Current Affairs Analysis

18th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Farzad-B Gas Field; Iran; ASPIRE Portal; Restructured Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 scheme; Jaigaon-Ahllay trade route; India-Bhutan Trade; Kholongchhu Hydroelectric Project; United Nations Economic and Social Council; Delimitation; Delimitation exercise in Arunachal, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland; What is Human Growth Hormone? World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); What is Doping? Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE); Eco-Sensitive Zones; Significance of approval of ZMP of Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone; etc.
By IASToppers
July 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Former EC expert says Centre move on delimitation in NE states illegal

Government Schemes & Policies

  • ASPIRE Portal
  • Restructured Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 scheme

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Weightlifter first case of HGH doping in India

Economy

  • Jaigaon-Ahllay trade route
  • Farzad-B Gas Field

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Approval accorded to ZMP of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

Bilateral & International Relations

  • United Nations Economic and Social Council

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Polity & Governance

Former EC expert says Centre move on delimitation in NE states illegal

A former legal advisor to the Election Commission (EC) has red-flagged the Centre’s order setting up a Delimitation Commission for Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland, calling it unconstitutional and illegal.

What is delimitation?

  • Delimitation is the process of redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census in order to represent changes in population.
  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every 10 years (after every Census).
  • The objective is to provide equal representation for equal population segments, and a fair division of geographical areas, so that no political party has an advantage.
  • It also identifies the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherever their population is relatively large.
  • The Delimitation Commission is a statutory body and its orders cannot be questioned before any court.

Members:

  • The Delimitation Commission appointed by the President of India in collaboration with the Election Commission of India. It has three members:
  • A serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson,
  • The Chief Election Commissioner or the Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and
  • The State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.
  • Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of states, for which the Delimitation Commission is set up, are drawn in as associate members to help the panel in its task.

Delimitation exercise in Arunachal, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland

  • The last delimitation exercise, started in 2002 and ended in 2008, had kept out these 4 states as the use of the 2001 Census for it had been challenged by several organisations, on the ground that it was riddled with defects.
  • Thecommunities of four states believed that delimitation exercise wouldhurt their electoral interests as the exercise changes the composition of seats reserved for them.
  • The Delimitation Act of 2002 was amended on January 14, 2008, to empower the President to postpone the exercise in these states.
  • Subsequently, Parliament had decided that instead of creating another Delimitation Commission only for redrawing seat boundaries in the four northeastern states, the delimitation exercise would be carried out by the EC.
  • Hence, Section 8A of the RP Act 1950 was introduced by Parliament in 2008 for this purpose.
  • However, in March 2020, central government constituted a Delimitation Commission to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of J&K and the four northeastern states.

How often has delimitation been done?

  • Delimitation is done on the basis of the preceding Census. The first such exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President, with the help of the Election Commission.
  • Following the Delimitation Commission Act in 1952, all such exercises have been conducted by Delimitation Commissions — set up in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002. There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Reason for skipping delimitation after 1981 and 1991 Censuses

  • As per constitution, the ratio between the number of Lok Sabha seats in a state and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states.
  • Although unintended, this meant that states that took little interest in population control could end up with more seats in Parliament, while the southern states that promoted family planning could end up with fewer seats. Amid these concerns, the Constitution was amended in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Reason for suspending till 2026

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment extended the freeze on the number of seats until 2026, by when the country was projected to achieve a uniform population growth rate.

Will delimitation change the number of seats in these states?

  • Not in the four Northeast states as there is a freeze until 2026 on the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in any state.
  • Delimitation will only redraw the boundaries of seats in each state (without affecting the number of seats), and can rework the number of reserved seats for SCs and STs.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

ASPIRE Portal

ASPIRE (Automotive Solutions Portal for Industry, Research and Education) is an automotive technology e-portal from International Centre of Automotive Technology (ICAT).

  • The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT), Manesar, is a leading world-class automotive testing, certification and R&D service provider under the aegis of NATRiP (National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project), Government of India.
  • The Portal is being developed under the aegis of Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) under the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises.
  • The key objective of this portal is to facilitate the Indian Automotive Industry to become self-reliant by assisting in innovation and adoption of global technological advancements by bringing together the stakeholders from various associated avenues.
  • The e-portal will act as a one-stop solution providing a technology platform which will help to bring together the various stakeholders from the Indian auto industry, providing the necessary impetus for ushering the industry into future with combined efforts. This includes bringing together the automotive OEMs, Tier 1 Tier 2 & Tier 3 companies, R&D institutions and academia (colleges & universities) on matters involving technology advancements.
  • The portal will also host grand challenges in line with the need of the industry as will be identified from time to time, for development of key automotive technologies.
[Ref: PIB]

Restructured Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 scheme

The Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh has launched the restructured Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 scheme.

