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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 5 August 2020

Contents

  1. Pakistan’s new map an expression of “political absurdity”
  2. Hawala channel used as funds to procure gold: NIA
  3. 24 million may drop out of school: U.N. on COVID impact
  4. U.S. against hiring H1B visa holders for federal contracts
  5. B2C Online Sector under new consumer law ambit

PAKISTAN’S NEW MAP AN EXPRESSION OF “POLITICAL ABSURDITY”

Focus: GS-II International relations, History

Why in news?

Pakistan’s new political map is an exercise in political absurdity, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said after Pakistani Prime Minister launched a ‘revised’ political map of Pakistan.

The Absurdity!

  • The new map of Pakistan released – included the entire Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Gujarat, including Junagarh.
  • The Indian MEA said that these ridiculous assertions have neither legal validity nor international credibility

Absurdity in detail

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Minister said the document firms up its claims on Sir Creek and the Siachen glacier, and going on to say “Our aim is Srinagar”.
  • The Pakistan Prime Minister referred to the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 which removed the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and said, the map is an expression of Pakistan’s long nurtured aspiration.
  • The new political map has also removed the reference of Federally Administered Tribal Area and has depicted that area as part of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
  • It also leaves an undefined section towards Ladakh which according to Mr. Qureshi will be resolved in future.

What Indian MEA said?

  • The MEA referred to the map as an expression of Pakistan’s ‘obsession’.
  • These ridiculous assertions have neither legal validity nor international credibility.
  • In fact, this new effort only confirms reality of Pakistan’s obsession with territorial aggrandizement supported by cross-border terrorism

Is it a new trend?

  • This is the second such map revising territorial claims in South Asia after Nepal printed a political map showing the Kalapani region of Pithoragarh district as part of its sovereign territory.
  • Nepal had blamed India for asserting claims over the region in the political map that India published in November 2019 which showed the new Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh that were born after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 which had guaranteed special status for the region.

First anniversary concerns

  • Fearing protests in Indian-administered Kashmir on the first anniversary of its move, the government imposed partial curfew in the region.
  • Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.
  • Some groups in the Indian-administered Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

Background to Pakistan’s claim on Junagadh

  • Junagarh was a princely state of British India, located in what is now Gujarat, outside but under the suzerainty of British India.
  • In the independence and partition of British India of 1947, the 552 princely states were given a choice to either join the new Dominion of India or the newly formed state of Pakistan.
  • The Nawab of Junagarh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, decided that Junagarh should become part of Pakistan, much to the displeasure of many of the people of the state, an overwhelming majority of whom were Hindus.
  • The Nawab acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan on 15 September 1947, against the advice of Lord Mountbatten.

The Hypocrisy  

  • When Pakistan accepted the Nawab’s Instrument of Accession, the Government of India was outraged that Muhammad Ali Jinnah could accept the accession of Junagarh despite his own argument that Hindus and Muslims could not live as one nation.
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel believed that if Junagarh was permitted to go to Pakistan, it would exacerbate the communal tension already simmering in Gujarat.
  • The princely state was surrounded on all of its land borders by India, with an outlet onto the Arabian Sea.
  • The unsettled conditions in Junagarh had led to a cessation of all trade with India and the food position became precarious.
  • With the region in crisis, the Nawab, fearing for his life, felt forced to flee to Karachi with his family and his followers, and there he established a provisional government.

The Reversal

  • Vallabhbhai Patel offered Pakistan time to reverse its acceptance of the accession and to hold a plebiscite in Junagarh.
  • Eventually, Patel ordered the forcible annexation of Junagarh’s three principalities.
  • Junagarh’s state government, facing financial collapse and lacking forces with which to resist Indian force, invited the Government of India to take control.
  • A plebiscite was conducted in which approximately 99.95% of the people chose India over Pakistan.

-Source: The Hindu


HAWALA CHANNEL USED AS FUNDS TO PROCURE GOLD: NIA

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The initial funds for obtaining gold, says the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case, was raised by persons with dubious antecedents and the funds were sent abroad through hawala channel.

Details

  • The agency, which opposed the bail application of the accused in the case, submitted before the NIA Special Court, Kochi, that it was also investigating the source of gold smuggled in from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The NIA invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case on the apprehension that the proceeds of the smuggled gold could be used for financing terrorism in India.
  • There was prima facie evidence to the effect that the accused intentionally smuggled gold, it said.
  • The NIA contended that it was revealed during the investigation that the accused had the knowledge that their act would threaten the security of the country besides affecting its monetary stability.

National Investigation Agency (NIA)

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a state agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India.
  • It acts as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency.
  • The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.
  • The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India; hence the NIA is a Statutory Body.
  • Headquartered in New Delhi, it maintains the NIA Most Wanted list.

What is Hawala?

  • Hawala is an informal method of transferring money without any physical money actually moving.
  • Hawala is used today as an alternative remittance channel that exists outside of traditional banking systems.
  • Hawala sometimes referred to as underground banking has been used since ancient times, and today are widely found among expats sending remittances home.
  • Hawala provides anonymity in its transactions, as official records are not kept and the source of money that is transferred cannot be traced.
  • India has made hawala illegal due to its informal nature and absence of regulation or oversight.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019

The original Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.

It provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.

Key Provisions of the Amendment

The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.

Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:

  1. commits or participates in acts of terrorism
  2. prepares for terrorism
  3. promotes terrorism
  4. is otherwise involved in terrorism

The word “terror” or “terrorist” is not defined.

However, a “terrorist act” is defined as any act committed with the intent –

  1. to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India
  2. to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country

The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette.

  • The Bill empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Under the Act, an investigating officer can seize properties that may be connected with terrorism with prior approval of the Director General of Police.

-Source: The Hindu


24 MILLION MAY DROP OUT OF SCHOOL: U.N. ON COVID IMPACT

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

Almost 24 million children are at risk of not returning to school in 2021 due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, according to the United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education.

Details

  • More than 1.6 billion learners across the world have been affected by the disruption of the education system.
  • The educational financing gap is also likely to increase by one third.
  • The pandemic has also served to exacerbate existing disparities, with vulnerable populations in low-income countries taking a harder and longer hit.
  • During the second quarter of 2020, more than 85% of children at the primary level have been effectively out of school in poor countries, compared to just 20% in highly developed countries

Serious Concerns

  • Girls and young women are likely to be disproportionately affected as school closures make them more vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence.
  • Even for those who do not drop out of school, learning losses could be severe, especially in the foundational years.
    In early 2020, it was estimated that low and middle incomes faced almost $150-billion gap between their education budgets and the money available to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of quality education, and this COVID-19 crisis is likely to increase that financing gap.

Way Forward

Education budgets need to be protected and increased. And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

-Source: The Hindu


U.S. AGAINST HIRING H1B VISA HOLDERS FOR FEDERAL CONTRACTS

Focus: GS-II International relations

Why in news?

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order preventing federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers – mainly those on H-1B visa – from hiring.

Details

  • This comes as a huge blow to Indian IT professionals eyeing the US job market.
  • This move comes after the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas were suspended recently until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year.
  • The executive order requires all federal agencies to complete an internal audit and assess whether they are in compliance with the requirement that only US citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service.
  • The H1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  • The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

H-1B Visa

  • The H-1B is a United States visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it is one of the most popular visas for foreigners visiting the US for business or trade purpose.
  • It is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  • Speciality occupations include specialized fields like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. which usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • US employers wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment prefer H1B visa because its application is quicker than applying for a US Green Card.

-Source: The Hindu


B2C ONLINE SECTOR UNDER NEW CONSUMER LAW AMBIT

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy  

Why in news?

The new Consumer Protection Act brings the entire B2C online sector strictly within its ambit and not just Amazon and Flipkart as it was widely thought of previously.

Details

  • All kinds of B2C online services, irrespective of their size and reach, all mobile app-based services and all businesses running on social media platforms, will come within the bill’s purview.
  • Simply put, e-payment services, e-deliveries, e-buying and selling platforms, e-pharmacies, e-tutoring, e-groceries, e-taxis, e-bikes, e-food chains, online air, rail, bus, hotel booking services etc., will come within the ambit of the new legislation.
  • To ensure better enforcement of the law, the Centre Union government will soon come out with a National Framework on E-commerce in consultation with the ministries of Consumer Affairs, Information Technology and Commerce.

What is B2C?

  • The term Business-to-Consumer (B2C) refers to the process of selling products and services directly between a business and consumers who are the end-users of its products or services.
  • Most companies that sell directly to consumers can be referred to as B2C companies.
  • B2C became immensely popular during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s when it was mainly used to refer to online retailers who sold products and services to consumers through the Internet.
  • As a business model, business-to-consumer differs significantly from the business-to-business model, which refers to commerce between two or more businesses.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified Rules and provisions like Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Mediation, Product Liability and punishment for manufacture or sale of products containing adulterant / spurious goods.
  • Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a law to protect the interests of the consumers. It has ways and means to solve the consumer grievances speedily.
  • The basic aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to save the rights of the consumers by establishing authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ disputes.
  • The act envisions a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights as a class and regulate cases related to unfair trade practices, misleading advertisements, and violation of consumer rights.
  • The CCPA will have the right to impose a penalty on the violators and passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services, discontinuation of the unfair trade practices and reimbursement of the price paid by the consumers.
  • The act has the provision of the establishment of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) at the national, state and district levels.
  • The act also seeks to bring in e-commerce under their jurisdiction and hold celebrities accountable for false and misleading advertisements of products that they endorse.
  • The new act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation.
  • The Act provides for punishment by a competent court for manufacture or sale of adulterant/spurious goods.

-Source: The Hindu

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