Polity & Governance
- U.P. becomes first State to endorse Centre’s triple talaq draft bill
- IBBI issues norms for handling grievances under IBC
Issues related to Health & Education
- Supreme Court rejects plea for single school board
- Why are there disparities between States on diseases?
- India, Israel to open centre for floriculture in Tamil Nadu
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Kacheguda becomes India’s first energy-efficient railway station
Bilateral & International Relations
- India fights to maintain developing country status
Art & Culture
- Bodhi Parva: BIMSTEC Festival of Buddhist Heritage
- Vyas Samman 2017
Science & Technology
- New form of matter ‘excitonium’ discovered
- Workings of solar wind flows deciphered by PRL team
Key Facts for Prelims
- ICAN receives Nobel Peace Prize
- India’s first mobile food testing lab
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
U.P. becomes first State to endorse Centre’s triple talaq draft bill
Uttar Pradesh has become the first State to endorse the Central government’s draft ‘Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill’ that makes instant triple talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
What is instant triple talaq?
There are three forms of talaq (divorce) in Islam: Ahsan, Hasan and Talaq-e-Biddat (triple or instant talaq).
- Ahsan and Hasan are revocable but Biddat is irrevocable.
- Biddat is considered sinful but is permissible in Islamic law. It has been banned in more than 20 Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- In August 2017 landmark verdict, Supreme Court had banned practice of “triple talaq” in which Muslim men unilaterally divorce their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession, calling it “unconstitutional”.
- As per Supreme Court pronouncement, the practice of “triple talaq” is un-Islamic and “arbitrary” and was not integral part of religious practice. It also violated Article 14 (Equality before law) and Article 21 of Indian Constitution.
- Following this, the Centre came out with the draft Bill on triple talaq. The draft bill was sent by the Centre to the States as the practice continued despite the Supreme Court striking it down. The draft was prepared by an inter-ministerial group headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
- Since marriage and divorce are subjects that fall under the concurrent list of the Constitution, the law ministry has also written to state governments seeking their views “urgently” on the proposed legislation.
- The Union thought it proper, in view of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, to consult the states.
Highlights of the draft ‘Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill’:
- The draft bill makes any declaration of talaq-e-biddat or triple talaq by Muslim man illegal and void.
- It makes it a “cognizable and non-bailable” offence, punishable with three years jail and a monetary fine.
- It applies to instant triple talaq in “oral, written, electronic or any other form”.
- It aims to empower Muslim women especially victims of triple talaq to move to court for seeking subsistence allowance for herself and dependent children, as well as custody of minor children.
- The law will be effective across whole country, however, will not apply to Jammu and Kashmir.
- The draft bill prescribes for three-year imprisonment and a fine to a man who tries to divorce his wife through triple talaq.
IBBI issues norms for handling grievances under IBC
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has notified the regulations for handling of grievances and complaints against Insolvency-related service providers.
Highlights of the regulations:
- The regulations enable a stakeholder, namely, debtor, creditor, claimant, service provider, resolution applicant or any other person having an interest in an insolvency resolution, liquidation or bankruptcy transaction to file a grievance or a complaint against service provider.
- The service provider could be an insolvency professional agency, Insolvency professional, Insolvency professional entity or information utility.
- The regulations provide for an objective and transparent procedure for disposal of grievances and complaints by the IBBI.
- The regulations do not spare a mischievous service provider. At the same time, they don’t also harass an innocent service provider.
About Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI):
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) was established on October 1, 2016 in accordance with the provisions of The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
- It has been set up by the code to regulate professionals, information utilities (IUs) and agencies engaged in the resolution of insolvencies of companies.
- It is a unique regulator: regulates a profession as well as transactions.
- It functions under Ministry of Commerce.
It has chairman and 10 members. Present chairman is M S Sahoo. There four government-nominated members. Following is the structure of the IBBI.
- One Chairperson
- Three members from Central Government officers not below the rank of Joint Secretary or equivalent.
- One nominated member from the RBI.
- Five members nominated by the Central Government; of these, three shall be whole-time members.
More than half of the directors of its board shall be independent directors.
- It provides a market-determined and time bound mechanism for orderly resolution of insolvency, wherever possible, and orderly exit, wherever required.
- It writes and enforces rules for transactions, namely, corporate insolvency resolution, corporate liquidation, individual insolvency resolution and individual bankruptcy under the Code.
- It seeks to consolidate and amend laws relating to reorganisation as well as insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner.
Issues related to Health & Education
Supreme Court rejects plea for single school board
In contrast to its 2011 judgment, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition seeking common syllabus and curriculum across all education boards.
First initiative of one Education Board system:
- Tamil Nadu, in August 2011, became the first Indian state to have a common syllabus, textbooks and examinations.
- Prior to that, schools in the state were following four boards—the state board, Matriculation board, Oriental board, and the Anglo-Indian board.
- While the proposal was mooted a few years ago, the government managed to merge the four boards after a long legal battle.
- ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ as the common curriculum board is called is framed on the lines of National Curriculum Framework. This, however, does not include national boards like the CBSE and ICSE. While this was the first initiative of its kind, its success is yet to be measured in qualitative terms.
Arguments in favour of “One Nation-One Education Board” system:
- The petition sought a common education system, meaning common syllabus and common curriculum for all children aged 6 to 14 years.
- The petition alleged that the education system does not provide equal opportunities to everyone.
- The petition argued that in expounding the Constitution to meet the requirements of Articles 21A read with Articles 14, 15, 16, 38(2), 39(f), 46 & 51A, measures such as a common education system viz. common syllabus and a common curriculum is a necessity. It would enable every child to be placed on a level playing field for the challenges of the future and meaningfully contribute in achieving the great golden goals as set out in the Preamble.
- The petition further asked the Centre to establish a “One Nation One Education Board” system, in substitution of the existing multi-board system.
- The petition had said that Article 21A of the Constitution makes education a fundamental right of children but the executive has not introduced common education system in spirit of the provisions.
- The plea said that injury is caused to the children because prevailing education system does not provide equal opportunity to all the children in spirit of the Article 16 and Preamble of the Constitution, as syllabus and curriculum are very different.
What the 2011 judgement says?
- In 2011, a three-judge Bench led by Justice J.M. Panchal in the Tamil Nadu and Others versus K. Shyam Sunder and Others, had held that a common syllabus, especially for children aged between six and 14, would achieve the “code of common culture”.
- The judgment had even viewed the idea of a common syllabus as a precursor to the Uniform Civil Code and an antidote to fanaticism and divisiveness.
- The judgment had held that the “right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education, but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social and cultural background”.
- Separate education facilities are inherently unequal and violate the doctrine of equality.
- The Court had held that a “uniform education system would achieve the code of common culture, removal of disparity, depletion of discriminatory values in human relations”.
Arguments against the “One Nation-One Education Board” system:
- The constitution of the new board requires a lot of thought and planning. The first concern is that the very credibility of our internal assessment is so low that how does one judge students?
- Moreover, the heterogeneity of our schools – while some schools have the best of facilities and teachers, a large number of them don’t even have blackboards – is a huge impediment in standardisation of education.
Why are there disparities between States on diseases?
The India State-Level Disease Burden report, a first-of-its-kind assessment of causes for diseases in each State from 1990 to 2016, was released recently.
What led to the report?
- It was the result of a collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Public Health Foundation of India, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and senior experts and stakeholders from about 100 institutions across India.
- The report is the result of two years of intense scientific work and collaborative effort.
- The Global Burden of Disease methodology was used for this analysis, which is the most widely used disease burden estimation approach globally.
What is worrying?
- A team of scientists evaluated the diseases causing the most premature deaths and ill-health in each State. It found out, for instance, that life expectancy at birth in the country has improved significantly.
- However, the report indicated many health inequalities among States, noting that while there was a fall in the under-five mortality in every State there was also a four-fold difference in the rate of improvement among them. The per person burden from many of the leading infectious and non-communicable diseases varied 5-10 times between States.
- In the most developed States this transition took place about 30 years ago, but in the poorest States this transition has taken place only over the past few years.
Who suffers most?
- The report explained that infectious and childhood diseases continue to be significant problems in the poor Empowered Action Group States of north India (Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and Assam), which still contributes 37-43% of the total disease burden.
- These diseases are responsible for the inordinately high burden of premature deaths and morbidity suffered by children under five years of age in these States.
- The results show that non-communicable disease and injuries have together overtaken infectious and childhood diseases in terms of disease burden in every State, but the magnitude of this transition varies markedly between the poor States and the more developed States.
How will this report help?
- The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative will update estimates annually for each State based on new data that become available.
- It will also provide more detailed findings: for example, next year it plans to report the rural-urban differences in disease burden for each State.
- Detailed topic-specific reports and publications will be produced for major diseases and risk factors for deeper insights to plan their control.
- The policy applications of these findings include planning of State health budgets, prioritisation of interventions relevant to each State, informing the government’s Health Assurance Mission in each State, monitoring of health-related Sustainable Development Goals targets, and assessing the impact of large-scale interventions based on time trends of disease burden.
- In addition, the data gaps identified in this estimation process will inform which areas of the health information system of India need to be strengthened.
The report is now being used as an important tool for health planners in India to improve health of the people more effectively.[Ref: The Hindu]
India, Israel to open centre for floriculture in Tamil Nadu
India and Israel are coming together to set up a centre for excellence in floriculture at Thally in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu.
- It is first agro-technology development centre to be set up with Israel’s assistance in Tamil Nadu.
- The centre at Thally and similar centre planned for vegetables to be established in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.
- The Dindigul centre, specialises in vegetables such as cucumber, capsicum and tomatoes, is expected to be launched in January 2018.
- Currently, there are 20 such centres in nine States. By end of this project, 30 such Indo-Israel centres of excellence in agriculture will come up in in India.
- More such centres of excellence are planned in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in near future.
- These centres form part of a three-year Indo-Israel agricultural partnership signed between Mashav, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation and mission for integrated development of horticulture of Union Agriculture Ministry.
What is floriculture?
Floriculture or flower farming is the study of growing and marketing flowers and foliage plants.
- Floriculture includes cultivation of flowering and ornamental plants for direct sale or for use as raw materials in cosmetic and perfume industry and in the pharmaceutical sector.
- It also includes production of planting materials through seeds, cuttings, budding and grafting.
Floriculture in India:
- India is bestowed with several agro-climatic zones conducive for production of sensitive and delicate floriculture products.
- Indian floriculture industry comprises of flowers such as Rose, Tuberose, Glads, Anthurium, Carnations, Marigold etc.
- Cultivation is undertaken in both open farm conditions as well as state-of-the-art poly and greenhouses.
- As per National Horticulture Database published by National Horticulture Board, during 2014-15 the area under floriculture production in India was 248.51 thousands hectares with a production of 1,658 thousand tonnes loose flowers and 484 thousand tonnes cut flowers.
- Total area under floriculture in India is second largest in the world and only next to China.
- Floriculture is now commercially cultivated in several states with Tamil Nadu (17%), Karnataka (14%) West Bengal (10%), having gone ahead of other producing states like Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Haryana, Assam and Chhattisgarh. [Note: Some other sources mention that among states, Karnataka is the leader in floriculture with about 29,700 hectares under floriculture cultivation followed by Tamil Nadu]
- More than 50% of the floriculture units are based in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Kacheguda becomes India’s first energy-efficient railway station
Kacheguda has earned the distinction of being the first energy-efficient ‘A1 Category’ railway station in the country.
- Kacheguda railway station has achieved 100% energy efficiency by replacing 1,312 conventional lights with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, 370 ceiling fans with Brushless DC Electrical (BLDC) motors energy-efficient fans and 12 air conditioners with energy efficient inverter type ACs.
About Kacheguda Railway station:
- The Kacheguda Railway station is a historic and the most beautiful Station building on South Central Railway and one of the landmarks of Hyderabad city which has completed 100 years.
- Situated in the Heart of the city of Hyderabad, this imposing structure was built in the year 1916 by the Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway during the reign of Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam.
Bilateral & International Relations
India fights to maintain developing country status
India’s continued eligibility for special and differential treatment (S&DT) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) hangs in the balance.
- Poorer countries trying to negotiate further strengthening of the provision.
What’s the issue?
- In the Doha Declaration, members agreed that all S&D provisions are an integral part of the WTO agreements, and should be reviewed.
- US and the EU have now hinted at the need to curtail the special and differential (S&D) facility for developing countries, now even the least developed countries (LDCs) are challenging this flexibility.
- A group of more than 70 LDCs and developing countries have proposed separate S&D guidelines for the two kinds of nations.
- The G-90 group, including LDCs, the African group and the ACP (African, Caribbean, Pacific) proposal asks for stricter notification requirements for developing countries compared with LDCs or those developing countries that face capacity constraints.
Under these scenario, there is no clarity over whether India will continue to be covered under the S&DT provision being reviewed at the WTO in ten specific areas proposed by the G-90 group. India is trying to push for its continuation, but many members are not so eager.
What is S&DT in WTO law?
- Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) in the WTO usually refers to a category of legal provisions in existing WTO agreements that give developing countries greater flexibility with regards to the application of commitments and use of policy instruments and developed countries the right to treat developing countries more favourably.
- These provisions are aimed at helping poor farmers in developing countries through subsidies.
- With S&DT, WTO members recognize the different economic situations of developing countries and their needs in implementing the obligations of WTO agreements.
S&DT provisions are usually grouped into four categories:
- longer time periods for implementing agreements and commitments,
- measures to increase trading opportunities for these countries,
- provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries,
- support to help developing countries build the infrastructure for WTO work, handle disputes, and implement technical standards.
In addition to S&DT for all developing countries, some WTO agreements also contain special provisions for least developed countries (LDC). These special conditions for LDC include longer timeframes or exemptions (partial of full) for commitments.[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]
Art & Culture
Bodhi Parva: BIMSTEC Festival of Buddhist Heritage
India hosted “Bodhi Parva: BIMSTEC Festival of Buddhist Heritage” at New Delhi as part of celebrations of 20th Anniversary of BIMSTEC.
- The festival is organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) along with Teamwork Arts.
About Bodhi Parva:
- ‘’Bodhi Parva: BIMSTEC Buddhist Heritage Festival” aims to look at the different aspects of Buddhism, in today’s context.
- The festival had diverse components including exhibition ofinternational and Indian Buddhist art and architecture, discourses by eminent scholars and practitioners of Buddhism, guided meditation and chanting by Buddhist monks and choir, dance and music performances, screening of film on Buddhism and a food trail.
Purpose of festival
- To emphasise and raise awareness of Buddhism, a rich and common heritage and mark the 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC.
- To spread universal message of peace and tolerance practiced by Buddhism to address growing sense of inadequacy in face of changes and conflicts that people and the world face.
Significance of festival:
- BIMSTEC is international organisation comprising of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. BIMSTEC has a deep connect with Buddhism, which originated in South Asia and then travelled and rooted itself in South East Asia. Buddhism constitutes a bridge between South and South-East Asia.
Vyas Samman 2017
Eminent Hindi writer Mamta Kalia will be honoured with literary award Vyas Samman for year 2017 for her novel “Dukkham Sukkham”.
- She has earlier received “Yashpal Katha Samman” from Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan, “Sahitya Bhushan Samman” and “Ram Manohar Lohia Samman”.
About Vyas Samman:
- Instituted by the K K Birla Foundation, the award carries an amount of Rs 2.50 lakh and is given to outstanding literary work in Hindi authored by an Indian citizen.
- The Foundation has also instituted other awards like the Saraswati Samman, given every year for an outstanding literary work written in any of the Indian languages.
Previous Vyas Samman awardees:
- Eminent literary critic and poet Ram Vilas Sharma is the first recipient of this award in 1991.
- Hindi scholar and writer Sunita Jain’s poetry collection “Kshama” has been selected for the prestigious Vyas Samman 2015.
- Renowned Hindi writer Surinder Verma was awarded “Vyas Samman” for 2016, for his novel “Kaatna shami ka vriksha padma-pankhuri ki dhar se”.
Science & Technology
New form of matter ‘excitonium’ discovered
Physicists from the University of Illinois have discovered a new form of matter called excitonium.
- The existence of this matter was first theorized almost 50 years ago.
How this was discovered?
- To prove existence of excitons, scientists had studied crystals doped with dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2), a transition metal. This material is made up of a kind of boson, a composite particle that could allow matter to act as a superfluid, superconductor, or even as an insulating electronic crystal.
- Scientists were able to observe existence of excitonium using novel technique called momentum-resolved electron energy-loss spectroscopy (M-EELS).
What is Excitonium?
- Excitonium is a condensate made up of excitons and exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena just like a superconductor.
What are Excitons?
- Excitons are particles that are formed in a very strange quantum mechanical pairing. They are obtained by combining escaped electrons and “holes”.
Significance of this discovery:
- Excitonium exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena, like a superconductor. As a superconductor and superfluid, this material can be used to further existing technologies.
- This finding holds great promise for unlocking further quantum mechanical mysteries.
- It could also shed light on the metal-insulator transition in band solids, in which exciton condensation is believed to play a part. Beyond that, possible technological applications of excitonium are purely speculative.
Workings of solar wind flows deciphered by PRL team
A group of researchers from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, have, for the first time, figured out the conditions under which certain types of solar storms can flow towards the earth and affect its atmosphere.
What are solar storms?
- Solar storms are violent events on the sun which can temporarily distort the earth’s magnetosphere – the region around the earth which is influenced by its magnetic field.
Causes of solar storms:
Such solar storms have two causes:
Coronal Mass Ejections (CME):
- CMEs are huge explosions of charged particles extending beyond the sun’s corona or outer layer and can be visibly observed. CMEs can be detected by a coronagraph when they are ejected from the Sun.
Corotating Interaction Regions (CIR):
- Charged particles are being spewed continually out of the sun’s corona, forming the solar wind. Some parts of these winds move faster than others. Since they contain charged particles in a plasma state, these different regions physically interact with each other to form wavelike disturbances called CIRs that emanate from the sun and spiral outwards.
- CIRs are generated in the interplanetary medium and there are no visual signatures for CIRs. They are called “corotating” interaction regions as they rotate along with the sun, attached to it at one end.
Effects of solar storms:
- These temporary disturbances, called geomagnetic storms, can generate shock waves in the interplanetary medium that can accelerate charged particles to very high energies and which, in turn, can harm the satellites placed by humans in space.
Need to understand solar storms:
- It is important because solar storms contain charged particles travelling at very high speeds and these can affect the electronics present on satellites in orbit around the earth.
- It is also important to know the time when plasma will reach the earth, accurately, so that preventive and protective measures can be put into place in case a solar storm were to strike the earth.
- If the earth’s magnetic field were to be weakened by extreme solar storms, charged particles would shower on to the planet. Apart from rendering electronic devices defunct, charged particles in an extreme solar storm can also short current carrying over-head high voltage lines, leading to large-scale transformers burn out and thereby, power blackouts.
- A 2008 study conducted by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences estimated that an extreme event could lead to a loss of 40% of transformers in the U.S., which, in turn, could take years to restore.
- The up side is that the way to prevent such a disaster is well understood: simply switch off the power lines on being informed of an approaching solar storm! And for this to be possible, an accurate determination of the time taken for the solar storm to travel to the earth is needed.
About L1 point:
- There is an imaginary point on the line joining the sun and earth known as the L1 point or the Lagrange 1 point.
- A special feature of this point is that a particle placed there will feel no gravitational pull due to either the sun or the earth as the two forces cancel each other.
Key Facts for Prelims
ICAN receives Nobel Peace Prize
The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
- ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organisations from over 100 countries around the globe.
- It was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.
- It is working to promote adherence to and full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The campaign helped bring about this treaty.
- In July 2017, 122 nations adopted a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but nuclear-armed states, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.
India’s first mobile food testing lab
- Goa state government launched country’s first-ever mobile food testing laboratory.
- This would be the first ever ‘Food Safety on Wheel’ vehicle in the entire country.
- It is entirely funded by the Centre, which will also bear the maintenance cost for five years.
- The laboratory will help in on-the-spot testing of food items and curb adulteration. Besides this, it will also educate people about nutrition and importance of safe food.