GS 2

Government policies


Aadhaar not ‘totalitarian’: Centre (The Hindu)


(Argument in the court over Aadhaar) Context

  • Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal on Friday objected to arguments made by petitioners Advocate Shyam Divan that Aadhaar was driving India into a “concentration camp.”

The argument

  • The Supreme Court had pinpointed that constitutionality of the scheme for Aadhaar has to be decided “once and for all” and probably by a nine-judge Bench.
  • Senior advocate Shyam Divan, for the petitioners, argued that Aadhaar was reminiscent of 1984, a work by George Orwell about the totalitarian state where everybody and everything is watched by the ‘Big Brother state.’
  • Sparks flew at the hearing post advocate Diwan’s statement.
  • Being critical of Children getting their thumb prints for enrolling for Aadhaar, Divan called India into becoming a concentration camp.
  • The new notifications even intend to withhold welfare benefits for those without Aadhaar.

Counter argument

  • Mr. Venugopal said Aadhaar had helped over 350 million poor.
  • The tragedy of it is all that money intended for public welfare schemes was swallowed up en route.
  • After Aadhaar, people are getting their money and benefits, Mr. Venugopal submitted.
  • He called Mr. Divan’s remark on the country becoming a concentration camp as hyperbolic and rather unparliamentary.
  • Mr. Venugopal, who had earlier agreed to team up with Mr. Divan to approach the CJI for setting up an appropriate Bench to decide the constitutionality of Aadhaar, threatened to withdraw.

International groupings and agreements


Substance and optics: (The Hindu, Editorial) Context:

  • The recent visit of India’s Prime Minister to Israel made a considerable positive impact on the relationship between both the countries.
  • Behind the success was a receptive political backdrop as well as the careful planning undertaken by both sides.

The relationship – a brief

  • Israel was one of the few countries that showed complete understanding of India’s decision to undertake the nuclear tests in 1998.
  • Today, Israel has emerged as the third-largest defence supplier for India and accounts for over 40% of Israel’s defence exports.
  • Commercial relations between the diamond traders in Gujarat and Israel had existed before 1992, but now annual trade grew to billions.
  • Gradually, Science and technology, agriculture, biotech and space too emerged as new areas of cooperation.
  • India also emerged as the preferred destination for young Israelis wanting to unwind after their compulsory military service.

The planning:

  • Prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel, a number of preparatory visits covering diverse areas of agriculture, water resources and space took place under effective coordination of the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • On the Israeli side, the cabinet approved a 23-page document identifying potential cooperation areas with India.
  • During the last three years, Israel has already set up 15 centres of excellence for introducing improved practices, particularly in horticulture and agro-processing.
  • An Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund has been created with a contribution of $20 million each to promote knowledge-based partnerships.

The chemistry between the two leaders:

  • There is a natural affinity in political style that draws both the leaders of the country together.
  • The two leaders project a strong nationalism, enjoined with faith.

Initiatives:

  • Both India-Israel have agreed to establish a task force to ensure implementation of the announcements made.

Conclusion:

  • The Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Israel will ensure that the relationship stays on track.

India and neighbors


Delhi has ‘ulterior motives’, asserts Beijing: (The Hindu) (Beijing blames Delhi of having hidden motives) Context

  • China said on Friday that “ulterior motives” prompted India to include the tri-junction with Bhutan in the Sikkim stand-off.
  • China stressed that New Delhi’s acceptance of the 1890 Sino-British treaty on the boundaries in the region should not variate with the passage of time.

The issue of Tri – Junction point

  • The so-called tri-junction point as the name implies is a point instead of a line or an area, claims Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
  • Mr.
  • Geng said that the road being built in China had nothing to do with the Special Representatives on the boundary in 2012 over the tri-junction.

  • Mr. Geng referred to the agreement between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim in 1890 stating that the Sikkim section of the boundary commences from the east of Mount Gipmochi.
  • Accorifing to Mr Genng, the illegal trespass by the Indian troops took place at the Sikkim section of the India-China boundary, 2,000 metres away from the Mount Gipmochi.
  • China affirmed that the issue had “nothing to do with the tri-junction point” and China had not breached the 2012 agreement.
  • When asked to provide exact coordinates of the tri-junction, Greg said he had no information on it.
  • Mr. Geng also sought to justify China’s road building, saying that it was not part of the Doklam area.
  • Mr. Geng also questioned India’s stand that Doklam being part of the strategic tri-junction also known as the Chicken’s Neck.

GS 3 Indian Economy.

  • Planning, Growth and Employment


    Redraw the lines for better planning: (The Hindu, Editorial) Read the thorough analysis below Smart city initiative necessitates a perfectly sculpted Governance structure Electric horses: (The Hindu, Editorial) Context:

    • The automobile industry is taking a serious look at moving away from fossil fuels and commercialise vehicles by electricity.

    Merit:

    • The e-vehicles (EVs) are quite affordable.
    • The e-vehicles can cover a wide range on a single battery charge than the conventional motors.
    • Making electric two-wheelers and public transport buses attractive through tax incentives is certainly feasible because these can be charged more easily and can be used for short trips within cities.

    Key highlights:

    • As the single biggest component in making electromobility mainstream, attention is focussed on battery technology.
    • And the much talk of the town is the entry of Tesla.
    • Tesla is set up with a goal to mass-market electric cars that are efficient on range, and offer a minimum of 340 km on one charge, while also scoring high on design.
    • According to the assessment of Tesla, less material is being used to produce higher energy density, and at lower cost.

    Prospects:

    • Many major automobile manufacturers have announced plans for electrics to cater to both ends of the spectrum.
    • That is marques aiming at several affordable models with a moderate range per charge, and luxury cars that run longer and appeal to keen buyers.
    • India is planning to give electromobility a boost through its policy on EVs to be declared by December.

    Challenges:

    • The wider challenge today is to find the natural resources such as lithium, cobalt and nickel to make millions of batteries and recycle them later.

    Conclusion:

    • Definitely an advanced initiative and proper execution of which will strengthen the foundation pillars of the developing country.

    Centre eases pre-merger filing norms: (The Hindu) Context:

    • In order to boost mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the center removes 30-day notice rule.

    Introduction:

    • According to a notification on June 29 by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the government, in public interest has done away with the thirty-day time period to submit an application for pre-merger clearance before the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
    • This new provision (exemption from the 30-day time period) will be valid for five years starting June 29, 2017.

    Merits:

    • Now, the parties can make a CCI application at any time in course of an acquisition.
    • The new notification provides the parties with liberty and flexibility to decide at what stage they want to make the CCI filing, depending on the deal parameters and commercial terms.
    • This initiative will be beneficiary for multi-jurisdiction transactions where parties may be burdened with regulatory requirements in several jurisdictions and, for which, they need more time to assess the Indian law implications and prepare a comprehensive CCI application.

    ‘India still edgy about in-flight Wi-Fi’: (The Hindu) Context

    • The Civil Aviataion Secrtary R.N. Chaobey called for making a delicate balance between security and growth of the aviation industry.
    • During a seminar organised by National Security Guards on “International Aviation Security”, he referred that India was the only country other than North Korea to not allow WiFi facility in the Aircraft because Security Agencies are not convinced about allowing in-flight Wi-Fi services. Even international airlines flying over India have to switch off Wi-Fi when they travel over India.

    Reason for ban on Wi-FI in Aircraft

    • Ban on WiFi in aircraft is due to non clearance from Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • The government’s stand on the issue is still yet unclear. However, domestic carriers like Jet Airways that had announced the roll-out of in-flight Wi-Fi services back in February, 2016.
    • Indian laws in this regard are so stringent that even international flights are not allowed to turn on WiFi when they fly over the Indian airspace.
    • According to the Wall Street Journal Report, the aviation technology specialists insist that mid-air Wi-Fi is an internationally tried-and-tested process and dismiss all security concerns as “spurious”, but the Indian government continues to be haunted by the Kandahar hijack incident from 15 years ago.

    UDAN Scheme

    • The recently announced regional connectivity scheme UDAN “UDAN Scheme” may incur losses and one of the significant cause is security.
    • UDAN is Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) under this scheme the Union Civil Aviation Ministry already has awarded 128 routes connecting 70 airports to 5 airlines.
    • In the flights operated under scheme, around 50% of the seats will have a fare cap Rs 2,500 per seat/hour.
    • Apart from various incentives, the operators of such flights will be extended viability gap funding (VGF) for which money is partly raised through a levy imposed on flights operating in major routes.

    Conclusion:

    • At present 15 out of 115 airport operated by Airport Authority of India are making profit and therefore innovative solution needed to find a balance between growth and security. One solution could be template of an aircraft centric security rather than the entire airport.

    SEBI to move against non-compliant firms: (The Hindu) Context

    • SEBI to initiate action against non -compliant companies which are exclusively listed on Dissemination Board

    SEBI’s norms

    • These companies were earlier listed on non-operational/ regional stock exchanges (RSEs) and were required to be placed on DB. The ELCs were required to comply with the directions issued by SEBI vide circular dated October 10, 2016.
    • Such companies were allowed to be part of the national exchanges through a dissemination board but were directed to submit a plan of action for listing or providing an exit option to shareholders.
    • Further, SEBI can bar such promoters and companies from accessing the securities market for a period of 10 years apart from freezing the shares held by promoters and directors
    • As per regulator Sebi’s norms, firms listed exclusively on exiting or de-recognized Regional Stock Exchanges (RSEs) are required to seek listing on at least any other RSE that is not seeking de-recognition and exit.
    • However, those companies which fail to list on any other RSE are treated as unlisted entity and have to be moved to dissemination board.

