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GS: 1

Society related issues:

The turning point in 1932(The Hind Opinion)

Context

What separate electorate for Dalits would have done to the Hindu-Muslim equation, and therefore the prospect of Partition?

Conclusion: It might have kept India united

How?

Deep Insecurity among the Muslims

  • The politics of the Muslim elite was driven primarily by a sense of deep insecurity due to the domination of India’s political and economic landscapes by the upper caste Hindu elite
  • Lack of progress in English education
  • The shift of the centre of gravity of Indian politics from the heartland of northern and central India, where much of the Muslim elite were concentrated, to Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and their hinterlands dominated by the new English-educated, predominantly Hindu elite
  • Aggressive forms of Hindu nationalism advocated by the likes of V.D. Savarkar, K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar contributed to it
  • The soft Hindutva of many stalwarts within the Congress, including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Vallabhbhai Patel, added to Muslim concerns, as did Jawaharlal Nehru’s disdain for what he termed the Muslim League’s “communal politics”.

Main goal of the Muslim league: Political parity

Political parity between caste Hindus and Muslims, remained the primary goal of the Muslim League through much of its existence as a political party

Hindu Domination

  • Elections in British India were held under a very restricted franchise based primarily on property, income and educational qualifications
  • Only about 13% of the population had the right to vote.
  • The Dalits lagged far behind caste Hindus in all the three qualifications that determined the right to vote and, therefore, were not only under-represented but also represented by members of those castes that were opposed to according equality to them

Ambedkar’s demand for separate electorate accepted: The communal Award

  • This demand to have separate representation in the central and provincial legislatures in order to protect their interests which ran counter to the interests of the dominant Hindu castes who also hogged most of the seats in the legislatures was accepted by British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald in 1932

Muslim league saw an opportunity

  • As this award had the potential to weaken the caste Hindu leadership’s hold on the entirety of the Hindu population, the league readily accepted the award.

Gandhi’s fast against this decision

  • To everyone’s dismay Mahatma Gandhi, who was seen as a leading advocate for Dalit rights, went on a fast unto death to persuade the British to repeal the award
  • To him, the award was a ploy to divide Hindu society that he found unacceptable

Ambedkar had to give in

  • Initially, Ambedkar refused to bend to Gandhi’s coercive fast
  • However, when it became clear that Gandhi’s life depended on Ambedkar’s decision, Ambedkar was forced to give up his demand in return for reserved seats for Dalits but on the basis of a single Hindu electorate.

Gandhi’s extreme reaction was the final nail in the coffin

It convinced Muslim league that Gandhi and the Congress were bent on not giving Muslims their due share in the future political arrangement in India.

Reasoning:

  • If implemented, the Communal Award, would have led to parity between caste Hindu and Muslim representatives in the legislatures, and the Dalits, who the Muslim elite did not find threatening and who they saw as potential allies against caste Hindus because of the common fear of upper caste domination, would have held the balance
  • This would have precluded the need for demanding Partition and in all probability kept India united.

Failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan

Nehru didn’t accept it whereas Jinnah had accepted the cabinet mission plan 1946 which might have kept India united as a loose federation

So the major reason for division of India: Gandhi’s stance on communal award

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s stance on the Communal Award — even more than Nehru’s refusal to enter into a coalition with the Muslim League in the United Provinces in 1937, which is widely seen as the turning point in Muslim politics in favour of separatism — was responsible for increasing the Muslim leaders’ distrust of the Congress that made Pakistan an attractive option for them
  • One could plausibly argue that Gandhi’s rejection of the Communal Award sent the message to the Muslim leadership that he and the Congress were more interested in promoting a monolithic Hindu bloc than in nurturing Hindu-Muslim unity or providing justice for the Dalits in the form demanded by Ambedkar
  • This increased their sense of insecurity and finally led to the demand for a separate state comprising the Muslim majority provinces of British India

GS: 2

International Relations:

India’s role in ending the Korean war(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

India’s role in ending the Korean conflict of 1950s

What has happened?

Dramatic events that were inconceivable a few months back are now unfolding rapidly in the Korean peninsula. The Korean war of the early 1950s had never formally ended and an uneasy truce has prevailed for well over half a century. What established the truce was the Korean Armistice Agreement, which was signed on July 27, 1953.

Executing the peace campaign

A British historian Robert Barnes, wrote about the often ignored but important role that India played in restoring the peace to the region) accessed different archives and wrote a meticulously researched paper called ‘Between the Blocs: India, the United Nations, and Ending the Korean War’, which was published in The Journal of Korean Studies five years back

India’s active bureacrats

  • India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, B.N. Rau, was very active
  • India’s Ambassador in China, K.M. Panikkar, was the channel through which Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai communicated his views on the Korean conflict to the Americans as well as to the UN, since the People’s Republic of China was not a member of that body then.

Pivot of India’s efforts: V.K. Menon

  • A special envoy of Nehru, hated by both US and Soviet Union at that time
  • But on December 3, 1952, the Indian resolution was adopted at the UN with unanimous non-Soviet support

Stalin’s death

  • Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, was a crucial turning point.
  • Thereafter, signals from the communist camp were that a quick end to the hostilities would not be unwelcome

Proposal by Menon

  • Menon submitted another proposal, which, however, was not acceptable to the Americans who came up with their own version
  • But they agreed to merge their resolution with Menon’s to move things forward
  • This was then to lead to the Armistice Agreement

Follow-up action: Establishment of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC)

One of the follow-up actions to the Armistice Agreement was the establishment of a Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC) which was to decide on the fate of over 20,000 prisoners of war from both sides

India as Chair

  • With Poland and Czechoslovakia representing the Communist bloc and Sweden and Switzerland representing the Western world

Custodian Force by India

  • There was to be a UN Command led by an Englishman and a Custodian Force sent by India. Nehru selected Lt. General K.S. Thimayya as the Chairman of the NNRC and Major General S.S.P. Thorat as the Commander of the Custodian Force India, as it was called. P.N. Haksar, then Menon’s aide in the High Commission in London, was appointed as one of the two political advisers in Thimayya’s team
  • Very soon he became the only one, since the other, I.J. Bahadur Singh, had to be repatriated from Korea quickly on health grounds.

Polarised NNRC

  • Thimayyya became a hero at the end of the NNRC’s tenure in February 1954
  • He was feted both at home and abroad for having executed a most thankless task courageously, although he and Haksar had developed serious differences
  • Haksar felt that Thimayya was far too concerned with American opinion while Thimayya thought Haksar was too solicitous of the communists
  • The Commission’s reports were drafted entirely by Haksar and submitted to the UN General Assembly, one in December 1953 and another in February 1954
  • The Swedes and the Swiss wrote their dissent to certain paragraphs in both reports, showing how intensely polarised the NNRC was

Remaining POWs brought to India

  • At the end of its work, the NNRC was left with over 80 prisoners of war who resisted being handed over and expressed a desire to go to neutral countries
  • On humanitarian considerations, Nehru decided to bring them to India pending a final decision by the UN on where they would go
  • Most left immediately for other countries in Central and South America. But a few stayed back and got loans to start poultry businesses.
  • Only one of them, Kim Hyeong, now survives.
  • His son too lived in India for over 30 years before taking his ailing father back for good to South Korea.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Collegium puts off decision on pressing Joseph’s case(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The five-judge collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Wednesday deferred its decision on the government’s objections to the elevation of Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court.

What now?

It may meet next week to decide on the issue and on the names from other HCs

Decision binding

If the collegium reiterates its recommendation of Justice Joseph, it would be binding on the government.

Cabinet clears constitution of 11th pay panel(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Cabinet cleared the constitution of the 11th Pay Revision Commission on Wednesday. Nearly 4.30 lakh government employees will benefit from its recommendations

Key points

  • The Cabinet decided to form the A.P. Virtual Classroom Corporation to facilitate effective digital learning by students and help in the assessment of knowledge of the students real-time in the government schools.
  • The Cabinet resolved to extend a government guarantee for a loan of Rs. 1,092 crore from the public sector banks towards land acquisition, rail connectivity and other developmental activities related to the Machilipatnam deepwater port.
  • This would pave the way for the establishment of an Integrated Logistics and Manufacturing Zone by the Container Corporation of India.

Solar project

  • The Cabinet approved the establishment of a 160-MW wind solar hybrid power project comprising 40MW wind power and 120 MW solar power along with a 40-MWh energy storage facility by the Solar Energy Corporation of India in Kanaganapalli mandal of Anantapur district.
  • The Cabinet granted permission for Roll-on and Roll-off services between Ibrahimpatnam ferry and Lingayapalem and the Krishna right flood bank in Guntur district to a Vijayawada-based contractor.
  • The Cabinet resolved to make certain amendments to the A.P. Compulsory Registrations of Marriage Act, 2002 (Act 15 of 2002) to enable different sections and classes to avail themselves of benefits through a seamless and integrated system under the Chandranna Pelli Kanuka scheme.

Land allotted

  • Land measuring 51.92 acres was allotted to various organisations including the CBI, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Ministry of External Affairs for Videsh Bhavan and 15 others.
  • The Cabinet decided to send a committee comprising Ministers M. Adinarayana Reddy, Sujaya Krishna Ranga Rao and Nakka Ananda Babu to chart the course of action that the government had to adopt in the wake of the recent judgment by the High Court in the AgriGold case.
  • It was decided to take up procurement of jowar and maize with the Central government for which a panel of Ministers consisting of Prathipati Pulla Rao and Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy was formed.
  • They alleged that the Centre had fixed the MSP for those crops but it was not procurement them.
  • The Cabinet also resolved to write to the Central government to sanction 20.99 lakh houses on the basis of the findings of the Smart Pulse (Praja Sadhikara) Survey.

SC questions passage of Aadhaar Act as Money Bill(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the government’s justification for passing the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill

SC countered govt’s argument on any body corporate

That the sole intent of the Aadhaar Act is to act as a weapon for delivering subsidies to targeted beneficiaries, the Constitution Bench pointed to Section 57 of the Act.

Section 57

Nothing contained in this Act (Aadhaar Act) shall prevent the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or any body corporate or person

Government’s stance

  • The Act might have several “ancillary provisions,” but taken in its entirety the Aadhaar Act comes within the ambit of the definition of Money Bill under Article 110 of the Constitution
  • The Act contemplates the plight of 300 million people in the country living below the poverty line
  • Not a single provision in the Act is unnecessary or unrelated to the main purpose/pith and substance of the Act, which is giving subsidies

Money bill conditions under Article 110

A Bill shall be deemed to be a Money Bill if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters, namely

(a) The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;

(b) The regulation of the borrowing of money or the giving of any guarantee by the Government of India, or the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be undertaken by the Government of India;

(c) The custody of the consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of moneys into or the withdrawal of moneys from any such Fund;

(d) The appropriation of moneys out of the consolidated Fund of India;

(e) The declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure;

(f) The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State; or

(g) Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified in sub clause (a) to (f)

GS: 3

Economy:

Govt. approves sugarcane subsidy of Rs. 5.5 per quintal (The Hindu)

Context

Sugar production has hit record highs this year, crossing domestic consumption prices, and leading to a crash in prices. Industry lobbyist Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) estimates that wholesale sugar prices have fallen by Rs. 9 per kg over the past five months, and the mills are now incurring a loss of Rs. 8 per kg of sugar

What has happened?

The government has approved a subsidy of Rs. 5.5 per quintal of sugarcane crushed in the 2017-18 season to help sugar mills clear more than Rs. 19,000 crore in dues to cane farmers

Why the subsidy?

Sugar production has hit record highs this year, crossing domestic consumption prices, and leading to a crash in prices. Industry lobbyist Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) estimates that wholesale sugar prices have fallen by Rs. 9 per kg over the past five months, and the mills are now incurring a loss of Rs. 8 per kg of sugar. Hence, the subsidy

Protect patents (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The Delhi High Court (HC) judgment revoking Monsanto’s Bollgard-2 patent is fraught with problems

What is Bollgard-2?

Bollgard-2 is an insecticidal technology which uses a gene called Cry2Ab from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

  • When inserted into a cotton plant, the gene confers resistance against cotton pests
  • Monsanto’s 2008 patent on Bollgard-2 protects several aspects of this technology: the modification of Cry2Ab to make it compatible with the cotton genome, the process of introducing this gene at a specific location in the cotton genome, and the protein expressed by the plant containing the gene

Why did Delhi HC reject this patent?

The judge reasoned that

  • Monsanto’s Bt gene was useless to farmers unless inserted into a cotton hybrid, which farmers could then grow to repel pests. This insertion is carried out by seed companies, who cross a Bt gene-containing plant (from Monsanto’s donor seeds) with their proprietary cotton varieties
  • This crossing of plants was a natural and biological process. This argument undermined Monsanto’s patent, because under Section 3(j) of India’s Patents Act, a seed or a plant, or a biological process to create a seed or plant cannot be patented

Impact of the judgment

If argument regarding section 3(j) of Indian Patents Act is correct, few plant biotechnology innovations would be patentable in India. This is a dangerous conclusion because the lack of patent protection would discourage crucial research by the agri-biotech industry

Process of creating a hybrid

There are two key steps in the process of creating a Bt cotton hybrid

  • Step 1: The first is carried out by Monsanto, in which it modifies the Cry2Ab gene into a form which doesn’t occur in nature. Next, Monsanto inserts this modified gene into cotton seeds, again an unnatural process that cannot happen without human intervention. Such seeds, called donor seeds, are then sold to seed companies
  • Step 2: The second step is carried out by seed companies who hybridise cotton plants grown from the donor seeds with their own varieties. This hybridisation, as the High Court said, is a biological process that cannot be patented

Way forward

The important thing for India is to keep incentivising the development of such technologies and to use them properly. Strong patent protection is a crucial part of this process.

Regulating cryptocurrencies (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

RBI & cryptocurrencies

What is the RBI’s stance?

In the most direct action taken so far by regulatory authorities on the issue of cryptocurrencies, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), during its monetary policy announcement on April 6, directed all regulated agencies, including banks, to stop doing any business with “any person or entity dealing with or settling virtual currencies (VC)”.

What does this mean?

The circular says that banks have to stop all services to those dealing in VCs, including maintaining accounts, registering, trading, settling, clearing, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer/receipt of money in accounts relating to the purchase or sale of VCs. In addition, the RBI gave its regulated entities three months from the date of the circular to exit any such relationship they might already be in.

Why did this happen?

This decision did not come out of the blue

  • Repeated warnings: The RBI and the government have repeatedly issued warnings to people dealing in cryptocurrencies, with the Finance Ministry even referring to them as “Ponzi schemes” in which investors stand to lose all their money
  • A destination for black money: The fear among regulators and policymakers is that cryptocurrencies, being an alternative source of value to fiat currency, could be misused to launder black money or finance terrorist activities
  • It has also been reported that the RBI has constituted a committee to look into the merits and demerits of issuing a central bank digital currency, which will have the status of a fiat currency. So, limiting non-state cryptocurrencies could be the first step towards the issuing of a single, fiat virtual currency by the RBI.

What has been the effect so far?

Several cryptocurrency exchanges have said that though harsh, the RBI’s stance does not explicitly say that it is illegal to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, or that running a cryptocurrency exchange in India is illegal

  • Instead, this move only segregates cryptocurrencies from fiat currency. Most exchanges are going ahead with their cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency transactions
  • Some have filed writ petitions challenging the RBI’s order on the grounds that it violates their rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution ie freedom of trade, profession & business

Environment:

Protest against heritage site adoption scheme in Assam (The Hindu)

Context

Members of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other organisations protested against the ’Adopt a Heritage’ scheme

Sites chosen from Assam

The four sites chosen in Assam include

  1. Kaziranga National Park
  2. Rangghar, Asia’s oldest amphitheatre
  3. Kareng Ghar, a palace
  4. Shiva Dol, a temple – all in Sivasagar district built during the 600-year reign of the Ahom dynasty before the British took control of the Northeast in 1826

Adopt a Heritage Scheme: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan

It is a collaboration among the Tourism and Culture Ministers, the Archaeological Survey of India and the State government

  • Aim: It aims to involve public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility for making our heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India
  • They would become ‘Monument Mitras’ through the innovative concept of “Vision Bidding”, where the agency with best vision  for the heritage site will be given an opportunity to associate pride with their CSR activities
  • The project primarily focusses on providing basic amenities that includes cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardized signage, illumination and advanced amenities such as surveillance system, night viewing facilities, tourism facilitation center and an enhanced tourism experience that will result in more tourist footfalls, both domestic and foreign

10,000 endangered tortoises rescued in Madagascar (The Hindu)

Context

International conservationists in Madagascar have been treating more than 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises that were seized from traffickers who had crammed them into a home with no access to food or water

Prelim relevant info

Radiated Tortoise

A critically endangered (CR) tortoise, radiated tortoises sport star patterns on their shells and live in the forests and scrubland of Madagascar

Critically Endangered

This category is one of many as defined by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

  • It is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN for wild species. Critically endangered species means a species numbers have decreased, or will decrease by 80% within three generations. It is therefore considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild

‘Glow-in-the-dark algae may be a sign of global warming’ (The Hindu)

Context

The Noctiluca algae, commonly known as sea tinkle, is a parasite and occurs in patches or ‘blooms’ in the northern Arabian Sea. Their bioluminescence has earned them the name ‘sea sparkle’

What has happened?

American and Indian scientists, after their year-long investigation into the phenomenon of glowing of Mumbai beaches, have concluded that it may be due to global warming and not industrial pollution as thought earlier

Why the presence of Noctiluca algae is worrisome?

These algae compete with fish for food and choke their supply. Noctiluca devours one of the most important planktonic organisms at the base of the fish-food chain, namely diatoms, and also excretes large amounts of ammonia, which is linked with massive fish mortality

How global warming is related to Noctiluca growth?

A warming ocean means greater temperature differences among layers of the sea water.

This slows the upward transport of nutrients like silicate from the ocean bottom, lowering its concentration at the surface. Diatoms growing in surface water need both sunlight and silicate to build their glass skeletons and thus, will fail to thrive when silicate is in short supply. On the other hand, Noctiluca remains unaffected by these changes and prey on the remaining diatoms

Call to action (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

World Health Organization (WHO)’s latest report on pollution

Highlights of the report

  • The report, which summarised 2016 data for 4,300 cities, ranks 14 Indian cities among the 20 most polluted ones globally
  • While Delhi comes in at number six, Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna are ranked ahead of it, by PM 2.5 levels
  • Lax monitoring: Kanpur, Faridabad and several other pollution-choked cities have only one PM 2.5 monitoring station each, while Delhi has several
  • The report puts the global death toll from air pollution at seven million a year, attributable to illnesses such as lung cancer, pneumonia and ischemic heart disease. In 2016 alone, it says, around 4.2 million people died owing to outdoor air pollution, while 3.8 million people succumbed to dirty cooking fuels such as wood and cow dung. About a third of these deaths occurred in Southeast Asian countries, which include India

Words of praise for India

The report had words of praise for India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme, which has provided 37 million women living below the poverty line with LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections. Such schemes will also help cut the indoor air pollution that plagues much of rural India, which is not covered in the WHO analysis

Way forward

The WHO has asked Southeast Asian countries to take swift action to tackle the twin problems of indoor and outdoor pollution. India must realise that its problems are larger than the WHO estimates, and take the call to action seriously

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