18 October 2020
- Announcement of the release of Mains Compass of Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
- A work-in-progress campaign for rights - (International Relation)
- Jagan vs. judges - (Polity & Governance)
- How global warming might affect food security - (Indian Geography)
- Huge inflows continue into Telangana, A.P. dams - (Indian Geography)
- Question of the day (Polity and Governance)
UPSC Current Affairs: A work-in-progress campaign for rights - Lead Article – Pg 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Social Issues, Rights Issues | Mains – GS Paper II –Social Issues
Sub Theme: UN Human Rights Council | UPSC
A work-in-progress campaign for rights
Context - On October 13, elections were held for the cohort of member nations who will serve for the next three years (2021-23) in the UN Human Rights Council. Among the five countries that were vying for membership from the Asia-Pacific region, four — Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal and China — made it, while Saudi Arabia lost out. For a nation with immense clout in West Asia, the inability to secure a seat despite the regime’s efforts to refurbish its image could be chalked up to the fallout of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of several women rights’ activists, among others.
UN Human Rights Council
- The council is the central structure in the global human rights architecture, a political body with representatives drawn from the General Assembly.
- The UNHRC replaced the UN Human Rights Commission in 2006.
- Headquarter : Geneva, Switzerland.
- The UNHRC has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions across the world to ensure geographical representation.
- African States: 13 seats
- Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
- Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
- Western European and other States: 7 seats
- Eastern European States: 6 seats
- There is no special privilege for the more developed Western countries, as is the case with other multilateral institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank.
- Countries are disallowed from occupying a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
- It passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues, besides overseeing expert investigation of violations in specific countries.
- Apart from the council, the UN has also set up a number of treaty-based organisations to monitor compliance with human rights standards and international human rights treaties such as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September –
- Universal Periodic Review: The Universal periodic review (UPR) mechanism reviews all 192 UN member states every four years to "ensure universality of coverage and equal treatment of all Member States."It provides opportunities to member states to declare what actions they have taken to improve human rights and to fulfil their obligations.
- Special Procedure: The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The system of Special Procedures is a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social.
- Special Rapporteur: The titles Special Rapporteur, Independent Expert, and Working Group Member are given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of "special procedure" mechanisms.
The mechanism of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was incorporated into the functioning to give teeth to the organisation. The UPR, which has a national report from the state under review plus a compilation of UN information prepared by the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, also allows for a summary of information from civil society actors.
Upholding of Human rights by UNHRC
Human rights breaches that are investigated by the UNHRC across UN member states relate to themes such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
Countries such as Israel, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, Cambodia, Belarus, Burundi and Eritrea have been investigated and strongly condemned by the UNHRC for violating various human rights. Sri Lanka, for example, had, in a co-sponsored resolution in 2015, provided commitments to the council to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights, following the end of the civil war in 2009. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government withdrew the country from those commitments earlier this year.
he resolutions adopted by the UNHRC have highlighted and condemned distinctive violations despite the efforts to the contrary by some members of the HRC. For example, in the midst of the Arab Spring, the Human Rights Council voted unanimously to suspend Libya’s membership. More recently, the Council did not permit Syria to bid for a seat on grounds of human rights violations and appointed an investigation there.
In a unanimously passed resolution that was sponsored by African states, the UNHRC in June 2020, ordered a report on “systematic racism” against people of African descent following the murder of the African-American George Floyd in the U.S.
UNHRC has made possible global cooperation on Human rights. South Africa’s efforts to acknowledge the rights of LGBTIQ faced strong opposition from neighbouring countries but it was supported by far-away countries like Brazil, Colombia, the United States, and many others
The experts’ mandates (Special Rapporteurs) recommended by UNHRC have resulted into manifested actions on problems ranging from combating torture in Jordan to protecting journalists in Cambodia, decriminalizing blasphemy in the United Kingdom and reducing prison sentences in China.
UNHRC and India
- A recent report by UNHCR on Kashmir, although talking of both sides of the LoC, focuses mainly on serious violations in Jammu and Kashmir. India has rejected the report.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, had expressed concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the clampdown in Kashmir, besides the “inter-communal attacks” in Delhi in February.
