Daily current affairs

Daily current affairs

Daily current affairs

Criminalisation of politics

GS II: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

Why in the news?Publish criminal history of candidates, SC orders parties  

  • The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.

  • The information should be published in a local and a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles. 

  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier. 

  • A Bench in the judgment, ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.

  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at the Central and State levels.

  • The judgment by the Bench signified the court’s alarm at the unimpeded rise of criminals, often facing heinous charges like rape and murder, encroaching into the country’s political and electoral realms.

  • The published information on the criminal antecedents of a candidate should be detailed and include the nature of the offences, charges framed against him, the court concerned and the case number. 

  • A political party should explain to the public through its published material how the“qualifications or achievements or merit”of a candidate, charged with a crime, impressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his criminal background.

  • A party would have to give reasons to the voter that it was not the candidate’s “mere winnability at the polls” which guided its decision to give him the ticket.

  • It appears that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.

  • The four ­page judgment was based on a contempt petition Constitution Bench judgment(Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India)to publish the criminal details of candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.

Public Interest Foundation vs. UOI:

The Court issued the following directions:

  1. Candidates must fill up forms containing all particulars 

  2. In said forms, criminal antecedents to be stated in bold

  3. Candidates must inform the concerned political party of pending criminal cases against them 

  4. Concerned political parties put up such criminal antecedents of candidates on party websites.

  5. Wide publicity by both candidates and parties in the press and media of the criminal antecedents. Wide publication meaning at least thrice after filing of nominations

~Source The Hindu

INDIA US relations

GS II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

Why in the news?Cloud over trade talks as U.S. official puts off trip

  • U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has put off his trip to India this week amid signs that the India-­U.S. trade talks have hit a rough patch just ahead of the President’s visit.

  • No reason has been given for the change of plans in the USTR’s visit that was expected,

  • but that there is still a considerable chance that USTR would visit as a part of the President’s entourage to finalise a trade package or a “mini­trade deal” with his counterpart on items that the two sides have been negotiating for more than two years now. 

  • The two chief negotiators have been speaking on the phone quite regularly.

  • If they fail to bring even a modest agreement forward, it will be a missed opportunity to make progress that can benefit both countries and strengthen economic ties.

  • Talks  thus far have brought some agreement on contentious issues including medical device price caps levied by India, a rationalisation of tariff is levied by both sides, and greater market access for U.S. agricultural and dairy products.

  • A full restoration of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) status appears unlikely at present, given the USTR’s notice this week that aims to treat India and a number of other countries as“developed countries”, coupled with the President strictures against giving those defined as developed countries any GSP assistance.

  • The U.S. might offer a partial restoration of GSP concessions to Indian exporters, but only in sectors where U.S. importers are “dependent” on Indian goods.

  • The  U.S. 's stand on GSP, as well as certain provisions in the Indian budget had made the talks, that have continued nonetheless, more difficult. In particular, the government’s new “health cess” will impact pricing for medical devices, and the raising of tariffs on several items including electric vehicle (EV) components, dairy products, shelled walnuts, edible vegetable oils, infant foods, and soy products may also become an issue.

  • Washington­ based USIBC to meet with government officials in Delhi, the bigger commercial expectations during the visit would be in the field of defence, including a $2.4 billion deal for helicopters and an air defence system, and energy.

  • Despite the fact that the new budget did not contain increased spending for defence, the Indian government is expected to announce some defence deals on the margins of the visit.

  • The major defence deals in advanced stages are for 24 MH­60R multirole helicopters for the Indian Navy and a quick reaction air defence system to protect Delhi.

  • The deal for helicopters, worth around $2.4billion, is now awaiting final approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). India and the U.S. are also in discussions for armed drones, six more P­8I surveillance aircraft and two Raytheon ISTAR aircraft among others.

       ~Source The Hindu

KONARK ‘The SUN Temple’

GS I: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Why in the news?Experts’ meet to discuss restoration of Sun temple

  • A plan to restore and preserve the nearly 800­ year­s old Konark Sun temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon, after a two­ day conference of experts at the end of the month.

  • The 13th century temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been filled with sand and sealed by the British authorities in 1903 to stabilise the structure.

  • A scientific study was carried out by the Roorkeebased 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.

  • The study found that the sand filled in more than 100 years ago had settled, leading to a gap of about 17 feet.

  • The ASI was in the process of removing the scaffolding erected around the temple for the study, adding that it would be taken down by the end of the month. 

  • Among the potential choices before the government would be to fill in more sand or to remove all the sand and put in place alternate support for the structure.

                 ~Source The Hindu


The Future of Earth, 2020

GS III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in the news?Time running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  • Five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create global systemic crisis, have been listed by‘The Future of Earth, 2020,’which was released here by theSouth Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.

  • The report, released by K. Kasturirangan, former Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), lists the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; food crises; and water crises, as the five global risks.

  • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.

  • Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/ or food scarcity. 

  • The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises, they point out.

  • Over the last 18 months, major assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Science­Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all argued that time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • This has inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments. Yet, during 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm, and the five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880.

  • Humans have now“significantly altered”75% of our planet’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened.

                                                      ~Source The Hindu

Solar power

GS III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in the news?Going energy neutral, 13 SCR railway stations tap the sun

  • The South Central Railway (SCR) has become the first in Indian Railways to come up with the concept of‘Energy Neutral’stations, capable of meeting 100% energy requirements by tapping natural solar power through Solar PhotoVoltaic (SPV) panels commissioned on about 13 station buildings. 

  • This eco friendly concept is based on the principle of developing station buildings with total solar power tapping capabilities commensurate to exact load requirements of those particular stations. 

  • This is done by installation of SPV panels on the rooftops which are integrated with the on­grid (or) off­ grid solar energy plants to derive power supply to the entire station. The total capacity of solar panels installed at the 13‘energy neutral’stations is 99 kWp with the cost incurred, being around ₹50 lakh. 

  • The anticipated energy generation from these stations comes to around 1.3 lakh units annually and it is expected that solar power will also lead to savings of ₹13 lakh each year. In addition, the generation of clean solar energy will help reduce carbon footprints to the tune of 1,170 tonnes per annum.

  • All the power needs of 13 stations like lighting, fans, pumps are met through the solar energy generated.

   ~Source The Hindu


GS II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

Why in the news?USTR takes India off developing country list 

  • The U.S. government has changed an administrative rule making it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.  The Office 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 CVD investigations. 

  • 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 1998 rule is now “obsolete” as per the USTR notice. Countries not given special consideration have lower levels of protection against a CVD investigation.  

  • A CVD investigation must be terminated if the offending subsidy is  de minimis (too small to warrant concern) or if import volumes are negligible. 

  • The  de minimis threshold and import volume allowance are more relaxed for developing and least­ developed countries.  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.  

  • The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries. 

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 Co­operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership. 

  • 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. 

  • The US  President has repeatedly complained about the WTO’s classification of developing countries. The timing of the USTR announcement is not linked to the visit. 

  • The timing is mostly coincidental and mostly related to dynamics at the WTO on developing country treatment.

   ~Source The Hindu

Fiscal policy issues

GS III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Why in the news?Soon, a panel to address fiscal policy issues

  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission will soon set up a panel to address issues related to fiscal policy for both the Centre and the States, and present a road map for the same.

  • The Commission had also constituted a group on defence and internal security, whose mandate will be ‘to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up, and if so, how such a mechanism could be operationalised.

  • On the fiscal committee, to constitute a broad based committee which will address some of the issues on fiscal policy, particularly in relation to the debt and the deficit of the States as well as the Central government, there is a need to have a fiscal road map that covers the Centre and the State government.

  • Representation from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Reserve Bank of India, the Ministry of Finance, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) panel and some of the States. 

  • Added that there wasn’t a need for a new legal framework as the FRBM already gives a robust legal framework, except for the fact the States need to align their own FRBM with the new FRBM enacted by the Union Government with the amendments to the earlier one in 2018.

  • The principal terms of reference (ToR) of the fiscal committee will enhance the ability of the Finance Commission to address its ToR relating to giving a consolidated fiscal debt road map for the general government. 

  • The Advisory Council to the 15th Finance Commission held its sixth meeting, at which many suggestions were given concerning the GST, adding that generally, it was felt the room for improvement in GST was significant. 

   ~Source The Hindu


GS III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Why in the news?SEBI devises system to track client securities

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has developed an inhouse system to track the movement of client securities that are collected as collateral by brokers.

  • SEBI has developed the in­house capabilities to track, online, the movement of client securities collected by the broker as collateral and raise alerts with exchanges if diversion of clients’ securities is noticed.

  • This system is likely to detect themisuse of clients’ securitiescollected by brokers as collateral or received in pay­out of securities, while highlighting the fact that three‘mismatch reports’had already been forwarded to the stock exchanges for reconciliation with members.

  • There had been instances of brokerages using client securities to raise funds for themselves. The most high profile case was that of Karvy Stock Broking, which has been barred from getting new clients on board. 

  • SEBI has already taken a slew of measures to minimise such misuse, including an early warning mechanism to detect diversion of clients’ funds and securities; restricting the broker from pledging clients’ securities even with the consent of the client; transferring securities to the client account orClient Unpaid Securities Account(CUSA) within 24 hours of payout; and mapping ofUnique Client Codewith the demat account of the client to detect diversion of payout of securities.

   ~Source The Hindu


Subterranean fish

GS III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in the news?From deep dark Meghalaya cave, explorers bring to light ‘world’s largest’ subterranean fish

  • In a cave in a remote forested area of Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills, Harries, part of an annual expedition called ‘Caving in the Abode of Clouds’, remembers being surprised by how large the fish was after he pulled it out of the pool. “It was just over 40 cm! 

  • The 250-known subterranean (occurring under the earth’s surface) fish species around the world measure only around 8.5 cm on average.

  • World’s largest known subterranean fish.” While initial investigations have begun, only further morphological and genetic studies will give clarity on this rare distinction of being the world’s largest. The fish is yet to be named.

  • It is nearly five times the mean length (85mm/8.5 cm)  for all known subterranean fish to date. The only other species exceeding 300mm (30 cm) in length are eel-like Synbranchidae with nothing like the bulk of the new fish.

  • Carrying out detailed studies on the morphology and genetics of the fish and comparing it with other species in the same genus/family and arriving at a conclusion.

  • Subterranean ecosystems are considered extreme, high-stress environments characterised by darkness, truncated food webs and food scarcity. Despite this, they harbour exceptional vertebrate and invertebrate taxa (21,000+ species), many of which are evolutionarily unique, and relics of ancient fauna given their long-term isolation.

  • Many cave fish show different adaptations – some don’t have eyes, some have reduced eyes, some don’t have fins, some have weird body shapes. All of this depends on the species/groups.

  • Unique characters that distinguishes it from the Golden Mahseer is the lack of pigmentation, a lack of eyes and of course, its subterranean habitat – being locked in caves!

  • This discovery brings to light the importance of cave conservation in Meghalaya. In the state’s unique topography, there is a network of more than 1500 identified caves — and many more unexplored till date.

  • Systematic exploration of the Meghalayan caves has been underway for almost 30 years and hundreds of kilometres of cave passages have been explored and mapped. Nevertheless, this very large cave fish remained undocumented until last year. This raises questions about what else might have been overlooked in the caves

        ~Source IndianExpress

Daily current affairs