21st and 22nd July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Questions :-

Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission is announced by which of the following space agencies?

a.   National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

b.   European Space Agency (ESA)

c.   Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

d.   Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

2)Consider the following statements with respective to Adjournment Motion

1. It can be introduced either in Loksabha or in Rajya Sabha to draw the attention on urgent public importance.

2. The discussion on this motion should last for not less than two hours and thirty minutes.

3. It should not revive discussion on a matter that has been discussed in the same session of the house.

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

a.   1 & 2 only

b.   2 only

c.   1 & 3 only

d.   2 & 3 only

3)With respect to Pegasus, sometimes seen in the news recently, consider the following statements:

1. It is a spyware that infects devices and spies on the victim by transferring data to a master server in an unauthorised manner.

2. It was built and marketed by the Israel based NSO Group.

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 News :

1) Conjugal rights before Supreme Court :- 

What is the provision under challenge?

Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which deals with restitution of conjugal rights.

What are conjugal rights?

Conjugal rights are rights created by marriage, i.e. the right of the husband or the wife to the society of the other spouse.

The law recognizes these rights— both in personal laws dealing with marriage, divorce etc and in criminal law requiring payment of maintenance and alimony to a spouse.

The concept of restitution of conjugal rights is codified in Hindu personal law now, but has colonial origins and has genesis in ecclesiastical law.

Similar provisions exist in Muslim personal law as well as the Divorce Act, 1869, which governs Christian family law.

Incidentally, in 1970, the United Kingdom repealed the law on restitution of conjugal rights.

How can a case under Section 9 be filed?

If a spouse refuses cohabitation, the other spouse can move the family court seeking a decree for cohabitation.

If the order of the court is not complied with, the court can attach property.

However, the decision can be appealed before a High Court and the Supreme Court.

Normally, when a spouse files for divorce unilaterally, the other spouse files for restitution of conjugal rights if he or she is not in agreement with the divorce.

The provision is seen to be an intervention through legislation to strike a conciliatory note between sparring spouses.

Why has the law being challenged?

The law is being challenged now on the main grounds that is violative of the fundamental right to privacy.

The plea argues that court-mandated restitution of conjugal rights amounted to a “coercive action” on the part of the state, which violates one’s sexual and decisional autonomy, and right to privacy and dignity.

2)What is a Bad Bank?

A bad bank conveys the impression that it will function as a bank but has bad assets to start with.

Technically, it is an asset reconstruction company (ARC) or an asset management company that takes over the bad loans of commercial banks, manages them and finally recovers the money over a period of time.

Such a bank is not involved in lending and taking deposits, but helps commercial banks clean up their balance sheets and resolve bad loans.

The takeover of bad loans is normally below the book value of the loan and the bad bank tries to recover as much as possible subsequently.

3)Near Earth asteroid : For landing on Moon

NEA Scout is one of several payloads that will hitch a ride on Artemis I, which is expected to be launched in November.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed test-flight of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket.

Under the Artemis programme, NASA has aimed to land the first woman on the Moon in 2024 and also establish sustainable lunar exploration programs by 2030.

What is NEA Scout?

Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout, is a small spacecraft, about the size of a big shoebox. Its main mission is to fly by and collect data from a near-Earth asteroid.

It will also be America’s first interplanetary mission using special solar sail propulsion.

4) What is P/E ratio

  • The price-to-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is the ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its per-share earnings (EPS).
  • The price-to-earnings ratio is also sometimes known as the price multiple or the earnings multiple.
  • To determine the P/E value, one simply must divide the current stock price by the earnings per share (EPS).

P/E Ratio=Earnings per share / Market value per share​

5) SC quashes some provisions of 97th Amendment dealing with co-operative societies :-

In a major boost for federalism, the Supreme Court has struck down parts of the 97th Constitution amendment which shrank the exclusive authority of States over their cooperative societies.

Background

  • The Gujarat High Court in 2013 had held that the amendment, to the extent it introduced conditions for state laws on co-operative societies, was liable to be struck down.
  • This amendment was passed without the ratification of one-half of the state legislatures as mandated by Article 368(2) of the Constitution.
  • As per Article 368(2), ratification of one-half of state legislatures is required for an amendment that makes changes to an entry in the state list.
  • Since co-operative societies was a state subject as per Entry 32 in List II of the Seventh Schedule, the amendment introducing Part IX B required ratification as per Article 368(2), the High Court ruled.

What was 97th Amendment about?

  • The 97th constitutional amendment, which dealt with issues related to the effective management of cooperative societies in the country.
  • It was passed by Parliament in December 2011 and had come into effect from February 15, 2012.
  • Part IXB, introduced in the Constitution through the 97th Amendment of 2012, dictated the terms for running cooperative societies.
  • The provisions in the amendment went to the extent of determining the number of directors a society should have or their length of tenure and even the necessary expertise.

What is the recent Judgement?

  • In a majority judgment, the supreme court has held that cooperative societies come under the “exclusive legislative power” of State legislatures.
  • The judgment may be significant in the background of fears voiced by the States whether the new Central Ministry of Cooperation would disempower them.
  • The change in the Constitution has amended Article 19(1)(c) to give protection to the cooperatives and inserted Article 43 B and Part IX B, relating to them.
  • The Centre has contended that the provision does not denude the States of its power to enact laws with regard to cooperatives.

Exceptions to the amendment

  • The Supreme court did not strike down the portions of Part IXB of the Amendment concerning “Multi-State Cooperative Societies” due to the lack of ratification.
  • When it comes to Multi-State Co-operative Societies (MSCS) with objects not confined to one State, the legislative power would be that of the Union of India.

What was the dissenting opinion?

  • In his dissent, Justice K.M. Joseph said the doctrine of severability would not operate to distinguish between single-State cooperatives and MSCS.
  • The judge said the entire Part IXB should be struck down on the ground of absence of ratification.

6) Doctrine of Severability

  • Article 13 deals with laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights.
  • It also deals with all laws enforced in India, before the commencement of the Constitution.
  • The doctrine of Severability in Article 13 can be understood in two dimensions
  1. Article 13(1) validates all Pre-Constitutional Law and thereby declares that all pre-Constitutional laws in force before the commencement of the Indian Constitution shall be void if they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights.
  2. Article 13(2) mandates the State that it shall not make any law that takes away or abridges the fundamental rights conferred in Part III of the Indian Constitution and any law contraventions this clause shall be void.
  • This doctrine widens the scope for Judicial Review on unconstitutional parts of any law.

7) What is Privilege Motion :-

A spokesperson of the non-ruling political party has said that he will move a privilege motion against the Health Minister for misleading Parliament that no deaths were reported specifically because of shortage of oxygen.

Breach of Privilege

  • Parliamentary privilege refers to the right and immunity enjoyed by legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties.
  • The powers, privileges and immunities of either House of the Indian Parliament and of its Members and committees are laid down in Article 105 of the Constitution.
  • Article 194 deals with the powers, privileges and immunities of the State Legislatures, their Members and their committees.

What is a privilege motion?

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

What are the rules governing privilege?

  • Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.
  • It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  • The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House.
  • Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

What is the role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha Chair?

  • The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
  • The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
  • If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

What is the privileges committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths.
  • A report is then presented to the House for its consideration. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report.
  • The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.
  • A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, which consists of 10 members.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.With reference to the Parliament of India, which of the following Parliamentary Committees scrutinizes and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules, by-laws etc. conferred by the constitution of delegated by the Parliament are being properly exercised by the Executive within the scope of such delegation?

(a) Committee on Government Assurances

(b) Committee on Subordinate Legislation

(c) Rules Committee

(d) Business Advisory Committee

8) What is Monkey B virus? :-

China has reported the first human death case with the Monkey B virus (BV).

What is Monkey B virus?

  • The virus, initially isolated in 1932, is an alphaherpesvirus enzootic in macaques of the genus Macaca.
  • B virus is the only identified old-world-monkey herpes virus that displays severe pathogenicity in humans.

How is it transmitted?

  • The infection can be transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily secretions of monkeys and has a fatality rate of 70 per cent to 80 per cent.
  • According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Macaque monkeys commonly have this virus, and it can be found in their saliva, feces, urine, or brain or spinal cord tissue.
  • The virus may also be found in cells coming from an infected monkey in a lab. B virus can survive for hours on surfaces, particularly when moist.

When can a human get infected with B virus?

  • Humans can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms typically start within one month of being exposed to B virus but could appear in as little as three to seven days.
  • The first indications of B virus infection are typically flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue and headache.
  • Following this, a person may develop small blisters in the wound or area on the body that came in contact with the monkey.
  • Some other symptoms of the infection include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and hiccups.
  • As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to and causes inflammation (swelling) of the brain and spinal cord, leading to neurologic and inflammatory symptoms.

Is there a vaccine against B virus?

  • Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection.

Who are at higher risk for infection?

  • The virus might pose a potential threat to laboratory workers, veterinarians, and others who may be exposed to monkeys or their specimens.
  • To date, only one case has been documented of an infected person spreading the B virus to another person.

9) One District One Focus Product Scheme :-

The One District One Focus Product (ODOFP) programme cover products of agriculture and allied sectors for 728 districts of the country.

ODOFP programme

  • The ODOFP programme cover products of agriculture and allied sectors for 728 districts of the country.
  • The products have been identified from agricultural, horticultural, animal, poultry, milk, fisheries, aquaculture, marine sectors across the country.
  • These identified products will be supported under the PM-FME scheme of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, which provides incentives to promoters and micro-enterprises
  • This scheme is being implemented for a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25.
  • The scheme adopts One District One Product (ODOP) approach to reap the benefits of scale in terms of procurement of inputs, availing common services and marketing of products.

About ODOP

  • The ODOP scheme aims to identify one product per district based on the potential and strength of a district and national priorities.
  • A cluster for that product will be developed in the district and market linkage will be provided for that.
  • It is operationally merged with ‘Districts as Export Hub’ initiative implemented by the Director-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Department of Commerce.
  • Under the initial phase of the ODOP programme, 106 Products have been identified from 103 districts across 27 States.

10 ) SMILE Scheme for persons engaged in the act of begging :-

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a scheme “SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”.

SMILE Scheme

  • This scheme is sub-scheme under the ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’.
  • It covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging.
  • The focus of the scheme is extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages and so on.
  • The scheme would be implemented with the support of State/UT Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), institutions and others.
  • Scheme provides for the use of the existing shelter homes available with the State/UT Governments and Urban local bodies for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of Begging.
  • In case of non-availability of existing shelter homes, new dedicated shelter homes are to be set up by the implementing agencies.

11) Harela Festival :-

Villagers across Uttarakhand celebrated Harela, a festival of greenery, peace, prosperity and environmental conservation.

Harela Festival

  • Harela means ‘day of green’ and is celebrated in the month of Shravan (the fifth month of the Hindu lunar calendar) to worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
  • People across Uttarakhand, especially the Kumaun region, associate greenery with prosperity.
  • The seeds of five to seven types of crops —  maize, til (sesame), urad (black gram), mustard, oats —  are sown in donas (bowl made of leaves) or ringalare (hill bamboo baskets) nine days before the festival.
  • They are harvested on the ninth day and distributed to neighbours, friends and relatives.
  • The flourish of the crops symbolizes prosperity in the year ahead.
  • People make clay statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, known as Dikare, and worship them a day before the festival.
  • Harela is also linked to the Barahnaza system (12 types of crops), a crop diversification technique followed in the region.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following pairs:
Tradition: State
1. Chapchar Kut: festival Mizoram
2. Khongjom Parba ballad: Manipur
3. Thang Ta dance: Sikkim
Which of the pairs given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2
(c) 3 only
(d) 2 and 3

Editorial of the Day

Editorial 01 : India’s equity market bubble may burst soon :-

Context

Even as the real economy returns to the doldrums after being hit by the second wave of COVID-19 infections, the continuing bull run in India’s equity market in the April-June quarter has baffled many observers.

V-shaped recovery of equity market

  • The benchmark BSE Sensex had nosedived to below 28,000 in March-April 2020, following the nationwide lockdown.
  • The equity market posted a sharp V-shaped recovery in 2020-21.
  • The Sensex surged beyond 50,000 in February 2021 and is currently closing on the 53,000 level.

Factors suggesting bubble in equity market

  • There was an 81%-plus growth in the Sensex between April 2020 and March 2021 in the backdrop of real GDP growth plummeting to -7.3% during the same period.
  • While output contraction had reversed from the third quarter of 2020-21, the inflation rate also rose and remained way ahead of the real GDP growth rate in the last two quarters (Chart 1).
  • It is difficult to find any rationality behind the skyrocketing BSE Sensex in the context of such stagflation in the real economy.
  • Just like the fall in the equity prices was driven by the exit of foreign portfolio investors (FPI), the return of massive FPI inflows has driven the Indian equity bubble since then (Chart 2).
  • Net FPI inflows clocked an unprecedented ₹2.74 lakh crore in 2020-21, the previous high being ₹1.4 lakh crore in 2012-13.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s annual report (2020-21) to state stated that: “This order of asset price inflation in the context of the estimated 8 per cent contraction in GDP in 2020-21 poses the risk of a bubble.”

Global factors

  • The global liquidity glut, following the expansionary, easy money policies adopted by the fiscal and monetary authorities of the OECD and G20 countries, has led to equity price inflation in several markets driven by FPIs, especially in Asia.
  • Following cues from the U.S. and the U.K., Asian equity markets in Singapore, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong are currently witnessing price-earnings (P/E) ratios significantly above their historic means.
  • The BSE Sensex’s P/E ratio of 32 in end-June 2021 is way above its historic mean of around 20.

What could burst the bubble?

  • Change in monetary policy: With COVID-19 vaccination and economic recovery proceeding apace in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, fiscal and monetary policy stances will change soon.
  • Exit of FPIs: Once the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks start raising interest rates, the direction of FPI flows will invariably change bringing about corrections in equity markets across Asia.
  • India remains particularly vulnerable to a major correction in the equity market because of two reasons.
  • Low pace of vaccination: The pace of COVID-19 vaccination in India, given the vast population, lags behind most large countries.
  • In the absence of a substantial increase in the vaccination budget and procurement, large segments of the Indian population will remain vulnerable to a potential third wave of COVID-19, with its attendant deleterious impact on the real economy.
  • Weak fiscal stimulus: India’s economic recovery from the recession will remain constrained by the weak fiscal stimulus that has been delivered by the Central government.
  • Data from the IMF clearly show that while the total global stimulus consisted of additional public spending or revenue foregone measures amounting to 7.4% of global GDP, India’s fiscal measures amounted to 3.3% of GDP only.

Consider the question “What are the factors driving equity market boom globally? What are the factors that could threaten such boom with a major correction?” 

Conclusion

With all agencies, including the RBI, downsizing India’s growth projections for 2021-22, it remains to be seen how long India’s equity bubble lasts.

Editorial 02 : A cardinal omission in the COVID-19 package :-

On July 8, 2021, the Union government announced the “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package: Phase II”. But it lacks provision for the medical workforce.

Objectives of the package

  • The stated purpose of the package is to boost health infrastructure and prepare for a possible third wave of COVID-19.
  • There is plan to increase COVID-19 beds, improve the oxygen availability and supply, create buffer stocks of essential medicines; purchase equipment and strengthen paediatric beds.

What is lacking in the package?

  • Workforce shortage: The package barely has any attention on improving the availability of health human resources.
  • As reported in rural health statistics and the national health profile there are vacancies for staff in government health facilities, which range from 30% to 80% depending upon the sub-group of medical officers, specialist doctors to nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and radiographers, amongst others.
  • Interstate variation: In addition, there are wide inter-State variations, with States that have poor health indicators with the highest vacancies.

Way forward

  • Package for filling the existing vacancies: The COVID-19 package II needs to be urgently supplemented by another plan and a similar financial package (with shared Union and State government funding) to fill the existing vacancies of health staff at all levels. 
  • An objective approach to assess the mid-term health human resource needs could be the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS).
  • IPHS prescribes the human resources and infrastructure needed to make various types of government health facilities functional.
  • The pandemic should be used as an opportunity to prepare India’s health system for the future.
  • Scrutiny of the progress on policy decision: The progress on key policy decisions, for the last few years, to strengthen India’s health system, including those in India’s national health policy of 2017, need to be objectively scrutinised.
  • These two sets of policy decisions should be reviewed and progress monitored, through a meeting of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, of which the Health Ministers of the States are members.

Conclusion

India’s health system will not benefit from ad hoc and a patchwork of one or other small packages. It essentially needs some transformational changes.

Editorial 03 : ‘Open talks’ with the Taliban is India’s strategic necessity :-

Context

With over a third of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts under Taliban control, the talk-to-the-Taliban option is indeed the best of the many less than perfect options available to India.

India need a reset in its Afghanistan policy

  • India has ‘temporarily’ closed its consulate in Kandahar.
  • This follows the decision to suspend operations in the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Herat.
  • India’s decision to partially “withdraw” from Afghanistan shows that betting only on the government in Kabul was a big mistake,
  • It also shows that India realises the threat the Taliban poses to Indian assets and presence in Afghanistan.
  • To safeguard its civilian assets there as well as to stay relevant in the unfolding ‘great game’ in and around Afghanistan, India must fundamentally reset its Afghanistan policy.
  • India must, in its own national interest, begin ‘open talks’ with the Taliban before it is too late.
  • Open dialogue with the Taliban should no longer be a taboo; it is a strategic necessity.

Reason for avoiding open talks with Taliban

  • There are at least five possible reasons why India appears to want to keep the Taliban engagement slow and behind closed doors.
  • First, if India chooses to engage the Taliban directly, it could make Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, to look towards China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for national security and personal political survival.
  • Second, India is also faced with the dilemma of who to talk to within the Taliban given that it is hardly a monolith.
  • Third, given the global opprobrium that Taliban faced in its earlier avatar and the lack of evidence about whether the outfit is a changed lot today, New Delhi might not want to court the Taliban so soon.
  • Fourth, there is little clarity about what the Taliban’s real intentions are going forward and what they would do after ascending to power in Kabul.
  • Fifth, it would not be totally unreasonable to consider the possibility of Pakistan acting out against India in Kashmir if India were to establish deeper links with the Taliban.

Reasons India should engage with the Taliban openly

  • Wide international recognition: Whether we like it or not, the Taliban, is going to be part of the political scheme of things in Afghanistan, and unlike in 1996, a large number of players in the international community are going to recognise/negotiate/do business with the Taliban.
  • Countering Pakistan: The Taliban today is looking for regional and global partners for recognition and legitimacy especially in the neighbourhood.
  • So the less proactive the Indian engagement with the Taliban, the stronger Pakistan-Taliban relations would become.
  • A worldly-wise and internationally-exposed Taliban 2.0 would develop its own agency and sovereign claims including perhaps calling into question the legitimacy of the Durand Line separating Pakistan and Afghanistan, something Pakistan was always concerned about. T
  • The Taliban would want to hedge their bets on how far to listen to Pakistan.
  • That is precisely when New Delhi should engage the Taliban.
  • Security of civilian assets: India needs to court all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban if it wants to ensure its security of its civilian assets there.
  • It makes neither strategic nor economic sense to withdraw from Afghanistan after spending over $3 billion, something the Government seems to be prepared to do
  • Being a part of Afghanistan’s future course: If India is not proactive in Afghanistan at least now, late as it is, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests there.
  • Continental grand strategy:  Backchannel talks with Pakistan and a consequent ceasefire on the Line of Control, political dialogue with the mainstream Kashmiri leadership, secret parleys with Taliban all indicate that India is opening up its congested north-western frontier.
  •  Except for the strategic foray into the Indo-Pacific, India today is strategically boxed in the region and it must break out of it. Afghanistan could provide, if not immediately, India with such a way out.

Consider the question ” India’s Afghan policy is at a major crossroads; to safeguard its civilian assets there as well as to stay relevant in the unfolding ‘great game’ in and around Afghanistan, New Delhi must fundamentally reset its Afghanistan policy. Comment.” 

Conclusion

In the end, India’s engagement with the Taliban may or may not achieve much, but non-engagement will definitely hurt Indian interests.

Durand Line

  • Durand Line, boundary established in the Hindu Kush in 1893 running through the tribal lands between Afghanistan and British India, marking their respective spheres of influence.
  • In modern times it has marked the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • The acceptance of this line—which was named for Sir Mortimer Durand, who induced ʿAbdor Raḥmān Khān, amir of Afghanistan, to agree to a boundary—may be said to have settled the Indo-Afghan frontier problem for the rest of the British period.

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