Polity & Governance
- All India Conference of Central Administrative Tribunal
- Mandatory declaration of criminal antecedents
- Imposing Section 144 during CAA rallies illegal
Government Schemes & Policies
- Bill to incentivise small-families
Issues related to Health & Education
- School Health Programme
- Arth-Ganga project
- Muslim census in Assam
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Future of Earth report, 2020
Bilateral & International Relations
- USTR removes India from developing country list
Art & Culture
Plans to restore Sun Temple, Konark
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Polity & Governance
All India Conference of Central Administrative Tribunal
The annual All India Conference of the Central Administrative Tribunal was held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 16th February 2020.
Highlights of the event:
- The one-day conference was presided over by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law and Justice.
- It was attended by Judicial and Administrative Members from all 17 Benches of CAT from across the country, members of the CAT BAR Association, and eminent Jurists.
- They deliberated on key issue related to the functioning of the Tribunal and priorities for 2020.
- The role CAT had played in the evolution of service jurisprudence in the country, in the light of its various milestone judgments, despite shortage of Members in the Tribunal was acknowledged.
- The process of appointing more Members is underway to meet the shortage of Members and ease the working of the Tribunal.
Central Administrative Tribunal:
- Part XIV-A of the constitution provides for the tribunals.
- The Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985 enacted by the Parliament authorises the central government to establish central administrative tribunal and the state administrative tribunals.
- The principal bench of the Central Administrative Tribunals is located at Delhi. In addition to this, there are additional benches in different states.
- At present there are 17 regular benches and 4 circuit benches.
CAT exercises jurisdiction over all service matters concerning the
- a member of any All-India Service.
- a person appointed to any civil service of the Union or any civil post under the union.
- a civilian appointed to any defence services or a post connected with defence.
- However, the members of the defence forces, officers, staff of the Supreme Court and the secretarial staff of the Parliament are not covered under the jurisdiction of CAT.
- CAT is not bound by the procedure laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but is guided by the principles of natural justice.
Composition and Members:
- The CAT comprises of a chairman, vice- chairman and other members who are appointed by the President.
- The membership of CAT is filled by members from judicial and administrative fields.
- The term of the service is 5 years or until the age of 65 years for chairman and vice- chairmen and 62 years for members, whichever is earlier.
- The chairman, vice-chairman or any other member may address his resignation to the president in between his term of office.
Mandatory declaration of criminal antecedents
The Supreme Court ruled recently that political parties that field candidates with criminal records must from now on tell the public the reason to have chosen tainted candidates over those with clean records.
- A petition in SC claimed the ECI had failed to take any steps to ensure the implementation of a 2018 judgment of the bench, which had made it mandatory for political parties to declare and publish all criminal cases pending against their candidates.
- The petitioners argued that parties were “circumventing” the 2018 judgment by publishing the details of their candidates’ criminal background in “obscure and limited circulation newspapers” and “making the webpages on their websites difficult to access“.
What is the ruling?
- It shall be mandatory for political parties during central and state elections to put out detailed information about candidates with criminal cases pending against them, including the nature of the offences.
- Parties must also list the reasons for selecting such candidates and state why others without criminal antecedents were not selected.
- The information should be published in one local vernacular newspaper, a national newspaper, and on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter.
- These details are to be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate.
Report of Compliance to EC:
- The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.
- If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this court’s orders.
Rationale of the move:
- The court noted that there has been an alarming increase in the number of candidates with criminal records entering politics.
- In 2004, 24% of members of Parliament (MPs) had criminal cases pending against them. In 2009, that went up to 30%, in 2014 to 34%, and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.
- Hence, the series of directions by Supreme Court are aimed at checking the criminalization of politics.
Imposing Section 144 during CAA rallies illegal
The Karnataka High Court recently declared the order passed by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner “illegal”, imposing Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CrPC) from December 19 to 21, 2019, ahead of a series of pro- and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rallies.
Observations by the court:
- The HC said the City Police Commissioner, discharging his duty as the District Magistrate (DM) had failed to give “reasons” in his December 18, 2019, order invoking Section 144.
- Further, it is in contravention to the parameters laid down by the apex court in the cases of Anuradha Bhasin Vs Union of India and the Ramlila Maidan Incident Vs Union of India.
- Bench said that the DM, after receiving inputs from DCPs, should have conducted an enquiry, may be the standard of the enquiry could have been different as inputs he received was from DCPs.
- However, the court said it had only examined the decision-making process while invoking Section 144, and had not examined the correctness of the decision.
- The Bench also said the order should not be interpreted to mean that the State is helpless to invoke the prohibitory order if the situation so warrants.
- Section 144 of the CrPC gives power to the District Magistrate, a sub –divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate on behalf of the State Government to issue an order to an individual or the general public in a particular place or area to “abstain from a certain act” or “to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management”.
- The order can be passed only if Magistrate considers that the direction is likely to result in:
- obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed
- danger to human life, health or safety
- disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot or affray.
For detailed information on Section 144, kindly visit this link:[Ref: The Hindu]
Government Schemes & Policies
Bill to incentivise small-families
Recently a Private Member’s Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha called the Constitution Amendment Bill, which proposes incentives in taxation, education and employment for people who limit their family size to two children.
Major provisions in the bill:
- The Bill proposes the insertion of Article 47A after Article 47 of the Constitution.
- Article 47A says: The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.
- The incorporation of a new provision, Article 47A in Part IV of the Constitution, is to withdraw all concessions from people who fail to adhere to the “small-family” norm.
- Essentially, the Bill aims to amend the Constitution in order to incentivise limiting families to two children by offering tax concessions, priority in social benefit schemes and school admissions, among other things.
Rationale of the bill:
- The Bill’s Statement of Object and Reasons states that the fact that India’s population has already crossed 125 crores is “really frightening”.
- It goes on to say that India’s population has doubled in the last 40
- years and that it is expected to unseat China as the world’s most populous nation in the next couple of decades.
- Despite the fact that India has framed a National Population Control Policy, it is the second most populous country in the world.
- Further, the population explosion will cause “many problems” for our future generations as the “overburdened” natural resources are already overexploited because of overpopulation.
Issues related to Health & Education
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced COVID-19 as the name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
- The WHO had to come up the name in line with the 2015 guidelines between the global agency, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
What does COVID-19 stand for?
- The “CO” in COVID stands corona, while “VI” is for virus and “D” for disease.
- The number 19 stands for the year 2019 when the outbreak was first identified.
- The Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has named the virus as “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”, or “SARS-CoV-2”.
- The Coronavirus Study Group is responsible for developing the official classification of viruses and taxa naming of the Coronaviridae family.
What was the hurry to name the disease?
- The urgency to assign a name to the disease is to prevent the use of other names that can be “inaccurate or stigmatising”.
- People outside the scientific community tend to call a new disease by common names. But once the name gets established in common usage through the Internet and social media, they are difficult to change, even if an inappropriate name is being used.
- Therefore, as per the WHO 2015 guideline, it is important that whoever first reports on a newly identified human disease uses an appropriate name that is scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
- The year is used when it becomes “necessary to differentiate between similar events that happened in different years”.
- In the case of COVID-19, coronavirus has caused other diseases such as the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
School Health Programme
Central Government has recently launched a School Health Programme under Ayushman Bharat-Health & Wellness Centres that will teach skills ranging from emotional wellbeing, mental health, interpersonal relationships to values and maintaining healthy lifestyle.
About the School Health Programme:
- Under the initiative, two teachers in every government school will be identified as ‘health and wellness ambassadors’ to spread awareness about the preventive health aspects by organising culturally sensitive activity based sessions for one hour per week for 24 weeks in a year to promote joyful learning.
- This initiative will strengthen the concept of preventive, promotive and positive health, which forms the fundamental cornerstone of the health and wellness centres of the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
- It is linked with the government initiatives such as Fit India movement, Eat Right campaign, Poshan Abhiyaan for an all-round and holistic development model of health for the school children.
- in this regard, efforts were put in by National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for developing 24-hour curriculum, materials for training of nodal teachers and facilitators guide in consultation with the Ministry of Health.
- Health promotion and prevention activities program have been added in addition to ongoing health screening program through Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) teams and provision of services (IFA, Albendazole and sanitary napkins).
- While health screening and provision of services are ongoing activities, the newly added health promotion and prevention component will be implemented by two teachers identified in every school as ‘Health and Wellness Ambassador’.
- These ambassadors will be supported by class monitors as ‘Health and Wellness Messengers’.
- The School Health Programme under Ayushman Bharat will be jointly run by the Union ministries of Health and Human Resources Development.
- 11 identified themes are:
Emotional well-being and mental health, interpersonal relationships, gender equality, nutrition, health and sanitation, prevention and management of substance misuse, reproductive health and HIV prevention, safety and security against violence and injuries, and promotion of safe use of internet, media and social media.
