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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 7th SEPTEMBER 2020

  • IASbaba
  • September 7, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Qatar brings in reforms in labour laws

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- International relations

In news

  • Recently, Qatar has brought about a change in its labour laws.

Key takeaways

  • First reform: It has abolished the unjustified ‘kafala system’ (requirement for a “no objection certificate). Under this system, migrant workers needed to get NOC from their employers before changing jobs.
  • Now, workers will have to serve a one-month notice period if they have worked for less than two years and notice period of two months if they have worked longer
  • Second reform: It involves increasing the minimum wage by 25 per cent to $274 or 1000 Qatari riyals and an additional 300 QAR for food and 500 QAR for accommodation in case not provided by the company.
  • These reforms are now applicable to workers of all nationalities and in all sectors, including domestic workers.

Do you know?

  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) notes that Qatar is the first country in the region to dismantle the “kafala” sponsorship system that is common in the Gulf region.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urges for a review of criminal contempt laws in India

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- International relations; Important Organisations; Judiciary

In news

  • The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has urged for a review of criminal contempt laws in India, 
  • It has expressed its concerns over the Supreme Court’s decision to convict Advocate Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt.

Key takeaways

  • For the ICJ, the conviction appears to be inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression and the role of lawyers.
  • It goes against the general protection of free speech and expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • It is also  inconsistent with the freedom of expression law guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • It goes against the principles enshrined under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Important value additions

Contempt of Court

  • Article 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution empowers the SC and High Courts respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
  • Article 142: It empowers the SC to punish for its contempt. 
  • However, what is contempt of court per se has not been defined by the Indian Constitution.
  • The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, elaborately deals with the concept of contempt of court.
  • The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.

Do you know?

To understand the controversy, click here.


Spot Robot developed

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

In news

  • Recently, researchers from Boston Dynamics, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT – USA) have developed a robot, called ‘Spot’.
  • They have planned to use it for patients with Covid-19 symptoms.

Key takeaways

  • The robot is controlled by a handheld device.
  • It can walk on four legs, climbs stairs and can traverse rough terrain with ease. 
  • It is small enough to be used indoors.
  • It can measure skin temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate, and blood oxygen saturation in healthy patients, from 2 metres away.
  • It has four cameras — one infrared, three monochrome.

Do you know?

  • The infrared camera measures skin temperature on the face
  • When haemoglobin binds to oxygen and flows through blood vessels, it results in slight changes in colour.
  • These changes are measured with the help of the three monochrome cameras, which filter lights of three different wavelengths.
  • The robot can be deployed in areas where suspected cases of Covid-19 assemble. 
  • The robot can also carry a tablet that allows doctors to ask patients about their symptoms without being in the same room.

Image source: Click here


Covid-19 Detection Using Mass Spectrometer developed

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

In news

  • Researchers from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have developed a technique that uses mass spectrometry to detect novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

Important value additions

Mass Spectrometry (MS)

  • It is an analytical technique used for determining the elemental composition of samples, quantifying the mass of particles and molecules, and explaining their chemical structure.
  • MS is based on ionization and fragmentation of sample molecules in the gaseous phase.
  • The new technique based on mass spectrometry relies on detecting the presence of two peptides which are unique to SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Do you know?

  • The new method can directly detect the virus without amplifying the RNA for detection.
  • With the new technique, scientists have been able to detect novel coronavirus with 95% sensitivity and 100% specificity with respect to RT-PCR. 
  • This is much better than the alternative rapid antigen kits.
  • Detection of the virus takes less than three minutes;
  • The method also allows for effective pooling of samples.
  • Different Types of Test for Detecting Covid-19: (1) RT-PCR Tests; (2) Rapid Antigen Detection Tests; (3) RTnPCR Tests; (4) Feluda Tests; (5) ELISA Antibody Tests; (6) SalivaDirect Test

UNSC Rejects to Designate Indians as Terrorists

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Global groupings; International Relations

In news

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has rejected all Pakistan’s requests to list four Indians as designated terrorists under its 1267 Committee for Counterterrorism Sanctions.

Important value additions

UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee

  • This committee oversees the implementation of sanctions pursuant to UNSC resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015).
  • It was adopted unanimously on 15th October 1999.
  • It is one of the most important and active UN subsidiary bodies working on efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in relation to Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic State group. 
  • It prepares a consolidated list of people associated with these organizations.
  • It discusses UN efforts to limit the movement of terrorists, especially those related to travel bans, the freezing of assets and arms embargoes for terrorism.

