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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 21st December 2021

  • IASbaba
  • December 21, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Sustainable Urban Development and Service Delivery Program

Part of: Prelims and GS-I -Urbanisation 

Context The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed Sustainable Urban Development and Service Delivery Program. 

Key takeaways 

  • Ministry: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs 
  • It is a $350 million policy-based loan to improve access to urban services in India. 
  • Policy actions and reforms will be accelerated to enhance service delivery and promote performance-based central fiscal transfers to urban local bodies (ULBs).
  • ADB will provide knowledge and advisory support to the in program implementation, including monitoring and evaluation.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) 

  • It is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966
  • Headquartered: Manila, Philippines.
  • ADB aims to promote social and economic development in Asia. 
  • The ADB was modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system.
  • It now has 68 members.
  • ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
  • India was a founding member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 1966 and is now the bank’s fourth largest shareholder and top borrower.

Rain Water Harvesting

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Conservation 

Context Minister of State for Jal Shakti informed Rajya Sabha about the Rain Water Harvesting.

Key takeaways

  • Though Water is a State subject, Central Government has taken important measures for implementation of rain water harvesting through scientific manner including watershed principles in the country.
  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has formulated guidelines for the States to adopt measures suitable to local conditions.
  • In addition, a number of States have done notable work in the field of water conservation/harvesting such as
    • ‘Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan’ in Rajasthan
    • ‘Jalyukt Shibar’ in Maharashtra, ‘Sujalam Sufalam Abhiyan’ in Gujarat
    • ‘Mission Kakatiya’ in Telangana
    • NeeruChettu’ in Andhra Pradesh
    • Jal Jeevan Hariyali in Bihar
    • ‘Jal Hi Jeevan’ in Haryana
    • Kudimaramath scheme in Tamil Nadu.

Fugitive Economic Offenders

Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Money Laundering

Context Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha that banks have recovered ₹13,109.17 crore by selling the assets of fugitives like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

About Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018

  • Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) became a law on July 31, 2018.
  • Objectives:
    • To deter economic offenders from avoiding the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
    • To ensure that fugitive economic offenders return to India to face the action in accordance with law.
  • Defining Fugitive economic offender (FEO): FEO is defined as an individual
    • who has committed offences involving an amount of 100 crore rupees or more and
    • has ran away from India to avoid criminal prosecution.
  • Special Court: A special court will be established under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.
  • Attachment of property: Special courts can direct the Central government to seize assets of fugitive economic offender including those that are proceeds of the crime.
  • Appeal: Appeals against the orders of the special court will lie before the High Court.

India-Central Asia Dialogue

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International relations

Context Recently, the 3rd meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was held in New Delhi.

Key takeaways

  • Emphasis on optimum usage of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as well as Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor to enhance connectivity between India and the Central Asian countries.
  • The connectivity initiatives (China’s Belt and Road Initiative) should be based on the principles of transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
  • Discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the region, following the Taliban’s occupancy.
  • Pushed for concerted action against all terror groups.
  • Backed the gradual restoration of tourism and business ties between India and the Central Asian countries.
  • India highlighted the role of “International Solar Alliance (ISA)” initiative.

India-Central Asia Dialogue 

  • It is a ministerial-level dialogue between India and the Central Asian countries namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • All five nations became independent states after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, post-Cold war.
  • All the countries participating in the dialogue, except for Turkmenistan, are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
  • The dialogue focuses on a number of issues including ways to improve connectivity and stabilise war-ravaged Afghanistan

(News from PIB)


KAPILA – Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness Campaign

Part of: Prelims 

Context: The campaign has been launched to

  • Increase awareness regarding protection and exploitation of Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Provide funding support in order to promote filing of the Intellectual Property (IP)in Higher Education Institutions.  

Under the initiative, activities like IP Clinic, Case Studies/ Articles regarding Innovation and Intellectual Property and online awareness programs and National Intellectual Property Literacy Week (NIPLW) have been conducted. More than 46,000 users have registered for KAPILA awareness programs. A KAPILA portal has also been launched for this purpose.

News Source: PIB


Nai Manzil Scheme

Part of: Prelims 

Context: The scheme aims to benefit the youth  (both men & women) belonging to six notified minority communities of 17-35 years of age,  who do not have  formal school leaving certificate, i.e., those in the category of school –dropouts  or educated in community education institutions like Madrasas. 

  • 30% of the beneficiary seats are earmarked for girl/women candidates
  • 5% of the beneficiary seats for persons with disability belonging to the minority community under the scheme.  

The scheme provides a combination of formal education (Class VIII or X) and skills to enable beneficiaries seek better employment and livelihood. 

Nai Roshni Scheme

  • The scheme aims to empower and enhance confidence in women by providing knowledge, tool and techniques for Leadership Development of Women belonging to six notified minority communities i.e., Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, Christian and Parsi. 
  • It is a training programme conducted for women belonging to minority community between the age group of 18 years to  65 years; covering areas related to Programmes for women, Health and Hygiene, Legal rights of women, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, Swachch Bharat, Life Skills, and Advocacy for Social and Behavioural change.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • GS-2: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions. 

Impartiality of the Election Commission

Context: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra met with Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, P. K. Mishra, on November 16, where he was “expected to be present.” 

  • An official communication from the Law Ministry, which is the administrative ministry of the Commission, said the meeting had been called to discuss electoral reforms. 
  • Also, the Ministry claimed that the session with the CEC and Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey was an “informal interaction”. 

Why does this raise issues about the functioning of the Commission? 

  • The “directive” from the PMO has raised concerns about the independent functioning of the Commission, whose autonomy successive CECs have sought to protect zealously. 
  • The “informal interaction” of the CEC and two other Election Commissioners with the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary has raised questions about the neutrality of the Commission, especially when elections to crucial States are around the corner. 
  • The Election Commission is a constitutional authority whose responsibilities and powers are prescribed in the Constitution of India under Article 324. In the performance of its functions, the Election Commission is insulated from executive interference. 
  • It is the Election Commission of India which decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections. 
  • Again, it is the Commission which decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters. 
  • The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions. 
  • By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.

What was wrong in the letter from the Law Ministry to the EC? 

  • The three ECs are expected to maintain distance from the executive — a constitutional safeguard to insulate the commission from external pressure and allow it to continue as an independent authority. 
  • The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry for the deployment of security forces during elections. 
  • In such cases, the Home Secretary is often invited in front of a full commission where the three commissioners are also present. The Law Ministry spells the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy. 
  • From former CEC M.S. Gill who had written to the then PM Vajpayee proposing electoral reforms to former CEC S.Y. Quraishi’s letter to former PM Manmohan Singh on the delay in payment for EVMs by the Law Ministry, election commissioners, have from time to time written to prime ministers in the past. 
  • However, in this case, after receiving the letter from the Law Ministry, the CEC conveyed his displeasure and stayed away from the meeting in which his subordinate officials were present. 
  • However, the three commissioners did make themselves available for an interaction with Principal Secretary Mr. Mishra later. 

By making themselves available , has the EC acted in good faith? 

  • Over the last couple of years, several actions and omissions of the commission have come in for criticism. 
  • For example, during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the EC under Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora gave a clean chit to PM Narendra Modi, who in an election rally in Latur, had referenced his campaign with an appeal on behalf of the armed forces. 
  • The Election Commission of India took the view that Mr. Modi did not violate its rule book. In doing so, the Commission overruled the opinion of the district election officers by stating that Mr. Modi did not seek votes by invoking the Balakot air strikes. 
  • In 2021, the Commission’s delayed decision in banning election campaigns in the midst of a rampaging pandemic, raised eyebrows. Eventually, when they banned rallies and public meetings of over 500 people, the decision came a day after Mr. Modi cancelled his four scheduled rallies. 
  • Nearly 66 former bureaucrats in a letter addressed to the President, expressed their concern over the working of the Election Commission which they felt was suffering from a credibility crisis, citing various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

Connecting the dots:


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues with Federalism
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

Multistate Cooperatives

Context: Recently, Union Cooperation Minister Amit Shah announced that the Centre has decided to amend the Multi State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act, 2002 to “plug the loopholes in the Act”. 

What is the Act, and what are multistate cooperative societies?

  • Cooperatives are a state subject, but there are many societies such as those for sugar and milk, banks, milk unions etc whose members and areas of operation are spread across more than one state. The Act was passed to govern such cooperatives.
  • For example, most sugar mills along the districts on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border procure cane from both states. They draw their membership from both states, and they are thus registered under the MSCS Act. 
  • Their board of directors has representation from all states they operate in. 
  • Administrative and financial control of these societies is with the central registrar, with the law making it clear that no state government official can wield any control on them.
  • Since the law was enacted, 1,479 such societies have been registered, of which 9 have been deregistered since. 
  • Maharashtra has the highest number at 567, followed by Uttar Pradesh (147) and New Delhi (133). 
  • Credit societies constitute the bulk of registered societies at 610, followed by agro-based ones (which include sugar mills, spinning mills etc) at 244. There are 96 multistate cooperative dairies and 66 multistate cooperative banks.

Why does the government plan to amend the Act?

  • Experts on cooperatives talk of loopholes in the Act. 
  • The exclusive control of the central registrar, who is also the Central Cooperative Commissioner, was meant to allow smooth functioning of these societies.
  • The central Act cushions them from the interference of state authorities so that these societies are able to function in multiple states. What was supposed to facilitate smooth functioning, however, has created obstacles.
  • Experts pointed out for state-registered societies, financial and administrative control rests with state registrars who exercise it through district- and tehshil-level officers. 
    • Thus if a sugar mill wishes to buy new machinery or go for expansion, they would first have to take permission from the sugar commissioner for both. Post this, the proposal would go to the state-level committee that would float tenders and carry out the process.
  • While the system for state-registered societies includes checks and balances at multiple layers to ensure transparency in the process, these layers of checks & balances do not exist in the case of multistate societies. 
    • Instead, the board of directors has control of all finances and administration. For expenditure above a certain level, the annual general body meeting of the society has to be called. 
  • Many experts have noted there is an apparent lack of day-to-day government control on such societies. Unlike state cooperatives, which have to submit multiple reports to the state registrar, multistate cooperatives need not. 
  • The central registrar can only allow inspection of the societies under special conditions — a written request has to be sent to the office of the registrar by not less than one-third of the members of the board, or not less than one-fifth of the number of members of the society. Inspections can happen only after prior intimation to societies.
  • The on-ground infrastructure for central registrar is thin — there are no officers or offices at state level, with most work being carried out either online or through correspondence.
  • For members of the societies, the only office where they can seek justice is in Delhi, with state authorities expressing their inability to do anything more than forwarding their complaints to the central registrar.
  • There have been instances across the country when credit societies have launched ponzi schemes taking advantage of these loopholes. Such schemes mostly target small and medium holders with the lure of high returns. Fly-by-night operators get people to invest and, after a few instalments, wind up their operations. 
    • In Maharashtra, the state commissioner used to get multiple complaints of this nature but could not take any action, given the lack of ground staff necessary for verifying the antecedents of such societies.

What kind of amendments can be expected?

  • The Centre is holding extensive consultations with experts from various fields: bankers, sugar commissioners, cooperative commissioners, housing societies federations etc. 
  • Central government will also increase their manpower, first in Delhi and then in the states, to ensure better governance of the societies. 
  • Also, technology will be used to bring in transparency.
  • Some suggest that administrative control of such societies should be vested in the state commissioners. This way, day-to-day control can be wielded to ward off cases of fraud.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Dec 17: The Coal “Crisis”: Ground Reality – https://youtu.be/DaWgsvuEfT8 

TOPIC:

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

The Coal “Crisis”: Ground Reality

Context: Coal is the most important and abundant fossil fuel in India. The country’s industrial heritage was built upon indigenous coal.

  • Accounts for 55% of the country’s energy need. 
  • Hard coal deposit spread over 27 major coalfields are mainly confined to eastern and south central parts of the country. 

In the recent period Coal sector in India has grappled with demand-supply imbalances for a variety of reasons: sharp rise in power demand, supply disruptions caused by extended monsoon and reduction in imports on the back of steep rise in international prices. 

The government has informed the Parliament that there is no shortage of coal in the country and Coal India Ltd has said that it does not foresee any shortage of dry fuel for power producers till March 2022 as it is focusing on ramping up production to secure a stock of about 70 million tonne by end of the current fiscal.

What can probably be the reasons behind the crisis?

  • A sharp uptick in power demand as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with supply issues have led to the current coal shortage. 
    • India consumed 124 billion units of power in August 2021 compared to 106 billion units of power in August 2019 which was not impacted by the pandemic.
  • Coal fired thermal power plants have also supplied a higher proportion of the increase in demand leading the share of thermal power in India’s power mix increasing to 66.4% from 61.9% in 2019.
  • The government has connected an additional 28.2 million households and these households are buying lights, fans and television sets leading to an increase in power demand.
  • Other key reasons for the supply crunch include continuous rainfall in coal bearing areas in August and September led to lower production and fewer despatches of coal from coal mines. 
  • A consistent move to lower imports coupled with high international prices of coal have also led to plants cutting imports.

Measures being taken by Government

  • An inter-ministerial team, including representatives of the Power and Railway Ministries, Coal India Ltd, the Central Electricity Authority and Power System Operation Corporation, is monitoring the supply of coal to thermal power plants.
  • The government is pressing thermal plants with captive coal mines to boost their coal output so that they can meet more of their own demand 
  • Government is also prioritising coal supplies for thermal power plants with low levels of stock. 
  • The Power Ministry is also trying to increase the supply of coal by expediting the start of production from a number of mines that already have all requisite clearances in place.
  • The government has also boosted the number of rakes of coal being transported to thermal power plants daily with 263 rakes of coal dispatched from coal mines up from 248 rakes.

Must Read: India’s Coal Usage under Scrutiny

Can you answer the following question?

  1. Discuss the significance of coal as an energy resource. What reforms are needed to cure the ailing coal sector.
  2. Coal sector reforms will make eastern and central India pillars of development. Discuss.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Q.1 Fugitive economic offender (FEO) is defined as an individual who:

  1. who has committed offences involving an amount of 10 crore rupees or more 
  2. has run away from India to avoid criminal prosecution.

Which of the above is or are correct?

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.2 Which of the following is the administrative Ministry of the Election Commission?

  1. Ministry of Home Affairs 
  2. Ministry of Law
  3. Ministry of Social Justice
  4. None of the above

Q.3 ‘Mission Kakatiya’ in Telangana is associated with which of the following class?

  1. Abolition of Child labour
  2. Mitigating Pollution
  3. Employment
  4. Rainwater harvesting

ANSWERS FOR 21st Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 B
3 D

Must Read

On rising inequality:  

The Hindu

On India-Central Asia dialogue:

The Hindu

On Russia-West equation and its impact on India:

Indian Express

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