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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th August 2021

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  • August 17, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


SC raises query on Tribunal Reforms Bill

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II –  Policies and interventions

In News: The Supreme Court challenged the government to produce material showing its reasons for introducing the Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021.

  • The SC also objected to the lack of proper debate in Parliament before it was made into law.

What is the Bill about?

  • The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 replaces a similar Ordinance promulgated in April 2021 that sought to dissolve eight tribunals that functioned as appellate bodies to hear disputes under various statutes.
  • The bill transferred their functions to existing judicial forums such as a civil court or a High Court.
    • The provisions in the ordinance regarding conditions of service and tenure of Tribunal Members and Chairpersons were struck down by the Supreme Court.
    • However, the provisions re-appeared in the Tribunal Reforms Bill introduced by the Finance Minister in the 2021 Monsoon session of the Parliament.
  • It also proposes changes in the process of appointment of certain other tribunals.
  • It states that the central government shall, on the recommendation of the Search-cum-Selection Committee, remove from office any Chairperson or a Member, who—
    • has been adjudged as an insolvent; or
    • has been convicted of an offence which involves moral turpitude; or
    • has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as such Chairperson or Member; or
    • has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as such Chairperson or Member; or
    • has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest.
  • The Bill states that the Chairpersons and Members of the tribunal being abolished shall cease to hold office, and they will be entitled to claim compensation equivalent to three months’ pay and allowances for their premature termination.
  • The government has said that analysis of data of the last three years has shown that tribunals in several sectors have not necessarily led to faster justice delivery and they are also at a considerable expense to the exchequer.

What happens to cases pending before the tribunals dissolved?

  • These cases will be transferred to High Courts or commercial civil courts immediately.
  • Experts fear that the lack of specialisation in regular courts could be detrimental to the decision-making process

News Source: TH


Rice Fortification

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Food Fortification

In News: While addressing the nation on 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister announced that Rice under all scheme to be fortified by 2024

 What is food fortification?

  • According to the WHO, fortification is the process of increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, such as vitamins or minerals, in a food item to improve its nutritional value and provide public health benefits at minimal cost.
  • It has minimal effects on taste and cooking properties while at the same time adding multiple nutrients to cure multiple deficiencies.
  • It also has minimal behaviour change, unlike supplements.
  • For example, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, and calcium may be added to fruit juices.
  • Rice is the fifth item to get the government’s fortification push after salt, edible oil, milk and wheat.

How to fortify rice?

  • According to the norms of the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India, 1 kg of fortified rice must contain iron (28mg-42.5mg), folic acid (75-125 mg) and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25mg).
  • Usual milled rice is low in micronutrient content because its nutrient-rich superficial layer is removed during rice milling and polishing operations. This makes the grain taste better and visually appealing but less nutritious.
  • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder containing iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc, which then sticks to the grains.

What is the Significance of the announcement?

  • Malnutrition especially child malnutrition is a major threat to the growth and development of children.
    • According to a National Family Health Survey report, India has the largest burden of iron-deficiency and anaemia worldwide.
    • About 59% of children and 50% of pregnant women are anaemic in India.
    • Child and maternal malnutrition accounts for 15% of India’s total disease burden.
    • The country reportedly loses around 1 per cent of GDP (Rs 1.35 lakh crore) every year due to iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ also continue to pose significant public health problems in Indian populations.
  • Therefore, the decision to fortify rice was taken to address the malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients especially among poor women and poor children.
  • This announcement is significant because, government distributes more than 300 lakh tonnes of rice to 81 crore people under schemes covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

News Source: TOI


Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021

Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Environment

In News: Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.

  • In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India had piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution.

 About the new rules-

  • These rules prohibit identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
  • The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
  • In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from 50 microns to 75 microns and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
    • Currently the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country.
  • The plastic packaging waste shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the Producer, importer and Brand owner.
  • For effective implementation of EPR, the Guidelines for the same being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act.
  • States/UTs have been requested to constitute a Special Task Force for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of the rules. A National Level Taskforce has also been constituted for coordination efforts.

 News Source: PIB


Congressional Gold Medal

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- I – Important Personalities

In News: Recently, a resolution has been reintroduced in the US House of Representatives to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Mahatma Gandhi for his contributions made through his methods of non-violence.

  • If given the award, Mahatma Gandhi would become the first Indian to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian award in the US.

