Current Affairs Analysis

10th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Mongolian Kanjur; Committee for Criminal Law Reforms; Samadhan Se Vikas scheme; External development charges; Infrastructural Development Charges; National Gene Bank; ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources; National Medicinal Plants Board; Rewa Solar Project; Grid parity; Fishermen dispute between India and Sri Lanka; India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary agreements; Katchatheevu Island; Malabar exercises; India Global Week; Measures taken for a Slum-free Mumbai; Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018; Risk Pool; Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI); India’s Insurance industry; Power Purchase Agreement (PPA); India and Mongolia relations; National Mission for Manuscripts; Location of Mongolia; etc.
By IASToppers
July 12, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Fugitive Economic Offenders Act
  • Committee for Criminal Law Reforms

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Samadhan Se Vikas scheme

Issues related to Health & Education

  • National Gene Bank

Economy

  • IRDAI planning pandemic risk pool
  • Gujarat cancels 2018 tariff hike of Ultra mega power plants
  • 750 MW Rewa Solar Project

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Fishermen dispute between India and Sri Lanka

Defence & Security Issues

  • Inauguration of six strategic bridges

Art & Culture

  • Re-printed Mongolian Kanjur Manuscripts released

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Malabar exercises
  • India Global Week
  • Measures taken for a Slum-free Mumbai

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Polity & Governance

Fugitive Economic Offenders Act

Assets worth ₹329.66 crore of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud mastermind Nirav Modi have been confiscated under the Section 12(2) and (8) of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.

Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018

  • The Act allows for a person to be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) if:

(i) An arrest warrant has been issued against him for any specified offences where the value involved is over Rs 100 crore, and

(ii) He has left the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.   

  • To declare a person an FEO, an application will be filed in a Special Court (designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts. The Special Court will require the person to appear at a specified place at least six weeks from issue of notice.

Upon declaration as an FEO, properties of a person may be confiscated and vested in the central government. Further, the FEO or any company associated with him may be barred from filing or defending civil claims.  

The act lists 55 economic offences such as counterfeiting government stamps or currency, dishonouring cheques, benami transactions, transactions defrauding creditors, tax evasion, money-laundering etc.

Criticism 

  • Under the act, any court may bar an FEO from filing or defending civil claims before it. Barring these persons from filing or defending civil claims may violate Article 21 of the Constitution i.e. the right to life. 
  • Under the act, an FEO’s property may be confiscated and vested in the central government. The act allows the Special Court to exempt properties where certain persons may have an interest in such property (e.g., secured creditors).  However, it does not specify whether the central government will share sale proceeds with any other claimantswho do not have such an interest (e.g., unsecured creditors).
  • The act does not require the authorities to obtain a search warrant or ensure the presence of witnesses before a search. This differs from other laws, such as the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, which contain such safeguards.   These safeguards protect against harassment and planting of evidence.
  • The act provides for confiscation of property upon a person being declared an FEO. This differs from other laws, such as CrPC, 1973, where confiscation is final two years after proclamation as absconder.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Committee for Criminal Law Reforms

Recently the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted a national level committee for reform in criminal law.

  • Ranbir Singh, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University (NLU) is the chairperson of the committee.
  • The committee would be gathering opinions online, consulting with experts and collating material for their report to the government.

Challenges in newly constituted Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws

  • No full-time members.
  • Already constituted but understaffed, 22nd Law Commission of India has a mandate to recommend law reforms.
  • The current composition lacks diversity in social identity as well as professional background and experience.

Committee suggestions

  • Include more expertise and diversity. Create sub-committees with outside experts and other consultants with established track records in the field of criminal justice who can redress the lack of diversity and experience in the Committee’s current composition
  • Committee should make public the MHA notification constituting it. It should also upload on its website the terms of reference. The committee should clarify whether or not it is working independently of the MHA.
  • Committee should engage with a wide range of stakeholders in the criminal justice system in a meaningful and transparent manner.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

Samadhan Se Vikas scheme

  • Launched by Haryana.
  • It is a one-time settlement scheme to recover outstanding External Development Charges(EDC) and Infrastructure Development Charges(IDC) owed by real estate developers to the Haryana Government.
  • The Haryana Government is to receive hundreds of crores of rupees for the residential and commercial colonies they have built across Haryana.
  • It is modelled on the central scheme of ‘Vivid se Vishwas-2020’.
  • The scheme will be applicable to the full outstanding EDC including interest as well as penal interest.

What is EDC?

  • EDC is to be paid by the developer to the civic authorities for maintenance of civic amenities within the periphery of the developed project including construction of roads, water and electricity supply, landscaping, maintenance of drainage and sewage systems, waste management etc.
  • The EDC is decided by the civic authorities.
  • In many cases, the developer collects it from home buyers but does not pay it to civic authorities.

What is IDC?

  • IDC is collected by the state government for the development of major infrastructure projects across the state.
  • These funds are utilized for socio-economic growth including the construction of highways, bridges, and transportation network etc.
[Ref: Indian Express, Tribune]

Issues related to Health & Education

National Gene Bank

Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) and ICAR (Indian Council of Agriculture Research)-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

  • The aim was to conserve the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Genetic Resources at the designated space of ICAR-NBPGR in long-term storage module in the National Gene bank and or at Regional Station for medium-term storage module. And to acquire hands-on training on plant germplasm conservation techniques to the working group of NMPB.

Expected Benefits:

  • Conservation of Germplasm on a long-term basis safely and cost-effectively will ensure social and economic security.
  • The purpose of conservation is to make sustainable development by protecting and using natural resources in ways that do not diminish the variety of genes and species or destroy important habitats and ecosystems.

What is Germplasm?

  • Germplasm is living tissue from which new plants can be grown. It can be a seed or another plant part – a leaf, a piece of stem, pollen or even just a few cells that can be turned into a whole plant. Germplasm contains the information for a species’ genetic makeup.

About ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

  • Under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education
  • It is headquartered at New Delhi.
  • It is commonly known as National Gene Bank

Duties:

  • To act as the nodal institute at the national level for acquisition, management and genomics-based profiling of indigenous and exotic plant genetic resources (PGR) for food and agriculture and to carry out related research and human resources development for sustainable growth of agriculture
  • Management and promotion of sustainable use of plant genetic and genomic resources of Agri-horticultural crops and supportive research.
  • Coordination and capacity building in PGR management and policy issues governing access and benefit-sharing
  • Molecular profiling of varieties of agri-horticultural crops and GM detection technology research

Objectives

  • To plan, organize, conduct and coordinate exploration and collection of indigenous and exotic plant genetic resources.
  • To undertake introduction, exchange and quarantine of plant genetic resources.
  • To characterize, evaluate, document and conserve crop genetic resources and promote their use, in collaboration with other national organizations.
  • To develop an information network on plant genetic resources.
  • To conduct research, undertake teaching and training, develop guidelines and create public awareness on plant genetic resources.

National Medicinal Plants Board:

  • Set up by Government of India in 2000.
  • Currently located in Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homoeopathy)
  • The primary mandate is to develop an appropriate mechanism for coordination between various ministries/ departments/ organizations in India and implement support policies/programs for overall (conservation, cultivation, trade and export) growth of medicinal plants sector both at the Central /State and International level.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

IRDAI planning pandemic risk pool

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is considering a proposal to set up a pandemic risk pool to address various risks which have been triggered by the Covid-19.

  • IRDAI has set up a nine-member committee headed by Suresh Mathur to recommend the structure and operating model for the pool.

What is a Risk Pool?

  • A risk pool is a form of risk management practiced by insurance companies.
  • Under this system, insurance companies come together to form a pool and contribute money which can provide protection to insurance companies against catastrophic risks such as floods or earthquakes or pandemic. Any claim will be taken care by the pool.

Need

  • In India, uninsured losses from all catastrophes and man-made disasters were 84 % of the total losses in recent times.
  • Currently, the central/state governments are compensating for the huge losses in natural disasters, creating deep holes in the pockets of public finance.
  • Hence, there is a need to examine long-term solutions to address the various risks triggered by the current pandemic and offer protection in case of a future similar crisis.
    • Some of the risks like business interruption losses, loss of employment would result in huge losses much beyond the capacity of the government, insurers and reinsurers.

Terrorism risk pool

  • Indian insurers set up a terrorism risk pool (200 crores) after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.
  • The terror pool surged after the Mumbai terror attack, 2008, when claims worth Rs 600 crore were disbursed.

About IRDAI

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory agency tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
  • It was constituted following the recommendations of the Malhotra Committee report, by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999.
  • Headquarter: Hyderabad, Telangana
  • Composition: Total 10-member = 1 chairman + 5 full-time members + 4 part-time members appointed by the government of India.

Functions of IRDA

  • Protect the rights of insurance policy holders.
  • Provide registration certification to life insurance companies
  • Renew, modify or suspend this registration certificate
  • Promote professional organisations connected with insurance and reinsurance business; regulate investment of funds by insurance companies
  • Adjudication of disputes between insurers and intermediaries or insurance intermediaries.

Key facts:

  • In India, insurance was mentioned in the writings of Manu (Manusmrithi), Yagnavalkya (Dharmasastra) and Kautilya (Arthashastra), which examined the pooling of resources for redistribution after fire, floods, epidemics and famine.

India’s Insurance industry

The measure of insurance penetration and density reflects the level of development of the insurance sector in a country.

Insurance penetration = percentage of insurance premium to GDP

Insurance density = ratio of premium to population (per capita premium).

  • Insurance penetration in India continues to be one of the lowest at 3.69%.
    • Insurance penetration rose mere from 2.71% in 2001 to 3.69 % in 2017.
    • However, insurance density rose by double-digit (12.2 %) during the same period.
  • India’s share in the global insurance market was meagre 2.0 percent during 2017.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Gujarat cancels 2018 tariff hike of Ultra mega power plants

The Gujarat government has decided to reverse its 2018 decision to amend the power purchase agreements (PPAs) it signed with three producers – Tata Power, Adani Power and Essar Power – to raise the tariffs.

  • In 2018, Gujarat government passed a resolution that stated new terms of PPA, in which the rising cost of coal will be shared by consumers, lenders, and the project developer.
    • In other words, it allowed these developers to charge higher tariffs in order to offset the rising cost of imported coal from Indonesia.
  • Reason for cancellation of this system: Due to reduced coal prices, increased tariffs were becoming unviable for the government.

Background:

  • In 2010, following an order by the Indonesian government increasing its coal benchmark price, the landing cost of coal in India increased.
  • Adani and Tata, which were importing from Indonesia, asked the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) to grant them “compensatory tariff” for increased fuel cost.
  • The two developers were given relief by the CERC in 2014, then denied by the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL), and again awarded by the same in 2016. In 2017, after states contested APTEL’s decision, the Supreme Court rejected any compensation to these units.       

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

  • PPA is a long term contract between seller of electricity (generator) and purchaser of electricity (the buyer).
  • The PPA defines all of the commercial terms for the sale of electricity between the two parties, including when the project will begin commercial operation, schedule for delivery of electricity, penalties for under delivery, payment terms, and termination.
  • There are many forms of PPA in use today and they vary according to the needs of buyer, seller, and financing counter parties.
  • In India, Central and State utility PPA contractual terms last for 25 years, whereas nascent Private PPAs are around 5-10 years. It is during this time the power purchaser buys energy.

Key Facts

  • India is now an electricity surplus country with an installed capacity of 369,000 megawatts (MW) against its peak demand of 183,804 MW.
  • Independent power producers in the private sector account for 47% of overall capacity—48% of thermal and 43% of renewable—while the Centre owns 25% of it and state governments the rest.

 [Ref: Economic Times, Financial Express]

750 MW Rewa Solar Project

The Prime Minister inaugurated Asia’s largest solar power plant at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh.

  • It is a 750MW ultra mega solar power plant, spread over 1,590 acres of land.
  • It will reduce emission equivalent to approximately 15 lakh tonne of carbon dioxide every year as per Government.

Important Points:

  • The solar park was developed by the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL), a joint venture company of Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (MPUVN) and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a central public sector undertaking.
  • Mahindra Renewables Private Ltd, ACME Jaipur Solar Power Private Ltd and Arinsun Clean Energy Private Ltd were selected by RUMSL through a reverse auction for developing the three solar generating units.
  • It is the first renewable energy project to supply to an institutional customer outside the state, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, which will get 24% of energy from the project. While the rest will be supplied to the state discoms of Madhya Pradesh.
  • It highlights India’s commitment to attaining the target of 175GW of installed renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, including 100GW of solar installed capacity.
  • The project has received the World Bank Group President’s Award for innovation and excellence and was included in the book “A Book of Innovation: New Beginnings” released by Prime Minister.

What is Grid parity?

  • Grid parity is the point when the cost of alternative energy becomes equal to or less than electricity from conventional energy forms like fossil fuels.

Who determines Solar Tariffs in India?

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy determines the solar tariffs in India.
[Ref: Hindustan Times, PIB, Livemint]

Bilateral & International Relations

Fishermen dispute between India and Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen have reported a sudden increase in the number of Indian trawlers spotted in the island’s territorial waters.

  • The dispute has its roots in the India-Sri Lanka Maritime boundary agreements and the ceding of Katchatheevu island by India.

India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary agreements

  • Both countries signed four maritime boundary agreements between 1974 and 1976 to define the international maritime boundary, facilitate law enforcement and resource management in the waters.
  • The first agreement was regarding the maritime boundary between Adam’s Bridge and the Palk Strait. It came into force on July 8, 1974
  • The second agreement came into force on May 10, 1976, and it defined the maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal.
  • India, Sri Lanka and Maldives signed an agreement for determination of the tri-junction point in the Gulf of Mannar in July 1976
  • In November 1976, India and Sri Lanka signed another agreement to extend the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mannar.

Katchatheevu Island:

  • Katchatheevu, an uninhabited islet in the Palk Strait, is the centre of a long-standing dispute between the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka
  • The 285-acre land, strategically important for fishing activities, was owned by the Raja of Ramnad (Ramanathapuram) and later became part of the Madras Presidency after the delimitation of Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait during British rule between the then governments of Madras and Ceylon. In 1921, both Sri Lanka and India claimed this piece of land for fishing and the dispute remained unsettled.
  • In 1974, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka through the Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement to settle the maritime boundary in the Palk Strait.
  • However, the agreement did not specify fishing rights, thus allowing Indian fishermen to fish around Katchatheevu.
  • Every February, thousands of devotees from Rameshwaram visit the 110-year-old St Anthony’s Church on Katchatheevu island built by a Tamil Catholic from Tamil Nadu.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India, Livemint]

Defence & Security Issues

Inauguration of six strategic bridges

  • The Defence Minister inaugurated six strategic bridges in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The two bridges on the Tarnah Nallah in Kathua District and four bridges located on Akhnoor-Pallanwala road in Akhnoor/Jammu district have spans ranging from 30 to 300 metres and were constructed at a total cost of Rs 43 crores.
  • These bridges constructed under Project Sampark of the Border Roads Organization.
  • Recently, a strategically important bridge at Daporijo over the Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh was also inaugurated.

Expected Benefits:

  • Will facilitate the movement of Armed Forces in this strategically important sector.
  • Contribute towards the overall economic growth of remote border areas.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Art & Culture

Re-printed Mongolian Kanjur Manuscripts released

The Ministry of Culture has taken up the project of reprinting of 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur under the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM).

  • The first set of five volumes of Mongolian Kanjur was published on the Guru Purnima, also known as Dharma Chakra Day, on 4th July 2020.
  • Publication of Mongolian Kanjur by the Government of India for the Government of Mongolia will act as a symbol of cultural symphony between India and Mongolia.

Mongolian Kanjur

  • Mongolian Kanjur are the Buddhist text in 108 volumes.
  • It is considered to be the most important religious text in Mongolia.
  • In the Mongolian language ‘Kanjur’ means ‘Concise Orders’- the words of Lord Buddha in particular.
  • Religious importance: Mongolian Buddhists worship the Kanjur at temples and recite the lines of Kanjur in daily life as a sacred ritual. The Kanjur are kept almost in every monastery in Mongolia.
  • Mongolian Kanjur has been translated from Tibetan. The language of the Kanjur is Classical Mongolian.

India and Mongolia relations

Historical interaction

  • Some historians established that tribes from Kangra kingdom (present day Himachal Pradesh) migrated to Mongolian territory 10000 years ago. They returned to India after staying there for about 2000 years. Though there is no historical evidence yet to prove this.
  • Buddhism was carried to Mongolia by Indian cultural and religious ambassadors during the early Christian era. (c.30 – c. 325). As a result, today, Buddhist form the single largest religious denomination in Mongolia.
  • In 1924, the Prime Minister of mentioned in his book that Mongolian forefathers came from backside of Himalayan Mountains.

Diplomatic relations

  • India has established formal diplomatic relations with Mongolia in 1955.
  • In 1991, India supported Mongolia’s membership to Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
  • Infrastructure cooperation: India announced US$1 billion for infrastructure sector in Mongolia. This is currently being utilized by Mongolia to build a first oil refinery.
  • Bilateral Cooperation Mechanism: India and Mongolia have ‘India-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation (IMJCC)’ chaired at Ministerial level.
    • The “Ayurveda Day” was celebrated for the first time in Mongolia in 2017 by organizing an India-Mongolia Scientific Conference on Traditional Medicine
  • International Cooperation: Mongolia supported India for the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2011-2012.
  • Trade Cooperation: Indian export to magnolia is $37 Million while import is $1.2 Million in 2019.
  • Defence collaboration: Joint India-Mongolia exercises ‘Nomadic Elephant’ is held annually.
    • India is a regular participant in the multilateral exercise ‘Khan Quest’ held in Mongolia.

The Indian community in Mongolia is small, numbering about 250-300.

National Mission for Manuscripts

  • It was launched in 2003 under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
  • Objective: Publish rare and unpublished manuscripts so that the knowledge enshrined in them is spread to researchers, scholars and general public at large.
  • Nodal agency for the execution: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
  • The Mission runs a network of 32 conservation units across the India, known as Manuscript Conservation Centres (MCCs).

Publications

  • Kriti Rakshana – bi-monthly publication of National Mission for Manuscripts
  • Tattvabodha –  Monthly lecture series for intellectual debate and discussion
  • Samraksika and Samiksika – The National Mission for Manuscripts organises national level Seminars. The papers presented in these seminars are published under the title, Samraksika and Samiksika.

What are Manuscripts?

  • A manuscript is a handwritten composition on paper, bark, cloth, metal, palm leaf or any other material dating back at least 75 years that has significant scientific, historical or aesthetic value.
    • Lithographs and printed volumes are not manuscripts.

Characteristics

  • Manuscripts are distinct from historical records such as epigraphs on rocks, firmans, revenue records which provide direct information on events or processes in history.
  • Manuscripts have knowledge content.
  • Manuscripts are found in hundreds of different languages and scripts.

Location of Mongolia

  • Located in Asia between Russia to the north and China to the south.
  • A land lock country
    • Nearest water body: Yellow Sea (700 km far away)

Terrain

  • Mongolia is largely a plateau, with an average elevation of 1,580 m. The highest peaks are in the Mongolian Altai Mountains.
  • 75% of Mongolia’s area consists of pasturelands, which support the herds of grazing livestock for which the country is known. The remaining area is divided between forests and barren deserts, with only a tiny fraction of the land under crops.
  • Southern Mongolia is dominated by the Gobi Desert, which is one of the Earth’s coldest deserts.

Key Facts

  • Most of the Indian scripts have been used for writing 70% of manuscripts are in the Sanskrit language. Other 30% of manuscripts are in languages like Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, Gujarati etc.
  • Ancient manuscripts language of India: Brahmi, Gupta, Kutila, Nagari, Nandinagari, Sharada, Grantha , Kharosthi, Vattelutu, Kaithi, Karani ,Odia, Modi, Siddham, Lepcha, Naskh, Nasta’liq, Kufic, Reqa’i, Sulsi etc.
[Ref: PIB]

Prelims Key Facts

Malabar exercises

  • India will decide on whether to include Australia in the Malabar exercises with Japan and the U.S.
  • Malabar began as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • Australia’s inclusion would be seen as a possible first step towards the militarization of the Quad coalition.
[Ref: The Hindu]

India Global Week

  • The Prime Minister addressed the inaugural session of India Global week via video conference.
  • The India Global Week 2020 is a three-day virtual conference, being held from July 9 to July 11, themed ‘Be the Revival: India and a Better New World’
  • It is organised by India Inc.
  • It will have 5,000 global participants from 30 nations being addressed by 250 global speakers across 75 sessions.
  • This forum brings together global thought leaders and captains of industry, who will discuss aspects relating to opportunities in India as well as the global economic revival post-COVID.
[Ref: PIB, Livemint]

Measures taken for a Slum-free Mumbai

The Maharashtra government announced certain steps to reduce slums in Mumbai.

Steps:

  • Setting up a stress relief fund of around ₹700 crore to ₹1,000 crores, in a bid to support developers undertaking Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) projects in the city.
  • Reduction in premium and deferral of payments.
  • Reduction in the timeline for approvals.
  • Capping of the rental structure in the city and suburbs zones.
  • All SRA projects will have health centres, an authorised committee to relocate religious structures etc. 
[Ref: The Hindu]
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