1. POLITY & CONSTITUTION
REMOVAL OF ARTICLE 370 AND 35A
The Centre decided to end the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370.
- President of India in “concurrence” with the “Jammu and Kashmir government” promulgated Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 which states that provisions of the Indian Constitution are applicable in the State.
- This effectively means that all the provisions that formed the basis of a separate Constitution for Jammu and Kashmir stand abrogated. With this, Article 35A is scrapped automatically.
- Along with this, a statutory resolution was approved by the Parliament which – invoking the authority that flows from the effects of Presidential Order – recommended that the President abrogate (much of) Article 370.
- Also, Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament. Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) was re-organised into two Union Territories – J&K division with a legislative assembly and the UT of Ladakh without having an assembly.
Article 370 and Article 35A – A brief background
- The peculiar position of Jammu and Kashmir was due to the circumstances in which the State acceded to India. The Government of India had declared that it was the people of the state of J&K, acting through their constituent assembly, who were to finally determine the constitution of the state and the jurisdiction of government of India.
- The applicability of the provisions of the Constitution regarding this State were accordingly, to be in nature of an interim arrangement. This was the substance of the provision embodied in Art. 370 of the Constitution of India.
- Art. 370 had “temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir” which gave special powers to the state allowing it to have its own Constitution.
- According to article 370, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws.
- Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which stemmed out of Article 370, gave powers to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to define permanent residents of the state, their special rights and privileges.
NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS (NRC)
The updated and final National Register of Citizens, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam has recently been released with over 19 lakh applicants having failed to make it to the list.
- The NRC has its roots in the Memorandum of Settlement or the Assam Accord signed between the Assam State Students Union and the Government of India in 1985.
- The accord was an outcome of the violent anti-migrant movement of the 1980s and contained various clauses to curb illegal migration.
- The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens. o Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported. However, nothing much happened over the decades.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a time-bound manner. Present exercise has been conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
What is NRC?
- The National Register of Citizens is a list of all the legal citizens of Assam, the only state with such a document.
- It is governed by the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 (amended in 2009) and a 2010 order of the Ministry of Home Affairs, published in the Gazette of India.
- It will include persons whose names appear in any of the electoral rolls upto the midnight of 24th March, 1971 or National Register of Citizens, 1951 and their descendants.
MORE JUDGES FOR SUPREME COURT
Parliament has recently passed the legislation to increase the sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court from 31 to 34 including the Chief Justice of India.
- Originally, under Article 124 of the Indian Constitution the strength of Supreme Court was fixed at eight (one chief justice and seven other judges).
- Article 124 (1) provides the power to the Parliament to increase the number of judges if it deems necessary.
- The Parliament through The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 increased strength of Supreme Court to ten.
- The Act was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges’ strength from 25 to 31.
2. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
US-CHINA TRADE WAR
Recently, US formally labelled China a currency manipulator, further escalating its trade war with China.
- It’s the first time that the US labelled a country a manipulator since the 1990s, when China was also the target.
- The move came after the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank of China, allowed the yuan to suddenly depreciate relative to the dollar by 1.9 per cent — one of the biggest single-day falls.
- It signalled that the ongoing trade war between the world’s two biggest economies was now turning into a currency war as well.
Background of US-China trade war
- The US and China trade is heavily skewed in favour of the China. In 2018, the US had a trade deficit of $419.2 billion with China.
- In August 2017, US President Trump asked US Trade Representative to begin an investigation for possible tariff hikes on Chinese goods.
o It promptly started in January 2018, when Trump imposed a 30 per cent tariff on foreign solar panels and 20 per cent tariff on the first 1.2 million washing machines imported during the year. Both the moves primarily hurt Chinese interests.
o US imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items from China and it responded by imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of American imports.
NO FIRST USE DOCTRINE
Union Defence Minister recently said that India reserves the right to change its policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU), based on future circumstances which has been the cornerstone of India’s nuclear weapons policy for decades.
- “No First Use” is a pledge taken by a country to not use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless a rival nation resorts to such an action first.
- These policies are generally declaratory in nature and there is no diplomatic arrangement in place to either verify or enforce it. Those that have pledged can still use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.
- India adopted the “No First Use” policy after the Pokhran II tests in 1998, asserting that its newly acquired arsenal will be used only as a deterrent.
MEKONG GANGA COOPERATION
Why in news? Recently, the 10th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (10th MGC MM) was held in Bangkok, Thailand.
About Mekong- Ganga Cooperation
- It is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries, namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam for cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport and communications.
- It was launched in 2000 at Vientiane, Laos.
- Both the Ganga and the Mekong are civilizational rivers, and the MGC initiative aims to facilitate closer contacts among the people inhabiting these two major river basins.
Recently, India was invited as a special guest for attending the 45th G-7 Summit in France.
- It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975.
