(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-II -Polity
Context The winter session of Parliament ended recently. Both Houses were adjourned sine die a day ahead of schedule.
- During the session, 13 Bills were introduced, while 11 Bills were passed by both Houses of Parliament
Adjournment sine die
- When the House is suspended without naming a day for reassembly, it is known as adjournment sine die.
- It means dismissing a sitting of Parliament for an unspecified period.
- The authority of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.
- The presiding officer of a House can call a sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been suspended, or at any time after the House has been adjourned sine die.
Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Environment
Context In the Sirnapalli forest of Telangana, an international forest forensic investigator had a chance encounter with the rarely found species of Albino Indian Flapshell turtle.
About Albino Indian Flapshell Turtle
- It is a freshwater species of turtle found in South Asia. It is widespread Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
- The “flap-shelled” name stems from the presence of femoral flaps.
- These flaps of skin cover the limbs when they retract into the shell.
- Its IUCN status is Vulnerable.
- While typical Indian flapshell turtles are dark green and brown, the example found recently has a decidedly more vibrant appearance.
- The Indian flapshell turtle’s albino appearance is due to genetics. It is a congenital disorder and it is characterised by complete or partial absence of tyrosine pigment.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II- International relations
Context The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed a resolution permitting a carve-out in sanctions against the Taliban to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
- This carve-out covers urgently needed humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan.
- The resolution (2615) mandates a review of the carve-out every six months.
- It also requests that an Emergency Relief Coordinator brief the UNSC every six months on the delivery of assistance and any obstacles to implementation.
- It also “calls on all parties” to respect human rights and observe international humanitarian law.
About United Nations Security Council
- The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations
- It is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Permanent members (P5): Russia, UK, France, China, and USA
- The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms.
- The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its 15 members.
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security
Context The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will deploy women commandos on house protection duty for Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra; Union Home Minister; and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
About The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
- It is one of the premier Central Armed Police Forces of India for internal security.
- Ministry: Ministry of Home Affairs
- It is one of the oldest Central paramilitary forces.
- After Independence, the force was renamed as Central Reserve Police Force by an Act of Parliament on December 28, 1949.
- Mission: To enable the government to maintain Rule of Law, Public Order and Internal Security effectively and efficiently
- The force played a significant role during the amalgamation of the princely States into the Indian Union.
- Duties performed by the CRPF include:
- Crowd/ Riot control
- Counter Militancy/Insurgency operations
- Dealing with Left Wing Extremism
- Protection of VIPs and vital installations
- Checking environmental degradation and protection of local Flora and Fauna
- Fighting aggression during War time
- Participating in UN Peacekeeping Mission
- Rescue and Relief operations at the time of Natural Calamities
Part of: Prelims and GS I – Society
Context Bihar Chief Minister embarked upon his Samaj Sudhar Abhiyan (social reform campaign) from Motihari in East Champaran district to raise awareness about social ills such as child marriage and the dowry system.
(News from PIB)
Part of: Prelims
In News: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted maiden flight test of indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile ‘Pralay’.
- Powered with solid propellant rocket motor and many new technologies
- Has a range of 150-500 kilometre and can be launched from a mobile launcher
- The missile guidance system includes state-of-the-art navigation system and integrated avionics.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and GS- II – Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Context: The Panchayati Raj system of local self-government was introduced by the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution of India. Part IX was inserted in the Constitution as a sequel to the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1993, bestowing the Constitutional mandatory status to the ‘Panchayats’.
- Panchayat, being “Local Government”, is a State subject and part of State list of Seventh Schedule of Constitution of India. Accordingly, the Panchayats are setup and operate through the respective State Panchayati Raj Acts.
- eGramSwaraj is a user friendly web-based portal, which aims to bring in better transparency in the decentralised planning, progress reporting, financial management, work-based accounting and details of assets created.
- For ensuring timely audit of Panchayat accounts i.e. receipts and expenditures of Gram Panchayats, MoPR has rolled out an online application – AuditOnline This application not only facilitates the auditing of Panchayat accounts but also provides for maintaining of audit records. This application streamlines the process for audit inquiries, draft local audit reports, draft auditparas etc. and thus ensures proper maintenance of accounts by Panchayats to improve transparency and accountability.
Devolution of Power and Funds to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIS)
Article 243G of the Constitution of India empowers the Legislature of a State to make provisions, by law, for the devolution of power and responsibilities upon Panchayat at appropriate level.
A Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog for restructuring of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA) to address the challenges faced by the rural local bodies and increased fund flow to Gram Panchayats. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, a revamped Centrally Sponsored Scheme of RGSA was prepared for strengthening of PRIs for the period 2018-2019 to 2021-22.
