Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPlaces in newsPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Empathy through education

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2-SEL

Context

While the National Education Policy (2020) notes numeracy and literacy as its central aims, Social and Emotional Learning should be an equally important goal as it supports skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

What is social and emotional learning (SEL)?

  • SEL is the process of learning to recognise and manage emotions and navigate social situations effectively.
  • SEL is foundational for human development, building healthy relationships, having self and social awareness, solving problems, making responsible decisions, and academic learning.
  • Neurobiologically, various brain regions such as the prefrontal and frontal cortices, amygdala, and superior temporal sulcus are involved in the cognitive mechanisms of SEL.
  • Brain systems that are responsible for basic human behaviour, such as getting hungry, may be reused for complex mechanisms involved in SEL.
  • Despite its importance to life, SEL is often added as a chapter in a larger curriculum rather than being integrated in it.
  • The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for SEL as school closures reduced opportunities for students to deepen social relationships and learn collaboratively in shared physical spaces.
  • Even with parental involvement, the challenge of an inadequate support system for SEL remains.

Way forward

  • Perhaps we can contextually adapt best practices from existing models.
  • A starting point would be to consider insights from the Indian SEL framework:
  • One, the application of SEL practices should be based on students’ socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Two, SEL strategies of caretakers and educators must align with one another.
  • Three, long-term success requires SEL to be based on scientific evidence.

Conclusion

As a sustainable development goal outlines, policymakers now have to ensure that future changes prioritise “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Importantly, the onus lies on all of us to make individual contributions that will drive systemic change.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

FDI in Indian economy

Holding transnational corporations accountable

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BIT

Mains level : Paper 3- Using BITs to hold TNCs accountable

Context

Given the enormous power that transnational corporations (TNCs) wield, questions about their accountability have arisen often. There have been many instances where the misconduct of TNCs has come to light such as the corruption scandal involving Siemens in Germany.

Holding TNCs accountable: Background

  • The effort was made at the UN to develop a multilateral code of conduct on TNCs.
  • However, due to differences between developed and developing countries, it was abandoned in 1992.
  • Role of BITs: Aim was to use international law to institutionalise the forces of economic globalisation, leading to the spread of BITs.
  • Asymmetry in BITs: These treaties promised protection to foreign investors under international law by bestowing rights on them and imposing obligations on states.
  • This structural asymmetry in BITs, which confer rights on foreign investors but impose no obligations, relegated the demand for investor accountability.
  • In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council established an open-ended working group with the mandate to elaborate on an international legally binding instrument on TNCs and other businesses concerning human rights.
  • Since then, efforts are being made towards developing a treaty and finding ways to make foreign corporations accountable.
  • The latest UN report is a step in that direction.

UN report on human rights-compatible international investment agreements

  • The UN working group on ‘human rights, transnational corporations (TNCs) and other businesses’ has published a new report on human rights-compatible international investment agreements.
  • It urges states to ensure that their bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are compatible with international human rights obligations.
  • It emphasises investor obligations at the international level i.e., the accountability of TNCs in international law.

Using BITs to hold TNCs accountable

  • BITs can be harnessed to hold TNCs accountable under international law.
  • The issue of fixing accountability of foreign investors came up in an international law case, Urbaser v. Argentina (2016).
  • Subjecting corporates to international law: In this case, the tribunal held that corporations can be subjects of international law and are under a duty not to engage in activities that harm or destroy human rights.
  • The case played an important role in bringing human rights norms to the fore in BIT disputes.
  • It also opened up the possibility of using BITs to hold TNCs accountable provided the treaty imposes positive obligations on foreign investors.
  • Recalibrating BITs: In the last few years, states have started recalibrating their BITs by inserting provisions on investor accountability.
  • Issues with BITs: However, these employ soft law language and are hortatory.
  • They do not impose positive and binding obligations on foreign investors.
  • They fall short of creating a framework to hold TNCs accountable under international law.

