IT & ITES News

[Mission 2023] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 24 November 2022


 

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

 

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Election Commissioner shouldn’t be a ‘yes-man’: Supreme Court

2. India is losing its cherished right to know

3. India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) approved

 

GS Paper 3:

1. New Electric Vehicle Batteries

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Lachit Borphukan

2. Taklung Setrung Rinpoche

3. Kuki-Chins

4. Minority Status

5. Process of Inclusion in the ST List

6. Code of Conduct for the South China Sea

7. Ivory Trade

8. Dr. Purnima Devi Barman

9. ‘Ambition on Melting Ice on Sea-level Rise and Mountain Water Resources’ (AMI) group

10. GARUDA SHAKTI

 


 

Election Commissioner shouldn’t be a ‘yes-man’: Supreme Court

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

 

Source: TH

 Direction: The article adds points to yesterday’s previous article, highlighting why ECI needs reforms and is way ahead.

 Context: According to the Supreme Court, an Election Commissioner should be someone who can take a stand even if it means sacrificing his/her life, rather than a passive “yes-man.”

 Why are reforms in the system required?

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has earned public trust due to its exemplary work as an independent and neutral authority.
  • This achievement has been made possible because as a constitutional authority, the ECI’s autonomy is guaranteed and its functioning insulated from the interference of the executive and judiciary.
  • However, there is growing concern on that front. For example,
    • The CEC and the two commissioners joined an online interaction called by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
    • The panel imposed Covid restrictions on electioneering only after the PM completed his campaign
    • ECI’s unwillingness to censure the ruling party’s leaders for violating the Model Code of Conduct while pulling up Opposition leaders during the 2019 general election.

 What has the SC said about the Election Commissioners (EC)?

  • The Constitution of India has vested vast powers on the shoulders of the CEC and the 2 Election Commissioners.
  • Apart from competence, character is crucial, so that those appointed as Election Commissioners will not allow themselves to be bulldozed.
  • The government does not give much importance to ECs’ independence, as evidenced by the reduction in tenures of Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) from over 8 years (in 1950s) to just a few 100 days (after 2004).
  • The government assures that the person nominated does not serve the full six years by picking someone close to 65, thus undermining independence.
  • In the absence of a law to oversee such appointments, the silence of the India Constitution is being exploited by all.
  • If ECs become CECs, then there is no independent mechanism to consider persons other than ECs for the post of CEC.
  • The court gave the government 24 hours to produce the file of appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as EC, to know the mechanism followed for making this appointment.
    • Arun Goel, a former IAS officer from the Punjab cadre, is set to succeed Rajiv Kumar as CEC when his term expires in 2025.

 

The government’s reply:

  • Appointment on the basis of a time-tested convention:
    • A list of serving and retired officials in the position of Secretaries is prepared for consideration of the Prime Minister and President.
    • The PM, after considering the names, recommends one name to the President, along with a note.
    • The appointment of ECs follows seniority and the senior among the two ECs goes on to become the CEC.
  • There is no vacuum in the Constitution on the issue. If the Constitution takes a position despite discussions on multiple ideas in the Constituent Assembly, that position cannot be contested.
  • The separation of powers cannot be challenged, as it is the basic feature of the Constitution.
  • Independence of the executive was as sacrosanct as the independence of the judiciary. This matter is for Parliament to debate and not the court.
  • Except for a few odd cases, there had been no complaints about the Election Commission’s independence, and its work had even won worldwide fame.

 

Suggestions given by the SC:

  • An appointment committee including the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to appoint the Election Commissioners to ensure neutrality.
  • According to experts, though the SC is correct in emphasising the need for the ECI to be protected from political pressure, the CJI’s participation on the appointment panel will provide that cover is a questionable assumption.
  • For example, the CJI is on the committee that picks the CBI director. Certainly, this does not safeguard the investigative agency’s independence, which is decided by the agency and the political administration.

 

Way ahead:

  • A CEC of the calibre of TN Sheshan is required to ensure free and fair elections and to strengthen democracy in India. Though such personalities appear occasionally, appointments based on merit can provide close to one.
  • There is no reason to change the arm’s length relationship, which the judiciary has respected and maintained with the ECI previously.
  • Allow Parliament to decide and debate whether to include the CJI or the Leader of the Opposition on the appointment panel.

  

Insta Links:

Appointment of Election Commissioners

 

Mains Links:

Q.  Critically analyse the role and powers of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in conducting free and fair elections. (250 words)

India is losing its cherished right to know

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

 

Source: TH

 Direction: This is an editorial article. The article highlights how the 2019 amendments to the RTI Act affected the functioning of the Central Information Commission.

  

Context:

  • The Central Information Commission’s (CIC) most important role is to decide whether particular information sought by a person should be disclosed or not.
  • However, the commission appears to have abandoned its core task in matters of greater public importance.

 

Background:

  • Citizens can file applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with any public entity and are guaranteed a response from that public body’s public information officer within 30 days.
  • If the citizen does not receive a response or is dissatisfied with the response, s/he may file an appeal at the departmental level, followed by a second and ultimate appeal with the Information Commission.
  • Each state has its own State Information Commission that handles second appeals involving state agencies. The CIC is in the centre.

 

Functioning of CIC as a transparent body:

  • The commission was an outspoken supporter of transparency in public life.
  • It had issued orders in a wide range of public-interest cases. For example,
    • Boldly declaring that political parties were subject to the RTI Act and thus accountable to the public.
    • Requiring disclosure of the current Prime Minister’s educational qualifications and the Reserve Bank of India’s list of wilful loan defaulters.

 

The 2019 amendment to the RTI Act:

 

Impact of amendments on the functioning of CIC:

  • Delegating its mandate to the Home Ministry:
    • The Commission has delegated matters of public concern to the Ministry, such as cases demanding disclosure of files related to the COVID-19 national lockdown or data pertaining to phone tapping orders.
    • In most cases, the Ministries reiterate their previous position of non-disclosure, usually on the vague grounds of national interest.
  • Violation of the cardinal rule of natural justice: No one should be a judge in their own cause. However, the Ministry that stands accused of violating the RTI Act decides whether a disclosure is necessary.
  • Huge pendency of cases fairly simple to adjudicate: For example, in a case seeking disclosure of documents relating to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019, the commission has kept the matter pending for more than three months now.
  • New hurdles to a citizen’s demand for accountability: As the disclosure of information in public-interest matters is denied.
  • Protection against irritants: Bureaucrats reject RTIs as they are not afraid of facing penal provisions outlined in Section 20 of the RTI Act.

 

Way ahead:

  • Citizens must exert intense pressure on authorities to appoint commissioners of integrity.
  • Lawyers must assist willing citizens in taking cases to court and seeking justice.

 

Conclusion: There is a need for civil society and citizens to pressurise authorities to ensure transparency and neutrality of CIC. If they fail to do so, India will lose its cherished right to know.

 

Central Information Commission (CIC):

●        Established by the Central Government in 2005, under the provisions of the Right to Information Act (2005).

●        Members: The Commission consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information Commissioners.

●        Appointment: They are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.

●        Tenure: The Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They are not eligible for reappointment.

 

Power and Functions of CIC:

●        It is the duty of the Commission to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person regarding information requested under RTI, 2005.

●        The Commission can order an inquiry into any matter if there are reasonable grounds (suo-moto power).

●        While inquiring, the Commission has the powers of a civil court in respect of summoning, requiring documents etc.

 

Insta Curious

Do you know the Right to Information Act in India and the UK Freedom of Information Act came into force in the same year – 2005?

 

Insta Links:

Pending RTI pleas

 

Mains Links:

Q. The Central Information Commission, the apex body under India’s transparency regime must take urgent steps to remove hurdles in the citizens’ quest for accountability. Examine. (250 words)

India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) approved

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: International Relations

 

Source: Indian Express

 Direction: The agreement is significant since it is 1st such agreement for India with a developed country in the past 10 years. The articles are taken from IE Editorial.

 

Context: Australian Parliament ratified India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) in a landmark moment for India.

  

Why the deal is a landmark?

  • It is 1st such agreement for India with a developed country: India has free trade deals mostly with South Asian countries and hardly served India’s trade interests.
  • Shows India’s negotiating skills
  • The deal has the potential to raise bilateral trade between India and Australia to nearly $50 bn in the next five years and create at least 10 lakh jobs in the start-up economy.
  • Provide a model for future FTA with other developed countries.

 

Key features of the deal:

  • Duty-free access to the Australian market for over 6000 broad sectors e.g., labour-intensive exports in textiles, leather, furniture, jewellery etc.
    • More importantly for India, sensitive sectors such as Dairy and Agriculture have been excluded.
  • Reduce the import prices for a number of commodities for India: duty-free import of Indian wines, and Australian coal at competitive rates.
  • Includes service sector (important for India labour) such as IT, Health, ITES etc.
  • Covers India’s concerns on Rules of Origin (RoO), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, movement of persons etc.
    • g., the ‘Melt and Pour’ provision for the steel industry: It only allows Steel that is produced locally in Australia can be imported into India
  • Movement of Trained Professional: The deal provides for an annual quota of 1,800 for yoga teachers and Indian chefs and a commitment to over one lakh of India’s outgoing students to Australia for post-study work visas.
  • Resolves DTAA: The trade deal also resolves the long-pending Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) related to IT/ITES.

  

India-Australia Trade Relations:

  • Trade: Currently India’s trade with Australia is around $25 bn
  • India’s exports to Australia: Manufactured goods such as petroleum, medicaments, diamonds, jewellery, railway coaches and vehicles, milled rice and herbicides
  • India’s imports: Eighty-two per cent of its imports from Australia are coal, gold, copper ore, aluminium oxide, liquified natural gas, manganese ore, aluminium waste, pigments, lentils, etc.

 

Inst-Links

India Australia: Basics

Transparency in FTA

 

Insta Curious

The commonality between India and Australia: India and Australia both are Commonwealth countries and parliamentary democracies with similar legal systems. Besides, India and Australia also are members of the Quad, a trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

 

Insta Mains

Q. Australia’s interests do not just align with India’s; they are inextricably entwined. Discuss. (150 words)

Insta Prelims

The term ‘Digital Single Market Strategy’ seen in the news refers to (UPSC 2017)

(a) ASEAN

(b) BRICS

(c) EU

(d) G20

Ans: C

Digital Single Market is a market characterized by ensuring the free movement of people, services and capital and allowing individuals and businesses to seamlessly access and engage in online activities irrespective of their nationality or place of residence.

 

‘Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of negotiations held between India and (UPSC 2017)

(a) European Union

(b) Gulf Cooperation Council

(c) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

(d) Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Ans: A

In June 2007, India and the EU began negotiations on a broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) in Brussels, Belgium. It is still to come into effect.

New Electric Vehicle Batteries

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Science and Technology

 

Source: DTE

Direction: Know a few key initiatives related to EV batteries. Understand how these batteries work. However, no need to get into the technicalities of the working of batteries.

  

Context: Non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has collaborated with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to create a platform for supporting the development of new electric vehicle (EV) batteries to suit Indian requirements.

 

Outline of the collaboration:

  • An expert-Industry platform for the development of new electric vehicle (EV) battery technologies
  • Assessing India’s need and climate stress for batteries
  • Application-specific batteriesg., Lithium-titanate for public transport; Sodium-ion for e-rickshaws
  • Recycling of batteries
  • Developing regulations for the in-use performance and durability of EVs and databases on performance and safety parameters

  

Initiative for EV safety:

  • New Safety tests for EVs
  • Infrastructure for testing and certification by the Automotive Research Association of India
  • BIS issues performance norms for Li-Ion batteries

 

Government steps for new batteries:

  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) 1 and 2 Scheme to promote the manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles
  • Department of Heavy Industry for implementation of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme ‘National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery Storage
  • NITI Aayog released the draft battery swapping policy for Electric Vehicles (EVs)

  

The current deployment of Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) in India is dominated by consumer electronics, which comprises smartphones, laptops, notebooks, and tablets.

 

Insta Curious

Did you know, by 2030, the demand for batteries is expected to grow four folds to reach an annual rate of 3,100 GWh?

 

Insta Links

National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell Battery Storage

 

Mains Links

Q. Lithium-ion batteries are the edifice of the wireless technology revolution. In this context discuss the significance and challenges facing these rechargeable Lithium Batteries. (250 words)

 

Prelims Links

With reference to ‘fuel cells’ in which hydrogen-rich fuel and oxygen are used to generate electricity, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2015)

    1. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the fuel cell emits heat and water as by-products.
    2. Fuel cells can be used for powering buildings and not for small devices like laptop computers.
    3. Fuel cells produce electricity in the form of Alternating Current (AC).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: A

A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity (in form of Direct Current). It can be used for powering the building as well as small devices (micro fuel cells). Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging. They produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.

 

 

Facts for Prelims


Lachit Borphukan

Source: Indian Express

Direction: Since the person is not well known outside of Assam, you may go through it once. No need to remember.

Context: 400th birth anniversary celebration

 About:

Lachit Borphukan was a general in the Ahom dynasty (Assam, 17th CE) and is best known for the Battle of Saraighat (on the banks of Brahmaputra), where he defeated the Mughals in 1671.

 The Ahom dynasty (1228–1826) was established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince of Mong Mao (present-day Yunnan, China). The rule of this dynasty ended with the Burmese invasion of Assam and the subsequent annexation by the British East India Company following the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826

 

 Taklung Setrung Rinpoche

 Source: TH

 Context: In a significant development in the Tibetan Buddhist circles, the Nyingma sect has identified a boy from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh as the reincarnation of the late Taklung Setrung Rinpoche.

Taklung Setrung Rinpoche (1926 – 2015): He was a Tibetan lama and the Supreme Head of the Nyingma School (oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) of Tibetan Buddhism, known for his knowledge of Tibetan Tantric school.

 

Kuki-Chins

 Source: TH

 Context: More than 270 members of the Kuki-Chin community from Bangladesh who entered Mizoram are being referred to as “officially displaced persons” in State government records, as India does not have a law on refugees.

Background:

  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), foreign nationals who enter the country without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants.
  • The MHA had said that State Governments have no powers to grant “’ refugee’ status to any foreigner” and added that India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.

  

Kuki-Chins:

The Kuki people are an ethnic group native to the Mizo Hills (formerly Lushai) in India. They constitute one of several hill tribes within India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Chin people of Myanmar and the Mizo people of Mizoram are related tribes of the Kukis.  The Kuki-Chin is a Christian community from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, which shares close ethnic ties with people in Mizoram.

 

Minority Status

Source: Indian Express

Direction: Know the constitutional interpretation of minorities and articles related to it such as articles 29 and 30.

Context:  SC has asked the Centre to consult states/UTs on the petition to grant minority status to Hindus.

Although the constitution doesn’t define ‘Minority’; under National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, the centre has declared Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians as ‘minorities’.  The status of minorities is state-wise and not district-wise (SC in TMA Pai Case, 2002)

Of the 28 states in India, Hindus form the majority in 22 states except for Punjab (Sikh majority), Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram (Christian majority).

 

Process of Inclusion in the ST List

Source: The Hindu

Context: Despite recommendations by a task force, the central government will continue to include communities in the ST list using the existing procedure.

Background of the Issue:

A task force constituted in 2014, headed by then-Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrusikesh Panda,  had called the existing procedure “cumbersome” and “time-consuming”, adding that it “defeats the Constitutional agenda for affirmative action and inclusion”. It noted that as many as 40 communities had been excluded from the ST list or were facing delays in inclusion due to the current procedure and criteria, and recommended their immediate inclusion.

The task force highlighted that the present system gives too much weight to the opinion of the Office of the RGI

What is the Process of Inclusion in the ST List?

The process to include tribes in the ST list begins with recommendation from the respective State governments, which are then sent to the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which reviews and sends them to the Registrar General of India for approval.

This is followed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes’ approval before the list is sent to the Cabinet for a final decision.

 

Code of Conduct for the South China Sea

Source: TH

 Context: There is ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea at the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Defence Ministers Plus meeting in Cambodia.

India stands for the freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and adherence to international law, particularly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.

Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (SCS):

  • The SCS is a semi-enclosed region surrounded by China and four members of the ASEAN, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
  • Since the 1970s, these countries have been in constant competition for geographical features such as islands, reefs and rocks, to extend their territorial sovereignty.
  • To prevent these tensions from erupting in open conflict and to assure freedom of navigation, ASEAN and China have been jointly working on a code of conduct for the SCS for almost 30 years.

 

Ivory Trade

Source: Indian Express

Context: At the ongoing COP19 of CITES, India abstained from voting against a proposal to allow a regular form of controlled trade in ivory from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The proposal was defeated.

Ivory: Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusks and teeth of animals. Over 70% of illegal ivory ends up in China where it is used for luxury products.

Why the abstention was surprising?

The elephant remains one of India’s most powerful cultural and religious symbols. India has been a pioneer in banning the domestic trade in ivory in 1986. And so, India was expected to vote against the proposal.

Related News

CITES at CoP 19 has eased rules for the export of Shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) on the initiative of India. Currently, Shisham is in Appendix II (thus regulated), but now Shisham up to a certain weight can now be traded. This will allow Shisham handicrafts to be exported from India.

Shisham is a deciduous tree native to the Indian subcontinent and Iran.

 

Dr Purnima Devi Barman

Source: Indian Express

Direction:

Context: Indian wildlife biologist Dr Purnima Devi Barman was recently awarded the Champions of the Earth award in the Entrepreneurial Vision category, the UN’s highest environmental honour.

She is the founder of the Hargila Army (female-led conservation volunteers to protect Greater Adjutant Stork) and senior project manager of the Avifauna Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak.

Champions of the Earth award is awarded (since 2005) annually to outstanding leaders/organizations from government, Civil society and the Private sector

 

Ambition on Melting Ice on Sea-level Rise and Mountain Water Resources’ (AMI) group

Source: DTE

Direction: Go through it once

 Context: At the COP27, a broad coalition of 18 governments – led by the two polar and mountain nations of Chile and Iceland joined together to create a new high-level group “AMI”.

Background:

  • The melting of the cryosphere – areas on the planet with frozen water, due to climate change, is a global threat whose impact will not be restricted to mountain and polar countries.
  • Melting cryosphere and thermal expansion of sea-water due to global warming were always seen as the major contributors to sea-level rise.

 Objective of AMI: The “AMI” group aims to ensure impacts of cryosphere loss are understood by political leaders and the public, and not only within mountain and polar regions, but throughout the planet.

 

GARUDA SHAKTI

Source: PIB

Direction: Go through once.

Context: The Exercise is the eighth edition of the series of bilateral exercises between India and Indonesia and is part of the military-to-military exchange programs.

The exercise which commenced on 21st November 2022 aims to enhance understanding, cooperation and interoperability between the Special Forces of both armies.

Other exercises with Indonesia: India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT); Samudra Shakti: A bilateral maritime exercise.


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