Weekly Current Affairs – Mains ( 5th to 11th August 2018 )
Topic 1: Jal Marg Vikas Project
Topic in syllabus: GS III – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Why in news:
IWAI recently held a large public outreach along Ganga for Jal Marg Vikas Project. Two-Day long advocacy meetings were held in Jharkhand leg of Ganga.
What is it?
The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.
Implementation: The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.
Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids; Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.
- Though the project is ambitious in its intent, it does not account for the monetary value of the environmental costs that are imposed upon society. The river Ganga meanders across the landscape and spreads over its riverbed making pools and shallow areas. Fish and turtles lay eggs in these shallow areas.
- But thanks to dredging, which is already being done in the Ganga under the NW-1 project, the river is now channelized in one deep channel. The river no longer meanders and no longer has pools and shallow areas, destroying the habitat of fish and turtles.
- The stretch of the Ganga near Varanasi has been declared as a turtle sanctuary and studies in other countries indicate that large numbers get hit by fast-moving tourist boats because turtles move slowly.
- The stretch of the Ganga near Bhagalpur has been declared a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of the Ganges Dolphin. This animal does not have eyes. It navigates and catches its prey by the sound made by the movement of other aquatic creatures. The plying of large barges will create a high level of sound and make it difficult for them to survive. The paint on ships and barges will also pollute the water. The carbon dioxide released by the ships will be is absorbed more by the water because of its proximity and this too pollutes the river.
What can be done to minimize impacts in sensitive zones?
- A ban on dredging in protected habitat areas. In other areas that are known to be the habitat of valued aquatic species, no dredging should be allowed in the breeding and spawning seasons.
- The speed of barges travelling along the protected areas of the sanctuaries should be restricted to 5km per hour. All vessels plying on the Ganga should be fitted with noise control and animal exclusion devices so that aquatic life is not unduly disturbed. All vessels will also have to comply with `zero discharge’ standards to prevent solid or liquid waste from flowing into the river and affecting its biodiversity.
It is time to ensure that the small direct benefits from cheaper transportation shall not have large environmental costs.
Know about IWAI:
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP. It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.
With reference to the Jal Marg Vikas Project, discuss the potential of waterways development as alternate mode of transportation and the challenges associated with it.
Topic 2: Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018
Topic in syllabus: GS II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Why in news:
Parliament has passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The main highlight of the bill is that it seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes punishment of death.
Highlights of the Bill:
- It provides for stringent punishmentincluding death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
- The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
- In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convicts’ “natural life”.
- The punishment for gang rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.
- Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence. Gang rape of a girl under 12 years of age will invite punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death.
- The measure also provides for speedy investigations and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.
- The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
Bail related provisions:
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years. It has also been prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
Need for a stringent law:
The number of reported cases of rapes of children increased in India by 82% in 2016 compared to 2015. A climate of violence, social and economic insecurity, alienation, and a progressive undermining of the status of women and children seem to have given an impetus to carry out crimes against women and children.
Therefore, the legal system must give a clear signal that we as a nation consider the rape of children below the age of 12 as among the most heinous of offences. Making such crimes punishable by capital punishment certainly gives such a signal.
Is it sufficient?
Statistics have not been able to prove or disprove the efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrent. While the U.K. has seen an increase in murders since 1965 when capital punishment for murder was removed from the statute book, Canada has not seen any such impact since it abolished the death penalty in 1976. The underlying socio-economic conditions in a society that cause crimes seem to have as much of an impact on the increase or decrease of crimes as the law does.
What is needed?
It is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty and uniformity of it which will reduce crime. Even for capital punishment to work as a deterrent, the fairness of the investigation, the certainty of conviction, and the speed of the trial are vital. With the police and judicial independence being under a cloud, especially after the incidents in Kathua and Unnao, the deterrent value of capital punishment seems diminished unless police reforms and fast-track courts are a part of the package.
Crimes against women have generated nationwide outrage in the recent times. Discuss how effectively has the Government been able to deal with such crimes. In addition, explain the significance of the amendment providing for death penalty for rape.
Topic 3: UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance)
Topic in syllabus: GS II- e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
Why in news:
Recognizing the importance of reaching out to the consumers and to safeguard their interests, TRAI has now integrated its Mobile Apps namely DND 2.0 & MyCall with UMANG Platform.
TRAI MyCall App:
TRAI MyCall is an intuitive and user friendly application for Crowdsourced Voice Call Quality Monitoring. The Application helps Mobile phone users to rate their experience about voice call quality in real time and help TRAI gather consumer experience data along with Network data.
