Weekly Current Affairs – Mains ( 12th to 18th August 2018 )
Topic : Uighurs
Topic in syllabus: GS II -India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Why in News:
A UN human rights committee has heard there are credible reports that China is holding a million Uighurs in “counter-extremism centres”.
Who are Uighurs?
The Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority mostly based in China’s Xinjiang province. They make up around 45% of the population there. Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.
What is Beijing accused of?
- Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have submitted reports to the UN committee documenting claims of mass imprisonment, in camps where inmates are forced to swear loyalty to China’s President Xi Jinping.
- The World Uyghur Congress said in its report that detainees are held indefinitely without charge, and forced to shout Communist Party slogans.
- It said they are poorly fed, and reports of torture are widespread. Most inmates have never been charged with a crime, it is claimed, and do not receive legal representation. China is said to carry out the detentions under the guise of combating religious extremism.
Reasons for unrest:
- Over the decades, waves of Han Chinese migrants arrived in the region, displacing Uighurs from their traditional lands and fueling tensions.
- Xinjiang is now home to more than eight million Han Chinese, up from 220,000 in 1949, and 10 million Uighurs. The newcomers take most of the new jobs, and unemployment among Uighurs is high.
- They complain of discrimination and harsh treatment by security forces, despite official promises of equal rights and ethnic harmony.
Why is China concerned about the Uighurs?
Beijing says Uighur groups want to establish an independent state and, because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to their neighbours, leaders fear that elements in places like Pakistan may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang.
Discuss the ethnic conflicts in China with special reference to Uighurs. Also analyse the global impact of such conflicts.
Topic : Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act
Topic in syllabus: GS III- Conservation related issues.
Why in news:
The Centre has notified rules for operationalising a Rs 66,000 crore fund collected as compensations under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act passed in 2016 to promote the green cover in the country.
As per the new rules:
13 activities are permitted for funding. They include plantation, assisted natural regeneration of forests, forest fire prevention, pest and disease control in forests, soil and moisture conservation works and improvement of wildlife habitat.
Usage of funds: 80% of the compensatory afforestation amount will be utilised by states for plantations, assisted natural regeneration of forests, forest fire prevention, pest and disease control in forest, soil and moisture conservation works and improvement of wildlife habitat, among others, in the list of 13 permissible activities. The remaining 20% will be used for 11 listed works to strengthen forest and wildlife protection related infrastructure.
Role of gram sabhas: Besides enlisting the 24 activities which are to be taken up using the fund, the rules also specify that the working plan will be taken up “in consultation with the gram sabha or village forest management committee”.
Significance of the move:
The move will help India re-green its forest and non-forest areas which have lost trees due to forest diversions — amounting to more than 1.3 million hectares after the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 kicked in — for allowing various developmental activities.
Over the last ten years, the fund had accumulated the amount as compensations by user agencies for diverting forest land for industries and infrastructure projects. The CAMPA was created as per a Supreme Court ruling in 2009.
Much of the funds collected under the legislation had been left unspent with an ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in absence of enabling rules.
Until now, the funds were disbursed to states under a temporary and time consuming mechanism. With the relevant rules now in place, the implementation of the act is expected to gather pace.
Since the rules for utilisation of the fund have been notified, the unspent amount will now be transferred to the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund at the Centre and the respective State Compensatory Afforestation Funds in a phased manner, depending on its utilisation. The national and state funds — both non-lapsable — can be utilised for only the activities listed under the CAF Act.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016:
- This act provides for setting up Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) at both central and state level to ensure expeditious and transparent utilization of amounts realized in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.
- The act also seeks to establish the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state. The payments into the funds include compensatory afforestation, NPV, and any project-specific payments.
Recently the Centre has notified rules for operationalising a Rs 66,000 crore fund collected as compensations under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016. Discuss the significance of the rules and analyse how far the Act has been successful in conservation of the environment?
