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GS:1


Society related issues

Curbing the khaps(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Recent SC guidelines against Khaps (Refer to the article in yesterday’s brief for the guidelines)

Other factors contributing towards honour killings besides caste system

Entrenched social prejudices, feudal structures and patriarchal attitudes

Measures taken by courts against these feudal bodies

  • 24 hour helplines
  • The High Courts of Punjab and Haryana and Madras have laid down guidelines to the police on creating special cells and 24-hour helplines to provide assistance and protection to young couples
  • Safe houses

The Supreme Court has now asked the police to establish safe-houses for couples under threat

  • Empowered police
    • Police officers try and persuade khaps to desist from making illegal decisions
    • But in the same breath, the court has also empowered the police to prohibit such gatherings and effect preventive arrests
  • Videographing the assemblies

It may be a deterrent against any brazen flouting of the law

Arguments in defence of Khaps destroyed by SC

Verdict rejected outrightly the claims that they were only engaged in raising awareness about permissible marriages, including inter-caste and inter-faith ones, and against sapinda and sagotra marriages.

It’s not their job to decide what is permitted and what’s not

The court has rightly laid down that deciding what is permitted and what is not is the job of civil courts.

Need of a comprehensive law

  • While these guidelines, if they are adhered to, may have some benefits to society, the government should not remain content with asking the States to implement these norms
  • It should expedite its own efforts to bring in a comprehensive law to curb killings in the name of honour and to prohibit interference in the matrimonial choices of individuals.

GS: 2


International relations:

Trade on agenda of Tokyo talks(The Hindu)

What has happened?

India and Japan will discuss cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the first high-level meeting since the Quadrilateral and iron out growing worries over bilateral trade as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj meets Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Tokyo on Thursday.

Background

The two sides are meeting for the ninth India-Japan Strategic Dialogue, instituted in 2007 as an annual dialogue held alternately in Delhi and Tokyo

Agenda

  • Among the discussions will be the next steps in the Quadrilateral engagement between India-Japan-US-Australia, a project initiated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, which was revived in 2017, with a meeting of officials of all four countries.
  • Swaraj and Mr. Kono are expected to discuss actions required to keep a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as well as developing joint connectivity projects in Asia and Africa.

Indian Constitution and Polity

Govt. implements SC order on seniority list(The Hindu)

What has happened?

In a move that implies major shifts in bureaucracy, the State government has asked its departments to implement the seniority list as directed by the Supreme Court. This would mean that while thousands of general category employees will be promoted, many employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will have to be demoted to accommodate the general category employees

Background: SC struck downs the provision of consequential seniority list

The Supreme Court, in BK Pavitra vs. Union of India, had declared that the provisions of the Karnataka Determination of Seniority of the Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (To the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, t to the extent of doing away with the ‘catch up’ rule and providing for consequential seniority to persons belonging to SCs and STs on promotion against roster points, were ultra vires Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution

One month deadline

The court had on March 20 set a one-month deadline to implement the order

What now?

  • About six lakh government employees, at least about 50,000 will see changes in their designations — either with a promotion or a demotion
  • The departmental promotion committee will now screen the eligible candidates for promotion.
  • The government has also sought a list of those to be demoted to see how the issue can be handled.

Sending the wrong signal (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Recent judgment of SC to protect public servants and private citizens from arbitrary arrests under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

Stats on crime against dalits

India has over 180 million Dalits

  • A crime is committed against a Dalit every 15 minutes
  • Six Dalit women are raped every day
  • Over the last 10 years (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crime against Dalits

Issues

  • Provision of anticipatory bail: As per the author the provision of the exclusion of anticipatory had been upheld by a five-judge bench of the apex court in Kartar Singh
  • Decline in conviction rate: The decline in the conviction rate for crimes against Dalits has created an impression that this may be driven by false filing of cases. But data from NCRB do not seem to support this contention. In fact, the share of false cases under the SC/ST Act has declined over time (2009-2015). Low conviction rates show poor investigation and incompetence of prosecution. Witnesses routinely turn hostile in such cases
  • Deviation from a set judicial opinion: The Supreme Court had clearly said that anticipatory bail provision for the first time was introduced in 1973 and it is merely a limited statutory right and not part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that the judgment will have a chilling effect on the already underreported crimes against Dalits. The government must go for a review

Indus Commission talks today (The Hindu)

What has happened?

India and Pakistan will go ahead with talks on the Indus Waters Treaty on Thursday despite an upsurge in tensions over the LoC crossfire and allegations of harassment of diplomats in Delhi and Islamabad, External Affairs Ministry sources confirmed on Wednesday

PIC meeting

114th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) will take place in India on March 29 and 30 in New Delhi to hold technical deliberations on various issues

Project reports

Ahead of the PIC meeting on Thursday, Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that three dams would be built in Uttarakhand to utilise water on the Indian side

Centre not for SC/ST creamy layer(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The government on Wednesday opposed the idea of a “creamy layer” within the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes category.

Background

The court was hearing a petition filed by Samta Andolan Samiti, representing the poor and downtrodden strata of the SC/ST community in Rajasthan, which contended that the rich among the SC/ST communities were “snatching away” quota benefits while the deserving and impoverished among them continue to “bite the dust.”

Mandal judgement excluded creamy layer from OBCs

The Mandal judgment however confined the exclusion of the creamy layer only to the OBCs and not to the SC/STs.

Petition referred to 2006 judgement of SC

The Samta Andolan Samiti petition referred to the 2006 Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the M. Nagaraj case, which observed that the “means test (a scrutiny of the value and assets of an individual claiming reservation) should be taken into consideration to exclude the creamy layer from the protected group earmarked for reservation.”

What now?

The Bench asked the government to file a categorical affidavit

Steps needed to improve collegium system, says SC (The Hindu)

What has happened?

Urgent measures are required to improve the collegium system of appointment of judges, including the setting up of an independent secretariat, the Supreme Court highlighted in a judgment on Wednesday

Main points of the judgment

  • Corrective measures: “Corrective measures” needed to be taken against “post-appointment conduct or inadequate performance or failure to uphold righteous conduct” by sitting judges
  • Implement recommendations of NJAC: The court ordered that the Centre should ensure that the new memorandum of procedure brought about the improvements recommended by the NJAC Bench
  • No permanent Chief Justices in High Courts:
    • Various High Courts remained without permanent Chief Justices.
    • The Law Ministry website shows that seven High Courts have been making do with Acting Chief Justices for months on end High Court Chief Justices are appointed for a few days before they retire, serving no purpose to the cause of justice delivery
    • The court stressed the need for a “full-time”and independent body of experts to help in the appointment process

GS: 3


Economy:

A solar gear shift (The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

The government needs to tilt its green manufacturing mix in favour of nascent industries of the future

Champion sector

The 2018 Economic Survey identifies renewable energy as a champion sector under the Make in India 2.0 programme

Present situation

India currently meets almost 90% of its annual requirement of solar panels through imports (mainly China)

What are trade remedies?

Trade remedies are trade policy tools that allow governments to take remedial action against imports which are causing material injury to a domestic industry. Such remedies are divided broadly into: anti-dumping action; countervailing duty measures; and. safeguard action

Issues

  • Trade remedies like increased duty on imported items, might attract retaliatory action from other countries
  • Compliance with global trade regime: India needs to comply with international trade rules as going against them results in decreased stakeholder confidence. For eg: Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) scheme was challenged at WTO and India lost the case
  • Inter-ministerial conflict: The severity of this conflict is evident in the power given to both the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) to implement trade remedies (safeguard duties and anti-dumping duties or ADD, respectively). An inter-ministerial committee headed by the MNRE must be constituted to coordinate moves among the MoF, the MoCI, the Ministry of Power, and the Central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions
  • Voicing concerns: Developers and manufacturers need to voice their needs clearly and respond to policy implications in an unambiguous manner. The industry needs one unified voice representing the key concerns of each stakeholder-category, without ignoring the broader interests of the sector

Out of favour (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

More people are losing their love for Indian bonds. Foreign investors have been net sellers of over $1 billion in Indian debt this month, almost cancelling out inflows since the beginning of the year. Domestic investors were already spooked by a widening fiscal deficit, so foreign selling now has managed to add pressure on the market

Why foreign investors are withdrawing from bond market?

  • Increase in interest rates in developed countries: Earlier, developed countries had low interest rates to propel growth. They kept the currency in circulation rather than giving more interest rates but now the Interest rates are increasing in developed countries also. Hence, difference between interest rates of India and developed countries is coming down
  • Rupee depreciation fear: As rupee depreciates investor have to shell out more money to buy dollar
  • Increasing fiscal deficit
    • Interest burden on government will increase i.e. increased revenue expenditure meaning government will have less money available for capital investment. It will lead to crowding out of private investor meaning less money is available for private investor to borrow

What is bond yield?

Government issues bonds to borrow from the market. Bond is just a piece of paper on which it is written that government shall pay an interest plus the principal, to the purchaser at the end of a specific time period. The interest is always paid on the face value of the bond.

Let us suppose a friend of yours purchases a bond of Rs 30 @10% yearly, from the government. It means the government will be liable to pay an interest of Rs 3 (yearly) to the borrower.

Consider a situation in which your friend needs money immediately and decides to sell his bond. This selling (and purchasing) of the bond will be done in secondary market. Here many sellers and buyers of the bonds are available.

Now, if there is an ample supply of bonds in the secondary market due to any reason i.e. there are many sellers of the bonds in the market compared to the buyers, your friend here will face a situation wherein buyer will be the king meaning your friend will have to sell his bond at a lower price than the price for which he purchased it. Let us assume that he sells it at Rs 20 to a buyer.

Keep in mind that the buyer here shall continue to get the interest of Rs 3 as promised initially by the government as interest is calculated on face value of the bond i.e. Rs 30 in this case. This means that the buyer will get an interest of Rs 3 on a bond worth Rs 20 while your friend was getting the same interest on a higher price of Rs 30.

Clearly, the buyer will gain here as he is getting an interest of 15% (as Rs 3 is 15% of Rs 20 while it was 10% of Rs 30)

In the above case, bond price went down (from Rs 30 to Rs 20) while bond yield increased (from 10% to 15%)

For prelims you can remember the following statement,

When bond prices go down, bond yield go up

Now, seeing the increased bond yield, more and more buying of the bonds will ensue leading to increased demand of the bonds and we know that a quantity in increased demand will command a higher price. So, an increased demand will propel the bond prices up thereby leading to a reduction in bond yield, which will further lead to reduction in demand

All hail the invisible hand!!!

Why Bond yield is rising?

  • Government is planning to step up borrowing process ahead of elections means government will issue more bonds leading to an excess of bonds in bond market which will decrease the bond prices and we know that when that happens bond yield goes up
  • Breaching of fiscal deficit targets means more borrowing
  • Less lending by Public Sector Banks
  • Depreciation of rupee will lead to selling of bonds by foreign investors leading to excess supply in the market which pushes the bond prices down leading to higher bond yields

Environment:

On the electric highway (The Hindu Opinion)

What has happened?

The Central government is not pursuing plans for a separate policy on electric vehicles (EVs) although it did think of introducing one. It has now left it to the automotive industry to determine the scale and pace of a transition from fossil fuels to electric motors

Does India have a policy to promote electric vehicles?

There is no target for a shift to electric vehicles by the year 2030, the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises clarified on March 8

FAME scheme to continue

  • The government is incentivising purchase of electric vehicles through the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) programme, since April 1, 2015, under which end users and consumers pay a reduced price
  • So far, 1,89,482 electric or hybrid vehicles have been covered by the incentive scheme, which is in force until March 31, 2018
  • It is expected that the promotion of EVs through policy initiatives will continue beyond that date
  • Mahindra and Mahindra, Mahindra Reva Electric, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar and Tata Motors are participating in the demand incentive scheme.

How can a shift to EVs help?

Cut dependence on oil and reduce carbon emissions:

A 2017 report issued jointly by NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute in the U.S. projects that, for an oil price benchmark of $52 a barrel, shared, electric, and connected mobility options would help the country save $60 billion (Rs. 3.9 lakh crore) in 2030, besides eliminating cumulative emissions of 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide.

What are the challenges and benefits?

  • One major challenge in scaling up electric mobility is the availability of charging infrastructure across the country
    • Present situation: As part of a FAME pilot project, 25 charging stations were created in Bengaluru by one automaker. Since 2015, the Department of Heavy Industry has sanctioned 435 charging stations
  • Infrastructure is needed to produce, maintain and recycle a large number of batteries as the population of EVs rises. The current economics of EVs favor larger vehicles in the longer term, given the high capital expenditure involved. But it has good cost-benefit outcomes even now for two-wheelers and rickshaws

Science and Technology:

Biggest space telescope launch delayed till 2020(The Hindu)

What has happened?

NASA has delayed the launch of its much awaited, $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope — set to be the world’s biggest space observatory — until at least May 2020.

NASA says it won’t be ready before May 2020 as the project is undergoing final integration and tests

The telescope is currently undergoing final integration and test phases that will require more time to ensure a successful mission

What is JWST?

  • Infrared telescope: The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror
  • Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide
  • Will Study every phase in history of Universe: It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.
  • Webb was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

Innovative Technologies used in JWST

Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb

  • Segmented mirrors: These include a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch
  • Beryllium made mirrors: The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium
  • Tennis court size sunshield: Webb’s biggest feature is a tennis court sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times
  • NIRSpec: The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has programmable microshutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously
  • Cryocooler: Webb also has a cryocooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors of another instrument (MIRI) to a very cold 7 K so they can work.
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