24 September, 2020
- Weekly series of Mains Question Assignment from DNS
- Self-Assessment Speed Test
- Weighing in on the efficacy of female leadership - (Social Issues)
- Seeing dystopia in India democracy - (Polity & Governance)
- CAG: Rafale vendors yet to confirm tech transfer - (Polity & Governance)
- Centre retained 1.1 lakh cr. of cess receipt- (Polity & Governance)
- G4 seeks time-bound reform of Security Council - (International Relation)
- 40% toilets in govt. schools non-existent, unused: CAG - (Polity & Governance)
- Quality containers to move liquid oxygen - (Polity & Governance)
- Question of the day (Science & Technology)
- UPSC Current Affairs:Weighing in on the efficacy of female leadership– Pg06
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity and Governance |Mains: GS Paper II
Sub Theme: participation of women in politics | UPSC
What do Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand have in common? These are all countries that have women heading their governments. And although they are located in three different continents, the three countries seem to have managed the pandemic much better than their neighbours. Much along the same lines, a detailed recent study by researchers in the United States reports that States which have female governors had fewer COVID-19 related deaths, perhaps partly because female governors acted more decisively by issuing earlier stay-at-home orders. The authors of the study conclude that women leaders are more effective than their male counterparts in times of crises.
Of course, studies such as these do not establish the superiority of all female leaders over their male counterparts. However such studies highlights the necessity of getting rid of inherent biases and perceptions about female effectiveness in leadership roles.
Why we need more women in political leadership?
- Primarily it is an issue of democratic representation.
- Women bring new perspectives and experiences to politics. When faced with the exercise of power, women tend towards cooperation rather than competition; a necessary virtue for the harmonious development of society. Women leadership is extremely important in conflict resolution.
- According to U.K.’s first Special Envoy for Gender Equality, Joanna Roper, Women make a real difference in peace negotiations — 60% of such negotiations are less likely to fail and 35% more likely to last 15 years or more. There is really strong evidence that if you bring women together, everyone benefits.”
- Female leaders perform significantly better than men in implementing policies that promote the interests of women.
- A study conducted by Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo and co-author Raghabendra Chattopadhyay concluded that village Pradhans invested more in rural infrastructure that served better the needs of their own gender. For instance, women Pradhans were more likely to invest in providing easy access to drinking water since the collection of drinking water is primarily, if not solely, the responsibility of women.
- Participation of Icelandic women in political decision-making is more than 44%.
- We have seen in Bangladesh how women’s leadership and participation in policy-making make a real difference in the lives of women on the ground”.
- In a 2014 National Bureau of Economic Research paper found a strong connection between implementation of political reservations and small-scale entrepreneurship among women. They noted “a growth in new women-owned establishments and associated employment of approximately 40% after political reservations were implemented" for the 1994-2005 period.
- A public opinion survey done in Rajasthan revealed that women in villages with a head council position reserved are more likely to be willing to report crimes to the police.
- To achieve full gender equality in our societies, politics must serve as an example.
Women and leadership in India
- The 2019 election sent the largest number of women to the Lok Sabha. Despite this, women constitute just over 14% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
- Female members make up only about 10% of the total ministerial strength.
- Tiny Rwanda comes out on top with a staggering 60% of seats in its lower house occupied by women.
- Banerjee is currently the only female Chief Minister.
- India has the dismal rank of 143 out of 192 countries for which data are reported by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Women's Reservation Bill
- Since women running for elections face numerous challenges, it is essential to create a level-playing field through appropriate legal measures. The establishment of quotas for women is an obvious answer.
- Women’s Reservation Bill was first presented to the Lok Sabha by the H.D. Deve Gowda government in 1996. Subsequently, both the NDA and United Progressive Alliance governments have reintroduced the Bill in successive Parliaments, but without any success.
- Although the Rajya Sabha did pass the bill in 2010, the Lok Sabha and the State legislatures are yet to give their approval — despite the 24 years that have passed since it was first presented in the Lok Sabha.
- The major party constituents of the NDA and UPA alliances can sidestep the logjam in Parliament by reserving say a third of party nominations for women. This will surely result in increasing numbers of women in legislatures and subsequently in cabinets.
Need to remove prejudice against women in Politics
Since most able-bodied men went away to the battlefields during the First World War, increasing numbers of women had the opportunity to show that they were adequate substitutes in activities that were earlier the sole preserve of men. This, it is suggested, mitigated the anti-female bias and earned women the right to vote in European countries.
Since 1991 Bangladesh has been mostly headed by female Prime minister. Bangladesh ranks 7th in the world in the political empowerment of women
The importance of reservation of women in parliament and legislative assemblies cannot be overestimated. There is substantial evidence showing that increased female representation in policy making goes a long way in improving perceptions about female effectiveness in leadership roles. This decreases the bias among voters against women candidates, and results in a subsequent increase in the percentage of female politicians contesting and winning elections. So, such quotas have both a short-term and long-term impact. Indeed, voter perceptions about the efficacy of female leadership may change so drastically in the long run that quotas may no longer be necessary!
- The Women's Reservation Bill has been passed in Lok Sabha but is pending in Rajya Sabha.
- Bangladesh stands best in gender equality in South Asia.
- France gave right to vote to women in 1946.
- The Women's Reservation Bill has been passed in Lok Sabha but is pending in Rajya Sabha. (False)
- Bangladesh stands best in gender equality in South Asia. (True)
- France gave right to vote to women in 1946. (True)
- UPSC Current Affairs:Seeing dystopia in India’s democracy
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity and Governance |Mains: GS Paper II
Sub Theme: Democratic credentials of Indian democracy | UPSC
Context - The United Nations has declared September 15 ‘International Day of Democracy’. This provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world.
A partial evaluation of Indian Democracy
Formally, India is a democracy, world’s largest democracy.
- Preamble declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.
- There are multi-party elections with universal suffrage subject only to an age restriction.
- Smooth changeover in government after elections.
- Existence of an independent press and judiciary.
- Guarantee of civil liberties justiciable in courts of law
However, the above evaluation is on form of government without concern for the socioeconomic outcomes that are produced. It is like admiring the architecture of a building without pausing to enquire whether its inhabitants are happy to be living in it
To measure the outcomes of democracy we have to see life satisfaction that citizens report, people’s perceptions of administrative efficiency and responsiveness of the government to citizens’ needs. PM Nehru was explicit in his speech on August 15, 1947 when he stated that the goal of independence was to create institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
Outcome based evaluation of Indian Democracy
- In the UN’s World Happiness Report for 2020, India is ranked 144 out of the 153 countries evaluated. We should be giving serious thought to both the fact of India’s low ranking on the happiness index and its slide.
- In the UN’s Human Development Index 2019, India ranked 129th out of 189 countries.
- At rank 51, India dropped 10 places in 2019 from 2018 in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. In the last six years, among 167 countries India saw the second-highest decline in civil liberties. Civil liberties include freedom of the press, freedom to protest, unrestricted access to the Internet, an independent judiciary, religious tolerance, equal treatment of all citizens and basic security.
- The Freedom in the World 2020 report ranks India at the 83rd position
- India has been ranked at the 80th position among 180 countries and territories in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2019 prepared by Transparency International.
Democracy is built by the people
Democracy is not synonymous with statism; it is about the people. Ultimately, the institutions that enable people to lead fulfilling lives are built by the people themselves
In the 1960s, U.S saw movements for black empowerment, women’s emancipation and sexual liberation. These movements were remarkably successful in the outcomes they achieved, while receiving no support from the U.S. state. This is the sense in which it may be said that it is the people who build the institutions that matter.
Role of the state
The state has a role in their building institutions envisaged by the people. This can be done by ensuring liberty to the citizens and building capabilities in citizens.
- Liberty - Laws must not constrain liberty and must change when it is realised that they do.
- Capabilities - The role of the state does not end with removing restraints though. It extends to the endowment of individuals with capabilities in the sense of Amartya Sen. Prof. Sen had thought of capabilities as the endowments that allow individuals to undertake the functioning’s, or do the things, that they value.
People adopt democracy so that they can participate in their own governance. They must be endowed with capabilities if this is to be possible at all. Thus, liberty and capability are conjoined as the ultimate aspiration in a democracy.
We can think of a person’s health and education as among the most important inputs into the capabilities that they end up possessing. In a move to measure the capabilities of a population, the UN devised the Human Development Index. The main elements of this are health and education.
It is not sufficiently recognised that individuals cannot easily equip themselves with capabilities, requiring the state to intervene.
- Historically, the caste system in India had excluded a large section from education.
- While private initiative should not be de-legitimised, it has had only a limited impact on building capabilities in India as it has focused on those with the ability to pay. There has been underinvestment in a public health system
Dystopia was imagined as a place where the people experience great suffering as they fend for themselves under the watchful eyes of an authoritarian state. Is it so far from where we live today?
- Elected head of the state is an essential feature of democracy. (T/F)
- World Happiness Report is released by United Nations Development Programme. (T/F)
- India’s ranking in World Happiness Report is constantly decreasing since last 5 years. (T/F)
- Democracy Index is released by OECD. (T/F)
- Corruption Perception Index is released by Transparency International. (T/F)
- In the context of polity liberty refers to the opportunity to develop oneself fully. (T/F)
- Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan is closely related to the enactment of which law in India?
- Who gave the concept of capability approach in welfare economics?
- Elected head of the state is an essential feature of democracy. (F)
- World Happiness Report is released by United Nations Development Programme. (F)
- India’s ranking in World Happiness Report is constantly decreasing since last 5 years. (T)
- Democracy Index is released by OECD. (F)
- Corruption Perception Index is released by Transparency International. (T)
- In the context of polity liberty refers to the opportunity to develop oneself fully. (T)
- Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan is closely related to the enactment of which law in India? (RTI)
- Who gave the concept of capability approach in welfare economics? (Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum)
- UPSC Current Affairs: CAG: Rafale vendors yet to confirm tech transfer – Pg 01
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity and Governance |Mains: GS Paper II
Sub Theme: CAG audit into defence deal | UPSC
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has recently questioned India’s offset policy and came down heavily on foreign vendors for not fulfilling their offset commitments.
In its report titled ‘CAG’s Performance Audit Report on Management of Defence Offset’, the CAG has pointed out that French aerospace major Dassault Aviation and European missile maker MBDA, which supplied armaments for the Rafale jets, have not yet discharged their 30% offset obligation.
The CAG has highlighted that most of the time Foreign vendors such as Dassault Aviation give commitment for offsets in order to win the tender, but later on do not fulfil their commitments. In this case, Dassault Aviation was required to transfer the technology to DRDO for the indigenous development of Kaveri Engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. However, it has failed to do so.
The CAG has pointed out that between 2005-2018, 46 contracts with offset commitments worth Rs 66,000 crores was made by foreign vendors. However, so far only Rs 11,300 crore has been realised. Accordingly, there is a need to have a relook at our Defence Offset policy to promote indigenisation of defence Industry.
Understanding the Defence Offset Policy
- An offset is a mechanism to partially compensate for the significant outflow of a country’s resources in large purchases of foreign goods and services by making the foreign supplier to invest in industry, or in research and development, etc in the buyer country.
- The idea behind such a policy is to persuade foreign vendors to outsource orders, transfer technologies to Indian companies and invest in India. The objective is to create a strong local ecosystem for defence manufacturing and step up exports.
- India adopted the offset policy for defence capital purchases in 2005, according to which all capital purchases above Rs 300 crore through imports will have the foreign vendor invest at least 30% of the value of the purchase in India.
- As per the latest Defence Acquisition procedure 2020, offsets would be applicable in case of capital purchases of above Rs 2000 crores.
- UPSC Current Affairs: Centre retained ₹1.1 lakh cr. of cess receipts’ – Pg 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy |Mains: GS Paper III
Sub Theme: Cesses in India | Taxation | UPSC
The Government has collected around Rs 2.75 lakh crores in 2018-19 through the imposition of various cesses. Usually, the proceeds of such cess are initially credited to the Consolidated Fund of India and later on, with the Parliament's approval, the proceeds are transferred to separate dedicated funds. However, in a recent report, CAG has highlighted that Central Government has not transferred more than Rs 1.1 lakh crores to dedicated funds. The proceeds have continued to remain part of consolidated fund of India.
A cess is considered to be "Tax on tax". It is levied by the government for a specific purpose. Cess collected for a particular reason has to go towards the purpose for which it was charged. It cannot be used for, or diverted, to other purposes. For example, Health and Education Cess is imposed at 4% on major central taxes such as Corporate Tax and Income Tax. It is to be used only for the promotion of education and health and cannot be diverted for other purposes.
How is it different from Tax?
Any tax collected goes into Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) which can be allocated for any purpose. However, Cess is a different form of tax and may initially get credited to the CFI but has to be ultimately used for the purpose for which it is imposed. In order to utilise the cess proceedings, the government has to create a dedicated fund. The proceeds of such funds are non-lapsable .
Example: Prarambhik Shiksha kosh (Primary Education), Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha kosh (Secondary and Higher Education),
Further, unlike the normal taxes, Cess fund need not be shared by the Central Government with State Governments. Government also resorts to Cess as it is easy to introduce, modify and abolish compared to normal taxes as any change in normal tax need to go through a lot of procedure.
Examples of some important Cesses in India
Health and Education Cess: It is imposed at 4% on major central taxes such as Corporate Tax and Income Tax. The Government has set up separate funds such as Prarambhik Shiksha kosh (Primary Education) Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha kosh (Secondary and Higher Education) to transfer the cess collected.
Cess on Crude oil: The Oil Industry (Development) Act, 1974 provides for collection of cess as a excise duty on indigenous crude oil. The cess was levied at Rs 60 per tone in July 1974 and subsequently revised from time to time. The Cess is currently levied at the rate of 20 per cent of the value of oil. The cess first gets credited to the Consolidated fund of India and from there it is transferred to Oil Industry Development Fund.
Cess on Bidi: It is provided under THE BEEDI WORKERS WELFARE CESS ACT, 1976. It is a form of excise duty which is imposed on the manufactured beedis. The proceeds of this cess is directly credited to the Consolidated fund of India and is used for the welfare of the bidi workers.
Road and Infrastructure Cess: It is imposed at the rate of Rs 10 per litre on the imported and domestic sale of petrol and high speed diesel. It is to be used for the development of various infrastructure projects such as National Highways, Railway projects etc.
NOTE: Krishi Kalyan Cess, Clean Environment Cess, Swachh Bharat Cess have been subsumed under the GST through Taxation Laws Amendment Act 2017
- 40% toilets in govt. schools non-existent, unused: CAG
- Quality containers to move liquid oxygen
- The assassins of the insect world
- G4 seeks time-bound reform of Security Council
40% toilets in govt. schools non-existent, unused: CAG
- Public sector units claimed to have constructed 1.4 lakh toilets in government schools as part of a Right to Education project, but almost 40% of those surveyed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused.
What is this scheme?
- The Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan was launched by the Human Resource Development Ministry in September 2014 to meet the Right to Education Act’s mandate that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls. Lack of dedicated funds, poor maintenance and poor water availability in toilets were identified as major challenges, and central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) were roped in to bridge the gap over a one-year period.
- There are 10.8 lakh government schools in the country. Overall, more than 1.4 lakh toilets were built by 53 CPSEs, with significant support coming from power, coal and oil companies.
- The CAG audit conducted a physical survey of a sample of 2,695 toilets built by these companies in 15 States
Important findings of the audit
- 70% did not have running water facilities in the toilets, while 75% were not being maintained hygienically.
- Out of that sample, CPSEs identified but did not construct 83. Another 200 toilets were reported to be constructed, but were non-existent, while 86 toilets were only partially constructed.
- Another 691 toilets “were found not in use mainly due to lack of running water, lack of cleaning arrangements, damages to the toilets and other reasons like use of toilets for other purposes, toilets locked up, etc,” said the audit report.
- Thus, almost 40% of toilets were non-existent, partially completed or unused.
Quality containers to move liquid oxygen
- With oxygen shortage reported from several parts of the country in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, the government has allowed the domestic movement of liquid oxygen through tank containers conforming to international quality standards.
- ISO tank containers are built to standards specified by the International Organisation for Standardisation, and are designed to carry liquids in bulk. The stainless steel tankers have several protective layers and an ISO tanker can carry 20 tonnes of liquid oxygen. “This permission has been given for one year initially to expeditiously deal with the emergent situation. Amid the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the movement of oxygen within the country through the ISO containers shall greatly enhance the translocation of safe and fast movement of oxygen through road network,” the Commerce and Industry Ministry said in a statement.
Why do we need liquid Oxygen?
- At this low temperature, oxygen remains in a liquid form. In its liquid state, oxygen takes up less space and can be stored at much lower pressures than when in a gaseous state. This means more oxygen can be carried in a portable liquid unit, and the portable container is much lighter in weight and smaller in size than an oxygen gas cylinder.
The assassins of the insect world
Robber Flies eat fellow insects from the larvae to the adult stage in one of Nature’s most carefully crafted mechanisms
- The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx. The name "robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight.
- Much better known and described in detail is the behavior of adults. In general, the activity of predation of adults is concentrated in the hottest hours in open, sunny spaces, while at night they take refuge in dense vegetation. The Asilidae are excellent flyers and, in most of the family, capture prey in flight. They are often seen stationed to ambush prey at strategic points. This behavior signifies that sight plays an essential role in the detection of prey and their capture. The prey is caught with the tarsi and immobilized as a result of the paralysis caused by the injection of saliva.
G4 seeks time-bound reform of Security Council
- India, Brazil, Japan and Germany – G4 countries have agreed to work with like-minded countries for ‘concrete outcomes’ to reform United Nations Security Council. Text based Negotiation for UNSC Reform (IGN) was adopted by UN General Assembly in 2008 (Decision 62/557) but the permanent members did not express interest or solidarity to take the steps forward to actually reform UN Security Council considering the change in world order after Second World War.
Foreign Ministers of G4 Meet Virtually
- Foreign Ministers from the Group of 4 or G4 (a group that is seeking permanent membership of UN Security Council) which comprises India, Brazil, Japan met virtually to further their objective. The four countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a time frame.
- G4 called for a decisive push for UNSC reforms during 75th anniversary of formation of United Nations. G4 said that it is willing to work with like-minded and reform oriented countries and groups. G4 Ministers reiterated support for each other’s membership to the UNSC “given the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security.
- G4 said that Africa needs to be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of membership of a reformed and expanded Security Council to correct the historical injustice against this continent with regard to its under-representation in the Security Council.
Historical Development of Demands for UNSC Reform
- In 1979, “the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council” was added to the General Assembly agenda at the request of Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Guyana, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.
- In 1993, the General Assembly adopted resolution 48/26 which established an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to consider all aspects of the question of increase in the members of the Security Council, and other matters related to the Security Council. From that point on, the General Assembly began holding both formal and informal discussions on this topic. The Working Group submitted progress reports to the General Assembly at its forty-eighth to fifty-ninth sessions.
- In November 1998 - General Assembly resolution 53/30 adopted on November 23, 1998, affirmed that OEWG recommendations on Security Council reform should require a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly.
- In September 2000, In General Assembly resolution 55/2 (the United Nations Millennium Declaration) adopted on 18 September 2000, Member States resolved to intensify their efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council in all its aspects.
- In March 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed two models for Security Council reform in preparation for a world summit at UN Headquarters on development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations. In the 5 period leading up to the summit, three groups also put forward alternative proposals to reform the Security Council.
Proposal by different International Groups
- The Group of Four (G4, composed of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) sought expansion of the number of permanent and non-permanent seats, with the additional permanent members composed of the G4 members plus two African member states and suspending the right to veto for a period of time.
- The 12-member Uniting for Consensus Group submitted a proposal that called for a doubling of non-permanent seats with six African seats, five to Asia-Pacific, four to Latin American and Caribbean states, three to Western European and Other Groups and two to the Eastern European group but no increase in permanent members.
- The African Group proposed to increase the Council from 15 to 26 members through an expansion in both categories, with Africa gaining two permanent seats along with the right of veto and five non-permanent seats; this position is linked to what is referred to as the “Ezulwini consensus”.
- Following the 2005 World Summit, Member States adopted an outcome document by consensus on 16 September 2005 stating that they “support early reform of the Security Council…in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions.”
2008 – Adoption of Intergovernmental Negotiations – IGN
- In 2008 the General Assembly adopted Decision 62/557 “to commence intergovernmental negotiations (IGN) in informal plenary of the General Assembly”.
- Up until the 2008 Decision on IGN was adopted, discussions on Security Council reforms were nothing more than an oral exchange of views. With the creation of the IGN, the aim was have a text on which discussions could be based.
- The first round of the IGN was held on 19 February 2009. The General Assembly has renewed its mandate annually, and it remains the principal vehicle for Council reform discussions today. Till date, the IGN has not been able to agree on a text to be negotiated to reform United Nations Security Council.
- Decision 62/557 laid out five key issues to be discussed during these negotiations:
- Categories of membership to the Council (i.e. permanent, non-permanent, or a third option),
- The question of the veto
- Regional representation,
- Size of an enlarged Council and working methods, and
- The relationship between the Council and the General Assembly
- At the 69th session of the General Assembly, Member States contributed to a Framework Document that included a range of ideas on the 5 key areas of Security Council reform from Member States for consideration in line with Decision 62/557.