- G-4 countries have reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and called for the early reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
- About G-4:
- The group consists of four countries India, Brazil, Germany and Japan.
- These countries support each other’s bid for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
- About UNSC:
- It consists of five permanent members and 10 non permanent members.
- Permanent Members: U.S., China, Russia, France, United Kingdom.
- The permanent members have veto power.
- The G-4 foreign ministers met at the sidelines of 73rd session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
- Outcome of the meeting of G-4 members:
- They stressed on the importance of reforms at the UNSC according to the contemporary needs of 21st
- They called to initiate text-based negotiations to safeguard the legitimacy and credibility of the UNSC.
- The ministers reiterated their support for Africa’s representation in a reformed and expanded Security Council.
- They stressed that substantial progress has not yet been achieved at the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) for the reforms.
- Germany and Japan contribute one fifth of the UN budget while the four countries together have one fifth of the world population.
- S. and China have not been very keen on reforms at the UNSC and hence the reform process is lingering.
- Despite majority of UN member states supporting UNSC reform, the negotiations launched in 2009 have not produced substantive progress over the 10 years.
- The Times Higher Education’s (THE) has released the world university rankings 2019, to reveal the world’s top universities.
- About Times Higher Education’s (THE) Rankings
- Founded in 2004, it provides the definitive list of the world’s best universities, evaluated across teaching, research, international outlook, reputation and more.
- Its data are trusted by governments and universities and are a vital resource for students, helping them choose where to study.
- About Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Rankings 2019
- Global data: Oxford continues to hold the first place, Cambridge second, and Stanford third. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology rose one place to number four.
- India’s data:
a) The number of Indian institutions in the rankings increased from 42 last year to 49, making it the fifth best-represented nation.
b) However no Indian institution figures in top 250 of Times university rankings 2019.
c) Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru,( IISc) has retained its position as the highest-ranked centre in the country ( in the 251-300 band), followed by Indian Institute of Technology-Indore, (IIT-Indore).
d) IIT-Indore overtook the IIT-Bombay, which slipped from the 351-400 band to the 401-500 band.
e) Besides, three new IITs and two Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) have found a place among the top 1,000 universities in the world.
4. Analysis of India’s Performance:
- While some institutions gained this year, the majority of India’s universities remained static or declined, struggling amid increased global competition, according to the global list.
- IIT Indore has been focusing on research by investing in research facilities, providing incentives for publications and patents, and recruiting committed researchers which is needed in other universities to crack into top list.
- Sustained investment, a continued drive to attract leading global talent, and a strengthened international outlook will be key to boosting its global reputation and research influence.
- Supreme Court to allow Live-Streaming of its proceedings.
- Supreme Court has acknowledged the need to expansion of Court proceeding beyond the four walls of the courtroom.
- Judgement is a true realization of the “open court system” in which courts are accessible to all.
- Judgement Outcome:
- The final decision whether to live-stream a case or not lies with the court. The decision cannot be appealed.
- Supreme Court must retain copyright over the broadcasted material.
- Final say in respect of the use of the coverage material.
- Reproduction, re-broadcasting, transmission, publication, re-publication, copying, storage of the original broadcast of court proceedings should be prohibited.
- Impact of Live-Streaming of its proceedings:
- It will Ensure public right to know and bring in more transparency
- Will help citizen to understand the reason in cases affecting their right to dignity and right to life under enshrined under Article 21.
- Restore confidence in the functioning of the judiciary.
- Cases of national importance should be considered for Live-streaming as a pilot project in the Supreme Court such as
- Issues of environment, triple talaq, air pollution, ban on liquor sales near to national highways, ban on firecrackers and extra judicial killings, all of which affect the public.
- Supreme Court says there is no need to collect data on SC/ST in reservation in promotion in government services.
- The Supreme Court said the state does not have to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) for giving them reservation in promotion.
- Timeline of Supreme Court Judgement in reservation in promotions for SC/STs
- Indira Sawhney Judgement 1992 – Court has held that requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to SC/STs to provide reservation.
- In M. Nagraj Verdict in 2006 – SC has asked the Government to produce quantifiable data to prove Backwardness of a SC/ST class to provide reservation in Job promotions.
- In 2018 Judgement – Recently, court has held that there is no need to collect the quantifiable data of backward classes to provide reservation.
- Court also said that, the creamy layer concept of OBC will apply in the matter of promotions for SC/STs.
- Impact of Supreme Court Judgement:
- Boost effort to provide accelerated promotion to SC/ST in Government services.
- Will enable the backward classes of citizen to move forward with other citizen of India on an equal basis.
- SC uphold the passage of Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill.
2. SC says the Bills is a reasonable restriction on individual privacy that fulfils the government’s aim to provide dignity to a large and marginalized population is valid.
3. In its judgement SC has made clear distinction where Aadhaar will be Mandatory and where it is not necessary.
Application where Aadhaar linking is not Necessary:
- To link mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar
- Bank accounts to Aadhaar numbers.
- Schools have been barred from making the submission of the Aadhaar number mandatory.
- Not necessary for children aged between six and 14 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as right to education
- Statutory bodies like CBSE and UGC cannot ask students to produce their Aadhaar cards for examinations like NEET and JEE
Aadhaar Link is Necessary for:
- To plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to have better targeting of welfare benefits
- PAN Card for filing Income tax return.
4. However, there are several arguments made by dissenting voices, arguing that Adhaar Act is unconstitutional and it is against the fundamental right of Privacy and Dignity of Individual.
Dissenting argument against the Aadhaar Act
5. Not a Money Bill
- Law about an identity proof, Aadhaar, cannot be possibly passed as Money Bill.
- A Money Bill must deal with the declaring of any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
- Section 7 of the Act does not declare the expenditure incurred to be a charge on the Consolidated Fund.
- Rajya Sabha’s Authority has been superseded and that this constitutes a fraud on the Constitution.
Supreme Court observation:
- It is Vital to ensure that government aid reached the targeted beneficiaries which may be extended with the support of the Consolidated Fund of India under the scope of Article 110.
6. Breach of Privacy
- It violates the right to Privacy.
- Grand project to harvest personal data for commercial exploitation by private parties and profiling by the state.
Supreme Court observation
- Minimal biometric information could not amount to invasion of privacy.
- Neither individuals profiled nor their movements traced when Aadhaar is used to avail government benefits
- Struck down the provision for disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below a Joint Secretary.
- Aadhaar information on the orders of a District Judge cannot be done now without giving the person concerned an opportunity to be heard.
7. Act will create Surveillance State
- Aadhaar regime would facilitate the birth of a “surveillance state”, thereby allowing the creation of a comprehensive profile of an individual.
Supreme Court observation:
- It is very difficult to create a profile of a person simply on the basis of biometric and demographic information.
8. Issues with Data Administration
- Problem is with the storage of Data by UIDAI. Act violates widely recognized data minimization principles which mandates the deletion of personal data once the purpose is fulfilled.
Supreme Court Observation:
- Adhaar card does not capture the data on Race, Caste, Tribe, Ethnicity, Language etc. and uses only demographic information which is not sensitive.
- Court has ordered authentication records should not be retained for more than six months
- Act Prohibited the creation of a Metadata for transactions
9. Benefits sought by the Supreme Court in its judgement:
- To plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to have better targeting of welfare benefits
- To prevent denial of rights and legal entitlements to marginalized section of society who are dependent on the government schemes and benefits.
- To bring in regulations for an effective mechanism for delivery of public oriented services.
- The Union Cabinet approved the draft new telecom policy, known as National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018.
Need of the new policy
2.Emerging technologies like 5G and Internet of Things warrant the need for consumer-centric and application-centric policy.
3.To restore financial health of the telecom sector as the sector is reeling under a debt of around Rs 7.8 lakh crore.
4.Aims of the new policy
- Universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen
- 1 Gbps connectivity to all gram panchayats
- Attract $100billion investments into the communication sector
- Create 40 lakh new jobs in the next four years
- Expanding the (Internet of Things) IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices
- Create globally recognized (Intellectual Property Rights) IPRs in India
- Create a fund for R&D in new technologies
- Leverage Artificial intelligence and Big Data to enhance quality of services
- Spectrum management and network security
- Establish India as a global hub for cloud computing
- The policy has called for a
- review of levies and fees — including licence fee,
- universal service obligation fund levy and
- spectrum usage charges on the sector
6.The policy proposes to establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications
- Outcome of the Policy
- Help the debt-laden telecom sector to attract low-cost financing
- Ensuring sustainable and affordable access to digital communication
- To increase contribution of the telecom sector to 8% of the GDP from the current 6%.
Telecom sector will be accorded the status of “critical and essential infrastructure and optic fibre cables as a “public utility”.
- The recent Lancet article titled Gender differentials and state variations in suicide deaths in India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2016 highlights the problem of suicide deaths in India.
- Highlights of the Lancet article on suicide deaths in India
- Global comparison:Suicide is already the 9th leading cause of death and India’s contribution to global suicide deaths increased from 25.3% in 1990 to 36.6% in 2016 among women, and from 18.7% to 24.3% among men.
- Adult suicides: Suicide was the leading cause of death in India in 2016 for those aged 15–39 years (71.2% among women) and (57.7% among men) were in this age group.
- Compared to road accidents: There were more than 2 lakh suicide deaths in India in 2016 which is 50% more than the number of people who died in road accidents in the country, in the same year.
- Comparison with past: The suicide rates in 2016 are 40% more from the rates in 1990.
- Comparison amongst states:
a) Five southern states (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala) along with West Bengal and Tripura are the most vulnerable to suicides.
b) The more conservative and economically backward states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have the least number of suicides among women.
- Gender comparison:
a) The suicide rate among Indian women is higher than that among men. This is contrary to the worldwide trend of more men committing suicide than women.
b) The number of suicides by women in India in 2016 was 2.1 times higher than the global average.
3. Reasons for suicides:
- Biological factors: For example depression and mental illness.
- Sociological factors: For example unemployment, domestic violence, gender inequality etc.
- Economic factors: For example crop failure, high debt rates etc.
- A combination of these factors at various levels can also increase the vulnerability to suicides.
4. Challenges to identify suicide tendency:
- Difficult to detect: Unlike other health issues, where the cause of the problem is usually a virus or a microorganism that can be easily diagnosed, suicide tendency cannot be noted easily.
- No medicine therapy:Suicide tendency cannot be eradicated by taking a few medicines daily for a few months, rather it involves various behavioural aspects.
- Socially contagious: Although suicide is an individual act, there are several indications that it is a socially contagious problem. This contagion effect is called the Werther effect.
- For example, studies have reported that even mere newspaper reports on the suicide or sensitive portrayal of the inner angst of an individual who committed suicide in media tended to increase suicide rates.
5. Countering the suicidal tendency:
- Papageno effect: This is an effective strategies to counter the Werther effect. This protective effect involves reminding the person of alternatives to dying.
- Media collaboration: Media can make relevant contribution to suicide prevention by minimising sensationalist reporting, and maximising reporting on how to cope with suicidal tendencies and adverse circumstances.
6. Wake up call for India:
- The policy makers in India should prepare an effective strategy to prevent this public illness.
Though India has always taken pride in the stability of its families but women have always been the lynchpins of the emotional well-being of these families. It should be sorted soon with proper action framework.
- Government issued the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, thereby starting the process of restructuring the Medical Council of India (MCI).
- About Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018
- Repealing MCI: The ordinance supersedes the MCI and the powers of the council have been vested in seven-member Board of Governors led by NITI Aayog Member Dr. V.K. Paul.
- Transfer of powers: With the ordinance coming into force, the powers of MCI will be switched from the elective council body to the BoG whose members will be professionals of great eminence and apolitical.
- Functions: BoG will bring about urgent and much required reforms in the field of medical education and promote access to quality healthcare for all the people of India.
- Tenure: The BoG will continue to perform till a Council is constituted.A similar Board of Governors was also appointed in 2010.
- Reasons for bringing ordinance into effect
- Parliamentary delays: The delay in the passage of National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2017 led government to take immediate steps to pass an ordinance.
- End of term: The term of the elected body of the MCI is about to end shortly, so a need was felt to run its affairs by a committee.
- Supreme Court Observations:
- Amid allegations of corruption against MCI office bearers and probes into opaque accreditation to medical colleges, the Supreme Court had in May 2016 directed the government to set up an oversight committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of MCI till the new legislation comes in.
For further details please refer:
- Global Wetland Outlook Report highlights the alarming rates of disappearance of wetlands from the ecosystem.
- About Global Wetland Outlook Report
- It is the first-ever report released by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
- About Ramsar Convention
- The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty (170 countries) and 90% of UN member states have acceded to become its “Contracting Parties”.
- It provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
- The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
- The convention entered into force in India on 1 February 1982 and India currently has 26 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of more than 6 lakh hectares.
- About Wetlands
- Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year.
- Wetlands include lakes, rivers, marshes and peat-lands as well as coastal and marine areas such as estuaries, lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs.
- These are currently estimated to cover more than 12.1 million sq km.
- Wetlands directly or indirectly provide almost all of the world’s consumption of fresh water.
- Salt marshes, seagrass beds and mangroves also store large quantities of carbon.
- They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydro-power and play an important role in transport and tourism.
- According to an estimate, more than one billion people across the globe depend on them and 40% of the world’s species live and breed on wetlands.
- Highlights of Global Wetland Outlook Report
- Approximately 35% of the world’s wetlands have been lost in 45 years between 1970-2015.
- Average annual rate of loss of wetlands is 0.78% a year, presenting “severe consequences” for future .
- Wetlands loss is three times faster than the average annual rate of natural forest loss between 1990-2015 at 0.24% a year threatening fresh water supplies.
- The report highlights pollution from various sources worsening the water quality with nearly all fresh water sources in the world compromised to some extent.
- More than 80% of waste water is released into wetlands without adequate treatment.
- The fertiliser use in 2018 is likely to be 25% higher than in 2008, leading to excessive wetland plant growth and levels of decomposition resulting in oxygen starvation for flora and fauna alike.
- The draining soil (soil that allows water to percolate through it reasonably quickly and not pool) for farming and development poses a climate threat to the dark swampy peatlands of the tropics.
- Reasons for loss of wetlands
- Mega trends: Climate change, Population increase, Urbanisation (particularly of coastal zones and river deltas).
- Changing consumption patterns: These have fuelled changes to land and water use and to agriculture.
- India’s Case:
- The report underlines Supreme Court’s response to a public interest lawsuit in 2017 wherein it ordered to prepare a national inventory of almost 2,00,000 wetlands.
- India had notified new rules to protect wetlands, decentralising its management by giving states powers to not only identify and notify wetlands within their respective jurisdictions but also keep watch on prohibited activities.
- Way forward:
- The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide.
- Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved.
- Effective wetland management should be included as part of overall national sustainable development plans.
- Urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation, and secure both the future of wetlands and our own at the same time.
- Restoring peatlands should be seen as an effective measure to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to live up to commitments made under the Paris Climate Accords.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has overruled the Union Environment Ministry notifications relating to mining of minor minerals citing conflict with sustainable sand mining guidelines.
- Environment Ministry 2016 amendment to minor mineral mining.
- The Ministry had amended the 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification and put mining of minor minerals in an area up to 25 ha in B-2 category which exempted public hearings and EIA. The notification bypassed any detailed environmental study and only asked for basic project information.
- About EIA: It is an assessment of the likely human environmental health impact, risk to ecological health, and changes to nature’s services that a project may have.
- Within the B2 category mines, up to 5 ha areas were exempted from devising an environmental management plan which allowed miners to break large mines into patches of less than 5 ha to avoid any environmental scrutiny.
- A district environment impact assessment authority was granted powers for environmental clearance for mines spread over an area up to 25 ha.
- Petition was filed in NGT contending that the district level assessment authority has no scientific expertise in assessing environmental impacts.
- NGT Ruling:
- It noted that the ministry’s notifications were in conflict with the 2016 sustainable sand mining guidelines, which stated that EIA should address the environmental impacts of minor mineral mining.
- It found the provisions more mine-centric rather than striving a balance between mining and environment.
- The bench ordered the ministry to incorporate a procedure to calculate the annual rate and timeframe for replenishment after mining is stopped in an area.
- It also called to frame guidelines for calculation of the cost of restoration of damage caused to mined out areas.
- It directed public hearings and EIA for minor mineral mines with 5 to 25 ha area and added that state environment impact assessment authority would evaluate smaller mines of up to 5 ha instead of district level body.
- NGT said the exemption for minor minerals violated a 2012 Supreme Court order, which held that all mining leases depending on their size would need to obtain environmental clearance.