Mains Test Series


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GS-1

Caution against shaming

Article:

  1. Devika, Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram analysis the Kerala High Court judgment on obscenity

Important Analysis:

2. The Kerala High Court recently gave its judgment against the writ petition claiming the image of a breastfeeding women on magazine as obscene.

3. The magazines named ‘Grihalakshmi’, leading women’s magazine in Malayalam publish this image on its cover page in March this year.

4. The social conservatives  from Kerala considered it to obscene, insulting women, and in violation of child rights.

5. However, the defendants considered this image from positive angle  and put forward the following arguments in this regard:

  • Defendants considered image as essentially non-sexual and against obscenity.
  • They considered it to be more related to developmental concerns such as maternal and child health.
  • Defendants considered this image as a depletion of pleasure in the mother-child physical bond.

6. High Court’s judgment:

  • The court dismissed the writ petition claiming image to be obscene.
  • The court mobilize ‘Ancient Indian Culture’ to support its arguments.
  • It clearly distinguishes legal paternalism from legal moralism and warns against the same. This is truly valuable after recent Hadiya case in which self-chosen marriages was annulled by the HC.

7. Implications of Judgment:

  • The judgment is especially significant for Kerala where social conservatism has historically stayed unchallenged.

Note:

  • Historically, many battles were fought in Malayali Society for the early twentieth century over the exposure of upper body.
  • While the rules of cast differences and deference required that the chest, female and male, from social inferior background be exposed in the presence of ostensible social superiors.

 

GS-2

U.S. postpones 2+2 dialogue with India

News:

  1. The 2+2 Dialogue between the defence and foreign ministers of India and the United States scheduled for July, has been postponed.
2+2 Dialogue:

  •  India and the U.S. have decided to set up a new dialogue mechanism that would include defence and foreign ministers of the two countries.
  •   The dialogue format would be likely called “2 by 2”.
  •  The India-U.S. “2 by 2”dialogue will be on the lines of India-Japan 2+2 dialogue format.
  •  The India-U.S. “2 by 2”dialogue would replace the existing India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue for trade and commercial issues.
  •  India and the U.S. will now have a separate dialogue on commercial issues, which will not include the foreign ministers.

Significance of “2 by 2” Dialogue 

  • The objective of this dialogue is to raise defence and security issues.
  • It is aimed at enhancing peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by elevating strategic consultations in the dialogue.
  • The shared priorities include job creation, improving the business and investment climate and sustaining a rules-based global order.
  • The U.S. has strategic consultations in this format with key partners and allies including Australia, Japan and the Philippines.

Important facts:

2. The message of postponing of talks came from the U. S. Secretary of States. However, he regret for the same.

3. Both nations agreed to identify new convenient dates to hold the dialogues.

4. The dialogue in was designed to address bilateral issues following a Summit level meeting between President Trump and PM Modi in 2017.

5. The talks were postponed earlier once when previous secretary of state Rex Tilleron quit in March 2018.

6. It was previously scheduled for April.

7. However, latest postponement comes in the background of growing differences between India and the U.S. over the Iran nuclear deal.

8. Expected outcomes from the talks:

9. The talks were expected to boost bilateral ties in the backdrop of growing disagreement move the Iran nuclear deal and the brewing tariff wars between the two sides.

10. Both sides expected to discuss on other aspects also such as:

  • Recent Russia-related sanctions, key impediment for India’s defence modernization.
  • Indian side was firmly expected to place its objections to CAATSA.

Note:

  • Recently, External Affairs Minister Swaraj met her French counterpart where both sides agreed to “maintain” the Iran nuclear deal that allows for global trading with Tehran.
  • As per the latest reports, the U.S. has given November deadline to India and Chinese companies that continue to trade with Iran disregarding U.S. Treasury’s sanctions.

 

Nepal welcomes ‘2+1’ dialogue mechanism

News.

  1. Nepali officials are considering China’s proposal for a “two-plus-one” mechanism.

Important facts:

2. It would be beneficial for India also as through this mechanism, Beijing and New Delhi can jointly hold a dialogue with a third country in South Asia.

3. China-Nepal relations:

  • The Chinese side emphasized that its relations with the Nepal will be conducted according to the five principle of peaceful coexistence, which sets a model of harmonious coexistence between countries of different sizes and social systems.
  • Nepal wants to bridge the relation with China but without compromising with India because the Nepal saw the rise of its two neighbours (China and India) as a “big opportunity” for the development of Nepal.
  • Nepal is looking for partnership with China and India  in the Himalayan nation to develop connectivity in the Himalayan nation.
China’s 2+1 format:

  •   China proposed 2+1 format for India talks.
  • This is different from a trilateral mechanism.
  •  Under the Chinese proposal, China and India can jointly conduct a dialogue with a third regional country.
  •  China wants that this 2+1 format to be flexible and apply in other country in South Asia.
  • This initiative is not Nepal-Specific.
  •  China made it clear that they were not interested in pursuing a zero-sum approach with Nepal.
  •  The Chinese made direct reference to the April Wuhan informal Summit, which has began to have a cascading impact on the region.
  • While the analyst says that China is keen to build bridges with India after frictions with the U.S. under Trump administration.
  • For achieving China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s full potential, it is important to enhance regional connectivity with India, including a trans-Himalayan corridor through Nepal.

 

Centre may scrap UGC, proposes new regulator

News:

  1. The Centre places draft Bill for a Higher Education Commission of India in public domain for suggestions.

Important facts:

  1. The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018 placed in the public domain.
  2. Purpose of introducing draft bill are given below:
  • Major reforms in higher education.
  • Aimed at replacing the University Grant Commission (UGC) for eliciting suggestions from educationists.
  • Once UGC is replaced, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teacher’s education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines.
  1. Key components of draft Bill are given below:
  • Separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education.
  • It takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality and even close down bogus institutions.
  • However, there is no plan to merge all higher education regulators, as was proposed through a planned agency called HEERA.
  • HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
  • The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards.
  • The regulators are also authorized to have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
  • Non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence.
  • Presently UGC had no such powers. It can only release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees.
  1. Functions of HECI:
  • Improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes.
  • Evaluation of academic performance by institutions.
  • Mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
  • It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions.
  • Provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions.
  • Lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list)
UGC vs HCEI:

1.     The UGC’s regulatory power included quality assessment and giving grants.The HECI will just ensure academic quality while MHRD will give grants to institutions.

2.     The UGC conducted inspections to assess institutions. The HECI will practically do away with these and shift to a regime of “transparent disclosures” instead.

3.     The UGC published lists of  bogus institutions once in a while. The HECI will be empowered to shutdown sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non –compliance by institutions  could also lead to jail terms.

 

ICSSR’s new vision: make research relevant to policy

News:

  1. ICSSR, apex social science research body has sent a vision document called IMPRESS((Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences) to the government.

Important facts:

2. Rational behind this step:

  • To make research relevant to policy.
  • It will contribute in solving society problems.

3. ICSSR, has also made a tentative list of themes on which it would like to support research.

4. The ICHR awards doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship.

5. The document shared with the government identifies many thrust areas such as:

  • Security
  • Make In India
  • Federalism
  • Regionalism and its implications.
  • Simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies
  • Fake news, paid news and media ownership

6. The ICSSR has also formulated some key themes for research like:

  • Agrarian issues, farmers’ distress, agricultural growth,
  • Poverty alleviation,
  • Revitalisation of manufacturing,
  • Trade and investment policy,
  • Liberalisation and lost opportunities, etc.

 

GS-3

Reality check

News:

  1. The financial stability report released by the RBI recently.

Important facts:

2. The report has warned that gross non-performing assets(GNPAs) of scheduled commercial banks could rise from 11.6% in March 2018 to 12.2% in March 2019.

3. This would be highest level of bad debt in almost two decades.

4. The GNPA of banks under the prompt corrective action framework, in particular, is expected to rise to 22.3% in March 2019, from 21% this March.

5. The RBI has warned about rising external risks that pose a significant threat to the economy and to the banks.

6. Major highlights of the report:

  • Major highlight of the report is the central bank’s finding that public sector banks (PSBs) are far more prone to fraud than their private sector counterparts.
  • This is significant in light of the huge scam unearthed at a Punjab National Bank branch earlier this year.
  • According to RBI , more than 85% of frauds could be linked to PSBs, even though their share of overall credit is only about 65%.

7. Challenges/hurdles:

  • The tightening of monetary policy by the United States Federal Reserve and increasing borrowings by the U.S. government caused credit to flow out of emerging markets such as India.
  • The increase in commodity prices is another risk on the horizon that could pose a significant threat to the rupee and the country’s fiscal and current account deficits.

8. Implications of this :

  • According to RBI, this will increase the size of the provisioning for losses and affect the capital position of banks.
  • The capital to risk-weighted assets ratio of the banking system as a whole is expected to drop from 13.5% in March 2018 to 12.8% in March 2019.
  • Jeopardize the expectation of a bottoming out of the NPA crisis that has affected the banking system and impeded credit growth in the economy.
  • Increase in inflation .
  • Increase the risk of an economic slowdown and exert pressure on the entire banking system.