Note: The Cholas were the pioneers in the formation of local bodies as part of a well-organised hierarchy to oversee the implementation of progressive plans.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and GS- III – Economy; Manufacturing sector
In News: With an ambition to empower innovators and entrepreneurs across the country, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog has come up with a first of its kind Vernacular Innovation Program (VIP).
- Will enable innovators and entrepreneurs in India to have access to the innovation ecosystem in 22 scheduled languages by the Government of India.
- Help to lower the language barrier in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship such that will systematically decouple creative expressions and languages of transaction
- Assist local entrepreneurs, artisans and innovators to seamlessly assimilate the knowledge cum technical materials that AIM will develop. This would assist India in building a strong local network of design experts and innovation practitioners.
- The struggle of not being able to expose one’s idea or innovation to the world is quite important to address, especially in India with its great diversity of languages.
- Only 10.4% of Indians speak English, most as their second, third, or fourth language. Not surprisingly, only 0.02% of Indians spoke English as their first language.
- Ten years later these numbers are not likely to be very different.
Therefore there is a need to create equal opportunity for the vernacular innovators who represent the staggering 90% of our population. After all, we know for sure that this excluded population, no matter which Indian language they speak, is at least as creative as the rest.
India may be the first nation in the world to launch such an initiative where an innovation ecosystem catering to 22 languages plus English is being built. By providing access to learning in one’s language and culture, AIM looks forward to enriching the local, regional, national and global innovation pipelines.
News Source: PIB
- GS-1: Society (Women’s Issues)
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: A Bill proposing to increase the age of marriage for women, and ensuring harmony in the age limit across religions, was introduced in Lok Sabha recently and then referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
- Both aspects of the proposed amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 have raised a debate on female autonomy and the application of personal laws in marriage.
What does the amendment propose?
The amendment proposes three changes.
- First, the law proposes to increase the minimum age of marriage for a woman. By amending the definition of a “child” in Section 2(a) to mean “a male or a female who has not completed twenty-one years of age”, the Bill makes the minimum age of marriage same for both men and women. Currently, it is 18 years for women and 21 for men.
- The key argument in favour of raising the age is in correlation to health and social indices such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, and nutrition levels among mothers and children.
- Second, it also increases the window for a “child” to file a petition to declare a child marriage void. Under the law, child marriages, although illegal, are not void but “voidable.”
- A child marriage can be declared null and void by a court when either party to the marriage files a petition under Article 3(4) of the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
- A “void” marriage, as opposed to a divorce, in legal terms, would be as if the marriage had never taken place in the first place.
- Earlier the petition under this section may be filed before she turns 20 and for the man before he turns 23. After that, the marriage would be deemed valid and the couple can file for divorce.
- The Bill proposes to extend this window for both the woman and the man to five years after attaining majority.
- Since the age of majority is 18 for both, this would mean that either the man or the woman can file a petition to declare the child marriage void before they turn 23, or until two years after reaching the new minimum age of marriage.
- The third, crucial change proposed is the introduction of a “notwithstanding” clause. This essentially clears the decks for equal application of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act across religions, notwithstanding any customs.
What is the opposition to the amendment?
- Since the age of majority is 18, increasing the age of marriage is viewed as a paternalistic approach by the state in personal matters of an individual.
- Additionally, the application of the child marriage law across faiths sets the stage for a debate on the limits of personal law.
- There are criticisms from some quarters that the Bill was unconstitutional and was violative of Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
- Another criticism is that increasing the minimum age of marriage will further push many marriages to the brink of illegality and marginalise vulnerable sections.
- Since the existing Act does not make child marriage automatically illegal, the increase in minimum age might not really benefit women.
- It could bring those who aid the marriage of a woman over the age of 18 under the ambit of a law that sanctions imprisonment of up to two years.
Has the law not been applied to all religions earlier?
- The 2006 law is considered a special legislation with a stated objective to prevent child marriages. While special legislation is applied over ‘general law’, experts have often pointed out that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act suffers from a lacuna since it does not explicitly say that the law would trump general law.
- Since Muslim law recognises “attaining puberty”, which is legally assumed at 15 years, as the minimum age of marriage, it raises questions as to whether the child marriage law can apply to Muslims.
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons in the Bill states amending the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, to reinforce its application overriding all other existing laws, including any custom, usage or practice governing the parties in relation to marriage….”
How have courts interpreted the child marriage law so far?
- High Courts have differed in their interpretation of the law.
- The Karnataka High Court, in a decision in the case of Seema Begaum D/O Khasimsab vs State Of Karnataka (2013), said that “no Indian citizen on the ground of his belonging to a particular religion, can claim immunity from the application of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006”.
- In February 2021, the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted protection to a Muslim couple (a 17-year-old girl married to a 36-year-old man), holding that theirs was a legal marriage under personal law.
- The HC examined provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act but held that since the special law does not override personal laws, Muslim law will prevail.
Has there been overriding of personal laws before?
- There are several instances of personal law being replaced with secular law that applies to all religions equally.
- For example, in Shabana Bano v Imran Khan (2009), the Supreme Court held that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to claim the maintenance from her husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code even after the expiry of iddat (mourning) period, as long as she does not remarry. Under Muslim law, the award of the maintenance is provided only during the iddat period.
- In 1996, the Supreme Court agreed with a Kerala High Court view that even though the Ecclesiastical Court can grant a divorce or nullify a Christian marriage, the Church cannot solemnise a second marriage of a party till the marriage is dissolved by a court.
- In Shayara Bano v Union of India (2017), the Supreme Court declared the practice of instant triple talaq as unconstitutional although it is provided for under Muslim law.
- In a 1960 case, the Supreme Court held that the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 would apply over Muslim law on transfer of property.
Connecting the dots:
- GS-2: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges
Context: The Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) recently issued directions to stock exchanges in commodity derivatives segment for immediately suspending trading in derivative contracts in key farm commodities namely paddy (non-basmati), wheat, chana, mustard seeds and its derivatives, soya bean and its derivatives, crude palm oil & moong for a year.
- The derivative contracts in these commodities were already suspended, as per a SEBI press release dated August 16, 2021 and October 08, 2021, respectively.
What are derivative contracts?
- Derivative contracts are contracts between two or more parties where the derivative value is based upon an underlying asset, in this case agri commodities.
- The price of the derivatives are established by the price fluctuations of the underlying assets.
- Derivatives can be traded on an exchange or over the counter (OTC).
How does the system work and what are derivatives trading?
- Derivatives trading takes place when traders speculate on the future price of an asset through buying or selling of derivative contracts to maximise profit as compared to buying the underlying asset outright.
- Traders also use derivatives for hedging to minimise risk against an existing position. With derivatives, traders can go short and make profit from falling asset prices.
- They also use derivatives to hedge against any existing long positions.
- The ultimate objective is to profit. This is viewed as a deterrent to bring in price discipline in the market.
What does the SEBI order mean?
- Now no new contract will be introduced till SEBI’s further orders.
- In respect of running contracts, no new position will be allowed to be taken. Only squaring up of position has been allowed.
- The imports of such commodities especially edible oils would reduce in the short term as traders will not have a hedging platform.
- Hedging which is speculative in nature has been made difficult. This will lead to release of blocked local produce supplies into the market which should cool the prices, and imports of commodities for speculative gains will be discouraged.
- Control Inflation: To reign in on the rising prices of these essential commodities which is fuelling inflation. It is believed that speculators have a role in jacking up of prices and this needs to be discouraged to curb inflation
- Curb Imports: India is the world’s biggest importer of vegetable oils and this measure will make it difficult for edible oil importers and traders to transact business since they use Indian exchanges to hedge their risk.
- Growth agenda of Government: The suspension of trading in these commodities follows a communication from the Department of Economic Affairs which is closely monitoring price movements. Such measure will also help in supporting growth as the economy is recovering from the COVID-19 impact.
How alarming is inflation?
- As per RBI governor’s recent monetary policy statement, CPI inflation ticked up in October 2021 to 4.5% from 4.3 in September, after falling sharply between June and September.
- The persistence of high core inflation (i.e., CPI inflation excluding food and fuel) since June 2020 has been an area of policy concern as input cost pressures could rapidly be transmitted to retail inflation as demand strengthens.
- RBI governor’s assessment is that price pressures may persist in the immediate term. He observed that supply side interventions by the government have limited the fallout of continuing high international edible oil prices on domestic prices.
- While cost-push pressures continue to impinge on core inflation, the inflation prints are likely to be somewhat higher over the rest of the year as base effects turn adverse.
- However, it is expected that headline inflation will peak in Q4:2021-22 and soften thereafter. RBI has projected CPI inflation at 5.3% for FY22.
What is being done to deal with it?
- Besides suspension of futures trading in key farm commodities by the SEBI, the government and the RBI are undertaking multiple interventions to curb the rising inflation.
- Recently as prices of edible oil hit near record highs, the Union Government substantially reduced taxes on imports of palm, soy and sunflower oil, but the move had limited impact on combating inflation.
- The Union & State Governments had also recently reduced excise duty and VAT on petrol and diesel which was aimed at bring down inflation by way of direct effects as well as indirect effects operating through fuel and transportation costs.
(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
Dec 17: Caught between COVID-19 and climate crisis: How the Arctic saw massive disruptions in 2021 – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/caught-between-Covid-19-and-climate-crisis-how-arctic-saw-massive-disruptions-in-2021-80738
- GS-3: Climate Change
Caught between COVID-19 and climate crisis: How the Arctic saw massive disruptions in 2021
Context: Arctic Circle, one of the most climatologically important regions on Earth, has continued to warm at a rate more than twice as compared to the rest of the world through 2021.
Its impact on the natives:
Natives of the arctic region are torn between two global crises – The novel coronavirus pandemic and climate change. Their lives and livelihoods are at risk as:
- The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation for Alaska natives in accessing traditional food
- To help mitigate these challenges, it was their indigenous culture and economic practices such as food sharing networks that came to the rescue. Indigenous Food Knowledges Network is one such food network that operates in the Arctic and the United States mid-west, bridging the two diverse regions.
- In addition to that, as the climate is warming, the ice inside the permafrost is melting and the glaciers are retreating. This is causing both local and regional hazards such as ocean acidification that is depleting marine resources like fish. The Arctic Ocean is acidifying faster than the rest of the global oceans, which threatens the entire ecosystem that the ocean supports.
Climate change indicators caused by warming
- The time between October 2020 and September 2021 marked as seventh-warmest since the beginning of records. It was the eighth consecutive year since 2014 when the average temperature of the region was at least 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial average.
- Summer 2021 recorded the second-lowest amount of older, multiyear ice since 1985 while April 2021 recorded the lowest post-winter sea ice volume ever since the record began in 2010. This decline in sea ice extent is one of the most iconic indicators of global climate change caused due to the rapid melting of sea ice because of warming. Arctic Sea ice reduced by around 39 percent in the last 38 years.
- The Arctic region showed a significant warming trend between 1982 and 2021 showing how it has warmed thrice as much as the planet in the last 50 years. And in August 2021, the Arctic Ocean recorded a particularly warm surface temperature.
- Warming has also caused an extensive greening of snow-covered lands like Alaska.
- The melting snow, in turn, affected the intensity of the water cycle of the region as it increased the discharge of the Arctic rivers by 12 percent over the average between 1981 and 2010.
- For some regions, the impact is rather drastic. In July and August, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced three extreme melting episodes. On August 14 extremely unusual rainfall was observed at the Summit Station at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level. This is alarming as rainfall has never been recorded before at the station.
- The warming also caused major disruptions in the ecology of the Arctic region in terms of ocean productivity, which is the extent of phytoplankton in the oceans, responsible for the formation of the first link in the food web of most marine ecosystems. Scientists observed a higher ocean primary productivity than the long-term average between 2003 and 2020, in seven of the nine sub-regions of the Arctic.
- As the green cover of the tundra biome of the Arctic region also increased in 2021, Beavers have been colonizing the Arctic tundra in western Alaska. They have been increasing the amount of unfrozen surface water on the landscape in winter and, in turn, degrading permafrost. This can emit huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, in places like Siberia which can turn the coldest place on earth into a temperate zone.
- To aggravate the situation, scientists have observed the grassy tundra transitioning to even more scrublands and shrubs becoming larger and denser because of climate-induced greening.
Disrupting Impact on the Arctic region’s environment and its inhabitants caused by other human interventions
- Ships, mostly for trade, ferrying between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have increased.
- Marine mammal calls have reportedly increased ambient marine noise levels in the frequency bands.
- This deviation in their navigation systems causes mass stranding of whales, dolphins, and other species along the beaches of many countries in and around the Arctic region.
- The foreign ship traffic has caused strange debris to wash ashore in the Arctic region.
Novel coronavirus has been equally drastic for all the parts of the world but, given the climate change crisis, it has been significantly harsh on the Arctic region and its people. The environmental changes that have already set in due to the warming of the region can cause damage for several decades, even if solid measures are taken to contain the changes. Hence, it becomes very important to revisit the commitments of global climate change, especially in times of covid and spread more awareness to curb human interventions before it is too late.
Can you answer the following question?
- The Arctic Circle has continued to warm at more than twice the rate as the rest of the world through 2021. Discuss the implications.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Albino Indian Flapshell Turtle
- It is a freshwater species of turtle found in South Asia.
- Its IUCN status is critically endangered.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) comes under Which of the following ministry?
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Law and Justice
- Ministry of Home affairs
- None of the above
Q.3 The authority of adjournment sine die lies with which of the following?
- Leader of Opposition
- The presiding officer of the House
- Prime Minister
ANSWERS FOR 23rd Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On India’s neighbourhood challenges:
On electoral reforms bill:
On e-shram portal: