Current Affairs Analysis

23rd & 24th August 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Election Commission of India; Election Commissioner; Tripura-Mizoram border dispute; Bru Tribe; Open API Service; Aarogya Setu; P-notes; Participatory notes; Sri Lanka to draft new Constitution; 19th Constitutional amendment Act of Sri Lanka; India-Sri Lanka relations; Santa Ana winds; Lost species of elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa; Location of Mousuni Island etc.
By IASToppers
August 24, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Rajiv Kumar: New Election Commissioner
  • Tripura-Mizoram border dispute

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Open API Service of Aarogya Setu
  • BIS draft standard for drinking water supply

Economy

  • Inflows from P-notes continue to soar

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Sri Lanka to draft new Constitution

Geophysical Phenomena

  • What are Santa Ana winds?

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Lost species of elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa
  • Location of Mousuni Island

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Polity & Governance

Rajiv Kumar: New Election Commissioner

Former Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar was appointed as the Election Commissioner by the Centre.

Election Commission:

  • Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body.
  • It was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
  • Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc of the commission and the member.

Power:

  • EC has the power of superintendence, direction and control of entire process of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and offices of President and Vice-President of India.
  • The Commission has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • The cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices at elections also referred to the Commission for its opinion.
  • The opinion of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered.

Functions:

  • Decide election schedules for the conduct of periodic and timely elections, whether general or bye-elections.
  • EC prepares electoral roll, issues Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
  • Grants recognition to political parties and allots election symbols and settles disputes related to it.
  • Decides on the location polling stations, assignment of voters, location of counting centres, arrangements in and around polling stations and counting centres.
  • Advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • Issues the Model Code of Conduct in election for political parties and candidates for fair elections.
  • Sets limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.

Election commissioner:

  • EC currently consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • All Election Commissioners have equal say in the decision making of the Commission, with a majority vote.

Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners:

  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status, salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Tripura-Mizoram border dispute

Phuldungsai village on the Tripura-Mizoram border has become the centre of a jurisdiction dispute between the two states.

What is the issue?

  • Phuldungsai has a predominantly Mizo population and is part of a cluster of 10 villages on Jampui Hills.
  • The Sub-divisional magistrate stressed the urgent need to demarcate the exact boundary between Mizoram and Tripura incorporating the entire Phuldungsai VC in Tripura.
  • The scrutiny of the electoral roll of Mizoram’s Hacchek (ST) constituency found that Phuldungsai village council has been shown under Mizoram’s jurisdiction.
  • Traditionally, Phuldungsai VC as a whole (despite eastern side falling in Mizoram) has been accepted as a part of Tripura.
  • Hence, the inclusion of the village council (VC) and its residents in Mizoram electoral rolls seems to be problematic.

Bru settlement issue:

  • The attempts to demarcate the boundary between Tripura and Mizoram, locked in a dispute over resettlement of Bru refugees, have failed since decades.
  • In January 2020, the Centre signed a quadripartite agreement to resolve the Bru displacement crisis in Tripura, and announced that over 33,000 migrants living in six relief camps since 1997 would be settled in the Tripura. There has been little progress so far.
  • Bru forums have been demanding that they be resettled at Phuldungsai and nearby areas of Tripura.
  • A dozen forums representing Brus identify themselves as non-Mizos and demand urgent boundary demarcation.

Key Facts:

  • Tripura’s highest peak Betlingchip is in Phuldungsai- a key tourist destination.

To know more about the ‘Resettlement of Bru community’, kindly visit the link given below:

[Ref: Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

Open API Service of Aarogya Setu

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) recently launched the open application program interface (API) service for Aarogya Setu App.

Major Highlights:

  • The service can enable companies to integrate the Aarogya Setu app into their own systems and check for real-time Covid-19 infection status of their employees.
  • An API is a software that acts as a bridge for two applications to be able to communicate to each other and exchange information.

Open API Service:

  • The Open API service of Aarogya Setu can be only be availed by organizations registered in India with more than 50 employees.
  • They can use it to query the Aarogya Setu Application in real-time and get the health status of their employees or any other Aarogya Setu User, who have provided their consent for sharing their health status with the organization.
  • The Open API shall only provide the Aarogya Setu status and name of the Aarogya Setu User (with User’s consent).
  • No other personal data shall be provided through the API.

Aarogya Setu:

  • National Informatics Center (NIC) under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) developed Arogya Sethu in April 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It is a multi-lingual application that connects Indian citizens with essential health services.
  • The app uses a person’s phone’s Bluetooth and GPS systems to alert him whenever he comes within six feet of a COVID-19 infected person.
  • The alerts are generated by scanning through government-owned, location-specific patient databases.
  • While the app searches for information about COVID-19 patient, it does not violate the privacy of the patient.
  • The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.

Significance:

  • This app is a unique example of pooling resources and efforts to respond to a global crisis.
  • It is a bridge between public and private sectors, digital technology and health services delivery.
[Ref: Indian Express; PIB]

BIS draft standard for drinking water supply

The Bureau of Indian Standards has recently prepared a draft standard for the supply system of piped drinking water and has invited comments from water utilities on it.

Aim:

  • To make process of piped water supply more uniform, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas of the country.

Major Highlights:

  • The draft ‘Drinking water supply quality management system — requirements for piped drinking water supply service’, is prepared by the BIS’ Public Drinking Water Supply Services Sectional Committee.
  • It outlines process of water supply, from raw water sources to household taps.
  • It has been developed in view of Jal Jeevan Mission for providing safe and adequate drinking water to all rural households by 2024 through tap connections.

What does the draft say?

  • It outlines requirements for a water supplier or a water utility on how they should establish, operate, maintain and improve their piped drinking water supply service.
  • The process begins with identification of a water source– which can either be groundwater or surface water sources such as rivers, streams or reservoirs.
  • After treatment the drinking water should conform to the Indian Standard (IS) 10500 developed by the BIS.
  • The IS 10500 outlines acceptable limit of various substances in drinking water, including heavy metals such as arsenic, and other parameters like the pH value of water, its turbidity, the total dissolved solids in it, and the colour and odour.
  • The water audit (calculation of amount of water put into distribution against the amount that is consumed) should be conducted on a quarterly basis.
  • Effort should be made by the water agency to bring down the water loss up to 15% of the total water supplied in the system.
  • The water utilities are required to conduct surveys among consumers and obtain feedback on their service as per the draft.

Water supply process:

  • The supply system should begin with the identification of a raw water source.
  • Water should then be pumped into the treatment plant and treated to achieve the acceptable drinking standards.
  • After the water is released from the plant, there should be reservoirs in the distribution system for storage of this water, and disinfection facilities to get rid of contamination at any stage of distribution.
  • Pumping stations or boosters, should be provided to maintain adequate pressure throughout the distribution system.
  • Valves and meters and other appurtenances shall be installed throughout the distribution system as control devices and for water audit.

Meters:

  • The concept of district metering area (DMA) should be adopted where possible.
  • DMA is a concept for controlling leakages in the water network, which is divided into a number of sectors where flow meters are installed to detect leaks.
  • The water supplier/utility shall ensure consumers do not have direct access to the meters to avoid possible tampering of the meters.
  • Provision should also be made to have automatic meters at household level which shall support in water audit.
  • Water should be sampled at the treatment plant every four hours against quality parameters.
  • In the distribution system, the sampling should be done every eight hours at the water reservoirs. Random sampling should also be done at household levels.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Economy

Inflows from P-notes continue to soar

Investments through participatory notes in the domestic capital market soared to Rs 63,288 crore till the end of July 2020.

P-notes (Participatory note):

  • P-Notes are offshore derivative instruments with Indian shares as underlying assets.
  • These instruments are used for making investments in the stock markets.
  • They are used outside India for making investments in shares listed in the Indian stock market.
  • That is why they are also called offshore derivative instruments.
  • P-notes are issued by registered foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to overseas investors who wish to be a part of the Indian stock market without registering themselves directly after going through a due diligence process.

Issuance:

  • Participatory notes are issued by brokers and FIIs registered with SEBI.
  • The investment is made on behalf of these foreign investors by the already registered brokers in India.
  • For example: Indian-based brokerages buy India-based securities and then issue participatory notes to foreign investors.
  • Any dividends or capital gains collected from the underlying securities go back to the investors.
  • The brokers that issue these notes or trades in Indian securities have to mandatorily report their PN issuance status to SEBI for each quarter.
  • These notes allow foreign high net worth individuals, hedge funds and other investors to put money in Indian markets without being registered with SEBI, thus making their participation easy and smooth.
  • P-Notes also aid in saving time and costs associated with direct registrations.

Why are participatory notes used?

  • Investing through P-Notes is very simple and hence very popular amongst FPIs.
  • Overseas investors not registered with SEBI have to go through a lot of scrutiny, such as know-your-customer norms, before investing in Indian shares.
  • To avoid these hurdles, foreign investors take this route.
  • Also, since the end beneficiary of these notes is not disclosed, many investors who want to remain anonymous use it.

Advantages of participatory notes:

  • Anonymity: Any entity investing in P-notes is not required to register with SEBI, whereas all FIIs have to compulsorily get registered. It enables large hedge funds to carry out their operations without disclosing their identity.
  • Ease of trading: Trading through participatory notes is easy because they are like contract notes transferable by endorsement and delivery.
  • Tax saving: Some of the entities route their investment through P-notes to take advantage of the tax laws of certain preferred countries.

Disadvantages of P-notes:

  • Indian regulators are not very happy about P-notes because they have no way to know who owns the underlying securities.
  • It is alleged that a lot of unaccounted money made its way to the country through the P-note route.
  • It may lead to the P-Notes being used for money laundering or other illegal activity.
  • SEBI has no jurisdiction over participatory note trading.
[Ref: Business Standard]

Bilateral & International Relations

Sri Lanka to draft new Constitution

Sri Lanka will draft a new Constitution, rejecting the 19th Amendment passed in 2015.

  • It is said to prioritise the concept of one country, one law for all the people.

19th CAA of Sri Lanka:

  • The statute was passed in 2015 during the term of former President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.
  • It clipped the President’s executive powers and strengthened independent commissions.
  • It brought back the two-term limit on Presidency.

Major Highlights:

  • Sri Lanka will remove 19th Amendment to the Constitution that imposed curbs on presidential powers and strengthened Parliament.
  • The powerful Rajapaksa camp viewed it as to prevent its leaders’ return to power.
  • It prevented dual citizens from contesting elections.
  • Then the current President of Sri Lanka including some other members of Rajapaksa family were dual citizens of the USA and Sri Lanka. (Gotabaya Rajapaksa renounced his citizenship of the United States in 2019).
  • The abolishment of 19th CAA will strengthen Rajapaksa’s grip on power as it will allow the President to appoint officials for police, judiciary and public service and dissolve Parliament any time after one year.
  • From 1978, Sri Lanka’s constitution has been changed 19 times.

Key Facts:

  • President: Gotabaya Rajapaksa
  • Prime Minister: Mahinda Rajapaksa
  • Ruling party: Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) + Allies.
  • Capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.

India-Sri Lanka relations:

  • India and Sri Lanka have a legacy of cultural, religious and linguistic interaction spanning centuries.
  • Sri Lanka is important component of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy.

Dimensions of the relations:

1. Strategic importance:

  • Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region has a huge strategic relevance to India & China.
  • It can serve commercial-industrial purposes and used as a military base.

