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Current Events 6 January 2017

 

NEWS

6 JANUARY 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II: POLITY – INTER-STATE RIVERS

TN staring at acute drinking water shortage

2.

GS II: POLITY - STATES

Govt’s ‘feedback unit’ under CBI lens

3.

GS II: POLITY - JUDICIARY

SC asked to resolve conflict over ‘rape’ definition in two laws

4.

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

How will EC decide on the party symbol row in SP?

5.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-PAKISTAN

With gifts and goodwill, 218 fishermen return from Pakistan

6.

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

In poll run-up, no bets on budget

7.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL - ASIA

Sri Lanka task force seeks ‘hybrid’ war crimes court

8.

GS III: ECONOMY

New norms likely for top PSU bank posts

9.

GS III: ECONOMY - SECTORS

Centre lifts ‘green tape’ threat on new mines

10.

GS III: ECONOMY - INFRASTRUCTURE

Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil

11.

GS III: ENERGY

Israel harnessing sunshine with world’s tallest solar tower


GS II: POLITY – INTER-STATE RIVERS

TN staring at acute drinking water shortage

  • Having experienced the worst annual rainfall in 2016, Tamil Nadu is on the threshold of an acute shortage of drinking water.
  • According to a senior Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage (TWAD) Board official, southern districts, especially those depending upon the Vaigai dam, are going to be hit very badly.
  • With major dams in State having abysmal storage, districts are looking to Kerala and Karnataka for relief.
  • The Tamil Nadu authorities are contemplating approaching the Kerala government for taking water from the dead storage.
  • The situation with regard to schemes drawing water from the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers is not as depressing. Even with the 11 per cent storage in the Mettur dam, about 875 MLD, accounting for 86 per cent of the designed capacity, is being supplied.
  • Yet, another Board official says that the situation can be managed during summer if 5,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) of water is released from the dam for 10 days.
  • It is in this context that the State authorities are hoping that the Karnataka government would comply with the latest order of the Supreme Court on the release of 2,000 cusecs.

GS II: POLITY - STATES

Govt’s ‘feedback unit’ under CBI lens

  • The CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry to look into the setting up of a special ‘feedback’ unit in Sept. 2015, under the Directorate of Vigilance, by the Delhi government without necessary approvals from the Lieutenant-Governor.
  • The office of former L-G Najeeb Jung referred to the CBI, seven matters of alleged irregularity by the Delhi government which had come to light in the Shunglu panel report.
  • Mr. Jung had formed a three-member committee chaired by former Comptroller and Auditor General V. K. Shunglu on August 30, 2016. The other members were ex-chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami and ex-chief vigilance commissioner Pradeep Kumar.
  • The panel’s mandate was to examine “irregularities” and “infirmities” in over 400 files on decisions taken by the AAP government. It had submitted its report to the L-G office in November 2016.
  • The special feedback unit, said sources, was allegedly created without the knowledge of senior members of the governments bureaucratic hierarchy. It worked directly under the supervision of the Chief Minister’s office.
  • The ‘feedback unit’ was tasked with “gathering relevant information and actionable feedback” about officials and departments under the Delhi government. It was also tasked to do trap cases to catch bureaucrats taking bribe red handed.
  • The CBI had recently registered a case into the appointment of Nikunj Aggarwal as OSD to Health Minister Satyendra Jain, besides alleged irregularities in the functioning of the Delhi Wakf Board.


GS II: POLITY - JUDICIARY

SC asked to resolve conflict over ‘rape’ definition in two laws

  • A chink in the colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) condoning sexual intercourse and exploitation of a 15-year-old child ‘wife’ has been brought to the Supreme Court’s attention.
  • An exception to Section 375 (rape) in the IPC allows a man to go scot-free despite having sex with his 15-year-old ‘wife’.
  • This exception ensures that he will not be charged with rape even though child marriage is a crime.
  • Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, through his organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, appealed to the Supreme Court for help to end this “statutorily-backed” crime against children.
  • The organisation said an estimated 47 per cent of children in India were married off before they turned 18, according to the United Nations.
  • The illegal practice was a serious deterrence to the physical, social, psychological and moral well-being of children.
  • The more recent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012 qualifies those aged below 18 as ‘children’.
  • POCSO has specific penal provisions against ‘penetrative sexual assault’ and ‘aggressive penetrative sexual assault’ on children below 18.
  • Mr. Satyarthi wants the apex court to clear the anomaly in law. The IPC terms children as those aged under 15 years while POCSO terms children as those aged under 18.
  • The apex court directed the government to address the issue within four months.
  • The Bench asked Mr. Satyarthi to approach the court on the same grounds for immediate resolution if he is not satisfied with the government’s response.

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

How will EC decide on the party symbol row in SP?

