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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 13th October 2022

  • IASbaba
  • October 13, 2022
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Map of Milky Way

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science and Technology

In news: Researchers have used complex models of the Milky Way galaxy to map out the locations of neutron stars and black holes that were created by long-dead stars.

  • The researchers carefully recreated the full lifecycle of these ancient star corpses to construct the first detailed map of the “galactic underworld”.

About:

  • The compact remnants of dead stars show a fundamentally different distribution and structure to the visible galaxy.
  • The Milky Way’s ‘galactic graveyard’ stretches three times the height of the galaxy itself, while one-third of the neutron stars and black holes have been flung out of the galaxy.

How are Black holes formed:

  • Black holes and neutron stars are formed when stars which are more than eight times larger than our Sun exhaust their fuel supply and suddenly collapse.
  • When this happens, it triggers a reaction that blows apart the outer portion of the star in a supernova explosion.
  • Meanwhile, the core keeps compressing itself until it becomes either a neutron star or a black hole, depending on its starting mass.
  • Supernova explosions are asymmetric, and the remnants are ejected at high speed – up to millions of kilometres per hour – and, even worse, this happens in an unknown and random direction for every object.
  • Neutron stars have cores so dense that electrons and protons combine at the subatomic level to form neutrons. This squeezes its total mass into a sphere that is “smaller than a city.”
  • If the starting mass of the star is more than 25 times that of our Sun, this collapse will continue until the core gets so dense that even light cannot escape, creating a black hole. Both kinds of stellar remnants warp space, time and matter around them due to their density.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Recently, Scientists observed the merger of giant blackholes’ billions of light-years away from the Earth. What is the significance of this observation?(2019)

  1. ‘Higgs boson particles’ were detected.
  2. ‘Gravitational waves’ were detected.
  3. Possibility of inter-galactic space travel through ‘wormhole’ was confirmed.
  4. It enabled the scientists to understand ‘singularity’.

Online News Dissemination

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Science & Technology

In News: The News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against search-engine operator Google, alleging that the latter had deprived them of their justifiable revenue acquired from news dissemination on the tech-giant’s platforms.

  • The complaint would be clubbed with similar cases filed by the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in February this year and the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) last year.

About:

  • The traditional newspaper industry in India has sustained itself on a business model wherein advertising accounts for two-third of its total revenue.
  • However, with online proliferation, there is an increased reliance of news publishers on digital ad revenues, and in turn, tech-based companies.
  • Search engines like Google are an important determinant in online news consumption. Readers would more often opt for an online web search rather than reaching out to a specific news website by typing its URL in a browser. This has made search-engines the first port of call for information online.
  • A news website sells advertising spaces on its platform through ad-exchanges.
  • In addition to this, Google also operates a platform that manages a publisher’s sale of online ads and tools to purchase display ad space.

 Allegations against Google:

  • Dominance of Google: Google’s search engine commands a 94% market share in the country. More than half of the total traffic on news websites is routed through Google. The search engine, by way of its algorithms and internal quality vetting, determines which news websites would be prioritised in search queries.
  • Google not compensated news publishers for their contribution to (Google’s various) platforms and has engaged in practices to bolster its monopoly in the space. The DNPA had put forth that website publishers receive only 51% of the advertisement revenue.
  • “Unilateral and non-transparent” determination and sharing of ad revenues, lack of transparency and information asymmetry in the ad-tech services provided by Google. This bothers the quality of services and innovation in the news realm.
  • Publishers have been “forced” to integrate content on their platforms and use its buying tool, Google Ads/DV 360, to receive bids from advertisers.
  • Encouraging members to disable header bidding – It refers to a programmatic bidding process that unifies multiple exchanges for a single bidding event.
  • “Forcing” members into using their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) or building mirror-like ‘light-weight’ webpages. However, it restricted paywall options unless publishers rebuild their websites as per AMP standards.
  • Google represents the buyer and the seller in the same transaction, while also operating the auction house in the middle, and selling its own inventory.

What is happening outside India?

  • European Publishers Council filed an anti-trust complaint against Google.
  • Australia introduced the ‘Media Bargaining Code’ to address the imbalance.

Source: The Hindu                 


Odisha’s Millet Mission

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Agriculture

In News: The state launched the Odisha Millet Mission (OMM), which aims to bring millets back to its fields and food plates by encouraging farmers to grow the crops that traditionally formed a substantial part of the diet and crop system in tribal areas.

About Odisha Millet Mission (OMM):

  • To improve nutritional security and promote sustainable agricultural practices
  • OMM also sells millet products, such as cookies, savoury snacks, vermicelli and processed millets, under a brand called “Millet Shakti” through food trucks, cafés, kiosks and other outlets.

Green Revolution(GR):

  • The Green Revolution within India commenced in 1968, during which agriculture in India was converted into a modern industrial system
  • Mainly led by agricultural scientist M. S. Swaminathan in India, this period was part of the larger Green Revolution endeavour initiated by Norman E Borlaug.
  • Features of GR:
  • Introduction of new and high yielding variety of seeds including high disease resistance varieties so that production will enhance.
  • Increased use of fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides in order to reduce agricultural loses.
  • Use of latest agricultural machinery like tractor, seed drills, threshers and harvester.
  • Provision of irrigation facilities.
  • Significance:
  • Increase in food grain production, especially in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Development of high-yielding varieties of wheat and rust resistant strains of wheat.
  • The Green Revolution has transformed India to a food grain surplus country from a deficit one.

MUST READ:  Negative impact of GR on soil

About Millets:

  • Millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soil.
  • India is the 5th largest exporter of millets in the world and produces 21MT of millets annually.
  • Types of millets:
  • Pearl Millet aka Bajra – is a popular grain in North-West India, including Rajasthan and Haryana. The fulfilling millet helps keep a check on cholesterol and is also recommended for diabetics.
  • Finger Millet aka Ragi – has multiple macronutrients and micronutrients such as Vitamin B3, folate and calcium.
  • Buckwheat Millet aka Kuttu – A popular grain during Navratri, Kuttu is known to help manage blood pressure and aid weight loss too.
  • Barnyard Millet aka Sanwa – is a gluten-free source of both insoluble and soluble fibres.
  • Foxtail Millet aka Kangni – is a grain well-known for promoting good cardiac health and maintaining good hair and skin.
  • Kodo Millet – is rich in fibre and iron and helps prevent constipation and control blood sugar.

Source: Down to Earth


Kadavur Slender Loris sanctuary

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Environment

In News: In a first in the country, Tamil Nadu government notified Kaduvur Slender Loris sanctuary under Section 26 (A)(1)(b) of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

About:

  • The Kadavur Slender Loris sanctuary is to cover 11,806 hectares in Karur and Dindigul districts.

About Slender Lois:

  • Slender Loris that are small nocturnal mammals are arboreal in nature as they spend most of their life on trees.
  • The species acts as a biological predator of pests in agricultural crops and benefits farmers.
  • Slender Loris has a wide range of ecological roles to play in the terrestrial ecosystem.
  • The survival of the species depends on its habitat improvement, conservation efforts and mitigation of threats.
  • IUCN status: Endangered

Conservation measures in TN:

  • Tamil Nadu government notified India’s first Dugong Conservation Reserve in Palk Bay, Kazhuveli bird sanctuary in Villupuram and Nanjarayan Tank birds’ sanctuary in Tiruppur and the State’s fifth elephant reserve at Agasthyamalai in Tirunelveli.
  • Further, 13 wetlands across the State were declared as Ramsar sites.

Source:  The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) With reference to ‘dugong’, a mammal found in India, which of the following statements is/are correct?(2015)

  1. It is a herbivorous marine animal.
  2. It is found along the entire coast of India.
  3. It is given legal protection under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act; 1972.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

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

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Governance

Context: Expanding the mandate of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme, the Central government recently announced the inclusion of skilling of girls in non-traditional livelihood (NTL) options in its flagship programme.

  • The scheme will now also focus on increasing the enrolment of girls in secondary education, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects.
  • Women have been historically under-represented areas such as technology.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between:
    • Ministry of Women and Child Development,
    • Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and
    • Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  • It emphasises convergence between Ministries and Departments to ensure adolescents complete their education, build skills, and enter the workforce in a diverse range of professions, including in STEM fields.
  • A national committee headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development will be the apex committee to review the implementation of the scheme at regular intervals with State governments and Union Territory administrations.

Need for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme:

  • The scheme was launched after the national census results for 2011 revealed detraction in key gender metrics – Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB).
  • CSR is defined as the number of girls per 1,000 boys aged 0-6 years.
  • This ratio has showcased a steady decline, from 945 in 1999 to 927 in 2001. This declined further to 918 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011.
  • Dip in these ratios is a significant indicator of gender discrimination and women disempowerment.
  • It also reflects both pre-birth discrimination through gender-biased, sex selective abortion and post-birth discrimination by neglecting health, nutrition, and educational needs of the girl child.

About the Scheme:

  • In 2015, the Indian government introduced the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme to address concerns of gender discrimination and women empowerment in the country.
  • The scheme aims to educate citizens against gender bias and improve efficacy of welfare services for girls.
  • It was launched with an initial funding of Rs. 100 crore.
  • Objectives:
    • Improve the child sex ratio
    • Ensure gender equality and women empowerment
    • Prevent gender-biased, sex selective elimination
    • Ensure survival and protection of the girl child
    • Encourage education and participation of the girl child

Progress of the Scheme:

  • The National SRB Index has shown an upward trend from 918 (2014-15) to 934 (2019-20), an improvement of 16 points in five years.
  • 422 districts out of the 640 districts covered under BBBP have shown improvement in SRB from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
  • The National Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of girls in secondary schools improved from 77.45 (2014-15) to 81.32 (2018-19).
  • Proportion of schools with separate, functional toilets for girls rose from 92.1% in 2014-15 to 95.1% in 2018-19.
  • Institutional deliveries rate soared from 87% in 2014-15 to 94% in 2019-20.

Source: The Hindu


Right to Information (RTI) Act

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Syllabus

  • Mains –GS 2 Governance

In news: According to a report by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan, the backlog of appeals or complaints with regard to RTI Act is steadily increasing in commissions every year.

  • Over 32,000 RTI appeals pending with Central Information Commission(CIC).

About RTI Act:

  • The RTI Act came into force with effect from October 2005.
  • The Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the principles and techniques in regards to citizens’ right to information. It supplanted the previous Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
  • It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • The basic object of Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
  • Provisions of RTI Act:
  • any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
  • In case of matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.
  • The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
  • Section 13 of the original Act: It sets the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier)
  • The Public Information Officer (PIO) or the First Appellate Authority in the public specialists performs semi-legal capacity of settling on the application and appeal individually.
  • To document the request, pay Rs. 10 in cash or through bank draft or cash request or court expense stamp.

  • Significance:
  • It protects the fundamental rights to Freedom of Expression and Speech under Article 19(1)(a) and Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called public authorities. The Public Information Officer (PIO) or the First Appellate Authority in the public authorities perform quasi-judicial function of deciding on the application and appeal respectively.

Pendency of cases in RTI:

  • Statistics:
  • Every day on an average, over 4800 RTI applications are filed. In the first ten years of the commencement of the act, over 17,500,000 applications had been filed.
  • 2019 – 2.18 lakh from data obtained from 26 information commissions.
  • 2020 – 2.33 lakh with data obtained from 23 information commissions,
  • 2021 – nearly 2. 86 lakh complaints or appeals pending with 26 commissions
  • 2022 – Nearly 3.15 lakh complaints or appeals
  • In several commissions a large backlog of cases has built up, resulting in a long waiting time for disposal, as governments have failed to make appointments of information commissioners in a timely manner.
  • Tardy disposal rates in several commissions and the lack of transparency in their functioning.
  • Transparency International’s report says that till now more than 4.2 crore RTIs have been filed and 26 lakh second appeals are there before the commissions.
  • States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu State information commissions are getting more appeals than the Central government CIC.
  • The top information commissions receiving maximum number of RTIs were Central government 1.19 crore, Maharashtra 86.06 lakh,  Tamil Nadu 36.99 lakh and Kerala 32.82 lakh.
  • The highest number of pending cases were in Maharashtra at 99,722 followed by Uttar Pradesh at 44,482, Karnataka at 30,358, the Central Information Commission at 26,724 and Bihar at 21,346

Other challenges of RTI:

  • Completely defunct: Two out of 29 information commissions across the country are completely defunct, four of them headless at the moment and only 5% of the positions being occupied by women.
  • Three information commissions were found to be non-functional for varying lengths of time for the period under review as all posts of commissioners were vacant while two commissions were found to be completely defunct.
  • Jharkhand and Tripura have been completely defunct for 29 months and 15 months respectively. Manipur, Telangana, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are without chiefs.
  • Also, several information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are working at reduced capacity with less than the stipulated number of members being in office.
  • Imposing of penalties: The commissions did not impose penalties in 95% of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable.
  • The entire system was also in need of digitisation. Only 11 information commissions out of 29 provide e-filing facility for RTI applications or appeals, but only five are functional.
  • Currently, 41 out of 165 posts of Chief Information Commissioner and information commissioners are vacant as compared to 36 last year in 2021.
  • According to a separate report by the Transparency International, one-fourth information commissioner posts are vacant and there are only 5% (only 8) women information commissioners in the country. Out of total 165 posts of information commissioners, 42 are vacant, including two chief State information commissioners.
  • Commissions are becoming parking lots for retired bureaucrats and the casual attitude by PIO/First Appellate Authority

Way forward:

  • Proper functioning of information commissions is crucial for people to realise their right to information.
  • There is an urgent need for the transparency watchdogs to function in a more effective and transparent manner.
  • The digital RTI portal (website or mobile app) can deliver more efficient and citizen-friendly services which are not possible through conventional mode.

Source: The Hindu


Surrogacy in India

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Governance
  • Mains – GS 2 (Governance)

Context: The recent announcement by Tamil film director Vignesh and his wife, actress Nayantara, that they had become parents to twin boys is building up into a controversy, with speculations that the couple opted for surrogacy.

Meaning of Surrogacy:

  • Surrogacy is defined as a practice wherein one woman bears and gives birth to a child with the intention to thereafter hand it over to the intending couple.
  • While commercial surrogacy is not allowed in India such procedures are allowed only for altruistic purposes with many restrictions on the person seeking to apply under the law.
  • No other monetary consideration will be permitted.

The Surrogacy Laws in India:

The parliament in 2021 passed two laws:

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act

  • It governs the practice and process of surrogacy in India.
  • It provided a gestation period of ten months from the date of coming into force to existing surrogate mothers’ to protect their wellbeing.

The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act:

  • It was enacted for regulation and supervision of the assisted reproductive technology clinics and banks.
  • Under the Act, the services can be made available to a woman above the age of 21 years and below the age of 50 years and to a man above the age of 21 years and below the age of 55 years.
  • ART procedures include gamete donation, intrauterine insemination, and in-vitro fertilisation or IVF.

Major provisions of the Law:

Eligibility: According to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, only a married couple who has a medical condition necessitating gestational surrogacy can avail it. They have to first obtain a certificate of recommendation from a District Medical Board.

Gestational surrogacy’ means:

  • She has no uterus or missing uterus or abnormal uterus or if the uterus is surgically removed due to any medical conditions such as gynaecological cancer.
  • Intended parent or woman who has repeatedly failed to conceive after multiple In vitro fertilization or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection attempts.
  • Multiple pregnancy losses resulting from an unexplained medical reason, unexplained graft rejection due to exaggerated immune response;
  • Any illness that makes it impossible for a woman to carry a pregnancy to viability or pregnancy that is life threatening.
  • An intending woman who is a widow or divorcee between the age of 35 to 45 years- can also avail the surrogacy.
  • The intending couple where the woman is of the age of 23 to 50 years and a man between 26 to 55 years- is eligible under the law.
  • Only such intending couples can apply who have not had any surviving child biologically or through adoption or earlier surrogacy.
  • An exception has been provided for the couples whose child is “mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness with no permanent cure”.
  • The intending couple or intending woman is not allowed to abandon the child, born out of a surrogacy procedure, for any reason whatsoever.
  • A child born out of a surrogacy procedure is deemed to be a biological child of the intending couple or intending woman.

Eligibility to be a surrogate mother

  • A married woman of the age of 25 to 35 years on the day of implantation, with a child of her own, can be a surrogate mother.
  • She can act as a surrogate mother only once in her lifetime and with only three attempts of procedure is allowed.
  • The woman has to give a written informed consent for the purpose and also be medically and psychologically fit.
  • No charges other than medical expenses can be given to the surrogate mother or her dependents or her representative by the intending couple or woman.

Abortion

  • A surrogate mother can be allowed abortion during the process of surrogacy only in accordance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
  • She also cannot disclose the identity of the couple seeking the surrogacy.

Penalty

  • Offences under the Act include commercial surrogacy, selling of embryos, exploiting, abandoning a surrogate child etc.
  • These may invite up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs. 10 lakh.

Regulation of Surrogacy Clinics

  • No Surrogacy Clinic can conduct or associate with or help in any manner in conducting the surrogacy procedure unless it is registered under the law.

Major Challenges:

  • The two Acts have been described as discriminatory against the single man who may desire to become a father via surrogacy or the married woman who already has a child and is desirous of expanding her family through the procedure.
  • Disqualifying other persons on basis of nationality, marital status, sexual orientation or age does not pass the test of equality.
  • Reproductive autonomy: inclusive of the right to procreation and parenthood, is not within the domain of the State.
  • Infertility cannot be compulsory to undertake surrogacy: the certificate to prove infertility is a violation of privacy as part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • India as Surrogacy hub: India has emerged as a hub for infertility treatment, attracting people from the world over with its state-of-the-art technology and competitive prices to treat infertility.

Way forward:

  • Surrogacy is legal in India but making it commercial is illegal. It is a humanitarian act and is recognized by law.
  • Surrogacy comes under the reproductive choices of women and it is included as a fundamental right under the purview of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Prior to the coming into effect of the laws, the Indian Council of Medical Research had issued a ‘Code of Practice, Ethical Consideration and Legal Issues’ for clinics involved in such procedures.
  • The guidelines said surrogacy by assisted conception should normally be considered only for patients for whom it would be physically or “medically impossible” to carry a baby to term and that a surrogate mother should not be over 45 years of age.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017?  (2019)

  1. Pregnant women are entitled for three months pre-delivery and three months post-delivery paid leave.
  2. Enterprises with creches must allow the mother minimum six creche visits daily.
  3. Women with two children get reduced entitlements.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

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

The Court and the problem with its collegium

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Polity and Governance
  • Mains – GS 2 (Polity and Governance)

Context: The incumbent Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice U.U. Lalit, had set in motion the procedure contemplated for the collegium of the Supreme Court which is enshrined in the Memorandum of Procedure of 1999.

  • He also forwarded the name of Justice D Chandrachud as his successor. This has again put in focus the institution of the ‘collegium’ system that rules the appointments in higher judiciary.

About the collegium system:

  • Collegium’ is an in-house mechanism of higher judiciary in India, created for the appointment and transfer of judges, that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court (SC), and not by any Act of Parliament or Constitutional provision.

Evolution of the Collegium System:

First Judges Case (1981): It declared that the “primacy” of the Chief Justice of India (CJI)s recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”

  • The ruling gave the Executive primacy over the Judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.

Second Judges Case (1993): SC introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.

  • It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.

 Third Judges Case (1998): SC on President’s reference expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues while HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.

  • Names recommended for appointment by a HC collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the SC collegium.
  • Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.
  • The government’s role is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
  • It can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the collegium’s choices, but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges.

Criticisms of the collegium system:

  • Time and again, it has been widely commented that the collegium is an extra-constitutional or non-constitutional body brought in force by judgments of the Supreme Court virtually wresting the power of appointment of judges.
    • The Constitution of India gave the last word to the President of India but mandated consultation with the Court. These judgments give the last word to the Court mandating consultation with the government.
  • Not only that, what makes the problem even worse is that there is no seat in the collegium for any non-judge — neither from the executive, the Bar or anywhere else.
    • In other words, there is no one to offer suggestions or raise questions or even to observe what is going on.
  • In 2014, Parliament by unanimity backed by State legislatures enacted the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
    • it comprised three judges, the Law Minister and two eminent persons to handle the task of appointing judges.
  • By a 4:1 majority, the Supreme Court struck that down, setting at naught the entire legislative will of the country which was trying to reverse a constitutional coup.
    • If the Court was concerned about being overruled in appointments, it could have just tinkered with and read down the Act, deleted the second eminent person and thus secured a situation where the judges were in the majority.
  • This would have secured judicial primacy, provided for some executive involvement as well as had one person representing a larger public constituency.
    • This has put entire process of judicial appointments under a cloud of secrecy, insularity and opacity.

About NJAC: By the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014, the National Judicial Commission Act (NJAC) was brought in to replace the collegium system for the appointment of judges. NJAC restored to some extent the executive primacy in judicial appointments, as envisaged by our Constitutional makers.

  • NJAC was established to achieve greater transparency and accountability for the appointment of judges.

But it was struck down by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was against the “Independence of Judiciary” i.e., Principles of Basic Structure since it involved the Political Executive in the appointment of Judges.

Constitutional Provision:

Article 124: Establishment and constitution of Supreme Court:

  • “There shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and, until Parliament by law prescribes a larger number, of not more than seven other Judges.
  • Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his/her hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court in the States as President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of 65 years.”
  • In judicial appointments, it is obligatory for the President to consider the opinion of the Chief Justice of India.

Way Forward:

  • In recent times, the Government seems to have given up on pursuing the commission for judicial appointments. It is time to revisit this question and secure a better, broad-based and transparent method of appointing senior judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
  • While doing so, we may also ask why there have been no appointments from the category of distinguished jurists which Article 124 of the Constitution contemplates. Appointments to the top court seem to be the preserve of judges from the High Courts with a handful of appointments from the Bar.
  • Filling up of vacancies is a continuous and collaborative process involving the executive and the judiciary, so it is time to think of a permanent, independent body to institutionalize the process with adequate safeguards to preserve the judiciary’s independence guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
  • The mechanism for judicial appointments and transfer should ensure judicial independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
  • Instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appoint in order of preference and other valid criteria.

Apart from the above suggestions, government may also examine the feasibility of reviving the idea of a National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC) that gives executive greater role in ensuring transparency and efficiency in higher judiciary of India.

Source:  The Hindu

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) With reference to Indian Judiciary, consider the following statements.

  1. Any retired judge of the Supreme Court of India can be called back to sit by the Chief Justice of India with prior permission of the President of India.
  2. A High court in India has the power to review its own judgement as the Supreme Court does.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?  (2021)

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

Q.2) Consider the following statements:

  1. The- motion to impeach a Judge of the Supreme Court of India cannot be rejected by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as per the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
  2. The Constitution of India defines and gives details of what Constitutes ‘incapacity and proved misbehaviour’ of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  3. The details of the process of impeachment of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India are given in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
  4. If the motion for the impeachment of a Judge is taken up for voting, the law requires the motion to be backed by each House of the Parliament and supported by a majority of total membership of that House and by not less than two-thirds of total members of that House present and voting.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?  (2019)

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

Oceans Rises Some Nations Doomed

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Environment
  • Mains – GS 3 (Environment and Ecology)

Context: According to UN climate experts, sea levels have already risen 15 to 25 cm (six to 10 inches) since 1900, and the pace of rise is accelerating, especially in some tropical areas.

  • According to a study cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, five nations (the Maldives, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati) may become uninhabitable by 2100, creating 600,000 stateless climate refugees.

Key facts about Sea level rise:

  • Over the past century, the average height of the sea has risen more consistently—less than a centimetre every year, but those small additions add up.
  • Today, sea level is 6 to 10 inches (6-25 centimetres) higher on average than it was in 1900. That’s a pretty big change: for the previous 2,000 years, sea level hadn’t changed much at all.
  • The rate of sea level rise has also increased over time. Between 1900 and 1990 studies show that sea level rose between 1.2 millimetres and 1.7 millimetres per year on average.
  • By 2000, that rate had increased to about 3.2 millimetres per year and the rate in 2016 is estimated at 3.4 millimetres per year.

Causes for rising sea level:

  • Scientists agree that the changes in climate evident today are largely caused by human activity, and it’s climate change that drives sea level rise.
  • Sea level started rising in the late 1800s, soon after we started burning coal, gas and other fossil fuels for energy. When burned, these high-energy fuel sources send carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide absorbs heat from the sun and traps it, warming the atmosphere and the planet.
  • As the planet gets warmer, sea level rises for two reasons.
    • First, warmer temperatures cause ice on land like glaciers and ice sheets to melt, and the meltwater flows into the ocean to increase sea level.
    • Second, warm water expands and takes up more space than colder water, increasing the volume of water in the sea.

Difference between global and local sea levels:

  • Global sea level trends and relative sea level trends are different measurements. Just as the surface of the Earth is not flat, the surface of the ocean is also not flat—in other words, the sea surface is not changing at the same rate globally.
  • Sea level rise at specific locations may be more or less than the global average due to many local factors: subsidence, upstream flood control, erosion, regional ocean currents, variations in land height, and whether the land is still rebounding from the compressive weight of Ice Age glaciers.
  • Sea level is primarily measured using tide stations and satellite laser altimeters. Tide stations around the globe tell us what is happening at a local level—the height of the water as measured along the coast relative to a specific point on land.
  • Satellite measurements provide us with the average height of the entire ocean. Taken together, these tools tell us how our ocean sea levels are changing over time.

Vulnerability to Island Nations:

  • The IPCC report pointed that the global mean sea level in the Indian Ocean is rising at 3.7 meters annually, adding that extreme sea level events that previously occurred once every 100 years, will now be seen nearly every year, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion.
  • This seriously comes up as a major threat to the low-lying island nations of the Indian Ocean like the Maldives etc.
  • Even the coastal areas of the nations like India and Africa are under serious threat from the sea level rise.
  • Sea level rise will hit the coasts the hardest. Over the coming centuries, land that is today home to between 470 and 760 million coastal residents will be inundated by sea level rise associated with a 4 degree Celsius warming that will occur if we fail to curb the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Much of this population lives in cities.
  • Sea level rise already makes storms more dangerous, causing more flooding and damage in areas crowded with people and it will affect different parts of the world differently, with some parts of the planet being particularly hard hit.

Various steps taken to tackle sea level rise:

Relocation:

  • Many coastal cities have planned to adopt relocation as a mitigation strategy. For example, Kiribati Island has planned to shift to Fiji, while the Capital of Indonesia is being relocated from Jakarta to Borneo.

Building Sea Wall:

  • Indonesia’s government launched a coastal development project called a Giant Sea Wall or “Giant Garuda” in 2014 meant to protect the city from floods.

Using Beaches as Barriers:

  • Similar to seawalls, beaches and dunes can act as a natural wall and reduce the impact of storm surges.
  • The bigger the beach or larger the dune, the more water can be stopped from reaching homes and roads. Towns can add sand to make beaches bigger or to prevent them from eroding.
  • Using this type of natural infrastructure can protect against flooding while maintaining beaches for the community to enjoy.

Building Enclosures:

  • Researchers have proposed Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED), enclosing all of the North Sea to protect 15 Northern European countries from rising seas.
  • The Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Red Sea were also identified as areas that could benefit from similar mega enclosures.

Architecture to Steer Flow of Water:

  • Dutch City Rotterdam built barriers, drainage, and innovative architectural features such as a “water square” with temporary ponds.

Across the globe, we can see innovative and resourceful solutions from communities that are coming together to combat sea level rise. Such solutions can become the guiding path for other cities to follow.

Source:  The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) “Climate Action Tracker” which monitors the emission reduction pledges of different countries is : (2022)

  1. Database created by coalition of research organisations
  2. Wing of “International Panel of Climate Change”
  3. Committee under “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”
  4. Agency promoted and financed by United Nations Environment Programme and World Bank

Q.2) Which one of the following statements best describes the term ‘Social Cost of Carbon’? It is a measure, in monetary value, of the (2020)

  1. long-term damage done by a tonne of CO2, emissions in a given year
  2. requirement of fossil fuels for a country to provide goods and services to its citizens, based on the burning of those fuels
  3. efforts put in by a climate refugee to adapt to live in a new place
  4. contribution of an individual person to the carbon footprint on the planet Earth

Non-Performing Assets (NPAs)

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Syllabus

  • Prelims – Economy and Governance
  • Mains – GS 2 (Governance) and GS 3 (Economy)

Context: Probing the links between twin balance sheet crisis and external commodity shocks could lead to a better understanding of the problem of resolving Non Performing Assets.

Definition of NPAs:

  • Non-Performing Assets: In most cases, debt is classified as non-performing, when the loan payments have not been made for a minimum period of 90 days.
  • Twin balance sheet crisis: A twin balance sheet is a scenario where banks are under severe stress and the corporates are overleveraged to the extent that they cannot repay their loans.

Categories of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs)

Based upon the period to which a loan has remained as NPA, it is classified into 3 types:

Substandard Assets: An asset which remains as NPAs for less than or equal to 12 months.

Doubtful Assets: An asset which remained in the above category for 12 months.

Loss Assets: Asset where loss has been identified by the bank or the RBI, however, there may be some value remaining in it. Therefore, loan has not been not completely written off.

Reasons for rise in NPAs:

  • Governance issues: Poor management in public sector banks stemming from government ownership has been cited as the major causes of the NPA crisis.
  • Wrong narrative: The government ownership does not explain the improvement in performance that public sector banks saw throughout the 2000s.It is improbable that governance improved suddenly (late 2000s) and dwindled subsequently (2011-18).
  • Distinct business models: A careful examination of the data gives overwhelming evidence that a large fraction of the difference between NPAs in the public and private sector banks arose due to differences in their business models.
  • Price decline: The rise in NPAs from 2011 onwards coincides with the fall in international commodity prices.
  • No NPA stress despite pandemic: It is because of the commodity price boom in the last two years that despite the worst kind of economic crisis due to Covid-19, hardly any stress in the banking sector during the pandemic is heard.
  • Statistics: According to the Reserve Bank of India’s latest financial stability report, gross non-performing loans (GNPAs) of the banking system have declined from 7.4 per cent in March 2021 to a six-year low of 5.9 per cent in March 2022.

Impacts of rise in NPAs:

  • Lenders suffer a lowering of profit margins.
  • Stress in banking sector causes less money available to fund other projects, therefore, negative impact on the larger national economy.
  • Higher interest rates by the banks to maintain the profit margin.
  • Redirecting funds from the good projects to the bad ones.
  • As investments got stuck, it may result in it may result in unemployment.
  • Investors do not get rightful returns.
  • Balance sheet syndrome of Indian characteristics that is both the banks and the corporate sector have stressed balance sheet and causes halting of the investment-led development process.
  • NPAs related cases add more pressure to already pending cases with the judiciary.

Government’s Initiatives to tackle NPAs:

Lok Adalats – 2001

  • They are helpful in tackling and recovery of small loans however they are limited up to 5 lakh rupees loans only by the RBI guidelines issued in 2001. They are positive in the sense that they avoid more cases into the legal system.

Compromise Settlement – 2001

  • It provides a simple mechanism for recovery of NPA for the advances below Rs. 10 Crores. It covers lawsuits with courts and DRTs (Debt Recovery Tribunals) however wilful default and fraud cases are excluded.

SARFAESI Act – 2002

  • The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002 – The Act permits Banks / Financial Institutions to recover their NPAs without the involvement of the Court, through acquiring and disposing of the secured assets in NPA accounts with an outstanding amount of Rs. 1 lakh and above.

Mission Indradhanush – 2015

  • The Indradhanush framework for transforming the PSBs represents the most comprehensive reform effort undertaken since banking nationalization in the year 1970 to revamp the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and improve their overall performance.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy code Act-2016

  • It has been formulated to tackle the Chakravyuaha Challenge (Economic Survey) of the exit problem in India.
  • The aim of this law is to promote entrepreneurship, availability of credit, and balance the interests of all stakeholders by consolidating and amending the laws relating to reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner and for maximization of value of assets of such persons and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Bad Banks – 2017

  • A bad bank is a corporate structure that isolates illiquid and high-risk assets or non-performing loans held by a bank or a financial organisation. It is also referred to as Asset Management Company (AMC).
  • The concept of a bad bank originated at the Pittsburgh headquartered Mellon Bank in 1988. The idea and discussions over bad bank have been in place since 2015 when former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan started a debate on bad bank as a possible solution to the problem of NPAs.
  • Afterwards, former Interim Finance Minister put forth the idea of National ARC on a recommendation of the Committee headed by Sunil Mehta. The Economic Survey 2017 also propounded to create a Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA).

National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd:

  • National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd.(NARCL), India’s first-ever Bad Bank, was set up in 2021, and RBI has recently granted the same under the SARFAESI Act 2002.
  • If the bad bank is unable to sell the bad loan or has to sell it at a loss, then the government guarantee will be invoked.
  • To manage assets with the help of market professionals and turnaround experts, the Government will also set up India Debt Resolution Company Ltd. (IDRCL) along with NARCL. The IDRCL is a service company or an operational entity wherein public sector banks (PSBs) and PFIs will hold a maximum of 49% stake and the rest will be with private-sector lenders. When the assets are sold, with the help of IDRCL, the commercial banks will be paid back the rest.

Way Forward:

  • There must be a sunset clause to the resolution process through Bad Banks. It is quintessential to develop time-bound strategies for the resolution of assets, or else the bad bank will be reduced to a mere parking space of bad loans.
  • Bad Banks should have a suitable mechanism in place that can facilitate funding for maintaining the quality of assets till their resolution.
  • Banks have to accept losses on loans (or ‘haircuts’). They should be able to do so without any fear of harassment by the investigative agencies.
  • The Indian Banks’ Association has set up a six-member panel to oversee resolution plans of lead lenders. To expedite resolution, more such panels are required.
  • An alternative is to set up a Loan Resolution Authority, if necessary, through an Act of Parliament. Also, the government must infuse at one go whatever additional capital is needed to recapitalise banks — providing such capital in multiple instalments is not helpful.
  • The pandemic has hit the economy hard and has exposed the vulnerabilities of our banking system.

Source:  Indian Express


Daily Practice MCQs

Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) The term ‘header bidding’ is used in the context of which of the following:

  1. Online news dissemination
  2. Market-related auction of dated securities
  3. 5G spectrum allocation
  4. Captive coal mining

Q.2) Consider the following statements:

  1. ‘Right to information’ is a fundamental right.
  2. Under RTI Act, request for information must be replied within 60 days.
  3. In case of matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct:

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

Q.3) With reference to India’s biodiversity, consider the following statements:

  1. India’s first Slender Loris sanctuary was recently notified by Kerala government in the part of Nilgiri hills in the state.
  2. The species acts as a biological predator of pests in agricultural crops and benefits farmers.
  3. Its IUCN red list status is Critically Endangered (CR).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

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

Comment the answers to the above questions in the comment section below!!

ANSWERS FOR ’13th October 2022 – Daily Practice MCQs’ will be updated along with tomorrow’s Daily Current Affairs.


ANSWERS FOR 12th October – Daily Practice MCQs

Answers- Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) – d  

Q.2) – c

Q.3) – a

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