 About the Award

  • The US Congress (legislature) has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
  • The first recipients of the medal were participants of the American Revolution (1775-83), the War of 1812 and the Mexican War (1846-48).
  • The scope was broadened to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, explorers, athletes, humanitarians and foreign recipients among pioneers in some other fields.
  • It has been awarded to the 1980 US summer Olympics team, Robert F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and George Washington among many others.
  • Most recently, the medal was awarded to the US Capitol Police and those who protected the US Capitol on 6th January 2021, the day of the siege.

 News Source: IE


(News from PIB)


Project BOLD in Leh

Part of: GS Prelims

In news: The Project BOLD (Bamboo Oasis on Lands in Drought) of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has received the Indian Army’s support in Leh.

  • On August 15, Army planted 20 bamboo saplings at its compound in Leh.
  • This is the first-ever attempt to grow bamboo trees in the high Himalayan terrains with the objective of preventing land degradation and developing green cover.
  • While this will create sustainable income for the local tribal population; it will also contribute to the environment and land protection.

 About Bamboo Oasis on Lands in Drought (BOLD):

  • The initiative aims to create bamboo-based green patches of land in arid and semi-arid zones.
  • It is launched by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC)
    • It is a statutory body established under KVIC Act, 1956 and functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.
    • It is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programmes for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.
  • Reasons for Selecting Bamboo:
    • It grows very fast and in about three years’ time, they could be harvested.
    • It is also known for conserving water and reducing evaporation of water from the land surface, which is an important feature in arid and drought-prone regions.
  • Significance:
    • It will reduce desertification and provide livelihood and multi-disciplinary rural industry support.
    • It will also act as haven of sustainable development and food security.
  • The first project BOLD was launched on June 4 from the tribal village Nichla Mandwa in Udaipur, Rajasthan.

 News Source:  PIB


National Gene Bank

Part of: GS Prelims

In news: Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare inaugurated the world’s second-largest refurbished state-of-the-art National Gene Bank at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Pusa, New Delhi.

  • Agri-farmers would be greatly benefited by the new gene bank with state-of-the-art facilities for germplasm.

 About National Gene Bank

  • The National Gene Bank (NGB) was established in the year 1996 to preserve the seeds of Plant Genetic Resources for future generations in the form of seeds, genomic resources, pollen etc.
  • NGB has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.
  • Presently it is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other countries.
  • The NGB has four kinds of facilities, namely, Seed Genebank (- 18°C), Cryogenebank (-170°C to -196°C), In vitro Genebank (25°C), and Field Genebank, to cater to long-term as well as medium-term conservation.

About National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR)

  • NBPGR is a nodal organisation in India for the management of Plant Genetic Resources.
  • It is one of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)Institutes under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare.
  • NGPGR is meeting the need of in-situ and ex-situ germplasm conservation through Delhi Headquarters and 10 regional stations in the country.

Other Facilities:

  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway houses the world’s largest collection of seeds.
  • India’s seed vault is at Chang La (Ladakh) in the Himalayas.
  • National Animal Gene Bank, established at the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR – Karnal, Haryana), has the objective of conserving the indigenous livestock biodiversity.
    • NBAGR is one of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

News Source:  PIB


(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy & Its challenges

Anti-trust probe on Amazon, Flipkart

In news: Recently, Supreme Court has ruled that e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart will have to face investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for their alleged anti-competitive business practices.

  • The companies had approached the Supreme Court after the Karnataka High Court refused to stop the CCI from proceeding on a complaint filed against them by a traders lobby.

Why are Amazon and Flipkart under scrutiny?

The CCI initiated its probe against Amazon and Flipkart in 2020 following a complaint filed by the Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM), a lobby promoting the interests of small traders.

  • Non-Neutral Platform: The complaint alleged that the e-commerce giants favoured certain sellers over others on their platforms by offering them discounted fees and preferential listing.
    • Fee discounts offered by platforms can help certain sellers offer lower prices than others.
    • Preferential listing is a practice where the products offered by certain sellers are more prominently displayed than the products offered by other sellers.
  • Anti-Competitive Practices: The DVM also raised concerns about Amazon and Flipkart entering into tie-ups with mobile phone manufacturers to sell phones exclusively on their platforms.
    • The trader body argued that this was anti-competitive behaviour as smaller traders could not purchase and sell these devices.
    • Concerns were also raised over the flash sales and deep discounts offered by e-commerce companies, which could not be matched by small traders.

Arguments in favour of CCI Probe

  • Supporters of the CCI probe believe that the scrutiny is justified given the rising market power of both Amazon and Flipkart.
  • They argue that these companies engage in predatory pricing practices (low prices, deep discounts) that have already put thousands of small traders out of business.
    • The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) estimated that in 2019, just prior to the coronavirus pandemic, over 50,000 mobile phone retailers and 25,000 kirana stores were forced out of business by large e-commerce firms.
  • The e-commerce giants are also said to break the law frequently in multiple ways.
    • One such allegation against these large companies is that they have found a backdoor way to sell their own goods though their platforms (not allowed as per e-commerce rules)
    • There are reports that Amazon had an indirect ownership stake in a handful of sellers who contributed the bulk of the sales happening through its platform.
  • It is worth noting that India does not allow foreign companies to compete against local traders in the retail space. Amazon and Flipkart (owned by Walmart) are legally allowed to function only as neutral platforms that facilitate transactions between third-party sellers and buyers for a fee.

Arguments against CCI Probe

  • Opponents of the CCI probe view it as an attempt to protect the interests of small traders rather than the interests of consumers.
  • They argue that competition from Amazon and Flipkart is a boon for millions of consumers who can now enjoy better products at lower prices.
  • Though these companies may be bypassing the law through ingenious ways, critics argue that such laws as unnecessary and anti-competitive in the first place as they try to benefit small traders instead of consumers.
  • Critics of the probe also believe that e-commerce platforms are businesses too and that they have the right to decide how to list products on their platforms.
  • They argue that the practice of prominent listing of certain products is not exclusive to online platforms; even supermarkets have the power to decide how prominently to showcase various products on their shelves.
  • In fact, preferential listing of certain products may be unavoidable since it is impossible to give all products the same prominence.
  • Finally, critics of the CCI probe also dismiss worries about predatory pricing, exclusive supply contracts, and market domination. They say that these do not matter in the long run as long as fresh competitors are not blocked from entering the market.

What lies ahead?

  • The regulatory burden on foreign e-commerce companies is likely to increase further in the coming days as the government tries to favour domestic companies as part of its Atmanirbhar project.
  • Commerce Minister, in fact, invoked the “Quit India” phrase alluding to India’s independence movement against British colonialism to welcome the Supreme Court’s decision against Amazon and Flipkart.
  • Other foreign companies such as Mastercard have also been facing increasing pressure from Indian regulators in recent times to comply with domestic rules.
  • Such measures, to the extent that they favour domestic business groups over foreign ones, may actually lead to decreased competition in the domestic market and severely hurt the interests of Indian consumers

Connecting the dots:


 ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy & Its challenges

India and Taliban

Context: The fall of major Afghan cities and provinces to the Taliban has been swift. The Taliban’s advances are unlikely to stop while Pakistan continues supplies, support and safe havens on the ground.

Issues for India

  • For New Delhi, already countering hostilities at the LAC with China and the LoC with Pakistan, an unfriendly government in Kabul can only complicate its strategic options.
  • The Taliban’s control will also mean a bigger hand for the Pakistani to influence outcomes for the country, which will mandate a much smaller role for India, that has won much goodwill over the past 20 years.
  • Security of Indian diplomats, personnel and citizens based in Afghanistan has assumed critical importance. Many of them have been flow back to India and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan has been minimised.
  • Also, it is unclear, especially in the light of the government’s push for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that does not include other persecuted Afghan citizens, whether India will welcome thousands of others, in the manner it did in the past.
  • Trade through Afghanistan under a Taliban regime would be routed through Karachi and Gwadar, and the Indian investment in the Chabahar port, meant to circumvent Pakistan, may become unviable.
  • There is the threat of growing radicalisation and space for pan-Islamic terror groups in India’s neighbourhood.

Given all these concerns, India has four options, none of which are easy, nor without repercussions.

  • Idealism: India can stick to its principle of backing only a democratically-elected government in Kabul, and providing political and humanitarian support while that lasts.
  • Support Afghan Military: India can supply the Afghan Military with supplies, including ammunition and air power, possibly via the Iranian route. Taliban has already warned that India would danger consequences if this happened.
  • Accelerate Engagement with Taliban: However, this is unlikely to give India much leverage, given the Pakistan factor, as well as the fact that all regional and donor countries have already done so.
  • Wait and watch, until the chaos of conflict reveals a winning side, and weigh its options accordingly. This option seems expedient, but it also denies India relevance at the “high table” where Afghanistan’s future is being discussed.

Connecting the dots:


(RSTV Debate)


05th Aug 2021, The Big Picture – Sexual Crime: Fast-tracking Justice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAORdsQuImA

GOVERNANCE/ SOCIETY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy & Challenges

Sexual Crime: Fast-tracking Justice

 In News: The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of over 1000 Fast Track Special Courts to ensure faster delivery of justice to victims of sexual offences, as a centrally sponsored scheme for another two years.

  • These include 389 exclusive POCSO courts to expedite trials and provide immediate relief to minor girls who are victims of sexual crimes.
  • The continuation of the scheme, which was started on October 2, 2019, involves a total outlay of more than Rs 1,572 crore.
  • Rs 971 crore is provided by the Centre from the Nirbhaya Fund, the remaining amount is expected to be provided by states.

How effective has this mechanism been in nearly two years of its existence?

  • Justice delayed is justice denied at the same time the constitutional framework also provides that every accused is having the right to prove that he is innocent till the last court.
  • The judicial system has to create a balance, it has to ensure that on one hand the victim is given justice but on the other hand in the haste of giving the justice we do not deny justice to the accused also.
  • This balancing act causes a lot of delay in the final disposal of the cases.
  • If we see the Indian scenario, the courts are having thousands and lakhs of pending cases before Indian courts weather it is criminal case or civil case but when there are criminal cases pending there is a lot of angst against it.
  • If we talk about today’s scenario a lot more stringent laws have been made for women and children by the parliament. Time and again amendment has been made to plug in the loop holes and to make the laws better.
  • The recent amendment is 2018 amendment in criminal law that asked for even more stringent punishment in case of rape off minor women under 16 years of age.
  • The same amendment even suggested for death penalty as punishment in case the victim is under 12 years of age in life imprisonment in case the victim is under 16 years of age.
  • In the year 2019, there was a direction from supreme court that for POCSO, there should be a mandate for special court and in any district where there are more than 100 cases, there should be special designated court.

Issues

  • All these changes were done to ensure that the victim gets expeditious justice but unfortunately as per the reports given by ministry of home affairs out of the 1023 fast track courts only 597 are working and rest are still not working out of which 321 are POCSO courts.
  • Despite such stringent punishments every other day there are rapes of minor girl child making headlines.
  • Under POCSO, after the filing of chargesheet the case should be decided within sixty days but it’s taking much longer due to the procedural delay.
  • The government should come up with the scheme which can be implemented only in coordination with the high court and state governments and these should be equally vigilant in ensuring that the courts are constituted and are working as well.
  • The fast-track court should be implemented not just in letter but spirit as well.

Reforms needed:

  • Sensitization has to be done in public and it should start from home. Change need to begin from the mindset of the society. Fast track court wont help unless and until we cleanse the dirt in the mind of the society.
  • Making laws more stringent will do their part if only their implementation is done properly and on time.
  • Lack of infrastructure is another area that needs attention as their need to be proper infrastructure to ensure that victim doesn’t have to come too close to the accused.
  • Even if we get the special court where from the special judges will come. Even today 20 % of the post in lower judiciary at magistrate level is vacant and these are perpetual vacancies.
  • Number of cases appearing before judge should be limited and in addition to this legal procedure need to be strengthened. Without compromising the fair trial, if an easier procedure and mechanism can be laid down for the special court so that special court apply special procedure.
  • Since the rural areas report more such cases, we need to focus on that as well. We need to start with sex education and sensitizing the rural public to change their mindset.
  • People need to be aware of the law and unfortunately its more dismal in rural sector. Hence knowledge of law and sensitization of every section of the society is a must.

Conclusion:

  • The government has done great work by extending the fast-track code mechanism for another two years because justice doesn’t only have to be done, it should appear to have been done to every common man so that their faith in judiciary is upheld.
  • These fast-track courts will ensure that the dignity of the judicial system is upheld in the eye of the common man by ensuring that justice is not just delivered but it is also delivered on time.

Can you answer this question now?

  • Critically discuss the achievements of Fast Track Special Courts in ensuring faster delivery of justice to victims of sexual offences.

(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.

 Q.1 Who was the viceroy at the time of Quit India Movement?

a) Lord Mountbatten

b) Lord Wavell

c) Lord Litton

d) Lord Linlithgow


Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Project BOLD recently seen in the news

1. It is implemented by the Ministry of Defence

2. It aims to enhance the infrastructure in border areas.

Which of the above statement(s) are correct?

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both 1 and 2

d) Neither 1 nor 2


Q.3 Which of the following is not correct about food fortification?

a) Fortification can make frequently consumed foods or daily staples more nutritious without any change in the dietary habits of the consumers

b) Fortification does not cause any change in the taste, aroma, texture, or appearance of the food.

c) If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will reduce body stores of nutrients.

d) The overall costs of fortification are extremely low.


ANSWERS FOR 16th August 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 D
3 B

 


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