Polity & Governance
- Is voter card sufficient proof of citizenship?
- Elections to Rajya Sabha
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cost of Kalasa-Banduri Canal project skyrockets
- Poverty in India
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Rushikulya rookery set to welcome Olive Ridley turtles
- Ensemble Methods in Modelling and Data Assimilation
- World Air Quality Report
Bilateral & International Relations
- US-India bilateral trade and investment
- Blue Dot network
Defence & Security Issues
- Defence Minister reviews performance of MIDHANI
Persons in News
- SERB Women Excellence Award-2020
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Polity & Governance
Is voter card sufficient proof of citizenship?
On February 11, a magistrate’s court in Mumbai ruled that an “election card or voting card” is “sufficient proof of citizenship” and acquitted two individuals whom police had accused of being “Bangladeshi infiltrators”.
Verdict by the Mumbai Court:
- The Mumbai court said that “It is necessary to note that the Aadhaar card, PAN card, driving license or ration card cannot be termed as the documents proving the citizenship of any person in a sufficient manner as [the] said documents are not meant for the purpose of citizenship.”
- However, “The birth certificate, domicile certificate, bonafide certificate, passport etc., can be relied upon to establish the origin of any person.”
Verdict by the Guwahati Court:
- However, on February 12, a division bench of the High Court of Guwahati ruled in two separate cases that an Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) was not conclusive proof of citizenship. The High Court reiterated the law laid down by the court in an earlier case, Md. Babul Islam vs State of Assam, which held that Electoral Photo Identity Card is not a proof of citizenship.
Representation of the People Act, 1951:
- Form 6 of the Registration of Electors’ Rules, 1960, under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, has an inbuilt declaration on citizenship from the voter in line with the Constitution — if a voter declares that s/he is a citizen, and this is accepted by the registration authority, s/he becomes an elector, thus establishing a direct link between being a citizen and having the right to vote.
- Election Commission in 2015 amended Forms 2A to 2H to underline the direct link between the citizenship of a person and the electoral system.
- On September 16, 2016, the Election Commission issued a notification making provisions for furnishing photograph of candidate also with the nomination form, and for declaration regarding citizenship of candidate. It also underscored the link between the citizenship of a person and the electoral process.
Elections to Rajya Sabha
The Election Commission has announced that elections to 55 Rajya Sabha seats will be held on March 26, 2020.
- These seats will be filled by representatives from 17 states.
- The terms of 51 members will end in April, 2020.
- The other four seats are already vacant.
- The strength of Rajya Sabha is 238 currently.
- As of now, the BJP has 82 Members in the Rajya Sabha, and the Congress 46. Of the retiring MPs, 18 are from the BJP, and 11 are from the Congress.
What can happen?
- Since Rajya Sabha MPs are elected by state MLAs, political parties with more MLAs are likely to send more MPs to the Upper House.
- Major changes, therefore, are expected in states that have seen a change of power in the last Assembly election.
- Therefore, the BJP is expected to lose seats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan where it lost state elections.
- However, it will gain in Uttarakhand and Karnataka, where it came to power in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
- Overall, the BJP’s current strength in Rajya Sabha will likely remain undiminished.
- The Trinamool Congress and YSR Congress Party are expected to make significant gains in the 245-member Upper House after the elections.
System of election in Rajya Sabha:
- Rajya Sabha also known as
Council of States consist of not more than 250 members of whom:
- 238 members are elected by MLAs of various States and Union Territories
- 12 members nominated by the President.
- Rajya Sabha is a permanent house because one third of members retire every 2 years and same number of members are elected.
- Its members are elected by the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories by means of Single transferable vote through Proportional representation.
A member of the Rajya Sabha must:
- Be a citizen of India;
- Be at least 30 years old;
- Possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cost of Kalasa-Banduri Canal project skyrockets
The cost of constructing the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project in the Mahadayi basin, stalled for years due to the inter-State river water dispute, over the last 20 years has risen steeply from about ₹94 crores in 2000 to ₹1,677.30 crores in 2020.
- The reservoir and the canal under the Banduri section are yet to be taken up as most of the project area comes under forests, and the State is yet to get sanction from the Central Water Commission and Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- The Kalasa project, of which the 5.15 km-canal has almost been completed after a long delay owing to challenging conditions that involved loose soil and work taken up for only four months in a year.
- Since the reservoir catchment falls in forests, work is yet to be taken up.
Kalasa-Banduri Canal project:
- The Kalasa-Banduri Nala (diversion) project involves building barrages across Kalasa and Banduri, the tributaries of the Mahadayi river, to divert 7.56 TMC water to the Malaprabha river, which fulfils the drinking water needs of the twin cities.
- The project which will utilise 7.56 TMC of water from the inter-State Mahadayi river, is being undertaken by Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and the districts of Belagavi and Gadag.