9. The RBI noted the following reforms in its report:

  • The RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya has noted that governance reforms at PSBs, can help improve their financial performance and also reduce their operational risks.
  • The recapitalisation plan for banks and the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to improve the capital position of banks.
  • Government need to make drastic changes to aspects of operational autonomy and the ownership of PSBs.

 

Encouraging mediation to settle disputes

Article:

  1. Chitra Narayan , Chennai-based advocate and mediator, discusses how mediation and conciliation used as a powerful tool to resolve commercial disputes.

Important Analysis:

2. India will participate in deliberation at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in New York.

3. The deliberations will facilitate legal reform to ease commercial dispute resolutions.

4. Commercial disputes are resolved not only through courts and arbitration but also through mediation.

5. The deliberations will consider how these settlement agreements in disputes in international commercial transactions will be implemented by courts in different countries.

6. Other aspects of the draft convention would be:

  • The convention will link laws adopted by countries to recognize domestic mediation and extend them beyond their boundaries.
  • UNCITRAL has formulated principles on which countries should recognise and enforce mediation agreements arising from cross-border disputes.
  • Once formalised, countries will have a consistent framework for enforcing mediation agreements made in other countries.
  • The draft convention defines mediation as a “process whereby parties attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person (the mediator) .
  • The mediator lacks the authority to impose a solution upon the parties to the dispute.
  • Courts of a country before which a mediated settlement agreement is brought must ensure implementation of the terms of settlement.
  • The courts will allow a party to a settlement agreement to rely on this agreement as a defence in cases filed on the basis of disputes already settled by the agreement.

7. Several concerns make this draft important for India such as:

  1. Mandatory pre-litigation mediation has been introduced in commercial disputes.
  2. The adoption of the convention will address a policy gap on outcomes from the mediation process involving cross-border disputes.
  3. India has lost substantial earnings as a result of international disputes being taken for resolution outside the country.
  4. Strengthening the dispute resolution policies will encourage dispute resolution in India, where the commercial relationship once began.

8. Enforcement of settlement agreement

  • When the settlement agreement comes up before the court for implementation, the court will review it on the basis of certain conditions.
  • These include the capacity of the parties to enter into the agreement.
  • Once the agreement has been reviewed, the court must enforce the agreement on the terms agreed.
  • If, the court were to decline enforcement, this will be done on grounds that are known to international parties.
  • Mediated settlement agreements typically don’t need court assistance for enforcement.

Note:

  • One hundred and seventy-four countries recognise mediation and conciliation as a method of resolving disputes.
  • International business and dispute resolution institutions( such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the Singapore International Mediation Centre and the World Intellectual Property Organisation )all have established rules and assist businesses in resolving disputes through mediation.

 

Japanese mission reaches far-off asteroid

News:

  1. A Japanese probe has reached an asteroid 300 million km away to collect information about the birth of the solar system and the origin of life.

Important facts:

2. The Hayabusa2 probe successfully settled into an observation position 20 km above the Ryugu asteroid.

3. The mission came just days before the UN’s International Asteroid day on June 30, global event to raise awareness about the hazards of an asteroid impact and technological progress to counter such a threat.

4. Photos of Ryugu — which means “Dragon Palace” in Japanese, a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale — show an asteroid shaped a bit like a spinning top with a rough surface.

5. Mission:

  • The probe will bring back samples to shed light on the origin of life on the earth.
  • Hayabusa2 will start exploring the asteroid over the coming 18 months, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
  • The next stage is to identify suitable sites to take samples from once the probe touches down on the asteroid.

 

Stranded on migration

News:

1. Migration is top of the agenda when leaders meet for a European Council meeting in Brussels

 Important facts:

2. Issues:

  • More than 1.8 million migrants have come to Europe since 2014, mostly from West Asia and Africa.
  • This has become a contentious electoral issue across Europe with right-wing populists capitalising on an anti-migrant sentiment for electoral gains.
  • While migrant inflows have fallen since their peak in 2015-16, some countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece have each accepted 12,000-15,500 migrants in 2018.
  • EU countries are grappling with the treatment of migrants within their territories and related policies.

3. Migration in Italy

  • More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from Africa in recent years.
  • Earlier this month, Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to grant MV Aquarius, a ship that had rescued 629 migrants, docking permission.
  • Salvini wants to deport 500,000 of those who are in Italy, fix the migrant resettlement system, build migrant reception centres in Africa.

4. Affect on German government

  • More than 1.6 million migrants have made their way to Germany since 2015.
  • The bulk of them arrived when Chancellor Angela Merkel suspended EU migration rules in 2015 to accept migrants stranded in other countries.
  • It now threatens the coalition government headed by Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), saying she will not allow migrants registered in other countries to enter Germany.
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