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[Mission 2024] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 11 August 2023

 

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  1. Centre’s Bill on Election Commission Appointments
  2. CAG Audit: National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP)

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. House Panel Urges Government to Ensure Fertilizer Availability and Local Production

 

Content for Mains Enrichment

  1. China’s ‘Sponge Cities’ and Their Flood Challenges

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Visa Issuance Suspensions Between France and Mali
  2. SuSwagatam portal
  3. Athidhi Portal
  4. Indian Web Browser Development Challenge (IWBDC)
  5. Scientists Design 2D Composite Quantum Material
  6. Zayed Talwar

 

Mapping

  1. Indonesia’s Aceh Province
  2. Deadly Wildfires Strike Maui (Hawaii, USA)

 


 

Centre’s Bill on Election Commission Appointments

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Constitutional Bodies: Election Commission

 

Source: IE, IE

 

Context: A Bill (Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointments, Conditions of Service, Term of Office) Bill) has been proposed by the Centre in the Rajya Sabha to amend the process of appointing Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) in order to address the impact of a Supreme Court verdict.

 

Background: 

In March this year, the Supreme Court ruled that a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and Chief Justice of India must appoint CEC and ECs until a relevant law is enacted by Parliament. The court noted that the Constitution lacked provisions for the appointments. The judgment brought the appointment process on par with that of the CBI Director.

The new Bill’s Aim: The proposed Bill seeks to replace the Chief Justice of India with a nominated Cabinet Minister in the committee for appointments.

 

Major features of the new bill:

Feature Description
Committee Composition: The bill proposes a committee for selecting members of the Election Commission of India (ECI). The committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
Search Committee: A Search Committee will be established, led by the Cabinet Secretary. The Search Committee will consist of two other members not below the rank of Secretary to the government, knowledgeable in matters related to elections. This committee will prepare a panel of five individuals eligible for appointment.
Qualifications for Appointment: The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) must be individuals of integrity. They should have held or currently hold a post equivalent to the rank of secretary. Candidates should possess knowledge and experience in the management and conduct of elections.

 

Earlier, there was no rule prescribing the qualifications for appointment to the posts

Appointments Process: The Selection Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the nominated Cabinet Minister, will appoint the CEC and ECs from the prepared panel.
Impeachment Process: The bill introduces a provision for the removal of Election Commissioners through an impeachment-like process, similar to the removal process for Supreme Court judges.
Protection of Election Commissioners: The bill aims to protect Election Commissioners from arbitrary removal by aligning their removal process with that of Supreme Court judges.
Addressing Constitutional Validity: The bill aims to address the concerns raised in the 2015 public interest litigation challenging the constitutional validity of Centre-appointed members of the Election Commission.
Enhancing Transparency: The introduction of a Search Committee and a panel of eligible candidates aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the selection process.

 

Debate: The Bill’s composition has raised concerns about independence, as the Prime Minister and a nominated Cabinet Minister could potentially outvote the Leader of the Opposition, raising questions about impartiality in the selection process.

 

Issues with the proposed bill:

Issue Explanation
Composition of Selection Committee The committee consists of the Prime Minister, the nominated Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition. This potentially gives the Executive dominance in appointments, undermining the independence of the Election Commission.
Lack of Chief Justice’s Involvement The Bill replaces the Chief Justice of India with a nominated Cabinet Minister in the appointment process. This reduces judicial representation in the committee and might affect impartiality.
Search Committee While the inclusion of a Search Committee is positive, its effectiveness in selecting suitable candidates and avoiding bias needs to be evaluated.
Decision Beyond Shortlist The Bill allows the Selection Committee to choose anyone from outside the shortlisted candidates, undermining the purpose of the shortlisting process.
Downgrading of Election Commissioners’ Rank The rank of Election Commissioner is being reduced in the warrant of precedence. This could impact their stature

 

Conclusion:

To ensure the utmost transparency, credibility, and impartiality of the Election Commission, it’s advisable for the government to consider broader consultations and maintain a balance between various stakeholders, thereby reinforcing the institution’s role as a bastion of democratic integrity.

One important suggestion by former Chief Election Commissioner of India S Y Quraishi to improve the bill is to have a unanimous verdict as a precondition to the appointment process.

 

Existing Provisions for Appointment to ECI
Constitutional Provisions: Part XV (Article 324-329) of the Indian Constitution: Deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.
Structure of ECI: According to Article 324, the Election Commission shall consist of the CEC and such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix.
Appointment Procedure: Article 324(2): The appointment of the CEC and other Election Commissioners shall be made by the President, subject to the provisions of any law made on that behalf by Parliament
Suggestions: The Law Minister suggests a pool of suitable candidates to the Prime Minister for consideration. The President makes the appointment on the advice of the PM.
Service Conditions: The President determines the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Election.
They have a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Removal: They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term. The CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a SC judge by Parliament. Any other EC cannot be removed except on the recommendation of the CEC.

 

Insta Links:

 How are the CEC and ECs appointed?

 

Prelims Links:

Q.1 Consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2017)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

Ans: D

 

Mains Links:

Q.1 In light of the recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines(EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (UPSC 2018)

 

Q.2 To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC 2017)

CAG Audit: National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP)

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Governance, Government programme and policies

 

Source: DTE

Context: An audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed that approximately Rs 79 crore was improperly transferred to ineligible beneficiaries under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) of the Ministry of Rural Development between 2017 and 2021.

  • Article 151 of the Constitution mandates the CAG to present audit reports to the President.

 

Key findings of the audit report include:

Issue Description
Ineligible Payments A substantial portion of transferred funds was disbursed to ineligible beneficiaries, including those who had passed away.

 

Nearly Rs 3 crore was diverted for campaigning in respect to other ministry schemes.

Lack of Beneficiary Database Most states (except Haryana and Kerala) failed to maintain a proper database of eligible beneficiaries, resulting in the exclusion of eligible individuals.
Age Inaccuracies Ineligible payments made to individuals below the required age for specific pension schemes like INGOAPS and IGNWPS in multiple states/UTs.
Disability Pension Mismanagement Payments meant for disability pensions disbursed to ineligible individuals, and inaccuracies in assessing the degree of disability in some cases.
Deceased Beneficiaries In 26 states/UTs, payments continued to be made to over 2,100 individuals even after their death, a concerning finding.
BPL List Maintenance Many states relied on outdated or incomplete BPL lists instead of the mandated SECC to identify beneficiaries, leading to the exclusion of eligible individuals.
Inefficient Fund Usage Some states diverted NSAP funds for other purposes, and certain funds remained unused for years. NSAP Advisory Committee held only a few meetings.

 

Impact: This misallocation of funds led to several eligible beneficiaries being excluded from the program. Over 4.65 crore people availed of benefits during 2017-21

Significance of the Report: This report underscores the need for more rigorous oversight and transparent management of social assistance programs to ensure that funds are allocated appropriately to those who truly need them. The findings indicate significant deficiencies in beneficiary identification, record-keeping, and fund utilization, which have collectively resulted in a substantial amount of misallocated funds and the exclusion of eligible recipients from the NSAP.

 

About The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) 

Aspect Details
About The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a welfare programme first launched in 1995 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme and administered by the Ministry of Rural Development. It was included in the ‘Core of Core’ schemes of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) in 2016.
Aim To provide social assistance to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households, specifically targeting the elderly, disabled individuals, widows, etc.
Implementation Area Implemented in both rural and urban areas.
Components ·        Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) – Since NSAP’s inception in 1995

·        National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) – 1995

·        Annapurna Scheme – Launched in 2000

·        Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) – Launched in 2009

·        Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme – Launched in 2009.

Constitutional Basis Article 41 and Article 42 of the Constitution provide the basis for NSAP:

 

·        Article 41 directs the State to provide public assistance to citizens in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, disablement, and undeserved want within its economic capacity.

·        Article 42 emphasizes securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS) Originally part of NSAP, it was later transferred from the Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

 

Insta links:

National Social Assistance Programme

/ 11 August 2023, Today's Article

House Panel Urges Government to Ensure Fertilizer Availability and Local Production

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Agriculture

 

Source: The Hindu

 Context: The Standing Committee of Parliament on Chemicals and Fertilizers, led by Shashi Tharoor, has presented two reports highlighting concerns about fertilizer availability, subsidies, and GST rates on fertilizer components.

 

Concerns and Recommendations by the Committee:

Concerns Details Recommendations
Reliance on Imported Fertilizers India heavily depends on imported fertilizers like urea, DAP, MOP, NPK, etc. (30% of urea, 100% muriate of potash, 60% Diammonium phosphate imported) Increase local fertilizers production (especially urea) by facilitating investments for public, cooperative and private fertilizers manufacturers.
Fertilizer Availability Irregularities in fertilizers sale such as diversion, black marketing, hoarding, sub-standard quality etc. Creating a separate tariff code for urea used for non-agricultural purposes. Develop a central monitoring mechanism to conduct random checks
Review Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy Current NBS policy excludes urea from subsidies. This creates price control for urea, unlike other fertilizers. Review NBS policy to remove disincentives for using other fertilizers and promote balanced use.
Discrepancy in GST Rates GST rate for fertilizers: 5%; GST rate for raw materials (sulphuric acid, ammonia): 18%; This highlights the inconsistency in GST rates between fertilizers and their raw materials. Lower GST on raw materials to support fertilizer manufacturing and farmers.
International Price Fluctuations and Purchase Reforms Implement purchase policy reforms. Advocated for long-term import contracts for fertilizers and raw materials.

What are Fertilisers?

 A fertiliser is a natural or artificial substance containing chemical elements (such as Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K)) that improve the growth and productiveness of plants.

There are 3 basic fertilisers in India – Urea, DAP and Muriate of Potash (MOP)

In India, urea is the most produced, imported, consumed and physically regulated fertiliser of all. It is subsidised only for agricultural uses. The MRPs of non-urea fertilisers are decontrolled or fixed by the companies. All Non-Urea based fertilisers (such as DAP and MOP) are regulated under the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Scheme.

 

Measures taken to Promote Balanced Fertilisation

  • Introduction of the Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) regime in April 2010
  • In 2015, the Indian government mandated neem-coating of all urea
  • Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) launched liquid ‘Nano Urea’ in 2021.
  • First Liquid Nano Urea (LNU) plant was inaugurated at Kalol, Gujarat.
  • ‘One Nation One Fertiliser’

 

Prelims Links:

With reference to chemical fertilizers in India, consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2020)

  1. At present, the retail price of chemical fertilizers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.
  2. Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.
  3. Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertilizer, is a by-product of oil refineries.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: B

 

Why does the Government of India promote the use of ‘Neem-coated Urea’ in agriculture? (UPSC 2016)

 

(a) Release of Neem oil in the soil increases nitrogen fixation by the soil microorganisms.

(b) Neem coating slows down the rate of dissolution of urea in the soil.

(c) Nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas, is not at all released into atmosphere by crop fields.

(d) It is a combination of a weedicide and a fertilizer for particular crops.

 

 

Ans: B

/ 11 August 2023, Today's Article

China’s ‘Sponge Cities’ and Their Flood Challenges

Content for Mains Enrichment

 

Source: Reuters

Context: China’s recent devastating floods have raised questions about the effectiveness of its “sponge city” initiative launched in 2015 to reduce urban flood risks.

 

What is a “sponge city”?

A “sponge city” is an urban initiative that employs nature-based solutions like permeable surfaces, canals, ponds, and wetland restoration to enhance water absorption, drainage, and flood resilience. The goal is to mitigate waterlogging and urban flooding caused by rapid urbanization and impermeable surfaces.

 

Issues with the “Sponge City”? 

Rapid urbanization and concrete development have compromised natural water absorption, leading to waterlogging and floods. Despite the initiative, many cities remain vulnerable to flooding. Limitations include the inability of sponge city infrastructure to handle extreme rainfall events and the need to catch up with the impacts of climate change in less-developed regions.

Usage: The example can be used in Governance, Disaster Management Questions to show the impact of extreme climate.

Visa Issuance Suspensions Between France and Mali

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: TH

Context: France and Mali have suspended the issuance of visas to each other’s citizens, escalating a dispute between the two countries.

Background: The conflict between France and Mali stems from Mali’s 2020 military junta takeover, ousting the elected president over security and political failures. France’s concerns about regional tensions increased Russian involvement, and security issues led to a phased withdrawal of its anti-jihadist force.

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa. The country is bordered on the north by Algeria, on the east by Niger, on the south by Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, and on the west by Guinea and Senegal.

In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation.

SuSwagatam portal

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: TH

 Context: The Supreme Court has introduced the ‘SuSwagatam’ portal, an online platform that facilitates the issuance of e-passes for entering the apex court.

About the portal:

‘SuSwagatam’ is a user-friendly web application that enables advocates, visitors, and interns to register online and request e-passes for various purposes, including attending court hearings and meeting with advocates.

Athidhi Portal

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: ET

 Context: The Kerala government is set to launch the ‘Athidhi Portal’, which aims to expedite the registration process for migrant workers in the state.

 

Need of the portal:

  • In light of recent incidents involving sexual crimes against children allegedly carried out by migrant workers, the government is taking measures to enhance the registration of “guest workers.”
  • The exploitation of unregistered migrants by contractors and the lack of social security

 

About the portal:

The portal will introduce a unique identification system and facilitate the registration of workers by contractors, employers, and individual workers themselves. The goal is to ensure comprehensive registration and provide social security for all migrant workers.

Indian Web Browser Development Challenge (IWBDC)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: PIB

 Context: The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) introduced the Indian Web Browser Development Challenge (IWBDC) at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

Aim of the Challenge: The challenge aims to encourage technology enthusiasts and developers across India to create an indigenous web browser with advanced features and heightened security.

Collaborations: The initiative is a collaborative effort of MeitY, the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA), and C-DAC Bangalore.

 

Key points of the IWBDC launch:

Aspect Details
Challenge Objective The IWBDC inspires developers to create a homegrown web browser equipped with its trust store containing a Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) India root certificate. Browser features should encompass cutting-edge functionalities, robust security, data privacy, accessibility, and user-friendliness.
Digital Signatures The proposed browser envisions incorporating the ability to digitally sign documents using a crypto token, thereby enhancing secure transactions and digital interactions.
Competition Structure The IWBDC comprises three rounds: ideation, shortlisting, and the final round.
Participation The launch event drew over 200 participants from various sectors, including government departments, industry, academia, and startups. The challenge welcomes individuals and groups to submit innovative browser ideas.
Internet Resilience Developing an Indian Web Browser with an inbuilt India Root Certificate enhances the nation’s internet resilience by reducing dependence on foreign entities for SSL certificates.

Significance:

  • The IWBDC launch signifies a significant step toward fostering local innovation, ensuring data security, and achieving digital self-sufficiency for India.
  • The challenge aligns with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative, aiming to achieve self-sufficiency and bolster India’s digital sovereignty.
  • Championing Digital India: Recognizing web browsers’ critical role in shaping online experiences, the challenge contributes to the ongoing Digital India transformation by fostering indigenous innovation.

 

What is an India root certificate?

The India Root Certificate is a digital certificate issued by a trusted authority in India. It serves as a foundational element for establishing secure digital communications and transactions within the country’s online ecosystem. This certificate verifies the authenticity of websites, software, and digital signatures, contributing to enhanced security and trust in online interactions.

Top browsers like Chrome and Firefox do not include CCA in their root stores. Due to this, for digital certificates or Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, India has depended on SSL certificates issued by Roots of Foreign Entities.

 

About CCA:

The controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) was appointed under the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 of MeitY, to issue certificates only to Certifying Authorities (CAs). CAs issue Digital Signature Certificates to end entities.

Digital Signatures are valid under IT Act 2000. For identifying and verifying CAs, CCA established the Root Certifying Authority of India (RCAI) under IT Act.

 

Scientists Design 2D Composite Quantum Material

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: DST

 Context: A team of scientists has used computational techniques to design a novel 2D composite quantum material that exhibits an exotic quantum property called Rashba splitting.

 

What is composite quantum material?

A composite quantum material combines two different quantum properties in one substance.

For instance, a 2-D carbide structure named Mo2COX displays both the Rashba effect and nonlinear anomalous Hall effect, offering the potential for advanced spintronic devices.

 

What is Spintronics?

Spintronics is a technology (used on next-generation nanoelectronic devices) that exploits the intrinsic spin of electrons alongside their charge for innovative electronic devices.

An example is a spin transistor, where electron spin is used for information storage and processing, potentially leading to more energy-efficient and faster electronic devices.

 

What is Rashba splitting?

Rashba splitting is a quantum phenomenon in materials where spin-up and spin-down electrons separate due to interactions with an electric field.

For instance, in a 2-D carbide material, Rashba splitting causes momentum-dependent separation of electron spin bands, enabling novel spintronic device applications.

Quantum materials possess unique physical properties that stem from quantum effects like coherence and entanglement. These properties have the potential to revolutionize quantum technology applications, including quantum computing, communication, sensors, and memory devices.

Zayed Talwar

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: HT

 Context: The Indian Navy’s ships INS Visakhapatnam and INS Trikand have arrived in Dubai to conduct the bilateral exercise ‘Zayed Talwar’ with the UAE Navy.

 

Aim: The exercise aims to enhance interoperability and cooperation between the two naval forces. The visit seeks to strengthen the maritime partnership, share best practices, and foster a common understanding of security challenges in the region.

Other exercises between India and UAE:

  • Exercise Desert Flag (Air Force)
  • In-UAE BILAT (bilateral naval exercise)
  • Desert Eagle (bilateral air force exercise)

 

Indonesia’s Aceh Province

Mapping

Source: TH

Context: Authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh province have issued an order requiring men and women not immediately related or married to stay apart in vehicles and public spaces. This move aims to enforce stricter adherence to Islamic law in the ultra-conservative province of Aceh.

Deadly Wildfires Strike Maui (Hawaii, USA)

Mapping

 

Source: TH

 Context: A devastating wildfire swept through Maui, Hawaii, leading to destruction, fatalities, and evacuations.

Maui is an island in the Central Pacific, part of the Hawaiian archipelago. The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major volcanic islands, several atolls, and numerous smaller islets in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to the northernmost Kure Atoll.

Formation: The Hawaiian Islands were formed by a hot spot occurring in the middle of the Pacific Plate. While the hot spot itself is fixed, the plate is moving. So, as the plate moved over the hot spot, the string of islands that make up the Hawaiian Island chain was formed.

 

Read the CA in PDF format here: 

 


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