- Bachelet had welcomed the release of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, but expressed concern over the communications restrictions as part of “Global Human Rights update” at the start of the 45th session of the UNHRC in September 2020.
- Under Universal Periodic Review, Government has formed forming a task force to prepare a National Action Plan on Human Rights(NAPHR)as mandated under the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review(UPR).
- The task force will involve the Union Home Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and have representatives from ministries such as social justice and health. National Action Plan on Human Rights (NAPHR) once implemented, will help mitigate the criticism India faces at international level when it comes to its human rights record as well as strengthen the social justice system.
- It will also lead to stronger administration of justice, strengthening of human rights institutions, and linking of rights with development.
- However, what makes the Council’s composition problematic is that several of its members run afoul of its proclaimed aims (for example, the one-party systems of China and Cuba that have a controversial record on freedom of expression or the anti-gay policies of Russia).
The US Withdrawa
- The UNHCR reports have highlighted various issues like separation of families at Mexican border or various violations of human rights committed in the course of the War on Terror.
- The US government, in recent times, is seen to be bent more towards moving away from many platforms of international cooperation like Trans-Pacific Partnership or Global Compact on Migration.
- The US has accused UNHRC of imposing a disproportionate number of resolutions against Israel as compared to other human rights violators.
- The unique arrangement of representation, review and collaboration (with civil society groups over and above nation-states) has certainly improved the functioning of the UNHRC in comparison with its predecessor Commission.
- But the challenges remain high. The UNHCR is still a work in progress.
UPSC Current Affairs: Jagan vs. judges |Pg 13
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Judiciary v Executive | In House Procedure | UPSC
The story so far: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (CM) Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has stirred a hornet’s nest by writing to the Chief Justice of India complaining about Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana for allegedly influencing posting of cases in the State High Court and alleging that some High Court judges are hostile to his government and are deliberately striking down his regime’s decisions and orders. In effect, he has accused many judges of misconduct, corruption and political bias. Such an open conflict between the judiciary and a Chief Minister is without precedent. Questions arise about what can be done about this serious complaint.
How are allegations of misconduct against judges dealt with?
The Constitution protects the independence of judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court by making them removable only through a long process of impeachment. However, not all forms of misconduct will warrant impeachment. There could be other kinds of impropriety too. There are times when serious complaints of this sort are received, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is called upon to examine them. Since 1997, judges have adopted an ‘in-house procedure’ for inquiring into such charges.
When was the procedure adopted
After Justice J.S. Verma took over as Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 1997, he circulated among judges a document called ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial life’. This was a set of principles containing the essential elements of ideal behaviour for judges. The Full Court passed a resolution that an ‘in-house procedure’ would be adopted for action against judges for acts of commission or omission that go against these values. A five-judge committee was constituted to come up with a procedure. Its report was adopted on December 15, 1999. It was made public in 2014.
How does the in-house procedure work
When a complaint is received against a High Court judge, the CJI should decide if it is considered frivolous or if it is “directly related to the merits of a substantive decision in a judicial matter”, or it does not involve any serious misconduct or impropriety. If it is serious, the CJI should get the judge’s response. He may close the matter if he is satisfied with the response. If a deeper probe is considered necessary, both the complaint and the judge’s response, along with the Chief Justice’s comments, are recorded for further action. The same procedure holds good if the CJI receives a complaint directly. After considering the High Court’s Chief Justice, the judge involved and the complaint, the CJI, if deemed necessary, forms a three-member committee. The committee should have two Chief Justices from other High Courts and one High Court judge. The inquiry it holds is of the nature of a fact-finding mission and is not a formal judicial inquiry involving examination of witnesses. The judge concerned is entitled to appear before it.
If the case is against a High Court’s Chief Justice, the same procedure is followed, but the probe committee comprises a Supreme Court judge and two Chief Justices.
If a Supreme Court judge faces such a charge, the in-house panel will comprise three Supreme Court judges. The in-house procedure does not give any separate provision to deal with complaints against the Chief Justice of India. But in practice, a panel of three other Supreme Court justices is formed.
What happens after the probe is done?
If the committee finds substance in the charges, it can give two kinds of recommendations. One, that the misconduct is serious enough to require removal from office, or that it is not serious enough to warrant removal
In the former case, the judge concerned will be urged to resign or seek voluntary retirement. If the judge is unwilling to quit, the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned would be asked to withdraw judicial work from him. The President and the Prime Minister will be informed of the situation. This is expected to clear the way for Parliament to begin the process of impeachment. If the misconduct does not warrant removal, the judge would be advised accordingly.
How will the CM’s complaint be handled?
The complaint by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister will have to be examined by the CJI from the perspective of whether it can be rejected as baseless, or it requires a deeper investigation.
In details annexed to his letter, Mr. Reddy has cited several writ petitions in which adverse orders were passed against his regime. He also accuses the judges concerned of political bias not only against himself, but also in favour of his rival, N. Chandrababu Naidu, the former Chief Minister. Therefore, a key question would be: do the charges pertain merely to the merits of judicial orders, or are they serious enough to warrant a probe?
UPSC Current Affairs: How global warming might affect food security | Pg 12
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment Mains: GS Paper-III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Global Food Security amid Rising CO2| Ocean Acidification | UPSC
Context: Between the year 1870 (the first industrial revolution) and today, the global temperature has risen by almost 2 degrees Celsius. This has come about due to more fossil burning (oil, natural gas, coal), which has also increased the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels from 280 ppm to 400 ppm. This heating has caused glaciers to melt and the sea level to rise. CO2 is a green house gas which traps sun’s heat and warms the earth. Heating caused by increased CO2 has also resulted in melting of glacier and acidified the Ocean. In this regard, October Edition of National Geographic Magazine warns that the glaciers in Garhwal, Uttarakhand may virtually disappear by 2035. Further the Article also discusses about impact of increased earth temperature on plant yields.
- As carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolves in sea water, it forms carbonic acid, decreasing the ocean’s pH, a process collectively known as ocean acidification.
- Ocean Acidification weakens shells and skeletons of animals living in the sea and is specially problematic for corals, oysters, and other creatures with delicate carbonate shells or skeletons, which are weakened by even very slight changes in the ocean’s acid balance
- Present ocean acidification occurs approximately ten times faster than anything experienced during the last 300 million years, jeopardising the ability of ocean systems to adapt to changes in ocean chemistry due to CO2.
- Ocean acidification has the potential to change marine ecosystemsand impact many ocean-related benefits to society such as coastal protection or provision of food and income.
- Ocean acidification is happening in parallel with other climate-related stressors, including ocean warming and de-oxygenation. This completes the set of climate change pressures on the marine environment – heat, acidity and oxygen loss – often referred to as the ‘deadly trio’.
- Interaction between these stressors is often cumulative or even multiplicative, resulting in combined effects that are more severe than the sum of their individual impacts.
- To combat the worst effects of the deadly trio, CO2emissions need to be cut significantly and immediately at the source.
- Sustainable management, conservation, restoration and strong, permanent protection of at least 30% of the ocean are urgently needed.
Green House Effect – CO2 – impacting Food Security
- Human activities are changing Earth's natural greenhouse effect. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil puts more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
- There has been an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide and some other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Too much of these greenhouse gases can cause Earth's atmosphere to trap more and more heat. This causes Earth to warm up.
- CO2 is necessary for plants as it helps in the photosynthesis of plants, making them grow more. However, increased CO2 in the atmosphere at the same time restricts plant’s ability to absorb nitrogen thereby restricting growth of plants and crops. So, the question remains – how will with ever increasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere impact global food security.
- S. Battisti and R.L. Naylor warned of this in 2009 in their paper in Science – higher temperatures during the ‘growing season’ in the tropics and sub-tropic regions (India and our neighbours, Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America) will greatly affect crop productivity, and that this would be the ‘norm’.
Decreased Nutritional Value in Plants – Higher CO2 Concentrations
- Higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) increase the growth of cereal crops. At the same time, CO2decreases the nutritional value of key staple crops, particularly rice and wheat, by lowering concentrations of protein, micronutrients, and B vitamins.
- Since the mid-1960s, cereal production increased by approximately a billion tons, yet accelerated progress in agriculture is needed
- to keep pace with population growth anticipated to reach between 9–10 billion by 2050;
- to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition;
- promote sustainable agriculture
- But food security is about more than just production. While increases in CO2may make some crops grow more quickly, research shows that higher CO2 concentrations can also reduce the nutritional quality of staple crops, from potatoes to barley, rice to wheat.
- Understanding and describing the nature of these specific impacts is an important, if overlooked, aspect of climate change and food security, with obvious implications for early childhood and human development.
- Documentation of the effects of CO2on human nutrition has shown higher carbohydrate concentrations and reductions in plant-based protein and mineral content for many staple crops under experimental conditions.
- A group from the Hyderabad Centre of the international agency ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) decided to look at how two kinds of chickpea (the desi chana dal or the Bengal gram and the Kabuli chana behave under different CO2 levels (current level of 380 ppm, and two higher levels (550 and 700 ppms).
- The experiment could identify as many as 138 metabolic pathways, mainly involved in sugar/starch metabolism, chlorophyll and secondary metabolite biosynthesis, and could get to decipher the pathways that lead to how high CO2 levels modify the growth of the chickpea plants.
- The experiment found a noted increase in the root and shoot lengths (plant height). Also the number of nodules in the roots (where nitrogen-fixing bacteria live) changed at high CO2 levels. A decrease in chlorophyll synthesis hastens leaves turning yellow and plant ageing.
Way Forward – More Experiments Needed
- Interestingly, the group found that desi chana and kabuli chana responded differently at high CO2 levels. This needs to be explored further.
- Since, 138 metabolic pathways have been identified, one can look deeper into how we can use molecules or agents that can promote or inhibit specific pathways through which growth and yields can be increased without affecting its nutritional value.
- Researchers through experiments can also identify the type of legumes that will best suit local conditions.
UPSC Current Affairs: Huge inflows continue into Telangana, A.P. dams | Pg 6
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Geography & Environment | Mains: GS Paper I & III
Sub Theme: Heavy rains in the upper Krishna Basin | Bhima & Krishna River | UPSC
- Heavy to very heavy rains in the upper Krishna Basin in Maharashtra and Karnataka, including catchment areas of several tributaries of the Krishna, have resulted in sustained massive inflows to Jurala and Srisailam reservoirs. Officials have forecast further rise in levels over the next couple of days.
- From the prelims Point of view, rivers their tributaries and their sources are important.
Let us take this question from 2017 prelims examination
With reference to river Teesta, consider the following statements: (2017)
- The source of river Teesta is the same as that of Brahmaputra but it flows through Sikkim,
- River Rangeet originates in Sikkim and it is a tributary of river Teesta.
- River Teesta flows into Bay of Bengal on the border of India and Bangladesh.
Which of the statements given above is/ are correct ?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
- Bhima River is a major river in Western India and South India. It flows southeast for 861 km through Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana states, before entering the Krishna River.
- It originates near Bhimashankar Temple in the Bhimashankar hills in khed Taluka on the western side of the Western Ghats, known as Sahyadri, in Pune District, Maharashtra state.
- Krishna River is the fourth-biggest river in terms of water inflows and river basin area in India, after the Ganga River, Godavari and Brahmaputra. The river is almost 1,400 kilometres long. The river is also called Krishnaveni. It is one of the major sources of irrigation for Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- The Krishna river originates in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar at an elevation of about 1,300 metres, in the state of Maharashtra in central India. It is one of the longest rivers in India. The Krishna river is around 1,300 km in length.
- The Krishna river's source is at Mahabaleswar near the Jor village in the extreme north of Wai Taluka, Satara District, Maharashtra in the west and empties into the Bay of Bengal at Hamasaladeevi (near Koduru) in Andhra Pradesh, on the east coast. It flows through the state of Karnataka before entering Telangana State. The delta of this river is one of the most fertile regions in India and was the home to ancient Satavahana and Ikshvaku Sun Dynasty kings.
- Vijayawada is the largest city on the River Krishna.
- The principal tributaries joining Krishna are the Ghataprabha River, Malaprabha River, Bhima River, Tungabhadra River and Musi River.