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

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

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Global measles cases up by 300%, says WHO

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Health issue; Role of international organization

In news:

According to the WHO –

  • Measles cases rose 300% worldwide through the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.
  • Measles, which is highly contagious, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine.
  • The reason for rise is attributed to impact of anti-vaccination stigma.
  • Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30.
  • The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
  • Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Important Value Additions:

About Measles

Measles is a deadly disease. It can lead to following complications –

  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhoea
  • Other deadly threats

Measles remains a leading cause of death among young children, despite the fact that a safe and effective vaccine has been available for 40 years. Measles is an acute illness caused by a virus of the paramyxovirus family.


Wildlife Sactuary in news: Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity; Protected Areas

Why in news?

  • Tiger reserve status for Nandhaur sought.
  • With the number of tigers steadily on the rise at Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand, the authorities feel upgrading it to a tiger reserve is necessary for the conservation of tigers at the facility.
  • Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is situated close to the Nandhaur river in Kumaon region of the State and spread over an area of 269.5 square km.
  • The number of tigers at the sanctuary when it came into being in 2012 was nine which rose to 27 in 2018. The number is set to cross 32 this year.
  • The official said the steady rise in tiger population at the sanctuary over the years and the growing trend indicate that the sanctuary with the limited resources at its disposal may not be able to efficiently handle its responsibilities for long.

Do you know?

  • Though the Wildlife Institute of India and the Forest Department are working hard with financial help from the Zoological Society of London to maintain the sanctuary as a safe habitat for tigers, the task may get difficult in the long run,
  • the situation becomes rather delicate from the point of view of tiger conservation as the sanctuary at present does not come formally under the ambit of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • The State government can play a role in its elevation as a tiger reserve so that it gets central government funds and the expertise of national level zoological scientists to conserve the growing population of tigers at the sanctuary.

Sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ successfully test-fired

Part of: GS Prelims III – Defence

In news:

  • India successfully test-fired its first indigenously designed and developed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ from a test range in Odisha.
  • It is capable of loitering and cruising at 0.7 Mach at altitude as low as 100 metres, covered the designated target range in 42 minutes and 23 seconds.
  • The flight test achieved all the mission objectives, right from lift off till the final splash, boosting the confidence of all the scientists associated with the trial, sources said, adding it has an engine with rocket booster and turbofan/jet.
  • The last successful trial of the missile was conducted on November 7, 2017.

(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL

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 Executive and the Judiciary; Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

State financing for fair and transparent poll funding

Context:

Indian elections are the world’s biggest exercise in democracy but also among the most expensive. India’s campaign spend is only rivalled by the American presidential race, the world’s most expensive election.

  • In just 28 days since the announcement of the general election, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 1,800 crore.
  • Rs 70 lakh is the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate for Lok Sabha elections.
  • The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • However, simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to five candidates from each of the 543 constituencies.
  • And the amount seized is just the tip of the iceberg. The expenditure in any election is estimated to be several times the legal upper limit.

Just remember –

  • Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961
  • Rs 70 lakh is the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate
  • The EC has identified unchecked money power as one of the biggest concerns and has been rooting for capping party and campaign expenditure to ensure a level-playing field for all parties and to check the money power visible during every elections.
  • However, expenditure in any election is estimated to be several times the legal upper limit.

Do you know?      

  • Under Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act 1951, political parties are free to accept donations from any person, except from a foreign source.
  • Reasons: money wields the ability to disrupt political agenda and foreign money dilutes electoral integrity.

Can state financing of elections ensure free and fair elections?

  • State funding of elections has been suggested in the past in response to the high cost of elections.

A few government reports have looked at state funding of elections in the past, including:

  • Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
  • Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)
  • State financing will establish a fair playing field for parties with less money. Absence of a level playing field reduces the effectiveness of our democracy.
  • Corporate donations constitute the main source of election funding in India which is flooded with black money, with business and corporate donations to political parties commonly taking this form.
  • Therefore, evolving a transparent method of funding political parties is vital to the system of free and fair elections.

But the concern for transparency in political funding is at complete odds with the electoral bonds scheme notified by the government.

Simply put, anybody can buy electoral bonds in the form of bearer bonds from specified branches of the State Bank of India and donate it anonymously to a political party of their choice; the party must cash the bonds within 14 days. All donations given to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets but without exposing the donor details to the public.

The anonymity provision under the scheme is antagonistic to transparency — the bonds merely enable an “on-the-books” secretive transfer. Far from reducing the large-scale corporate funding of elections, the introduction of electoral bonds does not even address this issue.

Alternately, state funding of the recognised political parties and outlawing of corporate funding could be instrumental in making the electoral process fairer and more participatory.

State financing as a viable alternative

  • Thus, necessity would dictate that the task of electoral funding be given to the EC under Article 324.
  • A fair and transparent manner to finance the political parties would require a censure of unaccounted money and direct donations by corporates and non-voters to political parties.
  • State funding of recognised political parties is a viable alternative.
  • A state funding scheme would be viable through the levy of an election cess on the direct taxes.
  • A National Election Fund could be maintained by the EC, into which the proceeds from this cess may be deposited
  • Parties would be inclined to adopt a more inclusive agenda when in government since more votes will translate into more state funding. Parties will also vie for votes in absolute numbers than merely be the first past the post. Democracy will then truly be of the people, for the people and by the people.

Connecting the dots:

  • State funding of elections is a potential solution to reduce the role of unaccounted cash in the electoral process and ensure level playing field. Comment.
  • If corruption-free and fair elections are a pillar of democracy, the taxpayers should pay for elections because they have a real stake in corruption-free good governance. Do you agree? Substantiate.
  • What are various electoral and political funding reforms which need to be undertaken to bring in transparency and accountability in the Indian political environment. Describe.
  • The need for transparency in electoral funding for a level playing field in elections is a fundamental requirement. Discuss. Also suggest measures needed to address the problem of unchecked money power visible during every election.

NATIONAL/GOVERNANCE

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Weathervane of democracy

Context:

  • For the first time since the general election of 1996, the reputation of the Election Commission of India (ECI) has taken a beating.
  • Surveys showed that trust in the ECI was the highest among the major public institutions in India.
  • However, there are now perceptions that the ECI has responded inadequately, or not at all, to violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

Model Code of Conduct

  • The MCC, like the ECI itself, is a unique Indian innovation and encapsulates an important story about democracy in India — the conduct of free and fair elections.
  • Though just a brief set of guidelines, not law, the MCC is a powerful instrument.
  • It comes into force when the ECI announces election dates and comprises directions to government functionaries, political parties and candidates aimed at an impartial election process.
  • Important provisions include barring governments from making policy announcements to sway voters and restraining political actors from inciting hatred against any group, or bribing or intimidating voters.

Origin of MCC

  • The emergence of the code (during 1962 Lok Sabha elections) and its voluntary acceptance by political parties showed the commitment of the political elite to the holding of free and fair elections.
  • However, from 1967 till 1991, as political competition intensified, political actors began to resort to corrupt electoral practices. Governments made populist announcements on the eve of elections, had pliant officials in key positions while intimidation of voters and booth capturing increased.
  • After 1991, the ECI refined the code, making it more stringent by including a section about the misuse of powers by ruling parties and renamed it the MCC. ECI began to command a new respect and electoral malpractices declined dramatically.
  • Though it demanded that the MCC be incorporated in the law, no such law could be passed.

MCC in contemporary times

  • Today, the MCC is at a crossroads, as is the ECI.
  • Electoral malpractice has appeared in new forms. Voter bribery and manipulation through the media have become the techniques of unethically influencing voters in place of voter intimidation and booth capturing. These malpractices are harder to stem.
  • The misuse of the media is difficult to trace to specific political parties and candidates.
  • The ECI’s response to the new challenges has been inadequate, even though it has evolved a code for social media.
  • At the same time, the misuse of money and media power has intensified since the last two elections.
  • ECI’s capacity to respond to the older types of violations of the MCC has weakened.
  • Political actors are regaining the confidence to flout the MCC without facing the consequences.

Today, the ECI’s own commitment to the MCC (which is considered to be the weathervane of our democracy) seems to have weakened, a bad omen for our democracy.

Connecting the dots:

  • What is the model code of conduct during elections? Does Election Commission have adequate powers to enforce it? Discuss.
  • What do you understand by the Model Code of Conduct. Discuss its significance and drawbacks.

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