A pop up requests the user to rate the call after it ends. Callers simply select their rating in the form of stars and indicate if the calls were made in indoor, outdoor or while travelling. Callers can also provide additional details such as noise or audio delay or mark a call-drop.
DND 2.0 App:
DND (Do Not Disturb) Services App enables smart phone users to register their mobile number under DND and report spam messages or calls to avoid Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC)/Telemarketing Calls/SMS.
About Umang app:
Umang is an initiative to promote Digital India program. The term — Umang stands for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance and is envisaged for e-governance. The application is developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD) in order to drive Mobile Governance in India.
The key goal of launching this application is to allow the citizens of India do everything online, at just a click – be it making a passport, Aadhaar or Pan, book a gas cylinder, know about your Provident fund account or resolving an Aadhaar related. Umang app basically provides a unified approach where you can install one application to avail multiple government services — almost over 100 of them.
Discuss the role of various mobile applications/digital platforms launched by Government recently to provide services online and how this has helped in more efficient and transparent governance?
Topic 4: National Energy Storage Mission
Topic in syllabus: GS III Infrastructure- energy.
In February 2018, an Expert Committee under the chairpersonship of Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, with representatives from relevant Ministries, industry associations, research institutions and experts was constituted by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy to propose draft for setting up National Energy Storage Mission (NESM) for India.
The Expert Committee referred has proposed a draft NESM with objective to strive for leadership in energy storage sector by creating an enabling policy and regulatory framework that encourages manufacturing, deployment, innovation and further cost reduction.
Key areas for energy storage application include:
- Integrating renewable energy with distribution and transmission grids.
- Setting Rural microgrids with diversified loads or stand-alone systems.
- Developing Storage component of electric mobility plans.
Highlights of the draft National Energy Storage Mission (NESM):
- The draft expects to kick-start grid-connected energy storage in India, set up a regulatory framework, and encourage indigenous manufacture of batteries.
- The draft sets a “realistic target” of 15-20 gigawatt hours (GWh) of grid-connected storage within the next five years. Power grids do not currently use storage options that would help in smoothly integrating renewable energy sources.
- The mission will focus on seven verticals: indigenous manufacturing; an assessment of technology and cost trends; a policy and regulatory framework; financing, business models and market creation; research and development; standards and testing; and grid planning for energy storage.
Significance and the need for energy storage:
Energy Storage is one of the most crucial & critical components of India’s energy infrastructure strategy and also for supporting India’s sustained thrust to renewables.
Renewable energy sources now make up almost one-fifth of India’s total installed power capacity. However, as power grids increase their share of solar and wind energy, the problem remains that the peak supply of renewable sources does not always meet peak demand. For instance, solar energy generation may be at its peak at noon, but unless stored, it will not be available when needed to light up homes at night. Moreover, renewable sources are inherently intermittent: there are days when the wind doesn’t blow or the sky is cloudy.
With India’s increasing push towards new and renewable energy, there is a growing need to have a strong and reliable energy storage system. Analyse.
Topic 5: Railways’ focus misplaced: CAG
Topic in syllabus: GS III- Infrastructure-Railways
The Indian Railways (IR) is the fourth-largest railway network in the world – in terms of size, its total track length being 1,21,407 kilometer. It operates more than 13,000 passenger trains on a daily basis. It is currently the 8th-largest employer in the world, with more than 1.3 million employees but trains running late has been a common scenario across the country.
Why in news:
CAG observation on modernization of railways had brought the focus back on this key priority area of government as highlighted in the Budget.
It is the continual endeavour of Indian Railways (IR) to take measures for modernisation of railway passenger coaches, strengthening and upgradation of security infrastructure and stations and improvement of catering facilities.
- The focus of Railways’ modernisation plans for its stations is mainly on improving the façade and passenger facilities, rather thatremoving bottlenecks to ensure timely movement of trains. The latter should be one of the most important parameters to judge the quality of service being provided to the passengers
- Important activitiessuch as providing platforms with adequate length for easy boarding of long trains, providing adequate facilities for stabling trains and for their maintenance in stations, and adequate yard capacity significantly contribute to timely arrival and departure of trains.
- During a review of the existing infrastructure at 15 selected stations, the audit noticed that infrastructure such as platforms, washing pit lines and stabling lines at the stations were not augmented to match the increase in number of trainshandled in all these stations.
