9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 27, 2021

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Controversies Surrounding Administrator of Lakshadweep

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: The role of the newly appointed administrator of Lakshadweep is under controversy. Some of the recent steps go against the interest of people.

Introduction 

Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea totaling 32 square kilometers. It has had a calm existence as a Union Territory. But recent governance changes introduced by the government have become a cause of concern.

An administrator is a representative of the President in the Union Territory like a Lieutenant Governor.

What are the controversial steps taken by administrator?

The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 empowers the Administrator to take over land and forcibly relocate people. It provides for strict punishments for those who resist. Following are some controversial steps taken by the administrator;

  • Firstly, the consumption or sale of beef will be an offence punishable by seven years in prison.
  • Secondly, Those who have more than two children cannot contest panchayat elections.
  • Third, under the new Goonda Act, anyone could be held in prison without reason for up to a year. It is in a place that has a very low crime rate. 
    • The traditional livelihood of fishing communities has been obstructed by tedious regulations that negate their access to coastlines. 
  • Lastly, their sheds on the coastal areas have been demolished on the ground of violating the Coast Guard Act. Dairy farms run by the administration have also been shut.
    • A development like this is a serious threat to the people of Lakshadweep and the delicate ecosystem. 

What are the issues involved?

Lakshadweep administrator is the first politician to become an Administrator. In the past five months, he has showcased a sole disrespect for the people’s concerns and priorities. 

  • There are fears of other motivations in the absence of any administrative rationale in these deliberately random methods.
  • Commercial interests could be one of the reasons. The land vacated by people could be transferred to buyers from outside. 
  • There could also be ill-advised political plans to change the demography of the islands. People are protesting, but the Administrator seems firm on his plans.

The conclusion 

  • Rajya Sabha Members from Kerala have urged the President to recall the Administrator in separate letters. The basis for carving out Union Territories as an administrative unit is to protect the unique cultural and historical situations of their people.
  • The Centre is reversing its duty to protect into a licence to interfere. It must recall the Administrator and reassure the locals.

Cooperative Federalism is Necessary for the Success of GST in India

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure,

Synopsis: Without a strong framework for ‘Cooperative federalism’ it is unlikely that the GST mechanism will survive in the future.

Background

  • The GST Council is troubled with mistrust under the prevailing cloud of vendetta politics.
  • Also, Cooperative federalism in India is witnessing a deep crisis due to the widening divide between the Centre and states.
  • Further, the Covid induced Economic crisis is hampering state’s revenues while uncertainty in GST revenue prevails.
  • All the above issues are challenging the very existence of GST mechanism in India

What are the issues hampering Cooperative Federalism in India?

  1. One, Centre backtracking on its promise to pay guaranteed GST compensation to the States during Covid 19 situation.
  2. Two, stringent policy conditions by centre to grant approval to States for extra borrowing in the middle of the pandemic.
  3. Three, Centre shifting its responsibility on states over the procurement of Covid vaccines. It has resulted in a high price burden on states.
  4. Four, unilateral decision to implement farm laws.
  5. Five, sudden lockdown imposed by the Centre with no consultations with the States that affected millions of migrant workers.
  6. Six, Centre is levying cess that gathers significant revenues for the Centre without sharing them with the States.
  7. Seven, Centre’s recent Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 that deprived the elected Delhi government of its governance powers.

All these issues are hampering Cooperative Federalism in India.

What are the issues that are affecting the GST mechanism in India?

  • GST was expected to deliver economic efficiency gains, improve tax buoyancy and collections, boost GDP growth, and achieve a greater formalisation of the economy.
  • However, three years after its launch, GST had failed on all those promises. For instance, the 15th Finance Commission report formally acknowledges that GST has been an economic failure that did not deliver on its early promises.

Problems in GST

  • One, multiple rate structure.
  • Two, high tax slabs.
  • Three, the complexity of tax filings
  • Four, the erosion of ‘trust’ and ‘trustworthiness’ between the States and the Centre.
  • Five, the uncertainty in GST revenues compounded with the loss of fiscal autonomy of states possess a threat to States finances.

Proponents of GST failed to factor in India’s unique political economy and its ramifications. Striking a balance among the diverse interests of India’s numerous parties in a larger political climate is significant along with the extension of revenue guarantee for the States for another five years to strengthen the GST mechanism in India.


Continuing Political Turmoil in Nepal and Opportunity for India

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis:  Present Constitutional crisis in Nepal is an opportunity for India to engage with Nepal’s political leadership. It can help them to establish a stable democratic rule in Nepal.

Background

  • Recently, Nepal’s President had dissolved the House of Representatives (lower house) late at the suggestion of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.
  • The decision to dissolve the house is viewed as a partisan move that disregards the Constitutional morality of Nepal.

Recent developments leading to Political turmoil in Nepal

  • Oli (CPN(UML)), came to power with the support of Maoist Centre and enjoyed a near-absolute majority in the lower house.
  • In May 2018, the two allies merged to cement their alliance and created the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
  • However, very soon there were disputes related to the power-sharing arrangement, worked out with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
  • Mr. Oli (CPN(UML)) was reluctant to run the NCP along with Prachanda as a co-chair and soon ‘one person one post’ policy demand surfaced openly.
  • Amid rumours that Prachanda and Mr. Nepal (senior UML leader) were planning to move a no-confidence-motion against him, Oli got the President to approve dissolution of the House on December 20, paving the way for elections.
  • On March 7, the Supreme Court also overturned the UML-Maoist merger of May 2018 and ruled it invalid. This verdict allowed Mr. Oli to be in power.
  • Again, Mr. Oli was sworn in by President Bhandari on May 14 as Prime Minister. Article 76(3) permits the leader of the largest party to be sworn in and give 30 days to demonstrate majority.
  • But the Nepal lower house again stands dissolved after Mr. Oli failed to seek another vote of confidence.
  • Opposition leaders have challenged the House dissolution in the Supreme Court but its outcome is uncertain.

How Domestic politics of Nepal is affecting India- Nepal ties?

  • To distract the happenings in Nepal’s domestic politics, Oli raised the issue of Kalapani dispute with India.
  • India issued new maps following the division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
  • Though the new Indian map did not affect the India-Nepal boundary in any material way, Mr. Oli used this opportunity to raise anti-India sentiment among Nepali citizens.
  • He raised the demand for restoring an additional 335 sq. km around Kalapani area.
  • Further, in May 2020 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 75 km road through Kalapani that linked to the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route.
  • Oli to raise nationalist sentiment, got a new map of Nepal endorsed by the House and adopting a constitutional amendment to sanctify Nepal’s new territory.
  • This has strained India-Nepal relations in the last few months.

India has traditionally supported constitutionalism and multi-party democracy in Nepal. India needs to remain actively engaged with all the political actors, and avoid being perceived as partisan to ensure democratic rule in Nepal.


New IT Rules 2021- No protection under the Section 79 of IT Act upon Non compliance

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks

Synopsis:

The Information Technology Rules, 2021 have now come into force. Social Media companies will lose their protection under Section 79 of the IT Act if they fail to comply with new rules.

Background:

  • The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force on 26th May 2021. 
  • They aim to regulate the flow of information over social media, digital news media, and over-the-top (OTT) content providers.

About the new IT rules:

  • It mandates all social media platforms to set up a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism. This includes appointing a resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer, and a nodal contact person.
    • Chief Compliance Officer shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules.
    • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
    • Resident Grievance Officer shall receive and resolve complaints from users. The officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
  • The platforms must submit monthly reports on complaints received from users and actions taken. 
  • Further, the platforms providing the feature of instant messaging need to track the first originator of a message.

However, non-compliance with new rules would take away the protection granted to social media intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act.

What is Section 79 of the IT Act?

  • It states that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.
  • The protection is available if the intermediary doesn’t:
    • initiate the transmission of the message in question, 
    • select the receiver of the transmitted message 
    • modify any information contained in the transmission
    • tamper with any evidence of the concerned messages
  • Further, the intermediary wouldn’t be granted protection if it does not immediately disable access to the material under question as per the government order.

Genesis of Section 79:

  • The need to provide protection to intermediaries from actions of third parties came into focus following a police case in 2004. 
    • Under this, the chief executive officer of bazee.com and his associates were booked for allowing the auctioning of pornographic material on their website. They were held guilty under Section 85 of the IT Act. 
      • The section says that when a company commits an offense under the IT Act, all its executives should be held liable and proceeded against.
  • However, this decision was overturned by SC in 2012. The court held that the website and its executives could not be held accountable since they were not directly involved in the said transaction. After this, the IT Act was amended to introduce Section 79.

Global norms on safe harbour protection for social media intermediaries:

  • Section 230 of the 1996 U.S Communications Decency Act provides internet companies a safe harbor from content posted by users over them.
    • The section states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”
  • This has enabled companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to become global conglomerates without any fear of litigation.

What’s Next?

  • The prominent platforms including Facebook, Twitter, etc. have still not complied with the new rules. They have not appointed concerned officers nor have submitted the monthly reports to the government. 
  • This means the executives of these social media platforms no longer enjoy the protection of Section 79. They could be held liable for any social media post without any fault on their part.

Need to revive the Cultural Mapping project

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 1 – Art and Culture

Synopsis:

The situation of cultural ministry in the country is in bad shape. It is facing an acute shortage of funds and resources. A little relief can be given to the artists if the proposed Cultural Mapping project is completed in due time.

Background:

  • The culture ministry has received a marginal budget in the last decade. Further, the budget has been declining for the last 5 years and currently stands at 0.07% of the total budget.
    • For 2021-22, it is just 2,688 crores that equal the amount of just 1.5 Rafael jets. The government slashed the budget by 21% since last year while other major countries like the UK, China, Singapore enhanced their cultural budgets. 
  • Further, the government’s cultural institutions are plagued by vacancies (ranging from 30% to 70%) and a lack of trained manpower. This has enhanced the troubles for artists and cultural institutions.
  • Experts believe that the timely completion of the 2017 cultural mapping project can provide significant relief to the artists.

About National Mission on Cultural Mapping:

  • The mission was proposed in 2015 but was officially approved in 2017.
  • It seeks to envision and address the necessity of preserving the threads of rich Indian Art and Cultural Heritage. It also aims to convert the vast and widespread cultural canvass of India into an objective cultural mapping.
  • Under this Mission, there are three important objectives as follows:
    • To undertake the cultural mapping (i.e. database of cultural assets and resources) via running a nationwide cultural awareness programme called Hamari Sanskriti Hamari Pahchan Abhiyan (National Cultural Awareness Abhiyan).
    • To run a Nationwide Artist Talent Hunt/Scouting Programme called Sanskritik Pratibha Khoj Abhiyan
    • Lastly, to establish a National Cultural Working Place (NCWP) portal. It would be a Centralised Transactional Web Portal with a database and demography of cultural assets and resources including all art forms and artists.

Benefits of Cultural Mapping:

  • Firstly, it would create an open database that could be used as a resource by the media, researchers, and funders.
  • Secondly, it would help locate a derelict cinema and renovate it as an auditorium in a town where there are none.
  • Lastly, it would help create transport and tourism infrastructure around a declining crafts village.
    • For instance, the European Capitals of Culture program picked Glasgow for a cultural revival. Earlier, the city was surrounded by poverty and crime, but the program converted it into a cultural marvel.

Issues with Cultural Mapping Project:

  • First, the mission hasn’t received sufficient funds for implementation. Out of the promised 3,000 crore, it has received only 42.78 crores till 2019-20.
  • Second, there exists a problem of under utilisation of funds. Out of 42.78 crores, only 1.17 crores have been utilised so far.
  • Third, there is no IT infrastructure that can enable the proper identification of artists at the block level.
  • Fourth, some of the mission’s objectives deviate from the core theme of cultural mapping. For instance,
    • It calls for roping artists into the Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange schemes.
    • It creates a grading process for artists in which officials decide which artist is “good” or “not so good.
    • Also, It focuses on imparting digital literacy to artists and running talent hunt competitions.
  • Fifth, the mission proposes a Unique Identification Code for every artist/ institution, apparently to facilitate schemes. However, this may enhance surveillance and control over the artists.

Way Forward:

  • There should be a deeper survey and understanding of the diversity of the cultural base, without caste, communal and regional hierarchies.
  • The government should allocate sufficient resources to the Ministry of Culture in order to realise the true potential of the mission.

Prioritise food and work for all

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 3 – Growth and Rural Employment

Synopsis:

The second wave of Pandemic has put immense stress on the Indian masses. They are facing job losses, food shortages, and hunger issues. In this scenario, the government should prioritise food and work for all.

Background:

  • The second wave of Covid-19 -19 has made it imperative for many states to impose a lockdown.
  • This is creating severe hardships for the marginalized and vulnerable masses. Migrant workers and the rural poor have been facing great distress over the past year and the crisis for food and work is only going to intensify further.

Dismal State of Affairs:

  • The ‘Hunger Watch’ report of the Right to Food Campaign and the Centre for Equity Studies compares the pre-lockdown situation to the situation in October 2020. As per the report, 
    • 27% of the respondents had no income; 
    • 40% of the respondents witnessed worsening of their food’s nutritional quality
    • 46% of the respondents had to skip one meal at least once a day in October 2020
  • According to the estimates of the Stranded Workers Action Network, 81% of stranded workers are without any work since April 15, 2021.
    • Further, 76% of the workers are short of food and cash and require immediate support.

Inadequate Efforts:

  • The government announced 5 kg free food grains for individuals enlisted under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), for May and June 2021. 
    • However, about 100 million deserving people are excluded from the ration distribution system. This is due to an outdated database based on the 2011 Census.
  • The Centre had allocated 73,000 crore rupees for 2021-22 for MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) and notified an annual increment of about 4% in wages.
    • This is 38,500 crore rupees less than last year’s revised estimate. Even if 1 crore fewer people enroll in the scheme than the previous year, then also this year’s amount can’t meet their demands.

Way Forward:

  • The government should expand PDS coverage immediately and include all eligible households under the schemes. It should extend the free food grains program to a year instead of limiting it to two months.
  • The government should give a wage hike of at least 10%. This would further call for an allocation of at least 1.4 lakh crore towards the MGNREGS for ensuring an uninterrupted implementation during the year.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 27 May, 2021

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