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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th June 2019

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  • June 18, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th June 2019

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


India to host UN meet on land degradation in September

Part of Prelims and mains GS III Environment and ecology

In news

  • India for the first time will host the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
  • It will see participation from at least 5,000 delegates from nearly 197 countries and will be held between September 2 and 14 in Delhi
  • One of the primary functions of the COP is to review reports submitted by the Country Parties, detailing how they are carrying out their commitments. India will takeover the COP presidency from China for two years until the next COP in 2021.

India and UNCCD

Ahead of the COP-14, India launched a flagship project, part of a larger international initiative called the Bonn Challenge, to enhance India’s capacity for forest landscape restoration (FLR).

It will be implemented during a pilot phase of three-and-a-half years in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka. The project will aim to develop and adapt the best practices and monitoring protocols for the country, and build capacity within the five pilot States. This will eventually be scaled up across the country

India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. A 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organisation found that about 29% of India’s land (in 2011-13) was degraded, this being a 0.57% increase from 2003-05.

At the previous edition of the COP, India had committed to restore 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

The Bonn Challenge

The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

The three sister conventions

The United Nations has three major Conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Established in 1994, the UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.


India to actively curb ‘conflict’ diamonds

Part of Prelims and mains GS II: International peace and security

In news

India has committed to play an active role to curb the circulation of ‘conflict diamonds’ or ‘blood diamonds’ in the international market by further strengthening the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

The 4Cs [cut, clarity, colour and carat] of diamond may soon be expanded to 5Cs with the fifth C being ‘conflict-free’. And the 5Ps of diamond marketing [precious, popular, prestige, priceless] will include ‘peace’ diamonds.

KPCS Intersessional Meeting is an annual mid-year event of KPCS, which unites administrations, civil societies and diamond industry to reduce the flow of conflict diamonds used to finance wars against governments around the world, mostly in African countries. India is the KP chair for 2019.

The ‘blood’ or ‘conflict’ diamonds had been almost excluded from global trade and now account for only 2%. Every rough diamond is accompanied by a certificate confirming its non-conflict origin, and export-import procedures in most of the countries are now subject to rigorous control.

Do you know?

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the process established in 2003 to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56 following recommendations in the Fowler Report.


Bitcoin use causing huge CO2 emissions: Study

Part of Prelims and mains GS III Environment and ecology, Technology

Background:

Bitcoin mining has increased rapidly in recent years, raising the question of whether it is imposing an additional burden on the climate.

The use of Bitcoin — a popular virtual currency — emits over 22 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually, comparable to the total emissions of cities such as Las Vegas and Vienna, a study has found.

For a Bitcoin transfer to be executed and validated, a mathematical puzzle must be solved by an arbitrary computer in the global Bitcoin network.The network, which anyone can join, rewards the puzzle solvers in Bitcoin.

The computing capacity used in this process — known as Bitcoin mining — has increased rapidly in recent years. Statistics show that it quadrupled in 2018 alone.

The power consumption of the network depends primarily on the hardware used for Bitcoin mining. The annual electricity consumption by Bitcoin, as of November 2018, to be about 46 TWh.

Naturally there are bigger factors contributing to climate change. However, the carbon footprint is big enough to make it worth discussing the possibility of regulating cryptocurrency mining in regions where power generation is especially carbon-intensive.

To improve the ecological balance, one possibility might be to link more mining farms to additional renewable generating capacity


Global Peace Index 2019

Part of Prelims: International relations, Mains: GS Paper II – International relations

In news

  • Global Peace Index 2019 is Published by Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP)
  • This is the 13th edition of Global Peace Index which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their levels of peacefulness.
  • It ranks countries and regions on three broad based themes:
  1. Extent of conflict
  2. Safety and Security
  3. Level of militarisation

According to the report,

  • For the world as a whole, 2019 was the first time the peace score has improved in the last five years.
  • West Asia and North Africa is the least peaceful region of the world followed by South Asia. Europe is the most peaceful region of the world.
  • Afghanistan was the least peaceful country of the world in 2019. Earlier it was Syria. While Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world.

India:

  • India’s rank: 141 (Down 5 ranks from 2018)
  • India’s ranking and scores have deteriorated largely due to internal conflicts, the country’s relation with Pakistan and border tensions with China.
  • In 2018, the report noted India’s score was high on the ‘Political Terror Scale’.

(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Governance
  • Government policies and issues arising out of its implementation and design

In the absence of good law

Background

What is public procurement?

Public procurement refers to the purchase by governments and state-owned enterprises of goods, services and works. As public procurement accounts for a substantial portion of the taxpayers’ money, governments are expected to carry it out efficiently and with high standards of conduct in order to ensure high quality of service delivery and safeguard the public interest.

Policies of the government

  • Establishment of GeM:

Government e Marketplace (GeM) is an online procurement platform for government ministries and departments, and the most widely used channel for public procurement in India.  MSMEs, DPIIT recognised startups and other private companies can register on GeM as sellers and sell their products and services directly to government entities.

  • Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSME) order 2012:

The Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSME) order 2012 has mandated Every Central Ministry/Department/PSU shall set an annual goal for procurement from the MSE sector at the beginning of the year, with the objective of achieving an overall procurement goal of minimum 25 per cent of the total annual purchases from the products or services produced or rendered by MSEs.

  • Government has issued Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India), Order 2017

Under this purchase preference shall be given to local suppliers in all procurements undertaken by procuring entities in the manner specified. As per the order the minimum local content shall ordinarily be 50%. The Nodal Ministry may prescribe a higher or lower percentage in respect of any particular item and may also prescribe the manner of calculation of local content. The margin of purchase preference shall be 20% .

Lacunas in the Present system and steps needed

  • Procurement by the government accounts for 30% of the GDP; yet there is no comprehensive parliamentary legislation till date to regulate such public procurement by the Central government.
  • Charges of corruption are common and instead of legislation, there is a maze of regulations, guidelines and rules.
  • Existing constitutional provisions are themselves no great help in this area. While Article 282 provides for financial autonomy in public spending, there are no further provisions that address any guidance on public procurement principles, policies, procedures or for grievance redress.
  • State public procurement is regulated by a State Act only in five States: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. The grievance redress mechanisms provided in these Acts are not confidence-inspiring as they are neither independent nor effective.
  • Frequent Litigations: Courts have imposed stringent self-imposed restrictions in the area of judicial review vis-à-vis tenders that the power to interfere is very sparingly exercised, if at all.
  • The procuring officer is empowered by judicial principles such as “Government must be allowed a play in the joints”. Hence the legal framework is feeble.
  • In such a depressing legal scenario, it is no surprise that public procurement tender awards are often challenged in constitutional courts.
  • Hence need of the hour is to provide efficacious remedy to redress grievances.

Need of Legislation

Parliamentary legislation to regulate public procurements which provide adequate means for aggrieved parties to challenge inequities and illegalities in public procurement needs to be put in place.

The United Progressive Alliance had introduced the Public Procurement Bill in the Lok Sabha in 2012, “to regulate public procurement with the objective of ensuring transparency accountability and probity in the procurement process”.

The National Democratic Alliance, in 2015, revamped the provisions of the earlier Bill to come up with the Public Procurement Bill, 2015; but it is pending.

Conclusion

Public procurement is a crucial pillar of services delivery for governments. Because of the sheer volume of spending it represents, well governed public procurement can and must play a major role in fostering public sector efficiency and establishing citizens’ trust.

Well-designed public procurement systems also contribute to achieving pressing policy goals such as environmental protection, innovation, job creation and the development of small and medium enterprises.

Connecting the dots:

Public procurement is a crucial pillar of services delivery for governments. Do you think there is need of a well designed public procurement policy? Elaborate.


NATIONAL

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Qualifying for Leader of the Opposition

Background

With the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, the question of a formally recognised Opposition party and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) of the Lok Sabha under the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, will arise. The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

What is Leader of Opposition?

  • Opposition party and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) of the Lok Sabha is appointed under the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
  • The 1977 Act defines LoP as that member of the House who is the “Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People, as the case may be.”
  • The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha the same official status, allowances and perks that are admissible to Cabinet Ministers.

Appointment of Leader of opposition

  • In the case of the Lok Sabha, this is subject to recognition of the leader by the Speaker. The Speaker’s decisions in this regard have so far been determined by Direction 121(c) which laid down one of the conditions for recognition of party or group as having “at least a strength equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, that is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House”.
  • The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act, 1998 also refers to a recognised party in the Lok Sabha as a party that has not less than 55 members.
  • It is important to note that the single party and not an alliance must meet the 10% seat criteria in this regard.

Significance of Leader of opposition

A party might not be able to form the government at the center because of the lack of majority, but that doesn’t take away the responsibility of acting as a watchdog of the ruling party. For a healthy Parliamentary democracy it is always considered essential that there should be a strong opposition, which should always be in a position to saddle itself in authority.

The incumbent should offer constructive criticism of government policies. He/she has to ensure that House proceeds expeditiously and holds adequate debate on pressing issues.

Recommendations for improvement

In order to get the designation as the Opposition party, the party must have secured at least 10% of the total number of seats in the parliament. Thus the “party” should be replaced ‘party or pre-poll alliance’.

Pre-poll alliances have credibility and legitimacy the President and Governors while deciding on who to call first for forming the government in cases where no party secures a clear majority support in the House, move to call pre-poll alliance.

Proposed benefits

It has the potential for the growth of a sound two- or three-party (or alliance) system. It could end the present system of having more than 2,000 parties being registered with the Election Commission.

It may provide for candidates of an alliance contesting on a common symbol and an agreed common minimum programme with only national alliances or parties contesting for the Lok Sabha.

Connecting the dots:

Considering the importance of role played by the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, do you think there is need to modify eligibility criteria for recognition of leader of opposition?


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  1. Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  2. IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is,

  1. For international trade in genetically modifies agro based products.
  2. For elimination of conflict diamonds from international trade.
  3. Certification uranium enrichment for civil use
  4. None of the above

Q.2) Consider the following statements

  1. Global Peace Index 2019 is Published by Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
  2. It ranks countries and regions on three broad based themes: Extent of conflict, Safety and Security, and Level of militarization.

Select the incorrect statements

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3) The Bonn Challenge recently seen in news is related to,

  1. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  2. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  3. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  4. All of the above

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