Indian Express EXPLAINED _ Current Affairs for UPSC _ March 2021, Week-4

  • Suez-Canal (International Event)
  • EC's new rule for Polling Agents (Polity & Governance)
  • Special Bond of Mizoram with Chin Community of Myanmar (International Relations)
  • Labour Force Participation Rate for Women declined (Social Issues)
  • Legacy of Anangpal II in Delhi History (History & Culture)
Description

Current Affairs:  Suez Canal

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current event of international importance | Mains: GS Paper I – World History

Sub Theme: Construction of Suez Canal | Share of Britain & France | Nationalisation of Suez | UPSC

Context: Container ship M.V. Ever Given got stuck in a dust storm and strong winds on March 23 and ran aground in the channel blocking traffic on the route. However, the block has been cleared and the ship has course corrected for its route. The ship is operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine and is one of the world's largest container vessels.

About Suez Canal

  • Located in Egypt, the artificial sea-level waterway was built between 1859 and 1869 linking the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It has brought Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean closer and has been a critical artery for global trade since the mid-19th century.
  • If the channel is blocked, ships from Europe will have to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa to reach Asia, and vice versa.
  • The canal is one of the busiest waterways in the world, negating the need to navigate around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and thus cutting distances by up to 7,000 km.

Previous Efforts - Suez Canal

  • The idea of linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Erythraean Sea (today’s Red Sea) had excited both Egypt’s rulers and colonisers from ancient to modern times.
  • Pharaoh Senausret III (1887-1849 BC) built the first canal linking the Erythraean Sea in the south to the Nile river in the north and thereby opening a waterway to the Mediterranean.
  • Pharaoh Necho II, who died in 595 BC, started building another canal from the Nile to the south. It was Persian Emperor Darius I who completed the canal.
  • Over the years navigation became difficult due to deposition of silt
  • Many geologists believe that the Red Sea receded over the centuries and its coastline moved southward away from the lakes in Suez. This, coupled with persistent accumulations of silt, made it difficult to keep the waterways open.
  • So for centuries, the canal was abandoned by Egypt’s rulers — until the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1799, Napoleon’s efforts to build a proper canal were brought to an end due to an inaccuracy in the measurements.
  • In the mid-1800s, French diplomat and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps convinced the Egyptian viceroy Sayyid Pasha to support the canal’s construction.

Why Napoleon wanted to build the Canal?

  • Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 as part of his global campaign to weaken the British Empire. He wanted to build a canal across Suez under the French control because he thought it would leave a twin blow to the British.
  • One, it would provide the French a quicker and easier access to the Indian Ocean. Two, by opening a new trade route from Europe to Asia, France could hurt the British who controlled the existing route around the Cape of Good Hope.
  • But a miscalculation in the geological study of the region prompted Napoleon to abandon the project.

Universal Suez Ship Canal Company (Majority Shares held by France & Britain)

  • In 1858, Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was formed to execute the project and construction work began a year later. Britain, which controlled the route around the African continent, continued to oppose the project as a new waterway would hurt its interests. But in 1869, the canal was officially opened for traffic.
  • Britain would move from being an adversary of the project to a key beneficiary in six years when the Egyptian government, straddled with financial problems, sold its stake in the canal to London in 1875.
  • The French and British held most of the shares in the canal company. The British used their position to sustain their maritime and colonial interests by maintaining a defensive force along the Suez Canal Zone as part of a 1936 treaty.
  • In 1954, facing pressure from Egyptian nationalists, the two countries signed a seven-year treaty that led to the withdrawal of British troops.
  • Since then, France and Britain operated the canal, until Egypt’s Socialist President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised it in 1956.

