(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II- Polity
In news: Union Government is planning to bring a Bill to Parliament to clarify some provisions in the 102nd Constitutional amendment Act (CAA) to restore the power of the states to identify backward classes.
- In India, separate OBC lists are drawn up by the Centre and each state concerned. Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) expressly conferred power on a state to identify and declare the list of socially and educationally backward classes.
- The amendment was necessitated after the SC in its Maratha reservation ruling upheld the 102nd CAA but said the President, based on the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), would determine which communities would be included on the state OBC list.
What is the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018?
It inserted Articles 338B and Article 342A (with two clauses) after Article 342.
- Articles 338B deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Article 342A says that the President, in consultation with the governor, would specify the socially and educationally backward classes.
About the Constitutional (127th) Amendment Bill, 2021:
- It will amend clauses 1 and 2 of Article 342A and also introduce a new clause 3.
- The bill will also amend Articles 366 (26c) and 338B (9).
- It is designed to clarify that the states can maintain the “state list” of OBCs as was the system before the Supreme Court judgment.
- Articles 366 (26c) defines socially and educationally backward classes.
- The “state list” will be completely taken out of the ambit of the President and will be notified by the state assembly.
What is the procedure for passing Constitutional Amendment Bills?
As per the procedure laid down in the Constitution, Constitution Amendment Bills can be of three types viz.
- requiring a simple majority for their passage in each House.
- requiring a special majority for their passage in each House i.e., a majority of the total membership of a House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting (article 368).
- requiring special majority for their passage and ratification by Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States by resolutions to that effect passed by those Legislatures (clause (2) of article 368).
- A Constitution Amendment Bill under article 368 can be introduced in either House of Parliament and has to be passed by each House by special majority.
- There is no provision of joint sittings on a Money Bill or a Constitution Amending Bill.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III – Economy
In news Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister recently introduced the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha
- The bill aims to nullify the relevant retrospective tax clauses that were introduced in 2012 to bring past indirect transfer of Indian assets under the ambit of taxation.
- The retrospective tax law of 2012 was used to raise large tax demands on foreign investors such as Vodafone and Cairn Energy,
- It was also blamed for impairing India’s investment climate.
What are the major features of the bill?
- As per the proposed changes, any tax demand made on transactions that took place before May 2012 shall be dropped.
- Any taxes already collected shall be repaid.
- To be eligible, the concerned taxpayers would have to drop all pending cases against the government and promise not to make any demands for damages or costs.
What is retrospective taxation?
- As the name suggests, retrospective taxation allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services and deals and charge companies from a time behind the date on which the law is passed
- Countries use this route to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies that have, in the past, allowed companies to take advantage of such loopholes.
- Global Norm: Apart from India, many countries including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Australia and Italy have retrospectively taxed companies, which had taken the benefit of loopholes in the previous law.
Consequence of Retrospective Taxation on Market
- Hurts Companies: While governments often use a retrospective amendment to taxation laws to “clarify” existing laws, it ends up hurting companies that had knowingly or unknowingly interpreted the tax rules differently.
- Hurts Investor Confidence: The amendment was criticised by investors globally, who said the change in law was “perverse” in nature. This impacted the market sentiment and the flow of foreign funds to India.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS -III- Conservation
In news Poachers have killed 22 one-horned rhinos in Assam since 2017,
- The government had set up 10 fast-track sessions courts over the years for speedy trials of wildlife- related crimes.
- There are three species of rhino in Asia — Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran.
- India is home to the largest number of Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros in the world
- Two greatest threats: Poaching for the horns and habitat loss
- The five rhino range nations: India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia.
- These Nations have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
- IUCN Red List
- Javan and Sumatran Rhino: Critically endangered
- Greater one-horned rhino: vulnerable
- All three are listed under Appendix I (CITES).
- Greater one-horned rhino: Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- In India, rhinos are mainly found in:
Conservation Efforts by India
- Recently, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has begun a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.
- National Rhino Conservation Strategy: It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
- Indian Rhino Vision 2020: It was launched in 2005. Aim: To attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
Other Protected Areas in Assam:
- Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
- Manas National Park
- Nameri National Park
- Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park
- Kaziranga National Park.
News Source: TH
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Policies and interventions
In news Recently, the Union Government approved the continuation of more than 1000 Fast Track Special Court (FTSCs) as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for two years (April 2021-March 2023).