About Mahadayi river:
- The Mahadayi River also known as Mandovi or Mhadei river, is described as the lifeline of the Indian state of Goa.
- The river has a length of 77 km; 29 km in Karnataka and 52 km in Goa.
- It originates from a cluster of 30 springs at Bhimgad in the Western Ghats in the Belgaum district of Karnataka.
- The river passes downstream through the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and meets the Arabian Sea at Panaji in Goa.
- Mahadayi (Mandovi) is a water deficit basin and water diversion could impact the environment.
- The three states of India- Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra are locked in a dispute over the last 30 years for sharing the water of Mahadayi river.
Poverty in India
During his visit to India, US President Donald Trump praised the country for having lifted over 270 million people out of poverty in a single decade.
What is poverty, and how is it measured?
- Poverty can be defined as a condition in which an individual or household lacks the financial resources to afford a basic minimum standard of living.
- Economists and policymakers estimate “absolute” poverty as the shortfall in consumption expenditure from a threshold called the “poverty line”.
- The official poverty line is the expenditure incurred to obtain the goods in a “poverty line basket”.
- Poverty can be measured in terms of the number of people living below this line (with the incidence of poverty expressed as the head count ratio).
- The “depth” of poverty indicates how far the poor are below the poverty line.
- Six official committees have so far estimated the number of people living in poverty in India — the working group of 1962; V N Dandekar and N Rath in 1971; Y K Alagh in 1979; D T Lakdawala in 1993; Suresh Tendulkar in 2009; and C Rangarajan in 2014.
- The government did not take a call on the report of the Rangarajan Committee; therefore, poverty is measured using the Tendulkar poverty line.
- As per this, 21.9% of people in India live below the poverty line.
What does the basket of goods include?
- The PLB comprises goods and services considered essential to a basic minimum standard of living — food, clothing, rent, conveyance, and entertainment.
- The price of the food component can be estimated using calorie norms or nutrition targets.
- Until the 1990s, the calorie norms method was used — it was based on the minimum number of calories recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for a household of five members.
- However, this method does not consider the different food groups that are essential for health — this is why the Tendulkar Committee targeted nutritional outcomes.
- The Tendulkar Committee included expenditure on health and education in the consumption basket. As a result of revisions the percentage of people living below the poverty line in 1993-94 rose from 35.97% to 45.3%.
Why are poverty numbers important?
- The PLB has been the subject of much debate.
- Expenditure on health and education were not considered until the Tendulkar Committee — which was criticized for setting the poverty line at just Rs 32 per capita per day in urban India (and at Rs 27 in rural India).
- The Rangarajan Commission was criticized for selecting the food component arbitrarily — the emphasis on food as a source of nutrition overlooks the contribution of sanitation, healthcare, access to clean water, and prevalence of pollutants.
- Poverty numbers matter because central schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana (which provides subsidised food grains to households living below the poverty line) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (health insurance for BPL households) use the definition of poverty given by the NITI Aayog or the erstwhile Planning Commission.
- The Centre allocates funds for these schemes to states based on the numbers of their poor. Errors of exclusion can deprive eligible households of benefits.
Multidimensional Poverty Index:
- In 2011, Oxford University researchers Sabina Alkire and James Foster devised the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) to capture poverty using 10 indicators: nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, ownership of assets, and access to proper house, electricity, drinking water, sanitation, and clean cooking fuel.
- Poverty is measured in terms of deprivation in at least a third of these indicators.
- The MPI is a more comprehensive measure of poverty because it includes components that capture the standard of living more effectively.
- However, uses “outcomes” rather than expenditure — the presence of an undernourished person in the household will result in it being classified as “poor”, regardless of the expenditure on nutritious food.
Findings in MPI:
- In 2015-16, 369.546 million (nearly 37 crore) Indians were estimated to meet the deprivation cut-off for three or more of the 10 indicators.
- While the overall headcount multidimensional poverty ratio in 2015-16 was 27.9%, the number was 36.8% for rural and 9.2% for urban India.
- There were wide variations across states — poverty was the highest for Bihar (52.5%), followed by Jharkhand (46.5%), Madhya Pradesh (41.1%), and Uttar Pradesh (40.8%). It was the lowest for Kerala (1.1%), Delhi (4.2%), Punjab (6.1%), Tamil Nadu (7.3%) and Himachal Pradesh (8.1%).
What is the current “level” of poverty in India?
- The National Statistical Office (NSO) Report on Household Consumer Expenditure for 2017-18 was junked in 2019 — so there are no data to update India’s poverty figures.
- Even the MPI report published by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative used data from the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey, figures for which are available only until 2015-16.
- A leaked version of the consumer expenditure data mentioned that the incidence of poverty in India increased from 31.15% to 35.1% between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
- The absolute number of poor people also increased from 270 million to 322.22 million over the same period, which translates to 52 million more poor people in six years.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Rushikulya rookery set to welcome Olive Ridley turtles
Preparations are almost done at the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast to welcome and protect olive ridley turtles during mass nesting, which is likely to begin in a week.
Olive Ridley Turtles:
- The Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
- They inhabit only in the warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
- They are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
- Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years.
- The Olive Ridley turtles live in the Indian Ocean, but come all the way to the Bay of Bengal by travelling thousands of kilometres to mate and to lay eggs.
- WWF-India, along with the fishermen community, has been involved in protecting the Olive Ridley rookery at the mass nesting site at Rushikulya, in Orissa, by fencing off the nesting area and patrolling it till hatching and ensuring a safe passage for the hatchlings to the sea.
- The turtle has found place in Schedule – I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- They are protected under the ‘Migratory Species Convention’ and CITES (Convention of International Trade on Wildlife Flora and Fauna).
- India is a signatory nation to all these conventions.
- The Rushikulya River is one of the major rivers in the state of Odisha and covers entire catchment area in the districts of Kandhamal and Ganjam of Odisha.
- The Rushikulya originates at an elevation of about 1000 metres from Daringbadi hills of the Eastern Ghats range.
- It meets the Bay of Bengal at Puruna Bandha in Ganjam.
- Its tributaries are the Baghua, the Dhanei, the Badanadi etc.
- It has no delta as such at its mouth.
- This area is the location of one of the largest mass nesting (Arribada) sites of olive ridley sea turtles in India.
Ensemble Methods in Modelling and Data Assimilation
A three-day international conference on “Ensemble Methods in Modelling and Data Assimilation (EMMDA)” has been organised by National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) from February 24, 2020 at Noida, India.
- To provide a platform for discussions and deliberations on the present status, future prospects and optimum use of Ensemble Prediction System (EPS).
Ensemble Prediction System:
- Though remarkable success has been achieved in improving forecast by prediction systems and adopting latest data assimilation techniques, but some amount of uncertainty is associated with numerical weather prediction.
- In order to quantify the forecast uncertainty, leading Weather forecasting centres of the world including India have developed ‘Ensemble Prediction System’ (EPS) which provides probabilistic forecasting of weather.
- In an EPS, a number of similar models, called the ensemble members, are run from slightly different initial conditions.
- It requires high computational resources and in turn provides the flow dependent forecast uncertainty in terms of probability.
- The probabilistic forecasts help the end users in making decisions and plan their actions suitably.
- The forecasts from high resolution global and regional EPS provide more accurate probabilistic forecasts of extreme weather events and help the planners and administrators in taking timely actions.
- India has recently operationally implemented two global EPS which have highest resolution in the world and also a regional EPS of horizontal resolution 4 km which covers the Indian region.
- A well-coordinated collaborative research and development work between national and international centres are further required for progressively improving the skill of EPS.
The major themes of the conference are:
- Ensemble methods in Global Weather Prediction
- Ensemble methods in Data Assimilation
- Ensemble methods in Monthly and Seasonal Forecasting
- Convection Permitting Ensemble Prediction Systems
- Verification of Ensemble weather forecasts
- Applications of Ensemble weather forecasts.
Highlights of the event:
- Leading International experts and scientists from UK, USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, etc. will present papers along with distinguished Indian scientists from different lead organizations on latest developments in the field of ensemble data assimilation and modelling.
- About twenty young scientists and researchers will present their research outcomes. Besides them about 100 participants which include forecasters, stake holder from various sectors and young research scholars will attend this conference.
- The latest techniques used in Data Assimilation, Ensemble Methods, and use of Probabilistic Forecasts for developing new applications from Ensemble Products will be discussed.
- The discussions will lead to development of newer algorithms and will be useful for societal applications related to weather/climate.
World Air Quality Report
The World Air Quality Report has been released by the pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace recently.
Highlights of the report:
- India accounts for two-thirds of the world’s most polluted cities — 21 of the most polluted 30 cities; 14 of the highest 20; and 6 of the highest 10.
- The ranking is based on a comparison of PM 2.5 levels.
- Among countries, when population is taken into account, average PM 2.5 pollution is highest in Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan, while India is at number 5.
- While cities in India, on average, exceed the WHO target for annual PM 2.5 exposures by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019, with 98% of cities are experiencing improvements.
- These improvements are believed to be largely a result of economic slowdown.
- Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) has been ranked the highest polluted city of 2019.
Bilateral & International Relations
US-India bilateral trade and investment
President Donald Trump announced that India and the United States will be making a major, one among the biggest ever made trade deals in the near future.
- The countries were in the early stages of discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers of investment.
- The current balance of trade is tilted in India’s favour, which has not gone well with a Trump, who has described India as a “tariff king”.
- $142.6 billion: US goods and services trade with India in 2018.
- $25.2 billion: US trade deficit with India in 2018.
Top US exports (2018):
- Precious metal and stone (diamonds) $7.9 billion
- Mineral fuels $6.7 billion
- Aircraft $2.9 billion
- Machinery $2.2 billion
- Organic chemicals $1.6 billion
Top US imports (2018)
- Precious metal and stone (diamonds) $11 billion
- Pharmaceuticals $6.3 billion
- Machinery $3.3 billion
- Mineral fuels $3.2 billion
- Vehicles $2.8 billion
Blue Dot network:
The United States, Australia and Japan’s new Blue Dot Network will serve as a globally recognized seal of approval for major infrastructure projects, to let people know that projects are sustainable and not exploitative.
- Led by the US’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Blue Dot network was jointly launched by the US, Japan and Australia in November 2019 on the side-lines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
- The initiative aligns with the G20’s Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment, particularly on governance, environmental standards and transparency.
- It is meant to be a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
- To bring together governments, the private sector and other organizations behind a set of high-quality global infrastructure development standards.
- Facilitate transparent, competitive, market-driven system that is mutually beneficial for all the stakeholders involved.
- To promote high-standard investment and private sector–led economic development.
- To do away with the system based on a state-led economic model, where deals are closed with bribes and fail to account for the needs of local communities.
- Any country or company can participate in the network, as long as it agrees to adhere to the network’s high standards of promoting quality, private sector-led investment.
- Projects that seek to be certified by the Blue Dot Network will complete an online application.
- When projects are certified by the Blue Dot Network, communities and investors can be confident about the high standards and sustainability of the infrastructure.
Countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
- The proposal for the Blue Dot network is part of the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at countering Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious BRI.
- Blue Dot may be seen as a counter to BRI, it will need a lot of work for two reasons.
- First, there is a fundamental difference between BRI and Blue Dot — while the former involves direct financing, giving countries in need immediate short-term relief.
- The latter is not a direct financing initiative and therefore may not be what some developing countries need.
- Blue Dot will require coordination among multiple stakeholders when it comes to grading projects.
- Given the past experience of Quad, the countries involved in it are still struggling to put a viable bloc.
US foreign policy towards China
- Prior to 2001, US foreign policy was focussed towards integrating China into its plan, but this changed after China’s emergence as a global superpower.
- Under Barack Obama, US foreign policy started shifting focus to Asia, where the US wanted to counter China’s growing influence.
- From the US’s point of view, the Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from India’s west coast to the west coast of the US, is the most economically dynamic and populous part of the world.
- Further, the US sees China’s infrastructure investments and trade strategies as reinforcing its geopolitical aspirations, including efforts to build and militarise outposts in the South China Sea, which as per the US, restricts the free movement of trade and undermines regional stability.
[Ref: ShareAmerica, Indian Express]
Defence & Security Issues
Defence Minister reviews performance of MIDHANI
Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh reviewed the performance of Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI) recently.
Highlights of the event:
- The officials of the Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) briefed Raksha Mantri and senior officials of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence about their ongoing projects and future plans.
- Defence Minister commended MIDHANI’s contribution towards indigenisation in defence manufacturing and lauded the DPSU for diversifying its business to other sectors like space, energy and railways.
- Stressing that it can play a major role in making India self-reliant in special alloys and materials, he asked the officials to focus more on innovation and R&D.
- He said that the DPSU has a unique place among the Defence companies with its specialized product profile and customers, with a lot of potential for exports.
- Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited, abbreviated as MIDHANI, is a specialized metals and metal alloys manufacturing facility in India, located in Hyderabad, Telangana.
- It is a Public Sector Undertaking, under the administrative control of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, Government of India.
- MIDHANI has performed well over the last five years. The company’s value of production has increased by around 27 % from Rs 640 crore in FY 14-15 to Rs 815 crore in FY 18-19.
- Import substitution of high-pressure discs for compressor of Adour MK 811 engines for Jaguar fighter plane and 74 kg titanium casting for naval application are some of the prominent achievements.
Persons in News
SERB Women Excellence Award-2020
Dr Niti Kumar, Senior Scientist from Division of Molecular Parasitology and Immunology, CSIR-CDRI, Lucknow has received SERB Women Excellence Award-2020.
About the award:
- This award is given to women scientist below 40 years of age who have received recognition from national academies.
- The women researchers will be supported by research grant of 5 lakhs per annum for 3 years by Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India (SERB-DST).
- Her research group is trying to understand the protein quality control machinery in human malaria parasite for exploration of alternative drug targets for malaria intervention.
- The Award will be conferred on her by the President of India during National Science Day Celebrations on February 28, 2020, in Vigyan Bhawan.
National Science Day:
- National Science Day is celebrated in India on 28 February each year.
- It marks the discovery of the Raman effect by Indian Physicist Sir C. V. Raman on 28 February 1928.