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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB: 11 JUNE 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

SL. NO.

TOPICS

THE HINDU

PAGE NO.

1

SEBI mulls norms to reward whistle-blowers

15

2

Banks can offer cheques books for no-frill accounts

15

3

Ryots sow seeds of defiance

09

4

Artificial Intelligence, the law and the future

11

5

Foreign policy challenges five years later

10

Title

  1. SEBI mulls norms to reward whistle-blowers (The Hindu, Page – 15)

Syllabus

Prelims: Indian Economy

Theme

Insider Trading

 

Context

The Capital Market regulator, SEBI has recently released the discussion paper on amendment to the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 for the public comments.  It has proposed an informant mechanism to blow the whistle on insider trading cases.

 

What is Insider Trading?

  • Insider trading is defined in the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (‘PIT Regulations’) to mean trading of securities while in possession of unpublished price sensitive information (‘UPSI’).

  • Insider trading is essentially a malpractice wherein trade of a company's securities is undertaken by people who by virtue of their work have access to the otherwise non-public information which can be crucial for making investment decisions. 

  • It is considered to be an unfair practice, wherein the other shareholders are at a great disadvantage due to lack of important insider non-public information.

  • Hence, insider trading is highly discouraged by the SEBI to promote fair trading in the market for the benefit of the common investor. 

  • As per the SEBI Act, insider trading is punishable with a penalty which shall not be less than 10 lakhs. The maximum penalty could be as high as Rs 25 crore or three times the amount of profits made out of insider trading, whichever is higher. The Act also prescribes that insider trading is punishable with a prison term of up to 10 years.

 

SEBI's Proposals

Many cases of Insider Trading are bought to public attention, not necessarily through any audit report or regulatory investigation but largely through whistle blowers. Hence, in this regard, SEBI has proposed the following mechanisms to encourage the whistle blowers to highlight the cases of Insider Trading.

Voluntary information disclosure form (VDF): Informant should be required to submit Voluntary Information Disclosure Form (VIDF) with complete and original information relating to an act of insider trading.

Office of informant protection (OIP): An independent office of Informant protection may be established by the SEBI to device the policy relating to receipt and registration of VIDF.

Manner of submission of information: The informant would need to disclose his/her identity at the time of submission of the VIDF.

In case the informant decides to submit anonymously, the VIDF shall be submitted through an authorised representative who is a practising advocate.

Confidentiality of Informant: The confidentiality regarding the identity of the informant and information provided shall be protected through the OIP.

Preventing Victimisation: In order to protect the whistle blowers, SEBI has proposed that all the listed companies should include relevant provisions to prevent victimisation of whistle blowers.

Grant of Reward: If the information given by Whistle blower leads to a minimum penalty of Rs 5 crores, then the whistle blower shall be provided with a monetary award of 10% of the money collected by SEBI, subject to a cap of Rs 1 crores.

Investor Protection and Education Fund (IPEF): The proceeds of the penalty amount would be deposited under the IPEF. The monetary reward to the whistle blower shall be paid from this fund.

Frivolous Complaints: In case the OIP determines that the information submitted is frivolous or vexatious, SEBI may initiate appropriate action against the informant.

 

Title

  1. Banks can offer cheques books for no-frill accounts – (The Hindu, Page 15)

Area of interest

Prelims: Indian Economy

Theme

About Basic Savings Deposit Account (BSDA)

Highlights

Context

The RBI has recently relaxed some norms for the Basic Savings Bank Deposit (BSBD) accounts.

 

Details about Basic Savings Bank Deposit (BSBD) Account

  • The BSBD Account is designed as a savings account which would offer certain minimum facilities, free of charge, to the holders of such accounts. These accounts were earlier known as 'no-frills' account.

  • The BSBD can be opened by any individual and is not restricted to only poor and weaker sections.

  • An individual is eligible to have only one 'Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account' in one bank.

  • Before opening a BSBD account, a bank should take a declaration from the customer that he/she is not having a BSBD account in any other bank.

  • Further, following conditions are applicable to BSBD Small Accounts, which are opened on the basis of simplified KYC norms:

  • Total credits in such accounts should not exceed one lakh rupees in a year.

  • Maximum balance in the account should not exceed fifty thousand rupees at any time

  • The total debits by cash withdrawals and transfers in a month cannot exceed Rs 10,000.

 

In the interest of better customer service, it has been decided to make the following changes in the facilities associated with the account

  • The deposit of cash at bank branch as well as ATMs/CDMs

  • Receipt/ credit of money through any electronic channel or by means of deposit /collection of cheques drawn by Central/State Government agencies and departments

  • No limit on number and value of deposits that can be made in a month

  • Minimum of four withdrawals in a month, including ATM withdrawals

  • ATM Card or ATM-cum-Debit Card.

Banks are free to provide additional value-added services, including issue of cheque book, beyond the above minimum facilities, which may/may not be priced.

The availment of such additional services shall be at the option of the customers. However, while offering such additional services, banks shall not require the customer to maintain a minimum balance.

Title

  1. Ryots sow seeds of defiance (The Hindu, Page-09)

Syllabus

Prelims: Science & Technology

Theme

About GM Crops

Highlights

Context:

More than 1,000 farmers gathered in Akoli Jehangi village in Akot taluka of Maharashtra’s Akola district and sowed unapproved transgenic varieties of cotton and brinjal. The protest has been termed as a ‘civil disobedience’ movement.

 

What is Herbicide Tolerant Bt Crop?

Genetic engineering (GE) refers to techniques used to manipulate the genetic composition of an organism by adding specific genes.

Herbicide tolerant crops are designed to tolerate specific broad-spectrum herbicides, which kill the surrounding weeds, but leave the cultivated crop intact. 

 

Weeds are a constant problem in farmers’ fields. Weeds not only compete with crops for water, nutrients, sunlight, and space but also harbor insects and diseases; clog irrigation and drainage systems; undermine crop quality; and deposit weed seeds into crop harvests. If left uncontrolled, weeds can reduce crop yields significantly.

Weeds are either removed with tillage, hand weeding, herbicides, or typically a combination of all techniques. Unfortunately, tillage leaves valuable topsoil exposed to wind and water erosion, a serious long-term consequence for the environment. For this reason, more and more farmers prefer reduced or no-till methods of farming. Similarly, the heavy use of herbicides has led to groundwater contaminations, the death of several wildlife species and has also been attributed to various human and animal illnesses.

Hence, Herbicide tolerant crops have been introduced.

 

Herbicide-Tolerant (HT) Cotton also known as BG-III cotton is innovation in Bt Cotton as it takes care of weeds problem at much lower cost as compared to physical labour required for weeding. It contains Round-up Ready and Round-up Flex (RRF) gene. The RRF herbicide-tolerant trait was developed and commercialised by US-based multinational seed giant Monsanto.

 

Side-effects of the HTBT Crops

  • Heavy reliance on the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate, has placed weed populations under progressively intense control but may trigger a perfect storm for the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

  • The increased use of glyphosate-resistant crops has led to declines in pollinator habitat.

  • Contamination from GM plants is has serious ecological, economic and social impacts. Gene flow from GM crops poses a threat to wild and weedy crop relatives, non-GM crops and foods, and organic farming.

  • The use of some GM crops can have negative impacts on non-target organisms and on soil and water ecosystems. 

  • The increased use of glyphosate on glyphosate resistant crops could lead to increases in human health problems. Glyphosate-formulated herbicides have been linked to numerous health problems including cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Short term health effects include lung congestion and increased breathing rates. Chronic exposures at levels above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) are likely to produce kidney damage and reproductive effects. 

 

Status in India

  • Monsanto had in 2013 moved an application with the government regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which functions under the Environment Ministry, seeking approval for its Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) cotton which has both insect resistance (Bt gene) and glyphosate tolerant (Ht) gene. However, the company had withdrawn its application along with its dossier containing reports of field trials and bio-safety trials of this hybrid cotton in 2016, following a bickering with the government on several regulatory issues.