Capping of MEIS Scheme Benefits

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III- Economy; Import and Export

In news

  • The Central government has taken a decision to cap export incentives under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) at Rs. 2 crore per exporter on outbound shipments made during September-December, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • The ceiling would be subject to a downward revision to ensure that the total claim doesn’t exceed the allocated Rs. 5,000 crore for the period.
  • The new Import Export Code (IEC) obtained on or after 1st September will be ineligible to submit any MEIS claim for exports.
  • The Indian government has announced a new WTO-compliant scheme called Remission of Duties or Taxes On Export Product (RoDTEP) which will replace MEIS starting 1st January 2021.

Important value additions

Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)

  • It was introduced in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20 
  • Objective: To offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in exporting goods/products which are produced /manufactured in India including products produced/manufactured by MSME Sector

Remission of Duties or Taxes On Export Product (RoDTEP)

  • The new scheme is implemented from 1st January 2020.
  • It creates a fully automated route for Input Tax Credit (ITC) in the GST to help increase exports in India.
  • It will reimburse all the taxes/duties/levies being charged at the Central/State/Local level which are not currently refunded under any of the existing schemes but are incurred at the manufacturing and distribution process.
  • The Ministry of Finance has set up a committee under the chairmanship of former commerce and home secretary GK Pillai to finalise the rates under RoDTEP.

Miscellaneous

Rakshak

  • In the fight against the spread of Covid 19 pandemic, the Railways has designed a health assistant Robot Rakshak which can remotely communicate between doctor and patient.

  • It is able to measure health parameters such as temperature, pulse, oxygen percentage.
  • It can also provide medicines, food to the patients and make a two-way video communication between the doctor and the patient.
  • It can move in all directions at all levels with a range of remote operations up to 150 meters.
  • With a full charge battery, the Rakshak robot can work continuously for 6 hours and can carry up to 10 kg of weight in its tray. It is based on Wi-Fi and therefore does not require any mobile data. It also operates with an Android mobile application.

Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020 to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
  • The Bill will include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State,
  • Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official languages in Articles 343 to 351.

Question Hour and Zero Hour

  • Recently, the Central government has decided to suspend the Question Hour and curtail Zero Hour for Monsoon Session. 
  • This has been done in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Question Hour

  • The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour. 
  • During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
  • The questions can also be asked to the private members.
  • Kinds of Questions: There are three types of questions asked.
  • Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk) – This requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
  • Unstarred question – This requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
  • Short notice question – One that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.

Zero Hour

  • Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation. 
  • It is not mentioned in the parliamentary rules book.
  • Under this, MPs can raise matters without any prior notice.
  • The zero hour starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day (i.e. regular business of the House) is taken up.

(MAINS FOCUS)


EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE/ INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources 
  • Challenges related to Federalism.

Language issue and a Case Study of Singapore

Context: The New Education Policy misses the case of Tamil Nadu following a language formula that is distinctly at variance with that of Delhi for the past 50 years

Tamil Nadu’s Language Policy

  • It follows a two language policy which is at variance with Centre advocation of three language policy
  • It was the decision of C.N. Annadurai, who led Dravidian Movement, that beyond Tamil and English (in order of preference) no other language would be taught in the schools of Tamil Nadu either as a language or medium of instruction

What is the language policy adopted by various developed countries?

  • Most countries follow a one-language formula (invariably mother tongue) for teaching children in the primary classes. 
  • On reaching middle school they are given a chance to learn one more language, mostly English. 
  • As there is no imposition through schools, voluntary learning of other languages is widely prevalent in these countries. 

Language Policy in Singapore under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew (first PM of Singapore from 1959 to 1990)

  • In Singapore, 74.2% of the population is Chinese, 13.2% Malays and 9.2% Indians. 
  • Singapore had much more justification to adopt Chinese as its sole official language than India insisting on Hindi being the sole official language. Even today the population of Hindi-speaking people has not crossed 50% in India;
  •  If Lee Kuan Yew(LKY) had wished he could have well declared Chinese to be the sole official language and satisfied the Chinese who were in a majority. 
  • However, LKY used language policy as a strategic tool to achieve socio-economic development.
  • Giving equal status to English and mother tongue was considered by LKY as a prerequisite not only to work closely with the international community but also to bring in big ticket changes
  • Lee Kuan Yew attributed the international acclaim Singapore received for its success mainly to its two-language formula. He mandated that each Singaporean should learn their respective mother tongue along with English. 
  • He viewed that the lingua franca of the country should be equidistant to all cultural groups, thereby creating fair competition and opportunities. 
  • Only in this background were Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English declared as common languages with the lingua franca being English.
  • The two-language policy prepared Singaporeans in advance for globalisation
  • Many compare this policy with C N Annadurai’s view on language

What was the mainstay of Annadurai’s language policy?

  • He insisted that all the national languages should be made official languages and English should be the common link language
  • He held that the official language should be equidistant to all the members of a multilingual society. English would fit the bill for both students of Hindi and Tamil. 
  • Making Hindi alone as the official language would create disparity among various linguistic groups other than the Hindi-speaking population which will result in partial treatment, giving unfair advantage to the Hindi-speaking population
  • Annadurai was also particular that English is the language we communicate with a larger world.
  • What Annadurai dreamed of as a language policy for ‘the Dravidian land’ was actually implemented in Singapore by Lee Kuan Yew. 

Does that mean that Two Language Policy has worked well in Tamil Nadu?

  • Though comparable to Singapore in language policy, Tamil Nadu’s education standards are not comparable to Singapore’s in terms of outcomes
  • Students in the state suffer a serious handicap while dealing with English and Tamil languages. And they do not have command over either.
  • Counter Argument: This is not the failure of the two-language formula per se but of its implementation and the present Indian educational ecosystem.

Conclusion

If India is really interested in the new education policy capable of creating new generations, Delhi can acquire that vision only by studying the educational ecosystem throughout the world

Connecting the dots:

  • NEP 2020
  • Official Language of Union and Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution 

INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Sri Lanka’s coming constitutional changes

Context: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Political party SLPP garnered a historic two-thirds majority along with its allies in the recently held parliamentary polls.

During the address to newly elected Parliament, President announced that

  • Their first priority is to get rid of the 19th Amendment, and replace it with the 20th Amendment
  • He also told about his plan to rewrite the Constitution under the rubric of a ‘one country, one law’ principle 

What is the 19th Amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution?

  • The 19th Amendment was brought in by the previous President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 
  • It rolled back the 18th amendment that had been brought in by the preceding President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
  • The 18th amendment had removed the two-term bar on running for office, and centralised more powers in the hands of the President. Repealing it was an election promise made by Sirisena
  • Some of the prominent provisions of 19th Amendment were
    • It curbed the executive President’s vast powers by restoring a two-term limit
    • It reduced the term of the presidency to five years from the six years
    • It also placed a ceiling on the number of ministers and deputy ministers.
    • It made it difficult for the legislature to be dissolved at the President’s whim. The President also lost his power to sack the Prime Minister.
    • It also sought to protect the independence of oversight institutions by decentralising the appointments to the nine commissions including the Elections Commission, the National Police Commission,  the Public Service Commission, among others to a Constitutional Council.
    • In addition to having parliamentarians, the Council also had civil society representation. This was seen as one of the most progressive parts of the 19th amendment.
    • It also barred dual citizens from the office.
  • Due Process Followed: The amendment was based on a popular mandate for change in the 2015 presidential election, and received more than the required two-thirds support in the previous Parliament
  • Significance of 19th Amendment: It was hailed as restoring Democratic spirit into Constitution and freeing the country from the clutches of Rajapaksha family who had concentrated power.

What is 20th Amendment?

  • The 20th amendment Bill reverses almost everything in the 19th Amendment. 
  • It only retains from it the two-term bar on the presidency, and the five-year term.

Critical Analysis of the 20th Amendment Bill

  • Fundamental shift in the nature of the Sri Lanka state that signalled the return of the country to 1978 in a bizarre form of ‘forward to the past’. The 1978 Constitution introduced the office of the Executive President in Sri Lanka, making it one of the most powerful of similar systems in the world.
  • Erodes the Power of Parliament: Parliament is disempowered against the executive by the restoration of the President’s power to dissolve Parliament at will at any time after the first year of its term.
  • Removes Checks on Executive: The checks on presidential power within the executive are abolished by the removal of the requirement of the Prime Minister’s advice for the appointment and dismissal of Cabinet and other Ministers
  • Reversing Democratic Spirit: It abolishes the binding limitations on presidential powers in relation to key appointments to independent institutions that used to happen through the deliberative process of the Constitutional Council.
  • Leads to Politicisation of Institutions: It effectively provides sweeping powers to the President to appoint individuals to key institutions, and with it, politicising institutions that are meant to function independently of the political executive and for the benefit of citizens.
  • Rights of Citizens Curtailed: It has also removed the opportunity for citizens to challenge the executive actions of the President through fundamental rights applications, suggesting that the President is above the law.
  • Undermine the accountability of government: The weakening of checks and balances to the executive presidency would adversely impact the efficient, effective, and transparent use of public funds.
  • Neglecting Minorities: The President’s address was also notable for the absence of any reference to ethnic minorities.

Note: Its Impact on India (as well as brief background on Tamil issue) will be dealt in Part II of the article


(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 Question hour:

  1. It is an Indian parliamentary innovation.
  2. It starts immediately after the Zero Hour.

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 Zero Hour:

  1. Under this, MPs can raise matters without any prior notice.
  2. The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Zero Hour.

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 UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee is associated with combating which of the following?

  1. Terrorism
  2. Poverty
  3. Hunger
  4. Female foeticide

ANSWERS FOR 5th September 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 A
3 All 
4 C

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