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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 13 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Places of Worship Act: SC seeks Govt. reply on plea
  2. Govt. officials can’t be appointed SECs: SC
  3. First Quad Summit Highlights
  4. Parliamentary Committee on mid-day meal scheme

PLACES OF WORSHIP ACT: SC SEEKS GOVT. REPLY ON PLEA

Context:

The Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response on a PIL challenging the Constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991
  2. The recent developments regarding the plea

Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991

  • The Places of Worship Act bans the conversion of a place of worship or even a section of it into a place of worship of a different religious denomination or of a different segment of the same religious denomination.
  • The Act also imposes a positive obligation on the State to maintain the religious character of every place of worship as it existed at the time of Independence.
  • This legislative obligation on the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths is an essential secular feature and one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.
  • The disputed site at Ayodhya is exempted from the Act. Due to this exemption, the trial in the Ayodhya case proceeded even after the enforcement of this law.
  • The Act also does not apply to any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

The recent developments regarding the plea on the Places of Worship Act

  • A Supreme Court bench issued notice on the plea which contended that the Act bars the remedy of judicial review which is a basic feature of the Constitution, thereby depriving Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains the right to move court to get their places of worship, destroyed or encroached upon by “barbarian invaders”, restored.
  • It was to be considered that the 2019 Ayodhya verdict which stated that the law cannot be used as a device to reach back in time and provide a legal remedy to every person who disagrees with the course which history has taken, and that courts of today cannot take cognizance of historical rights and wrongs unless it is shown that their legal consequences are enforceable in the present.
  • The current plea said that the Centre by its action “has created arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date” and “has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file suit or approach High Court under Article 226. Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temples-endowments in spirit of Articles 25-26 and illegal barbarian act of invaders will continue in perpetuity”.

-Source: Indian Express


GOVT. OFFICIALS CAN’T BE APPOINTED SECS: SC

Context:

The Supreme Court held that independent persons, and not government employees, should be appointed Election Commissioners.

Relevance:

GS-III: Polity and Governance (Constitutional and Non-Constitutional Bodies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Election Commission of India
  2. Structure of the Election Commission
  3. Recent Supreme Court Judgement on ECI

About Election Commission of India

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950.
  • Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc., of the commission and the member.

Structure of the Election Commission

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
  • At the state level election commission is helped by Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.

Recent Supreme Court Judgement on ECI

  • The Supreme Court said that entrusting additional charge of State Election Commissioner to a government official resulted in mockery of the Constitution, and ordered the Goa government to appoint an independent election commissioner.
  • The Bench held that people holding public office could not be appointed Election Commissioners and directed States to comply with the constitutional scheme of independent and fair functioning of election commissions. It said the independence of the panels could not be compromised.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu


FIRST QUAD SUMMIT HIGHLIGHTS

Context:

Indian Prime Minister addressed the first summit of the leaders’ of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Framework) which was hosted by the U.S.A.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Quad?
  2. Significance of Quad
  3. Highlights of the First Quad Summit

What is Quad?

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) also known as Quad, is an Inter-governmental security forum. It comprises of 4 countries– India, the United States, Japan and Australia. The member countries of the Quad organise summits, exchanges the information and military drills.

History of formation of Quad

  • Quad was originally born in an instant: from the crisis that followed the tsunami in 2004.
  • Within days of the disaster, India had mobilised an impressive fleet, and demonstrated to the world that it would not just manage its own rescue effort in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but could also provide assistance to its maritime neighbours: Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.
  • The humanitarian and disaster relief efforts were coordinated in the next few weeks with three other naval powers engaged in the rescue effort: the U.S., Australia and Japan.

Significance of Quad

  1. Maritime security: Indo pacific region is important for navigation and international trade e.g., Around 40 percent of world trade passes through Indo pacific region. The cooperation between Quad countries will enhance the security of Indo pacific region e.g., Malabar exercise.
  2. It provides the alternative of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) because it is China-centric supply chains.
  3. The Resilient Supply Chain Initiative (RSCI) proposed by India, Japan and Australia for building resilient supply chains in the Indo-Pacific. It will focus on key sectors such as semi-conductors, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and telecommunications.
  4. It provides a bigger space for USA, which cautioned China against risking military adventurism across the Taiwan Strait that would have otherwise derailed its economic ascendance, and kept the peace on the Korean Peninsula for over six decades.
  5. The quad will help to reduce the role of China in the Indian Ocean e.g., China uses the cloak of anti-piracy deployments to maintain a quasi-permanent presence, with bases in Gwadar and Djibouti as beachheads for penetrating South Asia, the Gulf region and littoral Africa.
  6. Cyber security: the 21th century is data driven century therefore data security is crucial for socio economic development. The Quad countries can cooperate the enhance the cyber security.
  7. Quality infrastructure: The Quad countries can focus on quality infrastructure which is crucial for economic activities e.g., India can take help to Japan and USA to enhance its infrastructure.
  8. Healthcare: The Quad countries can cooperate to enhance health infrastructure to fight against pandemic like Covid19.

Highlights of the First Quad Summit

  • The Quad countries pledged to promote a free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
  • The countries agreed to ensure “equitable” access to vaccines to counter the pandemic and plan to pool their financial resources, manufacturing capabilities and logistical strengths.
  • The Line of Actual Control (LAC) was discussed by the QUAD leaders as one of several examples of Chinese aggression.
  • Other issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan Strait and coercion of Australia, harassment around the Senkaku, were also discussed.
  • Concerns regarding Chinese cyberattacks on the USA targets (Microsoft Exchange and SolarWinds) and also cybersecurity incidents in India, Japan and Australia were discussed.
  • It was however emphasized that the Quad is not a military alliance or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) equivalent, it is an opportunity to cooperate on economics, technology, climate and security.

-Source: The Hindu


PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON MID-DAY MEAL SCHEME

Context:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has recommended that all government schools start providing free breakfast in the coming academic year, as a part of an expansion of midday meal scheme envisaged by National Education Policy.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Poverty and Health Issues, Government Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme?
  2. How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be?
  3. Advantages of Mid-Day-Meal scheme
  4. Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

What is the Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme?

  • The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
  • Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding “adequate nutritious food” for children.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.

The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes of:

  1. Government schools,
  2. Government aided schools,
  3. Local body Education Centres,
  4. Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
  5. Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,
  6. National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of labour.

How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be?

  • Post-Independence, Tamil Nadu was the first state to introduce the MDM scheme in the 1960s.
  • The Central scheme to provide meals to school children began in 1995, however, most states just limited themselves to providing dry rations.
  • A Supreme Court order of 2001 provided for all states to introduce cooked meals.
  • The Supreme Court order specified the states to provide “at least 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days in a year”.

Advantages of Mid-Day-Meal scheme

  • Research has shown how hot, cooked food attracted students to schools and improved their nutritional status.
  • MDM has been proven to attract children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school.
  • Along with Improvement of regularity, educational and nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are also highlighted.

Hence, the main positives of this scheme are:

  1. Avoiding classroom hunger.
  2. Increased school enrolment and attendance.
  3. Improved socialisation among castes.
  4. Reducing malnutrition.
  5. Empowering women through employment.

Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation

  • Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight.
  • Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.
  • Many children don’t get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole.
  • A 2005 study found that Caste based discrimination continued to occur in the serving of food.
  • Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc.
  • Poor food quality is a major concern, affecting the health of children (as many media reports show students falling sick dur to lapses in quality checking and control). There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out.
  • The schools do not function during holidays and vacations which deprives children of their one daily meal.

-Source: The Hindu

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