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[oped of the day] In Afghan peace derailment, a wagon of hope

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Afghan peace process


Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly called off ‘peace’ talks with the Taliban citing the killing of an American soldier in a suicide bomb attack for which the Taliban claimed the credit. 

Background

  • The agreement had been in the making over nine rounds of talks, largely in Doha.
  • The Afghan government was not a part of talks on account of a Taliban veto.
  • The details of the agreement are as follows
    • They centered on an initial timetable for the withdrawal of around 5,400 out of nearly 14,000 U.S. troops from five Afghan bases in 135 days.
    • A tight timeline of two weeks to kick-start intra-Afghan talks before the Afghan presidential elections.
  • The announcement was accompanied by a wave of violence. They were intended to sabotage the elections. 

Why Trump had to withdraw the Khalilzad deal

  • The deal as negotiated was one-sided, partial and highly flawed. It tilted towards Trump’s goal of a withdrawal of all U.S. troops by November 2020.
  • It was weak in guarantees against terrorism aimed at the U.S., and lacking safeguards for the security and stability for Afghanistan. 
  • Differences remained over the withdrawal of the remaining troops amid U.S. insistence on residual counter-terrorism (CT) and intelligence presence.
  • A lack of trust in the Taliban at critical levels in the U.S.
  • The comprehensive ceasefire was watered down to a limited ‘reduction’ in violence. 
  • The intra-Afghan government talks effectively downgraded to talks with a non-official delegation. 
  • The Afghan government with which the U.S. has a bilateral strategic partnership and security agreements were sidelined and powerless. 
  • These were among the reasons for Trump’s decision.

Other problems with the agreement

  • Its timing and attempt to rush intra-Afghan talks just days before the presidential elections is with the aim of undermining the elections. 
  • If successful, they could have undercut plans to install an interim, transitional or power-sharing arrangement that could provide the mechanism and an illusion of peace to pull out U.S. forces. 
  • It would have paved the way for a dominant position for the Taliban in any future dispensation and pushed Afghanistan towards instability.
  • Even a civil war worse than the intra-Mujahideen fighting of the 1990s with unpredictable consequences could happen.
  • The agreement was seen as an “abdication”, and even a “surrender” rather than a peace agreement, sacrificing the political, military and economic investments and civic gains of the last 18 years including democracy and the advancement of women.
  • It is creating the conditions for a likely descent into civil war, fanning radical extremism.

Way ahead

  • There is a need for a counter-terrorism strategy. 
  • The suspension of U.S.-Taliban talks has opened the space for the holding of Afghan presidential elections.
  • It also gave a window of opportunity for the international community and India to reset their approach to peace and withdrawal.
  • The Afghan election authorities and security forces should be supported in every way to conduct free and fair elections as an exercise of Afghan sovereignty. 
  • Concerns about misuse of government apparatus should be addressed. 
  • A reasonably good turnout even if elections are held only in secure areas would be a barometer of support elsewhere and a victory for the constitutional order.
  • Its outcome could provide a stronger foundation for talks with the Taliban that are Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled and not as dictated from Washington, Islamabad, Doha or Moscow. 
  • India should be able to support such talks.
  • Free from elections, the Afghan government should take the lead in forging a national consensus behind talks with the Taliban that it has failed to do until now.
  • Focus efforts on the Taliban to demonstrate their ‘nationalism’ by distancing themselves from Pakistan’s ISI, halting attacks against fellow Afghans, agreeing to a ceasefire, and negotiating directly with a representative Afghan delegation.
  • U.S. military pressure on the Taliban is not enough. Doha talks show that the route to peace in Afghanistan is through Pakistan. Every possible instrument should be brought to bear on Pakistan to deliver on this. 
  • Crucial to Afghanistan’s future is its ability to stand on its own feet:
    • economically through investment in Afghanistan’s mineral sector
    • Militarily through a progressive ‘Afghanisation’ of security forces at a lower budget
  • India should be able to use Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rapport with Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to influence their policies and play a larger international diplomatic role in Afghanistan.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[op-ed snap] A milestone in greater transparency, accountability

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Citizen Centric Administration - Power of Technology to realise it


CONTEXT

The Jan Soochna Portal launched by the government of Rajasthan is a remarkable achievement in furtherance of RTI, especially Section 4 of the RTI Act that deals with proactive disclosure of information. 

Importance of Transparency and Accountability –  A case study

  • Transparency must be accompanied by accountability
  • JSP places the power of making the State government accountable to everyone who accesses the information made available on the portal.
  • A National Judicial Data Grid was launched keeping transparency in the justice delivery system in mind. This gave information about all pending cases across the country. 
  • A year-wise break up of pending cases was given on the grid and it was found that more than 70,000 cases were pending for over 30 years. 
  • The justice delivery system was asked to account for the enormous delay in such a large number of cases. 
  • Chief Justices and Registrars in many courts appreciated the fact that they needed to answer questions relating to such enormous delays.
  • Many courts have begun to concentrate on the disposal of old cases with considerable success. 
  • This is a good example of transparency accompanied by accountability brought about by civil society.

JSP

  • Details of every activity of the government such as availability of food grains and ration shops and their distribution, implementation of various schemes and their beneficiaries and a variety of other information are available on a real-time basis.
  • It is a virtual Janta Information System. 
  • The portal has been arrived at through a regular and rigorous consultative process between government officials, IT professionals and civil society. 
  • Since the information is available on the Internet, every citizen, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat, has access to the information. 
  • For example, if identified persons in a particular area had not availed themselves of any rations, they can be easily contacted. 
  • The portal gives the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts. 
  • Another significant piece of information is about mining leases. 
    • This portal gives the list of mines in every district, provides geographical coordinates, and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers. 
    • It also provides details about pollution and environment clearances.
    • It provides details of production and royalties and taxes paid. 
  • This kind of information can facilitate a progressive partnership between the government and citizens for a cleaner society.
  • With the use of technology and digitisation of records and information, this information is made freely available on the JSP.
  • There is no need for anyone to take recourse to the RTI Act and await a response.

Challenges remain

  • Maintenance issues to ensure that there is no let-up in the availability of information. 

System in place

  • Various line departments of the government of Rajasthan have been given a set of obligations that they are expected to fulfill. For example, they are expected to ensure digitisation of records. 
  • The Department of Information Technology will serve as the nodal department for the development, operationalisation, and maintenance of the JSP.
  • Its obligations include adherence to the norms and standards laid down by a digital dialogue advisory group. 
  • The advisory group will be the monitoring agency. 
  • Grievance redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
  • The government of Rajasthan has also taken steps to train citizens so that they are aware of the facilities available.
  • It has been decided to host the JSP in decentralised locations, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat levels. 
  • They will have access to welfare schemes, revenue activities such as mining, and other service delivery issues such as health and education.

CONCLUSION

It would be wonderful if all other State governments follow the Rajasthan government’s initiative, which aims to make people, including the marginalised sections, a part of the governance process.

RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap] Why sedition law has lost meaning

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 : Nothing much

Mains level : Sedition Law - need for a relook in the background of evolving jurisprudence


CONTEXT

Justice Deepak Gupta, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, noted how the provision in the IPC provides for punishment for seditious speech is misused often than not. He wondered whether the time is ripe to have a relook at the law.

Freedom of speech

  • Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.
  • It is subject only to Article 19(2) which saves any law that imposes “reasonable restrictions” on the limited grounds of interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation etc.

Sedition Law

  • Section 124A of the IPC defines sedition. It makes every speech that “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government” a criminal offence.
  • Such an offence is punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 
  • It is classified as “cognisable” — the investigation process can be triggered just by filing an FIR. A judicial authority need not have to take cognisance.
  • It is also “non-bailable” — the accused cannot get bail as a matter of right, but is subject to the discretion of the sessions judge.
  • An explanation to the provision clarifies that mere “disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
  • A five-judge constitution bench decision of SC in Kedarnath v. State of Bihar (1962) read down Section 124A to mean that only those expressions that either intend to or have the tendency of causing violence are punishable under Section 124A. 
  • The Court reiterated the Kedarnath law in 2016 in Common Cause v. Union of India and directed all authorities to follow the Kedarnath dictum. 

Scope of Fundamental Rights expanded

  • The jurisprudence of fundamental rights was expanded through several decisions in R C Cooper v. Union of India (1969), Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975), Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007) and, in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017). 
  • Each of these decisions establishes that fundamental rights in the Constitution are not to be read as isolated silos but are to be read as if the content of each fundamental right animates the other. 
  • They tell us that the entire chapter on fundamental rights has also to be read “synoptically”. 

Kedarnath judgement – limitations and expanding jurisprudence

  • In Kedarnath case, the court merely tested the intent of the provision under the exceptions to the freedom of speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. It did not take into consideration the effect of the right to equality (Article 14) or due process (Article 21).
  • Reading of Articles 14, 19 and 21 has evolved jurisprudence of testing legislation curtailing fundamental rights on substantive and procedural reasonableness, necessity and proportionality. 
  • The requirement of “necessity” comes from India ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1976. 
  • Article 19 of the ICCPR requires speech-limiting state action to be backed by law and to be necessary on the grounds of respect for the rights and reputations of others, national security etc. 
  • Court also did not examine the provision for “chilling effect” on speech it causes. State action causing psychological barriers in the free exercise of the right to free speech.
  • Only in 2018 (Navtej Johar v. Union of India), the court found that pre-constitutional legislation have no legal presumption of constitutionality. 

Way ahead

  • The new thought focuses on understanding “necessity” of state action limiting fundamental freedoms.
  • The burden is on the state to establish that such a limiting measure is “necessary in a democratic society” 
  • “Proportionality” should inform the understanding of “reasonableness” of restrictions in Article 19.

 


Back2Basics

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Explained: Central Adverse List

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the List

Mains level : Mechanisms to curb anti-state activities


News

  • The Centre has removed from its blacklist — or the Central Adverse List as it is officially known — names of few foreign nationals involved in anti-India activities.

The Central Adverse List

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs maintains a list of individuals who supported the Khalistan movement in 1980s and 90s but left India to take asylum in foreign countries.
  • Many of the listed fled India to escape the authorities, acquired foreign nationality and took asylum outside India.
  • This list included the name of “hardliners” who were in favour of a separate state and had opposed the Operation Blue Star. However the list is not restricted to Punjab or the Khalistan movement.
  • The list has names of those individuals who are suspected to have links with terrorist outfits or have violated visa norms in their previous visit to India.
  • The list also includes the names of those persons who have indulged in criminal activities or have been accused of sexual crimes against children in their respective countries.

Purpose of the list

  • This list is constantly used by all Indian Missions and Consulates to stop the individuals named in it from entering India.
  • This is done by not granting visa to such persons. It is a step taken by the Indian government to maintain internal security.
  • The list is also used to keep serious offenders outside India as somebody may commit a crime in his native nation and then apply for an Indian visa to escape prosecution.

Who maintains this list?

  • The list is maintained by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs with inputs from all the state governments. Various intelligence agencies constantly review this list and add new names to it.
  • Central intelligence agencies as well as the state-level intelligence contribute to the information determining the inclusion of a person in this list.
  • Since law and order is a state subject, the state police is also utilized for intelligence gathering in order to update the list.

What does the recent action mean?

  • The 312 names of particular religious community members whose have been removed can now visit India and meet their families here.
  • Most of these nationals have remained outside country since the 1980s and have not visited their families since then. Majority of these people are aged.
  • With this decision of the government, they will now get access to consular services as well as an Indian visa.
  • This list had a multiplier effect in denying visas as the family members of the persons on this list were also denied visas to other countries. Such a practice will no longer be carried forward.

Was there any judicial judgement on this list?

  • There was no direct judicial pronouncement on this list but the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 29, 2001 had directed the GOI to issue a passport to a Khalistan supporter.
  • According to the HC it was a violation of fundamental rights to deny him entry into India.
  • This gains significance as the government will finally allow entry of persons excluded from that list.
Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

Delhi Declaration to restore degraded land by 2030

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LDN, UNCCD

Mains level : Global mechanisms against desertification


News

  • The two week long UNCCD COP ended with a commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.

Delhi Declaration

  • The Delhi Declaration, a consensus document, agreed upon by more than 100 countries “welcomed” the proposed adoption of a “voluntary” land degradation neutrality target by India.
  • India has committed to restoring at least 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The Declaration doesn’t detail commitments by other countries.
  • Almost 122 nations, including India, have made voluntary commitments in previous years to ensure that a certain percentage of their degraded land was restored.
  • India had agreed, again on a voluntary basis, to restore 20 million hectares by 2020.
  • Nearly 96 million hectares of land is deemed ‘degraded’ in India.
  • Countries will address insecurity of land tenure, promote land restoration to reduce land-related carbon emissions and mobilise innovative sources of finance from public and private sources.

Click here to access complete draft of the declaration (Not important)


Back2Basics

Explained: Land Degradation Neutrality

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy

Mains Paper 2 : NGO, SHG & Civil Society |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SSR

Mains level : Need for SSR Policy


News

  • A draft of the new Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy has been made available by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on its website for public comments.
  • India is going to be possibly the first country in the world to implement a SSR Policy on the lines of CSR.

Defining SSR

  • The draft defines SSR as “the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity”.

SSR Policy

  • The policy aims to harness latent potential of the scientific community for strengthening linkages between science and society, and for making S&T ecosystem vibrant.
  • This is in a move to encourage S&T institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society.
  • It is aimed at developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.

Why such move?

  • When most research is being done by using taxpayers’ money, the scientific establishment has an ethical obligation of “giving back” to the society.
  • SSR is not only about scientific impact upon society but also about the social impact upon science.
  • SSR would therefore strengthen the knowledge ecosystem and bring efficiencies in harnessing science for the benefit of society,” says the draft policy.

Premise for the Policy

  • This draft policy builds upon traditions of earlier policies (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, S&T Policy 2003 and Sci-Tech and Innovation Policy 2013).
  • The new policy is proposing more pragmatic provisions to make institutions and individual scientists socially responsible.

Key propositions

  • Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
  • It also recognizes the need to provide incentives for outreach activities with necessary budgetary support.
  • It has also been proposed to give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
  • No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.

Implementation

  • For implementation of the policy, a national portal will be developed up to capture societal needs requiring scientific interventions and as a platform for implementers and for reporting SSR activities.
  • A central agency will be established at DST to implement the SSR.
  • Other ministries would also be encouraged to make their own plans to implement SSR as per their mandate.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

Uniform Civil Code

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 : UCC

Mains level : Need for UCC



News

  • The Supreme Court said the nation has still not endeavored to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The government has till date taken no action, said the Court.

A Case for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • UCC is the ongoing point of debate in Indian mandate to replace personal laws which are based on the scriptures and customs of religious community in India.
  • It aims for a common set of rules governing the individuals of their religion.
  • Personal laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Goa has a common family law, thus being the only Indian state to have a UCC.
  • Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens.
  • The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic sphere.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits any citizen to have a civil marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law.

Hopes of founders

  • The founders had penned their hope that a uniform set of rules would replace the distinct personal laws of marriage, divorce, etc. based on customs of each religion.
  • Whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the DPSP had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a UCC.
  • The court said that the Hindu laws were codified in the year 1956, there has been no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country.
  • Despite exhortations of this Court in the case of Shah Bano in 1985, the government has done nothing to bring the UCC.

