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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 6 March 2020

Contents:

  1. Parents’ date, Place of Birth essential; NPR data useful for welfare schemes: Government
  2. Yes Bank placed under moratorium till April 3
  3. Lok Sabha suspends 7 MPs for rest of Budget session
  4. Anglo-Indians protest at Jantar Mantar
  5. EC moots linking Aadhaar with voter ID
  6. India among least-free democracies: Freedom in the World report 2020
  7. Afghan war crimes probe to go on: ICC
  8. In push for Neighbourhood First Policy: India Plans a common Electricity Market
  9. ONGC has begun work on Mega East Coast Project in Krishna Godavari Block

PARENTS’ DATE, PLACE OF BIRTH ESSENTIAL; NPR DATA USEFUL FOR WELFARE SCHEMES: GOVERNMENT

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that it proposes to collect details on additional questions such as “date and place of birth of parents” in the National Population Register (NPR) to “facilitate back-end data processing and making the data items of date and place of birth complete for all household[s]”.
  • In an indication that the government is reluctant to drop contentious questions from the National Population Register (NPR) form, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had told a Parliamentary standing committee that these questions were asked in the past as well and are necessary for back-end data processing.

Concerns of the The Standing Committee on Ministry of Home Affairs tabled in its report on Demands for Grants (2020-2021)

  • The Committee, on 18th February observed that there is a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among people regarding the upcoming NPR and Census.
  • The Committee feels these apprehensions should have been duly ventilated in the media. The MHA must consider some way out so that the Census goes smoothly.
  • The committee had enquired about the possibility of using Aadhaar database for updating NPR without undergoing fresh exercise to prevent duplication of efforts and expenditure.
  • West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Delhi have demanded that either the NPR be scrapped or the update be done using the 2010 form.

Response of the Government

  • Various welfare schemes of the State and Central governments are generally family-based, for which NPR data may be used
  • The government says linking the two will facilitate Aadhaar’s integration with other databases and help clean the various other databases.
  • The MHA says government-created databases such as Aadhaar, Voter ID, birth & death register, NPR, driving licence and passport may contain “many spurious and incorrect entries in databases”.
  • These databases, the ministry told the House panel, do not communicate with one another since there is no common identifier. “Collection of Aadhaar number (on voluntary basis), Voter ID, passport number and driving licence number during updation of NPR will facilitate communication among these databases, subject to the existing laws,” it said.
  • The Aadhaar number, the MHA reasons, can act as a common link among these large databases.

What is NPR?

  • National Population Register (NPR) is a list of “usual residents of the country”.
  • A “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • It will be conducted by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry.

YES BANK PLACED UNDER MORATORIUM BY RBI TILL APRIL 3

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Prelims

Why in news?

  • The government has put private sector lender Yes Bank under moratorium till April 3 and capped deposit withdrawal at ₹50,000 after severe deterioration of the bank’s financial position.
  • The decision was taken by the government after an application from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Why was it put under moratorium?

  • The financial position of the bank deteriorated as the it failed to raise capital to address loan losses which resulted in rating downgrades and triggered invocation of bond covenants by investors, and withdrawal of deposits.
  • RBI said – The bank has also experienced serious governance issues and practices in the recent years which have led to steady decline of the bank.

What lies ahead?

  • RBI found – In order to protect the interest of the depositors and in public interest, it is necessary to issue certain directions to YES Bank.
  • RBI said it will explore and draw up a scheme in the next few days for the bank’s reconstruction or amalgamation.

What is Moratorium?

Definition of moratorium- A legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation or the payment of a debt, a waiting period set by an authority, a suspension of activity.

Powers of RBI

  • Finance ministry has listed powers that central bank enjoys under Banking Regulation Act, 1949, under Banking Companies (Acquisition & Transfer of Undertakings) Acts of 1970 & 1980 (Bank Nationalization Acts) & State Bank of India Act, 1955:
  • RBI maintains central fraud registry & banks report all frauds, involving amount above Rs. 1 lakh, to RBI.
  • Banking regulation Act, 1949 is legislation aimed at regulating & supervising banking companies.
  • Banking company is defined in section 69 (c) of that Act as ‘any company’, which transacts business of banking in India. State Bank of India & nationalised banks which are PSBs, are not companies, but corporations formed by statutes.

Under Provisions of Banking Regulation Act, 1949, RBI Can:

  • Inspect bank & its books & accounts
  • Examine on oath any director or other officer of bank
  • Cause scrutiny to be made of affairs of bank
  • Give directions
    1. in public interest
    2. in interest of banking policy
    3. in interest of depositors
    4. in interest of bank
    5. to secure proper management of bank
  • Call for any information of account details
  • Determine policy in relation to advances by bank
  • Direct special audit of bank
  • Direct bank to initiate insolvency resolution process in respect of default, under provisions of Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016
  • Issue directions to banks for resolution of stressed assets
  • Direct changes in management of bank
  • Caution or prohibit banks in particular against entering into any particular transaction or class of transactions, & generally give advice to any bank
  • Give assistance to any bank by means of grant of loan or advance
  • Direct banks to call meeting of its directors for purpose of considering any matter relating to or arising out of affairs of bank; or require officer of bank to discuss any such matter w/officer of RBI
  • Appoint one or more of its officers to observe manner in which affairs of bank or of its offices or branches are being conducted & make report thereon

RBI’s Important Publications (half yearly)

  1. Financial Stability Report
  2. Monetary Policy Report
  3. Report on Financial Review

LOK SABHA SUSPENDS 7 MPS FOR REST OF BUDGET SESSION

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The Lok Sabha on 5th March 2020 suspended seven MPs for the remaining period of the Budget session for ‘gross misconduct and utter disregard’ for House rules after papers from the Speaker’s table were snatched by the MPs.

What can be the reason for suspending an MP?

  • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Speaker of Lok Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly.
  • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House (for the remaining part of the day), or to place him/her under suspension.

What are the rules under which the Speaker acts?

Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct:

The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.

Rule 374:

“(1) The Speaker may, if deems it necessary, name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.

(2) If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such Member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

(3) A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

Rule 374A:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a Member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such Member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.

(2) On the Speaker announcing the suspension under this rule, the Member shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

What is the procedure for revocation of a Member’s suspension?

While the Speaker is empowered to place a Member under suspension, the authority for revocation of this order is not vested in her.

It is for the House, if it so desires, to resolve on a motion to revoke the suspension.

What happens in Rajya Sabha?

  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
  • “…Any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.”
  • The Chairman may “name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.
  • The House may, however, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member.

Isn’t the barring of an elected representative of the people an extreme step to take in order to curb unruly behaviour?

  • A balance has to be struck. There can be no question that the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Speaker is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings. However, it must be remembered that her job is to run the House, not to lord over it.
  • The solution to unruly behaviour has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values. A previous Speaker had ordered that television cameras be focussed on the demonstrating members, so that people could see for themselves how their representatives were behaving in the House.
  • A step in that same direction could be to discontinue the practice of herding people out of the visitors’ gallery when the House witnesses chaos. It has been suggested that it may perhaps be a good idea to let them be — and to also reserve a few blocks in the gallery for schoolchildren, who could see for themselves the conduct of Members.
  • What cannot, however, be denied is that Speakers’ actions are often dictated more by expediency and the stand of the party that they belong to, rather than by the Rules and principles.
  • So, the ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, just as the Opposition insists on its right to protest. And their positions change when their roles flip.

ANGLO-INDIANS PROTEST AT JANTAR MANTAR

Focus: GS-II Governance, GS-I Art and Culture

Why in news?

Action Council, a collective of Anglo-Indian associations, staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar on 5th March 2020, in protest against the 126th Constitutional Amendment that ended reservation for Anglo-Indians in Parliament and State Assemblies.

Details

  • They Requested the government to reconsider its decision saying the amendment was based on factually incorrect information.
  • While tabling the Bill, the 2011 Census was quoted, saying there are just 296 Anglo-Indians in the entire country.
  • Congress MP from Ernakulam said that in his constituency alone, there were 40,000 Anglo-Indians.
  • Former MP Charles Dias said there were over four lakh Anglo-Indians overall in the country.
  • The lone non-nominated Anglo-Indian MP in Parliament, Derek O’ Brien, said the community with its substantial contribution to the country deserved to be represented in Parliament and Assemblies and its scattered nature prevented Anglo-Indians from getting an elected seat.

Background on Anglo-Indians

  • The term Anglo-Indian can refer to at least two groups of people: those with mixed Indian and British (specifically English) ancestry and people of British/English descent born or living in India.
  • The latter sense of people of British/English descent born or living in India,  is now mainly historical, but confusions can arise.
  • Between 1952 and 2020, two seats were reserved in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India, for members of the Anglo-Indian community.
  • These two members were nominated by the President of India on the advice of the Government of India.
  • In January 2020, the Anglo-Indian reserved seats in the Parliament and State Legislatures of India were abolished by the 104th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019.

Jantar Mantar

Jaipur Jantar Mantar Largest Sundial UNESCO
  • There are five Jantar Mantars in India, of which the largest is in Jaipur which features many instruments along with the world’s largest stone sundial.
  • The Jantar Mantar is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Maratha Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The monument was completed in 1734.
  • It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • It is located near City Palace and Hawa Mahal.
  • The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.
  • The observatory is an example of the Ptolemaic positional astronomy which was shared by many civilizations.
  • The Vrihat Samrat yantra is a sundial that can give the local time to an accuracy of 2 seconds.

EC MOOTS LINKING AADHAAR WITH VOTER ID

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Law Ministry has informed the Lok Sabha that it has a proposal from the Election Commission (EC) to link the Aadhaar card with the Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) to prepare an error free electoral roll.

Details

  • In order to ensure preparation of an error free electoral roll, and to prevent duplication of entries, a proposal to amend the Representation of People’s Act 1951 to enable linking of the electoral data with the Aadhaar system has been received from the Election Commission.
  • It may allow migrant labour and workers to vote even if they are away from their homes at the time of elections.
  • It will also help getting rid of bogus voters.
  • It will also help easy movement of voters once Aadhaar system and election data is linked.

Representation of People’s Act 1951

  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of election of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
  • It was introduced in Parliament by law minister Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
  • The Act was enacted by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election.

Election Commission of India (EC)

  • 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.

INDIA AMONG LEAST-FREE DEMOCRACIES: FREEDOM IN THE WORLD REPORT 2020

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

India has become one of the world’s least free democracies, according to a global survey, which warned that “the Indian government’s alarming departures from democratic norms under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could blur the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi.”

Details

  • The Freedom in the World 2020 report ranks India at the 83rd position, along with Timor-Leste and Senegal.
  • This is near the bottom of the pile among the countries categorised as “Free”, with only Tunisia receiving a lower score.
  • India’s score fell by four points to 71, the worst decline among the world’s 25 largest democracies this year.
  • The annulment of autonomy and the subsequent shutdown of Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, as well as the crackdown on mass protests have been listed as the main signs of declining freedom in the report.
Deterring democracy 
The Freedon in the World House Report
Top five countries in the free category: 
Finland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Luxembourg 
Bottom five countries in the free category: 
Botswana, Peru, India, Timor-Leste, Tunisia 
Leaders — including the chief executives of the United States and India, the 
two largest democracies — are increasingly willing to bleak down 
institutional safeguards — SARAH REPuCCI, O/RLCTOR or "Oust

Freedom in the World Report

  • Freedom in the World is a yearly survey and report by the U.S.-based[5] non-governmental organization Freedom House.
  • The report derives its methodology from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
  • It covers 195 countries, awarding scores based on political rights indicators such as the electoral process, political pluralism and participation and government functioning, as well as civil liberties indicators related to freedom of expression and belief associational and organisational rights, the rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights.

AFGHAN WAR CRIMES PROBE TO GO ON: ICC

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • International war crimes judges ruled on 5th March 2020, that a probe into wartime abuses in Afghanistan must go ahead, including looking into possible atrocities committed by U.S. forces, as they overturned a previous court ruling.
  • The move was immediately hailed by human rights organisations as a “pivotal moment” for victims of the central Asian country’s 18-year-war since the 2001 U.S. invasion.

International Criminal Court ICC

  • International Criminal Court (ICC), permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998).
  • The body was formed to prosecute and adjudicate individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • It is headquartered in the Netherlands at The Hague.
  • The ICC was established as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses in cases where national courts fail to act.
  • Unlike the International Court of Justice, which hears disputes between states, the ICC handles prosecutions of individuals.
  • The court’s jurisdiction extends to offenses that occurred after July 1, 2002, that were committed either in a state that has ratified the agreement or by a national of such a state.
  • The court has eighteen judges, each from a different member country and elected by the member states. It requires its members to seek a gender-balanced bench, and the judiciary must include representatives of each of the United Nations’ five regions.
Members of the International Criminal Court 
Party Signed but never ratified Nonsignatory 
04,) 
Note: Burundi and the Philippines joined the ICC but later withdrew. 
Sources; International Criminal Court; United Nations. 
COUNCII— 
FOREIGN 
RELATIONS

What type of cases are taken up by the ICC?

The court has jurisdiction over four categories of crimes under international law:

  • Genocide, or the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group;
  • War crimes, or grave breaches of the laws of war, which include the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on torture and attacks on civilian targets, such as hospitals or schools;
  • Crimes against humanity, or violations committed as part of large-scale attacks against civilian populations, including murder, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and torture; and
  • Crimes of aggression, or the use or threat of armed force by a state against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or political independence of another state, or violations of the UN Charter.

How is an investigation opened in the ICC?

The court can open an investigation into possible crimes in one of three ways:

  1. A member country can refer a situation within its own territory to the court
  2. The UN Security Council can refer a situation
  3. The prosecutor can launch an investigation into a member state proprio motu, or “on one’s own initiative.”

The court can investigate individuals from nonmember states if the alleged offenses took place in a member state’s territory, if the nonmember state accepts the court’s jurisdiction, or with the Security Council’s authorization.


IN PUSH FOR NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY: INDIA PLANS A COMMON ELECTRICITY MARKET

Focus: GS-II International Relations, GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • The Union government plans to set up a regional grid that will be leveraged to create a common electricity market for nations in India’s neighbourhood, said power and new and renewable energy minister.
  • The proposed market, which will include Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, could aid regional peace and improve utilization of generation assets—including the stranded assets in India —and efficient price discovery.

Details

  • While India has been procuring hydropower from Bhutan, it is also supplying electricity to Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • The plans now include the option of an overhead electricity link with Sri Lanka.
  • India’s energy diplomacy initiatives range from cross-border electricity trade to supplying petroleum products and setting up liquefied natural gas terminals.
  • Cross-border energy trade is a key part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy, with the electricity link attempting to negate the growing influence of strategic rival China in the region.

ONGC HAS BEGUN WORK ON MEGA EAST COAST PROJECT IN KRISHNA GODAVARI BLOCK

Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Prelims

Why in news?

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) has tested the first deep-water well at its largest block in the Krishna Godavari basin.

India’s Current stand on Clean Energy

  • India’s emerging green economy is reordering the country’s energy mix to meet its global climate change commitments.
  • These sources include a combination of solar, wind, ultra-supercritical coal fuelled projects, gas based plants and nuclear power projects.
  • India is running what will become the world’s largest clean energy programme with the aim of achieving 175 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy capacity by 2022.
  • Given the country’s ambitious green energy programme based on infirm sources such as wind and solar, its gas-based power generation capacity can be leveraged for providing grid stability and be the intermediary fuel for India’s energy transition.
  • India, the world’s fourth-largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), is expanding its portfolio with domestic companies having inked long-term LNG contracts

Krishna-Godavari Block

  • Krishna Godavari Basin is a peri-cratonic passive margin basin in India.
  • It is spread across more than 50,000 square kilometres in the Krishna River and Godavari River basins in Andhra Pradesh.
Krishna-Godavari Block Map
  • Krishna-Godavari inland and offshore basins have good prospects of tight oil and tight gas reserves from the conducted field studies.
  • Most of the conventional wells drilled and operated have a shorter lifespan than envisaged life and with erratic production.
  • This may be due to drilling of conventional wells in tight oil and gas fields without horizontal drilling in the shale rock formations and hydraulic fracturing.
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