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[op-ed of the day] The food industry’s role in sustainable development

Mains Paper 3 : Food Processing & Related Industries In India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Agro-industries and SDGs


Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Context

Food crisis

  • Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is no easy matter. Every person on the planet needs, expects, and has the right to a healthy diet.
  • Over 820 million people are chronically hungry. Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins.
  • Around 650 million adults are obese, an epidemic caused in part by ultra-processed foods that are stuffed with sugar, saturated fats and other chemical additives.
  • But the problems go far beyond hunger and diet.

Beyond hunger and diet

  • A growing number of food companies understand the challenge and want to forge a new direction that is consistent with human health and planetary survival.
  • The food industry is a powerhouse of the global economy and includes some of the best-known brand names, because we connect with them every day.
  • Solving the many intersecting food crises will be impossible unless the industry changes its ways.

Agro-industries are no less responsible

  • Today’s agro-industrial practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity.
  • To top it off, human-induced climate change, partly caused by the food sector, is wreaking havoc on crop production.
  • With more warming and population growth ahead, the crisis will worsen unless decisive changes are made.

Need for a worldwide policy revamp

Both the SDGs and the Paris agreement require decisive changes in practices by the food industry.Each company must address four critical questions.

First, do products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets?

  • We know that the fast-food culture is literally killing us.
  • The industry has to change to promote healthy diets.

Second, are the company’s production practices sustainable?

  • Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.

Third, are the company’s upstream suppliers sustainable?

  • No consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
  • The destruction of forests in the Amazon and Indonesia—literally a scorched-earth process—underscore the need to barcode all food products to ensure that they are sourced from sustainable farms.

Lastly, is the company a good corporate citizen?

  • For example, aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services and thereby achieve the SDGs.

Failing on many fronts

  • While many companies purport to pursue sustainable development, too few report on the healthfulness of their product.
  • Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia.
  • In short, the food industry’s commitment to sustainability is still too often more high-minded sentiment than actual reporting and monitoring to ensure alignment with the global goals.

Conclusion

  • The food sector is a key part of a larger picture. World leaders gathered at the UN this week to review progress on the SDGs and the Paris agreement.
  • They must keep in mind one crucial fact: the world’s people are demanding change.
  • Most countries have the know-how and wealth to achieve a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world.
  • The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

[op-ed snap] Two Asian powers and an island

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Need for reviving Inda-Sri Lanka ties


Context

  • The imposing Lotus Tower in Colombo, which was opened to the public recently, is considered to be the latest symbol of Sri Lanka-China ties.
  • An agreement to build this structure, which is to serve as a multi-functional telecommunication tower, was signed by the two countries in 2012.

Anti-China mood is no more

  • It may look ironical that much of the project’s execution took place under a regime which came into office at a time when there was a “strong anti-China mood”.
  • In the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was backing Sirisena, had assured people that another Chinese project, the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, would be scrapped.
  • Then, there was also uncertainty over the fate of the Hambantota port, the development of which was originally offered to India by Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005.
  • India was said to have examined Hambantota purely from the point of view of economics, overlooking the strategic angle.
  • All of this is now history, as Colombo-Beijing ties have stood the test of time.

Two different records

  • China has been able to resolve all the controversies over these projects.
  • The Port City’s execution is underway without any major hitch. When it becomes a reality, it will stand beside the Colombo port, which serves as a major transshipment hub for India.
  • A Chinese company has got Hambantota on lease for 99 years along with associated land of 15,000 acres.
  • More importantly, Sri Lanka is a member-country of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Debt trap or a tailored bluff

  • Notwithstanding an argument that economic ties with China are driving Sri Lanka into a “debt trap”, the bilateral relationship on the economic front is only becoming stronger.
  • According to the 2018 annual report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, imports from China accounted for 18.5%, just a little less than the 19% from India.

Indian failure

  • India couldn’t claim to have accomplished much in the Sirisena years, despite its “neighbourhood first” policy since May 2014.
  • Apart from a joint venture with Japan and Sri Lanka to develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port, India cannot boast of having taken up any major infrastructure project in Sri Lanka.
  • There seems to be little progress in India’s proposals to develop the Palaly airport in the North and acquire a controlling stake in the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
  • And for all practical purposes, the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement, an improved version of the existing bilateral FTA, has been shelved.

Success: Very few to count

  • In recent years, only a couple of social sector projects of India— building 60,000 homes for Tamils of the civil war-torn regions and the provision of ambulance services all over the island — gathered momentum.
  • Both these are being carried out using grants of the Indian government.
  • In July, an agreement was signed to upgrade a key railway segment, connecting the north and the south, at $91 million.

The resentful phase is over

  • Despite these deep ties, it is true that India and Sri Lanka have seen some unpleasantness in bilateral relations in contemporary times.
  • The anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983 dragged India into the Sri Lankan Tamil question.
  • India sustained its interest on developmental issues concerning the country Tamils, and now regarded as the most backward in Sri Lanka.
  • It will also be worth making one more attempt to encourage the voluntary repatriation of nearly 95,000 refugees who live in Tamil Nadu back to Sri Lanka.

India still holds deeper ties

  • China-funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka may look great, but India-Sri Lanka ties are deeper and more complex.
  • In good times and bad, India has been and will always be the first responder for Sri Lanka.
  • India’s assistance during the 2004 tsunami and PM Modi’s visit to Colombo in June (the first foreign dignitary to do so) in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks show India’s sincerity of approach.

Way ahead

  • Given its potential and willingness to do more in development cooperation, India cannot remain satisfied with such a modest track record.
  • A benign and comprehensive approach, backed by the sincerity of purpose, will not only earn India greater respect of Sri Lankans, but also send a message to other international players about the strength of its ties with Sri Lanka.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[op-ed snap] A bad policy choice

Mains Paper 3 : Issues Related To Farm Subsidies & Msp |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Storage facilities for farm produce


Context

  • Ever since the Delhi government was ousted in 1998 by popular outrage over a spurt in onion prices, politicians have been wary of this vegetable.
  • The political response should solve, not structurally worsen, the problem that lies at the root of the occasional shortage of the vegetable.

Ban on onions export

  • The ban on export of onions that the central government has imposed follows in a traditional route and ignores the need for the farmer to get better terms of trade, paving the way for future shortage.
  • Onion is a relatively small crop, a little over 15 million tonnes in India.
  • China cultivates a lower area, but is the world’s largest producer, because its yield is about half as much higher than in India.

Hurting many

  • Bangladesh is very unhappy with India’s export ban,because that has worsened the shortage there.
  • Sudden export bans shut off the possibility of the farmer getting a bumper price for his crop, something that he feels he is entitled to, as the obverse of the distress sale he often has to undertake.
  • The sensible course is proper storage at times of harvest and steady decumulation of stocks over the year.
  • This will not help, however, in case of a sudden shortfall in output, thanks to flooding or unseasonal rains, as has happened this year.

Conclusion

  • Instead of banning exports, the government should encourage export of onion in its raw and processed forms.
  • The govt. must invest in food technology that would permit farmers to increase output without fear of distress sales, onion offtake assured because of its storage in a processed state.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Explained: VP Menon’s role in accession of J&K and other states

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Instrument of accession

Mains level : Read the attached story



Context

  • Today marks the 126th birth anniversary of V P Menon.
  • The nation remembers Sardar Patel’s herculean efforts in ensuring that over 500 princely states seamlessly joined the Union of India.
  • However it was Menon working in the background, travelling across the country and persuading different Maharajas and Nawabs to accede.

V.P. Menon

  • Born on September 30, 1893, Menon was the Secretary in the Ministry of States which was established by the Government of India in 1947 to deal with the accession of princely states.

His contributions

  • Menon’s greatest contribution was coming up with the original policy on accession that required the princely states to accede only in the three matters of defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Since these matters were fairly non-controversial, Menon believed they would be readily accepted by the rulers.
  • With these the basic unity of India would be achieved and, when the new constitution was framed, we could thrash out the necessary details.
  • It was Menon’s policy piloted by Sardar Patel that was finally reflected in the Instrument of Accession (IoA) executed by the states becoming a part of the Union of India in 1947 and their seamless integration thereafter.

Role in J&K’s accession

  • One of the states to which Menon travelled to secure its accession was Jammu and Kashmir.
  • By October 25, 1947, an attack by Afridi tribesmen had reached the outskirts of Srinagar, forcing the Maharaja of J&K to escape the city and relocate to Jammu.
  • On October 26, the Defence Committee of the Indian Government held a meeting to discuss the viability of a military intervention in J&K.
  • Lord Mountbatten, who was part of this meeting observed that since J&K had not acceded to either India or Pakistan, it was an independent country.
  • According to Mountbatten, if the Maharaja acceded to India, troops could be sent to rescue the state.
  • Subsequently, it was Menon who immediately flew to Jammu and secured the Maharaja’s signature on the IoA.

The integration

  • With accession secured, the next challenge for Menon and his team in the Ministry of States was to ensure complete integration.
  • This was a legally complex but politically straightforward matter in respect of most princely states.
  • The negotiations between representatives of the Government of India and Sheikh Abdullah, then PM of J&K, in relation to J&K’s status in India failed to produce a mutually acceptable result.
  • It was thus decided that the Constitution of India would reflect the position under the 1947 IoA.

Birth of Article 370

  • The final text of Article 370 introduced in the Constitution of India is based on this understanding.
  • Sheikh Abdullah proposed an alternative formulation which simply stated that the Indian Parliament would be entitled to legislate only on defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Seemingly making light of Abdullah’s objection, Menon asked that the following be conveyed to Patel:
  1. Parts II (citizenship), III (fundamental rights) and IV (directive principles) of the Constitution would apply automatically to Kashmir unless the position is expressly saved
  2. What worried Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference was that if these general provisions become applicable to Kashmir also, their legislation against other citizens of India in respect of acquisition etc. of property will become invalid.