- The first phase of implementation will be in all the public upper primary, secondary and senior secondary schools of aspirational districts.
- Subsequently, the remaining districts will be taken up in the second year.
[Ref: Indian Express, Live mint]
Arth-Ganga project is a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to River Ganga.
When was the project envisaged?
- During the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Uttar Pradesh, in December 2019, Prime Minister urged for a holistic thinking process where ‘Namami Gange’ evolves to ‘Arth Ganga’ or a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to Ganga.
- With implementing the mantra of PM Narendra Modi, ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ Cargo volume on Ganga will be increased by 4 times with special focus on developing inland waterways Arth-Ganga project will boost economic development and inclusive growth for farmers, small traders and villagers.
- As part of this process, farmers should be encouraged to engage in sustainable agriculture practices, including zero budget farming, planting of fruit trees and building plant nurseries on the banks of Ganga.
- Priority could be given to women Self Help Groups and ex-servicemen organizations for these programs.
- Such practices, along with creation of infrastructure for water sports and development of camp sites, cycling and walking tracks etc., which would help to tap the ‘hybrid’ tourism potential of the river basin area- for purposes of religious as well as adventure tourism.
- The income generated from encouraging eco-tourism and Ganga wildlife conservation and cruise tourism etc. would help to generate sustainable income streams for cleaning of Ganga.
Initiatives taken till date:
- Ministry of Shipping has taken several initiatives in last few years which has resulted into substantial growth in-terms of increasing Inland Cruises from 3 to 9, Cargo from 30,00,000 MT to 70,00,000 MT, and Vessels in-flow from 300 to 700.
- A lot of activities like developing of small jetties have been carried out for the beneficial for small community especially for farmers, traders and general public in the 1400 km stretch of National Waterway-1 from Banaras to Haldia.
- The Ministry is developing Varanasi (UP) Freight Village and Sahibganj (Jharkhand) Industrial Cluster-cum-Logistics Park with an objective of creating synergy with Inland Waterways at the cost of Rs. 200 crores and create enormous direct and indirect employment, giving an economical boost in this particular area.
Treaty for Transit of Cargo between India and Nepal:
- National Waterway- 1 will act as a main conduit of connection with Nepal in a trilateral manner, i.e. from Varanasi to Nautanwa (280km), Kaughatto Raxaul (204km) and Sahibganj to Biratnagar (233km).
- Earlier Nepal was connected by Kolkata and Visakhapatnam Ports for transporting cargo. Now, Inland Waterways, particularly NW-1 will be allowed under Treaty for Transit of Cargo between Government of India and Government of Nepal.
- It will save logistic cost and decongest Kolkata Port as well.
- Almost half of the Indian population lives around Ganges River belt in which about 1/5th of all India’s freight originates and 1/3rd terminates in the states around Ganges Belt.
- Inland Waterways is one of the most important pillars of “Arth-Ganga” project, which will result into inclusive growth and play a key role in generation of enormous employment opportunities in the National Waterways stretch.
- The Farmers will get a better return for their produce as the transportation of goods would become easier and cost effective by this. It will improve ‘Ease of Living’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business.’
Muslim census in Assam
Assam’s Welfare of Minorities and Development Department has announced plans to hold a census of four communities broadly known as “Assamese Muslims” —Goriya, Moriya, Deshi, and Julha.
Where did the idea come from?
- 2019’s Assam Budget provided for a “Development Corporation for Indigenous Muslims” for “holistic development” of the community as well as a “socio-economic census”.
- On February 6, 2020, a memo from the Minorities Welfare Department called for a “meeting regarding a socio-economic census of indigenous Muslims of Assam —Goriya, Moriya, Ujani, Deshi, Jola, Mainal, Syed etc.”.
- After the meeting, it was decided that the word khilonjiya (indigenous) was contentious and would be replaced with the names of the four specific communities.
Who are these communities?
- While there is little documentary evidence but Goriyas, Moriyas and Deshis come under the umbrella of indigenous Assamese, historically.
- Taking oral traditions, cultural practices, and languages into account, Muslims have settled in Assam at least 600-700 years ago and the evidence of the settlements in Assam date back to the early 13th century following Bhaktiyaruddin Khalji’s invasion.
- This can be corroborated in the Kanai Barashil Bowa Sil inscription in North Guwahati.
- They trace their lineage back to the time of the 13th-century Ahom kings.
- Many came with Muslim armies and were captured in warfare and after they were released, they mingled with the mainstream society — so even today, most of their cultural traditions match Assamese customs.
- In Edward Gait’s A History of Assam, Goriyas are described as hailing from Gaur, the ancient “Mahammadan capital” of Bengal.
- The Moriyas came around the 1500s and were exceptionally good with crafts — especially bell metal.
- Julha Muslims were up-country people (from Bihar and UP) who came to Assam along with the railway expansion during British rule.
- They were of various professions: tent-makers, rope-makers, weavers, machine drillers.
- The census will look only at those Julhas who belong to the tea tribes and primarily reside in Golaghat and Jorhat.
- The Deshis hail from lower Assam.
- Their ancestors are said to be converts from the Koch Rajbongshi kingdom in the early 13th century.
- A tribal chieftain called Ali Mech converted to Islam with his followers.
- They speak the Deshi language, which is very similar to the Koch Rajbongshi language, and are approximately 20 lakhs in population.
Muslim population in Assam:
- According to Census 2011, Muslims constituted over a third (34.22%) of Assam’s 3.12 crore population.
- It is generally understood that Miya Muslims form the largest group.
- The census leaves out the Miya Muslim community — which comprises descendants of migrants from East Bengal (now Bangladesh).
- The census will help the indigenous Assamese Muslims benefit from Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord and other schemes too.
- This will end the major identity crisis of these communities since they are confused with Bangladeshis.
- There are the speculations that it will marginalise the Miya community even more.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Future of Earth report, 2020
The Future of Earth report, 2020 has been recently released by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.
The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
- The report lists failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; food crises; and water crises, as the five global risks.
- As many as 222 leading scientists from 52 countries conducted the survey by Future Earth, an international sustainability research network.
- Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems.
- At the same time, it can intensify water crises and food scarcity.
- The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises.
- The report highlights the urgency to cope with climate change and time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- 75% of our planet’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened and reversing the trends of loss of life on this planet will require some new ways of thinking about conservation.
Bilateral & International Relations
USTR removes India from developing country list
US has recently, amended the lists of developing, least-developed countries eligible for preferential treatment with respect to countervailing duties (CVD) investigation.
What is the issue?
- The U.S. government has changed an administrative rule making it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.
- The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a notice, amending lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to CVD investigations.
USTR developing nations list:
- To harmonize U.S. law with the Word Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement, the USTR in 1998 had come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development.
- These lists were used to determine whether they were potentially subject to U.S. countervailing duties.
- India along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were listed for preferential treatment under the list.
- As per the new USTR notice, the 1998 rule is now “obsolete”.
- The de minimis standard is usually a subsidy of 1% or less ad valorem (in proportion to the estimated value of the goods or transaction concerned) and 2% for special cases.
- If a country’s goods constitute less than 3% of all imports of that good into the U.S., it meets the ‘negligible import volumes’ standard. For special cases it is 4%.
- Imports do not meet the standard, if individual volumes are less than 3% (special cases: 4%) but the aggregate volume of imports into the U.S. is 7% of all such goods.
Criteria for classification:
- The USTR used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard:
(1) Per capita Gross National Income or GNI
(2) Share of world trade
(3) Other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.
What are the changes now?
- India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of global trade, despite having less than $12,375 GNI (the World Bank threshold separating high income countries from others).
- India was taken off the list also because – like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa – it is part of the G20.
- As per the UTSR notice, keeping in mind the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade), G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.
Art & Culture
Plans to restore Sun Temple, Konark
A plan to restore and preserve the nearly 800-year-old Konark Sun Temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon as per the Union Minister of Culture.
Sun Temple, Konark:
- Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century CE Sun temple at Konark, on the coastline of Odisha, India.
- The temple is attributed to king Narasinga Deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty about 1250 CE.
- Dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya, the temple complex has a 100-foot high chariot with immense wheels and horses, all carved from stone.
- Also called the Surya Devalaya, it is a classic illustration of the Odisha style of Architecture or Kalinga Architecture.
- This temple was called the “Black Pagoda” in European sailor accounts as early as 1676 CE because its great tower appeared black and the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”.
- Both temples served as important landmarks for sailors in the Bay of Bengal.
- It has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984, it remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela around the month of February.
- The temple that exists today has been partially restored by the conservation efforts of British India-era archaeological teams and by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) post-independence.
[Ref: The Hindu]