- It includes 389 exclusive POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Courts.
- The Central share will be provided from the Nirbhaya Fund.
What is the Background of Fast Track Courts?
- Fast track courts (FTCs) were first recommended by the Eleventh Finance Commission in 2000 to substantially bring down pendency in the district and subordinate courts over the next five years.
- In 2011, the central government stopped funding fast-track courts.
- The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012, but the apex court said it was up to the states to continue or shut down these courts depending on their financial situation.
- Three states–Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala–continued running these courts while Delhi, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka had said they would continue till 2013.
- Following the December 2012 Gangrape and murder, the Union Government set up a ‘Nirbhaya Fund’, amended the Juvenile Justice Act and set up fast-track Mahila Courts.
What is the Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts?
- In 2019, the government approved a scheme for setting up 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSCs) across the country for expeditious disposal of pending rape cases under the Indian penal Code (IPC) and crimes under the POCSO Act.
- FTSCs are dedicated courts expected to ensure swift dispensation of justice. They have a better clearance rate as compared to the regular courts and hold speedy trials.
- It also strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.
How has the Performance been for Fast Track Courts?
- The Performance has been below par.
- According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), at the end of 2019, rape cases had a pendency rate of 89.5% and the conviction rate of 27.8%.
- For POCSO cases, 88.8% cases were pending at the end of the year, and of those disposed of, 34.9% ended in a conviction.
What are the Issues with FTCs?
- Lack of Infrastructure
- No clear Mandate: There are no clear mandates on what kind of cases fast-track courts are supposed to hear.
- Delay in Judgement
- Overburdened Judges
News Source: IE
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Health
In news Recently a senior member of the National COVID-19 Task Force has thrown light over the importance of Covid-19 vaccine for pregnant women.
Why is COVID-19 vaccine important for pregnant women?
- Though pregnancy and childbirth do not increase the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection, they worsen the clinical course of COVID-19 compared with other women in the same age group.
- During the second wave, It was found that 22% of pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 had premature deliveries, and 48% had to undergo a caesarean delivery.
- The rate of admission to the ICU among pregnant women with COVID-19 was also higher than those of non-pregnant women.
- COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, which is an increase in the blood pressure of mother, and the risk of cardiopulmonary arrest increases, especially if the infection occurs during the third trimester.
- Since the vaccine significantly reduces the severity and mortality due to COVID-19, the government took the decision to provide vaccination to pregnant women.
News Source: TH
- GS-3: Environmental Conservation
Context: Gulf of Florida witnessed the bloom of a red tide organism, Karenia brevis recently.
About the recent bloom
- It is pointed out that the algal bloom aggravated Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast due to the release of 215 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay earlier this year.
- The water was released from a defunct phosphate wastewater plant near the city of St Petersburg in March and April 2021, to prevent its collapse.
- Karenia brevis, a type of algae commonly known as ‘Red Tide’, has swept Florida’s Gulf of Mexico Coast, killing 1,400 tonnes of fish in and around Tampa alone.
- Besides fish, the algal bloom has also killed turtles, manatees and dolphins on the coastline.
- The bloom might have used nutrients from the contaminated water to grow and release toxins, killing marine life in the area.
- Its origins have been traced back to another red tide in December last year.
About florida’s red tide
- It is one of the best known Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, in the nation that occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
- This bloom, like many HABs, is caused by microscopic algae that produce toxins that kill fish and make shellfish dangerous to eat.
- The toxins may also make the surrounding air difficult to breathe.
What is red tide?
- Red tides are a phenomenon of discoloration of the sea surface.
- The ride tide is created by the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, a species that releases a neurotoxin called brevetoxin that can disrupt the firing of nerve cells.
- It is a common name for harmful algal blooms occurring along coastal regions, which are resulted from large concentrations of aquatic microorganisms, such as protozoans and unicellular algae (e.g. dinoflagellates and diatoms).
- Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.
- But not all algal blooms are harmful. Most blooms, in fact, are beneficial because the tiny plants are food for animals in the ocean. In fact, they are the major source of energy that fuels the ocean food web.
- Certain species of phytoplankton and dinoflagellates like Gonyaulax found in red tides contain photosynthetic pigments that vary in color from brown to red.
- These organisms undergo such rapid multiplication that they make the sea appear red.
What stimulates HABs?
- Terrestrial runoff containing fertilizer, sewage and livestock wastes transport abundant nutrients to the seawater and stimulate bloom events.
- Natural causes, such as river floods or upwelling of nutrients from the sea floor, often following massive storms, provide nutrients and trigger bloom events as well.
- Increasing coastal developments and aquaculture also contribute to the occurrence of red tides.
- The growth and persistence of an algal bloom depends on wind direction and strength, temperature, nutrients, and salinity.
Impact of red tide/HABs
- The production of natural toxins such as brevetoxins and ichthyo toxins are harmful to marine life.
- A small percentage of algae, however, produce powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and birds, and may directly or indirectly cause illness in people.
- HABs also include blooms of non-toxic species that have harmful effects on marine ecosystems.
- For example, when masses of algae die and decompose, the decaying process can deplete oxygen in the water, causing the water to become so low in oxygen that animals either leave the area or die.
Connecting the dots:
- Marine Pollution
- Sea Snot outbreak in Turkey
- GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources
- GS-3: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The progress of greenfield projects since the Indo-US nuclear deal has been tardy.
What is India- US Nuclear deal?
- The U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement or Indo-US nuclear deal or the 123 Agreement was signed between US and India in 2005.
- Under the agreement, India agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear activities.
- It also agreed to open up the civilian part to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- The safeguard is aimed at ensuring that the nuclear material or technology brought in for civilian purposes is not diverted for military use. Out of its 22 operating/under construction nuclear facilities, India will place 14 under IAEA safeguard.
- The accord took three years to be finalized, during which it went through a series of complex stages that included
- Amendment of U.S. domestic law
- Formulation of a civil-military nuclear separation plan in India
- An India-IAEA safeguards (inspections) agreement.
- Grant of an exemption for India by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).
- In return, the US offered to resume full nuclear trade i.e selling of reactors, Transfer of Technology, Uranium sale with India.
- Further, the agreement also lays down the clause of “non-interference” in India’s strategic program. Thus, the Indian nuclear power program stands to get a much needed push without any threat to its strategic program.
Why the Indo-US Nuclear deal holds significant importance to India?
- Fissile material: Better access and aid in development of a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel
- Energy security for India
- Access to better technologies from US and developed world
- Recognizes India as a de-facto nuclear power
- De-hyphenation of relations: In refusing to extend the civil nuclear initiative to Islamabad, Washington removed the hyphen in its relations with Delhi and Islamabad. Since 2005, America has also discarded the idea of mediating between India and Pakistan, especially on the Kashmir question
Deal was used as Launchpad for Indo-US bilateral relationship
- The US has become one of India’s major suppliers of arms.
- Cooperation on counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing have expanded rapidly over the last decade
- The US has become India’s largest trading partner in goods and services, and the two sides have set an ambitious goal of half a trillion dollars for future trade.
- The growing commercial engagement has been reinforced by an intensification of people-to-people contact and the presence of the 3 million strong Indian diasporas in America.
While the US has been discussing the sale of nuclear reactors to India since the 2008 pact, two subsequent agreements were signed only in 2016 and 2019
- Nuclear Power Project in Kovvada in coastal Andhra Pradesh
- A “project proposal” is to set up six reactors in collaboration with Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) but work is yet to begin.
- The will comprise six reactor units of 1208 MWe (mega watt electric) capacity each.
- These are Light Water Reactors where water is used both as coolant and moderator. (Similar technology in Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam plant built in collaboration with Russia)
- The project, however, came under a cloud after WEC filed for bankruptcy in mid-2017 following cost overruns on reactors coming up in the US.
- As a result, the Kovavada project has made barely any progress.
- Nuclear Power Project Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
- It consists of six EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactors) reactors by French state-owned operator Areva which was subsequently taken over by the French electricity utility EDF, also controlled by the state.
- EDF is learnt to have submitted to NPCIL techno-commercial offer that will effectively enable discussions aimed at a binding framework agreement in the coming months.
Do You Know?
India has also signed Inter Governmental Agreements for co-operation in peaceful use of nuclear energy with 14 other countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Czech Republic, European Union, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Namibia, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, UK and Vietnam.
Connecting the dots:
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Context: Two out of the four months (June-September) of India’s official monsoon season are now over.
- However, progress of sowing for India’s winter crop or Kharif season is still short of normal sown area at this point of time.
Some of the issues which determines the agricultural season of this year are:
- A revival in July rainfall after June’s dry patch
- The first 62 days of this year’s monsoon season can be divided into three phases —
- a bumper rainfall in the first 20 days,
- a dry patch between June 21 to July 11
- a recovery in the period thereafter.
- Monsoon performance is measured by comparing current period’s rainfall with what is called the Long Period Average (LPA). The current LPA mark is the average rainfall between 1961 and 2010
- July revival has brought cumulative rainfall above LPA
- Excess rain in peninsula, normal/deficient rain elsewhere
- All regions in the country have not had adequate rains this year.
- A state-wise analysis of the rainfall data shows that cumulative rainfall in 14 states and union territories is lower than the LPA figure so far. Among the major states, Gujarat, Kerala and Assam feature on this list.
- Seven states have had excess rainfall (20% above the LPA figure) so far. This list includes Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu
- Also, there are significant differences in rainfall even within states.
- Of the 614 districts, the number of districts with excess rainfall has increased from 162 on July 15 to 205 on August 1, while those with normal rainfall has increased from 229 to 269.
- The number of districts with deficient rainfall has decreased from 223 to 140.
- Storage of Water in reservoirs
- The live storage status of 130 main reservoirs in the country is monitored by the Central Water Commission.
- These reservoirs had 85.36 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water available as on July 29, higher than both the 70.77 BCM available at this time last year. This is a testimony to the revival in monsoon.
- However, the storage in several Northeastern, northern, eastern, and central states is less than the average of the last 10 years.
- It is in the southern, states, which have received abundant rainfall, where current storage is exceeding the historical average significantly.
- Despite monsoon revival, kharif sowing continues to lag
- As of July 30, 79.04% of the area normally sown during the kharif season was covered (less than the 83.45% area covered by this time last year)
- Progress of sowing is slower than last year for all major crops except sugarcane and arhar.
Analysis: How does Sowing impact the economy?
- Crucial three weeks: The Kharif sowing should get completed by mid-August, so the rainfall in the first half of August becomes crucial, which determines the agricultural output of the season.
- Economic Revival dependent on agriculture: Sowing numbers are important because India is banking a lot on Kharif crop to provide support to GDP. It was the rural sector which was the saviour in the aftermath of first wave of COVID-19 Pandemic. Whether it will play the same role this year depends on rainfall & sowing.
- Aggregate Demand: Sowing also determined the rural income that will be available for spending during the festival season as part of the rural demand.
- Regional Inequality: Presence of adequate quantity of waters in reservoirs of South would mean less disruption to the agricultural activities in Southern region. This may lead to region differentiation of farm incomes between North & South thus perpetuating the existing regional divide.
Connecting the dots:
(RSTV – DEBATE)
The Big Picture – Carbon Border Tax: Why is India opposing it – Rajya Sabha TV (rstv.nic.in)
- General Studies 3
- At the two-day G-20 ministerial meeting on environment and climate change in Italy, developing countries, including India, are expected to raise their concerns over the European Union’s recent proposal on the first of its kind carbon border tax.
- Under this proposal, the 27 EU nations will impose border tax on imports of carbon-intensive goods.
- The tax plan, yet to be legally formalized, will come into force from 2026.
- On similar lines, Democratic lawmakers in USA, earlier this week, introduced a legislation establishing a carbon tariff on certain imports like steel as a means to fight climate change.
What exactly is a carbon border tax?
- Carbon border tax is the European Union’s sweeping new plan to tackle climate change and if adopted would be the first of its kind.
- It is a carbon tariff on imports from countries that aren’t taking similarly aggressive steps to slash their own planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
What is the need for Carbon border tax?
- Suppose a country tries to impose policies, like Carbon tax, to cut emissions domestically. This will increase the cost of its goods (for ex: steel and cement factories) that will now be at a disadvantage to foreign competitors that are based out in nations having looser environmental rules.
- In such situation steel and cement production shifts overseas to that country where the environmental conditions are liberal, which will enable them to cut costs & increase profits.
- Such an event would undercut the climate policy, since those foreign factories would be emitting just as much or more carbon dioxide elsewhere.
