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November 2019
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Swachh Bharat Mission

[op-ed snap] Not so swachh: On sanitation goals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing

Mains level : Swachh Bharat mission - task ahead

Context

Swachh Bharat programme has won applause globally for its goal of providing sanitation to all.

Recent survey

    • Survey data from the NSO show that it remains a work in progress. 
    • Toilets in households in the countryside have increased. 
    • There is a deficit of about 28% as of October last year. 
    • The declaration that the country has ended open defecation in its rural areas is not entirely accurate, going by this survey. 
    • The many States that were declared to be free of open defecation did not qualify for the status.

What could be done

    • The data could help the centre to review performance in States such as Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Here, the lack of toilets is reported to be higher than the national average.
    • It provides an opportunity to review other social determinants such as education, housing and water supply which have a strong influence on the adoption of sanitation.
    • Sanitation cannot be a separate ideal if communities if it is not linked to overall deprivation.

State of ODF status

    • The Ministry of Jal Shakti said the coverage in 5,99,963 villages had risen from 38.7% in 2014 to 100% this year.
    • Taxpayers remitted about ₹20,600 crores as a cess since 2015, until the introduction of the GST. 
    • This has not translated into use everywhere. The NSO survey results controvert data relied upon by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on ODF.

Challenge ahead

    • It needs so much effort to bring all-round development to India’s villages, which have not really benefited from fast-paced economic growth. 
    • Rural housing and water supply are key to bringing toilet access to all.
    • 2.95 crore subsidised houses to be built by 2022 may not be able to bridge the shortfall. 
    • Development indices are low in some States.
    • Local bodies lack the capacity and resources to bring universal sanitation. 

Conclusion

Sustained work to eliminate lacunae in coverage and a massive urban programme is essential to end open defecation and universalise toilet access.


Back2Basics

Swachh Bharat Cess

Government of India initiated the ‘Swachh Bharat Cess’ at 0.5% on all taxable services to fund Swachh Bharat initiatives.

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Constitution day: On Fadnavis’ exit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Coalition politics- role of Governor

Context

Devendra Fadnavis quit ahead of the test in the State Assembly, which may have caused imminent ouster. 

Democracy sustained

    • The government not standing is a tribute to India’s constitutional order. 
    • Supreme Court acted with the urgency to protect democratic values. 
    • It laid down the rules and timelines; ring-fenced the floor test and pre-empted manipulation. 
    • It observed that when “there is a possibility of horse-trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act”.
    • The Supreme court’s order called into question the propriety and intention of the Centre and the Governor.
    • The Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance will test its majority after forming the government.

Misuse of rules and abuse of precedents

    • Governor – The Governor used his discretion in a partisan manner to foist the government based on dubious claims of numbers. 
      • He denied the opportunity to the coalition.
      • He is constitutionally authorized to appoint a Chief Minister. 
      • The limits of this authority are being breached with frequency and extent by partisan Governors acting as tools in political schemes. 
    • Centre – The Centre rushed through the procedure to withdraw the President’s rule.
    • Constitutional morality was violated by those entrusted to guard it. 

Way ahead

    • There is a need to define the boundaries of the Governor’s use of discretion in inviting a party to form a government.

LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

Parliament passes Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Transgenders and their upliftment measures


The Parliament has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, with the Rajya Sabha approving it by a voice vote. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill in December 2018.

Various provisions of the Bill

Defining Transperson

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
  • It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.

Prohibition against discrimination

  • It prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to education, employment, healthcare, access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public.
  • Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.
  • No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.

HRD measures

  • A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • Educational institutions funded or recognised by the relevant government shall provide inclusive facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination.
  • The government must provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.

Grievances redressal

  • The National Council for Transgender persons (NCT) chaired by Union Minister for Social Justice, will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies with respect to transgender persons.
  • It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

Legal Protection

The Bill imposes penalties for the offences against transgender persons like bonded labour, denial of use of public places, removal from household & village and physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Rules for the Conduct of Business

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rules for the Conduct of Business

Mains level : Conduct of Business in Parliament

The suspension of two members by Lok Sabha Speaker after unruly scenes in the House has brought back focus on the conduct of MPs, and related issues.

How are MP’s suspended?

  • Rule 378 of the Rules for the Conduct of Business states: “The Speaker shall preserve order and shall have all powers necessary for the purpose of enforcing own decisions.”
  • Rule 373 says: The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any member is grossly disorderly, may direct such member to withdraw immediately from the House.
  • And any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.

For recalcitrant members

For obstinately uncooperative attitude of MPs, Rule 374 says:

  • The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and willfully obstructing the business thereof.
  • If a member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the member be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
  • A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.

The business usual

  • In December 2018, Lok Sabha’s Rules Committee recommended automatic suspension of members who entered the well of the House or wilfully obstructed business by shouting slogans despite being repeatedly warned by the Chair.
  • However, rules aside, it is often expediency rather than principles, which shapes the stand of a party on the issue.
  • The ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, and the opposition on its right to protest.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

“Contract for the Web”

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WWW

Mains level : Global measures for Internet governance


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced a “Contract for the Web” — aimed at saving the future of his invention, which is now almost an essential condition for human existence.

The Contract for the Web

  • Berners-Lee announced plans for this “Contract” nearly a year ago, and the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit he has founded, worked on it.
  • The idea is to create a global plan of action for all stakeholders to together commit to building a “better” Web.
  • The Contract consists of nine principles — three each for governments, private companies, and individuals and civil society to endorse — with 76 clauses each.
  • The plan of action is that governments who are looking to regulate in the digital era, can use the contract as a roadmap to lay out their policies and laws going forward.
  • Citizen action is an important part of the Contract, and the organisation hopes citizens would hold governments and companies accountable for violations of its terms.

Who has created this Contract?

  • Representatives from over 80 organisations, including governments, companies, civil society activists, and academics.
  • The goal was to create a standard policy for a Web that benefits all. The nine principles emerged after a series of discussions over almost a year.

Principles of the Contract

  1. Governments will “Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet”, “Keep all of the Internet available, all of the time”, and “Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights”.
  2. Companies will “Make the Internet affordable and accessible to everyone”, “Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”, and “Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst”.
  3. Citizens will “Be creators and collaborators on the Web”, “Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity”, and “Fight for the Web” so that it “remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future”.

Legal check

  • The ‘Contract for the Web’ is not a legal document, or a United Nations document — though the organisation is in talks with the UN.
  • The companies that do not implement the Contract would be delisted from it — which may not be the strongest deterrent.
  • It cannot currently bend governments or companies — even those that are on board — to its will.

Why such a contract?

Currently there’s no real accepted standard of best practices for even designing user interfaces, to make sure that people actually understand what they’re consenting to, what information is being collected.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Cartosat-3

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cartosat Series

Mains level : Cartosat and its applications


Advanced earth observation satellite Cartosat-3 has been launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR at Sriharikota.

Cartosat-3

  • At 1,625 kg, Cartosat-3 is unusually heavy and more than double the mass of the previous eight in its class.
  • Many new technologies have been built in, such as a highly agile or flexible camera; high-speed data transmission, advanced computer system and new power electronics.
  • It is aimed to have the `sharpest eye’ of civil remote sensing satellites in the world.
  • It will be carried by PSLV-C47.
  • Thirteen small satellites of two U.S. customers will be the secondary payloads.

What’s so special about Cartosat-3?

  • A key feature of the Cartosats is that they help to detect changes in natural geographical or man-made features.
  • Their cameras can `look back and forth’ in an angle to generate continuous spot images.
  • One of Cartosat-3’s cameras offers a ground resolution of 25 cm – this means it can pick up an object of a minimum of that size from a height of around 500 km.
  • Currently, WorldView-3, a satellite owned by US company Maxar, has the best ground resolution of 31 cm.
  • Cartosat-3 ushers in the third generation of high-resolution `optical imaging’ satellites that enable precise cartographic or mapping activities, apart from their unstated military use.

Cartosat series

  • The Cartosat satellites are a series of Indian earth observation satellites built and operated by the ISRO.
  • The Cartosat series is a part of the Indian Remote Sensing Program. They are used for Earth’s resource management defence services and monitoring.
  • So far, the ISRO has orbited eight Cartosats since May 2005.
  • Data from most of them, especially the last four Carto-2 series ones, launched in relatively quick succession in the last three years, are exclusively used by the armed forces.
  • The second one, Cartosat-2 of January 2007, breached the 1-metre threshold, which was an ambitious benchmark at that time.
  • The previous best view from a Cartosat was 65 cm, as put in the last three or four satellites in the Cartosat-2 series – 2C, 2D, 2E and 2F.
  • However, an existing policy allows only government and government authorised agencies to access ISRO’s high-resolution imageries below a resolution of 1 metre.

Uses

  • The imageries from Cartosat series satellites are useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, infrastructure planning, coastal land use and regulation.
  • It also finds applications in utility management such as monitoring road networks, water grids or distribution, creation of land use maps, among others.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Logo, motto introduced for Lokpal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Lokpal and its functions


  • Lokpal Chairman Justice (retired) Pinaki Chandra Ghose launched the new logo and motto for the apex anti-corruption ombudsman.
  • The Lokpal became functional after the appointment of its Chairman and members in March 2019.

About the Logo

  • The logo was designed by Prashant Mishra, a resident of Prayagraj in UP in a competition.
  • The logo symbolizes how Lokpal protects and cares for the people of India by establishing justice as per law.
  • The logo figuratively symbolizes the essence of Lokpal with:
  1. the inclusion of shapes such as the ombudsman [Judges’ Bench]
  2. the people [three human figures],
  3. vigilance [an Ashoka Chakra forming an eye],
  4. the law [a shape of book] and the judicial [two tri-color hands placed below, forming a unique balance].

The motto

  • The Lokpal unanimously decided to take one portion of the above 1st sloka of ‘Ishabasoupanishad’.
  • It is read as under:-

मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम्”

The meaning of the above slogan/motto in Hindi is          मा गृधः= लोभ, मत करो, कस्यस्वित्=किसी के, धनम्=धन का i.e. किसी के धन का लोभ मत करो. The meaning in English is “Do not be greedy for anyone’s wealth.”


Back2Basics

Explained: How Lokpal will form, function

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Kartavya Portal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kartavya Portal

Mains level : Nagrik Kartavya Paalan Abhiyan

Union HRD Minister has launched the kartavya.ugc.ac.in portal on the occasion of ‘Constitution Day’ as a part of countrywide year long Nagrik Kartavya Paalan Abhiyan.

Kartavya Portal

  • The portal will be used primarily for holding monthly essay competitions for students as well as other activities like quizzes, debates, poster making etc pertaining to Nagrik Kartavya Paalan Abhiyan.
  • This will make them aware that rights are automatically realized when we follow our duties religiously.
  • This principle will help the students to channelize their talents and capabilities in the right direction which will help them realize their mission with ease.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Polydactyly

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polydactyly

Mains level : Social boycott practices in India


A 63-year-old woman in a village in Odisha had been boycotted by the community as a “witch” because she was born with 12 fingers and 20 toes. The woman’s condition is known as polydactyly.

Polydactyly/polydactylism/hyperdactyly

  • It is a birth defect in which humans and animals have supernumerary fingers or toes.
  • In other words, a person suffering from the congenital anomaly of polydactyly will have more than five digits in a particular hand or foot.
  • In most cases, the extra digits can be surgically removed; the procedure gets more challenging if there is bone with the skin and tissue, and most difficult when the bone has a joint.

Causes

  • The defect develops during the sixth or seventh week of gestation, when an irregularity occurs in the splitting of the fingers from the hand or foot, creating an extra digit.
  • Causes are believed to be genetic, in some cases hereditary.

Prevalence

  • It is reported in perhaps one or two children per 1,000 live births, and could be the most common abnormality of development seen in newborns worldwide.
  • The defect is also seen in cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, and sometimes horses.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[oped of the day] India, Nepal must seek mutually acceptable solutions to controversy over new map

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Indo-Nepal relations : Kalapani area

Context

Recently, India released maps that showed Kalapani at the India-Nepal-China trijunction to the north and Susta to the south as Indian territory.

Boundary challenge

The notion of boundaries as lines drawn on a map is significant in the Subcontinent. Here, the empires and kingdoms shaded into one another across ambiguous frontiers.

Indo-Nepal boundary

    • Neither country has allowed a political boundary to interrupt the age-old traffic of people
    • People shared ties of kinship, religion, and culture. 
    • This is being threatened by territorial nationalism on the Nepali side and a security state on the Indian side.
    • The two countries have settled about 98% of their common border and these are reflected in the 182 strip maps initiated by them. 
    • More than 8,500 boundary pillars have been installed, reflecting the agreed alignment.

Nepali side

    • Kathmandu Valley remains the crucible of Nepali politics and the arbiter of its domestic and foreign policies. 
    • In Nepal, political groupings try to project bullying and overbearing India to present themselves as custodians of national interest. 
    • Recent demonstrations in Kathmandu show how Left competed with Nepali Congress to oppose India.

Issue over maps

    • These maps have nothing to do with Nepal. 
    • They were published to reflect the recent bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into the two new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. 
    • There was no change in the depiction of the India-Nepal boundary.
    • The perception was created that the publication of the new map was a departure from the past and constituted cartographic aggression. 

Nepal – rhetoric

    • Most of the time, the Nepali side raises such issues for rhetorical purposes but is uninterested in following up through serious negotiations. 
    • The same happened with Nepali demands for the revision of the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty. 
    • The Indian side agreed in 2001 to hold talks at the foreign secretary-level to come up with a revised treaty. Only one such round of talks has taken place.

Kalapani area

    • In the past, Nepal has claimed territory in the Kalapani area and Susta as its own. 
    • The two sides agreed that these differences should be resolved through friendly negotiations. These talks are yet to take place.
    • The Kalapani controversy has arisen due to a difference in perception over the real and primary sources of the Mahakali river. 
    • The Treaty of Sugauli concluded in 1816 that locates the river as the western boundary with India but different British maps showed the source tributary at different places. 
    • Then the state of cartographic science and less-refined surveying techniques creates these problems. 
    • With regard to Susta, the problem has arisen as a result of the shifting of the course of the river. 
    • There are only two ways to deal with this challenge — either to accept a shifting border as the river itself shifts or to agree on a boundary which remains fixed despite changes in the course of the river. 

Indo-Nepal relations: Pipeline

    • The Motihari-Amlekhgang pipeline for safe, secure and assured supply of petroleum products to Nepal was launched. 
    • These supplies were trucked across the border in the past.
    • There were frequents incidents of pilferage and contamination in transit and interruptions due to natural disasters or roadblocks during political protests. 
    • This is a demonstration of what cross-border cooperation can achieve to benefit both countries. 

Bilateral relations: People-People

    • There are six to eight million Nepali citizens living and working in India. 
    • They enjoy immense goodwill and a congenial and friendly environment wherever they are. 

Way ahead

India could regularly offer to take up outstanding issues bilaterally even though the Nepali side may wish to side-step.