The final move

  • Thus overriding the Sheikh’s objections, but in deference to his principled disagreement, the Ministry of States sent a draft proclamation to the Yuvraj of Kashmir, Karan Singh, for signing.
  • This was the final step towards complete integration in the Union of India by which all princely states that had acceded to India were required to accept the Constitution of India as their own through a public proclamation.

Conclusion that spark debates

  • It is significant to note that J&K’s proclamation was worded differently from the others.
  • This proclamation, issued on November 25, 1949, did not accept the Constitution of India as J&K’s own.
  • Instead, it stated that the Constitution of India, “in so far as it is applicable to [J&K]” would “govern the constitutional relationship between [J&K and the] Union of India”.
  • This was a reference to Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
J&K – The issues around the state

The idea of Regional Supreme Court Benches

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Debate over additional SC benches


News

Demand for regional benches

  • Recently, Vice-President in his speech has suggested that the Supreme Court institute four regional Benches to tackle the enormous backlog of cases, and to ensure their speedy disposal.
  • He also endorsed the recommendation of the Law Commission of India that the top court should be split into two divisions.
  • These ideas are not new; apart from the LC, they were mooted also in the Congress manifesto for this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
  • But they have not developed into a serious debate, and the Supreme Court itself has been opposed to these ideas.

Core of the problem: Pendency of cases

  • In the early decades, the Supreme Court of India, too, functioned largely as a constitutional court, with some 70-80 judgments being delivered every year by Constitution Benches of five or more judges.
  • They ruled, as per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, on matters “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of [the] Constitution”.
  • This number has now come down to 10-12.

Why so much pendency in the apex court?

  • Due to their heavy workload, judges mostly sit in two- or three-judge Benches to dispose of all kinds of cases; these include several non-Constitutional and relatively petty matters.
  • On some occasions, even PILs on demands such as Sardar jokes should be banned, or that Muslims should be sent out of the country, come before the Supreme Court.
  • This heavy workload is due to the fact that India’s Supreme Court is perhaps the world’s most powerful court, with a very wide jurisdiction.
  • It hears matters between the Centre and states, and between two or more states; rules on civil and criminal appeals; and advises the President on questions of law and fact.
  • On the question of violation of FRs, anyone can approach the Supreme Court directly.
  • The result: more than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.

What the Law Commission said

  • Back in March 1984, the 10th Law Commission of India (95th Report) under Justice K K Mathew recommended that “the SC should consist of two Divisions, namely (a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division”.
  • Only matters of Constitutional law may be assigned to the proposed Constitutional Division.
  • The 11th LC under the chairmanship of Justice D A Desai (125th Report, 1988) “reiterate(d) that the recommendation for splitting the SC into two halves deserves to be implemented”.

Demand for 4 benches

  • The 18th LC under Justice A R Lakshmanan (229th Report, 2009) recommended that “a Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues”.
  • It recommended for four Cassation Benches be set up all four zones to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region.
  • Indeed, many countries around the world have Courts of Cassation that decide cases involving non-Constitutional disputes and appeals from the lower level of courts.
  • Standing Committees of Parliament recommended in 2004, 2005, and 2006 that Benches of the court be set up elsewhere.
  • In 2008, the Committee suggested that at least one Bench be set up on a trial basis in Chennai.
  • These are courts of last resort that have the power to reverse decisions of lower courts. (Cassation: annulment, cancellation, reversal).

Who can constitute additional benches?

  • Supreme Court Rules give the Chief Justice of India the power to constitute Benches — he can, for instance, have a Constitution Bench of seven judges in New Delhi, and set up smaller Benches in, say, four or six places across the country.

Argument for

  • It has been pointed out that Article 39A says that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity.
  • It shall ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
  • It is obvious that travelling to New Delhi or engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.

Arguments against

  • The Supreme Court has not agreed with the proposal, which in its opinion will dilute the prestige of the court.
  • Article 130 says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the CJI may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.
Judicial Pendency

Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Mains Paper 1 : Climatic Change |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Mains level : Need and significance of such maps


News

  • For preparing communities and people to meet the challenge arising out of climate, information specific to a state or even district is needed.
  • In order to meet this need, a pan India climate vulnerability assessment map is being developed.

Climate Vulnerability map of India

  • The map is being developed under a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
  • This research programme of DST is being implemented as part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • Such climate vulnerability atlas has already been developed for 12 states in the Indian Himalayan Region, using a common framework.
  • Now this methodology will be extended to non-Himalayan states so that we can have a national level climate vulnerability profile for India.
  • The atlas is expected to be ready by the middle of 2020.

Why such move?

  • Climate risk is interplay of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. There is a rise in climate-sensitive livelihood of people.
  • While the occurrence of natural hazards such as landslides, droughts and floods is projected to go up, their impact depends on the level of exposure such as presence of people and infrastructure in areas.
  • Hence a common methodology for assessing vulnerability was critical for comparison and for planning adaptation strategies.
  • Vulnerability is the propensity to be adversely affected and can be measured in terms of both biophysical as well as socio-economic factors.
  • Addressing vulnerability can help reduce risk to climate change. It also helps in identifying what makes a state or district vulnerable to climate change.

Mapping strategy

  • The map for the Himalayan region, developed in consultation with states, has details up to the district level.
  • The national map will also do the same, as vulnerability within a state may differ from one region or district to another.
  • A common set of indicators will be used vulnerability profile and ranking of 650 districts all over the country.
  • Among the priority areas identified for research are glaciology, climate modeling, urban climate, extreme events and Himalayan ecosystem studies.
  • In all, climate change cells have been in 25 states in the country and centres of excellence are also being established in states for capacity building.
  • Sensitivity of agricultural production is captured by indicators like percentage area under irrigation; yield variability; and percentage area under horticulture crops.

Take a look at following infographs:

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Pre historic site: Sittannavasal

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the site

Mains level : Cave architecture in India



News

  • Sittannavasal, a small hamlet in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai district, is a muse for historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and art lovers alike.

About the site

  • Located 50 km from Tiruchi, the Sittannavasal rock-cut cave temple, with its beautiful frescoes, sculptures of Jain Theerthangaras and stone beds atop of a hillock.
  • It is believed to be an ancient abode for Jains when Jainism flourished in the region till the 10th century A.D.
  • While the numerous dolmens, stone circles and other forms of megalithic relics in its vicinity indicate the prehistoric and proto-historic antiquity of the region.
  • The village itself dates back to the 1st century B.C.
  • The temple is now a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
History- Important places, persons in news

Galo community in Arunachal Pradesh

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the tribe

Mains level : Various tribes in India



News

  • Members of the Galo community in Arunachal Pradesh can recall the name of their ancestor from 20 generations, and this is made possible by their system of naming.

Galo community

  • At about 1.5 lakh people, the Galos are one of the 26 major communities of Arunachal Pradesh, and dominate West Siang, Lepa Rada and Lower Siang districts.
  • They have a big population in East Siang, Upper Subansiri and Namsai districts too.
  • The Galos belong to the Tani group inhabiting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, besides Tibet.
  • They trace their common origin to a primeval ancestor, Abotani.

Uniqueness

  • But unlike the Mising (Assam), Adi, Apatani, Nyishi and Tagin, the other communities, only the Galos maintain genealogy through given names.
  • They have a system of prefixing the second syllable of a father’s name to that of a son, who passes on the suffix in his name to his son.
  • Hence they can trace the names of ancestors from the first syllable or prefix of our names,.
  • They have nine sub-clans: Angu, Bagra, Doji, Kamnyi, Karso, Naho, Ngomdir, Rasa or Rame, and Yorsi or Kamsi. The numbers of sub-clans of the other clans vary.
Tribes in News

Asteroid named after Pandit Jasraj

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IAU

Mains level : India's vocal art



News

  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an asteroid, discovered in 2006, after Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj.

About the asteroid

  • The asteroid, or more formally known as a minor planet, is located between Mars and Jupiter, and was discovered on November 11, 2006, by the Catalina Sky Survey in the United States.
  • The privilege of naming a planet is first given to discoverers, who have 10 years to propose a name.
  • All names proposed are judged by the Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the IAU, comprising professional astronomers with research interests in minor planets and/or comets from around the world.

International Astronomical Union (IAU)

  • The IAU is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy.
  • Among other activities, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.
  • To standardize planetary nomenclature, the IAU was assigned in 1919 the task of selecting official names for features on Solar System bodies.
  • Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is a system of uniquely identifying features on the surface of a planet or natural satellite so that the features can be easily located, described, and discussed.

About Pandit Jasraj

  • Pandit Jasraj (b. 1930) is an exponent of Indian classical vocal music.
  • Jasraj is the recipient of numerous awards, honours, and titles, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
  • His distinctive voice traverses a remarkable four-and-a-half octaves.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Not their business: On OIC remarks on Article 370

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OIC

Mains level : OIC - Kashmir


CONTEXT

The OIC’s Kashmir Contact Group issued a statement calling on India to “rescind its actions revoking Article 370”. 

Impact of the statement

  • It allows the Pakistan Prime Minister to sell the theory back at home that his trip to New York has met with some success. 
  • From the mid-1990s, when this Contact Group was formed, it has issued several statements on behalf of Pakistan. 

OIC

  • Pakistan is a member along with Turkey, Niger, Azerbaijan, and Saudi Arabia. It boasts of a membership of 57 countries
  • It is headquartered in Jeddah and receives its financial raison d’etre from its chief benefactor, Saudi Arabia.
  • Its influence on world affairs has always been marginal

Differences within OIC

  • It is doubtful if the statement issued by the Contact Group reflects the national positions of the individual member states. 
  • UAE conferred the Order of Zayed, its highest civilian award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than a week after New Delhi’s moves on Article 370, and declared that Kashmir was India’s internal matter.
  • The OIC’s record of conflict resolution on issues between OIC member states is poor
  • Its attempts to meddle in Kashmir by appointing a so-called special envoy on Jammu and Kashmir, have amounted to nothing

Need for reforms in OIC

  • The organisation is constituted on religious lines but seeking to fulfill geopolitical interests, needs reforms from within.
  • It should ask Pakistan to change its state policy on terrorism.
  • Pakistan should abjure support to Kashmir-centric groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
  • India, though not a part of the OIC, has the second-largest number of Muslims in the world.
  • It can mediate between warring Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Conclusion

India must demonstrate to the world that its new Kashmir policy is in the larger interest of all Kashmiris.


