IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 14th June 2018
Downturn in India-Maldives ties
Part of: GS Mains Paper II – India and its neighbours; International Relations
- Applications for work permits of around 2,000 Indians are pending with the Maldivian Embassy.
- During February, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen had ordered an Emergency, which India took a strong position against it.
- After that incident, the Maldives Immigration Authority has reportedly held up thousands of work permits to Indians.
Important Value Additions:
- Turbulent Maldivian politics: Maldives continues its descent into political anarchy with democratic institutions facing an unabated onslaught under the authoritarian regime of President Abdulla Yameen.
- Maldives growing “closeness” with China: Both China and Pakistan stepping up their strategic inroads into the Maldives
- Religious radicalization: The island-nation (Maldives) is being radicalized by the Saudi funds and influence
- ISIS threat: Growing Islamic radicalisation in the tiny island-nation of about four lakh people once known for its tolerant practices has many foreign governments, including India, deeply concerned.
- No FTA with India: Maldives and India do not have a Free Trade Agreement. However Maldives and China entered into Free Trade Agreement.
- Yameen government asked India to remove its Dhruv advanced light helicopters from Maldives (which India had gifted in 2013). Yameen government has alleged that tensions over the presence of the two Indian helicopters in two strategically important locations in the Laamu and Addu atolls have been growing.
- Work permits are not currently being issued to Indian Nationals.
Green ambitions — on renewable energy targets
Indian government had set a target of achieving 175 gigawatts (GW) of capacity from renewable energy sources by 2022.
Recently, Union Power Minister said India would overshoot its target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity to 225 GW.
However, this is a tall claim, considering India has missed several interim milestones since it announced its 175 GW target in 2015.
Do you know?
175 GW renewable energy targets by 2022 –
- 100 GW Solar
- 60 GW Wind
- 10 GW Biomass and
- 5 GW Hydro
- Despite renewable capacity being augmented at a blistering pace targets are missed.
- Technological and financial challenges remain: both wind and solar generation could be erratic, and India’s creaky electricity grid must be modernised to distribute such power efficiently.
- To hit its 2022 target of 175 GW, 106 GW will have to be added in four years, more than twice the capacity added in the last four.
- Of the current goal of 100 GW from solar energy by 2022, 40 GW is to come from rooftop installations, and 60 GW from large solar parks. Despite being the fastest-growing renewable-energy segment so far — rooftop solar clocked a compound annual growth rate of 117% between 2013 and 2017 — India only hit 3% of its goal by the end of 2017, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.
- Homeowners aren’t buying the idea of installing photovoltaic panels on their terraces because the economics does not work out for them.
Article link: Green ambitions — on renewable energy targets
Combating cyber threat: Government initiatives
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Cyber security
- To combat cyber threat, the government is coming up with more cyber security labs.
- The government has earlier launched Digital Investigation Training and Analysis Centre (DITAC) to tackle these crimes.
- The government launched its first DITAC in Gurugram, Haryana in 2016 in collaboration with National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). The second one is being set up in Mohali, Punjab.
- DITACs will monitor and police cyber crimes committed through different platforms such as mobile, email, computer and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
- Apart from DITACs, the government also established National Cyber Coordination Centre, an operational cyber security and e-surveillance agency in India.
- National Informatics Centre opened the fourth new data centre in Bhubaneswar, the second largest after the one in New Delhi, recently.
- Cyber attacks have grown in terms of sophistication and reach in the recent times.
- The country is witnessing growing cyber crime ranging from fraud calls to malwares that bring banking systems to a standstill.
- India was one of the worst hit countries by the WannaCry ransomware malware affecting sectors such as banking, finance and manufacturing last year.
Dam Safety Bill 2018
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Infrastructure
- The Bill proposes to help all the States and Union Territories adopt uniform dam safety procedures, which will ensure safety of dams and safeguard the benefits from them.
- It will also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property.
- The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.
- It also talks about the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which will evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required.
- It prescribes setting up a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which will discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
- There will also be State-level committee on Dam Safety to be set up by each State Government.
- There are over 5,200 large dams in India and about 450 are under construction. In addition, there are thousands of medium and small dams. Due to lack of legal and institutional architecture, dam safety is an issue of concern.
- Unsafe dams are a hazard and dam break may cause disasters, leading to huge loss of life and property, a Government statement said.
Restructuring of the North Eastern Council
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Polity
North Eastern Council
- The Cabinet has decided that Home Minister will now head the North Eastern Council (NEC) while Minister-in-Charge of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) will be the co-chair.
- Under the new arrangement with Home Minister as Chairman and Minister of DoNER as Vice-Chairman, NEC and all the Governors and Chief Ministers of the North-Eastern States as members would provide a forum for discussing inter-State matters more comprehensively and also consider common approaches to be taken in the future.
- NEC can now perform the tasks undertaken by the various Zonal Councils to discuss inter-State issues as drug trafficking, smuggling of arms and ammunition, boundary disputes etc.
- The Council is a statutory body with Governors and Chief Ministers of all the eight North-Eastern States as its members.
- NEC implements various projects through the State and Central agencies.
U.S. nod for six more Apaches
U.S. State Department has approved the sale of six additional AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to India. The Army will operate them.
Key points: Defence deals between India and US
- AH-64 Apache attack helicopters
- Chinook heavy-lift helicopters
- C-130J Hercules
- M777 howitzer
- Harpoon anti-ship missile system
Article link: US nod for six more Apaches
Person in news: Bindeshwar Pathak
Part of: Prelims
Noted social reformer and founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak was with Japan’s prestigious ‘Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community’ for his significant work in tackling poor hygiene and discrimination.
The award honours people in Asia who have made significant contributions in one of the three areas: regional growth; science, technology and innovation; and culture and community.
Former PM Manmohan Singh and Infosys chairman N. R. Narayana Murthy are among the few Indians who have won the prize in the past.
General Studies 1:
- Urbanization, their problems and their remedies
General Studies 2:
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Municipal governance: An analysis
- It’s been 25 years since decentralised democratic governance was introduced in India by the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendments, which came into force on April 24 and June 1, 1993, respectively.
- Central Government’s Smart Cities mission completes three years this month.
Therefore the below article examines India’s tryst with municipal governance.
We know from ARC reports and previous articles that – Local governments (esp. Panchayats) are financially constrained and do not have the administrative capacity to carry out its functions.
It is also important to explore how urban local governments are actively disempowered and depoliticised as an institution.
How are urban local governments disempowered and depoliticized?
The disempowerment and depoliticisation has happened in multiple ways.
First, elected representatives at the city-level are rendered powerless by making them subservient (subordinate) to the State government.
- i.e. in most municipal corporations, while the mayor is the ceremonial head, the executive powers of the corporation are vested with the State government-appointed commissioner.
- This disjuncture in municipal governance has been exploited by State governments to ensure that no city-level politician challenges their control over a city.
- Municipal corporations are further denied their political role by the continued operation of various parastatal agencies created by the State government.
- These may take the form of urban development authorities (which build infrastructure) and public corporations (which provide services such as water, electricity and transportation). These agencies, which function with a certain autonomy, are accountable only to the State government, not the local government. Even urban planning and land-use regulation (globally a quintessential local government function) is with State government-controlled development authorities.
Two, new Central government programmes are further making local governments powerless and depoliticized.
While parastatal agencies and unelected commissioners are pre-74th Amendment legacies that have not been undone, what is also worrying is the further depoliticisation of local government in recent years.
- Central government programmes such as the Smart Cities Mission seek to ring fence projects from local government.
- This programme mandates the creation of special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities which will have “operational independence and autonomy in decision making and mission implementation”.
- It further “encourages” a State government to delegate “the decision-making powers available to the ULB (urban local body) under the municipal act/government rules to the Chief Executive Officer of the SPV”.
The creation of parallel institutions that disempower the elected local government shows how higher levels of government distrust local politics and craftily retain control of a city’s reins.
Even for performing functions that are within its purview (such as levying local taxes or undertaking civic projects above a certain budget) the local government requires State government permissions.
Hence, municipalities are not yet autonomous units that can be genuinely called as the “third tier” of government in India’s federal system. Even after the 73rd and 74th Amendments, India has effectively only two levels of government — Union and State.
Three, inherent limitations in 74th Amendment provisions
While the 74th Amendment has become a guide or inspiration for civic activism in many cities, however it has certain inherent limitations.
- Many of its key provisions are not mandatory for the State government.
- The functions listed under the 12th Schedule — which a State government is expected to devolve to the local government — do not include essential civic issues such as urban transportation, housing or urban commons.
- The 74th Amendment also contains an industrial township exception whereby a municipality need not be constituted in areas which are declared as industrial townships.
These provisions have been employed by State governments to keep local governments weak.
Four, over-reliance on semi-representative bodies
- Civic activism has often been focussed on the creation of two bodies mandated by the 74th Amendment — ward committees and metropolitan planning committees.
- However, an over-reliance on such semi-representative bodies does not augur well for creating a genuinely democratic city government.
- In fact, civil society’s fixation with nominating its members into ward committees can further depoliticise local governments and make them captive to the interests of certain elite resident welfare associations.
Instead of distrusting them, we must acknowledge that local governments are inherently political spaces where multiple interests compete.
The way ahead:
As cities struggle to meet the basic needs of their inhabitants, it is important to re-examine the existing modes of organising power in urban India.
Unlike the 73rd Amendment which provides for three levels of panchayats (village, taluk, and district levels), power in urban areas is concentrated in a single municipal body (whether it is a municipal corporation, municipal council or town panchayat). However, as Indian cities have grown exponentially over the last 25 years, with some crossing the 10 million population mark, it is important that policy makers rethink the present model of urban governance that vests power in a singular municipality.
While urban governance reforms can take multiple shapes, they must be foregrounded in the political empowerment of local government that furthers local democratic accountability.
Final crux –
Powerless mayors and city councils, severe fragmentation of governance – multiple civic bodies, parastatals – multiple civic bodies with frequent change of toothless mayors, commissioners. Local government has the least amount of capability, quality of delivery and poor processes that are being followed. Most of the laws and policies that they are following are archaic.
All these have resulted in urban local governments’ active disempowerment and depoliticisation.
Connecting the dots:
- For India to make urbanisation sustainable, it must first tackle the problems of multiplicity of jurisdictions, weak revenue base and human resource capacity deficit that impact most of its cities. Analyse.
- Urban local governments are actively disempowered and depoliticised as an institution. Do you agree? Elucidate.
TOPIC:General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary
Making government litigation more efficient: LIMBS
LIMBS stands for Legal Information Management and Briefing System. It is a Ministry of Law and Justice initiative. The idea is to reduce government litigation, or in other word to make government litigation more efficient.
At the moment, this is about civil cases (not for criminal cases) and is about the Union government (not the state governments).
LIMBS is still a work in progress (not every ministry/department is part of LIMBS yet).
The LIMBS project began internally at the ministry of railway sometime in 2013, but was soon expanded as a single platform across ministries. In July 2015, it was hosted on the NIC (national informatics centre) server.
The law ministry, by a gazette notification in February,206, formally launched LIMBS to monitor cases filed against the Union government.
Benefits of LIMBS:
- Earlier, information about cases involving 64 ministries/departments was scattered in different places, typically in the form of physical files. That information is now available on a single platform, in electronic form.
- Once data are available in this form, several questions can be asked. What types of cases are these? How old are they? What is the financial implication? Can cases be clubbed? Can some disputes be settled outside court? Why did the government lose a case? Should more resources be devoted to certain courts? Is distribution of cases even across advocates? What is the track record of specific advocates?
It will thus help reduce delays in filing responses in cases , contempt notices because of such delays and consequent monetary penalties.
- LIMBS is meant to improve the Union government’s handling of cases.
An advocate, an arbitrator, or a new user from a ministry/department can log in. Ministry’s designated nodal officer authenticates the user’s credentials and only authenticated users are allowed to access the website and enter the case details.
Government being biggest litigant:
A sample survey conducted in Karnataka found that in 65 per cent of civil cases, the government was a litigant, sometimes on both sides. Government litigation crowds out the private citizen from the court system.
Much of this government litigation is in the form of appeals and this survey again found that 95 per cent of government appeals fail. In a way, they are appeals that shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
One way of reducing the load on courts is to reduce the quantum of cases that come to the courts.
LIMBS provides benefits ranging from advocates getting paid on time to figuring out whether government should litigate (not just appeal). It also identifies petty cases the government can simply drop. However, its scope must now be increased to include all the government departments and having similar system at states- level too.
Connecting the dots:
- Legal Information Management and Briefing System is a project to make government litigation more efficient. Its scope must now be broadened. Discuss.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1) Consider the following pairs and choose the correctly matched pair/s from below options:
Defence deal : : Associated country
- C-130J Hercules : : India-US
- S-400 Triumf: : India-Russia
- Harpoon : : India-Israel
Choose appropriate code from options below:
- 1 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.2) Consider the below statements with regard to renewable energy policy of India:
- Indian government has set a target of achieving 225 gigawatts (GW) of capacity from renewable energy sources by 2022.
- It has set a target to achieve 100 GW solar power capacity till 2022.
Which of the statements above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.3) The Government of India has set a target of 175 GW renewable power installed capacity by the end of 2022. In this context, arrange the following renewable energy sources in the decreasing order of their specific targets:
- Small hydro power
- Solar power
- Biomass power
- Wind power
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
Q.4) Which Schedule of the Constitution contains provisions of Municipal Corporation?
- Schedule Eleven
- Schedule Five
- Schedule Twelve
- Schedule Six
Q.5) Consider the following statements in regard to local governments in relation to 73rd and 74th Amendments:
- Local government is enumerated in concurrent list.
- The amendment made a provision for the mandatory creation of the Gram Sabha.
- One third of the positions in all panchayat institutions are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Which of the above given statements is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- 1 and 3
- 2 and 3
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