17th and 18th July 2021 The Hindu Newspaper

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  1. Who among the following acts as the ‘Residual Legatee’ at the Central level?

a.   Prime Minister

b.   Cabinet Secretary

c.   Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister

d.   Secretary to Ministry of Home Affairs

Explanation :- The chief secretary is the Residual Legatee at the state level, while the Cabinet Secretary does not perform this legal function at the Centre. At the central level It Is performed by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister who Is the administrative head of the PM office.

2)Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct with respect to Article 311

1) Under the article, no civil servant can be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry.

2) Under the article, the safeguard of an inquiry provided to a Civil servant does not apply in cases of conviction on a criminal charge.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

3)Which of the following countries is first to harvest from Space Rice Cultivation?

a.   South Korea

b.   China

c.   Russia

d.   Japan

4) Mangerbani Cave Paintings are found in which of the following states?

a.   Punjab

b.   Gujarat

c.   Haryana

d.   Madhya Pradesh

2) Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct with respect to Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECI)

  1. It is the only Central Public Sector undertaking dedicated to the solar energy sector under the administrative control of Ministry of Power.

2. It is the single largest Green Financier in the country.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

6)Consider the following statements with respect to Non-Fungible Tokens

1. It is a digital asset that represents real-world object and allows people to trade the ownership of digital entities.

2.Each non-fungible token is uniquely identifiable and are not interchangeable in nature.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific Facts

Complete Picture of India – Afghanistan ties

As the Taliban push ahead with military offensives across Afghanistan, preparing to take over after the exit of US and NATO forces, India faces a situation in which it may lose all its stakes.

India-Afghan ties

  • After a break between 1996 and 2001, when India joined the world in shunning the previous Taliban regime (only Pakistan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia kept ties).
  • One-way New Delhi re-established ties with the country in the two decades after the 9/11 attacks was to pour in development assistance, under the protective umbrella of the US presence.
  • India built vital roads, dams, electricity transmission lines and substations, schools and hospitals, etc. India’s development assistance is now estimated to be worth well over $3 billion.
  • And unlike in other countries where India’s infrastructure projects have barely got off the ground or are mired in the host nation’s politics, it has delivered in Afghanistan.

A soft corner

  • Afghanistan is vital to India’s strategic interests in the region.
  • It is also perhaps the only SAARC nation whose people have much affection for India.
  • Taliban takeover would mean a reversal of nearly 20 years of rebuilding a relationship that goes back centuries.

Projects across the country

[1] SALMA DAM

  • Already, there has been fighting in the area where one of India’s high-visibility projects is located — the 42MW Salma Dam in Herat province.
  • The hydropower and irrigation project, completed against many odds and inaugurated in 2016, is known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam.
  • In the past few weeks, the Taliban have mounted attacks in nearby places, killing several security personnel.
  • The Taliban claim the area around the dam is now under their control.

[2] ZARANJ-DELARAM HIGHWAY

  • The other high-profile project was the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram highway built by the Border Roads Organisation. Zaranj is located close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran.
  • With Pakistan denying India overland access for trade with Afghanistan, the highway is of strategic importance to New Delhi, as it provides an alternative route into landlocked Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port.

[3] AFGHAN PARLIAMENT

  • The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at $90 million.
  • It was opened in 2015; PM Modi inaugurated the building.
  • A block in the building is named after former PM AB Vajpayee.

[4] STOR PALACE

  • In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and PM Modi inaugurated the restored Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century.
  • It is famous for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country.

[5] POWER INFRA

  • Other Indian projects in Afghanistan include the rebuilding of power infrastructure such as the 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province to the north of Kabul.
  • Indian contractors and workers also restored telecommunications infrastructure in many provinces.

[6] HEALTH INFRA

  • India has reconstructed a children’s hospital it had helped build in Kabul in 1972 —named Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health in 1985 — that was in shambles after the war.
  • ‘Indian Medical Missions’ have held free consultation camps in several areas.
  • Thousands who lost their limbs after stepping on mines left over from the war have been fitted with the Jaipur Foot.
  • India has also built clinics in the border provinces of Badakhshan, Balkh, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nooristan, Paktia and Paktika.

[7] TRANSPORTATION

  • According to the MEA, India gifted 400 buses and 200 mini-buses for urban transportation, 105 utility vehicles for municipalities, 285 military vehicles for the Afghan Army.
  • It also gave three Air India aircraft to Ariana, the Afghan national carrier, when it was restarting operations.

[8] OTHER PROJECTS

  • India has contributed desks and benches for schools, and built solar panels in remote villages, and Sulabh toilet blocks in Kabul.
  • New Delhi has also played a role in building capacity, with vocational training institutes, scholarships to Afghan students, mentoring programmes in the civil service, and training for doctors and others.

