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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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9 PM for Main examination
- Sino- Russian Partnership – Recalculation
- NEP 2020 and Autonomy of Higher Educational Institutions
- Contempt power and people’s faith
- Need for transparency: On PM CARES Fund
- Facebook’s favorable treatment to the Bhartiya Janata Party
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Sino- Russian Partnership – Recalculation
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, leaders of China and Russia has been seen together in the public. It has sparked intense discussion on whether they are moving in the direction of a formal alliance and what that could mean for the rest of the world.
The key triangle
- Since 1950’s, global politics has been shaped by the triangular relationship between America, China and Russia.
- Centrality of China –
- For the American cold warriors, the road of victory lay through Peking, China.
- Today, the Kremlin, Russia seems to believe that the road to revival of Russian power and prestige similarly runs through Peking, China.
- India is not a part of this triangle yet they represent our three most consequential relationship. Hence, a proper appraisal of the Sino- Russian relationship will be critical to our foreign policy calculus.
Pillars of the Sino- Russian partnership
- Peaceful boundary-
- The peaceful boundary of China and Russia intimate the positive relations between both the nations.
- The economic positives appear to enhance relation between Washington and European capitals.
- Expanding trade-
Falling oil prices and fears of new sanctions on Russian gas supplies are demolishing the core of Russian exports to Europe, thus compelling them to depend to an even greater degree on the Chinese.
- China- Russia trade has more than doubled to $108 billion.
- Russia’s central bank has increased its Chinese current reserves from less than one per cent to over 13%.
- China has surpassed Germany as the principal supplier of industrial plant and technology.
- Coordinated action in multilateral forums, increasingly sophisticated joint military exercises and including activities with third countries such as Iran.
- Distrust of American intentions-
Western sanctions to punish Russia have tended to push the Russians closer to China. This automatically led to strengthen China’s position in the strategic triangle.
- Effect of growing power gap between China – Russia –
The growing power gap is threatening to further reduce Russian influence in their ‘near-abroad’ and to confine Russia to the periphery of global power.
- Common Cause– Russia considers U.S. led hegemony as the primary threat to its vision of world power, and this leads them on to make common cause with China.
Following are the issues in the China – Russia relationship:
- Chinese Revanchism– The Chinese policy of “rejuvenation of Chinese Nation” has raised fears about “Chinese revanchism” which means regaining lost territory.
- Chinese migration– Russian concerns over Chinese migration on the Russian Far East as China becoming a threat to Russia’s territorial integrity.
- Energy dependency– Russia remains careful about allowing any dominating role for China in oil and gas. As over the long term, their economic interests are divergent. Russia thinks to control China through its energy dependency.
- America as a boon to the Triangle – Although, China and Russia both shared dislike for America still they hope to repair ties and therefore neither trust the other fully with respect to the third leg of the strategic triangle.
India’s foreign policy needs strategic partnership with Russia based on the absence of fundamental conflicts of interest and a shared belief that some form of multipolarity is better than any sort of Sino- U.S. relation.
2.NEP 2020 and Autonomy of Higher Educational Institutions
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2- Education
Context: Recently cabinet approved a new national education policy 2020.
NEP Provisions relating to Regulation of Higher Educational Institutions
- Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
- HECI will have four independent verticals – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation.
Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.
- Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
- Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.
- Under graded autonomy, academic, administrative and financial autonomy will be given to colleges on the basis of their accreditation status under the three categories, with top research universities having the highest levels of autonomy.
Why graded autonomy?
- politico-bureaucratic interference in the internal functioning of universities,
- the substantial burden on universities which have to regulate admissions, set curricula and conduct examinations for a large number of undergraduate colleges.
- over-centralisation, namely, the constraints imposed on the potential for premium affiliated colleges to innovate and evolve
Issues with Providing Graded Autonomy:
- Increased Privatization: It will allow greater penetration of private capital in higher education
- Enhance differences between colleges: It will perpetuate prevailing hierarchy that exists between different colleges within a public-funded university, and between different universities across the country. Best colleges will gain autonomy while it is estimated that affiliated colleges with lower rankings and less than 3,000 students may face the threat of mergers and closure.
- Inaccessibility of quality higher education: There are concerns over enhanced inaccessibility of quality higher education as independent rules and regulations of autonomous colleges and universities shall curtail transparent admission procedures, which guarantee underprivileged students access to education in premium institutions.
- Increase in Self-financed courses: graded autonomy can be expected to trigger increase in expensive self-financed courses as premium colleges, as well as struggling affiliated colleges.
3.Contempt power and people’s faith
Source: The Hindu
GS2- Functioning of Judiciary
Context: Recent conviction of Prashant Bhushan for contempt of court has revived the debate on the relevance of contempt law in a modern liberal democracy.
More on news:
- The Supreme Court of India has said that his tweets have undermined the dignity and the authority of the most powerful court.
- It has effect of destabilising the very foundation of Indian democracy.
Basis of Judgement:
- People’s opinions:The judgment has mentioned the word ‘people’ 27 times. It is to protect people at large as distrust in the popular mind does impair the confidence of people in courts.
- To establish rule of Law:object of contempt proceedings is not to afford protection to judges personally from the imputations. It is to uphold the rule of law as people’s confidence is of huge importance for the protection of the rights and liberties of people.
- To uphold the majesty of the law and of the administration of justice.
- Contempt of court power is exercised not to vindicate the dignity and honour of the individual judge who is personally attacked or scandalised.
- People’s confidence is strengthened not by the resort to contempt powers: SC has stated itself to be the ‘central pillar’ of democracy but on the other hand said that the ‘trust, faith and confidence of the citizens of the country in the judicial system is sine qua non for the existence of rule of law’.
- For instance, open court hearing in a review in 2019 of Sabarimala but no attention to examine the validity of controversial electoral bonds.
|Brahma Prakash Sharma (1953) judgment:|
· Contempt power is intended to be a protection to the public whose interests would be affected if by the act or conduct of any party, the authority of the court is lowered.
Hira Lal Dixit (1955):
· Court referred to the ‘confidence of the people in the integrity of the judges.
- “Res ipsa loquitur” the thing speaks for itself:for instance, Court’s reluctance in promptly hearing habeas corpus petitions, the CAA and 370 petitions.
- Judiciary is behaving more like executive courts. For instance, Court struck down the constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act, 2014.
- Excessive use of contempt power:According to the Indian Judiciary Report (2016-17) published by the Supreme Court, High Courts had 96,310 civil contempt cases. The number of criminal contempt cases stand at 586 cases.
- Majority judgements do not always enhance people faith:for instance, In ADM Jabalpur (1976), a majority, took the highly legalistic view and held that since Article 21 is under suspension due to Emergency, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be claimed. The Court overruled these two judgments in Maneka Gandhi(1978) and K.S. Puttaswamy (2018).
- Independence of the judiciary is indeed the right of people and not of judges.
- Shiv Shankar (1988) and Rachapudi Subba Rao (2004):the Supreme Court had held that criticism of the court that does not impair and hamper the administration of justice cannot be punished as contempt.
- Lesson from Kedar Nath Singh (1962) case judgement:according to the Supreme Court, mere “strong words used to express disapprobation of the measures of Government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means” is not sedition.
4.Need for transparency: On PM CARES Fund
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS2- Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors
Context: There is need to scrutinise Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund:
- It is set up to support the government in its fight against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The fund consists entirely of voluntary contributionsfrom individuals/organizations and does not get any budgetary support.
- Contributions will be an eligible expenditure under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations.
- Donations are also exempted from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- It has been set up as a public charitable trust.
- Lack of transparency:a government panel had rightly suggested that the double benefit of tax exemption would be a “regressive incentive”.
- However, the Supreme Court has rejected the writ petition calling for a funds diversion from this fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and also denied the petitioners’ demand that fund be audited by the CAG.
- The SC dismissed the idea that the PM CARES was constituted to “circumvent”the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
- Rationale: PM CARES Fund exists without budgetary support or government money.
- Unavailability of Info under RTI: Queries on the trust deed for the Fund, and its creation and operation have been dismissed.
- Rationale: Fund is not a “public authority” even though the PM is its ex-officio chairman and three Cabinet ministers are its trustees.
- No clarity:need for a fresh trust when there is the PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) with a substantial corpus in place is not clear.
- Address legitimate concerns:RTI requests should be answered how funds are being received and how they are being disbursed as lakhs of public and private sector employees have donated their one day salary.
- Government needs to publicise donations to the more accountable NDRF which allows for a transfer of funds to States.
5.Facebook’s favorable treatment to the Bhartiya Janata Party
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 –Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Context: Wall street journal article regarding Facebook India being partial to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Wall Street Journal [WSJ] perspective
- Allegation-The paper alleged that the largest social media company kept allowing hate speech by BJP politicians on its platform.
Example- the BJP’s Telangana MLA, T. Raja Singh, has not been yet removed from Facebook despite his controversial posts about Muslims that were found to be in violation of its own rules and also deemed dangerous.
- Biased behavior-Facebook wary that censoring members of the ruling party could hurt its business prospects in India.
- Political influence-Several networks, both official and unofficial affiliates of political parties have emerged in the last five years with the help of Social media largely Facebook.
- Information sharing platform– These groups have emerged as filter bubbles or spaces where information that only conforms to a set of beliefs or political ideology is shared, while also being closed spaces where misinformation and far-fetched conspiracy theories flourish.
Indian market value to Facebook
Number of users- With more than 340 million users, India is Facebook’s biggest market.
Content creators- India offer the largest set of content creators for Facebook since China does not allow the platform to operate there. The more content creators Facebook can bring onboard, the better it is for the company’s business prospects.
Thus, it would be in Facebook’s business interests to maintain cordial relations with the current Indian government.
Opposition reaction to the story
- Leading Party controls facebook-The leader of main opposition Congress party led the charge that BJP, and its ideological fountainhead, RSS, were controlling Facebook in India.
- Legal notice-Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary panel on IT, has summoned Facebook.
- Demand of investigation-Accusing Facebook India for interfering with electoral process, Congress demanded a joint parliamentary committee [JCP] to probe allegations.
Social media giants like Facebook needs to prohibit hate speech and moderate content that incites violence and enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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