18 November, 2020

  • Announcement of Prelims Test Series Program
  • RCEP is not just a trading arrangement; leaving it is a short-sighted move (International Relation)
  • Fragile ceasefire (International Relation)
  • Constitutional fault lines (Polity & Governance)
  • Find out what happened to missing circus animals during inspection (Polity & Governance)
  • What mechanism do you have against fake news, SC asks govt. (Polity & Governance)
  • Question for the day (International Relation)

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: RCEP is not just a trading arrangement; leaving it is a short-sighted move | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of international importance | Mains – GS Paper III –Economy

    Sub Theme: Free Trade Agreements |RCEP | UPSC

    This is an interview article giving the opinion of Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary. He is of the opinion that the decision to opt out was “short-sighted” and will have broader strategic implications for India.

    Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

    • RCEP is a free trade agreement concluded between 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region - 10 ASEAN countries and their six FTA partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
    • The 15 member countries account for about 30% of the world's population and 30% of global GDP, making it the world's biggest trade bloc in history.
    • It will eliminate about 90% of the tariffs on imports between its signatories within 20 years of coming into force, and establish common rules for e-commerce, trade, and intellectual property.
    • The RCEP is the first free trade agreement between China, Japan, and South Korea, three of the four largest economies in Asia.
    • It is said to "pull the economic centre of gravity back towards Asia" as well as amplify the decline of the United Statesin economic and political affairs.

    Challenges for India in joining the RCEP

    • India has Trade deficit ~ $83 billion with RCEP block.
    • Chinese threat
      • Trade deficit with China ~ $60 billion
      • China has over capacity due to trade war with U.S.
    • Threat to agriculture – from dairy products of New Zealand etc
    • IPR issue – pressure of Japan – Indian Pharmaceutical industry will be affected.
    • Bilateral FTAs were not working for us. India has bilateral FTA with - Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Thailand, Singapore, Bhutan, Nepal, Korea, Malaysia and Japan.

    Evaluation of FTA of India

    Economic Survey 2015-16 has done evaluation of free trade agreements.

    • Trade has increased – eg: In 4 years (2010-14) trade with ASEAN increased by 50%.
    • Investment has increased – investment from ASEAN id 12.5% of net investment.
    • Diversification of trade has happened
    • Expansion in trading relations - For example, there is a commitment by Japan to assist the Indian pharma industry through the regulatory and registration process, so that the Indian pharma products which are competitively priced can have access to the market.

    However,

    • Import increased more than export
    • Trade deficit
      • ~ $10 billion with ASEAN
      • Trade deficit with Japan and South Korea as well
    • Export to FTA countries is comparable to exports to overall export
    • Only in case of Sri Lanka export has increased more than import.
    • FTAs utilization is low - between 5% and 25% (Asian Development Bank)

    Opportunities for India in joining the RCEP

    • Increase in trade and trade diversification.
    • Investment will increase. FDI in employment-generating areas can be effectively used.
    • Integrating into global value chains.
    • One FTA will ease the compliance and FTA utilization.
    • FTA in service (negotiation still on) will give huge advantage to India and correct the trade deficits.

    Strategic dimension of RCEP

    ‘Act East’ policy

    There is inconsistency of some of our recent moves, with the ‘Act East’ policy –

    • One, not joining RCEP.
    • Two, if you look at the latest East Asia Summit (EAS), only India and the U.S. were not represented at a summit level [India was represented by the External Affairs Minister].
    • In the preceding Foreign Ministers’ meeting, our Minister of State was present, not the External Affairs Minister. [And the EAS was something we pushed membership for, having not been able to get into APEC, for giving us a foothold in the region.]

    Greater influence of China

    For China to be part and parcel of RCEP when it is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] is a big thing. What it does is it formalises its economic network in this part of the world. When people are talking about re-shoring and looking at alternative supply chains, this ensures that will not have much traction. If we are looking at the TPP and a Biden administration in the U.S. perhaps coming back in some way, this becomes all the more important. You will have a symmetric situation, with China being part of one trading arrangement with the U.S. out of it, and the U.S. part of one arrangement with China out of it.

    That will leave India out in the cold.

    Other strategic advantages

    • Port building in Philippine etc.
    • Leverage at international forum like WTO.
    • Cooperation in dealing with black money, terrorism, extradition treaty etc.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Fragile ceasefire | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of international importance; World Geography (Map) | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: War over Nagorno-Karabakh | Armenia- Azerbaijan | UPSC

    Context:

    • The six-week-long war over Nagorno-Karabakh has come to a halt following a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but only after altering the balance of power in the region.
    • Under a Russia-brokered peace deal, Azerbaijan was set to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan under international law.
    • UPSC in the past has asked questions regarding major conflicts:

    Consider this:

    Consider the following pairs : (2014)

    Region often in News

    Country

    1.

    Chechnya

    :

    Russian Federation

    2.

    Darfur

    :

    Mali

    3.

    Swat Valley

    :

    Iraq


    Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

    (a)  1 only

    (b) 2 and 3 only

    (c) 1 and 3 only

    (d) 1, 2 and 3

    Answer: A

    Why was this asked: conflict in Darfur (Sudan), Swat valley (shooting of Malala) and Chechenia rebellions.

    Similarly the conflict of Armenia and Azerbaijan is the most important conflict of 2020. The conflict, its genesis and geographical locations have been discussed in DNS dated 30th September, 2020.

    Even if the direct conflict was between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two bigger powers had high stakes — Russia and Turkey.

    The outcomes for Turkey and Russia

    For Turkey, the war in Karabakh was a showcase for Ankara's growing role in the strategically important South Caucasus.

    • The victorious Azerbaijani military was supplied, trained, and supported by the Turkish army.
    • Some reports suggest that Turkish officers played a key part in guiding drone attacks which played a decisive role in this conflict, although that has been denied by Ankara.

    So, the victory shows that Turkey has gained significant influence in the region, particularly in Turkic Azerbaijan.

    At the same time, the outcome of this war, and particularly the way the peace agreement came about, is a win for Russia.

    • It remained neutral because
      • Over the last two decades, the Kremlin has been under no illusions that, with a petrodollar-fuelled Azeri defence budget three times the size of Armenia's, the balance of power has been inexorably tilting towards Azerbaijan.
    • The deal
      • Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only signatory of the peace deal beyond the leaders of the two warring states, and the Russian troops will be the only peacekeepers monitoring the implementation of the agreement, with no Turkish or any other boots on the ground - although Turkey says it will send observers.
      • Russian border and customs services will control and operate a newly created route that will connect Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhichevan.

    So Moscow has shown that it remains an indispensable power in the region, and was able to preserve its ties with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, while successfully competing with Turkey.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Constitutional Fault Lines - Article | Page - 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance |Mains: GS Paper-II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Clemency Power of President/Governor cannot delay beyond reasonable time | UPSC

    The Governor of Tamil Nadu (T.N.), Banwarilal Purohit, has continued to withhold his decision on an application seeking pardon filed by A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven prisoners convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

    In September 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) had observed, while hearing a connected writ petition, that the Governor should take a decision. A subsequent resolution passed by the Council of Ministers in favour of releasing all seven prisoners had rendered the matter fait accompli. The inaction by the Governor now has given rise to constitutional fault lines within the Executive arm of the government.

    Maru Ram v. Union of India (1981)

    • Pardoning power “under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution can be exercised by the Central and the State Governments, not by the President or Governor on their own.”
    • Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, speaking for the majority judgment, reiterated that the “advice of the appropriate Government binds the Head of the State”.
    • Therefore, a Governor is neither expected, nor is empowered, to test the constitutionality of the order or resolution presented to her. That is a power reserved exclusively for constitutional courts of the country.

    Shatrugan Chouhan v. Union of India

    • SC laid down the principle of “presumption of dehumanising effect of such delay”.
    • Supreme Court confirmed that the due process guaranteed under Article 21 was available to each and every prisoner “till his last breath”.
    • The Supreme Court had exercised its powers under Article 32 of the Constitution to commute the death sentences of convicts and essentially interfered when an inordinate delay to perform a constitutional function was brought to its notice.

    Keisham Meghachandra Singh v. Hon’ble Speaker (2020)

    Supreme Court was asked to examine the Speaker’s inaction with regard to disqualification proceedings. It was hitherto believed that the powers of the Speaker, holding a constitutional office and exercising powers granted under the Constitution, were beyond the scope of a ‘writ of mandamus’. However, the apex court, recalling an earlier judgment in Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya (2007),had confirmed its view that the “failure on the part of the Speaker to decide the application seeking a disqualification cannot be said to be merely in the realm of procedure” and that it “goes against the very constitutional scheme of adjudication contemplated by the Tenth Schedule”.

    Keisham Meghachandra Singh case - SC issued a judicial direction to the Speaker to decide the disqualification petitions within a period of four weeks.

    The fifteenth Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu and consequently, the Council of Ministers, will end in May, 2021. This calls for the immediate interference of the Supreme Court, for it otherwise would render the resolution passed by the Council of Ministers and words contained in Article 161 of the Constitution meaningless.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: ‘Find out what happened to missing circus animals during inspection’ | Page- 02

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Regulatory Bodies| Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) | Central Zoo Authority (CZA) | Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisation (FIAPO) | People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) | UPSC   

    The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to find out what happened to the circus animals which were missing when inspection was carried out at circuses across the country.

    The court said that out of 740 animals registered with AWBI, information is available regarding only 28.

    The court’s direction came while hearing two separate petitions filed by the Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisation (FIAPO) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India seeking directions for protection of animals in circuses due to the pandemic.

    PETA India has claimed that due to the pandemic outbreak and the lockdown, circuses are finding it difficult to feed the animals who are at various stages of starvation.

    PETA has sought a direction to the Centre to immediately notify the draft Performing Animals (Registration) Amendment Rules of 2018, which expressly prohibit training and exhibition of performing animals in circuses and “mobile entertainment facilities”.

    • Circuses poses risk of spreading zoonotic diseases.
    • Animals are not to be used for entertainment and pointed out that several other countries have banned the use of animals in circuses including Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, and Malta.

    FIAPO has challenged the Performing Animal Rules, 1973 and Performing Animal (Registration) Rules, 2001 to the extent that they allow registration of animals as ‘performing animals’ for circuses as against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Constitution of India.

    • use of weapons and other abuse of animals is inherent, rampant, and widespread in circuses.
    • Animals are forced to perform confusing, uncomfortable, and even painful tricks and are denied everything natural and important to them

    Central Zoo Authority (CZA)

    • The CZA is astatutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • It was constituted in 1992 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • chaired by the Environment Ministerand has 10 members and a member-secretary.
    • Functioning:The authority provides recognition to zoos and is also tasked with regulating the zoos across the country.
      • Itlays down guidelines and prescribes rules under which animals may be transferred among zoos nationally and internationally.
      • It coordinates and implements programmeson capacity building of zoo personnel, planned breeding programmes and ex-situ research.

    Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)

    • It is a statutory body, established in 1962, under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
    • The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
    • Chaired by a senior official of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF)
    • It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations.
    • It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere. It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws to ensure animals were not unduly harassed or tortured.
    • Headquartered at Ballabhgarhin Haryana
    • Circuses get registered under Performing Animal Rules 2001 by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
    • Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case in the court against "Nagaraja" in 2014 to ask for the rights of animals. In that case, the Court mandated that the animals are also entitled to the fundamental right to freedom enshrined in the Article 21 of Constitution of Indiae. right to life, personal liberty and the right to die with dignity (passive euthanasia).

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: What mechanism do you have against fake news, SC asks govt. |Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Judiciary| Tablighi Jamaat Case | SC on Fake News | UPSC       

    Context

    Supreme Court expressed “disappointment” on the latest government affidavit, filed by Information and Broadcasting Secretary in the Tablighi Jamaat case and has asked the Centre to explain its “mechanism” against fake news and bigotry on air.

    Tablighi Jamaat Case

    • The Tablighi Jamaat case is based on petitions against the communal colour given by certain sections of the electronic media to the holding of a Tablighi Jamaat event in the National Capital during the lockdown.
    • The Jamiat petitions has sought a direction from the court to the Ministry to identify and take strict action against sections of the media that communalised the Tablighi incident.
    • Affidavit
    • The affidavit filed by the government said that media coverage “predominantly struck a balanced and neutral perspective”.
    • It explained that as a “matter of journalistic policy, any section of the media may highlight different events, issues and happenings across the world as per their choice.”
    • It was for the viewer therefore to choose from the varied opinions offered by different media outlets.
    • SC Reaction
    • Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction on this affidavit.
    • It has demanded explanation with respect to “mechanism” against fake news and to create one authority if one did not already exist.
    • It demanded details on Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act of 1995 with respect to –
    • Application of the Cable TV Act – For example – If regulatory provisions of the Cable TV Act, meant for cable networks, would apply to TV broadcasts?
    • Legal remedy in case of complaints – For example – If government has any power to question or ban TV broadcasting signals or prohibit transmission of certain programmes under Section 19 of the 1995 Act?
    • Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act of 1995
    • The object of the Act was to regulate the ‘haphazard mushrooming of cable television networks’.
    • Due to the lack of licensing mechanism for cable operators; this resulted in large number of cable operators, broadcasting programmes without any regulation.
    • The Act aimed at regulating content and operation of cable networks.
    • Suggestions

    India is witnessing a rising tide of fake news and misinformation pumped through mainstream media. This is a major concern.

    Linking an event of a Muslim group Tablighi Jamaat for spreading coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic in the country while overlooking other similar gatherings, the attitude of a section of India’s mainstream media created hatred against Muslim community, leading to their social boycott at various places.

    Thus in this regard there is a need to–

    • Timely amend Cable TV Act to introduce effective content regulation provision to prevent spread of misinformation and fake news.
    • Create an independent public authority to keep a check on this fake news and timely debunk them in public domain.
    • Promote use of independent fact-checkers to ascertain authenticity of news items.
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