- Non-availability of adequate washing pit lines and stabling lines led to movement of empty trains to other depots for maintenance purposes.This caused blockage of lines.
- Before taking up modernization/redevelopment of stations and constructing new buildings, the possibility of further expansion of the stationsby adding more platforms needs to be considered.
- The modernisation/ redevelopment of stations should also address infrastructural constraints and works such as construction of additional platforms, stabling and washing pit lines and remodelling of yards should be included in its scope, it recommended.
- Of the 2,436 trains handled by the 15 stations as of March last year, 638 are being run with 24 or more coaches every day. To accommodate these longer train rakes, there should be platform of adequate length and adequate facilities of stabling and washing pit lines.
Modernisation of railway passenger coaches and speed:
- Large scale proliferation of Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches:
- Improvements in EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) / MEMU (Mainline Electric Multiple Unit) rakes:
- Speed of train coaches:
- Manufacture of electric train set coaches:
- Mid-Life-Rehabilitation (MLR) of coaches:
- Model Rake Coaches:
- New coaches and train services with better amenities:
- Safety and Security of railway passengers:
- Safety and security in Railway stations:
- Provision of CCTV camerashas been made over 394 railway stations. Installation of CCTV cameras is also under progress over 983 stations with allocation of budget under Nirbhaya Fund.
- Railway Protection Force(RPF) Security helpline 182, installed to assist Railway Passengers especially women in distress, is planned to be upgraded by making it automated.
- This Information Technology (IT) enabled upgraded systemshall make the distress response efficient by introducing features like automated phone call system, acknowledgement through SMS, computerized registration of complaint and further processing, voice recording, monitoring of call attending and optimum call capacity utilization.
To improve the standard of food being provided to passengers, new Catering Policy has been issued on 27th February, 2017 wherein inter-alia Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has been mandated to carry out the unbundling by creating a distinction primarily between food preparation and food distribution.
Solution as per CAG Report
- It suggested that the modernisation/redevelopment of stationsshould address infrastructural constraints and works such as construction of additional platforms, stabling and washing pit lines, remodelling of yards etc. should also be included in the scope of modernisation/redevelopment of stations.
- The CAG report states that all Zonal Railways need to prepare comprehensive Master Plans for stations with heavy passenger traffic, identify constraints of station line capacity and devise measures to be taken to address these constraints on priority.
- It is also desirable to increase the length of all the platformsat major stations so as to accommodate trains of 24 or more coaches.
- It is also desirable that railways need to create additional platforms/ pit linesof adequate length where the number of platforms is not adequate for handling the trains originating/ terminating/ passing by the station.
In the wake of the recent CAG report on Indian Railways, discuss the ways to make the Railways more efficient and financially viable.
Topic 6: Boost to North East Connectivity
Topic in syllabus: GS III- Infrastructure; Inclusive Growth
Why in news :
To boost connectivity in the north eastern States of the country, the Union government announced investments worth nearly Rs. 10,000 crore in the region over the next four years to implement more than 400 projects.
The North Eastern Region (NER) of India, spread across the 8 States namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, is a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and abundant natural resources. On 30 July 2017, the digital resource and capacity scenario of the NER received a major push with the announcement at Guwahati (Assam) by Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister of Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice, regarding the vision for ‘Digital North East 2022’.
Digital North East Vision 2022
- Ministry of Electronics and IT in consultation with Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, Department of Telecommunications of the Government of India, Information Technology departments of the North East States, State Informatics Officers and State e-Mission Teams, Non-Government Organizations and experts from North East has formulated a vision document for ‘Digital North East 2022’.
- The Vision Document aims to provide a roadmap for translating the vision of Digital North East 2022 into firm action plan for each of the North East State. The implementation will require symbiotic and collaborative efforts between the Central Ministries and Departments concerned and the Governments of the North East States.
- The Document identifies eight digital thrust areas namely, Digital Infrastructure, Digital services, Digital empowerment, Promotion of Electronics Manufacturing, Promotion of IT and ITes including BPOs, Digital Payments, Innovation & Startups and Cyber security.
- The majority of the projects will be implemented by the Department of Telecom. The Ministry of Electronics and IT is expected to fund projects to the tune of Rs. 1,397 crore, while the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region will spend Rs. 411 crore. The Home Ministry has committed investments of Rs. 53 crore.
- The investments from the private sector, however, are expected to be limited to about Rs. 70 crore. Special focus will be given to 8,621 unconnected villages in the region.
