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GS: 2

International Relations:

Track II team holds talks in Pakistan(The Hindu)

What has happened?

A group of Indian experts visited Pakistan to discuss all aspects of bilateral ties and revive the Track II diplomacy process with Islamabad, amid the chill in the relationship after a number of terror attacks in India by Pakistan-based outfits

Neemrana dialogue

  • The original Track II initiative, Neemrana Dialogue, received a fresh start with the visit
  • The Indian side was led by former Foreign Ministry Secretary Vivek Katju, while the Pakistan side was led by former Foreign Secretary Inamul Haque.
  • The interactions took place between April 28 and 30 in Islamabad

Iran deal built on lies, says Pompeo(The Hindu)

What has happened?

U.S. Secretary of State backs Israel’s claims about Iran’s ‘secret nuclear weapons programme’

Documents as proof presented to US by Israel

According to US Secretary of State: Documents claimed by Israel as proof of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons programme are authentic and the U.S. is assessing the future of the Iran nuclear deal in light of the revelations

What this could mean: JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in danger

This public endorsement of Israel’s position could be prelude to America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal later this month

What now?

With the Netanyahu government leaning on him heavily to scrap the agreement, and his key advisers now inclined towards his own instincts, Mr. Trump may be inching closer to what he always wanted to do.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

SC tells HCs to set up panels to monitor POCSO Act trials(The Hindu)

Context

Supreme Court shocked by high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases

What has happened?

Shocked by the high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases, the Supreme Court directed High Courts to set up panels of its judges to regulate and monitor trials under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act

Background

  • The Supreme Court, which had ordered a review of the backlog under POCSO, found that States such as Uttar Pradesh have over 30,000 cases pending despite the child protection law coming into existence as early as 2012.
  • Many States have not yet even set up Special Courts to try POCSO cases as mandated by the law.

DNA profiling Bill in Monsoon Session, Centre informs SC(The Hindu)

Context

PIL plea seeks use of technology to identify unclaimed bodies

What has happened?

Last year, the Law Commission of India, in its 271st report, prepared the draft Bill named, The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017, after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions

Background

The government was responding to a PIL petition filed by NGO Lok Niti Foundation in 2012 on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with old cases of missing persons

Court observed

With the competent authority undertaking to bring about a legislation there was no need for a mandamus from the Supreme Court in this issue

Law Commission report

  • Last year, the Law Commission of India, in its 271st report, prepared the draft Bill named, The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017, after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions
  • The Commission recorded that DNA profiling was indeed used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes.
  • It, however, also flagged that privacy concerns and the ethics involved in this scientific collection of data were very high.
  • The commission said the procedure for DNA profiling, if given statutory recognition, should be done legitimately as per constitutional provisions

SC admits petition to quash Section 377(The Hindu)

Context

Seventeen years after he was imprisoned for his sexual orientation and efforts to help the LGBT community, the Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted the petition of a man to quash the “tyranny” of Section 377 IPC, which criminalises homosexuality

What has happened?

The Supreme Court had similarly on January 8 referred to a larger Bench a writ petition filed by five gay and lesbian members of the community to strike down Section 37

Quoting Hadiya judgement

  • The person quoted the court’s decision in the recent Hadiya case judgment which upheld the fundamental right to determine the “choice of one’s intimate partner, within or outside marriage.”
  • Section 377, the petition said, specifically and directly violates this right.

What now?

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India issued notice to the government and tagged the petition with a series of petitions to be heard by a Constitution Bench

GS:3

Economy:

RBI allows FPIs to buy T-bills; debt limit stays(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to invest in treasury bills issued by the central government

Earlier

Foreign portfolio investors were permitted to invest in corporate bonds with minimum residual maturity of above one year

Consistency

  • The April circular was issued to bring consistency across debt categories and hence it was stipulated that investments by an FPI in corporate bonds with residual maturity below one year should not exceed 20% of the total investment of that FPI in corporate bonds.
  • According to the circular, if there are investments in securities with less than one year residual maturity as on May 2, and it constitutes more than 20% of the total investment in any category, the FPI will have to bring such share below 20% within a period of six months from the date of the circular

Government Schemes:

‘Sub-village units will be powered too’(The Hindu)

Will be covered under Saubhagya scheme

The government on Tuesday responded to allegations that its village electrification programme was still incomplete despite its claims of 100% electrification, saying that the few remaining “sub-village units” would be covered under its Saubhagya household electrification scheme

Saubhagya Scheme: Key points

  • Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana –“Saubhagya”to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas here today
  • The States and Union Territories are required to complete the works of household electrification by the 31stof December 2018.
  • The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data
  • Un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill.
  • The solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp with battery bank for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, comprises of Five LED lights, One DC fan, One DC power plug. It also includes the Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years
  • The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will remain the nodal agency for the operationalisation of the scheme throughout the country

Power drive(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Getting affordable electricity to every household needs sustained policy support

What has happened?

Census data for 2001 and 2011 indicate that the number of rural households that use electricity as their primary source of lighting rose by about 12 percentage points to 55.3%, while in that decade urban households rose five points to 92.7%

Statistics conceal disparities

  • Actual number of households in villages that have power connections, the number of hours they get reliable power, and the per capita power that rural and urban Indians consume.
  • Due to infrastructure deficits and administrative inefficiency the Power for All 24×7 goal adopted by States and Union Territories with a deadline of April 1, 2019 is far from realistic e.g. the average hours of power supplied in a day to rural areas in January 2018 ranged from 11.5 in Mizoram, 14.91 in Haryana and 17.72 in Uttar Pradesh to 24 hours in Kerala, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

What needs to be done?

  • The answer may lie in a hybrid solution that ensures continued scaling up of both grid-connected and standalone solar systems in appropriate areas, augmenting conventional sources of electricity, with a clear emphasis on rooftop solutions for cities
  • Cheaper renewables will enable differential pricing for households in remote areas, a key determinant of wider social benefits of electricity

Conclusion

Rural electrification in India has been a long effort, achieving rapid growth from the Third Plan to the Twelfth Plan, but getting affordable power to every household needs sustained policy support.

Environment:

Restrictions near eco zone eased(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The government has eased infrastructure-development restrictions in the Bhagirathi river eco-sensitive zone, a 100-kilometre stretch between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand

Char Dham project

The notification makes way for development projects for the marquee Char Dham project. In 2012, the government had severely restricted development works in an area of 4,179 sq.km. in the vicinity of the stretch to protect the region’s ecology

Relaxations made

But, in an amended notification made public in April, the Environment Ministry made some relaxations: “No change in land use will be permitted except that strictly limited conversion of such lands may be permitted to meet the local needs including civic amenities and other infrastructure development in larger public interest and national security with the prior approval of State government with due study of environmental impacts

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