INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 14 February 2020
Table of Contents:
GS Paper 1:
GS Paper 2:
Facts for Prelims:
1. Central Administrative Tribunal.
2. Assam is proposing a census of indigenous Muslim groups.
GS Paper : 1
Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key facts.
Context: A plan to restore and preserve the nearly 800-year-old Konark Sun Temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon, after a two-day conference of experts at the end of the month, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said.
The temple had been filled with sand and sealed by the British authorities in 1903 in order to stabilise the structure. A scientific study was carried out by the Roorkee-based Central Building Research Institute from 2013 till 2018 to ascertain the temple’s structural stability as well as the status of the filled-in sand.
About the Temple:
- Built in the 13th century, the Konark temple was conceived as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with 12 pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven horses.
- It was built by King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of Ganga dynasty.
- The temple is included in UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 for its architectural greatness and also for the sophistication and abundance of sculptural work.
- The temple is perfect blend of Kalinga architecture, heritage, exotic beach and salient natural beauty.
- It is protected under the National Framework of India by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959).
- The Konark is the third link of Odisha’s Golden Triangle. The first link is Jagannath Puri and the second link is Bhubaneswar (Capital city of Odisha).
- This temple was also known as ‘BLACK PAGODA’due to its dark color and used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha. Similarly, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”.
- It remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela around the month of February.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Population related issues.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Concerns and issues associated with the proposed two- child policy.
Context: Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai has introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Rajya Sabha that proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.
Key features of the Bill:
- The Bill has sought the incorporation of a new provision, Article 47A in Part IV of the Constitution, to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the “small-family” norm.
- Essentially, the Bill aims to amend the Constitution in order to incentivise limiting families to two children by offering tax concessions, priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions, among other things.
Why we need a legislation on this?
India’s population has already crossed 125 crore is “really frightening”. It has doubled in the last 40 years and that it is expected to unseat China as the world’s most populous nation in the next couple of decades.
- Despite the fact that we have framed a National Population Control Policy, we are the second most populous country in the world.
- Further, the population explosion will cause “many problems” for our future generations.
Criticisms related to two- child policy:
- India is a country with a booming technology industry, one that relies on young people. There is fear that, by restricting the number of children that can be born, there will not be enough educated young people in the next generation to carry on India’s technological revolution.
- Critics also argue that the population growth of India will slow down naturally as the country grows richer and becomes more educated.
- There are already well-documented problems with China’s one-child policy, namely the gender imbalance resulting from a strong preference for boys and millions of undocumented children who were born to parents that already had their one child. These problems risk being replicated in India with the implementation of their two-child policy.
- By interfering with the birth rate, India faces a future with severe negative population growth, a serious problem that most developed countries are trying to reverse. With negative population growth, the number of old people receiving social services is larger than the young tax base that is paying for the social services.
- The law related may also be anti-women. Human rights activists argue that, not only does the law discriminate against women right from birth (through abortion or infanticide of female fetuses and babies), but divorce and familial abandonment are at risk of increasing if a man with a large family wants to run for political office.
- A legal restriction to two children could force couples to go for sex-selective abortions as there are only two ‘attempts’. A significant proportion of such women, especially those from lower socio-economic strata, would be forced to go for unsafe abortions because of issues of access and affordability. Besides being inhumane, this is bound to create gender imbalances.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper : 2
Topics Covered: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
What to study?
For Prelims: Salient features of RPA.
For Mains: Criminalisation of politics- concerns, challenges and solutions.
Context: Expressing concern about the “alarming increase” in number of persons with criminal backgrounds being elected Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of states, the Supreme Court has passed directions to compel political parties to “explain” why such candidates are given tickets.
These directions include:
- It is mandatory for all political parties to publish all details regarding pending criminal cases against their chosen candidates, not only in local newspapers, but also on party websites and social media handles.
- Along with the details of pending cases, the parties will also have to publish “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates”.
- The “reasons” given for selection of the candidates have to be “with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere ‘winnability’ at the polls”.
The judgment was passed in a contempt of court case filed against the Chief Election Commissioner of India.
- The petition claimed the ECI had failed to take any steps to ensure the implementation of a 2018 judgment of the bench, which had made it mandatory for political parties to declare and publish all criminal cases pending against their candidates.
- The petitioners argued that parties were “circumventing” the 2018 judgment by publishing the details of their candidates’ criminal background in “obscure and limited circulation newspapers” and “making the webpages on their websites difficult to access”.
What does the RPA say on this?
Currently, under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, lawmakers cannot contest elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.
Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections. The Lily Thomas case (2013), however, ended this unfair advantage.
Efforts by SC in this regard:
The SC has repeatedly expressed concern about the purity of legislatures.
- In 2002, it made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.
- The famous order to introduce NOTA was intended to make political parties think before giving tickets to the tainted.
- In its landmark judgment of March 2014, the SC accepted the urgent need for cleansing politics of criminalisation and directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.
Main reasons for Criminalization:
- Vote bank.
- Lack of governance.
What is the way out?
There are three possible options.
- One, political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
- Two, the RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
- Three, fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.
Other suggested measure to curb criminalization of politics:
- Bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties.
- Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.
- The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
Corruption and criminalisation of politics is hitting at the roots of democracy. Therefore, Parliament must take steps urgently to curb this menace. Candidates and political parties must give wide publicity to criminal cases pending against her/him in the local media, both print and electronic, after s/he files nomination to contest elections.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
What to study?
For Prelims: What is Section 144? Who and why it is imposed? Implications?
For Mains: Concerns, challenges and ways to address them.
Context: The Karnataka High Court has declared as “illegal” the order passed by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner imposing Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Cr.PC) from December 19 to 21, 2019, ahead of a series of pro- and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rallies.
- The court held that the order did not stand judicial scrutiny in terms of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the cases of Anuradha Bhasin Vs Union of India and the Ramlila Maidan Incident Vs Union of India.
- The police commissioner was expected to form an opinion citing reasons in his order for imposing Section 144. But, in the present instance, he has only referred to the recommendations made by eight Deputy Commissioners of Police to invoke Section 144 and ‘there was no indication of independent application of mind by the Commissioner.”
What is Section 144?
It gives power to a District Magistrate, a sub- divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate on behalf of the State Government to issue an order to an individual or the general public in a particular place or area to “abstain from a certain act” or “to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management”.
This order can be passed against a particular individual or general public. The order can be passed even ex-parte.
As held by the Supreme Court, mere apprehension of danger is not a sufficient ground to curb citizens’ rights by invoking Section 144 CrPC.
- Section 144 restricts carrying any sort of weapon in that area where it has been imposed and people can be detained for violating it. The maximum punishment for such an act is three years.
- According to the order under this section, there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed and there will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.
- Section 144 also empowers the authorities to block the internet access.
Duration of Section 144 order:
No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months but the state government can extent the validity for two months and maximum up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point of time if situation becomes normal.
As per the Section, the order can be passed only “if such Magistrate considers”, that the direction is likely to prevent:
- obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed.
- danger to human life, health or safety.
- disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot or affray.
Concerns over its misuse:
Contradictory approach of Article 19 (1) (b) and (c) of the constitution and section 144 of CrPC is a “reflection of a colonial legacy and the unquestioning adoption of most of the provisions of the 1872 Code of Criminal Procedure by the contemporary Indian State”.
More often than not, the section has been used to curb even peaceful dissent.
The government should make sure that there is no blanket imposition.
Existing checks and balances and judicial oversight are insufficient. Therefore, a thorough review is necessary.
Public order and right to peaceful dissent– both should be ensured.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Issues related to health.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of the initiative.
Context: The central Government launched the School Health Ambassador Initiative.
Aim: To spread awareness about the preventive health aspects.
Under the initiative, two teachers will be identified in every government school as ‘health and wellness ambassadors’.
The initiative has been launched as a part of Ayushman Bharat.
It will be jointly run by the Union ministries of Health and Human Resources Development.
The initiative will be linked with other government initiatives such as the Eat Right campaign, Fit India movement and Poshan Abhiyaan for the overall development of children’s health.
- Two teachers will be selected as ”health and wellness ambassadors” in every government school to raise awareness about preventive health aspects.
- These ambassadors will receive support from class monitors, who will serve as ”Health and Wellness Messengers”.
- The health and wellness ambassadors will spread awareness regarding preventive health by organising culturally sensitive activity sessions for one hour every week for 24 weeks in a year to promote joyful learning.
- The NCERT has constituted a National Resource Group (NRG) comprising 40 members who have sound training skills and experience in adolescent health. The NRG will then train the state resource group.
Topics covered :Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims: The announcement.
For Mains: Why treat medical devices as drugs- need, concenrs and significance.
Context: The central government has notified all medical devices as ‘drugs’, effective from April 1, bringing a range of products from instruments to implants to even software intended for medical use in human beings or animals under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. At present, only 37 medical devices are notified as drugs. The health ministry made some amendments to the Medical Devices Rules, 2017.
Significance and implications of this move:
- Apart from expanding the scope of regulation to ensure safety and efficacy, the move may pave the way for regulation of prices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).
- It will also make companies, in case of violations, liable to be penalised in a court of law.
- Companies will now have to seek approval from the drug controller to manufacture, import and sell any medical device in the country.
- Medical devices shall be registered with the Central Licensing Authority through an identified online portal established by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). Such registration is voluntary for a period of 18 months, after which it will be mandatory.
- The manufacturer of a medical device shall upload the information relating to that medical device for registration on the “Online System for Medical Devices” established by the CDSCO. Importers too will be required to do the same.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What to study?
For Prelims: What are CVDs? What USTR list means?
For Mains: Implications, significance of the list.
Context: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a notice, amending lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to countervailing duties (CVDs) investigations.
- The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries.
Why this is a cause for concern for India?
India was, until February 10, on the developing country list and therefore eligible for these more relaxed standards. It has now been taken off of that list.
- Countries not given special consideration have lower levels of protection against a CVD investigation.
- This will now make it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India.
- The move has cast a shadow on India being able to restore preferential benefits under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) as part of its trade talks with the US, as only developing countries are eligible for it.
What is the basis for classification?
To harmonise U.S. law with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement, the USTR had, in 1998, come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development.
- These lists were used to determine whether they were potentially subject to U.S. countervailing duties.
- The de minimis (too small to warrant concern) thresholds and import volume allowance are more relaxed for developing and least-developed countries.
- The de minimis standard is usually a subsidy of 1% or less ad valorem and 2 percent for special cases.
- The 1998 rule is now “obsolete” as per the USTR notice.
What was considered as negligible import volumes?
- If a country’s goods constitute less than 3% of all imports of that good into the U.S., it meets the ‘negligible import volumes’ standard. For special cases it is 4%.
- Imports do not meet the standard, if , individual volumes are less than 3% (special cases: 4%) but the aggregate volume of imports into the U.S. is 7% of all such goods.
The USTR used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard: (1) Per capita Gross National Income or GNI (2) share of world trade (3) other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.
Why India was removed from this list?
India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of the global trade, despite having less than $12, 375 GNI (the World Bank threshold separating high income countries from others).
India was taken off the list also because — like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa — it is part of the G20. Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade), G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.
Sources: the Hindu.
Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Naming procedure, need for and significance.
Context: On February 11, the World Health Organization officially announced COVID-19 as the name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
- This comes more than 40 days after WHO was alerted by China about a cluster of pneumonia-like cases seen in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
The WHO had to come up the name in line with the 2015 guidelines between the global agency, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
What does the name COVID-19 stand for?
The “CO” in COVID stands corona, while “VI” is for virus and “D” for disease. The number 19 stands for the year 2019 when the outbreak was first identified.
Why was WHO in a hurry to name the disease?
The urgency to assign a name to the disease is to prevent the use of other names that can be “inaccurate or stigmatising”. People outside the scientific community tend to call a new disease by common names. But once the name gets “established in common usage through the Internet and social media, they are difficult to change, even if an inappropriate name is being used. Therefore, it is important that whoever first reports on a newly identified human disease uses an appropriate name that is scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
Why and how did the WHO come up with guidelines to name new diseases?
In May 2015, the WHO came up guidelines on how to name a new disease.
- The WHO identified the best practices to name new human diseases in consultation and collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- The main aim behind this exercise was to “minimise unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups”.
What best practices did the guidelines suggest?
- According to the guidelines, name of a new disease should consist of a combination of terms.
- These terms consist of a generic descriptive term based on clinical symptoms (respiratory), physiological processes (diarrhoea), and anatomical or pathological references (cardic).
- It can refer to specific descriptive terms such as those who are afflicted (infant, juvenile, and maternal), seasonality (summer, winter) and severity (mild, severe).
- The name can also include other factual elements such as the environment (ocean, river), causal pathogen (coronavirus) and the year the new disease is first detected with or without mentioning the month.
- The year is used when it becomes “necessary to differentiate between similar events that happened in different years”.
- Besides, the WHO has also listed out the terms that should be avoided while naming a new disease. This includes, geographic locations, people’s names, species of animal or food, references to culture, population, industry or occupation, and terms that incite undue fear.
There are a few disease names that mentions the geographic location — cities, countries or regions — where the disease, Zika etc.
Few diseases carry the name of the person who first identified the disease. Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909.
Some diseases carry the name of animals — bird flu (H5N1) and swine flu (H1N1). The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was commonly referred to as swine flu.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for Prelims
About Central Administrative Tribunal:
The Central Administrative Tribunal was established by an Act of Parliament namely Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 as sequel to the 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India inserting Article 323 A.
Functions: The tribunal adjudicates disputes and complaints with respect to Recruitment and Conditions of Service of the persons appointed to the Public Services and Posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or of any other Local Authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
Composition: The Tribunal is headed by the Chairman and 65 Members, 33 from Judicial (including Chairman) and 33 from the Administrative stream. The Chairman is normally a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
Assam is proposing a census of indigenous Muslim groups:
Assam’s Welfare of Minorities and Development Department has announced plans to hold a census of four communities broadly known as “Assamese Muslims” —Goriya, Moriya, Deshi, and Julha.
Why? The government plans to set up a corporation to look after the welfare of these communities who number an estimated 16 lakh in Assam’s 3.3-crore population.