The Suez War of 1956

  • In 1956, Egyptian President Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal to pay for the construction of a dam on the Nile. This led to the Suez Crisis with UK, France and Israel mounting an attack on Egypt.
  • The British and French governments launched a military operation to regain control, which resulted in the sinking of most of the ships in the canal at the time. They eventually withdrew, and the canal was cleared and reopened after four months.
  • The conflict ended in 1957 after the United Nations got involved and was followed by the first instance of the UN Peacekeeping Forces being deployed anywhere in the world.
  • Even as the occupying forces withdrew their troops, the UN forced were stationed at Sinai to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel.

1967 Crisis

  • On October 29, 1956, three months after Nasser nationalised the canal, Israeli troops attacked the Egyptian Sinai. French and British troops joined in later. The plan was to retake control of the canal and remove Nasser, who was being emboldened by the Soviet support. But the invasion did not go ahead as planned.
  • Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened Israel, Britain and France with rocket attacks unless they withdrew troops from the Sinai. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, partly upset that the British went ahead with the invasion without American approval and partly out of strategic concern that the invasion would play into the hands of the Soviet Union, threatened Britain and others with economic sanctions unless they withdrew the troops.
  • By March 1957, the invading troops were fully withdrawn and Egypt’s authority over the canal was recognised.
  • The canal was closed again during the 1967 war. It would be reopened only in 1975 after Egyptian-Israeli relations started warming following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
  • the Suez crisis also marked Great Britain’s dwindling influence in West Asia, a region it controlled since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the arrival of the U.S. as the new great power in the region.

Modernising the Canal

  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power through a coup in 2013, launched an ambitious $8.5-billion expansion project at the canal in 2014 as part of which a second line was dug along its northern section, allowing two-way traffic.

Conclusion

  • The canal is an important source of revenue for Egypt’s battered economy. Last year, Egypt generated $5.61 billion in revenues from the canal and the authorities expect this to double by 2023.
  • About 19,000 ships passed through the channel in 2020 carrying 1.2 billion tonnes of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority. As much as 13% of all maritime trade, from oil to automobiles, pass through the canal every year.
  • So a delay in reopening the channel will have a huge impact on export businesses, commodities, ship and cargo companies and even Egypt’s national economy.

IMPACT

  • Resulted in number of cargo ships being stuck for weeks.
  • Led to an estimated daily economic loss worth $9.6 billion.
  • Led to fall in crude oil prices as it was down by $1 per barrel to $63.67.
  • Trading companies were forced to use alternative routes to avoid economic loss.

 

 

Current Affairs:EC’s new rule for Polling Agents

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

Sub Theme: Polling Agent | RPA, 1951 | Duties of Polling Agent | Conduct of Election Rules | UPSC

Context: As per the new regulations, a political party can now nominate a polling agent for any booth within the assembly segment he/she is a voter from. Earlier, the polling agent had to be a voter of the booth or an adjoining booth that he/she is working at.

A polling agent is a person appointed as a representative of a political party as it is not possible for a candidate to be physically present at every polling booth on the day of the elections. Therefore, the Election Commission allows a candidate to appoint a polling agent who keeps an eye on the voting process. Section 46 of Representation of People Act provides for appointment of polling agents by the political party.

Section 46 – RPA, 1951

A contesting candidate or his election agent may appoint in the prescribed manner such number of agents and relief agents as may be prescribed to act as polling agents of such candidate at each polling station provided under section 25 or at the place fixed under sub-section (1) of section 29 for the poll.

Section 25(1) - Provision of polling stations for constituencies

The district election officer shall, with the previous approval of the Election Commission, provide a sufficient number of polling stations for every constituency the whole or greater part of which lies within his jurisdiction, and shall publish, in such manner as the Election Commission may direct, a list showing the polling stations so provided and the polling areas or groups of voters for which they have respectively been provided.

Section 29(1) - Special provisions in the case of certain elections

The returning officer for an election to fill a seat or seats in the Council of States or for an election by the members of the Legislative Assembly of a State to fill a seat or seats in the Legislative Council of the State shall, with the previous approval of the Election Commission, fix the place at which the poll will be taken for such election and shall notify the place so fixed in such manner as the Election Commission may direct.

