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October 2019

Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Judiciary must take proactive steps to stop lynching, punish perpetrators.


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Role of judiciary in protecting Fundamental Rights


The October 4 order by the chief judicial magistrate of Muzaffarpur is worrisome in so far as he entertained a petition by a serial litigant, directing the police to register an FIR against 49 eminent citizens who had written a letter to the PM to intervene and stop lynchings. 

Supreme Court observations

    • The constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India in its judgment of July 2018 held that authorities which are conferred with the responsibility to maintain law and order in the States have the principal obligation to see that vigilantism of any perception does not take place.
    • When any core group with some kind of idea takes the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society.
    • Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself.
    • Hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice ought not to be tolerated; lest it results in a reign of terror.
    • The Court laid down various guidelines for the central and state governments — including preventive, ameliorative and punitive measures.
    • It directed the appointment of nodal officers by the police in each district of every state in this regard.
    • It also recommended the Parliament to create a separate offense for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same.

Role of judiciary

    • Though the right to life is a Fundamental Right, the violations in these types of cases go unpunished or under-punished. 
    • In a large number of cases of this kind, the judges have been extremely lenient towards the perpetrators. Acquittals in virtually open-and-shut cases have come at regular intervals, as in the Pehlu Khan lynching case. 
    • The orders for granting bail by the Jharkhand High Court in the Ramgarh lynching case, by the Allahabad high court in Bulandshahr lynching case, by the Bombay High Court in Dhule lynching case, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Junaid lynching case, and, by the sessions court in Hapur lynching case, are some of the instances which raise serious question marks on the judicial approach of the courts in India towards such heinous crimes. 
    • The grant of bail to the convicted and accused in the Gujarat riot cases add to this list of avoidable decisions. 
    • This is compounded by the approach of the police in improperly investigating cases and not taking them to their logical end before the courts. 

Way ahead

    • The SC and the high courts to take up such cases of acquittals/grant of bails suo motu, and pass appropriate orders after hearing concerned parties. 
    • This should be the approach of the entire judiciary, which is the ultimate protector of the Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. 
    • The judiciary needs to undergo extensive sensitisation programs to deal with such matters.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[op-ed snap] Unchecked decline


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Trade sector update - fall in exports


India’s merchandise exports continued their subdued performance, contracting by 6.57% in September this year. Over the first half of this financial year, exports have contracted by 2.39%.

Cause for worry

    • This indicates that GDP growth is unlikely to have received a fillip from the external sector in the second quarter as well. 
    • Non-oil non-gold imports, an indicator of domestic demand, contracted for the 11th straight month. This indicates continued weakness in domestic demand. 
    • Exports of major labor-intensive segments such as gems and jewelry, garment and leather products, continue to decline
    • All these are coupled with sluggish investment activity. These numbers point towards a subdued economic outlook in the near term. 
    • The IMF has lowered its forecast for economic growth to 6.1% this year, down from its earlier estimate of 7%.

Reasons behind the decline

    • The decline in exports can be traced to a fall in petroleum exports. 
    • It can also be attributed to a synchronised global slowdown. The exports of other nations have also been weak during this period. 
    • The IMF has also lowered its forecast for global GDP growth to 3%. 
    • There are also issues of competitiveness that afflict exports. An overvalued exchange rate and a complicated GST process exacerbate matters. 
    • The collapse in imports is equally worrying. Imports have contracted by 13.85% in September, and by 7% over the first half of this year. This signals weak consumer and industrial demand. 
    • It is exacerbated by inventory destocking, along with risk aversion by banks, could explain the collapse in credit flow to the commercial sector during this period.

Way ahead

    • The government has announced several steps to boost exports. But these are not enough. 
    • The government must push through reforms that address the deeper structural issues plaguing the economy. 
    • In the current economic environment of subdued domestic demand and investment, exports could provide the much-needed boost to growth.

A fact to note:

    • India accounts for around 2% of global trade.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Pullback and chaos


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : US withdrawal from Syria


With the withdrawal of US forces from north-east Syria under Kurdish control, Trump is attempting to fulfill his promise of extricating the US from the conflicts it has been embroiled in across the globe ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections. 

Regional scene

    • The manner of the troop withdrawal sharpened the conflict in the region.
    • It also increased the influence of Russia in West Asia. 
    • Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan ordered his troops into the region, and there are reports of civilian casualties. US troops had suffered minimal casualties and were a buffer protecting the Kurdish forces. 
    • Erdogan is facing a violent Kurdish-led in the insurgency in his own country. He is seeking a deeper strategic buffer through military control of Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region. 
    • Russia and Iran are expected to back the Assad regime, filling the power vacuum left by the US. 
    • Erdogan seems undeterred by the threats of sanctions and other diplomatic consequences by the US and NATO.

Impact of the withdrawal

Trump’s sudden withdrawal is likely to be counterproductive. 

    • The claim that the “ISIS caliphate” has been defeated may be technically true, but many IS fighters retreated into remote parts of Iraq and Syria. 
    • Since the conflict in Syria began in 2015, the Kurds were instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State. Now, remnants of the IS may be emboldened
    • Assad regime has consolidated and its influence is growing along with that of Russia. 
    • An aggressive and expansionist Turkey could pose a long-term challenge to the regional balance of power. It has long been a NATO ally and even houses a US military base with nuclear capabilities.

Way ahead

In the near term, what is required is well-thought-out, firm diplomacy by the US and other world powers.

Tribes in News

Explained: Rising tensions between Nagas and Kukis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kuki Tribals

Mains level : Anglo-Kuki War

  • Few groups of the Kuki militants have sought the intervention of PM Modi to subdue the rising tension between the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur.

What is the cause of recent tensions?

  • Tensions between the Kukis and Nagas are not new, and in light of them building up again, the Manipur government ordered that the stone memorials be taken down.
  • The centenary the Anglo-Kuki War was celebrated by a Committee under the aegis of Kuki Inpi Churachandpur (KIC).
  • The KIC which is the apex body of Kuki people in various northeastern states, asked all Kuki villages to install memorial stones with the inscription,
  • But Naga bodies objected to the Kukis installing these stone memorials on the Naga’s ancestral land.

The Anglo-Kuki War

  • Before the British came in, the Kukis had been one of the dominant tribes of hill areas surrounding Imphal during the rule of the Maharajas of Manipur.
  • The Kukis exercised full control over their territory until then.
  • Therefore, the Anglo-Kuki War was essentially a war for the independence and liberation of the Kukis from the imperialists.
  • The war had unified the efforts of Kukis living in northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
  • Even so, the state of Manipur had already lost its independence to the Britishers in 1891 and became free only after India became independent in 1947.
  • The Anglo-Kuki War began when the Britishers asked the Kukis to get enrolled in their labour corps in France and the latter resisted.

Naga claims it as rebellion

  • The Nagas claimed that the Kukis have been trying to distort history as there has been no “Anglo-Kuki War” but a “Kuki Rebellion” in 1917.
  • The United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of the Nagas of Manipur, asserted that the Kuki rebellion against the British was for labour recruitment drive under the Labour Corps Plan.
  • Following this, the Nagas conveyed to the state government to take appropriate steps such that the history of Manipur is not distorted.

What has been the reason for Kuki-Naga clashes in the past?

I. Reorganization of Manipur

  • After the conclusion of the Anglo-Kuki War in 1919, for administrative and logistical ease, the state of Manipur was divided into four areas.
  • It included Imphal, Churachandpur, Tamenglong (that was inhabited by the Kukis, Kabui Nagas and Katcha Nagas) and Ukhrul (that was inhabited by Kukis and the Tangkhul Nagas).
  • The reorganization of Manipur is cited to be the most central result of the war.
  • The Kuki chiefs who were not used to any bureaucratic control in the earlier now had to function bureaucratically.

II. Identity

  • Furthermore, it is believed that Kukis came to Manipur in the late 18th/early 19th century from neighbouring Myanmar.
  • While some of the Kukis settled next to the Myanmar border, others settled in Naga villages, which ultimately became a contentious issue between the two tribes.
  • The relationship between the two worsened during the colonial period and reached a low point during the Anglo-Kuki war, referred to as a “dark period” in the oral history of the Tangkhul Nagas.
  • Essentially, identity and land govern their ethnic conflict.

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

How aerosol formation helps brighten clouds, balance climate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosols

Mains level : Role of aerosols in maintaining Earth temperature

  • Small aerosol particles help in “brightening” of clouds, enabling them to alter Earth’s radiative balance and ultimately its climate, according to a study.

What is Aerosol?

  • An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, in air or another gas.
  • Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic. Examples of natural aerosols are fog, dust, forest exudates and geyser steam.
  • Examples of anthropogenic aerosols are haze, particulate air pollutants and smoke.

Formation in atmosphere

  • When deep, convective clouds in the tropics carry gases high into the atmosphere, they form small aerosol particles in a process called gas-to-particle conversion.
  • As they condense, they grow big enough to brighten lower-level cloud in the lower troposphere.
  • This gas-to-particle conversion brightens clouds in the tropics over both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Why are they significant?

  • These brighter clouds reflect more energy from the sun back to space.
  • Further, this formation of new particle covers about 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface, which means some of the current climate models underestimate the cooling impact of some clouds.
  • Understanding how these particles form and contribute to cloud properties in the tropics will help us better represent clouds in climate models and improve those models.
  • The study showed that in remote places with cleaner air, the effect of aerosol particle formation on clouds was found to be much larger,

Monsoon Updates

Northeast Monsoon


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NE Monsoon

Mains level : Factors affecting Monsoon

  • The southwest, or summer, monsoon, finally withdrew from the country, having overstayed and delayed its retreat by a record time.
  • The same day, the northeast, or winter, monsoon made its onset, on time.

Northeast Monsoon

  • The northeast monsoon does not have anything to do with the Northeast region of the country, though a part of the system does originate from the area above it.
  • The northeast monsoon derives its name from the direction in which it travels – from the northeast to the southwest.
  • On the other hand, the summer monsoon, at least the Arabian Sea branch of it, moves in exactly the opposite direction – from the southwest to the northeast.
  • That is why it is also called the southwest monsoon.

Role of ITCZ

  • The reversal of direction in the lower-atmosphere moisture-laden winds happens primarily due to the southward movement of Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) during the withdrawal phase.
  • The ITCZ is a dynamic region near the Equator where the trade winds of the northern and southern hemispheres come together.
  • The intense sun and warm waters of the ocean heat up the air in this region and increase its moisture content.
  • As the air rises, it cools, and releases the accumulated moisture, thus bringing rainfall.
  • During the monsoon season, this ITCZ is located over the Indian landmass.
  • By September, as the temperature in the northern hemisphere begins to go down, the ITCZ starts moving southwards, towards the Equator, and further into the southern hemisphere where the summer season begins to take shape.

Mechanism of NE Monsoon

  • The months of October, November and December are supposed to comprise the northeast monsoon season, though the normal date for the onset of this monsoon is only around October 20.
  • The southern peninsular region receives rains in the first half of October as well, but that is attributable to the retreating summer monsoon.
  • The summer monsoon season ends on September 30 but the withdrawal does not happen overnight.
  • From the beginning of the season, as it starts its northward journey over the Indian landmass, the monsoon takes a month and a half to cover the entire country.
  • The southward withdrawal takes place over a period of three to four weeks.
  • It usually starts around the second week of September and continues till about the second week of October, bringing rain as it retreats.

El Niño impact

  • Like the southwest monsoon, the northeast monsoon is also impacted by the warming and cooling of sea surface waters in the central Pacific Ocean. But the impact is the opposite.
  • The northeast monsoon is known to receive a boost from El Niño, when the sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of South America, are warmer than usual.
  • And, when the opposite phenomena La Niña happens, rainfall during the northeast monsoon is known to get depressed.
  • This year the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is in neutral state and is likely to remain like that for the rest of the year.

Another winter rains

  • Many other parts of the country, like the Gangetic plains and northern states, also receive some rain in November and December but this is not due to the northeast monsoon.
  • It is caused mainly by the Western Disturbances, an eastward-moving rain-bearing wind system that originates beyond Afghanistan and Iran, picking up moisture from as far as the Mediterranean Sea, even the Atlantic Ocean.

History- Important places, persons in news

Dutch royal couple in Kerala


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dutch connection of Kerala

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima has arrived in Kochi.

On a state visit

  • King Willem-Alexander, who ascended to the throne in 2013 after the abdication of his mother, and Queen Maxima are in India on their first-ever state visit to the country on the invitation of President Kovind.
  • As part of their five-day tour in India, the royals are flying down to Kerala, a state that has a long cultural relationship with the Dutch on account of European colonization.

The Dutch connection to Kerala

  • After gaining independence from Spain in the 16th century, the Dutch initiated attempts to establish colonies across the world and one of their main targets was southern India due to the presence of spices.
  • Seeking to get their share of the pie, ships carrying Dutch merchants and generals arrived on the shores of Malabar in the early 17th century.
  • They were bolstered by the Portuguese, who had by then set up extensive trade relationship with the local kings in Malabar, Cochin and Travancore.
  • Dutch generals were greeted warmly in Malabar by the king and the local people as the latter had begun to be frustrated with the Portuguese.

Quest with Portuguese

  • The first trade treaty between Dutch Admiral Van der Haghen and the Zamorin of Kozhikode was signed in 1604.
  • Over the next century and a half, the Dutch fought several wars with the Portuguese in a bid to annex territories such as Cochin (now Kochi) and Quilon (now Kollam) and establish their own fortresses and trading ports.
  • The most striking effects of the Dutch rule in Kerala can be seen in Kochi, which had emerged as an important hub for spice trade.
  • Dismantling the Portuguese-built structures, the Dutch established their own symbols, paving streets named after flowers and redesigning the town.

Popular culture

  • A marvellous palace in Mattancherry, gifted by the Portuguese to the Cochin Kings in 16th century but renovated by the Dutch, is now popularly known as the Dutch Palace.
  • It is built with ‘nalukettu’ in Kerala style of architecture and has a temple dedicated to a Goddess in the middle.
  • It underwent extensive renovation ten years ago and houses extensive murals and portraits of the Cochin Kings.
  • The Palace on Bolghatty island was built by the Dutch as a residence for its commander in 1744 and is considered to be one of the oldest existing palaces built by the Dutch outside the Netherlands.
  • Today, it is a heritage holiday resort run by the state tourism department. The Dutch cemetery in Fort Kochi, consecrated in 1724, is also a marker of the Dutch occupation of Kochi.

Indian Army Updates

[pib] Defence of A&N Islands Exercise 2019 (Danx-19)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DANX-19

Mains level : NA

  • Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) conducted the second edition of Defence of A&N Islands 2019 (DANX-19).

DANX -19

  • It is a large scale joint services exercise held by Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC).
  • Components of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard carried out mobilization and field manoeuvres to validate defensive plans of Headquarters ANC.
  • It is aimed for pursuance of the Command’s responsibility, namely ensuring territorial integrity of the A&N Islands.