2. Political ties:

  • The Sri Lanka’s former Srisena government was pro India, whereas the Rajapaksa clan is more China centric.
  • The relations in the past were unfruitful due to ethnic disputes between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and Minority Tamilians (mostly concentrated in North and East of Sri Lanka).
  • India has taken side of minority Tamilians who share Indian origin.
  • As a result of the open discrimination against minority, the militant outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged in 1976 to fight for Tamil rights and a Civil war started in 1983.
  • Indo-Sri Lankan Accord was signed between India and Sri Lanka in 1987 which proposed a political solution to the Sri Lanka’s conflict.
  • India deployed Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka intended to maintain peace (Operation Pawan), which ultimately was unsuccessful & resulted in the assassination of PM Rajiv Gandhi deteriorating the ties further.
  • After the end of civil war in 2009, the political engagement has increased and the relations are taking positive shape now.

3. Indian projects in Sri Lanka:

  • Since the end of the war in 2009, India has played a huge role in reconstruction of the Northern Province.
  • Under the Indian Housing Project, India govt. is constructing 50,000 houses for civil war affected Tamilians.
  • It has restored the Jaffna-Colombo railway link as well as developing the Palaly airport in Northern Sri Lanka.
  • Besides, India provides rehabilitation assistance to set up small businesses, constructed and equipped hospitals, clinics, and water supply projects etc.
  • India is investing in underdeveloped Northern and Eastern part of Sri Lanka.
  • Recently Pulathisi express, a luxury train was started in Sri Lanka; which is made in India & has been inducted in Sri Lanka by line of credit from India.
  • Reserve Bank of India has extended a USD 400 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka to ensure financial stability of the country, amid COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Multilateral Partnership:

  • Sri Lanka and India are members of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC, focused on overall development of the region.
  • The countries conduct joint Military (Mitra Shakti) and Naval (SLINEX) exercises.
[Ref: The Hindu; MEA]

Geophysical Phenomena

What are Santa Ana winds?

Strong gusts known as the Santa Ana winds bring dry air from the Great Basin area of the West into Southern California (a state in the U.S.).

Fire seasons in California:

California has two distinct fire seasons:

  1. From June through September: Driven by a combination of warmer and drier weather. Those wildfires tend to be more inland, in higher-elevation forests.
  2. From October through April: Driven by the Santa Ana winds. Those fires tend to spread three times faster and burn closer to urban areas. They were responsible for 80% of the economic losses over two decades beginning in 1990.

Santa Ana winds:

  • The Santa Ana winds are strong, extremely dry downslope winds that originate inland and affect coastal Southern California and northern Baja California.
  • They originate from cool, dry high-pressure air masses in the Great Basin.
  • The winds are known for the hot, dry weather that they bring in autumn (often the hottest of the year).
  • They often bring the lowest relative humidities of the year to coastal Southern California.
  • This low humidity, combined with the warm, compressionally-heated air mass, plus high wind speeds, create critical fire weather conditions.

Concern:

  • The tendency of climate change to make dry places drier over time is a warning to the West of a fiery future.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Lost species of elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa

Somali sengi, not been seen since early 1970s, has been found alive and well in Djibouti during a scientific expedition.

Somali sengi:

  • Somali sengi is a type of elephant shrew in the family Macroscelididae.
  • Its natural habitat is arid and semiarid desert with rocky substrates and sparse shrubs.
  • The recent data shows that the Somali Sengi is an inhabitant of Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia, rather than just Somalia.
  • IUCN status: Data Deficient.

Location of Mousuni Island

  • Mousuni Island is located near Namkhana, West Bengal.
  • Ganga Sagar, Ghoramara, and Mousuni islands are part of the Hooghly River estuarine system.
  • In theislands, located in the western part of the Sundarbans, Mangroves have been cleared for human habitation, making these islands more vulnerable to tides.
  • Cyclones in the Sundarbans will increase because sea surface temperature is rising at 0.5°C per decade in the region and the global average is 0.05°C per decade.
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