    What is Dissemination board?

    • Dissemination list or DB is an information disseminating mechanism made available on the bourse’s (stock market) website for buyers and sellers of companies that are listed exclusively on exiting or de-recognized Regional Stock Exchanges (RSEs) and have failed to obtain listing on any RSE

    Way Ahead

    • The deadline to submit the plan of action was extended until June 30. As per SEBI, of the 2,000 companies listed on dissemination board as on June 30, there are 536 entities that are traceable and yet not submitted a plan of action.
    • SEBI has extended the time to submit plan of action by such ELCs till September 30, 2017

    Prelims Related News


    Nilgiris pale tiger an ‘aberrant genetic mutation’ Context

    • A (White) pale tiger was recently spotted in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, although experts believe it’s just an instance of an aberrant genetic mutation.

    Genetic Mutation

    • Although no such animal has been recorded in south India so far and the pale tiger of the Nilgiris has managed to won global attention
    • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, where the pale tiger was photographed, also includes the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole-Waya- nad complex, which is home to the world’s largest wild tiger population.
    • Random genetic mutations are a common occurrence in large populations and experts believe that this could just be a random genetic mutation.
    • The paler-looking tigers may occur rarely due to reduced levels of the pigment melanin in a phenomenon called leucism
    • Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales

    The ‘white’ gene

    • A team of genetic scientists led by Dr Shu-Jin Luo from Peking University in Beijing, using whole-genome sequences of white and normally-colored Bengal tigers, has revealed that a mutation in a single pigment gene, called SLC45A2, is responsible for the unusual coloration of white tigers.
    • The white tiger or bleached tiger is a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger, which is reported in the wild from time to time in the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar in the Sunderbans region and especially in the former State of Rewa
    • The gene variant found in the white tiger primarily inhibits the synthesis of red and yellow pigments but has little to no effect on black, which explains why white tigers still show characteristic dark stripes

    Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

    • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is an International Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills ranges of South India.
    • The Nilgiri Sub-Cluster is a part of the Western Ghats, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012. It includes the Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, and Bandipur national parks, as well as the Wayanad and Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuaries.
    • The reserve encompasses 5,520 km² in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It forms an almost complete ring around the Nilgiri Plateau.
    • Fauna includes over 100 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, 80 species of reptiles, about 39 species of fish, 31 amphibians and 316 species of butterflies.
    • It has largest population of two endangered species- lion-tailed macaque and nilgiri tahr
    • Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is India’s first and foremost biosphere reserves with a heritage, rich in flora and fauna.

    Conclusion

    • This genetic mutation is already known to cause light coloration in horses, chicken and fish and has been proved that mutations are natural.
    • However, most white tigers may be at a disadvantage in the wild due to lack of camouflage.
    • All white tigers in captivity across the world trace their origins to one of the last white tigers in the wild, a male named Mohan with blue eyes and pink nose and paw-pads, which was captured from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh in 1951.

    Central labs moot ‘human first’ approach to test malaria vaccine (Ethics meet to conduct human challenge trials in India) Context

    • First-of-its-kind, experts at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and labs affiliated to the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), will have a “ethics meeting” to discuss the feasibility of conducting so-called ‘human challenge’ trials in India this November.

    The Vaccine candidates

    • The meeting will also indulge discussion on two vaccine-candidates.
    • One of them causes falciparum malaria.
    • The other one is the milder but more prevalent vivax.
    • Both were developed at the New Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

    Why it has been a waste of Money?

    • Because vaccines involve injecting the body with a mild strain of a parasite, the traditional approach for drugs and vaccines has been to test it in animals and only then, if safe and effective, check them in humans.
    • This approach however has meant that several promising candidates, after tons of investment, fail to live up to expectations and consequently wasted money.
    • Moreover, there are situations where the dosage requirements in people or, the manner in which disease manifests is different from that in animal models
    • However, not all strains are responsive to a human-first, or Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM) approach.
    • The strain of parasite, for instance, must only induce as much infection as can be treated by available medicines.
    • Only healthy, human volunteers completely aware of the risks and have given informed consent ought to be recruited for trials.

    Immune response

    • It has to be a strain that induces an immune response that you are capable of controlling infection.
    • If somebody starts getting sick one should be able to abort the infection.
    • Challenge trials were being conducted for testing typhoid vaccines at Oxford University, in the United Kingdom as well in other studies in the Netherlands and Africa.
    • Though plans to employ such an approach were discussed three years ago, it didn’t materialize.

    ‘The CHIM’

    • Developing and utilizing controlled human models of infection.
    • The controlled human infection model (CHIM) helps to assess the efficacy of vaccines against Shigella and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) that has several unique features that could significantly enhance the ability to test candidate vaccines.
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