16th February, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Gem of a scam’
(GS2: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)
Issue: The Enforcement Directorate has seized diamond, jewelry and gold worth ₹5,100 crore in searches conducted at several properties linked to Nirav Modi in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat. The Punjab National Bank scam has rocked the banking sector in India and also eroded trust of the general public. Agencies such as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have begun investigation into this scam
Information on CBI
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency and security service of India. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the CBI is headed by the Cabinet Minister who reports directly to the Prime Minister. The agency has been known to investigate several economic crimes, special crimes cases of corruption and other high-profile cases
The Bureau of Investigation braces its origins to the Special Police Establishment, is Central Government Police force, which was set up in 1941 by the government. The functions of the SPE were to investigate bribery and corruption in transactions with the War and Supply Department of India, set up during World War II with its headquarters in Lahore.
The amended Delhi Special Police Establishment Act empowers a committee to appoint the director of CBI. The committee consists the following people:
- Prime Minister – chairperson
- Leader of Opposition – member
- Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court Judge recommended by the Chief Justice – member
When making recommendations, the committee considers the views of the outgoing director.
Above Selection committee was constituted under The Lokpal and Lokayukta act, 2013
Information on Enforcement Directorate (ED)
The Directorate of Enforcement is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India. It is part of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1 May 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947. In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’
The prime objective of the Enforcement Directorate is the enforcement of two key Acts of the Government of India namely, the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA)
Note: The scam in itself does not hold much importance for an UPSC aspirant but what an aspirant should concentrate is the role the agencies such as CBI, ED play and also the regulations that Reserve Bank of India (RBI) brings in once investigation is completed
(GS2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the centre and the states and the performance of these schemes)
Issue: In spite of a law prohibiting manual scavenging, the practice continues unabated. At least 73 people have lost their lives due to this practice since 2008
Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 explicitly prohibits this profession and also mandates rehabilitation for people engaged in this profession. A committee chaired by social welfare minister is formed to oversee the implementation of this scheme but due to lack of coordination among them, the prohibition is a failure
Urgent steps need to be taken to eliminate this inhumane practice from the society
‘Sallekhana practice among Jains’
(GS1: Indian culture)
Issue: Shreyasagar Maharaj (74), a Jain monk, passed away at Tyagi Nagar here on Thursday. He had not taken food or water for the last one week as part of ‘Sallekhana’, a practice of fasting till death.
Sallekhana is a supplementary vow to the ethical code of conduct of Jainism. It is the religious practice of voluntarily fasting to death by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids. It is viewed in Jainism as the thinning of human passions and the body, and another means of destroying rebirth-influencing karma by withdrawing all physical and mental activities. It is not considered as a suicide by Jain scholars because it is not an act of passion, nor does it deploy poisons or weapons. After the sallekhana vow, the ritual preparation and practice can extend into years. Several inscriptions after 600 CE record that Chandragupta Maurya (c. 300 BCE) and his teacher Bhadrabahu observed the vow atop Chandragiri Hill at Sharavnabelagola.
Sallekhana is a vow available to both for Jain ascetics and householders. Historic evidence such as nishidhi engravings suggest sallekhana was observed by both men and women, including queens, in Jain history. However, in the modern era, death through sallekhana has been a relatively uncommon event.
There is debate about the practice from a right to life and a freedom of religion viewpoint. In 2015, the Rajasthan High Court banned the practice, considering it suicide. Later that year, the Supreme Court of India stayed the decision of the Rajasthan High Court and lifted the ban on Sallekhana
Five great vows of Jainism
- Not stealing
‘Policy to scrap old vehicles finalized’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: India will soon come out with a policy to scrap vehicles that are more than 15 years old. The policy aims to reduce vehicular population due to these old vehicles. Once it is implemented, pollution would be checked considerably as 65 per cent of the pollution is caused by heavy vehicles that are more than 15 years old.
(GS2: Issues relating to development and management of social sectors: education)
Issue: In 1966, the Kothari Commission had said in its voluminous report that India should aim at spending 6% of its GDP on education. More than half a century later, we are spending less than 3% of our GDP on education. Such low allocation is affecting the quality of education in India. This will hamper our country to effectively utilize its demographic dividend. A much improved education will also increase the employability of an individual in our country
Role of teacher training in education sector:
- Teachers for all levels are directly or indirectly affected by institutions of higher education. A nursery teacher needs to benefit from current knowledge in child psychology
- Someone teaching language in primary classes must know how to leverage contemporary knowledge about how children learn reading or how to impart bilingual skills
- The secondary teacher is directly affected by conditions in undergraduate colleges. If they have no science labs and adequate faculty, the graduates who opt for school teaching as a career can hardly do justice to the adolescents who choose to study science
- The Yash Pal report on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education presented a bleak picture of undergraduate education and offered recommendations for improving it. Implementing these recommendations will need increased public spending
- The government should implement J S Verma and Yash Pal committee recommendations on education and particularly on teacher education
- Resources should be adequately allocated to this sector
- An independent regulator to monitor teacher education sector
- An equal emphasis should be placed on both private and public investment in this sector
- Curriculum of teacher education should be of international standards but it should also reflect the nuances of Indian conditions
‘India – Canada ties’
(GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, begins his much anticipated seven-day, five-city state visit of India on February 17. This is his first state visit to India. The Indian diaspora comprising 3.6% of the Canadian population is well-educated, affluent and politically suave. In spite of various favorable factors India – Canada ties have not reached its maximum potential.
Reasons for such a situation
- Resurgence in anti-India activities by emboldened Khalistani elements in Canada.
- In December, self-appointed radical leaders imposed a ban on the entry of Indian officials in Canadian gurdwaras, which goes against all tenets of the inclusive, benign and liberal Sikh faith
- The current Liberal government seems to be going beyond the needs of political and electoral arithmetic in courting the radicals. Naturally bilateral relations cannot but be impacted.
- In recent years has been a spike in investments by the well-endowed Canadian Pension Funds like CPPIB and CDPQ into India. Together, Canadian companies have have pumped in some $12-15 billion Canadian in India in sectors including real estate, financial services, distressed assets, modern logistics facilities and e-commerce.
- Early conclusion of the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), which have been under negotiation for several years, would also boost our economic partnership
- It would particularly open up the services sector allowing highly skilled Indian professionals, for whom there is a ready demand, to work in Canada.
- During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Canada in April 2015, both sides agreed to elevate their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership
- The ties essentially rest on 3Es — economy, energy and education. India has started importing uranium from Canada, beginning 2015. Canada also has sizeable reserves of oil and gas. Over time Canada could become a key partner in India’s quest for energy security.
- Significant quantities of Canadian pulses were being imported by India
- Both nations also have collaboration in agri-tech
There is enough potential for stepping up cooperation in areas like information technology, science and technology, clean and green tech, aviation and outer space, cold-climate warfare, cyber-security, counterterrorism and tourism. The need of the hour is to strengthen mutual trust and confidence, by taking a long-term view of the relationship.
(GS3: Role of External and non-state Actors in creating challenges to internal security)
Issue: The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 repealed the 1982 Act. Its objectives are in tune with the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft. The Act further incorporated the September 2010 Beijing Protocol Supplementary to the Convention which specifically dealt with “unlawful acts against civil aviation by new types of threats”. The Act highlighted the government’s concern for expedient measures to be taken during hostile acts of seizure or exercise of control of aircraft which jeopardise the safety of persons and property.
Highlights of the new act
- The new law revamped Section 3 of the 1982 legislation to expand the definition of hijacking to seizure or takeover of an aircraft using “any technological means”. This takes into consideration the possibility that a hijacker need not be physically present inside the aircraft to take control of it.
- According to the Act, even a credible “threat” to hijack an aircraft amounts to hijacking. The definition of ‘hijacking’ also includes an attempt to commit the crime, abetting, organising, participating in it as an accomplice, and unlawfully and intentionally assisting a person involved in hijacking to evade investigation or prosecution or punishment.
- Section 4 allows capital punishment if the hijacking leads to the death of a hostage, a security personnel, or any person not involved in the offence. The alternative is life imprisonment. The Act makes it clear that imprisonment for life means “imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life”.
‘Live streaming of Court proceedings’
(GS2: Important aspect of governance, transparency and accountability)
Issue: Recently a petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India to allow for live streaming of its proceedings. The court is deliberating on the matter
Pro’s of such a proposal:
- Brings in more accountability
- Raises the confidence of general public regarding judicial proceedings
- The right to information and a right to perception can be effectively addressed through such a proposal
- Prevents fake news or faulty reporting in the media
Cons of such a proposal
- Judiciary is accountable to only constitution and not the general public
- Would create biases in the minds of the advocates
- Will prevent an objective analysis of a subject from the Judges
- Playing for the gallery attitude might result in the quality of debates
- Logistically impossible to provide live streaming for thousands of pending applications before the court
The Supreme Court should find alternate ways to increase confidence of judicial process in the minds of the people. It should also make its process more accountable and transparent. Apart from live-streaming there are various other ways in which the objective can be achieved. Such as limits of oral briefs, emphasis on preparation etc
(GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: Connectivity, strategic interest and energy the core areas which Prime Minister of India and his counterpart from Iran, Hasan Rouhanni will concentrate on latter’s states visit to India
Pillars of engagements:
- The Chabahar port in southeastern Iran is the lynchpin of that engagement, because the port gives India alternative access to Afghanistan and onwards to Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.
- The first consignment of Indian wheat was sent to Afghanistan through Chabahar in October-November last year, and the first phase of the port was formally inaugurated by President Rouhani in December. Full operationalisation is likely by the end of this year.
- India is also working with Iran to operationalise the ambitious International North South Transport Corridor, which will connect Mumbai with Central Asia, through the port of Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz, and then through rail and road links to the Eurasian region.
- The other major pillar driving the engagement is energy. India imports almost 60% of its crude from West Asia and the Gulf, and Iran is one of the major suppliers. New Delhi is keen to lift the relationship to a comprehensive partnership by developing the Farzad B offshore oilfields in the Persian Gulf. Indian companies can now invest in rupees in Iran — Bhutan and Nepal are the other two countries that get such treatment — and President Rouhani is likely to make a pitch for Indian businesses to come to Iran.
- Then there is the common interest in stabilising Afghanistan. But while Tehran views the US involvement in that country with suspicion, India believes that Washington’s commitment on the ground is critical to stave off Pakistani power plays. It is important to address these divergences through honest and frank conversations between the two sides
- There is also a strong case for improved people-to-people links. Restrictive visa regimes have ensured the Indian diaspora in Iran is small in comparison to other countries in the region, and the tourist traffic is low.
‘K P Oli sworn in as the 41st Prime Minister of Nepal’
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Nepal’s new Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and invited him to visit India.
‘World Sustainable Development Summit’
(GS3: Conservation of environment)
Issue: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, will inaugurate the 2018 edition of the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS 2018) at VigyanBhawan in the capital tomorrow on Friday, 16thFebruary. WSDS is the flagship forum of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and seeks to bring together on a common platform, global leaders and thinkers in the fields of sustainable development, energy and environment sectors.
The theme of the Summit this year is ‘Partnerships for a Resilient Planet’, WSDS 2018 seeks to create action frameworks to resolve some of the most urgent challenges facing developing economies in the backdrop of climate change.The Summit will address a wide variety of issues, including combating land degradation, effective waste management mechanisms to make cities free of landfills free, combat air pollution effectively, measures to increase resource and energy efficiency, facilitate transition to clean energy and create financial mechanisms to enable effective climate change mitigation. The ‘Greenovation Exhibition’ at WSDS 2018 will showcase the latest technological advancements to meet Sustainable Development Goals.
‘New Development Bank’
(GS2: Multilateral Institutions)
Issue: The Loan Agreement for financing of Rajasthan Water Sector Restructuring Project for the Desert Areas was signed between Government of India and the New Development Bank (NDB) on 13th February 2018 at New Delhi. This is the first tranche loan of USD 100 million approved by the NDB under the Multi Tranche Financing Facility of USD 345 million for this project.
The objective of this Project is to rehabilitate the 678 km long Indira Gandhi Canal system built during 1958-63 to prevent seepage, conserve water, and enhance water use efficiency as mandated by both national and state level policies on water use. The execution of the project would multiple benefits such as:
- Arresting the seepage by rehabilitating the deteriorating canal lining of the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP) which needs urgent attention;
- Rehabilitation of waterlogged areas;
- Modernization and optimization of the irrigation management practices in the project area by involvement of the water users’ associations (WUA) in the command area
- Strengthening of drinking water supply and irrigation facilities in the project area