Goa: Leading by example

  • The Supreme Court hailed the State of Goa as a “shining example” where “uniform civil code applicable to all, regardless of religion except while protecting certain limited rights”.
  • Under this Code practised in Goa, a Muslim man whose marriage is registered in the State cannot practice polygamy.
  • A married couple share property equally, pre-nuptial agreements are the order of the day and assets are divided equally between the man and woman on divorce.
  • The judgment came in a case concerning the question whether succession and inheritance of a Goan domicile is governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 or the Indian Succession Act of 1925.
  • Goa was once a Portuguese colony until it was made part of India.

Law panel’s stand

  • In 2018, a Law Commission of India consultation paper had however said the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
  • The Commission said secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

[pib] Inflight and Maritime Telecom Connectivity in India

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FMC Rules

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • Union Ministry for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology has launched the maritime communication services.

Providing Maritime connectivity

  • Nelco India’s leading VSAT solutions provider is the first Indian company that will now provide quality broadband services to the maritime sector.
  • Nelco through global partnerships, infrastructure including transponder capacity on satellite of ISRO and a comprehensive service portfolio
  • It will help Energy, Cargo and Cruise vessels by enhancing operational efficiency, improving crew welfare and enabling customer services.
  • Maritime Connectivity will enable high-end support to those in sea by providing access to Voice, Data and Video services while traveling on sailing vessels, cruise liners, ships in India, using satellite technology.

Making it possible through IFMC license

  • In December 2018, the Govt. announced the licenses for In-flight and Maritime Communications (IFMC) that allows voice and internet services while flying over the Indian skies and sailing in Indian waters.
  • The IFMC licence has not only enabled connectivity for on-board users on ships but also brings operational efficiencies for shipping companies which were less evolved until now.
  • The IFMC license is a key initiative of the Telecom Ministry, a move to liberalise satellite communication services in India.
  • It permits both international and Indian aircrafts and vessels.

FMC Rules

  • In a major policy decision, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications had notified the Flight and Maritime Connectivity (FMC) Rules, 2018 on 14th December, 2018.
  • It permits voice and data service provisioning in flights and ships.
  • The intent is to open the airspace and territorial waters for telecommunication services for general public which was not possible earlier due to lack of enabling rules.
  • Rules envisage creation of satellite gateway within India for providing telecom services in aircraft and ships through Indian licensed service providers.
  • Further, Indian satellite bandwidth has to be utilised. If a foreign satellite is used, it has to be approved by ISRO.
  • Only the authorized IFMC service provider, can provide wireless voice or data or both type of services on ships within Indian territorial waters and on aircraft within or above India or Indian territorial waters.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

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 : Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

Mains level : Not Much


News

Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

  • International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is supposed to be a unique identity of a mobile phone device.
  • IMEI number being programmable, some miscreants do reprogram the IMEI number, which results in cloning of IMEI causing multiple phone devices with same IMEI number.
  • As on date, there are many cases of cloned/duplicated IMEI handsets in the network.
  • If such IMEI is blocked, a large number of mobile phones will get blocked being handsets with same IMEI causing inconvenience to many genuine customers.
  • Thus, there is a need to eliminate duplicate/fake IMEI mobile phones from the network.
  • Accordingly, a project called Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) system has been undertaken by the DoT for addressing security, theft and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets.

Objectives of the project

  • Blocking of lost/stolen mobile phones across mobile networks thus discouraging theft of mobile phones
  • Facilitate in tracing of such reported lost/stolen mobile phones
  • Prevention of mobile devices with duplicate and fake IMEIs in the network
  • Curtail the use of counterfeit mobile devices
  • Reduced health risks to the users with the control of use of counterfeit mobile phones
  • Improved QoS and reduced call drops with reduction in use of counterfeit mobile devices
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes