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THE HINDU CURRENT AFFAIRS 20TH DECEMBER 2019

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Q.1 Which of the following states is the first to approve a sewage and waste water policy?

A. Maharashtra

B. Tamil Nadu

C. Rajasthan

D. West Bengal

 

Q.2 Appointment and removal of Chairperson of the State Public Service Commission is done respectively by

A. Governor, Chief Minister

B. Governor, President

C. Chief Minister and President

D. Governor only

 

Q.3 Which of the following constitutional bodies looks into the matters of Anglo Indians in India?

A. Ministry of External Affairs

B. National Commission for Scheduled Castes

C. National Commission for Backward Classes

D. Ministry of Tourism

 

 

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2019

NEWS:Two persons were killed in police firing in Mangaluru on Thursday as protesters across the country took to the streets against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), which in combination could potentially introduce a religious test for citizenship in India.

Police in the coastal city of Mangaluru lathi-charged and later opened fire at protesters they claimed were trying to set fire to a police station and had targeted police personnel in Bunder area.

 

ABOUT CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

WHAT DOES THE ACT CONTAINS?

The ACT seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

The ACT says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.

The ACT shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

ACT has reduce the time period required for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for members of these communities.

MOTOR VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT

NEWS:The Punjab government on Thursday implemented the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, nearly three months after the law was passed by the central government.

ABOUT MOTOR VEHICLE AMENDMENTS ACT

  • Compensation for road accident victims: The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour.  The ACT defines golden hour as the time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury, during which the likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care is the highest.
  • Compulsory insurance: The ACT requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.  It will be utilised for: (i) treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme, (ii) compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident, (iii) compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and (iv) compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government.
  • Good samaritans: The ACT defines a good samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.  The assistance must have been (i) in good faith, (ii) voluntary, and (iii) without the expectation of any reward.  Such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in providing assistance to the victim.
  • Recall of vehicles: The ACT allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users.  The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to: (i) reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or (ii) replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.
  • National Transportation Policy: The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments.  The Policy will: (i) establish a planning framework for road transport, (ii) develop a framework for grant of permits, and (iii) specify priorities for the transport system, among other things.
  • Road Safety Board: The ACT provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification.  The Board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management including: (i) standards of motor vehicles, (ii) registration and licensing of vehicles, (iii) standards for road safety, and (iv) promotion of new vehicle technology.
  • Offences and penalties: The ACT increases penalties for several offences under the Act.  For example, the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.  If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both.  If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to one lakh rupees.  The central government may increase fines mentioned under the Act every year by up to 10%.
  • Taxi aggregators: The ACT defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services).  These aggregators will be issued licenses by state  Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

 

EX-INDRA

NEWS:The air force component of ‘Ex INDRA 19’, a joint exercise between India and Russia, successfully concluded on Thursday at the Air Force Station in Lohegaon in .

As part of the exercise, the Indian armed forces and their Russian counterparts undertook joint air, land and sea operations. The exercise was conducted simultaneously at Pune, Goa and Gwalior, a defence release said.

The exercise provided an opportunity to enhance the IAF’s operational capability, synergise joint operations and improve interoperability with Russian Federation Air Force to operate under the UN mandate.

 

 

METER TO MEASURE STRENGTH OF CONCRETE

NEWS:The Construction Engineering Research Foundation (PCERF) has developed what it claims is the country’s first indigenous Concrete Maturity Meter that determines the strength of concrete used in construction.

PCERF is a a non-profit organisation that works to introduce new and cost-effective technologies in the sector.

The Indian maturity meter will be able to measure the strength of concrete accurately at a lower cost, to the advantage of the construction sector. The equipment has been tested and is ready for commercial use

The device, which can be directly connected to mobile phones, has been specifically developed to suit the techniques and skills of end users in India.

Despite the importance of concrete in infrastructure construction, its in-place strength is often erroneously estimated by using the cumbersome and time-consuming ‘standard cube’ or cylindrical tests

The foreign-made maturity meter kit is available in the range of ₹3 lakh to ₹5 lakh, while the India-produced maturity meter kit is priced between ₹50,000 and ₹5 lakh, he said.

He said PCERF had recently filed a patent for the meter. The device will be presented at the 16th edition of an International Expo called ‘Constro 2020’ organised by PCERF, to be held next month.

 

MGNREGA

NEWS: Kerala is again stepping up pressure on the Centre to immediately release the ₹1,114 crore due to the State for the 12.98-lakh Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers that had been pending since July.

Minister for Local Self-Government A.C. Moideen has taken up the issue with Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar seeking his urgent intervention to clear the arrears.

As per the provisions of the Act, the unskilled workers engaged under the scheme are entitled to get their wages every fortnight, failing which they could initiate legal action for securing the dues. But quite often the disbursal of arrears gets delayed, mostly citing minor audit objections.

