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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th April 2020

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  • April 14, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th April 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


CovidGyan: Multi-institutional, Multi-lingual science communication initiative created

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Science and Technology

In News:

  • A multi-institutional, multi-lingual science communication initiative, called `CovidGyan’ has been created to bring the scientific and factual aspects of this pandemic outbreak on to public domain. 

Key takeaways:

  • The initiative is the brainchild of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and Tata Memorial Centre (TMC).
  • A website named ‘CovidGyan’ was also launched under this initiative. 
  • The website serves as a hub to bring together a collection of resources in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • The primary objective of the website is to create public awareness and bring in a holistic approach to the understanding of this disease and potential means to mitigate it. 

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act: States demand access to revenue

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy

In News:

  • Recently, majority of the Chief Ministers demanded increasing the State’s access to revenue under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act due to crippling shortage of funds. 

Important value additions: 

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act

  • The FRBM Act, enacted in 2003 by Parliament aims to reduce India’s fiscal deficit and improve macroeconomic management.
  • Since then, every Budget includes a Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement that specifies the annual revenue and fiscal deficit goals over a three-year horizon.
  • The present target is of reducing the fiscal deficit to 3.1% of GDP by March 2023
  • The Act allows the government to exceed the annual fiscal deficit target under extra-ordinary situations like national security, national calamity.
  • Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the current circumstances would be apt for suspending both the Centre’s and States’ fiscal deficit targets.
  • This would allow both the Union government and States to undertake the much-needed increases in expenditure to meet the extraordinary circumstances.

Fiscal deficit

  • It is a shortfall in a government’s income compared with its spending. 
  • The government that has a fiscal deficit is spending beyond its means.

Miscellaneous 

CSR Expenditure 

  • The Ministry of Commerce has clarified that the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund’ or ‘State Relief Fund for COVID-19’ is not included in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, and therefore any contribution to such funds shall not qualify as admissible CSR expenditure”. 
  • Contribution made to State Disaster Management Authority to combat COVID-19 shall qualify as CSR expenditure. 

Primordial Black Holes 

  • They were born as a result of a tiny bump in the potential energy levels of the universe, at a time when it was expanding rapidly.
  • They were formed during the Hot Big Bang phase.
  • It is believed that they are formed as a result of collapsing radiations
  • The recent study has confirmed that marginal rise in potential energy resulted in birth of several PBHs and also emitted very powerful gravitational waves.
  • PBH can be massively large or be extremely tiny

Remdesivir 

  • A recent article showed that the drug candidate remdesivir exhibits promising activity against the COVID-19 causing virus. 
  • It might work well in retarding virus replication. 
  • It was developed by Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus infections.

Nihang 

  • A group of Nihangs attacked a Punjab police party recently. 
  • Nihang is an order of Sikh warriors, characterised by blue robes, antiquated arms such as swords and spears, and decorated turbans surmounted by steel quoits.
  • Any person irrespective of caste, creed or religion can become Nihang provided he has unshorn hair as per the Sikh traditions at the time of entering the sect. 
  • Their origin can be traced back to the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Nihangs had a major role in defending the Sikh panth after the fall of the first Sikh rule (1710-15). 
  • Their clout came to an end after the fall of Sikh Empire in 1849. 
  • Nihangs today constitute a small community. 

Festivals being celebrated all over India

Vaisakhi Observed by Sikhs all over the world
Vishu Celebrated in Kerala, Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka, bordering areas of Tamil Nadu
Rongali Bihu Celebrated by the people of Assam
Naba Barsha Celebrated in Bengal
Puthandu Tamil Nadu new year 

Bharat Padhe Online

  • Launched by Ministry of Human Resource Development, it is a week long campaign for Crowd sourcing of ideas for improving online education ecosystem of India. 

(MAINS FOCUS)


POLITY/ ETHICS

Topic: General Studies 2 & 4:

  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies 
  • Philosophical basis of governance and probity 

State Election Commission: Threat to its Independence 

Context: AP government brought in an Ordinance on April 10th 2020 which led to removal of incumbent State Election Commissioner(SEC)

About State Election Commissioner

  • Under 73rd  and 74th constitutional amendment acts, State Election Commissions were created for every state to conduct elections to panchayats and municipalities
  • He/She is appointed by the Governor
  • His conditions of service and tenure of office shall also be determined by the governor.
  • SEC shall be removed from his office in the same manner & ground as a Judge of a High Court
  • A judge of a high court can be removed from his office by the President on the recommendation of the parliament

Brief background of the tussle between AP State Government & SEC

  • SEC had postponed the local body elections (to be held on March 15th) citing the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • AP State government has criticised that SEC did not consult the government while postponing elections 
  • AP State government appealed the decision in SC but the court refused to interfere
  • AP CM also alleged that SEC (appointed by previous government) was acting in nexus with the opposition, to prevent the victory of his party in elections, by postponing it.

What were the major changes that was brought through the Ordinance?

  • It reduced the SEC’s tenure from five to three years
  • The criterion for holding SEC office was amended – Only those who served as a High Court judge could occupy the post (earlier it was an officer of the rank of Principal Secretary & above)

Consequence of the Ordinance

  • Incumbent SEC Mr. Ramesh Kumar – a civil servant and 2016 appointee- was no longer the SEC 
  • Justice Kanagaraj took charge as new SEC

Criticisms of the Ordinance

  • Misuse of power by AP CM– with the intention to remove incumbent SEC 
  • Against Article 243K – The article prohibits the variation of any condition of service to the detriment of any incumbent
  • The ordinance amounts to encroaching upon the independence of the Constitutional body, especially in the light of political accusations made against SEC
  • Due Process of Law not followed: government did not give reasons for its sudden decision
  • Danger to Democracy: If the Courts upholds this ordinance then it will be end of free & fair elections 
  • Legality of the Ordinance: State government has no legal right to terminate the SEC’s tenure, as the Constitution makes the holder of that post removable only in the same manner as a High Court judge.

What was the basis on which AP issued the ordinance?

  • In Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007), the Allahabad High Court ruled that cessation of tenure does not amount to removal and upheld the SEC’s tenure being cut short.
  • The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of judgment of HC in this case

Critical Analysis of Aparmita Prasad Singh Case

  • The HC judgment seems erroneous, as it gives a complete freedom to the State government to remove an inconvenient SEC by merely changing the tenure or retirement age.
  • Against Legal Principles: It is a well-settled principle in law that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.
  • Scope for revision: Even though SC dismissed the appeal, it has kept open the legal questions arising from the case

Way Forward

  • The government should have waited for the COVID-19 crisis to be over for promulgating such Ordinances
  • The new norm should only apply to the successor SEC, and not the one currently holding the office.
  • Governments should ensure the independence of elections authorities 

Connecting the dots:

  • State Finance Commission
  • 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts – Critical Analysis

JUDICIARY/ GOVERNANCE/ S&T

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary 
  • 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.

Accessing justice online

Due to COVID-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdown to courts, citizens’ access to justice has been severely restricted

However, the root problem is the inability of the conventional court system to deliver timely justice. 

Do You Know?

  • As of Nov 2019, 43.55 lakh cases were pending in High court and 58,669 cases were pending in the Supreme Court
  • At the district and subordinate court levels, the number of pending cases stand at a 3.14 crore (as of Nov 2019)
  • Nearly 40% of the sanctioned judge strength in Higher Courts is pending (2019)

Consequences of Judicial delay in resolving cases

  • Justice denied is equivalent to justice denied
  • Justice will be accessible only to rich as they can afford to withstand the lengthy process
  • Provides scope for emergence of cheaper judicial avenues like Khap Panchayats
  • Erosion of Public trust on Judiciary thus threatening Democratic values

However, technology now provides us an opportunity to meet the challenge.

Case Study of Kerala High Court

  • On March 30, 2020, it created history by not only conducting proceedings through video conferencing but also live streaming the proceedings.
  • The judges conducted the hearing from their homes and concerned law officers also participated in the proceedings from their respective offices.

A blueprint for e-courts

  • Establishment of task force consisting of judges, technologists, court administrators, skill developers and system analysts- 
  • Objective of Taskforce: To draw up a blueprint for institutionalising online access to justice.
  • Responsibilities of taskforce
    • Establishing hardware, software and IT systems for courts
    • Establishing appropriate e-filing systems and procedures
    • Skill training of involved stakeholders
    • Examining application of artificial intelligence benefiting from the data base generated through e-courts projects
  • The experience of Kerala High Court can be leveraged to institutionalise the system

Way Ahead:

  • Mission mode implementation of e-courts model across the country
  • Awareness among citizens about welfare schemes and their rights which can hold governments accountable
  • Effective implementation of Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 

Connecting the dots:

  • National Judicial Data Grid
  • National Judicial Appointments Commission – Why SC struck it down?

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding CovidGyan:

  1. It is a government initiative.
  2. Primary objective of the website is to create public awareness.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding FRBM act

  1. The present target of reducing the fiscal deficit is 3.1 % 
  2. The government may exceed the fiscal deficit target under extra-ordinary circumstances.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

Q.3 Puthandu is celebrated in which of the following state

  1. Tamil Nadu 
  2. Kerala 
  3. Karnataka 
  4. Andhra Pradesh

Q.4 Consider the following statements regarding Nihang:

  1. Any person can become Nihang. 
  2. Their origin can be traced back to the creation of Khalsa.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

ANSWERS FOR 13th April 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 C
3 A
4 C

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