9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 24th, 2018


Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


GS: 2


SC notice to govt. on petition to outlaw Section 377

SC notice to govt. on petition to outlaw Section 377

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has recently asked the government to respond to a plea to strike down the colonial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality.

Background:

  • December 2013: Supreme Court dismissed the LGBT community as a negligible part of the population while virtually denying them the right of choice and sexual orientation.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed the following points:

  • ‘Right to choice of sexual orientation’ needs to be declared as part of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution;
  • A section of people cannot live in fear of a law which atrophies their right to choice and natural sexual inclinations;
  • Societal morality changes with time and the law should change pace with life, adding that the concept of consensual sex may require more protection; and
  • Individual autonomy and individual natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as reasonable.
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Finance Ministers to discuss wider range of issues

Finance Ministers to discuss wider range of issues

Context:

  • Andhra Pradesh will be soon hosting a second round of Finance Ministers’ conclave on May, 7th in Vijayawada.

Salient features of the second edition of the Finance Ministers conclave:

  • The horizons of the second edition of the Finance Ministers conclave are being widened to pave way for the participation of other States such as Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab and Delhi.
  • Tamil Nadu and Telangana, which skipped the first meeting at Thiruvananthapuram, are also expected to take part in the meeting.
  • The meeting will also decide the course of action such as submitting a representation to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley or President Ramnath Kovind.
  • The meeting is aimed at discussing the adverse terms of reference in the 15th Finance Commission.

Consequences of implementing terms of reference (ToR) in the 15th Finance Commission :

  • Every State would be at the receiving end if the ToR were to be considered.
  • The ToR is considered as a deliberate attempt to forcibly impose conditions on and cut down tax devolutions.
  • It was expected that States would lose about Rs 80,000 crore per annum.
  • Tamil Nadu would be the worst affected by the ToR’s recommendation to use the 2011 census.

Way ahead:

  • The Centre has plans to do away with the revenue deficit grant, a constitutional right of the States.
  • Mere appeals to the States to reduce the tax would not suffice, the Centre should also bring down duties on petroleum products.
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Cooperation can resolve Mahanadi dispute’

Cooperation can resolve Mahanadi dispute’

Context:

  • The Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) and Mahanadi River Waterkeeper has recently organised the 2nd Odisha River Conference.

2nd Odisha River Conference:

  • Around 150 people from basin communities such as farmers and fisherfolks participated in the programme along with civil society representatives, river and water experts and academicians from across the country.
  • An  Inter-State Cooperation Framework for the resolution of the Mahanadi river water dispute was constituted.

Issues revolving around the Mahanadi water dispute:

  • Competitive politics over the Mahanadi water sharing;
  • Both the States are treating the Mahanadi as a commodity and not a natural resource;
  • Odisha-centric or Chhattisgarh-centric approach to solving the issue.

The guiding principles to solve the water disputes are as follows:

  • Formulation of a comprehensive understanding;
  • availability of water in the basin; and
  • People’s rights on the river.

Mahanadi:

  • Mahanadi is the sixth largest river in India.
  • It originates from Chhattisgarh and enters the Bay of Bengal travelling 851 km, of which 357 km lies in Chhattisgarh and 494 km in Odisha.
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RS Chairman rejects motion against Chief Justice Misra

RS Chairman rejects motion against Chief Justice Misra

Context:

  • The notice given by the opposition for the removal of the CJI has received mixed reactions across the political spectrum.

RS Chairman rejects the motion:

  • According to Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu , the petition was based on suspicion, conjectures and assumptions, and doesn’t constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.
    • As for the CJI’s “misbehaviour”, the chairman noted that the Opposition was “unsure” of its own case.
    • As for the charge of the CJI “arbitrarily assigning politically sensitive cases to select judges,” he quoted a five-judge Bench order of the SC that reiterates the CJI as being ‘master of the roster.’
    • The chairman also said that the petition does not constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt, which is required in a case of ‘proved misbehaviour’ under Article 124 of the Constitution.
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‘India, China are guardians of multipolar world’

‘India, China are guardians of multipolar world’

Context:

  • Ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organistaion (SCO), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met their foreign counterparts in Beijing.

Announcement of a two-day summit:

  • A two-day summit between between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be held in Wuhan from April 27, 2018.
  • The two leaders in their meeting in Wuhan will take of long view of their ties, and tailor China-India relations to impact the evolving international situation.
  • The two leaders will also discuss the latest trends of the world so that there is a stable global development.
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The Asian ripple effect

The Asian ripple effect

Context:

  • Asia’s three main powers, India, Japan and China are adapting to the possibility of a post-U.S. world order whereby U.S is largely growing protectionism within the brackets of ‘America First’.

Mutual engagements among India, Japan and China:

  • India’s reset of ties with China needs to be viewed as part of a larger Asian reset with Beijing and Japan.
  • China and Japan has begun a conversation on two potentially divisive themes: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • It is likely that when Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang goes to Japan next month, there could be further discussion on:
    • President Xi Jinping’s blueprint of industrialising Eurasia through the BRI, and
    • Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy covering an engagement with the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, and with Asia and Africa.
  • The cycle of China-Japan re-engagement is likely to conclude with Mr. Xi’s visit to Japan, possibly for the Osaka G20 summit next year.

Way ahead:

  • Even though China has economic capabilities, it is not in pole position to command a new Asian hierarchy.
  • China would need solid partnerships with regional countries such as Japan, South Korea and India, as well as a free trade deal such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, to achieve further success.
  • India is also well positioned to forge a new geo-economic relationship with China, which could be coordinated with Tokyo’s growing engagement with Beijing, to establish an extensively collaborative but multipolar Asia.
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GS: 3


For a digital library of life

For a digital library of life

Context:

Similar to Human Genome Project, scientists have proposed Earth BioGenome Project, a massive project to sequence, catalogue and analyze the genomes of all eukaryotic species on the planet

About Human Genome Project:

  • The Human Genome Project was an international research effort to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the genes that it contain
  • The project operated from 1990 to 2003

Significance of the Project:

  • It gave scientists a way to link networks of genes with disease and well-being
  • The project had major impact in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, and the life sciences.

About Earth BioGenome Project:

  • The Project has been envisaged in the paper titled “Earth BioGenome Project: Sequencing life for the future of life” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • It proposes a detailed genome-sequence draft of all eukaryote species
  • The project has a 10-year road map and hopes to sequence about 1.5 million eukaryote species in three phases.

Prerequisites for the project:

  • Innovative computations
  • Storage solutions
  • Global collaboration

Way Ahead:

  • The BioGenome Project has the potential to transform our understanding life on Earth.
  • It can pave the way for new innovations in medicine, agriculture, conservation, technology and genomics.
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AFSPA lifted in Meghalaya

AFSPA lifted in Meghalaya

Context:

AFSPA has been revoked from Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh owing to improvement in security situation.

What has happened?

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been revoked from Meghalaya since 1st April
  • In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA has been reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations

What is AFSPA?

  • AFSPA came into force due to rising insurgencies in the north-eastern states
  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act was introduced in 1958
  • It gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

Gives armed forces the power to:

  • kill anyone acting in contravention of law,
  • Arrest and search any premises without a warrant
  • Provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction.

What is a ‘disturbed area’?

  • It is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
  • An area can be disturbed due to disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

Who can declare a ‘disturbed area’?

Central Government or the Governor of the state or administrator of UT

Which states are/had been under AFSPA?

  • Effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal)
  • In Arunachal Pradesh it was in force in 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam
  • In Meghalaya,it was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border
  • Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015
  • Jammu and Kashmir has a similar Act

Changes in Protected Area Permit (PAP):

  • Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the Inner line and the International Border of some States were declared as protected areas.
  • PAP for foreigners visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland has been relaxed
  • The PAP will be valid for five years with effect from 1st April
  • However, residents from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China will not be allowed to visit these areas.
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PM to launch Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan from M.P. today

PM to launch Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan from M.P. today(The Hindu)

Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh on the National Panchayati Raj Day

What is Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan?

  • Campaign that is being organised on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti during the period 14th April to 05th May, 2018.
  • Undertaken under the name of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Gaon, Sabka Vikas”.

What are the objectives of the campaign?

  • To promote social harmony
  • Spread awareness about pro-poor initiatives of government
  • Reach out to poor households to enrol them in various welfare programmes
  • To obtain their feedback on different welfare programmes
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India highest recipient of remittances

India highest recipient of remittances

Context:

According to World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, India has retained the top position as a recipient of remittances.

Highlights of the Report:

Remittances inflows:

  • Global remittances which includes flows to high income countries grew 7 per cent to USD 613 billion in 2017 from USD 573 billion in 2016
  • India ranked first as the recipient of remittances ($69 billion in 2017)
  • India’s remittance inflows increased 9.9% in 2017 after a steep decline in 2016
  • India is followed by China, Philippines, Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt
  • Remittances to South Asia grew a moderate 5.8 percent to $117 billion in 2017.
  • Flows to Bangladesh and Pakistan remained largely flat in 2017
  • Small decline in remittances flowing to Sri Lanka

What factors contributed to increase in India’s remittance inflows?

  • Economic growth in Europe, Russia and US
  • Increase in oil prices

Average cost of Sending:

  • The global average cost of sending $200 was 7.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018.
  • Highest average cost: 9.4 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Lowest average cost: 5.2 percent in South Asia.
  • The average cost is higher than the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3 percent in all regions

Barriers to Reducing cost:

  • Derisking by Banks
  • Exclusive partnership between national post officers systems and money transfer operators
  • These hinder the introduction of technologies, such as mobile apps and the use of crypto currency and Blockchain in remittance services

Predictions for 2018:

Global remittances are expected to grow 4.6% to $642 billion in 2018.

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The risks in fracking

The risks in fracking

Context:

Prospects and risks associated with the process of fracking for extraction of shale gas.

What is shale gas and oil?

  • Unconventional natural resources
  • Found at 2,500-5,000 m below the earth’s surface within a special form of sedimentary rock termed shale rock.

What is fracking or hydraulic fracturing?

  • Process used for extracting shale gas and oil
  • High volumes of water mixed with certain chemicals are pushed down to break the rocks release the trapped energy minerals.

India Scenario:

  • In 2013, GoI approved the policy guidelines for the exploration and exploitation of shale gas and oil
  • It permitted national oil companies to engage in fracking.

India has identified six basins as areas for shale gas exploration:

  • Cambay (Gujarat),
  • Assam-Arakan (North East),
  • Gondwana (Central India),
  • Krishna Godavari onshore (East Coast),
  • Cauvery onshore, and
  • Indo-Gangetic basins

What are the benefits of commercial exploitation of Shale Deposits for India?

  • Meet energy demands
  • Decrease oil and gas imports
  • Improve balance of payments

What are the concerns associated?

Commercial exploitation of shale deposits by fracking have social and environmental concerns associated

  • Water pollution: As chemically-treated water is used to bring out the gas, fracking will lead to surface and groundwater pollution
  • Increased air emissions
  • Increased seismic activity
  • Conflict: High water requirements for fracking may clearly put shale gas explorers in conflict with the local population.

What are the legal hurdles involved?

  • Right to clean and healthy environment is a fundamental right under right to life
  • Further, the state has the duty to protect its natural resources from harm
  • If the risks of fracking to groundwater materialises, the judiciary can hold state responsible for it and order for preventive and corrective measures
  • The government is also obliged to adopt measures in accordance to the ‘precautionary principle’
  • The principle states that where there is a significant risk to the environment or human health, precautionary measures must be undertaken, irrespective of any scientific uncertainty
  • Further, the Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016 has set certain priority uses of groundwater- right to water for life, water for food security, supporting sustenance agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and eco-system needs
  • Only after meeting these needs groundwater can be used for other purposes

Way Ahead:

  • Countries like Germany and France; sub national governments like Scotland have banned fracking
  • Keeping in mind the risks involved, the government should impose a prohibition on fracking
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Threefold solution for sugar payments crisis

Threefold solution for sugar payments crisis

Context:

A Group of Ministers has suggested a three-fold solution to the sugar payment crisis

Background of the Crisis:

  • Following higher sugarcane production and crash in prices dues to sugarcane farmers from mills have piled up
  • Payment to sugarcane farmers is considered ‘due’ when it is delayed by more than 14 days after supplying raw cane to a mill
  • As of March 2018, sugar mills had pending dues worth Rs.13, 899 crore
  • According to Indian Sugar Mills Association, the due has presently crossed Rs. 20,000 crore

What suggestions have been put forward?

  • Sugar cess
  • Production subsidy for cane farmers
  • Reduction of the Goods and Services Tax on ethanol from 18% to 5%
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