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Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

Explained: 9 minutes light-out and its impact on gridsExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : 9 minutes light-out and its impact on grids


In his address to the nation, our PM has urged people across to turn off the lights in their homes for 9 minutes on April 5, starting at 9 pm. In response to this appeal, grid managers across states have flagged some risks.

Why is the 9-minute exercise a problem?

  • India is one of the largest synchronous interconnected grids in the world, with an installed capacity of about 370 GW (3,70,000 MW), and a normal baseload power demand of roughly 150 GW.
  • The big worry is that just before 9 pm there may be unprecedented load reduction, followed by a sudden increase in load post at 9.09 pm.
  • The concern is that grid frequency should not swing beyond permissible limits and that all generators across the country must give frequency response as per the Grid Code.
  • During this 9-minute lights out exercise, up to 10,000-15,000 MW of power demand could to drop suddenly and then come on stream a few minutes later.

How does grid function normally?

  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd (POSOCO), the national electricity grid operator, projects daily demand for power and regulates supply from power generators based on these projections.
  • Frequency reflects the load generation balance in the grid at a particular instant and is one of the most important parameters for assessment of the security of the country’s power system.
  • The nominal frequency is 50 hertz and POSOCO endeavours to maintain frequency within a permissible band (49.9- 50.5 hertz), primarily by balancing the demand-supply equation.

Impacts of light-out

  • The frequency needs to be maintained within this range as all the electrical equipment and appliances at our homes are designed to perform safely and efficiently in a certain power supply band.
  • An increase in frequency results in an increase in the voltage and a decrease in frequency results in a decrease in voltage.
  • Exigency does occur during an outage at a power plant or the tripping of a transmission line or a sudden change in electrical demand.
  • The grid operator needs to ensure that there is an automatic corrective response manually by curtailing demand or ramping generation from another source within a really short period of time.
  • Handling imbalances are the most crucial function of the grid operator.

What are the key areas of concern?

While the possibility of the grid tripping on account of this is highly unlikely, operators expect a “jerk”. While the system is generally planned for an outage of the single largest unit outage, there are two riders:

1) Lockdown has severed domestic consumption

  • One, the grid load is primarily on account of the domestic load now, especially since the lockdown implemented.
  • The normal baseload power demand of roughly 150 gigawatts has already dropped by 20 per cent since the lockdown announcement as most of the industry and commercial establishments are not operational.
  • With hotels and factories, malls, railway stations, airports closed, the domestic load is the predominant load.
  • So the lighting load as a percentage of total loads is much higher now and the impact of a sudden drop in lighting load could be more accentuated than during regular times.

2) Fear of complete power-offs

  • The second concern is if housing clusters and societies switch off mains, or if overzealous discoms switch off street lighting or even feeders to show compliance.
  • During this part of the year, domestic load peaks at about 9 pm.
  • This load could then be impacted much more than what’s being anticipated in the normal course, a concern that grid operators are flagging.

Why is this demand of significance in such a big grid?

  • The domestic load is about 30-32 per cent of total load during normal times.
  • Of India’s total electricity demand load pattern, industrial and agricultural consumption accounts for 40 per cent and 20 per cent load, while commercial electricity consumption accounts for 8 per cent of demand.
  • So, theoretically, if only lighting load goes off, it should not have a major impact on grid frequency during normal times.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Explained: Notified DisasterExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SDRF/NDRF

Mains level : Coronovirus outbreak and its mitigation


The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to treat COVID-19 as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

What is a Disaster?

According to the Disaster Management Act, 2005 a disaster is defined as-

  • A catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or manmade causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • The MHA has defined a disaster as an “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.

What is the State Disaster Response Fund?

  • The SDRF is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central government contributes 75 per cent towards the SDRF allocation for general category states and UTs, and over 90 per cent for special category states/UTs (which includes northeastern states, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).
  • For SDRF, the Centre releases funds in two equal instalments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • The disasters covered under the SDRF include cyclones, droughts, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches and pest attacks among others.

The NDRF

The National Disaster Response Fund, which is also constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 supplements the SDRF of a state, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.

Categories of disaster

  • A High Power Committee on Disaster Management was constituted in 1999 to identify disaster categories.
  • It identified 31 disaster categories organised into five major subgroups, which are: water and climate-related disasters, geological related disasters, chemical, industrial and nuclear-related disasters and biological related disasters, which includes biological disasters and epidemics.

Have there been such instances in the past?

  • In 2018, in view of the devastation caused by the Kerala floods, political leaders in Kerala demanded that the floods be declared a “national calamity”.
  • As of now, there is no executive or legal provision to declare a national calamity.
  • In 2001, the National Committee on Disaster Management under then PM was mandated to look into the parameters that should define a national calamity.
  • However, the committee did not suggest any fixed criterion.
  • In the past, there have been demands from states to declare certain events as natural disasters, such as the Uttarakhand flood in 2013, Cyclone Hudhud in Andhra Pradesh in 2014, and the Assam floods of 2015.
Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

Explained: Social DistancingExplained


The last two days, a number of states in India have enforced measures aimed at reducing public gatherings. This is called “social distancing”.

How does social distancing work?

  • To stem the speed of the coronavirus spread so that healthcare systems can handle the influx, experts are advising people to avoid mass gatherings.
  • Offices, schools, concerts, conferences, sports events, weddings, and the like have been shut or cancelled around the world, including in a number of Indian states.
  • An advisory by the US Centers for Disease Control recommends social distancing measures such as: reducing the frequency of large gatherings and limiting the number of attendees; limiting inter-school interactions; and considering distance or e-learning in some settings.

What is the objective of such restrictions?

  • Compared to deadlier diseases such as bird flu, or H5N1, coronavirus is not as fatal —which ironically also makes it more difficult to contain.
  • With milder symptoms, the infected are more likely to be active and still spreading the virus.
  • For example, more than half the cases aboard a cruise ship that has docked in California did not exhibit any symptoms.
  • In a briefing on March 11, WHO officials said, “Action must be taken to prevent transmission at the community level to reduce the epidemic to manageable clusters.”
  • The main question for governments is to reduce the impact of the virus by flattening the trajectory of cases from a sharp bell curve to an elongated speed-bump-like curve.
  • This is being called “flattening the curve”. How does ‘flattening the curve’ help?
  • Limiting community transmission is the best way to flatten the curve.

What was the curve like in China?

  • The numbers show that the virus spread within Hubei exponentially but plateaued in other provinces.
  • Some say it’s because many of these countries learnt from the 2003 SARS epidemic.
  • Just as Chinese provinces outside of Hubei effectively stemmed the spread in February, three other countries —South Korea, Italy, and Iran — were not able to flatten the curve.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Explained: Sir Creek DisputeExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sir Creek

Mains level : Disputes over Sir Creek


 

 

Former Pakistan Minister recalls plan for Sir Creek pact.

Sir Creek

  • Sir Creek is a 96-km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative.
  • The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan.

What’s the dispute?

  • The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh. Before India’s independence, the provincial region was a part of the Bombay Presidency of British India.
  • But after India’s independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Kutch remained a part of India.
  • Pakistan claims the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then the Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch.
  • The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek popularly known as Green Line.
  • But India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.

The Genesis 

  • The marshland of Sir Creek first became disputed in the early 20th century when the Rao of Kutch and the Chief Commissioner of Sindh Province of British India, due to different perceptions of the boundaries, laid claims over the creek.
  • The case was taken up by then Government of Bombay, which conducted a survey and mandated its verdict in 1914.
  • This verdict has two contradictory paragraphs, which make the India and Pakistan contenders on the same issue.
  • Paragraph 9 of this verdict states that the boundary between Kutch and Sindh lies ‘to the east of the Creek,’ (Green Line) which effectively implied that the creek belonged to Sindh and, therefore, to Pakistan.
  • On the other hand, Paragraph 10 states that since Sir Creek is navigable most of the year.
  • According to international law and the Thalweg principle, a boundary can only be fixed in the middle of the navigable channel, which meant that it has be divided between Sindh and Kutch, and thereby India and Pakistan.
  • India has used this para to consistently argue that the boundary needs to be fixed in the middle of the creek.
  • Pakistan, however, claims that Sir Creek isn’t navigable but India claims that since it’s navigable in high tide, the boundary should be drawn from the mid channel.

What’s the importance of Sir Creek?

  • Apart from the strategic location, Sir Creek’s core importance is fishing resources. Sir Creek is considered to be among the largest fishing grounds in Asia.
  • Another vital reason for two countries locking horns over this creek is the possible presence of great oil and gas concentration under the sea, which are currently unexploited thanks to the impending deadlock on the issue.

UNCLOS supports India’s stand

  • If Thalweg principle is to be upheld, Pakistan would lose a considerable portion of the territory that was historically part of the province of Sindh.
  • Acceding to India’s stance would mean shifting of the land/sea terminus point several kilometres to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square kilometres of its Exclusive Economic Zone under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

War in 1965 and tribunal

  • After the 1965 war, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute.
  • The verdict of the tribunal came in 1968 which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of 9,000 km (3,500 sq. miles).
  • Since 1969, 12 rounds of talks have been held over the issue of Sir Creek, but both sides have denied reaching any solution.
  • The region fell amid tensions in 1999 after the Pakistan Navy shot down a MiG-21 fighter plane, but the last rounds of talks were held in 2012. Since then it’s been status quo.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

Explained: Cycle 25/ Solar CycleExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solar Cycle, Sunspots, Solar Dynamo

Mains level : Read the attached story


 

 

The sunspots identified by researchers from IISER Kolkata herald the start of a new solar cycle called Cycle 25.

What are Sunspots?

  • Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun’s photosphere that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas. They are relatively cooler spots on the Sun’s surface.
  • They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection.
  • Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity with a leader and a follower.

What is Solar Cycle?

  • From our safe distance of about 148 million km, the Sun appears to be sedate and constant. However, huge solar flares and coronal mass ejections spew material from its surface into outer space.
  • They originate from sunspots, an important phenomenon that people have been following for hundreds of years. They originate deep within the Sun and become visible when they pop out.
  • Their number is not constant but shows a minimum and then rises up to a maximum and then falls again in what is called the solar cycle.
  • Every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips. This means that the Sun’s north and south poles switch places. Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.
  • So far, astronomers have documented 24 such cycles, the last one ended in 2019.

How do they occur?

  • Given the high temperatures in the Sun, matter exists there in the form of plasma, where the electrons are stripped away from the nuclei.
  • The Sun is made of hot ionized plasma whose motions generate magnetic fields in the solar interior by harnessing the energy of the plasma flows.
  • This mechanism is known as the solar dynamo mechanism (or magnetohydrodynamic dynamo mechanism).
  • Simply stated, it is a process by which kinetic energy of plasma motions is converted to magnetic energy, which generates the magnetised sunspots, giving rise to the solar cycle..
  • Because of the nature of the solar dynamo, the part of its magnetic field that gives rise to sunspots reverses direction when it moves from one solar cycle to another.
  • This can be inferred by observing when the relative orientation of the sunspot pairs flips.

Features

  • The solar cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun, such as sunspots which are caused by the Sun’s magnetic fields. As the magnetic fields change, so does the amount of activity on the Sun’s surface.
  • One way to track the solar cycle is by counting the number of sunspots.
  • The beginning of a solar cycle is a solar minimum, or when the Sun has the least sunspots. Over time, solar activity—and the number of sunspots—increases.
  • The middle of the solar cycle is the solar maximum, or when the Sun has the most sunspots. As the cycle ends, it fades back to the solar minimum and then a new cycle begins.
  • Giant eruptions on the Sun, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, also increase during the solar cycle. These eruptions send powerful bursts of energy and material into space.

Impacts of Solar Cycle

  • This activity has effects on Earth. For example, eruptions can cause lights in the sky, called aurora, or impact radio communications. Extreme eruptions can even affect electricity grids on Earth.
  • Solar activity can affect satellite electronics and limit their lifetime.
  • Radiation can be dangerous for astronauts who do work on the outside of the International Space Station.
  • Forecasting of the solar cycle can help scientists protect our radio communications on Earth, and help keep satellites and astronauts safe.

Start of cycle 25

  • Following a weakening trend in activity over the last few cycles, there were predictions that the Sun would go silent into a grand minimum in activity, with the disappearance of cycles.
  • However, a team from IISER Kolkata has shown that there are signs that cycle 25 has just begun.
  • They used the data from the instrument Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager aboard NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory for their calculations.

Why is this so important to us on earth?

  • After all the sunspots look small and are hardly even visible to us. Contrary to this, sunspot activity may be correlated with climate on earth.
  • In the period between 1645 and 1715, sun spot activity had come to a halt on the Sun – a phenomenon referred to as the Maunder minimum.
  • This coincided with extremely cold weather globally. So sunspots may have a relevance to climate on earth.
  • Such links are tenuous, but definitely solar activity affects space weather, which can have an impact on space-based satellites, GPS, power grids and so on.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Explained: Behind Meghalaya violenceExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Ethnic turmoil in North East


 

 

Last week, ethnic violence left three dead in Meghalaya. The violence underlined the ethnic complexities of Meghalaya, with tensions coming back to the fore following the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Multi-ethnic Meghalaya

  • Meghalaya became a state in 1972 when it was carved out of Assam. Before that, Shillong, now Meghalaya’s capital, used to be the capital of Assam.
  • Sharing a 443-km border with Bangladesh, Meghalaya has seen decades of migration from areas that are now in Bangladesh, as well as from various Indian states via Assam.
  • Besides the indigenous groups, Meghalaya’s residents include Bengalis, Nepalis, Marwaris, Biharis and members of various other communities.
  • Meghalaya is a tribal majority state, and the indigenous Khasis, Jaintias and Garos are entitled to 80% reservation in government jobs.
  • Various groups have continuously expressed concerns that illegal migration from Bangladesh and the growth of “outsiders” from other states would overwhelm the indigenous communities.

Meghalaya violence: The CAA context

  • The CAA relaxes the norms for Hindus from Bangladesh (among six religious groups from three countries) for eligibility to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • Long before that, the legislation was already facing protests in the Northeast, including Meghalaya. Eventually, the Centre decided the CAA will not apply in Sixth Schedule areas.
  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution has special provisions for administration of certain areas in the Northeast, including almost the whole of Meghalaya.
  • Despite the large exemption, the concerns have persisted in Meghalaya, and demands for an Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime have gathered fresh momentum.
  • If the ILP system is introduced, every Indian citizen from any other state would require a time-bound permit to visit Meghalaya.

Signals simmering tensions

  • The last four decades have seen numerous incidents of violence in Meghalaya targeted at non-tribals, including from Bengal and Nepal.
  • The latest bout follows a sustained campaign over the implementation of the Inner Line Permit and unrest in the Northeast over the CAA that led to six deaths in Assam two months ago.
  • The violence last week has an immediate context in the anti-CAA campaign and ILP demand.

Shillong, then and now

  • Shillong has seen violence against “outsiders” several times in the last four decades.
  • The targets were Bengalis in 1979, Nepalis in 1987, and Biharis in 1992.
  • In 2018, Shillong saw clashes between Khasis and Punjab-origin Dalit Sikhs whose ancestors had settled there over 100 years ago.
  • All that began collapsing after Independence, Constitutional institutions set up to safeguard the interest of the tribes came to be popularly perceived as opportunities to convert these tribal areas into exclusive zones of tribal hegemony.
  • The issue of ‘foreigners’ illegally residing in the state of Meghalaya was one of the most important issues which dominated state politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • In 1979, the state was plunged into a crisis for the first time since it was created.
Human Rights Issues

Explained: Why UN Human Rights Commission intends to intervene in a SC case against CAA?Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNHRC

Mains level : Global intervention over CAA


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “intends to file” an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India seeking to intervene in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1474 of 2019 and praying that it be allowed to make submissions.

On what grounds is a UN body seeking to intervene in a case regarding a domestic Indian law?

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights.
  • The UN General Assembly entrusted both the High Commissioner and her Office with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people.
  • As the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, OHCHR leads global human rights efforts speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide.
  • This resolution, adopted by the UNGA in 1994, created the post of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Its jurisdiction

  • The application says that successive High Commissioners have filed amicus curiae briefs on issues of particular public importance within proceedings before a diverse range of international and national jurisdictions.
  • It includes the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and at the national level, the United States Supreme Court and final appeal courts of States in Asia and Latin America.

What exactly does the intervention application say?

  • The OHCHR has welcomed as “commendable” the CAA’s stated purpose, “namely the protection of some persons from persecution on religious grounds.
  • It also “acknowledges the history of openness and welcome that India has exhibited to persons seeking to find a safer, more dignified life within its borders”.
  • However the examination of the CAA raises important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees, says the OHCHR.
  • The CAA, it says, raises “important human rights issues, including its compatibility in relation to the right to equality before the law and nondiscrimination on nationality grounds under India’s human rights obligations”.
  • The application acknowledges that “the issue of nondiscrimination on nationality grounds falls outside the scope of this intervention”, but insists that “this in no way implies that there are not human rights concerns in this respect”.

Why intervene?

  • The application questions the reasonableness and objectivity of the criterion of extending the benefits of the CAA to Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan alone.
  • It points out that while the Indian government has suggested that persons of Muslim faith, regardless of denomination or ethnicity, are protected there.
  • However recent reports by UN human rights show that Ahmadi, Hazara and Shia Muslims in these countries warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA.

Is there a specific basis on which the OHCHR has faulted the CAA?

The application flags some central principles of international human rights law:

  1. the impact of the CAA on some migrants
  2. the enjoyment of human rights by all migrants and the rights of all migrants (non-citizens) to equality before the law and
  3. the principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to be persecuted
  • The application mentions that all migrants “regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and/or immigration status enjoy human rights and are entitled to protection”.
  • It cites international human rights instruments to urge the inclusion of non-discrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection before the law into the foundation of a rule of law.
  • International human rights law, the application says, does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or different groups of non-citizens for the purposes of providing them protection from discrimination, “including in respect of their migration status”.

India’s stance

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
  • MEA spokesperson insisted that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.
  • The CAA was “constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of (India’s) constitutional values”, and “is reflective of our long-standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India”.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Explained: US-Taliban PactExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : US-Taliban pact and its implications on India-Afghanistan relationship


 

 

  • The US and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months.
  • The pact is between the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban” and the US.
  • The four-page pact was signed between Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political head of the Taliban.

Key elements of the deal

Troops Withdrawal

  • The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
  • And all troops will be out within 14 months — “all” would include “non-diplomatic civilian personnel” (could be interpreted to mean “intelligence” personnel).

Taliban Commitment

  • The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that “It will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US and its allies”.
  • While Miller said the reference to al-Qaeda is important, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • Again, India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.

Sanctions Removal

  • UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29) and US sanctions by August 27.
  • The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Prisoner’s release

  • This is a possible trouble spot because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ, and it is not clear whether the Ashraf Ghani-led government is on board with this big up-front concession to Taliban.
  • The joint declaration says the US will facilitate discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.
  • While there are no numbers or deadlines in the joint declaration, the US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March.
  • The intra-Afghan negotiations are supposed to start in Oslo.

Ceasefire

  • This is identified as another potential “trouble spot”.
  • The agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicate actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.

Implications of the Deal

An adieu to democracy in Afghanistan

  • The Taliban have got what they wanted: troops withdrawal, removal of sanctions, release of prisoners.
  • This has also strengthened Pakistan, Taliban’s benefactor, and the Pakistan Army and the ISI’s influence appears to be on the rise.
  • It has made it unambiguous that it wants an Islamic regime.
  • The Afghan government has been completely sidelined during the talks between the US and Taliban.
  • The future for the people of Afghanistan is uncertain and will depend on how Taliban honours its commitments and whether it goes back to the mediaeval practices of its 1996-2001 regimes.

Implications for India

  • India has been backing the Ghani-led government and was among very few countries to congratulate Ghani on his victory.
  • India’s proximity to Ghani also drew from their shared view of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
  • There has not been formal contact with top Taliban leaders, the Indian mission has a fair amount of access to the Pashtun community throughout Afghanistan through community development projects of about $3 billion.
  • Due to So, although Pakistan military and its ally Taliban have become dominant players in Kabul’s power circles, South Block insiders insist that it is not all that grim for New Delhi.
  • these high-impact projects, diplomats feel India has gained goodwill among ordinary Afghans, the majority of whom are Pashtuns and some may be aligned with the Taliban as well.

Way Forward

  • The joint declaration is a symbolic commitment to the Afghanistan government that the US is not abandoning it.
  • Much will depend on whether the US and the Taliban are able to keep their ends of the bargain, and every step forward will be negotiated, and how the Afghan government and the political spectrum are involved.
  • Like in 1989, 1992, 1996, and in 2001, Pakistan has the opportunity to play a constructive role. It frittered away the opportunities in the past.

Back2Basics

India and the Taliban

  • India and the Taliban have had a bitter past.
  • New Delhi nurses bitter memories from the IC-814 hijack in 1999, when it had to release terrorists — including Masood Azhar who founded Jaish-e-Mohammed that went on to carry out terror attacks as such on Parliament, Pathankot and in Pulwama.
  • Quite predictably, Mullah Baradar did not name India among the countries that supported the peace process, but specially thanked Pakistan for the “support, work and assistance” provided.
  • The Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
  • India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001.
  • But its foreign policy establishment has shied away from engaging with the Taliban directly.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Explained: Marine Heatwave (MHW)Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Marine Heatwave

Mains level : Read the attached story


 

 

Scientists have observed unusually high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Pacific Ocean around the western coast of the United States.  This marine heatwave (MHW), covering an area of roughly 6.5 million square kilometres, can affect marine life and lead to droughts in the surrounding regions.

What are MHWs?

  • We know that heatwaves occur in the atmosphere. We are all familiar with these extended periods of excessively hot weather.
  • However, heatwaves can also occur in the ocean and these are known as marine heatwaves, or MHWs.
  • These marine heatwaves, when ocean temperatures are extremely warm for an extended period of time can have significant impacts on marine ecosystems and industries.

When do they occur?

  • Heatwaves can happen in summer and also in winter, where they are known as “winter warm-spells”.
  • These winter events can have important impacts, such as in the southeast of Australia where the spiny sea urchin can only colonize further south when winter temperatures are above 12 °C.

What causes marine heatwaves?

  • Marine heatwaves can be caused by a whole range of factors, and not all factors are important for each event.
  • The most common drivers of marine heatwaves include ocean currents which can build up areas of warm water and air-sea heat flux, or warming through the ocean surface from the atmosphere.
  • Winds can enhance or suppress the warming in a marine heatwave, and climate modes like El Niño can change the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.
  • MHWs can be caused due to large-scale drivers of the Earth’s climate like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Impacts of the MHWs

  • Marine heatwaves affect ecosystem structure, by supporting certain species and suppressing others.
  • For example, after the 2011 marine heatwave in Western Australia the fish communities had a much more “tropical” nature than previously and switched from kelp forests to seaweed turfs.
  • Marine heatwaves can cause economic losses through impacts on fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Temperature-sensitive species such as corals are especially vulnerable to MHWs. In 2016, marine heatwaves across northern Australia led to severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

How do we measure marine heatwaves?

  • A marine heatwave occurs when seawater temperatures exceed a seasonally-varying threshold (usually the 90th percentile) for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • Successive heatwaves with gaps of 2 days or less are considered part of the same event.

Why study MHWs?

  • MHWs are increasing in frequency due to climate change. MHWs increased by 54 per cent in the last 30 years.
  • Despite their potential impact on the health of marine ecosystems, MHWs remain one of the least studied consequences of global warming.

Way Forward

  • Marine heatwaves clearly have the potential to devastate marine ecosystems and cause economic losses in fisheries, aquaculture, and ecotourism industries.
  • However, their effects are often hidden from view under the waves until it is too late.
  • By raising general awareness of these phenomena, and by improving our scientific understanding of their physical properties and ecological impacts, we can better predict future conditions and protect vulnerable marine habitats and resources.

Explained: Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Terms of References for the office of CCPA

Mains level : CCPA, New Consumer Protection Laws, 2019


 

 

Recently the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs has announced that a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) will be established by the first week of April.

What is the Central Consumer Protection Authority?

  • The authority is being constituted under Section 10(1) of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  • The Act replaced The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.
  • The CCPA, introduced in the new Act, aims to protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers.

Why need CCPA?

  • The new Act recognizes offences such as providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.
  • It also specifies action to be taken if goods and services are found “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe”.
  • The CCPA will have the powers to inquire or investigate into matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suo motu, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.

What can the possible structure of CCPA be?

  • The proposed authority will be a lean body with a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.
  • It will be headquartered in the NCR of Delhi but the central government may set up regional offices in other parts of the country.
  • The CCPA will have an Investigation Wing that will be headed by a Director General.
  • District Collectors too, will have the power to investigate complaints of violations of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.

What kind of goods and food items in particular, can be classified as “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe”?

  • This is not specified in the notification of the Act.
  • Regarding food, an official said the CCPA will ensure that all standards on packaged food items set by regulators such as the FSSAI are being followed.

What will the CCPA do if any goods or services are found not meeting these standards?

Under Section 20 of The Consumer Protection Act, the proposed authority will have powers to:

  1. recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe;
  2. pass an order for refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services and
  3. discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest

Penalties:

For manufacture, selling, storage, distribution, or import of adulterated products, the penalties are:

  1. If injury is not caused to a consumer, fine up to Rs 1 lakh with imprisonment up to six months;
  2. If injury is caused, fine up to Rs 3 lakh with imprisonment up to one year;
  3. If grievous hurt is caused, fine up to Rs 5 lakh with imprisonment up to 7 years;
  4. In case of death, fine of Rs 10 lakh or more with a minimum imprisonment of 7 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.

How will it deal with false or misleading advertisements?

  • Section 21 of the new Act defines the powers given to the CCPA to crack down on false or misleading advertisements.
  • The CCPA may order investigation that any advertisement is false or misleading and is harmful to the interest of any consumer, or is in contravention of consumer rights.
  • If dissatisfied, the CCPA may issue directions to the trader, manufacturer, endorser, advertiser, or publisher to discontinue such an advertisement, or modify it in a manner specified by the authority, within a given time.

Penalties:

  1. The authority may also impose a penalty up to Rs 10 lakh, with imprisonment up to two years, on the manufacturer or endorser of false and misleading advertisements.
  2. The penalty may go up to Rs 50 lakh, with imprisonment up to five years, for every subsequent offence committed by the same manufacturer or endorser.
  3. CCPA may ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year.
  4. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.

What other powers will the CCPA have?

  • While conducting an investigation after preliminary inquiry, officers of the CCPA’s Investigation Wing will have the powers to enter any premise and search for any document or article, and to seize these.
  • For search and seizure, the CCPA will have similar powers given under the provisions of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • The CCPA can file complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the District, State, and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
  • It will issue safety notices to alert consumers against dangerous or hazardous or unsafe goods or services.

Also read:

Five new rights you get as a consumer

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Explained: Assam-Mizoram Boundary DisputeExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Assam as the centre-stage of disputes


 

Assam is at the centre of a fresh inter-State border row in the northeastern region. The Mizoram government has sought the revision of the boundary with Assam, based on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873 and the Inner Line of the Lushai Hills Notification of 1993.

Background

  • Since 1962 most of the state borders of states carved out of Assam were divided following the myopic vision of the Central government.
  • On ground these borders still do not run in sync with the tribal territories and identities, creating repetitive conflicts in the region and disturbing its peace.
  • Assam finds itself at the center of all the conflicts since most of the neighboring states were carved out of its territory since independence.
  • This was done to consolidate the Indian Union at the time by catering to the aspirations of the local tribes and including them in the mainstream by giving them independent statehoods.

What is the dispute?

