(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS – II- Polity
Context: Nine judges of the Supreme Court took oath recently, the biggest ever number at one go.
- Articles 124(2) and 217 of the Constitution governs the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts respectively.
- Under both provisions, the President has the power to make the appointments “after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary”.
- Over the years, the word “consultation” has been at the centre of debate on the executive’s power to appoint judges.
- In practice, the executive held this power since Independence, and a convention of seniority was evolved for appointing the Chief Justice of India.
Three Judges Cases
- In three cases — which came to be known as the Judges Cases — in 1981, 1993 and 1998, the Supreme Court evolved the collegium system for appointing judges.
- A group of senior Supreme Court judges headed by the CJI would make recommendations to the President on who should be appointed. This was binding on the government (Consultation was interpreted as concurrence of Collegium)
- These rulings not only shrank the executive say in proposing a candidate for judgeship, but also took away the executive’s veto power.
National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)
- In 2014, the NDA government attempted to get back control on judicial appointments by establishing the NJAC through constitutional amendments.
- However, the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.
Part of: Prelims and GS – II- Health
Context: WHO has classified yet another SARS-CoV-2 variant “B.1.621” as a variant of interest (VOI) and given it the label “Mu”.
- The variant was first identified in Colombia in January, 2021.
- The global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%. However, prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased.
- Larger outbreaks were reported from countries in South America and Europe.
- Cases have also been reported in the UK, US and Hong Kong.
Classes of SARS-CoV-2 variants
Variant of Interest
- A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding which affect its diagnosis and are expected to cause unique outbreak clusters.
- It is known for it predicted increase in transmissibility.
- It is classified based on factors such as genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape etc.
- It represents a lower level of concern than a variant of concern (VOC).
Variant of Concern
- A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths).
- It is known for its significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
- Example – Alpha, Beta and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Economy
Context: Recently, the Finance Minister chaired the 24th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC).
- It is non-statutory apex council constituted by the Executive Order in 2010.
- It works under the Ministry of Finance
- The Raghuram Rajan committee (2008) on financial sector reforms first proposed the creation of FSDC.
- It is chaired by the Finance Minister and its members include the heads of all Financial Sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, PFRDA & IRDA), Finance Secretary, Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Secretary of Department of Financial Services (DFS), Chief Economic Adviser, Secretary of Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Chairperson of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) and the Revenue Secretary.
- FSDC sub-committee is headed by the Governor of RBI.
- The Council can invite experts to its meeting if required.
- To strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability, enhancing inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development.
- To monitor macro-prudential supervision of the economy. It assesses the functioning of the large financial conglomerates.
Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Economy
Context: Recently, IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) has committed to focus 30% of its climate finance to support nature-based solutions in rural small-scale agriculture by 2030.
- It was created in 1977, which is the outcome of the World Food Conference of 1974.
- IFAD is an international financial institution and specialized UN agency working in the field of poverty eradication in the rural areas of developing countries providing grants and loans with low interest for allied projects.
- Headquarters: Rome, Italy
- It brings out the Rural Development Reportevery year.
- It has 177 member countries. India is also a member country.
- To increase the productive capacity of poor people.
- To increase benefits for them from market participation.
- To strengthen the environmental sustainability & climate resilience of their economic activities.
- It works with marginalized and vulnerable groups such as farmers with small holdings, foresters, Pastoralists, Fishermen and small scale entrepreneurs by giving them disaster preparedness, access to weather information, technology transfer and social learning.
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III- Security
In News: Hansa New Generation (NG) aircraft successfully make its maiden flight.
Hansa New Generation (NG) aircraft:
- Hansa New Generation (NG) aircraft is an aircraft designed and developed by CSIR-NAL.
- The unique features of Hansa-NG are glass cockpit with cabin comfort, high, efficient digitally controlled engine, electrically-operated flaps, long endurance, low acquisition, and low operating cost.
- CSIR-NAL has already identified a private partner and series production will start soon.
- National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), is India’s first & largest aerospace firm.
- It was established by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at Delhi in 1959 and its headquarters was later moved to Bangalore in 1960.
- It is the only government aerospace R&D laboratory in the country’s civilian sector.
- The firm closely operates with HAL, DRDO and ISRO and has the prime responsibility of developing civilian aircraft in India.
- The CSIR-NAL mandate is to develop aerospace technologies with strong science content, design and build small and medium-sized civil aircraft, and support all national aerospace programmes.
About Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
- It is the largest research and development (R&D) organisation in India.
- CSIR hasa pan-India presence and has a dynamic network of 38 national laboratories, 39 outreach centres, 3 Innovation Complexes and 5 units.
- Established: September 1942.
- CSIR is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology and it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- CSIR covers a wide spectrum of streams – from radio and space physics, oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology.
- It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts which include the environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors.
- Organisation Structure
- President: Prime Minister of India (Ex-officio)
- Vice President: Union Minister of Science and Technology (Ex-officio)
- Governing Body: The Director-General is the head of the governing body. The other ex-officio member is the finance secretary (expenditures).
- 15-member advisory body composed of prominent members from respective fields of science and technology. Member terms are of three years.
Part of: Prelims and GS – I- Geography
Context: The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) Ltd, has indigenously renovated & modernized its 180 MW Baira Siul Power Station and commenced commercial operations.
- The project is in Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
- The Baira Siul Power Station is NHPC’s first power station which was under commercial operation since 1st April 1982 and had completed its useful life of 35 years.
- The life of Baira Siul Power Station has now been extended by another 25 years.
- NHPC is enterprise of Central Government incorporated with an objective to plan, promote and organise an integrated and efficient development of hydroelectric power in all aspects.
- Established: 1975
- Besides, hydroelectric power the company has expanded its objects to include other sources of energy like Solar, Geothermal, Tidal, Wind etc.
- At present, NHPC is a Mini Ratna Category-I Enterprise of the Central Government with an authorised share capital of Rs. 1,50,000 Million
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources
Context: Enacted in 2006, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act aims to provide at least 100 days of unskilled wage employment to adult members of a rural household
It has increased incomes for rural poor (nearly 14.7 crore active workers), controlled migration to urban areas and acted as lifeline during times of economic distress and natural calamities.
Issues with MGNREGA
- Even as the number of people seeking work in 2020-’21 increased to 13.3 crore, the highest ever, the government allocated 35% less funds for the programme in 2021-’22
- Nearly half the total MGNREGS budget (revised) for 2020-’21 had already been spent in the first four months of this financial year leaving just half to be spread over the rest of the year.
- It is estimated that to provide 100 days of work to all job card holding families, Rs 3 lakh crore would be needed.
- All households, on average, received 52 days of work, as against the promised 100.
- Government is unwilling to provide more than 100 days of work. A lack of regular income means workers are constantly in debt.
- MGNREGS expenditure accounts for 47% of GDP. This is much lower than the 1.7% recommended, by World Bank economists, for the optimal functioning of the programme
- Workers continue to face the issue of payment delay.
- Inadequate wage increase and wage delays have made workers reluctant to take up work.
- The MGNREGS wages of at least 17 of the 21 states are lower than the state minimum wage for agriculture, and the shortfall is in the range of 2-33%.
- MGNREGS has a provision for an additional 50 days of wage employment during drought and natural calamities. The government must consider 2020 and 2021 as disaster [years] and extend the number of workdays
- The government should change regulations on permissible work that can be undertaken in MGNREGS to accommodate pandemic restrictions
- In the ongoing economic slowdown, MGNREGS wages must be increased and at least brought up to states’ respective minimum wage for agriculture, so as to spur spending by poor households
- Government must increase its budgetary allocation and ensure immediate payments for work done.
- Government should also make health insurance mandatory for all MGNREGS workers
Connecting the dots:
- DUET (Decentralised Urban Employment and Training) for urban areas
- Urban Jobs Safety Net
- A moment to revive MGNREGA
SCIENCE & TECH/ INTERNATIONAL
- GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Context: In March, a Chinese military satellite (Yunhai 1-02) appeared to spontaneously disintegrate in orbit, leaving a trail of debris high above the Earth.
- Recently it was understood that the satellite disintegrated due to its collision with a piece of junk leftover from a 1996 Russian rocket launch.
- It was the first major smash-up in Earth orbit since 2009.
What is Space Junk?
- It is the dead and unwanted craft left behind in the finite space of Earth orbit.
- More than 100 million pieces of space junk are now orbiting the Earth.
- Although the vast majority are the size of sand grains or smaller, at least 26,000 hunks are big enough to destroy a satellite.
What is the major concern with Space Junk?
- Due to cost-saving advances in rocket and satellite technologies, more countries and companies are preparing to launch more stuff into orbit than ever before.
- About 4,000 operational satellites are now in orbit; in the years ahead, that number could rise to more than 100,000.
- As more entities seek to access orbit for scientific and commercial purposes, the likelihood and risk of a collision is growing fast.
- Each collision would in turn produce debris that made further collisions more likely.
- The result could be a belt of space junk so dense that it would make certain low-Earth orbits unusable.
- Space junk could also affect their research operations (including the threat posed to astronauts aboard the International Space Station).
- As Earth orbit becomes an increasingly important arena for military rivalry, there’s also the risk that collisions could be misinterpreted as something other than an accident.
- Understanding the criticality of the issue, NASA set up an Orbital Debris Program Office (ODPO) to deal with the problem.
What was the outcome of ODPO?
