IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 22nd August 2018
SC scraps NOTA option for RS polls
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Indian Polity; Role of Supreme Court; Electoral Reforms
- Supreme Court scrapped the use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha polls.
What Supreme Court said?
- NOTA option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not elections held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.
- The option of NOTA may serve as an elixir in direct elections but in the election to the Council of States, it would not only undermine the purity of democracy but also serve the Satan of defection and corruption.
- The court pointed out that in the voting in Rajya Sabha elections, there is a whip and the elector is bound to obey the command of the party. The party discipline… is of extreme significance, for that is the fulcrum of the existence of parties. The thought of cross-voting and corruption is obnoxious.
In crux – the court held that NOTA in an indirect election would not only run counter to the discipline expected from an elector under the Tenth Schedule but also be “counterproductive to the basic grammar of the law of disqualification… on the ground of defection.”
Election Commission cannot sanction the use of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections by way of mere circulars, which have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4) — proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
Pic courtesy: The Hindu
Ban on Diwali Firecrackers
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment; Pollution
- Centre rules out the idea of complete national ban on firecrackers.
- It suggested other steps to curb pollution – such as production of “green crackers”; community fireworks events etc.
- Centre called for working with institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Environment Engineering Research Institute and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to reduce pollution.
- It suggested setting up of raw material characterisation facilities to check the presence of high content of unburned material, partially combusted material or poor quality of raw material in fire crackers.
Reason behind ban:
- The bursting of firecrackers releases a heavy dose of carcinogens in the atmosphere, presenting a public health challenge for the entire nation.
- This is similar to smoking at public places—a regulated activity—but different from consumption of liquor, which harms the individual.
- A regulation is thus required as it is clear that bursting of firecrackers by one person presents a health challenge to another.
- Noise pollution: unprotected exposure to sound levels greater than 100 dB (a firecracker generates about 125 dB) should be limited.
India-Pakistan: Reviving Ties?
Part of: GS Mains II – India and its neighbours; International Relation
- Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has said – dialogue with India a ‘must’ to resolve conflicts.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for constructive engagement with Pakistan.
- The best way to alleviate poverty and uplift the people of the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue and start trading.
International Labour Organization report on India’s Wages
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Indian Economy and related issues; Inclusive growth
Highlights of the ILO report:
- Real average daily wages in India almost doubled in the first two decades after economic reforms.
- Low pay and wage inequality remains a serious challenge to inclusive growth
- Called for stronger implementation of minimum wage laws and strengthening of the frameworks for collective bargaining by workers.
- Called for actions aimed at bridging the wage gaps between rural and urban, male and female, and regular and casual workers.
- Daily wages in urban areas (₹384) also remain more than twice as high as those in rural areas (₹175), the report said.
- Regional disparities in average wages have actually increased over time, with wages rising more rapidly in high-wage States than in low-wage ones.
- The gender wage gap decreased from 48% in 1993-94 to 34% in 2011-12, but still remains high by international standards.
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) was founded in 1919, its Constitution forming part of the Treaty of Versailles. The ILO became the first specialised agency of the UN in 1946.
- ILO deals with labour problems, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
General Studies 2 and 3
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
- Indian Economy – Financial Inclusion and Inclusive Growth
Redefining India Post
In a world where communication has assumed different forms with the written word being transmitted on mobile phones and the proliferation of private courier services for printed matter or documents, the role of India Post needs to be redefined.
The starting of the India Post Payment Bank is pragmatic. Postal services have become less relevant while financial services continue to be important given their under penetration in rural areas.
- Given the reach of the Postal Department, it is not possible for private services to reach the rural areas and even in case they do, there are time issues of delivery. The Postal Department delivers the best.
- Notwithstanding the advantages, the fact that technology and private services are catching up in a big way the threat of loss of business to Whatsapp and courier services is real.
Need of revamping India Post:
- The number of post offices has come down. The employees on the rolls appears to be in line with the declining volume of business, which has come down by around 7 per cent.
- The handling of the savings pie has increased. It consists of small savings that is contributed more by the middle- and lower-income groups with a strong rural bias. However, here too the compound growth rate of around 6.8 per cent is much lower than bank deposits which have grown at almost double the rate.
- The losses of the department have increased by over nine times. The department has been run as an essential service which is primarily used by the weaker sections especially in the rural areas. As a result it becomes very difficult for the government to increase the postage rate given that it is uniform across the country.
- The losses have been mounting as several costs like administration, maintenance, salary, etc. move with inflation while transportation costs keep moving up more than proportionately. Therefore, with the volume of each business coming down, these fixed costs increase the cost per unit of business.
The creation of the India Post Payments Bank is a good step and though the progress of these banks has been slow, there is scope for this venture to succeed given its reach. But there are reforms which can be implemented for the other services.
- The pricing structure has to be revamped as heavy losses cannot be sustained. Differential pricing based on location can be considered with the rural areas getting a subsidy. The other centres would have to be made to pay the full cost. Hence an inland letter can be priced at Rs. 4 if sent from a rural post office and Rs. 10 from others.
- Post office spaces should be leveraged to earn rent. As financial inclusion includes also non-banking products, these can be sold in post offices by the mutual funds or their agents.
- The existing staff can be trained to sell financial products like insurance and mutual funds in rural areas and a commission earned by the department.
- The post offices can be integrated with the eNAM initiative where terminals can be kept in these offices for use by farmers. Further, dak sewaks can be used to also form a link with the agricultural markets (eNAM) as they have direct interface with farmers and can be given the responsibility of spreading awareness as well as be the link with the market prices.
There is considerable scope to leverage the present strengths of India Post to not just make it financially sustainable but also maximise the utilisation of the infrastructure to link it with other goals of the government to create a virtuous cycle.
Connecting the dots:
- The role of India Post needs to be redefined. The strengths of India Post must be leveraged to make it financially viable. Analyze.
NATIONAL/SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
General Studies 2 and 3
- Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
- Role of Science and Technology in our daily lives and betterment of society.
Role of Science and Technology in human development
On our 72nd Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced some important initiatives –
- Passage of the Bill to create an OBC Commission
- 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre
- India’s space mission – In 2022 (on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day), India to unfurl the tri-colour in the space.
- Subramania Bharati vision of India – Subramania Bharati (great Tamil poet) had said India will not only rise as a great nation, but will also inspire the others. India will show the way to the entire world to unshackle the bonds.
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan – to be launched on 25th September 2018 (birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay)
- India’s farming sector – ‘Beej Se Bazar Tak’ approach ; double farmer incomes by 2022
- On women empowerment – Practice of Triple Talaq to be ended; Women officers commissioned in short service will get opportunity for permanent commission.
- On government schemes and policies – Thirteen crore ‘mudra loans’; Ujjwala and Saubhagya Yojana; GST; Swachh Bharat mission
Among the above, one important announcement was the vision of Tricolour to be unfurled in space by 2022.
However, on the other hand the following had made headlines –
- The country facing flooding, partly due to water released from dams following exceptional rain.
- News articles on lynching, mostly over a wide swathe of north India from Uttar Pradesh to Jharkhand but not entirely absent in the south.
- Mobocracy – Mobs had attacked persons either on their own or in small groups, with the victims in every case having been unarmed and acting without any provocation and who usually belong to Dalits and Muslims (marginalised sections of the country)
These incidents don’t augur well in a democratic nation. Emphasising a space programme as an objective while failing to highlight the multiple failings of public policy in India makes a mockery of the democratic project. (According to the author)
Therefore, the primary focus or objective should be to create enabling conditions for a valuable life, by –
- protecting natural capital,
- building public goods in the form of physical infrastructure,
- providing a public education and health service, and
- creating institutions that support individual aspirations.
Need for an effective science and technology policy
The pursuit of high science by the Government of India had started quite early after 1947 when it embarked on a programme of harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The Atomic Energy Commission was formed and treated with reverence.
- However, it is not clear how much difference this has made to the power situation in the country.
- Independent experts at the Indian Statistical Institute point out that nuclear power is costly.
Key alternative to burning coal (fossil fuel) or nuclear power is the need to rely on non-renewable energy such as sunlight and wind power which is abundant in India.
With the cost of generating solar power is reducing rapidly due to advances in storage technology, it would be wise to have a science policy that is focussed enough to monitor and exploit these trends and a government machinery that is both motivated and adept at facilitating a mass transition to cleaner fuel.
India’s science and technology policy should now be re-oriented to improve the lives of Indians.
Role of Science and Technology
An example of such a role for science was the launching of the Green Revolution in the mid-1960s. In a matter of less than a decade a precarious economy the size of a subcontinent was transformed into one self-sufficient in food.
The Green Revolution was achieved through a rare combination of scientific leadership in the agricultural sector, administrative ability and political acumen, but above all by the genius of India’s farmers.
We have not seen national will on a similar scale since. This when we urgently need an agricultural initiative comparable in its transformative capacity today. Indian agriculture has performed more erratically than usual in the past decade.
Given the scale of the public science and technology apparatus in India, especially of agricultural research institutions, there is a visible lack of response to this situation, if not crisis.
Development economists recognise that the ‘food problem’ does not cease once a country is able to produce food in sufficient quantity. It is necessary to produce food at a cost that is affordable to the mass of the population. It may be emphasised that this is fully compatible with a prosperous farming population. What is needed is an increase in the productivity of land.
Despite the Prime Minister’s claims in his speech of his government having delivered on farm price support, a rise in farm productivity requires more than the price mechanism; technology and extension services would matter.
Today we are paying the price for a policy that generally neglected the majority of the rural Indians who more than anything else needed public services.
Equipped with capability — through good health and awareness — the once marginalised would be vulnerable no more. Promising the moon by courting high science while ignoring human development leaves some Indians at the mercy of the mob and India’s democracy diminished in our own estimation.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s science and technology policy should be re-oriented to improve the lives of Indians. Do you agree? Discuss. Also with suitable examples examine how Science and Technology has played huge role in human development.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) With reference to the ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) option, consider the following statements:
- It gives the citizens to exercise their right to reject.
- NOTA are counted, but are considered ‘invalid votes’
Select the correct statements
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2) Supreme Court has banned fireworks manufacturers from using five substances that stoke air and noise pollution. Which of the following are those substances?
Select the correct code:
- 3, 4 and 5 Only
- 1, 3, 4 and 5
- 1, 3, 4 and 5
- All of the above
Q.3) Consider the following statements about Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).
- The PESO tests samples of crackers for adherence to the sound limit of 125 decibels at a distance of four meters.
- It functions under Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
Q.4) World Employment and Social Outlook report is released by
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- International Labour Organisation (ILO)
- World Trade Organisation (WTO)
- Amnesty International
Q.5) Which of the following are UN specialized agencies?
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
Select the correct code:
- 1, 2 and 3
- 2, 3 and 4
- 1, 3 and 4
- All of the above
Strengthening the federal link
Beyond words: On Indo-Pak ties
‘It’s time for India to talk about the instant runoff voting method’
Who defends the defenders?