Various ongoing project

  • India had concluded with Afghanistan an agreement for the construction of the Shatoot Dam in Kabul district, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents.
  • Last year, India pledged $1 million for another Aga Khan heritage project, the restoration of the Bala Hissar Fort south of Kabul, whose origins go back to the 6th century.
  • Bala Hissar went on to become a significant Mughal fort, parts of it were rebuilt by Jahangir, and it was used as a residence by Shah Jahan.

Bilateral trade

  • Despite the denial of an overland route by Pakistan, the India-Afghanistan trade has grown with the establishment in 2017 of an air freight corridor.
  • In 2019-20, bilateral trade crossed $1.3 billion.
  • The balance of trade is heavily tilted — exports from India are worth approximately $900 million, while Afghanistan’s exports to India are about $500 million.
  • Afghan exports are mainly fresh and dried fruit.
  • Some of this comes overland through the Wagah border; Pakistan has permitted Afghan trade with India through its territory.
  • Indian exports to Afghanistan take place mainly through government-to-government contracts with Indian companies.
  • Exports include pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, computers and related materials, cement, and sugar.
  • Trade through Chabahar started in 2017 but is restricted by the absence of connectivity from the port to the Afghan border.

2) A New Quad group for Afghanistan announced :- The US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity, the Biden administration has said.

“The parties consider long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan critical to regional connectivity and agree that peace and regional connectivity are mutually reinforcing,”

Located at the heart of the historic Silk Road, Afghanistan was long the crossroads of commerce between Asian countries connecting them to Europe, and enhancing religious, cultural, and commercial contacts.

The formation of the new quad group is important amid China’s desire to extend its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) to Afghanistan.

The BRI, a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013, aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

3) Kisan Sarathi Platform :-

In order to facilitate farmers to get ‘right information at right time’ in their desired language, a digital platform namely ‘Kisan Sarathi’ was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Kisan Sarathi

  • This digital platform empowers farmers with the technological interventions to reach farmers in remote areas.
  • Through this platform, the farmers can interact and avail personalized advisories on agriculture and allied areas directly from the respective scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs).
  • Using this platform, farmers can get information about crop and crop production, among other things that will help them in improving the quantity of their produce.
  • Farmers will be able to get information about good crop practices, the right amount of products and many other basic things.

4) Phosphine in Venus :- Phosphine is a colorless, flammable, and explosive gas at ambient temperature that has the odor of garlic or decaying fish. Small amounts occur naturally from the break down of organic matter. It is slightly soluble in water.

5) All about NCBS and recent Controversy :-

National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, Karnataka, is a research centre specialising in biological research. It is a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research under the Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India. 

Why in Controversy Recently :- A research paper by scientists at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), among India’s top research institutes and part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, announcing a breakthrough in the field of chemical biology, and published in the prestigious Nature Chemical Biology (NCB), has been retracted as its key findings were manipulated.

On October 5, 2020, the paper “Discovery of iron-sensing bacterial riboswitches” was published online in the NCB. The publication was announced in an NCBS press release on October 6, 2020. Its listed authors were Siladitya Bandyopadhyay, Susmitnarayan Chaudhury, Dolly Mehta and Arati Ramesh, the last of whom was the group leader and is faculty at the NCBS.

The finding was significant as it announced the discovery of a new class of RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules that could detect iron. Thus far, it was thought, iron could be detected only by specialised protein. RNA molecules, it has emerged, could detect nickel, cobalt, manganese but being able to detect iron, a key element that’s vital for governing many biochemical processes, opened the possibility of designing RNA-based sensors. The discovery was widely covered in several media publications.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 01 :- A panoramic look at our three decades of economic reforms

Context

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the economic reforms launched by our then finance minister Manmohan Singh in his budget speech of 24 July 1991.

After and before reform comparison

  •  The average annual growth over the past three decades has been 5.8% per annum.
  • It is slightly higher than 5.6% in the decade before 1991.
  • Clearly, our growth acceleration was not sustained, despite a pick-up in the pace of reforms.
  • However, on a long-term comparison, the economy did better than its 4.1% average of the first 40 years of independence.
  • But if we compare our first four decades with the pre-1947 phase, and on that score, we saw a massive growth improvement.

Impact of reforms

  • Their biggest contribution was a change in India’s economic paradigm.
  • Every government after 1991 has embraced the philosophy of liberalization and privatization that those reforms initiated and has tried to outdo the previous regimes on that.
  • Still, 30 years on, the situation for most of our population remains unchanged.
  • The reforms created a class of rich entrepreneurs and a small but vocal middle class in urban areas.
  • But it also contributed to widening inequality, which has worsened after 1991 and is now at its worst level since 1947 on almost all dimensions.
  • The widening of disparities also occurred between urban and rural areas, between laggard states and developed ones.
  • Disparities have increased even further in terms of access to health and education and several other human- development indicators.
  • On most of these, be it education, health, women’s workforce participation and hunger, we remain at the bottom of any global chart of comparison.
  • The logic of reforms meant that expenditure on welfare and investment in human development were not a policy priority.
  • The situation is no different on employment, with data suggesting an absolute decline on this count and a historic rise in unemployment rates.
  • An official consumption survey that was not accepted about two years ago by the Centre had shown, a decline in real consumption and a rise in poverty.
  • Rising informalization and contractualization of the country’s workforce has been a factor in the worsening of most workers’ working conditions.

Why reforms failed to deliver

  • In many ways, they are no different from our pre-reform economic policies, all of which were supply- side responses.
  • The reforms attempted to use the private sector for the task through a liberalized regulatory framework and business-friendly fiscal and monetary policies.
  • But an absence of concern for distributional inequities and aggregate-demand management has continued as the defining feature of our economic policymaking.
  • The consequences of supply-side- biased reforms will show up in a further worsening of income distribution and eventually slow growth down.

Conclusion

Things have taken a turn for the worse with the pandemic. The problem this time is not like the 1991 crisis. What is needed at this point is a fundamental shift in the way economic policy is designed, keeping people and workers at the centre of the exercise.

Editorial 02 :- Curbs on Mastercard

The Reserve Bank of India has so far barred three foreign card payment network companies — Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club — from taking new customers on board over the issue of storing data in India.

Will existing card users and banks be affected?

No. Existing customers using a credit card or a debit card with Mastercard, American Express or Diners Club as the payment network can continue using these. Banks and non-banking finance companies that were planning to use these payment networks won’t be able to use these platforms to enrol new customers until the RBI lifts the ban.

What do the RBI guidelines stipulate?

By the RBI circular on Storage of Payment System Data dated April 6, 2018, all system providers were directed to ensure that within six months the entire data (full end-to-end transaction details, information collected or carried or processed as part of the message or payment instruction) relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India. They were also required to report compliance to the RBI and submit a board-approved system audit report conducted by a CERT-In empanelled auditor within the timelines specified. However, credit and card firms with global operations have been resisting the move, citing costs, security risk, lack of clarity, timeline, and the possibility of data localisation demand from other countries.

What is the need for local data storage? :- Experts believe that customer privacy and national security are genuine concerns that need to be taken seriously. However, many also believe that data localisation rules are too stringent and they could simply be used by governments as tools of economic protectionism.

Explained: Shreya Singhal case that struck down Section 66A of IT Act

Six years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Supreme Court earlier this month termed its continued use by law enforcement agencies of various states as “a shocking state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.

What did Section 66A do?

  • Introduced in 2008, the amendment to the IT Act, 2000, gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts, and was passed without discussion in Parliament.
  • Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
  • It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
  • In 2015, the apex court struck down the law in the landmark case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, calling it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”, and thus expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet.

Why was the law criticized?

  • The problem was with the vagueness about what is “offensive”.
  • The word having a very wide connotation was open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
  • It was seen as subjective, and what might have been innocuous for one person, could lead to a complaint from someone else and, consequently, an arrest arbitrarily.

So, how did 66A come under the Supreme Court’s scrutiny?

  • The first petition came up in the court following the arrest of two girls in Maharashtra by Thane Police in November 2012 over a Facebook post.
  • The girls had made comments on the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of a political leader.
  • The arrests triggered outrage from all quarters over the manner in which the cyber law was used.
  • The petition was filed by Shreya Singhal, then a 21-year-old law student.

What were the grounds for the challenge?

  • The objective behind the 2008 amendment was to prevent the misuse of information technology, particularly through social media.
  • The petitioners argued that Section 66A came with extremely wide parameters, which allowed whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies.
  • Most of the terms used in the section had not been specifically defined under the Act.
  • The law was a potential tool to gag legitimate free speech online and to curtail freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution, going far beyond the ambit of “reasonable restrictions” on that freedom.

What did the Supreme Court decide?

  • In March 2015, a bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman ruled in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India declared Section 66A unconstitutional for “being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).”
  • Article 19(1)(a) gives people the right to speech and expression whereas 19(2) accords the state the power to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of this right.
  • The decision was considered a landmark judicial pushback against state encroachment on the freedom of speech and expression.
  • The bench also read down Section 79– now at the centre of the ongoing “intermediary liability” battle between the Centre and micro-blogging platform Twitter– defining key rules for the relationship between governments and commercial internet platforms.
  • Section 79 says that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.

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