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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus]- 8th December 2017

  • IASbaba
  • December 8, 2017
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 8th December 2017

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


NGT ruling on AoL’s festival on Yamuna floodplains

Part of: Mains G.S. Paper III- Environment and Ecology

Key pointers:

  • Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living Foundation (AoL) is “responsible” for “causing damage and environmental degradation” to the Yamuna floodplains due to its three-day World Culture Festival (WCF) held in March 2016, the National Green Tribunal said recently.
  • The tribunal had earlier levied Rs 5 crore as environment compensation on AoL.
  • Earlier this year, an NGT-appointed expert committee had noted that the rehabilitation of the floodplains would cost over Rs 42.02 crore and may take up to ten years.
  • The tribunal said that AoL was responsible for “restoration and restitution of the flood plain limited to portion that was allotted” to it for the festival “in the original condition in which it was allotted to it prior to the event”.
  • The judgment noted that the WCF had caused “serious pollution on the floodplain of the river” as nearly 35 lakh people had gathered at the site.
  • The activities have led to “change in topography and habitat diversity, loss of waterbodies and wetlands, loss of floodplain vegetation and biodiversity, changes in substrata – nature of soil, consolidation and compaction, toxic substances and degradation and loss of ecosystem functions”.

Article link: Click here


Polluters Pays Principle 

Part of: Mains G.S. Paper III- Environment and Ecology

Key pointers:

  • The “Polluter Pays Principle” is now almost universally acknowledged in environmental jurisprudence.
  • According to this, those who pollute the environment must be made to pay not just for the costs of remedial action, but also for compensating victims of environmental damage.

Background:

  • Some trace the Polluter Pays Principle’s origin to the Stockholm Declaration made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972, where Prime Minister Indira Gandhi drew a link between environmental pollution and poverty.
    The Stockholm Declaration asked signatory countries to develop international laws “regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage”.
  • The Principle emerges more strongly in the 1987 report of the Brundtland Commission, called Our Common Future.
    The Brundtland Commission, or the World Commission on Environment and Development, was established in 1983 to examine environmental issues resulting from rapid industrialisation.
    For the first time, “sustainable development” was defined. Alongside, the Polluter Pays Principle was emphasised.
  • The 1987 report greatly influenced the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, which, for the first time, explicitly enshrined the Polluter Pays Principle.
  • After Rio, the Polluter Pays Principle began to be applied explicitly in environmental jurisdictions.

Article link: Click here


Court overturns CIC verdict declaring Ministers as “public authorities”

Part of: Mains G.S. Paper II- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Key pointers:

  • The Delhi High Court has set aside the Central Information Commission order declaring Ministers as “public authorities” and answerable under the Right to Information law.
  • Directions issued by the CIC are also wholly outside the scope of the matter before the CIC, the judge said.
  • CIC in 2014 on the question whether the Minister or his office was a “public authority” under the RTI Act gave the Cabinet Secretary at the Centre and Chief Secretaries in the States two months to appoint public information officers for each Minister’s office. Also, the CIC said each Minister should get a website of his/her own where information can be disclosed.

Article link: Click here


Khumb Mela: Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO

Part of: Mains G.S. Paper I- Art & Culture

Key pointers:

  • After ‘yoga’ and ‘Nouroz’, Kumbh Mela/ KumbhMela, the largest congregation of pilgrims on the planet, has been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO.
  • The Intergovernment Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO has inscribed ‘Kumbh Mela’ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea in December 2017.
  • This inscription is the third in two years following the inscriptions of ‘Yoga’ and ‘Norouz’ on 1st December 2016.
  • The Kumbh Mela is held in Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik.

Article link: Click here


(MAIN EXCLUSIVE)


Electoral Reforms

TOPIC: General Studies 2:

  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Indian Constitution? historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Relooking at EVMs

Background:

In the recent local elections in U.P., the BJP won more in places where there were machines without the concomitant paper trail, and non-BJP parties won more where there were only ballot papers. Not only has the reliability of the machines been questioned, so has the credibility of the EC. It is for the first time in India’s electoral history that the EC has been suspected of bias in favour of a ruling party.

Issue with EVMs:
The EC has steadfastly maintained that the machines are perfect and that the software has been examined and re-examined by international experts.
On the one hand, to reassert the integrity of the electoral process, the EC has introduced the paper trail for voters to cross-check their votes.

Allegations

Engineers have shown how the machines can actually be manipulated by remote devices, or by inserting pre-programmed chips, or by selectively tampering with only 20% of them to secure a simple majority. So, only a few constituencies will have those “chosen” machines and that would be enough to tilt the balance in favour of the ruling party. The EC says these allegations are outrageous because the whole system and process have been shown to detractors and the matter is settled.
The issue of credibility of EVMs has become quite complicated, with Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, and leaders from the Samajwadi Party and the Congress raising serious objections about the functioning of the machines.

Importance of EVMs:

Holding free, fair, and fast elections is a cornerstone of democracy and is guaranteed by the Constitution. Introduction of EVMs by due process of consultation and constitutional amendment in the 1980s and ’90s was a step in the right direction to further strengthen the democratic process in India, which is by far the largest democracy in the world with more than 800 million voters.
The following is based on findings of different surveys.

