Mains Test Series


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GS 2

Dark clouds over the RTI

Article

  1. Nikhil Dey and Aruna Roy, founder member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, has criticized the government for bringing amendment to RTI act without proper consultation.

Important Analysis

2. Item 14 in the legislative agenda of the monsoon session of Parliament (from July 18) says “To amend The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 — for Introduction, Consideration, and Passing.”

3. Author claim that applications for information about amendments made under the RTI Act have been stonewalled and information denied.

4. However, as per the “pre legislative consultation policy” of the government of India any amendment to the law should have been discussed before it went to the cabinet.

5. Author also says that public servants has been troubled by accountability and have seen RTI Act as interference.

6. Author claim that the government has tried to protect bureaucrats by amending the Lokpal Act in such a way that assets of family members of public servants do not have to be disclosed in the public domain.

7. Attempts to made amendment in RTI act was made earlier also, but it was taken back due to strong popular resistance.

8. Author praise the RTI as it helps to

  • transform the relationship between the citizen and government,
  • dismantle illegitimate concentrations of power,
  • It mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy with a culture of transparency.
  • RTI acts helps to uncover fraud
  • legitimize the demand for answers, and
  • Assist people in changing centuries of feudal and colonial relationships.

9. Author also raise concern about the unwillingness of government to operationalise the Lok Pal, the Whistleblowers Act and the Grievance Redress law

 

Fix the pothole problem

Article:

  1. Piyush Tewari, CEO, Save LIFE Foundation, emphasized on problems caused by potholes and also suggested ways to address these problems.

Important Analysis:

2. Potholes are usually caused by the presence of heavy traffic and water on roads.

3. Studies conducted in cities such as Chandigarh and Mumbai point to the lack of a proper drainage system and weak proportioning of aggregates for road construction.

4. The number of deaths caused by potholes is rising day by day in India.

5. In 2016, potholes claimed six lives every day in India.

6. Potholes related deaths mostly caused in monsoon season.

7. However, the large number of potholes related deaths go unaccounted because crash reporting protocols vary from State to State.

8. Deaths caused by potholes:

  • As per the official statistics, potholes claimed 11,836 lives and left 36,421 persons injured in India from 2013 to 2016.
  • State wise data revealed that Madhya Pradesh, Utttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra have maintained a fairly consistent record of being among the top four in road crashes.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, and West Bengal feature regularly among the top 10 States in the same categories.

9. The author highlighted the various challenges to deal with this problem such as:

  • The absence of unified statute or law on road construction, engineering and maintenance.
  • The existing legislation for road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, has no provisions to ensure accountability of road authorities.
  • Road contractors and engineers not held criminally liable for causing deaths.
  • The Motor Vehicles(Amendment) Bill , 2017, for road safety still awaits passage.

10.The author also highlighted the various solutions to address the problems caused by potholes such as:

a) The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, need to be passed for road safety which includes

  • The Bill aims to rectify several systemic issues by providing a uniform driver licensing system.
  • Protecting children and vulnerable road users.
  • Rationalising penalties and creating accountability in road construction.
  • For any road injury or death, the designated authority responsible to construct road is to be penalized with sum of Rs 1 lakh.
  • The Bill directs that safety standards be prescribed by the central government.

b) Ensure the use of standardized methodology and good quality material for road construction.

c) Need for regular maintenance and an effective system to ensure accountability.

d) Need to incorporate the safe system approach in all aspects of road design, engineering, and construction.

e) Take into the possibility of human error.

f) Ensure that the surrounding environment and infrastructure are designed to save lives.

g) At a policy level, need to create an enabling framework that weaves in different progressive aspects across stakeholders sectors under one legislation.

h) The guidelines provided by the Indian Road Congress should be implemented properly.

 

India, Iran pledge to maintain trade levels

News:

  1. India and Iran signed pacts on President Roushani’s visit.

Important facts:

2. Despite U.S. Sanctions to “zero” out oil imports and end engagement with Iran, India and Iran signed pacts during President Hassan Roushani’s visit.

3. Both the nations focused on the following areas:

  • Enhancing connectivity
  • Strengthening cooperation in trade and economic issues.
  • People-to-people exchanges
  • Both sides also discussed issues that have arisen over the Joint Comprehensive Plan for action(JCPOA).
  • Recently, the U.S. pulled out of the 6 nations JCPOA and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

 

National database for gun licence holders

News:

  1. According to the Home Ministry, names of all arms licence holders will be included in a national database

Important facts:

2. All arms licence holders, new or old, will be issued a unique identification number with effect from April 1, 2019.

3. Any arms licence without UIN will be considered invalid.

4. The purpose is to keep a tab on authorized private gun holders, many of whom are often found involved in crimes and celebratory firing leading to loss of lives.

 

President clears Bill against witch-hunting

News:

  1. President’s kovind gives its assent to  Assam’s Anti- witch-hunting Bill

Important

2. A witch-hunt or witch purge is a search for people labelled “witches” or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic or mass hysteria.

3. The State received the President’s approval for the Assam witch hunting (Prohibition, prosecution, and protection) Bill, 2015.

4. The key features of the Bill are given below:

  • The Bill makes every offence under the act “cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable”.
  • The Act prescribes a prison term of up to 7 years and up Rs 5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch.
  • It also has provisions to come with section 302 of the IPC if someone is killed after being branded a witch.
  • The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment upto Rs 5 lakh in fine.
  1. Earlier, Project Prahari was launched in 2001 which blended normal policing with social campaigns to check the menace.

 

GS 3

Overdue correction

Article

  1. Centre has announced a committee to relook several provisions of the companies act, 2013

Important analysis

2. Companies act, 2013 came under severe criticism as it impose stiff penalties and, in some cases, prison terms as well, for directors and key management personnel

3. In 2013 act, some of the provisions in the law are so tough that even a spelling mistake or typographical error could be construed as a fraud and lead to harsh punishment

4. Industry bodies had red-flagged the impact of such provisions on the ease of doing business, and investor sentiment in general.

5. Also trial court get overloaded with cases filed by officials even with minor violations.

6. To solve this problem a 10-member committee, which includes top banker Uday Kotak, appointed by the Corporate Affairs Ministry

7. It has been tasked with checking if some of the violations that can attract imprisonment (such as a clerical failure by directors to make adequate disclosures about their interests) may instead be punished with monetary fines.

8. The committee has also been asked to suggest the broad contours for an adjudicatory mechanism that allows penalties to be levied for minor violations with minimal discretion available to officials.

9. The government hopes such changes in the regulatory regime would allow trial courts to devote greater attention to serious offences

 

Faster visas for minorities from three nations

News:

  1. The Home Ministry has liberalized the process of granting long-term visas(LTVs) to minorities from Pakistan , Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Important facts:

2. The issue came on light because of harassment caused to Pakistani Hindu migrants for visa extension, visa transfer and grant of citizenship.

3. The Ministry has reduced the time limit for security clearance of applications form 45 days to 21 days.

4. After an application comes to the central system, it is forwarded to three agencies for verification- State government, the Intelligence Bureau, and the MHA.

5. Once, the replies from all three agencies are fed in the system, the application is automatically processed.

6. As per the Home Ministry, since 2011, nearly 30,000 Pakistanis had been granted LTVs. Presently, 1,500 such applications are still pending.

7. As per the state governments report, the LTVs are precursors to citizenship.

8. The Visa facility, first introduced in 2011 for persecuted Hindus from Pakistan.

9. The LTVs granted to Pakistan’s Hindu from 2011 to 2014 stood at approx 14,000.

10. In 2015, the government granted concessions to Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Afghanistan nationals belonging to the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian and Jain communities who entered India on or before Dec 31.

11. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2015, proposes citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis,, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014 has hit a hurdle.

12. There has been strong resistance to Bill in Assam as it seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh.

13. The Bill will pave way for granting citizenship to illegal Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam in violation of the Assam Accord, 1985.

14. As per the official figures, around 2 lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan living in India.

15. There are around 400 Pakistani Hindu refugees’ settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur.

16. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and the northeastern States.

 

Army to resume M777 trials

News:

  1. The Army will resume the trials of the U.S. made M777 ultra light howitzer in the Pokhran firing range.

Important facts:

2. The Army had received four guns for the trials.

3. The trials will be conducted by the U.S. government and India will be an observer.

4. Local ammunition will be used.

5. In 2016, India signed a deal with the U.S. government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for 145 M777 guns.

6. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in the country in partnership with Mahindra group.

7. M777 gun delivery programme: Is a 155 mm, 39 calibre towed artillery gun made of titanium and aluminum alloys.

 

Sugar production set to hit a record high next season

News:

  1. According to industry estimates, cane farmers may face about Rs 25,000 crore in payment arrears from sugar mills.

Important facts:

2. As per the Indian Sugar Mills Association estimate, the total acreage under sugarcane in the country is estimated to be around 54.35 lakh hectares this kharif season, an 8% increase from the last year.

3. ISMA expects mills to produce a record of 350-355 lakh tonnes of sugar next year, higher than the 322 lakh tonnes produced this year.

4. According to Food Ministry in May 2018 mills pending dues to farmers had crossed Rs 22,000 crore .

5. In June, the arrears had dropped to Rs 18,000 crore and is likely to drop further.

6. The dues are likely to rise again to atleast Rs 25,000 crore by the summer of 2019.

7. Increase in exports will reduce inventory and enhance cash flow to mills and ultimately to farmers.

 

SC lashes out at Centre on pollution

News:

  1. The Supreme Court lashed out at the Union Ministry of Environment on pollution.

Important facts:

2. The Supreme Court’s Bench was hearing the issue of ban on import of petcoke .

3. Petcoke is a toxic fuel used in hazardous industries.

4. The court has been urging the government to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil to power up industries to fight pollution.

5. The court last year ordered a ban on the industrial use of petcoke and furnace oil in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

6. The ban on use came after an EPCA Report, including the ban on sale, distribution and use in the NCR. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi.

7. Petcoke is imported from countries like the U.S. and China.

8. However, these countries have already stopped using them after due consideration of its harmful effects on human and environment.

 

Upgraded Vikas engine — with more thrust — will boost ISRO’s rockets

News:

  1. ISRO successfully tests High Thrust Vikas Engine for GSLV-Mk III.

Important facts:

2.The ISRO will phase out Vikas by replacing it fist in Mk-II with a cleaner and safer semi-cryogenic engine.

3.The improvement was conducted at ISRO Propulsion Complex in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.

4.This would be third Mk-III and the first working one to be designated MkIII Mission-1 or M1.

5.The first MkIII of June 2017 started with a 3,200-kg satellite.

6.The second one is being readied for lifting a 3,500-kg spacecraft.

7.The improvement results of the upgraded engine should be seen in the PSLV and GSLV missions over the coming months.

8.MkIII-D2, the second test flight of the heavy-lifter, is being assembled.

9.The new engine will be used in the subsequent mission-M1.

10.About Vikas engine:

  • Vikas, a family of liquid-fuel engines, was developed by ISRO in the 1970s. Since then, it has seen five variants – Vikas-2, Vikas-2B, Vikas-X, Vikas-4, and Vikas-4B.
  • The current iteration, Vikas-4B, is being used on the second stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the second stage and four strap-on boosters of the GSLV Mk-II, and on the twin engine core liquid stage (L110) of the GSLV Mk-III.
  • The Vikas engine will improve the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV, and GSLV Mk-III launch vehicles.
  • The Vikas engine is used in the second stage of the light lifting PSLV; the second stage and four add on stages of the medium lift GSLV; and the twin-engine core liquid stage of Mk-III.
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