Current Affairs Analysis

12th June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Natural guardianship of child; Commercial Coal Auctions; Jeevan Pramaan; India Rankings 2020; National Institutional Ranking Framework; Nature Index 2020; Import Duty on Bamboo Sticks; Universal Basic Income; Border Adjustment Tax; comprehensive framework for sale of loan; Bose-Einstein Condensate; Athirappilly Hydroelectric Project; IFLOWS-Mumbai; National Center for Seismology; Operation Desert Chase; East Asia's oldest carved artwork; Indian Gaur etc.
By IASToppers
June 12, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Claim to Natural guardianship of child

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Commercial Coal Auctions
  • Jeevan Pramaan for pensioners

Issues related to Health and Education

  • India Rankings 2020
  • Nature Index 2020

Economy

  • Enhanced Import Duty on Bamboo Sticks
  • Government considering Universal Basic Income
  • Levy of BAT on imported goods
  • RBI proposes comprehensive framework for sale of loans

Science and Technology

  • Bose-Einstein Condensate

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Athirappilly Hydroelectric Project
  • IFLOWS-Mumbai
  • National Center for Seismology
  • Operation Desert Chase
  • East Asia’s oldest carved artwork
  • Indian Gaur

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Polity & Governance

Claim to Natural guardianship of child

The Bombay High Court upheld an order passed by a family court granting a minor child’s custody to his mother and said that woman has an indefeasible claim to natural guardianship of her child.

Minor Children:

  • Under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 minor means a person who has not completed the age of eighteen years.
  • A minor is considered to be a person who is physically and intellectually imperfect and immature and hence needs someone’s protection.

Gita Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India:

  • In Gita Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India, the Supreme Court has held that under certain circumstances, even when the father is alive mother can act as a natural guardian.

Section 6 of India’s Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956:

  • The Section 6 of India’s Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 provides that:
    • The natural guardian of a Hindu minor boy or unmarried girl is the father, and only after him, the mother.
    • It also provides that the guardian of a married minor girl is her husband.
    • In the case of a married girl, the husband is the natural guardian.
  • The mother is the natural guardian of the minor illegitimate children even if the father is alive.
  • However, she is the natural guardian of her minor legitimate children only if the father is dead or otherwise is incapable of acting as guardian.
  • Proviso to clause (a) of Section 6, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act lays down that the custody of a minor who has not completed the age of five years shall ordinarily be with the mother.
  • Thus, mother is entitled to the custody of the child below five years, unless the welfare of the minor requires otherwise.

Rights of guardian of person:

  • The natural guardian has the following rights in respect of minor children:
    1. Right to custody,
    2. Right to determine the religion of children,
    3. Right to education,
    4. Right to control movement, and
    5. Right to reasonable chastisement
  • These rights are conferred on the guardians in the interest of the minor children and therefore of each- of these rights is subject to the welfare of the minor children.
  • The natural guardians have also the obligation to maintain their minor children.
[Ref: The Hindu, Legal service India]

Government Schemes and Policies

Commercial Coal Auctions

The Government of India will launch auction of coal mines for commercial mining with the theme Unleashing Coal: New Hopes for Atma Nirbhar Bharat on June 18, 2020.

Major Highlights:

  • The first-ever commercial coal auctions in country will be held on 18th June, in a virtually program in New Delhi.
  • The auctions aim at breaking free from the shackles of restrictions in Coal mining andmaking the country self-reliant in coal production through structural reforms in the coal sector.
  • The mining auctions have terms and conditions which are very liberal allowing new companies to participate in the bidding process, transparent bidding process, 100% FDI through automatic route allowed and reasonable financial terms and revenue sharing model based on National Coal Index.
  • There shall be no restriction on the sale and/ or utilisation of coal produced from the coal mine and the Successful Bidder shall be free to sell coal in any manner.

