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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 16 & 17th August 2020

Contents

  1. Defending Rewa villages empowered women
  2. Suo motu contempt power is inherent: SC
  3. Kuki: Weigh ‘genocide’ by NSCN (IM) in Naga Peace Agreement
  4. Madras HC: Law to bar criminals in election
  5. SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity
  6. India eyes global front runners: COVID Vaccine
  7. Issues facing online education
  8. PMO denies RTI plea seeking info on PM-CARES

DEFENDING REWA VILLAGES EMPOWERED WOMEN

Focus: GS-I Indian Society

The story of women being empowered for self-protection

  • Women, children and the old and infirm were left behind every year as Majhiyar’s men travelled miles looking for agricultural labour, except in the rainy season, often not returning for months.
  • Dacoit ‘Dadua’ and his gang members used to barge into our houses, abduct and harass women and girls, and even steal cattle.
  • Even after his killing in 2007 by the police, the ‘women empowerment’ which began after 12 women got guns for self defence (and successfully staved off several attempts by Dadua to enter their homes for five years) did not stop.
  • In fact, it opened up livelihood options for residents and improved women’s participation in the workforce and the decision-making, as the enduring dread of dacoits petered out.
  • Earlier, women kept their faces veiled in front of strangers and weren’t allowed to step outside if not for farming. But seeing the women sentinels confidently wield guns, hold mock drills, and patrol around the villages’ perimeter with alertness at night, startled the men.

The transformation

What showcased the women’s courage and leadership for the first time was an incident in neighbouring Kakaredi village, days after they were given guns, handed over to them under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).

Over the years, villagers have opened businesses, many headed by women.

-Source: The Hindu


SUO MOTU CONTEMPT POWER IS INHERENT: SC

Focus: GS-II Polity, Governance

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court said the prior consent of the Attorney General (AG) of India is not required to suo motu initiate the inherent contempt powers of the Supreme Court.
  • A three-judge Bench held that the suo motu contempt powers of the top court is drawn from Article 129 of the Constitution, which says the Supreme Court, as a court of record, has the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • The court explained this in its judgment in a suo motu contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan for his tweets.

Details

  • The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 cannot limit this power of the court.
  • The statute only provides the procedure in which such contempt is to be initiated.
  • As far as the suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody, including the Attorney General because the court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt.
  • It is equally well settled, that once the court takes cognisance, the matter is purely between the court and the contemnor.
  • It said the only requirement is that the procedure followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court

  • Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts.
  • Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a).

According to Lord Hardwick, there is a three-fold classification of Contempt:

  1. Scandalizing the court itself.
  2. Abusing parties who are concerned in the cause, in the presence of court.
  3. Prejudicing the public before the cause is heard.

However, in India contempt of court is of two types:

  1. Civil Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  2. Criminal Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
  3. Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
  4. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
  5. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

-Source: The Hindu


KUKI: WEIGH ‘GENOCIDE’ BY NSCN (IM) IN NAGA PEACE AGREEMENT

Focus: GS-I Indian Society

Why in news?

An apex body of the Kukis, one of the three major ethnic groups of Manipur, has asked the Centre to weigh the “acts of genocide” against the community by the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, or NSCN (IM), before sealing the final peace deal with it.

Details

  • Leaders of the NSCN (IM) have been engaged in a fresh round of talks with the Centre in New Delhi for settling the Naga peace process hanging fire since 1997.
  • The Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) reminded the Centre of the genocide against the Kukis by the NSCN (IM) in the 1990s.
  • According to KIM, the Naga outfit had orchestrated an “ethnic pogrom” killing more than 1,000 Kukis, uprooting 360 villages and internally displacing more than 100,000 Kuki people between 1992 and 1997.
  • The political demands include making the NSCN (IM) pay for “acts of genocide” against the Kuki people and driving them out of their ancestral lands.

Kuki people

  • The Kukis constitute one of several hill tribes within India, Bangladesh, and Burma. Zo people (Mizo) are known as Chin in the Chin State of Myanmar, as Mizo in the State of Mizoram and as kuki in the state of Manipur in India are a number of related Tibeto-Burman tribal peoples spread throughout the northeastern states of India, northwestern Burma, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
  • In Northeast India, they are present in all states except Arunachal Pradesh.
  • This dispersal across international borders is a culmination of punitive actions made by the British during their occupation of India

Nagaland Peace Accord

  • Nagaland Peace Accord is the accord signed-in 2015, by the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end the insurgency.
  • The agreement was signed after several rounds of talks and after the agreement was signed, the government said it has “recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance”.
  • The NSCN (I-M)’s idea of a Nagalim includes parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur; and the Civil society organisations in the three states have stated that no compromise on their territorial integrity would be accepted.

Click Here to read more about the Naga issue and NSCN-IM

-Source: The Hindu


MADRAS HC: LAW TO BAR CRIMINALS IN ELECTION

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The Madras High Court has directed the Centre to explain in two weeks as to why it should not enact a law prohibiting people with criminal background from contesting in parliamentary, Assembly and local body elections.

Details

  • The High Court issued the direction after taking note of media reports of “persons with criminal background becoming policy makers in many parts of the country.”
  • They said such practice “has to be prevented and the system has to be cleansed.”

The Current state of Criminal Cases and Legislators

  • The Bench pointed out that an analysis of the 2019 Lok Sabha election winners by Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation, revealed that 43% (233 out of 539 Members of Parliament) had declared criminal cases pending against them.
  • Further, 29% (159 MPs) of the legislators were facing serious criminal cases.
  • The Chennai HC expressed dismay over media reports of criminal elements in Puducherry having close connection and support of political parties and some of the Ministers and legislators being provided security by rowdy gangs.
  • The Judges asked the Director General of Police to submit the details of rowdy gangs active in Puducherry, and details regarding number of persons with criminal background accommodated as top office bearers and district secretaries of various political parties and the nature of cases booked against them.

What does the data represent?

  • According to an analysis of their self-sworn affidavits by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) – report said 229 of the 233 Rajya Sabha seats that represent the States and Union Territories showed that 54 MPs or 24% had declared criminal cases.
  • Out of the 229 MPs – 28 or 12% had declared serious criminal cases.
  • The ADR analysis found that 203 of the 229 MPs or 89% of those analysed had declared assets over Rs. 1crore.

Recently in news: Click Here to read more about the Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politics

-Source: The Hindu


SARS-COV-2-SPECIFIC T CELL IMMUNITY

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • A recently published research paper says natural exposure or infection with the novel coronavirus may “prevent recurrent episodes of severe COVID-19”.
  • This is because, once infected with SARS-CoV-2, the immune system elicits “robust, broad and highly functional memory T cell responses”.

Details

  • The study found SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells even in family members who have been exposed to the virus but have tested negative on antibody blood tests.
  • SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells were also seen in convalescent individuals with a history of asymptomatic infection and mild COVID-19 disease.
  • All categories of people — recovered from moderate or severe COVID-19 disease, or in the convalescent phase after mild or severe disease or exposed family members or healthy people — exhibited “robust memory T cell responses months after infection, even in the absence of detectable circulating antibodies specific for SARS-CoV-2.
  • This indicates a previously unanticipated degree of population-level immunity against COVID-19.
  • This implies that seroprevalence (the level of a pathogen in a population, as measured in blood serum) as an indicator may underestimate the extent of immunity in the population.
  • Even as antibodies wane with time, robust T cell memory formed after SARS-CoV-2 infection suggests that “potent adaptive immunity is maintained to provide protection against severe re-infection”.

Recently in news: Serological survey in Delhi

What was the serological survey about?

  • The serological survey was meant to detect whether the person being tested had developed antibodies against the coronavirus.
  • Since it is not possible to test everyone, detecting antibodies in random sets of people is an indirect way of estimating the extent of disease spread in a community.
  • The antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight external organisms like viruses that try to enter the body.
  • These are produced only after the infection has happened, and are specific to the attacking virus or bacterium.
  • The presence of antibodies, therefore, is an indication that an infection by that particular virus or bacterium has already occurred.
  • Subsequent attempts to infect the body can be thwarted by these antibodies.

Do antibodies ensure Immunity?

  • The mere presence of antibodies does not mean that the person is protected against the disease.
  • What is also important is the amount of antibodies present, and whether it also includes what are known as “neutralising antibodies” which actually fight the disease.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIA EYES GLOBAL FRONT RUNNERS: COVID VACCINE

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Prelims  

Why in news?

Covid-19 vaccines being developed by UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca and United States’s Moderna-NIAID are the top candidates India is looking at for possible acquisition discussions.

Details

  • India is at present waiting for trial data for the Russian candidate, which became the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved in the world.
  • For now, India is looking at the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in co-production with Serum Institute of India for the Indian market, the Moderna vaccine, which has also entered phase 3 trails and nine other vaccine development programmes — including ones in Germany and Israel.

-Source: Hindustan Times


ISSUES FACING ONLINE EDUCATION

Focus: GS-III Social Justice

Introduction

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the education sector globally as classes have been suspended to enforce social distancing and educational institutions, from schools to universities, have shifted to online methods of teaching and evaluation.
  • This has encouraged some sort of a permanent tilt, if not a complete shift, to online education.
  • The new National Education Policy (NEP) approved last month also talks about being ready for digital and online education, although it adds a rider that the digital divide must be eliminated to fully benefit from such methods.

Need for careful policy-making

  • Any policy that has a sudden push towards online education in India, will run the risk of excluding a significant section of students.
  • A number of students, who, in theory, have access to online teaching will have to depend on inconvenient methods such as using mobile phones instead of computers.
  • While mobiles can be useful in listening to online lectures, they are not the ideal medium when it comes to writing exams or even assignments.
  • Rough estimates suggest pursuing online education can be very costly for the poorest households.

The Gap: Inequality in Online education

  • Three-fourths of students in India did not have access to the internet at home, according to a 2017-18 all-India NSO survey.
  • The share of those who did not have computers, including devices such as palm-tops and tablets, was much greater ~90%.
  • Access to these facilities was higher among students at higher levels of education. But even at the highest levels, a large share of students did not have access to these facilities. As expected, access to the internet and computers is directly related to household incomes.
  • Lack of access to the internet and devices has also created a gap in digital literacy.
  • As many as 76% of students in India in the 5-35 age group did not know how to use a computer.
  • The share of those who did not know how to use the internet was 74.5%. Once again, this gap rises with a fall in income levels.
  • 55% of students among the top 20% of households by monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) knew how to use a computer and internet while these proportions were only 9% and 10% among the bottom 20%.

-Source: Hindustan Times


PMO DENIES RTI PLEA SEEKING INFO ON PM-CARES

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has denied a Right to Information request related to the PM-CARES Fund on the grounds that providing it would “disproportionately divert the resources of the office.”
  • However, a High Court judgment and multiple orders of the Central Information Commission (CIC) have previously held that, under the RTI Act, this rationale can only be used to change the format of information provided, not deny it altogether.

Right to Information (RTI) Act

  • Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
  • Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.

This includes:

  1. disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
  2. powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
  3. financial information.

The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information.

  • If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities.
  • This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.
  • The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.

Background to the RTI Petition of PM CARES

  • The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set to accept donations and provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other similar emergencies.
  • After the announcement of the PM CARES fund an RTI Application was filed asking the PMO to provide the Fund’s trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars relating to its creation and operation.
  • The Petition was filed regarding the need of a PM CARES fund when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was already existing.

-Source: The Hindu

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