Topic 3: International Conference on Recent Advances in Food Processing Technology (iCRAFPT)
Topic in syllabus : GS III- Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
Why in news:
International Conference on Recent Advances in Food Processing Technology (iCRAFPT) 2018 is being held at Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur in Tamilnadu from August 17th to 19th.
Theme: Doubling farmers’ income through food processing.
Significance of the conference:
This conference will be a valuable and important platform for inspiring international and interdisciplinary exchange at the forefront of food research. Over the course of three days, internationally renowned speakers will share their research experiences in the areas of advances in food engineering and its industrial applications, food product development, food biotechnology, nano foods.
Significance and the need for strengthening of food processing sector:
Most of the agricultural products are not consumable in their original form, for which they are processed. Wheat is converted into flour, Paddy into rice, sugarcane into jagery, Sugar, ethanol, alcohol etc. These products can be further processed such as flour into bread. Apart from this, left over part of crop such as risk husk can also be processed to get some useful product for e.g. Rice Bran oil, cattle feed, Sugarcane bagasse can be used for power cogeneration.
Hence, food processing not merely adds value to the agro products, but also increases their utility. We know that activities in an economy are broadly divided into Agriculture, industry and Services. Food processing Industry is the product of agriculture and Industry.
Food processing industry in India:
India Food Processing Industry is estimated at $135 billion industry which is growing at about 8% annually. This growth rate is significantly more than agricultural growth rate which remains around 4%. These signals indicate toward phenomenal shift toward food processing from traditional ways.
Food processing industry and employment growth:
FPI is employment intensive industry; it can be an answer to jobless growth of past decade. Currently, only 3 % of employment is in FPI, while in developed countries it handles 14% population. Again, much of the employment will be created into rural India. This can remedy problem of distress migration. Growth in direct employment in the organized food processing sector stands at 6 % between 2011-12.
The key challenges identified overall for the food processing sector in India are as follows:
- Poor supply chain linkages: India’s agriculture market has a long and fragmented supply chain that results in high wastage and high costs, especially due to seasonality, perishability, and variability of produce.
- Infrastructure bottlenecks: The export related infrastructure for agri-produce is grossly inadequate, especially at sea ports and airports. More than 30 percent of the produce from the fields gets spoilt due to poor post-harvesting facilities and lack of adequate storage infrastructure.
- Lack of skilled manpower: The agricultural workforce is inadequately skilled across different levels of food processing.
- Low adherence to quality standards: India lacks basic standardization and certification infrastructure. Given the size of the food processing industry, there is a huge gap in the availability of laboratories, trained manpower, and certification agencies.
Discuss the key challenges being faced by food processing sector in India. Explain the steps taken by the Government to promote food processing in India. What measures should be taken to utilise the potential of food processing?
Topic: Kerala fights to get back on feet after flood fury
Topic in syllabus: GS III- Disaster Management
Why in news:
- The catastrophic impact of monsoon rainfall on several districts of Kerala has come as a grim reminder that the vigil against unpredictable natural disasters must never be relaxed.
- More than three dozen people have died and an estimated ₹8,316 crore worth of economic assets have been lost in the seasonal rain, particularly over the past week.
- The gates of reservoirs in the Idukki system, a giant hydroelectric project, and several other dams have been opened, inundating riverside habitations downstream.
- At the peak of the havoc, about 60,000 people whose dwellings suffered damage were lodged in relief camps. Nearly 20,000 houses were destroyed and about 10,000km of public roads damaged.
Rampant filling of Lakes and Wetlands:
- According to a state disaster management official, extreme rainfall events and unplanned urbanizationhave become a ready recipe for recurring disasters like the one in Kerala.
- According to this official, the monsoon has damaged nine out of 10 villages in Kerala; however, the damage is only a fraction of what it suffered during its heaviest rainfall in 1924.
- The disproportionate impact is due to rampant filling of lakes and wetlands, quarrying, deforestation and other unsustainable land use changes.
- In Mumbai last year, for instance, those who had private household insurance cover against disasters discovered the limitations of such policies.
- Since the companies were unwilling to pay many homeowners for a key risk such as costly displacement from homes since the houses were not structurally damaged.
How to Manage Floods:
1. Reducing the scale of floods – It includes better catchment management (afforestation), Controlling runoff (by creating reservoirs), Detention basins (to bypass excess water), Dams (to control flow), Protecting wetlands.
Example – Large dams in Japan have dramatically reduced the sudden arrival of floods in populated areas where the rivers are exceptionally steep and short, and susceptible to flash floods.
2. Isolating the threat of floods – It includes Flood embankments (dykes and other structures to enable better drainage), Flood proofing (waterproofing walls; fitting openings with permanent or temporary doors, gates, or other closure devices; fitting one-way valves on sewer lines), limiting floodplain development (not to build any major infrastructures in floodplains).
3. Increasing people’s coping capacities – Emergency planning, Forecasting, Warnings, Evacuation, Compensation, Insurance. The last option is really interesting one as it avoids most of the observed shortcomings of the earlier ones. It includes:
- Integrated catchment and coastal zone management, and wise planning and use of floodplains and coastal zones;
- Empowering local communities to make choices about land development and flood alleviation;
- Reducing the impacts of humans on the environment by promoting flood disaster resilience;
- Valuing and preserving the best of indigenous adaptations and improving local capacities to respond;
- Addressing problems of equity (for example alleviating poverty and lack of access to resources as a means of addressing flood vulnerability)
Emergency planning and management has three phases: preparedness, response and recovery.
- The capacity of individuals, households, groups, and communities to cope with flooding depends upon their knowledge, resources, organization and power their knowledge about how to identify that a flood threatens, how to mitigate effects of floods, what to do before, during and after a flood, the causes of flooding and appropriate mitigation measures;
- The resources at their command, including their skills and physical assets, and the support of others that they can call upon;
- The extent of their organization, including within households, within neighbourhood groups, and within whole communities, as a way of pooling knowledge, skills, resources, and planning and coordinating activitiesto achieve optimum use and power in relation to other groups in society.
- A flood management strategy will need to cover flood warnings, flood mitigation, any necessary evacuation and post-flood recovery.
- A clear commitment by national or federal governments to the emergency planning and management process will enhance its effectiveness.
- This points to the need for governments to strengthen their resilience planning. It should begin with a programme to relocate people away from hazard zones along the rivers that were in spate in Kerala over the past week after the shutters of more than two dozen dams were opened. Finding suitable land is, of course, a challenge in a populous, forested State, but it is an absolute necessity to prepare for the future.
- The spectacular disaster this year also underscores the role of the governmentas the insurer of last resort for the average citizen.
- During the current South-West monsoon season, various parts of the State of Kerala have been affected by heavy rain-oriented calamities of varying degrees.
- 14 teams of NDRFare already deployed in the worst affected districts to assist the State administration in the relief and rescue operation as well as distribution of essential relief material and to provide medical support to affected people at the time of emergency.
- The army, navy, air force, coast guard, and National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) have joined hands, by coordinating on a massive scale to carry out evacuations and relief operations. All States naturally look to Kerala, with its record of social development, for evolving best practices to handle such natural disasters.
With reference to the recent Kerala floods, discuss various natural disasters and India’s preparedness for such disasters.
Topic: The currency turmoil in Turkey
Topic in syllabus: GS III Economic development
Why in news:
The Turkish lira lost a fifth of its value against the U.S. dollar recently.
The currency has lost over 40% of its value against the dollar this year.
- The U.S. Treasury had recently sanctioned two Turkish Ministers in response to Turkey’s continuing detention of America pastor Andrew Brunson on spying and terror charges.
- President Donald Trump recently said that he would double import tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum.
- The Turkish economy has been in overdrive, centred on a construction and consumption boom; inflation was more than 15%. The country has had a high current account deficit and soaring foreign debt.
- A strengthening dollar and higher interest rates in the U.S. have compounded the lira’s troubles.
- Lira would stabilize as there was no “economic basis” for its fall.
- The President urged Turks to boycott U.S. electronic goods, and slapped retaliatory tariffs on American cars and alcohol.
- The Turkey’s Interior Ministry is also probing 346 social media accounts for undermining confidence in the economy.
- Recently, Turkey’s central bank promised to provide the liquidity needed by banks.
- Turkish regulators also stepped in to curb foreign accounts from placing bets against the lira.
- Recently, the Indian rupee breached the 70 mark against the dollar for the first time, largely caused by the lira’s fall.
- European banks that own significant stakes in Turkish lenders are also at risk.
- For now it looks like the lira is recovering but, longer term, Turkey will likely raise the already high interest rates or it may even look to the IMF for financing.
Discuss the impact of rise and fall in global currencies on Indian economy.
Topic: Military Reform in India
Topic in syllabus: GS-II- Defence
Why in news:
Indian needs a major military reform to combat new challenges
Need for military reform
- Strategic challenges in South Asia:
- conflict in Afghanistan and the Af-Pak border
- unresolved territorial disputes between India and China
- Cross border terrorism and boundary dispute with Pakistan
- Sweeping radical extremism
- The rising tide of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE).
- Growing urban terrorism.
- Complex Nuclear threat from hostile neighbors.
- War Plan
- The absence of a clearly enunciated National Security Strategy (NSS).
- India does not have a combined tri-service structure trained to handle an integrated war and joint theatre commands for efficacious battlefield management.
- Currently, the Army’s Eastern Command is headquartered in Kolkata, the Air Force’s command in Shillong and that of the Navy in distant Vishakhapatnam.
- Civil military relation
- lack of an adequate institutional mechanism for dialogue between the civilian and military leadership is an important concern
- In contrast US and Britain civil and defence officers work together and share opinion at all levels before concrete proposals are drafted for decision by elected representatives.
- In the UK, the Secretary of Defence has been made responsible for policy formulation, decision making and oversight functions.These functions are undertaken with the assistance Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
- In India on the other hand, final authority lies with the Defence Minister who functions along with defence secretary. The three service chiefs – function at a level lower than the MoD leading to unclear delegation and accountability.
- Military capacity
- Low teeth-tail ratio, unfulfilled vacancies, etc. deters the credible military capacity. The present Sahayak system erodes the dignity and prestige of jawans. An estimated 50,000 sahayaks serve in the Indian Army.
- Decreasing budgetary allocations
- Defence Budget is 1.57 per cent of GDP compared to the lowest ever 1.49 in the 1950s. Capital expenditure on defence is 30 per cent while in UK it is 65-70 %
- Defence spending, as a percentage of GDP is highest in Saudi Arabia (10 %) Russia (5.3 %) the US (3.3 %) the UK (2%) and India $62.8 (1.5 %). China is big spender but reliable figures are seldom available.
- War Equipment
- The obsolete and outdated equipment’s have severely eroded Indian defence forces capabilities to fight a war.
- Procurement issues
- The antiquated procurement procedures of military equipment’s amounts to immense loss of morals of soldiers as well as their lives. Example: Procurement of M777 Howitzers from USA, S-400 from Russia, Spike ATGM’s from Israel and MMCRA fighter planes is still in limbo.
- Outdated Ordinance factories
- Lack of FDI in Defence industrial policy
- Lack of directions and sense of purpose in R&D
- The antiquated procurement procedures of military equipment’s amounts to immense loss of morals of soldiers as well as their lives. Example: Procurement of M777 Howitzers from USA, S-400 from Russia, Spike ATGM’s from Israel and MMCRA fighter planes is still in limbo.
Recommendations of Kargil Review Committee
- development of India’s nuclear deterrence
- management of national security
- Intelligence reforms
- Border management
- Defence budget
- Use of air power
- Counter-insurgency operations
- Defence research and development (R&D)
- Even media relations
NOTE: The CCS accepted its recommendations except the creation of the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
The tasks of the CDS would include:
- Single-point military advice to the government.
- Inter-services prioritization of defence plans.
- Propose improvement in coordination among the three services.
Naresh Chandra committee recommendation
- Appointment of another four-star post, a permanent Chairman of the present COSC (Chief of Staff Committee). COSC to provide single-point advice to the CCS on military matters.
- For operational requirement – appointment of CDS and simultaneously creating Integrated Theatre commands for joint warfare in future conflicts.
- Creation of three new tri-service commands:
- Special Operations Command
- Aerospace Command and
- Cyber Command
- It is a joint command which unified and places the resources of all forces i.e. from the IAF, the Army and the Navy at the command of single senior military commander.
- In joint command all services work together and maintain their independent identity while in Integrated command each service seek to merge individual Service identities to achieve a composite and cohesive whole
- DB Shekatkar committee has recommended the creation of 3 integrated theatre commands — northern for the China border, western for the Pakistan border and southern for the maritime role.
Need for a theatre command
- Major military powers like the US and China operate via theatre commands.
- India has 19 commands (14 geographic commands, 3 functional and 2 joints). The challenge Indian armed forces will face in fighting jointly can be gauged from the astonishing fact that of the 17 single service commands, no two are headquartered in the same location
- Theatre commands are seen as better for pooling resources and improving efficiency.
Arguments against Theatre command:
- Critiques argue that India’s existing separate “Command Headquarters” for the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force stand operationally time-tested by India’s wars with China and Pakistan.
- Each command has specific strength according to their geographical need.
- The Northern Command has a vast mountainous terrain of the Kashmir region and the glacial and high-altitude mountains of the Ladakh region. Theatre command may lead to compromise in specific strength
- Theatre Military Commands would need dedicated allocation of combat assets to each Theatre Military Command. This may create a tussle over scarce resources
- Adopt major recommendation of Shekatkar Committee for enhancing combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of the armed forces.
- Adopt major recommendations of Kargil Review Committee
- The HQ Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) has been created to enhance jointness and build synergy amongst the Armed Forces.
- The Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC) has been created to exercise command and control over tri-Service and Coast Guard assets deployed in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- Joint exercises/operations are carried out from time to time
3. New defence procurement policy has been mooted to give a boost to Make in India campaign. A new category of procurement “Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)” has been introduced.
- Formulate a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS).
- Establishment of chief of defence staff post as recommended by Naresh Chandra committee for administrative purpose should be taken seriously
- Enhance defence budget to 3.0 per cent of the GDP for defence modernisation. Prioritise long-pending defence procurement plans, such as C4I2SR, artillery modernisation, acquisition of modern fighter aircraft and aircraft carriers and submarines.
- Use of artificial Intelligence to combat modern warfare.
- Government has established a task force under N Chandrasekhar committee
- Optimizing military performance in joint operations
- Resolve imbalances created by the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Pay Commissions that have led to a civil-military divide including the ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP.
- Construct a National War Memorial-cum-Military museum to honor sacrificed lives.
Explain the need for military reform in India giving examples of some developed countries. Discuss the recommendations of Shekatkar Committee and Naresh Chandra committee in this regard.
Topic: Gaganyaan: Indian into space by 2022
TOPIC: GS III
Why in news:
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing that an Indian astronaut would go into space by 2022, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has finally got a definitive timeline for a project it has been working on for the last 15 years.
Background and Timeline: From an idea to a plan
- Preparations have been going on since 2004, when the manned space mission was first endorsed by the ISRO Policy Planning Committee; there was lack of clarity on when exactly the mission would be launched, the target initially was 2015.
- 2004: ISRO Policy Planning Committee recommends manned space mission
- 2006: National committee comprising 80 scientists and technocrats endorses proposal
- 2007: First public announcement of the human space programme
- 2009: Another experts’ committee, discusses the desirability and feasibility of the programme and expresses support
- 2010: Failure of GSLV-D3 and Failure of GSLV-F06
- 2014: Successful testing of experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III; this also successfully tests an experimental crew module, demonstrating re-entry capability
- June 2017: First ‘developmental’ flight of GSLV Mk-III
- July 2018: First successful flight of the crew escape system or “pad abort” test.
- August 15, 2018: Prime Minister announces manned mission to take place before 2022
- A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
- In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
- For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
- Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required, but many others are still to be developed and tested.
The rocket: GSLV Mk-III
- The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
- ISRO’s main launch vehicle, the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), which carried the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions too, can carry payloads that are barely up to 2 tonnes, and that too only to orbits at about 600 km altitude from the Earth’s surface.
- That is why the development of GSLV Mk-III, a launch vehicle with capabilities to deliver much heavier payloads much deeper into space, was necessary.
- After three decades of efforts, mainly concentrated at developing an indigenous cryogenic engine to power the rocket, ISRO successfully tested GSLV Mk-III, now called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3), in an experimental flight in December 2014.
- June 2017, ISRO successfully launched the first “developmental” flight of LVM-3, which carried the GSAT-19 satellite into space.
- The LVM-3 is the declared launch vehicle for taking the manned crew module into space. Over the next few years, many more flights of GSLV are scheduled.
Re-entry & recovery tech
- The satellites launched by ISRO including Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, normally meant to remain in space, even when their life is over.
- Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous re-entry and recovery ability.
- While re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures,which is created due to friction.
- Also, the spacecraft needs to renter the atmosphere at a very precise speedand angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster.
- The first successful experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III on December 18, 2014, also involved the successful testing of an experimental crew module that came back to Earth after being taken to an altitude of 126 km into space.
- The Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) spacecraftre-entered the atmosphere at about 80 km altitude and landed in the sea near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Crew Escape System
- This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
- The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warningof anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
- Recently, ISRO completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system.A simulated crew module weighing about 3.5 tonnes was launched from Sriharikota.
- The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS)is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
- The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts.
- The ECLSS maintains a steady cabin pressure and air composition, removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, controls temperature and humidity, and manages parameters like fire detection and suppression, food and water management, and emergency support.
- While the design and configuration of the ECLSS and the inside of the crew module has been finalised, other components and systems are in the process of being tested.
- Ground testing will have to be followed by tests in the space orbit while simulating zero gravity and deep vacuum.
- In the early part of the planning, a proposal for setting up an astronaut training centre in Bangalorewas floated. Initially targeted by 2012, it is yet to take off.
- While ISRO still plans to set up a permanent facility, the selected candidates for the first manned mission will most likely train at a foreign facility.
- Candidates will need to train for at least two years in living in zero gravity and dealing with a variety of unexpected experiences of living in space.
- Some training would also be imparted at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Indian Air Force at Bengaluru.
- During the early years of planning, the cost of India’s first manned space mission was estimated at about Rs 12,400 crore. But that was for a mission to be launched in 2015.
- The mission would now be completed for less than Rs 10,000 crore.
- Recently, the government approved the funding for the next 10 flights of GSLV Mk-III at an estimated cost of Rs 4,338.2 crore. This was supposed to take care of GSLV Mk-III missions till 2024.
- If India does launch the Gaganyaan mission, it will be the fourth nation to do so after the United States, Russia and China.
- These developments will help ISRO in perfecting the cryogenic technology for sending up heavier and heavier payloads and will reduce India’s dependency on other countries to launch heavier satellites.
Discuss the journey of ISRO giving examples of important missions. What are the challenges before ISRO in sending first Indian astronaut into space by 2022?
Topic: Election and Electoral Reforms
Topic in syllabus: GS II Constitution; Election Commission of India, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation, Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Why in news:
The Lok Sabha passed a Bill that allows ‘Proxy Voting’ to non-resident Indians (NRIs). The Chief Election Commissioner expressed his views on proxy voting for NRIs, the fake news challenge, electoral bonds, and why EVMs are the best option.
Proxy voting: for NRIs
- Proxy voting is to encourage NRIs to register and vote.
- India have about three crore people of Indian origin settled abroad.
