Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 17-03-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 17-03-2021


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  1. Governance and Institutions - National Population Register (NPR) - Central government may allow residents to fill the National Population Register (NPR) form on their own, through the online mode, a month before the door-to-door enumeration by Census officials starts in 2021. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. After filling the form online, residents will get a reference code that they can mention to the field enumerator at the time of her or his visit. The details of the respondent will be displayed on a mobile application developed for conducting the Census exercise but no “biometrics or documents” will be collected. NPR is a Register of usual residents of the country, being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. Objective is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015.
  2. Constitution and Law - Increase in arrests under UAPA Act - According to data from the Ministry of the Home Affairs (MHA), the number of people arrested under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 has increased by more than 72% compared to 2015. In 2019, the most arrested states were Uttar Pradesh (498), Manipur (386), Tamil Nadu (308), J&K (227) and Jharkhand (202). During 2016-2019, only 2.2% of UAPA-registered cases were convicted by the court. Cases under UAPA are investigated by the State Police and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). According to the "UAPA Act", bail is rare, and the investigating agency has up to 180 days to submit the allegation. Under the "UAPA Act", bail is rare, and the investigating agency has up to 180 days to submit proofs for its allegations.
  3. Energy - US second biggest oil supplier to India - India is the world's third largest oil importer and consumer, and now the United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia to become India's second largest oil supplier. This shift came after refineries increased their purchases of cheaper U.S. crude oil to record levels to offset OPEC+ production cuts. It was triggered by lower crude oil demand in the United States, coinciding with Saudi Arabia's voluntarily cutting output by 1 million barrels per day in accordance with an agreement between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) to maintain a low output. India’s oil imports from the US (now the world’s largest oil producer) increased to 48%, reaching a record 545,300 barrels per day (barrels/day) in February 2021 (accounting for 14% of India’s total imports in February 2021). Since January 2021, India’s imports from Saudi Arabia have decreased by 42%, falling to a 10-year low of 445,200 barrels per day. India is the world's third largest oil importer and consumer. Iraq is still India's largest oil seller, even though oil purchases fell by 23% from a five-month low to 867,500 bpd. Iraq has also cut its annual oil supply to Indian refineries by 20% in 2021 to fulfill its obligations under the OPEC production agreement.  
  4. Environment and Ecology - Heavy sandstorm in Beijing, China - The China Meteorological Administration announced a "yellow warning", stating that sand & dust storms have spread from Inner Mongolia to Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei provinces. Beijing, the capital, was shrouded in strong winds from Inner Mongolia and other parts of northwestern China. Beijing's official air quality index also reached the highest level of 500.  In some areas, floating particles called PM10 reached 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter. Smaller particles called PM 2.5 that penetrate the human lungs reached readings of 300 micrograms per cubic meter. (much higher than the 35 microgram standard set by China). In March and April of each year, the capital Beijing is often hit by sandstorms due to its frequent proximity to the Gobi Desert and deforestation throughout northern China. [Gobi is a large desert or bushland area in East Asia, covering parts of North China, Northeast China and southern Mongolia. It is important because there are several important cities along the Silk Road. The desert is the "Rain Shadow Desert". The shadows are formed by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which prevents precipitation from the Indian Ocean from reaching the desert; Mongolia: It is a landlocked country located in East Asia, located between Russia in the north and China in the south. In the south, Mongolia borders the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region]
  5. Indian Economy - Growth in bank credit & deposits - Data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in March 2021 showed that Bank credit and deposits grew and were higher in February 2021 than January 2021. The credit and deposits for February 2021 were even higher than the pre-pandemic data of February 2020. Bank credit grew by 6.63% to Rs.107.75 lakh crore which in February 2020 stood at Rs.101.05 lakh crore. Bank deposits grew by 12.06% to Rs.149.34 lakh crore which in February 2020 stood at Rs.133.26 lakh crore. The growth in bank credit is driven by an increase in retail loans, that include a vast range of different loans like car loans, mortgages, signature loans and credit cards. Business loans can also fall into the category of retail loans. The overall retail credit growth, which is currently at 9% is expected to accelerate further, led by mortgages (contributing 51%of retail loans) and back-end support by unsecured (cards/personal loans) and vehicle loans.
  6. Governance and Institutions - State Election Commission appointment issue - The Supreme Court ruled that serving bureaucrats must not be appointed as election commissioners to ensure that the independence of the office of the election commissioner is not compromised. A Bench of the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal by the Goa government against an order of the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court had earlier castigated the State Election Commission (SEC) for not acting independently to ensure that the mandate of the Constitution was followed before issuing an election schedule. The territorial jurisdiction of Bombay High Court extends to Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. During the proceedings it came to notice that the law secretary of the Goa state was given  ‘additional charge’ of the State Election Commission. Giving government employees additional charge as Election Commissioners is a mockery of the Constitution. SC directed States to comply with the constitutional scheme of independent and fair functioning of election commissions. If they hold any such office (under the state government), then they have to resign before taking charge of the office of the election commissioner.
  7. Envrionment and Ecology - National Non-ferrous metal scrap recycling framework - The Ministry of Mines has issued a National non-ferrous metal scrap recycling framework, 2020 in a bid to cut down the scrap imports. It also seeks to use a life cycle management approach for better efficiency in the mineral value chain process. Some goals are - (a) To work towards economic wealth creation, job creation and increased contribution to GDP through metal recycling, (b) To promote a formal and well organized recycling ecosystem by adopting energy efficient processes, (c) To minimize the effect of end of life products on landfills and environmental pollution by promoting an environmentally sound recycling system, (d) To evolve a responsive ecosystem by involving all stakeholders. The framework envisages setting up of a central Metal Recycling Authority to facilitate recycling of metals. Recyclers may explore the possibility of entering into collection contracts with industrial and commercial establishments.
  8. World Economy - Chips, EVs, Market share - Volkswagen was unable to build one lakh cars due to an ongoing chip shortage that has hit the automotive sector in 2021, CEO Herbert Diess said. He added the company will not be able to make up for the shortfall in 2021. Diess said Volkswagen will secure future chip supply through direct agreements with semiconductor suppliers. Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said the German automaker is worth €200 billion ($238 billion). "We have shown that we are not to be underestimated with regard to the new areas of business," Diess added. Notably, Tesla, which sells much fewer cars, has a current market value of around $680 billion.
  9. Indian Economy - Story of the UPI market shares - As per data released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), PhonePe recorded 975.53 million transactions worth about ₹1.89 lakh crore in February 2021, while 827.86 million transactions totalling ₹1.74 lakh crore were carried out on Google Pay. The Walmart-owned company that now has a 42.5% share of India's UPI market has beaten Google Pay for the third consecutive month. Overall, the UPI  recorded 2,292.9 million or 2.29 billion transactions worth Rs 4,25,062 crore in February 2021, in which PhonePe leads with 42.54% market share followed by Google Pay with 36% market share. In January, PhonePe and Google Pay’s market share were recorded at 42% and 37%, respectively.
  10. Science and Technology - DuckDuckGo versus Google - Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, in a response to Google revealing the data it collects under Apple's new privacy labels policy, accused it of "spying" on its users. "After months of stalling, Google finally revealed how much personal data they collect..No wonder they wanted to hide it," it said. It even tweeted a picture comparing Google's data collection with its own. Apple enforced these privacy labels in December 2020 and Google has just updated the Google and the Google Chrome apps with labels, and DuckDuckGo was quick to jump in and use the information to their advantage. The App Store privacy labels are divided into three sections: “data used to track you,” “data linked to you,” and “data not linked to you”. Privacy labels for Google and Chrome show that location, browsing history, search history, financial information etc that are linked to the user for processes like personalisation, analytics and third-party advertising, are all collected.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
A fresh look at India's farm crisis and new laws
  • History of agri revolution in India: Beginning in the mid-1960s, India and, especially, Punjab experienced a massive productivity boom as a result of widespread adoption of Green Revolution technologies. This transition was driven by public investment in irrigation and market infrastructure. Essential to the system’s success was the minimum support price, which incentivised the cultivation of wheat and rice. Area under paddy cultivation in Punjab jumped from 4.8 per cent of total cropped area in 1960-61 to 39.19 per cent in 2018-19. Similarly, wheat area share increased from 27 per cent to 45 per cent. The production of wheat in Punjab during the Green Revolution period increased by over 7 per cent annually, with yield increases accounting for a little over half of that growth. Other crops began to decline.
  • As it evolved: In 1960-61, Punjab had a total of 21 crops in the cropping system which fell to nine in 1991. The Green Revolution had other adverse long-term economic and ecological effects. Partly because of water scarcity, growth rates of yield have decreased to 2 per cent per year for wheat; and are stagnant or negative for rice. The wheat-rice cropping monoculture has not only led to depletion of groundwater levels, but also to the excessive use of chemical pesticides, posing a threat to biodiversity.
  • Land reforms: The absence of land reforms has worsened the challenges in rural India. In Punjab and Haryana, the bottom 50 per cent of the smallholders owned 0.47 per cent of the land in 1953-54. The figure increased to 0.52 per cent in 1961-62 but fell to 0.28 per cent by 1971-72 before increasing marginally over the next decade to end at 0.32 per cent by 1982. The number of households in Punjab without land or on sub-marginal land holdings (50.99 acres) has only grown. In the same period, “middle peasants” saw their share of land holdings rise from 22.69 per cent to 34.19 per cent of total land under cultivation.
  1. The 10th agriculture census of 2015-16 shows that small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land account for 86.2 per cent of all farmers in India but own just 47.3 per cent of the crop area.
  2. In comparison, semi-medium and medium land holding farmers (owning between 2-10 hectares of land) account for 13.2 per cent of all farmers, but own 43.6 per cent of crop area.
  • Dropping consumer spending: The National Statistical Office’s (NSO) household consumer expenditure survey for 2017-2018 shows that inflation-adjusted consumer spending in 2017-18 fell for the first time in four decades. India’s monthly per capita consumption expenditure in FY 2017-18 was Rs 1,446, down 3.7 per cent from Rs 1,501 in 2011-12, the last time the NSO conducted this survey. The average money spent every month by rural residents in 2017-18 was 8.8 per cent less than six years earlier, while urban consumption was up 2 per cent. The disparity in land holdings coupled with an exacerbating rural-urban divide points to rural distress.
What changes with Farm Laws: Do the new farm laws address these problems?
  1. A study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) shows that the Bihar experiment of scrapping APMC markets in 2006 has not improved its agricultural performance. Farm growth in the state averaged 2.04 per cent, lower than the all-India average of 3.12 per cent in the period between 2001-02 and 2016-17.
  2. However, the post-reforms period does show an increase in the average wholesale prices of major crops. The average price of paddy increased by 126 per cent, wheat by 66 per cent, and maize by 81 per cent, the authors remarked. But the simultaneous increase in volatility of prices affected the “stability of farmers’ income”, ultimately affecting their ability to invest and diversify. This instability in prices, the authors note, could be a reason for Bihar’s lower agricultural growth. Another analysis by the Chaudhary Charan Singh National Institute of Agriculture Marketing (CCSNIAM) conducted in 2011-12, states that after APMC market yards were abolished in the state, there has been hardly any private investment in new marketplaces.
  • APMC dismantling: The three contentious farm bills put together do not address these aspects but seek to deregulate and dismantle the APMC network. Journalist P Sainath uses the analogy of government schools in this context: Should all schools be privatised because public sector schools have deficiencies? Perhaps not, since that would exclude a large population from formal education. If market accessibility is a major issue, the state should help the smallholder farmers to have access to the market. For that, investments are needed. Public sector investment in agriculture, as per the Reserve Bank of India, has been around 0.4 per cent of the GDP between 2011-12 and 2017-18. This is woefully inadequate for a sector on which 60 per cent of the population directly or indirectly depends for livelihood.
  • Improve govt. spending: Public investment on infrastructure and MSPs needs to increase to improve access of smallholder farmers to APMCs, as the private sector will not replace the state in this matter, as is evident from the Bihar example. This, coupled with an agroecological transition which includes crop diversification, will ensure sustainability for Indian agriculture. Here again, state intervention and public policy support could be a part of the solution.
  • Agroecology: In June 2018, the Andhra Pradesh government announced an ambitious programme to bring all 80 lakh hectares of its cultivable land under agroecological farming by 2024. Agroecology emphasises minimising external, artificial inputs by using resources available in the local ecosystem.Only one year after its introduction in Andhra, a study by Azim Premji University showed that yields had increased by 11 per cent in paddy and 79 per cent in brinjal even while following sustainable agro-ecological principles.
  • Summary: Instead of handing over India’s agriculture to a couple of agribusiness companies, the government of India should make this key sector of the economy one of its priorities in terms of investments.
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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
U.S.-China cooperation can be brought about by Climate Change
  • A common enemy: In March 2021, a massive sandstorm enveloped Beijing. The sandstorm revived Chinese anxieties about creeping desertification—but it also offered up a small measure of hope for what has been until now a serious worsening of U.S.-China relations. The eerie orange cloud of Gobi Desert sand—Beijing’s worst sandstorm in a decade—was a wordless reminder that both sides face a common challenge they say they are determined to confront: global climate change.
  • Bitter rivalry: In recent weeks, the Sino-U.S. relationship has been dominated by strident disagreements over trade, human rights, and Pacific security, as evidenced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit this week to two key U.S. allies: Japan and South Korea. But in both Washington and Beijing, the climate portfolio is edging back into the limelight after a four-year-long hibernation. In Beijing, hints of something positive peeking through the distrust and disputes began last month when Beijing announced that Xie Zhenhua would come out of semi-retirement to be China’s new climate change guru.
  • The two representatives: Xie will be the counterpart to John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. And in the past, the two senior diplomats have enjoyed a close working relationship: Xie is known for helping broker the 2015 Paris climate accords, from which former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2017. A former secretary of state and U.S. presidential candidate, Kerry called Xie a “leader” and “capable advocate” for China on the issue of climate change.
  • Bilateral communication via climate talks: Chinese analysts say Xie’s appointment means climate talks could be a safe channel for bilateral communications, echoing the kinder, gentler tone of years past when a Sino-U.S. deal to cooperate on climate change was key to brokering the Paris accords. Xie’s return to a senior government post is unusual, given that he’s 71 years old, past the normal retirement age for his rank. After leading China’s global climate negotiations from 2007 to 2018, Xie continued to make policy proposals to higher-ups in his capacity as head of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
  1. Xie has reminded Xi that providing basic environmental conditions, such as clean air and arable farmland, is not only in China’s interest but also part of the grand bargain that enables the ruling Chinese Communist Party to stay in power.
  2. Xie’s institute and other research organs also mapped out strategies for individual chunks of the bureaucracy, such as the electricity sector, to strive for net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050.
  3. President Xi Jinping himself recently began promoting “ecological civilization” and suggesting that a healthy environment will help make China great again.
  • Quad emerging: Sino-U.S. tensions and rivalry dominate most headlines, ranging from credible reports of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region to military activities in the Pacific Ocean to trade and tech wars. Recently, senior U.S. officials described China as “the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century” just before a virtual meeting among top leaders of the so-called Quad nations—Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—which Beijing perceives to be a policy of encirclement. “Quad cannot replicate NATO” declared a headline in the Chinese newspaper the Global Times, which often reflects nationalistic voices.
  • Carbon neutrality: Despite his aggressive nationalism on other fronts, Xi is the most important Chinese leader to embrace the new mantra that fighting climate change and seeking carbon neutrality is in Beijing’s own national interest. Xi startled observers in Sept 2020 when he unexpectedly declared to the United Nations General Assembly that Beijing was committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2060, with emissions peaking before 2030. Ever since this unprecedented pledge, Chinese bureaucrats have been scrambling to try to ensure their own statements—and job performances—are in sync.
  1. At the moment, Beijing’s 2060 carbon-neutrality target and its apparent short-term goals don’t quite seem to line up. Beijing’s near-term ambitions, as reflected in the five-year plan through 2025, are underwhelming.
  2. Business as usual could prevail until 2030, the year of peak carbon emissions, and then carbon dioxide emissions “are supposed to plummet from 2030 to 2060.”
  • Coal dominates: Coal still accounted for 58 percent of China’s energy mix in 2019. And last year, Chinese entities proposed the construction of a staggering 73.5 gigawatts of new coal-powered plants—more than quintuple the rest of the world combined. While saying he hoped the U.S. could “work with China,” Kerry cited China’s continuing dependence on coal-fired plants and observed that “China has said they’re going to do something by 2060, but we don’t have a clue really yet how they’re going to get there.” Yet one thing has changed. After Xi’s pledge before the U.N., China’s central government is now pressuring provinces to comply.
  • Inner Mongolia: For years, Chinese authorities have worried that climate change is overtaking formerly forested areas and leading to desertification, especially in Inner Mongolia. During the March 2021 Parliament session, Xi met the Inner Mongolia delegation, described its arid region as an “ecological security barrier” in north China, and identified “deserts” for the first time in a string of natural habitats that China should protect.
  • Biden's position: For his part, Biden cannot afford to seem soft on China by relaxing Trump’s tough approach. Nor is Xi inclined to make concessions. His support at home has grown with the perception that Beijing has vanquished COVID-19 more quickly than many countries in the West. On the sidelines of China’s annual Parliament session in early March 2021, Xi declared that China can now look the world in the eye, unlike back “when we were still bumpkins.”
  • Summary: That suggests no dramatic breakthroughs are expected any time soon. Even this week’s meeting location has a whiff of carefully negotiated calibration about it. Anchorage is on U.S. soil, but it also happens to be closer to Beijing than to Washington. And Alaska’s glaciers are melting at a record rate due to climate change, silently reminding both sides it may be time to meet halfway.

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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

Hong Kong electoral system changed
  • A sea-change: China has made structural changes in Hong Kong’s electoral system, practically rendering its open democracy defunct. The measures are part of China’s efforts to consolidate its authoritarian grip over Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) following the imposition of a national security law in June 2020.
Points to note: First comes the new electoral system.
  1. Increased Membership of the Legislative Council - The number of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (HKLC) members will be increased to 90, with the additional members also nominated, thereby reducing the share of elected representatives. Currently, only half of the 70 members of HKLC are directly elected and the rest are nominated.
  2. Expansion of Election Committee - The Election committee (Hong Kong electoral college) has been expanded to include Beijing-nominated members. The Election Committee, as previously, will be responsible for electing the Chief Executive, and will also choose some of the members of HKLC.
  3. New Candidate Qualification - The selection of “patriots” will be ensured by the setting up of a new candidate qualification review committee.
  • Implications: The change will give Beijing-appointed politicians a greater say in running the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), marking the biggest change since the handover in 1997. An increased number of pro-Beijing officials would weaken the power of the opposition to influence the city's leadership. It will erode the political freedoms that distinguished Hong Kong from the mainland under the “one country, two systems” model.
  • Implication for India: Hong Kong is a destination for re-export of Indian goods to the global market. It is the fourth largest export market for India. India is of the view that Hong Kong can play an important role in strengthening ties with China, as it is considered a gateway to China. Thus, global tensions due to political unrest in Hong Kong carry consequences for India’s trade with the rest of the world, as well as with China.
  • Criticism: The European Union has condemned the change and warned China of broader sanctions. The G7 termed this move a step towards eliminating dissenting voices and opinions in Hong Kong. All major economies such as the USA, UK, Australia have condemned the move and have urged China to allow a more participatory and representative form of system. The change is non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Sino-British Joint Declaration: It is a treaty signed between the United Kingdom and China in 1985 on Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty. According to the treaty, China would reassume control of Hong Kong, which was occupied by Britain after the Opium War in 1840, from July 1, 1997. Opium Wars: The Opium Wars were two wars fought between the Chinese Qing dynasty and European powers. Both the wars were a result of the Qing Dynasty’s attempts to curb the opium trade. The first was fought from 1839-1842 and the second one from 1856 – 1860.
  • Provisions: It stated that China's basic policies regarding Hong Kong "will remain unchanged for 50 years" and ensured a high degree of autonomy to Hong Kong. These policies are stipulated in the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Under the Basic Law the Constitution that has governed Hong Kong since 1997 the HKSAR is a part of China but enjoys “a high degree of autonomy” and “executive, legislative and independent judicial power”, except in foreign policy and defence. It also says “the socialist system and policies shall not be practised” in Hong Kong for 50 years. It held that Britain would be responsible for the administration of Hong Kong until 1997 and the Chinese government would give its cooperation.
  • Summary: The new legislation has been seen as the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and an erosion of the autonomy guaranteed to the city when it was handed over to China in 1997. With the national security law and the new electoral changes, the space for the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong has been drastically reduced. China must act in accordance with its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

The Delhi Battle - Centre versus State
  1. Power shift: The Centre on 16-03-2021 introduced the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha, reviving the dispute on the distribution of powers between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor (L-G). The issue, which was at the heart of the ruling AAP’s frequent run-ins with the BJP-led Centre during much of its first term, was taken up by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which tilted the scales in favour of the elected government through its July 4, 2018 verdict.
  2. CM is upset: Taking to Twitter, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Bill, which “seeks to drastically curtail powers of the elected government”, is “against” the Supreme Court judgment.
  3. What does the Bill say: In the “statement of objects and reasons” section, the Centre claims that the amendment Bill seeks to give effect to the Supreme Court’s interpretation and that it “further defines” the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lt Governor in line with the Constitutional scheme. Among the major proposed amendments, one makes it explicitly clear that the term “government” in any law made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the L-G. This, essentially, gives effect to former L-G Najeeb Jung’s 2015 assertion that “Government means the Lieutenant Governor of the NCT of Delhi appointed by the President under Article 239 and designated as such under Article 239 AA of the Constitution”. The Bill adds that the L-G’s opinion shall be obtained before the government takes any executive action based on decisions taken by the Cabinet or any individual minister.
  4. What purpose does the 1991 Act serve: Delhi’s current status as a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly is an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act through which Articles 239AA and 239BB were introduced in the Constitution. The GNCTD Act was passed simultaneously to supplement the constitutional provisions relating to the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital. For all practical purposes, the GNCTD Act outlines the powers of the Assembly, the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G, and the duties of the Chief Minister with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G.
  5. What did the Constitution Bench say: In its 2018 verdict, the five-judge Bench had held that the L-G’s concurrence is not required on issues other than police, public order and land. It had added that decisions of the Council of Ministers will, however, have to be communicated to the L-G. “It has to be clearly stated that requiring prior concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor would absolutely negate the ideals of representative governance and democracy conceived for the NCT of Delhi by Article 239AA of the Constitution,” the court had ruled. The L-G was bound by the aid and advice if the council of ministers.
  6. Details: The Bench of then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, in three separate yet concurring orders, had said: “The status of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense, working with the designation of Lieutenant Governor”. It had also pointed out that the elected government must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state.
  7. Impact of the amendments: Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, the elected government had stopped sending files on executive matters to the L-G before the implementation of any decision. It has been keeping the L-G abreast of all administrative developments, but not necessarily before implementing or executing any decision. But the amendment, if cleared, will force the elected government to take the L-G’s advice before taking any action on any cabinet decision. The Bill seeks to add a provision in the original GNCTD Act, 1991, barring the Assembly or its committees from making rules to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, or to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions. This assumes significance as the 70-member Assembly, where the AAP has as many as 62 MLAs, has multiple committees examining matters ranging from riots to environment.
  8. State government’s fears: For 2015 to 2018, the AAP government was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre over policy decisions and the powers of the L-G vis-à-vis the elected government. The Supreme Court judgment gave it a freer hand in terms of policy decisions. Government insiders have maintained that it was because of the judgment that the government was able to clear policy decisions like giving free power to those using under 200 units, free bus riders for women and doorstep delivery of ration.
  9. Summary: The amendments will have far-reaching implications — beyond just the AAP-vs-BJP tussle. By making it mandatory for the elected government to route all its files through the L-G, the amendments will essentially take away the government’s autonomy and the dream for full statehood for the state, which each political party — BJP, Congress and AAP have promised the electorate at various times. In 1993, BJP’s then Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana too had raised the issue with how few powers the elected government in Delhi had.
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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021
  • The story: The Centre introduced the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha. This has revived the dispute on the distribution of powers between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor (L-G).
Technical details:
  1. The Bill makes it explicitly clear that the term “government” in any law made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the L-G.
  2. The L-G’s opinion should be obtained before the government takes any executive action based on decisions by the Cabinet or any individual minister.
  3. The Centre claims that the amendment Bill seeks to give effect to the Supreme Court’s 2018 verdict.
  4. It is said to further define the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lt Governor in line with the Constitutional scheme.
The 1991 Act:
  1. Delhi’s current status as a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly is an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act, 1991.
  2. It was through this that Articles 239AA and 239BB were introduced in the Constitution.
  3. The GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) Act was passed simultaneously.
  4. This supplemented the constitutional provisions relating to the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital.
  5. For all practical purposes, the GNCTD Act outlines - the powers of the Assembly; the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G; the duties of the CM with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G; etc.
The 2018 verdict of the Constitution Bench: In a 2018 verdict, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the SC had held that the L-G’s concurrence is not required. This applies to issues other than police, public order and land. It had added that decisions of the Council of Ministers would, however, have to be communicated to the L-G. The Court observed the following:
  1. Requiring prior concurrence of the L-G would absolutely negate the ideals of representative governance and democracy conceived for the NCT of Delhi in the Constitution.
  2. The L-G was bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
  3. The status of the LG of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, rather s/he remains an Administrator, in a limited sense.
  4. The elected government must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state.
What changes will the Bill create if cleared:
  1. The government in Delhi has been functioning on the lines of the Constitution and the ideas spelt out in the 2018 verdict.
  2. The elected government had thus stopped sending files on executive matters to the L-G before the implementation of any decision.
  3. It has been keeping the L-G informed of all administrative developments.
  4. But this is done not necessarily before implementing or executing any decision.
  5. The amendment, if cleared, will force the elected government to take the L-G’s advice before taking any action on any cabinet decision.
  6. The Bill also seeks to add a provision in the original GNCTD Act, 1991.
  7. This would bar the Assembly or its committees from making rules - to take up matters concerning day-to-day administration, to conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions, etc.
  8. This assumes significance as the 70-member Assembly in Delhi has multiple committees examining various matters.
  • The implications: From 2015 to 2018, the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) government in Delhi was engaged in a constant battle with the Centre. There had been disagreements over policy decisions and the powers of the L-G vis-à-vis the elected government. The 2018 Supreme Court judgment gave the elected government a freer hand in terms of policy decisions. Seen in this context, the amendments, if implemented, will have far-reaching implications. It will essentially take away the elected government’s autonomy. It would also dilute the dream for full statehood for Delhi, which each political party - BJP, Congress, and AAP - have promised the electorate at various times.
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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
Global warming - Grasses to the rescue
  • A special grass: Off the coast of Formentera, an island in the Spanish Mediterranean, lives an organism that stretches 15km from one end to the other. Posidonia oceanica, known as seagrass, spreads by sending shoots out beneath the sediment. Entire meadows, covering several hectares, can thus be made up of a single organism. The grasses are long-lived, too. The vast meadow in Formentera is thought to have been spreading for tens or hundreds of thousands of years.
  • Special properties: The seagrass is more than just a biological curiosity. Along with two other kinds of coastal ecosystem—mangrove swamps and tidal marshes—seagrass meadows are particularly good at taking carbon dioxide from the air and converting it into plant matter. That makes all three ecosystems important for efforts to control climate change.
  1. This role was highlighted in a report published on March 2nd by UNESCO, on “blue carbon”—the sort captured by Earth’s oceanic and coastal ecosystems.
  2. In total around 33bn tonnes of carbon dioxide (about three-quarters of the world’s emissions in 2019) are locked away in the planet’s blue-carbon sinks.
  3. Research has shown that one hectare of seagrass can soak up as much carbon dioxide each year as 15 hectares of rainforest.
  • Attracting interenst: All this is attracting interest in blue carbon from those keen to use natural processes, rather than human technologies such as direct-air capture, to suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In 2018 Apple partnered with Conservation International, a charity, to protect 11,000 hectares of mangroves on the Colombian coast. The firm estimates the project could lock away around 1m tonnes of carbon. One reason that blue-carbon ecosystems make such effective sinks is that submerged forests are denser than their land-based equivalents. They can also trap floating debris and organic matter, which settles on the sea floor and can double the amount of carbon stored away.
  • One more advantage: They posses another advantage, too. Unlike forests on land, blue-carbon ecosystems do not burn. Climate change is intensifying wildfires around the world. As forests burn, their carbon stocks are released back into the atmosphere. And fires can impede a forest’s ability to capture carbon even after they have burned out. In a study published on February 25th in Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers at Stanford University found that repeated fires favour slow-growing tree species. These are better able to survive blazes, but they are also less effective at soaking up carbon than faster-growing species.
  • Other problems exist: Submerged forests may be impervious to fires, but they remain vulnerable to other sorts of disasters. In May 2020 cyclone Amphan destroyed 1,200 square kilometres of mangrove forest on the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. A marine heatwave in Australian waters in 2010 and 2011 damaged around one third of the world’s largest seagrass meadow, in Shark Bay. Over the next three years field studies showed that uprooted plants were releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere.
  • Vietnam's lessons: Fortunately, an older, man-made ecological disaster suggests that restoring damaged blue-carbon ecosystems is possible. During the Vietnam war, napalm and a cocktail of weaponised herbicides destroyed more than half of the mangroves in the Mekong delta. A report published in 2014 by the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems showed that an intense post-war replanting programme was able to restore it within two decades.
  • Summary: There is more to such ecosystems than simply acting as sponges for greenhouse gasses. They also serve as buffers for vulnerable shorelines, shielding them from storms that barrel in from the high seas. One study of 59 subtropical countries estimated that by dampening waves and providing natural barriers to storm surges, mangrove forests prevent more than $65bn in property damage each year, and help shelter more than 15 million people. Protecting and expanding them, then, appears to be a no-brainer.
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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
Data on Police Organisations: BPRD
  • Police organisations: Recently, the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) has released data on police organisations. It shows different aspects of policing in the country like woman police, police expenditure, constabulary ratio, transport facilities, communication facilities, representation of various castes and police training centres.
  • Points to note: The government has spent Rs. 1,566.85 crore in 2019-20 for expenditure and police training. It highlights that Backward Classes, Dalits and Tribals constitute almost 67% of India’s population, but their representation in police forces in the country is only at 51%. The goal of proportionate representation has remained unfulfilled despite all state governments providing reservation to these categories.
  • Vacant Posts: Over 5.31 lakh posts in police forces of different states and 1.27 lakh posts in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are lying vacant. The figures include civil police, district armed police, special armed police and India Reserve Battalions.
  1. Scheduled Tribes - They form 8.6% of the population and have 12% representation in the police forces, placing them at a comparatively better position.
  2. Only STs have better representation in police forces in comparison to their share in population while all other backward classes fare poorly.
  3. Dalits - 14% of all positions in police forces across the country were represented by Dalits at the end of 2019. According to Census 2011, Dalits make up 16.6% of India’s population.
  4. Other Backward Classes - OBCs fare the worst on the representation front as, despite their 41% share in the population, they constitute only 25% of the police forces.
  5. Women - They are highly under-represented with 10% share in the actual strength of the police in the country, even though their share in population is 48%. However, their situation has improved considerably over the past years as the actual strength of women in police forces has almost doubled since 2014. Women population per woman police ratio stands at 3,026 nationally which is very low. Poor representation of women in the police is posing serious challenges in dealing with crimes against women and women criminals.
  • Other Ratios: Sanctioned Population Per Police Person (PPP) is 511.81. Sanctioned Police Population Ratio (PPR) is 195.39. It is the number of police personnel per one lakh of the population which has declined from 198 in 2018. The UN-mandated police-population ratio is over 220. Sanctioned Police Area Ratio (PAR) per 100 sq km is 79.80.
  • Bureau of Police Research and Development: The Government of India established it under the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1970. It replaced the Police Research and Advisory Council (1966), with the primary objective of modernization of the police force. In 1995, the Government decided to entrust issues relating to Correctional Administration Work to the BPR&D. Thereby BPRD has to ensure the implementation of prison reforms as well. The Government of India decided to create a National Police Mission under the administrative control of BPR&D to transform the police forces in the country. In August 2020, it observed its 50th foundation day. It has been publishing the data on police organisations since 1986.

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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

India-Maldives: MoU on cooperation in sports and youth affairs approved
  1. A new pact: The Union Cabinet has given its approval on March 16, 2021 on the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in sports & youth affairs between India and Maldives.
  2. The story The MoU on cooperation in sports and youth affairs was signed in November 2020. It was signed between Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India and Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment of Maldives.
  3. Importance: The bilateral exchange programmes under the MoU between both the countries in the arena of sports and youth affairs will help to expand the expertise and knowledge with respect to sports science, sports medicines, coaching techniques and participation in youth festivals & camps. This in turn will result in improving the performances of sportspersons of India at the international tournaments. The MoU will also strengthen the bilateral relations between both the countries. The MoU will benefit all the sportspersons of India belonging to any of the region, caste, creed, gender, and religion equally.
  4. India-Maldives relations:  India and Maldives established a diplomatic relation after Maldives got independence from British rule in the year 1966. India was the first country that recognised the independence of the island nation. Following that, both the countries have developed a close strategic, economic, military and cultural relations. The countries had signed the Maritime Boundary Treaty in December 1976 to agree on maritime boundaries. This treaty places “Minicoy Island” to the Indian side of boundary. Both signed a comprehensive trade agreement in 1981. The countries are founding members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and South Asian Economic Union. They are also signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.
Cabinet clears DFI with capital infusion of Rs 20000 crore
  1. DFI rises again: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on March 16, 2021 that the Union Cabinet has cleared the proposal of setting up of the “Development Finance Institution (DFI) with the capital infusion of rupees 20,000 crore. This proposal was approved in a bid to boost the infrastructure development in country.
  2. The story: The announcement for this legislation was made by the finance minister during the Union Budget 2021-2022 speech on February 1, 2021. After the announcement, some 7,000 projects have been identified under National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). The government has projected the investment of Rs 111 lakh crore for the period 2020-25.
  3. Development Finance Institution (DFI): The Development Finance Institution will be set up in order to raise long-term funds. There will also be some tax benefits on DFI for a period of 10-years. DFI would comprise of a professional board in which 50 percent of the members will be non-official directors. Under it, the initial grant will be ₹ 5,000 crores. Later, additional increments of grant will be made in to effect within the limit of ₹ 5,000 crore. In the initial phase, new institution will be owned by government while in the later phase, the government’s stake will be cut to 26 per cent.
  4. Significance of DFI
  5. Cheaper funds: The government is also planning to issue securities to DFI which in turn will help in lowering the cost of funds. This will help the institution to leverage the initial capital and drawing funds from several sources. It will also positively impact the bond market in India. The institution also seeks to raise the funds from global pension and insurance sectors in order to invest in new projects. DFI would also help the banks to cater the issue of asset-liability mismatch in the bank which are lending to infrastructure.
Marine Aids to Navigation Bill introduced
  1. The story: The Marine Aids to Navigation Bill 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 15, 2021. The bill was moved by Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mansukh Mandaviya.
  2. Highlights: This initiative is part of the proactive approach which was adopted by Ministry of Shipping by repealing the archaic colonial laws and replacing them with the modern and contemporary needs in the maritime industry.
  3. Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021: The bill seeks to provide a fresh framework so as to establish and manage the vessel traffic services. It also seeks to use the term “marine aids to navigation” instead of “lighthouse” in order to enable the use of modern forms of aids in the navigation. The bill seeks to replace the nine-decade-old law governing the lighthouses. The bill was introduced in line with the technological changes which are taking place at fast speed in the marine navigation. It also seeks to rename the “Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships” as the “Director General” so as to provide a framework to establish, operate and manage the vessel traffic services and other functions such as wreck flagging, training & certification. The bill also proposes to incorporate technological developments, global best practices and international obligations of India in marine navigation field. The bill also seeks to identify and develop the heritage lighthouses.
  4. Aim of the Bill: The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha with the aim of repealing the colonial Lighthouse Act, 1927. It also aims to empower the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) by providing the additional power and functions.
Nokia to Develop New 5G Radio Solutions
  • The story: The Finnish telecom equipment maker, Nokia, announced on March 16 that it has partnered with the Microsoft, Amazon web services and Google so as to develop a new cloud-based 5G radio solution. This solution will be developed with its radio access network (RNA) technology. This partnership was gone with objective of developing a new business cases, in three separate statements.
  • Radio access Network (RAN): RAN is the part of a mobile telecommunication system. This system implements a radio access technology. RAN resides between a device like computer, mobile phone or any remotely controlled machine. It also provides connection with the core network. Based on the standard mobile phones and other wireless connected devices are called as user equipment, terminal equipment or mobile station etc. The functionality of RAN is typically provided by the silicon chip which resides in both the core network and the user equipment.
Examples of RAN: Some of the examples of radio access network types include:
  1. GRAN which stands for GSM radio access network
  2. GERAN which is same as GRAN but it additionally includes the EDGE packet radio services
  3. UTRAN which stands for UMTS radio access network
  4. E-UTRAN which is a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) high speed and low latency radio access network.
  • Features of RAN: The single handset or phone can be connected to multiple radio access networks simultaneously.  The Handsets which are capable of this feature are called as the dual-mode handsets. For example, a handset can commonly support both GSM and UMTS or “3G” radio access technologies. Such devices also transfer the ongoing call across different radio access networks without any disruption to users.
9.1 Today's best editorials to read
  • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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    • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

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01-01-2020,1,04-08-2021,1,05-08-2021,1,06-08-2021,1,28-06-2021,1,Abrahamic religions,6,Afganistan,1,Afghanistan,35,Afghanitan,1,Afghansitan,1,Africa,2,Agri tech,2,Agriculture,150,Ancient and Medieval History,51,Ancient History,4,Ancient sciences,1,April 2020,25,April 2021,22,Architecture and Literature of India,11,Armed forces,1,Art Culture and Literature,1,Art Culture Entertainment,2,Art Culture Languages,3,Art Culture Literature,10,Art Literature Entertainment,1,Artforms and Artists,1,Article 370,1,Arts,11,Athletes and Sportspersons,2,August 2020,24,August 2021,239,August-2021,3,Authorities and Commissions,4,Aviation,3,Awards and Honours,26,Awards and HonoursHuman Rights,1,Banking,1,Banking credit finance,13,Banking-credit-finance,19,Basic of Comprehension,2,Best Editorials,4,Biodiversity,46,Biotechnology,47,Biotechology,1,Centre State relations,19,CentreState relations,1,China,81,Citizenship and immigration,24,Civils Tapasya - English,92,Climage Change,3,Climate and 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PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 17-03-2021
Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 17-03-2021
Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 17-03-2021
PT's IAS Academy
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