Insights Daily Current Affairs, 05 December 2017
Topic: Role of civil services in a democracy.
Rajasthan ordinance on immunity for public servants
Context: A controversial criminal law ordinance of the Rajasthan government, which gave protection to public servants and imposed restrictions on the media, has lapsed. The state government is now forced to reconsider the new piece of proposed legislation.
The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 was promulgated on September 6. A Bill seeking to replace the ordinance was tabled in the state Assembly on October 23. However, the state government referred the Bill to a select committee of the House for its review following an all-round criticism. After the Bill’s introduction in the Assembly, the ordinance was valid for a six-week period, which has now ended.
The select committee will decide the fate of the Bill, which has sought to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code, and give its recommendation either to withdraw the Bill or re-introduce it in the Assembly with some amendments.
About the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill:
The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, seeks to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the State from being investigated for on-duty action, without government sanction.
It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction to proceed with the probe is given by the government.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
NGT to form one-member benches
Context: Amending the National Green Tribunal (Practices and Procedure) Rules, 2011, the Centre has passed a notification allowing the NGT chairperson to “constitute a single-member bench” in “exceptional circumstances.” However, the notification does not define the “exceptional circumstances”.
According to the earlier rules, the bench consisted of “two or more members” with at least one judicial member and another expert.
About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):
What is it?
NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
Ambit: The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
Sanctioned strength: currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).
Chairman: is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Selection: Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
Sources: the Indian express.
Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Context: The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) connecting Mumbai with St Petersburg and beyond – which has been 17 years in the making – is set to be operationalised from the middle of next month with the first consignment from India to Russia.
What is it? India, Iran and Russia had in September 2000 signed the INSTC agreement to build a corridor to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg. From St Petersburg, North Europe is within easy reach via the Russian Federation. The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year.
The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
Significance of the corridor: Conceived well before China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), INSTC will not only help cut down on costs and time taken for transfer of goods from India to Russia and Europe via Iran but also provide an alternative connectivity initiative to countries in the Eurasian region. It will be India’s second corridor after the Chabahar Port to access resource rich Central Asia and its market.
The absence of viable surface transport connectivity is a serious impediment to trade with the Eurasian region. Currently, transport of goods between India and Russia mostly takes place through the sea route via Rotterdam to St Petersburg. In the case of the Central Asian region, goods are routed through China, Europe or Iran. The routes through China and Europe are long, expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, there is a need to have a logistics route that would be shorter, cheaper and faster.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
UN’s Global Compact on Migration
Context: The administration of President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the United Nations pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations, deeming it “inconsistent” with its policies.
The US has been a part of the non-binding New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants since it was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly last year.
Why has the US withdrawn?
The United States says the pact undermines the sovereign right of the country to enforce immigration laws and secure its borders. Therefore, it undermines the national sovereignty. However, the country has assured its support to international cooperation on migration issues.
Implications of this move:
It is widely believed that no one nation can manage international migration alone. Besides, the role of the United States in this process is critical as it has historically and generously welcomed people from all across the globe and remains home to the largest number of international migrants in the world.
UN compact on Migration:
The global compact for migration is the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016, the General Assembly decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The global compact is a significant opportunity to improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.
The global compact is framed consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and its scope is defined in Annex II of the New York Declaration. It is intended to:
- Address all aspects of international migration, including the humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related and other aspects.
- Make an important contribution to global governance and enhance coordination on international migration.
- Present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility.
- Set out a range of actionable commitments, means of implementation and a framework for follow-up and review among Member States regarding international migration in all its dimensions.
- Be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
- Be informed by the Declaration of the 2013 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.
The conclusion of the UN Global Compact on Migration in 2018 could go a long way towards improving the management and governance of international migration, or give nations an excuse to make things worse.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Context: The 38th Gulf Cooperation Council summit is being held in Kuwait. The summit comes at a delicate time after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in June, accusing Doha of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran – charges that Qatar vehemently denies.
Kuwait has played mediator and acted as a conduit for communication between the boycotting countries and Qatar.
What is GCC?
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Established in 1981, the GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds a summit every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
- Due to their geographic proximity, similar political systems and common sociocultural stances, the immediate goal was for these countries to protect themselves from threats after the Iran-Iraq War.
The GCC comprises six main branches that carry out various tasks, from the preparation of meetings to the implementation of policies. They are- Supreme Council, Ministerial Council, Secretariat-General, Consultative Commission, Commission for the Settlement of Disputes and the Secretary-General.
Role of GCC today:
Whether the GCC still has a relevant function and role in the region is questionable. Though it was created for the purpose of solidifying union ranks, the blockade imposed on Qatar by its neighbours has largely annulled these principles.
The Gulf states have in the past differed in their views on several issues that have unfolded in the region over the past two decades. The role of the GCC has also been diminishing ever since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, with the six states illustrating various approaches to the war and its consequences. This has been enhanced during the wave of protests that swept the Middle East in 2011, known as the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia has gained a dominant role within the GCC today.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.
Context: Sentinel- 5P, a European satellite tracking the levels air pollutants around the world has beamed back new views of the Earth’s atmosphere, including images of pollution drifting away from power plants in India. The worst of this pollution runs from north of Patna in Bihar to south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh. The Sentinel-5P satellite is designed to make daily global maps of the gases and particles that pollute the air.
About the Sentinel- 5P satellite:
Sentinel-5P is the latest spacecraft in a fleet of Earth observers being commissioned by the European Union and the European Space Agency. It was launched into an 824 kilometre high orbit by a Russian rocket on October 13 this year. When fully operational, the new Sentinel will be an extremely powerful tool to monitor air quality.
It carries an instrument called Tropomi – a spectrometer that observes the reflected sunlight coming up off the Earth, analysing its many different colours. This helps detect the presence of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Petcoke imports from US will choke India further: Experts
Context: India has emerged as the biggest importer of U.S. oil refinery by-product ‘petcoke’. U.S. oil refineries that are unable to sell a dirty, fuel waste product at home are exporting vast quantities of it to India instead. Refineries are sending it around the world, especially to energy-hungry India, which last year got almost a fourth of all the fuel-grade “petcoke” the U.S. shipped out. In 2016, the U.S. sent more than 8 million metric tonnes of petcoke to India.
What is petcoke?
Petroleum coke, the bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from refining Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils, is cheaper and burns hotter than coal. But it also contains more planet-warming carbon and far more heart- and lung-damaging sulphur.
The petcoke burned in factories and plants is contributing to dangerously filthy air in India, which already has many of the world’s most polluted cities. It contains 17 times more sulfur than the limit set for coal, and a staggering 1,380 times more than for diesel.
Rising petcoke imports:
Indian purchases of US fuel-grade petcoke skyrocketed two years ago after China threatened to ban the import of high-sulfur fuels. Although Indian factories and plants buy some petcoke from Saudi Arabia and other countries, 65% of imports in 2016 were from the US.
- India’s cement companies were first to bring in petcoke, and still import the most, though cement experts say some sulfur is absorbed during manufacturing. As word spread of the cheap, high-heat fuel, other industries began using it in their furnaces — producing everything from paper and textiles to brakes, batteries and glass.
- Petcoke’s use was further encouraged by low import tariffs and a lack of regulations on its most potent pollutants. Industries also like that petcoke, which is around 90% carbon, burns hot. So they can use less of it to produce the same heat as coal — though coal still overshadows petcoke in factory furnaces.
- Within a decade, India’s petcoke appetite grew so voracious that it began producing and selling its own, and Indian refineries today are making about as much as the country is importing.
Need for regulation:
The country has seen a dramatic increase in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions in recent years, concentrated in areas where power plants and steel factories are clustered. Those pollutants are converted into microscopic particles that lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing breathing and heart problems.
Petcoke, critics say, is making a bad situation worse across India. About 1.1 million Indians die prematurely as a result of outdoor air pollution every year, according to the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry.
The government’s environment ministry has dismissed the idea that petcoke threatens public health in the nation’s capital. But the country’s Supreme Court, which has consistently demanded or enacted tougher pollution control measures, recently banned petcoke use by some industries as of November 1 in the three states surrounding pollution-choked New Delhi. It also demanded tighter pollution standards that if enforced could further limit its use nationwide.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
International Tourism Mart:
6th International Tourism Mart (ITM) is being held in Guwahati, Assam. The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the North Eastern States has organized this Mart.
The objective of the event is to highlight the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets. The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis. The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
What is it? It is the First Ever International Conference on AYUSH and Wellness. The conference is being held in Delhi. ‘Aroyga 2017’ is a comprehensive exhibition cum conference on Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddhha, Sowa Rigpa, Homoeopathy and wellness.
‘Arogya 2017’ has been jointly organized by Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Government of India including Pharmexcil in partnership with FICCI to showcase the strength and scientific valuation of traditional system of medicine. More than 250 manufacturers of alternative medicine are showcasing their products and services at International Arogya 2017.
UN Environment’s Patron for Clean Air:
Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been named the UN Environment’s ‘Patron for Clean Air’. He will help drive greater environmental action and awareness, and advocate for the goals of UN Environment’s global BreatheLife campaign.
UN Environment’s global BreatheLife campaign will work on promoting policy and citizen action for better air quality for people.
Rape of minors to attract death in MP:
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly has unanimously passed a Bill awarding death to those found guilty of raping girls aged 12 and below. With this, Madhya Pradesh becomes the first State where those convicted of such rapes will face the gallows. The Bill will now be sent to the President for his assent, after which it will become a law.