IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 15th June 2020
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – Fundamental Rights; Constitution
- The Supreme Court has recently observed that the Right to reservation is not a fundamental right.
- It has ruled that nobody can claim right to reservation as a fundamental right.
- Not giving the quota benefits cannot be construed as a violation of any constitutional right.
- The petitions filed in Tamil Nadu said that 50 per cent of OBC candidates must get admissions in the medical colleges out of seats surrendered under the all India Quota, except for central government institutions.
- The Supreme Court questioned the petition emphasising that Article 32 could not be applied since there was no fundamental right to have reservation benefits.
Important value additions
- In February 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in public jobs and no court can order a state government to provide for reservation to SC/STs.
- Article 32 is available only for violation of fundamental rights, but right to reservation is not a fundamental right.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Environment; Biodiversity
- The first population estimation exercise of the Indian gaur, carried out in the Nilgiris Forest Division over the last few years, has revealed that more than an estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs inhabit the entire division.
Important value additions
- Its Scientific name is Bos Gaurus.
- It is one of the largest existing bovines.
- It is also one of the largest species among the wild cattle.
- Gaurs are found on the forested hills and grassy areas of South to South-east Asia.
- They are found in India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
- The Western Ghats in southern India constitute one of the most extensive extant strongholds of gaur, in particular in the Wayanad – Nagarhole – Mudumalai – Bandipur complex.
- It is also the State Animal of Goa and Bihar.
- It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.
- It is included in the Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.
- It is listed in CITES Appendix I.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Artificial Intelligence; Indigenisation; Science and Technology
- Railway Protection Force, Pune, under the Central Railways, has launched a Robotic ‘CAPTAIN ARJUN’ (Always be Responsible and Just Use to be Nice) to intensify the screening and surveillance.
- This Robot is launched to screen passengers while they board trains and keep a watch on anti-social elements.
- It can be deployed for multiple uses and it is an effective element in station access control and will augment the station security plan.
- It is equipped with a motion sensor, one PTZ camera and one Dome Camera.
- The Cameras use Artificial Intelligence algorithms to track suspicious and antisocial activity.
- It does thermal screening and records the temperature in a digital display panel.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – International Relations & GS-III – Space
- Japan and India will be launching a joint lunar mission called the Lunar Polar Exploration (LPE).
- The mission aims to put a lander and rover on Moon’s surface.
- The mission will be launched after 2023.
- Japanese space agency JAXA would be building the overall landing module and the rover, while ISRO would develop the lander system.
- It will be launched from Japan, and the designated launch vehicle is the H3 rocket.
- The mission intends to obtain data on the quantity and forms of water resources present, in order to determine the feasibility of utilizing such resources for sustainable space exploration activities in the future.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Economy
- The RBI has constituted a five-member Internal Working Group to review present ownership guidelines and corporate structure for Indian Private Sector Banks.
- RBI Central Board Director P K Mohanty will head the committee.
- It will submit its report by 30th September, 2020.
- Terms of Reference of the Committee are:
- To review the present licensing guidelines and regulations relating to ownership and control in Indian private sector banks and suggest appropriate norms.
- To examine and review the eligibility criteria for individuals/ entities to apply for banking licenses.
- To study the current regulations on holding of financial subsidiaries through non-operative financial holding company (NOFHC) and suggest the manner of migrating all banks to a uniform regulation in the matter.
- To examine the norms for promoter shareholding at the initial/licensing stage and subsequently, along with the timelines for dilution of the shareholding.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Science and technology
- The Department of Science & Technology (DST) has constituted a joint Science Communication Forum to facilitate interaction and coordination amongst various public sector science communication institutions and agencies.
- It is represented by senior officials from various central ministries and departments which include:
- Atomic Energy
- Information & Broadcasting
- Science & Technology
- The Forum would be served by a Secretariat at the National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC), Department of Science & Technology.
- It brings together science communication efforts spread across various institutions and can help adoption of a common policy and best practices at a wider scale.
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Climate change
- The principal reason that led to the recent 20,000-tonne oil leak at Norilsk at an Arctic region power plant in Russia is the sinking of ground surface due to permafrost thaw.
- The plant is built entirely on permafrost, whose weakening over the years due to climate change caused the pillars supporting a fuel tank at the plant to sink.
Important value additions
- Permafrost is any ground that remains completely frozen — 32°F (0°C) or colder — for at least two years straight.
- It is defined solely based on temperature and duration.
- It covers large regions of the Earth.
- Almost a quarter of the land area in the Northern Hemisphere has permafrost underneath.
- It is made of a combination of soil, rocks and sand that are held together by ice.
- The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long.
- Near the surface, permafrost soils also contain large quantities of organic carbon due to the cold.
- Lower permafrost layers contain soils made mostly of minerals.
- A layer of soil on top of permafrost does not stay frozen all year. This layer, called the active layer, thaws during the warm summer months and freezes again in the fall.
Impact of Climate Change on Permafrost
- As Earth’s climate warms, the permafrost is thawing. That means the ice inside the permafrost melts, leaving behind water and soil.
- Thawing permafrost can have dramatic impacts on our planet.