Takeaways for India

  • The recent UN report has important takeaways for India’s ongoing reforms in BITs.
  • Best endeavour clauses not enough: India’s new Model BIT of 2016 contains provisions on investor obligations.
  • However, these exist as best endeavour clauses. They do not impose a binding obligation on the TNC.
  • Impose positive binding obligations: India should impose positive and binding obligations on foreign investors, not just for protecting human rights but also for imperative issues such as promoting public health.
  • The Nigeria-Morocco BIT, which imposes binding obligations on foreign investors such as conducting an environmental impact assessment of their investment, is a good example.

Consider the question ” Ensuring that the bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are compatible with international human rights obligations in the need of the hour. In light of this, assess the progress made globally on this issue and suggest way forward for India in framing its BITs.”

Conclusion

Reforms would help in harnessing BITs to ensure the answerability of foreign investors and creating a binding international legal framework to hold TNCs to account.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

EoDB at risk if issue of appointments to tribunals is not resolved

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCLAT, NCLT

Mains level : Read the attached story

While hearing a challenge to the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government of India for vacancies not being filled on time. This could severely impact the ease of doing business in India, said the court.

Background

  • The government has lauded the role of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), for improving India’s ranking on the “Ease of Doing Business” index over the last couple of years.
  • However, the SC’s observation is spot-on as vacancies in the tribunals have slowed down insolvency resolution due to the huge pendency of cases.
  • When the SC made its observations, the NCLT had only 30 members against a total strength of 63.

About NCLAT and NCLT

  • National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT) in 2016.
  • NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
  • It is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against the orders of the National Financial Reporting Authority.

Difference between NCLT AND NCLAT

NCLT

NCLAT

·         NCLT is established as per Section 408 of companies act, 2013 ·         NCLAT is established as per Section 410 of companies act, 2013
·         It holds primary jurisdiction on cases of insolvency and bankruptcy ·         It holds appellate jurisdictions over the cases judged by NCLT
·         NCLT accepts and analyzes the evidence from creditors and debtors ·         NCLAT accepts and analyzes the decision made by NCLT
·         NCLT collects facts and evidences ·         NCLAT analyzes facts and evidences

CJI’s reservations over Pendency

  • The NCLAT had a sanctioned strength of a chairperson plus 11 members but its functioning strength was of eight members.
  • Both the NCLT and NCLAT have been without chairpersons for several months respectively.
  • These vacancies are concerning because as of May 31, 13,170 insolvency petitions were pending before benches of the NCLT.
  • Of these, 2,785 petitions have been filed by financial creditors and 5,973 by operational creditors.

Note: The IBC created an institution called an information utility to be the repository of information on debts and defaults in India.  The sole utility in India at present is the National E-Governance Services Ltd. (NeSL).

Basis of these cases

  • The financial creditors are facing criticism for taking haircuts as high as 90 per cent against their claims.
  • A longer approval period would entail greater value erosion of a corporate debtor which would be an unattractive proposition for any prospective resolution applicant.
  • This uncertainty can be cured by a faster approval process by the NCLTs by the creation of more benches and filling up of current vacancies.

Why is the Supreme Court fuming over vacancies?

(a) Covid impact

  • The Indian economy is recovering from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • During the downturn, financial institutions and banks have suffered higher defaults than usual, impacting the robustness of the system.
  • Lending has decreased during this time and can only be encouraged now by shoring up the mechanism under the IBC to inspire confidence in creditors.

(b) Non-compliance by the govt

  • The SC had granted time to the government till September 13 to take substantial steps in this regard, which was partially complied with by appointing 18 members.
  • The government, however, failed to avoid embarrassment as the CJI expressed his anger at the appointment process which had ignored candidates recommended by the selection committee.

(c) Burden of pendency

  • There is a real risk of the court taking matters into its own hands by making appointments itself, or by taking harsher steps like transferring jurisdiction under the IBC to high courts.
  • One hopes that the situation is resolved quickly to make strict time-bound insolvency resolutions a reality.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Judicial Reforms

Need for ‘Indianization’ of Legal System: CJI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Indianization of Judiciary

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has asserted the need for the “Indianisation of our legal system”, pointing out that the colonial system being followed currently may not be best suited to the complexities of India.

Prospects of Indianization by CJI

  • CJI meant that the need to adapt to the practical realities of our society and localize our justice delivery systems.
  • For example, parties from a rural place fighting a family dispute are usually made to feel out of place in the court.
  • They do not understand the arguments or pleadings which are mostly in English, a language alien to them.
  • These days judgments have become lengthy, which further complicates the position of litigants.
  • For the parties to understand the implications of a judgment, they are forced to spend more money.
  • For whom do the court’s function, the CJI asked. For the litigants, who are the “justice seekers”. They are the ultimate beneficiaries.

What did CJI say?

  • CJI has said the ordinary Indian feels out of place in our courts where proceedings are lengthy, expensive and in English.
  • Besides, judgments are either too long or technical or manage to be both.
  • It is time for courts to wake up from their colonial stupor and face the practical realities of Indian society.
  • Rules and procedures of justice delivery should be made simple.
  • The ordinary, poor and rural Indian should not be scared of judges or the courts.

Reasons for Indianization

  • Multiple barriers continue to thwart the citizen’s way to the courts.
  • The working and the style of courts do not sit well with the complexities of India.
  • The systems, practices and rules of courts are foreign and sourced from our colonial days. They do not take care of the practical realities of India.

Major suggestions by CJI:

(A) Simplification

  • The simplification of justice delivery should be our pressing concern.
  • It is crucial to make justice delivery more transparent, accessible and effective.
  • Procedural barriers often undermine access to justice.
  • The Chief Justice said both judges and lawyers have to create an environment which is comforting for the litigants and other stakeholders.

(B) Alternate dispute mechanisms

  • The CJI said alternate dispute mechanisms like mediation and conciliation would go a long way in reducing pendency, unnecessary litigation and save resources.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Right To Privacy

Deployment of Facial Recognition Systems (FRS) in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FRS

Mains level : Right to Privacy Issues

India has seen a rapid deployment of Facial Recognition Systems (FRS) in recent years, both by the Centre and State governments, without putting in place any law to regulate their use.

Facial Recognition System

  • A FRS is a technology capable of matching a human face from a digital image or a video frame against a database of faces.
  • It is typically employed to authenticate users through ID verification services, works by pinpointing and measuring facial features from a given image.

Why in news?

  • There is a growing unabated use of this potentially invasive technology without any safeguards.
  • This poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression of the citizens.

FRS in India

  • Currently, 18 FRSs are in active utilisation by the Centre and State governments for the purpose of surveillance, security and authentication of identity.
  • 49 more systems are in the process of being installed by different government agencies.
  • Delhi Police was the first law enforcement agency in the country to start using the technology in 2018.
  • Only Telangana is ahead of Delhi at present with four facial recognition systems in active utilization for surveillance and authentication of identity.

Judicial scrutiny of the move

  • States say that they are authorized by the Delhi High Court in terms of the decision in the case of ‘Sadhan Haldar vs NCT of Delhi’.
  • In that particular case, the High Court had authorized the Delhi police to obtain facial recognition technology for the purpose of tracking and reuniting missing children.
  • FRS may be used in the investigation in the interest of safety and security of the general public.

A potential mis-use?

Ans. Can’t say!

  • Activists pointed out that Delhi Police was now using the FRS, which was meant for tracking missing children, for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose.
  • There is a “function creep” happening with Police gradually using the technology beyond its intended purpose.
  • For example, the use of FRS to identify accused who took part in the farmers’ tractor rally violence in January this year.

Need of the hour

Ans. Bring accountability

  • Surveillance of any kind happens in secret and the people generally don’t know that they are being watched.
  • The idea behind is to bring light to the fact that these technology systems are being used without any laws in place to regulate them.
  • Police and state authorities should use such technologies for specific and special purposes with proper authorization.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

IISc finds alternative for single-use plastics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Allternative fibres to plastic

Mains level : Phasing out single use plastics

Researchers from the Department of Material Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) have found a way to make a substitute for single-use plastic that can, in principle help mitigate the problem of accumulating plastic waste in the environment.

What is the new material?

  • IISc has developed polymers using non-edible oil and cellulose extracted from agricultural stubble.
  • These polymers can be moulded into sheets having properties suitable for making bags, cutlery or containers.
  • The material so made is bio-degradable, leak-proof and non-toxic.

Key features

  • In order to obtain sheets with properties like flexibility suitable for making different articles, the researchers played with the proportions of cellulose to non-edible oil.
  • The more cellulose they added, and less non-edible oil, the stiffer was the material, so that it was more suitable to making tumblers and cutlery.
  • The greater the proportion of oil, the more flexible was the material and it could be moulded into sheets for making bags.

Why needed?

Ans. Plastic waste menace in India

  • According to a report by Central Pollution Control Board of India, for the year 2018-2019, 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste are generated by Indians.
  • The bad news is that this may well be an under-estimation of the problem.
  • Another alarming statistic is that of all the plastic waste produced in the world, 79% enters the environment.
  • Only 9% of all plastic waste is recycled.
  • Accumulation of plastic waste is detrimental to the environment and when this waste finds its way into the sea, there can be major harm to aquatic ecosystems, too.

Agricultural stubble

  • While plastic waste causes one type of pollution, agricultural stubble burning is responsible for air pollution in several States.
  • In Delhi, for example, the air quality index dips to indicate “severe” or “hazardous” level of pollution every winter, and this is due in part to the burning of agricultural stubble in the surrounding regions.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Which of the following statements are correct regarding the general difference between plant and animal cells?

  1. Plant cells have cellulose cell walls whilst animal cells do not.
  2. Plant cells do not have plasma membranes unlike animal cells which do.
  3. Mature plant cell has one large vacuole whilst animal cell has many small vacuoles.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

What is Planet Nine?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Planet Nine, Dwarf Planets

Mains level : NA

A new study’s “treasure map” suggests that a planet several times more massive than Earth could be hiding in our solar system, camouflaged by the bright strip of stars that make up the Milky Way.

Do not wonder. This too was a PYQ:

Q.Which planet was downgraded to dwarf planet status?

(a) Pluto

(b) Mars

(c) Earth

(d) Venus

 

Post your answers here!

Planet 9

  • Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet in the outer region of the Solar System.
  • Its gravitational effects could explain the unlikely clustering of orbits for a group of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs), bodies beyond Neptune that orbit the Sun at distances averaging more than 250 times that of the Earth.
  • Based on earlier considerations, this hypothetical super-Earth-sized planet would have had a predicted mass of five to ten times that of the Earth, and an elongated orbit 400 to 800 times as far from the Sun as the Earth.

Curiosity for the ninth Planet

  • In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union broke several hearts when it announced that it had reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. ‘
  • The decision was based on Pluto’s size and the fact that it resides within a zone of other similarly-sized objects.

Is everyone convinced that Planet Nine exists?

  • Researchers from across the globe have carried out several studies on Planet Nine and there are several theories about it, including one that stated Planet Nine could in fact be a black hole.
  • Another research has argued that the unknown object causing anomalous orbits of the trans-Neptunian objects could be a primordial black hole.
  • Yet another study noted that a trans-Neptunian object called 2015 BP519 had an unusual trajectory because it was affected by Planet Nine’s strong gravity.

Back2Basics: Dwarf Planet

  • A dwarf planet is a small planetary-mass object that is in direct orbit of the Sun – something smaller than any of the eight classical planets, but still a world in its own right.
  • As of today, there are officially five dwarf planets in our Solar System.
  • The most famous is Pluto, downgraded from the status of a planet in 2006.
  • The other four, in order of size, are Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres. The sixth claimant for a dwarf planet is Hygiea, which so far has been taken to be an asteroid.
  • These four criteria are – that the body orbits around the Sun, it is not a moon, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and has enough mass for its gravity to pull it into a roughly spherical shape.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

How are Humboldts different from other penguins?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Humboldt Penguins

Mains level : In-situ conservation

Last week, Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo announced the addition of two new Humboldt penguin chicks this year.