  • Mizoram shares a 123-km border with southern Assam and has been claiming a 509-square mile stretch “occupied” by the neighbouring State.
  • Mizoram used to be the Lushai Hills district of Assam before being made a Union Territory in 1972 and a State in 1987.
  • Both States have been disputing an extensive stretch of this boundary.

About Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation

  • The Inner Line Regulations, commonly referred to as the Inner Line Permit system (ILP), first gained legal effect through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
  • At present the BEFR continues to apply, but only in present-day Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • It had been lifted in the whole of Assam, as well as the entirety of present-day Meghalaya.
  • The BEFR allows Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland not to let non-resident Indians in without an inner-line permit for a temporary stay.

Present status of ILP

  • The Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 is the modern embodiment of the ILP.
  • This Order was passed in furtherance of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The Order defined the ‘inner line’ throughout present-day India starting from Jammu and Kashmir and ending at Mizoram.
  • This inner line is different from the one envisioned in the Bengal Frontier Regulations.
  • This line represents the furthest point up to the international border where a foreigner can visit on the strength of a visa alone.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Explained: How to unify defence resourcesExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Joint Commands of the tri-services

Mains level : Need for Joint Commands


  • The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Rawat said his office is working on a tentative timeline for the establishment of joint commands among the three defence services.
  • With the creation of the CDS post on December 31, the government has set the ball rolling for bringing jointness and integration among the services.

What are joint commands?

  • Simply put, it is a unified command in which the resources of all the services are unified under a single commander looking at a geographical theatre.
  • It means that a single military commander, as per the requirements, will have the resources of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to manage a security threat.
  • The commander of a joint command will have the freedom to train and equip his command as per the objective and will have logistics of all the services at his beckoning.
  • The three services will retain their independent identities as well.
  • A committee headed by Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar had earlier recommended three new commands: Northern, for China; Western, for the Pakistan border’ and Southern, for maritime security.

Present commands

  • There are two tri-services commands at the moment.
  • The joint command at the moment, the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), is a theatre command, which is headed by the chiefs of the three services in rotation.
  • It was created in 2001 after a Group of Ministers had given a report on national security following the Kargil War.
  • The Strategic Forces Command was established in 2006 and is a functional tri-services command.

What is the structure right now?

  • There are 17 commands, divided among the three services. The Army and the Air Force have seven commands each, while the Navy has three commands.
  • The commands under the Army are Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Central, Southwestern and the Army Training Command.
  • The Air Force has Eastern, Western, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Maintenance and Training commands, and the Navy is divided into Western, Eastern and Southern commands.
  • These commands report to their respective services and are headed by three-star officers.
  • Though these commands are in the same regions, they are no located together.

Advantages of  joint commands

  • One of the main advantages is that the leader of unified command has control over more varied resources, compared to the heads of the commands under the services now.
  • For instance, the head of one of the proposed commands, Air Defence Command, will have under him naval and Army resources, too, which can be used as per the threat perception.
  • And the officer commanding the Pakistan or China border will have access to the Air Force’s fighter jets and can use them if needed.
  • However, that not all naval resources will be given to the Air Defence Command, nor will all resources of the Air Force come under another proposed command, Peninsula Command, for the coasts.
  • The Peninsula Command would give the Navy Chief freedom to look at the larger perspective in the entire Indian Ocean Region in which China’s presence is steadily increasing.
  • The other key advantage is that through such integration and jointness the three forces will be able to avoid duplication of resources.
  • The resources available under each service will be available to other services too. The services will get to know one another better, strengthening cohesion in the defence establishment.

How many such commands are expected to roll out?

  • While the number of commands India needs is still being studied, the CDS has envisaged that there could be between six to nine commands. It is not certain how many land-based theatre commands on the borders will come up.
  • The CDS said it will be studied, and the study group will be given the options for creating two to five theatre commands.
  • One possibility is to have single commands looking at the China and Pakistan borders respectively, as they are the two major threats.
  • The other option is to have a separate command for the border in the J&K region, and another command looking at the rest of the western border.
  • There could be independent commands looking at the border with China which is divided by Nepal.
  • A proposed Logistics Command will bring the logistics of all the service under one person, and the CDS is also looking at a Training and Doctrine Command so that all services work under a common doctrine and have some basic common training.

Do militaries of other countries have such commands?

  • Several major militaries are divided into integrated theatre commands.
  • China’s People’s Liberation Army has five theatre commands: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central. Its Western Theatre Command is responsible for India.
  • The US Armed Forces have 11 unified commands, of which seven are geographic and four functional commands. Its geographic commands are Africa, Central, European, Indo-Pacific, Northern, Southern and Space.
  • Cyber, Special Operations, Transportation and Strategic are its functional commands.
Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Explained: The EU data strategyExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Read the attached story


The European Commission has recently released a “European strategy for data… to ensure the human-centric development of Artificial Intelligence” and a white paper on artificial intelligence.

EU data strategy

  • The new documents present a timeline for various projects, legislative frameworks, and initiatives by the European Union, and represent its recognition that it is slipping behind American and Chinese innovation.
  • The strategy lays out “why the EU should act now”.
  • The blueprint hopes to strengthen Europe’s local technology market by creating a “data single market” by 2030 to allow the free flow of data within the EU.
  • To aid a “data-agile economy”, the Commission hopes to implement an “enabling legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces” by the latter half of the year.
  • By the beginning of 2021, the Commission will make high-value public sector data available free through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) — a pathway for two different applications to speak to each other.
  • Between 2021 and 2027, the Commission will invest in a High Impact Project to jump-start data infrastructure. Several other initiatives are laid out, including a cloud services marketplace.

Why such strategy?

  • The EU has the potential to be successful in the data-agile economy. It has the technology, the know-how and a highly skilled workforce.
  • However, competitors such as China and the US are already innovating quickly and projecting their concepts of data access and use across the globe, the strategy states.
  • With American and Chinese companies taking the lead on technological innovation, Europe is keen to up its own competitiveness.

What does the EU move mean for legislation?

  • Europe has been a frontrunner when it comes to technology regulation.
  • Its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) released in 2018 was a game-changer across the industry. In the recent strategy, the GDPR is seen as giving the “solid framework for digital trust.”
  • Parliamentarians are discussing India’s current Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill in a Joint Select Committee.
  • The recent draft of the PDP introduced a clause on non-personal data, mandating entities to hand over such data to the government on command.
  • This was not included in the draft proposed by the Justice B N Sri Krishna Committee in October 2018.
  • Some of the movement around the PDP Bill comes from a desire to strengthen India’s own data economy, similar to the EU’s desire.

Has India done anything similar?

  • The Union Cabinet approved the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) in 2012.
  • As part of the initiative, the government worked with the US government to release data.gov.in, a site of government data for public use.
  • The Economic Survey of 2018 envisioned a similar use of non-personal data.
  • Just as the EU’s strategy discusses “data for public good”, the chapter titled “Data ‘Of the People, By the People, For the People’” advocated that the government step in to sectors that private players ignore, marking the first time India’s Economic Survey has isolated “data” as a strategic focus.
  • Other data integration efforts have been announced or implemented by NITI Aayog (the National Data & Analytics Platform), the Smart Cities Mission (India Urban Data Exchange), and the Ministry of Rural Development (DISHA dashboard).
  • In 2018, the National Informatics Centre worked with PwC and other vendors to create a Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics aimed at providing data analysis help to government departments.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Explained: One Health ConceptExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : One Health Concept

Mains level : Strategies to curb rising incidences of zoonotic diseases


 

The concept of ‘One Health’ is gaining importance as most of the contagious diseases affecting humans are zoonotic (animal to man origin) in nature. It can be effectively implemented for reducing incidence of emerging zoonotic threats like COVID-19.

The One Health concept

  • The World Organization of Animal Health, commonly known as OIE (an abbreviation of its French title), summarizes the One Health concept.
  • It says that as “human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist”.
  • Circa 400 BC, Hippocrates in his treatise On Airs, Waters and Places had urged physicians that all aspects of patients’ lives need to be considered including their environment; disease was a result of imbalance between man and environment.
  • So One Health is not a new concept, though it is of late that it has been formalized in health governance systems.

Why accept this model?

  • Of the contagious diseases affecting humans, more than 65% are of zoonotic or animal to man origin.
  • One Health model is a globally accepted model for research on epidemiology, diagnosis and control of zoonotic diseases.
  • One Health model facilitates interdisciplinary approach in disease control so as to control emerging and existing zoonotic threats.
  • Increasing stress on animals due to loss of their habitat would increase scope of zoonotic diseases.

Why corona is so deadly?

  • Current outbreak of COVID-19 still could not find out the actual source of virus.
  • Even though genomics of the virus has been published ambiguity still exists whether it was from bats, snakes, pangolin, etc.

Frequent Outbreaks of Zoonotic Diseases

  • Not so long ago, the widespread prevalence of avian influenza in poultry, or bird flu as it commonly became known, created nationwide panic resulting in the culling of millions of poultry birds.
  • It was concern for human health that prompted the extreme reaction and subsequent establishment of protocols; containment of avian influenza is managed quite effectively now.
  • Similarly in 2003, SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome emanated suddenly in China and vanished soon.

Followed by hues and panic

  • These outbreaks culminated emergency response that included extreme measures like travel bans and restrictions.
  • In both cases, panic spread much faster than the virus.
  • Besides drawing a response from governments, these events also brought forth the hitherto forgotten philosophy of One Health.
  • This idea recognizes inter-connectivity among human health, the health of animals, and the environment.

Why rise in zoonotic outbreaks?

  • As human populations expand, it results in greater contact with domestic and wild animals, providing more opportunities for diseases to pass from one to the other.
  • Climate change, deforestation and intensive farming further disrupt environment characteristics, while increased trade and travel result in closer and more frequent interaction, thus increasing the possibility of transmission of diseases.

Need for a robust animal health system

  • Private sector presence in veterinary services is close to being nonexistent.
  • Unlike a physician, a veterinarian is always on a house call on account of the logistic challenge of transporting livestock to the hospital, unless they are domestic pets.
  • There could not be a stronger case for reinventing the entire animal husbandry sector to be able to reach every livestock farmer, not only for disease treatment but for prevention and surveillance to minimize the threat to human health.
  • Early detection at animal source can prevent disease transmission to humans and introduction of pathogens into the food chain. So a robust animal health system is the first and a crucial step in human health.

Conclusion

  • Developing countries like India have a much greater stake in strong One Health systems on account of agricultural systems resulting in uncomfortably close proximity of animals and humans.
  • This builds a strong case for strengthening veterinary institutions and services.
  • Further delay may pave way for emergence of new communicable diseases.

Way Forward

  • The most effective and economical approach is to control zoonotic pathogens at their animal source.
  • It calls not only for close collaboration at local, regional and global levels among veterinary, health and environmental governance, but also for greater investment in animal health infrastructure.
  • Need of the hour is to scale up such a model across the country and to establish meaningful research collaborations across the world.
  • Health, veterinary, agriculture and life science research institutions and universities can play a lead role.
Judicial Reforms

Explained: Recusals by JudgesExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Significance of Judiciary: Impartial and independent of all external pressures


Recently a Supreme Court judge recused himself from hearing a petition filed against the government’s move to charge Omar Abdullah under the Public Safety Act.  The case was finally heard by another bench.

Rules on Recusals

  • There are no written rules on the recusal of judges from hearing cases listed before them in constitutional courts. It is left to the discretion of a judge.
  • The reasons for recusal are not disclosed in an order of the court. Some judges orally convey to the lawyers involved in the case their reasons for recusal, many do not. Some explain the reasons in their order.
  • The decision rests on the conscience of the judge. At times, parties involved raise apprehensions about a possible conflict of interest.

Why Judges need recusal?

  • Recusal usually takes place when a judge has a conflict of interest or has a prior association with the parties in the case.
  • For example, if the case pertains to a company in which the judge holds stakes, the apprehension would seem reasonable.
  • Similarly, if the judge has, in the past, appeared for one of the parties involved in a case, the call for recusal may seem right.
  • A recusal inevitably leads to delay. The case goes back to the Chief Justice, who has to constitute a fresh Bench.

Should the reasons be put on record?

  • In his separate opinion in the NJAC judgment in 2015, Justice (now retired) Kurian Joseph, who was a member of the Constitution Bench, highlighted the need for judges to give reasons for recusal as a measure to build transparency.
  • It is the constitutional duty, as reflected in one’s oath, to be transparent and accountable, and hence, a judge is required to indicate reasons for his recusal from a particular case, Justice Kurian wrote.
  • One of his companion judges on the Constitution Bench, Justice (retired) Madan B. Lokur, agreed that specific rules require to be framed on recusal.
  • The two judges were referring to senior advocate Fali Nariman’s plea to Justice J.S. Khehar, who was then in line to be the next Chief Justice, to recuse himself.
  • But Justice Khehar refused to recuse himself though he admitted that Mr. Nariman’s plea left him in an “awkward predicament”.
  • Justice Khehar reasoned that he did not recuse himself for fear of leaving an impression that he was “scared”.

What happened in the Judge Loya and Assam detention centres cases?

  • In 2018, petitioners in the Judge Loya case sought the recusal of Supreme Court judges, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, from the Bench as they both hailed from the Bombay High Court.
  • The case banked on the written statements of two judges from that High Court, both saying that Judge Loya’s death was from natural causes. The court refused the request and called it a “wanton attack”.
  • Recusal, the court observed, would mean abdication of duty. Maintaining institutional civilities are distinct from the “fiercely independent role of the judge as adjudicator”, the court explained.
  • In May 2019, in the middle of a hearing of a PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander about the plight of inmates in Assam’s detention centres, the then-Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was asked to recuse himself.
  • In a lengthy order, Justice Gogoi said a litigant cannot seek recusal of the judge. “Judicial functions, sometimes, involve performance of unpleasant and difficult tasks, which require asking questions and soliciting answers to arrive at a just and fair decision.
  • If the assertions of bias as stated are to be accepted, it would become impossible for a judge to seek clarifications and answers,” the court observed.
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

Explained: Medical Devices (Amendment) Rules, 2020Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Medical Devices (Amendment) Rules, 2020

Mains level : Regulation of medical devices in India


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has notified changes in the Medical Devices Rules, 2017 to regulate medical devices on the same lines as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Medical Devices (Amendment) Rules, 2020

  • These rules are applicable to devices intended for internal or external use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of disease or disorder in human beings or animals” (as notified by the ministry).
  • It requires online registration of these devices “with the Central Licensing Authority through an identified online portal established by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for this purpose.
  • Among the information that the manufacturer has to upload are “name & address of the company or firm or any other entity manufacturing the medical device along with name and address of manufacturing site.
  • It also need to upload certificate of compliance with respect to ISO 13485 standard accredited by National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies or International Accreditation Forum.
  • This would mean that every medical device, either manufactured in India or imported, will have to have quality assurance before they can be sold anywhere in the country.
  • After furnishing of the above information a registration number will be generated. Manufacturer shall mention the registration number on the label of the medical device.

What are the items covered under the new Rules?

  • A large number of commonly used items including hypodermic syringes and needles, cardiac stents, perfusion sets, catheters, orthopaedic implants, bone cements, lenses, sutures, internal prosthetic replacements etc are covered under the new rules.
  • For some items such as sphygmomanometers (used to monitor blood pressure), glucometers (to check blood sugar), thermometers, CT scan and MRI equipment, dialysis and X-ray machines, implants etc, different deadlines for compliance have been set.
  • For example for the first three, it is January 2021, for the others it is April next year. For ultrasound equipment, it is November 2020.

Is this a sudden move?

  • This has been in the offing for some time now.
  • In October last year, the ministry had circulated copies of the then proposed notification for public comments following recommendations of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), which is the highest technical body for these decisions and has experts among its members.
  • In April last year, the DTAB had recommended that all medical devices should be notified as “drugs” under the drug regulation law to ensure they maintain safety and quality standards.
  • The notification makes it clear that the government has issued it in consultation with the DTAB.

Why was the move required?

  • For much of the last one year, the health sector has been at the centre of attention following revelations about faulty hip implants marketed by pharma major Johnson & Johnson.
  • This has caused major embarrassment to the government, too, as it exposed the lack of regulatory teeth when it came to medical devices.
  • The matter dragged on, exposing the regulatory loopholes until finally the company agreed in court to pay Rs 25 lakh each to the 67 people who had had to undergo revision surgeries because the implants were defective.
  • That is really where the discussion started about regulation of medical devices.

What are the penal provisions under Indian law?

  • There are various penal provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 for various kinds of offences. Manufacture or sale of substandard items is punishable with imprisonment of at least 10 years, which may extend to imprisonment for life.
  • There is also a provision for fine that will “not be less than Rs 10 lakh rupees or three times value of the confiscated items”.
Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

Explained: Uniform Civil Code — the debate, the statusExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various articles mentioned in the newsward

Mains level : Uniform Civil Code


Last week, while hearing a matter relating to properties of a Goan, the Supreme Court described Goa as a “shining example” with a Uniform Civil Code, observed that the founders of the Constitution had “hoped and expected” a UCC for India but there has been no attempt at framing one.

What is a Uniform Civil Code?

  • A UCC is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
  • Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a UCC for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
  • Article 44 is one of the directive principles. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
  • Fundamental rights are enforceable in a court of law. While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.
  • Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation” while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44.
  • All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.

What are more important — fundamental rights or directive principles?

  • There is no doubt that fundamental rights are more important.
  • The Supreme Court held in Minerva Mills (1980): “Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV (Directive Principles).
  • To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution”.
  • Article 31C inserted by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, however, lays down that if a law is made to implement any directive principle, it cannot be challenged on the ground of being violative of the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 19.

Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?

  • Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters – Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act etc.
  • States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and therefore in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws.
  • Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
  • If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List.
  • But “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List. Last year, the Law Commission concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor desirable.

Is there one common personal law for any religious community governing all its members?

  • All Hindus of the country are not governed by one law, nor are all Muslims or all Christians.
  • Not only British legal traditions, even those of the Portuguese and the French remain operative in some parts.
  • In Jammu and Kashmir until August 5, 2019, local Hindu law statutes differed from central enactments.
  • The Shariat Act of 1937 was extended to J&K a few years ago but has now been repealed.
  • Muslims of Kashmir were thus governed by a customary law, which in many ways was at variance with Muslim Personal Law in the rest of the country and was, in fact, closer to Hindu law.
  • Even on registration of marriage among Muslims, laws differ from place to place. It was compulsory in J&K (1981 Act), and is optional in Bengal, Bihar (both under 1876 Act), Assam (1935 Act) and Odisha (1949 Act).
  • In the Northeast, there are more than 200 tribes with their own varied customary laws.
  • The Constitution itself protects local customs in Nagaland. Similar protections are enjoyed by Meghalaya and Mizoram. Even reformed Hindu law, in spite of codification, protects customary practices.

How does the idea of a UCC relate to the fundamental right to religion?

  • Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religion; Article 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”; Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture.
  • An individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality” and other provisions relating to fundamental rights, but a group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subjected to other fundamental rights
  • In the Constituent Assembly, there was division on the issue of putting Uniform Civil Code in the fundamental rights chapter.
  • The matter was settled by a vote. By a 5:4 majority, the fundamental rights sub-committee headed by Sardar Patel held that the provision was outside the scope of fundamental rights and therefore the UCC was made less important than freedom of religion.

What was the view of Muslim members in the Constituent Assembly?

  • Some members sought to immunise Muslim Personal Law from state regulation.
  • Mohammed Ismail, who thrice tried unsuccessfully to get Muslim Personal Law exempted from Article 44, said a secular state should not interfere with the personal law of people.
  • B Pocker Saheb said he had received representations against a common civil code from various organisations, including Hindu organisations.
  • Hussain Imam questioned whether there could ever be uniformity of personal laws in a diverse country like India.
  • B R Ambedkar said “no government can use its provisions in a way that would force the Muslims to revolt”.
  • Alladi Krishnaswami, who was in favour of a Uniform Civil Code, conceded that it would be unwise to enact Uniform Civil Code ignoring strong opposition from any community.
  • Gender justice was not mentioned in these debates.

How did the debate on a common code for Hindus play out?

  • In June 1948, Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, warned Jawaharlal Nehru that to introduce “basic changes” in personal law was to impose “progressive ideas” of a “microscopic minority” on the Hindu community as a whole.
  • Others opposed to reforms in Hindu law included Sardar Patel, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, M A Ayyangar, M M Malaviya and Kailash Nath Katju.
  • When the debate on the Hindu Code Bill took place in December 1949, 23 of 28 speakers opposed it.
  • On September 15, 1951, President Prasad threatened to use his powers of returning the Bill to Parliament or vetoing it.
  • Ambedkar eventually had to resign. Nehru agreed to trifurcation of the Code into separate Acts and diluted several provisions.
Judicial Reforms

Explained: What is Mandamus?Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mandamus

Mains level : Writ Jurisdiction of SC and HC and their scope


  • The Supreme Court has ruled that reservation in the matter of promotions in public posts is not a fundamental right, and a state cannot be compelled to offer the quota if it chooses not to.
  • It ruled that there  is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions.
  • Hence no mandamus can be issued by the court directing state governments to provide reservations,” the bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta said.

What is ‘Mandamus’?

  • Mandamus is among the “prerogative writs” in English common law — meaning the extraordinary writs or orders granted by the Sovereign when ordinary legal remedies are inadequate.
  • These are habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto.
  • In India, the Supreme Court can issue prerogative writs under Article 32 of the Constitution, and the High Courts under Article 226.
  • Mandamus literally means ‘we command’. When issued to a person or body, the writ of mandamus demands some activity on their part.
  • It orders the person or body to perform a public or quasi-public duty, which they have refused to perform, and where no other adequate legal remedy exists to enforce the performance of that duty.

When is it used?

  • The writ cannot be issued unless the legal duty is of public nature, and to whose performance the applicant of the writ has a legal right.
  • The remedy is of a discretionary nature — a court can refuse to grant it when an alternative remedy exists.
  • However, for enforcing fundamental rights, the alternative remedy argument does not hold as much weight, since it is the duty of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to enforce fundamental rights.
  • When a public officer or government does an act that violates the fundamental right of a person, the court would issue a writ of mandamus against such authorities so that the person’s rights are not infringed.
  • The writ can also be issued against inferior courts or other judicial bodies when they have refused to exercise their jurisdiction and perform their duty.

Limitations

  • Under Article 361, mandamus cannot be granted against the President or Governor of a State, “for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties”.
  • The writ also cannot be issued against a private individual or body, except where the State is in collusion with the private party for contravening a provision of the Constitution or a statute.
Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: Regulation of Parliamentary Speech and ConductExplained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Regulation of parliamentary speech and conduct of the representatives.


 

Two days of heated exchanges in Parliament have brought back recurring questions around “unparliamentarily” speech and conduct.

No absolute privilege

  • Article 105(2) of the Constitution lays down that “no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof”.
  • However MPs do not enjoy the freedom to say whatever they want inside the House.

Checks on MPs’ speech

  • Whatever an MP says is subject to the discipline of the Rules of Parliament, the “good sense” of Members, and the control of proceedings by the Speaker.
  • These checks ensure that MPs cannot use “defamatory or indecent or undignified or unparliamentary words” inside the House.
  • Rule 380 (“Expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha regulates the speech of MPs.
  • It says: “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.”
  • Rule 381 says: “The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.”

What are Unparliamentary expressions?

  • There are phrases and words, literally in thousands, both in English and in other Indian languages that are “unparliamentary”.
  • The Presiding Officers — Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairperson of Rajya Sabha — have the job of keeping these bad words out of Parliament’s records.
  • For their reference and help, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has brought out a bulky tome titled ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’, the 2004 edition of which ran into 900 pages.
  • The list contains several words and expressions that would probably be considered rude or offensive in most cultures; however, it also has stuff that is likely to be thought of as being fairly harmless or innocuous.
  • The state legislatures too are guided mainly by the same book, which also draws heavily from unparliamentarily words and phrases used in the Vidhan Sabhas and Vidhan Parishads of India.

Examples of unparliamentary

  • Among the words and phrases that have been deemed unparliamentary are “scumbag”, “shit”, “badmashi”, “bad” (as in “An MP is a bad man”), and “bandicoot”, which is unparliamentary if an MP uses it for another, but which is fine if he uses it for himself.
  • If the Presiding Officer is a “lady”, no MP can address her as “beloved Chairperson”.
  • The government or another MP cannot be accused of “bluffing”. “Bribe”, “blackmail”, “bribery”, “thief”, “thieves”, “dacoits”, “bucket of shit”, “damn”, “deceive”, “degrade”, and “darling”, are all unparliamentary.
  • MPs or Presiding Officers can’t be accused of being “double minded”, having “double standards”, being of “doubtful honesty”, being “downtrodden”, indulging in “double talk”, being “lazy”, “lousy”, a “nuisance” or a “loudmouth”.
  • No Member or Minister can be accused of having “deliberately concealed”, “concocted”, of being of a “confused mind”, or being “confused and unintelligent”.
  • An illiterate MP can’t be called “angootha chhaap”, and it is unparliamentary to suggest that a member should be sent to the “ajayabghar” (museum).
Human Rights Issues

Explained: Practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : FGM


 

Every year, February 6 is observed as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  As per the WHO, globally, over 200 million girls alive today have suffered FGM in over 30 countries.

Female Genital Mutilation

  • FGM is the name given to procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons.
  • It is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women.
  • Most girls and women who have undergone FGM live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
  • According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the exact origins of the practice remain unclear, it seems to have predated Christianity and Islam.
  • It says that some Egyptian mummies display characteristics of FGM.
  • Significantly, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus has claimed that in the fifth century BC, the Phoenicians, the Hittites and the Ethiopians practised circumcision.

Why is Female Genital Mutilation practiced?

  • Depending on the region, there can be various reasons why FGM is performed. The UNFPA has categorised the reasons into five categories —
  1. psycho-sexual reasons (when FGM is carried out as a way to control women’s sexuality, “which is sometimes said to be insatiable if parts of the genitalia, especially the clitoris, are not removed);
  2. sociological or cultural reasons (when FGM is seen as part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood and an intrinsic part of a community’s cultural heritage);
  3. hygiene and aesthetic reasons (this may be the reason for those communities that consider the external female genitalia as ugly and dirty);
  4. religious reasons (the UNFPA maintains that while FGM is not endorsed by Christianity or Islam, “supposed” religious doctrines may be used to justify the practice);
  5. socio-economic factors (in some communities FGM is a pre-requisite for marriage, especially in those communities where women are dependent on men economically).
  • Other reasons cited by the WHO include- an attempt to ensure women’s premarital virginity since FGM is believed to reduce libido,  and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts.
  • FGM may also be associated with cultural ideals of feminity and modesty.

Economic cost of FGM

  • Beyond the immense psychological trauma it entails, FGM imposes large financial costs and loss of life.
  • In 2018, a study on FGM in India said that the practice was up to 75 per cent across the Bohra Muslim community.
  • The economic costs of treating health complications arising out of FGM amount to roughly $1.4 billion for 2018 for 27 countries where FGM is performed.
  • If the prevalence remains the same, the amount is expected to rise up to $2.3 billion by 2047.

FGM in India

  • According to the aforementioned study, the reasons for FGM referred to as “Khafd” in India include continuing an old traditional practice, adhering to religious edicts, controlling women’s sexuality and abiding by the rules stated by the religious clergy.
  • It also states that the issue first rose to prominence in India because of two international legal cases on FGM against practising Bohras in Australia and the US.
  • In 2018, a bench of then CJI Dipak Misra referred a petition seeking a ban on FGM among Dawoodi Bohra girls to a five-judge Constitution Bench.
  • The Dawoodi Bohra community, on the other hand, maintained that the practice should be allowed since the Constitution grants religious freedom under Article 25.

For detailed health risks associated with FGM, navigate to the page:

Health hazards of FGM