ABOUT MGNREGA

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005.

The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.

The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Govt of India is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments

Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.

Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.

Receipt of wages within fifteen days of work done.

 

INDUSTRIAL SECURITY ANNEX

NEWS: The Industrial Security Annex (ISA), signed between India and the U.S. at the second 2+2 dialogue in Washington, will open the door for U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector for several multi-billion dollar deals in the pipeline, including the one for 114 fighter jets.

With this, three of four foundational agreements are through. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) is still under negotiation as both sides try to iron out few reciprocal issues.

The ISA is a part of the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which India signed with the U.S. long back.

After decade-long negotiations, India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) in 2016 and third agreement COMCASA last year.

 

GANDHI PRIZE

NEWS:Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Thursday announced the setting up of a Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize while attending the second meeting of the National Committee for the Commemoration Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary, chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The only foreign Prime Minister to be a part of the committee, Mr. Costa said Portugal would launch the prize in order to promote Gandhi’s ideals, a Union Culture Ministry statement said.

Every year, the prize would be inspired by Gandhi’s thoughts and quotes, he said, adding that the first edition of the prize would be dedicated to animal welfare. Gandhi had said “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

 

ONE NATION ONE RATION CARD SCHEME

The Centre has designed a standard format for ration cards as it moves ahead with ‘one nation, one ration card’ initiative and has asked State governments to follow the pattern while issuing fresh ration cards.

Currently, the central government’s ambitious initiative is being implemented on a pilot basis in a cluster of six States. It wants to implement this facility across the country from June 1, 2020.

Under the initiative, eligible beneficiaries would be able to avail their entitled foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) from any Fair Price Shop in the country using the same ration card.

The Centre is now in the process of expanding these efforts into a nationwide portability network which is called the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.

It is scheduled to come into full effect by June 2020, after which a ration card holder can buy subsidised grain at any fair price shop in the country.

BENEFITS

  1. Migrant workers will have food security through out the nation.
  2. curb corruption and improve access and service quality by removing monopolies.
  3. faster implementation of initiatives to digitise and integrate the food storage and public distribution system.

 

FIRST EDITORIAL: NOT UNIMPEACHABLE

ISSUE: IMPEACHMENT OF TRUMP

United States President Donald Trump became only the third incumbent to get impeached by the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the House impeached him on two articles, one each for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The first article relates to Mr. Trump withholding $391 million in military aid and a White House meeting unless Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to investigate the business dealings of the family of Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden — in other words, a bid to discredit domestic rivals through foreign influence.

The second article relates to the charge that Mr. Trump obstructed the Congressional probe into abuse-of-power allegations by urging witnesses not to cooperate and asking federal government agencies to disregard subpoenas.

WILL HE BE IMPEACHED?

Given that a two-thirds majority, or 67 Senators, is required to convict and to remove Mr. Trump from office, and the chamber is split between 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats, an acquittal is expected.

EDITORIAL’S VIEW

The impeachment is a stain on his reputation and a historic rebuke that will never fade in the annals of infamy.

The impeachment will drive a deeper wedge between the two opposing political discourses of a polarised electorate.

The alternative route may well lead directly to a political purgatory for one of the world’s oldest democracies, and that is likely to hurt.

 

SECOND EDITORIAL: PROTEST AND ORDER

ISSUE: PROTESTS SHOULD NOT BE SUPRESSED

WHY IN NEWS?

The State-wide clamping of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are stark examples of the misuse of regulatory power to suppress the lawful exercise of constitutional rights.

EDITORIAL’S VIEW

The duty of the state to preserve public order should never extend to the suppression of political views contrary to those of the government.

As protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act escalate in several cities and towns, the invocation of Section 144 in a whole State does not seem to be in conformity to the general rule that such a restriction on fundamental freedoms should be “reasonable, least invasive and bona fide”.

Restrictions wider than necessary tend to suppress rather than regulate.

A widespread protest may indeed regress into violence, but “the perception of threat to public peace and tranquility should be real and not imaginary or a mere likely possibility,” the court observed, while examining the lawfulness of the police action on a gathering of peaceful protesters at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan in 2011.

CONCLUSION:

On the political side, India’s leadership will have to respond to the widespread public fears over the implementation of the new naturalisation norms. On the administrative side, however, the authorities should aim to facilitate the exercise of the people’s rights, rather than suppress them.

 

LEAD ARTICLE: IN THRALL TO ITS OWN VIOLENCE

ISSUE: NATURE OF THE SECOND MODI GOVERNMENT

After the 2019 Lok Sabha mandate, the composition and character of the Modi government stand changed. The new team has gone out of its way to convey a new sense of urgency to take up the old priorities. This clear-headedness has turned out to be a mixed blessing.