- In theory, a carbon border tax could help prevent that undercutting.
- If factories all over the world that wanted to sell steel, cement, aluminum or fertilizer to the EU had to pay a surcharge for the pollution they emit, they would have incentive to clean up their act too.
- Companies within Europe would have less incentive to shift operations overseas. And, if other countries adopted similar rules, that could put pressure on nations that are reluctant to curb their use of fossil fuels.
- Under the EU’s proposal, importers of carbon-intensive products such as steel, cement, fertilizers and aluminum will have to pay the carbon border tax.
- It will soon be legally adopted by 27 nations as part of the EU’s programme to meet its new climate target of cutting greenhouse gas emission by 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Why do developed countries want to impose such a tariff?
- For two reasons: its environmental goals and its industries’ global competitiveness.
- Recently, the EU declared it would cut its carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
- EU’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 24% compared to 1990 levels.
- But imports from emissions which contribute 20% of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions are increasing.
- Such a carbon tax would incentivize other countries to reduce GHG emissions and further shrink the EU’s carbon footprint.
- Secondly the 27 EU member states have much stricter laws to control GHG emissions.
- It has an ‘Emissions Trading System’ that caps how much GHG individual industrial units can emit; those that fail to cap their emissions can buy ‘allowances’ from those who have made deeper cuts.
- This makes operating within the EU expensive for certain businesses, which, the EU authorities fear, might prefer to relocate to countries that have more relaxed or no emission limits.
- This is known as ‘carbon leakage’ and it increases the total emissions in the world.
Why are developing nations opposed to the idea?
- India has always held a view that any such unilateral carbon border adjustment will be discriminatory and against the principles of equity and CBDR-RC (common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities).
How does this impact India?
- As India’s third-largest trading partner, the EU accounted for €62.8 billion ($74.5 billion) worth of trade in goods in 2020, or 11.1% of India’s total global trade.
- India’s exports to the EU were worth $41.36 billion in 2020-21, as per data from the commerce ministry.
- The EU’s March resolution stated that to begin with, by 2023, the CBAM would cover energy-intensive sectors such as cement, steel, aluminum, oil refinery, paper, glass, chemicals as well as the power sector.
- By increasing the prices of Indian-made goods in the EU, this tax would make Indian goods less attractive for buyers and could shrink demand.
- The tax would create serious near-term challenges for companies with a large greenhouse gas footprint–and a new source of disruption to a global trading system already roiled by tariff wars, renegotiated treaties, and rising protectionism.
- It is estimated that a levy of $30 per metric ton of CO2 emissions could reduce the profit pool for foreign producers by about 20% if the price for crude oil remained at $30-40 per barrel.
- Such a mechanism to charge imported goods at borders may spur adoption of cleaner technologies.
- But if it happens without adequate assistance for newer technologies and finance, it would amount to levying taxes on developing countries.
- Richer countries must make good on their promises of technological and financial assistance to enable developing countries to make the transition to low-carbon pathways for growth.
- There is disagreement on whether developed countries have kept their climate finance commitments with conflicting claims from countries, according to this 2021 editorial published in the journal Nature.
Can you attempt these questions now?
- “Unilateral carbon border adjustment will be discriminatory and against the principles of equity and CBDR-RC (common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities)”. Discuss.
- What is a carbon border tax? Also mention the reason behind India’s opposition to carbon tax.
(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.
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding red tide?
1. Red tides are a phenomenon of discoloration of the sea surface.
2. The ride tide is created by the phytoplankton Karenia brevis, a species that releases a neurotoxin called brevetoxin that can disrupt the firing of nerve cells.
Select the correct statements:
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Retrospective Taxation:
1. Allows a country to pass a rule of taxation from a time behind the date on which the law is passed
2. India is the only country to have retrospective taxation
3. It increases foreign investors’ confidence in investing in a country.
Which of the above statements are Incorrect?
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 2 only
c) 2 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.3 Which of the following are the rhino range Nations
Select the correct statements
a) 1, 2 and 3 only
b) 2 and 4 only
c) 1, 2 and 5 only
d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
ANSWERS FOR 5th August 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Madras High Court Judgement on Online Gambling:
On India-Nepal Flood Management:
On 1991 Economic reforms: