Polity & Governance
- Why is the Collegium of Supreme Court judges in the spotlight?
Government Schemes & Policies
- Only Hindi can work to unite country
- How waived loans impact states
- To boost exports, housing sector, FM announces fresh stimulus package
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Vulture culture: How the bird was saved from extinction
- World Ozone Day: History, Importance and Facts
Bilateral & International Relations
- UN Chief Appoints Retired Indian Lieutenant As Head Of Hodeidah Mission In Yemen
Defence & Security Issues
- Centre Removes 312 Sikh Foreign Nationals From Blacklist, Only 2 Remain
Art & Culture
- Pulikali folk art form
Science & Technology
- Engineers Day 2019: Celebrating M Visvesvaraya’s 158th birth anniversary
Key Facts for Prelims
- Unique Travelling Exhibition flagged off
- India to deploy latest American weapon systems for Ex-HimVijay along China border
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Polity & Governance
Why is the Collegium of Supreme Court judges in the spotlight?
The recent controversy over the transfer of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court has once again brought to the fore a long-standing debate on the functioning of the ‘Collegium’ of judges that makes appointments and transfers in the higher judiciary.
Selection procedure of Chief Justice of India
- The senior-most judge of the Supreme court is generally considered for holding the office of the Chief Justice of India.
- When the incumbent CJI is about to retire, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs use to seek the recommendation of the CJI to appoint the next CJI.
- After receiving the recommendation of the CJI, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs forward the issue to the Prime Minister who will further move the proposal to the President of India for the final approval.
The procedure of an appointment
- The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the other judges of the highest judiciary are appointed by the President of India under the Article 124 (2) of the Constitution.
Role and composition of the collegium
- The collegium system was commissioned by two judgments of the Supreme Court in the 1990s. It has no mention in the original Constitution of India or its successive amendments.
- The Supreme Court collegium consists of the four senior-most judges and the Chief Justice.
- The collegium of the five judges is responsible for a major role in the Indian judiciary which includes the appointment and transfer of the judges of the High Court and the appointment of the Supreme Court judges.
- Article 222 of the Constitution provides for the transfer of a judge from one High Court to another.
- The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval.
- The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.
Three Judges case
- The Collegium system was evolved through Supreme Court judgments in the Three Judges Cases.
- First Judges Case (1981): It ruled that the consultation with the CJI in the matter of appointments must be full and effective. However, it rejected the idea that the CJI’s opinion should have primacy.
- Second Judges Case (1993): It introduced the Collegium system, holding that consultation really meant concurrence. It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the Supreme Court.
- Third Judges Case (1998): Supreme court expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.
Criticism of collegium system
- The lack of transparency in collegium system has resulted in nepotism and elevation of judges based on personal relationships and past favours instead of merit or seniority.
- The selection of CJI is made from very small group of candidates.
- The most pronounced attempt at reforming the Collegium System was the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which was passed by Parliament in 2014 as the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act. However, it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme court based on the infringement on judicial independence.
Government Schemes & Policies
Only Hindi can work to unite country
Home Minister said that the country should come together to promote Hindi, however, not at the cost of other languages.
Need for One language
- India is a country of various languages and each of them has its own importance. However, a single language is extremely important for the whole country, becoming India’s identity globally.
- There is need to have one language, so that foreign languages don’t find a place in India.
- Hindi Divas is observed to mark the decision of the Constituent Assembly on September 14, 1949 to extend official language status to Hindi. It was first observed in 1953.
- Hindi is the mother tongue of 43.6% of the Indian population, or nearly 53 crore Indians, according to the 2011 census. It is followed by Bengali, which is far behind at 8.03%. Globally, Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world.
- According to Census-2011, only 60% of total Hindi-speakers speak the native Hindi dialect. Only 26% have native Hindi as their mother tongue.
- According to Article-343, Hindi (in Devanagari script) is the official language of the Union.
- Under Article-351, it is the duty of the Union to encourage the spread of the Hindi language so that it may serve as a medium of communication.
How waived loans impact states
The report of an Internal Working Group (IWG), aimed at studying the impact of farm loan waivers on state finances, has shown how farm loan waivers dented state finances and urged governments to avoid resorting to farm loan waivers.
Farm loan waivers
- Since 2014-15, many state governments have announced farm loan waivers.
- This was done for a variety of reasons including relieving distressed farmers struggling with lower incomes in the wake of repeated droughts and demonetisation.
Impact on state finances
- Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, the total farm loan waiver announced by different state governments was Rs 2.36 trillion. Of this, Rs 1.5 trillion has already been waived.
- The actual waivers peaked in 2017-18 in the wake of demonetisation.
Impact on economic growth, interest rates and job creation
- A farm loan waiver either increases the government’s fiscal deficit (or total borrowing from the market) or government has to cut down its expenditure.
- A higher fiscal deficit, even if it is at the state level, implies that the amount of money available for lending to private businesses will be lower.
- It also means the cost at which this money would be lent (or the interest rate) would be higher. If loan is costly, there will be fewer new companies, and less job creation.
- If the state government does not borrow the money from the market to meet its fiscal deficit target, state government has to cut expenditure undermining the ability to produce and grow in the future.
- Farm loan waivers also ruin the credit culture in the economy since they incentivise defaulters.
Are the states increasing their fiscal deficits or cutting capital expenditure?
- State governments stick to their fiscal deficit targets. However, states meet their deficit targets by not raising more revenues but by cutting expenditure.
To boost exports, housing sector, FM announces fresh stimulus package
As part of her third stimulus package for the economy, Finance Minister unveiled a set of stimulus measures to boost exports and the housing sector.
Highlights of new announcements
- A new scheme named ‘Remission of duties or taxes on export product’ (RoDTEP) will replace the existing Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) from January 1 2020
- Revised priority sector lending norms for export credit
- A fully electronic refund module for the quick and automated refund of input tax credits for exporters.
- At present banks are insured for 60% of what they lend to exporters for working capital. This will be increased to 90%.
- Announced a special window to provide last-mile financing, through a Rs 20,000 crore fund, acting as a Category II alternative investment funds (AIF) trust, for middle-income housing projects that are not non-performing assets (NPA) and not under the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) will invest in this new housing fund.
- External commercial borrowing (ECB) guidelines will be relaxed to facilitate financing of home buyers who are eligible under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
- The interest rate on House Building Advance will also be lowered and linked with the 10-year G Sec Yields.
Definition of affordable housing:
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the definition of affordable housing is categorised into three parts, as per the minimum area of habitation.
- For the Economically Weaker Section, affordable housing is defined with an area of habitation between 300-500 sq ft.
- The Lower Income Groups have a minimum area of 500-600 sq ft, while Middle Income Groups are allotted between 600-1,200 sq ft.
- They are expected to boost much-needed liquidity and create demand.
- The special window of last-mile financing will offer several developers an opportunity to complete their stalled projects, which were in dire need of capital, and thus provide relief to lakhs of home buyers across the country. This will also save these projects from falling under NPA or going into NCLT litigation.
- ECB relaxation will enable developers to attract foreign debt investors with low cost of capital.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Vulture culture: How the bird was saved from extinction
In the late 1990s, when the population of the vultures in the country had begun to decline sharply, one White-backed vulture was rescued from Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, where vultures were dying at an alarming rate.
About Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre
- The Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC) is a joint project of the Haryana Forest Department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
- It is a collaborative initiative to save the three species of vultures, the White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed, from extinction.
- The VCBC, earlier known as Vulture Care Centre (VCC), was established in 2001 with the UK Government’s ‘Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species’ fund, to investigate the dramatic declines in India’s Gyps species of vultures.
- Currently, there are nine VCBC in India, of which three are directly administered by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
9 species of vultures found in India
- Griffon Vulture
- Indian Vulture
- Himalayan Vulture
- Bearded Vulture
- Slender-Billed Vulture
- White-Rumped Vulture
- Cinereous Vulture
- Egyptian Vulture
- Red-Headed Vulture
Reason for declining population
- By 2004, the vulture population had decreased significantly almost by 99 %.
- The major reason was the drug ‘Diclofenac’, found in the carcass of cattle the vultures fed on. The drug, whose veterinary use was banned in 2008, was commonly administered to cattle to treat inflammation.
Steps taken by Government for protection of Vultures in the country:
- Protection status of White backed, Long Billed and Slender Billed Vultures has been upgraded from Schedule IV to Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The Ministry of Health prohibited manufacture of Diclofenac in 2008 for animal use.
- Government of India has formulated a National Action Plan (2006) on Vulture Conservation. The Action Plan provides for strategies, actions for containing the decline of vulture population through ex-situ, in-situ vulture conservation.
World Ozone Day: History, Importance and Facts
Every year September 16 is marked as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
- Theme of World Ozone Day 2019: 32 Years and Healing.
About World Ozone Day
- Every year September 16 is marked as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
- In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly designated the day in remembrance of the date in 1987 when countries signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
About Montreal Protocol
- The Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, is a global agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).
- The Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified by all 197 UN Member States.
- The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established in 1991 to provide assistance to developing country parties to the Montreal Protocol.
- In 2007, the Parties decided to accelerate their schedule to phase out Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Developed countries will completely phase them out by 2020 while Developing countries agreed to complete phase-out of HCFCs by 2030.
- In 2016, Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali amendment in Rwanda to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) worldwide. Countries approved gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s.
What is the ozone layer?
- The ozone layer is a part of the atmosphere that has high concentrations of ozone (a gas made of three oxygen atoms O3), compared to oxygen molecules that exist in nature as a pair of oxygen atoms.
- It exists 10km to 40km above the surface of the earth in a region called the stratosphere. Ozone is formed when oxygen molecules are broken apart by the ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun in the stratosphere. It contains 90 percent of all the ozone in the atmosphere.
- In the troposphere, the ozone is formed by a different set of chemical reactions that involve naturally occurring gases and those from pollution sources.
- The Ozone layer forms a natural shield that protects the Earth from the harmful UV rays of the sun. However, ozone released from the ground as pollution harms animals, plants and human beings.
- Using certain compounds, like Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can cause gaps or ‘holes’ in the layer, and allow harmful UV radiation from the sun to pass through the atmosphere without reflecting some of it away.
What are CFC and HCFC?
- CFCs are a class of compounds of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine. These are typically gases used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants.
- They are harmful to the ozone layer in the earth’s atmosphere owing to the release of chlorine atoms on exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
- HCFCs are a group of man-made compounds containing hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine and carbon and do not occur naturally anywhere.
- The production of HCFC began to increase after countries agreed to phase out the use of CFCs in the 1980s.
- Unlike CFCs, most HCFCs are broken down in the lowest part of the atmosphere and pose a much smaller risk to the ozone layer. They are still very potent greenhouse gases.
Bilateral & International Relations
UN Chief Appoints Retired Indian Lieutenant As Head Of Hodeidah Mission In Yemen
UN Secretary-General announced the appointment of a retired Indian lieutenant general as the head of the UN mission in Hodeidah, Yemen.
About UN Mission in support of the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA)
- It is a UN mission that oversees the ceasefire, redeployment of forces and mine action operations in Hudaydah and the ports of Hudaydah, Salif, and Ras Issa in Yemen.
- It coordinates UN support to assist full implementation of the Hudaydah Agreement.
- It is a special mission to oversee governorate-wide ceasefire, mine action operation and redeployment of forces.
- It was authorised for an initial period of 6 months to lead and support functioning of Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), assisted by a secretariat staffed by UN personnel.
About the Battel of Al Hudaydah
- The Battle of Al Hudaydah, codenamed as Operation Golden Victory, is a major Saudi-led coalition assault on the port city of Al Hudaydah in Yemen.
- The objective of the assault is to recapture the city of Al Hudaydah and end the alleged supply of funds, weapons, and ballistic missiles to the Houthis through Al Hudaydah port. This port plays the crucial role of delivering over 80 percent of food and aid to Yemen.
- A UN-backed ceasefire agreement between the Yemen and the Houthis was officially declared in December 2018 in Stockholm Agreement in Sweden with terms of troop withdrawal of both warring parties from Al Hudaydah.
Defence & Security Issues
Centre Removes 312 Sikh Foreign Nationals From Blacklist, Only 2 Remain
The government has removed from its blacklist, or the Central Adverse List, names of 312 Sikh foreign nationals involved in anti-India activities and only two persons figure in the list now.
What is the Central Adverse List?
- The Ministry of Home Affairs maintains a list of individuals who supported the Khalistan movement in 1980s and 90s but left India to take asylum in foreign countries.
- The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement, which seeks to create a separate country called Khalistan in the Punjab region to serve as a homeland for Sikhs.
- This list is not restricted to Punjab or the Khalistan movement. The list has names of those individuals who are suspected to have links with terrorist outfits or have violated visa norms in their previous visit to India.
- The list also includes the names of those persons who have indulged in criminal activities or have been accused of sexual crimes against children in their respective countries.
What is the purpose of this list?
- This list is constantly used by all Indian Missions and Consulates to stop the individuals named in it from entering India by not granting visa to such persons.
- It is a step taken by the Indian government to maintain internal security.
- The list is also used to keep serious offenders outside India as somebody may commit a crime in his native nation and then apply for an Indian visa to escape prosecution.
What does the recent action mean?
- The Sikhs whose names have been removed from the Central Adverse list can now visit India.
- This list had a multiplier effect in denying visas as the family members of the persons on this list were also denied visas to other countries. Such a practice will no longer be carried forward.
What is Sikhs for Justice group?
- Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) is a US-based group whose primary objective is to establish an independent and sovereign country in Punjab.
- The secessionist campaign, called ‘Referendum 2020’, seeks to liberate Punjab from Indian occupation.
- SFJ has announced to hold polling for referendum in November 2020 which it has planned to hold in Punjab along with major cities of North America, Europe etc.
- However, the government banned SFJ under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for its alleged anti-national activities.
Art & Culture
Pulikali folk art form
Thrissur, Kerala saw around 300 tigers, in all possible colours, prancing around at a rollicking show of Pulikkali as a part of the city’s Onam celebrations.
- The term Pulikkali means ‘play of the tigers’.
- It is also known as
- It is a folk art form of Kerala and is performed on the fourth day of Onam.
- It is believed that Pulikali started 200 years ago during the time of King Sakthan Thampuran.
- Performers are painted like tigers and wear leopard or tiger masks. The dance is well-aided by rustic drum beats.
- The first women ‘tigers’ participated in the predominantly male Pulikkali in 2016.
Science & Technology
Engineers Day 2019: Celebrating M Visvesvaraya’s 158th birth anniversary
Engineers Day is celebrated to pay tribute to one of the greatest Indian engineer, M Visvesvaraya.
About Engineers Day
- It is celebrated every year on September 15 to pay tribute to the Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest Indian civil engineer.
- It is also celebrated in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
Contribution of M Visvesvaraya
- He was called the Father of Modern Mysore State on account of his extensive work towards the upliftment of the state.
- He was also responsible for the construction of Mysore’s Krishna Raja Sagara Dam.
- He was awarded the Bharat Ratna award, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1955 for the flood protection system in Hyderabad. The design of the automatic weir floodgates is also attributed to Sir MV.
- He was also bestowed with the title of Sir for his contributions for the good of the public, he was knighted by King George V as a Knight Commander of the British Indian Empire (KCIE).
Key Facts for Prelims
Unique Travelling Exhibition flagged off
Union Minister for Environment said that ‘Jaldoot’ is a unique initiative and it will take the message of water conservation to masses.
About Jaldoot Campaign
- Under the Jalshakti Abhiyan, Regional Outreach Bureau (ROB), Pune in association with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) launched the Jaldoot campaign.
- The mobile travel bus exhibition of Jaldoot campaign aims to create awareness about the various Government’s initiatives.
- To tackle the water crisis looming the country, the Government of India launched the Jalshakti Abhiyan, a water conservation campaign focusing on 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts across the country.
- The Jalshakti Abhiyan focus on five key aspects:
- Water Conservation and Rain Water Harvesting
- Renovation of Traditional and other Water Bodies
- Reuse of Water and Recharging of structures
- Watershed Development
- Intensive Afforestation
- ‘Jan Shakti for Jal Shakti’ mission was also launched under Jalshakti Abhiyan to conduct water analysis to spot harmful chemicals from the water and to boost water quality.
India to deploy latest American weapon systems for Ex-HimVijay along China border
- Indian Armed Forces are planning to deploy their latest American weapons systems including M777 ultra-light howitzers and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters in the war games to be carried out in Arunachal Pradesh, close to borders with China.
About HimVijay Exercise
- The HimVijay military exercise is planned by India to test the war fighting abilities of the newly-raised 17 Mountain Strike Corps in Arunachal Pradesh.