Back2Basics

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second-largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has a membership of 57 states spread over four continents.

J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] Making crime less dark

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Victimisation survey - efficient crime data


CONTEXT

The absence of exact data on crime could pose serious problems. In India, crime is under-reported and under-registered.

Crime data

    • Popular perception associates many cities and states in India with a crime. Going by official statistics, the country has one of the lowest incidences of crime in the world. 
    • India’s crime rate is 379.3 per 1,00,000 persons
    • Cases of dacoity, attempt to murder, robbery, rape, and riot have gone down by 36.11%, 16.26%, 20.15%, 0.78%, and 54% respectively in 2018 as compared to the year before. 

Problems with crime data

    • The manner in which crime data are collected and compiled. 
      • Crime data in India are collected and published by NCRB
      • The data reported in this publication is based on the crime reported to local police stations
      • Police stations getting information about the crime is one thing and such incidents being recorded as an FIR is another. 
    • Challenges of a complainant – All kinds of pressures and obstacles are put on a complainant, especially when the nature of crime is that of sexual assault, domestic violence or when it involves family members, relatives or powerful people. 
    • There is enormous resistance put up by the police station personnel in registering such crimes or reducing the seriousness of the incident.
    • The NCRB data fall short of expectations in many respects. 
      • It is short on information about crime victims and witnesses
      • The official statistics miss out on several key areas such as the profile of victims, their personal characteristics, victim-offender relationship, FIR registration experiences, experiences of interacting with police, number of days and time taken in getting FIR registered, instances of intimidation, pressure experienced from the accused or associates including police, nature of injury, medical assistance, information about legal aid, compensation.

The potential of a victimisation survey

    • A victimisation survey is often seen as a solution to such shortcomings. 
    • Many countries have conducted victimisation surveys to supplement their official crime data, India has yet to make a start. 
    • Such surveys reveal details that are missed out by the local police
    • They describe how crime has impacted the lives of victims and convey their safety concerns.
    • These surveys gather information through personal or telephonic interviews with a set of people who represent the geographical and social correlates of a city or state over a period of time. 
    • The information may detail the victimisation suffered by a person but not recorded by the police for a variety of reasons. 
    • The other data include risk and vulnerability, perceptions about the local police and the views of people about the criminal justice system.
    • The data generated by such surveys are considered more reliable than the official statistics on crime. 
    • Such surveys are conducted by professionally-competent organisations and the state funds the processes involved in the generation of data.

Case studies across the world

    • The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) measures the amount of crime by asking people about their experiences as crime victims.
    • In the US, the National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS) presents data that is collected from a nationally-representative sample of about 2,40,000 interviews on criminal victimisation.
    • The European Crime and Safety Survey (EU ICS) is the most comprehensive analysis of crime, security, and safety in the European Union.
    • The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) launched the International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS), which produces more comparable data across nations. 

Indian crime data – road ahead

    • India-specific yardsticks, which the NCRB does not cover, could be evolved. 
    • There could be several challenges to such surveys. People might not reveal more than what they have divulged to the police.
    • There are several methodological innovations to overcome bottlenecks.
    • It should be assigned to an institution that specialises in criminology, victimology and criminal justice administration. 
    • It should involve a nuanced understanding of the facets of crime and victimisation.

 


Back2Basics

The National Crime Records Bureau, abbreviated to NCRB, is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code. NCRB is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Population Pyramid

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Population Pyramid

Mains level : India's demogrphic dividend



Context

  • Population pyramids, which show the age and sex distribution of any country, help us understand how demographic transition plays out and speculate about its medium-term economic prospects.
  • The newscard provides a look at the pyramids for India and China and their implications.

Reading the Pyramid

  • Generally, males are shown on the left-hand side and females on the right.
  • Also, the convention is that age distribution is done in cohorts of five years, with the age rising as we go vertically upwards.
  • The pyramid shape changes over time due to births, deaths and net migration. A quick look above shows that India’s pyramid, like the actual pyramids in Egypt, is bottom heavy.
  • That is, the Indian population has a larger proportion of children, teenagers and young adults compared to China’s.
  • We can also observe that except for the oldest groups, India seems to have more males than females for every cohort.

What do they say about demographics?

  • India’s population for the age cohorts of 0-4, 5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 is roughly equal, whereas the numbers for older groups become progressively smaller.
  • This means that the country’s younger age groups have stopped growing in numbers now and are likely to shrink slightly soon.
  • This, however, does not mean that India’s population will also start shrinking soon—far from it.
  • On the other hand, China’s largest cohort is in its late 40s, although it is more gender balanced than its younger cohorts, suggesting that sex-selective abortions are likely to have taken off in the last few decades.

What does this have to do with economic growth?

  • If we take the 25-65 age group, India currently has around 650 million people and China 830 million.
  • By 2040, India is likely to reach 900 million, whereas China will have around 730 million.
  • In other words, India will go from having 180 million less working-age people than China today to about 170 million more—a net gain of a third of a billion in 20 years.

Achieving demographic dividend

  • Just having people in the working age is not enough. How many are in the labour force and their productivity are important.
  • People pursuing education and home-makers are mostly the ones to drop out of the labour force, women more so.
  • But after a fall in female labour force participation for 10 years or so, there are early signs of improvement.
  • On productivity, Indians about to enter the 25+ age group have almost universal literacy across both the genders and many are “digital natives” even in lower income groups.

Implications for India

  • The Indian state has to invest more, and efficiently, in human capital and infrastructure.
  • For the former, investments in health and sanitation have to be sustained and more PPP models such as vouchers and charter schools in basic education have to be explored so that tax outlays result in higher outcomes.
  • For the latter, a bigger push for affordable rental housing in cities has to be considered, along with more investments in rail connectivity.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR) 2019

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the ranking

Mains level : Digital competitiveness in India



News

  • India has advanced four places to 44th position in terms of digital competitiveness in the world.

About the ranking

  • The Ranking, produced by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, measures the capacity and readiness of 63 nations to adopt and explore digital technologies as a key driver for economic transformation in business, government and wider society.
  • To evaluate an economy, WDCR examines three factors:
  1. Knowledge: the capacity to understand and learn the new technologies;
  2. Technology: the competence to develop new digital innovations; and
  3. Future readiness: the preparedness for the coming developments.

India’s progress

  • India rose from 48th place in 2018 to 44th rank this year as the country has improved overall in all factors — knowledge, technology and future readiness — as compared to the previous year’s ranking.
  • India has made improvement in terms of knowledge and future readiness to adopt and explore digital technologies, according to a global report.

Global scenario

  • The US was ranked as the world’s most digitally competitive economy, followed by Singapore in the second place.
  • Sweden was ranked third on the list, followed by Denmark and Switzerland in the 4th and 5th place, respectively.
  • Others in the list of top-10 most digitally competitive economy include Netherlands in the 6th place, Finland (7th), Hong Kong SAR (8th), Norway (9th) and Republic of Korea (10th).
  • The largest jump in the overall ranking was registered by China, moving from 30th to 22nd, and Indonesia, from 62nd to 56th.
Digital India Initiatives

Govt launches new framework to sustain India’s ‘100% ODF status’

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SBM

Mains level : Making India ODF


News

  • The Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), launched a 10-year national rural sanitation strategy to sustain India’s 100 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF).

About the framework

  • The framework, to be in place from 2019 to 2029, will ensure that people sustain their usage of toilets.
  • It will also focus on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge — in rural areas.

 Steps to be undertaken

  • They include the retrofitting of single pit toilets to twin pits or making provisions to empty pits every five years, repair of defunct ones, and construction of soak pits for septic tanks wherever not already present.
  • A district-level training management unit (TMU) will be set up to provide oversight and support to gram panchayats (GPs) so that they ensure the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure.
  • The GPs are also supposed to conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps.

Alternative financing

  • The government funding is the primary source of financing in the sanitation sector.
  • The above strategy mentioned in the framework also suggests alternative self-financing by gradual leveraging of community resources in the form of tariffs for ODF plus activities.
  • It will follow the same 60:40 financing model as being followed till now in Swachh Bharat. It will be finalised after the cabinet’s approval.

Focus on personal hygiene

  • The framework also talks about state-specific strategies on menstrual hygiene management, including menstrual waste management, which may be supported under the ODF plus strategy.
Swachh Bharat Mission

Accretion Disc of a Black Hole

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Accretion Disc of a Black Hole

Mains level : Black-hole theory and its relevance



News

  • A new visualization of a black hole, released by NASA, illustrates how its gravity distorts our view by warping its surroundings.

Accretion Disc

  • The black hole’s extreme gravity skews light emitted by different regions of the disc, producing the misshapen appearance.
  • This visualization simulates the appearance of a black hole where infalling matter has collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disc.
  • As magnetic fields twist through the churning gas, bright knots form and dissipate in the disc.
  • In the area closest to the black hole, the gas orbits at close to the speed of light.
  • The outer portions spin a bit more slowly.
  • This difference stretches and shears the bright knots, producing light and dark lanes in the disk.

How it is formed?

  • The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disc, producing the warped image.
  • Exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle; the greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise.
  • Glowing gas on the left side moves toward us so fast that the effects of Einstein’s relativity give it a boost in brightness.
  • On the right side, gas moving away becomes slightly dimmer.
  • This asymmetry disappears when we see the disc exactly face on because, from that perspective, none of the material is moving along our line of sight.

Back2Basics

Black Hole

  • A black hole is an object in space that is so dense and has such strong gravity that no matter or light can escape its pull. Because no light can escape, it is black and invisible.
  • They drastically warp the fabric of space-time and anything that passes too close gets sucked into it be it a wandering star or a photon of light.
  • They exist from the size of a human cell to more massive than the sun.
  • Black holes of stellar mass are formed when a massive star collapses at the end of its life cycle.
  • After a black hole forms, it continues to grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Ranitidine

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ranitidine

Mains level : Hazards of Ranitidine



News

  • India’s drug regulator this week began looking into concerns of potential cancer-causing substances contaminating popular acidity drug ranitidine.
  • The move came over a week after the US flagged the issue to American patients, some companies have suspended sales of the product worldwide, and some have ordered recalls of the product.

Ranitidine

  • Ranitidine is an over-the-counter prescription antacid used in the treatment of acid reflux and peptic ulcer diseases.
  • It is popularly known through brand names like Aciloc, Zinetac, Rantac and Rantac-OD, R-Loc and Ranitin.
  • It is commonly used to relieve acid-related indigestion and heartburn by decreasing stomach acid production.
  • While other medicines like pantoprazole and omeprazole (omez) too treat these symptoms and are more commonly prescribed today, ranitidine is still widely used in India.

Why in news?

  • Ranitidine is a much older medication, but it was always thought to be a very safe drug because it has less side effects than the other drugs that patients use nowadays to treat these symptoms.
  • The US FDA stated in a release that it had learned that some ranitidine medicines contained “low levels” of a substance called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
  • An environmental contaminant found in water and foods, NDMA has been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, which means it has the potential to cause cancer.
  • This is the same impurity that the US FDA had investigated in blood pressure drugs valsartan and losartan over the last year.

How has India responded?

  • The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) wrote to state regulators asking them to direct ranitidine active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturers to verify their products and take appropriate measures to ensure patient safety.
  • DCGI asked states to inform him of action taken in this matter “at the earliest”.
  • So far, the DCGI has not called for any halting of supplies, which means the ranitidine brands marketed in the country can continue to be sold until further notice.
  • APIs are the ingredients that give a medicine its therapaeutic effect.
  • According to industry sources, most of the world’s supply of the ranitidine API comes from two Indian firms — Saraca Laboratories and SMS Lifesciences.

Should consumers be worried?

  • The DCGI has not clarified whether doctors and consumers in India should use ranitidine with caution, nor has the US FDA called for individuals to stop taking the drug at this time.
  • Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods.

How have other countries responded?

  • While India and the US are still looking into the issue, regulators of around 15 countries are learnt to have called for recalls of ranitidine sold in their markets.
  • These include Singapore, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Pakistan.
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

Dadasaheb Phalke Award

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the award

Mains level : Role of Indian cinema in cultural integration


News

  • Recently it was announced that veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan will be awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Indian cinema’s highest honour.

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award

  • The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is part of the National Film Awards, themselves a highly coveted collection of honours in the film industry.
  • The Award is named after Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, the pioneering filmmaker who gave India its first film– ‘Raja Harishchandra’, in 1913.
  • Presented annually by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the award is considered the highest honour in the Indian film fraternity.
  • It is awarded for “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema”.

History

  • According to the website of the Directorate of Film Festivals, the award was instituted by the government in 1969, and consists of a ‘Swarna Kamal’, a cash prize of INR 10 lakh, a certificate, a silk roll, and a shawl.
  • The award is presented by the President of India in the presence of the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, the Chairpersons of the juries and some others.
  • Amitabh Bachchan is the 50th recipient of the award. Last year, it was given posthumously to the legendary late actor Vinod Khanna.
  • The first recipient of the award was Devika Rani Roerich in 1969.

About Dadasaheb Phalke

  • Born in 1870 at Trimbak in Maharashtra, Phalke was drawn towards creative arts since childhood.
  • He studied engineering and sculpture and developed an interest in motion pictures after watching the 1906 silent film The Life of Christ.
  • Before venturing into films, Phalke worked as a photographer, owned a printing press, and had even worked with the famed painter Raja Ravi Varma.
  • In 1913, Phalke wrote, produced, and directed India’s first feature film, the silent Raja Harishchandra.
  • A commercial success, it propelled Phalke to make 95 more films and 26 short films in the next 19 years.
  • Phalke’s fortunes dwindled with the arrival of sound in cinema, and he died in 1944 at Nashik after retiring from films.
History- Important places, persons in news

Goldschmidtite

Mains Paper 1 : Distribution Of Key Natural Resources Across The World |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Goldschmidtite

Mains level : Earth's interior



News

  • A new, curious mineral has been discovered inside a diamond unearthed from a mine in South Africa.

Goldschmidtite

  • The mineral has been named goldschmidtite, after Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the Norwegian scientist acknowledged as the founder of modern geochemistry.
  • Goldschmidtite has an unusual chemical signature for a mineral from Earth’s mantle, according to the University of Alberta, a student of which discovered it.

Formation

  • While the mantle is dominated by elements such as magnesium and iron, goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium.
  • It is dark green and opaque.
  • Though the mantle makes up about 80 per cent of the Earth’s volume, very little is known about it.
  • Reaching the mantle is not easy; it is about 2,900 km thick and no attempt to drill into it has been successful.
  • Diamonds hold clues as they are found up to 160 km beneath the surface, in the upper mantle.
  • Diamonds that are unearthed were brought up closer to the surface, probably as a result of violent volcanic eruptions when the Earth was hotter, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
Coal and Mining Sector

[pib] CARICOM Countries

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CARICOM

Mains level : India's realtion with Caribbean countries



News

  • PM Modi held meeting with the leaders of the CARICOM group of countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

CARICOM

  • The Caribbean Community (CARICOM or CC) is an organisation of fifteen Caribbean nations and dependencies. The organisation was established in 1973.
  • They have primary objectives to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy.
  • The secretariat headquarters is in Georgetown, Guyana. CARICOM is an official United Nations Observer.
  • Its major activities involve coordinating economic policies and development planning; devising and instituting special projects for the less-developed countries within its jurisdiction; operating as a regional single market for many of its members (Caricom Single Market); and handling regional trade disputes.

Members

The 15 members of CARICOM include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.

[oped of the day] A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Convention on Torture

Mains level : Anti Torture legislation


Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

Recently the home minister pronounced that the days of third-degree torture are gone. It is an acknowledgment about something that everyone knows — that torture is an endemic characteristic of Indian policing.

State of torture in India

    • Common cause survey – Common Cause’s recent large national-level survey on the Status of Policing in India affirms violent means
      • 3 out of 5 personnel believe there is nothing wrong with beating up criminals.
      • 4 out of 5 think it’s okay to bash them up to extract a confession. 
      • 1 in 5 even believes that killing dangerous criminals is better than a legal trial. 
    • These show the poor orientation towards working within the law; the deep sub-culture of ferocious machismo; and the tolerance for illegality within the supervisory cadre.
    • These results show the confidence of torturers that no consequences will flow from even extreme acts of cruelty. 
    • When instances of torture become known, a pocketful of ready excuses are used to defend the – necessity, poor working conditions, no other means, mental tension, and pressure from within and without.
    • Poor capacity – generations of active policemen don’t know that any assault and victimisation of anyone that is not entirely in self-defense is prohibited by law.

What should be done – police

    • Not for the police to decide – though the people who come into the police net are cruel, vicious and cunning, their criminality is not for the police to punish. 
    • Role of police – it is to bring alleged criminals before the courts.

Issues persist

    • No detailed provisions – At present, only a few sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code criminalise torture and custodial deaths. 
    • Small changes not useful – A few amendments tucked away in a large code are unlikely to have the visibility or effect that a comprehensive standalone law would. 
    • Convention – India signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1997. But ratification needs us to pass laws at home that reflect the articles in the UN law.
    • In 2017, under the Universal Periodic Review process 29 countries made 37 recommendations that India take urgent steps to stop the torture.
    • 2010 law – the Prevention of Torture Bill lapsed.
    • 2016 – Law Commission drafted a more diluted version. 
    • 2019 – NHRC has registered over 400 cases of alleged deaths in police custody and over 5,000 cases pertaining to deaths in judicial custody. For the past three years alone, these have regularly clocked in at over a thousand a year.
    • At present, the national infrastructure is sorely wanting.

Way ahead

  • A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards. 
  • It will need to have a broad descriptive definition of torture that includes mental torture.
  • It should make it easier to prove as has been done in the case of custodial rape.
  • Fix responsibility not only on the perpetrator but on those who allow it to happen under their watch.
  • Make punishment more stringent especially where there has been sexual violence and ensure the state compensates and cares for its victims. 
  • Bypass the hurdles of Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code which requires permission before public servants can be prosecuted for actions done in the course of his duty. 
  • The new legislation is only a beginning. Actualisation will take much more. 
  • Exhortations will not stop the torture. Having policies, practices and performance in place to demonstrate implementation, will. 
  • The police force has to be reoriented, investigators have to be skilled up with modern techniques of detection and forensic capacities across the country to be ramped up. 
  • It needs long-delayed human rights courts to be set up with specially trained judges in place. 
  • It needs agencies like local legal aid authorities to have clear guidelines to assist where there are allegations of torture. 
  • It requires overseeing bodies like the many human rights commissions and police complaints authorities to do the same. 
  • The police force should have zero-tolerance. It should reinvent its purpose — not as an oppressive force, but as a service whose main work is the protection of the lives and liberties of each of us.
  • The Common Cause survey of 12,000 personnel at police stations uncovers the truth we all know — that political interference in the investigation is near omnipresent. 

Conclusion

Supreme Court has made it clear that torture is not part of anyone’s duty. Still, prosecution and convictions continue to be difficult.

 


Back2Basics

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT)) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

Human Rights Issues