- Thawing permafrost can destroy houses, roads and other infrastructure.
- When permafrost is frozen, plant material in the soil (organic carbon) can’t decompose.
- As permafrost thaws, microbes begin decomposing this material which releases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Due to thawing, ancient bacteria and viruses in the ice and soil can also unfreeze which could make humans and animals very sick.
Raja Parba Festival
- It is Odisha’s three-day unique festival celebrating the onset of monsoon and the earth’s womanhood.
- It is believed that during this time the Mother Earth or Bhudevi undergoes menstruation.
- As a mark of respect towards the earth, all agricultural works are suspended for the three days.
- It was recently launched by a CSIR.
- It is a National Healthcare Supply Chain Portal that aims to provide real-time availability of critical healthcare supplies.
- It is launched to serve manufacturers, suppliers and customers to effectively deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The vision of this initiative is to set up an information management and forecasting database platform at national level.
- It will capture demand and supply scenarios for key healthcare needs items.
- The 56,000-year-old Lonar crater sanctuary lake in Buldhana district, Maharashtra has turned red/pink, most probably due to salinity and presence of algae in the water body.
- Lonar Lake was created by a meteor impact during the Pleistocene Epoch.
- It is the only known hyper velocity meteorite crater in basaltic rock anywhere on Earth.
- It was notified as a National Geo-heritage Monument in 1979 by Geological Survey of India (GSI).
- Two other similar ones are in Dhala and Ramgarh in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively but both are relatively unknown.
Image source: The Hindu
Topic: General Studies 2:
- Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
- Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Context: The COVID-19 has deepened the faultlines in Centre-state fiscal relations. Against this backdrop, the 15th Finance Commission is expected to submit its report by October 2020
The Commission’s report will be critical on two counts:
- First, it will determine how India’s fiscal architecture is reshaped
- Second, how Centre-state relations are reset as the country attempts to recover from the COVID-19 shock
Challenges ahead for 15th FC
- Dominance of Centre: The present dispensation is at unease with extending greater fiscal autonomy to states. This was apparent in the framing of the terms of reference of the 15th FC. Centralisation of political power may well lead to demands for centralisation of resources.
- Issue of tax devolution to states: 42% of Central divisible pool of resources were allotted to States on recommendation of 14th FC. There is pressure by Centre to get back the fiscal space it ceded to the states and assert its dominance over the country’s fiscal architecture
- States Vs Centre: Challenge for 15th FC to balance the contesting claims of Centre (reduced devolution and conditional funds) and the states (more untied funds)
- Containing Debt-to-GDP ratio: FRBM review committee had envisaged bringing down general government debt to 60% of GDP by 2022. However,the debt-to-GDP ratio may well be over 80% this year which 15FC has to factor in.
- Sharing of debt reduction: In the wake of increase in Debt-to-GDP ratio, 15th FC will have to lay out a new fiscal path to be followed by both Centre and states. There is challenge of ensuring the burden of debt reduction fall equally upon the Centre and states
- Leeway for Centre: The Commission may allow the Centre to have greater leeway when it comes to fiscal consolidation as the fiscal multiplier of central government capital spending is greater than that by the states
- Issue of state borrowings: Recently, the Centre increased the State’s borrowing limits, linking it with reforms. There is challenge that FC, in line with its terms of reference, go along with the Centre’s stance and recommend imposing conditions on additional borrowing of states and formalise this arrangement
- Issue of the GST compensation cess: The GST council is yet to give its views on the extension of the compensation cess to offset states losses beyond the five-year period. 15th FC has to consider this too. It may argue in favour of extending the compensation period, as states desire, but, perhaps, lowering the assured 14% growth in compensation and linking it to nominal GDP growth
Need to relook at the Centre’s expenditure priorities
- Over the past decades, there has been a substantial increase in the Centre’s spending on items on the state and concurrent list
- This shift has occurred even as grants by the Centre to states exceed the former’s revenue deficit. This, as some have pointed out, effectively means that the Centre is borrowing to transfer to states.
- Additionally, any attempt to shift the uneasy balance in favour of the Centre will dilute the government’s agenda of Cooperative Federalism and reinforces its centralising tendencies
- Thus, there is a need to review some of the Centre’s own spending programme.
- The fiscal stress at various levels of the government necessitates a realistic assessment of the country’s macro-economic situation
- There is a need to prepare medium-term fiscal roadmap, as well as careful calibration of the framework that governs Centre-state relations.
- 15th FC could request for another year’s extension to present its full five-year report citing the prevailing uncertainty.
Connecting the dots:
- 15th Finance Commission’s interim report- Click here
- N.K. Singh panel on review of FRBM Act.
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- India and its neighborhood- relations.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas
Context: The Nepal government’s decision to pass the constitutional amendment ratifying a change in its maps that include Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura, territories that India controls, marks a decidedly new phase in ties.
Treaty of Sugauli
- The Nepalese kingdom had stretched from the Sutlej river in the west to the Teesta river in the East.
- However, Nepal lost the Anglo-Nepalese War and the resulting Treaty of Sugauli, 1816 limited Nepal to its present territories.
