Current Affairs, 02 October 2018
G.S Paper 2:
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Eastern Zonal Council
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Particulars and significance of Zonal Councils.
Context: The 23rd meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council was held recently at Kolkata under the Chairmanship of the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh. The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, and Ministers from the States of the Council including Odisha as well as senior officers from Central and State Governments.
- The Council reviewed progress of unresolved items of the last meeting relating to Phulbari Dam under the Agreement of 1978 between Bihar and West Bengal, release of central share under post-matric and pre-matric scholarship schemes for SCs/STs/OBCs, scheme for modernization of state police forces among others.
Zonal councils have been established by the Parliament to promote interstate cooperation and coordination. They are statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956 and not constitutional bodies. They are only deliberative and advisory bodies.
There are 5 five Zonal councils namely:
- The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
- The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.
- The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
- The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Sikkim and (viii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.
- Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
- Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
- Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
- Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission (which has been replaced by NITI Ayog now) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.
- Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.
The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are:
- Bringing out national integration.
- Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
- Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
- Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Karnataka Good Samaritan Bill
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of the Bill.
Context: The president has given his asset to the Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill, 2016.
About the Bill:
- The legislation aims to give protection to good samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within the ‘golden hour’ and encourage people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment in the hands of police and investigations.
- Under the new law, the Karnataka government will provide financial help to good samaritans who help victims in a timely manner, they will be exempted from repeated attendance in courts and police stations, in case attendance is mandatory, expenses of such “running around to courts and police stations” will be taken care through the proposed ‘Good Samaritan Fund’.
- After admitting the accident victim to the hospital, the good samaritan can leave immediately, all government as well as private hospitals are bound to give first aid to the accident victims.
- With this, Karnataka has become the first state to give legal protection to good samaritans through a legislation amidst the rising incidents of accidental deaths in India, which saw 1,50,785 people getting killed in road accidents in 2016.
- In medical terms, the ‘golden hour’ is the first hour after a traumatic injury when emergency treatment is very crucial.
Need for legal protection:
- There were 4,80,652 road accidents in the country in 2016 in which 1,50,785 people were killed. In 2015, there were 5,01,423 road accidents in the country in which 1,46,133 people were killed.
- There is no central law to protect the good samaritans. However, the Union Surface Transport Ministry had issued a set of guidelines in 2015 following a Supreme Court order to protect the good samaritans.
- There have been many instances when people get busy in clicking photos or making videos of the victims, instead of providing the accident victims medical help. With the new law, there will be clear message that good samaritans will not be harassed in any manner.
- Karnataka is one of the top five states which saw a large number of people getting killed in road accidents in 2016 and 2015.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Particulars and significance of the programme, and Key facts on ADB and SASEC.
Context: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of lndia have signed a $150 Million Loan to finance continued improvements to road connectivity and efficiency of the International Trade Corridor in West Bengal and North-Eastern Region of lndia.
- South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Road Connectivity lnvestment Program, approved in 2014, aims to expand about 500 kilometers of roads in lndia’s North Bengal and North-Eastern Region that will enable efficient and safe transport within lndia and regionally with other SASEC member countries.
- The Program is an important initiative in Regional Connectivity aimed at increasing domestic and regional trade through North Bengal-North East Region International Trade corridor by upgrading key roads.
Significance of the project:
- The Project will upgrade about 65 kilometers of lmphal-Moreh Section of National Highway in Manipur, construction of about 1.5 km of an international bridge between lndia and Nepal, and completion of about 103 km of a State Highway in Manipur between lmphal and Tamenglong under Project-I.
- The Project will reduce transaction costs along the targeted cross-border corridors substantially, creating economies of scale and commercial prosperity.
Manipur being a landlocked state with almost 90% of the area under difficult terrain presently has only road transport as a means of mass transport system within the state. Hence development of the road infrastructure is of paramount importance to improve connectivity and progress of the State and to ensure that the administrative set up reaches the isolated and remote habitats.
- The SASEC programme of ADB was formed in 2001 in response to the request of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal to assist in facilitating economic cooperation among them. Sri Lanka and Maldives joined the sub-regional group in 2014.
- As a project-based partnership, SASEC programme has been helping enhance cross-border connectivity, facilitate faster and more efficient trade and promote cross-border power trade.
- The Manila, Philippines-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) serves as the Secretariat for the SASEC member countries.
Editorial: An ongoing quest for equality
Supreme Court delivered a 4:1 verdict, in Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala, throwing open the doors of the Sabarimala temple to women of all ages.
With this, the Supreme Court set aside a 27-year-old Kerala High Court judgment that upheld the prohibition.
The High Court had pointed out that the ‘Naisthik Brahmachari’ nature of the deity was “a vital reason for imposing the restriction on young women”.
However, Supreme Court condemned the prohibition as “hegemonic patriarchy“. Patriarchy cannot trump freedom to practice religion
The Court said that it amounts to discrimination based on a biological factor exclusive to gender. It was violative of the right to equality and dignity of women.
However, critical questions for the present Judgement (Article 25(1), 26 put through questions):
At stake were several thorny questions.
How deep must the judiciary’s inquiry go in deciding whether to intervene in matters of religion?
Should the court disturb ethical choices made by a community of believers?
How must the integrity behind these practices be judged?
Are religious exercises susceptible to conventional constitutional standards of justice and equality?
The scope of Article 26:
The respondents in favour of entry ban justified the ban on entry of women chiefly at two levels.
First, the temple, they argued, enjoyed denominational status under Article 26 of the Constitution, which allowed it to determine the manner in which it managed its religious affairs.
Second, prohibiting women of menstruating age is supported by the temple’s long-honoured custom for the deity’s celibacy concern.
Further ban was supported by Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965.
The court repudiated the validity of Rule 3(b), which, it said is at the core of discrimination.
Dissent opinion of justice Indu Malhotra: Essential practices doctrine:
Justice Indu Malhotra held that the determination of what constituted an essential practice in a religion should not be decided by judges on the basis of their personal viewpoints.
The issue of what constitutes an essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide.
Essentiality of a religious practice or custom had to be decided within the religion. It was a matter of personal faith. India is a land of diverse faiths.
Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages. She observed that the freedom to practice their beliefs was enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
Harmonisation of fundamental rights with religion included, providing freedom for diverse sects to practise their customs and beliefs.
The Sabarimala temple was not funded out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
Judging the rationality of faith to Values of Liberal Constitution:
The judgment leaves us wondering how far the right to freedom of religion can really extend.
And to what extent a group’s collective liberty can influence an individual’s equal right to freedom of religion.
The court must look beyond the essential practices doctrine and examine claims by applying a principle of “anti-exclusion”.
Where a religious practice causes the exclusion of individuals impairing the dignity or hampers the access to basic goods of individuals, the over-arching values of a liberal Constitution must come to picture.
Ultimately, therefore, for Justice Chandrachud, the Constitution must be seen as a document that seeks to bring about a transformed society.
When a religious practice goes so far as to deny women equal status in society, when notions of purity and pollution are employed to perpetuate discrimination, the Constitution ought to mandate a shattering of the conventional divides between the private and the public.
The real test, in Justice Chandrachud’s opinion, is to assess whether an exclusion founded on religious belief, essential or otherwise, encroaches on a person’s basic right to dignity.
The logic behind the ban was that presence of women deviated men from celibacy. This was placing the burden of men’s celibacy on women. It stigmatises women and stereotypes them.
Individual dignity of women could not be at the mercy of a mob. Morality was not ephemeral. It transcends biological and physiological barriers.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that the aspect to treat women as the children of a lesser God was to blink at the Constitution. The prohibition was a form of untouchability.
In Justice Chandrachud’s words that “the Constitution exists not only to disenable entrenched structures of discrimination and prejudice, but to empower those who traditionally have been deprived of an equal citizenship.”
Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY)
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key facts on PMFBY.
- For Mains: Significance, features and performance of Crop Insurance programmes in India.
Context: Gram Sabhas across the country have been asked to inform the farmers about the enrolment and benefits of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojan (PMFBY) at the beginning of the Rabi Season. The Gram Sabhas will also inform the farmers on how they can insure their crops under the Scheme.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has requested the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the State Governments to include this as an agenda in the upcoming Gram Sabhas, especially for the one scheduled on 2nd October 2018, in connection with Gandhi Jayanti.
- This is as part of the awareness initiatives taken up at various levels by the Govt and Insurance Companies to create awareness about the Scheme and mobilise farmers to insure their crops.
- In April, 2016, the government of India had launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) after rolling back the earlier insurance schemes viz. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), Weather-based Crop Insurance scheme and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).
- Premium: It envisages a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops, and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.
- The scheme is mandatory for farmers who have taken institutional loans from banks. It’s optional for farmers who have not taken institutional credit.
- Providing financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/damage arising out of unforeseen events.
- Stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
- Encouraging farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
- Ensuring flow of credit to the agriculture sector which contributes to food security, crop diversification and enhancing growth and competitiveness of agriculture sector besides protecting farmers from production risks.
Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP)
What to study?
- For Prelims: OALP, HELP and Hydrocarbon reserves in the country.
- For Mains: Significance and need for OALP.
Context: Government of India recently signed the contracts of the blocks awarded under the Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) Bid Round-I with the awardees.
- Initially, 110 e-bids were received for 55 blocks on offer with participation from 9 companies, singly or in consortium. Finally, contracts have been signed for all 55 blocks with 6 companies.
- This will add a huge accretion of 59,282 sq.km to the exploration area. This is about 65% of the area presently under exploration in the country. This will lead to significant increase in E&P activities in India and in long run discoveries from these field may significantly boost domestic production.
The bid round-I of OALP was launched in January 2018 under the liberalized Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP). It is for the first time that bidding in the E&P sector in India was for blocks that had been selected by bidders themselves with government playing a facilitator role.
Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP):
The OALP, a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives exploration companies the option to select the exploration blocks on their own, without having to wait for the formal bid round from the Government. The company then submits an application to the government, which puts that block up for bid. The new policy will open up 2.8 million square kilometres of sedimentary basins for exploration and eventual production.
About Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP):
- The Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) opens up India’ entire sedimentary basin for investment from domestic and foreign players under a simplified, transparent and investor -friendly fiscal and administrative regime.
- The new policy aims to provide Investors a ready access to huge amount of seismic data available in National Data Repository (NDR), flexibility to carve out exploration acreages through an open acreage licensing process and increased operational autonomy through a new revenue sharing model.
- The National Data Repository (NDR) manifested through an open acreage licensing (OAL) process will be a key facilitator by providing seamless access to India’s entire E&P data process through a digital medium to all investors with the objective of harnessing the potential of India’s large basinal area.
Open Acreage Licensing Policy and the National Data Repository together are a significant and welcome step towards opening up the hydrocarbon exploration and production industry in India. By placing greater discretion in the hands of explorers and operators, the Licensing Policy attempts to address a major drawback in the New Exploration Licensing Policy, which forced energy explorers to bid for blocks chosen by the government. Such initiatives help India attract enough investment to meet the government’s objective of reducing oil imports by 10% by 2022.
There’s a compelling opportunity for gas, which India must seize to reduce import dependency and shift to a lower carbon trajectory. HELP is more about gas than oil. While the overall thrust is positive, concerns regarding the contractual regime and gas pricing formula remain, and will need to be addressed.
Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Meaning and features of LLP.
Context: Ministry of Corporate Affairs has launched a process re-engineering by making incorporation of Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) through a complete online system- titled “RUN-LLP (Reserve Unique Name – Limited Liability Partnership)”.
What is LLP?
LLP is an alternative corporate business form that gives the benefits of limited liability of a company and the flexibility of a partnership. The LLP can continue its existence irrespective of changes in partners. It is capable of entering into contracts and holding property in its own name.
- The LLP is a separate legal entity, is liable to the full extent of its assets but liability of the partners is limited to their agreed contribution in the LLP. Further, no partner is liable on account of the independent or un-authorized actions of other partners, thus individual partners are shielded from joint liability created by another partner’s wrongful business decisions or misconduct.
- Mutual rights and duties of the partners within a LLP are governed by an agreement between the partners or between the partners and the LLP as the case may be. The LLP, however, is not relieved of the liability for its other obligations as a separate entity. Since LLP contains elements of both ‘a corporate structure’ as well as ‘a partnership firm structure’ LLP is called a hybrid between a company and a partnership.
LLP form is a form of business model which:
- Is organized and operates on the basis of an agreement.
- Provides flexibility without imposing detailed legal and procedural requirements.
- Enables professional/technical expertise and initiative to combine with financial risk taking capacity in an innovative and efficient manner.
Facts for Prelims:
World Habitat Day:
The United Nations designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The Day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.
2018 theme: Municipal Solid Waste Management. The focus of this year’s World Habitat Day celebrations is taking action to address the municipal solid waste management challenge. This year’s theme is Municipal Solid Waste Management with a slogan Waste-wise cities.
- The purpose of World Habitat Day is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.
- World Habitat Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 40/202, and was first celebrated in 1986.
Niwari is 52nd district of MP:
Niwari will become the 52nd district of Madhya Pradesh, with effect from October 1. A proposal to this effect was cleared by the state Cabinet recently.
The second edition of Exercise Aviaindra, a Biennial Air Force level exercise between Indian and the Russian Federation, was held recently in Russia.
The aim of the exercise was to formulate and validate use of airpower in anti-terrorist operation in a bilateral scenario. It also includes simulator training. The exercise included briefing on Aerospace safety and anti-terrorist air operations.
Vayoshreshtha Samman- 2018:
What are they? They are National Awards for Senior Citizens. They were recently presented by the President to eminent senior citizens and institutions in recognition of their service towards the cause of elderly persons, especially indigent senior citizens.
- Vayoshreshtha Samman is a Scheme of National Awards instituted by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (D/o Social Justice & Empowerment) initially in 2005 and was upgraded to the status of National Awards in 2013, for institutions involved in rendering distinguished service for the cause of elderly persons especially indigent senior citizens and to eminent citizens in recognition of their service/achievements.
- Ministries of Social Justice & Empowerment, Health and Rural Development are running such useful schemes for the welfare of elderly persons.
- The awards are presented on 1st of October every year pursuant to the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly to observe the year 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons.