Polity & Governance
- Maharashtra top state in delivering justice to its citizens: Report
- All eyes on Mumbai as deadline to form Maharashtra govt nears
- Moody’s cuts India outlook from stable to negative
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Online repository set up to compile research on air quality in country
- No separate environmental clearance required to produce additional ethanol from B-heavy molasses
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves withdrawal of water from Feni River by India
- West Bengal Heritage Commission proposes Partition Museum
Key Facts for Prelims
- Who are the Brus in Tripura camps, and why they are not returning to Mizoram
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Polity & Governance
Maharashtra top state in delivering justice to its citizens: Report
As per India Justice Report, Maharashtra topped the list of India’s first-ever ranking of states on justice delivery among the 18 large and mid-sized states.
About India Justice Report (IJR)
- India Justice Report (IJR) 2019 is an initiative of Tata Trusts in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS- Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
The report has divided states on the basis of the population into two parts:
- i) The large-medium states (Population 1 crore and above) and ii) the small states and Union Territories (Population less than 1 crore)
It assed Indian states and UTs across four key pillars:
- Legal aid
Highlights of the India Justice Report
Top 5 large-medium States
- Tami Nadu
Bottommost states: Jharkhand (16th), Bihar (17th) and Uttar Pradesh (18th last)
Top 3 small states
- Himachal Pradesh
Issues in Indian judiciary
Police force training
- Over the last five years, only 6.4% of the police force have been provided in-service training. That means that over 90% deal with the public without any upto-date training.
- Women are poorly represented across the Justice system. They account for 7 per cent of the Police (2017), 10 per cent of prison staff (2016) and about 26.5 per cent of all judges in high courts and subordinate courts (2017-18).
Diversity in police staff
- Representation of SCs, STs, OBCs and women in the police is poor, with huge vacancies in the reserved positions. Only two states have met the 80% of SC/ST/OBC reservation required to be followed.
Pending court cases
- There are 28 million cases pending in Indian subordinate courts and 25% have been pending for more than 5 years.
- In 2016, 67.7% of India’s prison population were undertrial prisoners. This percentage is higher than what it was a decade ago, 66%.
- The police have a vacancy of 23% (2017), and the judiciary between 20%-40% across the high courts and lower judiciary. Only Sikkim’s High Court has judge vacancy of below 20 per cent.
- Most States are not able to fully utilise the funds given to them by the Centre. Punjab was the only large state whose police, prison and judiciary expenditures were able to increase at a pace higher than the increase in overall state expenditure (FY 2012-2016).
- Punjab was the only large state whose police, prison and judiciary expenditures were able to increase at a pace higher than the increase in overall state expenditure (FY 2012-2016).
- The per capita expenditureon legal aid is just 75 paise.
- Prisons are over-occupied at 114%, where 68% are undertrials awaiting investigation, inquiry or trial.
All eyes on Mumbai as deadline to form Maharashtra govt nears
Thirteen days after the declaration of Maharashtra Assembly results, who will be the Maharashtra Chief Minister is still unanswered.
What is the issue?
- Usually, the moment an election is won or lost, the Chief Minister of a state resigns and is then asked by the Governor to continue until a new government is in place.
- However, in Maharashtra, it has been two weeks since the results of the Assembly election were announced and government is not formed yet.
- While the existing Legislative Assembly will cease to exist post November 9, legal experts noted that there is no binding that the government should be in place by that day.
Powers of governor with respect to forming ruling party in a state
The Governor would be expected to go as per an order of preference set out in the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which have also been ratified by the Supreme Court.
By the order of preference, the Governor can invite
- A pre-poll alliance of parties;
- Invite the single largest party which stakes a claim to form government;
- Invite a post-poll alliance of parties, with all the partner in the coalition joining the government or
- Invite a post-poll alliances of parties, with some becoming part of the government and some supporting from outside.
The Governor can only summon the new House for the first sitting only after a new government is sworn in and the Cabinet has suggested a suitable date. The process of swearing-in of the newly elected members and appointment of the new Speaker can be held thereafter.
What happens after the alliance of political parties to form the government?
- Once any formation is sworn in, it will need to pass the floor test. In the floor test, the person sworn in as the CM has to prove that s/he enjoys the confidence of the House. If the confidence motion fails, the Chief Minister has to resign.
- If more than one person stake claim to form the government and the majority is not clear, the Governor has the powers to call a special session to assess who has the majority. The date for the floor test is decided by the Governor in consultation with the new government.
What if no government is form?
- Article 356 of the Constitution provides for the imposition of President’s Rule in a state in case of failure of the constitutional machinery in the state.
- As per the constitutional stipulation, it can be imposed in cases where the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the state or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
- In Maharashtra’s case, if the Governor is satisfied that no party or alliance can form a stable government would he recommend imposition of President’s rule.
Moody’s cuts India outlook from stable to negative
Global ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service has cut its outlook on the Government of India’s ratings to negative from stable, but affirmed the Baa2 foreign-currency and local-currency long-term issuer ratings.
- Moody’s also affirmed India’s Baa2 local-currency senior unsecured rating and its P-2 other short-term local-currency rating.
Implications for India:
- The decision to change the outlook to negative reflects increasing risks that economic growth will remain materially lower than in the past, partly reflecting lower government and policy effectiveness at addressing long-standing economic and institutional weaknesses than Moody’s had previously estimated, leading to a gradual rise in the debt burden from already high levels.
- Reduction in outlook is the first step towards an investment downgrade, as India is now just a notch above the investment grade country rating. An actual downgrade in country ratings can lead to massive foreign fund outflows.
Reasons for cut in rating by Moody’s?
- Moody’s projected fiscal deficit of 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the year through March 2020, a breach of the government’s target of 3.3 per cent, as slower growth and a surprise corporate-tax cut curbs revenue.
- India’s growth outlook has deteriorated sharply this year, with a crunch that started out in the non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs) spreading to retail businesses, car makers, home sales and heavy industries.
- Moody’s said the outlook partly reflects government and policy ineffectiveness in addressing economic weakness, which led to an increase in debt burden which is already at high levels.
- India’s economy grew by 5 per cent between April and June, its weakest pace since 2013, as consumer demand and government spending slowed amid global trade frictions.
Indian government’s response:
- Noting Moody’s concerns, the Finance Ministry said that India continues to be among the fastest growing major economies in the world, and India’s relative standing remains unaffected.
- The Government said it has undertaken series of financial sector and other reforms to strengthen the economy as a whole.
- It has also proactively taken policy decisions in response to the global slowdown. These measures would lead to a positive outlook on India and would attract capital flows and stimulate investments.
- The fundamentals of the economy remain quite robust with inflation under check and bond yields low. India continues to offer strong prospects of growth in near and medium term.
Different general credit ratings:
- Highest credit quality that denotes the lowest expectations of default risk.
- Very high credit quality. ‘AA’ ratings denote expectations of very low default risk. They indicate very strong capacity for payment of financial commitments.
- High credit quality that denotes expectations of low default risk. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered strong, however, vulnerability to adverse business or economic conditions exists.
- Good credit quality that indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate, but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.
- This rating indicates an elevated vulnerability to default risk, particularly in the event of adverse changes in business or economic conditions over time; however, business or financial flexibility exists that supports the servicing of financial commitments.
- This rating indicates that material default risk is present, but a limited margin of safety remains. Financial commitments are currently being met; however, capacity for continued payment is vulnerable to deterioration in the business and economic environment.
- Substantial credit risk exists in this rating, where the default is a real possibility.
- This rating shows a very high level of credit risk with a possibility of defaults.
- This rating shows that a default or default-like process has begun, or the issuer is in a standstill.
- This indicates that the issuer has entered into bankruptcy filings, administration, receivership, liquidation or other formal winding-up procedure or has ceased business.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Online repository set up to compile research on air quality in country
The Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR)’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) launched what it said was the country’s first interactive online repository, IndAIR (Indian Air quality Studies Interactive Repository).
About IndAIR (Indian Air quality Studies Interactive Repository)
- The aim of the project is to make air quality research available to everyone. It present these studies in an easily accessible web format for the media, researchers and academics
- It is the first comprehensive effort to inventorise surviving Indian research and analysis on air pollution, its causes and effects.
- IndAIR has archived scanned documents from pre-Internet times (1950-1999), research articles, reports and case studies, and statutes to provide the history of air pollution research and legislation in the country. This includes all major legislation in the country dating back to 1905.
- It received support from institutions such as the National Institute of Science, Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) and National Archives of India (NAI). Institutions such as The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), Ministry of Environment and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also partnered with NEERI for the project.
No separate environmental clearance required to produce additional ethanol from B-heavy molasses
Giving further benefits to farmers and sugar industry, the Centre has declared that no separate environmental clearance is required to produce additional ethanol from B-heavy molasses,in place of using C-heavy Molasses, as it does not contribute to the pollution load.
- Proposals to undertake additional production of ethanol from B-heavy molasses, sugar cane juice, sugar syrup and sugar is considered under EIA (environmental impact assessment) Notification, 2006.
- Hence, government recently allowed mills to produce ethanol from ‘B’ heavy molasses and directly from sugarcane juice due to the consistent surplus of sugar production, depressing sugar price.
- Also, the sugar mills get higher rates for ethanol manufactured from the ‘B’ heavy and sugarcane juice routes.
What is ethanol?
- Ethanol is basically alcohol of 99%-plus purity, which can be used for blending with petrol.
- The normal rectified spirit used for potable purposes has only 95% alcohol content.
- Both ethanol (also called anhydrous alcohol) and rectified spirit are produced mainly from molasses, which is a by-product of sugar manufacture.
- Mills typically crush cane with a total fermentable sugars(TFS). Much of this TFS (sucrose plus reducing sugars (glucose and fructose)) gets crystallised into sugar.
- The un-crystallised, non-recoverable part is called ‘C’ molasses.
- But rather than produce sugar, mills can also ferment the entire TFS in the cane.
- In between these two extreme cases, there are intermediate options as well, where the cane juice does not have to be crystallised right till the final ‘C’ molasses stage.
- The molasses can, instead, be diverted after the earlier ‘A’ and ‘B’ stages of sugar crystal formation.Mills, then, would produce some sugar, as opposed to fermenting the whole sugarcane juice into ethanol.
- A molasses (first molasses): It is an intermediate by-product resulting from first sugar crystallization.
- B molasses (second molasses): It has approximately the same sugar content as ‘A’ molasses but contains less sugar and does not spontaneously crystallize.
- C molasses (final molasses or blackstrap molasses): It is the end by-product of the processing in the sugar factory, which does not crystallize and can be found in liquid or dried form as a commercial feed ingredient.
Why more focus on ethanol?
Mills currently have all-time-high stocks of sugar, and they have been at loggerheads with farmers over non-payment of dues. Mill owners insist that the reason behind their woes is excess production of sugar and fall in its price.
Under the circumstances, ethanol is the only real saviour — both for mills and cane growers.
- In September this year, the government approved an increase in the price of ethanol to be procured by public sector oil marketing companies from sugar mills for blending with petrol for the 2019-20 supply year from December 1.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also allowed conversion of old sugar into ethanol, which again is expected to help mills deal with the current overproduction in the sweetener and make timely payments to farmers for the cane delivered by them.
- Ethanol production has been additionally facilitated with the government mandating 10% blending of petrol with ethanol.
About Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme
- Government of India launched Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme in 2003 for undertaking blending of ethanol in Petrol to address environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning and subsidize crude imports.
- Under EBP programme, ethanol blending in petrol is being undertaken by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in except Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep wherein 10% of blending of ethanol in Petrol are done by OMCs.
- The present policy allows procurement of ethanol produced from molasses and non-food feed stock like celluloses and lignocelluloses material including petrochemical route.
- This was also an attempt to reduce the Under-recovery of Public Sector OMCs.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves withdrawal of water from Feni River by India
The Union Cabinet has given approval for the MoU between India and Bangladesh on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni River by India for drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town Tripura, India.
- The present supply of drinking water to Sabroom town is inadequate as ground water in this region has high iron content. Hence, Implementation of this scheme would benefit Sabroom town.
About Feni River
- The Feni River forms part of the India-Bangladesh border.
- It originates in the South Tripura district, passes through Sabroom town on the Indian side, and meets the Bay of Bengal after it flows into Bangladesh.
Feni River dispute
- The dispute over the sharing of the Feni river water was taken up between India and Pakistan (before the independence of Bangladesh) in 1958 during a meeting in New Delhi.
- Bangladesh accused India of drawing water from the Feni River through small pumps.
- In August 2019, India and Bangladesh held a water secretary-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) in Dhaka, where it was agreed to collect data and prepare water-sharing agreements for seven rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, Dudhkumar, and Feni.
- The MoU stands to benefit Sabroom town on the southern tip of Tripura. The present supply of drinking water to Sabroom town is inadequate. The groundwater in this region has high iron content. Implementation of this scheme would benefit over 7000 population of Sabroom town.
Other projects on the Feni
- In Tripura, a 4-lane bridge across the Feni, expected to be completed by March 2020, is being built between India and Bangladesh, where the Feni River forms the border between the two countries.
- Once ready, it would connect Tripura with Chittagong port in Bangladesh, playing an important role in the proposed Bangladesh, China, Indiaand Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM EC).
West Bengal Heritage Commission proposes Partition Museum
The West Bengal Heritage Commission has drawn up a proposal to set up a museum dedicated to the Partition of Bengal during the bifurcation of the country that led to migration of millions of refugees.
About the proposed Museum
- It will focus on the historical facts and the consequences of the Partition of Bengal.
- The museum is proposed to be housed in the Alipore Jail, which has now been converted into a heritage building.
Partition of Bengal
- The Partition of India in 1947 that led to creation of Pakistan involved the division of Bengal and Punjab provinces based on district-wise Hindu or Muslim majorities.
- The Partition not only led to violence but also recorded one of the largest mass migration in human history.
- After the Partition, Bengal was bifurcated into East Bengal and West Bengal.
- East Bengal became a part of Pakistan. It was rechristened East Pakistan in 1956 and later became Bangladesh after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
Key Facts for Prelims
Who are the Brus in Tripura camps, and why they are not returning to Mizoram
Since October 1, six members of the Reang or Bru community have reportedly died in relief camps in Tripura, after the Centre decided to stop food supplies and cash dole. They were among 32,000 Brus living in these camps since 1997, when they fled their homes in Mizoram.
Who are the Brus?
- Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam.
- In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
- In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state.
- In 1997, following ethic clashes, Brus fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura. Since then, some have returned to Mizoram while some still live in relief camps in Tripura.
What have they been surviving on?
- Under a relief package announced by the Centre, a daily ration of rice, salt and other essential items along with cash dole of Rs 5 per adult is provided.
Why are they still here?
- In June 2018, community leaders from the Bru camps signed an agreement with the Centre and the two state governments, providing for repatriation in Mizoram.
- However, most camp residents rejected it as the package did not guarantee their safety in Mizoram. They have demanded resettlement in cluster villages, among other things.
Why did the Centre stop supplies?
- After a series of failed meetings over repatriation, the government suspended food supplies.
- It offered a final package of INR 25,000 for each family and repatriation within two days to Mizoram.