February 2019
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[op-ed snap] How the 16th Lok Sabha fared

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anti-defection
Mains level: Effect of Anti-defection law on law making procedure


Context

Performance of 16th Lok Sabha

  • It met for 1,615 hours, 40% lower than all full-term Parliaments.
  • This Lok Sabha sat for 331 days (against a 468-day average for all previous full-term Lok Sabhas), and lost 16% of its time to disruptions.
  • The House was often disrupted by MPs carrying placards, entering the well, and even on occasion, blocking their colleagues from speaking.
  • Question Hour — the Lok Sabha lost a third of this time and the Rajya Sabha 60%; consequently, just 18% of the starred questions in each House got an oral reply.
  • Speaker blaming unruly behaviour for her inability to count the required number of MPs demanding a no-confidence motion but allowing the Union Budget to be passed in the interim.

Important Legislations

  • The Goods and Services Tax was implemented and the bankruptcy code was enacted.
  • The IIM Act gave premier management educational institutions a level of autonomy not available to other public educational institutions.
  • The Juvenile Justice Act allowed children (between 16 and 18 years) accused of committing heinous crimes to be prosecuted as adults.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act was amended to make bribe-giving an offence.
  • Laws were made requiring a declaration of assets held outside India, and to declare as fugitives those economic offenders who had fled the country.
  • The Aadhaar Act was passed to create a biometric-based identity system.

Manner of bill Passing

  • The Aadhaar Act was passed as a Money Bill .
  • Finance Bills, in the last few years, have included items which have no relation to taxes or to expenditure of the government.
  • The Finance Bill, 2015 included provisions to merge the regulator of commodity exchanges with the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
  • The Finance Bill, 2016 included amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act which relate to donations to non-profits.
  • The Finance Bill, 2017 went further and changed the compositions of 19 quasi-judicial bodies such as the Securities Appellate Tribunal, the National Green Tribunal and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), and repealed seven other bodies including the Competition Appellate Tribunal.
  • It is difficult to see how these Bills would fall within the narrow definition of Money Bill, as defined in Article 110 of the Constitution.

Need for reviewing Anti-defection Law

  • Triple Talaq Bill and the Citizenship Bill, were passed by the Lok Sabha but will lapse as they were not passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • They were held in check only due to a lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha; even this check was bypassed occasionally using the Money Bill route.
  • The government could do this as a result of the anti-defection provision which gives complete control of all party votes to the party leadership.
  • This law has converted MPs from being representatives of the people to delegates of the party.
  • If the party in government has a majority of its own, it can have any provision passed; even coalition governments have to convince just a handful of leaders of their alliance partners.

    Way Forward

  • Parliament plays the central role in our democracy by holding the government to account and scrutinising proposed laws and financial priorities.
  • It is time to ponder on how to make this institution more effective.
  • An important step will be by reviewing the anti-defection law that has hollowed out the institution.

[op-ed snap] Backing West Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Saudi Crown prince Visit to India And deepening of bilateral realtionship and change in regional dynamics


Context

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India this week — as part of a larger tour of Asia including Pakistan and China.

Importance of visit

  • It will mark the consolidation of two important trends and help initiate a significant third.
  • The first relates to the trilateral dynamic with Pakistan and the second to the deepening of the bilateral relationship between Delhi and Riyadh.
  • The third is about extending support to Prince Salman’s agenda for “reversing 1979”, when tumultuous regional developments and the Saudi response to them began to alter the equation between religion and politics in the region, destabilise India’s neighbourhood and change South Asia’s inter-state relations for the worse.

Change in South Asia And Gulf relationship after British Withdrawal

  • The Subcontinent’s historic relationship with the Gulf is deep and civilisational.
  • British Raj in undivided India became both the provider of security and the facilitator of the region’s economic globalisation.
  • After Partition and Independence, Pakistan sought to mobilise political support from the Middle East in the name of shared religious identity.
    Non-aligned India had little interest in continuing the strategic legacy of the Raj.
  • At the political level, India’s emphasis was on solidarity with Arab nationalism and against neo-colonialism and Western imperialism.
  • Riyadh became the moving force behind the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
  • The forum’s hostile rhetoric on the Kashmir question (at the instigation of Pakistan) generated the perception in Delhi that Saudi Arabia and the conservative monarchies were “pro-Pakistan”.

Reason for Interest conflicts

  • Divergence over regional issues such as Afghanistan,
    India’s embrace of the Soviet Union.
  • The deep dependence of the Gulf kingdoms on the West
    Saudi support for radical Islam beyond its borders since the late 1970s.

Growing Proximity over the years

  • The end of the Cold War, India’s economic reforms, and the growing economic interdependence , growing oil imports and manpower exports, generated greater interest in the Gulf monarchies.
  • As the gap in national economic capabilities between India and Pakistan began to widen since the 1990s in favour of Delhi, Saudi Arabia de-hyphenated its engagement in South Asia.
  • Delhi stopped viewing the Saudi kingdom through the political lens of Pakistan.
  • Prince Salman’s visit now is an opportunity for Delhi to construct a solid and comprehensive partnership on the foundation laid over the last decade.

New Avenues for cooperation

  • Beyond the traditional focus on strengthening cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector new possibilities come from Prince Salman’s ambitious agenda for modernising the economy of the Saudi kingdom.
  • Bilateral agenda for cooperation to counter terrorism.
  • Bilateral defence cooperation and developing bilateral strategic coordination on regional affairs.

Reversing 1979

  1. Four developments in 1979
  • seizure of Mecca’s Grand Mosque by militant Saudi Salafis.
  • overthrow of the Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini
  • Shia revolt in eastern Saudi Arabia
  • the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  1. Forced with new internal and external threats, the House of Saud promoted a more conservative Islam at home and support Sunni extremism abroad.
  2. This included support to the jihad in Afghanistan and the American and Pakistani war against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul.

Way Forward

  • Prince Salman vowed to overcome the deviations of 1979 and return Saudi Arabia to “moderate Islam”.
  • Many observers, are sceptical of the potential for real change in Saudi Arabia.
    Delhi, in contrast, has every reason to strongly support Prince.
  • After all, India continues to suffer the consequences of 1979.
  • Apart from number of MoUs that India will sign with Saudi this week, is Delhi’s visible and unstinted solidarity with Prince Salman’s reform agenda at home and his effort to promote religious and political moderation in the region.
Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

Explained: The lowdown on National Security Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

From UPSC perspectives, following things are important:

Prelims level: Provisions related to preventive detention

Mains Level: Art. 22 Vs. Preventive Detention


News

Background

  1. Recently a state govt. invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against three men accused of killing a cow.
  2. In December last year, a Manipur journalist, who had posted an alleged offensive Facebook post on the CM, was detained for 12 months under the NSA.
  3. This and a spate of recent cases have invoked the stringent provisions of the NSA to detain citizens for questionable offences.
  4. This brought the focus back on the potential abuse of the controversial law.

National Security Act

  1. The NSA empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security.
  2. The government can also detain a person to prevent him from disrupting public order or for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. T
  3. The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months.
  4. But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.

History of Preventive Detention in India

  1. Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era when the Bengal Regulation III of 1818 was enacted.
  2. It aimed to empower the government to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.
  3. A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.
  4. Post-independence India got its first preventive detention rule when the government of PM Nehru enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.

How did NSA come about?

  1. The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
  2. After the Preventive Detention Act expired on December 31, 1969, the then PM, Indira Gandhi, brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government.
  3. Though the MISA was repealed in 1977 after the successive government, led by Mrs. Gandhi, brought in the NSA.

Legal Provisions for NSA

  1. In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights. These include the right to be informed of the reason for the arrest.
  2. Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) mandates that the person arrested has to be informed of the grounds of arrest, and the right to bail.
  3. Sections 56 and 76 of the Cr. PC also provides that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest.

Extra-Judicial nature of NSA

  1. Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
  2. But none of these rights are available to a person detained under the NSA.
  3. A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
  4. Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
  5. The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

Why it matters?

  1. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered.
  2. Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.
  3. Experts say these cases point to the fact that governments sometimes use it as an extra-judicial power.

Way Forward

  1. The NSA has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
  2. It is time to reconsider the law because in four decades of its existence.
Human Rights Issues

Mariculture is as important for India as agriculture

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Food Security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mariculture, various edible seaweeds, Photorespiration, Project RIPE

Mains level: In light of declining land crop productivity, the newscard emphasizes the feasibility of Seaweeds as an alternative food


News

Food Security at stake

  1. About 37% of the area of the entire world is agricultural land, a third of which (about 11%) is used for crops.
  2. And as the population of the world rises to 9.7 billion people in 30 years, the land available for crops will reduce.
  3. Thus, there is an immediate need to try and improve the efficiency of food production.
  4. Experts predict that agricultural yield must increase by 50% between now and 2050.
  5. How to do this is the question facing agricultural scientists across the world.

What can be done to increase Productivity?

I. Engineered Photosynthesis under Project RIPE

  1. One way of increasing productivity one such attempt is through the project RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency).
  2. It has shown in the model plant tobacco where the scientists could “engineer photosynthesis” by increasing the expression of three genes involved in processing light.
  3. This increases the tobacco yield by 20%. The team is trying to do the same genetic engineering method in other plants.
  4. One such plant is cassava (also called sago or sabudana) whose roots are carbohydrate-rich is eaten as staple food in parts of Andhra, Kerala and the hilly areas of Assam.

II. Reducing Photorespiration

  1. Another way that scientists are trying is to reduce what is called photorespiration in plants.
  2. Here the energy and oxygen produced in the ‘light reaction’ of photosynthesis is drained by the plant to make “wasteful” products in the ‘dark reaction’.
  3. It consumes carbohydrates and other food material, particularly when the plant’s leaves close in order to reduce water loss by evaporation.
  4. If we can find ways to reduce this photorespiration, edible food yields can go up.

Hurdles

  1. Many of these research attempts involve the introduction of external genes and gene products into food crops.
  2. These are opposed by group of people who do not want genetic engineering and genetically modified plants.
  3. This is a curious situation where science finds ways to deal with genes so as to improve yields while sociology opposes it based on worries about safety.
  4. A viable solution needs to be found, failing which food production may not increase all to feed the ever growing population of the world.

Alternatives

Mariculture: A Feasible Option

  1. The most efficient use of photosynthesis is actually not by land plants but by micro and macro algae, such as seaweeds.
  2. These are the champions, contributing to about 50% of all photosynthesis in the world.
  3. Many of them, notably those with dark green, red and brown colour, are edible.
  4. They are low-calorie and nutrient-dense food items and eaten by people in most parts of South East Asia.

Include seaweeds in our diet

  1. Seaweeds are rich sources of vitamins A and C, and minerals such as Ca, Mg, Zn, Se and Fe.
  2. They also have a high level of vegetable proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
  3. Best of all, they are vegetarian, indeed vegan, and do not have any fishy smell, thus good and acceptable.

Seaweeds in India

  1. About 844 seaweed species are reported from India, a country with a coast line of 7,500 km.
  2. While we have 63% of our land area for crop agriculture, we should not forget this vast coastal area, much of which breeds seaweeds.
  3. The Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) at Bhavnagar, Gujarat has done pioneering work in the area.
  4. The seaweeds found in plenty, Ulva, Pyropia, Porphyra and Kappaphycus are edible and that it will be good to cultivate them in large scale, as is done in countries like Japan.
  5. Of the 306 seaweeds in the Gulf of Mannar, 252 are edible.

Way Forward

  1. India should embark on Mariculture as vigorously as Agriculture, given its 7,500 km-long coastal line.
  2. Further, it does not require pesticides, fertilizers and water for irrigation, which is an added advantage.
  3. We may “break in” through the use of seaweeds as pizza seasoning, in spice sachets, so that people get used to them.
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

Scientists discover massive mountains under Earth’s crust

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Changes in critical geographical features

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Interior of Earth

Mains level: Structure and feature of Earth’s interior


News

  • Scientists have discovered massive mountains in the Earth’s mantle, an advance that may change our understanding of how the planet was formed.

Earth’s Interior is different

  1. We often learn that the Earth has three layers: a crust, mantle and core, which is subdivided into an inner and outer core.
  2. While that is not wrong, it does leave out several other layers that scientists have identified within the Earth.

Earthquake data helps study

  1. In a study published in the journal, scientists used data from an enormous earthquake in Bolivia to find mountains and other topography on a layer located 660 km straight down, which separates the upper and lower mantle.
  2. Lacking a formal name for this layer, the researchers simply call it “the 660-km boundary.”
  3. Data from earthquakes that are magnitude 7.0 or higher sends shockwaves in all directions that can travel through the core to the other side of the planet — and back again.

The transition zone

  1. The key data came from waves picked up after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake — the second-largest deep earthquake ever recorded — that shook Bolivia in 1994.
  2. The researchers examined a layer 410 km down, at the top of the mid-mantle “transition zone,” and they did not find similar roughness.
  3. The presence of roughness on the 660-km boundary has significant implications for understanding how our planet formed and evolved.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance| Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DDRS

Mains level: Welfare Schemes for Divyangjans


News

  • For the overall empowerment of Divyangajan, a Regional Conference on Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) was organized by the Dept. of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) 

  1. The umbrella Central Sector Scheme called the “Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities” was revised in 2003 and was renamed as the DDRS.
  2. The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of PwD.
  3. The recommendation from the District Social Welfare Officer and State Government is required in release of grant-in-aid to NGOs.
  4. The list of model projects which have been optimized, includes, Pre-Schools, Early Intervention and Training; Special Schools for:
  • Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Hearing and Speech Disabilities
  • Visual Disabilities
  • Project for Cerebral Palsied children
  • Rehabilitation of Leprosy cured persons
  • Half Way Home for psycho-Social Rehabilitation of treated and controlled mentally ill persons
  • Home based Rehabilitation and Home Management etc.

Objectives of the scheme

  1. To create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
  2. To encourage voluntary action for ensuring effective implementation of the People with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Protection of Rights) Act of 1995.

Impact

  1. Under the scheme, every year more than 600 NGOs are provided with financial assistance for running their projects for the rehabilitation of PwD.
  2. The NGOs being funded are catering the rehabilitative services to more than 35000 to 40000 beneficiaries every year.

[pib] Government liberalizes the e-Visa regime

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: New visa norms

Mains level: Promoting tourism through visa norms relaxation


News

  • Recently, government has made series of amendments in e-visa regime, liberalizing it further and making it more tourist friendly.
  • The e-Tourist Visa which was introduced in Sept. 2014 with 46 countries has now been made applicable for 166 countries.

Changes in e-Tourist Visa

  • On e-Tourist Visa continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa except nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan.
  • In case of nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days.
  • In all cases no registration will be required.

Changes in e-Business Visa

  • Continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa
  • No registration will be required if the stay is for a period of less than 180 days.

Other changes:

  • e-Visa is valid for entry through 2 (two) more designated Airports (Bhubaneswar and Port Blair) raising the total number of such airports to 28.
  • Attending Destination wedding under normal e-Tourist visa or Tourist visa- No separate category of Destination Wedding Visa
  • Foreign nationals who fall sick during their stay in India can now avail medical treatment without converting their visa into Medical Visa.
  • This would take care of sudden medical emergencies.
  • Visa-on-Arrival facility extended to the nationals of Republic of Korea.
Tourism Sector

Andhra to adopt district cooling in govt. buildings

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: District Cooling

Mains level: Optimization of energy use for govt. buildings


News

  • AP govt. is going to lay the foundation stone of India’s biggest district cooling system in Amaravati.
  • District cooling was first set up in India at Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT).
  • The first phase of this system, with a capacity of 10,000 RTs, has been operational since April 2015.

What is District Cooling?

  1. District cooling means the centralized production and distribution of cooling energy.
  2. Chilled water is delivered via an underground insulated pipeline to office, industrial and residential buildings to cool the indoor air of the buildings within a district.
  3. Specially designed units in each building then use this water to lower the temperature of air passing through the building’s air conditioning system.
  4. The output of one cooling plant is enough to meet the cooling-energy demand of dozens of buildings.
  5. District cooling can be run on electricity or natural gas, and can use either regular water or seawater.

Details of the AP Project

  1. UAE-based company has entered into a 30-year concession with Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) to build, own, operate and transfer India’s first district cooling system in Amaravati.
  2. The agreement is for a contracted cooling capacity of 20,000 refrigeration tons (RTs).
  3. The district cooling system will cater to the state’s assembly, high court, secretariat and other government buildings currently being constructed, for which cooling services will start in early 2021.
  4. Touted as a highly efficient, cost-effective form of air conditioning, district cooling uses only 50 per cent of primary energy consumption for cooling urban buildings thereby reducing carbon emissions.
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes