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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Occupation rewards: On U.S. support to Israeli occupation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Two state solution

Mains level : Israel - Palestine issue

Context

The US administration declared that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are not illegal. The decision is in line with President Donald Trump’s Israel policy, which has unconditionally favored the nation.

Immediate consequence

    • This challenges international laws and consensus on the issue.
    • It also complicates the already-stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Line of events

    • Jerusalem – In 2017, Trump announced that the U.S. would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That broke an international consensus that the status of Jerusalem should be settled as part of a peace agreement. 
    • Golan Heights – In 2019, the US recognised the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war, as part of Israel. 
    • West Bank – with the recognition of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the US has boosted Israel’s religious right, which wants the settlements to be annexed.

International action

    • The UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the International Court of Justice have all stated that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal. 
    • According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power “shall not transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies”. 

West Bank

    • There are at least 4,00,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank.
    • The ‘security barrier’ Israel has built has cut deeper into the West Bank to incorporate some of the settlements. 
    • The check-points Israel has set up across the West Bank restrict the movement of Palestinians. 

Two state solution

    • Palestine wants the two-state solution implemented only based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of Palestine.
    • Israel is non-committal on Jerusalem. The right of return of the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes during the 1948 war remains an issue. 

Border

    • Israel has already taken effective control of a huge chunk of the West Bank through the settlements. 
    • UNSC has asked Israel to stall the settlement activities, but Israel has hardly paid any attention to international opinion. 

Conclusion

If Israel goes ahead with the annexation of the settlements, that will be the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.


Back2Basics

Two-state solution

It is a proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.

Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] The opacity around electoral bonds

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Electoral Bonds

Mains level : Limitations of electoral bonds and electoral funding laws

Context

Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India had expressed reservations about the Electoral Bonds scheme.

Challenges

    • In 2017, then RBI Governor wrote to the Finance Minister that “allowing any entity other than the central bank to issue bearer bonds is fraught with considerable risk.”
    • The EC warned that this would allow illegal foreign funds to be routed to political parties.
    • There is no other country in the world where such a scheme exists.

Electoral Bonds

    • The scheme was passed in the Lok Sabha as part of the Finance Bill so that it could bypass Rajya Sabha.

Importance of Electoral Bonds – Money

    • Money plays a larger role in elections. India spends more on elections than the U.S. with a per capita GDP of 3% of the U.S. 
    • Sustaining victory over several elections requires funds. 
    • To reach voters, candidates and parties use hoardings and advertisements on printed, electronic and social media. They hold election rallies. They travel and have to pay party workers. 
    • There is the added expenditure of buying votes through the distribution of gifts, money, liquor and so on.

Funding elections

    • Some countries have public funding of elections. 
    • Campaign funding laws and reforms are a constantly evolving subject internationally. They focus on public funding, limits on expenditure, limits on donations, transparency in funding and penalties for non-compliance.

Electoral bonds

    • The gaps between the stated purpose of the electoral bonds scheme and the law are glaring. 
    • The voter does not know who is funding whom through electoral bonds. 
    •  This is supposed to protect the donors from harassment from the authorities.

Loopholes

    • Harassment by the party in power through law enforcement agencies is well known. The bank knows the purchaser of the bonds as well as the party that cashed it. 
    • The law agencies can obtain this information whenever they want. 
    • Ruling party use this to demand donations for itself, prevent donations to others, and use the law enforcement agencies to harass those who donate to rival parties.
    • A large corporate could buy the government using electoral bonds. 
    • The ruling party gets nearly all the funds. 
    • If big money entirely funds elections in an opaque way, democracy will not exist.

Other electoral funding challenges

    • India continues to have spending limits. Hardly any winning candidate sticks to it.
    • Black money cannot be used to buy electoral bonds. However, black money can be used outside the scheme during elections. 
    • The reduction in cash donations from ₹20,000 to ₹2,000 is not good enough. There are parties with hundreds of crores of declared income who claim that all the funds were received from small cash donations of ₹100 or less. 
    • ₹2,000 notes printed after demonetisation are being hoarded. 
    • Electoral bonds cannot eliminate black money. 

Way ahead

    • Any political party can voluntarily choose to disclose its funds and sources. 
    • There is no law that prevents them from doing so. 
    • They can also state publicly that they will henceforth not use black money. 
    • We need to benchmark ourselves against the best international practices and laws on campaign funding. 
    • Complete transparency in all funding.
    • Political parties need to be under the Right to Information Act. 
    • There must be spending limits as well as donation limits and strict penalties for flouting rules and the law. 
    • Public funding needs to be examined and introduced with proper checks and balances.
    • Voters need to demand changes and we need voter awareness campaigns. 
    • The electoral bonds scheme needs to be scrapped.

Back2Basics

Electoral Bonds

[Burning Issue] Electoral Bonds

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Excavations at Karim Shahi region, Kutch

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various facts associated with IVC, Dark Age

Mains level : Read the attached story


A recent study has revealed that a large river once flew across the Great Rann of Kachchh and the sand hills of Thar Desert.

Karim Shahi region

  • The items collected from the Karim Shahi region revealed that humans occupied that region from Early Iron Age to the Early Historic (3,100 – 2,300 years) period.
  • This period was considered to be archaeologically silent and was often marked as ‘Dark Age’ as there was no evidence of settlements.

Possible migrants from IVC

  • The Bronze age Indus Valley civilization started declining around 4,000 years and finally collapsed at 3,300 years before present.
  • After that they might have learned iron smelting which needed better skills yet no large scale organised cities have been found during the Iron Age.
  • At another site called Vigakot, the team also found evidence of Historic to Medieval (about 1,500 – 900 years old) settlement.
  • The geological explorations has found artefacts like pitchers, jewellery, jars, figurines.
  • Using modern luminescence and radiocarbon methods, the team tried to date them, which revealed that these items were the earliest to be found in the presently arid Rann of Kutch and the Thar Desert.

Who were these people?

  • The Karim Shahi region was found to be very close to sea-level and based on the artefacts collected it has been pointed out that this region could have been a local trade center.
  • The people are believed to have traded jewellery and pottery.
  • Also, Chinese and Persian pottery were found at the Vigakot site indicating that it was a hub for a long-distance trade both through sea and land from China through India to West Asia.

But how did settlements continue in presently arid landscape?

  • Monsoon was declining from about 7,000 years ago and this climate change was already causing an exodus.
  • Harappan people already adopted water conservation techniques in their own ways. But the migration perhaps continued beyond, from Early Iron Age till medieval time.
  • Sedimentological observation revealed that below these settlements, there was evidence of riverine system.
  • Carbon isotopes and pollens in these sediments revealed that there was gradual increase in grasslands and plant communities that thrive in arid environments.
  • Data suggested that aridification continued and people inhabited wherever some rainfall or river system existed. And all these happened probably due to natural monsoon decrease.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Paris bans wild animals from circuses

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Central Zoo Authority

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population


  • Amid ongoing concerns of animal cruelty, Paris last week outlawed the use of wild animals in circuses in the city.
  • France, meanwhile, is still considering enforcing a nation-wide ban on the use of wild animals to perform under the big top.

Why ban wild animals from circuses?

  • The debate concerning animal rights, animals being subjected to cruelty and being forced to live and perform in poor conditions have been a long-standing one.
  • Although the numbers of wild animals being forced to perform in circuses around the world has dramatically reduced, especially over the past two decades, wild animals continue to be used in circuses in some countries.
  • Most of these animals are kept in cages that are too small for their size and in deplorable, filthy conditions.
  • The ill-treatment and physical abuse that animals are subjected to in circuses is also common knowledge, especially the circumstances in which they are forced to perform circus acts that are unnatural to them.
  • Over the years, these performances under extreme physical and psychological duress lead to prolonged physical and psychological health issues for these animals that cannot perform circus acts.
  • In most cases, wild animals are also not evolved for the kind of domestication that circuses put them through.
  • Due to these reasons, many countries around the world have outlawed the forcing of wild animals to perform in circuses.

Few instances of abuse

  • Elephants, for instance, are forced to stand for prolonged periods on only their hind legs or on one single leg on a stage prop, despite their large bodies, forcing their entire weight on one limb or two limbs.
  • Loud music inside the big top, loud microphones and loud cheers and noise from the audience also cause added distress to the animals.
  • If animals refuse to perform, circus owners and animal handlers withhold food and subject the creatures to cruelty in a bid to exert control over the creatures.

Other countries with ban

  • According to data by the Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights group that monitors the use of animals for human entertainment, most European countries have nationwide bans on wild animals in circuses.
  • According to the ADI, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil & Australia are the nations that presently have only local bans.

India’s stance on wild animals in circuses

  • Wild animals have been used in circuses across India for decades, but in November last year, the central government issued draft rules proposing a ban on the use of all animals in circuses.
  • Under section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960) MoEFCC proposed the ‘Performing Animals (Registration) (Amendment) Rules, 2018’.
  • This issued a “prohibition on exhibiting and training of animals for specified performances.”
  • The draft rules added that under these proposed provisions, “no animals shall be used for any performances or exhibition at any circus or mobile entertainment facility.”
  • In 2016, the Central Zoo Authority (a national government body that oversees the conditions of animals used in circuses and entertainment) cancelled recognition it had granted to 21 circuses across the country following reports of rampant abuse of animals.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Quid pro quo

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quid pro quo

Mains level : Impeachment of US President

As the dramatic proceedings to impeach Trump unfold in the United States Congress, one expression that has been heard over and over again is “quid pro quo”.

Quid pro quo

  • Quid pro quo, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “something given or received for something else”.
  • In the 1500s in England, it was often used in the sense of apothecaries substituting one medicine for the other, by accident or design.
  • It has also been part of trade lexicon as a term for the barter system.
  • Quid pro quo, like many Latin phrases, made its way into legal terminology, where it is now used to imply a mutually beneficial deal between two parties.
  • In political contexts, like the one involving Trump currently, it is often seen as an essential requirement to suggest or establish corruption, wrongdoing, or impropriety.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

MK 45 gun system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MK 45 gun system

Mains level : India-US defence cooperation


  • The US State Department has approved the sale of naval guns and other equipment worth $1 billion to India for use against warships, anti-aircraft and shore bombardment.
  • The sale includes 13 MK 45 5 inch/62 caliber (MOD 4) naval guns and some other equipment that will be manufactured by BAE Systems Land and Armaments.

MK 45 gun system

  • The MK 45 is a fully automatic naval gun system that is installed on ships and provides a Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) range of more than 20 nautical miles (36 km) along with improved propelling charge.
  • This system of guns is currently in use by the US Navy on their fleet of Ticonderoga class cruisers and Arleigh Burke class destroyers.
  • MK 45 is an upgraded version with a 62 caliber barrel, strengthened gun and mount subsystems, advanced control system enhancements, greater range and firepower, a reduced signature and low maintenance gun shield.

MK 45 MOD 4 gun

  • It is a light-weight version of the MK 42 5 inch/54 caliber gun mount meant to support expeditionary operations and engage surface and air targets.
  • The MOD 4 configuration gun mount is believed to boost the firing range by over 50 per cent, increasing the speed and range of munitions.
  • The principal contractor of the guns for this deal is Minneapolis-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments with a gun manufacturing unit in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • It is meant for both naval gunfire support and to destroy any hostile anti-ship weapons and air defence systems.
  • Other countries that have been sold the MOD 4 naval guns are Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Benefits

  • The MK 45 Gun System will provide the capability to conduct anti-surface warfare and anti-air defence missions while enhancing interoperability with US and other allied forces.
  • India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence.

New political map of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Survey of India

Mains level : Political boudaries of India


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued an advisory to all private satellite television channels to only use the latest political map released by Survey of India.

About Survey of India

  • The Survey of India is India’s central engineering agency in charge of mapping and surveying.
  • First modern scientific survey of India” was undertaken by W. Mather in 1793–96 on instructions of Superintendent of Salem and Baramahal (TN), Col. Alexander Read.
  • Set up in 1767 to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company, it is one of the oldest Engineering Departments of the GoI.
  • Its members are from Survey of India Service cadre of Civil Services of India and Army Officers from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.
  • It is headed by the Surveyor General of India. At present, Survey of India is headed by Lt Gen Girish Kumar, VSM.

Responsibilities

  • Advisor to Govt: Survey of India acts as adviser to the Government of India on all cartography of India related matters, such as geodesy, mapping and map reproduction.
  • Geo names: It is responsible for the naming convention and spellings of names of geographical features of India.
  • Certification and publication: Scrutiny and certification of external boundaries of India and Coastline on maps published by the other agencies including private publishers.
  • Surveys: geodetic datum, geodetic control network, topographical control, geophysical surveys, cadastral surveying, geologic maps, aeronautical charts within India, such as for forests, army cantonments, large scale cities, guide maps, developmental or conservation projects, etc.
  • National borders: Demarcation of the borders and external boundaries of India as well as advice on the demarcation of inter-state boundaries.

What’s new in the recent map?

  • On the creation of two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh on October 31, the new political map of the country has been released on November 2.
  • The new map was released by the central government on November 2 with Ladakh consisting of two districts — Kargil and Leh, while the rest is the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[pib] Hong Kong International Convention for Safe Recycling of Ships 2009

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hong Kong International Convention for Safe Recycling of Ships 2009

Mains level : Ship recycling industries in India


The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for enactment of Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and accession to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009.

Background

  • India is the leader in the global ship recycling industry, with a share of over 30% of the market.
  • As per UNCTAD report on Review of Maritime Transport, 2018, India had demolished 6323 tonnes in 2017, of known ship scrapping across the world.
  • The ship-recycling industry is a labour-intensive sector, but it is susceptible to concerns on environmental safety.

Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019

  • The proposed Bill restricts and prohibits the use or installation of hazardous material, which applies irrespective of whether a ship is meant for recycling or not.
  • For new ships, such restriction or prohibition on use of hazardous material will be immediate.
  • That is, from the date the legislation comes into force, while existing ships shall have a period of five years for compliance. Restriction or prohibition on use of hazardous material would not be applied to warships and non-commercial ships operated by Government.
  • Ships shall be surveyed and certified on the inventory of hazardous material used in ships.
  • Under the Bill, ship recycling facilities are required to be authorized and ships shall be recycled only in such authorized ship recycling facilities.
  • The Bill also provides that ships shall be recycled in accordance with a ship-specific recycling plan. Ships to be recycled in India shall be required to obtain a Ready for Recycling Certificate in accordance with the HKC

Salient features

  • The GoI has decided to enact a Bill, namely Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019, to provide for the regulation of recycling of ships by setting certain international standards and laying down the statutory mechanism for enforcement of such standards.
  • It has also been decided to accede to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009.
  • When the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 comes into force, its provisions will be implemented under the provisions of the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and rules and regulations framed there under.

About Hong Kong Convention

  • The Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, or Hong Kong Convention is a multilateral convention adopted in 2009, which has not entered into force.
  • The convention has been designed to try to improve the health and safety of current ship breaking practices.
  • The Hong Kong Convention recognised that ship recycling is the most environmentally sound way to dispose of a ship at the end of its life, as most of the ship’s materials can be reused.