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GS: 1


Social  issue:

‘When 2 adults marry, none should interfere’ (The Hindu)  

Context:

  • Two adults are free to marry and “no third party” has a right to harass or cause harm to them, said Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking against honour killings.

Case:

  • The court was hearing a petition filed by Shakti Vahini, an NGO, to make honour killing a specific crime.

Court’s verdict:

  • “When two people get into wedlock, no one should interfere. Neither parents, society, khap or panchayat… no one at all,” said Justice Misra, leading a three-judge Bench that upheld the fundamental right of two people who wish to marry and live peacefully.
  • He argued that the objection of khaps to marriages between people from the same gotra was upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The section said “ sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side.
  • The Chief Justice repeated that no one has any individual, group or collective right to harass a couple.

Freedom of adults

But the Chief Justice said the court was not concerned about khap panchayats either. “We are not writing an essay here on traditions, lineages, etc. We are only concerned with the freedom of adults to marry and live together without facing harassment,” the Chief Justice said.

What is Honour killing?

  • Honour killing is defined as the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonour on the family.
  • India registered 251 honour killings in 2015, recording a big spike in murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of their family’s reputation.
  • It involves the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
  • Honour killings have been reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.
  • Honour killings are also widespread in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The anatomy of another riot (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • A riot is no longer an act of production where the narrative focusses on causes.
  • But an act of consumption where a variety of narratives create a quilt patch we call history.

Kasganj riot:

  • At first sight, the Kasganj riot is presented as an archetypal riot around a standard scenario of small differences, two angry communities and a stumbling bureaucracy.
  • Yet what brings irony and confounds this narrative is the communal and the national confronted each other to prove that patriotism today is not a secular loyalty but a majoritarian definition.
  • The nature of narrative is no longer about solidarity but about communal accounting.

Nature of riots:

  • Riots today are always enacted twice, once on the streets and once through video clips.
  • One is tempted to modify the Marxist quote and add once as history and second time as a farce.

GS: 2


International relations:

Maldives government declares emergency(The Hindu)

Context:

The Maldives government has declared a state of emergency for 15 days.

What is the reason behind this declaration?

The declaration of emergency came amid political crisis following a Supreme Court order last week to release Opposition leaders from prison.

What is the impact?

  • During this, certain rights will be restricted
  • The state of emergency has also given security officials extra powers to arrest suspects
  • However, it has been assured that general movements, services and trade will not be affected

PM to lay foundation stone of temple in UAE (The Hindu)

Context:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be laying foundation stone of temple in UAE

What is in news?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of a temple in Abu Dhabi during his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • The UAE granted the temple project after India conveyed the demand of its nationals for a place of worship during P.M. Modi’s 2015 visit to the country.
  • This event is a part of a three –nation tour scheduled from 9th to 12th February

About the Three-nation tour

  • Three-nation tour will begin in Palestine and end in Oman
  • P.M Modi would begin his visit from the Jordanian capital of Amman, from where he will be travelling to the West Bank territory of Palestine.
  • Apart from laying the temple foundation, P.M. Modi will visit the Wahat Al Karama, the memorial to fallen soldiers of the UAE.
  • He will also address the World Government Summit in Dubai.
  • Modi will visit a Shiva temple in Oman during his first visit to that country on February 12.
  • He will hold bilateral meetings with the two Prime Ministers of Oman.

U.S Energy Secretary to visit India (The Hindu)

Context:

U.S. Energy Secretary’s visit to India is scheduled in February

Energy trade with US

  • Energy trade had prominently featured in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with President Donald Trump in June 2017
  • India had placed a series of orders for American crude in the following months.
  • Barack Obama administration had allowed the export of American crude after a break of 40 years
  • The Trump administration has removed regulations that had restricted oil and coal production, leading to a ramping up of fossil fuels production in the last year.
  • Indian public and private sector companies have invested approximately $5 billion in shale assets in the U.S
  • Natural gas imports from the U.S are also on the rise

Why has the Civil Nuclear Deal become redundant?

  • Change in market conditions
  • Introduction of new technologies
  • Emphasis on trade in fossil fuels under Trump administration

Importance of India-US Energy Trade:

It is an important area to focus on to reduce the trade imbalance between


GS: 3


Economy:

For more equity: on long-term capital gains tax (The Hindu Editorial)

Context:

  • The Union Budget 2018-19 announced the reintroduction of the long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax for stock market investors.

LTCC:

  • The gains would be computed based on the share price on January 31
  • Long-term capital gains exceeding 1 lakh would be taxed at 10% without the benefit of indexation.
  •  Indexation refers to adjusting the gains against inflation, which brings down the real quantum of gains
  •  The Centre has justified the new tax arguing that it helps avoid the erosion of its tax base and levels the playing field between financial assets and investment in manufacturing.

Background:

  • In 2004-5, as part of its attempts to courage long-term investment in equity shares, the government had abolished LTCG tax replacing it with securities transaction tax(STT).

Rationale behind introduction:

  • LTCC would see investors paying 10% tax on the gains made by selling shares even after holding them for more than a year.
  •  Help avoid tax base erosion.
  • Ensure level playing field b/w financial assets and investment in manufacturing.

Concern areas:

  • Whether raising the tax burden on equities, rather than lowering the tax and other barriers to investing in alternative assets, is the right way to address the distortionary effect of taxes.
  • The smaller differential between short and long-term capital gains tax itself will discourage the long-term holding of stocks in favour of short-term trading activity.
  • It is likely to discourage to some extent the growing culture of investing in equities for the long run.
  •  Being the only country in the world to impose both the STT and LTCG, India is also likely to become a little less attractive to foreign investors

Fearing cryptocurrencies (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are not legal form of money in India.

Why is  in news?

  • In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the first time said that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are not legal forms of money in India and that the government would take steps to eliminate their use.

Other countries:

  • Recently, the governments in China and South Korea also took steps to suppress the use of cryptocurrencies

Why are governments so keen to destroy private cryptocurrencies?

  •  These currencies pose a significant threat to the massive economic power that national currencies, such as the rupee and dollar, provide their governments.
  • Today every country’s government has a legal monopoly over the issuance of the currency that its people use. This means that no entity other than the government may create and sell currencies.
  • The very point of legal tender laws is to ban anything other than the currency issued by the government from being used as a medium of exchange.

Benefits to politicians:

Such government control over money, however, offers politicians enormous benefits.

  • A politician wanting to fund populist programmes can gather the funds he requires by creating money out of thin air with the help of the central bank.
  • This will lead to price inflation that affects the common man but saves the politicians.
  • In this scenario, the rise of cryptocurrencies offers ordinary people the rare opportunity to choose among multiple currencies in the marketplace. In fact, in a currency market free from government intervention, any private entity would be free to issue its own currency with the hope that it would soon become a hit with customers.

‘Services growth in Jan. fastest in three months’(The Hindu)

Context:

According to a survey, The Indian services sector remained in expansion mode in January, registering the fastest rise in activity in three months driven by a renewed increase in new business orders.

Highlights of the Report:

  • The Indian service sector continued to expand in January
  • Also, the rate of job creation was the fastest since last September.
  • The seasonally-adjusted Nikkei Services Business Activity Index rose to 51.7 in January from 50.9 in December
  • The index remained above the neutral mark of 50 in January that separates growth from contraction for the second consecutive month.
  • In November, the index stood at 48.5.
  • Though growth rates for activity and employment accelerated since December, it remained weaker than their respective long-run survey averages.
  • The service sector lagged behind when compared to manufacturing
  • The main constraint to business was the Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Making health insurance work (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The National Health Protection Scheme is disconnected from primary care.
  • The previous government failed to implement the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage (2011).

The Union Budget 2018 resonate those recommendations with commitment to universal health coverage which includes:

1-       Strengthening of primary health care, linking new medical colleges to upgraded district hospitals,

2-       Provision of free drugs and diagnostics at public health facilities.

3-       Stepping up financial protection for health care through a government-funded programmed that merges Central and State health insurance schemes.