About the Scheme:

  • The Government of India instituted The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration in the year 2006 to acknowledge, recognize and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by Districts/ Organizations of the Central and State Governments.
  • The Scheme was restructured in 2014 for recognizing the performance of District Collectors in Priority Programmes, Innovations and Aspirational Districts and was further restructured in 2020 to recognize the performance of District Collectors towards economic development of the District.
  • Additionally, the awards also seek to recognize the efforts of District level officials involved in the Namami Gange Programme.  Under this award category, one award shall be given to a district out of the 57 notified District Ganga Committees under the Namami Gange Programme.
  • The award has been scheduled to be distributed on the occasion of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas on October 31st, 2020.

Parameters for evaluation include:

  • Regular and effective conduct of the meeting of District Ganga Committee leading to an overall positive impact on programmes in the district.
  • Protection and Rejuvenation of traditional water bodies in the district for helping toward Aviral Ganga.
  • Cleanliness of ghats and areas in the vicinity of the river.
  • The extent of organic farming within 5 km on both sides of river Ganga within their districts
  • Plantation along river Ganga (Ganga Van).
  • Protection of aquatic life & biodiversity conservation.
  • Awareness generation and ensuring public participation through the involvement of NYK, NCC, NSS with special attention to youth and students.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Weightlifter first case of HGH doping in India

In a first-of-its-kind case, a 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist weightlifter Pardeep Singh has tested positive for human Growth Hormone (hGH), which is prohibited in and out of competition by the World Anti- Doping Agency.

What is Human Growth Hormone?

  • Human growth hormones is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration in humans and other animals.
  • HGH, produced by the pituitary gland, spurs growth in children and adolescents. When the hormone is released, it results in the secretion of a protein called IGF-1 from the liver. This protein is what stimulates the growth of bones, muscles and other tissues.
  • It increases lean body mass and decreases total body fat and repairs tissues quicker.
  • It is used as a doping agent in power and endurance sports, along with other performance-enhancing drugs for better results.

About World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

  • WADA was established in 1999 as an international independent agency.
  • The First World Conference on Doping in Sport held, in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1999, produced the Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport.
  • It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada.
  • Pursuant to the terms of the Lausanne Declaration, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established in 1999.
  • WADA was set up as a foundation under the initiative of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

About NADA:

  • National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) was set up in 2005 to implement anti-doping rules as per World Anti-Doping code (WADA), regulate dope control programme, to promote education and research and creating awareness about doping and its ill effects.

What is Doping?

Doping is defined by WADA as the occurrence of one or more of the following anti-doping rule violations. Some of are:

  • Presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s sample.
  • Refusing to submit to sample collection after being notified.
  • Failure to provide whereabouts information or being unavailable for doping control.
  • Tampering with any part of the doping control process.
  • Administering to administer a prohibited substance/method to an athlete.

Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE)

  • Athletes may have illnesses or conditions that require them to take a particular medication or undergo certain procedures.
  • In such instances, they may be granted a TUE, which gives them permission to take a substance or use a method. The TUE enables the Athlete to take the necessary medication while competing in sport Events, without resulting in a doping offence.

Prohibited Substances and Methods

  • The World Anti-Doping Agency annually updates the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods. The list is the International Standard defining what is prohibited in-competition and out-of-competition.
  • The list also indicates whether particular substances are banned in particular sports.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Economy

Jaigaon-Ahllay trade route

Recently, India and Bhutan launched a new route that operates between Jaigaon in West Bengal and Ahllay in Bhutan.

Expected Benefits:

  • Boost bilateral trade and commerce.
  • Beneficial for the movement of heavy vehicles like trucks and industrial raw materials from India to Bhutan.
  • Decongest vehicular traffic along the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing route.

India-Bhutan Trade:

  • India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner. The bilateral trade stood at Rs 9,227 crore in 2018.
  • Bhutan imports mineral products, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical equipment, base metals, vehicles, vegetable products, plastics and articles from India.
  • Bhutan exports electricity, portland cement, dolomite, timber and wood products, potatoes, cardamom and fruit products to India.

Kholongchhu (joint venture) Hydroelectric Project:

  • Hydropower sector is the flagship area of India-Bhutan bilateral cooperation.
  • The run-of-the-river project is located on the lower course of the Kholongchhu river in Trashiyangtse district of eastern Bhutan.
  • The project envisages an underground powerhouse of four 150 MW turbines, with water impounded by a concrete gravity dam of 95 metres height.
  • It will be implemented by Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited, a joint venture company formed between Druk Green Power Corporation of Bhutan and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam of India.
[Ref: The Economic Times]

Farzad-B Gas Field

Iran told India in January 2020 that it would develop the Farzad-B gas field on its own. However, India can join the project later.

  • The Iranian natural gas field was opened in 2008 and India had been negotiating the rights to oil and gas from the field.
  • The US sanctions have affected India’s oil imports from Iran as well as plans for developing this gas field.

About Farzad-B Gas Field:

  • The Farzan-B Gas Field is located in the Persian Gulf.
  • According to Indian estimates, the field holds about 19 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  • In 2002, an exploration contract with an Indian consortium consisting of ONGC Videsh, Indian Oil Corporation, and Oil India was signed. They discovered the gas reserves in the field. The contract expired in 2009.
  • The location of Farzad-B gas fields is geographically advantageous to India.

Iran:

  • Iran is a country in Western Asia.
  • It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq.
  • Its central location in Eurasia and proximity to the Strait of Hormuz give it significant geostrategic importance.
  • Tehran is the capital and largest city.
  • Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, OIC, and OPEC.
  • It is a major regional and middle power and its large reserves of fossil fuels including the world’s largest natural gas supply and the third largest proven oil reserves.
[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Approval accorded to ZMP of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

The union environment ministry has approved the zonal master plan (ZMP) for the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones are areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring eco-sensitive zones around protected areas is for creating some kind of a ‘Shock Absorber’ for the protected area.
  • These zones are the areas around protected areas to prevent ecological damage caused due to developmental activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests designate any area as Eco-sensitive zone under Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • Activities such as Commercial mining, major hydroelectric projects, commercial use of wood etc. are restricted while Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and commercial use of natural water are restricted activities. Ongoing agricultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources are allowed in Eco-sensitive zone.

Background

  • In 2010, the governed cancelled three hydropower projects (Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri & Bhairon Ghati) on the upper stretch of the Bhagirathi – Ganga to protect the fragile ecology of the origin of Ganga.
  • In 2012, it also issued a notification to declare 135 km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as an eco-sensitive zone under the environmental protection act 1986.
  • The notification sought to restrict hydropower projects of over 2 MW, riverbed mining and change of land use.
  • The notification was however amended in 2018 following Uttarakhand government’s objections that the notification was ‘anti-development.’
  • The amended notification allowed land use change to meet the local needs including civic amenities and other infrastructure development.
    • It also allowed cutting of hills in eco-sensitive areas in exceptional cases for the benefit of the community.
    • It mandated the State Government of Uttarakhand to prepare zonal master plan (ZMP) to be implemented under the supervision of the Monitoring Committee.

Significance of approval of ZMP of Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone

  • The ZMP is based on watershed approach and includes forest and wildlife, watershed irrigation, energy, tourism etc.
    • Watershed Management is a holistic approach to managing water resources for quantity and quality within a watershed.  It is a participatory planning following a bottom-up approach for developing a plan for execution, strengthening of local level institution, and management of watershed’s natural resources.
  • The approval of ZMP will give a boost to conservation and ecology of the area and also to undertake developmental activities as permitted under ZMP.
  • The approval will also pave way for faster execution of the Chaardhaam Project (an under construction two-lane National Highway to connect Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.)

Concerns

  • Approval of the ZMP could make the entire Bhagirathi region extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.
  • The Himalayas are extremely fragile mountains. The rocks still haven’t consolidated completely. Hill cutting might destabilise hills, if there is forest debris flow into the river, making the entire region extremely vulnerable to landslides.
  • Beyond 1800 to 2000 metres, altitude is mostly moraines (unconsolidated glacial debris). If there is a cloudburst these will add to landslides.
  • Himalayas are in seismic zone V a major earthquake can happen anytime.
[Ref: PIB]

Bilateral & International Relations

United Nations Economic and Social Council  

The Prime Minister of India addressed the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

About ECOSOC:

  • ECOSOC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic and social fields of the organization, specifically regarding the 15 specialised agencies, the eight functional commissions and the five regional commissions under its jurisdiction.
  • The Council serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system.
  • The Council consists of 54 Members States, which are elected yearly by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms. Seats on the Council are allocated ensuring equitable geographic rotation among the United Nations regional groups.
  • The President of the Council is elected for a one-year term and chosen from the small- or mid-sized powers represented on the Council at the beginning of each new session.
  • The first president of Ecosoc was an Indian.

Additional Information:

  • High-level political forum (HLPF) is meeting under the auspices of ECOSOC every year in July. The national reviews of progress in implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Voluntary national reviews) are presented and serve as a basis for the reviews by HLPF.
[Ref: Livemint]
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