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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 4 April 2020

Contents:

  1. SC calls for quick end to Kerala-Karnataka border row
  2. Lockdown lifts Delhi’s air quality to a 5-year high
  3. Life turns turtle for MSMEs as lockdown chokes
  4. Questions over foreign donations for PM-CARES
  5. UNGA adopts resolution calling for global solidarity, cooperation to fight COVID-19
  6. NSA to be slapped against persons who attack policemen

SC CALLS FOR QUICK END TO KERALA-KARNATAKA BORDER ROW

Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims

Why in news?

The Supreme Court on 3rd April 2020, urged Karnataka and Kerala to amicably resolve their issues concerning a border blockade that has choked the free flow of vehicles carrying essential items and patients in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Background

  • Karnataka, which imposed the blockade, justified that its border was sealed to “combat the spread of the pandemic by preventing the movement of people from the bordering districts of Kerala to Karnataka”.
  • The State had moved the Supreme Court, challenging a Kerala High Court order on April 1 to open the border.
  • Kerala has countered that patients from the State cannot be denied access to health care.
  • Besides, the blockade has severely affected the supply of essential items, from medicines to food, to Kerala.

What Karnataka said?

  • Karnataka, in its appeal against the High Court order, said the blockade was put in place in the interest of public health. The situation regarding Coronavirus was “really dire”, it said.
  • It warned that opening the blockade would cause a law and order issue as its local population wanted the border to remain sealed.
  • Karnataka argued that Kerala was the “worst-affected” State in the country with nearly 194 coronavirus cases. In this, Kasaragod, adjoining Karnataka, was the “worst affected” district of Kerala with over a 100 positive cases.

What Kerala said?

  • Kerala MP urged the court to issue an ex-parte stay on the operation of the blockade imposed by Karnataka with its border States.
  • The Kasaragod MP also said that the blockade was “ill-planned and dangerous” and had led to loss of lives.
  • Two patients from Kerala, in need of urgent medical care, died after their ambulances were denied entry at the border by the Karnataka authorities.

What the Supreme Court said?

  • The Supreme Court urged the States to not confront each other in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis.
  • Instead, it asked the Chief Secretaries of both States to sit with the Union Health Secretary and iron out a solution.
  • Meanwhile, the apex court urged Kerala not to take any precipitative action based on the High Court order.

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court in such matters

The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India can broadly be categorised into original jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction and advisory jurisdiction. Along with these there are other multiple powers of the Supreme Court.

What is Article 131?

Under its advisory jurisdiction, the President has the power to seek an opinion from the apex court under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Under its appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts.

In its extraordinary original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has exclusive power to adjudicate upon disputes involving elections of the President and the Vice President, those that involve states and the Centre, and cases involving the violation of fundamental rights.

Under Original Jurisdiction:

The SC (as a federal court of India) possesses Original jurisdiction to decide the disputes arising between different units of the Indian Federation like:

  1. Centre and one or more states; or
  2. Centre & any state(s) on one side and one or more states on the other; or
  3. Two or more states.

Criteria for dispute to be considered under Original Jurisdiction

  • For a dispute to qualify as a dispute under Article 131, it has to necessarily be between states and the Centre, and must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence of a legal right of the state or the Centre depends.
  • In a 1978 judgment, State of Karnataka v Union of India, Justice P N Bhagwati had said that for the Supreme Court to accept a suit under Article 131, the state need not show that its legal right is violated, but only that the dispute involves a legal question.
  • Article 131 cannot be used to settle political differences between state and central governments headed by different parties.

Disputes that the Original Jurisdiction does NOT extend to:

  1. A dispute arising out of any pre-Constitution treaty, agreement, covenant,
  2. Engagement or other similar instrument.
  3. A dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, etc., which specifically provides that the said jurisdiction does not extend to such a dispute.
  4. Inter-state water disputes.
  5. Matters referred to the Finance Commission.
  6. Adjustment of certain expenses and pensions between the Centre and the states.
  7. Ordinary dispute of Commercial nature between the Centre and the states.
  8. Recovery of damages by a state against the Centre.

LOCKDOWN LIFTS DELHI’S AIR QUALITY TO A 5-YEAR HIGH

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic has pushed pollution levels in Delhi to a 5-year low and, across India, the number of cities that recorded ‘good’ on the air quality index jumped from 6 — on March 16 — to 30 as on March 29, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board.

New Delhi Capital Air Pollution since Lockdown Particulate Matter Pollution has reduced cleanest air in five years in Delhi

Details

  • The CPCB in a report on the impact of the ‘Janata curfew’ on March 22, said that on the day before, AQI (Air Quality Index) was ‘Moderate (101-250)’ in Delhi.
  • Overall, up to 44% reduction in PM10 levels was observed in Delhi during March 22-23, 2020, compared to previous day.
  • The PM2.5 reduction was 8% on the curfew day but declined to 34% next day owing to negligible combustion activities on March 22-23, 2020, in and around the city.
  • The key factor that triggered the decline was the number of on-road vehicles, which contributed to a 51% reduction in NOx levels and a 32% reduction in carbon monoxide levels during March 22-23 as compared to March 21.
  • Research studies have attributed the key sources of PM2.5 in summer to be: dust and construction activities (35%), transport sector (20%) and industry (20%).
  • During the lockdown PM10 and PM2.5 levels were reduced by about 35-40%. The cessation of industries contributed to this reduction by 10%, vehicles 10-15% and dust another 10-15%.

Other Factors?

  • Unlike in the winter months, Delhi and other regions of the Indo Gangetic Plains generally tend to have better air quality in March, aided by consistent wind and sunlight, which help flush out pollutants.
  • The impact of meteorological factors was partially favourable, however the reduction in air pollution can be largely attributed to transport and commercial-industrial restrictions, the CPCB said in its report.

What about other states?

  • As on March 29, a total 91 cities were under ‘Good’ (0-50) and ‘Satisfactory (51-100)’ categories, with 30 cities with ‘Good’ AQI values.
  • However, Lucknow, Muzaffarpur, Kalyan, Guwahati and Singrauli were under ‘Poor’ category during March 25-28.
  • High emission levels in Lucknow and Guwahati were noted for PM2.5, attributable to ‘local’ combustion related activities.
  • As on March 29, no city was under ‘Poor’ AQI (251-300) category.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Mo.E.F.C).
  • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
  • Hence, it is a Statutory Body.
  • The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.
  • It is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control, as a technical wing of MoEFC.
  • The board is led by its Chairperson, who is generally a career civil servant from the Indian Administrative Service appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet of the Government of India.
  • CPCB has its head office in New Delhi, with seven zonal offices and 5 laboratories.

Responsibilities and Activities of CPCB

  • The board conducts environmental assessments and research.
  • It is responsible for maintaining national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with zonal offices, tribal, and local governments.
  • It has responsibilities to conduct monitoring of water and air quality, and maintains monitoring data.
  • The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.
  • It advises the central government to prevent and control water and air pollution.
  • It also advises the Governments of Union Territories on industrial and other sources of water and air pollution. CPCB along with its counterparts the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) are responsible for implementation of legislation relating to prevention and control of environmental pollution.

LIFE TURNS TURTLE FOR MSMEs AS LOCKDOWN CHOKES

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The lockdown ordered to stem the spread of COVID-19 has swept over millions of small and medium enterprises in tier-2 and -3 cities and across.

Details

  • Moving people and machines to facilitate work- from-home (WFH) options became a daunting task for many, as per industry executives of some mid-tier firms who narrate their harrowing experience.
  • many enterprises and their employees, across places cities and districts suffered in terms of lack of businesses continuity and clarity, physical hardship and mental stress.
  • Many companies operating in Coimbatore and Salem were running around for permissions to move people and computers.
  • The companies lost several days of productivity and their employees suffered a lot.
  • Certain mid-tier firms are of the opinion that the lockdown came upon them all of a sudden though the government would have been contemplating it at least a few days before its introduction.

What is being done about it?

  • Realising the gravity of the situation, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sprang into action.
  • It met the respective State governments and industries departments to chalk out ways to ensure business continuity for the entire MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) community in the country.
  • The CII has urged all enterprises, which are still suffering connectivity or business continuity issues, to reach out to the industry association for assistance.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is an industry association in India.
  • CII is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization.
  • Founded in 1895, it has over 9,000 members, from the private as well as public sectors, including SMEs and MNCs, and an indirect membership of over 300,000 enterprises from around 265 national and regional sectoral industry bodies.

QUESTIONS OVER FOREIGN DONATIONS FOR PM-CARES

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

The government has sent conflicting signals over the question of foreign donations to the new Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, better known as PM-CARES.

Details of the Concerns

  • Initially, Indian ambassadors were directed to mobilise donations from abroad, with SWIFT code details made available in order to accept such contributions.
  • However, the Centre has now seemed to take a step back, indicating that foreign funds would be accepted only from individuals and foundations, with details for foreign donations unavailable for now.
  • The PM-CARES fund also does not seem to have any website with details of objectives, income and expenditure as yet, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.
  • Repeated queries on these issues sent to a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office remain unanswered.

Background

  • PM-CARES is a public charitable trust launched on March 28 as a “dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like the one posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected,” according to the original press statement.
  • The trust is chaired by the Prime Minister, and its members include the Ministers of Home, Finance and Defence.
  • That original statement, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first tweets on PM-CARES on March 28, included both an IFSC code, needed for domestic bank transfers, as well as a SWIFT code, needed for international bank transfers.
  • However, the donation link on the PM’s website now says that “account details for foreign donations will be available in 2-3 days”. Only the IFSC code for domestic transfers is available on the donation link.

What was said about it?

  • On March 30, Mr. Modi held a video conference with the heads of Indian diplomatic missions around the world to discuss responses to the pandemic.
  • He advised them “to suitably publicise the newly-established PM-CARES Fund to mobilise donations from abroad,” according to a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • Government sources now say that the “PM CARES fund will simply accept donations and contributions from individuals and organisations who are based in foreign countries.”

UNGA ADOPTS RESOLUTION CALLING FOR GLOBAL SOLIDARITY, COOPERATION TO FIGHT COVID-19

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, International Relations, Prelims

Why in news?

  • The United Nations General Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including India, on COVID-19, calling for intensified international cooperation to defeat the pandemic that is causing severe disruption to societies and economies.
  • The resolution titled Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ was the first such document on the global pandemic to be adopted by the world organisation.
  • The UN Security Council is yet to discuss the coronavirus outbreak, even as the total number of coronavirus cases across the world crossed one million.

Details

  • The resolution said the 193-member General Assembly notes with great concern the threat to human health, safety and well-being caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, which continues to spread globally.
  • It recognises the “unprecedented effects of the pandemic, including the severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people”.
  • The resolution called for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • It also emphasised the need for full respect for human rights, and stressed that there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.

United Nations General Assembly

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN.
  • Popularly known as the parliament of the world, where all the 193 UN member states are represented, the UNGA is the deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN.
  • Its powers are to oversee the budget of the UN, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General of the United Nations, receive reports from other parts of the UN, and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions.
  • It is headquartered in New York City, U.S.A.

Functions of UNGA

  • Takes a decision on important matters such as peace and security, discusses various global issues and budgetary matters.
  • Decides on matters such as the admission of new members.
  • Decisions are taken through a vote. Admission of new members and budgetary matters require a two-thirds majority, while the decision on other issues are taken by a simple majority.
  • Each sovereign state gets one vote and the votes are not binding on the membership, except in budgetary matters.
  • The Assembly has no binding votes or veto powers like the UN Security Council.
  • The UNGA can express world opinion, promote international cooperation in various fields and make recommendations to the UNSC and elect the Security Council’s non-permanent members.

Main Organs of United Nations

  1. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA),
  2. United Nations Security Council (UNSC),
  3. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),
  4. United Nations Trusteeship Council,
  5. The International Court of Justice (ICJ),
  6. UN Secretariat.

All the 6 were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.


NSA TO BE SLAPPED AGAINST PERSONS WHO ATTACK POLICEMEN

Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims

Why in news?

The stringent National Security Act (NSA) will be slapped on people who attack policeman enforcing the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Uttar Pradesh government said on 3rd April 2020.

Why such a move?

  • The state government’s move to invoke the NSA comes in view of reports of several incidents of attack on policemen enforcing the lockdown.
  • The move is aimed to deter those who are taking lockdown lightly and even attacking policemen when they are prevented.

National Security Act (NSA)

The National Security Act of 1980 is an act of the Indian Parliament promulgated on 23 September, 1980.

The purpose of this act is “to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith”.

The act extends to the whole of India.

This act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.

The act also gives power to the governments to detain a foreigner in a view to regulate his presence or expel from the country.

The act was passed in 1980 during the Indira Gandhi Government.

How did it come about?

  • Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era when the Bengal Regulation III of 1818 was enacted to empower the government to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.
  • A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.
  • Post-independence India got its first preventive detention rule when the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.
  • The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act. After the Preventive Detention Act expired on December 31, 1969, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government.
  • Though the MISA was repealed in 1977 after the Janata Party came to power, the successive government, led by Mrs. Gandhi, brought in the NSA.
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