- The Sugauli Treaty stated that Nepal ceded to British the whole of the lowlands between the Rivers Kali and Rapti.
- The Kali River is formed by the union of two headwaters: the Kalapani river that originates below the Lipulekh Pass and the Kuthi Yankit river that rises below the Limpiyadhura range. Both the streams have been termed ‘Kali River’ on different occasions.
- The valley of Kalapani, with the Lipulekh Pass at the top, forms the Indian route to Kailash–Manasarovar.
- The Kali River serves as the boundary between Uttarakhand (Kumaon region) and Nepal from Limpiyadhura.
- In addition to Mahakali/Sharda (West), Gandak/Narayani (South) and Mechi (East) are two other rivers which demarcate the border between India and Nepal.
- By 2007, the Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Working Group agreed on 182 strip maps covering almost 98% of the boundary, except the two disputed areas of Kalapani and Susta.
Image Source: Karvaan India
Issue of Kalapani area
- Over the decades, these rivers have changed courses several times, giving rise to disputes, claims and counterclaims on land.
- The Nepal government claims that by taking advantage of Nepal’s negligence in guarding its borders, India has encroached on its borderland.
- The former director-general of the Department of Survey of Nepal, claims that maps from 1850 and 1856, prepared by the Survey of India with the participation of Nepali authorities, clearly state that the Mahakal River originates from Limpiyadhura, 16 km northwest of Kalapani, thereby proving that Kalapani belongs to Nepal.
- However, India has consistently refused to accept those maps as proof.
- Indian officials insist that a map drawn up by the British colonial government in 1875 should be considered instead.
- The 1875 map allegedly shows the origin of the Mahakali River to the east of Kalapani. Unlike the maps from 1850 and 1856, the 1875 map does not have Nepal’s certification.
Controversy about Lipulekh pass
- The Lipulekh pass, as well as the Limpayadhura pass (or Limpiya pass), are on Nepal border with Tibet.
- The Lipulekh Pass links Uttarakhand with China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region. The pass is near the tri-junction of India, Nepal and China
- The Lipulekh Pass is situated at an altitude of 5,000 metres. Nepal claims that the Indian army has encroached 372 km2 towards Limpiyadhura from Kalapani since the 1962 Indo-China war. At that time, Nepal, as a friendly neighbour, granted permission to the Indian army to set up a camp in the region.
- Subsequently, despite several firm requests by Nepal’s prime minister at the time, to evacuate the camp, Indian troops stayed put.
- Because of the asymmetric power relationship between the two countries, Nepal has not been able to force India to withdraw its troops from the area
India carried out four escalatory actions in a row –
- First, in May 2015 it signed an agreement with China to use the Lipu Lekh Pass for trade; Kathmandu immediately protested to both New Delhi and Beijing.
- Second, in November 2019 India published a new map that showed Kalapani within its territory.
- Third, India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road link to Lipu Lekh amid Covid-19 and an ongoing political crisis in Kathmandu.
- Fourth was the statement by Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane, implying China had instigated Nepal to lay claims on the area.
Danger of Crisis snowballing into
- At the base of the rift is the lack of diplomatic manoeuvring by India to de-escalate the issue.
- While New Delhi contends that it was willing to discuss matters at a mutually convenient date, Kathmandu says the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has rejected two dates suggested by the Nepal
- Nepal also alleges India has routinely dismissed requests from the Nepal Ambassador for a meet with the Foreign Secretary.
- Also, MEA said Kalapani talks could wait until both countries had dealt with the coronavirus pandemic first, which further enraged the Nepali government.
- This was in contrast with India’s participation by videoconference in bilateral and multilateral meetings.
- Meanwhile, Mr. Oli’s (Nepal PM) push towards the amendment at exactly the same time as the India-China border stand-off bolstered the belief that he is speaking with confidence borne from Beijing’s backing.
- The Oli government, which seeks to build its legacy by overturning what it calls “unequal” agreements made by the monarchy, could also cause a security nightmare for India
- If Nepal opens up other parts of their long boundary, and reverses old commitments on open and unsecured border posts, the bilateral relationship will worsen benefitting China.
It is necessary the two nations resolve their issues through dialogue lest they face more serious consequences.
Connecting the dots:
- India-China border flare up
- India-Bangladesh relationship and the peaceful resolution of boundary issues
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- 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 Lonar lake is situated in which of the following state of India?
- Madhya Pradesh
Q.2 Raja Parba festival is three-day unique festival of which of the following state of India?
- West Bengal
Q.3 Which of the following is not true about permafrost?
- It is any ground that remains completely frozen for two straight years.
- Near the bottom, permafrost soils contain large quantities of organic carbon due to cold.
- Microbes decompose plant material which releases greenhouse gases due to permafrost thawing.
- A quarter of the land area in Northern hemisphere has permafrost underneath.
Q.4 RBI has recently constituted P K Mohanty committee to review ownership guidelines and corporate structure of which of the following bank?
- Foreign banks
- Private sector banks
- Public sector banks
- Regional rural banks
ANSWERS FOR 13th June 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
About GST compensation to states:
About the need for anti-discrimination law:
About agri-market reforms: