December 2019
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Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Instant injusticeop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Judiciary, women’s safety.


Context:

Encounters, like the one in Telangana, call attention to a criminal justice system in need of urgent reform.

Question of instant injustice:

  • Following the recent encounter in Telangana, the Uttar Pradesh police announced that in the last 2 years they have killed 103 criminals.
  • Chhattisgarh encounter of June 2012 is an example of innocents being killed in extrajudicial killings.
  • While these examples seem to raise the question of instant justice, they actually raise the question of instant injustice.
  • We need to recognise this dividing line.
  • Our progressive Constitution gives us the rule of law where everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty through a fair trial.

What is wrong with our criminal justice system?

  • Pendency of the cases is the biggest challenge.
  • As per the National Judicial Data Grid, more than 20 lakh criminal cases are pending for more than 10 years in district courts and high courts.
  • As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) (2017) report, 1.27 lakh cases of rape are pending in the courts at various stages.
  • With 1840 pending for more than 10 years.
  • More than 30,000 cases of rape were registered in 2017 alone.
  • Assuming no dramatic improvement, when will the more than 90 statistically and tragically likely to be raped today see justice?

Utilisation of funds:

  • They say prevention is better than cure, but it is not the case if we look at the fund utilisation.
  • Over the last five years, utilisation of fund released by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the Nirbhaya fund projects is dismal.
  • Overall it is 9 per cent and in the case of Maharashtra, it is 0 per cent.
  • Similarly, funds released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development have been used to the extent of 20 per cent and in Madhya Pradesh, it is 0 per cent.

Way forward:

  • Widening the definition and making punishment more stringent is not the answer. 
  • Procedural changes are required.
  • Infrastructure for the courts must be paid attention to on an urgent basis.
  • Problems of the vacancies of the judges must be addressed.
  • What is essential is a study of the requirements of each court before any realistic solution is proffered.

Conclusion:

While this task will require an enormous effort, it needs to be carried out as a mission mode project in public interest, otherwise, we will continue to witness the sufferings of women followed by the examples of instant injustice.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] A patently unconstitutional piece of legislationop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship Act, 1955.

Mains level : Indian constitution, historical underpinnings, evolution, features.


Context:

Citizenship amendment bill (CAB) is being criticized for its intent, lack of logic and for being unconstitutional.

Citizenship in India:

Citizenship is really the right to have rights.

  • In 1950 when constitution was adopted, part 2 provided the citizenship based on domicile.
  • Even migrants from Pakistani territory were also given citizenship rights.
  • Constitution also vested the Parliament with powers to make provisions with respect to “acquisition and termination of citizenship”.
  • Pursuant to this, Parliament had enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955.

What are the contentious provisions?

  • In a country, which has adopted secular constitution, such as India, can certain religious groups be preferred in acquisition of citizenship?
  • Besides that, there are many contentious issues. 
  • Classification of countries and communities is constitutionally suspect.

Country Classification:

  • The clubbing of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh together is unclear.
  • Common history is not a ground as Afghanistan was never a part of British India.
  • Why countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar which share land border with India are excluded is not clear.
  • ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the bill states that these three countries constitutionally provides for the state religion.
  • Thus, the bill is to protect “religious minorities” in these theocratic states.
  • But Bhutan which is constitutionally religious state (Vajrayana Buddhism)- is excluded from the list.
  • Why Sri Lanka where Tamil Hindus have been persecuted and Myanmar where Muslim Rohingyas are persecuted have not been included?
  • The CAB selection of these three countries is therefore arbitrary.

Community Classification:

  • While classifying an individual the bill provide benefits to only one type of persecution- Religious persecution.
  • This itself is suspect category, as there are ample examples of political persecution.
  • Shias in Pakistan face the persecution but are missing from the list.
  • Similarly, atheists are missing from the list of beneficiaries.
  • Ahmadiyas in Pakistan are not recognised as Muslims in Pakistan but are not included in the list.

Article 14 and The provisions of the Bill:

  • Article 14 prevents the state from denying any “person” (as opposed to citizen)            ”equality before the law” or “equal protection of the laws” within the territory of India.
  • So, the provision of CAB will deny the equal protection to the similarly placed persons.
  • But it may also end up giving citizenship to the less deserving person at the cost of more deserving.

Conclusion:

The arbitrary and discriminatory clauses of the bill is going to defeat the stated objects and reasons of the bill so it must be corrected accordingly to provide the relief to all the victims of persecution irrespective of the religion or the country of residence.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

India-Australia Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LSA

Mains level : India-Au bilateral relations


India and Australia have moved closer to closing in on the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), as the Foreign and Defence Secretaries from both countries met in New Delhi.  The LSA is one of the key agenda points during PM Morrison’s coming visit.

Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)

  • The Agreement will allow the two countries to use each other’s military bases for logistics support, including food, water, and petroleum.
  • The two sides carried out a comprehensive review of their strategic engagement and the regional security scenario, which is continuously evolving given China’s military expansion and economic influence.

Back2Basics

India-Australia strategic relations

  • When it comes to defence, India and Australia share a common concern over China; it is that aspect which informs a lot of the bilateral transactions between the two countries.
  • While Australia is worried about China’s presence in the Pacific, India is worried about China’s increasing activities and influence in the Indian Ocean.
  • Earlier this year, the Australian and Indian navies concluded a two-week-long bilateral maritime exercise code-named AUSINDEX.
  • From 2016-18, the armies of the countries conducted a joint military exercise dubbed “AUSTRA HIND”.
  • Significantly, for the first time in 2017, Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper identified India as being at the “front rank” of Australia’s international partnerships.

The Quad

  • The informal strategic Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) that was initiated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 was largely in response to China’s growing power and influence.
  • Initially, the Quad” members included India, Japan, the US, and Australia; however Australia chose to withdraw since it did not want to be a part of an anti-China alliance at the time.
  • For Australia to begin embroiling itself in any emerging military alliance with Japan against China, in the absence of any formal reconciliation between Tokyo and Beijing over the events of the Second World War (Nanking Massacre), was incompatible.
  • However, Australia later rejoined the dialogue in 2017 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, signalling a re-ignition in Australia’s interest in the dialogue.
Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Virtual AutopsyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Virtopsy

Mains level : State of policing in India and desired reforms


It is likely to be possible soon to carry out autopsies without dissecting the body, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed Rajya Sabha.  India will be the first country in South and Southeast Asia to carry out these virtual autopsies.

What is a Virtual Autopsy OR Virtopsy?

  • A general autopsy is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present.
  • In a virtual autopsy, doctors use radiation to examine the innards to reach a conclusion about the cause of death.
  • A CT or an MRI machine could be used, in the same way that they are used to scan a living human’s body.

Why opt Virtopsy?

  • The traditional postmortem often makes members of the dead person’s family uncomfortable.
  • Virtopsy can be employed as an alternative to standard autopsies for broad and systemic examination of the whole body as it is less time consuming.
  • It aids better diagnosis and renders respect to religious sentiments.
  • Virtopsy is also faster than a traditional one — 30 minutes against 2½ hours.
  • India has taken up this project for “dignified management of dead body”.

When is this service likely to start?

  • The AIIMS New Delhi and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) are working together on a technique for postmortem without incising/dissecting the body.
  • This technique is likely to become functional in the next six months.
Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Carbon Credits and their tradeIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDM, Carbon Markets

Mains level : Developed countries and thier negligence for Climate action



Carbon markets are the controversial concept dominating at COP25, the climate change conference currently happening in Madrid.

What are carbon markets?

  • Carbon markets are regulatory structures that allow, in particular, oil and gas-intensive companies or heavy industry (or, in the case of COP25, countries) to reduce their economic footprint through a series of incentives.
  • The idea behind this system is that the most polluting countries can purchase the right to pollute more from countries that have not reached their emissions limits.
  • The 1997 Kyoto Protocol turned polluting emissions into a commodity.
  • For example, the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is the largest in the world and has been in operation since 2015.

