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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th March 2019

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  • March 17, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th March 2019

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


SC issues notice to EC on plea to verify at least 50% VVPATs

In news:

  • Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to respond to a petition filed by 21 Opposition parties demanding the random verification of at least 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) using Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in every Assembly segment or constituency.
  • The petitioners said ‘free and fair elections’ were part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Important Value Additions:

About VVPAT and its working

  • Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are used during election process to verify that the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate.
  • VVPATs are a second line of verification particularly and are particularly useful in the time when allegations around Electronic Voting Machines’ tampering crop up.
  • Parties have been making regular demands for VVPATs to be used during elections after alleging EVMs may not be completely secure and tamper proof.
  • VVPAT system gives instant feedback to the voter showing that the vote polled has in fact been allotted against the candidate chosen.

Working procedure of VVPATs

  • After a voter presses the button on the EVM against the chosen candidate, the VVPAT prints a slip containing name of the candidate and the election symbol and drops it automatically into a sealed box.
  • The machines give the chance for the voter to verify their vote. The machine is placed in a glass case in a way that only the voter can see it.
  • The slip is displayed to the voter for seven seconds after which the VVPAT machine cuts it and drops in into the storage box with a beep.
  • The machines can be accessed, though, by the polling officials and not by the voter.
  • The Election Commission of India has not conceded to any allegation that the EVMs used for polling can be tampered with. However, VVPATs have been used in some elections in a bid to counter all allegation of tampering.
  • The Supreme Court of India, meanwhile, has for long held a supportive and extra cautious stand when it comes to voting. It had directed the EC in 2013 to introduce VVPAT in Lok Sabha Elections 2014 to improve voter confidence and ensuring transparency of voting. It was used in some phases but not in the entire polling process.

France slaps sanctions on JeM chief Azhar

In news:

  • Two days after China blocked a UN Security Council move to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, France has sanctioned him and taken steps to stop the outfit from accessing French financial resources.
  • It is understood that the decision was aimed at imposing a national ban on Azhar as this is necessary for barring him from accessing any EU territory.

(MAINS FOCUS)


ENVIRONMENT

TOPIC: General Studies 2 and 3

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
  • Infrastructure: Energy
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate

6th edition of Global Environment Outlook

Key pointers:

  • Global Environment Outlook (GEO) is released by UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • The GEO project was initiated in response to the environmental reporting requirements of UN Agenda 21.
  • Agenda 21 is a non-binding action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development. It is a product of the Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
  • The “21” in Agenda 21 refers to the 21st century.
  • Since 2015, Sustainable Development Goals are included in the Agenda 2030.
  • UN report, GEO-6 theme: “Healthy Planet, Healthy People”

According to 6th GEO Report –

  • The world is unsustainably extracting resources and producing unmanageable quantities of waste.
  • With rising growth, higher quantities of resources are extracted, which leads to chemicals flowing into air, water and land. Thus causes ill-health, premature mortality, poor quality of life etc.
  • East and South Asia have the highest number of deaths due to air pollution. (In 2017, air pollution has killed 1.24 million in India alone)
  • Freshwater pollutants making antimicrobial-resistant infections a major cause of death by 2050.

Other highlights provided by GEO-6:

  • It estimates that the top 10% of populations (in terms of wealth) globally are responsible for 45% of GHG emissions, whereas, bottom 50% for only 13%.
  • Pollution impacts are borne more by the poorer citizens.

Concerns: (India)

  • Deaths due to air pollution is high
  • Unsustainable resources extraction
  • Over-population leading to stress on land and agricultural yields are coming under stress due to increase in average temperature and erratic monsoons (impacts food security and health)
  • Poorly enforced environment laws.
  • Water protection is given low priority.
  • India is the leading extractor of groundwater.  

The way ahead:

  • Effective environment laws and political will is necessary to end business-as-usual policies.
  • Curbing the use of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals.
  • Targeted interventions are needed to resolve specific air and water pollution.
  • Aggressive monitoring and assessment of air quality and greenhouse gases emissions.
  • Policies should give impetus to shift to cleaner sources of energy (or renewable energy sources)
  • Combating air pollution would require all older coal-based power plants in India to conform to emission norms at the earliest.
  • Quick transition to green mobility is needed.
  • It is imperative to stop the contamination of surface supplies by chemicals, sewage and municipal waste.  
  • Waste water should be recovered, treated and reused. Augmenting rainwater harvesting.

Connecting the dots:

  • Human activities are degrading the global environment at a pace that could endanger the “ecological foundations of society” and human health. Comment.  
  • Discuss the factors responsible for long term climate change. What evidences do we have that support current global warming. Explain.

WOMEN ISSUE

TOPIC: General studies 1 and 2:

  • Role of women and women’s organization, women related issues, Social empowerment
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures, structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Fresh hope for more women in Parliament

Introduction

  • This year, there is a trend of political parties throwing their weight behind the cause of a better gender balance in Parliament.  
  • Many political parties have announced that it would commit to the Women’s Reservation Bill (108th Amendment Bill), which proposes that one-third of all Indian lawmakers be female.
  • Some parties have also promised a 33% quota for women in government jobs if the Congress is voted to power.
  • While the idea of affirmative action in favour of women dates back to the 1920s, so little has been done so far.

Do you know?

  • According to the Election Commission’s voter enrolment figures for 2019, women constitute 48.1% of the electorate.
  • Also, the female turnout at ballot booths—66% in the general election of 2014—is now close to that of men.
  • Yet, of eight South Asian countries, India ranks a poor fifth on women’s representation in Parliament, with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal doing better.
  • In India, only one of every 10 Members of Parliament and every 15 legislators is a woman.  Also, women who do get elected are often from families of politicians.

Changing trend

  • Between 1957 and 2014, the count of women Lok Sabha contestants has increased from 45 to 668 (15-fold leap). Males saw only a 5-fold increase over that span.
  • More and more women want to take the political plunge and frame public policies.
  • Main factor which changes the trend – panchayati raj system (which has encouraged female political participation at the village level)

Do you know?

  • In panchayati raj, a third of all seats are reserved for women, but they actually occupy nearly half these positions of local representation across the country. In many states, they make up more than half the local bodies.

Why do we need women in power?

As representatives, we need women –

  • To eliminate the systemic biases and structural barriers that keep our girls out of the tech industry, our victims of gender-based violence in fear and our women’s sports teams under-funded.
  • To dismantle structural barriers, the responsibility falls on working women who have successfully overcome constraints to open the gates for other women.
  • To design laws that encourage better education for girls.
  • To secure financial independence and formal employment for women.
  • To push up our abysmal female labour force participation rates.
  • To ensure that female hygiene products are not taxed as luxury goods.
  • In addressing systemic biases, exposure to women in office weakens stereotypes about gender roles. Watching women in leadership positions reduces the negative perceptions men have about their effectiveness as leaders. It also induces men to dream better dreams for their daughters, and that is no mean feat.

Conclusion:

Over the past few decades, women have made their mark as effective managers, bankers, professors, corporate leaders, lawyers, doctors and civil servants. These are women who know how to solve problems, get things done and manage multiple responsibilities. Electing able women professionals will help us simultaneously achieve better representation and expertise.

If inclusion and diversity are to go beyond platitudes in the political arena, then far more women need to be elected for legislative roles at higher levels of governance.

Connecting the Dots

  • Socio-economic disadvantages and poor female political participation create a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Discuss.
  • Women in India haven’t got a fair deal from either the government or the judiciary as far as protection of their individual liberties are concerned. Comment. Also examine the ways in which women are changing the traditional gender discourse in India by taking suitable examples.

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