IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 23rd October 2018
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Repeated violations by journalists and media organisations
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Justice and governance
- SC has alleged that media regulators tend to be soft when it comes to dealing with journalists and media organisations whose actions, like revealing the identity of a rape survivor, make them criminally liable.
- Statutory bodies like the Press Council of India (PCI), Editors Guild of India, National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), and the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) failed to take responsibility to inform the police when a journalist or a media outlet commits such a crime in the course of reportage.
- The court gave three weeks to PCI, Editors Guild and IBF to respond.
Do you know?
- It is a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Oﬀences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Penal Code to disclose the identity of victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are children.
Important Value Additions:
About POCSO Act
- Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced the POCSO Act.
- It aims to effectively address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions.
Features of the Act
- The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.
- Act regards the best interests and well-being of the child as being of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
- It defines different forms of sexual abuse (includes sexual harassment and pornography)
- People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act.
- The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
- For more details: National Commission for protection of children’s Rights
Where Ganga meets the Bay of Pollution
Part of: Prelims and mains GS I & III – Culture, Environment and ecology
- An exponential increase in the number of pilgrims coming to the Ganga Sagar Mela, which takes place at the Sagar Island every year during Makar Sankranti, has been responsible for the worsening water pollution, prompting scientists to raise serious concerns about the likely outbreak of several diseases.
- The number of pilgrims descending on the Sagar Island to take a dip at the place where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal, has risen from 2 lakh in 1990 to 20 lakh in 2018.
- It is found that diseases like cholera, dysentery, and skin disease were predominant in the postGanga Sagar Mela period.
- It was noted that the focus of the administration is mostly on managing the mela, and that it should also manage the pollution with sustainable strategies.
- Several studies have shown that the island is at the frontline of climate change, facing serious erosion due to rising sea level and tidal surges.
Do you know?
- Sagar island is an island in the Ganges delta, lying on the continental shelf of Bay of Bengal about 100 km (54 nautical miles) south of Kolkata.
- Although Sagar island is a part of Sunderban Administration, it does not have any tiger habitation or mangrove forests or small river tributaries as is characteristic of the overall sunderban delta.
- This island, also known as Gangasagar or Sagardwip, is a place of Hindu pilgrimage.
Neelakurinji ﬂowers fail tourists
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Biodiversity
- Large number of tourists who could reach Mullayyana Giri and Seethalayyana Giri hoping to catch a glimpse of the ﬂowers returned disappointed.
Do you know?
- Neelakurinji ﬂowers, a shrub belonging to the genus Strobilanthes, blossom once in 12 years.
‘In urban U.P., 87% of waste from toilets goes to rivers, farmlands’
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Environment and ecology: Pollution
- While urban Uttar Pradesh has 80% coverage of toilets, ineﬃcient sanitation systems ensure that almost 87% of the excreta being generated by these toilets is being dumped in water bodies or agricultural lands, according to a new analysis of 30 cities by the Centre for Science and Environment.
- With 2019 just round the corner, the number of toilets and onsite sanitation systems being built in the State are all set to increase exponentially — if not managed scientiﬁcally and sustainably, the amount of faecal sludge that these new toilets will generate will swamp the State.
- The report argues that building more toilets will only worsen the environmental, sanitation and manual scavenging situation, unless sewerage connections increase from the current 28% of households in the 30 cities studied.
- Onsite sanitation systems — such as septic tanks or pit latrines — are far more prevalent, and are used by 47% of households.
- Without a sewerage system, the eﬄuent from the septic tank, along with greywater from the kitchen and bathroom ﬂows out into stormwater drains and open drains or nullahs.
- The faecal sludge, on the other hand, has to be periodically emptied from the septic tank, either manually or mechanically using vacuum trucks or tankers.
- CSE’s analysis found that half of all emptying work in these cities is done manually, despite the legal prohibition of the employment of manual scavengers.
An African island’s troubled waters
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – International affairs: conflicts between countries
- A rounded, rocky outcrop covered with metallic shacks, Migingo Island rises out of the waters of Lake Victoria like an ironplated turtle. The densely populated island is barely a quarter of a hectare large.
- For over a decade, Migingo has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, who have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs.
The ‘smallest war’
- They were once pushed to the brink of what some said would have been Africa’s “smallest war” over the island.
- While ﬁshing communities around Lake Victoria have seen their catches slowly diminish over the years, the deep waters surrounding Migingo abound with catch such as Nile perch.
- It was in the early 2000s when the island was barely inhabited — then situated within Kenya on all maps — that it began drawing the attention of Ugandan authorities who sent oﬃcials to Migingo to tax ﬁshermen and oﬀer protection against pirates.
- Kenyan ﬁshermen in return began complaining they were being shaken down by the Ugandans in their own waters and chased from the island.
- They called on Kenya’s government, which deployed security forces to Migingo in a move that nearly brought the two nations to blows in 2009.
- Kenya and Uganda then decided to create a joint commission to determine where the watery border is relying on maps dating from the 1920s whose interpretation is a key point of contention.
- But nothing has come of the commission, and in the absence of any decisions on the boundary, the island is comanaged by both countries.
- Faced with mounting complaints from their constituents, local Kenyan politicians have called on Nairobi to ask the International Court of Justice to intervene and make a decision on the border — to no avail.
Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – International bodies and organisations
- The Insolvency Law Committee (ILC), tasked with suggesting amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India, has recommended that India adopt the United Nations’ model to handle crossborder insolvency cases.
- The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997 provides for a comprehensive framework to deal with crossborder insolvency issues.
- The UNCITRAL Model Law has been adopted in 44 countries and, therefore, forms part of international best practices in dealing with cross border insolvency issues, the government said.
- The advantages of the model law are the precedence given to domestic proceedings and protection of public interest.
- The necessity of having a crossborder insolvency framework under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code arises from the fact that many Indian companies have a global footprint and many foreign companies have a presence in multiple countries, including India.
TOPIC: General studies 2
- Social justice and rights
Ripe for prison reform
- In an acknowledgment that the more than a century-old system of prisons in India needs repair, the Supreme Court formed a committee on prison reforms.
- Headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Amitava Roy, it is to look into the entire gamut of reforms to the prison system.
- But this is not the first time that such a body is being set up, examples being the Justice A.N. Mulla committee and the Justice Krishna Iyer committee on women prisoners (both in the 1980s).
- While marginal reforms have taken place, these have not been enough to ensure that prison conditions are in tune with human rights norms.
Punish or reform?
- The formation of Roy committee comes at a time when controversy surrounds the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation that the seven convicts in the assassination, in 1991, of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi be released.
- This is the crux of the debate: Confinement in any form is uncivilised, especially when it is so long-drawn-out, and when the objective of criminal punishment should be one of reform rather than inflicting revenge on a perpetrator of crime.
- Those pleading for clemency in this case are outnumbered, which is reflective of popular sentiment that a gruesome crime needs to be dealt with severely.
- It is also about the unresolved conflict in attitudes about incarceration — punishment or reform — which also explains the halfway jail reforms agenda seen in many countries.
Why delay in prison reforms?
- There are those who believe that if you keep improving prison conditions, there is likely to be an attendant impact on the incidence of crime.
- This accounts for the reluctance of many criminal justice administrators to employ or enlarge non-prison alternatives such as community service.
- The offshoot of all this is growing numbers of prisoners and the woeful incapacity of governments to build more and larger prisons.
- The question often asked by governments is, in these days of extreme fiscal stress, why should state resources be diverted to a ‘negative exercise, whose benefits are dubious’?
- This is why jail officials are often asked to ‘somehow manage’ with existing modest facilities.
Packed to the gills
- The data on prison overcrowding are frightening. Except in parts of Europe, where crime is still low or at acceptable levels, overcrowding is rampant.
- In the U.S., for example, which has a humongous crime problem, complicated by gun violence and a strident racist overtone in combating crime, the prison system is creaking under the stress of numbers.
- At any time, it is estimated, there are more than two million prisoners in state and federal prisons.
- In the U.K., the latest available data (July 2018) show a current prison population of approximately 92,500.