  • EVMs led to a significant decline in electoral fraud, particularly in politically sensitive States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
    In several constituencies, polling booths were routinely captured under the paper ballot system and ballot boxes were stuffed. As a result, political leaders, instead of working in the larger interest of the public, worked for the private profits of a small fraction of people who had the greatest capacity to commit fraud.
    Introducing EVMs transformed this. Rigging elections became extremely expensive.
    Political leaders could no longer do lip service to development; they had to commit to providing public goods and services.
  • EVMs led to a significant increase in the provision of electricity, particularly in States that were more prone to electoral violence.
  • EVMs empowered those from the weaker sections of society who were victims of political or electoral violence. In particular women, lower castes, and those less educated were more likely to participate in the electoral process when EVMs were used.
  • EVMs made the electoral process more competitive. There has been a significant decline in the incidence of re-election, and winning margins have reduced dramatically.

Way forward:

  • EVMs have been in place for two decades and it is time to acknowledge that they have failed.
    Some European countries have acknowledged that EVMs have failed. Countries there started with EVMs and are now going back to the paper ballot.
    World over, countries are moving to paper ballots. Just as they are giving up on nuclear energy world over, countries realise that EVMs are problematic too, because they carry the risk of being tampered with.
  • It is important to keep in mind that all political leaders, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, are driven only by the quest for power and they will use any means to attain it. Hence it is our collective responsibility to ensure that such powers are under check, else it does not take much for elected leaders to become despots.
  • Our institutions, the EC, and the courts also share the responsibility to check the powers of popularly elected leaders to ensure that democracy does not become a mobocracy. Even though introduction of EVMs was a step in the right direction, it is not the final destination.
  • The idea of trying to control electoral and political process with the help of technology is quite old. To overcome the dangers of manipulation, we must remain sceptical and accept the reality that the EVM issue is not simple. The fact that the issue is complicated necessitates a measure of caution in its application.

Conclusion:

We must remain skeptical and accept the reality that the EVM issue is far from settled. While it would be a retrograde step to roll back EVMs, we must not lower our guard. The very idea of democracy is based on trust and belief in the fairness of the electoral process where the losing party lives to fight another day. Any erosion of this trust and belief would be an irreversible process with an uncertain outcome.

Connecting the dots:

  • The reliability on EVMs is in question. Discuss the reasons behind and the way forward.
  • In the light of recent issues related to EVMs, do you think rollig back EVMs would be a retrograde step. Critically analyze.

NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General studies 3:

  • Banking & related Issues; Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

Aadhaar: Financial Inclusion or Exclusion

Background:

The deadline for linking Aadhaar number to bank accounts, demat accounts, mutual fund folios, life and general insurance policies, credit cards and post office account has been extended to March 31 2018.

Rule shift:

  • Aadhaar earlier was supposed to be compulsory only for citizens availing themselves of welfare schemes funded from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Though Aadhaar’s original intent was to enable targeted subsidy delivery, the Centre has since decided to use it as a tool to track down black money.

Curbing black money:

In June, the new Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules 2017 was notified. This required all financial firms to compulsorily collect Aadhaar and PAN details for Know-Your-Client requirements. If a client doesn’t possess an Aadhaar number, she must furnish proof that she has applied for one. Only those who are ‘not eligible’ to apply for Aadhaar are off the hook.
Following this notification, regulators such as the RBI, SEBI and IRDA have ‘advised’ financial market participants to proceed with Aadhaar-linking.

Problems in complying with the Aadhaar:

  • Time-consuming- Aadhaar-PAN linking on IT returns was a two-step process, but linking Aadhaar to all of one’s financial savings entails well over a dozen steps. The process is time-consuming because key financial product providers and their regulators have not managed to create a centralised registry for investors.
  • Digital divide- Using the online mode for Aadhaar-linking requires familiarity with digital banking, a robust internet connection and uninterrupted phone/email access. This poses severe problems for senior citizens and the poor who lack digital access. Even digitally savvy folk often find their attempts stymied by name/address mismatches between their investment accounts and the Aadhaar database.
  • Security risks- The Aadhar Act 2016 takes a very serious view of misuse of collected data or the breach of confidentiality.
    The UIDAI is prohibited from sharing your biometric or demographic details with anyone, except under Court orders or national security considerations. Entities that collect Aadhaar are required to inform about the purpose, use it only for verification and refrain from storing or disseminating it. The Act specifies 3 years’ imprisonment and fines for any breach.
    But while the statute appears fool-proof, enforcing it is the uphill task.
  • Biometric failures- Many Indian savers, despite being quite willing to enrol for Aadhaar find themselves unable to do so because their biometrics fail to read at the Aadhaar touchpoints.
    Folk beyond the age 50 complain of enrolments being rejected because their fingerprints have faded with age. Iris scanners are not widely available, and are known to trip up too. Biometric failures also foil attempts by the disabled or those engaged in physical labour from securing Aadhaar.
    The UIDAI dashboard reveals that, on a random recent day, its pan-India enrolment network rejected 1 application for every 7 that it accepted.

Conclusion:

The present government has achieved phenomenal success with financial inclusion, mainly because it has simplified the on-boarding process for aam aadmis seeking to open bank accounts. It would be an irony indeed if the Aadhaar, which has been so effectively used as an instrument of inclusion, now turns into an instrument for financial exclusion of Indian savers.

Connecting the dots:

  • The Aadhaar, which has been so effectively used as an instrument of inclusion, can turn into an instrument for financial exclusion of Indian savers. Critically analyze.

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