  • However, several reports of farmers growing this hybrid has surfaced in the meanwhile from many parts of Maharashtra, with farmers relying on smugglers for their supply of seeds. Most of the seeds are smuggled from states like Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

  • Under India's Environment Protection Act, farmers can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined Rs 100,000 for planting any unapproved seed variety.

 

What is that unique issue with BG II in India?

  • China still successfully controls pink bollworm with first-generation Bt cotton. The U.S. and Australia are moving on to third-generation BG-3 without having faced this problem.

  • The reasons for India to suffer this misfortune are that –

  • The pink bollworm grew resistant because India restricted itself to cultivating long-duration hybrids since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002.

  • Hybrids are crosses between two crops that often see higher yields than their parents. All other Bt cotton-growing countries mainly grow open-pollinated cotton varieties rather than hybrids.

  • When Monsanto licensed its BG and BG-2 traits to Indian seed companies, the agreement restricted the introduction of these traits to hybrids only.

  • Because in India intellectual property laws have not prevented its farmers from either saving or selling seeds. In the U.S., where plant varieties are patented, the patented seeds cannot even be reused.

  • Due to lack of such protections, several seed companies in India prefer hybrids because unlike open-pollinated varieties, hybrids lose their genetic stability when their seeds are replanted. This compels farmers to repurchase seeds each year, protecting corporate revenues.

  • Hybrids seeds are expensive and they are also bigger and bushier. This will force farmers to cultivate them at low densities.

  • So to make up for the low densities, Indian farmers grow them longer so that they produce enough cotton.

  • The pest does its most damage in the latter half of the cotton-growing season. So, the long duration of Indian cotton crops allows this pest to thrive and evolve resistance more quickly than it can for short-duration crops.

 

Title

4. Artificial Intelligence, the law and the future (The Hindu, Page-11)

Syllabus

Mains: GS Paper III under Science & Technology

Theme

National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence

Highlights

Context

  • In India, NITI Aayog released a policy paper, ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’, in June 2018, which considered the importance of AI in different sectors.

  • The Budget 2019 also proposed to launch a national programme on AI. While all these developments are taking place on the technological front, no comprehensive legislation to regulate this growing industry has been formulated in the country till date.

 

NITI Aayog has issued a discussion paper on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence AI forAll where it has decided to focus on five sectors that are envisioned to benefit the most from AI in solving societal needs:

(a) Healthcare: increased access and affordability of quality healthcare,

(b) Agriculture: enhanced farmers’ income, increased farm productivity and reduction of wastage,

(c) Education: improved access and quality of education,

(d) Smart Cities and Infrastructure: efficient and connectivity for the burgeoning urban population,

(e) Smart Mobility and Transportation: smarter and safer modes of transportation and better traffic and congestion problems.

 

Use of AI in different fields

Healthcare

  • AI can be used to integrate data on patient health records, diagnosis, and treatment outcome across the government and private hospitals.

  • This will ensure proper accessibility of treatment even in far flung villages. For example, using mobile phones with a camera, patients in villages can send their eye images to ophthalmologists who can confirm the diagnosis and recommend clinical diagnosis.

  • Creation of a data pool on health will help the government in giving an analysis of the conditions of health and treatment provided across the country.

  • Thus, a nation-wide uniform and centralised data-deposition system can be incorporated under the recently announced National Health Policy, 2017.

 

Agriculture

  • Framers can use AI in knowing weather predictions thereby giving them a variety of choice in terms of crop growth and its market price.

  • Additionally, such tools can also help farmers to monitor soil health, mine historical weather data including satellite imagery, and maintain supply-chain efficiency. AI tools can be used to determine the metabolism of crops and fruit bearing trees.

  • AI has real potential to aid farmers in selecting the right animals for breeding and, thereby,increasing milk, egg, and meat production.

 

Smart Cities

  • Integration of AI in newly developed smart cities and infrastructure could also help meet the demands of a rapidly urbanising population and providing them with enhanced quality of life.

  • Potential use cases include traffic control to reduce congestion and enhanced security through improved crowd management.

 

Education and Skilling

  • AI can potentially solve for quality and access issues observed in the Indian education sector.

  • Potential use cases include augmenting and enhancing the learning experience through personalised learning, automating and expediting administrative tasks, and predicting the need for student intervention to reduce dropouts or recommend vocational training.

 

Smart Mobility, including Transports and Logistics

  • Potential use cases in this domain include autonomous fleets for ride sharing, semiautonomous features such as driver assist, and predictive engine monitoring and maintenance.

  • Other areas that AI can impact include autonomous trucking and delivery, and improved traffic

  • management

 

Barriers which needs to be addressed as suggested by AI

As per NITI Aayog’s report, to truly reap the potential of AI at a large scale, the following barriers need to be addressed in order to achieve the goals of AI for All:

a) Lack of broad based expertise in research and application of AI,

b) Absence of enabling data ecosystems – access to intelligent data,

c) High resource cost and low awareness for adoption of AI,

d) Privacy and security, including a lack of formal regulations around anonymisation of data, and

e) Absence of collaborative approach to adoption and application of AI.

f) Lack of proper checks and balance on misuse of data. There is a need for a robust policy on data collection, use, inference, privacy, release and security.

 

Need for Legal Framework to Regulate AI

Reasons:

If AI is not regulated properly, it is bound to have unmanageable implications. Imagine, for instance, that electricity supply suddenly stops while a robot is performing a surgery, and access to a doctor is lost? These questions have already confronted courts in the U.S. and Germany. All countries, including India, need to be legally prepared to face such kind of disruptive technology.

 

Challenges:

Predicting and analysing legal issues and their solutions, however, is not that simple. For instance, criminal law is going to face drastic challenges. What if an AI-based driverless car gets into an accident that causes harm to humans or damages property? Who should the courts hold liable for the same? Can AI be thought to have knowingly or carelessly caused bodily injury to another? Can robots act as a witness or as a tool for committing various crimes?

 

Way forward

We need a legal definition of AI. Given the importance of intention in India’s criminal law jurisprudence, it is essential to establish the legal personality of AI (which means AI will have a bundle of rights and obligations), and whether any sort of intention can be attributed to it.

To answer the question on liability, since AI is considered to be inanimate, a strict liability scheme that holds the producer or manufacturer of the product liable for harm, regardless of the fault, might be an approach to consider.

Since privacy is a fundamental right, certain rules to regulate the usage of data possessed by an AI entity should be framed as part of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018.

 

Title

5. Foreign policy challenges five years later (The Hindu, Page-11)

Syllabus

Mains: GS Paper II under International Relations

Theme

Challenges before India’s Foreign Policy

Highlights

Context - This article highlights the foreign policy challenges which the new government faces in the backdrop of global uncertainties and mounting trade wars:   

Ongoing international uncertainties

  • unpredictability in U.S. policy pronouncements

  • trade war between US and China

  • Brexit and the European Union’s internal preoccupations

  • erosion of U.S.-Russia arms control agreements

  • likelihood of  a new arms race in the field of nuclear, space and cyber technology  

  • U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal 

  • growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran 

  • Continuous rise of China

Challenges for India w.r.t. foreign policy

Inviting BIMSTEC Members in swearing in ceremony

  • In 2014, PM Modi invited SAARC members for his swearing in ceremony. However, after Pathankot and Uri terror attack, the bonhomie of SAARC soon evaporated and this impacted the SAARC summit of Islamabad as India did not participate in the SAARC summit.

  • In 2019, after being re-elected, PM Modi invited BIMSTEC leaders (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand) along with the head of Kyrgyzstan as he currently holds chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – SCO. This highlights a new neighbourhood emphasis.  

  • Challenge – Despite the above stance, India cannot ignore Pakistan altogether as it allows foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and US to intervene in our bilateral ties. Thus, India must find ways to communicate to Pakistan even as a low key affair and should not abandon talks altogether.

Rise of China – impacting India’s neighbourhood policy

  • Prior to rise of China, asserting India’s weight in its neighbourhood was easier. However, in today’s geo-political reality, negotiating with India’s neighbours has become more complex and requires deft political management.

  • Such deft political management necessitates using multi-pronged diplomatic efforts through various multilateral forums such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Shanghai Co-operation Organisation etc along with strengthening bilateral ties with each of such member nations.

Managing China & US

  • Balancing China will remain the most important issue even today in 2019 just like it was in 2014. In 2014, PM Modi focussed on growing economic, commercial and cultural relations while managing the differences on the boundary dispute through dialogue and confidence-building measures. However, Doklam stand-off reminded India of the reality it faces with China even today and needs to have a re-look on its policy to engage with an assertive and growing China.

  • Wuhan Summit of 2018 where PM Modi travelled to China restored some normalcy in the relation, but did not address long-term implications of the growing gap between the two countries. 

  • As part of its policy on tightening sanctions pressure on Iran, the U.S. has terminated the sanctions waiver that had enabled India to import limited quantities of Iranian crude till last month.

  • Withdrawal of Generalised System of Preferences scheme adversely impacts about 12% of India’s exports to the U.S. This signals growing impatience of US towards India on its concerns regarding market access, tariff lines and recent changes in the e-commerce policy.

  • Threat to India under CAATSA law – (The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia) will impact India’s purchase of the S-400 air and missile defence system from Russia. 

  • Other potential tricky issues could relate to whether Huawei, which is currently the prime target in the U.S.-China technology war, is allowed to participate in the 5G trials (telecom) in India. 

  • The reconciliation talks between the U.S. and the Taliban as the U.S. negotiates its exit from Afghanistan adds to India’s problems.   

Conclusion: India’s closeness with a fickle United States will be watched closely by both Russia and China as both China and Russia sees merit in a common front against the U.S. Thus PM Modi needs to exploit new opportunities to reshape its foreign relations especially in its neighbourhood.   

 









 

 

 

Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

BS – VI norms

 

What to study?

For prelims: what are BS Norms, components and comparison between BS – IV norms and the BS- VI?

For mains: Need for upgradation, role of new norms in reducing pollution.

 

ContextInternational Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) has released India’s first Type Approval Certificate (TAC) for Bharat Stage – VI (BS – VI) norms for the two wheeler segment.

Last year, ICAT issued the approval for BS –VI norms to M/s Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles for the Heavy Commercial Vehicle segment which was also the first in its segment in India.

 

Background:

Bharat Stage norms are the automotive emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, fourwheelers and construction equipment vehicles.

To curb growing menace of air pollution through the vehicles emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020. Only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India from 1st April 2020 onwards, which comply to these norms. The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.

 

About ICAT:

ICAT is the premier testing and certification agency authorized by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers in India and abroad.

 

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
  • As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.

 

Why is it important to upgrade these norms?

Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.

With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.


Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

Why lakhs are protesting on the streets in Hong Kong

 

What to study?

For prelimsGeographical and political position of Hong Kong.

For mains: The recent controversy over the extradition bill, concerns expressed, key features of the bill and what needs to be done?

 

Context: Huge protests in Hong Kong.

 

Reasons behind:

The protesters were marching against proposed changes in the law that would allow suspects accused of crimes such as murder and rape to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.

Once the law is changed, Hong Kong will also hand over to China individuals accused of crimes in Taiwan and Macau. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Chinese special administrative region with significant autonomy.

 

China’s response:

The government has said that the proposed amendments would “plug loopholes” that allow the city to be used by criminals. It has assured that courts in Hong Kong would make the final decision on extradition, that only certain categories of suspects would be liable, and that individuals accused of political and religious offences would not be extradited.

 

The protesters in Hong Kong are concerned mainly because:

China may use the changed law to target political opponents in Hong Kong.

Extradited suspects are likely to face torture. Also, they say, the change in the law will deal another blow to Hong Kong’s already crumbling autonomy.

 

International response:

Human Rights Watch and the International Chamber of Commerce have warned against changing the law. A body of the US Congress has said it would make Hong Kong vulnerable to Chinese “political coercion”, and the UK and Canada have expressed concern over the potential impact on their citizens in Hong Kong. The EU has sent a diplomatic note.

 

Relationship of Hong Kong with respect to China:

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and is semi-autonomous under the “one country, two systems” principle. It has its own laws and courts, and allows its residents a range of civil liberties. Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement with Beijing.

 

Sources: Indian express.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

What is the three-language formula?

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: the three language formula, need, concerns associated over imposition of Hindi and the need for reforms.

 

Why is it in the news now?

A 50-year-old controversy got a new lease of life recently when a paragraph in the Draft New Education Policy 2019 referred to the mandatory teaching of Hindi in States where Hindi is not spoken. This was a reiteration of the Central government’s three-language formula, but it set off a storm in Tamil Nadu, which stoutly opposes any attempt to impose Hindi and adheres to a two-language formula. The Union government sought to neutralise the hostile reaction by dropping the controversial reference to Hindi.

 

What is the formula?

It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.

 

Origin:

Though the teaching of Hindi across the country was part of a long-standing system, it was crystallised into a policy in an official document only in the National Policy on Education, 1968. This document said regional languages were already in use as the media of education in the primary and secondary stages.

In addition, it said, “At the secondary stage, State governments should adopt and vigorously implement the three-language formula, which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.”

In the ‘non-Hindi speaking States’, Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English. It added: “Suitable courses in Hindi and/or English should also be available in universities and colleges with a view to improving the proficiency of students in these languages up to the prescribed university standards.”

 

What did NEP 1968 say on promotion of Hindi as the link language?

On promotion of Hindi, the NPE 1968 said every effort should be made to promote the language and that “in developing Hindi as the link language, due care should be taken to ensure that it will serve, as provided for in Article 351 of the Constitution, as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India. The establishment, in non-Hindi States, of colleges and other institutions of higher education which use Hindi, as the medium of education should be encouraged”.

 

Why is there opposition to the teaching of Hindi which crystallised into a policy in an official document in 1968?

The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language. In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote. However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years. The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965. This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place. However, as early as in 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

 

What needs to be done?

There are numerous attractive ways to promote a language to the desired extent. So, instead of prescribing a set of languages, Draft NEP 2019 should give the freedom to choose “any three languages of 8th Schedule of the Constitution or official languages of the Union of India” as offered in the scheme of studies by the Boards of Secondary Education. This is a win-win solution for all.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

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

 

All States can now constitute Foreigners Tribunals

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Foreigners Tribunal-need, composition, Functions and significance.

 

Context: The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964,

 

Changes proposed as per the amendment:

It has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.

The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals

The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.

 

Current Practice:

So far, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre. The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said: “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose, for its opinion.”

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

What is reciprocal trade agreements?

Countries use bilateral/regional trade agreements to increase market access and expand trade in foreign markets. These agreements are called reciprocal trade agreements (RTAs) because members grant special advantages to each other.

RTAs include many types of agreements, such as preferential arrangements, free trade agreements, customs unions, and common markets, in which members agree to open their markets to each other’s exports by lowering trade barriers.

Need: They have become an increasingly prominent feature of the multilateral trading system in recent years, in part, because of stalled global negotiations taking place under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many observers believe that RTAs deepen market integration and complement efforts by the WTO to liberalize international markets. While acknowledging that RTAs can open up markets, other observers contend that these agreements also distort trade and discriminate against nonmember countries.

Why in news? Commerce Minister emphasizes on reciprocal market access for Indian goods.

 

Cyclone Vayu:

Cyclone Vayu – it is still to develop into a cyclone and is only a deep depression as of now – is currently positioned around 250 km northwest of Aminidivi island in Lakshadweep and about 750 km southwest of Mumbai.

Cyclones are sustained by very strong low-pressure areas at their core. Winds in surrounding areas are forced to rush towards these low-pressure areas.

Arabian Sea cyclones:

Though cyclones are common in the June, very few of them originate in the Arabian Sea. Most of them are found in the Bay of Bengal. In the last 120 years for which records are available, just about 14% of all cyclonic storms, and 23% of severe cyclones, around India have occurred in the Arabian Sea. Arabian Sea cyclones are also relatively weak compared to those emerging in the Bay of Bengal.

This, along with the fact that the Gujarat coastline, which is where most of the cyclones emerging in the Arabian Sea are headed, is not very densely populated, ensures that the damage potential of the cyclones on the western coast is comparatively low.

 

El Salvador recognises forests as living entities:

  • El Salvador has, in a historic move, recognised forests as living entities. Its citizens, will now be required to preserve forests. 
  • El Salvador has lost about 85 per cent of its native forests since the 1960s, while Earth has lost about 80 per cent of its native forests.

 

India, Portugal to join hands in setting up maritime museum:

  • India and Portugal will cooperate in the setting up of a national maritime heritage museum at Lothal in Gujarat.
  • It is likely to come up on the lines of a similar museum at Lisbon, which is administered by the Portuguese Navy.
  • The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Shipping through its Sagarmala programme, with the involvement of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the State government and other stakeholders.

 

Samadhi Buddha:

Context: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has gifted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a Samadhi Buddha statue.

The Samadhi Buddha is a famous statue situated at Mahamevnāwa Park in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Buddha is depicted in the position of the Dhyana Mudra, the posture of meditation associated with his first Enlightenment. This statue is 7 feet 3 inches in height and carved from dolomite marble.

 

Kashmir annual Kheer Bhawani mela:

Hundreds gather in Kashmir for annual Kheer Bhawani mela.

The Kheer Bhawani mela is one of the biggest religious functions of the Kashmiri Pandits.

It has become a symbol of communal harmony as Muslims in the locality make all the arrangements for the devotees, including setting up of stalls for flowers and other offerings.

 

Traffic Index 2018:

Context: Traffic Index 2018 is published by TomTom, an Amsterdam-based company.

  • It offers traffic solutions, uses location technology to collect traffic information, and has been publishing city rankings for eight years.
  • The index factors for peak hours, accidents, inclement weather, construction work and all other factors likely to cause disruptions.
  • The latest index ranks 403 cities across 56 countries, including 13 new cities.

Definition: For this study, congestion has been defined in terms of the additional time taken to reach a destination as opposed to when the road would have been clear of traffic.

Key findings:

  • The study has ranked Mumbai as the most traffic-congested city in the world for the second straight year, and Delhi at fourth place.
  • Nearly 75% of the cities part of the 2018 index had increased or stable congestion levels between 2017 and 2018, with only 90 cities showing measurable decreases.
  • Globally, Christmas Day resulted in the least traffic congestion.

End of Childhood Index:

The index is part of Changing Lives in Our Lifetime – Global Childhood Report, 2019 and was released by Save the Children, a non-profit, on May 28, 2019.

Countries are evaluated on eight parameters on the wellbeing of those up to 19 years of age — child mortality, malnutrition, lack of education, child labour, early marriage, adolescent birth, displacement by conflict and child homicide.

Performance of countries:

  • India ranks 113 in 176 countries.However, India has improved significantly on child mortality from 39 deaths per 1000 live births in 2017.
  • Singapore tops the list and eight European countries figure among the top 10.
  • Globally, the rate of child marriage has reduced by 25 per cent in 2019. In South Asia, India has performed significantly well where child marriage is down 51 per cent since 2000 and 63 percent since 1990.
  • Indian progress alone accounts for almost three quarters of decline in teen births worldwide.

 


 

Summaries of important editorials:

 

How education can be flexible?

Context: Recommendations made on higher education reforms by a committee set up for drafting a new educational policy (NEP).

 

Key recommendations:

  • The main thrust of the draft policy is on breaking the “rigid boundaries of disciplines” in higher education and moving towards broad-based, flexible learning. Institutions offering single streams (such as technical education) must be phased out, and all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2030.
  • Reintroduction of the four-year undergraduate programme in Liberal Arts Science Education (LASE)with multiple exit options, and scrapping of the MPhil programme. The LASE curriculum will be designed to develop broadly “useful capacities” (critical thinking, communication skills, scientific temper, social responsibilities etc), while offering rigorous education in specialisations (called majors or dual majors) across disciplines.
  • Build a small number of new liberal arts universities, modelled after Ivy League schools, in the next five years.
  • Increase in the number of off-shore campuses of Indian institutions and permitting the world’s top 200 institutions to set up branches in India, with a new law to regulate the latter’s entry and operation. 

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