- In India, the publication, Prison Statistics India, brought out by the National Crime Records Bureau will provide food for thought for the Justice Roy Committee.
- In 2015, there were nearly 2 lakh inmates in 1,401 facilities, with an average occupancy rate of 114% in most.
- About 67% of total inmates were undertrials, a commentary on the speed and efficiency of India’s criminal justice system.
- There is an obvious poverty of ideas in justice administration. While public officials and social workers are agreed upon the need to reduce overcrowding, there is hardly any convergence on how to go about this delicate exercise.
- There is also an obvious fear of backlash against any move to decriminalise what is now prohibited by statutes.
Handling white collar crimes
- There is a popular view that in order to reduce prison populations, proven non-violent offenders could be dealt with differently.
- But it is frustrating that no consensus has evolved across the world on this relatively uncomplicated issue.
- White collar crime has assumed monstrous proportions but there is no reason why we should continue to lock up offenders instead of merely depriving them of their illegal gains.
- Devising swift processes of attachment of properties and freezing of bank accounts are alternatives to a jail term.
- There are legal impediments here, but these can be overcome by ensuring certain fairness in the system, of the state taking over illegally acquired wealth.
- The argument that not all gains made by an economic offender are open is not convincing enough to opt for incarceration over punitive material penalties.
- In India, progress has been made in freezing ‘benami’ holdings of major offenders even though it may not be a 100% effective step of cleaning up.
- But these are the first steps towards making economic crimes unaffordable and unattractive for the average offender.
Prison officials and political will
- Another complaint against prisons is the brutality and venality of prison officials, again common across the world. A solution will be a point to ponder over for the Justice Roy Committee.
- Finally, improving prison conditions has no political leverage. Just as humane prisons do not win votes, the bad ones do not lose votes for any political party.
- As long as there are no stakes here for lawmakers, one can hardly hope for model prisons, where inmates are accommodated with due regard to their basic human needs and are handled with dignity.
- More than a century-old system of prisons in India needs an urgent repair.
- Overcrowding, more number of undertrails than convicted prisoners, delayed justice, inhumane conditions, brutality and lack of basic human need facilities are some of the major issues in Indian prisons.
- Justice Amitava Roy committee is a ray of hope in the direction of prison reforms, but without political reforms in India’s criminal justice system are impossible.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s prisons and criminal justice system are in the dire need of reforms. Analyse
TOPIC: General studies 3
- Infrastructure: Energy
An agenda for energy
- You need energy to grow. This is as true for economies as it is for humans.
- Whether it is the use of machines in a factory, appliances like washing machines and refrigerators in households that help save time on chores, or automobiles to move people and goods faster, energy is needed to grow output.
- Even the use of materials like metals, plastics, chemicals, bricks and cement, without which a decent quality of life is now hard to imagine, means use of more energy.
- The production of steel accounts for nearly 9 per cent of India’s total energy needs, and brick-making is the second largest industrial use of energy.
- Put simply, an un-electrified house with mud walls and a thatched roof only needs manual energy to build, but a brick-and-cement house needs much more.
Correlation between energy and productivity
- Energy consumption per person for a country is correlated to its average output per person. Higher productivity also needs denser energy.
- For example, grass has lower energy density than cooking gas: Cooking a bowl of rice by burning straws would take a lot more time than by using a gas cylinder.
- While traditional societies across the world all relied on biomass (that is, sources like firewood and crop residue, which are less-dense), their growth in productivity was associated with a move to denser fuels: Imagine running a car directly with coal or wheat-straw.
- It is said that the transition of the fuel for ships from the less-dense coal to the higher-density oil contributed to the success of the British navy in the First World War.
- India is one of the fastest growing economies. So, the Indian economy’s energy needs will rise with growth, and demand for denser energy sources will grow even faster.
Some statistics on energy needs
- In the early 1990s, biomass was 30 per cent of China’s energy, but is only 5 per cent now.
- India’s ratio currently is 30 per cent, but should start to fall as household electrification picks up, and government policy raises the penetration of cooking gas cylinders.
- Between 2000 and 2015, when India’s output (as measured by GDP) grew at 7 per cent a year, its energy demand grew at 4.5 per cent a year, implying that efficiency of energy use improved at about 2.5 per cent annually.
- The problem was that the annual growth in domestic production of energy was only 3 per cent, and imports therefore had to grow at 8.5 per cent to meet the demand.
- The share of energy needs met through imports rose from 21 per cent in 2000 to 36 per cent by 2015.
- If similar trends persist, we estimate that nearly half of the demand in 2040 would be met by imports.
- The main constraint in India is the lack of reserves of oil, gas and metallurgical coal (used for steel-making), but poor management of what India does have is also a reason.
- Importing large amounts of energy is by itself not a problem (except possibly for security reasons — one can imagine the problems of this vulnerability in times of war). But how does one pay for it?
- The energy import bill this year is already at a record high of $125 billion, despite energy prices being half of what they were at the peak a decade back: Volume growth has more than offset the price decline.
- Three years from now, even if the recent surge in prices reverses, the value of energy imports would be nearly $40 billion higher than this year.
- By 2040, even with minimal price growth, the import bill could be $660 billion.
- As a share of national income, this will most likely be a manageably low number, but the constraint would be in getting that quantum of dollars.
- The recent troubles for the currency have originated from slowing foreign capital inflows coinciding with rising energy prices.
- Capital inflows as a share of GDP this year have fallen to 2002 levels, and paying for imports has become a struggle.
- Only part of this decline is cyclical: That is, it may pick up over time without any policy level changes; the rest may need policy changes.
- The necessary dollars can also come from exports, but export growth has slowed too, particularly for services.
- A decade back, rapid growth in services had prevented the external balances from deteriorating during the oil price spike.
- The fact that India may struggle to pay for the energy it needs to grow the economy at even 7 per cent a year is concerning, and challenges the widely held view that 8 per cent growth is just around the corner.
- Structural changes on several fronts may be necessary to overcome these hurdles.
- Improve capital inflows, grow domestic energy production, increase energy efficiency, and also accelerate the transition to more domestic sources of energy.
- Energy pricing should be freed up, not just in electricity but also coal and gas.
- Controlled and distorted pricing drives inefficiency in usage, and also inhibits a supply response at times like now, when rupee depreciation has made domestic energy so much cheaper than imported energy.
- The legal monopoly of Coal India on merchant mining of coal was unwound a few years back, but no licences have been issued yet to private enterprises.
- A national level planning is needed to move away from carting country’s low-grade coal over hundreds of kilometres instead of moving power, which is cheaper, easier and less wasteful.
- The ambition on solar and wind power may need to be reset substantially upwards.
- Even if solar and wind capacity reaches 650 Gigawatts by 2040 (a nine-fold increase from now), they would only be able to cater to 4 per cent of India’s energy needs that year.
- Given the scale of required capacity, self-sufficiency in such equipment should also be sought.
- Further, given the natural fluctuations in output from renewable sources, the grid would need to be re-planned/architected.
- India also needs to accelerate electrification of various energy-guzzlers. Electric vehicles are expected to be just 6 per cent of cars globally by 2030: This may be too slow for Indian requirements.
- India is expected to drive almost a fourth of global energy demand in the next two decades.
- Not only should it be pulling its weight on global forums and influence global policy and choices, there needs to be significant investment in India-specific solutions, otherwise the country’s medium-term growth potential could be at risk.
Connecting the dots:
- India is expected to drive almost a fourth of global energy demand in the next two decades. Suggest some measures to make India self-sufficient in energy sector and to alleviate the import bill.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements:
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines a ‘child’ as any person below the age of sixteen years
- National commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is a statutory body established under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2) Sagar island is an island located in the –
- Ganges delta
- Andaman and Nicobar islands
- Krishna delta
Q.3) Consider the following statements about Neelakurinji
- It is found in Nepal, India and Tibet
- It blossoms only once in 12 years
Select the correct statements
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.4) Which among the following is considered as Tamil Nadu’s State flower?
- Gloriosa superb
- Sacred Lotus
- Pride of India
Q.5) Migingo Island is located in which of the following?
- Danube River
- South China Sea
- Gulf of Maine
- Lake Victoria
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