The first electronics manufacturing cluster in the north eastern region was inaugurated in Guwahati.
Number of seats provided for the region under the rural BPO scheme has also been doubled to 10,000.
- For Digital India to be successful, it is pertinent that special focus must be provided to digital connectivity in the North East. Examine with reference to Digital North East Vision 2022 document.
Topic 7: SC alters Lodha’s BCCI proposals
Why in News:
Recently, the Supreme Court has finalised the new Constitution for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
- The Supreme Court Court had appointed the committee in January 2015 to look into the functioning of the Indian board and suggest changes to its constitution.
- On January 4, 2016, RM Lodha, the former Chief Justice of India, unveiled the three-man committee’s recommendations, which shook the hierarchy of BCCI and its member associations. Consequently, the BCCI and various state associations approached the Supreme Court raising objections to the recommendations.
- On July 18, 2016, the passed its final order on the case involving the BCCI and its implementation of the Lodha Committee’s recommendations.
- The final order of the two-judge bench comprising TS Thakur, the Chief Justice of India, and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla, signed off on most of the Lodha proposals, setting in motion a major revamp of the way cricket is run in India.
Some recommendations of the Committee:
- The Lodha committee recommended a complete overhaul of Indian cricket – from the very top down to the grassroots – affecting all its stakeholders.
- With special focus on BCCI’s governance and administrative structures, rather than its cricketing operations, the most important set of recommendations aimed at transforming the board’s power structure.
- The committee recommended one-state-one-vote, suggested clear and stringent eligibility criteria for the board’s office bearers and set limits on their tenure in office.
- Serving ministers and bureaucrats or those above 70 years of age are not allowed to hold positions on the board nor in their state associations.
- Taking cognizance of the fact India are the only country to not have a players’ body, the Lodha committee recommended the formation of a players’ association.
Important facts on SC tweaking recommendations:
- The apex court rejected the ‘one State-one vote’ recommendation of the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee.
- Justice Lodha Committee recommended that cricket could prosper only if the BCCI was represented by every State and UT.
- Rejecting the Lodha Committee recommendations, the court:
- restored full BCCI membership to three associations in Gujarat and Maharashtra. It includes Maharashtra, Mumbai and Vidarba cricket associations in the State of Maharashtra and the Baroda and Saurashtra cricket associations in the State of Gujarat.
- agreed that the National Cricket Club and the Cricket Club of India did not deserve to be full members in BCCI.
- gave Services (Sports Control Board, the Railways and the Association of Universities full membership in the BCCI.
- held that cricket administrators should undergo a “cooling off period” before contesting elections to BCCI or State associations. In this sense it supported Lodha Committee.
- Cooling-off must be accepted as a means to prevent a few individuals from regarding the administration of cricket as a personal turf. Justice Lodha had suggested that the cooling-off period should kick in for a cricket administrator after his every tenure of three years in office. The court said an administrator needs to “Cool-off” only after two consecutive terms of six years in office, whether in BCCI or a State association or a combination of both.
- The hope now therefore is this: that the court’s latest judgment will finally serve as a culmination of the 5-year-long effort at reforming the BCCI’s structure. That the court has expended enormous time and effort at addressing mismanagement in what is seen as an essentially private body has already been criticised by many.
- Indeed, the appointment of the Lodha Panel, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, R.M. Lodha, was itself seen as an act of gross judicial overreach. But a reading of the committee’s recommendations ought to quell any doubt about the practical impact of the court’s intervention—for, if implemented in letter and spirit, the draft constitution based on the panel’s suggestions ought to serve as a fine model for sports governance in India, and ought to make the BCCI a more transparent body, bringing its establishment in harmony with generally acceptable standards of fairness.
- In the last three decades, in particular, cricket in India has too often been seen as a by-product, of entertainment, and even of business. To prevent this from happening, in order for us to see cricket as an end by itself, we must see the sport as representing a public institution. Or, borrowing from the American philosopher John Rawls’s conception, as a primary cultural good.
- The Lodha Committee’s recommendations, and the Supreme Court’s interventions, have to therefore be welcomed. They may not serve as a panacea to all that’s wrong with the sport. Indeed, it is only through proper legislative oversight that we can aim at truly regulating the sport for the public. But yet the new BCCI constitution will provide us with a useful road map, with a vision that perhaps one day can help bring the sport back to the community.
Discuss the need for reforms in Cricket in India with special reference to Lodha Committee recommendations and Supreme Court orders.