9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 16, 2021

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SC Directions to CBI in ISRO Espionage Case, 1994

SourceThe Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

Synopsis – The Supreme Court has ordered the CBI investigation in the Nambi Narayanan ISRO Espionage case. CBI will review the involvement of the Kerala police.

What is the ISRO espionage case?

  • In 1994, a Maldivian woman was arrested. She was suspected of selling secrets from ISRO scientists to Pakistan.
  • Mr. Narayanan was arrested along with two other scientists by the Kerala Police on charges of sharing official secrets on space technology and launch missions.
  • Later, the CBI took over the probe from the Kerala police. In 1996, CBI recommended closure of the case due to lack of evidence.
  • The CBI also highlighted serious flaws in the police investigation, which relied on dubious tactics and was based solely on suspicion.

What is the court order [2018]?

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed the case as a criminal frame-up based on “some sort of fancy or notion.”
  • According to the Court, the former ISRO scientist was “unnecessarily arrested and harassed”.
  • Thus, the court ordered the State of Kerala to pay him Rs.50 lakh as compensation for the damage to his honor and dignity.
  • The court also formed a committee headed by Justice D.K. Jain to find ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials

Recent court order-

  • The SC ordered CBI to investigate the alleged espionage case against a former ISRO scientist in 1994 and to submit a report within three months.
  • Furthermore, the CBI will investigate the report of Justice D.K. Jain Committee on senior Kerala police officials accused of framing ISRO scientist.

Concerning facts about the case-

  • The ‘ISRO spying case’ has raised significant concerns about police investigations in the country.
  • Also, Kerala’s government has been ignoring calls for disciplinary action against the erring police officers.
  • Moreover, the State government opposed the CBI’s closure report and made an attempt to revive the investigation by its own police.

Suggestion

  • SC order is a welcome and necessary step toward ensuring transparency for the alleged frame-up.
  • Also, it would be in the best interests of the case if the CBI could continue with its inquiry into the officers involved without hindrance

Prospects of India’s Automotive industry

Source: Indian Express

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment Prospects of India’s Automotive industry

Synopsis: Automotive Industry will help India achieve a $5 trillion economy. A favourable government policy can support the Auto industry to grow by 10-12 per cent per year for the next 10 years.

Recent developments in India’s automotive industry

  • Increase in Demand: for example, in the last 3 decades passenger vehicle volume increased 15 times, the SUV 24 times, and the two-wheeler 12 times.
  • Improvement in Quality and efficiency: The technology features, the safety, the comfort, the emissions, and the energy consumption have improved much better than 3 decades ago.
  • Developments in supply chain ecosystem:
      • India’s Indigenous supplier base has become globally competitive.
      • Quality defects have been reduced by 90 percent.
      • India’s engineering capabilities like their ability to design, engineer, and develop world-class products completely in India, improved a lot.
  • This has contributed to the increase in the global rank of the industry from 16th then to 5th now.

Significance of Automotive Industry to India’s economic growth

  1. First, contributes to the development of the MSME sector. For example, The MSME share of value-addition to a car is 35 percent. Further the automotive after market provides economic opportunities to thousands of MSMEs engaged in the auto value chain.
  2. Second, boost to the manufacturing sector. The industry contributes 6.4 percent to GDP and around 35 percent to manufacturing GDP.
  3. Third, provides employment. It supports over 8 million jobs directly and as many as 30 million more in the value chain.
  4. Fourth, attracts significant investments. For instance, it has attracted $35 billion over the last 10 years.
  5. Fifth, source of foreign capital. For example, it generates export revenue of $27 billion that is nearly 8 percent of the total merchandise exports from India.

Suggestions to support the growth of the Automotive industry

India’s automotive industry contribution to GDP is low compared to countries like Korea, Germany, Thailand, Germany, and Japan. The contribution, there, is more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP. The following measures need to be taken

  1. First, India needs to make a niche for itself in EV tech mobility through rapid localization of EV tech in the production and supply chain.
  2. Second, need to enhance local value addition to invest more in skill development and R&D. It will make it globally competitive in cost, quality, and technology.
  3. Three, to improve exports India needs to sign bilateral treaties to get favorable tariff regimes.
  4. Four, Also, there is a need to rationalize the extremely high GST rates on automobiles in a phase-wise manner.
  5. Five, the Automotive Mission Plan 2026 released by the government needs to revise in the current context by taking inputs from the industry.

If the above steps are implemented with a will, India’s automotive industry will become a $200 billion industry with exports of $50 billion by 2026.


Strategic Autonomy will shape the Emerging global order

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Synopsis: The middle powers like Japan, Iran, Turkey, and India are looking for strategic autonomy.  It will make the emerging global order into a multipolar world instead of a new Cold War type bi-polar world.

Background

  • The confrontation between greater powers (The US on one side and the Russia-China axis on the other side) is giving rise to a New Cold War.
  • Some following examples are a sign of the Cold War,
    • The hard negotiations of the US with China at the Alaska summit.
    • An allegation by US over Mr Putin as a “killer”
    • The reluctance of the US to rejoin the nuclear agreement with Iran are some.
    • Further, the development of QUAD, to ensure a “free, open, resilient and inclusive” Indo-Pacific region to contain China.
  • US enmity towards Russia and China has encouraged them to strengthen their relations under the ‘Greater Eurasian Partnership’.
  • Now, the New Cold War is being reflected as the Indo-Pacific versus Eurasia.
  • The final shape of this divide will be determined by four middle powers, namely Japan, Iran, Turkey and India.

Why the middle powers are reluctant to join the alliance?

The middle powers will not join the alliance (either Indo-Pacific or Eurasia) due to their compelling national interest. Instead, they will pursue Strategic autonomy.

  1. First, Japan has a more friendly relationship with the US than China. While Japan has territorial disputes with China (the Senkaku Islands dispute in the East China Sea), it has signed a security treaty of 1951 with the U.S. to safeguard its interest. Yet, Japan will not be willing to join the US bloc because,
    • One, Japan is dependent upon China in trade. For example, in 2019, 24% of Japanese imports came from China, while 19% of its exports went to China.
    • Two, Japan is emphasising Self-reliance and aims to reduce its security-dependence on the U.S. Thus, it wants to pursue an independent role in the Indo-Pacific. For example, Japan’s $200 billion ‘Partnership for Quality Infrastructure that funds infrastructure projects in Asia and Africa. It also wants to work on BRI projects on a selective basis.
  2. Second, since 2016, India has moved very close to the US by expanding its Defence ties, frequent military exercises and elevation of the Quad to the ministerial level. Yet India will not be willing to join the US bloc because,
    • One, neither the U.S. nor the Quad can address the challenges it faces at its 3,500-kilometre land border with China.
    • Two, US intervention in Human rights issues in India is forcing India to realign its strategies with china and Russia. India now wants to manage its ties with China through its own efforts and retain Russia as its defence partner.
  3. Three, sanctions on Iran by the US have made Iran a natural ally of the Sino-Russian axis. Yet, Iran will be willing to pursue its strategic autonomy once sanctions are lifted instead of an alliance with the Sino-Russian axis.
  4. Four, Turkey has benefitted more by increasing geopolitical, military and economic alignment with Russia and China. Yet, Turkey will not join the Sino-Russian axis as it wishes to continue ties with the US parallelly. For example, its “New Asia” initiative, involves the strengthening of east-west logistical and economic connectivity backed by western powers and China.

Strategic autonomy” defined by flexible partnerships, with the freedom to shape alliances to suit specific interests at different times will shape the emerging global world order.


Challenges Posed by Phasing Out Coal Use in India

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Synopsis:

India is considering a proposal to adopt a net-zero emission target. This demands a phase-out of coal use which would pose numerous challenges. 

Background:

  • The UN has urged wealthy nations to end coal use by 2030. 
  • Similarly, a private member bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in March 2021. The bill aims to adopt a net-zero emission target by 2050.
  • A lot of debates after this, have given surety of a coal use phase-out in near future
    • As the conversation on net-zero emissions has almost always come after or gone hand-in-hand with a coal phaseout plan.

Challenges posed by ending coal use:

  1. Energy Security: As currently 70% of India’s energy needs are fulfilled by coal. In 2019-20, the country consumed approximately 942 million tonnes (MT) of coal. Out of this, 730 MT was produced domestically.
  2. Social Challenges: There would be significant job losses post the phase-out. Coal India Limited and Singareni Collieries Company Limited employ 2.24 lakh workers. Their job loss will impact almost 9 lakh people considering a four-person household.
    • Further, a setback to workers in coal-consuming sectors like power, steel, sponge iron, etc. will also be seen.
  3. Economic Challenges:  In FY20, the Centre alone collected approximately Rs 29,200 crore in GST compensation cess from coal. The revenue from coal allows centre and states to undertake various development activities. 
    • Similarly, 40 percent of total freight revenues in railways are generated from coal. 
  4. Data Discrepancies: This will hinder prudent policy formulation and adaptation plans in the future.
    • For instance, robust data on contract employees working for mine development operators (MDOs) is not available. 
    • Similarly, there is a lack of data for statecraft coal and subsistence coal economies.
      • Statecraft Coal – non-legal small scale coal mines in the northeast
      • Subsistence Coal – small-scale collieries run on village commons usually bordering formal mines.
    • Data on workers’ skill set, education parameters, caste, and willingness to migrate is also not available.  

Way Forward:

  • India must ensure adequate support for people and communities dependent on the sector. It can learn from plans of other countries like:
    • German coal phaseout plan: It seeks to end coal burning by 2038. It also involves an investment of more than 50 billion euros for mining and plant operators, impacted regions, and employees.
    • US’s Interagency Working Group: It is supposed to deliver resources that will revitalise the coal, oil, and gas communities.
    • Canada’s coal phase-out plan: As per the plan, the phase-out will happen by 2030. A Just Transition Task Force has been created for the welfare of dependent communities.
  • The phase-out plan should also ensure social, climate, economic and environmental justice.

A Balanced Approach Under IBC Amendment Ordinance 2021

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation. 

SynopsisThe new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code amendment ordinance 2021 shows a shift from a creditor-centric approach towards a more balanced approach. Under the new approach, both promoters and creditors are incentivized to reach a more acceptable solution.  

Background:

  • The President has promulgated the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2021.
  • It marks a shift from earlier approaches against the promoter and focussed on the creditor. Under this, the creditor was given the main control over the insolvency process while the promoter hardly had any say.

About the amendment:

  • It tries to address the structural weakness in IBC by allowing a pre-packaged insolvency resolution process (PPIR).
    • PPIR is a form of restructuring that allows creditors and debtors (or promoters) to work on an informal plan within the IBC structure. 
    • It is done before the commencement of insolvency proceedings.
    • Once accepted by creditors, the plan must be presented to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for approval.
  • The process is available only for MSMEs (Micro, small and medium enterprises).

Difference from earlier approach:

  • The amendment has made the process less promoter averse. Now PPIR will ensure promoters are able to retain their control over their business.
    • Earlier, the control was given to a resolution professional. He/she was appointed to manage the affairs of the company during the insolvency process.
    • The promoters did not have control due to cases of corruption, crony capitalism, and other fraudulent activities tagged with them. This undermined the creditor’s interest and sanctity of the resolution process. 
  • Further, the new process doesn’t give the scope of open bidding that was available earlier. This might hinder price discovery and value maximization for creditors.

Benefits of the new amendment:

  • More powers to Promoters: They get to hold on to their firms, and exit the process with more manageable obligations.
  • Prevents Closure of Genuine Firm: With greater promoter control, the genuine firms will not get closed, like the ones who are not performing due to pandemic stress or other genuine barriers.
    • Further, the IBC process suffers from a liquidation bias. Around 46.5 % of all cases under IBC have ended up in liquidation. While only 13.1% witnessed a resolution.
  • Creditor Incentivisation: As past data shows that liquidation value is only a fraction of the creditor’s claims and the majority of IBC cases end up in liquidation. 
    • The new process can help the creditors get better value for their debt. Especially economic distress when there are limited buyers of stressed assets.
  • Better Coverage: The PPIR process doesn’t fall under the central bank’s restructuring framework. It covers all financial creditors as opposed to RBI’s restructuring schemes which deal only with banks.
  • Prevents future scrutiny: PPIR involves approval by a judicial seal that prohibits any future questioning by investigative agencies.

Way Forward:

  • The PPIR process should be gradually made available to all corporate debtors.
  • The government can also relax the terms of Section 29A of IBC in order to widen the list of possible buyers.
    • The section disqualifies those who had contributed to the downfall of the corporate debtor or were unsuitable to run the company.

Significance of Lessons from the First COVID Wave

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS

Synopsis: Partial lockdowns again, are going to widen economic and social inequalities. Every step towards prevention must consider the Lessons learnt from the first COVID-19 wave in India.

Introduction

  • India’s second COVID-19 wave is more contagious than the first. Many States have imposed lockdowns of various scales. However, political rallies, social and religious events are still ongoing, making these restrictions meaningless.

How did the first wave lead to uneven growth?

The International Monetary Fund estimated India’s GDP to grow at 12.5% this year, but this growth cannot be inclusive.

  • Firstly, the technological, pharmaceutical, and healthcare sectors saw the greatest growth. The wealth of billionaires in India increased by 35% even during the pandemic.
  • Secondly, sectors including travel and tourism and wellness and hospitality recorded historic lows. The pandemic destroyed the informal and MSME sector. It pushed 75 million Indians into poverty.
  • Thirdly, the unplanned lockdown highlighted the vulnerability of the migrant workers and poor as they had to walk back to their villages.
  • Fourth, many economists predicted that India’s revival from the COVID-19 induced depression would be a ‘K-shaped’ curve. It means only a part of our population recovers.
  • Fifthly, COVID-19 has affected the poor the most. Introducing partial lockdowns will limit the movement of goods and laborers. It will considerably reduce industrial productivity and create paths that will widen our inequalities.

Suggestions

Interconnected industries can function at the maximum possible capacity in multiple shifts. However, Strict health and safety regulations should be framed and followed. Non-essential gatherings should be banned.

  • Firstly, governments will have to account for demand contraction. Thus, It should urgently ensure cash incentive packages at both individual and institutional levels. This will boost consumption and investments.
  • Secondly, the need to provide additional provisions for job stamps; direct cash transfer and employment guarantee schemes.
  • Thirdly, the NYAY scheme that guarantees a minimum income of ₹6,000 to every household is a solution that needs to be used at this time.
  • Fourthly, reports indicate that new COVID-19 mutations are challenging even to the younger population. India will have to speed up vaccine production, procurement, and distribution.
  • Fifthly, Open vaccination for all age groups. This would make it easier for the majority of laborers to be present at their workplaces with lesser risks. Students will also be able to attend classes and examinations.

The conclusion

The government should take responsibility for the lapses in the health care system and vaccine shortages. The private sector and NGOs played a huge role in quickly scaling up healthcare infrastructure during the first wave. With political will and public participation, we should now be able to save lives without negotiating on our population’s livelihood.


Need to Enact Siras Act on the Lines of Alan Turing law

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.

Synopsis- Ex-post facto pardon to the convicts of homosexuality will serve justice to them. Alan Turing law is a perfect example in this case. Government should consider enacting Siras Act on the same line.

Introduction

  • On September 6, 2018, India’s Supreme Court ruled that consensual homosexual acts would no longer constitute a crime.
  • The historic move reversed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • The change was a positive step towards acceptance and equal rights to LGBTQ+ communities.

However, it is time to enact ex post facto pardon for those who are in jail due to their acts in the past because of their sexuality.

ex-Post facto means it will apply to the acts before the enactment of law or before the judgment i.e. retrospective effect.

What is section 377?

  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized homosexuality. Section introduced in 1861 during the British rule in India, modeled on the Buggery Act of 1533.
  • In 2018, The Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of consensual homosexual sex, under Section 377 between adults was unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary.
  • However, Section 377 remains in force for sex with minors, non-consensual sexual acts, and bestiality.

Example of Persecution faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India

Ramchandra Siras Case –

  • Siras was a Professor and HOD of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University.
  • AMU suspended him for gross misconduct in 2010 due to consensual homosexual sex.
  • However, Later, Professor Siras won his case against the university in Allahabad High Court on 1 April 2010 and got back his job as a professor.

What is Alan Turing law?

The Alan Turing law (formal title- the Policing and Crime Act 2017) was passed to correct a historic injustice. The law pardoned gay men convicted in the past because of their sexuality.

  • The Law is named after Alan Turing, the World War II code-breaker and computing pioneer. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952.
  • However, Alan Turing received a royal pardon in 2013.
  • Now, The law applies in England and Wales.

Landmark Judgments related to LGBTQ+ communities

  • First, Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi [2009] is a landmark Indian case of the Delhi High Court. It held that treating consensual homosexual sex between adults as a crime is a violation of fundamental rights.
    • As a result of the ruling, homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer illegal in India.
  • Second, Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation [2013]-
    • In Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation, SC overturned the previous judgment by Delhi HC 2009 and restored Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Third, Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India [2018]-
    • In Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India in 2018, SC decriminalized homosexuality. Dismissed the position taken by SC in Suresh Kumar Koushal case (2013).

Way forward-

The Indian government should pass a ‘Siras Act,’ similar to the Alan Turing bill, to make amends for past and current abuses towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 16 Apr, 2021

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