About NHPS:

  •   The scheme will provide cost coverage, up to 5 lakh annually, to a poor family for hospitalisation in an empanelled public or private hospital.
  • The precursor of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), provided limited coverage of only 30,000, usually for secondary care.

Loopholes:

  • Though it improved access to health care, it did not reduce out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE), catastrophic health expenditure or health payment-induced poverty.
  • The NHPS addresses those concerns by sharply raising the coverage cap, but shares with the RSBY the weakness of not covering outpatient care which accounts for the largest fraction of OOPE.
  • The NHPS too remains disconnected from primary care.
  • The NHPS will pay for the hospitalisation costs of its beneficiaries through ‘strategic purchasing’ from public and private hospitals.

Way ahead:

  • Well-defined list of conditions that will be covered, adoption of standard clinical guidelines for diagnostic tests and treatments suitable for different disorders, setting and monitoring of cost and quality standards, and measuring health outcomes and cost-effectiveness.
  • Both Central and State health agencies or their intermediaries will have to develop the capacity for competent purchasing of services from a diverse group of providers.
  • The choice of whether to administer NHPS through a trust or an insurance company will be left to individual States.
  •   Strengthening primary health services and public hospitals.

Environment:

Vehicular pollution to hit generations: SC(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Supreme observed that vehicular pollution would have an impact not only on the present generation but also on the children yet to be born.

Government enquiry:

  • The government directed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) to file an affidavit indicating the position as regards the availability of Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission standard compliant fuel in Delhi.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has been asked whether any study was conducted on environmental pollution, its effect on the health of people and the cost to deal with it.

BS-VI:

  • BS-VI emission standard is scheduled to come into force from April 1, 2020 across the country.
  • The BS-VI norms should be made applicable in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) from April 1, 2019.
  • Cars which were not BS-VI compliant should not be allowed to be registered after the new norms came into effect.

Courting the rankings (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • Reports of India moving into the top 100 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business global ranking is credible.
  • But there is a component that still has a dismal ranking and it is the one about “enforcing contracts”.

The issue:

  • In the World Bank report India’s ranking in the ‘enforcement of contract’ component is 164.
  • The report says that it takes an average of 1,445 days (or nearly four years) to enforce a contract in India.
  • In this, the distance to frontier (DTF) ranking score is 40.76.
  • The all-told cost to a litigant to recover amounts legitimately is 31% of the value of the claim.
  • This is a shocking state of affairs.

“Ease of doing business” index:

  • A nation’s ranking in the “ease of doing business” index is based on the average of 10 sub-indices which are: starting a business; dealing with construction permits; getting electricity connections; registering property; getting credit; protecting minority investors; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; and resolving insolvency.

Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division:

  • In 2015 the Parliament passed the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act.
  • The purpose behind the Act is to provide a forum with upgraded infrastructure to resolve a certain class of disputes, classified as “commercial disputes” in the Act, in a time-bound and effective manner.
  • The legislation also requires establishment of appropriate infrastructure and manpower training on a constant basis.
  • The Act essentially paves the way for the setting up of commercial courts at the district level and a commercial division in High Courts that have original jurisdiction along with a commercial appellate division in the High Courts to hear appeals arising under the Act.
  • By mandating that High Courts must show levels of disposal of such claims on their website, the Act also ensures transparency.

Five aspects of the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act:

  • Firstly, while the Act contemplates the “appointment” of commercial court judges in districts, in most States the government there has merely vested the presiding district judge with powers to act as a commercial court.
  • Secondly, whenever presiding officers are appointed to commercial courts, it must be ensured that they have experience in dealing with commercial disputes, as Section 3 of the Act ordains.
  • Third, in terms of Section 19 of the Act, the respective State governments must, in consultation with the High Courts, establish necessary infrastructural facilities to run these courts.
  • Fourthly, in terms of Section 20 , the State government is to establish facilities providing for the training of judges who may be appointed to these courts.
  • Finally, and possibly most importantly, in terms of Section 17, statistical data regarding the functioning of these courts are to be displayed on the website of the respective High Courts.
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