Role of Polling Agent

As per the Election Commission’s rules, a polling agent should be familiar with the rules and procedures to conduct elections using EVMs and VVPATs, and with the working of these machines. Towards this end, a polling agent attends the demonstrations arranged by the Returning Officer, where the functioning and operation of these machines are explained.

Changes made by the New Rule

As per the earlier practice, polling agents had to be voters of the same polling stations or at least the neighbouring polling stations of the booth where she has been posted at.The Election Commission of India, revising the rule, has allowed a party to nominate a polling agent for any booth within the assembly segment where the person is an electorate of. So, any voter from within an Assembly constituency can be a polling agent of any booth within that constituency.

Main Duties of Polling Agents:

  • To take part in the mock poll and satisfy themselves that EVM & VVPAT are in proper working order.
  • To help the presiding officer to detect and prevent impersonation of voters.
  • Help the officials in securing and sealing EVMs and VVPATs before and after conduct of polls.
  • To see that all election records relating to the poll are secured and sealed properly after the close of polls as required by law.
  • To see that serial numbers of Control Units, Ballot Units and VVPATs being used in the polling stations are in conformity with the details provided by the Returning Officer.

Section 21 (RPA, 1951) - Returning officers

For every constituency, for every election to fill a seat or seats in the Council of States and for every election by the members of the Legislative Assembly of a State to fill a seat or seats in the Legislative Council of the State, the Election Commission shall, in consultation with the Government of the State, designate or nominate a returning officer who shall be an officer of Government or of a local authority: Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the Election Commission from designating or nominating the same person to be the returning officer for more than one constituency.

Section 24 (RPA, 1951) - General duty of the returning officer

It shall be the general duty of the returning officer at any election to do all such acts and things as may be necessary for effectually conducting the election in the manner provided by this Act and rules or orders made thereunder.

Section 26 (RPA, 1951) -Appointment of Presiding Officers for polling stations

The District Election Officer shall appoint a presiding officer for each polling station and such polling officer or officers as he thinks necessary, but he shall not appoint any person who has been employed by or on behalf of, or has been otherwise working for, a candidate in or about the election. The District Election Officer can appoint the same person to be the Presiding Officer for more than one polling station in the same premises.

Section 13AA (RPA, 1950) - District Election Officers

For each district in a State, the Election Commission shall, in consultation with the Government of the State, designate or nominate a district election officer who shall be an officer of Government: Provided that the Election Commission may designate or nominate more than one such officer for a district if the Election Commission is satisfied that the functions of the office cannot be performed satisfactorily by one officer.

Section 20A (RPA, 1951) General duties of District Election Officer

Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the chief electoral officer, the district election officer shall coordinate and supervise all work in the district or in the area within his jurisdiction in connection with the conduct of all elections to Parliament and the Legislature of the State. The district election officer shall also perform such other functions as may be entrusted to him by the ElectionCommission and the Chief Electoral Officer.

Section 13A (RPA, 1950) Chief electoral officers

There shall be for each State a chief electoral officer who shall be such officer of Government as the Election Commission may, in consultation with that Government, designate or nominate in this behalf. Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the Election Commission, the chief electoral officer shall supervise the preparation, revision and correction of all electoral rolls in the State under this Act.

Section 20 (RPA, 1951) - General duties of Chief Electoral Officers

Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the ElectionCommission, the Chief Electoral Officer of each State shall supervise the conduct of all elections in the State under this Act.

 

Current Affairs:Special Bond of Mizoram with Chin Community of Myanmar

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Human Geography | Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations

Sub Theme: | Chin Communities of India-Myanmar | Free Movement Regime (FMR) | UN Refugee Convention 1951| UPSC

Context: Centre wants these Myanmar nationals deported, but Mizoram wants political asylum for their ‘Mizo brethren’. Mizoram government told the Centre that the Myanmar areas bordering Mizoram are inhabited by Chin communities who are ethnically Mizo brethren with whom Mizos have close contact throughout all these years even before India became independent. Therefore, Mizoram cannot just remain indifferent to their sufferings today.

About Chin Communities

  • The Chin Hills, or the Indo-Chin hill ranges as they are often called, are a mountainous region in north-western Myanmar. At an elevation of 2100-3000 metres, this heavily- forested mountain region was the home of numerous tribes that fall under the Zo umbrella.
  • The Zo people include all the tribes that come under the Chin-Kuki-Mizo ethnic group spread across Myanmar, India and Bangladesh including a host of tribes, sub-tribes and clans such as Chin, Kuki, Mizo, Zomi, Paitei, Hmar, Lushei, Ralte, Pawi, Lai, Mara, Gangte, Thadou etc.
  • Believed to have originated in China, the tribes migrated through Tibet to settle in Myanmar, and speak a group of the Tibeto-Burman languages. But constant feuds among clans of different tribes and their kings (chieftains), drove many of the clans westwards, towards Mizoram and some parts of Manipur, in the 17th century. Here the tribes set up new villages and colonies, but even with their new identities, they remain socially and emotionally tied with the Chin tribes of Myanmar.
  • When British rule extended towards the Northeast, Mizoram was denoted an “excluded area” and remained outside the administration of the British, governed only by the Scheduled District Act.

Special Bond between Chin Communities of India-Myanmar

  • While they are separated by a 510-km India-Myanmar border, they consider themselves “one people’’ despite past conflicts: the Indo-Chin people.
  • Besides the shared ethnicity, what binds these two peoples together is a shared religion. Mizoram is predominantly Christian, as are the Chin people of Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Mizoram officials refer to the refugees’ status as a Christian minority people in seeking asylum for them, and also the fear of persecution by the junta.
  • RihDil in Chin state, Myanmar, is a cultural and spiritual lake for the Mizos, deeply revered in folklore, shaping pre-Christian belief of traditional Mizo views of life after death.
  • The Mizo social fabric spans across the border, which now separates families. While the two countries have an arrangement called Free Movement Regime (FMR) that allows locals on either side to go up to 16 km on the other side and stay up to 14 days, thousands regularly cross over on either side for work and to meet relatives, often unofficially and for extended periods.

1951 REFUGEE CONVENTION – INDIA NOT A SIGNATORY

  • Top of Form
  • The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are the key legal documents that form the basis of our work. With 149 State parties to either or both, they define the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.
  • The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law. 
  • UNHCR serves as the ‘guardian’ of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to the legislation, States are expected to cooperate with us in ensuring that the rights of refugees are respected and protected.
  • India is not a signatory to the 1951 REFUGEE CONVENTION and hence has asked bordering states along Myanmar along with Assam Rifles to deport Myanmar nationals entering India under FOREIGNERS ACT, 1946.

  

Current Affairs: Labour Force Participation Rate for Women declined

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy | Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice & GS Paper III – Indian Economy

Sub Theme: Labour Force Participation for Women | NSO | UPSC

Context: India has one of the worst labour force participation rates (LFPR) by women.The LFPR basically tells what percentage of the total women within the working-age are seeking work; it includes both those who are employed as well as those who are as yet unemployed but seeking work.As the chart below shows, at 21% India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the world. In other words, 79% of Indian women (aged 15 years and above) do not even seek work.

As the chart below shows, no matter which cluster of countries one compares with — high income or low, highly indebted or least developed — India comes off worse. India’s 21% female LFPR is not even half the global average (47%).

Important Observations:

  • LFPR - National Statistical Office - Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation
  • Labour Force Participation Rate in 2017-18: Total- 49.8%; Male- 75%; Female- 25.3%.
  • Female LPFR in Rural Areas (26.6%)  higher as compared to  Urban Areas (22.3%)
  • Decline in the total Female LPFR from 45.2% in 1993-94 to 25.3% in 2017-18.
  • Decline in Female LPFR sharper in Rural areas (from 52% in 1993-94 to 26.6% in 2017-18) as compared to Urban areas (from 25.1% in 1993-94 to 22.3% in 2017-18).

Reasons for decline in Female LFPR

SUPPLY SIDE

DEMAND SIDE

·         Higher Enrolment of Females in higher Educational Institutions.

·         More number of Women opting for Household duties due to increase in household incomes.

·         Cultural factors- Social Constraints and Patriarchal norms.

·         Structural Transformation: Decline in agriculture not accompanied by creation of jobs for women in other sectors.

·         Decline in Labour Intensive Industries in Urban areas.

·         Significant wage gap between males and females


Initiatives to Improve Female Work Participation

Improving the Safety of Women at Workplace:

Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme:  Empowers rural women through community participation.

Female Entrepreneurship: To promote female entrepreneurship, the Government has initiated schemes like MUDRA, Stand Up India and Mahila e-Haat.

Rashtriya Mahila Kosh : Provides micro-credit at concessional terms to poor women for various livelihood and income generating activities.

Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP): Under the scheme, women entrepreneurs are provided 25 per cent and 35 per cent subsidies for the project set up in urban and rural areas respectively.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) - seeks to reach out to 8-9 crore rural poor households and organize one-woman member from each household into affinity-based women SHGs and federations at village and at higher levels.

 

 

Current Affairs: Legacy of Anangpal II in Delhi History

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: History & Culture | Mains – GS Paper I - History & Culture

Sub Theme:  | Tomar Dynasty | Anangpal - II | Prithvi Raj Chauhan | UPSC

Context: The government has recently formed a committee to popularise the legacy of 11th-century Tomar king, Anangpal II. Crediting him with giving Delhi its present name and also repopulating it, the National Monument Authority — which functions under the Ministry of Culture — has embarked on a mission to present “correct history” to the people through the works of historians, academics and archaeologists.

Anangpal II

The government has recently formed a committee to popularise the legacy of 11th-century Tomar king, Anangpal II. 

About Anangpal II?

  • He belonged to the Tomar dynasty(Anangpal I founded the Tomar dynasty in the 8th century)that ruled parts of present-day Delhi and Haryana between the 8th and 12th
  • Anangpal II, popularly known as Anangpal Tomar.
  • Anangpal II was instrumental in populating Indraprastha and giving it its present name, Delhi.
  • He built Lal Kot fort and Anangtal Baoli.
  • Their capital was initially at Anangpur (near Faridabad) during the reign of Anangpal I,laterit was shifted to Dhillikapuri (Delhi) during the reign of Anangpal II.
  • Anangpal Tomar II was succeeded by his grandson Prithviraj Chauhan, who was defeated by the Ghurid forces in the Battle of Tarain (present-day Haryana) after which the Delhi Sultanate was established in 1192.

About Battle of Tarain (1191 & 1192)

  • As a result of successive conquests, the boundaries of Ghori’s kingdom extended to the border of Prithviraj's kingdom. In 1191, Muhammad Ghori attacked Sirhind or Bathinda on north-western frontier of Chauhan kingdom. Prithviraj's along with his army, led by vassal Govinda-Raj, rushed to the defense of the frontier, and the two armies fought a battle at Tarain. This is how the First war of Tairan began.
  • Two wings of Turkic army were defeated and fled away while Muhammad Ghori could not recover from the blow and fainted from the shock. The army surrendered and Muhammad was made prisoner. Muhammad of Ghor begged for mercy and Prithviraj pardoned him.
  • In 1192, Ghori after returning to his capital Ghazni challenged Prithviraj at the Second Battle of Tarain. Muhammad Ghori asked Prithviraj Chauhan to either change his religion to Muslim or be prepared to be defeated by him. Prithviraj Chauhan cease fired.
  • Muhammad Ghori decieved Prithviraj with a letter of acceptance of the treaty. The Rajput armywas in a relaxed mood. Suddenly Ghori`s army attacked Prithviraj`s army in the wee hours. At the end of the day Muhammad Ghori was victorious.
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