- Initially it was formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues, which included battling a global oil crisis.
- The G7 or ‘Group of Seven’ are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States which discuss issues such as global economic governance, international security, and energy policy.
- The G7 was known as the ‘G8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997. The Group returned to being called G7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
HONG KONG PROTESTS
- Hong Kong has seen months of protests sparked by a controversial plan to allow extraditions to mainland China.
- The existing extradition law states that it does not apply to “the Central People’s Government or the government of any other part of the People’s Republic of China”.
- But the proposed changes would have allowed for the Hong Kong government to consider requests from any country for extradition of criminal suspects, even countries with which it doesn’t have an extradition treaty and including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
- These protests have brought into focus the “one country, two systems” deal under which Hong Kong is governed.
- When Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 by Britain, both sides agreed that the city would remain a semi-autonomous region under the Basic Law, its mini-Constitution, for 50 years.
DIRECT TAX CODE
Recently, the draft legislation of the new Direct Tax Code (DTC) was submitted by the task force, headed by Akhilesh Ranjan, to the Government of India.
- The Direct Tax Code (DTC) is an attempt by the Government of India to simplify the direct tax laws in India.
o It will revise, consolidate and simplify the structure of direct tax laws in India into a single legislation. o When implemented, it will replace the Income-tax Act, 1961 (ITA), and other direct tax legislations like the Wealth Tax Act, 1957.
Key Provisions of the draft DTC
- Rejig of tax brackets- to widen them and which can bring a significant relief for the middle and upper middle class
o A common corporate rate of 25% will apply to both large local as well as foreign companies that are present in India without a subsidiary.
- Removal of Surcharges and Cesses- which are currently imposed above a certain income slab and for specific purposes.
- Negotiated Settlements- a new concept of settling disputes through mediation between the taxpayer and a collegium of officers. Here, the assessee will only have to pay the tax and interest and no penalty in case of a negotiated settlement.
- Assessment System- creation of an assessment unit to replace an assessing officer and a separate litigation unit. It has favoured jurisdiction-free, anonymous assessment by domain experts with the involvement of senior officials.
- Incentives for Start-Ups- by treating them differently from that of a normal company. It is proposed that the funds raised by the start-ups will not require any kind of scrutiny.
Recently government announced to merge 10 state-owned banks to create four large banks.
- Under the plan, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India will be merged with Punjab National Bank; Canara Bank with Syndicate Bank; Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank with Union Bank of India; and Allahabad Bank with Indian Bank.
- This merger would bring number of public schedule bank in India from 27 before 2017, to 12.
Benefits of Bank Merger
- Global Banks: Big Indian Banks can slowly and gradually transform themselves into global banks. With consolidation, the Indian banks will gain greater recognition and higher rating in the global market.
- Risk management and large loans: Merger will result in better NPA and Risk management. Also, Banks will not be reluctant to approve big loans to averse the risk.
- Customer service: Larger size of the Bank will help the merged banks to offer more products and services and help in integrated growth of the Banking sector.
- Human Resource: The wide disparities between the staff of various banks in their service conditions and monetary benefits will narrow down.
SOCIAL STOCK EXCHANGE
In budget session, Finance Minister proposed a social stock exchange (SSE) under the regulatory ambit of the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to support social enterprises and non-profits in raising funds.
About Social Stock Exchange (SSE)
- It is an electronic fundraising platform that allows investors to buy shares in a social enterprise that has been vetted by the exchange.
o Social enterprises, volunteer groups and welfare organisations will be listed on this platform so that they can raise capital.
o Social enterprise is a revenue-generating business whose primary objective is to achieve a social objective, for example, providing healthcare or clean energy.
- It will act as crowd-sourcing platforms for fundraising by non-profit entities aimed at impact investment and transparency.
- Globally, at least ten SSEs have been set up, including in Canada, the UK, Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Austria and Jamaica.
CHIT FUNDS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019
The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.
- The Bill makes amendments to the Chit Funds Act, 1982, to facilitate orderly growth of the Chit Funds sector and remove bottlenecks being faced by the Chit Funds industry, thereby enabling greater financial access of people to other financial products.
Provisions under Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- Additional names for chit funds: The 1982 Act specifies various names which may be used to refer to a chit fund. These include chit, chit fund, and kuri. The Bill additionally inserts ‘fraternity fund’ and ‘rotating savings and credit institution’ to this list.
- Presence of subscribers through videoconferencing: The Act specifies that a chit will be drawn in the presence of at least two subscribers. The Bill seeks to allow these subscribers to join via video-conferencing.
- Increase in foreman’s commission: Under the 1982 Act, the ‘foreman’ is responsible for managing the chit fund. He is entitled to a maximum commission of 5% of the chit amount. The Bill seeks to increase the commission to 7%.
CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 2019
President gave assent to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
- The new Act, which would replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is not an amendment to the 1986 law, but a new consumer protection law.
Key Features of the Act
- A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multilevel marketing or direct selling.
- The Act defines “consumer rights” as the right o to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property. o to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services;
o to be assured of access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices.
o It also includes the right to be heard and to be assured that the consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forum; and
o the right to consumer awareness.
- Central Consumer Protection Authority will be set up to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights. It can issue safety notices for goods and services, order refunds, recall goods and rule against misleading advertisements.
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at the District, State and National levels for adjudicating consumer complaints. Appeals from the District and State Commissions will be heard at the next level and from the National Commission by the Supreme Court.
- Consumer Protection Councils will be established at the district, state and national levels to render advise on consumer protection.
SULPHUR DIOXIDE EMMISSIONS
- A report by Greenpeace has found that India is the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the world, contributing more than 15 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.
- The largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.
- In combination with other pollutants and moisture, Sulphur dioxide is responsible for the formation of high resistance, visible corrosion layers on all except most noble metals (e.g. silver and gold) and alloys.
- The SO2 gas contributes to the formation of acid rain. It is also a precursor for sulphate aerosols, a type of suspended particle that can affect the properties of clouds and also lead to outbreaks of haze and other health and climate problems.
INTERLINKING OF RIVERS
Recently, the Union Government has approved the Kosi-Mechi river-interlinking project.
- It is the country’s second major river interlinking project after Ken-Betwa of Madhya Pradesh.
- This interlinking project envisages diversion of part of surplus water of Kosi river through existing Hanuman Nagar barrage to the Mahananda basin.
- Mechi is an important tributary of Mahananda river. Its basin however remains mostly deficient in providing adequate water for irrigation.
- It is a green project as it involves no displacement of population and there is no acquisition of any forestland.
o No National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary, Ecosensitive areas, etc. are present within 10 km radius of the project.
Recently, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has declared Ocean Energy as renewable energy.
- The Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India subject to suitable technological evolution.
o The total identified potential of tidal energy is about 12,455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.
o The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW.
- A variety of different technologies are currently under development throughout the world to harness this energy in all its forms. In this direction, the Government has been trying to utilize the Ocean Energy Capacity.
Recently, The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued operational guidelines for the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM Kusum) Scheme.
- As a part of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), India has committed to increase the share of installed capacity of electric power from non-fossil-fuel sources to 40% by 2030.
- Large Scale Solar power generation projects are being installed to achieve the target of 100 GW of Solar Power generation by 2022.
- It has also been planned to simultaneously develop decentralized Solar energy and other renewable energy generation Plants of capacity up to 2 MW which could be connected directly to existing sub-stations of Distribution Company.
- Such plants near these sub-stations may be developed, preferably by farmers, giving them an opportunity to increase their income by utilising their barren and uncultivable land for solar or other renewable energy based power plants.
- Besides, developing decentralized renewable power, it is planned to replace Agriculture Diesel pumps with Solar Water pumps and Solarise Grid connected Agriculture pumps.
The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The Indian star tortoise, smooth-coated otters and Asian small-clawed otters was upgraded to CITES Appendix I giving it the highest level of international protection from commercial trade.
- The Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) and 18 species of sharks and rays was included for the first time under Appendix II.
o The gecko is used in Chinese traditional medicine and traded throughout south-east Asia in dried form or preserved in alcohol.
- Giraffes have been accorded protection from unregulated trade i.e. it is placed in Appendix II of CITES.
Recently, Gogabeel, has been declared as Bihar’s first ‘Community Reserve’.
- It is an ox-bow lake in Bihar’s Katihar district.
- It is formed from the flow of the rivers Mahananda and Kankhar in the north and the Ganga in the south and east.
- Among the threatened species, the Lesser Adjutant falls in the vulnerable category; and three species, the Black-necked Stork, White Ibis and White-eyed Pochard are under the near threatened category.
What is a Community Reserve?
- It is a category of protected areas which was introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002.
- It is an inhabited area which typically act as buffer zone to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India. Parts of the land in this area are privately owned.
- Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities.
5. SOCIAL ISSUES
NATIONAL MEDICAL COMMISSION ACT 2019
Recently, President gave assent to National Medical Commission (NMC) Act 2019.
About NMC Act
- The Act seeks to proposes to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and replace the Medical Council of India (MCI).
- Constitution of the National Medical Commission: The Act sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC). Also, within three years of the passage of the Act, state governments will establish State Medical Councils at the state level.
- Medical Advisory Council: Under the Act, the central government will constitute a Medical Advisory Council.
- Autonomous boards: The Act sets up autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC. Each autonomous board will consist of a President and four members, appointed by the central government.
INSTITUTE OF EMINENCE
The Union government granted the institute of eminence (IoE) status to 14 more higher educational institutions taking the list to 20.
About Institute of Eminence
- Aim: The aim of the scheme is to bring higher educational institutions selected as IoEs in top 500 of world ranking in the next 10 years and in top 100 eventually overtime.
- Objective: Objective is to provide world class teaching and research facilities to Indian students within the country and enhance general level of education of the country
- Financial support: Each Public Institution selected as IoE will be provided financial assistance up to Rs. 1000 Cr over a period of five years.
MENTAL HEALTHCARE ACT, 2017
- Rights of person with mental Illness- every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government at an affordable price, free for homeless and BPL. • Advance Directives: given by mentally ill person regarding her treatment and who shall be her nominated representative
- Central and State Mental Health Authority: These bodies are required to regulate various provisions relating to mental health establishments, professionals, law enforcement officials and other issues.
- Suicide is decriminalized- person attempting suicide will be treated as mentally ill and will not be treated under IPC
- Mental Health Review Commission: will be a quasi-judicial body that will periodically review the use of and the procedure for making advance directives and advice the government on protection of the rights of mentally ill persons.
- Mental Health Review Board to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and manage advance directives.
- A person with mental illness shall not be subjected to electroconvulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia.
Recently, new menhirs were found on the Pothamala hills on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
More about news
- Pothamala hills houses hundreds of cobbled stone structures, pointing to the existence of a structured graveyard of a prehistoric civilisation dating back around 3,000 years.
- These menhirs are the largest-ever recorded Menhirs in Kerala.
- Megalithic culture refers to the cultural remains found in the megaliths and from the habitation sites associated with them.
- In the Indian subcontinent, Megaliths occur in the far south, the Deccan plateau, the Vindhyan Arravalli ranges and the north west.
PASHMINA PRODUCTS RECEIVE BIS CERTIFICATION
- Recently, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products to certify its purity.
- The Changthangi or Pashmina goat is a special breed of goat indigenous to Ladakh.
- They are raised for ultra-fine cashmere wool (which grows as a thick, warm undercoat on the goat), known as Pashmina once woven.
SAN SADHAN HACKATHON
- It was jointly organised recently by Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 91springboard.
- It is an initiative under Swachh Bharat Mission to make smarter, more accessible and easier to use toilets for Persons with Disabilities.
- Scientists have spotted the helium hydride molecule (HeH+) for the first time in space.
- The helium hydride ion or hydridohelium (1+) ion is a cation (positively charged ion) with chemical formula HeH+. It consists of a helium atom bonded to a hydrogen atom, with one electron removed, it can also be viewed as protonated helium.
Ministry of Textiles signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 16 State governments on to offer skill training programmes under the Samarth scheme (Scheme for capacity building in the textiles sector).
NATIONAL URBAN LIVELIHOODS MISSION (DAY-NULM)
Deendayan Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), a flagship mission under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has been conferred the prestigious SKOCH Governance Gold Award for its Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access (PAiSA).
Scientists from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology have developed a concept named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician. About Ramanujan Machine
- It is an algorithm that reflects the way Srinivasa Ramanujan worked during his brief life.
- The purpose of the machine is to come up with conjectures in the form of mathematical formulas that we can analyze.
Palani Panchamirtham: Tamil Nadu
Mizo Puanchei: Mizoram
- Recently, the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Ministry of Agriculture have launched a mobile application MEGHDOOT that will provide location, crop and livestock-specific weather-based agro advisories to farmers in local languages.
- The app would provide information in the form of images, maps and pictures. It has been integrated with WhatsApp and Facebook as well to help farmers share advisories among themselves.
- The draft enabling framework for regulatory sandbox was recently released by the RBI while the decision to setup a regulatory sandbox had been announced earlier.
- A sandbox is a closed testing environment designed for experimenting safely with web or software projects.
- The concept is being used in the digital economy arena, in the form of regulatory sandboxes, which are testing grounds for new business models that are not protected by current regulation, or supervised by regulatory institutions.
PRADHAN MANTRI LAGHU VYAPARI MAAN-DHAN YOJANA
Recently, Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced the new scheme named “Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari MaanDhan Yojana” (PMLVM) which offers pension coverage to the trading community.
Union HRD Minister launched the National Mission to improve Learning Outcomes at the Elementary level- NISHTHA, National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement.
- Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development launched one of world’s largest Integrated Online Junction for School Education ‘Shagun’.
- It is an over-arching initiative to improve school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Government of India and all States and Union Territories.
- Science and Engineering Research Board has developed a newly approved scheme SUPRA (Scientific and Useful Profound Research Advancement).
o It has sole objective of funding exploration of new scientific and engineering breakthroughs with global impact with long-term impact on our fundamental scientific understanding.
o It is designed to attract high quality research proposals consisting of new hypotheses or challenge existing ones and provide ‘out-of-box’ solutions.