  • Rival factions are staking claim to the name and symbol of the Samajwadi Party.
  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols.
  • Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, it can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol. The EC is the only authority to decide issues on such a dispute or a merger. The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.

Q.  What aspects does the EC consider before recognising one group as the official party?

  • The ECI primarily ascertains the support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing.

Q.  How does the ECI establish a claim of majority in these wings?

  • The Commission examines the party’s constitution and its list of office-bearers submitted when the party was united. It identifies the apex committee(s) in the organisation and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants. For the legislative wing, the party goes by the number of MPs and MLAs in the rival camps. It may consider affidavits filed by these members to ascertain where they stand.

Q.  What ruling will the EC give after a definite finding?

  • The ECI may decide the dispute in favour of one faction by holding that it commands enough support in its organisational and legislative wings to be entitled to the name and symbol of the recognised party. It may permit the other group to register itself as a separate political party.

Q.  What happens when there is no certainty about the majority of either faction?

  • Where the party is either vertically divided or it is not possible to say with certainty which group has a majority, the EC may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the groups to register themselves with new names or add prefixes or suffixes to the party’s existing names.

Q.  Can the dispute relating to SP be decided immediately, given that elections are round the corner?

  • The EC may take time to gather enough material to decide the question. For immediate electoral purposes, it may freeze the party’s symbol and advise the groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols.

Q.  What happens when rival factions settle their differences in future?

  • If reunited, the claimants may approach the EC again and seek to be recognised as a unified party. The EC is also empowered to recognise mergers of groups into one entity. It may restore the symbol and name of the original party.

 

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-PAKISTAN

With gifts and goodwill, 218 fishermen return from Pakistan

  • Pakistan has released 218 Indian fishermen detained in the past 12 months. Senior officials said that this is a goodwill gesture aimed at confidence building measures.
  • This is the second batch of Indian fishermen released by Pakistan in less than two weeks.
  • Pakistan had earlier released 220 Indian fishermen on December 25, 2016.
  • The fishermen were provided with Rs 500 each and gifts by non-government Edhi Foundation volunteers.
  • Pakistan and India relations nosedived following attacks in Pathankot and Uri. India had accused Pakistan based terrorists of carrying out the attack.
  • Pakistani authorities have promised to investigate the matter.

 

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

In poll run-up, no bets on budget

  • Leaders of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, JD (U), RJD and the DMK met the Election Commission and sought a recommendation to the Central government to defer the Union Budget presentation in the wake of coming Assembly elections in five States.
  • The Budget session is to start on February 1.
  • Rajya Sabha Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded that the Budget be presented after March 8.
  • The Centre could announce populist measures and under such circumstances, a just and fair election could not be conducted, he said.
  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi said that a representation for deferment of the Budget was being examined and a decision on the issue would be taken in due course.
  • Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had also urged the Commisssion to recommend that the Budget presentation be deferred, pointing out that during the 2012 Assembly polls it was presented after the elections.
  • However, the Central government has maintained that there is no need to postpone the Budget presentation, saying that otherwise developmental works in other States would suffer.


GS II: INTERNATIONAL - ASIA

Sri Lanka task force seeks ‘hybrid’ war crimes court

  • In January 2016, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed the Consultation Task Force (CTF), to seek national views on reconciliation mechanisms.
  • It comprises civil society members such as activists and academicians, and held island-wide consultations on the Sri Lankan government’s proposed reconciliation mechanisms following the UNHRC resolution in 2015.
  • Sri Lanka, which co-sponsored the resolution, proposed four mechanisms for reconciliation

1.      Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence

2.      Office of Missing Persons

3.      Office of Reparations

4.      Judicial Mechanism with Special Counsel.

  • Releasing its report on January 3, based on public hearings and discussions across Sri Lanka, the team recommended a “hybrid court” with both local and foreign judges to prosecute war crimes.
  • The report comes days after Prime Minister Wickremesinghe made a public statement ruling out foreign judges, a contentious issue among nationalist forces among the majority Sinhalese.
  • President Maithripala Sirisena too has opposed international judges, raising questions on whether the government will muster enough political will to move ahead on reconciliation, amid domestic political compulsions.
  • Addressing a press conference, CTF secretary Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said it was crucial that international legal experts participate, because the existing local mechanisms lacked the trust of the people and competency.
  • “Many people who participated in the consultations demanded confidence-building measures to bridge the trust deficit,” he said, pointing the need for constitutional reforms, de-militarisation, return of private land occupied by armed forces, livelihood opportunities and to repeal Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which the state continues to invoke.
  • The consultations, according to CTF member and researcher Mirak Raheem, threw light on an “array of perpetrators”, and victims among both the Tamils and Sinhalese.
  • Perpetrators ranged from the state, its armed forces, the police, the Janata Vimukthi Perumuna — a leftist nationalist party involved in two armed uprisings — to various Tamil militant groups, including the LTTE, and members of the Indian Peace Keeping Force — a military contingent deployed for a peace keeping operation in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990.


