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GS: 2


Indian Constitution and Polity:

A roster of questions (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The allocation of cases in the Supreme Court, with division of work among the judges according to various subject categories, raises more questions rather than being fair and transparent.

The new roster:

  • The new roster for allocation of cases in the Supreme Court comes in the light of dissatisfaction at the manner of allocation of cases and the high-handedness of the Chief Justice of India in asserting his supremacy as master of roster to the exclusion of the senior judges of the court.
  • It was put out to be operationalised from 5th  February, 2018.
  • The roster aggregates all important cases to the Chief Justice of India — politically sensitive cases, all fresh public interest litigations, social justice matters, contempt of court matters, matters dealing with appointment of constitutional functionaries, among others.
  • Mundane cases with little political significance have been assigned to the other senior judges.

Key concerns:

  • Such concentration of power in the hands of one person violates the foundations of what Justice P.B. Sawant has called “a court of equals”.
  • The Chief Justice of India is only one among equals, with the power to judiciously exercise an important role of constituting benches.
  • This authority cannot be used in an autocratic manner defying all norms of equity and justice and in disregard for principles of neutrality, impartiality and transparency.
  • Indisciplined exercise of this authority can lead to a complete subversion of democracy.

Steps to be taken:

  • A just and fair roster must be one that is divided subject-wise among judges according to their experience and expertise in those subjects.
  • Politically sensitive matters should be before the five senior judges of the Supreme Court.
  • Among them, the allocation of individual cases must be by random computer allocation not by the individual decision of any human.
  • For other cases as well, if there is more than one judge dealing with a particular subject then cases belonging to that subject should be randomly allocated among the various judges to whom that subject has been allocated.

Conclusion:

  • There is still scope to revisit this roster through the prism of objectivity and fairness.
  • This must be done, for greater transparency and accountability will only yield more authority to our Supreme Court as the supreme custodian of people’s rights.

GS: 3


Economy:

The manufacturing muddle(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The Union Budget has reinforced the correction of the Inverted Duty Structure (IDS) which has adversely impacted manufacturing for decades.

Inverted Duty Structure (IDS):

  • Inverted duty structure is a situation where import duty on finished goods is low compared to the import duty on raw materials that are used in the production of such finished goods.

Key concerns:

  • Chinese/other imports have swamped India’s small- and medium-sized enterprises and large manufacturing companies, raising the import-intensity of manufacturing as well as dampening job growth by raising capital intensity.
  • The goods and services tax (GST), especially the IGST or Integrated GST component, has begun to erode the advantage that the IDS was giving to foreign exporters in Indian markets.
  • Customs duties have been raised on capital goods and electronics, and silica for use in manufacture of telecom grade optical fibre.
  • These have been among the sectors adversely impacted by the IDS in the past 10 years or so.

Advantage for China:

  • India’s policy structure failed to utilise its labour advantage to grow labour-intensive manufacturing exports.
  • As a result, while China reduced the absolute numbers and percentage of the poor in the population by absorbing surplus labour in manufacturing, India’s poverty reduction was much slower.
  • While China’s agricultural and rural income growth was much higher as it sustained consumer demand, it also generated industrial jobs much faster.
  • While India grew construction jobs very fast since 2000, all the way to 2011-12, manufacturing output and employment growth left much to be desired.
  • Moreover, analysis shows that between 2004-05 and 2011-12, but much more between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the growth of manufacturing jobs not only first slowed after 2011-12 but also became negative.

Fall in agricultural jobs:

  • The share of the workforce in agriculture has been falling steadily, from 60% in 1999-2000 to 49% in 2011-12.
  • But the fall has slowed sharply after 2011-12, when the pace of non-agricultural job growth slowed along with GDP growth.
  • Since 2012, the numbers leaving agriculture over 2011-12 to 2015-16 fell to 1 million per year, as non-agriculture jobs grew slowly since 2011-12.
  • It appears that as GDP growth slowed after 2011-12, youth who had benefited significantly from jobs in manufacturing have suffered disproportionately.
  • This dropped precipitously to 10.8%, just as the share of all employment in manufacturing fell, between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
  • The only sector with a significant increase in labour absorption, especially the young, has been services, where employment rose from 36 million in 2011-12 to nearly 52 million in 2015-16 for them, and for all labour from 127 million to 141 million.

Way ahead:

  • The resolution of the twin balance sheet problems together with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, should now pave way for new manufacturing investment.
  • Policy must attempt to close the loop between rising demand and supply through consumer demand, which the Budget attempts through its agriculture and rural infrastructure focus.
  • More manufacturing policy initiatives, such as an early announcement of an Industrial Policy by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, must be sustained over 2018.

RBI likely to keep repo rate on hold (The Hindu )

Context:

  • The six-member monetary policy committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is expected to maintain the status quo for the third straight review meeting as retail inflation is hovering close to the central bank’s upper tolerance limit.

Introduction:

  • Consumer price index-based inflation or retail inflation — the central bank’s primary yardstick for setting interest rates — was 5.21% in December, just below the 6% upper band mandate of RBI.

Reasons for high inflation:

  • Rising food prices was one of the main factors behind the 17- month-high retail inflation.
  • Rising oil prices and higher minimum support prices for farmers and slight deviation in the fiscal consolidation path have increased the probability of higher rates in 2018-19.
  • Next year’s fiscal deficit target of 3.3% is also under a cloud as revenue projections are seen as optimistic.

Bond yields:

  • Bond yields are expected to remain around current levels in the near term but trend towards 7.75% by September 2018.

Environment:

Don’t dump this junk here, says SC(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Centre had come to the court with the voluminous affidavit containing a collection of schemes, official correspondence and other documents on solid waste management across the country. But the court refused to take it on record.’

Dengue death

  • The court was hearing a PIL on the implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
  • In 2015, the apex court had taken suo motu cognisance of the death of a seven-year-old due to dengue. He was allegedly denied treatment by five private hospitals and his distraught parents had committed suicide.

Court’s verdict:

  • Justice Madan B. Lokur has described compilation of the Central government on solid waste management as “junk,” “garbage” and even “solid waste.”

Solid Waste Management Rules 2016:

  • The Government has revamped the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 and notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 on April 8, 2016.

The salient features of the SWM Rules, 2016 are as under:

Areas Cover:

These rules are applicable to;

  •  Every urban local body (Mega city to Panchayat level),
  • outgrowths in urban agglomerations,
  • census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India,
  • notified areas,
  • notified industrial townships,
  • areas under the control of Indian Railways,
  • airports/ airbases,
  • Ports and harbours,
  • defence establishments,
  • special economic zones
  •  State and Central government organisations,
  • places of pilgrims,
  • religious and historical importance as may be notified by respective State government from time to time
  • Every domestic, institutional, commercial and any other non residential solid waste generator situated in the areas.

First family tree for tropical forests(The Hindu)

Context:

A new discovery published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, necessitates a new classification system for plant communities

About the Study:

  • To classify tropical forests based on their genetic relationships, scientists contributed almost one million tree samples of 15,000 species from tree plots across 400 locations in the world.
  • Indian scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Pondicherry University, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Bharathiar University, International Institute of Information Technology, Sigur Nature Trust (SNT) and the Kerala Forest Research Institute also contributed to this data.
  • Incorporating genetic information of these species, a family tree was built in order to see how these trees are related to each other through millions of years of evolution.
  • Finally, five major forest regions were identified in the tropics

Highlights of the Study:

  • Five major forest regions have been identified in the tropics: the Indo-Pacific, Subtropical, African, American and Dry forests.
  • Tropical forests in Africa and South America are closely related, with most of the differences between them occurring within the last 100 million years.
  • This likely reflects patterns of plate tectonics, as South America and Africa broke apart resulting in the formation of the Atlantic Ocean that started approximately 140 million years ago.
  • Dry forests found in India, America, Africa and Madagascar are also closely related to each other.

Significance of the Study:

  • The results of the study are important in botanical research
  • This study could help researchers predict the resilience or susceptibility of different forests to global environmental changes more accurately.

Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh to be part of India’s tiger census(The Hindu)

Context:

Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh will be a part of India’s Tiger estimation exercise

What is the news?

  • India’s Tiger Census which had began last year will be coordinated by Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh
  • How will this coordinated effort be beneficial?
  • Simultaneous tiger counting by the countries would reduce the chances of double-counting.

About the Tiger Census

  • The Tiger Census began in 2006
  • It is coordinated by WII -a Union Environment Ministry-funded body

About the current Tiger Census

  • The current survey is divided into 4 phases
  • The survey would reveal its data in 2019
  • The Tiger Census is commissioned by the Union Environment Ministry’s National Tiger Conservation Authority
  • Along with tigers, the survey also collects information on the prey population of deer and other animals.
  • This year, android phones and app is being used to store data. Previously data were manually logged in which resulted in errors

Science and Technology:

Agni 1 test-fired off the Odisha coast(The Hindu)

Context:

  • India successfully test-fired its short-range nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-1 with a strike rang of over 700 km from a test range off the Odisha coast.

Key facts about Agni-1

  • The 15-metre-long Agni-I weighing 12 tonne can carry payloads up to 1,000 kg.
  • The Strategic Forces Command of the Army conducted the user trial of the 700 km range missile from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island in Balasore.
  • The missile was inducted into service in 2004.
  • The surface-to-surface, single stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was launched as part of a regular training exercise by the armed forces.
  • The sophisticated Agni-I missile is propelled by a solid rocket propellant system
  • It was also equipped with a specialised navigation system that ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of precision.
  • It has proved its excellent performance in terms of range and accuracy.
  •   The last trial was successfully conducted on November 22, 2016 from the same base.
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