[op-ed snap] A ticket for her

Mains Paper 1 : Role Of Women & Women Organization |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Women's Representation in Politics


CONTEXT

National parties have fielded very less percentage of women in Lok Sabha elections.

Situation of national Parties

  •  Outburst of women in politics shows, women are tiring of the power differential in the national parties — with ample reason.
  • Neither the BJP nor the Congress has done more than talk about women’s political empowerment.
  • In the current elections to the Lok Sabha, they have fielded 12 per cent and 13.7 per cent of women candidates, respectively.
  • That is far less than the commitments by two “regional” parties —  Trinamool Congress has fielded 40 per cent women candidates, while BJD has fielded 33 per cent.

Questions need to be raised

  • The question to be asked of both the BJP and the Congress is: How do they claim to be “national” parties if they do not attempt to adequately represent the political aspirations of 50 per cent of the country’s people?
  • The question of representation is also inevitably tied to equity.
  • When a patriarchal culture and society confines a majority of women to subordinate social and economic roles, politics must find a way of punching holes into the walls — and let some air in.
  • That is not to say that parties should be blind to the calculus of competing interests that determine elections, but they must also ask themselves why they have so far made little space for women’s ambitions.
  • As women rightfully complained, dynasty cannot be the only factor in choosing women candidates.
  • Several social and political firestorms have shown — whether it is the debate over triple talaq, or the allegations of sexual assault against minister, or the agitation for women’s entry to Sabarimala — that Indian women are forcefully renegotiating the terms of their social contract, even if they are not always in a position of strength.
  • But for these contestations to bring in substantial and far-reaching change, political power is essential.
  • Not just that, to bring in a fresh perspective on lawmaking, there is no better prescription than an infusion of new talent — of people from various gendered, caste and class positions.

Conclusion

Politics is, of course, a balancing act between the demands of pragmatism and idealism. But in this case, national parties have brazenly and consistently chosen to ditch equality for realpolitik. As more voices speak up, they must realise that the time’s up for patriarchal condescension.

 

Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap]Privacy in the age of sunshine laws

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RTI

Mains level : Discussion on whether Judiciary Should be under the preview of RTI.


CONTEXT

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has finally concluded hearing a crucial appeal (after being nine years in cold storage) under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005.

Important questions

  • One of the three crucial questions raised in this case pertains to
  • Whether judges are required to publicly disclose their assets under the RTI Act in light of Section 8(1)(j).
    • This provision prohibits the sharing of personal information that has no nexus to public activity or which amounts to an unwarranted invasion of privacy unless the larger public interest justifies such a disclosure.
    • Any attempt by them to assert the fundamental right to privacy as the basis for not disclosing assets to the public would necessarily require an implied overruling of landmark judgments in PUCL (2003) and Lok Prahari v. Union of India (2018), in which smaller benches of the court rubbished the privacy claims of the political class while forcing them to publicly disclose not just their assets but also the sources of their income.
    • The final ruling of the Constitution Bench will also impact the contentious Section 44 of the Lokpal Act, 2013, which requires all public servants (this includes judges) to disclose their assets but is silent on whether the disclosure should be to the competent authority or the general public.

Origins of Case

  • This case has its origins in an RTI application filed in 2007 in which the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Supreme Court was asked by Subash Agrawal whether the judges of the Supreme Court had complied with the terms of a resolution adopted in 1997, in which all judges had committed to disclosing information about their assets and liabilities to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • The resolution had specifically mandated that the information would remain “confidential”. In 2005, Parliament passed the RTI Act, creating a legal right to demand information held by public authorities which arguably also includes the CJI.
  • the PIO sought to invoke, among other sections, Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act to deny him this information.
  • Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act – This provision of the RTI Act prevents public authorities from disclosing any “personal information” of citizens if such “disclosure had no relationship to any public activity or interest” or if such disclosure constitutes “an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual” unless the PIO is “satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information”.
  • Court’s Judgement – When the matter reached the Delhi High Court, both the single judge and the Full Bench concluded that judges, like other public servants, had a fundamental right to privacy.
  • This right, it held, could only be curtailed if the RTI applicant demonstrated a showing of “larger public interest” as required by Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.
  • In other words, public servants as a class of employees cannot be forced to disclose their personal assets to the public merely because they hold public posts.
  • However, in individual cases, if the person seeking such information could demonstrate a “larger public interest” such as wrongdoing or impropriety on the part of the public official, the information could be disclosed.

Implications of this case

  • It is likely that the Supreme Court will follow the Delhi High Court’s reasoning because of its own decision from 2012 in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner.
  • A lot has happened on the privacy front since 2012. The litigation and the civil society campaign against Aadhaar resulted in a unanimous judgment from nine judges of the Supreme Court declaring informational privacy as a component of the fundamental right to privacy.
  • When the Constitution Bench decides on Mr. Agrawal’s appeal, it will most likely be viewing the privacy right enshrined in Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act through the lens of the Aadhaar judgment.
  • If the Bench decides that all Supreme Court and High Court judges have a fundamental right to privacy (only two of the five judges hearing the case have voluntarily disclosed their assets) and that judges cannot be forced to disclose their assets to the public, questions will be asked as to why the court forced politicians to publicly disclose their assets and sources of income.
  • It would then be only a matter of time before politicians and their spouses seek the overturning of the PUCL and Lok Prahari judgments, thereby turning back the clock on electoral transparency.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

Explained: J&K govt blocking of a highway

Mains Paper 3 : External State & Non-State Actors: Challenges To Internal Security. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Security challenges in J&K


News

A move for safer transition

  • The J&K govt. issued an order banning the movement of civilian traffic on a 270-km stretch (Udhampur-Baramulla) of the Jammu-Srinagar-Uri national highway for two days every week.
  • On Sundays and Wednesdays, the highway would be exclusively used for movement of military convoys.
  • The decision has been taken considering the security concerns that led to temporarily blocking part of the highway.
  • However this has an implication on civilian population.

Why is the highway important?

  • The Jammu-Srinagar-Uri national highway (NH-1A) runs 370 km.
  • The national highway is not just the only road link that connects Kashmir to the outside world but also the key highway that connects Srinagar with the southern and northern districts of the Valley.
  • The highway passes through five of the 10 districts of the Valley, and highways to at least two more districts branch out from it.
  • The highway, directly and indirectly, impacts a population of over 69 lakh.

The road-block to terror

  • The government has cited the recent suicide bombing of a security forces convoy in Pulwama — which killed 40 CRPF personnel — as the reason for restricting traffic.
  • This stretch would be closed for all forms of civilian traffic from dawn to dusk (4 am to 5 pm) on these two days, leaving it open exclusively for convoys of security forces.
  • While the highway would be closed on these two days, civilian traffic already faces restrictions through the week.

Implications of the road-block

  • It means a virtual lockdown of the Valley for two days every week.
  • According to official figures, over 10,000 vehicles move on the highway from both sides every hour, including around 5,000 light motor vehicles.
  • These include vehicles carrying students, patients, government officials and businessmen.
  • Closing the highway during daytime would mean that most government and private offices, banks, schools and colleges would remain shut on Wednesdays and the movement of people to hospitals would be severely restricted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Another viable option

  • Almost all colleges, higher secondary institutions and schools in five districts of the Valley are accessible only through this highway.
  • Besides, there are hundreds of villages and towns spread on both sides of the highway from Udhampur to Baramulla. The ban would effectively cut them off from other places on two days every week.
  • Whenever security forces’ vehicles are using the highway, civilian traffic is often halted for various lengths of time.
  • Had the government decided to move security convoys at night, the impact on civilian traffic movement could have been much less.
J&K – The issues around the state

Stephen Hawking’s hypothesis on black holes discarded

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dark Matter, Gravitational Lensing

Mains level : Black-hole theory and its relevance 


News

  • An international research team including researchers from IUCAA, Pune has ruled out the possibility of primordial black holes being a major constituent of dark matter.
  • This finding disproves a theoretical claim of Prof Stephen Hawking.

What is Dark matter?

  • In the solar system, Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, takes just 88 days to make one revolution around the sun, while Neptune, the farthest one, takes 165 years to make one round.
  • In like manner, laws of gravity expect us to see stars closer to the centre of galaxies rotating faster than the stars on the edge.
  • However, in most galaxies, the stars closer to the centre and the stars at the edge of the galaxies take almost same time to make one revolution.
  • This implied that something invisible and enveloping the galaxies was giving an extra push to the outer stars, speeding them up.
  • This entity has remained as one of the central unresolved puzzles in cosmology since 1930s. It is, no wonder, named `Dark Matter’.
  • The material is considered to be a ‘matter’ since it appears to have gravitational attraction and it is ‘dark’ because it does not seem to interact with light (or for that matter any part of the electromagnetic spectrum).
  • Detailed surveys of the cosmos indicate that almost 85% of the total mass of the Universe is composed of dark matter.

Proposition by Stephen Hawking

  • In 1971, Prof. Hawking showed the possibility that black holes could form very early in the universe.
  • Since the actual nature of dark matter particles is a mystery, he predicted that these primordial black holes (made up of ordinary matter) could behave like dark matter.
  • He computed that the mass of the primordial black holes could range from as low as one-hundredth of a milligram to as high as more than the mass of thousand Suns.

How did researchers disapprove Hawking?

