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15th June – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. The need for an anti-discrimination law
  2. What is NASA’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost?
  3. The US has approved sanctions against ICC
  4. The significance of household financial savings

THE NEED FOR AN ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW

Focus: GS-II Social Justice, GS-IV Ethics

Introduction

  • More than 70 years after Independence, there are incidents to suggest that our society remains rife with structural discrimination.
  • Prejudices based on caste, religion, caste, sex etc., which pervade every aspect of life, from access to basic goods, to education and employment, are sometimes manifest and on other occasions, the discrimination is indirect and even unintended.

State and private contracts

  • Both direct and indirect forms of discrimination militate against India’s constitutional vision of equality.
  • Entry barriers to goods such as housing, schools and employment tend to function in the realm of private contracts.
  • In South Africa a constitutional guarantee is augmented by an all-encompassing law which prohibits unfair discrimination not only by the government but also by private organisations and individuals.

Right to discriminate?

  • Article 15(2) stipulates that citizens shall not on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth be denied access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment.
  • Yet, on occasion, this right, which applies horizontally, inter se individuals, comes into conflict with the rights of persons to associate with others, often to the exclusion of certain groups.
  • This is why every time a case of discrimination is brought, the party that discriminates claims that he possesses a liberty to do so, that he must be free to act according to his own sense of conscience.
  • The Supreme Court endorsed one such restrictive bond, when it ruled in favour of a bye-law of a Parsi housing society that prohibited the sale of property to non-Parsis.
  • This right to forbid such a sale, the Court ruled, was intrinsic in the Parsis’ fundamental right to associate with each other.

Interpreting 15(2)

  • At first blush, Article 15(2) might appear to be somewhat limited in scope. But the word “shops” used in it is meant to be read widely.
  • A study of the Constituent Assembly’s debates on the clause’s framing shows us that the founders explicitly intended to place restrictions on any economic activity that sought to exclude specific groups.
  • For example, when a person refuses to lease her property to another based on the customer’s faith, such a refusal would run directly counter to the guarantee of equality.

Conclusion

  • Ultimately, our rule of law must subsume an understanding that discrimination partakes different forms.
  • Any reasonable conception of justice would demand that we look beyond the intentions of our actions, and at the engrained structures of society.
  • This does not mean that we need to live under an illusion that a statute will resolve our systemic biases, that we will somehow magically transform ourselves into the kind of nation that B.R. Ambedkar envisioned.

-Source: The Hindu


WHAT IS NASA’S GATEWAY LUNAR ORBITING OUTPOST?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

NASA recently finalised the contract for the initial crew module of the agency’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.

What is the Gateway Lunar Orbit outpost?

  • Essentially, the Gateway is a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, meant for astronaut missions to the Moon and later, for expeditions to Mars.
  • It will act as a temporary office and living quarters for astronauts.
  • One of the most unique features of the Gateway is that it can be moved to other orbits around the Moon to conduct more research.
  • The Gateway is being built by both international and commercial partners and will support exploration on and near the Moon and later to Mars as well.
  • Compared to the ISS, the Gateway is much smaller, and once docked to the Gateway, astronauts will be able to stay there for three months at a time, conduct science experiments and take trips to the surface of the Moon.

How long will it take to build the Gateway?

  • NASA has targetted the completion of the Gateway for 2026, while work on the spaceship is already underway.
  • By 2022, NASA plans to ready the power and propulsion for the spaceship, which will be launched on a partner-provided commercial rocket.

Similar aspiration in India

  • Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) has announced its ambitious plan to put up a space station in the next decade.
  • The Indian space station will be much smaller (mass of 20 tonnes) than the International Space Station and will be used for carrying out microgravity experiments (not for space tourism).
  • Preliminary plan for the space station is to accommodate astronauts for up to 20 days in space, and the project will be an extension of the Gaganyaan mission.
  • ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is working on space docking experiment (SPADEX), a technology that is crucial for making the space station functional.

-Source: Indian Express


THE US HAS APPROVED SANCTIONS AGAINST ICC

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

President Donald Trump authorised sanctions against ICC officials involved in investigations into possible war crimes by US troops or those of its allies.

Details

  • The Trump administration, which has long considered the international law forum a threat to US sovereignty, announced the strict punitive measures that Washington generally reserves for use against terror groups and those accused of abusing human rights.
  • US officials have also blamed Russia for manipulating the ICC in its favour.
  • The ICC has been criticised for not pursuing investigations in Western countries (all 4 of its guilty verdicts pronounced so far are in trials from Africa), as well as for working inefficiently.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the current situation

  • The ICC, a permanent judicial body based at The Hague in the Netherlands, was created by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (its founding and governing document).
  • The forum was established as a court of last resort to prosecute offences that would otherwise go unpunished, and has jurisdiction over four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
  • 123 nations are States Parties to the Rome Statute and recognise the ICC’s authority; the notable exceptions being the US, China, Russia, and India.

ICC and ICJ

  • Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the ICC is not part of the United Nations system, with the UN-ICC relationship being governed by a separate agreement.
  • The ICJ, which is among the UN’s 6 principal organs, mainly hears disputes between nations. The ICC, on the other hand, prosecutes individuals– its authority extending to offences committed in a member state or by a national of such a state.

-Source: Indian Express


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL SAVINGS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Household financial savings, which form a bulk of overall savings in the Indian economy, increased in 2019-20 after falling the previous year.

Net household financial savings rose by 0.5% of GDP from 2018-19 to 2019-20.

What are household financial savings?

  • Household financial savings refer to currency, bank deposits, debt securities, mutual funds, pension funds, insurance, and investments in small savings schemes.
  • The total of these savings is referred to as gross household financial savings.
  • Once financial liabilities, including loans from banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), and housing finance companies, are subtracted from gross savings, what remains is referred to as net household financial savings.

What is the reason behind this increase?

  • Net financial savings jumped because financial liabilities fell.
  • This happened primarily because the Indian economy has been slowing down from the start of 2019.
  • Per capita income in the country in 2019-20 grew just by around 6% in nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation).
  • This was the slowest rate of growth since 2002-03.

How did slow growth in per capita income hit savings?

  • A double-digit growth in per capita income has happened only once since the financial year 2013-2014, when in 2016-17 it grew by about 10%.
  • In 2019-20, per-capita income growth slowed down dramatically which led to a slowdown in lending growth.

What does it say about the economy?

  • A slowdown in income growth has led to a slowdown in consumption and loan growth.
  • What hasn’t helped is the weak financial state of NBFCs, which has added to the lending slowdown.
  • This also means that people were looking at their economic future bleakly, even before covid-19 had struck.
  • At a societal level this caused a consumption slowdown.

-Source: Livemint

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