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GS 1

Remove Jinnah’s portrait

Context

The controversy over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh is partly contrived and partly genuine

Author’s take

He sacrificed Indian Muslims’ interests on the basis of a spurious theory that suited his ambitions

Jinnah distorted the Muslim league’s objective

Muslim league wanted that there shouldn’t be a division of the provinces in such a way where Muslims are in minority however Jinnah himself demanded creation of Pakistan thus leaving Hindus on the Indian side in minority

  • By separating the Muslim majority provinces from the rest of India, he left the Muslims of India far more vulnerable than would have been the case had India remained united

Conclusion

It is an insult to Indian Muslims that the portrait of a person who sacrificed their interests on the basis of a spurious theory that suited his ambitions should be displayed at a university that prides itself as Indian Muslims’ premier educational institution

GS 2

SC slams Centre for showing “sheer contempt of court” by not framing Cauvery scheme

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rapped the Central government for showing “sheer contempt of court” by not framing a Cauvery draft scheme but adjourned the case to May 14, after the Karnataka Assembly elections on May 12 and before the counting of votes on May 15

What now?

The Bench ordered the Union Water Resources Secretary to personally come to the court with the draft scheme on May 14.

Trump announces U.S. withdrawal from ‘defective’ Iran deal

Context

US pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal finally

What has happened?

The United States has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday, upending a key foreign policy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama.

US view

  • JCPOA failed to deal with the threat of Iran’s missile program and did not include a strong enough mechanism for inspections and verification
  • The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable

Imposing sanctions again

  • The President has directed his administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions against Iran that were lifted by the JCPOA
  • The re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors 

But US already was violating the deal?

  • According to some views the US has already been in violation of the agreement, which point out the Trump administration’s active role in stopping commercial agreements Iran sought with western companies.
  • The Trump administration has been pressing European countries to stay away from commercial deals with Iran already. Boeing, one American entity that was allowed to do business with Iran by the Obama administration has not proceeded with the opportunity.

Possible Consequences

  • This could strain US’s relations with key allies France, Germany and the United Kingdom, aggravate tensions with Russia and China, and add to instability in West Asia
  • Most probably Iran will restart its nuclear programme now

HC allows online nominations for polls 

Context

‘Historic’ order comes following violence during filing of nominations for rural elections in Bengal 

What has happened?

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nomination of all candidates who submitted their papers electronically for the West Bengal panchayat polls on the last date of nomination on April 23.

Putting an end to violence during nomintaions

  • The nomination papers filled by candidates in the pre-determined format sent to the Panchayat Returning Officers not in person but electronically on or before 3 p.m. on April 23 have to be accepted by the SEC
  • It may put an end to the violence during the nomination phase as the candidates may file their nominations without visiting the office of the Returning Officer

How MPs spend their funds: there’s good and bad news 

Question raised

What do our MPs do with the funds they have been given to spend on their constituencies? 

MPLAD funds

Every year, MPs are allotted Rs. 5 crore under the MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) Scheme, primarily to take up development projects in their respective constituencies. The fund has been increased over time, starting from Rs. 5 lakh in 1993-94 to Rs. 5 crore at present.

How does the MPLADS work? 

Three major stakeholders in the process: the MP, district authority and the Government of India.

MPs recommend:

  • MPs recommend works to be undertaken under the MPLADS, based on locally felt needs; with preference to certain sectors, including drinking water facility, education, health, sanitation, irrigation, roads etc.

District Authority sanctions and implements:

  • Following the recommendation, the district authority is responsible for sanctioning the eligible works, and implementation of the sanctioned ones.
  • As per official guidelines, the district authority shall make the selection of an implementing agency for execution of the recommended works by an MP. 

The Government:

The Government of India releases the annual entitlement of Rs. 5 crore in two equal instalments of Rs 2.5 crore each, directly to the district authority. 

Recent data by: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI)

  • Only 5.4% of the total fund has been utilized for the Financial Year 2014-15
  • The data shows that not a single rupee was spent in 278 constituencies (51 per cent) in 2014-15
  • Of these, 223 MPs did not recommend any amount
  • Considering that MPs have a recommendatory role in the scheme, it is surprising to see that 41 per cent of them haven’t even recommended any amount for their constituency.
  • In the remaining 55 constituencies, the MP recommended works but no money was spent by the district authority
  • In all, the average amount of recommendations made was worth Rs. 2.16 crore, while the average expenditure incurred was mere Rs. 57 lakh. 

Reasons for low usage of funds

Funds for a particular year can be carried forward for utilization in subsequent years. Some development projects might cost more than the allocated amount of Rs. 5 Crore, which might be one reason for low utilization of MPLADS funds for the first year in some constituencies

Performance of States: TN and WB best performers

  • MPs of Kerala have the best numbers on the recommendation front, with projects worth Rs. 7.3 crore recommended on average
  • However, the actual amount spent in these Kerala MPs’ constituencies is just Rs. 47 lakh, which is below the national average.
  • Overall, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are the best performing States
  • Both have average recommendations worth Rs. 3.5 crore, and are the only two big States having spent more than Rs. 1 crore per constituency on projects
  • On the other hand, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and Assam, on average, don’t even cross the Rs. 1 crore-mark for project recommendations, let aside the execution. 

Conclusion

It is too early to judge the performance of an MP by utilization of the fund. A comparison would make sense as the 16th Lok Sabha ends, for in the past, MPLADS fund has been used well. From its inception in 1993 till 2009, over 98% of the total entitled fund had been put into use while from 2009-13, 88% fund was utilised.

UN report for social inclusion

What has happened?

The UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2018, the annual report from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific was launched here on Tuesday and urged countries to take advantage of high growth rate and share the benefits with the national society

The Report

  • The report was launched at the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER) by Rupa Chanda, head of ESCAP’s South and Southwest Asia Office, and Jaimini Bhagwati, RBI Chair, Professor, ICRIER.
  • The report described South and Southwest Asia as the fastest growing sub region of the Asia-Pacific region and urged the countries to increase social spending.

Kim talks denuclearisation with Xi in second China visit

Context

North Korean leader calls for an end to hostile policies towards Pyongyang

What has happened?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited China this week and met President Xi Jinping, the state media of both countries said on Tuesday, their second encounter in two months amid warming ties between the Cold War allies

China wants to exert its role

China has been keen to show it has an indispensable role to play in seeking a lasting solution to tension over North Korea, concerned that its interests may be ignored, especially as North Korea and the United States establish contacts.

Synchronised measures

  • North Korean leader hoped relevant parties would take “phased” and “synchronized” measures to realize denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula
  • So long as relevant parties eliminate hostile policies and security threats toward North Korea, North Korea has no need for nuclear (capacity), and denuclearization can be realized

Seoul in the loop

South Korea’s presidential office said the Chinese government notified Seoul about the Xi-Kim meeting in advance

GS 3

Commission approves modern animal-free testing for drugs

Context

New guidelines for pharma makers will come into effect from July 1 

What has happened?

In a step that would spare animals from suffering due to drug experiments, the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission has approved modern, animal-free tests for drug manufacturers 

Replacing Animal tests with test tubes

In the 2018 edition of Indian Pharmacopoeia, that provides guidelines on tests for drugs manufactured and marketed in India, the IPC has replaced the pyrogen test carried out on rabbits and the abnormal toxicity test carried out on guinea pigs and mice with tests that can be done in test tubes. 

Current tests

  • The pyrogen test is carried out to check impurity or substance that can cause adverse side-effects. For the test, the drug is injected into a rabbit and the animal is closely observed for feverish symptoms.
  • The abnormal toxicity test is carried out to check potential hazardous biological contamination in vaccine formulations.
  • This batch test is done before the product is approved for marketing. In this, mice or guinea pigs are injected with the vaccine. The scientists observe if there is death of any animal.

New mandate

  • With the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission’s new mandate, the pyrogen test will be replaced by a bacterial endotoxin test or a monocyte activation test which can be carried out in test tubes

Can apply for a waiver

Vaccine manufacturers can apply for waiver for the abnormal toxicity test by getting a compliance certificate from the National Control Laboratory instead.

PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has been pushing for doing away with the cruel methods of testing on animals for the past several years.

TRAI seeks to amend interconnect norms

Context

Invites comments on draft by May 18

What has happened?

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday issued a draft document that proposes to amend certain norms of the interconnection regulations that were released in January this year.

‘Widening time frame’

  • The ‘Draft Telecommunication Interconnection (Amendment) Regulations 2018’, among other things, proposes that the time frame for provisioning of ports for initial interconnection and augmentation be increased to a maximum of 42 working days.
  • The regulator has also proposed that each service provider shall provide its forecast of busy hour outgoing traffic for each POI (point of interconnection), at intervals of every six months to the interconnecting service provider.
  • The first such forecast has to be given within two months from the commencement of these amended regulations
  • Additionally, a service provider can ask another operator for additional ports, if the projected utilization of the capacity is likely to exceed 85% over a 60-day period.

Sought views

The regulator has sought views and comments from the industry by May 18 on the draft.

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