- Half of them are Indian citizens; nearly 10% may be voters.
- The total number of NRIs registered in our electoral rolls is less than 25,000.
- They can now register at the address which is in their passport and opt for proxy.
Proxy voting: Indians residing in India
- For someone in a hospital, EC is making all efforts to facilitate voting by setting up auxiliary voting stations.
- If there is a sizeable number say, 200-300 voters in a hospital then an auxiliary voting station in the same building can be arranged.
- If proxy facility is provided in India, this may become a scandal. It can be abused by parties or candidates to buy votes.
Paid news and fake news:
- In terms of paid news, EC’s system has been able to ensure that whenever cases came to them and notices were issued.
- But in case of fake news, have to handle not only social media accounts but even print media.
- Even for VVPAT [Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail] failure, many print media outlets said that EVMs that had never failed in 20 years failed in such a large number. It was fake news.
- EC’s Review Committee has engaged with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to tell them what exactly is required of them during the conduct of elections — from the day of announcement of polls to the declaration of results, and in the last two days before the conclusion of polls.
- Even the Facebook regional head has agreed to have pre-certified electronic advertisements. And for the last 48 hours, advertisements affecting the election will be removed from the platform.
- Every advertisement will be flagged with the cost paid for it, so that our observers can include the expenditure on that advertisement.
- EC have set up a social media monitoring hub, also meeting Google in this regard.
About EVM and VVPAT: Feasibility of paper ballot
- EC’s technical experts committee, which includes professors from IIT Delhi, Mumbai and Bhilai, found solution to VVPAT issues.
- It is not correct to say that Europe has gone back to paper ballot. They [Europe] couldn’t devise an EVM which is standalone, which doesn’t have connectivity with Wi-Fi or Internet.
- Indian EVM machine is just like a calculator; it is not even connected to a power supply unit.
- EVMs have addressed so many issues, like invalid votes and booth capturing. There is no reason to think that as technology advances, we should be moving backwards.
Electoral Bonds and Transparency in political funding
- The EC discussed this new scheme for campaign financing. EC’s worries about electoral financing are mainly the opacity regarding who purchased the bond, who gave to it whom, what is the source of funds.
- All these not being disclosed to the electorate is not healthy for democracy.
- There were some amendments to the Company Law. Earlier, there was provision that only profit earning companies can donate, now, even if the company is dying, it can donate and evaporate from the scene.
- There are apprehensions that some shell companies may be created for siphoning off money from anywhere.
Effectiveness of Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
- The EC’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into effect only after a poll schedule is announced.
- Many believe that the government of the day always has an unfair advantage. Welfare schemes are usually named after the Chief Minister or the Prime Minister.
- The EC through election reforms, cannot reform the whole of governance.
- Whatever influences a voter’s mind at the time of elections, EC take care of that.
- Like in Punjab, it was found that ration cards carried photographs of the political executive. The EC ensured that well before the announcement of elections, three months’ ration was distributed and then the ration cards were made redundant.
- A democratically elected government can do whatever it wants. In case there is any objection, people can challenge it through public interest litigation.
- In case of regular hate speeches by someone that tend to influence the voters, there are MCC provisions to censure the politician.
- All legal provisions exist for substantive offences to be registered in appropriate cases. If they don’t relent, the EC debars them from campaigning.
- Our election process is protected from interference under Article 329 of the Constitution.
- Statutory backing is not given to the MCC, but it is agreed upon by all political parties that they will submit to the Code. If they violate it, the EC can derecognise them and can freeze their symbol.
- Election Commission is one of the bulwarks of Indian Democracy. People of India as well as political parties have great trust in this institution.
- But the new Campaign Financing scheme creates loopholes in terms of money supply during election campaign.
- Similarly rising extremism in politics and hate speeches are driving the people’s choices against the spirit of free and fair elections.
- To sustain the autonomy of EC in letter and spirit, electoral reforms along with positive political will is need of the hour.
Briefly analyse the electoral system in India. Discuss the need for electoral reforms and suggest measures for reform.