- In 1995, the agency issued the world’s first set of debris-mitigation guidelines. Among other things, it proposed that satellites be designed to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years of mission completion.
- Other spacefaring countries and the United Nations followed with their own guidelines.
- But urgency and compliance were lacking, partly because the world had not yet experienced a destructive collision between spacecraft and debris until 2007.
- In 2007, China launched a ballistic missile at one of its old weather satellites, producing the largest cloud of space debris ever tracked.
- Later in 2009, a non-functional Russian communications orbiter collided with a functioning one operated by Iridium Satellite, producing almost 2,000 pieces of debris measuring at least 4 inches in diameter.
- Since then, the situation has only gotten more precarious
So what can be done?
- Collaboration between nations to tackle the issue of space junk, is required.
- The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, negotiated during an earlier space race with little input from China, needs to be updated.
- In particular, provisions that grant countries permanent property rights to their objects in space may complicate efforts to clean up debris.
- Next, Nasa should fund research into debris-removal technologies—such as those recently demonstrated by Astroscale, a Japanese startup, which hold promise— and consider partnerships with companies developing them.
- The US should also seek to expand the Artemis Accords, a framework for space cooperation that includes (so far) 11 other countries.
- As more nations join, debris-mitigation protocols, such as a requirement to specify which country has responsibility for end-of-mission planning, should become routine.
Nations should help to make space a place where countries and companies collaborate, not collide.
Connecting the dots:
- Space Exploration in the era of Privatisation
- IN-SPACe: Growing Private Role
- Challenges with Outer Space
Spotlight Sep 1: DISCUSSION ON “RECORD GDP GROWTH IN 1ST QUARTER”
- GS-2: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- India’s GDP grew at a record pace of over 20 per cent in the first quarter of FY22.
- GDP in the first quarter of 2021-22 at constant (2011-12) prices is estimated at Rs 32.38 lakh crore, as against Rs 26.95 lakh crore in the first quarter of 2020-21, showing a growth of 20.1 per cent as compared to a contraction of 24.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2020-21.
- The economy grew 20.1 per cent in the first quarter of this financial year in comparison to the same period a year ago when the economy contracted 24.4 per cent.
- This is the fastest quarterly expansion of GDP since official growth data was stored from the mid-1990s.
- Quarterly GVA at Basic Price at Constant (2011-12) Prices for Q1 of 2021-22 is estimated at Rs 30.48 lakh crore, as against Rs 25.66 lakh crore in Q1 of 2020-21, showing a growth of 18.8 per cent.
- While GDP growth has rebounded at a record pace in the April-June quarter, it is yet to reach 2019 levels.
- Ratings agency ICRA had earlier said that the high growth in the first quarter of this fiscal would be “deceptive” due to the sharp contraction in the corresponding period a year ago.
Factors contributing to the quarterly expansion of GDP:
- India’s GDP grew at a record pace of over 20 per cent in the first quarter of FY22 is an offshoot of low or a weak base.
- Second reason behind the expansion is the strong rebound in consumer demand in comparison to the same period in 2020-21.
Comparison in growth of 2019-2020 and 2020-2021:
- In the year 2020, the GDP had contracted at the same quarter. Due to the lockdown, India faced contraction in last year’s GDP as all the sectors were halted as a measure to combat Covid-19.
- The Covid-19 pandemic had nearly halted all economic activities. The GDP had contracted 24.4 per cent in April-June 2020.
- Another learning from this is that the second wave was very virulent as far as the healthcare system is concerned but the economy was not that badly impacted. So, there is underlying learning to live with the virus phenomenon which seems to be playing out and which will play out in rest of this fiscal as well.
Achieving the pre covid growth rate:
- The high GDP growth numbers are mainly on account of the base effect. The level of the GDP in 1QFY22 is still lower than the level recorded in 1QFY20.
- However, the rebound after the second wave has been faster in some sectors. The recovery is likely to deepen with further easing of curbs and faster vaccination.
- Going forward, high frequency indicators point to a deepening recovery in the second quarter, driven by the easing of state-wise restrictions and rising confidence on the back of widening vaccination coverage.
(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 Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution deals with which of the following?
a) Pardoning Power of President & Governor
b) Ordinance Making power of President & Governor
c) Appointment of Supreme Court Judges & High Court Judges
d) None of the above
Q.2 Consider the following statements about Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)
1) It is a statutory body established by FSDC Act, 2009
2) It works under the Ministry of Finance
3) The Urjit Patel committee (2008) on financial sector reforms first proposed the creation of FSDC.
Select the incorrect statements:
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 2 and 3 only
c) 1 and 3 only
d) 1,2 and 3
Q.3 Baira Siul Power Station is located in which of the following state of India?
a) Himachal Pradesh
ANSWERS FOR 3rd Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Sustainable Agriculture:
On Foreign Trade Policy:
On Raja Ram Mohan Roy: