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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 8th May 2019

  • IASbaba
  • May 8, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 8th May 2019

Archives


(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL/POLITY

TOPIC: General studies 2 

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Need for Judicial Reforms

Context:

  • The below article highlights why there is a need for judicial reforms and how judiciary and its judges have become even more powerful than ever before, and the institution even more opaque.
  • We are aware that Indian judiciary is facing its worst hour of crisis.

Below is a look at some of the issues or incidents where the judiciary has been in the news for all the wrong reasons –

Sexual harassment allegation against CJI

  • The manner in which the sexual harassment allegation against CJI is handled and the opaque in-house committee findings has brought the judiciary to a tipping point.
  • The announcement of constituting an internal Supreme Court committee to examine the sexual harassment charges against CJI was always a bad idea since, at the end of the day, the judges reported to the CJI.
  • In addition the in-house committee was an all-male bench (headed by the CJI)
  • The complainant was not allowed to have her lawyer with her; she wasn’t even given a written copy of her statement to the committee, and there was no audio/video recording of the proceedings which is critical to ensure that all witnesses were interviewed and that their statements were taken into account by the committee.
  • With the in-house committee giving the CJI a clean chit, definitely proves that judges have become more powerful than ever before, and the institution even more opaque.

Appointment process

  • In the 1990s, over the course of three cases, the judges created the collegium which had the sole right to recommend appointing/promoting judges.
  • Till then, this was done by the government, and when the government tried to strike a balance by proposing a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) which gave both the government and the Supreme Court an equal say in selecting judges – and both had a veto – the SC struck this down even as its own judgment made it clear the collegium system had serious shortcomings.

Not open to any reforms

  • Recently, four judges went public with their protest against the then CJI and a letter written by Justice CS Karnan gave a list of 20 corrupt sitting/retired Supreme Court and high court judges.
  • While the letter spoke of the need to “revisit the process of appointment of judges and to set up a mechanism for corrective measures other than impeachment”, nothing of the sort took place.
  • A Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill was brought into Parliament in 2000 to address these issues by setting up a National Judicial Oversight Committee, a Complaints Scrutiny Panel and an Investigation Committee, but nothing came of it.

Lack of gender diversity

  • The judiciary is one of the least diverse institutions in India.
  • Since 1950, the SC has had only eight female judges out of 239, with the present three out of 27 being the highest concurrent representation women have ever had on the SC bench.
  • In the subordinate judiciary, merely 27.6 per cent of the judges are female.
  • Even if a female advocate crosses many barriers and thrive in her profession, the current collegium system for the appointment of judges is simply not designed to ensure her elevation to the bench. This appointments process in itself is severely lacking in women’s representation.
  • This lack of women on the bench, at all levels of the judiciary, is at the very root of the impunity with which the top court has, in a single stroke, destroyed decades worth of progress made in deterring sexual harassment of women from all walks of life.

Conclusion:

  • The present calamity in the judiciary provides an unprecedented opportunity to course correct on several accounts.
  • Judiciary is now left with no choice but to undertake a massive exercise in introspection and reform.
  • Effective reforms are essential to keep the judiciary from becoming irrelevant and severed from the idea of justice.
  • And, in the absence of that, it is difficult to see how the dignity of the Supreme Court and the judiciary can be restored.

Connecting the dots:

  • If the judiciary is strong, the constitutional values of India can be successfully upheld. Critically examine.
  • Judiciary is no longer a ‘secret’ organisation when it comes to its functioning. Discuss the various transparency initiatives taken by Indian judiciary.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

TOPIC: General studies 2 and 3 

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • Technology as an agent of social change

India’s digital pathway

Context:

  • India is digitising faster than almost every other country.
  • Roti, kapda, makaan … and internet – is now the updated version of an Indian’s bare necessities of life
  • Supreme Court even granted Indians the internet as a fundamental right.

India’s digital future

  • 40% growth in internet users expected in the next five years
  • Absence of connectivity for 65% of the country
  • Worrisome challenges on infrastructure readiness and shortcomings in policy approaches
  • Inadequate progress to implement the policy items

There is much to be done – India needs humongous investments and critical infrastructure to realise our true potential as future leaders in digital communications.

Concerns

  • India’s mobile broadband speeds are only about one-third the global average of 23.6 Mbps (EY).
  • With regard to fixed broadband speeds, India ranks a low 67 in the world (according to Speedtest Global Index).
  • High broadband speeds are required to extract maximum economic benefits from broadband and reduce the quality issues that plague us.
  • Only 7% of our country has internet through fixed-line connections (TRAI). The world average is 46%.
  • Top quality downloads at high speeds with minimum delay need fixed-line internet. Mobile internet cannot shoulder this burden alone.
  • India’s mobile broadband is crunched at over 90% utilisation. The international best practice is 60-70% to ensure a high quality with next-generation services.
  • India has to augment resources to enhance its mobile broadband capacity. One reason for the capacity crunch is the limited broadband spectrum allocation.
  • As much as 40% of unused spectrum is lying idle at unrealistically high reserve prices that inhibit spectrum take-up. Enormous value loss to the economy.
  • Consumers, businesses and individuals only get limited access to high-quality, high-speed fixed-line internet, thus hindering productivity. If reformed, we can create 60-65 million jobs across sectors by 2025 (according to McKinsey).

Measures taken or needed:

  • National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP 2018) gazette-notified recently has outlined a clear way forward with goals to fiberise India, improve spectrum usage and satellite communications, and get 5G-ready. (Need effective implementation)
  • There is a need to improve broadband speed and capacity to enhance economic benefits.
  • While fiberising India is imperative, we need to upgrade the quality of our fibre networks, and provide fibre-to-home services.
  • It is difficult to envisage digital leadership without domestic manufacturing capacity growing concurrently with foreign players in India. Both customer-facing equipment like smartphones and the digital network infrastructure need to be fully developed and operational.
  • India has more than 150 domestic units producing mobile phones, but a closer look reveals that these are mere assembly units and the value added is in single digits. We need to move up the value chain rapidly or else India will continue to slide behind its global peers.
  • Ensuring a digital future does not come cheap. India needs an investment of Rs 4.2 lakh crore just to get India 5G-ready (EY). Added to this the costs of smart cities, fiberisation, satcom modernisation and digital skill-building. India would be needing nearly Rs 1 lakh crore over the next five years.

Significance of high-speed broadband

  • It will help the IT, BPM, digital communications services, and electronics manufacturing sectors to double their GDP contribution to $435 billion in the five years.
  • Newer sectors are digitising at a rapid pace and can accelerate productivity.
  • Agriculture, education, energy, financial services, healthcare, logistics, retail, government services and labour markets could create $10-150 billion of incremental economic value.

Do you know?

  • Indian telecom service providers (TSPs) offer lowest user tariffs but are laden with some of the highest levies in the world.
  • Licence fees and 12% levies of revenue, GST and exorbitant spectrum auction reserve prices make it prohibitive for the businesses to operate.
  • In most countries, such regulatory fees are negligible. A reduction in levies and duties will allow TSPs to compete freely, embrace innovations, and invest in infrastructure to move forward.
  • India’s overwhelming percentage of data usage is video—which is mostly entertainment. Policies should focus to proactively boost the amount of digital business-to-business, financial, industrial and other data transactions.
  • We need government initiatives to educate and bring awareness about the benefits of digitising to the agriculture, healthcare, public safety, logistics management and other sectors. Only then will we see strong benefits across sectors.

Connecting the dots:

  • Discuss the significance of improving broadband speed and capacity in India.
  • Can a digitally backward India ensure financial inclusion? Examine.

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