IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 23rd March 2019
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Centre bans JKLF under anti-terror law
Part of: GS Mains III – Terrorism and Security issues; Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
- Ministry of Home Affairs banned separatist Yasin Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
- According to NIA, JKLF continues to be actively engaged in supporting and inciting secessionism and terrorism.
Do you know?
- Section 3(1) in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 – gives power to the Centre to declare any association as unlawful by notifying it in the Official Gazette.
Law to empower forest staff
Part of: GS Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity; Conservation of protected areas
- Centre to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927
- In other words, Indian Forest Act, 2019 is envisaged as an amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
- Amendment aims to accord significant powers to India’s forest officers – such as power to issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide security or protection to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.
- Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offences…and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- Any Forest-officer not below the rank of a Forester may, at any time enter and inspect any land within his area of jurisdiction.
- It explicitly provides for traditional forest dwellers to jointly manage forests with officers.
- “Village forests”, according to the proposed Act, may be forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government and would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.
- It also proposes a new cess, called Forest Development Cess, upto 10% of the value assessed of the mining products extracted from the forests and water for irrigation or in industries.
Statistical institute submits report on VVPAT to EC
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Polity; Constitution
- The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) submitted the recommendations of an expert committee on the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slip verification to the Election Commission.
- The report titled “Random Sampling for Testing of EVMs via VVPAT Slip Verification” was handed over to Chief Election Commissioner.
- The Commission will examine the report to determine the course of action.
- In view of demands from various political parties to increase the percentage of the VVPAT slip counted during elections, the Commission had engaged the ISI to examine the issue of matching the slips with the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) results.
- 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.
Syria vows to take back Golan Heights from Israel
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Affairs
- The Syrian government vowed to take back the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as its allies and enemies alike condemned U.S. President Donald Trump for moving to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in war.
- Trump’s statement marked a dramatic shift in U.S. policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 conflict and annexed in 1981 — a move not recognised internationally.
Observe from the figure/map below the following –
- Sea of Galilee
- Jordan River and Yamuk river
- Surrounding countries –
Important Value Additions:
About Golan Heights
- The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size. Whoever controls this area has a major strategic advantage.
- Golan Heights is the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War, territory which Israel annexed in 1981.
- Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognised internationally.
Why Golan Heights is important?
- Having control of the Golan gives Israel a vantage point from which to monitor any Syrian military movements towards Israel.
- The area is a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.
- The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel’s only ski resort.
Do you know?
- United Nations peacekeepers have been in the Golan Heights since 1974 supervising a ceasefire between Israel and Syria.
- The United States considers the Golan Heights to be Syrian territory held under Israeli occupation subject to negotiation and Israeli withdrawal.
- The United States considers the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, both the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter).
Italy set to become first G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Relations
- Italy and China want to revive the spirit of the ancient Silk Road by deepening their trade and investment ties.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to sign a deal that will see Italy become the first member of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations to join China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure project (BRI), which is inspired by historic, centuries-old trade routes.
- Besides the BRI accord, various deals worth up to €7 billion ($7.9 billion) are expected to be agreed, including agreements opening up the northern ports of Trieste and Genoa to Chinese containers.
TOPIC: General studies 1, 4 and Essay
- Personalities in Indian national movements
- Ethics; Indian thinkers and philosophers
Martyr’s Day: Nation Remembers Bhagat Singh, Rajguru And Sukhdev
- Bhagat Singh, along with two of his comrades, Sukhdev and Rajguru, were hanged by the British on March 23, 1931, in Lahore Central Jail which was then a part of British India.
- 2019 marks 88th Anniversary of their martyrdom
- It has been well over eight decades, but they continue to inspire us, with their love for India and the sacrifice they made for the country’s freedom, at a very young age.
Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar
- Three most shining icons of the country’s freedom struggle
- They were the three unparalleled revolutionaries in history
- The trio, were members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association
- Defined nation and nationalism: At a young age, Bhagat Singh defined nation and nationalism for us.
- On Universal Brotherhood: At age 17, he published his first article (in 1924) in Matwala, a Hindi magazine from Calcutta. The subject was ‘Universal Brotherhood’.
- He imagined a world where “all of us being one and none is the other. It will really be a comforting time when the world will have no strangers.”
- He emphatically exclaimed that “as long as words like black and white, civilized and uncivilized, ruler and the ruled, rich and poor, touchable and untouchable, etc., are in vogue there was no scope for universal brotherhood”.
- He went on to say, “We will have to campaign for equality and equity. Will have to punish those who oppose the creation of such a world.”
(Today, when many are busy “othering” and creating strangers out of their own fellow citizens need to grapple with Bhagat Singh’s views, instead of merely glorifying him as a martyr.)
- Strongest critique of untouchability and communalism:
- He wrote series of articles on ‘Anarchism’ and was fiercely frank and bold enough to critically comment on the politics of senior leaders such as Lala Lajpat Rai and express his differences.
- He was also conscious of the international revolutionary struggles and ideologies.
- He was aghast that we claimed to be a spiritual country, yet discriminated against fellow human beings while the materialist West had done away with such inhuman obscenities long ago.
(Even today, untouchability and communalism continue to torment us as a nation.)
- On inclusiveness:
- Bhagat Singh steadfastly remained committed to the idea of a plural and inclusive India.
- He founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore in 1926, whose manifesto said, “Religious superstitions and bigotry are a great hindrance in our progress. They have proved an obstacle in our way and we must do away with them. ‘The thing that cannot bear free thought must perish’.”
- In 1928, Bhagat Singh was acutely conscious of the divisiveness of mixing religion with politics.
- He wrote – “If religion is separated from politics, then all of us can jointly initiate political activities, even though in matters of religion we might have many differences with each other. We feel that the true well-wishers of India would follow these principles and save India from the suicidal path it is on at present.”
- He even had authored masterly essay, ‘Why I am an Atheist’. Bhagat Singh observed: “Our retrogressive thinking is destroying us. We keep ourselves entangled in futile discussions about God and heaven, and remain busy in talking about the soul and God. We are quick to dub Europe as capitalist and don’t think about their great ideas or pay any attention to them. We love divinity and remain aloof from the world.”
(Even today, many continue to peddle religion to promote political prospects.)
Thus we can see here the evolution of his ideas on politics, society, religion and even faith in god.
- The lessons from the lives of these revolutionaries remain as relevant today as they were during the independence movement.
- Their lives are proof that one is never too young to be politically aware, to educate oneself about the truth of the world at large, and to actively play a role in shaping the society one wants to live in.
- In these rancorous times, Bhagat Singh’s intellectual bequest should be a beacon to build a new India.
Connecting the dots:
- Bhagat Singh the thinker, the revolutionary, and the philosopher continues to be a shining beacon for young people in India, and indeed, the rest of the world.
- Throw light on the significance of the thoughts of Bhagat Singh in the present times.
- Given below are two quotations of moral thinkers/philosophers. For each of these, bring out what it means to you in the present context:
- “All of us being one and none is the other. It will really be a comforting time when the world will have no strangers.”
- “Religious superstitions and bigotry are a great hindrance in our progress. They have proved an obstacle in our way and we must do away with them.”
TOPIC: General studies 2 and Essay
- Role of media and social networking sites in Elections
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
- Governance issues
Code of Ethics for social media
- Ever since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, new media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, have become political battlegrounds.
- These spaces of electioneering have remained unregulated because the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951, does not cover social media.
- However, recently, the Election Commission (EC) and Internet and Mobile Association of India — the body that represents social media firms — took a decisive step towards plugging this gap.
Code of Ethics
- The two agencies – EC and Internet and Mobile Association of India – agreed on a Code of Ethics for social media.
- Social media outfits are expected to follow this code during the Lok Sabha elections.
- The ‘Çode of Ethics’ is a voluntary mechanism to help conduct transparent and fair elections in India.
- The Code emphasises transparency and stresses on measures to “prevent abuse of social media platforms”.
- However, adherence to the Code is voluntary and much will depend on the measures taken by individual social media outfits to put the document’s guidelines into practice.
Section 126 of the Representation of People Act (RPA)
- Section 126 of the RPA prohibits political parties and candidates from campaigning in the two days before voting.
- EC panel suggested to bring social media platforms under the Act’s ambit so that voters are “afforded a period of reflection”.
- The EC panel suggested that these new media platforms should abide by the EC’s guidelines about taking down “objectionable content” within three hours of a notice. However, social media outfits did not agree with this recommendation.
Code plugs the gap:
- But the Code addresses the above EC’s concerns: “Valid legal orders will be acknowledged and/ or processed within three hours for violations reported under Section 126”.
- Also welcome is the Code’s insistence on “transparency in paid political advertisements”. Any political advertisement posted without the EC’s certification and notified as such by the EC will be acted upon expeditiously, the Code says.
- The Code asks social media firms to train the EC’s nodal officers on how their “platforms work and on mechanisms for sending requests on dealing with offensive material”.
- These companies will also develop a “reporting mechanism” through which the poll watchdog can inform the platforms about “potential violations of Section 126”.
Considering that over one-third of India’s 1.3 billion population has access to an internet connection, warding off political bias on online platforms in primarily going to depend on the capability of social media companies to monitor content.
The Code’s success will depend, in large measure, on how these channels of communication work. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the conduct of the social media firms — and the EC — will be watched.
Connecting the dots:
- Examine how social media can alter the outcome of an election. Discuss the recent measures taken by the Election Commission to prohibit the social media influence on elections.
- Write an Essay; “Social media: An Enabler or Polarizer”.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements
- National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a non-statutory body
- The Central Government has suo-moto powers to direct the agency (NIA) for investigation of any scheduled offence
Select the correct answer from the codes given below
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2) The repealed acts TADA and POTA were concerned with
- Unlawful Activities
- Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament
- The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament
Q.3) With reference to India, consider the following Central Acts:
- Import and Export (Control) Act, 1947.
- Mining and Mineral Development (Regulation) Act 1957
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Which of above Acts have relevance to/bearing on the biodiversity conservation in the country?
- 1 and 3 only
- 2, 3 and 4 only
- 1, 2, 3 and 4
- None of the above Acts
Q.4) Which of the following Acts make Environment Impact Assessment mandatory in India?
- Indian Forest Act
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act
- Wildlife Protection Act
- Environment (Protection) Act
Q.5) Consider the following about Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial (VVPAT)
- The VVPAT is a method that provides feedback to voters after they cast their votes in EVMs
- It will completely replace the electronic voting machines (EVMs)
Select the correct option
- 1 only
- 2 only
Q.6) Consider the following statements:
- Sea of Galilee is between Syria and Lebanon
- Golan Heights is a grassland plain in south-western Syria but annexed by Israel
- Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Afghanistan and the Taliban: next stage in the Great Game
The Kerala alert: West Nile Virus
Withdrawal of judiciary from adjudication of religious matters
The shifting battlefields