  • The 24th Amendment Act of 1971 had made it obligatory for the President to give his assent to a constitutional Amendment Bill. Thus, for a Constitution amendment bill, a President can neither withhold his assent not return the bill for reconsideration.

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Section : Polity & Governance

After Supreme Court verdict, how amendments seek to change the law on Aadhaar

The news

  • Lok Sabha passed The Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

 

Background

  • In 2009, the Centre constituted the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for the purpose of issuing unique identification numbers.
  • In 2012, Justice K.S. Puttaswamy filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India, contending that Aadhaar violates fundamental rights of equality and privacy granted to every individual under the Constitution.
  • In Sep 2013, in an interim order, the Supreme Court stated that no person should suffer for not having an Aadhaar card, even if it has been made mandatory by certain authorities to avail benefits.
  • In March, 2016: The Aadhaar Bill, 2016 was passed as a money bill and it became The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016.
  • In January 2017, The Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Rural Development made the Aadhaar card mandatory for members and pensioners of the Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme.
  • In March 2017, the Centre proposed to make the Aadhaar card mandatory to file Income Tax Return (ITR) and for permanent account number (PAN) from July 1.
  • In September 2018, the Supreme Court in its verdict upheld Aadhaar but limited its use for only certain subsidies and schemes.

 

Supreme Court judgement on Aadhar Act 2016

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld by a 4-1 majority the validity of the Aadhaar Act.
  • The judgment however, read down a few aspects of the Act, and struck down several significant and controversial provisions, as follows:
  • Section 33(1), Aadhaar Act
    • Prohibits disclosure of information, including identity and authentication information, except when it is by an order of a district judge or higher court.
    • This was read down by the court, with the clarification that an individual, whose information is sought, shall be afforded an opportunity of hearing.
    • The individual shall also have right to challenge such an order passed by approaching the higher court.
  • Section 33(2)
    • Provides for disclosure of information in the interest of national security, on the direction of an officer of Jt Secretary or higher rank, or officer specially authorised by the Centre.
    • The court held that an officer higher than this rank should be given such a power, and a Judicial Officer (preferably an HC judge) should also be associated with it.
    • Struck down in present form, with liberty to enact new provision.
  • Section 47
    • Provides for cognisance of offence only on complaint by UIDAI (or any person authorised by it).
    • Court ruled this needed suitable amendment to provide for filing of complaints also by an individual/victim whose right was violated.
  • Section 57
    • Provides for use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, by the state or any corporate or person.
    • Read down as susceptible to misuse.
    • Court observed that it would enable commercial exploitation of biometric and demographic information by private entities.
  • Regulation 26(c), Aadhaar Regulations
    • Allows UIDAI to store metadata relating to transactions. Struck down in present form.
  • Regulation 27
    • Provides for archiving transaction data for five years.
    • Struck down; court ruled that retention of data beyond six months not permissible.
  • Aadhaar for children
    • On attaining the age of majority, children who are enrolled under Aadhaar with the consent of their parents shall be given the right to exit from Aadhaar.

 

 

Current amendments proposed

  • Lok Sabha passed The Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to amend the laws relating to the use of Aadhaar and the powers of the Unique Identification Authority of India.
  • The Bill seeks to amend at least 27 sections of the three existing laws:
    • The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
    • The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
    • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
  • The amendments seek to circumvent some of the restrictions imposed by the court.
  • The changes to The Indian Telegraph Act and The Prevention of Money Laundering Act
    • It now allow banks and telecom companies to use Aadhaar, if offered voluntarily by a person as a Know Your Customer (KYC) document, although neither of the entities can make it mandatory, or the only KYC document.
    • A person will have the choice to use any other valid document for KYC.
    • Also, the central government can through a notification allow a non-banking company too, if it feels it is necessary and expedient to do so, to perform such authentications.
  • Aadhaar for children
    • The amendments provision that at the time of enrolment the parents or guardians of the children will have to provide consent, and the agency must apprise them of how the information will be used, whom it will be shared with, and other rights.
    • They also allow for the children to apply for cancellation of their Aadhaar number within six months of achieving adulthood.
  • Complaints and penalties
    • Individuals will now be able to register complaints in courts in certain cases, which can include impersonation, or if their Aadhaar information is disclosed without their consent.
    • Moreover, the penalties for violations of the laws have been increased to a maximum of Rs 1 crore in certain cases.
    • The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal has been made the Appellate Tribunal for such cases.
  • Offline verification, voluntary use
    • Now, the verification can be done “offline”, using a digitally signed copy of the Aadhaar card which has the person’s photograph, selected information and a QR code, but does not have the biometric information and need not include the Aadhaar number.
    • People can use it as an ID proof voluntarily, without having to authenticate.
    • The Aadhaar Act only allowed it to be used “subject to authentication”, which has now been changed to use it by authentication or even offline verification.
  • UIDAI Fund
    • The amendments create a UIDAI Fund, which will now receive its revenues from fees, grants and charges.
    • The revenue will be used for UIDAI’s expenses.
  • Section 33(2)
    • In compliance with the Supreme Court’s order, only High Courts (not district courts) can ask for disclosure of Aadhaar-related information.
    • Only an officer of the rank of Secretary (not Joint Secretary, as earlier provisioned) can issue directions for such information in the “interest of national security”.
  • Virtual IDs
    • Use of virtual IDs to “conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual”.
  • Section 57
    • It was related to use of Aadhaar by private entities, which was struck down by the Supreme Court, has now been omitted.
    • Moreover, entities now allowed to use Aadhaar have to be compliant with privacy and security standards that will be specified by UIDAI.

 

Significance

  • With over 122 crore Aadhaar numbers having been issued and with the widespread use of Aadhaar as a proof of identity for various purposes by the Government, it was necessary to have a regulatory framework for the operation of Aadhaar”.
  • UIDAI has been empowered to take “enforcement actionsagainst errant entities”.
  • It respects right to choice by allowing children the chance to exit the Aadhaar ecosystem once they turn 18 years old.
  • It respects the right to privacy by restricting the use of Aadhaar being used by entities that was restricted by the Supreme Court.
  • Provide legal backing for Aadhaar to be used voluntarily as proof of identity to open bank accounts and for mobile phone SIM cards.
  • It aims to work for financial independency of UIDAI by creating UIDAI Fund.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

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