  • The research team used the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Japanese Subaru Telescope located in Hawaii to look for any tell-tale evidence of primordial black holes between Earth and Andromeda galaxy using gravitational lensing technique.
  • They kept observing the entire disk of the Andromeda galaxy consisting of lakhs of stars.
  • Previous studies had ruled out the existence of large numbers of primordial black holes that could range in size from the mass of the Moon to about 10 solar masses.
  • If the Universe is filled with invisible various primordial black holes, with masses lighter than the moon, as postulated by Hawking, then the team should have seen at least 1,000 gravitational lensing events.
  • However, they were able to see at most one such event which implies Hawking’s theory that such black holes make up all of dark matter is wrong.

Back2Basics

Gravitational Lensing

  • Black holes are not radiant and will not be visible through any telescope.
  • However, as first suggested by Albert Einstein, if by chance, a tiny primordial black hole eclipses a distant star, light rays of the star will bend around the black hole due to gravitational effect, resulting in the star appearing to be brighter than it is originally.
  • Called `gravitational lensing’, this rare phenomena can occur only when the star, the black hole and the observer on the Earth are aligned in a straight line.
  • When the black hole is in alignment with a distant star, due to gravitational attraction, light rays are bent inwards like a lens, making the star appear brighter.
  • In extreme cases of gravity, like those produced by black holes, the star that is the source of the bent light appears magnified, an effect that can be detected by powerful telescopes.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Asian Development Outlook 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Inclusive Growth & Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : India’s economic growth: prospects and challenges


News

  • Asian Development Bank has published its flagship report Asian Development Outlook 2019.

Asian Development Outlook 2019

  • ADB, in its report mentioned that recent policy measures by the GoI to improve the investment climate and boost private consumption and investment will help India to lift economic growth in the next two fiscal years.
  • For the entire Asia, the multilateral agency forecasted that growth will soften to 5.7 per cent in 2019 and 5.6 per cent in 2020.
  • India will remain one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world this year given strong household spending and corporate fundamentals said the report.
  • Income support to farmers, hikes in procurement prices for food grains, and tax relief to tax payers earning less than Rs 5 lakh will boost household income.
  • Declining fuel and food prices are also expected to provide an impetus for consumption.
  • An increase in utilization of production capacity by firms, along with falling levels of stressed assets held by banks and easing of credit restrictions on certain banks, is expected to help investment grow at a healthy rate.

About ADB

  • The ADB is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966 which is headquartered in Philippines.
  • ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
  • The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
  • The ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.
  • The president has a term of office lasting five years, and may be reelected.
  • Traditionally, and because Japan is one of the largest shareholders of the bank, the president has always been Japanese.
  • ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Ambitions Beyond Growth Report 2019

Mains Paper 1 : Social Empowerment |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNESCAP

Mains level : Attainment of SDGs


News

Ambitions Beyond Growth Report

  • It is a annual report published by UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
  • A comprehensive assessment of the investment needed to reach the SDGs in the region by 2030 estimates an additional $1.5 trillion per year.
  • These “ambitions beyond growth” are largely affordable for most countries in the region, given available public and private resources.
  • Strong development partnerships and regional cooperation are essential to ensure that all countries complete this important journey.
  • Closing this investment gap is within reach for many countries, but the gap is widest in countries which can least afford to narrow it
  • The report says that significant savings could be achieved through greater emphasis on education quality and outcomes.

About UNESCAP

  • The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • It is established in 1947 with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Parent Organisation: UN ECOSOC
  • India is a founding member of UNESCAP
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[pib] Technical Analysis of FAME II Scheme 

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FAME II

Mains level : Issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


News

  • The NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has released a report on opportunities for the automobile sector and government under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles II (FAME II) scheme.

India’s Electric Mobility Transformation

  • The report is titled ‘India’s Electric Mobility Transformation: Progress to Date and Future Opportunities’.
  • It quantifies the direct oil and carbon savings that the vehicles incentivized under FAME II will deliver.
  • According to the analysis, if FAME II and other measures – in public and private space – are successful, India could realize EV sales penetration of 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial cars, 40% of buses and 80% of two and three-wheelers by 2030.
  • For example, achieving these levels of market share by 2030 could generate cumulative savings of 846million tonnes of CO2 over the total deployed vehicles’ lifetime.

Key highlights from the report:

  • The electric buses covered under FAME II will account for 3.8 billion vehicle kilometers travelled (e-vkt) over their lifetime
  • In order to capture the potential opportunity in 2030, batteries must remain a key focal point as they will continue to be the key cost driver of EVs.
  • EVs sold through 2030 could cumulatively save 474 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) worth INR 15 lakh crore and generate net CO2 savings of 846 million tonnes over their operational lifetime.

What more is needed?

  • India needs auto industry’s active participation to ease electric mobility transition.
  • The auto and battery industries could collaborate to enhance customer awareness, promote domestic manufacturing, promote new business models, consider new business models to promote EVs
  • Government should focus on a phased manufacturing plan to promote EVs, provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for phased manufacturing of EVs and batteries.

To read more about FAME II Scheme, navigate to the page:

Second phase of fame to electrify public transport

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.