Humboldt Penguins

  • Humboldt penguins are medium-sized species among at least 17 species.
  • The exact number of distinct species is debated, but it is generally agreed that there are between 17 and 19 species.
  • The largest, the Emperor penguin, stands at over 4 ft tall while the Little penguin has a maximum height of 1 ft. Humboldt penguins have an average height of just over 2 ft.
  • The Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus Humboldt) belongs to a genus that is commonly known as the ‘banded’ group.’

Relation with the Humboldt Oceanic Current

  • Humboldt penguins are endemic to the Pacific coasts of Chile and Peru.
  • They are so named because their habitat is located near the Humboldt Current, a large oceanic upwelling characterized by cold waters.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

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

What is Serotype 2 Dengue?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dengue

Mains level : NA

The Union Health Ministry has flagged the emerging challenge in 11 States across India of serotype 2 dengue, which it said is associated with “more cases and more complications” than other forms of the disease.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2015:

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. In tropical regions, Zika virus disease is transmitted by the same mosquito that transmits dengue.
  2. Sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here!

What is Dengue?

  • Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection, found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
  • It is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. albopictus.
  • These mosquitoes are also vectors of chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses.
  • Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics, with local variations in risk influenced by rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and unplanned rapid urbanization.

Its transmission

  • The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti
  • Other species within the Aedes genus can also act as vectors, but their contribution is secondary to Aedes aegypti.
  • Mosquitoes can become infected from people who are viremic with dengue.

Various serotypes

  • Dengue is caused by a virus of the Flaviviridae family and there are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4).
  • Recovery from infection is believed to provide lifelong immunity against that serotype.
  • However, cross-immunity to the other serotypes after recovery is only partial and temporary.
  • Subsequent infections (secondary infection) by other serotypes increase the risk of developing severe dengue.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Delhi-Mumbai Expressway: World’s longest

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delhi-Mumbai Expressway

Mains level : NA

The Minister for Road Transport and Highways Union Minister Nitin Gadkari concluded the review of the work progress on the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway.

Delhi-Mumbai Expressway

  • The ambitious infra project started in the year 2018 is being constructed at a cost of Rs 98,000 crore and is scheduled for completion by March 2023.
  • States: Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra
  • Once ready, the expressway will feature a spur to Noida International Airport and Jawaharlal Nehru Port to Mumbai through a spur in the financial capital.
  • It will reduce travel time between certain cities to 12-12.5 hours from 24 hours.
  • The project is expected to improve connectivity to economic hubs of India like Jaipur, Ajmer, Kishangarh, Chittorgarh, Kota, Udaipur, Ujjain, Bhopal, Indore, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, and Surat.

Key features of the expressway

  • The expressway which is eight-lane access-controlled can be expanded to a 12-lane expressway depending on the traffic volume
  • It will boast wayside amenities such as resorts, food courts, restaurants, fuel stations, logistics parks, facilities for truckers
  • For accident victims, it will offer a helicopter ambulance service as well as a heliport, which will use drone services for business
  • Along the highway, over two million trees and shrubs are planned to be planted
  • The highway project is Asia’s first and the world’s second to include animal overpasses in order to facilitate unrestricted wildlife movement
  • Besides, it will also involve two iconic eight-lane tunnels
  • The project will result in annual savings of more than 320 million litres of fuel as well as reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 850 million kg
  • Over 12 lakh tonnes of steel will be consumed in the project’s construction, which is equivalent to constructing 50 Howrah bridges
  • For the project, 80 lakh tonnes of cement will be consumed, which is around 2 percent of the country’s annual cement production capacity
  • The ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project has also created job opportunities for thousands of trained civil engineers apart from generating over 50 lakh man-days of work

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)