GS III: ECONOMY

New norms likely for top PSU bank posts

  • The Banks’ Board Bureau is working to ensure that leadership roles in state-run banks would only be given to those with at least six years of service left, in order to ensure accountability of their actions, the organisation’s Chairman Vinod Rai said.
  • Mr. Rai also said that public sector bank employees’ compensations would become more competitive in 2017-18, with increases in the variable pay component.
  • The former Comptroller General of Accounts said that the main principle behind banking management should be transparency in the accounting process and transparency in the decision making process.
  • Mr. Rai added that these incentives would apply to positions across all levels, not just to the middle and senior management.
  • He also said that the Banks Board Bureau is in the process of filling up vacancies in the top management of the public sector banks.
  • Mr. Rai said that the Corporate Debt Restructuring Cell was created with noble intentions in the early 2000s, but it soon found itself unable to cope with the high volume of stressed assets in the system.
  • He said that while there were innumerable cases where project reports were inflated, balance sheets were manipulated and funds siphoned off, there was an equal number of cases where irresponsible or lazy lending took place, where due diligence was not performed and supervision was perfunctory.

GS III: ECONOMY - SECTORS

Centre lifts ‘green tape’ threat on new mines

  • With more than 300 proposed mines facing the prospect of becoming non-starters due to their inability to secure environmental clearances before a January 11, 2017, deadline to register mining leases, the Centre has stepped in to give a fresh lease of life for such mines by allowing States to grant such leases irrespective of the status of the environmental clearance.
  • However, miners have been prohibited from initiating operations at such mines till the time they secure the requisite green clearances, as per an order notified by the Mines Ministry.
  • Since the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act of 2015 requires all mining rights to be auctioned, all miners who had secured a Letter of Intent for operating a mine from a State government before January 12, 2015, were given a two-year window to execute and register their mining leases.


GS III: ECONOMY - INFRASTRUCTURE

Export infrastructure scheme on the anvil

  • The Centre will tie up with the States to soon roll-out a new scheme called ‘TIES’ — or Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme to boost export infrastructure, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
  • She said the States must develop their own export strategy in alignment with the national foreign trade policy, as well as enhance co-operation with Central agencies to set up common facilities for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling.
  • S.C. Ralhan, president of the apex exporters’ body Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said: “Indian roads carry nearly 65 per cent cargo against the global trend where railway is the major contributor. Therefore the States should focus on improving the last mile connectivity of major exporting hubs to Inland Container Depot/Ports. Quality of roads including their load bearing capacity may be upgraded for smooth transit of export goods.”
  • Pointing out that about 150 Sanitary & Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures (or norms on food safety and animal & plant health standards) and a similar number of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) notifications (including mandatory and voluntary standards) were being issued by World Trade Organisation-member countries each month, Ms. Sitharaman said: “Around 50-60 per cent of these measures have the potential to impact India’s trade.”
  • So far only 17 States (of the 29 States and seven Union Territories in the country) have prepared their export strategy, Ms Sitharaman said and told the remaining States/UTs to expedite their export strategies.
  • On services, she said IT and ITeS had an overwhelming predominance in India’s services exports but were largely restricted to the U.S. and EU markets and are therefore vulnerable to changes imposed by these two trading blocs.
  • “There is a need to diversify our services exports. Areas like medical tourism, nursing and healthcare, education, audio-visual media have an excellent potential that can be harnessed. For this, we need to develop the right competencies like language skills for the East and North East Asian markets,” she said.
  • Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to soon bring out a Logistics Performance Index to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics.
  • Measures in the pipeline include expediting the proposal for a north east corridor to improve connectivity with south east Asian countries and exports to that region.


GS III: ENERGY

Israel harnessing sunshine with world’s tallest solar tower

  • With Israel traditionally running its economy on fossil fuels, renewable energy has long been hobbled by bureaucracy and a lack of incentives.
  • But the country is starting to make an effort, setting a goal of generating 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current 2.5 per cent.
  • The Ashalim project, deep in the Negev desert, is made up of three plots, with a fourth planned for the future, each with a different solar technology.
  • The centrepiece is a solar tower that will be the world’s tallest at 250 m.
  • Solar towers use a method differing from the more common photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.
  • Instead, towers use a solar-thermal method — Thousands of mirrors focus the sun’s rays onto the tower, heating a boiler that creates steam to spin a turbine and generate electricity.
  • Encircling the Ashalim tower are 50,000 mirrors, known as heliostats, in a shimmering blanket of glass over the desert.


 

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