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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th May 2022

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  • May 17, 2022
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Chief of Defence Staff and top-level military reforms

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Syllabus

  • GS-2 – Defence and Security

Context: The Government is yet to announce a successor to the country’s top military post, post death of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat.

  • The reason for the delay: The Government is reassessing the concept of the post as well as the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and is looking to streamline the setup.

Role of the Chief of Defence Staff

The Government’s decision in 2019 to create the post of a CDS, a long-pending demand to bring in tri-service synergy and integration, is the biggest top-level military reform since independence.

  • The Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister and Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC). However, the three Chiefs will continue to advise the Defence Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services
  • In addition, the Department of Military Affairs was created as the fifth department in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the CDS functioning as its Secretary.
  • Broad mandate of the CDS: includes bringing about jointness in “operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.”
  • Bring about synergy and optimise procurements, training and logistics and facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/ theatre commands.
  • Evaluate plans “for ‘Out of Area Contingencies’, as well other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)”.
  • The specialised tri-service divisions — special operations, defence cyber and defence space — were also brought under the ambit of the CDS.

Why the rethink?

  • Dichotomy in the roles and responsibilities with the several hats worn by the CDS and also overlap in responsibilities between the DMA and DoD.
  • On the ambitious timelines set for the creation of theatre commands and also the number of commands and their envisaged format.

The Way Forward:

  • To have a CDS with operational powers who will after due legislative changes have theatre commanders report to him while the Service Chiefs will look after the raise, train and sustain functions of respective Services.
  • In this direction, it is being looked at if the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) can function as the Secretary DMA reporting directly to the CDS.

Source: The Hindu


The Place of Worship Act, 1991

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Syllabus

  • GS-1: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. 
  • GS-2: Role of Judiciary, Parliament & Separation of powers.

Context: The ongoing row over the Gyanvapi Masjid that is situated adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, has again brought to the fore the controversy around The Places Of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

Background – Gyanvapi Masjid Row

1991: A group of priests in Varanasi petitioned in court, seeking permission to worship on the Gyanvapi premises.

2019: The Allahabad High Court ordered a stay on an ASI survey that was requested by the petitioners.

2022 (current): Five Hindu women sought to routinely worship Shringar Gauri and other idols within the Gyanvapi mosque complex (behind the western wall of the premises).

  • A videographed survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex was ordered by Varanasi court – report was to be submitted in May but got delayed.
  • The order was challenged by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the mosque committee.
  • Turning down the plea, the Varanasi court said: “In any case, the survey work won’t be stopped whether parties cooperate or don’t.”

The Gyanvapi Masjid Survey 2022

  • Hindu Side: Claimed that a ‘Shivling’ was found inside a reservoir on the mosque complex
  • Muslim side: Dismissed the claim and said it was only a fountain.
  • The mosque committee’s plea argued that the fresh suits filed in 2021 citing the “right to Worship” were “barred by The Places of Worship Act, 1991,” and were an attempt to revive the dispute which had been put to rest by this law.

Let’s discuss the Places of Worship Act, 1991

Seeks to prohibit the conversion of a place of worship and maintain its religious character as was at the time of India’s Independence on August 15, 1947.

  • In force: Since July 11, 1991
  • If any suit, appeal, or other proceedings concerning the conversion of the religious traits of any place of worship, existing on August 15, 1947, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate. It further stipulates that no fresh proceedings on such matters shall be initiated.
  • The Act prohibits conversion of a religious place in any manner, even to cater to a particular section of the religion.
  • The Act exempts any place of worship, which is “an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site or remains covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958) or any other law for the time being in force”.
  • Penal Provision: Anyone contravening the prohibition on converting the status of a place of worship is liable to be imprisoned for up to three years, and a fine. Those abetting or participating in a criminal conspiracy to commit this offence will also get the same punishment.

Why Was the Act Introduced?

  • Brought about by a Bill introduced by the erstwhile Union Home Minister in the PV Narasimha Rao Cabinet, Shankarrao Bhavrao Chavan.
  • The Act was passed when BJP leader LK Advani’s Rath Yatra for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had gained massive support.
  • In the wake of Advani’s arrest in Bihar and the shooting of kar sevaks in Uttar Pradesh — ordered by the Mulayam Singh government — Chavan sought to prevent incidents of communal unrest through the Bill.

Challenge to the Places of Worship Act

Challenged by: BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenged the Places of Worship Act, 1991, last year in the Supreme Court.

Argument: The law was a contravention of the principle of secularism as laid down by the Constitution of India.

  • The Centre has barred remedies against illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file a suit or approach a high court under Article 226.
  • Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temple endowments in the spirit of Articles 25-26 and the illegal barbarian acts of invaders will continue in perpetuity.

Pertained to: A legal battle before a trial court over “reclaiming the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura”, which was directly affected by the restrictions under the 1991 Act.

What are the exception under the act?

  • An exception was made to keep the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute out of its ambit as the structure was then the subject of litigation.
  • The 1991 Act will not apply to ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • It will also not apply to any suit that has been finally settled or disposed of, any dispute that has been settled by the parties before the 1991 Act came into force, or to the conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence.

What are the grounds of challenge?

  • Constrains Judicial Remedy: The act amounts to taking away the right of the people to seek justice through the courts and obtain a judicial remedy. The petitioner argues that the Act takes away the rights of communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to reclaim the sites of their places of worship through legal proceedings.
  • Contention on Cut-off date: The petitioner also contends that the cut-off date of August 15, 1947, is arbitrary and irrational.
  • Issue of Exemption: The petition contends that the legislation legalises the actions of invaders in the past who demolished places of worship. It wonders how the law could exempt the birthplace of Ram, but not that of Krishna.
  • Restriction on Fundamental Right to Practise Religion: The petition also said the law violates the right to practise and propagate religion, as well as the right to manage and administer places of worship.
  • Not in spirit of Secularism: Further, petition has argued that that act goes against the principle of secularism and the state’s duty to preserve and protect religious and cultural heritage.

What has the SC said on the status freeze?

  • In its final verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, the Supreme Court had observed that the Act “imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism”.
  • The court went on to say: “Non-retrogression is a foundational feature of the fundamental constitutional principles, of which secularism is a core component.”
  • The court described the law as one that preserved secularism by not permitting the status of a place of worship to be altered after Independence.
  • In words of caution against further attempts to change the character of a place of worship, the five-judge Bench said, “Historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands. In preserving the character of places of public worship, Parliament has mandated in no uncertain terms that history and its wrongs shall not be used as instruments to oppress the present and the future.”

What are the implications of the case?

  • Contentious Places: Some Hindu organisations have been laying claim to the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura. 
  • Controversy in Mathura: Civil suits have been filed in a Mathura court seeking the shifting of the 17th-century mosque from the spot that some claim is the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
  • Dilution of 1991 law impacts outcome: Any order that strikes down or dilutes the 1991 law on the status of places of worship is likely to influence the outcome of such proceedings.

Source: India Today


The repo rate in India

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Syllabus

  • GS-3 Economy

Context: On May 4, the Reserve Bank of India, in a surprise move, announced that the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) had held an ‘off-cycle’ meeting at which it had decided unanimously to raise the “policy repo rate by 40 basis points to 4.40%, with immediate effect”.

  • The MPC had judged that the inflation outlook warranted an appropriate and timely response through resolute and calibrated steps to ensure that the second-round effects of supply side shocks on the economy were contained and long-term inflation expectations were kept firmly anchored.
  • RBI’s monetary policy response would help preserve macro-financial stability amid increasing volatility in financial markets.

What is the repo rate?

  • One of several direct and indirect instruments that are used by the RBI for implementing monetary policy.
  • The RBI defines the repo rate as the fixed interest rate at which it provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
  • In other words, when banks have short-term requirements for funds, they can place government securities that they hold with the central bank and borrow money against these securities at the repo rate.

Since this is the rate of interest that the RBI charges commercial banks such as State Bank of India and ICICI Bank when it lends them money, it serves as a key benchmark for the lenders to in turn price the loans they offer to their borrowers.

Why is the repo rate such a crucial monetary tool?

The repo rate system allows central banks to control the money supply within economies by increasing or decreasing the availability of funds.

How does the repo rate work?

  • As the direct loan pricing relationship
  • Functions as a monetary tool by helping to regulate the availability of liquidity or funds in the banking system.
  • For instance, when the repo rate is decreased, banks may find an incentive to sell securities back to the government in return for cash. This increases the money supply available to the general economy.
  • Conversely, when the repo rate is increased, lenders would end up thinking twice before borrowing from the central bank at the repo window thus, reducing the availability of money supply in the economy.

Impact of Repo Rate change on inflation

  • Inflation can broadly be: mainly demand driven price gains, or a result of supply side factors that in turn push up the costs of inputs used by producers of goods and providers of services, thus spurring inflation, or most often caused by a combination of both demand and supply side pressures.
  • Changes to the repo rate to influence interest rates and the availability of money supply primarily work only on the demand side by making credit more expensive and savings more attractive and therefore dissuading consumption. However, they do little to address the supply side factors.

What is Monetary Policy Committee?

  • Urjit Patel committee in 2014 recommended the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee.
  • It is a statutory and institutionalized framework under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
  • Composition: Six members (including the Chairman) – three officials of the RBI and three external members nominated by the Government of India.
    • The Governor of RBI is ex-officio Chairman of the committee
  • Functions: The MPC determines the policy interest rate (repo rate) required to achieve the inflation target (presently 4%). Decisions are taken by majority with the RBI Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie.

Repo vs Reverse repo rate

  • Repo rate is the rate at which the Central Bank grants loans to the commercial banks against government securities.
  • Reverse repo rate is the interest offered by RBI to banks who deposit funds with them.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q.1) With reference to the Indian economy, demand-pull inflation can be caused/increased by which of the following? (2021)

  1. Expansionary policies
  2. Fiscal stimulus
  3. Inflation-indexing wages
  4. Higher purchasing power
  5. Rising interest rates

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

 

  1. 1, 2 and 4 only
  2. 3, 4 and 5 only
  3. 1, 2, 3 and 5 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Q.2) Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)? (2017)

  1. It decides the RBI’s benchmark interest rates.
  2. It is a 12-member body including the Governor of RBI and is reconstituted every year.
  3. It functions under the chairmanship of the Union Finance Minister.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 2 and 3 only

Practice Questions

Q.1)In the context of Repurchase agreement between bank and RBI, consider the following statements:

  1. It is the rate at which the central bank of a country (Reserve Bank of India in case of India) lends money to commercial banks.
  2. In India it is the primary tool in the RBI’s Monetary and Credit Policy.
  3. In this RBI lends it for long term money to banks

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1 and 2 only

Fortified rice leading to side effects among Adivasis

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Syllabus

  • GS 2: Health and Governance

Context: Distribution of iron fortified rice through government schemes as a “silver bullet” to curb anaemia must stop in States like Jharkhand, which have large tribal populations that suffer from sickle-cell anaemia, thalassemia, and tuberculosis, for whom an overload of iron can create adverse health issues, warn activists –

  • Neither field functionaries nor beneficiaries had been educated about the potential harms
  • There were no warning labels despite the food regulator’s rules on fortified foods.
  • Where fortified rice is being distributed under Central government-funded schemes such as the public distribution system (PDS); PM-Poshan (erstwhile mid-day meal scheme) at schools; and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS or anganwadi services), consent is not being obtained from beneficiaries.

The Effects

Jharkhand is an endemic zone of sickle cell disorder and thalassemia, with a prevalence of 8%-10%, which is twice the national average. Jharkhand is also an endemic zone for malaria — in 2020, the State ranked third in the country in malaria deaths.

  • Thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia and malaria are conditions where there is already excess iron in the body, whereas TB patients are unable to absorb iron.
  • Consumption of iron-fortified foods among patients of these diseases can reduce immunity and the reduce functionality of organs.
  • In a large-scale approach to rice fortification like the one being adopted by governments right now, even a screening process prior to fortified rice distribution does not resolve the problem of at-risk individuals because, within a household, it is unlikely that two different kinds of rice (fortified and unfortified) will be cooked for every meal for the contra-indicated cases and healthy persons.
  • It is also unlikely that the government would be able to put into place any mechanisms by which entitlements of each person in a household can be distributed distinctly in the PDS system as fortified and non-fortified rice to cater to individual needs and medical conditions.

The Way Ahead

Nutrition cannot be approached through a micronutrient-by-micronutrient formula and needs a holistic approach.

  • Supply and distribution of iron fortified rice should stop in Jharkhand, and the State government must reject rice fortification in government food schemes as an approach to tackling malnutrition.
  • Promoting diet diversity by adding millets, pulses and eggs to the PDS is recommended.
  • The number of Indians with such diseases is significant, and most are not even aware that they have such conditions. In this one-size-fits-all solution, fortified rice is being pushed onto unsuspecting citizens who have not given their prior informed consent.
  • Large scale fortification will lead to irreversible market shifts, with concomitant infrastructure changes in the supply chain.
  • On the other hand, protein-rich diets, millets, healthy fats, traditional kinds of rice that are nutritionally superior, staple grains that are traditionally processed to preserve their nutrients, local (uncultivated) greens, diverse forest foods, and other materials can come from millions of kitchen gardens and other locally-led efforts, will all be neglected by such a policy.

Fortified Rice

  • Fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. These nutrients may or may not have been originally present in the food before processing.
  • Fortification of Rice: According to the Food Ministry, fortification of rice is a cost-effective and complementary strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets.

Source: Hindustan Times


Baba’s Explainer – Surrogacy Regulation Act, 2021

Surrogacy Regulation Act, 2021

Syllabus

  • GS-1: Women & their issues
  • GS-2: Governance & Policy Measures
  • GS-2: Equality & Equity

Why In News: After years of struggle by activists, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 was enacted last year by Parliament to regulate the process of surrogacy. The Act was made effective on January 25, 2022 after the notification in the Official Gazette by the Union Government.

  • The progressive legislation, which aims to make surrogacy available to people unable to have children, also has some concerns with it.

 

Read Complete Details on Surrogacy Regulation Act, 2021 – CLICK HERE

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