November 2019
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[oped of the day] India’s enduring document of governanceop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Constitution of India - 70 years


Context

At 69 and stepping into 70, India’s Constitution is one of the world’s oldest and most enduring. At the time of its birth, constitutional experts the world over did not expect our Constitution to survive very long. Sir Ivor Jennings was the greatest critic of our constitution.

Analysis – Ivor Jennings

    • Jennings summed up India’s Constitution in one cynical sentence: “Too long, too rigid, too prolix.” 
    • His criticism focused on certain key aspects:
      • Constitution’s rigidity and its superfluous provisions
      • fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy
      • key aspects of India’s federalism
    • He declared India’s Constitution as “far too large and far too rigid”.
    • He said that it is caged by its history, and unwieldy to be molded into something useful through judicious interpretations.
    • He concluded that the constitution would not endure.

Findings of a key study

    • A work of the University of Chicago titled “The Lifespan of Written Constitutions” proves the endurance, lasting appeal and effectiveness of our Constitution. 
    • The study identified a “Universe of 792 new constitutional systems”, of which 518 have been replaced, 192 still in force, 82 have been formally suspended ultimately to be replaced.
    • The study discloses that constitutions do not last very long.

Findings in numbers

    • The mean lifespan across the world since 1789 is 17 years.
    • One-half of constitutions are likely to be dead by age 18, and by age 50 only 19% will remain.
    • The mean lifespan in Latin America and Africa is 12.4 and 10.2 years. 15% of constitutions from these regions perish in their first year of existence. 
    • Constitutions in western Europe and Asia endure 32 and 19 years. 
    • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have constitutions lasting 32 years on average.
    • The life expectancy of constitutions does not seem to be increasing over the last 200 years. 

Qualitative findings

    • Their most important function is to ring-fence and limits the power of the authorities created under the constitution.
    • Constitutions also define a nation and its goals. 
    • Another function is to define patterns of authority and to set up government institutions.

Mechanisms of change

    • There are primary mechanisms by which constitutional changes occur: formal amendments to the text and informal amendments from interpretive changes.
    • Constitutional lifespan will depend on: occurrence of shock and crisis such as war, civil war or the threat of imminent breakup; structural attributes of the constitution, enforceability and its adaptability.
    • The specificity of the document, the inclusiveness of the constitution’s origins, and the constitution’s ability to adapt to changing conditions are important predictors of longevity. 
    • Constitution whose provisions are known and accepted will be self-enforcing. 
    • Constitutions that are ratified by public reference enjoy higher levels of legitimacy.
    • Constitutional durability should increase with the level of public inclusion both at the drafting stage and the approval stage.
    • The constitution is also interpreted through a court empowered with powers of constitutional judicial review.

India’s stability

    • India exemplifies that fractionalized environments produce constitutional stability because no single group can dominate others. 
    • Public ratification produces a more enduring constitution in democracies. 
    • Longer constitutions are more durable than shorter ones. This suggests that specificity matters.
    • It concludes that constitutions work best when they are most like ordinary statutes: relatively detailed and easy to modify.
    • The drafting committee applied almost all yardsticks that are essential to impart durability to a constitution.

Conclusion

    • The founding fathers and mothers were guided by a strong commitment to the welfare of our nation and their own experiences during the long years of the freedom struggle.
    • Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes rightly observed that “The life of the law has not been logic. It has been the experience.”
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

[op-ed snap] Delhi needs to engage with Moscow on the unfolding Sino-Russian naval partnershipop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Russia in the Indian Ocean


Context

Russia is rejoining the major power scrum in the Indian Ocean littoral. 

Russia – Indian Ocean

    • Three recent events highlight Russia’s growing strategic interests in the Indian Ocean.
    • Perekop, a training vessel of the Russian Navy, arrived at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. 
    • Last month two Russian long-distance “Black Jack” nuclear bombers flew to South Africa. 
    • The Russian and the Chinese are conducting a trilateral naval exercise, Moris, with South Africa off the Cape of Good Hope. 

Significance of the events

    • This is the first time that the three of India’s partners in the BRICS forum along with Brazil, are doing such a joint exercise. 
    • The exercise reflects the growing weight of China and Russia in South Africa’s security.
    • Iran has said that it plans to hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

India – Indian Ocean

    • Until now, India’s discourse on the Indian Ocean has focused on the growing competition with China.
    • This led to the rapid expansion of India’s naval cooperation with the United States and Japan, regional partners like Indonesia, Singapore, and other ASEAN countries, nations in the Gulf as well as the east coast of Africa.
    • India has been developing a partnership with France, which is a resident power and a traditional security provider in the Western Indian Ocean and Africa.
    • India also wants to develop similar intensive engagement with Britain and the European Union.

Role of Russia

    • Russia’s return to the Indian Ocean is recent.
    • It must be seen as a part of its new strategic activism in the Middle East and Africa. 
    • Five decades ago, the US replaced Britain as the main security provider in the littoral. The Soviet Union expanded its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean during the 1970s and 1980s. 
    • The collapse of the Soviet Union disrupted Moscow’s Indian Ocean pursuit.

Limits to Russia’s role

    • Russia is a vast continental state. Its limited access to the sea remains vulnerable to exploitation by its adversaries. 
    • The unfreezing Arctic will present new opportunities for Russia, but most of them are for the long-term. 
    • Russia is also constrained by its limited economic resources. China, Japan, Europe, and the US bring far greater economic weight to bear upon the region. 

Opportunities to shape outcomes in the region

    • Arms – Moscow is one of the world’s major arms exporters and has turned that into effective leverage in the Indian Ocean region.
    • Military intervention – The success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria in saving the Bashar al Assad regime got the attention of many countries coping with civil wars. 
    • The recent reports on Russia’s growing security role — such as the use of hybrid forces — in the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mozambique are a testimony to this.
    • MIlitary access – Russia is using its new security role in the region to gain privileged military access. Russia has stepped up its naval diplomacy in the region.
    • UNSC – As a permanent member, Russia also offers diplomatic protection for many regimes in the UNSC on such issues as human rights. 
    • Moscow’s strong support to the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs is of great value to many African nations.
    • Resources – Russian energy and mineral companies offer important options for resource development in many parts of the littoral.

Opportunities & Challenges – India

    • Russian activism in the Indian Ocean should be welcomed to the emerging multipolarity in the region. 
    • However, its deepening tensions with the West and the growing strategic embrace of China pose problems for India’s strategy.
    • The impact of Russia’s conflict with the US has impacted India’s purchase of S-400 missiles.
    • China and Russia have conducted naval maneuvers in the Western Pacific, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. The joint exercise with South Africa brings the naval partnership closer to India.

Way ahead

India needs an early and intensive dialogue with Moscow on its Indian Ocean collaboration with China.

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Preventing political coalitions of convenienceop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti Defection Law

Mains level : Anti Defection Law to political parties


Context

In Maharashtra, BJP turned the tables on its political rivals with the help of a faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Ajit Pawar. These political maneuvers in the state raise several pertinent questions of law and propriety.

Anti-Defection law – Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu case

    • The intent of the law – The anti-defection law seeks to recognize the need to place the proprieties of political and personal conduct above certain theoretical assumptions, which have fallen into a morass of personal and political degradation.
    • Political parties – A political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs. Any freedom of its members to vote as they please independently of the political party’s declared policies will not only embarrass its public image and popularity but also undermine public confidence”

Coalition as a unit

    • In a multiparty parliamentary arrangement like India, coalitions have become almost an inevitable reality. 
    • Apart from the formal institutional arrangements, pre-poll alliances function as a single consolidated unit. 
    • The partners do not contest elections against each other. Their cadres and volunteers work for the coalition and not just their individual parties. 
    • The voters vote for a set agenda and political ideology on whose premise the coalition rests. 
    • The coming together of two or more parties and the agenda set by them is considered before casting vote. 
    • Therefore, cases of the coalition should be covered under the anti-defection law. Otherwise, the real object and purpose of the 10th Schedule will not get accomplished.
    • Law Commission of India, in the 170th report on ‘Reform of the electoral laws’, opined that a ‘pre-election front/coalition’ of political parties should be treated as a ‘political party’ for the purposes of the anti-defection law.

Disrespect to democracy

    • The political maneuvering by parties in Maharashtra is demeaning to the aspirations of the State’s people. 
    • There is a need to check post-poll ‘alliances of convenience’. Here, parties with diametrically opposite election manifestos and promises come together to share power. 

Way ahead

    • Political parties and individual candidates can be made to disclose a list of ‘probable post-poll alliances’ under a legal framework drafted by the Election Commission.
    • This might help the electorate to gauge the level of ideological and political commitment of the parties and candidates. 
    • The voters might be in a better position to understand the supposed rivalry among different parties. 
    • Situations like those in Maharashtra, Haryana and Karnataka post-election can possibly be avoided(biggest rivals become allies after polls)

Conclusion

    • As noted by B.R. Ambedkar, “the working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State… The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up to carry out their wishes and their politics.” 
    • Democracy cannot be restricted to the mere casting of votes and the formation of the government. It is also about the trust among the voters of an electorate that the mandate given by them will be reflected in the government formed after elections.

Back2Basics

Anti-Defection Law

The Tenth Schedule — popularly known as the Anti-Defection Act — was included in the Constitution in 1985. It sets the provisions for disqualification of elected members on the grounds of defection to another political party.

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/antidefection-law/339606/

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Explained: The Bodoland disputeExplainedPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bodoland

Mains level : About the dispute



The central government has extended the ban on the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by five more years for its involvement in a series of violent anti-state activities.

The Bodoland

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.

What is the dispute?

  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

Who are the NDFB?

  • Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.
  • In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary.
  • The BdSF subsequently renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.
  • In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan.
  • In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.

Named Driver PolicyBills/Act/Laws

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Telematics

Mains level : Salient features of the Named Driver Policy


Soon, the way we drive will determine our motor insurance cover a/c to the Named Driver Policy.

Named Driver Policy

The ‘Named Driver Policy’ to the use of telematics data to reclassification has been recommended by the IRDAI against the own damage (OD) segment of motor insurance.

Why such move?

  • Vehicle plying on the road is a risk, but the driver who drives the vehicle is a key determinant of the risk.
  • Such a move is part of an effort to make pricing reflect risk, which is an international practice.
  • Opting for driver information in a policy will help integrate information from government authorities, particularly about traffic violations.

Use of Telematics

  • Another recommendation was adoption of telematics for motor insurance.
  • Use of telematics or tracking devices will monitor the driving habits such as acceleration, and braking and will provide feedback to the driver.
  • Auto owners only pay the premium aligned to their driving profile and thus avoid paying for coverage based on one-size-fits-all system.
  • Telematics will eventually pave the way for a ‘Pay As You Drive’ and ‘Pay How You Drive’ model.

Benefits for Insurance companies

  • Over time, with access to drivers’ or their driving habit data, insurers will be able to develop sharper risk-based underwriting practices.
  • Having information about drivers, with details such as age and gender would help assess the risk better.
  • Also, the insurance firm will pay the claim amount in full only if the named driver was at the wheel.
Coal and Mining Sector

Coalbed MethanePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coalbed Methane

Mains level : Coalbed Methane and its utility



News

India has the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, and CBM has been looked at as a clean alternative fuel with significant prospects.

Coalbed Methane (CBM)

  • CBM, like shale gas, is extracted from what are known as unconventional gas reservoirs — where gas is extracted directly from the rock that is the source of the gas (shale in case of shale gas and coal in case of CBM).
  • The methane is held underground within the coal and is extracted by drilling into the coal seam and removing the groundwater.
  • The resulting drop in pressure causes the methane to be released from the coal.

Uses of CBM

CBM can be used for power generation, as compressed natural gas (CNG) auto fuel, as feedstock for fertilisers, industrial uses such as in cement production, rolling mills, steel plants, and for methanol production.

Reserves in India

  • The country’s coal and CBM reserves are found in 12 states of India, with the Gondwana sediments of eastern India holding the bulk.
  • The Damodar Koel valley and Son valley are prospective areas for CBM development, with CBM projects existing in Raniganj coalfields, the Parbatpur block in Jharia coalfield and the East and West Bokaro coalfields.
  • The Son valley includes the Sonhat North and Sohagpur East and West blocks.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Imphal to Mandalay flight servicePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the flight

Mains level : Infrastructure facilities in NE India


Myanmar’s private airlines Air KBZ kicked off a chartered flight service from Manipur’s state capital Imphal to Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay.

About the flight service

  • The service is a chartered flight service.
  • Once it is regularised, then pricing and ticketing will become standardised.
  • Imphal will become an important part of the international travel route.

What is the importance of this flight service?

  • Mandalay is an important economic centre of Myanmar and the flight service is said to be benefiting both traders and tourists.
  • The service is expected to transform the transportation network through Northeast India and boost the regional economy.

Other sources of connectivity to SE

  • This year, Assam rolled out flight services from Guwahati to Bangkok and Dhaka.
  • Guwahati is also connected to Paro in Bhutan.
  • Government plans to connect Guwahati to capitals of other ASEAN countries soon by air.
  • Manipur is already connected to Myanmar by road, as is Bangladesh to Meghalaya and Tripura.
  • India’s access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong port via Tripura is in the pipeline, so is the completion of the Agartala-Akhaura international railway project that will connect Bangladesh railway track with North-East Frontier Railways.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Assamese GamosaPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assamese Gamosa

Mains level : Not Much



The multipurpose Assamese gamosa, a ubiquitous, white cotton towel, has been assigned a new function — conservation of rare freshwater turtles.

Assamese Gamosa

  • Few cultural symbols are as utilitarian as the white handmade cotton gamosa, with its characteristic red border of woven motifs.
  • It is valued as a gift for visitors, used as a scarf, anti-dust mask, wrapped around the head as a turban.
  • Conservationists are now banking on this cultural icon to carry forward the message of turtle conservation, with gamosas woven with turtle images.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Rohtang TunnelPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rohang Tunnel

Mains level : Significance of the tunnel



The Rohtang Tunnel will become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet, after its inauguration in Sept 2020.

Rohtang Tunnel

  • Rohtang Tunnel is a highway tunnel being built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway.
  • At 8.8 km length, the tunnel will be one of the longest road tunnels in India and is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by about 46 km.
  • For now, the tunnel provides a temporary winter link to the outside world not only to residents of Lahaul and Spiti but also to those living in Zanskar Valley of Ladakh.
  • While Rohtang Pass is at a height of 13,050 feet, the pass on the road to Leh is Baralacha La at 16,040 feet.
  • An alternate road link to Ladakh has also been developed by BRO on the Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis, but here again a 4.15-km long tunnel at Sinka La Pass (16,703 feet) would be required for all-weather access.

Why delay?

  • It would have been completed at least four years earlier, but for a massive torrent of water encountered inside the tunnel.
  • The Seri Nullah, which flows on top of the tunnel, almost threatened to derail the project and it took several years to devise ways to tackle the massive flow of water that often went up to 140 litres per second.

Significance

  • The project also has significant strategic implications for the military as it will allow access beyond Rohtang Pass even in peak winters.
  • All-winter connectivity to Ladakh, however, is still some time away as more tunnels will have to be built to tackle the high passes which fall beyond Rohtang.
Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Exercise MILAN 2020PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Exercise

Mains level : NA



Naval Exercise MILAN 2020 is scheduled to be held at Vishakhapatnam in March 2020 in which 41 countries have been invited.

About the Exercise

  • The Government pursues cooperation initiatives with friendly foreign countries including in Indian Ocean Region through structured interactions like Staff Talks, Empowered Steering Group etc.
  • The areas of cooperation include Capacity Building, Marine Domain Awareness, Training, Hydrography, Technical Assistance, Operational Exercise etc.
  • 41 countries including Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, South Korea, the US, the UK, Australia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Iran, Sri Lanka, Thailand among others are going to participate.
Tribes in News

Mizoram revokes Forest Rights ActStates in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FRA, Art. 371

Mains level : Special status to various states


The Mizoram government passed a resolution revoking the implementation of the ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA).

How did it revoke?

  • Under Article 371 (G) of the Constitution, Mizoram has a special provision.
  • It makes mandatory for all legislations of Parliament pertaining to land ownership and transfer to be first passed by the state’s assembly through a resolution before it can be implemented in the state.
  • The revoking of FRA using the special status provision of the Constitution by the Mizoram government is very similar to how the enactment of FRA was prevented in Jammu and Kashmir using Article 370.

Why such move?

  • A big chunk of forests in the state is owned by the Lai, Mara and Chakma Autonomous District Councils.
  • According to the 2017 State of Forest Report by the Forest Survey of India, around 20 per cent of the total 5,641 square kilometres of the forest land in Mizoram is “Unclassed Forest” which is under Autonomous District Councils.
  • The area of unclassed forest is lowest in Mizoram, among all North Eastern states.
  • This also means that the potential for FRA implementation is also the highest in the state.

Back2Basics

Explained: Forest Rights Act

Digital India Initiatives

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)DOMR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATGRID

Mains level : Significance of NATGRID



The ambitious National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) project will be operational by December 31, 2020, the Lok Sabha was informed recently.

NATGRID

  • The project, initially started in 2009 with a budget of ₹2,800 crore, is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information and putting them together on one platform.
  • NATGRID is exempted from the Right to Information Act, 2005 under sub-section (2) of Section 24.
  • The NATGRID links intelligence and investigation agencies.
  • At least 10 Central government agencies, such as the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and others will have access to the data on a secured platform.
  • NATGRID has developed application software for proof of technology (POT) which is yet to be fully rolled out. NATGRID solution is planned to go live by 31.12.2020.

Utility of NATGRID

  • The NATGRID will enable multiple security and intelligence agencies to access a database related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details, among others, from a common platform.
  • The 10 user agencies will be linked independently with certain databases which will be procured from 21 providing organisations including telecom, tax records, bank, immigration etc. to generate intelligence inputs.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Budapest Convention on Cyber-SecurityIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Budapest COnvention

Mains level : Global partnership for cyber-security


India maintained its status as a non-member of the Europe-led Budapest Convention and it voted in favour of a Russian-led UN resolution to set up a separate convention.

Budapest Convention

  • The Convention on Cybercrime, also known as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is the first international treaty seeking to address Internet and cybercrime.
  • It aims at harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations.
  • It was drawn up by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, with the active participation of the Council of Europe’s observer states Canada, Japan, Philippines, South Africa and the US.
  • It was opened for signature in Budapest, on 23 November 2001 and it entered into force on 1 July 2004.
  • The convention is the sole legally binding multilateral treaty that coordinates cybercrime investigations between nation-states and criminalizes certain cybercrime conduct.

Why dint India ratify?

  • Since it entered into force, important countries like Brazil and India have declined to adopt the Convention on the grounds that they did not participate in its drafting.
  • India’s is concerned due to data sharing with foreign law enforcement agencies as it infringes on national sovereignty.
  • The Russian proposal entitled “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” was passed in the UNGA.
  • It allows for regarding cross-border access to data, including by limiting the ability of a signatory to refuse to provide access to requested data.
  • The proposal creates a committee to convene in August 2020 in New York to establish a new treaty through which nation-states can coordinate and share data to prevent cybercrime.