Daily Current Affairs, 9th August 2018
Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Election of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, constitutional provisions in this regard, role and significance of the Deputy Chairman.
Context: Harivansh Narayan Singh has been elected as the new deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
The Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha:
The Deputy Chairman is a constitutional position created under Article 89 of the Constitution, which specifies that Rajya Sabha shall choose one of its MPs to be the Deputy Chairman as often as the position becomes vacant. The office becomes vacant either by resignation or removal from office or when the Rajya Sabha member’s term gets over.
Election of Deputy Chairman:
- The election of a Deputy Chairman shall be held on such date as the Chairman may fix and the Secretary-General shall send to every member notice of this date.
- At any time before noon on the day- preceding the date so fixed, any member may give notice in writing addressed to the Secretary-General of a motion that another member be chosen as the Deputy Chairman of the Council, and the notice shall be seconded by a third member and shall be accompanied by a statement by the member whose name is proposed in the notice that he is willing to serve as Deputy Chairman if elected: Provided that a member shall not propose or second more than one motion.
- A member in whose name a motion stands in the list of business may, when called, move the motion or not move the motion, in which case he shall confine himself to a mere statement to that effect.
- The motions which have been moved and duly seconded shall be put one by one in the order in which they have been moved and decided if necessary by division. If any motion is carried, the person presiding shall, without putting later motions, declare that the member proposed in the motion which has been carried, has been chosen as the Deputy Chairman of the Council.
Powers of Deputy Chairman etc. while presiding:
The Deputy Chairman or other member competent to preside over a sitting of the Council under the Constitution or these rules shall, when so presiding, have the same power as the Chairman when presiding over the Council and all references to the Chairman in these rules shall in these circumstances be deemed to be, references to any such person so presiding.
Significance of the position:
The Deputy Chair is the one position that is elected solely by members of Rajya Sabha. It is a critical position not just because s/he steps in when there is a vacancy in the office of Chairperson/Vice President but also because s/he plays a critical role in ensuring the smooth running of the House.
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
SC to constitute panel to look into issues in prisons across country
What to study?
- For Prelims: Particulars of the panel.
- For Mains: Prison reforms- need, challenges and solutions.
Context: The Supreme Court has proposed to constitute a committee under the chairmanship of its retired judge to look into the problems in jails.
The committee’s duties will include looking into the problems of jails across the country including overcrowding and women prisoners languishing in cells for years. After studying the problems, the committee would be required to suggest measures to deal with them.
The move is based on a petition in the court relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country. The court had earlier taken strong exception to overcrowded jails across the country and said prisoners also have human rights and cannot be kept in jail like ‘animals’.
Need for reforms:
- NHRC figures show that prisoners cut off from family and friends had a 50% more chance of committing suicide than those outside. The average suicide rate among the general public for this period is 11 (per 100,000) whereas the average suicide rate in prison is 16.9 (per 100,000). In other words, the average suicide rate in prisons is over 50% more than in normal conditions.
- Indian prisons face three long-standing structural constraints: overcrowding, thanks to a high percentage of undertrials in the prison population, understaffing and underfunding. The inevitable outcome is sub-human living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between the inmates and jail authorities.
- Besides, while 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
Indian jails have often been dubbed as a university for grooming criminals due to pathetic and inhumane conditions. In the absence of a robust Whistleblower Protection Act and structural changes to address the issues of overcrowding and understaffing, India’s prisons will continue to be heaven for politically connected criminals and hell for socio-economically disadvantaged undertrials, some regular media uproars notwithstanding.
Fundamental rights of prisoners cannot be placed in the back-burner and the Centre and the states need to be more pro-active in sensitising staff about the need to treat prisoners as humanely as possible.
Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
Niryat Mitra mobile app
What to study?
- For Prelims: Details about the app.
- For Mains: e- governance- significance and potential.
Context: Ministry of Commerce & Industry has launched Niryat Mitra – mobile App.
About Niryat Mitra:
- The app has been developed by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
- It provides wide range of information required to undertake international trade right from the policy provisions for export and import, applicable GST rate, available export incentives, tariff, preferential tariff, market access requirements – SPS and TBT measures. All the information is available at tariff line.
- The app works internally to map the ITC HS code of other countries with that of India and provides all the required data without the users bothering about the HS code of any country. Presently the app comes with the data of 87 countries.
Significance of the App:
- The exports are showing good sign and registering increase at the rate of 20%. The government plans to further increase the ease of doing business. Therefore, the app will provide big opportunity to everybody and help promote export interests in the country.
- The Human Resource tool of the app enables candidates with interest in the international trade sector to register and apply against the vacancies arising in the sector. Companies can also search the profiles of the candidates and engage them.
- ITC (HS) codesare better known as Indian Trade Clarification (ITC) and are based on Harmonized System (HS) of Coding. It was adopted in India for import-export operations. Indian custom uses an eight digit ITC (HS) code to suit the national trade requirements.
- Any changes or formulation or addition of new codes in ITC-HS Codes are carried out by DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade).
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
What to study?
- For Prelims: RCEP- features and members.
- For Mains: Significance, potential and challenges, India’s concerns and ways to address them.
Context: The Centre has constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu to decide on 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.
- It has been mandated to find way forward from current deadlock over issues of joining RCEP or not.
- It will also help fine tune India’s strategy for the upcoming RCEP ministerial meet in August 2018 in Singapore.
What’s the issue with India?
There’s a Mounting pressure on New Delhi to give an early consent to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. India has, however, refused to take responsibility for the long-winding negotiations and has stressed that it is important to address the sensitivities and aspirations of all participants.
- India is not comfortable with the ambitious dismantling of import tariffs being pushed for by the ASEAN, especially as it would also mean allowing duty-free access to Chinese goods. The Indian industry does not want the country to commit to high levels of liberalisation as it fears that it could get out-priced in the domestic market.
- India has also stressed on the need for other RCEP members to deliver in the area of services to arrive at an agreement. So far proposals in the area of services, including on work-visas for movement of professionals, have been disappointing with no member ready to make meaningful contributions.
What you need to know about RCEP?
RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
Why has it assumed so much significance in recent times?
When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people. India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
Why is China so much interested in this deal?
China, using its influence as the global leader in goods exports, has been deploying quiet diplomacy to ensure consistent focus on attempts to obtain commitments on elimination of tariffs on most traded goods. China is keen on an agreement on a ‘high level’ of tariff liberalisation — eliminating duties on as much as 92% of traded products. This deal helps China fulfil its objectives.
China is also speeding up the RCEP negotiation process and striving for an early agreement, so as to contribute to realising the greater common goal of building the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). The FTAAP spans 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries, including the U.S. and China, but does not cover India. With the U.S. withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership — a mega-regional FTA not involving India and China — that similarly aimed to help establish the FTAAP, the path is clear for China to push ahead with this strategic initiative to its advantage through the RCEP.
India’s FTA strategy has to be guided by the ‘Make In India’ initiative that aims to boost domestic manufacturing and job creation within India. In return for greater market access in goods, India, with its large pool of skilled workers and professionals, should try to use the RCEP to gain on the services side, by securing commitments from the other nations to mutually ease norms on movement of such people across borders for short-term work.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
World Network of Biosphere Reserves
What to study?
For Prelims: Khangchendzonga BR- key facts, UNESCO MAB programme, BRs in India.
Context: The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has become the 11th Biosphere Reserve from India to be included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).
This decision was taken at the recently concluded 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held at Palembang, Indonesia.
India has 18 Biosphere Reserves. With the inclusion of Khangchendzonga, the number of internationally designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) has become 11, with 7 Biosphere Reserves being domestic Biosphere Reserves.
- Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
- MAB combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable.
- Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts more than 600 sites in 122 countries all over the world, including 20 transboundary sites.
- The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
- Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
Key facts on Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:
- Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve located in Sikkim, India. The park is named after the mountain Kangchenjunga, which with a height of 8,586 metres (28,169 ft), is the third-highest peak in the world.
- The Biosphere Reserve is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level. It includes a range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, which support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.
- The core zone – Khangchendzonga National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category.
BIOSPHERE RESERVES- DEFINITION:
A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognized, within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. The biosphere reserve should fulfill the following three objectives:
- In-situ conservation of biodiversity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes.
- Contribution to sustainable economic development of the human population living within and around the Biosphere Reserve.
- Provide facilities for long term ecological studies, environmental education and training and research and monitoring.
In order to fulfill the above objectives, the Biosphere Reserves are classified into zones like the core area, buffer area. The system of functions is prescribed for each zone.
Facts for Prelims:
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2018:
Context: The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is being observed across the world on August 9, 2018.
Aim: To strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, education, health and social development.
Theme: ‘Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement’.
Significance of the day: The United Nations General Assembly on December 23, 1994 proclaimed 9 August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The date marks the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 1982.