[op-ed of the day] Game of chicken that can end in disaster

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Impact of USA Iran conflict on the regional politics


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

On July 7, Iran announced that it would begin enriching uranium above a concentration of 3.67% permitted under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015.

Increasing tensions between USA and Iran

  • These steps come in the wake of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran following the shooting down of an unmanned U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June.
  • However, it led to the U.S. President, Donald Trump, first ordering a retaliatory strike on Iran and then rescinding it at the last minute.

Effects on regional peace

  • The mayhem could have spread to the entire West Asian region with Iran attacking strategic American, Saudi and Emirati targets around the Gulf and attempting to block the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to choke off the supply of Gulf oil to the international market.
  • Further, Iranian allies in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria might have launched attacks against American troop concentrations as well as against U.S. ally Israel, thus inviting further American and Israeli counter-retaliation and dragging the U.S. into its third major war in the region.

US’s withdrawal from the deal and sanctions

  • The downward spiral in U.S.-Iran relations started with Mr. Trump’s decision (announced in May 2018) to withdraw from the JCPOA against the advice of the U.S.’s European allies France, Germany, and the U.K. that are parties to the deal.
  • The Trump administration followed it up with the re-imposition of stringent economic sanctions against Iran that were being gradually dismantled following the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • These included sanctions against foreign companies doing business with Iran and against countries buying Iranian oil.

List of demands

 No waivers – Finally, the U.S. announced in April this year that it would not extend waivers granted earlier to eight countries (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece) which had been the largest importers of Iranian oil.

Iran’s nuclear programme – Further curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme including total stoppage of uranium enrichment even at low levels permitted by the JCPOA and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Support to terrorist groups – Further, USA demanded that Iran stop all support to Hezbollah and Hamas which the U.S. considers to be “terrorist” groups, permit the disarming of Shia militias in Iraq, and stop aiding Houthis in Yemen fighting Saudi and Emirati forces in that country.

End building of ballistic missiles  – Above all, Mr. Pompeo demanded that Iran end building of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.

Rejection by Iran

However, persisting and escalating moves by the U.S. during the past year now seem to have made it impossible for Tehran to simultaneously maintain the contradictory position of resisting American demands while continuing to comply with restrictions imposed on its nuclear programme by the JCPOA.

Retaliatory measures

  • The Iranian government, in order to maintain its standing with the populace, has been left with no option but to undertake tit-for-tat measures, further heightening the political temperature in the Persian Gulf.
  • This has turned the U.S.-Iran standoff into a game of chicken in which either one of the parties to the game blinks and concedes victory to the other or a “crash” becomes inevitable.

Conclusion

  • The American-Iranian confrontation seems to be inexorably heading towards the latter outcome.
  • If taken to its logical conclusion this scenario can turn out to be catastrophic for the entire West Asian region as well as for the international economy.
  • Oil supplies from the Persian Gulf are likely to be greatly reduced if not totally eliminated sending oil prices sky-rocketing, especially threatening the vulnerable economies of the global South.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Law and beyond

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Draft law on lynching in UP


CONTEXT

In July 2018, a Chief Justice of India-led bench of the Supreme Court delivered a stinging indictment of what it called “horrendous acts of mobocracy”, and warned against violent vigilantism propelled by prejudice and hatred — “lynching” — becoming “the new normal”.

Directives

The Court directed the Centre to frame a law that dealt specifically with these crimes, and suggested the setting up of fast-track courts, lodging of FIRs without delay and framing of compensation schemes for victims and their families.

Draft Law

  • The draft law submitted to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by the UP State Law Commission would appear to take cognisance of the Court’s directive.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Combating of Mob Lynching Bill (2019) proposes imprisonment (upto 10 years for serious injuries and upto life imprisonment in case of death) and stringent fines for perpetrators, as well as those involved in planning and abetting lynchings.
  • Role of administration – Significantly, it also criminalises the “dereliction of duty” by police officers and the district administration.
  • Setting Accountability – The draft law is welcome for the much-needed signal it sends out — there must be accountability for hate crime.

Reports on lynching

  • Far too often, the mob lynching phenomenon, disturbingly ubiquitous since 2014, has been met by the ruling political formation by denial or, at times, with what could be described as tacit and symbolic support.
  • A report by IndiaSpend found that of all “bovine-related deaths” between 2011-2017, 97 per cent occurred after the BJP came to power in 2014.
  • Take the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in UP in 2015.
  • The case, despite being before a fast-track court, has seen little progress.
  • As on date, the court is yet to take cognisance of the charges framed against the accused.

