23rd April, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS2: Powers and functions of Constitutional Bodies)
Issue: President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to an Ordinance permitting death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The President also gave his assent to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance to allow the government to confiscate properties and assets of loan defaulters who flee the country.
What does the ordinance provide for?
1. The Ordinance provides for death sentence, imprisonment for life or a minimum sentence of 20 years for the rape of a child below 12 years.
2. The sentence for the rape of a girl below 16 would be a minimum of 20 years but extendible to life imprisonment, while that for gang- rape of a girl below 16 would be imprisonment for life.
3. The Ordinance also provides that investigation of all cases of rape shall be completed within two months.
4. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
To whom does economic offender ordinance apply?
The provisions of the ordinance will apply to economic offenders who refuse to return, persons against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a scheduled offence and wilful bank loan defaulters with outstanding of over ₹100 crore.
What is an ordinance?
Article 123 of the Indian Constitution empowers the President to promulgate ordinances during the recess of the Parliament. The ordinances are temporary laws having the effect of an act.
It is considered one of the important legislative powers of the President, however is subject to limitations like
i. An ordinance may be issued by the President only when one House is in session.
ii. An ordinance may be made under circumstances which require immediate action.
iii. An ordinance can be made only on subjects on which Parliament can made laws and is subject to the limitations, to which a Parliamentary law is subjected.
iv. An ordinance needs to be present before the Houses of Parliament who reassembles. An ordinance ceases to operate on the expiry of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament. If the Houses reassemble on different date the period of six weeks is calculated from the later of those dates. Without being approved by the Parliament and ordinance can last for a maximum period of six months and six weeks. All acts done and completed under an unapproved ordinance will lapse.
The President may withdraw an ordinance at any time. However, the President exercises the power on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. An ordinance may have retrospective effect and may be modify repeal any act of Parliament or even another ordinance. It may also amend or alter a tax law but never can be used to amend the Constitution.
(GS2: Bilateral Relations)
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold a summit in China’s Wuhan city from April 27 to 28 for a “heart-to-heart” chat to explore a new paradigm for India-China ties and find ways to address the contentious issues like the border dispute.
Significance of this summit
1. At the “informal summit” with a few officials and aides at a picturesque location, the two leaders plan to spend several hours exchanging their vision and perspectives about global and domestic scenarios and explore ideas to address the contentious bilateral issues like the border dispute
2. The talks will focus on adhering to the principle that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s concerns and aspirations
3. At the summit, Modi and Xi will try to work out a general framework for relations to move ahead without much of great expectations about the outcome
4. The Modi-Xi summit meeting is taking place in the backdrop of a series of high level interactions between both the two countries starting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to India in December, the first after the Doklam standoff.
(GS2: Statutory body)
Issue: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has decided to approach the government for granting it Constitutional status to protect the rights of minority communities more effectively.
Importance of constitutional status for NCM
1. If granted such a status, the NCM will be able to act against errant officials who do not attend hearings, follow its order or are found guilty of dereliction of duty
2. Only the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes enjoy constitutional status. In its present form, the NCM has powers to summon officials, including chief secretaries and director generals of police, but has to rely on departments concerned to take action against them.
3. If granted constitutional status, the NCM can penalise or suspend an officer for two days or send him/her to jail.
4. Earlier, the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2017-18), in its 53rd report noted that the NCM is “almost ineffective” in its current state to deal with cases of atrocities against minorities. The committee recommended constitutional status to the body “without any delay”.
About National Commission for Minorities (NCM)
The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Five religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities by the Union Government. Further, Jains have also been notified as minority community.
Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi , Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have also set up State Minorities Commissions in their respective States. Their offices are located in the State capitals. The functions of these Commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect the interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
Aggrieved persons belonging to the minority communities may approach the concerned State Minorities Commissions for redressal of their grievances. They may also send their representations, to the National Commission for Minorities, after exhausting all remedies available to them.
‘Growth in FY20’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Indian economy gave a resilient performance in 2017-18 and the country’s growth is expected to accelerate next fiscal
Although the real GDP growth had moderated to 6.6% from 7.1% a year ago, there was a strong rebound in the second half of the year on the back of a turnaround in investment demand
Some positive signs
1. The Indian economy gave a resilient performance in 2017-18. This was supported by an acceleration in manufacturing, rising sales growth, a pick-up in capacity utilization, strong activity in the services sector and a record agricultural harvest
2. Global demand has been improving, which should encourage exports and boost fresh investments
3. Headline consumer price inflation had generally remained below the medium-term target of 4%
4. Several factors were likely to influence the inflation outlook, including a possible moderation in food prices if the monsoon turned out to be normal and was supported by an effective food supply management.
Some risks for growth for Indian Economy
Countervailing this, upside risks emanate from the distinct hardening bias in crude oil prices, the steady firming up of inflation excluding food and fuel mirroring pick up in domestic demand, and spillovers from financial volatility as markets re-price the path of monetary policy normalization by systemic central banks
‘Special Economic Zone’
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: In a bid to make India an export hub for electronics, the government plans to set up at least one SEZ or special economic zone in every State under the proposed electronic policy.
Highlights of the draft policy
1. The new policy will focus on making India an export hub
2. It has been proposed that at least one mega SEZ be set up in each state, with emphasis on coastal economic zones
3. Under the new policy, which was earlier expected to be out by March 2018, the government also plans to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries, including those in Africa and Europe, to which India can export smaller electronic products.
4. It had also recommended that Costal Economic Zones (CEZs) be set up, similar to what China has done. Pointing out that India’s numerous SEZs have not taken off in the way they did in China due to issues such as size and location, the Aayog had said large areas near the coast can be set aside for CEZs
5. India has set a target of net zero imports in electronics by 2020, in the meeting of which the new policy will play a crucial role.
(GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: With India’s digital footsteps gaining significant stride in recent years, blockchain technology has caught the imagination of many. While most of us identify blockchain with cryptocurrencies and bitcoins in particular. Blockchain technology has the power to transform business processes and applications across sectors — from financial services to agriculture, from healthcare to education, among others.
Sectors which can be well served if blockchain technology are used:
1. Property transactions in India are still carried out on paper, making them prone to disputes. Application of blockchain technology would bring revolutionary changes through in-built transparency, traceability and efficiency in the system.
2. Financial services have been a pioneer in blockchain-based use cases that are driving significant improvements in operations and client experience. For example, Yes Bank is an early adopter of this technology by implementing a blockchain-based multi-nodal system to fully digitize vendor financing for one of its clients.
3. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals is one of the best prospective areas where a lot of clinical data is built up and exchanged, which, owing to its sensitive nature, demands a secure and reliable system. Blockchain could play a crucial part in health insurance claims management by reducing the risk of insurance claim frauds.
4. The education sector can benefit from a blockchain-powered, time-stamped repository of pass-outs and job records of students so that it becomes easier for employers to verify the credibility of candidates.
5. In agriculture too, seasonal data related to crop and climatic cycles and soil testing data can be protected and used by multi-nodal blockchain application for the benefit of insurance companies, researchers, market agencies and even to predict stock prices.
What is Blockchain technology?
Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared — and continually reconciled — database. This is a way of using the network that has obvious benefits. The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.
‘48th Earth day’
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Cities and nations have been looking at banning plastic straws and stirrers in hopes of addressing the world’s plastic pollution problem. This also remained the main theme of the 48th annual Earth Day organized on Sunday.
About Earth Day
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations.
Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. In 2017, the March for Science occurred on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) and was followed by the People’s Climate Mobilization
‘First Indian Company to hit $100 billion m-cap’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: IT bellwether TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) on Monday created history by becoming the first Indian listed company to hit the coveted $100 billion m-cap figure.
What is M cap?
Market capitalization refers to when the total dollar market value of all of a company’s outstanding shares. Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying a company’s shares outstanding by the current market price of one share. The investment community uses this figure to determine a company’s size, as opposed to sales or total asset figures.
The term frequently referred to as market cap or M-Cap.
‘Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi today gave its approval for restructured Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA).
About the scheme
The approved scheme of RGSA will help more than 2.55 lakh Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to develop governance capabilities to deliver on SDGs through inclusive local governance with focus on optimum utilization of available resources. The key principles of SDGs, i.e. leaving no one behind, reaching the farthest first and universal coverage, along with gender equality will be embedded in the design of all capacity building interventions including trainings, training modules and materials. Priority will be given to subjects of national importance that affects the excluded groups the most, e.g. poverty, primary health services, nutrition, immunization, sanitation, education, water conservation, digital transactions etc.
The scheme is designed keeping in view programmatic convergence with Mission Antyodaya GPs and 115 Aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog. As Panchayats have representation of Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and women, and are institutions closest to the grassroots, strengthening Panchayats will promote equity and inclusiveness, along with Social Justice and economic development of the community.
Increased use of e-governance by PRIs will help achieve improved service delivery and transparency. The scheme will strengthen Gram Sabhas to function as effective institutions with social inclusion of citizens particularly the vulnerable groups. It will establish the institutional structure for capacity building of PRIs at the national, state and district level with adequate human resources and infrastructure. Panchayats will progressively be strengthened through incentivization on the basis of nationally important criteria which will encourage competitive spirit among them.
The Finance Minister, in his budget speech for 2016-17, announced the launch of new restructured scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA), for developing governance capabilities of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A Committee under the Chairmanship of the Vice Chairman-NITI Aayog was constituted to restructure the existing scheme of this Ministry as Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan.
The Committee held several meetings, consultations etc. with various stakeholders and submitted its report with set of recommendations which were accepted by Government and formed the basis for the formulation of this scheme.
In his Budget Speech for 2017-18, the Finance Minister announced to undertake a Mission Antyodaya to bring one crore households out of poverty to make 50,000 Gram Panchayats poverty free. Accordingly, convergent action with Mission Antyodaya has been integrated into this scheme. The RGSA is implemented by Ministry of Panchayati Raj