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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th May 2019

  • IASbaba
  • May 17, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th May 2019

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


New points-based green card system

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

In news:

  • U.S. President announces new points-based green card system
  • Education, language skills to be rewarded in new proposal

Do you know?

  • The Green Card is an identification card indicating the holder’s status to live and work in the USA permanently.
  • The easiest way to get a Green Card is by participating in the Green Card Lottery.

About Green card:

  • Green Card is the unofficial nickname for the permit allowing immigrants to permanently live and work in the United States of America.
  • The official name of the US Green Card is “Lawful Permanent Resident Card”.
  • Green Card holders are known as “Permanent Residents”.
  • Those who possess a Green Card are allowed to emigrate to the USA and stay there for as long as they like.
  • Those with a Green Card do not need to apply for an ESTA (travel authorization) or any another type of visa to enter the USA.
  • US Green Card holders are not automatically American citizens.
  • Green Card holders have the possibility to become American citizens after living in the USA for five years.

Impact of new policy

  • Proposal includes significant changes to the way green cards are allocated, by dramatically reducing the number of family-based green cards.
  • It moves towards a points-based (“merit-based”) system that will reward, among other factors, education, skills and English language proficiency.
  • The plan sought to boost border security and tighten asylum procedures.
  • The new plan will dramatically increase the number of green cards that are given through the skills route versus the family-based route.
  • Currently about 12% of those receiving green cards entered the U.S. based on skill-based visas (such as the H1B), while some 66% are family-based green cards.

Wildlife Sanctuary in news: Balukhand-Konark

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Bio-diversity and Environment; Protected Areas

 In news:

  • Nearly 55 lakh trees in Balukhand-Konark sanctuary were damaged by Cyclone Fani.
  • The effective area of the sanctuary has shrunk further due to human encroachments and ever growing anthropogenic pressures.
  • Several institutions (educational) and small industries having come up all around this sanctuary more biotic pressure is being put on the sanctuary precincts.
  • On an average more than 2000 people daily go inside the sanctuary for sustaining their livelihood, which results in habitat loss and degradation for the fauna residing.
  • The animals stray into the fields of villagers in search of food by crossing the sanctuary limits which results in Man-animal conflict and road kills.
  • The greatest threat to fauna residing in that place is the national highway connecting Puri and Konark which passes through the sanctuary.

Do you know?

Balukhand-Konark sanctuary

  • The area under consideration is the marine-land mass interface belt in the Konark-Puri transition area in Odisha.
  • The sanctuary was established on the sandy tract covered by plantation of casuarina and cashew trees, along the coast between Puri and Konark.
  • Spotted-deer were found abound in the area but the star attraction is the rare Black-buck.
  • Two rivers, namely the Nuanai and the Kushabhadra, which are subject to tidal influences, pass through the sanctuary and the river mouths are part of the sanctuary area.
  • This sanctuary is stretched along the coast of Puri –Konark and is well known for spotted- deer and other wildlife.
  • The other species found here are Black-Buck, Hare, Olive Ridley, Jackal, hyenas, Jungle cat, Monitor lizards, etc

Animal in news: Slender Loris

Scorching heat forces animals out

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Bio-diversity and Environment; Impact of climate change; Animal conservation

In news:

  • Scorching heat forces animals out of Seshachalam biosphere reserve. (Andhra Pradesh)
  • With water and food depleting, even shy and critically endangered species are foraying into human habitations.

Do you know?

  • The summer heat touching 45 degree Celsius, wild animals in the Seshachalam biosphere spread over Chittoor and Kadapa districts are having a torrid time.
  • The phenomenon, which is preceded by deficit rainfall in the region, is forcing the animals to enter forest fringe villages to quench their thirst.
  • The intensity of heat this year is said to be the highest in the biosphere.
  • Even shy and critically endangered species such as the pangolin and the slender loris (devanga pilli) are venturing out of their habitats.

About Slender Loris

  • Commonly found in the tropical scrub and deciduous forests as well as the dense hedgerow plantations bordering farmlands of Southern India and Sri Lanka.
  • The Slender Loris is a small, nocturnal primate.
  • It prefers to inhabit thick, thorny bushes and bamboo clumps where it can evade predators and also find insects, which is the main diet.
  • IUCN status: Endangered
  • They are listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, according them the highest level of legal protection.
  • WWF-India is working to protect the habitats of the Slender Loris through its wider conservation work in the Western Ghats – Nilgiris Landscape.

COMCASA

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II: International Relations; India-US ties

In news:

  • The foundational agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which India signed last year, would enable exchange of information on threats coming from sea.
  • Pact will aid information exchange to fight terrorism

Do you know?

  • India and the U.S. on September 6 signed the foundational or enabling agreement COMCASA on the side-lines of the inaugural 2+2 dialogue.
  • COMCASA stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement and is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
  • India had signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
  • The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

About COMCASA

  • COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
  • COMCASA allows India to procure transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is.
  • It will enable greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the US. Data acquired through such systems cannot be disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent.

Miscellaneous:

International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX)

  • Three-day Asia-Pacific naval and maritime event, International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX) happened in Singapore.
  • Two warships, INS Kolkata and INS Shakti, are participating in IMDEX as also several Indian engineering and ship-building firms, including the Larsen & Toubro and the BrahMos aerospace corporation.
  • After IMDEX, the Indian ships along with a Navy P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft will participate in the 26th edition of the Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) scheduled from May 16 to 22.
  • SIMBEX is the longest uninterrupted naval exercise that India has with any other country.

(MAINS FOCUS)


INTERNATIONAL/ENERGY

TOPIC: General studies 2 and 3

  •  India and the World
  • International Relations
  • Policies of developed and developing countries and their impact on India’s interests
  • Indian Economy and related issues

India’s rising stature in global trade: Conflict with US

Introduction:

US Commerce Secretary recently visited India to raise the issue of supposedly high barriers to trade erected by India.  This visit was preceded by a series of measures announced by the US against India, including –

  • India was put on the Priority Watch List in its annual Special 301 Report.
  • Termination of Iran’s oil sanction waivers available to India along with other countries.
  • Highlighting of data localisation requirements in India as a key barrier to digital trade in the USTR National Trade Estimate report.
  • Announcement to terminate India’s designation as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences.
  • Increase in H1B visa fee, which will affect Indian IT services exports to the US.

America’s interests:

The American tactic of announcing threatening measures is to hit economically hard and arm-twist India so as to bring it to the negotiating table, and compel India to accept the American demands of:

  • Increased market access through reduced tariffs on dairy products, wheat and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
  • Removing the price caps fixed by the Indian government on medical devices of interest to US producers.
  • Change in India’s domestic IP laws for protecting windfall monopoly profits of the US IP holders, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.
  • No restrictions on cross-border data flows.
  • Roll-back measures pertaining to data localisation in financial services taken by RBI.

 India is not a ‘tariff king’:

  • The US cherry-picked data to portray India as a highly protected country and described it as ‘tariff king’. But it is contrary to the fact. The highest tariff in India is 150% on alcoholic beverages, whereas in the US the highest tariff is 350% on tobacco products.
  • India’s highest tariff is much lower than applied by many other countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, to name a few.
  • Even from the average tariff perspective, India’s average applied tariff is 13.4%, much below its average bound tariff at the WTO.

Issues at WTO:

  • The US is also apparently unhappy with India’s submission in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), cosponsored with the European Union and other WTO members on reforming the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO. The suggested reforms in India’s cosponsored paper widely differ from the position taken by the US on the functioning of the DSB and the reforms proposed by the US.
  • The US has been blocking new appointments to the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), arguing over its role and leaving it with the bare minimum needed to function.

Issue:

  • The US has earlier stated that India and some other developing countries had made great development strides over the years and hence should not be allowed to take benefits of the special and differential (S&D) provisions of the WTO.
  • While there is no denial that India and other developing countries have made progress over the years, the development divide is still very much present between developed and developing countries, and hence the need for continuance of S&D provisions.

Way ahead:

The US is well aware that if there is any country after China that can challenge the hegemony of the US in the future, it is India. Therefore, the US is using these threatening and other tactics to suppress the rising stature of India in the global trading system, and to curtail the potential of the country to grow economically.

India should stand firm on most of the above issues in its dealings with the US bilaterally as well as at the WTO.

  • The government response and policy formulation should be driven by domestic requirements and not by any dictate from the US.
  • At the same time, track II economic diplomacy through chambers of commerce and industry lobby groups could be encouraged to make the US aware of the losses that will incur to both sides, if such posturing by the US against India continues.

Connecting the dots:

  • The US has been suppressing India’s rising stature in the global trading system. Comment.

NATIONAL

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Constitution; Separation of powers
  • Judiciary and its functions

Judicial Review and Judicial Activism

Introduction:

Lawmaking is not the job of the judges, but of the legislature. The recent trend in the Supreme Court is resorting more to judicial activism rather than judicial restraint, which is problematic.

Judicial review:

  • It can be defined as the doctrine under which Legislative and Executive actions are subject to review by Judiciary.
  • It is generally considered as a basic structure of independent judiciary (Indira Gandhi vs. Rajnarain case).
  • It is the duty of judges to ensure that balance of power is maintained, to protect human rights, Fundamental Rights, and citizens’ rights of life and liberty.

Limitations:

As courts have wide powers of judicial review, these powers have to be exercised with great caution and control. The limitations of these powers are:

  • It is only permissible to the extent of finding whether the procedure in reaching the decision has been correctly followed but not the decision itself.
  • It is delegated to superior courts only, i.e. Supreme Court and High Courts.
  • Cannot interfere in policy matters and political questions unless absolutely necessary.
  • Directions given by court would be binding only till legislation is enacted, i.e. it is temporary in nature.
  • Can interpret and invalidate a law but it cannot itself make laws.

Judicial Activism

  • It can be defined as a philosophy of judicial decision making whereby judges allow their personal views regarding a public policy instead of constitutionalism.

A few cases of judicial activism in India are as follows:

  • Golaknath case in which Supreme Court declared that Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part 3 are immutable and cannot be amended.
  • Kesavananda Bharati case – whereby Supreme Court introduced doctrine of basic structure, i.e. Parliament has power to amend without altering basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The Second Judges Case (1993) and Third Judges Case (1998), which created the collegium system of appointment of judges, were not based on any provision in the Constitution.
  • Article 124, which prescribes how Supreme Court judges are to be appointed, does not talk of any collegium system.

Recent instances of judicial activism:

  • Ordering time limits to burst firecrackers on Diwali, which is a function of the legislature;
  • Its judgment on linking rivers, for which there is no parliamentary legislation;
  • Decisions in cases relating to freedom of speech and expression, such as

Criticisms:

  • It is often said that in the name of activism, judiciary often rewrites with personal opinions. In other words, the court can lay down anything as law according to its own subjective notions.
  • The Theory of Separation of Powers is overthrown (Theory- Judges should not perform legislative or executive functions, and each organ of the state should remain within its own domain, in order to avoid chaos).

Conclusion:

There is only a thin line of separation between review and activism.

While judicial review means to decide if the law/act is consistent with the Constitution, judicial activism is more of a behavioural concept of the judge concerned.

The importance of judicial activism lies with position accorded to institution as a place of hope for aggrieved persons (Example- Striking down of Section 377 of the IPC).

However, the Supreme Court should limit its usage of judicial activism to only the most exceptional situations, and employ restraint as far as possible.

Connecting the dots:

  • What do you understand by the term judicial activism? While judicial review is a welcome thing judicial activism isn’t. Comment.

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