HIGH STATURE OF PRIME MINISTER

With the passing away of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in recent months, the 2019 government has apparently settled into a new working idiom, with a dangerous imbalance at the core of the Indian state.

The Prime Minister stands very tall, much taller than all his ministerial colleagues; with the possible exception of the Home Minister, no Cabinet colleague has the stature or the prestige to introduce a note of caution in the face of any proposed policy recklessness or political waywardness.

The option of conciliation invariably stands spurned. There is a new fascination for aggression, a new appetite for skirmishes and combats. And, this belligerence is deemed to be politically satisfying and electorally rewarding.

HOW MODI GOVERNMENT IS DIFFERENT FROM VAJPAYEE GOVERNMENT?

TOWARDS ACCOMMODATION: During Vajpayee government BJP was inclined to believe that while it was possible for a political party like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win a Lok Sabha majority without the Muslim vote, it would be unhelpful to try to govern the country without the cooperation and support of the largest minority.

In the Modi-Shah era, this preference for accommodation and partnership stands virtually abandoned. The tweaked proposition is: not only can the BJP win a majority without the Muslims’ vote, it can also govern without their support and can live without their trust or confidence or affection.

There is a calculated confidence that any group , however unhappy or large, can be tamed. The post-Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir is cited as a satisfying and successful application of this no-nonsense, no-weakness, no-accommodation approach.

TOWARDS PROTESTS: On the other hand, any protest or resistance in the streets against the government’s policies or politics is branded as inspired by vested interests, or worse, instigated by Pakistan or by ‘urban naxals.’ Any resistance is seized upon as an excuse for further state violence.

TOWARDS MANAGEMENT OF ECONOMY: Vajpayee government managed the economy well despite American sanctions.

This fascination for violence, aggression, bullying and intimidation has had a particularly telling effect on the government’s management of the national economy.

PROMOTING VIOLENCE

During the first Modi government, there was an eager promotion of violence in words; verbal aggression was encouraged not just on social media or in television studios, but it was approvingly looked upon as a sine qua non to tell the whole world that the ancien regime had truly been put in its place.

Now, with 300-plus Lok Sabha seats under its belt, the ruling party has developed a fascination for authoritative violence. Coercion and violence are deemed as a curative instrument of state policy and political control.

CONCLUSION

A regime that has developed a taste for coercion, however legitimate or legal, and a passion for aggression, ends up squandering the citizens’ trust. The Modi regime has ordered its own custom-made Achilles heel.

 

SECOND ARTICLE: INACCURATE DIAGNOSIS, DRACONIAN REMEDY

ISSUE: PROBLEM OF BLACK MONEY IN INDIA

Author highlights that  government’s intent cannot be faulted, but since the problem itself was misdiagnosed, the ensuing legislative measures have been bereft of constitutional and economic common sense. They relied too little on persuasion, and far too much on browbeating. The economic results are nothing to rave about.

WHY BLACK MONEY ACT WAS BOUND TO FAIL?

At minimum tax rate of 60%, it gave marginal incentive for the hoarders to come clean.

Lawmakers overestimated the writ of international laws and made no economically persuasive case. Resultantly, as of May 2019, the total untaxed foreign assets mined was ₹12,500 crore. Wholly recovered, this wouldn’t even pay Prasar Bharati’s bills for four years.

In comparison, Indonesia recovered about ₹25 lakh crore under similar schemes.

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH LAWS AFTER 2014?

The first relates to retrospective application of tax and penal laws that are so confiscatory and brazenly discriminatory that they walk all over a citizen’s right to life, carry on business and own property.

The second is about shifting the burden of proof onto the citizen to establish that he is not an offender.

Lastly, and this is what makes this new policy rather wicked, citizens can be subjected to criminal trial, without the taxman first proving that there has been tax evasion. The results of giving such unbridled powers to agencies have been disastrous.

LACK OF CONVICTION

The Enforcement Directorate, India’s money laundering watchdog, secured conviction in less than 1% of case but attached assets worth ₹29,468 crore. In contrast, the agency’s equivalents in the U.S. and the U.K. secured conviction in about 50% cases. The Income Tax Department’s records were not inspiring either, hovering at near 2% conviction rates in Financial Year (FY) 2016-2017.

WHY SUCH A SITUATION?

In essence, India’s foreign black money problem was misdiagnosed and unverified, exaggerated numbers went into satisfying Parliament that draconian financial laws are justified.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

The government should give up the belief that being an intrusive, browbeating confiscator enriches Indians. It doesn’t.

The draconian fiscal laws must at once be repealed.

Increased international cooperation, technological advances and banking penetration implodes black money more than any law or sermon on patriotism.

India’s war on black money can only be won through democratic, persuasive and economically-sound means.

 

FRIDAY DEBATE

SHOULD GOVERNMENT EXIT NAVRATNA COMPANIES?

WHY IN NEWS?

Last month, the Cabinet approved sale of the government’s stake in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, a navratna public sector company with oil refining and marketing operations.

WHY MODI GOVERNMENT IS DOING THIS?

The effort is primarily to raise revenues in quick time.

It’s now clear that even partial disinvestment or even a strategic sale is clearly to mobilise resources to finance the Budget

IS PRIVATIZATION MOST EFFICIENT WAY?

It is not borne out empirically that the private sector is more efficient. Even in post-liberalisation India, a number of studies show a trend towards convergence in performance between PSUs and private enterprises. Even in banking, until about 2011 when the NPA crisis started, we saw a similar trend.

The problem in comparing the two is that only the survivors of the private sector are left standing and you say they are doing marvellously.

WHAT GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO?

Disinvestment should be done to restructure the rest of the public sector.

Government should have a framework for carrying out disinvestment or privatisation.

Disinvestment Commission under G.V. Ramakrishna was very clear that privatisation should be for strengthening the public sector. So they ruled out privatisation of core industries and highly profitable PSUs, and they also said the proceeds should be used for restructuring other PSUs or spending on rural infrastructure. The receipts should not be used for the government’s revenue expenditure.

 

SHASHTRA SEEMA BAL

NEWS:Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said some forces inimical to India were using the borders of friendly countries like Nepal and Bhutan to push “infiltrators.”

Addressing the troops and officers of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on its 56th Raising Day celebrations, he said that in the last one year “54 infiltrators, including two Pakistanis,” have been nabbed at the Nepal border. These infiltrators were from 24 countries, apart from Pakistan.

The SSB is tasked with guarding the 1,751-km long frontier with Nepal and Bhutan. It was raised in the aftermath of the 1962 Chinese aggression.

 

MATTALA AIRPORT

NEWS:Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority will develop the southern airport in Mattala, near the strategically located Hambantota port, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Thursday, ruling out earlier proposals of a joint venture with India. However, he invited Indian companies, especially in the IT sector, to invest in Sri Lanka.

New Delhi — with known strategic interests in the airport adjoining the Chinese-run Hambantota port — has in the past discussed a possible joint development plan with Colombo, to upgrade the loss-making facility in Mattala built by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, the project did not take off despite multiple rounds of negotiations.

 

EASE OF DOING BUSINESS

NEWS: India Inc. leaders, including Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, CII president Vikram Kirloskar and Assocham president Balkrishan Goenka, on Thursday asked the government to take measures to augment ease of doing business to “create more freedom for the industry to perform.”

In a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the corporate leaders highlighted several issues, including certain income tax (I-T) matters coming in the way of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) or slowing them down.

He said some suggestions about M&A, demergers, NCLT process, certain sections of I-T that were coming in the way of M&A or slowing them down were made.

 

ABOUT Ease of Doing Business Index:

  • The Ease of Doing Business Index assesses 190 economies and covers 10 indicators which span the lifecycle of a business.
  • These 10 indicators are: Starting a business, Dealing with construction permits, Getting electricity, Registering property, Getting credit, Protecting minority investors, Paying taxes, Trading across borders, Enforcing contracts and Resolving insolvency.
  • Each one of these indicators carry equal weightage.
  • Ease of Doing Business is released by World Bank.

 

MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE

NEWS:Rise in headline inflation as well as an inadequate monetary policy rate transmission were cited by members of the monetary policy committee for keeping interest rate unchanged during the first bimonthly monetary policy review in early December, minutes of the meeting showed.

After cutting rates in five consecutive policy reviews, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 5.15% in the December review.

ABOUT MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE

  • Decisions regarding Monetary Policy are taken by Monetary Policy Committee.
  • RBI Act has been amended by Finance Act 2016 to provide for STATUTORY and institutionalized framework for a MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE for maintaining price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
  • MPC is entrusted with the task of setting benchmark policy rate (repo rate) required to contain inflation within the specified target level.
  • Meeting of MPC shall be held at least four times a year.
  • MPC has six members: three from the RBI (Governor of RBI as Chairperson, Deputy Governor of RBI in charge of Monetary Policy, One Officer of the RBI to be nominated by the Central Board) and three members appointed by Central Government.
  • Three members appointed by the Central Government holds office for period of four years.
  • Government of India in consultation with RBI has published inflation target at 4(+-2)%.

 

OPERATION TWIST

NEWS: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will simultaneously buy and sale government securities worth ₹10,000 crore each on December 23 under its open market operations — a move aimed at managing the yields.

Operation Twist is a move taken by U.S. Federal Reserve in 2011-12 to make long-term borrowing cheaper.

The action of Operation Twist by the RBI today is encouraging. There is indeed a need to bring down the term premium because that remains the driving factor for long-term economic activity and addition of new investment stock

 

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