Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 26 January 2019
Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Context: India is celebrating 70th Republic Day.
Theme: ‘life of Gandhi’ which is a tribute to the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
Chief guest: President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. This is the second time a South African leader is Chief Guest at Republic Day — Nelson Mandela was the chief guest in 1995.
Significance: Republic day in India is celebrated every year on 26th of January to honour the Constitution of India as it came into force on the same day in the year 1950.
Highlights of the republic day- key facts relevant for Prelims and Mains:
- The 70th Republic Day parade will have the highest number of women officers participating in the celebrations with Lt. Bhavana Kasturi leading a contingent of 144 male personnel. This is the first time in the history of Indian Army that a woman will lead the Army services corps.
- An all-women contingent of Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force, will be participating for the first time. The contingent was opened for women in 2012.
- The weapons which will be showcased for the first time in a Republic day parade are M777 and K-9 Vajra ultra light howitzers along with the Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) missile of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- For the first time in the Republic Day parade, An-32 aircraft will be flying using a mix of traditional and biofuel.
- Four former Indian National Army (INA) soldiers will participate for the first time in the parade. INA was an armed force formed by Indian nationalist Rash Behari Bose in 1942 in Southeast Asia during World War II.
- `Sankhnaad’, a martial tune created for the Indian armed forces, will be played for the first time on the 70th Republic Day parade. Since Independence, the Indian defence forces have been playing ‘martial tune’ created by the Britishers. `Sankhnaad’ is based on Indian classical music.
Why January 26th?
The Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950, a date specially chosen to coincide with the anniversary of ‘Purna Swaraj Diwas’. January 26, 1930 was marked as ‘Purna Swaraj Diwas’, or the day the nation would attain complete freedom from its colonisers by the Congress.
- The members of the drafting committee felt that the birth of the constitution should be observed on a day that held some significance in their fight for independence. When India was ultimately granted freedom by the British in 1947, but on August 15 and not January 26, the date was instead assigned to celebrating India’s Republic Day.
- This was the day the Indian Independence Act was consequently repealed and India was established as a democratic republic, no longer a dominion of the British Crown.
Sources: the hindu.
- Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: What is Contempt of Court? Provisions in this regard, Criticisms and analysis.
Context: The Supreme Court has issued contempt notices to the RBI for failing to reveal under the Right to Information Act intelligence received on loan defaulters and details of action taken against banks in connection with fraud.
What is contempt under the Indian law?
In India, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, divides contempt into civil contempt and criminal contempt.
Civil contempt is a ‘wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a Court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court’.
‘Criminal contempt’ is ‘the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
- Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.
- Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding.
- Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.’
Judiciary ensures justice and equality to every individual and institutions, therefore, the makers of the constitution upheld the sanctity and prestige of the revered institution by placing provisions under articles 129 and 215 of the constitution, which enables the courts to hold individuals in contempt if they attempt to demean or belittle their authority.
Is criticism allowed?
Yes. The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, very clearly states that fair criticism of any case which has been heard and decided is not contempt.
The statute of 1971 has recently been amended by the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006 to include the defence of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation.
Section 13 that already served to restrict the powers of the court in that they were not to hold anyone in contempt unless it would substantially interfere with the due process of justice, the amendment further states that the court must permit ‘justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.’
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Contempt of court is one of the explicitly spelled out restrictions to the guaranteed right to freedom of speech under the Constitution. Do you think speech in criticism of the courts should be allowed without punishment in democracy like India? Critically comment.
- Govt policies and their performances.
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: ‘e-waste’- concerns, challenges, issues, measures and the need for international collaboration.
Context: To highlight the rising challenge posed by mountains of discarded electronics worldwide, seven UN entities have come together to launch the report- “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot”- at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in a bid to offer some solutions to a behemoth-sized problem that is making the world sicker and adding to environmental degradation.
The joint report calls for a new vision for e-waste based on the “circular economy” concept, whereby a regenerative system can minimize waste and energy leakage.
International convention in this regard:
E-waste export, though, is regulated under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which has been ratified by 188 nations.
So where is the crisis?
It lies in the fact that globally, only up to 20% of e-waste is recycled. The rest is undocumented and experts predict that it gets buried under the ground in landfills for centuries as it is not biodegradable.
And how does it impact us? “From lead-lined, cathode ray tubes to old TVs, to lead and chromium in circuit boards (of various devices), e-waste contains substances that are hazardous to human health, including, mercury, cadmium and lead. E-waste can pollute water sources and food-supply chains.”
Solutions to the crisis- Highlights of the report by UN:
The report calls for systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries.
To capture the global value of materials in e-waste and create global circular value chains, use new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programmes.
The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.
The producers should also have buy-back or return offers for old equipment, and plans to incentivise the consumer financially. The report also advocates a system of ‘urban mining’ by strengthening the extended producer responsibility provision.
Job potential: If the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide.
The report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes International Labour Organization (ILO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); United Nations University (UNU) and Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions.
Why worry about e-waste?
Organic and easily recyclable metal, glass and plastic waste need not permanently remain in landfills. But hard-to-recover substances from e-waste like mercury make their home in landfills and keep leaching into ground water.
- In recent years, its e-waste has grown faster than earlier anticipated. The Greenpeace study found e-waste growing at 15% annually and projected it to go up to 800,000 tonnes by 2012. But it stood at 1.7 million tonnes in 2014, the fifth highest in the world, according to a UN study.
- In India, e waste accounts for 4% of global e-waste and 2.5% of global GDP (2014 figures) – so it has a higher share of e-waste than its share of gross domestic product (GDP). For China, the two ratios are about the same. The US, on the other hand, accounts for a lower share of global e-waste than its share of GDP.
- According to a 2011 Rajya Sabha secretariat study, e-waste accounts for 70% of Indian landfills. If penetration of electronics and electrical products in India by 2030 have to grow even to today’s average world capita which leads to e waste of 6 kg per capita, the absolute e waste generation for India will grow five times the current level to 9 million tonnes in 2030.
Why it is difficult to manage e waste in India?
- The producers/manufacturers do not have adequate information on their website regarding e waste management.
- Customer care representatives do not have inkling about any take back or recycling programme and even if they have set up collection centres, they are simply not enough for a geographically vast country like India.
- India being a vast country, setting up collection mechanism is a big challenge. If any of the brands try individually to reach out to all corners of the country, it will economically not be sustainable or feasible.
- Improper enforcement of the existing laws is another hurdle.
Sources: down to earth.
Mains Question: A strong political will is required to come out with strict regulations to manage e waste in India. Increased public awareness is the need of hour. Examine the issues surrounding e-waste management and suggest the steps that need to be taken?
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
What to study?
- For Prelims: IONS- composition, objectives and meetings.
- For Mains: Significance of IONS and its role in securing the Indian Ocean region.
Context: Navy commanders of the Indian Ocean littoral states will convene in Bandar Abbas (IRAN) next month for participating in Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
What is it? IONS, the 21st century’s first significant international maritime security initiative launched in February 2008, provides a forum for discussion of regional maritime issues and promotes friendly relationships among member nations.
It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues and, in the process, endeavors to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to common understanding and possibly agreements on the way ahead.
Under the charter of business adopted in 2014, the grouping has working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Information Security and Interoperability (IS&I) and anti-piracy now renamed as maritime security.
The 35 member nations of the IONS are grouped into four sub-regions- South Asian, West Asian, East African and South East Asian and Australian.
There are nine states with observer status.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Indian Ocean has a great political and economic significance. Comment.
Facts for Prelims:
- Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. The provision of Bharat Ratna was introduced in 1954.
- Eligibility: Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for these awards.
- There is no written provision that Bharat Ratna should be awarded to Indian citizens only.
- It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the government expanded the criteria to include “any field of human endeavour” in December 2011.
- In terms of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the recipient’s name. However, should an award winner consider it necessary, he/she may use the expression in their biodata/letterhead/visiting card etc. to indicate that he/she is a recipient of the award.
About Padma Awards:
Padma Awards – one of the highest civilian Awards of the country, are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. They were instituted in the year 1954. The Awards are given in various disciplines/ fields of activities, viz.- art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.
- Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service;( it is a second degree honour).
- Padma Bhushan is awarded for distinguished service of high order. (it is a third degree honour).
- Padma Shri is awarded for distinguished service in any field. (it is a fourth degree honour).
The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year. The award is normally not conferred posthumously. However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously if the demise of the person proposed to be honoured has been recent, say within a period of one year preceding the Republic Day on which it is proposed to announce the award.
Strategic programme between India and South Africa:
Context: India and South Africa have sealed a three-year strategic programme covering all aspects of bilateral ties.
The strategic programme will cover cooperation in a range of areas, including defence and security, trade and investment, the blue economy, tourism, IT and agriculture.
Facts: Strategic Partnership has been established between India and South Africa through the Red Fort Declaration of March 1997 and the Tshwane Declaration of October 2006.
Summary of Important Editorials:
Opinion | The whys and what ifs of central bank autonomy:
Why in News?
The debate over Central Bank’s autonomy has also come up in the US. President Donald Trump has been engaging in a Twitter war with the Federal Reserve against its policy of raising interest rates. India is not new to this issue.
Relationship between central banks and governments around the world is debated:
Central banks everywhere, from Turkey to the US, are under increasing pressure from the governments. While central bankers say that they need to be free from pressures from the governments and lobby groups to focus on their job of containing inflation and maintaining financial stability, their critics say that they are too secretive and have leaned in favour of big financial institutions over the interests of common citizens.
- The mandate of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), which first put in place an inflation targeting regime was changed from its sole objective of price stability to also include fostering sustainable employment.
- In the UK, the Bank of England and Her Majesty’s Treasury signed a memorandum of agreement on the financial relationship between the two outlining the framework for determining its capital, payment in lieu of its dividend, issue of notes and the information sharing arrangements between the Bank and the Treasury.
Why the government should have a say in Central Bank’s roles?
In a democracy, the elected representatives should have the last word on how the country should be run. The government should decide on the amount of emphasis on job creation versus inflation targeting.
Given the immense power the central bank has in influencing the economy, a fully autonomous central bank can easily design policies to thwart the will of the people. For example, voters elect a government to create more jobs, but the central bank can keep interest rates high to stifle investment and, consequently, job creation.
Concerns and challenges associated?
Although the government is elected by the people and is supposed to act in the interest of the electorate, politicians whose chief concern is winning re-elections run it. Therefore, Politicians will have a natural tendency to engage in deficit spending (free handouts, higher support prices, and investment projects by state-owned enterprises) just before or just after elections to boost their chances. Politicians can also use the state-owned banking system to benefit their constituents by granting loan waivers.
These policies are not only inflationary but will also adversely affect the health of the banking system. The costs of these policies in the long run far outweigh their short-term benefits to a subsection of the population.
Why Central Banks should have autonomy?
Take the example of India. Successive governments, both at the States and Centre, have implemented farm loan waivers to win elections. Controlling the harm from such actions is the case for an independent and autonomous central bank. Such a central bank can fight the inflationary pressures resulting from deficit spending and also potentially reduce the benefits of such government handouts in terms of economic growth. This, in turn, will reduce the government’s incentives to engage in such handouts in the first place.
An independent Central Bank may have more credibility. If people have more confidence in the Central Bank, this helps to reduce inflationary expectations. In turn, this makes inflation easier to keep low.
What’s the issue with India?
In India, RBI does not have formal autonomy. While RBI’s mandate is to ensure price stability keeping in mind the objective of growth, its board is dominated by government nominees. In effect, the government has formal control over RBI.
Current point of contention between RBI and the government:
Section 7 (1) of The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, became a contentious issue after the tension between the central bank and government turned into a public spat over the last few months.
What is Section 7 of RBI act and how it empowers centre to intervene in the functioning of RBI?
Section 7 says: The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.
- Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.
- Save as otherwise provided in regulations made by the Central Board, the Governor and in his absence the Deputy Governor nominated by him in this behalf, shall also have powers of general superintendence and direction of the affairs and the business of the Bank, and may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.
Clearly, the section empowers the government to issue directions in public interest to the central bank, which otherwise does not take orders from the government.
What needs to be done?
There has to be a forum within the democratic structure where the RBI is obligated to explain and defend its position on its policy decisions.
- The governor should be responsible and accountable to Parliament and not to a particular government or the ministry of finance, or minister. He can testify to Parliament twice a year. In separate testimony in both houses of Parliament, the lawmakers can ask questions of the RBI Governor and the latter can respond.
- A better way to sort out these differences and to come to a conclusion is to have a larger debate with technical experts weighing in.
- On issues of operational autonomy, the central government needs to lay off its pressure on the RBI. On macro issues such as exchange rate management and RBI’s dividend policy, written agreements that clearly demarcate roles and responsibilities can be thrashed out.
RBI is autonomous but within the framework of the RBI Act. It is thus clear that the central bank cannot claim absolute autonomy. It is autonomy within the limits set by the government and its extent depends on the subject and the context. Ultimately, it is the elected representative ruling the country who is answerable to the citizen every five years. The representative while explaining the economy’s performance to own up for everything, including the RBI’s actions, as his own. Therefore, the time is ripe for bringing in a fine line between RBI and the government which does not undermine the Central Bank’s autonomy on one hand and limits absolute autonomy on the other.
Mains Question: In the light of the controversy over relations between RBI and the finance Ministry, it is argued that the regulators of important sectors of economy that enjoy autonomy should be made accountable. In this regard, how can Parliament ensure fine balance between autonomy and accountability for these regulators? Discuss.