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BREXIT

[op-ed snap] The day of Boris: On U.K. polls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Brexit progress - change in government

Context

The Conservative Party’s victory in the Parliament gives British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a clear mandate to take the U.K. out of the European Union without further delay. He built his campaign around the promise to “get Brexit done”,

Election campaign – Conservatives vs Labour

  • Boris Johnson called for an early election after reaching a new divorce deal with the EU. 
  • He turned the poll into a de facto Brexit referendum, arguing that only a stable Conservative government could take the U.K. out of the EU quickly.
  • His strategy was to consolidate the pro-Brexit vote, get a fresh mandate in Parliament and then quicken the divorce process. 
  • The Labour Party has been ambivalent on the question of Brexit. 
  • Mr. Corbyn promised another referendum and declined to state what his position would be during that vote. 
  • His focus was on the economy. He promised a radical expansion of the state, with plans to tax the rich, increase public spending and nationalise utilities. 
  • Labour fought a Brexit election without articulating a clear position on Brexit. 
  • It lost even its traditional working class districts in the Midlands and north of England that had voted to leave in the 2016 referendum.

Brexit

  • Mr. Johnson wants to push the withdrawal agreement through Parliament at the earliest so that Britain could leave the union before the January 31 deadline. 
  • A big victory does not mean that the road ahead is smooth. 
  • Brexit agreement – his agreeemnt itself is controversial; once implemented, it could erect an effective customs border between Britain and the island of Ireland. 
  • Good Friday agreement – His deal might have an impact on the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland and to the unity of the Kingdom in general. 
  • With EU – more difficult part of the Brexit process is negotiating an agreement on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU. It could take years. 
  • Constitutional challenges – the poll results pose administrative and constitutional challenges to the Prime Minister. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory has rekindled calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence. 

Conclusion

Mr. Johnson might go down in history as the Prime Minister who took the U.K. out of the EU. But at what cost is the question.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[op-ed snap] Twin troubles: On low growth and high inflation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Stagflation

Mains level : Economic slowdown

Context

Economic data released by the government suggest that India may be stepping even closer to stagflation. 

Indices

  • IIP – The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) contracted 3.8% in October against a rate of 8.4% witnessed during the same month last year. 
  • Inflation – Retail inflation jumped to a 40-month high of 5.5% in November. This is fuelled by a sharp jump in food prices. It might drop as fresh food supplies hit the market. 
  • Stagflation – Low growth combined with high price inflation is sure to cause headaches for policymakers. 
  • Growth – Economic growth has declined for six consecutive quarters now. This is one of the longest downturns in recent history. 

Problem

  • RBI’s limitation – Due to inflation raising its ugly head, the RBI is unlikely to cut rates aggressively in the next few months at least. 
  • More on Fiscal policy – it is entirely up to the government now to find ways to boost growth. The government cannot delay reforms.

Government’s inaction

  • Blaming Monetary policy – The government maintained that the country’s growth rate was held back by the tight monetary policy stance adopted by the RBI. 
  • Repo rate cut – as the benchmark interest rate was cut five times so far this year, the government can no longer shift the blame on to the RBI. 
  • Cyclical slowdown – the government is now blaming that the slowdown in growth is merely a cyclical one that will end sooner than later. 
  • Lack of reforms – the Centre has failed in bringing about major structural reforms to the economy. But for the recent cut in corporate tax rates, the government has not come up with any other significant reform in response to the slowdown. 

The root cause of the slowdown

  • Low growth along with high inflation raises questions about the root cause of the slowdown. 
  • Demand shortfall? It has been attributed to a drastic fall in consumer demand. 
  • Rate cuts didn’t help – Aggressive rate cuts by the RBI cannot stop the continuous slide in growth rate.
  • Supply-side is also in deep trouble. 

Way ahead

  • Economic reforms can lift the potential growth rate of the economy. 
  • Further rate cuts by the RBI will only add to the government’s troubles by stoking inflation in the wider economy.

Back2Basics

Stagflation

Economics | Inflation explained with real life examples

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Death penalty in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Capital Punishment and its justification


The horrific December 16, 2012, Delhi bus gangrape case is rapidly moving towards its final conclusion.

Death Penalty

  • Article 21 ensures the Fundamental Right to life and liberty for all persons.
  • It adds no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • This has been legally construed to mean if there is a procedure, which is fair and valid, then the state by framing a law can deprive a person of his life.
  • While the central government has consistently maintained it would keep the death penalty in the statute books to act as a deterrent, and for those who are a threat to society, the Supreme Court too has upheld the constitutional validity of capital punishment in “rarest of rare” cases.

Various judgments related to Death Penalty

  • The Supreme Court has always said that the death sentence should be given rarely.
  • In ‘Mithu vs State of Punjab’ (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional.
  • It struck down Section 303 in the IPC, which entailed a mandatory death sentence for a person who commits murder while serving a life term in another case.
  • The Supreme Court ruled Section 303 violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) since an unreasonable distinction was sought to be made between two classes of murders.
  • Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled in ‘State of Punjab vs Dalbir Singh’ in 2012 that mandatory death penalty as punishment for crimes under Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act, 1959, was unconstitutional.
  • In ‘Jagmohan Singh vs State of UP’ (1973), then in ‘Rajendra Prasad vs State of UP’ (1979), and finally in ‘Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab’ (1980) the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of the death penalty.
  • It said that if capital punishment is provided in the law and the procedure is a fair, just and reasonable one, the death sentence can be awarded to a convict.
  • This will, however, only be in the “rarest of rare” cases, and the courts should render “special reasons” while sending a person to the gallows.

What is a “rarest of rare” case?

  • The principles of what would constitute the “rarest of rare” were laid down by the top court in the landmark judgment in ‘Bachan Singh’.
  • Two prime questions, the top court held, may be asked and answered.
  • First, is there something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for a death sentence?
  • Second, are there circumstances of the crime such that there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence even after according maximum weightage to the mitigating circumstances which speak in favour of the offenders?
  • Courts have agreed that the Delhi gangrape case meets the test of rarest of rare.

Avenues available to a death-row convict

  • After a trial court awards the death penalty, the sentence must be confirmed by a High Court.
  • The sentence cannot be executed till the time the High Court confirms it, either after deciding the appeal filed by the convict, or until the period allowed for preferring an appeal has expired.
  • If the High Court confirms the death penalty and it is also upheld by the Supreme Court, a convict can file a review petition.
  • If the review petition is rejected, the convict can file a curative petition for reconsideration of the judgment.
  • In 2014, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a three-judge Bench in open court. Such cases were earlier being heard by two-judge Benches in the judges’ chamber.
  • A curative petition is still heard in judges’ chambers.

Issues with delayed execution

  • The law provides for a long process before the execution of the convicts actually takes place.
  • The unexplained delay in execution can be a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Disha Act

Mains level : Need for stringent framework for crimes against women and children

The AP Legislative Assembly has passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019).

Disha Act

  • The bill provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gangrape and expediting trials of such cases to within 21 days.
  • The Act envisages the completion of investigation in seven days and trial in 14 working days, where there is adequate conclusive evidence, and reducing the total judgment time to 21 days from the existing four months.
  • The AP Disha Act also prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
  • In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent convictions.
  • For this, a new Section 354 E will be added in IPC, 1860.

Highlights of the Disha Act

Introducing women and children offenders registry

  • The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government will establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.
  • This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.

Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes

  • At present, provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
  • The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
  • Provision is given by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Reducing the judgment period to 21 days

  • The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period)
  • As per the  Disha Act 2019, the judgment will now have to be pronounced in 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence.
  • The investigation shall be completed in seven working days and trial shall be completed in 14 working days.
  • For this, amendments have been made to Section 173 and Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 and via the introduction of additional clauses in the act.
  • The same has been done in cases involving minors.

Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children

  • In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from a minimum of three years to maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
  • In the Disha Act 2019, apart from rape, the Government of Andhra Pradesh prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
  • New Sections 354F and Section 354G ‘Sexual Assault on Children’ is being inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Punishment for harassment of women through social media

  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, in cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment.
  • The imprisonment will be for a term which may extend to two years on first conviction and with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years on second and subsequent conviction.
  • At present, no such provision exists in the Indian Penal Code. A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860

Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh

  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the government will establish exclusive special courts in each district to ensure speedy trial.
  • These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
  • The state government has introduced the ‘Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women & Children Act, 2019′.

Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases 

  • At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the period for disposal of appeal cases has been reduced to three months.
  • Amendments are being made in Section 374 and 377 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973.

Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts

  • There is no such provision in existing laws.
  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, the government will constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.
  • The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2020

Mains level : Developed countries and thier negligence for Climate action


India, for the first time, ranks among the top 10 countries in this year’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).  Last year, India was ranked 12th.

About CCPI

  • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) is an annual publication by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network Europe.
  • Its aim is to put political and social pressure on those countries that have, until now, failed to take ambitious action on climate protection, and to highlight those countries with best practice climate policies.
  • It evaluates the climate protection performance of 60 countries, responsible for over 90% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

India’s performance

  • The report states that the current level of per capita emissions and energy use in India ranks ninth in the higher category.
  • The Indian government has yet to develop a roadmap for the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies that would consequently reduce the country’s high dependence on coal.
  • In short, more stringent laws and amendments should be made to achieve climate change targets.

Global scene

  • The 2015 accord saw nations agree to work towards limiting global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are among major polluters showing “hardly any signs” of reducing their greenhouse gas production.
  • While climate performance varied greatly — even within the EU, with Sweden leading the way — the report found that none of the countries surveyed were currently on a path compatible with the Paris climate goals.
  • China, the world’s largest single emitter, was found to have taken “medium action” due to its high investment in renewables.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[pib] National Economic Census

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Economic Census

Mains level : Economic planning in India

The Seventh Economic Census was launched in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Delhi is the 26th state where the survey has been launched, while the process is already on in 20 states and 5 UTs.

National Economic Census

  • In 1976, GoI launched a planning scheme called Economic Census and Surveys.
  • It is the census of the Indian economy through counting all entrepreneurial units in the country which involved in any economic activities of either agricultural or non-agricultural sector which are engaged in production and/or distribution of goods and/or services not for the sole purpose of own consumption.
  • It provides detailed information on operational and other characteristics such as number of establishments, number of persons employed, source of finance, type of ownership etc.
  • This information used for micro level/ decentralized planning and to assess contribution of various sectors of the economy in the GDP.

Censuses till date

  • Total Six Economic Censuses (EC) has been conducted till date.
  • In 1977 CSO conducted First economic census in collaboration with the Directorate of Economics & Statistics (DES) in the States/UTs.
  • The Second EC was carried out in 1980 followed by the Third EC in 1990. The fourth edition took place in 1998 while the fifth EC was held in 2005.
  • The Sixth edition of Economic Census was conducted in 2013.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] New System for Measurement of Weight

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kibble Balance, Kilogram and its definiton

Mains level : Not Much


The prototype of one kilogram (NPK-57) is now available in India and placed at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. The new definition of kilogram which has come into effect from May 2019 and few countries have developed the system of realization of unit of mass ‘kg’.

How much is a kilogram?

  • Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  • Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  • For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  • Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  • The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  • Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Using a Kibble Balance

  • Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant (h).
  • The advantages of Kibble balance would be that the NPK need not to be sent to BIPM for calibrations and the accuracy and stability of Kibble balance is very high.
  • This is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

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

[pib] Duty-Free Import Authorisation (DFIA) scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Duty-Free Import Authorisation (DFIA)

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has informed about the scheme.

Duty-Free Import Authorisation (DFIA)

  • DFIA is issued to allow duty free import of inputs, fuel, oil, energy sources, a catalyst which are required for production of export product.
  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an agency under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, by means of Public Notice, may exclude any product(s) from purview of DFIA.
  • Under the scheme, authorization is issued to allow duty free import of inputs.