Way Forward

In this context, a state government-appointed commission in  UP does well to propose a law that recognises, first, that mob lynchings require urgent legislative and administrative intervention and, second, that police and administration must also share the blame for the climate that permits such violence.

Conclusion

  • But a new law can only be a first step.
  • The state must follow it through
  • . Then, in 2018, the apex court had also said “grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes including in the social media aggravates the entire problem”.
  • The political and social sanction for violence, in the name of the cow is integral to the sense of impunity that encourages the lynch mob.
  • These can only be addressed with the active support of the political class and civil society.
Human Rights Issues

Explained: Anti-Defection Law

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti-defection Law

Mains level : Role of ADL


News

  • Cases of defection have been reportedly rising from various states like Goa, Karnataka, Telangana etc.

Anti-defection law in India

  • For a long time, the Indian political scene was clouded by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
  • The infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the background of continuous defections by the legislators.
  • Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell.
  • In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.
  • The ‘anti-defection law’ was passed through an Act of Parliament in 1985 by the government under Rajiv Gandhi.
  • Passed as the 52nd Amendment Act, it added the law as the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

What all does the Law cover?

  • It states that members who do the following will lose their membership any House (which could be at the Centre or in a State) if they:
  1. Voluntary resign from their political party from which they have been elected
  2. Vote against the direction of their political party (in legislature)
  3. Does not vote/abstain from voting (in legislature) despite having a direction to vote from their party.
  • and 3. do not apply if the member has prior permission from his/her party or the party condones the member’s action within 15 days of the voting.
  • Members independent of any political party will lose their membership if they join one after their election to legislature.
  • Nominated members will lose their membership if they join a party within 6 months of their nomination to legislature.

Certain Exceptions to the Law

  • The law provides exceptions from being disqualified as a member of legislature on the following grounds:
  1. When political parties merge with each other entirely
  2. When a political party splits into other parties, subject to not less than a third of the members splitting
  3. When two-thirds (or more) of members belonging to a party join another party without both their parties explicitly merging
  • The Speaker or the Chairman of the concerned Houses (as applicable) makes decisions on defection matters.
  • If the Chairman or the Speaker defects, the decisions shall be made by a member elected by the House.

Has the law changed since inception, and if so, how?

  • Yes, the law was amended in 2003.
  • When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
  • This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
  • Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger, which is provided in Paragraph 4 of the 10th Schedule.

Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?

  • The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party.
  • This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation.
  • As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer, who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.

How far has the law succeeded in achieving its goal?

  • The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent.
  • But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
  • The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out.
  • This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any.

Conclusion

  • This law has served the interest of the society.
  • Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a very great extent.
  • That is a story of success of one of the most important legislation that the Indian Parliament has enacted.
Electoral Reforms In India

Private member’s Bill calls for two-child norm

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Private members

Mains level : Private member’s Bill


News

  • A nominated MP has introduced a private member’s Bill in the Rajya Sabha, seeking to enforce a two-child norm by giving incentives for those adopting the small family practice and penalties for those contravening it.

Population Regulation Bill, 2019

  • The bill introduced in the Upper House, suggests that people with more than two living children should be “disqualified” from being chosen as an MP, MLA or a member of any body of the local self government after the commencement of the Act.
  • Similarly, it suggests that government employees should give an undertaking that she or he will not procreate more than two children.
  • It says those government employees who have more than two children on or before the commencement of the Act should be exempted.
  • Other penalties include reduction in subsidies on loans and interest rates on savings instruments, reduction in benefits under the public distribution system, and higher than normal interest rates for availing loans from banks and financial institutions.
  • The provisions also list out several benefits for Central and public sector enterprise employees who adopt the two-child norm “by undergoing sterilization operation himself or of the spouse”.

Why such bill?

  • According to UN population projections, India is expected to become the most populated country by 2050.
  • The Bill as stated is intended to create a balance between people and the resources, human resources as well as natural resources.
  • 72 districts in the country have a total fertility rate of more than four children per woman.
  • There is also a case of regional imbalance….while the southern and western states are better off, in the northern and eastern states of India, birth control is either not accepted or not applied.

Back2Basics

Private member’s bill

  • Members of Parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as private member’s bills.
  • A private member bill can be introduced by both ruling party and opposition MPs.
  • They can introduce a bill in the parliament after giving prior notice of one month.
  • The bill needs to be passed in both houses of parliament.
  • Once passed in both the houses, bill needs to get assent of the president to become an act.
  • By set tradition, President can easily exercise his absolute veto power against such bills.
  • In Lok Sabha, the last two and a half hours of a sitting on every Friday are generally allotted for transaction of “Private Members’ Business”, i.e., Private Members’ Bills and Private Members’ Resolutions.

Merchant Discount Rate

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MDR/TDR

Mains level : Promoting digital transactions in India


News

  • The recent budget proposal seeks to incentivise digital transactions by reducing Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for customers as well as merchants.

What was the Budget announcement?

  • The business establishments with annual turnover more than 50 crore shall offer such low cost digital modes of payment to their customers and no charges or MDR shall be imposed on customers as well as merchants.
  • In other words, the government has mandated that neither the customers nor the merchants will have to pay the so-called Merchant Discount Rate (or MDR) while transacting digital payments.
  • It is good news for both customers and merchants because their costs of digital payments come down.

Merchant Discount Rate

  • Merchant Discount Rate (alternatively referred to as the Transaction Discount Rate or TDR) is the sum total of all the charges and taxes that a digital payment entails.
  • Simply put, it is a charge to a merchant by a bank for accepting payment from their customers in credit and debit cards every time a card gets swiped in their stores.
  • Similarly, MDR also includes the processing charges that a payments aggregator has to pay to online or mobile wallets or indeed to banks for their service.

Who will bear the MDR costs?

  • If customers don’t pay and merchants don’t pay, some entity has to pay for the MDR costs.
  • In her speech, the FM has said that RBI and Banks will absorb these costs from the savings that will accrue to them on account of handling less cash as people move to these digital modes of payment.
  • Necessary amendments are being made in the Income Tax Act and the Payments and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 to give effect to these provisions.

Issues surrounding

  • Contrary to public perception, the MDR has not been made zero.
  • The FM’s decision has just shifted its incidence on to the RBI and banks.
  • However, if banks pay for the MDR it will adversely their likelihood to adopt the digital payments architecture.
  • Moreover, many payments providers apprehend that the banks will find a way of passing on the costs to them.
  • In turn, this will negatively impact the health of a sector that needs nurturing.
Differentiated Banks – Payment Banks, Small Finance Banks, etc.

Hayabusa2

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 : Hayabusa2

Mains level : Importance of the mission



News

  • Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which successfully made its second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu has become the first ever space probe to gather material from beneath the surface of an asteroid.

About Hayabusa2

  • Launched in December 2014, the probe is a follow-up of Hayabusa, which explored the asteroid Itokawa in 2005.
  • Hayabusa was the first mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth.
  • The asteroid mission first reached Ryugu — a kilometre-wide asteroid, with a relatively dark surface and almost zero gravity — in June 2018 and made its first touchdown on the surface in February 2019.
  • A month later the spacecraft hit the surface of Ryugu with a pellet and created a 10-metre-wide crater.
  • It also exposed the materials under the asteroid’s surface that were so far protected from the harsh effects of cosmic rays and charged particles of solar wind blasting through space.

Structure of Ryugu

  • Ryugu is a rubble-pile asteroid: A collection of rocks and dust held together loosely by gravity.
  • Its surface is also strewn with an unusual number of boulders — more per unit surface area than any asteroid explored so far.

Latest update

  • For its latest mission, Hayabusa2 hovered outside the crater, without landing.
  • It picked up samples of the material by shooting down a projectile from its one-metre long cylindrical horn, which then captured the fragments rebounding from the surface, stated the release.
  • Hayabusa2 will deliver the material to Earth by the end of 2020, when it is expected to return to Earth.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

[pib] LaQshya Initiative

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LaQshya Initiative

Mains level : Not Much


News

  • The Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare) informed about LaQshya Initiative in the Lok Sabha.

LaQshya Initiative

  • Government of India has launched “LaQshya” (Labour room Quality improvement Initiative) to improve quality of care in labour room and maternity operation theatres in public health facilities.
  • Aim: To reduce preventable maternal and newborn mortality, morbidity and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in Labour room and Maternity Operation Theatre and ensure respectful maternity care.

Objectives

  • To reduce maternal and newborn mortality & morbidity due to hemorrhage, retained placenta, preterm, preeclampsia and eclampsia, obstructed labour, puerperal sepsis, newborn asphyxia, and newborn sepsis, etc.
  • To improve Quality of care during the delivery and immediate post-partum care, stabilization of complications and ensure timely referrals, and enable an effective two-way follow-up system.
  • To enhance satisfaction of beneficiaries visiting the health facilities and provide Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to all pregnant women attending the public health facilities.

Following types of healthcare facilities have been identified for implementation of LaQshya program:

  1. Government medical college hospitals.
  2. District Hospitals & equivalent health facilities.
  3. Designated FRUs and high case load CHCs with over 100 deliveries/month ( 60 in hills and desert areas)
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.