Polity & Governance
- Extension of tenure of the Commission constituted under Article 340
- India at its lowest ranking ever in Economist’s Democracy Index
- Centre seeks guidelines on execution of convicts
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Prehistoric Wollemi pine trees saved from bushfires
- India bans toxic chemical hydrochlorofluorocarbon
Bilateral & International Relations
- India in talks to be part of East Asian Observatories Consortium
- Cabinet clears decks for more seafarer jobs
- Interpol’s Blue Corner notice
Art & Culture
- KVIC seeks international trademark for khadi items
Key Facts for Prelims
- Reciting preamble mandatory in Maharashtra schools
- Vyommitra- first Indian ‘woman’ to ride to space
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Polity & Governance
Extension of tenure of the Commission constituted under Article 340
The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes till July 2020.
- The Commission was constituted under article 340 of the Constitution with the approval of President in 2017.
- The Commission has since interacted with all the Stats/UTs which have subcategorized OBCs, and the State Backward Classes Commissions.
- The Commission has come to the view that it would require some more time to submit, its report appearing in the existing Central List of OBCs need to be cleared.
Objective of commission:
- To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes/communities included in the broad category of OBCs, with reference to the OBCs included in the Central list.
- To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters, in a scientific approach, for sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
- To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes/communities/sub-castes/synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
Article 340 of the Constitution of India:
- Article 340 calls for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
- The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour.
- They can then make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition.
Need for such Commission:
- Sub-categorisation of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs.
- The Commission is likely to make recommendations for benefit of marginalized communities in the Central List of OBCs.
Benefits of Commission:
- All persons belonging to the castes/communities which are included in the Central List of SEBCs but which have not been able to get any major benefit of the existing scheme of reservation for OBCs in Central Government posts & for admission in Central Government Educational Institutions would be benefitted.
- The Second Backward Classes Commission or Mandal Commission (headed BP Mandal) was established in 1979 to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India.
- The commission’s report stimulated a section of the Indian population, known as OBCs, and instigated a fierce debate on the policy for underprivileged and underrepresented groups in Indian politics.
- It recommended 27% reservation for OBC candidates in central government services and educational institutions.
Indra Sawhney and others vs Union of India (1992):
- In this case, the Supreme Court observed that “there is no constitutional/legal bar” to a state categorising backward classes as backward or more backward and had further observed that “if a state chooses to do it (sub-categorisation), it is not impermissible in law”.
- The First Backward Class Commission was set up under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar in January 1953.
- So far, nine states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, have carried out sub-categorisation of OBCs.
India at its lowest ranking ever in Economist’s Democracy Index
India slipped 10 places to 51st position in the latest Democracy Index global rankings published by The Economist Intelligence Unit and scores down from 7.23 in 2018 to 6.90 in 2019.
About the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2019:
- It ranks 165 independent states and two territories, covering almost the entire population of the world.
- Five categories of the Democracy Index:
- Civil liberties
- electoral process and pluralism
- functioning of government
- political participation
- political culture.
- These are based on which each country was classified as full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.
Highlights of Index:
- The report said that the primary cause of the democratic regression was an erosion of civil liberties in India.
- It mentioned the stripping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status with the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A, the various security measures that followed the bifurcation of the state including restriction of Internet access.
- It also mentioned the exclusion of 1.9 million people from the final NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam.
- India’s score of 7.23 places it in the “flawed democracy” category of the index.
- The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2019 has marked the worst average scores since the index’s first edition in 2006.
- The decline in the average global score in 2019 was driven by a sharp regression in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lesser one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
- According to the 2019 Democracy Index, almost a half (48.4 percent) of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort although only 5.7 percent reside in a “full democracy”.
- More than one-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule, with a large share in China.
- The top five countries were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland.
- The bottom five were Chad, Syria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and North Korea.
Centre seeks guidelines on execution of convicts
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to execute death penalty of condemned prisoners within seven days of rejection of their mercy petitions.
- The move comes amid various pleas filed by convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape case that has delayed their hanging.
- The four convicts are on death row since 2013 after a trial court ruled against them. Multiple curative petitions and mercy pleas filed before the President of India have been rejected.
What does this mean?
- The MHA essentially seeks the incorporation of measures aimed at reducing the scope for death row convicts to adopt dilatory tactics.
- There may be some evidence to believe that convicts tend to file review petitions, mercy petitions and curative petitions in such a way that their execution is indefinitely delayed.
- But, it is difficult to attribute their conduct to the supposedly “accused-centric” nature of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
- Aim: These are aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of prisoners in the context of a sound body of jurisprudence that maintains that such rights extend right up to the moment of their execution.
- The court was enforcing their right to be informed about the scope for filing petitions for:
- Clemency and for being given legal assistance in drafting them,
- Exploring judicial remedies even after their appeals for mercy are rejected.
- The 14-day time between the closure of the clemency route and their hanging is aimed at preventing secret executions.
- The court was concerned about the right of the convicts’ family members to be informed, as well as the time needed by the prisoners for settling their affairs and preparing themselves mentally.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Prehistoric Wollemi pine trees saved from bushfires
An ancient grove of pine trees whose ancestors are thought to have stood tall among dinosaurs some 200 million years ago has been saved from Australian bushfires in a covert firefighting mission.
About Wollemi Pine grove:
- Wollemi Pine grove exists in a location within the 5,000-square-kilometer Wollemi National Park northwest of Sydney.
- The oldest fossil of the rare pine species dates back 90 million years and the pines are thought to have existed during the Jurassic period.
- Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found.
India bans toxic chemical hydrochlorofluorocarbon
With an aim to combat climate change, India has banned import of toxic chemical hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141b used in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams by foam manufacturers from January 1, 2020.
- Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are a large group of compounds, whose structure is very close to that of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) but including one or more hydrogen atoms.
- Under normal conditions, HCFCs are gases or liquids which evaporate easily. They are generally fairly stable and unreactive.
- HCFCs do not usually dissolve in water, but do dissolve in organic (carbon-containing) solvents.
- HCFCs are chemically similar to Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Halons and therefore display some similar properties, though they are much less stable and persistent.
- HCFCs are also part of a group of chemicals known as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- At present, HCFCs are used in various sectors like refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) and foam manufacturing.
- 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. However, they are still very potent greenhouse gases.
Environmental impacts of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs):
- As VOCs, they may be slightly involved in reactions to produce ozone, which can cause damage to plants and materials on a local scale.
- At a global level however, releases of HCFCs have serious environmental consequences. Although not as stable and therefore not so persistent in the atmosphere as CFCs, HBFCs or Halons, they can still end up in the higher atmopshere (stratosphere) where they can destroy the ozone layer, thus reducing the protection it offers the earth from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- HCFCs also contribute to Global Warming (through “the Greenhouse Effect”). Although the amounts emitted are relatively small, they have a powerful warming effect (a very high “Global Warming Potential”).
Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141 b:
- It is a chemical used by foam manufacturing enterprises and one of the most potent ozone depleting chemical after Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
- HCFC-141 b is used mainly as a blowing agent in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams.
- HCFC-141b that damage the earth’s ozone layer, was not produced in India, all the domestic requirements were being met through imports.
- The use of HCFC-141 b by foam manufacturing industry has also been closed as on 1st January 2020 under the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2014.
- Nearly 50 per cent of the consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals in the country was attributable to HCFC-141 b in the foam sector.
- The complete phase-out of HCFC 141 b from the India in the foam sector is among the first at this scale in Article 5 parties (developing countries) under the Montreal Protocol.
- Under the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change also adopted a structured approach to engage with foam manufacturing enterprises for providing technical and financial assistance in order to transition to non- Ozone Depleting Substances and low Global Warming Potential technologies.
Bilateral & International Relations
India in talks to be part of East Asian Observatories Consortium
India is in preliminary discussions to be a part of the East Asian Observatories Consortium of eight countries committed to build large telescopes and pool resources. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, which is part of several mega-science collaborations, have had talks with scientists from member organisations.
About East Asian Observatories Consortium:
- It is formed by EACOA (East Asian Core Observatories Association).
- It seeks to pursue joint projects in astronomy within the East Asian region.
- Full members- China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea
- Observers- Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
- The intention of EAO is to build and operate facilities, which will enhance and leverage existing and planned regional facilities.
- It will also raise funding and to build an observatory staff, separate from that of the EACOA institutions.
- The EAO is chartered as a non-profit Hawaii corporation.
- Its first task is to assume the operation of the James Clerk Maxwell Submillimetre Telescope (JCMT) on the summit of Maunakea, Hawai`i.
Significance for India:
- Having India join the group could mean the establishment of new kinds of telescopes- one proposed being in Tibet that could aid the observation of new black holes and throw light on cosmic phenomena.
- Event Horizon Telescope is an international collaboration of eight different telescopes at different observatories around the world.
- The first image of a black hole, at the center of galaxy Messier 87 was published by the Event Horizon Telescope.
Cabinet clears decks for more seafarer jobs
The Cabinet approved the model memorandum of understanding (MoU) for unilateral or bilateral recognition of certificates of competency of seafarers, which will help Indian seafarers find opportunities on ships under the flag of other countries.
- The MoU has been approved pursuant to Regulation International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) of Seafarers, 1978 to be signed between the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India and its counterparts in foreign countries.
- The unilateral MoU would facilitate unilateral recognition by another country of the certificates issued by the Directorate General of Shipping to Indian seafarers, without seeking similar recognition by India of the certificates issued by that country.
- The proposed bilateral MoU will enable India and another country to mutually recognize maritime education and training, certificates of competency, endorsements, documentary evidence of training and medical fitness certificates, issued to the seafarers.
- India being a seafarer supplying nation with large pool of trained seafarers will stand to be benefitted.
- Indian Seafarers will be eligible to be placed on ships under the flag of that country for employment, thus leading to increased employment opportunities.
- International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 sets minimum qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships and large yachts.
- STCW was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) entered into force in 1984.
- The Convention was the first to establish minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.
- It applies to ships of non-party States when visiting ports of States which are Parties to the Convention.
- The Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code were adopted on in 2010, marking a major revision of the STCW Convention and Code.
Interpol’s Blue Corner notice
Interpol has issued a Blue Corner notice to help locate fugitive self-styled godman Nithyananda, weeks after the Gujarat Police sought the agency’s intervention for this. Nithyananda fled India last year amid allegations of rape and sexual abuse.
What is Interpol?
- INTERPOL is the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO) which is an inter-governmental organization.
- It was founded in 1923 as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) and was renamed in 1956 as INTERPOL.
- It is headquartered at Lyon, France.
- It has 194 member countries including India.
- The General Assembly is governing body and it brings all countries together once a year to take decisions.
- Each country hosts an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB), which links national police with INTERPOL’s global network.
General assembly of Interpol
- The General Assembly is Interpol’s supreme governing body and comprises representatives from all its member countries.
- It is the largest global gathering of senior law enforcement officials.
- The General Assembly meets annually to vote on activities and policy.
- Each country is represented by one or more delegates at the Assembly.
- It also elects the members of the Interpol Executive Committee, the governing body which provides guidance in between sessions of the Assembly.
- The General Assembly’s decisions take the form of Resolutions which are public documents.
- Decisions are made either by a simple or a two-thirds majority, depending on the subject matter.
Types of notices:
- There are seven types of notices — Red Notice, Yellow Notice, Blue Notice, Black Notice, Green Notice, Orange Notice, and Purple Notice.
- Blue notice is issued to “collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.”
- The Interpol’s 88th General Assembly will assemble in Santiago, Chile in 2019.
- South Korea was elected president of Interpol for a two-year term until 2020 by the General Assembly in Dubai.
Art & Culture
KVIC seeks international trademark for khadi items
State-owned Khadi Village Industries Corporation is eyeing international trademark for ‘khadi’ under the Paris Convention for protection of industrial property to prevent any product from masquerading as ‘khadi’ nationally or globally.
- KVIC is fighting cases in several countries including Germany for violation of the Khadi Mark regulations.
- The Regulations issued in 2013 by the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises, empower KVIC to grant ‘Khadi Mark’ registration and take royalties from any producer using the Khadi mark.
The Paris Convention:
- The Paris Convention is a multilateral treaty dealing with the protection of industrial property in the widest sense.
- It is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
- Paris Convention protects armorial bearings, flags and other State symbols of the States part to the convention, including official signs, and hallmarks indicating control and warranty adopted by them.
- As of January 2019, the Convention has 177 contracting member countries.
Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC):
- It is a Statutory body formed by the Government of India under the Act of Parliament, ‘Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956’.
- It is an apex organisation under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
- In April 1957, it took over the work of former All India Khadi and Village Industries Board.
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the specialised agencies of the United Nations dealing with the protection and promotion of intellectual property rights.
- In an initiative to prevent misuse of trademark and symbolsof Khadi, KVICseeking International Trademark protection of symbol of ‘Charkha’ under the Article 6 of the Paris Convention.
Key Facts for Prelims
Reciting preamble mandatory in Maharashtra schools
- Maharashtra government has made it compulsory to recite the Preamble to the Constitution in all schools starting January 26.
- The objective is to instil values such as justice, freedom and equality enshrined in the Constitution.
- The government has also asked the schools to put up a plaque or board with the Preamble and asked schools to hold quizzes, essay, drawing, slogan, poster competitions based on the Constitution.
Vyommitra- first Indian ‘woman’ to ride to space
ISRO unveiled its first ‘woman’ astronaut named Vyommitra (half-humanoid) will ride ahead of the launch of India’s maiden human spaceflight venture ‘Gaganyaan’ in December 2021
- Vyommitra is a combination of two Sanskrit words Vyoma (Space) and Mitra (Friend).
- It can be a companion and converse with the astronauts, recognise them and can also respond to their queries.
- Its functions include attaining launch and orbital postures, responding to the environment, generating warnings, replacing carbon dioxide canisters, operating switches, monitoring of the crew module, receiving voice commands, responding via speech (bilingual).