How is the concept evolved?

  • When the world evolved the ‘clean development mechanism’ (CDM) after the Kyoto Protocol agreement of 1997 as companies in the developing world could put up projects.
  • These include renewable energy or afforestation — that helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and earn ‘credits’ that could be sold in the market.
  • It was expected that these credits would be bought by the developed countries that had committed to emissions cuts under the Protocol.
  • Thus emerged the CDM market, aka ‘compliance market’. Alongside, environmentally conscious entities also started buying these carbon credits (or offsets) — the ‘voluntary market’.

How do they work?

  • Some of these markets are designed for trading in carbon credits.
  • A company or country that exceeds certain carbon reduction targets can buy credits from another that does not exceed them.
  • Or, companies can ‘offset’ carbon emissions through pre-determined contributions to low-carbon projects or the purchase of green bonds.

Why are they controversial?

  • What is being negotiated in Madrid, with the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, is how to regulate existing markets.

India’s concerns

  • Indian companies have registered 1,669 projects under CDM and earned 246.6 million credits; another 526 projects were registered under the ‘voluntary’ market and these have earned 89 million credits.
  • Thus, in all, Indian companies got roughly 350 million credits.
  • These credits go by different names under different dispensations. Under CDM, they are called ‘certified emission reductions’, or CERs.

What are they worth?

  • Like shares, it depends on the market price. At the best of times, they were selling for $25 a CER. Indo Wind, a Chennai-based wind energy company, sold some for $15 apiece.
  • Those were the days when experts estimated that India could gain even as much as ₹45,000 crore by selling the credits.
  • Today, a CER sells for 25 cents in the CDM market and a dollar in the voluntary market. An estimated 85 per cent of India’s CDM credits and about 30 per cent of voluntary credits remain unsold.
  • Ironically, the market crash comes at a time when carbon ought to be priced far higher than its historical peak. The IMF, for instance, has said that a price of $75 would be consistent with climate action ambitions.

Which countries are interested in them and why?

  • Carbon markets are very attractive for countries that have difficulty achieving the deep decarbonisation provided for in the Paris Agreement, which commits to keeping the global average temperature increase below 1.5ºC.
  • These countries are primarily Brazil, India and China.
  • Interestingly, while the US is in the process of withdrawing from the Paris accords, it also has a significant interest in an international carbon market.

Why are carbon markets key to the COP25 negotiations?

  • COP25 is trying to find a way to link the various existing carbon markets by establishing a set of rules to achieve this.
  • However, there are a number of policy challenges that make consensus difficult.
  • One of them — and one that Brazil is particularly pressing for — is whether old credits can be counted towards the current Paris goals.
  • However, there are also thornier questions, such as which projects can be offset or credited, and the need to balance the support of richer countries to help finance low-carbon transitions in the developing world without creating a mechanism.

Can this trade be seen as a new kind of ‘neocolonialism’ in which the poorest will maintain the pollution of the richest?

  • It is true that a poorly designed carbon market can be enormously inefficient, and it is a particularly difficult task for COP25.
  • There are enough examples of successful carbon markets around the world to suggest that this is not inevitable.
  • The potential for a carbon market is not only to facilitate energy transitions and decarbonisation around the world but to be a mechanism for the Paris Agreement to set more aggressive decarbonisation targets.
Citizenship and Related Issues

U.S. Commission on International Religious FreedomIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Issues over citizenship amendment bill


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said it was “deeply troubled” by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom

  • The USCIRF is an advisory or a consultative body, which advises the US Congress and the administration on issues pertaining to international religious freedom.
  • It describes itself as an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission that was created by The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
  • The broad-based coalition that advocated strongly for IRFA’s enactment sought to elevate the fundamental human right of religious freedom as a central component of US foreign policy.
  • In practice, the USCIRF has little teeth in implementation, but acts as a conscience-keeper for the two branches in the US government — the legislature and the executive.
  • It often takes maximalist or extreme positions, and has been used by civil society groups to put pressure on US Congress members and administration officials.

What is IRFA?

  • The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was passed by the 105th US Congress (1997-99) and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton on October 27, 1998.
  • It is a statement of the US’s concern over violations of religious freedoms overseas.
  • The act expresses a part of the US foreign policy with respect to individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of religion,

What does the USCIRF do?

  • The USCIRF is mandated by US statute to “monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad — ironically not in the US.
  • It makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

How does USCIRF define “freedom of religion or belief abroad”?

  • The Commission say- Religious freedom is an important human right recognized in international law and treaties.
  • The freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought and conscience, and is intertwined with the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

Why hues across the globe?

  • it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith.
  • In conjunction with the ongoing NRC process it is feared that Indian is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Natural Water TowersPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water Towers System

Mains level : Various initiatives for water conservation


The Indus River and its tributaries, which flow through parts of China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are among the most vulnerable ‘water towers’ in the world, National Geographic has revealed.

Water Towers System

  • Mountains provide lowlands with essential freshwater for irrigation and food production, for industrial use, and for the domestic needs of rapidly growing urban populations.
  • Hence they are often referred to as natural “water towers”.
  • They are highly sensitive and prone to climate change yet their importance and vulnerability have not been quantified at the global scale.
  • Besides the Indus, other highly vulnerable water towers in Asia include the Tarim, Amu Darya and Syr Darya in Central Asia and the Ganges-Brahmaputra in South Asia.

Five most relied-upon, natural water tower systems in those regions:

  • Asia: Indus, Tarim, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ganges-Brahmaputra
  • Europe: Rhône, Po, Rhine, Black Sea North Coast, Caspian Sea Coast
  • North America: Fraser, Columbia and Northwest United States, Pacific and Arctic Coast, Saskatchewan-Nelson, North America-Colorado
  • South America: South Chile, South Argentina, Negro, La Puna region, North Chile

Significance

  • Asia’s Indus basin – fed by the Himalayan, Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, and Ladakh ranges – to be the most important storage unit on the planet.
  • Its waters, produced at high elevation from rain and snow, and draining from lakes and glaciers, support more than 200 million people settled across parts of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan.

Back2Basics

Drainage System | Part 3

Avartansheel Kheti: A periodic proportionate farming methodPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avartansheel Kheti

Mains level : Sustainable agricultural practices in India


Avartansheel Kheti an organic method of growing food is gaining wide popularity across the country.

Avartansheel Kheti

  • Avartansheel Kheti is based on the philosophy of A Nagraj, who was a proponent of harmonious co-existence.
  • It can be translated as ‘periodic proportionate farming.’
  • It insists that farmers should produce food for themselves first and what remains after consumption should be sold in the market.
  • This way, the farmer will never put harmful pesticides and fertilizers if they are growing for themselves.
  • It involves dividing the land into zones, for cereal crops, vegetables, fruiting trees and animal husbandry.

Actual technique

This technique requires a farmer to divide his land into three parts.

Part I

  • This part of the farm is required to grow trees, timber, and fruits. The cost of labor required to maintain this part of the land is low.
  • The diversity of the crops helps to maintain ecological balance.
  • This part of the land also gives the farmer dried leaves which can be later used for creating compost to increase the soil fertility.

Part II

  • This area in the farm can be used to rear livestock.
  • Milk by the cattle can be used by the family and the excess can be used to make products like cottage cheese for higher profits.
  • Also, animal dung can be used as manure which reduces the farm’s dependence on external chemicals.

Part II

  • This land is made use of to grow crops for the household.
  • Staples like wheat, rice along with pulses, cereals, vegetables, fruits, and spices are grown.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Antibiotics in CropsPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Not Much


The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has informed about certain registered pesticides/antibiotics.

Registered Antibiotics in Crops

  • Aureofungin, Kasugamycin, Validamycin and Streptomycin+ Tetracycline combination are antibiotics which are registered under the Insecticide Act 1968 for use as pesticides to combat certain fungal and bacterial diseases in plants.
  • Use of the above pesticides is regulated under the Insecticide Act 1968 and the rules framed thereunder.
  • While registering the pesticide, the label and leaflets are also approved which contains the details of crop, disease/pest against which it is recommended, dose rate, directions about use, chemical composition, toxicity triangle, precautions to use and packaging specifications.
  • They are registered for use in the country by the Registration Committee only after satisfying about their efficacy and safety to human health, animal and environment.
Indian Navy Updates

[pib] NAVARMS-19PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVARMS-19

Mains level : Indian naval arsenal and its significance


The fourth edition of International Seminar cum Exhibition on Naval Weapon Systems ‘NAVARMS-19’ with the theme Make in India is set to be held.

NAVARMS

  • NAVARMS is the only international seminar and exhibition on Naval Weapon Systems conducted in the country to invite all the stakeholders in life cycle management of Naval Weapons and provide a common platform to share their views and concerns.
  • The event provides opportunity for exchange of ideas, create awareness and identify emerging prospects for Indian/International defence industry in domain of Naval Weapon Systems.

Significance

  • India’s quintessential maritime character and vital geo-strategic location are twin factors that have defined her growth as a nation and evolution as a civilization.
  • The Indian Navy today remains the principal manifestation of India’s maritime power and plays a central role in safeguarding and prompting her security and national interests in the maritime domain.
  • The Navy’s roles and responsibilities have also expanded significantly over the years in response to changing geo-economic and geo-strategic circumstances.
  • These roles necessitate a wide inventory of weapon systems that cater for India’s security-cum-threat calculus.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] GandhipediaPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gandhipedia

Mains level : Gandhian values and thier significance


The Government is developing ‘Gandhi Encyclopedia’ to spread awareness in the society.

Gandhipedia

  • The project is at present being designed by the National Council for Science and Museums. It will be jointly implemented by IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Gandhinagar.
  • It is being developed as a social media portal that will contain original works related to the Father of the Nation.
  • It aims for promotion of appropriate Gandhian philosophy and thoughts through social media platforms under 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi Ji.
  • The portal will function on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine running.

Features

  • The portal will contain original photographs, visuals, speeches and the 100 collected works of Gandhiji.
  • Books by Gandhiji will also be available on the portal apart from books that have been written on him.
  • It will be free for access to everybody.
History- Important places, persons in news

Person in news: Maharaja SurajmalPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Maharaja Surajmal

Mains level : Significance of third battle of Panipat


A film based on the Third Battle of Panipat recently released.  In the film, Maharaja of Bharatpur is reportedly shown as having denied help to the Maratha army, one of the factors leading to the Marathas’ eventual defeat.

In a not so unusual course, various factions from Rajasthan and eastern UP have demanded a ban on the film.

Who is Maharaja Surajmal?

  • Maharaja Surajmal was born in 1707 in the kingdom of Bharatpur, Rajasthan.
  • He ruled in the 18th century and was the son of the Jat chieftain Badan Singh.
  • He is described as “a strong leader who harried the Mughal empire in the anarchic period of its decline, consolidated the kingdom with its capital at Bharatpur.
  • He used the resources gained to build forts and palaces, the most famous being the palace at Deeg and the Bharatpur Fort.

The Third Battle of Panipat

  • The Third Battle of Panipat was fought between the Marathas and the invading armies of Afghan general Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1761.
  • The battle, fought about 90 km north of Delhi, was won by the Afghans and left about 40,000 troops of the Marathas dead.
  • Maharaja Surajmal was among those who played key roles in the battle.
  • After the battle, the Marathas lost their preeminent position in north India, which ultimately paved the way for British colonial powers to take over.