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India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India set to take over as President of the UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Nations Security Council

Mains level : UNSC reforms

India will take over the Presidency of the UN Security Council on August 1 and is set to host signature events in three major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism during the month.

Key agendas on the table

During its Presidency, India will be organizing high-level signature events in three major areas:

  • Maritime security
  • Peacekeeping and
  • Counterterrorism

About United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members (P5).
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

Issues with UNSC

(1) Non-representative

  • UNSC in its current form is not representative of the developing world and global needs — with the primacy of policy being a political tool in hands of P5.
  • By 1992, India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan (referred as G4) had put up their claims and logic for demanding inclusion as permanent members.
  • India has been part of UN since its inception and has contributed maximum peacekeepers to UN so far, has a strong case.
  • Brazil is the largest country in Latin America (unrepresented continent) and fifth-largest in the world. Japan and Germany are one of the largest financial donors to UN.

(2) Rivalry with G4

  • The pitch for reforms of G4 was lowered by their regional rivals like Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt.
  • They started formulation of another interest group, known to be “Uniting for Consensus” opposing G4 becoming permanent members with veto power.

(3) Rigid framework

  • Reforms in the UNSC also require an amendment to the UN charter, in accordance with Article 108.
  • This highlights that any reform of the Security Council not only requires the support of at least two-thirds of UN member states but also all the permanent members.

(4) Veto power

  • The stance of P5 members to expansion has been varying as per their national interest, like most P5 members agree to Indian inclusion, except China.
  • It becomes obvious that even if one member of P5 doesn’t agree to any reform, the UNSC cannot be reformed.
  • There have been many proposals since its inception from totally abolishing veto power to selectively using it for vital national security issues.

(5) No consensus

  • It has been seen in past that the UNSC, in some of the major global security issues, could not arrive at a consensus and interventions that happened by countries mainly from P5 without UNSC resolution.
  • US entry in Iraq war or Warsaw Pact war in Afghanistan are few cases in point.
  • The UNSC has thus become an organization, which can pass strong resolutions against weak countries, weak resolutions against strong countries and no resolution against P5 countries.

Suggested reforms

  • Expansion: Besides the existing P5 members, an expansion of UNSC from five to 10 permanent members, with the addition of G4 and South Africa. This will provide equitable regional representation besides balancing the developing and developed world to meet the aspirations of humanity.
  • Abolition of veto: The expansion of P5 without veto power makes very little impact on the problems, because of which the reforms are required. Ideally the veto power should be abolished.

Will UNSC reforms ever happen?

  • Under the given charter, articles and structures, there is very little hope for UNSC reforms in near future.
  • The lack of reforms can push the credibility crisis of UN to a degree that it becomes unsustainable for it to function, or incidences of side-lining the UN increase manifold.
  • If the UNSC does not appoint new permanent members then its primacy may be challenged by some of the new emerging countries.
  • There is also a possibility that if UN doesn’t reform itself, it may lose relevance and alternate global and regional groupings may assume greater importance.
  • No P5 member is likely to compromise this power in its own national interest, which is generally prioritized before global interest, thus making the reformation process a mirage.

Electoral Reforms In India

Tamil Nadu legislature turns 100

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Montford reforms, Elections in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Assembly chambers at Fort St. George, the 17th-century vestige of the colonial era, and Tamil Nadu’s seat of power have completed 100 years of existence.

Do you know?

Fort St. George is the first English fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras, the modern city of Chennai. The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally an uninhabited land.

Elections in Tamil Nadu

  • Tamil Nadu witnessed elections in November 1920 as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • The electors included only men, accounting for just 3% of the population.
  • The concept of dyarchy came into being with Ministers, who were Indians, gaining limited control over certain subjects, such as local self-government and education.
  • It was then that the office of the Chief Minister, also called Premier, got instituted.

Key works accomplished

  • Reservations in public employment: For the first time, caste became the basis for appointment to public services. It took over 70 years for the Central government to follow the principle in its institutions for education and employment.
  • Above 50% cap in reservation: In December 1993, the scheme of 69% reservation for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, SCs and STs got legal safeguard. The law was subsequently included in the IX Schedule of the Constitution, through an amendment passed in Parliament, so that its validity could not be challenged.

Other facts

  • Women’s suffrage: In early 1927, Muthulakshmi Reddy, the well-known medical practitioner and social activist, became the first woman member of the Council and, in no time, became the Deputy President of the Council.
  • Gopuram as an emblem: The symbol features a ‘gopuram’ (temple tower) – characteristic of south Indian temples has been adopted as the state emblem.
  • Change of name: During the two-year rule of the DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, the Assembly, in July 1967, adopted a motion renaming Madras State as Tamil Nadu, which later got the approval of Parliament.
  • Social reforms: It has passed several landmark laws for the welfare of women, such as Devadasi abolition, equal rights to women in property and the constitution of the State Commission for Women.

Back2Basics: Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

Central Legislature thereafter called the Indian Legislature was reconstituted on the enlarged and more representative character.

  • Bicameral legislature: The act set up bicameral legislatures at the centre consisting of two houses- the Council of the States (Upper House) and the Central Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
  • Election and nominations: It consisted of the Council of State consisted of 60 members of whom 34 members were elected and the Legislative Assembly consisted of about 145 members, of whom about 104 were elected and the rest nominated.
  • Separation of power: The central and provincial subjects were demarcated and separated.
  • Diarchy: The Provincial subjects were further divided into Transferred Subjects and Reserved Subjects, the legislative council had no say in the latter.
  • Communal representation: The principle of separate electorate was further extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
  • Working review: It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to report the working of the act after ten years.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Govt approves two More Strategic Petroleum Reserves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Strategic Petroleum Reserves Programme

Mains level : Oil prices volatility and its impact on India

Under Phase II of the petroleum reserve program, the Government has approved two additional commercial-cum-strategic facilities at Chandikhol (Odisha) and Padur (TN) on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Strategic Petroleum Reserves Programme

  • To ensure energy security, the govt had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storage at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, and Padur (near Udupi).
  • These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storage of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any supply disruptions.
  • The petroleum reserves established are strategic, and the crude oil stored in these reserves will be used during an oil shortage event, as and when declared so by the Government of India.
  • The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle.

Why need SPR?

  • The Gulf War in 1990 caused a sharp rise in oil prices and a massive increase to India’s imports.
  • During the subsequent 1991 Indian economic crisis, foreign exchange reserves could barely finance three weeks’ worth of imports while the government came close to defaulting on its financial obligations.
  • India was able to resolve the crisis through policies that liberalized the economy. However, India continued to be impacted by the volatility of oil prices.
  • In 1998, the AB Vajpayee administration proposed building petroleum reserves as a long-term solution to managing the oil market.
  • Three storage facilities were built in underground locations in Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Padur.

Construction of ISPR

  • The crude oil storages are constructed in underground rock caverns and are located on the East and West coasts of India.
  • Crude oil from these caverns can be supplied to the Indian Refineries either through pipelines or through a combination of pipelines and coastal movement.
  • Underground rock caverns are considered the safest means of storing hydrocarbons.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NASA-ISRO SAR

Mains level : Not Much

The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite, aimed at making global measurement of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging, is proposed to be launched in early 2023, informed Earth Sciences Minister.

Note the key features of the Mission. Every statement has a unique information.

NASA-ISRO SAR

  • NISAR is a joint collaboration for a dual-frequency L and S-band SAR for earth observation.
  • NASA and Bengaluru-headquartered ISRO signed a partnership on September 30, 2014, to collaborate on and launch NISAR.
  • The mission is targeted to launch in early 2022 from ISRO’s Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, about 100km north of Chennai.
  • It is capable of producing extremely high-resolution images for a joint earth observation satellite mission with NASA.
  • It will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimeter across.

Objectives of the NISAR

  • NISAR will observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity on ascending and descending passes, sampling Earth on average every six days for a baseline three-year mission.
  • It will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces, and ice masses, providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea-level rise, and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications.
  • It would also provide data on natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides.

What are L and S Bands?

  • L band waves are used for GPS units because they are able to penetrate clouds, fog, rain, storms, and vegetation.
  • The S-band is used by airport surveillance radar for air traffic control, weather radar, surface ship radar, and some communications satellites, especially those used by NASA to communicate with the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.
  • NISAR uses a sophisticated information-processing technique known as SAR to produce extremely high-resolution images.
  • Radar penetrates clouds and darkness, enabling NISAR to collect data day and night in any weather.

What is collaboration?

  • NASA is providing the mission’s L-band SAR, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder, and payload data subsystem.
  • ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band radar, the launch vehicle, and associated launch services for the mission, whose goal is to make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Stellar Mid-life Crisis: What ails the middle-aged Sun?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Stellar Middle Age

Mains level : Not Much

Stars like our Sun can go through a mid-life crisis, according to new research carried out by scientists from IISER Kolkata.

Stellar Middle Age

  • At about 4.6 billion years of age, the sun is middle-aged, that is, it will continue to live for roughly the same period.
  • There are accurate methods for estimating the age of the Sun, such as by using radioactive dating of very old meteorites that have fallen on the Earth.
  • However, for more distant stars which are similar in mass and age to the Sun, such methods are not possible.
  • One of the methods used is called gyrochronology.
  • There is a relationship between rotation rate and age, that is the rotation rate of a star slows down with age.

How does it occur?

  • When the stellar wind escapes from the star, it carries away with it a part of the angular momentum of the star, which results in its slowing down.
  • The stellar wind has two drivers: one is the high temperature of the outer atmosphere of stars – the corona – which results in an outward expansion and hence plasma winds that emanate out.
  • The other is the magnetic field.
  • The magnetic field actually heats the corona and so when magnetic activity is strong the winds are strong and since wind carries away the internal (rotational) angular momentum of the star, it slows down its rotation.
  • This is called magnetic braking.
  • As the star ages, due to this mechanism, its rotation slows down and this relationship is used in gyrochronology to estimate the age of the star.

Impact

  • This can lead to dramatic changes in their activity and rotation rates.
  • The study also provides an explanation for the breakdown of the long-established relation between rotation rate and age in middle-aged sunlike stars.
  • However, there is a breakdown of the gyrochronology relationship, because, after midlife, a star’s rate of spin does not slow down with age as fast as it was slowing down earlier.
  • Another intriguing fact is that the Sun’s activity level has been observed to be much lower than other stars of similar age.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Digital Payment Solution: e-RUPI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : e-RUPI

Mains level : Digital Payments

The Prime Minister has launched e-RUPI, a person and purpose-specific digital payment solution.

What is e-RUPI?

  • e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment.
  • It is a QR code or SMS string-based e-Voucher, which is delivered to the mobile of the beneficiaries.
  • The users of this seamless one-time payment mechanism will be able to redeem the voucher without a card, digital payments app, or internet banking access, at the service provider.
  • It has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India on its UPI platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and National Health Authority.

How does it work?

  • e-RUPI connects the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interface.
  • It also ensures that the payment to the service provider is made only after the transaction is completed.
  • Being pre-paid in nature, it assures timely payment to the service provider without the involvement of any intermediary.

Benefits offered

  • It is expected to be a revolutionary initiative in the direction of ensuring a leak-proof delivery of welfare services.
  • Even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and corporate social responsibility programs.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which of the following is the most likely consequence of implementing the ‘Unified Payments Interface (UPI)’?

(a) Mobile wallets will not be necessary for online payments.

(b) Digital currency will totally replace physical currency in about two decades.

(c) FDI inflows will drastically increase.

(d) Direct transfer of subsidies to poor people will become very effective

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

India at 75 is ready for a sedition-less future

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of speech and restrictions on it

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with Section 124A of Indian Constitution

Context

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has ignited a passionate debate during a preliminary hearing concerning whether “sedition” should be an offence at all, and how to prevent its misuse or abuse, were it to remain

Issues with the sedition under Section 124A

  • Against fundamental right: The meandering meanings of expressions such as “disaffection” towards the government, “hatred”, “contempt” etc. constitute an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
  • Neither the framers of the Constitution nor the authors of the amended Article 19(2) included “sedition” as a ground for “reasonable restriction” to freedom of speech and expression.
  • Colonial past: CJI Ramana in preliminary hearings has pointedly asked the Attorney General whether “sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is still required after 75 years of independence from colonial rule.
  • Prone to misuse: The lack of definition of terms used in the section leaves vide the scope for interpretation and thus rampant misuse and abuse.

Way forward

  • Some law luminaries have found new stirrings of hope in the Supreme Court to strike it down.
  • Find means to prevent misuse and abuse: Alternative way,as the learned attorney general observed is to find constitutional ways and practical means to prevent the abuse and misuse of law.
  • Forbid rampant private complaints:  A most immediate step is to forbid rampant private complaints by citizens and authorise only very senior police officials to take appropriate action.

Conclusion

What Gandhiji said — the law may not be used to “manufacture affection” under pain of a penal sanction — was as true then as it remains now. It is high time to realise that the law of “sedition” must go, even when it may strictly not even exist!

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

EU’s vaccine travel pass discriminates against low-income countries

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Pass

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with vaccine travel policies

Context

The introduction of Covid-19 vaccines has opened up opportunities to help revive travel. However, it is important to carefully design policies that help revive travel demand.

Vaccine certificates

  • Many countries like China and Israel have introduced vaccine certificates that ease the process of entering and travelling across the destination country for vaccinated travellers.
  • Can encourage discriminatory treatment: Though these certificates can ensure trade facilitation, they can potentially act as a trade barrier if they encourage discriminatory treatment.
  • The recent and the most contentious issue in this regard is the European Union’s “Green Pass” scheme.

Issues with European Union’s Green Pass

  • Through this vaccine certificate, the European Commission intends to remove travel restrictions such as entry bans, quarantine obligations and testing.
  • Only 4 vaccines listed: The EU has listed only four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the pass: Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty, Moderna’s Spikevax, Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
  • It makes travellers from countries administering alternate vaccines ineligible for certification.
  • When it was launched, the policy did not even allow AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine, Covishield.
  • Against COVAX policy: This goes against the policy of COVAX, which has categorically stated that such measures would effectively create a two-tier system and would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.
  • Discriminatory against low-income countries: Vaccine doses administered per 100 people is 1.4 for low-income countries as compared to 93.2 for high-income countries.
  • This makes travellers from low-income countries ineligible to avail these certificates.
  • As per estimates based on information from the WHO, countries not administering any of the EMA-approved vaccines account for at least 14 per cent of the vaccinated population.
  • These lie mostly in low and middle-income countries, including India.
  • Harms domestic sector: Nationals from many of these countries also serve in the hospitality industries in countries across the world, including Europe.
  • With this exclusion criteria, an indirect cost burden is put on their domestic service sectors that are already reeling due to the pandemic.
  • Against globalisation policy: With such discriminatory intervention, the EU policy does not go well with the globalisation policy of collective welfare.

Steps to boost vaccine production

  • Covid vaccine makers across the world have created a platform, led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to connect with key raw material suppliers needed for boosting production.
  • In a recent declaration, WTO members have agreed to review and eliminate unnecessary existing export restrictions on essential medical goods needed to combat the pandemic.

Way forward

  • Cooperate on vaccine production: To achieve the desired goal, countries need to cooperate on vaccine production to accelerate the global vaccination process.
  • Remove restrictions and trade barriers: Accelerating global vaccine production makes lifting trade barriers on raw materials for vaccine production critical.
  • The two relevant bodies, WHO and WTO, should also work together to sort out selective criteria for international movement.

Conclusion

Developed countries should refrain from discriminatory international travel policies against low-income countries and focus on increasing vaccine production to close the vaccination gap at the global level.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

First group insolvency proceeding points to larger weakness in IBC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CoC in IBC

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues with IBC

Context

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) stayed the approval granted by the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to the resolution plan for the Videocon Group.

Concerns with resolution plan

  • Resolution plan submitted by Twinstar Technologies, provided for payment of Rs 2,962 crore — a mere 4.15 per cent of Videocon’s total admitted debt of Rs 64,838 crore.
  • Payment of debt not in fair and equitable manner:  Under the IBC (Section 30(2)(b)), the resolution plan must provide for payment of debts amongst creditors in a “fair and equitable” manner.
  • However, in the plan submitted by Twinstar, unsecured assenting financial creditors and operational creditors are getting a paltry 0.62 per cent and 0.72 per cent of their admitted dues.
  • Even the secured assenting and dissenting financial creditors had to settle for only 4.9 per cent and 4.56 per cent of their respective dues.
  • Confidentiality obligation concerns: Twinstar’s bid of Rs 2,962 crore is close to the liquidation value of the Videocon Group estimated at Rs 2,568 crore, thereby raising legitimate suspicion and concern over the confidentiality of the resolution process.
  • The I&B Regulations, 2016 state that the resolution professional must maintain the confidentiality of the fair market value and liquidation value of the corporate debtor and can only disclose the same to the CoC members after the resolutions plan have been submitted.
  • Time delay: Status-quo ante has been restored until the next date of hearing by which time more than three years would have passed since the Videocon group was admitted into insolvency proceedings.
  • This is way beyond the statutory timeline of 330 days.

Confidentiality rules need to be revised

  • The CoC members must, on receipt of the information, issue an undertaking of confidentiality.
  • But no such obligation falls on the resolution professional.
  • Further, Section 29(2) of the code provides that the resolution professional must disclose all “relevant information” to the resolution applicant and it is for the resolution applicant to ensure compliance with confidentiality obligations.
  • Again, there is no such duty imposed on the resolution professional.
  • Even under Section 25 of the code, titled “Duties of resolution professional”, the specific duty to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information is absent.
  • Clearly, the current regime does not have much deterrence value so as to ensure solemn adherence to confidentiality.

Conclusion

Videocon was one of the first test cases to examine the prospects of insolvency jurisprudence in India and the first one, for group insolvency proceedings.  However, almost four years and a 95 per cent haircut later, the call for an immediate course correction couldn’t be louder.


Back2Basics: Operational creditor and financial creditors

  • When a corporate defaulter is brought under the resolution process (Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process or CIRP), there can be two types of creditors to whom the corporate should give back money –
  • (1) the entities who gave loans or funds to the corporate.
  • (2) the entities from whom the corporate bought inputs and other services.
  • The financial creditors are basically entities (lenders like banks) that have provided funds to the corporate.
  • Their relationship with the entity is a pure financial contract, such as a loan or debt security.
  • On the other hand, business and other entities that have provided inputs and other materials and services and to whom the defaulted corporate owes a debt are called as operational creditors.
  • Both have claims on the defaulted corporate or the defaulted corporate owe payments to both these categories.
  • Rights for these categories under the resolution process are also different.
  • The IBC gives a clear preference to the claims of the financial creditors over the operational creditors through several procedures.

Haircut

  • A haircut is the difference between the loan amount and the actual value of the asset used as collateral.
  • It reflects the lender’s perception of the risk of fall in the value of assets.
  • But in the context of loan recoveries, it is the difference between the actual dues from a borrower and the amount he settles with the bank.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Creamy Layer in OBCs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Creamy Layer

Mains level : OBC issues

A proposal to revise the criteria for defining the “creamy layer” among OBCs has been pending for years, and MPs have raised the issue during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament.

What is the Creamy Layer?

  • Creamy Layer is a concept that sets a threshold within which OBC reservation benefits are applicable.
  • While there is a 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and higher educational institutions, those falling within the “creamy layer” cannot get the benefits of this quota.

Basis of Creamy Layer

  • It is based on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission).
  • The government in 1990 had notified 27% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in vacancies in civil posts and services that are to be filled on direct recruitment.
  • After this was challenged, the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case (1992) upheld 27% reservation for OBCs, subject to exclusion of the creamy layer.

How is it determined?

  • Following the order in Indra Sawhney, an expert committee headed by Justice (retired) R N Prasad was constituted for fixing the criteria for determining the creamy layer.4
  • In 1993, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) listed out various categories of people of certain rank/status/income whose children cannot avail the benefit of OBC reservation.
  1. For those not in government, the current threshold is an income of Rs 8 lakh per year.
  2. For children of government employees, the threshold is based on their parents’ rank and not income.
  3. For instance, an individual is considered to fall within the creamy layer if either of his or her parents is in a constitutional post; if either parent has been directly recruited in Group-A; or if both parents are in Group-B services.
  4. If the parents enter Group-A through promotion before the age of 40, their children will be in the creamy layer.
  5. Children of a Colonel or higher-ranked officer in the Army, and children of officers of similar ranks in the Navy and Air Force, too, come under the creamy layer.
  6. Income from salaries or agricultural land is not clubbed while determining the creamy layer (2004).

What is happening now?

  • MPs have raised questions about the pending proposal for revising the criteria.
  • They have asked whether the provision of a creamy layer for government services only for OBC candidates is rational and justified.

Has it ever been revised?

  • Other than the income limit, the current definition of the creamy layer remains the same as the DoPT had spelled out in 1993 and 2004.
  • The income limit has been revised over the years.
  • No other orders for the definition of the creamy layer have been issued.
  • While the DoPT had stipulated that it would be revised every three years, the first revision since 1993 (Rs 1 lakh per year) happened only in 2004 (Rs 2.50 lakh), 2008 (Rs 4.50 lakh), 2013 (Rs 6 lakh), and 2017 (Rs 8 lakh).
  • It is now more than three years since the last revision.

What does the government propose to do about the revision?

  • A draft Cabinet note has stated that the creamy layer will be determined on all income, including salary calculated for income tax, but not agriculture income.
  • The government is considering a consensus on Rs 12 lakh but salary and agriculture income are also being added to the gross annual income.

Visualizing the Himalaya with other coordinates

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Orogeny

Mains level : Territorialization of Himalayas

A conceptual audit of questions related to geopolitics and security concerns while talking or thinking about the Himalaya is perhaps long overdue.

About the Himalayas

  • The Himalayas are a mountain range in South and East Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
  • The range has many of Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest, at the border between Nepal and China.
  • Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan Mountain range runs west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc 2,400 km.
  • It consists of parallel mountain ranges: the Sivalik Hills on the south; the Lower Himalayan Range; the Great Himalayas, which is the highest and central range; and the Tibetan Himalayas on the north.
  • The Karakoram are generally considered separate from the Himalayas.

Identity of Himalayas: Only as a frontier

  • We have been examining the Himalaya mainly through the coordinates of geopolitics and security while relegating others as either irrelevant or incompatible.
  • In a certain sense, our intellectual concerns over the Himalaya have been largely shaped by the assumption of fear, suspicion, rivalry, invasion, encroachment and pugnacity.
  • If during colonial times it was Russophobia, then now it is Sinophobia or Pakistan phobia that in fact determines our concerns over the Himalayas.
  • Ironically it is the Delhi-Beijing-Islamabad triad, and not the mountain per se, that defines our concerns about the Himalayas.

A national Himalaya

  • Border issues has given birth to the political compulsion of territorializing the Himalaya on a par with the imperatives of nationalism.
  • Thus the attempt to create a national Himalaya by each of the five nations (Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Tibet/China) fall within this transnational landmass called the Himalaya.

India and the Himalayas

  • India’s understanding of the Himalayas is informed by a certain kind of realism, as it continues to remain as space largely defined in terms of sovereign territoriality.
  • It may be perceived that such an alternative conceptualization of Himalayas is not only possible but also necessary.

Various initiatives

  • National Mission on Himalayan Studies: It is a classic case in point that provides funds for research and technological innovations, but creating policies only for the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).

A historical logjam of territorialization

  • The Himalayas territorialization bears a colonial legacy which also sets up its post-colonial destiny as played out within the dynamics of nation-states.
  • The arbitration of relationships between and among the five nation-states falling within the Himalayan landmass has failed to transcend.
  • The lines of peoplehood and the national border never coincided; thus, it was bound to give birth to tensions while working out projects predicated upon national sovereignty.
  • Given this historical logjam, what we can only expect is the escalation of territorial disputes as the immediate fallout.

Borders and their differences

  • It needs to be recognized that political borders and cultural borders are not the same things.
  • Political borders are to be considered as space-making strategies of modern nation-states that do not necessarily coincide with cultural borders.
  • It needs to be realized that the domain of non-traditional security (cases of ecological devastation, climate change) is equally important.

Conclusion

  • The Himalaya is a naturally evolved phenomenon should be understood through frameworks that have grown from within the Himalaya.
  • Viewing the Himalayas as a space of political power is a violent choice, which actually enriched ultra-sensitivity towards territorial claims and border management.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Near-Surface Shear Layer (NSSL) of Sun

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Near-Surface Shear Layer

Mains level : NA

Indian astronomers have found a theoretical explanation for the existence of the Near-Surface Shear Layer (NSSL) of the Sun for the first time.

What is a Near-Surface Shear Layer?

  • It was long known the Sun’s equator spins faster than the poles.
  • However, a peek into the internal rotation of the Sun using sound waves revealed the existence of an intriguing layer where the rotation profile of the Sun changes sharply.
  • The layer is called as a near-surface shear layer (NSSL), and it exists very close to the solar surface, where there is an outward decrease in angular velocity.

What have researchers found?

  • They have used an equation called the thermal wind balance equation to explain how the slight difference in temperature between solar poles and equator, called thermal wind term.
  • It is balanced by the centrifugal force appearing due to solar differential rotation.
  • They have noted that if this condition is true near the solar surface, it can explain the existence of NSSL, which is inferred in helioseismology (technique of using sound waves to peek inside the Sun) based observation.

Why study NSSL?

  • Understanding NSSL is crucial for the study of several solar phenomena like sunspot formation, solar cycle, and it will also help in understanding such phenomena in other stars.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] What are PRIDE Guidelines?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biotech-PRIDE

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Ministry for Science & Technology has released “Biotech-PRIDE (Promotion of Research and Innovation through Data Exchange) Guidelines” developed by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Biotech-PRIDE

  • These guidelines aim at providing a well-defined framework and guiding principle to facilitate and enable sharing and exchange of biological knowledge, information and data.
  • They will facilitate this and enable the exchange of information to promote research and innovation in different research groups across the country.
  • They will be implemented through the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) at Regional Centre for Biotechnology supported by the Department of Biotechnology.

Creating a national repository: Bio-Grid

  • Other existing datasets/ data centres will be bridged to this IBDC which will be called Bio-Grid.
  • This Bio-Grid will be a National Repository for biological knowledge, information and data.
  • It will be responsible for enabling its exchange, developing measures for safety, standards and quality for datasets and establishing detailed modalities for accessing data.

 Why need such guidelines?

  • India ranks number 4 amongst the top 20 countries contributing biological databases.
  • The Government invests a large number of public funds for biosciences to gain deep insights into intricate biological mechanisms and other processes and for translation.

Winning the battle against trafficking

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 23

Mains level : Paper 2- Preventing trafficking in human

Context

July 30 is United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons. It is also a time to reflect on India’s human trafficking crisis.

What are factors increasing vulnerability?

  • Between April 2020 and June 2021, an estimated 9,000 children have been rescued after being trafficked for labour, according to a child rights non-governmental organisation (NGO).
  • Economic distress due to pandemic: The pandemic has resulted in the loss of income and economic crisis.
  • Loss of parental care: It has also caused, in some instances, loss of parental care due to death, illness or separation.
  • Relaxing of legal provision: These factors are compounded by an erosion of some of the checks against child labour and child marriage provided by law, as well as the scrutiny of schools and society.
  • Child marriages are also rampant — over 10,000 cases were tracked between April and August 2020.
  • Internet access: The increase in Internet access in current times has also led to cyber-trafficking.
  • A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on the effects of the pandemic on trafficking echoes these findings.

Challenges in dealing with the issue

  • Lack of national-level data: The Government admitted in Parliament as recently as March 2021 that it does not maintain any national-level data specific to cyber trafficking cases.
  • India does not meet the minimum standards: India is still classified by the U.S. Department of State as a Tier-2 country in its  report on global human trafficking.
  • This means that the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards under U.S. and international law for eliminating trafficking, but is making significant efforts to comply.
  • Lack of implementation: The Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) are specialised district task forces comprising police and government officials.
  • In 2010, it was envisioned that 330 AHTUs would be set up.
  • RTI responses in August 2020 showed that about 225 AHTUs had been set up, but only on paper.

Way forward

  • AHTU: If properly staffed and funded, AHTUs could provide crucial ground-level data on the methods and patterns of traffickers.
  • This, in turn, can strengthen community-based awareness and vigilance activities.
  • Incentivise education and provide safe employment: Global practices such as in Nigeria, Africa, should be encouraged in India, in consonance with a larger framework to protect women and children by incentivising education and creating safe employment opportunities.
  • Implementation of laws: There is no shortage of anti-trafficking policy in India.
  • Where the system is found lacking is in the implementation of the laws.
  • Take preventive action: The failure of existing institutional mechanisms to foresee the present crisis should spur the Government and other stakeholders to take preventive action now.

Discussion needed on the provision of draft anti-trafficking Bill

  • Significant discussion is required on the provisions of the Bill, particularly with respect to bringing in the National Investigation Agency and increasing the punishment for offences, including the death penalty.
  • Ensure effective functioning of AHTUs: The draft Bill also provides for AHTUs/committees at the national, State and district levels, but as noted, their effective functioning cannot be taken for granted.
  • Challenges faced by prosecutors and judges: There were 140 acquittals and only 38 convictions in 2019, according to government data.
  • This points to a failure of investigation and cannot be solved by the draft Bill’s provision that accused traffickers must be presumed guilty unless they can prove the contrary.
  • Case management: Trials can drag on for years, with victims sometimes withdrawing their complaints after being intimidated by traffickers.
  • Proper case management must be introduced to give meaning to the “fast track” courts.
  • Compensation and counselling: Other problems include the low number of beneficiaries of monetary compensation and the lack of consistent access to psychological counselling.
  • Parts of the draft Bill recognise the importance of rehabilitation, but implementation is key.

Conclusion

Effective implementation of the legal provision and discussion on the various provisions of the draft law is required to deal with the menace of trafficking in persons.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

The epoch of cyberweapons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Zero day vulnerability

Mains level : Paper 3- Cyberwarfare-Fifth dimension

Context

The controversy over the use of Pegasus spyware for snooping highlights the threats posed by cyber-weapons.

The emergence of cyber weapons epoch

  • Cyberattacks on institutions such as banks and on critical infrastructure have proliferated to an alarming extent, signalling the emergence of the cyber weapon epoch.
  • Privacy has been eroded and the Internet has become a powerful weapon in the hands of those seeking to exploit its various facets.
  • Fith dimension of warfare: Cyber is often touted as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space.

The domain of everyday life

  •  Cyber, as the domain of military and national security, also co-exists with cyber as a domain of everyday life.
  • The war is no longer out there.
  • It is now directly inside one’s drawing-room, with cyberweapons becoming the weapon of choice.
  • Israelis today dominate the cyber domain along with the Chinese, Russians, Koreans and, of course, the Americans.
  • The linkage between sabotage and intrusive surveillance is but a short step.

Cyberattacks during the past decades

  •  Beginning with the 2007 devastating cyberattack on Estonia’s critical infrastructure, this was followed by the Stuxnet worm attack a few years later on Iran’s nuclear facility.
  • The Shamoon virus attack on Saudi Aramco occurred in 2012.
  • In 2016, a cyberattack occurred on Ukraine’s State power grid; in 2017 there was a Ransomware attack (NotPetya) which affected machines in as many as 64 countries.
  • United Kingdom’s National Health Service fell prey to Wannacry attack the same year/
  • The series of attacks happened this year on Ireland’s Health Care System and in the United States such as ‘SolarWinds’, the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline and JBS, etc.

What are the threats posed by cyberattacks?

  • Cyberweapons carry untold capacity to distort systems and structures — civilian or military.
  • Cyberweapons also interfere with democratic processes, aggravate domestic divisions and, above all, unleash forces over which established institutions or even governments have little control.
  • As more and more devices are connected to networks, the cyber threat is only bound to intensify, both in the short and the medium term.
  • What is especially terrifying is that instruments of everyday use can be infected or infiltrated without any direct involvement of the target.
  • The possibilities for misuse are immense and involve far graver consequences to an individual, an establishment, or the nation.
  • It is not difficult to envisage that from wholesale espionage, this would become something far more sinister such as sabotage.

Way forward

  • Deeper understanding:  Dealing with ‘zero day’ vulnerabilities require far more thought and introspection than merely creating special firewalls or special phones that are ‘detached’ from the Internet.
  • Recognising the mindset: What is needed is a deeper understanding of not only cyber technologies, but also recognising the mindsets of those who employ spyware of the Pegasus variety, and those at the helm of companies such as the NSO.
  • Short-term remedies are unlikely to achieve desired results.
  • No use of AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often seen as a kind of panacea for many of the current problems and ills, but all advances in technology tend to be a double-edged sword.
  • If truth be told, AI could in turn make all information warfare — including cyber related — almost impossible to detect, deflect or prevent, at least at the current stage of development of AI tools.

Conclusion

All this suggests that security in the era of ever-expanding cyberweapons could become an ever-receding horizon.


Back2Basics: Zero-day vulnerability

  • The term “zero-day” refers to a newly discovered software vulnerability.
  • Because the developer has just learned of the flaw, it also means an official patch or update to fix the issue hasn’t been released.
  • So, “zero-day” refers to the fact that the developers have “zero days” to fix the problem that has just been exposed — and perhaps already exploited by hackers.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

One nation, one police is a reform that is long overdue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Police Act 1861

Mains level : Paper 2- One nation, one police

Context

Police reforms are still an unfinished task, fifteen years after the Supreme Court gave directives in the Prakash Singh case in 2006.

Integrated schemes in different facilities

  • The Government of India has lately been talking of “One Nation, One Ration Card”, “One Nation, One Registry”, “One Nation, One Gas Grid”, and even “One Nation, One Election”.
  • These ideas would contribute to an integrated scheme in different facilities and networks across the country.
  • The attempt at uniformity should, however, take cognisance of local factors and special features.

Issue of different states passing different Police Act

  • Every state is legislating a different Police Act, purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms given on September 22, 2006.
  • We are in the process of having “one nation, many police acts”.
  • Circumventing the Prakash Singh judgement: The objective behind these laws is to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement and thereby circumvent the judicial directions given in the Prakash Singh judgement in 2006.
  •  Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.
  • Absence of central guidelines: Several states have, in the absence of any central guidance or directive, passed their own Police Acts, blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s directions.
  • No action by judiciary: The Supreme Court has, for inexplicable reasons, not issued a contempt notice to any of the states for non-compliance of its directions on police reforms.

Way forward

1) The Centre should legislate a Model Police Act

  • Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent.
  • Soon after the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms, the Police Act Drafting Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs came out with the Model Police Act, 2006.
  • The Government of India should have enacted a law based on this Model Police Act with such changes as it may have found necessary, and the states should have mutatis mutandis ( making necessary alterations while not affecting the main point at issue) adopted it.
  • The least that the Government of India could have done was to legislate for the UTs and then prevailed upon the states to pass similar legislation.
  • Enacting a law in the states could have been incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.

2) Need for the spirit of cooperative federalism

  • In recent times, we saw the unseemly spectacle of the Mumbai police commissioner accusing the state home minister of using the police as an instrument for extortion.
  • In West Bengal, the police have been a mute spectator to the post-election violence.
  • The Centre, through a fiat, gave protection to all the MLAs of the BJP.
  • Normally, any such arrangement should have been in consultation and with the involvement of the state government. 
  • Cooperative federalism: The best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.

3)Need for a fresh look at the distribution of power

  • If the central and state governments cannot respect each other’s turf, it would perhaps be necessary to have a fresh look at the distribution of powers in the seventh schedule of the Constitution.

Conclusion

Police reforms on the lines of judicial directives given by the Supreme Court is the need of the hour. The centre needs to act first and nudge the states toward a uniform police structure throughout the country.


Back2Basics: Supreme Court Directive on Police Reforms

1) Limit political control

  • Constitute a State Security Commission to:
  • Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
  • Lay down broad policy guidelines.
  • Evaluate the performance of the state police.

2. Appointments based on merit

  • Ensure that the Director-General of Police is appointed through a meritbased, transparent process, and secures a minimum tenure of 2 years.

3. Fix minimum tenure

  • Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in charge of a district and Station House Officers in charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of 2 years.

4. Separate police functions

  • Separate the functions of investigation and maintaining law and order.

5. Set up fair and transparent systems

  • Set up a Police Establishment Board to decide and make recommendations on transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

6. Establish a Police Complaints Authority in each state

  • At the state level, there should be a Police Complaints Authority to look into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody.
  • At the district level, the Police Complaints Authority should be set up to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.

7. Set up a selection commission

  • A National Security Commission needs to be set up at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of chiefs of the Central Police Organizations with a minimum tenure of 2 years.

Urban Floods

Why cloudbursts could become more frequent?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cloudburst

Mains level : Flash floods

Recently, cloudbursts have been reported from several places in J&K, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. A

What is a Cloudburst?

  • Cloudbursts are short-duration, intense rainfall events over a small area.
  • According to the IMD, it is a weather phenomenon with unexpected precipitation exceeding 100mm/h over a geographical region of approximately 20-30 square km.

What causes Cloudburst?

  • A study published last year studied the meteorological factors behind the cloudburst over the Kedarnath region.
  • They analyzed atmospheric pressure, temperature, rainfall, cloud water content, cloud fraction, cloud particle radius, cloud mixing ratio, total cloud cover, wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity during the cloudburst, before as well as after the cloudburst.
  • The results showed that during the cloudburst, the relative humidity and cloud cover was at the maximum level with low temperature and slow winds.
  • It is expected that because of this situation a high amount of clouds may get condensed at a very rapid rate and result in a cloudburst.

Impact of climate change

  • Several studies have shown that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts in many cities across the globe.
  • As temperatures increase the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture and this moisture comes down as a short very intense rainfall for a short duration.
  • This results in flash floods in the mountainous areas and urban floods in the cities.
  • Also, there is evidence suggesting that globally short duration rainfall extremes are going to become more intense and frequent.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.During a thunderstorm, the thunder in the skies is produced by the:

  1. meeting of cumulonimbus clouds in the sky
  2. lightning that separates the nimbus clouds
  3. violent upward movement of air and water particles

Select the correct option using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) None of the above

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

NEET’s All India Quota, and OBC & EWS reservation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Reservations for OBCs

The Union government has approved reservations for the OBC and EWS (Economically Weaker Section) categories within the All India Quota (AIQ) for NEET, the uniform entrance examination for medical and dental colleges across the country.

What is NEET?

  • The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is the entrance examination for entry to all undergraduate (NEET-UG) and postgraduate (NEET-PG) medical and dental courses in the country.
  • Until 2016, the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) was the national-level entrance examination for medical colleges.
  • State governments used to hold separate entrance tests for seats that were not contested at an all-India level.
  • NEET was held for the first time in 2003, but discontinued the following year.
  • On April 13, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the newly inserted section 10-D of the Indian Medical Council Act.
  • This provided for a uniform entrance examination to all medical educational institutions at the undergraduate level and postgraduate level in Hindi, English and various other languages.
  • Since then, NEET has been the uniform entrance test for medical courses across the country.

What is the All-India Quota?

  • Although the same examination is held across the country, a chunk of the seats in state medical/dental colleges is reserved for students domiciled in their respective states.
  • The remaining seats —15% in UG and 50% in PG — are surrendered by the states to the All India Quota.
  • The AIQ scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free, merit-based opportunities to students from any state to study in a good medical college in any other state.
  • A student domiciled in Uttar Pradesh, for example, may be eligible for admission to a seat in a state government medical college in West Bengal, provided she scores high enough in the national merit list.
  • If her score is not high enough for AIQ, she may still hope for admission under the state quota in her home state.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

What was the reservation policy followed so far?

  • Until 2007, no reservation was implemented within the All-India Quota for medical admission.
  • On January 31, 2007, in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi and Others, the Supreme Court directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced in the AIQ.
  • The same year, the government passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2007 providing for 27% reservation to OBC students in central government institutions.
  • While state government medical and dental colleges provide reservations to OBCs in seats outside the All India Quota, this benefit was so far not extended to seats allocated under the AIQ in these state colleges.
  • The 10% EWS quota under the Constitution (One Hundred And Third Amendment) Act, 2019, too, has been implemented in central educational institutions, but not in the NEET AIQ for state institutions.

What led to the decision?

  • The denial of OBC and EWS reservations has been the subject of protests for years.
  • In July last year, the Madras High Court ruled that OBC students too can avail reservation in the AIQ.
  • It held that the reservation could not be implemented for the then academic year for want of time, and can be implemented from 2021-22.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Geo-imaging satellite EOS-03

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EOS-03, SSLV

Mains level : Not Much

Geo-imaging satellite for earth observation EOS-03, which would enable near real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones, is scheduled for launch in the third quarter of 2021.

EOS-03

  • ISRO has realized a geo-imaging satellite, “EOS-03”, for Earth Observation from Geostationary Orbit.
  • EOS-03 is capable of imaging the whole country four-five times daily and would enable near real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones.
  • In addition to natural disasters, EOS-03 would also enable monitoring of water bodies, crops, vegetation condition, forest cover changes.

Other developments: Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV)

  • The first developmental flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
  • The SSLV is a cost-effective, three-stage and all-solid launch vehicle with a payload capability of 500 kg to 500 km planar orbit or 300 kg to Sun-Synchronous Polar Orbit.
  • It is ideal for the on-demand, quick turn-around launch of small satellites.
  • The major technologies developed as part of SSLV are flexible nozzle control with electro-mechanical actuators for all stages, miniaturized avionics, and a velocity trimming module in the upper stage for precise satellite injection.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] Various initiatives for Minorities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various initiatives for Minorities

Mains level : Minority welfare

The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has informed about various initiatives for minorities.

A brief of the schemes/programmers being implemented by the Ministry for the educational/economic empowerment of Minority students/candidates are as under:

Educational Empowerment

  • Scholarship Schemes: Pre-Matric Scholarship, Post-Matric Scholarship and Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship.
  • Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme: It provides financial assistance to students from notified minority communities and whose annual income is below Rs. 6.0 lakh per annum from all sources, to pursue higher education such as M.Phil and Ph.D.
  • Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship: It provides scholarship for meritorious girls belonging to notified minority communities studying in Classes IX to XII.
  • Naya Savera: It is a free coaching scheme which aims to enhance skills and knowledge of students and candidates from notified minority to get employment in Government Sector/ PSU, jobs in private sector, and admission in reputed institutions in technical and professional courses at UG and PG levels.
  • Nai Udaan: Support for notified minority community students, on clearing Prelims conducted by UPSC, State Public Service Commission (PSC) Staff Selection Commission (SSC) etc.

Economic Empowerment

  • Seekho aur Kamao (Learn & Earn): It is a skill development initiative for minorities and aims to upgrade the skills of minority youth in various modern/traditional skills depending upon their qualification, present economic trends and market potential, which can earn them employment or make them suitably skilled to go for self-employment.
  • Upgrading the Skill and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD): A mission has been launched under scheme to give an effective platform to minority artisans and culinary experts from across the country to showcase and market their finest handicraft and exquisitely crafted products through “Hunar Haats” organized by the Ministry.
  • Nai Manzil: A scheme to provide education and skill training to the youth from minority communities.
  • Gharib Nawaz Employment Training Programme: It provides for short-term job oriented skill development courses to youths belonging to minority communities.
  • National Minorities Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) Loan Scheme: It provide concessional loans for self-employment and income-generating activities for the socio-economic development of the ‘backward sections’ amongst the notified minorities.

Others: Equal Opportunity Commission

  • Among several recommendations, the Sachar Committee opined for an Equal Opportunity Commission to ensure the upliftment of deprived Muslims in the country.
  • It was formed during the first United Progressive Alliance government in 2006 to recommend policy measures for the upliftment of linguistic and religious minorities.
  • It stormed the country when it stated that the condition of Muslims in some states are worse than Dalits.

Back2Basics: National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

  • The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
  • Six religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in Gazette of India as minority communities by the Union Government all over India .
  • Original notification of 1993 was for five religious communities; Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims.

Commission has the following functions:

  • Evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.
  • Monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
  • Make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
  • Cause studies to be undertaken into problems arising out of any discrimination against Minorities and recommend measures for their removal.
  • Conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.
  • Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter pertaining to Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.
  • Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government.

The Commission has the following powers:

  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath.
  • Requiring the discovery and production of any document.
  • Receiving evidence on affidavit.
  • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.