Government initiatives:

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Rules made thereunder provide enabling provisions for auction of coal mines for commercial mining.
  • As per recent amendment in the Foreign Direct Investment policy, 100% FDI is allowed under automatic route for coal mining activities including associated processing infrastructure.
  • On January 10, 2020, the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 has been promulgated for amendment in the CM(SP) Act, 2015 and MMDR Act, 1957.
  • By removing the restriction on prior experience in coal mining, the Ordinance enables wider participation in auction of coal mines.
  • Further, the Ordinance also enables auction of unexplored and partially explored coal blocks for mining through prospecting license-cum-mining Lease (PL-cum-ML).

Key Facts:

  • The power production is dominated by coal in India.
  • As of May 2019, 72% of electricity is being generated from coal-based power plants.
  • As of December 2019, the National Electric Grid had a total installed capacity of 365 GW, of which Coal accounts for more than 55% of installed power generation capacity in India.
  • Coal (55.8%) > hydro (13.7%) > wind (10.1%) > solar PV (8.8%) > natural gas (6.8%) > bioenergy and waste (2.7%) > nuclear (2%) and oil (0.1%)
[Ref: PIB, Ministry of Coal]

Jeevan Pramaan for pensioners

EPFO has proactively partnered with Common Service Centre to provide facility to submit Digital Jeevan Pramaan during COVID -19 pandemic.

Aim:

  • To bring service delivery closer to the door steps of Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS) pensioners, especially during the challenging times of COVID -19.

Major Highlights:

  • By leveraging the last mile network of over 3.65 lakh Common Services Centers, Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) provides its 65 lakh pensioners facility to submit Digital Jeevan Pramaan closer to their residence.
  • EPS pensioners are required to submit Jeevan Pramaan /Life certificate each year to continue to draw pension.
  • In addition to CSC centers, EPS pensioners can also submit Jeevan Pramaan through 135 regional offices and 117 district offices and pension disbursing banks.
  • EPS pensioners can now submit Digital Jeevan Pramaan at any time during the year as per their convenience.
  • The life certificate will remain valid for one year from date of submission.
  • Earlier, the pensioners were required to submit the Jeevan Pramaan in the month of November.

Jeevan Pramaan:

  • Jeevan Pramaan is a biometric enabled digital service for pensioners.
  • Pensioners of Central Government, State Government or any other Government organization can take benefit of this facility.
  • It was launched on 10 November 2014 and expected to benefit over one crore pensioners.
  • Every year, pensioners are required to provide a Life Certificate or Jeevan Pramaan Patra to their bank in November to ensure continuity of their pension, which can be done both physically or online.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health and Education

India Rankings 2020

The Ministry of Human Resources Development have virtually released India Rankings 2020 for Higher Educational Institutions.

Major Highlights:

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has retained the top rank in the National Institutional Ranking Framework.
  • Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru tops the University list.
  • IIM Ahmedabad tops in Management Category and AIIMS occupies the top slot in Medical category for third consecutive year.
  • Miranda College retains 1st position amongst colleges for third consecutive year.
  • Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, Delhi secures 1st position in “Dental” category, dental institutions included for first time in India Rankings 2020.
  • The rankings help universities to improve their performance on various ranking parameters and identify gaps in research and areas of improvement.

National Institutional Ranking Framework:

  • NIRF is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to rank all institutions of higher education in India.
  • It was launched in September 2015.
  • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country.
  • The parameters broadly cover:
    • Teaching, Learning and Resources
    • Research and Professional Practices
    • Graduation Outcomes
    • Outreach and Inclusivity
    • Perception
  • The ranking of the Institutions will be done based on the parameters proposed by NIRF for different disciplines.
  • It ranks various categories of institutions including universities, engineering, management, pharmacy, architecture, Law, medical institutions and general degree colleges.
  • The rankings assume significance as performance of institutions has been linked with Institutions of Eminence scheme.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]

Nature Index 2020

The Nature Index 2020 has been released recently by Nature Research.

Major Highlights:

  • The United States topped the Index followed by China, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan.
  • India has ranked 12th in the Index.
  • The top three Institutions from India:
    • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
    • Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc)
    • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)

About Nature Index:

  • The Nature Index is a database of author affiliation information collated from research articles published in an independently selected group of 82 high-quality science journals.
  • The database is compiled by Nature Research.
  • The Index provides insights of high-quality research output and collaboration at the institutional, national and regional level.
  • The ratings are based on the research published in the top journals.
[Ref: PIB, Nature Index]

Economy

Enhanced Import Duty on Bamboo Sticks

The Central Government’s decision to increase import duty on bamboo sticks from 10% to 25% will open up new avenues of self-employment in the country.

Major highlights:

  • The import duty on bamboo sticks is increased to discourage heavy import and help local industry grow.
  • The decision assumes great significance as heavy import of bamboo sticks from China and Vietnam caused huge employment loss in India.
  • This decision will pave the way for setting up of new agarbatti stick manufacturing units to meet the ever-growing demand of Agarbatti in India.
  • As per Khadi & Village Industries Commission in the next 8-10 months, at least one lakh new jobs will be created in the Agarbatti industry, a major activity under the village industry sector in India.

Agarbatti sector:

  • Agarbatti making industry is a part of the Village Industry, which requires a very small capital and less technical skill.
  • This industry employs mostly women workers.
  • At present the consumption of incense sticks in India is 1490 tons per day but only 760 tons per day is locally produced.
  • Hence, the huge gap between the demand and supply resulted in heavy import of raw agarbatti.
  • Consequently, the import of raw agarbatti increased from just 2% in 2009 to 80% in 2019.
  • In monetary terms, the import increased exponentially from Rs 31 crore in 2009 to Rs 546 crore in 2019 due to reduction of import duty in 2011 from 30 % to 10 %.
  • The move hit the Indian agarbatti manufacturers hard and resulted in closure of nearly 25% of the total units.

Present status:

  • The Ministry of Commerce on August 31, 2019, placed the import of raw agarbatti under “Restricted” category.
  • This restriction on import revived hundreds of agarbatti units in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and several North Eastern states.
  • But it also prompted the local traders to import round bamboo sticks for manufacturing of raw Agarbatti.
  • This resulted in increase in import of Bamboo sticks from Rs 210 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 370 crore in the year 2019-20.

Significance:

  • The decision will strengthen the agarbatti as well as the bamboo industry in India.
  • India is the 2nd largest producer of bamboo in the world but ironically, it is also the 2nd largest importer of bamboo and its products.
  • The hike in import duty on bamboo sticks from 10% to 25% will curb heavy import from China and encourage local manufacture in Agarbatti and bamboo industries.
  • In the post COVID-19 scenario, this industry will prove to be a boon for the migrant workers.
[Ref: PIB]

Government considering Universal Basic Income

National Human Rights Commission has informed United Nations Human Rights Council that the implementation of a universal basic income was under examination and active consideration of the Central government.

Universal Basic Income:

  • Universal Basic Income is a guaranteed basic income aimed to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens.
  • UBI is a model for providing all citizens of a country, a periodic cash payment unconditionally on individual basis, without means-test or work requirement and regardless of their income, resources or employment status.
  • It is a kind of social security for citizens and the money is transferred directly to their bank accounts.
  • UBI was recommended in India by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramaniam in the Economic Survey 2016-17, but it has not been possible to implement the scheme till date.

Arguments in favour:

  • UBI can address poverty and inequality effectively as compared to a long list of other subsidy schemes.
  • It will give the consumer financial autonomy and the choice to spend.
  • It will address the problem of disproportionate coverage of the lower income groups in the Public Distribution System, increase generosity benefits received by the lower income groups.

Arguments against UBI:

  • UBI will discourage labour supply in factories, agriculture and other labour intensive sectors.
  • It would cost a huge amount to the Central government and give unnecessary benefit to higher-income groups who may not need that money and may
  • In case if UBI is implemented by removing subsidies, then it will lead to rise in the prices of various commodities.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Levy of BAT on imported goods

A member of NITI Aayog member has favoured imposing a border adjustment tax (BAT) on imports to provide a level-playing field to domestic industries.

Border Adjustment Tax:

  • BAT is a duty that is proposed to be imposed on imported goods in addition to the customs levy that gets charged at the port of entry.
  • The domestically produced goods are charged with domestic taxes like electricity duty, duties on fuel, clean energy cess, mandi tax, royalties, biodiversity fees etc.
  • But many imported goods do not get loaded with such levies in their respective country of origin and this gives such products price advantage in the Indian market.

Significance:

  • India has vowed to be self-reliant or make an Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
  • Advocating self-reliance should not imply that India will embrace isolationist policies.
  • India has to be global but with a supply chain which is more local.
  • Hence, the border adjustment tax can provide the domestic industry a level-playing field regarding imports.
[Ref: Economic Times]

RBI proposes comprehensive framework for sale of loans

The Reserve Bank of India has proposed a comprehensive set of norms for sale of loans by banks which could be either standard or sub-standard.

Aim:

  • Building a robust secondary market for bank loans that could ensure proper price discovery and can be used as an indicator for impending stress.

Key Features:

  • As per the draft norms, the price discovery process has been deregulated to be as per the lenders’ policy.
  • The standard assets would be allowed to be sold by lenders through assignment, novation or a loan participation contract.
  • The stressed assets would be allowed to be sold only through assignment or novation.
  • The stressed assets may be sold to any entity that is permitted to take on loan exposures by its statutory or regulatory framework.
  • It is also proposed to do away with the Minimum Retention Requirement (MRR) for sale of loans by lenders.
  • Significant changes in securitisation norms are proposed which are aimed at development of a strong and robust market for such transactions.
  • Only transactions that result in multiple tranches of securities being issued reflecting different credit risks will be treated as securitisation transactions, and accordingly covered under these revised norms.
  • The norm has prescribed a special case of securitisation, called Simple, Transparent and Comparable (STC) securitisations with clearly defined criteria and preferential capital treatment.
  • The definition of securitisation has been modified to allow single asset securitisations and securitisation of exposures purchased from other lenders has been allowed.

Applicability:

  • The loan sales are carried out by lenders for reasons ranging from strategic sales to rebalancing their exposures or as a means to achieve resolution of stressed assets by extinguishing the exposures.
  • These guidelines will be applicable to commercial banks, all financial institutions, non-banking finance companies and small finance banks.
  • The directions will be applicable to all loan sales, including sale of loans to special purpose entities for the purpose of securitisation.

Significance:

  • The revision in guidelines is an attempt to align the regulatory framework with the Basel guidelines on securitisation that have come into force effective January 1, 2018.
  • A dynamic secondary market for bank loans will ensure proper discovery of credit risk pricing associated with each exposure.
  • It will be useful as a leading indicator for impending stress, provided that the volumes are sufficiently large.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science and Technology

Bose-Einstein Condensate

A team of NASA scientists unveiled the first results from BEC experiments aboard the International Space Station.

What is BEC?

  • A Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is known as the fifth state of matter, after solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
  • The existence of BEC was predicted by Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein in mid 1920s.

Formation:

  • They are formed when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius).
  • The fifth state of matter is produced when the atoms in a gas become ionised.
  • When bosonic atoms are cooled to form a condensate, they can lose their individuality.
  • They behave like one big collective super atom, similar to how photons become indistinguishable in a laser beam.
  • The first BEC was shown experimentally in June 1995 by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, by cooling a gas of around 2,000 Rubidium atoms.

Properties:

  • BECs straddle (belong) between the macroscopic world governed by forces such as gravity and the microscopic world ruled by quantum mechanics.
  • BECs are extremely fragile and the slightest interaction with the external world is enough to warm them past their condensation threshold.

Recent developments:

  • BECs in terrestrial labs typically last a handful of milliseconds before dissipating.
  • The Scientists at International Space Station (ISS) have recently observed the fifth state of matter in space for the first time.
  • The BECs lasted more than a second, in ISS due to microgravity, as these particles can manipulated here free from Earthly constraints (limitations due to Earth’s gravity).
  • This offered the team an unprecedented chance to study their properties.

Significance:

  • Scientists believe BECs contain vital clues to mysterious phenomena such as dark energy– the unknown energy thought to be behind the Universe’s accelerating expansion.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Key Facts for Prelims

Athirappilly Hydroelectric Project

  • The Kerala government has granted permission to the Kerala State Electricity Board to obtain the statutory clearances for the Athirappilly hydroelectric project.
  • The controversial power project is proposed in the ecologically sensitive Chalakkudy river basin in Thrissur district, Kerala.
  • The state government on June 4 issued a ‘No Objection Certificate’ for a period of 7 years, permitting it to proceed with implementation of Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project.
  • The move has evoked strong response from tribal people and ecologists who have been campaigning against it.
  • Besides being economically and environmentally unviable, the power project would infringe upon the rights of the Kadar tribe as guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act.
  • The Kadar tribes, a designated Scheduled Tribe, are a small group of tribes in Southern India residing in the hilly areas of Thrissur and Palakkad districts of Kerala.

IFLOWS-Mumbai

  • IFLOWS-Mumbai is a flood warning system for Mumbai launched on June 12, 2020.
  • The state of art Integrated Flood Warning system aims to enhance the resilience of Mumbai by providing early warning for flooding specially during high rainfall events and cyclones.
  • The system has been developed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in close coordination with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
  • I-FLOWS comprises of seven modules, namely Data Assimilation, Flood, Inundation, Vulnerability, Risk, Dissemination Module and Decision Support System.
  • The system has provisions to capture the urban drainage within the city and predict the areas of flooding.

National Center for Seismology

  • National Center for Seismology is the nodal agency of the Government of India for monitoring of earthquake activity in the country.
  • NCS monitors earthquake activity all across the country through its 24×7 round the clock monitoring center.
  • Apart from earthquake monitoring, NCS is also actively involved in the Seismic Hazard Micro zonation and seismological research.
  • The major activities currently being pursued by the NCS are:
    • Earthquake monitoring on 24X7 basis
    • Operation and maintenance of national seismological network comprising of 115 Stations
    • Maintenance of Seismological data centre and information services.
    • Seismic hazard micro zonation related studies
    • Aftershock/Earthquake swarm monitoring/survey
    • Understanding of Earthquake processes
    • Public outreach.

Operation Desert Chase

  • Operation Desert Chase is an Anti-espionage operation started by Military Intelligence in early 2019.
  • Under the operation two employees in Ammunition depot, Rajasthan have been arrested who were passing on confidential information to the Pakistani intelligence agency.
  • They were arrested under relevant sections of Official Secrets Act, 1923.
  • The Act is India’s anti-espionage act from the British colonial period.
  • As per the Act, helping the enemy state can be in the form of communicating a sketch, plan, model of an official secret, or of official codes or passwords, to the enemy.
  • A person prosecuted under this Act can be charged with the crime even if the action was unintentional and not intended to endanger the security of the state.
  • The punishments under the Act range from three years to life imprisonment.

East Asia’s oldest carved artwork

  • A miniature bird sculpted out of burnt bone in China around 13,500 years ago is the oldest known figurine from East Asia.
  • The sculpture was found among burnt animal remains and fragments of ceramics at Lingjing in north central Henan province, an area thought to have been home to some of China’s earliest civilisations.
  • Researchers were unable to use radiocarbon dating on the bird itself because the process would have damaged it.
  • By carbon dating of a similar bone, the estimated age of the bird figurine is found be 13,500 years.

Indian gaur

  • The first population estimation exercise of the Indian gaur was carried out in the Nilgiris Forest Division in February 2020.
  • It has revealed that more than an estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs inhabit the entire division.
  • Gaur or Indian bison is the largest extant bovine native to south and southeast Asia.
  • They are heavily built with body weight varying between 400 and 1,200 kilograms.
  • Their population has declined by more than 70% during the last three generations, and is extinct in Sri Lanka and probably in Bangladesh also.
  • IUCN status: Vulnerable
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